Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Buttigieg and Jefferson

June 15, 2019

Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and one of the hundred or so Democratic candidates for president expressed his concerns about Thomas Jefferson’s legacy in a recent interview with Hugh Hewitt.

HH: It’s an interesting part of the book. Let’s go to policy now. A very blunt question, because you talk about going to every Jefferson-Jackson dinner in Indiana when you were running statewide. Should Jefferson-Jackson dinners be renamed everywhere because both were holders of slaves?

PB: Yeah, we’re doing that in Indiana. I think it’s the right thing to do. You know, over time, you develop and evolve on the things you choose to honor. And I think we know enough, especially Jackson, you know, you just look at what basically amounts to genocide that happened here. Jefferson’s more problematic. You know, there’s a lot to, of course, admire in his thinking and his philosophy. Then again, as you plunge into his writings, especially the notes on the state of Virginia, you know that he knew that slavery was wrong.

HH: Yes.

PB: And yet, he did it. Now we’re all morally conflicted human beings. And it’s not like we’re blotting him out of the history books, or deleting him from being the founder fathers. But you know, naming something after somebody confers a certain amount of honor. And at a time, I mean, the real reason I think there’s a lot of pressure on this is the relationship between the past and the present, that we’re finding in a million different ways that racism isn’t some curiosity out of the past that we’re embarrassed about but moved on from. It’s alive, it’s well, it’s hurting people. And it’s one of the main reasons to be in politics today is to try to change or reverse the harms that went along with that. Then, we’d better look for ways to live out and honor that principle, even in a symbolic thing.

 

I think we ought to cut Thomas Jefferson and the others some slack. These people did not invent the institution of slavery. Slavery in some form has been present in every civilization in history. They did not introduce slavery into the British colonies or inaugurate the trans-Atlantic slave trade. That had been done centuries before their births. For the founding fathers, slavery was simply a part of the cultural background. They were as much a product of that background as we are of ours, and could be no more expected to question the basic assumptions of that background then most of us question the basic assumptions of our our culture and society.

It is, in fact, rather remarkable that some of the founding fathers, such as Thomas Jefferson and George Washington did come to see that slavery was wrong. They were among the first to realize this. With the exception of the Quakers, no one questioned the institution of slavery before the late eighteenth century. Shouldn’t men like Jefferson and Washington get some credit for realizing an institution that was a integral part of the culture they grew up in was unjust and ought to be abolished?

It is easy for us in the twenty-first century to say they ought to have freed their slaves. It was not as easy for them to actually free their slaves. Slaves were valuable property and made up a considerable portion of a slave owner’s wealth. For a master to free his slaves without compensation might have meant consigning himself to poverty and a lower social position. There have never been many people willing to impoverish themselves for their stated principles. Also, many southern planters, such as Jefferson, were deeply in debt. Even if Jefferson had wanted to free his slaves, he could not necessarily act on such a desire. Not only did he require the income from labor of their slaves to continue payments on their debts, but slaves were often used as collateral. Jefferson’s creditors might have had something to say to him if he had freed his slaves.

It is not certain whether a master who freed his slaves was actually doing them much of a favor, considering the racist nature of southern society. In many slave-owning societies, such as ancient Greece and Rome, there was no racial or ethic distinction between master and slave. A freed slave could take his place as an equal to any free man, with only a slight social stigma about his former status. This was not the case in America, either before or after independence. There, a former slave’s dark skin, forever marked him as a member of an inferior caste. Most slaves were uneducated and illiterate, with experience only in unskilled farm labor. After Nat Turner’s Rebellion, many states actually made it illegal to teach slaves to read and write. There really wasn’t much of a demand in the job market for free Black unskilled farm workers. Moreover, slave owners did not want really former slaves giving ideas about freedom, by example to their own slaves and freed slaves were often compelled to leave their homes and states.

A general emancipation of the slaves would also have been difficult. It may be offensive to modern sensibilities, but the slave owners would have had to be compensated for the loss of their property, otherwise they would not have agreed to emancipation Compensating the slave holders would have been a strain on the young nation’s finances. Then, there would be the vexing problem of what to do with the freed slaves. It would be too much to expect that former slaves and their former masters would live together in a state of equality and harmony. It is more likely that the former slaves would continue be oppressed, holding the lowest positions in society and the economy, as indeed really happened, for the most part, after the slaves were freed after the Civil War.

Instead of condemning the founding fathers for failing to end slavery, perhaps we ought to give them credit for what they did do. The northern states abolished slavery during and after the American Revolution. They included a provision in the constitution banning the trans-Atlantic slave trade twenty years after ratification. The Northwest Ordinance banned slavery in the territories north of the Ohio River, making slavery a regional issue as the nation expanded west. Most of all, Thomas Jefferson’s immortal words in his Declaration of Independence;

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

sounded the death knell for slavery in America and throughout the world. No nation whose founding documents averted that all men are created equal could truly regard slavery as simply part of the natural order of things. No matter what excuses apologists for slavery might make, the Declaration of Independence that founded they own nation spoke against them.

The generation that fought for independence and created the republican system of government we still enjoy to this day was truly the greatest generation. They accomplished more than anyone would have a right to expect. It is not reasonable to condemn them for failing to end an evil that had existed since the beginning of history. They did what they could and most of them, including Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, expected their successors to continue to limit slavery until it died out. It is not their fault that succeeding generations of American leader leaders failed to continue the momentum towards eventual emancipation.

I will concede Greg Buttigieg one point, though. It is inappropriate for the modern Democratic Party to hold Jefferson-Jackson Day fundraisers. Both Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson favored small, decentralized government and the concerns of the common man over the elite, two positions anathema to the contmporary Democratic Party. I would recommend the Democrats hold Marx-Lenin Days as more representative of the Democratic Party’s ideology.

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Hound Them From Restaurants

May 7, 2019

Freedom of speech is no longer a priority in academia if this article in Campus Reform is any indication.

A professor claimed Sunday that “vile little sh*tlords” who belong to free speech-themed clubs on campus should lose their jobs and be chased out of restaurants.

