- My Personal Year in Review
- Broken Markets
- Market Valuations
- Market Sentiment
- Stock Buybacks
- Indexing and Exchange-Traded Funds
- Miscellaneous Market Absurdities
- Long-Term Real Returns and Risk Premia
- Housing and Real Estate
- Inflation versus Deflation
- Corporate Scandals
- The Fed
- North Korea
- Middle East
- Links in Part 1
- Natural Disasters
- Price Gouging
- The Biosphere and Price Gouging
- Civil Liberties
- Harvey Weinstein and Hollywood
- Political Correctness–Adult Division
- Political Correctness–Youth Division
- Campus Politics
- Unionization: Collum versus the American Federation of Teachers
- Political Scandals
- Las Vegas
- Links in Part 2
A warning for those who proceed
Part Two is contentious indeed
The "P***y Generation”
May feel agitation
From all of the truth that they read
“God always forgives. Man often forgives. Mother Nature never forgives.”
It’s easy to overlook how much Mother Nature batters the world, but this year she tore a new one through North America.313 Wildfires and extraordinary temperatures are scorching California. Los Angeles witnessed 104°F on October 4th (seems high).314 San Francisco had back-to-back triple-digit days for only the third time since 1870, reaching 115°F south of the city.315 Record-breaking wildfires are destroying neighborhoods, vineyards, and forests throughout northern and southern California.316 The risk of floods after forest fires is enormous.317 Rains earlier in the year took out the spillway of the Oroville Dam in the Sacramento Valley, threatening a Biblical flood for those downstream.318
"Yellowstone super volcano may blow sooner than thought—and could wipe out life on the planet."
~USA Today headline
Earthquakes and volcanoes have been capturing imaginations of late. A devastating earthquake in Mexico went underreported because of bandwidth-sucking hurricanes (see below).319 For decades, Oklahoma has averaged only two earthquakes a year above a magnitude of 2.7. That number has crept up to 4,000 per year, all attributed to fracking.320 The big one, however, is the Yellowstone Caldera. Six hundred thousand years ago, an eruption created the 40-mile-wide caldera that is now rising more than an inch per year and is accompanied by unusual “swarms” of earthquakes.321 NASA suggests drilling into the super volcano to dissipate the heat with water.322 And you guys call yourselves rocket scientists? Please do not touch it. The prospects of generating electricity may explain the plan: there is money to be made.
“Irma, you just became the strongest storm, what are you going to do next?
I’m going to Disney World!”
Of course the big story was Harvey and his friends. Not Steve Harvey, who crowned the wrong Miss America, or Harvey Weinstein, who probably assaulted her, but rather Hurricane Harvey along with Irma, Jose, Maria, and the rest of the near-record-breaking alphabet. Irma was showing up on seismometers.323 The Caribbean Islands got totally weedwacked; it is difficult to imagine how those areas will ever recover. Mother Nature seems to be trying to take back the Everglades; it was never really meant for human habitation in the first place.
The aftermath of the hurricanes is what interests me. Economists grope to find silver linings in the destructive forces of storms. Auto industry analysts, for example, claimed that the 2017 hurricanes solved the industry’s massive inventory problem.324 Indeed, it is a new-era cash-for-clunkers program, but somebody has to pay that tab. Then there is the wholly misguided notion that a post-disaster, debt-fueled spike in GDP owing to rebuilding is good for the economy. Such idiotic thinking—so-called Bastiat’s broken window fallacy—has been fully debunked in entry-level economics textbooks.325 Once in a while, however, some unsuspecting Bieber-bright boob can’t resist:
“The long-run effect of these disasters unfortunately is it actually lifts economic activity because you have to rebuild all the things that have been damaged by the storms.”
Embedded in such buffoonery is also the message that the Fed views fueling economic growth as “unfortunate,” which is oddly consistent with its actions. Moving along, let me digress by looking at some disasters from the past. I have a point to make.
1835: A massive fire destroyed much of Georgetown, VA. The fledgling federal government created one of its first social programs by giving the hapless victims money. As the story goes, a farmer told Congressman Davy Crockett that he would not vote for him again because of Crockett’s support for the relief: “What protects me from Congress giving even more money next time or money for a lesser cause?” the farmer queried. Crockett had his come-to-Jesus moment and purportedly gave a famous tongue-lashing to Congress saying, “It is not yours to give.”326
1889: As described in David McCullough’s The Johnstown Flood, an earthen dam in Johnstown, PA, washed out, killing 2,300 residents. Industrialists from Pittsburgh sent trainloads of goods immediately. Government troops showed up two weeks later to help with law and order.
2001: Planes hit the Twin Towers. Boats spontaneously converged at the southern tip of Manhattan. The Coast Guard, recognizing the problem, put out a call for all boats to come. Without organization or planning, 800,000 people were evacuated—more than were evacuated from Dunkirk, France, during WWII—in 14 hours. You must watch “BOATLIFT: A Tale of 9/11 Resilience.”327 Try not to tear up.
2005: Katrina hit New Orleans, and the levees failed. Walmart sent a fleet of trucks with essential goods but were turned back by FEMA, which was doing a “heckuva job.”328 The nation watched in horror as 1,800 people died.329 The display of “bystander bias”—inaction caused by the belief that somebody else (FEMA) will act330—may be the most horrific in U.S. history.
2011: Hurricane Irene veered away from New York City, where journalists waited with great anticipation. It thwacked northern New York and Vermont instead, causing rivers to rise almost 30 feet.331 My wife became a volunteer relief coordinator while on vacation. FEMA showed up two weeks later, applied one Band-Aid, put up a banner for photos, and left. Soon thereafter, I joined my wife to find new temporary bridges, hundreds of miles of new roads, and recovery in progress.
2017: Hurricanes hit Puerto Rico and Houston particularly hard. The now-famous Cajun Navy, still smarting from Katrina, spontaneously headed to Houston with boats in tow (Figure 38).332 The navy was staffed by folks of marginal means and of the type the progressive left is quick to call white supremacists. The Antifa Army, by contrast, was nowhere to be seen. J. J. Watt of the Houston Texans raised $35 million from 200,000 donors for hurricane relief. Contrast this response with that in Puerto Rico.333 U.S. air carriers tried to get to San Juan before the storm; a heroic Delta Airlines crew made it.334 Post-storm relief stalled for weeks as political battles and government graft prevented the distribution of goods and services.335 Where was the Clinton Foundation? Still screwing up Haiti?336 William Dudley arranged to have a jet loaded with pallets of cash sent to the stricken island.337 Nice gesture, Bill, but they needed food and medicine. I wonder who got the money.
Figure 38. Cajun Navy and Antifa Army.
Here’s my point. Government response often sucks. By contrast, citizens will step up to the plate if they are unimpeded by government and bystander bias. I submit that far fewer would have died in New Orleans if FEMA didn’t exist. Knowing that it was us or nobody, We the People would have saved We the People.
“Anyone who chooses to not heed this directive cannot expect to be rescued and should write their social security numbers in permanent marker on their arm so their bodies can be identified. The loss of life and property is certain. Get out or die.”
~Official message from a judge to one Texas county during Harvey
There is also another important message: preparation for disaster is key. Figure 39 shows possible responses when disaster looms. My worldview changed with Y2K. I detected risk and mitigated it by preparing accordingly. Others did nothing. Who was right? I knew you’d get that wrong: I was right. The ant was right, not the grasshopper, as was the third little pig—not because of what happened but because of what could have happened. If you are in Miami and trying to buy water, food, gas, or transportation with a storm looming, you are not preparing: you are responding. An iconic photo of a woman being given the last generator after Hurricane Irma to save her potentially dying father shows the generosity of the human spirit but begs the critical question:338 Why didn’t she already own a generator?
Figure 39. When hurricane winds, fires, tornadoes, and floods threaten.
Half of Houstonians had no flood insurance.339 Half of all Americans have no emergency supplies in their homes.340 Even fewer have fire extinguishers. Which of the following items would be really nice to have in the aftermath of a hurricane?
Plywood Generators Food
Bottled Water Chain Saws Tank of Gas
Ice Flood Insurance Duct tape
How much does it cost to have a chain saw, 100 pounds of rice and beans, some tarps, flashlights and batteries, and bottled water before the crisis? $400 or $500? Are these items more valuable as you stare into the teeth of a hurricane? Certainly. Without them, you may join the ranks of undocumented shoppers (looters). A viral photo of a nun with a chain saw (Figure 40) reminds you how fortunate it is to have a chain saw (and makes you wonder how long before it catches her flowing habit and takes her to the pearly gates). The Northmen hit by Hurricane Irene recovered quickly because they all have tools, skills, and a work ethic that would knock your socks off. They’re always prepared. What do we do about the poor in Houston or Puerto Rico? I don’t have an answer; they always get screwed. If the rest of us are prepared, however, FEMA can focus on them. Like I said, they always get screwed.
Figure 40. Nun with a chain saw.
Other disasters are harder to anticipate. I was shocked at how fast the California fires moved. I was in a fire in high school. Contrary to TV dramas, you have seconds to get the hell out. (Try doing so buck naked from a second-story window with temperatures at –2°F.) I have no idea how to prepare for earthquakes except to stay out of California. For the Yellowstone Caldera? Finish that bucket list.
“Price gouging . . . a pejorative term . . . a seller spikes the prices of goods, services, or commodities to a level much higher than is considered reasonable or fair.”
Which government agency is in charge of determining what is “reasonable or fair”? Most find charging people more when they really need something ethically repugnant. Let’s ponder a few examples. Utility linemen are paid handsomely to leave their families and help hurricane recovery. That seems fair. Nobody bitches that the insurance companies pull in their shingles when the hurricane is imminent; it’s just business. My dog kennel raises fees during the holiday season. Those bastards! The captive audience at the movie theater gets totally gouged for that bucket of stale popcorn slathered with WD-40, but you don’t have to buy it. (Would butter really cut into your profits that much?) The business model of Uber causes prices to spike when demand exceeds supply, which has the effect of pulling drivers out of their houses and, in turn, driving prices back down (pun intended). What a curious concept: high prices generate supply. I smell a Nobel Prize. The price of bottled water seemed to soar at Best Buy before one of the hurricanes (Figure 41).341 Now we’re talkin’! An unvarnished example of price gouging. You know it when you see it, but are you sure?
Figure 41. Price gouging at Best Buy.
When the hurricanes arrive, the battle against price gougers commences. Hotlines are set up to report evildoers. The South Carolina Homeland Security Act of 2002 imposed penalties of up to $1,000 and as many as 30 days in prison for charging “an unconscionable price” for 30 days after the declaration of an emergency by the president or governor.342 The Florida attorney general got ahead of the problem this year (Figure 42):
Figure 42. War on price gougers.
Here’s a few questions: Aren’t the supplies needed for hurricanes more valuable during hurricane season than during the months on either side? Wouldn’t it behoove people to do their shopping during quiet periods? Do you think that woman in Figure 43 would be so slovenly greedy if the price of bottled water rose with demand? Maybe the woman behind her wouldn’t be forced to say, “Hey bitch. How about sharing?” I know: let’s add anti-hoarding laws! Let's create a Bottled Water Authority (BWA) to determine what is reasonable and fair. The free marketeers have a simpler solution: Let prices move freely, and a few hurricanes with spiking prices would reinforce the merits of planning. I bet $4 per bottle might help quench that seemingly insatiable thirst of our intrepid hoarder.
Figure 43. Hoarding and shortages.
And since you forgot to ask, who are these price gougers? Local businesses would be committing professional suicide if they price gouged their neighbors. Big chains like Walmart would suffer huge reputational damage. Best Buy certainly did for those bottled water prices, but look carefully at Figure 41: you can see through those laser-printed signs. The picture is photoshopped. Best Buy couldn’t take the time to prove its innocence and began apologizing for its rogue employee.343
The only so-called price gougers are entrepreneurial folks who take time away from family and job, fill trucks with needed goods, and at great personal and financial risk, enter the disaster zone hoping to make a buck. If you add additional legal risks to the ample risks already present, they will not come. “But…but…I need stuff and will be happy to pay!” Tough luck, dude. It’s not fair to the disadvantaged.
In short, price gouging laws impede the arrival of needed goods and services. No matter how ethically itchy—no matter how much it triggers you—the free market will find the price that is fair and reasonable. The prospects of making huge profits will generate more supply, arbitraging the price back to “fair and reasonable.” If you feel the need to help the poor, as members of a civilized society are often wont to do, add credit to some food stamp cards. Entrepreneurs will bring handheld, battery-powered card swipe devices. Send Bill Dudley down with pallets of money. What’s good enough for Puerto Rico and even Afghan warlords may be good enough for us. Of course, Davy Crockett might disagree, but he’s dead.
The carnage of natural disasters is mitigated by preparation, good Samaritans, the force of free market capitalism, and in total desperation, even pathetically inept federal assistance programs. Price gouging laws inhibit the natural flow of goods and services. Some will not see the merits of my case and be offended. Have a ball.
“Bring out your dead.”
Mother Nature took a whack at the world’s health through the biosphere. Epidemics are beginning to reappear owing to the drop in the vaccination rate. (Sorry anti-vaxxers: I think the scientists have this one right.) A dozen teenagers contracted rabies from having carnal relations with a donkey.344 In a no-questions-asked announcement, authorities sought anyone who had “approached” and “admired” the animal closely. You guys haven’t heard of condoms? There is a bubonic plague emanating from Madagascar (east of Africa in the game Risk.)345 Plague cases are common in the Southwest US, but history shows that you don’t want it getting out of control.
Of more dire long-term concern, pharmaceutical companies appear to be losing the war against bacteria. Vancomycin was so important as the last line of defense that it was kept under lock and key. Hospitals now use it routinely: did it lose its prominent role or did the medical community simply get sloppy? An antibiotic-resistant superbug in China is said to be an “alarming evolutionary event.”346 Big-cap pharma can’t get antibiotics to market before they start losing efficacy, forcing companies to abandon their antibiotic development programs. Although technically not a health problem, the backyard mosquito situation is being dealt with by “scientists” who are about to release 20 million genetically engineered mosquitos.347 Hope you guys know what you’re doing.
The challenges to pharma companies, ironically, take us back to price gouging. We all know the face of price gouging:
Martin Shkreli was finally convicted of terminal smugness when he offered $5,000 for a strand of Hillary’s hair.348 But the debate is deeper and more nuanced, as illustrated with three examples.
Eli Lilly cranked up the price of insulin at a brisk annual compounded rate (Figure 44).349 The unseemly profits are difficult to find: a zero percent annualized capital gain over 17 years suggests that they are either hiding all this cash in secret accounts in the Caymans or that pharmaceutical research is remarkably costly.
Figure 44. Price of insulin and zero percent annualized return (ex-dividends) of Eli Lilly.
Novartis is marketing a single-dose chemotherapeutic agent for $475,000:350 living another 50 years? Priceless! (Figure 45a) Critics of the price haven’t wrapped their brains around the cost of development and production. Novartis is not printing money either, returning capital gains (ex-dividends) of 3 percent annualized to investors over the last 20 years.
Figure 45. (a) Novartis’s 3 percent annualized returns boosted by $475,000 cancer treatment,
and (b) Mylan’s 1 percent annualized gains owing to soaring EpiPen prices.
Mylan offers the most instructive example (Figure 45b). It cranked up the price of EpiPens while the share price shows a 1 percent annualized gain over 15 years. Business Insider gloated with schadenfreude:351
“Mylan’s EpiPen—the center of one of the many blistering scandals in Big Pharma price gouging—is getting hammered in the market, as competitors have burst on the scene.”
Competitors bursting on the scene brought down the price? Where have I heard this before? Once again, unimpeded price discovery cures what are perceived to be unfair and excessive prices. Alas, with this kind of arbitrage, the pharmaceutical industry could become not-for-profit, possibly even nationalized. Progressives call this a victory. I’m kinda hoping they stay viable.
"A Hockey Fan Stabbed in Head With Screwdriver Refused Treatment Until Game Ended"
That is not me. I have little time now to watch sports, but there were some truly stupendous performances that caught even my inattentive gaze. Alex Honnold climbed the 3,000-foot of sheer cliff face of Yosemite’s El Capitan without any ropes or other climbing gear (free climbing).352 The only other guys who tried it are dead. Tom Brady engineered a miraculous comeback from a 25-point deficit to beat the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI. Amazingly, the Patriots won it with fewer scores than the Falcons—7 versus 8—at the end of the regular play, which according to democratic football fans, means that the Patriots stole the Super Bowl. UFC champion Conor McGregor shocked the world by going toe-to-toe with Floyd Mayweather Jr., winning the first few rounds before losing in a 10th-round technical knockout. (I saw it; he was great.) Conor pissed off professional whiners by claiming, “I turned him into a Mexican tonight” (made him fight scrappy).353 Mayweather then shocked the world by announcing he was a Trump supporter.354 To that, Conor said, “Fook ’im.”
I detest end zone displays—act like you’ve been there before. That said, a Tulsa wide receiver had his touchdown negated owing to a single strut-like stride en route to the end zone.355 Let’s start with the clown who feigned lifting his leg on the goalpost. A softball team of 12- to 14-year old girls got booted from the Junior League World Series after several of them flipped the bird to an opposing team in a social media photo.356 I have mixed emotions on this one: it was a good lesson, but harsh. Not speaking of baseball, you wanna see Major League Baseball’s 2030 home run champion? Check out the bat speed on this beastly 12-year-old slugger.357
“Colin has to make up his mind whether he’s truly an activist or he’s a football player. Football is commercial. You have owners. You have fans. And you want to honor that if you’re making that kind of money.”
~Jim Brown, white supremacist
Colin Kaepernick created quite a stir in the NFL. I supported him last year when he explained that he’d simply had enough of the clowns running the country.358 Triggered by inflammatory tweets by the POTUS, the NFL and the greater sporting world found itself in a full-Nelson headlock from which it couldn’t seem to extract itself and paid dearly in lost revenues and millions of viewers (Figure 46). This comes at a time when concussions are causing the league serious trouble. The NFL has strict rules about behavior (on the field at least). Previous displays that broke from these rules, no matter how meritorious to the common man, have been stopped cold. You demonstrably cannot take a knee to pray, mourn 9/11, display support for fighting cancer, support dead police officers, or oppose domestic violence.359 (There’s some irony.) Some say the outrage against the take-a-knee movement is racism. I say it is the change from common men with uncommon football skills leaving it on the field every Sunday for low pay to a bunch of overpaid prima donnas (who still leave it on the field every Sunday). They are also millennials, but I draw a line at calling them snowflakes. Other sports seem to have avoided the take-a-knee dilemma by nipping it in the bud. In a moment of hilarity, one chap in Major League Baseball was the only one to take a knee to oppose injustice and then was arrested the next week for jamming a gun in the face of a fast-food worker.360 Injustice indeed.
