Rule Five Free Speech Friday

Heather Mac Donald thinks it’s time to stand up to campus bullies trying to squash freedom of speech on our nation’s campuses.  She’s right.  Excerpt:

Where are the faculty? American college students are increasingly resorting to brute force, and sometimes criminal violence, to shut down ideas they don’t like. Yet when such travesties occur, the faculty are, with few exceptions, missing in action, though they have themselves been given the extraordinary privilege of tenure to protect their own liberty of thought and speech. It is time for them to take their heads out of the sand.

I was the target of such silencing tactics two days in a row last week, the more serious incident at Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, California, and a less virulent one at UCLA.

The Rose Institute for State and Local Government at Claremont McKenna had invited me to meet with students and to give a talk about my book, The War on Cops, on April 6. Several calls went out on Facebook to “shut down” this “notorious white supremacist fascist Heather Mac Donald.” A Facebook post from “we, students of color at the Claremont Colleges” announced grandiosely that “as a community, we CANNOT and WILL NOT allow fascism to have a platform. We stand against all forms of oppression and we refuse to have Mac Donald speak.” A Facebook event titled “Shut Down Anti-Black Fascist Heather Mac Donald” and hosted by “Shut Down Anti-Black Fascists” encouraged students to protest the event because Mac Donald “condemns [the] Black Lives Matter movement,” “supports racist police officers,” and “supports increasing fascist ‘law and order.’” (My supposed fascism consists in trying to give voice to the thousands of law-abiding minority residents of high-crime areas who support the police and are desperate for more law-enforcement protection.)

Whether one agrees with Heather Mac Donald or not isn’t at issue here.  Whether one understands the importance of free expression in a free society is; indeed, a society can’t stay free without freedom of expression.

And the fact that this is taking place on college campuses (campii?) just makes this all the more intolerable.  The higher education system is supposed to be a bastion of free expression and free thought; instead, too many of our institutions of higher learning are bastions of “safe spaces,” “free speech zones” and totalitarian (yes, really) uprisings of intolerant shitbags trying to silence anyone who makes them “uncomfortable.”

But there may be some hope for all this.  Heather Mac Donald concludes:

…the students currently stewing in delusional resentments and self-pity will eventually graduate, and some will seize levers of power more far-reaching than those they currently wield over toadying campus bureaucrats and spineless faculty. Unless the campus zest for censorship is combatted now, what we have always regarded as a precious inheritance could be eroded beyond recognition, and a soft totalitarianism could become the new American norm.

Eh, probably not.

The students most likely to be taking part in these totalitarian uprisings are also most likely to be working on bullshit Underwater Ethnic Dog Polishing degree programs.  They aren’t going to be at the levers of anything except a Starbucks espresso machine.

Animal’s Not-Thought-Through Planet Name News

NASA has spotted auroras on Uranus.  Excerpt:

Uranus is the third largest planet in the solar system after Jupiter and Saturn. It’s quite a bit smaller than Saturn, actually, with a diameter of 15,759 miles (25,362 km). Saturn is more than twice as large, but you could still fit 63 Earths inside Uranus. The Planet appears as a uniform blue-gray globe from a distance, but there are some subtle pattern in the clouds when viewed in certain wavelengths of light. It also has a ring system — it’s no match for the majestic rings of Saturn, but it’s got Jupiter beat in that department. In addition, Uranus has the distinction of rotating with an axial tilt of 97 degrees — almost parallel to the plane of the solar system. Astronomers hypothesize it was struck by a smaller planet in the distant past that tipped it over on its side.

The above images show bright auroras glowing in the clouds of Uranus, a phenomenon that was only confirmed in 2011. Astronomers had previously seen auroras on other gas giants like Jupiter and Saturn, but never Uranus. Auroras are caused by streams of charged particles like electrons picked up by the solar wind or from a planet’s own ionosphere. They are channeled into the upper atmosphere by the planet’s magnetic field, where they interact with gas molecules like oxygen and nitrogen. The ionized gas then gives off light, which we can observe.

Auroras on Uranus

Insert obligatory “Uranus” pun here.

It’s a common observation among astronomers that the universe is not only stranger than we imagine, but stranger than we can imagine.  Not only is the universe pretty strange in places, our own solar system is pretty weird.  The semi-cool outer gas giants are interesting and strange, and it’s only recently we’ve started getting good looks at them.

Like many biologists, though, I’m still holding out for whatever we may find under the icepack on Europa.

Animal’s Hump Day News

Happy Hump Day!

