Wednesday, October 21, 2020

2020 US election: Big Tech pulls on censor’s jackboots for the left

The biggest, and long term the most consequential, story of the US election so far is the shocking decision by Twitter and Facebook to outright censor any story promoting the New York Post’s exclusive revelation of emails concerning Joe Biden’s son Hunter’s business dealings in Ukraine and China.

This grotesque decision by Big Tech is the most shocking breach of democratic norms the US has seen in decades. Here is a looming threat of authoritarianism in America, but it doesn’t come from Donald Trump.

Trump is not an authoritarian. At worst, he’s an administratively incompetent populist very ragged around the edges. He does not have the support of most media, doesn’t control congress, the military, the intelligence agencies, the courts, state governments. He is constrained and hemmed in on all sides. Nor is he popular.

The threat of authoritarianism from the left liberal ideological establishment, however, is strong and growing. Big Tech political censorship is both a symptom, and an accelerant, of this.

If Biden wins the presidency, and the Democrats win the Senate and hold the House of Representatives, this will concentrate power massively. And it will validate ideological coercion.

It would mean the left liberal movement, with Democrats far left of where they were under Barack Obama, will hold executive government, the legislature, the administrative state, the political sympathies of the leadership of the intelligence agencies, the chief centres of cultural power in Hollywood and most of the media, and now the massive, coercive power of Big Tech companies.

All that power would be propelled by immense self righteousness and a determination that people who seriously disagree are not just wrong but commit a crime against human decency.

A few years ago, I was one of countless commentators worldwide calling on Big Tech companies to clean up social media. By this, almost everyone meant ending expressions of violent hatred, of incitements to violence, of foul abuse, of incitements to direct ­action against individuals.

No one envisaged direct partisan censorship of mainstream political debate.

Big Tech companies have long had a cultural left liberal bias and made it difficult for conservatives to have big success on social media. But I don’t think their political convictions run very deep, as their long history of co-operation with the Communist Party government in China suggests.

However, they are expert at sniffing the wind and avoiding efforts to reform their unaccountable power. They have taken a big bet on the Biden administration, and on the left generally.

Censoring the New York Post stories is truly outrageous. The Post revealed emails that it claims came from the hard drive of a laptop that it says Hunter Biden left at a repair shop and never picked up. The Post is a mainstream newspaper, bearing all the constraints of such an institution.

It can be sued, it can suffer meaningful reputational damage, readers can turn away from it. It should not be censored.

Twitter and Facebook banned the Post from promoting its story, and then banned anyone else from linking to it, unless of course they were condemning it (this is truly Big Tech learning from the Chinese state on social media policy) on grounds that the story was perhaps unreliable, or may come from hacked documents.

This is a double standard so grotesque as to be beyond parody.

A million stories about Trump have been printed in mainstream media and promoted all over ­social media which have come from sources later discredited. The stories often turned out to be untrue. Big Tech companies had no objection to any of those.

I am not concerned with the substance of the emails here, or even in a sense with the Biden-Trump contest. But citizens who value democracy in any Western society should object in the strongest way to Big Tech deciding it can censor politics and interfere to promote the fashionable ideological view and exclude the side of politics it doesn’t like.

Nothing is more likely to destroy faith in democracy and create eventually a huge anti-democratic backlash. This is the real outrage of 2020.


Sick Britons avoid hospitals, driving up deaths at home during the pandemic

London: People are dying at home from cancer, heart disease, dementia and other illnesses in unusually high numbers as the sick avoid hospitals and nursing homes despite assurances the health system has capacity to care for them.

New figures reveal some 116,282 people died in their own homes in England and Wales between January and early September - about 27,000 more than the five-year average.

However, COVID-19 accounted for just 2490 of those 27,000 "excess" deaths.

There was a significant spike in excess deaths in hospitals, care homes and private homes while the pandemic raged in March, April and May. In the months since, excess deaths in hospitals and nursing homes have actually fallen below the five-year average but fatalities at home have remained at levels well above normal.

Deaths in private homes for men suffering heart diseases are up 25.9 per cent in England while heart-related deaths in hospitals decreased by 22.4 per cent. There has also been a 53.5 per cent increase in deaths at home from prostate cancer.

Deaths from dementia and Alzheimer's disease among women are 75.0 per cent above average in private homes in England but 40.6 per cent lower in hospitals.

The National Health Service was not overwhelmed during the first outbreak but there was a waiting time blowout for cancer treatment and other services such as elective surgery. The system has had plenty of capacity over summer and still does despite the UK's worsening second wave.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock on Monday warned the virus was again "on the offensive" in the United Kingdom and deaths were now doubling every 12 days.

"The best way to protect cancer treatment and all the other treatments in the NHS is to keep the prevalence of coronavirus down," he said. "We are doing everything in our power to suppress the virus, support the economy, support education and the NHS until a vaccine is available. That is the right strategy: charting a path that allows for the greatest economic and social freedom while protecting life."

The excess death data was released by the Office for National Statistics as Wales announced a strict-two week lockdown in a bid to curb a second wave of infections.