University of New Brunswick professor Matthew Sears made the assertion on Twitter in response to the San Diego synagogue shooting Saturday.

“We should name every white supremacist,” Sears said. “Name every writer, blogger, YouTuber, and politician that inspires them. Plaster their faces in public. Fire them from their jobs. Hound them from restaurants. Expose them and those that fuel them for the hateful pathetic wretches they are.”

This is an understandable reaction to a recent shooting at a synagogue, and even a staunch free speech advocate might not particularly like defending the free speech rights of the viler racists and anti-Semites, though it is understood that even the vilest among us have the right to speak out. Professor Sears, however, takes it further.

The professor lumped campus free speech activists into this group in a subsequent tweet.

“And that includes every vile little shitlord in a campus ‘free speech’ club who spends his time platforming white supremacist trolls under the banner of ‘free speech,’ and every grifting liar that goes on about campus ‘censorship’ and the ‘marketplace of ideas,'” Sears stated in a since-deleted tweet.

When lawyer Robert Barnes shared this latter tweet with his own followers, appearing to disagree with the professor’s opinion, Sears said “there’s a difference between free speech, and those who use ‘free speech’ as a deliberate strategy to put hateful and discredited ideas into the mainstream and give them academic credibility. But you know that, you liar.”

The professor told Campus Reform that, when he speaks of campus free speech activists, he means merely those who “invite bigoted provocateurs like Richard Spencer and Milo Yannopoulos,” but Sears has previously advocated for the harassment of a far more mainstream and high-profile figure.

After U.S. Press Secretary Sarah Sanders got kicked out of a restaurant in June, the professor tweeted “forget ‘respectability politics,’ forget the ‘politics of division,’ forget ‘civility.’ Let’s denormalize these folks and their ideas every single chance we get, including throwing them the hell out of restaurants. Like we should have done *from the very beginning*.”

Sears also suggested in April 2018 that a “Make America Great Again” hat was “the functional equivalent of a [Ku Klux] Klan hood or Nazi banner.”

“I suppose I reject the notion that civility is the ultimate goal, especially in the face of what are some pretty outrageous human rights abuses, such as what we see along the US-Mexico border,” Sears said, when Campus Reform asked about his Sanders tweet. “If someone like Sanders provides cover and routinely lies for someone like Trump, even if he is the most powerful person on earth, I fail to see how mouthing off to them in restaurants is beyond the pale. Yes, this could go both ways. But appeals to civility often only manage to maintain the status quo, and benefit those in power.”

So it is not just the people who just about everyone disagrees with who should be harassed, but really everyone who is to the right of Professor Sears, and even those who might agree with most of his positions but who happen to think the other side has the same free speech rights. Professor Sears evidently does not value freedom of speech as something good in itself, but only as a method to effect desired change. Speech which opposes change and social justice ought not to be allowed. People who opposed change are beyond the boundaries of decent behavior and do not deserve to be treated decently. It is acceptable to hound them out of restaurants.

I wish that people like Professor Sears would understand that both sides have fists and guns and both sides can hound the other from restaurants if that sort of becomes acceptable behavior. If harassing people with opinions we do not like becomes commonplace, people like Professor Sears may be surprised to discover that they are not in the majority. They may not like to be the ones fired from their jobs and hounded out of restaurants.

These people do not seem to understand that we do not support freedom of speech and, if not civility, some sort of mutually acceptable boundaries in expressing disagreement with one another, not because we want to be goody-goodies or because we want to tolerate hate and racism, but because the alternative is so much worse. As long as we are talking to, or even shouting at, one another, our differences can be resolved. If we give up talking to start persecuting and harassing the other side, the situation can only escalate as each side remembers grievances and injustices inflicted by the other side. It is only a short step to actual violence to resolve political differences. Petty harassment can escalate to street fighting between factions, assassinations and outright civil war. We don’t want that to happen. We also don’t want a nation weary of political violence to turn to a strongman who promises peace and security at the expense of freedom. It may be ironic that people like Professor Sears, who claim to be fighting Fascism are creating the conditions that would allow a Fascist dictator to seize power.

When political violence takes the place of political debate, it is rarely the people with the best ideas who win out. More often, it is the people who can muster the largest mobs, who have the most guns, and who are the most ruthless who win. In the history of revolutions, more often than not, it is the faction who is most ruthless and cruel, most willing to use violence against the innocent, most extreme in their positions and least willing to compromise with either their opponents or with reality who gain the power in the end. It is the thugs most willing to use the guillotine and the gulag, who end up running things. The intellectuals and professors who first agitated for revolutions usually end up in the gulag or up against a wall, devoured by the revolution they helped create. Professor Sears might want to think about that before he sends out more tweets promoting political harassment.

The Democratic Electoral College

April 27, 2019

The Electoral College has been under attack quite a lot recently. This method of electing the President of the United States is increasingly being assailed as an archaic and undemocratic provision of the Constitution which desperately needs to be replaced by a more democratic national popular vote, in which the candidate who wins a majority of the popular vote, throughout the nation, is elected president.

I think that electing the president by a national popular vote would be a bad idea for a number of reasons, not least because it would not, in fact, be more democratic. This may seem like a paradox, but we need to consider just what democracy actually is, and why it is a desirable form of government.

First, I have to commit a sort of political heresy and suggest that democracy is not actually the end all and be all of all good government. The essential purpose of government is, as Thomas Jefferson stated in his immortal Declaration of Independence, to secure the inalienable rights given to us by our Creator. Any government derives its powers from the consent of the governed. The best way to create a government that actually secures those rights and has that consent is for the government to have at least a democratic element in its constitution. At some point, the citizens ought to be consulted about policies. More democracy, however, is not necessarily better and even a democratic government can be tyrannical. If it is possible for 51% of the people to vote away the rights and property of 49% of the people, then that government is every bit as tyrannical as the rule of a dictator. Indeed, it would be preferable to live under the rule of a king or dictator who respects the rights of the people, than a democratically elected president who does not.

