The Independent will not be appearing on my blogroll

I’ve mentioned before about wanting to link to a decent news feed. The Independent was a candidate for this highly competitive slot until today. (H/T iSteve.)

The source for the Independent’s story is an organization with the lofty title of Alliance for Securing Democracy, a subsidiary of the German Marshall Fund, which is part of the post-WW2 think tank archipelago. Like most non-profits, its primary mission is to burn through its endowment. The ASD assists the German Marshall Fund in this task by providing the Hamilton 68 Dashboard so terrified Jews can monitor Cossack presence on Twitter. This crack team identifies “three types of accounts promoting Russian influence online:

  • Attributed accounts that clearly state they are pro-Russian or affiliated with the Russian government.
  • Accounts (including both bots and humans) that are run by troll factories in Russia and elsewhere.
  • Accounts run by people around the world who amplify pro-Russian themes either knowingly or unknowingly, after being influenced by the efforts described above.”

Naturally I was interested to see if @Anti_Gnostic or anybody else I know is a Russian influence-promoter, only to learn that Hamilton 68’s methodology is far too sophisticated to account for such trivial detail.

Q. Why don’t you name these accounts? Can you tell me if a specific account is a Russian bot?

By analyzing large groups of accounts, we can track the activity and focus of the network using accounts from each category. Our analytical methods allow us to determine when groups of accounts are acting in a synchronized manner, but they do not always allow us to definitively separate the sources of influence (knowing instigators of and participants in Russian influence campaigns) and unknowing participants (people who participate without realizing they are being manipulated). We prefer to focus on the behavior of the overall network rather than get dragged into hundreds of individual debates over which troll fits which role.

I mean really, you can’t expect us to get dragged into hundreds of individual debates over which troll fits which role!

This hogwash is apparently good enough for Chris Riotta, reporting for The Independent.

A network of Russian-linked Twitter accounts have been disseminating divisive content about Mollie Tibbetts’ death in an apparent attempt to divert attention from explosive news surrounding Donald Trump and his former associates.

Almost immediately after a guilty verdict was announced in the trial of Paul Manafort, the president’s former campaign chairman convicted on eight counts of bank and tax fraud charges, there was a flurry of activity among hundreds of pro-Kremlin Twitter accounts believed to be controlled by Russian government influence operations. Those accounts began posting thousands of tweets about Ms Tibbetts, the 20-year-old University of Iowa student who had been missing for nearly five weeks.

Police had a major break in her case on Tuesday when surveillance footage led them to Cristhian Bahena Rivera, a 24-year-old suspect who brought authorities to a cornfield where they located a body believed to be Ms Tibbetts.

The discovery also coincided with groundbreaking news about Michael Cohen, the president’s former personal lawyer and “fixer” who plead guilty on Tuesday to eight counts of fraud and campaign finance violations.

As news networks scrambled to report all three major developments — two of which arrived within the same hour — the Russian accounts were pushing out stories focusing on Ms Tibbetts’ alleged murderer, according to an analysis conducted by the Alliance for Securing Democracy (ASD) and reviewed by The Independent.

And that, readers, is how the Tsar’s operatives bedazzled and bedeviled all the hopeless American rubes with news of a 20-year old girl’s murder by obsolete farm equipment!

How does this get by anybody with an ounce of critical thinking? The entire article is speculative and self-referential. The subject itself is oddly jumbled news-about-news: the real news is that the public is not as concerned about the news that the news media is concerned about! It’s like the article and its extruded, gossipy tone was written by some frivolous homosexual acting out his fabulous news career or something.

chris riotta

And are the folks at Hamiltronic 68 really stalwart Cold Warriors manning the ramparts against the bolsheviks, or are they embittered partisans who thought they’d be safely tenured in one of the D.C. bureaucracy’s numerous fake jobs as part of the Hillary administration?

In case you missed it, that’s the Director of the Alliance for Securing Democracy.

By the way, in a previous post about the think tank archipelago, I mentioned that a lot of the bitterness over Trump was probably motivated by people whose old brand of feckless ideological ranting no longer has any financial traction in the new reality-based politics. (In case you were wondering, campaign consulting is a sleazy business). This came up recently in the outrage! over Trump revoking the security clearance of ex-CIA Director and active partisan in the 2016 Presidential election John Brennan. I mentioned at the time that this was all about peddling influence and asymmetric information. Of course, these clearances really are parlayed into millions of dollars by ex-government officials.

So I’m right. Again.

