Contra Mozilla

Friday, June 2, 2017

Questions Abound

Many on the left have predicted that our withdrawal from a nonbinding agreement on the climate will spell our DOOM as a people and a planet. The Washington Post has published a nifty set of maps predicting exactly when the DOOM will occur.

They even put actual years for different geographic locations around the world, and provided two maps: "Without carbon dioxide mitigation" and "with carbon dioxide mitigation." I notice that the DOOM still occurs in the latter map, but it is pushed back a few years or even decades. I am left to wonder why we should care so much about a policy which might (at best) push back the DOOM by a couple of decades. One possibility is that they mean to imply that we must do something more, but they don't want to say what just yet. Perhaps it is something sinister, or perhaps they simply don't have a further answer and are hoping that they will if given the extra decade.

In this case, the DOOM means that many cities will hit "climate departure." It is no longer global warming, global cooling, climate change, or even climate disruption: we need a new scare word to conjure up images of DOOM. They provide a definition:
A city hits "climate departure" when the average temperature of its coolest year from then on is projected to be warmer than the average temperature of its hottest year between 1960 [sic.?] and 2005. For example, let's say the climate departure point for D.C. is 2047 (which it is). After 2047, even D.C.'s coldest year will still be hotter than any year from before 2005. Put another way, every single year after 2047 will be hotter than D.C.'s hottest year on record from 1860 [sic.?] to 2005. It's the moment when the old "normal" is really gone.
Which begs the question, what is so special about the period between 1960-2005, or even from 1860-2005 (thanks to this typo in the definition, I suppose it could be either period)? The earth is older than this, obviously. Human civilization is older than this, and the industrial period predates most of this. The article in The Washington Times is based on a paper published in Nature, supposedly (no link or reference is given beyond that it is "A big study, just published in the scientific journal Nature"). I suppose we would have to find the paper, get behind Nature's paywall, and then read the paper to get more details of this.

A further question: if this "climate departure" does not come to pass when predicted, will we finally drop it? History says, "of course not." Being a tenure-track professor, I can guess at one of real roots--and a big one at that--of the problem here: publish or perish.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

White House Website

Much is being made about the "issues" which are now missing from the White House website. The site is in transition a President Trump begins his administration--I expect to see the page get more developed with time. And I am disappointed (though not surprised) to see a few issues missing: foremost among these are the pro-life issues, which I suppose aren't being noticed for the simple reason that these have not been on the White House site for about 8 years. Ditto for religious liberties. These days, it is these two sets of liberties which are under most constant assault by our culture and even at times our government.

Of course, the "issues" which most people are whining about being missing are issues which the previous administration championed: socializing healthcare, civil rights, climate change, and the LGBTQABCETC issues. With any luck, some of these things will continue to be absent from the website. I think its a bit much to hope for a good counter-response to them from this administration.

Friday, November 18, 2016


"Can schadenfreude be virtuous?" is a question which I have often asked myself, especially given my method for teaching physics. In the wake of the great defeat of Hillary Clinton, there are others suddenly asking this question, including Dr. Edward Feser. He asks the question so as to provide an answer (in the affirmative). So, in that spirit, here is internet Hitler's reaction to Hillary Clinton's defeat to Donald Trump:

I'm still skeptical as to whether Trump's winning is anything like a good thing, but certainly Hillary Clinton's losing  is good. And the tears of the social justice brownshirts are sweet nectar.

That said, I pray that President-elect Donald Trump proves me wrong about him. I did not vote for him this time because I am not convinced (yet) that he is especially conservative. I believe that much of his cad-like demeanor is an act: most stories I have heard about private interactions with him paint a much different picture than his public persona--even sans media interference--leads us to conclude. But there it is, lacking moderation, without so much as a perfunctory semblance of modesty or decorum. To be fair, I am still working on this (moderation, temperance, decorum) myself, but then I am not the president.

Still, I hope that he will do well as a leader of our nation. He has already shown us all not to underestimate him, and I suppose if anyone can cut through the media's distortions, the president elect as shown that he is able to do so.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

The Electoral College

I read two interesting reactions to the election of Donald Trump this morning: the first is a reaction to the Left's non-violent reaction, the other is actually a less common reaction from the Left. Suffice it to say, I think that the former is basically correct as far as it goes, and that the latter basically draws the wrong conclusion to this election. I will look at the former now, and the latter in a future post.

