One of the blessings of the Trump administration was that Trump reminded us how fun regular people are. Sure, I love the symphony and all that stuff, but a representative government should be basically populist—it should care about the people it governs, and look out for their interests. Leaders should reflect the people, not set themselves against the people. At most, our officials should strive to set examples for how a good life can be lived.
The thrust of this piece—written one year ago today—is that elitism is shockingly ignorant: it presumes that anything that does not interest the elitist is somehow barbaric and simplistic. That our own elites embrace the vulgar and raise up vice as a virtue suggests their elitism is supremely misguided—or lacking entirely.
Few remember now Michael Bloomberg’s disastrous run for the Democratic primary last year—it was so long ago!—but it was the political embodiment of clueless elitism against Trumpian populism. Bloomberg had the resources and the softly center-Left stance to buy himself into the White House, or at least the Democratic nomination, but he bungled it so badly, even his supporters were in awe of his ineptitude.
Well, now we have a senile, fraudulent feebster leading a puppet regime, so it seems gross incompetence is no longer a barrier to entry to the highest office in the land. Perhaps a healthy dose of elitism is needed after all.
It’s Valentine’s Day—and the one-hundredth installment of Lazy Sunday! Because I did the “Best of Lazy Sunday” prematurely due to The Great Misnumbering, I decided to take a look back at Valentine’s Day posts.
Unfortunately, I only have two posts for Valentine’s Day, which I don’t celebrate with the same gusto as Halloween or Christmas. So I’m also going to toss in a sales pitch for one of my albums, which you’re welcome to ignore.
“Phone it in Friday VI: Valentine’s Day” – When I wrote this post on Valentine’s Day 2020, it felt like a different world. It was in The Before Times, in The Long, Long Ago, before The Age of The Virus. I was single, which I always find to be a bit of a blessing on Valentine’s Day, as it releases me from the oft-unreasonable demands and expectations the holiday places upon men. I linked to several great pieces and one podcast about love, marriage, and all that mushy stuff, and I think those pieces still hold up, especially photog’s piece on matchmakers. Read the comments!
Another round of tech censorship is upon us. The Trump campaign has been banned from streaming service Twitch (which I thought was just for gamers and girls with big boobs). A bunch of conservative and Right-leaning personalities have been banned from YouTube, including Gavin McInnes, who built his own platform at Censored.TV. Immigration patriot website VDare may lose its domain registrar, forcing the website to the Dark Web and TOR browsers.
Probably the most shocking is the digital defenestration of Stefan Molyneux, the grandiloquent Internet philosopher. Molyneux’s Freedomain Radio touts itself as “the world’s number one philosophy show,” and Molyneux’s output is ponderously prolific. Within hours of major news events, Molyneux will have long “The Truth about [Insert Controversial Figure or Event Here]” videos uploaded, meticulously researched and supported with fact-filled PowerPoints.
Lately, though, Molyneux has been posting videos of his daughter’s tadpole pool, or of the two of them building a turtle garden. He’s also been livestreaming Doom—controversial in the Tipper Gore era of schoolmarmish censorship of video games and music, maybe, but not thirty years later, and certainly not grounds for deplatforming.
So why did the Left decide to destroy Molyneux’s livelihood? The simple answers: because he’s Right-wing, and because they could.
I’m puppy-sitting today, watching my parents’ ten-week-old rat terrier while they’re working and attending various doctors’ appointments. I pray that the day I go to the doctor and various specialists as frequently as my parents do is still decades away.
Dogs are interesting critters. It’s kind of amazing that our ancient ancestors domesticated wolves and bred them to hunt on behalf of humans, instead of merely hunting humans. It’s even more interesting how breeding for selective traits led to various breeds. There’s a whole art and science to animal husbandry that is fascinating.
The rat terrier, for instance, is the result of various combinations of terriers (for hunting), greyhounds (for speed), and chihuahuas (for compactness—the rat terriers had to be small enough to get into rat holes). According to my dad, who has become something of an authority on the breed since getting the puppy, rat terriers used to be very common in the United States—most farmers had one or two to help kill pests. Theodore Roosevelt kept one named Scamp around the White House to kill mice (although Scamp may have been a different variation of terrier).
Of course, the question that interests me is thus: if we domesticated dogs once, couldn’t we do it again from their cousins, wolves? Naturally, there’s no need to do it again—it was surely a long process—but doing so would help us to understand how difficult domestication was, and why our ancient ancestors thought it was worth the effort.
President Trump finally did it—after years of calls from blackballed conservatives, GEOTUS signed an executive order yesterday removing liability protections for social media companies that censor users based on their political views.
