Political-Correctness-660x350-1456458134

Attributed to Texas A&M University where they are said to have an annual competition asking entrants for the most appropriate definition of a contemporary term:  In 2007, the term which was the subject of the contest was ‘ Political Correctness ‘.  The winning definition was:

Political Correctness is a doctrine, fostered by a delusional, illogical minority, and rabidly promoted by an unscrupulous mainstream media, which holds forth the proposition that it is entirely possible to pick up a turd by the clean end.

Whether it has anything to do with Texas A & M or not,  I seem to have this in mind as I  have been fascinated by two high tech industry stories from 2017 (must be a 10th anniversary celebration of finding an appropriate definition of the term).

In August at Google and now this month (November, 2017) at Apple, political correctness, a core tenet of Leftist Ideology, has become an accepted (in Silicon Valley) reason for dismissal of senior executives.

The most recent case involved a 20+ year Apple exec, Denise Young Smith, who had recently been ‘promoted’ to the position of Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion.  She will no longer be employed by Apple at the end of the year because she had the temerity to say, in a public meeting,  “There can be 12 white, blue-eyed, blond men in a room and they’re going to be diverse too because they’re going to bring a different life experience and life perspective to the conversation.  Diversity is the human experience.  I get a little bit frustrated when diversity or the term diversity is tagged to the people of color, or the women, or the LGBT.”

The August 2017 incident concerned a long internal memo which ‘went viral’ within Google and which was written by a self-professed true liberal engineer at Google, James Damore.  Mr. Damore does little more than state what he believes to be the truth and then makes some recommendations which he feels will benefit both the culture and the economic viability of Google.  You can judge for yourself whether Google is real world or not and whether you would be comfortable working in the Google environment.  Mr. Damore makes interesting observations especially since they come from the ‘belly of the beast’.

Here is the response to Damore’s memo from Danielle Brown.  It is followed by a copy of the long but interesting memo from James Damore.  Any thoughts?

Google’s new Vice President of Diversity, Integrity & Governance, Danielle Brown, issued the following statement in response to the internal employee memo:

Googlers,

I’m Danielle, Google’s brand new VP of Diversity, Integrity & Governance. I started just a couple of weeks ago, and I had hoped to take another week or so to get the lay of the land before introducing myself to you all. But given the heated debate we’ve seen over the past few days, I feel compelled to say a few words.

Many of you have read an internal document shared by someone in our engineering organization, expressing views on the natural abilities and characteristics of different genders, as well as whether one can speak freely of these things at Google. And like many of you, I found that it advanced incorrect assumptions about gender. I’m not going to link to it here as it’s not a viewpoint that I or this company endorses, promotes or encourages.

Diversity and inclusion are a fundamental part of our values and the culture we continue to cultivate. We are unequivocal in our belief that diversity and inclusion are critical to our success as a company, and we’ll continue to stand for that and be committed to it for the long haul. As Ari Balogh said in his internal G+ post, “Building an open, inclusive environment is core to who we are, and the right thing to do. ‘Nuff said. “

Google has taken a strong stand on this issue, by releasing its demographic data and creating a company wide OKR on diversity and inclusion. Strong stands elicit strong reactions. Changing a culture is hard, and it’s often uncomfortable. But I firmly believe Google is doing the right thing, and that’s why I took this job.

Part of building an open, inclusive environment means fostering a culture in which those with alternative views, including different political views, feel safe sharing their opinions. But that discourse needs to work alongside the principles of equal employment found in our Code of Conduct, policies, and anti-discrimination laws.

I’ve been in the industry for a long time, and I can tell you that I’ve never worked at a company that has so many platforms for employees to express themselves—TGIF, Memegen, internal G+, thousands of discussion groups. I know this conversation doesn’t end with my email today. I look forward to continuing to hear your thoughts as I settle in and meet with Googlers across the company.

Thanks,

Danielle”

 

 

Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber, by James Damore

Reply to public response and misrepresentation

I value diversity and inclusion, am not denying that sexism exists, and don’t endorse using stereotypes. When addressing the gap in representation in the population, we need to look at population level differences in distributions. If we can’t have an honest discussion about this, then we can never truly solve the problem. Psychological safety is built on mutual respect and acceptance, but unfortunately our culture of shaming and misrepresentation is disrespectful and unaccepting of anyone outside its echo chamber. Despite what the public response seems to have been, I’ve gotten many personal messages from fellow Googlers expressing their gratitude for bringing up these very important issues which they agree with but would never have the courage to say or defend because of our shaming culture and the possibility of being fired. This needs to change.

TL:DR

  • Google’s political bias has equated the freedom from offense with psychological safety, but shaming into silence is the antithesis of psychological safety.
  • This silencing has created an ideological echo chamber where some ideas are too sacred to be honestly discussed.
  • The lack of discussion fosters the most extreme and authoritarian elements of this ideology.
  • Extreme: all disparities in representation are due to oppression
  • Authoritarian: we should discriminate to correct for this oppression
  • Differences in distributions of traits between men and women may in part explain why we don’t have 50% representation of women in tech and leadership. Discrimination to reach equal representation is unfair, divisive, and bad for business.