Well, sometimes the friendly skies aren’t so friendly.  Excerpt:

The world is rightly abuzz over an awful incident yesterday in which a man was beaten and dragged off a plane by police at Chicago’s O’Hare airport for the crime of wanting to use the seat he’s paid for on a United Airline flight getting ready to leave for Louisville.

The man claimed to be a doctor who had patients to see the next morning, explaining why he neither took an initial offer made to everyone on the plane to accept $400 and a hotel room for the night in exchange for voluntarily giving up his seat nor wanted to obey a straight-up order to leave, in an attempt on United’s part to clear four seats for its own employees on the full flight.

No one considered even the $800 that was offered after everyone had boarded enough for the inconvenience, so United picked four seats and just ordered those in them to vacate. But the one man in question was not interested in obeying. (Buzzfeed reports, based on tweets from other passengers, that the bloodied man did eventually return to the plane.)

Here’s the part I’d like to comment on:

While United’s customer service policies in this case are clearly heinous and absurd, let’s not forget to also cast blame on the police officers who actually committed the brutality on United’s behalf. NPR reports that the cops attacking the man “appear to be wearing the uniforms of Chicago aviation police.”

Full disclosure:  I live in Denver; Denver is a major United hub; I have status and a metric buttload (that’s 1.173 British buttloads) of award miles on United.  So I fly United, and all in all my experiences with them have been pretty good.  With that in mind, it’s the bolded part I’ll comment on.  I agree with the folks at Reason.com more often than not, but in this case they’re just wrong.  Why?

Whenever anyone buys a plane ticket (whether they read it or not) agrees to that airline’s Contract of Carriage.  Part G of United’s contract reads:

All of UA’s flights are subject to overbooking which could result in UA’s inability to provide previously confirmed reserved space for a given flight or for the class of service reserved. In that event, UA’s obligation to the Passenger is governed by Rule 25.

Rule 25 refers to how much the airline has to reimburse you if  you get bumped.

Now, the fact that the passenger in question either didn’t read or didn’t care about the contract of carriage doesn’t excuse what really, really appears to be excessive force by the cops who removed him.  But at the point the plane’s captain – who, like the captain of a ship at sea, has pretty much universal control over what happens on his aircraft – asked him to leave and he refused, he was then committing trespass.

There’s some blame on both sides here, probably.  But you aren’t exempt from the provisions of a contract that you agreed to, just because you didn’t bother to read them.  United was within their rights to ask him to deplane.  He was wrong to refuse.

But, it’s fair to point out that United handled the situation really badly.  The optics will kill them – for a while.  Fortunately the American public, especially the social-media addicted, have the attention span of a blue-bottle fly.  By next week this will be all but forgotten.

Animal’s Daily WW3 News

Well, this may well end badly:  China ‘deploys 150,000 troops to deal with possible North Korean refugees over fears Trump may strike Kim Jong-un following missile attack on Syria’.  Excerpt:

The Chinese army has reportedly deployed 150,000 troops to the North Korean border to prepare for pre-emptive attacks after the United States dropped airstrikes on Syria.

President Donald Trump‘s missile strike on Syria on Friday was widely interpreted as a warning to North Korea.

And now China, left shocked by the air strikes, has deployed medical and backup units from the People’s Liberation Army forces to the Yalu River, Korea’s Chosun.com reported.

The troops have been dispatched to handle North Korean refugees and ‘unforeseen circumstances’, such as the prospect of preemptive attacks on North Korea, the news agency said.

Meanwhile, the US Navy has moved the USS Carl Vinson aircraft carrier strike group from Singapore to North Korea after the country conducted more missile testing.

Now, a couple of things here:  China may well be reacting to President Trump’s smack-down of Syria; it’s not at all clear that the President has read The Art of War, and knows about killing a chicken to scare the fox.  But the bat-guano crazy Norks seem to have taken it as a message, and are doing a lot of saber-rattling.  And now we’re moving a carrier into the area, traditionally the American way of telling the leaders of various Third World shitholes to settle their asses down.

But it’s more likely China may be adopting a defensive posture here.  If anything goes down in North Korea – whether it be a hostile move on their part or a sudden decapitation – it would probably send waves of Nork refugees streaming over the nearest available border.  And for millions of them, that means China.

Russia also shares a very short border with North Korea.  It will be interesting to see what the old KGB apparatchik Putin does in the next week or so.

Goodbye, Blue Monday

Goodbye, Blue Monday!

