The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Friday, March 16, 2018

March Madness

As March Madness descends on the country over the next three weeks, the FBI is busy investigating multiple colleges and universities for irregularities in the way they have instituted and followed arbitrarily defined NCAA rules. It’s interesting that a large team of FBI agents has spent months interviewing sports agents, coaches, and players to uncover wrongdoing that might sway the results of basketball games, but in no way threatens the country on a broader basis.

Odd that the same level of enthusiasm didn’t appear to be present during the past administration, when the IRS was weaponized to target political opponents of the past-president, or when the then-Secretary of State set up a private email server that compromised national security. In fact, at senior levels of the FBI, those issues were apparently considered less a threat to the country than the recruiting shenanigans that go on regularly in college basketball. After all, slipping a college player's mother the money for an airline ticket to see her son play ball is a crime worthy of FBI investigation, but a cabal of IRS employees who target conservatives for their politics is—well, nothing to see there, move on.

James Freeman relates a transcription from Robert Mueller, the FBI director during part of the previous administration, testifying for a Congressional Committee and Congressman Jim Jordan about the then-breaking IRS scandal:
A month after the IRS abuses began coming to light, Rep. Jim Jordan (R., Ohio) asked then-FBI Director Robert Mueller about the case at a June 13, 2013 meeting of the House Judiciary Committee. Here’s an excerpt from the hearing transcript:
JORDAN: Can you tell me -- can you tell me some basics? Can you tell me how many agents -- investigators -- you’ve assigned to the case?
MUELLER: I may be able to do that, but I’d have to get back to you.
JORDAN: Can you tell me who the lead investigator is?
MUELLER: Off the top of my head, no.
JORDAN: This is the most important issue in front of the country the last six weeks, you don’t know who’s heading up the case? Who the lead investigator is?
MUELLER: At this junction, no, I do not know who the...
JORDAN: Can you get that information to us? We’d like to know. We’d like to know how many people you’ve assigned to look into this situation.
MUELLER: I have not had a recent briefing on it. I had a briefing on it when we first initiated it, but I have not had a recent briefing as to where we are...
JORDAN: Do you know if you’ve talked to any of the victims? Have you talked to any of the groups who were targeted by their government? Have you met with any of the tea party folks since May 14th, 2013?
MUELLER: I don’t know what the status of the interviews are by the team that’s on it.
Several months later, Mr. Mueller handed off leadership of the bureau to James Comey, who seems to have cared about IRS targeting abuses just as much as Mr. Mueller did. Mr. Comey’s FBI spent less time investigating the IRS than the bureau has spent examining college basketball.
But now, of course, Special Counsel Mueller has become a bulldog, investigating fantasy claims of Russian collusion with an apparent enthusiasm that he didn't exhibit in the noted testimony. Betcha he can name the lead investigator, the number of people on his collusion team, and every other aspect of his investigation. After all, the real weaponization of a government agency against the political opponents of the then-president is far, far, far less serious than a fantasy claim of collusion that has no evidence to support it. Isn't it?

Freeman summarizes:
It’s hard to escape the conclusion that the FBI has become a sort of ministry of self-indulgence, pursuing cases that its leadership finds interesting or useful as opposed to prioritizing threats to our safety and liberty.

The real scandal is not about Donald Trump firing Mr. Mueller’s successor. The question is: What took him so long?
An even bigger question is why on earth should we trust Robert Mueller to be a politically unbiased and honest investigator when his past history indicates he is nothing of the sort.


The politicization of government agencies, particularly during the last decade, is very concerning. Sure, there's always been politics, but never in modern history has the FBI, the DoJ, the IRS, and EPA, and others (though their senior appointed officials) been transformed into political tools that do the bidding of one political party to the significant detriment of the other. I'm not naive. I know this has always gone on. But the extent, the broad scope, and the blatant execution of this under the previous administration has set a precedent that is dangerous for our country. It destroys trust, and in the end, that's all we've really got if we intend to live by the rule of law.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018


In yet another classless and unnecessarily clumsy move, Donald Trump fired Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State via Twitter. Like many things that Trump does, the end result was probably correct, but the style in which it was done was off-putting. Trump and Tillerson disagreed on too many issues for their relationship to continue. But Tillerson was a class act, served the president well, and should have been treated with greater respect.

