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: Still a Weasel Word

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By Mike Cronin

Some time ago, I wrote about the squishy-ness of the term “Social Justice.” It still rankles.

In addition to this blog, I frequently answer questions on a forum called Quora.  Therein, I recently had a debate with a fellow over “social justice” in general, and whether whites should pay reparations to blacks to atone for slavery/Jim Crow/Segregation specifically.

I’ll state right up front: Reparations are a bad idea, and no, I don’t hate blacks.

As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, I believe in individual liberty, limited, rights-protecting government, and Capitalism.  I am also a bit of a skeptic, mildly contrarian, and I tend to prefer rational responses over emotional ones.  I don’t waste energy on hatred, I don’t see any race as superior or inferior to any other race, and I generally deal with people as individuals vice members of some group. It also means I think of justice and injustice in terms of individual action and consequence.

This brings us back to Reparations.  I can’t support the idea because, regardless of how blacks were oppressed or injured by slavery (or later on Jim Crow laws and Segregation), the people who were slaves have been dead for generations – just as the people who held them as slaves have been dead for generations. Treating blacks as a race of sub-humans then was a morally repugnant act committed by more than a few whites, most especially the relatively few whites who actually owned slaves.  But not every white person was an oppressor then, nor were all slave owners white, nor was every black person a slave.

In my mind, government-sponsored racial discrimination based on benign prejudice is just as noxious as discrimination inspired by malicious prejudice.” – Clarence Thomas

Indeed, social justice warriors seeking to impose reparations on whites always seem to ignore or forget that 360,000 Union soldiers, mostly white by far, died in the service of reuniting the country and limiting the spread of slavery to the west.  The Union Army and Navy killed 260,000 Confederates, again mostly whites, who were trying to keep the South, which was wholly dependent on slavery, independent.  Let’s make that point a little more succinct: Whites trying to reunite the country and limit, if not outright eliminate, slavery fought and killed other whites – by the hundreds of thousands, to do it. Between the end of the butchery of the Civil War and Dr. Martin Luther King’s civil eloquence, most blacks (but not all) were still treated poorly by many whites (but not all). Black incomes and living conditions took an overall upward trend.

Then came the War on Poverty.  Welfare. An insidious form of wealth transfer. Take money from those who earned it, and give it to those who didn’t.  It put many blacks (and others) right back into bondage – into the slavery of perpetual dependence.  Reparations is a smoke screen word to do more of the same.

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During the exchange, I attempted several different ways to make the case that the historical injustice done to the blacks who were slaves and the subsequent victims of post-bellum hatred and discrimination can never be corrected – because the victims and victimizers are long gone.  No one alive today can be responsible for transgressions committed generations in the past – because they weren’t even alive, much less involved, in committing the transgressions.  Thinking that one race is responsible for, and must atone for, the plight of another race is every bit as racist a notion as thinking that one race is superior to another.  It is a large step down the path to perpetual grievance and resentment that plagues much of the rest of the world.

I maintain that “social justice” is a weasel word.  Seeking “social justice” in the form of unjust “wealth transfers” and reparations can never correct the uncorrectable sins of the past.  Real justice can prevail when everyone stops attributing the traits, or actions, or intelligence, or habits, or crimes, etc. of individuals to all the members of a race, or tribe, or nation, or ethnic group, or gender, etc. and starts treating individuals as individuals.

Despite my denunciation of social justice and my espousing of individualism, my interlocutor kept pressing me for details of my plan to bring social justice to blacks today.  We were both using English words, but he was speaking weasel-ese.

 

Some Thoughts on Mass Shootings

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By Mike Cronin

In my last post, I tried to moderate the gun debate by debunking the myths that 1.) Shootings and violence are on the rise; 2. The police can and must protect you; and 3). The 2nd Amendment does not protect an individual’s right keep and bear arms.

A sharp-eyed commenter pointed out that I was largely silent on the sub-issue of mass shootings, so I thought I’d have a go at trying to cut through some of the alarmism* emanating from the media and gauge how bad the problem really is. Let’s take a look:

According to Mass Shooting Tracker, there were 363 mass shootings in 2013, 339 in 2014, and 353 in 2015 as of Dec 6.  Mass Shooting Tracker doesn’t articulate their criteria for what exactly a mass shooting is, though they do state that their mission is “providing unbiased, raw statistics, all with verified sourcing to inform society of the number of Mass Shootings that occur in the United States each year, no matter the cause or intent of the toll of victims.”

