Contra Mozilla

Friday, November 18, 2016

Schadenfreude

"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

    Safe

    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.

    Monday, June 27, 2016

    Unfettered Access

    Unfettered access to murder: that seems to be what the Left in general, and their puppets on the Supreme Court of the United States in particular--are pushing for.

    Meanwhile, across the pond, Britain has voted for the right thing, and Brexit won in referendum. People in Texas have again begun with the "Texit" talk--what we need is not so much a Texit (which would be especially bad news for every other red state) as a more limited federal government in general, and this includes the courts.

    Throw in a roaming capital (rather than one anchored in and thus perpetually diverting the nation's wealth to Washington D.C.) for good measure. It would be a nice change for state and local laws to actually matter, and for decisions to be made more locally and by people who will have to live with these decisions rather than by presidential or judicial (or bureaucratic) fiat.

    Thursday, June 23, 2016

    When Amateur Hour Ends

    The current Administration has proven to be largely an amateur operation. This has hurt us internationally, primarily: it is, in my opinion, best when the domestic policy of the country (at least) is for the most part decided by the states. On the other hand, Amateur Hour does not last forever, even in this Administration. There are certain things which President Obama and his underlings have approached with a dogged persistence: stamping on the states' already-too-limited powers and authorities is one such thing.

    But it should be clear to any impartial observer that a significant goal of this Administration has been to go after the rights and freedoms and way of life of those whom disagree with the President. It has been to engage in social engineering, and to marginalize those who are on the opposite side of the Culture Wars: not only to prevent us from getting what we want, but to needlessly take from us what they don't need. The (happily failed) attempt at passing the Freedom of Choice Act was the first and most obvious case of this. The tyrannical HHS abortion/sterilization/contraceptives mandate was another, which has been partially overturned by the Courts*. And the latest is that that the Tyrant and his Minions are insisting that churches must be forced to cover abortions in California**.

    It seems that the goal of the Left in general and this Administration in particular is to ensure not only that our civilization collapse into barbarism, but that Christians should be the targets of the barbarians when the burning times come.





    *It is largely still in force, however: the Courts have taken Little Sister of the poor off the hook, largely, but most private business are not. In some ways, this is a Pyrrhic victory for the good guys, in that while the Little Sisters of the Poor have retained their freedom of conscience rights, many Catholic business owners are still having theirs trampled on; but the gullible public, which is alternatively feed propaganda and then left with no news at all by the various Left-wing stooges in the media, tends to have less sympathy for the rights of a small business owner than for the rights of a habited religious (for now).

    **Granted, this is a collaboration between the administration and a depraved state's government: it's only a matter of time before other states and perhaps the federal government directly follow suit

    Friday, June 17, 2016

    A Roundup of Post-Orlando Links and Commentary

    There are, of course, quite a few commentators talking about the Orlando Massacre--both of the "professional" and from the "armchair/amateur" variety--and not all of them are saying good or even intelligent things. Some on the Left are (rather predictably) attempting to blame the NRA and especially conservative Christians for this atrocity. The NRA, maybe, but then again if the FBI would enforce existing (mostly common sense) gun laws, a lot of these problems would go away.

    The Ruger SR9 without extended grip.
    Nor do I think that banning high-capacity semiautomatic weapons is necessarily "common sense," in part because I do not think there is a reasonable "common"definition for "high capacity." Is 7 round high capacity? I have a revolver which holds this many, so presumably not. Is it 10? There are handguns which can carry up to just fewer than 20 (the Ruger SR9, for example*), without being obviously overdone. Indeed, it is the magazine size and not necessarily the gun which fires the magazine which determines the ammunition capacity, and there exist "high-capacity" (more than 20 rounds) after-marker magazines for many common handguns.

    For that matter, the (relatively lower-caliber, lower-power for a rifle/carbine) AR-15 could in principal accept a 10-round magazine. For that matter, there exist after-market limiters for the AR-15 which limit it to 10 rounds. Placing a ban on magazine capacity is virtually impossible in the US, shy of simply banning all semi-automatic guns (rifle, carbine, handgun, etc) for the simple reason that a semi-automatic gun need not use only the magazine made by the original manufacturer.

    It could be argues that what is needed is not an absolute ban on magazine capacity, but rather ammunition sales in a given time frame. However, this does nothing to prevent a person from making (or even reloading) their own ammunition, nor from simply "saving" ammunition**. This is of course assuming that such an "ammunition limit" can be feasibly implemented in the first place. It also overlooks the fact that such a limit may prove detrimental to the ability of anyone who needs to buy ammunition for the purpose of practicing***. I suppose there could be a loophole for buying and then using ammo at the range, but then how would this actually be enforced?

    Another alternative is to attempt to regulate neither magazine capacity nor bullet caliber, but some combination of both. The reasoning here is simple: different calibers will be more or less likely to be lethal, and thus more or less likely to be used for a mass shooting. Nobody is particularly worried about a mass shooter unloading 30 rounds of 0.22 caliber bullets into a crowded area, in the sense that while this would be very, very bad, and while is certainly could result in some death or serious injuries, the odd are that a shooter using this caliber of ammunition will not wrack up a high body count. Indeed, I would bet that said shooter would almost certainly wrack up a lower body count than a man using a 0.357 revolver in the same crowded area.

