Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Are American Boys Broken?

It’s always nice to see history repeating itself. You might not recall, but the year 1212 has gone down in history for what was called the Children’s Crusade. It was a real crusade, launched by European children, to win back the Holy Land from Muslim invaders. It didn’t work. None of the crusaders ever reached the Holy Land, but it counts as the first children’s movement.

Now, we are seeing our own version of the Children’s Crusade. High school students are mobilizing to fight for more gun control laws. Since no one seems to be willing to enforce those that we have, surely more gun control laws will not stop gun violence. When it doesn't another children's crusade will tell us that we need more gun control laws. It takes a high school level mind to believe that it’s easier to control 300 million guns than it is to control a couple of dozen schizophrenics and psychopaths.

We can argue about whether it is better to get our marching orders from high school students or from stand-up comics who aren’t funny. But, since government, federal, state and local failed to enforce the laws and regulations that are already on the books, you might think that these children would crusade against incompetent government or even against leniency about involuntary commitment. 

But no, they have been swept up in the anti-Trump mania and are allowing themselves to be used as a cudgel against the president. Were any children out marching when lunatics, maniacs and terrorists shot up schools and nightclubs and council meetings during the Clinton and Obama administrations? You do not even need to think to answer that question.

In the meantime, USA Today asks another salient question: are American boys broken? Since all of the mass shootings share one characteristic—they were all perpetrated by males—it makes some sense to ask whether there is something wrong with boys.

The thought comes to us from a comedian:

… comedian Michael Ian Black started a thread on Twitter that sparked a vitriolic debate about the role of gender in gun violence. It began with the tweet, "Deeper even than the gun problem is this: boys are broken." 

Black's tweet has been liked nearly 65,000 times. In an interview with NPR on Sunday, he elaborated.

"I think it means that there is something going on with American men that is giving them the permission and space to commit violence," he said. "And one of the main things we focus on correctly is guns and mental health, but I think deeper than that is a problem, a crisis in masculinity."

Naturally, USA Today, being politically correct in the woke sense, folds the issue into a debate about toxic masculinity. This suggests that boys need to get in touch with their feminine side, to enhance their capacity for empathy and to be kinder and gentler.

And yet, if we know one thing, it’s this. If leftists believe that feminism is the solution, the truth is that feminism is the problem. If you ask who broke boys or why boys are broken, you might turn to Christina Hoff Sommers’ book The War Against Boys

Thanks the feminist schoolteachers, in particular, boys have been beaten down at school. And of course, the lean in movement tells girls to adopt a macho posture that threatens boys. Even Sheryl Sandberg knows that leaning in provokes pushback. But, be assured, if a girl provokes a boy, a teenager with nascent moral faculties, you might not just receive pushback You might be hit back.

Does the culture have other ways to beat down boys and men? It denounces them as toxic, it declares their willingness to protect women from harm a sign of oppression. Oh, and by demonizing their wish to own guns… ultimately to restrict their access to guns. For my part I have nothing against sensible restrictions on gun ownership. Of course, we already have sensible restrictions on gun ownership. And if Nikolas Cruz was able to buy a gun because mental health professionals, state social service agents and the local sheriff’s office had not tagged him as a danger… well then, perhaps we ought to be more agitated about incompetent government.

In truth, guns are a guy thing. Surely, many women own guns, but the symbolism of guns is distinctly manly. And if feminists continue to disrespect all outward signs of manliness, if they try to beat boys into becoming girls, then boys will only be able to express their masculinity in more toxic ways.

I recall an experience that Doris Lessing had in Great Britain many years ago. She was visiting a class of 9 and 10 year olds and observed how the female teachers were treating the boys in the room. Lessing is more of a feminist than most of the junior league feminists who rant away in the media, so her observations take on a special poignancy. Count her among the few progressives who have enough integrity to see things as they are.

These remarks date from 2001. We read them in the Guardian:

Young boys were being weighed down with guilt about the crimes of their sex, she told the Edinburgh book festival, while energy which could be used to get proper child care was being dissipated in the pointless humiliation of men.

"I find myself increasingly shocked at the unthinking and automatic rubbishing of men which is now so part of our culture that it is hardly even noticed," the 81-year-old Persian-born writer said yesterday.

"Great things have been achieved through feminism. We now have pretty much equality at least on the pay and opportunities front, though almost nothing has been done on child care, the real liberation.

"We have many wonderful, clever, powerful women everywhere, but what is happening to men? Why did this have to be at the cost of men?

"I was in a class of nine- and 10-year-olds, girls and boys, and this young woman was telling these kids that the reason for wars was the innately violent nature of men.

You could see the little girls, fat with complacency and conceit while the little boys sat there crumpled, apologising for their existence, thinking this was going to be the pattern of their lives."

Lessing said the teacher tried to "catch my eye, thinking I would approve of this rubbish".

She added: "This kind of thing is happening in schools all over the place and no one says a thing.

"It has become a kind of religion that you can't criticise because then you become a traitor to the great cause, which I am not.

"It is time we began to ask who are these women who continually rubbish men. The most stupid, ill-educated and nasty woman can rubbish the nicest, kindest and most intelligent man and no one protests. 

 "Men seem to be so cowed that they can't fight back, and it is time they did."

You remember the old saying: Be careful what you wish for…. Feminist icon Doris Lessing was ringing the tocsin of alarm nearly two decades ago. Unfortunately, it fell on deaf ears.

Growing Homelessness in Los Angeles

George Will recommends that the Democratic Party nominates Los Angeles Mayor, Eric Garcetti for president in 2020. After all, Garcetti has colorful socks, like Canadian Prime Minister Justin Bieber, and his father Gil Garcetti prosecuted O. J. Simpson. Remind me of how that one worked out?

