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Wednesday, September 28, 2016


Today's attempt at witticism is to coin a new word:


1.a belief or doctrine that certain worldviews held by various groups of people in the United States determine cultural or individual achievement, usually involving the idea that the progressive worldview is superior and has the right to dominate or that the worldview held by white male conservatives/libertarians is inferior to the others and deplorable.
2.a policy, system of government, etc., based upon or fostering such a doctrine;discrimination.
3.hatred or intolerance of white male conservatives/libertarians.
This was taken from the definition of racism and modified very slightly. Whereas racism is considered evil by many, deploracism is wholeheartedly embraced by the ruling class and considered to be the height of morality by that class to the point that a presidential candidate (Clinton) enthusiastically noted that her opponent's supporters were a "basket of deplorables." That statement was quickly defended and embraced by many mainstream media outlets. For example, from the venerable NY Times: "What Clinton said was impolitic, but it was not incorrect."
No, probably not incorrect, but it does leave a problem. There are an awful lot of us deplorables and it might not be terribly easy to dominate and oppress us. To have a large part of the population at odds with right thinking people is likely to tear the country apart. It might be possible to find compromises that would allow everybody, even the deplorables, to peacefully coexist, but the rampant deploracism embraced by the ruling elites excludes that possibility.
Angelo M. Codevilla, a senior fellow of the Claremont Institute and professor emeritus of International Relations at Boston University, believes that the conflict between the elites and deplorables has ended the United States that was once a constitutional republic:
Over the past half century, the Reagan years notwithstanding, our ruling class’s changing preferences and habits have transformed public and private life in America. As John Marini shows in his essay, “Donald Trump and the American Crisis,” this has resulted in citizens morphing into either this class’s “stakeholders” or its subjects. And, as Publius Decius Mus argues, “America and the West” now are so firmly “on a trajectory toward something very bad” that it is no longer reasonable to hope that “all human outcomes are still possible,” by which he means restoration of the public and private practices that made the American republic. In fact, the 2016 election is sealing the United States’s transition from that republic to some kind of empire.
I've noted in the past that I've felt that I've gone from citizen to serf in my lifetime and Codevilla's description of those like me as subjects is close enough - I'm definitely NOT a stakeholder:
In today’s America, a network of executive, judicial, bureaucratic, and social kinship channels bypasses the sovereignty of citizens. Our imperial regime, already in force, works on a simple principle: the president and the cronies who populate these channels may do whatever they like so long as the bureaucracy obeys and one third plus one of the Senate protects him from impeachment. If you are on the right side of that network, you can make up the rules as you go along, ignore or violate any number of laws, obfuscate or commit perjury about what you are doing (in the unlikely case they put you under oath), and be certain of your peers’ support. These cronies’ shared social and intellectual identity stems from the uniform education they have received in the universities. Because disdain for ordinary Americans is this ruling class's chief feature, its members can be equally certain that all will join in celebrating each, and in demonizing their respective opponents.
As noted above, there's nothing new in the stakeholders considering us deplorable. In fact, deploracism is the unifying core of Progressive politics:
Progressivism’s programs have changed over time. But its disdain for how other Americans live and think has remained fundamental. More than any commitment to principles, programs, or way of life, this is its paramount feature. The media reacted to Hillary Clinton’s remark that “half of Trump’s supporters could be put into a ‘basket of deplorables’” as if these sentiments were novel and peculiar to her. In fact, these are unremarkable restatements of our ruling class’s perennial creed. [...]
If trying to persuade irredeemable socio-political inferiors is no more appropriate than arguing with animals, why not just write them off by sticking dismissive names on them? Doing so is less challenging, and makes you feel superior. [...]
Hillary Clinton’s attack on Trump supporters merely matched the ruling class’s current common sense. Why should government workers and all who wield the administrative state’s unaccountable powers not follow their leaders’ judgment, backed by the prestige press, about who are to be treated as citizens and who is to be handled as deplorable refuse? Hillary Clinton underlined once again how the ruling class regards us, and about what it has in store for us.
Being one of the deplorable animals is an uncomfortable position to be in.
How far will our rulers go? Because their network is mutually supporting, they will go as far as they want.
Things have often turned out poorly for societies' deplorables and I suspect it will turn out poorly for us as well. The conflict will intensify and I believe that by the end of this century the United States will be unrecognizable and there will potentially be a lot of bloodshed, not only within our borders, but all over the world since the United States is still an important player in holding together western civilization.
We have stepped over the threshold of a revolution. It is difficult to imagine how we might step back, and futile to speculate where it will end. Our ruling class’s malfeasance, combined with insult, brought it about. Donald Trump did not cause it and is by no means its ultimate manifestation. Regardless of who wins in 2016, this revolution’s sentiments will grow in volume and intensity, and are sure to empower politicians likely to make Americans nostalgic for Donald Trump’s moderation.
I guess the good news is that I probably (hopefully) won't live to see the worst parts of the revolution. Too bad for future generations though.

