Around and About

Yes, I’ve  been missing my daily blog post this last week, and for a couple of weeks prior. Sometimes life intrudes, and it can’t be helped… Anyway, just to get things going again, a few articles worth reading and considering from my “old to post pile,” which means stuff I never got around to writing about.

Kermit Gosnell was not sentenced to life imprisonment for sloppiness, for insensitivity, for bad keepsakes, for a backed up drain, for fleas, or even for making women suffer. He was sentenced to life imprisonment for murdering three babies. … What kind of moral magic is performed by a twelve-inch shift in location? Is what is right, if it is done on North Main Street in Bryn Mawr, suddenly wrong, and horribly so, if it is done on South Main Street? Cross the street: On one side, you are the marshal in the Abortion Rights Parade, and Hogue is granting you a gold medal; on the other side, you have committed atrocities, and Hogue says she is glad you will be spending your life in prison. Well, it’s not a street we cross, but a back alley. –Public Discourse

If only Barack Obama had something to say… After all, we have never had a president who descended the steps of Air Force One with such catlike agility, hands almost as paws lightly bouncing in synchronization with each elfish footstep. Never has a commander in chief so casually, so confidently approached the podium as if he were popping open his own laptop, his jaw almost in Mussolini style thrust out, with eyes fixed three feet above the heads of the audience — all with just the right mixture of self-assurance and canned humility. No wonder that after all that we expect a “four score and seven years ago” that will match the perfect choreography. … In short, Obama is the most impressive sophist of his age. –Victor Davis Hanson

Someday I need to write an essay on the security risks of secret algorithms that become part of our infrastructure. This paper gives one example of that. Could Google tip an election by manipulating what comes up from search results on the candidates? “The study’s participants, selected to resemble the US voting population, viewed the results for two candidates on a mock search engine called Kadoodle. By front-loading Kadoodle’s results with articles favoring one of the candidates, Epstein shifted enough of his participants’ voter preferences toward the favored candidate to simulate the swing of a close election. But here’s the kicker: in one round of the study, Epstein configured Kadoodle so that it hid the manipulation from 100 percent of the participants.” Turns out that it could. And, it wouldn’t even be illegal for Google to do it. –Schneier on Security

In the most recent case in question, a kindergarten student in Maryland shows his cap gun to a friend, and is browbeaten for two hours by school officials, without his mother even being notified, until he wets his pants in fear. In another case, a boy caught with “a quarter-sized Lego toy gun” on his school bus is threatened with suspension from the bus, detention, and the demand of a written apology to the bus driver. Perhaps my favorite story, however, were I a fan of surreal horror, would be that of the seven-year-old boy who bites a Pop Tart into the shape of a gun and then says “bang, bang,” for which threatening behavior he receives a two-day suspension. Needless to say, not one of these cases involves an actual threat or danger to anyone. Nor do any of them even indicate malicious intent on the part of the “offending” child; these were just boys playing, having fun, showing off their toys, or goofing around in the lunch room. In other words, their punishment — any punishment — seems disproportionate compared to their alleged wrongdoing. But that conclusion, though correct from the point of view of common sense, is too easy, and actually misses the point. This is where the lines of communication between ordinary humans and progressive authoritarians break down every time. For in the Kafkaesque world of progressive regulatory theocracy, there is no disproportion at all between these children’s offenses and their punishments, once you understand that the children were not being punished for threatening or endangering anyone. Rather, they were being punished for “referencing” firearms in a nonjudgmental — or even (gasp) approving — manner. In other words, their offense, in each case, was, in adult terms, nothing less than a thought crime. –American Thinker

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