April 30, 2017

Migrant workers as cheap labor, out. Robots,in.

Harvesting Washington state's vast fruit orchards each year requires thousands of farmworkers, and many of them work illegally in the United States.

That system eventually could change dramatically as at least two companies are rushing to get robotic fruit-picking machines to market.

The robotic pickers don't get tired and can work 24 hours a day.

"Human pickers are getting scarce," said Gad Kober, a co-founder of Israel-based FFRobotics. "Young people do not want to work in farms, and elderly pickers are slowly retiring."

FFRobotics and Abundant Robotics, of Hayward, California, are racing to get their mechanical pickers to market within the next couple of years.
It may be a few years away, but a significant portion agricultural labor has already been moved to robotic means.

Sunday verse

April 27, 2017

This protest brought to you by Comcast

We all knew it: The anti-Trump protests are astroturf, bought and paid for by George Soros, who owns, among many other companies, Comcast.   The challenging thing is that those who favor the protests, don't care.

Via the Washington Post.
Little evidence exists to back the claim that significant numbers of protesters are paid, or, for that matter, that any significant number of workers seeking a union are “salts.” However, the allegations that even one participant is paid immediately calls into question the legitimacy of a cause. Behind these accusation is the idea that social movements should be entirely spontaneous, volunteer-driven, and untarnished by the exchange of money. Anything else would betray a lack of moral purity and reveal ulterior motives. And although successful protest movements rarely if ever succeed without an investment of resources, we create simplified mythologies that perpetuate these ideas of monetarily immaculate conception.
Citing Politifact as a source for 'little evidence' (as the link in the above paragraph does)  is itself laughable. 'Goebbels says Hitler is a good guy'. Great, I guess I was wrong about Hitler then. That issue aside, the mere admission that it does exist, validates that those various publications claiming that it does, are not insane, but have valid concerns.  As the left always, always claims when a whiff of conservative misdeeds exists, the mere existence of the claim merits serious consideration (like with the unicorn-y Trump-Russia connection).  There will be no double standard here. So WaPo, you are now guilty by your defense of the astroturfers by your discounting of factual evidence because it is politically inconvenient.  At least you had the decency to like to Breitbart and National Review in your distasteful defense of duplicitous political behavior that liberals clearly condone and deny exists.

Trump Budget Search Engine Bias

*See link to this important article at bottom of this post.
This morning I had planned on detailing some opinion on president Trump's budget proposal.  I went on Google to get some details and did a search.  Actually I did two searches, and the second search gave me pause because it's probably the more common search term being used. The reason it troubled me was the results, which just provided me a sense of search engine bias.

The term I put in for that second search was "gop budget proposal 2017".  The top 2 returns were in regard to the proposal put forward from March 2016 by the GOP. Fair enough, because technically that was the budget proposal for 2017.  But look at the next set of results:

7) This is followed by a Forbes article on the 2016 GOP budget proposal, and then back to the current proposal with;

There's the Top 10 list of search results. 2 links to last year's proposal.  A conservative friendly view of the same, and 7 negative articles on how terrible president Trump's budget proposal is.  Look at the sources - clear a highly liberal group of search results - New York Times, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, Politico, Reuters and then a less obviously liberal source The Denver Post (read the article and tell me it is not a liberal bent article).

Search Engine Bias?  Intentional or not, yes, yes there is.

April 26, 2017

No Canadian Trump

Kevin O'Leary, Canada's version of Donald Trump so far as politics and celebrity goes, has withdrawn from the leadership race for the Conservative party of Canada;
Kevin O’Leary is dropping out of the Conservative leadership race and endorsing Maxime Bernier because he says he can’t win a general election due to lack of support in Quebec.

In a stunning move that will rock the race and solidify Mr. Bernier as the sole frontrunner in the May 27 vote, Mr. O’Leary says he will now put his time and effort into electing Mr. Bernier as leader and helping him beat Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals in 2019.
So long as ultra-liberal Justin Trudeau is defeated in 2019, it doesn't matter. Unfortunately in Canada Trudeau still is the one that has the celebrity cache.

Looks like Obamacare is still toast

And that's a good thing.

Via The Hill:
"While the revised version still does not fully repeal Obamacare, we are prepared to support it to keep our promise to the American people to lower healthcare costs," the Freedom Caucus said in a statement.

"We look forward to working with our Senate colleagues to improve the bill. Our work will continue until we fully repeal Obamacare."

The MacArthur-Meadows amendment lets states apply for waivers from ObamaCare provisions that ban insurers from charging sick people higher premiums and mandate minimum insurance coverage requirements, as long as the state offers high-risk pools as an alternative.
This is no done deal at this point, but this is one step in the right direction.  The clock is ticking and the GOP know it. President Trump knows it. So this is going to come to a vote. And it's going to pass both houses and be signed.

