Sunday, November 27, 2016

Saul Alinsky, John Stuart Mill, and the Danger of Drinking Your Own Kool-Aid

Poisoned Kool-aid, that is.

In his "Rules for Radicals" Saul Alinsky argued that the left should not engage ideological opponents in debate, but rather demonize them.  One wins by destroying one's opponents, not by refuting their arguments, in his view.  America's progressives and those further left seem to have absorbed this lesson all too well.

One of the first public instances of this approach that I can recall was in 1989 (or a year or so after), when the Wall Street Journal quoted Rep. Charlie Rangel (D, NY) as saying (I quote from memory) "The new Ku Klux Klan wears suits and ties and talks about tax cuts," referring to members of Congress as well as economists and policy analysts who were cuts.  That was a deeply dishonest and stupid argument against tax cuts; of course, it is not an argument, but simply an attempt to avoid having to deal with arguments for lower tax rates by demonizing proponents.

The use of this strategy has grown over time, but since the election of Barack Obama, the left accelerated its use.  Any criticism of Obama and his policies was deemed racist, including criticism of ARRA, criticism of ACA (Obamacare), and criticism of the Iran nuclear deal.  Jimmy Carter disgracefully charged that critics of Obama and his policies were white people who resented being ruled by a black man (a doubly stupid statement on Carter's part, since the president's job isn't to rule us).  The Tea Party movement was deemed racist.  Opposition to climate change policy was deemed racist.  Opposition to unrestricted immigration was deemed racist.  The importation of Muslim refugees was deemed racist.  Opposition to gun control was deemed racist.  Opposition to minimum wage was deemed racist.

Pretty much anything could be deemed racist if someone on the left became incensed about it, and the racism charges became increasingly absurd.  Daily Caller did a humorous "Alphabet of Racism from A to Z," compiling a list of things that had been deemed racist" by the left. ("Best of" is available here, and at the end there are links to the entire alphabet.)

The high point (i.e. low point!)  of the absurdity lies in two common claims made but leftist SJWs (social justice warriors): 1) it is impossible for a non-white to be racist, and 2) it is impossible for a white not to be racist.  This is surely the reductio ad absurdum of the left's pursuit of the Alinsky strategy.  It's absurd for two reasons.  First, those who do this erase the definition of racism ("the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races") and substitute in its place "white," which is surely absurd.  Second, in doing so, they themselves become racists.

However, if this were simply a strategy or tactic of political struggle, I suppose it could make a kind of sense, if "win at any cost" is the goal and one thinks spouting lies to demonize opponents works.  However, it's clear that in adopting this technique, the left has actually come to believe its own lies; they've been drinking their own poisoned Kool-aid.  Meanwhile, the rest of us -- at least those of us who have been paying attention -- have become wise to their game and inured to their slander.

So the left has largely bought its own lies, and now is unable to cope.  Consider the absolutely insane reaction to the election of Donald Trump on many American college campuses, or the riots in several major cities, or the hysteria in the mainstream media (not limited to American MSM; my first source for news is the BBC's World News site, which was shamelessly in the tank for Hillary Clinton and now seems beside itself that racism is running rampant across America).  The over-the-top-reaction  -- rioting and attacking Trump voters, or needing counseling sessions involving therapy dogs, coloring books, and play-doh (at a major law school, for heaven's sakes!), or college presidents holding "healing sessions" (i.e. protests) -- these are not the reactions of normal, rational people.

These are the responses of people unable to see those of us who voted for Trump, or who didn't vote for Clinton, did so for many, many reasons that have nothing to do with racism.  They apparently really have come to believe the Alinskyite lies, and often seem almost incapable of understanding the actual arguments and motives of their political opponents.  By drinking their own Kool-aid, they've poisoned themselves.  And the irony is that rather than destroying their opponents, they seem to have put themselves on a path to self-destruction by doing so.

