Stephen W. Browne | Rants and Raves

Sep/17

19

Why I despise SJWs

Social Justice Warriors make my teeth itch.

On Sunday the 69th Primetime Emmy Awards got political (Surprise! Surprise!) and Julia Louis-Dreyfuss evidently sang a song about how nice it would be to have a president “who is not beloved by Nazis.”

Last week ESPN anchor Jemele Hill tweeted, “Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists.”

Author Sarah Jaffe responded to Miami Police Department warnings against looting in the wake of Hurricane Irma with a tweet, “good morning, the carceral state exists to protect private property and is inseparable from white supremacy”

Carceral state? Meaning we lock people up who break into homes and steal stuff? Oh whatever will this poor old world be FORCED to endure next?

Someone named Daniell Rider found a decoration at Hobby Lobby which included some cotton plants so offensive she took to Facebook to express her outrage.

“This decor is WRONG on SO many levels. There is nothing decorative about raw cotton… A commodity which was gained at the expense of African-American slaves.”

This would be humorous but evidently she got tens of thousands of “likes” and even more comments pro and con.

Because of a cotton plant. Let that soak in.

This is but a recent sample of the mischief SJWs have gotten up to in the past few weeks. Over the last few years we’ve seen them make life miserable for science fiction fans, gamers, and hobbyists of all kinds.

Look, we get it. Nazis are bad. Racists are bad. Slavery was just awful. Thank you. We’d never have known that if you hadn’t told us.

But wait a minute. The Third Reich was destroyed in 1945, it’s most prominent leaders were hanged or imprisoned.

Slavery was abolished in 1864 when congress passed the 13th Amendment.

Racism persisted for a long time afterwards and still exists though much diminished. But we have come a long way from the days of Jim Crow. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde about war, racism is not just considered wrong – it’s vulgar.

And here it gets complicated. Discrimination in hiring, employment, public accommodations etc, is illegal. Get caught doing it, and you could be in serious legal trouble. Just being accused of it can involve you in expensive litigation not to mention social opprobrium.

But inequalities persist that can’t be explained by the remnant racism in this country. There is a good argument that the cultural legacy of slavery and Jim Crow play some part in persistent poverty and high crime rates. Culture is powerful.

There is also a good argument that well-meaning attempts by government to help have had negative effects on family stability resulting in generational poverty.

And if you make the case for those claims SJWs will call you a racist and say YOU’RE the problem.

If you’re white, they’ll call you a White Supremacist. If you’re black, they’ll call you an Uncle Tom.

In the most recent absurdity, TV personality Chelsea Handler called Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Dr. Ben Carson a “black white supremacist.”

I disagree with SJWs. I think they’re wrong and I think they’re living in a fantasy world in which Nazis and Klansmen are still as powerful as they were almost a century ago rather than the tiny minority of pitifully neurotic attention-seekers they are.

But that’s not why I feel thisoverwhelming contempt for them.

Nazism was destroyed at a terrible cost by a generation of men and women we rightly revere.

Slavery was destroyed in a war that killed more Americans than all our other wars combined.

Jim Crow was defeated by the patient courage of generations of Americans who risked their lives and reputations to stand up for what was right.

What price do SJWs pay for their conspicuous advocacy of causes won before they were born?

There is honor to be had in the mopping up operation for sure. But what risks do they run? What hardships do they endure? What justifies their arrogant assertions of their courage and moral superiority?

They believe themselves to be the equal of mighty ancestors but show themselves to be only posturing phonies.

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Sep/17

11

Asking the right question

Well we’re three-quarters of the way through the first year of the Officially Worst President Ever Who Will Bring About the Apocalypse.

Or at least that’s what you’d think from all the overblown rhetoric flying around.

“How did this happen?” you hear to the accompaniment of wails and gnashing teeth.

“Why don’t they (his supporters) see he’s a monster?” they ask.

“Why don’t they impeach him?” they demand.

