Tuesday, November 07, 2017

The Day that Trump Won

A year ago we woke up knowing that it was the day Hillary Clinton would become the first woman president. She had bragged more than a week before that she wasn't even thinking about Donald Trump anymore. Her campaign insisted that she'd run up enough of a lead in early voting in Florida to make it impossible for Trump to win that state.

But Florida went for Trump. So did Pennsylvania and several other states that Trump wasn't supposed to have a chance in. What happened?

For me, the election was s surprise but not a shock. I'd been watching the electoral vote carefully and I knew that Trump had a decent chance. All you had to do was make the assumption that the polling models favored Clinton. There were several states that "leaned Clinton" meaning that polls showed her ahead but within the margin of error. If you assumed that the turn-out would match the last two presidential elections then Clinton was ahead. But if you assumed that the minorities who turned out in record numbers for the first black candidate would not turn out for a rich, white woman who oozed entitlement then Trump would win. It was as simple as that.

Of course, the Democratic elite had no idea it was coming. They saw Trump as a clown who somehow managed to get on the ticket. They ignored the fact that he had already beaten the other political dynasty, the Bush family. Jeb was supposed to be the more accomplished version of George W. but Trump easily defeated him along with other governors and well-known senators.

After Clinton's loss in the 2008 primaries it was assumed that she would be Obama's successor. Her stint as Secretary of State was meant to flesh out her resume which was actually fairly weak (She had no real accomplishments in the Senate and she was the first woman to argue that being married to the President qualified her to replace him).

The primaries should have signaled the Democrats that Clinton was a weak candidate. Even with the DNC being under her control she had problems running against an ancient socialist who wasn't even a Democrat. She was well-known to the nation and at least half the population had a firmly-fixed dislike of her. To top it off, she spent all of her time courting minorities and ignoring the working-class whites who traditionally supported the Democrats.She also refuses to admit mistakes or take responsibility for her actions. This trait continues  as Clinton blames the Russians and the FBI for her loss rather than her own mistakes.

Every time she opens her mouth to deliver a rehearsed excuse I thank the voters that she's not our president.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Pro-Abortion Mind Game

A Harvard philosopher named Michael Sandel came up with a "thought exercise" to prove that we don't really believe that life begins at conception. It goes like this:

You are in a fertility clinic and there's a fire. On your way out you hear a noise and check in a room. You find a five year old child and a container marked "1,000 embryos". The fire and smoke are getting bad and you can only save one. Do you save the child or the container of embryos? Naturally you will save the child which means that you don't really believe the embryos are people which, in turn, means that you've been lying in order to contain control of women's bodies.

I cleaned it up a bit but that's what he says. You can see the whole thing laid out here if you really want along with a separate take-down.

So, does this thought exercise do what it claims to? Not really. It was contrived to make you choose the desired outcome. There are several reasons that the average person would choose the child. Here are some of them:

1) We don't handle abstracts well in a crisis. Most people wouldn't even stop to read the containers. They'd grab the child and run.

2) We are hard-wired to choose the concrete over the abstract. We see this constantly in movies and TV shows - someone is given a choice to save a hostage knowing that it could mean the death of many others. Given the choice between a live child and a container, people will choose the child, even if they know that the container represents more children. What's more, we don't actually know what the contents of the container are. Just because it has a label does not mean that it is currently full or even in use.

3) We know more than we are told. Anyone who knows how in-vitro fertilization works knows that we are already in squishy grounds. Only a fraction of the embryos will actually be successfully implanted so it is not a 1000 vs 1 choice. Most of these embryos will be discarded or die in failed implantations (which is why the whole process is morally squishy). The catholic Church debated allowing this process for this very reason.

4) This is an impossible situation. Embryos are not freeze-dried, ready to add water to reconstitute. They are kept frozen at near absolute zero. So the container in question would actually be a larger freezer. Disconnecting it would lead to the death of the embryos within minutes. To put this in perspective, let's take an alternate thought exercise. You are in a maternity ward and a fire breaks out. You see a five year old and two premature infants in incubators. Do you save the child or do you save the two infants, even knowing that they will die unless they can quickly be put back in incubators? And, if you choose the child does this mean that you do not think that the infants are actual people until they can breath unassisted?

It's one thing to propose a thought exercise to make people clarify and justify their reasoning. But that is not what Sandel did. He is playing a mind game to enforce his point of view. And he's not doing a very good job of it. He needed to propose it in neutral terms so that people's defenses were not raised. But he is really just performing for the people inside the bubble. He's not expecting anyone with dissenting views to really examine his exercise.


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Weinstein, Trump, Clinton and Thomas

The big news right now is that movie producer Harvey Weinstein has been preying on women for decades. The real news is that this was widely known within certain circles but suppressed. Even the story that finally broke the news was killed by NBC News and the reporter had to go elsewhere to get it published.

