Friday, March 11, 2016


     It’s been awhile since I last posted an “assorted” column. The political news being too bleak to write about, and my philosophizing muscles not being ready for another column of that sort, and nothing much happening in the entertainment or sports worlds – hey! Look at that! Three ablative absolutes in a row! – an assortment there shall be.

     1. ‘Fess up: You knew this was coming.

     In point of fact, it’s already here. We were just waiting for the official admission:

     The Obama administration is on the verge of permitting the National Security Agency to share more of the private communications it intercepts with other American intelligence agencies without first applying any privacy protections to them, according to officials familiar with the deliberations.

     The change would relax longstanding restrictions on access to the contents of the phone calls and email the security agency vacuums up around the world, including bulk collection of satellite transmissions, communications between foreigners as they cross network switches in the United States, and messages acquired overseas or provided by allies.

     Why, whatever could be the problem with that? Apart from all your electronic communications being available to the scrutiny of whatever government bureaucrat has a hard-on for you? You know, friendly, customer-service-oriented folks like those at the BATF, DEA, and IRS?

     The invaluable Radley Balko comments thus:

     This basically formalizes what was already happening under the radar. We’ve known for a couple of years now that the Drug Enforcement Administration and the IRS were getting information from the NSA. Because that information was obtained without a warrant, the agencies were instructed to engage in “parallel construction” when explaining to courts and defense attorneys how the information had been obtained. If you think parallel construction just sounds like a bureaucratically sterilized way of saying big stinking lie, well, you wouldn’t be alone. And it certainly isn’t the only time that that national security apparatus has let law enforcement agencies benefit from policies that are supposed to be reserved for terrorism investigations in order to get around the Fourth Amendment, then instructed those law enforcement agencies to misdirect, fudge and outright lie about how they obtained incriminating information — see the Stingray debacle. This isn’t just a few rogue agents. The lying has been a matter of policy. We’re now learning that the feds had these agreements with police agencies all over the country, affecting thousands of cases.

     So just in case you thought this would have no impact on you, think for a moment about that wee stash of ganja you keep around “for emergencies.” Or about that old WWII German rifle your state government just outlawed. Or about the little bump you gave your charitable deductions on your last income tax return. Are you certain no one dislikes you enough to make an issue of any of that?

     This is what happens in wartime...especially when it’s a war waged by a government against its own citizens.

     2. How interesting!

     Jonathan Goldsmith, who for some years has been Dos Equis’s “Most Interesting Man In The World,” is going to Mars:

     Henceforward, he’ll be competing for “Most Interesting Man In The Solar System.” We have not yet been told who will vie for the Terrestrial title now that he’s gone to a...more interesting place.

     3. “Government science.”

     It’s always been a contradiction in terms. Governments insist upon steering what they fund, and research is no exception:

     Academics routinely lie and exaggerate when telling funding agencies what impact their research will have, a series of candid interviews with scholars in the UK and Australia has suggested.

     Their dismissive comments about the “charade” of impact statements brings to light what appears to be an open secret in academia – that academics simply do not take such projections seriously.

     A new study anonymously interviewed 50 senior academics from two research-intensive universities – one in the UK and one in Australia – who had experience writing "pathways to impact" (PIS) statements, as they are called in the UK, and in some cases had also reviewed such statements.

     It was normal to sensationalise and embellish impact claims, the study published in Studies in Higher Education found.

     In the UK and Australia, academics are asked for evidence of what impact their research might have when applying for grants. Research Councils UK introduced the need to write a PIS in 2009.

     Respondents said that future projections of impact were “charades” or “made-up stories”. As one UK professor put it: “would I believe it? No, would it help me get the money – yes.”

     Academics felt pushed into lying on their impact statements by the logic of ferocious academic competition, the paper found.

     If you think this isn’t happening in North America, you’re seriously deluded. But as I’ve already observed, delusions often serve a survival imperative. Ask any researcher who can’t get a grant.

     4. “Cloud people.”

     Ponder this thesis from The Arts Mechanical:

     The typical Whole Food customer has no real contact with the people who work so hard to get that food to the store. They are insulated from their concerns . For the typical Whole Food customer, a terrible event is if their kid doesn’t get into the right school or the painters screw up the decorating before a party. The Whole Fooders just don’t get down far enough on Maslow’s pyramid to even begin to understand the consequences of the policies that they inflict on the rest of us.

     Listening to then news channels or just regular TV and some other media you get the feeling that these people have no understanding about the things that are happening out in the middle of the country outside the enclaves of the cloud people. They can’t seem to connect with the fact that people are really hurting out there where the work that sustains everybody gets done. Ergo Trump.

