Monthly Archives: August 2019

Communism and Religion Can’t Coexist

Marx’s line about the ‘opium of the people’ only hints at the ideology’s hostility.

Bolivian President Evo Morales, when meeting Pope Francis a few years ago, presented the Holy Father with a crucifix mounted on a hammer and sickle. The stunt prompted a debate that never seems to go away, whether it takes place on the world stage or in obscure religious journals: Is there a religious case for communism?

No amount of hope or hermeneutic effort can cleanse communism’s record of blood—especially the blood of religious adherents. Every communist regime has sought to purge the faith of its people. An atheistic ideology, communism is not only irreligious but antireligious.

The communist hatred of faith is a feature, not a fault. Karl Marx said so himself. Most are familiar with his line that religion is the “opium of the people.” What follows is even more pointed: “The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness.” Criticism of religion is “the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo.” Religion may show man’s longing for a better existence, Marx argued, but it also prevents that dream from becoming reality.

Communist regimes put Marx’s principles into practice, starting with the first Marxist state. Between 1917 and 1921, the Soviet Union destroyed nearly 600 Russian Orthodox monasteries and convents. The leaders of the first communist country oversaw the killing of at least 300 Orthodox clergy. This bloodbath eventually became Soviet policy. The Eighth Party Congress decreed in 1920 that “the Party aims at the complete destruction of links between the exploiting classes and . . . religious propaganda, while assisting the actual liberation of the working masses from religious prejudices.”

The scholar Todd M. Johnson estimates that Soviet authorities sent 15 million Christians to their deaths in prison camps between 1921 and 1950. A further five million Christians perished in the following 30 years. The Soviet Union also targeted Muslim communities for mass deportation, killing, for example, as many as 46% of Crimean Tatars. Thousands of Buddhist monks also died at Soviet gunpoint. Where religion survived in the U.S.S.R., it did so secretly—or under the watchful eye and controlling hand of the state.

Central and Eastern European communist states also suppressed religion. Perhaps best known are the Polish communist attacks on the Catholic-driven Solidarity movement in the 1980s. Today North Korea reserves some of its harshest treatment for those found in possession of Christian Bibles. In Venezuela and Nicaragua, satellites of communist Cuba, Christian communities are viewed as a threat to the dictatorships and have been targeted for punishment.

Communist China is today’s worst offender. Since its founding, the People’s Republic of China has tried to control or eradicate every religion within its borders. Some, like Tibetan Buddhist monks, regularly face arrest, imprisonment or even death. Others, like Falun Gong practitioners, have their organs forcibly harvested for the benefit of party officials and foreign medical tourists. Christian churches are either shut down or forced to preach the party line. This includes the Catholic Church, which recently struck a deal with Beijing that allows the Chinese Communist Party to approve the selection of bishops and priests.

Modern communism’s inherent hatred of religion has perhaps found its most brutal demonstration in China’s treatment of the Muslim Uighurs. Since the time of Marx, the communist goal has always been the creation of a “new man.” That is the sole purpose of the so-called re-education camps in the province of Xinjiang. As many as three million Uighurs—more than a quarter of the population—have undergone political brainwashing in these camps. The goal is to strip them of their faith and culture, making them “fit” for the Chinese socialist system. As investigative scholar Adrian Zenz notes, those who are released from the “re-education” camps are most likely to be put into forced labor camps, which also continue to maintain regular ideological training in Marxist thought.

Most faiths call their adherents to look up past the things of this world. In communism, this world is all there is—a world of productivity and material goods, but nothing else. Thus the regimes that rule in its name seek to destroy the soul and deny any freedom of conscience. Faith, hope, charity and forbearance are dangerous ideas for a system that relies on fear and envy. And what is dangerous must be destroyed. To create the communist heaven on earth, the faithful must abandon their beliefs or endure a living hell.

Mr. Smith is executive director of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation in Washington.

Dave Chappelle Leads The Fight Against PC Culture

Dave Chappelle Leads The Fight Against PC Culture

Could Dave Chappelle’s political-correctness-skewering Netflix special mark “the beginning of the end of the PC police?” asks Christian Toto at Hollywood in Toto.

The comedian’s act relentlessly mocks “PC scolds scouring social media posts to cancel people out” and jokes about stereotypes and “woke culture,” leading Vice to denounce the special as “transphobic and worse.”

