The Trouble with Propaganda…

…is that it doesn’t work if the public has access to alternative voices that can contradict the lies. That’s why totalitarian states always have to couple propaganda with ruthless censorship.

This election year, Democrats got their usual billion dollars worth of in-kind contribution from the legacy media, but it wasn’t quite enough to drag their candidate’s felonious and diseased carcass across the finish line. As a result, they are now trying to restore the effectiveness of their propaganda machine by silencing alternative voices. And so, leftoids are organizing a boycott of Breitbart media. Unfortunately, they seem to be having some success as they got Allstate and Kellogg to pull advertising.

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Some are also claiming that Apple pulled the Breitbart app from its app store, although I have not been able to confirm that.

It certainly says a lot about leftists that they would rather shut down the debate than try to win it. Their actions do reflect fragility and lack of confidence in their arguments. If they thought their arguments could win the day, they wouldn’t be nearly so keen to suppress speech.

Look, I am not the type of person who seeks to politicize every aspect of life. I work with, and do business with, people who don’t share my political views. But the theory of games teaches us that tit-for-tat is generally an effective strategy. If the left wants to play the boycott game, then GAME ON. There are a couple of Kellogg products that I’ve been purchasing on a fairly regular basis for years. But no more. I don’t currently have Allstate insurance, and I’ll be sure to keep it that way.

Gotta laugh when campus pinks try to argue that corporate America is conservative. That’s a good one.

The Real Cuba

The fact that liberals this weekend were lamenting the death of the despicable tyrant Fidel Castro pretty much tells you everything you need to know about them. Castro ruled over a repressive prison-state where people could not move freely, speak freely, start a business, or join a labor union. It was also an apartheid state where a group of white usurpers ruled with an iron fist over a largely-black nation. But Fidel was a socialist who clashed with the United States, so liberals loved him.

I recall a few years ago I had a leftist student from the Netherlands telling me that the Cuban health care system was better than America’s. I replied that should he need medial care while in the States, instead of bringing him to Miami Valley Hospital we would take up a collection to fly him to Havana.

Most of Cuba’s best doctors were actually sent to work in Venezuela in exchange for oil, and patients in Cuban hospitals have to supply their own bed sheets, food, and iodine. Rural clinics have dirt floors and reuse disposable syringes. But commie propaganda says it’s better than America, and zombie liberals repeat it.

Michael Totten is a real journalist–not the usual stenographer for the Democratic National Committee–who sneeked into Cuba recently to investigate. His report is enlightening and very well written. Totten shatters the myths about Cuba, and in particular the myth that before Castro took over, Cuba was a poor country.

Cuba was one of the world’s richest countries before Castro destroyed it—and the wealth wasn’t just in the hands of a tiny elite. “Contrary to the myth spread by the revolution,” wrote Alfred Cuzan, a professor of political science at the University of West Florida, “Cuba’s wealth before 1959 was not the purview of a privileged few. . . . Cuban society was as much of a middle-class society as Argentina and Chile.” In 1958, Cuba had a higher per-capita income than much of Europe. “More Americans lived in Cuba prior to Castro than Cubans lived in the United States,” Cuban exile Humberto Fontova, author of a series of books about Castro and Guevara, tells me. “This was at a time when Cubans were perfectly free to leave the country with all their property. In the 1940s and 1950s, my parents could get a visa for the United States just by asking. They visited the United States and voluntarily returned to Cuba. More Cubans vacationed in the U.S. in 1955 than Americans vacationed in Cuba. Americans considered Cuba a tourist playground, but even more Cubans considered the U.S. a tourist playground.” Havana was home to a lot of that prosperity, as is evident in the extraordinary classical European architecture that still fills the city. Poor nations do not—cannot—build such grand or elegant cities.

So Cuba was not a Third World country, but Castro turned it into one, except worse, because Cubans are not just poor, but have far less freedom than the rest of the Third World.

Some of the details Totten reports about Cuba’s almost non-existent economy almost beggar belief, including:

  • Instead of a minimum wage, Cuba has a maximum wage and it equals…wait for it…$20 per month. Except for professionals like doctors and lawyers, who can get a whole $30 per month.
  • Foreign contractors who run some of the tourist hotels actually pay their Cuban employees $8-10 per hour. But the Cuban government takes away everything over and above $20 per month.
  • Waiting in line for up to two hours to get on a city commuter bus. A bus trip to the other side of the island costs almost a year’s salary.
  • Cops getting on buses to do random searches of people’s bags to make sure they’re not engaging in black market activity by transporting a lobster or some shrimp.
  • People resorting to the black market just to get basics like cooking oil or soap.
  • A meal in a nice restaurant costs a month’s salary; a one-night stay in a hotel–which I don’t believe Cubans are allowed to do anyway–would cost five months’ salary.
  • At the classic bar in Havana where, prior to the Castro Era, Ernest Hemingway hung out for years, a bottle of beer costs a week’s salary.

