Author: Ryan Lau

Ryan is a first-year sophomore at the University of Vermont, double majoring in philosophy and psychology. He is 71 Republic's Editor in Chief and a member of the Board of Directors. The works of Konkin, Goldman, Rothbard and Tolstoy have influenced his anarchist beliefs and led him to seek a way to bring those ideas into reality.

Reports: Instagram Down Across the Globe

Ryan Lau | @agorisms

As of Monday at 7:40 PM, EST, many individuals worldwide are reporting that Instagram is down. When users try to use the site, they are able to access previously loaded posts. This, however, is because of the fact that these posts are downloaded on the users’ devices. Users report being unable to refresh their content or view any new posts.

With Instagram down across North America and the world, it is unclear when the outage will correct itself. The company has yet to make an official statement on the matter. As of 7:30 PM, an outage website had reported more than 5,000 outages. That number will only steadily increase until the company resolves the issue.

This is not the first time in recent history that major social media networks have faced outages. Just last November, YouTube’s servers were unexpectedly down for an extended period of time. Thus, both Google and Facebook have dealt with major shutdown issues in a short span.

Instagram Down: Updates

7:55 PM, EST: No reports of change. Down Detector reports that the outages are most frequent in the Northeastern and Southwestern United States. However, these are also two major population centers. Thus, it is possible that these areas have simply reported the outage, whereas other locations have not done so with great frequency yet. Some smaller pockets of outage reports include Sydney, Rio de Janeiro, Wales, and Central Europe.

8:02 PM, EST: #instagramdown and #instagramoutage are garnering thousands of posts on Twitter. The site has still not released an update. It is unclear whether we will see Instagram down for an extended period of time.

8:18 PM, EST: Some reports are beginning to clear up. Particularly, users have had success viewing direct messages. However, other users still report outages, particularly in the United States.

8:28 PM, EST: Reports state that Instagram is now properly functioning. The shutdown lasted for about an hour.

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Acorn Community: American Anarchism at its Apex

Ryan Lau | @agorisms

America, since its founding, has strongly valued the need for a government to satisfy needs. Rule of law, freedom, and checks and balances are ideals that many of us grow up believing in. But some people believe that freedom is not compatible with the State. The range of anarchist thought varies drastically, from philosophical to political and individualist to collectivist. In 1993, a group of them came together and birthed their ideas. Hence formed Acorn Community.

Acorn Community Anarchism

Acorn Community, as stated above, began as a small project in 1993 in Louisa County, Virginia. It is a member of the Federation of Egalitarian Communities, a group of rural autonomous settlements throughout the United States. The community professes itself to be anarchist, egalitarian and sustainable. Moreover, it claims to thrive on non-coercive, voluntary interactions.

The group began when a sister group, Twin Oaks, was at its maximum capacity of 100 members. Many more people wanted to join, so the group branched out and purchased another plot of land. Now, both communities are healthy and full. Twin Oaks operates with over 100 members, while Acorn Community has around 30.

Of the many groups that make up the FEC, Acorn Community is one of the few that professes anarchism. Despite this belief, the community nonetheless does still pay taxes. With 501(d) non-profit status, their rates are considerably lower, but unlike some religious organizations, they are not entirely exempt from the state.

Collectively, the roughly 30 members of Acorn Community own the various elements of property present on the site. Large items, such as houses, cars, and the seed-growing business that they use to sustain the group, fall under this communal ownership. On the other hand, smaller items, including those that one can stash in a bedroom, are owned by individual members.

The Decision-Making Process

What makes Acorn Community particularly notable is the way that it reaches agreements. In fact, that’s exactly it: every rule they impose on the community, they all agree to. The group rejects majority rule as a way of disregarding minority voices. Instead, they firmly believe in a process that they call Consensus.

In the system of Consensus, any full member of the community is allowed to propose a new idea. Then, every other member of the community can voice his or her agreement or disagreement. Peaceful discussion and debate follows, and eventually, they all state their preferences. If a single full member disagrees with the notion, then it does not go into action.

This form of decision-making is incredibly uncommon, even among other members of the FEC. It is known by political theorists as unanimous direct democracy, under which everyone’s voice is included and no one member can make a decision for another without his or her consent. In a sense, it gives ultimate veto power to every single member. Some theorists believe that such a system is the only way that both authority and autonomy can exist. Acorn Community, therefore, is a rare example of such a phenomenon of freedom and democracy.

