Pacific Island Immigration

May 22nd, 2008 at 8:56 am by David Farrar

There has been a lot of debate about a Massey University study by into Pacific Island achievement and . The Dom Post reports on the study.

The Herald also reports on the backlash from “political correctness bullies”. It has been condemned by Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres, despite admitting he had not read it. The same goes for Labour MP Su’a WIlliam Sio who calls the paper disturbing despite also not having read the study.

Now I haven’t read the report myself (but have asked for a copy so I can comment later in more detail), but will make the assertion that there is nothing new about the fact that in areas of education, employment and crime etc Pacific Islanders do not perform as well as the rest of the population. This is not generally disputed.

But what is vital is that one does not just see the hundreds of thousands of Pacific Islanders in NZ just as part of a group. The majority of Pacific Islanders make a positive contribution to New Zealand.

Now how does this tie into immigration policy? Should there be some discrimination against Pacific Islanders because on average they do not achieve as well as other NZers? Absolutely not. I am a strong supporter of a colour blind and country blind immigration policy. We should have objective criteria which intending migrants should meet, and I don’t care if they come from China, the UK or Tonga.

But here is the problem, or the challenge. We actually have specific quotas for immigrants from the Pacific. Now there are public policy reasons for this which I will touch on later, but the fact these quotas exist is why the issue of under-achievement as a group is legitimate to look at.

If we had a truly colour blind and country blind immigration policy where individuals are all treated the same, then the nationality of the applicant should be irrelevant. Every applicant should be treated as an individual, not as a member of a “group”.

But as I said, we do have some specific quotas for Pacific Islanders where applications are decided by random ballot. As far as I can tell they are a Samoan quota of 1,100 a year, a Kiribati quota of 75, Tuvalu 75, Fiji 250  and Tonga 250 for a total of 1,750.

There may be family members on top of that as permanent and long-term arrivals in the last year from was 1,482 and 773 for Tonga. But that may be family reunifications or other factors.

Now as I said above there are some public policy reasons for having special PI quotas – certainly in the case of Samoa. In 1982 the Privy Council ruled all Samoans are entitled to NZ citizenship. The Government passed the Citizenship (Western Samoa) Act 1982 to over-turn that ruling and restrict citizenship to those already lawfully in NZ. As “compensation” for doing so a Samoan quota was agreed to as part of a Treaty of Friendship. We are morally bound to keep our word under that Treaty.

The other Pacific quotas can be justified on public policy grounds also – as the “big brother” to the South Pacific, it is argued we should help out our small neighbours, and we do with most aid going there, and also the special immigration quotas.

The issue is though, that because these special country quotas exist, it is legitimate to debate the impact of immigration from those countries. I do not believe it is particularly valid to question the impact of immigration from China (for example) because no-one from China gets in purely because they are Chinese. They get in because they have met the same objective test as everyone else in the world wanting to come here. Well that, or they were mates with Taito Philip Field.

Now as I said there are valid public policy reasons to have special quotas for Samoa (beyond doubt – that is an obligation) and other Pacific countries. This Wikipedia article lists the large number of Samoan NZers who are “notable” for their contribution, and NZ should in my opinion do its bit to help our Pacific neighbours.

But the existence of those special quotas means it is legitimate to look at issues such as under-achievement in employment, education and crime for migrants from those countries. A sensible debate can be held on whether the quotas are set at the right level. Even in the case of Samoa the quota of 1,100 is a maximum and applicants still need to meet other criteria like having a job offer. The Government relaxed those criteria in 2004 as not enough applicants were being accepted. It is in no way racist or wrong to debate whether or not that was a good idea, and whether the level of quotas is too high, too low or about right.

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29 Responses to “Pacific Island Immigration”

  1. pushmepullu (686 comments) says:

    I absolutely agree it is legitimate to have a debate about the achievement of Pacific peoples. So let’s get started. What’s your opinion, DPF?

    [DPF: As I said at the beginning, there is clear evidence of under achievement. The real challenge is to determine whether it is sufficient enough to reduce some of the quota places, or to toughen up eligibility criteria. Until I have read the full report I'm not qualified to say. But it is one of those questions with no right or wrong answer. It is a matter of competing priorities.]

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  2. bobux (349 comments) says:

    Like you, I am still trying to get a copy of the study. I am dubious about the conclusions as reported by the media – I need some convincing that an above-average unemployment rate and below-average incomes are enough to cancel out the contributions of the (large) working PI population. Both of these factors are also linked to the low median age of the PI population – there has been no mention of this obvious point in any of the media coverage.

