Apr 102021
 

Black lives matter. No argument there.

But, unfortunately, so does messaging. Dr. Göbbels knew this. The communists also knew this, hence their emphasis on “agitation and propaganda”. But, truth to tell, unlike the Third Reich, the left always sucked at it. That’s why, in Kádár’s Hungary, for instance, instead of being content with a regime that delivered a solid system of universal health care and a consistently high quality public system of education that included free tertiary education, we joked about living in the “happiest of the barracks”, took the regime’s successes for granted without acknowledging them, and grumbled daily about its numerous shortcomings.

The political left seems to be intent on continuing this tradition. Their messaging sucks.

A few days ago, I grumbled about the Mayor of London who proclaimed that there are too many white men in science and engineering.

Not too few women. Not underrepresented minorities. Not the need to increase the appeal and accessibility of science and engineering professions to women and minorities. Nope. Too many white men. The resulting backlash was both predictable and completely unnecessary.

Meanwhile, self-righteous warriors of the progressive left declare people like J. K. Rowling a public enemy. Shouldn’t someone with her storytelling prowess be enlisted as a friend and ally? No… deviate in the slightest from the unwritten standards of leftist orthodoxy, and you are labeled a backward, hateful somethingophobe. Like the California university professor who dared to mention a common Chinese expression in his lecture on communication: “na ge” (那个), a common pause word. Oh, how the righteous pounced! This insensitive white professor must be secretly a racist white supremacist! How dare he utter a word that sounds like, well… dare I write it down? Or do I, too, have to fear repercussions from the thought police if I dare spell out the infamous N-word in its entirety? The incident drew criticism from Chinese students and comparisons to Mao’s cultural revolution, and they were not wrong.

Then there are these calls to “defund the police”. The first time I heard this expression I was perplexed. Sure, I know there exist crazy anarchists who want no uniformed authority whatsoever on our streets, but I was also certain that this was not the meaning that the expression was intended to convey. And I was right. The original intent is to divert funds away: let the police do policing when they must, but use the funds wisely, to prevent those cultural and socioeconomic circumstances that lead to situations that need policing in the first place. Makes sense, right?

But that’s not the message that a call to “defund the police” conveys. Many who are rightfully angered by police excess want to, well, literally defund the police. And now their voices are amplified beyond reason, seemingly representing mainstream progressive attitudes. Needless to say, that’s all their opponents need to spread fear and concern among their followers: Look, they tell you, these leftist idiots, these commie anarchists want to leave your streets unprotected from thieves and murderers! They want to turn your country into a failed state like Venezuela!

So yes, black lives matter. And I know what you mean. You mean “Black lives matter, too.” You mean “Not only white lives matter.” You are not suggesting that lives other than black lives matter less.

But when you just say, “black lives matter”, you hand a propaganda victory to your opponents on a silver platter. Even a stereotypical redneck, undereducated and unintelligent, can retort easily with “but I thought all lives matter!” and gain the moral upper hand.

I happen to support many (most? all?) key progressive ideas. I do think black lives (also) matter. I do believe it is a good idea to attack socioeconomic problems at their roots as opposed to just policing the consequences. I understand that words can hurt, dehumanize, and contribute to systemic racism. I do agree that we must do better to involve women and minorities in science and engineering professions.

But, dear progressives, when I look at your messaging… continuing a century-old tradition, you remain your own worst enemies.

 Posted by at 7:25 pm
Mar 152021
 

The cartoon series The Simpsons is into its 32nd season this year. It has been picked up for at least another two seasons by Fox.

The Simpsons depicts a “typical” American family of five: Homer the breadwinner, with only a high-school diploma, holding a dead-end but secure job as a safety inspector at the Springfield Nuclear Plant, Marge the housewife, mother of three children and the three kids, two of them school-age, one still a toddler. The Simpsons live in a detached house in a suburb and own two cars. They are not rich, but they do have disposable income: Homer spends his evenings gulping down beer as Moe’s Tavern, Marge never seems to have a problem paying for groceries.

In other words, The Simpsons live the American dream: a comfortable North American middle class lifestyle from a single income.

A dream that, as lamented in a recent opinion article in The Atlantic, is no longer attainable.