Let’s take that last question first. The reason they don’t impeach Trump (aside from a Republican majority in both houses of congress) is that impeachment is a trial. To have a trial you have to have a crime. Being crude and obnoxious is not a crime. Heck being a bad president, if that’s your belief, is not a crime just a misfortune.

Second to last question. Because his supporters don’t think he’s a monster. Most probably don’t think he’s a saint either, just better than the alternative.

As to the first question the answer is it’s the wrong question.

First of all let’s consider what did happen, bare facts no opinions.

What happened was a reality TV show host and high-end real estate tycoon who had never held public office beat a seasoned politician with: time in the White House, time in the Senate, time in the State Department, the endorsement of a sitting president, overwhelmingly favorable media, good campaign intelligence, and a campaign chest at least twice and possibly as much as four or five times as large.

Is any of that in dispute?

If not, let’s go on to the obvious question.

What was it about Hillary and her supporters that made Trump a viable alternative to enough voters in enough places to carry the Electoral College?

Like a great many simple and straightforward questions there is more than one answer. The combined weight of Hillary’s various scandals, the fact she carried Bill’s baggage but without the charm, the fact the cultural left is getting scary to ordinary folks, etc.

But there’s one reason that stands out and it’s only getting worse.

Leftists are so unbearably self-righteous it’s hard to stand them.

This was shown in stark relief when Hillary coined that phrase “Basket of deplorables.”

More recently Tim Commerford, bassist for the group Rage Against the Machine, commented on the DACA controversy, “Anyone who voted for him is racist, he’s a racist. And as a racist who voted for a racist, you have an opportunity to make it right, and admit that you made the wrong decision.”

This is not exactly new. We’ve had our noses rubbed in the fact that those on the utopian left consider themselves our moral superiors.

They’re against racism, sexism, homophobia, poverty, war, and injustice. Unlike the rest of us who want to bring back slavery, put women back in the kitchen and homosexuals in prison, impoverish the working class, wage total war against the rest of the world, and sell justice to the highest bidder.

You see, you can’t just be wrong with them your opinions have to come from active malice.

“I think affirmative action was a well-meaning experiment but has probably hurt more than it’s helped.”

“You’re a racist!”

“I think minimum wage laws destroy opportunities for low-skilled workers to advance.”

“You want people to be poor!”

“Since more people want to come to America than we can possibly accommodate, it makes sense to choose from among them those who are most likely to assimilate and contribute to our country.”

“You’re a redneck xenophobe who hates anybody who’s different!”

Sound familiar?

When you get that message as an in-your-face rant from an addled second-rate rapper you might get mad, but you’ll likely shrug it off and forget about it.

But when you get it from a smug self-righteous church lady in tones so holier-than-thou it makes your blood pressure go through the roof, what do you do?

You watch how much Donald Trump drives them to apoplexy and you inwardly smile a little.

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Aug/17

28

Berkeley explodes

Antifa B
Well well, another change of plans. This week’s column, full of incisive commentary on stuff, is delayed by events in Berkeley.

By the time this goes to press it may be over and we’ll know more. Or maybe not.

Curiously I could find nothing on CNN or FOX about this. The New York Times does have an article filed by their San Francisco bureau, which seems oddly restrained in the light of the videos one can find on conservative sites and the foreign press.

Briefly, two right-wing rallies were scheduled for the weekend, a “No to Marxism in America” rally in Berkeley and a Prayer Patriot “Freedom Rally” in San Francisco to support free speech.

The Berkeley rally was denied a permit by the city, but Mayor Jesse Arreguin, urged residents to gather on the streets to show their “rejection of bigotry and white supremacy.”

The San Francisco rally was cancelled after organizers received threats. Counter demonstrators walled off the park to make their point,

In Berkeley they got it anyway as black-clad masked Antifa supporters swarmed the streets and attacked people wearing Trump supporter gear, invariably described as “far-right,” or apparently anyone who just looked like one.

There are reports of journalist being assaulted as they took pictures and video, and of fights breaking out between different factions of demonstrators. There are videos of people getting beat downs by the mob.

