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  • Archive for the 'USA' Category

    Life in the Fully Politicized Society (rerun)

    Posted by David Foster on 20th September 2016 (All posts by )

    (The politicization of American society has increased markedly since I wrote this post in May of 2014.  Sports, for example, is now politicized–see what happens when a culture loses its last neutral ground?–along with everything from shopping to education. The sway of ‘progressive’ orthodoxy continues to extend its sway over all aspect of American life.)

    Many will remember Michelle Obama’s 2008 speech, in which she said:

    Barack Obama will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. That you put down your divisions. That you come out of your isolation, that you move out of your comfort zones. That you push yourselves to be better. And that you engage. Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed….You have to stay at the seat at the table of democracy with a man like Barack Obama not just on Tuesday but in a year from now, in four years from now, in eight years from now, you will have to be engaged.

    Victor Davis Hanson notes that she also said:

    We are going to have to change our conversation; we’re going to have to change our traditions, our history; we’re going to have to move into a different place as a nation.

    …which is, of course, entirely consistent with the assertion made by Barack Obama himself, shortly before his first inauguration:  “We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America.”

    It should be clear by now that all aspects of American life and society are rapidly becoming politicized. Obama has greatly accelerated this movement, but he didn’t initiate it.  The “progressive” political movement, which now controls the Democratic Party, has for a long time been driving the politicization of anything and everything.  The assertion “the personal is political” originated in the late 1960s…and, if the personal is political, then everything is political.

    Some people, of course, like the politicization of everything–for some individuals, indeed, their lives would be meaningless without it. In his important memoir of growing up in Germany between the wars, Sebastian Haffnernoted divergent reactions from people when the political and economic situation stabilized (temporarily, as we now know) during the Stresemann chancellorship:

    The last ten years were forgotten like a bad dream. The Day of Judgment was remote again, and there was no demand for saviors or revolutionaries…There was an ample measure of freedom, peace, and order, everywhere the most well-meaning liberal-mindedness, good wages, good food and a little political boredom. everyone was cordially invited to concentrate on their personal lives, to arrange their affairs according to their own taste and to find their own paths to happiness.

    But this return to private life was not to everyone’s taste:

    A generation of young Germans had become accustomed to having the entire content of their lives delivered gratis, so to speak, by the public sphere, all the raw material for their deeper emotions…Now that these deliveries suddently ceased, people were left helpless, impoverished, robbed, and disappointed. They had never learned how to live from within themselves, how to make an ordinary private life great, beautiful and worth while, how to enjoy it and make it interesting. So they regarded the end of political tension and the return of private liberty not as a gift, but as a deprivation. They were bored, their minds strayed to silly thoughts, and they began to sulk.

    and

    To be precise (the occasion demands precision, because in my opinion it provides the key to the contemporary period of history): it was not the entire generation of young Germans. Not every single individual reacted in this fashion. There were some who learned during this period, belatedly and a little clumsily, as it were, how to live. they began to enjoy their own lives, weaned themselves from the cheap intoxication of the sports of war and revolution, and started to develop their own personalities. It was at this time that, invisibly and unnoticed, the Germans divided into those who later became Nazis and those who would remain non-Nazis.

    I’m afraid we have quite a few people in America today who like having “the entire content of their lives delivered gratis, so to speak, by the public sphere, all the raw material for their deeper emotions.”  But for most people, especially for creative and emotionally-healthy people, the politicization of everything leads to a dreary and airless existence.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Book Notes, Germany, Human Behavior, Leftism, Politics, Russia, USA | 21 Comments »

    Is it ok to have a purposeless military?

    Posted by TM Lutas on 19th September 2016 (All posts by )

    I believe this is a common sense proposition. You should never define a military force without it having a purpose.

    You would think that there would be nobody on the other side of this question. Who would do such a crazy thing as to define a military force, but just have them milling around without a purpose or a mission? It’s ridiculous. Or is it?

    10USC311

    (a) The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in section 313 of title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the National Guard.
    (b) The classes of the militia are—
    (1) the organized militia, which consists of the National Guard and the Naval Militia; and
    (2) the unorganized militia, which consists of the members of the militia who are not members of the National Guard or the Naval Militia.

    What is the purpose of the military force called the unorganized militia? What is their mission? What is its proper scope of activity? I think that even people who generally support the 2nd amendment do not have a consensus and certainly have not thought much about it.

    As an aside, it’s straight up sexism for female citizens to be included in only one of these two forces. A smart Republican would introduce legislation to fix that.

    Posted in Law, Military Affairs, USA | 15 Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: The European Parliament’s 2016 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought

    Posted by Jonathan on 18th September 2016 (All posts by )

    Excerpt:

    I suspect there is no General James Longstreet Prize, and if someone asked me if such a prize should be created, I would say “no”.
     
    There is no Rommel Prize, and if someone asked if such a prize should be created, I would say “no”. (And—just to be clear—I am not comparing Longstreet and the Confederacy to Rommel and Nazi Germany.)
     
    There is a Sakharov Prize, and if someone had asked me prior to its creation whether it should be created, I hope I would have had the moral clarity to say “no”. There were and there are other people in Europe and elsewhere who this prize could have been named for: persons who were not quite so morally ambiguous. E.g., Average people—people who were not heroic or even particularly bright. Perhaps it could have been called the Ivan Denisovich Prize. It speaks volumes about the modern European zeitgeist that a major prize is named for Sakharov, but the founders of NATO—which protected Europe from Sakharov’s warheads—remain largely unknown. It goes without saying that the American taxpayer who paid for Europe’s defence (and who continues to do so) is entirely lost from sight. Europe’s cosmopolitan transnational elites much prefer believing that the years of peace and plenty were their creation, as opposed to their being the beneficiary of American good will beyond their control.

    Seth’s argument is well worth reading in full.

    Posted in Deep Thoughts, Europe, History, International Affairs, Military Affairs, Morality and Philosphy, National Security, Philosophy, Political Philosophy, Politics, Russia, USA, War and Peace | 1 Comment »

    The General, the Devil, and the Election

    Posted by David Foster on 10th September 2016 (All posts by )

    Heinz Guderian was a German general who played an important role in the development of Blitzkrieg tactics.  He was also a highly effective field commander, known to his men by the nickname “Hurrying Heinz.”

