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  • Archive for the 'Civil Liberties' Category

    American Alpha Male Test

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 17th April 2018 (All posts by )

    (inspired by Are You an Alpha or a Beta Male? Take Our 20-Question Quiz and Find Out and the Bill of Rights)

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anglosphere, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Diversions, Education, Law, Law Enforcement, Religion, The Press, USA | 23 Comments »

    So, Really Want to Talk About Foreign Intervention?

    Posted by David Foster on 3rd April 2018 (All posts by )

    Much ink and many photons have been spent discussing Russia’s attempts to influence (or at least disrupt) the American 2016 Presidential campaign.  Meanwhile…

    Here’s an appalling story about how anger from the Chinese government led Marriott Corporation to fire an employee who had ‘liked’ a tweet which congratulated the company for listing Tibet as a country, along with Hong Kong and Taiwan….of course, the Chinese regime considers Tibet to be a part of China, not a separate country.

    China forced Marriott to suspend all online booking for a week at its nearly 300 Chinese hotels. A Chinese leader also demanded the company publicly apologize and “seriously deal with the people responsible,” the Journal reported.

    And boy, did Marriott ever apologize. Craig Smith, president of the hotel chain’s Asian division, told the China Daily that Marriott had committed two significant mistakes — presumably the survey listing Tibet and the liked tweet — that “appeared to undermine Marriott’s long-held respect for China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

    He announced an “eight-point rectification plan” that included education for hotel employees across the globe and stricter supervision.

    And the Marriott executive said this to China’s most-read English-language newspaper: “This is a huge mistake, probably one of the biggest in my career.”

    (More here…according to this article, the Chinese suppression of Marriott bookings was in response to the initial listing of Tibet as a country rather than to the tweet approving of this listing)

    The Chinese economy is, shall we say, a little more dynamic than that of Russia, so the government of China has much more ability to strong-arm American corporations (in general) than does the Putin regime.

    Turning now from the hotel industry to the movie industry, Richard Gere says that Chinese pressure due to his stand on Tibetan independence has led to his being dropped from big Hollywood movies.  Also:

    Gere’s activities have not just made Hollywood apparently reluctant to cast him in big films, he says they once resulted in him being banished from an independently financed, non-studio film which was not even intended for a Chinese release.

    “There was something I was going to do with a Chinese director, and two weeks before we were going to shoot, he called saying, ‘Sorry, I can’t do it,’” Gere recalled. “We had a secret phone call on a protected line. If I had worked with this director, he, his family would never have been allowed to leave the country ever again, and he would never work.”

    See also How China’s Censors Influence Hollywood.  Because the Chinese market is so large…(Fast and Furious 7 pulled in $388 million in China, more than it made in the US)…the influence of the Chinese regime on US film production and distribution has become immense.

    In recent years, foreign filmmakers have also gone out of their way not to provoke the Communist Party. For instance, the 2012 remake of the Cold War action movie, Red Dawn, originally featured Chinese soldiers invading an American town. After filming was complete, though, the moviemakers went back and turned the attacking army into North Koreans, which seemed a safer target, at least until last year’s hack of Sony Pictures.

    and

    Ying Zhu, a professor of media culture at the College of Staten Island at the City University of New York, worries China’s growing market power is giving the Communist Party too much leverage over Hollywood.

    “The Chinese censors can act as world film police on how China can be depicted, how China’s government can be depicted, in Hollywood films,” she says. “Therefore, films critical of the Chinese government will be absolutely taboo.”

    In the late 1990s, when China’s box office was still small, Hollywood did make movies that angered the Communist Party, such as Seven Years In Tibet, about the life of the Dalai Lama, and Red Corner, a Richard Gere thriller that criticized China’s legal system. Given the importance of the China market now, Zhu says those movies wouldn’t get financing today.

    Plus, Chinese companies have snapped up Hollywood studios, theaters and production companies.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Business, China, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Environment, Film, Media, Russia, Science, Tech, USA | 34 Comments »

    Quote of the Day (Follow Up)

    Posted by Jonathan on 29th March 2018 (All posts by )

    Conrad Black:

    Mr. Trump isn’t the problem, but among the symptoms of the problem are that the director and deputy director of the FBI have been fired for cause as the Bureau virtually became the dirty-tricks arm of the Democratic National Committee, and that, as the Center for Media Studies and Pew Research have both recorded, 90% of national-press comment on Mr. Trump is hostile. Mr. Trump may have aggravated some of the current nastiness, but his chief offense has been breaking ranks with the bipartisan coalition that produced the only period of absolute and relative decline in American history.

    I think Black is too harsh on George W. Bush but this column is otherwise excellent.

    Posted in Anglosphere, Big Government, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Law, Law Enforcement, Media, North America, Politics, Systems Analysis, Tea Party, Trump | 3 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 26th March 2018 (All posts by )

    Conrad Black:

    Here are two current examples of [the failings of the legal system and of journalism]: Canadians don’t like Donald Trump, largely because his confident and sometimes boorish manner is un-Canadian. He is in some respects a caricature of the ugly American. But he has been relentlessly exposing the U.S. federal police (FBI) as having been politicized and virtually transformed into the dirty tricks division of the Democratic National Committee. Few now doubt that the former FBI director, James Comey, was fired for cause, and the current director, backed by the impartial inspector general and Office of Professional Responsibility, asserts that Comey’s deputy director, Andrew McCabe, was also fired for cause. There are shocking revelations of the Justice Department’s illegal use of the spurious Steele dossier, paid for by the Clinton campaign, and of dishonest conduct in the Clinton email investigation, the propagation of the nonsense that Trump had colluded with Russia, and of criminal indiscretions and lies in sworn testimony by Justice officials. It is an epochal shambles without the slightest precedent in American history (certainly not the Watergate piffle), yet our media slavishly cling to a faded story of possible impeachable offences by the president.
     
    The American refusal to adhere to the Paris climate accord is routinely portrayed as anti-scientific heresy and possibly capitulation to corrupt oil interests. The world’s greatest polluters, China and India, did not promise to do anything in that accord; Europe uttered platitudes of unlimited elasticity, and Barack Obama, for reasons that may not be entirely creditable, attempted to commit the United States to reducing its carbon footprint by 26 per cent, at immense cost in jobs and money, when there is no proof that carbon has anything to do with climate and the United States under nine presidents of both parties has done more for the ecology of the world than any other country. Journalistic failure on this scale, and across most of what is newsworthy, added to an education system that is more of a Luddite day-care network, produces a steadily less informed public, who, while increasingly tyrannized by lawyers, elect less capable public office-holders.
     
    Lenin famously wrote: “What is to be done?” We must ask ourselves the same question but come up with a better answer than he did.

     

    Posted in Anglosphere, Big Government, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Law, Law Enforcement, Media, North America, Politics, Systems Analysis, Tea Party, Trump | 8 Comments »

    Strange Comparison, Dangerous Conclusion

    Posted by David Foster on 25th March 2018 (All posts by )

    About a week ago, the WSJ ran an article titled Mark Zuckerberg is No James Madison.  The article argues that a constitution is similar to a block of computer code—a valid point, although I would argue it is also true of legislation and contracts in general…both the code, and the constitution/law/contract must be sufficiently clear and unambiguous to be executable without reference to their originators.

    Then the article goes on to say that ‘the Constitution understands human nature.  Facebook, dangerously at times does not.  In designing the Constitution, Madison managed to appeal to people’s better angels while at the same time calculating man’s capacity to harm and behave badly. Facebook’s designers, on the other hand, appear to have assumed the best about people. They apparently expected users to connect with friends only in benign ways. While the site features plenty of baby and puppy photos, it has also become a place where ISIS brags about beheadings and Russians peddling misinformation seek to undermine the institutions of a free society.’

