Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Microdefense Free Zones

UWM says 'politically correct' is no longer politically correct, "We decide what speech is permitted and you aren't allowed to talk about it."

Well, we already knew saying "Chicago" or "golf" was racist, so it's no surprise cretins at the University of California think saying "America is the land of opportunity," should be banned.

Applying UMW's and UC's logic to Harvard Law Dean Martha L. Minow, you must conclude saying someone is "politically correct" is like raping them. If you're accused, we must believe you're guilty: Harvard Law dean compares microaggressions to violence, sexual assault

And you thought a "Just Words Campaign" would be analogous to "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." Nope, that's not what the "J" in SJW is about.

Update 2:30PM
Forgot to add this recommendation for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education: 2015 Year in Review for Student and Faculty Rights on Campus

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Property, morality and religion

Just read Larry Arnn’s (President of Hillsdale College) Imprimis piece Property Rights and Religious Liberty.  It’s excellent, but ultimately uncompelling as an argument that property rights are insufficient to secure religious liberty and freedom of conscience. Some rambling reactions...

Arnn:
[R]ecognizing that property is at the heart of the political argument we are having these days, [there] are those who say that all that is needed is to protect property rights. Get money right and get property right, these people think, and leave it at that—leave morality and religion out of the political equation. But that way of thinking too is foolish.
Not sure it’s foolish.  I’d like to try it somewhere and see what eventuates.  My prediction would be that such a lucky civilization would follow the arc of history of the United States up until Woodrow Wilson… and then keep going.  

Morality and religion are different things, though they are both your property. Property rights do imply a moral code, but I can't see any particular philosophy of religion there.

I am inclined to think economic freedom is a prerequisite for “freedom of conscience and religious liberty."  Arnn seems to agree: "If private property is going to be abolished, everything will have to be abolished.”  

I will agree that an ethical system like Judeo-Christianity is necessary, if not sufficient, to establish the fundamental principle that you are your own property. Not the church's, not the State's.

I do not agree that we must have a supernatural underpinning for that.

Arnn:
Yet Churchill went against the advice of all his advisors, including his wife, to make the point publicly that the socialists would never realize their ultimate aims without the use of “some form of Gestapo.” They did not intend this, at least the better of them did not, he said; but this is what it would take for their aims to be successful—this is what it would take to produce an equality of outcomes.
And Hayek wrote The Road to Serfdom on precisely that theme.

Questions of "‘Why are we here? What is the purpose of life? Whither are we going?’” are answered differently by different supernatural interpreters.  Which Diety can bring “comfort to the soul” is a matter of long extra- and intramural contention.

How do you reconcile the G_d who cares about every sparrow's fall with your experience? A conversation between Yossarian and Lieutenant Scheisskopf's wife in Catch-22 explores this question:
"And don't tell me God works in mysterious ways," Yossarian continued... "There's nothing so mysterious about it. He's not working at all. He's playing. Or else he's forgotten all about us. That's the kind of God you people talk about -- a country bumpkin, a clumsy, bungling, brainless, conceited, uncouth hayseed. Good God, how much reverence can you have for a Supreme Being who finds it necessary to include such phenomena as phlegm and tooth decay in His divine system of creation? What in the world was running through that warped, evil, scatalogical mind of His when He robbed old people of the power to control their bowel movements? Why in the world did He ever create pain?”

"Pain?" Lieutenant Scheisskopf's wife pounced upon the word victoriously. "Pain is a useful symptom. Pain is a warning to us of bodily dangers.”

"And who created the dangers?" Yossarian demanded. He laughed caustically. "Oh, He was really being charitable to us when He gave us pain! Why couldn't He have used a doorbell instead to notify us, or one of his celestial choirs? Or a system of blue-and-red neon tubes right in the middle of each person's forehead. Any jukebox manufacturer worth his salt could have done that. Why couldn't He?"

"People would certainly look silly walking around with red neon tubes in the middle of their foreheads.”