And Chappelle is just one of a growing number of comedians criticizing “cancel culture,” from Adam Carolla to Jim Gaffigan to Jerry Seinfeld to even “far-left comic” Sarah Silverman.

“It’s worth noting that Netflix didn’t cut ties with Chappelle following the press outrage over his last special” — indeed, it gave him this new one. “On that level alone, Chappelle just scored a major victory in the Culture Wars. Now, will his peers join the fight?”

Mexico’s ‘Glitter Revolution’ targets violence against women

Women Fight Back In Mexico

Protests called in response to alleged rape of girl by police officers aim for change in a country where 10 women are murdered every day

Sandra Aguilar-Gomez remembers an atmosphere of camaraderie and celebration when thousands of Mexican women took to the streets for the “violet spring” protests of 2016.

Three years later and the demonstrators are back to demand an end to violence against women – but this time the mood has soured.

“What I saw on the streets was rage and desperation,” Aguilar-Gomez, 28, a postgraduate student and feminist activist, said of the recent rallies in Mexico City. “Because things haven’t changed a bit.”Searching for Mexico’s disappeared – a photo essay

Aguilar-Gomez is one of thousands of women who have joined the so-called “revolución diamantina” (glitter revolution) in Mexico’s sprawling capital. The movement earned its name after protesters showered Mexico City’s security chief with pink glitter during their inaugural demonstration on 12 August.

That protest was a reaction to the alleged rape of a teenage girl by four police officers in Azcapotzalco, to the north of Mexico City, in the early hours of 3 August.

The demonstrators, who marched with placards saying, “All Women Against All Violence” and, “If you violate women we will violate your laws”, are also demanding broader changes in a country where an average of 10 women are murdered every day and virtually all such crimes go unpunished.

“It is an unsustainable, femicidal situation,” said Yndira Sandoval, a campaigner whose group, Las Constituyentes, is among those that has joined the movement.

“Every day girls are going missing, women are going missing, women are being violated and raped … and we want a political response that reflects the scale of this national emergency,” added Sandoval, who said she had been the victim of a sexual assault in 2017.

When Mexico’s leftist president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, took office last December promising a new era of social justice, many activists, Sandoval included, hoped positive change was finally on the horizon.

A woman speaks with a police officer near the Angel of Independence monument in Mexico City
A woman speaks with a police officer near the Angel of Independence monument in Mexico City.Photograph: Luis Cortes/Reuters

In Mexico City, which elected López Obrador’s ally Claudia Sheinbaum as its first female mayor, expectations were particularly high.

“It’s hard to change this mess in less than a year … [But] we were very hopeful that having a woman from that political group would bring policy change to address the violence crisis against women,” said Aguilar-Gomez, who said many glitter revolution protesters had backed the leftist pair in last year’s vote.

Nine months on, much of that hope has evaporated. Women’s rights activists are mistrustful of López Obrador’s alliance with hardline evangelical politicians and have condemned swingeing budget cuts, included funding for women’s shelters being cut.

Sheinbaum, meanwhile, infuriated feminist protesters by branding their first mobilisation – which resulted in the glass entrance to the attorney general’s office being smashed – “a provocation”.

By doing so, Aguilar-Gomez said Mexico City’s government had legitimised a wave of online abuse and threats against feminists.

Sheinbaum’s attack sparked outrage and a second protest, on 16 August, also turned violent and resulted in one of Mexico’s best known landmarks – the iconic Angel of Independence monument – being scrawled with graffiti denouncing violence against women.

Aguilar-Gomez said she was frustrated that, since then, much of the media focus had been on the defaced monument and not the discrimination and attacks against Mexican women.

“It’s unbelievable … They can’t see the pain in the faces of the mothers and sisters of murdered women, and the raped women, and the harassed women who were there at the protest,” she said. “But they are very, very, very empathetic with this lady made of stone.”

On Sunday, Sheinbaum met with representatives of the movement and promised a month of discussions designed to help eradicate gender violence.

Sandoval, 33, said she feared it was an attempt to “contain and co-opt” the movement, rather than bring about real change.

Aguilar-Gomez said she was hopeful for positive change and said the demonstrations would continue if that did not happen.