    I’m still appalled by the attacks on the author from people who freely admit to not having read the study. And who the hell would appoint a Race Relations Commissioner who announces a verdict before examining the evidence? Talk about a DIY credibility removal project.

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  3. davidp (3,326 comments) says:

    >The other Pacific quotas can be justified on public policy grounds also – as the “big brother” to the South Pacific,

    Why are we big brother to the pacific, and not to some other area of the undeveloped world? Geographical proximity is a poor substitute for a rigorous analysis of national interests.

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  4. Neil (528 comments) says:

    I agree that there should be a debate about PI migration to NZ. After all, they come to NZ for a better life and add pressure to housing ,welfare issues etc.
    I live in the far south where we see few PI people. However I did visit Tonga and Samoa three years ago.
    I visited a school in Tonga and was amazed at the gulf in English language between there and NZ. In fact, in Nukualofa there was only one bookshop which really only sold bibles. Much the same in Samoa.
    Here in NZ they do not seem to perform well especially education and also crime statistics. To deny that is to live in a land of denial.
    They certainly bring a dimension to sport, however since the PI dominance in Auckland rugby, has that meant they are the top team.The Auckland record makes you question players and coaching.Look at the form of the Warriors with its large PI quota. They have a different attitude, different to the leading players 50 years ago.
    My heart sinks when I hear the word Mangere,Manukau,Bairds Road and other South Auckland names. We are sitting on a problem that makes the prospects of social mobility upwards very difficult. With the PI people, is there a desire for that upward mobility outside their own ethnic group?
    Some honesty is needed in this discussion, saying the “right” thing according to the race relations commissioner Jores de Bres is not at all helpful.
    We must accept the fact PI’s are entitled to come here, but we need to see that we do not create additional problems in a comparatively small but heavily populated area of New Zealand.

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  5. goodgod (1,363 comments) says:

    “As I said at the beginning, there is clear evidence of under achievement. The real challenge is to determine whether it is sufficient enough to reduce some of the quota places, or to toughen up eligibility criteria. Until I have read the full report I’m not qualified to say. But it is one of those questions with no right or wrong answer. It is a matter of competing priorities.”

    So the question is what is the value our society places on achievement, and what is our definition of achievement? Are you asking what these “underachievers” contribute to our society, their society, if they are not earning x amount of dollars?

    It’s an interesting question, but only one for the social liberals to argue about. There must be a right or wrong answer if only in the interests of balancing intangible contributions to material measurable ones. Culturally there must be a right or wrong answer unless the goal is to recreate a larger version of Samoa in NZ and completely eliminate any unique existing culture we already have.

    But the argument from the Race Relations commissioner is we should not ask. We should not look for a balance. That kind of thinking is dangerous. Without balance there is only extremes.

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  6. Fairfacts Media (370 comments) says:

    Has anyone considered the damage emmigration to New Zealand does for these countries?
    I went to the Cook Islands a few years back for a holiday.
    Many locals complained and it was a regualar theme in the local paper.
    So many were leaving the islands businesses were suffering as the island’s population fell.
    Firms couldn’t get skilled staff and their customers were disappearing too.
    If we accept that immigrants from wherever ‘benefit’ the New Zealand economy.
    Then we must accept there is a negative benefit to the country they have left behind.

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  7. Ross Miller (1,624 comments) says:

    I guess I can support immigration quota for certain Pacific Island states especially Samoa given the PC ruling. I note too that Cook and Nuean Islanders are NZ Citizens as of right. However the rationale of a quota for Tonga escapes me completely. But what in heavens name is the justification for admitting into NZ a person who, on her arrival, was classified as morbidly obese (and you will know the case I am refering too) or others suffering from other life threatening illnesses.

    I guess sonmeone is going to have a hack at me as a cold hearted, compassionless redneck. Not true. But my compassion is first and foremost to NZrs living here, paying taxes, and having to wait for hospital treatments because of lack of resources.

    Having put my head up over the trenches I now duck.

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  8. JC (840 comments) says:

    I’ve only read the newspaper article but didn’t think the figures were that bad. Now I see Lindsay Mitchell has reported that the figures are better than those of Maori.. in crime glaringly so.

    The median age of our European population is 38 years compared to Asian 28, Maori 23 and PI 22, so you have to expect the younger populations to have higher crime figures and probably other not so good figures. In short, the research found what you’d expect to find.

    JC

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  9. david (2,482 comments) says:

    There have been some very interesting reactions to this report indeed.

    Yesterday morning, Shane Jones, in his regular spot with Holmes on NewstalkZB, started with a denigration of the author based on his name (“the same as that of a slow movimg horse”) went on to say that the sooner Clydesdale went teaching primary school children the better and stated that he had already called Steve Maharey about the author.

