Archive for April, 2016

Watching a national suicide and a gooey mess of resentment and excuses

Joel D. Hirst on The Suicide of Venezuela.

I have watched the suicide of a nation; and I know now how it happens. Venezuela is slowly, and very publically, dying; an act that has spanned more than fifteen years. To watch a country kill itself is not something that happens often. In ignorance, one presumes it would be fast and brutal and striking – like the Rwandan genocide or Vesuvius covering Pompeii. You expect to see bodies of mothers clutching protectively their young; carbonized by the force or preserved on the glossy side of pictures. But those aren’t the occasions that promote national suicide. After those events countries recover – people recover. They rebuild, they reconcile. They forgive.

No, national suicide is a much longer process – not product of any one moment. But instead one bad idea, upon another, upon another and another and another and another and the wheels that move the country began to grind slower and slower; rust covering their once shiny facades. Revolution – cold and angry. Hate, as a political strategy. Law, used to divide and conquer. Regulation used to punish. Elections used to cement dictatorship. Corruption bleeding out the lifeblood in drips, filling the buckets of a successive line of bureaucrats before they are destroyed, only to be replaced time and again. This is what is remarkable for me about Venezuela.

I tried to fight the suicide the whole time; in one way or another. I suppose I still do, my writing as a last line of resistance. But like Dagny Taggert I found there was nothing to push against – it was all a gooey mess of resentment and excuses.

Witness is all around us yet many refuse to see. Consider VDH, 21st Century California Reverts Back to the Wild West.

I was the beneficiary (born in 1953) of the work of past generations. In my early youth of the 1950s and 1960, I can’t recall that we locked the house or perhaps even had a house key. We still used a shared open telephone line (my great-grandfather had strung it up with redwood poles and vineyard 12 gauge wire on glass insulators). It was also certainly a multiracial and intermarried upbringing, as Portuguese, Armenian, Japanese, Mexican-American, and Punjabi farmers both collaborated and competed with one another on their 40-80 acre vineyard homesteads.

That entire world, of course, is gone, a victim of wealth, affluence, consolidation and corporatization of agriculture, globalization, high-tech appurtenances, the postmodern ethos that followed the 1960s, and massive influxes of illegal immigrants. What I regret most, however, is the disappearance of the rule of law. In some ways, we have returned to the pre-civilized days of the 19th century. When I walk or ride a bicycle in rural areas, I expect that the dogs that rush out from rented-out homes and trailers are neither licensed nor vaccinated—and that fact is of no concern to authorities.

There seems to be many that put Venezuela and Cuba and Argentina and modern Greece and even California as role models. They see dictators and oppressors as heroes. What is not seen in that the path they seek to follow is one of human misery which is why so many are going in the opposite direction that they defy the law and other national border barriers to do so. That “gooey mess of resentment and excuses” drags all of us with it and there may not be a Reagan “shining city on a hill” for any of us to escape towards to escape.

What I regret most, however, is the disappearance of the rule of law

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Just how far can he go

The issue is Texas v U.S. on an executive order regarding the enforcement of immigration law. Paul Mirengoff on the Oral Argument in DAPA Case Highlights the Need to Block Merrick Garland.

Thus, the possibility of some sort of “compromise” decision cannot be ruled out. In that event, expect the non-liberal Justices to do the bulk of the compromising.
If, as expected, it turns out that the Court’s four liberal Justices are willing to uphold DAPA on the merits, thus enabling the president effectively to make a massive change in our immigration law with the stroke of his pen, this will highlight the importance of blocking Garland Merrick’s nomination to the Supreme Court. It will also demonstrate the need to obstruct, if possible, the nominee of the next president, if that president is a Democrat.

On big ticket items such as DAPA, Justices appointed by Democrats form a voting bloc so loyal to liberal presidents and their policy preferences that it’s hard to imagine where they might draw the line. Here, President Obama said he couldn’t do executive amnesty because he isn’t a king. Then, Obama went ahead with executive amnesty, stating that he had no choice because Congress wouldn’t cooperate — i.e., do what he wanted.

What should be a concern here is the “voting bloc so loyal to liberal presidents and their policy preferences” as that is a dereliction of duty by the judges on political grounds. The fact that it is so easy to predict the decisions of most of the judges and just who is doing the “compromising” is the tell on the validity of this concern. Unless, of course, you are in favor of an oligarchy or even a dictator if you can’t get the public to go along with your ideology.