    Of course, by limiting "high-caliber" rounds (and given that 0.223/5.56 NATO rounds prove quite lethal when fired from an AR-15) one may inadvertently encourage shooters to pack a combination of low-capacity, high caliber and low-caliber, high-capacity weapons (to say nothing about the aforementioned point about the difficulty of actually regulating magazine capacity). And as one observer has noted, "gun wounds are often preferable to the alternatives," and moreover,
    "On guns, it is a little known fact that even in the Natted States Merica, where they seem rather more easily available than elsewhere, they do not account for the majority of murders. Convenient as guns may be for this purpose, if you are a Merican (according to the latest FBI statistics) you are six times more likely to be murdered with a knife; and with a rifle, only one chance in fifty. That the murder rate itself is higher than in some other countries, I will happily concede. What can we say? Mericans just like to kill each other. Banning guns won’t help."
    I should note here that I am not in principle opposed to limiting magazine capacities--though I question whether there is a magic number to which they should be limited--nor to such things as expanded background checks, mandatory waiting periods, or (better still) randomly assigned waiting periods of arbitrary duration (not to exceed a month or so). In the past, I have favored what I would call the "national gun buyers identity" which would allow a person the ability to purchase as many or as few guns as he chooses without further background checks for a limited period of time, which is then renewable upon completing a thorough background check upon expiration.

    I am, however, quite skeptical that any other these things will actually help. The US homicide rate in general--and also the homicide by firearms rate--has been decreasing for some time--the overall homicide rate in the US is at a 51 year low, according to the FBI. For that matter, so has the violent crimes rate, and our overall rate of violent crime is actually lower than that of Britain (though our homicide rate is higher).

    What makes me more skeptical than anything against using regulations to lower gun death rates is that this is basically imposing a technical solution on a moral problem. And the moral problem here runs fairly deeply, and exists on several levels. For one thing, we as a society, indeed as a civilization (I am here including Europe as well) have become virtually incapable of naming our enemies, be they human or spiritual. I noted above (and before) that the immediate reaction in the wake of a killing perpetrated by a Mohammedan who may or may not have also been a homosexual but who did pledge allegiance to ISIS was to blame Christians in general and conservative one in particular.

    When even moderate Muslims are willing to admit that Mohammedanism is at least in part behind this shooting, it seems clear to me that we who are not Mohammedans, and who have no vested interest in propping us Islam, should be able to do the same. Moreover, we have created an environment in which people are not allowed to turn others away for religious or moral reasons because of anti-discrimination laws. Now these anti-discrimination laws are to some extent good, but they fall prey to the very thing they try to prevent: namely, they do not allow discrimination in cases where discrimination is just.

    Case in point: suppose a gun store owner decided to turn away a Muslim because the gun store owner had a suspicion that he was up to no good; what is this suspicion based upon? If the Muslim was acting in good faith, but merely had some social peculiarity, does anyone doubt that he might attempt to sue on anti-discrimination charges, thereby taking the gun shop owner to the kangaroo courts of the civil rights commissions? Yet, sometimes those hunches do prove to be right--as they did in the case of the gunshop owner who refused to sell a gun to Mateen "because he seemed odd." How many gun store owners are more afraid to be convicted of "hate crime" than of inadvertently selling a gun to a mass-shooter? Especially given that the former is more likely than the latter, since (we have all been assured) the vast majority of Muslims are perfectly harmless?

    This is just picking on one sub-group of mass shooters and homicidal maniacs, the Muslims. This wasn't an isolated incident, as Mr. John C. Wright points out: during the Obama presidency, 115 people have been killed in the US in the name of Islam, whereas non have been documented to have been killed (or even brutally injured) for believing in Mohammed or Mohammed's God. And I am picking on this group in particular, because it is the one group which we cannot name as terrorists, the one group it has become politically incorrect to call out, and indeed one of the few groups which it has become politically expedient to actively help, and the one group which cannot be called intolerant, especially not of women or gays. It may not be the only group about which we must be dishonest, both publicly and privately, but it is the one group which we must continuously pretend to be "shocked" in learning that the latest terrorist--foreign or domestic--gives allegiance to.

    I will add here that there is another sense of moral decline--they are myriad, too many to really discuss in detail here--which plays into all of this, and which regulation simply does not fix. That is the negligence of some--not a majority, but still far too many--actual gun owners. None of these proposed laws will prevent the negligent homicide of a child who finds the loaded gun and shoots himself (or his friend, sibling, or even parent). There is no reasonable law which can prevent this fully. Sure, there may be developed a technology of the sort which can help prevent this--for example, a gun which is bio metrically sensitive****.

    There exists already a number of laws which are meant to "idiot-proof" firearms against accidental discharge and/or unauthorized use. But, as the saying goes, any time you idiot-proof something, somebody comes up with a better idiot (the skills of whom are then widely duplicated). The vast majority of these "accidental" firearms homicides (or even injuries) can be chalked up to lack of common sense and/or lack of caution/precaution, or simple negligence (which is another word for "lack of care"). These are, by and large, all moral defects, and cannot be simply legislated away. There are some who go so far as to question whether Americans are "moral" enough to merit the constitutional protections of the Second Amendment. This is perhaps a valid question, but it leads to another--do we merit any of our other rights, either? Such a line of reasoning may quickly lead us to conclusions which are more dangerous, indeed which are in general worse, than the "threat" of firearms from which they were meant to protect us.


