Streetwise Professor

December 29, 2022

Between the David Signal and the Goliath Government, Shockingly the NYT Sides With the Latter

Filed under: Politics — cpirrong @ 7:05 pm

The New York Times’ latest service as butt-boy to the Deep State is this op-ed by one Reid Blackman, in which Mr. B expresses his deep, deep concern about Signal and other applications that promise to deliver levels of privacy far beyond what say, Facebook or Twitter do.

The gravamen of Mr. Blackman’s concern is that “that criminals have also used this government-evading technology,” that technologists operating under a privacy uber alles ideology are facilitating this criminality, and that unsuspecting innocents might be enabling this ideology out of convenience.

The last objection is most easily disposed of, especially in light of the first. The innocents who choose say Signal because (in his words) “here’s a way to message people that my friends are using” are not harmed in any way by the putative ideology, and do not pose the criminal threat that so concerns Blackman. Nor are they endorsing or enabling the use of the service by criminals, who can use it regardless of who else does. So leave them out of this, OK?

The “criminals and pedos use it” is the the go to rationalization for governments to oppose encrypted services. Well, heard of the Internet? They use that too. And among the revelations following Musk’s acquisition of Twitter are (a) pedos and child pornographers used Twitter with abandon, and (b) the government really didn’t GAF, caring far more about whether people used it to share information about Hunter’s laptop. So spare me.

Put differently: the “criminals and pedos” line is one that the government uses to distract the plebs from the government’s true concern–it’s ability to keep tabs on you and me, and from Facebook et al‘s true concern–their ability to monetize our information. Epstein demonstrates just how much the Feds really care about pedos: very little.

Bank robbers use cars to make their getaways. We don’t ban automobiles as a result.

Blackman’s example is also unintentionally hilarious:

But it is no coincidence that criminals have also used this government-evading technology. When the F.B.I. arrested several Oath Keepers for rioting at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, one of its primary pieces of evidence was messages on Signal. (It’s unclear how the F.B.I. got access to the messages in this instance; there is a longstanding cat and mouse game between lawmakers and technology.)

Stop it man: you’re killing me! For one thing, clearly the government found ways around the technology that so disturbs Mr. Blackman. For another thing: the Oath Keepers? Are you RUFKM? The group that was so penetrated by the Feds that it’s an open question of who outnumbered who? The fact that Oath Keepers have been rotting in DC jails for two years despite their use of Signal tells any sentient being that ideological technologists’ commitment to privacy enables criminality is the least of our concerns.

(Blackman no doubt invokes the Oath Keepers despite the drooling stupidity of the example because it is a bogeyman of the NYT’s bedwetting readers.)

Blackman of course has to acknowledge the possibility that governments and corporations might misuse information, but then he dismisses it in the most absurd fashion:

What’s more, the company’s proposition that if anyone has access to data, then many unauthorized people probably will have access to that data is false. This response reflects a lack of faith in good governance, which is essential to any well-functioning organization or community seeking to keep its members and society at large safe from bad actors. There are some people who have access to the nuclear launch codes, but “Mission Impossible” movies aside, we’re not particularly worried about a slippery slope leading to lots of unauthorized people having access to those codes.

Hmm, how could anyone possibly have a “lack of faith in good governance” in 2022 America? And the nuclear launch codes comparison is so laughably off-base I am surprised that anyone with the slightest self-respect would use it. But then again, in writing this Mr. Blackman demonstrates that self-respect is not among his attributes.

But it gets better!:

It’s true that the crowd at Signal aren’t government officials, and they don’t work for Fortune 500 companies. They are a small group of people who govern these powerful tools, and they are not accountable in the way that, say, a democratically elected government is. Whether law enforcement should tap our phones on the condition that a warrant is obtained is, at the very least, worthy of public discussion. Signal has unilaterally decided for us all.

Savor this line in particular: “they are not accountable in the way that, say, a democratically elected government is.”

Really! He wrote that!

Tell me, Mr. Blackman, when the FBI, or CIA, or any other federal law enforcement or intelligence agency has ever been held accountable for violations of privacy? Or many other transgressions?

Take your time. I’ll wait.

FFS, just look at the FBI’s response to the Twitter files, which can be summarized as “we’re going to do whatever we want–whatcha gonna do about it, proles?”

Blackman bewails that Signal etc. “are a small group of people who govern these powerful tools.” Small group? Powerful tools? Heard of the NSA? CIA? FBI?

Blackman cleverly attempts a sort of judo, equating pro-privacy “technology overlords” with the government–and with Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc., technology overlords who monetize our data and are good little Igors to Dr. Frankenstein government. There’s really no comparison, and the attempt to make one is a perfect encapsulation of Blackman’s fundamental dishonesty. The government has the coercive powers of the state at their disposal. Signal does not. And it is now abundantly clear that the government uses its coercive powers to get Big Tech to do its bidding.

