Friday, April 23, 2010

And this person wants to transform all of you men!

This is a story with an extraordinary ending, so please bear with me and read all the way through.

It begins with a man named Robert Connell. Back in 1995 he wrote a book called Masculinities. There wasn't much that was new in the book. It consists mostly of standard patriarchy theory: the idea that masculinity is a construct and that it provides men with a "patriarchal dividend" at the expense of women. Therefore, social justice requires the deconstruction of masculinity.

But how to do it? Connell argues in Masculinities that there are many masculinities but that one is "hegemonic". This is an idea borrowed from Gramsci. It means that there is one form of masculinity which manages to get itself accepted as authoritative and that through this the existing values of society are upheld.

Therefore, there cannot be transformative change until the hegemonic masculinity is deconstructed. But Connell recognises that a sense of masculinity is embedded in the male personality and that it is formed in part through bodily practices (such as sport).

So what's required is not just a change in patriarchal institutions. What is needed is a change in the male personality and bodily practices. Men need to be degendered in body and in personality.

Connell's book was highly successful. He became the world's leading theorist of masculinity. The charity Oxfam, for instance, believes that its role is to secure gender equity by transforming masculinity throughout the world. The information on its website is clearly drawn from Connell's work:


Throughout the organization, we will base our work on a common understanding that gender equality is key to overcoming poverty and suffering.

[this requires a consideration of] the invisibility of gender issues to most men and the notion of the ‘patriarchal dividend’ (i.e. the privileges that all men draw upon simply by virtue of being male) ... the dominance of specific forms of (‘hegemonic’) masculinity; how masculinities are actively constructed; the costs associated with masculinity for both men and women; and the dynamic nature of masculinities over time.

‘Hegemonic masculinity’ is a concept that draws upon the ideas of Gramsci. It refers to the dynamic cultural process which guarantees (or is taken to guarantee) the dominant position of men and the subordination of women.

Again, just to illustrate how serious Oxfam is about transforming masculinity here are some additional ideas from its website:

Oxfam’s approach to poverty – the importance of gender analysis

The study highlights the importance of coherent gender analysis … Gender analysis is central to Oxfam’s understanding of the root causes of global poverty … if gender relations are to be transformed …

Changing masculinities, changing men

… masculinities are actively ‘produced’ by individuals, rather than being programmed by genes … It is sometimes argued … that being ‘natural’ masculinity is impervious to reform. But our research demonstrates the reverse … Clearly there are risks involved in attempts to reshape masculinity …

Again, Connell is the most frequently cited authority in this document written for the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The document reminds readers that the UN has called for a "transformative change" to achieve gender equity. Masculinity, it is claimed, stands in the way of "progress" toward a new world order of centralised, global government and increasing ethnic diversity:

In effect, masculinity becomes a rhetorical currency by which opposition to global integration, state centralization and increasing ethnic heterogeneity can be mobilized. (p.4)

It is Connell who is again looked to as the expert authority on the matter:

Typically, as Connell notes (1998: 17), “hardline masculine fundamentalism goes together with a marked anti-internationalism”. (p.4)

So Connell managed to become an international authority on masculinity, or at least the deconstruction thereof.

But this is where we get to the dramatic twist in the story. In his book Masculinities Connell anticipated that the aim of degendering men in their bodily practices and in their personalities would arouse opposition.

In particular, it would arouse the fear that a process of degendering men would turn men into women:

If the problem is basically about masculinity, structural change should follow from a remaking of personality. (p.230)

...emotional turmoil and guilt feelings ... are a measure of the resistance even in favourable circumstances. In other circumstances the project will be rejected out of hand as an attempt to turn men into women.

It follows that a degendering strategy, an attempt to dismantle hegemonic masculinity, is unavoidable.

The degendering strategy applies not only at the level of culture and institutions, but also at the level of the body - the ground chosen by defenders of patriarchy, where the fear of men being turned into women is most poignant. (p.232)

What we are moving towards is indeed "something rich & strange"; and therefore, necessarily, a source of fear as well as desire. (p.234)

The reason I highlighted these passages is this: Robert Connell is no longer legally a man. He has, it seems, had sex change surgery, legally changed his identity, and transformed himself into Raewyn Connell. Below is a photo of the radically transformed Robert Connell.

