Category Archives: Culture

Culture for the cultured and uncultured alike.

Animal’s Hump Day News

Happy Hump Day!

Thanks to blogger pal Doug Hagin over at The Daley Gator for the linkback!

So here, from U.S. News and World Report, are the 125 best places to live in the United States.  The ratings are partly on polling, partly on such things as crime rates, employment rates, mean household income, housing prices and a few other things.  Here are the top twenty:

  1. Austin, Texas
  2. Denver, Colorado
  3. Colorado Springs, Colorado
  4. Fayetteville, Arkansas
  5. Des Moines, Iowa
  6. Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota
  7. San Francisco, California
  8. Portland, Oregon
  9. Seattle, Washington
  10. Raleigh & Durham, North Carolina
  11. Huntsville, Alabama
  12. Madison, Wisconsin
  13. Grand Rapids, Michigan
  14. San Jose, California
  15. Nashville, Tennessee
  16. Asheville, North Carolina
  17. Boise, Idaho
  18. Sarasota, Florida
  19. Washington, D.C.
  20. Charlotte, North Carolina

Interesting to see our own Denver in the second spot, with neighbor Colorado Springs next.  But there a couple in there that make me question the entire list.  Specifically:

7. San Francisco, California

Are you kidding me?  The place has astronomical housing prices, and is literally – not figuratively, literally – a shithole.  The city’s vagrant population is completely out of control, while draconian zoning and land use regulations keep any affordable development from spoiling the ocean views of those folks in the tony gated communities (we’re talking about you, Speaker Pelosi.)

19. Washington, D.C.

Again, are you kidding me?  The city is full of the kind of people you’d cross the street to avoid – and that’s just the politicians.  The Imperial City has neighborhoods only blocks from the Imperial Mansion that you wouldn’t want to wander into unless you were accompanied by a squad of Marines in full gear.

There’s something else to this list besides the scoring methods they mention.  But then, it’s a real estate page, so…

Rule Five Seattle’s Downhill Slide Friday

The city of Seattle has been a friendly place for the homeless for quite a while now, thanks to its compassionate, enabling city government.  That policy has yielded predictable results, and many city residents have damn well had enough.  Excerpt:

For the past five years, like many of its West Coast counterparts, Seattle has endured a steady expansion of homelessness, addiction, mental illness, crime, and street disorder. But the activist class—a political and cultural elite comprising leaders in government, nonprofits, philanthropy, and media—has enforced a strict taboo on declaring the obvious: something is terribly wrong in the Emerald City.

Last month, veteran Seattle reporter Eric Johnson of KOMO violated that taboo with a shocking, hour-long documentary called Seattle is Dying, which revealed how the city has allowed a small subset of the homeless population—drug-addicted and mentally-ill criminals—to wreak havoc. Johnson’s portrait is backed up by evidence from King County homelessness data, by city attorney candidate Scott Lindsay’s “prolific offender” report on 100 homeless individuals responsible for more than 3,500 criminal cases, and by my own reporting on the homelessness crisis.

In the past two weeks, Seattle Is Dying has garnered 38,000 shares on Facebook and nearly 2 million views on YouTube. The report has clearly resonated with anxious, fearful, and increasingly angry Seattle residents. Exhausted by a decade of rising disorder and property crime—now two-and-a-half times higher than Los Angeles’s and four times higher than New York City’s—Seattle voters may have reached the point of “compassion fatigue.” According to the Seattle Times, 53 percent of Seattle voters now support a “zero-tolerance policy” on homeless encampments; 62 percent believe that the problem is getting worse because the city “wastes money by being inefficient” and “is not accountable for how the money is spent,” and that “too many resources are spent on the wrong approaches to the problem.” The city council insists that new tax revenues are necessary, including a head tax on large employers, but only 7 percent of Seattle voters think that the city is “not spending enough to really solve the problem.” For a famously progressive city, this is a remarkable shift in public opinion.