This, I think, really explains it all. The polarization of American politics. The emergence of extremism. The appeal of slogans like “Make America Great Again”. The “we have nothing to lose” attitude that led many to vote for Trump, despite their misgivings.

And it is by no means a US-only phenomenon. Income inequality may not be as bad in Canada as it is in the US, but the middle class is not doing spectacularly well here either. Europe, too, is not heading in the right direction.

Lest we forget the lessons of history, this is precisely what provides fertile ground for totalitarian ideologies like fascism and communism. When liberal democracy fails to deliver on society’s most basic promise, the ability to provide a life as good as, but preferably better than your own for your children, people turn to other ideas. That was just as true a century ago as it is today.

 Posted by at 10:52 pm
Feb 272021
 

Today’s “what on Earth were they thinking” moment arrived in the form of a statue:

Yes, a golden statue of Donald Trump.

Apparently, it’s not a joke. It is a bona fide prop for this weekend’s CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference).

Apart from the blatantly obvious (even to heathen nonbelievers like me) reference to the Bible and its admonition concerning the Golden Calf, there are also the more modern-day comparisons to personality cults, such as those of Joseph Stalin or Trump’s BFF Kim Jong Un.

How could the party of Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan sink this far, this quickly?

Just how badly broken is the American body politic for us to witness this… this abomination?

The mind boggles. I’ll leave it at that as I really have no answer and no coherent thoughts as I continue to stare at this deeply disturbing image.

 Posted by at 12:24 am
Feb 062021
 

In recent days, especially in light of the sudden drop in vaccine deliveries in Canada, I saw a lot of criticism aimed at the Canadian government and its perceived failure to secure vaccine supplies or vaccine manufacturing in Canada.

Reality is a little bit more nuanced. Manufacturing a 21st century vaccine is not exactly something that can be done anywhere. The fact that Canada doesn’t presently have the expertise or infrastructure is lamentable but that’s the result of a decades-long trend, not the decisions of the past several months.

Meanwhile in Hungary, Orban’s government is criticized for telling people that they will be vaccinated with whichever vaccine is available at the time; if you don’t like the vaccine being offered, you’re sent to the back of the line. A bit harsh, to be sure, but this is a bleeping global health emergency. Orban’s government may be criticized for acting in haste when they approved the Chinese and Russian vaccines (although the Russian vaccine seems effective; the Chinese vaccine is probably also fine, what is questionable is the ethical shortcuts they took with the testing and approval process). But acting in an authoritarian fashion when there is a global health emergency is precisely what even the most liberal, most democratic governments are expected to do. Orban can, and should, be criticized for undermining the country’s democratic institutions, its press freedoms, its judicial independence, its constitutional principles, but not for acting decisively when decisive action is needed during a pandemic.

 Posted by at 6:29 pm
Jan 242021
 

Let me begin with a simple statement: I am not a parler.com fan.

But free speech is not about the freedom to publish things we all like. It is about the freedom to publish things we hate. Things that we find disgusting, revolting, reprehensible.

Of course, there has to be a line drawn somewhere. It is one thing to publish a racist rant about the inferiority of some human beings. It is another thing to call for genocide. Somewhere between these two is (or should be) a clear bright line: criminal “hate speech” is speech that calls for violence, speech that instructs readers to commit a crime.

Arguably, parler.com crossed this line multiple times when it failed to remove posts calling for violence against lawfully elected or appointed public officials, when it called for a violent uprising against the lawful government of the United States.

So what is my problem, then? Simple: I am alarmed by the idea that we are outsourcing the (legitimate, necessary) policing of the boundaries between free speech and criminal speech to corporations. Not just social media corporations like Facebook and Twitter, but also to corporations that provide fundamental Internet infrastructure, such as Amazon’s AWS.

As private corporations, these companies are of course well within their rights to deny their platforms to anyone, for whatever reason. But is this the world in which we wish to live? Where private corporations manage our fundamental communication infrastructure and decide who can or cannot communicate with the public?

This does not bode well for the future.

When the commercial Internet emerged, Internet Service Providers asked to be viewed by the law much like telephone companies: common carriers, that is, who are responsible for providing an infrastructure, but are not responsible for the content. (The telephone company does not become an accomplice by providing the service through which criminals arrange a crime.) But social media blurs this line, since these companies become the curators of user-supplied content, which they prioritize, filter, and use for advertising. And companies like AWS must be mindful of the content supplied through their infrastructure, since there are repercussions: letting an AWS VM spit out spam, for instance, can cause other service providers to block a range of AWS IP numbers affecting a large number of well-behaved AWS users.