The men who drafted the constitution were as aware of the dangers of a tyranny of the majority as much as of the dangers of tyranny from other sources. This is precisely the reason they included such undemocratic features as an unrepresentative Senate and the Electoral College. The founding fathers were more concerned with preserving liberty than with creating what we would call democracy.

So, what is democracy anyway? Democracy can be defined as:

1. Government by the people, exercised either directly or through elected representatives.
2. political or social unit that has such a government.
3. The common people, considered as the primary source of political power.
4. Majority rule.
5. The principles of social equality and respect for the individual within a community.
Democracy is more than simply holding regular elections. Dictatorships have often held elections. Democracy is a system in which the people govern themselves and play a role in the decisions made by the state. Democracy works best in small communities, the city-states of Ancient Greece or the traditional town meetings of New England. The larger a community is, the less likely it is to be truly democratic, even though it may possess the trappings of democracy such as free elections and elected representatives. A nation, like the United States, with three hundred and twenty million that spans across a continent with an enormous diversity in geography and population cannot really be very democratic at all. It can only be ruled despotically. We may be governed by a democratic sort of despotism, but it is despotism, none the less.
Why do I say this? Because one person out of three hundred million has effectively no voice. Small numbers of people are always diluted or drowned out by the whole and the only way for anyone to have any influence is to organize a large number of people, which invariably takes time and money some people do not have. The individual really has no voice on the national level no matter how democratic the forms of the government might be.
Also, with such a large and diverse population, it is impossible for the national community as a whole to come to any real consensus on policy. Even if the majority makes the decisions, there is a minority of many tens, perhaps hundreds, of millions who feel the policies have been imposed upon them. This is even more the case if the people holding the majority and minority positions live in different regions. It is simply not possible for any government on such a large scale to take into account the opinions of every, or even most people when making decisions.
Consider this map of the 2016 election results by county
I think that it would be fair to say that the red and blue regions are roughly equal in population. Considering that Hilary Clinton won more popular votes than Donald Trump, it is likely that the blue regions slightly outnumber the red regions. If that election had been based on the popular vote Hilary Clinton would now be president. If we switched to electing presidents by popular votes, any candidate would find it easier to campaign in the smaller, more densely populated blue regions rather than travel out to the more sparsely, but wider, red regions. The issues and policies of the blue areas would take precedence over the issues and policies of the reds. Electing the president by a national popular vote would be more democratic in one sense, the majority would be electing the president, but it would be less democratic in a more important sense, large portions of the country would feel themselves ruled by a government not of their choosing and not concerned with them. It would not be long before they began to feel as though they were merely colonies of the coasts. How long before they decided to separate?
If democracy in a large, diverse nation is impossible, should we split the country into smaller, more manageable pieces? Well, in a way we already have. When the founding fathers drafted the constitution, each of the former colonies was meant to be a sovereign state within the larger United States. This is why they are called states, a term normally used to indicate a sovereign, independent political entity, and not provinces. The idea expressed in the constitution was that each state was to be independent, sovereign, and in control of its own affairs, with the government of the United States handling those affairs which concerned all the states; diplomacy, war, coinage, etc.
Over the centuries for various reasons, good and bad, the country has become more centralized, with the federal government gaining more and more power, at the expense of the sovereignty of the states, to the point that the states have almost mere administrative appendages of the federal government. There may be advantages to a more centralized national government, but it is going to be less democratic. Replacing the Electoral College with a national popular vote will be one more step on the road to making the states irrelevant, and the nation less democratic. We need to be decreasing the power of the federal government increasing the sovereignty of the states if we want to live in a truly democratic country in which the ordinary citizen has some influence on public policy. I would even take this a step further and suggest that some of our larger states; California, New York, Texas, among others, ought to be split up to create smaller, more manageable units.
If we really want to live in a democracy, we need to be making our politics smaller and more local. Abolishing the Electoral College is a step in the wrong direction.

Mike Pence Threatens Taylor University

April 23, 2019

I think the PJMedia’s article says it all.

Enraged Students at Christian Taylor University Left ‘Physically Shaking’ after Mike Pence Chosen for Graduation Speech

Here are some excerpts from the article describing what the controversy is all about.

On Thursday, the evangelical Christian school Taylor University announced it had invited Vice President Mike Pence to give its 2019 graduation speech. A tremendous uproar ensued, with students and alumni reporting that the decision made them “sick” and expressed support for “hate” and “harmful bullish*t.” The school told PJ Media it would not yield to pressure and was still proud to have Pence speak at graduation.

“Inviting Vice President Pence to Taylor University and giving him a coveted platform for his political views makes our alumni, faculty, staff and current students complicit in the Trump-Pence Administration’s policies, which we believe are not consistent with the Christian ethic of love we hold dear,” Alex Hoekstra, a former staffer for President Barack Obama and a 2007 Taylor University graduate, said in the petition.

Others proved more angry and visceral.

“I have never been made to feel so physically ill by an email before. Taylor University, you should be ashamed of yourselves,” Claire Hadley, who graduated from Taylor in 2015, began in a long Facebook post. “I am physically shaking. The fact that the school who claims to love and support me, and each of it’s [sic] students and alum, would invite such a vile individual to speak on the most important day of the year??”

“VP Pence is no friend of mine. He does not support me. He does not support equality,” Hadley declared. “He does not uphold the values that are at the very core of the church, my own faith, and I would hope, of this University. He is rooted in hate. To stand beside President Trump would have been enough to put him on my watch list.” She argued that Mike Pence “only values you if you fit in his very narrow, white, straight, box.”

“Taylor University, I feel personally attacked,” she concluded. “Please, I’m begging you. Don’t do this.”

Lindsey Snyder, a 2014 graduate, said she emailed Taylor University President Lowell Haines. “This invitation gravely concerns me, because whether intentional or not, it is politicizing Taylor University, aligning the school with the current administration,” she reported writing. “Many current and former Taylor students are adamantly against some of Pence’s stances and will no doubt feel unsafe at their own graduation. Even if it was someone less controversial than Pence, having a political figure speak at commencement alights unnecessary and grievous conflict.”

