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Trump Is a Stooge of Putin

 

The Left has been calling Trump a traitor since his summit with Putin. It’s surprising they haven’t cited the abundance of evidence for this:

1. Energy: Putin depends heavily on energy exports. Trump has encouraged fracking, pipelines, and offshore drilling. These actions are increasing oil and gas production, which hurts Russia.

2. Iran: The nation is a de facto ally of Russia. Trump has withdrawn from Obama’s Iran agreement, reinstituted sanctions, and forced European companies to follow them. This hurts Russia’s ally and is further evidence that he’s Putin’s poodle.

3. Ukraine: Trump has begun shipping weapons to them whereas Obama generously shipped blankets. This support for the country attacked by Putin decisively proves that Trump is in league with Putin.

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Who’s That Girl, End of the Beginning

 

Two weeks ago, I wrote fondly about the woman who I used to think of as my baby sister. I did not know, then, that she would provide a far more profound lesson in understanding over the next week. Staring death in the face will do that.

As I silenced my phone before the service, Sunday the 8th, I saw a text message from my brother-in-law. My youngest sister was in the hospital in extreme pain. By Monday afternoon we knew the cancer was back with a vengeance. Two years ago, we were celebrating as Youngest Sister was pronounced cancer-free of a dread strain that has taken almost all it touches. The treatment had nearly killed her, but every quarterly scan since showed no tumors.

Scans did not show tumors because the killer was hiding in the bone marrow, finally robbing her of the blood components necessary to life. The rogue cells were creating pressure, trying to crack the bones inside out. Hence the pain.

I flew in Tuesday afternoon to say farewell. I found Youngest Sister had made her decision, with the help of her medical team and her husband. She would accept support, beyond pain management, for long enough to see our sister who lives farthest away. The wonderful medical staff, the same team who had helped her to temporary victory the first time, had managed to get the pain under control.

Youngest Sister was clear of eye and voice when I saw her in the cancer ward. She had no tears, no fears, and was vibrantly alive. You see, she had spent a lifetime growing in her faith. She was looking past that impostor, Death, to her new life.

Over the past two years, it turns out, she had always assumed that she would have about two years. Youngest Sister and her family had their lives in order and were living every day to the fullest. As her hair grew back in, two summers ago, it had not one gray strand, and was wonderfully curly. They hiked, camped, did scouting and sports, beyond their deep-rooted involvement in their church family.

Last year, she homeschooled her daughter, of whose unusual perceptiveness I wrote. This freed the two of them to road trip to Arizona. I took them on a whirlwind tour of southern Arizona, a prelude to the two of them hiking down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon and back up again. So, she spent every day living and filling her children with understanding for this life and the next. Two weeks before her death, she had ridden 50 miles on a racing bicycle, the longest training ride for a two-day road race she planned to ride with her eldest son.

And then, there we were, a constantly changing set of family and friends filling her hospital room. There were plenty of tears among us, over the four days from Tuesday to Friday. I did not see her cry, although I left her when her husband brought in their children — when I am told Youngest Sister gave them the Christian mom talk about meeting and choosing a mate. As friends visited, Youngest Sister assigning her many tasks to scouting and church women. Finally, as our parents, all of us siblings, her children, and friends had all said our temporary goodbyes, she slipped more into sleep.

In the early hours of Saturday, July 14, 2018, Youngest Sister woke from the dream of this life, rising into Light. In that moment, she finally knew as her Creator had always known her. To have seen her past three years on this world is to get an understanding of the Scripture:

For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

Philippians 1:21 (KJV)

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Intelligence and Common Sense

 

Hi, all! I’m back to posting, after a long break of just lurking. I don’t have anything profound to say today, but there’s a funny story with my elder daughter, and the only place I have to share it that she won’t see is here. She’s an architecture student at Notre Dame, and they spend […]

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Trade Wars Are Easy to Win

 

The President demonstrated his ignorance of the basics of trade once again this morning with a classic tweet:

Someone should tell that to Harley Davidson and Whirlpool who just cut forecasts due primarily to the impact of tariffs. At least their workers benefit as their jobs will remain in America. Oops.

At least the American farmer, the bedrock of our nation, remains unaffected. Damn. Don’t worry about the great American farmer, however, President Trump has just the plan to fix this.

Once again we find out that it is the politically connected who are protected from the destruction wrought by trade wars:

The Trump administration plans to offer billions of dollars in aid to farmers hit by tariffs on their goods, an emergency bailout intended to ease the pain caused by Trump’s escalating trade war in key electoral states, people briefed on the plan told CNBC.

The total aid amount is reportedly about $12 billion. A senior administration official told NBC News that the aid would be temporary.

The announcement could come as soon as Tuesday afternoon, hours after the president proclaimed on Twitter that “Tariffs are the greatest!” An industry source briefed on the plan said the package could use existing programs designed to mitigate price and coverage risks, and could target dairy, pork and soy products.

So, to combat the predictable effects of an ill-considered trade war, the President is going to mortgage the future to pay off those in the present. Well, at least Trump is starting to act like a typical Washington politician.

I hate to say I told you so, but…

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Quote of the Day: Sacrificing Virgins to Volcanoes

 

“All around us, humans are not change agents, but victims buffeted by impersonal deities who must be appeased through acts of sacrifice. In principle, there is no distinction between the island barbarian who sacrifices virgins to the volcano and the modern American who self-sterilizes to ‘save the planet.’ Both are expressions of the human desire to suffer in order to appease a larger, all-important ‘force.’ And both are ways in which otherwise intelligent people adopt pagan worldviews in order to come to peace with their place in the world.” — Shaya Cohen (aka @iwe), The Torah Manifesto

The world is filled with people who wear their helplessness, victimization, and virtue-signaling as badges of honor. They have given up their free will as their contribution to the myth that the earth is falling apart and only through their sacrifices can it be saved. Their growing abundance and success, instead of filling them with gratitude and motivation, overwhelm them with guilt and teeth-gnashing. They elevate their impact on the planet so that they end up becoming their own gods, thinking that they can make the world better by giving up those things they have earned and created. Their surrender to true Power is not possible, since they have made themselves into powerless deities.

