Althouse | category: race consciousness



a blog by Ann Althouse

"Although Cambodia to this day has no law specifically limiting surrogacy, the government criminalized the practice by using existing laws against human trafficking..."

"... an offense that can carry a 20-year sentence. Dozens of surrogates have been arrested, accused of trafficking the babies they birthed. In a poor country long used as a playground by foreign predators — pedophiles, sex tourists, factory bosses, antique smugglers and, yes, human traffickers — the Cambodian authorities said they were on the lookout for exploitation....  Nearly all of those arrested in the 2018 raid gave birth while imprisoned in a military hospital, some chained to their beds. They, along with several surrogacy agency employees, were convicted of trafficking the babies. Their sentencings, two years later, came with a condition: In exchange for suspended prison terms, the surrogates would have to raise the children themselves. If the women secretly tried to deliver the children to the intended parents, the judge warned, they would be sent to prison for many years. This means that women whose financial precarity led them to surrogacy are now struggling with one more mouth to feed."

From "They Were Surrogates. Now They Must Raise the Children. In Cambodia’s weak legal system, surrogacy exists in a gray market, endangering all involved when political conditions suddenly shift and criminal charges follow" (NYT).

In one example discussed in the article, the surrogate was paid "$9,000 — about five times her annual base salary." 

Also: "Most of the Chinese babies carried by Cambodian surrogates are boys. Sex selection is banned in China, but not in Cambodia." And the agency spokesperson said: "Mixed-race children are popular with our clients." We're told "many of its egg donors came from Russia, Ukraine and South Africa. The intended fathers were Chinese, and many were gay." So the children the surrogates must raise look half-European, which the NYT says "can create additional strains."

A serious deficiency in this article: We are never give the text of the statute that Cambodia is enforcing. I see there's a quote from a sperm-donor's lawyer — "Are they serious that he is trafficking his own child?" — but it's impossible to analyze the legal question without seeing how the crime is defined in the statute. That's not about what the English words "human trafficking" seem to mean to us!

"The social media network known as Mastodon is sort of an anti-Twitter: quiet, calm, and refreshingly free of Nazis."

"People have been flocking to it lately, only to get confused by the way it’s set up—which is a shame, because it’s not that hard to get started. Here’s how."

I'm reading "How to Move From Twitter to Mastodon/There are many similarities between the two—except that Mastodon feels like a nice place to be" (lifehacker). 

I'm reading that because I wanted to take a look at something I've heard about a lot lately, but — as it says above — I got confused. I had to find an article explaining it.

I'm confused by this article too. How can a speech forum have a mood as specific as quiet and calm? And what kind of dolt feels "refreshed" by a feeling that a place is "free of Nazis"? I would expect Nazis — especially dangerous Nazis — to lull people into "not see"ing them (until it's too late). You know those old movies where somebody would say "It's quiet. Too quiet." It's like that, I would think. If you're saying "It's refreshingly free of Nazis," you ought to go on to say "Too refreshingly free of Nazis." 

And what's this "Mastodon feels like a nice place to be"? Yeah, feels like.

Lifehacker proceeds to help us with our confusion by trying — trying — to talk to us as though we are easily triggered by anything that sounds disconnected from a simple, off-screen life:

Whereas Twitter is a single huge corporate entity, Mastodon is more like a bunch of local mom-and-pop shops. That means you need to choose an “instance”—a server you’ll call home.

You're trying to soothe me into absorbing a technical description, and you're telling me I need to call something "home" that you're calling an "instance." Just tell me there's something called an "instance" and what it is. And don't drag in mom-and-pop shops. Are we going shopping or going home? Neither. We're having an "instance." Look, I was attracted by the "mastodon," which is a cute extinct animal. There are no Ice Ace behemoths in this Bedford Falls you've got me imagining. And I am more and more alienated from this nice, quiet, Nazi-free place.

It’s like how you can choose to keep your money at your local bank or credit union, but your money is still good everywhere....

Another analogy! Now it's about money. My eyes glaze over. I don't want to understand it. I just want to do it. I'll skip ahead to what I'd see if I did get on this thing:

[Y]our instance also has two special timelines: The local timeline is a stream of everybody tweeting from that instance. So if I click there, I see everything that’s going on on It’s like listening in on everybody in your neighborhood.

