Stephen W. Browne Rants and Raves

January 22, 2018

The Trump Economy

Filed under: News commentary,Op-eds,Politics — Stephen W. Browne @ 9:53 am

The numbers don’t lie, the Trump economy is the best in years.

At the end of Trump’s first year in office the economy has seen three percent growth for three successive quarters, which we haven’t seen for 13 years. The Dow hit 25,000 which we’ve never seen before. Wages and employment are rising, most significantly at the bottom end of the income distribution and most concentrated in the blue state heartland.

Moreover the confidence of small businesses as measured by the National Federation of Independent Businesses, is the highest it’s been since they started doing the survey 45 years ago!

There has predictably been a lot of grumbling.

“This is Obama’s policies finally kicking in.”

After eight years of assuring us that two percent growth is the new normal.

“Almost a quarter-million employees have been notified of plant closings and layoffs!”

That may be true – but so what?

Sorry, that sounds callous for those going through job loss, but the fact is when the economy is expanding and employment increasing, layoffs in certain sectors means the economy is changing, not static. The slack will be taken up in new more dynamic sectors and Americans will do what we always have; move somewhere else, learn new skills, and get a new job.

So why has this happened and what does it mean?

Because a great many of the Wise and Wonderful on both right and left predicted gloom, doom, and disaster.

In the past when we’ve seen the economy improve with a new and more business-friendly administration there has usually been a year’s lead time before we’ve seen improvement, but this has been immediate.

Some have proposed the first effects were largely psychological, and there is something to this. The Democratic Party is more than ever before dominated at the national level by hard leftists ferociously hostile towards free enterprise.

A change to an even tepidly pro-capitalist administration is like a shot of espresso to the economy.

And this change has been more than token. Trump promised to remove two business regulations for every one passed. At last count 22 regulations have been removed for every one imposed.

It’s not just that the regulatory burden on business is difficult and expensive, we could live with that. It’s that it’s so complex it’s nearly impossible to understand.

Want to start a business or move yours into a new market? If you don’t have lots of lawyers and accountants on your payroll to navigate the regs – good luck! Complex regulations and tax laws favor big business over the little guys, and that’s how the big guys like it.

And thennnn there’s the hot button issue, climate change.

Whatever your opinion of climate change, the fact is the proposals for addressing it these days consist almost entirely of political theater. The least burdensome proposals cripple the economy and accomplish nothing. The most radical proposals amount to dismantling industrial civilization resulting in impoverishment and mass starvation.

If we are going to find alternatives to fossil fuels the only thing that can accomplish this is a rich and dynamic economy that can support the research, development, and large-scale implementation of new technologies.

That’s a job for businessmen and engineers, not bureaucrats.

Probably the biggest thing the Trump administration has done is to remove a lot of the uncertainty of doing business. A thriving economy can stand a lot of stupid regulation, if they are consistent from day to day.

What it can’t stand is the uncertainty of a business environment where regulations are imposed capriciously by a chief executive who overturns settled law to pick winners and losers, and decides who has to obey and who gets special exemptions.

And I must say I did not see this coming. Trump seemed like the archtypical crony capitalist, leveraging political influence for his own advantage, even to the point of trying to use eminent domain for private projects.

It never occurred to me that a player skilled in that game could still realize it is horribly bad for the economy, and once in power act on that knowledge. And if you’d told me, I wouldn’t have believed you.

What a pleasant surprise!

January 10, 2018

Beyond the Picket Fence

Filed under: Book reviews,Personal — Stephen W. Browne @ 5:21 pm

It finally happened, I’m published!

“Well of course you’re published, I’m reading this in a newspaper aren’t I?”

No no, I mean a book long in the making has been published, and I’m a contributor.

“Beyond the Picket Fence: Life Outside the Middle-Class Bubble” is now available as an ebook on Amazon with print on demand to follow.

If you know writers, you know we live to see our work in print. It’s like oxygen for us.

The project started nearly two years ago when Marc MacYoung, a professional consultant and lecturer on security and self-defense issues called me up and told me about this book idea.
He said he wanted a book like this for four groups:

Young people about to head out on their own, their parents to help them explain to their kids why certain things are important, socially awkward people, and people from dysfunctional backgrounds

From the blurb: “With the changes in society a lot of ‘deep structure’ concepts aren’t being passed on to people — mostly because it’s hard to articulate subconscious knowledge. In other cases, it was just flat out missing from the environment you were raised in. It’s the kind of knowledge that not having can really make life hard.”