The great libertarian and economist John Stuart Mill argued that ideas should not be suppressed, that the surest way to determine truth is to let ideas compete in the marketplace for ideas, that is, let people freely contest their positions.  Argue.  Debate. Reason.  This is the opposite of Alinsky.  And in fact, if the objective is truth, there's no other method.  Hence freedom of thought and freedom of expression are crucially important if we are to pursue truth.  Mill's argument is completely at odds with today's political correctness, especially as practiced on college campuses today.  But in following Alinsky instead of Mill, the left not only hasn't won in the battle of ideas, it has increasingly rendered itself incapable of competing.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Trump and Energy Policy: What to Expect?

Heartland Institute has published a blog entry by me on what the election of Donald Trump might mean for energy policy.  The entire staff of Unforeseen Contingencies agrees that the original post on Heartland's site is worth reading, in our unbiased opinion.  But the bottom line is this...with a bit of extra on Clinton.

Under Trump energy production is likely to increase, i.e. much less likely to become a bottleneck for the economy.  In particular, natural gas production should thrive, which is important from the standpoint of alleviating the economic stagnation that has hurt so many in this country, lower income Americans in particular.  It also is crucially important from the standpoint of the environment.  Since Clinton proposed effectively banning hydraulic fracturing, this would have ended the shale gas revolution.  She also favored enormous subsidies to billionaire Tom Steyer and other cronies to install half a billion wasteful solar panels.

We are extremely fortunate to have dodged that deadly bullet.  It's worth noting here that the World Bank's Synthesis Report on Climate finds that economic development is the primary tool for dealing with climate change.  Imposing enormous costs by imposing "green" energy solves neither economic nor environmental problems.  (Spain's green energy program doubled the price of energy, increased unemployment because of the increase in expenses for business, and still managed to increased the production of greenhouse gases.)

On energy, at least, the election of Donald Trump is a wonderful thing.  Read the Heartland piece.

Trump and America's Anti-Democracy Movement

So far, the effects of electing Donald Trump to the presidency seem quite promising.  Jeff Sessions is an excellent choice for Attorney General -- for the first time in years we'll have an Attorney General who actually is interested in enforcing the law, instead of ignoring it and pursuing the left's culture war.  By all evidence, Sessions is an honest, principled man, and not a crooked ideologue like Loretta Lynch or the Eric Holder.

So far as I can tell, Representative Pompeo is also a good man and a good choice for CIA director, and likewise General Flynn for National Security Advisor.  New York Time is upset about this last pick -- after all,  Flynn openly criticizes Islamism and warns that Islamist groups are dangerous...can't get any more disturbing than that!  (The NYT editorial is funny -- they are entirely disturbed that Republicans chanted "lock her up" at the GOP convention, concerning a candidate who is still under criminal investigation, much more disturbing to them than said candidates supporters rioting, attacking Trump supporters, and threatening assassination of the President-Elect and those who voted for him.)

If Trump keeps picking cabinet and staff like this, there's a chance he could be a really great president.  He needs sound-minded, principled people who understand the philosophy on which the United States were founded -- that of individual rights and strictly limited government -- and will fight to preserve and advance these principles.  I certainly hope he's successful.  "We" at Unforeseen Contingencies have always given a new president the benefit of the doubt, even when he's not our guy, and wished him well.  This is a concept beyond the grasp of today's malevolent left, which cannot tolerate and must destroy anyone so "deplorable" as to dissent from leftist dogma.

That's one of the other useful effects of electing Donald Trump and a Republican Congress and Republican governors and state legislatures across the land.  The Democrats and those left of them are revealing themselves to everyone as scarily mad.  The rioting and the venom from the Democrats' mainstream media and the hysteria on college campuses are confirming to everyone outside the club that progressives and those left of them are America's anti-democracy movement.  This will not help the left.

The Saturday after the election Julie and I stopped at a Gander Mountain sporting goods store; the firearm section was doing very brisk business. They had put extra staff on expecting Hillary to have won and sales to boom, and nearly cancelled the extra staff.  Yet sales were booming.  I spoke with one of the salesmen who told me buyers say they are worried about the left... rioters, violence against Trump voters, and the like. No fooling.  And Democrats aren't disassociating themselves from all this.  They are, then, the anti-democratic party of hate and violence?  Yes, it appears so.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Armistice Day/Veterans' Day

