Philosophy and English

Long ago, I started at the University of Michigan with declared dual majors of Philosophy and English. The goal was teaching.

Fortunately, I achieved neither a degree nor the vocation. I escaped after my Freshman year. I have no degreed credentials.

My naive intention may, however, explain why I found this thought provoking:
Philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of language.
—Ludwig Wittgenstein

Juxtapose Wittgenstein’s thought with the currently popular attacks on freedom of speech. Subversion and suppression of speech are WMDs used to confound debate: The evolutionary foundation of intelligent thought.

Debate on meaning is subverted by redefinition of common terms. Discussion of context is verboten. Ad hominemism becomes the handmaid of “cancel culture.”

It’s why the Left is so full of clever people inventing euphemisms. Like “Gender Affirming Care” for mutilating surgery and castrating drugs as a human right for 12 year olds. Like “Cisgender” as a dismissal of someone who identifies as their biological sex. Like “undocumented immigrant” for illegal alien. Like “Our Democracy,” for single party authoritarianism.

@hershblogger

When The Other Club lived at Google, I had for a time, a Twitter account to which each new post would automatically Tweet.

Twitter worked hard to convince me that I wanted nothing to do with it, so I deleted the account. A long ago time now, and I don’t even remember my old handle.

Yesterday I rejoined Twitter as my small note of encouragement to @elonmusk. The entertainment value of the sink is alone worth the price of admission.

This is the first post which (should) automatically appear as a Tweet from the WordPress version of TOC.

You can mock City Hall

A guy named Anthony Novak made fun of the Parma (Ohio) Police Department by creating a parody Facebook page mocking the official police website.

The Parma constabulary took a dim view of Novak’s efforts. So, after consulting the city’s “law director,” they arrested him (Novak) for “illegal use of a computer to disrupt or impair police functions.”

A jury of his peers acquitted Novak of the charge.

If you aren’t pretty certain you grasp the definition of ‘parody,’ now is the time to look it up. Something the Parma city scions seem to have neglected: Novak has sued the city for violation of his Constitutional rights.

Win or lose that suit, he has proved the police disrupted and impaired their own function by arresting him. For speaking.

So far, though, he hasn’t been allowed to present his case. There’s this thing that encourages city “law directors” to take legal risks organizations vulnerable to Constitutional strictures would avoid. It’s known as “qualified immunity.”

According to a district court, with concurrence from the Sixth Circuit, Novak is not allowed to have this question adjudicated. He is not entitled to seek remedy because qualified immunity protects public officials from lawsuits when they violate a federal right unless “the unlawfulness of their conduct was clearly established” at the time they acted.

The First Amendment clearly established Novak’s right to parodize the local constabulary in 1787. That is his opinion, anyway. And mine. And the jury’s. The case is going to the Supreme Court.

The Onion has filed an amicus curiae brief supporting the suit. I think the Babylon Bee is consistently more creative, but The Onion got its mojo back on with this brief. It’s 23 hilarious pages. Courtesy of the Institute for Justice

Top notch and worth the time.

Alternative Civil Liberty Umpires

The American Civil Liberties Union was once a stalwart, scrappy, absolutist defender of free speech and due process. It took serious heat for its defense* of American Nazi’s right to free expression in 1977.
*There are many accounts of this. You will find some here, here, and here.

That indomitable devotion to the First Amendment prompted me to become a card carrying ACLU member. But I haven’t been a member since ~1985 because the ACLU drifted away from this purity of principle. It continued downhill for many years, but after the 2016 election the corruption rapidly became complete and absolute.

The rotten yolk of this organization may still be called a “union,” but it now diametrically opposes the other three words in its name. Enthralled by the money gushing out of the Diversity/Inclusion/Equity cabal, ensnared by rote identitarianism, and blinded by Trump Derangement Syndrome – the ACLU turned its back on the Constitution.

RIP. Here are comments from two high profile liberal lawyers. Like me, former ACLU supporters:

Alan Dershowitz:

The ACLU has defended Nazis, the KKK, pornographers and purveyors of hate speech. I was privileged to serve on the national board of the ACLU during its golden age.

Then everything changed. The board decided to “diversify.” This meant that a certain number of women, African Americans, Latinos and gays had to be represented—which, in turn, meant the representatives of these groups were expected to prioritize the parochial interests of the groups they represented over the more general interests of all Americans pertaining to free speech and due process.

