Taking Stock and Surviving the Miasma

 

The political atmosphere has become suffocating; sometimes it’s a good idea to come up for air, to try to gain perspective and to reflect on whether we are headed in a productive direction or about to fall off a cliff.

Trying to make sense of the times is nearly impossible. How does one make sense of life in the middle of chaos? The rancor has been intensified by obstinacy, the outrage colored by disbelief. All the stories point in the direction of violence and an ongoing desire for retribution. The irony of these descriptions is that they point to both sides of the political equation. The Left and Right, for different reasons, are contributing to the disruption: I believe that one side is poisoning politics and governance; the other is trying to stop that movement and transcend it.

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What Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Israel Says About Democrats’ Future on Israel

 

Democrats don’t have anything resembling fresh blood in their ranks since President Obama was a newcomer. And so, when Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez came onto the scene with a surprise upset win, she was rightly viewed as the next generation of Democratic leadership. Her last job before being elected to Congress? A bartender. And it’s moments like these that it shows:

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The Harris-Klein Debate and Benefit of the Doubt

 

Jacob Falkovich, of PutANumOnIt fame, published a post-mortem on the Harris-Klein debate over IQ and race in Quillette. Not just the Quillette article, but the blog post inspiring it, The Context is the Conflict, are both worth a read. As Falkovich sees it, the Harris-Klein debate was merely one example of conflicting forms of political reasoning, pitting those who see political opponents as mistaken against those who see political opposition as conflict, and also pitting cognitive decoupling against contextualizing. To summarize the story the way Falkovich sees it, Sam Harris tells Ezra Klein, “Ezra, it’s dishonest of you to be so concerned with the social implications of the data that you discount what the data has to say,” and Klein shoots right back, “Sam, it’s dishonest of you to be so concerned with what the data allegedly says that you discount its social implications,” that is, whose interest is served by treating the data in question as reputable, and whose interests are harmed.

Both Klein and Harris have a point. We on the right are fairly open in our mistrust of “scientism,” after all. We know that, no matter how much data might seem to speak for itself, the scientific validity of data can’t be entirely separated from the nonscientific interests of the ones gathering, analyzing, publishing, and popularizing the data. Who funded a study, we wonder? Would funding have biased it? Was one study widely reported on while studies contradicting it were not; reflecting media bias? We aren’t fools for asking these questions, merely fools if we take them to their paranoid extreme: at some point, data must matter, even though it’s collected and interpreted by biased humans. Nonetheless, we suspect, probably rightly, that even good science can’t be wholly divorced from its social implications once it’s fodder for political dispute.

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Why Is Sweden So Violent All of a Sudden? It’s Just Rotten Luck.

 

On a recent post, I discussed the possible current or impending invasion of Europe, either from Russia via military strike or from Muslim countries via immigration. There were a few commenters that thought that describing high levels of immigration as an invasion was a bit of a stretch. A fair criticism, although I’m not sure I agree with it. Regardless, it reminded me of a conversation I had with a very nice Swedish lady a couple years ago.

At a medical conference in Dallas, I heard a Swedish accent in a nearby conversation. I looked at her (and her nametag), and thought she just must be Swedish. According to her nametag, she worked for Novo Nordisk, a Danish company that produces diabetes medications. I didn’t get the chance to say hello then, but that night at dinner there was a seat open next to her and I sat down. We talked about how much we both liked Sweden, where I’d lived, where she was from, and so on. She was from a nice section of Stockholm, but I mentioned a friend of mine from Gothenburg who said that immigration had created such high rates of violent crime there that he wouldn’t let his wife or daughter go out without a male escort, or three. She seemed offended. “Strange that an American would be so critical of immigration. You are all immigrants here, aren’t you?”

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How to Build a Computer 7: Patterning

 

We left off last time discussing circuits and logic and how to make your transistors do something useful. Fun stuff, but I wanted to swing back through a bit more of the manufacturing details. Let’s say I’m trying to make this circuit:

Don’t be fooled by the clever marketing; this is an OR gate with a NOT gate stuck on its nose. Wake up sheeple!

Yup, that’s a bunch of lines on a piece of paper. I want to manufacture these; to sell them and make money. So I can’t just make one, I need to make a lot. Okay, build the circuit. Let’s say I lay that out on a wafer, this is about what it’d look like.

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I’ve Discovered a Liking for Piers Morgan, Now That He’s in the UK

 

Some years ago, I knew Piers Morgan as an obnoxious British journalist on American television. I rarely watch TV, so I mostly was aware of him when he outraged conservatives by his theatrical posturing over one issue or another, such as Newtown.

