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“Extend” the 2nd Amendment to “weapons of war”? What were these judges smoking?

by Greg Krehbiel on 22 February 2017

I’ve said before that I think the 2nd Amendment is anachronistic and needs to be rewritten to fit with modern times. We no longer have citizen militias armed with muskets and swords. For good or bad we have standing, professional armies. As a result, most of the purpose and intent of the 2nd Amendment isn’t relevant any more.

Still, the 2nd Amendment is the law of the land and it grants citizens the right to keep and bear arms. It’s reasonable to ask “What kinds of arms?”

The 4th Circuit took that up in review of a Maryland law banning so-called assault weapons. The opinion says “we have no power to extend Second Amendment protection to the weapons of war.”

“Extend”? What is he talking about? That’s silly talk. The entire context of the 2nd Amendment is “weapons of war.” E.g., “a well-regulated militia ….”

That raises the question of where to draw the line. Can citizens own tanks? F-15s? Nukes?

Yes. Precisely. That’s why the 2nd Amendment needs to be changed.

People talk about the 2nd Amendment as if it’s about hunting, or sport shooting. It’s not about those things at all. It’s about war, and it’s about citizens keeping and bearing “weapons of war” — so they can fight off aggressive neighbors or an oppressive central government.

But that doesn’t make any sense any more. No bunch of citizens with AR-15s is going to stand up to the U.S. military.

Totally aside from the 2nd Amendment, people have a natural law right to protect themselves, and that’s why they should be able to have small arms. But government has a perfectly legitimate role in putting caps and limitations on that. Which is why the 2nd Amendment needs to be changed.

7 comments  ::  Add your comment  ::  2017-02-22  ::  Greg Krehbiel



How do you solve a problem like Milo Yiannopoulos?

by Greg Krehbiel on 21 February 2017

I’ve mentioned Milo Yiannopoulos before. He’s a flamboyant homosexual who claims to be serious about his Catholic faith and is somewhat conservative in his political views. He has some very entertaining videos on YouTube and is very good at tearing modern cry-baby liberalism to shreds.

He also calls Trump “Daddy.”

Yes, he’s disturbing, in more ways than one, and he intends to be.

I think he’s a genius — very quick on his feet and a talented speaker — but I don’t agree with everything he says. I’m glad he’s out there in the marketplace of ideas, but I don’t particularly like the guy.

He’s made a name for himself by being a provocateur, so his comments are often way over the top. I don’t like that sort of behavior, but … that may be one reason he’s offered $250K book deals and I’m not. (I’m reminded of all the people giving Ann Coulter advice about the tone of her books, which sell 20 times as many copies as the books by the people lecturing her.)

Milo’s flamboyant self promotion and provocative comments are also one of the reasons his $250K book deals are yanked by skittish publishers (and a speaking engagement is canceled) after he is (falsely) accused of promoting pedophilia.

If you’ve read anything about this, most of what you’ve read is probably wrong, just as the stories about Trump’s comments on Sweden were wrong. (The media decided to criticize Trump for things he never actually said.)

When “conservative” blood is in the water (scare quotes because Trump and Milo are not all that conservative), all pretext of objectivity goes out the window. If you don’t know that by now, you’re not paying attention. Whenever a conservative is summarily executed by the media / social media mob, you should suspect as a matter of course that they’ve misrepresented the story. You’ll be right ten times out of ten (allowing for significant digits).

I read a transcript of the offending conversation, and NPR seems to have it about right:

Yiannopoulos appears to condone statutory rape and sexual relationships between boys and men.

That’s fair.

It’s not fair, near as I can tell, to accuse him of supporting pedophilia, which is a different thing.

The distinction is that pedophilia is attraction to children — people who have not passed puberty. Sexual attraction to people who have passed puberty but are still not adults is called ephebophilia. The distinction is a fine one, but it’s a valid distinction. Kudos to NPR for speaking precisely.

Even though Milo says (in the transcript) that the current age of consent (16 in the UK) is “about right,” I don’t see how you can read his comments without concluding that he supports the idea that it’s okay for boys younger than 16 — even as young as 13 — to have sex with older men. IOW, as NPR says, “statutory rape and sexual relationships between boys and men.”

Unfortunately, we’re on hair-trigger offense these days, especially when the offender is a conservative, or at least to the right of The New York Times. The sharks on social media want blood immediately, and it’s not acceptable to take a day or two to get a clarification. Consequently, the cowards at CPAC uninvited him and the cowards at Simon & Schuster canceled his book deal.

Both decisions were wrong, for different reasons.

