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Calling out “White People”

 

I was on a bus in Seattle the other day sitting next to someone I met that day and will likely never meet again. We had gotten into a conversation about each other’s religious backgrounds. He went first.

“Yeah, back home I went to a Lutheran church [I’m not sure of the denomination, but it was something liturgical]. It sucked. I don’t like traditional stuff, and that’s all it was. Everyone was super old and like 90 percent white.”

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I Am Unhappy with Trump on China

 

I am unhappy that Trump is following the same sort of airy mess that Bush and Obama did with China. They steal our IP and we do nothing.

China is the threat to our Republic at the current time. They want to be the Asian power. The United States needs to remain the Asian power. I know many libertarians disagree on this. Tough. Someone has to be the world’s superpower, and if we retreat to a regional power in North America, China will expand and threaten freedom.

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About Tomi, That Lawyer, and Mob Justice

 

The other day at the playground I overheard a few fathers chatting about the legalization of sports gambling. One asked, “What kind of impact do you think this Supreme Court decision will have on our society?” The other replied, “Our society is already crumbling, what’s the difference?” Everyone around laughed and took a big sigh. Because he was right.

Having never been alive during another time in human history, perhaps it’s difficult to judge, but it certainly feels as though basic decency and kindness are a thing of the past. One striking event in the last day reminded us of this:

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Data Is Just Like Oil, Other Than These Few Minor Differences

 

You may have heard something about “data being the new oil” or some such. Just as petroleum drove economies in the 20th century, so will digital information in the 21st. I really started hearing about this framing after a May 2017 cover story by The Economist. The piece had a pretty snappy lede:

An oil refinery is an industrial cathedral, a place of power, drama and dark recesses: ornate cracking towers its gothic pinnacles, flaring gas its stained glass, the stench of hydrocarbons its heady incense. Data centres, in contrast, offer a less obvious spectacle: windowless grey buildings that boast no height or ornament, they seem to stretch to infinity. Yet the two have much in common. For one thing, both are stuffed with pipes. In refineries these collect petrol, propane and other components of crude oil, which have been separated by heat. In big data centres they transport air to cool tens of thousands of computers which extract value—patterns, predictions and other insights—from raw digital information. Both also fulfill the same role: producing crucial feedstocks for the world economy. Whether cars, plastics or many drugs—without the components of crude, much of modern life would not exist. The distillations of data centres, for their part, power all kinds of online services and, increasingly, the real world as devices become more and more connected. Data are to this century what oil was to the last one: a driver of growth and change. Flows of data have created new infrastructure, new businesses, new monopolies, new politics and—crucially—new economics. Digital information is unlike any previous resource; it is extracted, refined, valued, bought and sold in different ways. It changes the rules for markets and it demands new approaches from regulators. Many a battle will be fought over who should own, and benefit from, data.

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Lessons Learned from My Dog

 

Seven years ago, while hunting in a very remote area, I found a puppy. Really, he found me. I was walking down a trail, turned around and he was following me. He was in bad shape. He was malnourished and had a festering wound on his head. He looked at me with sad eyes and gave me no choice but to bring him home.

Buddy is the kind of dog that everybody likes. He is a people magnet. Everyone that sees him wants to stoop down and pet him. My wife and I have joked that we should rent him out to people who are looking to meet other people. Take him for a walk down the walking trail in the park and you are guaranteed to have people come up and talk to you with smiles on their faces. Forget internet dating services, just take Buddy for a walk.

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If Irish Eyes Shall Die

 

The following is a pro-life post on Ireland’s upcoming abortion referendum not by me, but another Irishman: Tim Jackson. I’m sharing it due to its power. It is astonishing.

A well known newspaper requested a short piece from me, so I wrote these thoughts down, but it has since been indicated that it probably won’t be accepted…here goes:

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Power of Words: Table Talk

 

Growing up, supper was served at the dinner table. Attendance was mandatory. There was no television in the house to distract or draw us away as quickly as we could eat.

When we were done eating, the table was cleared, and a large pot of tea was put on the table. This was the signal for family talk, which could turn into a verbal free-for-all. From this, on top of all the books in the house, augmented by frequent library trips, four young people turned into very expressive adults. Our parents set the expectation that each of us could speak for ourselves, and be part of a conversation with adults.

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When the Villain Is More Heroic Than the Heroes

 

The objective of morality is picking the highest quality you can and pursuing it. But that pursuit takes many forms, and sometimes things are not as black and white as they would seem.

One aspect of being moral is kindness. But kindness isn’t everything because sometimes one needs to be cruel to get things accomplished toward a moral end. A father’s first duty to his son is to parent him, not be his friend, and that means discipline when needed.

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Quote of the Day: Elementary Justice? Or Not?