“As a Taylor alum, I am severely disappointed,” Abi Perdue Moore wrote on Facebook. “For this and other policies marginalizing members of the lgbtq+ community (not to mention students of color), you do not have my support. Do not invite this speaker to campus; do not burden the university with the cost of security and transportation; do not send the message that Taylor is a place where only straight/cis/white men are valued as leaders and disciples.”

First of all, I am not aware that Mike Pence only values straight/cis/white men as leaders and disciples. When did he ever say anything that might possibly suggest this? When did Vice-president Pence ever express hatred for anyone? It is true that as a Christian, Mike Pence upholds the Christian doctrine that marriage is between a man and a woman, but that is not the same as calling for discrimination or violence against gays. As Tyler O’Neil, the writer of the article puts it;

Indeed, Vice President Pence stands for traditional Christian morality and upholds people’s religious freedom to abide by such values. This means he believes marriage is between one man and one woman, and that biological sex is more real than gender identity. He disagrees with LGBT activism, but that does not mean he disrespects — much less “hates” — LGBT people.

Yet LBGT activists have conflated disagreement with violence. When bakers, florists, and photographers gladly serve LGBT people but refuse to use their creative talents to celebrate a same-sex wedding or a transgender identity, activists accuse them of discrimination and violating LGBT people’s civil rights. Activists demand that Christian schools and charities should have to hire employees who identify as LGBT, and celebrate their identities. When they heard that Mike Pence’s wife was teaching at a Christian school, outrage ensued.

Americans have the freedom to live by their beliefs, however. Christian organizations should not be forced to violate their beliefs by endorsing LGBT identities and relationships. They should treat everyone with respect, but respect does not involve the endorsement of a person’s ideas.

Precisely. If there is anyone motivated by hatred, it would be these left-wing activists who simply cannot live and let live.

Second, why are these people so afraid of Mike Pence, or really of any conservative speaker? What do they imagine Mike Pence is going to do, use his Christian Jedi mind powers to turn everyone in the audience into a violent, homophobic bigot? Pull out a concealed weapon and start shooting down LGBTWTF students and students of color? Call for a good, old-fashioned fag drag?

Since Mike Pence is not the demagogic hater they imagine him to be, he will most likely give a bland, uncontroversial graduation speech, congratulating the graduates and wishing them well for the future. Nothing for anyone to be afraid of.

Which brings to my third point. It is easy to make fun of these people who object to Mike Pence’s speech as fragile snowflakes too afraid to listen to opposing opinions, but that is missing the point. These people’s aim is to prevent Mike Pence, or really anyone who does not think like them from being able to speak in public. They want to delegitimize and censor opposing viewpoints. This kind of speech and thought control is antithetical to most Americans so they have to claim to be somehow harmed by such speech to justify censoring it. They play the victim in order to bully people.

Last, these graduates of a Christian college don’t seem to have much knowledge of Christian doctrines and beliefs. Mike Pence’s position on homosexuality is closer to traditional Christian doctrine than their position. Scripture and centuries of Christian tradition holds that sexual relations between two people of the same sex is sinful. This does not mean that Christians are to persecute the homosexual or fail to treat them with the respect due to our fellow human beings and sinners, but it also means that a Christian cannot support same-sex marriage or homosexuality as simply a harmless sexual preference. To do this is to ignore fundamental Christian teachings on marriage and sexuality. It is true that Christ ate with sinners, but he also called upon them to repent. He did not tell the adulteress that adultery was acceptable or the tax collector that extortion was acceptable. He forgave them their sins and told them to sin no more. A truly Christian approach to the issue of homosexuality demonstrates a greater degree of love and tolerance than the activists are willing to extend to people like Mike Pence. But, then, it never really was about tolerance or even social justice.

 

 

What’s the Matter with Britain?

February 24, 2019

I am an Anglophile. I love Great Britain and particularly England. I am a great fan of English literature, English history, English culture, and the English language. Although I am a patriotic American, there are times when I when a certain regret over the misunderstandings of 1776 that led to our separation from the mother country. The world might be a better place if America, Britain, and the other English-speaking countries were all part of a globe spanning Anglo-American Empire.

But then, I read stories like this one in the Telegraph and am grateful that we did separate from Great Britain, and write a constitution that includes the first amendment. England seems to be even more in the grip of political correctness than we are and they have no first amendment to keep the Fascists from throwing thought criminals in jail.

A docker from Humberside has been investigated by police over a limerick he posted on Twitter after an officer claimed it constitutes a ‘hate incident’ against transgender people.

Harry Miller, 53, from Lincoln was contacted on Wednesday by a community cohesion officer following a complaint that had been made about the plant and machinery dealer’s social media posts.

Citing 30 potentially offensive tweets, the PC singled out a limerick Mr Miller had retweeted which  questioned whether transgender women are biological women. It included the lines: “Your breasts are made of silicone, your vagina goes nowhere.”

Even though no crime was committed, sharing the limerick online was recorded as a ‘hate incident’.

PC Mansoor Gul told Mr Miller: “I’ve been on a course and what you need to understand is that you can have a foetus with a female brain that grows male body parts and that’s what a transgender person is.”

After Mr Miller questioned why the complainant was being described as a “victim” if no crime had been committed, the officer told him: “We need to check your thinking”.

“I can’t believe what is happening in the UK in the name of transgenderism and, worse still, we’re not even allowed to think never mind talk about it,” Mr Miller said.

The married father of four was alerted to the investigation by his company directors after they were approached by officers trying to make contact with Mr Miller.

The complainant had managed to identify Mr Miller’s place of work, despite there being no reference to his business or his full identity on his Twitter account. As part of the complaint to police it was alleged the firm was an ‘unsafe environment’ for transgender employees because of Mr Miller’s comments on social media.