"They certainly look beautiful now writhing in agony or stupified with morphine, don't they? What a colossal, immortal blunderer! When you consider the opportunity and power He had to really do a job, and then look at the stupid, ugly little mess He make of it instead, His sheer incompetence is almost staggering. It's obvious He never met a payroll. Why, no self-respecting businessman would hire a bungler like Him as even a shipping clerk!”

Lieutenant Scheisskopf's wife had turned ashen in disbelief and was ogling him with alarm. "You'd better not talk that way about Him, honey," she warned him reprovingly in a low and hostile voice. "He might punish you.”

"Isn't He punishing me enough?" Yossarian snorted resentfully. "You know, we certainly mustn't let Him get away with it. Oh, no, we certainly mustn't let Him get away scot free for all the sorrow He's caused us. Someday I'm going to make him pay. I know when. On the Judgement Day. Yes, that's the day I'll be close enough to reach out and grab that little yokel by His neck and —"

"Stop it! Stop it!" Lieutenant Scheisskopf's wife screamed suddenly, and began beating him ineffectually about the head with both fists. "Stop it!”

Yossarian ducked behind his arm for protection while she slammed away at him in feminine fury for a few seconds, and then he caught her determinedly by the wrists and forced her gently back down on the bed. "What the hell are you getting so upset about?" He asked her bewilderedly in a tone of contrite amusement. "I thought you didn't believe in God.”

"I don't," she sobbed, bursting violently into tears. "But the God I don't believe in is a good God, a just God, a merciful God. He's not the mean and stupid God you make Him out to be.”

Yossarian laughed and turned her arms loose. "Let's have a little more religious freedom between us," he proposed obligingly. "You don't believe in the God you want to, and I won't believe in the God I want to. Is that a deal?”
Another interpretation might be that G_d is just uninvolved. That’s not much in the way of comfort, but does answer the problem of evil and maybe of free will.

All in all, I think property rights protect, or at minimum provide the basis for, protection of religious liberty and freedom of conscience. As Arnn says, you can't really separate these things: It's not just a fight about property. But, without property rights, the fight is already lost.

Related: The foolish ‘theism’ of government enthusiasts

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

How we're governed; a Canadian view

Rex Murphy: Don’t blame Trump … blame America
I agree Trump is ridiculous — but he is an illustration of a problem and not its cause. Trump is not the swamp: he is the creature emerging from it. For however ridiculous and appalling his candidacy may be, it is no worse and no more ridiculous and appalling than the whole pattern of American politics at this time.

Is his candidacy more lunatic than the idea of a third President Bush or a second President Clinton? More despairing than the idea of an America so bereft of political talent that two families supply the major pool?

Is he more manipulative than President “you can keep you doctor, you can keep you plan” Obama? Is he less venal or arrogant than Hillary “it’s my server and it’s my State Department” Clinton?
There's much more at the link. RTWT

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Neither xenophilic nor oikophobic

From Reason Magazine:
The 'Isolationist' Smear Against Ted Cruz

I didn't realize Jennifer Rubin, one of the WaPo's pet conservatives, had trashed Senator Ted Cruz as a throwback isolationist from the 1930's. But then I seldom read the WaPo.
After the latest Republican presidential debate, the Washington Post's Jennifer Rubin argued that Sen. Ted Cruz had undone himself "courting" the "Trumpkin base," sinking "further into the far-right brew of isolationism and xenophobia."
Characterizing Cruz as a far-right xenophobe, though, certainly destroys Senator Marco Rubio's case that Cruz secretly, in his heart of hearts, favors a path to citizenship for illegal aliens. Then again, Rubin may have misremembered how much she did like the Rubio/Schumer Gang of 8 plan, "...the proposal is greatly encouraging on two fronts."

Count me as un-encouraged then, as was Senator Cruz. And count me even less encouraged now. I'm neither xenophilic nor oikophobic. Senator Rubio's defenders seem to have a touch of each.

This is unfortunate, since I would happily vote for Rubio in the general election, but I think he's picked a fight that emphasizes his greatest weakness while attempting to damage the candidate most likely to prevent a Trump nomination. Trump is the primary beneficiary of Rubio's attack.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Clueless or condescending?