For years, whenever somebody would mention Cuba’s failed economy, liberals, again echoing communist propaganda, would blame the U.S. embargo. Even though it’s not clear the embargo had much effect because many countries, including Canada, would actively undermine the embargo by importing goods from Cuba and then re-exporting to the U.S.

But in any event, rather than destroying the Cuban economy, the U.S. is largely propping it up due to the millions of dollars in remittances sent by Cuban exiles to their relatives in Cuba. And of course, the regime skims off a lot of the remitted money. In this regard, the regime acts essentially as kidnappers, holding the relatives captive in exchange for ransom.

And now finally, the monstrous tyrant Fidel has died in his bed at age 90, which is an injustice, because he was never put on trial and held accountable for his crimes. But at least we can celebrate that he is finally dead.

Unless you’re the nitwit who people bizarrely claim is the Prime Minister of Canada.

nitwitMemo to Canada:

Please get your shit together.

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It’s Always About the Nutella

Migrant refugees fleeing the war-torn countries of Morocco and Algeria apparently started a huge fire in Dusseldorf after authorities failed to supply them with Nutella.

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nutella-jarWe wonder how much the decision not to provide ‘refugees’ with Nutella was influenced by political correctness. Leftists happen to be boycotting Nutella because they believe it is destroying the planet.

Denying migrants Nutella seems to be just the latest example of leftists putting their environmentalist ideology ahead of basic human rights.

Something to be Thankful For

Yesterday was Thanksgiving, a day on which Americans reflect on their blessings and all that they have to be thankful for. And Americans do have a lot to be thankful for. In particular, Americans can give thanks that they don’t live in socialist Venezuela. The New York Times reports that desperate Venezuelans are now trying to flee their socialist paradise in leaky boats.

WILLEMSTAD, Curaçao — The dark outlines of land had just come into view when the smuggler forced everyone into the sea.

Roymar Bello screamed. She was one of 17 passengers who had climbed onto the overloaded fishing boat with aging motors in July, hoping to escape Venezuela’s economic disaster for a new life on the Caribbean island of Curaçao.

Afraid of the authorities, the smuggler refused to land. Ms. Bello said he gruffly ordered her and the others into the water, pointing toward the distant shore. In the panic, she was tossed overboard, tumbling into the predawn blackness.

But Ms. Bello could not swim.

As she began to sink under the waves, a fellow migrant grabbed her by the hair and towed her toward the island. They washed up on a rocky cliff battered by waves. Bruised and bleeding, they climbed, praying for a lifeline: jobs, money, something to eat.

“It was worth the risk,” said Ms. Bello, 30, adding that Venezuelans like her, “are going after one thing — food.”

So now we can add Venezuelans to Cubans and Vietnamese on the list of ‘boat people’ created by socialism.

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Help me out here. As Venezuela’s socialist revolution was being implemented in the first decade of this century, did so-smart liberals warn that it could lead to disaster? I seem to recall something more like the opposite.

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Sean Penn could not be reached for comment.

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Champions of the people.

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Thanksgiving Pilgrims Rejected Socialism in favor of Private Enterprise

Here is our annual Thanksgiving day post.

With the Thanksgiving holiday now upon us, millions of children will hear the story of the First Thanksgiving of 1621. The standard story as told in schools and the media depicts the First Thanksgiving as a celebration of the Pilgrims’ successful harvest and cooperation with the Indians. What the schools do not teach, however, is that a fuller account of the Pilgrims’ story reveals a failure of socialism and a triumph of private property and free enterprise.

1024px-Thanksgiving-BrownscombeThe Plymouth Colony started as a type of commune, or socialist community.

The members of the Plymouth colony had arrived in the New World with a plan for collective property ownership. Reflecting the current opinion of the aristocratic class in the 1620s, their charter called for farmland to be worked communally and for the harvests to be shared.

Interestingly, the colonists’ communist ideology was derived not from Karl Marx, who had not yet been born, but from Plato.

The charter of the Plymouth Colony reflected the most up-to-date economic, philosophical and religious thinking of the early 17th century. Plato was in vogue then, and Plato believed in central planning by intellectuals in the context of communal property, centralized state education, state centralized cultural offerings and communal family structure…This collectivist impulse reflected itself in various heretical offshoots of Protestant Christianity with names like The True Levelers, and the Diggers, mass movements of people who believed that property and income distinctions should be eliminated, that the wealthy should have their property expropriated and given to what we now call the 99%.

