Things that Make you go Hmmm.

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By Mike Cronin

Recycling reduces waste and saves energy! How much energy do we save by making and distributing twice as many plastic bins and running twice as many diesel-guzzling, CO2-spewing, traffic-increasing, infrastructure-damaging collection trucks?

Zero emission vehicles have no tailpipes. They have smoke stacks and cooling towers. They emit CO2 remotely – from the power plant that generated the electricity to charge them, and from the heavy mining equipment used to extract the rare earths and other metals needed to produce their batteries. There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

Donald Trump needed Congressional permission to attack Soleimani, and he didn’t get it!  How much Congressional permission did any previous president have to get to attack fleeting opportunity, high-value terrorist targets?

If a woman is drunk, she cannot consent to sex, on account of her judgement is impaired. Ergo, a man that has sex with her while she is in such a state is guilty of sexual assault or rape, even if he, too, is drunk.  Why is impaired judgement a compounding factor of victimhood for a woman, but not exculpatory for a man? Why does inebriation constitute inability to consent to sex, but endeavoring to become inebriated carry no onus?

An exercise in double-speak: The Constitution compels Congress to fund a military. It is silent about funding retirements and health care. Yet, somehow, defense spending is considered part of the “discretionary” budget, while Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and a few other programs comprise the “mandatory,” or “non-discretionary” budget.  It’s accurate enough to say the Constitution is silent on how much is to be spent on the military, so the amount is discretionary, but the basic requirement to fund it is not.  The so-called “mandatory” budget items have no such sanction.

How far back do you think we have been involved in the Islamic world of North Africa and the Middle East?  The first Gulf War? The 1986 raid on Libya? The 1979 Iran Hostage crisis?  Supporting the overthrow of the Iranian Prime Minister in the 1950s and supporting the Shah until he was overthrown? What if I told you our involvement goes back almost to the founding? In 1801, President Thomas Jefferson sent the fledgling US Navy to protect US mercantile shipping from the Barbary Pirates in the Mediterranean.  The Barbary Pirates were the “naval forces” of client states of the Ottoman empire (e.g. Tripoli, as in “…to the shores of Tripoli” referenced in the Marine Corps Hymn). From the perspective of more than a few Muslims in the region, Americans are simply modern Crusaders who have been meddling in their affairs for centuries.

It’s not that Simple

 

This photo released by the Iraqi Prime Minister Press Office shows a burning vehicle at the Baghdad International Airport following an airstrike, in Baghdad, Iraq, early Friday, Jan. 3, 2020. The Pentagon said Thursday that the U.S. military has killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, at the direction of President Donald Trump. (Iraqi Prime Minister Press Office via AP)

By Mike Cronin

True to form, American opinion on the Soleimani strike is splitting along ideological lines. The left is aghast, and the right is fist-pumping. It’s not that simple.

Hawks would have us believe that invading Iran would be like rolling over Iraq in Desert Storm. It would not. Iran’s military is no match for ours, but Iran’s terrain mitigates their military disadvantage. Where Iraq was a wide-open desert, Iran is a “Mountain Fortress.” A ground war there would be more difficult than anything our military has faced since Korea.

Doves would have us be shocked and appalled that President Trump ordered the bombing of the Iranian Quds Force commander. We’re supposed to be fearful of Iranian retaliation. We’re supposed to see the situation as Trump taking a page from Bill Clinton by ordering a military strike to shift attention from the impeachment debacle.

We’re not supposed to remember that Bill Clinton’s “wag the dog” attack was an ineffectual swat at murky enemies, while Trump’s attack dealt a major blow to a long-established, recognizeable foe.

The left doesn’t want us to note that the Quds Force has been fighting a war via proxies against the US and Israel practically since the Iranian Revolution got up and running and became the Islamic Republic.

The right doesn’t want us to remember our own proxy activity against Iran, such as the US initially backing Saddam Hussein, who used chemical weapons against Iran in his 1980s war.

