June 28th, 2017

Why writers lie

No real answer is provided in this Vanity Fair article, although the title [“Why Writers Lie (and Plagiarize and Fabricate and Stretch the Truth and…”)] would have you believe it will offer one.

This is the closest it comes, and the quote just refers to one person named Jonah Lehrer:

A Rhodes scholar and a best-selling author in his 20s, he fell in love with the sound of applause at book gatherings and with the sight of his e-mail inbox, crowded with invitations. He got busy, and he got sloppy.

So I’ll jump into the gap with my own theories.

Some writers—just like some people—are habitual liars anyway, in their lives as well as their writing. You might just as well say, “why liars write.”

But the profession of writing presents special hazards and temptations, even to those who are generally truthful. Fiction writers, for example, are so used to making stuff up that the segue into extending their imaginative powers to non-fiction might seem small and insignificant, even though it’s not.

Writers feel the need to churn it out, and some become desperate for material.

Some writers might actually lose the distinction between truth and fiction along the way. Memoirists, for example, often condense or simplify or combine incidents, and that’s not considered to be lying. But perhaps it becomes a slippery slope, and the writer starts changing more than that. Affer all, writers want to engage the interest of their readers. I happen to think that truth is stranger than fiction, but others would differ and might like to embellish their tales in order to make a better story. An embellished tale told too often can start replacing the truth, even in the storyteller’s own mind.

These are explanations, not justifications.

June 28th, 2017

Sarah Palin sues the NY Times

for defamation:

Former Governor of Alaska and vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin is suing the New York Times for defamation over a recent editorial tying one of her political action committee ads to a 2011 mass shooting that severely wounded Arizona Democrat Gabby Giffords and killed six people, including a 9-year-old girl​, The Post has learned​.

The Manhattan federal court lawsuit, filed Tuesday by lawyers Kenneth Turkel, Shane Vogt and S. Preston Ricardo, accuse​s​ the Gray Lady of having “violated the law and its own policies” when it accused her — in a “fabricated story” — of inciting the 2011 attack by Jared Lee Loughner.

The Times editorial that can be easily found appears to be the corrected version rather than the original. The relevant portion of the corrected version reads this way:

Was this attack [the Scalise shooting] evidence of how vicious American politics has become? Probably. In 2011, Jared Lee Loughner opened fire in a supermarket parking lot, grievously wounding Representative Gabby Giffords and killing six people, including a 9-year-old girl. At the time, we and others were sharply critical of the heated political rhetoric on the right. Before the shooting, Sarah Palin’s political action committee circulated a map that showed the targeted electoral districts of Ms. Giffords and 19 other Democrats under stylized cross hairs. But in that case no connection to the shooting was ever established.

But if no connection to the Giffords shooting was ever established, then why mention Sarah Palin at all? Clearly, an equivalence is implied in the editorial between the overt and obvious political motivations of the Scalise shooting and the Giffords shooting (in which 6 people were actually killed, making it far worse in its consequences) despite the complete and utter lack of political motivations for Giffords’ shooter Loughner.

Bad as that is, the original Times editorial was much worse. It read [emphasis mine]:

In 2011, when Jared Lee Loughner opened fire in a supermarket parking lot, grievously wounding Representative Gabby Giffords and killing six people, including a 9-year-old girl, the link to political incitement was clear. Before the shooting, Sarah Palin’s political action committee circulated a map of targeted electoral districts that put Ms. Giffords and 19 other Democrats under stylized cross hairs.

Pretty pernicious stuff, and completely untrue. Readers will picture a graphic of the actual politicians, including Giffords, as being targets. But that was never the case and furthermore has long been known to have never been the case. And far from the link being “clear” between that “incitement” and the shooting, there was no link whatsoever, except as manufactured by the Times and other liberal outlets and pundits. The Times’ correction revises the specifics about the crosshairs, and takes away the reference to an explicit link between the PAC’s graphics and the Giffords shooting, but leaves the implication of a link untouched.