As the president has indicated, this is a necessary precursor to the Trump budget plans which are expected to be announced today.  The fact that the announcement is happening means that unlike the first go around on an Obamacare replacement, the votes have been tallied already on the GOP side and it's a win. The Freedom caucus is on board, Obamacare is toast.

April 25, 2017

Establishment Republicans missing no-lose opportunity

With Democrats threatening to shut down the government over funding for a border wall with Mexico, many establishment Republicans have also pushed back against the idea of a border wall.  There's a pretty big political miscalculation they have made in not leveraging Democrats.

Every time in the past that Republicans shut down government, it has been a political albatross for them, even when they were right in doing so.  While the media may not paint the Democrats' government shutdown the same way they would when the GOP did it (i.e. negatively), there is a fundamental difference.  Democrat supporters love government, big government, and they don't want it shut down, ever.  Democratic actions to force a shutdown is political hemlock for themselves.

Establishment GOP congressmen and senators don't seem to realize that.  Enabling Democrats to have a shutdown means they don't have to get their own hands dirty in the border wall fight (or mere disagreement with the president).  They look neither duplicitous, soft on illegal immigration nor actively insubordinate to their Commander in Chief.  Neither do they appear complicit to their globalist supporters in having a wall built, should the sentiment turn on Democrats and president Trump succeed in passing a budget with a wall component included.

The GOP cannot be blamed for a shutdown even if CNN calls it a showdown with "neither side budging".  Sure the media can try to paint it any other way, but Democrat supporters who love government will know the truth.  If your welfare check becomes late/delayed and the penalty for getting it to come is to let Trump have his wall, guess what you'll be thinking.

Establishment Republicans, typically a do nothing lot, are missing an opportunity to do nothing and allowing Democrats to take the blame for the situation.  But then, no one has ever accused Republican establishment leadership of tactical brilliance.

France's Le Pen has no shot of winning the election (à la Trump)

To read the opinion pieces in Western media, Marine Le Pen is a far-right nationalist candidate in France.  She won enough support to make it to the run-off second election.  While she is trailing the other top vote-getter, Macron, by a very substantial margin, so too did Donald Trump trail Hillary Clinton.  Trump as we know, emerged victorious.  So too was the case with Brexit, which was supposed to be a trouncing for the attempt to leave the E.U. but turned out to be a win for the Brexit supporters.

Le Pen is portrayed as a far right candidate.  That's what the media equates nationalism to these days, regardless of nation, regardless of any other factor.  If you are proud of your country, and want to put your country first, you are a far-right radical.  Nationalism is being repressed in subordination to globalism.  Without getting to far down into the rabbit hole of globalism helping a few versus nationalism being self-defeating, France is facing a question of nationalism, just as America and the U.K. recently have also done.

There is nothing wrong wanting to put your country first.  There is problems with radical nationalism just as there is with radical Islam - it can devolve into a hatred for others.  But there is a very, very long walk from issues like border security and trade and jobs to "destroy all others" .  The supposed far right or alt-right desire to fit the latter view is misleading.  This is why Trump won the election.  If the media tells you that you are a crazy loon if you support Trump, and you support Trump, and know you are not crazy, then perhaps the only possible conclusion is that the media is wrong.

Which brings us back to Le Pen.    She has a steeper hill to climb than Trump, and the establishment and practically everyone else is aligned against her and her supporters in favor of an untested newbie with no discernable ability to lead.  Nonetheless he holds a powerful lead, and Le Pen has a short window to overcome it.  Odds are she will not win, and I'm skeptical to put the same faith in the French people's spirit and pride as I do with the American people.  It's possible, and I am hopeful that she can pull out a victory.  France needs to step away from the brink of being culturally swamped by immigrants who hold neither western nor French values or culture in anything but contempt.

Le Pen does not have a 0% chance of winning. She is undoubtedly a long shot but a number of long shots have paid off in the past year. 

AP: President Trump 10 for 38 in first 100 days

The Associated Press (AP) yesterday had an article saying president Trump had delivered on 10 of 38 promises for his first 100 days - not a flattering percentage, and not a flattering article:
...where's that wall? Or the promised trade punishment against China — will the Chinese get off scot-free from "the greatest theft in the history of the world"? What about that "easy" replacement for Obamacare? How about the trillion-dollar infrastructure plan and huge tax cut that were supposed to be in motion by now?

Trump's road to the White House, paved in big, sometimes impossible pledges, has detoured onto a byway of promises deferred or left behind, an AP analysis found.

