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  • Archive for the 'Civil Liberties' Category

    Celebrating the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act by Leaving it Alone

    Posted by David McFadden on 20th August 2015 (All posts by )

    The fiftieth anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, signed by President Lyndon Johnson August 6, 1965, has revived proposals to fill a much-needed gap in the Act, to borrow one of Hanna Gray’s favorite expressions.

    The gap is thanks to the felicitous 2013 Supreme Court case of Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder, which I discussed last year in these pages. The Court held unconstitutional the Act’s archaic test for determining which states must get preclearance from the Justice Department or from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to change their election laws. The preclearance requirement–Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act–was supposed to be a temporary, emergency provision expiring five years after the Voting Rights Act became effective. But as Milton Friedman said, “Nothing is so permanent as a temporary government program.” Congress renewed Section 5 four times, most recently in 2006, when Congress renewed it for another 25 years.

    Writing for the Court in Shelby County v. Holder, Chief Justice Roberts said that preclearance sharply departs from basic constitutional principles by allowing the federal government to veto state laws before they go into effect, reversing the burden of proof, and forcing an oddly selected group of the states to beseech the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department or a distant court to allow them to implement a new election law.

    The Court held that this onerous regime can no longer be based on a coverage formula that sweeps in states because in the 1960s or 1970s they had low voter turnout or a literacy test. Striking down the coverage formula left Section 2 of the Act still in effect. Under Section 2, state voting laws can still be challenged in court. Section 2 does not reverse the burden of proof but leaves it where it normally is in the law—on the challenger.

    Nonetheless, the party line still compels liberals to recite, in nearly every article in which they mention the subject, that in Shelby County the Supreme Court “gutted” the Voting Rights Act–or better yet committed an “Historic Gutting.” Substituting a synonym for “gutted” seems to be frowned upon and may even require a trigger warning.

    “Congress must restore the Voting Rights Act,” wrote the President in a letter to the editor of the New York Times last week. He and others on left remain under the misconception that in striking down the coverage formula for preclearance, the Supreme Court invited Congress to write a new one and now Congress just needs to get about the business of accepting his invitation. There was no invitation, just a warning that a new preclearance formula based on current conditions would raise the question of whether the preclearance requirement itself is unconstitutional.

    Republicans in Congress do not need to help set the stage for that controversy. Instead, they should take the offensive and counter that as the states ought not to be treated like vassals, it’s time to consider repealing Section 5 altogether. Short of that, they should leave to languish in committee proposals to rehabilitate an anachronistic affront to federalism.

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Elections, Law, Leftism | 7 Comments »

    Healthy Lifestyle 24/7

    Posted by Mrs. Davis on 18th August 2015 (All posts by )

    The Wall Street Journal had a fascinating, to me, article on A Simple Fix for Drunken Driving called Sobriety 24/7 now implemented in North and South Dakota, and Montana.

    (DUI) Offenders in 24/7 Sobriety can drive all they want to, but they are under a court order not to drink. Every morning and evening, for an average of five months, they visit a police facility to take a breathalyzer test. Unlike most consequences imposed by the criminal justice system, the penalties for noncompliance are swift, certain and modest. Drinking results in mandatory arrest, with a night or two in jail as the typical penalty.
     
    The benefits of the program aren’t just confined to road safety; counties using 24/7 Sobriety experienced not only a 12% drop in repeat drunken-driving arrests but also a 9% drop in domestic-violence arrests. Unlike interventions that only constrain drinking while driving, the removal of alcohol from an offender’s life also reduces the incidence of other alcohol-related crimes.
     
    Why do repeat offenders change their behavior in response to relatively modest incentives? Patients continue using cocaine in the face of great harm to their families, livelihoods and physical health, yet they could still be induced to refrain from it when promised a small reward, like $10 for a negative urine test. The reward was relatively trivial, but it was unlike other potential consequences because it was both certain and immediate.
     
    It turns out that people with drug and alcohol problems are just like the rest of us. Their behavior is affected much more by what is definitely going to happen today than by what might or might not happen far in the future, even if the potential future consequences are more serious.

    Today we were talking to a big data company that can extract enormous amounts of information from your cell phone and make even more incredible inferences about your life style. How long will it be before your wearable will have a bluetooth connection to your phone to transmit all kinds of information on your biologic state? Certainly within two decades, possibly less. It will be able to monitor your body function and relate it to the unhealthy lifestyle choices you made in the last 24 hours.

    At least half of our medical costs are the result of behavior that will not happen today and might or might not happen far in the future. Let’s assume that insurance costs $5,000 per person, probably not far off. Would you sign up for a policy that cost only $2,500 but required you to wear the monitor system and took $10 from your checking account and told you what you did the day before to warrant it any time you engaged in sufficiently unhealthy life style? It’s coming within years to auto insurance. I can’t imagine living in that world. That’s why it’s good we are mortal. One can only take a limited amount of change. And progress requires change.

    Somewhere Mary Baker Eddy and BF Skinner are smiling.

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Current Events, Human Behavior, Law Enforcement, Leftism, Political Philosophy | 27 Comments »

    Elite Failure and Populist Trump It

    Posted by Zenpundit on 5th August 2015 (All posts by )

    Cross-posted at Zenpundit.com

    Donald_Trump_March_2015

    GOP Front Runner, Donald J. Trump (Image: Michael Vadon)

    A friend sent an essay by the prolific IR scholar, Professor Angelo Codevilla that had been posted at Powerline Blog.  It was good.