Friday, September 23, 2016

"Run Them Down"

In a real life variation of the Trolley Problem, there's the question of what to do when folks around you are rioting and attacking your vehicle. Glenn Reynolds, a University of Tennessee Law Professor, and the blogger and tweeter known as Instapundit had a simple answer (via a tweet): "Run Them Down." That promptly got his twitter account suspended, his weekly column with USA Today either cancelled or suspended, and he is now being investigated by the University of Tennessee for possible punishment. Sometimes three words are really powerful!

I guess I really am deplorable because I can't even begin to understand why what he said is wrong. If one or more of my wife or kids was in the car with me and I felt they were in significant danger from violent rioters, I would do anything I could to get them to safety and if that involved running down 1 or 10 or even 1 million rioters to do so, I wouldn't hesitate and I wouldn't feel guilty afterwards even as I spent the rest of my life in jail or ended up in the electric chair for doing so. And I can't begin to imagine why any other husband and father wouldn't do the exact same thing.

If it was just me in the car? I don't know. I'm not sure my own safety would motivate me to run anybody down just to save my own skin.

One of the interesting issues with the Trolley Problem and other related problems is the following:
Greene and Cohen analyzed subjects' responses to the morality of responses in both the trolley problem involving a switch, and a footbridge scenario analogous to the fat man variation of the trolley problem. Their hypothesis suggested that encountering such conflicts evokes both a strong emotional response and a reasoned cognitive response, and that these two responses tend to oppose one another.
My experience and knowledge tell me that in the heat of the moment, the "strong emotional response" usually wins. The emotional response affects the lower mammalian/reptilian brain and that part of the brain is between the cognitive part of our brains and motor control and the lower brain can completely lock out the upper brain if it so "chooses" under strong emotional stimulus. It's instinctual and reactive and when a split second decision needs to be made it makes it and not always in agreement with what the cognitive portion of the brain would choose if it had more time.

The Trolley Problem and its variant are usually applied to strangers. I'd like to switch it around a little. The trolley is headed for your child or spouse tied to the tracks and you have an instant to decide whether or not to pull a lever to divert the trolley where it will instead run over 1 stranger who is tied the tracks. Or 5 strangers. Or 1 billion strangers. What if you and your spouse or child happened to discuss this ahead of time and they said that they would feel so guilty about the strangers' deaths that they wouldn't want you to pull the lever to save them? In each case, you have 1 second to react.

I don't think you can know the answers to any of those questions. Sure, you can cognitively think about them and know what you would logically decide. But, in the heat of the moment, your logical brain isn't the one to make the decision. I think that a lot humans, possibly myself included, in the heat of the moment, would end up pulling the lever and saving our child or spouse in all of the above cases.

I believe that our lower, primitive brains are actually always in control or at least exert a constant pressure and that the cognitive brain that we consider to be "us" is mostly just a tool used by the primitive brain. Some of the whispering pressure from the primitive brain is obvious: eat, mate, etc.

But some of the whispering pressure is more subtle and hardly even noticeable but has a profound effect on behavior. It sorts people by importance and makes even your cognitive brain react differently to the Trolley Problem when the people are known to you and at different levels of importance. For example, instead of strangers, it's your mother, or cousin, or friend, or important colleague, etc. And it's not just how you react in the heat of the moment, but how you provide for some, criticize others, cut yet others slack, hire others who really aren't the best objective choice, etc.

One Libertarian question is what's really the difference between trading with one of your countrymen and trading with someone in China. Objectively, there may be little difference. However, our lower brains may simply view strangers in China as less important than strangers in our own nation. We can say that's an immoral view, but if that's innate, and I think it is, at least for many people, we're really just saying that (many) humans are innately immoral.

Or deplorable.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Worth A Thousand Words?

Or so they say of a picture.

Knowing some of our regulars here take a very skeptical stance towards global warming, AKA climate change, I can only give them the latest Weapon of Mass Diffusion, a xkcd infographic (it is just too big to embed it here).

Graphic communication is sure effective. But is it convincing enough? You tell me.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Basket of Deplorables

More than a few people have questioned me when I've said that I don't really feel there's a place for me in this country anymore.