Of 38 specific promises Trump made in his 100-day "contract" with voters — "This is my pledge to you" — he's accomplished 10, mostly through executive orders that don't require legislation, such as withdrawing the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.
The talking points of the left seem to have shifted, for now, from Trump is an illegitimate president, to a tamer but possible more effective narrative - president Trump cannot deliver on his promises because the promises were way too outlandish to begin with. Facing the reality of the presidency, the postulation goes, Trump has had to pull back and try to govern like a reasonable man, given dire world circumstances.

No mention need be given to the fact that they might not be so dire had his predecessor governed like a reasonable man. Democrats are banking on the fact that Trump supporters will grow impatient and eventually disillusioned with Trump and see him as all talk no action by the time the next election rolls around. Ironically, they are in no position to be the party of no and have the REpublican congress to thank for the barriers to Trump accomplishments - at least so far.

But the new tack by Democrats gives no credit to Trump supporters' patience. There is, so far, little buyer's remorse:
While just 4 percent of Trump's supporters say they would back someone else if there was a redo of the election, fully 15 percent of Clinton supporters say they would ditch her. Trump leads in a re-do of the 2016 election 43 percent to 40 percent after losing the popular vote 46-44.

That 15 percent is split between those who say they would vote for Trump (2 percent), Gary Johnson (4 percent), Jill Stein (2 percent), and either other candidates or not vote (7 percent).
We've always considered the first 100 days as the benchmark of success for an agenda.  While the AP piece clearly sells short president Trump's eventual success (using words like "abandoned"), 100 days is an artificial timeline that may not be as relevant in the Trump era as it had been in the past. There is no objective evidence that President Trump has abandon anything.  His agenda is not a small potatoes to do list. Ask his supporters again at day 200.  If 10 of 38 has become 20 of 38, the buyer's remorse will be even lower.

April 22, 2017

Saturday Learning Series - Ben Shapiro, University of Wisconsin

The entire lecture of Ben Shapiro at University of Wisconsin. in 2016

Evil Facebook police & CNN propagandists

Have you seen a fake news notification on Facebook recently?  The lesson from this Laura Southern video is simple: Don't outsource your understanding to liberal media, or any media.  Don't let Facebook or CNN or Google tell you what is real and what is fake, you have a brain. Think.for.yourself. 

Here's a bonus on CNN for you via Rebel Media.

And here's another compilation on CNN (part 1):

Part 2:

April 21, 2017

Friday Musical Interlude - John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16

I don't share much country music but that doesn't mean I don't like me some - at least once in awhile. So today, Keith Urban's John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16.

April 20, 2017

Bill O'Reilly is not the headline, Fox News is

Bill O'Reilly got fired by Fox News yesterday for reported misconduct of a sexual harassment nature. I don't care.  I always could take or leave O'Reilly's show. Sometimes he was way off base or frankly, annoying.  A lot of times he got it right too, it should be said.  The problem is his success on Fox and the potential direction of Fox news media. Apparently Rupert Murdoch and his sons have different visions not only for O'Reilly but also for the direction of Fox News,  Fox News has long been the lone bastion of news media for conservatives (by saying that I am lumping conservative stalwarts like Rush Limbaugh or Townhall etc., into other categories - pundits, editorialists or too small to compare with Fox).

The loss of O'Reilly at Fox may matter to ratings for Fox but likely not - unless Rupert Murdoch's sons decide a more centrist direction.  When Megyn Kelly jumped Fox for NBC, Tucker Carlson stepped in and the network never missed a beat. That can be true for an O'Reilly replacement - conservatives need a media outlet with the size and reach of Fox News.  The younger Murdochs would do wise to realize the success of their father's news outlet rests upon it being the sole entity with the heft to stand up to the liberal media behemoth that confronts the right.  To change it because of their own possible political views would be to make Fox a voice among countless others on the left.  

Disappointed conservatives would abandon Fox in droves as it became apparent that Fox is moving to a 'balanced' line-up. Fox is the balance, not just part of the liberal throng.  Should that come to pass, there is a real opportunity for someone like a Breitbart to step up and fill in the void.  I'd do it but I do not have the critical mass necessary to start a broadcast network.

April 18, 2017

U.K. moving right,populist, or both

Unlike France, which is a muddle, in Britain conservative prime minister Theresa May has called a June election where she is expected to rout both the far left Labor party and the centrist party.  She could be headed for a historic majority thanks to disarray on Brexit on the left (among other things).
British Prime Minister Theresa May is sending the United Kingdom to the polls on June 8, three years early, citing the need for a strong mandate to negotiate Britain's exit from the European Union.