The police ceded parts of the city to rioters. Berkeley police chief Andrew Greenwood defended the decision, calling use of force “problematic.”

Good information is also “problematic.” Some accounts have it the demonstration was peaceful at first until invaded by Antifa soldiers equipped with shields emblazoned with flowers and puppy dogs and the legend “No hate” after which things went to that place people go in handbaskets.

The term “white supremacists” gets thrown around a lot, though there doesn’t seem to be any evidence from video of Nazi or Klan symbolism being flaunted, unlike Charlottesville.

It is worth noting Prayer Patriot founder Joey Gibson, who is by the way Asian-American, has disavowed racism.

OK, what’s happening and why should it matter?

I mean after all this is the People’s Republic of Berkeley and San Francisco we’re talking about. These are the national mental asylums we’ve all agreed to call cities.

What it looks like to me is that gang culture has come to the middle class.

Antifa is made up of white middle-class youth steeped in far-left politics vaguely Marxist and left anarchist. They have an uneasy alliance with Black Lives Matter, which is not poor ghetto youth but middle-class college educated.

They have stated up front they despise free speech and democracy.

On the right you find those who are committed to free speech and democracy. They are the ones who cancel rallies because of the threat of violence.

But the right is compromised by the presence of a white identity movement which formed in response to identity politics on the left – and is anyone surprised at that? I’m only surprised it took this long once the political advantage of organizing around race and ethnicity became obvious.

At present most middle class white people are repelled by them and still committed to the ideal of a nation founded on a creed rather than ties of blood.

That could change.

A largely left-of-center media sweeps leftist violence under the rug and tars all of the right with the white identity brush. That could backfire badly. Among other reasons because there is an alternative media which can present video evidence of leftist violence, totally discrediting the legacy media.

Many police forces have invested in tacti-cool gear for anti-terrorist operations, but not in anti-riot training, since that involves the potential for serious head-busting action, which they’re terrified of.

If this kind of thing remains confined to the larger mostly coastal cities, the rest of us will watch with mingled alarm and disgust. The backlash will come on election day.

But if the far-left keeps pushing and it escalates, the backlash could be terrible. And it won’t be at the ballot box.

(Photo credit: The Daily Mail (UK) “An antifa member (right) wielding a sign reading ‘No Hate’ clashes with a father and son (left) wearing pro-Trump shirts who had turned out for a ‘No To Marxism In America’ rally.”

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4828672/Masked-antifa-swarm-Berkeley-rally-assaulting-several.html#ixzz4r48mWAES
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

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Aug/17

14

Charlottesville

A white nationalist demonstrator walks into Lee Park in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017.  Hundreds of people chanted, threw punches, hurled water bottles and unleashed chemical sprays on each other Saturday after violence erupted at a white nationalist rally in Virginia. At least one person was arrested.  (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

A white nationalist demonstrator walks into Lee Park in Charlottesville, Va., Saturday, Aug. 12, 2017. Hundreds of people chanted, threw punches, hurled water bottles and unleashed chemical sprays on each other Saturday after violence erupted at a white nationalist rally in Virginia. At least one person was arrested. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA - AUGUST 12:  Anti-fascist counter-protesters wait outside Lee Park to hurl insluts as white nationalists, neo-Nazis and members of the "alt-right" are forced out after the "Unite the Right" rally was declared an unlawful gathering August 12, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. After clashes with anti-fascist protesters and police the rally was declared an unlawful gathering and people were forced out of Lee Park, where a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee is slated to be removed.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA – AUGUST 12: Anti-fascist counter-protesters wait outside Lee Park to hurl insluts as white nationalists, neo-Nazis and members of the “alt-right” are forced out after the “Unite the Right” rally was declared an unlawful gathering August 12, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. After clashes with anti-fascist protesters and police the rally was declared an unlawful gathering and people were forced out of Lee Park, where a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee is slated to be removed. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Well it finally happened, sombody got killed at a demonstration.