The experiment in collectivism failed.

What resulted is recorded in the diary of Governor William Bradford, the head of the colony. The colonists collectively cleared and worked land, but they brought forth neither the bountiful harvest they hoped for, nor did it create a spirit of shared and cheerful brotherhood.

The less industrious members of the colony came late to their work in the fields, and were slow and easy in their labors. Knowing that they and their families were to receive an equal share of whatever the group produced, they saw little reason to be more diligent their efforts. The harder working among the colonists became resentful that their efforts would be redistributed to the more malingering members of the colony. Soon they, too, were coming late to work and were less energetic in the fields.

As Governor Bradford explained in his old English (though with the spelling modernized):

“For the young men that were able and fit for labor and service did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men’s wives and children, without recompense. The strong, or men of parts, had no more division of food, clothes, etc. then he that was weak and not able to do a quarter the other could; this was thought injustice. The aged and graver men to be ranked and equalized in labor, and food, clothes, etc. with the meaner and younger sort, thought it some indignant and disrespect unto them. And for men’s wives to be commanded to do service for other men, as dressing their meat, washing their clothes, etc. they deemed it a kind of slavery, neither could man husbands brook it.”

To their credit, the colonists finally realized their error and changed course. In their third year at Plymouth, the colonists re-introduced private property, and allowed families to keep or trade whatever surplus they produced. As a result, conditions for the colonists improved significantly. As Governor Bradford recorded in his diary

By this time harvest was come, and instead of famine, now God gave them plenty, and the face of things was changed, to the rejoicing of the hearts of many, for which they blessed God. And the effect of their planting was well seen, for all had, one way or other, pretty well to bring the year about, and some of the abler sort and more industrious had to spare, and sell to others, so as any general want or famine hath not been amongst them since to this day.

And Governor Bradford seems to have interpreted the experience of the colony as an empirical rejection of Platonic communism.

The experience that was had in this common course [common property] and condition, tried sundry years, and that amongst the Godly and sober men, may well convince of the vanity and conceit of Plato’s and other ancients; — that the taking away of property, and bringing into a common wealth, would make them happy and flourishing; as if they were wiser than God. For this community (so far as it was) was found to breed confusion and discontent, and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort.

So there you have it; the lesson of the First Thanksgiving is a triumph of freedom arising out of a failed attempt at socialism. The story must be quite damaging to progressivism, because during the Thanksgiving season several years ago, a progressive propaganda sheet known as The New York Times attempted to refute it. The progressive counterargument is based on two main points. First, common property in the Plymouth Colony did not result in famine and the system was not a failure.

The arrangement did not produce famine. If it had, Bradford would not have declared the three days of sport and feasting in 1621 that became known as the first Thanksgiving.

Fair enough, but we also have Bradford’s own testimony, quoted above, that Platonic socialism had proved unworkable. Furthermore, if the socialist system had succeeded as progressives allege, how do they explain why the colonists abandoned it?

Bradford did get rid of the common course — but it was in 1623, after the first Thanksgiving, and not because the system wasn’t working. The Pilgrims just didn’t like it. In the accounts of colonists, Mr. Pickering said, “there was griping and groaning.”

“Bachelors didn’t want to feed the wives of married men, and women don’t want to do the laundry of the bachelors,” he said.

In other words, the system was working except that it was making people miserable, so they got rid of it. That sounds to us like a social system that has failed. And it failed for the very reason we would expect, namely, a Tragedy of the Commons that undermined incentives (“Bachelors didn’t want to feed the wives of married men…”).

Progressives’ second counterargument is that the Plymouth Colony, as a for-profit corporation, cannot fairly be deemed socialist.

Historians say that the settlers in Plymouth, and their supporters in England, did indeed agree to hold their property in common — William Bradford, the governor, referred to it in his writings as the “common course.” But the plan was in the interest of realizing a profit sooner, and was only intended for the short term; historians say the Pilgrims were more like shareholders in an early corporation than subjects of socialism.

“It was directed ultimately to private profit,” said Richard Pickering, a historian of early America…

Well, words have meaning, and a society that replaces private property with collective ownership of the means of production meets the textbook definition of socialism. If that’s not socialism, then the word has no meaning. This remains true even if the colony as a whole sought to make a profit by trading with the rest of the world. The Pilgrims may have been capitalists when it came to exporting furs, but the essential fact is that production for domestic consumption was organized as socialism.