Here is a lengthy excerpt from Fox News‘s reporting:
The president’s order, which also cuts federal funding for social media platforms that censor users’ political views, came just two days after Twitter took the unprecedented step of slapping a “misleading” warning label on two of Trump’s tweets concerning the fraud risks of nationwide mail-in balloting. The move immediately backfired: Experts disputed that Trump’s tweet was actually misleading, in part because mail-in balloting has been linked to ongoing fraud; Twitter’s fact-check itself contained false statements; and Twitter failed to apply the standard of review to other users.
At Thursday’s signing ceremony, Trump called the fact-check “egregious,” and held up a photo of Twitter executive Yoel Roth, who heads up the site’s fact-checking and rules-making operation. Fox News reported on Wednesday that Roth has mocked Trump supporters, called Trump’s team “ACTUAL NAZIS,” slammed “scary trannies” in New York City, and called GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell a “bag of farts.” (In a statement, Twitter did not dispute Fox News’ reporting, but called it “unfortunate.”)
“My executive order calls for new regulations under Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act to make it so that social media companies that engage in censoring any political conduct will not be able to keep their liability shield,” the president said.
Essentially, social media platforms have always had a choice: either act as a publisher, in which case you’re liable for what users post, but you can remove and censor content as you see fit; or act as a neutral platform, in which case you’re protected from liability for what users post. Twitter, Facebook, et. al., are trying to have the best of both worlds—ban political posts and users with which they disagree under the companies’ “Terms of Services,” while disclaiming responsibility for everything else.
Yesterday I wrote about SimRefinery, the oil refinery software lost to time (I’m praying it’s sitting on a long-forgotten floppy disk somewhere). What I didn’t tell you was that I had succumbed to a mild but annoying stomach virus, so I was essentially useless for the rest of the day.
Of course, what better way to spend one’s time when sick than with video games? After writing about SimEarth and doing some nostalgic reading about the world-building simulator, I tracked down a playable DOS version. A helpful commenter also linked to the game’s 200-plus-page manual, which is necessary for accessing the game. Anyone familiar with 1990s-era computer technology will recall that, in order to prevent piracy, games would often ask users to look up some piece of information buried in the manual, the theory being that if you owned the game legally, you’d have the manual.
During this sickly walk down memory lane, I realized how much I had forgotten about SimEarth. The game is more complicated than I remember. It’s not that deep, but what makes it difficult is balancing all the different inputs to your planet—the amount of sunlight, how much of that sunlight is reflected by the clouds and the surface, how much cloud cover to have, how quickly animals mutate and reproduce, how frequently meteors strike the surface, etc., etc.
In this blog’s long and storied history, I’ve been a consistent advocate of space exploration, with a particular interest in lunar colonization. An enduring frustration of this blog is that the United States has satiated its thirst for exploration with the numbing effects of consumer technologies. Yes, we can FaceTime one another from halfway around the globe and can set our thermostats remotely so the house is cooled down before we arrive—all wonderful conveniences—but is that truly the apex of human endeavor? Is being comfortable really the point of it all?
There was a time when we dreamed of exploring the stars, or at least of visiting our nearest celestial neighbors. But that drive for adventure dissipated—or, perhaps, exploded—sometime in the 1980s. The Age of The Virus further highlights our society’s obsession with safety, an obsession anathema to the derring-do necessary to explore the stars.
To paraphrase Bill Whittle, we’ll know we’re serious about space exploration when our graveyards are filled with astronauts.
Well, another week of distance learning is in the books (nearly), and it seems folks are settling into an uncertain new normal as The Virus—what I’ve taken to calling the coronavirus (or COVID-19, to your cool kids)—continues to spread its invisible tentacles.
I personally have enjoyed the transition to distance learning, though I wish it were under rosier circumstances, obviously. It’s been stimulating to solve the puzzle of moving instruction online, and while I think I’m actually working harder and longer most days, I am far more refreshed. Being able to wake up at 7:30 AM and shuffling to the computer with some coffee is much more pleasant than my typically frantic morning routine, with both starts earlier and is more hectic. It’s also nice knowing that, once 3:30 or 4 PM hit, I am done, if I wish to be.
Naturally, I realize many Americans don’t have this luxury—they’re either in essential jobs that require them to risk constant interactions with other people, or they’re in non-essential work that can’t simply move to the Internet, so they find themselves out of work. My heart goes out to both groups. The real heroes of this situation are the garbage men, nurses, doctors, utility workers, cooks, plumbers, and the rest that soldier on.
While it’s beneficial for many students, especially younger ones, to have direct, hands-on instruction, it seems that students are adjusting fairly well to the transition. From an instruction perspective, it streamlines content delivery, and helps put it in a form that most of us consume anyway—via video.
With one week in the books, I thought it would be worthwhile to share some reflections about this hasty, sudden experiment in distance learning.