Weinstein is highly connected. He is a major donor to Democrats. He consulted Hillary Clinton's campaign and President Obama's daughter interned with his production company. Given all of the Hollywood connections the Clintons and Obamas have, it's hard to believe that no one took them aside and whispered a warning in their ear. The truth is that they probably didn't care until a string of flops meant that he was no longer as powerful. Newer revelations show that this may be the tip of an avalanche. Left-leaning Hollywood may be full of sexual predators and no one cared.

A year ago the big news was a 1990s hot mic tape catching Donald Trump bragging to Billy Bush that being rich and famous allowed him to touch women (through their clothing) and no one complained. While several women came forward after that to accuse Trump of improperly touching them, these accusations smelled of an opportunistic chance to derail the Trump campaign.

Going back 26 years, we have the confirmation hearings for Clarence Thomas. Thomas was on track to sail through the confirmation when Teddy Kennedy broke precedent and revealed secret testimony given to the FBI. Anita Hill, one of Thomas's former employees, claimed that Thomas had made inappropriate comments in her presence. There was a minor uproar over this, even though a large group of women who had worked with Thomas said that he'd never behaved in an inappropriate manner in their presence. Thomas was confirmed but female outrage made 1992 the "year of the woman" in elections.

In-between we have Bill Clinton who had multiple affairs including one in the White House and has been accused of violently raping two other women while president. When this news came out, conservatives wanted to know where was the outrage? Several feminist leaders answered that they didn't really care what Clinton did in his private life as long as he supported their agenda. The progressive organization MoveOn was founded to convince the county to "move on" after Clinton's impeachment.

The implication here is that the left only cares about sexual harassment (or worse) when it's to their advantage. They are willing to ignore abuse as long as the abusers support the right causes and as long as the victims stay quiet.

So, why is the left surprised that President Trump's supporters act the same way - ignoring Trump's personal indiscretions because they need him to undo the damage of the Obama presidency?

There's a larger issue here, one that the left will come to regret. You have to be consistent in how you apply standards or they cease to be meaningful. For the past few years the left has pushed the idea that free speech is an outdated concept. Eventually they will miss the protections they currently take for granted but threw away for short-term political gain.  

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Cold War III

We are in a conflict that I'm calling Cold War III. Before I explain it, I'll backtrack a bit to cover the first two cold wars.

The term "cold war" was invented to describe the conflict between the old guard of capitalist/democratic countries and the revolutionary communist/dictatorships typified by the USSR and, later, Red China. This was a war of ideologies although it did erupt into some shooting proxy wars. Viet Nam, Korea, The Seven Day War between Israel and it's neighbors, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and numerous conflicts in Africa and South America were all part of this ideological war. The United States was eventually declared the winner although Communist ideology is on the rise again.

While it's seldom called this, the Second Cold War is between militant Islam and the rest of the world. Again, this is a proxy war with Iran, Saudi Arabia and others financing extremist groups. Note that it is not necessary for one side to be cohesive. Iran and the Saudis are enemies just as Russia and Red China were. Militant Islam has not been as successful in controlling entire nations as communism was but it has managed to use asymmetrical warfare in the form of terrorist attacks to kill thousands in the US and Europe, something that never happened in the first Cold War.

So, what about the Third Cold War? This is a cold civil war. So far, few shots have been fired but there is conflict. Again, on one side is traditional America with it's capitalist/democratic system. The other side is sort of a hydra with many heads but all of its components share a single goal - to change America beyond recognition by attacking every possible institution. The terms "social justice" and "income inequality" are often used and most of these groups are explicitly against capitalism. A number of other fundamental American institutions are also under attack. Free speech is the most obvious. People at all levels on the left have declared that "hate speech" is not protected where "hate speech" is loosely defined as anything they disagree with. College students have equated having speakers they disagree with to physical pain in order to justify violent protests. Our legal system is threatened on college campuses where the presumption of innocence has been replaced by a presumption of guilt in rape complaints. While these actions take place outside of the legal system, they go on a student's permanent record and can make him unemployable for decades. Former Attorney General Eric Holder has suggested that the rules for evidence should also be changed in civil rights cases.

Rather than accept the results of the 2016 Presidential election, the Hydra came up with plan after plan for ways to alter the results. They are still hoping that somehow the investigation on Russian influence will expand far enough to find something to force Trump from office.

Virtually every aspect of American life is being challenged at some level, especially on campuses. Statues are being removed. Colleges are being renamed. This is not limited to Confederates. Abraham Lincoln, the Great Emancipator, is now offensive because of his Indian policies. Just a few years ago Democrats were pointing to Teddy Roosevelt's Progressive policies as a model for the Republican party. Now he's reviled as a colonialist.