This second argument of the progressives also underscores the weakness of their first argument, that “common course” had not failed. Because we can be sure that if common course had been a ringing success, progressive journalists wouldn’t be working to disassociate it from socialism. They’d be hailing it as a triumph of socialism.

In summary, the story of the First Thanksgiving illuminates two crucial and eternal truths. First, collectivism always fails. Second, progressives, to defend their socialist beliefs, will deploy the most appalling sophistry, specious reasoning, and intellectual dishonesty.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Last summer I was fortunate to get to see this famous painting at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. The guide at the museum noted that it is the painting that visitors most often ask to see.

All the people depicted are real, since Rockwell always worked with live models. The man standing behind the turkey lady, however, is not her real husband. Rockwell decided that her real husband for some reason did not fit the part, so he used a different model.

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Fen’s Law: Hampshire College Edition

Fen’s Law states that liberals don’t really believe any of the crap they lecture the rest of us about. An amusing manifestation of Fen’s Law recently occurred on Tucker Carlson’s new show on Fox. Carlson interviewed a liberal student from exclusive Hampshire College in Massachusetts. The student was invited to defend the recent decision by the college to no longer display the American flag on campus. The whole interview is pretty engaging and revealing, but I want to draw attention specifically to the exchange that starts at around the 4-minute mark.

Carlson tried to make the point that the student should feel grateful for being so privileged that he can attend a school that costs $62,000 per year.

Carlson: And so I just wonder if you understand the bounty that you have, the good deal that you have, the excess that you’re benefiting from. Do you get that at all?

Liberal student: Oh, no, I am one hundred percent privileged to be at this institution, and I have to recognize the fact that the wealth of my parents that was able to pay for this institution was garnered off of slavery and was taken from exploitation. The land that I live on was taken from native peoples, and the land that I live on, back home in Portland, was taken from native peoples. It’s the wealth of people who’ve been oppressed and who’ve had things stolen from them that allow me to go to this institution.

Oh, so his family’s wealth comes from slavery and theft? But if he really believes what he says, and he has such a keenly refined moral sense, then why doesn’t he renounce that blood money?

Carlson: Why don’t you go pick apples in Washington State? Why are you consuming $62,000 per year of this blood money, as you describe it, to sit around campus doing pointless rhetorical and symbolic acts like burning flags? I mean, why not work with the people, the laborers?

People’s actions are usually a much more reliable guide to their true beliefs than their words. When privileged liberals lecture us about how America’s wealth was “garnered from slavery,” I might start to believe they’re sincere after I observe them giving away all that blood money and donning sack cloth and ashes a la St. Francis of Assisi. But until that day, I’ll continue to assume that Fen’s Law holds fast, and that liberal moral posturing amounts to nothing more than attention whoring, virtue signaling, and rhetorical sophistry.

And in case anyone still doubts the power of Fen’s Law, here are two more examples I just happened to run across in the last couple of days.

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Clowns to the left of me, phonies…also to the left of me.

The Most Pathetic Entitlement Ever

The notion that women can’t or shouldn’t have to pay for their own birth control must be the most pathetic argument for a government entitlement, ever.

This idea has been around for several years now, and comes up whenever Democrats need to motivate female voters. The notion first received a lot of national attention in 2012, not coincidentally an election year, when Sandra Fluke testified before Congress that, as a student attending an elite law school, she was somehow too underprivileged and disadvantaged to provide for her own birth control.

Now, prescription birth control can be had for something like $13 a month. Condoms are available for about 50 cents each. How anyone can with a straight face whine about not being able to bear such a trivial expense is beyond me.

And yet the issue persists. Jake Tapper, one of the resident presstitutes at the Clinton News Network, brought it up again just last week.

Tapper pressed Speaker of the House Paul Ryan about possible future adjustments to the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA)- otherwise known as Obamacare – that might remove taxpayer subsidies for condoms and other birth control options.

With President-elect Donald Trump regularly having promised to “repeal and replace” the ACA during his campaign, Tapper and other like-minded news media personalities are pushing for details on what they describe as removal of benefits from the act’s purported beneficiaries.

“Obamacare also provides birth control for women at no cost. Is that going to end or will that remain?” asked Tapper, essentially parroting a left-wing and Democrat talking point.

Rather than rejecting Tapper’s implied premise that birth control options are provided “at no cost,” (they are paid for with American taxpayer dollars), Ryan opted not to speculate about possible changes to the ACA under a Trump administration, described such details as “nitty gritty.”

I like that this report at dailywire.com pointed out that the birth control is not really free because it is paid for “with American taxpayer dollars.”