     The article is worth reading in its entirety, but it falls short in one regard: its “Pauline Kael Redux” thesis is over-inclusive. There are many reasons, both for the Trump surge and for the seeming incomprehension of the elite:

  • Yes, Trump is “a welcome change from potatoes:” a departure from the endless processions of sterile and ineffective GOP politicians.
  • However, Trump is also a master showman who’s willing to do whatever he must to keep the cameras focused on him.
  • Trump has also succeeded in identifying the specific issues many Americans regard as the most serious as touching them.
  • Yes, many in the political class are genuinely unable to understand any of that.
  • However, many others in that category understand it quite well, and are determined to squash it as a threat to their power and perquisites.

     Unicausal explanations are attractive because of their simplicity. However, they’re almost always incomplete. Get into the habit of looking beyond the frame.

     5. Regulation and economic growth.

     The following cartoon from the great Chris Muir says it all:

     You cannot have Big Government, authorized to interfere with anything and everything however it pleases, and also have a vibrant, growing economy. Indeed, all measures of “growth” in the GDP have been so distorted by currency effects – i.e., the deliberate destruction of the dollar in a “race to the bottom” among the nations – that in real terms, there’s been no true economic growth since Nixon “closed the gold window” in 1971.

     6. Islam and “feminism.”

     Has it ever struck you how inconsistent our brave feminists are?

     With violent attacks on women and children by depraved Muslim immigrants spiraling out of control throughout Europe, there isn't a more suitable day than International Women's Day for those feminists who are most vocal about the rights of their gender to stop the token displays of outrage and actually do something tangible to help the victims of Muslim misogyny.

     The world waited with bated breath for some announcement or orchestrated public display of solidarity with the worldwide sisterhood but alas words and actions came there none.

     Despite desperate attempts by the ruling elite to censor the ever more appalling attacks on women and young girls by their most indulged special interest group, it becomes more obvious by the day that the authorities are not only turning a blind eye but are actively allowing other barbaric Muslim practices to enter main stream life in order redefine our 'values' and 'who we are'.

     One expects this of politicians with an agenda to impose but the deafening silence of the women's movement, along with their publicity seeking celebrity hangers-on, is an indication that their concern for their sisters is contrived, insincere and used for image enhancement purposes only.

     “Insincere” is the weakest of the adjectives I’d apply to Western feminism. They’re also cowards. Worse, like the rest of the Left’s coalition, their principal aim is the destruction of freedom. They see Islam as a useful weapon to wield against it.

     Never forget this disclosure by ur-feminist Simone de Beauvoir:

     "No woman should be authorized to stay at home and raise her children. Society should be totally different. Women should not have that choice, precisely because if there is such a choice, too many women will make that one." -- Interview with Simone de Beauvoir, "Sex, Society, and the Female Dilemma," Saturday Review, June 14, 1975, p.18

     Remember also this piece by your humble servant.

     Have a nice day.


daniel_day said...

I looked up "ablative" and the definitions did not seem to fit your usage of it. Could you explain what I am missing? Aside from my prostate. I know I'm missing my prostate.

Manu said...

I spoke at length about the Most Interesting Man Alive earlier today, myself. While a great commercial concept, you have to wonder what any of it has to do with the beer. More beer has been sold, but not because the product is superior to another, or less expensive. It is only because of "brand awareness."

It is lunacy like that which has given us things like the Puppy Monkey Baby ad.

Pascal said...

I was expecting "Government Science," scorn quotes and all, to have been about the efforts of AG Lynch legally to compel conformity to climate change beliefs. Alas it was about the EU version of a similar but less illegal affliction.

I have my own take on the dangers of that developing horror -- Fighting the Establishment of an American State Religion -- Part 3 and am still praying you will add your own unique perspective on ideas on how to it that this monster dies in its crib.

Pascal said...

... ideas on how to [see to] it that this monster dies in its crib.

Francis W. Porretto said...

Dan: Concerning your "missing prostate," I sympathize, though there are days I'd really like to miss mine. "Ablative" is a Latin grammatical term, where the sort of construction I used is called an "ablative absolute," and is more common than it is in English.

Pascal: That's a good subject for an extended essay. I wouldn't want to waste it as a squib in an assorted column.

Anonymous said...

Back in 1992 I published a book: SCIENCE FUNDING: POLITICS AND PORKBARREL. My thesis was that Federal funding of science was corrupting the American scientific establishment. Nothing that has happened since then has caused me to change my opinion. If anything, the situation is worse than I described it back then. The book is still available from Amazon.