Stephen W. Browne | Rants and Raves



Gender Privacy

This bathroom thing has, pardon the expression, gotten out of hand.

Those of us in the punditry industry have been saying for a while now that it’s hard to do satire anymore because life has gotten so absurd it’s hard to tell the difference.

So now all we can do is give examples from the news and say, “You can’t make this $#!+ up!”

I never in a million years would have imagined so many people would be passionate about asserting the rights of guys to use the ladies bathroom.

“But I identify as a woman!”

Yes, and I’m really sorry about that. Honest to God I am, and I’m not being facetious. It must be living hell to live with that kind of confusion. But the fact is, you’re not.

“What about people who’ve undergone the gender reassignment surgery?”

Then you’re an unfortunate human being who has found a doctor willing to surgically mutilate you. But you still have an XY chromosome set. In my humble and Johns Hopkins University’s not-so-humble opinion.

(Johns Hopkins university hospital pioneered the surgery, and has abandoned it after concluding that the surgery does not turn a man into a woman or vice versa in any meaningful sense.)
However that law in North Carolina so many think is the Confederacy rising again specifically excepts those who have had the surgery.

“Transgendered persons aren’t all sex offenders!”

OK, but beside the point.

This is the point. I have a nine-year-old daughter. I don’t get to go into the ladies room with her, and she certainly doesn’t want me to although when she was younger I changed her diapers more often than I can count.

Why in hell should she want a stranger who is capable of standing up to pee in the ladies room with her?

It’s not about my fear of sex offenders preying on my daughter – it’s her privacy!

Is that so hard to understand?

Yes, ladies rooms have stalls. Yes we have public restrooms. And we have certain social conventions of behavior in them, which I think but do not know for certain are different for men and women.

I had a young man of confused gender ask me why he couldn’t keep using the bathroom of his (?) choice and what are you going to do, have a pantless inspection before anybody walks in?

Could we solve this the way we always have, with a certain benign hypocrisy?

If you can’t tell the difference between a lady and a drag queen, ignore it!

If you are a business owner, set your own policy and see if your customers can live with it. Target has already begun that experiment so we shall see. That North Carolina law is about public accommodations.

And why did they have to make an issue of it to begin with?

Well I can think of a couple of reasons.

One is that this is in no way shape or form a battle for “rights.” It’s a case of “Notice me damn it!” from a bunch of, again pardon the expression, drama queens.

And for a number of straight men and women, it’s virtue signaling.

“Look at me! I’m a civil rights hero!”

Sorry ladies and gentlemen, the Freedom Riders risked being murdered and buried in the swamp. You might get unfriended on Facebook. Oh the horror!

You risk nothing while making countless women uncomfortable in their most private moments on behalf of a tiny minority of pathetically confused individuals. They certainly deserve our compassion, but not turning our lives upside down to humor their delusions.

Behind that smug, I’m-so-much-more-enlightened-than-you posturing is a smarmy let’s-freak-out-the-squares attitude that I remember from my hippie days when I was that kind of @$$#0!e too.

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The silly season

In the United Kingdom and in some other places, the silly season is the period lasting for a few summer months typified by the emergence of frivolous news stories in the media. It is known in many languages as the cucumber time. The term was coined in an 1861 Saturday Review article,[1] and was listed in the second edition of Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable (1894) and remains in use at the start of the 21st century. The fifteenth edition of Brewer’s expands on the second, defining the silly season as “the part of the year when Parliament and the Law Courts are not sitting (about August and September)”. – Wikipedia

In the early ‘90s I was living in newly-liberated Poland and working in a bank one day a week helping employees improve their English conversation skills.

The bank offices were being renovated and a glass door had been installed in the offices. This was kind of a new thing those days. To give themselves a greater feeling of privacy, some of the guys had put up some Playboy centerfolds on the glass.

Surprisingly to me, it didn’t seem to bother the ladies who worked there. I pointed out to the group that in America the ladies could sue the pants off the bank.

I don’t know how I expected them to react, but it did surprise me.

One employee just looked terribly sad and said, “You must have a wonderful country you can afford to worry about such things. We have real problems.”

Well, our country must still be pretty wonderful.

If I had to name the top things that worry me right now, they’d be:

One, the growing suspicion that in spite of the administration’s crowing about their signature accomplishment, Iran has not given up their program to acquire nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them.