He laments Signal’s unilateral action regarding privacy, but is silent on the clearly unilateral utilization of government power to surveil and censor.

Blackman makes a direct comparison between privacy-oriented technologists and the government, and the big tech companies like Facebook. (I don’t say “Meta” because it’s just too retarded. Sorry, Stanford!) The comparison is beyond risible. The relative power of the former and the latter is so disproportionate that it is insulting to our intelligence to make the comparison.

Blackman attempts to portray himself as a paragon of ethics, in large part by denigrating the ethics of his technologist enemies whom he accuses of a “lack of appreciation for moral nuance and good governance.” Well, put Matthew 7:5 in your pipe and smoke it, bro’: “thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”

To be honest, my concern about Signal is not that it protects my privacy: it’s that it doesn’t under the pretense that it does. One can never be sure of whom the “technologists” like Signal’s Moxie Marlinspike are really working for. “Privacy” is a room full of mirrors, and trusting anyone with it is dangerous indeed.

To close. Who is Reid Blackman, actually? Well, apparently he is “an adviser to government and corporations on digital ethics.” Is he now. Do you need to know any more about who butters his bread? Or the NYT’s? Ho’s gonna ho, dontcha know.

Looking at the bright side, the fact that the NYT ran this pathetic piece suggests that it–and its government masters–are threatened by people having a choice to escape the government’s panopticon. I very much hope that they are.

Apologies for the Comments Cluster

Filed under: Uncategorized — cpirrong @ 4:07 pm

In the last couple of weeks the site’s spam filter has taken a holiday. It puts everything into moderation, including comments from long time commenters and obvious spam: formerly the former were automatically approved (for the most part) and the latter were automatically consigned to spam.

And it’s not just you. It holds my comments for moderation.

I apologize to those of you kind enough to comment whose contributions were hung up until I got around to wading through everything to approve them. I hope to get this resolved ASAP, but the hosting service is also on holiday 😛

And “getting around to it” is not an excuse. My grandfather had some round wooden blanks made with the words “to it” printed on them. He gave one to me, and said: “now you can NEVER say you didn’t get a round to it.” He also gave these out to his employees 😛

So reverting to my Navy plebe year: “no excuse, sir.” (One of the four permitted answers to a question.). I’ll work on getting it fixed ASAP. And in the meantime, please continue to comment if you are so inclined. They are always appreciated.

My best wishes to all for a Merry Christmas (belatedly) and Happy New Year (early, so on average I’m good!)

Putin’s Army Goes Back to the Future: Will Vova Admit Error?

Filed under: History,Military,Politics,Russia,Ukraine — cpirrong @ 3:49 pm

I noted in my last post on the Ukraine-Russia War that Putin and Shoigu had announced a plan to expand the Russian military to 1.5 million personnel. Strategy Page has the details of their plan, which makes for fascinating reading. Basically, the “new” Russian military will be the “old” Russian military: the “reforms” announced with such fanfare in the past decade are being largely reversed.

The backstory: the Russian army’s performance in Georgia was pretty poor, and first under Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov (“the furniture salesman”) and then his successor Shoigu made many changes in an attempt to improve its combat capability and effectiveness. One of the most important was to address the serious problem of dedovshchina –the institutionalized hazing of first year conscripts by second years. This was done by cutting the conscription service term to a year. Another was to try to move away from conscription altogether, and increase reliance on professional, volunteer “kontraktniki” especially in front-line combat units.

Further, to improve flexibility the Russians imitated the American movement towards brigades (rather than divisions) as the basic maneuver element. In doing so, they stood up brigades made up of “battalion tactical groups,” largely self-sufficient (in theory) maneuver units with organic armor and artillery.

In response to the latest underperformance, Russia is reversing major parts of response to the previous underperformance, and essentially reverting to the system that produced the previous underperformance. The draft term is being extended from 12 to 18 months: this is basically the only way to increase headcount, but risks a reemergence of dedovshchina. Moreover, the scope of conscription is being widened, partially reversing the move towards a volunteer-based military.

Brigades and BTGs are out the window. It’s back to old school divisions instead.

In other words, it’s back to the future for the Russian military.

It’s highly unlikely that this reshuffling of the deck chairs will save the Titanic that is the Russian military. After all, this same organization was tried and found wanting in a far less demanding conflict than the one currently being waged in Ukraine.