It's like Mr. Rogers is explaining this... but he's not helping. And in real life, "listening in on everybody in your neighborhood" is not nice. It's quite wrong. But I know they don't mean "listening in." They just mean reading things people have written and posted.

The federated timeline...

Federated! I don't get niceness vibes from "federated." Is this for people with warm feelings toward the federal government?

... is everything on the local timeline, plus everybody who is followed by someone on your instance. So if I follow Nick, his toots (yep, they’re called toots) will show up in’s federated timeline.

They're only called "toots" if people call them "toots," and I doubt that people will do that. The writer of this article already wrote about "a stream of everybody tweeting from that instance."

A few terms to help ease your transition from Twitter: It’s not a tweet, it’s a toot. It’s not a retweet, it’s a boost. There is no such thing as a quote-tweet, you just either boost or you don’t. Twitter itself is referred to as “the birdsite.” Do not bring birdsite drama onto Mastodon....

Who is telling use what we can do or not do and what words we need to use? Is my question dramatic and birdsite-y? I feel unwanted at Mastodon. It feels inclusive and exclusive simultaneously. How will this rule of niceness be enforced? With niceness? 

First, this is not Twitter. Each instance has its own administrator and its own code of conduct, so make sure you read up before you toot.

So I have to pick an "instance" to start, but each instance has a different code. How many codes should I read before I pick? But reading the code wouldn't be enough, because I wouldn't know how the code is interpreted and enforced. I see that one instance has a code that says (in part):

The following types of content will be removed from the public timeline, and may result in account suspension and revocation of access to the service: Racism or advocation of racism/Sexism or advocation of sexism/Discrimination against gender and sexual minorities, or advocation thereof/Xenophobic and/or violent nationalism....

I'm required to understand a word that isn't even a word: "advocation." Plus, of course, I don't know what will count as "racism" or "sexism." It could be quite broad or idiosyncratic. One person's feminism is another person's sexism. And, for some people, racism is structured into everything and operates covertly, like those clever Nazis I was just talking about.

I quit. I quoot.

"The Black women detailed fierce competition on cryobank websites for vials from Black donors, which, they say, typically sell out within minutes."

From "America has a Black sperm donor shortage. Black women are paying the price. Black men account for fewer than 2 percent of sperm donors at cryobanks. Their vials are gone in minutes" (WaPo).
The sperm banks say they have tried to recruit Black donors and want to meet their customers’ needs. “Over the years, we have spoken to African American fraternities and student organizations to try to increase our number of applicants. This has not been very successful,” California Cryobank’s Shamonki said. She added that “it’s proven to be challenging to hit the right tone and appeal to these donors rather than further alienate them.”
The Sperm Bank of California has had similar challenges. “Folks felt our ads were a little too urban. And so we really work very hard to come up with images that we feel resonated with the donors,” Campbell said.

I think they're trying to say that the black men they tried to recruit found the appeal racist. I wish there was more detail to the content of the appeal and more clarity about why it was offensive.

This story is highly promoted on the Washington Post front page — the second-most prominent headline. But the story focuses on the black women who want to have babies with black fathers. I don't think there's any discussion of white women who would like babies with black fathers.

One black woman who used a white man's sperm to father her child said people seeing her baby said things like "Of course she’s mixed.... You only wanted a light-skinned baby. You don’t like being Black." That is a special problem... a problem that exists because other people — some other people — are awful.

The highest-rated comment over there is from someone who quotes the line "a Black sperm donor who could give her a child that looked like her and shared her culture" and says "A baby doesn't have a culture. Culture is construct that a community creates."

"[T]he 'Lebensborn' program — meaning wellspring or fountain of life... created in 1935... provided luxurious accommodations for unwed, pregnant women."

"Part of the program’s attraction was that unwed pregnant girls could give birth in secret. In 1939, about 58 percent of the mothers-to-be who applied to the program were unwed... by 1940, that number had swelled to 70 percent. Often, the homes were converted estates decorated by Himmler himself, using the highest quality loot confiscated from Jewish homes after their owners had been killed or sent to camps. Girls who were already pregnant or willing to be impregnated by SS officers had to prove their Aryan lineage going back three generations and pass inspections that included measuring the size of their heads and the length of their teeth. Once accepted, they were pampered by nurses and staff who served them delicacies at mealtimes and provided a recreational diet rich in Nazi propaganda...."

From "A new novel tells the story of Nazi birthing farms" by Kathleen Parker (WaP).

The new novel is "Cradles of the Reich" by Jennifer Coburn.

