Monday, August 17, 2015

#BlackLivesMatter and the politics of force

There’s an episode of "Doug" from 1993 called Doug’s Big Brawl where Doug Funnie and another boy get into a situation where they’re both expected to fight each other and Doug’s dad tells him:

"Show me a man who resorts to violence, and I'll show you a man who's run out of good ideas.”

With that in mind, I turn your attention to last Saturday’s disruption of a political rally where Bernie Sanders was prevented from speaking by several Black Lives Matter protesters. In this case there was no violence, but there was indeed a great amount of force.

My preference for political change is to reason with people and convince them with words. I understand that people reach a lot of their opinions through selfish justification and emotions, but I still feel that better arguments and better ideas are the morally superior approach and the one I support.

Black Lives Matter activists regularly uses force as their primary tactic, such as disrupting a symphony, an award ceremony for WWII vet and even shutting down highways. They are not trying to reason with people, but get their attention or intimidate them by using force.

But let’s not kid ourselves, Black Lives Matter embraces violence and destruction along crude utilitarian lines. It gently refers to riots as “uprisings” and while its members only occasionally directly instruct people to riot, the activists openly defend and justify violent riots. The “No justice no peace” slogan is not merely a threat of noise pollution.”

Black activists tried to convince us for years that there is a widespread problem with American police killing not just violent black men, but upstanding young black men too. The problem was finding an example and they seized on the death of Michael Brown to make their case. A family member called him a "gentle giant" and one Deadspin article specifically said "By all accounts, Brown was one of the good ones."

That famously blew up in their faces when the early credulous, alarmist reports fell away and the public learned about Brown’s strong-arm robbery just before he put down while trying to kill a police officer. The foundation of the Black Lives Matter campaign turned out to be a hoax.

While paragons of humility like Jonathan Capehart took back their initial embrace of the Michael Brown narrative and admitted they were wrong, Black Lives Matter instead chose to keep telling the same lie and keep chanting “Hands up Don’t shoot” and act like nothing ever happened.

A Rasmussen poll released on Aug. 13 showed 53% of respondents believe the Ferguson riots are mostly criminals taking advantage of the situation, not actual protests.

Black Lives Matter activists failed to convince the public of the importance of their message with compelling arguments, but have had some success through the use of force. That was firmly on display on Aug. 8 at the Seattle event where Bernie Sanders was supposed to speak to the crowd.

As you can see from the footage and the transcript, the activist pulled themselves on stage and immediately started hurling threats like “If you do not listen to her, your event will be shut down right now! Right now!” She later bragged about shutting down a Christmas tree lighting celebration, claimed the shooting of Michael Brown was really a murder and called the crowd racists and white supremacists for booing her obnoxious, blubbering rant.

The American left was in disarray following the Seattle disruption, as two of its large factions were put in direct conflict. Initially, some people on official-looking Black Lives Matter social media accounts claimed the Seattle protesters were not legitimate members of Black Lives Matter, but those same accounts later took those statements back and said they were not authorized to speak. 

The Sanders campaign originally promoted that angle before the correction came in, as it nullified any need for left-wing soul searching. Some people still insist they were not legitimate protesters, or were enemy agents hired by the right. That’s conspiracy-theory nonsense, but even if it were true it would be irrelevant because most Black Lives Matters leaders and sympathizers have embraced the Seattle disruption.

This also puts me in a tough spot, because I have a handful of black friends on Facebook who have embraced the hashtag from time to time. Every last one of them is gracious, gentle, kind person, and I’m puzzled why this group resonates with them.

Especially since Black Rights Matter is very much a movement against civil rights.

Before we go any further, I need to address the limits of what is and what is not a free speech issue. Free speech is commonly defined by educated people as freedom from government restrictions on speech, but not one of private limits. The most common example is if someone stops someone else from commentating on their blog or Facebook page, that is not a violation of the person’s freedom of speech. I completely agree with that example, but I do think private entities can do certain things that is on par with opposing free speech.

The obvious example is using illegitimate force to block a speaker from sharing ideas with an audience, which is exactly what we saw a mob of 100 people do at the University of Toronto in 2012, such as physically blocking the doors to the venue, pulling the fire alarm and making noise to keep people from hearing a lecture.

Which is exactly what happened in Seattle. The novice observer believes that Sanders was the victim of the Black Lives Matter protesters, while the more experienced observer understands that the audience’s right to listen to Sanders was violated, and the activists are 100% guilty of violating the civil rights of a very large group of people.

Which has been pretty consistent with the loathsome tactics used by the Black Lives Matters goons. While a lot of the focus has been on the police officers murdered and horribly wounded by Black Lives Matters activists and supporters, the group’s victims also include a lot of innocent bystanders who were just trying to drive to work, attend a public event or take an ambulance ride to the hospital.

I am not saying that Black Lives Matter has failed to have any influence, as there are a lot more police body cameras in operation today. I’m also not saying their actual influence is always negative, as I see the police body cameras to be a good thing. I am saying their influence comes from their willingness to use force on people who don’t deserve it and I don’t consider the death, destruction and violation of rights they have caused to be an acceptable trade-off.

In a particularly craven move, Sanders caved in to their demands, announcing the hire of a Black Lives Matter activist and adding some of their issues to his campaign platform. He and the staff at the Seattle event were unwilling to stand up to the activists, but I don’t think it’s because of who they are.

Sanders seems to be morally opposed to having hecklers and disruptors dragged out of his events, such as his superhuman tolerance for several rabid anti-Israel shouters at a town meeting event last year. I suspect he doesn’t want to see people cuffed or dragged away, which is too bad for his actually supporters who want to hear him speak uninterrupted.

Contrast that with Bill Maher’s legendary response to a group 9/11 Truthers who started shouting from his audience, where he told security to pull the riff riff out and ended up storming into the crowd to get lend a hand. That is what leadership looks like, not hand-wringing and instant surrender.

There was a recent episode in Utah where animal rights protesters attempted to use force to shut down a pig wrestling event by standing in the ring. A pig wrestler picked up one of the protesters and dumped them over the fence. I can understand why the police were considering charging the pig wrestler with assault, but to be honest I find it to be a superior response than giving the protester the microphone like Sanders did. Twice.

I don’t think Sanders is competent to serve on a municipal zoning board, let alone be president of the United States, but the principles at stake here are the issue, not the details of this example. That’s why I find it incredibly irksome to see so many arguments putting down the disruption by saying Sanders was an unworthy target and the activists should have done the same thing to other politicians.