    For the unfamiliar, Codevilla often writes on national security and intelligence matters and some readers may be familiar with his (with Paul Seabury) book,  War: Ends and Means; but in recent years Codevilla has, like Walter Russell Mead and a number of other intellectuals, turned his attention to the shoddy performance, ethical deficiencies and arrogant demands of the new American “ruling class”, writing a biting critique of their “meritocratic regime”.

    In his essay for Powerline, Codevilla turns his attention to the political phenomenon of the improbable GOP presidential front runner, billionaire and reality TV star, Donald Trump.  Unsurprisingly, Dr. Codevilla is not a huge fan of the bombastic Mr. Trump, but his analysis of why Trump has captured the moment so easily has some astute insights about the decaying state of our political system and the seething anger of the electorate:

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Book Notes, Civil Liberties, Crony Capitalism, Current Events, Elections, Leftism, Media, National Security, Politics, Society, Tea Party, The Press, USA | 15 Comments »

    King Philip of Spain

    Posted by David Foster on 22nd July 2015 (All posts by )

    …and his Portuguese subjects.

    A political and social analogy from Sarah Hoyt:

    Yesterday I was talking to my mom and she said the news from the States and the things “your funny critters” (pretty much how mom refers to governments in general!) are doing remind her of the Spanish occupation of Portugal.

    Read the whole thing.

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Current Events, Europe, History, Obama, USA | 6 Comments »

    Is the corporate wing of the GOP leading the party to disaster ?

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 11th July 2015 (All posts by )

    SF killing

    There are a number of national stories recently that seem to resonate with voters. A big one is the killing of a San Francisco woman by an illegal alien with seven felony arrests who was deported five times.

    The fatal shooting of a woman in San Francisco last week, allegedly by an illegal immigrant man convicted of seven felonies and previously deported to Mexico, has sparked a debate about the extent to which local law enforcement and federal immigration authorities should cooperate.

    At issue is the Department of Homeland Security’s practice of seeking to identify potentially deportable individuals in jails or prisons nationwide by issuing a “detainer,” a request rather than an order to extend the individual’s detention.

    San Francisco is a “Sanctuary City” which has pledged to resist efforts by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency to deport illegal aliens.

    On March 26, Mr. Sanchez was booked into the San Francisco County Jail on a local drug-related warrant after serving a federal prison term, the city’s sheriff’s office said. The next day, Mr. Sanchez appeared in San Francisco Superior Court and the drug charges were dismissed.

    After San Francisco officials confirmed that Mr. Sanchez’s federal prison term had been completed and that he had no active warrants, he was released from jail on April 15. He was freed despite a request from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a division of DHS, to the city’s sheriff’s department that would have enabled the federal agency to take him into custody.

    This is routine, plus of course, the fact that the Obama Administration has chosen to facilitate illegal immigration and resist deportation.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Elections, Immigration, Law Enforcement | 77 Comments »

    “Tillman on Values and Dignity”

    Posted by Jonathan on 7th July 2015 (All posts by )

    Seth Barrett Tillman (posting also at The New Reform Club):

    I think many do not quite follow Justice Thomas.
    This might help.
    Seth

    The corollary of that principle is that human dignity cannot be taken away by the government. Slaves did not lose their dignity (any more than they lost their humanity) because the government allowed them to be enslaved. Those held in internment camps did not lose their dignity because the government confined them. And those denied governmental benefits certainly do not lose their dignity because the government denies them those benefits. The government cannot bestow dignity, and it cannot take it away.

    Justice Thomas in Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S. ____, at *17 (2015) (dissenting) [pdf]

    ——————————

    Mrs Thatcher came only twice [to the Conservative Philosophy Group], once as prime minister. That was the occasion for a notable non-meeting of minds. Edward Norman (then Dean of Peterhouse) had attempted to mount a Christian argument for nuclear weapons. The discussion moved on to ‘Western values’. Mrs Thatcher said (in effect) that Norman had shown that the Bomb was necessary for the defence of our values. [Enoch] Powell: ‘No, we do not fight for values. I would fight for this country even if it had a communist government.’ Thatcher (it was just before the Argentinian invasion of the Falklands): ‘Nonsense, Enoch. If I send British troops abroad, it will be to defend our values.’ ‘No, Prime Minister, values exist in a transcendental realm, beyond space and time. They can neither be fought for, nor destroyed.’ Mrs Thatcher looked utterly baffled. She had just been presented with the difference between Toryism and American Republicanism. (Mr Blair would have been equally baffled.)

    The Right Honourable Enoch Powell quoted in John Casey, The revival of Tory philosophy, The Spectator, March 17, 2007 (emphasis added)

    Posted in Anglosphere, Britain, Civil Liberties, Conservatism, Current Events, Law, Morality and Philosphy, Political Philosophy, USA | 10 Comments »

    Whiteness Privilege

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 2nd July 2015 (All posts by )

    microaggression

    The subject of “white privilege” is very much in the news there days.

    Administration officials at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University have reached an agreement with student activists to force “mandatory power and privilege training” on incoming students during orientation.

    The group, which calls itself “HKS Speaks Out,” will have a meeting this week with the dean of the Kennedy School, David T. Ellwood, to discuss the funding for the compulsory training and to “make sure this training is institutionalized” throughout the school, reports Campus Reform.