First: a defense of the electoral college, by Mr. Jason Willick of the American Interest. He brings up four points in defense of the electoral college:

Presidential election 2016 results by county and vote share. Source.
  1. Changing the rules of an election also changes both the impetus for voting and the strategy pursued by the candidates. Thus, Mr. Trump would have spent more time and effort campaigning in rural and blue-collar California, Illinois, and even New York if only the popular vote mattered, whereas Clinton might have made more visits to Houston, Atlanta, etc. Indeed, I suspect that Trump would have actually done more to advertise earlier in this scenario (for example, Hillary Clinton's ads were frequently heard on the radio where I live about two months before the election; I don't think I ever heard a Trump ad).
  2. Attempting to scrap the electoral college is a waste of energy that could be used to reform it instead. I actually don't think this is a good argument for why the college shouldn't be eliminated, but it is a decent argument from a practical standpoint for why people shouldn't try to remove it. The gist is that there are too many states with too much to lose if the college goes away, with only a few large-population (and largely blue) states gaining anything, so it is difficult to imagine getting the requisite 38 states to sign off on this Constitutional amendment. Again, I think that this is not a very good argument because it is less a defense of the college than a plea against the difficulty in removing is, and it may not even really dissuade people from trying (which is the main point of the argument).
  3. The electoral college is what makes the presidential election an actual national election. At this point, the shift is from left vs right to nationalist vs cosmopolitan/internationalist (or so his argument goes). More importantly, the divide is largely between highly populated (but geographically concentrated) urban areas and large but sparsely populated rural areas. Thus, in a popular election, the impetus might be for the Democrat/urban candidate to focus exclusively in getting high turnout in their mega-cities. The rest of the country--including large swatch of "not-flyover" states, would be ignored. Having grown up in the rural part of a blue states whose policies were almost always dictated by the population of the one large city and maybe two or three medium-sized towns), this especially resonated with me. On a national scale, the problem is even worse, since a coalition of  very few large urban areas (New York, Philadelphia, Boston, DC, Chicago, San Francisco, Seattle, Twin Cities, Detroit, Houston, Atlanta, Miami) could very rapidly supply a majority (or plurality) of the population. Indeed, this is a majority which is completely out of touch with smaller metro areas like Montgomery, Topeka, Boise, Amarillo, and even Kansas City or Pittsburgh, let alone the truly rural areas.
  4. The electoral college is one way of forcing coalition-building. This is a sort of continuation of the previous point, but it also gets into the fact that under a winner-take-all poplar election, some third-party candidates would actually maybe be stronger (they no longer have to win states). Indeed, one possible outcome is that we could regularly see people elected by winning 30-35% of the popular vote--a point which again feeds into the third point above. To quote from Mr. Willick's article,
    The winner-take-all Electoral College system creates major obstacles to third-party presidential candidacies. Scrapping it would lead to stronger third-parties vying for the presidency, as these parties wouldn’t need to win any states to register on the electoral scoreboard. As a result, it’s possible that no candidate would come close to getting a majority of the popular vote. America could then regularly end up with plurality presidents with support from thirty percent (or less) of the voting public. Parliamentary systems manage this problem by requiring coalitions to form a government. The party that wins the most votes in the first round doesn’t immediately win power; it must create a coalition with other parties so that together, they represent a majority. (In a number of European countries, far-right parties are kept out of power despite having a plurality of popular support because the governing coalition excludes them). In America, there is no such mechanism. Popular vote champions looking to avoid minor plurality presidencies (the legitimacy of which might also be challenged on democratic grounds) would need to also seek to implement a runoff election or else scrap the entire U.S. Constitutional structure.
     I actually think that strengthening the third parties and weakening the two major parties is not a bad thing. However, I also think that Mr. Willick's prediction may be the opposite of what actually happens. To whit, look at the vote totals for Gary Johnson and Jill Stein (and the "others") in "safe" states vs "swing" states. A voter who does not expect his vote to influence the election one way or another is more likely to vote for his favorite candidate (even if said candidate is in a third party) than the one whom he considers be the lesser of t two evils who is likely to actually win. I suspect that in a close election year, the third parties would actually win fewer popular votes, thus adding a false sense of popular mandate to the eventual winner.
Presidential election 2016 results by county and vote share. Source.