“You’re free to take a knee during the Anthem. POTUS is free to criticize you. And we’re free to turn you off. And that’s what’s happening.”
~Joe Walsh (@WalshFreedom)
Figure 46. Veteran’s Day boycott of the NFL.
Viewers wish to escape to the now largely color-blind, apolitical world of sports. Many detested Carter for boycotting the 1976 Olympics in Moscow. I certainly did. More recently, ESPN’s demographers led them astray, steering them toward highly politicized messages. It came to a head when Jamele Hill blasted President Trump as a “white supremacist.”361 After a stern warning, she advocated boycotting NFL advertisers who opposed taking a knee.362 Predictably, ESPN suspended her. Even more predictably, liberals (including Reverend Al Sharpton) proposed boycotting ESPN.363 Can’t we just all “play ball”?
The FBI investigated coaching legend Rick Pitino at Louisville after being ratted out by rivals for cheesy recruiting tactics. Whatever. Here’s my gripe. The big programs bring in athletes and immerse them in college sports. Kids who could have done well in school end up in sports dorms that seem unlikely to be conducive to academic performance. Other athletes cruise through college doing nothing—fraudulent levels of nothing. Why not teach them life skills—some carpentry, electrical work, possibly accounting to help them run a small financial enterprise? We all saw Hoop Dreams and know how it ends for most of these man-children. Send them home with a prayer of being something other than a failure.
I am going to take a brief shot at supporting Title IX’s roles for promoting women’s sports. I was irate at what universities did to minor men’s sports to be Title IX compliant. As I watch women’s sports flourish, however, I find myself concurring that the ends justified the painful means. I used to spar undergraduate men and women on Cornell’s tae kwon do team. I could see women’s growth point blank—well inside their personal spaces. Driving by athletic fields watching young girls go toe-to-toe in some seriously ferocious combat warms my heart: they are developing life skills.
Enter transgenderism. We now have the most socially complex problems brewing as formerly pre- and post-pubescent boys and girls transition to become young girls and boys, respectively. It is no shock that the nouveau girls are competing rather effectively in girls’ sports. A young girl who formerly wrestled as a boy and wished to remain in the boys’ division was forced to wrestle in the girls’ division (Figure 47a).364 She is doing very well. Others are winning high school track and field championships365 and weight lifting championships366 and even rocking the octagon of the UFC.367 We just got women’s sports up to speed with serious support: don’t screw it up now. I suspect that most parents of young daughters do not wish to watch them get beat by a former boy bringing huge genetically derived advantages to bear. Eight members of Iran’s women’s soccer team are “men awaiting gender reassignment” (Figure 47b). That’s remarkably progressive for Iran. A former nationally ranked men’s handball player in the UK is waiting for the courts to rule on him playing in the women’s league. Let’s be really progressive. Let’s let what have been called “women without vaginas” by the LGBT community compete in men’s sports. It all makes me wonder if there is any activity in which you cannot simply take the boys and girls off in their respective directions and let them develop.
Figure 47. (a) Transgender wrestler and (b) Iranian women’s soccer team.
I’ll finish with a few Snapple cap moments. Tennis star Boris Becker lost the last of his €100 million fortune in part because of questionable investments in the Nigerian oil industry.368 Pete Rose hermetically sealed the Hall of Fame by admitting sexual relations with a teen in the 1970s.369 Tiger Woods went through a painful and personal descent, but I suspect redemption is in his future, as he posted one of his lowest scores in years.370 He has the right stuff. Although Johnnie Cochran is dead, Marsha Clark writes murder mysteries, Judge Ito retired, and Christopher Darden is one fat bastard, OJ is now out and planning his next career move. Although many feel he got off easy, the punishment was appropriate if not severe for the conviction of armed assault. Jerry Rice is rocking, making a hobby of crashing weddings for photo ops as a lark.371
“I don’t care where OJ is as long as he’s not standing behind me with a butcher knife.”
~Christopher Darden on MSNBC
"Even under the best forms of Government, those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny."
"Tyranny naturally arises out of democracy, and the most aggravated form of tyranny and slavery comes out of the most extreme form of liberty."
~Socrates as relayed by Plato
I’ve railed on the erosion of civil liberties in past years, taking the side of inner-city victims of police brutality in one year and the side of the police in another. But it’s not just the big breaches. You give up civil liberties one at a time, and it’s like a diode: you don’t get them back. Irrespective of my views on gun control, the NRA model of fighting every fight—don’t give an inch—is exceedingly logical.
The War on Big Soda continues. What began as a tax on Big Gulps in NYC morphed into a tax on all sugary soft drinks in Philly.372 It had the effect hoped for by progressives: it decreased consumption. But it also demonstrably hurt small businesses. Store owners are reporting a 30–50% sales drop to explain employee layoffs.372 These so-called “sin taxes”—taxes that sell well to the public because they sound moral (and the public is gullible)—are despicable, in my opinion. I do not want the State deciding morality through taxation. They are coming for your cheeseburger, salted snacks, fossil fuel cars, and anything else that some municipal government employee lacking a life wants to tax.
“Civil asset forfeiture” is starting to get the attention it deserves, but this decidedly totalitarian tactic shows only hints of abating. Civil asset forfeiture is when cops confiscate your assets because they suspect you’re a criminal and fail to return them even if no arrest, let alone a conviction, is made. Last year, it was reported the cops now steal more than crooks.373 Connecticut has pushed back by demanding that the confiscation be part of a lawful arrest and returned if there is no conviction. Sounds good until you look at the numbers on plea bargaining, which secures the conviction for those who cannot afford to fight—particularly after losing all their assets. And even with that yawning loophole, the Department of Justice is pushing back by giving police federal laws to hide behind in states trying to impede confiscation. Arizona police may confiscate assets from those involved in demonstrations that could evolve into riots.374 How many Constitutional amendments does that trample? Approximately half the states lack explicit mechanisms to track the assets: they do not itemize what they steal.375 Try reading Radley Balko’s Rise of the Warrior Cop or Matt Taibbi’s The Divide. Here is my personal promise to society: if it ever happens to me, I will get even. It might entail a manifesto, but it’s the least I can do.
While on that topic, 84 percent of drug arrests were for possession, and 38 percent of those possession arrests were for pot.376 New changes in reporting policies will make that distinction difficult to tease out. A guy was boiled to death in a correctional facility shower rigged for punishment.377 A court ruled that his civil rights were not infringed upon. Indeed, you cannot find “boiling” in the Constitution.
Recent WikiLeaks revelations show that the CIA and FBI knew about a gigantic security hole in our smartphones but left it there for spying.378 Why am I not shocked? It seems that we have given up every shred of privacy in the digital world, but we should still fight to keep authorities from using the data to hurt us. Employers are using sensors to monitor employees.379 Cell phone searches of U.S. citizens reentering at the borders involve authorities demanding your password. Don’t give it up. This country exists because the founding fathers and their friends did not phone it in.
The Road to Ruin will occur in incremental steps because we didn’t stand up and declare enough is enough. Some absurd examples follow:
Teenagers in Gardendale, AL, must pay $100 for a license to mow lawns.380
Seattle may license dog walkers.381
You are now paying fees merely for being arrested.382
Missouri requires at least 1,000 hours of training to legally braid hair.383
Speeding ticket: $293. “Convenience fee” for online payment: $9. Hurling my computer through the window: priceless.
A man got a ticket for an idling, unattended vehicle in his own driveway.384
You can be fined for saying you are an engineer, even if you have an engineering degree.385
Genital mutilation is occurring in the U.S. Do you protect freedom of religion or the young? I’ll let you decide.386
Undercover cops arrested kids for selling bottled water on the National Mall.387
A mother was arrested for leaving a 10-year-old kid unattended in the Lego Store at a mall.388 I was hitchhiking at 12.
U.S. customs agents demanded ID before letting passengers leave a domestic flight.389
A California bill would have effectively made being wrong on the Internet a crime. A digital-rights advocacy group said the bill was “so obviously unconstitutional” that they “had to double-check that it was real.”390 It got pulled.
Laura Southern described a dystopian society and what it would be like if you got locked out of the digital system.391
Across the pond, Italy’s highest court has ruled that masturbation in public is not a crime “as long as it is not conducted in the presence of minors.”392
Occasionally, there is pushback. A court ruled that we have the right to film police in their duties.393 Many police were opposed to wearing body cameras but have come to realize that it may be in their best interest. Equipping them with facial recognition software, however, seems disquietingly futuristic. A judge ruled that one municipality must return $3 million in tickets from stationary speed-trap cameras that were deemed unconstitutional.394 I would love that decision to get legs.
“Antifa is the moral equivalent of neo-Nazis”
Before discussing Antifa, let me first dispense with the Nazi menace. There are bad folks out there. If you see people sporting swastikas, they are likely to be particularly incorrigible and dangerous. Nazis do not scare me, however: they have a wretched branding problem. Just as a food poisoning epidemic from Little Debbie Shit Cakes seems unlikely, a social movement marketed as Nazism is going nowhere. I will reconsider if they reappear under a fuzzy new campaign.
Consider, by contrast, Antifa. It arrived from left field almost to the day that Hillary lost the election. Antifa derives from “antifascist” (although “anti-First Amendment” works too). Antifa loosely translates to “fascists.” Its members wear black garb, masks, and a fancy Antifa logo, all of which is hauntingly familiar (Figure 48). By contrast, their opponents are often referred to pejoratively as “Trump supporters” or, in the limit, “white supremacists,” and they typically do not cover their faces and are often adorned with American flags.
Figure 48. Fascist logo from 1933 and terrorists on the left; Antifa logo and Antifa members on the right. Or is it vice versa?
Antifa caught the gullible off guard, prompting some remarkable defenses of its actions in the early going. CNN tacitly endorsed its catch phrase “Peace through Violence,395 which was soon followed by some serious backpedaling. Prominent figures, including a few republicans, took the bait:
“It’s a falsehood to equate white supremacists or neo-Nazis with those who oppose their ideologies.”
~Janet Napolitano, former governor of Arizona, supporting Antifa
“Antifa is short for anti-fascists. Their main goal is disrupting neo-Nazis and white supremacists, seeking peace through violence.”
“No, not the same. One side is racist, bigoted, Nazi. The other opposes racism and bigotry. Morally different universes.”
~Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts, supporting Antifa
Hey, Mitt: time to strap the dog to the roof and move back to Utah. After considerable consternation and delay, politicians like Nancy Pelosi and Paul Ryan condemned Antifa as a violent group. Antifa appears to be backed by powerful forces (if my mole in the highest law enforcement agency of the country is to be believed). Members of the Berkeley Antifa are rumored to have been recruited from the Oakland gangs.396 Berkeley protests, however, went into riot mode when the protesters realized the police had been told to stand down.397 There is scant evidence that these individuals have a loftier cause than just violence and anarchy.
“Antifa is a radical, anti-American, anti-free market, communist, socialist, hard left, sensorial organization that tries to stop speakers on campuses from speaking. They use violence . . . trying to tear down America.”
~Alan Dershowitz, Harvard University
Antifa warriors wield bats, clubs, pepper spray, fists, and occasionally guns. What complicates this story is that they are joined by gullible youthful activists who have no awareness about the consequences of their actions. The result is an odd brew of violent thugs and LGBT and Black Lives Matter groups, all occupying the same political space with, at times, clashing agendas.398
Memes abound. A violent Antifa warrior got nicknamed “Pepperballs” after getting hit in the crotch by a canister of tear gas.399 He boasted on social media and was promptly charged with four counts of mayhem and one count of stupidity.400 An opponent of Antifa became “Stickman” (Figure 49). He was eventually identified401 and now experiences repeated vandalism to his car.402 Hey, Joe Rogan: A pay-per-view battle of Pepperballs versus Stickman in the octagon would make millions.
Figure 49. Stickman.
Another odd meme emerged when a protester showed serious evidence of camera shyness.403 She soon reveled in the limelight (Figure 50). The blogosphere surmised that she is an Antifa leader. My suspicion is that she is on the FBI payroll. Sources tell me the agency is crawling around campuses. The FBI eventually declared Antifa a “domestic terrorist group.”404 In August, the United Nations put out an “early warning” about domestic violence in the U.S.405 Didn’t seem that early to me, dudes.
Figure 50. “Antifa organizer.”
Antifa appears to have lost some of its virulence, as often happens with any epidemic. It could be an effort to rebrand as something less wretched. Alternatively, the powerful backers may have abandoned the group, quietly recalling the paid-to-play brawlers and leaving the gullible weekend warriors. My advice is to stay vigilant.
I think it would be unfair to blame Antifa for all the mayhem from the left. Those who oddly call themselves progressives have shown a level of verbal and physical violence that surprises those unfamiliar with violent political movements. The “Punch a Nazi” campaign seems unconstructive if not ironic.406 The 82nd Avenue of Roses Parade in Portland, OR, was canceled for the first time out of fear of violence from the left.407 Tennessee felt compelled to make it legal to injure protesters who are blocking roadways and other rights-of-way.408 It eliminates liability when you run somebody over who is blocking your car, provided you were exercising “due care.” I wonder how far you can drive before the people under your axles are no longer blocking you. Moral of the story: stay away from angry mobs.
“I think we’re in a time when we can’t ignore the extremism from the Left.”
~Oren Segal, director of the Center on Extremism
“Hollywood has the best moral compass, because it has compassion. We were the people who did the fund-raising telethon for the victims of 9/11. We were there for the victims of Katrina and any world catastrophe.”
~Harvey Weinstein, 2009
Hollywood stars are the most sanctimonious crowd of insufferable blowhards, wallowing in self-importance and convinced that they are indeed the world. They denounce anything and everything that will make their peers wet their pants. Just watch the Academy Awards. (Plummeting ratings suggest nobody does.)
“I don’t watch the Oscars to get harangued about racism, rape, sex abuse, greedy bankers, global warming, and gay rights. I watch to be entertained. If you want to preach at us, darlings, get into politics.”
~Piers Morgan, British television personality
Meanwhile, right under all their noses, rape and pedophilia ran unchecked. After a series of scandals involving Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly, and even Donald Trump, Ronan Farrow of NBC published a tell-all from a dozen women who described assaults by Harvey Weinstein, one of Hollywood’s most powerful moguls.409
There were hints of Harvey’s behavior, what Hollywood might call “foreshadowing”:
“I've turned down intercourse with Harvey Weinstein on no less than three occasions.”
~30 Rock punch line (2012)
“Congratulations. You five ladies no longer have to pretend to be attracted to Harvey Weinstein.”
~Seth McFarlane, at the 85th Academy Awards (2013)
“If Harvey Weinstein invites u to a private party at the Four Seasons, DON’T GO”
~Courtney Love (2005)
Reading about Harvey is like binge-watching Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Brad Pitt is rumored to have had a chat with Harvey after he misbehaved with his then wife, Angelina Jolie.410 If it had been me, Harvey would be drinking his food through a straw. Other A-listers such as Matt Damon interceded to protect Harvey.411 Non-disclosure agreements also provided protection.412 Sounds legally dubious, but the threat of legal action may have sufficed. Harvey was contractually required to pay his own sexual harassment settlements,413 including bribes offered by legendary attorney David Boies to New York County District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. to not prosecute.414 The most compelling mea culpa from Hollywood came from screenwriter Scott Rosenberg, who declared, “everybody effing knew” and, it would appear, everybody kept their effing mouths shut.415 Amazing how far the moral bar drops when your paycheck depends on it. The DNC got copious donations from Harvey, and I bet they effing knew too (Figure 51). People are now calling for the money to be returned, but to whom? Harvey?
Figure 51. Huma Abedin, Harvey Weinstein, and Hillary Clinton . . . oh, the irony.
Bravo to the dozen courageous women who stepped forward and told their stories—that took some serious ovaries, Dudettes—and to the New Yorker for publishing it after Farrow’s employer declined.416 Hats off to Rose McGowan who really put the bat to Harvey. To Twitter authorities who saw fit to cancel McGowan’s Twitter account that week because she tweeted an F-bomb at Ben Affleck I say, "Well played, you Twits." Special kudos to a couple of guys who spoke out early and were undoubtedly damaged by the predators and the adults who effing knew.
“I can tell you that the number one problem was, is, and always will be pedophilia.”
~Corey Feldman, 2013, on Hollywood
“Powerful figures in the movie business were protecting pedophiles.”
~Elijah Wood, 2016
Condolences to all the showbiz parents whose children died of drug overdoses that may have been caused by more than just living too large. Let’s hope the families didn’t effing know about abuse and keep their effing mouths shut because their little star just needed an effing break.
“. . . (crickets) . . .”
~Corey Haim, deceased Hollywood victim and friend of Feldman
The mix of skanky old men and innocent young girls in Hollywood is probably without parallel, but that’s not to say that it doesn’t occur everywhere. They are being called out daily in droves as I type. Charlie Rose? Matt Lauer? Al Franken? The floodgates have opened. Good riddance to the rest of you biohazards who are losing sleep because you know they are coming for you. Recall, however, that more than 60 people found syringes in cans of Pepsi.417 All were convicted of fraud. We should be measured in our actions and use due process.
“Verbal purity is not social change.”
~ACLU on political correctness
“Political correctness is America’s newest form of intolerance. . . . [I]t comes to you disguised as tolerance.”
~George Carlin, ahead of his time
The transition between a section on sexual assault to one on political correctness is a challenge, but let’s grip it and rip it. At stake is the very existence of free speech, apparently no longer guaranteed by the First Amendment. You know we’ve got trouble when more than 200 ACLU staffers cosigned a letter stating that the ACLU’s “rigid stance” defending hate speech undermines racial justice.418 The mayor of Berkeley’s response to potential violence at a free speech event was to cancel the event.419
“I value diversity and inclusion, am not denying that sexism exists, and don’t endorse using stereotypes. When addressing the gap in representation in the population, we need to look at population-level differences in distributions. If we can’t have an honest discussion about this, then we can never truly solve the problem.”
~James Damore, ex-Googler
One of the big stories of the year was James Damore’s essay, distributed internally while employed by Google, arguing that we must examine gender differences to understand the shortage of women at Google.420 It was feedback to a diversity program. The essay floated around Google and was openly debated. Google prides itself for outside-the-box thinking, but that ceased when it leaked outside the box to the public. My read was that Damore made some good points, although parts seemed a bit risky. A majority within Google supported him.421 Five experts who study gender differences said Damore had done his homework.422 The CEO chimed in:
“We strongly support the right of Googlers to express themselves, and much of what was in that memo is fair to debate, regardless of whether a vast majority of Googlers disagree with it.”
~Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google
Pichai then fired Damore’s sorry ass,423 but not before cobbling together an abbreviated version of the events that omitted some of Damore’s clear statements supporting diversity.424 Ironically, by dismissing Damore’s arguments about inherent gender differences in job choice, Google inadvertently admitted that the company must be at fault for the underrepresentation of women. Damore got a pile of press and some job offers.425 Google got a black eye and may have hermetically sealed its employees into that metaphorical box. Here is the funniest part of all: Damore has friggin’ autism.426 Google fired an autistic genius for a memo lacking social awareness. What an excellent time to be a lawyer.
“There are many actors in the whole Google/diversity drama, but I’d say the one who’s behaved the worst is the CEO, Sundar Pichai.”
~David Brooks, conservative pundit
2017 was a year in which the symbols of white men of yore began tumbling. I am oddly agnostic in some cases and have mixed emotions in others. At first blush, tearing down the history of the southern leaders seems a bit like ISIS tearing down the Mesopotamian past. Closer inspection, however, reveals that the chronology of the erection of these statues coincides remarkably well with periods of racial unrest.427 They were, in some cases, racially motivated statements. The method of removing them willy-nilly, however, seems suboptimal;428 deductive reasoning and logic are often sacrificed when a protest turns into a mob. I suspect, for example, that those who defaced the century-old Francis Scott Key monument in Baltimore think it reflects more of a “racist anthem” than it really does.429 By contrast, I wonder when statues of ex-KKK member Senator Robert Bird will come under scrutiny.
Women’s Pants Don’t Have Big Enough Pockets—And That’s Sexist
~Headline, Affinity Magazine
There is a heap of ideas that just makes you wanna scratch your head. A few follow, in no particular order:
Gone With the Wind was banned from a Memphis, TN, movie theater.430
A Canadian family whose name is Grabher lost its 16-year-running vanity plate because it was suddenly considered misogynistic.431
A guy gave a speech composed entirely of Hitler quotes to the cheers of Antifa activists.432
Donna Hylton helped kidnap, torture, and kill a gay man in 1985. Now out of prison, she spoke at the 2017 Women’s March.433
British doctors have been told to call expectant mothers “pregnant people.”434
A group protesting the NRA has embraced Assata Shakur, a woman convicted of killing a policeman.435
Mexico’s largest university is hosting a conference on feminism with no female panelists.436
The burning of “bourgeois limousines” in the streets of Washington, DC, left a Muslim immigrant with $70,000 in losses.437
Slate declared that deceased liberal pundit Alan Colmes was a “liberal weakling . . . buffoon.”438
A gay coffee shop owner booted Christians from his shop without incurring a $135,000 court-mandated fine.439
In California, health care workers who incorrectly addressed a senior transgender patient using the wrong pronoun can receive harsher penalties than individuals who knowingly infect their sexual partners with HIV.440
Activist Linda Sarsour sought donations for a Hurricane Harvey relief fund that turned out to be a left-wing political fund-raising machine.441
A guy who had two ninth great grandparents “massacred” by American Indians in the late 17th century declared he was owed reparations. (OK. That’s me.)
The company that made and then pulled its “Anne Frank” Halloween costume very much needs some sensitivity training.442
“The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum.”
Underlying the wave of political correctness is a strong undercurrent of new-era racism and gender bias. It is an activist movement that transcends efforts to achieve equality by pushing for reparations. More than 50 percent of white Americans polled by NPR claim that they are discriminated against.443 The FBI reports that white men are the fastest growing targets of hate crime.444 Extremists claim that antagonistic views of whites, men, or the evil combination—white men—aren’t racism or gender bias because such classifications are impossible because of their privilege.445 That is a serious load of crap, but I’m guessing I would get pushback on that view. Many moderates are probably frustrated by the current sad state of affairs but cannot push back without getting tagged as “phobic."
Why Guys Get Turned on When You Orgasm—and Why That’s a Bad Thing
“I don’t think parents should have much of a say in education/curriculum. Parents are not experts. The parent isn’t the consumer.”
~ABC’s The Drum (@ABCthedrum)
Those are fighting words from a clueless idiot to the parents of the world, but they illustrate the problems we face. This is a form of fascism—look up the definition if you must—that achieves its goal by indoctrinating the most vulnerable. I was agnostic on school vouchers, but those days are over. Bring ’em on. Let’s get into just a few problems. Of course, the root cause is not the kids but rather the adults overseeing them. The kids shoulder the damage. I am wildly supportive of the two-career family—I think a mediocre home life destroyed my mother—but it has come at a price. Brilliant women with access to all opportunities have been pulled from traditionally female jobs (teaching and nursing), leaving a bell curve that has shifted to the downside. It also leaves parents less time to pay attention: they’ve got no reserve tank for battling the forces of change.
“I argue that it is possible to imagine a theory that utilizes different philosophical ideas and which therefore would be more compatible with feminist values.”
~Ágnes Kovács, professor at Central European University, on Boyle’s ideal gas law (chemistry)
Here are a few snippets of oddities confronting kids, parents, and teachers:
A pro-Trump tweet supporting an immigration ban got an elementary teacher put on administrative leave.446
A Day Without Women protest by teachers left working women with the insoluble problem of what to do with their kids.447
One hundred middle school kids called in sick to avoid meeting Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and satisfy their parents’ needs (to be narrow-minded douches).448
A teacher helped a student transition by having him go behind a curtain and come out in a dress. She is now a 5-year-old girl.449
A teacher in London had her students write their own suicide notes as part of their studies of Macbeth. Machiavelli’s The Prince should generate some seriously cool homework.450
Teenagers are being taught that you need consent during sex every 10 minutes,451 turning the girls into parking meters and boys into lab rats. The rule is not that confining: they only need 2–3 minutes anyway.
To Kill a Mocking Bird has been banned from some schools because it made students “uncomfortable.”452 That is the purpose of the book!
The Boy Scouts of America has agreed to accept girls because . . . well, just because.453 The heads of Girl Scouts of America are PO’d. There is no boy-centric activity that doesn’t have some parent of some girl trying shove her in.454
A school librarian (Figure 52a) defiantly rejected Melania Trump’s gift of Dr. Seuss books because they are “tired and cliché” (Figure 52b).455
Figure 52. (a) Trump-hating librarian or (b) Dr. Seuss fan?
“Being crazy isn’t enough.”
We’ve also got some serious educational impairment. Common Core math is incomprehensible to many who know math.456 The most benign interpretation is that bureaucrats embedded in the educational–industrial complex have lost their minds. A darker interpretation is that it is a form of social engineering to ensure not just equal opportunity but equal outcome by making everybody ignorant. Societally, we have steadily transitioned from a world in which competition, whether it be winners and losers in athletics or under- and overachievers in academics, has mutated into a world rich in losers toting participation trophies. Valedictorians and class ranks are being replaced with amorphous evaluations. Academic weakness is met with teaching about social justice rather than remedial training. If you tell kids that they are victims, they will believe you. It’s hard to persist at challenging problems when the reason you failed is because you’ve been victimized. There are smart people in the world, but they are vastly outnumbered.
“And let today be a lesson to all; Trump supporters are not welcome on our campus.”
~Grayson Lanza, student and diversity chair, University of Central Florida
“We see on campus extremely badly parented young people who do not like the First Amendment.”
~George Will, conservative pundit
Writing this section presented a serious challenge: I have 79 pages of raw notes describing the insanity happening on college campuses in 2017. They span overt acts of racism, political bigotry, violence, feckless administrators, a powerful diversity–industrial complex, educational rot, and other intellectual enemas. To be fair, the headlines are a tiny fraction of the many fantastically positive things happening on campuses, but the crazies are creating intellectual no-fly zones. The correlation of higher-order reasoning and standard intellectual metrics (GPA, SAT, school reputation) has broken down. It’s getting too dangerous to speak to somebody with differing political views. Jonathan Haidt of NYU argues that this new form of activism “is like a religion in which opponents must be vanquished.” I am reminded of flesh-eating bacteria.
“It’s a shame. Liberals are creating a fantasy land on college campuses that does not exist in the real world.”
~S. E. Cupp, conservative political panelist on Real Time with Bill Maher
Attempts to impart campus codes against hate speech have, with 100 percent fidelity, been batted down by the courts,457 but the ploy is a popular mechanism to curb ideas that are unpopular to the progressives no matter how widely embraced and rational they may be. Although campus anger is a subset of the anger sweeping the country, it has gone supernova since Hillary lost the White House—abandon all ye hope!. The adults charged with ushering Generation P toward adulthood—have you figured out what the P stands for yet?—have, in many cases, abrogated their responsibilities. Allan Bloom foreshadowed it in his widely criticized 1980 book, The Closing of the American Mind. Jonah Goldberg of the National Review attributes the onset of the entitlement movement underpinning the tantrums to Nathaniel Branden’s 1969 paper, “The Psychology of Self-Esteem.”458
“A few students discovered that pompous teachers who catechized them about academic freedom could, with a little shove, be made into dancing bears.”
~Allan Bloom, former Cornell University professor and author of The Closing of the American Mind (1987)
I am forced to edit ferociously and open with a dreaded bulleted list to analyze the tip of the iceberg—just the tip. I swear to God—oops! Sorry. I “guarantee” that none of these are from The Onion.
Harvard is terminating clubs for being exclusionary. The Organization of Asian American Sisters in Service and the Black Men’s Forum got exemptions.459
A Drexel University professor is under investigation for endorsing “white genocide.”460 How long was that guy floating in the harbor?
Hoop earrings have been declared “cultural appropriation.”461 Given their origins, one presumes the Sumerian-Americans raised holy hell.
“I do not for a second support the view that this generation has an unhealthy aversion to engaging differences of opinion. That is a modern trope of polarization, as is the portrayal of universities as hypocritical about academic freedom and political correctness.”
~Lee C. Bollinger, president of Columbia University
“Thinkers invited to talk for a portion of an hour from the right rather than the left and then have dinner with a few people and fly home are treated as if they were reanimated Hitlers."
~John McWhorter, research scholar at Columbia University
Stockton University removed a bust of Richard Stockton, its namesake and signer of the Declaration of Independence, because he owned slaves.462
An academic conference on advanced manufacturing techniques was interrupted for an hour-long workshop on microaggressions.463
A campus guide described a microassault as something like “sitting as far as possible from a homeless person on the subway.”464
“If our mission is founded upon the discovery of truth, how does free speech uphold that value?”
~Pomona College student
A student reporter got booted for asserting that killing apostates and infidels is sanctioned in some Muslim countries.465 At least the administration didn’t lop off his head.
A law student at Edinburgh University is being investigated for committing a hate crime after mocking ISIS on Facebook.466 Bomb ’em? Sure. Mock ’em? Hell, no!
Members of the National Union of Students concluded that whooping, cheering, and clapping at the union’s conference are exclusionary to deaf people.467
A Yale study concluded that smoking pot and drinking lower your GPA.468 The real news would be that researchers found a control group.
“The average person has one ovary and one testicle; beware of statistics.”
Berkeley closed its free audio library because it was inaccessible to the hearing-disabled community.469
Berkeley students protested a standard exam and demanded a “take-home essay with significant time to prepare” in its place.470 If word gets out that you guys need such treatment, you will be unemployable.
A committee at Yale vets artwork to determine whether it is “painful” or “hurtful” (presumably anything with sticks and stones in it).471
Ann Coulter (conservative) gets excluded from speaking at Berkeley, whereas Linda Sarsour (Sharia law advocate) speaks on campuses unopposed.
"[The rioters were] very well-organized and very efficient…They attacked property but they attacked it very sparingly, destroying just enough University property to obtain the cancellation order for the MY event and making sure no one in the crowd got hurt.”
~Déborah Blocker, associate professor of French at UC Berkeley
A University of Minnesota football coach stood up for his players’ “rights to due process” and got fired.472 Some of the players were black. Think about it.
Princeton activists want President Woodrow Wilson’s name removed from the School of Public and International Affairs because he was a “white supremacist.”473 How about because he helped create the Federal Reserve?
Two Columbia University professors told the university president in writing, “We know no one at Columbia who is not upset, chronically and deeply, since the election.”474 Oh FFS, get a life and some diversity training.
A feminist campaign is encouraging people to call out all microaggressions.475 A more inclusive model would be for everybody to tell everybody everything that annoys them. Wouldn’t that be fun?
Illinois State University officials are preparing to roll out a new “bystander training program on microaggressions.”476 These programs are commonplace now.
“There’s something to be said about exposing yourself to ideas other than your own, but I’ve had enough of that.”
~Oberlin College student
A University of Michigan group that criticized the school for failing to promote “diversity, equity, and inclusion” called for a space that will not allow white students.477
Syracuse University’s list of microaggressions includes “avoiding or excluding others.”478 Even if they are douchebags or dickweeds?
University of Pennsylvania took down a picture of Shakespeare in the English department because . . . oh, just take a guess.479
A group at Berkeley has insisted that Barrows Hall, named after a former Berkeley president, be renamed after Black Panther Assata Shakur, a convicted cop killer who escaped from prison in 1979 and was on the FBI’s list of most wanted terrorists.480 How about something neutral like Doofus McDildo Hall?
“My wife @ErikaChristakis spent her whole career working with marginalized populations; has deep, abiding humanity. But still they came for her.”
~Nicholas Christakis, Yale University professor
Yale’s Nakanishi Prize for “exemplary leadership in enhancing race and/or ethnic relations at Yale College” was given to the two students who verbally harangued Professor Nicholas Christakis (see above).481
Student groups at the University of Virginia have demanded mandatory “education” about Thomas Jefferson’s connection to white supremacy.482 You guys accepted an offer at a school founded by a despicable racist? Oh…My…God!
The University of Washington Bothell is offering its librarians social justice training to “interrupt acts of oppression,” such as when a male co-worker speaks condescendingly to a woman.483 What the hell does that even mean? Mansplaining while manspreading?
Schools around the nation are offering courses on “toxic masculinity.”484 Time to look up misandry in the dictionary.
Carleton University removed a weight scale from its gym to promote healthy body image.485 Why not just convert the gym into a dining hall?
Cardiff Metropolitan University banned the use of words like mankind, housewife, manmade, and sportsmanship in the classroom,486 forcing students to the urban dictionary to fill the void.
“You are creating a kind of liberalism that the minute it crosses the street into the real world is not just useless, but obnoxious and dangerous. I want you to be offended every single day on this campus. I want you to be deeply aggrieved and offended and upset, and then to learn how to speak back. Because that is what we need from you.”
~Van Jones, one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People
Harvard is having a “blacks only” graduation ceremony.487 Recall: these are the geniuses who banned all exclusionary clubs. Four hundred years of excellence doing laps around the drain.
Students at the University of London voted to ban 30 publications, including The Sun, the Express, and the Daily Mail.488 How about Guns & Ammo?
Santa Clara University’s student government denied recognition of a pro-capitalism campus club citing the possibility that the group might invite conservative speakers.489
Columbia students were “taking turns” hunger striking to allow time to grab a snack. The university actually put medical personnel on site.490 Including a shrink?
A survey of 4,410 faculty members at Yale showed that three donated to a Republican candidate during the 2016 primaries.491
“We lament political correctness and Stalinism on campuses, but the real crime is the ignorance that empowers it.”
~Victor Davis Hanson, the National Review
An Oxford University student who stabbed her boyfriend (probably ex-boyfriend) was spared a jail sentence because the judge appreciated her “extraordinary talent” and said that a prison sentence would damage her career, as she aspires to be a heart surgeon.492 The judge was apparently impressed by her advanced scalpel technique. I hope they did a psyche consult on her.
In what is called “vicarious trauma,” students at the University of Chicago are demanding reparations for slavery, calling capitalism a “monstrosity.”493
Three members of the “College Republicans” at Cal State—all three of them—have been sued by the “California College Democrats” for opposing increased car and gas taxes.494
A University of Georgia professor adopted a “stress reduction policy” allowing emotionally brittle students to select their own grades if they felt “unduly stressed.” For in-class presentations, he allows “only positive comments.” The administration encouraged him to rethink that one.495 Maybe he can give himself tenure or possibly even a few research grants.
“Everybody is afraid of the students. The students are afraid of the students. The faculty are afraid of the students.”
~Jonathan Haidt, NYU
A professor at City University of New York lamented academia’s support for “standard American English” as part of his “battle against linguistic racism.”496
An assistant professor of philosophy at Rhodes College was bullied by her peers for a paper titled “In Defense of Transracialism.”497 The left is eating its own.
An academic article on colonialism was pulled by the journal editor owing to death threats.498
A banana peel spotted in a tree caused the cancellation of a mixed-race fraternity–sorority retreat.499 A student finally confessed under intense questioning: “I didn’t see a trash can.”
Ohio State offered a safe space for the Trump inauguration.500 Try the library.
“They want a campus where everybody looks different but thinks alike. That is their definition of diversity.”
Conservative students appear to be transferring out of St. Olaf College for safety reasons.501
Students sued a college for not shutting down sexist Yik Yak posts.502
A girl at Scripps College posted a photo with Mike Pence on Facebook. Very cool—a bucket list moment—until the “tyranny of public opinion” from students and faculty commenced.503 I mean, seriously: STFU.
The University of Southern Maine offers courses in “social justice” to raise the school’s lowly 13 percent four-year graduation rate.504 Why not some remedial work on, oh, I don’t know, chemistry?
“It is past time for the racially oppressed to do what people who believe themselves to be ‘white’ will not do, put end to the vectors of their destructive mythology of whiteness and their white supremacy system. #LetThemFuckingDie.”
~ Johnny Eric Williams, professor at Trinity College
Let me make a brief comment about professors getting fired for, not the total detritus in the above quote, but a mere slip-up in the classroom. It is very difficult to get fired as a tenured professor. A woman writing wretched anti-Semitic posts only got fired on a technicality by failing to cooperate with an investigation. The so-called “professor” in many stories is often a lecturer. Lecturers get totally abused in many schools. They are as disposable as diapers, and there are more than you can imagine (like diapers). The average lecturer makes $1,000 per credit hour (higher in affluent schools).505 Teaching 15 credit hours per semester—a superhuman feat—affords the tidy annual salary of $30,000. Now add to that hyper job risk. Driving for Uber has its appeal. One can understand the angry outbursts in class.
“You are a taxpayer-funded school, and the taxpayers expect you to provide an environment of education, not a dystopia of indoctrination."
~Washington State representative to Evergreen State College
I would like to compare two seemingly related campus events. Evergreen State College, located near Mount Olympius, Washington, is a picturesque campus that is progressive by design. Its annual “Day Of Absence” celebrated by students of color involves voluntarily skipping classes to participate in off-campus discussions about race and equality.506 The faculty recognize its merits and make provisions accordingly. It was decided this year that white students should abstain from class instead, prompting an email from Professor Bret Weinstein (no relation to Harvey) suggesting that you cannot mandate other students’ actions. Oh dear. Chaos in 3…2…1… The college president, George Bridges, lacked the skills to do his job and suffered humiliation at the hands of progressives. The students metaphorically ball-gagged him and wrote slogans on his forehead with lipstick. Bridges had a history of being a dipstick when he denounced the University of Chicago’s endorsement of free speech in 2016. The campus descended from protest into total anarchy, with marauding bands of social justice warriors who are comically unscary, although the bats would leave bruise or two (Figure 53).
