The Ancient Art of Troll


Do I own my own possessions and raise my own children, or are they somehow re-assignable for The Greater Good? A society cannot, for long, believe both of these things without tearing itself apart. In America today, mall riots and schools promoting gender surgery are showing just how incompatible these different belief systems are.

Those who hold that private property is sacrosanct are appalled by the “You Didn’t Build That” attitude of progressive liberals. We cannot accept anything they have to say on the subject.

Slip Slidin’ Away


Lately I’ve been in a bit of a snit, and anyone would have to admit I have good reason for my crankiness: the attacks in Gaza and by Iran on Israel, the fecklessness of our legislature, a president who is frightening in his ineptness and cluelessness. Those are enough “nesses” to put anyone in a bad mood. And yet, I usually manage to pull myself out of my annoyance by remembering how much I have to be grateful for.

It wasn’t working this time.

This week Dennis is casting a very wide net and reeling in stuff that… well, stinks like dead fish. From jury selection in the Trump criminal trial in NY to the new CEO of National Public Radio to the SCOTUS arguments on the J6 convictions to the foreign policy of the Biden Administration… it all smells to high heaven.

And we’re taking a deep dive into the mess Biden is making of the Middle East with Richard Goldberg, who served as the Director for Countering Iranian Weapons of Mass Destruction for the White House National Security Council under President Donald Trump.

Students Forced to Address Their White Privilege


A health sciences program offered at Ohio State University requires those who sign up for the course to take part in an array of discussions and assignments about gender and race, including one that asks students to address their privileges if they are White, heterosexual or able-bodied.

One such required class assignment, which was outlined in the FOIA-obtained documents related to the course, is titled “Unpack the Invisible Knapsack” and asks students to complete a series of “activities” about their “privilege.”

Whither Our Duty-Free Morality


When the young emperor Caligula had recovered from a seemingly near-death paralyzing illness (status epilepticus ?) he summoned a man who was among those who had publicly offered their own lives to the gods to spare the young (then very popular) emperor.

The fellow assumed he would be honored and rewarded for his gesture.  Instead, Caligula was angry that this fellow had not ended his life.  It was as if he did not really want his emperor to live and even risked divine wrath upon the emperor himself for breaching his bargain with the gods.   An assisted suicide ensued.  And it became clear to all that Caligula was indeed [redacted] crazy.

What to make of the astounding, worldwide coalition shifts we’ve seen over the last decade? There are few better to pose the question to than Ruy Teixiera. He and Henry dive into the Democratic Party’s abandonment of the white working class and the Republican Party’s clumsy attempt to win them over.

Plus, Henry takes a look at a well-made ad from the Lauren Boebert team

Journalistic Ethics (Part I)


Note: This post was prompted by fellow member @bryangstephens, with whom I have had an on-going discussion spread over a vast number of unrelated threads concerning the nature of the press, the First Amendment and their role in American politics. 

Between the Civil War and the Great Depression, virtually every decent-sized American city had at least two newspapers. In addition to the popular press, many communities also had papers of ethnic or racial focus. Some of those papers, such as the Pittsburgh Courier, became influential outside of their areas of ownership and became important voices nationally. The Courier’s Wendell Smith was instrumental in helping Branch Rickey break baseball’s color barrier with the elevation of Jackie Robinson to the Brooklyn Dodgers.

The Curious Effect of Exposing Children to Beauty


Anybody who goes through life with an open mind and heart will encounter moments that are saturated with meaning, but whose meaning cannot be put into words. These moments are precious to us.  When they occur, it is as though, on the winding, ill-lit stairway of our life, we suddenly come across a window, through which we catch sight of another and brighter world – a world to which we belong but which we cannot enter.  There are many who dismiss this world as an unscientific fiction.  I am not alone in thinking it real and important. – Sir Roger Scruton

When C.S. Lewis was a little boy, his brother Warnie showed him a miniature garden he had constructed in a “biscuit tin”. Something about that miniature world grabbed Lewis’ imagination and created in him what he later called “joy”, though one gets the impression from Lewis’ elaboration on the idea of “joy” that in some sense he meant “longing”. As an adult convert to Christianity, Lewis harkened back to that miniature garden as something that over time became a kind of a lodestar for him, because the beauty it represented planted a seed that was eventually instrumental in undermining his determined atheism.