Two, that Putin is bent on creating a resurgent Russian Empire, skillfully spreading subversion, disinformation, and encouraging terrorism and small wars around the world. Worse, he’s good at it.

The KGB or whatever they call it these days, is better at stirring up trouble than we are at figuring out what kind of trouble it’s stirring up.

Three, the Third World is moving in with the First World. Everybody by now must have seen those pictures of hordes of Middle Eastern and North African Muslims battering at the gates of Europe, while inside Europe their cousins remain largely unassimilated minorities whose effect on their host societies is overall pretty negative.

In our country we have a milder version of the problem. We have large and increasing numbers of illegal residents, although of a culture closer to ours and a higher degree of assimilation.

So how we can maintain these democracies so painfully built over the last few centuries if we have such large numbers among us who have no comprehension of how democracies do things nor any particular desire to learn?

So call me a bigot, many have. But first, answer the question.

And lastly but perhaps most immediately, we have two rogue candidates running for the presidential nomination of their respective parties. And though I’m not particularly thrilled with the prospect of either of them becoming president I do like the way they’ve shaken up the ossified party system.

To a point that is.

What if come the election, the nominees are Cruz and Clinton as seems more and more likely?

Then we’re going to have substantial minorities in each party convinced the nomination was stolen from their candidate. And people convinced one candidate is in fact ineligible to run, only the Republican this time.

Has that ever happened before? It’s happened with one party, but to my knowledge not both at the same time.

So with all this happening around us, what are we concerned about? What are we arguing passionately about? What are friendships breaking up over?

Because one state passed a law requiring people to use public restrooms in accordance with the gender on their birth certificate, the nation is passionately arguing about the comfort of a segment of society no larger than three-tenths of one percent at most.

Why did they even pass that law? I presume those unfortunates could either pass as members of the opposite sex or not. If they could, I suppose they used their bathroom of choice.

If not, what do drag queens do? Did anybody even notice before this blew up in our faces?

We could have continued with the mild hypocrisy we indulge in for these situations but somebody had to make an issue of it and then somebody had to pass a law. And now we’re at each others throats over…?

Nero fiddled while Rome burned. We appear to be peeing.

We’re making Nero look sane.

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The dialog we’re not having

Note: A slightly different version of this appeared in The Farmers Independent as my weekly column.

“The spirit of liberty is one that is not too sure it is right.”
– Judge Learned Hand

Because I’m not God, I make it a practice to cultivate acquaintances outside my comfort zone.

By that I mean I don’t think I have all the answers, I don’t think I’m competent to run anybody else’s life, but I do think I’m probably wrong about some things. And by the way, I think that goes for you too.

Accordingly I try to listen to people who have different opinions.

Once upon a time that meant arguing with other people. I don’t do that much anymore, it’s seldom productive. Although just last night I found to my surprise I was expressing opinions with some
heat on an emotion-charged issue. So sue me.

At this point in time in this election cycle, with our country more dangerously polarized than any time I can recall I think it behooves us all to remember the injunction in the Torah that the first duty of a man in a dispute is to hear the other out.

So what have I heard?

Nothing that brings me much comfort I’m afraid.

But what worries me is not so much positions one could support or oppose, but a set of attitudes, held mostly but not exclusively on the “progressive” left. These include:

– Taxation is morally superior to voluntary giving.

A progressive friend supports universal government-supported health care. I disagree with his contentions it would be cheaper, fairer, etc. But at one point he said he supported it because, “People shouldn’t have to start a GoFundMe campaign to save their lives.”

What? Disregarding the desirability of socialized medicine for a moment, isn’t it inspiring that anyone can start a fund for friends, acquaintances and even strangers of good will to support someone in a time of dire need? Evidently some consider charity vaguely disgusting.

And in fact we now have a presidential candidate who has expressed his dislike of the whole idea behind charity.

– Unwillingness to live and let live.

Nobody can fail to notice there are gay marriage advocates who not content to have won the legal battle are now seeking out Christian business owners to drive out of business for not hosting same-sex marriages?

It doesn’t matter if you support same-sex marriage or not, this should scare you.

This is not the case of a hypothetical scarce good, there are plenty of people who will take your money. They are punishing you for your opinion, and claiming it is right and proper they should do so.

This leads to a question; why would you go where you are not wanted?

And the question itself suggests the answer; to show them that you can.

– Disdain for experiment.

There are demands for changes to long-established law and custom. Well perhaps some should be changed. And perhaps some laws and customs are long established for reasons we have forgotten.