    The attempt to create a parallel between Zuckerberg and Madison is a strange one, IMO, given the completely different nature of the work the two men were doing. Madison was attempting to create a new model for a self-governing country, Zuckerberg was attempting to make money for himself and his investors, and maybe to provide a little fun and value for his users along the way.

    What I find especially problematic is the ‘therefore’ that the author draws:

    Facebook insists it is not a media company. Maybe so. But unless it takes on the responsibilities of an editor and publisher by verifying the identities of users, filtering content that runs on its platform, and addressing the incentives to post specious or inflammatory “facts,” Facebook should expect to be policed externally.

    But is Facebook really a publisher, or it is it more of a printer?  If someone..Ben Franklin in the mid-1700s or some corporation today…is running a printing shop, running printing jobs for all who will pay, should he or it be held accountable for validating the truth of the material printed and verifying the identities of the customers?

    Read the rest of this entry »

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    Posted in Advertising, Blogging, Business, Civil Liberties, Deep Thoughts, Elections, Law, Tech | 23 Comments »

    What Happened Last Weekend ?

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 23rd January 2018 (All posts by )

    Last weekend, the Democrats in the Senate refused to vote for a Continuing Resolution to fund the US government.

    Why ? Because they wanted a law to legalize the thousands of illegal aliens in a status called “DACA” or Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals.

    The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) was an American immigration policy that allowed some individuals who entered the country as minors, and had either entered or remained in the country illegally, to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and to be eligible for a work permit.

    Thus these illegal aliens were given the right to remain and to work in this country. Why ?

    The policy was established by executive action rather than legislation; however, participating individuals were sometimes referred to as Dreamers after the DREAM Act bill, a bipartisan bill first proposed in 2001 that was the first of a number of subsequent bills in the U.S. House and Senate attempting to provide a pathway to citizenship or other legal status for certain undocumented residents who immigrated illegally as children and subsequently completed some college or military service.[2]

    This is mostly a myth.

    Victor Davis Hanson explains some of the mythology.

    College graduation and military service are often referenced as DACA talking points. In truth, some studies suggest that just one in 20 dreamers graduated from college. One in a 1,000 has served in the military. So far, about eight times more Dreamers have not graduated from high school than have graduated from college.

    I examine military applicants and am unaware of any “Dreamers.”

    Then again, are the DACA people just 700,000 ? Or are they millions ?

    To be eligible, illegal immigrants must have entered the United States before their 16th birthday and prior to June 2007, be currently in school, a high school graduate or be honorably discharged from the military, be under the age of 31 as of June 15, 2012, and not have been convicted of a felony, significant misdemeanor or three other misdemeanors, or otherwise pose a threat to national security. The program does not provide lawful status or a path to citizenship,[39] nor does it provide eligibility for federal welfare or student aid.

    They are widely eligible for free college education or, at least, to be given resident status for tuition.

    Many of these people entered as “Unaccompanied Minors. “

    A significant number are teenaged gangsters like the MS 13 gangs in Maryland and Virginia.

    Almost one-third of 214 U.S.-based MS-13 gang members arrested in an international sweep were invited into the United States by President Barack Obama’s “Unaccompanied Alien Children” policy.
    The successful “Raging Bull’ sweep was announced by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Deputy Director Tom Homan in a joint press conference at ICE headquarters in Washington, D.C. on Thursday.

    Read the rest of this entry »

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    Posted in Civil Liberties, Elections, Immigration | 47 Comments »

    A Pretty Good Explanation of the “Russia did it” story.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 12th December 2017 (All posts by )

    This is an article that was deleted from Huffington Post without explanation after a long time contributor submitted it.

    Here is the Deep State at work.

    A lesson of the 2016 campaign was that growing numbers of Americans are fed up with three decades of neoliberal policies that have fabulously enriched the top tier of Americans and debased a huge majority of the citizenry. The population has likewise grown tired of the elite’s senseless wars to expand their own interests, which these insiders try to conflate with the entire country’s interests.

    America’s bipartisan rulers are threatened by popular discontent from both left and right. They were alarmed by the Bernie Sanders insurgency and by Donald Trump’s victory, even if Trump is now betraying the discontented masses who voted for him by advancing tax and health insurance plans designed to further crush them and benefit the wealthy.

    He is obviously not a Trump fan but his criticism of both sides sounds pretty accurate.

    I’ve pitched numerous news stories critical of U.S. foreign policy to a major American newspaper that were rejected or changed in the editorial process. One example is the declassified Defense Intelligence Agency document of August 2012 that accurately predicted the rise of the Islamic State two years later.

    The document, which I confirmed with a Pentagon spokesman, said the U.S. and its Turkish, European and Gulf Arab allies, were supporting the establishment of a Salafist principality in eastern Syria to put pressure on the Syrian government, but the document warned that this Salafist base could turn into an “Islamic State.”

    But such a story would undermine the U.S. government’s “war on terrorism” narrative by revealing that the U.S.-backed strategy actually was risking the expansion of the jihadists’ foothold in Syria. The story was twice rejected by my editors and has received attention almost entirely — if not exclusively — on much-smaller independent news Web sites.

    Again, he is a left winger but so was the guy who originally published the Deep State argument on Bill Moyer’s site.

    The concerns may be distorted by the writer’s own bias but the reality is that we are all threatened.

    Much of this spreading global hysteria and intensifying censorship traces back to Russia-gate. Yet, it remains remarkable that the corporate media has failed so far to prove any significant Russian interference in the U.S. election at all. Nor have the intelligence agencies, Congressional investigations and special prosecutor Robert Mueller. His criminal charges so far have been for financial crimes and lying to federal authorities on topics unrelated to any “collusion” between the Trump campaign and Russians to “hack” Democratic emails.

    It’s a long article and marred a bit by the writer’s left wing bias but it is worth reading.

    More Deep State News.

    In an otherwise well-buried interview between former interim CIA Director Mike Morell, (the temp director following Petraeus ouster used during initial Benghazi cover), there’s an admission by Morell about the politicized Deep State Intelligence leadership targeting candidate Donald Trump.

    What this interview tells CTH is that the Intelligence Community, writ large, is on the precipice of massive institutional change -perhaps high level firings of remaining mid level operators and management- and those who participated in the historic politicization are now attempting to shape an explanation.

    The CIA was participating in Hillary’s campaign.

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    Posted in Big Government, Civil Liberties, Elections | 8 Comments »

    The Fastest-Growing Job Category of the Decade?

    Posted by David Foster on 2nd December 2017 (All posts by )

    In Robert Heinlein’s SF novel Revolt in 2100, American society fallen under the rule of a rigid theocracy.  The protagonist is introduced in the following passage…

    It was cold on the rampart. I slapped my numbed hands together, then stopped hastily for fear of disturbing the Prophet. My post that night was just outside his personal apartments-a post that I had won by taking more than usual care to be neat and smart at guard mount . . . but I had no wish to call attention to myself now.

    I was young then and not too bright-a legate fresh out of West Point, and a guardsman in the Angels of the Lord, the personal guard of the Prophet Incarnate. At birth my mother had consecrated me to the Church and at eighteen my Uncle Absolom, a senior lay censor, had prayed an appointment to the Military Academy for me from the Council of Elders.

    Uncle Absolom:  a senior lay censor…In the real America in 2017, ‘censor’ is no longer a role restricted to the pages of science fiction novels or to a limited military activity in time of war, but is rather becoming a mainstream occupation, and a fast-growing one.

    Facebook, for example, is hiring 3000 people to add to its existing 4500 on the team “reviewing posts with hate speech, crimes, and other harming posts.”  (The illiterate phrasing of the preceding sentence was evidently perpetrated by the professional journalists at TechCrunch, not by FB itself)  YouTube (owned by Google) also employs many people to review videos which are believed to be inappropriate or worse.  There are also programmers and system designers employed in creating and tuning software to facilitate the censorship function, and there are actually startups focused on this area.

