Category Archives: Culture

On Merchants

“The parson lives on the sins of the people, the doctor on their diseases, and the lawyer on their disputes and quarrels. But the merchant lives on the wealth of the people. He never wishes for a poor customer or a poor country… the merchant has every inducement to seek and support the wealth of the state.”

– Pelatiah Webster

Lopez Booed off Stage

Time and a place

Comic George Lopez was booed off stage at a gala for juvenile diabetes in Denver last week, over an anti-Donald Trump routine that fell flat with the crowd.

[…]

We’re told that Lopez responded to Maffei, “Thank you for changing my opinion on old white men, but it doesn’t change the way I feel about orange men.”

Trying to recover and sensing the audience turn, Lopez said, “Listen, it’s about the kids . . . I apologize for bringing politics to an event. This is America — it still is. So I apologize to your white privilege.”

We’re told Lopez also told a joke about Trump’s proposed border wall with Mexico, saying, “I guess you can get some Mexicans to do it cheaper and they wouldn’t crush the tunnels ­underneath.”

When the audience did not respond well, he quipped, “Are you El Chapo people?” in reference to the drug kingpin who has used tunnels to evade authorities.

Lopez is a funny guy and has been able to make make poignant social commentaries through his comedy – particularly regarding cultural differences and immigration. The problem with him, and too many like him, is that he has let his hatred of Trump seep into everything. He can’t help himself. So while he is supposed to be just a funny MC for an event to raise money to fight juvenile diabetes, he uses it as an opportunity to just vent about Trump. It isn’t even funny. It’s just hate. Which is why people were turning on him. Americans have a long history of enjoying political comedy and satire and can generally roll with the punches. But when it is just an un-funny political hate rant, nobody wants to hear it.

Meanwhile, Lopez put his own political hatred above the kids with diabetes. He couldn’t help himself even for a few minutes on behalf of kids. That’s a lot of hatred to contend with.

To NFL or Not to NFL

I’ll just say it. I love football. As a child of Texas, football was a way of life. From the JV games on Thursday, to Friday Night Lights, to college football Saturdays, to the NFL on Sunday and Monday, I love it all.

After the NFL protests started, I found my habits changing. Sundays used go church, brunch, and then sit down to watch pre-game and NFL football for 10 or 11 straight hours. But the NFL protests have changed that for me. I’ll still watch my Cowboys play when it’s convenient. The same is true for the Packers. But that’s about it. I’m just not interested in the rest anymore. I’m not interested in spending time patronizing a business that clearly doesn’t value me as a customer. I still love the game, but I’m finding it easier and easier to do without the NFL. There is lot of football to enjoy without the NFL.

I’m not boycotting. It wasn’t really even a conscious decision. The NFL just turned me off… so I turned them off.

We’re Listening

And this is why, despite the fact that I love technology and am a certified geek, I will not have one of these kinds of devices in my home.

A major flaw has been detected in the newly-unveiled Google Home Mini speaker that allows it to secretly record conversations without users knowing.

Last week, Google showed off its next-generation smart speakers at an event in San Francisco. Following the event, it sent members of the press home with a review unit of the Google Home Mini, expected to launch on October 19.

Android Police tech blogger and founder Artem Russakovskii was the first to discover a bug in the software used by those devices. After using the gadget, he went to his Google (GOOG)activity account page and noticed it was populated with audio clips recorded in his home.

The Google Home Mini saved recordings at times when the wake word “OK Google” wasn’t used. (A wake word typically triggers smart devices like Google Home and the Amazon Echo to start listening to your verbal commands).

Unsent Text Serves as Last Will and Testament

Fascinating.

A court in Australia has accepted an unsent, draft text message on a dead man’s mobile phone as an official will.

The 55-year-old man had composed a text message addressed to his brother, in which he gave “all that I have” to his brother and nephew.

The message was found in the drafts folder on the man’s phone after he took his own life last year .

Brisbane Supreme Court ruled that the wording of the text indicated that the man intended it to act as his will.

In the message, the man gave details of how to access his bank account and where he had hidden money in his house.

“Put my ashes in the back garden,” he wrote. “A bit of cash behind TV and a bit in the bank.”

According to ABC News, the man’s wife applied to manage his assets and argued that the text message was not valid as a will because it was never sent.

