Shut Up, He Argued

The world is full of people saying things one would rather not hear, and its only human to want to either make them shut up or regret not doing so. Most of us don’t have that power, but if you’re the president of the United States or the chief executive officer a big social media platform the temptation must be carefully resisted. Alas, such restraint is sorely lacking these days.
President Donald Trump has a well documented history of bullying or buying off his critics to silence them, and has long made clear that he’d like to “open up” America’s traditional permissive libel laws in order to do so more effectively, and on Wednesday he revoked the security clearance of former Central Intelligence Agency director and current outspoken critic of the administration John Brennan. The White House named nine other people that Trump whose security clearances Trump is thinking of revoking, all of outspoken critics of the administration and several of them former members of the investigation into the “Russia thing.”
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said Brennan lost his clearance because of a “series of unfounded and outrageous allegations — wild outbursts on the internet and television — about this administration.” She didn’t cite any specific examples of Brennan’s unfounded and outrageous allegation that rise even to the level of a typical Trump “tweet,” and one can only wonder what the Trump administration of all people considers wild outbursts on the internet and television. The official administration line is that Brennan was not merely being punished for his free speech, but Sanders did not explain how Brennan had abused his security clearance or violated any policies.
Meanwhile, crazy-pants conspiracy theorist Alex Jones has been barred from YouTube, Facebook, Apple, Spotify, and a couple of internet sites we’ve not heard of, and although “Twitter” hasn’t fully kicked him he’s currently serving a temporary ban. This is a very different case than Brennan’s loss of a security clearance for a number of reasons, but it still troubles us.
YouTube and Facebook and Apple and Spotify has the same right as any private sector publisher to publish what they want and reject what they don’t want, but at moment in the cultural revolution where they largely comprise contemporary public square we’d like to see them welcome as wide a diversity of viewpoints as possible. Jones is certainly out on the furthest fringes of the nation’s political conservation, and his embrace of such insane notions that the Sandy Hook school shooting was faked and that Hillary Clinton was running a satanic child sex abuse ring in the basement of a Washington pizzeria have led some crazy people to do some crazy things, but we think it best that be out in public view. Now we can’t demonstrate just how awful he is by linking to his most hilariously unhinged rants on YouTube, and For pure entertainment value alone we’ll especially miss the one where he pounds on the table and screams that the “deep state” globalist cabal is “turning the friggin’ frogs gay!”
Trump once appeared on Jones’ radio program and congratulated the host on his “excellent reputation,” and briefly granted White House press credentials to Jones'”Infowars” correspondents, so he doesn’t seem to mind that Jones’ unfounded and outrageous allegations and wild outbursts on the internet television are mostly about how the “deep state” globalist cabal is now out to get to Trump to thwart his heroic effort to round up “Crooked” Hillary and all the other elitist pedophiles who secretly run the country. Even so, the Federal Communications Commission is shutting down the off-shore pirate radio ship that blasts Jones’ rants over other broadcasters’ rightful band widths, which isn’t a free speech issue at all, so Jones’ fans will just have to look a little harder get real scoop on what’s happening in this crazy world.
All of the social media CEOs are understandably concerned about the rampant vile and hateful language that they spread around the world, and the sort of genuinely fake news stories that occasionally result in crazy people calling up the grieving parents of murdered schoolchildren and threatening their lives for participating in a gun-grabbing conspiracy, or showing up with a semi-automatic rifle at a Washington pizzeria that doesn’t even have a basement. Still, limiting what people have to say is a risky endeavor. Jones was temporarily banned by Twitter for his “hateful language,” and although that’s an apt description of what he peddles it also fits many others. Trump has recently “tweeted” that a particularly pesky critic is a “dog,” and made similarly rude comments about countless others, and we think he should be free do so, and that his vile and hateful speech should be out there in plain view for all to see.
The die-hard Trump fans will continue to love it, and the right-wing radio apologists spent Wednesday damning Brennan and the other nine targeted critics, and the comments sections were full of hope that they’d all be locked up in Guantanamo Bay along with the rest of Trump’s critics. We’ll let them vent, and rest assured that Brennan and other well-credential critics will continue to express their outraged opinions no matter what Trump might threaten. Censorship never seems to work, as “Banned in Boston” is still a sure-fire way to get on the best-seller lists, and there’s always a suspicion that the powers that are afraid of what’s been banned, so we hope that Trump and those squishy social media companies figure that out in time.