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A perfect storm for corruption: science research edition

It may sound familiar. The sugar conspiracy — “In 1972, a British scientist sounded the alarm that sugar – and not fat – was the greatest danger to our health. But his findings were ridiculed and his reputation ruined. How did the world’s top nutrition scientists get it so wrong for so long?” is a ‘long read’ by Ian Leslie. Change the subject and rename the prominent characters and you have climate change.

The study’s biggest limitation was inherent to its method. Epidemiological research involves the collection of data on people’s behaviour and health, and a search for patterns. Originally developed to study infection, Keys and his successors adapted it to the study of chronic diseases, which, unlike most infections, take decades to develop, and are entangled with hundreds of dietary and lifestyle factors, effectively impossible to separate.

A scientist is part of what the Polish philosopher of science Ludwik Fleck called a “thought collective”: a group of people exchanging ideas in a mutually comprehensible idiom. The group, suggested Fleck, inevitably develops a mind of its own, as the individuals in it converge on a way of communicating, thinking and feeling.

This makes scientific inquiry prone to the eternal rules of human social life: deference to the charismatic, herding towards majority opinion, punishment for deviance, and intense discomfort with admitting to error. Of course, such tendencies are precisely what the scientific method was invented to correct for, and over the long run, it does a good job of it. In the long run, however, we’re all dead, quite possibly sooner than we would be if we hadn’t been following a diet based on poor advice.

In the last 10 years, a theory that had somehow held up unsupported for nearly half a century has been rejected by several comprehensive evidence reviews, even as it staggers on, zombie-like, in our dietary guidelines and medical advice.

The nutritional establishment has proved itself, over the years, skilled at ad hominem takedowns, but it is harder for them to do to Robert Lustig or Nina Teicholz what they once did to John Yudkin. Harder, too, to deflect or smother the charge that the promotion of low-fat diets was a 40-year fad, with disastrous outcomes, conceived of, authorised, and policed by nutritionists.

This was cited by John Merline in How ‘Settled Science’ Helped Create A Massive Public Health Crisis. “Anyone who thinks it’s enough to rest an argument on “settled science” or a “scientific consensus” ought to read about John Yudkin … Still, had nutritionists listened to a “fat-denier” like Yudkin four decades ago, we might have avoided the scale of today’s obesity epidemic, which has claimed millions of lives.”

Then there is Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry who describes how Big Science is broken. “Sience is broken. That’s the thesis of a must-read article in First Things magazine, in which William A. Wilson accumulates evidence that a lot of published research is false. But that’s not even the worst part.”

The key in all of these is big money that is separated from results by government. Prestige and honor are, of course, significant motivators but it is money that is often a concrete measure. The feedback is positive: get pleasing results in research and that leads to publication and that leads to more funding. A part of being important is selling the idea that the research topic is critical for public health and safety. These factors are compounded when the research topic is complex with many variables that are difficult to separate and interact with each other in many ways. Then toss in ideological factors and base desires for simple fixes and you have a perfect storm. “This makes scientific inquiry prone to the eternal rules of human social life: deference to the charismatic, herding towards majority opinion, punishment for deviance, and intense discomfort with admitting to error.” Look for these behaviors and you can know the quality if the ideas they defend.

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Responsible citizenship

The ranks of the entitled includes those who think they have a right to vote anywhere on anything. This cheapens the vote. Dru Kristenev explains why Membership in a political club requires action — “Sweat equity is what makes the difference in the long run, not after-the-fact mob-style anger and intimidation, or threatening the life of a party executive who was elected to his or her post.”

All the uproar over caucus protocol, which varies from state to state, only seems to become a focal point when someone believes they’ve been disenfranchised. The reaction is questionable when party function, structure and strata as a club is overlooked.

Far too many seem to think that registering as a democrat or republican and marking a ballot is where it begins and ends in the political process. However, what just occurred in Colorado and all the resulting fallout points to how important it is to view party membership as more than simple affiliation… that is, if the individuals really wants to have their voice heard.