So why not try it out locally and see what happens?

This seems to be unworthy of consideration. Everything must be changed everywhere, right now!

– Impatience with procedure.

The Founders put together a system in which innovations had to move slowly through the constitutional process, to insure changes were not forced upon society by ill-considered passions or passing fads. They understood that even with desirable change, how something is done is at least as important as what is done. Because unchecked power to do good can do harm just as easily.

Now many are possessed with the spirit of reform, procedure be damned! May I point out this is also the spirit of a lynch mob?

Hey, if we know he’s guilty why do we need a trial?

– Contempt for experience.

Beautiful theories of how to set everything right often conflict with experience. Theory without experience drifts into fantasy.

The reaction of those intoxicated with utopian theories is to dismiss objections based on experience. Worse, they often reject any suggestion they get some experience.

Recently I suggested to a couple of acquaintances who uncritically accept every, literally every, charge of police brutality that they read Rory Miller’s book, Force Decisions.

One rejected the suggestion out of hand as “propaganda.” I actually bought the book as a gift for the other. He hasn’t read it.

On another occasion I suggested to someone contemplating a run for congress as a libertarian that he start with more modest ambitions by attending city council and county commission meetings to observe and learn how government works at the local level.

“Learn what?” he sneered. “How to sit around and shuffle papers?”

This is one reason old codgers like me are so cussed.

– Unbearable self-righteousness.

All of us are of have been prey to this at some time in our lives, it’s one of the less attractive facets of human nature.

But today too many people seem convinced they are not only right, but morally superior to those they disagree with. Unwilling to even consider that someone not any worse than themselves could disagree in good faith.

Does that scare you? It does me.

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Corporate greed

The other day a friend irritated me. He used a buzzword, “corporate greed.”

That one’s been bothering me for a while and I really wasn’t sure why. After all, I’m not fond of corporations much myself. I’ve worked for a few in my time and I was always happiest when I was an independent contractor rather than an employee, and when I was one I was happiest when I was furthest from corporate HQ.

I don’t dispute their right to exist, I just prefer a different work arrangement than a Dilbert cubicle.

But I have friends who loathe the very idea of corporations, some with much more experience working for them than I do.

Sometimes I want to tell them, “So don’t drive a car, or use a cell phone, and find out who owns that newspaper you read.”

Corporations it seems, get no love. And greed must be the worst thing in the world from the way people talk about it.

Hollywood, you may have noticed, is very down on corporations and “corporate greed.”

From what you see in movies about noble Davids fighting corporate Goliaths you’d think films were made by humble craftsmen working in cottage industries. Never mind those cautionary tales about how Hollywood accountants can make the biggest hit of the decade into the biggest money-loser on paper to explain to investors why the movie that made the actors and producers rich isn’t going to repay their investment.

Corporations are particularly loathed on the left end of the political spectrum where people who are terrified of multi-billion dollar corporations are perfectly fine with multi-trillion dollar government.

And that’s why I get irritated with that buzzword “corporate greed.”

A corporation isn’t a person in anything but the legal sense. It can’t feel greedy, it can’t feel anything the people who make it up don’t feel.

It’s a form of organization, a way of getting people together to accomplish things they couldn’t working alone. Humanity came up with the legal and organizational structure of the corporation starting only a few hundred years ago. Now considering how many of the essentials and luxuries we enjoy are manufactured and transported by corporations you’d think we’d appreciate them like we do that corporate product sliced bread.

So why don’t we?

Well for one, it does take a certain temperament to work in a large impersonal environment – and I know that’s a stereotype, they’re not all like that. But enough are and some of us find it distasteful, like some really don’t enjoy being in the military. With which it has a lot in common.

For another, we all know large corporations have an influence on government we rightly suspect is not at all good for our country. Because if a corporation cannot feel greed, neither can it feel patriotism.

But is that the fault of the organization, or the fault of the government? If corporations can buy influence, surely it is because governments have influence to sell.

As to the charge of greed, that’s a loaded term. Is greed wanting more than you have? Some folks call that ambition.

Is greed wanting something at somebody else’s expense? That is reprehensible, but it’s not how markets are supposed to work. In a free market people exchange labor, goods, and services in ways that benefit both parties. If it didn’t, we wouldn’t do it.

Of course we know in daily life it doesn’t always work that way. Government can force us to deal with corporations. Corporations can lobby government to skew the playing field in their favor.