Nearly one mass shooting per day sounds horrific, right?  But the folks at Pew research recently published an article that shows that gun homicides have been going down since the 90s.

But wait! In June of this year, President Obama recently started “that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency.”

And this Wall Street Journal article screams that the US leads the world in mass shootings.

So what gives?  Gun homicide has been going down, yet mass shootings are an almost daily occurrence?

We certainly have gun violence and mass shooting in this country; there is no denying that.  But is the problem really a crisis spiraling out of control?  Are we really the worst place among developing nations, or have we run across a vast case of weasel-ese?

chluke “What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.”

We are being fed a tangled web of facts and data woven to further an agenda by spinners adept at using truth to lie or mislead or to “shape a narrative.”

My own agenda is to try to help people understand the world through the use of reason and rationality.  I am biased in favor of freedom, individual rights and liberty, free markets, and capitalism.  I took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.  Once I did that wearing a uniform, now I’m trying to do it in part with this blog.  To that end, when I cite references or statistics or other data, you can bet I tried to find sources or data that support my point…but I also will tell you that.

The leading adversaries in the gun control/gun rights debate do the same thing, except that they are much less likely to tell you their bias or agenda like I just did. The people who want more gun control, or even full confiscation, know that they are up against the 2nd Amendment.  They will use, or misuse, every statistical trick, fact, and rhetorical tactic in a way that makes gun violence in America seem as bad as possible.

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Conversely, there are people who would have us believe that the entire mass media is hell-bent on eradicating guns from America, or that Liberals just don’t get the concept that making something illegal won’t make it go away. They will also use, or misuse, sources and data to back up their positions.

Here are  a couple of tricks spin-meisters like to use:

Use absolute numbers vs rates to make a comparison between populations. The Wall Street Journal article does this.  It claims the US leads the world in mass shootings.  They are using absolute data to back that claim.  It is a fact that the US has more mass shootings than any other developed nation…but that is not the whole story. The US has more people and more guns than the rest of the developed countries, so of course we will have more mass shootings and more deaths, in absolute terms.  But do we have the highest death rate from mass shootings?  Nope.  We’re somewhere in the upper- middle. So which country is the worst? Would you believe it is statistically more likely that someone in Norway (?!) will die in a mass shooting than in any other developed country? That makes President Obama’s June assertion incorrect. Mass shootings do happen in some other developed countries with as much or more frequency per capita than in the US.

Omit context:  How many of the mass shootings in the US are justified self-defense (i.e. not a crime)?  We are not told.  How many are being committed by perpetrators with weapons that are already illegal to possess? We are not told. How many perpetrators were in the country illegally? How many were crazies off their meds who should not even be in public unsupervised? We are not told. How many happened at places where it was already illegal to have a gun at all (i.e. so-called “gun-free zones”)? We are not told. How many were attacks by terrorists? We are not told.  It is factual, but misleading, to merely count up incidents and report them without providing any context.

Another way to omit context: Make a crisis out of some aspect of a problem that supports your point, while ignoring or evading that the larger problem is within normal bounds. Mass shootings are but a subset of shootings, which are but a subset of violence, which is but a subset of causes of death.

Is there some other cause of death that is more of a problem than mass shootings? If so, why isn’t it getting as much attention?

In fact, there are several. The top ten causes are various diseases, accidents, and suicide. The homicide rate is roughly only half the suicide rate. Sadly, Heart attacks, cancer, accidents, diabetes, and suicide are not very newsworthy in and of themselves, but a killing spree is high drama.

So is the mass shooting problem as bad as we are led to believe? I’ve given you a peek behind the curtain, but you’ll have to decide that for yourself.

*Here is a mild example of the kind of alarmism I am referring to:  The Mass Shooting Tracker data listed above clearly indicate there are very nearly enough mass shootings (according to their unstated definition of mass shooting) to equal one per day over the last three years.  A PBS article citing this very same source ran with the headline “More than one mass shooting happens per day in the U.S., data shows.” Call me guilty of splitting hairs, but claiming a source indicates “more than one per day” when the data show “nearly one per day” is either sloppy exaggeration, ignorance of the length of a year, or irresponsible sensationalism.

