War Wears On

Image result for war on drugs

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.

The Ford Focus

Related image

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.

 

Battlefield Christmas

xmas battle

By Mike Cronin

Note: This piece was first posted in 2015. I’ve edited it a bit since then.

Like many wars, the so-called War on Christmas is senseless. The flames are being fanned by ogres on both sides.

To hear non-Christians tell it, Christians are trying to impose their religion on everybody else with the greeting “Merry Christmas,” nativity scenes, and the like, or they say that the predominance of Christian trappings are offensive to non-Christians, and that any such displays set on government property constitute an official “establishment of religion,” in violation of the First Amendment. The most vocal anti-Christmas militants are just looking for attention more than resolution.  If this argument were settled, they’d be stirring a different pot.

The most strident Christian voices aren’t any better. They’re driven by the same motivation as the anti-Christians.  To hear them tell it, they are being persecuted for their beliefs. They argue that the true meaning of Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus, the son of the one true God, who is acknowledged (at least as a prophet if not the messiah) in Judaism and Islam; thus Christmas should be no more offensive to adherents of those faiths than Hanukkah or Eid al-Fitr is to Christians, and that accommodation to atheists, pagans, and other non-believers is not a factor due to their relative scarcity in our society.  Extremists argue that Christian decorations on government facilities do not violate the First Amendment because the adornments acknowledge the most prevalent belief system of the people, but do not compel anyone to adopt those beliefs.  If they won this battle, they’d be tilting at a different windmill.

Let’s see if we can shed some light into this dark corner.

The termChristmas” certainly does pertain to the birth of Jesus Christ. But humans have been having winter solstice festivals with lights, gift-giving, gathering to make merry, and breaks from labor since before the current calendar existed and even before Jesus was born.  Our ancestors were celebrating the end of the fall harvest and chasing away depression during the darkest time of the year.  The Romans called these seasonal celebrations Saturnalia or Natalis Invicti. Norsemen celebrated jól (Yule), a similar pre-Christian winter solstice festival, and origin of the seasonal term “Yuletide.” There are a host of other winter solstice traditions and festivals around the world.

The fact that winter solstice festivals pre-date Christmas as the celebration of the birth of Jesus is not seriously disputed by Christian scholars.  Christians that insist that Christmas pertains only to the birth of Christ and, by extension, that the true meaning of Christmas commemorates his teachings, are right about the term “Christmas” at the literal level and wrong about the celebration at the historical level. They are evading the larger fact that there is no hard evidence that Jesus was born on December 25th (or any specific date, for that matter). They are also evading the evidence that the Church has a history of absorbing and re-purposing the festivals of other groups, including solstice celebrations, renaming them, and calling them holy days (i.e. “holidays”).

Yet the mystery of the exact date of Jesus’ birthday predates this phenomenon. The bible does not give a date for Jesus’ birth.  According to biblical historian Andrew McGowan, celebrations of Jesus’ birth were not recorded until about 200-300 years after his death. In fact, early Christians avoided attempts to celebrate Jesus’ birth because they associated birth celebrations with paganism.  Even today, exact date placement varies among various Christian sects.  For example, Eastern Orthodox Christians still celebrate Christmas on or near January 7th.  Western Christians refer to this date as the Epiphany and place it on January 6th. There are 12 Days of Christmas between the December 25th and January 6th!

Specifying December 25th as the precise date of Jesus’ birthday was more likely an attempt by the earliest Christians (who were being persecuted) to either rationalize joining in the existing celebrations and/or to use those celebration to provide “cover” for their own. Constantine converting to Christianity in the mid fourth century marks the time when Christianity began to gain supremacy as the religious tradition of the west, and pagan festivals and feasts were subsequently “Christianized” as a matter of policy. In this way, strident Christians are susceptible to the accusation that their religion re-branded solstice festivals as Christmas and bent it to their own ends.

