Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Heh


From Stephan Pastis' cartoon strip Pearls Before Swine, yesterday:




(Click the image for a larger view at the strip's Web page.)




Peter

Superstition and murder. Africa strikes again.


In my Foreword to Lawdog's latest book, 'The Lawdog Files:  African Adventures', I noted:

The thing most Westerners fail to realize is that Africa – the real, deep, dark, “bush” Africa, not the faux-touristy Africa so often portrayed in movies or on TV – is... different. It’s so different, it’s almost impossible for one not raised there to comprehend it. Even urbanized, allegedly “modern” Africa is different. To illustrate: until recently, the Johannesburg Stock Exchange was situated on Diagonal Street in that South African city. Every morning, one could watch black stockbrokers on their way to work. Almost all had Bachelors degrees, and many had post-graduate qualifications. They’d stop at the stalls of street sangomas (shamans, witch-doctors) and solemnly buy a little packet of dried herbs and parts of animals’ bodies, called muti (“medicine”), to bring them luck for the day. Sometimes they’d pay a little more for some extra-strong muti, guaranteed to bring bad luck to their rivals. No matter how educated and worldly-wise they had become, the hold exercised over their minds by animist beliefs and tribal culture could not be gainsaid.

I once sat out a severe thunderstorm on the porch of a farmhouse in the Northern Transvaal. With me was a school-teacher from the local town, a man with a Bachelors degree and a post-graduate Diploma in Education. He solemnly informed me that the animist spirits of the trees were at war, and the spirit of that tree – the one that had just been struck by lighting – had lost his battle. He was an educated man, who knew all about, and daily taught, physics and chemistry to school pupils… but he was also a product of his tribe and his culture. He really believed what he’d just said. He absolutely was not joking. When I tried to argue, he told me openly that he pitied me, because I was so blind to the spiritual reality that could be seen, plain as a pikestaff, right in front of my eyes.

I could go on, but you get the idea.  Africa is different. Most of her people are different. They think, behave, and react differently. That’s not a racist statement; it’s just the way it is.

That difference has just been demonstrated yet again in the sleepy South African farming town of Estcourt (or, at least, when I knew it in the 1980's and early 1990's, it was still a sleepy farming town - things may have changed since then).

A rural village in Escourt‚ KwaZulu-Natal‚ is abuzz with allegations of black magic‚ muti and cannibalism after four men‚ one of whom is a traditional healer‚ stand accused of murdering a woman and eating parts of her body.

The group made a brief appearance in the Estcourt Magistrate’s Court on Monday facing charges of murder and conspiracy to commit murder.

Their arrests followed the confession of a man who walked into the Estcourt police station at the weekend‚ declaring to officers that he was tired of eating human flesh.

When officers questioned his outlandish statement‚ the man produced part of a human leg and a human hand.

. . .

Ward councillor Mthembeni Majola said that the community had been shaken after hearing about the macabre discovery by police and held a meeting on Monday morning.

“There was a community meeting because I wanted to find out their position on this and the extent of the involvement of the accused. They came from our ranks. Their families confessed that they knew about the killings ... It cannot only be one body. When the police were following this matter they discovered eight ears in a pot where one man was staying. That means there is much more to this‚” Majola said.

There's more at the link.  Bold, underlined text is my emphasis.

If the report alone doesn't boggle your mind, consider that the families of those committing the murders knew what they were doing, but did nothing to stop them.  That demonstrates the power sangomas, or traditional healers, have over the credulous tribespeople who 'believe' in them.  Furthermore, there must be families in the region who have lost loved ones to these criminals . . . but they did not report their missing loved ones to the police.  Again, they would have been prevented from doing so by the fear that the sangoma(s) in question would have used their spiritual 'powers' to retaliate against them - perhaps even putting them on the menu, so to speak.

I'm sure this mess will turn out to be much worse than it appears from the initial report above.  I have little doubt that the death toll will increase as more evidence is uncovered.  This sort of thing is not new in Africa.  There are many who still believe that muti containing human body parts is particularly powerful and effective.  Some of them can afford to (and do) pay large sums for it.  Where there's a market, someone will satisfy the demand.  That's as good as a law of nature, in economic terms.

