Thugs and Intolerance

Most of the friends I made in graduate school would probably be placed on the liberal wing of the American political spectrum. They’re awesome people and I like them a lot.

But I often struck by how intolerant and hate-filled many liberals are. Certainly, more so than conservatives that I meet, or see on the news.

For instance, take this thug, Mona Eltahwy. After seeing speech she disliked, Mona’s response was to vandalize it. When someone attempted to place her own body between Mona’s spray-paint and the speech Mona despised, Mona sprayed her too.

And now on CNN, there is a puff piece support Mona, talking about how she “brought attention” to an important issue, blah blah blah.

So why are so many liberals hate-filled and intolerant, when explicit rejection of hate and intolerance is generally seen as a “liberal” virtue?

My assumption is that people generally self-select friends, co-workers, and opinion leaders who they are already politically agree with. So political intellectual diversity is rare in almost everyone’s life. But the high-visibility media clearly shares more of the world-view, perspective, and priorities of “liberals” than “conservatives.” This means that it’s rare for liberals to hear any serious voice with a fundamentally different perspective (outside the existing liberal political coalition). It’s very common for conservatives to do so.

Therefore, when a thug like Mona Eltahwy encounters speech she disagrees with, of course she reacts violently. And her friends in the media likewise are very sympathetic: who wouldn’t censor speech they dislike?

US State Department Denies Planning to Invade Canada

War Plan Red” was the color-coded war plan for a United States war against the British Empire. One objective of Red was securing Crimson, the occupation of Canada.

War Plan Red was unexpectedly referenced today, when the U.S. Department of State denied that the U.S. was planning to invade Canada.

The State Department is denying that a planned closed-door meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Mexico Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa is about a secret plan to invade Canada.

Asked why the meeting was closed to press and what the two officials were discussing, a reporter asked: “This isn’t some secret thing to invade Canada or something like that?

“No, no, no,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said during a Tuesday briefing to laughter from reporters.

The State Departments denials also evoke Article XI of the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, which read:

Canada acceding to this confederation, and adjoining in the measures of the United States, shall be admitted into, and entitled to all the advantages of this Union; but no other colony shall be admitted into the same, unless such admission be agreed to by nine States.

We’re coming…

Whatever Creatures Will Be Next

Ultimately I think I disagree with President Bush’s ban on federally funded stem cell research using new stem lines. Obama has since overturned the ban, so the issue is now mute.

But I was am still disgusted by those who took the issue lightly. President Bush correctly saw very frightening possibilities, and erred on the side of the precautionary principle.

We can now steer animals with joysticks.

How long before we can steer mammals with this? Humans? Whatever creatures will be next?

Adoration of the Lord

This post has three parts. In the first, “The Lord,” I discuss the human impulse to worship. In the second, “The State,” I discuss the role of government. In the third, “The Election,” I discuss these things in the context of the 2012 Presidential Election, and some recent remarks by Governor Mitt Romney.

The Lord

The word for “lord” derives from the phrase “loaf-ward” (in Old English: hlaf-weard). When the power to Give Law and the power to Feed are united in one man, the natural human response is worship.

This impulse is so strong you can make a religion of it.

The people of Israel called the bread manna (what sounds like, “What is it?) It was white like coriander seed and tasted like wafers made with honey. Moses said, “This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Take an omer of manna and keep it for the generations to come, so they can see the bread I gave you to eat in the wilderness when I brought you out of Egypt.’”
Exodus 16:31-32

“Moses took half of the blood and put it in bowls, and the other half he splashed against the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They responded, “We will do everything the Lord has said; we will obey.”

Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, “This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.”
Exodus 24:6-8

Twice

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”

Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
Matthew 26:26-29

The State

This is the concern that Romney was channeling, and much of the professional left is outraged by, when he said:

There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax.

It’s obvious to anyone with a brain that Mitt Romney was not the outcome of a specific election. Romney’s been in politics too long for anyone to seriously believe that he is ignorant of how politics works.

Rather, Romney was identifying the problem of uniting the Wealth-Giving and Law-Giving powers in one entity, the federal government. The natural human reaction is adoration of such a unity of power. Those who live under the Law and thru the Wealth bestowed upon them by the Wealth & Law Giver will adore it “no matter what.”

Of course the Hebrews in the Desert built their Golden Calf. Judas at the Last Supper sold Christ to the Priests. But these are the exception that prove the rule: not scraping before The Law and The Wealth is seen as weird, deviant, temporarily, and ghastly.

The Election

Now, this is not the darkest moment of the Republican. Obama is not some Mussolini-style monster: he won’t create a durable cult of personality or a network of concentration camps. We already had a monster like that in Franklin Roosevelt. And like Russia, and like China, and like Japan, and like Italy, and like the rest, we learned our lessons. We have Presidential term limits for a reason.

