Tuesday, June 4, 2019


     I have some “tab-clearing” to do before my “For future columns” bookmark folder becomes too crowded to be functional, so here goes. Do not expect thematic unity from what follows.

1. “Public” schools.

     Teachers with actual standards are increasingly unwelcome in the government-run schools:

     Last Halloween, I dressed up like a teacher — not exactly an alter ego; I have a certificate — went to the local high school, and substituted in Family & Consumer Science.

     There was a small ruction in third period; the principal and I discussed it amicably, and I barely gave it second thought. However, a couple weeks later, I received a letter informing me he was removing me from the sub list! Explanation (from said letter): he "visited with the class," and the "interactions between yourself and the students were not such as meet our expectations for substitutes."

     A parent reported that a student had videotaped me on his cell phone. So, no doubt if there were a hint of unethical practice — singling a child out for ridicule, touching anyone, or making unreasonable demands — either on the video or in student testimony, my infraction would have been fully detailed.


     What students apparently objected to was me handing back their papers, hectoring them about language errors. I told them unapologetically, "This is your native language, people! Second grade mistakes — not distinguishing between 'your' and 'you’re,' misspelling ex(c)ercise, leaving off caps and periods — from freshmen and sophomores are unacceptable … "

     Those mistakes would most certainly have been unacceptable in my “public” high school when I was a freshman, but then, that was 1964. Candidate explanations for the disappearance of standards are many. All of them have some merit, and as is often the case, likely all of them participate in bringing this situation about. What’s not in doubt is the pervasiveness of the attitude, especially among administrators, that no teacher, however accomplished, knowledgeable, or capable, shall be allowed to “upset” anyone even remotely connected with the school.

     Apropos of nothing: How many fresh high school graduates know how to write a check?

2. “Unsafe.”

     I do go on about words and the perversion of their meanings, don’t I? Yet the phenomenon is huge in extent, and more threatening than most are aware:

     “I don’t feel safe,” says a Harvard student in a video.

     What threatens her? The dean of her Harvard dormitory, law professor Ronald Sullivan, agreed to be part of accused sexual harasser Harvey Weinstein’s legal defense team.

     Sullivan and his wife were deans of the dormitory for years, but no matter. Now the professor is apparently an evil threat.

     A group calling itself “Our Harvard Can Do Better” demanded Sullivan be removed from his dean job.

     Sullivan is black, but black activists joined the protest, too. On the videotape, one says, “Dean Sullivan told me to my face that I should view his representation of Harvey Weinstein as a good thing because that representation will trickle down to black men like me who constantly face an unjust justice system.”

     Seems reasonable to me. But the privileged Harvard students laugh and clap when the protester goes on to say, “F— that!”

     The weaponization of “safe” and “unsafe” has reached a point that’s openly threatening toward those targeted by them. Professor Sullivan lost a part of his employment. Others have lost much more. If the trend is allowed to continue, mobs will attack those who “make us feel unsafe” with the intent to kill – and sooner or later, some will succeed.

     That black protester deserves to be hauled into court to face a felony charge and then told that no lawyer is willing to represent him…because he makes them feel “unsafe.” Given his attitude, I wouldn’t say it’s unlikely.

3. Social Media.

     The redoubtable Glenn Reynolds has penned a column about the pernicious effects of soi-disant “social media.” I shan’t argue with his core contentions:

     On social media, a “share” or “retweet” takes but a second, and research indicates that most people never read anything but the headline before sharing. This facilitates the rapid spread of outrage mobs, conspiracy theories and hysteria.

     Things are made worse by the fact that social media sites operate under algorithms that promote “engagement,” which generally means emotion. And because, as tech visionary Jaron Lanier has written, the easiest emotions to engage are the negative emotions, the effect of social media platforms’ algorithms is to amplify negative feelings.

     The more you use them, the angrier and sadder you’re likely to become. (And they’re quite consciously designed to be addictive.)

     At the same time, unlike the old blogosphere with its many independent platforms, social media sites have a common platform. Censoring the old blogosphere was impossible; censoring social media is possible, which means that social media companies face demands to do so.

     Thus today’s social media world tends to give us the worst possible outcome: lots of angry, ill-informed speech, coupled with censorship of things that the platform owners don’t like or are pressured into killing. Add to that a tremendous loss of privacy as platforms monetize people's personal data, and it’s easy to see why the tech giants aren’t as popular as they once were.

     However, I would like to add an element to the equation: the “smartphone,” a device I have become convinced is designed to lower its users’ intelligence. Social media on their own are bad, both addictive and poisonous. Add the “smartphone,” which makes continuous access to such media a reality few choose to escape, and you have something whose effects are the reverse of Aldous Huxley’s “soma,” is effectively unlimited in supply, and is addictive by design.

     Yet parents who would be apoplectic were their teenagers found consorting with marijuana dealers will spinelessly award them smartphones to stop their whining. It is to laugh…hollowly, and with many a tear.