Instead, they can choose to leave the mythical cave of suffering and safety, and emerge into an existence that feeds their power and creativity, improving the world and serving others.

But will they?

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Quick Decisions

 

One of my millennial cousins was working on a roof several months ago. He fell off the roof, but luckily (?) the roof was high enough that he had a few seconds to decide how to fall. He said that as he was falling, the thought that went through his mind, very quickly, I assume, was: “Ok, if I fall on my head, I will die. If I fall on my back, I will be paralyzed for life. So, I will fall on my feet.” And he did. He broke both ankles, and a lot of bones in his feet, but other than that, he is fine.

Other than a quick encounter with a moose, from which I escaped unscathed, I have never been in the kind of physical danger that required that kind of fast thinking, but my brother fell in the bathroom and broke his arm when I was 12 or 13; I was downstairs with my mother. We heard a loud bang, and then my brother started yelling (he was 9 or 10 at the time). I ran upstairs to see what had happened, and when I opened the bathroom door, my poor brother was splayed on the floor with a totally mangled arm. He told me later that he hadn’t been yelling because of any pain; he said that at that point, he couldn’t feel his arm at all, but he was yelling because it just looked so horrible. It was really bad; so bad in fact, that my immediate reaction upon seeing my brother’s arm was to shut the door so I wouldn’t have to look at it. Then, I just stood outside the bathroom for 10 or 20 seconds, and it was as if my mind was split in two. The choices were very clearly presented to me: I could either totally freak out, which part of me was tempted to do, or I could pull it together and help my brother. My brother, who had stopped yelling at this point, then said in a very firm voice “Judy, you get back in here and you help me right now.” And I did: from that moment, I was entirely calm, and spent the next many hours calmly attending to him.

Right up until the surgeon told him that his arm was broken, my brother held out hope that, in his words, “Maybe it is only sprained”. He knew that a broken arm would end his basketball season, and he couldn’t stand the thought of that. He ended up being the team’s highest scorer, even though he missed half the season. I think he might have been actually been the league’s highest scorer, but I can’t remember. At any rate, he was really good, and totally crushed that he would miss so much basketball.

That day standing outside the bathroom was one of the strangest experiences I have ever had: never before or since has a choice been so clear to me; it was as if everything else other than that choice was dispelled from my mind, and the choice I was being presented with was the only thing that really existed. I wish that I had done the right thing immediately, but am glad that I at least did the right thing eventually.

I wonder though, why does it not always seem as though we have a choice? For instance, my split-second reaction to close the door upon seeing my brother’s arm didn’t seem like a choice; it was more like the way someone would recoil from having their hand put on a hot stove: it was just an immediate gut reaction, no thought involved.

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The Great American Ballpark Ranking

 

””Since 2012 my buddy and I have been on a mission to visit all 30 major league ballparks. You see, we really like baseball. It took seven years but as of July 8, 2018, we completed our quest: visiting 27 ballparks (we’d already been to games together at Fenway, Yankee Stadium, and Oakland Coliseum).

Our methodology was to arrive at least an hour before the game (we couldn’t do this in all cases), walk the entire stadium, sample the food, and then stay until the last out. Below are my completely objective rankings with the top three parks, along with the rest divided among three tiers. You may notice that there are not an equal number of teams in each tier. I don’t care. This is my post. So argue away.

Bottom line, any park is a good place to watch a baseball game.

Along the way we took in some other fun sights like the Negro Leagues Museum in Kansas City, the Avenue of the Giants in Humboldt State Park, California, the Louis Armstrong House Museum in Corona, Queens, the Reagan Presidential Library, the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee, and stopping between Philly and Pittsburgh to spend a day at Gettysburg where the Blues beat the Grays in a hotly contested match not decided until the final inning.

Along with the ratings, I’ve included a sampling of the awards we made at the end of each trip. (If you are baseball nuts like we are, you can find a full account of each trip, with lots of photos at this link.)

Extra bonus feature: Read on to learn which park is best suited for you to survive a zombie apocalypse!

Top Three

Fenway Park (Boston Red Sox, 1912) – Hey, I’m a Red Sox fan, what’d you expect?

AT&T Park (San Francisco Giants, 2000) – Views of surrounding area, sight lines to the field, and the food was all top notch.

PNC Park (Pittsburgh Pirates, 2001) – Views of the bridge and city. Good seating and food.

Top Tier

Wrigley Field (Chicago Cubs, 1914) – Some advice; don’t go to a June game on a sunny day if there’s a brisk wind blowing in from the lake, or at least sit in the bleachers where you are protected.

Petco Park (San Diego Padres, 2004) – Tied for best food with AT&T. Also like that factory facade built into the stadium.

Safeco Field (Seattle Mariners, 1999)

Kaufman Stadium (KC Royals, 1973)) – An older stadium with a nice feel to it. Very comfortable and open.

Coors Field (Colorado Rockies, 1995) – I may have been unduly influenced by the magnificent fireworks display at the end of the game.

Busch Stadium (St Louis Cardinals, 2006) – Great atmosphere, great fans, and food. And that’s even with us ending up in the last row of the third deck in left field.

