2018-06-04

Financial Times: Portland near bottom in fiscal health index.

KATU:
PORTLAND, Ore. — The city of Portland is currently about $3.4 billion in debt and ranks near the bottom of a national "fiscal health index."

The Fiscal Times evaluated the finances of 116 U.S. cities with populations greater than 200,000 and ranked Portland No. 103 last year.

Officials say Portland's debt has risen by more than 20 percent over the past 10 years from $2.82 billion in 2008.

The city currently pays more than $500 million annually to service its debt, which includes both principal and interest. The city's total budget this year is $5.1 billion. ...
Go to the KATU link for a breakout and analysis of the debt from city debt manager Eric Johansen.

China / New Zealand: Concern over PRC influence in NZ.

Business Insider:
A former CIA analyst has raised the prospect of kicking New Zealand out of an international intelligence-sharing alliance, which includes the US.

Five Eyes is the name of the intelligence alliance between the US, UK, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand that has routinely shared sensitive intelligence since 1955. But failure to respond to interference attempts by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) should endanger New Zealand's membership, Peter Mattis, a former CIA China expert testified to the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission last month.

"In New Zealand, both the last prime minister, Bill English, and Jacinda Ardern, have denied that there's a problem at all," Mattis, now a fellow at The Jamestown Foundation, said. ...

Seth Frantzman: Europe's overdue immigration reform.

Seth Frantzman at Jerusalem Post:
It’s not by chance that immigration became the No. 1 issue in all these countries. It is because almost every single government across the continent thought that bourgeois post-Cold War sensibilities and neoliberalism could solve everything. They labeled everyone discussing immigration, when such discussions were much smaller, as crackpots, extreme rightists. This was mostly because the old parties of Europe, the Christian Democrats and Social Democrats, the Liberals and Conservatives, had a convivencia of power-swapping. Years of peace changed the political landscape, and it was expected that borders would be reduced and a common currency would lead to common values. The nation-state was an anachronism, said intellectuals like Tony Judt. Growing inequality, unemployment, and the social distance between leaders and governed crept in quietly, without major media noticing it.

The refugee crises of 2015 was emblematic of what had gone on for years. I went to Eastern Europe to cover the crisis. I watched as police in Greece lined up migrants and sent them into Macedonia across an undocumented border crossing. No security checks, no fingerprints, no IDs. Just “go across.” ...

Jonathan Spyer: Iran's strategic response.

Jonathan Spyer:
Iran can be expected to respond with a counter-strategy of its own, designed to stymy and frustrate western and allied efforts. What form will this Iranian response take? What assets does Iran possess in the furtherance of this goal?

First of all, it is worth noting what Iran does not have: Teheran is deficient in conventional military power, and as such is especially vulnerable when challenged in this arena. The Iranians have neglected conventional military spending, in favor of emphasis on their missile program, and their expertise in the irregular warfare methods of the Revolutionary Guards Corps and its Qods Force. ...

California: New water rationing laws.

The Organic Prepper:
Governor Jerry Brown is retiring but not before he passes a few draconian laws as parting gifts for California. Two bills were signed into law on Thursday of last week to “help California be better prepared for future droughts and the effects of climate change.”

The mandatory water conservation standards will be permanent, according to their wording, and not just for use in times of crisis. To make a long story short, now that these bills are law, it’s illegal to take a shower and do a load of laundry in the same day because you’ll exceed your “ration.” ...
About Assembly Bill 1668:
The bill, until January 1, 2025, would establish 55 gallons per capita daily as the standard for indoor residential water use, beginning January 1, 2025, would establish the greater of 52.5 gallons per capita daily or a standard recommended by the department and the board as the standard for indoor residential water use, and beginning January 1, 2030, would establish the greater of 50 gallons per capita daily or a standard recommended by the department and the board as the standard for indoor residential water use. The bill would impose civil liability for a violation of an order or regulation issued pursuant to these provisions, as specified.
Sacramento Bee:
Assembly Bill 1668 by Assemblywoman Laura Friedman, D-Glendale, and Senate Bill 606 from state Sen. Bob Hertzberg, D-Los Angeles, give water districts more flexibility than the strict cuts mandated under Brown’s emergency drought order and will eventually allow state regulators to assess thousands of dollars in fines against jurisdictions that do not meet the goals. ...

2018-06-03

The "decent people".

They are a class of people who believed they could discern a "decent" person by the individual's decorum and speech. Their whole world-view is based on this shallow, superficial, and trivial understanding of human nature. In reality, decent and honorable people may be plain-spoken and even at times crude. But the manners brigade will die before they'll admit they were wrong about that.

Gender and category errors.

The anti-trans social conservatives understand correctly that gender has both an external component (our reproductive organs) and an internal component (our psychological makeup), which are aligned or matched-up in a certain way in most people. What they are unable or unwilling to see is that exceptional cases may exist where the matching is different from most people. (Were this not the case, it would be the only phenomenon in all of nature that hasn't got a single exception or deviation.) They imagine that transgender people are "trying to destroy society".