    It has often been observed that the number of college administrators is growing much faster than the numbers of college faculty.  A nontrivial number of these are engaged in what are basically censorship functions.  Even in business, the censorship of wrongspeech has become a major function of Human Resources and a consumer of management time.

    There are also plenty of volunteer censors, eager to report people of whose speech they disapprove and get them fired or instigate mob action against them…for example, Lena Dunham, who sent the following Instagram message directed to airline travelers (and possibly flight crews as well)..

    I’m at the airport. And I think people now know, when I’m at the airport, they have to f—ing watch out for me, because I hear and I see all.

    There are multiple reasons for the censorship boom:  (1) With social media, communications that were once private are now semipublic and mediated by the social media company (2) Content that was once created and distributed by a relatively small number of media companies..who in effect conducted their own internal censorship process…is now created by a much larger number of individuals and distributed via social media, especially Twitter (3) Many of the previously-generally-accepted standards of behavior and speech have eroded (4) There appears to be growing hostility toward free speech, driven partly but not entirely by academic theorists  (5) There are a lot of people who are just plain sadists and bullies, and shutting other people down gives them pleasure.  Social media gives them new scope for this activity.

    With regard to (1), the social media companies…especially FB…really do have a dilemma.  There is an obvious public interest in preventing the dissemination of terrorist propaganda and operational plans, and an obvious human interest in responding to desperate cries for help, as with the suicides that were pre-announced on Facebook.  And the semipublic nature of FB communications implies that individual and group posts can have an impact on FB’s brand, whereas phone conversations and emails would have no such impact on the brand of the carrier involved.  Meanwhile, the Leftist orientation of most of these companies, combined with Silicon Valley groupthink, does not tend toward policies that are particularly supportive of free speech.

    With regard to (5), I am reminded of a passage in Goethe’s Faust….Gretchen, after finding that she is pregnant by Faust, is talking with her awful friend Lieschen, who (still unaware of Gretchen’s situation) is licking her chops about the prospect of humiliating another girl (Barbara) who has also become pregnant outside of marriage. Here’s Gretchen, reflecting on her own past complicity in such viciousness:

    How readily I used to blame
    Some poor young soul that came to shame!
    Never found sharp enough words like pins
    To stick into other people’s sins
    Black as it seemed, I tarred it to boot
    And never black enough to suit
    Would cross myself, exclaim and preen–
    Now I myself am bared to sin!

    There’s a lot of this…”sharp enough words like pins to stick in other people’s sins”, combined with the pleasure of preening…in the amateur censors of our day.  And the amateur censors often operate by activating the professional censors.

    See also my post Freedom, the Village, and the Internet.

    Posted in Academia, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Deep Thoughts, Human Behavior, Leftism, Media, Society, Tech | 9 Comments »

    Summer Rerun – Book Review: That Hideous Strength

    Posted by David Foster on 15th September 2017 (All posts by )

    (people tend to think of summer as being over after Labor Day, but actually, it extends until the September Equinox, which this year is on September 22)

    That Hideous Strength by C. S. Lewis

    This was the first thing Mark had been asked to do which he himself, before he did it, clearly knew to be criminal. But the moment of his consent almost escaped his notice; certainly, there was no struggle, no sense of turning a corner. There may have been a time in the world’s history when such moments fully revealed their gravity, with witches prophesying on a blasted heath or visible Rubicons to be crossed. But, for him, it all slipped past in a chatter of laughter, of that intimate laughter between fellow professionals, which of all earthly powers is strongest to make men do very bad things before they are yet, individually, very bad men.

    Mark Studdock is a young on-the-make sociologist, a professor at Bracton College, in an English town called Edgestow. He is is far more interested in university politics than in his research or teaching. and as a member of the “progressive element” at the college, he strongly supports Bracton selling a tract of property to a government-sponsored entity called NICE. The NICE is the National Institute for Coordinated Experimentation,which Lewis describes as “the first fruits of that constructive fusion between the state and the laboratory on which so many thoughtful people base their hopes of a better world.”  What excites Mark most about the NICE is this:

    The real thing is that this time we’re going to get science applied to social problems and backed by the whole force of the state, just as war has been backed by the whole force of the state in the past.  One hopes, of course, that it’ll find out more than the old freelance science did, but what’s certain is that it can do more.

    Trigger Warning: There is something in this book to offend almost everybody.  It contains things that will offend technologists and believers in human progress…social scientists…feminists…academic administrators…bioscience researchers…and surely many other categories of people.  It will probably also offend some Christians, for the way in which Christian theology is mixed with non-Christian magic. By the standards now becoming current in American universities, this book, and even this book review, should be read by no one at all.  But for those who do not accept those standards…

    The Basic Story. Mark has recently married Jane, a woman with strong literary interests and with vague plans for getting an advanced degree. She has recently started having disturbing, indeed terrifying, dreams, which suggest that she has a clairvoyant ability to see distant events in real time. Afraid that she is losing her mind, Jane seeks advice, and is told that her dreams are actually visions, they are very real, will not stop, and are of utmost importance:

    “Young lady,” said Miss Ironwood, “You do not at all realize the seriousness of this matter. The things you have seen concern something compared with which the happiness, and even the life, of you and me, is of no importance.”

    Miss Ironwood warns Jane that extremely evil people will seek to use her gift, and that she would do well–both for her own interests and those of the entire human race–to join the community of which Miss Ironwood is a part, located at a place called St Anne’s. Jane responds quite negatively to the invitation, afraid that membership in the St Anne’s group will limit her autonomy. She is not interested in the dreams’ meaning; she just wants them to go away.

    Mark, on the other hand, responds enthusiastically when he is invited to take a position at the NICE, temporarily located at an old manor called Belbury.  One of the first people he meets there is the Head of the Institutional Police, a woman named Miss Hardcastle (picture Janet Napolitano), nicknamed the Fairy, who explains to Mark her theory of crime and punishment:

    “Here in the Institute, we’re backing the crusade against Red Tape.”  Mark gathered that, for the Fairy, the police side of the Institute was the really important side…In general, they had already popularized in the press the idea that the Institute should be allowed to experiment pretty largely in the hope of discovering how far humane, remedial treatment could be substituted for the old notion of “retributive” or “vindictive” punishment…The Fairy pointed out that what had hampered every English police force up to date was precisely the idea of deserved punishment. For desert was always finite; you could do so much to the criminal and no more. Remedial treatment, on the other hand, need have no fixed limit; it could go on till it had effected a cure, and those who were carrying it out would decide when that was.  And if cure were humane and desirable, how much more prevention?  Soon anyone who had ever been in the hands of the police at all would come under the control of the NICE; in the end, every citizen.

    Another person Mark meets in his first days at Belbury is the acclaimed chemist William Hingest…who has also come down to investigate the possibility of a job at Belbury, has decided against it, and strongly advises Mark to do likewise:

    “I came down here because I thought it had something to do with science. Now that I find it’s something more like a political conspiracy, I shall go home. I’m too old for that kind of thing, and if I wanted to join a conspiracy, this one wouldn’t be my choice.”

    “You mean, I suppose, that the element of social planning doesn’t appeal to you? I can quite understand that it doesn’t fit in with your work as it does with sciences like Sociology, but–“

    “There are no sciences like Sociology. And if I found chemistry beginning to fit in with a secret police run by a middle-aged virago who doesn’t wear corsets and a scheme for taking away his farm and his shop and his children from every Englishman, I’d let chemistry go to the devil and take up gardening again…I happen to believe that you can’t study men, you can only get to know them, which is quite a different thing. Because you study them, you want to make the lower orders govern the country and listen to classical music, which is balderdash. You also want to take away from them everything that makes life worth living and not only from them but from everyone except a parcel of prigs and professors.”

