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Yidl-Label-Ing!

 

Would a rose by any other name smell as sweet? Of course not! Why do people prefer to buy a lovely Red Snapper instead of the same Rockfish or Tilapia? Standards of even human beauty change, and people follow the labels. The same person might readily be called a genius or an eccentric or an idiot – and others react to those titles as if they had some truth of their own.

Labels are powerful things. We – certainly I – scoff at the idea of microagressions, but I don’t doubt for an instant that a teacher can build up or devastate a student using nothing more than words of praise or criticism. By their very nature, labels are dangerous things: they lock both the accuser and the accused into the past, instead of looking toward the future. Destructive comments are particularly harmful because we should want people to have every opportunity to improve and grow and change. And yet.

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Here Come the Young Americans

 

In a world where Baby Boomers stubbornly cling to cultural power, where Gen X-ers won’t admit that they’re old now, and where most Millennials are too busy Netflix-and-chilling and too poor from excessive avocado toast to leave their parents’ basements and get married (to say nothing of whatever the heck the next generation is called), who will deliver the hot takes the Internet already has too many of, but in verbal form?

Leave it to the Young Americans. Led by host Jack Butler (me), an otherwise ever-shifting cast of right-leaning young people will discuss the news and culture of the day while trying to prove that some youths actually do know what they’re talking about. We’ll also attempt to offer some valuable insights about things people our age are actually experiencing.

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Quote of the Day: We Know a Hawk From a Handsaw. (And a Cat From Guacamole.)

 

“One shortcoming of current machine-learning programs is that they fail in surprising and decidedly non-human ways. A team of Massachusetts Institute of Technology students recently demonstrated, for instance, how one of Google’s advanced image classifiers could be easily duped into mistaking an obvious image of a turtle for a rifle, and a cat for some guacamole.” — Jerry Kaplan, The Wall Street Journal, June 2, 2018

We have recently been bombarded with stories about AI (Artificial Intelligence, for those of you who live in farm country and think it means something else), and about how our meager human brains will soon not be able to keep up with those super-smart machines. Self-driving cars. Computers that accurately diagnose, and even treat, medical conditions. Robots that perform surgery and manage eldercare. Autonomous military drones. Siri. Predictive applications to “enhance” your Internet experience (Amazon, Pandora, etc.). Chatbots. Legal assistants. And, of course, the omnipresent Google.

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A Giant of a Man

 

Naturally, I never knew the man. Only as much as you can know someone from watching him on television. However, in watching and listening to the many tributes to him (from the people on Fox News and the various podcasts I listen to), I know this was a man great wit, intellect, and stamina.

I’ve never been to Irish Wake. But it seems like a good tradition: When a loved one passes on, we mourn of course. But we also should celebrate the life of that person. He or she probably changed our own life by passing through it.

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Elizabeth Holmes and the Power of Imagination

 

Theranos founder, chairwoman, and C.E.O. Elizabeth Holmes, in Palo Alto, California, September 2014.A 19-year-old college student had a revolutionary idea that she imagined would make her rich and famous. She quit college and founded a start-up, attracting incredible attention, investors like Lawrence Ellison of Oracle, and a board of directors that included Henry Kissinger and George Schultz. She dressed just like Steve Jobs, in black turtlenecks. She had huge, mesmerizing blue eyes and a very deep voice for a woman. She was sought after for interviews, TED talks, and hailed as a pioneer in medical advances. She claimed that the cost savings using her technology would be in the billions.

Her technology concept was cheap, reliable blood testing done with only a fingerprick, using a device that could test for up to 240 different things. She claimed that she was driven by integrity and the desire to help others.

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Dispatches From Arizona: Living In Another World

 

I live in a rural area of Arizona. We have three traffic lights on the State Highway that runs through a small town. We do have three Mexican restaurants, one Italian restaurant, one Greek restaurant, and a BBQ restaurant. We do not roll up the sidewalks at night because there are no sidewalks.

There are two DMV’s to choose from, one located closer to Tucson, but still about 30 miles away. The other is 30 miles north in a small mining town. I always go north to the mining town. On a busy day you might see a rancher leaving the DMV. He’ll touch the brim of hat, and say “Howdy”. He doesn’t want to hear your life story, but he’ll acknowledge your presence. The expectation is that you’ll return his simple greeting with your simple greeting, and you do.

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Stopping Strzok

 

View original artwork here.

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Combating the College Free Speech Crisis

 

Increasingly, American college campuses are places where critical thinking is eschewed for group think; where thought police maintain total control and punish wrongthink in classrooms and outside. For PragerU, Greg Lukianoff, President at The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education explained the situation:

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A Disgrace

 

Judicial Watch has obtained a memo that shows that John McCain and his Senate staff sought to collude with the Obama Administration to target conservative advocacy groups.

In the full notes of an April 30 meeting, McCain’s high-ranking staffer (Henry) Kerner recommends harassing non-profit groups until they are unable to continue operating. Kerner tells (Lois) Lerner, Steve Miller, then chief of staff to IRS commissioner, Nikole Flax, and other IRS officials, “Maybe the solution is to audit so many that it is financially ruinous.” In response, Lerner responded that “it is her job to oversee it all.”