Well, the likely next president of the United States, soon to be President-elect Hillary Rodham Clinton, has described me as a member of a Basket of Deplorables:
"You know, to just be grossly generalistic, you could put half of Trump's supporters into what I call the 'basket of deplorables.' Right? Racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic, you name it."
I readily admit that I'm arguably all of those things (and "you name it" would cover it even if not). I've certainly been called racist, sexist, homophobic, and Islamophobic and I have little doubt that Clinton would consider me so, even if I'm also arguably NOT those things.


Causing or being a subject for censure, reproach, or disapproval; wretched; verybad:

Given that the future leader of the country views me like that, I think it's perfectly reasonable to feel that I'm not welcome in my own country and don't fit in, pretty much by definition.

Hillary's Health

Some people are concerned that Hillary Clinton isn't particularly healthy. For example, she apparently fainted today during a 9/11 ceremony.

I'm not concerned at all. In fact, if you guaranteed me that she was so unhealthy that she would die shortly after taking office, I would vote for her in a heartbeat. Kaine may not be my first choice for president, but I prefer him to either Clinton or Trump. By a lot.

Is that a politically incorrect thing to say? Oops, sorry! :-)

100,000 Page Views

I'm a round numbers kinda guy.

Great Guys Weblog has just passed 100,000 page views, whatever that means!

Yay, us!

Saturday, September 10, 2016

My Nat Geo Special

Trigger warning: This post is both very long and excruciatingly dull. Travel writing is something best left to experts. I am not one.

[This trip happened nearly a year ago. Letting that amount of time elapse will have done the story no good whatsoever. Although it has given me a greater appreciation for those pocket notebooks that real writers carry with them where ever they go.]

Ironically, I never particularly had the goal of getting around. Traveling — meh. Yet somehow that thing that I don't care much whether I do keeps happening. I have been across the US by car or bus 31 times, lived in a couple dozen places across the US, as well as England twice and now Germany. Some of that is side effect: travel is going to come with the military pilot territory. But the rest I, through long chains of very improbable circumstance, happened upon: my wife, whose love of travel rivals that of fire for gasoline, and FedEx, which is a gasoline gusher.

TOSWIPIAW had already been to Africa three times, and decided my none times could no longer stand. Besides, we were already in Europe, which is right next door [not really, not where we were going, but her instinctive feel for maps doesn't deviate from the breed standard; besides, her traveling gland was painfully swollen.]

Since we already had favorable experiences with Overseas Adventure Travel (Antarctica (me), Costa Rica, Machu Picchu and the Galapagos) we decided to fatten their bottom line once again. They do small group — 12 to 16 people — expeditions, and get off the beaten path. The downside, for me anyway, is their NPR tone, and way too much participation in the local. I loathe them for their staginess, forced familiarity, heavy handed suggestions for donations, and eating guinea pig (Machu Picchu).

For the record, my wife thinks me a misanthrope. I think she is leaping, okay half-stepping, to a conclusion.

To be there, we had to get there. While the trip is no longer admirable feat, Johannesberg, South Africa is about as far away from Germany as it is possible to be from anyone place to any other place and still stay on the planet.

Making matters far worse was Heathrow security. Perceptive minds may be flashing question marks here. Knowing I live in Germany, those very same perceptive minds quickly realize that I had to get through security in order to get to Heathrow.

Yes, indeed that is true. And absolutely no barrier to that full employment scheme for petty tyrants known as airport security. (Donald Trump has made a lot of mileage on immigration; why he hasn't thought to aim his verbal scattergun at the TSA is a singular mystery. Loathing of the TSA, which does a necessary job about as badly as it is possible to imagine, and then even worse, is universal. Hillary! wouldn't stand a chance.)

Ten minute security line in Düsseldorf. Hour flight to Heathrow. Hour and twenty minutes getting re-securitied, which gave me plenty of time to observe passive-aggressiveness in action. The screeners concern for people missing flights was amply confirmed by their glacial pace. If there was ever a group of people that needed punching good, hard and often, this was them.

Which is why our two hour layover was rescued from being 20 minutes too short by a twenty minute late departure. Even after passage of a year, my blood goes right to the boiling point just thinking about it.