Science itself is under attack. White males are over-represented among scientists and mathematicians so some feminists have condemned it as an artifact of the patriarchy.

Science says that there are two sexes determined by X and Y chromosomes but the Hydra says that there are multiple genders, as many as 32. And they want to make it punishable to use the wrong gender.

I'm calling this a war because of the way the Hydra acts. They use the language of war. They call themselves "The Resistance" and vow to resist President Trump and to fight the patriarchy. Once you start digging deeper into the demands of the different groups, Black Lives Matter, Antifa, Black Bloc, etc., you find that they are committed to ending capitalism.

Any attempts at reasonable compromise are simply treated as gained ground. An example was removing Confederate flags from state property. Rather than being accepted as a compromise, this was a beginning point where all Confederate flags were to be removed, even from toy soldiers and the Dukes of Hazard TV show suddenly because a symbol of white supremacy. This escalated into demands for removing statues of Confederate generals which moved on to grave memorials and statues unrelated to the Civil War.

There is also a total lack of remorse. After a BLM-inspired cop-killing in Texas, you might expect a bit of moderation. Instead they continues to call for more dead cops, even before the funeral. When one of their number attempted to assassinate Republican members of Congress, they took to social media to insist that the Republicans had brought it on themselves and probably deserved to be executed.  

So far it has stayed a low-level civil war but it has been marked by violence. Besides the attempt to assassinate congressional Republicans and several cop killings, they have also help several violent demonstrations and caused hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages.

I was looking for parallels and came up with one, the English Civil War. That was fought in the 1640s between the establishment led by King Charles and the Puritans. The King's side represented the establishment. The Puritans have several similarities to the modern Hydra. The Social Justus Warriors draw a lot of their support from campuses. The Puritans drew heavily from apprentices who were in the same age range. In fact, the term "Round Heads" given to the Puritan army came from the short-cropped hair that the apprentices wore. In addition to the apprentices, the Puritans drew a great deal of support from the urban centers while the rest of the countryside was for the King. Look at the 2016 election map by county and you see that the Democrats are all clustered in the cities.

After the end of the English Civil War, a number of veterans felt that the reforms instituted by the Puritan-controlled parliament did not go far enough. They wanted a complete leveling of society to eliminate the rich. They were known as Levellers (along with an even harder-line group called the Diggers). essentially, these were proto-marxists.

The Puritans' approach to religion was very similar to being "woke" today. You were not born to either. Both required an epiphany and there was always the chance that you were not truly converted so you were constantly searching your own conscience and that of those around you for any hints that you were not fully converted.

The English Civil War did not suddenly erupt. The tensions leading to it had been building for a generation or more. Similarly, I expect our current state to continue as a low-level civil war, although a Soros-funded Communist front group announced that the revolution will begin November 4th.

Some of the current hysteria will die down soon. Revolutionary chic is affecting the bottom line of some of the businesses that support it. The NFL and ESPN have seen a major drop in viewership and are reacting. The NFL is considering requiring players to stand for the national anthem and ESPN suspended one of their people who called for a boycott of NFL sponsors over the kneeling protests.

Others are seeing a hit in their bottom line but have not yet taken action. Marvel Comics (which, like ESPN is owned by Disney) has seen a major drop in sales since they replaced most of their long-time characters with women and minorities. Award show ratings are at a major low, probably due to the politics the winners and presenters bring to the show. Late night comics are all fighting over the anti-Trump audience but their ratings are a fraction of what Jay Leno was pulling just a few years ago. Colleges like Missouri and Evergreen which have seen well-publicized protests have had huge drops in enrollment.

Will this be enough? It's impossible to say at this point. The Hydra had a major set-back with the election of Donald Trump. Of all of the candidates, he was the least likely to try to compromise with them. But the next Democratic candidate will be well to the left of Hillary Clinton. The Democratic Party has also rid itself of any moderates and now insists on a rigid conformity to the far-left party line. If they win the next few elections then we will see an erosion of civil liberties that will make us nostalgic for President Obama's pen and phone.

But, it's hard to hold on to red-hot rage. Passions are cooling and people are accepting that the status-quo is not going to be overthrown. We went through some of this in the 1960s including calls for violent revolution but it all blew over after a few years.

Sunday, October 08, 2017

Columbus Day, NFL Protests and the Unraveling of American Society

Around two hundred years ago a group of influential Americans including Washington Irving decided that we, as a new nation, needed a set of American heroes distinct from the English ones we had inherited. They settled on three illustrious men without whom, America would not have existed: Christopher Columbus, George Washington and Ben Franklin. A few others were added into the mix. Longfellow elevated Paul Revere as well as three of his Pilgrim ancestors but Columbus Washington and Franklin were the big three. Washington and Franklin were well known but Columbus was a much more remote figure. Irving remedied this by writing a biography of Columbus but, despite having access to the largest collection of Columbus-related documents in the world (at that time), he invented most of his history. To Irving, the truth was not as important as having a figure worthy of admiration to unite the country.