Anyway, we are well within our constitutional rights to ask how Los Angeles is doing under Mayor Garcetti. We examined the homelessness problem in San Francisco in the prior post, so why not turn our tired eyes, now, to Los Angeles. 

I probably do not need to remind you, but Los Angeles is a sanctuary city in a sanctuary state. For reasons the escape me, none of the reports on homelessness asks how much the sanctuary city policy has been a magnet for refugees from shithole countries. And how many of these illegal immigrants have simply turned California’s great cities into shitholes.

As opposed to San Francisco, where the local authorities seem to be completely clueless, Los Angeles has taken some action to solve the problem. It has tried to build homeless shelters around the city. You will recall that a leading local official in San Francisco proposed the same solution. So, rather than ship the local illegal migrant population back home, Los Angeles is bleeding its taxpayers in order to house them.

The strange thing is, the supply of homeless people is seriously outrunning the number of shelter beds.

The Los Angeles Times reports:

Los Angeles County's homeless population is increasing faster than the supply of new housing, even with the addition of thousands of beds in the last two years and millions of dollars beginning to flow in from two ballot measures targeting the crisis, according to a long-awaited report by the region's homelessness agency.

The report showed that officials two years ago far underestimated how much new housing would be needed when they asked city and county voters to approve the tax measures.

As a result, a $73-million annual shortfall in funding for the county's comprehensive homelessness program could more than triple, a Times analysis of the report found.

Providing permanent housing for the county's chronically homeless population would require more than 20,000 new units, about 5,000 more than projected two years ago, the report said.

Again, how many of those that Los Angeles wants to house permanently are American citizens? How many of them have the right to be here? No one is asking the question.

The 2015 homeless count, on which the previous analysis was based, put the number of people living on the streets across the county at just under 29,000.

Anyway, the more housing you build the more homeless people show up. The more you make a public display of your status as sanctuary city the more you attract refugees. It does not take too many IQ points to figure this out.

According to the new report, more than 6,000 new units of permanent supportive housing have been added since 2015. That includes newly constructed buildings as well as scattered placements in subsidized market rentals that are supported by traveling case managers.

The gains in housing, however, were outstripped by the rising homeless population.

The earlier report projected a reduction of 14% each year. If that had occurred, the total homeless population — including unsheltered and sheltered — would have dropped to 41,323 last year.

Instead, it climbed to nearly 59,000. The results of this year's count will be released in the spring.

Who knew?

San Francisco, American Shithole

Cue the Schadenfreude. Tell me you do not feel a small stirring of joy when you learn that true blue San Francisco, one of America’s leading sanctuary cities, home to a plethora of high tech worker bees, rates among the world’s most disgusting slums. Does it show us what happens when a city gives itself over to today's progressive politics? 

Yes, indeed, inequality rules in San Francisco. On the one hand you have the wealthy super rich neighborhoods inhabited by the kings and queens of high tech. The rest of the city: forget about it.

The local NBC affiliate found that the city had become, excuse the expression, a shithole. (via Maggie’s Farm) You see, we did not have to go to any foreign climes to find shitholery. We needed but look at good old San Francisco. Not all of San Francisco, of course. Only twenty miles worth… over 153 blocks.

NBC reports:

How dirty is San Francisco? An NBC Bay Area Investigation reveals a dangerous mix of drug needles, garbage, and feces throughout downtown San Francisco. The Investigative Unit surveyed 153 blocks of the city – the more than 20-mile stretch includes popular tourist spots like Union Square and major hotel chains. The area – bordered by Van Ness Avenue, Market Street, Post Street and Grant Avenue – is also home to City Hall, schools, playgrounds, and a police station.

In fact, San Franciscans care about children. They care about children more than anything. I am convinced that they have many wonderful programs to care about children. And yet, when children go to school they are assaulted by fecal matter, garbage and drug needles:

As the Investigative Unit photographed nearly a dozen hypodermic needles scattered across one block, a group of preschool students happened to walk by on their way to an afternoon field trip to city hall.

“We see poop, we see pee, we see needles, and we see trash,” said teacher Adelita Orellana. “Sometimes they ask what is it, and that’s a conversation that’s a little difficult to have with a 2-year old, but we just let them know that those things are full of germs, that they are dangerous, and they should never be touched.”

In light of the dangerous conditions, part of Orellana’s responsibilities now include teaching young children how to avoid the contamination.

Of course, the dirty needles can expose children to every manner of disease:

“If you do get stuck with these disposed needles you can get HIV, Hepatitis C, Hepatitis B, and a variety of other viral diseases,” said Dr. Lee Riley, an infectious disease expert at University of California, Berkeley. He warned that once fecal matter dries, it can become airborne, releasing potentially dangerous viruses, such as the rotavirus. “If you happen to inhale that, it can also go into your intestine,” he said. The results can prove fatal, especially in children.

Riley has researched conditions across the poorest slums of the world. His book titled, “Slum Health,” examines health problems that are created by extreme poverty.

How does San Francisco rate with the slums of other world cities? You will be happy to know that it is competitive… in the bad sense of the word:

Based on the findings of the Investigative Unit survey, Riley believes parts of the city may be even dirtier than slums in some developing countries.

“The contamination is … much greater than communities in Brazil or Kenya or India,” he said. He notes that in those countries, slum dwellings are often long-term homes for families and so there is an attempt to make the surroundings more livable. Homeless communities in San Francisco, however, are often kicked out from one part of town and forced to relocate to another. The result is extreme contamination, according to Riley.

One can only wonder how much of this slum has been produced by those who have been given sanctuary in San Francisco. 

Anyway, you will be happy to know that local civic leaders are seriously torqued about the situation. They are not doing anything, but at least they feel badly about it all:

“Unacceptable. Absolutely unacceptable,” said Supervisor Hillary Ronen. “We're losing tourists. We're losing conventions in San Francisco. All of this is happening because we aren't addressing the root cause, which is we need more temporary beds for street homelessness.”