Given that Robert Connell took this drastic step, I think we're entitled to ask some questions.

Did Robert Connell always feel conflicted in his own masculinity? Does this help to explain his feeling of estrangement from mainstream masculinity? Or his repeated claims that men needed to change their bodily practices to more feminine ones of nurturing babies?

Or did the theory itself push Connell to view masculinity as so malignant that it had to be physically cut away?

Or did the theory, with its emphasis on the bodily transformation of men, lead Connell to arrive at the radical solution pictured on the left?

At any rate, the idea that the great project of liberation is to degender men's bodies and personalities, is associated in the case of its founder with a result that won't appeal to too many men.


Hat tip: Paul Elam

34 comments:

  1. well told, I didn't see that end coming.

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  2. It begins with a man named Robert Connell. Back in 1995 he wrote a book called Masculinities.

    Is the Kindle version called eMasculinities? =)

    The document reminds readers that the UN has called for a "transformative change" to achieve gender equity.

    What does that mean, mobile castration teams?

    the project will be rejected out of hand as an attempt to turn men into women.

    Which is exactly what it is!

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  3. I wonder why it took so long for him to go the whole way.

    "eMasculinities" Very witty, I wish I had said that.

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  4. Now then. He's just realized that the only way to stem his regrettable "testosterone poisoning" was to do so by eliminating the source.

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  5. I hate to say it but its pretty well known that guys who are interested in gender are usually pussies or gay, see the previous thread on the greens activist. In this case its a sex change.

    In large part these kinds of people are interested in gender because they feel themselves the "loser" under older gender views. They're certainly not lumberjacks or "real men" so they go about picking at, (they would say "thinking about"), the concept of masculinity. Do we radically change concepts of masculinity to accommodate them?

    Masculinity as well as being biological/natural is also functional. In a society that requires less guy specific functionality, ie we're predominantly office workers now, these kinds of attitudes will continue to be circulated.

    Also if masculinity is seen as disrespect for many UN style values, ie intollerance for certain kinds of weakness, equality, "exploitation" etc then yes it will be seen as the enemy and under attack.

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  6. The answer to Mark's question is obvious. This Connell obviously felt uncomfortable with his own masculinity and this is what inspired the becoming female and writing.

    This seems to be a reaction to the fact that transsexuals are often not accepted by men and women. Connell's book is therefore a rejection of the very masculinity that he/she feels is what has oppressed him/her.

    The real solution is obviously a more moderate one. We need to be more accepting of transgender people, not try to eliminate the entire concept of gender altogether.

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  7. Leon,

    I guess we have this issue with all left wing arguments. They claim injustice or a history of injustice which then means we're the baddies and must change to accommodate their concerns.

    One obvious counter to this is that the criticisms when presented aren't slight, they're not in the form of "transgenders are hard done by lets be more accepting". They're in the form of masculinity is bad wrong, must be totally done away with, treatment of transgender is one example of this. The proposed solutions are extreme and unreasonable. Cutting deals in such an environment is sort of like granting seemingly favourable concessions to communists who aren't actually interested in the issues anymore and only want to take over the state.

    This touches on a larger point though. The left is essentially a collection of people who feel hard done by: "Women" (well a proportion anyway), "workers", gays, blacks, foreigners, creative progressives, individualists (in the non collective group). All state and think they've been hard done by and disadvantaged, if not currently at least historically. What should the conservative response to this be? Merely to argue against the excesses of their proposed solutions? Deny that any injustice did or does take place? Reach for compromises to defuse at least formally the sense of injustice? Its an important issue.

    The perhaps unfortunate history is that by starting to give ground you unleash a snowball effect.

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  8. I had thought (all right, hoped) that the Connell creature might have lapsed into silence by now. It's well over 30 years since his original "masterpiece", Ruling Class Ruling Culture, burst upon the consciousness of the managerial elite at Australia's academic gulags. But no, old Marxists never die, they just wear dresses.

    Jesse_7 asks:

    "The left is essentially a collection of people who feel hard done by: 'Women' (well a proportion anyway), 'workers', gays, blacks, foreigners, creative progressives, individualists (in the non collective group). All state and think they've been hard done by and disadvantaged, if not currently at least historically."