Figure 53. Bat-wielding social justice warriors.
The aftermath leaves us with Bret Weinstein, shown by a great interview with Joe Rogan to be thoughtful, articulate, decidedly less progressive than a month earlier, and probably looking for a change in scenery. Bret sued Evergreen for $3.8 million and settled for $500,000.507 State of Washington lawmakers have proposed legislation to revoke Evergreen’s public funding,508 calling the students an “embarrassment.” With a 97 percent admissions rate,509 a drop in applicants of more than 3 percent will send Evergreen hurtling toward insolvency even without a push from the state. The nagging question is where else can a student go to take a course in “Gastropoetics?”510 The Evergreen president is being courted by McDonald’s Hamburger University for an entry-level position.
Now we head to the equally picturesque campus of Middlebury College, which is by no measure a safety school (at least not yet). Allison Stanger, a self-professed liberal with an open mind, invited well-known conservative Charles Murray to speak. Protests canceled the talk, and then activists got violent in the parking lot. Both Stanger and Murray wrote of the harrowing ordeal.511,512
“It was clear to me that they had effectively dehumanized me.”
~Allison Stanger, professor of international politics and economics at Middlebury College
“A campus where a majority of students are fearful to speak openly because they know a minority will jump on them is no longer an intellectually free campus in any meaningful sense. . . . If faculty members routinely condemn intellectual thuggery, the majority of students who also oppose it will feel entitled to say ‘sit down and shut up, we want to hear what he has to say’ when protesters try to shut down intellectual exchange. My best guess is that Middlebury’s response will fall short of what I think is needed: A forceful statement to students that breaking the code of conduct is too costly to repeat.”
~Charles Murray, libertarian author
Here is where I veer from the predicted plotline. The protesters were a funny mix of hipsters toting high SAT scores too busy getting validated to have a clue, accompanied by an oddly different group who looked like their studying days were in the rearview mirror (Figure 54). My suspicion is that the latter were Antifa fighters brought in from the outside world. That is not to let Middlebury totally off the hook, however. Dozens of Middlebury professors signed a letter protesting Murray’s impending visit. They wrote, “To introduce him—even to critique his arguments—only lends legitimacy to his ideas as worth engaging with.” The echo chamber is alive and well. However, an equal number condemned the students’ behavior and supported free speech. Middlebury subsequently stood up strongly in support of its right to deny right-wing speakers access to campus.513 Nice job, guys. I think Murray would say that is "falling short of what is needed."
Figure 54. Middlebury student protesters and “student” protesters.
“Men need to feel a cold spike of fear when they begin a sexual encounter.”
~Ezra Klein, editor of Vox, on California’s “affirmative consent” law
Title IX, the U.S. Department of Education’s mandate that universities get tough on sexual misconduct, is a hot topic that got hotter with Trump’s appointment of Betsy DeVos to run the department. Nobody would argue with the goal of Title IX: it is a truism of a civilized society that violence of all kinds should be opposed. However, the marching orders and latitude coming from Obama’s “Dear Colleague” letters sent to universities has created a toxic waste dump of conflicts.514 Schools have taken the position that their success at opposing sexual violence is not measured by their lofty convictions but by a lofty number of convictions. The debate is whether attempts to push back against sexual assault justify abrogation of any semblance of due process beyond a simple coin toss (or worse).
Ideally, university Title IX offices would be staffed with highly competent people trying to find the Wisdom of Solomon while wading through a heap of he said–she said battles. How many instances of sexual misconduct leave a clean paper trail and hard data? Not many. It is a wretched task that, unsurprisingly, attracts people who have a passion for the subject—an agenda if you will—that might be blinding at times. I’m guessing that headlines about Title IX coordinators going rogue bely a mountain of successful and utterly rational investigations and due processes, but the headlines paint a disturbing picture nonetheless.
“When I . . . finished reading all the briefs in this case, my comment was, ‘Where’s the kangaroo?’”
~Judge speaking to a University of California Title IX lawyer
Dozens of Title IX convictions are being reversed in courts; it is now said to be the majority.515 The reversals are not so much about whether the sexual misconduct occurred—so often nobody has the foggiest idea—but whether the college provided minimum acceptable due process. Some cases that seem clear on casual inspection are not. I always presumed, for example, that Emma Sulkowicz—Mattress Girl—at Columbia University felt betrayed by the absence of convincing evidence. She toted a mattress around campus for a year to wide acclaim by many. Maybe so, but Ann Coulter wrote a scathing indictment of Emma, providing gory details of the case that, if correct, show Emma to be a seriously disturbed person.516 According to the Columbia Spectator, Columbia settled a lawsuit with the accused (Paul Nungesser) and “reaffirmed that Columbia’s investigation had found Nungesser not responsible and expressed regret that his time after the investigation was ‘very difficult for him and not what Columbia would want any of its students to experience.’”
“Judge: If everybody on this campus who takes a drink of alcohol and kisses their boyfriend or girlfriend, is that nonconsensual?
University administrator: Potentially, yes.
University administrators have highly varying skills in resolving disputes that arguably are better resolved in courts, and this variation is exacerbated by the mandated criteria and protocols for sexual misconduct hearings. The implementation of these protocols also varies wildly, but the accused is not guaranteed the right to be represented by legal counsel, compel the production of evidence through a “discovery” process, review all existing evidence, obtain a statement of the allegations made by the accuser in advance of a hearing, cross-examine the accuser, or even be guaranteed an unbiased equivalent of a judge.517 In short, the accused lacks the basic foundational rights and protections long established in civil courts that use the preponderance of the evidence standard. (My department’s process for challenging a kid for shaving three points from a test is far more rigorous.) A university lawyer told me that Title IX requires decisions that cannot hold up in a court of law.
Casual sex with two consenting students lubricated by equivalent levels of intoxicants—in some cases any intoxicants whatsoever—is understood to invalidate female consent while removing no responsibility from the male.518 One of the nasty little secrets is that minority students appear to take the brunt of the accusations, which should put progressives in a particularly awkward bind.519 One Title IX coordinator testified that “sexual assault occurs whenever a woman has consensual sex with a man and regrets it because she had internal reservations.” That coordinator is a menace.
“One rape is one too many, one assault is one too many, one aggressive act of harassment is one too many. One person denied due process is one too many.”
~Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education
“A system without due process ultimately serves no one in the end.”
As crazy as campuses have gotten, there will be pushback—a regression to normalcy—and optimists see it already. Activists hate Betsy DeVos, but I see nothing to dislike. Noting excessive “intimidation and coercion,” she is promising to elevate the currently dismal standards of due process.520 Georgia is trying to push sexual misconduct cases into the court system, but there will always be a gray area that schools must wrestle with. Four self-identified feminist Harvard law professors asked the Department of Education to bestow “fairness for all students under Title IX.”521 I do have one bit of advice: if you are a college student in a bar and a guy named John Doe or a woman named Jane Roe approaches you, run for your life. Nothing good will come of it.
“The real question isn’t whether free speech is under threat in the United States, but rather, whether it’s irretrievably lost.”
~Pamela Geller, conservative blogger
“Here we’re going to disagree, and I know we’re going to disagree. As soon as you start suppressing speech, you open the question of who gets to decide . . . and we know, historically, that never goes well.”
~Martha Pollack, president of Cornell University, to an activist said to be Kevin Hines (remember that name)
Tennessee is looking to ban campus “free speech zones,” presumably because they suggest that the remainder of the campus does not allow free speech.522 Texas, Arizona, and even California are working on laws to mandate free speech on campuses,523 although I thought we resolved that about 250 years ago. Some legislatures want to ban classes on social justice.524 I get it, but I would rather let schools sort through their merits. Claremont McKenna College suspended five students who led attempts to shut down a college-sponsored lecture by Heather Mac Donald, the pro-police conservative commentator.525 The new message: speak freely, but don’t prevent others from speaking freely. Heterodox Academy is a growing group of tenured professors (probably more than 1,000 now) that supports the principles of free speech.526 I am a proud member.
“My advice to progressives like myself, and this is advice I give my own daughters who are about to head off to college, is don’t go around just looking for insults.”
Even the students are showing flickering neural activity. A Marxist student group at Swarthmore College disbanded earlier this year after “realizing that its members were too rich and too white to be real commies.”527 Democrats are worried that the generation replacing their millennial allies on college campuses are libertarian, approximating moderate Republicans.528 Freshmen at the profoundly progressive Reed College showed some genitalia by telling upperclassman who were attacking the humanities professors—the humanists for Christ’s sake—to shut the hell up.529
In a stunning display of pushback, Lindsay Shepherd of Wilfrid Laurier University was dragged in front of a tribunal of three faculty that drilled her with repugnant new-era fin-slapping doublespeak for presenting controversial ideas to her class on “critical thinking.” She taped it.530 The backlash was immediate and broadly based. The apologies from the participants and the university were pathetic. It is one of those must-listen moments. In contrast to the pathetic faculty, Shepherd was a rock star. The affair prompted me to watch an excellent discussion by Jordan Peterson, Shepherd, and a number of transsexuals on the issues underlying transgenderism that left all who listened better off.531
“As a university professor, I’m not sure I have any support at all for safe space. I think that you as a student have to develop the skills to be successful in this world and that we need to provide you with the opportunity for discourse and debate and dialogue and academic inquiry”
~Rita Cheng, president of Northern Arizona University
“Incoming students were young and unruly, so confident in their own abilities that they did not apply the requisite level of effort in class. So universities instituted hazing requirements; before their education could begin, new students needed to complete humiliating tasks in order to be purged of their pride, gluttony, and other sins. . . . [T]he students were beaten and humiliated.”
Sometimes the pressure comes from the outside. Dartmouth activists recommended a flag-burning day. Rolling Thunder, a veteran biker group, showed up to defend the flag.532 The students decided to make some of those “vomit omelets” that put Dartmouth on the map53 and head off to the library.
“The dangers of curbs to free speech depends on how powerful the transmission belt is between academia and the rest of the country.”
~Heather Mac Donald, Manhattan Institute
I recommend that those who clash with campus activists contact an organization called the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, or FIRE; it will defend you for free and will do so vigorously.534 And universities are acutely aware of their FIRE ratings. I listen to enough talk radio to know that getting help early is always advisable, and I did. Writers who fight for the ideals of free speech and due process include Laura Kipnis, Ashe Schow, K. C. Johnson, William Jacobson, Emily Yoffe, Cathy Young, Jonathan Haidt, and Lauren Southern.
“American universities these days seem committed to every kind of diversity except for intellectual diversity. . . . Conservative voices and views, already a besieged minority, are being silenced entirely. . . . Freedom of speech and thought is not just warm fuzzy ideas that we find comfortable . . . it’s for ideas that we find offensive. There is an anti-intellectualism on the left . . . an attitude of self-righteousness that says we are so pure, so morally superior, we cannot bear to hear an idea with which we disagree.”
~Fareed Zakaria, CNN host
“A lack of self-reflection seems to be endemic among the campus crazy crowd.”
~Ashe Schow, senior political columnist for the New York Observer
There is a wave of graduate student unionization movements crossing the nation. The stakes are high: each unionized graduate program will provide an annual annuity exceeding $1 million in dues to the national union in perpetuity—potentially over $200 million per year in all. I have numerous problems with the efficacy and influence of a graduate student union—huge heterogeneity of the departments, for example—but that “in perpetuity” part is at the top of the list. It is an irreversible experiment.
A dozen years ago the United Auto Workers showed up at Cornell. Our pro-labor, world-renowned School of Industrial and Labor Relations provided the perfect staging and boots on the ground. I was quite active, but it was the free and open debate of the issues that led to a resounding 2:1 defeat of the United Auto Workers.
About three years ago, the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) showed up, hoping to exploit its friendlier name and the decidedly left-wing shift of campus politics. A multimillion-dollar, three-year effort was launched to grab that annuity. An anti-union group, cofounded by one of my graduate students—what are the odds, eh?—prepared for more free and open debate. The union’s tactics were brilliant: they refused all open debate, instead relying on their worker bees diseminating information of questionable merit behind closed doors. An early email I sent to colleagues to generate awareness fell on deaf ears: we were in a different era. AFT filed its first formal complaint about me. Days before the union vote, when all looked hopeless to me, I sent another email:
“Although we must be circumspect in communications with students, I can be brutally blunt with you: I believe it will be a disaster in the long run if unionization occurs—an existential risk to Cornell’s graduate program.”
~David Collum, email to approximately 200 chairs and department heads
The AFT got mad again, filed another complaint, and posted my email on social media.535 That was their first tactical mistake. The Cornell Daily Sun wrote a highly critical article about me:536
"Professor Publishes Anti-Union Email Days Before Election"
~Headline, Cornell Daily Sun
Seemed a little odd: AFT organizers published the email, not me. In the final line of the unflattering article, I was quoted as saying, “I’m not done,” and I wasn’t. The National Labor Relations Board ruled that I was within the rules. The Sun article led to a friendly and thorough interview by the right-wing Cornell Review, founded by Ann Coulter, that racked up a significant click count.537 The president of AFT, with the support of the sniveling, vote-mongering Senator Chuck Schumer, gave a rallying speech the day before the vote with a telling finish:538
“[This is] the only political piece I’ll say today. I am really offended that somebody who has a lot of power, and who has tenure and who has voice, would actually say in a university that has an ILR school here, that having real labor relations is an existential threat.”
~Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers
Had defeat been snatched from the jaws of victory? The issues must have been hotly debated in those last few days, because the turnout at the polls was a credible 70+ percent. The union was defeated by a remarkably narrow margin of 60 votes (of 2,300 eligible voters). There was some post-defeat wound-licking by the union,539 criticism of Cornell’s dean of the graduate school (Barbara Knuth),540 grousing about the unfortunate role of the AFT,541 and generalized finger-pointing. I mentioned to a high-ranking administrator that Knuth and I were the Sith Lords, to which he responded, “You are the darkest of Dark Lords.”
dox (verb): search for and publish private or identifying information about (a particular individual) on the Internet, typically with malicious intent.
While basking in the tranquility of civilian life, I was hit without warning by a scathing indictment of my suitability to be a department chair by another smear in the Cornell Daily Sun. The piece was authored by the following graduate students, which I refer to as the Cornell Seven:542
Kevin Hines – Robert Escriva – Ethan Susca – Mel White – Rose Agger – Kolbeinn Karlsson – Jane Glaubman
All were active, pro-union soldiers, struck with a sudden burst of self-righteousness. They went through my Year in Review writings and Twitter feed, cherry-picked some choice clauses, added their own special kind of sleazebaggage, and jammed them right up my ass. My favorite was a roofie joke to a friend heading to Vegas (an allusion to the movie Hangover) that was spun as “promoting rape.” Hmm. A little humorless, are we? Well, it was serious enough that I lawyered up with the help of FIRE.543
“I don’t even need to come up with a comeback. Really takes the pressure off.”
~Chrissy Teigen, supermodel
The following Monday, a co-worker in the Cornell Law School, William Jacobson of Legal Insurrection fame,544 wrote a rebuttal—with the skill you would expect from a Cornell law professor—calling for an apology to me (Figure 55). I wrote an email to my entire department (staff, students, faculty) that was also posted publically.545 The union quickly distanced itself from the Cornell Seven, denying that the letter was unvarnished retribution.546 The tide had turned. Jacobson was interviewed repeatedly as the story moved from the blogs up the food chain—ZeroHedge,547 Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit,548 and RedState,549 and eventually Ashe Schow at The Federalist,550 and the Lars Larson Show.551 No Tucker Carlson? My bucket list remains unfinished. The plot: world-renowned chemist—I like that part—and conservative professor had been reamed out by lefties in retribution. RedState referred to them as going “full Alinsky” in reference to militant activist and mentor of Hillary Clinton, Saul Alinsky.
Figure 55. Rebuttal by Professor William Jacobson (Legal Insurrection).
“It’s not a conservative versus a liberal issue. The attacks made against Collum were devoid of any verifiable fact and instead relied on out of context tweets and a thinly-veiled grudge over grad student unionization.”
~Joe Cunningham, RedState
I have some final thoughts. There were some tough days, but support by colleagues, students, and administrators at Cornell warmed my heart. One could chalk the Cornell Seven’s bad behavior to youthful indiscretion, but their average age is likely to be in the high 20s if not older. These loons ensured that I would never be a dean, provost, or president. For that, I am thankful. I do believe, however, that they did some damage. Like so many from the left these days, they like to throw punches and assume there will be no retribution because they have some moral high ground. They seemed clueless that, had they really put me on the ropes, my defense would have involved inflicting unimaginable pain to them through the legal system. They would have been digging out for the last 10 years of their PhD programs.
“Life offers no emotionally safe spaces—statements to the contrary are a crock—but you can take actions to optimize the world around you. The adults on campus are poised and anxious to help.”
~David Collum, email to my department
“To paraphrase Raymond J. Donovan after his acquittal on fraud charges, to what department does Professor David B. Collum go to get his reputation back?”
~William Jacobson (@LegInsurrection), professor of law, Cornell University
I suspect I would not like the Cornell Seven very much. Jane Glaubman calls herself Jane Glaubperson on Facebook. Let me Collumsplain something: that is just sooo clever, but Glaubag has a nice ring too. And then there is Kevin Hines. You, Kevin, are a serious piece of work. Three independent sources concluded that you know the anonymous tweeter @VoiceIScience aka “S U C C MAN” really well. While you attack me for my Twitter feed, that S U C C MAN guy had pinned the following tweet:
That is some serious darkness. I’d love for S U C C MAN to explain what this means.
Many of the Cornell Seven are in fields with tight job markets. Important things will be done in their fields, but they won’t amount to squat if they don’t grow brain stems. You might ask why I listed their names. I will let Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit fame answer that question:
“As somebody once pointed out, SJWs always lie. I’m glad [Jacobson] used all their names, so that they’ll show up in search engines. I can’t imagine that their role in launching false attacks against a famed chemistry professor will help their job prospects. Nor should it.”
~Glenn Reynolds, Instapundit
“Of course, the deep state exists. There’s a permanent state of massive bureaucracies that do whatever they want.”
~Newt Gingrich, former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives
I have notes that are uniformly left-wing scandals owing to my right-leaning bias and the utter failure of the republicans to field a team this year. Who cares about Lindsey Graham or John McCain? (There was, however, a GOP candidate for Congress who claims she had been abducted by aliens.)552 The Republican National Committee was white noise. The section on Trump catches some tomfoolery, but bashing Trump may be the fastest growing sport in America; it’s a crowded field. The scandals herein are Democratic with apologies for the lopsidedness.