The concept began with a question, “How do you learn to read unspoken rules in an environment? How do you teach that skill to your kids?”

There’s a wide range of specific subject matter here. There’s information about staying out of trouble in bad neighborhoods, and that bad neighborhood could be the wrong side of town or a corporate board room.

There’s advice on how to recognize when you’re in an environment that operates on a different set of rules than you’re used to.

Are you dealing with a dignity culture or an honor culture? Do you know what they are and why it matters? Why in fact knowing the difference could become a matter of life and death?

My own contribution is titled, “When you’re a stranger in a strange land.”

Marc said he needed article about traveling in different cultures and since Your Humble Author has been to a few places…

I gave my perspective from my experience in Eastern Europe and the Middle East. My friend and colleague Peter Huston contributed from his experience in Taiwan.

The genesis of my article was actually years ago, in 2005 to be precise, when I turned on CNN and found a man I had been having an email correspondence with, a man I liked and admired, had been murdered in Basra, Iraq.

By the time Marc enlisted me in this project I had been pondering for years what I might have told Steven Vincent that could have helped him avoid that fate.

I wrote it for people who travel for business, pleasure, or to serve suffering humanity.

If your kids are taking off to another country after graduation, you could do worse than get this for them.

And are you worried about lurid tales of college parties gone horribly wrong? There’s advice on safe partying herein.

Have you ever heard the term “Crybullies”? The kind of people who claim victimhood status as a form of aggression against others? There’s a short guide to dealing with them by an academic who has written a book on the subject.

Do you know anyone who is dating a violence professional, a cop, bouncer, loan shark enforcer? There’s some advice for them too.

Are you one of those people who believe manners and courtesy are the same everywhere? This book will disabuse you of that misconception.

I’m just pleased as can be that I contributed to this book, and proud as all get out to be in the company of the authors whose work appears in it.

January 5, 2018

Something is happening and nobody wants to think about it

Filed under: Politics,Social Science & History — Stephen W. Browne @ 6:09 am

A pundit I have a lot of respect for recently posted this comment on Facebook.

“So basically the takeaway from the #Wolff book is that the emperor has no brain.”

She was mirroring the sentiments of a number of thinkers I also have a lot of respect for. Nonetheless, I think they’re all missing something.

This is what I replied:

” …and who somehow wound up as president having never held political office or a military commission.
I didn’t vote for the guy, but this is lazy thinking. Worse, I suspect it’s cowardly thinking. Trying to avoid thinking about something that is staring us all in the face. That some serious and far-reaching changes are happening in the system that are beyond anyone’s control and whose outcome is uncertain.

“I am reminded of what a Russian woman in Lithuania told me in the early ’90s, ‘It’s not a social revolution, it’s an earthquake.'”

Love Trump or loathe him, this was not a glitch of history we’re all going to chuckle about in a hundred years, like a kind of American Tulipomania.

People on the left who loathe Trump seem to think this heralds the dawn of American Fascism and say they’re alarmed.

They’re lying. They’re delighted.

Finally their Viewing with Alarm seemingly has a real life basis and they have a popular excuse to take to the streets and fight “fascism,” i.e. to satisfy a craving for dramatic action that gives meaning to their otherwise drab and frustrating lives. Plus an excuse to assault people they don’t like and be self-righteous about it.

Perhaps I should back off pouring scorn on that. I’ve probably irritated a fair number of people myself regaling them with tales of the months I spent marching with the people of Belgrade every day past heavily armed men back in the late ’90s. Because damn it, it does make life seem… bigger, zestier, more meaningful.

On the right those who loathe Trump seem to think he’s an embarrassing interlude in American politics and are alarmed he will totally discredit American conservatism.

They’re just as wrong.

American conservatism discredited itself a long time ago when it settled comfortably into the role of loyal opposition and junior partner in the elite establishment.

What I think is happening is a genuine revolution precipitated by what I call a “ruling class crisis,” a widespread conviction that we have a ruling class that is not fit to rule.

And that’s what people don’t want to think about. Trump is going to be gone, in seven years according to his supporters. In three years according to his detractors. Next month according to those who really don’t like him.