But now, we have service providers that police political content. Even attaching labels like “the factual accuracy of this item is disputed” is questionable: Who disputes it? How can I trust the objectivity of the fact checkers who attach such labels? But things get much worse when Facebook or Twitter altogether ban someone like Trump from their respective platforms, or when AWS kicks out parler.com.

I am not questioning the judgment behind these individual cases. I am not questioning the necessity behind the decisions. Rather, I am questioning the haphazard, arbitrary, opaque process that lead to these actions. How can the same process that, say, led to Trump’s lifetime ban on Twitter still permit religious extremists, dictators and worse to spread hate or promote acts far more criminal than anything Trump has done?

There has to be a better way.

And I think there is a better way. Now is the time, I think, for this industry to create a nonprofit council that establishes and manages standards, adjusted if necessary to take into account applicable law in different jurisdictions. The institution should be arms-length, with secure funding, so that its decisions would not be swayed by undue influences or funding concerns. The process should be entirely transparent. And companies, especially social media and cloud computing infrastructure companies, should abide by the standards set by this council.

The alternative is just unacceptable. I don’t care how well-intentioned Facebook or Twitter or Amazon are, I do not wish our freedom of expression in our digital future to be opaquely managed by for-profit corporations.

 Posted by at 1:47 pm
Jan 172021
 

Coups d’état don’t succeed without support from the armed forces. That’s a historic given.

So when strangely clad “warriors” wearing fur hats and tattoos storm the Capitol Building in Washington DC, the sights are unsettling, people may die, but the stability of the United States government is not in any way in question.

But what happens when the troops who are supposed to prevent it from happening again themselves come under suspicion?

Just read the headline from the following Associated Press news release from minutes ago:

Defense officials fear possible inside attack at inauguration, will have National Guard troops vetted.

Just how the bleep do you vet over 20,000 troops hastily sent to Washington in less than 72 hours?

And what will that vetting do to their morale?

I am beginning to feel truly frightened.

 Posted by at 9:50 pm
Jan 162021
 

I am reading an interdisciplinary paper, published in Frontiers in Conservation Science, about the likeliness of a much more ghastly future than usually predicted: A future characterized by deteriorating environmental conditions, mass extinctions, a collapsing ecosystem threatening human existence.

The concerns are real. The warnings should be heeded before it’s too late.

But… But, having read the article, I cannot escape the feeling that the authors themselves practice some of what they preach against.

They mention the “weaponization of ‘environmentalism’ as a political ideology”, rightfully expressing concern that as a result, environmental groups are often viewed as “terrorists” in many parts of the world. But then, later on, among the suggested remedies they list “the empowerment of women”.

Now I may be very fond of the idea of empowering women (I am) but I have to ask*: what does this have to do with climate and the ecosystem? Are women inherently better at being environmentally friendly? Do they have special abilities to understand climate science better than men? Or is it, heaven forbid, an actual example of someone, well-intentioned I am sure, sneaking in a desirable political goal by “weaponizing environmentalism” for ideological purposes?


*I could ask similar questions about “strict regulation of markets and property acquisition, reigning in corporate lobbying” (which appeared in the same sentence). While I may sympathize with reducing corporate influence by constraining campaign financing (I consider near unconstrained financing one of the core reasons behind the current democracy crisis in the United States), what on Earth does it have to do with climate or the ecosystem? I would also like to remind the authors that regimes that had strict regulations of markets and property acquisition, such as the socialist regime in which I grew up, have a terrible environmental track record: and yes, they tended to treat environmental groups as terrorists, insurrectionists or worse, precisely because such groups acted independently and refused to be controlled by those governments.