Ken White recently reminded us that embracing vile tactics against our political opponents is not only immoral, but it also gives your opposition permission to use the same tactics back on you.

Don't think for a second that Black Lives Matter protesters would accept being on the receiving end of disruptions. Look at last month's Ohio incident where reporter Brandon Blackwell ignored an order for all white people to leave their event. Not only did the activists threaten him and make a scene, their supporters moaned that he was disrespectful and should have left the event when told to.

Pardon me, I think my irony levels are getting dangerously high.

Black Lives Matter activists don't use force because they have had a hard time getting their message out to the public or because they are beaten-down serfs with no other possible course of action. They do so because they don't have a strong enough case to convince people through legitimate means. The use of force comes from a place of weakness, not of strength.

The worst defense I hear for the brute tactics of Black Lives Matter protesters is that nothing else works. That's not true for most other causes. Perhaps the reason mainstream tactics don't work for Black Lives Matter is that their ideas are flawed. To return to what Doug’s father said, their embrace of force is an open admission that they are out of good ideas.


Saturday, February 28, 2015

BlackLivesMatter doesn't itself matter

I suspect the activists flocking to the banner of "BlackLivesMatter" have a secret contest for who can be the most blood-boilingly obnoxious.

Blocking highway traffic, blocking subways, interrupting live performances, refusing to meet with sympathetic politicians and even disrupting WWII veteran medal ceremonies is pretty obnoxious, but not as obnoxious as what happened at the University of California at Berkley this week.

After professor Steven Segal told his social work class his views that black-on-black violence, not white cops, is the biggest problem facing the black community and backed it up with statistics, students declared he was a racist, the class was an example of institutionalized racism and Segal "oppressed" his students with his opinions.

In my time as a right-wing college with a steady stream of left-wing professors who inserted their political views into class, I can't think of a single time where I would have called it "oppression" or left the classroom crying like these kids just did. The o-word was used a few times in this moronic incident.

The death of Trayvon Martin was a tragedy. Eric Garner's death was a tragedy. The only tragedy related to the death of Michael Brown is how it harmed the life and career of police officer Darren Wilson, yet these activists have made Brown their poster boy.

Last week police in the city I work in shot a suspect three times while he charged at them with a drawn knife. He had just stabbed his boyfriend, who was the one who called police, and is still in critical condition. Sadly, if this guy had been born black instead of white there would be protests and folk songs in his honor.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The dead concept of cyberbullying

The terms "harrassment" and "bullying" when used for online activity are now dead and Marc Merrill, CEO of Riot Games, was the last one seen kicking their twitching bodies before they expired.

Here's the backstory: Sanghyuk “Faker” Lee plays video games competitively for a living and is paid by a company, Azubu to stream live videos of him playing the game League of Legends. Another person, referred to by the online name StarLordLucian, started streaming Lee's live feed as well without permission to profit off of someone else's work.

Azubu tried to get him to take it down, claiming copyright, but StarLordLucian said they don't actually have the legal rights to Lee's feed. Riot Games, the company behind League of Legends does. That turned out to be true.

So when someone asked Merill, who runs Riot Games, what he thinks, his response was a little nutty:

You are rationalizing and trying to justify the fact that you have singled out a player against their will and broadcasting their games in a way that he can do nothing about. That reeks of harassment and bullying.


Someone is trying to make easy money off of someone else's work. Their motive is personal profit, not to hurt Lee's feelings. I don't know why Merill would say such a strange thing, but I suspect it's because those two words, "harassment" and "bullying" are tossed about so loosely these days that they come out automatically, like duckspeak in 1984.

Which is too bad, because the real examples are pretty horrible, but now it's not just mild criticism that's being labeled as harassment and bullying, but pretty much any unwanted presence.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

What it took to get a legal firearm in Massachusetts

At the request of my brother, I've collected the stories I wrote in 2013 when I went through the entire process of getting a license to possess firearms in Massachusetts.

I was initially intimidated by the famously long process of getting a firearm in Massachusetts, but then I thought about pairing it with my job as a journalist. Gun control was a big political issue at the time and I felt the country would benefit from a fair account of how my state's gun permitting process actually works.

I was also hoping the online release of the series would lead to job offers, or at least national attention. I did get my biggest response from readers for anything I'd ever written, includes gun advocates out of state, but it didn't lead to any contact from the national press. I showed that a state agency broke state law by failing to return my background check within the 40 days the state requires, and there were no consequences.

May 5: I began the process

May 30: I took a firearm safety course

June 2: A long waiting list kept me from meeting with local police representative for application

July 8: Met with police representative and sent application to state

October 14: Received my permit 150 days into the process


Sunday, February 22, 2015

It's good to be recognized

I'm proud to announce that last night I received a first-place award for health reporting for my 2014 series on my region's high suicide rate, which explored both what experts know about suicide and personal stories from different demographics that are at a higher risk.

The award was given by the New England Newspaper & Press Association and I was one of four finalists for all health stories in New England daily newspapers under a circulation of 30,000.

I try to keep my personal blog and professional writing separate but under the circumstances I feel comfortable sharing links to the series this time.

January 25: The numbers on my area's high suicide rate, which mysteriously exceeds demographic norms

March 9: Why men die from suicide at a higher rate

March 28: Interview with Kevin Hines, author who survived jump off Golden Gate Bridge

March 30: Talked to a mother who lost her teen son to suicide and wrote about teen suicide issues

April 27: Spoke to a veteran who survived a suicide attempt and touched on veteran suicides

June 17: Interviewed experts about suicide among the elderly

July 6: Details of evidence-based suicide prevention programs

July 30: Spoke to experts about how the media fails in its suicide reporting

This was a difficult issue to cover, and emotionally taxing. I was already proud of what I created here, and while the award is nice to have, it didn't mean as much as the positive responses I got from readers who had suffered a tragedy because of suicide.

This is a serious problem that thrives on silence. I hope I've inspired people to talk about it instead of staying quiet because it's an uncomfortable subject.


Friday, February 20, 2015

Public counter pressure

I got excited when I saw the following sentence linked on Twitter. Finally, I thought, a company is taking a brave stance instead of caving to the pressure of whiners.

"Sorry, we have a general policy against firing people based on social media campaigns. We're against digital mobs."

But then when I clicked the link I saw it was merely a suggestion from writer Conor Friedersdorf of what companies should say, and that it would be better to live in a world where the consequences for caving to only mobs was actually worse than standing up to them.

By the same token, I'd like to see people get resentful at cowardly corporate speak like "at this time," as in the sentence "We're not interested in hiring you at this time."