Seattle isn’t the only Left Coast city headed down this dark path; as I’ve stated previously in these virtual pages, I can tell you from firsthand experience that the formerly great city of San Francisco is suffering from a similar fate, due to similar causes.

I have some fond memories of Seattle.  I spent a few weekends up there in the mid-Eighties, during a brief stint for training at Ft. Lewis, WA, down Tacoma way.  I remember it then as a clean city, an interesting city, with enough night life to keep a young man interested and enough scenery and culture to keep the daytimes interesting as well.  It’s a shame to see that city fall into this kind of disarray.

But it’s a hard fact of economics that what you subsidize you get more of, and Seattle and Frisco have been directly and indirectly subsidizing their indigent populations for a long time now.  This combination of acceptance of bums at the expense of the productive, combined with a salubrious climate, has made these Left Coast cities a magnet.

But as this article notes:  After dictating homelessness policy for a generation, the activist class is losing the narrative—and this accounts for its increasingly desperate counterattacks. As their support among voters erodes and principled journalists like Johnson break the silence about homelessness, they fall back on branding their concerned neighbors “bigots,” “fascists,” and “white supremacists.” It’s not working the way it used to. In Seattle, a reckoning on homelessness may not be far off.

Is it too late for Seattle to turn this around?  They’ll have to change they way they vote, first.  For the root cause of this problem, Seattleites must look to their city council – and their state legislature.

Animal’s Daily Medieval Savages News

So now there’s this from the compassionate and enlightened practitioners of Islam:  In Brunei, under new Sharia-inspired legislation, gays and cheating spouses may be stoned to death.

Fucking savages.  Excerpt:

The move to make gay sex an offence punishable by stoning to death has sparked international condemnation and outcry.

The majority Muslim nation already implements Sharia laws, with homosexuality punishable with up to ten years in prison.

But from today, the government is planning to change the penal code to mean LGBT+ people could be stoned to death for same-sex activity.

Under the new laws, thieves could also have their right hand amputated for a first offence and the left foot for a second.

The punishments – which also apply to children – are in new sections under Brunei’s Sharia Penal Code.

Brunei was the first East Asian country to introduce Islamic criminal law in 2014 when it announced the first of three stages of legal changes.

This included fines or jail for offences like pregnancy outside marriage or failing to pray on Friday.

Now, the United States has a blemish or two in its history – as does every nation, everywhere, every time.  But folks who like to bemoan America’s evils should go experience life in a place like Brunei, or Iran, or Venezuela, or North Korea.  There is real evil in the world, real, determined evil, and places like these are where one can go to see it first-hand.

America is, by and large, a force for good in the world.  Brunei, admittedly, is a flyspeck on the world stage – but it’s a flyspeck that has written into law the tenets of a major world religion, the only one of the major Abrahamic faiths that has not undergone their long-overdue reformation.

There are voices in Europe, in Scandinavia, in the UK, in Germany – who advocate for implementation of Sharia law in their insular communities.   Well, True Believers, this is what Sharia law looks like – and they won’t be content to keep it to themselves.

Animal’s Daily Tales of Two Cities News

There’s a lot to like about Japan.

Be sure to check out the latest in my History of Lever Guns series over at Glibertarians!

Unless you just haven’t been paying attention recently, you’ll know that Mrs. Animal and yr. obdt. have been enjoying a semi-working vacation in Tokyo these last few days.

If you’ve been reading these virtual pages for a while, you’ll also know that we spent 2017 in the ever-more-loony San Francisco Bay area.

So, with that being the case, I can’t help but to draw some comparisons between the two cities.

I’m generally not a fan of big cities.  I grew up in rural and small town environments, and the hustle and bustle of big metropolitan areas has never appealed to me.  But even so, I love Japan, and I love Tokyo.  I like being out in the countryside and in the small towns in Japan more than being in Tokyo, of course, but on this particular trip we stayed in the Tokyo metro area the entire time, and had a ball.  But I can’t abide most major American cities (although I’m rather fond of Boston), I really can’t abide the nutbar Bay Area, and in that year in the area I came to downright loathe San Francisco.