This was not a surprise to some of us. We knew it was going to happen, it was only a matter of when, where, how, and which side.

Heather Heyer, 32, was struck by a car allegedly driven by James Alex Fields Jr, 20, from Ohio. Heyer was reportedly marching alongside the Democratic Socialists of America, Antifa, and Black Lives Matter in a counter-demonstration against white supremacists and neo-Nazis protesting the upcoming removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Fields is reportedly a kid who thought Nazis were “pretty cool” according to a former high school teacher.

This is very bad and I doubt it’s going to get better soon.

There are reports of clashes between Antifa and police in Portland, Oregon, and a free speech rally has been announced in Boston this Friday.

So far there have been more questions than answers. The protestors evidently had a permit to demonstrate. It is not clear if the counter-protestors did or not.

Charlottesville Police failed to deal with the two groups effectively and were reportedly ordered to stand down when they clashed. We’ve seen that before, in Berkeley.
Worse, it appears they may have funneled protestors leaving the park site to within a block of the counter-protestors.

Worse still, there is video footage circulating around the Internet that purportedly shows someone bashing the back of Fields’ car with a baseball bat before he accelerated into the crowd.

According to unconfirmed stories Fields wasn’t malicious, he was terrified.

If that story pans out, and Fields does have a defense enough to acquit him or convict him of a lesser charge, care to guess what kind of reaction that’s going to provoke?

Understand something, those protestors were or at least had in their midst real live Nazis and white supremacists. The photographic evidence is there, Nazi flags and symbols. If there were participants who weren’t Nazi sympathizers they didn’t have the influence to demand those flags be put away nor the sense to walk away themselves when they saw them.

But the counter protestors are no angels either and here is where it’s getting sticky.

Antifa and BLM showed up spoiling for a fight, armed with bats, pepper spray bags of urine and feces, and reportedly caustic liquids.

On a few pictures you can find some were waving red flag with the yellow hammer and sickle.

And this is where it’s getting very bad. It does indeed look like the major media is colluding to downplay the fact the counter-protestors are thuggish left radicals. Published pictures have apparently been chosen to exclude images of the flags and weapons in the hands of counter-protestors. The fact that they haven’t entirely succeeded would seem to indicate this required some effort on the part of journalists and editors.

New York Times reporter Sheryl Gay Stolberg reported the Antifa counter-protestors were also acting with hate-filled violence and was evidently made to walk it back.

Some friends I’ve talked to flat don’t believe this was a case where there were no good guys, because “they were fighting racism.”

Acquaintances on the hard left however are jubilant and quite open about it.

One posted a meme with the legend, “When you can’t convince a fascist, acquaint his head with the pavement.”

Facist pavement

As mentioned, confirmed information is scarce so far. When all comes out, if it does, the city government of Charlottesville is going to have a lot to answer for, and the press as well.

I am going to recommend readers go to the site Zombietime to see what I’m talking about.

Zombie is an anonymous blogger on the west coast who for years has been documenting the manipulation of press photos by carefully chosen angles and cropping, by showing their own photos of the same events from the same perspective, and showing what was not reported.

Zombie convincingly demonstrates a long standing pattern of photo manipulation in support of a narrative. After you’ve seen it you might recognize the signs of it elsewhere in the country, and realize photos can indeed lie.

Be warned, some pages are definitely not for children.

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Aug/17

11

Other ways than ours

Just the other day I had a delightful conversation with a chance met acquaintance at our local family pub.

This elderly fellow (by which I mean my age) was wearing a T-shirt that he’d acquired in Monrovia, Liberia. A young (college-age) man asked if Monrovia was in Europe somewhere.

Well no, it’s in Africa and it’s the capitol of Liberia. And in fact it’s named after President James Monroe. Because the country was founded by the American Colonization Society in the 19th century as a nation for freed American slaves.

The Americo-Africans formed a local aristocracy that ran things until a coup, followed by a purge, followed by two civil wars.

