Stop and think,  collected — 2019

Note. Because of changes in the archive pages, over time, you may find that some of the links you hit to other "Stop and think" installments actually lead nowhere. If you encounter frustration with a particular link, please feel free to hold my feet to the fire. — Nicholas Strakon

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Reader responses

Ronn Neff: The hands-on media. So many videos are coming out showing Joe Biden's "hands-iness"!

All these videos were available to the news agencies during the eight years he was vice president, and during both of his campaigns with Obama. Some of them were available while he was a senator and running for president.

Why weren't they known to the American public? This is a pretty clear example of how the media help a candidate (in this case, Obama) win an election and how they help create the image of his presidency.

And we are seeing now how they help deep-six a candidacy.

As usual, this kind of information is coming out long after it might have made a difference to the "voting public" in past years.

The irony is that most of these videos would have remained the media's open secret if only Biden had said months ago that he was not running for president. (April 2019)

Ronn Neff: Not for nothing, but I am getting a little tired of hearing that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in the 2016 and that without the Electoral College, she would be president.

Taking the given numbers as true (a questionable supposition in the light of possible illegal voting throughout the country, but especially in California), we have:

Clinton: 65,853,652
Trump: 62,985,134

Total votes cast: 137,125,484

Who won the majority of votes? No one. Clinton won a plurality of votes, and in a parliamentary form of government, that would make her the putative prime minister, with a need for forming a coalition government with someone.

Similarly in the 2000 election (with the same assumptions concerning the legitimacy of the official figures):

Gore: 51,009,810
Bush: 50,462,412

Total votes cast: 105,425,985

But what would such an outcome mean in a government in which "the majority rules"? It's hard to say. Another election? A run-off election?

In other words, what the Electoral College does (among other things) is answer the question of how to select a president who does not win the majority of votes cast.

Those opposed to the Electoral College should tell us — in their efforts to repeal it or circumvent it — how they would solve the problem in the event that there is no majority winner.

But whatever they come up with, please stop telling us that Clinton won. She didn't. She didn't win under the Electoral College system, and she didn't win under a popular-election system. (April 2019)

Ronn Neff: Look who's talking! Pat Buchanan is claiming that the only reason for Joe Biden to consider having Stacey Abrams as his running mate is to solidify his standing among blacks, and to inoculate himself against rival candidates.

Someone help me here: When Buchanan ran for president, who was his running mate? (March 2019)

Ronn Neff: The practical executioner. New York Public Radio's broadcast of March 16, "Millionaires Funded by Billionaires," featured a discussion with Rutger Bregman, a Dutch historian and author of the book Utopia for Realists: How We Can Build the Ideal World. Bregman is an advocate of the Universal Basic Income, or "UBI."

Bregman claims that the UBI is an idea that's been around for a long time, but that in the 1950s a "small group of thinkers," such as Milton Friedman and F.A. Hayek and others of the Mont Pelerin Society, began a movement for small government and lower taxes. Their ideas, he says, took hold in the 1970s, and the people who picked up their ideas more or less created a setback for the idea of what Richard Nixon called a family assistance system.

Bregman does not actually say that Friedman and Hayek themselves opposed the idea of a universal basic income, but he certainly wants us to believe it. In that, he is half right, and the half that he is right about is Hayek. But Richard Nixon did not come up with the idea of a basic income by himself; it was an idea that was promoted by, among others, Milton Friedman in the years that Nixon was president.

Friedman called it the negative income tax. Bregman, who is regarded as a historian, seems to be completely unaware of this. But, as the man says, "You can look it up." In fact, you can look it up in Wikipedia. Bregman, who had fun at Tucker Carlson's expense when he said that they had the Internet in the Netherlands, should perhaps spend more time with it.

The point here is not just that Bregman's idea of Friedman seems to be what he thinks it should be — because, perhaps, of Friedman's reputation — and that he is wrong. No. The point is that this is the sort of thing that happens when someone like a Milton Friedman sets about to reform the state or to streamline it.