Some human bodies, particularly those affected by albinism (and, among them, children in particular, because of their perceived 'innocence') are considered particularly efficacious for muti - so much so that in Tanzania, where that belief is rampant, many albinos have to live in separate villages or 'safe houses' (that aren't always safe enough), guarded for their protection against gangs of criminals seeking to kidnap them for sale to local witch-doctors.





And so the sleepy farming community of Estcourt, that I remember well, has been thrust into the glare of the national and international spotlight, all because of rampant superstition.  I'm sure many of the locals are cursing those responsible . . . but it'll likely happen again.  Tribal culture and animist beliefs are too deeply rooted to be suppressed for more than a short time.  They'll be back.


*Sigh*


May the souls of the victims, through the mercy of God, rest in peace;  and may those they leave behind receive what comfort they may.

Peter

Monday, August 21, 2017

How about toppling this offensive symbol?


John Kass, writing in the Chicago Tribune, has an interesting suggestion.

History is important, but history can also be quite offensive.

But there's one thing wrong with Sharpton. It's not that he goes too far. It's that he doesn't go far enough.

Because if he and others of the Cultural Revolution were being intellectually honest, they'd demand that along with racist statues, something else would be toppled.

And this, too, represents much of America's racist history:

The Democratic Party.

The Democratic Party historically is the party of slavery. The Democratic Party is the party of Jim Crow laws. The Democratic Party fought civil rights for a century.

And so by rights — or at least by the standards established by the Cultural Revolutionaries of today's American left — we should ban the Democratic Party.

Not only get rid of it in the present, but strike its very name from the history books, and topple all Democratic statues of leaders who benefited, prospered and became wealthy by cleaving to the party. And shame Democrats until they confess the truth of it.

There's more at the link.  Recommended reading.

As a matter of fact, I don't support banning the Democratic Party, or any other (including the Republican Party, the Nazi Party or the Communist Party).  I believe in free speech.  Each and every party should have the opportunity to make its case to the electorate, and let the people express their opinion of its worth with their votes.  If the speech used is intemperate, violent or abusive, by all means let those who find it so sue the offending party(ies) in court - but don't ban or try to prevent their speaking.  Once you go down that rabbit hole, there's no way back.  If you ban one kind of speech, you can ban another kind - which inevitably happens.  Before you know it, free speech as such no longer exists.

That's why I'm so concerned about attempts by private individuals and organizations - Google, Twitter, Facebook, etc. - to impose their own version of censorship on those with whose views they disagree.  They see no problem with 'de-platforming' Nazis, right-wing extremists, etc.:  but they continue to provide a platform to sexual predators, terrorists, jihadists, and other extremists who are infinitely more of a clear and present danger than right-wingers.  There's a disconnect there that's mind-boggling in its ethical and moral blindness.

If you ban one offensive symbol, you have to ask:  offensive to whom?  Are we only to ban what they find offensive, or can we also ban what their opponents find offensive?  If so, we'll end up banning almost everything.  If not . . . then we'll no longer live in a free society - and I'll be damned if I let anybody take away from me the free society for which I literally fought and shed my blood.  That's not going to happen.  No way, no how, no matter what it costs.

It has been said:

"To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize."

One might as well amend that to read:

"To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to censor."

Note, too, who will not allow you to criticize or censor them.  It's not just the government.  It's also Google, Twitter, Facebook and their ilk . . . and that means they're taking upon themselves the role of Big Brother.  Be duly warned - and alarmed.

Peter

Erroneous erogenous?


My mind is still boggling at this report.

A man who caused life-changing injuries to the genital area of his female lover after a sexual fantasy went catastrophically wrong, has been jailed for a decade.

David Jeffers, 47, fled from a Manchester hotel leaving his partner dying on a bed after a loaded shotgun, which was inserted into her vagina, was mistakenly fired.

The 46 year-old victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had informed her partner of her sexual desires via text message a few days prior to the incident, which left her with life changing injuries to her bladder and female reproductive organs, with one message saying: "I can't sleep, so excited."

There's more at the link.

I . . . I just can't wrap my mind around this.  I can find nothing exciting whatsoever (erotically, or in any other way) about inserting a firearm (loaded or not) into any bodily orifice whatsoever.  Sex has its purpose.  So do firearms.  Those purposes do not intersect - at least, not in the world in which I live!

The unfortunate lady (?) survived her catastrophic injuries, but has been left forever maimed.  I suppose that in this case, coitus has been permanently interruptus!