It is an about-face from May's earlier statements about an early election, but it is hard to blame her for wanting to go early. The polls suggest her Conservative Party is on track for a smashing majority against a divided Labour Party led by the hapless Jeremy Corbyn.
It would take a miracle for her not to have a powerful majority come this summer. Again, stay tuned.

France elections loom large

Speaking of elections - France is about to go to the polls and the French Trump, Marine Le Pen, is very possibly going to finish top 2 and face a run-off of her own. Despite a surging... communist?!?
One of the frontrunners in the French presidential election, far-right leader Marine Le Pen, says she would suspend all legal immigration to France.

The National Front (FN) leader told a rally that she wanted to stop "a mad, uncontrolled situation".

Polls suggest she is neck and neck with centrist Emmanuel Macron, ahead of Sunday's first round of voting.

Mr Macron warned voters that choosing far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon would be like Cuba without the sun.
Odds are that at the end of the day Marcon will win the runoff. But they claimed similar outcomes for both Trump and Brexit. Stay tuned.

It's special election day in Georgia. Trump beware.

Democrats once again as in Kansas are predicting a deep red state victory for their candidate in a special election.  In Kansas, Democrats lost.  In Georgia, over a dozen Republicans are running against a sole Democrat who is positioning himself as a conservative.  If no candidate reaches 50% a runoff election among the two top vote getters will occur.  Democrats are banking on REpublican disunity and hoping their candidate can break the 50% threshold.

Democrat Jon Ossoff dismissed concerns Tuesday over the fact that he doesn't live in the Georgia congressional district in which he's running for a House seat.
Just like in Kansas, Democrats are going to be disappointed. Just like with president Bush, Democrats have one playbook while out of power - chip away constantly at the president's approval rating using their compliant media allies.

But this is is a deep red state and while they have media momentum still on their side (for now), it's just too big to overcome a deep red state win. Conservatives in Georgia (and in general would do well to remember that any Democrat, no matter how conservative they portray themselves, vote party line. Regardless, Democrats will claim a win after their candidate leads the pack prior to the runoff election that will surely follow. Expect their glee to be relatively short lived.

April 15, 2017

Afghans react to MOAB bombing

In case you think bombing ISIS in Afghanistan is a mistake, locals don't seem to think so:

April 14, 2017

Friday Musical Interlude - Good Friday Edition

"The Choir of King's College, Cambridge, sings the famous Easter hymn Jesus Christ is risen today."

April 12, 2017

In case you missed it Kansas still supports Trump

Democrats claimed the special election in Kansas to replace Trump CIA Director Mike Pompeo's seat in Congress would be proof that president Trump was not a legitimate president.  They fully expected Democrat James Thompson would beat Republican Ron Estes. Except he didn't.  Estes won.  Now the narrative has changed to "he only won by 7 in a district Trump carried by 27 points.  So Trump is not a legitimate president."  Or something like that.

Here are the problems with that 'storyline':

(1) Estes still won. After a constant drumbeat of everything Trump does is wrong in the media, a Republican won the race. He won by less than Trump did and less than the district would indicate, but that is a temporal anomaly so long as president Trump continues to deliver on his promises.  Success speaks louder than rhetoric.

(2) Trump is still president.  Has not changed.

(3) Estes was running, and James Thompson was running - president Trump was not running. Are we entirely discounting the qualities of either nominee as factors in the race? As Hot Air's Ed Morrissey points out, Governor Sam Brownback was likely more of a factor than president Trump.

(4) Because this was a special election, it's akin to an off presidential year congressional election, but moreso because it isn't even a regular election cycle vote.  The party in power does not do well in those cycles (see Obama 2010, Obama 2014, Bush 2006 foo recent evidence).  Republicans did not turn out with the same urgency as if Obama were still president.

No, I'll take this as a win for Trump and a win for the GOP.  Take your liberal spin elsewhere because it's not selling.

How not to do customer service and more important lessons

A lot of people assume conservatives are anti-people and would automatically side with United Airlines in the case of the man forcefully dragged off the plane because they oversold their seating capacity.  That's simply not true of true conservatives.  We are pro human rights and pro free-market.  And the free market has correctly assessed the video below as abhorrent and unacceptable.  [see more commentary below]

Furthermore, how United has handled the situation both the process before the incident which caused these conditions and afterwards with a practical endorsement of these actions and subsequent forced apology, have shone a light on where the opportunity exists in this situation.  United Airlines has an image of terrible customer service (not confined to this incident alone).  There is an opportunity for another airline, new or existing to step in and fill the void of quality customer service in air travel.  United Airlines will feel the consequences of this, as it is a situation where a boycott might just be justified.  Air travel requirements however, do not disappear.  Travellers will still need transport. A smart company will see the opportunity and respond by improving their own customer service to be demonstrably different - not from United, but from all other carriers who haven't done this.  An airline that does this in a noticeable way will be rewarded with more customers.