    Also not a bad writer–here’s his description of the character of Adolph Hitler:

    He had no real friend. His oldest Party comrades were, it is true, disciples, but they could hardly be described as friends. So far as I can see there was nobody who was really close to him. There was nobody in whom he would confide his deepest feelings. There was nobody with whom he could talk freely and openly. As he never found a true friend, so he was denied the ability to deeply love a woman. He remained unmarried. He had no children. Everything that on this earth that casts a glow of warmth over our life as mortals, friendship with fine men, the pure love for a wife, affection for one’s own children, all this was and remained for ever unknown to him. His path thru the world was a solitary one and he followed it alone, with only his gigantic plans for company.

    There is an interesting parallel between the above excerpt and a passage in Thomas Carlyle’s review of Faust, published in 1822:

    Mephistopheles is not the common devil of poetry, but one much more adapted to his functions.  It is evident that he was a devil from the first and can be nothing else.  He is emphatically ‘the Denyer’, he fears nothing, complains of nothing, hopes for nothing.  Magnanimity, devotion, affection, all that can sweeten or embellish existence, he looks upon as childish mummery.

    (No, I’m not accusing Guderian of plagiarism…there are things a lot worse than plagiarism of which he could be justly accused!  But it is very likely that he read Faust in school, and I wonder if he might have also been exposed to early commentary on the play, including the Carlyle piece.)

    While searching for the Guderian quote (in conjunction with my recent Faust post), I ran across this blog post, which attempts to draw parallels between Guderian’s description of Hitler’s character, and…the character of Donald Trump.  The blogger does this by interspersing passages from the Guderian quote with comments about Trump made by Mark Shields and David Brooks in a PBS Newshour appearance.

    (Now, personally, I don’t see why anyone would consider a man who evaluates presidential candidates by the quality of the crease of their trousers as a particularly good source for analysis and insight, but whatever…)

    Something is missing from the linked blog post, as it is from many similar Trump denunciations….and that is the name Hillary Clinton.  Because Trump isn’t running in a vacuum, he isn’t running against, say, JFK or Harry Truman or even Jimmy Carter; he is running against Hillary Clinton, and barring some unlikely event or events, one of the other of them is going to be President.

    And I would assert that whatever degree of match there might be between Trump’s character and the character outlined in the Guderian piece, the match is considerably stronger in the case of Hillary Clinton.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Elections, Germany, History, Leftism, Media, Trump, USA | 35 Comments »

    Worthwhile Watching

    Posted by David Foster on 4th September 2016 (All posts by )

    …especially for Labor Day weekend

    There probably aren’t too many TV series centered around a CNC machine shop…but there’s at least one, and it’s called Titans of CNC.  The producer and central figure, Titan Gilroy–yes, that’s his real name–grew up in rough circumstances, spent some time in prison, and eventually learned machine-tool operation and CNC programming. With these skills in hand, he built a pretty substantial business, Titan America, which is focused on precision machining, mainly producing components of products being made by larger companies.

    The program is about the challenges involved in the operation of Titan America and a portrait of some of its employees and customers.  It is also a passionate argument for the importance of manufacturing in America.  Sponsors include Autodesk, IMCO Carbide Tools, Haas Automation and GoEngineer.

    The series was made for a cable channel called MATV, which is owned by Lucas Oil Products and is targeted towards car people.  It’s available on Amazon streaming, which is where I’ve been watching it.

    There’s an interview with Titan in Manufacturing & Technology News.

    Posted in Business, Management, Media, Tech, USA | 11 Comments »

    The “Social Justice Movement” Claims Another Victim

    Posted by David Foster on 31st August 2016 (All posts by )

    A teenage girl in the UK has killed herself, apparently because of fears that she would be branded ‘racist’ or ‘Islamophobic’ after sending a joke photograph as an Instagram message.

    Never forget that Hillary Clinton is closely aligned with the ‘politically correct’ instigators and leaders of the kind of attack mobs..on-line and off-line…that this girl apparently feared.

    And given the current state of things in the UK, her fear was probably not irrational, though her action certainly was.   See this:  police are investigating social media critics of planned refugee center.

    “Although you may believe your message is acceptable, other people may take offence, and you could face a large fine up to two years in prison if your message is deemed to have broken the law” said an assistant chief constable.

    And in Manchester, a Police Chief Inspector for Greater Manchester, himself a Muslim, indicated that, according to his understanding, “freedom of speech does not mean freedom of offending culture, religion or tradition”.

    If you want people in the US to fear police visits as a result of ‘politically incorrect’ online communications or comments to friends, then you should do everything you can to help Hillary Clinton win the Presidency.

    Posted in Britain, Civil Liberties, Islam, USA | 19 Comments »

    The United States of Weimar? -continued-

    Posted by David Foster on 27th August 2016 (All posts by )

    In Minneapolis, attendees at a Trump rally were attacked by a mob.  Police were present, but no arrests were made.

    There have been similar incidents at other Trump rallies; see for example  this story from San Jose.

    Meanwhile, establishment journalists and academics wring their hands about how dangerous Trump is, while mostly ignoring the danger to the democratic process driven by the destructive behavior of  ‘progressive’ thugs…often enabled by winks and nods from ‘liberal’ government officials, who are all too happy to let them get away with it.

    Too much more of this, and I may have to remove the question mark from the line:  The United States of Weimar?

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Elections, Leftism, Trump, USA | 16 Comments »

    “A new governing aristocracy made public deception acceptable”

    Posted by Jonathan on 13th August 2016 (All posts by )

    Thoughts on the nexus between the growth of government and of an elite governing class, and the rise of flagrant, unaccountable, public lying by politicians and other officials who are members of that class:

    …This statistical fact is, however, also a good example how radically this new American “aristocracy” has changed America in recent decades. Even President Obama in his first election campaign, only eight years ago, still categorically rejected the label of being a “socialist” for fear of becoming unelectable. Only eight years later, Bernie Sanders, a declared Socialist would, likely, have become the elected Democratic presidential candidate, had the party leadership not undemocratically conspired against his election.
     