Now, 200 years later, the semi-terrorist group Antifa has declared war on Columbus with plans to deface Columbus statues across the country because Columbus is a symbol of white supremacy. Again, the symbolism is more important than the history. This is part of a general campaign from the left to declare symbols of American history to be offensive. This began with the removal of Confederate flags from statehouse grounds because the racist killer Dylan Roof posed with a Confederate flag in some pictures he posted on social media. Things got a little crazy from there with gift shops removing plastic soldiers from gift shops because the gray ones carried a Confederate flag. It moved from that to protests over statues of Confederate generals and went into overdrive after a counter-protestor was killed in August. In the aftermath of that, nearly every statue of a white man has suddenly become suspect.

Then there are the protests at the NFL. This began with a single player refusing to stand for the National Anthem. A few other players followed his lead and more were kneeling during the anthem this year.

The original protest was over the perception that police kill a disproportionate number of blacks but since then it has expanded to include institutional racism, inequality and President Trump. Regardless, the message is that America isn't worth showing respect for. The result is that watching football is now a political action.

All of this is part of a long-term strategy to de-legitimize America. There is to be no shared space that unites us as Americans. Our heroes have been redefined as racists, our institutions have been politicized. Where Washington Irving and his companions tried to unite us, there is now a movement to separate us as much as possible. Some of this is planned, a lot of it is people who are simply following the example of politicizing everything.

Even national tragedies no longer join us. Hillary Clinton didn't wait for the bodies to be identified before tweeting out how we need gun control. When a Bernie supporter started shooting at Republican Congressmen at a basketball practice, the left used it to attack Republican policy.

There is no reasonable accommodation with this movement. It is meant to constantly push. And ground ceded simply becomes the new starting point for the next push.

So we have to hold our ground and continue to celebrate Columbus Day and stand for the National  Anthem.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Clueless Hillary

I've only read small excerpts from Hillary Clinton's book, "What Happened" but something popped out from two of those excerpts: Hillary is completely clueless about popular culture. She drops some references without realizing how backwards she got the reference.

"Crowds at Trump rallies called for my imprisonment more times than I can count," she wrote. "They shouted, 'Guilty! Guilty!' like the religious zealots in Game of Thrones chanting 'Shame! Shame!' while Cersei Lannister walked back to the Red Keep."

In Game of Thrones, Cersie Lannister is one of the least sympathetic characters. Early in the first book of the series a young boy catches her having sex with her twin brother so the two of them throw the boy out a high window. She indulges her sociopath son and is generally cruel herself. There are two reason that Hillary should never want her name associated with Cersie. The first is that Cersie's only claim to power was that she married the king. Does Hillary really want us to remember that she'd never have been taken seriously as a candidate if she hadn't been First Lady?

The second problem for Hillary is that Cersie was guilty. The crowd knew it. The viewers knew it. She was atoning for crimes that she really committed. How far should we take this analogy?

"Attempting to define reality is a core feature of authoritarianism," Mrs. Clinton writes. "This is what the Soviets did when they erased political dissidents from historical photos. This is what happens in George Orwell's classic novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, when a torturer holds up four fingers and delivers electric shocks until his prisoner sees five fingers as ordered.

"The goal is to make you question logic and reason and to sow mistrust towards exactly the people we need to rely on: our leaders, the press, experts who seek to guide public policy based on evidence, ourselves," she continues.

 1984 is a dystopian novel where an oppressive government controls every aspect of daily life. The populous is constantly monitored and people who do not believe what the government, the press, and the leaders tell them are arrested and tortured until they can no longer separate reality from government-directed propaganda - even when the government is constantly rewriting history. But Hillary's take-away from the novel is that we should trust in the people who, in the novel, are the fabricators.

Just how much chardonnay had Hillary been drinking when she came up with this stuff? And why didn't her ghost writers clean it up?

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Trump Saved Congressional Republicans From Themselves

In the (muted) furor over President Trump making a deal with the Congressional Democrats to make a three-month extension to the debt ceiling, people forget what the alternative would have been. Reportedly the Republicans were holding out for a long-term deal on the deficit and were willing to shut down government to get it. If they had done that the top story of the week would have been "Republicans shut down the government as hurricanes wreck multiple states and leave thousands homeless."

The Republicans would be portrayed as heartless. This would have followed them into the next election cycle. Instead, Trump got a deal for quick relief money and postponed the budget showdown until after hurricane season.

Yes, the Democrats are patting themselves on the back over how they got the better of the deal but if they really believe that then they are fooling themselves. They lost a huge public relations opportunity and got nothing of consequence in return.

The real losers are the Congressional Republican leaders who haven't figured out how to pick their battle.