However, for the sake of efficiency, Acorn Community encourages members to listen to each other and seek out compromises. If each member can agree to one, then the motion moves forward.

A Lack of Conflict

In its history of more than a quarter-century, there has not been any conflict between Acorn Community and local police. The group, in order to sustain itself, operates a GMO-free seed business. With their profits, they are able to buy essentials for the members. They also use the excess money for social events such as dances, parties, books, games, and other entertainment.

The distinct peace separates the group from many other exhibits of anarchism in the modern world. Freetown Christiania, for example, boasts itself as another successful anarchist district. Though they have effectively survived without a state for longer than Acorn, they recently have been the victim of several police raids.

On the other hand, Acorn Community appears to function with very limited interaction with the government. This is possible due to their self-reliance; a rotating schedule of farmers and cooks enable the community to thrive off of their own local produce and livestock. Both meat and vegetarian options come from local products. Crops that they cannot grow generally come from other local, organic farmers. Though not every member works in food preparation or growth, all must meet a quota of 42 hours per week, or six hours a day. Yet, non-traditional forms of labor, such as childcare and cleaning, also count towards the total. As a result, many members exceed the quota considerably, thus earning extra time off.

How to Become a Member

The process of joining Acorn Community is quite complicated. First, any interested applicants must fill out an online questionnaire and make a visit to the farm. The visitor period may be from anywhere from one to six months. During that time, the visitor can request that he or she become a provisional member.

In order to be a provisional member, the current members hold a test for excitement. As a majority, they must determine they are “excited” for the new applicant to join. If they vote “accept” or “have reservations”, then the vote continues. Every “have reservations” vote cancels one “excited” vote. A single member can also entirely block the process, halting the initiation at once. This fits the method of unanimous direct democracy that Acorn Community practices.

If the applicant gets enough “excited” votes, they then must complete a round of Clearnesses. This essentially means that he or she must meet individually with each of the existing members. There, members can express their concerns about the new member or just get to know him or her better. After this, one more test for excitement occurs, and if the applicant passes, he or she becomes a provisional member. Every six months after this, a new test for excitement will occur. At this point, the members can vote on whether to make the provisional member into a full member. If at any point, the members reject an applicant, he or she has two weeks to leave the community. Members can extend or shorten this timeframe if need be.

Culture and Entertainment

Though Acorn Community places an emphasis on work, they are not without recreation. Living on a farm, they frequently use their outdoor space for sporting events. Wrestling, volleyball, and croquet and particularly popular. They also enjoy swimming in the nearby river and holding bonfires. In the winter months, they often soak in a hot tub, play board, card, and video games, and practice yoga.

On occasions, the community organizes events with the neighboring Twin Oaks community. The two groups are very close with each other, even though Twin Oaks does not claim to be anarchist. All in all, Acorn Community is a thriving example of what simple life can be, without the influence of a coercive government.

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Venezuelan Military Shoots, Kills Citizens Protesting Maduro

Ryan Lau | @agorisms

Protests are turning deadly throughout the country of Venezuela Wednesday following major leadership turmoil. Earlier today, opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself the interim president of the country. In doing so, he ousted authoritarian leader Nicolas Maduro, who had led since 2013. The Venezuela National Assembly has said that Maduro’s recent reelection was not legitimate, and thus, Guaido has a rightful path to the position. President Donald Trump concurred, recognizing Guaido as the country’s new leader, as have parts of the Venezuelan military.

Many of the people of Venezuela have joined across the country in opposition to the Maduro regime. A large portion of the citizens blames him for recent hyperinflation and food shortages. These protests, particularly in Caracas, have turned violent.

Numerous videos on Twitter show gunshot victims lying in the streets. One video from the Venezuelan Resistance, an anti-Maduro group, shows that bullets hit a young man 12 kilometers from Junquito, a district of Caracas.

[Warning: Video contains graphic content]

Venezuelan Military, Police Take Sides

Beginning two days ago, parts of the military actually began to break with Maduro. Early Monday morning, a Venezuelan national guard unit broke with Maduro, stating that they no longer recognize him as a leader. One man, Sargeant Armando Figueroa, also urged the people of Venezuela to take to the streets with him.

Not every unit of the Venezuelan military is taking a stand in support of Juan Guaido, however. Many military and security forces are actually shooting back at civilian protesters. A number of Tweets also show this occurring. One claims that the military shot at civilians in a small town for opposing the rule of Maduro.