But this is a feature of all large scale organizations, including labor unions, NGOs, and professional associations.

Special interests’ influence on government may be the central problem of democracy. One for which there has yet been no solution found. There may not be one.

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Free Speech

I think as I please, and this gives me pleasure
My conscience decrees, this crime I must treasure
My thoughts will not cater, to duke or dictator
No man can deny, die gedanken sind frei!
Die gedanken sind Frie (“Thoughts are free”)
– Adapted from a Swiss protest song, 1810

Well, a Trump rally in Chicago on Friday, March 11, was cancelled.

Trump cancelled over security concerns as hundreds of protestors filled sections of the arena and massed outside. Protestors were visibly elated. Supporters simmeringly angry.

This is not good – except for Trump. Some polls indicated astonishing jumps in his support after the incident. Causing some critics to cry hysterically that Trump cancelled as a calculated move.

Trump has been castigated by critics, including some in the GOP, as having incited violence at previous rallies.

I think this is not entirely fair. Protestors at these rallies attend not just to express disagreement but to shut down the speeches via the “hecklers veto.”

True, Trump has a mouth that lives its own life, wild and free. He’s shouted from the podium to throw the hecklers out and expressed a wish to punch them.

But that’s not why his opponents want to shut him down.

On February 22, conservative intellectual Ben Shapiro’s scheduled appearance at California State University LA was cancelled by university president William Covino after protests.

“After careful consideration, I have decided that it will be best for our campus community if we reschedule Ben Shapiro’s appearance for a later date, so that we can arrange for him to appear as part of a group of speakers with differing viewpoints on diversity. Such an event will better represent our university’s dedication to the free exchange of ideas and the value of considering multiple viewpoints,” Covino announced.

Covino’s concern for diversity of viewpoints somehow never emerged during previous appearances by radical leftists such as Cornel West, Angela Davis and Tim Wise.

Shapiro is certainly outspoken, but his speaking style is measured, rational and well thought out. Worlds apart from the Trumpster’s bluster.

Which got him no respect at all, when during an appearance on Dr. Drew On Call in February, large transgendered Zooey (nee Bob) Tur put his hand on diminutive Shapiro’s neck and said, “You’d better cut that out now or you’ll go home in an ambulance.”

Shapiro alleged Tur later said he’d meet him in the parking lot. An allegation given credence when Tur later went on record as saying he’d like to “curb stomp” Shapiro for the crime of calling him “sir.”

So let’s clear the air about what’s happening here.

Trump is no champion of free speech. He’s threatened to sue critics. He’s tried to get journalists fired for writing critical articles about him. But ironically a lot of fed-up Americans are rallying around him because he exercises his own right of free speech.

We all know there are things we can’t say in America, and we all know pretty much what they are.

The left owns academia, entertainment, and most of the broadcast media. Though there is no formal censorship in this country of the kind you’d find in North Korea or Cuba, an awful lot of people are afraid for their livelihoods and even their safety if they express certain unpopular opinions or just tell a joke someone takes offense to.

Listen, I’ve lectured in Belarus and taught in Serbia during the Milosevic regime and I said what I pleased. But I can honestly say the two places I’ve worked where I really felt I had to watch my mouth were Saudi Arabia, and an American university.

It’s been this way for decades now and we’re dangerously angry about it. It is not natural for Americans to be afraid of what we say.

I’ve always known we wouldn’t put up with it forever. I wish free speech had a better champion and I hope its enemies wake up and back off. Because if they don’t, free men who wish to speak their minds are not going to retreat to their safe spaces.

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What we learn from history

I have just finished a long conversation with some of the greatest figures in the history of Western Civilization.

Over the past month I listened with rapt attention to tales of battles on land and sea, of political intrigues, the rise and fall of great states, and the decisive victory that shaped our world.

For 27 years, 431–404 BC, Athens and Sparta vied for control of the Greek world, which then extended from Greece proper west to Sicily and southern Italy and east to the Aegean shore of modern-day Turkey.

My entry into this world was via 36 DVD lectures from The Great Courses by Professor Kenneth W. Harl, professor of Classical and Byzantine History at Tulane University.

The lecture course is called The Peloponnesian War. The war the historian and eye witness Thudydides called, “a war like no other.”

I had previously enjoyed the 24 lecture course by Professor John Hale, University of Louisville on The Greek and Persian Wars which gave me a tremendous hunger to know more about the history of Greece.

