Every 20 years or so, America comes down with a serious case of political correctivitis.

I’m old enough to remember the first PC outbreak in the 1970s, when the tide of ’60s radicalism washed against the shore of Establishment America. Another epidemic spread in the early 1990s, and we’re in the midst of the third – and most serious – eruption now. We survived the first two flare-ups relatively intact, and I’m hoping Donald Trump can get us through the third.

Among the lasting changes of the first PC wave were affirmative action, which initially targeted blacks until women demanded to get into the action, and the beginnings of identity politics (which activists from other groups viewed as a way to get a piece of the affirmative action bonanza).

Also important was how feminists changed the language, starting by introducing three new words: sexist, sexism and Ms. Inflamed by Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinam and company, female activists worked to rid the English language of words they deemed sexist. Goodbye, policeman, mailman and fireman. Hello, police officer, letter carrier and firefighter.

Fortunately, other substitutes never really took hold (except in Democrat quarters). Despite their best efforts, few normal people really wanted to change “chairman” to “chairperson” or “spokesman” to “spokesperson.” A tidy solution was to substitute “-woman” for “-man” on a case-by-case basis.

Steinem was extraordinarily successful with the creation of “Ms.” (the courtesy title, not the magazine). She was offended that all men were simply addressed by “Mr.,” while women’s titles – “Mrs.” and “Miss” – were based on their marital status. “Ms.” thus leveled the gender playing field.

(This caused problems for me and other reporters. Many newspaper editors were slow to approve the new courtesy title, which put us in the embarrassing position of asking females sources who used “Ms.” whether they were married. Most publications eventually solved that dilemma by dropping all courtesy titles and referring to women only by their last names on second reference.)

After digesting all these changes, great and small, America experienced a new outbreak of PC in the 1990s, when the seeds of identity politics planted a generation earlier sprouted into saplings. The bastions of the Old Order who had faced the first wave were giving way to new people whose beliefs were shaped in the ’70s. Their faith in traditions was shaky, and they were more willing to compromise with advocates of identity politics. This was when the Left and the Right alike began using the term “politically correct.”

Affirmative action had been dealt serious setbacks in the courts, so activists began using “diversity” as the reason for pushing racial and sex-based quotas into all aspects of society, from the workplace to the schools. As today, diversity meant only racial, sexual and religious differences; diversity of political thought was scorned.

I came upon this first-hand when local school officials put out a call for citizens to serve on several advisory boards, including a new committee to foster diversity. That struck a chord with concerned residents – 45 people, more than half of them men, showed up for the diversity committee’s organizational meeting. The chairwoman, amazed by the turnout, started asking crowd members why they were there.

One by one, each man and most of the women said they wanted to be on the committee to make sure the schools emphasized the similarities among students, not the differences. Halfway through her questioning, the chairwoman said the committee’s goal was to help students embrace their distinctions, not stress what they shared in common. At that point, all the men except me and most of the women stood up and left.

I stayed on, figuring the rump committee needed at least one voice of reason. After listening to and speaking out against schemes ranging from silly to gobsmackingly stupid, I gave up after six meetings. Luckily for my children, the plans they discussed never went into effect. (Perhaps that happened because I ran into a school board member, who was aghast when I told him what the committee was up to.)

So here we are, struggling through a third PC epidemic. Times never looked bleaker under Barack Obama, and I would have given up hope under a Hillary Clinton presidency. Trump’s refusal to buckle under to political correctness certainly gave him a boost in 2016, and he could put a big dent into PC culture if he wins a second term.

I have just one tip for The Donald: Fight your foes through your policies, not your tweets.

When synthpop sensation Rockwell released the hit single “Somebody’s Watching Me” in 1984, it’s unlikely that the paranoia he was singing about concerned government surveillance. Nevertheless, the 30-year old pop anthem remains relevant today because it speaks to the feeling that so many of us have.

Indeed, it no longer seems cuckoo to say that all eyes are upon us…because they are! You can’t walk down a city street without being monitored. There are an estimated 30 million surveillance cameras in the US alone and that number will only continue to grow.

And never mind walking down the street, you don’t even have to leave the comfort of your own home to find yourself scrutinized. Not only do internet service providers (ISPs) collect all of your personal information, but they are free to sell it off to third party entities for marketing and other purposes.

More alarmingly, our world governments have been snooping on their citizens for decades. In 1941, the UKUSA Agreement was forged. This multilateral covenant for cooperation in signals intelligence between Australia, Canada, New Zealand , the United Kingdom and the United States, otherwise referred to as the “Five Eyes,” revolves around the covert STONEGHOST network, a system that is said to hold some of the Western world’s most sensitive secrets.