The Russian military’s problems are far more fundamental than what can be solved by tinkering with the manpower system or redrawing orders of battle. For example, this will not fix the corruption that has wreaked havoc with operations in Ukraine. Nor will it fix the clearcut logistical deficiencies. Or the profound incompetence of the officer corps at all levels. Or the obvious doctrinal failings, most notably in the employment of air power, but also at the tactical level (apropos my earlier posts on the shocking attempts to operate armor without adequate infantry).

New plan or old, the material losses in Ukraine also necessitate a virtually complete recapitalization of Russia’s military. It needs new everything–tanks, APCs, aircraft, artillery, and personal equipment from body armor to boots. But its existing designs have been shown very wanting and the failure to deploy supposedly advanced weapons like the Armata MBT betrays a belief that even the cutting edge of Russian military tech is pretty dull. Replacing old crap with new crap of the same design will just produce the same old–crappy–results.

And that’s assuming that Russia has the wherewithal to recapitalize. It likely does not. Its defense industrial base has already proved to be hollowed out and hamstrung by corruption. And to make things worse, sanctions and the conscription of larger numbers of workers will reduce capacity, especially for relatively high tech weapons that rely on Western technology. The cost will also contribute to the immiseration of the Russian populace. (Not that Putin GAF.)

All in all, these changes are rather futile. The restoration of large parts of the pre-2008 status quo suggests that the old guard is taking its revenge on the reformers, and that Putin is going along.

What Putin is doing now is a repudiation of what Putin did over the last decade plus. One wonders if New Putin will explicitly acknowledge Old Putin’s errors.

Actually, I don’t wonder. I know he won’t. But his deeds speak louder than any words he could utter.

December 27, 2022

Did West Point Just Remove Memorials to Traitors?

Filed under: Civil War,History,Politics — cpirrong @ 4:47 pm

The US Military Academy has begun removing 13 memorials to graduates who served in the Confederate Army. This has elicited many reactions like this from Jeff Jacoby:

(H/T Jeff Carter).

History, and historical figures, are almost always more complicated than the Jeff Jacobys of the world can accept. That is especially true of Lee, and of many Confederates generally.

Jacoby essentially is a pitch-perfect mimic of the Radical Republican position circa 1865. Radical Republicanism was a minority view at the time, even within the North, let alone the nation as a whole. One of the deep mysteries of American history is how Lincoln would have dealt with the Radicals. They were all for vengeance–including prosecuting Lee and Jefferson Davis for treason. Lincoln was not. I have to conclude that Lincoln’s death was a national tragedy not least because of his more humane and healing approach to the defeated South.

The objective of evaluations of historical figures should be to understand their actions and subjective motivations in the context of their time. When you do that with Lee and other Confederates, the charge of treason in particular is not obviously true, as it apparently is to Jacoby et al. Indeed, it is pretty clearly untrue.

Treason is all about duty to one’s nation and government. And the whole reason the Civil War occurred is that there was deep division on what that duty was, to whom it was owed, and what the government and nation owed in return.

Now I am not saying that the Civil War was not ultimately about slavery–it was. The point is that slavery was the issue that made competing views of American government irreconcilable. But those views of government existed independently of slavery, pre-dated the emergence of slavery as the issue in American politics, and had principled adherents on both sides.

Look at the debates over the ratification of the Constitution, and in particular the Federalists vs. Anti-Federalists, who morphed into Federalists and. Republicans. From the very Founding there were deeply conflicting views about government and nation. Accusations of treason cannot be evaluated without an honest acceptance of that fact.

The Anti-Federalist, Republican/Jeffersonian, Southern view was that the United States were sovereign states in a voluntary compact. From that perspective, someone like Lee had a duty to his state, and when his state seceded to whom he owed allegiance was a real dilemma. But it was a principled, and logical, position to conclude that (a) his obligation was first and foremost to his state, and (b) when that state exited the voluntary compact with other states, one was duty bound to follow the state. To do otherwise is what would have been treason.

Of course, if you take the nationalist perspective, what Lee did was treason. But the nationalist perspective became the default in the United States only because those who held it prevailed in the war. The treason charge is therefore essentially winner’s justice which denies the legitimacy of views widely held at the time of secession. Subjectively, Lee did not believe he was committing treason. Quite the reverse.

Although the North fought to assert the nationalist position, it was not universally held even in the North. Many Northern Democrats were very sympathetic to the Southern view of the nature of the United States.

Ironically, even many of those West Point graduates who remained loyal to the United States did not embrace wholeheartedly the nationalist vision, and especially not the Radical Republican version thereof. The Radicals hated the leadership of the Army of the Potomac in particular because they deemed its West Point-trained officer corps as being far too sympathetic with Southern (Democratic, actually) Constitutional and political views: the officers of the Army of the Potomac repaid the hatred with interest.