    Nevertheless, Mark decides to remain at Belbury, and is drawn ever-deeper into its activities–which, as only those in the innermost circles of that organization realize, are not only consistent with the goals of the 20th-century totalitarianisms, but go considerably beyond them.  The NICE seeks to establish a junction between the powers of modern science and those of ancient magic, accessing the latter by awakening the medieval wizard Merlin and using him for their purposes.  At the same time, Jane–despite her reservations–becomes increasingly involved  with the company at St Anne’s and is entranced with its leader, a Mr Fisher-King. (His name comes from the Wounded King in Arthurian legend.)  The St Anne’s group is aware of the truth about NICE and its ultimate goals, and exists for the primary purpose of opposing and, hopefully, destroying that organization.

    I will not here describe the war between the forces of Belbury and those of St Anne’s (in order to avoid spoilers), but will instead comment on the characters of some of the protagonists and some philosophically-significant events in the novel, with appropriate excerpts. Hopefully this will be enough to give a sense of the worldview that Lewis is presenting in this book.

    Mark Studdock. His character is largely defined by his strong desire to be a member of the Inner Circle, whatever that inner circle may be in a particular context.  The passage at the start of this review where Mark agrees to engage in criminal activity on Belbury’s behalf is proceeded by this:

    After a few evenings Mark ventured to walk into the library on his own; a little uncertain of his reception, yet afraid that if he did not soon assert his right to the entree this modesty might damage him. He knew that the error in either direction is equally fatal.

    It was a success. Before he had closed the door behind him all had turned with welcoming faces and Filostrato had said “Ecco ” and the Fairy, “Here’s the very man.” A glow of pleasure passed over Mark’s whole body.

    That “glow of pleasure” at being accepted by the Belbury’s Inner Circle (what Mark then thinks is Belbury’s Inner Circle) is strong enough to overcome any moral qualms on Mark’s part about the actions he is being requested to perform.  Lewis has written a great deal elsewhere about the lust for the Inner Circle, which in his view never leads to satisfaction but only to a longing for membership in another, still-more-inner circle. In That Hideous Strength, there are concentric Inner Circles at Belbury, which Mark does penetrate–and each is more sinister than the last.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Arts & Letters, Bioethics, Book Notes, Britain, Christianity, Civil Liberties, Conservatism, Crime and Punishment, Deep Thoughts, Human Behavior, Leftism, Morality and Philosphy, Philosophy, Political Philosophy | 13 Comments »

    Life in the Fully Politicized Society, continued

    Posted by David Foster on 16th August 2017 (All posts by )

    An article in Bazaar from a few days ago:  If you are married to a Trump Supporter, Divorce Them:

    Supporting Trump at this point does not indicate a difference of opinions. It indicates a difference of values…You do not need to try to make it work with someone who thinks of people as “illegals.” Just divorce them

    (If the author of this piece really doesn’t understand that the presence of someone in a particular country can be illegal, she should try to visit or move to France, Mexico, Canada, China, or India without appropriate documentation.  Should be educational.)

    We are now pretty far down the road, I am afraid, toward the politicization of just about all aspects of life in American society.  Here is a collection of earlier links and comments on that topic:

    Sgt Mom 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..

    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-to-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.

    Stasiland. Shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall, author Anna Funder traveled to the previous East Germany to interview both those who had lived under Communist oppression and the perpetrators of that oppression.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Current Events, Leftism | 18 Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: Bob Bauer’s Free Speech Problem and Ours

    Posted by Jonathan on 24th July 2017 (All posts by )

    We have a free speech problem in America. I have talked about it before. It starts with the judiciary. See Seth Barrett Tillman, This Is What Is Wrong with the American Judiciary, The New Reform Club (Mar. 16, 2017, 4:23 AM), http://tinyurl.com/z4q9f8v. But the wider legal community has embraced the same legal philosophy. They want you to shut up, and if you don’t shut up, there is always punishment. Here is an example…

    An excellent post.

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Media, Rhetoric, Trump | 5 Comments »

    Summer Rerun: Sleeping with the Enemy

    Posted by David Foster on 12th July 2017 (All posts by )

    Why has the western world shown such loss of will in defending itself from radical Islamic terrorism? Why, indeed, do substantial numbers of people–particularly those who view themselves as intellectuals–endlessly make excuses for belief systems and terrorist movements whose values are completely at odds with their own stated values–and even romanticize these systems and their followers? I think some clues can be found in a forgotten novel by Arthur Koestler.

    The Age of Longing (published in 1950) is set in Paris, “sometime in the 1950s,” in a world in which France–indeed all of western Europe–is facing the very real possibility of a Soviet invasion. Hydie Anderson, the protagonist, is a young American woman living in Paris with her father, a military attache. Hydie was a devout Catholic during her teens, but has lost her faith. She was briefly married, and has had several relationships with men, but in none of them has she found either physical or emotional satisfaction…she describes her life with a phrase from T S Eliot: “frigid purgatorial fires,” and she longs for a sense of connection:

    Hydie sipped at her glass. Here was another man living in his own portable glass cage. Most people she knew did. Each one inside a kind of invisible telephone box. They did not talk to you directly but through a wire. Their voices came through distorted and mostly they talked to the wrong number, even when they lay in bed with you. And yet her craving to smash the glass between the cages had come back again. If cafes were the home of those who had lost their country, bed was the sanctuary of those who had lost their faith.

    Through her friend Julien DeLattre, Hydie is introduced to a number of Paris intellectuals and and East European emigres. Members of the former group are mostly in denial about the danger of a Soviet attack…many of them have indeed convinced themselves that Communist rule wouldn’t be all that bad. For example, there’s Professor Pontieux (modeled on Sartre)…”He did not believe that the Commonwealth of Freedomloving People had solved all its problems and become an earthly paradise. But it was equally undeniable that it was an expression of History’s groping progress towards a new form of society, when it followed that those who opposed this progres were siding with the forces of reaction and preparing the way for conflict and war–the worst crime against Humanity.” Vardi, another intellectual, says that if he had to choose between the (American) juke box on one hand, and Pravda on another, he isn’t sure which he would pick.

    Madame Pontieux, modeled on Simone de Bouvoir (with whom Koestler had a brief affair) is less ambiguous about her choice among the alternatives. “You cannot enter a cafe or a restaurant without finding it full of Americans who behave as if the place belonged to them,” she complains to an American official. When the Russian emigre Leontiev suggests that France would not survive without American military support, pointing out that “nature abhors a vacuum,” she turns on him:

    “I am surprised at your moderation, Citizen Leontiev,” Madame Pontieux said sarcastically. “I thought you would tell us that without this young man’s protection the Commonwealth army would at once march to the Atlantic shore.”

    “It would,” said Leontiev. “I believed that everyone knew that.”

    “I refuse to believe it,” responds Madame Pontieux. “But if choose one must I would a hundred times rather dance to the music of a Balalaika than a juke box.”

    (The French intellectuals Koestler knew must have really hated juke boxes!)

    Julien is romantically interested in Hydie, but she is not attracted to him, despite the fact that he seems to have much to recommend him–a hero of the French Resistance, wounded in action, and a successful poet. On one occasion, she tells him that she could never sleep with him because they are too similar–“it would be like incest”..on another occasion, though, she tells him that “what I most dislike about you is your attitude of arrogant broken-heartedness.” Parallel to Hydie’s loss of religious faith is Julien’s loss of his secular faith in the creation of a new society. He does not now believe in utopia, or any approximation to same, but he does believe in the need to face reality, however unpleasant it may be. Hydie argues that the Leftists of their acquaintance may be silly, but at least they believe in something:

    “Perhaps they believe in a mirage–but isn’t it better to believe in a mirage than to believe in nothing?”