That's the free market doing it's job - producers and consumers, supply and demand, reacting to a market condition and improving an industry in the process.  For you millennials out there - if this were a socialist state and there was only one government-run airline, there would be no need to for the sole producer to respond because there are no alternatives.  That is because monopolies are bad for the market and the government, in a socialist state, is for all intents and purposes, a monopoly.  

Think about that when you consider how good or bad your schooling is in a public school.  Think about that when you think about single payer health care.  All monopolies are subject to stagnation or worse, decline.

April 10, 2017

Communism: Doomed to failure

Go away Nostradamus, you are not needed here.
Those who argue that the Soviet Union failed because it was communism done improperly, and there are a multitude of them, would be wise to heed the warning "Insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different result".

Communism failed, and will fail every time, because human nature does not change. It will fail because power corrupts, not only absolutely but inevitably. Those in power will eventually, inevitably resemble Stalin, Mao or Castro and not Mother Theresa. It will fail because the notion of freedom, of self are inherently anathema to subjugation to a centralized planning authority. It will fail because with a defined outcome, what each individual must input into the system becomes less of a driver for that individual - there is no lasting motivation to put in effort.  It will fail because centralized planning is not infallible and one thousand different plans improves the odds of just one (or more) succeeding over only one plan being available/allowed.  There are numerous other reasons communism will fail every time it is tried but each of those alone ensure that outcome.

April 7, 2017

Stockholm Terror

President Trump was right about Sweden and the latest terror attack vindicates him.
Swedish police have arrested a man in north Stockholm who has confessed to carrying out a deadly truck attack in the centre of the city, local media reports.
Recall president Trump was mocked for knowing nothing about Sweden not that long ago?
Just over six weeks after Donald Trump was mocked across the world for suggesting that Sweden was the victim of a terror attack, at least three people have been left dead when a hijacked truck ploughed into pedestrians.

The American president's proclaimed attack - which turned out to be fictitious - was linked to high levels of immigration and rising levels of crime in the country he said, later clarifying that he had based his comments on a Fox News report.

He was immediately ridiculed, with Carl Bildt, the former Swedish Prime Minister asking "what has he been smoking?" and the country's US embassy appeared to mock him on Twitter.

But yesterday the Swedish capital was hit by its own terrorist attack, with echoes of those in London, Berlin and Nice.

It is not the first time the capital has been hit by a terror.
It's like the liberal progressive world has been collectively suffering from Stockholm Syndrome for a very long time now with respect to ISIS and radical Islam.

PolitiFact = PolitiFarce

PolitiFact is nothing more than a liberal propaganda machine.  Evidence came after Syria used chemical weapons on their population this week.

Fox News reported:
Fact-checking website PolitiFact on Wednesday retracted a 2014 article that found it "Mostly True" the Obama administration helped broker a deal that successfully removed "100 percent" of chemical weapons from Syria.

"We struck a deal where we got 100 percent of the chemical weapons out," then-Secretary of State John Kerry said on NBC's "Meet the Press" in July 2014. Kerry was referring to a deal the U.S. and Russia struck in September 2013 in which the Russians agreed to help confiscate and then destroy Syria's entire chemical weapons stockpile.

Strikes on Syria

Forget the politics of congressional authorization - that debate can come later - striking Syria is the right thing to do after Syria used chemical weapons on its own people.  it was the right thing to do in 2012 when president Obama drew a red line, Syria crossed it and president Obama did exactly nothing.  President Trump
...ordered 59 Tomahawk missiles to be launched at the al-Shayrat airfield in Syria, the base from where Syria launched a horrific sarin gas attack earlier this week.

The critics and proponents of intervention in Syria have already started reciting their talking points, but it's worth pausing for a moment.

It's significant that Trump changed his views quickly on Syria following the gas attack. Early reports are that some aircraft and runways were destroyed. But for now this act is mainly symbolic; it sends a message but won't change much on the battlefield.
 President Trump understands full well the disgusting use of chemical weapons in Syria and understands what the right thing to do was respond. 

This should allay some of those histrionics on the left about Trump working with Russia after the two parties are clearly on opposite sides on the Syria issue.  The two nations will be at loggerheads on Syria for the foreseeable future.

Gorsuch confirmed after nuclear strike.