Anti-trans feminists (or TERFs) make the opposite error, and deny any natural correlation between reproductive sex and innate gender identity. For them, all gender identity is "socially constructed" and the product of patriarchal stereotypes. From there, it is a short step to declaring all generalizations about men and women inherently oppressive and evil.

Of the two errors, the latter is more useful to socialists and radical leftists (who really ARE trying to destroy society) because it attacks the process of organizing our experience on the most fundamental level - it attacks reasoning itself. A botany book contains idealized diagrams of flowers, and an anatomy book contains idealized diagrams of people; no one imagines that these diagrams represent every case, or even exactly represent a single example, but they are useful tools for learning the overall properties of the thing under consideration.

It is not so difficult to say, "This is the general case, but execptions also exist. Each case is unique, and yet certain things are true of the overall population." And yet this is exactly what political correctness aims to do, with the intended and demonstrated result that the whole educational process grinds to a halt. And this is precisely what we've seen in ecucation for the past 50 years or more.

2018-05-21

Linkage: 2018-05-21 Monday.

The Standard: How conservatives can win the youth.
Ben Shapiro.
Capitalism is good because you own your own labor and you have the right to exchange that labor for someone else’s labor and no one has the right to steal your labor from you. Socialism is evil because it says that a third party can tell you what your labor is worth.

Religious freedom is good because freedom of association is good and no one has the right to tell you how to live your life so long as you’re not forcibly imposing your views on anyone else. Governmental discrimination against religious institutions is evil because it is none of the government’s business how you choose to worship, how you choose to operate your business, and how you choose to raise your child.

Freedom of speech is good because you have value as an individual human being with a unique point of view; you’re not reducible to your skin color, your ethnicity, or your income. Political correctness and identity politics are evil because they utilize censorship to box you into a group identity that denies your individuality.

Small government is good because it allows you to pursue your goals without someone else telling you what to do, and if we can’t agree to leave each other alone, you’ll have to fear my tyranny as much as I fear yours. Big government is evil because it insists that a cadre of bureaucrats knows more about how to run your life than you do.

These are winning arguments. And young Americans are open to them.
Kristen Soltis Anderson.
Conservatives should have something to say to young people about the free markets that deliver so much of what gives them this material quality of life, and why ideas like socialism that failed dramatically in the past (often long before they were born) remain bankrupt today.

Young Americans are also increasingly experiencing the effects of a loneliness epidemic spawned in part by the fact that genuine community and human connection have too often been replaced—inadequately—by screen time and social media. It is true that social conservatism, which is often unfairly portrayed by the media as a basket of retrograde views on gender and sexuality, remains a nonstarter with young people, but the idea that families and communities need strengthening, that they are not replaceable by the state, and that they are essential to a fulfilled life is a message that conservatives should be shouting from the rooftops.

Robert Spencer: Poisoned in Iceland a year ago, still no justice.

FrontPage. 'Just over a year ago, a young Icelandic Leftist poisoned me in Reykjavik after I gave a lecture on the jihad threat. In the hospital thereafter, a Leftist doctor neglected to perform basic tests on me, such that I could have easily died from the poisoning. A year later, no one has been arrested, and Iceland’s medical ethics board has declined to discipline the doctor. The whole episode illustrates what those who are known to dissent from the Leftist agenda can expect from Leftist authorities: institutionalized indifference and injustice. ...'

Netanyahu's moment: observations from friends and the NYT.
Caroline Glick.
From moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem, to walking away from the nuclear deal which guaranteed Iran’s eventual acquisition of nuclear weapons and financed its regional aggression and terrorism sponsorship, to unconditionally supporting Israel’s military operations against Iranian positions in Syria, Trump has demonstrated that he is the most pro-Israel president in US history. No other president comes close.

The difference between Trump and his predecessors is that Trump accepts Israel on its own terms. ...
Anshel Pfeffer at NYT.
Mr. Netanyahu is the toast of the new wave of right-wing, populist and autocrat-like (if not outright autocratic) leaders. They see in him a kindred spirit, even a mentor. He is the leader of a small country who has taken on American presidents and outlasted them. He has successfully defied the Western liberal human rights agenda, focusing instead on trade and security. Israel’s success as a regional economic and military power is proof in their eyes that the illiberal approach can prevail.

He has spent more time than any of them on the geopolitical stage, winning election after election. In many ways, Mr. Netanyahu is the precursor to this new age of “strongmen” who have come to power in different parts of the world. It is the age of Bibi. ...
USA / Iran: White House considering regime change options. Washington Free Beacon: 'The Trump administration is examining a new plan to help Iranians fighting the hardline regime in Iran following America's exit from the landmark nuclear deal and reimposition of harsh economic sanctions that could topple a regime already beset by protests and a crashing economy, according to a copy of the plan obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.'