Here's the article in the Holocaust Encyclopedia about the Lebensborn program.

I found that as I was looking for photographs showing how a place "decorated by Himmler" would look. Here's a propaganda photograph with a caption that translated into "Everything for the healthy child":

From the Holocaust Encyclopedia article:
Himmler had hoped that the program would become the wellspring of future generations of Nazi Germany’s racial elite. However, Lebensborn disappointed these expectations. Although the program’s homes claimed to uphold the highest standards of modern medicine, serious complaints about the quality of medical care emerged....
Himmler had estimated that 100,000 “biologically valuable” German women obtained abortions illegally each year, despite increased penalties. However, only around 7,000 children were born into the Lebensborn homes during the program’s nine-year-long existence. 
Lebensborn ultimately fostered many more kidnapped foreign children, although the precise numbers are difficult to establish. The legacy of the Lebensborn program includes broken homes and devastated parents. It also left a generation of children forced to contend with identity crises as well as the social disapproval that often accompanied their association with a Nazi eugenics program.

I'm not going to read the new novel. I'd rather read nonfiction on this topic, but I would like to read a novel set in the near future that envisions a similar program in America, addressing the problem of declining birth and acknowledging that outlawing abortion won't work.

Of course, the racial aspect of the story would need to be changed, but how much? We'd have some sort of ideology of "diversity" or racial balancing, and it would be interesting to depict various American leaders attempting to work that out and needing to worry that what they are doing is like Lebensborn. Like Lebensborn. 

It would also be interesting to show American leaders attempting to draw in young American women through architecture and interior decoration... displayed on TikTok and Facebook. The novel could be very funny if you got just the right sort of obtuseness as the old try to imagine what these young women today want.

Offers of great food and a wonderful health care system would be part of the draw. More things to go wrong in this novel's twists and turns.

I could write this novel, but it will remain forever on my shelf labeled "Unwritten Books."

Here are 9 TikToks, carefully curated for you. Some people love them.

1. Réttir — sorting out the sheep in Iceland.

2. The woonerf — a type of street.

3. The Finnish way to live through winter — on Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

4. If Arabic were English.

5. Choosing the boring life.

6. Overnight evolution.

8. Talking to the salad.

9. Hello, darkness, my old friend....

“I failed, failed and absolutely failed to understand just how exhausted by and disgusted with the perpetual representation of Muslim men and women as terrorists or former terrorists or potential terrorists the Muslim people are."

Said Abigail Disney — grandniece of Walt Disney, "a titan in the documentary world" — who was the executive director of “Jihad Rehab,” called it “freaking brilliant” in an email to the director, then disavowed it.

She is quoted in "Sundance Liked Her Documentary on Terrorism, Until Muslim Critics Didn’t/The film festival gave Meg Smaker’s 'Jihad Rehab' a coveted spot in its 2022 lineup, but apologized after an outcry over her race and her approach" (NYT).

Advised by a PR firm to apologize, the director Meg Smaker said "What was I apologizing for? For trusting my audience to make up their own mind?"

Smaker spent 16 months inside a Saudi rehabilitation facility interviewing former Guantánamo detainees.

The attacks came from what  the NYT characterizes as "the left":

Arab and Muslim filmmakers and their white supporters accused Ms. Smaker of Islamophobia and American propaganda. Some suggested her race was disqualifying, a white woman who presumed to tell the story of Arab men.

The filmmaker Assia Boundaoui, said: "To see my language and the homelands of folks in my community used as backdrops for white savior tendencies is nauseating. The talk is all empathy, but the energy is Indiana Jones."

A nice even 10 in the TikTok selection tonight. Some people love them.

1. A series of drawings with an invitation to visualize the artist.

2. Something called "manner leg" in Korea.

3. Living the barefoot life for 25 years.

4. When it's a woman's video at first, but then the edit switches to a man.

5. When white people speak to black people, they only seem to notice that you're black.

6. When you visit your parents, and it's 6 a.m.

7. When he called the little old lady "lovely." 

8. Queen Elizabeth and David Attenborough discuss a sundial.

9. What do you do with a big old baldface hornet's nest?

10. The old bun-in-the-oven metaphor.

It's hard to say a racist incident never happened, but why was it so easy to say that it did?

"Brigham Young University said Friday that it had completed its investigation into accusations of racial heckling and slurs at a volleyball match against Duke University last month and found no evidence to confirm that the behavior took place."