    Who is this group behind the “white privilege” training session ? Well, they are disgruntled students.

    The movement, called HKS Speaks Out, began in October after students expressed having “really negative classroom experiences,” according to Reetu D. Mody, a first year Master in Public Policy student and an organizer of the movement. She said the group has amassed about 300 student signatures, or about a fourth of the school’s student population, on a petition that calls for mandatory privilege and power training.

    Reetu

    She can’t breathe. She is a Congressional staffer but I can’t find out whose staff. Democrat if not Bernie Sanders.

    Steve Sailor is not impressed.

    Harvard U. is full of people who clawed their way into Harvard, so it’s not surprising that they often can’t stand each other. Fortunately, 21st Century Harvard students have a vocabulary of whom to blame for any and all frustrations they feel. From the Harvard Crimson:

    Kennedy School Students Call for Training To Combat Privilege in Classroom

    Whiteness !

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Civil Liberties, Conservatism, Crime and Punishment, Current Events, Education, Human Behavior, Leftism, Morality and Philosphy, Urban Issues | 13 Comments »

    Reset

    Posted by David Foster on 28th June 2015 (All posts by )

    RESET

    That’s what Hillary Clinton thought was inscribed, in English and in Russian, on the button that she gave to Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov in early 2009…actually she got the translation wrong…(why on earth, with all the linguistic resources that were available to her?…but that’s a subject for another day.)

    I don’t think I need to provide a slew of links to prove that the reset didn’t work very well.  Russia-US national relations are currently pretty bad, and Russia is now perceived as a threat to many other countries in a way that would have seemed unbelievable back in 2008.  Resetting institutional and societal things…complicated, intertwined, human things…is generally much harder than rebooting a computer or flipping a circuit breaker back to ON.

    Yet the RESET button is a good metaphor for the entire worldview of the Obama administration, and of the “progressive” movement generally.  Remember that line about “fundamentally transforming” the United States?

    One tactic employed by modern-era leaders who wish to “fundamentally transform” their societies is to transform the use of language and other symbols.  The French revolutionaries pioneered in this:  even the names of the months of the year were changed.  The Nazis required that the traditional greeting “gruess gott” (roughly, “God bless you”) be replaced with “Heil Hitler.”  It was part of their version of what I have called the politicization of absolutely everything.

    In the US today, the politicized transformation of language has largely originated in universities, especially in their various “studies” departments, and is now being transmitted and amplified by certain corporations.

    For example, it is credibly reported that JP Morgan  now discourages its employees from using terms such as “wife” and “boyfriend.”  According to the internal memo, not referring to your wife as your wife “offers up the opportunity for more inclusive conversations.”

    Presumably, the idea is that those who lack wives or boyfriends…on account of being gay or transgender…will be hurt and offended by the use of the terms.  Which makes about as much sense as the idea that religious people shouldn’t refer to their “minister” or their “rabbi” because to do so might be painful to the non-religious.  Or that people with children shouldn’t refer to their “child” or their “kid” because it might be painful to those who only have cats…maybe a more neutral term like “dependent companion creature” might be used.

    What this is really all about, of course, is sucking up to what somebody at JPM thinks the zeitgeist is among those who may have power over its future.

    Apple Computer, also, is following a similar course.  They have banned the use of the Confederate flag even  as a marker for units in Civil War simulation games sold on the App Store.  (Specifically, they have banned any such marker appearing on a screenshot of the game which will appear in the store.)

    Several days ago, I linked an article arguing that modern “liberalism,” or “progressivism,” or whatever they call themselves, is now almost purely a symbolic project.  The Apple policy that I described about represents symbol-obsession taken to a level that is truly insane.

    While banning the use of the Confederate flag even for purposes of unit-identification icons, Apple has apparently not restricted the use of the Nazi swastika for similar purposes in WWII simulation games. I don’t conclude from this that Apple is a group of Nazi sympathizers, rather, that they are a group of herd-followers and enforcers of the “progressive” herd’s current direction, whatever that direction may be.  (Apple once used the slogan “Think Different”…now, it seems, their slogan should be “think like you are supposed to!)

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Human Behavior, Leftism, USA | 10 Comments »

    Rebel Blood

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 24th June 2015 (All posts by )

    You know, as an unreconstructed Unionist descended (on the maternal side) from a sternly Abolitionist Pennsylvania Quaker who (family legend has it) maintained his house as an alternate safe station on the Underground Railway and was thrown out of the local Quaker meeting for his unseemly enthusiasm for Mr. Lincoln’s war – my affection for the Confederate battle flag, AKA the Stars and Bars – is right down there between fried liver and onions and anaesthetized root canal work. Or at least it was until this morning, when the news broke upon us. It seems that our betters, in the shape of the so-called intellectual, media, political and business elite have decided that no, we ought not to fly any version of the Confederate flag, buy any version of it embossed on various souvenir tat – or even a model of the General Lee car from a dimwitted 1980s television series, The Dukes of Hazzard – a show I don’t think I ever watched, since a merciful deity in the shape of the Air Force Personnel Center saw that I was stationed overseas for most of the years that it was on the air. And no, I don’t think I ever watched an episode of it on AFRTS. My toleration for idiot plots is low.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anti-Americanism, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Conservatism, Diversions | 38 Comments »

    “Seven Liberal Pieties Only the Right Still Believes”

    Posted by David Foster on 23rd June 2015 (All posts by )

    …an interesting piece by Robert Tracinski

    Posted in Big Government, Business, Civil Liberties, Education, History, Human Behavior, Israel, Leftism, Society, USA | 7 Comments »

    Worthwhile Reading & Viewing

    Posted by David Foster on 14th June 2015 (All posts by )

    Jerry Seinfeld and the Progressive Comedy Pause

    Do political beliefs drive partisanship, or does partisanship drive political beliefs?