    Three of these four points argue that abolishing the electoral college could have either bad or at best unpredictable results. Certainly, the party establishment types living in the heart of a major metropolitan area will disagree with me there, at least if they favor gut reaction to prudence. Certainly, the New York or DC elite would be perfectly content to rule over the people in the hinterlands--right up until those people decide that they are no longer interesting in playing by the rules of a system which seems rigged against them by people who disdain them and who seem actively wish to destroy their ways of life. This is, by and large, the reason why enough electors have ultimately supported Trump rather than Clinton.

    Thursday, November 10, 2016

    Post-Election Musing

    As one friend noted, he went to bed on election night knowing that in the morning he would wake up as a part of the loyal opposition--he just didn't know yet what the details of that would be. I felt much the same way, and would likely have slept better had my kids not been up all night sick.


    I actually voted third party (write-in) this time around: I live in a very red state, so my vote one way or the other won't impact the election results, nor would the votes of all my friends and acquaintances, and theirs, within this state. And when faced with the choice between a corrupt criminal and a caricatured cad, I voted "no."

    If I lived in (say) Pennsylvania, or Florida, or another "likely swing" state, I am not sure that I would necessarily have voted differently. That said, I am very much relieved that Hillary Clinton did not win. This is not to say that I am happy with (or even satisfied with) a Donald Trump presidency: I have already expressed that a few times here during the primary season.


    That said, a few people have wondered what I have done to prevent a Donald Trump Presidency. Few ask what I did to prevent a Hillary Clinton Presidency, but since she lost the election, I suppose that particular point is moot.

    In any case, I voted against both major candidates--and I did not vote for any of the well-known minor ones--which satisfies the basic criterion of working to prevent a Trump Presidency to the extent that I, a single voter, can do so.

    In point of fact, my votes have been against Trump prior to that. For example, I voted in the Republican primaries of my state, voting not for my first pick candidate, but rather for the candidate whom the polls were showing was in second place after Trump (and I urged others to do the same in their states). We could all sort out whether Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio or even John Kasich was the best nominee after making sure that one of those three would indeed be the nominee instead of Trump. This ploy failed.


    Actually, there is more to the answer of this question--what did you do to prevent a Trump Presidency--than my votes in 2016. If the nation had done the right thing in 2012 and elected Mitt Romney (and more importantly, kicked Barack Obama and his wife and his administration to the curb), we wouldn't be faced with Trump. We would in fact be looking at either Romney Term 2 or else Hillary Clinton. Given that Romney pulled more votes in the last election cycle than either Trump or Clinton in this cycle, my guess is that we would have Romney Term 2.

    Correction--There sure are a lot of late votes tallied. Now Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have surpassed Mitt Romney's vote total. Suffice it to say that I am against early voting.


    There are, of course, the expected round of riots and vandalism over this. Suffice it to say that it's not just white men who are angry. The Left just does a better job of covering up their frustration and rage--having the media run interference for your helps--until they lose.


    Here is a microcosm of why so many people did turn out for trump in the swing states:

    The people in deep blue states voted heavily for Hillary Clinton (perhaps more so than as usual, even)--this is why she will likely win the popular vote in the end. These are the people who are encouraging this kind of bullying, and they are by their actions (and cheering on those actions) as guilty of Trump as are the frustrated and angry people who voted him in.


    Moving forward, there is a relatively simple (though not easy) solution to all of this: a return to a sort of limited federalism, in which the laws and policies of the nation are decided on the sate and local level. Reduce the power of the federal government, not only of the Executive branch, but also of the Legislative and Judicial branches; and above all of the bureaucracy. Let the deep blue states of Illinois and the West Coast and the Northeast Coast run their own affairs, and let the deep red states in the South and the Mid- and Mountain- West run theirs. The federal elections are only such a big deal because they decide which half of America will chafe under the other half's rule (nevermind that Donald Trump is a New Yorker). Consider allowing larger states to split up--surely the people of San Francisco would prefer to run the bay Area without interference from LA and vice versa.

    In short, make politics more local. The Iowa farmer and the Michigan factory worker and the Wall Street and the Las Vegas casino-owner ought not run each others' businesses. Let the states be united in friendship and common defense and trade, but not uniform in regulation and rule.