Venezuelan broadcasting stations VPITV and NTV have reported similar findings. The latter posted a video on Twitter recording some of the protests. Though the video footage is largely unclear, the audio shows many gunshots being fired, followed by the wail of sirens. Citizens yell in the background.

Though Nicolas Maduro is losing power quickly, it is currently unclear how long unrest in Venezuela will last.

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Where is the Outrage over the Jack Morrissey Death Tweet?

Ryan Lau | @agorisms

Last weekend, a bitterly polarizing event took place in Washington, DC. Present for the March for Life, a group of around 60 students from Covington High School in Kentucky was suddenly in too deep.

For over an hour, the black supremacist group Black Hebrew Israelites hurled insults at the children. Some of them were needlessly rowdy in return, but for the most part, it appears they maintained their composure well, especially considering their age. Nathan Phillips, a Native American, then came between the groups. Chanting some native hymn and beating a drum loudly, stood next to one of the students, Nick Sandmann. Over the span of about a minute of this faceoff, Sandmann’s only reaction was an awkward-looking smile.

For several days, the media railed against Sandmann and company, calling them white supremacists. Despite this, they have no affiliation with any known white supremacist groups. Some users online went so far as to affiliate the kids with Nazis.

Edited, short videos had portrayed the kids as shouting “build that wall”. But upon further examination, that and several other statements became apparently false. For example, many sources falsely reported Nathan Phillips to be a Vietnam Veteran.

Some figures in the media took time to apologize for their statements and condemnations. CNN’s Jake Tapper retweeted a Reason article that showed how the media got this one wrong.

The Jack Morrissey Tweet

But not everyone backed off of the situation. Jack Morrissey, the producer of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (2017), made a particularly awful tweet towards the children. He stated, “#MAGAkids go screaming, hats first, into the woodchipper”. That’s right, he held nothing back, idealizing the slaughter of a bunch of children with different political views, who demonstrated in a way that most can now agree was not initiating controversy in any meaningful way.

Jack Morrissey woodchipper wood chipper tweet death maga kids

It doesn’t matter whether or not they initiated the standoff, though. Regardless, it is not acceptable, especially as the director of a Disney kids movie, to talk about killing kids, personally or not. This really shouldn’t be a controversial thing to say in 2019. Glamorizing the murder of children is wrong.

Rightfully, this received immediate backlash. Morrissey set his tweets to private and later deleted the tweet. But it was too late, and the damage was done. Or was it?

After deleting the tweets, Morrissey admittedly issued a profound apology on Twitter. He reported to The Wire that he would “throw [his] phone into the ocean” before tweeting that again. The famed producer also indicated that the comments were supposed to be satire.

Weak Excuses

Neither of these two remarks comes close to excusing Jack Morrissey. For nearly 100 years, Disney has aimed its material at children and tried to show good messages through positive films and books. When a child thinks of a haven of entertainment, Disney may be the first thing to come to mind. Saying that it is in any way desirable or acceptable to kill a child is a Disney villain’s job. When producers steer into the realm of evil, they do not deserve a job. Someone acting an awful lot like Gaston simply should not be writing movies about the character.

Where is Disney, and for that matter, where is the rest of the media? Currently, the only media companies to have reported on this issue are a few alternative conservative outlets. Not one source of major attention has given Jack Morrissey a passing glance. Where is the outrage for this clearly morally reprehensible act?

Compare this incident to the controversy around Aziz Ansari, who took a considerable reputation hit for the crime of not sexually assaulting a woman he went on a date with. His story took the country by storm, deeply accentuating the divide that the #MeToo movement has created. Though he did and said nothing wrong, many people rushed to conclusions, condemning the hilarious actor.

Proper Action: Immediate Termination

Morrissey, on the other hand, made a terrible decision with his woodchipper tweet. I am not in any way suggesting that he would actually kill children and do believe in the sincerity of his apology. But someone who may make such a rash decision should not have a major role in making children’s movies. I cannot imagine how it must feel to be the parent of one of the Covington boys, reading that tweet. I imagine that it would fill my heart with sorrow, rage, dread, or perhaps some of each. The same must apply to many other parents, whose children idealize his films. Just be careful, kids, and don’t get caught wearing a MAGA hat; you may find yourself the subject of a bitterly vile joke from a man who deserves to be fired.