Typically, for a will to be valid in Queensland, it must be written and signed by two witnesses.

As technology evolves, so does everyone’s jurisprudence.

Frankly, I agree with the wife. The fact that he killed himself is relevant. If he met an untimely demise, then perhaps an unsent text would be relevant. But given the fact that he chose the moment of his own death, his unwillingness to send the text first indicates that he didn’t intend for it to be his final word.

More Stars Come Forward About Weinstein

Heh.

(CNN)More women, including Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie, have come forward to accuse Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment and inappropriate behavior.

Paltrow and Jolie made their allegations in a New York Times article published Tuesday.
A representative for Paltrow confirmed the account she shared with the Times to CNN.
Paltrow said she was 22 years old when Weinstein hired her to play the lead in his adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic novel “Emma.”

Paltrow is 45 years old. That means that for 23 years, Weinstein allegedly continued to victimize other women – many of whom never reached the wealth and fame as Paltrow – as she sat silent. Meanwhile, Paltrow enjoyed her fame, wealth, and lectured the rest of us about women’s rights. The same is true for Jolie and so many others. I get that Paltrow may have been fearful to say anything when she was an unknown trying to make her way, but what was her excuse for the last decade when she was an established A-list celebrity? Where was she when she could have used her platform to protect other women – not from the general “patriarchy,” but from a man that she knew to be a predator?

Silent.

Forgive me if I scoff at their denunciations at this late date when their silence enabled Weinstein to victimize so many others.

The human cost of civil liberties

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online. Here you go:

Living in a free society rooted in individual liberty and the rule of law is not for the frail or fragile. There are considerable personal and societal human costs, but the alternative is despotism, the human costs of which history has demonstrated to be substantially more severe. 

When the Constitution of the United States was written, it rested, and continues to rest, on the principle that sovereignty resides in the individual. Those individuals can bind together as a people to form a government. The people then grant the government specific powers to exercise on behalf of the people for the common good. The Constitution was written to define the structure of the national government and then grant that government specific powers. It was understood that the national government could not exercise any power not specifically granted to it by the people in its founding document. Because of that understanding, many of the founders thought that a Bill of Rights was superfluous.

Fortunately, other founders disagreed and insisted on a Bill of Rights to make it crystal clear to that there are certain rights of the people that are absolutely inviolable. The end result was the first 10 amendments of the Constitution which were drafted, debated and passed by many of the same people who signed the Constitution.

The Bill of Rights was specifically written to protect individuals from the arbitrary coercive power of government and it has protected Americans for more than 200 years. But those protections do not come without cost. Many of them result in mayhem and deaths that could have been prevented in a more authoritarian state without a Bill of Rights.

For example, many of the protections in the Bill of Rights allow criminals to remain free to brutalize their fellow citizens. The Fourth Amendment says that people have a right to, “be secure in their persons, houses, papers and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” This requires that the police have a reasonable suspicion that someone has committed a crime and follow due process in order to search someone’s person or property. Sometimes criminals are able to hide behind these procedures and commit more crimes while the police are unable to act.

The Eighth Amendment says in part that, “excessive bail shall not be required.” This amendment is why alleged murders and rapists are able to bail out of jail even when the evidence is overwhelming that they are guilty. Sometimes, those murderers and rapists continue to wreak havoc while on bail until the judicial system can finally process them.

The Sixth Amendment says in part that a criminal on trial has a right to, “be confronted with the witnesses against him.” This is the right that forces the government to present witnesses to an accused criminal, thus allowing the accused to take retribution against those witnesses or even murder them to halt the trial, as happened recently with a drug lord in Milwaukee.

All of these individual protections that keep criminals on the streets are rooted in the philosophy that “It is better that 10 guilty persons escape, than that one innocent suffer,” as written by William Blackstone in his Commentaries on the Laws of England in 1765. While a noble and high standard to set for a government to deprive an individual of his or her rights, it also necessitates that our government lets a lot of very violent people roam our streets because the government cannot reach that standard.

Beyond protecting possible criminals, our Bill of Rights also forbids our government from punishing thoughts or actions that do not violate someone else’s rights. The First Amendment prohibits the government from punishing someone for exercising their religion, peacefully assembling, speaking, petitioning the government or proclaiming thoughts in the press. That comes with a cost. People are free to preach hateful religions, glorify violent thoughts and images, whip up a mob into a murderous rage and much more. America has seen a lot of murders, assaults, damaged property, and even wars that could have been prevented had it not been for the First Amendment.