Unsurprisingly, the organization stopped prioritizing free speech and due process. Instead, it began to prioritize a woman’s right to choose, gay marriage, racial issues and “progressive politics.” This trend began well before the election of President Donald Trump, but it came to a head when he took office. The ACLU turned into a money-making machine by prioritizing the anti-Trump attitudes of its new members over its traditional role as a nonpartisan defender of free speech and due process.

The ACLU is now rolling in money, but it is intellectually bankrupt in its defense of free speech and due process—especially when these core liberties conflict with its money-making progressive agenda. This is particularly true with respect to the attacks on free speech and due process on university campuses, which are rampant and largely ignored by the current ACLU.

Jonathan Turley:

For years, many of us who have long supporteded the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have grown alarmed by its abandonment of core principles in the support of civil liberties in favor of support what seems a more political agenda…

Free speech protection was once the touchstone of the ACLU which was fearless in its unpopular advocacy. It is now an area of open retreat for the organization as the leadership seeks to appease irate donors. Despite the right to carry being a constitutional right, the ACLU has indicated that it will not vigorously support the right to lawfully carry weapons at protests. That is no more evident than in the truly shocking filing of the ACLU to oppose due process rights for students at our colleges and universities, particularly in the imposition of a higher and more consistent evidentiary standard…

The group seems increasingly committed to appeasing liberal donors and supporters in avoiding such fights. Now it has actually taken up the cause of reducing due process — a position that disgraces its long and proud legacy… It is now actively trading off civil liberties to achieve beneficial social ends.

We need new civil rights umpires.

The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, and the New Civil Liberties Alliance are worth supporting in the vacuum ACLU betrayal has left.

New Civil Liberties Alliance

NCLA views the administrative state as an especially serious threat to constitutional freedoms. No other development in contemporary American law denies more rights to more Americans. Although Americans still enjoy the shell of their Republic, there has developed within it a very different sort of government—a type, in fact, that the Constitution was designed to prevent. This unconstitutional administrative state within our U.S. government is the focus of NCLA’s concern. NCLA urges Americans to recognize the administrative threat and join our civil liberties movement against it.

Here is a look at litigation NCLA supported: State of Missouri ex rel. Schmitt, et al. v. Biden, et al.

Public statements, emails, and recent publicly released documents establish that the President of the United States and other senior officials in the Biden Administration violated the First Amendment by directing social-media companies to censor viewpoints that conflict with the government’s messaging on Covid-19.

NCLA joined the lawsuit, State of Missouri ex rel. Schmitt, et al. v. Joseph R. Biden, Jr., et al., representing renowned epidemiologists and co-authors of the Great Barrington Declaration, Drs. Jayanta Bhattacharya and Martin Kulldorff, as well as Dr. Aaron Kheriaty and Jill Hines. Social media platforms, acting at the federal government’s behest, repeatedly censored NCLA’s clients for articulating views on those platforms in opposition to government-approved views on Covid-19 restrictions.

This insidious censorship was the direct result of the federal government’s ongoing campaign to silence those who voice perspectives that deviate from those of the Biden Administration. Government officials’ public threats to punish social media companies that did not do their bidding demonstrate this linkage, as do emails from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to social media companies that only recently were made public.

The Administrative State is nowhere better established than in our Universities, and FIRE started out as the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education before recognizing a broader mission. The examples below indicate that FIRE is dedicated to defending the First Amendment. The content of speech is not the issue. Whose Ox is gored is irrelevant. The speakers opinions are sacrosanct, even… especially… if they are unpopular.

Punished for not using a student’s preferred pronouns, theater professor sues

A lawsuit filed last week by theater professor Richard Bugg against administrators at Southern Utah University alleges that key school officials violated his First Amendment rights when they punished him for refusing to use a student’s preferred pronouns.

Bugg is represented by FIRE Faculty Legal Defense Fund network attorney Jerome H. Mooney, with FLDF’s financial support. FLDF offers “first responder” legal assistance to protect the academic freedom and free expression rights of faculty at public colleges and universities, and where appropriate supports litigation when on-campus efforts meet resistance.

Bugg’s lawsuit alleges that when a student in his 2021 fall semester acting class requested Bugg use they/them pronouns when referring to that student, Bugg instead offered to use that student’s given or preferred proper name. Although Bugg attempted not to use female pronouns to refer to the student, he mistakenly did so two to three times, by his own admission. Despite Bugg’s proposed accommodation, the student filed a Title IX complaint against him alleging Bugg would not refer to the student using gender-neutral pronouns.

