Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Onward Into Darkness

When Donald Trump reversed course and signed the pork-ridden spending bill that Congress sent to him, it was perhaps the strongest signal yet that Trump finally knows it's over for him.

Trump cited needed relief to those devastated by the lockdowns as his reason for signing the bill, which includes throwing hundreds of millions of dollars to foreign governments and their pet programs, including gender studies in Pakistan and water resources in Tibet -- all while Americans are losing their jobs, food banks are being overwhelmed, drug abuse is up, domestic abuse is up, suicides are up.  

Nothing in recent memory laid bare the utter contempt that Congress has for the American people. And Trump signed it.

Yes, he made noise about redlining the parts of the bill he wanted removed, citing his ability to do so under the 1974 Impoundment Control Act. But all that does is potentially freeze the money he doesn't want spent for up to 45 days. In 45 days, Trump will be out of office. The bill has already passed, so all Congress has to do is enact its own version of a pocket veto -- wait 45 days, do nothing, and then Pakistan will get its gender-studies money.

I'll give him credit where it's due, as he pushed for larger relief checks for American citizens hit by the fallout from the ongoing C-19 hysteria. In this effort he was joined by Democrats and populist-leaning Republicans. But Mitch McConnell and other establishment Republicans blocked the way for the larger checks, laughably citing concerns over the deficit when the nation is already trillions of dollars in debt, and the fact that people "undeserving" of the money might get some of their own tax dollars back. By tying passage of the larger checks to demands for an election-fraud commission and a repeal of legal protections for online tech giants, McConnell has essentially poison-pilled the proposal. Democrats won't agree to an election-fraud commission, even if one is sorely needed, and since they love the social-media censorship from Silicon Valley, they'll never agree to a move designed to punish Facebook and their cronies for the politically biased silencing of their users. 

So Trump is left looking as if he did the right thing for the American people, when in reality it cost him nothing and his demands will have no effect. It feels a lot like all his election challenges. While the rampant election fraud was glaringly obvious even to a half-witted child, I think Trump must have always known his efforts wouldn't go anywhere. He continuously fed his followers promises that something big was just around the corner that would remedy the fraud, but the "something big" never materialized. The fact is that the 2016 election was an aberration, and the establishment proved this year that it was determined to go to any and all lengths to make sure it never happened again. In signing the pork-infested spending bill that he vowed not to sign just days earlier, I think Trump is signaling that he finally knows his fight for the presidency is over. 

In reflecting on his presidency, I recently thought back to the days of the United States Football League. Trump bought the New Jersey Generals when the USFL was enjoying moderate success as a new springtime football league. But several of its franchises were struggling financially, and Trump convinced his fellow owners that the solution was to take on the NFL directly by moving the USFL to a fall schedule -- and launching an antitrust suit against the NFL. 

Trump had long wanted to be an NFL owner. He'd already been denied the chance to buy the Buffalo Bills. So if you're rich and you want to force your way into an elite club, what do you do? You sue. Trump didn't really care about bringing down a monopoly in the name of justice and fairness. No, he just wanted to win the suit so he could force a merger with the NFL and finally break into the league.  

Turns out the jury saw through the ruse. The jurors did find the NFL guilty of monopolistic practices on 27 counts. However, they also decided that the USFL's financial problems were a result of its own actions, not the NFL's market supremacy. Thus, the court awarded the USFL legal damages totaling a whopping $1. One dollar. Because antitrust damages were tripled, the league walked away with a grand total of $3. 

When then-NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle heard the news, he arrived at the courthouse to see Trump receiving his comeuppance:

Trump, already there, was sitting alongside John Mara, the son of New York Giants owner Wellington Mara. When the words "one dollar" emerged from [the judge's] lips, the younger Mara pulled out a $1 bill from his wallet and handed it to the Generals' owner. Trump's sunken expression was worth the price.

Undaunted after bringing a promising football league to an untimely death by using it to fulfill his own ambitions, Trump set up shop in Atlantic City, where his casino dreams also fell flat. 

The point is not that all of Trump's business ventures crash and burn, because not all of them do. The point is that they're always self-serving. And if one of his ventures looks doomed to fail, Trump has a lifelong habit of claiming to put up a hard fight, blaming other people for his own failures, and then moving on to the next venture with nary a thought about the destruction he leaves in his wake. 