The right would rather we not be reminded that the 1979 Hostage Crisis and general enmity of the Islamic Republic government stemmed from the US overthrowing the democratically elected Iranian Prime Minister in the 50s and supporting the Shah, who was no angel.

The left would rather we not remember that the fear at the time was Iran would go Communist and become a Soviet client state – with the ability to choke off oil shipments from the Persian Gulf.

The Islamic Republic government should have noticed we’ve been withdrawing from the Middle East and let the withdrawal continue without attacking us via proxies. Who benefits from having us remain entangled in that web? Trump? Russia? China? Israel? Corporations? All of them?

 

You Don’t Have to Talk Turkey Today!

 

By Mike Cronin

Are you dreading Thanksgiving dinner for fear conversation will turn to politics and/or ideology and lead to acrimony?  Perhaps we can steer the conversation in interesting yet non-acrimonious directions. Here are some prompts:

Whether we are liberal Democrats or conservative Republicans, or centrist moderates, or fringe Libertarians or Greens, maybe we can all at least agree that we live in the best time in human history, and in the best location on the planet. For example:

Absolute poverty has been reduced by more than half world-wide. More than half of the world’s 7 billion-plus people are now in the middle class.

Thanks to technology, the average American today has a more luxurious life than the elites of 100 years ago. Our biggest health problems are caused by abundance, not scarcity!

The part of North America we call the United States has more navigable waterways than the rest of the world combined. Much of these waterways overlay the central US – the largest contiguous piece of arable land on the planet.  Thus, our country has had a wealth-generation engine built in almost from the start: a vast region of agricultural and industrial productivity with an integral low-cost transportation network.

Generally speaking, we live under the rule of law, the highest of which is expressly designed to protect our inherent rights.  We certainly have differences of opinion, and we often object to what our elected representatives and other “thought leaders” do and say – yet we can still have the debate. When the traditional fora for doing so, such as college campuses and media panel shows, stop offering balanced debate space, new structures, such as the “Intellectual Dark Web,” rise to replace them.  We have a system and culture that, paraphrasing Milton Friedman, makes it possible for people who hate each other to do business and live in the same proximity without killing each other. (Yes, it happens sometimes anyways, but it’s not the rule, and it’s not tolerated).

We draw closer and closer to the day a fusion reactor finally puts out more energy than it consumes.  At that point, the single greatest barrier to the problem of providing clean, cheap energy will be conquered.  Until that day, we have enough resources, including now-profitable shale oil, to be energy-independent – in fact, we will very soon be a net exporter of energy.

Illegal immigration is a hot topic, but legal immigration is one of America’s “secret weapons.” While many of the world’s leading economies experience declining birth rates and aging populations as wealth rises and the middle class grows, a continuous stream of immigrants to our shores help to pad our birth rates and refresh our talent pools.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

War Wears On

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Today marks the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.  Wouldn’t it be nice if we could celebrate the end of all war?  I’d love it if my day job ceased to exist because war became a thing of the past.  Of course, that’s not going to happen any time soon. There are too many groups with irreconcilable differences and different valuations of human life. And let’s face it, war is good for business.  Even if we discount the obvious, such as the war against ISIS, or the threat of war against North Korea, China, or Russia, our politicians like a good war to keep the gravy flowing.  If there isn’t one handy, they’ll make a problem into a pseudo-war in order to generate a little fervor: The War on Poverty. The War on Obesity.

When I’m feeling cynical, I find it too easy to believe that our politicians actually create problems in order to give the appearance of solving them. The solutions never seem to end the problem, only “combat” it.  We are supposed to keep reelecting the politicians so they can keep perpetuating working on the problem. For example:

The “War on Drugs.”  It’s arguably worse for the country than the drugs themselves. Let’s compare:

Legalized Drugs

The War on Drugs

Some people become addicted to harmful substances Some people become addicted to harmful substances
Addicts immiserate themselves and those close to them Addicts immiserate themselves and those close to them
  Drug prohibition causes prices to skyrocket, incentivizing organized crime
  Gangs take over urban ghettos, immiserating entire communities
  Turf battles yield higher gun violence & homicide rates. More misery
  Many addicts must turn to crime to obtain funds to afford their drug – yet more property and violent crime, often with guns, sometimes including homicide. More misery
  No taxes are collected on drug sales
  More police are required
  Police must become more militarized in order to do their jobs – and get killed in the line of duty more often, immiserating their friends and families
  Courts get clogged with possession cases
  Prisons get clogged with non-violent offenders. America tops list of incarceration rate among developed countries. Overcrowded prisons – here and abroad, harden convicts instead of rehabilitate them. More misery
  Cartels form in source countries and often outgun the local and national government – and/or they corrupt same. Homicide rates soar, immiserating the country
  Illicit trafficking networks multiply in transit zones – drugs, weapons, people, & money get moved “underground.”   More misery
  Illegal immigration and other border crime issues multiply. More misery
  Politicians take a “tough” stance and promise to increase funds to “win” the war on drugs – with better equipped and/or more police, stronger sentencing laws, more prisons, asset forfeiture laws (which violate the 4th Amendment), gun laws (which violate the 2nd Amendment AND disarm the innocent), border walls, surveillance states, and so on – year after year, election after election.

I don’t have any desire to use drugs for recreation, and I don’t want my kids or other loved one to use them, either.  But making the drugs illegal has done nothing to reduce the chances of that happening. The chance that my kids will be exposed to drugs still exists, but now it’s in the shadows. I have fiends and family in law enforcement – I don’t want them harmed in no-knock raids, or shot by a panicking addict. I work for the Air Force.  I’ve met and worked with fellow Airmen from Latin American air forces.  I’d much rather partner with them to help disaster victims that to learn they’ve been killed by cartels.  Perhaps the best way to end the War on Drugs is to stop fighting it.

Media Manipulation?

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By Mike Cronin

This week has provided us with yet another example of how the mainstream media has given up on political neutrality. How?  We’ll get to that in a minute, but first a very quick recap on what journalism schools and editorial boards generally deem to be “newsworthiness criteria:”

1) Impact

2) Timeliness

3) Proximity

4) Human Interest

5) Conflict

6) The Bizarre

7) Celebrity

With those criteria in mind, let’s look at the fast one the media pulled this week:

Senator Elizabeth Warren’s ploy to embarrass President Trump with regards to her claimed Native American ancestry backfired.  When Senator Warren’s announcement that her DNA test showed her to indeed have Native American ancestry, the mainstream media were falling all over themselves to capture the “see, I told you so” moment.  Then more of the story surfaced.  The DNA test revealed that Senator Warren’s native ancestry was a minuscule percentage. Worse for her, the Cherokee Nation announced that the test didn’t tie her to a North American tribe at all, let alone the Cherokee tribes (which she had claimed previously), and denounced her. The entire episode has revealed Warren’s true character: She is a white woman unsatisfied with the supposed privileges thus bestowed, so she appropriated some grievance entitlement from a more disadvantaged group and tried to leverage it into political clout.

When that information came out, the media cranked up the emphasis on the Jamal Khashoggi story.  Khashoggi was a Saudi journalist/activist who entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, supposedly for business related to marrying his fiancé. He didn’t come out alive.  After “investigating,” the Saudi Government offered the dubious explanation that Khashoggi died in a fist fight inside the consulate.

The assumption in the media is that Khashoggi was killed by agents of the Saudi government for his “dissident” writings. Why is the alleged murder of a foreign journalist half-way around the world more newsworthy than a US Senator’s political blunders and character self-destruction during election season?

While there is no doubt a certain amount of “wagon circling” going on among journalists in response to the probable murder of one of their own, there is another reason: The Khashoggi affair can fill the void caused by the failed Warren gambit: To make Republicans look bad right before the midterm elections.  How?  By attempting to paint the picture that the Trump Administration is taking it easy on the Saudi government over the Khashoggi investigation because looming sanctions against Iran threaten to upset oil markets. The reasoning is that President Trump needs the Saudis to increase oil production to replace whatever Iran will not be allowed to inject into the global market. This will theoretically keep oil prices stable before the election, benefiting Republicans.