Let’s get this straight. Mr. Miller did not commit any crimes. He did not assault or even make any disparaging remarks to anyone in person. He did not even compose the allegedly offending tweet. He simply liked or retweeted tweets that someone found offensive. The only reason the police were involved was because it was a “hate incident” and they needed to check his thinking.

What is the matter with Britain? Why are they putting up with this petty tyranny over there? What has happened to the liberty loving English of the past, the people who forced King John to sign the Magna Carta, who chopped off Charles I’s head for being an overbearing tyrant, who fought the good fight against Hitler? When did the British people become a herd of sheep?

What exactly is a “hate incident”? If a hate incident occurs whenever one person says something that another person does not like, than no one is safe saying anything at all. Any comment, no matter how innocent could be taken as offensive. In fact, such rules against “hate” cannot be applied objectively and even-handedly. They are almost always applied in favor of “marginalized” groups against less favored groups. If a White, cisgender, heterosexual, Anglican had complained about a hate incident, I doubt anyone would have cared, no matter how hateful the tweet.

Does anyone really believe that banning hate speech will actually eliminate hate? It seems to me that it would only succeed in driving it underground. The people who are silenced will not change their opinion. They will only have the additional grievance of being silenced, and if the silencing is not objective or even-handed, as in fact it cannot be, the censorship may have the effect of increasing resentment against any favored groups.

There is also the problem of what actually constitutes “hate”. All too often, hate is defined simply as an opinion someone doesn’t like, especially if there happens to be some truth in the silenced opinion. The tweet that Mr. Miller shared may have been crude and not very nice, but it does express a truth. Gender is a biological fact, not a matter of personal choice. It is not possible to change gender, no matter how strongly a person feels as though they are really the opposite gender. A transgender man is not a woman, no matter what hormones he has taken or operations he has had. By punishing such sentiments as hate speech, the authorities in Britain are in the position of punishing a man for speaking a truth anyone can see and coercing people to affirm a lie, they cannot really believe.

If truth or a widely shared opinion becomes “hate”, than this blurs the lines between unpleasant pr inconvenient truths and statements that really are hateful. Punishing hate speech might have the unintended effect of making real hatred more acceptable, not to mention putting both the dissident stating unpleasant truths and the hater in the same position as defenders of free speech and free thought.  In general, I think the best way to deal with hate is to have everything out in the open rather than to let in fester in darkness.

I guess it was just as well we had that disagreement back in 1776. I prefer to live in a country where free speech is protected by the first amendment. Maybe the US should annex Britain as our fifty-first state so the people there can have the benefits of the first amendment.

Trump’s Character

January 22, 2019

Well, Mitt Romney has had his say about the character of President Donald Trump, so I might as well put forward my own thoughts on the subject. To begin with, Mitt Romney states that the President shapes the public character of the nation. I think that is giving the president too much credit. The is not some sort of divine figure or king. He does not have magical powers to affect the country for good or evil.  The president cannot make America great again. Only we, the people can do that. The president is not the boss. We, the people, are the bosses, and the politicians and bureaucrats are our servants, whatever they may think. We need to move beyond the idea of the president being some sort of elected monarch, and return to the republican idea of the president as merely the first servant of the people. No more and no less.

We did not “hire” the president to be the nation’s pastor or role model. We “hired” the president to manage the government in a way that benefits the country. The most important part of the job of president is protecting the lives and interests of the American people. Doing this duty well is more important than the personal character of the man we hired. I would say that Donald Trump has done his job very well, so far.

One more thing. Quoting Mitt Romney,

It is well known that Donald Trump was not my choice for the Republican presidential nomination. After he became the nominee, I hoped his campaign would refrain from resentment and name-calling. It did not. When he won the election, I hoped he would rise to the occasion.

I would like to remind Mr. Romney that he lost the election in 2012 while Trump won in 2016. Part of the reason Mitt Romney lost was because he was unwilling to descend to the level of name calling and resentment that the Democratic Party regularly indulges in against every single Republican. It would be nice if our political campaigns were decent affairs with elevated discussions of the issues with Lincoln-Douglas style debates. That is not the country we are living in, however, and experience has shown that playing by Marquess of Queensbury rules against a party determined to seize power at any cost. George W. Bush tried being the decent man and the Democrats destroyed him.

Now, regarding Donald Trump. I would never regard Donald Trump as any sort of role model either in his personal life or in his business practices. I suspect that if I ever met Trump, I wouldn’t like him very much. Nevertheless,I believe that Donald Trump does have more integrity than almost anyone else in Washington. It is strange to say this, and I cannot believe I am writing it, but it is true.

Why would I say this? Basically for three reasons. First, President Donald Trump keeps his promises. We have become so used to political candidates promising us everything, and then forgetting their promises the day after they takes office that it has become a cliche.  They can promise, “No new taxes” while planning to raise taxes. They can tell us we can keep our doctors knowing full well that we won’t.  We no longer expect them to even try to keep their promises. .Why is this? If someone we knew personally kept breaking his promises, we wouldn’t have anything to do with him. Why don’t we expect the same of our elected officials?

Donald Trump made a number of promises while campaigning for president. He said that he would build a wall. He said he would renegotiate our trade deals. We said he would defeat ISIS. For the most part, Trump has tried to keep his promises. If we never get a wall built, it will not be for lack of effort on Trump’s part. Surely a president who keeps his word is worth something.

Second, Donald Trump is willing to fight. So many Republicans aren’t willing to fight. Like Romney, they would rather be gentlemen and lose than actually fight and win. Trump does not back down against opposition. I think that any other Republican president would have withdrawn Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court after the ferocious opposition he encountered from the Democrats. Trump did not back down. He stood up for his nominee. Courage is the capstone of the virtues. Without courage, all of the other virtues are worthless. One can be compassionate or honest in one’s mind, but to put these virtues into effect requires courage. Donald Trump has courage. That is worth a lot.