Middle Tier

Marlins Park (Miami Marlins, 2012) – A lot of folks don’t like this one but I did, except for the stupid statue in center field which they should blow up. Instead, they blew up the team.

Comerica Park (Detroit Tigers, 2000) – Much better than anticipated.

Dodger Stadium (Los Angeles Dodgers, 1962) – Great location, memorable history, but the park itself is looking old and tired.

Camden Yards (Baltimore Orioles, 1992) – The state of the art stadium when it opened, it’s now been surpassed by the competition.

Chase Field (Arizona Diamondbacks, 1998) – I’ve developed a soft spot for the park of my new hometown team. Decent in every category, plus you can buy a Paradise Valley Burger there. On the other hand, team management wants out of the stadium because of a dispute with the city over deferred maintenance.

Globe Life Park (Texas Rangers, 1994) – Interesting park to walk around with good vantage points. My advice: don’t get seats on the third base line for afternoon or early evening games in the summer. I left some skin.

Target Field (Minnesota Twins, 2010) – Fun place, right near downtown.

Great American Ballpark (Cincinnati Reds, 2003) – Like the river setting. Good BBQ in left field corner. So, do you think Joey Votto takes too many pitches?

Miller Park (Milwaukee Brewers, 2001) – Fun place to watch a ballgame. Importantly, the ballpark best suited for you to survive a zombie apocalypse.

Citizens Bank Park (Philadelphia Phillie, 2004) – Like the promenade and food area around the outfield.

Citi Field (New York Mets, 2009) – If you go try to tie in a visit to the Louis Armstrong House Museum in nearby Corona, Queens.

Nationals Park (Washington Nationals, 2008)

Bottom Tier

SunTrust Park (Atlanta Braves, 2017) – We saw it last year when it opened. It left me cold.

Yankee Stadium (New York Yankees, 2009) – Yes, I hate the Yankees but hear me out. I’ve been to both the original Yankee Stadium and its 1970s replacement and thought highly of both of them. The new stadium, which I’ve been to several times, is a nothingburger, and a number of my Yankee friends agree.

Rodgers Centre (Toronto Blue Jays, 1989) – Nothing special in any way. Needs renovation. My view is admittedly colored by our seats behind the right-field light stands. Devoted fans, however. 48,000 showed up for a midweek game with the Tigers with neither team in contention.

Progressive Field (Cleveland Indians, 1994) – Impressed on my first visits to the stadium, but it had aged badly by my last trip in 2012. The field was renovated in 2014 and 2015 so maybe some of the old glory has been restored. I hope so.

Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum (Oakland Athletics, 1966) – I was last there in 1972. I’m told it’s not gotten any better.

Minute Maid Park (Houston Astros, 2000) – Like watching a game in a shopping mall. Great scoreboard though. The team is not too shabby either.

Guaranteed Rate Field (Chicago White Sox, 1991) – Winner of Worst Name for a Ballpark award.

Angel Stadium (Los Angeles Angels, 1966) – Low-rated otherwise, but don’t miss the bacon and cheese sandwich which comes with a ton of bacon. This Trout kid may amount to something. Keep an eye on him.

Somewhere Between AAA and Major League

Tropicana Field (Tampa Bay Rays, 1990) – Like watching a game in a circus tent. It was so ridiculous I found it enjoyable, at least for one game.

Awards

Best Heads Up Play and Worst Fielding/Lack of Hustle Play: Alen Hanson/Anthony Rizzo/Javier Baez. In the bottom of the 5th, with the Cubs leading 1-0, Pablo Sandoval hit a weak ground ball on which Rizzo made an error catching the throw. The next batter, Alen (that’s really how he spells it) Hanson hit a grounder, forcing Sandoval at second. Hendricks made a pick-off attempt on which Rizzo made an error. Rizzo and Javier Baez showed a lack of hustle getting to the ball, allowing Hanson, who turned on the jets, to score all the way from first. Watch the play here. This cost Kyle Hendricks, who pitched splendidly for the Cubs, a 1-0 victory, and the Giants won in extra innings.

Best Drive: From south of Portland, Oregon to Petaluma, California (over two days). We drove through the Willamette Valley and then the mountains and valleys of southern Oregon on I-5 before turning off at Grant’s Pass and heading towards Crescent City, the northernmost town on the California coast, where we stayed overnight. The next day, we took Route 101 along the coast until it turned inland south of Eureka, got off for thirty miles to drive the Avenue of the Giants in Humboldt State Park, and then followed 101 to Ukiah and through the wine-growing valley to the south.

Jumbo Diaz Fielding Award: Jumbo Diaz of course!

””

As you can see, Jumbo is quite large and, as we found out, does not move well. He’s 33 and listed at 6’4″ and 278 pounds (that may be just a bit on the low side). With the game between the Rays and Orioles tied 3-3 in the 7th, Jumbo came in on in relief for Tampa with a runner on first. Over the next two innings, Jumbo gave up five hits and five runs of which three were bunt singles which he could not handle (to be fair the last one was more the fault of the Rays muffing coverage at first base). After the third bunt (and second in a row) we wondered if Buck Showalter was going to continue to do so until the Rays reacted. I guess he decided to have mercy on Jumbo.

Quickest Home Run: Giancarlo Stanton hit a home run against the Cubs that reached the left-field seats before we realized what had happened.

Best Food Actually Eaten: Chase Field. A hot dog smothered in mac ‘n’ cheese (Larry), Italian sausage with peppers & onions from Hungry Hill (me), and, at the insistence of my daughter: an ice cream churro dog shared by us all. We were comatose by the end of the game, which, given the quality of play, was probably a good thing.

