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 red 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!

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.

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?

September 19, 2017

Why I despise SJWs

Filed under: Culture,News commentary,Op-eds — Stephen W. Browne @ 11:25 am

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 1865 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 this overwhelming 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.

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

September 11, 2017

Asking the right question

Filed under: Op-eds,Politics — Stephen W. Browne @ 11:02 am

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.

August 14, 2017


Filed under: Media bias,News commentary,Op-eds — Stephen W. Browne @ 10:40 am
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.

August 11, 2017

Other ways than ours

Filed under: Culture,Op-eds — Stephen W. Browne @ 8:49 am

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.

July 8, 2017

Now it’s a fight

Filed under: Op-eds,Politics — Stephen W. Browne @ 9:54 am

“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.

May 22, 2017

Where I stand

Filed under: Op-eds,Philosophy — Stephen W. Browne @ 5:50 am

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.


• 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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