Peter

That crowd may not show "popular support" at all


I've noted in the past that the left-wing, progressive element in US politics tends to adopt cause after cause, but that basically the same leaders and the same organizers reappear in each new group, while the old one is discarded.  If you look at the organizers of the Occupy movement, Black Lives Matter, and Antifa, I think you'll be surprised at how many are the same people.  (Law enforcement officers with whom I've spoken confirm that facial recognition technology identifies the same leaders at many of the demonstrations of each of those movements.  That may be one of the reasons why activists mask their faces in such demonstrations.  Not only do they want to avoid arrest, they may want to avoid being linked to previous events of the same kind, but under a different banner.)

That's not the only interesting point.  Another angle is the number of so-called "rent-a-mob" protesters who show up at such incidents.  They aren't there because of moral or ethical or political conviction;  they're there because they're being paid to be present.

Two recent articles highlighted this trend.  The first covers a more commercial angle.

Pretend for a moment that you’re walking through your neighborhood and notice a line of people wrapped around the block outside a newly opened restaurant ... There was a time when ... you could trust that a crowd of people was, in fact, a naturally occurring mass of individuals.

But that time may be passing thanks to Surkus, an emerging app that allowed the restaurant to quickly manufacture its ideal crowd and pay the people to stand in place like extras on a movie set. They’ve even been hand-picked by a casting agent of sorts, an algorithmic one that selects each person according to age, location, style and Facebook “likes.”

They may look excited, but that could also be part of the production. Acting disengaged while they idle in line could tarnish their “reputation score,” an identifier that influences whether they’ll be “cast” again. Nobody is forcing the participants to stay, of course, but if they leave, they won’t be paid — their movements are being tracked with geolocation.

Welcome to the new world of “crowdcasting.”

. . .

George said the company has amassed 150,000 members in Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Miami and San Francisco. Anyone can download the app. The members are of all ages and backgrounds, George said, noting that people are drawn by the chance to be social and get paid.

After launching two years ago, Surkus members have attended 4,200 events for 750 clients, including big-name brands, hospitality groups, live-ticketed shows, movie castings and everyday people who want to throw a party.

There's more at the link.

So much for "rent-a-mob" in the commercial setting.  The second article gets things very wrong by trying to link an advertisement for Charlotte, NC with events in Charlottesville, VA ten days ago (the cities are 4½ hours apart by road, so I don't see the connection):  but that's secondary to what it uncovers.

... the discovery of a craigslist ad posted last Monday, almost a full week before the Charlottesville protests, is raising new questions over whether paid protesters were sourced by a Los Angeles based "public relations firm specializing in innovative events" to serve as agitators in counterprotests.

The ad was posted by a company called "Crowds on Demand" and offered $25 per hour to "actors and photographers" to participate in events in the "Charlotte, NC area."  While the ad didn't explicitly define a role to be filled by its crowd of "actors and photographers" it did ask applicants to comment on whether they were "ok with participating in peaceful protests."

. . .

The CEO of Crowds on Demand denied to Snopes that his firm was involved in the Charlottesville protests but refused to provide details on the specific purpose of the craigslist ad and/or why it was temporarily removed yesterday before being restored.

Again, more at the link.

Crowds On Demand claims, on its Web site:

At Crowds on Demand, we provide our clients with protests, rallies, flash-mobs, paparazzi events and other inventive PR stunts. These services are available across the country in every major U.S city, every major U.S metro area and even most smaller cities as well. We provide everything including the people, the materials and even the ideas. You can come to us with a specific plan of action and we can make it happen. OR, you can approach us with a general  idea and we can help you plan the strategy then execute it.

We’ve made campaigns involving hundreds of people come to action in just days. We have a proven record of delivering major wins on even the toughest campaigns and delivering phenomenal experiences with even the most logistically challenging events.

Our services are now available throughout the United States, so whether you’re looking at doing a single event or a multi-city campaign, we have the resources available to achieve your goals.

More at the link, and at the section titled 'Protests and Rallies', which claims that:

... we can organize rallies and get media attention for your causes and candidates. We also assist individuals, companies and political organizations with protests and picketing campaigns. We’ve protested governments, corporations and everything in between.

. . .