Most Unintelligible Public Address System: Kauffman Stadium. Couldn’t understand a word.

Best Performance By A Player On His Bobblehead Day: Carlos Gomez of the Brewers who hit a long home run.

Best Adam Dunn Type-Performance: Adam Dunn, of course! As you may know, THC is fascinated by all things Dunn. Our hopes were fulfilled at the White Sox game when Adam delivered the Adam Dunn Cycle (Homer, Walk, Strikeout). And it looks like our presence and inspiration was responsible for The Adam Dunn Resurgence. Coming into that game, Dunn was hitting .156 with 13 homers. Since then he’s hit .400 with five homers, raising his average to .183

Best Infield Play: I’d never seen a 3-2-2 double play before. In the Tampa-Detroit game, the Rays had runners on 1st and 2nd in the top of the 3rd with one out when Fuld hit a hard grounder to first base on which Prince Fielder made a diving stop and threw to catcher Alex Avila. You can watch the rest of it at this link.

Torii Hunter, the veteran Tiger outfielder, said after the game:

As long as you’ve been around this game, you’re going to see something . . . I don’t care how old you are or how long you’ve been in the game, there’s always something new in this game. All these years, here’s something new. It was amazing.

Number of Coyotes Seen Crossing Roads: One (US 60 in Ohio)

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The Panoramic Overton Window

 

What shape is your Overton Window? Is it tall and narrow, or low and broad? That is, what range of ideas are you willing to tolerate in public discourse? And how high are you willing to pile the rhetoric? Joseph P Overton, who worked for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, believed the realm of political ideas wasn’t limited so much by individuals’ interests as it was by a window of public discourse, where ideas at either end of the window were considered radical, and ideas falling outside the window (too “left” or “right”, assuming limiting ideas to a one-dimensional spectrum makes sense) were considered unthinkable, hence unmentionable. This window of discourse, usually thought of in just one dimension, was named after him — the Overton Window.

I discern two dimensions to the Overton Window, though, both width and height. It takes effort to maintain a big Overton Window, whether the window is unusually broad (breadth of ideas) or unusually tall (how high do people ratchet up the rhetoric?). Mere mortals, it seems, struggle to maintain expansiveness in both dimensions. Recently, Ricochet Member @steverosenbach wrote a post asking the Ricoverse for the names of honorable pundits on the left. One often-cited name was that of Scott Alexander, who runs the blog Slate Star Codex (SSC). Truth be told, Scott is not very far left (probably one reason so many of us find him palatable); moreover, Scott is sympathetic to much of the backlash against trends in leftist thought. Perhaps what’s most remarkable about Slate Star Codex, though, is that its Overton Window is panoramic.

If you have the patience to wade through SSC’s comments section on pretty much any article, what should astound you is the diversity of viewpoints in the commenters present. There are technocrats, libertarians, religious social conservatives, SJWs, the odd socialist, some neoreactionaries, some folks from the Manosphere and human biodiversity fans. David Friedman (Milton Friedman’s son) and Steve Sailer (yes, that Steve Sailer) regularly comment there. (If you’re interested in finding someone who’s really on the alt-right, but who isn’t just trolling, visiting SSC’s comments is perhaps the fastest way to find such a unicorn.) The amazing thing is that all these people are generally civil to one another. How on earth does this work?

Well, for one thing, SSC maintains a code of conduct. SSC’s code differs somewhat from our Code of Conduct (for example all expletives seem permitted by SSC’s code, but misgendering someone is not) and is in fact more subjective than our CoC, enforced at the “whim” of Scott Alexander himself. Scott will conduct “reigns of terror” if necessary to expurgate problematic commenters. The result, though, isn’t ideological narrowness, but ideological breadth — a panoramic Overton Window.

SSC has ties to the rationalist community. How rational rationalists manage to be is debatable — to outsiders they may just seem hopelessly nerdy, rather than paragons of reason. Still, they tend to share an allergy to heated rhetoric, and a skepticism of tribalism. Uncharitably, they’re skeptical of tribes because they’re nerds who struggle to fit into them, unless it’s their own tiny band of misfits. But that it’s OK to be a misfit there is one of the beauties of SSC: after all, so often what narrows the Overton Window is that people with misfit ideas are derogated as misfit people — people too contaminated by outgroupiness to hang with the cool kids, however “cool kids” is defined. Avoidance of contamination may be a moral foundation (for those into Haidt), but it’s also pretext for one of the crudest, most childish bullying excuses: outgroupers are gross ‘cuz they got cooties.

Conservatives are often outraged and disgusted. Actually, it’s hard to say whether flesh-and-blood conservatives are any more outraged than others while leading their everyday lives, but conservative rhetoric defends outrage and disgust on principle, as a moral foundation: there are some things up with which decent Americans should not put, like ending a clause with a preposition.

Heated, outraged rhetoric is by no means limited to the right. We are only so heated because they are, so they leave us with no choice, is how many conservatives feel about the matter. After all, one of the things which should disgust us as conservatives bravely willing to stand up for disgust on principle is emotional incontinence, and the emotionally incontinent include not only the unbearably sappy and precious, but also the unbearably irate. One way to resolve the paradox of our fury toward everything indecent, including emotional incontinence, is to decide fury isn’t really an emotion, at least not our own righteous fury.