Moreover, one can compare the situation to that of ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ director James Gunn. Last July, he was fired from his position due to a number of offensive tweets. These included extremely insensitive remarks about pedophilia and the Holocaust. Not long after they surfaced, Gunn lost his role.

In this case, Disney absolutely made the right decision. They took swift and commendable action against an employee who acted in a vile manner. Why have they not yet done the same to Jack Morrissey? For his incredibly lowly and immoral tweet, he deserves the same fate. Anyone who tweets about throwing children into a woodchipper has no place at a company predominantly focused on entertaining kids.

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The Big Fat Lie: How Government Caused the Obesity Crisis

Ryan Lau | @agorisms

If you take a walk through your local grocery store, you’ll find a lot of labels accentuating low-fat foods. “Reduced fat”, “2%”, and “fat-free” signs stick out at consumers anxious about an American health crisis. In fact, for nearly 50 years, lowering your daily total fat intake, as well as cholesterol and saturated fat, has been a staple of American healthy eating, courtesy of the USDA. In 1977, coinciding with a flawed study from the 1960s and 70s by physiologist Ancel Keys, they proposed the first ever dietary guidelines. These recommendations suggested the following:

  • Decrease intake of fat
  • Decrease intake of cholesterol
  • Reduce intake of salt
  • Reduce intake of sugar
  • Increase intake of carbohydrates

Decreased Fat, Increased Obesity

Interestingly, though, these guidelines did not prove to be particularly helpful for the American people. Allegedly, they were supposed to curb the rising rates of obesity and heart disease in the country. But compared to modern standards, obesity was not nearly as problematic 50 years ago.

In fact, throughout the early 1970s, as the below graph indicates, total overweight and obesity rates dropped slightly. Previously, they had risen steadily, though at a relatively low rate. But following the new dietary guidelines, the numbers immediately skyrocketed. From 1976 to 2004, obesity more than doubled, climbing from around 15% to well over 30%. Similarly, the overweight plus obese rate increased. In 1976, the figure was considerably below 50%, but by 2004, it was approaching 70%.

U.S. Overweight and obesity rates over time

Now, it is true that correlation does not necessarily equal causation. The U.S. dietary guidelines were not the only factor influencing health in the 1970s. It would be irresponsible to place the blame on any one particular factor. For example, the 1970s also marked the introduction of high-fructose corn syrup to American markets. It appears that this, too, had a marked impact on obesity rates. Arguably, these two factors were the most critical nutritional changes of the decade. Thus, it is critical to examine the guidelines.

The Flawed Seven Countries Study

All in all, the guidelines took an approach that Dr. Keys would have been quite proud of. But does the science behind it hold up, or did Keys manipulate his data for some reason? His study, the Seven Countries Study, examined the relationship between heart disease and lifestyle. Over the years, Keys collected data and published results that would appear to suggest fat intake raises the risk for heart disease.

However, there was one critical problem with the study; Keys already had access to data from 22 countries. Given previously available scientific data, it is reasonably clear that he selected countries that would help prove his hypothesis. The True Health Initiative, in a 2017 paper defending Keys, articulates that the cherry-picking argument does not apply. This is because Keys had already published one famous graph outlining his correlation in six countries using national data.

Heart disease and fat consumption by country

Yet, this fact actually negates their own point. Yes, it is true that the information was already available, but this is only further evidence of bias. Keys looked at several countries, including Japan, Italy, and the U.S., that he had already collected data on. His previous graph suggested that such a correlation would be likely. What he failed to report on, however, were findings from countries that were not going to fit his narrative. Norway, for example, has low heart disease rates, but Norwegians tend to eat a lot of fat. The opposite is true in Chile, with high rates of heart disease and generally low fat consumption.

The Big Fat Lie: Dangerous Guidelines

Clearly, the belief that fat and heart disease are linked is not necessarily accurate. At the very least, the issue is far more complex than previously believed. In fact, says Zoe Harcombe, a dietary author with a Ph.D. in public health nutrition, there has never been any credible link between lower fat intake and lower cardiac risk. On the contrary, the USDA guidelines appear to be entirely arbitrary. At best, this is an unhelpful mechanism, but at worst, it can turn deadly.

As a result of the guidelines, as well as the Seven Countries Study, a crusade against fat began in the country. Ironically, this battle only led to a doubled obesity rate. Why is it, then, that the USDA continued advocating this particular way of eating? Why did they continue the big fat lie? The answer may lie in the sugar industry.