According to Ronen, the problem is homelessness. It makes some sense. San Francisco has a notoriously liberal attitude toward the homeless and the migrant population. They would never want to impinge on the civil rights of any of those who have been granted sanctuary. Especially the right to use drugs and the right to defecate on the sidewalk. 

Ronen thinks that the city should build more homeless shelters… but, where will they be built and what will happen when the newly housed homeless go out to spend a day on the city streets?

Anyway, the Director of Public Works is hard at work on the problem. Well, not that hard at work. He explains how difficult the problem is and why he can't fix it. Thus, he is far better at complaining than at cleaning up the streets:

Until the problem is fixed, Mohammed Nuru, the Director of the Public Works Department, is charged with the towering task of cleaning the streets, over and over again. “Yes, we can clean, he said, “and then go back a few hours later, and it looks as if it was never cleaned. So is that how you want to spend your money?”

The 2016-2017 budget for San Francisco Public Works includes $60.1 million for “Street Environmental Services.” The budget has nearly doubled over the past five years. Originally, that money, was intended to clean streets, not sidewalks. According to city ordinances, sidewalks are the responsibility of property owners. However, due to the severity of the contamination in San Francisco, Public Works has inherited the problem of washing sidewalks. Nuru estimates that half of his street cleaning budget – about $30 million – goes towards cleaning up feces and needles from homeless encampments and sidewalks….

A single pile of human waste, said Nuru, takes at least 30 minutes for one of his staffers to clean. “The steamer has to come. He has to park the steamer. He's got to come out with his steamer, disinfect, steam clean, roll up and go.”

The indignity of it all. Think of how difficult it is to clean up human waste. The problem boggles the mind of Mohammed Nuru. San Francisco, surrounded by unimaginable wealth, becomes a great American shithole. What does Nancy Pelosi have to say about all of this. Does she want to bring San Francisco values to the rest of America? 

Monday, February 19, 2018

The Case of the Neutered Lover

Today’s quiz question is: What is wrong with this letter? Better yet, what is wrong with this letter writer? As it happens Carolyn Hax is so “woke” that she either does not notice or does not care or does not think it matters.

Before answering my question, check out the letter:

Dear Carolyn: I have been with my partner for six years and have just graduated from college. I love my partner and could see myself happily married to them for the long haul. However, I am beginning to feel wistful about never having dated anyone else — or kissed anyone else for that matter — and if I feel this way at 22, I fear that by 35 I’ll go mad and uproot my life at an even worse time.

Yet, I can’t imagine going through the pain of breaking up with the perfect partner just because of a stupid seven-year itch.

How do I make sense of these feelings? I tell my partner everything, and hiding this feeling is suffocating, but I would never want to hurt them, and I know this would devastate them. I feel too young to be this seriously committed but obviously unwilling to dump someone I think could be right for marriage in 10 years.

I thought I’d made up my mind to break up, but then I saw them and my mind was completely unmade because I love them so much. But how can I love them and still be interested in exploring other things? I could use some perspective.

Hopefully, you know by now that the letter writer has scrupulously scrubbed her language clean of any reference to gender, either to her own or to that of her many paramours. This is a grammatical nightmare, an effort to impose one’s own idiot ideology on the language. If he/she/it insists on calling her true love—“them”— it suggests that he/she/it has multiple lovers.

Rather than tell her whether or not to break up with all of them—though, ask yourself, why should would not be satisfied with so many lovers—she ought to clean up her language, figure out which sex she belongs to and come to grips with the sex of her lovers.

We assume that the person in question is female and we imagine that she has been brainwashed to an inch of her sanity by some politically correct Women’s Studies professor. If she does not know who or what she is, she will never answer her question.

Bad grammar is an affectation among the younger set. It makes them stupid and confuses their interlocutors. It is so confusing that anyone who has any sense whatever will understand that one’s life will dawn much more brightly if said letter writer is not part of it.

Steven Pinker, Cosmopolitan Person with Deep Feelings

Famed multibillionaire college dropout Bill Gates has called it his “favorite book of all time.” When you have that much money no one dares call you out on your ridiculous remarks. It’s not a good cultural sign.

I am talking about Steven Pinker’s paean to a new atheist faith. He calls his new book Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress and uses it to proselytize his progressive beliefs. He is not doing science. He is not engaging in empirical or pragmatic thinking. It is barely rational.

In truth, Pinker is selling a new religion, a new atheist cult that he believes will save the world. That atheism has already been tried and has failed miserably does not bother Pinker. He is more than happy to manipulate facts to persuade people of the correctness of his beliefs. When asked to explain the catastrophes that were produced by governments that tried to impose an atheist culture, most good atheists will respond that they did not understand the true faith or else that they implemented it badly. 

As I remarked a few days ago, Pinker has sung the praises of Immanuel Kant’s enlightened thinking, failing to notice that Kant's thinking, along with that of Hegel and Marx and Nietzsche, produced some of the greatest calamities in human history. How did Pinker deal with this anomaly? He declared that the Kantian Enlightenment only began to have any real influence after 1945. When you are playing with loaded dice, you always win.

Undaunted Pinker is happily promoting is open-borders cosmopolitanism. We already know, or should know, the mess that this policy has produced in Western Europe, but Pinker cannot really care about all that. The rising crime rates and the incipient anarchy caused by refugees is only a speed bump on the road to the Worker’s Paradise or, if you prefer, the Heavenly City.

Surely, Pinker believes that humanistic cosmopolitanism will prevent any future genocides. And yet, he failed to notice that humanism leads some people to think that they are superhuman. And that from there they declare other groups as subhuman... and that had to be eliminated in a Holocaust to placate the gods. Anyone who refuses to bow down to the gods of humanism is considered to be an enemy that must be destroyed.