He ends up promoting policies which — in his mind — can be tamed or managed in a way that may or may not be an improvement. But they will not stay in his mind. They will get into the minds of others, and in the end become the tools of economic ruin and the destruction of liberty.

Friedman enjoys a reputation as a champion of liberty. But it was not a principled liberty; it was a practical liberty. Whenever he thought that liberty was not practical or was not "practical enough," he became one of liberty's executioners. It is not that he meant to be anti-liberty; it is rather that practicality and pragmatism are. (March 2019)

Nicholas Strakon: The murders at the mosques. At Chronicles, Srdja Trifkovic writes: "...[T]his regrettable incident will dominate the headlines infinitely more than any comparable carnage involving Christians, notably the 2017 Palm Sunday church bombings in Alexandria; it killed 45 people, and was all but ignored by the Western media and politicians." ("New Zealand Attacks: Repercussions and Perspective," March 15, 2019.)

We also direct your attention to this impassioned video by Paul Ramsey ("ramzpaul"), "Christchurch — the wages of multiculturalism." I had never heard of Ebba Akerlund, the 11-year-old Swedish victim of multiculturalism, until now.

Down with imperialism and the subsidizing of immigration; up with the freedoms of property and association. (March 2019)

Ronn Neff: Politicians don't have beliefs; they have positions. Let's think about this a minute:

In 2008, Sen. Joe Biden said of Barack Obama that he was "the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy." The next thing you knew, Biden was the vice president.

In 2019, ex-Vice President Joe Biden, speaking of the silent reaction by an international gathering of politicians to remarks of Vice President Mike Pence, said that "it [the silence] was followed on by a guy who's a decent guy, our vice president." The next thing you knew, Biden was attacked by the Left he helped to create and has probably killed his chances for a run at the presidency in 2020.

So, insult the entire black American community, and you're rewarded; praise a guy with the gentlest of praise, and you're out on your ear.

P.S. Biden has since retracted his remarks about Pence. Presumably he no longer thinks Pence is decent. (March 2019)

Ronn Neff: Who's kiddin' who? The argument against supporting Donald Trump's declaration of a national emergency most often used by Republicans is that it sets a bad precedent: A future Democratic president might use it to declare a national emergency regarding gun control or climate change.

This is an absurd argument:

(1) Does anyone really believe that Democrats haven't already thought of this?

(2) Does anyone really believe that Democrats would need a precedent before they tried it? Have they already forgotten the presidency of Barack Obama?

(3) There have been plenty of times when the GOP did not worry for one second about the precedent they were setting. (For an example, see the penultimate paragraph of my 2001 essay, "Ron Paul's Gift.") What makes this "precedent" so very different?

Now, it's entirely possible that there are some Republicans who actually believe what they are saying. But I don't believe that there are. I believe that it's merely cover for when they have to face the folks back home. When the final count is taken, it will be interesting to see how many of those who vote against Trump on this matter are up for re-election in 2020. (March 2019)

Nicholas Strakon: Making the nutballs bearable. I saw this the other day at the irrepressible and irreplaceable Babylon Bee: "Grizzly Bear Shatters All Pro Wrestling Records After Identifying As Human."

My own dream is that the identity maniacs decide they're grizzly bears, and attempt to join up with them and tell them what's what.

P.S. I should be more careful, throwing around that word "irrepressible." The Bee still shows up on Facebook, but one has to assume its days there are numbered.

(March 2019)

Ronn Neff: Did you ever notice? Women who "self-identify" as men never try out for men's sports. (February 2019)

Nicholas Strakon: Funny and serious. This has got to be the best thing I've ever read by Caitlin Johnstone, and that's saying something: "If Every Debate About US Interventionism Was About Godzilla Instead," Steemit, February 25, 2019. (February 2019)

Nicholas Strakon: Racism alert! I was disturbed, upset, and, liyeek, super-disappointed to see this news at the Daily Wire: "Ocasio-Cortez: People Maybe Shouldn't Reproduce Due To Climate Change / 'Is it okay to still have children?'" by Ryan Saavedra (February 25, 2019).