If only collective bitterness could be coordinated.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Obama's most frustrating economic statement of 2015 (so far)

A good friend of mine who studies political science has been trying to convince me that President Barack Obama is a moderate. My friend knows more than I do on this topic so I take him seriously, but I just can't get the idea to gel, mostly because the president makes statements like the one he just did about Staples Inc. and the Affordable Care Act.

Clickbait website Buzzfeed recently sat down with the president about a number of topics, one of them was about how the office supply store Staples Inc. limits its part-time employees to 25 hours a week to avoid working a long week and passing the threshold where full-time benefits kick in.

Obama was told that those employees are having their hours limited to avoid having to provide health insurance as a result of the Affordable Care Act. Staples Inc. has since said that was wrong and the policy is actually a decade old and unrelated to the Affordable Care Act. However, look at the position the president took when presented with the scenario that his policy has given companies an incentive to cut workers hours instead of paying the high costs of the benefits:

...There is no reason for an employer who is not currently providing health care to their workers to discourage them from either getting health insurance on the job or being able to avail themselves of the Affordable Care Act. I haven’t looked at Staples stock lately or what the compensation of the CEO is, but I suspect that they could well afford to treat their workers favorably and give them some basic financial security, and if they can’t, then they should be willing to allow those workers to get the Affordable Care Act without cutting wages. This is the same argument that I’ve made with respect to something like paid sick leave. We have 43 million Americans who, if they get sick or their child gets sick, are looking at either losing their paycheck or going to the job sick or leaving their child at home sick. It’s one thing when you’ve got a mom-and-pop store who can’t afford to provide paid sick leave or health insurance or minimum wage to workers — even though a large percentage of those small businesses do it because they know it’s the right thing to do — but when I hear large corporations that make billions of dollars in profits trying to blame our interest in providing health insurance as an excuse for cutting back workers’ wages, shame on them.

This is a very telling answer, and it tells me above all else that the president is not a moderate, nor does he seem to understand that business owners who provide health insurance aren't giving their employees a gift. No, employers provide health insurance as a form of payment. They don't do so "because it's the right thing to do" but because they have to compete with other employers.

Maybe the president's brain just can't grasp economic reasoning, and if so he's far from alone, but let's be honest, his ignorance is left-wing ignorance, not moderate ignorance. Just look at the cliche he ended his statement with:

...But when I hear large corporations that make billions of dollars in profits trying to blame our interest in providing health insurance as an excuse for cutting back workers’ wages, shame on them.

The president is evoking the concept of infinite wealth, that a company that makes a large amount in profits should be able to provide unlimited expensive benefits to every one of its employees. However, most of those companies have huge labor forces and those expensive health insurance plans add up. It's telling that people making this argument don't list the actual cost of this course of action.

For what it's worth, Staples Inc. reported a net profit of $707 million in 2014, not actual billions like the president said, and actually lost money in 2013. I can't see a number of how many part-time employees it had, but total employees in 2013 are listed on Wikipedia as 83,000 people.

The president has made it more expensive for businesses to have full-time employees, and when told that businesses are responding the way conservatives predicted they would, his response is to blame the companies? Shame on them? No, shame on him and his infamous audacity.


Monday, February 16, 2015

Outrage culture is to blame for boring politics

Politicians give terrible pre-scripted interviews not merely because focus-group testing works so well, but because speaking off the cuff is too risky with partisan opponents ready to twist everything they say.

That's Matthew Yglesias's point in his recent piece about the response to his interview with President Obama. When they talked, the president said:

It is entirely legitimate for the American people to be deeply concerned when you've got a bunch of violent, vicious zealots who behead people or randomly shoot a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris.

Opportunists on the right claimed the president was denying a Kosher deli was targeting Jews, even though his administration had outright declared it before. This turned into a mini-scandal that has since fizzled. Yglesias believes those critics were sincere, but blinded by their politics. I think he's being generous, while the president's critics were not.

Two years ago Steve Novella wrote:

Before you set out to criticize someone’s claim or position, you should endeavor to grant that position its best possible case. Don’t assume the worst about your opponent, assume the best. Give them any benefit of the doubt. At the very least this will avoid creating a straw man to attack, or opening yourself up to charges that you are being unfair.

And that's the problem isn't it? Politics is dominated by the uncharitable interpretation of one's opponents? Todd Akin simply must have meant by "legitimate rape" that some rapes are acceptable or John Kerry must have been mocking the troops, not George W. Bush, when he said people who don't study in school get stuck in Iraq.

Having a low threshold for outrage is very popular in politics today, but like a leech is sucks the potential for anything interesting to come from the mouths of elected officials.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

"The oppressive chocolate capitalists"

This is not a parody, but an actual message written by a group of bitter Marxists against Valentine's Day:

The blood-soaked conspiracy of Valentine’s Day, driven by the oppressive chocolate capitalists, has arrived once again. In order to create a brighter future, we call for solidarity among our unloved comrades, so that we may demonstrate in resolute opposition to Valentine’s Day and the romantic industrial complex.

And when I say bitter I mean bitter. Based in Japan the group is named Kakumei-teki himote doumei, which translates to “Revolutionary Alliance of Men That Woman Are Not Attracted To."

Hat tip to Tyler Cowen, who already used "Romantic Industrial Complex" in a headline so I couldn't.


Thursday, February 12, 2015

An international flowering of trade

Alex Tabarrok's Valentine's Day video is a take-off of Leonard Read's "I, Pencil" and a great lesson on spontaneous order around meeting human needs.


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Good riddance to an enemy of speech

Is there something about working in an American university that kills the part of the brain that understands free speech?

Last month NPR's Ombudsman Edward Schumacher-Matos stepped down and his successor posted his final column, which was about media ethics.  Schumacher-Matos was quick to tell us he was once the James Madison Visiting Professor on First Amendment Issues at Columbia University before he told us that we shouldn't have complete freedom of the press.

I do not know if American courts would find much of what Charlie Hebdo does to be hate speech unprotected by the Constitution, but I know—hope?—that most Americans would. It is one thing to lampoon popes, imams, rabbis and other temporal religious leaders of this world; it is quite another to make fun, in often nasty ways, of their prophets and gods. The NPR editors were right not to reprint any of the images. 
None of this is to justify the bombing. That was far worse still. But France itself is now undergoing a soul searching about how it treats its Muslim minority.

He's endorsing blasphemy laws? This is supposed to be the one who watched the watchers? Good grief.

Schumacher-Matos, you say "First Amendment fundamentalists" like it's a bad thing. I'd rather live in a nation where I'm free to be offended then one where the government punishes people for saying unpopular thing.


