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.

A Walk-out on Reason?

By Mike Cronin

I received an email from my kid’s high school administration this past Wednesday. The message advised me that many of the students participated in a 17-minute walk-out as part of the nation-wide event to remember and support the 17 faculty and kids who were killed in the Parkland, Fl school shooting.

The message further informed me that the kids who participated enjoyed the full support of the school administration in exercising their First Amendment rights and would not be penalized in anyway. All well and good, as far as it goes.  School is a highly appropriate venue for kids to learn about their rights; and the curriculum should be flexible enough to incorporate current events when they provide salient learning moments.

There is a problem, though.  There have been plenty of such events over the span of my kid’s school career, but the walkout on Wednesday was only the second one I can remember that generated a “learning moment” significant enough to warrant a message to parents from the administration. (The first was the recent solar eclipse, and the message to parents was about viewing safety. Hardly controversial.)

Worse, the moment on Wednesday was billed locally as a lesson on practicing First Amendment rights and/or solidarity for the Parkland victims, families, and friends, but the ultimate aim of the organizers of the nation-wide event was further curtailment of Second Amendment rights.

If you’ll recall, there have been several mass shootings/mass murders during previous administrations, including several at schools, but no group saw fit to so dramatically use the nation’s school children as puppets to protest for more gun control during that span of time.

This time around, the shooting happened during a Republican administration in a county led by a sheriff that was a strong supporter of Hillary Clinton for President, and a strong supporter of the Democrat Party. The sheriff and school district participated in an Obama Administration initiative designed to end the so-called “school to prison” pipeline. The initiative boils down to not arresting or prosecuting non-white school-age kids who violate the law, in order to keep them in school and show how tolerant and non-discriminatory the community is.  The policy failed spectacularly. There was something on the order of 66 missed opportunities to keep the Parkland shooter from his appointment with infamy over the course of his high school career. But even with all of those chances, the future killer couldn’t make it to graduation. He was expelled. Fast-forward to valentine’s Day, 2018. When the shooting was in-progress, as many as four Broward County Sheriff’s Deputies felt no compunction to enter the school and attempt to stop the 19 year-old gunman. When it was all over, the killer was arrested. So even though he was given every chance, he will still end up going to prison (or the looney-bin)- straight from the scene of the 17 murders he committed in the school he was expelled from.

Did that come up in classroom conversations across the country before or after the Wednesday walk-out? No?

The organizers of the walkout would have us believe that the Parkland massacre was caused by the NRA and the AR-15. Their solution is more gun control.  But Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School was already under the most restrictive gun-control regime possible: It was a gun-free zone. It said so right on the label. On the other hand, the community was not a lunatic-free zone, and I’m not just referring to the shooter. 17 people were shot by the killer, and they were sacrificed on the alter of leftism as a consequence of virtue signaling by the lunatic leftist sheriff and the lunatic school board of Broward County, Florida.

So, school administrators: If you want to impress on me that my children are being taught in an environment where rights are respected and exercised, and were education includes free and open inquiry, and they are not just being indoctrinated into leftism and being fattened up for potential future sacrifice, here are few things you might try:

Mock elections during national election cycles

Current event and issue debates

A civics class that has each kid take on the role of a Founder, and over the course of the semester the “Founders” discuss rights and the purpose of government, and write a Declaration of Independence and a Constitution

A stand-alone course on logic, fallacies, reason, and critical thinking

Improved physical security

Allowing willing and able teachers and administrators to be armed, and advertising that fact to deter would-be killers

Strict policies on removing dangerous kids.

 

Kumbaya vs Molon Labe*

*Μολών λαβέ. Greek, from a Spartan dare meaning “Come and Take Them.”

By Mike Cronin

One of the roots of modern liberal thinking seems to be the premise that we are all “our brother’s keeper.”  Under such a proposition, the idea that the individual might be responsible for his own safety and security, rather than “his brothers” (i.e., someone else, such as the police) is anathema, therefore it is worrisome when someone who does believe he is responsible for his own self protection takes those responsibilities seriously and arms himself – and in so doing also gives himself an increased ability to hurt and destroy (even though he has no such intent).

One of the roots of leftist thinking is that the collective (family, tribe, identity group, clan, ethnic group, party, race, state, religion, etc.) is the primary unit of existence, and individuals and individuality are lesser considerations. Here also the armed individual is to be feared. How dare he think himself worthier of protection than his fellow collective members? Take his weapons and cast him out!