That civilization we call Western is comprised of the speakers of European languages spoken in Europe west of the Ural Mountains, and in the last five centuries spread to the Western Hemisphere, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.

The twin roots of that civilization lie among the ancient Greeks and the ancient Hebrews. If you are Western then no matter where your ancestors came from you are part Greek and part Hebrew.

Only a few generations ago this was universally acknowledged. Everyone knew the Bible and high school students on the American frontier studied ancient languages and history. President Harry Truman never went to college, and Gen. George Patton had the reputation of a rough profane soldier, but both could read Thucydides account of the war that led to the downfall of Greece in the original Greek.

And what did they learn from it, soldier and statesman?

They learned that as Lord Palmerston, Prime Minister of England said, that a country has no permanent friends or enemies, only permanent interests.

The Athenians and Spartans led a coalition of Greek cities to defeat the invading Persians in a sea battle at Salamis and a land battle at Platea. A generation later they fought each other for 27 years.

Later still the Spartan allies of Boeotia marched into Sparta and destroyed forever the myth of Spartan invincibility.

They learned that to survive and prevail a nation must be adaptable.

Sparta was the premier land power in Greece, but learned to become a sea power to defeat Athens.

They learned to beware of demagogues. Democratic Athens was periodically swept by enthusiasm that led them to confuse their hopes with their abilities as Thucydides said about the disastrous invasion of Sicily.

They learned there are no certain outcomes. After the disaster at Syracuse that cost Athens hundreds of ships and thousands of men, they recovered with breathtaking rapidity. Then on what seemed to be the eve of victory, lost all.

They learned that everything has costs.

Athens funded their war by levying tribute upon the city states of their maritime empire, which their allies came to resent enough to rebel against. Rebellions that were often brutally put down.

They learned about the interdependence of nations.

Athens was forced to surrender when they could no longer feed themselves from their own lands and their route to the grain lands of the Black Sea was cut off.

They learned that civilizations like men, can die. Exhausted by the war, Greece was conquered by Phillip of Macedon and became a province of various empires for the next two thousand years.

And they learned that while many things change, some things never change. And they learned to tell the difference.

We have forgotten these things, but we will re-learn them, perhaps at great cost.

(These and other courses are available from The Great Courses.)

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Viewing with alarm

It occurs to me I haven’t viewed with alarm lately. Don’t judge me, I’ve had my own problems to deal with.

Viewing with alarm is of course part of a pundit’s stock in trade, a venerable tradition going back for centuries. We must view with alarm all of the current trends that will lead to the end of civilization as we know it if unchecked.

Civilization has been falling for a while now but hasn’t hit bottom yet.

On the other hand, all predictions of social collapse come true – eventually.

And I must confess to a certain uneasiness about the state of the union. In part that could be because face it, I’m old. As Allan King said, 65 is not middle aged. I don’t know any 130-year-old men. The old always think the world is falling apart.

Except that sometimes it is.

For another, I have two young children and I’m worried they’re not being prepared for a life with rough spots. And by prepared I mean educated with knowledge and skills to sell in the marketplace, and a certain tough-mindedness necessary to make their way in a cruel and unfair world.

So in no particular order, these are some of the things I find alarming.

People don’t realize our resources are finite. I had this conversation the other day with a friend on the left, and by the way those friendships are harder to maintain these days and that’s alarming too.

I made a remark about how the federal budget should be handled like a rational family handles theirs, i.e. figure out how much you have to spend and then argue about what to spend it on.

He claimed the federal budget is different. I said they’re alike in the only way that matters, they’re finite.

He and a lot of others don’t see it that way. Which leads to the next problem.

If we’re not buying nice things (free college, universal health care, etc) then it’s because some mean and spiteful skinflints want you to be poor, unhealthy, and unhappy.

Many of you have probably had small children give you that attitude. They grow out of it eventually. If you’ve had a spouse with that attitude, you’re probably divorced.
Then there’s Jacobinism, it’s the fault of “the one percent.” A one percent that doesn’t seem to include pop stars and athletes but does include employers.
Well to some extent it is. The country is not run by a company of poor men. What’s different these days is not the inequality of wealth. It’s how they got that way; through productivity, or politics.

Americans have never really resented the wealthy, as long as they felt the game was being played fair. But I believe there’s a large and growing consensus that it’s not.
Well it isn’t. The path to riches is mined with complicated regulation and tax codes that make life miserable for would-be entrepreneurs. But the lower rungs of the ladder haven’t been all sawed off yet, to mix a metaphor.