No wonder Palin is suing. But I don’t think she’ll win. Maybe she doesn’t expect to; maybe she just wants to highlight the devious duplicity of the Times. I don’t think the suit will succeed because the standards for defamation of a public figure are so very high, and this involves a PAC rather Palin herself anyway.

June 28th, 2017

Obamacare replacement bill wildly unpopular…

…says article after article and poll after poll.

Well, why shouldn’t it be unpopular?

The drumbeat of the MSM that’s been denouncing it goes like this: It will kill millions and millions of people. It only favors the rich. It cuts many more millions off from health care. It is secret.

There’s probably more I haven’t listed, but you get the picture.

And then there’s the right, much of which only wanted “repeal.” Vast numbers think that this bill is merely craven establishment-Republican-style Obamacare-lite (and not all that “lite,” at that).

So who on earth would be supporting it?

I’d like to see another poll. This one would ask those same people questions about exactly what’s in the bill. Most of the respondents probably could answer nothing more than to parrot the thoughts in those headlines I listed, such as “it will kill millions of people.” In fact, if there actually was a quiz in these polls about the point-by-point provisions of the bill, I’m pretty certain that, if people were honest, at least 95% of respondents would have to choose the option of “have not heard enough about it to have an opinion.”

June 27th, 2017

CNN chaos

Something big happened at CNN, but it’s not really clear what it was.

Here’s what’s been revealed so far:

Three CNN journalists, including the executive editor in charge of a new investigative unit, have resigned after the publication of a Russia-related article that was retracted.

Thomas Frank, who wrote the story in question; Eric Lichtblau, an editor in the unit; and Lex Haris, who oversaw the unit, have all left CNN.

“In the aftermath of the retraction of a story published on CNN.com, CNN has accepted the resignations of the employees involved in the story’s publication,” a spokesman said Monday evening.

An internal investigation by CNN management found that some standard editorial processes were not followed when the article was published, people briefed on the results of the investigation said.

The journalists who “resigned” (my guess is it wasn’t entirely voluntary, although the reports would have you think it was) are higher level employees. This isn’t a case of the little guys taking the fall. CNN has made errors before and/or published “fake news,” but this sort of mass resignation of top reporters is very unusual, even when errors are made. Something quite egregious must have happened, or else there was a threat to sue that must have been exceptionally serious in its possible consequences.

The story, which reported that Congress was investigating a “Russian investment fund with ties to Trump officials,” cited a single anonymous source.

These types of stories are typically reviewed by several departments within CNN — including fact-checkers, journalism standards experts and lawyers — before publication.

Anonymous sources have become standard these days, and anonymous sources who are wrong—or liars—are pretty standard these days as well. This source must have been especially shady, and there was no corroboration from another source. In addition, it sounds as though even the most rudimentary rules about the chain of checkers were not followed.

In a staff meeting Monday afternoon, investigative unit members were told that the retraction did not mean the facts of the story were necessarily wrong.

Are we supposed to believe that three major players at CNN were fired or asked to resign for a story that was essentially true but just didn’t follow the rules? That completely strains credibility.

Here are the resumes of the three:

Frank worked for USA Today and Newsday for three decades, pursuing investigations and covering the Iraq war as an embedded reporter, before coming to work at CNN.

He was part of an ambitious new investigative unit that was created last winter, bringing together existing teams from within the company and new hires like Lichtblau.

A veteran of The New York Times who won a Pulitzer Prize for national reporting in 2006, Lichtblau joined CNN just three months ago.

Haris, who was named the executive editor of CNN Investigates in January, was previously the executive editor of CNNMoney.

These aren’t just reporters, these are seasoned investigative reporters and one is a Pulitizer Prize winner. I no longer find any of that a reason to trust a journalist to tell the truth. Maybe they got cocky, but I think the basic impetus was almost certainly the hunt for the smoking gun that will finally implicate the hated, hated Trump once and for all. Cutting corners must have seemed a righteous thing for this crew to do in the pursuit of journalism’s great white whale.