    It was the political philosopher Gustave Le Bon who as early as 1896 summed up leftist "thinkers" (the French Revolution was a field in which he specialised) as "social failures, misunderstood geniuses, lawyers without clients, writers without readers, doctors without patients, professors ill-paid, jobless graduates, clerks whose employers disdain them for their insufficiency, puffed-up university instructors - these are the natural adepts of socialism. In reality, they care little for doctrines. Their dream is to create by violent means a society in which they will be the masters."

    Google gives various versions of this quote, which comes from Le Bon's Psychology of Socialism. But whichever version one finds, it's interesting that the origins of leftism in embittered personal failure were being recognised even then.

    We see this from Marx, the debauched Jewish-born sponger who bellyached so often about "Jew-niggers", and similar, that his innumerable Hebraic admirers often had to publish his collected works in heavily censored versions. See Nathanael Weyl's 1979 book Karl Marx, Racist. (Becoming a Connell-type trannie might have been a bit too much for even Marx to stomach, though.)

    The only way I have discovered of attempting to fight against leftist victimhood apparatchiks (I long ago abandoned the concept of trying to convince them) is simply to appeal to whatever residual self-respect they might have underneath all their sub-Gramscian whining. As in telling them: "Fine, you're oppressed on account of being female / gay / black / proletarian, SO GET OVER IT. You want to know what real oppression's like, spend a few days as a quadriplegic, or even able-bodied but without a driving licence. Meanwhile, I, unlike you, have a life."

    The fatal mistake is to take these clowns at their own estimation as serious intellectuals. Once they sense that you are feeding into their capacity for self-righteousness, you are doomed. Laughter really is the best medicine.

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  9. "The fatal mistake is to take these clowns at their own estimation as serious intellectuals. Once they sense that you are feeding into their capacity for self-righteousness, you are doomed. Laughter really is the best medicine."

    That's good.

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  10. No wonder Islam is in rebellion against the West. Anyone would be.

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  11. "The real solution is obviously a more moderate one. We need to be more accepting of transgender people, not try to eliminate the entire concept of gender altogether."

    Disingenuous pish-tosh! We don’t need to do any such thing.

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  12. For my sad, Gramsci ideas is very popular in Brazil.

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  13. I was watching Q and A last night, Question and Answer, a program where a number of political and social panellists are brought together to answer questions put by the audience. The show certainly has a left wing tilt and the selection of panellists usually favours the left. The topic was “What the meaning of Anzac Day?”, which is the equivalent of US Veterans Day or British Remembrance day. Anzac day is probably a bigger deal in our country than other countries equivalent memorial days, because historically in part Anzac day recognised our commitment in WWI, which took place just after our federation or separate nation status. Our good performance and resilience in battle was viewed as a recognition of Australian difference, excellence and of our separation from England or as our quasi “Birth of the nation”. Consequently it has some similarities with July 4th or Bastille day.

    The topic was "what's the meaning of Anzac Day" which is a left wing topic. The left are very reluctant to embrace Anzac day, one of our most popular national days, because to them it celebrates a blokey or militaristic history and is viewed as being excessively jingoistic. They would say why should we be defined, through our history in war as opposed to our other, (left wing) accomplishments. Also that its an unashamedly proud occasion and that we shouldn't be proud of our role in war or alternatively how can we be proud without fully acknowledging our treatment of the aborigines? Or some other such thing.

    The left view is in contrast to the more common view in our history or conservative view. This is along the lines that we fought, we won, we showed excellent ability and national traits such as resilience and mateship. That the causes we fought for were right and that those who served were heroic in their efforts and in their fight for their nation and its causes. That war, whilst horrifically costly, was sometimes necessary and that those who fell, were injured or served, should never be forgotten. Essentially that Anzac day is a day of national pride as well as remembrance.

    On this issue a general intellectual ”accommodation” with the left has taken place. And its important because it goes to the question of how do you deal, or how have we dealt, with the left. The accommodation is that the overwhelming focus of Anzac day, in all the capital cities, although there are variations, and in news coverage, whilst acknowledging Australian pride, should be on the overall costs and horror of war and remembrance of those who fell and served. Specifically that war should not be glamorised, Anzac day should essentially be a solemn day and concepts of Anzac day being the birth of our nation should be minimised.