4. Budget Balancers Won’t Balance The Budget.

     This was predictable:

     This year, Sen. Rand Paul's (R–Ky.) effort to balance the federal budget didn't even get a floor vote in the Republican-controlled Senate.

     Paul's so-called "Pennies Plan" failed a procedural vote on Monday evening when only 22 senators voted in favor of a cloture motion that would have brought the bill to a final vote. A majority of Republicans and all Democrats voted against proceeding to a floor vote on the bill. It's another sign that fiscal responsibility is all but dead in Congress, even as the national debt heads toward record highs and the budget deficit approaches $1 trillion this year.

     "We teach our children that money doesn't grow on trees, and then they grow up watching politicians pretend otherwise," Paul said before the vote. "Meanwhile, our debt soars past $22 trillion, endangers our country, and artificially limits what our nation can achieve."

     Paul's proposal called for cutting 2 percent from all federal line items for each of the next five years and would reduce federal spending by about $11 trillion over the next decade—even though spending would rise after the first five years. It's an adaptation of the so-called "Penny Plan" that Paul has been pushing for several years, though he now says an additional penny in cuts for every federal dollar spent is necessary to get the budget to balance.

     Breathes there a Congressional Republican, past or present, who isn’t stridently in favor of “balancing the budget?” I can’t name one. It’s just that they always suffix a quiet “but” onto the sentiment. The sotto voce trailing clause is not at my expense:

     Not if it would discommode some important interest group I must placate.
     Not if it would open an avenue for my opponents to attack me.
     Not if it would get me voted out of office.

     Dishonest? Of course. But that’s in the nature of the politician’s priorities and his electorally-bounded time horizon. Today’s typical legislator (“A man devoid of principle - a mere counter in a grotesque and knavish game. If the right pressure could be applied to him, he would cheerfully be in favor of polygamy, astrology or cannibalism.” – H. L. Mencken) has a single skill: getting [re-]elected. If he can stay in office long enough, he might be able to cadge a position as a lobbyist to support his retirement. And it has been established beyond argument that the legislator who spends is more likely to get re-elected than one who doesn’t.

     Dr. Paul, like his father, is an uncommonly good and honest man. It makes me wonder why he hasn’t been expelled from Capitol Hill and driven bodily out of Washington.

5. Moral Authority.

     The memory of a civil-rights icon is being tarnished by recent revelations:

     Historians have known for many years that civil rights icon Martin Luther King had been unfaithful to his wife. But now, David Garrow, who won a Pulitzer Prize in 1987 for his biography of King, has unearthed previously classified FBI documents showing that King was genuinely sexually depraved. From the Times of London (behind subscriber paywall):
     A huge archive of documents recently released from Federal Bureau of Investigation files exposes in detail King’s sexual activities with dozens of women as he travelled the country campaigning against racial inequality. In one memo written after the FBI bugged King’s room at a Washington hotel, there is a startling foreshadowing of the videotape that came to haunt Donald Trump at the lowest moment of his presidential campaign in 2016. That tape caught Trump boasting about meeting beautiful women and being able to “grab ’em by the pussy”. William Sullivan, assistant director of the FBI, wrote in the 1964 memo that King joked to his friends “he had started the ‘International Association for the Advancement of Pussy-Eaters’.” In another incident said to have been recorded by FBI agents, King is alleged to have “looked on, laughed and offered advice” while a friend who was also a Baptist minister raped a woman described as one of his “parishioners”. Details of the assault are believed to have been captured on tapes that are currently being held in a vault under court seal at the US National Archives.

     Please read it all.

     The FBI was deployed against Dr. King in an attempt to limit his national influence. Why the revelations mentioned above didn’t find air and sunlight during his years of prominence is an unanswered question. If we can trust them, he was far from the saint the Left has routinely made him out to be.

     I am put in mind of this piece from three years ago:

     A man has committed acts of sabotage to which he freely admits. Those acts have taken the lives of several persons presumed to have been innocent of all crimes. In the U.S., we would call those "felony murders," which are punished at least as harshly as any second-degree murder. His defense is to claim that the political system against which he fights justifies any and all such acts in the effort to overthrow it.

     If the story is stripped of any further details, most persons would say that the saboteur is guilty and deserves the full weight of the law. But there are further details: the saboteur was Nelson Mandela, and the context was apartheid South Africa.

     Let's stipulate that Mandela did mend his ways, to the extent of forgiving his enemies and striving for unity in post-apartheid South Africa. It remains an incontestable fact that as a young man he was personally involved in acts of sabotage that cost the lives of presumptive innocents. He was outspoken about it at his trial. That demands that we ask the core question of all civil uprisings: Does the situation Mandela fought against justify the violence he perpetrated?

     When he was tried in 1962, Nelson Mandela boasted of his acts of sabotage. Persons familiar with those events are virtually unanimous in condemning them and him. I’m one of them. South Africa’s apartheid regime was wrong, but it wasn’t murderous. Moreover, it was failing even then, as employers, landlords, and other South Africans devised ways to circumvent the apartheid laws.