Lastly, Donald Trump is honest. This may be a strange thing to say, given Trump’s propensity to boast and exaggerate and given how often his hyperbolic statements are at variance with sober facts, but in a very real way, Trump is more honest than almost anyone else in Washington. We have, as a society and particularly among our political and social elites, developed the habit of not giving offense by expressing uncomfortable truths, particularly when those truths might disrupt convenient narratives. This political correctness, as it is usually called, makes it difficult to solve problems since they cannot even be discussed honestly. Trump doesn’t seem to have much of a problem with political correctness.  His statements may often seem to be offensive, but they are often true. People were offended when Trump allegedly referred to “shithole countries”, but many of our immigrants do come from “shithole countries” No one can honestly say that Haiti or Nigeria are examples of successful nations. (Of course, Trump did miss the point that people from nice countries have little reason to want to emigrate.) Trump is right about the need for better security at the border. Everyone knows it. No one has wanted to say it. Trump is right to complain that our European allies are not paying their share for their own defense. It may offend those allies to say this, but it is true. Trump may be offensive by saying unpleasant truths, but they are truths that need to be said.

Mitt Romney may not like Donald Trump’s character. He may believe that Donald Trump is debasing the presidency and the nation. I don’t entirely disagree. The fact is, however, that Donald Trump is doing and saying the things that need to be done. His policies have been sound, for the most part, and he really has been doing his part towards making America great again. We could do better than Donald Trump, no doubt, but we could do a lot worse. He seems to be the right man for the time.

The Yellow Jackets

December 17, 2018

I have been following Mike Duncan’s Revolutions podcast for the last year or so. It is interesting and informative and I highly recommend it. The subject of Revolutions is, of course, revolutions, specifically those revolutions which have shaped our own revolutionary age. While learning about the great revolutions of the past, it is a little exciting to witness what might be the first days and weeks of a revolution in France and perhaps throughout Europe. The gilets jaunes or yellow jackets, the workers who wear hi-viz vests, are fed up with high taxes and limited economic prospects and seem to be poised to play the role of the sans-culottes of the first French Revolution.

I read a great article about the gilets jaunes and their reasons for protesting in QuodVerum, a blog I might want to look at more frequently.

Mon, December 10, 2018

Millions of French citizens have been violently demonstrating across France for the last month.

They are known as the gilets jaunes, or “yellow jackets”. The protestors wear the yellow high-viz jacket, that is common on building sites and airports.

It’s a powerful totem for the French deplorables, a unifying symbol of ordinary, working class folk across the nation.

France is no stranger to organized protests, or as they are called, manifestations. These are a dime-a-dozen in France. Typically they are union-engineered strikes, used as a weapon in the never-ending negotiation between organized labor and the French state.

Forget what FakeNews is telling you. This is no ordinary manifestation.

This is a genuine uprising by millions of city and country folk, young and old, crossing different ethnic and cultural lines.

Macron’s diesel tax hike wasn’t the cause of the gilets jaunes movement. It was the spark detonating a bomb, that has been building for decades.

Why are the French Deplorables revolting? For one thing, France’s economy is absolutely stagnant and has been for some time. The article lists a few pertinent statistics.

  • • The French state has been bankrupt since 2004. A minister finally admitted it in 2013.
  •        • French GDP hasn’t risen above 2% in 50 years. Yes – FIFTY. The average annual GDP growth rate between 1949-2018? 0.78%.
  •        • In 2018, 14% of the population in France live below the poverty line (they earn less than 60% of the median income).
  •        • Worse, more than 50% of French people have an annual income of less than €20,150 a year (about $1,900 US per month).
  •        • The ‘official’ unemployment rate is 10% – about 3.5 million citizens (in reality, it’s much higher).
  •        • The youth unemployment rate is 22%. Yes, you did read that right.
  •        • Astonishing but true: the French government employs 25% of the entire French workforce…and it’s impossible to fire them.
  •        • Because the citizens make such little money, they pay no tax. Less than 50% of French pay any income tax at all; only around 14% pay at the rate of 30%, and less than 1% pay at the             rate of 45%.
  •        • The government can’t deliver services without taxes, so it borrows money. France’s debt-GDP is now 100%.

This would all be bad enough, but it gets worse. If you want are ambitious and want to get ahead in France, there is really only one way to do it. You have to graduate from one of three or four elite colleges. If you haven’t had the chance to go to one of these schools, well, too bad.

Many still understand France through the lens of Vogue magazine covers: a nation of affluent, happy people who live in elegant homes, with endless holidays, wine and food.

A 24/7 utopia of chic, elegance and style.

Important to note: that France does exist. It is the world of the French ruling class, less than 1% of the population.

This small group of citizens have dominated the business, banking, legal and political scenes for decades.

The ruling class comes from a small group of grandes ecoles, or elite colleges. There are only 3 or 4. The top of the top? L’Ecole d’Administration Nationale (ENA).

Emmanuel Macron’s journey is typical of the ruliing class. He completed a Master’s of Public Affairs at Institut d’Études Politiques de Paris(called “Sciences Po”), the #2 elite college, before graduating from ENA in 2004, age 27. He then worked as a senior civil servant at the Inspectorate General of Finances (The Treasury), before getting a high paid gig ad an investment banker at Rothschild & Cie Banque.

See how fast Macron worked his way into the senior civil servant position in the Treasury, before flipping into an exclusive investment bank? That is normal in France. It’s a never-ending protected cycle of patronage, promotion, favors and cronyism.

Here’s another French word: parachutage. It is normal for young ENA graduates to be “parachuted” into senior civil service positions at a very young age, some as young as 25 years of age, without even interviewing for positions.

ENA has a complete stranglehold on the French state. Only 100 students graduate every year.

Set up by de Gaulle just after WW2, the original concept was sound – to pool students of extreme talent and ability in one place, in order to create a new civil service that could re-build France.

It worked. Very talented patriots flocked to enter ENA and within a decade, the new French civil service had successfully rehabilitated France as a leading nation-state. From 1946 through 1973, France experienced what they describe as their trente glorieuses, nearly 30 years of economic success.