The orbiters in media, bureaucracy and think tanks arrayed against Trump are liars and propagandists. They are manufacturing fake news and fake outrage in a venal, partisan attempt to drive Trump out of office.

The other anti-gnostic

Not just me and Gnostic Wars, but also superb, old-school Leftist James Howard Kunstler.

The faction that used to be the Democratic party can be described with some precision these days as a three-headed monster driving the nation toward danger, darkness, and incoherence. Anyone interested in defending what remains of the sane center of American politics take heed:…

The third head of this monster is the one aflame with identity politics. It arises from a crypto-gnostic wish to change human nature to escape the woes and sorrows of the human condition — for example, the terrible tensions of sexuality. Hence, the multiplication of new sexual categories as a work-around for the fundamental terrors of human reproduction as represented by the differences between men and women. Those differences must be abolished, and replaced with chimeras that enable a childish game of pretend, men pretending to be women and vice-versa in one way or another: LBGTQetc. Anything BUT the dreaded “cis-hetero” purgatory of men and women acting like men and women. The horror….

Its companion is the race hustle and its multicultural operating system. The objective has become transparent over the past year, with rising calls to punish white people for the supposed “privilege” of being Caucasian and pay “reparations” in one way or another to underprivileged  “people of color.” This comes partly from the infantile refusal to understand that life is difficult for everybody, and that the woes and sorrows of being in this world require fortitude and intelligence to get through — with the final reward being absolutely the same for everybody.

This frankly needs to be read in a lot of Sunday schools. These are ancient, ancient lessons. Sexuality is fraught and consequential. Life is hard, especially when you don’t have rich parents. And no, it’s not because God messed up and you’re really supposed to be a woman, or The Man has his foot on the neck of the Brutha. Resources are scarce, desire is unlimited, and bad things happen to good people. Our forebears derived spiritual truths from harsh reality and passed them down in the form of Tradition. All the world’s spiritual traditions deal with the cruel world, and they all generally say the same thing: love God and your neighbors, get married and stay married, be fruitful and bear children, venerate your ancestors. Failure to follow these laws for living puts you outside the Tribe on a very uncaring planet. But now that we generate sufficient wealth to indulge all manner and number of sins (forgive my brevity–the Internet only has so much bandwidth), the wages of sin are not death. They’re millions of public and private dollars willingly, enthusiastically! poured into anti-retroviral drugs so homosexuals can shamble along with a simulacrum of an immune system. If economist Donald McCloskey decides to turn his back on his family and adopt feminine dress and mannerisms at age 53, he doesn’t get shunned out of his job and social class. He gets to carry on as any well-dressed female circa 1982 would, while his peers frantically suppress their crimethink.

I can only imagine some people in this current Clown Age: “Doctor, I need help! I saw a biological man dressed up like my grandmother calling himself Dierdre and found myself thinking he was a mentally unbalanced freak!” “That’s awful, you sick pervert! Here’s three prescriptions and six months of therapy so you can deal with your pathological issues. Also, I’m obligated to call Homeland Security.”

Awkward misanthrope ready to explode from rejection and sexual frustration? Don’t bother lifting weights and developing character. We will scratch that itch as deeply in the cerebral cortex as you need with virtual reality and sexbots.

Kunstler is as right as any sage old monk. Reality is tough so we build fantastic, gnostic constructs and spend seemingly limitless money to cocoon ourselves from biology and the physical laws of the universe. We’re still not at Japanese-tier debt, measured in quadrillions of currency, so we can probably keep this up for quite some time.

Even longer, if we figure out nuclear fusion.

And when the AI-managed reactors come on line lads, this old world–the one red of tooth and claw–is over.

bald-eagles-unalaska-62

 

Darwin is a jealous god

I finally thought of something to write about.

I could write a lot more, if I didn’t mind being more repetitive than I already am, and if having to make a living and stay in shape didn’t keep me from more hateposting. Any way, this story about Jay Austin and Lauren Geoghegan caught my eye.

How a couple’s dream trip ended in tragedy at the hands of Isis

Asked why they had quit their office jobs and set off on a biking journey around the world, the young American couple offered a simple explanation: they had grown tired of the meetings and teleconferences, of the time sheets and password changes.

“There’s magic out there, in this great big beautiful world,” wrote Jay Austin who, along with his partner, Lauren Geoghegan, gave his two weeks’ notice last year before shipping his bicycle to Africa.

They were often proved right.