A foreign government hired Crowds on Demand to help generate a positive reception for its newly elected leader during the UN General Assembly. The concern was ensuring that the leader was well received by a US audience and confident for his work at the UN. We created demonstrations of support with diverse crowds. We also used the media primarily local and national outlets to bring more attention to these demonstrations which led to a mostly positive portrayal. The crowds that we deployed drew in more supporters creating a strong presence for this leader at the UN and an improved perception of him by the American public.

So, here we have two firms (how many more are there?), both offering to provide any sort of crowd you want, for any purpose, for payment.  We also have many reports over the past few years of protesters being bussed from various cities to the site of their protest, then ferried back to their points of origin (often associated with so-called astroturfing).  Here's just one such report, including video footage, to illustrate the point.  Want another?  Try this one.

Putting two and two together, we know that many demonstrations are anything but spontaneous, and we know that many participants are paid - we've seen the advertisements offering them money, particularly those funded by the left wing of US politics.  Now we have evidence that entire corporations are in business to satisfy crowd-sourcing needs.  Therefore, the next time you see a major demonstration, it might be worth asking yourself whether all those in attendance are there as 'true believers' . . . or whether some of them are in it for the money.  I know I shall.

(I must confess, however, to an impish curiosity as to what would happen if a bunch of Trump supporters were to allow themselves to be 'recruited' as paid demonstrators for an anti-Trump rally . . . and brought along banners and placards showing their true feelings.  The resulting chaos might be epic!)

Peter

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Sunday morning music


I'm enjoying a musical blast from my family's past.  My parents loved the songs of Kenneth McKellar, the famous Scottish tenor, and had several of his albums, including the family favorite, Roamin' in the Gloamin'.  To my great delight, I recently found that album (along with many others of his) on Amazon, and immediately bought and downloaded the MP3 version.  I've been thoroughly enjoying it.

For those of you new to Scottish music, here's a selection from that tradition.  For those of you new to Kenneth McKellar, this is a great introduction to one of the finest post-World-War-II singers to come out of the Highlands.

Let's begin with a traditional, quirky, fun tune, 'The Cockle Gatherer'.  Lyrics and background information may be found here.





Next, a love song by Robert Burns, 'Bonnie Wee Thing'.  Lyrics may be found here.





Finally, how could any collection of Kenneth McKellar's songs be complete without his rendition of 'Scotland the Brave'?  Lyrics here.





The entire album, plus many others, are available on Amazon.com.

Peter

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Doofus Of The Day #971


A tip o' the hat to Alma Boykin for alerting me to a particularly special academic snowflake doofus.  Bold, underlined text is my emphasis.

On August 21, 2017, a total solar eclipse will arrive mid-morning on the coast of Oregon. The moon’s shadow will be about 70 miles wide, and it will race across the country faster than the speed of sound, exiting the eastern seaboard shortly before 3 p.m. local time. It has been dubbed the Great American Eclipse, and along most of its path, there live almost no black people.

Presumably, this is not explained by the implicit bias of the solar system. It is a matter of population density, and more specifically geographic variations in population density by race, for which the sun and the moon cannot be held responsible. Still, an eclipse chaser is always tempted to believe that the skies are relaying a message. At a moment of deep disagreement about the nation’s best path forward, here comes a giant round shadow, drawing a line either to cut the country in two or to unite it as one.

. . .

Oregon, where this begins, is almost entirely white. The 10 percent or so of state residents who do not identify as white are predominantly Latino, American Indian, Alaskan, or Asian. There are very few black Oregonians, and this is not an accident. The land that is now Oregon was not, of course, always inhabited by white people, but as a U.S. territory and then a state, Oregon sought to get and stay white. Among several formal efforts at racial exclusion was a provision in the original state constitution of 1857 that prohibited any “free Negro or Mulatto” from entering and residing in the state.

The American West was not the land of chattel slavery—with some brief exceptions, slavery was illegal in Oregon before and after statehood. But among the dreams of the pioneers there was, at least sometimes, a dream of escaping racial strife by escaping black people altogether. As put by Peter Burnett, the architect of one racially exclusionary law in Oregon, the aim was simply to avoid “that most troublesome class of population. We are in a new world, under most favorable circumstances, and we wish to avoid most of those evils that have so afflicted the United States and other countries.”

. . .

Moving east, the eclipse will pass part of St. Louis, whose overall population is nearly half black. But the black residents are concentrated in the northern half of the metropolitan area, and the total eclipse crosses only the southern half.