In 2017, the UN predicted there will be 4 billion sub-Saharan Africans by 2100. Is Señorita Ocasio-Cortez saying that black Africans should refrain from reproducing so that figure is not reached?

Does she hate black babies?

If Señorita Ocasio-Cortez doesn't stipulate that her skepticism about having children applies only to white people — and especially to non-communist white people — then I think the tarbrush of RACISM! must be applied, and she must immediately be purged from public life. And barred from renewing her bartender's license.

(I think this may be a secret — not sure — but I seem to have heard that some Latinx don't get along too well with people of African heritage.)

Another view: "Nation Breathes Sigh of Relief As Ocasio-Cortez Comes Out against Having Children," The Babylon Bee, February 25, 2019.

(February 2019)

Nicholas Strakon: Wright is right. In a message to some of my co-conspirators the other day I observed that I feel some cognitive dissonance when contemplating the leftists who have seized so much power over us and who seem destined to seize absolute power.

I was wondering about Russia in 1916–17. Did the normal literate folk soon to be shot or carted off as counter-revolutionaries double over with laughter sometimes when watching the antics of the Bolsheviks and their Left-totalitarian allies? I doubted that it was so.

But — I wrote my friends — our own Left-totalitarians, evil and deadly as they are, are so clownish. They're so damn funny. I can't help being horrified and entertained at the same time.

David T. Wright responded: "It's a little like being in a concentration camp run by Laurel and Hardy." (February 2019)

Ronn Neff: "A Simple Plan." Now, let's see if I have this right:

The plan was for the "attack" to be captured by a street camera, and somehow that was supposed to help Jussie Smollett's report to be believable.

But ...

If the camera had been pointed the right way, wouldn't it have shown at once that the "attackers" were not white? Were not wearing MAGA caps? In fact, wouldn't it have helped the cops to identify the Nigerian brothers?

What did the brothers think was going to happen? "But, if we get caught, won't we go to jail?" And the only way to stay out of jail would be to rat Smollett out. Which is what happened.

Somehow, I can hear Andy Brown saying, "Kingfish, is you sure dis is on de up 'n' up?"

Nicholas Strakon comments: All in all, this does not seem to have been one of the better-designed Nigerian Scams. (February 2019)

Ronn Neff: Monumental question. Is slavery any worse than collecting taxes and living off them?

Will libertarians demand that all government officials grovel and apologize? Will they insist that all statues and other paraphrenalia honoring those who collected taxes and lived off taxes be removed? Should all parks and streets be renamed? (February 2019)

Ronn Neff: A lesson in media bias. In many "news" stories reporting on something Donald Trump has said, the publication will often say, "President Trump said, without evidence, that, etc." The New York Times seems particularly fond of this construction, but is certainly not alone.

Now consider this story at the Washington Free Beacon, "Omar: Refugees at U.S. Border Are 'Detained and Tortured'" (February 7, 2019), in which Rep. Ilhan Omar (D–Minn.) is quoted: "They are separated and processed. They are detained and tortured." The story does not say, "Congresswoman Omar said, without evidence, 'They are detained and tortured.'"

I do not mind that the president's assertions are often reported by high-minded logicians who note that he has not provided evidence. But where are they when others are speaking? (February 2019)

Ronn Neff: How leftists think. The other day I heard the following exchange between Kamala Harris, who considers herself qualified to run my life (and yours) as president of the United States, and Neomi Rao, whom Donald Trump has nominated to the U.S. District Court of Appeals:

Harris: You said when having a conversation with Senator Ernst, "Women should take certain steps to avoid becoming a victim." What steps do you have in mind that women should take to avoid becoming a victim of sexual assault?