(Side note. Last week I went through screening in Cologne. A screener deemed my clear plastic bag too big — never mind the very sparse contents thereof and sent me off to get another bag, and the back of the line. Finally making it through, the same screener, now at the X-ray machine, deemed my travel size can of shaving cream a suspect nuclear weapon. I stand for a few minutes while they get an explosives swabber, who swabs my stuff and tells me to wait. No surprise there. While waiting, I put my laptop and iPad back in their respective places. He comes back to tell me I'm good to go, then gets indignant: where were my computers?! And started in to giving me a sound lecture, only to come to a quick stop. Might have had something to do with murder in my eyes. Every time Harry extols how wonderful socialism is, all I have to do is recall airport security. A few days ago in Keflavik, I had a 3.07 oz deodorant applicator confiscated because it exceeded the 3 oz limit. Just like it had done dozens of times before. And despite the easily ascertainable fact — the applicator being transparent — it was very nearly empty. Hillary!, The Donald, here's a pro-tip. Want to be president? Stop talking about Syria and start talking about the TSA.)

Aaaannnnddd twelve and a half hours in an A380 later, we are in Jo-berg, with a day and a half to kill before heading off into the bush. The first half day we put to excellent use, hanging around the hotel pool and having a contest as to see who could run up the biggest bar bill.

The next day was entirely different. We hired a local guide to give us The Tour. I'm old enough to remember apartheid, and to also think that was a pretty mean thing for the government to be doing.

Pretty mean doesn't begin to say it. Despite having had a current events knowledge back in the day, there is nothing like seeing it in person, even nearly 30 years removed. The institutionalized awfulness was crushingly pervasive, and mostly left me with this question: what the hell were they thinking? I get the trap that is so easy to fall into — judging our forebears by our standards. But still. Did none of the Afrikaners think "What if we got this wrong?"

The next morning started the main program: 21 days, divided pretty equally among four bush locations, plus a stop at Victoria Falls and then Cape Town.

First stop, the Jackalberry Lodge in the Thornybush Game Reserve.

Let me translate that into English: Four star glamping in the African answer to a dude ranch.

Our subsequent accommodations were far more spartan — no air conditioning.

Perhaps that isn't enough detail. Twenty-odd years ago, some enterprising people fenced off roughly 400 square miles of South African savannah, then, with some degree of forethought, stocked it with roughly the right amount of the right kinds of animals to provide a roughly self-sustaining answer to the Wild Kingdom safari park.

The place was so big that there was never the impression of being inside it. Except for the very stout electric fence that surrounded our compound.

Note the stanchion on the left supporting the electric fence separating TOSWIPIAW from Very Large Animals.

This fence, surrounding the entire compound, except for where it met a lodge at the far side, was very effective at keeping predators out, less so with elephants who, fortunately, didn't want in, and not at all against the various variants on the impala who simply leapt the thing to get at the salad bar within.

So it was something of a surprise coming out of the, ummm, glent? — in the morning in search of coffee, only to round a corner and be confronted with a half dozen animals the size of elk built like gazelles and crowned with very twisty horns. Perhaps my murderous gaze was sufficient to convince them they were in a very dangerous place indeed, between me and my first cup of coffee. Or it might have been pure coincidence.

Either way, I got my coffee.

As it happened the glent we were in stopped the gap between the ends of our electric fortification. And it had a back porch that opened onto the savannah. We were warned, in a suitably stern and forthright manner that so long as we stayed on the porch, we were OK. But beyond that lie monsters.

I took them at their word.

Later that afternoon, I was in our glent, and heard some rustling about. Poked my head out and saw this:

Mind you, I never strayed from the porch. Nonetheless, I got yelled at. Not entirely sure what I did wrong, but frightening the elephant probably wasn't high on the list.

The next day started what was pretty much the routine for then next 16 days. Get up early, park our glamping butts in a couple Toyota land cruisers and spend four hours bouncing over perfectly horrid roads hoping for Sightings. At about the halfway mark we'd stop for coffee and a snack. Repeat in the late afternoon, only with adult beverages instead of coffee. The driver and guide were conspicuously well armed. Something to do with predators, apparently.

Ready to head 'em up and move 'em out. Harry, trigger warning: the tan case contains a high powered rifle.

Whereupon we see things:

Lions on a union break.

And elephants who want our trail more than we do.

There's a bit of a story here. The guides are very strict about protocol. The animals can't, or don't, distinguish between the Land Cruiser and the people in it. So long as we sit down and shut up we are just a — something — to these creatures that isn't the least bit relevant to their daily lives.

So when that big ol' elephant came up, we did as instructed: sat on our hands, and kept our lips zipped. Well, it just kept coming at us, until it used the left rear corner of our Land Cruiser as a sratching post. That happened to be where TOSWIPIAW was sitting, and she had to practically climb into my lap to avoid coming very much eye to eye with the elephant's eye. Since, for some reason, TOSWIPIAW had a death grip on our camera, I couldn't get the video.