In the ensuing years, this alliance has expanded to include second and third party partners. Today, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Spain and Sweden have formed SSEUR or the “Fourteen Eyes,” joining the “Five Eyes” in their exchange of delicate data.

The House Intelligence Committee has released a memo that alleges that the FBI and Justice Department are guilty of gross surveillance abuses against their own government and the Electronic Frontier Foundation shows that the malfeasance doesn’t stop there.

Working in tandem with major telecommunication carriers, the National Security Agency has engaged in massive, illegal dragnet surveillance since as far back as 2001. In that time, they have spied on the domestic communications and communication records of millions of tax-paying, law-abiding American citizens.

Under the Obama administration, the NSA violated the Constitution and court-ordered guidelines pursuant to federal law, willfully exploiting loopholes to unmask Americans’ identities when sharing this information with other agencies.

What’s more, then-President Obama even monitored Trump campaign officials prior to Trump’s appointment as our Commander-in-Chief. It would seem that even the Leader of the Free World isn’t exempt from the surveillance state.

There are no less than 6 government programs that watching us 24/7. The Justice Department is regularly obtaining and using evidence from social networking sites. That means that no person with a Facebook, Twitter or Instagram account is safe.

The department can collect and use any of your personal communications against you if they deem it relevant to establishing “motives and personal relationships.” If this sounds a lot like what the law calls circumstantial evidence it’s because that’s exactly what it is.

For instance, if someone you know is murdered and your social media profile contains pictures of you brandishing a knife at a horror convention, the Justice Department could, in theory, use those photographs to support the notion that you were involved in the commission of such a crime.

The Internal Revenue Service also utilizes social media sites, including Facebook, Google and YouTube, to investigate taxpayers. Since 2009, this practice has been part of their agent training program.

The next word you type into Google may get you flagged by the Department of Homeland Security. The department is using an aggressive monitoring program that tracks a whopping 380 keywords.

It’s a scary time to be an American, especially with global cyberattacks posing a very real daily threat. After all, if they’re not simply snooping then they’re holding our personal data hostage. Using sophisticated means, hackers from all across the globe are targeting businesses and private citizens with ransomware.

Such attacks, like the one that was likely perpetrated by North Korea, continue to plague our nation and threat trends for the year ahead indicate that ransomware, firmware and other malicious software will dog us if we don’t do something to stop it.

It’s times like these when we would be smart to take a cue from our Commander-in-Chief and protect ourselves against privacy infringement, censorship and more. In November of last year, Trump paved the way during his visit to China.

By using a virtual private network (VPN), the president was able to circumvent the “Great Firewall” and access Twitter which is banned in Beijing, where the president was staying, and everywhere else across the country.

VPNs are WANs (Wide Area Networks) that use dedicated connections and advanced encryption protocols to generate P2P connections. They “spoof” your IP address by replacing it with one of their own VPN providers.

Most VPNs have multiple servers in most every major country, meaning that you can protect your privacy even if you are traveling. Some of the best VPNs on the market feature intrusion detection and prevention, DNK leakage protection, signature protocols, IPSec (an extra layer of security), split tunneling and unique authentication.

VPN solutions like ExpressVPN deliver fast speeds, 24/7 customer support and mobile apps so that you can stop the snoops from snooping when you’re texting your friends or doing business on your iPhone or Android device.

A word of warning, however, for my more frugal readers. Yes, there are free VPNs available online, but as with your ISP, these free services are only offered for free because, unlike subscription-based solutions, they keep logs of all your sessions and can sell your data to third parties.

Some of the less reputable VPNs, such as HideMyAss, have been served with subpoenas and shared their customers’ log sections with law enforcement officials. For this reason, it’s important to use a VPN that stands by its “no logs” policy.

By using reliable web hosting and military-grade encryption, we can effectively anonymize our online activity and keep cybercriminals from gaining purchase to our PCs. Privacy and security are right at our fingertips, just where they rightfully belong.

As Justice William R. Day famously said of our Fourth Amendment, “The efforts of the courts and their officials to bring the guilty to punishment, praiseworthy as they are, are not to be aided by the sacrifice of those great principles established by years of endeavor and suffering which have resulted in their embodiment in the fundamental law of the land.”

Photo Credit: Forever Lee Circle FB page

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT —  We are deep in the throes of Mardi Gras season in Louisiana, that weeks-long bacchanalian festival with parades through the streets, brightly decorated and lit floats blaring deafening music, costumed float riders throwing beads, medallions, shoes, stuffed animals, coconuts, CDs, packages of Ramen noodles, even hot dogs.  You name it, someone on a float will be throwing it.