Then there is the Second Amendment, the favorite target of the left after every murderous rampage committed with a gun. The Second Amendment protects individuals from the government restricting or prohibiting their ownership and use of weapons. While the use of weapons in our society is overwhelmingly positive and a vital backstop against tyranny, there are also times when weapons are used to maim and kill innocent people.

It is not always easy or safe living in a free society. It requires vigilance, effort, thoughtfulness, and a willingness to accept consequences for one’s own actions and the unpredictable actions of others. It is much easier and safer to live under an authoritarian government – as long as you do and think what your government tells you.

Silencing the Normals

Heh.

Remember, the goal of politicizing a tragedy like Kimmel did is never to “start the conversation.” It’s to end the conversation by characterizing any rational counter-argument to their fascist schemes as immoral and silence all opposition so the left can push through its agenda without the need to actually formulate an argument as to how the proposed rescission of our rights might solve the problem. But, having become woke, we normals just won’t cooperate anymore with the media narrative – we insist on resisting, thereby proving that we are all just like Hitler plus Pol Pot plus Nickelback.

Bubba Power

Yup.

They ask something like this: “Do you really think Bubba in camo gear hiding in the forest is going to take on the U.S. military? The U.S. military has nuclear weapons!”

Who exactly do you think has stymied the U.S. in Afghanistan for 16 years? The Taliban is made up of Afghan Bubbas. The Taliban doesn’t need to defeat nuclear weapons, though they are humiliating a nuclear power for the second time in history. They use a mix of Kalashnikovs and WWII-era bolt-action rifles. Determined insurgencies are really difficult to fight, even if they are only armed with Enfield rifles and you can target them with a TOW missiles system that can spot a cat in the dark from two miles away. In Iraq, expensive tanks were destroyed with simple improvised explosives.

If the U.S. government (and the American people behind them) doesn’t want to use nuclear weapons on foreign fundamentalists in Afghanistan, why does anyone presume they’d use them against Americans in Idaho?

It is not just our fecklessness. All great powers take into account the moral and manpower costs of implementing their rules and laws on a people. And an armed citizenry, especially if they seem to have a just cause to rally around, will dramatically raise the price of ruling them. The British Empire controlled one quarter of the world’s territory and ruled one quarter of the earth’s population in 1922. In that very year, they were forced to make an effective exit from the main part of their oldest colony, Ireland. Why? Because a determined group of Irish men with guns made the country ungovernable. The British technically could have deployed their entire navy, blockading the restive island, and starving any rebellion into submission. But they were unwilling to pay the moral price, or the price in blood. It was precisely this foreseeable event that had caused the British to ban Irish Catholics from possessing firearms hundreds of years earlier.

UW Policy to Enforce Civil Protests

This policy looks good.

University of Wisconsin System leaders approved a policy Friday that calls for suspending and expelling students who disrupt campus speeches and presentations, saying students need to listen to all sides of issues and arguments.

The Board of Regents adopted the language on a voice vote during a meeting at UW-Stout in Menomonie.

The policy states that students found to have twice engaged in violence or other disorderly conduct that disrupts others’ free speech would be suspended. Students found to have disrupted others’ free expression three times would be expelled.

“Perhaps the most important thing we can do as a university is to teach students how to engage and listen to those with whom they differ,” system President Ray Cross told the regents. “If we don’t show students how to do this, who will? Without civil discourse and a willingness to listen and engage with different voices, all we are doing is reinforcing our existing values.”

That is an incredibly healthy and appropriate statement from Ray Cross. Good for him. Nobody is saying that students can’t protest or express their views. All they are saying is that they can’t bully others into silence without consequences. For the record, that’s how it works in the real world.

SNL Ignores Weinstein

Heh.

Saturday Night Live joined the ranks of entertainment programs being called out for not commenting on sexual harassment allegations against former movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.

Social media users skewered the decades old live sketch comedy show, with many highlighting the programs hypocrisy in not going after one of Hollywood’s biggest players.

‘Why didn’t big mouth Michael Che’ say anything about Harvey Weinstein on SNL “Weekend Update”? He’s got so much opinion about everything else,’ Pastor Darrell Scott asked contentiously.

