Renaming Our Past To Avoid Senator Feinstein’s Feared Dogma

Stream: Renaming Our Past To Avoid Senator Feinstein’s Feared Dogma

You might have missed the news, but last year Cornell University renamed its Cornell Plantations, a lovely garden spot set amid campus, to “Cornell Botanic Gardens.”

Why?

Because a group of outraged kiddies calling themselves Black Students United demanded it. They didn’t like the word “Plantations”.

Well, so what, you might think. Cornell has a rich history of asking, “How high?!” when agitated students order “Jump!” Recall that in 1969 well armed black students occupied Cornell’s administration building, threatening violence unless their demands were met.

The punishment these students received for these illegal acts was to have all their demands met. Allan Bloom in The Closing of the American Mind cited the cowardice of the university’s leadership as his reason to flee Cornell.

The problem now, of course, is that there are few places left to flee to. And even if you can find sanctuary, you might discover the name of the place you’ve fled to has changed.

Yale buckled under the oh-so-slight pressure of students to rename Calhoun College. Calhoun was a Vice President of these once United States, but some progressive developed the idea that Calhoun was a “white supremacist”, or somehow had “ties” to “white supremacists”, and so his name had to be sent down the memory hole.

Everybody knows about the statuary being removed everywhere. Anything that reminds the easily triggered that history was not the utopia they demand it to be has to go, they say, lest some poor soul glance upon the sad face of Robert E Lee and decide to re-implement slavery. It could happen.

He who controls the past, controls you, to modify a phrase.

[…]

Students, who are by definition uneducated, didn’t like “plantations” because some slaves, not all of them black, at some time in the past were made to work on them. Slaves were also made to work on farms, which means the classic song Old MacDonald is in grave danger. Look for the Slate article, “E-I-E-I-O is the Secret Call of White Supremacists”. A certain cookie company will have to look for a new name. Perhaps Pepperidge Growing Land?

Plantation, Florida, a town of some 90,000 souls, will have to go. I suggest it is rechristened Progress, Florida.

Rechristened is itself a difficult word. Why? We have seen this week that Senator and secular Jew Diane Feinstein questioned the faith of Catholic judicial nominee Amy Coney Barrett, saying “The dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s of concern.”

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The General Welfare Clause and the Statist Switcheroo — Guest Post by Kevin Groenhagen

While debating the repeal of Obamacare earlier this year, I would often ask others, “Which part of the Constitution authorizes a federal government role regarding health care. I would seldom get an answer. However, when I did, it was usually “The Preamble says the federal government is supposed to promote the general welfare.”

That answer seems to be a common one among those who support an expanded federal government role regarding health care. For example, during the debate on Obamacare in 2009, Denise Dennis, a blogger for the Huffington Post, wrote, “To those who believe the Constitution does not include health care reform, I suggest that they re-read the preamble to the Constitution, which says that in order to form a more perfect union we must, ‘…insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense,’ and ‘promote the general welfare…'”

During an August 2009 town hall meeting on healthcare reform, an audience member asked Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) where the Constitution gives Congress the power to enact Obamacare. “The preamble of the United State Constitution talks about the welfare of the people,” he answered. “Promote the general welfare is the term.”

“Well, in promoting the general welfare the Constitution obviously gives broad authority to Congress to effect that end,” then House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said in 2009. “The end that we’re trying to effect is to make health care affordable, so I think clearly this is within our constitutional responsibility.”

If Dennis, Johnson, and Hoyer had read the Constitution beyond the preamble, they could have made an even stronger case by citing the first line of Article I, Section 8: “The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States.” After all, “provide” means “Equip or supply someone with (something useful or necessary),” while “promote” means “Support or actively encourage (a cause, venture, etc.); further the progress of.” Supplying something certainly requires more action than merely encouraging something.

However, as I note in my book, The Tea Party Challenge: Understanding the Threat Posed by the Socialist Coalition, Dennis, Johnson and Hoyer are all—either through ignorance or subterfuge—misinterpreting the word “welfare” as it is used in the Constitution. Webster’s Dictionary in 1828 offered two definitions for the word “welfare“:

1. Exemption from misfortune, sickness, calamity or evil; the enjoyment of health and the common blessings of life; prosperity; happiness; applied to persons.

2. Exemption from any unusual evil or calamity; the enjoyment of peace and prosperity, or the ordinary blessings of society and civil government; applied to states.