After a hearing, SUU determined Bugg violated university policy by engaging in “conduct that constitutes ‘discrimination’ and ‘harassment’ based on gender identity.” As punishment, SUU has required Bugg to take a class about the use of gender-neutral pronouns in the English language, and that Bugg use students’ preferred pronouns. SUU also cautioned that if Bugg’s continued refusal to use preferred pronouns causes students to avoid registering for his classes, SUU will open additional sections, and will reduce Bugg’s pay to offset the cost of the additional sections. It also threatened Bugg with possible termination.

FIRE urges Twitter, Carnegie Mellon not to censor professor who wished Queen Elizabeth ‘excruciating’ death

Queen Elizabeth’s death yesterday spurred a global outpouring of grief from many of her fans, alongside discussion and debate about the complicated history of England’s monarchy. Much of this debate took place on Twitter, which, for better or worse, serves as a modern public square for commentary about current events.

But critics succeeded in at least partially silencing one such commentator: Carnegie Mellon University professor Uju Anya, who wrote on her personal account hours before the Queen’s death was announced: “I heard the chief monarch of a thieving raping genocidal empire is finally dying. May her pain be excruciating…”

CMU must publicly refuse to investigate or punish the professor
Regardless of public controversy, Anya’s tweets remain protected under First Amendment standards. Private institutions like CMU are not bound by the First Amendment to promise free expression, but, laudably, the university has chosen to do so, committing that it “values the freedoms of speech, thought, expression and assembly — in themselves and as part of our core educational and intellectual mission.” CMU goes so far as to say the “university must be a place where all ideas may be expressed freely and where no alternative is withheld from consideration.”

Now that CMU has promised faculty free expression, it cannot backtrack from “all ideas may be expressed,” to all except this one because people are mad. CMU has not backtracked, but it also has not foreclosed the threat of punishing Anya in its public statement. That’s why FIRE is asking CMU to publicly commit not to investigate or punish Anya for expressing her opinion. As we told CMU:

While some may find the timing or substance of speech about the deceased to be offensive, freedom of expression does not observe a mourning period. It applies whether speech about the recently departed takes the form of a venerating eulogy, scorn, or something in between.

If you are so inclined you can join me in supporting NCLA here, and the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression here.

We do need institutions to take up the banner the ACLU has ground into the mud.

Speech is not violence

Claiming speech is violence will result in violence.

Last week, Salman Rushdie was to address the Chautauqua Institution on the topic of freedom of speech. He has some experience with those who would stifle it. Thirty three years ago he wrote a book titled The Satanic Verses. He was in hiding for the next decade. And it turns out that wasn’t long enough.

For his title, he looked at a few words in the Quran, as interpreted by some Islamic historians. Islamic fundamentalists are triggered by the concept raised by those co-religionists as long ago as ~900AD. In any case, Rushdie was writing a novel. Fiction.

It’s no surprise, though, that Rushdie’s daring to discuss it was not well received in certain quarters. He upset the same Islamist fanatics who encouraged the slaughter at Charlie Hebdo, the murder of Theo Van Gogh, the threats to the Jyllands-Posten for publishing cartoons, the mass shooting at Bataclan and Pulse, and other murders, arsons and riots too common to detail.

Fundamentalist Islam insists religion and the State are one. Naturally, then, Rushdie’s temerity provoked a Muslim cleric and Head-of-State (Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini) to issue a bounty for Rushdie’s death in 1989.

AKA a ‘fatwa.’ In polities where church and state are separated, we don’t yet have a special term for state religion-sanctioned murder. We are working toward it via the Church of George Floyd, the Cathedral of Transexual Pronounism, the Pieties of the Green New Deal, and the rite of Skin Color Original Sin, but we aren’t there yet.

That does not mean progress is not being made here. This week a militant follower of Islam with ties to Iran stabbed Rushdie a dozen times. As yet, the police can’t find a motive. You have to wonder how the find their own butts.

Rushdie’s stabbing is merely a reminder that “don’t say anything we don’t like to hear” fanatics can be dangerous. We have some of our own.

Every day needs to be ‘Everybody Draw Mohammed day.’ Here’s a comprehensive “compendium of images that depict Mohammed (the 7th-century founder of Islam), spanning all historical periods, cultures, genres, styles, formats and themes.”

Here’s my own paltry contribution.

Every day needs to be ‘Everybody write The Satanic Verses day.’

Rushdie’s stabbing is ethically no different from the persecution of Kyle Rittenhouse, the firing of James Damore, the threats against J. D. Rowling, or the demonization of Nicholas Sandmann.