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The alleged blasé attitude of the administration towards the Khashoggi case couldn’t possibly stem from the fact that the US has absolutely no jurisdiction in the matter, could it?

The Warren story meets several, if not ALL, of the newsworthiness criteria, but the media de-emphasized it as soon as it lost its potential value to benefit Warren or damage Trump. Then they inflated the Khashoggi story – which normally might rate a short mention under the “conflict” or “timeliness” newsworthiness criteria – and are making it out to be an international crisis that the administration is mishandling.

Random Myth Debunking

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By Mike Cronin

The latest myths and legends that need to be debunked:

Global warming caused Hurricane Michael. Nope. It was a normal hurricane following a normal path during the annual hurricane season. There was nothing special about it as a hurricane per se.  It was so destructive because of where it hit: Places where there are lots of people and many expensive buildings and assets.  Thankfully, most of the people were evacuated and the death toll has been low.

Taking a knee during the national anthem isn’t disrespectful.  If it wasn’t disrespectful, it would have no value as a symbol of protest! There would be no controversy, it wouldn’t make the news, and no one would be talking about it.

America has one of the highest murder rates.  Simply not true. Our murder rate is in the middle of the pack. http://www.nationmaster.com/country-info/stats/Crime/Violent-crime/Murder-rate-per-million-people.

Violent crime is at an all time high. Again not true. In the age of the 24-hour news cycle, ratings wars, and alternative media, reporting of crime is pervasive, because it gets ratings.

The now solidly conservative Supreme Court (SC) will overturn Roe v Wade and multiple gun laws.  It might, but not on a whim. First, a relevant case would have to be appealed through the lesser courts, then appealed to the SC, then the SC would have to agree to hear the case – then it might overturn a law, or it might not. Much depends on the exacting details of the case and what precisely is being argued.

There are more than two genders. Not quite. Homo sapiens reproduces sexually, thus, as with other mammals, we come in two sexes: male and female. No doubt masculinity and femininity are scales. No doubt there are transgender people and intersex people and people with chromosome disorders. They might feel “non-binary,” or they might be hermaphrodites, or they may feel that they want to be the opposite of what their genitalia indicate. I’m not hating on any of them. But nothing suggests there is anything other than male and female characteristics being desired or undesired, hormone levels to manipulate, and male and female organs available for surgical manipulation. Humans haven’t evolved new sex organs, new methods of reproduction, or new genders, we’ve just reached a level of technological development and affluence where it’s possible to play mix-and-match between the two existing ones.

The Ford Focus

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By Mike Cronin

We were supposed to believe that Judge Kavanaugh’s questionable interpretation of the Fourth Amendment was worth barely a ripple to his consideration for Supreme Court Justice, but a weak and uncorroborated sexual assault allegation should completely disqualify him.  We were supposed to ignore the convenient timing of Dr. Ford’s accusations and the lack of evidence supporting them. Democrats succeeded in giving the country a “Ford Focus,” but failed to stop Kavanaugh’s confirmation. Ironically, they might have turned a few Republicans against Kavanaugh had they gone after him on Constitutional interpretation!

We’re supposed to believe due process is a tool of “rape culture.” We’re now supposed to “believe women” when they accuse another of a sexual crime – and convict the accused in the court of public opinion, if not actually in law, simply on the accuser’s say-so. This is somehow OK, even if an innocent man were to be convicted.  This is the essence of “social” justice: Conviction and penalization of innocent individuals solely based on their characteristics, served as cosmic retribution for the crimes committed by others of “their kind.”

Lest you think I’m being unfair to Ford; the right wing would have us believe that Kavanaugh is innocent simply because there is not enough convincing evidence to prove his guilt.  He might be completely innocent, as he stipulates, and legally we must grant him that benefit of the doubt- but that doesn’t mean we have to trust him utterly.  We should be on our guard.  Just because radical leftists created the “white privilege” boogeyman so it could mobilize an army of aggrieved SJW snowflakes doesn’t mean there aren’t cases and circumstances where high-status white males get away with criminal conduct.

