Can Christian Children See David? Confusing Matters and Propagandistic Intent

The corporate state media is reporting that Florida charter school principal has been forced to resign after a parent complained sixth graders were exposed to pornography during a lesson on Renaissance art that included Michelangelo’s David.

Michelangelo’s David

This framing does not accurately convey what happened. The principal stepped down because of a failure to properly notify parents about what their school was exposing children to. It was not just one parent who objected. Others objected to the failure to provide an opportunity for informed consent, a fundamental principle of ethics in free and open societies.

I believe the failure to inform was an error. But it happened. What else had the school failed to inform parents about? I don’t think the principal should have resigned. Parents were upset. This could have been a learning moment for the school. Instead, the school board punished the principal.

The statue of David is arguably the greatest instantiation of Renaissance sculpture and a projection of the humanist ideals I hold dear. It was created by the artist Michelangelo between 1501-1504. It depicts the biblical hero David who, with a stone from a sling, rendered unconscious the giant Philistine warrior Goliath and then beheaded him with his sword. The sculpture is renowned for its lifelike representation of the human form and its exquisite detail.

From its inception, the statue was controversial for its nudity. At the time of its creation, many people considered the depiction of nudity in art to be inappropriate and scandalous. Some believed that Michelangelo had gone too far and that it was an affront to public decency. Despite this, the statue of David was eventually placed in a public square in Florence, Italy, where it has been on display for more than half a millennium. The statue is still controversial for its nudity today. While many object to its nudity, others see it as a celebration of the human species. I hold the latter opinion. At the same time, I recognize the right of parents to make their own determination about whether their children see depictions of male genitalia.

It is important to understand that the objection to David is not exclusively a Christian phenomenon. There are Jewish parents who object to David because he is not circumcised. They find the imperialistic Christianization of a Jewish patriarch offensive and wish to shield their children and communities from seeing this. There are Muslim parents who object on the grounds that Islamic aniconism forbids the depiction of holy figures. Remember, David is also a patriarch in Islam (in this version of the myth Dawud defeats Jalut with a single stone from his slingshot). Singling out Christians represents a narrow understanding of the issue—and a deliberate one, as I will discuss in a moment. 

As readers know, I am an atheist. As I intimated in a recent blog, I have in the past identified as an anti-theist. My lack of faith notwithstanding, in a free society, one that protects religious liberty, freedom of conscience, and recognizing the central role the family plays in civilizational matters, parents are within their rights to exercise authority over their children and complain about curricular matters and pedagogical techniques when these contradict the tenets of their faith (see here). It doesn’t mean that all their demands should be heeded. These are, after all, public schools in a secular society. But this isn’t a communist or fascist society where the state is the parent. Parents have a role to play in the development and practice of public instruction.

Because we live in a free society where informed and voluntary consent is a core value, parents are often confronted with permission slips making sure they know the nature and risks of activities their children may be involved in. At my children’s school, a progressive school, I had to sign a form allowing my youngest to participate in Junior Achievement (one of the many forms I signed concerning a variety of activities), which, because it was an exercise in pro-capitalist indoctrination, and given the number of lefty and socialist parents there, the school felt an important step. I appreciated that. At the same time, I was upset that Junior Achievement was allowed into my son’s second grade classroom in the first place. I know why second graders are targeted by corporate propaganda. Obviously not everybody agreed with me. And, so, the propaganda show went on. Without my kid. (You can read about this here.)

It is also important to understand that modesty is not something unique to Christians. The Chinese have modesty rules and pixelate and cover statues. Jerusalem has refused to accept as gifts certain statues because they are nude. Orthodox Jews have a strong sense of modesty and cover things. Muslims have strict modesty rules, as well. Christians aren’t any more prudish in this regard. There are busybodies to be found in most if not all religions. Christians are not the only ones concerned about the sexualization of children, either. As an authority on the problem of child sexual abuse, I have problems with the sexualization of children. It’s the level of anti-Christian bigotry that marks the current period that singles them out for special treatment. I say this as no lover of Christianity—or any religion or religious-like ideology.

We live in a religiously plural society. The Bill of Rights protects religious belief and expression. Perhaps we allow too much. We allow parents to surgically alter their male children’s genitalia (see here). We allow parents to force their female children into restrictive clothing early in life (see here and here). I get no traction in raising concerns about these practices. But parental concern about the sexualization of children seen in parents wanting to know what their children are being exposed to isn’t analogous to the things we allow that violate the child’s personal freedom in often permanent ways. There is plenty of time and opportunities in life to see nude statues, read books about gender ideology, and view pornography. And it was not as if in this case the kids couldn’t see David. Some parents simply wanted to be notified first. (See here, here, and here.)

Again, the issue here was the failure to properly notify parents. Indeed, this case would be unremarkable but for the current political climate. Progressives are endeavoring to make this incident about the alleged backwards and intolerant character of Christian conservatism in order to advance the project to make education a black box and proliferate spaces where the development of children is disrupted by exposure to age-inappropriate content (see here and here). This case is being linked to the legislation and policy being rolled out in states across American requiring schools to open to the public curricular content and pedagogical strategies, in particular the reforms of Ron DeSantis, the governor of the state of Florida. Progressives are weaponing this and other cases to thwart the parental rights movement.

I remember a time when liberals and leftists insisted on transparency in public institutions, and involvement of the community and parents in the education of their children (see here). This author of this blog, who is a liberal and a leftist, still does. However, liberals and leftists are in short supply these days. And so it is up to conservatives to take up the cause and reclaim and restore the proper relationship of the family to the state characteristic of a liberal republic. Far from being backwards and intolerant, the push by conservatives to restrict and even dismantle the administrative state and technocratic apparatus that progressives have captured and direct at the behest of corporate power reflects of the revival of democratic-republican desire and liberal values. The populist-nationalist aspirations this movement portends is a welcome development for those who love liberty and their children. Indeed, whether they know it or not, conservatives are preserving the traditions of the Enlightenment in their darkest hour.

NPR, State Propaganda Organ, Reveals Who and What have Captured the State Apparatus

“Decisions are always difficult when they involve conflicting needs and rights between different groups, but we continue to take the view that we must maintain fairness for female athletes above all other considerations. We will be guided in this by the science around physical performance and male advantage which will inevitably develop over the coming years. As more evidence becomes available, we will review our position, but we believe the integrity of the female category in athletics is paramount.” —Sebastian Coe, President of the World Athletics Council (WAC)

“The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.” —George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-Four

WAC president Sebastian Coe during a press conference on March 23, 2023.