 Posted by at 1:11 pm
Jan 152021
 

Tens of thousands of military personnel in Washington. Troops quartered in the Capitol building, reportedly for the first time since the US Civil War a century and a half ago. Establishment of a “Green Zone” like the one the US set up in Baghdad in 2003. An inauguration ceremony that is closed to the public, and not because of the raging pandemic. Threats of violence in every one of the 50 state capitals. News of rioters planning to assassinate public officials, including quite possibly the Vice President of the United States. News of lawmakers who feared that their lives might be threatened by… their fellow lawmakers, who are also conspiracy theory activists. News of other lawmakers who were afraid to vote to impeach the President because they felt that their lives were at risk if they did so. And law enforcement responding with not one but both hands tied behind their backs: not only are many of the insurrectionists themselves part of law enforcement, but they are cheered on by none other than the sitting President of the United States of America.

Can someone please tell me that this is just a bad dream, perhaps I got lost in one of Harry Turtledove’s alternate history novels, or perhaps a Netflix science-fiction series set in an alternate present, and that in reality, all is well?

Because if that’s not the case, I have to ask… Can someone please tell me what the bleep is happening?

 Posted by at 1:18 pm
Jan 082021
 

In light of Trump’s Twitter suspension, my wife remarked: He deserved it.

He certainly did, but I am still of two minds about this one. More importantly, I am not at all certain that it is wise to call for criminal prosecution against him after he leaves office.

Not that he doesn’t deserve it. He deserves it a hundred times over.

But asking what he deserves is the wrong question.

Here is the right question: What will make the world, American democracy in particular, a better place years from now?

Vindictively dealing with politicians, no matter how badly they deserve it, is unlikely to accomplish that. In fact, it may create a precedent that will make it that much harder to remove future miscreants from office, that much more likely that they’ll cling to power, through unlawful means if necessary.

And make no mistake about it: the next wannabe despot will be a lot smarter, a lot more skillful than Trump.

And for all we know, the next wannabe despot will be driven by a bigger-than-life ideology, a messianic complex, a desire to change the world, as opposed to mere narcissistic, infantile egocentrism. And that person will be a lot more dangerous than Trump has ever been.

 Posted by at 7:14 pm
Jan 062021
 

So this is what the US Capitol building looks like today:

Apparently, for some folks “democracy” is synonymous with “my way or the highway”, and they are willing to destroy democratic institutions to prevail. The pictures are beyond shocking. This is the kind of shit that we usually see coming from failed states in remote corners of the world, not the United States of America.

This is not the road to democracy. This is unadulterated fascism, and it’s not some exaggeration a’la Godwin’s law: This really is it.

I am thoroughly, thoroughly disgusted with Trumpists.

 Posted by at 3:13 pm
Dec 132020
 

I am watching an almost surreal (but beautiful) video.

In this video, ambassadors to the United States from Israel, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates appear, exchanging warm greetings on account of the third night of Hanukkah.

The year 2020 is memorable mostly for all the wrong reasons, but if this remains one of the lasting legacies of 2020 and the Trump presidency, then perhaps it wasn’t a wasted year after all. After all, normalization of relations between Israel and Arab nations has been a decades long dream and until recently, very few people thought we’d live to see any meaningful results.

Yet here it is: the ambassador of a Gulf Arab state, lighting three candles on a menorah. What an astonishing sight.

 Posted by at 9:11 pm
Nov 192020
 

In recent years, I saw myself mostly as a “centrist liberal”: one who may lean conservative on matters of the economy and state power, but who firmly (very firmly) believes in basic human rights and basic human decency. One who wishes to live in a post-racial society in which your ethnicity or the color of your skin matter no more than the color of your eyes or your hairstyle. A society in which you are judged by the strength of your character. A society in which consenting, loving adults can form families regardless of their gender or sexual orientation. A society that treats heterosexuals and non-heterosexuals alike, without prejudice, without shaming, without rejection. A society in which covert racism no longer affords me “white privilege” while creating invisible barriers to those who come from a different ethnic background.

But then, I read that one of the pressing issues of the day is… the elimination of terms such as “master/slave” or “blacklist/whitelist” from the technical literature and from millions upon millions of lines of software code.

Say what again?

I mean… not too long ago, this was satire. Not too long ago, we laughed when overzealous censors (or was it misguided software?) changed “black-and-white” into “African-American-and-white”. Never did I think that one day, reality catches up with this Monty Pythonesque insanity.

It is one thing to fight for a post-racial society with gender equality. For a society in which homosexuals, transsexuals and others feel fully appreciated as human beings, just like their conventionally heterosexual neighbors. For a society free of overt or covert discrimination.

