Thursday, January 30, 2020

Prosecution and Defense

What is that ancient curse? May you live in interesting times! We certainly do.

I didn’t tune in to hour-after-hour of the Senate impeachment hearings, but, as with many people, I’ve been playing catch up at the end of the day, to find out the key points that were made.

There are better sources than this blog for all those summaries. But I guess I’m the expert on what interests me and what I think about things. So that is what we’ll cover here today.

First, as we have noted for well over a month, the House has not charged President Trump with any crimes. No lawbreaking whatsoever. While in the hysteria leading up to the impeachment, they floated words like quid pro quo (meaning literally “this for that,” or an exchange, which is not necessarily illegal) and bribery. But that wasn’t what the evidence showed.

So the summary of the charges comes down to, President Trump asked the President of Ukraine to investigate corruption, which included a company called Burisma, which has Hunter Biden, son of former VP Joe Biden, on its board.

Those impeaching the president make the claim that there is no possible motive for this request other than to damage a political opponent in the upcoming election.

The impeachment prosecution must, therefore, prove not only that that was the motive, but that no other possible motive exists.

The House called 18 witnesses. They passed the testimony along to the Senate—except for one, which remains cloaked in secrecy somewhere in the recesses of Adam Schiff’s private lair.

While an impeachment is not exactly a court trial, it is analogous to think of the impeachment articles, and all that was done in the House, as the prosecution’s case. When they pass along the articles of impeachment, that is akin to the prosecutors saying, “The prosecution rests its case.”

Pam Bondi, of the White House defense team,
details Biden Ukraine connection
screenshot from here

When the Senate takes up the case, they have a couple of options beyond holding a further trial. One is to look at the evidence and say, “No, the evidence does not show beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant [the president] is guilty of these charges,” and they could rule not guilty.

Or they could look at the evidence and say, “He may have done these things he’s charged with but still not be guilty of something requiring his removal from office,” and they could rule not guilty.

Either of these they could do based on the prosecution only. If the prosecution presented an insufficient case, the Senate can dismiss without needing the White House team to mount a defense beyond their opening arguments. And let’s be certain we understand—no defense was allowed by the House. No defense witnesses were called. No testimony that contradicted the prosecution testimony has been allowed—which is probably why that one testimony is kept hidden. In an actual court trial, that and any other evidence must be disclosed to the defense. Nothing about Schiff and his process has been fair, or even anything close to resembling due process, which every person—including a president—is entitled to.

Speaking of Schiff, he is literally guilty of perjury. He claimed, during the answering of questions—while he is under oath—that he unequivocally does not know who the whistleblower is, that his team never met with, helped, or otherwise corroborated with the whistleblower. But we know that is factually false. His team had already admitted otherwise. Schiff, during House hearings, refused to have questions asked that were going to lead to identifying the whistleblower—questions that, if he didn’t know who the whistleblower was, he could not have known would lead to identifying him.
Can we charge Schiff with perjury—and impeach him for that crime? Son Political Sphere says, maybe the DOJ could charge him. The House could impeach him, but they would have to have to will to do so.

About that whistleblower. There has been blowback against Chief Justice Roberts for refusing to ask questions from Senator Rand Paul—two days in a row. The name of the whistleblower must have been revealed to Justice Roberts, or he would not know to prevent the question. Who revealed it to Justice Roberts, if not Schiff and team? Rand Paul says, in a tweet, that his exact question was,

Are you aware that House intelligence committee staffer Shawn Misko had a close relationship with Eric Ciaramella while at the National Security Council together, and are you aware and how do you respond to reports that Ciaramella and Misko may have worked together to plot impeaching the President before there were formal house impeachment proceedings? 
He points out in another tweet,

My question is not about a “whistleblower” as I have no independent knowledge on his identity. My question is about known Obama partisans within the NSC and House staff and how they are reported to have conspired before impeachment proceedings had even begun. 
Chances are high that Senator Paul has a strong suspicion of who the whistleblower is, since he has been identified in media for several months as Eric Ciaramella.

In a recent episode of Verdict, Senator Ted Cruz’s daily podcast on the impeachment, which showed up after late Wednesday night questioning, he talks about some of the questions that were asked. While he submitted a dozen ahead of time, only one of those got asked. He submitted another four from the floor, which is a sort of cross-examination, done by notecards handed in to be read by the Chief Justice. Three of these got asked, two of them were handed to other senators to submit. One of Cruz’s questions indirectly addressed the whistleblower. As Senator Cruz tells it, he asked,

Did the whistleblower ever work for Joe Biden? If so, did he work for Joe Biden on issues involving Ukraine? If so, did he assist in any material way with the quid pro quo that Joe Biden executed when he demanded that Ukraine fire the prosecutor that was investigating Burisma, the company paying his son a million bucks a year?
Ted Cruz, Verdict episode 8, screenshot from here
Schiff completely refused to answer. Instead he offered a prepared speech on preserving the sanctity of whistleblowers and protecting their identity.

Recall, when this first came out, Schiff couldn’t wait for the whistleblower to testify in an impeachment trial. That was his intention. I don’t know if there is a direct correlation, but Glenn Beck came out with an investigative report on corruption in Ukraine—and how players in that story were key in coming up with the false information used in the FISA warrant in the first place, allowing surveillance of presidential candidate Trump and some former staff. Suddenly Schiff turned on a dime and absolutely insisted no one should ever know the whistleblower’s identity (after his staff had already admitted their contact). Later Beck investigations noted that Ciaramella’s name kept popping up. They found his name on various documents prior to knowing he was the whistleblower.