    -------
    *This compact handgun has a manufacturer-included extended-grip magazine which allows 17+1 of 9 mm ammunition, for example; without the extended grip, it's 10+1 rounds. This is a compact pistol, which is meant for concealed carry.

    **Incidentally, it might still work to reduce "mass shootings" in the sense of serving as a deterrent to mass shootings committed by a person who is willing to plan for days, weeks, or months. On the other hand, given that a typical "box" of ammunition will have 20-50 rounds in it, and that it's generally recommended that one put hundreds of rounds downrange for practice to keep up marksmanship (to say nothing of competition shooters), it would seem to me that this kind of law will have very little effect on preventing mass shootings.

    ***Typical advice says practice live-firing your gun once per month, 50 rounds each time, minimum. That is 600 rounds per year, minimum!

    ****While we are at it, why not insist on a second law which disables the gun when outside of the user's house/property/hunting area/competition area/gun range? There are, of course, a variety of problems with this, not least of which is the obvious infringement on freedoms inherent in using, for example, a gps tracker to locate said gun. In a country with a history of mistrust of the government in general, and with respect to gun confiscation in particular, such a law is a non-starter, arguably worse even than gun registration. Perhaps the technology exists to do this without a gps, e.g. the gun has a receiver only and no transmitter, the transmitters can be bought and placed in the home--but then, what is to prevent one from being transported along with the gun?

    Wednesday, June 15, 2016

    Comfort and the Middle Class

    I've been reading through Richard Weaver's Ideas Have Consequences (finally!). It is a good read--the man taught rhetoric, so it is well-written, generally--and quite thought-provoking. There are some passages which read as odd, or even "cranky" at times, and not merely because they challenge some of the underlying assumptions upon which our modern society is built.

    However, I have found that there is one long-lasting distraction through this book, which is that Weaver had a serious axe to grind against the Middle Class. He can't seen to make it more than a few pages before returning to the common theme, which is that the great ills of society ought all to be laid at the feet of the Middle Class (he does, in fact, use the term "bourgeoisie" on numerous occasions) to to those who have capitulated to it.

    He does this to the extreme of complaining that one great turning point of civilization away from the good was during the late Middle Ages when the educated society turned its attention from Plato to Aristotle:
    "The way was prepared for the criteria of comfort and mediocrity when the Middle Ages abandoned the ethic of Plato for that of Aristotle. The latter's doctrine of rational prudence compelled him to declare in the Politics that the state is best ruled by the middle class. For him, the virtuous life was an avoidance of extremes, a middle course between contraries considered harmful.... 
    Here the conception of Plato--expressed certainly, too, by Christianity--of pursuing virtue until worldly consequence becomes a matter of indifference, stands in contrast. Aristotle remains a kind of natural historian of the virtues, observing and recording them as he observed techniques of the drama, but not thinking of a spiritual ideal. A life accommodated to this world and shunning the painful experiences which extremes, including those of virtues, entail was what he proposed for his son Nicomachus. 
    One could anticipate that this theory would recommend itself to the Renaissance gentleman and later to the bourgeoisie when their turn came. In Thomism, based as it is on Aristotle, even the Catholic church [sic.] turned away from the asceticism and the rigorous morality of the patristic fathers to accept a degree of pragmatic acquiescence in the world."

    Here Weaver seems like the ascetic who believed that asceticism is necessary for all people, all the time--he rails against any modern comforts, and the middle class consumers of them. At times, this feels like a breath of fresh air--we could all use a little asceticism in our lives--but elsewhere he appears to fall into the tap of appearing to argue that modern comforts are bad simply because they are comforts.

    At his best, Weaver makes arguments which might be said to compliment--or be complimented by--those in Joseph Pieper's Leisure: The Basis of Culture (to name one work), as comforts and convenience and riches do have certain spiritual drawbacks. Where modern "convenience" enslaves us to the devices which make it possible, and where "comfort" and "relaxation" and "amusement" distract us from contemplation, leisure, or wonder, these former are for the worse. But they do remain secondary goods, and the problem is desiring them inordinately, or desiring them above the latter, "primary" goods. Weaver at times seems to lose sight of this in his eagerness to embrace "sentiment" and "ideal", to say nothing of the spiritual and philosophical.

    Tuesday, June 14, 2016

    Massacres and Dark Portents

    The Orlando shooting which left over 50 dead or injured people is certainly a tragedy and a  massacre. I think that the right response is to begin by praying the Lord's mercy on the victims and their loved ones.

    On the other hand, I also noticed the immediate reaction from the Left went something like this:

    • Begin by assuming that the gunman was a Christian. Blame all Christians for promoting "hateful" laws and tar us all as violent bigots who cheered in the light of this tragedy
    • Do the same to all gunowners
    In the wake of the revelations that the gunman was affiliated with ISIS---the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria--and the subsequent shouts of glee and claims of victory by ISIS, the left pivoted to a new set of talking points:

    • We shouldn't allow these killings to cause us to tar all Muslims with the same brush (fair enough). Nevermind the fact that the only people who do this regularly aside from people who have a history of being mentally unstable are followers of Islam.
    • We cannot place the blame of this on Islam (radical or otherwise)--we need to be more tolerant of Islam, and not jump to the conclusion that it is to blame.
    • Also, it's still the fault of those Christians (because "bigotry") and gunowners (because "the US is the only developed country where this kind of thing ever happens").