Sunday, February 8, 2015

NPR self-flagellates

A liberal has told NPR that it sounds too white, and as can be expected, NPR responded by falling on the ground and begging forgiveness.

“Without being directly told, people like me learn that our way of speaking isn’t professional. And you start to imitate the standard or even hide the distinctive features of your own voice. This is one of the reasons that some of my black and brown friends refuse to listen to some of my favorite radio shows despite my most passionate efforts.” 
[Commentator Chenjerai] Kumanyika was referring to the subtle matter of code-switching, or speaking one way to one’s immediate peers and another way — call it more “white” — to a larger group. No matter the racial or ethnic identity of the speaker, people on public radio sound white, he suggested.

His basic argument is that speaking formally and professionally is foreign to blacks and Latinos and they don't want to listen to people who sound that way, so the world needs to go casual to meet their needs.

Does anyone else find this incredibly condescending to minority members? It' the soft bigotry of low expectations. Of course, NPR hosts aren't standing up against it. When you tell a far-left organization that it's too white, they will fold like Circuit City in 2009.


Friday, February 6, 2015

A pox on both your houses

Feminst commentator Anita Sarkeesian is being honored by the Harvard Humanist Community as the person of the year for 2014. A lot of my secular friends are opposed to it, but I completely endorse her nomination.

Not as a compliment to Sarkeesian, but as an insult to humanism.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

I'm not giving Rand Paul a pass on vaccines

I recently rewatched Carol Tavris's 2011 talk from The Amazing Meeting. Towards the ends she talked about when a friend does something terrible we tend to minimize the sin or end the friendship, but she then shared a quotation from Shimon Peres when he was asked to comment about a gaffe made by his friend Ronald Reagan.

Peres said, “When a friend makes a mistake, the friend remains a friend, and the mistake remains a mistake.”

That was on my mind when I heard Rand Paul's infamous comments about vaccines. The headline was that he opposes mandatory vaccinations, something the United States doesn't actually have. We require children to be vaccinated to attend daycare or public schools, but we don't arrest parents who don't vaccinate their kids, and we do absolutely nothing about unvaccinated adults or tourists or immigrants.

Still, I believe the government is justified in forcing vaccines upon the American public. The threat of spreading diseases is great and the risk of vaccines is tiny. Not being vaccinate is dangerous and opposition to vaccines is based on misinformation and hysteria.

I can accept Rand Paul's position on the mandatory nature, but then I learned during the same interview he said vaccines can cause "profound mental disorders" and said, "I've heard of many tragic cases of walking, talking, normal children who wound up with profound mental disorders after vaccines. I'm not arguing vaccines are a bad idea. I think they're a good thing. But I think the parents should have some input."

I wanted to give him a pass, because he did actually vaccinate his kids, but it would be disingenuous to do so. He clearly endorsed the anti-vax movement's disproven idea that vaccines cause health problems like autisim (even though he didn't name it specifically.)

Rand Paul was wrong, wrong, wrong to name those supposed risks. Frankly, it's absurd he could let such a crazy thing out of his mouth. John McCain, Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton all said similar things when they ran for president in 2008, long after the supposed link to autism was disproved. They didn't deserve a pass and neither does he.

Rand Paul was wrong, very very wrong. I will not minimize the mistake. He has tried to walk those remarks back, and by all means we should let him, but the mistake will remain a mistake and he will remain someone I otherwise admire.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Raise your standards, don't lower them

From time to time, I find myself rereading Ken White's brilliant piece entitled "Ken's Law". It's about the idea that awfulness among ones opponents does not excuse awfulness among ones allies.

As I reread this four-year-old essay, I find myself struggling to live up to its lessons.

In modern debates, proving the hypocrisy of one's opponents is a cheap and easy way to feel that you've won a debate. It's very tempting to see political opponents whooping about a gaffe cast by your side and tell them that if their side did it they would be making excuses.

It's tempting alright, but we have to fight that primal urge. As Ken wrote:

We're conditioned by culture, both popular and political, to frame everything as white hats vs. black hats. This leads us into embarrassing contortions, hypocrisies, and violations of previously closely-held principles when we are called upon to defend Our Guy (or gal). He/she was provoked! The other side did much worse! Yes, he/she kicked a puppy, but nobody said anything when the other guy/girl killed a kitten! 
And yet we know, on some level, that this is a foolish way to look at life. We know it when we deal with our children — an apt comparison, as politicians and people who care about them are usually childish in a charming-sociopath-with-questionable-personal-hygiene sense. When one of the kids runs howling into my room at 6:00 a.m. on Sunday about what his/her brother/sister did, it is almost always the case that the howler did not have clean hands in the dispute. 
But somehow we go about acting as if One Guy Is In The Right, and that ifs, buts, nuances, and shared responsibility are signs of weakness, apostasy, and "concern trolling."

For a while, I told myself to stop trying to score political points by assuming that the other side would act hypocritically if the situation was reversed. What if my assumption was wrong? I swore off saying "If my guy was in that situation, would you act the same way?"

But after further thought, I've decided that this way of thinking is only half right. It is indeed wrong for someone to give an ally a pass for something they would condemn an opponent for, but it is only proper to ask an opponent to consider calling out their own kin for being in the wrong, and a good way to show them that is to ask what they would do if their own opponent behaved that way.

Think of a two by two matrix. There are good opponents, bad opponents, good allies and bad allies. In all cases we should all call out bad opponents and allies, and treat good allies and opponents with courtesy and the benefit of the doubt.


Saturday, January 31, 2015

Who's winning the left's civil war?

Jonathan Chait has started a civil war among modern progressives by calling out call-out culture in his recent piece on political correctness cannibalism. Once, only conservatives were the targets of the social justice warrior standing order to search for chances to call someone a bigot.

In Chait's piece, he goes into endless details about how members of the left are being victimized by the endless crusade to find tiny traces of prejudice. He criticizes real-life trigger warnings, white male privilege checking, isolated liberal communities where most conversations focus on calling each other bigots for alleged sins against sensitivity and attacks on free speech.

Surprise surprise, Chait's piece wasn't well liked by the far left. Fredrik deBoer, a writer I was not previously familiar with, said he didn't like it either, but reading his response shows he clearly agrees with Chait's intention.

In fact, I say deBoer wrote the piece Chait wanted to write. He tells the same tale, but in a much more self-examining and powerful voice. He also doesn't waste the readers time the way long-winded Chait did.

DeBoer's entire piece is worth reading, but this section was the most gripping for me. It's hard not to cut and paste the entire thing.