So what’s the difference in these two cities?  Why is San Francisco now a literal shithole, littered with human feces, used needles, and derelicts sleeping in doorways?  Why is Tokyo a clean, prosperous city that young people from all over Japan want to come live and work in?

An apartment high-rise in Kinshicho.

A big part of it is housing.  The suburb we are staying in, Kinshicho, like many of Tokyo’s neighborhoods has a pretty fair number of high-rise apartment buildings.  In our travels around Tokyo and indeed other places in Japan, we’ve seen a lot of these and more going up.  In other words, Japan deals with a population density and housing cost issue that America cities can’t imagine by vertical filing.

Why can’t American cities do this?  Why can’t the Bay Area, a place notorious for horrifying housing prices, build some similar high-rise developments to provide affordable housing?  “Affordable Housing” is a shibboleth of the political Left, which has a hammerlock on this city; why then do they insist on restrictive land-use and building codes that make this almost impossible?

“But Animal,” some of these same left-leaning folks might say, “we shouldn’t force people to live in massive high-rises!”  Well, sure, I quite agree.  But why not open up the possibilities for developers to build some of these efficient, small-apartment high-rises and see if people might choose to live in them?

You know – like a free country might?

Tokyo isn’t a perfect place.  The cost of housing is still high; you’re starting to see little acts of hooliganism like graffiti, which you never saw a few years ago.  But Tokyo also houses several orders of magnitude more human beings than live in the Bay Area, and manages to find ways that young folks starting out can afford to live.  And Tokyo is a clean city.  You rarely see discarded trash in the streets, much less spent needles and human shit.

We could learn a thing or two from Japan.

Animal’s Daily Homophobic Trump News

Yes, President Trump hates gay people.  That’s probably why his administration is leading a campaign to end the criminalization of homosexuality worldwide.  Excerpt:

The Trump administration is launching a global campaign to end the criminalization of homosexuality in dozens of nations where it’s still illegal to be gay, U.S. officials tell NBC News, a bid aimed in part at denouncing Iran over its human rights record.

U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, the highest-profile openly gay person in the Trump administration, is leading the effort, which kicks off Tuesday evening in Berlin. The U.S. embassy is flying in LGBT activists from across Europe for a strategy dinner to plan to push for decriminalization in places that still outlaw homosexuality — mostly concentrated in the Middle East, Africa and the Caribbean.

“It is concerning that, in the 21st century, some 70 countries continue to have laws that criminalize LGBTI status or conduct,” said a U.S. official involved in organizing the event.

Here’s NBC’s hedge:

Yet by using gay rights as a cudgel against Iran, the Trump administration risks exposing close U.S. allies who are also vulnerable on the issue and creating a new tension point with the one region where Trump has managed to strengthen U.S. ties: the Arab world.

In Saudi Arabia, whose monarchy Trump has staunchly defended in the face of human rights allegations, homosexuality can be punishable by death, according to a 2017 worldwide report from the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association (ILGA). The report identified 72 nations that still criminalize homosexuality, including eight where it’s punishable by death.

That list includes the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan and Afghanistan — all U.S. allies — although those countries aren’t known to have implemented the death penalty for same-sex acts. In Egypt, whose leader Trump has effusively praised, homosexual relations aren’t technically illegal but other morality laws are used aggressively to target LGBT people.

As far as our allies go – and the use of scare quotes around “allies” may be appropriate here – well, screw ’em.  They can join the damned 21st century like the rest of the world.

Look, you can agree or disagree with homosexuality – or, like me, not really give a damn one way or another as long as people leave me alone – and still agree that throwing people off of roofs or stoning to them to death is barbaric.  The criminalization of activities that are engaged in freely by consenting adults is a remnant of a less civilized time, and if we can bring some diplomatic pressure to bear on these uncivilized pricks and give Iran a good kick in the teeth in the bargain, I say, “Bravo, President Trump!”

Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!

Thanks as always to Pirate’s Cove and The Other McCain for the Rule Five links!