National Public Radio (NPR) reports that the governing body for international track and field will bar trans women athletes from elite competitions for women. The council’s policy, which goes into effect at the end of this month, focuses on athletes who “transitioned from male to female after going through puberty as a male.”

The false claim that individuals in our species can change their sex is typical of NPR’s anti-scientific standpoint, a standpoint we see has also affected Scientific America and other progressive-captured media outlets. Unfortunately, this language is also in the WAC’s verbiage. This is embarrassing given what Coe has said appealing to “the science around physical performance and male advantage.” However, presumed in the statement, the WAC recognizes that such persons remain male and retain those biological advantages regardless of their self-proclaimed gender identity.

NPR reports that the WAC plans to form a working group to consider the issue of “transgender inclusion” over the next year. The committee will speak with trans athletes to seek their perspective, review research on the matter, and submit recommendations to the council. Presumably, the working group will speak only with males who live as women, for reasons I explain in a moment, as well as the specific reference to “transgender women.”

“At the center of the issue is whether transgender women athletes have a physical advantage over other female competitors, even after lowering their testosterone levels. But there is limited scientific research involving elite transgender athletes — which the council also acknowledged,” opines Juliana Kim of NPR. After suggesting that the WAC is “without strong evidence of an advantage,” she continues, “World Athletics Council said that they have conducted their own research over the past decade and that they found there can be an impact in performance. Several international groups including the Human Rights Watch have called the council’s evidence flawed.”

What evidence could possibly negate the observation that, on average, males have many and obvious advantages over females in physical sports? (See Fair Play for Women for a comprehensive review of the differences.) Why is “inclusion” so important that we must deny what we can see with our eyes confirmed by every piece of scientific evidence that, while these are overlapping distributions, on every metric relevant to physical sports the average is widely disparate? We might need to remind the religious-minded that we are as a tenet of human rights free not to live in their worlds. However, we and they have to live in the real one.

Common sense matters, too. By this, I mean the obvious uncontroverted by some underlying fact. If there is so little difference between males and females, then we should expect to see that insignificance working in both directions. If being male provides no advantage in women’s sports, then being female provides no disadvantage in men’s sports. So why aren’t females who live as men dominating men’s sports? Where are the trans men football players leading NFL teams to the Super Bowl? Where are the trans men boxing champions? Who really believes that will ever happen?

I am sure a reader will come back with a counter example in some sport. But anecdotes don’t contradict general truths. Moreover, on an ethical plane, and safety issues aside, the ability of a female to compete against men is different than males competing against females for the obvious reason that only one of these genotypes as an average advantage over the other.

Men can live as women. Most people don’t care (I do see in the face of compelled speech, harassment, suppression, and violence growing numbers of people reverting to an uneasy tolerance). But let’s not forsake fairness and thwart women in the pursuit of the dreams of a handful by pretending that trans women and women are the same thing in track and field and other sports. One is a male and the other is a female. That’s a result of natural history. The human species is a species of great ape and, like the other great apes, there is considerable sexual dimorphism between the the genotypes, which are always only two. Sex is not a social construct. Sex is a scientific reality. It exists independent of culture, politics, and social history.

There is a tricky issue when it comes to intersex conditions (e.g. Caster Semenya). But on the question of trans gender, this is not a complicated matter. One does not get to move from an average athlete to an exceptional one by changing genders. Or maybe one does, if the power elite decide that “transgender inclusion” is more important than fairness in athletic competition. What is the point of athletic competition? Why segregate sports at all? As I wrote a few days ago in the blog The Casual Use of Propagandistic Language Surrounding Sex and Gender “Maybe it’s time to end sex segregation in sports. If authorities are not going to recognize the biological differences between men and women, then why put women at a distinct competitive disadvantage in divisions that were created specifically for them in order to level the playing field? Just eliminate women’s sports altogether and let individuals compete regardless of sex. Why all the pretense about hormone levels and such? Abandon any pretense to science altogether and just throw individuals into the arena and let the best person win.”

The framing of NPR reporting reveals that state media (which should be public media) has been captured by progressives who are determined to push a cultural and ideological agenda rationalized by the crack pot theories of academic elites and political activists that have come to dominate popular discourse. Without the power of the corporate state behind them, these “theories” would remain outside the boundaries of acceptable scientific discourse. In light of the power of the corporate state, my greatest fear is that these ideas will corrupt science so thoroughly that it will become difficult for people to know what science is anymore, erasing centuries of progress in enlightenment. Elites will simply appeal to ideology that pretends to be science (scientism) and the masses will shrug their collective shoulders.

Marxist but not Socialist

“If you are a libertarian you may find some nourishment in my book Letters to a Young Contrarian where I say that in the same breath as I mourn the decay of some of my socialist allegiances that deep down I’ve always been a sympathizer of the libertarian anti-statist point of view. And one of the things that attracted me to socialism in the beginning was the idea of withering away of the state.” —Christopher Hitchens (2001)

Recently, I have taken to telling people that, while I am no longer identifying as a socialist, I remain a Marxist. I was teetering on that formulation for a number of years when, watching Christopher Hitchens being interviewed about his ideas one day, he pushed me off the fence by putting it almost precisely that way. In 2006, in a town hall meeting in Pennsylvania, Hitchens stated, “I am no longer a socialist, but I still am a Marxist.” (I had not seen this interview until recently.)

Christopher Hitchens (1949–2011) 

Hitchens passed away on December 15, 2011, but he still feels near. Hitchens is well remembered by many of us for his opinions on a range of topics, including the three I want to talk about in this essay: atheism, socialism, and totalitarianism. In Hitchens’ mind, these concerns intersect in profound ways that not only reflect their historical reality but the principles underpinning his thought.

Hitchens was a committed atheist, sometimes describing himself as an antitheist, arguing that religion is a dangerous and irrational force in society. He believed that religion stifled free speech and open inquiry, oppressed various categories of humans, and was responsible for many of the world’s conflicts. In contrast, atheism was for him a liberating force, freeing people from the constraints of dogma and superstition, and opening minds to the force of reason and the benefits of science.