So don't feel too sorry for Trump as he fades into the presidential sunset. For him, the presidency was just another personal ambition. Now that things haven't worked out in his favor, he's blamed everyone else and put up half-hearted fights that don't live up to the bluster of his tweets.  

Don't get me wrong. I would have rather seen Trump win the election than Joe Biden. But that's not because I like Trump. I've never liked him. In fact, I voted third party in both 2016 and 2020. 

The thing that so many of his detractors don't understand about Trump is that his movement has never really been about him, but about populist politics. He was popular for exactly the same reason Bernie Sanders was popular -- they both appealed to a working class that had already been gutted long before the virus came along. The people who used to be the backbone of the Democratic Party, the hard-working people of the American heartland that Woody Guthrie once sang about, were sold out and left without a voice when the Democrats first made corporate alliances under Bill Clinton and then jettisoned class politics in favor of woke identity politics. The result has been a desperately flailing underclass of workers characterized as racists and "deplorables" by the same party that used to represent them. When the Dems abandoned them, along came Trump, promising them better times ahead. Whether he was sincere or not, they were happy to have someone finally listening to them and their concerns, and he rode their hopes to a surprise victory in 2016. 

Again, I'll give him credit where it's due: He saved American labor from the disaster the Trans-Pacific Partnership would have wrought, and he hasn't launched a single war during his time in office. 

But on the whole, I think Trump was never fully up to the challenge of being president. He was the wrong person for the job. He could never get out of his own way. He could never articulate a convincing argument. Name-calling your opponents in tweetstorms full of all-caps and exclamation points is not a sufficient argument, let alone one befitting a president. 

In fact, I think another person with a greater gift for reasonableness, thoughtfulness, and articulation could have steered us away from the mess we've ended up with in regard to the virus. Pundits, governors, and mayors alike have made persuasive arguments for why our reaction to the virus has been so disastrous -- why masks don't work, why lockdowns make things worse, why Sweden (and, closer to home, South Dakota) had the right idea all along. 

A lover of liberty and common sense could have made a convincing argument for the horrible slippery slopes we were creating. But because the ruling class was so infected with Trump Derangement Syndrome, it could only act in knee-jerk fashion and oppose any idea that came from Trump's mouth, merely because it came from Trump's mouth. 

Trump questions the efficacy of masks, and the media doubles down on its propaganda telling you to wear them. Trump mentions hydroxychloroquine, and the media instantly demonizes a decades-old generic drug that numerous physicians said they used on their own patients with great success. Most notably, Trump, after catching the virus himself, urges Americans not to fear COVID or let it dominate their lives -- and the media went into full meltdown mode, revealing their hand in the process that they want you to live in fear of a virus with well over a 99% survival rate. 

I think those words from Trump, after he was discharged from Walter Reed following his illness, were the most presidential of his entire administration. If we had heard more inspirational words like that, rather than so much self-aggrandizing rage, who knows how different things could be right now. 

But things are what they are, and Trump has proved himself to be not a great leader. What's important, though, is that the movement he energized won't soon go away. Because, again, this was never about Trump, but about something much bigger. Even now in the halls of Congress we're seeing Republicans take sides -- the establishment hacks who think you're not entitled to a $2,000 check while they sign off on handing over billions of dollars to Pakistani gender studies and every other special interest under the sun, and the populists who believe hard-working Americans deserve a fair shake in these unprecedented times. This is a movement that won't disappear with Trump, and it may just be what unites working-class Democrats and Republicans against the two-party establishment that spits in the faces of the average American without a second thought. 

None of that is to say we have easy times ahead. Joe Biden is likely to make COVID rules far more draconian than they already are, and he represents a party that supports greater online censorship, embraces cancel culture, politicizes language, insists that everyone believe "man" and "woman" are not biological realities but interchangeable feelings, and thinks that the solution to having pushed blacks to the back of the bus is not equal protection under the law but pushing whites to the back of the bus instead. Biden promised us a long, dark winter, and I have no doubt he and his party will deliver in abundance.

I'll be watching the ever-unfolding developments, and I'll be doing what I can to help push against the nightmares to come, mostly for the sake of my daughter. I want her to live in a world where she's free to move about and free to express herself without fear of reprisal. We're rapidly losing that world, and I don't know if it can be saved. 