Speaking of Rule Five:  Apparently six-bots might not only screw you – they may screw you up as well.  Excerpt:

From the Drudge Report to The New York Times, sex robots are rapidly becoming a part of the global conversation about the future of sex and relationships.

Behind the headlines, a number of companies are currently developing robots designed to provide humans with companionship and sexual pleasure – with a few already on the market.

Unlike sex toys and dolls, which are typically sold in off-the-radar shops and hidden in closets, sexbots may become mainstream. A 2017 survey suggested almost half of Americans think that having sex with robots will become a common practice within 50 years.

As a scholar of artificial intelligence, neuroscience and the law, I’m interested in the legal and policy questions that sex robots pose.

How do we ensure they are safe? How will intimacy with a sex robot affect the human brain? Would sex with a childlike robot be ethical? And what exactly is a sexbot anyway?

More on this in a bit, but first, here’s the bit about sexbots possibly being dangerous:

For example, dangers lurk even in a seemingly innocent scene where a sex robot and human hold hands and kiss. What if the sexbots’ lips were manufactured with lead paint or some other toxin? And what if the robot, with the strength of five humans, accidentally crushes the human’s finger in a display of passion?

It’s not just physical harm, but security as well. For instance, just as a human partner learns by remembering what words were soothing, and what type of touch was comforting, so too is a sex robot likely to store and process massive amounts of intimate information. What regulations are in place to ensure that this data remains private? How vulnerable will the sex robot be to hacking? Could the state use sex robots as surveillance devices for sex offenders?

Maybe I’m a bit naive about this, but for what possible reason would you want your sexbot connected to the internet?  Simply insisting on the sexbot have no wireless connections – something you can verify with an app on your smartphone – would preclude the espionage issue.  And I can’t fathom why you’d build a sexbot with the kind of strength described above.

Now, to circle back to the ethical questions:  What exactly is a sexbot?  Well, never fear, Animal has the answer!  A sexbot, no matter now fancy, how sophisticated, how expensive, is nothing more than a fancy masturbation toy.  A married person having sex with a bot isn’t cheating, they are just (literally) jerking off with a pretty toy.

But a bot designed to look like a child?

That’s a head-scratcher.  The bot is still just a machine.  It’s inanimate.  You can’t molest a bot.  It isn’t a victim.  It’s not capable of giving consent, but there’s no reason why it should have to, any more than your toaster has to give consent before you stick a slice of bread in it.

But there’s an “ick” factor here.  On the one hand, of course, such bots might give a non-victimizing outlet to perverts who might otherwise be lurking around schoolyards.  On the other hand, it might normalize the behavior in the minds to the point where they’re more likely to act out.

There’s probably fodder there to keep a legion of head-candlers busy full time for months.

Rule Five Virginia Is For Lovers Friday

Boy howdy, Virginia is way into train-wreck territory.  First, their Governor did something naughty decades ago:

A muddled defense that included moonwalking and a blackface Michael Jackson costume may be enough for Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam to keep his job despite widespread calls for his resignation over a racially insensitive photo in his 1984 medical school yearbook. 

Virginia’s Constitution says elected officials who commit “malfeasance in office, corruption, neglect of duty or other high crime or misdemeanor” may be removed from office. Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond School of Law, told USA TODAY “nothing that has happened so far is grounds for removal” under the state’s provisions for impeachment.

“There is nothing in his service as governor that satisfies those terms,” Tobias said.

Then, his Lieutenant Governor got accused of something more serious:

Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of Virginia emphatically denied on Monday a woman’s claim that he sexually assaulted her in 2004, suggesting at one point that Gov. Ralph Northam’s supporters were trying to block his ascent to the governorship at a moment when Mr. Northam is besieged by demands that he resign over charges of racism.

“Does anybody think it’s any coincidence that on the eve of potentially my being elevated that that’s when this smear comes out?” Mr. Fairfax told reporters surrounding him in the rotunda of the state Capitol about whether he believes Mr. Northam, a fellow Democrat, was behind the accusation’s coming to light.