 

“Well, I am afraid I can’t help you, Lestrade,” said Holmes. “The fact is that I knew this fellow Milverton, that I considered him one of the most dangerous men in London, and that I think there are certain crimes which the law cannot touch, and which therefore, to some extent, justify private revenge. No, it’s no use arguing. I have made up my mind. My sympathies are with the criminals rather than with the victim, and I will not handle this case.” — The Adventure of Charles Augustus Milverton

Like many another successful author, this one was ambivalent about his relationship with his greatest creation. He found Holmes distracting and annoying, and frequently talked of “slaying” him and “winding him up for good and all.” (His one attempt to do so was, obviously not all that successful. It appeared that publishers would pay any amount for more of the great detective, and the fellow with a difficult, not very well-off life, who hadn’t succeeded at almost anything else he tried, was yoked to Sherlock Holmes for the remainder of his.)

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GOP Leads Dems by 6 in Latest Generic Poll

 

Oh, my. Reuters has polled registered voters every week with the following question: “Thinking about the elections in 2018, if the election for U.S. Congress were held today, would you vote for the Democratic candidate or the Republican candidate in your district where you live?” Here are the results:

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AI and a Very Idealistic Description of Evil

 

Being interested in Artificial Intelligence, when I ran across this article in The Atlantic I was hoping to find something interesting. The article focuses on Judea Pearl, an AI researcher who pioneered Bayesian (calling Midget Faded Rattlesnake) networks for machine leaning. Pearl is disappointed that most AI research nowadays is centered around his previous bailiwick of machine learning (what he calls fancy curve fitting) and not around his new interest, which is around causal reasoning models.

This is all well and good and somewhat interesting, however near the end of the article he and the interviewer talk about free will and have the following exchange about evil.

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Book Review: Between Worlds Never to Return

 

For as long as Texas was an independent republic or part of the United States those within it have been citizens, not subjects. That was true in the 19th-century Germanies. “Between Worlds Never to Return,” a novel about German immigration to Texas, by Barbara Ortwein illustrates the difference.

Set in the 1840s, the novel follows Karl Engelbach and his son Johann as they abandon their farm in Hesse to come to Texas. The senior Engelbach is a revolutionary. He wants inappropriate things: the freedom to say what you want and to travel without permits. When soldiers raid the political meeting Karl is attending and kill Karl’s brother, Karl must flee. A childhood friend (also present at the meeting, but not caught) is part of an effort to establish a German colony in the Republic of Texas. He sends Karl that way.

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A Modern Day Cinderella

 

I got up in the middle of the night for Diana and Charles’ wedding in 1981. I watched Kate Middleton and Prince William exchange vows. Then I staggered in at 3:34 AM Central to watch Prince Harry take Meghan Markle as his princess.

I realized I could have slept in another two hours, but they said people camped out for days! Thousands lined the roads to Windsor Castle. Major networks were broadcasting from every angle, which was a challenge, given all those hats! 

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Where Honor and Christian Values Intersect

 

I’ve been surprised a lot of things over the past couple of years. Surprised at the outcome of the 2016 election. Pleasantly surprised at how conservative the Trump administration has been in a variety of ways. However, I think what has surprised me the most has been the reaction to these developments.

The left’s reaction is understandable, even if it is out of all proportion to reality. After all, they were beaten unexpectedly, which humiliated them. Within their reaction is also an element of existential panic — rarely does a single party control so many of the levers of power in the government. Think “2009 in reverse.”

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The Power of Words: “Spoken vs. Written”

 

Do words become more “real” when we say them aloud, as opposed to when we only write them down?

I have been thinking about this question a bit lately. In particular, today’s date – May 20th – happens to be the anniversary of my Commissioning as a Second Lieutenant in the United States Army Reserve. I stood on the parade ground on a bright, sunny day and said these words:

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On Watermelons and Gun Control

 

Last Tuesday’s homework reading for my six-year-old was a Berenstain Bears story: The Dare. Brother Bear starts with good – if somewhat ill-advised – intentions, confronting Too-Tall Grizzly about a stolen jump rope. The gang is impressed with Brother’s fighting spirit, and he is talked into a series of poor decisions, culminating in a stolen watermelon and a lesson about sheep. With news of yet another murderous outburst, where a teenager walked into his school and killed several classmates, the idea of a stolen watermelon feels almost antiquated, even quaint. It feels like a time gone by, and listening to today’s conversation, it feels like a historical fantasy story of slingshots, baseball diamonds, nickel movies and watermelon-intrigue, in a world where we’ve discovered the awful power of guns, bombs, and genuine hatred. It feels silly, and almost foolish, to sit down with a six year old and talk to him about thinking for himself, when at any minute, he may be needing to help stack all the chairs against the locked classroom door before climbing out the window; when that “safety-protocol” drill is no longer a drill. What is morality, versus the primacy of life over death? How can we talk about watermelons when we need to be talking about guns?

The best conversation about guns is still, somehow, a conversation about Dads, and I’ll begin with my own Dad’s yearbook. There is a picture of my dad, tall and lanky, socially awkward and looking a bit too much like me, but wearing a uniform and holding a rifle. He is pictured next to most of the other males in his class, all upright, looking slightly older than teenagers, soberly staring into the camera, all holding their rifles. Each kid had the word Vietnam in his head, rattling around along with math, college, girls, music; my own dad was drafted just a few months before the war ended. But it’s hard to look at that picture and not see all of those guns, and, according to my dad, each teenage boy proficient in the disassembly and reassembly of not only those rifles, but their counterpart 1911 handguns, each at least somewhat proficient in their use. This was before “anti-bullying” campaigns, it was before the great micro-aggression awakening, before anyone was “woke” at all, it was in a time of social upheaval and a time when teen-angst carried with it the actual existential threat of war; and with a gun in every locker, it was a situation without all of today’s great progressive safeguards – a ticking time-bomb.