Yesterday in the Times of London Niall Ferguson debunked Pinker’s naïve cosmopolitanism. To be fair, Pinker need not be all that naïve himself. He just needs a band of dupes, and, beginning with college dropout Gates, he has already found it.

Naturally, Ferguson says, Pinker must assert that cosmopolitism works. It's a fancy term, but, Ferguson continues, it is merely a bunch of policies that comprises the agenda of today’s enlightened leftists.

Ferguson writes:

Pinker shares the 18th-century Enlightenment’s faith in cosmopolitanism. He is on the side of “globalisation, racial diversity, women’s empowerment, secularism, urbanisation [and] education” and against the populist backlash Donald Trump has come to personify. This is partly because Pinker believes cosmopolitanism works. “As we continually expand discourse and interaction,” he said recently, “as people from diverse cultural backgrounds continue to sit down and agree about how to run their affairs, things tend to get better.”

As it happens, Pinker is wrong. Different peoples from different cultures cannot sit down and agree to anything unless… here is the kicker… they share a single, unifying culture. They must be speaking the same language, using the same manners, following the same customs and norms. If they do not, if they cling to the customs and norms of their ancestors—it’s called ancestor worship—they are never going to accomplish anything. When the humanitarian and cosmopolitan left fails, it will seek out scapegoats... and will often attack those who are not sufficiently humanistic or cosmopolitan.

If Pinker had been better versed in Scripture he would have known the story of the tower of Babel. He would have known that multiple languages makes work, to say nothing of conversation, impossible. And he would also know that multiculturalism is a reactionary throwback to the time of polytheism.

To be more clear about it all, when people do not have a common culture, they must, if they are to reconcile their differences, have something in common. Pinker would suggest that they all have the milk of human kindness, human compassion, human empathy rushing through their arteries. After all, feeling the right feelings is what makes them human. Right?

In the absence of a common language, humanists propose a common feeling, a universal emotion. Of course, you cannot negotiate anything if you only have common feelings. You will need all to believe in your feelings, in the murmurings of your heart. But then you will need to reject any culture that would unify the group. You need especially to reject all monotheistic religions, the kind that produced monocultures. When people speaking different languages sit down to resolve their affairs using the universal language of emotion, they will fail. At that point,the issue will be: who is to blame? The answer will be: anyone who rejects the cosmopolitan faith. Practitioners of monotheistic religion or patriots who value national unity will be expelled from the group for failing to believe in the politically correct beliefs. If they are not bathing in what the cosmopolitans believe to be universal sentiments they will immediately be declared to be subhuman. 

Ferguson points out that America has been attempting to make Pinker’s cosmopolitan fictions a reality. How is that working out?

The problem with this [Pinker’s] theory is that no country in history has more systematically tried to put it into practice than America, his adopted home. (Pinker was born in Canada.) In the past few decades, increased immigration from all over the world has driven the foreign-born share of the US population from below 5% to above 13%. On present trends, the share will soon match the historic peak of 14.8% in 1890.

Moreover, immigrants to America now come from all over the world. Back in 1960, when Pinker was a boy, 84% of US immigrants were from Europe or Canada. By 2013 that share was down to 14%. On present trends in migration, fertility and mortality, the Census Bureau predicts that minority groups will outnumber non-Hispanic whites in America by 2044. According to The Washington Post, the most that a Trumpian immigration policy could achieve would be to postpone that by five years.

Of course, Pinker’s theory is not really a theory. It’s a prophecy. One understands that it does not really matter to him whether it is working out. If it doesn’t, you must take it on faith.

How’s life in today’s America? If Pinker is right, America should be thriving. It should be leading the world in all measures of happiness and fulfillment. It should still be that shining city on the hill, a place that people around the world want to emulate.

Ferguson points out that such is not the case:

If cosmopolitanism works, America should not be an outlier. It should not be the country where a significant proportion of the majority-soon-to-be-minority population is experiencing a rising mortality rate, not least because of an epidemic of opioid abuse, to say nothing of the multiple social pathologies described by Charles Murray in his seminal book Coming Apart. It should illustrate not contradict Pinker’s thesis.

Enlightenment Now? Or Benightedness? America today feels like a country where Pinker’s cosmopolitanism has overshot, triggering an increasingly nasty backlash.

Of course, like all failing extremist policies, today’s benighted Americans have a perfect scapegoat in one Donald Trump. Any time anything does not work, anytime anything goes wrong, the fault always lies with Trump. And, of course, it lies with the counterrevolutionaries who believe in the one God and the American nation, thus who stubbornly refuse to embrace the new atheist religion. 

To be fair, hating Trump, blaming him for everything that is going wrong, is a way to profess one's adoration for the New Messiah, the man who will save the nation from thought crimes. That is, Barack Obama.

It is not an accident that today’s radical students are behaving like fascist and communist pagans, that they are shutting down any speech that offends them. Cosmopolitanism produces the pathologies that it claims to cure. 

Ferguson concludes:

Protesting students often borrow symbols from 20th-century communists to make their points. The clenched fist on a red background is back in vogue. The irony is that Murray’s work has been far more about inequality than about race. Time and again, he has warned that a cognitive elite formed at the nation’s most selective colleges has lost all touch with the mass of ordinary Americans. Some campus protests illustrate his point.

Students protesting against free speech is just the kind of absurdity Voltaire throws at Dr Pangloss to challenge his optimism. Steve Pinker should watch out for that red fist.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Failing to Prevent a Preventable Massacre

Today, Kevin Williamson weighs in on the FBI and the Lakeland Sheriff’s office. He wants to know how they failed to prevent an eminently preventable massacre.

The FBI and local law enforcement bear considerable responsibility for the Nikolas Cruz rampage. Right now, like the good little bureaucrats they are, they are covering up their dereliction.