    Blackboards, report cards, and newspaper clippings from 1917 discovered behind walls of an Oklahoma City school

    What overparenting looks like from a Stanford dean’s perspective

    The conservatory under a lake

    Some pictures of Japan

    The rise of the new Groupthink, and the power of working alone

    The coming of the Cry-bullies

    Girlwithadragonflytattoo visits an art museum

    Marco Rubio’s boat versus John Kerry’s boat. The NYT is making much of Rubio having spent $80K on a boat.

    There has been much talk of late about the influence of money in politics.  Rarely mentioned is the power of in-kind contributions, such as that represented by the NYT’s predictable favorable coverage of Democratic versus Republican candidates.

    How much would it cost to buy the advertising equivalent of NYT’s support for, say, Hillary Clinton?  The answer has to be at least in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Education, Human Behavior, Humor, Japan, Photos, That's NOT Funny | 12 Comments »

    Optics

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 13th June 2015 (All posts by )

    I have written about optics before and am going to take another trip down this trail.

    The prison escape in New York has my interest. I am sort of rooting for the bad guys. But not for the wrong reasons. The reason I am rooting for the bad guys is that I believe that folks need to understand that they need to be prepared to take care of themselves in emergency situations, rather than relying on “professionals”. In the end I want the murderers caught, of course, but in the meantime, we have some delicious drama brewing.

    As I wrote back when the Boston police and others make a Keystone Cops type showing trying to chase down the Tsarnaev brothers, these are some pretty poor optics for the police, but they are doing everything they can to make it look better. I see the same old nonsense on TV – a line of cops saluting and marching down the street, all to make a show to the locals and/or folks watching on TV that they have overwhelming force and are going to catch the bad guys. This was done in Boston and also in Baltimore. Who put this in the official police manual to handle a crisis? I wonder if the manual looks like this:

    Step one. We have a crisis. Everyone line up, salute and march down the street.
    Step two. ??
    Step three. Crisis solved. Praise all and treat everyone like a hero.

    This is one of the most ridiculous things I have seen so far from a few days ago:
    sniper
    What on earth is going on here? Is the sniper actually looking to fire at something? Why aren’t the other guys at all concerned? Why is he laying on top of a van?

    I keep hearing that the man hunt is “intensifying”. How much more intense can it get? They have all sorts of Hummers, choppers, sniper gear, and cops from who knows how many districts all looking for a couple of guys who are either laughing their asses off somewhere in Mexico, or very much hurting by now somewhere in the woods. Somewhere in the woods that all of these forces gathered have missed several times now.

    I am sure it is super pleasant to be living in these towns right now.

    What on earth was Cuomo touring the escape site supposed to prove? He will have zero involvement in the investigation or manhunt.

    I know a thing or two about mechanicals, tools and steam pipes – we are not hearing half of what these guys did do get out of the prison – much of what the media has reported doesn’t make sense at all. I understand that the media is on the cops’ tether at this point, but I will be very interested to someday read just exactly what these guys did to escape. I imagine it took them years of planning.

    If they get caught, we will hear some Seargeant or whoever claim how heroic everyone was, just like always.

    I hope the public gets the sense that just like when the Tsarnaev brothers were keeping thousands of “professionals” at bay, just like these escapees are that they need to prepare to be on their own just a bit. But I won’t get my hopes up. So far, I would say that the cops have some pretty bad optics going as of now.

    Posted in Big Government, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Crime and Punishment, Current Events | 17 Comments »

    Private Enterprise, Public Space

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 11th June 2015 (All posts by )

    Some time since (Oh, heck was it in 2005, ten years ago? So it was.) I mused on the concept of public space, both in the general sense – of a large city – and the smaller sense, of a neighborhood … that is, the place that we live in, have our gardens and our households, where we have neighbors who know us, where we jog, walk our dogs, take an interest – from the mild to the pain-in-the-neck over-interested and judgmental. If our homes are our castles, then the neighborhood is our demesne.
    And unless we are complete hermits, home-owners will take an interest in the demesne. I state that without fear of contradiction, and it does not matter if that demesne is in a strictly-gated upper-middle or upper-class community with real-live 24-hour security, a private and luxurious clubhouse with attached pool and attractively-landscaped park or a simple ungated, strictly crisscrossed-streets and cul-de-sacs development of modestly-priced starter houses without any HOA-managed extras like golf courses, swimming pools, fitness centers, jogging paths – indeed, anything beyond a little landscaping around the sign denoting the entrance to the development. This is where our homes are, and at the lower end of the economic scale of things, likely to have consumed a major portion of disposable income on the part of the householder. A good portion of our material treasure, in other words, is committed to those foundation, walls, roof and yard.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Business, Civil Liberties, Current Events, Law Enforcement, North America, Real Estate | 7 Comments »

    Theme: The Fully Politicized Society

    Posted by David Foster on 10th June 2015 (All posts by )

    Sgt Mom recently posted about the “Sad Puppies” affair:  basically, it seems that the science-fiction publishing industry and its leading association and award structure have become highly politicized in the name of “progressivism”…in reaction, a contrarian movement arose called the “Sad Puppies”  (there are also “Rabid Puppies”)…and these groups have been vitriolically attacked by some prominent members of the SF publishing establishment.