But if I were Paul Ryan, I would have laughed in Tapper’s face. We have people rioting in the streets, the Middle East is on fire, the federal government is facing $200 trillion in unfunded liabilities, and Tapper’s worried about birth control?

Furthermore, if the birth control entitlement is the best argument that Tapper can muster in defense of Obamacare, then the program is obviously not worth saving. First, birth control in most cases is not even health care. Second, did I mention that it costs about $13 per month?

Look, there was a time when women in the labor force really were discriminated against. Around 1920, some cities enacted minimum wage laws that applied only to women, not to men, for the purpose of pricing women out of the labor market. Before about 1960, it was a matter of policy in many school districts to fire any female teacher who got married. The prevailing notion was that a woman could not simultaneously devote herself to both her teaching job and her family.

But those days are long gone. Women in their 20s today earn more than men do at the same age. Women far outnumber men in college, and women comprise the majority in law school as well. For a supposedly modern, liberated woman to beg for someone else to pay for her birth control is just sad.

If the frontier of modern feminism is now defined by clamoring for an entitlement that is priced equivalently to one pizza per month, then it’s time for feminism to just declare victory and disband the troops.

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When is it OK to Ignore Federal Law?

When is it morally justifiable for cities and states to willfully break or obstruct federal law?

Most would agree that it was morally justifiable in the 1850s for Northern states to resist Dred Scott and the ‘fugitive slave’ laws.

Historians, however, are less sympathetic to John C. Calhoun’s doctrine of nullification, which propounds that states can ignore federal statutes they deem to be unconstitutional.

Currently, Democrat mayors of big cities across the country are refusing to enforce federal immigration law.

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People who support open borders believe they have a strong moral case. In particular, many libertarians believe that borders and citizenship laws are just means of oppressing people, denying them the basic right to move freely in search of work and a better life.

This argument clearly has some merit, but I don’t find it entirely convincing. Effective borders serve to reduce chaos and ethnic strife. Moreover, open borders, as a practical matter, are incompatible with the modern welfare state. As Milton Friedman said long ago, you can have open borders or a welfare state, but not both. If libertarians want to open up borders, they should first work on setting the necessary preconditions by rolling back the welfare state.

Deciding which federal laws we can ignore is a tricky and dangerous business. If liberals and libertarians think that their moral arguments trump federal law, then can conservative localities do the same? In particular, can a conservative state like Utah or Oklahoma choose to ignore Supreme Court case law and enforce a statewide ban on abortion or gay marriage? Libertarians may disagree, but most citizens of those states believe they have a strong moral case.

How do we resolve conflicts between the law and our moral conscience? I’m not sure I know the answer, but Lincoln’s dictum that a nation divided against itself cannot stand should serve as a cautionary warning.

And as long as we’re on the subject of morality and the law, I have a question about when it’s OK for a private business to refuse service. For instance, Twitter this past week implemented a purge of numerous clients who were using the medium to propagate right-wing views. Many of the users who had their accounts terminated had never tweeted threats of violence, nor had they singled out other users for harassment. Some of the banned users even possessed accounts that had previously been ‘verified’ by Twitter, a distinction usually reserved for celebrities and public figures. Yet Twitter banned them on the basis, apparently, of their political views.

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Many commentators defended Twitter’s actions by asserting that, as a private company, Twitter is not bound by the First Amendment, and can therefore censor views it doesn’t like. This argument was made repeatedly in the comment threads of both conservative and liberal websites. For instance, at the USA Today, the most ‘liked’ comment among hundreds made essentially this point. usatoday

If Twitter were a newspaper or a book publisher, I would agree. But in the case of Twitter, the legal analysis does not seem so obvious. Twitter, it could be argued, is less like a private club and more like a public accommodation that offers a service to the public like a phone company. And the fact is that public accommodations are not legally free in all cases to censor speech. The phone company cannot terminate your service for telling an offensive joke over the phone. And under the Supreme Court’s 1980 “Pruneyard” decision, a California shopping mall–a private entity, to be sure–was told that it had to accommodate free speech.

In any event, I am not a First Amendment lawyer, but I do wonder about the apparent legal double standard. How is it that Twitter, as a private platform, can refuse service to right-wingers merely on the basis of their political views, but a private bakery cannot legally refuse to participate in a gay wedding? Can someone clarify that for me?

Furthermore, the foregoing discussion concerns only the law, and not what is morally right. Twitter might be able to censor speech legally, but that does not imply that it is moral for them to do so. As we have seen, morality and the law are often in conflict.

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