There is an old Roman saying: “Do justice, and let the skies fall.”  “Social” justice is unjust, and so is getting away with criminal conduct owing to one’s status.  Impartial investigation and due process are the best tools available to ascertain the facts and act accordingly.

 

Dressing Down the Hypocrites and Haters

By Mike Cronin

One of the latest weapons in the lefticle arsenal is to accuse someone of “cultural appropriation.”  Of course, this weapon is used inconsistently and hypocritically. The latest public exhibition of this nonsense comes to us from Utah, where 18-year-old Keziah Daum (shown above) posted photographs of herself and friends in their prom outfits.  Ms. Daum was wearing a red dress commonly referred to as a “cheongsam,” or “qipao,” or “Chinese dress.”

We were supposed to be outraged that a white girl from Utah would dare to “appropriate” “traditional” Chinese culture.

There were a few problems.  First, Chinese people were not offended.  Why would they be? Someone else appreciated a bit of Chinese culture and adopted it.  Isn’t that the best way to find common ground between peoples?

Second, I took 30 seconds to Google “history of cheongsam.”  Turns out that the design in question became popular in China in the 1920s, but was repressed under Mao, and has made a comeback since his demise.  The fashion incorporates traditional Chinese designs and fabrics, but it also incorporates western elements.

That’s right, folks, the idiots hating on MS. Daum for “appropriating” Chinese culture didn’t realize that the bit they think has been stolen actually has a history of Western influence!

Lastly, where were these complainers when certain other white girls wore Chinese dresses, such as:

Tea Leoni

Kelly Preston

Kirsten Dunst

Anne Hathaway

Jodie Foster

Emma Watson

Madonna

So it’s OK for celebrities, but not a Utah teen?  Hypocrites.

 

Something Orwell Missed

In his seminal work 1984, George Orwell imagined a dystopia where “Big Brother” government monitors every aspect of society.  The technology of the surveillance state is here and becoming ever more pervasive.  But Orwell missed something: the state didn’t get a lock on the technology, and now it’s being used by regular folks to surveil the state right back.

There’s a lesson here somewhere

By Mike Cronin

Teachers in my state are currently pushing for higher salaries and better funding. For they most part, they do deserve higher salaries.  But there are some education and teaching realities that our governments, our public education system, and teachers’ unions would rather we not notice.

We are supposed to believe that public schools are the best place to put our kids, yet homeschooled and private school kids generally do better on the SAT.

We’re supposed to believe that public schools have such a dismal record on test scores because they are so under-resourced, yet public schools have the highest average per-student spending of the three. And federal spending, which went up 375% over 30 years, has done nothing to improve test scores. And private school teachers make less money and have fewer benefits.

We’re supposed to believe that only a qualified, professional teacher is capable of teaching our children, but we’re supposed to ignore that parents can and do teach their own children just fine – else the kids wouldn’t generally be speaking or potty-trained before they get to pre-school or kindergarten. We’re also supposed to ignore that “Research over the years has indicated that education majors, who enter college with the lowest average SAT scores, leave with the highest grades.”

We are supposed to lament that a teacher might pay a few hundred dollars out of her own pocket for materials she desires in her classroom, but we’re seldom informed that a mechanic, welder, plumber, or electrician fresh out of trade school has to spend $7-10,000 or more on tools, or that a new cop might have to spend $2-3000 for her body armor, weapons, footwear, and leather gear. And an independent trucker? A new semi runs $115-125,000 off the lot, but runs to $400,000 for parts, tires, and service over a 15-year expected lifespan. And that doesn’t include fuel, taxes, insurance, or other expenses. Our independent trucker may have to gross $180 K in order to bring home less than a teacher’s salary!

We’re supposed to believe that public school teachers deserve more money – but we aren’t supposed to suggest that yes, the good ones do…but the mediocre ones don’t, and the bad ones need to be fired. We aren’t supposed to suggest that merit-based versus tenure-based compensation and career progression might stimulate performance and hiring, even though it works quite well in almost every other occupation.