It is another thing to seek offense where none was intended. To misappropriate terms that, in the technical literature, NEVER MEANT what you suggest they mean. And then, to top it all off, to intimidate people who do not sing exactly the same song as the politically correct choir.

No, I do not claim the right, the privilege, to tell you what terms you should or should not find offensive. I am simply calling you out on this BS. You know that there is/was nothing racist about blacklisting a spammer’s e-mail address or arranging a pair of flip-flops (the electronic components, not the footwear) in a master/slave circuit. But you are purposefully searching for the use of words like “black” or “slave”, in any context, just to fuel this phony outrage. Enough already!

Do you truly want to fight real racism? Racism that harms people every day, that prevents talented young people from reaching their full potential, racism that still shortens lives and makes lives unduly miserable? Racial discrimination remains real in many parts of the world, including North America. Look no further than indigenous communities here in Canada, or urban ghettos or Native American villages in the United States. And elsewhere in the world? The treatment of the Uyghurs in China, the treatment of many ethnic minorities in Russia, human rights abuses throughout Africa and Asia, rising nationalism and xenophobia in Europe.

But instead of fighting to make the world a better place for those who really are in need, you occupy yourselves with this made-up nonsense. And as a result, you achieve the exact opposite of what you purportedly intend. Do you know why? Well, part of the reason is that decent, well-meaning people in democratic countries now vote against “progressives” because they are fed up with your thought police.

No, I do not wish to offer excuses for the real racists, the bona fide xenophobes, the closet nazis and others who enthusiastically support Trump or other wannabe autocrats elsewhere in the world. But surely, you don’t believe that over 70 million Americans who voted for Donald J. Trump 17 days ago are racist, xenophobic closet nazis?

Because if that’s what you believe, you are no better than the real racists, real xenophobes and real closet nazis. Your view of your fellow citizens is a distorted caricature, a hateful stereotype.

No, many of those who voted for Trump; many of those who voted for Biden but denied Democrats their Senate majority; many of those who voted for Biden but voted Democratic congresspeople out of the US Congress: They did so, in part, because you went too far. You are no longer solving problems. You are creating problems where none exist. Worse yet, through “cancel culture” you are trying to silence your critics.

But perhaps this is exactly what you want. Perpetuate the problem instead of solving it. For what would happen to you in a post-racial society with gender equality and full (and fully respected) LGBTQ rights? You would fade back into obscurity. You’d have to find a real job somewhere. You would no longer be able to present yourself as a respected, progressive “community leader”.

Oh, no, we can’t have that! You are a champion of human rights! You are fighting a neverending fight against white supremacism, white privilege, racism and all that! How dare I question the purity of your heart, your intent?

So you do your darnedest best to create conflict where none exists. There is no better example of this than the emergence of the word “cis” as a pejorative term describing… me, among other people, a heterosexual, white, middle-class male, especially one who happens to have an opinion and is unwilling to hide it. Exactly how you are making the world a better place by “repurposing” a word in this manner even as you fight against long-established terminology in the technical literature that you perceive as racist is beyond me. But I have had enough of this nonsense.

 Posted by at 10:46 pm
Nov 092020
 

I don’t consume much alcohol these days. Yet, I am compelled to admit, I had not one but two drinks this past week. One on Tuesday night as it became evident that the race was much tighter than pre-election polls suggested, and that there was a significant chance that my pessimistic prediction of a Trump victory would come true. The second was Saturday late morning when finally, the networks called it and named Joe Biden America’s president-elect; I felt a huge sense of relief and, well, the need for another Scotch.

Covers of the German newsmagazine Der Spiegel from February 4, 2017 and November 7, 2020.

Part of the reason why I felt relieved was that the process was far more orderly than I feared. After all the dire predictions of civil unrest, even talk of civil war, what we saw Tuesday night and on subsequent days was an orderly counting of ballots. There were modest protests but by and large within the confines if the law; and Saturday was marked with spontaneous celebrations by Biden supporters but again, no news of significant violence or rioting or anything of that nature.

In other words, America behaved exactly like you expect a mature democracy to behave, and that was perhaps the best news of the week (other than the outcome, of course.)

