Category: Culture

Shorter: Die of heat stroke for the planet

With excessive heat warnings and heat advisories in southern Wisconsin today and Saturday, surely Penelope Green of the New York Times knows better than us:

Modernity was born 116 years, 11 months, two weeks and two days ago, at a printing plant in the East Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, when a junior engineer named Willis Carrier devised a contraption that blew air over water-filled pipes to dry out the humidity that was gumming up the pages of a humor magazine called Judge.

And in that moment (well, within a few decades), entire industries and geographies were transformed, and new technologies made possible, including, terribly, the internet: Without cooling, there would be no server farms.

Nearly 90 percent of American households now have some form of air-conditioning, more than any other country in the world except Japan, though that will change as global warming alters more temperate zones, and swelling populations and rising incomes in hot zones mean the folks there will clamor for AC, too.

On an overheated planet, air-conditioning becomes more and more desirable, solving in the short term the problem it helped create.

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What is not funny

Facebook Friend Michael Smith:

I was running today and was streaming iHeart radio on my phone and heard a statistic I had to check out.

There was a discussion of how our society and culture has lost its ability to laugh and it was suggested that a measure of that could be the revenue realized from comedy movies vs. all other types.

I didn’t hear the number they quoted, so I went to look for myself and dug up some interesting numbers.

It was 7.24%.

Versus 12.5% in 2016, 13.5% in 2008 and 19.6% in 2000.

Of course, some of the action and adventure movies had comedy in them but for the pure definition, 92.76% of all movies in 2018 were NOT classified as comedies.

And it looks like America is about 64% less humorous as we were in 2000. In 18 years, we have lost two thirds of our funny.

I was surprised but not surprised – surprised that the number was that low but not really after looking at the comedy movies that were released in 2018.

They all pretty much sucked.

The leading revenue generator was “Night School” with Kevin Hart.

Given that there are almost no TV comedies (at least none that don’t bash hetero men, have a stereotypical gay character or have a political agenda) that are even mildly interesting or funny and SNL is truly awful in so many ways, there is a distinct lack of comedic production in the United States.

I didn’t think a lot about how to quantify it but I could feel it. Back about 6 months or so ago, I wrote what follows, titled “What Happened to the Happy?”:

“Over the past couple of weeks, few random thoughts and observations have been ricocheting around in my quite spacious empty skull like a marble in an empty paint can.

– If America is not to be allowed to judge the cultures of others, then other cultures are not to be allowed to judge America.

– If you think policies pursued by former presidents are now bad because they are pursued by the current president, the problem isn’t the current president, it’s you.

– America seems to be losing its sense of humor, and while it is appropriate to be serious about truly serious things, what many in America consider serious are ridiculous. It seems a minority of our country believes they have a solution and spend all their waking hours looking for problems that solution can solve…and in the process, making most Americans 100% miserable.

To me, the first two are sort of basic logic and reason. It’s the last one that really bothers me – and at the risk of a double entendre – it’s not even funny.

Losing our sense of humor is something that seems unusual in American history – one of the interesting aspects of the most difficult and dangerous times in American history, wars- and particularly WWII, gave rise to great comedians, actors and musicians – Bob Hope, George Burns, Red Buttons, Red Skelton, Jack Benny, Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Artie Shaw, the Andrews Sisters, Vera Lynn, Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Richard Burton, Kirk Douglas, Clark Cable, Audrey Hepburn, Jimmy Stewart – and Ronald Reagan to name a few…

Our entertainment industry has bought into the idea that they need to push the postmodernist agenda…and therein lies the problem. If everything is serious enough to be an issue, then nothing is funny. Many established comedians have stopped playing college venues due to this very fact – and as a result, the comedy institutions are producing young comedians who just aren’t funny, at least not to the majority of America.

Where are people like the original SNL cast, “The Not Ready For Prime-Time Players” – Laraine Newman, John Belushi, Jane Curtin, Gilda Radner, Dan Aykroyd, Garrett Morris, and Chevy Chase (even though Chevy Chase has turned into a bitter old man) or the original SCTV cast – John Candy, Joe Flaherty, Eugene Levy, Andrea Martin, Catherine O’Hara, Harold Ramis, and Dave Thomas? Where are comedians like Cheech and Chong, Richard Pryor, and Eddie Murphy?