Williamson’s style is inimitable, often copied, rarely equaled:

As was reported on Friday, the FBI had been alerted that a particular pasty-faced virgin down in Florida was probably going to shoot up his old school. He had put up social-media posts to that effect, cleverly shielding his identity from the steely-eyed G-men by signing his legal name to those public threats. The epigones of J. Edgar Hoover may not be Sherlock Holmes, but presumably they can read, and some public-minded citizen took some screen shots and sent them to the FBI.

The FBI of course did what the relevant authorities did in the case of Omar Mateen, the case of Nidal Hasan, the case of Adam Lanza: nothing.

We could replace these guys with trained monkeys, if we could train monkeys to be self-important.

How did the bureau explain its dereliction? It declared that it was following protocols. Just in case you do not understand protocols, Williamson explains:

The FBI has “protocols” for handling specific credible threats of that sort, “protocol” here being a way of saying, “Pick up the phone and call the local field office or, if we really want to get wild, the local police.” “The protocol was not followed,” the FBI bureaucrats explained. Well, no kidding. Why not? No answer — the question wasn’t even asked aloud. Did law enforcement’s ball-dropping mean that a preventable massacre went unprevented because of bureaucratic failure? “I don’t think anybody could say that,” says Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel, who is leading the investigation. His department had over the years received no fewer than 20 calls related to the shooter. What about that? “Make no mistake about it, America, the only one to blame for this incident is the killer himself,” which is exactly the sort of thing a sanctimonious schmuck says when he doesn’t want to consider the institutional failures right in front of his taxpayer-subsidized nose and the culpable negligence — to say nothing of the sand-pounding stupidity — of his own agency.

For those of us who repair to facts when we are looking for perspective, Williamson puts it all in context. How many agents does the FBI have?

The FBI has a budget of $3.5 billion, almost all of which goes to salaries, benefits, and other personnel costs. Do you know how many employees the FBI field office in South Florida has? It has more than 1,000. Do you know how many employees the FBI has in total? It has 35,158 employees. It has 13,084 agents and 3,100 intelligence analysts.

And not one of them could pick up the phone to forward vital intelligence gathered by the grueling investigative work of picking up the phone and taking a tip from a tipster. Would the sheriff have taken that call more seriously than his department took the 20 other calls relating to the killer? Impossible to say.

Since Christopher Wray does not have the strength of character to resign and since he seems clearly to be incompetent, Williamson recommends that he be fired. If that doesn’t work, he adds, a good whipping might be in order.

More Notes on Russian Election Meddling

Some of us never believed that the hue and cry over “facts” was anything but psy-ops… a fraudulent attempt to marry the liberal progressive idealistic cause to empirical reality. Since that cause has never really had anything to do with reality—it prefers appearances—it was always going to be a tough sell.

For now, for those who care about facts, here are a couple, from different sources. The first from The Daily Caller’s Amber Athey compares Russian election meddling with the Clinton communications machine.

According to reports, the monthly Russian budget for the operation to meddle in the election was $1.2 million. As Peter Hamby pointed out on Twitter, Clinton and supporting PAC Priorities USA spent approximately $800 million in 2016.

That means Clinton and her PAC spent about $66 million a month in 2016, a whopping 53 times more money than Russia’s $1.25 million monthly budget.

And this does not even count the massive media assault against Trump and the massive propaganda effort in favor of Clinton.

And then there is Facebook. The company vice president of advertising, Robert Goldman tweeted a salient fact: namely, that most Russian spending on Facebook advertising happened after the election. Duh? Not a minor detail, don’t you think? And yet, as Goldman suggests, Facebook has always reported this. The media has consistently ignored it.

This from the Zero Hedge blog:

Notably, Goldman points out that the majority of advertising purchased by Russians on Facebook occurred after the election - and was designed to "sow discord and divide Americans", something which Americans have been quite adept at doing on their own ever since the Fed decided to unleash a record class, wealth, income divide by keeping capital markets artificially afloat at any cost.

Here are the texts of some of the tweets:

The majority of the Russian ad spend happened AFTER the election. We shared that fact, but very few outlets have covered it because it doesn’t align with the main media narrative of Tump and the election.

The main goal of the Russian propaganda and misinformation effort is to divide America by using our institutions, like free speech and social media, against us. It has stoked fear and hatred amongst Americans. It is working incredibly well. We are quite divided as a nation.

Have a nice day!

Election Meddling and the Future of Democracy

Americans are in something of an uproar about Russian meddling in the last presidential election. You would think that the Russian bear had violated the vestal virgin of American democracy. An unthinkable inexcusable horror, don’t you think?

If you believe that all American elections since the beginning of the Republic have been completely fair and never subjected to meddling, you are suffering from terminal naïveté. One does know that the results of the Illinois vote in the 1960 presidential election were rigged, by organized crime and local labor unions. Richard Nixon chose not to contest the results, but the people who are crying most loudly now, would never have uttered a peep in 1960.

To their mind, the issue was not really meddling, or even the purity of American democracy, but who won. It’s not the same issue.

Of course, the people who are bowing down to the goddess of democracy are the first to run to the courts when a referendum—nothing is quite as democratic as a referendum—yields a result that they do not like. Think, referenda on same-sex marriage.

The rule of law, the virtue of democracy, has been yielding to the rule of lawyers and the rule of judges. Executive orders by one president are strokes of brilliance advancing the cause of justice. Executive orders by another duly elected president are unconstitutional and must be overturned by a court somewhere.

At the least, we know that ours is not a pure democracy. We do not vote directly for policies or for legislation. We vote for people to represent us. These people exercise discretion. They feel bound to advance a political philosophy, but they are not forced to do so. They can always be replaced at the next election. And yet, outside of the referenda that so many people disparage, ours is not exactly a direct democracy.