    Julien looked at her coldly, almost with contempt:

    “Definitely not. Mirages lead people astray. That’s why there are so many skeletons in the desert. Read more history. Its caravan-routes are strewn with the skeletons of people who were thirsting for faith–and their faith made them drink salt water and eat the sand, believing it was the Lord’s Supper.”

    At a diplomatic affair, Hydie meets Fedya, a committed Communist who works for the Soviet Embassy. She is powerfully attracted to him: things get physical very quickly and, from Hydie’s point of view, very satisfactorily. (Fedya is one of Koestler’s best-developed characters. His boyhood in Baku is vividly sketched, and Koestler–himself a former Communist–does a good job in showing how a political faith can become core to an individual’s whole personality.)

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Book Notes, Christianity, Civil Liberties, Deep Thoughts, France, Political Philosophy, Terrorism | 12 Comments »

    Lynchings and Witch-Trials, Technology-Enhanced

    Posted by David Foster on 27th June 2017 (All posts by )

    Jonathan Kay:  The tyranny of Twitter:  How mob censure is changing the intellectual landscape.  Excerpt:

    A few weeks ago, shortly after I left my magazine gig, I had breakfast with a well-known Toronto man of letters. He told me his week had been rough, in part because it had been discovered that he was still connected on social media with a colleague who’d fallen into disfavour with Stupid Twitter-Land. “You know that we all can see that you are still friends with him,” read one of the emails my friend had received. “So. What are you going to do about that?”

    “So I folded,” he told me with a sad, defeated air. “I know I’m supposed to stick to my principles. That’s what we tell ourselves. Free association and all that. It’s part of the romance of our profession. But I can’t afford to actually do that. These people control who gets jobs. I’m broke. So now I just go numb and say whatever they need me to say.”

    also

    The Writers Union of Canada and the University of British Columbia Fine Arts faculty do not operate gulags. Nevertheless, the idea that a whole career can fall victim to a single social-media message sent in a moment of anger or frustration — or even a bad joke — has produced an atmosphere of real terror that is compromising the art and intellect of Canada’s most creative minds.

    I don’t think it’s just Canada, although perhaps it’s worse there than in the US at the moment.

    Motivations of the trolls:

    A lot of these people are brilliant writers who have spent their lives toiling in obscurity. Whole years may pass during which they will write a book of poetry, or an academic thesis, that perhaps only a few hundred people will ever read. The privilege that I am putting on display here — the right to author a long essay in a national newspaper — isn’t available to most of them. But thanks to the three-way combination of social-media technology, the moral urgency of identity politics, and these intellectuals’ hallowed status as wordsmiths, they now have a chance to gain a wide audience — and even impose their moral judgments on others. It is not hard to see why they would jump at this chance.

    I am reminded of Peter Drucker’s report of a conversation he had with an acquaintance who was supporting the Nazi party.  This man had come from a working-class background and felt that his career prospects had been very limited, but “Now I have a party membership card with a very low number and I am going to be somebody.”

    Clarence Thomas referred to the media coverage surrounding his candidateship for the US Supreme Court as a “high-tech lynching”…the high-tech in this case evidently being television.  But the nature of the television medium meant that denunciations had to originate from or at least be directed by a fairly small group of media-company employees.  Now, with the rise of social media, we have crowdsourced denunciations and witch-trials, as described in the Jonathan Kay article.

    In my post Freedom, the Village, and the Internet, I drew on some passages in the novel Every Man Dies Alone, which is centered on a German couple who become anti-Nazi activists after their son Ottochen is killed in the war (it was inspired by, and is loosely based on, a real-life story.)

    Trudel, who was Ottochen’s fiancee, is a sweet and intelligent girl who is strongly anti-Nazi..and unlike Ottochen’s parents, she became an activist prior to being struck by personal tragedy: she is a member of a resistance cell at the factory where she works.  But she finds that she cannot stand the unending psychological strain of underground work–made even worse by the rigid and doctrinaire man (apparently a Communist) who is leader of the cell–and she drops out. Another member of the cell, who has long been in love with her, also finds that he is not built for such work, and drops out also.

    After they marry and Trudel becomes pregnant, they decide to leave the politically hysterical environment of Berlin for a small town where–they believe–life will be freer and calmer.

    Like many city dwellers, they’d had the mistaken belief that spying was only really bad in Berlin and that decency still prevailed in small towns. And like many city dwellers, they had made the painful discovery that recrimination, eavesdropping, and informing were ten times worse in small towns than in the big city. In a small town, everyone was fully exposed, you couldn’t ever disappear in the crowd. Personal circumstances were quickly ascertained, conversations with neighbors were practically unavoidable, and the way  such conversations could be twisted was something they had already experienced in their own lives, to their chagrin.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Leftism, Media, Tech | 60 Comments »

    Summer Rerun: Freedom and Fear

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 23rd June 2017 (All posts by )

    (Working on a fresh new history trivia post, delayed in completing by … whatever. Real life, completing the next book. This reprise post is from 2011.)

    I started following what I called “The Affair of the Danish Mo-Toons” way back at the very beginning of that particular imbroglio, followed by the ruckus last year over “Everybody Draw Mohammad” and now we seem to have moved on to the Charlie Hebdo fiasco – a French satirical magazine dared to poke fun at the founder of Islam … by putting a cartoon version on the cover of their latest issue, with the result that their offices were firebombed. I think at this point it would have been fair to assume that representatives of the Religion of Peace would respond in a not-quite-so peaceful manner, so all props for the Charlie Hebdo management for even going ahead with it – for even thinking of standing up for freedom of thought, freedom of a press, even freedom to take the piss out of a target.  (The following is what I wrote last year – still relevant to this latest case) Read the rest of this entry »

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    Posted in Arts & Letters, Blogging, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, France, Islam | 11 Comments »

    Worthwhile Reading

    Posted by David Foster on 26th May 2017 (All posts by )

    (Worthwhile but not very cheerful reading, for the most part, I’m afraid)

    “Progressives” as Minor Nobles of Exquisite Breeding and Dubious Character

    Related:  The New Class War

    Ex-Muslims in America meeting in secret for reasons of safety

    Bookworm links a carefully-reasoned Victor Davis Hanson about Trump and the accusations being made against him, and contrasts it with  “the incoherent rage attack visited upon a conservative friend of mine via a series of text messages from one of the parents in his children’s community.”

    American universities as assembly points for the anti-free-speech Left

    Case in point:  Student mob shrieks at professor and calls for his firing

    Manchester and the lies we tell ourselves about terrorism.  A good piece, though I would question to use of the word “we” in the title–the intellectual fallacies described in the post are held by a set of people comprising less than 50% of the population…but still, a set of people with considerable power and influence.

    In Robert Heinlein’s 1952 story The Year of the Jackpot, a statistician observes many simultaneous indicators suggesting that the society is going totally insane.  Young women are removing all their clothes in public, but can’t explain why they are doing it.  A man has sued an entire state legislature for alienation of his wife’s affections–and the judge is letting the suit be tried.  In another state, a bill has been introduced to repeal the laws of atomic energy–not the relevant statutes, but the natural laws concerning nuclear physics.

    I was reminded again of Heinlein’s story by this post:  Woman sues candy maker for it’s sugar-filled jelly beans and again by this piece of late-Weimar-level degeneracy.

    Hopefully I’ll be able to post some more encouraging links for the next roundup…

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    Posted in Academia, Britain, Civil Liberties, Islam, Leftism, Society, Terrorism | 5 Comments »

    Intimidation, Conformity, and Cowardice in American Academia

    Posted by David Foster on 11th May 2017 (All posts by )

    I have previously mentioned an incident described in the memoirs of Tom Watson Jr, longtime CEO of IBM.