Anyone who has been involved in a community organization, such as the PTA, area chamber of commerce or Rotary, knows that in order to have any influence in the decision-making process they have to attend the meetings. They must show-up and be vocal. The republican party requires the same kind of involvement. If a member has strong enough opinions and wants to be heard, taking an active role cannot be avoided.

Voters who never thought it necessary to attend local meetings and are now fuming that they were overlooked, forget that just casting a vote isn’t enough. The details are what most people rebel against, but it they don’t take the time to do more than go to an occasional rally they haven’t fully accessed the process and made the effort to influence it.

Sweat equity is what makes the difference in the long run, not after-the-fact mob-style anger and intimidation, or threatening the life of a party executive who was elected to his or her post.

How much an individual really wants to see positive changes is reflected in whether they are willing to attend to business on the ground floor, not whether they just want to complain and eventually vote for the lesser of two evils.

This is like the welfare state where people expect to get money without having to do anything. Life doesn’t work that way. Citizenship is earned. It is not an entitlement. Those who complain about not having a vote are like those who get on a soapbox and have no listeners. To make the vote a part of responsible citizenship means participation in the group efforts.

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Persistence: new propaganda efforts

A new movie is out. Monica Crowley describes it as a part of The left’s long war against Clarence Thomas — “A new HBO drama reprises the left’s ‘high-tech lynching’.”

In its war for America, the left never rests, sometimes falters but rarely allows itself to fail. It works tirelessly to “fundamentally transform the nation” and smashes anyone and anything that gets in its way.

Consider the pitched battle it has waged against Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas over the past quarter-century.

The leftists lost the battle over Justice Thomas, but they wasted little time before they regrouped and planned for future orchestrated clashes. The Thomas spectacle would presage their relentless battles against President George W. Bush, support for the fierce leftism of President Obama, and the radical activism of groups like Occupy Wall Street and Black Lives Matter.

They fight a ceaseless war against the Constitution, free-market economic principles, traditional values, limited government and individual freedom. It is a war to destroy the very pillars of American exceptionalism and replace them with those of collectivism, command economics and rule by the privileged vanguard.

Justice Thomas happened to be caught in the ideological crossfire. The fact that leftists continue to attack him reminds us that their memories are long, their political ammunition is always fresh, and their battle never ends.

The latest attack is a “dramatization” in the movie Confirmation. Of course, the actors and director don’t see the dishonesty and proclaim innocent motive. Of course.

25 years and here we go again. It is an effort to re-write history to suit a political ideology. The persistence on speaks to the separation from reality and refusal to accept it.

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Mandated advocacy

Richard Berman on the next round of the SEIU leveraging a few discontents for a member grab using forced dues: The anatomy of a fast food protest — “Unions use the minimum wage issue to boost declining membership.”

Some union members may be understandably upset that tens of millions of dollars of their dues are being spent on non-member activism. One SEIU organizer admitted that union members would grow “restless” if “$15 and a union” failed to significantly increase their membership.

This is a risk that the SEIU, which lost close to 6,000 members last year, can’t afford to take. “The union can’t just keep transferring revenue it makes from bargaining contracts to pay for its social justice work because collective bargaining is shrinking,” says former SEIU President Andy Stern.

Clearly, their [political leaders] better instincts were no match for the SEIU’s money and influence, which bought a revised outlook and political support. Hopefully, reporters who cover these “strikes” will reveal what they are: a union-inspired economic free-lunch fantasy detached from employment-market realities.

Where’s the money go? It goes to fabricate ‘research.’ It goes to lobby politicians. It goes to hiring activists and rent-a-mob members. It goes to publicity campaigns. Where does it not go? It does not go into just about anything used to rationalize forced collection of union dues. The result is strife and conflict as well as the usual outcomes from socialistic programs that generate poverty and unemployment.

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A lot of good stuff this morning

As noted below, the Washington Times has a number of columns of note. There’s more!

Jack Cashill says Embrace the Chaos, Excuse the Dust. He notes the efforts to mis-brand Republicans, one of the standard tactics of the left – “The operative word about the primaries among the naysayers is one that Kerry uses frequently, “embarrassing.”” Rather than being embarrassing, Cashill says “Embarrassed by their respective failures, the political establishment and the media refuse to credit the outcome to this point for what it is: an unprecedented triumph of the Democratic process.” It’s the ‘establishment that is embarrassed so they are using projection to describe the source of their discomfort. A true historians know, the dust up this year is no worse than in the past. As Cashill notes, it is a sign of vitality and democracy at work.