Where is the new Mel Brooks – for Christ’s sake, this man made arguably the funniest movie of all time, Blazing Saddles, a movie based on lampooning racial stereotypes. He even made a movie called “The Producers”, the central plot of which revolved around putting on a Broadway musical titled “Springtime for Hitler”.

Can you even imagine a film like “Blazing Saddles” getting green lit by Hollywood today?

Never happen.

As I told one of my kids, when you succumb to the postmodernist idea that there are no objective standards, that truth is relative and that opinions are equal in weight to facts, it should come as no surprise that people will be offended by anything and everything can be construed to fit any narrative. It just so happens that most of the narratives today are negative and designed to punish.

This is not to say America doesn’t have serious problems – because it does – but the attention given to issues created by the social justice postmodernists is taking time away from working on the real issues and without humor, the relief needed to deal with the true seriousness is missing.

What we need is a healthy dose of MAFA – Make America Funny Again.”

It seems the quantification agrees with the feeling I had last year.

Most inevitable story o’ the day

Dave Huber:

A professor from Mississippi State University says that modern country music increasingly features “representations that facilitate the reproduction of racial and gender inequalities.”

These representations “do or can promote unequal relations between men and women and [lead to] bad outcomes,” says Braden Leap, whose work can be seen in the journals Men & Masculinities and Gender, Place & Culture.

Leap infers to ABC (of Australia) the “scary” figures: Country’s audience is overwhelmingly white, the average listener partakes of five hours a day, and 40 percent of the US as a whole listens to it.

But the real problem, the professor says, is the genre’s contemporary shift from the “celebration of working folk” to “masculinity defined by the pursuit of women.”

“[Now] it’s a type of provider that provides women with alcohol, transportation, and places to hook up in order to potentially enable physical intimacy,” Leap says. He points to Dierks Bentley’s 2014 hit “Say You Do,” the lyrics of which include “If you really don’t mean it, I don’t care / If you need a little buzz to get you there / Then baby I’m buyin’.”

With this, Bentley encounters a “#MeToo” conundrum: He’ll provide alcohol to his ex in order to get what he desires.

From the story:

More generally, [Leap] says, research shows sexual assault is facilitated when women are provided with alcohol and transportation, as well as places to hook up.

“I’m not saying that people necessarily do what these lyrics say, but they are what you could think of like as a toolbox, or you could think of them as cultural scripts.” …

References to what Professor Leap calls “white phenotypes” are also increasing.

In Lonestar’s My Front Porch Looking In, listeners hear about “a carrot-top who can barely walk” and “a little blue-eyed blonde with shoes on wrong”.

The chart-topper Sold, by John Michael Montgomery, spots a woman he describes as a “10” with “ruby red lips, blonde hair, blue eyes”.

White phenotypes, Professor Leap says, are generally mentioned when describing children in heterosexual families or women made sexually desirable by their whiteness.

“We see increasing references to phenotype characteristics that we would associate with white people, like blond hair and blue eyes,” he says.

Professor Leap also jumps on a years-old controversy surrounding Toby Keith’s 2003 “Beer for my Horses.” The song depicts an “extrajudicial lynching” which Leap (and progressive publications of the time) contend(s) has racial overtones: It’s a “really good example of how the ways that we portray the past can very clearly erase racial inequalities or the significance of racial inequalities during this time period.”

However, Keith addressed the issue at the time: “It’s about the old West and horses and sheriffs … and going and getting the bad guys. It’s not a racist thing or about lynching.”

I am a morning listener to country music because the local radio station with the most news is a country station. (Which also employs me as a sportscaster, by the way.) I would say the lyrics I hear (which, it should be pointed out, are more intelligible than what one often hears on contemporary hit radio) are far more respectful of women than what you hear in pop music today, and that’s not including such hip hop that even radio stations won’t play.

Find your local CHR station and see if you can hear anything like this:

Cherry-picking two examples to claim that all of country is misogynist is ridiculous. It is absolutely more traditional. That is a feature, not a bug. Country is also, to use a term Prof. Leap would undoubtedly find pejorative, an order of magnitude more patriotic than pop or rock.

One comment on this story places this whole idiocy in proper perspective:

But where’s the article about hip-hop and the brutality against ‘ho’s” that its billionaire stars encourage among minorities? That’s been going on for years, and, like the 30-50 murders in Chicago every weekend, no one pays it any mind because it’s “only” minorities who are victims.