Background [1]

People generally have good intentions, but we all have biases which are invisible to us. Thankfully, open and honest discussion with those who disagree can highlight our blind spots and help us grow, which is why I wrote this document.[2] Google has several biases and honest discussion about these biases is being silenced by the dominant ideology. What follows is by no means the complete story, but it’s a perspective that desperately needs to be told at Google.

Google’s biases

At Google, we talk so much about unconscious bias as it applies to race and gender, but we rarely discuss our moral biases. Political orientation is actually a result of deep moral preferences and thus biases. Considering that the overwhelming majority of the social sciences, media, and Google lean left, we should critically examine these prejudices.

Left Biases

  • Compassion for the weak
  • Disparities are due to injustices
  • Humans are inherently cooperative
  • Change is good (unstable)
  • Open
  • Idealist

Right Biases

  • Respect for the strong/authority
  • Disparities are natural and just
  • Humans are inherently competitive
  • Change is dangerous (stable)
  • Closed
  • Pragmatic

Neither side is 100% correct and both viewpoints are necessary for a functioning society or, in this case, company. A company too far to the right may be slow to react, overly hierarchical, and untrusting of others. In contrast, a company too far to the left will constantly be changing (deprecating much loved services), over diversify its interests (ignoring or being ashamed of its core business), and overly trust its employees and competitors.

Only facts and reason can shed light on these biases, but when it comes to diversity and inclusion, Google’s left bias has created a politically correct monoculture that maintains its hold by shaming dissenters into silence. This silence removes any checks against encroaching extremist and authoritarian policies. For the rest of this document, I’ll concentrate on the extreme stance that all differences in outcome are due to differential treatment and the authoritarian element that’s required to actually discriminate to create equal representation.

Possible non-bias causes of the gender gap in tech [3]

At Google, we’re regularly told that implicit (unconscious) and explicit biases are holding women back in tech and leadership. Of course, men and women experience bias, tech, and the workplace differently and we should be cognizant of this, but it’s far from the whole story.

On average, men and women biologically differ in many ways. These differences aren’t just socially constructed because:

  • They’re universal across human cultures
  • They often have clear biological causes and links to prenatal testosterone
  • Biological males that were castrated at birth and raised as females often still identify and act like males
  • The underlying traits are highly heritable
  • They’re exactly what we would predict from an evolutionary psychology perspective

Note, I’m not saying that all men differ from women in the following ways or that these differences are “just.” I’m simply stating that the distribution of preferences and abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes and that these differences may explain why we don’t see equal representation of women in tech and leadership. Many of these differences are small and there’s significant overlap between men and women, so you can’t say anything about an individual given these population level distributions.

Personality differences

Women, on average, have more:

  • Openness directed towards feelings and aesthetics rather than ideas. Women generally also have a stronger interest in people rather than things, relative to men (also interpreted as empathizing vs. systemizing).
  • These two differences in part explain why women relatively prefer jobs in social or artistic areas. More men may like coding because it requires systemizing and even within SWEs, comparatively more women work on front end, which deals with both people and aesthetics.
  • Extraversion expressed as gregariousness rather than assertiveness. Also, higher agreeableness.
  • This leads to women generally having a harder time negotiating salary, asking for raises, speaking up, and leading. Note that these are just average differences and there’s overlap between men and women, but this is seen solely as a women’s issue. This leads to exclusory programs like Stretch and swaths of men without support.
  • Neuroticism (higher anxiety, lower stress tolerance).This may contribute to the higher levels of anxiety women report on Googlegeist and to the lower number of women in high stress jobs.

Note that contrary to what a social constructionist would argue, research suggests that “greater nation-level gender equality leads to psychological dissimilarity in men’s and women’s personality traits.” Because as “society becomes more prosperous and more egalitarian, innate dispositional differences between men and women have more space to develop and the gap that exists between men and women in their personality becomes wider.” We need to stop assuming that gender gaps imply sexism.

Men’s higher drive for status

We always ask why we don’t see women in top leadership positions, but we never ask why we see so many men in these jobs. These positions often require long, stressful hours that may not be worth it if you want a balanced and fulfilling life.

Status is the primary metric that men are judged on[4], pushing many men into these higher paying, less satisfying jobs for the status that they entail. Note, the same forces that lead men into high pay/high stress jobs in tech and leadership cause men to take undesirable and dangerous jobs like coal mining, garbage collection, and firefighting, and suffer 93% of work-related deaths.