One thing some float riders will not be throwing this year is the Forever Lee Circle beads.  The medallion on the strand depicts Robert E. Lee standing atop his pedestal against a clear blue sky, and the words Forever Lee Circle.

You might recall my heavy “monument blogging” last year as New Orleans erupted into protests, marches, and stakeouts as the Mitch Landrieu administration swept through in the dark of night to remove Confederate monuments from the city.  Apparently, emotions are still running high.

From The Advocate:

The Krewe of Muses has taken a stand against Confederate-themed parade throws, banning its members from throwing Robert E. Lee beads — or any other items with a political message — in its upcoming parade.

The Krewe of Orpheus has also told members not to toss the Lee beads and its captain said any riders who bring them will be asked to remove them from the floats. And the Krewe of Endymion is also suggesting riders not bring the controversial throws.

According to a memo sent to the Muses’ float lieutenants, besides the throws being deemed inappropriate, the Lee-themed beads — which have garnered attention on social media — are also dangerous. The memo says the krewe is concerned people who would throw those beads could have them hurled back at them or the person throwing them could be harmed by angry paradegoers.

The Hayride, a popular Louisiana blog, calls bull on the political message warning:

Now, some people are using the city ordinance cited above by the Advocate in support of the idea that “political” beads are already illegal and thus restricting the Lee beads is simply following the law.  However, to my knowledge, the ordinance in question has never been enforced — and indeed political throws have been commonplace.  This stands to reason, because the ordinance appears plainly unconstitutional, and is thus a mere fig leaf for krewes’ efforts to regulate throws.

Meanwhile, the beads are showing up on eBay for up to $50 a strand!  And selling!

The owner of the Forever Lee Circle Facebook page issued this statement:

The making of this bead was and will be cathartic for so many in our community. Throwing this bead is nothing more than giving our iconic landmark a proper send off. Parade after parade it will serve as one big second line. A simple way to express our loss and remember all the good times we shared during Mardi Gras at Lee Circle. It’s about giving an outlet to those feeling a sense of loss. Having lost four of the cities most Iconic Historical Monuments, that had been part of the New Orleans landscape for over 100 years has been unimaginable for a lot of people. I have felt a lot of push back by people trying to attach their irrational fear, anxieties and hatred over the monuments to this bead and I’m not inclined to let others fears lay claim to my motives. I challenge anyone to find hate in my heart.

The group has joined the eBay fray and placed one of the beads up for auction with all proceeds going to their Lee Monument Association fund.

The major parades will be this coming weekend in New Orleans; we will be in suspense until then to see if the krewe members comply with the edicts of the krewe bosses or if they go rogue and throw their Robert E. Lees.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

As the city of Philadelphia celebrate their championship (and upcoming quarterback controversy)  and Patriots fans question the benching of Malcolm Butler and continue to whine about the Garoppolo trade in the wake of Superbowl 52 there is one aspect of the game that nobody is talking about, at least not yet.

While the Patriots have been identified with the President in the past it’s worth noting that after his speech in Alabama Tom Brady distanced himself from President Trump and 17 members of the New England Patriots took a knee to the boos of the fans in Foxborough.

contrariwise not only did no member of the Philadelphia Eagles take a knee that week Philly was one of only seven team that didn’t have a single player protest during the National Anthem all season.

If you’re planning to watch the Super Bowl but you can’t stand the NFL take-a-knee protests, you may want to root for the Philadelphia Eagles.

Not a single Eagles player sat or knelt during the national anthem, one of just seven teams with perfect non-kneeling records, in a season that saw 684 such incidents, according to a study released Thursday by Sports Pundit.

The other Super Bowl LII team, the New England Patriots, landed in the middle of the pack with 17 incidents of anthem sitting or kneeling, wedged between the Buffalo Bills with 16 and the Cleveland Browns with 20.

So while many in the Nevertrump® world are no doubt are celebrating they have not considered that the Eagles have put the President in the catbird seat.  Instead of inviting a team where a large number of players protested his remarks from a region that gave him but a single electoral vote and wondering who might show up, President Trump after releasing a pre-game statement about standing for the anthem, now gets to invite a team from a swing state that he won, where not a single member of the team took a knee the entire season..

And don’t think for one second that the president will fail to note that bit of Karma on twitter sooner rather than later and use it to his advantage.   Moreover he might just be snarky enough to congratulate all the leftists out there for choosing to celebrate a team that refused to disrespect the flag.

It will be a lot of fun to see if he is able to bait his foes on the left to attack the champions of Philadelphia as insufficiently woke and alienate the blue collar voters now celebrating in the streets.