A short video from Hillsdale College on the military oath of office and what it means.  Please watch.  We should all swear an oath to defend liberty, and more importantly, we should live it.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Election of Trump: An Open Letter to the Left

Dear leftist voters, citizen and non-citizen alike,

I have never been so pleased by the outcome of a presidential election, and it's not because I think Trump is good.  Had Hilliary Clinton won, we'd be facing stacking of the Supreme Court by radical leftists, the reversal of Heller and Citizens United, the transition from Obamacare to a completely socialist government medical system, the destruction of America's energy industry, expansion of entitlements, "free" college education, the importation of hundreds of thousands of Syria and Iraqi muslims, and citizenship and Democrat voter registration bestowed on millions of illegal aliens.  The Bill of Rights would be a dead letter.  We'd lose free speech, freedom of religious belief and practice, freedom to defend ourselves from crime and tyranny, and much more.

We've escaped that deadly fate, at least for now.

Furthermore, the Republican Party retained control of both houses of Congress, and what's more, it expanded its domination at the state and local level, with governorships and state legislatures.  This election was stunning repudiation of the Democrat Party and you in the radical left that rule it.  Some observers have suggested that the Democrats will now have to learn they cannot disregard the normal Americans who have rejected them.  I don't count on it.  I think you in the radical left are incapable of this; it runs entirely contrary to your ideology and their mindset.  (If you're of the left but this doesn't apply to you, you can actually entertain the possibility that your ideological adversaries aren't evil, read on to the end, I'll address you, too.)

You are entirely opposed to dissent from your ideology; we see what you do on college campuses, you are totalitarians.  You don't tolerate free speech and freedom of thought, and you certainly don't tolerate losing elections.  You have so absorbed the lessons of Hilliary's intellectual mentor Saul Alinsky that you are incapable of responding rationally to ideas and people who do not follow your party line.  The Democrats have just experienced a catastrophic failure, but the Democrat Party has become an instrument of you in the radical left.  I don't believe you are at all capable of feeling humbled, of learning a lesson and jettisoning its hubris.  Instead, I expect you to go on a jihad.  You will try to destroy everything you can.  Your demonstrations and riots that immediately followed the election are telling, not because I expect riots to continue, but because you are a pack of dangerous, vicious, destructive totalitarians.  I've met many of you, especially academics in humanities.  I expect you will double down on your nastiness and demonization of your enemies.  You could prove me wrong, and I'd welcome that, but I know it won't happen.  You seek to destroy those who differ from you. To you, this is war.

OK, so be it.  You are probably right.  There can be no compromise between individual rights and the statist ideology of progressives and the left.  You are hate-filled and divisive. you are violent at heart.  You are irrational.  We could extend a hand and offer you a chance to return to sanity and live together with us in common respect, but I can imagine what you'd be doing if Clinton and your Democrats had won (see the first paragraph of this post).  So no hand is extended in peace to you.  But in consolation, at least "we" at Unforeseen Contingencies are happy to extend to you our middle fingers.

I'm not a fan of Trump, and I do notthink he'll be a good president, but you swine label everyone who opposes you, e.g. me, as stupid, racist, and worthless.  So to hell with you.  I'm glad Trump won, because he's not one of you.

Now, for those lefties who are not committed leftists, but simply don't understand and are reachable by reason, this is for you: start learning economics.  Start learning about natural rights and individual liberty.  Stop emoting. Entertain and contemplate the possibility that your opponents might have sensible arguments.

 And to "our" non-leftist readers, here's an excellent analysis from Lawrence Meyers of the hysteria the left is now experiencing.  He's right.  They have driven themselves mad.  Well, let them go mad.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Yikes! Trump wins!

One great thing about this is that Miley Cyrus, Amy Schumer, Al Sharpton, Barbara Streisand, and Cher have all promised they'd emigrate if Trump  Wonderful!  Please go!  I hope Amy takes her hideous uncle with her.

Of course, by the time I get up tomorrow they'll likely have found some missing hanging chads, or something, and Hilliary will be proclaimed winner.  But for now, I have at least one thing to give me pleasant dreams.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Something Truly Beautiful

Nothing has given me greater pleasure tonight than seeing the following on the New York Times web page.  There was plenty of other similar hysteria, but none made me laugh as hard as this.  Hahahahaha!