But by 1970, ENA’s meritocracy had become a self-replicating elite caste – and a ticket to the French ruling class. Astonishingly, every French President since de Gaulle has been an ENA graduate, excepting Georges Pompidou, who attended Sciences Po. Eight of the last ten French Prime Ministers have been enarques. All key civil service/government departments are run by enarques. How about business? 84% of the 546 top executives in France’s 40 biggest companies are graduates of a handful of elite colleges. 48% come from ENA and Sciences Po.

This ought to look at least a little familiar to us in the United States. We don’t have the problem of a small ruling elite running everything nearly as bad as France does, but the same sort of pattern is developing. How many people at the top levels of government and politics graduated from the same elite Ivy League universities? How many CEOs? How many intellectuals?How do these people feel about the ordinary people who make up the population in middle America? Isn’t a great deal of the elite hatred for Donald Trump and his supporters class based?

The article’s description of the arrogance and insular ignorance of the French elite could easily be applied to our own elite.

Notice Macron’s age, when he became a senior civil servant – 27 years of age. That’s important.

The French elites are young men and women, who have been told that they are not just the intellectual creme de la creme, but morally superior. Better human beings, than their inferiors.

These people are arrogant. But they are also ignorant. Raised in very wealthy families and cosseted in the networks those families are part of, they have no understanding of ordinary people and their real lives.

Arrogance and ignorance is a very toxic mix. Macron’s tone-deaf appeal to climate change to justify the rise in diesel taxes, as well as his outrageous suggestion that ordinary French folk must drive less, is a classic example of the problem.

Just 27 years old.

Young people without life experience, are suggestible. They believe what they are told by superiors and haven’t yet had time to test their opinions, against reality.

Macron simply doesn’t have a clue.

What makes the gilets jaunes protests unique?

Their main gripe? Elites blaming ordinary people, for problems that the same elites have caused.

Elites never being held accountable for their incompetence. And elites never having to experience the conditions, that their failed ideas cause.

French people are sick of being held in chains by a ruling class. They are sick of being poor and unemployed.

They want a new direction, for their beloved nation.

Sound familiar?

There is an obvious parallel to the France of 1789, but I don’t think that even the aristocrats of the Ancien Regime were quite as arrogant and stupid as the new aristocrats who rule France and Europe. In fact, more than a few of those aristocrats were the ones pressing for reforms in France. I hope that the new aristocrats in Europe and America find the wisdom to listen to what the people are saying instead of dismissing them as deplorables or they could find themselves losing their heads.

Midterms 2018: The Results

November 11, 2018

Well, it might have been worse, but it might have been a good deal better. The Democrats gained a majority in the House of Representatives, as expected, but the Republicans managed to not only maintain their majority in the Senate and even gain a few seats. It seems that neither party really won this contest. Both sides gained a little and lost a little. It could have been worse for the Republicans.

The Democrats gained 34 Congressional seats for certain making the new partisan balance in the House 227 seats held by the Democrats against 200 seats held by the Republicans. there are several elections too close to call just yet, but will probably go to the Democrats just as soon as they “discover” enough uncounted ballot boxes. In the Senate, the Republicans perhaps gained three seat, expanding their majority from 51-47 to 54-44, although their are three elections too close to call and subject to the recounts which somehow always favor the Democratic candidates. It seems that they hardly even bothering to hide their election fraud anymore.

What does this divided government mean for the next two years? I would guess that not very much is going to get done legislatively. Anything passed by one House is likely to be rejected by the other and in this polarized political environment, there is no sign that the Democrats in the House of Representatives are going to be willing to work with the Republicans in the Senate and and like likely to be even less cooperative with President Trump. We are likely to see one investigation after another Trump’s alleged collusion with the Russians and anything else the Democrats can think of to paralyse the government and to delegitimize Trump. I don’t think the Democrats will try to impeach Trump. They might have if they had won the Senate but there is no chance a Republican controlled Senate would convict Trump. Their lunatic base will expect impeachment and it will be interesting to see how the Democratic leadership will explain the absence of any impeachment attempt.

Given that the Senate is going to forestall any attempt by the Democrats in the House to advance some of their more extreme left-wing policies, we can expect more complaints about the undemocratic nature of the Senate, how unfair it is that Rhode Island or Wyoming has exactly as many Senators as California. Every time they lose, the left wants to change the rules. Somehow they are never concerned about how undemocratic the system is when an unelected judge makes rulings that have the effect of laws or overturns the results of a referendum.

Congressional elections weren’t the only elections this year. There were also 36 gubernatorial elections. The Democrats picked up from 7-9 new governorships this year, depending on how two undecided elections are resolved, changing the balance from 33 Republican governors and 16 Democrats to 27-25 Republicans and 23-25 Democrats. The Republicans had more governorships to defend this year.

Of the 99 state legislatures (Nebraska has a unicameral legislature.) the Republicans held a total of 67 chambers to the Democrats 32 chambers going into the midterms. The Democrats gained control of just seven chambers making the new balance 62-37. The Democrats still have not recovered from the disastrous Obama years in which they were devastated at the state level. Control of the state is more important than most people think. Even in this age of an overactive federal government, a good many of the laws we live under are created at the state level. Also, in many cases, the state legislatures are responsible for determining Congressional districts, or, gerrymandering. The party that controls the state legislatures has a better chance of controlling the House of Representatives.The state legislatures are also where the parties recruit candidates for higher offices. The Democratic losses over the last decade haven’t helped their chances in gaining those higher offices.

So, all in all, the results of the 2018 midterm elections were mixed. The Democrats made some gains, but not as many as they ought to have. They probably would have done better if not for their turn towards left-wing extremism and tolerance of uncivil and even violent behavior. I hope they will learn their lesson and try to behave more responsibly, but they probably won’t.

Midterms 2018

November 6, 2018

This is it. The 2018 midterm elections are today. Today the voters decide which party will have control of Congress for the next two years. At stake, President Trump’s agenda. If the Democrats manage to get a majority in both houses of Congress, Trump’s agenda will be stalled and his administration subjected to endless investigations, and possibly an attempt at impeachment. A democratic victory will be interpreted by the mainstream media as a rejection of Trump and his policies. A Republican victory will be a vindication of Trump and his policies, though I would hardly expect the mainstream media to acknowledge that.