Dating as far back as Keys, scientists have realized that sugar plays a very harmful role in the American diet. Though processed sugars are worse than naturally occurring sugars, they all can lead to weight gain and heart disease. In fact, sugar plays a greater role in heart disease than saturated fat does. Though the guidelines did note to reduce sugar intake, the recommendation to increase carbohydrates considerably offsets this. So does the clear emphasis on behalf of the government that fat is the devil in food.

The Sugar Industry’s Crony Capitalism

Unfortunately, though, these pushes are fairly unsurprising. In the 1960s, Coca-Cola paid many scientists to research and publish studies that would downplay the role of sugary drinks in heart disease. The candy industry also paid other scientists to publish a study that claimed children who ate candy weighed less than those who did not. But the issues go far beyond a number of independent scientists.

One of the researchers that the industry paid was D. Mark Hegsted. At the time a private worker, he went on to become the USDA’s head of nutrition. Hegsted was heavily involved in the drafting of the nutritional guidelines. It now makes more sense, considering that the sugar industry paid off a leading USDA member, that the government’s policy would harshly condemn fat. Though there was dissent in the scientific and medical communities, the government nonetheless pushed fat as the bane of health. Sugar, on the other hand, was cast to the side, considered not to be the major focus.

Replacing Fat with Sugar

Looking back to the grocery store, what does the influx of low-fat advertising and food production entail? More often than not, it just means there are added sugars. Take peanut butter as a prime example. A standard serving of Skippy’s natural, full-fat peanut butter has around 190 calories and 16 grams of fat. Compare that to the same calorie number and 12 grams of fat for Skippy’s reduced fat peanut butter.

But looking at the carbohydrate and sugar count, it becomes apparent that the reduced fat is actually less healthy. 6 grams of carbohydrates jumps to 14, and the ingredients list shoots from 4 to 17. Generally speaking, unnecessary ingredients like corn syrup solids and soy protein have nothing to do with peanut butter and have little to no nutritional benefit. But to replace the natural, healthy, mono-unsaturated fats in peanut butter and preserve taste, Skippy has to add in something. Sadly, this something comes at the expense of the consumer’s health.

A New Link: Carbohydrates and Heart Disease

Not all carbs are sugars, so they can’t be bad, right? Though carbohydrates in moderation are not unhealthy, there is mounting evidence suggesting a link between elevated levels of carb intake and heart disease. A 2009 study found that swapping saturated fats with carbohydrates did nothing to reduce heart disease. In fact, a 2014 study actually discovered that increased carbohydrate consumption increased the risk of both heart disease and type-2 diabetes.

When food companies follow the archaic advice against eating fat, they inevitably increase the occurrence of highly refined and processed carbs. The Skippy example was not a lone wolf, in this regard. From milk to salad dressing to cheese and chips, reduced fat options nearly always increase the prevalence of processed carbs. This is neither an endorsement nor a criticism of any of those foods, but merely a statement of fact surrounding reduced fat options. After all, to make a food lower in fat, they must add additional ingredients to it, taking away from the wholeness of the product. This violates the one law of nutrition that has almost never come under fire; natural, whole foods are better for you than processed ones.

The Government’s Damage Is Done

Thankfully, the influence of this era of nutritional guidelines is beginning to end. In the past decade, there has been an increase in skepticism surrounding sugar. Likewise, many medical professionals are starting to welcome fat back into the diet, particularly in the form of eggs, fish, and nuts.

But the damage has been done. Thanks to ignorant or even cronyist dietary policies, the government has contributed to a 50-year acceleration in obesity rates. Now, obesity is the second-leading cause of preventable death in the country. There are many instances in which government cooperation with corporations can have negative results, but this is perhaps one of the worst in our country’s history. Admittedly, obesity rates may have risen regardless, as they have in many parts of the world. Without a doubt, though, the failed nutritional paradigm of the later 20th century has led to the deaths of many citizens with good intentions.

Yet, there is still hope. As recognition of fat as an essential macronutrient rises, health may still improve. Hundreds of thousands report success with higher fat diets, such as Paleo and Keto. Though such a strict reduction in carbohydrates is not essential for good health, and healthy eating is a highly individualized topic, these are certainly viable options.

Obesity rates are still rising, thanks to crony capitalist collusions, but in the dawn of the information age, the truth is beginning to spread. With it comes a way forward, out of obesity and into longevity.

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