Glenn Beck, explaining the Ukraine Scandal, October 4, 2019
screenshot from here

BTW, whistleblowers' identity is not sacred. Their jobs are protected, so they can’t be fired for coming forward. But they don’t get to accuse anonymously.

What Senator Cruz is pointing out is that the “whistleblower,” who had no first-hand knowledge of the president’s phonecall and was therefore in no position to blow a whistle, had a self-preservation motive to prevent the investigation into the Burisma-Biden connection from going forward, because he could personally be found guilty in that corruption. Let me repeat that: the whistleblower’s motive, when he heard that Trump was interested in investigating the Burisma-Biden connection, was to prevent discovery of the whistleblower’s own involvement in that prosecutable wrongdoing.

Was it corrupt, what Joe Biden did? In another question, Senator Cruz expanded—and made more accurate—a hypothetical that Schiff had put forward. Cruz’s version, as he retells it on his podcast, was handed to Lindsey Graham to ask:

Using Mr. Schiff’s hypothetical, if President Obama had evidence that Mitt Romney’s son was being paid a million dollars a year by a corrupt Russian company—Schiff’s hypo was Russian instead of Ukraine—and Romney had acted in his official capacity to benefit that company, would Obama have had the authority to ask that the potential corruption be investigated?
As Cruz adds,

It’s not randomly, “Hey, investigate this guy.” It’s if you’ve got evidence—that on the face of it looks pretty crooked.
As I’m writing, the decision on whether to call witnesses is getting close to be voted on. That vote may even take place today. (Maybe it has while I’m not tuned in.)

There are many Americans (as high as 70%) who think there should be witnesses called. But both sides have very different ideas of who those should be. The defense ought to have the right to call the whistleblower, because it is unthinkable that a person can be convicted in America without being allowed to face his accuser—to know who makes the accusation, and to explore that person’s motives and truthfulness.

Joe Biden brags about getting Ukraine prosecutor fired.
screenshot from here
And then there’s the possibility of calling Hunter Biden and maybe Joe Biden. I’d like to know from Joe Biden—who claimed he had to fire the prosecutor in that quid pro quo that he brags about on video—what evidence did he have that the Ukrainian prosecutor into his son’s corrupt business dealings was too corrupt to remain in office? What were the complaints about that prosecutor? Where did they come from?

Because, if that was the motive instead of what it looks like, there must be supporting evidence. If not, then probably it was what it looks like—abuse of power for personal purposes. The very thing, ironically, that the Democrats have been yelling from the rooftops is disqualifying for a president.

Do I care about hearing from John Bolton? Not really. The only possible contribution would be what his personal opinion is of President Trump’s motives. He can’t know those motives—the other witnesses could not either. The defense already had the opportunity to hear from Bolton. All they had to do was get a court to override the president’s claim of executive privilege. Rather than do that, they withdrew the subpoena, saying they did not need to hear from him. So their tearful cries for him now are disingenuous. And, I’ll add, they can’t claim the president “obstructed Congress” if he didn’t defy a court-ordered subpoena. Congress didn’t do its part to get legally obstructed. (And, as I’ve heard said, a lot of people voted for Trump so he would “obstruct” Congress, which is obviously not a crime; it’s a feature of the separation of powers.)

If there were to be witnesses, and along with that there’s some claim that there needs to be fairness, we need to remember that 18 witnesses have already testified for the prosecution. Until there have been that many witnesses for the defense, let’s not talk about any “you get one and we get one.”
Since I don’t trust the Republicans to adopt that hard line, I would prefer they hear from none.

The White House defense team has presented more than ample evidence that there was plenty of incentive for President Trump to care about corruption in Ukraine, where billions in aid had already disappeared into a corrupt black hole. The Burisma-Biden connection is in the middle of that, but it’s not by any means the whole corruption story.

What have we learned from this whole impeachment ordeal? These Democrats are corrupt. They lie. They do not believe in due process, truth, or the Constitution. They were unable to come up with anything treasonous, anything that could be called bribery, or any other thing that would similarly jeopardize the country—in other words, anything worthy of impeachment.

Ben Garrison cartoon

They couldn’t even come up with a misdemeanor. They started on the eve of Trump’s inauguration, and they haven’t stopped. They have found nothing to charge him with. Yet they have put the country through this attempt at a coup for their own selfish purposes.

The biggest takeaway is that, for someone they claim is evil on a Hitlerian scale, Trump sure is law-abiding.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Missing Those We Never Met

We have a memorial hymn that applies this week. It begins,

Each life that touches ours for good
Reflects thine own great mercy, Lord;
Thou sendest blessings from above
Thru words and deeds of those who love.

On Saturday, the world lost basketball great Kobe Bryant, along with his daughter and a total of 9 in a helicopter crash. I don’t have a lot to say, except that it’s tragic when accidents like this happen. All of these people will have close loved ones that will feel the pain of loss, and we send our sympathies. I don’t know the beliefs of those in the accident, but the evidence is they touched many lives for good.

I was already planning to talk about missing a good person who passed away last week—another person I never met, but who touched many lives for good. Clayton Christensen, Harvard Business School professor, died January 23, at age 67, following a fight with cancer. There’s a nice obituary piece in the Deseret News, in which I got some of this information.

Clay Christensen, at Governor's Utah Economic Summit in 2014
image from here
Christensen is best known for the term “disruptive innovation.” He introduced this term in 1995, in Harvard Business Review, and much of his work since has been related to refining and applying the concept. It has since become part of the vocabulary, although he was personally uncomfortable with how ubiquitous and misused the term became. He intended it to refer to a smaller niche in the market, not every disruption or every market success.