    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 Senator 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.”

    I was reminded of this story once again by the current academic ragestorm involving the work of Professor Rebecca Tuvel.  And, just as with Watson’s experience during the McCarthy era, what is particularly disturbing is that there are apparently a lot of people who don’t like what has been happening…but are afraid to say so.

    And who is Professor Tuvel and what is the ragestorm about, you may ask?  Tuvel is an assistant professor of philosophy at Memphis College; you can see her teaching and research interests at the link.  Recently she published an article entitled “In Defense of Transracialism” in Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy.  A writer at Inside Higher Ed summarizes:

    The article explores whether there might be parallels between being transgender and being transracial, focusing specifically on the well-known case of Rachel Dolezal, who is white but presented herself as black for many years.

    Tuvel’s argument is that the very same reasons that might justify an individual’s decision to change sexes could also be used to justify an individual’s decision to change races — so if one is committed to the acceptability of the former (as Tuvel herself is), then one would be committed to the acceptability of the latter.

    And then the ragestorm broke:

    Shortly after the paper was published in the spring 2017 edition of Hypatia, an open letter with signatures but no author appeared on the internet soliciting further signatures. The letter called for Tuvel’s paper to be retracted by the journal, stating that “its continued availability causes further harm.”

    This open letter is now closed to further signatures and has been sent to the editor of Hypatia. While the open letter was still circulating, a statement appeared on the Hypatia website repudiating the article and making multiple references to the harms caused by the article’s publication. The statement has no signatures but is credited to “A majority of the Hypatia board of associate editors.”

    “The harms caused by the article’s publication” sounds like an argument that would have been made by the Inquisition in support of burning someone at the stake for unauthorized theological writing, or the arguments that were frequently made by Nazi and Soviet courts when calling for the execution of those who had disseminated forbidden political and social views.

    A recent New York Magazine article, This is what a modern-day witch hunt looks like,  argues that many of the assertions by Tuvel’s ‘critics’ (way too mild a word in this context) are based on a mischaracterization of what she actually wrote.  And this piece asserts that the over-the-top reaction has caused serious damage to Tuvel’s career…”How can Prof. Tuvel, for example, now use this repudiated but allegedly peer-reviewed article as part of her tenure process?   Indeed, how can her department or college support her for tenure when she has been so vilified as a scholar and professional by people who work in her fields?”…and suggests that these attacks may rise to the level of defamation in the legal sense.

    My main concern here is not whether Tuvel’s work is good or bad (read it for yourself here, if you’re so inclined, not sure how much longer it will stay up before the bit-burners get it)…indeed, I question the value of the whole subdiscipline encompassing this work and that of many of its critics), but the vitriolic tone of the attacks which in my view clearly inhibit intellectual exploration and and the ability to freely and (individually or collectively) play with ideas…which things are supposed to be primary reasons for the existence of academia…in favor of the dead hand of conformity.  And what is particularly disturbing…and closely echoes Tom Watson’s experiences during the McCarthy era…is this:

    Read the rest of this entry »

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    Posted in Academia, Arts & Letters, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Education, Leftism, Philosophy | 28 Comments »

    Worthwhile Reading

    Posted by David Foster on 4th May 2017 (All posts by )

    Roger Simon:  Will Fascism come to America through its colleges and universities?

    Case in point:  Brooklyn College

    Also from Roger Simon:  Roots of Liberal/Progressive Rage

    Joel Hirsch:  The Gulag and the Islamists

    In 1711, the Spectator had some positive things to say about merchants–not a common opinion among the smart set in that place and time.  (Original article here.)

    Thoughts about the archetype of the American farm boy and the present-day hostility of elitist ‘progressives’ toward people who fit this archetype:

    Then it hit me. The new American myth, carefully constructed by the SJWs and their ilk, is that farmers are stupid. Mechanics are dumb. Plumbers only ply their trade because they are too stupid to take gender studies courses. And since they are all idiots, of course their children must be idiots too. Indeed, they are all far too stupid to be permitted a say in how their own lives are run.

    Related to the above:  The roots of campus progressivism’s madness

    Posted in Academia, Business, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Islam, Leftism, USA | 20 Comments »

    FORT SUMTER,CALIFORNIA

    Posted by Subotai Bahadur on 23rd April 2017 (All posts by )

    Despite appearances, there is no natural law that says history repeats itself. As inventive as we are, there are only a limited number of ways that humans can screw things up. We keep trying to come up with new ways, but until we evolve a new brain with more folds on the surface we will keep repeating ourselves.

    No matter what our race, culture, or creed; whenever you get a lot of people together in a restricted space, some sort of political order and structure arises. Anarchy as a human ideal is about as fact based as the Land of Oz. And even Oz had a Wizard, sundry Witches, Munchkin Mayors, and probably Alpha and Beta Flying Monkeys.

    People have different temperaments; some are more active, some more passive, some are dominant, some less dominant. Then there is the matter of talents, and lacks thereof. People end up being sorted out in various power relationships inside and outside of their family groupings.

    It does not matter what the basis of the structure is, be it feudal, democratic, aristocratic, results oriented merit-based, or who has the biggest club and is more willing to use it on everybody else. They share two things. First, whatever the rules of the game, the social contract if you will, with the exception of a criminal fringe pretty much everybody in the society accepts and supports the rules actively or tacitly. Second, if a sufficient percentage refuses to accept those rules, the whole thing falls apart until a new order arises. The new order may or may not be better than the old, but it will be different than the old.

    Our country and fairly unique society came into existence through that process. This is in part because we diverged demographically from the parent society. Our population was made up of exiles [including self-exiles], ne’er do wells, criminals, religious fringe elements from the British point of view, and a sufficiency of foreign elements to render the population no longer homogeneous with the old country. Couple that with the detail that in Britain there was much higher percentage of the population that had a vested interest in the existing system, and that a relatively small percentage of the minor nobility and none of the higher nobility and royal family bothered to cross the pond.

    What we ended up with is a majority of the population who had no memory of serfdom, were not slaves [Leftist fantasies notwithstanding, slaves were always a minority of the population], and who were used to both being politically and economically free compared to the old country. And the aristocracy here really did not have the pull to make generations of sycophancy attractive and profitable as a lifestyle.

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    Posted in Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Crime and Punishment, Current Events, Human Behavior | 18 Comments »

    Still Crazy After All These Years

    Posted by David Foster on 13th April 2017 (All posts by )

    German Political Thought

    …although, in fairness, the trend toward suppression of political speech that challenges the Official Viewpoint is by no means limited to Germany, it appears to be a Europe-wide phenomenon.  One might have hoped, though, that Germany, given its history, would be particularly aware of the dangers of this sort of thing.

    If this law really goes into force, you can bet that it will be employed largely against those who dare to criticize Islam in any of its manifestations.  (Even without the proposed law, a German satirist has been prosecuted for insulting President Ergodan of Turkey.)

    Prosecutions for blasphemy and lèse-majesté…not just for the Middle Ages!

    (In his memoirs, Kaiser Wilhelm II expressed admiration for the stringent British libel laws and also expressed his regret that a similar level of constraint on newspapers in German had not been possible.  If present trends continue, maybe the German democracy in 2017 will manage to actually become a less-free society than the German Empire in 1914.)

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Germany, History, Islam | 13 Comments »

    Freedom and the American Character

    Posted by David Foster on 3rd April 2017 (All posts by )

    I was thinking, for some reason, about the old Cole Porter song Don’t Fence Me In.  It’s not all that good of a song, IMO–but it does express a chafing at restriction that most people would once have agreed was a core aspect of the American character.