But a lot of the problem is at the lower end too. With 25 to 70 percent of children being raised in single-parent households (depending on the specific demographic) and schools failing to teach how to count money much less make it, then fewer people are going to climb that ladder.

So the narrative goes, if the current lamentable situation was caused by active malice it can be cured by the right guy. And in this election cycle we have two candidates on white horses ready to cure all our ills, just give them the power and forget that pesky Constitution.

To some degree all candidates promise this. The days when someone could run on a platform of, “I’ll be a good steward of the public funds, run things reasonably well, and if a crisis happens on my watch I can handle it” are over. Nowadays candidates have to run by convincing the electorate of the urgent necessity for radical change only they can bring about.

But this time an alarming number of people on both sides seem to be buying it. And that’s how republics fall.

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Special snowflakes

I suppose we are all aware of the ferment on various college campuses these days. Students demanding “safe spaces” when life hits them too hard and they need a place to curl up in the fetal position and sob their hearts out at the manifest injustice of the world.

A few weeks ago Brown University issued the final version of its diversity and inclusion action plan.

The Brown Daily Herald noted the plan could not have been completed but for the exhaustive efforts of student activists, and how they’ve suffered for their work on behalf of the downtrodden and oppressed of the Ivy League.

“My grades dropped dramatically. My health completely changed. I lost weight. I’m on antidepressants and anti-anxiety pills right now. (Counseling and Psychological Services) counselors called me.

I had deans calling me to make sure I was okay,” said one anonymous student.

As part of his activism, according to the Herald, “…he struggled to balance his classes, job and social life with the activism to which he feels so dedicated. Stressors and triggers flooded his life constantly.”

Worse, according to some students unsympathetic professors are not accepting activism as an excuse for unfinished classwork.

Worse still, activism on behalf of causes such as BDS (Boycott Divest Sanction) against Israel, or sexual assault awareness, students find themselves “triggered” by unpleasant memories, or disagreement with their cherished opinion.

The Herald mentions that college deans are present at some of these demonstrations not only to monitor, but to offer support.

Because students, “might be impacted, something might be triggered or they might suddenly remember more at that event they were protesting,” according to Ashley Ferranti, assistant dean of student support services.

The idea that a dean’s time might be better spent with say, academics or administration is just too crass evidently.

Suggesting that university is supposed to give you the tools to face the problems of the world and come up with workable responses to them is soooo last century. Students are supposed to start changing the world right now while they still know everything.

OK, it’s easy to make fun of these people. It’s easy to forget that campus activism is not new. I can remember demonstrations at my Midwest alma mater, and I might even recall who put the toothpicks and glue into the locks of the administration building door. (They had them opened on time anyway.)

History buffs might remember the Oxford University town and gown riots used to involve cudgels and even swords way back when.

But there’s a few things about college these days that bodes ill for the future.

One is that there’s a vicious side of this. In my day college activists would take over buildings, perhaps vandalize them. You could do tens of thousands of dollars worth of damage simply by dumping all the card drawers of the library card catalog. (Remember them?)

That’s bad for sure. But what we see now are things like false rape accusations resulting in summary suspensions and expulsions without anything resembling due process.

And when they are disproved, they are justified as “raising awareness.”

There’s a sinister “ends justify the means” aspect of this that’s worrying. Particularly when you wonder how many of these activists are going to become lawyers, judges, government administrators, or academics themselves.

On the other hand, given the number of students graduating with degrees ending in –Studies, perhaps we’ll have a lot of formerly affluent unemployable running around – or running for office.

Because what really strikes one about these activists is what a bunch of sissies they are! Back in the day we were rowdy jerks, but we weren’t wimps.

The Ivy League schools were once openly the academies for a governing class. No they weren’t “inclusive” but you could fight your way into them and fight to stay in them. Because back then everyone knew that a governing class had to be tough and smart to stay on top.

Nowadays you have to be “sensitive,” and “check your privilege.”

Get ready, they’re going to be running things very soon.

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What’s the appeal of Trump?

I don’t care for Donald Trump. I think he’s a blustering blowhard whose loud mouth covers his screaming insecurity.

I haven’t like him since I saw him diss his first wife Ivana in an interview.

He’s had three beautiful wives, each of whom he likes to wear like an expensive watch rather than truly appreciate. And wife number two really played him for a sucker!