Non-discriminatory ways to reduce the gender gap

Below I’ll go over some of the differences in distribution of traits between men and women that I outlined in the previous section and suggest ways to address them to increase women’s representation in tech and without resorting to discrimination. Google is already making strides in many of these areas, but I think it’s still instructive to list them:

  • Women on average show a higher interest in people and men in things
  • We can make software engineering more people-oriented with pair programming and more collaboration. Unfortunately, there may be limits to how people-oriented certain roles and Google can be and we shouldn’t deceive ourselves or students into thinking otherwise (some of our programs to get female students into coding might be doing this).
  • Women on average are more cooperative
  • Allow those exhibiting cooperative behavior to thrive. Recent updates to Perf may be doing this to an extent, but maybe there’s more we can do. This doesn’t mean that we should remove all competitiveness from Google. Competitiveness and self reliance can be valuable traits and we shouldn’t necessarily disadvantage those that have them, like what’s been done in education. Women on average are more prone to anxiety. Make tech and leadership less stressful. Google already partly does this with its many stress reduction courses and benefits.
  • Women on average look for more work-life balance while men have a higher drive for status on average
  • Unfortunately, as long as tech and leadership remain high status, lucrative careers, men may disproportionately want to be in them. Allowing and truly endorsing (as part of our culture) part time work though can keep more women in tech.
  • The male gender role is currently inflexible
  • Feminism has made great progress in freeing women from the female gender role, but men are still very much tied to the male gender role. If we, as a society, allow men to be more “feminine,” then the gender gap will shrink, although probably because men will leave tech and leadership for traditionally feminine roles.

Philosophically, I don’t think we should do arbitrary social engineering of tech just to make it appealing to equal portions of both men and women. For each of these changes, we need principles reasons for why it helps Google; that is, we should be optimizing for Google—with Google’s diversity being a component of that. For example currently those trying to work extra hours or take extra stress will inevitably get ahead and if we try to change that too much, it may have disastrous consequences. Also, when considering the costs and benefits, we should keep in mind that Google’s funding is finite so its allocation is more zero-sum than is generally acknowledged.

The Harm of Google’s biases

I strongly believe in gender and racial diversity, and I think we should strive for more. However, to achieve a more equal gender and race representation, Google has created several discriminatory practices:

  • Programs, mentoring, and classes only for people with a certain gender or race [5]
  • A high priority queue and special treatment for “diversity” candidates
  • Hiring practices which can effectively lower the bar for “diversity” candidates by decreasing the false negative rate
  • Reconsidering any set of people if it’s not “diverse” enough, but not showing that same scrutiny in the reverse direction (clear confirmation bias)
  • Setting org level OKRs for increased representation which can incentivize illegal discrimination [6]

These practices are based on false assumptions generated by our biases and can actually increase race and gender tensions. We’re told by senior leadership that what we’re doing is both the morally and economically correct thing to do, but without evidence this is just veiled left ideology[7] that can irreparably harm Google.

Why we’re blind

We all have biases and use motivated reasoning to dismiss ideas that run counter to our internal values. Just as some on the Right deny science that runs counter to the “God > humans > environment” hierarchy (e.g., evolution and climate change) the Left tends to deny science concerning biological differences between people (e.g., IQ[8] and sex differences). Thankfully, climate scientists and evolutionary biologists generally aren’t on the right. Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of humanities and social scientists learn left (about 95%), which creates enormous confirmation bias, changes what’s being studied, and maintains myths like social constructionism and the gender wage gap[9]. Google’s left leaning makes us blind to this bias and uncritical of its results, which we’re using to justify highly politicized programs.

In addition to the Left’s affinity for those it sees as weak, humans are generally biased towards protecting females. As mentioned before, this likely evolved because males are biologically disposable and because women are generally more cooperative and areeable than men. We have extensive government and Google programs, fields of study, and legal and social norms to protect women, but when a man complains about a gender issue issue [sic] affecting men, he’s labelled as a misogynist and whiner[10]. Nearly every difference between men and women is interpreted as a form of women’s oppression. As with many things in life, gender differences are often a case of “grass being greener on the other side”; unfortunately, taxpayer and Google money is spent to water only one side of the lawn.

The same compassion for those seen as weak creates political correctness[11], which constrains discourse and is complacent to the extremely sensitive PC-authoritarians that use violence and shaming to advance their cause. While Google hasn’t harbored the violent leftists protests that we’re seeing at universities, the frequent shaming in TGIF and in our culture has created the same silence, psychologically unsafe environment.

Suggestions

I hope it’s clear that I’m not saying that diversity is bad, that Google or society is 100% fair, that we shouldn’t try to correct for existing biases, or that minorities have the same experience of those in the majority. My larger point is that we have an intolerance for ideas and evidence that don’t fit a certain ideology. I’m also not saying that we should restrict people to certain gender roles; I’m advocating for quite the opposite: treat people as individuals, not as just another member of their group (tribalism).

My concrete suggestions are to:

De-moralize diversity.

  • As soon as we start to moralize an issue, we stop thinking about it in terms of costs and benefits, dismiss anyone that disagrees as immoral, and harshly punish those we see as villains to protect the “victims.”

Stop alienating conservatives. 

  • Viewpoint diversity is arguably the most important type of diversity and political orientation is one of the most fundamental and significant ways in which people view things differently.
  • In highly progressive environments, conservatives are a minority that feel like they need to stay in the closet to avoid open hostility. We should empower those with different ideologies to be able to express themselves.
  • Alienating conservatives is both non-inclusive and generally bad business because conservatives tend to be higher in conscientiousness, which is required for much of the drudgery and maintenance work characteristic of a mature company.

Confront Google’s biases.

  • I’ve mostly concentrated on how our biases cloud our thinking about diversity and inclusion, but our moral biases are farther reaching than that.
  • I would start by breaking down Googlegeist scores by political orientation and personality to give a fuller picture into how our biases are affecting our culture.