    Going back to Question and Answer it was clear that this accepted accommodation with the left while still the overwhelmingly accepted norm, was beginning to be questioned, or wasn't enough. There were questions raised that Anzac day should be moved to another day to de-emphasise our historical connection to Britain. That it has very little or nothing to do with our "new" Australians (ie immigrants). Again that our current memorial services still have a backdrop of jingoism, militarism and masculine pride. Also, (and this was funny), the left wingers Germaine Greer and author/historian Reynolds stated that Anzac day commemorations were being stuffed down the throats of school children by a conservative schooling system. Like I said funny.

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  14. Cont.

    General Cosgrove (a popular retired general) who generally defended the conservative view, restated the accommodation and denied that Anzac day services were currently jingoistic or valorising of war. He stated that the left wing criticisms were largely ridiculous and that any attempt to change Anzac day dramatically would be met by fierce public opposition. On the point about immigrants he said that each individual will develop their own take on Anzac day and if you're personally not interested at least you can enjoy the public holiday. Cosgrove was nonetheless willing to acknowledge that many injustices had taken part in Australia's history and should be remembered or acknowledged, as well as Anzac day.

    The essence of Cosgrove's point was that it is a numbers game. The public (ie white public, the same public who attend Anzac day services , whose relatives fought and died in the wars and who currently serve in the forces) won't put up with any substantial change. His arguments were not excessively intellectual. He didn't say that there's nothing wrong with being jingoistic in many circumstances, that the immigrants who don't want to be a part of it can go to hell or that the left are excessively attacking our traditions as opposed to remedying injustices. Rather that merely largely on a practical level any substantial change won't be accepted or agreed with. Also he used the argument that everyone can figure out Anzac day “for themselves”. This whilst essentially a common sense position does have the potential to undermine the common national significance of the day.

    Cosgrove won the night, although he made some concessions for instance to Aboriginals, but the point is ultimately that the left will have to be taken on intellectually. You can't rely on winning by numbers arguments while the numbers are shifting around you. You can't endlessly give ground to the left for the sake of fairness and accommodation. You can’t say “everyone figure it out for yourselves” and hope that they’ll inevitably separately come to the accepted traditional view. The left will have to be taken on front and centre.

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  15. "On this issue a general intellectual ”accommodation” with the left has taken place. And its important because it goes to the question of how do you deal, or how have we dealt, with the left?"

    Sorry I should have empahsied this point in the opening of my comment.

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  16. the causes we fought for were right

    Because Australia had such an obvious interest in the moral issue of the violation of Belgian neutrality! Or something. Whatever it was, it was surely worth spilling oceans of English, Irish, Scottish, Canadian, Australian, and New Zealander blood. After all, the war produced so many good things, like the Civil War in Russia in which the Bolsheviks triumphed, German collapse and the ultimate rise of Nazism, the carving up of the Ottoman Empire, the rise of Arab nationalism, the crippling of British power, Turkish genocide of the Greeks and Armenians, etc. etc. Who could argue that all those good things weren't the right cause to fight for?

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  17. http://www.abc.net.au/tv/qanda/txt/s2877002.htm?clip=rtmp://cp44823.edgefcs.net/ondemand/flash/tv/streams/qanda/qanda_2010_ep12.flv

    Link to the Q&A episode.

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  18. As the erstwhile accomodation you relate makes clear, Jesse, society can't really reach any accomodation with the leftists. Even total surrender on some point of their current demands will not satisfy them on the point, much less any other.

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  19. "The proposed solutions are extreme and unreasonable. Cutting deals in such an environment is sort of like granting seemingly favourable concessions to communists who aren't actually interested in the issues anymore and only want to take over the state."

    I totally agree that compromise with respect to outlandish and ridiculous demands is out of the question.

    Nevertheless, I do believe that we have to recognise that what leads to such demands is a feeling of rejection, alienation, oppression, isolation etc.

    On the subject of patriotism, i'm reading an interesting book called Reclaiming Patriotism, which argues in favour of progressive patriotism. The author rightly argued that the left have effectively sidelined themselves by viewing patriotism with suspicion since most Australians are patriotic.