The way he described it, a smaller, insignificant looking startup would go up against an industry giant. The big guy might even look down with superiority, as though the little guy wasn’t worth his attention. But, then, the new little guy’s innovation catches on and takes over, and the giant company falls Goliath-style.

One of the most cited examples is Netflix, coming on the scene when Blockbuster was the market controller with no apparent sign of yielding. Now Blockbuster is gone and Netflix is a large part of the new streaming industry.

Another example was Intel, which moved toward producing chips for personal computers, rather than focusing on larger computers, or mainframes. (Do young people even know what those were?)

The professor had a way of looking at things—and explaining them—that hadn’t been thought of by others. He’s the author of several books, and an institute for studying and spreading the ideas—which we can be grateful for.

One non-management book he wrote was a self-help book called How Will You Measure Your Life? And he did an inspirational Tedx talk on that subject as well. At the end of that, he concluded that, when he meets with God at the end of his life, they’ll be looking together at how he used the characteristics God gave him to bless the lives of others—touching lives for good.

Clay Christensen giving Tedx talk "How Will You Measure Your Life?"
screenshot from here

Back in October, I heard him quoted on the radio show STA Money Hour. I quoted parts of that particular show, on capitalism, a few months ago. But within that broadcast, where they quoted Professor Christensen, they said this: 

If you look at Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen. He said—and it’s Harvard Business—he talks about the prosperity paradox. He writes of poor, developing nations, “It may sound counterintuitive, but enduring prosperity from many nations will not come from fixing poverty. By investing and market creating innovations, investors and entrepreneurs inadvertently engage in nation building. Entrepreneurs and businesses don’t have to set out to improve the world.” He says, “Through their collective efforts of making useful goods and services, an improved world is the outcome.” Why is that so hard to grasp?
As I say here at the Spherical Model, following the principles of freedom, prosperity, and civilization will lead to the solutions to world problems better than focusing on solving those problems. So those things first, and then see if there are specific helps for specific people that can be undertaken.

Nitin Nohria, dean of Harvard Business School, says this:

Clayton’s brilliance and kindness were equally evident to everyone he met, and his legacy will be long-lasting. Through his research and teaching, he fundamentally shaped the practice of business and influenced generations of students and scholars.
In 2012 Professor Christensen was named the world’s most influential living management thinker. It has been noted that he wrote about giant companies that fail, while he was both an influential giant and physical giant at 6’8” tall.

His way of thinking came from his religious thought, which is how I came to know of him. He was a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which I also am. This informed his thinking, but he was able to express it in ways that people of other beliefs could easily grasp.

Clark Gilbert, who considered him a mentor, said,

People who didn’t believe in God or who weren’t religious found themselves reflecting on spiritual ideas because of the conversations and writings of Clay Christensen. How Will You Measure Your Life influenced so many people. He had this ability to unapologetically and with deep conviction and courage talk about things of faith and of God with people who didn’t think they were religious. He found ways of not only engaging them personally but engaging them intellectually in a way that caused them to start to really, actually think about spiritual matters in a way that they never would have without someone like Clay.
In a piece on religious freedom, in 2014, I quoted and included a short video, provided by People of Faith, which I’d like to repeat here today. He often used stories to explain things, as he does here:

Some time ago I had a conversation with a Marxist economist from China. He was coming to the end of a Fulbright fellowship here in Boston. And I asked him if he had learned anything that was surprising or unexpected. And without any hesitation, he said, “Yea. I had no idea how critical religion is to the functioning of democracy."
“The reason why democracy works,” he said, “is not because the government was designed to oversee what everybody does, but, rather, democracy works because most people, most of the time, voluntarily choose to obey the law. And in your past, most Americans attended a church or synagogue every week, and they were taught there by people who they respected.”
My friend went on to say that Americans follow these rules because they had come to believe that they weren’t just accountable to society; they were accountable to God.
My Chinese friend heightened a vague but nagging concern I’ve harbored inside that, as religion loses its influence over the lives of Americans, what will happen to our democracy? Where are the institutions that are going to teach the next generation of Americans that they too need to voluntarily choose to obey the laws? Because, if you take away religion, you can’t hire enough police.

Thursday, January 23, 2020

Battle of the Milk Metaphor

Yesterday Andrew Klavan, on his show, opened with The Big Idea that ceremony, show, and story have an effect on people. He starts with a definition of idolatry, which I thought was valuable in and of itself, so I’m going to lay it out the way he does:

Andrew Klavan, screenshot from here

[Los Angeles] is a town where some soulless Handsome Dan actor, who’s never done a d—n thing for anyone can make $250,000 a week by pretending to be a policeman on TV, while a real policeman not only makes considerably less money; he also gets insulted and criticized by the same idiot journalists who treat the actor like he’s some kind of hero.
Now, in Religion-land, we have a word for this. It’s called idolatry. Idolatry is when you mistake the representation of something for the thing itself. You worship the idol instead of the god the idol represents. Or you respect money more than you respect the work that goes into making money. Or you rank sex as higher than the love it’s meant to express.
There’s a reason, he says, that “God forbids us from making graven images of Him somewhere up near the top of the Ten Commandments.” Then there’s this important point for today’s world:

Breaking idols and keeping track of the true values they’re supposed to represent are necessary tools for staying sane and decent in a corrupt world. And they’re talents that come in especially handy when following politics.
But, then, is there value in stories—portrayals, rather than the actual thing itself? He’s a storyteller, so you’d have to guess the answer in yes. And he cites Shakespeare for support, before making the connection to today’s politics.