Stop restricting programs and classes to certain genders or races.

  • These discriminatory practices are both unfair and divisive. Instead focus on some of the non-discriminatory practices I outlined.

Have an open and honest discussion about the costs and benefits of our diversity programs.

  • Discriminating just to increase the representation of women in tech is as misguided and biased as mandating increases for women’s representation in the homeless, work-related and violent deaths, prisons, and school dropouts.
  • There’s currently very little transparency into the extent of our diversity programs which keeps it immune to criticism from those outside its ideological echo chamber.
  • These programs are highly politicized which further alienates non-progressives.
  • I realize that some of our programs may be precautions against government accusations of discrimination, but that can easily backfire since they incentivize illegal discrimination.

Focus on psychological safety, not just race/gender diversity.

  • We should focus on psychological safety, which has shown positive effects and should (hopefully) not lead to unfair discrimination.
  • We need psychological safety and shared values to gain the benefits of diversity
  • Having representative viewpoints is important for those designing and testing our products, but the benefits are less clear for those more removed from UX.

De-emphasize empathy.

  • I’ve heard several calls for increased empathy on diversity issues. While I strongly support trying to understand how and why people think the way they do, relying on affective empathy—feeling another’s pain—causes us to focus on anecdotes, favor individuals similar to us, and harbor other irrational and dangerous biases. Being emotionally unengaged helps us better reason about the facts.

Prioritize intention.

  • Our focus on microaggressions and other unintentional transgressions increases our sensitivity, which is not universally positive: sensitivity increases both our tendency to take offense and our self censorship, leading to authoritarian policies. Speaking up without the fear of being harshly judged is central to psychological safety, but these practices can remove that safety by judging unintentional transgressions.
  • Microaggression training incorrectly and dangerously equates speech with violence and isn’t backed by evidence.

Be open about the science of human nature. 

  • Once we acknowledge that not all differences are socially constructed or due to discrimination, we open our eyes to a more accurate view of the human condition which is necessary if we actually want to solve problems.

Reconsider making Unconscious Bias training mandatory for promo committees.

  • We haven’t been able to measure any effect of our Unconscious Bias training and it has the potential for overcorrecting or backlash, especially if made mandatory.
  • Some of the suggested methods of the current training (v2.3) are likely useful, but the political bias of the presentation is clear from the factual inaccuracies and the examples shown.
  • Spend more time on the many other types of biases besides stereotypes. Stereotypes are much more accurate and responsive to new information than the training suggests (I’m not advocating for using stereotypes, I [sic] just pointing out the factual inaccuracy of what’s said in the training).

[1] This document is mostly written from the perspective of Google’s Mountain View campus, I can’t speak about other offices or countries.

[2] Of course, I may be biased and only see evidence that supports my viewpoint. In terms of political biases, I consider myself a classical liberal and strongly value individualism and reason. I’d be very happy to discuss any of the document further and provide more citations.

[3] Throughout the document, by “tech”, I mostly mean software engineering.

[4] For heterosexual romantic relationships, men are more strongly judged by status and women by beauty. Again, this has biological origins and is culturally universal. 

[5] Stretch, BOLD, CSSI, Engineering Practicum (to an extent), and several other Google funded internal and external programs are for people with a certain gender or race.

[6] Instead set Googlegeist OKRs, potentially for certain demographics. We can increase representation at an org level by either making it a better environment for certain groups (which would be seen in survey scores) or discriminating based on a protected status (which is illegal and I’ve seen it done). Increased representation OKRs can incentivize the latter and create zero-sum struggles between orgs.

[7] Communism promised to be both morally and economically superior to capitalism, but every attempt became morally corrupt and an economic failure. As it became clear that the working class of the liberal democracies wasn’t going to overthrow their “capitalist oppressors,” the Marxist intellectuals transitioned from class warfare to gender and race politics. The core oppressor-oppressed dynamics remained, but now the oppressor is the “white, straight, cis-gendered patriarchy.”

[8] Ironically, IQ tests were initially championed by the Left when meritocracy meant helping the victims of the aristocracy.

[9] Yes, in a national aggregate, women have lower salaries than men for a variety of reasons. For the same work though, women get paid just as much as men. Considering women spend more money than men and that salary represents how much the employees sacrifices (e.g. more hours, stress, and danger), we really need to rethink our stereotypes around power.

[10] “The traditionalist system of gender does not deal well with the idea of men needing support. Men are expected to be strong, to not complain, and to deal with problems on their own. Men’s problems are more often seen as personal failings rather than victimhood,, due to our gendered idea of agency. This discourages men from bringing attention to their issues (whether individual or group-wide issues), for fear of being seen as whiners, complainers, or weak.”

[11] Political correctness is defined as “the avoidance of forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against,” which makes it clear why it’s a phenomenon of the Left and a tool of authoritarians.

 

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Why do we celebrate a Veterans Day?

What is now Veterans Day grew out of the Armistice that ended combat in what was then called The Great War and which we refer to as World War I.  The Armistice between Germany and our allies declared that all combat would cease at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month (in 1918) or November 11 at 11:00 am, 99 years ago.