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The $200 Billion Question: What Exactly Is the US Trying to Accomplish with Its China Trade Talks?

 
US Trade Representative and member of US trade delegation Robert Lighthizer leaves a hotel in Beijing, China, May 4, 2018.

This isn’t a shock: China’s Foreign Ministry now says Beijing hasn’t offered to cut its nearly $400 billion trade surplus with the US by $200 billion. Well, yeah. This rumor — perhaps just 3-D psychological chess from Team Trump — always appeared dodgy.

Because math. And because reality. Can a US economy with capacity utilization at a three-year high and unemployment at a 17-year low boost production by that much? Look at it this way: Aircraft ($16 billion) and soybeans ($12 billion) were the two biggest US exports to China last year. As Reuters points out, China would have to buy 667 more Boeing commercial jets a year to meet the $200 billion goal. (Boeing, by the way, made 763 such planes last year and has an order backlog for 5,654 jets.)

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The Israel-Palestine Standoff

 

Few issues produce more political and emotional discord than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In principle, there is much to commend a two-state solution. If achieved, it could allow the two groups to live beside each other in peace. Unfortunately, but unsurprisingly, the interminable peace process came to a screeching halt this past week as the American embassy opened in Jerusalem. An exultant Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proclaimed before Israeli and American dignitaries, “We are in Jerusalem and we are here to stay.” At the same moment , thousands of angry Palestinian demonstrators were rebuffed with deadly force as they sought to storm into Israel from Gaza. The confrontations took place on May 14 and 15—and the Palestinians consciously timed their protests to correspond with the seventieth anniversary of the Palestinian Exodus that resulted in the birth of the Israeli state. Some 62 Gazans died and thousands were wounded as the Israelis used live ammunition to keep protestors from storming over the barricades into Israel.

Now that the protests have subsided, Hamas seeks to capitalize on the deaths and injuries to isolate Israel diplomatically. The United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva has harshly condemned the Israelis for a “wholly disproportionate response” to the provocations they faced. Any fair-minded assessment can only judge the Israeli response by first looking at Hamas’s provocation. But as with other UN tribunals, the evidence on the ground does not matter. In this instance, Hamas was fiendishly clever by mixing in children with violent protestors to bolster its common claim that the Israelis fired on “unarmed individuals” who posed little or no imminent threat to the Israelis, a claim that was quickly repeated by Reps. Keith Ellison (D-Minn) and Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii).

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Quote of the Day: Of Pocket Knives and Character

 

“If a man doesn’t keep his own knife sharp, why should I trust him to take care of my mine?” — Colonel Phil Calahan, US Army (Retired)

This bit of wisdom was passed along to me years ago. At the time, then-Major Calahan was commanding the 380th Personnel Battalion, US Army Reserve, headquartered in Bothell, Washington. I was his Operations Officer.

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Conversations with Bill Kristol: Paul Begala on the Democratic Party, the Midterms, and 2020

 

Paul Begala is a veteran Democratic strategist and commentator, and served as counselor to the president in the Clinton White House. In this Conversation, Begala analyzes the key dynamics within the Democratic Party today. Looking ahead to the midterms and to 2020, Begala considers the Democrats’ response to Trump, the tensions between progressives and moderates, and the kinds of candidates that are likely to succeed. Begala also makes a spirited case for why Democrats must defend free speech and liberal principles more generally.

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Blue Monsters

 

“One day your mother and I are going to retire here,” my Dad used to say. He was referring to Doral Country Club (founded by Alfred Kaskel, he combined his wife’s first name DORis, with his, AL, for the name), home of the famed Blue Monster. I had to admire him, my Dad, he knew what he wanted and nothing would stop him.

Around 2005 (or so) he finally got his wish and bought a townhouse located on the Doral property, along with a permanent membership to the club. While earning my MA in Film Theory and History at University of Miami, I lived there. It’s a cool place, if a little garishly decorated these days.

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Front-Page News: “Dreamers Face Uphill Path to College”

 

My hometown newspaper (The Island Packet, here in Hilton Head) had a front-page news story today about “Dreamers.” Note: this was not an editorial. This is supposed to be news. The headline: “Dreamers work long hours, face uphill path to college.” Subhed: “Supporters say tuition policy hurts Dreamers, taxpayers.” The first paragraph: “While South Carolina taxpayers spend roughly $13,200 annually to educate each K-12 student, state policies obstruct one group of SC students from advancing their education beyond high school.”

The “news” story makes the point that because “Dreamers” must pay out-of-state tuition rates at SC universities, they have “few affordable in-state options” and some don’t go to college at all. So the author believes, apparently, that it’s ok to pay out of state tuition if you’re from Georgia, but not if you’re from Ecuador. This seems like satire, so I included a picture of the front page, just in case some of you weren’t sure if this post was a parody or not:

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