When Old Army officers parted ways in 1861, it was with sorrow, and generally without political acrimony. A Hancock, say, may have regretted his friend Armistead’s choice, but he did not become a traitor in Hancock’s eyes.

It is also ironic that both sides invoked the Declaration of Independence to justify their choices–just different parts. Lincoln in particular focused on the “all men are created equal” part. The South on the right of any people to dissolve the bonds of government when it had become tyrannical part. Both considered themselves the true heirs to the Founding and its principles, and the other to be, well, a traitor to them.

Meaning that under one of the competing theories of American government, Lee was not a traitor in 1861, and as an adherent to that theory Lee clearly did not believe he was committing treason in 1861. In 1865, that theory had been vanquished, not completely, but pretty effectively.

Treason is a crime, and a crime requires mens rea–intent. Lee lacked such intent.

Similar considerations pertain to Jacoby’s other charges, especially contributing to the deaths of tens of thousands of “loyal Americans”–interesting modifier there, by the way, and again one which assumes the rightness of one view of the nature of the United States: presumably the deaths of around 250,000 (disloyal) Southern soldiers and large numbers of Southern civilians is at best a matter of indifference to Jacoby. To a principled adherent of the contrary view it was the North that was responsible for the death and destruction of the war by denying by force the right to secede from a voluntary compact.

As for the memorialization of Confederates at West Point, that was part and parcel with the post-Reconstruction effort to create a nation in which states were clearly subordinated to the national government. Like all such efforts, it was a bargain. In essence, the bargain was that the North would recognize the valor and sincerity of its Confederate foes, and the South would acknowledge the triumph of the nationalist view of the USA.

In the few years remaining to him after Appomattox, Lee openly accepted the second half of that bargain. It took some years for the deal to be finalized and represented in deeds, whether it be memorials at West Point or the return of Confederate battle flags (under TR) fully 40 years after the war.

Viewed with all that historical context, the triumphalism and certainty of Jacoby and others is more than a little unseemly. Yes, Lee and other Confederates are forever tainted by the fact that slavery was the issue that brought the conflict of Constitutional views to the point of secession and war. But accusations of treason and responsibility for the deaths of so many Americans reflect a failure to accept the historical reality that there was, in fact, profound disagreement on the nature of the United States and its government. Indeed–that’s exactly why the war was fought. Further, the iconoclasts are reneging on a deal that was made to cement their view of the Constitutional issue that permitted the nation to move forward as a more unified country.

As I’ve written before in posts on Confederate memorial controversies, it is better to let the memorials stay and understand why they are at places like West Point in the first place, rather than to remove them. Especially removing them in a spirit of political animus and triumphalism like that epitomized by the likes of Jeff Jacoby.

PS. This episode of Uncancelled History (hosted by Douglas Murray) on Lee is worth watching. I think it is a fairly balanced and properly contextualized presentation of Lee and the choices.

Allen C. Guelzo, author of a recent biography on Lee, leans towards the he’s-a-traitor view.

December 23, 2022

On Elon

Filed under: Politics,Tesla — cpirrong @ 4:16 pm

From 2013-2016 or so I gained some notoriety as a critic of Elon Musk. Some of my posts were quoted or discussed in mainstream publications, I was interviewed on Bloomberg News, . . . and Elon blocked me on Twitter!

One of my criticisms was that Musk’s real business genius was in rent seeking. All of his businesses, especially during that era, relied heavily on various forms of government subsidy. Further, he was quite expert at getting very favorable treatment for location businesses, e.g., his Boca Chica launch area for SpaceX. Indeed, this continues to today: recently some other rent seekers–wind farm developers–sued Texas because it cut off tax breaks to them, but not to Tesla.

My other main criticism was that Musk repeatedly overpromised and underdelivered. Anybody remember the vaunted Solar Roof? Anybody actually seen one? Recall all the (unrealized) hype about a coast-to-coast charging network. Model introduction dates. Production targets. The actual implementation of the “hyperloop” is the merest shadow of what Musk teased the world with.

The most egregious example was the Solar City merger, which was touted as some great new business model that would exploit wonderful economies of scope between rooftop solar, home battery storage, and electric vehicles. I called bullshit at the time, and bullshit it has proven to be.

My explanation of the real reason for the Solar City deal was that its bankruptcy would put a huge dent in his reputation as a business genius and innovator, and that he had to conceal the wretched financial condition of the company in the Tesla balance sheet. It’s pretty clear that I was right: Solar City is basically in wind down mode.