    It strikes me that this would be a good time to update and repost my earlier Theme roundup of posts on the general topic of politicization.

    A very funny post about a very serious topic.  Sarah Hoyt, herself a science fiction writers, tells of (and illustrates) some of her own experiences with the Science Fiction Writers Association.

    What kind of things do you think they talk about at a convention of the National Art Education Association?  Best ways to teach perspective and watercoloring techniques?  How to explain Expressionism and Impressionism? Not these days.

    “Political correctness” has become a serious threat to American society

    What makes people want to live in a politicized society, and what is day-t0-day life like once the complete politicization has been accomplished?  In this post, I cite some thoughts from Sebastian Haffner, who came of age in Germany when the Nazi movement was casting its spell, and a vivid fictional passage from Ayn Rand, who grew up in the early Soviet Union.

    Gleichschaltung.  A word much favored by the Nazis, it means “coordination,” “making the same,” “bringing into line”…especially, in Nazi usage, “forcible coordination.”  The orientation toward Gleichschaltung is very apparent in today’s “progressive” movement and today’s Democratic Party.

    Prestigious Physics Professor Protests Politicization. Harold Brown, professor emeritus at the University of California Santa Barbara, explains the reasons for his resignation from the American Physical Society.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Big Government, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Current Events, Germany, History, Political Philosophy, Russia, USA | 19 Comments »

    When They Came for Those Other People

    Posted by David Foster on 4th June 2015 (All posts by )

    Into our town the hangman came,
    smelling of gold and blood and flame.
    He paced our bricks with a diffident air,
    and built his frame on the courthouse square.

    The scaffold stood by the courthouse side,
    only as wide as the door was wide
    with a frame as tall, or a little more,
    than the capping sill of the courthouse door.

    And we wondered whenever we had the time,
    Who the criminal? What the crime?
    The hangman judged with the yellow twist
    of knotted hemp in his busy fist.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Human Behavior | 7 Comments »

    Fear of Heresy Accusations, Then and Now

    Posted by David Foster on 3rd June 2015 (All posts by )

    I’m currently reading The Edge of the World: A Cultural History of the North Sea and the Transformation of Europe.  There’s an interesting section on the 7th-century monk Bede, a thoughtful scholar who wrote the first history of England.  A couple of centuries later, he would be known as the Venerable Bede, a Doctor of the Church…but back when he was just another monk:

    He once heard that he had been accused of heresy by someone who was having dinner with a bishop.  He was aghast, he told his friend Plegwin, he went white.

    Sure glad people don’t have to worry about things like that these days…but actually, this passage reminded me of something I read in the WSJ a few days ago.  It’s an excerpt from an article by Laura Kipnis, a feminist professor who–because of something she wrote in February–has been attacked by feminist students who tried to use Federal Title IX mechanisms to shut her down.  She was cleared of the charges against her, but says:

    After the essay appeared, I was deluged with emails from professors applauding what I’d written because they were too frightened to say such things publicly themselves. My inbox became a clearinghouse for reports about student accusations and sensitivities, and the collective terror of sparking them, especially when it comes to the dreaded subject of trigger warnings, since pretty much anything might be a “trigger” to someone, given the new climate of emotional peril on campuses. . . .

    A tenured professor on my campus wrote about lying awake at night worrying that some stray remark of hers might lead to student complaints, social-media campaigns, eventual job loss, and her being unable to support her child. I’d thought she was exaggerating, but that was before I learned about the Title IX complaints against me.

    Posted in Academia, Book Notes, Britain, Christianity, Civil Liberties, USA | 13 Comments »

    Phoenix Rising

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 31st May 2015 (All posts by )

    So a “Draw Mohammed” event staged Friday in front of the Phoenix mosque which was attended by the two semi-literate Muslims who tried to attack the “Draw Mohammed” in Garland, Texas, a few weeks ago drew a large and rowdy crowd of armed motorcycling enthusiasts in full biker regalia and light arms. No question at all that some of the gentlemen in involved are rude, crude, provocative and pretty un-politically correct (scroll down the pictures posted on this story for proof positive) … but dammit didn’t it look like they were having fun, in making a full-throated in-your-face defense of freedom of speech as defined in the first amendment. And one without the monstrously weasel-wording “but” inserted after the statement “Well, yes, I believe in free speech…” This was incredibly refreshing after the temporizing along those lines from the usual proud defenders of the freedom to speak, write, draw, broadcast and otherwise propagate potentially offensive material in the wake of the Garland contest and shoot-out.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Current Events, Diversions, Islam | 16 Comments »

    Why Not More Concern Over Islamic Terrorism and Aggression?