Now the third man in line, the Attorney General, has come out with some ancient shenanigans of his own:

Virginia Attorney General Mark R. Herring (D) said Wednesday he dressed in blackface during college, elevating the Capitol’s scandals to a new level that engulfed the entire executive branch of government.

Now, Herring, Gov. Ralph Northam and Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax – the state’s three top Democrats – are each embroiled in separate scandals that threaten their careers. Also on Wednesday, the woman who has accused Fairfax of sexual assault made her first public statements, going into graphic detail of an alleged 2004 attack which Fairfax has vehemently denied.

One might feel no small amount of schadenfreude at seeing Old Dominion Democrats hoist on their own petard.  While the sexual assault accusation is pretty serious – and the accuser has some pretty specific details – the other two, with Governor Northam and AG Herring, are pretty silly.

The right thing for Northam to do here is this:  Call a press conference.  Get as many members of the media there as his people can dig up.

Take the stage.  Ask the assembled throng, “which of you here can honestly say you never did anything dumb when you were young?  Raise your hands.  No one?  That’s what I thought.”

Drop mike.  Leave the stage.  Discussion over.

And he’d have a hell of a good point.  My own youth was pretty much a catalog of “hey, hold my beer and watch this” events, which is why I remain to this day delighted that cell phone cameras didn’t exist in the Seventies, or there would be some embarrassing footage of me on YouTube.

But yes, that’s all this is – embarrassing.  It is not nor should it be career-ending.  No matter what letter you have behind your name.

Animal’s Daily Mad Max News

National treasure Dr. Victor Davis Hanson continues his chronicling of the downfall of the once-Golden state in his latest piece, describing an odyssey across the state’s highways.  Excerpt:

Walking to the car in San Francisco was an early morning obstacle course dotted with the occasional human feces and lots of trash. The streets looked like Troy after its sacking. Verbal and physical altercations among the homeless offered background. The sidewalks were sort of like the flotsam and jetsam in the caves of the Cyclopes, with who knows what the ingredients really were. Outbreaks of hepatitis and typhus are now common among the refuse of California’s major cities.

The rules of the road in downtown San Francisco can seem pre-civilizational: the more law-abiding driver is considered timid and someone to be taken advantage of—while the more reckless earns respect and right of way. Pedestrians have achieved the weird deterrent effect of so pouring out onto the street in such numbers that drivers not walkers seemed the more terrified.

The 101 freeway southbound was entirely blocked by traffic—sort of like the ancient doldrums where ships don’t move. About 20 percent of the cars in the carpool lane seemed to be cheating—and were determined not to let in any more of like kind. The problem with talking on the phone and texting while driving is not just cars, but also semi-trucks, whose drivers go over the white line and weave as they please on the theory that no one argues with 20 tons of freight.

How can this be the state of affairs in a state that was once one of our greatest?

How can this be the state of affairs in a state that is rich in natural resources, graced with gorgeous scenery and a salubrious climate?

How can this be the state of affairs in a state that hosts some of the most prosperous tech companies in the world, not to mention the heart of the motion picture industry?

How can this be the state of affairs in a state that has so joggled their election laws so as to virtually guarantee one-party rule, eliminating the need to make any accommodation to a pesky opposition party?

Maybe it has something to do with the party that has seized that unchecked power?  The taxes, the winking at immigration status, the selective enforcement of statutes, the endless over-regulation of private property selectively enforced so that Central Valley farmers pay tens of thousands for minor infractions of obscure environmental regulations while Third-World-styled immigrant encampments are ignored?

All of that might have something to do with it.  And what party was that again?

Animal’s Daily Loony Shoes News

I like basics in footwear.  My favorite foot-housings are plain, unadorned Justin ropers; a pair costs a hundred bucks or so and can last twenty years.  The plain old roper boot (known as a Wellington in some parts) is 18th century technology, but there’s a good reason they haven’t changed much – and that’s because there’s no reason for them to change.  I put mine through rain, mud, snow, dust, rocks, all manner of stuff.   Clean them, apply some saddle soap and mink oil, and you’re good to go.  Simple and reliable.