But this isn’t going away. Whatever happens over the next few years, things are not going back to “normal.”

Steve Browne’s Amazon page.

January 4, 2018

It’s 2018, where’s my flying car?

Filed under: On Thinking,Science,Social Science & History — Stephen W. Browne @ 7:02 am

Oh my goodness it’s 2018. I used to read science fiction set in 2018!

Who am I kidding, I used to read science fiction set in 1970.

Wasn’t I supposed to have a flying car by now? And 2001 was 17 years ago, where’s that lunar base? We do have a space station, but it’s disappointing compared to Stanley Kubrick’s. What happened?

SciFi author Robert Heinlein once wrote a set of predictions in the 1950s about what life would be like in the early 21st century, then revisted them twice at long intervals to see what happened, what washed out and why, and what might yet happen.

His colleague Arthur C. Clarke once examined predictions made around the year 1900 to see what was expected, what wasn’t, and what was absurd.

Did you know Thomas Edison spent a lot of effort on a telegraph device to communicate with the dead?

Or that cars and airplanes were expected, but X-rays were not?

So what about us, well into the first quarter of the 21st century? What did we think was going to happen, what took us by surprise, and what might we expect?

Well flying cars, pardon the expression, never took off.

Lots of them were designed and work well enough, but frankly aren’t really good for much. What you get is generally a clumsy car and an underperforming light plane.

The fact is we’ve got an infrastructure for cars (roads) and one for light planes (small municipal airports), but they don’t combine very conveniently.

Portable computers though really weren’t expected. And when they did show up at first the biggest problem was finding something to do with them.

Remember when the early Apple was called, “The world’s most expensive Etch-a-Sketch”?

Then software developers started inventing things to do with them, became billionaires, and now we’d be hard put to do without them.

Consider the Internet. In 1982, Heinlein wrote a novel “Friday” in which he described the Web and the marvelous possibilities for research therein. He predicted that was going to happen about a hundred years later.

On the other hand, he was quite premature when he said in the 1960s that by the year 2000 we’d have visited all the planets of the solar system and would be building the first starship.

What went wrong?

For one, many predictions failed to take into account economic lead time. Space travel for example. It became technically possible before it became affordable. Working out the technical details was time-consuming and expensive.

For another the future is created by humans, and we are a cussed, ornery, and unpredictable lot.

Science fiction writers usually thought we’d build space stations first, establish a presence in orbit and go to the moon from there.

Then President John F Kennedy, smarting from a political embarrassment nobody remembers now distracted the attention of a nation with a bold plan to go to the moon within ten years.

We did, and it was magnificent. But in retrospect the SciFi writers may have been right. The economic return from space comes largely from orbit; communications satellites and such.

And there is the difference between developmental and breakthrough technology.

Computer power has been following Moore’s Law pretty reliably for decades now. The number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years. This happens by building upon existing technology in a systematic way.

Breakthrough technology however happens when it happens and cannot be predicted from what we know. Practical fusion power and strong AI (a computer you can discuss the meaning of life with) were “just around the corner” for a long time before we admitted we just didn’t know when or even if it would ever happen.

So what can we expect?

Well we know that technological change is happening faster than ever before, and the rate of change is increasing. But we don’t know if it will continue to speed up, or slow down and eventually level off.

But if it does continue some say we will reach what’s called the Singularity, beyond which it is impossible to predict what will happen.

But being human, that won’t stop us from trying.

December 30, 2017

Guest post: when cliches replace reason

Filed under: Culture — Stephen W. Browne @ 8:24 am

My friend Josh Amos sent me this at my request after telling me the outlines of the story. The story can’t be trimmed to column-size (700 words max) so I’m posting it here. Josh speaks for himself quite well, so without further ado:

An incident happened at my son’s high school in 2005 that had what has been described as a “cracking good tale of stupidity running rampant in the schools.” I wish it were not true but it is.
I was a single dad of a teenage boy at the time
Two teenage boys were playing basketball, and a dispute started. Over what who knows, but like most teenage boys, taunts and insults ensued and a scuffle started. It was determined that taunts and insults had racial over tones to them and the principal intervened. Instead of introducing swift strict and impartial discipline to two deserving teenage boys (see idiots) the principal decided that this was an opportunity to have a “racial dialog” the upshot was the black boy decided that he was justified in his actions and the white boy decided that he couldn’t get a fair shake from the school’s administration. Shortly there after, the white boy’s truck was vandalized and his Confederate Flag sticker was scraped off of his truck box. The matter was reported and after some more of the principal’s “dialog” nothing was done to address the issue. To further enflame the matter the alleged perpetrator (still feeling fully justified) and several of his friends began taunting the white boy over the matter.
So the white teenage boy did what teenage boys often do…he upped the ante. He hoisted the confederate flag on his truck and drove to school with it flying at a time and place where everyone could not help but to see it. The provocation produced results. Four black students three boys and one girl violently attacked the white boy and his truck and a general brawl ensued. The local newspaper took note and headlines were made. Again, the principal decided that instead of swift and impartial punishments for all involved, he would form a “diversity council” and the first four members of the board were….you guessed it, the four black teens who assaulted the white boy. The white boy was not invited. Several faculty members and a few parents were invited (including me, who volunteered), a couple of non-white students, and two paid “diversity specialists” one an older black woman from the Evergreen State College in Olympia(of the recent Antifa riot infamy) and a middle aged Hispanic woman from Pierce Community College.
I attended the first meeting and was appalled at the goings on. The entire meeting was not about inclusion, justice, unity, good manners, respect, or anything that makes an adult be able to function in any kind of society, let alone a multi cultural society like America. The meeting was a cliché’ of cultural Marxism and blatant white bashing. The history teacher literally apologized to the students for slavery. The parents (mostly the black children had white parents) railed against all of their perceived injustices. The students began complaining of imagined racist slights they received from teachers. The paid diversity experts not only encouraged the four black teens for assaulting the white teen, they told them it was the “duty” of black men and women to “confront” racism everywhere they saw it. There were promises of diversity type scholarships made to the students.
No one addressed let alone discussed the behavior of the boy who started this whole chain of events. No one tried to discuss why it was wrong to mob up and attack someone you disagree with. No one told the parents that a great deal of their child’s problem was due to their parenting. No one told the history professor he was teaching incomplete and agenda driven history, and no one discussed how the principal made this entire problem worse by missing several key opportunities to end the behavior problems before they got out of hand. Finally, no one questioned why there were paid social justice warriors telling kids that violence was ok? And what were their qualifications? And how much were they getting paid? Any discussion that was contrary to the agenda was quashed and disagreements were not allowed. The school handed out SJW books with reading assignments. I read and critiqued the assignment.
The next meeting happened and fewer parents were in attendance. So this is when the key part of the agenda was stated “only white people can be racist because white people have power and minorities don’t.” At first I was shocked that this old, debunked, lie was still being told, but here was a room full of academics all nodding their heads in agreement, and the look on the faces of the teens was one of “I just got a license to go hunting and its ok!” Once I heard this, It was clear that there would be no reasoning with this bunch. So I used the time tested method of dealing with self-important tripe.
I laughed at them.
“So are you paid “experts” are trying to tell me that the Nazi party was not racist until the day after they were elected to office, or are you saying that the KKK is no longer racist because they don’t have power anymore?” I hooted with scorn, “This is moral and intellectual bankruptcy.” Minor bedlam ensued, but I refused to yield and sadly nothing was going to change to course of this disastrous panel. I stopped laughing and I turned to the four black kids and directly addressed them. I told them that they were wrong. Period. They had the ability to be better but that the diversity professionals were setting them up for failure or worse. I further went on to point out that the laws governing self-defense and the judicious use of lethal force would have allowed the white boy they mobbed to kill all of them and probably successfully sue their parents into the poor house. Their eyes all got wide. I told them it was ok not to like the truth I was telling them but they had to understand that I didn’t want to see them hurt or killed, but I wasn’t sure that the diversity professionals and the academics could say the same thing.
Rough truth. Could I have delivered better? Yes. But it was clear by the reactions of the academics that my time on the diversity board was coming to a rapid close. Sure enough a day later I received and email from the principal stating because I couldn’t agree (submission) to the agreed upon diversity board agenda and their premise, that I wasn’t welcome back. No surprise.
I enrolled my son in college the next year and moved on from that high school.
Epilogue.
About three years later, I went into a local pizza shop and there was the boy/young man working. He saw me and got an embarrassed look on his face. Having made many mistakes as a young man myself, I wasn’t going to kick him while he was down. I asked him how he was doing and how school was going. Turns our that he got the scholarship but lost it and was back working. I told him that that sort of thing happened, “You broke it, but you can fix it” he could be a man, work hard, learn, grow and make his way back. He nodded and thanked me.
I wondered later if the diversity professionals or academics at the high school that had profited off of that young man’s mistakes had ever reached out to him in his time of need?
Josh Amos
Single dad, former Marine, MBA magna cum laude