“I can tell you that they won’t stop. I’m certain they won’t stop. They have had enough.”

by Tom Phillips 

How to Buy Travel Medical Insurance, the ‘Other’ Travel Insurance

Travel SERAPH

No one wants to imagine being sick or injured on vacation; but if the worst happens, it pays (literally) to be prepared. Medical travel insurance can save you considerable hassle, time and money, and offer you peace of mind if you encounter health problems while traveling. But it’s also somewhat separate from most standard forms of travel insurance. While most common—and commonly needed—travel insurance is trip-cancellation (TCI) protection, you should certainly consider medical risks when you’re looking at your travel insurance options, up to and including emergency medical evacuation (also called “medevac”) assistance.

Who Needs Travel Medical Insurance?

The quick answer to that question is: Anyone who isn’t covered by their regular medical insurance when they’re traveling. More specifically, that means:

  • Anyone whose regular health insurance/HMO doesn’t pay for services outside the U.S. There was a time when most private health insurance—and most HMOs—covered you (and emergency medevac assistance) wherever you went, but that’s no longer the case. With relentless cutbacks in benefits in recent years, many standard health insurance programs will no longer cover medical bills in foreign countries. And most do not cover medevac.
  • Any senior dependent on Medicare. Medicare will not pay for anything outside the U.S. Even if you have a Medicare supplement that nominally covers foreign travel, benefits are so meager that you might need additional insurance.

Everyone should check their health insurance and travel insurance’s overseas medical benefits before leaving the country for a trip. If coverage is either slim or nonexistent, you likely need travel medical insurance.

It’s also worth noting that the medical benefits in many travel insurance policies are secondary, which means the insurance pays only for what you can’t claim from your regular health insurer/HMO. On the off chance that you already have good foreign-country coverage, additional travel insurance is probably a waste of money.

Bundled Medical Coverage

Almost all travel insurance bundles include a combination of TCI and medical benefits. For example, for a two-week trip to Europe the least expensive bundled policy might be a few hundred dollars (total) for two people. This usually covers a few thousand dollars in TCI plus somewhere around $50,000 in medical/dental emergency costs per person, and $50,000 in medical evacuation expenses per person. That’s about the minimum coverage: If you think you need more, you could buy a policy providing TCI plus $100,000 in medical emergency and $500,000 medevac per person for slightly more money.

But if you don’t want the TCI, you can buy just the medical coverage, and adjust according to your needs. On a sample trip I tested, I could buy greatly reduced coverage ($5,000 medical, $25,000 medevac) for about $100 total. Or, conversely, I could pay $195 for $100,000 in medical coverage, per person, plus unlimited medevac costs.

For travel to developed countries, my opinion is that $50,000 in medical and $50,000 medevac would more than cover any foreseeable risks. Travel to less developed areas, however, might call for slightly higher limits. It’s ultimately your call.

Yearly Medical and Medevac Coverage

If you travel a lot, you might consider buying medical/medevac insurance by the year (or per six months) rather than per trip. A low-benefit policy for frequent travelers offering about $10,000 in medical and $25,000 in medevac on each trip can cost about $100 per year (for one person). A more generous travel medical insurance policy covering $100,000 medical and unlimited medevac per trip costs about double that for one year (for one person). These policies are designed for travelers who make several short trips each year; policies for long-term overseas trips or extended business assignments might be priced differently.

Medevac: The Fine Print

Most medevac policies I’ve seen call for transport to either the nearest appropriate medical facility or back to the U.S., depending on the circumstances. Typically, that means you start at a local or regional hospital. The insurance pays for transport back to the U.S. only when, in the opinion of the attending physician, local/regional facilities are inadequate.

When you need medevac, the insurance company calls all the shots. That means you must, from the beginning, make all arrangements through the insurance company or its local agents. If you jump the gun and make your own arrangements, chances are the insurance company won’t cover them.

Can Your Credit Card Help?

Several premium credit cards provide lesser travel medical insurance in an emergency in a foreign country. Although the language in the card literature might seem to promise a lot, what you typically get is a referral to file claims, and not any genuine assistance.

The fine print for the AmEx Platinum card, for example, says, “Whenever you travel, have peace of mind knowing that you have 24/7 medical, legal, financial, and other emergency assistance while traveling more than 100 miles from home. We can direct you to English-speaking medical and legal professionals and arrange for a transfer to a more appropriate medical facility, even if an air ambulance is required.” Note that it says “arrange for,” not “pay for.” What you get is help in making arrangements; the cost of those arrangements goes right on your credit card bill, unless moving you is deemed “medically necessary.” As far as I know, most other cards operate the same way.