There’s no sense pretending that show and drama and symbols don’t affect the human mind—because we are natural idolators. Because our minds perceive truth through metaphor and storytelling, and what Shakespeare called ceremony. We have to pay close attention to the narratives that are being set before us to make sure they either tell us the truth or we learn to detect the truth in them.
Which brings me to the impeachment trial. There is simply no question that the impeachment trial going on right now is a show. It’s all a show. It’s meant to be a show.
No one thinks it’s going to have any real life effect. No one thinks it’s going to end with Trump leaving office. No one expects there’ll even be any new information that comes out of it. It’s meant to communicate messages to you, political messages designed to affect your mind and your vote in the 2020 election.
The insights we need to bring to bear on this spectacle are not legal insights, or really even political insights; they’re critical insights, the insights of an art critic, who can see what the performers are trying to communicate and cut through that to something resembling the truth.
He plays a news teaser about the impeachment trial—the drama, the import! It’s pretty over-the-top, and clearly a show.

Then Klavan points out that Adam Schiff is, in his opinion, a rather talented storyteller. He is portraying a message—that the president cannot be trusted, because of the corrupt bribery and collusion he has engaged in. Except, that, of course, the actual articles of impeachment accuse the president of no broken laws whatsoever, but you must ignore that and just listen to the story he’s telling.

Adam Schiff meme from here
A while back I watched a body language interpretation of Schiff. She found that he’s a pretty  comfortable liar: “He enjoys the deception of what he does.” It’s sadistic, and he uses sarcasm as a cover.

It is all for effect; truth has nothing to do with what he’s doing. This is his show. And reports of him talking yesterday in the opening to the Senate hearings seem to reveal that being on stage—putting on the show—is being in his element.

So, as Klavan says, we need to have “the critical insights of an art critic, who can see what the performers are trying to communicate and cut through that to something resembling the truth.”

That’s a challenge. I have some skill in literary analysis; I was an English major. And I know that, when I read a piece of literature, I often see different things than what others see. I have a pretty simple method I take students through to get at what the author is trying to say. And once you’ve done that, you can decide whether that was a point worth making—whether it’s “true” in the larger sense that fiction can be even when the people and their lives are imaginary.

Schiff is telling a story that is not only fiction; it is untrue.

Klavan included metaphor in his discussion, so I’m going to look at one today, and further it to make it actually apply. This is something I saw posted on Facebook. I haven’t interacted with the writer since the Kavanaugh hearings at which time she relentlessly insisted Kavanaugh ought to want to be investigated. She totally lost me when she claimed her husband (a decent family man with a record cleaner even than Kavanaugh’s) thought he himself should want to be investigated, not to clear his name, but in case there was a case or two of attempted rape he had forgotten about from his youth.

I have nothing to discuss with such a person. But, for some reason, yesterday Facebook’s all-knowing algorithm thought I would relate to this post. I could have just scrolled past; in fact I did. But I am including it here so we can look at how the opposition sees this show (without identifying the writer, because I don’t want to further embarrass her by name). I’m calling this the Battle of the Milk metaphor:

Ok guys. I’ve got 4 kids.
Awhile back I was making them breakfast shakes. They asked what kind of milk I used. I said regular. (We were out of coconut almond milk.) 3 out of 4 (bless that baby😇) didn’t believe me. They were sure they tasted coconut, and they were ready to fight me on it.
At this point, do I:
A. Open the fridge to show them we only have regular milk?
2. Tell them to call their dad who saw me making them so he could vouch for me?
Or D. Refuse to show proof and then pit them against each other in an all out battle over milk?
C’mon guys! You OPEN THE FRIDGE. When you’re telling the truth and you have nothing to hide, and you can unite your family behind truth, you. open. the. fridge.
The Senate trial is underway, and nearly 3 out of 4 Americans want to hear from firsthand witnesses. Why wouldn’t the White House and Senate together want to honor that desire, unite the country behind truth, and allow witnesses to testify?
I think it’s because there’s coconut almond milk in the fridge. #openthefridge #Americaneedsamom #mom4president

No child was harmed in the making of this smoothie illustration.

She got a number of reposts, thumbs up, and congratulations for this, um, brilliant metaphor. Let me just say something about metaphors: they all break down at some point; otherwise they’d be the actual thing, rather than a metaphor for the thing. But when you’re using a metaphor, it ought to be applicable to the actual situation. Otherwise, don’t try this at home. (Or online.)

I’m assuming the mis-numbering (A, 2., D) is intended for humor, so let that go. We’ll just go over the flaw in the Battle of the Milk metaphor for the Senate impeachment hearings.

What do you do? “You. Open. The. Fridge.” So, in the impeachment story, that means revealing the transcript of the infamous phonecall on the very day of the accusation. Trump opened the fridge.
“When you’re telling the truth and you have nothing to hide, and you can unite” everyone when they see they truth, you show it to them. End of subject. Argument over.

Except…  we’re dealing with Democrats. Dems with Trump Derangement Syndrome, which is apparently a real malady.