    The book notes how many immigrants from all backgrounds come to Australia and become Australian in their own customs and loyalties. So even with large migration levels, patriotism will always be a sentiment share by most Australians.

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  20. Leon Betrand said:

    "The book notes how many immigrants from all backgrounds come to Australia and become Australian in their own customs and loyalties. So even with large migration levels, patriotism will always be a sentiment share by most Australians."

    Non whites don't join the military in any considerable number nor do they attend Anzac day services. So where is this patriotism? Is "progressive patriotism" the good old fashioned argument that war protestors are more patriotic than the soldiers? Well the immigrants don't do that either. They don't do anything in the public sphere unless they're directly affected or their home country is affected. A country they actually feel patriotism for.

    Anonymous said:

    "Who could argue that all those good things weren't the right cause to fight for?"

    Ok fair enough there are right wing arguments that can be made against fighting many of the wars of the twentieth century.

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  21. "So where is this patriotism? Is "progressive patriotism" the good old fashioned argument that war protestors are more patriotic than the soldiers?"

    In the US, Eric Ken Shinseki (Japanese) is a retired four-star general whom Obama chose to be Secretary of Veterans Affairs. He did this for two reasons a) the guy isn't white and b) supposedly (though it doesn't say this on Wiki but this was in the media reports at the time) he retired because he disagreed on the Iraq War with the Bush Administration.

    But if Shinseki was a true American patriot, and true soldier, he would not have retired. Because a true military general would not desert his men. He may have disagreed with a war, but that's even more reason to stick around...so that your good judgement can help protect the men in the military.

    So as far as I'm concerned, Shinseki only cared about himself and is a dumbshit who deserted his men.

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  22. Leon Betrand said:

    "Nevertheless, I do believe that we have to recognise that what leads to such demands is a feeling of rejection, alienation, oppression, isolation etc."

    The idea of oppressed rights is an obvious left wing theme, but I think there's more to left wing thinking than just that.

    Compassion, for instance, which I think is different in several respects to a sense of injustice is a very strong motiff in left wing thinking. Look at the issue of refugees for instance. The left, I would say, see this as primarily a compassion issue, (rather than as an immigration issue in the way that we would). According to the left we should care for the unfortunate, feel sorry for their situation and be generous.

    Its a similar situaton with the illegal Mexicans in the US. The left wing argument runs along the lines that we should let them in because they have a lower quality of life at home, ie that we should feel sorry for them. The focus is on the immigrant and how we feel towards them, ie compassion, with the national implications being hardly considered or dismissed as largely inconsequential or easily resolved.

    How is this relevant to the transgender situation? Here according to Leon’s argument, compassion, they feel rejected and alienated etc and we should consider that, should be a front and centre issue. What is proposed by the transgender, however, is not a call to be compassionate towards males who feel uncomfortable with masculinity or their sex. Rather, its a wholesale rejection of masculinity holus bolus as being inherently unjust and its requirements being destructive and constrictive.

    So you can be drawn towards left wing positions through feelings of sympathy or compassion and then be left in very vulnerable or untenable positions when you’re hit by the formers enforcement of their new rights or their claims of wholesale injustice.

    Its very hard in practise to come to terms with these people.

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  23. One thing to notice about leftist "compassion" -- it never costs *them* anything; and, frequently, they materially benefit from the forced "compassion" of us "little people."

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  24. What is proposed by the transgender, however, is not a call to be compassionate towards males who feel uncomfortable with masculinity or their sex. Rather, its a wholesale rejection of masculinity holus bolus as being inherently unjust and its requirements being destructive and constrictive.

    Jesse, spot on.

    None of this would be such an issue if it were just a matter of feeling compassion for the small number of people who don't identify with their biological sex.

    But, as you point out, there is a radical politics attached which can only further undermine the general culture and society.

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  25. Leon,

    I'm not as confident about the "progressive patriotism" as you are.

    There have been some columns in the Melbourne newspapers written by Asian immigrants to Australia on the issue of patriotism.

    These columns have been critical of the atomised individualism promoted by our own liberals. Not surprisingly, there are Asian intellectuals who don't feel comfortable with this.

