Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Ohhhh, Texas...

OK, I have to assume that the fact that I didn't hear the entire report is in their favor.

Today's NPR item: on the program "Think," there was a report called "Turning Texas Blue." The premise was that as Texas goes, so will go the nation - and that since Harris County, which contains HOUSTON, the fourth largest city in the United States, went Democrat in a year in which Republicans picked up seats every-dang-where, huzzah, there is hope that the entire country will go blue in the next few years.

Do you see what I mean about assuming that I just missed some important part of the report? How is it news that a big city went blue? And how does it follow that therefore Texas itself will follow, much less the country? Did they not notice that this pattern was just exactly what we saw all over the country? Every big city went blue. And virtually every non-big-city area went red. Check out this post, with lots of figures, about red versus blue, for instance. I find myself wondering whether this report was begun well before the election, more in the line of, "As the nation goes, so goes Texas."

I am not arguing that the blue voters won the popular vote. Big cities have lots and lots of people, and, as with protests and marches, it's easier to undertake a get-out-the-vote effort in a place where population is concentrated than in the vast landmass where population density is more like 80 people per square mile (about the average population density of the United States) than 7,000, as in Los Angeles. But I hope and pray at least two things: 1. that the red voters will continue to turn out, and to turn out in greater numbers so that they don't lose their place at the table, and 2. that the country won't lose its mind and get rid of the Electoral College, the only thing that keeps that seat available to those who choose not to live at high density.

But - and this next is purely anecdotal - it is my observation that people (of many ages and ways of life) still yearn for small-town life. And why is that? It appears that the people who so yearn are the people who want to have children; the dyed-in-the-wool urbanites frankly can't afford it. (I think this is why so many NPR stories about city folk feature city folk with children. NPR appears to take pleasure in illustrating how inappropriate stereotypes are by telling us stories of people who bust them. Please note that I am not in favor of stereotypes that limit people; any city people who want to have children - more power to you! I just recognize the realities.) As long as cities' fiscal policies continue to make it hard for people with, or who want to start, families to live and prosper within their borders, it seems well within the realm of possibilities that enough people will move to the small towns and suburbs, and will be positively affected by the lifestyle that's in reach there, that they'll continue to give the big cities a run for their money.

Anyway. I don't know how it'll all come out; I just think that a report saying that because Houston went Democrat, Texas is a burgeoning blue state is incredibly disingenuous. If instead the report had said that big cities' continuing indigo hue and high population are rendering vote distribution wildly out-of-whack, now that would have been truthful. Boring, but truthful.

Thursday, March 02, 2017

The new egalitarianism

The wonderfully well-read Victor Davis Hanson, a student of history and an observer of the present who manages to synthesize these interests with clarity and style, writes

We are now in a media arena where there are no rules. The New York Times is no longer any more credible than talk radio; CNN—whose reporters have compared Trump to Hitler and gleefully joked about his plane crashing—should be no more believed than a blogger’s website. Buzzfeed has become like the National Inquirer.
His evidence? Please do go read the whole thing, because he's at some pains to lay out the many ways in which the so-called MSM has squandered whatever public currency they ever had through its shamelessly obvious, full-throated, and ill-supported attempts to bring down Donald Trump. It was their mistake to give him so much press during the campaign; they must have felt that he was (a) an inconsequential threat to the anointed Clinton, therefore safe to give lots of exposure, and (b) a super ratings boost, and they now reap their foolish harvest.

Let me be clear (as I've heard somewhere): I also thought Donald Trump was an inconsequential candidate and wrote off the Presidency once he was nominated. Yeah, I voted for him, because I didn't want to throw away my vote on a third-party candidate and absolutely would not vote for Clinton - but it was, for me, more a thumb in the eye to these same media outlets: though they would never know it, I at least would know that this intelligent and thoughtful voter rejected their anointed one and voted for the possible loose cannon, simply because they were laughing so hard at him.

We are not just in a media arena in which the "elite" and hoi polloi find themselves (or are found by watchers) to be equal. We are in a public arena in which this is true. Those who believe themselves to be "elite" were defeated across the board in the November election; those who are told by those "elites" that they are hoi polloi - or, let's use English as well as a clearer statement of what those "elites" seem to mean: the great unwashed - these great unwashed won those elections at all levels, and feel increasingly free to ignore the outlets they're supposed to pay attention to, like not only the New York Times but also Hollywood, the NFL, and academia. Value signaling is all that's left to the Left: they can and do still try to shame everyone who doesn't dance to their tune, and they express first disdain, and then disbelief and irritation, if not outright rage, when not everyone does.