“The ‘Overton window’ is an approach to identifying which ideas define the domain of acceptability within a democracy’s possible governmental policies. . . . Proponents of current policies, or similar ones, within the window seek to convince people that policies outside it should be deemed unacceptable."553
The window has been thrown wide open now. Starting easy with some little stuff, Maxine Waters bought a $4.3 million mansion after 40 years of government work.554 Susan Rice is said to have a $50 million net worth as a civil servant with a salary of $172,000.555 Nancy Pelosi has a $196 million net worth on a senator’s salary of $193,000.556 FBI honcho Robert Mueller (see “Russiagate”) has money in hedge funds with $10 million minima (including a Soros-affiliated fund),557 which suggests that the FBI pays well. In an illustration of soft corruption that every ex-president enjoys, the Obamas got a $60 million book contract.558 Must be some high margins in that industry because the top-selling books only move 1–2 million copies.559 Even at the state level, NY governor Andrew Cuomo made almost a cool million selling 3,200 copies of a book.560 The $200 million Clinton empire (vide infra) certainly didn’t come from bake sales. One federal prosecutor looking into Democratic National Committee (DNC) corruption was found dead on a Miami beach from blunt trauma, which has a chilling effect on such investigations.561 Unfortunately, there were even lower watermarks in 2017.
One of the most interesting scandals involved three Pakistani family members—Imran Awan et al.—who’d been handling the most intimate details of 31 Congressional IT servers for 13 years.562 I don’t think it’s xenophobic to question the judgment of the HR department. The Awans were put on administrative leave while trouble was brewing. Meanwhile, Debbie Wasserman Schultz kept them on the payroll—$6 million collectively.563 In what some think was an intentional lapse,564 Imran “lost” a server that was found by a U.S. marine. Congressional security refused to give the server back to Wasserman Schultz, who put on a garish display of sleaze combined with panic, proclaiming, “There will be consequences.”565 Yes, Debbie, you are being set up for a prison term or a late-night romp on a beach in Miami.
Imran put his real estate up for sale, including “motivated seller” in the listing.566 The Awans went with plan B instead: Imran’s brother bought the house with only a 5% down payment, a particularly good deal if you’re fleeing the country anyway. By the time the Awans were indicted, they had liquidated well over $2 million in U.S.-backed assets and property, as much as $800,000 of which they got after Imran’s arrest.567 Hold that thought.
The wife left for Pakistan with some serious cash. Weeks later, Imran wiped his phone clean (with a cloth) and headed for Dulles Airport with $283,000 but got caught.568 He lawyered up with help from connections to the Clintons569—you read that right—and is currently locked up. When the Clintons help you post bail, ya gotta wonder if the Clinton Body Count (vide infra) is about to grow. Of course, Wasserman Schultz is blaming the brouhaha on “Islamophobia.”
“I was presented with no evidence of anything that they were being investigated for. And so that, in me, gave me great concern that his due process rights were being violated. That there were racial and ethnic profiling concerns that I had.”
~Debbie Wasserman Schultz, U.S. representative from Florida, on the arrest of Imran Awan
It gets darker. Federal agents said that, preceding his arrest, Imran acted like a man who’d been tipped off.570 The arrest of Imran’s wife was purportedly blocked by then FBI director James Comey and then deputy director Andrew McCabe.571 (Oddly enough, the Clinton Foundation donated $700,000 to help McCabe’s wife launch a political career.)572 One FBI insider muttered, “When you have a guy’s wife locked up and you’re looking at the husband, you have leverage to get him to cooperate. This is really great leverage, and it wasn’t even put into play.”573 In any event, her escape to Pakistan miraculously sidestepped the FBI at Dulles International.574 Last I heard, she was back in the states, presumably to testify under a protective immunity deal.575 Imran is also being accused of sexual assault for laughs. Maybe this story won’t just go away. Nah. Of course it will.
“The Awan story is—at the very least—a tale of massive government incompetence that seemingly allowed a family of accused swindlers to bilk federal taxpayers out of millions and even put national secrets at risk.”
~Kimberley Strassel, Wall Street Journal
One of the most disturbing scandals that permeates so many stories now is the rot within the FBI. 2016 witnessed the fix in which Comey let Hillary off the hook on the emails. New Freedom of Information Act requests show that the tarmac meeting between Loretta Lynch and Bill Clinton was well known within the FBI, although everyone there fibbed about this.576 The letter exonerating Hillary was also drafted months before 16 witnesses were interviewed and immunity was given to key people.577 Comey testified under oath that the decision was not made in advance. The perjury was safe, of course, because soon Hillary would be president. I have reason to believe (’nuff said) that rank and file agents would like to see the top dogs at the bureau go to prison.
“I can state w/confidence that many intel members now decrying ‘leaks’ of classified info have themselves ‘leaked’ classified info knowingly.”
~Carl Bernstein, investigative journalist of Watergate fame
The leaks from the White House were legendary. The root cause—one of the many root causes—was a decision made by Obama with 16 days left in office that allowed the National Security Agency (NSA) to distribute its cache of dirt to 16 other agencies,578 opening the floodgates of classified information to loose-lipped bureaucrats looking for ships to sink. A 25-year-old federal contractor is facing charges for leaking a classified NSA document to a news outlet in May.579 Her name is, no kidding, Reality Leigh Winner. She’s said to be a few marbles short, threatening to “burn down the White House” and having “pledged her allegiance to the Taliban.”580 How someone clinging to reality by a thread obtained top secret information has yet to be revealed. It is nearly impossible to keep the other leakers straight. National security adviser and Obama holdover Susan Rice leaked a bunch of stuff.581 She was also the one who shopped the Benghazi cover-up to the media.582 When confronted, she declared, “I leaked nothing to nobody,” either masterfully playing a double negative or still working on that grammar thingie.583 She also released names (“unmasked”) a bunch of Trump associates who were “incidentally” spied on during the campaign, a story that was kept under wraps until putative alt-righter Mike Cernovich outed her,584 which prompted Bloomberg to report the leak after parking on the story. In one of those odd coincidences, 60 Minutes did a hit job on Cernovich—an easy target—calling him “fake news” a few days before the Susan Rice scandal broke. I got in trouble for backing Cernovich (see “Unions”). CNN boycotted the Susan Rice story:
“On this program tonight, we will not insult your intelligence . . . nor will we aid and abet the people trying to misinform you, the American people, by creating a diversion.”
~CNN, the biggest sack of garbage in journalism, doing all of the above.
Who is vying to be the next scandalous president? I cannot name any republicans; they all seem so uncompetitive. Of course, there are the obvious Democrats: Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren. The toxicity of a Hillary run has Democratic strategists in a panic. Warren has a few dings but will be a strong front-runner. I betcha New York prosecutor Preet Bharara has his eye on prize: he talked tough on Wall Street without getting enough convictions to piss them off. I’m seeing Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, a military veteran, making the right moves. She has introduced a bill to stop arming terrorists:585 we needed that? Gabbard opposes our efforts in Syria (check)586 and doubts the data hanging chemical attacks on Assad (check).587 Also, liberal leaders seem to oppose her (check).588 Michelle Obama is being drafted in the first round. She looks undented by 8 years in the White House, although dynastic presidencies may be on the decline. Last and certainly least is “Gropin’ Joe” Biden. Biden is not only said by secret service agents to require special handling to keep him away from the “wives and children,”589 but there is also video footage of the perv—lots of it.590 I’m sure he’ll get moral support, at least from Harvey.
Dark horse candidates include Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Oprah Winfrey, and Mark Zuckerberg. The Zuckster is making pathetically awkward moves, inviting himself to dinners with rural folks for surreal photo ops, milking babies, kissing farm animals, denouncing his former atheism,591 and giving $3 million to help fight San Francisco’s housing problem.592 (That’s one bungalow, Mark.) Zuck has, however, hired Hillary’s campaign strategist.593 As to his campaign slogans, I keep wondering what rhymes with “Zuck.”
MSNBC: “Do you have any concerns about the DNC’s involvement in the primary in 2016?”
Chuck Schumer: “I didn’t follow it.”594
I’ll do a little cleanup on the national scene before hitting local politics. Lois Lerner will not be prosecuted for using the IRS to target right-wing organizations.595 She must know where the bodies are buried. Twenty-eight pages of classified documents were released and showed that the Saudis were behind 9/11.596 There’s a news flash. Bush Jr. flew Saudi royals home right after the towers fell in our hastily assembled terrorist-for-oil program.597 Former U.S. senator Jon Corzine was fined $5 million for his antics at MF Global.598 That’s interest on the interest of the money he rehypothecated. A judge dismissed a class action suit alleging DNC bias in the primaries, declaring that it’s not the court’s problem (true according to the law).599 Congress got metaphorically “busted!” when it was outed as a “small business” to avoid Obamacare and for using a taxpayer-funded slush fund to pay civil damages for their multiple sexual misconducts.600 Fighting my professional biases favoring “chemical” castration for the whole lot of them, I vote for a dull butter knife.
And now for some state and local news. Vermont is claiming fraud against economist Jonathan Gruber, the guy who pumped the numbers to make Obamacare look good. Vermont had paid Gruber $400,000 for his advice.601 Chicago mayor and former Clinton hack Rahm Emanuel took 500 contributions at more than $5,000 a pop over two years; 70 percent were explicitly tied to lucrative contracts.602 Ray Nagin, former mayor of New Orleans, got 10 years in the hoosegow for not knowing or bribing the right people.603
“In politics nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way.”
~Franklin D. Roosevelt
“When you lose to somebody who has 40 percent popularity, you don’t blame other things—Comey, Russia—you blame yourself.”
~Chuck Schumer, U.S. senator from New York
“None of this is good for the party. It’s the Hillary Show, 100 percent. A lot of us are scratching our heads and wondering what she’s trying to do. It’s certainly not helpful.”
I swore I would never do this again, but here I am writing about these two (three) grifters because, to put it bluntly, they refuse to get on that damned boat with Frodo. They get cameos in “Political Scandals” and “Russiagate.” In this section, I do a post-election wrap-up.
“[The Clintons] were to soft corruption in politics what Henry Ford was to automobile production.”
~Jesse’s Café Américain
The Clinton Foundation and the Clinton Global Initiative continue doing God’s work to make the world a better place. Just kidding. These two organizations established to launder money to friends and family began wrapping up operations immediately after the election.604 Layoffs were announced.605 Only a skeleton crew remained to carry the last few suitcases of money off to some tropical island. Clinton’s son-in-law closed his hedge fund.606 There was no more influence to sell. The only one standing is Chelsea, but I’ve gotten ahead of myself.
In support of democracy, Hillary wished The Donald well and quietly began turning her fame toward public service. I lied again. She burst into blames giving speeches whining about who caused her stunning defeat, always leaving one conspicuous name off the list.607 She wrote a book, What Happened, which I devoured (not), explaining in detail—naming names—who blew it, again forgetting a conspicuous name. Amazon had to help her, first with a 40 percent discount before it was released608 and then by canceling all the negative reviews that, admittedly, were hateful people who likely didn’t read it.609 With a few keystrokes, Mr. Bezos morphed the book into a highly regarded historical treatise. The Onion suggested the sequel Also What Happened.
“The best thing she could do is disappear. . . . She’s doing harm to all of us because of her own selfishness. Honestly, I wish she’d just shut the f*** up and go away.”
~Another Hillary fund-raiser
To even the untrained eye, the DNC was beside itself trying to get her toxicity off the public stage to rebuild the party. (If they figure that out, the Republicans need to take detailed notes.) Although awareness of sexual assault heightened this year, one can’t help but wonder whether the beatings finally put on Bill for his misbehavior aren’t part of the DNC’s efforts to purge Clinton rot.
“In loving memory of . . . my DNC colleague and patriot, Seth Rich.”
~Donna Brazile, political strategist, from the acknowledgments in her book
Of course, the Clinton scandals don’t just go away, and there are messes to clean up. The Clinton body count inched upward this year.610 For those unfamiliar with this Alex Jones–ready stat, it is a list of people—well over 100—who have a non-zero percent chance of having met their maker at the hands of Clinton operatives. The list is undoubtedly way longer than the real count, which is probably not zero. One intrepid statistician estimated that those within political reach of the Clintons are 1,473 times more likely than the national average to commit suicide.611 Some of the cadavers seem like “long shots,” whereas others are disturbing. Topping the list, of course, is Vince Foster.612 This year, Haitian government official Klaus Eberwein got suicided days before testifying before an anti-corruption commission examining the Clinton Foundation’s role in Haiti.613 He had said his life was in danger. Eberwein was going on record to state that a paltry 0.6 percent of donations to the Clinton Foundation targeted for Haitian relief made it to Haiti. That same week, a GOP strategist from Chicago, Peter Smith, who was on the trail of Hillary’s emails, decided he should kill himself instead of meeting with a Wall Street Journal reporter.614 Friends called foul.615 A Chicago boy swimmin’ wid da fishes? Clinton crony Rahm Emanuel had no comment. Charles Ortel had spoken with Smith right before Smith slipped on a bar of soap and noted, “I certainly didn’t leave that phone call saying, ‘Oh shit, the guy’s at the end of his rope.’”615 As I am putting the 2017 beast to rest, a surgeon scheduled to testify against the Clinton Foundation for its deplorable performance in Haiti decided to, instead, stab himself in the chest with a scalpal.616 I’m sensing a pattern.
“It is particularly troubling and puzzling that [Donna Brazile] would seemingly buy into false Russian-fueled propaganda.”
~Clinton campaign staffers626b
The body count conspiracy, which I happen to believe with appropriate statistical weightings, got a “shot in the arm” when Donna Brazile, former head of the DNC, thanked Seth Rich as a “colleague and patriot” in her tell-all book. In the book and in a revealing article and interviews,617,618 Brazile has mentioned that Seth Rich’s death scared the hell out of her, prompting her to take defensive measures that included closing her curtains.619 She also revealed that the DNC rigged the election because the Clinton Crime Syndicate actually purchased the near-bankrupt DNC lock, stock, and “barrel.” You have to wonder whether Hillary regrets calling Brazile a “water buffalo.”620
Hillary has opened a new scam, “Onward Together,” aimed at funding and supporting a coalition of Democratic groups opposing Donald Trump’s policies.621 Compared with the Haiti relief money, those funds have a better chance of being used as promised. I think we can count on Clinton corruption expert Charles Ortel to keep us posted, unless of course…oh let’s not go there.622
Please, God, Stop Chelsea Clinton from Whatever She Is Doing
~Vanity Fair headline623
As Yoda said, “There is another.” Chelsea is already being groomed for the big time. She joined the board of directors of travel company Expedia—for $45,000 in cash and $250,000 in stock options per year.624 She won’t be eating dog food. Puff pieces are written by friends of the Clintons. Chelsea can, at times, display an almost Zuckerberg-like sense of timing:
“I left the church when I was 6 because it opposed abortion.”
Paternity issues aside,625 Chelsea is her mother’s daughter.
“Having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing. . . . Only ‘stupid’ people, or fools, would think it is bad! We have enough problems around the world without yet another one.”
“We had no relationship at all. . . . I never met him. . . . Have you all lost your senses over there?”
~Vladimir Putin, president of Russia
Which scandal are we talking about? Trump’s collusion? Russian hackers? Hillary’s uranium sales? The FBI’s role in all of it? The media’s incorrigible shilling and whoring? I’ll try to piece it together, because it defined 2017, much to my chagrin. I keep wondering what would’ve happened had there been Twitter during the Cuban Missile Crisis. I also must present what I think is true—choose a narrative—recognizing that I could be waiting for the plane on Fantasy Island. Even The Federalist admitted to being confounded by it all.626 Before plowing into the swamp, I’ve got to confess that for a number of years now I have found myself sympathetic to Putin. He’s no snowflake, but his moves on the global chessboard and role in Russian affairs seem decidedly logical relative to ours; he is tactically maxed out.
“Why pick fights [with the Russians]? $1 trillion to upgrade the nuclear arsenal. Is that where you want to spend your money?”
~Steve Bannon, former chief strategist for the Trump administration
During the election, Trump reasoned that the two nuclear superpowers must coexist. This is a truism that his detractors opposed. The deep state—the military–industrial complex and its lapdogs in DC—didn’t think kindly of a pro-Russia president. The media droned on all year about Trump’s collusion with Russia and Putin’s efforts to rig our elections. The election investigation was run by stern FBI agent Robert Mueller. We were told that $100,000 of Russian-sponsored Facebook ads—half of them posted after the election—swung the election.627 That’s a special kind of stupid. Maybe they were just ads. Facebook wiped the data after completing its analysis to avoid outing some serious morons inside the system.628 No joke: CNN reported that Russian “troll farms” weaponized the video sensation Pokémon Go to stir up racial divides to rig the election.629 It would be more credible to claim they hacked our appliance microchips to leave spots on our dishes and burn our leftovers.
Project Veritas caught CNN producer John Bonifield on tape saying that the Russia–Trump collusion is crap stirred up for ratings.630 Why would he open his piehole to a stranger? There was beer, and she was blonde. Jimmy Carr, another CNN genius, also confessed to a flirtatious blonde that viewers are “stupid as shit.”631 Only the ones who watch CNN. Liberal pundit and Trump hater Van Jones said, “the Russia story is a big nothing burger.”631 Van is enigmatic; he dovetails rational, insightful analysis with social gibberish.
“The principal problem for Democrats is that so many media figures and online charlatans are personally benefiting from feeding the base increasingly unhinged, fact-free conspiracies.”
~Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald), The Intercept
Unbeknownst to Trump (maybe not), one of his opponents in the Republican primaries paid a British intelligence agent, Christopher Steele, to dig up dirt on The Donald.632 The so-called Steele dossier got shopped by Republicans like McCain but was not used.633 (What a disappointment McCain has been.) Within 24 hours after the polls closed, Team Clinton and the DNC concocted the Russian collusion story and picked up the tab for the remainder of Steele’s investigation—a tab that Reuters puts at $12 million.634 The Washington Post reported that a law firm used by Team Clinton transferred money to Fusion GPS, a company that specializes in “opposition research,” digging up dirt for character assassination.635 There is a special place in hell for those guys. The New York Times connected Obama communications director Anita Dunn to the dossier.636 Where it gets surreal is that the FBI helped transfer some of the payments.637 As I am putting this Year in Review to rest, FBI agent Peter Strzok is being excoriated for being pro-Hillary in a vast number of investigations and possibly putting his fingerprints on the dossier.638 Lest we forget, J. Edgar Hoover ran the FBI as a dark ops agency for decades.
“Unlike the Dems, I didn’t sabotage Bernie Sanders in the primaries, then try to cover my tracks with ludicrous Russia conspiracy theories.”