Blaire White: Do conservatives hate trans people?
Blaire White: 'Small and limited government, strong borders, being conservative fiscally, I'm a constitutionalist, I'm a nationalist at heart. All of those beliefs, technically, in today's time, definitely fall into the conservative category. ... I'm not comfortable saying that conservatives hate trans people hate trans people, because my experience has been mixed. ... I think that there is this new wave of conservatives, especially younger ones, who are much more concerned with principles and policy, rather than X-ing out this group. ... I don't think that, if it were true that conservatives hated trans people, that I'd be sitting here on YouTube with the amount of success I've had.'

2018-04-27

Koreas: Summit marks peace talks.

Reuters: Kim, Moon meet.
SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and South Korean President Moon Jae-in embraced after pledging on Friday to work for the “complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula,” punctuating a day of smiles and handshakes at the first inter-Korean summit in more than a decade.

The two Koreas announced they would work with the United States and China this year to declare an official end to the 1950s Korean war and seek an agreement to establish “permanent” and “solid” peace in its place.

The declaration included promises to pursue phased military arms reduction, cease hostile acts, transform their fortified border into a peace zone, and seek multilateral talks with other countries including the United States. ...

CNN: South Korea credits Trump for opening door to talks with North.
(CNN)South Korea's foreign minister has said she believes President Donald Trump is largely responsible for bringing North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to the negotiating table.

Speaking ahead of Friday's historic summit between the leaders of North and South Korea, Kang Kyung-wha told CNN that the US President had played a significant role in bringing the two sides together.
"Clearly, credit goes to President Trump," Kang told CNN's Christiane Amanpour in Seoul. "He's been determined to come to grips with this from day one." ...

UPDATE: Another viewpoint from Garry Kasparov on Twitter:
What's happening between the Koreas today is the largest slave auction in history. It will legitimize & perpetuate Kim Jong-un's concentration camp state and of course he will not give up his nukes.

2018-04-10

Jonah Goldberg: Mueller had better be right.

Jonah Goldberg at NRO: Mueller had better be right about the Cohen raid.
The fact that Mueller referred this to the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York rather than fold it into his own investigation suggests that whatever he found may not be central to his probe. If Mueller had reason to believe that he had Cohen dead to rights on the “collusion” stuff, he probably wouldn’t have farmed this out to a different prosecutor.

On the other hand, the fact that U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman agreed with Mueller’s interpretation and sought a warrant from a judge and that the judge agreed to grant one suggests that Cohen is in trouble. ...
Via Instapundit.

2018-04-09

FBI raids New York office of Trump lawyer Michael Cohen.

Breitbart: FBI raids office of Michael Cohen.
The F.B.I. raided President Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen’s office on Monday, seizing records related to “several topics including payments to” porn-star Stormy Daniels, the New York Times reported.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan had obtained the search warrant, after receiving a referral from special counsel Robert Mueller. Cohen’s lawyer called the search “completely inappropriate and unnecessary,” according to the Times.

The search does not appear to be related to the special counsel investigating Russian meddling and potential collusion by the Trump campaign, but a separate investigation that might have resulted from information he uncovered and handed over to prosecutors in New York.

Cohen’s lawyer, Stephen Ryan, said the F.B.I. seized “privileged communications” between Cohen and his clients. ...

PJ Media: Trump furious over raids.
The FBI raided the office and residence of President Trump's longtime personal attorney, confidant and "fixer" today, prompting an angry reaction from the president and caution from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle who advocated that special counsel Robert Mueller be able to stay the course in his investigation.

About a dozen agents were reportedly involved in serving multiple warrants on Michael Cohen's office, his home and the Loew's Regency hotel where he has been staying, seizing his computer, phone, emails, tax documents, business records and related materials.

Cohen has publicly admitted to making a $130,000 payment, from his home equity line of credit, to adult-film star Stormy Daniels in October 2016 in return for her silence about an alleged 2006 affair between Trump and Daniels, and to setting up a limited-liability company in Delaware to make the payment 10 days before the money transfer. The payment was flagged by Cohen's bank in a suspicious activity report at the time.

An outstanding question is whether investigators determine the payment was an undisclosed "in kind" campaign contribution intended to influence the outcome of the election, which would violate the $2,700 contribution limit as well as disclosure rules. ...


Fox: Trump attacks Mueller "witch hunt".

"It's a disgraceful situation. It's a total witch hunt," said Trump, who claimed that he had "given over a million pages in documents to the special counsel. They continue to just go forward ... and I have this witch hunt constantly going on for over 12 months now. Actually it's much more than that. You could say right after I won the [2016 Republican] nomination it started."

Trump also accused Mueller's investigators of being "the most biased group of people [with] the biggest conflicts of interest" and said Attorney General Jeff Sessions "made a terrible mistake for the country" when he recused himself from overseeing the Russia investigation last year. ...