Matt Vespa says It’s Come To This: NPR ‘When Is It OK To Profit From Cooking Other Cultures’ Food?’ — “Progressivism’s stupidity has no boundaries. We all know that, but when we have to debate whether we have to segregate food because…culture, you know that we’ve entered a state of decay.” neo-apartheid and micro-aggression on cultures anyone?

Robert Arvay thinks Society is reaching critical mass. “The litany of social upheavals eroding family, morals, and education in America and Europe is well known to those who follow such things. Likewise, the accelerating advance of technology has affected us all in its breathtaking speed. Beyond that, radical Islamist terrorism has become destructive not merely in terms of its death toll, but also in the fact that it has become the hate that dare not mention its name.” This is the alarmism from the right. Compare and contrast to the alarmism from the left.

Jeannie DeAngelis describes how Progressives Muscle into the Restroom. “There’s no denying that the left is on a political mission to tap into the grievances of a small percentage of the population where, by levying pain on mainstream America, liberals can cultivate a lopsided form of equity.” The bathrooms are not only literal but include health care, sanctuary cities, foreign and domestic terror campaigns, and others. Micro-minorities are being used by the left to punish society.

On the persistence front, there is another Wisconsin right to work ruling. This is the effort to mandate payments to unions so they can engage in political advocacy. For the left, a loss in court only means that it is necessary to try, try again. and again. and again. “Righ-to-work laws have existed in this country for 70 years and are currently in effect in 26 states. A trial-court judge in Madison, Wis., has not “discovered” their unconstitutionality. Wisconsin’s right-to-work law will ultimately survive.”

There’s quite a lively discussion going on. That is encouraging.

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Fear, unfounded paranoia, yet still driving activism

The Zika virus has been making headlines from South America due to its effect on brain development and related effects. The mosquito that carries the disease is migrating north. You’d think that would be a reason for action to protect humans. Perhaps not. Tom Howell Jr reports that Genetically modified mosquitoes for Zika fight worry Floridians.

“I’ve yet to find the ‘Save the Mosquito’ society,” Oxitec CEO Hadyn Parry said in a recent interview. “No ones likes mosquitoes, and this one is an invasive species. It shouldn’t be there.”

Yet a vocal crop of Florida activists say the company is trying to test a new product without full consent from the community. They worry that the release of genetically modified organisms will result in unintended consequences for the human population and environment while deterring tourists, who are vital to the local economy.

GMO is another of those scare words from the left mostly seen when it comes to crop improvements to reduce disease and infirmity in third world environs (such as Vitamin A enriched rice). When it’s natural, any disease or harmful outcome is OK. When humans get involved to prevent disease and improve health and vitality, then that is evil. Why?

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Preposterous, climate consensus

Valerie Richardson notes that More studies rebut climate change consensus amid government crackdown on dissent, As the siege continues, it is evident that any area of weakness is getting reinforced.

“As the body of evidence refuting climate alarmism continues to balloon, the question of how the IPCC can continue ignoring it becomes ever more glaring,” said engineer Pierre L. Gosselin, who runs the NoTricksZone website and translates climate news from German to English.

In spite of that research — or maybe because of it — Democrats have renewed their efforts to clamp down on climate dissent.

Two weeks ago, 17 attorneys general — 16 Democrats and Mr. Walker, an independent — announced that they would investigate and prosecute climate-related “fraud,” citing investigations by journalism outlets accusing Exxon Mobil Corp. of stifling its own scientific research in support of the “settled science.”

While Exxon Mobil has denounced the accusations as “preposterous,” Mr. Walker followed up Thursday with a subpoena calling for the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s work on climate and energy policy from 1997 to 2007, including the nonprofit’s “private donor information,” the institute said.

There is kickback. Part is due to the gross abuse of basic freedoms. Part is also due to the fact that many of the accusations and allegations apply to the accusers and not the accused. Doubling down on insanity only makes the lunacy more obvious.

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Why worry when the insane goes mainstream?

Can you imagine going back in time and asking the men preparing to land on the killing beaches of Normandy if they were fighting so that in the near future, confused men in dresses could be free to invade the ladies’ room? This would have made a great script for Tokyo Rose, whose broadcasts were aimed at sapping the morale of U.S. servicemen in the Pacific during World War II.