June 27th, 2017

Some Democratic soul-searching

An interesting article in the Atlantic by Franklin Foer entitled “What’s Wrong With the Democrats?”:

If there’s any consolation to the realization of terrible fears, of worst-case scenarios springing to life, it’s that they are invigorating. Donald Trump’s presidency has rocked a long-complacent Democratic Party like nothing in recent history.

True. However, he follows that with a claim that is as laughable as it is common among the left:

Liberals, with their confidence that the trajectory of the country points in their direction, never had quite as much practice as conservatives in expressing their anger. That’s what makes the “Resistance”—the many marches, the seething hostility at town-hall meetings, the anti-Trump placards shouting at passersby from bungalow windows—a transformational break in the pattern.

Sure, Franklin, sure. I guess you haven’t been paying much attention to liberals or the left for the last fifty years, or 100 years, or even more.

But once Foer gets that absurdity out of the way, its back to business again:

Resistance has given the Democrats the illusion of unity, but the reality is deeply conflicted. Two of the party’s largest concerns—race and class—reside in an increasing state of tension, a tension that will grow as the party turns toward the next presidential election.

To produce a governing majority, the party will need to survive an unsettling reckoning with itself. Donald Trump didn’t just prevail over the Democrats; he called into doubt their old truths.

Foer goes on to describe the problem as Clinton’s—and the Democrats’—failure to appeal to the white working class. This is an analysis that is commonplace, and probably largely true. And when Foer writes this sentence, I wonder if he understands that there’s an inherent contradiction there, and it’s not just Hillary’s fault:

She never fully met her most important political challenge: the need to both celebrate multiculturalism and also cushion the backlash against the celebration.

I don’t think there’s any way to do that. What’s more, I think Foer makes the typical liberal’s mistake of thinking that Trump support is a backlash against some sort of celebration of multiculturalism. We’re not talking about “celebrations” here—not about ethnic restaurants or dress or diversity. We’re talking about immigration policies that let in significant numbers of people who do not believe in our form of government, and who are given benefits at the expense of the white working class Foer’s talking about, and a Democratic Party that supports economic measures that hurt that same white working class as well.

Foer does understand that the Democratic Party seems to be in trouble: “Clinton’s defeat reflects badly on her candidacy, but also exposes the limits of the Democratic Party, which has sustained failures at nearly every tier of government over the past eight years.” But then he goes on to cite an analysis from the Reagan years that studied why the white working class living in the Detroit suburban area of Macomb had turned from the Democratic Party to the GOP, and the reason given is that they were bigots:

Many political analysts who puzzled over Democratic losses described how the backlash against the civil-rights era had propelled white voters away from liberalism, but none gave racism quite the same centrality as Greenberg did. He found “a profound distaste for black Americans, a sentiment that pervaded almost everything” that Macomb residents thought about government and politics. Denizens of Macomb—the county was 97 percent white—did little to disguise their animosity. African Americans, they complained, had benefited at their expense. Their tax dollars were funding a welfare state that plowed money into black communities, while politicians showed no concern for their own plight. (That plight was real: The auto industry, which provided the undergirding for middle-class life in Michigan, had collapsed in the face of foreign competition.)

But was it “A profound distaste for black Americans…that pervades everything,” as in racism, or was it a “profound distaste” for the fact that yes, indeed, black Americans had “benefited at their expense”? What were the residents of Macomb county to feel, but that what was happening was unfair to them, and that therefore the party in charge of the redistribution was no friend of theirs?

And funny thing, Obama carried Macomb county in both 2008 and 2012. Some racists! But Foer goes right back to the possibility of that “racist” explanation when many of those very same voters veered to Donald Trump just four years later:

Not only did Trump reclaim Macomb for the Republicans—trouncing Clinton by 12 percentage points there—but he turned the Democratic establishment back to Greenberg’s central question about working-class whites: Did racism put many of them beyond reach?