— Bud Norman

The Brave New Wi Fi World

Most of Tuesday was spent on a trek into deepest Oklahoma, where we had a long overdue reunion with some beloved kinfolk, and when we returned the top story on The Drudge Report was about a big drop in the stock price of the Apple computer company. This seemed odd, as the entire’s day journey had suggested that all the big computer companies and the Apple one in particular should be booming.
We were accompanied on our trek by our pa, ma, and older brother, all of whom are, like most people of our acquaintance, by now utterly dependent on electronic gizmos. The folk’s fancy car would offer step-by-step instructions in a soothingly artificial yet unmistakably female voice along every mile, with a video display on the dashboard showing a cartographical rendering of our progress, which mostly was a straight line of Interstate-35 inching along across an occasional bridge or traffic loop, complete with the miles left and other information that could have easily been obtained by the mile markers and a lifelong familiarity with the same straight stretch of Interstate-35, and then it provided the instructions for the turn at the Frontier City amusement park and the two other turns that led us to our destination, information that was once written down during a telephone conversation with the visited kinfolk, yet the soothing voice and the animated map are now somehow essential. Along the way several telephone conversations were conducted, reminding of us a simpler era when one of the the subtle joys of that straight stretch of Interstate 35 was the lack of telephone conversation, and we noted at all three of these telecommunication thingamajigs had that familiar bitten apple symbol on them, and that much of the none telephonic conversation was about the various “apps” and other magical powers of these mystical devices, which apparently can no do everything from monitoring one’s sleep patterns to letting nosy friends know where one is at any moment of the day, and although we always know when we haven’t had a good night’s sleep and would actually prefer an occasional moment of privacy apparently these services are now also essential.
The highway was also dotted with some remaining old-fashion non-electronic billboards that advertised the benefits of the roadside lodging, and of course all but the seediest of them promised “wi fi.” This got us to wondering where that now-ubiquitous neologism came from, as we assumed that “wi” stands for “wireless” and the “fi” stands for fidelity, as high-fidelity sound equipment, or what the oldsters still remember as “hi fi,” but we couldn’t figure out what the “fi” in “wi fi” was being faithful to, so pa asked the question of his magical device with the half-bitten apple on it, and in a soothing voice he was asked to repeat, as even the most miraculous technologies can be stymied by an Oklahoma accent, and the machine explained that the name was just something the inventors came up with. We had long noticed that these machines now routinely settle all sorts of arguments, usually more definitively, about everything from baseball statistics to the reliability of some crooked politician according some crooked “fact-checking” department at some crooked newspaper, and we expect it will soon deliver the meaning of life.
In the meantime, it’s making life a lot harder from dramatists and screenwriters and anyone else who hopes to cook up a rip-roaring story. The beginning of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” begins with the boozy wife quoting some line of Bette Davis dialogue and demanding that her boozy husband remember what movie it came from, and she’s annoyed when he says he doesn’t know, and it sets off all the ensuing boozy rancor between these very unhappily married boozers, but today he’d just get out his machine and ask the question and it would quickly be answered in a soothing voice and suddenly you’ve lost even the play’s vague semblance of a plot. A friend of ours once wrote a popular novel that was made into a movement, and he tells us that when they re-set his story from the early ’70s to the modern day they were obliged to write in a scene where the protagonist’s cell phone is disabled, and since the novel and movie were both titled “The Ice Harvest” and took place during an ice storm it was just a simple matter of having him slip on the ice, but without that touch the plot would have dissolved somewhere along the numerous plot points where he could have made a simple call or sent a text message and been easily rescued from situations that took more ingenuity back in the ’70s.
With life so thoroughly transformed by these whatchamacallits, there’s no obvious reason for a slide in their stocks. There are always the ever-greater expectations that won’t be met in the occasional quarter, and there’s something in the story Drudge linked about unexpected competition in China, which apparently is becoming as dependent on the things as Americans, which we hope won’t facilitate another Cultural Revolution if China’s own slumping stock market requires a return to Maoist totalitarianism, but our view so far away from Wall Street is that the companies are going to continue to grow and get rich and that a few more in places such as China will as well. If the stock continues to slide, people will be making the trades on the palms of their hands and wouldn’t know how to do otherwise, and the machines can starting acting that “Hal” computer who took over the ship in “2001: A Space Odyssey” and starting saying, in a very soothing voice, “I’m sorry, Dave, I can’t let you do that.”