There's (unfortunately) a lot more at the link.

That's right.  The entire article (which goes on, and on, and on, ad nauseam) draws all sorts of parallels between the path of the eclipse, and America's racial history and current makeup.  There's just one problem:  there is no logical, scientific, historical or any other connection between a perfectly normal natural occurrence and centuries of US history.  It's all in the mind of the author - and nowhere else.

Eclipses were going on long before the human race evolved out of whatever was crawling around in the primal ooze.  They were scaring the crap out of cavemen before they could even spell 'Neanderthal'.  They were making a lot of money for shamans, fakirs, witch-doctors, fortune-tellers and other charlatans until science finally managed to explain them.  After that (we thought hopefully) there would no longer be any superstition attached to them.  This article makes it clear that we hoped in vain.

The author has gone back several centuries to the mystical, magical mumbo-jumbo of the scientifically illiterate, and tied together two things that have nothing whatsoever to do with each other.  The path of the eclipse is an accident of nature, pure and simple, with no 'message', explicit or implicit, implied.  It did not 'choose' to follow that particular path in any way, shape or form - and therefore no message can be, or is, conveyed through, or by, its course.  It's an accident.  Nothing more.

I'm tempted to nominate the article for an Ig Nobel award, except that it only meets the first half of the criteria for an award - 'to honor achievements that first make people laugh, and then make them think'.  Laugh?  Oh, hell, yes - in sheer disbelief!  Thought?  No.  Thought, of the logical, rational, scientific variety, at any rate, doesn't enter into this article at all;  and it isn't so much an achievement as a veritable holocaust - indeed, a total eclipse - of intellectual understanding.

And yet . . . and yet . . . I daresay there will be those among the politically correct and intellectually 'pure' who will hail this article as a masterful insight into the state of race relations in the USA today.  Upon them, as upon its author, today's Doofus Award is wholeheartedly conferred.


Sheesh!


Peter

Mayhem on the water


Shamelessly borrowed from C. J. Swanson:





Oops!




Peter

Iraq and Iran - changing the balance of power in the Middle East?


Iran has been heavily involved in Iraq since the overthrow of the Saddam Hussein regime.  In recent years, after the US withdrawal of combat forces, its surrogate troops have been the backbone of resistance to ISIS and Kurdish separatists.  It's been widely assumed that Iran would seek to dominate Iraq once the conflict was over:  but, now that it's visibly drawing to a close, another dimension is entering the picture.  Strategy Page reports:

With ISIL no longer a major threat Iraq has surprised Iran (and many others outside the Arab world) by rebuilding relations with Sunni Arab neighbors and telling Iran to back off with any plans it had to dominate Iraqi politics. Senior Shia Arab religious and political leaders have been leaning this way for a long time and Iran thought the war against ISIL was an opportunity to weaken the traditional Shia Arab distrust of Iran. That did not work.

Since 2005, when accurate opinion polls and generally free elections were once again available it became obvious that both in Sunni Arab areas (where there used to be a lot of support for al Qaeda) and Shia areas (where there used to be a lot of support for the kind of religious dictatorship found in Shia Iran) that Iran was seen as the enemy. This was obvious to familiar with Iraqi history. Fear of Indo-European Iran has always been greater than the fact that most Iraqis share their Shia faith with Iranians. Blood is thicker than religion. This is why more there was always so much violence along the ethnic border between Kurds (who are ethnically related to the Iranians) and Arabs, especially in oil rich Kirkuk.

From 2005 on it became increasingly clear that the vast majority of Iraqis, including Kurds and most Shia Arabs, feared increasing Iranian influence. Although most Iraqis are Shia, they are also Arab, and do not want to be ruled by their fellow Shia in Iran. That's because the Iranians are Indo-European people and have long treated their Arab neighbors with disdain and cruelty. Iraqis could now see this happening regularly in western Iran, where the Iranian Arab minority (about two percent of the population) is constantly being persecuted by the Indo-European Iranians. The Iranian Arabs also get it from the Azeri Turk minority (25 percent of all Iranians). Iraqis have bitter memories of centuries of domination by the Ottoman Turks (who now control only Turkey), whose empire once stretched into North Africa and the Balkans.