The “racists” of Macomb would have to be chameleon-racists, apparently. One moment they’re voting for Obama, the next they’re voting for “his racist successor.” Greenberg (and Foer) were so stunned by this that they went back to Macomb to study those Obama-turned-Trump voters, and what did they find? No overt expressions of racism against blacks. But hey, now Greenberg says the group is bigoted against Muslims, and here’s the evidence:

Prejudice, however, remained very real. The old complaints about African Americans had affixed themselves to immigrants. Dearborn, which has a thriving Muslim immigrant community, is a short drive away. Just as Macomb’s whites had once accused African Americans of prospering at their expense, members of Greenberg’s focus groups spoke openly about being displaced by immigrants. “We need to take care of home first,” one participant said, as if the immigrant neighbors weren’t also living at home…

It’s one thing to know that nativism exists; it’s another to hear it espoused so casually in the presence of strangers. Many of the voters Greenberg had gathered seemed beyond the grasp of any plausible Democratic appeal, their hatred of immigrants racialized, paranoid, and unshakable.

If Foer and Greenberg really want to suggest how Democrats can appeal to such voters, I have a few suggestions to make: stop condescending to them, and stop accusing them of racism, bigotry, and hatred when they are only describing what they observe and what has actually happened to them as a result of Democratic policies on immigration. But I think that Democrats right now are incapable of doing such a thing; it would threaten too deeply ingrained a belief. After all, it’s seen as a tautology that racism is behind such attitudes on the part of people voting Republican (even temporarily). The idea of an article such as Foer’s is to help the Democratic Party to victory by appealing to the white working class despite their racism. I think that most working class people can see through that sort of ploy.

Democrats could certainly win back the presidency in 2020 or 2024; Trump’s victory was paper-thin, there’s a lot of time for things to change, and the GOP won’t always be facing a candidate as repugnant to so many people as Hillary Clinton was. But sentences like one this from Foer are part of a mindset that’s the problem for Democrats:

A decent liberalism, not to mention a savvy party, shouldn’t struggle to accord dignity and respect to citizens, even if it believes some of them hold abhorrent views.

You wouldn’t—you couldn’t—respect someone who holds “abhorrent views.” Maybe instead the Democrats should strive to understand that their cries of “racist” and “bigot” and “hater” might actually be misplaced, and that there are fact-based reasons that Trump voters might feel displaced and ignored at the expense of new immigrants. But to do that would rob Democrats of one of their most cherished (and useful) beliefs—the idea that Republicans, and those who vote Republican, are evil racists. If you don’t want to be an evil racist too, vote Democratic!

June 27th, 2017

The CBO scoring on the Senate health insurance reform bill

The CBO has spoken, and the resultant spin on what the CBO has said is that the news is dire, dire, dire.

But here’s my question: since when has the CBO been correct on health insurance reform predictions? I don’t recall it being on the money with Obamacare, which was gamed to trick the CBO (as many bills are, admittedly). Why should I trust the CBO’s prognostications now, or believe what the MSM has to say about those prognostications?

I’m not being cute. I mean it.

So at the moment, I’m turning to National Review. Yes, I know; they’re the GOPe. But anyway, here’s what they say: this and especially this.

And since Avik Roy has long been my most trusted go-to guy for health care reform issues, what he has to say carries a lot of clout with me. What does he say? That the CBO is full of it: “CBO Predictions About The Senate Health Care Bill Are Deeply Flawed.”

June 26th, 2017

It’s the eighth anniversary of FredHJr’s death

[NOTE: The following is a re-edited and updated version of a post that has appeared previously on this blog.]

Unbelievable that it’s been eight years since commenter FredHJr died suddenly and tragically. As time passes, the number of readers here who don’t remember Fred must necessarily increase, so for those of you who don’t know who FredHJr was, please see this and this, as well as these.