    You can’t ask for better evidence than that to prove that saying ANYTHING that the Labour Government doesn’t want heard will put your reputation and livelihood in jeopardy regardless of the truth/wisdom of the statement.

    Presumably the ZB “replay” system would have this recorded.

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  10. sean14 (62 comments) says:

    A well-reasoned and well-written post DPF. I await your denunciation on The Standard as a rabid, foaming-at-the-mouth racist.

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  11. Mike S (231 comments) says:

    I understand the data are all drawn from govt sources. I don’t see how this can be seen as racist.
    Simply pointing out that one group in society is not functioning well and that this has economic and social consequneces is a statement of facts, not a call to bigotry.
    We do have a real sociological problem here, and it needs to be addressed.
    Pretending it’s not real helps no one, least of all those who are most at risk of being part of this potential underclass.

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  12. Bryan Spondre (554 comments) says:

    I guess Pacific Islanders are a big part of Labour’s core vote so it is hardly surprising there has been a strong reaction. It is disappointing that politicians aren’t able to examine these issues in a rational way. Facing up to these types of painful issues is vital to our long term economic development.

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  13. pushmepullu (686 comments) says:

    In my opinion anybody who comes into New Zealand must prove beyond any reasonable doubt that they are going to bring an economic benefit to the country, whether by setting up a profitable business or donating to charity it doesn’t matter. I suspect that if these criteria were used Pacific migration would drop significantly. Now of course I might be proved wrong, but I would be quite happy to be proved wrong if it meant more able, dynamic Pacific islanders coming to New Zealand, and less obese criminals.

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  14. KevOB (262 comments) says:

    Like Kiwis wanting to go to Australia, Samoans are attracted to NZ. I worked in Samoa for 7 years and the desire to emigrate for economic reasons was very strong. NZ needed them for factory hands and they needed the money to send ‘back home’.
    The comments in the report, which I am hoping to see, seem fair and match my experience. What is not spoken of, is that there is a cultural lid on visible achievement.tied to family status. This is a real problem in polynesian education: children and adults do not give themselves permission to achieve. It is expected that a child of a titled family will will outperform an untitled one. The higher ranking the title or mana the greater the performance is expected and lesser status will defer to higher. This applies in the labour force too.

    NZ has a Samoan quota because of its former mandate. It it proper that we support that. The childrens’ children of the new migrants are well integrated.

    There is another factor which is most unpc to mention: namely the ‘troppo effect’. It is commonally believed that those living for extended periods in tropical countries adapt by a general slowdown in activity and even mental alertness. Certainly the children of migrants are more alert and active than their parents.

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  15. JC (840 comments) says:

    “Facing up to these types of painful issues is vital to our long term economic development.”

    Non European immigration is the result of facing up to “painful issues”, the main one being that they breed and we don’t anymore. It doesn’t matter who’s in power, we need the influx of wombs and baby making ability to keep the population going, get the rubbish collected and later to get the brains we need to be competitive with the rest of the world.

    So I think we have to resign ourselves to immigration on a fairly major scale, and because we are at the bottom end of OECD per capita GDP we have to take immigrants mainly from lower GDP per capita countries. It also means we have to suffer the loss of our own citizens to higher GDP countries.

    It’s a fairly cruel calculation that we have to make, but if we want better applicants then we need to up our game and be competitive so that a young French/German/English couple would prefer to come here than go to the US. Selling ourselves as “nice” doesn’t hack it.

    JC

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  16. jafapete (766 comments) says:

    (As I argue elsewhere.) First, we do not know what is in this conference paper, and it would probably be better to wait until we do, before any more effort is expended on this matter. The words “underclass” and “underachievers” used in the news report are not direct quotations, so it is unclear whether they appear in the actual conference paper.

    Second, far too much attention is being paid to something that is of very little value in academic terms, anyway. Papers presented to minor conferences by neophyte academics from poorly performing institutions don’t usually get any attention, for good reasons.

    The only people profiting from this are the news media.

    On DPF’s “A sensible debate can be held on whether the quotas are set at the right level.” Not sure about this. Whose labour market deregulation resulted in Pacific workers in NZ losing income and jobs, and having fewer skilled jobs to compete for, for the best part of a decade?

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  17. daveski (85 comments) says:

    On a slight tangent, I read a comment from a moderator on the Substandard that inferred a post was bordering on racism and that type of behaviour wasn’t acceptable at the Substandard so head off to Kiwiblog.