I could not let the day pass without sharing this. Neil Gorsuch has been confirmed to the Supreme Court after the Republicans had to invoke the nuclear option in order to do so.  This builds on Harry Reid's previous efforts to remove the filibuster option for all appointments excluding SCOTUS justices.  The filibuster has been a potent weapon used by Democrats with regularity but by Republicans pretty much never.  By removing the filibuster the Republicans have effectively levelled the playing field on confirmations since they were so reluctant in the past to use the weapon, Democrats cannot do so now either.

In theory the slowing effect of the Senate is a good thing.  But with respect to confirmations for other branches of government, it doesn't make a lot of sense.  This is a livable new reality given the restoration of the balance of the court.  Buh bye Merrick Garland.

Here's the finale of the roll call.  Enjoy.

Friday Musical Interlude - Social Media Week Mash-up

This week I've been looking at social media and it's impact on society, people, culture, etc.  While I've barely scratched the surface, it's alreadt reached Friday, which is Friday Musical Interlude day.  So I decided to mash up the two things.  Here's a video of a 2017 original song by Joely Rendle, called Social Media Song.

April 6, 2017


The day got away from me and I didn't get a chance to write about my social media topic of the day (following the theme of the week).  Today I was going to talk about trolling. Let me share this for those of you who don't know what trolling actually is, in addition to some basic ideas on the psychology of trolling.  Tomorrow I'll try to catch upon the topic in addition to my planned topic for tomorrow.

April 5, 2017


Taking a break today on the social media theme, at least personally. Today I'm outsourcing the social media discussion to social media historian Allison Graham in a TedX-related presentation on how social media makes us unsocial.  Following that Paul Miller on his year offline. But is this all just reactionary backlash to societal changes? That's an unfair characterization.

Here's why. Society is changing at a pace faster than ever before, and the rate of change is only going to increase not decrease as years pass. As a result of such a fast paced change, people do not have time to adjust personally. Collectively we do not have the wherewithal to interpret these changes and integrate them into our existing cultural norms at a reasonable place. It's not a technological melting pot we are facing, it's a technological replacement of existing culture. The change has become so quick that framing changes in cultural norms is not possible. Instead the changes frame themselves and society is exposed to a great deal of tangential change that may not always make sense. The generational divide widens as a result and knowledge, morality and perspective to not properly cross the generational divide. The outcome is potentially toxic societal evolution. That's not to say it's guaranteed but certainly the odds of that are higher without a sober reflection on the various implications of the changes we are in the midst of experiencing. Change, unshepherded by our values, is change that is more likely to lead to extremism and isolation as it is to enlightenment. Any crazy idea or innovation can chart its own course unchecked by common sense.

During the knowledge revolution of the era of the printing press, these things did not happen. But the ace was slower. It was centuries between the printing press and Karl Marx or Mein Kampf, neither of which were conducive to a just and prosperous society.


It doesn't mean the problem is solved, but at least some people are thinking about it.

April 4, 2017

Susan Rice wiretapping scandal gets worse

The Susan Rice wiretapping scandal (the same Susan Rice who lied multiple times in one day about the truth behind Benghazi) is starting to generate it's own gravity.

Susan Rice scandal could unravel Democrats for good

The breaking news, changing by the hour that Obama administration official Susan Rice was involved in the potentially (but probably not provably) illegal collection of Trump inner circle information ('wiretapping') and subsequently very illegal unmaksing and then leaking to the media of supposedly damning information, is too young to either verify or quantify with any degree of certainty.  But clearly there is something to this story.

Briefly first off, here's a synopsis of the bombshell:

If this proves to be true to any degree, how Democrats as a party survive the scandal, particularly since it would likely be tied to both the Obama administration and the Clinton campaign. With senate and congressional elections coming in 2018, a black eye on ethics would not only stiffen the spines of Republican voters and Trump voters, it's not going to energize those on the left. And it goes beyond just the Democrats. Their advocates continue to dig their own graves in the blind belief that their team is as pure as the wind driven snow. I'm looking at you Chris Cuomo. We're taking names and shills like you don't deserve to be employed - period. I will personally crusade to see you and your ilk at CNN politically, and media-wise eviscerated for this and other, similar past transgressions. Outright lying to your audience or at a minimum willingly blind to the truth disqualifies you from disseminating information to the public you fake news hack.

Chris Cuomo - you are a crooked scheme. You are fake news. You have outed yourself as non-impartial to use language like that, and regardless of the eventually revealed truth you are a partisan hack and not worth of the mantle of journalism, even as tarnished as it already is.

The ultimate failure of Soviet propaganda

The Soviet Union had a propaganda machine that for decades smartly leveraged existing cultural staples like Russian nationalism to prop up the communist regime.  And for decades, it worked.  When you have full control of the media, education and means of communication, failure should not be possible, ever.  So what went wrong?