The words of the Founders make it clear that, by “welfare,” they meant the second definition, i.e., “applied to states.” According to Article III of the Articles of Confederation, “The said States hereby severally enter into a firm league of friendship with each other, for their common defense, the security of their liberties, and their mutual and general welfare, binding themselves to assist each other, against all force offered to, or attacks made upon them, or any of them, on account of religion, sovereignty, trade, or any other pretense whatever.” Note the similarities between the words used in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution and Article III of the Articles of Confederation. In fact, in a January 21, 1792 letter to Edmund Pendleton, James Madison, considered the father of the Constitution, noted that the general welfare clause in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution was copied from Article III of the Articles of Confederation. In that same letter, Madison wrote, “If Congress can do whatever in their discretion can be done by money, and will promote the General Welfare, the Government is no longer a limited one, possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one, subject to particular exceptions.”

The enumerated powers of Congress are listed in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution. Note that nothing resembling Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, farm subsidies, No Child Left Behind, or Obamacare can be found amongst those powers. There is also nothing in there about the federal government spending money on roads (with the exclusion of “post roads”) and bridges. In fact, the Constitutional Convention rejected an explicit attempt to authorize spending by the federal government for internal improvements. As president, Madison vetoed a bill that authorized funding “for constructing roads and canals, and improving the navigation of water courses”:

I am not unaware of the great importance of roads and canals and the improved navigation of water courses, and that a power in the National Legislature to provide for them might be exercised with signal advantage to the general prosperity. But seeing that such a power is not expressly given by the Constitution, and believing that it can not be deduced from any part of it without an inadmissible latitude of construction and reliance on insufficient precedents; believing also that the permanent success of the Constitution depends on a definite partition of powers between the General and the State Governments, and that no adequate landmarks would be left by the constructive extension of the powers of Congress as proposed in the bill, I have no option but to withhold my signature from it, and to cherishing the hope that its beneficial objects may be attained by a resort for the necessary powers to the same wisdom and virtue in the nation which established the Constitution in its actual form and providently marked out in the instrument itself a safe and practicable mode of improving it as experience might suggest.

In a June 16, 1817 letter to Albert Gallatin, former President Thomas Jefferson expressed his support for Madison’s veto:

You will have learned that an act for internal improvement, after passing both Houses, was negatived by the President. The act was founded, avowedly, on the principle that the phrase in the Constitution which authorizes Congress “to lay taxes, to pay the debts and provide for the general welfare,” was an extension of the powers specifically enumerated to whatever would promote the general welfare; and this, you know, was the federal doctrine. Whereas, our tenet ever was, and, indeed, it is almost the only landmark which now divides the federalists from the republicans, that Congress had not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but were restrained to those specifically enumerated; and that, as it was never meant they should provide for that welfare but by the exercise of the enumerated powers, so it could not have been meant they should raise money for purposes which the enumeration did not place under their action; consequently, that the specification of powers is a limitation of the purposes for which they may raise money. I think the passage and rejection of this bill a fortunate incident.

In 1887, President Grover Cleveland, a Democrat, vetoed a congressional appropriation of $10,000 to buy seed grain for drought stricken Texans. “I can find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Constitution, and I do not believe that the power and duty of the general government ought to be extended to the relief of individual suffering which is in no manner properly related to the public service or benefit,” Cleveland wrote in his veto message. “A prevalent tendency to disregard the limited mission of this power and duty should, I think, be steadfastly resisted, to the end that the lesson should be constantly enforced that, though the people support the government, the government should not support the people.”

In 2007, George W. Bush, who, unfortunately, was no devotee to the Madisonian interpretation of the general welfare clause, did veto a $23 billion water resources bill that he said was filled with unnecessary projects. However, he suffered his first veto override. The House voted 361-54 to override the veto, while the Senate vote to override the veto was 79-14. Needless to say, many members of Bush’s own party voted to override the veto. Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma was an exception. While appearing as a guest on MSNBC’s Morning Joe in August 2012, Coburn, who did not request a single earmark while serving in the Senate, had the following exchange with Washington Post editorialist Jonathan Capehart:

CAPEHART: Senator Coburn, it’s Jonathan Capehart. I want to bring you back to something you said when you first came on. You were talking about people in the Tea Party who are fed up with Washington and for the abandonment of the Constitution. Could you please tell me how and when did we abandon the Constitution?

COBURN: Yeah, I can. Go read Article 1, Section 8, and it gives the enumerated powers, and what you’re seeing happen, and this has been a progressive thing, the courts have abandoned the Constitution by not holding the Congress accountable to stay within Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution.