I have seen, with my own two eyes, a 19 year old white woman — smart, well-meaning, passionate — literally run crying from a classroom because she was so ruthlessly brow-beaten for using the word “disabled.” Not repeatedly. Not with malice. Not because of privilege. She used the word once and was excoriated for it. She never came back. I watched that happen. 
I have seen, with my own two eyes, a 20 year old black man, a track athlete who tried to fit organizing meetings around classes and his ridiculous practice schedule (for which he received a scholarship worth a quarter of tuition), be told not to return to those meetings because he said he thought there were such a thing as innate gender differences. He wasn’t a homophobe, or transphobic, or a misogynist. It turns out that 20 year olds from rural South Carolina aren’t born with an innate understanding of the intersectionality playbook. But those were the terms deployed against him, those and worse. So that was it; he was gone. 
I have seen, with my own two eyes, a 33 year old Hispanic man, an Iraq war veteran who had served three tours and had become an outspoken critic of our presence there, be lectured about patriarchy by an affluent 22 year old white liberal arts college student, because he had said that other vets have to “man up” and speak out about the war. Because apparently we have to pretend that we don’t know how metaphorical language works or else we’re bad people. I watched his eyes glaze over as this woman with $300 shoes berated him. I saw that. Myself. 
These things aren’t hypothetical. This isn’t some thought experiment. This is where I live, where I have lived. These and many, many more depressing stories of good people pushed out and marginalized in left-wing circles because they didn’t use the proper set of social and class signals to satisfy the world of intersectional politics. So you’ll forgive me when I roll my eyes at the army of media liberals, stuffed into their narrow enclaves, responding to Chait by insisting that there is no problem here and that anyone who says there is should be considered the enemy.

While deBoer feels that people like him are losing, I wonder if this pecking party approach will ultimately doom the far left to lose the progressive civil war. Every time they destroy someone, they create a new enemy. All the moderate left needs is a way to unite those victims of far-left beak wounds, someone like deBoer could do it.

Every time the shrill voices screech about privilege, their own numbers get smaller and the other side gets a little bigger. And brother, screech is all they do all day.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Crying wolf in Alaska

Matt Lewis has written a soul-baring apology for being an early supporter of Sarah Palin, and he's inspired me to the do same.

I voted for the John McCain and Sarah Palin ticket in 2008. I believed a lot more in voting at that time but despite being a life-long conservative, my previous two presidential votes were for the Green Party and Democratic Party. I wasn't impressed with McCain and told myself I'd see who his vice president pick was before I decided how to vote.

I didn't see her famous Republican National Convention speech, but it certainly excited the base. She played up the every man angle pretty well and came off as genuine. Despite the terrible taste in everyone's mouth following George W. Bush, I thought she had a decent chance of defeating Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

When criticisms started to come out about her from the left, I ignored them. They were the same old cliche remarks I heard about every conservative, that she was dumb and unqualified. I'd heard it a thousand times before. Why bother worrying about it.

Imagine my surprise after the election when reporters kept contacting her to comment on national issues and she kept answering the phone. She ended up proving that her early critics were right.

Granted, a lot of the anti-Palin rhetoric was absurd and came off as just plain mean-spirited, but by the time she resigned as governor it was obvious that Sarah Palin was a terrible choice for leadership and I hadn't bothered looking into her before casting my vote.

I will say there is a lesson here for political critics. When you claim every single political opponent of yours is dumb and evil, your words will lose value and when you need them the most no one will believe you.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Who wants to eat a hateful cake?

One of the advantages of being right is you don't have to adjust your opinion as often.

For the past year we've heard from progressives that it should indeed be unlawful for a bakery to discriminate against customers who want to buy a cake for a gay wedding. Libertarians like me rejected the baker's decision and opinion on gays, but ultimately felt it was their right as a business owner and artist to turn away customers for whatever reason they want.

Well, now another bakery in the same state, Colorado, has rejected an anti-gay Christian named Bill Jack who wanted to eat a cake of hate, adorned with anti-gay messages. He reacted the same way the

As a result, Jack filed a complaint with the Civil Rights division of the Department of Regulatory Agencies. The bakery is now under investigation for religious discrimination, and if the agency feels discriminatory acts were committed, the case could move forward to the Colorado Civil Rights Commission.

Yin and Yang here. Two cakes one pro-gay and one anti-gay, and two bakers who said no. I see no fundamental difference and I want both bakers to have the same options, and not just the baker I agree with.

The ACLU attorney on the case says that Bill Jack wasn't turned away because he was Christian, but that he wanted them to write an offensive message on the cake, while the gay couple was turned down because the cake would be for a gay wedding. Honestly, there's a good chance that will stand up in court, but it doesn't address the heart of the matter, that no one should be forced to make a business deal with someone they don't want to.

A right wing NPR guest on the first cake issue told about trying to hire a photographer for his conservative group's portrait images only to be turned down by a progressive photographer. He said that was her decision to make, and it would be wrong to get the law involved. I totally agree, and the only legal difference is that political groups are not protected from discrimination the way racial, gender or sexual orientation groups are.

But so what? That's a pretty lousy argument, that discrimination is only bad when the government declares it to be through legislation. I'd rather see people free to accept or reject business with whomever they choose, which is a right enjoyed by customers as well.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

More moral hazards in action

A moral hazard is when isolating people from a risk encourages more risky behavior. The San Francisco Chronicle is reporting an uptick in speeds and minor accidents on the Golden Gate Bridge following the installation of a safety barrier in the median.

The California Highway Patrol announced Thursday that it is stepping up enforcement of speed limits on the Waldo Grade in Marin as well as at the bridge and toll plaza. The reason is that in the days since the more secure movable median barrier was installed, the average speed of drivers on the approach from the north has jumped even though the speed limit was lowered from 55 to 45 miles per hour.

To clarify, that doesn't mean that risks always magically balance out, but changes in human behavior need to be considered when considering new safety precautions.

Hat tip to Alex Tabarrok.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Paul Krugman, fallen intellectual

I refer to myself as a Paul Krugman hipster, I like his old stuff better from before he sold out.

And Krugman did indeed sell out. He's gone from a brilliant economist with a talent for writing into a smug, partisan hack. I'm not the first to say this, but I'm happy to say the most recent Krugman critic is progressive economist Jeffrey Sachs, who recently wrote about Krugman's failure to admit his recent predictions on the economy have been wrong, such as the fall in the unemployment rate.