    Now, however, I’m not so sure.  Seems to me a lot of people–especially but not only on college campuses–are asking to be fenced in, and are looking at hobbles not negatively but with admiration.

    Questions for discussion:

    –Has individual freedom indeed become a less-important value to Americans (in general) over recent decades?

    –If so, what are the drivers of this change?…and what are the implications?

    –Was Dostoyevsky’s Grand Inquisitor right about human nature?

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    Posted in Arts & Letters, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Deep Thoughts, Music, USA | 30 Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: This Is What Is Wrong With The American Judiciary

    Posted by Jonathan on 16th March 2017 (All posts by )

    Excerpt:

    For example, judges, like anyone else in any other role, want a reasonable amount of time to meet their responsibilities. So a compressed briefing and argument schedule is onerous. But all temporary restraining orders are onerous in just this way. That being so, it is difficult to credit why this all too common fact of judicial life is among the “worst conditions imaginable.” Bybee’s overstatement here is palpable.
     
    Even more problematic, Judge Bybee states that “intense public scrutiny” is another of these “worst conditions imaginable.” That is a problem. Judges have extraordinary public power. They are supposed to be scrutinized, and that includes scrutiny by the wider public. The only legitimate question is whether the scrutiny is fair, not how “intense” it is. The First Amendment does not end at the courthouse door, nor do parties’ First Amendment rights end because they find themselves dragooned into litigation.
     
    Moreover, it is wholly “out of … bounds” for an American judge to instruct litigants that their out-of-court statements are inconsistent with “effective advocacy.” Even if not specifically intended, the natural, probable, and expected effect of the dissent’s language is to chill constitutionally protected speech.* It amounts to a directive, from the court** to the lawyers before it, to instruct their clients to shut up during ongoing litigation. Bybee’s extraordinary language here demands a response from the public, the wider legal community, and the elected arms of the government.

    Read the whole thing.

    UPDATE: I Was Wrong

    Posted in Anglosphere, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Law, Political Philosophy, Politics | 17 Comments »

    Worthwhile Reading

    Posted by David Foster on 10th February 2017 (All posts by )

    How the 16th century invented social media

    Virginia Postrel thinks that now is the time for big-box stores to embrace the 19th century

    Is it possible to make American mate again?

    Related to the above:  mapping the geographical patterns of romantic anxiety and avoidance

    Maybe also related:  sex doesn’t sell anymore, activism does

    PC oppression and why Trump won

    Theory and practice: an interesting Assistant Village Idiot post from 2010

    Learning about effective selling from a surfer dude

    Here’s a guy who says: I help create the automated technologies that are taking jobs…and I feel guilty about it

    After discussing his concerns about automation-driven job losses, he goes on to say “I feel even worse when I hear misleading statements about the source of the problem. Blaming China and NAFTA is a convenient deflection, but denial will only make the wrenching employment dislocation for millions all the more painful.”

    I’ve seen this assertion–“offshoring doesn’t matter because Robots”–and it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.  It should be obvious that both factors play a role; there’s no need for a single-variable explanation.  (Actually, offshoring-driven job losses and automation-driven job losses are somewhat less than additive in their effect, since automation generally makes US-based production more relatively attractive.)

    Here’s an argument that the next big blue-collar job is coding.

    What if we regarded code not as a high-stakes, sexy affair, but the equivalent of skilled work at a Chrysler plant? Among other things, it would change training for programming jobs—and who gets encouraged to pursue them. As my friend Anil Dash, a technology thinker and entrepreneur, notes, teachers and businesses would spend less time urging kids to do expensive four-year computer-­science degrees and instead introduce more code at the vocational level in high school….Across the country, people are seizing this opportunity, particularly in states hit hardest by deindustrialization. In Kentucky, mining veteran Rusty Justice decided that code could replace coal. He cofounded Bit Source, a code shop that builds its workforce by retraining coal miners as programmers. Enthusiasm is sky high: Justice got 950 applications for his first 11 positions. Miners, it turns out, are accustomed to deep focus, team play, and working with complex engineering tech. “Coal miners are really technology workers who get dirty,” Justice says.

    I’m reminded of two things that Peter Drucker said in his 1969 book The Age of Discontinuity.  In attacking what he called ‘the diploma curtain’, he wrote “By denying opportunity to those without higher education, we are denying access to contribution and performance to a large number of people of superior ability, intelligence, and capacity to achieve.”

    But also, Drucker wrote, in his discussion of the Knowledge Economy:

    The knowledge worker of today…is not the successor to the ‘free professional’ of 1750 or 1900.  He is the successor to the employee of yesterday, the manual worker, skilled or unskilled…This hidden conflict between the knowledge workers view of himself as a ‘professional’ and the social reality in which he is the upgraded and well-paid successor to the skilled worker of yesterday, underlies the disenchantment of so many highly educated young people with the jobs available to them…They expect to be ‘intellectuals.’  And the find that they are just ‘staff.’

    Indeed, many jobs that have been thought of as ‘professional’ and ‘white collar’…programming, financial analysis, even engineering…are increasingly subject to many of the stresses traditionally associated with ‘blue collar’ jobs, such as layoffs and cyclical unemployment.  As a higher % of the corporate cost structure becomes concentrated in jobs which are not direct labor, it is almost inevitable that these jobs will be hit increasingly when financial problems make themselves felt.

    Drucker’s second point, which I think is very astute, is somewhat orthogonal to the coal-miners-becoming-coders piece, and probably deserves it own post for discussion.  Regarding the question of non-college-educated people becoming programmers (of which there has long already been a fair amount), the degree to which succeeds is to some degree coupled with the whole question of h-1b visa policy, and trade policy in general as it relates to offshoring of services.

    Posted in Business, Civil Liberties, Deep Thoughts, Education, Leftism, Marketing, Media, Tech | 11 Comments »

    Freedom, the Village, and the Internet (rerun)

    Posted by David Foster on 7th February 2017 (All posts by )

    (Hearing in a town this size, by John Prine and Delores Keane, reminded me of this 2013 post–rerun here, with some edits and a special musical bonus added at the end.)

    I’ve reviewed two books by German writer Hans Fallada: Little Man, What Now?, and Wolf Among Wolves (the links go to the reviews), both of which were excellent. I’ve also read his novel Every Man Dies Alone, which is centered on a couple who become anti-Nazi activists after their son Ottochen is killed in the war…it was inspired by, and is loosely based on, the true story of  a real-life couple who distributed anti-Nazi postcards and were executed for it.

    I thought this book was also excellent…the present post, though, is not a book review, but rather a development of some thoughts inspired by a particular passage in the story.

    Trudel, who was Ottochen’s fiancee, is a sweet and intelligent girl who is strongly anti-Nazi..and unlike Ottochen’s parents, she became an activist prior to being struck by personal tragedy: she is a member of a resistance cell at the factory where she works.  But she finds that she cannot stand the unending psychological strain of underground work–made even worse by the rigid and doctrinaire man (apparently a Communist) who is leader of the cell–and she drops out. Another member of the cell, who has long been in love with her, also finds that he is not built for such work, and drops out also.

    After they marry and Trudel becomes pregnant, they decide to leave the politically hysterical environment of Berlin for a small town where–they believe–life will be freer and calmer.

    Like many city dwellers, they’d had the mistaken belief that spying was only really bad in Berlin and that decency still prevailed in small towns. And like many city dwellers, they had made the painful discovery that recrimination, eavesdropping, and informing were ten times worse in small towns than in the big city. In a small town, everyone was fully exposed, you couldn’t ever disappear in the crowd. Personal circumstances were quickly ascertained, conversations with neighbors were practically unavoidable, and the way  such conversations could be twisted was something they had already experienced in their own lives, to their chagrin.