Like most people, I haven’t watched SNL in years. It was always lefty and always harsher on Republicans, but that didn’t turn me off. I stopped watching because it stopped being funny. When I could watch the entire show and maybe chuckle twice, it just wasn’t worth the time investment anymore.

But now SNL is just yet another leftist propaganda show. Whatever your politics, the Weinstein story is a mine of comedy gold if someone is willing to put in a piece of dynamite. SNL’s unwillingness to do so just confirms what we all already knew… the writers’ politics trumped their commitment to their comedic craft long ago.

D.C. Assassin Cased Baseball Field for Months

James Hodgkinson, the 66-year-old shooter, had taken cellphone video of the field where the Republican team practiced as far back as April, and had been spotted by neighbors “casing” the area in the months preceding the attack, according to the report, written by the commonwealth’s attorney for the City of Alexandria.
One member of the baseball team remembered seeing Hodgkinson sitting in the stands of Simpson Field and watching the team practice the morning before the incident, the report reveals.
In a minute-by-minute account of the attack, which left GOP House Majority Whip Steve Scalise critically injured and several others hurt, the report also describes how Hodgkinson shifted position around the field while firing off at least 70 rounds, most of them from an assault rifle.
Capitol Police officers on Scalise’s detail fired 25 rounds back at Hodgkinson, pinning him down and keeping “his attention from returning to the unarmed baseball players” while backup from the Alexandria Police Department arrived.
[…]
The report also offers a window into the life of the shooter in the year leading to the attack. Hodgkinson, living in Illinois, had stopped working and was in financial distress by late 2016, the report says. He was “increasingly making vague statements about how he would ‘not be around much longer’ to family members” and “spent a significant amount of time on social media,” espousing strong support for Vermont independent Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign.

Fearless Girls Paid Less

How funny.

The statue of a young girl staring down Wall Street’s famous stock market bull was installed to draw attention to gender inequality and the pay gap in the corporate world.

But in an ironic twist the firm behind the Fearless Girl statue will pay $5m (£3.8m; €4.3m) in a row over equal pay.

State Street Global Advisors (SSGA) has been accused by the US Department of Labor of paying hundreds of female executives less than male colleagues.

The firm denies the claims.

It said it wanted to bring an end to the matter.

The fund manager will pay the settlement to more than 300 senior female staff which were paid less than their male counterparts, according to the Department of Labor.

Look For the Helpers

What a hero. Amid all of the bad, there is so much good.

ohh5gkbn

The man who was photographed covering a woman in a viral Las Vegas massacre photo was identified as a U.S. Army soldier.

 The picture of Matthew Cobos was snapped by a Getty photographer. He was lying on top of a young woman in an attempt to shield her from the bullets on Sunday night.[…]

Cobos, it was reported, then “ran back into the danger zone to help others who had been injured” after the woman was got to safety.

To stop bleeding, he apparently used a belt as a tourniquet and placed his fingers in bullet holes of victims.

Harvey Weinstein’s History of Abuse

I know… it’s shocking that a big time liberal icon and Hollywood mogul is a serial abuser of women, isn’t it?

An investigation by The New York Times found previously undisclosed allegations against Mr. Weinstein stretching over nearly three decades, documented through interviews with current and former employees and film industry workers, as well as legal records, emails and internal documents from the businesses he has run, Miramax and the Weinstein Company.

During that time, after being confronted with allegations including sexual harassment and unwanted physical contact, Mr. Weinstein has reached at least eight settlements with women, according to two company officials speaking on the condition of anonymity. Among the recipients, The Times found, were a young assistant in New York in 1990, an actress in 1997, an assistant in London in 1998, an Italian model in 2015 and Ms. O’Connor shortly after, according to records and those familiar with the agreements.

Rogers Speaks Out on Vegas Killings

OK.

“We’re going to have to make some changes in society, hopefully quickly, because there’s too many situations like this where we send our thoughts and prayers to these victims, and unfortunately [it] keeps happening and [we] stand up here and talk about it some more,” Rodgers said.

Rodgers chose his words carefully and spoke with emotion, noting a personal connection.