Dealing with Iran (circa 2015)


I find myself flummoxed by the misconceptions of Iran and the government that rules it. Many imagine the Persians to be backward Middle Eastern rubes, or think the President of Iran is somehow a moderate, or find themselves fooled by the debates and tensions that seem to fill the country. As I see it, the simple truth is that Ayatollah Khomeini was a political genius.

In the early 90s, the Soviet Union fell. In the early 2000s, the Color Revolutions swept numerous states. In 2010, the Arab Spring began to set the Arab world to tinder.

The Rise of The Machines: Etchemendy & Li on Our AI Future


John Etchemendy and Fei-Fei Li are the codirectors of Stanford’s Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence (HAI), founded in 2019 to “advance AI research, education, policy and practice to improve the human condition.” In this interview,  they delve into the origins of the technology, its promise, and its potential threats. They also discuss what AI should be used for, where it should not be deployed, and why we as a society should—cautiously—embrace it.

Fallout from the Marion, Kansas Newspaper Raid


In August 2023, local police raided the office of the Marion County Record newspaper and the homes of the reporters, supposedly in search of evidence that reporters had illegally accessed a state database looking for DUI records of a local coffee shop owner. @kedavis asked me for an update in a comment, but I decided to do a longer post instead.

The editor/owner of the newspaper, Eric Meyer, grew up in Marion, and his family has run the Record for decades. Before returning home to run the local paper, he had been editor of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and taught journalism at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, so he has national connections. Thus, the story went viral within hours.

Proximate Cause. A local restaurateur had been driving without a license for years due to DUI convictions, with the acquiescence of the local police department. She applied for a liquor license for her restaurant but was denied because of her DUIs. The newspaper investigated and learned (from her ex-husband) that the police had been letting her drive illegally. She was buddies with the new police chief, so she went to the chief and told him that the newspaper had illegally hacked into the state database to get her DUI records. The newspaper says that the database is public and that they didn’t hack anything. (Yes, it really is that petty.)

Review of the Three Body Problem on Netflix: Get rid of the feelings and give me the science


I notice that most males will forgive a pretty dumb plot in a movie if the action scenes are compelling. Likewise, many females are obsessed with bad Hallmark movies (particularly during Christmas time) because such movies appeal to feminine feelings even when the movie is utterly dull.

There are similar patterns of bias when it comes to science fiction. The genre is notoriously divisive as it tends to minimize character development to instead focus on how science effect society. This is especially the case with harder science fiction. In fact, science fiction fans often complain that mainstream critics just don’t appreciate science fiction.

This week on The Learning Curve, guest co-hosts University of Arkansas Prof. Albert Cheng and Charlie Chieppo interview Johns Hopkins’ Institute for Education Policy director, Dr. Ashley Berner. She discusses educational pluralism’s role in improving K-12 performance, exploring European models and the impact of U.S. school choice programs. Dr. Berner analyzes universal ESAs and vocational-technical schooling, addressing persistent academic struggles and civic knowledge gaps. She shares how the potential of liberal arts education could unify a divided society. In closing Dr. Berner reads from her new book, Educational Pluralism and Democracy: How to Handle Indoctrination, Promote Exposure, and Rebuild America’s Schools.