Hitchens was a self-proclaimed Marxist and, for most of his life, a dedicated socialist, believing in the ideals of economic and social justice. In the 1960s and 1970s, he was a member of several far-left organizations that identified with the tradition of Leon Trotsky, the Bolshevik revolutionary who opposed Joseph Stalin and advocated for a more democratic and internationalist strain of socialism. As a Trotskyist, Hitchens believed in the revolutionary potential of the working class. He was critical of the Soviet Union and other socialist countries as having abandoned the principles of the Bolshevik revolution in favor of authoritarianism and bureaucratic collectivism.

Over time, Hitchens moved away from Trotskyism and towards a more general form of democratic socialism, one that lay heavy emphasis on the liberal freedoms of assembly, association, conscience, press, and speech and expression. Hitchens became increasingly critical of some of the more dogmatic and sectarian elements of the leftwing political scene. By the time of his death, Hitchens had developed a democratic socialist position that, informed by his humanism and observations about actually-existing socialism, emphasized civil liberties, individual freedom, and democratic practices and institutions.

Here we see the influence of George Orwell, a figure Hitchens greatly admired and covered in-depth in his 2003 book Why Orwell Matters. Unlike many socialists of his time, Orwell was deeply skeptical of the Soviet-style command economies and centralized political systems. He believed these systems were authoritarian and undemocratic (which they were), and that they led to the suppression of individual freedom and civil liberties, as well as the brutalization and extermination of “enemies of the state.”

In his 1946 essay “Politics and the English Language,” a masterful critique of the propaganda style that conceals authoritarian thinking, Orwell took to task the “comfortable English professor” who cannot admit to the awful facts of “Russian totalitarianism” rationalizing those facts with constructions “something like this: ‘While freely conceding that the Soviet régime exhibits certain features which the humanitarian may be inclined to deplore, we must, I think, agree that a certain curtailment of the right to political opposition is an unavoidable concomitant of transitional periods, and that the rigors which the Russian people have been called upon to undergo have been amply justified in the sphere of concrete achievement.’”

In his landmark 1949 novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, Orwell put as an instantiation of the irrationalism that pervaded the political-ideological culture of the dystopian Airstrip One, Oceania, the “Two-Minute Hate,” a ritual in which citizens watch video that depicts the Party’s archenemy Immanuel Goldstein, the mysterious former member of the Inner Party, symbolic of dissent. During the ritual, citizens are expected to express their hatred and anger towards Goldstein and the other enemies of the Party. The purpose of the ritual is to manipulate the emotions of the citizens and reinforce the Party’s control over their feelings and thoughts. It is widely believed that Orwell very likely had in mind Leon Trotsky when constructing the Goldstein character.

In contrast to the socialism of Russian totalitarianism, Orwell was a democratic socialist who believed in a mixed economy, a democratic system with nationalized industries and a comprehensive welfare state, but also one emphasizing the importance of civil rights and individual liberty. Orwell believed that capitalism, with its emphasis on competition and obsession with profit making, led to exploitation and impoverishment of the many. He believed that the state had a responsibility to provide for the basic needs of its citizens, including education, healthcare, housing, and other social services. He also believed that individuals should be free to make their own choices and to live their lives as they see fit. These, too, are among man’s basic needs.

Characterized by a commitment to social and economic justice, combined with a deep appreciation for democratic institutions, civil liberties, and individual freedom, Orwell’s brand of democratic socialism profoundly influenced Hitchens’ conception of socialism. Like Orwell, for most of his life anyway, Hitchens believed that socialism was the best means of achieving humanist objectives of the Enlightenment. But history told both of them that the road to socialism was fraught with challenges and obstacles, and that achieving a truly just and equitable society would require a commitment to democratic values and keeping a vigilant eye open for slippage into authoritarian arrangements and attitudes. Indeed, Hitchens’ leaned into the critique of socialism presented in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, which he saw as a warning against the dangers of totalitarianism. Hitchens agreed with Orwell that the Soviet model was a perversion of socialism.

Hitchens’ view of capitalism changed over time, as well. Later in life, he moved away from his commitment to socialism and advanced opinions favorable of capitalism. He described capitalism as a truly revolutionary force with the potential to lift millions of people out of poverty and create greater opportunities for individuals, while, at the same time, writing and speaking critically of the excesses of capitalism—income inequality, environmental degradation, and the exploitation of workers. He believed that the state had an important role to play in regulating the excesses of capitalism and ensuring that its benefits were shared more equitably.

After 2005, Hitchens became open about his belief that capitalism is a dynamic force for economic growth and innovation and that socialism had failed to deliver on its promises of greater social and economic equality. Hitchens’ critique of socialism was influenced in part by his opposition to totalitarianism and authoritarianism, which, as noted earlier, he saw as inherent dangers of socialist systems. He believed that socialism, when taken to its extreme, had the potential to become as oppressive and repressive as right-wing dictatorships. Hitchens also argued that socialism was a utopian and unrealistic ideal; capitalism, while imperfect, was a more pragmatic and realistic and system, better able to deliver on the aspirations and needs of individuals.

Yet, despite his criticisms of socialism, Hitchens continued to see himself as a Marxist until late in life and remained committed to the ideals of equality and social justice. Although he argued in his 2007 God is Not Great that he had given up his religious-like faith in Marxism, in a June 2010 interview with The New York Times he stated, “I still think like a Marxist in many ways. I think the materialist conception of history is valid. I consider myself a very conservative Marxist.”

Hitchens saw Marxism as a way of understanding and critiquing the inequalities and injustices of capitalism, even as he came to see the limitations of socialist systems. He saw in historical materialism a powerful and comprehensive critique of capitalist society. He believed that Marxism provided a framework for understanding the underlying economic and social forces that shape our world, and that it offered a way of thinking about how society could be organized in a more just and equitable manner.

Hitchens was impressed by Marxism’s historical and analytical approach to understanding social and economic systems. He saw Marxism as a way of understanding the deep structures and inherent contradictions of capitalist society, and as a way of identifying the underlying causes of inequality and social unrest. Hitchens was particularly drawn to Marxism’s emphasis on social and economic justice. Marxism offered a vision of a society where resources and opportunities were more fairly distributed, and where the needs of the many were prioritized over the needs of the few.

Not that I needed Hitchens’ permission to confess the position he himself took at the end of his life; I am indebted to his demonstration of courage and commitment to self-criticism and self-development and find in the man a ready model for how to live one’s life. If I could only be half as talented a writer . . . .