CAPEHART: I’m sorry, Congressman, um, Senator, Article 1, Section 8? I should know this, but I don’t.

COBURN: It’s the enumerated powers. It’s what the Founders gave us as the authority within which we can work.

Capehart attended an elite preparatory school, graduated from one of the best liberal arts college in the United States, writes editorials for a major newspaper, and received a Pulitzer Prize in 1999. Of course, he should know about Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution. Unfortunately, most in his profession don’t know about it and, with the exception of Coburn and a few others, members of Congress simply ignore it.

Would a strict and proper interpretation of Article I, Section 8 mean that no government can spend taxpayers’ dollars on bridges, roads, and social welfare programs? No. According to the 10th Amendment of the Constitution, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” This means that a state such as Massachusetts could enact Romneycare, on which statists claim Obamacare was based, while other states would be free to go in other directions. As U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Louis D. Brandeis wrote in 1932, “It is one of the happy incidents of the federal system that a single courageous state may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.”

What about programs and projects that would involve several states, such as the interstate highway system? If the federal government had adhered to Article I, Section 8 and the 10th Amendment, would we be without an interstate highway system today? Absolutely not. In fact, the Eisenhower administration proposed financing the interstate highway system through a federal bond issue, and expected state and local governments to contribute 70 percent of the cost. Congress, led by Democrats Albert Gore, Sr in the Senate and Hale Boggs in the House, rejected that proposal and instead established a federal fuel tax to fund highway construction and maintenance. In August 2017, President Donald Trump said he was open to increasing that tax and using the new revenue to pay for his infrastructure package.

It is important to remember that the federal government was a creation of the states and, under federalism, the states were to retain, in the words of Madison in Federalist 45, “a very extensive portion of active sovereignty.” Further:

The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government, are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will, for the most part, be connected. The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties, and properties of the people, and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State.

The State governments were the ones that were supposed to have indefinite powers. However, after decades of misinterpreting and abusing the general welfare clause, the statists—both Democrat and Republican—have pulled off the ultimate switcheroo. We now have a federal government that is, as Madison warned, “no longer a limited one, possessing enumerated powers, but an indefinite one.”

Kevin Groenhagen is the author of The Tea Party Challenge: Understanding the Threat Posed by the Socialist Coalition.

Possibility Versus Probability & Decision

A Logical Probabilist (note the large forehead) explains that the interocitor has three states.

Philip Pilkington, author of the buyable The Reformation in Economics: A Deconstruction and Reconstruction of Economic Theory, asks a follow-up question to the material on the precautionary principle.

If probability is not decision then, I hope you’ll grant, that decision is not probability. (Where’s my Nobel Prize!?). But it seems to me that many probability enthusiasts/fetishists do indeed think that decisions should be made in line with probability theory.

If Px = 0.49, then “naw”. If Px = 0.51, then “yeah, boi”. If Px = 0.5, then crushing indifference, the absurdity of all life and meaning, and so on.

I think what Taleb is getting at (in characteristically cack-handed fashion) is that, as the far more interesting GLS Shackle would say, probability and possibility are two entirely different fields. Probability can only be applied to situations with a known, limited number of outcomes – dice rolls, n = 6. While possibility is relevant when the number of situations is unbounded and subjected to the potential infinities of our imaginations – n = 1… ?. (We mere mortals are only able to conceive of approaching the ? rather than realising the ? in our imaginations – the latter being the province of the Other Being).

Decisions are almost always made in a sphere of possibilities rather than probabilities. Probabilitists often do not realise this. And, in not doing so, they assumed that their models act like dice rather than being the products of their mind’s possibility-generating function which, naturally, is constrained by n = 1… ?.

There is another distinction in British and American English between the words possibility and probability. In Brit, possibility means of small chance, while probability means not unlikely (and not a plain likely). In Yank, possibility means it isn’t impossible, while probability means some kind of quantification or statement of a chance, regardless of size, large or small.

But I do not quite agree with this distinction in Pilkington’s question. Probability is the study of propositions in relation to evidence, and nothing more. Thus C = “The god Zeus had at least three wives” given P = “The god Zeus had at least four wives” has probability 1, and this is so even though if the god Zeus existed or not, i.e. whether we speak of the myth or the superman.