Not one of his New York Times commentaries in the first half of 2013, when “austerian” deficit cutting was taking effect, forecast a major reduction in unemployment or that economic growth would recover to brisk rates. On the contrary, “the disastrous turn toward austerity has destroyed millions of jobs and ruined many lives,” he argued, with the US Congress exposing Americans to “the imminent threat of severe economic damage from short-term spending cuts.” As a result, “Full recovery still looks a very long way off,” he warned. “And I’m beginning to worry that it may never happen.”

Despite that, Sachs characterizes Krugman's year-end column as a "victory lap" about his own predictions.

Come back to us Paul; you've lost your way.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Preaching to the choir

What was the president hoping to achieve with this line in the state of the union?

And to everyone in this Congress who still refuses to raise the minimum wage, I say this: If you truly believe you could work full-time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, go try it. If not, vote to give millions of the hardest-working people in America a raise.

What's the target demographic for this line?

I don't need to go all Don Boudreaux on this line, which I see as grossly flawed economic logic, but I don't know what it's purpose was?  It clearly wasn't to convince anyone, as his opponents reject the idea that people try to support families on minimum wage or that raising it would help poor families. In fact, we see it as putting many of them out of work.

So then who was it for? Was it to mobilize his supporters with some kind of populist image of an evil white-haired Republican overload trying to scrape by on little money? Would he have lost points for not mentioning the minimum wage, as it only came up one other time in the whole speech and that second time was a mere passing reference.


Monday, January 19, 2015

Richard Feynman on

Physicist Richard Feynman had a great criticism of social science, saying that they reach conclusions with an insufficiently small amount of work and a large amount of speculation.

There is all kind of myths and pseudoscience all over the place. Now I might be quite wrong, maybe they do know all these things but I don’t think I’m wrong. You see I have the advantage of having found out how hard it is to know something, how careful you have to be about checking the experiments, how easy it is to make mistakes and fool yourself. I know what it means to know something and therefore I can’t…I see how they get their information and I can’t believe that they know it. They haven’t done the work necessary, haven’t done the checks necessary, haven’t done the care necessary. I have a great suspicion that they don’t know.

The obvious thing my mind runs to is economics. I think of economics as a science, but with many issues still undecided. We have a great understanding of Pigovian taxes, but far less certainty on how to stop a depression. The lesson here isn't to abandon the social sciences, but to take their conclusions with a dose of skepticism.

This isn't anything new, of course. That was the subject of Friedrich Hayek's 1974 Nobel Lecture, titled The Pretense of Knowledge.


Saturday, January 17, 2015

Scott Alexander rescued the "nice guy" concept

About five years ago I encountered the idea of the evil "Nice Guy™". I'm not sure which essay started the whole thing, it could have been this one but I'm not sure. The basic concept was a male author was criticizing women for falling for jerks and rejecting good but shy partners. 

I read it and didn't see anything wrong with the argument, then it was pointed out to me that the author expects women to make the first move towards timid men.

Critics portrayed the essay as saying that self-described nice guys were actually vile men who expected sex for women as an exchange for treating them in a normal fashion. Legitimate nice guys are spelled out in lowercase, while the evil ones are called Nice Guys™.

But when I read it I saw someone who doesn't understand female attraction. I believe women are attracted to confidence and a take-charge attitude. They don't want to make the first move; they want to feel desired and swept up the romantic display. What the author needed was a better approach, not sensitivity training.

Still, it gave the term "nice guy" a dark aura for me, the way men who promise they will be a "perfect gentlemen" always seem to be grabby creeps and I now refuse to use the term.

Well, Scott Alexander has saved the term singlehandidly with a long but brilliant and well-paced blog post. He describes a man named Henry who is a serial abuser of women who has been married five times and used violence against all of them.

When I was younger – and I mean from teeanger hood all the way until about three years ago – I was a nice guy. In fact, I’m still a nice guy at heart, I just happen to mysteriously have picked up girlfriends. And I said the same thing as every other nice guy, which is “I am a nice guy, how come girls don’t like me?” 
There seems to be some confusion about this, so let me explain what it means, to everyone, for all time. 
It does not mean “I am nice in some important cosmic sense, therefore I am entitled to sex with whomever I want.” 
It means: “I am a nicer guy than Henry.” 
Or to spell it out very carefully, Henry clearly has no trouble with women. He has been married five times and had multiple extra-marital affairs and pre-marital partners, many of whom were well aware of his past domestic violence convictions and knew exactly what they were getting into. Meanwhile, here I was, twenty-five years old, never been on a date in my life, every time I ask someone out I get laughed at, I’m constantly teased and mocked for being a virgin and a nerd whom no one could ever love, starting to develop a serious neurosis about it. 
And here I was, tried my best never to be mean to anyone, gave to charity, pursuing a productive career, worked hard to help all of my friends. I didn’t think I deserved to have the prettiest girl in school prostrate herself at my feet. But I did think I deserved to not be doing worse than Henry...

I don’t think I ever claimed to be, or felt, entitled to anything. Just wanted to know why it was that people like Henry could get five wives and I couldn’t get a single date..

Henry has four domestic violence charges against him by his four ex-wives and is cheating on his current wife with one of those ex-wives. And as soon as he gets out of the psychiatric hospital where he was committed for violent behavior against women and maybe serves the jail sentence he has pending for said behavior, he is going to find another girlfriend approximately instantaneously.

Exactly. That's exactly how I felt growing up, before I lost weight and started exercising confidence.

Alexander's point in the post is that whenever shy nerds like himself complain about their lack of romantic luck they are bombarded with claims of being the evil Nice Guys™ and not actual nice guys. These criticisms come from the social justice pit of the Internet, which is known for its vulgar hyperbolic scorched-earth rhetoric.

In a recent follow-up post, Alexander expands on that subject of online feminists bullying shy male nerds.

When feminists say that the market failure for young women is caused by slut-shaming, I stop slut-shaming, and so do most other decent people. 
When men say that the market failure for young men is caused by nerd-shaming, feminists write dozens of very popular articles called things like “On Nerd Entitlement”.
The reason that my better nature thinks that it’s irrelevant whether or not Penny’s experience growing up was better or worse than Aaronson’s: when someone tells you that something you are doing is making their life miserable, you don’t lecture them about how your life is worse, even if it’s true. You STOP DOING IT.

Alexander very carefully documented his examples of prominent feminist blogs kicking shy male nerds when they try to lift their faces out of the dirt, labeling them as scum and accusing them of every vile thing possible. This is not an example of idiot hunting. There really is a reactionary social justice mentality that crushes innocent, gentle male nerds whenever they try to voice a complaint. Some of them really are nice guys.