One reason Saddam Hussein had some support from all groups in Iraq and from his Arab neighbors was his ability to keep the Iranians out. After Saddam was overthrown in 2003 many Iraqis (and most Arabs) feared that, without a badass like Saddam, there would be no one to motivate Iraqis into blocking Iranian moves to occupy Iraq, or control its rulers. But now the Shia Arab Iraqi leaders (political and religious) appear confident that they can stand up to the Iranian threats. The is one thing all Iraqis can unite behind and apparently one of many reasons why Iraq is openly demanding that Iran back off while just as publically establishing economic, political and military links with Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Arab states in the region to oppose Iranian plans for expansion and domination of Arabia.

The new alignment means more technical and economic aid from the Sunni Arab states to the south and more vigorous efforts by those Sunni Arab rulers to ensure their Shia Arab minorities (or, in the case of Bahrain, majority) are treated well and that there is little support for Sunni Arab Iraqis. The Saudi leaders had always tried to maintain good relationships with their Shia minority but that had become more difficult as radical Sunni Islam (as in al Qaeda and ISIL) became more popular. Now that form of religious zeal has become less popular in Arabia, at least for a while. But that’s another problem that is less pressing hat the immediate ones posed by Iran.

There's more at the link.  Interesting reading.

I'll be watching this with great interest.  Basically, Iran's surface link to Syria (where the Assad government only exists because of the military assistance, in equipment and personnel, supplied by Iran) runs through Iraq.  Iran cannot afford to have that link cut, because air and sea resupply could not replace the land route.  Air shipping is much more expensive, and sea transport must go through the Red Sea, where it's vulnerable to search and seizure by Saudi Arabia, and then the Suez Canal, where it's vulnerable to search and seizure by Egypt.

Iran simply cannot afford to have Iraq become too independent, thereby threatening the former's regional hegemony.  Will this lead to a putsch attempt in Iraq, as Iran tries to install its supporters in power?  Will the people of Iraq permit and/or tolerate that?  More to the point, will Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies permit it?  If they don't, how will they intervene to stop it?

This could become 'curiouser and curiouser', as Alice famously said . . . and very bloody.

Peter

Friday, August 18, 2017

What voter fraud? THIS voter fraud!


All those who contend that there's no voter fraud problem in the USA should read this report.

According to a new study of U.S. Census data, America has more registered voters than actual live voters. It's a troubling fact that puts our nation's future in peril.

The data come from Judicial Watch's Election Integrity Project. The group looked at data from 2011 to 2015 produced by the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey, along with data from the federal Election Assistance Commission.

As reported by the National Review's Deroy Murdock, who did some numbers-crunching of his own, "some 3.5 million more people are registered to vote in the U.S. than are alive among America's adult citizens. Such staggering inaccuracy is an engraved invitation to voter fraud."

Murdock counted Judicial Watch's state-by-state tally and found that 462 U.S. counties had a registration rate exceeding 100% of all eligible voters. That's 3.552 million people, who Murdock calls "ghost voters." And how many people is that? There are 21 states that don't have that many people.

Nor are these tiny, rural counties or places that don't have the wherewithal to police their voter rolls.

California, for instance, has 11 counties with more registered voters than actual voters. Perhaps not surprisingly — it is deep-Blue State California, after all — 10 of those counties voted heavily for Hillary Clinton.

Los Angeles County, whose more than 10 million people make it the nation's most populous county, had 12% more registered voters than live ones, some 707,475 votes. That's a huge number of possible votes in an election.

But, Murdock notes, "California's San Diego County earns the enchilada grande. Its 138% registration translates into 810,966 ghost voters."

State by state, this is an enormous problem that needs to be dealt with seriously. Having so many bogus voters out there is a temptation to voter fraud.

There's more at the link.

If you expect me to believe that fully three and a half million 'ghost voters' somehow got onto electoral rolls by 'accident' . . . particularly when they're almost exclusively concentrated in districts hewing to the left-wing/progressive side of the electoral divide . . . then I have this bridge in Brooklyn, NYC that I'd like to sell you.  Cash only, please, and in small bills.

Couple that with an earlier report that millions of illegal aliens probably cast ballots in the 2016 election, and you have a recipe for disaster.

I hope and trust that President Trump's Electoral Integrity Commission will find a solution to this problem.  Certainly, it can't be allowed to persist through the 2018 elections.  It needs to be dealt with now - otherwise our democracy will be in serious danger.