    But the "new patriotism" they want to put in its place has, in each of these columns, been proposed at the expense of the older Australian national tradition.

    The period of European Australia is to be erased from the national consciousness as something bad that happened in the past and has now been overcome.

    As you can imagine, it's difficult for me to be enthusiastic about such proposals. It's a kind of reverse assimilation - I'm expected to cast off my own tradition and identity and assimilate into a new immigrant identity.

    I'll try to dig up one of these columns to illustrate the problem.

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  26. Just don't make the mistake of imagining that the rank-and-file ethnic immigrants necessarily subscribe to those reverse-assimilationist views.

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  27. Illion,

    "Just don't make the mistake of imagining that the rank-and-file ethnic immigrants necessarily subscribe to those reverse-assimilationist views."

    Why does it matter? It's the views people promote and defend in public which determine policy and culture.

    Also, if assimilation is undesirable for Mr. Richardson and most normal Australians, why should we assume it's desirable or healthful for an immigrant? Assimilation means emptying yourself of your heritage, your line, your language, culture and loyalties and imposing a new one on yourself.

    This is an obviously going to be a very stressful thing to do, and thus only makes sense under the most stressful and extreme circumstances.

    We traditional conservatives ought to be pointing this out and, on humanitarian grounds, fighting immigration as the deeply destructive and radically disruptive reality that it is.

    Just my two cents.

    Great article though, Mr. Richardson

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  28. Mark said:

    "It's a kind of reverse assimilation - I'm expected to cast off my own tradition and identity and assimilate into a new immigrant identity."

    Horrifying.

    Bartholomew said:

    "We traditional conservatives ought to be pointing this out and, on humanitarian grounds, fighting immigration as the deeply destructive and radically disruptive reality that it is."

    Yes I think that's right, immigration can be particularly tough on immigrants. Especially if they're moving form more traditional societies into the increasingly "tradition neutral" west.

    On llion's point about compassion and the left. I think that that's right. The blog importantly talks about "left-liberalism", the blending of the two views. I think perhaps on many issues the left side of left-liberalism says we should be compassionate and the liberal side says, can't someone else do it.

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  29. The new Arizona law and the Goldman Sachs "short sell" of home mortgages for its clients told us two very important things about this mass immigration into the Anglosphere.

    First, the liberal assertion that the immigrants were the exploited ones has been totally exploded.

    The anglosphere is the exploited party in this raw deal and the mass immigrationists are the exploiters.

    Secondly, THERE IS PROFIT IN CLOSING OUR
    BORDERS.

    Don't let the open border zealots tell us that closing our borders will be detrimental to our economies Nonsense. It can be made profitable just as bad mortgages can be profitable.

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  30. On the Arizona law I just want to say, awesome. On the Goldman Sachs issue you'll have to bring me up to speed becuase I'm not sure about it. The hiding behind the fig leave of the "economy" on immigration issues really is pathetic.

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  31. The hiding behind the fig leave of the "economy" on immigration issues really is pathetic.

    Especially because AZ has 9.4% unemployment. If a bunch of people went back south, that would be a good thing!

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  32. Jesse 7,

    Goldman Sachs is "accused" of making a profit for its client who invested in the housing bust. Of course, these investors correctly saw the opportunity BECAUSE of the housing boom.

    And so today, we have a liberal rat like Bloomberg claim that closing the borders will be unprofitable. But what he means to say is that those who have profited from open borders HAVE TO CHANGE investment strategies to coincide with new realities.

    There are profits to be made NO MATTER WHAT THE ENVIRONMENT. Just like a housing bust can be profitable for a small minority of investors SO WAS the open borders profitable to a small minority of investors, Mexico and a lot of legal and illegal aliens. Now a new reality is emerging and good investors MUST TAKE HEED.

    How do we invest wisely with closed borders?

    Think of all the profit to be made now that a major liability is being neutralized and turned back?

    Bloomberg doesn't want to modify his portfolio to invest wisely in a closed border environment. Too bad, HE MUST or he withers.

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  33. Any chance you would be OK with me putting this article in MRm! magazine?

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  34. I have no problem with you reproducing the article in MRm! magazine.

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