I'll probably blog less in the year to come. I have only so much time in my day, and I have to prioritize my own work, help my wife with homeschooling our daughter, and attend to my own mental and physical health. It's tiring to have to fight on so many fronts all the time. I'll continue to do what I can, but I fear that 2021 will be far darker than 2020 -- and I'm not convinced there's a whole lot we can do about it. Not with so many things aligned against us, and with so many people obeying and complying with the madness, either out of ignorance or fear.

In short, it feels like a losing battle. I can only hope the world proves me wrong. 

Sunday, December 27, 2020

VK, Tommy Robinson, and the Narrowing Window of Online Free Speech

If, like me, you've been looking for a social-media platform that values free expression, your semi-viable options are few. For a Facebook replacement, you have Gab, MeWe, and Minds. For Twitter, you have Parler. For YouTube, you have Bitchute, Odysee, and maybe Rumble.  

I have accounts at most of those sites. In addition to those, I signed up at VK as another Facebook alternative, as VK had a reputation for leaving people alone. Even though VK never explicitly claimed to be a haven for free speech, English-speakers, being a minority on the platform, tended to fly under the radar. 

Well, that's all changed now, as VK appears to have succumbed to the woke rage mobs in canceling Tommy Robinson and his Britain First page.  

I don't always agree with Tommy Robinson, but I can safely say that his commentary has never risen to the level of "hate speech," which is what his page was ostensibly taken down for. 

For those unfamiliar, Britain First is just that -- a nationalist group that strives to uphold and protect English and British tradition and culture. Tommy Robinson doesn't have kind things to say about unfettered immigration, or about Islamic extremism -- but note that those criticisms are aimed at policies and positions, not at people.

For context, an American parallel to Robinson and Britain First might be something along the lines of Ammon Bundy and his tireless work to defend individual liberties against the encroachments of intrusive government, or James O'Keefe's Project Veritas, with its undercover journalism that likewise aims to expose government corruption. In fact, for his efforts on behalf of his native land, Robinson won the 2020 Sappho Award from Denmark's International Free Press Society, given to uncompromising journalists.    

Meanwhile, VK, for those not in the know, is basically Russia's Facebook. Many people who have been kicked off Facebook, or are just sick of being fact-checked and shadow-banned in favor of pushing a leftist political narrative, have ended up there. Mainstream media outlets, predictably, have characterized VK as a haven for Nazis, just as they've done with Parler and Gab. People sick of Silicon Valley's censorship are flocking to these sites, and the media, not wanting you to go someplace where they can't keep you from freely discussing the events of the day outside of the confines of their "official narratives," are working overtime to demonize alt-tech with outright lies, in hopes that you won't go there and enjoy, much less exercise, your freedom of speech.

I've been trying to beat the drum for VK as a good alternative to Facebook. For one thing, it functions almost identically to Facebook, so there's virtually no learning curve. For another, it's one of the 20 most visited websites in the world -- which means that, unlike these much smaller startups that may or may not make it, VK isn't going anywhere. Plus, being based in Russia, it's beyond the reach of whatever whims U.S. politicians might cook up in an attempt to control online communications.

Those factors, combined with its generally laissez-faire attitude toward free expression, made using VK a no-brainer.  

Not that VK has ever taken a completely anything-goes approach to its platform, mind you. In the time I've been there, I've seen several accounts taken down for actual TOS violations, like spamming and harassment -- the kind of things you couldn't even do at the likes of Gab or Minds. Those are legitimate take-downs.  

But this was no TOS-based ban. It appears that a small handful of woke anti-free-speech crusaders set up shop at VK with the express purpose of taking down Tommy Robinson and his page. As so many do, VK appears to have bowed to the pressure of the rage mob. 

Seemingly key to the attack was a user who goes by the handle of "Bless Uzo," who's been gloating about the takedown, admits to using multiple accounts -- which surely made the volume of complaints to VK look more widespread than they actually were -- and otherwise uses his or her page to celebrate censorship, the latest (as of 12/27) being the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue from the U.S. Capitol building.  

That these modern-day witch-hunters have nothing better to do than seek out and attack people and viewpoints they dislike would be disturbing enough in itself. But when institutions bow to their demands, they only magnify the threat to free speech.