    [. . .]
     
    Many, maybe even most presidents before Clinton, of course, also have on occasion been less than truthful; but nobody, except of course Nixon (“I am not a crook”), has in recent history so blatantly lied to the American people as Bill Clinton and, yet, gotten away with it, in the process changing American politics for ever by demonstrating that the modern multimedia world practically always offers the opportunity to relativize the truth of the message (to quote Bill Clinton, “it depends what the meaning of ‘is’ is.”).
     
    The political “aristocracy” learned this lesson very quickly and, of course, nobody better than Hillary Clinton. She would never have dared to follow through with the absolute insane idea of establishing her own Internet server while serving as Secretary of State, had she not been convinced that she could manipulate the truth, should it be discovered. Piercing her words, as her husband had done so well during the Lewinsky Affair, she, indeed, has successfully avoided indictment by the Justice Department, even though a majority of Americans, likely, believe that she escaped because of special considerations by Obama’s Justice Department. Completely exposed in her deception by the FBI investigation, she, remarkably, still continues to lie in her statements to the public.

    Read the whole thing.

    Posted in Big Government, Civil Society, Culture, Current Events, Deep Thoughts, Media, Obama, Political Philosophy, Politics, Society, USA | 21 Comments »

    The Seven Threat Vectors Against Free Speech

    Posted by David Foster on 11th August 2016 (All posts by )

    Free speech…free expression generally…is under attack in America and throughout the Western world to a degree not seen in a long time.  I think there are seven specific phenomena, incarnated in seven (partially-overlapping) categories of people, which are largely driving this attack, to wit:

    The Thugs.  As I pointed out in my recent post The United States of Weimar?, illegal actions against political opponents–ranging from theft of newspapers to direct assault and battery–have in recent decades become increasingly common on university campuses, and now are well on track to being normalized as aspects of national political campaigns.

    The Assassins.  These individuals go beyond the level of violence practiced by the Thugs, and make credible death threats…which they attempt to carry out…against those whose actions or believe they view as unacceptable.  The majority of threats and attacks falling in this category have certainly been the doing of radical Muslims; however, some of the more extreme ‘environmentalist’ and ‘animal rights’ groups have also demonstrated Assassin tendencies.  At present, however, it is those Assassins who are radical Muslims who have been most successful in inhibiting free expression. Four years in hiding for an American cartoonist.

    The Wimps.  It seems that among the younger generations in America, there are a disproportionate number of people whose ‘self-esteem’ has been raised to such lofty but brittle levels that they cannot stand any challenge to their belief systems. Hence they are eager to sacrifice their own freedom of speech, as well as that of others, on the altar of ‘safety’ from disturbing words and thoughts.

    The Bureaucrats.  Bureaucrats, especially in the universities but also increasingly in the private sector, are eager to provide the altars for the sacrifice of free speech, with Star Chamber proceedings and various forms of witch-burnings.

    The Regulatory State.  The vast expansion of Federal regulatory activities and authority enables a wide range of adverse actions to be taken against individuals without the checks and balances of normal judicial proceedings. Witness, for example, the IRS persecution of conservative-leaning organizations (possibly extended to pro-Israel organizations as well.)  And the Bureaucrats in nominally-independent organizations are really often acting as agents and front men for the Regulatory State. (Consider the 2011 ‘Dear Colleague’ letter sent from the Department of Education to colleges and universities, regarding the handling of sexual assault allegations–which has had, the linked article argues, serious negative impact on free speech and due process.)

    The Theoreticians.  Various academics have developed the concept of ‘oppressive speech’ and have developed models which attempt to break down the distinction between speech and action.  Since everyone agrees that actions must be regulated to some degree, this tends to pave the way for tightened regulation of speech.  (I think the conflation of speech with action is particularly sellable to those who in their professional lives are Word People and/or Image People.  To a farmer or a machinist or even an electrical engineer, the distinction between speech and action is pretty crisp.  To a lawyer or an advertising person or to a professor (outside the hard sciences), maybe not so much.  And the percentage of Word People and Image People in the overall population has grown greatly.)

    The Fragility Feminists.  Actually, the word ‘Feminists’ should probably be in quotes, because the argument these people are making is in many ways the direct opposite of that made by the original feminists. There is a significant movement, again especially on college campuses, asserting that women are such fragile flowers that they must be endlessly protected from words that might upset them.  See the controversy over the name of the athletic center at the Colorado School of Mines…here I think we have the Bureaucrats and the Fragility Feminists making common cause, as they so often do.  For another (and particularly bizarre) case, read about professor Laura Kipnis, whose essay decrying ‘sexual paranoia on campus’ resulted in a Title IX inquisition against her.  In a particularly disturbing note, when Kipnis brought a ‘support person’ to her hearing, a Title IX complaint was filed against that person.

     

    Your thoughts?

    Posted in Academia, Big Government, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Deep Thoughts, Law, USA | 30 Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: My Next Paper: Counting Framers & Counting Originalists

    Posted by Jonathan on 10th August 2016 (All posts by )

    In 1995, the Amars (as have others before and since) argued that James Madison opposed legislative officer succession on constitutional grounds. This is a legal and historical meme or myth. Madison never stated that he thought that legislative officer succession was unconstitutional, at least as far as our historical records show. The original source involved indicates only that Congressman Madison was relaying news from the capital to Pendleton in Virginia—in private correspondence. Madison merely transmitted to Pendleton several arguments touching upon the constitutionality of the 1792 Act which had been made by others on the House floor during debate on the 1792 Act. There is no reason to believe that Madison agreed with any one or more of the particular arguments he transmitted to Pendleton.
     
    There are those today who wish to impugn the constitutional bona fidés of the modern 1947 Act, which like its 1792 predecessor, provides for legislative officer succession. There are some policy grounds for objecting to the 1947 Act—I do not suggest that all the policy arguments go in one direction. But I do state that rooting a modern constitutional objection in Madison’s voice or that of the Framers as a group is entirely ahistorical. In these circumstances, one cannot appeal the judgement of the Second Congress (as a whole) to the Framers (as a group), and if that appeal—for whatever reason—has, in the past, convinced some unwary authors and consumers of prior legal scholarship, it is only because some originalists cannot count.