In the light of experience, it is pretty clear to me that in all of these promises and claims, Elon was playing pretend and extend. Keep dazzling investors with future prospect so they would continue to shovel money in today, in the hope that eventually Tesla would be sufficiently profitable to survive without hype.

And it that respect, you have to say that Musk’s strategy was wise, predicated on dishonesty as it was. Tesla did start producing large quantities of vehicles in multiple factories around the world. Tesla stock eventually soared to stratospheric values–although the past year has been sobering indeed. In fact, the past week has been sobering, with the stock falling almost 20 percent: it is off almost exactly 2/3rds in the past year.

Although the most optimistic projections of Tesla’s prospects have been dashed, it is clearly a going concern and will continue to be one–especially with the help of government tailwinds. In that sense, Elon’s strategy of overpromising was a canny play.

I was always more critical of Tesla than SpaceX, and indeed, the space company has proved to be a standout, especially as compared to its peer group, especially the execrable Boeing.

But now Tesla and SpaceX are basically background noise in the Musk saga. Now it’s all about Twitter, all the time.

I think it’s fair to say that his bid for Twitter illustrates his mercurial nature, and it is pretty clear that he regretted it soon after making it. He tried to wriggle out of his commitment, but seeing the legal writing on the Delaware Chancery Court wall he sucked it up and bought the company.

And once he bought it, he showed incredible will and fortitude to transform the company. In part this was a business necessity. He obviously overpaid, and had to make the company, if not profitable, at least not a huge cash suck. So he whacked more than half the employees.

These firings unleashed a torrent of shrieks, and dire predictions of the utter collapse of the company.

But the platform continues to perform with no apparent technological problems, despite these alarming prognostications. This strongly suggests that the company was massively bloated, and that most of the employees did not contribute to its output and profitability.

I think that this is a characteristic of the tech sector generally–not just Twitter. I hope to write a post on that subject soon.

More remarkably, Musk is giving every indication of having a serious commitment to free speech, and to opposing government interference in public debate. Especially the kind of underhanded interference that had long been suspected by “conspiracy theorists”–and which even the limited releases of “Twitter Files” has demonstrated to be true.

Remember that the phrases “conspiracy theory” and “conspiracy theorists” were born in the 1960s as part of government efforts (especially the CIA) to discredit any question of government operations, and especially the operations of the intelligence community. The FBI’s reference to conspiracy theories/theorists in its response to the Twitter Files confirms and validates that the old playbook is still in use.

Moreover, Musk has revealed the extent to which old Twitter was dedicated to silencing and obstructing those whom its leftist management and employees disliked (hated, actually) even without government prompting: like John Cleese’s character in the Argument Clinic sketch, they were censoring on their own time. Further, he has taken steps to reverse that, although there are still reasons for concern.

I see no reason to revise my criticisms of Musk’s earlier conduct in light of these current developments. I think the judgments were well founded, and I have not seen any evidence that would require a reevaluation. That said, I am quite pleased with–and pleasantly surprised by–his actions regarding Twitter.

Yet, given his mercurial nature, and the intense competing demands on his time–especially given that Tesla is no facing serious headwinds and investors are clearly disturbed by his Twitter distraction–it remains to be seen whether this good start will be maintained and indeed broadened. On the one hand, he has a direct economic interest in making Twitter a viable economic enterprise, and it is likely that a more open platform will advance that objective. On the other, Musk’s revolution has sparked a massive counter-revolution among journalists in particular, but also among governments. The EU has been particularly mafia-like in the nice-little-business-you-got-here-shame-if-anything-happened-to-it sense, threatening severe consequences if Twitter does not adopt “moderation” (i.e., censorship) policies in line with the EU’s statist preferences. The Biden administration has not been quite so direct as the EU, but it has made threatening noises too. Several senators have also been making threats.

Meaning that the old “you can’t do anything to Twitter because it’s a private company” bromide that was common in the old Twitter days when it was censoring those the left didn’t like has become completely non-operative in the Musk Twitter days when he is promising to eliminate censorship. Elon will have to wage a war against governments around the world in order to advance his apparently completely sincere and principled free speech agenda.

Whether he can or will do that remains to be seen. Governments can make his principles very, very expensive, and therefore Elon may have to make the choice between his economic interests and his pro-freedom principles. We don’t know what value Elon places on those principles, or the costs that governments will impose on him if he attempts to act on them. The ultimate outcome, therefore, is very much in doubt.

I was never pulling for Elon to fail with Tesla or other pre-Twitter endeavors: I was criticizing the means he employed to achieve success. I am pulling for him to succeed at Twitter, and given what and who he is fighting against, I hope that he adopts the all’s fair approach that he has employed so often in the past.