My wife didn't get yelled at.

On our evening drive, we learned that it is all fun and games until …

And so on, for another couple weeks. The glaring suspicion should be, I should know, because it kept occurring to me, was that eight hours a day on spine crunching roads might get a bit repetitious.

The companies that run these trips aren't staffed by fools. They know that full well, and right at the point where repetition is starting to rear its ugly head, they hauled us off, by bush plane, to the next glamp where the same routine was very different.

In that spirit, let's move on to … Chobe National Park in Botswana. This glamp marked a change from our first stop. Instead of walled and air conditioned lodgings, surrounded by wires carrying very many of Edison's very best volts, we had soft sided A-Frames and not heck all of a fence.

The consequence being that, after dark, we were not allowed to move from the common area to our glents without an armed escort. Something about predators. Along those lines, we got some instructions, among them being: "If you have an emergency, give three blasts with the air horn on your nightstand, and turn on your porch light. Everyone else, stay in your glents and keep the lights off."

Emergency equipment, flanked by industrial strength bug stuff. We quickly found the best approach was to leave the light on, then go all fire hose on it.

Seemed sound advice, as we were unpacking that mid-afternoon. Not five minutes later: BLAT BLAT BLAT from the next glent over.


Our group of 15 included two women traveling by themselves. One of them saw a spider in her bathroom. To be fair, spider might not begin to say it:

It was near as darnnit to hot, but separated from miserable by a admirable lack of humidity. Starting around 10 pm, I saw lightning on the horizon, and suspected we might be in for a show. Sure enough, two hours later the temperature started dropping like a greased safe. And that can only mean one thing: lots of meteorological sturm and drang. The wind, conveniently aligned, was blowing rain right into our glent.

Being Mr. Man, it was up to me to go outside and figure out how to make that stop. Despite the darkness, I found the lashings that released the drop down covers.

And came back in to find a millipede the size of Clovis's forearm crawling down the mosquito netting on TOSWIPIAW's side of the bed.

This is not an insignificant problem, because I have to break the news without getting deafened by an air horn. Having managed that task, made far easier by TOSWIPIAW being a very steady hand, I then had to be Mr. Man again and get the thing out. A trash can — the sure sign of glamping — was at hand, so I slid it up and dislodged the millipede into the can.

Where it landed with a prodigious thump, before getting unceremoniously launched into the aforementioned sturm and drang. Which had, by this time, been even more dranged by a pride of lions not a hundred yards away expressing their displeasure with the lightning (I presume it wasn't the millipede).

I could go on, but not profitably. Pictures at this point will say far more, and annoy you far less, than anything I could write.

Save for a few parting shots.

Once upon a time ago, I read The Wealth and Poverty of Nations.

The accident of natural circumstances can't be ignored. The southern third of Africa — an area a good chunk as large as the continental US — has no meaningful natural barriers, no navigable rivers, the tsetse fly, and malaria. If the entire world was like that, civilization would never have happened.

Oh yeah, and one other thing. Nature's great insecticide: winter. I'm not bug phobic, but after having been concussed for the third time by an onrushing dung beetle (imagine an iridescent VW Beetle — the original one — with wings, and an iridescent paint job, but bigger) I was starting to get my fill of things that were at least six times larger than they should have been. Most of the women were on the verge of going spare.

The night after our fun with weather, and its rain, we got treated to the ground termites and their airborne mating ritual. In their billions. These things are the size of your thumb, and come in the kind of swarms that belong in nightmares.

Except they don't bite, nor much care for anything else than their regenerative part in the circle of life. The next morning, they are have all gone to ground, leaving only piles of wings behind. Those, that is, that haven't been captured by the locals, to be boiled and eaten as a delicacy the next day.

Having a sensitive palate, I declined, since they couldn't possibly go with gin & tonic.

Our tour leader was a native Zimbabwean. He went into great detail about Mugabe's rule. Yes, Ayn Rand was a wretched writer, but she was on to something.

He mentioned, without my asking, Bret, that family sizes had plummeted during his lifetime, from more than 6 to right around 3.

25% of children have lost both parents to AIDS.

Our only real experience with Africa outside the bush came in Livingstone, near Victoria Falls. That place is properly poor. I'd far rather be there than in the late stage Soviet Union.

Going out on a limb here, but I don't see fried caterpillars having the same market making power as, say, McDonald's french fries.