At Slate Star Codex, though, fury is treated as emotional incontinence, even as a form of cooties — “the toxoplasma of rage”. If you’re more interested in rhetorically pwning your outgroup than exchanging ideas, Scott doesn’t really want to host you. One rationalist mantra is “politics is the mind killer” — if self-styled rationalists truly believed this, why would any of them run a political blog, much less such a diverse one? Sounds irrational, amirite? But consider what’s meant by “politics” in this context, “Politics [as] an extension of war by other means”:

Arguments are soldiers. Once you know which side you’re on, you must support all arguments of that side, and attack all arguments that appear to favor the enemy side; otherwise it’s like stabbing your soldiers in the back—providing aid and comfort to the enemy. People who would be level-headed about evenhandedly weighing all sides of an issue in their professional life as scientists, can suddenly turn into slogan-chanting zombies when there’s a Blue or Green position on an issue.

Blue or Green, in this context, refers to sports fans of the Roman Empire. What matters is that Blue and Green are different teams, not if they really have differing principles. Sound familiar?

At Slate Star Codex, no-one has to pick a team. That’s curiously bloodless, even inhuman, you might think. And perhaps you’d think right. But it also keeps the rhetoric from piling too high and narrowing the Overton Window.

Many speak of broadening the Overton Window, when it seems their real goal, at least measured by what they actually achieve, is just shifting the Overton Window in their favor. Broadening the Overton Window among real humans also requires lowering it, humbling it, being willing to ratchet down the rhetoric as a sacrifice. Is that sacrifice worth it? I expect Ricochetians will disagree on that, as we do on so many things, but especially given the Ricochet mission, it’s hard not to admire Slate Star Codex’s panoramic views.

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James Comey Warns Democrats Not to “Rush to the Socialist Left”

 

James Comey, even after leaving the FBI, continues to fly above the political fray as an impartial referee of modern affairs. Just kidding, of course. A few days ago, he said that Republicans had proven “incapable of fulfilling the Founders’ design,” and recommended that voters support Democrats in the upcoming midterm elections.

I would call that statement unusual behavior for a former FBI director who has been accused of influencing our last presidential election, but whatever. Then, Sunday afternoon, he tweeted, “Democrats, please, please don’t lose your minds and rush to the socialist left.” I presume he’s trying to pose as a thoughtful moderate, critical of extremists like Pol Pot and Republican congressmen.

But I wonder how he would differentiate Democrats from socialists. Prominent members of the Democratic Party have come out in favor of Medicare for all, a $15 minimum wage, free college tuition, and the abolition of ICE and national borders. That’s what Democrats believe in, yet Comey warns Democrats not to “rush to the socialist left.” I wonder what he thinks “the socialist left” looks like, and where he thinks socialists would disagree with Democrats. I would love to hear him (or any other prominent Democrat politician) describe the differences between Democrats and socialists.

I also wonder how he would answer if asked to describe how Republicans have proven, “incapable of fulfilling the Founders’ design,” and how he thinks Democrats might more closely follow our founding principles.

Again, there’s a decent chance that he doesn’t believe any of this silliness. But perhaps he does. Either way, I’d love to hear the explanation behind his reasoning.


Note: This essay borrowed heavily from a Fox News news story, although I made a different point with the information. Please read the original here.

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Combating Evil

 

North Korea’s gulags are as bad as anything Josef Mengele did. We hide behind the facade that we only care about America’s interests — and that a war with North Korea is not in our interest; all we care about is nuclear weapons. We overlook the concentration camps. And this is so very, very wrong.

There are solutions — great ones. Use balloons that drop themselves or their cargo over predetermined zones in North Korea. Load the balloons with small arms, candy bars, wind-up radios, South Korean beauty magazines, and give the North Korean people food, hope, and the possibility to defend themselves in their homes and in the streets. We could do it all with nothing more than paying delivery bonuses to private companies, and letting them innovate the best solutions.

End the evil. Spread freedom. Because freedom around the world is very much in America’s interest.

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Book Review: Everyday Jobs Turn Wondrous in Blue Collar Space

 

What will it be like when humans are living and working in space? Ordinary folk, like those who live down your street? Blue Collar Space by Martin Shoemaker offers one vision. It is a collection of short science fiction stories set on the moon and Mars, and Jupiter orbit.

The settings are exotic. The jobs are ordinary. EMTs, sanitation workers, teachers, doctors, factory workers and miners feature in these stories. A few stories fall into the category of space adventure. “Not Close Enough” deals with a first manned mission to Mars — sort of a first manned mission to Mars. The explorers from NASA, ESA, Roscosmos, JAXA, and space agencies from India, Australia and China are not allowed closer to Mars’ surface than Martian orbit. There is a sort of spy adventure in the short story “Black Orbit,” with smugglers and secret agents.

Yet most deal with life and work of an everyday sort; dirty jobs in a space setting. A rescue team is sent to assist crash survivors in “Scramble.” A young girl must find help for her injured father — on the surface of the moon — in “Father-Daughter Outing.” The complexities of running a sanitation system on a lunar city gets explored in “The Night We Flushed the Old Town.” A children’s survival class instructor on Mars has to figure out how to fix things when something goes wrong in “Snack Break.” A moon prospector grapples with the discovery that starring in a moon-based kiddie show really is significant in “A Sense of Wonder.”

It is not dull. Shoemaker shows the adventure in doing things that on Earth are ordinary when they must be done in a hostile environment like space. Being on a spaceship, a space station, or surface of the moon and Mars changes things. He writes with a crisp and engaging style that draws readers into the tale. The result is fascinating reading.

Blue Collar Space captures what life will really be like when we finally get off Earth and move into space. It will be commonplace, yet at the same time it will be wonder filled.

Blue Collar Space, by Martin Shoemaker, Old Town Books, 2018, 244 pages, $11.99


I write a weekly book review for the Daily News of Galveston County. (It is not the biggest daily newspaper in Texas, but it is the oldest.) My review normally appears Wednesdays. When it appears, I post the review here on the following Sunday.