Rao: Senator, it's just sort of a common-sense idea about for instance excessive drinking, y'know that was advice that was given to me by my mother.

Harris: So that's one step that you believe women should take to avoid becoming a victim of sexual assault?

Rao: It is just a way to make it less likely. It's not to blame the victim; rape and sexual assault are horrible crimes, but we're talking about what can you do to keep yourself safe.

Harris: Are there other steps that you believe women should take to avoid becoming a victim of sexual assault?

Rao: That is one of the issues I discussed; I'm not sure if there are others.

Harris: So do you believe that if women do not take those steps that she is at fault or partially at fault for what happens to her?

Rao: Uh, no.

Harris: So what is the significance of taking those steps?

Rao: Well, it's just the significance of trying to avoid becoming a victim of any crime. We take different steps to protect ourselves from horrible crime, such as rape. And I think what we want is for women to not be victims.

Harris says that she found the responses from Rao "unacceptable" and "deeply troubling," apparently believing that they are the first step in a program of "blaming the victim."

I could not help but wonder whether Harris thinks that drivers who dash into a 7-Eleven to pick up a coffee and newspaper should be warned not to leave their keys in their car. (February 2019)

Ronn Neff: Rashaad Thomas is black, and his skin is thin. In a Phoenix restaurant, he saw a photograph of coal miners with soot on their faces and said it was blackface and a "threat" to him.

He said that it was part of the issue of "lack of representation of marginalized people and their voices in Phoenix."

He said that the photograph said to him that "people like me are not welcome."

I wish people like him were not welcome. I believe that civilized society can do without people who go around looking for reasons to be offended. I wish society would not welcome them. I wish a polite and civilized society would ask them to please leave and never come back.

Alas, we do not live in such a society. We live in a society in which such people get to be featured in the opinion pages of USA TODAY affiliates. We live in a society in which such people are not nearly marginalized enough and are afforded too loud a voice.

Thomas thinks that taking down the photograph would be an instance of "sacrificing one image for the greater good." Unfortunately we live in a society in which people such Thomas get to define the "greater good."

I believe that the greater good is served by shunning people like Thomas. (January 2019)

Ronn Neff and Nicholas Strakon: Have you ever noticed how often — when a leftist is called on something he said — it turns out he wasn't talking about what you thought he was talking about?

CNN's Jake Tapper said of Roger Stone's going to prison, "He might like it" there. When he was accused of making a "homophobic" remark, he (and dozens of others) assured us all that he wasn't talking about that. He was talking about the publicity that Stone would get in prison.

'Cause, you know, lots of publicity hounds wish they were in prison.

They never seem to mean the plain meaning of the words they use.

We see a variation of that in this Daily Mail story: "'Not married? Fall in love with someone who doesn't have the right to stay here': Aid group rescuing people in the Med appears to suggest supporters MARRY illegal immigrants," by George Martin, January 28, 2019.

When protests resulted, "[T]he NGO's co-founder rejected the idea that the tweet was about marriage, saying instead it encouraged people to 'show love towards migrants.'"

This time we can believe the leftists. They'd never endorse marriage per se, but only as a tactical maneuver to speed demographic replacement or advance another of their destructive goals. (January 2019)

Ronn Neff and Nicholas Strakon: Brokaw and the American language(s). Tom Brokaw yesterday advised Hispanics in this country to "work harder at assimilation." Whah-oh! According to Politico, a "flurry" of apologies soon followed from the (formerly) great man. But one of Brokaw's critics, fellow by the name of Alcindor, was slow to accept them, declaring that "... Spanish and other languages were always part of America."

Sure they were. Like Hopi and Apache.

And French.

And Dutch.

Not to mention, German.

That's why the Founders printed the Declaration of Independence in so many languages.