    Thursday, July 21, 2016

    Ted Cruz and Donald Trump

    I've said elsewhere on this site that I do not consider Ted Cruz to be the ideal candidate. Still, he deserved better than to get booed off the stage for his non-endorsement (and his defense of that non-endorsement). To whit:

    A lot of people are trying to say that Ted Cruz lost all credibility after that speech. I think that he actually (re)gained some credibility (possibly setting himself up for a run in 2020); and, indeed, this actually further seals my decision to not vote for Trump (I was almost kinda-sorta wavering, but not by much, after he chose Mike Pence).

    Instead, I have to decide which third party candidate I will support. Suffice it to say that I am unlikely to pull the lever for any of the four most well-known candidates/parties (Trump/Republican, Clinton/Democrat, Johnson/Libertarian, or Stein/Green Party); of those four, the best is probably Johnson/Weld and the Libertarian party, but it seems to me that the parts of their platform which are most likely to succeed would be the parts I most disagree with.

    Saturday, July 16, 2016

    How Much Hypocrisy in 140 Characters

    Good advice, but the person giving it doesn't believe it.
    Hypocrisy is Hillary Clinton's telling people to have respect for "laws, institutions, and basic human rights and freedoms." She has respect for none of these things, but it is in her on best interests that everybody else (mostly) does so. In her world, Laws are for little people, and she has been part and parcel of an administration which has been systematically seeking to undermine both secular (marriage) and religious institutions and to trample on basic rights (e.g. to life) and freedoms (e.g conscience liberties).

    This is real hypocrisy. It also goes to show that just because a statement is hypocritical does not make the statement false--we should have respect for laws and institutions, for duties and responsibilities and the rights and freedoms and privileges that they entail. Society breaks down and civilization passes from decadence to collapse when we don't.

    Also, for those who missed it because they get their news from social media and the Daily Show, there has been an attempted military coup in Turkey.

    Tuesday, July 12, 2016

    I Don't Often Swear in Writing

    When I do, it is generally justified. Thus: WTF is wrong with these people?

    Irony is using Batman to question a person's maturity.

    Stump Seech

    The candidate who gives this stump speech--and who actually means it and backs it up by his actions and policy proposals--would get my vote in a heartbeat (heavily excerpted):
    The crisis in our land is a crisis of truth. Let me repeat that. The crisis in our land is a crisis of truth....

    The last eight years have seen an ever-accelerating push from our government for an agenda that is—let’s be frank about it—deranged. Social institutions of all kinds are breaking down, foreign policy is in disarray, racial and cultural tensions are suddenly at the boil, and we find ourselves hurtling through increasing social chaos toward complete disaster. It didn’t begin eight years ago, but the derangement has accelerated dramatically over the last eight years.

    That is why you are here. You have known, in your minds and hearts, that many of the developments in our nation are deranged. But when you have turned to the usual places for help in applying the brakes, your voice is unheard. Those who listen least are in that bloated bureaucracy we call the federal government. Indeed, the current administration has gone out of its way to push for, and celebrate, our social derangement as though this is what you want. The Democratic candidates have been arguing strenuously over which of them is more committed to this derangement. This is no longer a surprise. The surprise is that the apparent Republican candidate has spent his entire life aiding and abetting the Democrats and their agenda of social derangement....

    The crisis in our land is a crisis of truth. We are being told to believe things that are obviously false—things that cannot possibly be true—and to accept that the most obviously true things are false.... And yet, when you protest, you are bullied with name-calling and threats. You are told you are an irrational bigot.... And yet, when you protest, you are threatened with fines and legal actions for failing to fall in line....

    What has produced the America that we know and love? What kind of America causes the world to flock to its shores in joy and hope?

    It is an America that values the truth above all.

    Listen to what the other candidates say; more importantly, look at what they do. Is any other candidate interested in this America? Is any other candidate interested, even the slightest bit, in the truth?

    I am. And if this is the America you want, let me be your champion this November. Together, we can make America her truest self.

    Unfortunately, neither of the frontrunners is this candidate. Nor, for that matter, is the "darkhorse" third party candidate Gary Johnson of the Libertarian party. And don't even get me started on the other third party candidate who draws substantial numbers in polls--with or without Bernie Sanders on the ticket.

    Friday, July 8, 2016


    Pro-abortion folks like to say that they want abortions to be safe (for the mother, anyway). "Safe" abortions in "safe" abortion facilities: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. Especially in light of Kermit Gosnell, or Whole Women's Health v Hellerstedt.