What do the Dem kids do instead of admitting the argument is settled? Here’s my version of the rest of the Battle metaphor:

“Well, I heard Johnny say he thought there was a definite coconut, or possibly almond, taste in the smoothie.”
“And I heard Suzie say that she heard an unnamed source say he or she had heard Johnny say there was a definite coconut and/or almond taste in the smoothie.”
“And now that we’ve had others point out that they tasted that hint of coconut, or possibly almond, we believe there is indeed a taste of coconut almond in the smoothie.”
“And, you know, sometimes hearsay is better than actual evidence.”
“So you, Mom, have to prove not only that you never put coconut almond milk in the smoothie—even though we know you did, because you’re a liar, liar pants-on-fire kind of mom—you have to prove that you never intended to ever put coconut almond milk in any smoothie, because if you did, then we know you put coconut almond milk in this one.”
“It’s not good enough that you show us there’s only regular milk in the fridge now. You might have used up the last of the coconut almond milk in this very smoothie—which popular opinion of those-not-around-when-you-made-it shows has a taste of coconut, or possibly almond.”
“Show us the garbage to prove there’s no evidence of coconut almond milk being recently used.”
“And show us exactly when the last coconut almond container was placed in the garbage. We need a record.”
“And, even then, how do we know you didn’t put it in the neighbor’s garbage to hide the evidence from us? Huh? Answer that!”
“Also, you have to show us your grocery receipts for the past six months. Because, if you don’t, that’s a sign that you’re hiding something.”
“No, you can’t have Dad tell us what he saw, just because he watched you making the smoothie; he’s in collusion with you. He has condoned having coconut almond milk in this house in the past, so he can’t be trusted. The only witnesses that can be allowed are those of us who either tasted what we think is coconut or almond in the smoothie, or those who have heard others say they may have tasted coconut and/or almond in the smoothie, or those who can testify that they’ve ever talked with you about the possible intention of using coconut almond milk in our smoothie.”
“Because, as we all know, and we’ve said above, hearsay can be better than actual witnesses.”
“This is the worst thing a mom has ever done! No mom should be allowed to use coconut almond milk in a child’s smoothie. And claiming that regular milk was used is only evidence of hiding the use of coconut almond milk in the smoothie.”
Etc. Etc. Etc.

Because these are crazy children who are unaware of truth, unaware of evidence, immune to accepting truth or evidence, and are completely unreasonable. Put them down for a nap!

Unfortunately, these ridiculous children are bent on removing Mom from her rightful position. They’re staging a coup. It’s about power. And, while she knows her position (and her probably valid reasons for considering coconut almond milk a valid choice for a smoothie), their relentless, loud uprising is getting in the way of the family’s actual business—of making family life civilized and prosperous for harmonious growth for all.

I’m assuming you can follow the metaphor to the actual situation now. And, even without an actual family of coconut-almond-milk-hating children, the story helps you see the truth.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Imagine This and That

In my online feed earlier this week, someone had posted a cartoon illustration of The Beatles’ “Imagine.” I won’t argue the musical value of the iconic Beatles. But I do take issue with looking to them for civilization wisdom.

The cartoon illustrations, by Pablo Stanley, are charming, cute, and feel-good. But they portray a lie—because that’s what the song is.

from Pablo Stanley's illustration of "Imagine"
screenshot from here
Here are the words that are illustrated:

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us,
Above us only sky.

Imagine all the people
Living for today

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do.
Nothing to kill or die for.
And no religion too.

Imagine all the people
Living life in peace.
Yoo hoo ooh ooh ooh

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one.
I hope some day you’ll join us.
And the world will be one.

What does life look like without heaven? Or without hell? Only the here and now?

It’s a philosophical and religious question. If we have no conception of right and wrong—or whether it matters whether you do right or wrong—what matters? Does it matter what you do? How you affect others? Whether you accomplish anything or treat others fairly? Can you even conceive of anything beyond satisfying your current desires?

There’s a picture of an angel realizing it isn’t an angel, or even a representative of good, since there’s no arbiter of “good,” and there’s a devil realizing it isn’t a devil, or even a representative of evil, since there’s no judgment to identify anything as bad, or even worse than anything else.

In the depiction, the devil offers up a burning heart, which cools in the hands of the erstwhile angel, who, at the point of “living for today,” kisses the devil. Without any identification of good and evil, there’s only love.

Is that what there would be? Why? Why would we even want love, if we can’t identify love as good, or better than any other feeling or attitude? It’s a pretty huge leap of logic to claim that, if we threw out all conceptions of good and bad, we would randomly all happen upon ultimate good.

Humans naturally seek for meaning. And we can’t help but identify what we see as good, better, best, or bad, worse, worst. We can’t function if we don’t value doing one thing more than doing another. If you missed Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, now would be a good time to take a break and read that. Also, go pick up Jordan Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life.

Jordan Peterson often talks about doing what gives life meaning. There’s a video from last February that came up for me on YouTube yesterday, “Jordan Peterson on Masculinity, Meaning, God And Fatherhood (with Gadi Taub),” in which he spoke those truths again. Here’s a bit from that:

Jordan Peterson (right) with Gadi Taub
screenshot from here

What I’m trying to suggest to people is that the pathway to meaning—meaning is the antidote to suffering, as far as I can tell. The question is, where is meaning to be found? And my sense is that it’s to be found in responsibility
The next section is about archetypes, and he talks about what the devil is:

Let’s think about the great figure of evil, the figure of Satan. Well, what is that? Well, it’s cultural; it’s a cultural construct. It’s something that has its autonomous existence in some sense, as a meme—to use Dawkins’ terms—that’s extended over thousands and thousands of years. It’s a personality that occupies a transpersonal space. And this is independent of your religious beliefs. It’s something you interact with, whether you’re a believer or not.
People naturally believe in the personification of evil, I think he’s saying, because people experience evil and there has to be a way to conceptualize that.