And yet, we love our democracy. It warms our hearts. We imagine that if votes are cast fairly the results will be wondrous to behold. We believe that we must export democracy, make the world safe for democracy, allow everyone a vote… regardless of the results.

This simply says that we think like naïve young idealists. Because if you look around the world today, as I have mentioned, whatever America is selling, the world is not buying. One needs to emphasize the point. Many major nations in the world are moving toward authoritarian rule, toward undemocratic rule, way from contested elections. Whether in China or Egypt or Saudi Arabia or even Turkey… the world’s nations are turning away from liberal democracy, away from human rights, away from free expression.

Egypt had an election and empowered the Muslim Brotherhood. It took a military coup to return that nation to a better path. And, lest we forget, the people of China are perfectly happy with the leaders of China, not one of whom won an election. All of China’s leaders are experienced and highly competent. The same applies in Russia… among other nations. These leaders are doing what they believe is best for their countries… to make them great again.

Authoritarian nations do not elect celebrities. And they do not elect presidents who look good on television. They do not elect presidents who have a demagogic facility with glib soundbites. They elect people who have worked their way up the ranks, who know how their governments work and who can make them work.

No one is going to buy American democracy if we cannot find leaders who have unimpeachable competence and if our leaders cannot make the government work. America’s Congress looks increasing like a ship of fools. Other nations are watching, and are saying that they do not want that.

In the news today we remark that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Bieber, a man who owes his office to his pedigree and his looks, just landed in India to promote trade and good diplomatic relations. When leaders from other nations come to India, whether they be from America or even Israel, the prime minister Narendra Modi greets them at the airport. When Justin Bieber arrived, the Indian government sent a junior agriculture minister.

Were they signaling disrespect? Of course, they were. It was not as disrespectful as the time when the government of China not only did not send anyone to greet President Obama on his last trip to Beijing. It refused even to send out a rolling staircase which would have allowed Obama to descend the plane in a dignified posture.

Western European democracies are being destroyed by an invasion of refugees who have no interest in assimilating, but are happy to import a new culture, to live off the dole and to initiate a crime wave. Eastern Europe, through elections, it is fair to say, has been moving in a more authoritarian direction, building walls to keep the marauding invading armies out of their countries. The West is practicing open borders. The East is moving away from it. We might love our democracy, but if we cannot make it work any better than it has, its days are numbered.

America’s greatest political problem is not election meddling. It’s the inability to make the system function. America’s government is too entertaining, too dramatic, to get very much of anything done.

Except, as it happens, meddling in the elections of other countries. The New York Times has the story this morning. America has long meddled in the elections of other people, though, apparently, experts in these matters insist that we are doing it for a noble cause—to advance democracy—while Russia, among others, does it to undermine democracy.

As it happens, the Times story, by Scott Shane, fails to mention the Obama administration effort to meddle with elections in Israel. The goal was not to enhance democracy but to remove a prime minister who opposed the Obama administration’s Iran nuclear deal, a deal that, as U. N. Ambassador Nikki Haley said yesterday in a New York Times op-ed, is failing:

Last week, the United Nations published a report with news a lot of people don’t want to hear. A panel of experts found that Iran is violating a United Nations weapons embargo — specifically, that missiles fired by Yemen’s Houthi rebels into Saudi Arabia last year were made in Iran.

The mullahs in Iran don’t want to hear this news, because it proves Iran is violating its international agreement. Die-hard defenders of the Iran nuclear deal don’t want to hear it because it proves, once again, that the Iranian regime can’t be trusted. And some members of the United Nations don’t want to hear it because it is further proof that Iran is defying Security Council resolutions, and the pressure will be on the U.N. to do something about it.

Thus, in some cases American governments have meddled in elections to advance democracy. In other cases it has done so to advance its own political agenda and to undermine allies.

In the meantime, Scott Shane explains American meddling: 

Loch K. Johnson, the dean of American intelligence scholars, who began his career in the 1970s investigating the C.I.A. as a staff member of the Senate’s Church Committee, says Russia’s 2016 operation was simply the cyber-age version of standard United States practice for decades, whenever American officials were worried about a foreign vote.

“We’ve been doing this kind of thing since the C.I.A. was created in 1947,” said Mr. Johnson, now at the University of Georgia. “We’ve used posters, pamphlets, mailers, banners — you name it. We’ve planted false information in foreign newspapers. We’ve used what the British call ‘King George’s cavalry’: suitcases of cash.”

The United States’ departure from democratic ideals sometimes went much further. The C.I.A. helped overthrow elected leaders in Iran and Guatemala in the 1950s and backed violent coups in several other countries in the 1960s. It plotted assassinations and supported brutal anti-Communist governments in Latin America, Africa and Asia.

He continues that all meddling is not created equal:

But in recent decades, both Mr. Hall and Mr. Johnson argued, Russian and American interferences in elections have not been morally equivalent. American interventions have generally been aimed at helping non-authoritarian candidates challenge dictators or otherwise promoting democracy. Russia has more often intervened to disrupt democracy or promote authoritarian rule, they said.

It ought to be clear, but Russian election meddling has a single goal: to enhance Russian importance on the world stage, to keep Russia in the game, as a major player. We are wrong if we consider this to be ideological warfare over different forms of government. True enough, civilizations are clashing. They are competing for influence and dominance. And yet, if democracies cannot compete against better-run, better-managed authoritarian governments, they will become historical also-rans.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

What Happened to the FBI?

Yet again, the FBI failed. It failed to follow up on an explicit warning about Nikolas Cruz. It failed to protect the children of Parkland, Florida.