Fred’s death was extremely tragic for his family. But it was tragic for this blog, too, because he was an invaluable and irreplaceable member of our community, a “changer” who knew a lot about the Left, and a keen observer of politics, history, religion, culture—of life itself. I still think about him often, wondering what he’d have to say about everything that’s happened in these last eight years.

One thing I don’t think he’d say, though, is that he was surprised by much of it. Every year on the anniversary, I offer some excerpts from his many comments here.

This comment is from October 18, 2008, just a few weeks before Obama was elected president for the first time:

It’s the Marxist/Leninist ethics of expediency. No regrets. Whatever it takes to discredit anything the other side does and excuse the sins of your own side.

…this reveals a lot about who is about to take power and how they will wield it against the rest of us. They get away with it and many will not at all be troubled by it because they are shaped by the post-modernism, cultural Marxism that they imbibed during their formative and educational experience. If we as a people cannot name this accurately and expunge its corrosive influence over our lives, then down into the wages of perdition and disaster we go.

The comment is from October 28, 2008. The election was getting close:

Obama is part of a nexus of interests. What the American dopes who will put him in office are getting is a NETWORK of alliances and interests, running the gamut from Finance (Soros) to academia to media to law. Thus far, in order to appeal to the Middle Muddle he has been packaged as a moderate or centrist. But once in office the venomous swarm of this network will burst out of the nest and devour the host. You wait and see. And I’m not eager for the moment to say “I told you so.” I really would it be the case that it never happens at all. Why? Because the lives of tens of millions of human beings hang in the balance of this and mushroom clouds on the horizon. I put the value of human life far above my own frustrated rantings.

This was a comment of Fred’s from the very beginning of the Obama presidency, but I think it’s worth mulling over today:

For me, Western Civilization is an incredibly complex work that has eclectically and also seamlessly borrowed the excellence and the virtues of Athens, Jerusalem, Rome, and the Enlightenment. The High Middle Ages and the Renaissance also made important contributions. In its totality it is a meritocracy and a liberation of humanity that has resulted in ever greater learning and material prosperity and health for most of the people who live under it. It is not an unblemished history. Yet in its totality it gleams with advancement when juxtaposed against civilizations which enslave humanity.

I think the beginning of the end of our civilization began with the French Revolution and The Terror. It was the beginning of the elaboration of totalitarian thought and throughout the 19th century this kept on finding newer permutations of elegant, intellectual terror. The 20th century was the culmination of the barbarity of totalitarianism.

Islam, to me, is a separate civilization and ideology of enslavement. Once they were stopped at Poitiers and later at Vienna…

Now, with the latter part of the 20th century behind us and the dawn of a new millenium, the totalitarians in both civilizations have mated and allied, creating a very large and powerful force. We are only now just beginning to grasp the enormity of what this is and what it is accomplishing…

I almost want to say that they have won this war already, because the West is caught at a moment when most of its people do not even know about the existence of this combined Beast, much less have the will to fight it. They are ahead of us. Way ahead across many dimensions. What most helps their cause is the willful self-loathing of our people for their own civilization and heritage. It is very difficult to win this struggle when you have this enervating, entropic force that is like a millstone around the neck.

These are chosen somewhat randomly, but so very much of what I looked at that Fred had written was on target.

RIP Fred, and may your family be comforted in their grief. We miss you.

There have been other commenters here who may have died, and I would like to mention them too, but for no one else did I actually get official word of that person’s death. One commenter who comes to mind is “strcpy,” who announced that he was very ill and then disappeared shortly thereafter, about six years ago. I wrote him an email but never heard back, and I fear he’s gone. But I don’t know for sure. Another prolific commenter who disappeared years ago was Occam’s Beard.

There may be others, as well. I wouldn’t necessarily find out. Sometimes people just stop commenting, but it stands to reason some of them will have died. So I’ll take this opportunity to say RIP for all of them, whoever they may be.

I have also recently alluded to the fact that a couple of weeks ago I sustained the loss of a loved one to whom I’ve been close for about 50 years. The culprits were cancer and ultimately pneumonia, and his death has been a very sad time for me. RIP.