December 24, 2017

Merry Christmas to you all

Filed under: Literature,Personal — Stephen W. Browne @ 5:17 am

Merry Christmas everyone, and a Happy New Year.
There have been some big changes lately, and I expect getting more active on this blog will be one of them soon.
I have an ebook published, a collection of my newspaper columns titled “The View from Flyover Country: A Rural Columnist Looks at Life.” It’s not my first book but it’s my first venture into ebook publishing.
And if you look on my author’s page on Amazon you’ll also see an anthology I contributed to, edited with commentary by my friend Marc MacYoung, titled “Beyond the Picket Fence: Life Outside the Middle-Class Bubble.”
From the book description:

“Rules, traditions of the past, and assumptions… all have been swept away by rapid social change. Instead of freeing people this has left us stressed, confused, unprepared, and unable to navigate different environments and situations that can be more than just hostile. Environments outside suburbia can become dangerous — especially for teens and young adults.

‘Beyond the Picket Fence’ isn’t a self-defense book, but it is very much about what will get you into trouble with people.”

In planning, to get my book on linguistic humor out. Most of it was written years ago when I was teaching English in Eastern Europe. I wrote it to explain linguistically dependent jokes in English. That is, the kind of jokes that can’t be translated, only explained, because they use a feature of the language for humorous effect such as puns, play on worlds, Spoonerisms, malapropisms, etc.
I also have a theory of humor on why we find such jokes funny.
Later. For now I’d like to wish you all a Merry Christmas and share one of my favorite Christmas poems, “Eddi’s Service” by Rudyard Kipling. I’ve presented it on my Youtube vlog, linked in the title:

Eddi’s Service
(AD 687)

EDDI, priest of St. Wilfrid
In his chapel at Manhood End,
Ordered a midnight service
For such as cared to attend.

But the Saxons were keeping Christmas,
And the night was stormy as well.
Nobody came to service,
Though Eddi rang the bell.

‘Wicked weather for walking,’
Said Eddi of Manhood End.
‘But I must go on with the service
For such as care to attend.

The altar-lamps were lighted, –
An old marsh-donkey came,
Bold as a guest invited,
And stared at the guttering flame.

The storm beat on at the windows,
The water splashed on the floor,
And a wet, yoke-weary bullock
Pushed in through the open door.

‘How do I know what is greatest,
How do I know what is least?
That is My Father’s business,’
Said Eddi, Wilfrid’s priest.

‘But – three are gathered together –
Listen to me and attend.
I bring good news, my brethren!’
Said Eddi of Manhood End.

And he told the Ox of a Manger
And a Stall in Bethlehem,
And he spoke to the Ass of a Rider,
That rode to Jerusalem.

They steamed and dripped in the chancel,
They listened and never stirred,
While, just as though they were Bishops,
Eddi preached them The Word,

Till the gale blew off on the marshes
And the windows showed the day,
And the Ox and the Ass together
Wheeled and clattered away.

And when the Saxons mocked him,
Said Eddi of Manhood End,
‘I dare not shut His chapel
On such as care to attend.’

December 11, 2017

Am I paranoid?

Filed under: Op-eds,Politics — Stephen W. Browne @ 6:07 pm

I just read the most extraordinary opinion piece in the New York Times.

In an article dated December 1, Jill Filipovic lays the blame for Hillary Clinton’s defeat at the feet of now-disgraced Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, and Mark Halperin.

These three allegedly pestered Clinton “with cold, aggressive, condescending questions hyper-focused on her emails, only to pitch softballs at Mr. Trump and treat him with gentle collegiality a half-hour later.”

That is, Clinton lost because male sexual predators were mean to her in interviews.

My first thought was, are they that stupid at the New York Times? That desperate?