    Read the rest.

    Posted in History, Law, USA | 1 Comment »

    Hillary & FBI Director Comey’s Cyber-Security “Broken Window”

    Posted by Trent Telenko on 1st August 2016 (All posts by )

    When FBI Director Comey publicly took a dive and sold out the rule of law in refusing to prosecute Hillary Clinton’s Cyber-security crimes.  He began a new chapter in providing evidence of the validity of “Broken Window Policing”  in the field of cyber-security. For which, see the following definition:

    The broken windows model of policing…focuses on the importance of disorder (e.g., broken windows) in generating and sustaining more serious crime. Disorder is not directly linked to serious crime; instead, disorder leads to increased fear and withdrawal from residents, which then allows more serious crime to move in because of decreased levels of informal social control.

    Hillary and the FBI Director Comey have advertised both outrageous cyber-security weakness and more importantly the breakdown of social mores of “the rule of law” in Federal Government cyber-security.  If you advertise you are weak, stupid and capricious in enforcing cyber-security, it is blood in the water for cyber-criminals of all sorts.

    Consider this not exhaustive list busted e-mail security associated with Hillary Clinton and her Democratic Party surrogates.

    1) Hillary’s email system on Bill Clinton’s server.
    .
    2) The Hillary Controlled Democrat National Committee email server.
    .
    3) The Democrat Congressional Candidates Committee server.
    .
    4) Hillary’s election campaign server.
    .
    5) Hillary’s several different illicit off-site email servers when she was Secretary of State.

    This is a very small fraction of the “Broken Window theory” as applied to cyber-crime.  What we see related to Hillary.  The problem here is that this sort of political corruption cannot be centralized.  If Hillary can do it and get away with it.  Exactly how many other illicit off-site e-mail accounts filled with Federal secrets are there now?  And how many more will there be between now and Jan 2017?

    Lois Lerner at IRS and the EPA director are both known to be using non-Federal government secured public e-mail systems as early as 2010.

    Exactly how many other officials at the State Department, Defense Department, Interior Department (Can you say Secret Service?), other non-departmental American intelligence bureaucracies, and the Federal Reserves are there?

    That is the real cyber-security “broken window” Hillary and FBI Director Comey have opened. And this is the cyber-security nightmare that will be with America for decades, barring a massive and systematic purge of everyone high and low associated with such behavior by a new President or after another — likely nuclear — Pearl Harbor.

    I’ll close with the following Sept 12, 2008 Obama campaign statement that applies in 2016:

    “Our economy wouldn’t survive without the Internet, and cyber-security continues to represent one our most serious national security threats,”  “It’s extraordinary that someone who wants to be our president and our commander in chief doesn’t know how to send an e-mail.”

    — Obama for President 2008 campaign spokesman Dan Pfeiffer.

     

    Posted in Big Government, Civil Society, Crime and Punishment, Elections, Human Behavior, USA, War and Peace | 8 Comments »

    About Those Job-Killing Robots

    Posted by David Foster on 30th July 2016 (All posts by )

    Every day, there are articles and blog posts about how quickly robots are replacing jobs, particularly in manufacturing.  These often include assertions along the lines of “robots are replacing human labor so rapidly and so completely that it doesn’t really matter whether the factories are in the US or somewhere else.” There are also many assertions that robotics and artificial intelligence will triumph so completely that we must accept that we will permanently have a huge unemployed population who will need to be paid a “basic income” of some sort from the government.

    This May, there were breathless headlines about how Foxconn, which is Apple’s primary contract manufacturer, was replacing 60,000 workers with robots–indeed, in some tellings, had already replaced them.  If you google “foxconn 60000 workers”, you will get about 130,000 hits.

    But the story, however, is false; indeed, it did not even originate with Foxconn but rather with some local Chinese government officials who wanted to promote their area as “innovative.”

    There has also been a lot of coverage of robotics at Adidas, which is trying to use automation to improve the labor productivity of shoe-making to the point that it can be done economically in high-wage countries such as Germany.  This article on Adidas also cites the Foxconn “60,000 jobs” assertion.

    One key pair of numbers is missing from the stories I’ve seen on the Adidas project:  the ratio of human workers to shoes produced, with and without the addition of the robotics. You can’t really judge the labor-reducing impact of the project without these numbers.  In this Financial Times article, Adidas is quoted as saying, entirely reasonably, that they will need to get further into production with their new factory before developing meaningful productivity numbers.  The article also cites Boston Consulting Group as estimating that by “2025 advanced robots will boost productivity by as much as 30 per cent in many industries.”  Thirty percent is a very significant number, but it’s a long, long way from a productivity increase that would imply that factory jobs don’t matter, or that we’re going to inevitably have a very large permanently-unemployed population.

    There are a lot of very significant innovations taking place in robotics and AI, but the hype level is getting a little out of hand.  And it’s important to remember that automation is not a new phenomenon.  For example, a CNC (computer numerically  controlled) machine tool is a robot, albeit it might not look like the popular conception of one, and these machines, together with their predecessor NC (numerically controlled) machines, have been common in industry since the 1970s. One thing that articles and blog posts on the topic of robotics/AI/jobs could benefit from is a little historical perspective: do today’s innovations really represent a sharp break upwards in labor productivity, or are they more of a continuation of a long-term trend?  And how, if it all,  is the effect of these technologies appearing in the productivity statistics?

    Posted in Deep Thoughts, Economics & Finance, Tech, USA | 28 Comments »

    Loyalty and Risk-Taking

    Posted by David Foster on 22nd July 2016 (All posts by )

    In one of the old Neptunus Lex posts that Bill Brandt has been rerunning at The Lexicans, Lex wrote about the man who was CO of his FA-18 training squadron:

    My student cohort held him in awe: We’d been told that he had received an Air Medal during the war for saving a squadron mate’s life, or his liberty anyway. The latter had come off target badly hit and managed to limp only as far as the harbor at Hai Phong before his machine came apart. The pilot had been forced to eject and was floating in his raft a mile or so off shore, when he saw an NVA patrol craft bounding out to seize him. The unlucky aviator was contemplating the austere amenities of the Hanoi Hilton when our CO roared overhead at 500 feet, firing a Shrike missile in boresight mode.