Note the overlap in the two positions: The armed individual and his weapons are a threat to be feared, and protection is either someone else’s job, or it’s a collective responsibility applied only to the collective as a unit. In essence, the individual member of the collective is not responsible for himself, the collective is.

The majority of the mainstream media, academia, and international political bodies are either liberal or leftist. Even their most factual, “non-fake” news and research about mass shootings, murder rates, and guns usually begins from one of these collectivist premises, so of course they will generate, locate, and/or manipulate statistics that lend credence to their arguments. It is confirmation bias on an industrialized scale.

Nor are they alone. The rarer elements of the media, academia, and political bodies that lean right are just as likely to engage in confirmation bias. It is nearly impossible to find gun crime data untainted by either bias.

But here’s the thing: The United States of America was not founded on collectivist premises. It was founded on individualism.  The attitude the founders enshrined in the Charters of Freedom (The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights) boils down to this premise: An individual is sovereign over his own life, so long as he does not violate the rights of others. The price of such individual freedom is individual responsibility.  The individualist believes himself to be responsible for everything he does and everything he fails to do. That includes defense of self and of loved ones.

A collective built around the liberal or leftist premises outlined above looks at a mass school shooting and is predisposed to blame the feared object, or the Congress, or the President, or the NRA, or “society,” for the horrors. They are blaming institutions, iconic figures, or inanimate objects, not the individual perpetrator, because a collective can’t conceive of an individual as a unit of volitional action that goes against the collective.

The collective cries, “When will we pass a law banning these scary weapons?” “How many kids have to die?” And so on. This, despite the fact that laws already enacted for the very purpose fail to stop the perpetrators: It is illegal to commit murder; that doesn’t stop homicidal maniacs.  It is illegal to take a firearm on to (most) school grounds (i.e., there is already a total gun ban on most school campuses); that doesn’t stop armed crazies from doing so. Certain firearms are, or have been, illegal to possess; that hasn’t made such guns magically evaporate.

Rational laws don’t stop mass murderers, especially when the murderer means to die in the commission of his crimes. But they do provide the basis for prosecutions and punishment, should the murder(s) be arrested, tried, and convicted.  On the other hand, enacting more laws, each to prohibit lesser acts than those already illegal, in order to somehow make them more illegal, or to somehow deter the demonstrably un-deterrable, is absurdity.  Adding laws on top of laws is not a rational strategy designed to actually prevent mass murders or enable more effective judicial proceedings. It is the panic response of a collective which can only serve to temporarily comfort the collective.

Even scarier? The worse mass-murders in US history weren’t committed by lunatics with guns, they were committed by by terrorists using airplanes (9/11) or trucks full of fertilizer and diesel fuel (Oklahoma City) as bombs, or even worse, by the very body the collective turns to for comfort and assurance: The government itself (Sand Creek, Wounded Knee, Waco).

The individualist sees the problem through a vastly different frame:  People who are dangerously incompetent to exercise the responsibilities attendant in being free – must not be free. Such people should not have unsupervised access to the public. That would mitigate part of the problem.  Of course, not all mass school shooters were known to be dangerously incompetent beforehand, but they all demonstrated a singular preference to target locations where it is highly unlikely they will meet any armed resistance: the “gun-free” zone.  Ergo, the response of the person who has built their life around the individualist premise is that there shouldn’t be any such “gun-free zones,” and if some lunatic or terrorist disregards the risk to themselves and starts shooting up the place? SHOOT BACK!

 

Rigghhhht.

By Mike Cronin

Lefticles have created a culture that treats minority identity as a badge of courage, masculinity and reason as toxic, and boyhood exuberance as a disorder. They disdain the enforcement of immigration laws, election laws, classified information laws, privacy & spying laws, drug laws, tax laws, free speech protections, or existing gun laws. Lefticles hate and/or disrespect the Constitution, the police, the military, and the flag, and think our current president is an idiot or another Hitler in cahoots with the Russians (or both). But now they are demanding the people they hate trample on the charter they hate in order to further restrict the right they hate most of all. Rigghhhht.

IT MAY BE VULGAR, BUT IS IT INACCURATE?

By Mike Cronin

The commentariat are in an uproar over President Trump’s alleged use of the term “shit-hole” to describe Haiti and parts of Africa.  They say it’s a racist slur.

If the president did indeed use that word in a public setting, it’s noteworthy for its vulgarity, but is it really a racial slur? Is it even wrong?

Let’s consider Haiti. It is the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere.  Right next door to Haiti – on the very same island – the Dominican Republic has the largest economy in Central America and the Caribbean, and it enjoys a much better standard of living. Why?