    Maybe the Lord can spare some mercy for the sick soul of our nation as it slumps towards Gomorrah. Barring that, may He spare some of us from the Burning Times, for they are a-coming.

    Monday, June 13, 2016

    Carpetbaggers

    This election cycle, the two major parties look to offer us a choice between two carpetbaggers for the office of President of the United States. This may seem an odd statement--how can a presidential candidate be a carpetbagger? You have to have been born here to run for office, and so long as you are a citizen over 35 years of age and living somewhere in the US, you qualify for that office.

    Hillary Clinton's carpetbagging is evident, in that she did this to be elected as a senator, which then enabled her to run for this office (and lose) 8 years ago. She has kept her face (and name) in the public eye by serving as a (scandal-ridden, if anybody bothers to look) Secretary of State. If I had to guess, she would likely not have made much headway in 2008 (and thus, thereafter) if she had not spent time as the senator from New York--yet one wonders if she had set foot in that state, other than to change planes and perhaps to campaign for her husband, prior to deciding to run for the Senate in 2000. Lord know she wouldn't have been elected as the senator from Arkansas.

    What of Donald Trump? In What sense does a man whom has never held public office prior to running for President, and whom has spent his life in these United States, deserve the title "carpetbagger?" Whereas Mrs. Clinton is a carpetbagger in the strictest sense of the word--a "geographic carpetbagger," if you please--Mr. Trump is what I would call an "ideological carpetbagger."

    He's switched party affiliation a few times, but by and large the ideology which he is espousing does not seem to be his ow, and is in fact largely a sort of parody of what many of the Right stand for. Certainly, he has suddenly pivoted to some semblance of the right on a number of issues, just in time to run an anti-establishment campaign for the Republican nomination; he managed to crowd out the far better Ted Cruz in doing so. And certainly, there are a few promising which he made on the early campaign trail (and then unmade, and then perhaps re-made) which would be nice, if implemented: the border wall, and stricter border security and control in general, for example. But on the whole, the man has done nothing to make me trust any promises which he has made; in some ways, it would be preferable if he rose to the level of a carpetbagger--in the sense that then, he might at least attempt to deliver on his new ideological promises, much as a carpetbagger must maintain some semblance of residence in his or her newfound "home" district.

    Monday, June 6, 2016

    You're Doing It Wrong

    I occasionally get emails which read something like this: "I am following exactly what your directions say for the quizzes and when I feel I am doing well I keep getting a <lower score than I'd like>?!? I don't know what I am doing wrong?"

     When I get emails like this, I have to fight the urge to reply with, "You are answering some of the questions incorrectly," along with a link to this article. I should add here that my students do not consist only of Millennials.

    Thursday, June 2, 2016

    If It Saves the Life of Just One Child...

    The Left is up in arms over the shooting of a Gorilla, which was done to save the life of a little boy who fell into the Gorilla's enclosure at the zoo. Funny, I remember a time (about three years ago) when the battle cry from the Left, lead by President Obama himself, was "If it saves the life of just one child..."

    Perhaps they are only annoyed, because this time a gun actually was used to save the life of a child. Surely it's not because they value the life of a gorilla over that of a child. Ok, maybe they do. Indeed, the Left actually seem to openly despise children.

    Friday, May 20, 2016

    Target Delenda Est

    Not only has this company doubled down on its awful and utterly unnecessary bathroom policy (after seeing its stock plummet by $billions). No, it also despises its customers, to the extent that it is now suing a man who saved a teenage girl from being stabbed in one of Target's stores:
    When she was sixteen, Allison Meadows was shopping in an East Liberty, Pennsylvania, Target store when Leon Walls rushed into the outlet and stabbed her.

    With the assistance of surveillance video, Walls was convicted of attempted homicide for his attack on the girl.

    The only reason the girl did not suffer more injuries is because Michael Turner interceded and, along with several other men, confronted Walls. Turner himself chased Walls out the store with a baseball bat.

    Unsurprisingly, Meadows was extremely thankful for Turner’s efforts....

    Target, however, is less grateful for Mr. Turner’s heroics. And now the retailer is suing him for “endangering” the store’s customers.

    According to the company’s filing, Target says Turner and several others chased the suspect toward the store’s entrance after the attack on the girl. The store insists Turner put other shoppers at risk with his actions.

    The victim of the stabbing and her family are furious with the retail chain and say Target is just trying to shift the blame away from its own security failures.
    I can think of few companies (Starbucks is an obvious contender) which at this time are generally worse--for the culture, and for humanity. I suppose they could be worse--they could fund Planned Parenthood.

    Wednesday, May 11, 2016

    Tenure Requirements in a Nutshell

    "To discover and to teach are distinct functions; they are also distinct gifts, and are not commonly found united in the same person."

    So said Bl. John Henry Cardinal Newman, who was perhaps the most brilliant thinker in England of his day. I notice that the modern university demands that its faculty do both, or face termination. Small wonder that so many graduates learn so little from their myriad classes.

    Monday, May 9, 2016

    Why We Will Homeschool--Reason Number 857837820

    My wife and I don't live in Oregon, but I'm from there. So this does strike close to home for me, in a sense (my emphases added):
    Oregon’s state government released a set of guidelines for schools Thursday informing educators that students must be allowed to use whatever locker rooms they want and play on opposite-sex sports teams as long as they say it reflects their chosen gender identity.