Thanks once again to Pirate’s Cove for the Rule Five links, and to Darkness Over the Land and our old pals at The Daley Gator for the call-outs!

It’s well-known how ridiculous property prices are here in Silicon Valley, where yr. obdt. temporarily hangs his hat; what’s less well-known is the horrendous coastal v. interior divide that may well eventually tear California asunder.  Excerpt:

Fresno, Bakersfield, Ontario and San Bernardino are rapidly becoming the Bantustans — the impoverished areas designed for Africans under the racist South African regime — in California’s geographic apartheid. Poverty rates in the Central Valley and Inland Empire reach over a third of the population, well above the share in the Bay Area. By some estimates, rural California counties suffer the highest unemployment rate in the country; six of the 10 metropolitan areas in the country with the highest percentage of jobless are located in the central and eastern parts of the state. The interior counties — from San Bernardino to Merced — also suffer the worst health conditions in the state.

This disparity has worsened in recent years. Until the 2008 housing crash, the interior counties served, as the Kern EDC’s Chapman puts it, as “an incubator for mobility.” These areas were places that Californians of modest means, and companies no longer able to afford coastal prices, could get a second shot.

But state policies, notably those tied to Gov. Jerry Brown’s climate jihad, suggests Inland Empire economist John Husing, have placed California “at war” with blue-collar industries like homebuilding, energy, agriculture and manufacturing. These kinds of jobs are critical for regions where almost half the workforce has a high school education or less.

Just for shits and giggles, I jumped on to a couple of real estate sites and did some looking around the immediate area I’m staying in at the moment: Los Gatos, California, home of Netflix, Roku, and game-maker Cryptic Studios.  For a 3-bedroom, 2-bath home, prices start at a tad under a million dollars.

In any of a dozen or so small towns in eastern Iowa where I grew up, you could have the same house for under a hundred grand, and probably a good-sized lot with mature trees into the bargain.  Some of this price madness is the result of a few tech companies pouring money into the region, but more of it is due to the heavy restrictions placed on land development in California; for years now the increasingly bat-guano crazy California legislature has been adopting policies that seem deliberately calculated to drive small businesses out of the state, and now they have voted to increase gasoline taxes by over $5 billion a year.

The tax increases and insane property values don’t mean as much to the wealthy minority in Silicon Valley and San Francisco.  But to the farmers, small merchants and tradesmen of the Central Valley, they are ushering in ever-increasingly dire times.

Stein’s Law will eventually assert itself:  What can’t continue, won’t continue.  It will be interesting to see what happens in California when that day comes.

Rule Five Judicial Extra Friday

A bonus Friday bit, this time on today’s expected Supreme Court vote.  Excerpt:

Democrats escalated their attacks against Judge Neil Gorsuch ahead of key votes set for Thursday, portraying him as an ally of the powerful and an enemy of the weak. Republicans defended him, accusing Democrats of trying to block Gorsuch out of frustration over Trump’s election victory.

“Democrats would filibuster Ruth Bader Ginsburg if President Donald Trump nominated her,” said Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., naming one of the more liberal sitting justices. “There is simply no principled reason to oppose this exceptional, exceptional Supreme Court nominee.”

Democrats begged to differ, returning again and again to McConnell’s decision last year to deny consideration to then-President Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Judge Merrick Garland, who was ignored for nearly a year by Senate Republicans after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.

Instead McConnell kept Scalia’s seat open, a calculation that is now paying off hugely for Republicans and Trump, who will be able to claim the biggest victory of his presidency to date if Gorsuch is confirmed as expected.

Proving once again that politics is a filthy business and the only way to win is to play rough, McConnell and Congressional Republicans have in both the Garland and Gorsuch nominations done precisely what Republican voters would want them to do; and Democrats, were the roles reversed, would have done precisely the same thing.  The main difference between the two nominees is that were Garland on the Court, he would have tipped the balance of the Court to the left; Gorsuch will leave it where it was before Scalia passed.

Of course, none of that really matters; it is the filthy business of politics as usual that is beind all this.  Both sides know it, and both sides engage in it.  But it would be nice if Schumer and Company would drop all the hypocritical bleating.  Elections have consequences, Chuckie; you guys lost.

Rule Five EPA Racket Friday

As if we didn’t already know this, John Stossel is pointing it out for us:  The EPA is a Racket.  Excerpt:

Regulation zealots and much of the media are furious because President Donald Trump canceled Barack Obama’s attempt to limit carbon dioxide emissions. But Trump did the right thing.