~Jill Stein, former presidential candidate
Eventually, the Steele dossier was debunked. Steelegate? Byron York of the Washington Examiner said the FBI was unable to corroborate any of the dossier’s assertions.639 You knew the debunking was real when Democrats hightailed away from it in their talking points.640 Tucker Carlson couldn’t get a Democrat on his show.641 Reporters began expressing irritation that Democrats had lied (face in palm).642 CNN had three high-level resignations over the fake and retracted Russia collusion story.643
“Tom Perez and the new leadership of the DNC were not involved in any decision-making regarding Fusion GPS.”
The Nation, a left-leaning magazine, returned to its roots as true journalism with a striking disclaimer from its editor:644
“For more than 150 years, The Nation has been committed to fearless, independent journalism. We have a long history of seeking alternative views and taking unpopular stances. We believe it is important to challenge questionable conventional wisdom and to foster debate—not police it. Focusing on unreported or inadequately reported issues of major importance and raising questions that are not being asked have always been a central part of our work. This journalistic mission led The Nation to be troubled by the paucity of serious public scrutiny of the January 2017 intelligence-community assessment (ICA) on purported Russian interference in our 2016 presidential election, which reflects the judgment of the CIA, the FBI, and the NSA. . . . To this day, however, the intelligence agencies that released this assessment have failed to provide the American people with any actual evidence substantiating their claims about how the DNC material was obtained or by whom. . . . That is why The Nation published Patrick Lawrence’s article ‘A New Report Raises Big Questions About Last Year’s DNC Hack.’ . . . The article largely reported on a recently published memo prepared by Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS), which argued, based on their own investigation, that the theft of the DNC e-mails was not a hack, but some kind of inside leak that did not involve Russia.”
Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor and publisher of The Nation
She further noted, “Not only could Russian hackers not have obtained the DNC emails in the way they are alleged to have obtained them, but metadata was in fact manipulated to implicate Russia in the leak.” Speculations of CIA involvement in Russiagate seem reasonable to me. Claims that “all 17 intelligence agencies” signed off on the collusion story were >5× exaggerated. Any half-wit knew that the Coast Guard hadn’t signed off, for Christ’s sake. Only three had signed off—the FBI, CIA, and NSA—and their credibility was in shambles by the end of 2017.645
Seymour Hersh denounced the media’s handling of the Russian hack story.646 Leon Panetta, former CIA director, called for an investigation of the $9 million in campaign funds used to pay for the Steele dossier.647 Clinton and her high command feigned ignorance. Glenn Simpson, a former Wall Street Journal reporter and founder of Fusion GPS, went stealth.648 His lawyer said he would plead the fifth if subpoenaed,649 which loosely translates to, “Hey, Hillary, there’s no need to whack my client.” Somehow, the FBI forgot to look at the DNC server before denouncing Russian hackers. Go figure.650
“Somebody, for some reason, appears to be shopping a fairly convincing fake NSA document that purports to directly implicate somebody from the Trump campaign in working with the Russians in their attack in the election.”
~Rachel Maddow, MSNBC
Apparently, the “creation date” on the document received by Maddow matches creation dates on other forged documents. Maybe Trump was feeding garbage to the media as a bait-and-switch discrediting tactic, or maybe that’s too generous.
“The assumption of the critics of the president, of his pursuers, you might say, is that somewhere along the line in the last year is the president had something to do with colluding with the Russians . . . to affect the election in some way, and yet what came apart this morning was that theory.”
~Chris Matthews, MSNBC
Meanwhile, another collusion plotline was running in tandem (or so it seems). A Russian operative named Natalia Veselnitskaya (sidekick of Boris Badenov) was making contacts with Team Trump through Donald Jr. Veselnitskaya offered dirt on Hillary (like there wasn’t enough of that?) but was really looking for help with opposing the Magnitsky Act, a bipartisan bill signed by Obama to punish Russia because somebody whacked Sergei Magnitsky in a Moscow prison.651 There is no chance that we give a hoot about Magnitsky, but the punishment of Russia is certainly a chess move of interest. In any case, the DNC turned this brief and failed attempt by Veselnitskaya to lobby Trump Jr. into a collusion case.
“They don’t want the truth there at the moment. They need an enemy. Some because they are looking to undermine Trump, some because they want to fuel the conflict with Russia.”
~Natalia Veselnitskaya, Russian lawyer, on not being asked for testimony about meeting with Trump
Veselnitskaya’s role isn’t that simple either; nothing in this story is, I guess. She appears to have needed help expediting her visa status to collude with Trump Jr. Help materialized as a “discretionary act that the statute allows the attorney general to do in extraordinary circumstances.” In short, assistant U.S. attorney Paul Monteleoni used special powers within Loretta Lynch’s justice department to help Veselnitskaya.652 And, not surprising, we’re told that Veselnitskaya had hired Fusion GPS for her Magnitsky Act lobbying in 2014.653 This is now a Quentin Tarantino movie.
“We went from Russia hacked election to Russia interfered in election to a Russian lawyer offered up fake dirt in a 20-minute meeting.”
Thus, the Trump collusion and Putin election meddling stories appear to be largely if not totally bogus, but Russiagate is not dead yet. In what was a mind-bogglingly risky ploy to link Trump to Russia, Team Clinton inadvertently revealed its ties to Russia. Some of this is old news that was simply ignored, but 2017 brought some new revelations.
“The funny thing is . . . I was sent in 1994 to Russia by the Clinton administration to get involved in THEIR elections!”
~Michael Caputo, Republican strategist who helped get Boris Yeltsin elected
“Turn a globe and point your finger anywhere, you will find American interests and interference there.”
An article in The Hill, not known for right-leaning content, busted open the uranium deal for those who missed it the first time.654 The big story, outlined in lurid detail several years ago by Peter Schweizer in Clinton Cash, was the transfer of 20 percent of the U.S.’s uranium reserves to Moscow while the Clinton Foundation pocketed $150 million in Russian funds. It was engineered by Bill and Hillary while she was secretary of state.655 The new revelations this year were that the DOJ knew about it for years without fessing up to anybody.656 The State Department and government agencies on the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States unanimously approved the sale of uranium assets to Russian nuclear giant Rosatom while “compromising American contractors in the nuclear industry with kickbacks and extortion threats.”657 This was all under the watchful eye of Robert Mueller—the same Robert Mueller investigating Trump’s Russian ties—and the honorable Attorney General Eric Holder. I’m not even sure any of this was fresh insight, but now people cared. Credible sources claim there is video footage showing suitcases of money transferring hands.658 Charles Ortel, the Clinton criminal enterprise expert,659 confirmed to me that said footage had not surfaced at the time of this writing.
I wait with baited breath to see whether the investigation flips onto the Clintons or if Mueller follows Comey’s lead and claims there is nothing indictable. I think the Democrats are in trouble on Russiagate, but that’s not to say that anything will come of what looks to be egregious scandals.
“After a full year of mainstream media hysteria over alleged Trump-Russia collusion, it now appears as though the Hillary campaign may have been the only one to funnel cash to ‘Kremlin operatives’ in return for political dirt.”
What about the subplot in which Paul Manafort got indicted for skanky dealings? It turns out that, indeed, he did work for Trump and appears to be a generally shady character, but the indictment was for pre-2005 dealings when he worked for Team Clinton. Let that sink in.660
“Everyone is colluding with Russia except Trump.”
~Mark Steyn, Canadian political commentator, stating some supreme irony
My conclusion is that fabricated collusion stories and other political hijinks implicating the Russians are dangerous games. Obama put more sanctions on Russia right before Trump’s inauguration.661 Senator Marco Rubio drilled Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, demanding to know why he would not publicly declare Putin a “war criminal.”662 I can answer that one: cause nuclear war sucks, Marco. You are a brick. A Russian studies expert at Princeton says he has never been this worried about a war with Russia.663 Nonetheless, we voted to sanction Russia for election meddling with a bill that passed 419–15. It also gave Congress the power to prevent Trump from weakening it:
“The White House doesn’t like this bill. The State Department doesn’t like this bill. This bill is going to become law, OK.”
~ Bob Corker, U.S. senator from Tennessee
And then Trump signed it. That is a problem. Where did his détente policy go? Into the black hole of the deep state, I guess. Three more quotes from prominent Russians remind me that I do not know who the bad guys are anymore:
“Today, however, the nuclear threat once again seems real. Relations between the great powers have been going from bad to worse for several years now. The advocates for arms buildup and the military–industrial complex are rubbing their hands.”
~Mikhail Gorbachev, last general secretary of the Soviet Union
“We are seeing in the U.S. a developing political schizophrenia. . . . What surprises me is that they are shaking up the domestic political situation using anti-Russian slogans. Either they don’t understand the damage they’re doing to their own country, in which case they are simply stupid, or they understand everything, in which case they are dangerous and corrupt.”
“Any hope of improving our relations with the new U.S. administration is over . . . the U.S. just declared a full-scale trade war on Russia. . . . [T]he Trump administration demonstrated it is utterly powerless, and in the most humiliating manner transferred executive powers to Congress. . . . The purpose of the new sanctions was to put Trump in his place. Their ultimate goal is to remove Trump from power. An incompetent player must be eliminated.”
Dmitry Medvedev, prime minister of Russia
“If he took a dump on his desk, you would support it.”
~Anderson Cooper to Jeff Lord about Trump
“Here’s my advice to the media: turn the emotion down to 1, and turn the fact-checking up to 10.”
~Ben Shapiro (@benshapiro), political commentator
“There are literally no standards now—journalistic, ethical, or rational—when it comes to accusing people of being Kremlin operatives.”
The founding fathers saw the press as essential to a free and democratic state, and we are at risk of losing it. Lies from the left and right do not merge to create truth; they just make a pile of lies. In theory, new journalistic enterprises emerge to fill the void, but what if the money and political trusts commandeer them too? Senator Frank Church investigated CIA ties to the media under the auspices of its program called Operation Mockingbird, launched in 1948.664 It would seem that our intelligence agencies have their hands in the digital news as well. Federal law requires cooperation from the big tech companies for data collection and places a gag order.665
I understand the potential implications of sovereign leaders cracking down on the press, but I’m sympathetic to Trump’s combat against the media. Trump no sooner coined the phrase “fake news” to call out the press then authorities assured us they would help us figure out exactly what is fake. No thanks.
“If you can’t believe the news, can you believe ‘history’?”
~Ned Collum (@collum_edward), my brother
According to a former Czech intelligence agent, “you need a story that’s at least 60, 70, or even 80 percent true. Even well-educated people will swallow untruth without too many questions if its plausible and reinforces their existing beliefs.”666 Some news outlets that require you take a quiz to prove you read an article before commenting on it, but they would never filter for specific views, right? There are bliss ninnies in California hoping to ban websites that make controversial political statements. Seems unconstitutional, but they’ll try it anyway.
“At least in recent decades, American presidents who took military action have been driven by the desire to promote freedom and democracy.”
~New York Times
The mainstream media is dysfunctional bordering on worthless. It begins with a lopsidedness: 7 percent of journalists are Republicans.667 Huffington Post writer Ryan Clayton got caught passing out Russian flags at the 2017 Conservative Political Action Conference to gin up some hysteria.668 The New York Times audience strategy editor Nick Dudich repeatedly admitted on a hidden microphone that he promoted content that intentionally damages Trump’s businesses to force his resignation.669 An anonymous donor gave the Times $1 million for student subscriptions,670 which is indistinguishable from a bribe.
“It’s just unfortunate that the most powerful person in the world is trying to delegitimize journalism and an organization that plays such a vital role in our democracy.”
~Jeff Zucker, president of CNN
No, Jeff. That is a self-inflicted, potentially fatal wound. CNN is a Dumpster fire with no link to journalism. CNN reporters were filmed fabricating a protest by Islamic women in London after the 9/11 terror attacks.671 In a must-watch comedic moment, they orchestrated a panel of Jane and Joe Six-packs spanning all races, creeds, colors, and several genders to condemn Trump’s response to the Nazi menace in Charlottesville.672 The segment careened off the rails when all said Trump was OK, the facts were too obscure to pass judgment, and Antifa, not the Nazis, were violent. The correspondent utterly failed to achieve her goal. Videos were leaked showing CNN staff partying up a storm after Hillary’s nomination; it looked like the Clinton campaign headquarters.673 Their disappointment at the election, by contrast, was just as palpable (Figure 53.) CNN ran a pre-inaugural piece speculating that Pence would become president if Trump got assassinated.674 Have you no shame?
Figure 53. Election night euphoria at CNN.
All hell broke loose when a 15-year-old Reddit user with the perfect Internet name, “HanAssholeSolo,” posted a video of Trump beating up a professional wrestler but with a CNN logo for a head (Figure 54).675 The Donald retweeted it, and the game was on. Taking no prisoners, CNN located the tasteless ’tween, found that he had posted some anti-Semitic and racist gibberish, and blackmailed him—threatened to dox him (Figure 55)—if he didn’t stop making memes and misbehaving.676 Mainstream media morons pitched the meme as provoking violence against journalists.677 Hans “feared for his personal safety" and expressed concern that he’d never make it to first base. Of course, the Internet had a few things to say about this little mess. #CNNBlackmail became the top-trending hashtag. Various beatings of CNN-headed victims attained supermeme status,678 and Hans probably got a CNN bump to his batting average. CNN was inducted into the Meme Hall of Fame with a Hitler–CNN parody.679 Epilogue: The gif that Trump tweeted was inspired by HanAssholeSolo but only inspired by it; someone improved upon it.680 CNN blackmailed the wrong guy. Seems ironic. The First Amendment protects the free press and free speech. CNN is covered by the latter.
Figure 54. CNN-head meme at its inception.
Figure 55. Emblematic threat of “doxing.”
“Just because Michael Brown dealt drugs doesn’t mean he was a ‘drug dealer’.”
~Chris Cuomo, CNN
The dark side of the mainstream press was clearly evident when Trump bombed Syria and the talking heads waxed enthusiastically about how “presidential” he was on that wondrous day. I was pissed thinking the deep state neocons had won but realized Trump did little more than put potholes in an airfield. When he dropped the 21,000-ton MOAB, which has a blast radius of a mile, it was also called a presidential show of force. A Fox correspondent declared that dropping the MOAB is “what freedom looks like; that’s the red, white, and blue.”681 Geraldo Rivera chimed in: “It’s one of my favorite things to watch." Brian Williams called it “a beauty.”682 You twisted bastards! The media incessantly discussed the cost of a single MOAB, placing it between from $175,000 and $250 million.683 Either way, bloodlust was on full display.
“The number of members of the press who have lauded the actions last night as ‘presidential’ is concerning.”
~Dan Rather, journalist, on the support of the media for the bombing of Syria
The mainstream media has been in the custody of the deep state for years, and the Internet and social media have arrived like Martin Luther to nail a few opinions to the door. The battle to bring this new rogue menace to heel was on.
"Censorship is for losers."
Any discussion of censorship has to begin at the Death Star—Google. Their power is amplified by a 90 percent market share of searches and a goal to control and monitor 100 percent of those who use it. Here’s a trivial example that I stumbled on: search for "American inventors." You get the results in Figure 56.
Figure 56. Google search for American inventors.
That is not a big deal in itself—the guy third from the right invented the Super Soaker, so he had to be showcased—but it illustrates a shaped search. Google overtly states that it intends to control information flow, going so far as placing Google employees in (infiltrating) local news rooms to help sort fact from fiction.684 Doing it for the children? I wrote a few blogs for Elizabeth Warren years ago. I have the manuscripts and can search sentence fragments: they are totally gone. How do you do that? With Google’s help. I also noticed, for example, that a search about a Democratic scandal (details long since forgotten) afforded only articles debunking it. For the Year in Review I had occasion to Google a number of contentious items. They almost invariably showed up right below the top link—a Snopes.com article debunking them. (We return to them below.) It gets darker still if you buy into stories—I do—that the intelligence communities (CIA and NSA) were angel investors in Google and other tech companies.685
Facebook Hoovers up personal data with the profound help of its customers. To join in the whole mind-control orgy, Facebook plans to exterminate “hate speech” and “fake news”—up to 60,000 stories per week686—by hiring “thousands of fact checkers” and seeking help from professional fact checkers including PolitiFact, FactCheck.org, ABC News, and Snopes.com.687 A Yale study (FWIW) finds that fact-checking and tagging inaccurate news stories on social media don’t work.688 The absurdity and danger is underscored by the backstory of Snopes.com,689 which is a husband–wife team with a decidedly left-leaning agenda. The husband is rumored to have embezzled $98,000 (from his wife?), gone on the Atkins diet, left his dumpy wife, and married a prostitute.690 Who’s gonna fact check those assertions?
“When we remove something you posted and believe is a reasonable political view, it can feel like censorship. We know how strongly people feel when we make such mistakes, and we’re constantly working to improve our processes and explain things more fully.”
How about clarifying how this is different than the Stasi? Facebook also rolled out a censorship-lite version in which articles deemed unacceptable to its Ministry of Truth get smothered with articles presenting “the other side.”691 Facebook also blocked Russia Today (now RT).692 Are you telling me that RT comes in below the bar set by CNN? I’ve been on it four times, which makes me a commie dog.
“We don’t want to be and are not the arbiters of the truth. The fact checkers can give the signal of whether a story is true or false.”
~Tessa Lyons, Facebook’s “news feed integrity product manager”
That is some crisply worded doublespeak. The possibility of consequential bias was underscored by a WikiLeaked email from Facebook’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg assuring Hillary that Facebook wanted her to win and that old Sheryl was there “to help as I can.”693 Zuckerberg followed up on a meeting with another WikiLeaked email stating, “I have put together my thoughts on the campaign ideas, and I have scheduled some meetings in the next few weeks for veterans of the campaign to tell me how to make these ideas better. This is simply a draft but do let me know if this is a helpful process for you all.”694 You can worry about Putin; Zuckerberg scares me.
Twitter is at the vanguard of social media—a gigantic global cocktail party in which you enter the room and join whatever conversation is going on. Where else can you find the now legendary shark tweet? (Figure 57)
Figure 57. Shark stepping on a Lego.
But Twitter has also joined the war on free speech with a massively lopsided bias against right-wing ideas. (Before you left-wingers cheer, remember that the door can swing both ways.) They boot provocateurs like Milo Yiannopoulos, who pushes the boundaries of civil debate.695 They also booted Matt Drudge and Roger Stone.696 Scott Adams of Dilbert fame was “shadow banned” in a way that he didn’t even realize.697 Parody accounts—high-water marks of the Twittersphere—are thinly veiled spoofs. Antifa parodies began getting silenced. (Hat tip to @BevHillsAntifa: you guys are very funny.) Former BlackRock fund manager Ed Dowd documented through screen grabs deletions of tweets about the CIA and NSA.698 After the second presidential debate, I began searching “who won” to find all the polls. The count climbed monotonically to 27, all but one showing a Trump victory. They then began disappearing, being replaced with articles describing “who won,” citing the one poll (CNN’s) showing a Clinton victory.