How to Choose Travel Medical Insurance

The medical risks you face when traveling outside the U.S. are hard to quantify. Basically, the chances of facing a major medical problem are small—very small, for medevac—but the financial consequences of a serious event are potentially quite large.

Fortunately, travel health insurance prices are not bad. As with all travel insurance, my suggestion is that you check with one or two of the online travel insurance agencies, enter your personal details, trip details, and the coverages you want, and select the least expensive policy that meets your needs. Some of the major agencies include InsureMyTrip.comSquaremouth, and QuoteWright.

Consumer advocate Ed Perkins has been writing about travel for more than three decades. The founding editor of the Consumer Reports Travel Letter, he continues to inform travelers and fight consumer abuse every day at SmarterTravel.

Anti-natalists: Don’t Like Babies And Want You To Stop Having Them!

NOTE: Many of these people suffer from mental health issues, radical – even violent ideas.

Many highly educated leadership type people in the U.S. and EU are childless by choice. This is not only unhealthy but a dangerous trend. Dale Yeager

They believe humans shouldn’t have children. Who are the anti-natalists – and how far are they willing to push their ideas?

“Wouldn’t it just be better to blow a hole in the side of the earth and just have done with everything?”

Thomas, 29, lives in the east of England, and although his idea of blowing up the world is something of a thought experiment, he is certain about one thing – humans should not have babies, and our species should gradually go extinct.

It’s a philosophy called anti-natalism. While the idea dates back to ancient Greece, it has recently been given a huge boost by social media.

On Facebook and Reddit, there are dozens of anti-natalist groups, some with thousands of members. On Reddit, r/antinatalism has nearly 35,000 members, while just one of the dozens of Facebook groups with an anti-natalist theme has more than 6,000.

They are scattered around the world and have a variety of reasons for their beliefs. Among them are concerns about genetic inheritance, not wanting children to suffer, the concept of consent, and worries about overpopulation and the environment.

But they are united in their desire to stop human procreation. And although they are a fringe movement, some of their views, particularly on the state of the earth, are increasingly creeping into mainstream discussion.

While not an anti-natalist, the Duke of Sussex recently said he and his wife were planning to have a maximum of two children, because of environmental concerns.

Philosophical chat

Thomas hadn’t heard of anti-natalism before someone used the term to describe his views in a YouTube comments thread a few years ago. Since then, he’s become an active member of an anti-natalist Facebook group. It provides him with intellectual stimulation and a place to test his debating skills.

“I think it’s awesome, you’re discussing real life problems,” he says. “You’ve got an idea – let’s say humans do go extinct. What if humans then evolve again? Then you haven’t really solved the problem.

“There’s a lot of discussion, some of it gets quite touchy.”

But his passion for anti-natalism isn’t only theoretical. Thomas believes all human life is purposeless and has tried, although not succeeded, in getting a vasectomy on Britain’s National Health Service (NHS). NHS doctors can refuse to perform sterilisation operations if they believe the procedure is not in the best interests of the patient.

Non-violence and consent

Despite some of the nihilist rhetoric in anti-natalist groups, there’s no indication that they’re a violent threat. When they do talk about extinction it often feels as though it’s a debating exercise. No-one in their online communities is threatening murder or violence.

Thomas’s idea of blowing a hole in the side of the earth – he imagines a big red button that would end human life and says he’d “press that in an instant” – is actually highly controversial because of a key anti-natalist principle: consent.

Put simply, it’s the idea that creating or destroying life requires the consent of the person who will be born or die.

Kirk lives in San Antonio, Texas. He says he recalls a conversation with his mother when he was just four years old. She told him that having children was a choice.

“This doesn’t make any sense to me, to voluntarily put someone who has no needs or wants prior to their conception into this world to suffer and die,” he says.

Kirk says that even at that young age, he became an anti-natalist. He opposes the creation of human life because none of us were explicitly asked if we wanted to be here.

“If every person gave consent to play the game of life then I personally wouldn’t have any objection to that,” he concedes. “It hinges on the consent or lack thereof.”

The concept also works in reverse. The problem with that big red humanity-eraser button is that plenty of people enjoy life – and not everyone would consent to it all coming to an end. Instead, Kirk and most anti-natalists want people to volunteer to stop giving birth.