In 1919, President Wilson made Armistice Day an official day where, “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice.…”

Between then and now:

Congress, in 1926 and again in 1938 passed resolutions making the day a legal holiday: “….. dedicated to the cause of world peace and to be thereafter celebrated and known as “Armistice Day.”  By 1954, President Eisenhower signed Public Law 380 which changed the name to “Veterans Day” and the purpose to “…honor American Veterans of all wars.”   

In 1968, Public Law 90-363 moved the official observance to the nearest Monday to November 11 so that public employees could celebrate with a three day weekend.  Beginning in 1978, Public Law 94-97 returned the celebration of Veterans Day to the actual date, November 11, regardless of the day of the week upon which it falls.  It also was intended to focus on “the important purpose of Veterans Day: A celebration to honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good.

Who is a Veteran?

Title 38 of the Code of Federal Regulations defines a veteran as “a person who served in the active military, naval, or air service and who was discharged or released under conditions other than dishonorable.”  A veteran is further defined by federal law, moral code and military service as Any person who served for Any length of time in Any military service branch.”  In other words, any person who has served in the military should be considered a Veteran.

In general, Veterans are not looking to be put on a pedestal but all Veterans that I know do like being recognized and appreciated for having served.  Why not call a Veteran friend and let him or her know that you respect the service and sacrifice that he or she has made?

Happy Veterans Day!

 

 

Sports analysists, talk show hosts, and NFL fans everywhere have been talking nonstop this summer about Colin Kaepernick.  Why, many are asking, has no team decided to hire  him this off-season?

Various analysts and fans have views that range from “It’s pure racism” to “It’s politics:  He refused to stand for the National Anthem” to “He just isn’t good enough any more” and “No team wants all the baggage that comes with him.”

Yesterday, Michael Vick, no stranger to controversy and at one time a very talented NFL quarterback, gave Mr. Kaepernick a piece of advice:  Cut your hair and “try to be more presentable.”  That set off waves of discussion on social media.  A lot of folks have decided that anyone who points to Mr. Kaepernick’s hair or tattoos is judging a book by its cover.  I agree that it is judging Mr. Kaepernick at least partially by his hair and his tattoos.  I also think that is a very valid thing upon which to judge him.

Hair and tattoos are personal choices.  The person with the Afro or Dreadlocks or beard to his waist is choosing that fashion.  No person I know has ever been forced to wear his hair in an Afro or in Dreadlocks or braids.  A beard to your waist is a fashion statement, pure and simple, a personal choice.

Colin Kaepernick wants people to look at him.  His actions and his fashion statements are his own choices and all point to a person who is very interested in being seen and talked about.

 

My guess is that most of his potential employers (NFL Team Owners) think that the choices he is making show a greater interest in his ego than in his preparation for the business of football.  They likely think his choices show poor judgment.  The last thing they want is the Quarterback of their team to be a person who has poor judgment.  None of the owners appear to want to have, as the face of their franchise, what Mr. Kaepernick is offering.  Do you blame them?  Many do, but, for me, in six years he has gone from a promising physical talent to dubious talent with an ego too big even for professional football.

I think anyone who feels sorry for Colin Kaepernick because he is still unemployed should know that Mr. Kaepernick has only himself to blame.  If you showed up at a job interview for a position as Diversity Manager for a large firm wearing a KKK robe or for a teaching position at a Catholic School wearing nothing but a string bikini, it would be your fault and nobody else’s if the person doing the interview first judged the book by its cover.  Fashion choices are just that: choices.  Though they may be the “cover” they do expose a lot about what’s inside.

 

 

Here is a link to a video that I sent to about a dozen friends last week:

It is one of a series of videos by Bill Whittle called “Virtual President.”  The folks to whom I sent the email ranged from the far right to the far left on gun control and most other things political.  One email that I received in return was from a friend who is considerably more liberal than I.  We’ll call her Jane Doe.  Here is her email:

As usual, we disagree! It seems to me that this presentation is highly misleading, starting with its staging. Bill Whittle makes it look as if he is addressing a joint session of congress, alternating views of him speaking with closeups of senators and representatives (John Kerry, Pau Ryan) listening. But of course he never addressed a joint session of congress so that these images are taken out of context. 

Then he goes on to give statistics for the number of people murdered by rifles, but he doesn’t mention that the great majority of murder victims were killed, not by rifles, but by handguns. In 2010, there were 6,009 handgun murders to 358 rifle murders, so his argument is clearly deceptive. 

Then he talks about the “fact” that a million to 2.5 million murders were prevented by firearms. Any statistics with this kind of range are clearly unreliable, but in this case Whittle seems to be basing his argument on a thoroughly discredited survey by Gary Kleck. In fact, a study from 2014 of police records and media reports found 1,600 reports of successful defensive use firearms. 

There have been a number of comparative studies of states with similar ethnic and economic situations which show that strict laws reduce gun violence. Also, one can compare the U.S. to Canada which has rigorous gun laws. We lived in Canada for two years and my husband was an avid hunter so he was allowed to keep his guns, but the rate of death by firearms is much, much lower in Canada, presumably as a result of regulation. According to an article in Wikipedia, comparing gun deaths in various countries, the rate in Canada is 1.97 per 100,000, whereas in the U.S. it is 10.54. 