Robert Knight asks When a ‘progressive’ culture falters and notes that “The lunacy often comes with court decisions that defy common sense.”

The lunacy is coming in big batches, such as the bizarre presidential race, the collapse of civility and the daily outrages from Team Obama. And some of it’s hitting us in small ways, such as court outcomes that defy common sense.

Subway pays because footlong is represented to be a precise measure, driver license pictures can include a colander hat under the pretense of religion but religion is not enough to protect one from the LGBT assault. Boys are allowed to use girls bathrooms. And much of this is by threat of major corporations who are under threat from activist groups.

The protections, the walls of the castle, are failing. The siege pressure is mounting. The people are getting concerned. Lord knows what they will do if they really start to believe the defenses they have built are indeed failing them. 

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Prosecutorial Abuse

Silence the critics! Walter Olson reports about CEI subpoenaed over climate wrongthink.

If the forces behind this show-us-your-papers subpoena succeed in punishing (or simply inflicting prolonged legal harassment on) groups conducting supposedly wrongful advocacy, there’s every reason to think they will come after other advocacy groups later. Like yours.

In these working groups of attorneys general, legal efforts are commonly parceled out among the states in a deliberate and strategic way, with particular tasks being assigned to AGs who have comparative advantage in some respect (such as an unusually favorable state law to work with, or superior staff expertise or media access).

This is happening at a time of multiple, vigorous, sustained legal attacks on what had been accepted freedoms of advocacy and association.

The absurdity of these efforts is illustrated by David French: Yes, Let’s Prosecute Climate-Change Fraud — and Start with the Scaremongers

The attorneys general of New York and California are on the warpath. They’re fed up with dissent over the science and politics of global warming, and they’re ready to investigate the liars. … Not to be outdone, Attorney General Loretta Lynch revealed that the federal Department of Justice has “discussed” the possibility of civil suits against the fossil-fuel industry. The smell of litigation is in the air.

Some people are worried about little things like the “First Amendment,” “academic freedom,” and “scientific integrity.” Not me. I hate unscientific nonsense. So if Harris and Schneiderman are up for suing people who’ve made piles of cash peddling exaggerations and distortions, let’s roll out some test cases.

Environmental scaremongering is a lucrative business, and the evidence of exaggeration is everywhere. If Lynch, Harris, and Schneiderman file their first lawsuits now, they can file a second round by Christmas, when the season’s first snowflakes provide the next set of litigation targets — all the hysterics who predicted the end of snow.

Or maybe — just maybe — these liberal attorneys general aren’t truly interested in the truth and are instead radical ideologues hoping to shut down dissent. Perhaps they’re trying to advance their political careers by appeasing the social-justice Left and further establishing the new pagan religion of environmentalism. There is a chance that we can’t trust the government to be fair.

A nation can’t sue its way into clarity, but it can sue its way into oppression. The First Amendment still matters. Rather than settle scores, let’s extend the debate.

A more insidious part of this issue is in the a priori assumption that anyone raising any question regarding climate alarmism is scientifically illiterate and should be laughed at. The climate “deniers” are often brought up in all sorts of contexts to illustrate a horrific social problem of people who refuse reality. The people that make this analogy should look in the mirror but their belief system and hubris and group think lead them astray. They don’t realize that they illustrate their own illiteracy be poor problem definition, polar grouping, straw man building and other logical fallacies.

The problem is that it isn’t a debate but rather an argument. A debate requires intellectual integrity and careful listening to the ideas and reasoning provided. An argument is where one or both sides refuse to listen and do what they can to force their views into acceptance. What Olson illustrates is that the efforts to shut down critics is potent, creative, and persistent. French shows just how destructive such efforts can be.

Worried, yet?

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Ivanpah showing its worth

Stanislav Jakuba takes a look at the numbers: Central Station Solar: Ivanpah Fail. It’s one of those solar efforts where the economy of scale was supposed to produce effective results.

This latest 392 MW (name-plate) giant was built on 13 km2 of land in Mojave Desert at a cost of 2.2 billion dollars. It generated a disappointing .4 billion kWh thus producing at an average rate of 46 MW the first year.