My second thought was, wait a minute! Is this what’s behind the rash of sexual harassment scandals? Not that courageous women spoke out and inspired others to do the same, but powerful people who think SOMEBODY is to blame for Clinton’s loss and somebody has to pay for it?

Then my third thought was, am I paranoid? Have I spent too much time in Eastern Europe and absorbed the paranoid style of thinking? That is where vampire legends come from after all.

What do I mean by paranoid style you may ask?

Let me give you some examples.

One year in Poland the country was rocked by the news a former general under the communist regime and his wife were murdered. They were found tied to chairs in their home with their throats cut.

Of course everyone thought, “Ah-ha! Secret struggles among the powerful.”

About a year later police announced the results of their investigation and it turned out it was the result of a home invasion robbery gone horribly wrong.

Nobody I knew, as in not a single person believed it.

So were they paranoid or was I naïve?

Another. I was living in Serbia during the Clinton administration in the time leading up to the NATO bombing campaign. In one of my English classes a student asked me quite seriously, “Do you think (President) Milosevic is working for Clinton?”

(“Well I don’t think he draws a paycheck from him, but I think they both find each other’s existence convenient,” I told him.)

Or consider those vampire legends from the Balkans. Someone you love and trust might return from the grave to drink the blood of the living, with a strong preference for family members. Or a stranger knocking at your door asking to be let in or perhaps just a drink of water might be a vampire, who can only enter a home once they’ve been invited in.

What do these legends teach you? Trust no one! And never trust obvious appearances. Can you imagine growing up thinking like that?

Maybe we should.

A Serbian friend told me, “What you call paranoia, we call experience.”

So am I crazy? Or is she?

Filipovic’s article is paranoid clear through. It’s MEN! All men who want to excuse predatory behavior and quash any woman who gets uppity.

“That is why it’s so egregious that sexual harassers set the tone of much of the coverage of the woman who hoped to be the first female president,” she said.

Then another source said Hillary’s backers were furious with her and wanted to know where their billion dollars went when all the polls said it was a slam dunk – and no you’re not paranoid.
And among the conservative anti-Trumpers a scholar I like whose work I respect is absolutely obsessed with the notion the Russians decided the election. She’s spent a lot of time in the paranoid part of the world too.

One of the characteristics of the paranoid style of thinking is a rejection of anything that seems simple and straightforward. That for example Clinton was a lousy candidate and an overwhelmingly favorable media could do nothing to overcome that.

But now here I am proposing that powerful occult forces are purging the ranks of the news and entertainment networks and wreaking a terrible vengeance on those they believe have failed them.

And I ask myself, I know I’m paranoid – but am I paranoid enough?

And my Balkan friend answers, “The answer is ‘no’. Not even close.”

October 16, 2017

Why Weinstein matters

Filed under: News commentary,Op-eds,Politics — Stephen W. Browne @ 11:54 am

Unless you have just returned from a vacation in Antarctica you have heard of the fall of film maker Harvey Weinstein. Joss Whedon must be breathing a sigh of relief.

Whedon not long ago was accused of being a flagrant serial adulterer by his ex-wife. The accusations against Weinstein go way beyond that.

Weintein stands accused by an ever-growing list of actresses, former actresses, and staff of sexual harassment, stalking, groping, obtaining sexual favors by bribery and threats, and outright unequivocal rape by four alleged victims as of the time of writing.

This was an open secret for more than 30 years.

Weinstein’s brother says he was aware Harvey was a serial cheater but didn’t realize the extent of his depravity. The circumstances of their business relationship make this somewhat credible.

Actors who have worked with Weinstein such as George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Matt Damon, and Russel Crowe say they are shocked and appalled and had no idea.

They’re lying.

Hillary Clinton issued a belated and rather tepid condemnation. Poor lady was in a bit of a bind. On the one hand she had to condemn to maintain her feminist creds. On the other hand… Bill.

The fact that Tinseltown is a hotbed of corruption is not exactly news to us. The earliest use of the term “casting couch” dates back to the 1930s.

So why do we care and why isn’t this scandal dying out as fast as any other tabloid fodder?

I can think of some reasons. One is we delight in the exposure of hypocrisy. Weinstein has virtue-signaled his championship of every fashionable cause on the left, including feminism. He has made a feeble bid at redemption by vowing to “fight the NRA.”