Capitalism is an amazing thing. It provided people the means with which to start significant businesses — setting up and provisioning a glamp in the bush is no mean feat. It makes people want to please others, and others appreciative of being pleased.

For the most part, the scenery in southern Africa is quite monotonous. So flat that rivers peter out before they get anywhere, and trees that rarely get more than a dozen feet tall before elephants flatten them. Cape Town was entirely different, as abundantly blessed in scenic pulchritude as the surrounding millions of square miles are deprived.

Am I glad I went? Yes. Would I go back? Ummm. Probably not. I can see where Africa, and the people, could get under someone's skin.

But not mine. Probably.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

...but not for thee

In just the last couple of years a new feature of discussions with progressive friends has been not just stronger differences of opinion, but a growing intolerance for the mere expression of any difference of opinion.  There is an authoritarian feel to this new attitude.  Another more recent concern voiced in these discussions is the strong desire to get the money out of electoral politics, especially for their opponents.

This was on my mind as I read the recent Kimberley Strassel book,  The Intimidation Game: How the Left Is Silencing Free Speech.  Strassel has written the "Potomac Watch" column in the WSJ for many years and has consistently demonstrated excellent writing and reportage.  Those high standards are on display in this book.  The storytelling is quite compelling and builds and builds.  If you are even slightly interested in this matter, I highly recommend this book.

Here is a review by Peter Berkowitz:
Perhaps most alarming has been the administration’s leadership in the left’s war on free speech and the closely associated rights of assembly and association. The result has been to impair people’s ability to express their political preferences and expose government folly, subterfuge, and criminality.

“All throughout history and all across the planet,” Kimberly Strassel soberly observes, “government officials have used state power to silence critics.”

But changing times give rise to novel tactics. In her chilling book “The Intimidation Game: How the Left Is Silencing Free Speech,” Strassel describes “the new attempt by left-leaning organizations to” not only “shut down conservative speech” but also to “silence anyone who proves a threat to their ideology.”
In practice, campaign finance laws are often wielded to muzzle opposition voices. This is sometimes accomplished by outright criminalization of financial support for dissenting speech. Another technique is to compel disclosure of membership in, or support for, political parties and civic organizations, which enables corrupt government officials and ruthless private citizens to identify and strong-arm opponents. Strassel’s riveting reporting shows how the left has honed such methods to a fine art.
 The most notorious instance of the left’s efforts to use government power to intimidate political opponents during Obama’s presidency was the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting, beginning in 2010, of some 300 small, often Tea Party-affiliated conservative organizations that had applied for tax-exempt status. The IRS’s job was to ensure that applications had been filled out correctly. But at the behest of longtime Democratic Party partisan and then-director of the IRS’ Exempt Organizations Unit Lois Lerner, the agency delayed action on applications for months, which in many cases stretched into years.
 Operating through government offices as varied as the Justice Department, the FEC, the Security and Exchange Commission, and the Milwaukee district attorney’s office, Obama-era Democrats sought to punish those who dared to dissent from their agenda on issues ranging from the size and scope of government to climate change, same-sex marriage, and public sector unions. The aim was not to refute opposing views but to use the force of law and threat of public humiliation and financial ruin to deny individuals their rights to engage in political speech and action.

Tyler O'Neil on the matter:
"It's out-and-out harassment, it's out-and-out intimidation, it's out-and-out abuse of government powers," the Wall Street Journal's Kimberley Strassel told PJ Media after a panel on free speech. "When you're sicking the federal bureaucracy on people and they have the power to give you non-profit status or not, to silence your speech, that's not just bullying — that's robbing you of your constitutional protections. I think it does go beyond bullying."

Bernson explained that "anonymous speech is a right," and turned to the example of the founding fathers. "The Federalist Papers were published anonymously, and would not have worked otherwise." The AFP staffer suggested that if it were publicly known that one of the authors (Alexander Hamilton) was an immigrant, the papers might not have succeeded in defending the new Constitution.

Free speech is a fundamental right, and the Left's assault upon it cannot be dismissed. From "John Doe" to RICO to "safe spaces" to campaign finance, there is no denying it. Republicans and conservatives are not blameless, but these attacks should be infamous and well-known. This is how the Left operates, and how they attempt to shut down the debate. Let us all speak out against it.

Here is a video  of Strassel from a speaking event about the book and the matter.