The editors of the Wall Street Journal write:
President Trump’s decision to replace Rex Tillerson with CIA director Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State looks like a trade up for the Administration and perhaps for U.S. foreign policy. Mr. Tillerson deserved better than the shabby way he was fired, but Mr. Pompeo shares more of the President’s views and is likely to carry more clout with Mr. Trump and foreign leaders.

Mr. Trump was initially attracted to the former Exxon CEO’s status and business success, and boosters like former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice hoped he’d mesh with a businessman president. But foreign policy isn’t made in flow charts, and Mr. Tillerson squandered political capital by trying to reorganize the State Department.

The most successful recent Secretaries— Henry Kissinger, George Shultz, James Baker —used the department’s assets to serve their agendas. They put allies in key jobs to manage the biggest issues, while letting the career staff run lesser portfolios. But more than a year into the Trump era, most senior State posts remain vacant, as do key ambassadorships to the likes of South Korea, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Mr. Tillerson relied on too many diplomats who served the bureaucracy’s agenda.
During Tillerson's tenure, U.S. foreign policy accomplishments improved by an order of magnitude when compared to the previous administration. During those years, the past-president allowed first- and second-term Secretaries of State to do their thing and the result was disastrous—chaos in the Middle East, Russia invading the Ukraine, North Korea rampaging toward an even more warlike posture, Venezuela going down the tubes, China asserting its military in the Asian region, the "Iran Deal," antipathy toward Israel, to name only a few foreign policy failures—but yeah, that president didn't fire his diplomats via Twitter. Nah, he believed in leading from behind.

In that context, it's worth noting that style matters, but accomplishment matters a lot more. In style, Trump gets an F, but in foreign policy accomplishment (not to mention domestic achievements), his administration gets an B+.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Pandora's Box

I became fascinated with artificial intelligence (A.I.) in graduate school. In fact, my dissertation made use of a primitive form of A.I. to help select manufacturing variables for targeted metal cutting operations. At the time, A.I. was a fringe topic, something that was continually derided as a pipe dream. Today, it's anything but.

In the early 21st century, Ray Kurweil wrote a book, The Singularity is Near, in which he predicted that full-blown artificial general intelligence (AGI)—that is, a computer-based intelligence that is virtually indistinguishable from human intelligence—would appear by 2040. He suggested, correctly I think, that technology is improving on an exponential curve and that advances in tech and particlarly in A.I. will occur more and more rapidly. We're already seeing that. 2040 may be a conservative estimate.

Kurweil is a utopian, believing that the benefits of A.I. would far-outweigh its obvious dangers. Many others, myself included, are more guarded, believing that A.I. can lead to a dystopian world in which, much like the Terminator scenario, machines rule. Sound crazy? Read Nick Bostom's treatise, Superintelligence. Bostom is often characterized as a dystopian, believing that AGI will quickly evolve into a superintelligence that cannot be controlled and could potentially be malevolent. He's not alone. The likes of Elon Musk, Bill Gates, and Steven Hawking, among many serious technologists, are also concerned.

Today there is a race to develop powerful A.I. with China, the United States, and other competent players pushing to gain an advantage. The question is, what happens if and when AGI appears. Once developed, it could, like a human, improve itself (at the speed of light). It might have an IQ of 90 on day one, 200 on day n, then 1000 on day ... We cannot even conceive of an AI that has access to all the world's data, has an intelligence that is 1, 2 or 3 (!!) orders of magnitude greater than ours, and always getting more intelligent. Would it solve all the world's problems? Would it decide that humans are superfluous to its self-defined goals? Would it lead to a utopia or a dystopia? No. One. Knows.

The big question is this: Are we willing to take the very real risk to find out.

Of course, most of this tech is simply beyond the grasp of politicians who believe that the greatest threat to the human race is climate change. Unlike that scientifically questionable long-term threat, which won't become acute (if it ever does) for almost 100 years, A.I. could become a very real issue 20 or 30 years. A.I. represents a unique dilemma. Can it be controlled? Can we develop "ethical" standards for it? Should we ban development of it?

The answers to those questions aren't easy or obvious. We should not become 21st century luddites, but we have to recognize and respond to the risks. Is government regulation the answer? I'm not sure, but if past experience serves, probably not. Are industry standards viable? Not likely.

In our risk averse, politically correct society, all of those avenues will be tried, but there are others in other places who will disregard any controls and plow forward.

Why? Because they believe (incorrectly, I think) that a superintelligence can be controlled and weaponized against their economic or military adversaries. Pandora's box awaits.