— Bud Norman

A Rainbow Jumper in Indiana Hoops

Our beloved Wichita State University Wheatshockers won’t be playing in the “Final Four” of the college basketball championship tournament this weekend, having lost to a tough Notre Dame squad in the “sweet sixteen,” but at least they won’t be accused of homophobia for playing in Indianapolis. The entire state of Indiana is being boycotted by the more fashionable sorts of people because of its recently passed Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which critics allege will unleash a torrent of anti-homosexual hatred in the Hoosier State, and a team that’s already so politically incorrect it plays its home games in Charles Koch Arena and has a fan base comprised largely of blue-collar types who make corporate jets and a mascot that’s hardly gluten-free doesn’t need that kind of trouble.
The impeccably up-to-date cities of Seattle and San Francisco have announced boycotts of Indiana, Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy has signed an executive order barring state employees from visiting any state with a similar law, and a “hashtag” campaign is currently recruiting more boycotters. The chief executive officer of the Apple computer company has written an op-ed for the Washington Post denouncing Indiana, and of course all the celebrities are “tweeting” about it. Even the National Collegiate Athletic Association that is hosting the tournament in Indianapolis has issued a statement affirming that it is “deeply committed to providing an inclusive environment for all our athletes” and “will work diligently to assure student-athletes competing in, and visitors attending, next week’s Final Four in Indianapolis are not impacted negatively by this bill.”
Our guess is that any homosexual hoops fans who are well-heeled and lucky enough to have scored “Final Four” tickets will find Indianapolis a most hospitable host, despite the recent restoration of religious freedom there, and that any homosexual “student-athlete” competing in the tournament should hire a good agent to look over all the book and movie deals that will surely be coming his way. The federal government has had a Religious Freedom Restoration Act since the Clinton days, 19 other states have followed suit, each have simply reaffirmed legal principles that have prevailed for decades, and until recently the idea wasn’t at all controversial, yet the social trend has been toward ever greater tolerance for homosexuality. The trend has proved so inexorable that by now the cultural left no longer demands mere tolerance but is intolerant of any dissent on questions of sexual morality and intends to impose its own views through force of law.
Restoring religious freedom was all well and good when it meant that Native Americans could use peyote or the Amish could ride buggies or Muslims could wear beards, or some similarly sympathetic group demanded some similarly unusual right, but the idea that a plain old Christian businessman might be able to decline baking cakes or creating floral arrangements for a same-sex wedding ceremony, as Indiana’s new law allows, is just too weird for fashionable opinion to put up with. Seattle and San Francisco might be among the most racially segregated and economically stratified cities in the country, but at least they’re willing to force a Baptist baker to violate his conscience. Connecticut has its own religious freedom laws, which makes its governor looks rather ridiculous, but at least the University of Connecticut’s defending national champions didn’t qualify for the NCAA’s tournament and he’s not forced to bar its  state-paid coach from going to to the “Final Four.” The Apple company’s corporate conscience might allow it it do business with Saudi Arabia, where homosexuals are routinely punished with lashes and execution, or China, where all manner of human rights violations occur, but at least it has bad things to say about Indiana. The cultural left will soon move on to another “hashtag” campaign urging closer ties to Cuba, where homosexuals are routinely harassed, and continue its apologetics for the brutally harsh treatment of homosexuals almost everywhere in the Muslim world, but it won’t put up with any white bread businessman’s qualms about same-sex marriage in Indiana.
Next season we expect the ‘Shockers will play their obligatory Missouri Valley Conference games in Evansville and Terre Haute, and we won’t be the least embarrassed to have them playing in the state that not only produced Cole Porter and Hoagy Carmichael but also Oscar Robertson and Larry Bird. We root for the ‘Shockers because they’re the plucky underdogs going up against the rich and powerful, and if there’s a baker or florist in Indiana that would rather not work on a same-sex marriage ceremony regardless of what the Apple corporation or those “tweeting” celebrities think we’ll be rooting for him for the same reason. The same-sex couple that wanted to buy a cake or some flowers used to be the plucky underdogs, but we seem to have moved beyond that.