That’s how footwear should be.  Simple and reliable.  So why do people have to complicate things?  Excerpt:

“Athletes will be able to update and evolve their shoes with upgrades, new features and services all through smartphone technology inside their footwear,” said Michael Donaghu, Nike’s vice president of innovation.

While Nike touts this shoe as a “mobile sports research lab on feet everywhere,” the shoe currently doesn’t provide any data, but the company said that will be coming.

“We are moving from fit to firmware,” said Donaghu.

Nike researchers said the Nike Adapt BB is the most tested shoe in its history. The company chose basketball as the first sport because of the demands basketball players put on their shoes with fast cuts and constant sprints.

Boston Celtics star Jayson Tatum has been the guinea pig secretly testing the Adapt behind the scenes. Tatum will wear the Adapt BB in the shoe’s professional debut Wednesday night when the Celtics play the Toronto Raptors. The shoe is available to customers beginning Feb. 17.

These damn things start at $350.  I could get a fair-middling pair of blue stingray cowboy boots for that, suitable for a Saturday night on the town, and I can tell you I consider that money far better spent.

Here’s my concern with high-tech shoes:  Shoes go on your feet, which are generally used for walking, running, hopping, jumping and other things that involve impact.  Further, those shoes are probably going to get muddy, wet, dirty in all sorts of ways.  And, sooner or later, the fancy smart-phone-adjustable gizmos are going to break, leaving you stuck with a really expensive pair of sneakers that you can no longer lace up.

This is a high-tech solution looking for a problem.  A First World problem.

 

Animal’s Daily Colorado Baker News

This is interesting news; an Imperial judge has ruled that Colorado baker Jack Phillips has standing to sue the State of Colorado for religious bias.  Excerpt:

Last week, a federal judge ruled that Jack Phillips, the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Colorado, could proceed to sue the state for anti-religious bias.

Phillips previously fought a case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court after the Colorado Civil Rights Commission cited him for refusing to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding. The Supreme Court found that the commission discriminated against Phillips for his religious views.

On the same day that the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to take Phillips’ appeal, Denver attorney Autumn Scardina requested Phillips to bake a cake that celebrated gender transition with a blue outside and an pink inside, the Western Journal reports. After Phillips refused, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission cited him again.

Despite Phillips winning his case at the Supreme Court, the state still decided to prosecute him, causing him to file a lawsuit.

And:

Campbell added that Phillips serves all customers regardless of their lifestyle but doesn’t create custom cakes that express messages that conflict with his religious beliefs.

You know, it’s illustrative to reverse the roles here.  Imagine an LGBTQX baker that refused to make a custom cake for a traditional heterosexual couple’s wedding.  Would the state of Colorado descend on them with the same fury they have visited on Phillips? Of course not!  And in that case, as opposed to Mr. Phillips’ case, the state would be correct; it is a clear violation of freedom of association to force a private business to enter into an agreement that violates their personal sense of ethics.

It doesn’t matter what their ethics system is based on:  The Bible, the Kama Sutra, the Books of Bokonon or the rantings of a street-corner drunk.  The state only has two legitimate purposes:  To protect the safety and the liberty of the citizen.  In this case, nobody’s safety or liberty was threatened by being denied a custom cake – except, of course, the liberty of Mr. Phillips, in the sense that the state attempted to deny him freedom of association.

“But Animal,” you might ask, “where do we draw the line?  Should a baker be allowed to refuse to provide a custom cake to a mixed-race couple, because he’s a (actual, as opposed to the usual, modern definition) racist?

“Yes,” I would reply, “…because bigoted pricks still have freedom of association.  No victim, no crime.  I may join you in a protest in front of that guy’s shop to deprive the bigoted prick of customers, but I’ll never say he isn’t within his rights to refuse – and there are plenty more bakers in Denver.”

The entire discussion should stop right there.  No victim, no crime.