When the January, 2010  7.2 magnitude earthquake hit Port-au-Prince, nearly a quarter of a million people died because something like 60-70% of all the buildings were severely damaged or collapsed outright, including the presidential palace.  Compare that to the exponentially more powerful earthquake that hit Chile that same month, where less than a thousand people died.  What accounts for the different results?  Form of government, property rights, building codes, and insurance. Chilean citizens have a semi-capitalistic country, a decent economy, property rights, and insurance, so they built their buildings to be earthquake resilient – and survived the more powerful quake in much better shape.

What is now Haiti, on the island of Hispaniola, was the first place Christopher Columbus landed during his first voyage in 1492.  Within the first decade, the Spanish began bringing in African slaves, and within 25 years, much of the natives were either enslaved by the Spaniards or killed by diseases brought by them…and the Spaniards were themselves being killed by tropical fevers. Before long, the Spanish were more concerned with conquering the mainlands of North and South America, and began to lose interest in Hispaniola. Haiti became a haven for pirates in the interim, but by the late 1700s, France was a power, and Spain ceded the western third of Hispaniola to the French. (To this day, Spanish is spoken in the Dominican Republic, while French-influenced Haitian Creole is spoken in Haiti.)  Napoleon sent French troops to enforce French rule, but many of them succumbed to tropical fevers, and in 1804, after a successful revolt against the weakened French forces, the slaves declared themselves free and named their nation Haiti.  It was one of the few bright spots in the history of this place.

While Haiti began as the first nation founded by slaves who had “freed” themselves via revolt…they never truly freed themselves. The leader of the revolt, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, declared himself Emperor Jacques I in 1804. The first “free” Haitians simply traded their physical chains and European masters for a succession of Haitian masters and the chains of varying degrees of dictatorship. Except for a brief period around the last two decades of the 19th Century, Haiti has never been a prosperous country, partly because Haitians themselves have never maintained the kind of rights-respecting government that allows prosperity, and partly due to massive foreign debt.

Indeed, at the behest of US banks to whom Haiti was deeply in debt, the US military occupied Haiti from 1915 to 1934. The US occupation had mixed results.  There were some republican reforms to the government and much improved infrastructure, which was often accomplished by impressing locals into labor gangs in lieu of charging taxes, which of course generated resentment and resistance from the local population. Between the end of the US occupation in 1934 and now, the history of Haiti amounts to a succession of “presidents” with dictatorial powers enriching themselves and their cronies on the backs of the Haitian people and at the expense of Haiti’s natural resources, peppered with coups and revolts and foreign interventions.

The history of Haiti is one of slavery, disease, dictatorships, piracy, environmental destruction, foreign intervention, abject poverty, neglect, exploitation, corruption, and natural disaster. Shit-hole may be a rude word to describe it, but is it inaccurate? And how is it racist?

ON NET NEUTRALITY

By Mike Cronin

Net Neutrality is in the news again.  What’s the big deal?

The current FCC Chairman, Ajit Pai (A Trump appointee) has proposed to roll back Net Neutrality rules. Net Neutrality is a legal doctrine that says that Internet Service Providers, or ISPs, such as Cox, Comcast, or AT&T, must treat all data equally, i.e. neutrally. In other words, it bans ISPs from blocking, slowing down, or accelerating some internet traffic over other traffic.  Some examples:

  1. Net Neutrality bans a provider, such as Comcast, from blocking or “throttling” (i.e. slowing) traffic that originated from a competitor.
  2. Net Neutrality bans a provider from blocking access to political sites it might disagree with.
  3. Net Neutrality prohibits ISPs from prioritizing streaming media over email.

Advocates of Net Neutrality believe that such laws are necessary to ensure “freedom of access” to information, i.e. that we consumers should all have exactly the same amount of access to “get on the web,” and we should all have exactly the same access to bandwidth while we are there. As a consumer, that sounds pretty good, right? (76% of Americans believe it does.) So, what’s wrong with that?

The advocates are evading context. Regardless of how important, useful, and even critical the internet has become, it just isn’t theirs, nor is it the government’s, to control. As it turns out, what we think of as the “Internet” has both “public domain” and private components.  The computer languages and protocols used to create and link websites and to transfer data “packets” are in the public domain, i.e. their creators gave them to the world.  On the other hand, all of the computers, servers, cables, fiber optic lines, modems, routers, etc. that data is hosted on and travels over belong to their owners – the ISPs, web hosting companies, content providers, etc. and consumers – us. In other words, the physical components of the Internet are primarily composed of private property.