Disagreeing with the current age of consent is hardly a hanging offense, especially if S&S ever wants to publish anything by Muslims. Remember that Mohammed married a 9 year old, and it seems the Koran would permit marriage to a girl who had reached puberty. So I don’t see why Milo’s comments are enough to cancel a book deal. I’m not trying to promote Muslim views on the treatment of women by any stretch, but I think we have to admit that in the modern world there can be reasonable discussions about the age of consent. It’s hardly enough to cancel a book. It’s not as if S&S publishes Sunday School curricula.

CPAC is another matter. If “conservative” means anything, it does not mean supporting homosexual sex between 13 year olds and older men. They should have expressed their concerns and given Milo a chance to clarify his comments. Jumping on board with the left’s proclivity for execution first and facts afterward is also not “conservative.” If Milo chose to persist in his support of underage sex, CPAC should have disinvited him — after hearing him out.

11 comments  ::  Add your comment  ::  2017-02-21  ::  Greg Krehbiel



The evil social media platform of the future

by Greg Krehbiel on 20 February 2017

Social media platforms take a lot of heat generally — and particularly in the last election cycle — for furthering “fake news.” For example, somebody cites an erroneous statistic, links to a phony “news” story or some other baloney, and suddenly it’s “viral.” Millions of people all over the world now believe this little piece of nonsense.

Allegedly “responsible” platforms want to do something about that. They don’t want to be the means by which awful things happen. (I’m speaking somewhat ambiguously, but you know the real deal, which is that they don’t want to be the means of electing a Donald Trump.)

This has caused some social platforms to re-evaluate their role and come up with a new way of policing content. And yes, it is policing content, whether that’s a crackdown on hate group speech and recruitment, Twitter banning Milo Yiannopoulos or allegations that Facebook censored conservative news.

As I mentioned before, Facebook has changed its mission statement along these lines.

This may seem slightly irrelevant, but it’s not. Bear with me.

Did you know that artificial intelligence is getting so good that computers can now write news stories? They can. There was a talk on it at a publishers conference I attended, and I’ve read about it in other placed.

Now please keep that in the back of your mind for a minute while you consider this, which might also not seem relevant, but it is.

Different types of arguments appeal to different people based on their political views. I’ve discussed Jonathan Haidt’s “moral foundations” before, but there are others who have recognized that liberals and conservatives rely on different moral factors when judging an issue. Along those lines, you might take a look at this: The Simple Psychological Trick to Political Persuasion.

The author claims that an argument based on patriotism and loyalty is going to be more effective with conservatives than an argument based on fairness. Similar tricks can be done on liberals. If you cast increased military spending as a poverty-fighting tool, liberals are more likely to get on board.

Now, pull the pieces together.

1. Social media platforms are very effective at spreading a point of view.

2. The owners of the social media platform want to promote good thinking and discourage bad thinking.

3. These platforms might know more about you than you know about yourself, by tracking what you click on, what you like, who your friends are, etc.

4. There is a science to manipulating people to accept a certain point of view based on their political leanings.

5. Artificial intelligence is able to write (or rewrite) stories taking all that data into account.

The conclusion is rather obvious, isn’t it?

Social media platforms will use these technologies to present the positions they approve of in a way calculated for maximum persuasion based on that individual user’s profile.

6 comments  ::  Add your comment  ::  2017-02-20  ::  Greg Krehbiel



I believe in white privilege, but I don’t believe it’s all that significant

by Greg Krehbiel on 19 February 2017

An old friend and I jog around the DC monuments from time to time, and the other day we got on the subject of white privilege. He doesn’t buy into it because his ancestors never had slaves and had to work very hard to get ahead in life.

I think he was reacting to the idea of white guilt, not white privilege. “White guilt” is a kind of “sins of the fathers” thing that makes contemporary white people feel bad for what their ancestors did. That’s a weird thing no matter how you cut it, and I generally agree with his opinion on white guilt.

“White privilege” is something else. It means that the playing field is tipped in favor of whites, and that whites enjoy special privileges. An example might be that white people generally go to better schools and have better job opportunities.

Some people make counter arguments, e.g., by pointing out that if a white man and an equally qualified black man apply for a job, the black man will probably get the job because of affirmative action. How is that white privilege? Or they might ask how much good “white privilege” is doing all the incredibly poor people in Appalachia.

In my opinion this is all to say that the math is complicated, and it’s not as if every white guy enjoys just as much white privilege as every other white guy.

Still, I think it’s undeniable that whites have somewhat of an advantage in our culture. We can debate over causes and who’s to blame and all that sort of thing, but the reality remains.

The bigger question is how significant it is, and what to do about it.

I admit there is white privilege. But I don’t think it’s as big a deal as many people do, because I think there are far more powerful privileges at play.

There are lots of privileges in life. For example, I am enormously privileged to have been born in America to an educated, married woman who was well nourished and healthy, and not a drug addict. As far as I can tell, any one of those things — (1) born in America, (2) to an educated woman, (3) who was married, (4) who was not a drug addict, and (5) was healthy — is far more influential than what race she happened to be.