    Not only that, but if the student doesn’t want his or her parents to know, teachers don’t have to tell them.

    The 15-page document makes Oregon one of just a handful of states to release detailed guidelines for how states should handle the topic of transgender students. In general, the guide tells teachers to adhere to the wishes of students when it comes to affirming their chosen gender identity.

    “A student who says she is a girl and wishes to be regarded that way throughout the school day should be respected and treated like any other girl,” it says. “So too with a student who says he is a boy.” Students should be called by whatever name they wish (regardless of their legal name), and they have the right to use bathrooms and locker rooms of either sex in accordance with their wishes...

    the LGBT-rights group Basic Rights Oregon declared the new standards were a “wonderful first step” for the state in improving transgender rights in school.
    And what happens in the more progressives states soon get exported to saner states, either by the slow slipping of the culture or by judicial (or presidential) fiat.

    As an added aside, I noticed this passage in the document:
    "Students are often still in transition at the time of graduation and have not necessarily completed legal name changes and other documentation. Recommended best practice for graduating transgender students is to provide two diplomas and two sets of transcripts, one with the legal first name and one with the preferred first name."
    Really? At that point in my life, I was going by a different name from my legal name (and I still do, though now I go by either my nickname or my given legal name or my last name preceded by the appropriate appellation depending on circumstance). My diploma was written in my legal name. My wife has changed her name from maiden to married last name since graduating--but alas, her diplomas all still have her last name on them. In other words, this document is encouraging a special privilege to transgendered students "above and beyond" what the other 99.99% of students are provided. It may be a petty thing to be hung up on (this is really one of the least important points in the damned document), but there it is.

    Also, there's this, from page 10 (the same page which says that boys can now use the girls' room and vice-versa):
    Based on a recent OCR finding against an Illinois school district, it is recommended that alternative accommodations, such as a single “unisex” bathroom or private changing space, should be made available to students who request them, but should not be forced upon students, or presented as the only option.
    This paragraph started strong and then fizzled. Frankly, the single-use restroom, shower, or changing area/locker space is the best option available if we concede that people should not simply be made to use the space provided to their anatomy. In other words, the compromise position is out; trying to avoid this battle in the culture wars will not be permitted. It certainly lends credance to the idea that these fights over lockerroom use, the so-called "Bathroom Wars"* really are less about the bathroom and more about the war.

    And now, a prediction, with a bit of irony. Years ago, when I was an undergraduate student, this kind of thing was all the rage among the proto-Brownshirts of the "Social Justice" set. I remember there being discussions and arguments, and even resolutions brought before the student body's senate as to whether we should make our campus' bathrooms unisex. This is not many steps away from simply allowing everyone to use whichever bathroom or locker room he or she chooses--indeed, the two proposals have the same effect. And, on a similar note, there were rumblings then (and more so at the university where I did my doctoral work) that dorm rooms should be made optionally coed.

    My prediction then is this: whether dorm rooms are made to be co-ed or not, I suspect that this bit of insanity will eventually render the point moot. A young woman will decide one day that she is actually a he, and then be assigned to a dorm room accordingly, or (perhaps more frequently), a young man will decide that he is really a "she" and be assigned to a room accordingly. And while I must confess that I wonder what the response of the university housing would be if said students change their minds once, let alone several times (will every transexual now be given his or her own private room, above and beyond what is allocated to other students), there is another problem here. Namely: what recourse will the normal and sane students who are not undergoing some gender confusion have?


    ---------

    * I would prefer "Bathroom Battles" both for the alliteration and as a reminder that they are one front in a greater cultural war.

    Thursday, May 5, 2016

    A Few Good Links (vol. 23)

    The semester is over.

    1. What's wrong with rights? For one thing, they often leave forgotten the more important things, which are our duties. 
    2. What is driving the bathroom wars? In part, it's that old-time gnosticism, or maybe manichaeism.
    3. Did Jesus oppose poverty? No. He in fact praised it when undertaken for the right ends. Giving to the poor is something we do to help them, but also (and in a different way) to help ourselves--to allow ourselves to become less materially attached, but also to allow for the growth of charity. Charity, like any virtue, is something which exists between persons, and it exists without the intermediary of the state. To attempt to eradicate poverty is to attempt to make a liar out of Jesus, who told us that the poor we would always have.
    4. Why do so man people like/support/vote for Trump? He is now winning a majority of Republicans, in mostly blue or pink states--but he won handily in the South (which was, granted, divided between many not Trump candidates. Note that there are a number of reasons why people are supporting him, but they are not necessarily good reasons, or (more to ht point) they are good reasons, but not applicable to supporting Trump. The man is good at selling snake oil, which is, I suppose, why he won the nomination.
    5. Why are the popularizers of science so consistently bad at philosophy? And why does it seem like they all get worse as they attempt to embrace a role as "spokesmen of science?" Case in point: Bill Nye.
    6. Why are our campuses such hotbeds of the worst kind of leftism? They are generally completely overrun by the social justice brownshirts and other crybullies that they are beginning to look like a Greek comedy (but one which will end in tragedy, no doubt).
    7. Why does evil often triumph? Because no good deed goes unpunished, and every hero will have a day in court (and then jail).

    Long live the new semester.