 

….

Well?

And I’m (not) proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free …

The U.S. women’s soccer team will play the Netherlands for the Women’s World Cup title today.

About them and one particular player, Jerry Newcombe writes:

Talk about biting the hand that feeds you. I can’t fathom the ingratitude of American soccer star Meghan Rapinoe’s attitude toward America.

Writer Warner Todd Huston notes, “Rapinoe raised eyebrows in the 2018 season by taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem even though she is playing for the U.S. Women’s National soccer team. Her taking a knee only came to an end starting in the 2019 season because the team passed a rule requiring players to stand during the anthem. But she right away said that she would never sing the ‘Star Spangled Banner’ again, nor would she place her hand over her heart because she hates America.”

Sadly, she is by no means alone. There are millions of ungrateful Americans today.

I remember years ago seeing one of The Far Side cartoons by Gary Larson which showed one dog in his den showing another dog his mounted, stuffed trophies on his wall. There were a couple of stuffed cat heads and bird heads and also a human hand mounted on the wall. The host dog was saying to his guest, “And that’s the hand that fed me.”

What a fascinating contrast. Last week a man and his infant daughter tragically drowned trying to get to this country through illegal means. And yet the soccer star who was born here has nothing but contempt for the land of opportunity that has given her so many opportunities.

This reminds me of people who are ungrateful to the Lord, even though every beat of their heart is by His grace. When He says, “Enough,” it is over and then comes the judgment.

President Lincoln reminded us of our need for thankfulness to God when he called for a day of fasting and prayer during the conflict that tore this country apart.

On March 30, 1863, he wrote, “We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven ….But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.” [Emphasis added]

Our own prosperity as a nation has caused us to forget the Lord, said our 16th president: “Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us!”

With another Fourth of July upon us, I think it is a good time to recall why we should be grateful as Americans. This country was born through the sacrifices of those who went before us.

What is the Fourth of July? It commemorates that date in 1776 when 56 men in Philadelphia, representing three million people, agreed by voice vote to adopt the final wording of our national birth certificate, the Declaration of Independence.

They knew their lives were on the line by voting for independence from England, and a handful of them paid the ultimate price for this declaration. Several of them were specifically targeted by the British.

The document declared that the rights of man come not from the king or the state, but from the Creator. It declared that when a government interferes too much with God-given rights, the government ultimately becomes illegitimate.

This declaration came years after futile attempts to work with the king to bring about an acceptable peace. But as the “men of Boston” put it, according to the great 19th century historian, George Bancroft: “While America is still on her knees, the king aims a dagger at her heart.”

We seem to forget the sacrifices of the founding fathers who bequeathed the freedoms, and subsequently, the prosperity we enjoy in this country.

A key founding father John Adams declared: “It is the will of heaven that the two countries should be sundered forever…” America would become its own nation, separate from England.

Adams adds that if we have to endure hardship because of it, God will still help see us through: “[I]t may be the will of heaven that America shall suffer calamities still more wasting and distresses yet more dreadful. If this is to be the case, the furnace of affliction produces refinement in states as well as individuals; but I submit all my hopes and fears to an overruling Providence, in which, unfashionable as the faith may be, I firmly believe.”

The men who birthed America and declared independence laid everything on line, as they trusted in God.

Why should Meghan Rapinhoe be grateful? Because she was born in a country which gave her opportunity to “write her own script” as some might put it. It is hard for me to comprehend ungrateful Americans.

It’s not hard for me. When people read about this country’s past — legal slavery until the Civil War, Jim Crow laws, women’s (lack of) rights — some people assume that this country hasn’t progressed all, despite the fact that, for instance, Colin Kaepernick is not a slave, Rapinoe can legally vote and do everything else a man can do, and both have the First Amendment right to express themselves as they please, though there is nothing in the First Amendment that shields anyone from the consequences of their free expression.

Meanwhile, the team has found something else to complain about, the New York Post reports:

Megan Rapinoe considers Sunday to be the final insult.

Just a few hours after the United States and the Netherlands meet in the Women’s World Cup final in France, Brazil or Peru will celebrate winning the Copa America, South America’s men’s championship. And then at night, the United States or Mexico will win the CONCACAF Gold Cup, the men’s title of North and Central America and the Caribbean.