At any rate my new acquaintance is a retired small-town police chief who was recruited for peace keeping duties in Liberia after he retired from the police force.

In the ordinary course of events one might wonder what we found to talk about, our backgrounds in America having so little in common. He was a cop, I a journalist. He had lived in Africa, I in Eastern Europe and the Middle East.

Quite a lot actually. We talked with the easy familiarity of people who share a common language. The language of people who know there are other ways than ours.

Most Americans really don’t understand this on anything but an intellectual level, and oddly enough we’ve found those who are loudest in their appreciation of “diversity” understand it the least.
Unless one has lived in a truly foreign culture, and by lived I mean for at least a year and acquired a functional knowledge of the language, one cannot really appreciate that not everybody thinks like us.

We are a W.E.I.R.D. culture: Western Educated Industrialized Rich and Democratic. A term my new acquaintance had never heard before but understood instantly when I mentioned it.

For example, he told me the story of conducting an investigation into an accidental drowning in a village out in the bush.

How do you think that would go in small town America?

A tragedy for sure, and a terrible loss for family and friends. I know, I’ve covered such stories and taken some heat when people thought the press had been too intrusive.

Would you ever think it would result in murder though?

What happened was the investigative team spent the best part of the day trying to convince villagers that this kind of thing just happened, that it was nobody’s fault. Because they were about to take it out on the least popular most vulnerable villagers. Because in their culture they did not believe there was any such thing as “death by natural causes.”

And he really doesn’t know what happened after they left the village.

I mentioned an experience in the Middle East when I got some of my news from an English-language newspaper, The Arab Times.

I was reading an advice column, but not exactly the kind of advice Dear Abby used to give. A reader wrote in to say he had a beef with a neighbor and was thinking about getting even.

He was going to get even with black magic.

The advice columnist sternly warned him that using black magic was strictly against the Koran.

Well, it’s strictly against the Bible too but it doesn’t come up very often in Sunday sermons these days.

Understand, the columnist was in no way denying the reality or efficacy of black magic. He was warning that it’s against the law.

How quaint. To think such things still exist in odd corners of the world. But of course that kind of thing doesn’t happen here anymore. Not since colonial days and the Salem witch trials.

Think so? If you were to go to the Navaho reservation and talk to the Navajo tribal police you’d find they take accusations of witchcraft very seriously. Because yes even in the 21st century people could get killed over that kind of thing.

This is what experience of other cultures teaches. That while yes, we are all human beings and share a common human nature within that common humanity there are a lot of different ways to be human.

Note: The title of this column is an allusion to Robert Heinlein’s book “Podkayne of Mars.” It’s the title of a book the titular heroine’s archeologist father wrote about the native Martians.

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Jul/17

8

Now it’s a fight

“Be nice. Until it’s time not to be nice.”
Patrick Swayze, Road House

Oh my, everyone seems all a-Twitter about the president’s feud with the media.

“Greatest Liar, idiot, schmuck, thug, goon, unbalanced, like somebody pooping their pants,” said Joe Scarborough of “Morning Joe.”

“I heard poorly rated @Morning_Joe speaks badly of me (don’t watch anymore). Then how come low I.Q. Crazy Mika, along with Psycho Joe, came..” tweeted Trump.

After attacks by CNN Trump posted an old video from his days promoting wrestling of him body slamming a WWE wrestler, with CNN superimposed on his opponent.

CNN cried “He’s inciting violence!” joined by any number of intellectuals, many of them Republicans, many whom I respect highly, and Jerry Springer too.

I urge everyone to take a chill pill.

The president’s behavior seems erratic, childish, and embarrassing. But those who call it disturbing have evidently forgotten presidential hijinks from Clinton to LBJ.

Remember Clinton’s behavior with interns? Remember when a couple of White House secretaries resigned because Johnson made them take dictation while he was sitting on the white porcelain throne? And remember JFK seduced a 19-year-old intern and coerced her into servicing a friend while he and others watched?

In terms of bad behavior, Trump isn’t even in their league. Yes it’s childish and petty, but it’s not the end of the Republic, it’s something else.