In Uncertainty, I liked to use the example of interocitors, fictional devices from the planet Metaluna, featured in This Island Earth. If we accept P = “This interocitor can and must be in states 1, 2, or 3 only”, then the probability C = “This interocitor is not in state 1″ is 2/3. But if we modify P to “This interocitor will be in some state”, then the probability of C is the uncapped unit interval. There is no information in P to say anything about what the states are except that some states exist. Tacit in that is the possibility of state 1; state 1 is certainly not impossible give P. So there is no fixed number.

What is C = “This interocitor is not in state 1 or 2″? We’re asking more of P. But P has nothing more to give. The probability doesn’t change. We don’t have certainty of C’s falsity or truth. We only have its possibility.

So there is a distinction. Possible is not impossible. In interocitors were real, we would say C is contingent.

Is it possible the number of states of the interocitor are infinite? There are no real-life infinities, which we could say is tacit in P, but the interocitor is not real life, and, anyway, in mathematics there are plenty of infinities (to say the least). If we’re to move to infinities, as folks do when used boxed models, nearly all of which rely on the infinity of the continuum, then we need to be especially careful about the infinities we invoke. People are usually not so careful.

If in some real-life situation we do not know the possible number of states (or situations), we have to assume some boundaries, else probability measures won’t be forthcoming, nor decisions based on them.

The bad but true pun is that infinity is a large subject, which I cover in detail in Uncertainty. There is something else here that I think of greater potential interest, and is also a subject I cover in Uncertainty, but not well enough, I think. And that is weight of evidence, related to comments above about probabilities of 0.49, 0.50, and 0.51. More to come…

(I only just realized I typed all the quotation marks as if I were in LaTeX. Occupational hazard.)

Short History of the Left’s Tech Efforts To Shut Out the Right

At the Social Justice Warrior training camp

Stream: Short History of the Left’s Tech Efforts To Shut Out the Right

In the early days of our interconnected world, when people carped at each other over whether spam was legal on Usenet, there existed things called flame wars.

Flame wars generated a lot of heat, a great deal of abuse, but little resolution, and were fought over such scintillating questions as Which is better, MINX or Linux? (Obviously, it’s Linux.)

After the glory of Usenet faded, one species of soldiers from these battles migrated to web-logs, a.k.a. blogs, to carry on their search for e-blood: flamers, a.k.a. trolls.

Trolling

A troll would show up at a pro-life blog on a post about legal restrictions on killing the lives inside would-be mothers and start hurling insults and irrelevancies and would do his best to make a nuisance of himself and distract regulars from the point at hand.

Some trolls were so effective they found paying work astroturfing, i.e. making it seem that identical counter-arguments showing up at blogs and mainline site comment boxes were spontaneous grassroots efforts.

Enter the Social Justice Warrior

There was always an organized Left, but it was about this time Social Justice Warriors recognized themselves as a force. SJWs were younger and more militant than old-guard leftists. Doxxing, i.e. revealing the personal information of a heretofore anonymous online entity, began to be used as an official tactic.

Yet as a strategy to silence the Right, trolling and doxxing was recognized to be limited and slow. Luckily, this recognition happened at the time when social media sites exploded in growth.

There were, and still are, SJW trolls on sites like Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, and even YouTube, but hardcore SJWs took a new tack and concentrated their energies on the leadership and infrastructure of these companies.

Outright and shadow-banning

False and nonsensical complaints of “abuse”, “offensiveness”, and “hate” were lodged. This caused some members of the Right to lose or be locked out of their accounts. It also led to shadow-banning, i.e. where a person is allowed to keep their account, but their activities are not visible to the community at large. Large mainline (i.e. Left) sites began to close their comment boxes, finding them too difficult to police.

Searches began to be censored. This expensive solution requires live staff working at internal Ministries of Truth. This is because no person or algorithm can predict what new hashtag or phrase will become popular on the Right.

The fix is in

Searches were also modified to promote SJW fancies, such as their obsession with race. For example, contrast the Google image search “white couples” versus “black couples“. Or try “American inventors“.

It is, of course, impossible to show results for results which have been purged, but all the best sites censor.

The next escalation was clever. It’s fine to get right-wing users kicked off of Facebook, but what do you do when these right wingers have their own website? Complaining to the site owners is useless, and trolling is passé.

Why not go after the website’s hosting and domain name services?

Kill the host

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I already went long, so many details and many more examples had to be omitted. No Gamer Gate, nothing on Github, no DDoS attacks, and so on, nor are there many technical specifications. But, those who know these things already know them, and those who do not are not likely to care much.