Arguing (with Humility & Charity)


Ralph Hedley An argument from opposite premises (Wikimedia Commons)

“All I wanted to do was argue.” So said a student in the first session of my public university course, “Argumentative Writing.” He was however surprised – in his words, “caught off guard” – by the first two sessions I taught on “Humility” and “Charity.” For instance, about humility, I said our arguments should be gracious, considerate, careful to represent other ideas with accuracy. And I said about charity that communication is a community-based, convivial, invitational work of intellectual hospitality. Turns out, students had only thought about a course on argumentation as a knock-down-drag-out verbal brawl. My teaching was based on listening, care for others, and broadmindedness – concepts these students were not accustomed to. You can view the two videos where I introduce these concepts via links at the end of this Truth in Two.

Hard work is not the key to success


I live on a golf course in Hilton Head, in a wealthy gated community.  So I’m surrounded by lots of extremely intelligent people who worked extremely hard at something for an extremely long time, so they could make enough money to retire when they’re 60 and play golf on private golf courses for the rest of their lives.  Many have something else in common, as well:  They tend to have adult children who are very intelligent like their parents, with lots of potential, but they tend to be underachievers.  Which tends to bother their hard-working parents.

I was at a community party this weekend, sitting there drinking bourbon (surprise!), minding my own business, when this topic of conversation came up.  The mothers sitting at our table started complaining about their kids, who all seemed to lack drive and focus.  One said that her daughter didn’t like her job, so she quit.  She didn’t have anything else lined up – she just quit.  So now she’s living at home at the age of 26, with her extremely expensive elite college diploma on the wall, eating their food and watching their TV.  Mom and Dad are frustrated.  The other Moms all had similar stories, each sounding more outlandish than the first to my blissfully sheltered ears.

The Moms all agreed that they had sheltered their kids too much, and left them unprepared for the difficulties of real life.  One of the Moms pointed at me and said something like, “His kids are doing great.  His wife told me how hard he worked those girls, and now they know how to work.”  I responded that I didn’t think that was right.  She asked what I meant.

Iran: It’s Worse Than You Think


Last night I had the opportunity to watch a discussion by two leading experts on the Middle East—Ray Takeyh and Elliott Abrams—joined for a short period by Senator Tom Cotton, and hosted by the Tikvah Foundation’s Jonathan Silver. To say the least, I was stunned and alarmed by their views, and realized that if the world doesn’t respond skillfully and soon to the machinations of Iran, the results could be deadly. I’d like to summarize the key points I learned and share my thoughts on how the road ahead could be dangerous, but it could also transform the Middle East.

One of the most alarming points that the world needs to note is the nature of Iran leadership. According to Abrams, the country is being led by a new, small elite which is even more ideological, vicious and dangerous than the mullahs we’ve known. He described the Iranian attack this past weekend as reckless and evil. Both Takeyh and Abrams believe that Iran’s intention was to kill as many Israelis as they could; the leadership were not interested in grandstanding.

Falls, Medical Liability, and My Mom


My 90-year-old mom had another fall on Sunday afternoon. She has had A-fib and heart failure for more than a decade, and her cardiologist struggles to control that without causing her dizziness and low blood pressure. Which results in falls. After enjoying a warm spring afternoon on the patio, she lost her footing on the porch steps and fell backward onto the car and hit her head. Fortunately, she had her cordless phone with her, so she called me to come over and help her up. Her neck hurt badly, so I helped her gently into the car and took her to the ER. And there fear of lawsuits started driving medical decisions.

When we arrived at the excellent rural ER in Marion, Kansas, the nurses immediately immobilized her neck in the car and put her on a stretcher. I think they already suspected the problem. They called their radiology tech in from her Sunday afternoon, and she did a CT scan. As I later learned, the radiology tech immediately spotted a dangerous, potentially fatal, fracture in the C2 vertebra in her neck and pointed it out to the PA in charge of the ER. I could tell they were more concerned than usual about my mom, but I didn’t know why. Following procedure, the PA e-mailed the scan to some M.D. somewhere to interpret it. An hour later the interpretation came back, “All OK.” At that point the PA told me what was going  on. She made a very polite call to the faraway M.D. and asked if he had seen the fracture. He was appalled at what he had missed and sheepishly corrected the interpretation.