Quantitative Easing or Quantitative Fleecing?

By Mike Cronin

Q: You’ve heard the talking heads talk about quantitative easing, so what the heck is it?

A: Put in the most basic terms, quantitative easing, or QE, is weasel-ese for the Federal Reserve (aka “the Fed”) attempting to stimulate consumption by making up money out of nothing and injecting it into the economy.

Q: What’s wrong with that?

A: Multiple things:

  1. The Constitution gives the government the power to print and coin money. That is one of the functions of the Dept of the Treasury.  The Constitutionality of the government making monetary policy (i.e. manipulating interest rates or “stimulating” the economy) has been debated since the time of Jefferson and Hamilton.  The powers enumerated to the government in the Constitution manifestly do not include allowing it to charter a central bank (which is what the Federal Reserve is), but Congress created one anyway with the passage of the Tenth Amendment in 1913.
  2. The “money” that the Federal Reserve puts into the economy is created out of thin air. The process is convoluted, but the net effect is that the Fed accomplishes QE by changing the balance in the accounts it is “depositing” the money into, i.e. creating electronic “money” out of thin air. The theory is that by giving banks more money (quantitative) to lend at low rates (easing), more businesses will borrow that money and put it to work, which will in turn generate more commerce.  In other words, the economy will have been “stimulated.”  The problem is, after the financial crises in 2007-2009, banks are only lending money to those with top-tier credit ratings.  A great deal of the money that is meant to stimulate commerce has instead stimulated stock trading.  That’s why we can have record stock prices even as the rest of the economy (especially on the employment side) is unspectacular.
  3. Since the value of a thing, including money, is directly related to its relative scarcity, adding hundreds of billions, or even trillions of dollars into electronic circulation reduces, or debases, the value of our already existing money. If the money isn’t worth as much as it used to be, but the value of the things we buy hasn’t changed, the price will have to go up. That’s price inflation.  If your income rises with prices, inflation may not be alarming, but how often do you get a raise just because your money loses value?

Q: If I’m not going to make more money at work, making money in the stock market isn’t so bad, is it?

A: In and of itself, making money on stocks is not bad.  The problem is that there shouldn’t be any QE and there shouldn’t be a central bank!

In reality, instead of stimulating the economy, QE amounts to a second, insidious way to tax you.  The first way is income and capital gains taxes. They are painful, but at least they are overt and articulated in law.  The second is in currency debasement (the deliberate erosion of the buying power of the dollar to increase the amount of dollars moving in the system) by the unelected, unaccountable, and opaque Federal Reserve.  It is not nearly as overt, but it takes value from you just the same.

Weasel Words: Constitutional Rights

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By Mike Cronin

Have you noticed that the weasels telling us we have “rights” to a job, or an education, or healthcare – all things that can only be given to some at the expense of others, are quite often the same people that are trying to eliminate our inalienable rights? (You know – the rights the Founders tried to protect with the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights?  The ones that don’t depend on taking time, money, or goods away from anyone?)

Consider: If you have a right to a job, then an employer is compelled by law to give some of his property, namely the position, to you. If you have a right to an education, the government has to first take money from your friends and neighbors to pay for it.  If you have a right to healthcare, then you have a license to demand time and effort from doctors, nurses, technicians, and pharmacists, and a warrant to seize medicines or medical equipment away from those who made them. If you have a right to not be offended, then you have the power to muzzle the free expression of others.

On the other hand, the rights the founders designed our government to protect do not require us to take away anything from our neighbors; they simply require that we leave each other alone.  They don’t preclude us helping others voluntarily; the don’t preclude private entities from influencing our charitable behavior; but they do not permit the government to use its coercive power to dictate whether or how our neighbors’ “generosity” is to be extracted and distributed.

When the weasels take from the most productive in order to give it to the least productive in the name of benevolence, the result is not universal prosperity, it is universal resentment.  The productive resent having the fruit of their labor confiscated (via income tax withholding, for example), and the recipients resent the productive for being able to “make it.”  Nobody prospers except the politicians, cronies, and bureaucrats doing the taking.

The weasels will use every rhetorical trick to convince us that we have Constitutional rights to this, that, or the other thing.  There is no such thing as a Constitutional right, because the Constitution doesn’t grant us our rights.  The Constitution isn’t the law we are supposed to obey; it’s the law the government is supposed to obey.  It doesn’t give us our rights; its purpose is to protect our rights from the government!