Sunday, March 11, 2018


Over the years, I have written dozens of posts outlining the Left's ongoing effort to demonize, delegitimize, sanction, boycott and otherwise attempt to eliminate the State of Israel. At the same time, the Left's trained hamsters in the media have been among the most active advocates for the Left's anti-Israel meme—one that creates a fantasy image of the palestinians as an "oppressed" people, that a fantasy country called "palestine" is "occupied" by Israelis (who BTW have lived there for millenia), and at the same time puts all of the responsibility for "peace" at the feet of the Israelis. The palestinians' broken promises, extreme violence, terror activities, blatant anti-semitism, human right abuses, outright lies, and refusal to negotiate in good faith are conveniently ignored by the Left and their trained hamsters in the media.

All of this culminated in the most anti-Israel president and administration in American history with the election of Barack Obama, his Team of 2s, and his nincompoop Secretary of State, John Kerry. Because Obama was a leftist, his view of Israel parroted the leftist meme and his policies followed suit. And because the media idolized Obama, they were perfectly willing to support and promote the past president's anti-Israel bias.

In a fascinating video, media critic Richard Landes exposes the blatant bias and dishonesty that the trained hamsters in the media have promoted over the years. First, Landes simply presents examples, but then he deconstructs it for what it is—lies, misdirection and the promotion of the politics of destruction. Even more important, he notes that the hamsters refuse to present the palestinians own words (in Arabic)—their demand that Israel cease to exist; that they intend to take over the land of Israel from the "shoreline" to the Jordanian border; that there are "no concessions;" that compromise is not possible; that peace can only occur when Israel is destroyed; that any interim "agreements" are a subterfuge and that war will continue until Israel is eliminated. The left-leaning media outright refuses to acknowledge any of this, let alone report the words of palestinian leaders.

Richard Landes argues that the likes of CNN and the BBC (among many media sources) are perfectly willing to promote palestinian propaganda. After all, they've been doing so for decades and in all likelihood, will continue to do so for decades to come. On many issues, but particularly on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, much of the Western news media has demonstrated repeatedly that they cannot and should not be trusted as a source of legitimate information.

Friday, March 09, 2018

The Meet

For months and months during the early part of Donald Trump's first year in office, the four constituencies wailed that he was risking "nuclear war" with North Korea, that his aggressive stance toward Kim Jong Un was tantamount to dereliction, that his behavior was grossly "unpresidential," that his taunting of the NoKo dictator had "zero" chance of success. It now appears that they were wrong (as they often are about this president).

Last night the administration announced that Trump and Kim Jong Un would meet to discuss the "denuclearization" of North Korea—something that has eluded the likes of Barack Obama, George W Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and their predecessors. If their meetings bear fruit—and that a very big IF— the results would be good for the region and good for the world.

Gosh ... it looks like Trump the "warmonger" is somehow considerably more effective that the so-called "peacemaker" and nobel peace prize winner who preceded him. Heh.

All of this is very nice, and Donald Trump deserves kudos for putting enough pressure on the NoKos to get them to the table. But the NoKos and Kim Jong Un are not to be trusted.

Trump has garnered praise for this opening from some of his opponents, but those who suffer from Trump Derangement Syndrome are predictably negative. Here's the NYT's Nicholas Kristof:
This is stunning: President Trump has accepted an invitation from Kim Jong-un for a summit.

It’s also, I think, a dangerous gamble and a bad idea.

I can’t believe I’m saying that. For many years, over several trips to North Korea, I’ve argued for direct talks between the United States and North Korea, and it’s certainly better to be engaging the North than bombing it. If the choice is talk versus missiles, I’ll go with the talk.

But the proper way to hold a summit is with careful preparation to make sure that the meeting advances peace — and certainly that it serves some purpose higher than simply legitimizing Kim’s regime.

Kim and Trump are both showmen with a flair for the dramatic and unexpected. That would make a summit thrilling — but creates great risks if everything turns out wrong.
So let me see if I've got this straight. A guy who has lobbied for talks with the NoKos for "many years" is now against talks because ... Trump. He's worried that it could all go bad, and it could. He's concerned about process, not results (typical). Something tells me that if Obama and his Team of 2s had accomplished the same feat, Kristof would be ecstatic. But ... nevermind.

One wonders what role China played behind the scenes and how Russia will react to all of this. But no matter—it's better to talk than to launch missiles.