However, as a faithful reader of the Daily Mail, I’ve enjoyed a number of his columns since he returned to the UK, defending his old friend President Donald Trump, such as this one. The president gave Mr. Morgan an interview on Air Force One before departing the UK for Germany yesterday that many of you will find interesting. Here’s the interview, and I’ve also included a video from morning talk in the UK arguing over the president’s visit, in which Mr. Morgan argues that the protests against the American president should not be so puerile and outraged, when visitors like Erdogan of Turkey or the crown prince of Saudi Arabia receive little to none.

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Ladies and Gentlemen: It. Is. On.

 

Tomorrow is the opening ceremony for Fuerzas Comando 18. This year, the competition will be held in the wilds of Panama. Special Operators from about 19 countries from the Caribbean, the US, and Central and South America will square off to see who will be the Fuerzas Commando champion.

It’s a week of suck. Don’t come if you don’t want to hurt. You can follow the competition on Facebook via the SOCSOUTH page.

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What Will People Say: Recommended!

 

Today I saw What Will People Say at the Scandinavian Film Festival in Sydney. It’s based on Pakistani-Norwegian director Iram Haq’s own story of being kidnapped by her family and sent back to Pakistan.

In the film, Oslo teenager Nisha sneaks her boyfriend into her room for what looks like some innocent snogging and her father busts them and gets violent. After some back and forth with social services Nisha, is basically lured out of protective custody by a phone call from her mother. Her father then drags her off to Pakistan and dumps her with his sister in Rawalpindi.

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Why It’s So Hard to Understand What a Silent Movie Audience Saw and Felt

 

Last month I re-read Leonard Maltin’s Behind the Camera, interviews with five famous directors of photography, and it got me interested in re-reading Kevin Brownlow’s The Parade’s Gone By, a longtime favorite. Camera was published in 1970 when Maltin was only 21; Parade was published in 1968, based heavily on interviews that Brownlow did during a 1964 trip to America, when he was 26. Both men are to be commended for knowing about and seeking out some of the then-forgotten filmmakers of the silent and early sound eras, many of whom were still around and delighted to have a chance to tell their stories. Now it’s a half-century later.

Brownlow’s was the more influential, though both books were coming to attention at the historical moment when film scholarship was really taking off. Brownlow’s thesis is simply that modern people look down on silent films because they’ve never seen a good one, and never seen one properly shown. In fact, he claims they’re the height of cinema, better than sound films once you properly see and understand them. He builds a good case but oversells it some. Still, there are so many great anecdotes, interviews, and learned explanations. Chapters on the making of Ben Hur and Robin Hood would be classic articles all by themselves.

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What Does It Mean to Be a Woman?

 

This tweet came across my timeline this week, which at first made me laugh, and then gave me pause:

The idea that womanhood can be reduced to wearing dresses and nailpolish, and now, being moody once a month, has been one of the most troubling side-effects of the transgender movement. We are letting men with a mental illness (gender dysphoria) determine what it means to be a modern woman. Is it enough to feel  like a woman? And does feeling like a woman just mean we’re cranky around our periods?

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Trump Is Winning the Trade War

 

Make no mistake about it; Trump is winning the trade war with China. First of all, with the chaos that Trump has wrought in the trans-Pacific relationship, investment capital is exiting China and entering the US. The Chinese stock market is way down, while ours is approaching the pre-correction high. The dollar is appreciating, while the Chinese yuan is dropping like a rock. US growth is brisk, whereas Chinese growth is slowing. All of this means that China is hurting right now far more than the US, and financial markets are betting on the US winning this trade war. Seeking Alpha notes:

Along with a slowing economy, China has also had to deal with a weakening of its yuan currency. After an impressive rise in the yuan in 2017 and the early part of 2018, the yuan has been in decline since April. China’s loss has been America’s gain, however, as the U.S. dollar index (DXY) has strengthened since April. The graph below shows the inverse correlation between the two currencies.

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Slouching Toward a Red Wave

 

I’ve heard it said that bad things “come in threes.” I sense that that is more likely just what’s called an “old wives’ tale” but I digress. It is my belief that “bad” things have come to the Democrats.

I note three telling events from the past week to illustrate this. When you look around, there are tons of such events to pick from. This segment of our population is quite deranged, having lost all semblance of self-control and interest in conducting themselves as civil beings. You don’t know where to begin in the sense of which events to select.

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Is Fox “State-Run News?”

 

I have a lot of liberal friends. I do not discuss politics with them, because I value their friendship, and I know how they would respond. I keep them on my Facebook page because I like to keep up with their families and so on, but also I am fascinated by their political posts. Firstly, my liberal friends tend to post a lot of political material, whereas my conservative friends rarely do. Secondly, I’m constantly amazed by the content of my liberal friends’ posts.