G vs S

The so-called war on Christmas is being waged in ignorance – from both sides. Anti-Christian scrooges would have us believe Christian greetings, decorations and sentiments are offensive and even illegal. Christian grinches would have us believe Christmas only exists to celebrate Jesus’ birth and teachings, and all other interpretations are wrong, offensive to Christian values, and even heretical. Both are right…to a very shallow point.  The power behind each side’s argument is not derived from superficial facts that evade historical context, it is generated by your willingness to listen uncritically and act on their messages.  I choose not to do so; I’ll be too busy celebrating the season with friends and family.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

MORE WEASEL WORDS

By Mike Cronin

It’s been a while since I’ve written about any weasel words. A few new ones have cropped up:

“State Capitalism” is now being offered as a definition of Communism. The enemies of Capitalism, which is the only system of socio-economic-political organization that bans the initiation of force from human affairs and operates on the concept of mutual trade to mutual benefit, are now trying to equate one of their own failed “isms” with Capitalism. The trouble is that Communism thrived on the initiation of force at every level. It was anything but capitalistic in any sense of the term!

Intersectionality “refer(s) to the complex and cumulative way that the effects of different forms of discrimination (such as racism, sexism, and classism) combine, overlap, and yes, intersect—especially in the experiences of marginalized people or groups.”  The term has legitimate roots. In the mid 1970s, black women were being virtually shut-out of jobs at GM. The allegation was that GM was discriminating against blacks by only giving them factory floor jobs, and discriminating against women by only giving them clerical jobs…but black women couldn’t get any jobs, because the “black” jobs on the factory floor only went to black men, and the “female” clerical jobs only went to white women.  The courts ruled that the black females could not combine racism and sexism into one discrimination complaint. A law professor named Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the term “intersectionality” to describe the phenomena.  So why is it now a weasel word? Because the very people it is meant to help (victims of multi-axis discrimination) are being victimized by other victims of multi-axis discrimination! Over the years, the point of intersectionality has morphed from trying to help victims of multi-axis discrimination into stratifying them.

Thus, if you are a poor, handicapped, illegal immigrant, trans-gender, person of color you have earned a lot of “street cred” among social justice warriors for your oppressed status, whereas if you are a white female, you are barely tolerated as a member of the “oppressed” club. And if you are Jewish, you are quite possibly reviled because of Israel’s perceived oppression of the Palestinians, even if you have been a victim of anti-Semitism yourself. Never mind that Islam is largely intolerant of homosexuals and often treats women as property. The Holocaust doesn’t even enter into it.

Antifa, or Anti-fascists, is the name of a radical, even militant, “left wing” group that purports to hate fascism and fascists, such as the KKK and Neo-Nazis. Being against hatred and the initiation of violence seem laudable, but Antifa are anything but. Ironically, Antifa has no philosophical compunction against using the same fascist tactics (riots, speech control, initiation of violence) the original Nazis employed to bring Hitler to power and set the world on fire!

Social Justice and the Straw Man

By Mike Cronin

This is probably no surprise to anyone, but you might not have seen it expressed this way before.  The driving force behind many of the ideological rifts in this country isn’t genuine disagreement; it’s the lust for attention and power. Social justice warriors (SJWs) especially, will twist any fact, issue, or term into a grievance so that they can have a protest or riot in furtherance of their purported aims, when all they really want is attention, validation, and power.

Here’s a case study: President Trump’s so-called “Muslim ban.”  The facts of the ban are summarized here: “There are 206 nation states on Earth. People from 199 of them, Muslim or not, can get US visas. People from 7 of them, Muslim or not, cannot. The twelve nations with the largest number of Muslims are all on the “A-OK” list. There is no “Muslim ban.” (h/t to Michael Z. Williamson) But judging from the vitriol and even violence emanating from SJWs, you would think Mr. Trump had begun rounding up Muslims and putting them into camps. They invariably describe Trump’s action as racist.

I’m not going to defend Mr. Trump.  I get why he is instituting this ban: Because terrorists from the groups most likely to try to execute another 9/11 on our soil would be most likely to come from one of the countries on the list. But his ban holds a large class of people accountable for crimes yet to be committed by a potentially very small subset of that group.  Since that group isn’t race-based, that is not a racist policy, but it is collectivist.

But wait! Here comes SJW logic: since the ban “targets” predominately Muslim countries, it is against Muslims, and is therefore racist. Even if Islam isn’t a race?  Yes, say the SJWs. Because Islam is a culture, the ban is a case of “cultural racism.”  Even if, as described by Mr. Williamson above, the ban doesn’t apply to all, or even most, Muslims?  SJWs just ignore that inconvenient fact.