What the song is saying, then, is, “Imagine there’s no evil.” OK. But if you do, and then you’re hit with it—well, that’s what causes PTSD—facing a malevolence that you weren’t prepared for and have a hard time recovering from. Elsewhere Dr. Peterson has said (and I've mentioned before) that the best known therapy for PTSD is understanding good and evil—religiously speaking: 

If you have PTSD, it’s because you’ve been touched by malevolence in one way or another. You need to reorganize your thinking along lines that are fundamentally religious. You need to start seeing the world as a battleground between good and evil—which is what it is, in the most real sense.
Maybe the song means to imagine a world where there is no evil. OK. I can do that. That’s heaven. But the song also says not to allow yourself to imagine heaven.

In other words, the song is not helping you imagine a better world. It is making a not-so-hidden claim that religion is to blame for evil in the world. If people stopped having religious beliefs, they’d stop hating one another—even though it is religious beliefs that change humans from hating one another to having a reason to consider even your enemies as human so there is a chance of finding common ground on which to build peace between you.

from Pablo Stanley's illustration of "Imagine,"
screenshot from here
The next section of the song in the cartoon talks about countries. The claim is that because countries exist, people are willing to kill for them and die for them. If we only got rid of countries, we’d have no killing. Is that true?

What is the purpose of a country? It’s a group of people, larger than a tribe, larger than a local entity, that live together under a form of government. In our country, that’s a form of government our ancestors set up in a way that would give us control over the government, rather than the government ruling over us. Not all countries have governments set up that way. Still, governments have a purpose, which they may or may not do well.

There’s a purpose in government: to protect the lives, liberty, and property of its people.

If there were no government, each individual—or each family, possibly—would spend their time defending their own life, liberty, and property. They would either subsist so that no one would want their stuff or care about them, or they would have to protect themselves from someone trying to take from them or use them. Government at its basic level allows us to thrive at pursuing our happiness, rather than spend our energies defending ourselves from the thieves, murderers, and enslavers.

What’s the quickest way to peace? Surrender.

But if you’re surrendering your life, liberty, or property, is peace under those circumstances really the outcome you want?

Smiley faces don’t really replace reality. Here’s what we know, here at the Spherical Model will lead to freedom, prosperity, and civilization:

Freedom requires government limited to its proper role of protecting life, liberty, and property. Anything beyond that will cause harm—usually more of the very harm the overreach claims to be ameliorating. Government must be limited to protecting our God-given rights.

Prosperity comes from free markets—with the addition of philanthropy to deal with the problems of those truly unable to provide for themselves. Monopolies are not a free market. Cronyism is not a free market. Government subsidizing its chosen winners and punishing its chosen losers is not a free market. The freer the market, the more prosperous the entire population.

Civilization requires a religious people. As we say at the Spherical Model,

Not all religious societies are civilized (according to my definition), but every civilized society is a religious society. This absolutely does not mean state-sponsored religion or lack of religious freedom; in fact, the opposite is true. Freedom of religion is essential, and the flourishing of religion in general must be encouraged.
Civilization also requires supporting the family as the basic unit of society. Whatever threatens the family threatens civilization. Preserving and protecting the family is paramount in laws and social expectations.

So, about the song. Those of us who promote freedom, prosperity, and civilization—and act in ways that will lead us away from tyranny, poverty, and savagery—are better dreamers of peace than those who lie about blaming all religious believers and all freedom-seeking nations for the lack of peace in our world.

We want peace. And we have a way to get there.

But since we live in a world in which people actually believe different things, hating religion and freedom will not get us the tolerance we would like to see in our world. With all due respect to The Beatles for their music, they're not my source for civilization. And with respect to that artist, whose work I would like if he were portraying truth, I'm just not with you on this one.

In a world where we face actual good and evil, you need to think deeper than a smiley cartoon.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

South on the Sphere

On Tuesday of this week, James O’Keefe, with Project Veritas, released a recording of a Bernie Sanders campaign Iowa field organizer, Kyle Jurek. The paid employee may or may not directly reflect Sanders’ opinions, but he does reveal pretty clearly how tyrannists think.

And it gives us an opportunity to point out how much more useful the Spherical Model is to this “if you’re not a socialist who believes everything I believe, you must be a Nazi” model.

I’m transcribing a fair amount of the video, with profanity “bleeped,” and linking (here) so you can watch the whole two-minute video. But be warned, the language does not qualify as civilized. 

screen shot from here

Q: So, if Trump gets reelected, what...?
KJ: F*-ing cities burn.
Q: Do you even think that some of these, like, MAGA people could even be re-educated?
KJ: [laughter] I mean, we got to try. I mean, so, like, in Nazi Germany, after the fall of the Nazi Party, there was a s*-ton of the populous that was f*-ing nazified. And, like, Germany had to spend billions of dollars re-educating the f*-ing people to not be Nazis. Like, we’re probably going to have to do the same f*-ing thing here. That’s kind of what Bernie’s whole f*-ing like, “Hey, free education for everybody.” Because we’re going to have to teach you not to be a f*-ing Nazi.
There’s a reason Joseph Stalin had gulags, right? And, actually, gulags were a lot better than, like, what, like, the CIA has told us that they were. Like, people were actually paid a living wage in gulags. They had conjugal visits in gulags. Gulags were actually meant for, like, re-education.
The greatest way to break a billionaire of their, like, privilege, and their idea that they’re superior? Go and break rocks for 12 hours a day. You’re now a working-class person, and you’re going to f*-ing learn what that means, right?
Q: If Bernie doesn’t get the nomination or it goes to a second round at the DNC Convention…
KJ: F*-ing Milwaukee will burn.
It’ll start in Milwaukee, and when they f*-ing—and when the police push back on that, other cities will just f*-ing [explosion sound].
And if your speech is calling for the elimination of people based on race or gender or religious, like, for whatever reason, like, things that people can’t change, then you should expect a f*-ing violent reaction. And you deserve a violent reaction.
Be ready to be in Milwaukee for the DNC convention. We’re gonna make 1978 [1968] look like a f*-ing girl scout f*-ing cookout. The cops are gonna be the ones that are gonna be f*-ing beaten in Milwaukee.
screen shot from here

As of this morning, this guy is still a paid employee of the Bernie Sanders campaign, which means the Sanders Campaign does not categorically disavow his statements.