I then wrote back to her at about the same time another friend wrote to her.  Below is my email followed by my other friend’s letter to her:

Dear Jane Doe,

Bill Whittle does a series called Virtual President in which he portrays himself as the Virtual President and what he would say if speaking to Congress.  This is one of those videos.  No deception intended, just a way of expressing his opinions.

I agree with you that he has cherry picked statistics to use rifles, not the more prevalent tool, the handgun.  He was, however, speaking to the issue of “military assault rifles.”  He did not address the handgun issue, I don’t believe.

I also agree with your feeling that the 1,000,000 to 2.5M gun defenses is fishy at best.  It is neither his strongest point, nor do I feel, one he should be making lacking provable numbers.

I accept your numbers comparing Canada and the U.S. as to gun deaths.  I have seen quite a few different numbers, but, each study I have seen comes to the same general conclusion that Canada suffers significantly fewer gun deaths per capita than the U.S.  Is that due to increased availability of guns? Or, might it be other societal issues?

What I don’t see is your comparison of other statistics between the U.S. and Canada.  The U.S. has about 16 times as many rapes as Canada.  Is that due to increased availability of guns?  The U.S. appears to have about three times the number of murders per capita than Canada.  Is that due to increased availability of guns?  The U.S. seems to have about 6 times more prisoners than Canada.  Is that due to increased availability of guns?   Why not compare Canada to the U.S. as to highway deaths?  According to your source, Wikipedia, the USA has 12% more highway deaths per Capita than Canada, over 26% more highway fatalities per 100,000 vehicles, and 43% more highway fatalities per million miles driven than Canada.   You might want to suggest that the U.S. ban automobiles.  In fact, why is there no significant anti-auto lobby, like there is an anti-gun lobby?

The main point of Mr. Whittle’s piece is to defend the Constitution and in particular, the 2nd Amendment.  It is his belief that the reason for the 2nd Amendment is first and foremost to allow free citizens to protect themselves from tyranny.  Significantly, it is the tyranny of government that triggered the need for the 2nd Amendment.  He also feels that there is a political element in our society that finds it very easy to demonize guns and gun ownership for political gain.

See some interesting comparisons between USA and Canada at:

(http://www.nationmaster.com/country-info/compare/Canada/United-States/Crime)

I think Mr. Whittle makes a strong point that the anti-gun politicians need to propose a 28th Amendment (to repeal the 2nd Amendment) and see how that flies.  That would be the honest way to see how their constituents feel about the issue.  Unfortunately, it is much easier for them to repeal parts of the Constitution by nibbling with one new regulation/law after another until the Constitution is neutered. It makes me wonder if the goal of the “gun control politicians” is truly gun control or if it is not “People Control.”

Thanks for taking the time to watch the video.

Then the letter from the other friend to Jane Doe:

 

Dear Jane Doe,

And a good thing it is!
All discussions of firearms, right to self-defense, who should own what and the like are “highly deceptive,” regardless of position.

I would put Whittle’s hoax up against the Press’ sticking a camera into the face of a mother first viewing a dead child – both are obscene.

I will be the first to admit that I do not know the “statistics” of murder-by-firearms, and point that there are a good many such: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:Search?search=firearm+murders&go=Go&searchToken=4xc39euwfkqjyo2suzdfmc7hs

One could spend much time arming oneself with poignant fact (and many advocates do), but I wish for (inter)national debate on the subject, involving scholars, legislators, think tanks (Brookings, CATO and other serious ponderers) – and just plain people, selected for interest and common sense.

Just think – what if we, as a nation, actually THOUGHT about it?!  Imagine a new way of exploring issues, where the interest of the Nation, not just of the Party, is at stake!  An alternative to our Brave New World?    (May God help us!)

Discussions of Canada – such as Michael Moore’s film on guns – make the point that Canadians own at least as many guns per capita as we, yet do not use them on each other.  (He also pointed out that many do not lock their door.)

How/why are we different?

  • we are a spectacular target for many – terrorists and nuts.  But denying us self-defense will not help that.
  • we have huge crime areas, and their denizens kill each other, far and away more frequently than ordinary americans bump each other off.   Such areas already forbid ownership of guns, but that clearly does not help; they get them anyhow.  (And would use knives or clubs if they couldn’t).
  • our government fosters and keeps alive simmering suspicion of various groups for each other, racial, ethnic and economic, by rhetoric and ukase.  This does nothing to ease tensions; quite the contrary, our parties encourage Us vs Them sentiments, so that we live in a Lockean Hell of all against all.  When bad feeling erupts, people reach for whatever weapon is at hand.  But if it were not a gun, it would be something else – also deadly.
  • there are more reasons, of course, but I am not writing a dissertation.

What are the unspoken, unacknowledged positions of the parties on Gun Control?  How do they view the inhabitants of the US?