One writes, that `Other friends remain,’
That `Loss is common to the race’—
And common is the commonplace,
And vacant chaff well meant for grain.

That loss is common would not make
My own less bitter, rather more:
Too common! Never morning wore
To evening, but some heart did break.

June 26th, 2017

The law of diminishing returns hits the Seattle minimum wage law

Just about everyone seems to have agreed that Seattle’s very liberal minimum wage law would be a good test of when enough is enough in terms of hiking the minimum wage. And the first studies indicate that $13 seems to be counterproductive—just as the right had predicted:

In January 2016, Seattle’s minimum wage jumped from $11 an hour to $13 for large employers, the second big increase in less than a year. New research released Monday by a team of economists at the University of Washington suggests the wage hike may have come at a significant cost: The increase led to steep declines in employment for low-wage workers, and a drop in hours for those who kept their jobs. Crucially, the negative impact of lost jobs and hours more than offset the benefits of higher wages — on average, low-wage workers earned $125 per month less because of the higher wage, a small but significant decline…

The paper’s findings are preliminary and have not yet been subjected to peer review. And the authors stressed that even if their results hold up, their research leaves important questions unanswered, particularly about how the minimum wage has affected individual workers and businesses. The paper does not, for example, address whether displaced workers might have found jobs in other cities or with companies such as Uber that are not included in their data.

Still, despite such caveats, the new research is likely to have big political implications at a time when the minimum wage has returned to the center of the economic policy debate.

I wonder whether it actually will affect liberal decision-making, however. For example, in Seattle the law was due to increase the wages to $15 over time; will that be changed in response to this research? I’m not at all sure, because there are enough caveats, and the idea of raising minimum wages is so appealing to so many liberals, that the results of the research might be ignored.

It wouldn’t be the first time.

This National Review article is worth reading as well. It provides more details, such as this:

Economists at the University of Washington were given access to administrative data that include the earnings and hours of individual workers in Washington State, allowing them to precisely identify workers by the wages they made. (Previous studies usually relied on more roundabout methods, like looking at stereotypical low-wage workers such as teens or those in the retail or restaurant industries.) They were able to see what happened to low-wage workers — defined as those making up to $19 an hour — as Seattle’s minimum wage grew from $9.47 to $11 in 2015 and then to $13 the next year.

So the methods used by the researchers were different, because they had access to a different—and more direct—data set.

June 26th, 2017

SCOTUS temporarily lifts most of the ban on Trump’s travel ban

Well, well, well:

The Supreme Court agreed Monday to let portions of President Donald Trump’s travel ban executive order take effect, a partial victory for the White House that could come as a relief after a string of lower court defeats.

Yes, it’s a “partial” victory, but it involves a mighty big part. The actions of the lower courts in taking matters into their own hands and overruling a sitting president on his foreign policy decisions—decisions he clearly has a right to make—have been mostly stopped for now because the injunctions remain in effect for only a limited number of “foreigners with clear ties to individuals, businesses or organizations in the United States.”

Of course, those ties are left to be defined in more detail, and to learn about how that might occur you can go to William Jacobsen at Legal Insurrection, whose entire post I suggest you read.

What’s more, by limiting the scope of the injunction placed on the travel ban by the lower courts, SCOTUS has also limited their attempt to give a nationwide spin to cases in which only certain plaintiffs were involved. Now, instead of applying to anyone from these countries who might want to come here (which was the basic scope of the lower courts’ rulings), SCOTUS has said that “The injunctions remain in place only with respect to parties similarly situated to Doe, Dr. Elshikh, and Hawaii.”

One of the most important parts of the SCOTUS ruling is the fact that the decision was unanimous. This actually stuns and heartens me. I felt that, in a sane world, it would be and should be unanimous. But I didn’t expect it to be, because legal reasoning just doesn’t go that way a great deal of the time, and politics seems often to be the single most important factor in issuing judicial decisions. But apparently at least some of the lower courts’ egregious overreach was a bridge too far even for the most liberal of the SCOTUS justices.