It’s a fight.

At the presidential level we haven’t seen a real fight in a long time. Mitt Romney fought like a sick nun. John McCain fought like he’d been paid to take a dive in the third round.

It’s not new. What’s different is that someone is fighting back now.

Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin was accused of inciting murder by the New York Times, and had David Letterman describe her as having the appearance of a “slutty flight attendant” and joked about her 14-year-old daughter getting “knocked up” at a baseball game.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker was opposed with riots, vandalism, threats on his life and some of his political allies had their doors kicked in at midnight by heavily armed police on trumped-up charges.

Representative Paul Ryan (R- WI) was portrayed as pushing a grandmother in a wheelchair off a cliff.

Their responses ranged from stoic dignity to feeble protest.

Down here among the plebes how many have grown tired of being called racists, fascists, Nazis, etc because of opinions and concerns which they could articulate and were willing to discuss like free men in a free state?

Within the past week I’ve seen two articles. In one the author proclaimed he did not have to talk to his opponents because he’s a decent human being – and they are not. In another the writer said white, Christian, rural Americans are superstitious bigots who will never change.

Though he didn’t offer a solution to the problem of sharing a country with such, one gets a chilling suspicion of what he’s willing to consider.

One could dismiss these as solely the responsibility of the writers, but comment threads seem to show the opinions have widespread support in some quarters.

What Trump seems to have grasped on some level is that rational discourse is not an effective reply to name-calling. That the major media openly and flagrantly tilt heavily leftwards and are widely disliked by a great many people. That they will never judge him by the same standard as JFK, LBJ, or Bill Clinton.

In short, that there is nothing whatever to be lost by fighting back hard and dirty.

Lord how I wish we had a president who could fight like a gentleman and then share a drink with an opponent, as Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neil would.

How I wish we had a refined intellectual with a pragmatic working-class streak like Daniel Patrick Moynihan as president.

And how I wish so many had not lost sight of the fact that disagree is what free men do!

But here we are and here we will be for a while. Because a lot of frustrated people have discovered they like a good fight.

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May/17

22

Where I stand

It is no secret that we live in a contentious time right now. Not that this is unusual, we’ve been here before.

Nor is this necessarily a bad thing. I firmly believe that disagree is what free men do, and that the truth or at least a close approximation of it is best found in the riotous tumult of debate contending in the free marketplace of ideas.

But we do appear to be having a problem. For one, people are not arguing with each other, but often past each other.

How many times have you experienced lately the teeth-grinding frustration of having somebody argue with something you did not say?

Worse, though arguments are often misunderstood by people who assume they know what you believe, often on the strength of a single remark, these days there is a lot of deliberate misrepresentation of people’s positions by media figures.

And to be fair, if your world view is complex it’s hard to explain to people whose views rest on different foundations. Especially if their view rests on assumptions they haven’t thought deeply about.

I do not mean to be insulting or dismissive by that remark. Most people don’t make a habit of thinking deeply about the basic assumptions their lives rest on, as long as they are reasonably sure they’re working for them.

Those of us who aspire to be pundits however, are obliged to make clear where we are coming from and to explain ourselves when we are asking people to consider an issue from our point of view.

So, I consider myself to be an American patriot, a Western Civilization loyalist, and espouse a position that has variously been described as Libertarian-Conservative, Classical Liberal, or Philosophical Anarchist.

That probably doesn’t leave you any better informed than before, so here below I list a number of things I believe to be true that inform my opinions on pretty much everything else.

Enjoy!

• Civilization is a Good Thing. The difference between civilized and savage is real and is not racism.

• Civilization can go bad, and when it does causes far more harm than any savage band ever could.

• Obviously, civilization could stand some improvement.

• The civilization most likely to improve and evolve into something better is the one we call Western Civilization.

• The reason for this is Western Civilization has evolved cultural and political institutions that support a greater degree of individual liberty than any other civilization. The result has been an explosion of wealth and prosperity unequaled in human history.