While Prime Minister Boris Johnson has responsibility for England's strategy, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland run their own health and education systems.

Restaurants, bars, cafes, non-essential shops, libraries and tourism attractions will close for a fortnight under a "fire break" strategy outlined by Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford.

Primary schools will stay open but students above year eight in secondary schools will have to stay home from this Friday.

"This fire break is the shortest we can make it, but that means that it will have to be sharp and deep in order to have the impact we need it to have on the virus," Drakeford said.

The Wales strategy is among the strictest to be introduced in Europe during its second wave.

Ireland has also announced tough COVID-19 constraints, going to a "level five" lockdown and shutting non-essential retail, limiting restaurants and pubs to take away service and telling people not to travel more than five kilometres from their home.

Johnson has previously cited the need for people to continue their usual medical and hospital appointments as a reason for not ordering a new lockdown in England.

Doctors believe the government's pledge to 'protect the NHS' during Britain's first wave blocked or discouraged people from accessing life-saving diagnoses and treatments in public hospitals.

There are also concerns that major outbreaks in care homes earlier this year have caused families to keep their elderly relatives out of those homes for as long as the pandemic continues.

The ONS figures suggest people were reluctant to use these facilities even when the daily number of infections plummeted over summer. In July - when the spread of the virus was at its lowest in Britain - some 10,936 people died at home in England compared to the five-year average of 8358. Just 102 of those people died from COVID-19.

People aged 70 to 89 accounted for nearly 60 per cent of the overall excess deaths in England and Wales


Soros-Funded Prosecutors Put ‘Social Justice’ Above Law and Order, Analysts Say

Self-styled progressive political activists who win election as district attorneys with financial support from wealthy donors have made “social justice” initiatives more important than public safety, legal analysts say.

George Soros, the Hungarian American billionaire investor, stands out as the big donor behind a super PAC that helped elect district attorneys who have overseen a dramatic increase in crime.

The Justice and Public Safety super PAC feeds into a larger network of local political action committees. Some of the district attorneys elected with its support have attracted media attention for their antipathy toward law enforcement.

“I refuse to call them progressives,” Charles “Cully” Stimson, a senior legal fellow at The Heritage Foundation, said in an interview with The Daily Signal, adding: “There’s nothing progressive about what they’re doing.”

In July, Fox News reported on St. Louis Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner, who benefited during her 2016 campaign from advertising funded through Justice and Public Safety in her 2016 campaign.

Conservatives criticized Gardner for announcing her intention to pursue felony charges against Mark and Patricia McCloskey, the couple who stood outside their St. Louis home with firearms in June as Black Lives Matter demonstrators marched past after breaking through a gate.

A grand jury indicted the McCloskeys on weapons and evidence-tampering charges Oct. 6, USA Today and other outlets reported.

Gardner, a Democrat who previously was a member of the Missouri House of Representatives, assumed office as circuit attorney in January 2017. She reportedly benefited from more than $190,000 in contributions from the Missouri Justice and Public Safety PAC.

The Daily Signal left a voicemail seeking comment from Gardner’s office, but had not received a response by publication time.

‘Huge Contributions’
The Soros-backed effort to alter America’s established criminal justice system by investing in local district attorneys appears to have been in motion for at least five years, according to Capital Research Center, a Washington-based group that traces how foundations and charities spend their money.

Over those years, Soros has spent more than $17 million on district attorney races, among other local races, in states such as Pennsylvania, Virginia, Arizona, California, and New York.

As The Daily Signal previously reported, Soros has helped to elect progressive prosecutors not only in major metropolitan areas, but also in the suburbs.

In contrast to conventional political action committees, Justice and Public Safety and other super PACs may absorb unlimited sums of money from corporations, unions, associations, and individuals such as Soros and then spend the money to advocate or oppose political candidates. Unlike conventional political action committees, super PACs are not allowed to make direct donations to candidates.

But as Shane Devine, an investigator with Capital Research Center, explains in a recent article, the “huge contributions” put into circulation by Soros through his PAC “makes it almost impossible for other candidates to compete because district attorney elections are on such a small scale.”

And, Devine wrote, the campaigns that get such PAC money typically “do not need to raise millions to run local ads and mobilize voters.”

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner, a Democrat, benefited from about $1.7 million spent by the Soros-backed Philadelphia Justice and Public Safety PAC during the 2017 campaign.

Since Krasner took office in January 2018, aggravated assault with a firearm increased by 18%, and, in one year, violent crime overall rose 5% and robberies climbed by 7%, according to a report in June from the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund, a nonprofit based in Alexandria, Virginia.

The Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund compiled figures for its report, titled “Prosecutorial Malpractice: Progressive Prosecutors, Public Safety, and Felony Outcomes,” that the organization says show “dozens of experienced frontline prosecutors have been fired or resigned under Krasner’s watch.”

What is the result of Krasner’s follow-through on his campaign commitments to alter criminal justice practices?

“Violent crime in Philadelphia is out of control,” Jason Johnson, president of the Law Enforcement Legal Defense Fund, told The Daily Signal




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