Weasel Words: Altruism, Greed, and Selfishness

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By Mike Cronin

I went to a Catholic high school that subscribed to the motto “A Man for Others.”  A high school whose mission is to produce young gentlemen who put other people ahead of themselves sounds pretty good right? Similarly, the motto of the US Air Force’s Pararescue corps, whose specialty is rescuing downed pilots from behind enemy lines, is “So that Others May Live.”  Pararescue men, or “PJ’s,” often serve in Special Operations alongside Green Berets and Navy SEALs.  They are some of the most highly trained, dedicated, and respected troops in the US military.

Both mottos speak to putting other people before oneself. This is slippery territory. According to http://dictionary.reference.com, altruism is “the principle or practice of unselfish concern for or devotion to the welfare of others.” We are meant to hold altruism as one of our highest virtues, and to consider selfishness a negative trait.  The same site defines “selfish” as “devoted to or caring only for oneself; concerned primarily with one’s own interests, benefits, welfare, etc., regardless of others.”

Enter the weasels.

Without selfishness, there would be little or no human advancement. We advance as a species because selfish people discover, invent, or produce the things that have helped us travel to the moon, communicate around the globe instantaneously, or live active, comfortable lives into our seventies and eighties. In exchange, they desire just compensation. Selfish people demand fair trade and produce wealth and abundance. With their wealth, selfish people often do productive things, such as expand their business and hire employees. With their abundance, selfish people often do generous things, such as donating time or money to charities.

The weasels have corrupted our language to the point that selfishness and greed are used interchangeably, but they do not mean the same thing. Greed is a ravenous desire for the unearned. Wherever you hear the loudest calls for altruism, i.e. for self-sacrifice, you will find weasels and tyrants great and small, from ghetto muggers to Hitlers, who mean to collect your offering. Taken to its logical extreme, altruism demands one sacrifice himself to those who merit only contempt. Truly greedy people demand and take from others yet produce nothing but decay and misery.

I admire PJs and other warriors for their dedication, courage, and skill.  Many have indeed given their lives so that others could live.  Was that altruistic of them?  Consider this: there is a great deal of camaraderie that comes with serving voluntarily in the US military, and a great deal of prestige in serving among the most elite warriors America has.  When a PJ gives his life for others, it is often a trade for equal or greater value: a highly trained and capable warrior exchanging his life so that another warrior, or many other warriors like him can live to fight or be brought back to safety to continue the campaign. The PJ is exchanging one life for many; in essence, he is creating or maintaining a form of wealth.  While the PJ serves, he understands all too well the risks he takes, but he also trades his services and risk-taking for many forms of tangible and intangible compensation. If he dies in the line of duty, he is a producer of the first order, a genuine hero.  Those who send such men to war without extreme justification, while managing to remain safe and comfortable themselves, earn no such merit.

So ask yourself who is truly greedy: The inventor or entrepreneur or CEO who wants to keep what he has earned, or those who call him greedy for daring to feel he deserves the fruits of his own labor while they take it from him using the coercive power of government?

Discrimination: Weasel Word?

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By Mike Cronin

Why is it that advertisements for luxury goods often appeal to those with “discriminating tastes,” yet it is widely regarded as wrong to discriminate against people on the basis of their genetic makeup, physical abilities, or group affiliations? How can it be good to discriminate in one instance, but not the other? I submit it is because the word discrimination has two opposing meanings; one of which is weasel-ease.

Dictionary.com gives four definitions for discrimination.  The first two seem to be almost completely contradictory to each other. The first, i.e. “an act or instance of discriminating, or of making a distinction,” alludes to judgment. It is the meaning that applies in the case of advertisers appealing to the supposed keen discernment of well-heeled consumers.  The second definition, “treatment or consideration of, or making a distinction in favor of or against, a person or thing based on the group, class, or category to which that person or thing belongs rather than on individual merit…” is the kind of discrimination that gets folks into legal and moral trouble.

Here’s the rub: a person who takes such action for or against another solely on account of race, creed, gender, etc., is actually indiscriminately applying their prejudices or stereotypes against their victims. They are in fact failing to discriminate based on individual merit. That’s the exact opposite of the primary definition of discrimination, and it is the essence of collectivism. “Discrimination” has entered the weasel lexicon.