A TV triple of championships for some is yet another slight for others.

“It’s ridiculous, and disappointing, to be honest,” said Rapinoe, the star American midfielder.

FIFA said playing the three finals on the same day would boost attention for all.

“The scheduling of the different events has gone through a comprehensive consultancy process, which has involved all key stakeholders and taken into account different aspects of the women’s and men’s international match calendars,” the governing body said in a statement. “It is a rare and exciting occurrence.”

CONCACAF President Victor Montagliani told The New York Times, however, the decision to schedule the Gold Cup final for Sunday was not deliberate and was due to a “clerical error.”

“It’s terrible,” said former American midfielder Aly Wagner, now Fox’s lead World Cup match analyst. “It is so disturbing to me that the Women’s World Cup does not have its own day to stand on its own and have a final to highlight these tremendous athletes and their work and their accomplishment. They wouldn’t dream of doing it to the men. Why would they do it to the women?”

FIFA announced the Women’s World Cup dates at the emblem launch on Sept. 18, 2017, then revealed the full schedule the following Feb. 9.

CONCACAF did not announce the expansion of the Gold Cup from 12 teams to 16 until Feb. 26, 2018, then said last Sept. 27 that the final would be held at Chicago’s Soldier Field on July 7. South America’s governing body made the Copa America dates known since at least early 2018 and said last Dec. 18 the final would kick off at 4 p.m. EDT.

The Women’s World Cup final will start at 11 a.m. EDT on Fox, followed by the Copa America final at 4 p.m. EDT on ESPN+ and the CONCACAF final at 9:15 p.m. EDT on FS1. Telemundo, a sister network of NBC, has Women’s World Cup and Copa America Spanish-language US rights, while Univision has the Gold Cup.

“I really am a believer in the rising tide lifts all ships,” said David Neal, executive producer of Fox’s World Cup coverage. “Because of the timing of them, it’s probably not going to hurt anybody.”

Advertisers don’t seem to think the three finals will cannibalize each other.

“It doesn’t alter in any way shape or form what we plan to do. I’m not sure whether it’ll splinter viewership or not,” said Chris Curtin, chief brand and innovation marketing officer of Visa, one of six FIFA partners.

Advertisers focus on their product’s marketing and activation and pretty much ignore the other tournaments.

“The priority for Coca-Cola is the FIFA Women’s World Cup and we’re going to do everything we can to bring a lot of attention, a lot people in front of TVs, to watch the game, to watch the final,” said Ricardo Fort, head of global sponsorships at The Coca-Cola Co., another FIFA partner. “Too bad for the other finals. I’m pretty sure the Women’s World Cup final is going to be a big global event again.”

My prediction is the U.S. will win this morning, and it will have negligible impact on growing women’s soccer in this country. They are trying to plant in waters they poisoned.

 

The sins of socialism

Picking up on a theme I’ve written about previously, Robert Knight:

With a couple dozen Democratic presidential hopefuls vying to see who’s pinker, perhaps it’s time to contrast socialism with something more helpful and permanent: The Ten Commandments.

Socialism teaches that wealth should be held in common ownership, controlled by the state. Hence, the Democrats’ constant push to have government confiscate ever more income and power.

By contrast, the Bible teaches that God owns all things and that we’re merely stewards of His creation. When we look at each of the Ten Commandments, we see that they’re directly at odds with socialism.

You shall have no other gods before Me.

Socialism and its offshoots – communism, fascism, democratic socialism and National Socialism (Nazism) – enshrine the state above all other powers. There is no room for God, which is why socialists are in a permanent war with the church and are bent on creating a faith-free society.

You shall make no idols.

Idols are anything that takes the place of God in the hierarchy of values. Under socialism, sheer power over one’s fellow man is an idol. Another is building utopias – the unicorns of government because such perfect societies do not exist.

You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.

When socialists take over a culture, it becomes depraved and perverse. To enforce their new immoral order, socialists openly blaspheme God and particularly Jesus Christ. Hollywood, which is famously leftist, has taken this road since Christian review boards abandoned their role in the 1960s, opening up films to any and all ways to shock audiences.

Keep the Sabbath day holy.