A finger hovering over a end humanity big red button

Mental health issues

There’s another distinct theme common in anti-natalist groups. Posters frequently share experiences of their own mental health, and occasionally condemn those with mental health problems for having children.

One post included a screenshot of a post from another user that read: “I have a borderline personality disorder, in addition to bipolar and generalized anxiety”. The anti-natalist added their own comment: “This individual has two kids. I feel bad for the kiddos”.

In another group, there was also a comment where someone was clearly contemplating suicide.

“I’ve had schizophrenia and depression,” Thomas explains. “Depression does run in my family too. I think if I have kids there’s a high likelihood that they’re going to be depressed and they’re not going to like their life.”

But he also says the community is often wrongly labelled by outsiders.

“People start labelling us crazy psychos,” he says. The truth, he says, is much more complex.

A man holding his head

Saving the earth?

Fuelling anti-natalist arguments in recent years is an increasing focus on the environment and the potentially devastating effects of climate change.

Judging from posts in the anti-natalist groups, there’s clearly a large overlap between their ideas and environmental activism.

“I feel that it is selfish to have children at this time,” adds Nancy a vegan, plastic-free, animal rights enthusiast and yoga instructor from the Philippines.”The reality is that the children being born into the world are creating more destruction for the environment.”

In a Facebook group called “very angry anti-natalists” a petition is being shared which they hope to send to the United Nations. Its title is “Overpopulation root of the climate catastrophe – worldwide birth stop now.” So far it has 27,000 signatures.

The idea of refraining from having children to benefit the environment isn’t a new one. In Britain a charity called Population Matters has proposed this for years – although they are not anti-natalists. In fact, they argue in favour of the sustainability of the human race rather than its extinction.

“Our aim is to achieve harmony between the human race and the planet we’re fortunate to inhabit,” says Robin Maynard, the group’s director. “If we have fewer children across the globe and smaller families we can achieve a much more sustainable population.”

But will an increasing population necessarily lead directly to environmental disaster? According to the BBC’s Global Population Correspondent Stephanie Hegarty, it’s hard to say, because the future is so difficult to predict.

“According to scientific projections, due to economic development and dropping fertility rates, the population of the world is likely to plateau at about 11 billion in 80 years,” she says. “Whether the planet can sustain that or not – we do not know.

“It’s also very difficult to predict how many people the planet can sustain because it’s all about consumption. And that means everything from air, water, food, fossil fuels, wood, plastic – the list goes on and on,” she says. “Clearly some of us are consuming a lot more than others. A family of 12 in a country like Burundi will consume less, on average, than a family of three in Texas.

“There are so many factors that are going to be changing over the next decade and the next century that we can’t predict right now.”

A crowd of people stood outside a factory

Insults and criticism

Among the intense philosophical and ethical debates going on anti-natalist groups, there’s a darker and less edifying undercurrent. Some routinely insult parents – calling them “breeders”. Other slurs are directed at children.

“Whenever I see a pregnant woman, disgust is the first feeling.” wrote one user next to a picture that said: “I hate baby bump”.

But that doesn’t mean that all anti-natalists hate children, according to those who spoke to the BBC.

“I would say I personally like children and it is because I like them that I don’t want them to suffer,” Nancy says. “Maybe bringing them into the world would give me some pleasure but the possible threat is so huge I’m just not sure it’s worth it.”

Media captionGoing childless for the environment

But that’s not the only criticism. In some anti-natalist groups, users allude to the notion that babies shouldn’t be born in war zones, if there is a high chance of disability, or even to low-income parents. At times the rhetoric sounds like selective breeding – or eugenics.

The anti-natalists we spoke to had mixed feelings about those ideas.

“What are their motives behind having a kid?” says Thomas when asked if he’s concerned about children being born in war-torn areas. “In such a country there’s less hope that things are going to turn around.”

He’s more relaxed about children being born into low-income households.

“Obviously I’m against having kids… but I think you can be happy and in a low-income area.”

“My anti-natalism is across the board,” states Nancy. She opposes eugenics. “Why are we picking and choosing some groups because they are in a position of disadvantage?”

So is there a general anti-natalist life philosophy?

“Do the best you can,” says Kirk. “Be kind – and don’t procreate.”

Blog by Jonathan Griffin