Furthermore, women who have come forward with tales of harassment – and worse, are often stridently feminist themselves. Many have been loud in their condemnation of the “Republican War on Women” and the alleged sexual assaulter in the White House.

Ashley Judd of the pink knit hat comes to mind. And some gut-wrenching photos emerged of tiny Emma Watson being manhandled into a limo by the huge physically powerful Weinstein. The terrified look on her face strikes like an ice dagger in the heart of every man who loves his daughter. Yet in her feminist screeds not a word of criticism for her own industry.

We love comeuppance. Hollyweird has touted the moral superiority of the progressive left, their disdain for “flyover country,” and their contempt for people who cling to quaint old-fashioned notions of family, faith, and love of country. And here is proof they are no better than we are, and probably much worse.

We love to see the mighty brought low. Though it’s not an admirable sentiment, we can’t help a sense of satisfaction at seeing his so-called friends desert him and his wife, whose clothing design business he promoted by coercing stars to wear her products on the red carpet, has dropped him like a hot rock.

But here is the real significance I think. Weinstein, like Hugh Hefner, could have had all the willing playmates he wanted. And according to the testimony of reporter Jade Budowski, who once worked as a waitress at a restaurant Weinstein used for assignations with aspiring starlets, he did.

Weinstein’s disgusting behavior demonstrates not mere lust, but a delight in humiliating women and assaulting men, arrogantly confident in his power to silence critics.

Weinstein’s double life as champion of the progressive left and abuser of power is a stark example of the great political divide today.

On the one side the “progressive” view that all of society’s ills will yield to the use of unchecked power in the right hands once we have discarded the outdated superstitions of the Founders.

On the other the view that there are no safe hands. That power is dangerous and men corruptible. That problems are best addressed by free men in voluntary association in almost all cases.

What both sides see plainly, the former with increasing dread the latter with a somber sense of recognition, is confirmation that this is the reality of power.

This column appears in the collection “The View From Flyover Country: A Rural Columnist Looks at Life in the 21st Century” available at Amazon.

October 2, 2017

Las Vegas

Filed under: Uncategorized — Stephen W. Browne @ 10:43 am

Note: I am publishing this immediately rather than wait for the print date. Some information may be out of date even now. Point stated last line remains.

I got up today intending to write what we call a light piece, i.e. something amusing and heart-warming. Perhaps something about our new puppy.
Well as John Lennon said, “Life is what happens when you’re making other plans.”
Grimly appropriate, Lennon was a homicide victim.
By the time this goes to print you’ll all know more about the mass shooting in Las Vegas than I do now. So take this as an exercise in evaluating what we know for certain, what is not known for certain, what we can reasonably surmise, and what we can reasonably discount.
At present count, 50 people are dead and at least 400 wounded. The death toll may rise but it already qualifies as the worst mass shooting in our history.
The shooter has been identified as 64-year-old Stephen Paddock, described as a white male, and he is dead. Either killed by police or suicided, accounts differ. I would guess the latter as this is the common pattern, but there are accounts one deputy was killed so at present, not certain.
Paddock fired from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino and came equipped with a sizeable arsenal of weapons, apparently including automatic weapons and loaded magazines. The attack took place during a country music concert.
Police are looking for a person of interest, Marilou Danley, 62. Danley is reported to have been living with Paddock.
She is described as Asian – which is no help at all. “Asian” is not race but geography, a part of the world where live the peoples related to Han Chinese (Chinese, Japanese, Koreans). Malay (Malaysians, Indonesians, many Filipinos), Polynesians, Melanesians, Negritos, the immense diversity of Indians, etc.
From a Facebook page now deleted, she is said to have traveled widely. She is also said to have been employed at the hotel and if confirmed this is significant. Anyone can rent a room, but sneaking in that much fire power presents a problem.
Unconfirmed stories have it a woman, not positively identified yet, told concert goers they were all going to die.
So far, Paddock is the only known shooter. Apparently there were reports of shots fired from several locations causing police to clear a few different hotels.
It is reasonable to attribute this to the confusion of large panicked crowds in the streets. It is possible this was a planned diversion in light of the high level of preparedness in this case.
Reports call Paddock a “lone wolf” but that apparently is from descriptions by his neighbors at his retirement community.
There are rumors he is a Muslim convert, unsupported at the time of writing.
A Facebook post alleged to be from Australian Antifa hails him as a comrade raining death down on those “fascist Trump supporters.”
I shouldn’t have to point out that ANYONE can put up a post identifying themselves as anything they like.
Paddock is described as not having a criminal record but some accounts say he is “known” to law enforcement. That could mean anything from minor contacts with police to “this is a nut to keep an eye on” in some agency’s files.
What can we reasonably surmise?
This incident shows a high degree of planning. The concert venue, the firing position, the arms and ammunition, all designed to create exactly what happened, a mass shooting with the largest casualty rate in American history to date.
Paddock expected to die, either from direct suicide or “suicide by cop.”
It seems likely he had help, and at present it seems likely to have come from his “companion” Danley. What is significant is she did not join him in death and is at large at the time of writing. If she had no involvement it seems likely she’d have contacted police.
No ideological motive is known at present. No suicide note has been reported yet.
However it seems unlikely a right-wing terrorist would target a country music concert.
More data will emerge in the hours, days and weeks to come. In the meantime I urge not jumping to conclusions because a lot of people are going to be choking on their words as it does.