Yet I continue to worry that the root causes that led to Trump’s presidency have not gone away. Rising inequality, the stagnation, even shrinking of the middle class continue to create tension. The entrenched two-party system, a system of primary elections that often favor extremists over moderates, few constraints on campaign financing continue to contribute to an increasingly acerbic political climate. Biden, with his decades of experience in the Senate, might be uniquely qualified to address some of these issues but I remain skeptical: There is only so much a 78-year old politician can do. And the very fact that America elected someone this old is itself a symptom of a broken system. So the fear remains: That the next “Trump” will not be an incompetent narcissist but someone with a dangerous agenda and the skills needed to avoid becoming a one-term president.

At least for now, this nonsense is over. Trump can still do (and I predict, will do) damage in his remaining two and a half months in office. The transition is unlikely to be smooth, which will make it that much harder for Biden’s team to take over on January 20. But then again, his experience will help, and pretty soon, we won’t hear much of Trump anymore, unless some of the predicted criminal prosecutions materialize. (Which may or may not be a good idea; Gerald Ford’s rationale for pardoning Nixon was just as sound back then as it is today.)

Finally, there is Kamala Harris making history. The first woman to be elected on a presidential ticket. The second person in American history with a significant non-European ancestry to serve as Vice-President. (Much to my surprise, I learned that the first such person was Herbert Hoover’s Vice-President, Charles Curtis, who had significant Native American ancestry; he served from 1929 to 1933.) Conservative CNN commentator SE Cupp summed it up perfectly with her personal anecdote about her 5-year old son who, after being told by his Mom that the people on TV are the ones chosen to lead the country now, asked, “But that’s a woman! Could you lead the country, Mom?”

Damn right she could.

 Posted by at 1:20 am
Oct 302020
 

The latest figures from the United States are scarier than ever. It appears Dr. Fauci was right when he predicted that the daily number of new cases will reach 100,000; according to the World-o-meter data that I’ve been following, there have been 101,461 new cases in the US today.

Does this mean that the United States officially qualifies as a “shithole country” with regards to how it manages the pandemic?

Not so fast.

Per capita, these figures mean 306 new cases per million people in the past 24 hours.

But look. Here’s my country of birth, Hungary. They were doing well until they weren’t. In the past 24 hours, they produced 3,286 infections. For a country with only 9.65 million people, that’s a lot. So much, in fact, that at 340 cases per million people, they are actually ahead of the United States. (What a relief: America is not number one.)

And wait! Before you jump to the conclusion that Mr. Orban’s illiberal populism is to blame, look at France. In the past 24 hours, they produced a staggering 49,215 new infections. Granted, that’s less than half the number of new cases in the US. But they only have less than one fifth the population! So per capita, their figures translate into a truly whopping 754 new cases per million people.

So perhaps it’s not politics, after all.

None of that excuses Mr. Trump as he mocks experts and holds “super spreader” campaign events. Perhaps 306 is less than 340 or 754, but it is still a lot of people. And as a result, around a thousand Americans die every day who could otherwise have lived. Clearly, the country could do a better job.

Canada, too. Perhaps our statistics look better than American statistics, but there is no room for complacency. This second wave is hitting us hard, much harder than the spring outbreak, and there is no sign of it ending anytime soon. On the national level, the rate of new infections is below 100 per million people, but it’s much higher in hotspots. Today’s breaking news: The province of Manitoba registered 350 cases per million, exceeding the US average.

A vaccine may or may not be coming soon. Even if it does, it will likely be imperfect, offering limited immunity. And it will take months for a mass vaccination program to reach the requisite level for vaccine-induced “herd immunity”. Long story short, the end is not yet in sight. This is likely going to get worse, perhaps a lot worse, before it gets better.

But it’s not politics, people. Wear those damn masks. Wash your hands. Keep away from other people. Resist the temptation to visit grandma on her birthday or hold a large Christmas family dinner. For crying out loud, this is not some backdoor to communism. You are not a lesser human, a less manly man if you wear a mask and keep your “social distance”. This is centuries-old science, which is how human society was able to cope with past epidemics. Ignore it and you may be directly responsible for infecting, perhaps crippling, even killing your loved ones.

 Posted by at 9:55 pm
Oct 282020
 

My revulsion over Trump notwithstanding, every once in a while, when I am confronted with the blatant intolerance of “cancel culture” and the frequent dishonesty of “progressives”, I do feel that the Trumpists have a point.