    Posted by David Foster on 27th May 2015 (All posts by )

    It seems clear that many Americans are less concerned than they should be about the threat of radical aggressive Islam…ranging from intimidation of cartoonists in the US and Europe to direct military aggression in the Middle East. This seems to be particularly true among the well-educated (or at least well-credentialed) and affluent.  I’ve commented on this situation in several previous posts, for example, The Perfect Enemy; today I’d like to throw out for discussion some of the factors that I think are largely driving this head-in-the-sand phenomenon. They range from fairly rational (but flawed, IMO) thought processes to ignorance to obvious logical errors to malevolence and outright crazy thinking.

    1) Some people really don’t understand the full range of what’s going on.  Those of us who follow politics and international affairs pretty closely can easily lose sight of just what an information desert exists for those whose only info source is the mainstream media…it is very unlikely, for example, that the NBC and CNN-watcher is aware of the full range of anti-free-speech intimidation conducted under the banner of Islam, in the US as well as in Europe.

    2) Some people do have an idea about what’s going on, but tend to repress thinking about the threat because while they on some level perceive its awfulness they do not think anything can really be done about it…probably often, this threat is lumped together with seemingly-unstoppable malign trends, such as an ever-worsening economy and a deteriorating culture.

    In Arthur Koestler’s 1950 novel The Age of Longing, a young American woman living in France–who has belatedly come to understand the likelihood of an imminent Soviet invasion–corners a French security official and asks him why so many people are in denial about the forthcoming attack.  His response:

    “No, Mademoiselle, don’t be misled by appearances. France and what else is left of Europe may look like a huge dormitory to you, but I assure you nobody in it is really asleep. Have you ever spent a night in a mental ward? During the Occupation, a doctor who belonged to our group got me into one when the police were after me. It was a ward of more or less hopeless cases, most of whom were marked down for drastic neurosurgical operations. When the male nurse made his round, I thought everybody was asleep. Later I found out that they were only pretending, and that everybody was busy, behind closed eyes, trying to cope after his own fashion with what was coming to him. Some were pursuing their delusions with a happy smile, like our famous Pontieux (a philosopher modelled on Sartre–ed). Others were working on their pathetic plans of escape, naively hoping that with a little dissimulation, or bribery, or self-abasement, they could get around the tough male nurses, the locked doors, the operating table. Others were busy explaining to themselves that it wouldn’t hurt, and that to have holes drilled into one’s skull and parts of one’s brain taken out was the nicest thing that could happen to one. And still, others, the quiet schizos who were the majority, almost succeede in making themselves believe that nothing would happen, that it was all a matter of exaggerated rumours, and that tomorrow would be like yesterday. These looked as if they were really asleep. Only an occasional nervous twitch of their lips or eyes betrayed the strain of disbelieving what they knew to be inevitable…No, Mademoiselle nobody was really asleep.”

    But in our case, as noted above, there are quite a few people who really are asleep.

    3) Some people believe that all religions are essentially equivalent…generally they will argue that all religions are basically equally awful and that Evangelical Christians (for example) are as dangerous as radical Muslims and that it is only a matter of time until their dangerous tendencies explode into widespread violence. But sometimes they will argue that religion is inherently good and that hence, acts of terrorism cannot be motivated by religious belief but must be driven by something else.

    4) Some argue that terrorism, while deplorable and tragic, isn’t really that dangerous in the scale of things, and that your risk of being killed or crippled from slipping while getting out of the bathtub (for example) is greater than your chance of being killed or crippled in a terrorist attack.  This view is often coupled with the view that fear of terrorism is being stoked for political and/or bureaucratic reasons: for example, increased surveillance of citizens. There is great suspicion that the oil industry and the “military-industrial complex” are encouraging warfare for their own economic purposes.

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    Posted in Anti-Americanism, Civil Liberties, Islam, Middle East, Society, Terrorism, USA, War and Peace | 26 Comments »

    Gay Marriage Follies

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 23rd May 2015 (All posts by )

    gay marriage

    Today, we learn that Ireland has voted to legalize gay marriage. A Catholic Church spokesman said something very intelligent.

    If the measure is passed, Catholic churches will continue to decide for themselves whether to solemnise a marriage.
    The leader of the Catholic Church in Ireland, Eamon Martin, has said the church may look at whether it continues to perform the civil side of solemnisation if the change comes in.

    I think this is where all this is going. The alternative is to see the Church attacked for the tax exemption, which may happen anyway. Many mainline Protestant churches are seeing membership collapse as the clergy swings far left and gets into the gay lifestyle.

    There is also a very good essay at Ace of Spades today.

    First, a jeweler in Canada makes rings for a lesbian wedding, then, after the lesbians find out he doesn’t approve for religious reasons, he is attacked.

    Nicole White and Pam Renouf were looking for engagement rings a few months ago and eventually landed at Today’s Jewellers in Mount Pearl where the couple said they were given excellent service and great price for their rings.

    “They were great to work with. They seemed to have no issues. They knew the two of us were a same-sex couple,” Ms. White told Canada’s CBC news. “I referred some of my friends to them, just because I did get good customer service and they had good prices.”

    BUT…

    A friend of the couple went in to the store to purchase a ring for his girlfriend and saw a poster that read “The sanctity of marriage is under attack. Let’s keep marriage between a man and a woman,” CBC reported May 16.

    The friend took a photo of the poster and sent it to Ms. White, who said she had no idea about the poster until that point.

    “It was really upsetting. Really sad, because we already had money down on [the rings], and they’re displaying how much they are against gays, and how they think marriage should be between a man and a woman,” Ms. White said, CBC reported.