• This has created its own problems.

• The Western countries which have achieved this to the greatest extent are the English-speaking countries.

• The Western country that has been most successful at this to date (on a large scale at least) is the United States.

• The survival and success of liberty depends for the foreseeable future on the survival of Western Civilization.

• The survival of Western Civilization for the foreseeable future depends on the survival of the United States as a free country.

• Western Civilization in general and the United States in particular have external enemies who desire their destruction.

• Western Civilization in general and the United States in particular have internal enemies who desire their destruction and are willing to cooperate with their external enemies to bring this about.

• The internal enemies of the U.S. and the West come not from the ranks of the poor and dispossessed, but from the most affluent, educated and privileged parts of their societies. The people you’d expect would have the most at stake in preserving their civilization.

• The defenders of Western Civilization and the tradition of individual liberty are divided among themselves. This is a good thing in terms of intellectual diversity, and a bad thing in terms of coordinated action.

• There is a very real possibility of the United States breaking down into tyranny, disunity, disorder, or civil war, i.e. reverting to the norm of history. If this happens, the survival of the West is in serious doubt.

• The problem of free societies is how to be strong, free, rich and united all at once.

• There has not yet been found a permanent solution to the problem. There may not be one.

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May/17

9

The First Freedom

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
– First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States

At a recent speech at UC Berkeley former Federal Election Commission chairwoman Ann M. Ravel called for regulation of speech on the Internet as a move against “fake news.”

In the current issue of The Wellesley News, the student newspaper of Wellesley College, a staff editorial denies free speech is suppressed at the college but goes on to say there is no place for “discriminatory speech.”

“Shutting down rhetoric that undermines the existence and rights of others is not a violation of free speech; it is hate speech.”

In other words, we don’t deny anybody’s right to free speech, we just tell them what they can’t say.

And lately there have been demonstrations, often turning violent, by black masked thugs who right up front proclaim there is no right of free speech for “Fascists.” They also proclaim their right to define who’s a fascist.
I wish I could say these were isolated incidences. They’re not.

In 2015, a poll by McLaughlin and Associates found that 95 percent of 800 college students polled said free speech was “very important” to them, and 87 percent said there was educational value in listening to views you disagree with.

Nonetheless 51 percent supported campus speech codes, 72 percent supported disciplinary action against “any student or faculty member on campus who uses language that is considered racist, sexist, homophobic or otherwise offensive.” Half said they felt intimidated about sharing views that differed from their professors and classmates.

Note two things about this. One is that in answer to the question “Do you support freedom?” people are likely to respond, “Yes, but…” Followed by an elaborate justification why freedom to do or say something they personally disapprove of isn’t really about freedom.

That’s a common reaction shared by a great many people on all sides of the political divide, differing only in the specifics of what they want to make an exception.

More worrisome is the poll, and the Wellesley editorial, reveal the students don’t just disagree with freedom of speech, they have no conception of what it is.

I am old enough to remember when the major threats to free expression came from the right.

But back then it was mostly about porn. If you wanted to read Terry Southern’s erotic novel “Candy” you had to buy it in Europe and sneak it through customs.

And it was a common comedy schtick that all you had to do to sell out a play, or send sales of a book through the roof was to have reviewers denounce it as “filth.”

It was seldom ever about political speech, and on the rare occasions it was you could count on principled conservatives and classical liberals to defend the rights of people they disliked, to say things they despised.

Moreover, academics who took free inquiry seriously supported the right of people with different and antithetical views to teach in public universities.

Many lived to find out their tolerance was not reciprocated.

For the first time in a long time we have a significant number of people who favor repression of free speech in this country, and what is more are willing to act on it, sometimes personally and violently.

And these are not KKK yahoos but the most educated and affluent in our country. People who often call themselves “liberal” or “progressive” but who are neither liberal nor progressive. Some who call themselves “anarchists,” which ironically means “without rule” – but who mean to rule with an iron hand.