What these puritanical woke zealots fail to understand is that canceling other people creates a slippery slope that will eventually be turned around on them. That's why you fight to defend the views even of people you dislike. As Noam Chomsky once observed, "If we don't believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, then we don't believe in it at all." And the woke intolerance for opposing views can inevitably lead in only one direction -- toward authoritarianism and tyranny. 

So, to be clear, this isn't specifically about Tommy Robinson or Britain First. This is about what happens when institutions begin to justify silencing voices for arbitrary reasons. It starts with so-called fringe extremists like Alex Jones or Milo Yiannopoulos, but the definition of "extremism" and "hate speech" always expands ever wider, until the net of censorship begins to scoop up those who have done nothing more than utter an opinion contrary to someone else's ideology.  

And that's why you fight. Not because you're necessarily endorsing someone else's point of view, but because if you have a right to express your point of view, then others have a right to do the same, even if you might find the opposing point of view distasteful.  

After all, living in a free society means that other people get to do and say things I might disagree with. History has shown us where the alternative leads.

And so I bid farewell to VK, as I refocus my efforts on the smaller alt-tech startups that actually claim to champion free expression. May their efforts prevail in a climate that's growing increasingly hostile to free expression.

Thursday, December 24, 2020

It's a Wonderful Life, Huh?

On this Christmas that doesn't feel like Christmas at all, let's revisit an old tale that once brought light to a dark world. For a world in which there is no light, only dark, enjoy this updated telling that sums up our times all too well.

Bedford Falls, recently renamed BLM Falls, is in its third month of lockdown. Most businesses have gone under, forcing everyone to buy from the bankrupt stores Mr. Potter has bought up for pennies on the dollar. 

Storefronts are boarded up from the summer's riots. Historical statues, deemed racist, have either been toppled or removed. 

Lockdown protestors are told to shut up and go home, lest they kill Grandma. 

The people are sick of Potter, but they feel helpless to do anything about him. They tried voting in a town council that would favor the people over Potter, but he rigged the election in his favor. 

"Cases Spike," the papers scream, as they have for months, as George Bailey walks by the newsstand. He's tried writing letters to the editor, but they always get returned, with the paper's editors rejecting his views as dangerous misinformation. They've been threatening to go to Potter to get George canceled if he doesn't stop. 

Not that it would matter: George lost his job at the building and loan -- not for doing anything wrong, but because the board decided it needed more persons of color representing the business. He was losing his livelihood in the name of justice and equity, they told him. But justice and equity don't feed hungry kids. 

Wondering how it's come to this, George wanders helplessly through the darkened streets. No bars or restaurants are open where he could duck in for a drink to help take off the edge. 

Bert and Ernie, the cops, working in cahoots with Potter, stop George and ask him where his mask is. Tired of explaining that masks don't do anything and the virus has over a 99% survival rate, making all the panic pointless, he takes his latest fine from the cops, thumbs his nose at their threats of arrest and their attempts to guilt and shame him into compliance, and stumbles aimlessly through the snow, dark, and cold. 

George thinks about the family dinner that was canceled, after Potter ordered no inter-family visits. "It's just one Christmas. Shut up, you peasants," Potter demands, as he prepares to fly out of town for a maskless celebration with his friends, family, and rich cronies. 

With a sigh, George shuffles toward the bridge. He leans over, looking at the cold waters far below. Surely, he thinks, there must be some reason to go on. Maybe it's not as bad as he's made it out to be. Maybe things will get better. Maybe there are still some decent people in the world who will help him fight for freedom and reason. 

Just then he hears a voice. He looks over to see a man -- safely six feet away, of course. Human contact is a thing of the past and is to be feared and avoided at all costs. 

Maybe this man is an angel, George thought. Maybe he'll be my lifeline. Maybe he'll literally talk me down off the ledge. Maybe he'll help make the world better at last. 

"Can I help you?" George asks. 

"Where's your mask, you selfish bastard?" the man screamed. "Do you want everyone to die?" 

Shaking his head, George jumps. 

The end.

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Four-Sided Triangles and Other Woke Absurdities You're Expected to Believe

So what’s going on in the world today? Oh, not much…

Except a female actress claims now to be a he/they, and you’re canceled if you don’t deny the plain evidence in front of your own two eyes. The Party demands no less of you. If the Party says 2+2=5, then 2+2=5.