    I have no doubt that the view over there will be that racism is by definition a white man’s disease (strange – is never a woman!) in the same illogical way that poverty is defined by relation to medians than consideration of absolutes – what do you actually need to more than subsist.

    For the record, I have no doubt that racism – however you define it – does exist. However, we seem to have now reached a stage where any negative viewpoint of particular minorities – however relevant and whatever the data – is viewed as racism.

    It’s ironic that the party of the teachers and lecturers is so opposed to rational debate based on statistical data.

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  18. Bob R (1,253 comments) says:

    “Geographical proximity is a poor substitute for a rigorous analysis of national interests.”

    Good point. You can see this with the Recognised Seasonal Employment scheme which means employers must go for Pacific workers if they can’t get local employees. This is grossly unfair to the hardworking Asian workers who have come here previously.

    Also, given the relatively high educational achievements of Asians, high IQ scores(particularly on the non-verbal component), & lower crime rates it seems crazy that they shouldn’t be given an equal chance to come in and do seasonal work.

    If policy makers are concerned about longer term having an educated population perhaps they need to make IQ a requirement for immigration? People say these tests are culturally biased, but Asians actually outperform Europeans on them. http://www.slate.com/id/2178122/entry/2178123/

    “There is another factor which is most unpc to mention: namely the ‘troppo effect’.”

    I’d not heard of that, but it is recognised that different groups exposed to different environmental pressures develop distinct genetic traits. For instance European soldiers were less likely to experience frostbite than African American soldiers in WWII.

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  19. Jack5 (4,224 comments) says:

    Mr Farrar wrote: “If we had a truly colour blind and country blind immigration policy … the nationality of the applicant should be irrelevant. Every applicant should be treated as an individual, not as a member of a “group”.’

    This is an unachievable ideal. Any country has a right to consider the assimability of its immigrants, and what they can contribute to that country’s economy. Some cultures, like those of China’s south-east coastal provinces, the United States, and perhaps Britain again as it recovers from welfarism, generate entrepreneurs. Others don’t. That ought to be a factor. Nationality and group characteristics are the only practical way to tailor immigration to what the country needs.

    You can judge every potential immigrant individually only to a degree. How do you find if a gas fitter from Patagonia or a plumber from Kazhakastan with poor English can fit NZ? You can’t send a specialist over in each case to check.

    And is taking migrants the best economic way to help the Islands? If we take the brightest and most entrepreneurial we weaken the islands. If we take the sick, the unambitious, and those generally looking for an easier but richer life, we weaken NZ.

    We get a lot of great people from overseas developed countries and underdeveloped ones too, but our promotion of the NZ lifestyle to Western countries attracts people who have run their dash and are here for the good life rather than to build a business. And the flow of money home from expatriates in NZ must create an unrealistic picture of NZ wealth in Island nations.

    As for Bob R’s point about the RSE schemes. These also knock employment for backpacker tourists and for local mums and other part-time workers. They also raise the question of why horticulturists should be allowed to use cheap overseas labour when other industries cannot. If orchards why not Indian clerks for the Wellington and Auckland bureaucracy?

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  20. MarkS (79 comments) says:

    I think that this shows the worst aspect of political correctness: the attempt to kill an argument or discussion by the use of labelling, rather than attempting to engage in debate. Having people write off research on the basis that they don’t like the conclusions is completely dishonest, and will only result in a backlash at a later time. Similarly, remember that guy who published research challenging the numbers of Jewish dead during the Holocaust – there was no debate of the research, only the fact that he dared to challange the accepted wisdom. While it might be nausiating for those close to the subject, I believe that the only good way to deal with research or an argument that somebody finds unacceptable is to engage the debate with opposing arguments and research. The result of not doing this will be long-term resentment by people that would otherwise accept a reasonable rebuttal.

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  21. Jack5 (4,224 comments) says:

    Neil above writes of Pacific Islanders: “They certainly bring a dimension to sport, however since the PI dominance in Auckland rugby, has that meant they are the top team …”

    Not this season Neil, nor last one or two either. And the All Blacks couldn’t win at the World Cup even with their Islanders.

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  22. Brian Smaller (3,915 comments) says:

    I work with quite a few PIs (Cook Islanders, Tongans and Samoans). Without exception they are doing very well by any standard. One thing they have all done however is ditch most of the parts of their home culture that holds PIs back in New Zealand. They don’t act as banks for down and out rellies and they are not involved with their “churches” and hence have no monetry obligations to them. As one of them said to me. In the Islands when the local Minister was given presents it was generally produce. He couldn’t eat it all so they had a feast. Here we have a money economy and that part of Island culture just doesn’t translate. Here they give cash – often cash they cannot afford. You think the Exclusive bretheren are bad. One of my tenants’ mother gets assessed $1600 per month in tithes because she has four or five working kids. Mum is short, what doesn;t get paid – you guessed it – the rent.