While  our intellectual elites are pounding the pavement demanding that we repeal the Second Amendment, one point should be clear: a competent FBI would have been far more likely to stop Nikolas Cruz than would new gun control laws. While people complain about how Cruz was able to buy an AR-15, not an unimportant question, the more salient point is: why was he walking the streets at all. Why was he not cooling out in a psychiatric facility… and I do not mean spending a weekend there. I mean, spending a few months there. Besides, do you really believe that if he could not buy a semi-automatic assault weapon legally, he would not have been able to find one anyway. Or, that if he couldn't he would not have been able to find another weapon.

One understands that civil libertarians have gutted psychiatric institutions and made it nearly impossible to hold people against their will. And one must add that insurance companies often refuse to pay for long term commitments. Which leaves us with the FBI.

Roger Simon calls it biased and incompetent. He reminds us that ace FBI agents also failed to detain or even to care about other mass murderers over the past few years:

But the latter seems to be an apt characterization of our Federal Bureau of Investigation in the wake of the killings in Parkland, Florida, where, by their own admission, the organization overlooked warnings about the killer that could have saved seventeen students and teachers from mass murder. This is no mere bureaucratic slip-up and the demand by Governor Scott for the resignation of FBI Director Wray is understandable considering the number of dead children in his state.

The incompetence, moreover, is not just restricted to Parkland. It pervades an institution that—frequently blinded by the most rote political correctness—interviewed and then released terrorists who ultimately perpetrated horrific attacks from the Boston Marathon to the Orlando nightclub massacre. (There are several more.)

I am far from well-enough informed to say whether political correctness killed people at the Boston Marathon or the Orlando nightclub, but I would not be surprised to hear that the transformational Obama presidency produced a biased and incompetent organization.

And yet, the FBI was perfectly capable of doing a job when that job involved slandering Republicans. consider the Steele dossier:

For the last few weeks we have been digesting the nauseating probability that the FBI used a dossier paid for by the Clinton campaign and ginned up by an assembly of creepy political hatchet men and women (Blumenthal, Shearer, Steele, two Ohrs, etc.) with input from various "friends of the Kremlin" in order to spy on an American citizen and, undoubtedly, Donald Trump, before and after he became president.

Where was the FBI? Why did it take them so long to unmask a fairly paltry one million dollar Internet campaign using the most old-style Soviet front groups, although throwing them up online this time? Could it be because this all got started under Obama and he was the one who famously excoriated Mitt Romney during the 2012 presidential debates for daring to point out that Russia was still a serious threat? Obama (busy cozying up to and ultimately enriching Iran) accused Mitt of being back in the eighties. The Cold War had been over for twenty years. No wonder the FBI wasn't paying much attention to Putin & Co.

Who knows the reason for this dereliction? Evidently, the FBI was fighting the good fight against racism, sexism and Islamophobia. When it came to psychotic serial killers and terrorist mass murderers, it was blinded by its bias. Whatever is wrong with the FBI, we now know that Christopher Wray is not the right man to clean it up.

Apple Employees Keep Walking Into Walls

The Masters of the Tech Universe are better than you and I. They hold to the most correct political opinions. If they are multibillionaires they also consider themselves to be great philosophers, serious thinkers.

The Masters of the Tech Universe also possess a far more sophisticated aesthetic. They show off their aesthetic in their products, as Apple does, and they also do it in constructing office spaces, as Apple also did. The new Apple headquarters brings the vision of Steve Jobs to life.

Keep in mind, the new complex is called a campus. It means that Applers do not just want to see themselves as vulgar manufacturers selling a product. No, my friends, they want to see themselves as serious thinkers, as members of the intellectual elite, the guardian class that will run our lives for us. 

Do any of them understand that today’s American universities are mired in terminal dysfunction… that, with the exception of STEM fields,  they have become indoctrination mills that force students to think the most politically correct thoughts? Why would anyone want to emulate the example of American universities?

The new Apple Campus is, if nothing else, transparent. It is all glass all the time, inside and out.  What could possible go wrong?

Well, members of the super sophisticated Apple team keep walking into the glass. Bam. Bang. Yikes. Tell me that you don’t find this amusing.

Time Magazine has the story.

The centerpiece of Apple Inc.’s new headquarters is a massive, ring-shaped office overflowing with panes of glass, a testament to the company’s famed design-obsessed aesthetic.

There’s been one hiccup since it opened last year: Apple employees keep smacking into the glass.

Surrounding the Cupertino, California-based building are 45-foot tall curved panels of safety glass. Inside are work spaces, dubbed “pods,” also made with a lot of glass. Apple staff are often glued to the iPhones they helped popularize. That’s resulted in repeated cases of distracted employees walking into the panes, according to people familiar with the incidents.

Why do they keep walking into glass walls? Their eyes are glued to their iPhones. If you don’t find this amusing, you have no sense of humor.

Some staff members have tried a low tech solution… it was rejected for ruining the aesthetic:

Some staff started to stick Post-It notes on the glass doors to mark their presence. However, the notes were removed because they detracted from the building’s design, the people said. They asked not to be identified discussing anything related to Apple. Another person familiar with the situation said there are other markings to identify the glass.

Apple’s latest campus has been lauded as an architectural marvel. The building, crafted by famed architect Norman Foster, immortalized a vision that Apple co-founder Steve Jobs had years earlier. In 2011, Jobs reportedly described the building “a little like a spaceship landed.” Jobs has been credited for coming up with the glass pods, designed to mix solo office areas with more social spaces.

Remember the old saw about the best laid plans? Remember the old adage about how pride goeth before destruction? Is this all a sign that the Applers have overreached? Does it mean that they believe so fervently in their own genius that they have detached from practical considerations? Does it mean anything that they keep walking into glass walls? Time will tell.

The Collusion Narrative Collapses

As everyone expected, the Russian collusion narrative definitively collapsed yesterday. When the Justice Department indicted thirteen Russian trolls and three Russian companies for attempting to influence the presidential election it added that no Americans had been part of the plot. We had already had it on excellent authority that collusion is not a crime, but no one much cared about that.