On Day 319 of their journey, a Kazakh man stopped his truck, said hello and handed them ice cream bars. In a meadow where they had pitched their tent on Day 342, a family showed up with stringed instruments and treated them to an open air concert. And on Day 359, two pigtailed girls met them at the top of a pass in Kyrgyzstan with a bouquet of flowers.

bicycle-couple-58

That picture is misleading, since most of the time the couple were grimy, battling infections, alternatively too hot or too cold, and often wet. Still, there is no doubt they were having a grand adventure. It ended of course. All things end.

Then, at the end of last month, came Day 369, when the couple was biking in formation with a group of other tourists on a panoramic stretch of road in southwestern Tajikistan. It was there, on 29 July, that a carload of men who are believed to have recorded a video pledging allegiance to the Islamic State group spotted them.

A grainy mobile phone clip recorded by a driver shows what happened next: the men’s Daewoo sedan passes the cyclists and then makes a sharp U-turn. It doubles back and aims directly for the bikers, ramming into them and lurching over their fallen forms. In all, four people were killed: Austin, Geoghegan and cyclists from Switzerland and the Netherlands.

A tragic punctuation mark to end a trip where the pair believed they had discovered the milk of human kindness.

Still, by the time they reached that bend in the road in Tajikistan almost three weeks ago, they had embraced the notion that the world was overwhelmingly good, the dozens of annotated photographs and the thousands of words they left behind show.

“You read the papers and you’re led to believe that the world is a big, scary place,” Austin wrote. “People, the narrative goes, are not to be trusted. People are bad. People are evil.

“I don’t buy it. Evil is a make-believe concept we’ve invented to deal with the complexities of fellow humans holding values and beliefs and perspectives different than our own … By and large, humans are kind. Self-interested sometimes, myopic sometimes, but kind. Generous and wonderful and kind.”

“No greater revelation has come from our journey than this,” he wrote.

For the most part, this young man was right. Most people just want to get on in their lives and raise their families. Most people are kind to others, particularly to young adults with little more than their backpacks who pose absolutely zero threat. But looking at pictures of Taijikistan, I wonder at the culture that such a landscape would generate.

tajk1    tajik3

The cities look pretty non-descript, sprawling horizontally like you’d expect of any city built on a flat part of tundra.

The capital, Dushanbe:

dushanbe

Khujand:

khujand

Tajiki offspring of the cognitive elite:

khujand upper class

Hoi polloi:

Khojand Penshanbe bazaar tour guide

Again, most people are non-violent and just want to get along and raise their families. Tajikis, like most everybody else, are enjoying mankind’s present and historically unprecedented level of affluence. They can take their children to outdoor markets or enter them in math competitions, and no longer have to rely on a bread-and-bean diet or raiding their neighbors.

Tajikistan is a traditional nation-state in a world where nation-states are breaking down under the New World Order. I wonder what the people of this historically harsh region really think about young, affluent Anglos and Europeans who use their surplus wealth to live in tents where past peoples starved or froze to death as a matter of course.

Here’s something fairly typical from an intrepid young man who does this all the time.

As we kept going along that narrow road, which followed the course of the Panj river, I could not stop looking at all the villages across the river,the reason being those timeless looking mud brick houses sit nowhere else, but in the country of Afghanistan.

We were eight people, all squeezed in a Lada from Soviet Union times and, as my head and half my body were hanging out of the window, I could not avoid continually calling, yelling and waving at the many Afghans who were on their donkeys and motorcycles on the other side of the river.

Eeeeeeh! Afghanistaaaan! Eeeeeeeh 

Occasionally, with a little bit of surprise from their side, they waved back at me; some of them with a tremendous euphoria, while others, just with half arm raised, as they didn’t really understand what was going on.

That sounds like people in most places, going on with their lives, reacting with bemused friendliness to young foreigners temporarily enjoying the same bare-bones lifestyle as they are, except the tourists don’t have to answer to a boss or customer for the food on their plates. And for all their basic good intentions and Golden Retriever-levels of amiability, these tourists are children without children in a grown-up world. Occasionally, they wander in over their heads into tough places with tough people. And yes, I’ve written about this before.

One of Lauren’s friends had some concern about their coping skills.

The day Geoghegan and Kerrigan said goodbye, the two friends hugged outside Geoghegan’s apartment.

“The minute your instinct tells you something is wrong – leave,” Kerrigan told her. She was concerned for her friend, in part because of how big-hearted she was and in part because she feared that Austin had a higher tolerance for danger than Geoghegan did.