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Ninth of Av

 

The Nine Days before the terrible Ninth of Av in which we mourn and many avoid engaging in normal levels of business, are often seen as somehow “inauspicious.” I wonder if we have allowed superstition to encroach into the place reserved for actual Judaism?

I ask this because I am reminded of the opinions of Rabbi Yochanan and Rav, that there is no mazal (luck) in Israel. Astrology, according to these opinions, is only for the non-Jewish world. We Jews are to look to G-d for favor and blessings, and we do that by seeking and growing a relationship with our Creator, not by falling into astrology and superstition.

One might well counter, of course, that given the historical prevalence of tragedy on and around the Jewish date of the Ninth of Av, that clearly the time seems to be somehow unlucky, a time when G-d has reserved His favor or otherwise hidden His face from us.

But here’s the problem with the argument that G-d caused all these events to happen: G-d did not create the Ninth of Av: we did. It was the Jewish people, in the episode of the spies, who lost their nerve and lost their willingness to appreciate that our mission in this world is not just to be molly-coddled by G-d in the wilderness, but to go out and bravely step up as G-d’s partners in this world. We are responsible for combating evil wherever we find it and promoting holiness at every opportunity.

Every tragedy in the world since then has been one that G-d has allowed – not because G-d is evil, but because He endowed all of humanity with free choice and the responsibility to make good choices. Pestilence and destruction and evil in this world is our responsibility. The Ninth of Av (and the days preceding it) are not to find an opportunity to wallow in loss, but to realize that we must do better, that we must right the wrongs of the past, by stepping up to our responsibilities as G-d’s partners in improving this world. We are not supposed to be passive actors; on the contrary!

Seen in this light, the fact that so many events happened on the same day are not meant to teach us that the beginning of the month of Av is a time of misfortune. Each tragedy is on the same date to reinforce, event by event, a lesson that we continue to stubbornly resist: we are not at liberty to shuck the immense responsibility riding on our shoulders. We are G-d’s people, and that means we must summon the courage to act like it.

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Katie, ya never told us!

 

I was just looking for a different video and stumbled across this: @katebraestrup, you’ve got some ‘splainin’ to do.

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Voracious

 

My youngest is now 14 and he is an avid lacrosse player. Yesterday he traveled to Columbus (OH) and played three games in less than four hours. It’s a game I’m still trying to figure out but some people tell me he’s pretty good. He’ll be a Freshman in the fall and has already been […]

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Eggs $1.39/dozen!

 

A guy walks into the little grocer to buy some eggs. The sign on the display case says eggs are $1.39/dozen, but there aren’t any eggs there; the case is completely empty.

Frustrated, he goes out and walks across the street to the little mom-and-pop food store on the opposite corner. They’ve got eggs, but they’re asking $2.59 a dozen. He grudgingly buys a dozen, but he pauses on the way out to grumble to the owner that the eggs are only $1.39/dozen across the street.

“So why don’t you buy them across the street?” the owner asks.

“Because they’re out,” the man replies.

“Well, when we don’t have eggs, they’re $1.39/dozen here, too,” the owner says.


How do you kill the goose that lays the golden eggs — or golden arches, in this case? You increase mandated minimum wage to the point that one of the greatest engines of entry-level job formation in history, McDonald’s Corporation, finds it cost-effect to replace unskilled kids with machines.

Fortune Magazine reports that McDonald’s will add automated ordering kiosks to another 8,000+ of their U.S. locations over the next year, more than half of their U.S. stores.

I’ve read varying statistics, but all of them put the percentage of the American workforce that held an entry-level job at a McDonald’s restaurant in the double-digit percentages: it seems likely that more than one in ten young people held a McDonald’s job early in their career. (Two of my six kids did.)

Entry-level jobs are critical. The people working them rarely have the skills to do anything else. They rarely have to earn a “living” wage, because they aren’t supporting themselves. They’re making money and learning the fundamentals of work: showing up, being punctual, following instructions, dealing with customers. Some of them also learn deeper lessons about taking on responsibility and being rewarded for it; most of them learn that they aspire to do more, and move on when they can.

McDonald’s Corporation doesn’t really love us, no matter what the advertisements suggest. They’re a business, and a well-managed one. When it stops being cost-effective to hire unskilled young people and teach them how to fish, they’ll buy machines instead. And they’ll never go back.

And someday the McDonald’s manager will patiently explain that, why yes, they pay $15/hour for entry-level positions.

They just don’t have any.

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Millenials Get Their Feelings Hurt

 

The Biscuits baseball team, the Tampa Bay Rays’ Double-A affiliate, sponsored a clever satire of millennials last week. The team offered a Millennials Night with avocado burgers, napping and selfie stations, and participation ribbons for everyone who came. Naturally, the agenda caused a backlash, with coverage on Twitter and several news outlets.

Mind you, most of the team is manned with millenials, and they thought the theme was funny. The reaction by millennials in the area was mixed, to say the least, which only demonstrates the perception that they have no sense of humor. Melissa Warnke, vice president of the Public Relations Council of Alabama had this to say:

From a PR professional’s perspective, they’re kind of accomplishing what all of us want to accomplish, and that is people talking about your organization, not only here locally, but it’s got a lot of reach outside of our own community, outside of our state as well.

The millennials who reacted defensively are probably the same ones who don’t see the opportunities that the world offers to them and instead see themselves as victims. Even America’s favorite pastime doesn’t offer a safe space. In fact, it’s possible that the satire hit too close to home.

So I’m curious: if you’re a millennial, are you offended? If you’re not a millennial, what is your reaction? Maybe, just maybe, a few millennials will realize there is some truth to the stereotype presented. Then again, maybe not.