Case in question: On October 13, 2020, SCOTUS nominee Amy Coney Barrett responded to a question concerning sexual orientation by stating the following: “I have no agenda, and I do want to be clear that I have never discriminated on the basis of sexual preference and would not ever discriminate on the basis of sexual preference. Like racism, I think discrimination is abhorrent.”

Progressive outrage was swift. Sexual “preference”? Sexual orientation is not a preference. You do not choose to be gay, queer, or bisexual. True. (Though allow me to observe that pedophiles also do not choose to be sexually attracted to children. No, I absolutely do not equate a loving relationship between consenting adults and the abuse of children. Just making a factual observation, a rhetorical point if you wish, highlighting that “orientation” does not, by itself, make a person’s sexual behavior socially or legally acceptable and that sexual orientation notwithstanding, a person can choose, or prefer, to refrain from committing unlawful acts. Besides, if sexuality was just a matter of preference, would that make persecution acceptable? Is it okay to persecute on the basis of religion, which is obviously a matter of preference? Which is why, I think, the “consenting adults” standard is far more appropriate than any distinction between orientation vs. preference when we define what is legal, socially acceptable, and protected as a basic human right. But, I digress.)

So here is the thing. Here is how Webster’s online dictionary defined the word “preference” as late as September 28, 2020, according to the Wayback Machine:

And here is how the definition changed on or before October 14 (when the Wayback Machine next captured the page) and what it says today:

Can you spot the difference?

Yes, somehow magically, overnight maybe, the word “preference” acquired an offensive meaning that was previously unknown to the editors of Merriam-Webster. The explanatory paragraph states that “The term preference as used to refer to sexual orientation is widely considered offensive in its implied suggestion that a person can choose who they are sexually or romantically attracted to.”

If your conservative friends respond with “what the [expletive]!”, I think they have every right to be upset. This kind of altered reality smells like the work of the Ministry of Truth in Orwell’s 1984, or the altered photographs of the Stalin era with their vanishing commissars. In any case… “widely considered” by whom? (Expressions like this are actively discouraged by Wikipedia as weasel words, expressions of anonymous authority that should be avoided in encyclopedic definitions.)

It is one thing to condemn bigotry and racism. It is another thing to actively search for opportunities to be offended, even altering reality if that’s what it takes. This is not tolerance. This is virtue signaling. This is phony outrage, cheap political theater. The fact that the “progressive left” sinks this low, feels justified to sink this low (because, you know, Trump!) is sickening.

Of course there is a charitable explanation: Perhaps Webster’s simply responded to the “facts on the ground”, the criticism of Judge Barrett serving as a reminder to check, and update, this dictionary entry. But even if that were the case, shouldn’t such an update be based on more than a single instance of a political firestorm in the final weeks of a hotly contested US election cycle? Was it really necessary to make this change with such urgency? Given the fact that the entry directly relates to an unfolding, current political event, didn’t that deserve at least a footnote? Or perhaps just wait two weeks until the (badly rushed) confirmation process is over?

Bah. Who cares about such niceties, when there is such a wonderful opportunity to engage in righteous shaming.


NB: The screen captures above are mine. They are slightly altered (I removed commercial banners and information related to my personal privacy.) Their content was not manipulated.

 Posted by at 1:24 pm
Oct 192020
 

Since when is listening to the scientists a bad thing?

Now as to the claim that if he listened to the scientists, he’d have tanked the economy… here is what Mr. Trump’s pandemic response accomplished with respect to the US economy:

Compare this against China, where the totalitarian government, to their credit, actually listened to the scientists:

Even Canada, with a much less spectacular pre-pandemic economic performance than the United States, fared much better than our southern neighbor on which much of our economy depends:

So I suppose, Mr. Trump, you just gave millions of thinking Americans another reason to vote for Mr. Biden. I’d laugh but… neither the state of the US economy nor the number of dead, rapidly approaching a quarter million, qualify as laughing matter. Not to mention the seemingly inevitable march towards an increasingly illiberal, increasingly authoritarian America, driven by structural causes that go back decades and which a Biden Administration is just as unlikely to address as preceding administrations.

 Posted by at 1:21 pm