Sundays are no different from any other day in socialist societies. In fact, people going to church on a Sunday are identified and often persecuted in places like communist China, where atheism is the official state religion. Even in our market-based society, materialism – a necessary precept of socialism – has pushed respect for the Sabbath to the margins.

Honor your father and your mother.

Socialism has been at war with marriage and family since the French Revolution in 1789. Unlike America’s revolutionaries of 1776, the Jacobins sought to wipe out Christianity and establish an all-encompassing government that supplanted the family. Frederich Engels, co-author with Karl Marx of The Communist Manifesto, later wrote about the need to do away with marital fidelity and to assign children to communal rearing. He, Marx and other socialists correctly identified the family as a competing source of authority and a bulwark of the church. Both stand in the way of collectivist regimes.

You shall not murder.

Many people misread this commandment as a broader order not to kill for any reason, which denies the moral difference between taking innocent human life and executing murderers. Socialists have long promoted abortion – the direct taking of an innocent human life – as a way to “liberate” women and men from parental responsibilities.

You shall not commit adultery.

In the 1960s, Americans became familiar with the term “free love,” but socialists have been promoting it heavily since the early 1800s. Sex outside marriage, prostitution, pornography and abortion all militate against marriage fidelity. Socialists deploy euphemisms like “choice” and “sex work” to cover the retreat from biblical morality.

You shall not steal.

Socialism is grand theft. It uses the state to take earnings from productive people and redistribute it to create dependency and thus political power for those handing it out. Slavery is 100 percent taxation – when someone else controls the fruits of one’s labor. Socialist countries first control and then seize private property. Marx summed up The Communist Manifesto in one sentence: “Abolition of private property.”

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

This is not just about telling lies in a witness situation but also about using lies to advance one’s wellbeing. Socialism is built on a mountain of lies about human nature, which is why it eventually must resort to violence. Marx wrote that “the ends justify the means,” which means you can do or say anything as long as it advances the revolution. Example: “You can keep your health plan if you like your health plan.”

You shall not covet.

Socialism’s main engine is envy, stoking resentment against others who have more, even to the point of using violence to get it. In Genesis, Cain killed Abel out of envy for Abel’s achieving God’s favor. Envy was also on display when Satan promised Adam and Eve that if they defied God, then “ye shall be as gods.” Coveting divinity got Satan kicked out of heaven, and it’s what he and his minions continue to peddle in a variety of forms including pride, envy and socialism.

Of Satan, Jesus said, “When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

God originated life, natural marriage and love, and gave us the Ten Commandments. It shouldn’t be a mystery as to where the deceptive cake of socialism was baked.

Today’s meaning

Rev. Paul Hartmann of St. Monica Catholic Church in Whitefish Bay and St. Eugene Catholic Church in Fox Point:

Years ago I traveled to Maine for the wedding of a friend whose fiancé was a lobsterman’s daughter from an island off the coast. The setting made for a beautiful weekend for the wedding, but it also made for a difficult travel itinerary.

In order to fit everything in for a July 6 wedding, many of the guests came to the island on July 3. Who was I to pass up a couple extra days in a picturesque New England fishing village? To further set the stage, at one point the men of the wedding party and I joined the bride’s dad on his fishing boat to literally “catch” the rehearsal dinner.

A highlight of the weekend was the island’s Fourth of July parade. Our group (clearly out-of-towners) found a nice spot on Main Street in front of the hardware store to view the parade. Taking the lead in the parade was a color guard of five Boy Scouts. They were cheered, and each was proud of his role in the celebration. The tallest boy was in the center carrying the American flag.

I surmise that he was told to remain stone-faced and looking straight ahead. He was flanked by scouts carrying the state flag, and the troop’s flag. On the ends were the youngest, and the shortest, scouts holding a pole carrying the banner announcing the parade. These two hadn’t gotten the message about being stoned-faced as they were all smiles and waving at those cheering them.

I grinned a bit when I noticed that the Scout closest to us was in what had to be a hand-me-down uniform. The shirt was too big; old patches had been removed, and the green uniform pants were rolled up at his ankles. Both mom and boy were waiting for him to grow into an older brother’s clothes.

The parade was refreshing Americana – a marching band from the small high school; a cohort of tykes on decorated tricycles; thematic floats from civic organizations; and politicians in convertibles with insurance agent advertisements on the doors.