Popehat: What we can infer immediately.
1. According to Cohen's own lawyer, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York (widely regarded within itself as being the most important and prestigious U.S. Attorney's Office in the country) secured the search warrants for the FBI. Assuming this report is correct, that means that a very mainstream U.S. Attorney's Office — not just Special Counsel Robert Mueller's office — thought that there was enough for a search warrant here.

2. Moreover, it's not just that the office thought that there was enough for a search warrant. They thought there was enough for a search warrant of an attorney's office for that attorney's client communications. That's a very fraught and extraordinary move that requires multiple levels of authorization within the Department of Justice. ...

Fake news master Christopher Blair tells all.

Boston Globe: Fake news creator did it for our own good.
Blair says he was raised a Massachusetts Democrat. When the economy crashed in 2008, he lost work and struggled to support his family. He blamed it on President George W. Bush. Social media and online forums became welcome places to vent his anger. Busta Troll was born after the election of Barack Obama, and was triggered, Blair says, by the rise of the Tea Party movement that arose in opposition. Online, he found himself aligning with a small offshoot of people who live to goad and prank and maybe silence extreme conservatives.

In 2014, Blair, as Busta Troll, pulled off a prank that won him wide admiration in that community. The United States had just traded five Taliban prisoners for Bowe Bergdahl, an Army soldier captured in Afghanistan after deserting his post. The prisoner swap ignited anger in far-right groups, and a Facebook page dedicated to the issue quickly became a “dumping ground for bilious accusations against Bergdahl and anti-Obama chatter,” according to the Los Angeles Times, which wrote about it at the time. ...

Related: Fake news creator John Jansen (NPR, November 2016).

Check the facts - and we will tell you how!


That's one way to approach fact-checking.  My approach is a little different.

Why did this ostensibly neutral, public-spirited presentation use specifically the example of Muslims and Christmas trees?  Why is Google presented as the single solution to the fact-checking problem?

To be sure, questionable stories about Islam, as with any other topic, should be fact-checked, and false information about Islam (as with any other topic) can do great damage.  Google is one of many tools available for this purpose.

We can all agree on the importance of getting your facts straight, but there is a lot more to it than this video would suggest - and I suspect that the presentation has an agenda of its own.

Israel strikes Syria; Russia responds.

Arutz Sheva: Russia condemns Israel.
The Russian government condemned Israel for the bombing of a Syrian government base on Monday, denying the apparent chemical weapons attack which prompted the bombing.

In a pre-dawn strike, a pair of Israeli F-15 fighter jets flew over Lebanon before crossing over into Syrian airspace, Russia claimed Monday.

The two Israeli Air Force jets struck targets at Syria’s T-4 airbase, killing 14 people according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Initial reports indicated that at least some of the dead were Iranians.

While Israel has not confirmed its involvement in the attack, the Kremlin blamed the Israeli Air Force for the bombings, after the Syrian government accused the US of launching the attack. ...
Debka: Lavrov calls strike "dangerous development".
The Russian defense and foreign ministries have asked their Israeli counterparts to provide “explanations” for air strikes on a “Syrian military facility,” former FSB general Senator Vladimir Jabarov reported Sunday. He was speaking with Iranian media....

2018-04-08

Pat Condell is wrong about trans people ...

... but he's right about almost everything else. And he's right about the things that matter most. And right or wrong, he doesn't deserve to get censored from Twitter.

Beautiful forever.

In the end, she killed only herself. But Nasim Aghdam finally got the star status she craved. Mark Steyn has some thoughts on the grand convergence:
...What happened yesterday is a remarkable convergence of the spirits of the age: mass shootings, immigration, the Big Tech thought-police, the long reach of the Iranian Revolution, the refugee racket, animal rights, vegan music videos... It was the latest mismatched meeting between east and west in the age of the Great Migrations: Nasim Aghdam died two days before her 39th birthday, still living (according to news reports) with either her parents or her grandmother. She came to America at the age of seventeen, and spent two decades in what appears to be a sad and confused search to find something to give her life meaning. But in a cruder sense the horror in San Bruno was also a sudden meeting of two worlds hitherto assumed to be hermetically sealed from each other: the cool, dispassionate, dehumanized, algorithmic hum of High Tech - and the raw, primal, murderous rage breaking through from those on the receiving end.

Another blogger back in the fray.

Instapinch 2.0 (pinned post):
Welcome to Instapinch Version 2.0! I wish I could say this iteration will be funnier and faster and slicker and neater with neon lights and lasers and sound effects and dancing girls and explosions and everything else. Unfortunately it’ll be more of what you saw in Version 1.0…a smattering of photographs, Navy jets (especially the F-14, even though its been a museum piece now for over 10 years) and the occasional opinion tossed in there for good measure.
You can add Instapinch 2.0 to your blogroll.

2018-03-24

Parkland victim's family unwelcome at rally.