Huzzah, we're all equal: equally able to do and say stupid things and be judged for them! Those on the Right are not necessarily right about everything; those on the Left are not necessarily left behind by history. We all have to answer for what we believe. I stand on the Right because I believe this side has the best answers to the big questions of human society, and I expect the other side to disdain me and attempt to shame me for my "reactionary" position. But I feel just fine about fiercely supporting the rights of individuals to go as far as they are able - or not to go anywhere if that's their choice, provided that they also bear the consequences of their choice. I recognize the need to remove artificial (which means "made by humans" in this context) obstacles to equal opportunities for all, and I'm committed to that effort, but I frequently depart from the Left in exactly how we are to remove those obstacles. I don't think I need to shame the Left; I think events will unfold - are unfolding - that will take care of that.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Puppy training

When it became clear that we might be moving to Houston, my husband made two promises to our kids, one (relatively) reasonable and one utterly inexplicable, coming from him: he promised them a house with a pool, and he promised them a dog.

The pool is beautiful! We love having it. And last week, much to my husband's chagrin, the kids held him to Promise #2, and we now have a 9-week-old puppy from the Houston SPCA.

I grew up around dogs and have wanted one for years. I didn't press the point, however, because my husband doesn't even like dogs (that's the inexplicable part). I insisted on a puppy because I wanted the best shot at getting said husband to like the dog, and because I hoped thereby not to "inherit" a bunch of behaviors we might not be up to curbing; after all, though I've shared a house with ten or eleven dogs over the years, I have never had the primary responsibility of training one. And Chili is adorable. She's less than five pounds at the moment, part terrier and part something else, possibly German shepherd. Things are going really well so far, we think; she is happy in her crate at night and when we go out, and while she still has about one accident a day, it's when, for example, Roomba is rumbling around and I am not paying sufficient attention to her state of mind. She's doing well walking around the block with us.

So my dilemma is this: I am using what I can of Cesar Millan's methods, all that "calm assertive energy" stuff, and to curb her puppy-biting, doing the thing where you use your hand like a mouth to hold her firmly but not harshly to the floor and put pressure on her shoulder and chest until she relaxes. It's all working beautifully. She is happy to see us, plays with all of us, and is learning fast, including things like sitting at the door and waiting to be invited in or out. But... now I read that Cesar's Way is not uniformly smiled upon by dog trainers, some of whom at least prefer to use what they call "positive reinforcement" and view Millan's pack-psych methods as instilling hopelessness rather than relaxation (or, as Cesar himself calls it, "submission").

This is one of those times when I feel I have to go with my gut. This puppy is a dog, not a child. She cannot make complex associations. I cannot reason with her. Her genetic background is in a pack, not a human family. Yes, she's the product of extensive domestication and purposeful breeding, but she is still a dog, with a likely mix of den-hunting and herding reflexes. And, she's in a human household, filled with things she must respect and people to whom she must respond, and she's going to be living in a world that is not at all under her control and is only partly in our control. It simply rings true with me that this tiny puppy needs to feel confident that we know what we're doing and that we understand that she needs to know where she stands. People (many of them) thrive on personal freedom; wolves thrive on the comfort of structure provided by the pack - not just the alpha - and heavily bred dogs like terriers and shepherds thrive on knowing their job and the comfort of structure provided by a human director. As Cesar Millan points out, the "pack leader" role is not defined by aggression, but about "dominance" in his terminology; I would use the word "confidence" instead, because frankly I think some of his detractors are among those who, consciously or not, want dogs to be children and see "dominance" and "submission" as negative because a modern Good Parent doesn't want to dominate her children.