Note the careful language — "no evidence to confirm." They don't and can't say that nothing at all happened. The language in the BYU statement is: "we have not found any evidence to corroborate" ("From our extensive review, we have not found any evidence to corroborate the allegation that fans engaged in racial heckling or uttered racial slurs at the event").
The Duke player’s father, Marvin Richardson, told The New York Times after the game that a slur was repeatedly yelled from the stands as his daughter, Rachel Richardson, was serving and that she feared the “raucous” crowd. He did not immediately respond to requests for comment on B.Y.U.’s findings on Friday. 

That link goes to the NYT story from August 27th, which begins:

A Duke University women’s volleyball player who is Black was called a racial slur during a game Friday night in Utah....

Boldface mine. The Times stated it as a fact. Now, the NYT is very precise and says "no evidence to confirm," but when the allegation was made, it wasn't equivalently precise. Was it careless of precision, or did it consciously choose to leave out the "allegedly" before "called"? Why stir up discord, when so often these allegations turn out to be false?

I see the name "Jussie Smollett" is trending on Twitter. It's the easiest snark in response to the BYU story.

Why hasn't the NYT learned — at the very least — to leave itself an out? Is it carelessness? Is it blinded by the perverse hope that racism — which must be simmering everywhere — will burst forth in a vivid incident? Boosting these stories so eagerly, the media is cultivating doubt.

Stop luring young people into tainting their reputation by concocting another one of these poisonous morsels you're so eager to serve to America!

"Such a large amount is certainly going to make institutions around the country take notice, and to be very careful about the difference between supporting students and being part of a cause."

"It wasn’t so much the students speaking; it’s the institution accepting that statement uncritically. Sometimes you have to take a step back."
The incident that started the dispute unfolded in November 2016, when a student tried to buy a bottle of wine with a fake ID while shoplifting two more bottles by hiding them under his coat, according to court papers.

Allyn Gibson, a son and grandson of the owners, who is white, chased the student out onto the street, where two of his friends, also Black students at Oberlin, joined in the scuffle. The students later pleaded guilty to various charges.
After the 2019 jury award against Oberlin, Carmen Twillie Ambar, the college president, said that the case was far from over and that “none of this will sway us from our core values.” The college said then that the bakery’s “archaic chase-and-detain policy regarding suspected shoplifters was the catalyst for the protests.”
The highest-rated comment (by a lot) quotes "Archaic chase-and-detain policy" and asks "What should a storekeeper do about a shoplifter?" Good question. Is the answer that what's not archaic is not to have any sort of shop that is open to the public?

Anyway, I'm glad the bakery is getting its money, and I hope colleges learn how to support student speech without joining the speech. Only join the speech if you stand behind it. Your speech is your speech. You're not absolved from your lies because you were echoing what somebody else said. That should have been obvious all along.

"Earlier, I made an ironic reference to a term used by some on the left about black people who are deemed traitors to the cause through joining the Tory Party."

"After I posted it, I realised this joke might give offence and deleted it. It was unacceptable language, wide open to misinterpretation, and I am sincerely sorry for the distress I have caused.  I have repeatedly applauded the Conservatives for having the most diverse cabinet in British history. Indeed, I tweeted earlier that the Truss cabinet made the Scottish government look 'hideously white.' I have always championed racial diversity in my columns and I am dismayed that my cack-handed attempt at humour suggested otherwise."

Wrote Iain Macwhirter, quoted in "Journalist apologises for ‘coconut cabinet’ jibe" (London Times).

He used a term no one should even consider using but apparently thought it could work because he was portraying other people as having used it and he's trying to attract offense and redirect it over to them. That's way too tricky a move, plus you are still causing the offense by reminding people of the insult.

He's "dismayed that my cack-handed attempt at humour." What is "cack" anyway? It's ca-ca — excrement.  The OED says that "cack-handed" is only "perhaps" based on "cack." But "cack-handed" has always meant clumsy, going back to 1854. "Cack" is much older word, going back to the 1400s. I'll just quote you one quote from the 1500s:
a1556    T. Cranmer in J. Strype Mem. Cranmer (1694) App. 105   Because the Devil could not get out at his mouth, the man blew him, or cacked him out behind.
"[T]he 'Lebensborn' program — meaning wellspring or fountain of life... created in 1935... provided luxurious accommodations for unwed, pregnant women."

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