And, of course, that's why Brokaw had translators on his show whenever he did the news. (January 2019)

Savage amusement. From today's Politico Playbook:

AXIOS' JONATHAN SWAN: "Scoop: Trump mused about 'military option' in Venezuela with Graham": "Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham told me that as recently as a couple of weeks ago Trump mused to him about the possibility of using military force in Venezuela, where the U.S. government is currently pushing for regime change using diplomatic and economic pressures. ... Graham, recalling his conversation with Trump, said: 'He [Trump] said, "What do you think about using military force?" and I said, "Well, you need to go slow on that, that could be problematic."

"And he said, 'Well, I'm surprised, you want to invade everybody.'" Graham laughed. 'And I said, "I don't want to invade everybody, I only want to use the military when our national security interests are threatened."' 'Trump's really hawkish' on Venezuela, the hawkish Graham added in a phone interview on Sunday afternoon, adding that Trump was even more hawkish than he was on Venezuela." Axios.

(January 2019)

Nicholas Strakon: Writing of the Indian drummer affair, Robert Hampton at American Renaissance asks, "Who Will Defend Innocent Whites?" (January 24, 2019). And he starts by saying, "Clearly, not 'conservatives.'"

Later on he writes: "The knee-jerk reaction from Catholic and conservative leaders reveals their impotence in the face of left-wing hatred."

Yes. I keep asking: Given the Left-statists' rabid craziness and incessant internecine squabbling, how have they taken over the culture? How do they continue to rule it? And ever extend their rule?

The only answer I can think of is: They encounter almost no principled opposition.

The nightmare figure of Cthulhu looms at the center of all, tremendous; he is hard to miss. His uncountable tentacles, running under the surface, thrusting deep into the mind of many millions, are harder to see. (January 2019)

David T. Wright: The leftist drumbeat. Yet another moral panic is upon us, after vicious Catholic white high school kids harassed a noble Native American "elder," a "war veteran" no less, who was peacefully chanting and banging his drum at the Lincoln Memorial in Trantor. A video surfaced showing the noble Native American, identified as "indigenous rights activist" Nathan Phillips, being smirked at by a kid in a red MAGA cap, while other kids in the background laughed, cut up, and generally acted like teenage goofballs.

Minitrue talking heads, understandably outraged at such effrontery, helpfully interviewed Mr. Phillips about the incident. Phillips told them that the kids were taunting a group of four noble Black Israelites, and he began to chant and bang the drum to prevent the "mob" of "hundreds" of kids from "tearing apart" the innocent black men. Also understandably, the talking heads neglected to seek the other side of the story from the kids in question, because, well, they're white Catholic Trump supporters who, to top it off, had been participating in a huge March for Life anti-abortion rally. I mean, obviously they're racist scum, so why bother? Especially when they were confronting a noble Native American war veteran elder indigenous rights activist, and four noble African American religious men who, according to the Minitrue story, were "singing hymns."

In the uproar that ensued, celebrities called for the heads of the guilty kids, left-wing activists attempted to reveal their identities and addresses, others called for them to be physically attacked, and the kids' own Catholic diocese condemned them and threatened expulsion, apparently without first investigating the matter.

Unfortunately, further video evidence surfaced that threw the incident in a different light. It turned out that the noble African American religious men were members of a weird sect known for provocative behavior, and that they had been shouting scurrilous taunts at the kids and everybody else in sight for over an hour as the kids waited for a bus to come and pick them up. Not only that, but Phillips walked over to the teenagers and apparently did his best to provoke an incident with them, only for them to do nothing much at all except act like kids. The entire narrative pushed by our informal Ministry of Truth was a lie, and the carelessness and bigotry of Minitrue and the Establishment were on display for all to see. This is yet another example of how the Internet needs regulation and oversight by wise monitors to prevent crimethink from disrupting the official narrative.