    Horrors !

    They demanded their money back. After much pressure, they got it and the Jeweler paid for his beliefs. So much for “equality.”

    Ace goes on…

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Christianity, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Europe, Islam, Leftism, Middle East | 34 Comments »

    College Students Who Can’t Stand Challenge

    Posted by David Foster on 6th May 2015 (All posts by )

    A “safe space” at Brown University:

    The safe space, Ms. Byron explained, was intended to give people who might find comments “troubling” or “triggering,” a place to recuperate. The room was equipped with cookies, coloring books, bubbles, Play-Doh, calming music, pillows, blankets and a video of frolicking puppies, as well as students and staff members trained to deal with trauma. Emma Hall, a junior, rape survivor and “sexual assault peer educator” who helped set up the room and worked in it during the debate, estimates that a couple of dozen people used it. At one point she went to the lecture hall — it was packed — but after a while, she had to return to the safe space. “I was feeling bombarded by a lot of viewpoints that really go against my dearly and closely held beliefs,” Ms. Hall said.

    and at the University of Chicago:

    A few weeks ago, Zineb El Rhazoui, a journalist at Charlie Hebdo, spoke at the University of Chicago, protected by the security guards she has traveled with since supporters of the Islamic State issued death threats against her. During the question-and-answer period, a Muslim student stood up to object to the newspaper’s apparent disrespect for Muslims and to express her dislike of the phrase “I am Charlie.”

    Ms. El Rhazoui replied, somewhat irritably, “Being Charlie Hebdo means to die because of a drawing,” and not everyone has the guts to do that (although she didn’t use the word guts). She lives under constant threat, Ms. El Rhazoui said. The student answered that she felt threatened, too.

    A few days later, a guest editorialist in the student newspaper took Ms. El Rhazoui to task. She had failed to ensure “that others felt safe enough to express dissenting opinions.” Ms. El Rhazoui’s “relative position of power,” the writer continued, had granted her a “free pass to make condescending attacks on a member of the university.”

    Why do so many college students choose to “self-infantilize?”  Judith Shulevitz, author of the above-linked NYT article, quotes Eric Posner:

    Perhaps overprogrammed children engineered to the specifications of college admissions offices no longer experience the risks and challenges that breed maturity.

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    Posted in Academia, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Human Behavior, Leftism | 31 Comments »

    Baltimore’s Lose-Lose choice

    Posted by Mrs. Davis on 2nd May 2015 (All posts by )

    Now that charges have been brought against the 6 officers involved Baltimore’s streets will return to their state of a month ago. But there will be a trial and that trial will have a significant impact on the direction of Baltimore’s future. The trial has three possible outcomes:

    First, the trial can be seen by most to have been fair and just.

    Second, the trial results in acquittals seen to be unjust by the city black community.

    Third, the trial can result in convictions seen outside Baltimore as unjust.

    The first seems least likely based on Ms Mosby’s performance announcing the charges on May Day. But in the event the prosecution and trial are depoliticized Baltimore could resume its leisurely contraction into a bedroom community for Washington D. C.

    But if either the second or third options eventuate they could turn Baltimore into a much different place. Acquittals would reignite rioting on the scale of 1968. A kangaroo court would indicate that the rule of law had degenerated into tribal justice. In either event, the abandonment of Baltimore by private employers and what’s left of its middle class would accelerate.

    Headquarters are important to a community. They provide the leaders who are committed to the health of the community. When the head of every organization has eyes on promotion to a bigger job closer to headquarters there is not the continuity or commitment necessary to make the long term investments to support the young and less fortunate in the community. Today of the 25 largest employers headquartered in Baltimore only three are not education, government or healthcare related; T. Rowe Price, the mutual fund company, and Broadway Services and Abacus, security guard and janitorial contracting firms. Johns Hopkins won’t be able to do it alone.

    This lack of headquarters also indicates that there is little economic reason for Baltimore to exist. The primary force in Baltimore is inertia leading to ever greater entropy. All solutions are temporary and Baltimore no longer solves a problem.

    So, if Baltimore’s judicial environment begins to look more and more like Dodge City circa 1880 and it has little economic opportunity, who will stay? Disinvestment and declining tax base will result in inadequate funds to provide even minimal services to an increasingly needy and unassimilated population. Financial support will increasingly come from sources other than the city itself, primarily the Federal government. Sounds like an Indian reservation to me. And Baltimore will not be alone in this transition, only first.

    When I lived there the local brew, Natty Boh, advertised to its market as the Land of Pleasant Living. Now it ain’t even got charm, hon.

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Law | 18 Comments »

    The Matter of Law

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 23rd April 2015 (All posts by )

    And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you, where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast– man’s laws, not God’s– and if you cut them down—and you’re just the man to do it—do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake!