I'm unconvinced that not much will come of this, and that the talks may be used by the NoKos to buy time. But maybe, just maybe, Donald Trump will accomplish what his predecessors could not. Heh ... and the four constituencies keep telling us he's "insane." Maybe that's exactly what brought the NoKos to the table.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Guilt by Association

If the trained hamsters in the main stream media have any standards at all, they're double standards. For months and months, they labeled Donald Trump as a "white supremacist." They worked hard to find any connection, however tenuous, that would tie Trump or any of his nominees or any senior GOP politician to anyone who even got close to a white supremacist person or group.

This week, an extremist who is every bit as worrisome as any white supremacist, Louis Farrakhan, did what he always does. He gave a virulently anti Semitic, anti-gay speech. Surprisingly, and to its credit, CNN broke a virtual media blackout and reported the gist of his comments:
Washington (CNN) Minister Louis Farrakhan engaged in a series of anti-Semitic remarks on Sunday.

Farrakhan has led the black nationalist group Nation of Islam since 1977 and is known for hyperbolic hate speech aimed at the Jewish community.

During the speech in Chicago, Farrakhan made several anti-Semitic comments, including, "the powerful Jews are my enemy."
"White folks are going down. And Satan is going down. And Farrakhan, by God's grace, has pulled the cover off of that Satanic Jew and I'm here to say your time is up, your world is through," he later said.
Well, at least the "news network" that suffers continually from Trump Derangement Syndrome was honest enough to report on Farrakhan, but why didn't CNN or others in the mainstream media take the next step and tie his supporters and acquaintances in the Democratic party to his words. After all, that's exactly what they did when they labeled Trump a 'white supremacist" for his supposed associations.

Peter Hasson reports:
At least seven House Democrats are known to have direct ties to Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, a notorious anti-Semite and racist who has called Jews “satanic” and said white people “deserve to die.”

California Reps. Maxine Waters and Barbara Lee, Illinois Rep. Danny Davis, Indiana Rep. Andre Carson, Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, New York Rep. Gregory Meeks and Texas Rep. Al Green have all attended meetings with Farrakhan while in Congress, according to photos, videos and witness accounts of the meetings reviewed by The Daily Caller News Foundation.

With the exception of Davis, the Democratic representatives have ignored repeated requests for comment regarding their relationships with Farrakhan.

Davis has a personal relationship with Farrakhan and is unbothered by Farrakhan’s position on “the Jewish question,” he told TheDCNF on Sunday. Davis called Farrakhan an “outstanding human being” in an interview with The Daily Caller in February and said he has regularly visited with Farrakhan.
For far too many leftists, "intersectionality" gives despicable people like Farrakhan a pass. After all, leftists would claim, the "Minister" is a member of an oppressed minority and a Muslim to boot, so a few anti-Semitic comments are ... well ... we'll just look the other way. For that matter, the seven Congress members get the same kind of pass.

It seems that only those with opinions and/or an ideology that opposes the left are given withering coverage by the trained hamsters when questionable associations occur. That's why Trump was guilty by association with someone who once spoke to someone else who possibly knew someone who may have been a KKK or neo-Nazi member. But seven leading Dems, one of whom endorses a known anti-Semite and another who is an anti-Semite (think: Keith Ellison)? Nah ... guilt by association just doesn't apply.

UPDATE (3/8/2018):

For Social Justice Warriors, ideology is all that matters. The vast majority of SJWs are children of the Left who uncritically praise people who parrot their favorite memes, even if those same people are otherwise despicable bigots. Susan Shapiro offers us a case in point:
Imagine if I, a liberal white New Yorker, posted social media pictures with my arm around the KKK-loving David Duke, calling him a great man as he proclaimed that black people were degenerates responsible for the supposedly filthy behavior that caused transsexuality. I would be fired, ridiculed and called out by every left-winger in my life, as well as all the civilized people I knew on the right.

Yet Women’s March Co-President Tamika Mallory, a liberal black New Yorker, has done the equivalent, repeatedly.

Last week, the 37-year-old Mallory attended yet another event for the despicable Nation of Islam leader Minister Louis Farrakhan in Chicago, receiving a shoutout from Farrakhan himself.
If Malloy were a singular exception, we might just shrug. But she isn't. The editors of the conservative Daily Standard write:
Tamika Mallory, a co-leader of the Women’s March, was at the “Saviours Day” [Farrakhan] speech this year; two years before she posted a photo with Farrakhan to Instagram in which she offered him praise and birthday wishes. Linda Sarsour—the famed left-wing Palestinian-American activist and provocateur—commented on a photo of Farrakhan on the Instagram page of Carmen Perez, another Women’s March co-leader. “God bless him,” Sarsour said of Farrakhan.