Democrats who cannot accept that they lost to Donald Trump have been trying to undo the election results in the name of… you guessed it… democracy. They have been on television baying at the moon, accusing Trump of treason, mass murder, dementia and bad sex… all of which are supposed to be grounds for impeachment… or worse. 

You recall the mini-frenzy over Trump’s health, both mental and physical. You recall that the dementia narrative collapsed when Trump’s physician spend an hour answering idiotic questions from reporters who knew nothing of medicine. Anyway, it ended the dementia narrative. Puff… up in smoke.

Time to move on to another narrative, another way to undermine and delegitimize a president who won a fair election. All in the name of democracy… which depends, in very large part, on the ability to accept when one had has lost and to extend a gracious hand to the winner. Who’s undermining democracy now?

Anyway, the Wall Street Journal editorializes this morning that we ought perhaps not throw ourselves into the highest dudgeon over yet another media machine doing opposition research and trying to influence hearts and minds. Compared to the Republican and Democrat influence machines, to say nothing of the mainstream media, this Russian trolls were small change:

The indictment also contains no evidence that Russia’s meddling changed the electoral results. A U.S. presidential campaign is a maelstrom of information, charges and counter-charges, media reports and social-media chatter. The Russian Twitter bursts became part of this din and sought to reinforce existing biases more than they sought to change minds. Their Twitter hashtags included “#Hillary4Prison,” for example, which you could find at the souvenir desk at the GOP convention.

Of course, while this was all happening, the man in charge was Barack Obama. It is  useful to remind ourselves of this, being as the hatred of Donald Trump, hatred that is positively dripping off the lips of his media detractors, is really an expression of mad love for Obama… the Messiah, sent by God to save America, the man who could do no wrong. It counts as one of the greatest cover-ups in American history, this effort to excuse all of Obama’s errors:

The indictment also makes us wonder what the Obama Administration was doing amid all of this. Where were top Obama spooks James Clapper and John Brennan ? Their outrage became public only after their candidate lost the election. If they didn’t know what was going on, why not? And if they did, why didn’t they let Americans in on the secret? President Obama sanctioned Russia for its meddling only after the election.

Fair enough, the Journal explains that we need to hear more from the White House:

All of which makes the White House reaction on Friday strangely muted. Its statement understandably focused on the lack of collusion evidence and made one reference to “the agendas of bad actors, like Russia.” But given how much Russia’s meddling has damaged his first year in office, Mr. Trump should publicly declare his outrage at Russia on behalf of the American people. The Kremlin has weakened his Presidency. He should make Russia pay a price that Mr. Obama never did.

As for those who are cheering the Mueller exoneration of Trump, we should all keep in mind that the investigation is not over and that, for all we know, the next round will not be so favorable to the president.

Friday, February 16, 2018

The Problem with Identity Politics

When reading Steven Pinker’s interview at the Weekly Standard I was struck by this passage:

Identity politics is the syndrome in which people’s beliefs and interests are assumed to be determined by their membership in groups, particularly their sex, race, sexual orientation, and disability status. Its signature is the tic of preceding a statement with “As a,” as if that bore on the cogency of what was to follow.

It recalled a remark Andrew Sullivan made last week in New York Magazine:

If elites believe that the core truth of our society is a system of interlocking and oppressive power structures based around immutable characteristics like race or sex or sexual orientation, then sooner rather than later, this will be reflected in our culture at large. What matters most of all in these colleges — your membership in a group that is embedded in a hierarchy of oppression — will soon enough be what matters in the society as a whole.

And, sure enough, the whole concept of an individual who exists apart from group identity is slipping from the discourse. 

Both authors are leading the fight against identity politics, so I do not wish to make too much of what is going to appear to you to be a pedantic triviality. 

Perhaps you have guessed what struck me in these passages. Perhaps you have not. My epiphany was quite simple: most of the “groups” in question are not really groups, in the strict sense of the word. To believe that the world is divided between those who support individual freedom and those who support group identities is simply wrong. It is a false dichotomy.

Yes, I know that these terms are used very loosely and a group can easily be taken to be a grouping. Of course, there are also arithmetic groups that have nothing to do with social organizations or communities.

If we are talking about race, gender, sexual orientation and the like, we are talking about collections of individuals who have a specific trait in common. In some philosophies, they would have been considered to be classes, like the class of four-legged carnivores or the class of wingless bipeds. 

Most importantly, these so-called groups do not involve a social organization. The class of all females does not and never has constituted a community. It does not have a social organization. It does not require people to get along with each other, to work together, to cooperate and collaborate. It does not reproduce itself. You belong to the class of females or Caucasians by your biological nature, not because you participate in a social organization.

Groups are human communities, whether religious or secular. They run the gamut from religious congregations to nation states to armies to corporations and even to communities. In some nations you are required to be of the same race—like Japan—but being of the Japanese race does not automatically make you a citizen of Japan.

When we arrive at the class of beings known as wingless bipeds, that is members of the human species-- or, as the bien pensant left would have it—Humanity, we discover that, since this is nothing more than a class of beings sharing a common characteristic. It is not a social organization,. Defining yourself as a member of the species of wingless bipeds shares with the practitioners of identity polities one simple fact: it does not matter what you do or do not do, it does not matter how you function within a group. Your membership cannot be enhanced or revoked as you behave or misbehave. So, identity politics is a subspecies of humanism.

The issue is not the conflict between the individual and the group. The issue involves your loyalty to the nation or your loyalty to a class of individuals that is held together only by the fact that they share certain specific characteristics, like XX chromosomes, certain racial traits, or a yearning for members of the same sex.

It’s about patriotism or not, ethical behavior or not. It's not about the conflict between individual identity and group identity.