    The Shrike is an anti-radiation missile, designed to home on enemy radar and destroy it.  The radar-following mechanism is its only guidance system; the only way to hit a target that is not emitting radar is to get very close to it before you fire the missile–thereby placing yourself at considerable additional risk  Lex’s CO had taken that risk, destroying the North Vietnamese patrol craft, and making it possible for the shot-down pilot to be rescued by helicopter..

    Reading the story, I couldn’t help wondering:  which if any of our current crop of political candidates and leaders would–in the extremely unlikely event that they ever found themselves flying combat aircraft–have made the same decision?

    Posted in Human Behavior, Politics, USA, Vietnam, War and Peace | 25 Comments »

    Automated Systems Need to be Supervised by Humans

    Posted by David Foster on 17th July 2016 (All posts by )

    …and not just any humans.

    Listen to this very-well-done podcast about one of those times when thermonuclear war did not happen: Flirting with the end of the world.

    Automated systems need to be supervised by humans, and not just any humans, as Stanislav Petrov’s story makes clear.  Individuals and bureaucracies that themselves behave in a totally robotic fashion cannot be adequate supervisors of the automation.  See also my post Blood on the tracks for an additional example.

    Posted in History, Russia, Tech, USA, War and Peace | 9 Comments »

    The United States of Weimar?

    Posted by David Foster on 12th July 2016 (All posts by )

    There is much political violence in the US these days, ranging from attacks on Trump rally attendees to protesters at those rallies being sucker-punched to the politically and racially-motivated murder of police officers in Dallas to the throwing of Molotov cocktails at police in the state of Minnesota (where the social climate was once characterized by the term ‘Minnesota nice’)—and there is every prospect that the violence will get worse as the political season moves into full swing.  Indeed, it seems that political violence is in the process of being normalized in this country. To understand the roots of this malign phenomenon, I think it is important to look at what has been going on in America’s universities for the past decade and a half.

    In 2002, a pro-Israel event at San Francisco State University was interrupted by ‘protestors’, screaming things like “go back to Russia!” and “get out or we will kill you!’ and shoving Hillel students against a wall.  Laurie Zoloth, a campus Jewis leader “turned to the police and to every administrator I could find and asked them to remove the counter demonstrators from the Plaza, to maintain the separation of 100 feet that we had been promised. The police told me that they had been told not to arrest anyone, and that if they did, ‘it would start a riot.’  I told them that it already was a riot.”

    “This is the Weimar Republic with Brownshirts it cannot control” is how Professor Zoloth summed up the situation on her campus.

    This kind of Brownshirt behavior at an American university was by no means an isolated incident: there have been many, many cases of intimidation, vandalism, and outright violence being employed against campus groups and speakers which some people–those people being almost always self-defined ‘progressives’–do not like.

    At St Cloud University in Minnesota, for example, the College Republicans had a kiosk supporting Israel, complete with Israeli flag.  Two professors approached the booth and asserted that since the members of the group were not Jewish, they had no right to fly the Israeli flag!  One of the professors told a students that she would break his camera if he took her picture, and then tried to grab the camera–also, according to this report, also grabbed the student by the neck and slammed him up against the wall.  The university administration backed the professors, also asserting that non-Jews have no right to fly the Israeli flag.  (The real issue, I’m pretty sure, wasn’t that the students were non-Jewish, but rather that they were Republican.)

    At Yale in 2002, some students had set up a memorial to victims of a car bombing in Israel.  The memorial was destroyed by vandals. A week earlier, at the same university, a petition opposing divestment (ie, withdrawal of pension fund investments from companies doing business in Israel) was defaced–in the law school.

    Theft of newspapers containing unapproved viewpoints has become common at universities. In 2004, the entire press run of the Yale Free Press, a conservative publication, was stolen by people who did not want Yale students to be able to read the opinions contained therein.

    In Florida in 2004, a social sciences instructor at a community college walked into local Republican headquarters and punched a cardboard cutout of George W Bush…and then, according to this report, also punched a Republican official in the face.  The punchee reports that the assailant “proceeded to say how he had a Ph.D., and he was smarter than me. I’m a stupid Republican,” and other comments laced with obscenities.

    In 2006, “Protestors” of the Brownshirt variety attempted to disrupt a scheduled speech by Congressman Tom Tancredo. The chairman of the campus organization that had sponsored the event was kicked and spat upon by some of the thugs, and the building fire alarms were pulled twice.

    Also in 2006, at Columbia University, left-wing students distrupted a speech hosted by the College Republicans. Angry students stormed the stage, shouting and knocking over chairs and tables and succeeding in their intent to prevent Jim Gilchrist (founder of the anti-illegal-immigration group known as the Minuteman) from delivering his talk. Columbia Public Safety did nothing to prevent the disruption. Christopher Kulawik, the College Republican president, told The New York Sun he was berated afterward by Columbia University administrators for allowing the speakers to say anything that would infuriate the crowd.

    A week later, Columbia administrators interfered with another event planned by the College Republicans. The scheduled speaker was Walid Shoebat, a former PLO terrorist who saw the error of his ways and is now a supporter of Israel and the U.S. Just 3 hours before the event was to take place, a Columbia administrator sent an e-mail uninviting many of those who had already RSVP’d for the event–some of whom were already in transit. Apparently, Columbia was afraid of a repetition of the earlier disruption, and preferred to deny legitimate attendees their right to hear Mr Shoebat speak, rather than to take effective action against thuggishness by beefing up security and expelling disrupters.

    In 2008, Robert Spencer spoke at U Wisconsin-Madison, on the subject of the thread from jihad.  He says:

    I got off the phone a little while ago with one of the student organizers of my address tonight at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. He told me that I would be led to and from the stage via secret passageway; that thirty security personnel would be on hand (in addition to my own); that attendees would have to pass through metal detectors; and that a bomb-sniffing dog would also be on hand…and also: The Rushdiean security precautions and these warnings were all necessary because of the fascist tactics of trying to intimidate and shout down opponents that students and others at UWM have employed in the past against speakers such as David Horowitz. 