Or let’s put it another way. If we were to compare the fortunes of people who are born to a healthy, married, educated, drug-free woman to the fortunes of people who are born to an unhealthy, single, poorly educated, drug-addicted woman, I think those factors would be enormously significant, and that race would be mostly irrelevant.

So yes, there really is white privilege, but other privileges are far more consequential. Rather than worrying about “white privilege,” we should be working to create an environment where as many children as possible have the kinds of advantages that truly make a difference.

11 comments  ::  Add your comment  ::  2017-02-19  ::  Greg Krehbiel



Is Facebook’s new mission a little ominous?

by Greg Krehbiel on 17 February 2017

Facebook is changing its mission statement.

Here’s the old one.

To give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.

Sounds like something that should be printed on the inside of a Dove candy wrapper, or on the side of a Celestial Seasonings tea.

The article doesn’t say what the new mission statement is, but there’s this.

[There are] five goals: to help users build communities that are supportive, that are safe, that are informed, that are civically engaged, and that are inclusive.

I read that as their intent to nanny things a little more.

9 comments  ::  Add your comment  ::  2017-02-17  ::  Greg Krehbiel



“The failing New York Times”

by Greg Krehbiel on 17 February 2017

I love the image to the right. (I stole it from Instapundit. Click for a larger version if it’s too hard to read.)

Trump is continuing his war on the media, and some of them are acting as if this is a Great Constitutional Crisis. As far as I know, the president still has freedom of speech and can say what he likes. Attacking the press may or may not be smart, but it’s hardly a threat to our democracy.

Let’s take it as given (polls seem to bear it out) that the public doesn’t believe or trust the media. So … if the public doesn’t believe or trust the media, why are they still in business? Who is the “check” on media power?

It should be the media consumer. If we quit buying The Washington Post, or visiting its website — or if we take a page from the rabid left and pressure advertisers not to support them — then the Post is no more. Right?

Uh … no. Jeff Bezos comes along and props it up. Just as, for example, the Unification Church has propped up The Washington Times.

Since media is so ideological (let’s be honest and quit the silly pretense about objectivity), it’s not subject to the kind of market forces that, say, Twinkies would be. Nobody considers it a social obligation to prop up Twinkies, but some people — Bezos and the late Rev. Moon, for example — have considered it important to prop up certain kinds of journalism.

Which is all to say that while media is subject to market forces, it’s not a pure market. There is a sense that professional media is a public good. That sentiment has led to things like taxpayer funding for “public radio.”

If the media is not accountable to the market — at least not completely — to whom is it accountable? Who watches the watchers?

President Obama frequently complained about Rush Limbaugh and Fox News. And he had every right to do so — whether or not his criticisms were just. He can say what he likes.

President Trump can refer to “the failing New York Times” and call CNN “very fake news” if he wants. That’s perfectly okay.

In fact, I’m loving it. It’s about time somebody stood up to these stuffed shirts and told them they’re not the demigods they seem to believe themselves to be.

 ::  Add your comment  ::  2017-02-17  ::  Greg Krehbiel



It’s not “natural” to be monogamous

by Greg Krehbiel on 16 February 2017

Scarlett Johansson says monogamy is “not natural.” (HT Instapundit.)

I think the idea of marriage is very romantic; it’s a beautiful idea, and the practice of it can be a very beautiful thing. I don’t think that it’s natural to be a monogamous person ….

I agree. But I don’t think “natural” means either “moral” or “normative.” “Natural” simply means what we’d do without social and moral rules.

There are all kinds of things that are natural to humans. Stealing. Bullying. Lying. Cheating. Following charismatic but maniacal leaders.

Social rules impose monogamy on us because it seems to be the best way to reconcile all our conflicting desires and create a structure that benefits the most people. (See Eggs are Expensive, Sperm is Cheap for more on this.)

8 comments  ::  Add your comment  ::  2017-02-16  ::  Greg Krehbiel



Thinking about thinking

by Greg Krehbiel on 16 February 2017

I spend a fair amount of time thinking about thinking, and about what goes on inside my head. What, for example, does “mind reading” mean?

In the popular imagination, someone who can read your mind hears an intelligible flow of dialog. But my mind is rarely like that. There are times when I’m intentionally thinking my way through something, and it’s as if a conversation is going on in my brain. But most of the time my head is full of a constant mix of things I would hardly call “thoughts,” and they’re interrupting and stepping on top of one another, sometimes merging and sometimes breaking apart. It’s almost like the sound an orchestra makes before the show, when everyone is warming up their instruments. From time to time a tune will rise above the din — oh, the French horn is playing some Mozart — but most of it is just a tangled mess.