Here are selections from extended excerpts:
January 21, 2010, is when the Supreme Court ruled on a case known as Citizens United. To listen to President Barack Obama, or Senator Harry Reid, or any number of self-proclaimed “good government” organizations, this decision mattered because it marked a new tidal wave of “dark” money and “shadowy” organizations into elections. It supposedly gave powerful special interests new control over democracy. Citizens United didn’t do any of that. But it did unleash a new era. It set off a new campaign of retribution and threats against conservatives. Citizens United launched the modern intimidation game.
They encouraged, explicitly and implicitly, the IRS to target and freeze conservative groups during election years. They called out conservative donors by name, making them the targets of a vast and threatening federal bureaucracy.
They also cleverly cloaked all this behind a claim of good government. Citizens United, they said, threatened to put powerful and nefarious forces in charge of democracy. And therefore all of their actions and tactics were justified in the name of the people.
As Thomas rang out in closing, “I cannot endorse a view of the First Amendment that subjects citizens of this Nation to death threats, ruined careers, damaged or defaced property, or pre-emptive and threatening warning letters as the price for engaging in ‘core political speech, the primary object of First Amendment protection.’”
Few people outside of Clarence Thomas remembered the ugly history of the NAACP, or McIntyre, or the risk of exposing Americans to retribution. Citizens had instead refocused Americans on the threat of “dark money” (undisclosed money)—and Democrats intended to use that to their favor.
The Democratic Party as a whole is now adopting this proposal to overthrow the First Amendment. It won’t happen anytime soon—passing an amendment to the Constitution is hard. But the fact that Democrats are trying to marks a radical shift in the political culture. The left is done with debate.
Then again, there’s a good case to be made the left isn’t planning on there ever being another moment when the other side is in power. Their intention is to make sure they forever own the debate. That’s the point of shutting down speech. That’s the point of the intimidation game.
Instead, the laws that were designed to keep the political class in check are being used to keep the American people in check.
The entire concept of disclosure has in fact been flipped on its head. The American people know almost nothing about the working of government. Instead, disclosure is trained on the electorate, allowing the government to know everything about the political activities of Americans.
At the very least, it’s time to rethink the levels at which citizens are required to disclose contributions. They need to be dramatically raised. If the left’s argument is that democracy is at risk from “powerful” players, then it can have nothing to fear from the donor who gives $5,000 or $10,000 or even $20,000 to a candidate or party. That is peanuts compared to the more than $70 million that billionaire environmental activist Tom Steyer spent in the 2014 elections to (unsuccessfully) retain a Democratic Senate. It’s a simple fact that in today’s big-money political arena, no politician can be “bought” with a mere $10,000. The current disclosure requirement of $200 is primarily designed to ensure that every citizen’s political activity is known to the federal government.
It’s time for the courts to wake up—and to recognize Clarence Thomas’s prescient observations about where today’s disclosure and speech law regime has left the country. It’s time for the courts to recognize that we are once again in an environment in which average citizens are afraid to speak.
Mostly, it’s time for Americans to speak up. The intimidation game only works if its targets let it. When citizens blow the whistle on abuse and stand up to it, they are by definition rejecting intimidation. They inspire others to come to their defense and to speak out themselves.
My personal preference is for a very expansive version of free speech.  Not everyone feels that way.  There are also plenty of people interested in free speech for me, but not for thee.

Goose, meet ... uhh ...

The Dept of Education is on the case against fraudulent degree mills:

ITT Educational Services announced on Tuesday that it is shutting down its more than 100 ITT Technical Institute campuses immediately, accusing the federal government of unfairly stripping it of eligibility for student aid.
It's an abrupt move that will impact 35,000 students who are currently taking classes on campuses and online throughout the United States. Many of them are now left without a degree and saddled with student debt.

ITT said it also eliminated the jobs of the "overwhelming majority" of more than 8,000 employees on Tuesday.
Last week, the Department of Education barred the school from allowing any new students to use federal loans to pay for ITT -- and the school promptly stopped new enrollment.

I'm sure we will be reading in the newspapers any minute now that the Dept of Education is also shutting down Grievance Studies departments across the nation.


Monday, September 05, 2016

Wait. What?

Your mileage may vary, but for me this was a Wait, What? moment:

Adjectives in English absolutely have to be in this order: opinion-size-age-shape-colour-origin-material-purpose Noun.

Bollocks, I immediately thought. That's just an internet myth. Except …

You can have a lovely little old rectangular green French silver whittling knife.

Now try changing the adjective order.

Sunday, September 04, 2016

Is it too much to ask?