The full case will be heard in October (although it might be moot by then). Despite the good news today, I make no predictions, due to all of the reasons that can be found here as well as the inherent unpredictability and politicization of the thing.

[ADDENDUM: More here from Powerline’s Paul Mirengoff on two other SCOTUS decisions, concerning religious liberty:

…[T]he Court ruled by a vote of 7-2 that religious institutions may not be excluded from state programs with a secular intent — in this case, making playgrounds safer. Chief Justice Roberts, writing for the majority said, “The exclusion of Trinity Lutheran from a public benefit for which it is otherwise qualified, solely because it is a church, is odious to our Constitution . . . and cannot stand.” Justices Ginsburg and Sotomayor dissented.

…[T]he Court agreed to review next term a decision holding that a Denver baker unlawfully discriminated against a gay couple by refusing to sell them a wedding cake. The lower courts ruled that the baker violated Colorado’s public accommodations law, which prohibits refusing service to customers based on factors such as race, sex, marital status or sexual orientation.

Note that in the first case only two liberal judges dissented. The second case has not been heard yet.

Mirengoff adds, on the topic of the travel ban injunction:

The Court’s decision to allow at least a limited version of the order to remain in place seems, at least on first impression, to entail a rejection of the ridiculous and pernicious rationale employed by the Fourth Circuit to strike down the ban. That court, like several district courts, relied on statements made by candidate Trump to find that the travel ban is intended to discriminate on the basis of religion. We discussed this argument here.

The Ninth Circuit struck down the ban for a different reason. Usurping the role of the president, it found that the government didn’t establish its case that the ban is justified by national security concerns.

On first impression, it seems to me that the Supreme Court, like the Ninth Circuit, is prepared to usurp the role of the executive — hence the exception it pasted on to the president’s executive order — but disagreed to some extent with the appeals court’s second-guessing, or found that its second-guessing didn’t justify the full scope of its order.

So which is it? I agree that there’s an inherent contradiction there that makes the future hard to read. If the full case is heard in October, will the Court decide based on “a rejection of the ridiculous and pernicious rationale employed by the Fourth Circuit”? Or will it decide based on the idea that it’s okay for the courts to “usurp the role of the executive” in these matters? There are plenty of other issues, as well, including whether a court should take into account a president’s statements while a candidate rather than the way an executive order is later written and how it would actually take effect.

It seems to me that some of the contradiction can be explained by the fact that today’s ruling involves a temporary injunction, whether to lift it or whether to keep it. October’s ruling would involve something much more. If I recall my law correctly (and excuse me; it’s been a while), the reasoning appropriate to the first is not always the same as the reasoning appropriate to the second.]

June 24th, 2017

By the sea, by the sea, by the beautiful…

I recently was on a trip to Fort Bragg, California, as part of a visit to friends and family in that state.

“Fort Bragg” doesn’t sound like a lovely spot, unless you’re fond of ammunition. But the town long ago ceased to be a fort, and despite some cold and foggy weather (fortunately, not at all in evidence during my trip), it is one of the most beautiful parts of the world.

The ocean views and cliff walks there are unbelievably awesome, in the sense of inspiring awe—and I say this as a person who is a connoisseur of ocean views and cliff walks The places is very restorative, if you happen to be in need of restoration, which I was and often am.

The walks along those cliffs are miles and miles long, and feature not only open ocean and sunsets over the ocean (which you get with the Pacific and not the Atlantic), huge waves, big and varied black boulders, but also meadows full of wildflowers and waves of grain, both amber and pale lavender.

There are some good restaurants in town, too, particularly the Italian ones. And the very cutesy Mendocino is just down the road. Fort Bragg isn’t cutesy, but the motels there are a lot more reasonable. Between the two bergs is a spectacular botanical garden with still another walk to and by the sea, in case you get tired of the glorious flowers in the garden.