    Reading the above passage, I was struck by the thought that if we are now living in an “electronic village”…even a “global village,” as Marshall McLuhan put it several decades ago…then perhaps that also means we are facing some of the unpleasant characteristics that–as Fallada notes–can be a part of village life. And these characteristics aren’t something that appears only in eras of insane totalitarianism such as existed in Germany during the Nazi era. Peter Drucker, in Managing in the Next Society, wrote about the tension between liberty and community:

    Rural society has been romanticized for millenia, especially in the West, where rural communities have usually been portrayed as idylic. However, the community in rural society is actually both compulsory and coercive…And that explains why, for millenia, the dream of rural people was to escape into the city. Stadluft macht frei (city air frees) says an old German proverb dating back to the eleventh or twelfth century.

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    Posted in Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Deep Thoughts, Media, Tech | 15 Comments »

    Scaring Ourselves to Death

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 3rd February 2017 (All posts by )

    We have a neighbor several doors down the street who has – over the years that we have known her – been somewhat of a trial. Not only is she is a gossip with an appallingly low degree of accuracy in the stories that she passes on, she is also a keen consumer of local news, and takes the most sensational crime stories to heart. She was in her element, the evening that we had a double murder in our neighborhood, having claimed to see the murderer running down the street past her house and begging one of the other neighbors for a ride. She provided a description of the murderer to one of the police patrols who went screaming through the neighborhood – a description which turned out to be inaccurate in every detail save that the escaping murderer was a male. As for the what she sees on the news; let someone across town be carjacked in their own driveway, she is totally convinced that everyone in the neighborhood is in dire peril of this happening to them. She lurks at the community mailbox of a morning, bearing dire warnings of all kinds of unlikely scenarios. She never goes much beyond the community mailbox, having successfully frightened herself out of going any farther on most occasions. In earlier times, I would try and talk her into taking a more realistic view of things. Eventually I realized that she purely enjoyed scaring herself into conniptions, and those irrational fears provided a handy all-purpose excuse for her not to go and do much of anything with herself when her only child went to college on the other side of the state and her husband moved out.
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    Posted in Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Current Events, History, Trump | 19 Comments »

    Glasnost and Perestroika: An Agenda for the Trump Administration

    Posted by David McFadden on 25th January 2017 (All posts by )

    Although President Trump is confident of his ability to deal with Vladimir Putin, he should carefully avoid emulating Putin. It would be far better for the president to look to the example of Putin’s predecessor, Mikhail Gorbachev, who transformed the Soviet Union. The first steps in the transformation were glasnost and perestroika. Glasnost, introduced in 1985, roughly means openness and was a step toward open discussion of political and social issues. Perestroika, introduced the following year, roughly means restructuring. Perestroika reduced central economic planning and allowed some private business ownership. These and later reforms resulted in a sharp increase in political freedom (from nil), which peaked in 1991. Sadly, the gains were short lived. Freedom steadily and drastically declined under Yeltsin and Putin for a complex of reasons debated at a recent symposium at the Cato Institute.

    The United States as it emerges from the Obama Administration, while not as bad off as the Soviet Union as it emerged from communism, is badly in need of both glasnost and perestroika. They should be the twin priorities of the dawning Trump Administration.

    Glasnost

    The American left has come to despise freedom of speech as much as it has traditionally despised freedom of contract. It has followed the normal progression of leftist movements toward viewing the protection of its social objectives as more important than human rights. The earliest and still worst manifestation of this trend is on college campuses. Campus speech codes began to appear in the late 1980’s and spread rapidly. Within a few years sixty percent of colleges had them. According to a report of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, the percentage has declined over the last nine years to forty percent.

    In 1998, Congress declared that it was the sense of Congress that “an institution of higher education should facilitate the free and open exchange of ideas” and that “students should not be intimidated, harassed, discouraged from speaking out, or discriminated against.” 20 U.S.C. § 1011a(a)(2)(C), (D). While the sponsors of this provision may have thought (or wanted to give the impression) that they were doing something, they did not do very much. The provision imposes no consequences on institutions that act contrary to the sense of Congress on this subject. It needs an amendment putting federal funds at stake, as anti-discrimination sections in title 20 do. Although speech codes are less common than they were, universities still do a lot to stifle “the free and open exchange of ideas.” In particular, they fail to prevent students from being intimidated, harassed, and discouraged from speaking out by other students, using increasingly violent methods.

    Intolerance of dissent, especially on a fixed dogma like climate change, is not limited to college campuses. A few years ago, a cabal of environmentalists enlisted sympathetic state attorneys general to investigate climate change dissidents. With a vague objective of finding a RICO violation, a group of twenty attorneys general (“AGs United for Clean Power”) have subpoenaed forty years of records from ExxonMobil in a retaliatory effort to find evidence that it has had information on climate change that differs from what it has said publicly. The attorney general of the Virgin Islands subpoenaed documents from academic institutions, scientists, and the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a think tank. He withdrew that subpoena after getting some pushback from a congressional committee and a lawsuit from the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

    A venerable weapon is available for the Justice Department to use against oppressive state universities and attorneys general, the Enforcement Act of 1870. The second section of the act, 18 U.S.C. § 242, makes it a crime for anyone under color of state law to deprive a person of rights, privileges, or immunities secured or protected by the Constitution. The first section of the act, 18 U.S.C. § 241, provides criminal penalties for conspiracy to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person in the enjoyment of any right secured to him by the Constitution. State action is not an element of the crime under § 241. Could not the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department, under new leadership, go after, for example, a group of students who prevent Milo Yiannopoulos from speaking? That would be fun.

    These tools may or may not work, but they should be tried. Assaults on civil liberties should no longer be costless.

    Perestroika

    In Federalist No. 72, Hamilton said, “To reverse and undo what has been done by a predecessor, is very often considered by a successor as the best proof he can give of his own capacity and desert.” This has to be the best standard now, as everyone in the Trump Administration should understand.

    Perestroika in the modern context ought to begin with reversing and undoing the Obama Administration’s impositions on the economy. Amity Shlaes, who, it should be recalled, wrote The Forgotten Man, observed that “smaller firms–the ones unready for the lawsuit, the investigation or the audit–bear the greater share of regulatory costs.” The regulatory burdens in need of repeal extend far beyond the Affordable Care Act and its progeny. Daniel Pérez of George Washington University’s Regulatory Studies Center has determined that Obama issued about 33% more “economically significant” regulations than either Bill Clinton or George W. Bush.

    It will be a challenge for the political appointees in all the departments of the federal government to sift through the regulations and begin the process of liberating the economy from the worst of them. Fortunately, litigation has already left some of the Department of Labor’s output in ruins. The Persuader Rule, which I warned about in this blog before its adoption, and the Fiduciary Rule are controversial intrusions of the Labor Department into professional relationships. Both the Persuader Rule and an anti-business revision of overtime regulations have been enjoined by federal district courts in Texas. Five different lawsuits challenging the Fiduciary Rule are pending.

    Withdrawing appeals of the rulings against the Persuader Rule and the overtime regulations is the simplest way to dispatch those rules. Other recently adopted regulations can by nullified by using the Congressional Review Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 801-808. A joint resolution of disapproval has to be introduced within sixty days of Congress’s receipt of a report of rulemaking. The act provides an expedited procedure for a joint resolution and limits debate in the Senate. In June, President Obama vetoed a joint resolution disapproving the Fiduciary Rule.

    For that rule, and so many others, the arduous notice and comment process of the Administrative Procedure Act will be the only method of repeal. The ultimate goal should be that the Code of Federal Regulations will bear no trace that the Obama Administration ever existed and, more generally, that this time glasnost and perestroika will have a more lasting imprint.

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    Posted in Big Government, Civil Liberties, Education, Law, Obama, Russia, Trump | 5 Comments »