Democrats Have Declared Parents “Fascist”

I have always believed in parent’s rights in education. I do not coparent my children with the public school system. If something is going on with my child, I must be informed. Whether my son expresses a desire to live as a girl or has taken up Christianity, this is not something a public school can keep from me. They must be proactive in alerting me to life-altering changes in my child’s life—cognitive, emotional, physical. I need to see the curricula of his school, and I need to understand the pedagogy employed in delivering that curricula. This is not because my knowledge of things as a college professor outstrips the minimal education and understanding of most public school teachers and administrators (even though it does). It is because I am the parent of my children. I also need to know what books are in the library and whether these books are age-appropriate, or whether they were selected to serve an agenda that works contrary to the interests of my family.

I have many times confronted teachers and administrators over the way they were misleading and mishandling my kids (I have curated example here and here). My experience with teachers and administrators when I was coming through school provided me with a front row seat to the mediocrity of public education. That experience told me that I could not uncritically and without diligent oversight put my children in the hands of public school teachers and administrators. While adequate public school teachers are not unicorns, they are quite rare. They were just as rare when I was coming up as they are now. However, there is an additional problem with the today’s situations: curricula and classroom have been corrupted by postmodernism and crackpot theory. Anti-white bigotry and trans flags were not items in my schools growing up.

I have supported public education all these years from principle. But that is not enough to cause me to defend the curricula and quality of instruction in today’s public schools. Indeed, I’m thinking we may need to tear it all down and start over. This is why I am supporting the massive expansion of Florida’s school choice program that would make all students eligible for vouchers. The measure is headed to Ron DeSantis after the Republican-controlled Senate passed the measure Thursday. In a 26-12 vote along straight party lines, senators gave final approval to the measure. The House passed the measure last week. DeSantis has pledged to sign the proposal, which includes removing income-eligibility requirements that are part of current voucher program.

Former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries

Note the party line vote. The single greatest obstacle to reforming public education is the Democratic Party. In the past, I have picked my spots with this party. With the Republican Party increasingly embracing the democratic-republican beliefs and liberal values that animate my politics, and with the Democratic Party completely out of touch with anything remotely resembling an acceptable way forward, I have an entirely different outlook moving forward. If I were on the fence about all this, I wouldn’t be after learning that every single Democrat voted against the Parents Bill of Rights Act, which passed the House without a single Democrat voting for it. But I confess to having climbed down off that fence for a few years now. The Democratic Party is not merely a lost cause. The party is destructive to the American republic.

As if Democrats voting in lockstep against parents rights weren’t bad enough, party members took to their microphones to argue that the bill promotes “fascism” and the “extreme” views of Republicans. Like the Parental Rights in Education signed into law in Florida last March, the House bill is aimed at allowing parents to have greater control over what their children learn in schools, including the ability to remove age-inappropriate books from public school libraries and requiring teachers and administrators to tell parents when their child is questioning his gender or sexual orientation (see Why It Harms the Liberty of Neither Teachers Nor Students to Restrict Ideology in the Classroom). You might ask why, if public schools were not pursuing an agenda of indoctrination that favors progressive politics and the Democratic Party, Democrats would oppose the bill, let alone smear Republicans for standing up for parents.

Gov. Ron DeSantis displays the signed Parental Rights in Education, March 28, 2022

The House bill is a response to growing concerns across the country about school curricula, safety policies, and the prevalence of gender ideology and critical race theory in classrooms. Such concerns have been portrayed as a far right phenomenon. Recent protests and angry school board meetings were used by the Biden administration’s Justice Department to justify mobilizing the national security state apparatus against parents.

First, the government has no business treating citizens as if they are domestic terrorists. Second, the characterization of the objection to the hijacking of public schools by progressive activists as “far right” obscures the point that many of those parents are on the political left. I am one of those leftwing parents who finds the development over the last several years in public schools to be entirely contrary to the interests of the social class with which I stand, the proletariat.

So the House Republicans have approved the Parents Bill of Rights Act, which would give parents access to school curricula and reading lists and require schools to inform parents if staff begin encouraging or promoting their child’s gender transition. These are necessary reforms. Tragically, there is little hope for the bill in the Senate. Moreover, we find ourselves in a historic moment where the party of the administrative state and the technocratic apparatus is pulling us into one of the most undemocratic situation this nation has ever experienced These are the developments that make it necessary to vote Republican this year and next.

Why Open Borders? Here’s One Reason

The governor of my state, Tony Evers, is pushing a petition to support his proposal for automatic voter registration for Wisconsin drivers. Check it out:

Automatic voter registration comes with a major push to provide driver’s licenses for illegal immigrants. Part of Gov. Tony Evers’ 2023-25 budget proposal includes restoring driver’s licenses to all adults regardless of immigration status. Maybe you’re good at rationalizing your way out of the obvious conclusions. I’m not.

Apart from affecting voting behavior and patterns, there is no reason to make voter registration automatic or tying registration to driver licenses. It is not the role of the government to affect voting attitudes or behavior but to make sure elections are free and fair.

In Wisconsin, the only barrier to voting is that convicted felons cannot vote while they’re incarcerated (I disagree with this restriction, but it is standard across the United States). However, individuals convicted of a felony automatically regain their right to vote upon completion of their entire sentence.

It is very simple: If you want to register to vote, then get registered and go to the polls. If voting is important to you, you will do the things necessary to make it possible. Individuals need to use their agency. We need to return to the ethic of individual responsibility and self-reliance. If you want to participate in political life, you must make the effort.

On the immigration question, this is very simple, too. Don’t give illegal immigrants drivers licenses. Detain and deport them instead. Millions have crossed the border under Joe Biden. They join millions already here. We won’t have a country if this continues.

The Casual Use of Propagandistic Language Surrounding Sex and Gender

While the common term “trans woman” appears in the Fox News headline and article covering this story, the construct “transgender female” also appears in the piece, and is used to distinguish Tiffany Thomas from the “biological females” with whom Thomas competes in elite-level cycling. This is propagandistic language, which readers might find surprising coming from Fox News, since the language favors gender ideology by creating the false impression that there is a class of female in the human species other than biological; one would expect, given Fox News’ political bias, that the editors there would avoid leaving such an impression. At the same time, Fox News is deploying unscientific language, which is unsurprising.