Hat tip to Bryan Caplan for the link.


Thursday, January 15, 2015

Rational behavior and perfect information

Zach Weinersmith, author of Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal, continues to pump out the best web comic for academic economic jokes. Not just jokes about economics, but occasionally jokes defending economics as a discipline.

This recent strip lampoons educated folks who insist economics is flawed because it assumes human beings are rational. Here's the link.

My usual response to this line is that human beings are indeed rational, but only up to a point. No one insists that human beings are perfectly rational, but at the same time they are not completely irrational.

For example, say you had a store that sold two similar types of food at similar prices and customers bought them at about the same rate, say $1 hamburgers and $1 hot dogs. If suddenly you raised the price on one of the items to be 100 times that of the other, you would expect a shift in sales. Sales of the inflated item would fall, perhaps to zero.

If you want to hold the view that humans are not rational, then you would have to believe that purchases habits would not be affected in any way by that large price increase. There is a rich discussion about whether economics deserves to be called a science or not, but when someone denies economics has any credibility at all they are assuming that half of those customers would eat $100 hamburgers instead of $1 hot dogs.

On a similar note, opponents of markets and mainstream economics claim that markets only function where there is perfect information. That's obviously false, as the important concept of price signals only makes sense in markets with imperfect information, but what is the alternative to markets? Government action, and all governments operate with imperfect information.

Yet, many anti-market advocates assume that the government will have perfect information.

Weinersmith's comic is not focused on economics, but it does visit the subject often. See here, here, here, here, here and here for a taste. The first time I read this one I thought the joke was at the expense of economists, but Mike Munger got me to consider that philosophers were the ones being ridiculed, and this earlier parallel comic on engineers proved it.


Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The shadow work behind your supper

Mother Jones printed an article I agree with that wasn't written by Kevin Drum.

This doesn't happen very often, so let's go into more detail. It's a few years old, but it's new to me. In the piece, Tom Philpott challenges the idea that cooking at home is cheaper than eating fast food.

First, a little background information. Poor Americans are more likely to be overweight, and one explanation is that they lack access to healthy foods and buy fast food because it is easier to get and costs less money. I don't buy that explanation, but I've never found the counter-argument compelling either; that it's cheaper to cook at home than to eat fast food.

The New York Times printed a column and infographic by Mark Bittman showing a hypothetical McDonald's meal and contrasting it to a meat and potatoes meal at home. According to Bittman, the home-cooked meal is both cheaper and healthier.

But Philpott noticed a key difference: One is a prepared meal, ready to eat, while the other is just the raw ingredients.

But what about the time it takes to plan the dinner, shop for the ingredients, transform them into a meal, and then clean up the resulting mess? 
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) tells us that the median hourly income in the United States is $16.27. Let's say it takes two hours to put the Times' meal together and clean up afterward—for the median US worker, that's about $32 worth of labor. VoilĂ ! Our chicken dinner now costs around $46. Suddenly, that $28 Mickey D's excursion looks like quite the bargain. 

Here's what I saw as Philpott's first flaw in the article: His $16.27 an hour figure is for a median hourly worker, but that's not a valid figure for a poor person. Their time will be worth significantly less. Let's forgive his poor choice of numbers and instead look at this as an opportunity cost issue.

Cooking for one's family is an example of shadow work, or unpaid labor that could otherwise be performed by a middleman. Without trying to put a specific dollar amount on it, people's time does indeed have value. They may be extremely busy and lack the time to cook a full meal, or see it as wasteful. There may be other things they want to do with their time.

Despite what Philpott says, the family who gets take -out is not leveraging "the fast-food industry's cheap labor pool for a fuss-free meal." No, they are leveraging the economies of scale that comes from purchased food, as opposed to cooking it at home in a small-scale operation that frequently ends with extra perishable ingredients and may have to throw them out.

While I don't agree with the details Philpott used, his overall idea is correct that preparing cooked foods and raw ingredients will always be an apples and oranges comparison.


Sunday, January 11, 2015

Can a major university get free speech right?

Colleges and universities are absolutely horrible over free speech matters. This includes speech codes, protest restrictions, hurt-feelings protections and lately, submitting to close-minded students who want to ban visiting lecturers, entertainment acts and graduation speakers with messages they don't like.

It's sad, really. Free speech really is being pushed out of university's, even though university's will pat themselves on the back over and over and dub themselves champions of free speech.

Well, kudos to the University of Chicago for taking a stand against this trend. Here are some excerpts from a new statement the university has released.

President Hanna Holborn Gray observed that “education should not be intended to make people comfortable, it is meant to make them think. Universities should be expected to provide the conditions within which hard thought, and therefore strong disagreement, independent judgment, and the questioning of stubborn assumptions, can flourish in an environment of the greatest freedom.”

...Of course, the ideas of different members of the University community will often and quite naturally conflict. But it is not the proper role of the University to attempt to shield individuals from ideas and opinions they find unwelcome, disagreeable, or even deeply offensive. Although the University greatly values civility, and although all members of the University community share in the responsibility for maintaining a climate of mutual respect, concerns about civility and mutual respect can never be used as a justification for closing off discussion of ideas, however offensive or disagreeable those ideas may be to some members of our community.  
...As a corollary to the University’s commitment to protect and promote free expression, members of the University community must also act in conformity with the principle of free expression. Although members of the University community are free to criticize and contest the views expressed on campus, and to criticize and contest speakers who are invited to express their views on campus, they may not obstruct or otherwise interfere with the freedom of others to express views they reject or even loathe. To this end, the University has a solemn responsibility not only to promote a lively and fearless freedom of debate and deliberation, but also to protect that freedom when others attempt to restrict it.

By the way, here's what a violation of that last paragraph looks like. When you're pulling a fire alarm to keep a speaker from being heard, or physically barring the doors of an assembly hall, you are an enemy of free speech. It is the duty of the university to thwart those activities and protect the rights of people who want to hear ideas.

Let's hope the University of Chicago lives up to the great platitudes expressed here.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

You are right, but for even better reasons than you think

John Herrman's list of 2015 predictions is worth your time checking out. Here are some highlights.

It will be declared problematic to call things or people “stupid.” This one’s been coming for a while, and it’s finally time. Unlike empathetic identity-based problematicals, this one will serve only the powerful. Its enforcers will disingenuously adopt the language of social justice.

I almost agree. I don't think there's anything disingenuous about people who adopt the language of social justice for silly causes. I think they are entirely sincere but are simply off the rails.