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  23. paradigm (507 comments) says:

    I have always held that the actual race of someone is irrelevant to how they should be treated, but that they be judged by their beliefs, ideals and thoughts; which I shall hesitantly refer to as “culture” (hesitantly as the term culture is already used to saturation point). That the two (culture and race) appear to sometimes have a strong correlation is merely a by-product of “culture” developing while racial groups were still relatively separated as a result of long distance transport and communications difficulties.

    In my view, contemporary Pacific Island (as well as a host of other minorities including Maori) culture does seem to be biased against education. This is somewhat exacerbated by the mediocre education available in the lower decile schools, however I would argue that even if this disparity were removed, these minorities would still be inclined to pay more attention to sporting teams and music class rather than the traditional academic subjects such as science and mathematics when compared to someone of “majority” upbringing. I would suggest that it is this, (and not genetic heritage or “race”) that causes a considerable contribution to the gap in statistics between the “majority” and minority groups such as pacific islanders as education is usually a decisive factor in gainful employment.

    I recently discussed these thoughts with a politically correct individual, who then accused me of “cultural racism”. In my mind “cultural racism” is a non sequitur bordering on an oxymoron, and the inability to distinguish between ideas and bloodlines is highly destructive to the country. There is nothing wrong with applying well-reasoned criticism upon a “culture”; a culture is a collection of ideas, and ideas can be wrong.

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  24. JSF2008 (422 comments) says:

    The only sad thing that i can report about the(pacific islanders,all) that i work with is their filthy smoking habits .Every paciific islander and maori i work with is smoking them selves to death 2 fags a 10 minuite tea break and the butts are thrown anywhere, i love telling them (IM A ARSEHOLE you know) do you throw your butts on your carpet , I hate pig habits, there are butt holders supplied. Ialso love saying to these workers , (you are rich you can smoke and drive a car).
    The bottom line is (life and death )and good health mean diddlysquat to our pacific bros,bring on cancer ,diebetes,and morbid obesety, but they think they are bullet proof.We have had a pacific island worker die of lung cancer.

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  25. Bob R (1,253 comments) says:

    “I recently discussed these thoughts with a politically correct individual, who then accused me of “cultural racism”. In my mind “cultural racism” is a non sequitur bordering on an oxymoron, and the inability to distinguish between ideas and bloodlines is highly destructive to the country. There is nothing wrong with applying well-reasoned criticism upon a “culture”; a culture is a collection of ideas, and ideas can be wrong.”

    That does sound like an oxymoron. I guess some cultural relativists would disagree with you that someone can say anothers cultural ways are wrong.

    Your friend would probably be shocked by the idea that groups exposed to different environmental pressures may develop different genetic traits too.

    “Humans are different, the consequence of thousands of years of evolution in varying terrains. Society, and science in particular, pay a huge price for not discussing this openly, if carefully. We are within a decade of perfecting tools that could make humans run faster, jump higher and throw farther–and most importantly live longer and healthier lives, as the result of gene therapy for diseases.” http://www.jonentine.com/reviews/straw_man_of_race.htm

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  26. mara (641 comments) says:

    So many words; so much gum-banging; so much guilt and PC worriedness. What do Pacific Islanders contribute to NZ society except dancing , weekly vege markets and occasionally good sports results?

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  27. Fred (176 comments) says:

    Well, it wasn’t that long ago if you were a PI and wanted to get here, all you needed was a canoe, skill and planning. Hence FOB!!. We enjoy free access to Aussie, why is that? . . . and would we care if that was taken away? While our best and brightest head off the same applies to our “little brothers”. Can we take that away from them?

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  28. big bruv (12,380 comments) says:

    I wondered how long it would take before the PC wankers started attacking Greg Clydesdale’s excellent study.

    http://www.stuff.co.nz/4559268a10.html

    It seems that we are not allowed to hear the truth any longer for fear that it might upset somebody, remember this is the same stupid Joris de Bres who initially condemned the report then admitted he had not actually read it.

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  29. freethought (3 comments) says:

    You guys are great. I have been debating with people at http://www.publicaddress.net/system/topic,1152,hard_news_debating_clydesdale.sm?p=53197 and they’re scarily ignorant.

    You speak of how you get labelled as soon as you try to open a debate: that’s what happened to Clydesdale and then what happened to me when I joined this other forum.

    For more on this societal problem, read The New Thought Police, by Tammy Bruce. It opened my eyes.

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