I want this cute little puppy of ours to feel confident in our confidence. It will never be her job to decide what is or isn't a threatening situation; she should always look to us for that determination. Even when she's a grownup dog, she will not ever be equal to the humans in this house - she's not our child nor our toy, she's an animal we have chosen to share our space and to whom we have a heavy obligation, as the ones responsible for caring for her. And so I'm going with Cesar. The "professor of dog psychology from the Harvard Extension School" here seems deliberately to misread Millan's TV show as demonstrating punitive training methods instead of using what seems to be very effective dog psychology to work on rehabilitating dogs with serious behavior issues. I'm trying to train a puppy not ever to have serious behavior issues, and, as I used the most natural methods I could find and that our life could accommodate, such as babywearing, long breastfeeding, co-sleeping in a side crib, child-led weaning and toileting, when training - yes, training - our children from infancy through the age of three or so, when reasoning could take the upper hand, I think that this puppy will benefit from my acting more like a mother dog and less like a doting human parent.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A fundamental difference in focus

In my latest dip into NPR, while I was driving all over the Houston area checking animal shelters for potentially hypoallergenic and adoptable puppies*, I happened to hear an interview with a fellow who was likening Indivisible to the Tea Party - I'm having trouble finding it now, but it was introduced as a discussion of whether today's protesting Dems could learn from the tactics of the Tea Party. The interview quickly established that the groups' aims were very different: the Tea Party's ire was aimed, according the interview at least, at "RINOs," primarily people on the same side of the aisle as they were but perceived to be doing it wrong, whereas Indivisible (a Doublespeak name if I've ever heard one) is up in arms about Republicans, people on the other side of the aisle who are inexplicably (to them) in control of almost everything, governance-wise.

All well and good. There's some truth to that formulation; initially, the Tea Party didn't actually want to be considered a separate party; they wanted to bring the GOP closer to its conservative roots. And the protesting Dems are indeed up in arms about the overwhelming Republican election victory (though, I must add, they seem to be protesting mainly the least overwhelming part of it: Trump's electoral college win of the Presidency, rather than the punishing losses the Democrats suffered in Congress, gubernatorial races, and state houses). But there the interviewer pretty much stopped doing or eliciting any meaningful analysis.

The important difference between the Tea Party and so-called Indivisible (I shouldn't be snarky; they can call themselves what they like. But it - whether the group or the name - is darn divisive.) is the reason the Tea Party was standing in opposition to (roughly) its own, and the reason the protesting Dems are standing in opposition to... those they always oppose. The Tea Party thoughtfully and intentionally embraced conservatism, having looked at the alternatives and decided that, no, those alternatives were still destined to fail and/or have bad unintended consequences in the long term, and also were frequently philosophically repugnant to them. (Nota bene: I am not a Tea Party member, but I think they went about their aims with gusto, ethics, and intelligence.) They also believed that there was a "silent majority," to coin a phrase, of Republicans who were deeply disenchanted with the party because of its departure from its philosophical underpinnings. So their fight was ultimately to bring the Republican party back to power because they believed that conservatism is the right way to go.

The protesting Dems, now: they are protesting an election loss. I'm not going to say that they don't believe what they say they believe. I think many of them do. They are, many of them, as committed to their philosophical stance as any Tea Partier. But instead of turning to their own party to see why they lost so badly and what they could do to reverse that loss in future (a "come to Jesus" with themselves, as they sometimes say here in Texas), they aren't acknowledging any systemic failure on their own side - only simple-minded tactical failures like the way Clinton's campaign was run. Instead, they are apparently trying to convince their political opponents that the opponents should abandon their political philosophy. And they're doing it by trying to shame those opponents - to make them feel inferior for holding the beliefs they hold. What they overlook, of course, is that their opponents are by and large not susceptible to shaming from that angle. We can be shamed - but not by strident claims that if we don't hold a particular Leftist niche issue sacred, we are soulless, or idiots, or both.

We have plenty of niche issues of our own, no question. And there are plenty of factions on on the Right who hold other Right factions in... if not contempt, then at least doubt, because they don't share the same sense of niche-issue priority. But overall what the Right is based on is the principle that that government governs best which governs least. We seldom live up to that ideal, and indeed in the world in which we live, it's hard to believe that it can be applied equally in all situations, but that is indeed our fundamental focus.

The fundamental focus on the Left is, in the short term, both more pragmatic and more humanistic: to relieve immediate suffering of whatever type or degree. A noble aim, certainly. But the methodology is also dismayingly pragmatic and not nearly so kind - in fact it seems generally of the end-justifies-the-means school. And the longer term very often if not always reveals dangerous incentive structures, which are then inadequately dealt with by symptomatic treatment. And the beat goes on.