— Bud Norman

A Bigger Bite of the Apple

These words are being written on an Apple computer, and there is a good chance that you are reading them on one. We are grateful to the folks at the Apple computer company for this valuable contribution to modern literature, whatever faults they might have, and therefore wish them well in their current spat with the United States government.
The United States government has so many spats brewing at the moment that you might have missed it, but a Senate subcommittee spent much of Tuesday grilling Apple chief executive officer Tim Cook about his company’s shockingly unpatriotic tax dodging. By all accounts the company has paid every penny of taxes that the law demands, which adds up to such an astounding amount of money that Apple might be the world’s biggest contributor to the national treasury, but some Senators are nonetheless shocked that Apple isn’t voluntarily paying many billions of dollars more out of pure love for country.
Apple freely admits that it has availed itself of a number of complicated laws to shelter much of its considerable foreign earnings from America’s corporate income tax, and the Senators think it is unfair for the company to do so. Sen. Carl Levin, a Democrat from Michigan, said the company was using “gimmicks” to avoid paying taxes, and Sen. John McCain, a Republican from Arizona, said the company was exploiting “egregious loopholes that exist in the tax code.” All of the gimmicks and egregious loopholes the Senators refer to are laws passed by the Senate, of course, but apparently it is unsporting for a company to take advantage of such generosity. One way to get more money out of Apple would be to lower the nation’s corporate income tax rate, which is by far the highest in the world, and otherwise amend the tax code to make it economically feasible for companies such as Apple to increase its businesses while paying a reasonable but helpful portion of their profits to America rather than the less-greedy foreigners who offer shelter, but the Senators seem to prefer slicing the goose wide open and grabbing all the golden eggs at once.
The only Senator to side with Apple during the hearings was Rand Paul, a Republican from Kentucky, whose opening and closing speeches were so brilliant that even we cannot improve them. Although we fret that Paul might have the same kooky isolationist streak as his father, libertarian hero Rep. Ron Paul, his performance at the hearing provided yet another reason to regard him as a rising political star. Among other fine arguments he noted that none of his fellow Senators ever pay more than they are legally required, and that it is rank hypocrisy for them to expect others to cough up more than the law demands. We would have seized the opportunity to remind the public how Bill and Hillary Clinton were so scrupulous as to deduct the value of the used underwear they donated to charity, but this is a mere quibble.
There is some irony in Paul rushing to Apple’s defense, given the company’s long history of donating to Democratic candidates and publicly identifying itself with Democratic causes, but perhaps having a Senate subcommittee treating its executives like Michael Corleone in “Godfather II” will cause the company to reconsider its political policies. Admitting its capitalist tendencies might endanger the Apple’s hip and up-to-date image, which has done almost as much for its success as the innovation, reliability, and value of its products, but it could prove more helpful to its bottom line. Besides, the way things are going for big government lately, capitalism might soon be perceived as hip and up-to-date.

— Bud Norman