    In 2003, former Israeli cabinet minister Natan Sharansky visited several US campuses:

    When I got to Rutgers University in New Jersey last month, I almost forgot I was on a college campus. The atmosphere was far from the cool, button-down academic reserve typical of such institutions. It was more reminiscent of a battlefield…Things were not much calmer at Boston University: An anonymous bomb threat brought swarms of police to the lecture hall and almost forced a cancellation of my appearance. But here, too, some good resulted when the bomb threat caused the lecture to be moved to a larger hall, which was quickly filled with some 600 listeners who were unwilling to accept the violent silencing of pro-Israel views.

    and

    During a frank and friendly conversation with a group of Jewish students at Harvard University, one student admitted to me that she was afraid — afraid to express support for Israel, afraid to take part in pro-Israel organizations, afraid to be identified. The mood on campus had turned so anti-Israel that she was afraid that her open identification could cost her, damaging her grades and her academic future. That her professors, who control her final grades, were likely to view such activism unkindly, and that the risk was too great.

    Having grown up in the communist Soviet Union, I am very familiar with this fear to express one’s opinions, with the need to hold the “correct opinions” in order to get ahead, with the reality that expressing support for Israel is a blot on one’s resume. But to find all these things at Harvard Business School? In a place that was supposed to be open, liberal, professional? At first I thought this must be an individual case, particular to this student. I thought her fears were exaggerated. But my conversations with other students at various universities made it clear that her feelings are widespread, that the situation on campuses in the United States and Canada is more serious than we think. And this is truly frightening.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Current Events, Germany, History, Society, USA | 49 Comments »

    “Obama rips ‘bigotry’ and ‘xenophobia’ with Ramadan message”

    Posted by Jonathan on 7th July 2016 (All posts by )

    Nolan D. McCaskill at Politico.com:

    President Barack Obama sent a message to Donald Trump on Wednesday in a statement marking the end of Ramadan, calling on Americans to renew their commitment to protecting Muslim Americans against bigotry and xenophobia.

    Obama seems to want to teach Americans to like Islam whether they want to or not.

    Nancy Reagan famously said “Kinder than who?” in response to GHW Bush’s “kinder, gentler nation” remark in his 1988 RNC acceptance speech. In Obama’s case we might ask, “Bigotry and xenophobia” from whom? That’s a rhetorical question, BTW.

    (Via The Right Coast.)

    Posted in Holidays, Islam, Obama, Quotations, USA | 14 Comments »

    Clinton Comey?

    Posted by Charles Cameron on 5th July 2016 (All posts by )

    [ cross-posted from Zenpundit — questions relating to the ongoing CBz discussion, FBI Kills Rule of Law — Refuses to Indict Hillary Over Her E-mails — with a side dish of Tzipi Livni ]
    .

    Ckinton Comey
    photo credit: Greg Nash via The Hill

    I’ll be socratic here, asking questions to illuminate my hunches.

    **

    I’m seldom fully convinced by anything that comes from the left and reads the way I’d expect the left to read, and seldom convinced by anything that comes from the right and reads the way I’d expect the right to read, so I don’t take the left’s assertions downplaying H Clinton’s security behavior with reflex belief, and on the whole I’m inclined to follow John Schindler, who — both as an ex-NSA analyst and as a regular at The Observer — takes a very hard line on Clinton’s security behavior, writing just a couple of weeks ago under the title, The Coming Constitutional Crisis Over Hillary Clinton’s EmailGate.

    I also follow War on the Rocks, though, and was struck a while back by a post there from Mark Stout, drawing some interesting distinctions in line with its subtitle, “A former intelligence analyst who worked at both the CIA and the State Department explains how different approaches to classifying information sits at the heart of the scandal that threatens to undo Hillary Clinton.”

    Which does somewhat complicate matters, while somewhat helping us understand them.

    **

    I’m neither an American nor a lawyer, and as someone who is generally inclined more to bridge-building than to taking sides in any case, I don’t feel qualified to debate the Comey-Clinton affair – but was interested to see emptywheel’s Marcy Wheeler, whom I take to be leftish, coming out today describing Comey’s decision as an “improper public prosecutorial opinion”. She writes:

    Understand, though: with Sterling and Drake, DOJ decided they were disloyal to the US, and then used their alleged mishandling of classified information as proof that they were disloyal to the US ..Ultimately, it involves arbitrary decisions about who is disloyal to the US, and from that a determination that the crime of mishandling classified information occurred.

    Comey, in turn, seems to have made it pretty clear that “Secretary Clinton or her colleagues“ were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information” – specifically:

    .. seven email chains concern matters that were classified at the Top Secret/Special Access Program level when they were sent and received.  These chains involved Secretary Clinton both sending emails about those matters and receiving emails from others about the same matters.

    **

    Is there, in your views, special treatment in this matter for persons of high rank present here?

    livni

    And out of curiosity, if so, do you see a similar case of special treatment for persons of high rank over in the UK, known to be substantially less Israel-friendly than the US, where Scotland Yard wanted to question Tzipi Livni about alleged Israeli war crimes in Gaza under her watch as Foreign Minister, and “after diplomatic talks” Livni was “granted special diplomatic immunity”?

    **

    On the one hand, I don’t like show-trials, trials-by-press, banana courts or mob justice, and far prefer just laws justly applied – and on the other, I can understand that the scrutiny those in high office find themselves under can render them legally vulnerable in ways that may unduly influence their decision-making – and justice may be platonically blind, but is not always uniformly applied in practice. Such, it seems to me, is the human dilemma.

    What say you?

    Posted in Britain, Current Events, Elections, Israel, Law, Miscellaneous, National Security, Politics, USA | 19 Comments »

    Shall It Be Sustained?

    Posted by David Foster on 4th July 2016 (All posts by )

    For the 4th of July of 2014,  Cassandra had an excellent post:  Independence in an Age of Cynicism.  I recommend the entire post and all the links; read especially the third linked essay, which Cass wrote in 2008:  Why I Am Patriotic: a Love Letter to America.

    For the last several years, on July 4th I’ve posted an excerpt from Stephen Vincent Benet’s poem Listen to the People.  The title I’ve used for these posts prior to 2013 was It Shall Be Sustained, which is from the last line of Benet’s poem.