Peter

North Korea isn't the only danger zone right now


I won't be at all surprised to see Israel do something fairly violent about this.

An Israeli television report said on Tuesday that Iran is building a facility in northwest Syria to manufacture long-range rockets, and showed satellite images it said were of the site under construction.

. . .

The Channel 2 television news report showed images it said were taken by an Israeli satellite showing a site in northwest Syria near the Mediterranean coastal town of Baniyas, saying some of the construction indicated explosives would be stored there.

The images from the Eros B satellite showcase the site's ability to store underground missiles, the reports said.

It compared images of buildings it said were of a rocket factory near Tehran to structures at the Syrian site, and said there was a strong resemblance between them.

There's more at the link, including photographs.

There's no way Israel will permit the manufacture or assembly of such missiles in a location where Hezbollah or Hamas terrorists can get their hands on them.  It's too great a threat to Israel's security.  I've no doubt that warnings have already been dispatched to all concerned, setting a hard deadline for the demolition of the entire site.  If those warnings aren't heeded, I daresay Israel will do the demolition itself.  That won't please Russia, which sees Syria as a client state, but I suspect they'll understand, and probably won't protest too loudly.

Peter

The Electronic Frontier Foundation sounds a warning


The widely-respected Electronic Frontier Foundation, a non-partisan group fighting online censorship and working for freedom of expression on the Internet, has sounded a warning over the actions of several Internet companies following the Charlottesville clash last weekend.

In the wake of Charlottesville, both GoDaddy and Google have refused to manage the domain registration for the Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi website that, in the words of the Southern Poverty Law Center, is “dedicated to spreading anti-Semitism, neo-Nazism, and white nationalism.” Subsequently Cloudflare, whose service was used to protect the site from denial-of-service attacks, has also dropped them as a customer, with a telling quote from Cloudflare’s CEO: “Literally, I woke up in a bad mood and decided someone shouldn’t be allowed on the Internet. No one should have that power.”

We agree. Even for free speech advocates, this situation is deeply fraught with emotional, logistical, and legal twists and turns. All fair-minded people must stand against the hateful violence and aggression that seems to be growing across our country. But we must also recognize that on the Internet, any tactic used now to silence neo-Nazis will soon be used against others, including people whose opinions we agree with. Those on the left face calls to characterize the Black Lives Matter movement as a hate group. In the Civil Rights Era cases that formed the basis of today’s protections of freedom of speech, the NAACP’s voice was the one attacked.

Protecting free speech is not something we do because we agree with all of the speech that gets protected. We do it because we believe that no one—not the government and not private commercial enterprises—should decide who gets to speak and who doesn’t.

. . .

It might seem unlikely now that Internet companies would turn against sites supporting racial justice or other controversial issues. But if there is a single reason why so many individuals and companies are acting together now to unite against neo-Nazis, it is because a future that seemed unlikely a few years ago—that white nationalists and Nazis now have significant power and influence in our society—now seems possible. We would be making a mistake if we assumed that these sorts of censorship decisions would never turn against causes we love.

Part of the work for all of us now is to push back against such dangerous decisions with our own voices and actions. Another part of our work must be to seek to shore up the weakest parts of the Internet’s infrastructure so it cannot be easily toppled if matters take a turn for the (even) worse. These actions are not in opposition; they are to the same ends.

We can—and we must—do both.

There's more at the link.  Worthwhile reading.

That's the problem, right there.  These companies have taken it upon themselves to act as society's conscience, whether or not all of society agrees with their interpretation of that conscience.  That's the camel's nose, right there.  If we allow them to get away with silencing what they consider to be extreme right-wing voices now, what's to stop anyone redefining what constitutes an 'extreme right-wing voice' in the future, and banning it in the same way?  What's next?
  • Opposition to abortion?
  • Opposition to the admission, much less the legalization, of illegal aliens in the USA?
  • Opposition to excessive entitlement programs?
The progressive wing of US politics would regard all of those positions as 'extreme right-wing';  yet between one-third and two-thirds of Americans (including yours truly) hold one or more of them.

If these Internet companies are allowed to get away with this position today, we're going to face worse problems in the future.  It's as simple as that.  We cannot afford to endanger the freedom of speech, whether by government fiat or commercial diktat, because without it, we lack the freedom of choice that democracy is supposed to provide.

Peter