December 22, 2022

Vova Has Issues

Filed under: History,Military,Politics,Russia,Ukraine — cpirrong @ 5:13 pm

I haven’t written much about the Ukraine war for months because not much has happened for months, since the major Ukrainian advances in August. Zelenskyy’s visit to the US nudges me to providing an update.

Since the major Ukrainian gains, the war has reverted into another stalemate, a la Korea 1951-1953 (an analogy I used before) or the Western Front 1914-1918. The culmination of the Ukrainian advances was predictable, and the logic of warfare means that the marginal cost of additional gains rises rapidly. The advancing force’s logistics become more stretched, and the defender’s more compact. Moreover, the most strategically important advance, in the south around Kherson, means that now the Ukrainians are the ones who must fight with a major river to their backs, and supply their forces over tenuous river crossings.

On the Kharkiv front, there are see-saw battles around Kreminna. Again, very Korea/Western Front-esque.

The Russians are concentrating their efforts on the taking of Bakhmut. The accounts are again redolent of the accounts of battles like Pork Chop Hill or Verdun, where massive casualties are incurred to take, and then sometimes lose, mere yards of territory. Literally yards.

Interestingly, apparently due to the wrecking of their armored and mechanized forces, Russian attacks are carried out by mass infantry attacks, a la Chinese human waves in Korea, with little or no armored support. Moreover, the attacks are evidently primarily carried out by Wagner troops, rather than regular Russian formations, and many of the Wagner “troops” are convicts who apparently decided that it was better to play the odds in Ukraine than stay in Russian prisons.

The Russians sometimes gain a few yards here and there. Reading the accounts is fascinating. It is accounted as a major victory if they take this street or that. At the cost of great slaughter.

Accounts suggest that the tactics that worked for the Russians over the summer in Luhansk are not feasible here. Specifically, the tried-and-true method of saturation bombardment followed by infantry advance is infeasible because the Russians lack sufficient munitions to execute the bombardments. So it’s modest bombardment, or no bombardment, followed by waves of Ivans advancing on entrenched positions, hoping to win by weight of numbers.

It’s all so pointless. Even if the Russians “win” in Bakhmut–so what? Lacking mechanized forces they have no hope of a breakout even if they do achieve a penetration. So the front will move a few meters or kilometers with no fundamental change in the military situation.

In this respect, they are engaged in as futile a struggle as the British and French were in 1915-1917. Even when they broke through the first couple of lines of trenches, they had no ability to exploit the gains. Same with the Russians today.

The futility has not penetrated the skulls of Putin and his slouching acolytes, though he has made some hilarious statements recently. In an oblique attempt to rationalize failure, has described the campaign in Ukraine as “complicated,” and said the Russians are facing “issues.”

What’s the over under on when he says the situation is “problematic”?

Lapsing even further into delusion, Putin and his sad sack defense minister Shoigu announced plans to expand the Russian military from 1.15 million personnel to 1.5 million.

Let me get this straight. Russia has suffered casualties numbering probably around 200,000. It is not able to replace the wastage at the front even by throwing almost completely untrained mobiliks into the meat grinder. It has lost most of its best equipment, and cannot supply even the most basic kit to its soldiers. Around 300,000 military aged men have fled the country.

But Putin is going to increase the armed forces by 40 percent. Uhm-kay! Whatever, dude!

In other news, Rogozin the Ridiculous took some Ukrainian shrapnel in the shoulder. Could be serious. If it had hit him in the head, not so much.

But Vova won’t give up. In fact, he can’t give up. It’s far better (for him!) that numberless orcs get fed into the meat grinder than for him to admit defeat–and thereby risk getting fed into the meat grinder himself.

Meaning that there is no end in sight. Not just because Putin won’t accept defeat, but because Zelenskyy won’t accept anything but total victory, and indeed Russian failure and Ukrainian success has fed Zelenskyy’s ambitions. As I said probably 9 months ago, the core is empty: there is no mutually acceptable set of terms to end the conflict, even a limited end such as a cease fire or an armistice.

That said, part of the reason that the core is empty is that the US (and Europe) are encouraging Zelenskyy. Or at least, they are afraid to put him in his place, apparently never having learned who pays the piper calls the tune.

I get that giving Putin even the simulacrum of victory presents dangers for the future. But in my mind those are outweighed by the dangers of the present, not least to Ukrainians, but to the world economy, and potentially to the world–for who knows what a desperate Putin will resort to.

Logic says he will not use nukes, or escalate dangerously in some other way. Well, as I wrote immediately before the invasion, logic said he shouldn’t invade. But here we are.

Macron beclowned himself at the World Cup. But Biden beclowns himself on a daily basis. And when choosing between clowns, Macron’s proposals for an ugly peace–or at least, an ugly cessation of hostilities–is far preferable to Biden’s (and alas, the Senate Republicans’) blank check policy.