Republicans – Jefferson’s view of us: mature, responsible citizens, answerable (and called upon to answer) for our deeds, who have as much to fear from government as to hope for from it.  He builds upon the long-standing lessons derived from english civil history as well as upon the brilliance of certain french enlightenment thinkers in formulating a simple, compelling contract between the citizen and the law – than which there never to this day has been better, and whose sanctity approaches that of God’s Covenant, and we would do well to heed His edict: “not a jot or tittle!”

Democrats – helpless, lost and forlorn children whom they must rescue, succor and elevate.  Privileged with as-yet unnumbered Entitlements, many more to come, they, the Dems, as their custodians are pledged to enforce these – against the Rest, those uninformed, uncaring and largely indifferent Masses out there who would selfishly deny privilege (citizenship, ability to use any bathroom, marry anyone, have television and cellphones et cetera) and money (that of the Masses) to those whom the Dems have selected as Worthy.

Small wonder at the difference of positions; who would give guns to children?

The larger problem is not guns/se, but what is becoming of us: are we wards of Big Brother?  It seems that many are rushing to become so.

Maybe that is why the rest voted for Trump?!

 

I sure like his description of the unspoken, unacknowledged positions of the parties on gun control.  It could apply to their positions on most things.

.

The Big City Press (N. Y. Times, Washington Post, L.A. Times, Atlantic Monthly, etc.) has been falling all over itself portraying the first weeks of the Trump Administration as Chaos or Dysfunction.  They can find nothing being done by the Trump Administration that measures up to the wonderful job done by Mr. Obama and his Administration in its early weeks in office.

An example:

In today’s Washington Post, E.J. Dionne, Jr. has an Op-Ed that states that Trump is unfit to lead.  His opening shot is that the Michael Flynn resignation was not just a terrible choice but showed a total lack of vetting.  How could Mr. Trump appoint someone who had lied to his Vice President about National Security matters?  He implied that Mr. Trump was, at best, a very poor decision maker and a bad judge of character.  Dionne goes on to say that Attorney General Jeff Sessions should immediately recuse himself from all investigations to do with Russia, just because he was chosen by Mr. Trump who Dionne says is in bed with Russia.

sessions-jeff

It would be interesting to read Mr. Dionne’s op-ed about Mr. Obama’s choice for National Intelligence Council Chair in 2009, Charles Freeman.  You will remember Mr. Freeman who had worked for (was on it’s Board) the Chinese Government-owned Chinese National Offshore Oil Company and who had lobbied extensively for Saudi-Arabia.  Oh, wait.  Dionne never wrote such an op-ed.  It was apparently fine for an Obama appointee to be in bed with the Chinese Communists and the Saudis.

lynch

It would be similarly interesting to see Mr. Dionne’s op-ed asking Loretta Lynch, Mr. Obama’s Attorney General, to recuse herself from the investigation of Mrs. Clinton’s pay-to-play scheme and email scandal while Clinton was Secretary of State.  You will remember that Lynch and Bill Clinton had a timely discussion just prior to Lynch making a decision that was very beneficial to Mrs. Clinton.  Again, Mr. Dionne saw no evil there, either.

What about Tom Daschle?  He was the Obama appointee for Health and Human Services who somehow neglected to pay more than $140,000 of taxes.

Or, Timothy Geithner who was actually confirmed as Secretary of the Treasury and served in the position for 4 years?  Geithner somehow forgot to pay his Social Security Taxes for years (inspite of being advised to do so and being given extra compensation for that purpose).  Geithner was also in the thick of the banking crisis that set up the 2008 recession and profited greatly from the rules he backed.  Dionne did comment about that: “All of the administration’s critics are being emboldened by its hesitancy in dealing with the banking question and its apparent fear of temporary bank nationalization. On this issue, the president genuinely is trying to steer a moderate course.”  Moderate?  To appoint a tax cheat and one of the bankers at the heart of the crisis?  Imagine, if you can, Dionne saying about Mr. Trump, “…the president genuinely is trying to steer a moderate course.”

Or, Bill Richardson who was appointed to run Commerce.  He was not nicknamed “Dollar” Bill for nothing.  He had a history of accepting outsized political donations from people who sought favors (mostly State contracts) in return.  He finally withdrew, or was asked to withdraw, after over a month as the appointee.

Dionne did not, to my knowledge, decry any of these gaffs.  He did not claim Mr. Obama was “unfit”.  In fact, Dionne wrote in his recent book, We are the Change We seek: “Despite his fervent campaign promise to ease the country’s political divisions, he discovered that he faced a Republican opposition intent on taking back power by stymieing his program, challenging his mandate to govern, (emphasis mine) and leaving his dreams of harmony stillborn.”

Why such a different view?  Perspective.  Mr. Dionne and much of the Big City Press backed Mrs. Clinton.  They were out of touch with the heart of the country and they are sore losers.  They will continue to cherry pick the news and harp on the evils of Donald Trump, much as they cherry picked the news and wrote glowing reports of Mr. Obama and his actions.

The facts show that every administration has some missteps and some successes as they get started.  Mr. Dionne’s conclusion that Mr. Trump is “Unfit to Serve” is provably biased and, at best, premature.  Mr. Dionne and the Left learned nothing from the Right’s “Birther Movement” and show their inability to be unbiased observers and reporters with every stroke of their pens.  They should take a deep breath and, for once, try to be reporters of the truth, not just hacks using their pulpit to push their political views.