Oh, and near the whole area you can find groves of towering redwoods.

Here are a few of my photos. They don’t really do any of it justice, of course, and they can’t show one of the biggest attractions, the fragrant clarity of the sea air. But they’re the best I’ve got:

June 24th, 2017

Guilt as a motivation of the left goes back a long, long way

I’ve mentioned before that one of the most formative and important courses I ever took in college—or anywhere—was called “Russian Intellectual History.” I signed up not because I was so fascinated by the subject itself (although I always liked Russian literature), but because I’d been told it was an interesting course and the professor was good.

The person who told me that didn’t steer me wrong:

It was there I learned—without anyone ever telling me directly—that in the 60s we were reliving those long-past Russian years in a somewhat altered, Americanized form. No, my generation was not unique; that was clear. No, we were not inventing something that had never been tried, going down some wonderful path that had never been trod. We were going somewhere that in the past had led to nothing good.

I could see it for myself; all I had to do was read, and think. If we don’t learn history we are indeed condemned to repeat it. And even if we do learn it, we may be condemned to repeat it anyway.

Lately I’ve been slogging through a very long book first published in 1997 and called A People’s Tragedy: The Russian Revolution 1891-1924. When I say “slogging” I’m referring to the book’s length: it’s about 800 pages long, and I’m only around page 130. I may put it down before I get to the end, but already it’s been a fascinating read that illuminates much and reminds me of that long-ago college course in its harmonic resonances with 20th and 21st Century America.

For example, we have:

Guilt was the psychological inspiration of the [Russian] revolution. Nearly all of these radical intellectuals were acutely conscious of their wealth and privilege. ‘We have come to realise’ the radical thinker Nicolai Mikhailovsky wrote, ‘that our awareness of the universal truth could only have been reached at the cost of the age-old suffering of the people. We are the people’s debtors and this debt weighs down on our conscience.’ As the children of the noblemen brought up by serf domestics on the estate, many of them felt a special personal sense of guilt, since, as Max Raeff has pointed out, these “little masters” had usually been allowed to treat their serf nannies and ‘uncles’ (whose job it had been to play with them) with cruel contempt. Later in life thee conscience-stricken nobles would seek to repay their debt to ‘the people’ by serving them in the revolution. If only, they thought, they could bring about the people’s liberation, then their own original sin—that of being born into privilege—would be redeemed. Nineteenth-century Russian literature was dominated by the theme of repentance for the sin of privilege.

The only thing missing here is “white privilege”—because of course in Russia virtually all the players were white, both the serfs/ex-serfs and their masters.

The above quote from the book doesn’t cover the motivation of all the Russian revolutionaries, of course; not by a longshot (although the book does; it’s nothing if not comprehensive). But it was a sizeable subgroup that formed a large portion of the intellectual and emotional engine that drove a revolution that led to untold suffering for both the Russian people and the inhabitants of the unfortunate “satellite” countries that mother Russia appropriated in its iteration as the USSR.

[NOTE: I plan to offer other quotes from the book from time to time.]

June 24th, 2017

More perfidy…

from the WaPo:

The [WaPo] story comes complete with this revelation: “Obama also approved a previously undisclosed covert measure that authorized planting cyber weapons in Russia’s infrastructure, the digital equivalent of bombs that could be detonated if the United States found itself in an escalating exchange with Moscow. The project, which Obama approved in a covert-action finding, was still in its planning stages when Obama left office. It would be up to President Trump to decide whether to use the capability.”

I’m sure Putin is grateful for the heads-up from the Post…

…The disclosure of highly classified intelligence by government officials violates the espionage laws of the United States. It is in all likelihood felonious several times over in the case of each of the Post’s numerous anonymous sources.

The Post and its reporters are accomplices to the crimes committed by their sources. They have disseminated highly classified intelligence to the enemies of the United States — as the left has lately discovered Putin and Russia to be.

All in a day’s work.

About Me

Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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