    So said the character of Sir Thomas More in Ben Bolt’s play A Man for All Seasons – essentially a warning about the misuse and abuse of authority – an authority which might once have been accepted as legitimate by all parties concerned. But once the law has been ‘cut down’ in pursuit of some supposed greater good – then all bets are off. The winds will blow, and no one will be able to stand upright, once the protection of equally applied-law and customs and habits of a well-ordered society have been dispensed with. This is the most horrifying aspect of what David Foster linked to regarding the John Doe investigation in Wisconsin – that both law and the constraints of custom and practice are being coldly cut down and trampled upon. Essentially, DA John Chisholm used his position to wage lawfare against supporters of Scott Walker, and with the full cooperation of Judge Barbara Kluka. Midnight SWAT raids against people who had done nothing more than to be politically-involved citizens exercising their rights to support a candidate with their vote, their donations and their words.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Crime and Punishment, Current Events, Human Behavior, Leftism | 13 Comments »

    Truly Horrifying

    Posted by David Foster on 20th April 2015 (All posts by )

    Do not fail to read these links describing the use of the police in Wisconsin against individuals who dared offer opposition to the Democratic Party–Big Labor machine:

    Glenn Reynolds at USA Today:  Wisconsin’s dirty prosecutors pull a Putin

    David French at National Review:   Wisconsin’s Shame:  I thought it was a home invasion

    Also David French at NR:  The deep state knows how to protect itself

    If these reports are true, or anything like true–and I see little reason to doubt it given the conduct of the Democratic Party and its agents and allies over the past decade–then the threat to individual rights and the rule of law in America is even more serious than I thought it was.

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Law, Law Enforcement, Leftism, USA | 28 Comments »

    “Please Keep This Between Us, But….”

    Posted by David Foster on 15th April 2015 (All posts by )

    Sarah Hoyt, a science fiction writer and a thought-provoking blogger, has a long post called the architecture of fear.  One of the things she talks about in this post is an incident from several years ago, where on a mailing list for writers she:

    …dared question the insanity of a well-respected pro who said that George Bush (personally) had raised the price of stamps to ruin her (personally) in her efforts to sell used books through Amazon.

    There are levels of insanity I can’t tolerate and couldn’t even while in the political closet.  So I pointed out the sheer insanity of this, the inefficiencies of the post office and probable causes for it.

    The list went silent.  I figured tons of people were cussing me behind my back (this was when GB’s name was after all like invoking the devil.)

    So, I shrugged, figured I’d be kicked out of the list and went for a walk.  When I came back my email was full of “Oh, thank you, for saying…”  ALL OF IT IN PRIVATE MESSAGES.   The senders ranged from raw beginners to established pros, but no one would challenge this lady’s illusions to her face.  Only me.

    Sarah’s story uncannily parallels another story, this one told by long-time IBM CEO Tom Watson Jr and dating from the early 1950s.

    There was a moment when I truly thought IBM was going to lose its shot at defense work because of the kind of window blinds I had in my office.

    These were vertical blinds, which were not common at the time. An engineer who was in Watson’s office for a meeting made a sketch of the blinds, and inadvertently left it in his shirt pocket when he took the shirt to the dry cleaner. The laundry man thought the paper looked suspicious, and sent it to McCarthy. Pretty soon, a group of investigators came and said to the engineer, “We’ve identified this as a plan for a radar antenna, and want to hear about it. We want to be perfectly fair. But we know it is a radar antenna and the shirt it was found in belongs to you.”

    The engineer explained about the vertical blinds, and the investigation team then asked to see Watson. The chief executive officer of IBM showed them the blinds and demonstrated the way they worked.

    They looked them over very carefully and then left. I thought I had contained it, but I wasn’t sure, and I was scared. We were working on SAGE (the computerized air defense system–ed) and it would have been a hell of a way to lose our security clearance.

    Shortly after the incident with the vertical blinds, Watson was invited to a lunch at Lehman Brothers, along with about 20 other high-ranking businesspeople. During the lunch, he mentioned his concerns about McCarthyism

    Of the twenty-odd people present, I was the only one who took that position. That didn’t bother me. What bothered me was that the following week I got letters from several people who had been there, and they all had a similar message: “I didn’t want to commit myself in public, but I certainly agreed with everything you said.

    (Watson’s story is from his excellent autobiography, Father, Son, & Co, which I reviewed here)

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Civil Society, USA | 17 Comments »

    Worthwhile Reading & Viewing

    Posted by David Foster on 13th April 2015 (All posts by )

    Peter Thiel is interviewed by Tyler Cowen, in a conversation that ranges from why there is stagnation “in the world of atoms and not of bits” to the dangers of conformity to what he looks for when choosing people to why company names matter.

    Evaporative cooling of group beliefs.  Why a group’s beliefs tend to become stronger rather than weaker when strong evidence against those beliefs makes its appearance.

    More academic insanity:  the language police at the University of Michigan.

    Why Sam Sinai became a computer scientist instead of a doctor

    A National Archives official, in an e-mail comment that the people were not supposed to see:   “We live in constant fear of upsetting the White House”

    Why a pact with Iran throws Arab liberals under the bus  (“liberals” used here in the archaic and largely obsolete sense of “people who believe in liberty”)

    Garry Trudeau  (he wrote a cartoon called Doonesbury–is it really still being published?) gives his thoughts on the Charlie Hebdo murders perpetrated in the name of Islam–by accusing the cartoonists of “hate speech” and denouncing “free speech absolutism.”

    The secret Republicans of Silicon Valley

    Baseball, the stock market, and the dangers of following the herd

    Antoine de St-Exupery’s original watercolors  for The Little Prince

    Posted in Academia, Arts & Letters, Business, Civil Liberties, Human Behavior, Islam, Markets and Trading, Society, Sports, Tech, USA | 12 Comments »