Meanwhile, in New York City, after letting woke rioters run rampant, undercover cops are finally going after the real criminals — arresting a bar owner who refused to obey the city’s useless lockdown edict.

And The American Conservative’s Rod Dreher warns us of the creeping corporate totalitarianism that will work with government to deprive you of your ability to participate in society and the economy if you hold the wrong opinion. First, a sponsor of a professional cyclist orders her to recant, Inquisition-style, of liking Twitter posts that expressed unwoke opinions. Software is being used to identify “hate” so you can avoid posts without ever reading them. (And who decides what “hate” is?) And in Australia, credit card companies are working with the state to track citizens’ movements to catch lockdown violators.

I would hope that reasonable people can see what’s happening here. There is a movement afoot to censor more and more speech on the basis of stopping “dangerous misinformation” that “causes real-life harm.” What started as social-media “fact-checks” that aren’t fact-checks at all but narrative control has metastasized very quickly into what’s beginning to look like China’s social credit system, whereby you’ll be frozen out of society — from social media to bank accounts — for not bowing to woke leftist dogma.

I’ve personally been “fact-checked” on at least four occasions on Facebook merely for reporting on COVID data that opposes the constant fear narrative. Not wild conspiracy theories, but rather CDC data on survival rates (well over 99% for anyone under 50 and 98.5% for those under 70), the fact that 85% of those who caught the virus had been mask-wearers, the fact that 94% of COVID victims had comorbidities but were declared to have died from the virus anyway, and a Danish mask study of nearly 5,000 participants that showed no statistical difference in infection rates between those who wore masks and those who didn’t. All facts, and all “fact-checked.”

This is the same thing the media did with hydroxychloroquine, of course. The propaganda machine went into overdrive, both silencing the doctors who had success using the drug and demonizing the drug itself as dangerous. HCQ has been around for ages as an effective treatment for malaria. It’s not some cutting-edge high-risk experimental drug. And that’s exactly why it had to be demonized. The establishment media couldn’t let you stop fearing the virus itself (remember how they melted down when Donald Trump told everyone not to let the virus dominate your life?), because then they’d lose their ability to get you to consent to ineffective lockdowns and mandates.

But even more than that, if a cheap decades-old generic drug were shown to help people, then the big pharma companies working couldn’t make millions off a new vaccine. Just think of how many pharma ads you see on TV and ask yourself if Big Pharma doesn’t have a vested interest in letting the media propagandize you.

So this is where we are — with media monopolies defending their growing censorship by claiming it’s for the common good, which is what every tyrant in history has used as an excuse to silence opposition and demand ideological conformity. Just like we were expected to hand over our liberties after 9/11 as the media spread fear of rampant terrorism, now we have to hand over our right to speak in the public square if we bring attention to rampant election fraud or even dare to suggest that maybe COVID isn’t the black plague. The claim that the truth is “disinformation” is itself disinformation — but again, we’re living in a world where Orwell’s warnings are becoming reality with unsettling speed. War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength.

How bad is it? Look at this video of numerous local TV news outlets, parroting the exact same language about how allowing “disinformation” (i.e., facts that oppose the establishment narrative) to be spread is “extremely dangerous to our democracy.” This was happening a few years ago, and it’s only gotten worse since.

Borg-like groupthink demanding the suppression of free speech, from people whose jobs are made possible by the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of the press. How has it come to this?

Well, in large part it’s because we’ve allowed it to happen. We don’t think for ourselves. We believe what the media tells us. We don’t push back. And we end up in a place where we’re expected to believe absurdities — and face severe consequences if we don’t comply.

G.K. Chesterton predicted the condition of our time way back in 1926:

We shall soon be in a world in which a man may be howled down for saying that two and two make four, in which furious party cries will be raised against anybody who says that cows have horns, in which people will persecute the heresy of calling a triangle a three-sided figure, and hang a man for maddening a mob with the news that grass is green.

Just remember: The people who demand that you pretend that a woman is a man or be canceled are the same ones who insist there was no election fraud and that COVID is the black plague. There’s a theme here. They’re not defending the truth. They’re forcing their delusional narrative on you.

Don’t fall for it. It’s OK to speak up when you can see that the emperor has no clothes.