The term "media bias" is familiar, used mostly by conservatives in reference to the tone and selection of stories that reflect progressive prejudices. To a certain extent, that is unavoidable. I don't expect the NYT to cover the same range of stories as the WSJ. The former will run 1,000 LGBTQ stories to every one in the latter, and the WSJ is going to skew far more towards business and economic reporting.

So far, so good.

But then there is the kind of bias that should flunk Journalism 101. Well, if I taught Journo 101, in any event. (So what follows is a pilot telling reporters how to do their jobs. When it's the other way around, the result is always rubbish. No reason to suspect any different when the shoe is other footed.)

By that, I mean always when doing straight reporting, and to a significant extent even in Op Ed pieces, the writer needs to include all the facts appropriate to the story's level of detail. A perfect example is the Michael Brown shooting in Fergusen. When referred to in the NYT, the late Mr. Brown is always referred to as an "unarmed teenager".

This is a perfect example of selecting from a set of facts at the same level as detail, so as to skew readers' conception of the situation. Omitted facts? Six foot five inches, 250 lbs, attacked the officer, tried to take the officers' weapon, battered a store clerk after shoplifting, shot charging the officer. Every time the NYT prefers one of those facts to the others, it is a violation of journalistic ethics. Or at least it should be, since persistently leaving out equally important facts is lying by omission.

Recently, the NYT ran Shooting in North Carolina Draws Comparisons to Trayvon Martin’s Death , which appeared in the US News section; that is, it is allegedly straight reporting, and not an Op Ed.

A man saying he was acting on behalf of a neighborhood watch program fatally shot a young, black man.

If that sounds to you like the 2012 case of George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin, which ignited a broad discussion on race relations in the United States, you wouldn’t be wrong. But this similar scenario played out in a case this week in Raleigh, N.C.

The reason that would sound to the rest of us like the that, is because the young black man was shot while attacking the white Hispanic [sic] man. Except not anything like that:

Kouren-Rodney Bernard Thomas, 20, was shot and killed just before 1 a.m. on Sunday, the police in Raleigh said. Chad Cameron Copley, 39, was charged with first-degree murder after the police said he fired a shotgun from inside his garage at Mr. Thomas, who was outside Mr. Copley’s home.

Where are the similar details about the Zimmerman/Martin case?

But wait, there's more. Chicago Has Its Deadliest Month in About Two Decades . The lead sentence:

In a city wrestling with a rise in gun violence …

Let's think about that for a second. Guns are violent? If so, then are they equally violent everywhere, or just especially in Chicago. This year, so far, is the deadliest in the last 20. Did guns suddenly get more violent?

Hey, wait a minute, if violent guns are the problem, then Chicagoans need to go elsewhere and buy non-violent guns. After all, those elsewheres are easily enough found, they aren't the places that murder 90 people a month.

Of course, the other way of looking at it, is the real story, the important story, really isn't gun violence, but rather conditions in black areas of Chicago that make them far more violent than almost anywhere else in the US. Of course, dealing with conditions is hard, and doesn't lend itself to promoting an agenda.

Today, on the NYT's front page is Flooding of Coast, Caused by Global Warming, Has Already Begun

Completely absent from this story is any record of changes in sea levels, the rates of change, how long the change has been going on, or any other causes of sea level change.

After a few seconds poking around, I found the Tybee Island Sea Level Rise Plan .

The full tide gauge record at Fort Pulaski indicates that long-term
sea-level rise is largely responsible for the increased number of tidal flood events on US
Highway 80.

The island has already experienced approximately 10 inches of sea-level rise since
1935 …

A graphic on page 17 shows that sea level has indeed increased — by a foot in the last 100 years, with a linear trend.

Why aren't those details in the NYT story?

It may well be that the WSJ commits similar serial crimes against Journo 101, and that because of my prejudices, I'm blind to them. But, despite that, I somehow doubt it. Also, it seems to me that the NYT has gotten markedly worse in this regard over the last year or so.

Why is it asking too much for reporters to report?

Friday, September 02, 2016

Is This Right?

The following cute bit of humor is going about at the moment:

Hahahaha, as my daughters would text. Obviously, a really, really nerdy bit of humor, therefore right up my alley.

But here's the thing, I don't think the top one is fully correct.  For example, if I go to Wolfram Alpha and enter lim 1/(x-8) as x->8 it responds with "(two sided limit does not exist)" because you get infinity if you approach it from greater than 8 and decreasing and minus infinity if you approach it from less than 8 and increasing as shown in the following plot.

What do my nerdy readers think? Is it not quite right? Or is it okay? Is the default to always approach the limit from the positive side decreasing? Or from the side that gives you positive infinity? Or what?