Referring to females, the qualifiers “transgender” and “biological” function to indicate that there is are such things as nonbiological females. There are no such things. Female is a genotype, a category of natural history; as such, to speak about females presumes biology. Even if we were to agree with the theory that the category “woman” is a sociocultural construct that males can appropriate, we cannot do so with the category “female.” (Nor can we with the category “male.”) Anomalies aside, humans are not the only species of animal—or plant, for that matter—composed of two distinct genotypes. The classification “female” is not a sociocultural construct. It is a scientific term that refers to an objectively-existing thing.

USA Cycling follows the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) rules regarding transgender athletes at the elite level of competition. Under questioning, USA Cycling points to the “main points” on its website, referencing Policy VII: “Those who transition from female to male (FTM) are eligible to compete in the male category upon providing a written and signed declaration acceptable to the UCI Medical Manager. It is the responsibility of athletes to be aware of current WADA/USADA [World Anti-Doping Agency/US Anti-Doping Agency] policies and to file for appropriate therapeutic use exemptions.”

The policy states: “Those who transition from male to female (MTF) are eligible to compete in the female category under the following conditions: The athlete has declared that their gender identity is female. The athlete must demonstrate that their total testosterone level in serum has been below 2.5 nmol/L for a period of at least 24 months. The athlete’s total testosterone level in serum must remain below 2.5 nmol/L throughout the period of desired eligibility to compete in the female category.”

One wonders why the athlete needs to declare that their gender identity is female. There is nothing objective about such a declaration. It changes nothing. Moreover, the athlete would be declaring a nonsensical status, since “female” is not a gender identity. Gender identity is different from biological sex, which is determined by a person’s chromosomes and gametes. (It is also different from sexual orientation, i.e., an individual’s romantic or attraction to others based on genotype.)

There is no such thing as FTM or MTF transition in our species. While there are some animal species that can change their sex (examples of sequential hermaphrodites include bluehead and leopard wrasse, clownfish, green sea turtles, and parrotfish), humans cannot. No mammal species can change its sex or can be classified as a different sex on the basis of hormones or the appearance of external genitalia or secondary sex characteristics (that the female spotted hyena is dominant over her male counterpart and has higher levels of testosterone, which can causes her to develop male-like genitalia and behaviors, doesn’t obviate her sex).

The USA Cycling and the UCI are denying basic science in policy. The attempt to bring science in with the reference to testosterone levels serves only to manufacture an appearance. Male and female genotype cannot be reduced to testosterone or any other isolated interval- or ratio-level variable. Genotype is a constellation of qualitative and quantitative variables. There are many differences between males and females that put girls and women at a distinct competitive disadvantage to boys and men. To be sure, some of these differences are influenced by testosterone, such as muscle mass, bone density, and red blood production. But these factors are irreducible to testosterone and, once developed during puberty, remain despite testosterone levels.

Compared to females, on average, males have a larger build than females; males typically have broader shoulders, narrower hips, and a more muscular physique, inducing more muscle mass and different mixes of muscle types. These differences give males advantages in activities that require physical strength, e.g., cycling, swimming, and weightlifting. Females tend to have a higher percentage of body fat compared to males, which can make it more difficult to perform certain physical activities that require endurance, e.g., cycling, running, and swimming. Females generally have wider hips and a narrower ribcage compared to males, and a different center of gravity, which can affect balance and stability. Men are on average taller than women, which gives them advantage in sports where height is an asset, such as basketball and volleyball. The male physique puts females at a distinct disadvantage in contact powers.

These overlapping distribution of factors are accompanied by qualitative differences between the sexes. Females are the only sex capable of becoming pregnant and giving birth, which can result in time away from work or other activities and can put them at a disadvantage in competitive environments. Pregnancy and child birth change the body in ways that affect a woman’s capacity to compete. Furthermore, the reproductive capacity comes with menstruation. Only women can experience the cycles that can cause discomfort and pain that affect physical and mental performance. Women are not men with less testosterone. Women and men are qualitatively different things.

Tiffany Thomas, a male dominating women’s cycling.

Why don’t articles like this just specify that the subject of the story is a male who lives as a woman? Why obscure the reality that a male is competing in the female division of the sport and therefore enjoys an unfair physical advantage in competition? After all, that’s the reason why competitive sports are segregated by genotype. Honest language is not used because that would change the way the reader reacts to the story. Why should men who choose to live as women be allowed to compete in women’s sports? How is that fair? Those questions are less likely to come to mind if the “right” language is used. At a minimum, why not consistently use the construct “trans woman”? The controversy over gender ideology aside, at least that construct confuses only those with a cursory knowledge of gender ideology.

Maybe it’s time to end sex segregation in sports. If authorities are not going to recognize the biological differences between men and women, then why put women at a distinct competitive disadvantage in divisions that were created specifically for them in order to level the playing field? Just eliminate women’s sports altogether and let individuals compete regardless of sex. Why all the pretense about hormone levels and such? Abandon any pretense to science altogether and just throw individuals into the arena and let the best person win.

Neil deGrasse Tyson recently appeared on The Ben Shapiro Show Sunday Special and suggested to the host that we don’t specify whether it is a male or female sport but rather make divisions based on the “hormonal balances.” This proposition ignores every other difference between males and females noted above, differences that mean that, even if society allowed for this, men would across sports dominate every division based on testosterone.

You could blind observers to the sex and gender of the athletes, but a visitor from another planet could not help but notice that those with XY chromosomes seemed destined to be elite athletes, whereas those with XX chromosomes, in light of the futility of it competing against males, had given up on professional sports altogether. In this case, the science would work itself out whether humans believed in science anymore. In such a world, accepting there really are such things, women would never win. But there is no such thing as women really if being a woman is really only a sociocultural construct men can appropriate.

Why do we segregate men and women in certain areas of life? Is it really on the basis of gender identity, that is how one identifies gender-wise? If gender identity is subjective, which is obviously is, it has no objective reality. But competitive sports is about objective physical reality. It seems, then, that all this is an agenda to push thinking away from the objective scientific materialist basis and towards something resembling a religious mode of thought, an ideology comprised of subjective categories, called “gender identities,” which can be anything at all.

This move not only calls sex and gender into question; it also calls into question the objectivity of natural and physical reality altogether. Thus, more broadly, this is a backwards atavistic enterprise—a desire to leave the Enlightenment, to escape scientific reality. It is a desire for a pre-scientific world, a world of myths and rituals. Why do elites want this?