December 21, 2022

The Idiom Wars

Filed under: Politics — cpirrong @ 2:24 pm

One of the most prestigious universities in the United States of AMERICA (caps are foreshadowing!) has beclowned itself by releasing its most recent “Elimination of Harmful Language” document. Our better thans instruct us as follows:

The Elimination of Harmful Language Initiative (EHLI) is a multi-phase, multi-year project to address harmful language in IT at Stanford. EHLI is one of the actions prioritized in the Statement of Solidarity and Commitment to Action, which was published by the Stanford CIO Council (CIOC) and People of Color in Technology (POC-IT) affinity group in December 2020.

The goal of the Elimination of Harmful Language Initiative is to eliminate* many forms of harmful language, including racist, violent, and biased (e.g., disability bias, ethnic bias,e thnic slurs, gender bias, implicit bias, sexual bias) language in Stanford websites and code. 

Where to begin? Target rich environment! (No doubt that’s forbidden violent language–see below.). It’s not quite as long as the OED, but give them time! Pretty soon every word in the English language will be problematic at best, violently offensive at worse.

I guess the best way to summarize is that the document proves that Stanford is insane. How insane? They endeavor to “eliminate” the use of the word “insane.” Why, you ask? Well, you benighted pleb, here’s why, the word “insane” is:

Ableist language that trivializes the experiences of people living with mental health conditions.

So there.

The document lists a variety of categories of Wrongspeak, conveniently listed alphabetically. (Hey! Isn’t that Eurocentric and colonialist!?!?!). These include: Ableist, Ageism, Colonialism, Culturally Appropriative (talk about a language crime!), Gender-Based, Imprecise Language, Institutionalized Racism, Person-First (WTF?), and Additional Considerations.

I could spend a large fraction of my remaining natural life ridiculing this, but that would be futile because no doubt in the interim an expanded list would be released.

So I’ll just pick out a few of the real winners.

African-American is bad, you see, because:

Black people who were born in the United States can interpret hyphenating their identity as
“othering.” As with many of the terms we’re highlighting, some people do prefer to use/be addressed by this term, so it’s best to ask a person which term they prefer to have used when addressing them. When used to refer to a person, the “b” should always be capitalized.

I’m so old that I remember that “African-American” was mainstreamed in the American (trigger warning!) lexicon by one Jesse Jackson, whom if I recall was–and still is!–black. JJ preferred this precisely because . . . wait for it . . . “black” was “othering.”

You cannot possibly make up this shit. Unless you are a Stanford egghead.

Whoops! I used the phrase “trigger warning.” Bad, bad, SWP. That’s violent!:

The phrase can cause stress about what’s to follow. Additionally, one can never know what may or may not trigger a particular person.

SWP to the camps!


This term is a slur against those who are neurodivergent or have a cognitive disability.

This is one of my favorites. Note that “retarded” was originally introduced as a euphemism to replace words like “idiot” and “moron”, which were at one time clinical descriptions of individuals with low intelligence. (As I recall, there were IQ ranges specific to morons and idiots.). Oh, they’re not idiots: they are just behind mentally, retarded in their development.

But of course, the euphemism was used pejoratively in normal speech to describe people who are stupid or who do stupid things, just as “idiot” and “moron” had been. “You’re retarded!” “You retard!” But you didn’t call them idiots, right?

Which illustrates a dialectic of normal speech: a word associated with a given condition will be used as an insult. If the insulting use is stigmatized, and a new euphemism is substituted to describe that condition, the new euphemism will be used as an insult.

This is human. This is emergent. This is inevitable. Trying to undermine this dialectic by “eliminating” old insults and creating new euphemisms to replace them is as futile as commanding the tides.

“Long time no see”:

This phrase was originally used to mock Indigenous peoples and Chinese who spoke pidgin English.

What the fuck ever.

By the way, idioms like this, and many others offensive to 2022 Stanford (including “retard” and “insane”), have been widely used by people of my generation, and previous generations. So doesn’t that mean that it is ageist to ban their usage? I’m offended!


This term often refers to people from the United States only, thereby insinuating that the US is the most important country in the Americas (which is actually made up of 42 countries).

“Insinuating.” To whom? Stanford nitwits?

A few comments. First, of all of those 42 countries, only the United States of AMERICA has the word “AMERICA” in its name. Hence, we call citizens of Canada “Canadians,” citizens of Guatemala “Guatemalans”, etc.

Second, pretty much everybody in the other 41 countries calls, er, Americans “Americans.” They are evidently not as hypersensitive as Stanford nitwits.