Historically, the opposition party makes gains during the midterms, sometimes very large gains. In 1994, the Republicans gained 54 seats in the House of Representatives and 10 seats in the Senate, giving the Republicans a Congressional majority for the first time in forty years. In 2010 the Republicans won 64 seats in the House and five in the Senate. This doesn’t always happen, though. In 1998, the Democrats gained a few seats even though the Democrat., Bill Clinton was president. This was undoubtedly due to the Republican attempt to impeach Clinton that year. In 2002, the Republicans gained seats due to the aftermath of 9/11.

So, what is going to happen today? I don’t know and neither does anyone else. For whatever it is worth,here are my predictions. It doesn’t look like there is going to be a massive blue wave that is going to sweep the Republicans out of power. It seems likely that the Republicans will maintain their majority in the Senate and may possibly gain a seat or two. The House is less certain. It really could go either way. I think that the Democrats will gain seats in the House, perhaps enough to get a majority. If they do get a majority it will be by the thinnest of margins. We will see how accurate I am. Keep in mind, that I, like nearly everyone else, thought Hilary Clinton would be the president today.

If there is no blue wave, the Democrats have only themselves to blame. They should be confident of a massive victory right now. They had all the advantages going into this election and all they had to do was to be a responsible opposition party and craft a platform that would appeal to the moderates and independents. They could have highlighted Trump’s personality flaws while promoting Trumpian policies on immigration, trade and the economy. Instead, the Democrats decided to go right off the deep end. They decided to cater to their most extreme left wing base and adopt socialist ideas anathema to most Americans in flyover country. They loudly proclaimed the ridiculous meme  Trump was a Hitler clone and we were all in danger of an imminent Fascist dictatorship, while ignoring the simple fact that most Americans are better off than they were two years ago. They have made it clear that they care more about the interests of illegal aliens than American citizens and they have taken the side of millionaire athletes who disrespect the flag. Where Trump says, “Make America Great Again”, they say, “America was never great”.

The Democrats have become the party of the mob, of antifa, of rioting. They have encouraged violence and incivility against their opponents and have tried to censor speech they do not like. Worst of all, they have become the party of the busybodies, the scolds who want to tell the rest of us what size Big Gulps we are allowed to drink, what words we are allowed to use, and generally how we ought to live our lives because we are just ignorant deplorables. Is it any wonder that they are struggling when they should be coasting to victory? Is it at all surprising that groups that have traditionally been strongly democratic are starting to walkaway and exit the Democratic party?

I hope the Republicans win these midterm elections, not just for partisan reasons, but because the Democrats need to be punished for their recent excesses. They need to undergo a period of introspection to understand how and why they have managed to alienate millions of Americans. I don’t think they will, though.  If they do poorly, they will blame it all in Russian collusion or assert the system is rigged and undemocratic, and the old standby, the voters are racists.

 

Brett Kavanaugh and the Witches

November 1, 2018

The next time someone tries to tell me that the Democrats are the Party of Science while Republicans are science-denying, knuckle-dragging, flat earthers, I am just going to show them this article from The Independent.

Witches placed a hex on US Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh during a protest ritual in New York.

The spell, which was livestreamed on Facebook and Instagram on Saturday, was also targeted at “all rapists and the patriarchy which emboldens, rewards and protects them”.

Organisers at the Catland occult bookshop in Brooklyn said the hex was as “an act of resistance and resilience” following the controversy over allegations of sexual assault against Mr Kavanaugh.

“He will be the focal point, but by no means the only target, so bring your rage and and all of the axes you’ve got to grind,” the bookshop told its followers.

Directions on how to cast a “stripped-down” version of the spell at home, were also provided on Facebook.

The ingredients included graveyard dirt, coffin nails, a black candle, a broken mirror, and revenge oil.

“Obtain a photo of your enemy,” read the instructions. ”Mark it according to your purposes and write out your curses on it. Dress it with the oil.

“Place the ingredients in the jar and then fill it halfway with water from a thunderstorm, war water, toilet water or vinegar and the rest of the way with your urine. Once finished, seal the jar tightly with the lid.

“Carve the candle with your target’s name, dress it with the oil and then roll it in the graveyard dirt. Melt the bottom of the candle and affix it to the lid of the jar.

The ritual should be repeated every Saturday after nightfall “to exact your curse upon your target”, it is claimed.

It follows three previous rituals to place hexes on Donald Trump last year. Half of the proceeds of the event are to be donated to charity and a second hex is planned for 3 November.

“The harm we want to inflict on Kavanaugh and Trump is that they be exposed and shown for what they are and ousted or at least discredited,” Dakota Bracciale, co-owner of Catland Books, told The Independent.

“On the practical aspect, yes there is spell casting and we are going to curse him and hex him and wish him bad things.

“But on a more important level, this is a coming together of people who recognise this as an important moment in our country.”

Witchcraft in the twenty-first century, really? Where is Cotton Mather when we need him?

Where’s my eye of Newt? How can I put a curse on Kavanaugh without my eye of Newt?

Now, most people reading about this nonsense are probably inclined to smile at the foolishness of witches casting hexes on public figures, but I would take this business more seriously. I do not believe in the efficacy of magic spells and I assume the reader, who is reasonably well-educated does not either. That is not the point. These women do believe that magic works and fully intend to harm their target by supernatural means. I am not sure there is any real difference between trying to harm someone through magic spells or by more conventional methods and I have to wonder if any of these witches would consider physically attacking their target when their witchcraft proves to be ineffective.

I also have to wonder about the effect carrying all that rage has on the spellcaster’s mental state. It cannot be psychologically healthy to have such a strong desire to harm another person. These are probably not mentally healthy people. We don’t prosecute people for witchcraft anymore, but maybe the appropriate authorities should be keeping an eye on these witches.


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