Erewhon

Forcible modification of basic human behavior is the Utopian’s dream and necessity. It’s what the attack on free speech is about. If you can’t say something without fear of punishment, self censorship will eventually disable your ability to even think about it.

In a debate with a Utopian, you might cite the failure of previous attempts to establish heaven on earth – in WWII Germany, China during Mao’s “Cultural Revolution,” Cambodia under Pol Pot, Venezuela under Maduro, Cuba under Castro, Ukraine under Stalin, etc. etc..

It will avail you not. The fall back response is that the right people weren’t in charge. Utopia’s never really been tried.

The people currently volunteering to try their hand at being the right people run the World Economic Forum.

The WEF is an NGO apparently operating under the delusion that ‘the problem’ can be solved by instituting tyranny in multiple countries simultaneously:

World Economic Forum (WEF) head Klaus Schwab wrote back in June, “the world must act jointly and swiftly to revamp all aspects of our societies and economies, from education to social contracts and working conditions. Every country, from the United States to China, must participate, and every industry, from oil and gas to tech, must be transformed. In short, we need a ‘Great Reset’ of capitalism.”

John Kerry’s on board, if you were wondering how stupidly bad this idea is.

If you weren’t wondering, maybe Milton Friedman can help you overcome Schwab and Kerry’s assumption that if things aren’t perfect, we can only fix them by forcibly changing human behavior to accord with the utopian visions of elite collectivists.

Take that as a 2 minute introduction to the longer conversation below. That conversation examines the results of WEF policy implementation.

Objections to the WEF agenda are often described as “conspiracy theories.” My understanding of conspiracy theories is that they describe secret plans of which only the theorists are aware.

The WEF makes no secret of its plans. Fortunately, discussions of these plans are not yet banned by YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook. Such a ban would also be an open conspiracy. And not a theory.

Jordan Peterson and Micheal Yon are still allowed to discuss Dutch farmer’s protests against WEF inspired ideas which would destroy farming in the Netherlands. This is an hour and 20+. It is not going to enhance your optimism. It is quite worth watching.

I leave you with one takeaway in case you do not spend the time on the video: Tiny Netherlands is the world’s second largest exporter of food. Dutch farmers arguably constitute the most efficient agricultural system in the world. Even as they are distracted by keeping their fingers in the dikes.

The WEF hegemony places them in its crosshairs. The WEF premise: Nitrogen in fertilizer is a catastrophic global warming threat. Dutch farmers use too much nitrogen. It must stop.

The Dutch government agrees. It intends to destroy its agricultural supremacy. In favor of what ecological improvement, exactly? Who will replace the world’s second largest food exporter with less environmental impact? Somalia? Bangladesh?

It won’t be Sri Lanka. Because Sri Lanka already tried implementing the same plan the Netherlands government is contemplating. It didn’t work out well. Sri Lankans are starving because food crops have been triple decimated. Fuel is not scarce, though. It is unavailable. Food exports were the major source of foreign currency to buy gasoline and diesel fuel.

This attack on farmers is not limited to the Netherlands. Canada is on the same track. Despite the horrific results in Sri Lanka.

And Canada’s plan to ruin farming is just one of their problems. If you’re up for more Peterson, this is a devastating look at Canada’s Sorry State. But, I digress.

The goal of The Great Reset is a drastic reduction in the human population through immiseration, starvation, and chaos. In Germany, for example, it’s manifesting as an energy shortage. The Germans closed down perfectly viable nuclear plants in favor of windmills, and solar panels, and Russian natural gas. They were burning more CO2 intensive coal to make up for energy shortfalls even before the Russians turned Nordstream off. Now Germans are gathering wood to burn for heat this winter.

What did environmentalists use for lighting before candles? …Electricity.

Warmth is marginally before food in the hierarchy of needs. You die more quickly from hypothermia than from starvation. Not a whole lot faster, but rioting warms you at least until you collapse from malnutrition.

It will get worse for the Germans when they can’t import food from the Netherlands and have lessened ability to grow their own because of fertilizer shortages. The major process for making fertilizer involves natural gas. Germany is already restricting hot water, and is very unlikely to have sufficient gas for home heating this winter, much less for fertilizer production going into next spring.

Mythinformation

I have neglected TOC of late. Spring chores have kept me busy, and I’m slower at them than I used to be.

Anyway, here’s a look at some Prog mythology to keep you amused while I plant my tomatoes. (A two day project.)