Indeed.

In a post about why he chose to cycle – as opposed to, say, drive around the world – Austin spoke about the vulnerability of being on a bike. “With that vulnerability comes immense generosity: good folks who will recognise your helplessness and recognise that you need assistance in one form or another and offer it in spades,” he wrote.

And what, the World responded, do you vulnerable, helpless, childless, rootless bicyclists offer us?

Update: Tyler was just kidding

Apparently. But I’ll leave this up any way:

Marginal Revolution will be leaving the blogroll, as Tyler and Alex have turned the site’s comments off. I’ll try to replace it with another econ site but I’m not optimistic. Practically all non-Marxist economists seem converged around the same bundle of neo-liberal tenets at this point. Economists generate exquisite papers demonstrating why immigration results in sidewalks paved with trillion dollar bills, but the age-old riddle of why white neighbors cost so much remains shrouded in mystery. Maybe they should ask their wives.

Similarly, I’m still looking for a good news aggregator to link on the site that’s not blatantly the product of a class of liberal, Democratic partisans.

The debate on MR was robust and a good place to sharpen your arguments against generally more intelligent opposition. Over time though it’s become obvious that the Left, including the classical liberals, do not have many arrows left in the quiver. Here for example is Alex, who otherwise works as a gimlet-eyed atheist economist coolly analyzing the minimum wage, moonlighting over in the Philosophy department on the Kantian imperative of immigration. After years of having their posts flayed alive and left to fester in the comment threads, I’m not surprised at the authors’ decision.

This rhetorical impotence is not restricted to the Left. As I’ve pointed out too often, what passes for the Right in the US finds itself perplexed over the failure of fiscal conservatism and exquisitely originalist Constitutional jurisprudence to resonate with the American public. (Answer: because everybody knows we just print all the money we need and the Constitution is whatever five judges say it is. You’re welcome.)

In like fashion, the rhetoric over President Donald Trump is impotent and childishly overwrought:

  • Drumpf is stupid!
  • Drumpf is a Russian puppet!
  • Drumpf is literally Hitler!

I’m still puzzling over how this allegedly low-IQ moron beat the entire Media, Academic, Business, and Political establishments in his first-ever run for elected office, why the Russian Federation wants to halt Central American and Muslim immigration into the US, and when the Jews neo-conservatives will be shipped off to the camps.

Reality–in the form of several million whites deciding to go to the polls in Wisconsin, Ohio, and Pennsylvania rather than staying home like they did in 2008 and 2012–seems to be inducing a lot of inability to cope these days.

Here’s a few other bubble-bursting bits of reality out there for all sides on the political spectrum:

  • If you still believe that evolution only occurs from the jaw down and humans are born tabula rasa, you are not going to like the future.
  • Socialism still doesn’t work.
  • We know what doesn’t happen when the central government disappears in Libya or Syria classical, Western notions of ordered liberty–that’s what doesn’t happen.

I could go on. Worldviews hatched and nurtured in the creche of a culturally and racially homogenous, triumphantly post-WW2/Cold War United States are being subjected to robust, democratic critique via the Internet. Consequently, the ideological custodians are trying to limit debate to its formerly comfy bounds. This is serious stuff indeed. One of the top 150 media influencers in the 2016 election was the pseudonymous @ricky_vaughn99. The social media executives are horrified. They let the genie out of the lamp, actually helping to elect Donald Trump, and now they are desperately attempting to stuff it back in.

It won’t work of course. It never does, and all the people freaking out about the end of politics as we know it just need to calm down and read my blog instead.

The wrong kind of social life

We’ve apparently seen this all coming for a long time. Farenheit 451 was first published in 1953.

Again and Again

mcallister_porch

“No front porches. My uncle says there used to be front porches. And people sat there sometimes at night, talking when they wanted to talk, rocking, and not talking when they didn’t want to talk. Sometimes they just sat there and thought about things, turned things over. My uncle says the architects got rid of the front porces because they didn’t look well. But my uncle says that was merely rationalizing it; the real reason, hidden underneath, might be they didn’t want people sitting like that, doing nothing, rocking, talking; that was the wrong kind of social life. People talked too much. And they had time to think. So they ran off with the porches. And the gardens, too. Not many gardens anymore to sit around in. And look at the furniture. No rocking chairs anymore. They’re too comfortable. Get people up and running around….”

Ray Bradbury
Fahrenheit 451

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