"Shortly, the public will be unable to reason or think for themselves. They'll only be able to parrot the information they've been given on the previous night's news."
Twitter is intending to let users know when a tweet contains “misleading, false or harmful information.”699 Gotta save us from harmful information. It has also taken to “unverifying” users, but only right-wing users. For you non-Twitter users, verification was instituted so that a person calling herself @HillaryClinton is the real Hillary Clinton and not some second-rate sociopath. By unverifying people, Twitter is attempting to lessen these users’ impact: you guys at Twitter are looking pretty damn self-righteous or as prominent British conservative politician, Daniel Hannan, says, “Twitter is in the ideology business.”700
And then there is YouTube, now owned by Google, a subsidiary of the deep state.701 It has begun deleting videos that clearly oppose political agendas.702 I witnessed a pile of “inconvenient” videos get disappeared (see “Las Vegas”). How YouTube really does damage, however, is by “demonetizing” regular posters who get ad revenues if their click count is high enough. My right-wing Cornell Law School colleague who runs Legal Insurrection was demonetized without warning.703 A poster called “Timcast” was demonetized, and YouTube deleted all 660 of his videos.704 You might be saying, “OK, but these guys may be cranks. Give me a good example.” How’s demonetizing former congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul?705 His decidedly free market and free speech message gets the boot? YouTube announced Creators for Change, a program that pushes creators who are “using their voices to speak out against hate speech, xenophobia, and extremism.”706 That’s a nicely packaged bit of political thought. Have you guys forgotten who the “You” is in YouTube? I suspect that a precedent-setting social-media-filtering case will find its way to the Supreme Court.
All is not completely lost, however. For years, I listened to right-wing talk radio only to have it turn into political hackery. I do not need lies from either side. I have detected a change, however. Limbaugh, Hannity, and Carlson all seem willing now to push back, even to denounce the neocon agenda. Carlson, a particularly surprising comeback from what I felt was terminal buffoonery, has found a real voice. He has mastered that expression that looks as though his guests “eat mayonnaise straight out of the jar.”
Gotta give some kudos to the lighter side. Alex Jones broke the story that “child sex slaves have been kidnapped and shipped to Mars,” and NASA had the sense of humor to deny the story.707 The New York Times denounced North Korea for a tweet from the DPRK News Service (@dprk_news), not realizing it was a parody account.708 Cycling Weekly included a caption that read “token attractive woman” next to a female cyclist. And to all you media pervs who are getting outed by the dozen, you thought you were too powerful to be called out by your victims. Well they seem to have found their voices. There are likely a lot more where you guys came from.
But what if your own lying eyes fool you? There are spooky-good graphical dubbing programs—video analogs of Photoshop—that can make anybody appear to say anything you want him or her to say.709 It’s only going to get more convincing. It may be time to panic.
“If you’re not careful, the newspapers will have you hating the people who are being oppressed and loving the people who are doing the oppressing.”
~Malcolm X, civil rights activist
“Donald Trump sensed something that his political rivals failed to grasp: that the truly surging force in American politics wasn’t Jeffersonian minimalism. It was Jacksonian populist nationalism.”
I had to either write this section or throw myself down the stairs. I must have flipped that coin a dozen times. I am somewhat of a political chameleon in that I liked George H. W. Bush, strongly opposed George W. Bush, thought Bill Clinton could have been one of the greatest presidents in history if he wasn’t a sociopath (or maybe because), was an endorser on Ron Paul’s official presidential website in 2008,710 and was written up in the Guardian for backing Ron Paul and Elizabeth Warren.711 I support Putin as a rational (albeit thuggish) leader of Russia, and most heinous of them all, voted for Trump last year. I could have voted for Bernie out of his benevolence (surely not his politics), but the DNC gave us the Hobson’s choice—take Clinton or take a hike. Many of us took the hike. Now for a confession. I wrote this section last—procrastinated if you will—and have run out of gas. It will be short, particularly for a topic that has dominated society’s discussions.
“He is not a dumb person. . . . In his own way, he has a real intelligence. . . . It’s a shrewdness. Cunning, if you will."
~Dan Rather on Trump
Last year, I concluded that the world had largely underestimated The Donald’s skills. His enemies took him literally but not seriously, whereas friends took him seriously but not literally. Many tried to throw him under the bus not realizing that he is the bus. I must confess that Trump the candidate was far more interesting than Trump the president. I find myself pondering the counterfactual: what would Trump’s first year in office have looked like had he not been battling the Democrats, Republicans, media, deep state, and half the population? We’ll never know: that’s what defines a counterfactual. The second question that his detractors seem unwilling even to consider is whether his actions are part of a grand and relentless bait-and-switch scheme to keep them on their heels. The alternative model is that he is a mix of Joffrey Baratheon, Cesare Borgia, and Emperor Caligula with a dose of Jethro Clampett showing no self-control whatsoever. I’m guessing we’re being fed a combo platter.
We knew what we were getting:
Figure 58. 2014 Trump Tweet
Paradoxically, Trump has met almost everybody’s expectations. Once again, to do a rational analysis, I have to choose sides. I am declaring the jury is still out on what Trump can do (or could have done). I will, once again, lean to the unpopular stance (among liberal elite friends) and side with him. What has he actually done—not just said or proposed to do—that is so bad? I’m all ears. Lack of a compelling answer may attest to the durability of our system or that he isn’t so bad after all. I attribute some of his erratic behavior to flailing against powerful forces entrenched within the system. Blathering is either for show or inconsequential. I also suspect he is dyslexic—a candidate for “ableism” if you will—which would explain some of his idiosyncrasies. Until the data are seriously rolling in—maybe catastrophically—I am reserving judgment and taking the upbeat stance. It will sound apologetic. Someday I may be apologizing.
“Let me tell you, you take on the intelligence community, they have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you. . . . He’s being really dumb to do this.”
~Chuck Schumer on The Donald
“Now we go nuclear. IC [Intelligence Community] war going to new levels. Just got an EM [former] senior IC friend, it began: ‘He will die in jail.’”
~John Schindler, former National Security Agency analyst on Trump
“When we finish with Trump, we have to go after [Pence].”
~Maxine Waters, U.S. representative from California, possibly the most clueless in the history of Congress
Figure 59. Rob Reiner failing to understand the nuances of democracy.
Nobody could possibly miss the plethora of self-inflicted wounds. Challenging Rex Tillerson to an IQ test712 attests to the fact that he would lose big, although that Harvard education keeps me wondering. Trump drove right across the green in a cart on his golf course, which to a golfer is like the Pope blowing his nose in the Shroud of Turin.713 Reference to Andrew Jackson and the Civil War seemed a bit ahistorical.714 His tweets can be cringeworthy. The “covfefe” tweet remains the Riddle of the Sphinx as to what it meant.715 Yet his exploitation of social media for political gain is a momentous event in politics and will likely appear in Ph.D. theses across several disciplines (Figure 60).
“An alarming report issued by heads of the U.S. intelligence agencies on Friday asserts that the Twitter account of President-elect Donald Trump was successfully hacked by a four-year-old child.”
~Andy Borowitz, the New Yorker
Figure 60. ’Nuff said.
Team Trump was in a state of flux, although it seems to have settled down. The challenges were monumental. Foundationally, he lacked a political machine to help with the primaries and was dogged by the same problem during the transition. The Venn diagram of people who would work for him and those competent to do the work was a stretched MasterCard logo at best. Any administration has to work with holdovers and clean out those who won’t or can’t share the POTUS’s vision. One can imagine that group was colossal, and the leaks showed they were cantankerous. My generous read of his putting family members in key positions stems from a combination of Kennedy-like thinking and a dearth of those he could trust. Lincoln assembled a Team of Rivals from a superb group of rivals. Trump was channeling Burt Reynolds in The Longest Yard.
“If you want to win the game, put Tom Brady on the field. Trump’s hired a lot of professional people, people that are experienced, successful, smart, and patriotic.”
A first shot at an attorney general (Sally Yates) bought the farm after she refused to honor his immigration/refugee policy. Dershowitz said it was a political rather than a legal argument.716 Yates knew his opinions at the outset and shouldn’t have been there. I’m not sure what happened with Steve Bannon, fondly called “Bannon the Barbarian.” A Harvard Business School classmate described him as “top three in intellectual horsepower in our class—perhaps the smartest.”717 In the press, he was Satan. He was clearly brought in to be the enforcer (think hockey), but he may be more dangerous to Trump’s “haters and losers” as a civilian at Breitbart.
“I built a f*cking machine at Breitbart. And now I’m about to go back, knowing what I know, and we’re about to rev that machine up. And rev it up we will do.”
Trump’s ultimate affinity for ex-military guys likely stems from their understanding of hierarchy and willingness to stay for God, country, corps, and their sense of duty to provide adult supervision. Press Secretary Sean Spicer was probably just unqualified; saying Hitler did not use chemical weapons on his own people is a little loony.718 I gotta say that pulling Sarah Huckabee Sanders off the bench was genius; she has some serious gravitas. The left hates her for it. Carpet F-bomber Anthony “The Mooch” Scaramucci broke the world record, serving as White House communications director for 10 days. Rumors swirl that he might be offered the lead in a sequel to My Cousin Vinnie. Harvard had him listed as deceased in its alumni directory; they probably meant politically.719 And then there is Kellyanne “Alternative Facts” Conway, truly hated by anybody who hates The Donald. I get it, but he wouldn’t be in the White House without her. I also find her enormously entertaining. I can’t glean what she’s up to now.
“Reince is a f*cking paranoid schizophrenic, a paranoiac . . . I’m not Steve Bannon, I’m not trying to suck my own c*ck.”
~Anthony Scaramucci, former communications director for the Trump administration
“You want to push back on us, and yet you’ve got a 14% approval rating.”
~Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Donald Trump, to the press
I’m not a big fan of Gary Cohn, Trump’s director of the National Economic Council. I think his past at Goldman is more sordid than just being at Goldman (and have said so).720 I have no opinion of ex-Goldmanite Steven Mnuchin except to say that I hope he signed a prenup (Figure 61).
Figure 61. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and the missus.
There’s a lot to criticize about Michael Pence (particularly for me as a scientist with an attenuated atheist streak), but I think he has proven to be a highly effective vice president and right-hand man. I will be shocked if he isn’t running in 2024. Of course, he could be POTUS sooner, but my hunch is that he won’t.
“If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you . . .”
~Rudyard Kipling, writer
The year was exciting—the fiction more so than the fact. As noted above, Russiagate can’t seem to get legs. The leaks seem to have subsided. Rachel Maddow released Trump’s taxes, showing that he and his wife paid a seriously consequential $38 million for the “period in question,” a higher rate than Bernie Sanders in 2014.721 The buildup and outcome reminded me of Geraldo’s opening of Al Capone’s vault.722 The "period in question" may have been optimal, possibly leaked by Trump. Classic. Rachel appears to have broken Federal law in making them public.723
A bill was introduced to facilitate Trump’s removal from office.724 The whole Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) fiasco went bonkers. Trump was pegged by the media relentlessly, which I found curious because he actually called on Congress to do its job—not his job, its job—and solve the DACA problem. Countless Democrats have made the same claim.725 It really must be solved at some point. Congresswoman Maria Chappelle-Nadal joined a chorus of sick bastards calling for Trump’s assassination. Euthanasia of a decidedly brain-dead congresswoman may be more appropriate.
“I think the media have been harder on Trump than any other president certainly that I’ve known about.”
~Jimmy Carter, 39th president of the United States
“Trump could have undermined the messaging so much that he can actually control exactly what people think. And that, that is our job.”
~Mika Brzezinski, MSNBC
The Center for Community Change Action received $3,000,000 from the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, $2,350,000 from the Ford Foundation, and $1,750,000 from George Soros’s Open Society Foundation to oppose Trump.726 Whether it’s these folks or the Koch brothers, I wish they would leave us alone. Of course, the press was merciless, as discussed above, but also largely discredited. The Fourth Estate is a more serious problem than Trump. As to whether he is less militaristic than his predecessors, the jury is still out. As to whether he is a good, bad, or truly ugly president also remains to be determined. I am reminded how many thought Reagan and Obama were total disasters. I do not share those opinions.
“The bottom line is that the Swamp is so undrainable that it will end up making mincemeat of Donald Trump.”
~David A. Stockman
"A long time ago, crazy meant something. Nowadays everybody's crazy."
~Charles Manson, dead
I was in Vegas until the day before the shooting. I also have assiduously avoided discussing terrorist attacks: they have little content. One day, I mentioned in a guest graduate lecture the seemingly simple notion that something about the Vegas story is wrong (without humor or political comment) and that I would figure it out. A snowstorm commenced: I got a visit from the department chair. In this section, I peer down that rabbit hole much farther than is comfortable.
“I am just going to go straight ahead and say it—this entire narrative of Paddock and his arsenal of rifles shooting hundreds of people from the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas is pure bullshit, never happened.”
~Editor, Veterans Today
Terror attacks in the U.S. attract huge attention, and soon thereafter, theories proliferate. Handfuls of spaghetti are thrown to see what sticks. Many theories are intellectual non sequiturs. There are, however, those creepy moments, like Robby Parker’s smirk,727 or claims that Mohammad Atta’s passport was found in the WTC debris on 9/12,728 that give you pause. Moving up the oddity scale, you find a mobster whacking the presidential assassin and the complete absence of footage showing the Pentagon getting hit on 9/11,729 and your journey culminates in holy crap moments like the collapse of 7 World Trade Center, which seems to defy the laws of physics.730 Invariably, three categories of theory emerge: (1) the event occurred as told, (2) it was a false flag, and (3) the whole thing was faked. The Las Vegas shooting is no exception.
Figure 62. Not the real Donald Trump but real numbers…
At great reputational risk, I will lay out the oddities that seem to permeate all strata. It began for me with a baffling series of “Mike Cronk” interviews, but I am ahead of myself. Before laying out the story, I will hide behind a few prominent figures whose interest was also piqued.
“So, a person who’s ‘not a gun guy’ has either expended untold thousands of dollars to legally purchase fully automatic weapons, somehow found them on the black market, or purchased and substantially modified multiple semi-automatic weapons—and did so with enough competence to create a sustained rate of fire. This same person also spent substantial sums purchasing just the right hotel room to maximize casualties. I cannot think of a single other mass shooter who went to this level of expense and planning in the entire history of the United States.”
~David French, National Review731
“Do you think this was all accomplished on his own, face value? You’ve got to make the assumption he had to have help at some point, and we want to ensure that’s the answer. . . . Maybe he’s super . . . working this out on his own, but it will be hard for me to believe that.”
~Joseph Lombardo, sheriff, Clark County, Nevada732
Lombardo later recanted, but he said it. So what are the parts that bother me? In short, all of them. Stephen Paddock, an avid gambler with no affinity for guns, dragging 23 automatic weapons not found in Field & Stream and hundreds of pounds of ammo up to his hotel room. The requisite advanced planning suggests his trip to Crazy Town was slow and methodical. Economic blogger Brandon Smith (Alt-Market.com) claims to be a proficient distance shooter and makes a strong case that the Vegas shooter had serious tactical skills and no reason to bring all those guns to the room.733 Paddock’s former neighbor—an ex-marine—says he and Paddock chewed the fat a lot.734 Paddock showed no interest in guns and simply wasn’t the guy he was hearing about after the shootings. Paddock is said to have earned his money years ago from real estate and more recently by playing video poker. You never beat a machine in Vegas, but the odds on video poker are particularly bad (Figure 63).735
“Serious news organizations are claiming that he made a living playing video poker. That’s like claiming someone made a living smoking crack. I don’t know all the ins and outs of Paddock’s life, but that’s a lie.”
~Ann Coulter, political commentator736
Figure 63. Odds and payouts on video poker.
I commandeered background checks on Stephen Paddock, his brother Eric, and Jesus Campos. Paddock shows a lot of addresses, but that’s not nuts for a real estate speculator. He is, however, affiliated with Volant LLC.737 For what it’s worth, a company called “Volant Associates LLC” has business ties to the intelligence community.738 Are the two affiliated or even one in the same? I haven’t a clue, but the blogosphere noticed this too. Paddock supposedly had the guns in his hotel room for days. According to Steve Wynn (CEO of Wynn Resorts) housekeeping never honors “do not disturb” signs for days to avoid smelly carcasses.739
Stephen Paddock’s family is a little wiggy. His father is a serious felon (made the top ten on the FBI most wanted list).740,741 His younger brother, Bruce, was arrested for child pornography after the shooting.742 Steven’s girlfriend, Marilou Danley, was sent abroad, consistent with any theory that involves advanced planning.743 The authorities deemed her irrelevant to the case way too fast in my opinion.744 Another Paddock brother, Eric, works for Teradata,745 a global data management corporation that may be totally legit but has a very cool name for a dark plotline. Eric gave several interviews that were suspiciously incoherent.746 He erroneously called Paddock’s girlfriend by the name Mary Anne (a minor but odd slip). Eric looked like he was trying to avoid being coherent.
The role of Mandalay Bay and its parent company MGM Resorts International throws incredible debris into the post-shooting investigation owing, at least in part, to legal exposure.747 Its spokespeople couldn’t seem to get their stories straight about the date Paddock checked in: what is three days among friends?748 A receipt for room service for two people remains unexplained,749 but people have been rumored to sneak guests into Vegas hotel rooms. There is no way Mandalay Bay wants to release video footage to dispel the concerns that sneaking 23 guns and 5,000 rounds of ammo into the hotel would be hard,750 and none has appeared. That said, a judge had to enforce an injunction to prevent Mandalay Bay from destroying footage.751 In a year-old video, Steve Wynn describes casino security in lurid detail, including the improbability of getting firearms through any Wynn Resort entrance and how his team of ex-Navy Seals are on duty 24 hours per day.752
The biggest splotch of spaghetti on the wall was security guard Jesus Campos. This got a little embarrassing because Jesus is not registered as a security guard in Nevada753 and shares a social security number with someone named Jesus Quintero.754 (Probably a Hillary voter.) Jesus reputedly wandered onto the scene, as did Jesus’s new BFF and “building engineer” Stephen Schuck.755 Regardless of whether bullets were fired through the door or down the hall (seems like an important distinction), Jesus got shot in the femur with an automatic rifle and then called in the shooting to the front desk. Mandalay couldn’t get their stories straight about when Jesus called in the shooting: three were offered.756 Jesus the Hero was scheduled to be on five talk shows—count ’em, five!—but then disappeared.757 His house was guarded by a bunch of wise guys driving cars without license plates.758 (Seems illegal, but it is Vegas.) It was claimed he was getting surgery, but later the story changed: he went on an extended vacation to Mexico.759 Letting the #1 witness to the largest mass killing in history take off seems odd. “Hey Jesus. Give us a call when you get back, OK? We got a few questions.” He returned to do an interview on the Ellen “Degeneres” Show.760 Apparently, The Muppets were booked that week. Oh, and Ellen is on MGM Resorts International’s payroll. Jesus used a cane because getting shot in the femur by a high-powered (.223 caliber) rifle hurts a lot. He was escorted by his handler (errata: BFF) Steve Schuck. Ellen was quite explicit in pointing out he would be doing no more interviews. Jesus stared at his shoes a lot and, to me, looked medicated (probably painkillers) and ashamed at his answers.