    Narrator:

    This is Independence Day,
    Fourth of July, the day we mean to keep,
    Whatever happens and whatever falls
    Out of a sky grown strange;
    This is firecracker day for sunburnt kids,
    The day of the parade,
    Slambanging down the street.
    Listen to the parade!
    There’s J. K. Burney’s float,
    Red-white-and-blue crepe-paper on the wheels,
    The Fire Department and the local Grange,
    There are the pretty girls with their hair curled
    Who represent the Thirteen Colonies,
    The Spirit of East Greenwich, Betsy Ross,
    Democracy, or just some pretty girls.
    There are the veterans and the Legion Post
    (Their feet are going to hurt when they get home),
    The band, the flag, the band, the usual crowd,
    Good-humored, watching, hot,
    Silent a second as the flag goes by,
    Kidding the local cop and eating popsicles,
    Jack Brown and Rosie Shapiro and Dan Shay,
    Paul Bunchick and the Greek who runs the Greek’s,
    The black-eyed children out of Sicily,
    The girls who giggle and the boys who push,
    All of them there and all of them a nation.
    And, afterwards,
    There’ll be ice-cream and fireworks and a speech
    By somebody the Honorable Who,
    The lovers will pair off in the kind dark
    And Tessie Jones, our honor-graduate,
    Will read the declaration.
    That’s how it is. It’s always been that way.
    That’s our Fourth of July, through war and peace,
    That’s our fourth of July.

    And a lean farmer on a stony farm
    Came home from mowing, buttoned up his shirt
    And walked ten miles to town.
    Musket in hand.
    He didn’t know the sky was falling down
    And, it may be, he didn’t know so much.
    But people oughtn’t to be pushed around
    By kings or any such.
    A workman in the city dropped his tools.
    An ordinary, small-town kind of man
    Found himself standing in the April sun,
    One of a ragged line
    Against the skilled professionals of war,
    The matchless infantry who could not fail,
    Not for the profit, not to conquer worlds,
    Not for the pomp or the heroic tale
    But first, and principally, since he was sore.
    They could do things in quite a lot of places.
    They shouldn’t do them here, in Lexington.

    He looked around and saw his neighbors’ faces

    The poem is very long, and is worth reading in full. The full text was published in Life Magazine; it is online here. The Life text may be a little difficult to read; I posted an excerpt which is considerably longer than the above here.

    Benet’s poem ends with these words:

    We made it and we make it and it’s ours
    We shall maintain it. It shall be sustained

    But shall it?

    Posted in History, Holidays, USA | 11 Comments »

    The Paving on the Road to Hell

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 3rd July 2016 (All posts by )

    That paving was laid down in California over the last few weeks; first by attendees at a Donald Trump rally in San Jose being harassed and physically attacked after the rally by protestors – and this with the apparent acquiescence (or possibly the tacit encouragement) of the San Jose Police Department, and then again in Sacramento a week ago, when a protest organized on the grounds of the California State Capitol in Sacramento by a group calling themselves the  Traditionalist Worker Party –  variously described as white supremacists or neo-Nazis – was attacked by a group proudly identifying themselves as anti-fascist. As was reported in the Los Angeles Times, when last Sunday’s rally began, “Waiting for them were counter-protesters, including members of the anti-fascist organization Antifa Sacramento, which had promoted a “Shut Down Nazi Rally” event on its website…”

    The Traditionalist Worker Party members, whatever their merits or lack thereof, had a permit for a demonstration, and in the larger understanding of things, a perfect right to make fools of themselves in public, just as it was found in 1978 – that a neo-Nazi organization had the perfect right to march through Skokie, Illinois. No less a luminary than the ACLU defended that as a matter of free speech and the exercise thereof. Personally, I find it ironic that the so-called anti-fascists are acting more like actual, historic fascists than those they loudly accuse of being fascists. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Conservatism, Current Events, Law Enforcement, Leftism, Politics, USA | 22 Comments »

    Worthwhile Reading

    Posted by David Foster on 27th June 2016 (All posts by )

    No aesthetically-appealing photos or amusing stories today, I’m afraid, just some very serious links and excerpts.

    The rockets of Hezbollah.  I knew they had accumulated considerable weaponry, but didn’t know it was this bad.

    Men, women, Christianity, and Islam

    Kevin Williamson on  preventing jihadist violence

    The impact of Islamic fundamentalism on free speech

    James Schall of Georgetown University on Orlando in hindsight:

    The Orlando killer was not alone. He was a true believer and other believers in the mission of Islam inspire him. Neither he nor any of his predecessors or future companions are to be explained by psychology, economics, or sociology. They are to be explained by taking their word for what they are doing. If the President of the United States or the British Prime Minister, the media, the professors, the clerics, cannot or will not understand this reality, we cannot blame ISIS and its friends. They are also realists who understand where ideas and reality meet, sometimes on a battlefield in Iraq, sometimes in a night club in Orlando.

    The Democrats as the American Totalist Party

    Football player Herschel Walker reports that he has had speaking engagements canceled because of his support for Donald Trump.   Which is exactly the kind of action one would expect from members of a Totalist party.

    Shortly before the Brexit vote, writer Frederick Forsyth wrote about the basic character of the EU:  Government by deception:

    You have repeatedly been told this issue is all about economics. That is the conman’s traditional distraction. This issue is about our governmental system, parliamentary. Democracy versus non-elective bureaucracy utterly dedicated to the eventual Superstate.

    Our democracy was not presented last week on a plate. It took centuries of struggle to create and from 1940 to 1945 terrible sacrifices to defend and preserve. 

    It was bequeathed to us by giants, it has been signed away by midgets.

    Now we have a chance, one last, foolishly offered chance to tell those fat cats who so look down upon the rest of us: yes, there will be some costs – but we want it back.