How strange that self-proclaimed “intersectional” feminists such as Sarsour, Mallory, and Perez would support an openly misogynistic and racist demagogue like Farrakhan. Among his more recent offerings: “When a woman does not know how to cook and the right foods to cook, she's preparing death for herself, her husband and her children.” He’s also observed that “man is supposed to have rule, especially in his own house . . . and when she rules you, you become her child.” Directly to women he asserted: “You are a failure if you can’t keep a man, no profession can keep you happy!” One wonders what it is about him that these feminists find so alluring.
For the Left and the SJWs who populate it, Malloy and Sarsour's behavior is not at all unusual. Many SJWs are a bit more circumspect, no doubt, preferring to look the other way. But relatively few publicly condemn a person like Farrakhan. After all, that might cause them to begin to assess the many other corrupt and dishonest positions taken by those who adopt Leftist ideology without critical evaluation.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Trade War?

The elites on both the right and the left got the vapors when Donald Trump announced that he intended to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum. His intent was to provide an incentive for rebuilding those industries in the United States with the added benefit of creating blue collar jobs. The react was immediate and overwhelmingly negative. The trained hamsters in the mainstream media piled on, and the amount of negative commentary was as predictable as it was astounding. Here's some examples of the 'concerns' raised by the usual suspects:

"The world is now a global economy and tariffs are so ... well, so 20th century."

"The tariffs target our allies and will anger them, resulting in trade retaliation or worse, a trade war."

The costs of more expensive steel and aluminum will trickle down into products of all kinds, representing a billion dollar 'tax' on consumers."

"Any jobs gained in steel and aluminum will be offset by jobs lost in other sectors impacted by retaliation."

In honesty its hard to sort out the truth in all of this. Suffice to say that the elites always opt for the status quo and our international trading partners enjoy a trade surplus with the USA, so they are, of course, upset.

But Donald Trump is a disruptor and a seasoned negotiator. It may be that he achieves benefits by disrupting the status quo in trade and gains a negotiating advantage by levying tariffs.

By disrupting the status quo Trump might very well provide a necessary catalyst for a rebirth of domestic steel and aluminum production, providing economic and national security benefits. By levying a tariff today on Canada and Mexico (among other allies), he just might establish a 'throwaway' for negotiation on a new version of NAFTA that is more beneficial for the United States.

Those who can't wrap their heads around applying tariffs to allies don't seem to realize that allies place tariffs and taxes on many different U.S exports with the express intent of protecting local industries. That's why a Chevy Corvette can cost twice what it does in the US in some EU countries. It reasonable to ask why Trump's tariffs are somehow wrong and provocative, but tariffs and taxes levied by EU allies on products made in the USA are perfectly acceptable.

In Trump's first year in office, he has, according to Heritage Foundation, accomplished over 60 percent of his campaign promises. One of those promises was to reform trade, to give the USA a better deal. For better or worse, that's what he's trying to do. The world will not come to an end if tariffs are imposed—they are never forever. In fact, it might be that the conventional wisdom is wrong and there will be a relatively minor downside and potentially big upside. Realistically, it's hard to tell, but when the trained hamsters in the mainstream media become hysterical and the elites frown and express concern, it's not always a bad thing to take an opposing position. You'll recall that Trump's efforts at tax reform caused the trained hamsters in the mainstream media to become hysterical and the elites to frown and express concern about wrecking the US economy and benefiting only the rich. They. Were. Wrong. As they so often are.

Kevin McCullough comments:
President Trump should not have surprised anyone with this announcement. He campaigned on the idea and it is keenly linked to why he won the rust belt and the nation. The tariffs are called “protectionist” by voices trying to scare the American people. But fear is unnecessary.

If the five preceding presidents all held the same position (which they did) but were unable to get it done due to economic stagnation, terrorism, etc. now is the perfect time to take it up and create a far more favorable playing field for our domestic metals industry as well as the workers who would love to show the world the pride they take in American Steel and Aluminum.

The tariffs are the right thing to do!
I'm not sure what the right thing is here, but I do know that the hysteria and fear-mongering are sure signs that something is afoot. We'll see how this plays out.