Figure 64. Steven Schuck and Jesus Campos.
The crime scene was very odd. First, whoever did the interior decorating committed a heinous crime against humanity (Figure 65). Guns were strewn everywhere, but notably absent were the putative 2,000+ shell casings. A note had bullet trajectory calculations, which seems odd given he was shooting into a crowd. Laura Ingraham referred to the room as “a scene from Law and Order” during an entire show dedicated to an article at ZeroHedge calling bullshit on the official narrative.761 Authorities found a phone charger that didn’t match Paddock’s phone (hold that thought).762 They also found a laptop, but oddly enough, Paddock seems to have misplaced his hard drive.763 Don’t ya hate it when you misplace your hard drive?
Figure 65. Mandalay Bay crime scene photos.
Now we go down the hole farther than the rabbits. Witnesses say a couple was walking around the infield 45 minutes before the shooting declaring that they were “all going to die.”764 They were quickly escorted to the gates. Videos from multiple angles showed muzzle flashes, none of which came from the 32nd floor.765 Thirteen minutes of police dispatch tapes (culled from a more complete >1hr version) report shots coming from multiple locations, including the infield of the concert venue as well as floors 4, 12, 29, and 32.766,767 Audio recordings capture sounds that sure seem like different guns, including multiple pitches, volumes, and frequencies of firings.768 (I have problems with YouTube videos disappearing on me as fast as I find them.) Several audiophiles did serious analyses showing how the recorded firings show superimposed gun shots.769 An audio expert—who knows?—using multiple recordings claims to have triangulated the source to several different locations.770 The lone wolf plotline is not holding up. Witnesses who gave up cell phones to authorities for evaluation claim they came back with the videos deleted (for whatever reason.)771
“I definitely believe that there was 100% more than one shooter. . . . Every other person that I talked to that, unfortunately, got hit as well have all said the same things.”
~Rocky Palermo, shooting victim772
The Mike Cronk videos were what piqued my interest and are dangerous territory for those professing to be sane. I appear not to have been alone.773 Cronk described to numerous network reporters—seems statistically odd given the number of possible interviewees—how his wounded friend jammed his fingers into his own bullet holes.774 That is some serious bullshit Mike. Cronk’s demeanor also seemed oddly unemotional. A video of him in the hospital two days after the shooting showed a friend who was remarkably chipper for having three AR-15 holes in his chest. There was a surprising absence of tubes down the friend’s gullet or up his nose, no IV bag, and a vital sign monitor that was not plugged in. His story improved, and he picked up more emotion, but the narrative also drifted a bit. The video of Cronk visiting his friend has now been deleted at YouTube—a common occurrence, I hasten to add—but the internet captured analogs.775 It posed subtle and very dark questions in the context of the medical expert testimony below.
Surgeons have chimed in suggesting that the bullet would have shattered Campos’s femur or at least would have obliterated major arteries (which explains the cane). There are no medical records; they are "undocumented." A trauma surgeon explains it well:776
“The bullet from an AR-15 does an entirely different kind of violence to the human body. It’s relatively small, but it leaves the muzzle at three times the speed of a handgun bullet. It has so much energy that it can disintegrate three inches of leg bone. It would just turn it to dust. [If it hits the liver] the liver looks like a Jell-O mold that’s been dropped on the floor. And the exit wound can be a nasty, jagged hole the size of an orange. The bullet from an AR-15 might miss the femoral artery in the leg, but cavitation may burst the artery anyway, causing death by blood loss. A swath of stretched and torn tissue around the wound may die.”
Donald Jenkins, trauma surgeon, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio776
Other videos of survivors have been declared total bullshit by surgeons specializing in repairing bullet wounds.777 A guy professing to be a battlefield surgeon stationed in Asia describes the monumental damage of a high-caliber bullet ripping through an arm or leg.778 (Videos illustrating such carnage were provided.) He suggested that the death toll plateauing at 58 after one day is simply dead wrong because fatalities among the 500 injured could occur for weeks, if not months. He also noted that the videos of rather perky gunshot victims are a total crock (Cronk?). Other surgeons have chimed in with similar narratives.779 University of Arizona trauma surgeon Peter Rhee suggests that “a handgun would require only one surgery, but an AR-15 bullet wound need three to ten.”780 Descriptions of AR-15 damage published before the shooting—unamplified by the blogosphere—suggest they are devastating.779 Again, Jesus Campos needed a cane and went on vacation. And for the serious spaghetti lovers, there is a death toll of victims who were not shot. Say what? Yeah. Nine people who didn’t get hit have supposedly died for all sorts of reasons.781 I’m not sure you would expect that statistically from folks at Woodstock. It could even be total baloney.
There is the mystery of the missing hard drive from Paddock’s computer. It seems to argue for Paddock as the patsy—an Oswald moment. At least one news report suggests that the missing hard drive is not really that weird:
“He is not the first mass shooter to destroy or hide digital clues. In 2007, [the] Virginia Tech shooter . . . took the step of removing the hard drive of his computer and disposing of his cell phone shortly before the massacre. . . . The 2008 Northern Illinois [University] shooter, Steven Kazmierczak, removed the SIM card from his phone and the hard drive from his laptop, and neither was recovered. . . . In 2012, Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza had removed the hard drive from his computer and smashed it with a hammer or screwdriver.”
All the mass killers destroy their hard drives and phones? That is supposed to make me feel better? A Fox News guest said that the missing hard drive is the “footprint of an assassin . . . bizarre.”783 He went on to say that “everything leading to a digital footprint has gone missing . . . . somebody broke into [Paddock’s] home after the massacre . . . something has been put into motion to destroy this guy’s motive.” Those commentators at Fox are a very crazy bunch indeed.
Last, you can never let devious investors off the hook. With every one of these events, somebody finds evidence of insider trading. It was found for 9/11—we can only hope those in the know were Al-Qaeda.784 For the Vegas shooting, executives at MGM Resorts International did a little day trading.785 The CEO, Jim Murren, sold 85 percent of his shares a month before the massacre, and the Great Satan (George Soros) is said to have picked up a $42 million short position.786 The latter may be an error bar for old George, but the former is a big trade. Did I mention that Murren was appointed to the Homeland Security National Infrastructure Advisory Council by President Obama in December 2013?787
In case this all seems just too crazy. Let’s not forget, however, that this year’s release of the JFK files showed that the CIA planned to kill people in Miami and blame the Cubans.788 Of course, none of this matters anymore because Trump colluded with Russia, Harvey molested everybody, and Tiger shot his lowest score in years!
“Who we are is really defined by the work we put out.”
"Are you gonna get any better or is this it?"
~Earl Weaver, Baltimore Oriols manager
The authorities could have enforced discipline on markets—let the consequences of unruly behavior inflict some sobering consequences. But opportunities to let reality encroach and deliver some painful price discovery with little damage to the system were deemed too unpleasant and have long since passed. Valuations are now at record highs and sentiment at a maniacal pitch as the economy stagnates. Wealth inequality is pushing extremes; history shows that this is never good. Chronic debt, lack of savings, and truly gargantuan unfunded liabilities have squeezed into every nook and cranny of the global economy. Government bloat and deep-seated corruption in the halls of power are patently obvious. Meanwhile, the story line supporting epic equity, bond, and credit bubbles—the claim that omnipotent central banks have our backs—is pathetic. Are we really that gullible? Apparently so. We are staring into the maw of a beastly metastable financial system waiting for a spark—a bond default in some distant third-world country, a collapsing hedge fund, or even a cryptocurrency debacle in the futures market—to light the fuse of a violent return to equilibrium. All the while, the markets keep going up. When markets finally regress to and through historical means, many if not all of the gains will be given back. We have had n bubbles throughout the history of markets and n – 1 have burst. Maybe this one won’t burst, but I’m dubious.
“I don’t mean to sound dramatic, but Americans hate each other right now. And it’s getting worse. We’re just a market crash . . . a recession . . . or some other extreme event away from more widespread violence.”
~Nick Giambruno, senior editor, Casey Research’s International Man
So are the metastable markets the big message of 2017 for me? Oddly, no. I’m more immediately troubled by social changes. We had our first black president, but hopes of the first female president were dashed by a most improbable dark horse victor. So what? I’m serious: so friggin’ what? It happens. Get over it. Well, almost to the day that Hillary lost the election, the progressive left lost its shit. It was not everybody and maybe not even a majority of the left, but a large, noisy bunch completely lost their minds (Figure 66).
Figure 66. What a difference a day makes.
From Jane and Joe Six-pack to the liberal elite inside Hollywood, the Beltway, and college campuses, the message was clear: life is now intolerable, and everything imaginable should be considered acceptable to correct this sorry state of affairs. The Angry Collective can do anything and say anything because it has the moral high ground. Mention assassinating the president? Sure: he deserves it because he is Trump. Fabricate a dossier to unseat an elected president? It’s not high treason because it’s Trump. Call his supporters white supremacists or sycophants? They must be because they voted for Trump.
“All white nationalists in America voted for Trump; Trump ran in 2016 as a Republican; therefore, all Republican candidates and anyone who votes for them are necessarily white nationalists.”
~Howard Dean, former head of the Democratic National Committee
“You have surrendered principled action in favor of a self-righteous belief that indignation makes you better then everyone else. Sorry, pal, you’re evil. . . . If you want to become a real Progressive, it has to cost you.”
~Charles Hugh Smith
The unrest escaped the containment of national politics and infected all discussions of social injustice. People are very upset; I get that. But I have never heard such shameful bigotry and hate speech, and it is coming from those who profess to oppose bigotry and hate speech. I thought the left suffered from an idealism–realism imbalance, but I never expected what they’ve delivered. It would appear that I’m evil because I’m white, right, straight, male, and by pushing back, all variants of ’phobe. An innocuous joke can bring an angry mob with weaponized moral high ground. That's OK because offensive ideas will not be tolerated.
“If you thought everything was fine and then your world fell apart once Trump got elected, perhaps you haven’t been paying enough attention.”
Doesn’t make sense to you? Try the following experiment. Take some pointed social commentary you hear in the media, one in which virtue signaling social justice catchphrases roll off people’s tongues fluidly and without hesitation or remorse. Alter the dialogue by substitution of a single word—switch black for white, women for men, gay for straight—and ask yourself how it sounds. Do they sound like racists, misogynists, bigots, or generally hateful people? You will never hear me criticize “blackness” nor do I wish to hear about "whiteness."
“It’s become very hard to be a Republican and not be associated with something racially reprehensible.”
~ David Brooks
It makes me ponder yet another counterfactual: What would red-state voters have done if Hillary had won? Would they have spewed venomously too—maybe even become violent like Antifa? We’ll never know. They holstered their weapons because they won. I stumbled upon an unattributed analysis of the election dated November 11, 2016.789 I don’t agree with all of it in detail, but the general message is important and it has aged well for me.
Dear Democrats and Liberals,
I’m noticing that a lot of you aren’t graciously accepting the fact that your candidate lost. In fact you seem to be posting even more hateful things about those of us who voted for Trump. Some of you are apparently “triggered.” Because you are posting how “sick” you feel about the results.
How did this happen you ask.
You created “us” when you attacked our freedom of speech.
You created “us” when you attacked our right to bear arms.
You created “us” when you attacked our Christian beliefs.
You created “us” when you constantly referred to us as racists.
You created “us” when you constantly called us xenophobic.
You created “us” when you told us to get on board or get out of the way.
You created “us” when you forced us to buy health care and then financially penalized us for not participating.
You created “us” when you allowed our jobs to continue to leave our country.
You created “us” when you attacked our flag.
You created “us” when you confused women’s rights with feminism.
You created “us” when you began to emasculate men.
You created “us” when you decided to make our children soft.
You created “us” when you decided to vote for progressive ideals.
You created “us” when you attacked our way of life.
You created “us” when you decided to let our government get out of control.
“You” created “us” the silent majority.
And we became fed up and we pushed back and spoke up.
And we did it with ballots, not bullets.
If you want a new POTUS, get your party to put up a good candidate in 2020—better than the sad choices we all got in 2016. Don’t think for a moment, however, you’re gonna get off with a quick impeachment. Half the country disagreed with you on Election Day. The person who wrote this essay may eventually regret his or her vote but won’t take kindly to unwinding the most critical part of the democratic process.
My work here is done. You're welcome.
“If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time to write. Simple as that.”
I find reading non-chemistry books helps me understand chemistry. Similarly, non-economics books shed light on economics. This was a busy year for me, leaving my book list a little light.
“I have offended God and mankind because my work did not reach the quality it should have.”
~Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci
by Walter Isaacson
This is as good as any yarn told by the Yarnmaster who wrote Steve Jobs as well as Brilliant biographies of Einstein, Newton, and Franklin. What makes the story so compelling is Isaacson’s thematic identication of extraordinary people in conjunction with an exceptional historical record to work with. Unlike some historically important artists, Leonardo (Lenny to his close friends) was so obviously amazing that his works were treasured and preserved during his life. His paintings, sculptures, and ponderings documented in >7,000 pages (an estimated 25%) of his notebooks survive. The guys importance was a unimaginably relentless observation of detail in the world around him. You really have to read this one.
Investing Through the Looking Glass: A Rational Guide to Irrational Financial Markets
by Tim Price
This summer I got to scratch Tim off my bucket list of people I really wanted to meet. We are kindred spirits in my view. Tim addresses topics in investing and finance that could have been trite—how many of these books can you read? Tim, however, has an incredible writing style owing to training in English literature and a shared affinity for quotations. As Tim said, if a quote is good, why not 18 of the them? (He is very funny.) Tim is a bear and he tells you why and how with a Bill-Bonner-like prose (high praise). I may be shoveling some money at Tim to invest after the zombie apocalypse has run its course.
The Daily Show: An Oral History as Told by Jon Stewart, the Correspondents, Staff and Guests
If you are not a Daily Show fan, do not read this book. If you are, you will get a birds-eye view of how it started and evolved into a comedy show that very much out performed the networks at critiquing current events. It was revealing to be led through the dawn-till-dusk process of producing a single show and how, the next morning, they would start all over again. You get a sense of how its style evolved and how they transformed the genre. The voices are not those of the players (Jon’s aside). You get used to it after awhile. Two ideas that I had been sniffing around but hit me like a truck were “juxaposition” and “specificity”. How you place the ideas proximate (or in close proximity if you wish to annoy the shit outta me) and that you eat a bucket of mocha chip not just ice cream if you want to maximize the impact of the punchline.
The Road to Ruin: The Global Elites' Secret Plan for the Next Financial Crisis
by James G. Rickards
This is Jim's third book in what is likely not to stop at a Trilogy. I found his first (Currency Wars) to be far sighted. I thought some of his ideas were a little weird, but they don't look so in retrospect. His second, "The Case for Gold", was a primer for those who need a primer (an easy read). The "Road to Ruin" is also an easy read (although I have become increasingly aware that my bar for that has changed over 20 years.) The Zerohedge crowd will totally endorse the premise that we are heading for a metaphorical bridge abuttment…and soon. The system has been, once again, pumped up to a metaphorical state without ever correcting the imbalances from the '08 crisis. Jim might not view that as a metaphor but rather a model to consider. Again, I felt like I could lip synch much of it being a consumer of doom porn, but I really enjoyed it.
Fed Up: An Insider's Take on Why the Federal Reserve is Bad for America by Danielle DiMartino Booth.
I had the occasion to share the podium with Danielle twice in 2017. She is a lively, strongly opinionated ex-consultant for the Dallas Fed with a background in journalism. The first half of the book is a requisite summary of build up to the crisis (clear, simple presentation of derivatives nd MBS's), but all common knowledge to the doom crowd. In the second half Danielle brings an insider view with an emphasis on battles within the Fed. These may also have been public domain, but they are much more of a real insider's view. I enjoyed this part.
The Curse of Cash by Kenneth S. Rogoff.
I poked a digital stick (email) in Rogoff’s eye suggesting that his message in support of a cashless society was missing the masses because they wanted the personal liberties that accompanied cash. Ken suggested, shockingly, that I read his book, so I did.
(I enjoyed This Time is Different by Reinhardt and Rogoff and suspect the criticisms of his excel spreadsheet errors to be overstated.) In any event, I was staggered by how enthusiastically he endorsed using the coercive power of the State to push cash out of the system. He saw a benevolence of government that you would not need to be a libertarian to question. His enthusiasm for central bankers’ judgement and omnipotence was baffling. Support for the war on cash as a proxy fight of the war on drugs was unconvincing. The guy likes centralized power. I did not feel enlightened at the end.
Thank You for Being Late: An Optimist's Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations by Thomas L. Friedman.
Ol’ Tom seems to seamlessly move between insightful analysis and observation of the modern world to world-class bloviator. I like his description of exponential acceleration of change uncoupling from our linear adaptation to it. The description of Moore’s Law having moved from hardware to software in 2007—a banner year for discontinuity according to Tom—was also interesting. It then seems to lose its way, wandering through long stretches of self-indulgence and ponderings that didn’t seem to fit a tidy plot. A great start gave way to an overall so-so book.
The Spartacus War by Barry Strauss and Ray Grover.
Barry is a colleague and remarkably balanced guy for an occupant of the Arts Quad at Cornell. (Just tugging all your chains.) He is a prolific writer about antiquity. This story was a nice narrative of how the Spartacus wars, headed up by Spartacus (!) grew, fluorished and eventually hit the rocks. I will likely read a few more of his books.
The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined by Steven Pinker
This book is a beast, consuming a serious chunk of my reading time. It is essentially the comprehensive encyclopedia of violence. Pinker convincingly shows us how violence has steadily decreased from ancient times through the present. Every imaginable variant of the violence theme is covered from wars, brawls, beatings, you name it. His description of how they used to punish people in the good old days was so brutal I had to go through it in short bursts. It was very enlightening, although it could have been shortened without loss of content, but who am I to critize that?
What Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton
I am not quite sure what happened—I didn’t read her book—but it is my understanding she lost and just can’t accept it. One clever bloke noted that the question and the answer were both on the cover: Q: What happened? A: Hillary Rodham Clinton. I caved and read Rogoff’s book. Ain’t gonna happen on this one. I am writing my sequel, I Couldn’t Care Less.
Last year I tried to thank so many people and managed to offend those I failed to thank. This year I will simply thank the collective. The digital world has opened up communication channels that were unimaginable. I interact with acquaintances—no: let's call them friends—who are pseudonyms. Others are prominent players who generously donate their time to help me and others understand a very complex world.