“It’s scary,” he said. “It’s very scary. I woke up at 6 that morning and immediately saw the news, like most of us do, we check our news sites or Twitter, and you’re just heartbroken for those people. I have some ties and connections to Vegas, and I had some friends who were at the venue. It’s unthinkable that this would continue to happen in our country. You obviously send your prayers and thoughts to the people who are affected. A friend of mine lost their best friend of 20 years. Just — it’s something unfortunately we’re still having to deal with.”

Rodgers would not share the name of his friend or the deceased.

Culturally, we get very upset when people operate out of the box in which they normally operate. Rodgers is a football player and people will get grumpy about him opining on political or cultural issues. We like our football players to play football, and that’s it. The same works in reverse. We get grumpy when our politicians share their opinions about sports. We like to compartmentalize people and get frustrated when they try to operate in multiple compartments at a time.

I don’t have a problem with Rodgers using his platform to share his views about things going on in the world. As long as he isn’t disrespecting our flag or something, he’s certainly free to share his thoughts. At the same time, when he decides to weigh in on issues, he does so without any pretense of expertise or authority. He’s just a dude talking about stuff… like me.

So let’s evaluate what he said. In reading the quote above, he didn’t really say anything. He basically said, “we should do something” without offering any prescription. It’s not even clear to me if he’s talking about some legislative response or a general cultural response. He said, “We’re going to have to make some changes in society.” I think we all agree on that. It gets more contentious when we begin to talk about what those changes should be.

Cam Newton is Amused

Heh.

NFL quarterback Cam Newton came under fire on Wednesday after he appeared to dismiss a female reporter’s question based on her gender.

During a Carolina Panthers’ press conference at Bank of America Stadium in North Carolina, Newton was asked a routine question about offensive schemes by the Charlotte Observer’s Jourdan Rodrigue.

Newton, in reply, appeared to condescend the female reporter, saying: ‘It’s funny to hear a female talk about routes.’ Newton then takes a pause before repeating ‘it’s funny’.

Report: St. Nick’s Tomb Found

Wait… Santa is dead!?!?

Turkish archaeologists have dashed the hopes of millions of children by claiming to have uncovered the likely burial place of Saint Nicholas.

Surveys have uncovered an intact temple and burial grounds below St Nicholas church in the province of Antalya, where the saint is believed to have been born, archaeologists told the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet.

“We have obtained very good results but the real work starts now,” said Cemil Karabayram, the director of surveying and monuments in Antalya. “We will reach the ground and maybe we will find the untouched body of Saint Nicholas.”

Revered for his gift-giving and aid to the poor, the fourth-century saint gave rise to the legend of Santa Claus.

In recent years, the church in Demre district in Antalya, near his birthplace, has been restored and draws many visitors. Demre is built on the ruins of Myra, the city where Saint Nicholas, revered by many denominations in Christianity, is believed to have lived.

Responding to Las Vegas

Yep.

The question today is what do we do? What do we change?
I say: Change nothing.
Do nothing but mourn, care and investigate. Yes, at some point this event will inform decisions on how we govern ourselves. But not today.
I find it very difficult to believe that the alleged shooter acted alone. And if there were accomplices, I want to know who they were, and why they helped him.
But I do not want to walk through new metal detectors, or deal with other infringements upon my civil liberties as a knee-jerk reaction to this event. Far too often, in fact, every damn time, this kind of thing happens, the response is that we must rein in our freedoms.

Gun Control Isn’t the Answer

Yup.

Before I started researching gun deaths, gun-control policy used to frustrate me. I wished the National Rifle Association would stop blocking common-sense gun-control reforms such as banning assault weapons, restricting silencers, shrinking magazine sizes and all the other measures that could make guns less deadly.

Then, my colleagues and I at FiveThirtyEight spent three months analyzing all 33,000 lives ended by guns each year in the United States, and I wound up frustrated in a whole new way. We looked at what interventions might have saved those people, and the case for the policies I’d lobbied for crumbled when I examined the evidence. The best ideas left standing were narrowly tailored interventions to protect subtypes of potential victims, not broad attempts to limit the lethality of guns.

[…]

By the time we published our project, I didn’t believe in many of the interventions I’d heard politicians tout. I was still anti-gun, at least from the point of view of most gun owners, and I don’t want a gun in my home, as I think the risk outweighs the benefits. But I can’t endorse policies whose only selling point is that gun owners hate them. Policies that often seem as if they were drafted by people who have encountered guns only as a figure in a briefing book or an image on the news.