We live in a time when careers are wrecked by a chance remark, a careless joke, or expressing an opinion.

I do not think Americans will put up with this for much longer, it’s just not in our nature to be bullied. But I fear the damage done in the meantime.

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Apr/17

25

The Return of Socialism

Well it happened again. Something I’ve run into from time to time starting in college.

Apropos of something I forget I remarked that after the catastrophic collapse of socialism worldwide in the late 1980s early ‘90s I thought socialism would never again be a viable movement.

Subsequent events have proven me wrong.

A very intelligent and articulate person with as I have, years of experience living in Eastern Europe, said those countries weren’t socialist, they were communist.

I countered they called themselves socialist and officially considered themselves as working through the transitional stage of socialism towards true communism.

He replied there are plenty of prosperous democratic socialist countries such as the Scandinavians, and if you wanted to see capitalism look at Russia today.

Stop me if you’ve hear this before.

“Oh the Nazis weren’t socialists.” Although National Socialist German Workers Party doesn’t sound like a right-wing trope to me.

“Oh they were communist, not socialist.” Though Union of Soviet Socialist Republics sounds, well… kind of socialist.

So what is going on here? Why is a political label associated with some of the most brutal tyrannies in history respectable, even popular again?

Firstly, I think there is a problem of definition. Those European countries cited as examples of democratic socialism are not socialist according to most dictionaries. They are welfare states, the desirability of which is an argument for another time.

The original and still primary definition of socialism is government ownership of the means of production. There are arguments about how much government ownership. Some insist the government should own only “the commanding heights” of the economy but us little folks would be free to own shops with a few employees.

Many people who call themselves democratic socialists don’t advocate this. One even asked me, “Where’d you get that idea of socialism?”

(I told him, “The dictionary.”)

One Englishman said, “Nah, socialism means taking care of your mates.”

OK, I can get on board with that. But it sounds not much different from a church committee or a neighborhood association. Church social = socialism.

What a lot of people seem to mean by “socialism” is “not capitalism.”

Again, we’re running into problems of definition here. By capitalism many mean what we’ve got now; private ownership of the large scale means of production by powerful interests which wield great political influence through funding political campaigns, regulatory capture, lobbyists, and every way legislation – and legislators are bought and sold. Plus socialization of loss through bailouts, subsidies, etc.

To counter this, modern socialists advocate taking large-scale economic decisions away from individuals and put in the hands of “democratically elected officials.” That is to say, curing the problem by doubling down on what caused the problem.

Free market advocates break their hearts and work themselves into early graves trying to explain that’s not what they mean by “capitalism” and what they advocate is something else entirely. That in fact the modern idea of capitalism is pretty close to Musolinni-style fascist economics.

A free market rests on a few basic principles. Among them: property rights, voluntary trade, and personal responsibility.

Property rights. What’s yours is yours to use as you see fit. Simple in principle though often complicated in practice taking into consideration your neighbors’ property rights, and legitimate public interest such as roads, bridges, levees, etc.

Voluntarism. That to the greatest extent possible trade of labor, goods, and services should be carried out by mutual consent, without force (robbery, extortion) or fraud.

Responsibility. You assume the risks, you reap the rewards – or incur the loss. This also means you do not inflict your costs on your neighbors. Again, simple in theory and complicated in practice. We all do this a little when we drive our cars, which nobody minds much. We tend to notice when a neighbor starts up a pig farm though.

Though markets are complex and prone to error, mistakes of judgement and unforeseen consequences, any argument for a command economy has to explain why the choices of the many should be overruled and controlled by the few.

It’s as simple as that.

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When the Nazi occupation government of Denmark announced the Yellow Star order, within days every patriotic Dane wore a yellow star. Denmark was the only occupied country the Nazis had to rescind the edict.
When a sympathetic German diplomat warned the Danish underground Jews were to be rounded up and shipped to concentration camps, the resistance smuggled almost all the Jews in the country to Sweden in a single night.
I hope I would have their courage in the same circumstances.

Jude

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