 

…to anything outside of their silo.  And, I don’t mean colorblind.  The left is anything but colorblind.

It has been said that the media, the pollsters, and the political left were shocked by the U.S. Presidential Election because they wear blinders.  It is said they only see what fits their worldview.  Of course, that can be said of almost anyone.   However, for the past eight years, the left has reinforced its own belief that anything that does not fit its view is stupid (remember the uneducated ‘deplorables’), or racist, or homophobic, or sexist, etc.,etc.

I received the cartoon below from a friend recently.  I wonder if, eight years ago, you were to have replaced the images of Mr. and Mrs. Obama in the cartoon with those of George and Laura Bush, what would have been the reaction.  My guess is that there would have been an amazing uproar about the racism of cartoonist Gustavo Viselner, by the same people who laugh at this and see it as a fairly benign political cartoon.

trun-out-the-lights

 

steve-jobs-introduces-original-iphone-macworld-sf-2007-332x205

Ten years ago yesterday, Steve Jobs took to the stage in San Francisco and introduced the iPhone.  The world has changed dramatically since and because of that introduction.  Here is a link to the video of the full introduction:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9hUIxyE2Ns8&feature=youtu.be

Save this video for when you have a little over an hour and would otherwise watch a movie.    It is as good a documentary movie as you will watch.

Apple misses Steve Jobs.  Who knows what other changes the world would have seen had he lived to envision those changes?

Eliminate the Cent, Mr. Trump

Eliminate the Cent, Mr. Trump

A good friend of mine, Mark, is very optimistic, as am I, for Mr. Trump’s opportunity to make positive changes.  He thinks there is a lot of low hanging fruit that can be done quickly to set the tone.  His only concern is that the press will not report it.

Mr. Trump, here is the very first thing you should do:

Eliminate the U. S. Cent (legal name for the lowly penny) as legal tender.  It costs anywhere from 1.5¢ to 2.5¢ to make so that is enough reason to dump the cent (it loses taxpayers about $50 Million annually).  Add to that the cost to all who use it in making change, counting the till at the end of the day, not to mention the back pain for geezers like me when we stoop to pick up pennies in front of the 7-11.

So why do we still make pennies?  I can think of 3 reasons: 1 – We are very bad at math (see my post here); 2 – There is so much of our culture built around the cent that we can’t give it up (“a penny for your thoughts”, “…not a red cent”, “a penny saved, a penny earned”……): 3 – Lobbying dollars to support political campaigns.  Jarden Zinc Products is the sole supplier to the U.S. Mint of the clad copper metal used to make the U.S. Cent.  It is rumored that if a congressman needs some quick donations, one way is to propose the elimination of the cent.  Jarden Zinc Products, it is said, will offer the congressman a nice donation if he drops the idea, forever.

If Jarden in fact (I have no proof) has a monopoly and is willing to pay elected officials for the privilege of keeping that monopoly (no proof here either, just rumor), this is exactly the type of corruption that Mr. Trump should send packing immediately.  What a nice symbolic move it would be to embarrass Congress into dropping the penny forever.  And it would save about $50 Million a year – chump change for the U.S.Government, but real money to the rest of us.

When the Brexit vote was predicted as a sure win for the “Remain” coalition and the actual vote was to “Leave” by a healthy margin, the stage was set for what happened at the polls in the USA on November 8th, 2016.  The Brexit vote showed that the elites in Britain, those who run major bureaucracies/institutions and who run the government were out of touch with the majority of the people.  In particular, the media was out of touch.

I think that the U.S. Presidential Election followed the same pattern, with a twist.  The media did its best to convince everyday Americans that Hillary Clinton was going to win in an historic landslide.  In so doing, they convinced themselves of the same result.  Part of the problem was that fewer and fewer people read, listen to, or watch the “mainstream media” and fewer still believe what the see, hear and read.  They were far off the mark because they had elevated themselves above the masses and could not see or hear how the masses actually felt.
hillary-loser-1024x683

The twist?  The Democrats had chosen an almost unelectable candidate.  Clinton has a colorful history, in particular as to her understanding of the word “truth.”  She was untrusted and disliked by the vast majority of all adults.  Her almost saving grace was that she was pitted against a man with negatives almost as high as her own.  The press did Mrs. Clinton’s work deflecting the bad news, attacking Mr. Trump’s character, and running stories at the bidding of the Clinton Campaign.  And, in doing so, the media convinced themselves that she was the best candidate and had the support of the majority of Americans.  They saw those things that reinforced their view.  They created and saw polls that bore out their belief.  They dismissed as crazy all evidence to the contrary.

deceive-yourself-kierkegaard

Mrs. Clinton was gracious in her consession speech but was clearly still unsettled after the ‘shocking’ loss.  She too, had read too many of her press releases turned news stories and had believed them.  I think until a week ago she was measuring the draperies in the White House.  I hope her concession speech was sincere in stating her desire to work with all parties for the betterment of America.  I fear she is no more believable now than she was on the campaign trail.  I do not think this loss has relieved her of her lust for power, the same lust for power the American Electorate saw and rejected.

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