I have been saying this among my circle of friends for several years now: gender ideology and the emphasis on transition from one thing to another is an expression of transhumanist desire. Transhumanism is a cultural movement that advocates for the use of science and technology to enhance human cognitive and physical abilities beyond what is currently possible. Transhumanists believe that humans can and should strive to overcome the limitations of biology and achieve a post-human future in which people are able to transcend their current abilities and limitations.

Transhumanists advocate for the application of artificial Intelligence, to augment human cognitive abilities, biotechnology, including genetic engineering, gene therapy, and other methods for modifying the genetic makeup of humans to enhance physical or cognitive abilities, and cybernetics, i.e., the integration of machines and technology with the human body to create synthetic beings or enhanced humans. It may seem paradoxical for a movement dependent on science to deny scientific truth, but transhumanism represents not science but scientism, a new religion that pulls from science the stuff from which it builds up its myths and rituals.

What lies at the core of the transhumanist movement is the desire to transcend human being, which is achieved by instilling in young people a type of alienation characterized as self-loathing. Just as the young woman who amputates her breasts, injects testosterone, and allows surgeons to remove her forearm skin to fashion a faux-penis has internalized the loathing of girls and women that inheres in patriarchal relations, young people generally loathe their bodies and seek to transcend them in some fashion. Many young men hate their bodies and wish to move from that body into the body the young man finds beautiful, a body that can grow breast and is allowed to disguise its ugliness in makeup and wigs. The young man also disappears himself into the virtual worlds he finds online. This is why so many of our young people modify their bodies out of recognition—with the medical-industrial complex there to assist (see Disordering Bodies for Disordered Minds; Making Patients for the Medical-Industrial Complex).

At the popular level, gender ideology and transhumanism are thus manifestations of a religious seeking of the transcendent experience. The way out of gender dysphoria—what is sought in its stead—is gender euphoria, the ecstasy of transcending what they were given. The avoidance of puberty is a way to achieve mastery over the body one is born with. Such dysphoria is created by a cause that needs young people to hate their bodies to serve instead as servants in the new world transnationalists are constructing. Pushing male bodies into women’s sports is just one method of disrupting the ordinary understanding of people that thwarts the next steps from being taken.

The elites are coming not only for science and secularism; they’re coming for humanism. What does that mean? Humanism is the ethical and philosophical stance that emphasizes the agency and value of human beings, individually and collectively. Humanism promotes dignity, freedom, welfare, and well-being for humans. Humanism is rooted in the belief that humans have the capacity for creativity, empathy, and reason, and that these qualities can improve our lives and the world around us. At its core, humanism affirms the intrinsic value and worth of human beings, regardless of their race, gender, ethnicity, religion, or other characteristics. It emphasizes the importance of individual freedom, human rights, and social justice, and seeks to promote these values through education and civic engagement.

The elite are preparing the world’s population for incorporation into a transnational corporatist state system by canceling the Enlightenment and overthrowing humanism while incorporating people conditioned to no longer recognize their species being, no longer capable of thinking in the realist terms of natural history, into a technocratic order in which they will

This isn’t only a struggle over whether males who identify as women can compete in women’s sports, which will result in profoundly unfair outcomes for girls and women if finally resolved in favor of those males. This is a struggle over whether scientific truth prevails as a core value of human civilization.

It is, moreover, a struggle over women’s rights—and this requires recognizing that men and women are different. Because of the physical differences between men and women, there are situations where accommodations are necessary to ensure equal access and opportunities for women. In athletic competitions, women require separate categories to account for differences in physical ability and performance. The practice of sex segregation is not to give women an unfair advantage, or a privilege or special right, but rather to create a fair and level playing field where everyone can compete on equal terms.

Physical differences between men and women require accommodations and adjustments in other situations, as well, and the focus of women’s rights advocacy and gender equality efforts concerns removing barriers and creating equal opportunities for all individuals regardless of their sex and gender. Women cannot be regarded as individuals standing equally before the law while ignoring the many differences that exist between women and men. Indeed, sex-related differences must be recognized in order to treat women and men equally. Sex segregation is a recognition of objective reality. Tearing down the institutions that were designed to remove barriers to equality for women by treating males who claim to be women as women denies that objective reality.

OpenAI’s Chatbot Portrays Left-wing Populist and Pro-Labor Radio Host as Conservative and Pro-Business

Recently, I blogged about the second anniversary of the death of Rush Limbaugh from lung cancer (The Second Anniversary of the Great One’s Passing). In that blog, I discussed Limbaugh’s contribution to AM radio and my relationship to that media. In the same breath I celebrated Chuck Harder, the left-populist radio host for the pro-labor/anti-globalist For the People. Some may have thought it odd that I linked the two. One reason I did so was explicit: these two figures were part of the AM radio continuum at the time and this blog was in part an autobiographic note. But the other reason had to do with the left-right convergence in the gathering populist-nationalist movement.

Chuck Harder (1942-2018), leftwing populist and pro-labor radio host

I will say a bit more about the movement in a moment. But before I get to that, I asked just now Open AI’s ChatGPT to tell me about Chuck Harder. I didn’t know whether the chatbot would even know who Harder was. I was pleased to discover that Harder made enough of an impact to come to the attention of the chatbot during the period it was scraping data across the Internet. However, I was displeased to see, until challenged, the chatbot portrayed Harder as a conservative, pro-business voice!

Here’s the initial prompt:

Here is the chatbot’s initial response:

Here is my challenge to the initial response:

Here is the chatbot’s mea culpa:

I don’t believe the false portrayal is an accident. For decades, Harder waged a war of resistance against the transnationalist’s agenda of establishing a one-world government and, to wage this war, he gave a platform to economic nationalists. Harder fought for the people the power elite consider the rabble, i.e., the average American worker who was—and is—losing his jobs to foreigners thanks to the globe-trotting of powerful corporations and industries. Harder opposed the outsourcing and exporting of jobs, plant closings and foreign relocations, mass immigration, especially the influx of illegals and porous borders.

Harder was a forerunner of Steve Bannon and the MAGA crowd (see The Economic Nationalism of Steven K. Bannon). To be sure, Bannon is a rightwing populist, but Harder’s anti-globalist politics prefigured the present-day convergence of left and right wing populism in the revival of democratic-republican and liberal values and practices currently challenging corporate state power and its transnationalist ambitions (see Bridging the Left-Right Divide to Confront the New World Order).