CO2 is what we exhale. It’s not a pollutant. It is, however, a greenhouse gas, and such gases increase global warming. It’s possible that this will lead to a spiral of climate change that will destroy much of Earth!

But probably not. The science is definitely not settled.

Either way, Obama’s expensive regulation wouldn’t make a discernible difference. By 2030—if it met its goal—it might cut global carbon emissions by 1 percent.

The Earth will not notice.

However, people who pay for heat and electricity would notice. The Obama rule demanded power plants emit less CO2. Everyone would pay more—for no useful reason.

I say “would” because the Supreme Court put a “stay” on the regulation, saying there may be no authority for it.

So Trump proposes a sensible cut: He’ll dump an Obama proposal that was already dumped by courts. He’d also reduce Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) spending by 31 percent.

But here’s the real kick in the nuts:

Some of what regulators do now resembles the work of sadists who like crushing people. In Idaho, Jack and Jill Barron tried to build a house on their own property. Jack got permission from his county. So they started building.

They got as far as the foundation when the EPA suddenly declared that the Barrons’ property was a “wetland.”

Some of their land was wet. But that was only because state government had not maintained its own land, adjacent to the Barrons’ property, and water backed up from the state’s land to the Barrons’.

The EPA suddenly said, “You are building on a wetland!” and filed criminal charges against them. Felonies. When government does that, most of us cringe and give up. It costs too much to fight the state. Government regulators seem to have unlimited time and nearly unlimited money.

But Jack was mad enough to fight. He spent $200,000 on his own lawyers.

Three years later, a jury cleared Jack of all charges.

So, President Trump is pulling some of the EPA’s fangs.  That’s a Good Thing.

Here’s the deal; I’m something of an environmental nut myself, in that I like being out and about in the environment.  I like clean air, clean water, birds, chipmunks and trees.  I also remember the late Sixties, when some of our cities were unlivable due to the filth and you couldn’t eat fish (if you could find one) out of many of our major rivers because of the pollution.

But that battle’s won.

Here’s the problem with popular “movements” like the environmental movement, the civil rights movement, and countless others:  They can’t admit victory.  Thousands if not tens of thousands of people are making a damn good living whipping up outrage and planning the next round of ever-more intrusive legislation and regulation, and they have no interest in admitting they won (or, in some cases, that their grandparents won), folding their tents and going home.

But it looks like President Trump is willing to send at least 31 percent of them packing.

Animal’s Daily Legalized Theft News

Crime does pay, if you’re with the government.

Civil forfeiture is still a thing – because, you know, fuck the Fourth Amendment.  Excerpt:

Civil forfeiture lets the government confiscate property allegedly linked to crime without bringing charges against the owner. Since law enforcement agencies receive most or all of the proceeds from the forfeitures they initiate, they have a strong financial incentive to loot first and ask questions never, which explains why those sheriffs were not eager to enlighten the president about the downside of such legalized theft.

A new report from the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG) highlights the potential for abuse. Between fiscal years 2007 and 2016, the OIG found, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) took $4.2 billion in cash, more than 80 percent of it through administrative forfeitures, meaning there was no judicial oversight because the owners did not challenge the seizures in court.

Although the DEA would argue that the lack of challenges proves the owners were guilty, that is not true. The process for recovering seized property is daunting, complicated, time-consuming, and expensive, often costing more than the property is worth.

Consider Charles Clarke, a college student who in 2014 lost $11,000 in savings to cops at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport who said his suitcase smelled of marijuana. No contraband was found, and as is typical in such cases the allegations in the federal seizure affidavit were absurdly vague, merely asserting that the money had something to do with illegal drugs.

Clarke, who admitted smoking marijuana but denied selling it, ultimately got his money back with interest. But it took two years, and it was possible only because the Institute for Justice represented him for free.

Ask a number of pols about why civil forfeiture isn’t an absolute, gobsmacking kick in the nuts to any pretense of taking your stuff without due process, and nine times out of ten the answer will amount to “fuck you, that’s why.”

That’s not good enough.

Enter Wisconsin’s own Jim Sensenbrenner.  He’s introduced the Deterring Undue Enforcement by Protecting Rights of Citizens from Excessive Searches and Seizures act, which if you run the acronym that makes DUE PROCESS.

That’s reason enough to pass it right there.

Seriously, it’s time someone in Congress remembered what due process is.  Both parties have been wiping their asses with the Bill of Rights long enough.

Deep thoughts, news of the day, totty and the Manly Arts.