Gateway Pundit:
The family of slain Parkland student Meadow Pollack was disinvited from speaking at the March for Our Lives rally in Washington, DC. The family is not pushing gun control, but rather securing our schools and protecting our children. ...
Go to the link for Hunter Pollack's speech.

Cobb: Bring blogs back.

Cobb:
You don't own your own words. When you live on Facebook's property, you don't own your own words. They can be deleted by someone other than you. They can be banned by someone other than you. You can hardly even know what you said a year ago by searching for it. I don't mean to suggest that Facebook alone is capable of this, but it is the 900 pound gorilla. The same things are true of Twitter and the comments sections of hundreds of new media outlets.

When it comes to participating in the debates that a free and open society require, these social media spaces do not facilitate. That is not why they exist. That is not their business model. They were not created to sustain collaborative thought, but to let everybody connect in social ways. They are not town halls so much as they are gas station bathrooms on the information superhighway. They serve everybody without much discrimination, but their facilities often stink. Sometimes you wonder who came in here to write what you see on the walls, and you cringe. No matter how many bots or attendants you apply to a roadside rest stop, it will never become a town hall. That's something you design from the ground up. Social media needs a redesign.

However, there was a moment of glory in the past in which the level of discourse broadly available to the internet public was better than it is now. That was the age of the blogosphere. ...

2018-03-23

Back to the future: Robert Tracinski on blogging.

Robert Tracinski at The Federalist:
The era of blogging offered the promise of a decentralized media. Anybody could publish and comment on the news and find an audience. Guys writing in their pajamas could take down Dan Rather. We were bypassing the old media gatekeepers. And we had control over it! We posted on our own sites. We had good discussions in our own comment fields, which we moderated. I had and still have an extensive e-mail list of readers who are interested in my work, most of which I built up in that period, before everybody moved onto social media.

But then Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube came along and killed the blogs. There were three main reasons they took over.

The first was that maintaining your own website is kind of a bother. ...

Read the whole thing.

For me, circumstances in my personal life conspired to encourage me to follow the larger trends, both toward and away from traditional blogging. In the early 2000s I was newly single and had some inherited assets, and consequently had ample leisure time to read and write about the events of the day at a leisurely pace. Around 2007 - 2008, I got involved in a high-drama relationship and soon found my schedule full with the demands of work and parenting. This of course coincided with the rise of Facebook and Twitter, and although I initially resisted, I eventually joined the social-media bandwagon.

One thing in particular about the Facebook format is that while it makes it very easy to offer your comments on *one* news item, there's no real provision for writing a post linking two or more sources. This is a very big drawback in my opinion, because one of the potential strengths of the internet as a news forum is the ability to correlate and compare different sources in a single place.

I agree with Robert's conclusion and I'm on board with his four-point program. I'm looking forward to getting more involved with long-form blogging, and I am adding The Trancinski Letter to my blogroll.

(Blogroll: that's "a roster of websites and blogs with good information" for you youngsters.)

2018-03-19

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman is first to visit Rwanda.

Avigdor Liberman became the first Israeli Defense Minister to visit Rwanda.


Arutz Sheva:

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman today held an historic first visit of an Israeli Defense Minister in Kigali, capital of Rwanda.

Liberman met with Rwandan President Paul Kagame, Defense Minister James Kabarebe, and Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo. ...

Related: Rwanda ready to take African migrants from Israel and Libya - AllAfrica.
Rwanda has reiterated its readiness to receive African migrants from Israel and Libya.

Minister of Foreign Affairs, Louise Mushikiwabo, affirmed that Kigali would accept the refugees and asylum seekers as long as the process of relocating them was in line with international laws. ...

2018-03-18

Source analysis toolbox.

Ever since I started blogging, I've been interested not only in current events, but also in the meta-questions of "How do we know what we know?" In 2005, I posted "How can you determine a source's biases?" in an attempt to list some of the mental processes and checklists I go through to try to decide what to believe and what not to believe. The more recent phenomenon of fake news (in the sense of overtly false and spurious hoax news sites) gave fresh urgency to the problem, as I posted at my LiveJournal. Related posts are collected under my epistemology tag. This post is the latest update to my checklist.

Look in the mirror.
This is really the most important thing when analyzing a source for credibility or bias: knowing your own beliefs and your own possible biases. It's always tempting to accept something uncritically because it fits what we think we already know.

Premises / logic / values.
Know what you differ on: what you believe is a fact, or what consequences follow from it, or whether something is good or bad.

Confirmation bias.
This is our natural tendency to believe things that fit our world-view. I find it helpful to divide between "things I think I know" and "things I know I know". Only verified factual information - things I KNOW that I know - is useful for evaluating the truth or falsity of a new claim.

Narrative.
What kind of overall picture, or "narrative", is the source trying to present?

Baseline.
Before you can determine whether an event is significant or unusual (for example, a crime wave), you need to know what the normal state of affairs is (for example, the average crime rate).