There will be a backlash not against podcasts but against the podcasting voice, which is really an extension of Ira Glass voice [30 seconds of post-rock] which is a mutation of NPR voice.

As someone in the process of starting a podcast, I say good. I want to hear people speak their minds, not hushed tones carefully pronounced in a yuppie log cabin.

My absolute favorite out of the bunch is this pessimistic view of intellectual discourse articles.

No human, for the entirety of 2015, will be convinced of anything but his own rightness by any “explainer” site. They will become extremely popular, fully stocked with “Perfect Response” and “Reasons Why” posts that are first and foremost affirming to the reader, and secondarily intended to demonstrate the rightness and virtue of the sharer. One high-growth post-type in 2015: “You’re Right, But For Even Better Reasons Than You Think.”

We've already seen a growth in How To Win Thanksgiving Arguments posts, written for the family members that everyone dreads seeing during the holidays. Not for a response to the dreaded family member, mind you, but for them to read and recite.

Hat tip to Tyler Cowen for the link.


Thursday, January 8, 2015

USA Today was right to print editorial defending Islamic violence

People are going off the rails that USA Today printed an editorial claiming the massacre of a French satirical newspaper was justified by the Quran, and the fault lies on the French government for not censoring the paper's blasphemous images of the prophet Mohammed.

People, you just don't get it.

Washington Post blogger Radley Balko voiced a typical response to the editorial criticizing USA Today for running it. That's what drew it to my attention and while I read the editorial, I thought it was written by the Washington Post editorial staff and they were complete fools. Look at this excerpt:

The truth is that Western governments are content to sacrifice liberties and freedoms when being complicit to torture and rendition — or when restricting the freedom of movement of Muslims, under the guise of protecting national security. 
So why in this case did the French government allow the magazine Charlie Hebdo to continue to provoke Muslims, thereby placing the sanctity of its citizens at risk?

Then I got to the bottom and saw it was a guest editorial written by Anjem Choudary, the radical British Imam I've heard about for years from Pat Condell.

Well, that's completely difference.

USA Today did the world a favor by letting us see exactly what we're up against, and how crazy and perverse radical Islam is. Anjem Choudary doesn't speak for all Muslims, even the violent radicals, but he does speak for some Muslims. Look at this gem he wrote, presumably in blood:

Contrary to popular misconception, Islam does not mean peace but rather means submission to the commands of Allah alone. Therefore, Muslims do not believe in the concept of freedom of expression, as their speech and actions are determined by divine revelation and not based on people's desires.

Isn't that worth knowing? Shouldn't you be aware that some Muslims truly believes Islam needs to conquer the world, not as a response to the west's foreign policy decisions, but because of divine right? It doesn't tell us how widespread the view is, but now we know it's not zero. Don't you want to know that? Thanks to USA Today, you now do.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Two narratives on academic discrimination

I credit an interview with government studies professor Harvey Mansfield for showing me two inconsistent narratives on diversity in higher education faculty.

If there is a lack of minority faculty members, including women and racial minority members, it is the result of discrimination, prejudice and other efforts to keep them out.

However, when asked to explain why there are so few conservative faculty members, those same people will say they lack the competence to become faculty members, or there is a lack of interest for academic jobs among conservatives and they self-select into other fields.

That is to say, in the first scenario the problem is prejudice, while in the second scenario the university functions as a meritocracy and the problem is with the conservatives themselves.

I will add that people like me tend to see it in reverse, where the university is a place of discrimination for conservatives, but when it comes to minority hires it is a perfect meritocracy.

In a recent blog post, Bryan Caplan gives the political diversity question a one-two-three combo beatdown, with a jab showing just how deep the imbalance is in faculty political positions, a right and a left hook showing the value of a politically diverse faculty and for the haymaker? He showed a 2012 study of social psychologist academics where 82 percent of surveyed liberals admitted they would be prejudice against a conservative candidates.

The usual defense of this is that conservatives are just plain wrong, well, paper authors Yoel Inbar and Joris Lammers addressed that argument in the paper:

Is it a problem that conservative political opinion is not tolerated? If one believes that conservatives are simply wrong, perhaps not. After all, geologists are not obliged to accept colleagues who believe the earth is flat. But political or moral beliefs often do not have a truth value. A belief that the earth is flat is factually false; a belief that abortion should be prohibited is not. Neither is a belief that cultural traditions should be respected or that economic inequality is acceptable. It may also be that many aspects of conservative thinking can serve as inspiration for interesting research questions that would otherwise be missed. Finally, as offensive as it may seem to many (liberal) social psychologists, believing that abortion is murder does not mean that one cannot do excellent research.

I can't speak for how much of demographic diversity is discrimination, but it looks compelling that political diversity is a result of discrimination.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Can't the Koch brothers catch a break?

The Koch brothers could cure cancer and there would be progressive speculating that they must just want to start selling cigarettes.

Once again, Charles Koch has made headlines by doing something that progressives love, and hard-core lefties have been left mouth-agape, completely blindsided by the latest round of positive civic action from the billionaires. This time around Charles Koch is trying to rework the criminal justice system to help the impoverished get fair treatment.

You know, one of the issues progressives absolutely love.

We see the same thing whenever their libertarian streaks come out such as support for gay marriage, or drug legalization. What about the $20 million they gave to the ACLU to fight the PATRIOT Act?Befuddled lefties trip over themselves when told about these activities because they are seeing that their caricature was wrong.

And please don't mistake these activities for recent developments

Koch has also earned praise from outgoing U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who told The Marshall Project that Koch's donation to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, which funds training for attorneys who represent those in need, was a positive force. According to reports, Koch has been a supporter of the organization since 2004. 

That's 11 years of donations to the NACDP, back when angry liberals weren't focusing all of their hatred on the Koch brothers and Monsanto, but on George W. Bush and his administration.

While I oppose their funding of groups that deny climate science, I find just about everything else they do to be positive. Let's hope they succeed with their efforts to change the criminal justice system.


Friday, January 2, 2015

Doomed alternative energy idea

Engineers in France have come up with an artificial tree design that uses plastic wind chimes to generate a trivial amount of power.

Naturally, alternative energy-hungry members of the public think it's a great idea and there is no price tag high enough or energy output figure low enough to convince them it's a bad idea.

But I still think this idea will never make it big. Alternative energy structures disguised as trees have been around for years, but they fail to satisfy the most basic requirement of alternative energy technology.


How are people supposed to signal their financial sacrifices and social positioning if their alt-energy structures are camouflaged? They might as well be putting their solar panels at the part of the roof that gets the most sun, as opposed to the section that is visible to neighbors.