Third, isn’t there a much bigger problem with the word “American”??? After all, it is derived from the name of a dead white European male, Amerigo Vespucci. Shouldn’t the continent be named for a Toltec rain god or something?

The suggested substitute for American is (unintentionally, certainly) hilarious: “US Citizen.” And silly me! I though that the idea of citizenship was exclusionary, racist, etc., etc., etc.

The substitutes are generally hilarious in their own right. For example, the suggested substitute for retarded is “boring, uncool.” No. Not even close Those words do not come remotely close to capturing the connotations of “retard.”

Again, I could go on, but hopefully you get the idea, and will entertain yourself by perusing the document in all its glory. Just in time for the holidays! Think of the fun you can have with family around the Christmas tree finding your favorite example of . . . insanity!

Many of the verbotten words and phrases are turns of speech–idioms. Hence the title of the post. But the implicit reference to “Indian Wars” is no doubt offensive to the oh-so-easily offended at Stanford. Shouldn’t it be “Native American Wars?”–whoops! No! American is a bad word! So I guess it would be “Indigenous People’s Wars”–but “Wars” is violent, so I guess we have to call the whole thing off.

Along these lines, recall that Stanford’s sports teams were once called the “Indians” before an earlier generation of the easily offended decided that this homage to Indians was insulting, and the teams were renamed “Cardinal”–not for the bird, you know, because that would be speciesist, but for the color. But isn’t that speciesism once removed? Or religiously supremacist?

The point being that Stanford has long been an innovator in logically incoherent–or shall we say insane?–language games.

But these are more than games. As Orwell pointed out in 1984, to control language is to control thought. The Elimination of Harmful Language provides oodles of material for ridicule, but in reality it is deadly serious. This is the effort of malign people who want to control what you say, and therefore what you think.

So if you ridicule, follow Saul Alinsky and use ridicule as a weapon in a real war for your personal autonomy, your control over your words–and your thoughts. Fight these fuckers with every weapon at your disposal. It’s funny, but it’s deadly serious.

December 11, 2022

Who In the US Is Objectively Racist? The Left. As the Data Show Definitively.

Filed under: Guns,Politics — cpirrong @ 3:29 pm

Joe Biden and the Democrats keep gunning for your guns. Research like this is a major part of their argument. What it shows–definitively–is that it isn’t guns. It’s a particular social pathology enabled by a social psychosis that reached epidemic proportions in 2020. The data are irrefutable.

One graphic tells the tale:

The increase in gun homicides documented in the Emory University study is attributable almost exclusively to one factor: a nearly 60 percent increase in homicide fatalities among black men. Not over a period of many years–but in a little over one year.

And what year was that? 2020. And what happened in 2020? The death of George Floyd, and the subsequent revelation that black lives especially matter.

Yes, but not in the way intended. Not by a long shot. That death and revelation brought in its train myriad consequences. Defund the police. The war on cash bail and the release of numerous criminals. The demoralization of police, who were instructed explicitly and implicitly that arresting black male offenders was a career risk, and the subsequent surrender of the streets to the thugs. And on and on. (The release of many from jail because of COVID didn’t help either.)

This is as close to a natural experiment as can exist in social science. An exogenous shock–the death of one man–leads to a tectonic shift in law enforcement, especially with regards to a particular demographic. The result?: a hyperbolic increase in homicide rates in that demographic. (I note that the previous uptick observable in the chart in 2014 corresponds to the proto-Floyd event, the death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, which was the catalyst for Black Lives Matter.)

This is as close to a definitive proof of causation as is possible in observational social science.

This is not complicated. We sowed. We reaped. There is no other plausible explanation for the data.

It is sickly ironic–and mainly sick–that so many black lives have been sacrificed on the altar of Black Lives Matter.

But it gave an opportunity for Nancy Pelosi and the like to demonstrate their superiority over us plebs by taking a knee wearing kente cloth, so it was all for the best, right?

The whole ugly spectacle makes me literally nauseous. (And yes, I literally know what it means to say “literally.”) Hell is not hot enough to torture properly all those preening better-thans who have cost more black lives in a couple of years than the KKK did in its entire, horrid, sordid history (which dates to 1866).

But you are the problem you see. You and your icky guns.

No, the real problem is the social psychosis that is modern American leftism, which obsesses over race, and in the name of helping one race is directly responsible for the deaths of thousands of that race.

So tell me: who are objectively the racists here? (See Orwell on “objectively pro-Fascist” if you don’t catch my point.)

If this does not make you incandescent with anger, some serious self-reflection is definitely in order. Unless you are a leftist, in which case that is something of which you are constitutionally incapable.

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