No matter who wins, in the next four years we’ll be killing a lot of Muslims who are already irate at us and have it coming, turning the ship on our catastrophically awful public educational system, making sure people who are friends with high-level execs at Goldman Sachs don’t lose money, and making sure that we have the Mexican and Asian workers we need while making people who don’t want to compete feel good about themselves.

But there is a question: do have bias the discussion in favor of expanding the worshipers of the State — those who see the federal government as the Wealth & Law Giver – or do we bias it against that view?

Do we want a government we worship, or one we fear? Because if an individual give Law but not Wealth, the reaction is fear. You limit such a creature, distrust it, and chain it with cumbersome rules.

If the federal government is already your Lord, if it already combined the source of Law and Wealth for you, it’s probably bizarre to think of fearing it. Doing so would be just inhuman.

But if you’re not already dependent on it, if you want to keep your freedom, it probably seems ghastly to think of worshiping it.

That is part of what this election is about.

Land Subsidies in Education

In areas of low population density and low population growth, it is difficult to keep schools open.

In other places there are many schools within a small geographic areas. In some of these places “public” schools serve to transfer wealth from parents to teachers unions. Often times, these union-funding mechanisms compete with charter schools.

But as Steve Sailer points out, the competition is rarely fair. In dense urban and suburban areas, public schools enjoy a land subsidy. While new charter schools must pay market rates for the land and building space they use, older schools are grandfathered in, often paying nothing for the use of their facilities.

Education policy in the United States, of course, is a corrupt area. Teachers unions are the only pigs at the trough, and some folks use the charter school movements to seize this land for their own benefit.

In places where it makes geographical sense, the following should be done to end the land subsidy of teachers unions

  1. Existing public schools (the land and buildings) should be sold off
  2. To make this wealth-neutral for the educational system, the proceeds from these sales should be spent on education
  3. Public schools should bid for land and building space, just like new charter schools have to do.

The teachers strike in Chicago should remind us how dangerous teachers unions are to education. Part of dismantling their power is dismantling their source of wealth. Taking away the teachers unions’ land subsidy is part of the solution.

Review of “Takedown” by Tsutomu Shimomura and John Markoff

Several weeks ago I read Ghost in the Wires, Kevin Mitnick’s autobiographical accounts of his hacking exploits, discovery by security researcher Tsutomu Shimomura, and reformation. Yesterday I finished Takedown, Tsutomo’s book about tracking down Mitnick.

Generally the accounts agree. The framing or emphasis, however, changes. So, for instance, Shimomura (who had the time worked at the San Diego Supercomputer Center, emphasis his own personal skills and generally dismisses Mitnick as copying others or using trial-and-error techniques. Mitnick’s book actually agrees with this, where he is dismissive of the press’s wilder claims, and instead emphasizes the greatest tool he had was social engineering — that is, being a con-man.

This pattern — both books largely agreeing on facts, but differeing in the interpretation of facts — even extends to Hollywood. Both Shimomura and Mitnick have mentioned Mitnick’s fascination with the 1992 Phil Alden Robinson film, Sneakers, starring Robert Redford, Dan Akroyd, Ben Kingsley, River Phoenix, and Sidney Poitier.

Shimomura chalks this up to Mitnick’s fixation on Robert Redford. Mitnick, in a talk to my employer, described Sneakers as the most realistic movie about hacking every filmed. After re-watching it, I agree. The protagonists of Sneakers are not especially amazing when it comes to technology. They are great at social engineering — being con men.

The whole topic of “social engineering” lets me talk about one of the most disorienting things about reading these two books. Kevin Mitnick was a social engineer — a con man — but one who did not seek to profit from his work. So he writes in a friendly (if manipulative) way that makes you sympathize with him. Shimomura, by contrast, is a jerk. The book is filled with criticisms of anyone who has helped him or any place that was good to him. Reading Takedown is an emotionally exhausting experience, while reading Ghost in the Wires approaches the experience of having a massage — you’re no longer observing the world quite as objectively, but that’s not the point.

To illustrate, here’s an example. Mitnick is an intelligent and well spoken individual. But pay attention to use his use of words:

I had seen some of the security bugs that Shimmy [Tsutomu Shimomura] had reported to Sun and DEC and been impressed with his bug-finding skills. In time I would learn that he had shoulder-length straight black hair, a preference for showing up at work wearing sandals and “raggady-ass jeans,” and a passion for cross-country skiing. He sounded every bit the kind of Californian conjured by the term “dude” — as in, “Hey dude, howz it hangin’?”