Our Unknown Country

Is America a failed state and society? It looks truly possible.

Monday, November 07, 2016

The Night Before the Election

The night before the election, I'm struck by how bleak the outcome will be.  The presidential election cannot end happily; whatever happens, the outcome will present a real challenge to those of us who love liberty.  The best for which we can hope is that the opponents of liberty don't gain as much power as they might.

It's a dark thing to contemplate, and it -- plus the generally disreputable nature of the two main candidates -- has driven many people a bit crazy.  Avoid being among them.  This is the best time to remain calm and to rededicate oneself to promoting reason and liberty,  There's no quitting, no whining, no giving up, no surrendering, not for those of us who are serious about building a free and prosperous future.

I'm quite fond of the sayings of General George S. Patton.  Here are a few that are worth remembering.

"Success is how you bounce on the bottom."

"You’re never beaten until you admit it."

"In case of doubt, attack."

There's far more strength on the side of the good than we often recognize.  And if you have some doubt about all this, that there's nothing you can do and it's all hopeless, remember this fourth bit of advice:

"If I do my full duty, the rest will take care of itself." 

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Candidates from Hell, Part 3: Donald Trump

It is very likely that Hillary Clinton will win the election.  In December of last year I made my predictions, and suggested that Ted Cruz would win the Republican nomination and the general election.  I guessed wrong, but Cruz did make a very strong showing.  If he were the Republican candidate, I think he'd have crushed Hilliary in the debates and would be en route to a decisive victory at this point.

I also predicted that Donald Trump might beat Hillary Clinton, and but that his lack of principle, his impulsiveness, and his non-transparency make him very hard to predict.*  I still don't buy the argument that he's secretly a Democrat operator, although even at this late date it's still conceivable.  I do buy the argument that originally he never expected to win the nomination, and was both uncertain he wanted it and ill-prepared for it (the latter is obvious).

Certainly Trump is the GOP's candidate from Hell.  Hilliary Clinton has proved a far worse candidate than expected.  She's still under felony investigation, as is the Clinton Foundation, and it is clear to anyone actually following the emails and the investigations that she's guilty, despite FBI Director Comey's repeated statements that there are o grounds for charges.  His latest statement, given today, is irrelevant, because the matter is out of his hands.  But that's grist for another post; read these from Daily Caller,  American Thinker, and National Review Online if you're interested in what's going on.

Trump ought to be up 20 points given all this.  Instead, he's claiming he'll have a last ditch squeaker come-from-behind victory.  I don't expect this, because he's been a candidate from hell:

Any one of my students would make a better president than Trump.  Almost anyone I know would make a better president.  And unfortunately, he's the better of the two candidates who actually have a chance of winning.

2016 is truly a time of hellish candidates.  Johnson (his running mate Weld is practically campaigning for Hilliary now), Clinton, Trump -- and while I won't waste a post on her, the Green's Jill Stein -- these are the worst candidates any of these parties have run in my lifetime.  Hence this somber and true observation from the great economist Thomas Sowell:

Each political party has picked a loser this year. Unfortunately, one of them is going to win, and then the whole country can lose, big time.

If I may be more positive, there's no hope at all of fixing things at the federal level for the near term.  If liberty has a future in America, it will be because of grassroots activity, it will be the private sector, and politics at the state and local level, that save it.  We should simply accept this and resolve to do whatever we must...which will be a lot.

*On 30 December 2015 I presciently wrote, "What about Trump? Trump never relies on anything like principles and it is hard to know what he would do. I’m rejecting the “Trump is a Democrat operative” hypothesis and take him at face value. He says what he thinks – which varies considerably at times because he doesn’t have a particular ideology or set of principles – and he wants to be president. A Clinton vs. Trump debate would be a real show. Trump would be quite willing to call her a liar (this should be done). He regularly uses ad hominem arguments and is ruthlessly politically incorrect – something for which he deserves great praise. I can’t predict such a cage match and popularity contest, other than to say that the debates and election would be a free-for-all. The United States would become a reality TV program. Trump might well win the debates, and the election, but it is not easy to say."

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