So. The New York Times published and then promptly removed this insight into the President's television viewing habits:
Mr. Obama indicated that he did not see enough cable television to fully appreciate the anxiety after the attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, and made clear that he plans to step up his public arguments.
There are three ways to parse that. One, the President is cluelessly isolated, gets his information from "the shows" like Donald Trump, but doesn't watch the right shows. Two, he was making a condescending joke about the drumbeat of the news cycle and denigrating the intelligence of Americans. Three, both.

It's true that the media hyped the shootings in San Bernadino. Of course, so did the President in the service of gun control.

It's true that the media hyped the shootings in San Bernadino. Just as they did Obama's candidacy in 2008.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

How we're governed

Donald Trump has a less than tenuous grasp of the policy implications and practicality of his stream-of-consciousness blowhardery, but nothing he's said is any more outrageous than any of the following links: Except they aren't bluster, they're how we're governed.

Obama meets Bloomberg as he prepares order on guns

Administration nixed probe into Southern California jihadists

Funding deal hits backlash over increase in foreign worker visas

Ominous Cybersharing Legislation Finds a Seat on the Omnibus

Congress’s $12 billion giveaway to health insurers

America surrenders on Assad, and Putin wins again

Unaccompanied children crossing southern border in greater numbers again, raising fears of new migrant crisis

The EPA's Illegal Propaganda

Celebrating a Deserter in the Rose Garden

None of the elite Beltway teeth gnashers can understand Trump's appeal, even though they laid the groundwork.

Obama's executive overreach and withering disdain for American citizens may be the proximate cause of Trump's rise, but Obama did nothing more than clarify the corrupt attitude of both major political Parties.


If you don't visit Instapundit, you should try it. Those links are just a few I reached from reading there this morning.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Immigration Policy is national security

The Weekly Standard notes that
Marco Rubio, the Florida senator who is running for president, was among those who voted against the USA Freedom Act. "Just four days before the terrorist attack in California this week, the USA Freedom Act limited our access to critical information about potential threats," said Rubio's campaign in a statement provided to THE WEEKLY STANDARD. "Because too many in Washington have failed to grasp the nature of this enemy, we have less access to intelligence information now than we did just days ago. In the wake of Wednesday's attack on innocent Americans doing nothing more than going about their daily lives, we must act swiftly to reverse the limitations imposed on these critical intelligence programs. Radical jihadists are trying to kill as many Americans as they can. Our law enforcement and intelligence professionals need access to this information. Failing to give them the tools they need to keep Americans safe is dangerous and irresponsible."
It's just a bit odd to connect an attack your policy didn't detect with the efficacy of that policy in preventing such an attack.

Rubio is better spoken than Josh Earnest, but the Senator sounds just like the Press Secretary when the latter was asked for an example of a mass shooting "more gun control" would have prevented.

Our law enforcement and intelligence professionals had the authority Senator Rubio is complaining they lost before the San Bernadino attack. Were they not using it, was it overwhelmingly vast or just useless? Or all three?

Of course, there was intelligence which could have stopped the attack, but law enforcement and intelligence professionals were prevented from using it by the Obama Administration's exquisite tribalist sensitivities, not by Senators who voted in favor of the Fourth Amendment.

The male shooter in San Bernadino was aligned with a Mosque known to promote radical Islam, but an investigation that would have raised that flag was shut down by Homeland Security on the request of the State Department’s Office of Civil Rights. Killing this investigation can only be viewed as a public relations exercise in political correctness. No profiling!

The female shooter had publicly indicated she supported ISIS long before she was Federally "vetted" on three separate occasions. Federal policy prevented a search of her Facebook account that would have revealed this. On the admittedly flimsy assumption that support for ISIS is disqualifying, she would have been denied the opportunity to shoot anyone in San Bernadino.
Fearing a civil liberties backlash and "bad public relations" for the Obama administration, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson refused in early 2014 to end the secret U.S. policy that prohibited immigration officials from reviewing the social media messages of all foreign citizens applying for U.S. visas, according to a former senior department official.

