Friday, May 31, 2019

It's Party Time

Dimitri Orlov does a takedown of the European political parties, but most of what he says is fully applicable to the political parties in this country. Unfortunately, it is behind a paywall, but a few highlights…

First he reminds us of the difference between the kind of party where everyone drinks, dances, has a good time and then goes home, sometimes alone, sometimes not, and the kind where serious people gather for periods of four years or more to decide the fates of nations.

He says that “these two meanings are becoming conflated” and I’m inclined to agree with him. In fact, I would say that in this country the second kind of party has now become indistinguishable from the first.

He goes on to say of European political parties that there is “only one thing that unites all of them, and that’s opposition to rational thought”  which is certainly true of political parties, and of political discussion in general, in the US.

He goes on to discuss the various factions, saying, for instance that, “The Greens (Democrats) are in favor of solar panels and wind turbines. These are, of course, great. Solar panels are fantastic because they provide illumination when the sun is shining. Wind turbines are wonderful because although they don’t provide enough juice to run air conditioners they can power fans—but only on windy days.”

That might be a bit hyperbolic, but it does make something of a point. “A free college education for everyone,” for instance, is hardly the kind of solution that makes any sense, and that may be the least nutty proposal being made by either side in this campaign.

Taxes, of course, are off the table, because this is party time.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

"Not Innocent"

The Mueller press conference today discards utterly the principle of “innocent until proven guilty” and, in fact, turns that principle on it’s head, declaring that his commission was unable to prove the president innocent. His view of the role of the Justice Department appears to be that it assumes guilt and investigates to determine the possibility of innocence.

His report on television boils down to, “We were unable to prove the president innocent of these crimes and, while we found plenty of evidence of his guilt, we were prevented from declaring him guilty due to some unwritten law.”

He went on to suggest that Congress could do what he was somehow prevented from doing, which is use the evidence which he could not use and find the president guilty of some crime, which he did not name, which would permit his removal from office.

This is the reverse of James Comey, who declared that while Hillary Clinton committed several illegal acts with respect to her private server, she did not do so on purpose and therefor should not be charged with any crime.

And we keep claiming to be "a nation of laws."

Monday, May 27, 2019

Memorial Day

"They go to war, these young men, not to die for their country, but to place themselves, their precious lives, between their home and the forces which would destroy it."
                                                          Kenneth Roberts, in "A Rabble In Arms"

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

This Is Awesome

NBC News ran a piece last evening on Russian plans to “stoke unrest and even violence inside the US” even after they “meddled in the election” of 2016. They told us that these efforts have been ongoing as recently as last year, “according to documents reviewed by NBC News.”

They even showed us the documents, printed in Cyrillic characters and presumably in the Russian language, which no doubt were translated with perfect accuracy. (Yes, that may have been a little bit snide.)

According to these documents there were plans to recruit African Americans in the US, transport them to “camps in Africa” where they would be trained in combat and sabotage, and then returned to the US. Once back home these folks would “foment violence” and work to “establish a pan-African state in the South.” This plan, NBC claims, shows “the mindset around Russian efforts to sow discord” in this country.

I am not making this shit up; you can go and read it for yourself.

NBC was provided these documents by an organization called “the Dossier Center,” which is hilarious. It is not, apparently, the same outfit that provided the infamous “Trump dossier” which was created by Christopher Steele and paid for by the Clinton campaign, but anyone who still uses the word “dossier” has something wrong with them.

Of course, there are some who think that the Steele “dossier” was real, so there is that. Somebody’s elevator doesn’t quite go to the top floor.

The most astonishing part of the story is when NBC says that, “NBC News has not independently verified the materials, but forensic analysis by the Dossier Center appeared to substantiate the communications.” Somebody's elevator may not even go above the ground floor.

Note the appeared to substantiate. So NBC News cannot themselves speak to the authenticity of this stuff, and a firm which may or may not be legitimate can only suggest that it might be real, but NBC News is going to go ahead and report on it anyway because it’s dramatic as hell and it fits in with the current meme of Russia as an evil empire.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

The Rest Of The Story

The tariffs on Chinese goods are the big “Trump outrage” in the news today, along with the “trade war with China,” and talk about how American consumers are being forced to pay these tariffs.

What the media fails to mention is that tariffs are designed to reduce trade with country against whom they are levied, and to persuade Americans to buy goods made by American workers, in which case nobody pays the tariffs.

Are you upset that the price of a washing machine made in China increased due to this tariff? Then buy a washing machine made in the US, whose price is not affected by the tariff on Chinese goods. It's not rocket science.

I’m not all that big fan of Pat Buchanan, but he spells all this out very cogently in a recent column. He points out that tariffs protect American manufacturers and manufacturing jobs, and that the second law passed under our constitution was a law regarding tariffs.

"The Tariff Act of 1789 was enacted with the declared purpose, 'the encouragement and protection of manufactures.' It was the second act passed by the first Congress led by Speaker James Madison. It was crafted by Alexander Hamilton and signed by President Washington."