My friend “Bob” grew up middle-class. Both of his parents were teachers. Bob went on to earn a Ph.D. in some type of chemistry and apparently is very good at it, because he started his own consulting firm, and has made millions in pharmaceuticals. He is extremely progressive. My point is, his background is similar to mine, he’s very hardworking, and he’s extremely intelligent. So I find posts such as the following to be fascinating, considering the source:

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Quote of the Day: Happy Bastille Day

 

“[W]hat truly makes the French Revolution the first fascist revolution was its effort to turn politics into a religion. (In this the revolutionaries were inspired by Rousseau, whose concept of the general will divinized the people while rendering the person an afterthought.)”
— Jonah Goldberg, in his book Liberal Fascism

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A Moral Case for Capitalism

 

Free markets are based on “natural” or “negative” rights, while socialism and communism are based on “positive” rights. Negative rights are rights that we have that don’t require any action on anyone else’s part to provide. Rather, others must not act in order for us to enjoy these rights. For example, my right to life only obliges other people not to kill me. My right to religion obliges others not to burn down my place of worship. My right to free speech requires that others not silence me. Property rights obliges us not to take what isn’t ours.

Positive rights, by contrast, place a burden on others. For example, if Mr. Jones claims to have a right to free health care, then someone is obliged to provide that health care to him, and to bear the cost of providing it. Forcing some people to provide goods and services to others used to be called “slavery.”

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Quote of the Day: Getting Our Egos Out of the Way

 

“He has told you, O man, what is good,
And what the Lord requires of you:
Only to do justice, And to love goodness,
And to walk humbly with your God;
Then will your name achieve wisdom.”
Micah, 6:8

Recently this verse was the haftorah paired with the weekly reading of the Torah. I had heard the verse before, but as a fairly new student of Torah, I hadn’t read it in context. I understand that this verse is the only one from Micah included with the haftorahs. I also realized how deeply moved I was by both its beauty and simplicity.

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Conversations with Bill Kristol: Ronald Brownstein on Red and Blue America, 2018, and 2020

 

Ronald Brownstein is a Senior Editor at The Atlantic, Senior Political Analyst at CNN, and a shrewd observer of American politics. In this Conversation, Brownstein analyzes factors that fuel our increasingly polarized politics. He explains why these partisan divisions are likely to increase as we head toward elections in 2018 and 2020. Brownstein and Kristol also consider possible outcomes in the midterms, the direction of the Trump presidency, and reflect on the electoral dilemmas both parties face in an atmosphere of intense partisanship.

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Honorable Pundits on the Left?

 

My morning routine, for years, consists of going through posts on Ricochet, Instapundit, Powerline Blog, etc. I’ve felt that I need to read intelligent commentary from the Left, but haven’t found it yet. I know it’s out there, so I appeal to the Ricochet Hive Mind to enlighten me — who is worthwhile reading on the Left?

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Ben Shapiro Wrote It. Thanks, Ben.

 

I’ve been thinking about writing a post on abortion from a purely Orthodox Jewish point of view for a long time. What many Jews alive today and many others outside our faith believe to be the Jewish position on this issue has always been a fallacy. I did a review of the purely Orthodox positions from the highest Orthodox authorities quite some time ago. I also visited the Temple Mount ten years ago and saw the mikvahs that surrounded the entire Mount. The conclusion that Judaism is not only not pro-choice but in all probability the deep background source for the Catholic teaching on this issue was inescapable. For a modern Jew, this is a very inconvenient fact. The vast majority of modern Jews are very pro-choice. To present the original position would create a firestorm of protest from inside Judaism so I’ve been hesitant to write the piece. Now I need not hesitate. Ben Shapiro in his explosive direct style has simply pushed forward and breached the issue.

Yes, Judaism Is Pro-Life

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My Dear Liberal/Progressive Friends…

 

A tiny bit of Constitutional mansplaining for you, because I think this needs to be made clear. The Constitution exists to protect me from you. It exists to protect you from me, as well. It exists to protect all of us from our very best intentions and their unintended consequences.

The Constitution exists to slow the pace of change, to make it hard to change the fundamental rules of our American coexistence. It isn’t impossible to change those rules, but the Constitution makes it something that requires extensive deliberation and broad consensus.

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Looking at an unfair attack on the Trump tax cuts

 

I realize that a busy day of “winning” or “owning” this or that group doesn’t leave much time for reflection. But sometimes one needs to hit the pause button. Take the social media hullabaloo about this piece from CBS Moneywatch: “Worker wages drop while companies spend billions to boost stocks.”

From the story:

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An Idea: A Conference for Stay-At-Home Mothers

 

A quick dispatch from a homeschool conference; I think I’m in Pennsylvania. Someone else drove.

I’m planning on homeschooling our children (ages 4, 3 and 1 currently), and have been attending Charlotte Mason homeschool conferences for the last year and a half. Even though I don’t yet have children schooling, I find them helpful to keep in mind how my future homeschool will look on a day-to-day basis, but also immersing myself more in Charlotte Mason’s philosophy. This is a helpful guide to the philsophy; on which there are several curriculums available.

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