"During that time period immigration officials were not allowed to use or review social media as part of the screening process," John Cohen, a former acting under-secretary at DHS for intelligence and analysis. Cohen is now a national security consultant for ABC News.
Since multiple sources for determinative information which would have put these two under surveillance was ignored - because the approbation of the American elite left was more important to the Obama Administration than protecting Americans - we're supposed to bend the Fourth Amendment to Senator Rubio's will? Over an incident where the program he's pushing failed?

Senator Rubio, if he wants to prevent future terror attacks, might consider directing his fire at the people who failed us with their PC attitude to vetting immigrants. Of course, Rubio has demonstrated he shares a bit of that attitude. He seems not to realize that Immigration Policy is the intersection of Foreign Policy with Domestic Policy. Rubio advances the surveillance state in order to maintain the illusion the two sets of policy are unrelated.

His complaint about the USA Freedom Act boils down to this: We need this intrusion into your life to keep you safe from our incompetence in using the obvious intelligence sources we already have.

Related: Quite a long article, but with a good bit of explanatory power about Cruz and Rubio on foreign and immigration policy. And why they're attacking each other in precisely the way they are. This addresses some very substantive issues.

YMMV, but I do recommend it. It may assist you in a choice we'll face if we can ever get rid of the blowhard rug-head.

And let's finish by examining the Weekly Standard's intro to the piece in the first link:
Thanks to a law recently passed by Congress and signed into law, federal law enforcement are unable to access phone records of the terrorists who killed or injured dozens of people in San Bernardino this week.
Wrong. All that's necessary is a subpoena to get the needed records. I'm sure they got one almost instantly. I call Marco Rubio shilling on the Standard.

Monday, December 14, 2015

HSA distracted by terabytes of phone meta-data

U.S. Visa Process Missed San Bernardino Wife’s Zealotry on Social Media
Tashfeen Malik, who with her husband carried out the massacre in San Bernardino, Calif., passed three background checks by American immigration officials as she moved to the United States from Pakistan. None uncovered what Ms. Malik had made little effort to hide — that she talked openly on social media about her views on violent jihad.

She said she supported it. And she said she wanted to be a part of it.

American law enforcement officials said they recently discovered those old — and previously unreported — postings as they pieced together the lives of Ms. Malik and her husband, Syed Rizwan Farook, trying to understand how they pulled off the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil since Sept. 11, 2001.

Had the authorities found the posts years ago, they might have kept her out of the country. But immigration officials do not routinely review social media as part of their background checks, and there is a debate inside the Department of Homeland Security over whether it is even appropriate to do so.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Dark side of the Moonbeam

California Governor Jerry Brown:
Never underestimate the coercive power of the central state in the service of good.
Or evil, Governor Brown, you oh so Superior Man.

Meanwhile, California Climate Policies Chilling Housing Growth.

And, Can California Be Saved? I know which way I'd bet.

Protecting us from cattle futures*

...and preparing to force all your savings into T-Bills. NYMag.com:
Hillary Clinton has an opinion piece in the New York Times on her plans to rein in Wall Street and protect the public from excessive risk-taking.
*In case you've forgotten - Hillary Clinton Turned $1,000 Into $99,540, White House Says

Saturday, December 12, 2015

The climate for free speech

Last Tuesday Mark Steyn appeared before Senator Ted Cruz's sub-committee on Space, Science and Competitiveness. The topic was climate change.

Steyn's observations are well worth your time to read, and don't neglect the videos. I particularly enjoyed watching Senator Ed "Marquis" Markey being reminded he isn't, in fact, nobility.

While you are at Steyn's site, visit the Steyn Store. Christmas is almost upon us, and Mark's suit/countersuit with Dr. Micheal "Fraudpants" Mann drags on expensively. Gift certificates are available.