We see this convergence in the appearance of Tulsi Gabbard, former Democratic Party member, at the Vision 2024 National Conservative Forum (held on March 18, 2023). We see this also in Naomi Wolf’s apology to conservatives for believing the legacy media coverage of the events of January 6, 2021 at the U.S. Capitol after Fox News host Tucker Carlson aired previously unreleased footage. 

We can also see the chatbot’s politics at work in the portrayal of Harder as  “anti-tax” and a  “conspiracy theorist.” On the matter of conspiracy theory, Harder’s opinion regarding the assassination of President John F. Kennedy was cited as the example. In fact, the US House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) concluded that President John F. Kennedy’s assassination was likely the result of a conspiracy and that the lone gunman theory presented in the Warren Commission Report was implausible. The HSCA was established in 1976 to investigate the assassination of Kennedy (as well as the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.) and released its findings in 1979. In the final report, the HSCA stated that it believed Kennedy was probably assassinated as the result of a conspiracy, although it was unable to identify the specific individuals or groups involved. The Warren Commission’s conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone in shooting Kennedy was not supported by the evidence.

Then there is this (spoiler alert: it was the CIA):

Article 49.3: Technocratic End-run Around Democracy

The French executive invoked Article 49.3 of the Constitution to push through the National Assembly a bill raising the retirement age without a vote. Article 49.3 was passed in 1958 to give the government the ability to pass legislation in the face of opposition by using the power of. something the French call “engagement of responsibility,” which means that the government declares the bill a matter of confidence and that, without its passing, the government will fall.

By giving the government more power to push through bills, the provision was intended to make the legislative process more efficient and effective. Defenders argue that it is a necessary tool for the government to push through important reforms in a timely manner. In other words, it’s a technocratic end-run around the democratic process. It is an undemocratic tool that undermines the role of the National Assembly and limits public debate and scrutiny of proposed legislation.

Article 49.3 has been used several times in French political history, often when the government faces significant opposition in the National Assembly. You may remember that Article 49.3 was used in the passage of controversial labor reforms in 2016, which led to widespread protests and strikes. Or maybe you don’t remember this because the corporate state media in the United States hardly reported it.

This matters to you, my fellow Americans. Elites will (again) be coming after pensions in the United States. They’ve spent our retirement on globalization and war-making. We are entitled to that money. They are as I write this scheming a way to not have to give it to us.

What is Woke?

You have no doubt by now seen the video of Bethany Mandel, promoting her book Stolen Youth, cowritten with Karol Markowicz, apparently freezing when asked to define woke during a Tuesday interview on The Hill’s online program Rising. Co-host Briahna Joy Gray asked her to clarify the term so everybody could be on the same page. The defenders of woke ideology thrilled when Mandel hesitated before coming up with one. The resulting narrative obscures what turns out to have been a succinct definition of woke.

“So, I mean, woke is sort of the idea that, um,” Mandel seemed to choke before noting: “This is going to be one of those moments that goes viral.” She then gathered her wits about her and gave one of the best definitions of woke I have yet heard: “the understanding that we need to totally reimagine and redo society in order to create hierarchies of oppression.” After Robby Soave jumped in to say, “It’s definitely something you know what it is when you see it,” Mandel added: “Forced conformity.”

Here’s the interview:

Now, Mandel may well have meant something like “the understanding that we need to totally reimagine society in order to reduce hierarchies of oppression,” which would have been a charitable definition given from the standpoint of a woke person. Dictionaries define woke as an aware of and actively attentive to important societal facts and issues, especially issues of racial and social justice (paraphrasing Merriam-Webster). But the way Mandel put it is what those who think in woke terms actually want out of their movement. They do not wish to reduce hierarchies of oppression but to create them. And they have.

If you need somebody to say more, I am certainly that person. Here’s how I would have answered the question: Woke describes a system of political and social beliefs based on identity politics, political correctness, and academic theories of systemic oppression and privilege that promotes a victimhood culture and conditions people to be overly sensitive and easily offended, while stifling free speech and suppressing charitable dialogue. As such woke ideology is divisive and counterproductive, emphasizing differences between groups rather than their commonalities and promoting a culture of blame and resentment rather than one of agency and responsibility.

That definition takes about thirty seconds to say, if you speak at a reasonable pace. Mandel did better with “the understanding that we need to totally reimagine and redo society in order to create hierarchies of oppression.” Even better with “forced conformity.”

The Mayor of Green Bay, WI, Bugs City Hall

A bit more than a month has passed since Green Bay city council members discovered that microphones had moths earlier been added to the building’s surveillance system. Alderman Chris Wery dramatically confronted Mayor Eric Genrich at the full council meeting on Tuesday, February 7: “City council nor the public was advised of this spying and not even a simple signage warning of the intrusion was put in place.”

Alderman Chris Wery questioning Mayor Eric Genrich about surveillance practices.

Today, Green Bay City Hall is not only facing a civil lawsuit over its use of audio recording devices, but an investigation is underway to determine if criminal charges should be filed against anyone from the city. Brown County District Attorney David Lasee worked with the Green Bay Police Department to refer the investigation to the West Allis Police Department. The charge here is serious. Violating Wisconsin’s Electronic Surveillance Control Law is a Class H felony. A conviction on this charge can lead to up to six years in state prison, a maximum fine of $10,000, or both. 

The plaintiffs behind the civil lawsuit claim that the city and Mayor Eric Genrich violated the law by installing audio recording devices in the hallways of City Hall. The complaint alleges that Genrich installed “highly sensitive audio listening devices” that have been intercepting and recording private communications for years, including conversations between council members and the public, privileged attorney-client communications, and personal conversations. Genrich and members of his administration maintain that the devices are legal; they believe there is no reasonable expectation of privacy in a hallway of a public building.

The city formally admitted on February 10, 2023 to installing the devices outside the mayor’s office and city council chambers in December 2021 and outside the city clerk’s office in July 2022. These actions were taken without city council approval or knowledge. Signs were posted to alert visitors of the recording after the presence of the devices were revealed. Then, in early March, Brown County Judge Marc Hammer ordered the microphones turned off while the lawsuit plays out. On Tuesday, March 7, in a 9-3 vote, the city council passed a policy to remove the devices from City Hall and the recordings destroyed at the conclusion of the lawsuit.