Quote of the Day: April 16, 2024


“On the topic of human rights, even though nobody disputes that prisoners have human rights, I believe… they haven’t defended the human rights of our honest citizens. In general, they defend — and the whole international approach to human rights, and even the NGOs — are focused on the rights of criminals.

For 30 years in this country we were shot at, killed, shaken down, raped, extorted, threatened, living in fear, and nobody said a word. But if the killers, extortionists, and rapists are arrested, all of a sudden, their human rights are important. Of course they have human rights, but the human rights of our honest people are more important.”

Tell the Story!


Humanity is really very good at putting the past behind us. “Sure, you saved my life last week. But what have you done for me lately?!”

It is amazing how many blessings a person receives, but forgets. This is sometimes given as the reason “Thanksgiving Offerings” must be eaten within a day, because we forget the things we should be thankful for. I suspect this is a reason that G-d gives people so much suffering: bad events stick better than blessings do. For example, we take good health for granted – until we get sick. Being healthy is like running water: entirely unmemorable, until you don’t have it.

NPR Suspends Uri Berliner for Five Days Without Pay


This is the 25-year NPR veteran who wrote a piece on The Free Press about NPR’s monolithic point of view, and its stunning lack of newsroom diversity (something like 86 Democrats/0 Republicans at its HQ) as well as citing specific examples of its failure to cover major news stories fairly over the past fifteen or so years.

I guess they are really mad at him.  The Chief News Executive of NPR stated, in their response, that

Fearful in polished marble


I just finished another book written by someone I’m proud to call a friend – Bing West.  He wrote “The Village” about his experiences in Vietnam.  He was in charge of 12 US Marines tasked with protecting a village of 6,000 people from the Viet Cong, and preventing the VC from using the surrounding area to transport supplies and equipment.  His Marines patrolled every night, taking fire nearly every night, for 435 days.  Half of the Marines died.

Bing’s book describes the relationships between his Marines, the local villagers, the Viet Cong, the local law enforcement, and the US military at large.  The 12 Marines did a masterful job building relationships with the locals, figuring out local politics, and introducing sufficient stability and relative safety so the locals could continue to work their farms during the days so they didn’t starve.  Today, “The Village” is required reading in The Marine Corps Officer Candidate School.

Bing returned to the village in 2002 – thirty years after the Marines had left.  He was welcomed as a celebrity.  He found the remains of the fort they had used – just traces of a foundation now.  The floods had mostly filled in the moat he and his friends had dug in the late 1960’s.  When they left the fort in the 1970’s, there was a small stone monument in the ground, with a small bronze plaque, honoring the Marines who had died there.  When he returned in 2002, it was gone.  A local woman told him that someone had beat the bronze into the shape of a trowel and used it for farming.  She regretted that she could not return it to Bing, but the farmer had thrown it away some years ago.

Show links:

Republicans: Please remember when the “Tea Party” gave us Dem majorities and ObamaCare with candidates like Christine O’Donnell, Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock.

The Brief Sum of Life–In Praise of the Liberal Arts


So sue me.  I’ve never really pretended to a deep acquaintance with, nor understanding of, mid twentieth-century American playwrights and screenwriters.  And so we have Days of Wine and Roses, a 1958 teleplay by JP Miller with Cliff Robertson and Piper Laurie , which I’ve always gotten spectacularly mixed up with Splendor in the Grass, which began life as a 1961 Hollywood movie starring Warren Beatty and Natalie Wood.  Neither of them has anything to do with Tennessee Williams (although, thematically, perhaps they should have), and maybe this salient fact has exacerbated my confusion over the years.

One thing I’m not at all addled about, though, is the origins of the titles:

Though nothing can bring back the hour
Of splendour in the grass,
of glory in the flower,
We will grieve not, rather find
Strength in what remains behind–William Wordsworth, Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Reflections of Early Childhood