    Wednesday, May 4, 2016

    TMM: Linksdump and Bitter Dregs of Politics

    There is no good news in the realm of politics and the Union now: it is a dark time indeed. Ted Cruz has suspended his campaign, so barring a miracle Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee. Cruz was a long shot going in to Indiana--but he didn't need to win on first ballot. There are a number of things which I dislike about Cruz, but he was at least clearly better than any of the alternatives. Some pro-Trump commentators suggest that he plays to much for TV in the digital era, but I can't help but wonder if he doesn't play too much for radio. Many of the things he has said or done "on-the-spot" have been nice soundbites (I especially like his impromptu discussion with Ellen Page about religious liberties, and his "signing" of the communist manifesto), but have not been as well-received because of his odd facial expressions.

    Trump is not clearly better than Hillary Clinton (though I suspect he may be the slightly less awful option). Neither is Bernie Sanders, who besides having a ruinous "pie in the sky" economics program, would use the justice department to punish any state which defunds Planned Parenthood. He is as pro-abortion as Clinton or Obama.

    I'll wait until after the conventions have sorted things out before deciding who I will vote for--it's almost certainly going to be a third party/independent candidate, since neither major party candidate is likely going to clearly be the lesser evil. Maybe I will write in Joe Schriner. I dislike a few of his policy positions, and think that a few more are problematic in the opposite way that those of Bernie Sanders are problematic (you can only make a modern economy be so small and so local), but I at least don't have grave moral reservations here. We'll see if any major independent campaigns are started or not, and who they back.

    Monday, April 18, 2016

    Evil is Often Indifferent

    There are, I am sure, some people who are evil for the sake of being evil, or nearly so. They relish the thrill of getting away with it, or enjoy seeing others suffer. True cruelty exists as a means to the pleasure of another, who relishes the suffering of others.

    Far more prevalent than this, though, is indifference. Evil is mostly banal, and it is more often caused by carelessness or apathy than for it own sake (or for the sake of some perverted pleasure derived from the suffering of others). For every man who seeks to persecute others for the sake of watching them suffer, there are many more who would "accidentally" persecute others for the sake of expediency or convenience.

    Case in point:


    This is real bigotry. This is real evil, raising its head to mock. Refusing to participate in somebody else's evil is not bigotry. Real small-mindedness is insisting that others must serve you at all times, that all other people are there for not but your convenience. Evil likes to trivialize itself: just offer one single, small, pinch of incense to Caesar, and hope that God does not notice or care. Bow down before the Golden calf, just once, what can it matter?

    I saw a nice counterpoint to all of this:



    This is difficult, and often untried. But we do live in a vale of tears, and those tears are all the more bitter because of the sheer cruelty of indifference. We don't live in a time and place of hard persecution--but it is certainly a time and place of soft persecution. This may seem trivial in comparison, as if there is a great gulf between what we suffer here and what martyrs suffer elsewhere: in a sense, there is a wide gulf. But even the greatest distance can be traversed by taking many small, seemingly trivial steps.

    Wednesday, April 13, 2016

    Springstein

    Sites like the Heritage Foundation and the Federalist Papers have noticed something interesting about the decision of Paypal, Bruce Springstein, Disney, the State (governor) of New York, etc. to attempt to boycott states like North Carolina and Mississippi. Said boycotts are in response to these states' attempts to enact even the most toothless lawsrecognizing the rights of conscience and Religious Liberty.


    There is a certain double-standard at play here--and it is not the only double-standard. After all, many of these folks who are so adamant about the importance of protecting so-called gay (and transgendered) rights from the consciences of Christians will gladly turn a blind eye to the treatment of those same gays when they are beheaded by Mohammedans or imprisoned by Hindus.

    Nor is this the only way in which the religious freedoms of Christians in general (and Catholic in particular) are under assault from the Left in America.

    Tuesday, April 12, 2016

    Monday, April 4, 2016

    What Is Best in Life: Sanders the Bernbarian Edition

    What is best in life?
    This is basically what the Left represents in modern times (well, that and Moloch worship, and protection of ever more deviant perversions at the cost of curtailing actual freedoms).

    On a related note, Time's financial section (Money) has linked to a pair of simple tax calculators, one by the International Business Times, and one by Vox, which attempt to estimate the impact of the four* major candidates tax plans on how much you should expect to pay  in federal taxes. They also attempt to estimate how these tax plans will impact the federal budget (and deficit--there are no projected surpluses). Neither site paints an especially rosy picture for any of the candidates.

    On the individual side of things, most people would benefit in the form of more take-home money from both Cruz and Trump (the calculates both estimate that I will take home a few thousand dollars more annually under Cruz and a little more under Trump--but there are no deductions considered for one, and only number of children is considered in the other). Clinton's tax is a wash for the middle class--you don't pay much more, but you do pay a little more.