As a background for millennials, here are two videos that give an overview of Soviet communist propaganda, about themselves and about America, for mostly internal consumption. These videos were produced by the CIA, and certainly have their own slant, however, there have been copious amounts of independent corroboration of details in these videos.

In summary the first video focuses on how the communist Soviet Union lauded the accomplishments of the U.S.S.R. and the latter narrowly focused on the failures of America, either real or fabricated by the propagandists. So with all of this wind at their backs, why does the Soviet Union not still exist today? The propaganda ultimately failed because propaganda is not always backed by facts.

Notice how so many of these American 'problems' are echoed by the left of today:
  • Select capitalists get richer, while there is literal starvation in the economy otherwise (the 1% vs. the 99%)
  • Americans are deprived of the right to work, and capitalism does not meet basic human needs (the living/minimum wage argument) 
  • communism works better by providing economic security (this is the argument behind Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Obamacare, food stamps, public education, and every other social program being underfunded or not even available)
  • Raging American militarism is responsible for arms race, international terrorism ("banditry") and is the cause of the American deficit (it's the same argument used by everyone from Code Pink to Sean Penn to any other progressive looking for a government handout)
  • America is inherently racist, and discrimination vs African Americans and Hispanics. White racists drive this problem. (systemic racism is constantly argued and refuted in America, most notably refuted by Dinesh D'Souza)
  • There is no equality of opportunity in America (while this is arguably true, such is the case everywhere, and America tries to facilitate it more than anywhere else in the world. Ironically, the Soviet Union and today's left in America often conflate inequality of opportunity with inequality of outcome)
  • People in America are lulled by talking heads paid for by capital. (Sounds a lot like the fake news arguments of today).
This is why these people were (and likely are) regarded as useful idiots.  They argue for a weakened American military and a society that more closely resembles that of Soviet style socialism.  You can argue that there are some chicken and egg issues here - America has had issues, and is not perfect - but that is not the point.  The point is by dialling up the rhetoric the goal is to inflame people's passions towards change (in America) and stasis (in the Soviet Union).

But notice also the tactics employed by the American left follow the propaganda tactics of the Soviet Union.  They  use control of education, control of the media, talking heads in the news media and instead of lecture series extolling the virtues of communism we have instead media like Saturday Night Live trying to eviscerate president Trump and conservatives in general. We have every actor and musician given the chance to accept an award using their platform to libel the president and talk about what a terrible country America has become since president Obama left office.  They act as if they are the freedom fighters depicted in the Soviet propaganda films and news reports, and not multi-millionaires, with no understanding of economic reality who have thrived off the same society the disparage.  There is no sense of irony in what they do because they are dogmatically driven and they do not grasp that they seek to destroy what has raised them up: capitalism. but their ideas will not die. Once an idea takes hold it can become an ember but never be extinguished.  Want proof of that? There are thousands of videos like this one (warning - don't be fooled. Please.):

Wow.  Ideas from centuries ago, cobbled back together, are making a ridiculous comeback.  

Getting back to why the Soviet propaganda ultimately failed, in the first video above there is a mention about Russians being curious about the West.  Curiosity is a fundamental component of the human condition.  No matter how much you are distracted, or imbued with propaganda disguised as facts, if you have not experienced something firsthand, you are naturally going to be curious about it to some degree. Some people will be more curious than others and will seek to discover more.  As they discover more, they will question more.  This is what has driven human intervention and exploration for millennia.   It is what has grown our brains and what drives us to go see movies or to travel.  It's what drives clickbait on the Internet.  In other words, propaganda, no matter how pervasive, cannot overcome human curiosity. This is important to remember and it is a powerful tool to be able to subvert propaganda and it's a key factor if not the key factor in what caused Soviet propaganda to ultimately fail.  The other factor is the human need for self-determination. The Soviet Union was built on control, and restrictions put on individual self-determination and that is another part of human nature that no external imposition can contain across an entire populace indefinitely.  Once the collapse of the system began with glasnost, the only question remaining was how long the Soviet Union would take to collapse. 

There is yet one other major factor in the failure of Soviet propaganda.  Reality.  Facts versus lies.  When one sees as in the video second video above African Americans being evicted by ruthless landlords and they are moving furniture into the street one cannot help but see that they have belongings.  They are not starving to death.  So the facts about america become suspect.  Worse still is the propaganda about how great the Soviet Union is doing and yet people were standing in line for hours for pairs of shoes that might not even fit them.  Food shortages were common thanks to central planning.  These failures in the personal lives of Russians were tangible yet they were being told otherwise.  Facts outshine lies when personal, tangible visceral evidence indicates that lies are being told.  