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The Establishment Group Monkey Dance

 

I am, sometimes, stymied at the establishment’s obdurate opposition to President Trump. Hey, the dude wasn’t my first choice for the Republican nominee, either. But Trump won the nomination, won the general election, and kept a no-kidding corrupt, scofflaw, sac of pulsating sociopathy and her machine out of the White House. So, I’m happy.

The reaction of the establishment, though, has been a little disconcerting. Logic, rational thought, and critical thinking have been thrown out the window. Not only have I been dismayed at the reaction to Trump’s election by people I’ve never met, but I read and thought highly of, for analysis and principle-based opinion, but by people that I know. People that took a different path than me and pursued Ph.D.s, wrote books, became experts in their fields. Many of these people have unyielding, uncompromising opposition to Trump, whatever he may do or say.

Then, re-reading a favorite book, I stumbled over — not the answer, but a partial answer. I was seeing a Group Monkey Dance.

I’m a fan of self-defense and violence expert Rory Miller. He spent 15-plus years as a corrections officer, where he experienced at least one fight per day, every day, for 15 years. Plus, he’s an old-school jujitsu expert. His book Facing Violence: Preparing for the Unexpected is outstanding. In this work, he breaks down and explains the different dimensions of social and predatory violence.

Miller defines four types of social violence: The Monkey Dance, the Group Monkey Dance, the Educational Beat-Down, and the Status-Seeking Show. I see a parallel between the reactions of the establishment and the Group Monkey Dance.

The Group Monkey Dance (GMD) is a show of group solidarity. There are two levels, at least. In the lowest level an outsider is discouraged from interfering with group business–it is a way of establishing territory.

Families are tight-knit groups. Domestic violence incidents are acts within the group. Sometimes, when the police intervene, both parties turn on them. Even though one was a victim just moments before and in fear for her life, husband and wife, attacker and victim, often band together to drive away the outsiders.

This is behavior that is familiar in chimps and baboons–your tribe will band together to drive away or scare off members of another tripe or a predator. If you don’t play, you loyalty to the group might be questioned.

In the higher level of GMD the victim is sometimes an outsider but often an insider who is perceived in some way to have betrayed the group. The group bands together in an orgy of violence, possibly beating, burning and cutting on the victim. It is literally a contest to show your loyalty by how much damage you can do to the outsider. Some of the most brutal murders, lynchings and war atrocities are examples of the Group Monkey Dance.

Most GMDs occur when an outsider is within the threat-group’s territory. There is an exception. You may remember the wildings in Central Park or the roving band of young men randomly beating people in Seattle. This pack behavior follows a similar dynamic and serves the same purpose as any other GMD–it strengthens bonds within the group. Causing fear in others (and fear is power) is just a by-product.

In earlier societies, this bonding through violence was ensured by hunting large game animals.

The people that are characterizing Trump supporters as tribalists look a lot like a tribe.

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Understanding the Alt-Right

 

Actually, I’m not terribly interested in understanding the alt-right as a movement; what I find fascinating is the evolution of the term itself. There are two wildly different definitions being applied, and I believe that the left is using that confusion of terms, intentionally and with malice aforethought, to denigrate a large portion of the population as racist, right-wing oppressors.

I first heard the term during the 2016 election cycle, when I started getting a large part of my news and analysis from various YouTube channels. Although I was not aware at the time, the meaning of the term had already morphed away from the original. In those days, the term alt-right was said to refer to a loose collection of people who, while generally of the right, were not happy or satisfied with the established leadership of the Republican Party and the mainstream conservative movement. Given that public polling routinely shows about twice as many people identifying as conservative as identifying as Republican, it seemed this had the potential to be a large and broad coalition.

And as far as I could tell, it included me; by that definition, I am alt-right, being of the right, though not mainstream, but rather representative of an alternative point of view.

It was only after the election that word began to filter out about an earlier, original definition for the term. We found out that the name was originally coined by a guy named Richard Spencer, the leader of a very specific, fringe group of white nationalists. Looking at their actual policy proposals, in that case alt-right seemed to refer more to being, well … leftist. It is a variant of socialism, essentially identical to several other identity-based movements in this country, populated by people who are black or Hispanic. But, while all those other movements are considered left-wing, this group, apparently for no other reason than them being white, are labeled as part of the right.

Spend any time listening to this group, and you’ll quickly come to realize that the reason it is a small, fringe group is that it is a toxic blend of white supremacy and socialism, the sort of movement that has been unable to gain any meaningful level of traction in this country since about the time I was born.

I’m more than fairly certain that I’m not one of those.

Thus far, the evolution of the term had followed a fairly typical path. A term starts with a specific meaning that applies to a small group of people with a specific set of beliefs or characteristics. Then over time, the term is generalized to refer to a much larger group, many of whom do not share those original beliefs or characteristics. This is something that happens with almost any movement that becomes a sizeable group of people. Most political movements start with a small, dedicated group of hardcore believers. If it grows to significant size, over time the original beliefs are usually watered down and tempered, to appeal to a larger audience. It is not unusual for the original beliefs to disappear almost entirely.

This is the point where the evolution of the term takes an unusual, and in my experience, unique turn. After having been generalized to a much broader meaning, it was retracted back to the original belief set, so that it no longer legitimately refers to anyone outside of Richard Spencer’s group.

I promised malicious intent on the part of the left, and here it is. They use the two definitions almost interchangeably, but with a very distinct pattern of usage. They use the broad, generalized definition when assigning membership to the alt-right, but the original, specific meaning to ascribe beliefs to the people so labeled. The practical result of this is that if you are not an elected Republican official, and are also anywhere to the right of Che Guevara, they will call you alt-right. And that membership justifies their certainty that you are a white supremacist follower of Richard Spencer’s loony white socialist utopia.