Laurence Jarvik has more from the hearing here. Also recommended for comment on GOP attendance at the hearing and a clip of Steyn defending free speech.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Mrs. Bill doesn't regret

On Sunday, December 6, Hillary Clinton appeared on ABC’s This Week. The host, donor of $75,000 to the Clinton Foundation and former Communications Director for the Clinton White House - went way off the reservation and asked Mrs. Bill a Benghazi question worthy of Congressman Trey Gowdy.

George Stephanopoulos asked her about claims by four relatives of three of the victims killed in the Islamic Jihadist attacks in Benghazi, Libya* on September 11th, 2012.

Mrs. Bill met these relatives after she spoke at Andrews Air Force base on September 14, 2012. The occasion was a ceremony conducted over the remains of four Americans, one our Ambassador, killed in the Benghazi attacks. She stood over their coffins and called the deaths the result of an obscure video. A claim which her own emails have since proven she knew to be false the day of the attacks.

Stephanopoulos asked, "Did you tell them it was about the film? And what’s your response?" Clinton replied. "No."

I'll spare you the rest of her rambling prevarication. It's at the link.

While it’s amazing Stephanopoulos asked anything of substance, he neglected to ask a follow-up, “At Andrews Air Force base, you spoke with the families only a few minutes after blaming the video - while you were standing over the coffins of four dead Americans. Why don’t these multiple witnesses 'deserve to be believed' you would say that to them?"

He didn't ask any follow-ups, because the original question was intended to inoculate her against her own perfidy.

*You may recall Libya was converted from a quiescent suppurating cesspit, whose thuggish dictator had surrendered his nuclear program in the face of American threat, to a hellhole exporter of Islamic Jihad on the insistence of Samantha Power, Susan Rice and Hillary Clinton. For Hillary, lying about this was about even more than Obama's re-election. It was about her presidential ambitions.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Rubio bulks up

Senator Marco Rubio is of the opinion that passage of the USA Freedom Act, which ends certain warrantless government surveillance of your internet and phone records, is dangerously misguided:
There is not a single documented case of abuse of these programs which were put in place after 9/11 to keep Americans safe.
I disagree.

First, the Senator elides any consideration that the once secret program – in and of itself – is an abuse of the Constitution and of American citizens. Your opinion may vary, but this question is quite reasonably open to debate. Even defenders of the program don’t describe it as liberty-neutral, they say the loss of privacy is justified by enhanced security. On that basis, as we'll see below, the program is a failure.

He also seems to be equating "no abuse" with "Constitutional." If your position is "It hasn't been abused yet," I don't think you've quite thought the problem through. In any case, the definition of abuse does seem germane to the discussion. Senator Rubio has told us his definition. We'll look look at some others momentarily.

Second, since the government places gag orders on its “requests” for information, the claim that there is “no documented case,” is a Clinton-Truth and an insult to the rule of law. But, I repeat myself.

Senator Rubio may have neglected to finish his sentence and meant “not a single documented case the public needs to know about.” Or, maybe he meant there's more than one. You'd have to ask Bill and Mrs. Bill to translate. You may then pause to wonder how Mrs. Bill might use the collected data were she elected POTUS.

The FBI sent out over 400,000 National Security Letters between 2003 and 2011. NSLs are warrantless demands for information and simultaneously prohibit the recipient from publicly discussing the order. For example.

There’s a lot of secretly documented abuse going on, supported by secret judicial opinions from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

The National Security Agency’s bulk collection of phone data was ruled illegal in May 2015 under the very legislation used to justify the program, and called “probably unconstitutional.” That’s documentation of general abuse under at least one definition of the word.

Unfortunately, that decision was not accompanied by an injunction to stop the bulk data collection. Even more unfortunately, a higher court reversed that ruling in August of 2015. That is why Congress had to act to eliminate the program.

Prior to those Court rulings the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board – set up to monitor the NSA, FBI et. el., – had found the government was abusing American’s civil rights and gaining essentially nothing. The PCLOB is an independent bipartisan agency within the executive branch established by the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007. It issued a report on January 23, 2014.