    A former ‘big proponent’ of the EU has this to say:

    To be fair, the EU’s main problem has always been its troubled relationship with democracy…This contempt for the will of the people might still be perceived as tolerable if the leaders otherwise seemed sensible – but now that someone as bad as Merkel calls the shots in EU, we’re reminded of just why having perpetual democratic safeguards is so important…the EU’s contempt for European voters and its current attempts to shut down dissenting voices bodes ill for its ability to course-correct on its own. If the EU is to be saved, it first needs to be humbled, nay, outright humiliated in such a manner that no-one can doubt that recent developments can’t be allowed to continue.

    John Hussman  of Hussman Funds looks at Brexit from an economic and investing perspective:  Brexit and the bubble in search of a pin.  He quotes his own post from last month:

    My impression is that the best way to understand the next stage of the current market cycle is to recognize the difference between observed conditions and latent risks. This distinction will be most helpful before, not after, the S&P 500 drops hundreds of points in a handful of sessions. That essentially describes how a coordinated attempt by trend-followers to exit this steeply overvalued market could unfold, since value-conscious investors may have little interest in absorbing those shares at nearby prices, and in equilibrium, every seller requires a buyer.

    Imagine the error of skating on thin ice and plunging through. While we might examine the hole in the ice in hindsight, and find some particular fracture that contributed to the collapse, this is much like looking for the particular pebble of sand that triggers an avalanche, or the specific vibration that triggers an earthquake. In each case, the collapse actually reflects the expression of sub-surface conditions that were already in place long before the collapse – the realization of previously latent risks.

    Posted in Big Government, Britain, Christianity, Civil Liberties, Economics & Finance, Elections, Europe, Islam, Leftism, Terrorism, USA | 15 Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: Some Late Thoughts on the American Civil War and Southern Identity

    Posted by Jonathan on 26th June 2016 (All posts by )

    What I learned was that these gentlemen were entirely comfortable with their U.S. identity. They did not pine for the Confederacy to rise again. They did not blame the U.S. military for Confederate wartime deaths. There was no anger in connection with Sherman’s march, and the destruction of southern cities, farms, infrastructure, and other public & private property. So what exactly did bother them–what precisely was their beef? It was The Battle Hymn of the Republic. It upset them to no end. I was young then. Perhaps, I should have understood why it upset them so much. In my defence, I can say, after some years (decades) of reflection, I figured it out.

    Interesting thoughts. More here.

    Posted in Anglosphere, Civil Society, Culture, Deep Thoughts, History, Music, Religion, USA, War and Peace | 7 Comments »

    Brexit, Predictions and Trump

    Posted by Jonathan on 24th June 2016 (All posts by )

    The bookies, until the votes were being counted, were showing greater than 2:1 odds against Brexit in yesterday’s referendum. The subsequent Brexit victory appears to confirm the hypothesis that many Brits were lying to pollsters.

    The bookies are showing odds of around 3:1 against a Trump victory in our presidential election. Arguing predictions is a fool’s game, but it may be that our election polls are wrong for the same reason as the Brexit polls apparently were. The Democrats and their media allies have demonized Trump as a racist and misogynist, and it seems likely that many people who intend to vote for him aren’t admitting it. We’ll know soon enough.

    Posted in Anglosphere, Big Government, Britain, Current Events, Elections, Human Behavior, International Affairs, Media, Politics, Polls, Predictions, Trump, USA | 10 Comments »

    Jim Bennett’s New Book

    Posted by Jonathan on 22nd June 2016 (All posts by )

    A Time For Audacity: New Options Beyond Europe

    —-

    As we approach tomorrow’s long-awaited referendum on continued UK membership in the European Union, James C. Bennett, author of The Anglosphere Challenge, co-author of America 3.0 and friend of this blog has a new short book out that deserves attention.

    From the book’s Amazon page:

    For Britons, Canadians, Australians, and New Zealanders, and their friends and allies, the time has come to consider an audacious option. It is time for many reasons. One is that each of you today faces a series of critical decisions about what and who you are and will be. Britain less than two years ago passed one such decision point, which is whether the historical British Union of the four nations would continue together. Although the option of full independence for Scotland was rejected, the question of how the four nations will work together, and in what sort of framework, has now been opened, and it is time for the options that this book will discuss to be part of that discussion.
     
    Now, Britain is on the verge of making another decision threshold about another Union. Again, this is an issue where the answer appears obvious to an outsider, but seems to be a matter of great controversy within the UK. There may be valid reasons why Britain might not want to exit the European Union, but the lack of adequate alternatives for closer trade relations and partnership should not be one of them. Ironically, many of the arguments of advocates of British membership in the EU work better as an argument for the option presented in this work, a Union of the Commonwealth Realms.

    You can read the rest and order the book (Kindle download only) here.

    Posted in America 3.0, Anglosphere, Book Notes, Britain, Conservatism, Current Events, Europe, North America, Politics, USA | 3 Comments »

    Common Sense Gun Legislation

    Posted by TM Lutas on 19th June 2016 (All posts by )

    A common criticism of the pro side of the gun debate is that it is unwilling to get behind common sense reforms to improve things in the realm of firearms. I would say this is nonsense and that there are plenty of legislative reforms that the pro side would get behind. Here is a selection.

    Eliminate ageism and sexism in 10 USC 311 by extending membership in the unorganized militia to be equal to the organized militia. We’re not in the 1950s anymore but this law has not been updated since 1958.

    Pass a sense of the Congress resolution that the unorganized militia is a part of the security system of the United States of America and that like all other parts of the security system shall be regularly evaluated on how it can be made more effective.

    Encourage the increase and enhancement of responsible gun culture to spread beyond the current concealed carry community to the general public with the goal of reducing the general gun crime rate of the general public to approximate that of the concealed carry community.

    Demonstrating responsible gun ownership to a state via a concealed carry license in one’s state of residence shall be treated like a drivers license and recognized throughout the country.

    Please discuss and add other items in comments.

    Posted in Military Affairs, Politics, USA | 61 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 13th June 2016 (All posts by )

    Obama isn’t much of a defender of the United States in word or deed. He prefers to stand up for the good name of Islam. When it comes to the defense of Islam, he’s got his heart is in it.

    -Scott Johnson: “Obama’s Heart”, at Power Line

    Posted in Anti-Americanism, Current Events, Islam, Leftism, Middle East, Obama, Political Philosophy, Quotations, Terrorism, USA, War and Peace | 26 Comments »