     Yet another tale that tells a lesson of critical importance, deserving of big font:

The worth of a cause is independent of
The character of its spokesmen.

     Remember that.

6. Sacrificial Lambs.

     Presidential elections this century past have had a few:

  • 1940: Wendell Willkie (R)
  • 1956: Adlai Stevenson (D)
  • 1972: George McGovern (D)
  • 1984: Walter Mondale (D)
  • 1996: Robert Dole (R)
  • 2012: Mitt Romney (R)

     These candidates were tossed up against incumbents who were overwhelmingly favored to retain the Oval Office. Those who nominated them didn’t expect them to win; they were placeholders, intended in each case to fill a slot, lest their party’s cachet suffer by baldly conceding the one and only national contest held in these United States. The Democrats’ candidate in 2020 will be of the same kind, which is what makes me wonder why so many Democrats are vying for the “honor.”

     One possibility is a desire to make the campaign about one core issue. For the Left, the cause that trumps all others has always been abortion. But as Noemie Emery notes, that hill is getting ever more difficult to defend:

     Did the Democrats pick the wrong electoral cycle to jump their particular abortion-cheering, fetus-destroying, and sensibility-unsettling shark? For a certain kind of Republican voter, who has problems with Donald Trump’s temperament and with the programmatic agenda of the national Democrats, the decision to vote “no” on the Democrats and on their agenda just got a whole lot easier.

     For years, the polling in the U.S. and the world has been unchanged and unchanging: 60% or so of respondents support permitting abortion in the first trimester, 30% or so in the second, and down to the low teens in the third. For years, presidential candidates on both sides have threaded the needle, appeasing the base while giving those who dissent leeway enough to vote for them anyhow. Then, sometime in the winter of 2018, the needles were tossed, the goalposts upended, and the word went forth to any Democrat even dreaming of running for office that the new rules were unquestioned support for all abortions anywhere under any conditions, to the moment of birth and beyond.

     “The changed composition of the Supreme Court and the supposed imminent danger that [Roe v. Wade] will be overturned is the excuse that pro-abortion extremists have seized upon to do what they want to do anyway,” George Will informs us. Their aim is “to normalize extreme abortion practices expressive of the belief that never does fetal life have more moral significance than a tumor in a mother’s stomach.”

     The question now is how these views may play out against a highly beatable Republican candidate. But haven’t we seen this same story before?

     Say what you like about President Donald Trump, but by no stretch of the imagination is he “highly beatable.” He’s grown stronger with every week of his presidency. The Mueller Report and recent disclosures about the methods of the intelligence community have removed the vulnerability the Democrats were most likely to attack fruitfully. If any president seeking a second term ever looked “secure,” it’s President Trump. So the possibility that the Left’s desire to mount a full-throated defense of abortion is the animating consideration deserves respectful analysis.

     Note that not one of the declared aspirants to the Democrat nomination has waffled even slightly about abortion. They’re all wholly enlisted in the Left’s most sacred cause. Whether any one of them sincerely believes that he has a serious chance of winning the presidency is left to the armchair psychologists.

7. Too Good Not Too Share.

     When I was a high school junior, our English curriculum included three Dystopian novels that have become immortals: Orwell’s 1984, Huxley’s Brave New World, and Golding’s Lord of the Flies. Today 90 Days From Tyranny reminds us of important motifs from two of those books:

     The combination of Orwell’s and Huxley’s methods of control suggests that our “rulers” appreciate their baleful power more than the rest of us.

8. Freedom Fiction.

     I must slather praise on the novel I’ve just read, a captivating blend of science fiction, politics, and offbeat romance:

     Margaret Ball has a quirky way of structuring her fiction, but its appeal is undeniable. Insurgents, the first volume in her Harmony series, is especially pleasing to those of us who understand and love freedom. Highly recommended.

     That’s all for today, Gentle Reader. I’ve just started a new novel-project, and I expect that it will take at least the rest of the day to plan it out properly. I hope to be back tomorrow.

1 comment:


1. There's a reason I spend 1/3 of my take-home pay on private schooling for the progeny.

2. After Nigel Farange was hit with a milkshake someone said on SM "Too bad it wasn't acid"... and sure enough it will be soon.

3. I watch my wife - a highly intelligent woman - spend HOURS looking at videos, etc. And then she complains she has no free time.

4. Channeling Thomas Sowell:
The first duty of a politician is to get elected.
The second duty of a politician is to get re-elected.
The third duty of a politician is to line their pockets.
The interests of those whom they represent don't even get onto the gold-silver-bronze podium.

5. That's a great thought. The problem comes in that the Left also believes their cause worthy.

6. The enemedia is going to go whole hog on smearing Trump until 2020 (and possibly beyond). In the meantime, the Dems are going to impeach based on a pure fabrication.

7. Those two books were meant to be warnings; they're being used as manuals.