Question sensational reports.
There's a military saying that "nothing is as good or as bad as first reported". Sensational reports do just what the name says - they appeal to our sensations (of fear, hope, disgust, arousal, etc.) and can short-circuit our critical thinking. News stories with especially lurid details should be treated with skepticism.

Internal consistency.
Do all the pieces fit together in a way that makes sense?

External consistency.
Does the report agree with verified facts - things I know I know?

Dialog and dissent.
Does the source welcome opposing views and seek to respond to them?

Awareness of objections.
Does the source attempt to anticipate and refute objections?

Nuance.
By nuance I mean the recognition that a thing can be true in general and still admit of exceptions. For example, it may be true that tall people are generally better basketball players, but it can also be true that some short people may be outstanding players.

Logical fallacies.
There are many mistakes in basic reasoning that can lead us to wrong conclusions.

Red herrings / straw men.
A straw man is an argument that can be easily overcome, but that nobody on the other side actually made; you can "refute" this kind of argument to try to make it look like you refuted your opponent's argument, but you didn't actually respond to the claim they were making. A red herring is any kind of argument that is irrelevant to the main issue, and distracts you from it.

Snarl / purr words.
Some words have negative connotations (snarl words) or positive ones (purr words). Using them can be a way to appeal to people's emotions instead of arguing by reason.

Vague quantifiers.
"Many experts believe ..." Stop! How many is "many"? A majority? Half? Two or three? A claim involving numbers needs to give you specifics, or it tells you nothing.

Attributions.
Misquoting another party is, literally, the oldest trick in the Book - going all the way back to the Serpent in Genesis. It is also easy to selectively or misleadingly quote somebody, to give a false impression of what they said. My rule is, "go by what the person said, not what somebody else SAID they said."

Black propaganda - rhetorical false flag.
This is a particularly nasty trick: creating outrageous or shocking arguments and making them appear to be coming from your opponent, to discredit the opponent.

Discrediting by association - "57 Communists".
This is a little more subtle than the rhetorical false flag. This is the practice of making known false statements, which can be easily disproved, that appear to come from your opponent. The goal is to damage your opponent's credibility. A real-life example was the case of 'National Report' - the granddaddy of fake-news sites - which created all kinds of hoax stories designed to fool conservatives; the conservatives then would be made to look gullible when the stories were shown to be false. (See the "fifty-seven Communists" scene in the film 'The Manchurian Candidate'.)

Bias of intermediaries.
More subtle than the 'straw man' is the practice of pretending to present a neutral forum for debate, but deliberately choosing a more articulate, stronger debater for one side and a weaker debater for the other.

The human voice.
By this I mean an intangible quality that may include a distinctive personality, awareness of ambivalence, self-analysis and self-criticism. This one is not a matter of rigorous logic but of gut instinct: something tells you that the person sounds real or fake.

Hard to win a debate, easy to lose one.
When you're debating an issue, it is very difficult to "win" in the sense that your opponent throws up their hands and says "Oh, you were right and I was wrong" Or even to definitively convince an audience that your position is the correct one. However, it is very very easy to LOSE a debate, simply by saying or doing something that brings discredit to yourself and your cause: getting your facts wrong, making a basic logic error, or losing your cool and cursing or attacking your opponent. Sometimes the most important part of debating is knowing when to stop.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions fires FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.

Breitbart, March 16:
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, acting on the recommendation of the FBI’s Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), fired former FBI Deputy Director Andrew “Andy” McCabe Friday.
By dismissing McCabe – who was set to retire at the end of the month – before Sunday, Sessions may have jeopardized McCabe’s ability to draw a pension. Speculation Sessions might make this move has stirred since the Department of Justice Inspector General’s report, which is yet to be publically disclosed, was reported to have recommend McCabe be fired over his handling of press disclosures during his investigation of the Clinton Foundation. The OPR, upon reviewing the IG’s report, issued a recommendation to fire McCabe. ...
Statements from Sessions and McCabe at the link.

Jonathan Turley at The Hill (March 17):
Following his termination late Friday night, former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe declared that he was “singled out” after “unrelenting” attacks by President Trump and critics. McCabe’s objections are less than credible, given the virtually unprecedented recommendation of career officials to fire the one-time acting FBI director.

However, McCabe may have rectified his “singled out” status with his long statement criticizing his termination: In the middle of it is a line that could be viewed as incriminating fired FBI director James Comey, not just in leaking sensitive information but also in lying to Congress.

McCabe is accused of misleading investigators about allegedly giving information to a former Wall Street Journal reporter about the investigation of Hillary Clinton and the Clinton family’s charitable foundation. McCabe asserts in his post-firing statement that he not only had authority to “share” that information to the media but did so with the knowledge of “the director.” The FBI director at the time was Comey. ...