    Bernie Sanders' tax plan is a complete disaster. Vox estimates that my annual tax burden will increase by a staggering $10 000, and the International Business Times estimates a $430 increase to my monthly taxes, which is about comparable**. This, to pay for things of disputable benefit. We don't need a federal healthcare plan, nor should we pay for every kid to go send 4 years at college: the former will mean a worsening of our healthcare in general (longer waiting lines, perhaps rationing or worse, and I can imagine how things like the tyrannical HHS contraceptive/abortion mandate will only be expanded, and worked around whatever Supreme Court ruling is handed down); the latter will mean that college is further dumbed down (it's already slipping there somewhat, and the value of many BS degrees is often worse than worthless). We have "free" k-12 education already, improving the quality of that would work far more wonders than tacking on another 4-6 years of college "education. And from a purely selfish standpoint, I see these as especially burdensome to me: the few actual perks of my job include steeply discounted tuition for my family, "free" health insurance***, and a pension plan****. So people like me will lose out the most on Bernie Sanders, because we will see a large tax increase to fund entitlements that we already pay or receive as a perk (read: non-cash payment) to our jobs.

    On the other side of things, none of the candidates have made specific plans for cutting back our already bloated federal budget. The result is that while Ted Cruz and Donald Trump will cut taxes somewhat, they will also be increasing our debt (which has soared to nearly $20 Trillion as of this writing). Not that Bernie Sander or Hillary Clinton avoid doing this, mind you. The outlook for this election is bleak.


    *John Kasich is excluded, but then again, he is mathematically eliminated from winning the nomination at anything short of a brokered convention (which actually is looking more and more likely).

    **Vox includes everything from income tax to payroll tax to corporate tax. International Business Times does not, as far as I can tell.

    ***I pay for some of it, and of course I "pay" for some more in a reduced salary, my boss has estimated by about $20000/year. I don't hold high hopes for getting to pocket that money if we go to universal healthcare.

    ****Which actually take a substantial portion of my monthly paycheck, just under 10% of my earnings, so it is really more like a mandatory group investment.

    Wednesday, March 2, 2016

    Rise of Trump?

    I've read a lot of commentary as to why Donald Trump is doing so well, and among so many different groups (he polls strongly across all groups save party establishment loyalists). One such article--I lost track of it, so no link right now--was sent to me a few months before the primaries in a conversation with a good friend of mine from South Carolina, who explained that he planned to vote for Trump.

    Here is another one from John Hayward of Breitbart.com:
    Trump’s voters have lost faith in the Republican Party, the media, the federal government, long-standing assumptions about the economy… and, most unfortunately, many of their fellow citizens.

    That loss of faith has been building for a long time, across an entire generation and several presidencies. Its echoes can be heard among some Democrat constituencies as well, although they tend to blame different elements of the old order for breaking faith with the people.

    On the Republican side, the loss of faith in the GOP Establishment is palpable, building into an avalanche of distrust over the past three elections....

    The immigration issue resonates because it’s such an obvious example of the Establishment holding a radically different position than voters… and relentlessly trying to shove it down their throats, year after year, no matter how much they protest. It’s like the customer in the Monty Python skit trying to order a meal without spam, from a restaurant that insists on cramming spam into every single menu item. No matter how loudly they object, Republican voters can’t get their party leadership to take immigration seriously.

    The central premise of open-borders ideology is that people who are not American citizens have needs the U.S. government must prioritize above the needs of Americans. Big Republican donors want cheap labor at the expense of American workers. On both sides of the aisle, our elite lost faith in us, long before we lost faith in them...

    Saddest of all, the American people have lost a crucial degree of faith in each other. That’s not surprising, because they’ve been blasted with messages – and billion-dollar programs – for the past seven years, based on the idea that only the biggest Big Government in history can protect us from each other. Middle Americans see armies of Social Justice Warriors lined up against them. People who have been told they have no moral right to organize politically understand how that leaves them defenseless against a rapacious political culture. Nominally conservative big-money interests turned out to be very willing to cut deals with Big Government.

    The value of persuasion has been reduced, because socialism is compulsive – it’s not a debate, it’s Thunderdome. The losers are punished and looted. No one gets to sit on the sidelines.

    Can we persuade the Left to rediscover the value of free speech… or must we send Trump to show them how it feels to be on the wrong side of their tactics? Can we persuade the Left to remember the importance of limited government and the separation of powers… or must we replace their beloved “benevolent dictator” with Trump, to frighten them back into constitutional government?
    This is a fairly good summary of the reasons I have seen given. Personally, I take these collectively as reasons to be wary of Marco Rubio (the establishment's current choice after Jeb Bush fizzled out). If you dislike the establishment, vote for Ted Cruz. The man at least has a touch of decorum and class, even if he does at times come across as a used car salesman or evangelical preacher.

    Tuesday, February 23, 2016

    Presidential Primaries Endorsement

    Since primary season is upon us, I suppose I should make some endorsement. For the Democrats, I cannot offer an endorsement, because I think that both main candidates are absolutely awful. If you must vote Democrat, then I suppose that the approach should be "Bros before hoes," but then again I suspect that Sanders is more likely to win than Clinton in a national election.

    For the Republicans, my endorsement is a bit more serious, because I might actually vote for their nominee. If it's Trump, then I'm going to vote third party, in all likelihood. Each of the other candidates has, in my opinion, some large flaws but also some significant upside. With that said, I think my preference is either for Rubio or Cruz. Carson seems very discerning, and he's certainly quite intelligent, and Kasich is also reasonably discerning about where he will dig in his heels and fight and where he will compromise. He's not pro-life enough for my tastes, and is weak on the marriage questions--but on the other hand he is signing the bill to defund Planned Parenthood in Ohio, and I suspect that we have lost the political fight over the meaning of marriage for the next generation at least. The goal her should really be, "do no harm."