And now, as Paul Harvey used to say, you know the rest of the story. The side of the story that the media doesn’t want you to know, because it doesn’t paint Trump as evil.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Freedom of Speech

I see no problem with bias in the media. In fact, there should be bias in the media. The whole purpose of freedom of speech is to assure that there can be bias in the media. Bias in the media is the exercise of freedom of speech.

The problem with today’s media is the pretense that there is an unbiased media. If the media was, as it claims to be, unbiased, then freedom of speech would serve no useful purpose – would be a meaningless term.

When I was growing up, every town had two newspapers. Towns which were too small to support two publications had papers delivered from larger cities nearby. One paper was openly liberal, the other openly conservative, and virtually everyone read both of them. There existed, back then, a willingness to arrive at one’s own point of view after having been exposed to argument from both sides of an issue.

Today, while there are several networks on television, all of them speak in concert, and cities have but a single news publication of consequence. As a result, all of this media has to pretend to be unbiased, but none of it is, and the public is presented with a single viewpoint. Freedom of speech has become meaningless.

To the extent that freedom of speech is exercised today, we see it on “publications” with minor exposure, such as blogs and fringe publications. One such outlet claims to be among the very largest, with “more than 100,000” readers. The claim is dubious, but even if true it would be a minor portion of the 238 million voters in the nation. Even the cable news commentary sites cannot claim to attract as much as a tenth of 1% of the voting public.

And even so, today’s voters only view or read that which confirms their existing opinions, as can be seen by college students demanding that certain speakers be banned from their campuses. Most blog discussions will openly require than discussion adhere to rules that boil down to “dissent is not welcome here.”

Freedom of speech has not been banned by law. It has been rendered an empty shell by a population too intellectually lazy to even know what it is, much less keep it alive.

Monday, May 13, 2019

End Of The Journey

MollyAfter seventeen years of being a happy, lively beautiful cat and a loving friend, despite more than five years of serious medical issues and daily medication insults, which she accepted with grace and dignity, Molly suffered a stroke a few days ago. She stayed with us, weakened but in no apparent distress for several days, but last night began showing signs of breathing distress while curled up in my lap, and passed away peacefully at 8:45pm last evening. We will miss her every day.      (Click image for larger version.)

Thursday, May 09, 2019

Movie Review: "Dirty"

Why would anyone watch a movie with that title? Well, in my case because it starred Cuba Gooding Jr, who is one of my favorite actors. He could not, unfortunately, overcome a dismally inept script, an even worse director, and cinematographers who barely knew which direction to point their cameras.

The latter undoubtedly call themselves “cameramen” because they don’t know how to spell cinematographer, and “cameraman” is the politically correct term because no woman would ever so completely botch a task as these clowns did.

It was not one of those movies where the viewer cannot figure out what is going on. The script was completely transparent and hardly original or innovative, with Cuba Gooding Jr as a dirty cop in Los Angeles, but the parts which were not stupid were just disgusting. At least it was free on Amazon, but even at that it was overpriced. They should have paid me to watch it.

I did watch it all the way through, but only because I wanted to be sure that Gooding came to a bad end, which he did. A young girl had vowed to kill him, and had purchased a gun with which to do so. She was stalking him at the end, but chickened out at the last minute and tossed the gun, which was a bit disappointing.

It worked out okay, though, because a couple minutes later a gangster blew him away with a shotgun, which splattered him far more satisfyingly than the girl’s six shooter would have done.

What happened to the “good guy?” There were no good guys. The girl was, at best, in the “least bad” category. She spit in Gooding’s face, for instance, which I actually applauded. She did not, however, know that he was a dirty cop and just hated all cops, so don’t shed any tears for her.

My wife is out of town for the week. I really need for her to come home and rescue me from watching all these really bad movies on Amazon.

Thursday, May 02, 2019

Ineptitude Abounds

NBC News has a headline reading, "Navy officer sentenced to 9 years in California bridge crash that killed 4." The first sentence of the article contradicts the headline by saying that, "A U.S. Navy petty officer whose truck plunged off a bridge..." An officer and a petty officer are not the same thing.

Even worse, in a picture on television the guy is shown in uniform, with three diagonal green stripes on his upper left sleeve. That denotes a rate of Airman (E-3) which is not even a petty officer. Who writes these stories? And does NBC not have editors?

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

Failure of Critical Thinking

A recent response to criticism of Elizabeth Warren’s plan to pay off student loans as being a “slap in the face to all those who struggled to pay off their loans” is to say that it is the same as saying that “Antibiotics are a slap in the face to all the people who died of the plague.” This argument is widely applauded by those who support Elizabeth Warren.

Without discussing the underlying student loan payoff plan, either approving or disapproving of the plan itself, consider the argument of comparing the burden of student loan payments to the issue of suffering from Bubonic Plague.

This is another demonstration of the modern inability to engage in logical thinking. Let’s start with the fact that people who died of the plague did not make a choice to get the plague, while people who have student loans did make the choice to take out that loan.

There are other fallacies embedded in this false analogy, several of them, but this one alone is sufficient to point out that critical thinking is a skill no longer engaged in as part of our political dialog, and that is an issue that makes democracy guaranteed to fail as a form of government. People who are invincibly ignorant and who are incapable of logical thinking simply cannot govern themselves.