Mitnick is manipulating the reader by adopting several traits associated with a stereotype of the loveable hackers, including
1. An admiration for technical skill
2. An admiration for California generally
3. An admiration for non-conformists
4. An almost child-like view of the world, especially in the last sentence. [See my review of Veins for the power of his imagery]

Now, here’s a passage from Shimomura’s book

“I have no idea why Andrew [Shimomura's mentee] told you to start cleaning up,” I said, incredulous.

Seiden, who is a computer security pro, was angry at having been misled at such an error. “Last time I take orders from Andrew,” he muttered. His task was no, we agreed would be to resume monitoring Mitnick’s activities on Internex for indication of how deep his supsicions now ran. Seiden was still fuming with indignation as we ended our call.

I punched in Andrew’s numbers. “What the hell’s going on?”

A good leader makes others great. Even cantankerous perfectionists like Steve Jobs can get excited in people. Shimomura instead criticizes and denigrates those close to him, to make himself appear brighter.

In keeping with this trend, Mitnick even gives Andrew’s family name twice, while in Tsutomu it is only given once, in Tsutomu’s co-author‘s acknowledgements.

I’m glad I read both books, but Ghost in the Wires is both more up to date and less grating.

UnAmerican

To the best of my knowledge, I have never called any American “unAmerican.” I have generally thought people who complain of this are making up strawmen.

But life is full of changes. Today I read this:

The White House asked YouTube on Tuesday to review an anti-Muslim film posted to the site that has been blamed for igniting the violent protests this week in the Middle East.

Tommy Vietor, spokesman for the National Security Council, said the White House has “reached out to YouTube to call the video to their attention and ask them to review whether it violates their terms of use.”

However, the video remained on the site as of Friday afternoon, and it is posted many other places on the Internet.

This activity is unAmerican. It is a direct assault on the First Amendment, because the White House finds it easier to censor American speech than defend it from terrorists.

Those individuals who authorized or participated in this are unAmerican.

It is important that they be removed from office.

I am not talking here of President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton, or others. It seems deeply improbable that either of them would be stupid or evil enough to authorize this. Evil tends to be to banal to directly be the result of great men (or women).

Rather, I am talking of the individual who “reached out to YouTube to call the video to their attention and ask them to review whether it violates their terms of use.,” in the words of Tom Vietor.

That individual or those individuals should be removed from office.

The Constitutional form of government would face less harm if the unknown person or person who engaged in this act are removed from office by means of violence (assassination, bombing, intimidation, or otherwise), than if they were allowed to stay.

Thank God that Google stood up to the White House:

Messages to YouTube, and Google, which owns the site, were not immediately returned Friday. On Wednesday, a YouTube spokesperson said the video “is clearly within our guidelines and so will stay on YouTube.”

Google, of course, is a private company. What they do with the video should be their concern.

But for an Administration flunky to try to remove speech because it is politically troublesome is un American. That flunky must be removed.

Pro-American Protest Against Terrorism in Benghazi, Libya

Here are some photos of an anti-terrorism protest by the people of Benghazi, Libya, is response to the murder of American Ambassador Chris Stevens.

Whether these protests are “spontaneous” or the work of the rulers of Benghazi (or both), they reflect a political consensus to support American interests and oppose terrorism. Those who seek to punish Libyans for the work of terrorists should seriously consider the friends that we have their.

See the full set.

Impression of “Life of Muhammad” Trailer

So this seems to be the trailer of the film — supported by the controversial Terry Jones — that rioters in Egypt and Libya used as justification to attack the United States, and kill our Ambassador.

Watch if you want, but it’s not well edited or well directed. The quality is below the quality of the Full Motion Video that was common on computer games in the 1990s. “Triumph of the Will” this is not.

The film’s purpose appears to be to defame Islam — Jack Chick style — rather than be informative, so the trailer appears to make a number of novel and false accusations against him. This is puzzling, given that Muhammad was definitely a pedophile by the modern definition (which may not have been that rare for the time and placed he lived in), and was arguably a genocidier, one would have thought it was pointless to make up facts about him or his religion, when there are so many laying around ready to spin!

If the purpose of the film is to lower Americans’ view of Islam, the riots in Egypt and Libya probably mean that the director succeeded. Unlike other artists who labor to bring beauty to the ghastly (Leni Reifenstahl, Zhang Yimou, and Jack Chick himself) there seems to be no sense of artistry or beauty in this film. As ghastly as National-Socialism, Chinese imperial fascism, and general bigotry may be, Reifenstahl, Zhang, and Chick all use the gift of art to make that view seem — if only for an instant — beautiful. The trailer for Life of Muhammad never reaches this level.

Now compare Life of Muhammad to Life of L. Ron Hubbard The Master, a film trailer that attacks the founder of a religion that also is beautiful:

What a better world we would live in if the Arab street would riot for bad taste!