It would be as if we labeled large numbers of random Democrats as communists, and therefore in favor of killing off a substantial portion of the US population to achieve their communist paradise. Of course, for a valid comparison, we would have 90 percent of the media repeating those claims and having earnest panel discussions about their plans for genocide.

So, am I alt-right? Are you? It depends who you ask, and what they intend. And the left isn’t really interested in your opinion; they’ll be deciding for you.

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First- and Second-Order Prognostications

 

George Will, a fellow I enjoyed reading twenty or thirty years ago, has suggested that Republicans should elect Democrats. He doesn’t actually want to be governed by Democrats — at least, I don’t think he does. His idea, apparently, is that it will communicate something important to Republicans; they’ll up their game as a result, […]

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Show Me the Seas of Plastic!

 

All of this kerfuffle over plastic straws, pollution of plastics, etc… hides a fundamental problem: the oceans do not have a problem with plastic! There are no massive floating islands of plastic bottles and straws or anything else. The ocean breaks plastic down, bacteria live on the stuff, and it all goes back into the food chain, with no lasting impacts at all. Arguably, as plastics sustain other life forms, putting plastic into the ocean may well enhance aquatic life. And it all happens very quickly — days and weeks, not millennia.

Here’s my challenge: Are there any satellite or aerial photos showing the seas choked with human-produced garbage? (There are some staged photos.) Or has the “Party of Science” once again created a crisis from whole cloth? And if so, we should be making this the core argument: Just as CO2 is plant food, plastics may be sea food.

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Perspective on Politics, Life, and Richard II

 

I passed through the state of high dudgeon yesterday. Speeding all the way! But right before I checked into Indignation Inn to dream of the Democrat nominee in 2020, two things happened.

I saw a production of Richard II; and one of our particular friends, already in a caregiver rôle for a spouse, reported having a crippling accident.

About the play, it is not done too often, I guess because it just plummets into 14th-century English history, and the central problem (who killed Gloucester) isn’t understood by audiences in terms of its importance to 15th-century England. But I love this play; it has great speeches, the famous one about “this England,” Richard’s heartrending “Down! Down I come! like glistering Phaeton wanting the manage of unruly jades!” It was the first Shakespeare I ever saw performed live (in Stratford upon Avon like, 50 years ago). And as to perspective — well, y’know Byron’s lines about Rome:

Ye! Whose agonies are evils of a day–
A world is at your feet as fragile as our clay!

Evils of a day, indeed. Unlike what befell our friend, who faces a long period of recovery, during which to be both patient and nurse!

Byron mused about this too, whether reputation and image and ideals really seem so important to someone incapacitated by physical injury:

I wonder if a mention in the Bulletin
Can make up for a bullet in one’s body?

Of course not.

If I were a praying woman, my prayer today would be, may I always calmly contemplate the Big Picture and may I never fail to be moved to tears by individual snapshots of grief and pain.

Of course, that’s only aspirational. Ordinarily, “Once more, dear friends, unto the breach!” Suits my Ricochet persona better. Yet, though mercurial as Richard himself, still, this Sabbath morning I say: God rest Richard II’s weary soul, God who made Shakespeare’s teeming brain be praised, and God comfort and spare the afflicted.

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“$15,000 in 3 Months Is Change”

 

The title of this essay is a quote from a heroin addict on what he spent on heroin. As a former police officer, it should come as no surprise that I do not support legalizing drugs like heroin and meth. I understand that for some it is an academic exercise, but I had to clean up the mess when people became addicted to drugs.

One afternoon when working a festival four of us were approached by an individual who said there was an awful smell coming from a porta-potty. We didn’t have any trouble finding it, and we knew right away what that odor was.

My warbag contained extra copies of blank report forms, a copy of the revised statutes, and enough ammunition to take over a small Latin American country was locked up in the trunk of my police car. More importantly, my jar of Vicks was in that bag. We used Vicks for welfare checks that might include someone who had passed away a week earlier in their apartment or home. A Vicks smear underneath your nose made it a little easier to process the scene.

We pried open the door, and there was an individual sitting on the toilet seat, a syringe in his arm; an arm that was tied off to try and find a vein, which he found. He had probably died a day or two earlier. Two 90 degree days, well let’s just say it wasn’t a pleasant experience.

If you believe that the state should sanction heroin use, then you should understand that someone you love might be approached to use heroin. You should also understand that a police chaplain might meet you at the morgue to offer what comfort they can.

I’ll leave you with some more quotes from the link I provided at the beginning of the article.

Heroin costs everything. As in all your money, all your earthly possessions, everything of value that you own. She will take it all. Then she will take your family, friends, and everyone you care about. And she will leave you penniless, alone, sick, cold, and desperate.

When you have an addiction to heroin, you become a slave. She says give me $15,000, you might think, “I don’t have it.” But you’ll get it. It might mean stealing, tricking, conning, and so on. But you’ll damn well not say no to her. Because she knows all your weak spots. She knows what hurts you. And she will hurt you. Oh boy, will she hurt you. First, it’s physical pain. She will torture you physically. The longer you refuse, the worse it will get. And then, if that doesn’t work, she will torture your mind.

So, you will get the money and do it quick. And don’t even try to fight her. It’s a fight we cannot win. Trust me. I’ve been fighting her for 14 years. Recently I decided to stop fighting. I’m too tired to fight.

I’ve seen far more than the one incident I described when it comes to heroin or meth use, but they are not very pleasant stories, so one will be enough.