Propaganda ultimately can only delay the truth for a finite period of time.  In the case of the Soviet Union it was for decades.  Arguably it could last for centuries.  The lesson is that propaganda can be overcome because human nature includes both curiosity and a desire for self-determinism, but he speed at which truth overcomes propaganda is dependent on how much truth is able to shine through.

April 3, 2017

Are safe spaces a reflection of our social media culture?

In an interview in El Pais, Polish born sociologist Zygmunt Bauman says social media are a trap.  He's talking about society-level problems that are evolving from social media.  Drilling down on one particular example of his argument, after watching this video it's tempting to draw the conclusion that safe spaces are a direct result of the isolating impact of social media of which he speaks. It's not even a long linguistic leap from "comfort zones" to "safe spaces" What else is social media doing to our culture?

In case you're not familiar with safe spaces, Geekfeminism has a description here.  But this video sums it up pretty well.

The real question is whether Safe Spaces become an accepted cultural norm or go the way of Ebonics.  Given the relatively early and appropriate backlash towards the self defeating fatuousness of safe spaces, my guess is the latter. But is ebonics really gone? After all, it's caught on in rap culture and the specific dialect (sorry, it's a version of English not a distinct language as some would claim. And it's an ersatz dialect at that), it has not expanded beyond that. It won't either and the reason is clear - economics. How many CEOs releasing quarterly results deliver their results in ebonics? How many bank branches can you walk into and transact in ebonics? For that matter, doing online banking, where is the option for ebonics? Professional athletes (from NASCAR to the NBA to the NFL) making millions of dollars may not always have the best grammar at all times, but they make an effort to speak in a telegenic manner. Ebonics is a dead end because failing to attempt to meet a minimum hurdle on societal norms is self defeating economically for an individual and pursuing that route, and those who do, do not develop the wherewithal to propagate the dialect to a broader spectrum of people.

Social media might change that - anyone can upload a video to Youtube if they have the means to create one. But that's only half the story. Unless Google decides to have ebonics videos consistently as trending hot videos, the audience is still limited and self contained. Now Google could decide as a social cause to do just that. I doubt they will, but if they did, it would be an artificial outside help to elevating ebonics, and such artificial support can at best be transitory. After all, the Google elite, if they are interesting in social engineering, have a plethora of such 'noble' causes to support.

The comparison is apt, because there has been a myriad of external support for safe spaces, from universities to media outlets. Just as there has been for the transgendered washroom issue. The problem for these absurdist endeavors is that not only does social media enable support for these bizarre causes, it also exposes them to criticism, some itself absurd, but much of it warranted. The social media window therefore is at best a double edged sword for safe spaces, social justice warriors and their ilk. It may enable them but it also alerts others to their latest inane ideas. Relative to safe spaces, the irony is that while social media has greatly isolated people from face to face human interaction, and enabled the idea of the need for safe spaces, the nature of social media (again without manipulation by social engineering by power brokers in the tech industry) is the opposite of a safe space. It is a window to differing ideas and a place where ideas can, and should, be challenged.

None of this controverts the ideas of Zygmunt Bauman as he relates to the differences between community and network.  You can create a social media bubble for yourself and in effect a social media safe space.  The same is not true for your ideas.  Ideas are not bound by limits of direct communication.  Once an idea is expressed it will travel by any means necessary, and once created can never be destroyed (a thousand years from now, if Marxism has been completely invalidated, it will still have its adherents). Ideas are therefore not bound by safe spaces (or personal networks).  While the idea of a safe space may thrive within a safe space network, it cannot progress further if the idea is soundly rejected by thoughtful counter-arguments.  But Zygmunt Bauman's point still holds true for individuals - you can create a bubble for yourself, a safe space.  His concern if I am interpreting correctly is that this ultimately detracts from the human experience and is detrimental to society as a whole if it becomes a pervasive condition, which it seems to be more and more.

It's media week at Nonsensible Shoes

All this week, Nonsensible Shoes will be looking at media and it's impact on society, both positive and negative.  In an era of social media, Mainstream Media, fake news, it's important to understand, or at a minimum, analyze the impact of various media streams on the psyche of a nation and it's resulting goals and values.  Every day this week will feature a different take on media and society.

Later this morning - Social Media and Safe Space
Tomorrow - The ultimate failure of Soviet propaganda

April 2, 2017

April 1, 2017

Saturday Learning Series - Movement in Film

When you go to watch a movie, or watch a TV show, you are watching a visual story, perhaps even an essay.  So many things do, or at least can, go into that essay to move you to a particular emotion.  For example:

And given that some of that knowledge seems to have gotten lost over time, it's a good reminder that we need to understand history and what is important to take from it, before moving forward.  That in essence is conservatism.
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