The Last Refuge (Conservative Treehouse) has a summary of the big picture (March 18, by Sundance):
The FBI group was participating in a plan to exonerate Hillary Clinton. That same FBI group was simultaneously conducting opposition research on candidate Donald Trump and the larger construct of his campaign team. Those FBI officials were allied by entities outside official government structures. The ‘outside group’ were “contractors”. It is likely one of the contractors was Fusion-GPS or entities in contact with Fusion-GPS. {Go Deep}

The contractors were using FBI intelligence databases to conduct opposition research “searches” on Trump campaign officials. This is where the use of FISA-702(16)(17) “To/From” and “About” queries comes in. ...

2018-03-05

Meaning and identity.

Man's search for meaning is the primary motivation in his life and not a "secondary rationalization" of instinctual drives. This meaning is unique and specific in that it must and can be fulfilled by him alone; only then does it achieve a significance which will satisfy his own will to meaning.
- Viktor E. Frankl, 'Man's Search for Meaning'

One universal quality of identity is that it gives life a meaning beyond life itself. It offers a connection to the world beyond the self. ... Whatever its form, identity offers a sense of life beyond the physical and material, beyond mere personal existence. It is this sense of a common world that stretches before and beyond the self, of belonging to something greater than the self, that gives strength not only to the community but to the individual as well.
- Natan Sharansky, 'Defending Identity'

2018-03-04

Let's blogroll!

Belmont Club: Russia's "new" nukes. 'The announcement of these wunderwaffe plus the revelation that "all of these systems were known to the Barack Obama administration — even the cruise missile" makes it harder to understand why president Obama publicly mocked then presidential candidate Mitt Romney for suggesting that Russia was a threat; or blithely allow Russia to muscle itself into Syria; or stand by and allow the Russian election hacking to proceed unchallenged when all along he knew, or must have known. ...'

Melanie Phillips: Prince William to visit Israel. 'The 70 year boycott has finally ended. Prince William will become the first member of the British royal family to make an official visit to Israel later this year. Kensington Palace has announced that he will visit Israel, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority. In all of Israel’s existence, it has never been afforded an official royal visit. Prince Philip and Prince Charles have visited a few times on private occasions, but the royals have never gone there in an official capacity. ...'

Erin Palette becomes a Public Figure. 'After nearly a year of consideration, I have decided to make a Public Figure page on Facebook. I resisted at first, because I felt it would be extra work for limited gain, but I finally gave in when I realized that having a page which was solely for my pro-gun and pro-queer activism would look more professional than one which shared space with my insecurities and nerdy interests. ...'

State power.

The concern over State power is not only about the State's power to affirmatively harm the citizen; it is also about the State's ability to selectively and arbitrarily provide or withhold its protection. The latter, more insidious threat is perhaps the greater concern in today's world.

2018-01-22

Neo on Jordan Peterson interview: "Complicated, thoughtful, and strategic."

Veteran blogger Neo-Neocon brings a professional's insights to the recent interview of Jordan Peterson by Cathy Newman.

What Peterson does in that interview isn’t just on the order of what someone like Thomas Sowell (whom I also admire greatly) habitually does in argument, which is to counter the adversary on the cognitive and logical points, and to apply the results of research to the discussion. Peterson certainly does do that, and that’s what most people see when they watch that interview. But he adds certain techniques of the therapist and particularly of the family therapist (although I really don’t know if he’s done any family therapy; Peterson’s a psychologist and used to have a private practice as a therapist, however).

If you’re mostly familiar with the supportive touchy-feely type of therapy, that’s not what I’m talking about here. I can’t give you a crash course in therapeutic techniques or in particular in the way family therapists work, but I can tell you that it’s complicated, thoughtful, and strategic. ...

Go to the link for the whole thing, with the interview video.

'Liberty: God's Gift to Humanity' by Chana Cox

Liberty: God's Gift to Humanity is an introduction to classical liberalism, from its origins in the English Civil War and the Enlightenment to the present day. If, like me, you have an interest in the subject, but your formal education failed to provide you with a a solid grounding in the basics, this is a great place to start. I'm reading it now, and plan to write a full review when I'm done. Highly recommended.

Melanie Phillips: Silence on the scandal targeting Trump.

Melanie Phillips:

If you are in Britain and relying on the BBC and mainstream media for your information, you probably won’t know that a political scandal has been developing in the Washington swamp which has the potential to make Watergate look positively puny by comparison. You probably won’t know that what passes for the accepted wisdom about President Trump may be in the process of being turned on its head.

The reason there’s been no news coverage is that it suggests Trump has been not the instigator but the target of collusion – between the FBI, the Justice Department, the Democratic party and the Russians, first to prevent him from being elected US President and then to lever him out of office.

Last Thursday, some Republicans in Congress who had seen a secret memo, apparently compiled by House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes and fellow Republicans on the panel and which involved the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), were so disturbed by what it contained that they called for it to be made public immediately. They were not at liberty to divulge what it said, merely to express their concerns. But the assumption is that it supposedly contains evidence that the Obama administration made illegal use of FISA warrants to spy on both the Trump campaign and transition teams. ...