Imagine that in 1789, when the Constitution was ratified, the government instituted Publishing Neutrality right along with the First Amendment. Publishing Neutrality says that publishing firms can’t prioritize publishing large corporate orders (such as text books for a school system) over small orders (such as an obscure book on pet lizard grooming), and they have to charge the same amount per page for each book they print (regardless of the economy of scale or the material used).  Such a law would have destroyed the publishing industry, and would have done nothing to further the right of free speech.

Advocates fear that without Net Neutrality, ISPs will act unfairly and consumers will pay the price. I’m not in a hurry to have worse service or higher prices myself, but the alternative, Net Neutrality, is the government, primarily in the form of the FCC, telling ISPs what they can and cannot do with their own private property. That is a hallmark of fascism. For that reason alone, we should seek to end it.

Suggested reading:

Pro Net Neutrality bias:

https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/21/technology/fcc-net-neutrality.html

https://www.savetheinternet.com/net-neutrality-what-you-need-know-now

Anti-Net Neutrality bias

https://www.theobjectivestandard.com/issues/2008-winter/net-neutrality/

HERE WE GO AGAIN

By Mike Cronin

Yet another mass shooting has shattered lives and sensibilities across the nation. While the dead bodies were still warm and the facts opaque, the usual demagogues began firing off the usual salvo of blame-storming.  Guns, or types of guns, or parts of guns, or gun accessories, were to blame. Angry white men. Congress. Gun manufacturers. Republicans. The NRA. You get the idea.

As usual, the only solution to the believers of The Narrative is to ban firearms. Not all firearms, of course (at least not all at once), just the evil ones.

Such people are often impervious to reason. Even so, I feel compelled to once again offer some reasoned, logical thinking on this issue.

Either we have the right to life or we do not.  Our Founders believed we do. They enshrined the “right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” in the Declaration of Independence.  If we have the right to life, then inherent in that right is the subordinate right to self-defense from any threat, to include the threat of tyrannical government. Our Founders ensured we had the capability to fight any and all such threats by means of the Second Amendment. During the centuries between the ratification of the Constitution and today, Americans have amassed hundreds of millions of firearms and billions, if not trillions of rounds of ammunition.

Since so many guns legally exist in the hands and homes of millions of people who have the protected right to possess them, and since a legal ban on guns could not make all guns everywhere magically evaporate, it follows that the only way we could eliminate all (privately held) guns everywhere in this country would be for well-armed government agents to confiscate them. One small problem. A government that once protected the rights of its people that then abolishes those rights by force is by definition tyrannical!

Therefore: Because guns exist and can be used against the people, the people must have the right to have guns. Put another way: Infringing on the right to keep and bear arms is infringing on the right to life. Banning firearms would be nothing less than banning our right to exist.

You might ask: “What about the victims of these mass shootings? Didn’t they have a right to exist? Doesn’t allowing criminals and crazies access to (insert the detested firearm variety here) give them all the power to kill and destroy?”

Of course the victims had a right to life. Of course we should limit the power of criminals and crazies to kill and destroy. The best way to do that isn’t by eliminating everyone’s access to firearms, it’s by limiting the criminals’ and crazies’ access to society!

It is my contention that people with histories of violence, or diagnoses of psychological conditions making them prone to violent behavior, or those using prescriptions that have side effects that include tendencies toward violence, must be escorted in public, incarcerated, or institutionalized.

“But Mike, criminals and crazies have just as much right to access society as you do!”

No, they don’t. Rights come with the responsibility to respect the rights of others. Those unwilling or incapable of fulfilling such responsibilities have less claim to any rights than those who are responsible. The rights of the incompetent do not outweigh the rights of the competent.

To paraphrase an analogy proffered by Bill Whittle:  There are predators and there are prey. The leopard hunts the gazelle with stealth and claw and fang; the gazelle can fight back with numbers, speed, hooves, and horns.  We cannot defeat, or even deter, the leopards of the world by erecting “no cat zone” signs (pro-tip: leopards can’t read) and cutting the horns off all the gazelles. However, we might improve the situation by trapping or “belling” the cats!

Oh, one other thing: note that I did not mention the name of the latest mass murderer. Another mitigation we might consider: A significant number of the criminals and crazies out there want nothing more than notoriety. Lets deny it to them. Our media can stop mentioning or publishing the names of the shooters. Yes, doing so is well within the bounds of “newsworthiness” and the names are indeed part of the facts of the case – but why fuel these monsters’ cravings?