In this blog, I will discuss the problem of surveillance of citizens generally and then provide some concerning details on the Green Bay situation. There are questions of legality involved here, but of far greater importance is the character of a politician who would bug the heart of city government and spy on his constituents. Claiming that no laws were broken is not an excuse to listen to the privacy conversations of Green Bay residents. That the mayor did this at all is what is at issue.

While government officials argue that surveillance is necessary for safety and security, and this is Genrich’s explicit justification (claiming that there were three incidents where city employees and members of the public were “verbally assaulted”) surveillance infringes on the civil liberties and privacy rights of people. Privacy is a fundamental human right, enshrined in constitutions and international declarations around the world, with the United States standing as the recognized paradigm—at least in principle. Citizens have the right to keep their personal information and activities private and governments are obliged to respect this right. That they don’t does not obviate principle.

Surveillance has a chilling effect on free speech and association; people may be less likely to express controversial opinions or engage in political activism if they fear being monitored. Moreover, government surveillance affects citizens emotionally and psychologically. Knowing they’re being monitored can make people feel like they are constantly being watched. They become unsure of the spaces where they may privately communicate with others with confidence. This can produce a sense of paranoia and a loss of trust in others. All this negatively affects political engagement and freedom of expression.

Government surveillance is easily abused. I hardly need to recount here the many cases of governments using surveillance to target political opponents, journalists, and activists. Abuse of power undermines the rule of law and erodes trust in government institutions. This is why governments are required to obtain warrants before conducting surveillance—and why these warrants must be subject to judicial review. Citizens should enjoy the right to access and control their personal data, and to know how it is being collected and used by government agencies.

Even if we took those who surveil the public on their word that they deploy such technology to enhance safety and security, the alleged benefits of surveillance are vastly overstated. Moreover, there are alternative ways to achieve the goals of public safety without infringing on civil liberties and privacy rights. At the very least, when listening technology is used for this purpose, there must be transparency and accountability around surveillance activities. Wery was right to raise his objection and educate the mayor on the basic principle that governments should disclose the extent of their surveillance activities, the legal basis for these activities, and any oversight mechanisms that are in place.

When Wery called for the equipment to be removed, Genrich refused to do so, stating that the security system is lawful and commonplace. Afterwards, Genrich’s office provided a fact sheet noting that, of the fourteen cameras in public areas of City Hall, three have audio capability and are located only in the hallways of the first and second floors. The city argued that similar technology has been used in the Green Bay Police Department lobby for nearly a decade and that the transit system has had video and audio capabilities for 20 years.

Genrich means to dissimulate the reality that City Hall is where politics happen. That the June 17, 1972 break-in of the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Washington, D.C. Watergate Office Building was illegal was not the only objectionable thing about the Watergate scandal. Indeed, the burglary was the least of it. It was the fact that members of one political party were there installing bugs in order to listen to the private conversations of their political opponents. President Nixon didn’t resign his office because he was a burglar. He resigned because he betrayed a foundational principle of a free society. At least he had that much integrity.

Despite the city’s assertion that the security system is lawful, concerns persist about the potential violation of citizens’ privacy. Critics argued that the devices could capture private conversations between attorneys and clients, political discussions by voters casting in-person absentee ballots, off-the-record conversations between journalists and sources, and quiet conversations between City Council members and constituents outside of council chambers. Such scenarios could violate citizens’ reasonable expectation of privacy and constitute a breach of their rights.

Attorney Ryan Walsh, representing the Wisconsin Senate and three individuals suing the City of Green Bay and Mayor Genrich over the use of audio surveillance, wrote the letter to Brown County District Attorney David Lasee requesting a criminal investigation be opened. Walsh easily destroyed Genrich’s bogus safety argument. “I don’t know how you deter anyone by secretly recording them and not letting them know that you are recording them,” he said. It is implausible that these were installed for safety reasons if we presume that Walsh’s point would have occurred to Genrich and his administration at some point in their deliberations about whether to install audio listening devices. Surely they aren’t that stupid (I’ve met Genrich, and he struck me as a reasonably intelligent person).

Attorneys for the city and mayor argued the plaintiffs knew about the audio recording devices since mid-September, which is beyond the timeframe allowed for notice under law. They reference a letter sent to some eight hundred of the mayor’s constituents alerting them to the presence of audio surveillance devices.

That a letter of that nature was sent raises two questions. First, was the limited distribution of the letter designed to let a select number of the mayor’s constituents know where they might be recorded and that recordings of others existed? Second, was the letter a tactic to delegitimize as “politics” the concerns of citizens who raised the issue by saying that the letter proves it was not a secret?

The second function of the letter was affirmed by Judge Hammer. Granting the restraining order ordering the microphones be turned off immediately and any recordings sealed until the court says otherwise, he commented, “I’m concerned there was some type of underhandedness or strategy in waiting until after the city primary and before the city election to dirty up the mayor.” He then blatantly accused Republicans of using “a fundamental right that our people have as a political tool.”

Whatever their motive, Republicans are standing up for the fundamental right of people. That the populists in the Republican Party have taken a keen interest in the civil liberties of Americans is a welcome development in light of the history of establishment Republicans on the question of surveillance. That said, speculating about their political motive is an exercise in political speech that undermines the fair and impartial character of the court Judge Hammer is supposed to uphold.

Indeed, Hammer’s political speech appears coordinated with Genrich’s re-election campaign, which quickly issued a statement from the mayor reading in part, “I agree with Judge Hammer that the actions of Wisconsin Republicans are political and suspiciously timed. These MAGA Republicans who are aligned with my opponent are making our residents and city staff less safe by prioritizing politics over safety.”

These MAGA Republicans are putting the civil liberties and privacy rights of Green Bay residents ahead go the mayor’s desire to glean information from them by secretly recording their conversations. Genrich’s use of epithet “MAGA” is typical of Democratic Party rhetoric. It’s rhetoric designed to delegitimize those standing up for working people and separate populist Republicans from their establishment colleagues. It’s part of the Uniparty strategy of differentiating between acceptable Republicans and the deplorables.

It’s a distraction. Consider not only Walsh’s point that there can be no deterrent effect of audio surveillance no one knows exists, but the admission by the mayor’s office that they don’t comprehensively review the recordings—in other words, the mayor is only interested in some conversations. Which ones? That’s not a hard question to answer. It’s a simple matter to keep track of who is in the building with fourteen video cameras, their recordings time stamped, and match those to the audio recordings and listen to the conversations. One is naïve in the extreme to believe with any degree of certainty that this is not what those devices were for.