He inherited a sizeable fortune – and has increased it at a rate no greater than a conservative investment fund.

He started a scam “real estate college” that promised to teach people to become rich like him, neglecting to tell them the requirement that your first inherit a fortune.

He’s a builder, but what does he build? Housing? Ships? Factories?


And by the way, as a builder of casinos in New York and New Jersey, you don’t think he’s mobbed up?

He’s petty, petulant, and vindictive. And he’s leading the pack right now for the Republican nomination even though he’s flipped on every issue important to conservatives.

I’m not even sure he started as a serious candidate. I think it’s possible his good friends the Clintons put him up to running just to split the right-wing vote. And I think Trump had an epiphany.

“Hey! I could really win this thing!”

What the hell is his appeal?

I think it’s the appeal of a demagogue in dangerous times. In my lifetime I’ve seen figures like Pat Buchanan and David Duke tap into it, but the most successful in recent American history was before my time, Governor Huey P. Long of Louisiana.

There come times in history when there are truths everyone knows, but few dare utter.

Like it or not, we are at war with radical Islam.

Like it or not, we are being overwhelmed by the illegal immigration beyond our present capacity to assimilate.

A skillful demagogue will speak the truths no other politician dares to, and win accolades for his courage.

And a people so desperate for a leader to say what they know to be true, what they know to be a clear and present danger, will cling to the hope he offers and not allow themselves to see that everything else he says is nonsense or lies of convenience and he has no character at all.

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Scalia’s passing

Judge Antonin Scalia is dead, though not cold yet.

As we probably should have known, some people are dancing in the streets singing, “Ding dong the witch is dead” while others are howling, “Foul play!”

I think Scalia would have enjoyed the controversy over his death as he enjoyed the controversial issues he grappled with in life. He by all accounts enjoyed the good life and had a robust sense of humor. A trait he shared with friends in the legal profession, both liberal and conservative.

You see, Scalia lived his life by the precept first written in the Jewish scriptures that a man’s duty in any issue is first to hear your opponent out. He made a practice when hiring legal interns to include at least one liberal in every batch.

Yet a great many on the left are vociferously happy to see him go. Because Scalia was an originalist. He despised the idea of a “living Constitution.”

“The constitution is not an organism. It’s a legal text,” Scalia said at a talk at Princeton University. “It means today what it meant when it was adopted.”

Scalia opposed the idea of the judiciary deciding issues that he thought ought to be settled legislatively. For example that the court cannot rule the death penalty unconstitutional because the judges think it ought to be. His position was that if the Constitution doesn’t require abolishing it, it must be sent to the American people to be abolished in the legislature.

This is anathema to those who demand injustice be remedied RIGHT NOW.

Scalia knew what seekers of justice with a capital J lose sight of, that how a thing is done in a free society is at least as important as what is done.

And this is why I think originalism is important, and why I fear the vacancy in the Supreme Court left by Scalia. Because the left hates originalism, and the right often doesn’t understand it.

Why should we cling to legal precepts enshrined in a document written by men who could not possibly have foreseen the technology of today? When the First Amendment was adopted no one could have imagined the Internet, they barely understood there was such a thing as electricity!

For an originalist, there is a process by which the courts can adapt established law to new circumstances, but without inventing new law and imposing it by judicial fiat. And in extremis there is a process by which the Constitution can be amended.

Surprisingly for me, Scalia thought the process of amending the Constitution should be made easier.

There is something conservatives didn’t always like about Scalia, his respect for stare decisis, a fancy Latin word for precedent. Even when he thought an issue had been wrongly decided in the past, it is not a good idea to attempt to turn back the clock and undo long established precedent without dire necessity.

This is why I think it is important to have originalists on the bench. A common trait of extremists from the totalitarian left to the libertarian right is a burning desire for perfect justice.

There is no such thing this side of the grave. Since the time of Socrates philosophers have been trying to come up with a definition of justice, without getting any closer to universal agreement.

Beyond a certain minimum, it is more important that the law be consistent than it make perfect sense or be perfectly just. There are any number of inconveniences and stupidities we can put up within our system – if we know what to expect from day to day.

To make plans and investments, to establish careers, we must know that the rules we play by are not going to change capriciously. When laws and regulations are in a state of constant flux, we defer planning and hoard our resources rather than investing them productively.

This is not to say nothing should ever change. It means we have an established and reliable means of adapting to change, according to law and not the passing whims of men.

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