    With that said, neither Kasich nor Carson has a particularly clear (nor likely) path to the nomination. My first Choice was Jindal, but he did not even make it to the Iowa caucuses (in the the same way, my first preference two cycles ago was Brownback, who dropped out shortly after Iowa). If we had a less appalling frontrunner, I might consider a vote for Carson or Kasich, but really I don't lean much towards either of them over Cruz or Rubio.

    I lean slightly more towards Cruz than Trump, but my actual endorsement at this point is "anybody but Trump." To this end, I would recommend the following strategy: vote for whichever between Cruz and Rubio is the frontrunner (or second behind Trump) in your state, at least until it becomes apparent that one or the other will bow out. Since many states are either winner-take-all or (more commonly) winner-take-most, having Trump lose (or come in second) in many states will draw a lot more delegates away from him, and will go much further to prevent his becoming the nominee, than will splitting the "not Trump" vote between Rubio and Cruz within each state.

    Sunday, February 14, 2016

    A Dark Day for the Republic

    Justice Antonin Scalia, who has been quite possibly the greatest Supreme Court Justice of our times, has died. In reading comments about this man's life an death, I see that very few people on the right or the left have managed to say much about the man himself, or about his legacy. I have read three or four good statements of mourning or eulogy, and many more either classlessly cheering his death and performing the verbal equivalent of dancing upon his soon-to-be-filled grave, or fretting about who (or if) President Obama will appoint to replace him. The latter is at least a relevant topic of concern, but could we not wait for at least a few days, until (say) after the late Justice Scalia's funeral, before speculating on this? Especially given the extremely polarizing nature of the topic at hand, give his friends and family time to grieve.

    I have read three intentionally good (and classy) reaction to his passing: one from Texas' Republican governor, Greg Abbott; one from Vermont's Democratic Senator and presidential candidate Bernie Sanders; and perhaps above all, the column written by Ross Douthat about Scalia as the intellectual and legal giant that he was (though again he does discuss the appointment implications):
    Antonin Scalia, dead unexpectedly this weekend at 79, was not the most politically powerful justice during his three decades on the Supreme Court. That distinction belonged to the court’s two swing votes, Sandra Day O’Connor and then Anthony M. Kennedy, respectively the philosopher queen and king of our fraying republican order.

    Unlike them, Scalia did not have the opportunity to write all his preferences into the law of the land. For every victory he won, there was a sharp defeat; for every important majority opinion a stinging, quotable dissent. And on the issues he cared the most about – abortion, above all – his defeats were famous and his dissents often not just eloquent but anguished.

    But in every other respect, he was the most important Supreme Court justice of his era.
    The New York Times also reprises its role as Hell's Mouthpiece (and many commenters in its lower half are all-too-eager to play along, even upping the ante here) and has published an editorial, allegedly about Scalia's legal legacy, but which actually existed as an advocacy piece for Obama to get to appoint another leftist to the bench before departing office. Still, they did manage one (half) paragraph of genuine praise (though it was not intended as such):
    From abortion rights to marriage equality and desegregation, Justice Scalia opposed much of the social and political progress of the late 20th century and this one. He wanted to overturn the Roe v. Wade decision on women’s rights to privacy, he dissented on the decision that said anti-sodomy laws were unconstitutional.
    His passing is celebrated in Hell, and in the halls of those who would see our once great Republic slide further towards decadence and ruin. He is mourned by those who knew him. He is mourned again by those of us who desire to see just rulings based on the laws and legal traditions of our country rather than the capricious whims of the current zeitgeist as embodied in the personal preferences of nine (or five) judges and those from whom they would curry favor.


    Update: Robert P. George has also written a good eulogy. Excerpt:
    Justice Scalia preached the principle that the Constitution should be interpreted in a way that honors the text—the words on the page—understood as they were intended by those whose act of ratification made them part of the fundamental law of the land. One might have thought this was simple common sense. But the principle had been rejected and abandoned by jurists and legal scholars who wished to expand the authority of judges to declare “unconstitutional” legislation or executive actions that they regarded as behind the times, unfair, unwise, or for some other reason undesirable....

    Antonin Scalia was a dear friend to whom I was indebted for many kindnesses. I shall miss him. His death is a grave loss to the Nation and a blow to the cause of fidelity to the Constitution. My deepest condolences to his widow Maureen and to his children and grandchildren. Requiscet in pace.
    Saint Thomas More: ora pro nobis!

    Second Update: I have been waiting to hear what Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bar Ginsburg would have to say Much as I dislike her as a judge, I also know that she and Scalia were actually friends. Here is her reflection on his passing, and it doesn't disappoint.
    We disagreed now and then, but when I wrote for the Court and received a Scalia dissent, the opinion ultimately released was notably better than my initial circulation. Justice Scalia nailed all the weak spots—the 'applesauce' and 'argle bargle'—and gave me just what I needed to strengthen the majority opinion. He was a jurist of captivating brilliance and wit, with a rare talent to make even the most sober judge laugh. The press referred to his 'energetic fervor,' 'astringent intellect,' 'peppery prose,' 'acumen,' and 'affability,' all apt descriptions. He was eminently quotable, his pungent opinions so clearly stated that his words never slipped from the reader’s grasp.... It was my great good fortune to have known him as working colleague and treasured friend.
    Pray for the repose of Scalia's soul--and the conversion and comfort of that of his friend.