The $2,200 megawatt price per those 120 MW represents a $18/watt investment. By way of comparison, another nonpolluting source of electricity, nuclear power plant, the Millstone reactor No. 2 in Connecticut, operating at 880 MW since 1975, cost $0.5$/watt, making Ivanpah is thus 36 times more expensive (inflation excluded).

For comparison again, the Millstone nuclear plant complex employs also about 1,000, and its two reactors have been producing 1870 MW actual electrical output. Assuming the same salaries, benefits, and the electricity selling price, the operating expense is 15 times higher at Ivanpah.

As for the occupied land comparison, those 120 MW spread over 13 km2 represents 9.2 W/m2. In contrast, ground based nuclear plants produce some 2000 W/m2 thus utilizing the land area some 200 times more effectively. And they can be erected in any climate and in proximity to users.

The numbers indicate order of magnitude increase in cost for this alternative energy over nuclear. Who pays? It shows up in taxes and energy bills in a way that is regressive. That means the impact on the poor is most significant. The same people who are pushing this expensive energy are the same ones wailing about all the poor people. There is a disconnect in these people with reality and it hurts us all.

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Economic freedom is a core human right

Stephen Moore wonders about The lunacy of the left — “It ranges from embracing dictators to the candidates they choose.”

It wasn’t so long ago that leading Democrats — JFK, Harry Truman and even the AFL CIO — were staunch enemies of communism. Today there is no place for such beliefs within the “progressive” Democratic Party. If it involves power to the state, the left is all for it — as evidenced by the rise of Bernie Sanders.

This is the same crowd that seems to prefer the economic systems in Sweden and Greece and Cuba over America’s. They preach human rights, but they don’t seem to understand that economic freedom is a core human right.

Trying to understand this ‘biting the hand that feeds you’ phenomena requires working with paradigms and realities that are not of this world. “Lunacy” was used but is now, perhaps, to be avoided because those with the symptoms are indeed running the asylum. 

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Delusion and denial: techniques and tactics

It is the climate alarmists who are most obvious in using the term “denier” to label those who disagree with them. Denial is a human self defense behavior and, as a behavior, it can be observed objectively. The name calling is one such behavior. Attempting to silence others, such as the efforts to have any who do not agree with alarmist climate views put in jail is another. Constructing a false narrative is another and that brings up the story about Exposing the Myths You’ve Always Believed about Thomas Jefferson by Richard Kirk.

What kind of criticism would prompt a major publisher to withdraw from circulation a New York Times bestseller by a recognized scholar? One would think the objections would have to be weighty and the critics unquestioned experts in the particular field. In the case of The Jefferson Lies, one would be mistaken to make those assumptions.

Thus, as with Oliver Stone’s rewrite of JFK’s assassination, the mainstream media, corrupt academicians, and a sensation-seeking pop culture have again conspired to manipulate history for their own ends.

So who should read The Jefferson Lies? Anyone who thinks Thomas Jefferson and William Jefferson Clinton have a lot in common, anyone who thinks Thomas Jefferson supported the modern notion of “separation of church and state,” anyone who thinks Jefferson was a hypocritical racist, and anyone who thinks academia and the publishing world aren’t partisan cesspools.

The behavior here is that of tarnishing established heroes in order to gild constructed heroes. Think of the assault on leading NFL quarterbacks, for instance, like Manning or Brady. Think of the propaganda campaign to discredit G.W. Bush. Look at the arguments being offered to excuse and rationalize the current crop of scandals from the IRS to the EPA to Benghazi to classified communications management. An alternate reality is constructed, one that is easily demonstrated to be a false reality, yet there is a tenacious holding to that false reality and that is a denial of reality that is troublesome and harmful.

Another behavior, illustrated by the consensus claims in climate alarmism, is the effort to gain comfort in the denial by getting others to join in so it is no longer an individual’s problem but rather a community problem. 

This is much like the President equating capitalism with communism suggesting students choose whatever works. This ignores the fact that capitalist systems have brought more people out of poverty than any socialist program and communism and its ilk have resulted in the deaths of many millions. As one pundit wondered: this is 2016 and we are still debating the quality of Marxism?

It is this seemingly widespread denial of reality in governance and public perception that is so worrisome. It is a glimmer of hope to see some that uncover and highlight the self deceptions.  The community must stand against such delusion if it is to survive.

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