Something similar is true with my emotions. I can tell that I’m feeling some emotion, but I’m not always sure exactly what it is, or why I’m feeling it. It’s as if my feelings live in a place that’s not quite accessible to my mind, and it’s very hard to put them into words. The idea of “talking about your feelings” is simply frustrating.

In a way it’s like asking how, precisely, you throw a football to a moving receiver who’s being double teamed. I don’t know. Through practice the brain learns to do some weird calculus in the background. You’re picking up all kinds of signals that you’re not aware of, most of which you couldn’t explain if you wanted to. You might make up an explanation for it after the fact, but there’s no guarantee that’s what you were actually thinking at the time.

And that brings me to intuition. I have an uncomfortable relationship with my intuitions. When I have some intuition — that someone is upset, or that it would be wrong to buy this particular gift for this particular person — my rational mind wants proof and evidence, and wants to dismiss anything that’s not so supported. But I often find that my intuitions were right after all.

On the other hand, when I trust my intuitions too much, not only is my rational mind appalled, but I am sometimes embarrassed for having acted on something with such slim evidence. (I.e., just a feeling.)

Generally speaking I find it is a mistake to demand too much of my intuitions. Demands of “why?” and “what’s your reason?” tend to miss the point — which is (I like to tell myself) that my intuitions are my subconscious mind telling me something that my conscious mind has failed to notice or take into account. It’s like completing a pass in just the right spot — low and to the outside, for example — and only afterwards realizing why that was the right place to put the ball.

And then there’s the baby on the Metro. I see some drooling little kid in a stroller and I notice that I and three quarters of the adults in a 20 foot radius are smiling at the baby. But most mammals are solicitous of their young, of other young of their species, and even of other young of other species. It’s hardwired in our brains because it helps the species to survive. So is this my biology tricking me?

The same can be said about sexual attraction. Why do I like certain features and not others? Some of it is cultural and environmental, but I realize a lot of it is a trick of my biology to perpetuate the species. (But I tell myself, with apologies to Mick Jagger, “I know it’s only flesh and bones but I like it.”)

This is all crazy enough. But then we have the prospect of our minds being taken over by alien influences. Not aliens like Klingons, but aliens like gut bacteria.

There are a lot of situations where parasites cause creatures to do self-destructive things for the benefit of the parasite, and there is some evidence that the bacteria in our stomachs influence us to eat things that are good for the bacteria, but not necessarily for us.

It all adds up to a complicated mess, and some people come to some rather radical conclusions — e.g., that we don’t really think at all. We do things for reasons we don’t understand and then tell ourselves stories after the fact to make us feel better about the things we do.

That’s three steps too far, in my opinion. If that was the case, then what is the point of the post hoc explanation? Why are we telling ourselves stories about what we did? Couldn’t we get along just fine without all that?

No, we couldn’t, and we all know perfectly well that we couldn’t.

Sometimes we are consciously deliberate in our actions. Other times we’re not. In some situations we have to stop and think, “Why did I say that?” or “Why did I do that?”

My opinion is that all the time we spend thinking about things we’ve done — consciously mulling it over — is training that silent guy in the back to know what to do next time, when we don’t have time to think first. In a sense we choose some of our own actions predictively, or futuristically, and not necessarily at the time we choose. And even at that, it’s still a muddled mess.

1 comment  ::  Add your comment  ::  2017-02-16  ::  Greg Krehbiel



What? Scientists lied?

by Greg Krehbiel on 15 February 2017

From Scientists Want to Genetically Engineer Humans, by Wesley Smith.

[D]uring the great embryonic stem cell debate … I watched in stunned and appalled amazement as scientists lied to legislators and hyped the imminent likelihood of CURES! CURES! CURES! in order to win a political debate and gain federal research grants.

C’mon. Scientists never lie to further their careers and get grant money. Is Mr. Smith some sort of denialist?

 ::  Add your comment  ::  2017-02-15  ::  Greg Krehbiel



Rescuing people from their own stupidity

by Greg Krehbiel on 15 February 2017

It’s part of the left’s shtick. All those stupid Hillbillies and rednecks and assorted uneducated trash are always making foolish decisions against their own interests. That’s why they need smart people like Hillary to take care of them.

One brave University of Pennsylvania professor decided to question that assumption and find out if people who use check-cashing stores are as dumb as the elite think they are.

An Ivy League professor who spent 4 months working in a South Bronx check-cashing store says we’re getting it all wrong

I have no dog in this fight at all and have no opinion on the matter either way, but I find it refreshing that a professor would talk to real people and try to understand what’s going on rather than simply toe the line touted by the intellectuals.

1 comment  ::  Add your comment  ::  2017-02-15  ::  Greg Krehbiel

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