Much of the attention has been on the apparent call for violence. Yes, that’s bad. But I’m going to look at the worldview this guy has. It’s a tyrannist worldview. He believes that, by his own definition, he is in the right, so you need to either go along with him or be coerced to go along with him.

He’s seeing it as a difference between correct (him) and Nazi (everyone else). And he’s also using the rather typical left-right model of political ideas. He’s left—which he defines as moral—and anything “right” of him is therefore immoral right-wing extremist, or Nazi.

That is wrong in so many ways. All ways. The Spherical Model can help straighten this out.

Instead of a left-right line spectrum, the Spherical Model uses a three-dimensional view. Political ideas have polar opposites. Not leftist/rightist. Not communist/fascist. Instead it’s tyranny/freedom. We can put them on a sphere, with tyranny at the south pole and freedom at the north pole.

The Political Sphere of the Spherical Model

The lateral direction, east or west, is mostly neutral, depending on what level an issue belongs to: from local as furthest west, to state, region, nation, continent, to global as furthest east. It’s only a negative if too high a level tries to take control of what should be handled more locally, because that leads to lack of freedom.

The southern hemisphere can be divided, then, into chaotic tyranny in the west and statist tyranny in the east. Other differences in the southern hemisphere have to do with depth into tyranny—the control of other people. The more coercion, the further south, regardless of whether the coercion is done more locally or from a central government.

This guy, Kyle Jurek, is very deep south on the sphere. How do we know? There’s enough in this short video to tell.

He’s paid by the Bernie Sanders campaign. Bernie is an avowed socialist, who happily spent his honeymoon in the old Soviet Union and praised it. Socialism is far south on the Sphere. Examples: USSR, Nazi Germany, North Korea, Communist China, Cuba, Venezuela, and everywhere else communism/socialism has been imposed. Bernie puts the word “democratic” in front of socialism to make it seem somehow different or better than the real-life examples. But, remember, Hitler was duly elected in Nazi Germany, where Nazi meant the national German socialist party. Fascism is a flavor of tyranny not essentially different from any other totalitarian statist tyranny.

Jurek is very much into coercion. Re-education is—and has been used historically to mean—imprisonment, brainwashing, and physical and mental force to cow people into submissive behavior that looks like it does not disagree and fears expressing a dissenting thought. He says that’s what Bernie means by “free education for all.” Digest that.

image found here
Jurek downplays actual historical attempts at re-education—i.e., forced submission to the will of the tyranny—such as the gulags of Stalin, which he says were not so bad. He omits the fact that people were rounded up and imprisoned there without due process, without breaking actual laws. He brushes off the horrors that took place there, claiming that’s all simply CIA propaganda that we fell for, ignoring actual stories of people imprisoned in them, such as Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag ArchipelagoEighteen million people (far more than the billionaires, or even millionaires) were imprisoned in them, and 1.6 million died directly from their imprisonment. But people in gulags shouldn’t feel bad because, he says, they were “paid a living wage”—something they had been earning before their freedom was taken. And the government was generous enough to offer them conjugal visits—but would not permit them live their lives with spouse and family.

He repeats actual Bernie talking points—that equality is the goal, so money earned by successful people should be confiscated and given to unsuccessful people. He embellishes that idea with the fantasy of sticking-it-to-the-rich-guy by forcing him to break rocks for twelve hours a day, to take away his “privilege” and “sense of superiority”—an evil he is attributing to the person simply for having more money than others. Make that guy into a working-class man—because the assumption is that having money means the guy didn’t work for it.

This isn’t actually different from the approach of every other socialist takeover in history.

Fascism, Socialism, and Communism
are overlapping forms of tyranny.
There’s an interesting thing about being very deep south on the sphere: east and west are very close. So when he suggests using violence—a chaotic tyranny approach—that’s natural. It’s what revolutionary tyrants do. They create so much chaos, so much insecurity, that the populous will be desperate for stability and safety, and then the tyrants step in and say, “Let us solve that for you. All you have to do is give up your freedom and do everything we say.”

He’ll say he’s fighting for the underdog, because he says all the bad comes down on you only if “your speech is calling for the elimination of people based on race or gender or religio[n].” But here’s what I can guarantee you: any speech that disagrees with him is what he labels “calling for the elimination of people.” He lies about your hatred, while he despises you and works for your demise—comforting himself that you deserve the violence.

Socialism has never been about compassion for the downtrodden. It has always been about power.

In a country that was founded on principles that would prevent power-mongering—as much as adhering to a document could do—we need to make sure that people who believe what this Bernie Sanders campaign spokesperson believes never get anywhere near the reins of power. Their power can only lead to our rights—and actual people—being trampled.

And while this guy speaks pretty radically, and even Bernie wouldn’t say all of it out loud, I’d say every single one of the Democrat candidates for president is so used to thinking only as a southern hemisphere tyrannist that they don’t even know there’s a northern hemisphere where we find freedom, prosperity, and civilization.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Real Women Are Better Off with Truth

Write what you know, they say. Here’s something I know from experience: being a woman. I can’t say I know what all women experience, but I know the basics, plus my own experience.