Dense fog over the Atlantic

But don't worry! Ian Bogost at the Atlantic magazine has taken a look at the new evidence and called upon all goodthinkers to revise their opinion about the affair. His conclusion? A whole lot of things happened, so let's forget that the white kids were slandered, and instead meditate on the nature of reality:

But rather than drawing conclusions about who was vicious or righteous — or lamenting the political miasma that makes the question unanswerable — it might be better to stop and look at how film footage constructs rather than reflects the truths of a debate like this one. Despite the widespread creation and dissemination of video online, people still seem to believe that cameras depict the world as it really is; the truth comes from finding the right material from the right camera. That idea is mistaken, and it's bringing forth just as much animosity as the polarization that is thought to produce the conflicts cameras record.

Because the newer video of the Lincoln Memorial encounter is so much longer, some would contend that it offers clarity about how the conflict arose.

But the Atlantic is here to tell you that it doesn't. In the immortal words of Groucho Marx, "Who you gonna believe, me or your eyes?"
... For example: At one point, the Black Hebrew Israelite protester holding the camera engages with a woman who had pointed out that Guatemala and Panama are indigenous names with their own meaning, different from names such as Indian or Puerto Rico ascribed by Spanish conquistadors. "I am from Panama," the cameraman claims, "so now I'm indigenous from Panama ... We indigenous, so we out here fighting for you."

As best I can tell, the speaker means to argue ...

And so on, blah, blah, blah. You see, the issue is the uncertain nature of reality as portrayed by the camera, NOT the fact that the kids in question were deliberately set up and then slandered and their futures put in jeopardy by the leftist establishment, just for the crime of being white and Christian.

Meanwhile, it looks as if this may be Phillips's Tawana Brawley moment. Now that he's got the spotlight on himself, can he exploit the publicity to become a media player and make himself a lot of money? He certainly seems mendacious enough; the question is, is he as clever and ruthless as Al Sharpton, and can he pose and bloviate as effectively? I'm skeptical, but I'm rooting for him. (January 2019)

A zinger, razor sharp. "Remember: if you see a mob picking on a boy, Gillette wants you to intervene." — libertarian economist and commentator Robert P. Murphy. (January 2019)

Nicholas Strakon: Changing the indictment. Tom Woods has something to say about the new "blackface" accusation against Covington students. Leftists on social media are promoting this charge, which if anything is even more self-evidently preposterous than the original one involving the Indian drummer.

Now the Left, on Facebook, is promoting the charge brought by a girl from Connecticut that some of the Kentucky boys harassed her by shouting political slogans at her, possibly accompanied by the word "slut." She presented an eight-second video showing ... something. Our own boffins, frustrated, are submitting it to the NSA for painstaking analysis. See what you think.

I am reminded now of Joseph Schumpeter's most famous observation: "Capitalism stands its trial before judges who have the sentence of death in their pockets. They are going to pass it, whatever the defense they may hear; the only success victorious defense can possibly produce is a change in the indictment." Just substitute "normal white Catholic boys" for "capitalism," and Bob's your commissar. (January 2019)

Ronn Neff: Good news from the Great White North! The Coop les Récoltes, a "bar and solidarity co-operative at the Université du Québec à Montréal," gives us this "definition" of "cultural appropriation": "when someone from a dominant culture appropriates symbols, clothing or hairstyles that come from historically dominated cultures." (Note: Evidently at the UQAM no one teaches the mush-heads that a proper definition does not begin with the word "when," but moving on ...)

Greg Robinson, a UQAM professor specializing in black history, explains further that wearing dreadlocks and blackface is "like the N-word." "Blacks can use it among themselves, but if someone from outside uses it, even if he wants to be like blacks, among blacks, there is still an aspect that remains rooted in history."

Good news here:

(1) Blacks can spearhead the revival of the minstrel show! And they can do it without wearing blackface! I look forward to this return of a lost treasure of Western civilization.

(2) Whites will (thank God!) at last be forbidden to sing "Were You There" and other Negro spirituals on Good Friday or any other time. (January 2019)

2018 archive.

Published in 2019 by WTM Enterprises.