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Being Decent

 

Not too long ago, I returned to my parked car and found a sheet of paper on the windshield bearing an expletive-laden message. The anonymous poster had obviously gone to some effort to make these flyers on his home computer – complete with color cartoon figures and such. It let me know what a $#@&*%! I was. My sin was having parked my car a tiny bit over the white line. I confess. I’m guilty. The garage was full of empty spaces, mind you, and it was only a few inches, but still, it was wrong. But did it require that response? If he had to vent his rage, couldn’t he have left a note saying “It’s inconsiderate to park over the white line”? My offense seems to have been merely an excuse. This person, clearly overflowing with hostility to his fellow men, had preprinted these vulgar missives, and delivered them to everyone who offended him.  

Is it my imagination or has the tone of the Internet seeped into daily life? People often suggest that Twitter’s cruelty and misanthropy are unique to the format. Announcing that he was deleting Twitter from his phone, Andrew Sullivan advised: “Social media has turned journalism into junk, has promoted addictive addlement in our brains, is wrecking our democracy, and slowly replacing life with pseudo-life.” 

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It’s Not Obvious That the US Economy Is Becoming Less Competitive

 

It’s a red flag for me when someone makes an argument that makes little or no effort to deal with counterevidence. I never see news articles about the growing rise and risk of corporate concentration that contend with analyses suggesting concerns are overblown. The same goes for the way Big Tech is supposedly squelching competition and depressing innovation. And it’s also weird that claims the US economy is growing less competitive ignore evidence that there’s more creative destruction than ever, at least by some measures (though not by others). Check out the following chart from “Strategy When Creative Destruction Accelerates,” a 2016 analysis by Vijay Govindarajan and Anup Srivastava:

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Is Kicking Adult Kids Out of the House a Conservative Thing to Do?

 

I don’t have children. I come from a very large extended family, though, so I know a lot of kids. Thirty first cousins, and between all of them, they probably have over 80 children, most of whom are now in their 20s and 30s. Neither side of the family believes in kicking adult children out of the house; it isn’t something anybody talks about, they just don’t do it. The vast majority of my younger cousins no longer live at home, even though they are welcome to live there: most of them are actually married with kids. I hear all the time about young adults who are broke and living in their parents’ basements; the young people I know are not like that at all.

Many of my younger cousins didn’t go to college, but they are doing very well. They are far better off financially than their parents. Of the ones who did go to college, most of them attended local colleges and lived with their parents: every single one of them graduated on time with marketable skills, and immediately landed good jobs. Very few of them have student loan debt; most of them lived at home to keep costs down, and worked part-time to help pay for college. And, best of all, they are not snowflakes or pajama boys: most of them are Trump supporters, which is to say, they have not rejected the values they were raised with.

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Denouncing the Deviationists

 

In her memoirs, Russian combat pilot Anna Egorova remembered her mother ”kneeling before the icons, as she firstly listed all our names, the names of her children, begging God for health and wisdom for us, and then at the end of each prayer repeating: ‘God save them from slander!’” She didn’t understand that word ‘slander’ in her childhood, Egorova wrote, but after her brother was sent away as An Enemy of the People, “it was exposed before me in all its terrible nakedness.”

I was reminded once again of this story by the Southern Poverty Law Center’s agreement to pay $3.75 million to Maajid Nawaz and his organization, the Quilliam Foundation, for wrongly including them on its now-defunct list of “anti-Muslim extremists.” Sixty other organizations are also considering litigation against the SPLC.

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The Pawn

 

View original artwork here.

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The Moral Obligation of Failed States

 

Francis Fukuyama declared an end to history because the only viable political ideology left standing was liberal democracy. He was not wrong that this was the most logical outcome if the world were rational but we know that it isn’t. Various forms of tribalism and stupidity continue to delay the “end of history.”

Given the demonstrable superiority of political systems that combine even-handed rule of law, limited government, and market economics, doesn’t that mean every nation has a moral obligation to do what works? Sweden and the USA differ on the scope of government’s role in provision of social welfare but both systems protect property, freedom of contract, capital accumulation, and market economics. Failed nations do not do that.

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Never Hit That Button. Never!

 

Automation is a wonderful thing. Right up until it’s not. Wednesday, in what Mediaite referred to as a “Chyron malfunction,” ABC News convicted former Trump campaign official Paul Manafort of manslaughter. The headline ran at the bottom of the screen for about seven seconds.

Now, in the “old days,” there would be a human being behind the physical keyboard of the graphics machine. Not anymore. That person has been … ahem … retired. Now everything — and I mean everything — the script in the Teleprompter, video rolls, graphics — all gets on the air by entries made in the newsroom computer system by a producer.

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It’s Great Disability Rolls Are Finally Shrinking, But the System Still Needs Pro-Work Reform

 

Have Americans gotten way healthier over the past several years? Seems dubious. But the US economy sure has strengthened. And America’s hot job market seems to be finally draining a reservoir of hidden slack: disability rolls. The New York Times notes the number of Americans receiving Social Security disability benefits has declined to 8.63 million from a September 2014 peak of 8.96 million.

Now there might be other things going on as well, such as the big expansion of Medicaid and the Social Security Administration tightening the approval process for benefits. But as interesting as all these numbers are, more compelling is the story of Christian Borrero, told at the end of the Times piece. Born with cerebral palsy, Borrero until 2015 received disability benefits as he worked at a part-time job answering phones. The salary was low enough that he still qualified for benefits.

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