September 27, 2017

The UN speeches

Filed under: Op-eds,Politics — Stephen W. Browne @ 9:28 am

Last week President Trump and Vice-President Pence delivered speeches at the United Nations on successive days. Nobody seems to realize it yet, but this changes everything.
Public reactions ranged from sneering dismissal to outrage.
Why? Because they said things every sane and sensible person knows to be true, but must not be said.
“The United States will forever be a great friend to the world and especially to its allies. But we can no longer be taken advantage of or enter into a one-sided deal where the United States gets nothing in return,” Trump said.
His message was though we share a common humanity we are not “citizens of the world” but citizens of the United States and entitled to look after our own interests, just as citizens of other countries are entitled to look after theirs.
Furthermore he said it is right and proper that this be so. That nations are not impediments to a grand world order but at their best laboratories of human diversity where men are free to seek the good life in their own ways. That nations have a right to exist and a right to enforce their borders.
But at their worst nations create living hells of oppression and misery, and in our time the chief sources of this misery have been the ideologies of socialism, communism, and Islamic jihadism.
And he named names. Cuba, Venezuela, Iran, and the bandit regime of North Korea.
And to the consternation of delicate minds everywhere he said something must be done about them. That evil must be fought, sometimes at a terrible cost.
The very next day Pence addressed the UN Security Council and said what is as plain as a pikestaff that no one has dared to tell them to their faces.
He said noble intentions and sweet words are not enough. That great beginnings do not ensure good ends.
And he said the UN Human Rights Council is at present a sham.
“As we look at the membership of the council today, we see nations that betray these timeless principles upon which this institution was founded. Today, the United Nations Human Rights Council actually attracts and welcomes many of the worst human rights violators in the world. A clear majority of the Human Rights Council’s members fail to meet even the most basic human rights standards,” Pence said, expanding on Trump’s remark.
Pence called out Cuba and Venezuela, and called out the council for its history of condemning Israel while ignoring the most murderously oppressive regimes on the planet.
These things they said are true and beyond dispute. The conclusions that flow from them are inescapable.
There are evil men in the world who are masters of nations. Some of those nations have, or soon will have weapons of terrible power. Some export terrorism and disturb the peace of the world.
“He called Kim Jong Un Rocket Man!”
Oh heavens, he insulted a tyrant who starved perhaps a million of his subjects to death and holds public executions, attendance mandatory, where people who displease him are blown to bits by anti-aircraft guns, a name from a song by Elton John.
Whatever will this poor old world be FORCED to endure next?
What the hell is so controversial about this? When did it become vulgar to point this out? Our fathers knew it. Many still bear the wounds they got fighting evil.
Well Trump is regarded as a vulgar man by the elites both left and right, and he is. He speaks his mind when it might serve him better to hold his tongue. He displays his wealth ostentatiously and unashamedly. He’s a womanizer and not at all discrete about it. (Though it should be said he does seem to be able to take “No!” for an answer, which his predecessor Bill Clinton had a problem with.)
I’ve said before that the Best and Brightest are not getting meaningful answers because they are not asking the right questions.
In this case the question is not why did Trump and Pence say these things, but why those who so obviously consider themselves our betters did not?

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