And I want to say, to those “woke” people claiming that a man can be a woman—or that a woman can be a man, for that matter—are wrong. Offensively wrong.

What happens when a person goes through a so-called “transition” from male to female? They dress in stereotypical feminine ways—dresses, maybe sexy or maybe frilly. They put on makeup. They may take hormones or undergo surgeries to disguise the original body parts and produce the appearance of feminine ones.

Sometimes it’s a pretty effective disguise. Voice is still an issue, but some women have somewhat deep voices, so they might possibly be in the target range.

But is being a woman just a matter of “presenting” as a woman before the world?
Does it come down to clothes, makeup, and chemical and surgical castration, and that makes someone a woman?

As a real woman, I resent the very assertion.

There are so many things—and such a range of things—that come with being a real woman.

Me, with a couple of awesome real women.
We've been in each other's lives since freshman year of college.

There’s the physiological. There’s understanding what it means when your hormones affect your mood and behavior, and sometimes sabotage your otherwise capable self. There’s the preparation for producing offspring that begins at puberty—changing your shape, your interests, and your sense of calendar timing.

There’s the tremendous change that comes with pregnancy—with the miracle of growing a person inside you. There are the physical effects of that: nausea, tiredness, sinus congestion, discomfort, looser joints leading to difficulty walking near the end. Plus the thrill, fear, and anticipation of this permanent change to your life.

Then comes the actual birth. Women, when they get together, tell and compare their birth stories. I’m not certain I know why. It’s not to one-up one another; it’s to participate in the sisterhood of mothers. We share these life-changing stories.

No matter how unpleasant the pregnancy—and delivery—that new life in your arms is miraculously worth it. And this new little one teaches you something about love that you thought you understood before, but you realize you didn’t. It gives you a glimpse of the love of Heavenly Father for His children—all of us.

And there’s the psychological. No matter what you see about the terrors of having a house full of “littles,” messing things up, doing gross things, and upending your previous order—those little ones teach you how to be a better, more loving, more patient, more service-giving person. Without them, you might never become the person of your potential.

Me with a grandson 5 years ago
A woman understands how this person with a heartbeat that used to be inside her now moves through the world separate from her. And she understands what it is to see this young person grow into an adult, who will leave home and start a new family, hopefully. Which is both painful and beautifully satisfying.

A woman knows what it is to grow older, and focus less on appearance, more on being productive in other ways than producing new humans. She knows the mix of feelings surrounding losing fertility and moving beyond that time, including the new emotional upheaval of menopause, followed by something of a calm beyond that.

Let’s include women who never have children. Is she still a woman? Yes, of course. She might be infertile but will still have gone through all those physiological changes in preparation of the potential, which women’s bodies do.

And we include some women who aren’t loving mothers, or even good people. They’ll still understand things about being a woman that a man does not—cannot—comprehend.

Being a woman is a human thing—a very specific human thing. Different from being a man. That’s regardless of job choice, talents, tendencies toward being outgoing or introverted, logical or emotional, brainy or… not. Women cover the whole range of humanness—except everything that is specifically what a man is.

So, when a tiny fraction of humanity—around 3 per thousand people[i]—decides they want to be something that they simply are not, and closer to just 1 per thousand people who are male but want to claim they are female,[ii]  what does a real woman think about that? In today’s world, are we even allowed to have an opinion about that? In locker rooms and sports all over, real women are told to shut up about it. Suck it up. Suffer in humiliation. Be powerless.

Me with two more awesome real women.
We started a homeschool group together back in 2005.
Julie (left) has a book coming out soon and does a
podcast on grief recovery.
Here’s another thing about being a woman: We’re better off with truth. When speaking up about unfairness at the workplace. When speaking up about unwanted sexual interest anywhere. When speaking up about rape absolutely every time it occurs. When speaking up about males trying to take over women’s sports.

Women are better off with truth.

What about that tiny percentage of about one per thousand people who decides to claim they are a woman even though they were born male? Let’s try treating them with honesty. We can do that while also treating them with dignity. We can offer them sympathy for a mental disorder that isn’t being treated very logically by the medical and psychological communities. We can hope for better treatment for them—even expect that and pressure for it.

We can accept that they want to present themselves as something that they are not, and we can say, “You’re welcome to do that, as long as you do not require me to participate.” We don’t have to pretend that their “transition” is real. We don’t have to treat them to the portions of life that are reserved for women—out of respect for women—such as in locker rooms and in women’s sports.
We don’t have to lie and say they are an exception to the scientific fact that, if you are born male, you can’t be a woman.

We don’t have to use a pronoun that they demand—a part of speech that refers to a person generally in their absence in place of a name, for brevity or when the name may not be known. Why should anyone be allowed to control the way someone refers to them when they are absent or unknown?

We can speak up loudly and repeatedly that we will not allow this fraud to be perpetrated on children, and we can push for laws to protect children from the permanent damage this fraud has been subjecting them to.

We can expect them to respect our differences of belief.

And if they do not, we may have to get louder about how offensive this tiny minority has been toward real women. We have tolerated their offensive lies long enough, pretending they can reduce everything that we women are down to makeup, clothes, and outer appearance.

Women are much more than that. And telling the truth about that is better for us all.

[i] We’re using the whole population total of .3% transgender. Children are likely lower. See “The Search for the Best Estimate of the Transgender Population,” New York Times, June 9, 2015.
[ii] We’re assuming, for simplicity, that half of transgender individuals are males who present as females. So, of the 3 per thousand, that leaves 1.5, rounded down to the nearest whole person.