Read the rest at the link.

2018-01-02

Michael J. Totten on the two Oregons.

My friend Michael J. Totten at City Journal:
Yes, rural Oregonians are more culturally conservative than urban Oregonians. Rural people are more culturally conservative than their urban counterparts everywhere in the world. Oregon, though, is not fighting a cultural civil war. Rather, people on the inland eastern side of the state have an entirely different set of priorities. Rural voters are being micromanaged by Democratic politicians elected in Portland, whose land-use and water-rights policies are inflicting at times devastating economic hardship on the other side of the mountains. Contrary to Frank, they prefer the Republican Party not despite their economic interests but because of them. If the Democrats want to win back these votes in the upcoming midterms, the first thing they need to do is stop kidding themselves. Understanding Oregon is a good place to start.

Oregon is divided geographically, culturally, and politically by the Cascade Mountains, a spectacular range of volcanoes roughly 100 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean that pick up where the Sierra Nevadas leave off, stretching from Lassen County in northern California to the international border with British Columbia. Those mountains are invisible on non-topographical maps. No political boundary takes them into account. The state line between Oregon and Washington mostly follows the Columbia River, and the international border between the United States and Canada follows the 49th parallel. The Cascade Mountains are natural borders, however. Instead of dividing the Pacific Northwest into northern and southern halves along the Columbia River, it might have made more sense to place Portland and Seattle in one state and everything between the Cascades and the Rockies in another. Coming from Portland, I feel more at home in Seattle and even in Vancouver, British Columbia, than I do just an hour east of my house. ...

Read the rest at the link. Michael is well known for his dispatches from Beirut and elsewhere, but he is very knowledgeable about his native Northwest and it's a pleasure to see him address issues close to home. (Michael and I went on a short road trip together back in 2005 and I wrote about it here.)

2018-01-01

World Today: 2018-01-01 Monday

Iran: Anti-regime protests continue. Fox:
A leaked report provided to Fox News shows how Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei met with political leaders and heads of the country's security forces to discuss how to tamp down on the deadly nationwide protests.

The report covered several meetings up to December 31 and was provided to the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) from what it said were high level sources from within the regime.

The meeting notes, which have been translated into English from Farsi, said the unrest has hurt every sector of the country's economy and “threatens the regime’s security. The first step, therefore, is to find a way out of this situation.” ...
Full article with video at the link.

Trump: Pakistan has given us lies and deceit. Arutz Sheva:
U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday threatened to cut off aid to Pakistan due to what he termed as its “deceit” in the fight against terrorism.

“The United States has foolishly given Pakistan more than 33 billion dollars in aid over the last 15 years, and they have given us nothing but lies & deceit, thinking of our leaders as fools. They give safe haven to the terrorists we hunt in Afghanistan, with little help. No more!” he tweeted.

Nigeria: Text of Buhari speech. AllAfrica:
Unfortunately, I am saddened to acknowledge that for many this Christmas and New Year holidays have been anything but merry and happy. Instead of showing love, companionship and charity, some of our compatriots chose this period to inflict severe hardship on us all by creating unnecessary fuel scarcity across the country.

The consequence was that not many could travel and the few who did had to pay exorbitant transport fares. This is unacceptable given that NNPC had taken measures to ensure availability at all depots. I am determined to get to the root of this collective blackmail of all Nigerians and ensure that whichever groups are behind this manipulated hardship will be prevented from doing so again.

Such unpatriotism will not divert the Administration from the course we have set ourselves. Our government's watch word and policy thrust is CHANGE. We must change our way of doing things or we will stagnate and be left behind in the race to lift our people out of poverty and into prosperity.

My address to fellow Nigerians this morning is devoted mainly to informing you about the intense efforts this Administration is putting to address our country's huge infrastructural deficit. ...

Kenya: Uhuru Kenyatta to unveil new cabinet. AllAfrica: 'President Uhuru Kenyatta has said he will unveil his new Cabinet in a few weeks.'

Israel: Knesset approves United Jerusalem bill. Arutz Sheva:
64 MKs voted in favor of the bill, 51 voted against and one abstained.

The bill was authored by Jewish Home chairman and Education Minister Naftali Bennett and was submitted by MK Shuli Moalem-Refaeli (Jewish Home).

The law stipulates that a majority of 80 Knesset members will be required to change the status of Jerusalem or for any transfer of territories from the capital within the framework of a future diplomatic agreement. ...

Israel / Jewish world: Yehuda Glick's wife Yaffa Glick passes. Arutz Sheva:
Yaffa Glick, the wife of Likud MK Yehuda Glick, passed away on Monday morning.

Yaffa was hospitalized at Jerusalem's Shaare Zedek Medical Center in June after she suffered a massive stroke.

"A few minutes ago, the love of my life returned her soul to her Creator," Yehuda Glick wrote Monday morning on Facebook. "Blessed be the true Judge."