* My inability to remember the details of the interview stems from the new puppy that we adopted! I am now sleep-deprived and excited by turns.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Breathe slowly into a paper bag...

It's not treason.

Charlie Martin over at PJMedia notes the actual Constitutional definition:

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort. No Person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open Court.
...Article III, Section 3, clause 1. And why is it defined so narrowly? As Charlie points out, it's because where we (the inhabitants of the colonies, that is) came from, "treason" was whatever the King or Queen didn't like. Rather than continue to subject ourselves to the pique of an individual, the Founders (who would certainly have been tried as traitors if they'd lost the war) decided to make it very clear that criticism of the government, the president, the flag, apple pie, motherhood, or those who choose not to undertake motherhood is not treason

Enough with the hysterics, Democrats - neither the President nor members of his cabinet have committed treason. And Republicans, reporters aren't committing treason by being unabashedly biased and hostile toward the President, either.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

"Deep state" - the continuing story

Go here for more of Patrick Poole on Gen. Flynn's travails. The short version: the FBI is calling their interview with him "cooperative" and "truthful," and evidence mounts that he will face no legal jeopardy. The Trump organization's supposed cozy relationship with Russian intelligence during the election months also continues to elude; still no signs of collusion between Trump's people and the Russians.

This whole thing is an embarrassing own-goal for the Trump administration, but it sure looks very far from the impeachable offense the Left is hoping for.

It is, however, more data in the ongoing "media==Democrats with bylines" story.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Let's talk about the "deep state"

It's a phrase I'd never heard before, and now can't escape: the "deep state." Apparently (according to Google) it's been around since the 1990s:
a body of people, typically influential members of government agencies or the military, believed to be involved in the secret manipulation or control of government policy. "the deep state and its policy of allowing extremist ideologies to flourish may be the actual issues of concern" Origin 1990s: probably a translation of Turkish derin devlet (the term was first used with reference to Turkey).
Who knew? It has long been the position of conservatives that an ever-growing bureaucracy is a dangerous thing; this is why. Yes, yes, we are continually told that these are "career civil servants" who faithfully execute their positions come Republicans or high water. But if so, how did this happen:
As our own Michael Ledeen reported here [https://pjmedia.com/michaelledeen/2014/08/29/latest-big-lie-we-have-no-strategy/] at PJ Media back in 2014:
During his first presidential campaign in 2008, Mr. Obama used a secret back channel to Tehran to assure the mullahs that he was a friend of the Islamic Republic, and that they would be very happy with his policies. The secret channel was Ambassador William G. Miller, who served in Iran during the shah’s rule, as chief of staff for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and as ambassador to Ukraine. Ambassador Miller has confirmed to me his conversations with Iranian leaders during the 2008 campaign.
(I have visibly inserted the relevant link to the 2014 Ledeen article into the quotation from Patrick Poole's article for clarity. Please note that Mr. Poole did the research and I strongly encourage reading the whole thing as he wrote it.) (Seriously, please read Mr. Poole's piece - he lays out the whole mess beautifully.)

If Gen. Flynn's conversation with the Russian ambassador was worthy of prosecution under the venerable but difficult Logan Act, how is former President Obama's agent Miller's not? It's worth noting that Gen. Flynn maintains that his conversation was not about the Obama administration's late-stage sanctions against Iran; it was about the 35 Russian diplomats whom the Obama administration was expelling over Russian interference in the 2016 election. (We must certainly turn our attention to the status of the investigation of that Russian interference very soon.) Discussing the expulsion of diplomats is a far cry from the quid pro quo being implied and sometimes stated outright - generally in the form of a question, which I understand is a tool that's been used to good effect by some trying to skirt accusations of libel - by the press: "You helped Trump get elected; he will raise the sanctions on your country." Scurrilous.

And do we all remember the giant media hoopla that surrounded questions of whether the American intelligence and security community was wiretapping Americans during the W years? That was a mortal sin back in the day; now, like the dissent that was considered borderline treasonous in the Obama years and is once again the "highest form of patriotism" since there's an R behind the President's name, it's hunky-dory.

Remember the Laputians of Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels? There was a class of civil servant among them called a "flapper." It was this guy's job to flap the ears of the king whenever the flapper thought the king should pay attention. In other words, the flapper controlled the agenda of the king and therefore of the kingdom. This is where we live now.