    Wednesday, June 29, 2016

    Two Day, Two Decisions

    The Supreme Court of the United States has made (or sustained) two anti-life decision in the last two days. The more widely publicized decision was declared on Monday, striking down the Texas laws placing restrictions of abortion mills in the state. That law would have closed most (though not all) of the mills in the state--though it would not have prevented new mills from opening which met the restriction in the law.

    The second decision was made on Tuesday, and was in fact a decision to decline to hear a case. This was a case which also have direct bearing on the rights of conscience, which are at least hypothetically protected under the First Amendment of the Constitution (a document for which the Left has had no use in general of late). This is a case whose decision should have been obvious from the get-go. The State of Washington insists that all pharmacies must be made to dispense (abortifacent) morning-after and week after "contraceptive" pills; some pharmacists--and indeed, some entire pharmacies--have declined to do so, because it violates their consciences to do so. This is a religious liberty issue to the extent that many of these consciences are religiously formed. The teaching of, for example, the Catholic Church in this matter is pretty clear, especially with regard to week-after pills after which fertilization has almost certainly occurred if their is to be a pregnancy at all.

    In this case, the Court did not impose a new law by judicial fiat, but rather refused to hear a case which has been wrongly decided (by the always suspect Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals). There were three dissenters form this refusal: justices Alito, Thomas, and Roberts (the only three remotely objective justices left on the court). They wrote:
    This case is an ominous sign. At issue are Washington State regulations that are likely to make a pharmacist unemployable if he or she objects on religious grounds to dispensing certain prescription medications. There are strong reasons to doubt whether the regulations were adopted for—or that they actually serve—any legitimate purpose. And there is much evidence that the impetus for the adoption of the regulations was hostility to pharmacists whose religious beliefs regarding abortion and contraception are out of step with prevailing opinion in the State. Yet the Ninth Circuit held that the regulations do not violate the First Amendment, and this Court does not deem the case worthy of our time. If this is a sign of how religious liberty claims will be treated in the years ahead, those who value religious freedom have cause for great concern…. Ralph’s has raised more than ‘slight suspicion’ that the rules challenged here reflect antipathy toward religious beliefs that do not accord with the views of those holding the levers of government power. I would grant certiorari to ensure that Washington’s novel and concededly unnecessary burden on religious objectors does not trample on fundamental rights.”
    Also worth noting are the background to this case and the circumstances under which the law was passed:
    Margo Thelen, Rhonda Mesler, and the Stormans family have worked in the pharmacy profession for over seventy years. When a customer requests an abortion-inducing drug, they refer the customer to one of over thirty pharmacies within five miles that willingly sell the drugs. For decades, this has been standard pharmacy practice, has been approved by the American Pharmacists Association, and has been legal in all 50 states.

    But in 2007, Washington adopted a new law making referrals for reasons of conscience illegal. The law was passed in a cloud of controversy, with then-Governor Christine Gregoire threatening to terminate the State Pharmacy Commission and replacing Commission members with new ones recommended by abortion-rights activists. The law leaves pharmacies free to refer patients elsewhere for a wide variety of reasons related to business, economics, and convenience—but not for reasons of conscience. Because of the law, Margo Thelen lost her job, Rhonda Mesler was threatened with losing hers, and the Stormans family faces the loss of its pharmacy license.
    The burning times continue apace.

    Tuesday, June 28, 2016

    The Right to Food

    An analogy:

    In related news, the US Supreme Court has ruled 6-2 against the right of those who commit "reckless" (as opposed to pre-meditated, or as opposed to intentional?) acts of domestic violence from owning firearms. On the face of it, this seems like a good and common-sense ruling. One wonders if these restrictions ever sunset (and also, why Justice Sotomayer, a reliable liberal, dissented). Does a profound and even violent misjudgment which occurred once in one's younger years mean that one forfeits one's rights for life? In some cases, the answer is yes--but others may or may not be as clear-cut*.

    I do in general favor restrictions against granting violent criminals the ability to obtain firearms. On the other hand, I've also noticed that "violent criminal" is not necessarily the same thing as, say, being on the no-fly list, or being convicted of a felony. Intentionally hitting one's domestic partner almost certainly qualifies, provided that there is no mitigating circumstance.

    *Example of the latter: the kangaroo "courts" set up on campuses (and via social media) the world over which exist to destroy the reputations (and lives) of men who have been accused of sexual assault, no matter how fraudulent and libelous the accusation.