Ah. If you don’t like someone, or something they are doing, find a way to twist it into the most heinously-motivated act you can think of. Invent new terms to describe it. All so you can be seen to be fighting against it. (Oh, and let’s not forget, if someone you liked did the same thing? Forget it happened.)  In other words, the modus operandi for the SJW: If you can’t find it within in you to go to the Middle East and fight the real oppressors, stay comfortably ensconced in the US, find some objectionable policy, and make it into oppression so you can have a tantrum.  It’s the “straw man” fallacy writ large.

Infotainment?

tesla-model-s-2

By Mike Cronin

Most of my blog posts have been, I hope, informative, perhaps even instructive. However, I have to admit they probably are not very entertaining. Time to lighten up a little.

Medicine and law love to use exclusive language. Lots of Greek and Latin words.  The military, being full of hyper-competitive types, had to go one better, and develop an entire language using jargon and acronyms and the occasional bit of “poetic vulgarity.”  I mean, why use a simple term like “car bomb” when a multi-syllabic mouthful like “VBIED” (vehicle-born improvised explosive device) will do?

All news is fake; some news is useful:

94c041dd3a0d6d0223e0b45e5e65991b

I got called up for jury duty. When my group showed up at the appointed place and time, clerks showed us a propaganda video explaining how jury service was a civic duty because we have all enjoy a right to a trial by jury.  A little cheesy, but valid.  Then the video tried to pump up our patriotism by showing waving flags and national landmarks while the narrator gushed that jury service was crucial to our democracy. Since we don’t have a democracy, and since jury duty can be required or not of citizens under almost any form of government, I had to wonder who put together and/or approved the video, and whether they deserved a trial by jury for inflicting that pious excrement on us!

While commuting, I sometimes see a pink Jeep on my route.  Said Jeep has a custom license plate that says: “PINK JEEP.”  Thank you, Captain Obvious.

Sometimes my office has to assess whether an engagement mission between the USAF and a foreign air force has had the effect of building a partner relationship.  It is extremely difficult.  How does one detect “love-trons,” let alone “count” them?

The 1960s TV show Get Smart, a spoof of James Bond movies and the secret agent genre in general, was prophetic in its portrayal of absurd spy gadgets that were meant to keep conversations secure, but actually hindered the agents using them while making the goings-on clearly understandable to any bystander.  The “Cone of Silence” was one such ludicrous device. When lowered over the heads of agents, they could not hear each other clearly, but anyone not under the cone could hear the agents perfectly well.  The modern security environment on government computers is sadly reminiscent of such shenanigans. It is becoming increasingly difficult for users to actually communicate and collaborate using the communications and collaborations tools meant for the purpose. Hopefully it is not as easy for those who wish us ill to get our information as it was for the opposition on Get Smart!

9f55b0d9f86c986aed24aae0b814d4ab

 

 

Know Your Narratives

quote-if-you-tell-a-lie-big-enough-and-keep-repeating-it-people-will-eventually-come-to-believe-joseph-goebbels-83-20-28

By Mike Cronin

Last week I offered three tips for Filtering the Feed.  I thought I’d end 2016 with one more tip:

Understand “The Narrative(s).” As mentioned in tip one last week, the news is almost always fake to one degree or another.  One of the driving factors in most main-stream media outlets is maintaining a certain narrative. But the mass media are not the only purveyors of “the narrative.”  In dictionary terms, a narrative is simply a story.  In the sense of modern ideological competition, narratives are essentially the story that is supposed to be happening.  This striving to present the world to the rest of us in a certain way is especially favored by liberals / progressives, but conservatives are not immune to doing so either.  The liberals have elevated maintaining “The Narrative” to an art form, as they control most of the machinery for advancing their version of it: Entertainment, Academia, Education, and Mass Media.  Here are some of its major hallmarks:

  1. Your membership in a group defined by your skin color, ethnic heritage, income, or other attribute is more important than your individual identity.
  2. Ergo, whites are oppressors, or at least privileged, especially white heterosexual men. White men can be held to account for virtually any unfavorable outcome experienced by virtually any other group. In extreme instances, simply being white is racist, while any form of bias, discrimination, or exclusionary behavior directed against whites by other groups cannot, by definition, be racist.
  3. Human beings are destroying the planet
  4. Wealth is distributed unfairly and must be redistributed
  5. Guns are evil
  6. Abortion is a sacred right
  7. Marijuana should be legal
  8. Gays should have the right to marry
  9. Everyone has the right to free speech…unless it’s offensive to anyone except white males or Christians – then it should be doubly illegal.
  10. Everyone has a right to education, health care, food, etc.
  11. It wasn’t Hillary’s fault
  12. Everyone is equal, so everyone should have equal outcomes (except white males – see above)
  13. We should have pure democracy
  14. Big Government is the solution to all of our problems

While liberals have practically “weaponized” narrative advancement, conservatives have their own version of a narrative, which generally espouses opposite positions from the liberal orthodoxy, but not 100%:

  1. Your membership in a group defined by your skin color, ethnic heritage, income, or other attribute is perhaps as important as your individual identity.
  2. Some whites were oppressors while other whites defeated them during the Civil War. Later on, there will still some whites that were oppressors, while others stood with Dr. King in the 60s. Whites don’t have a lock on being oppressors, nor do non-whites have a lock on being the oppressed, as the relatives of the 6 million Jews killed during the Holocaust, or of the Cambodians killed by Pol Pot, or of the Russians killed by Stalin, or the Chinese killed by Mao can attest.
  3. Global warming is a hoax. Human beings might be destroying the planet – you’ll need to prove it without cooking the books and without resorting to calling skeptics “deniers” as if they are heretics.
  4. Wealth is distributed unfairly and must be redistributed…just not by nearly as much as our liberal colleague want.
  5. Guns are a God-given right
  6. Abortion is murder
  7. Drug use is evil
  8. The government must protect the sanctity of marriage as being between one man and one woman
  9. Everyone has the right to free speech…unless it’s flag burning, oh, and you need to say the Pledge of Allegiance.
  10. Everyone has the right to seek out education, health care, food, etc.
  11. It WAS Hillary’s fault
  12. Everyone deserves equal treatment under the law
  13. We are supposed to have a republic
  14. Big Government is the cause of most of our problems…but we’ll let it grow…just more slowly than our liberal colleagues.

There is an alternative to the combating narratives. Call it the moderate, or libertarian, or independent view.  It would probably make more sense to more people than either of the others, except that it has far weaker advancement machinery. I happen to ascribe to this view:

  1. Your membership in a group defined by your skin color, ethnic heritage, income, or other attribute is irrelevant compared to your individual identity.
  2. Some individuals do oppressive things against others. In a rights-respecting country, you can’t rationally hold an entire group accountable for the sins of an individual member of that group, especially if those sins were committed before any of the current members of that group were born.
  3. Human beings might be contributing to climate change, which is, and always has been, a natural phenomenon. We’ll be better off adapting to it than disrupting society with draconian, rights-destroying measures to try and stop it.
  4. Wealth is created by productive people, not distributed. No one has a right to the fruit of someone else’s labor. Coerced charity is theft, but voluntary charity is just fine.
  5. Guns are a protected right because self-defense is a right, to include defending oneself from common criminals, or uncommon criminals, such as tyrannical government.
  6. A woman has the right to do what she will with her own body…but killing a human being is murder. When does a fetus become an individual human being? Before that point, abortion is merely a medical procedure; after that point, killing the baby is murder.
  7. The government should have no say about what intoxicants competent, consenting adults put into their own bodies – but such use cannot mitigate acts committed while voluntarily intoxicated.
  8. The government should have no say in the relationships between competent, consenting adults, except as regards fraud and contract enforcement.
  9. Everyone has the right to free speech…especially if it’s offensive, but not if it takes away something someone else had a right to. Conversely, no one has a right to make others provide a platform, venue, or to make anyone else listen.
  10. The only rights that are proper can’t involve taking anything from anyone else…in violation of their rights!
  11. It WAS Hillary’s fault
  12. Everyone deserves equal treatment under the law
  13. We are supposed to have a republic
  14. Government has a singular purpose: the protection of our rights. When it does anything else, it ends up violating our rights and making the problem it was supposed to correct even worse.