From Marginal Revolution:
There is No Pink Tax

The so-called pink tax is an alleged tendency for products consumed by women to be more expensive than similar products consumed by men…

[E]conomists Sarah Moshary, Anna Tuchman and Natasha Bhatia have done a much more complete and careful study and they find that once you control for ingredients and compare like-to-like there is no pink tax. Indeed, sometimes men pay a bit more. Overall, there are no big savings from cross-buying. Women and men could save money by buying products primarily marketed to the opposite gender–like 2-in-1 shampoo+conditioner–but only by buying products that they prefer less than the products they choose to buy.

This is right up there with the great Super Bowl hoax, and the “wage gap.” All related to boomer feminism’s big fails.

From Reason:
After 53 Earth Days, Society Still Hasn’t Collapsed

Cassandra in Greek mythology was the Trojan priestess who was cursed to utter true prophecies but never to be believed. Ideological environmentalism features a cohort of reverse Cassandras: They make false prophecies that are widely believed. Stanford biologist Paul Ehrlich in his 1968 classic, The Population Bomb, prophesied, “The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now.”

See also Ardnassac.

From Quillette:
Domestic Violence Is Not the Result of Patriarchy

Research consistently finds that women in heterosexual relationships tend to perpetrate violence against intimate partners at least as often as men.

Thank you, Amber Heard.

From Cafe Hayek:
More from Bernard Bailyn on the American Revolutionaries and Slavery

It’s impossible to believe that the same British government that 1619 Project apologists insist was intent on ending slavery in North America would have obstructed efforts by American colonists to end or restrict the slave trade. This fact alone – the fact that officials of the British government obstructed efforts by some of the American colonists to end or diminish the slave trade – is alone practically sufficient to destroy the main thesis of the 1619 Project.

From Cureus, an open access medical journal:
Correlation Between Mask Compliance and COVID-19 Outcomes in Europe

Conclusions
While no cause-effect conclusions could be inferred from this observational analysis, the lack of negative correlations between mask usage and COVID-19 cases and deaths suggest that the widespread use of masks at a time when an effective intervention was most needed, i.e., during the strong 2020-2021 autumn-winter peak, was not able to reduce COVID-19 transmission. Moreover, the moderate positive correlation between mask usage and deaths in Western Europe also suggests that the universal use of masks may have had harmful unintended consequences.

From Glenn Greenwald:
Homeland Security’s “Disinformation Board” is Even More Pernicious Than it Seems

Typically, any attempt to apply George Orwell’s warning novel 1984 to U.S. politics is reflexively dismissed as hyperbolic: a free and democratic country like the United States could not possibly fall prey to the dystopian repression Orwell depicts. Yet it is quite difficult to distinguish this “Disinformation Board” from Ingsoc’s Ministry of Truth. The protagonist of Orwell’s novel, Winston Smith, worked in the Ministry of Truth and described at length how its primary function was to create official versions of truth and falsity, which always adhered to the government’s needs of the moment and were subject to radical change as those interests evolved.

That the Board will be run by such a preposterous and laughable figure as Nina Jankowicz — a liberal cartoon, a caricature of a #Resistance Twitter fanatic who spent 2016 posting adolescent partisan tripe such as: “Maybe @HillaryClinton’s most important point so far: ‘A @realDonaldTrump presidency would embolden ISIS.’ #ImWithHer” — has, in some sense, made this board seem more benign and harmless. After all, how nefarious and dangerous can a board be when it is governed by a person as frivolous and banal as this, calling herself “the Mary Poppins of disinformation”?…

Far worse than Jankowicz’s fixation on censoring those with whom she disagrees — now a staple of liberal politics — is the fact that this new Disinformation Czar has herself ratified and helped spread virtually every disinformation campaign concocted by the union of the Democratic Party and corporate media over the last five years. Indeed, the only valid basis for calling her a “disinformation expert” is that she has spread disinformation with such gusto. The most notorious of those was the pre-election lie that the authentic Hunter Biden laptop was “disinformation.” She also decreed falsely that the origins of COVID were definitively proven to be zoonotic and could not have come from a lab leak, was a frequent and vocal advocate of the fraudulent Steele Dossier, and repeatedly pronounced as true all sorts of Trump/Russia collusion conspiracy theories which Robert Mueller, after conducting an intense 18-month investigation, rejected as lacking evidence to establish their truth.

Greenwald wrote this before Jankowicz floated the idea she should be empowered to edit other people’s Tweets.

Her mindlessnes is not the core issue, though. The very idea of idea of a Homeland Security Disinformation Board is a litmus test. Any person who defends the idea is a slaver.