Third, then, according to the people charged with oversight the bulk data collection is unauthorized overreach and without discernible benefit:

From pages 10 and 11 of the Report on the Telephone Records Program Conducted under Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act and on the Operations of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court:
There are four grounds upon which we find that the telephone records program fails to comply with Section 215. First, the telephone records acquired under the program have no connection to any specific FBI investigation at the time of their collection. Second, because the records are collected in bulk — potentially encompassing all telephone calling records across the nation — they cannot be regarded as “relevant” to any FBI investigation as required by the statute without redefining the word relevant in a manner that is circular, unlimited in scope, and out of step with the case law from analogous legal contexts involving the production of records. Third, the program operates by putting telephone companies under an obligation to furnish new calling records on a daily basis as they are generated (instead of turning over records already in their possession) — an approach lacking foundation in the statute and one that is inconsistent with FISA as a whole. Fourth, the statute permits only the FBI to obtain items for use in its investigations; it does not authorize the NSA to collect anything.

In addition, we conclude that the program violates the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. That statute prohibits telephone companies from sharing customer records with the government except in response to specific enumerated circumstances, which do not include Section 215 orders.

Finally, we do not agree that the program can be considered statutorily authorized because Congress twice delayed the expiration of Section 215 during the operation of the program without amending the statute. The “reenactment doctrine,” under which Congress is presumed to have adopted settled administrative or judicial interpretations of a statute, does not trump the plain meaning of a law, and cannot save an administrative or judicial interpretation that contradicts the statute itself. Moreover, the circumstances presented here differ in pivotal ways from any in which the reenactment doctrine has ever been applied, and applying the doctrine would undermine the public’s ability to know what the law is and hold their elected representatives accountable for their legislative choices...

The threat of terrorism faced today by the United States is real. The Section 215 telephone records program was intended as one tool to combat this threat — a tool that would help investigators piece together the networks of terrorist groups and the patterns of their communications with a speed and comprehensiveness not otherwise available. However, we conclude that the Section 215 program has shown minimal value in safeguarding the nation from terrorism. Based on the information provided to the Board, including classified briefings and documentation, we have not identified a single instance involving a threat to the United States in which the program made a concrete difference in the outcome of a counterterrorism investigation. Moreover, we are aware of no instance in which the program directly contributed to the discovery of a previously unknown terrorist plot or the disruption of a terrorist attack. And we believe that in only one instance over the past seven years has the program arguably contributed to the identification of an unknown terrorism suspect. Even in that case, the suspect was not involved in planning a terrorist attack and there is reason to believe that the FBI may have discovered him without the contribution of the NSA’s program.

The Board’s review suggests that where the telephone records collected by the NSA under its Section 215 program have provided value, they have done so primarily in two ways: by offering additional leads regarding the contacts of terrorism suspects already known to investigators, and by demonstrating that foreign terrorist plots do not have a U.S. nexus. The former can help investigators confirm suspicions about the target of an inquiry or about persons in contact with that target. The latter can help the intelligence community focus its limited investigatory resources by avoiding false leads and channeling efforts where they are needed most. But with respect to the former, our review suggests that the Section 215 program offers little unique value but largely duplicates the FBI’s own information gathering efforts. And with respect to the latter, while the value of proper resource allocation in time-sensitive situations is not to be discounted, we question whether the American public should accept the government’s routine collection of all of its telephone records because it helps in cases where there is no threat to the United States.
Further reading for those of most political persuasions:

Electronic Freedom Foundation
The NSA’s Call Record Program, a 9/11 Hijacker, and the Failure of Bulk Collection

House Judiciary Committee
H.R. 2048, THE USA FREEDOM ACT

National Rifle Association
USA FREEDOM Act Becomes Law, Enhances Privacy for Law-Abiding Americans

Jonathan Mayer, a computer scientist + lawyer at Stanford
MetaPhone: The Sensitivity of Telephone Metadata

ACLU
ACLU V. NSA - CHALLENGE TO WARRANTLESS WIRETAPPING

Senator Rubio says Senator Cruz voted to 'weaken U.S. intelligence.’ I’d say Cruz voted to protect American liberty.