At the end of the parade was another color guard. This one made up of veterans in uniform. At the center was a Marine carrying the American flag. He stood tall, straight-backed, and stared forward every step of the way. There was a Navy officer with the flag of the local American Legion post, and on the ends were to two older men in World War II vintage Army uniforms.

Probably the oldest man (wearing the stripes of a sergeant) passed closest to us and was hunched over a bit. He smiled with great pride as people cheered. He saluted anyone one who saluted him. He stood just as tall as he could, but his 60-year old uniform hung very loose on his 80-year old body. Ironically, the passage of time impacted the man. His once perfectly fitting uniform trousers now had to be rolled up at the ankles.

Walking around after the parade, we passed the church in the heart of the village where the wedding would take place, as well as the barber shop with the candy cane sign that would open special on Saturday morning for the bride’s dad (and any of the men) to get a trim before the ceremony.

The weekend was a heartwarming encounter with American values. It became an intersection of God, family and country which spoke to ideals we treasure. By the time of the Saturday wedding, and at a Sunday Mass I celebrated in the local parish, I had added to my homily reflections. In America, religious and civic life are supposed to intersect in hope and promise.

Religious freedom makes it possible for our churches to proclaim true freedom and true hope. Personal freedoms make it possible for every citizen, young or old, to take a rightful and proud place of example in the community.

In small-town, faith-filled America, rolled up uniform pants represent both hope for the future, and a life well lived. With our Catholic faith, we are willing to roll up the cuffs of our pants.

Our republic, if we can keep it

Charlie Sykes:

Mark this down as Peak Corporate Performative Wokeness.  The Wall Street Journal reports:

Nike Inc. is yanking a U.S.A.-themed sneaker featuring an early American flag after NFL star-turned-activist Colin Kaepernick told the company it shouldn’t sell a shoe with a symbol that he and others consider offensive, according to people familiar with the matter…

After images of the shoe were posted online, Mr. Kaepernick, a Nike endorser, reached out to company officials saying that he and others felt the Betsy Ross flag is an offensive symbol because of its connection to an era of slavery, the people said. Some users on social media responded to posts about the shoe with similar concerns. Mr. Kaepernick declined to comment.

The design was created in the 1770s to represent the 13 original colonies, though there were many early versions of the America flag, according to the Smithsonian. In the 1790s, stars and bars were added to reflect the addition of Vermont and Kentucky as states. U.S. flag designs continued to change as states were admitted to the union until the 50th star, for Hawaii, was added in 1960.

The backlash was quick and harsh. Arizona Governor Doug Ducey fired off a Twitter thread, announcing that he has “ordered the Arizona Commerce Authority to withdraw all financial incentive dollars under their discretion that the State was providing for the company to locate here.” Nike had just announced plans to open up a new plant in Goodyear, Ariz.

And, as if the flag fiasco was not bad enough, the same day that Nike pulled the Betsy Ross shoes, the company was also kowtowing to the Chinese.

Nike has stopped selling some products in China after a fashion designer’s support for protests in Hong Kong sparked a social media backlash.

The US retail giant said in a statement Thursday that it had decided to remove some of its goods “based on feedback from Chinese consumers.”

As David French tweeted:

Of course, Nike is a private company and is free to make these sorts of business decisions. And we are free to comment on the company’s feckless spinelessness.

But another point needs to be made here…

If you spend any time at all on social media today (which is probably not recommended), you’ll notice a theme from some of Nike’s defenders: Tthe company was justified in yanking the Betsy Ross flag because it has become a symbol of white nationalism. The Wall Street Journal notes:

In 2016, the superintendent of a Michigan school district apologized after students waved the Betsy Ross flag at a high-school football game, saying that for some it is a symbol of white supremacy and nationalism, according to Mlive.com, a local news outlet. While the flag’s use isn’t widespread, the local chapter of the NAACP said at the time that it has been appropriated by some extremist groups opposed to America’s increasing diversity.

Deep breath, because I feel a rant coming on.

Why do the bigots get to hijack our symbols? It’s not their goddamn flag. It’s ours.

So why are we giving them veto power? Are we really going to let every mouth breathing, skinhead, proud boy, incel define what symbols we can use?

This isn’t the Confederate flag; it’s not statue of a Confederate general or slaveholder. It’s a part of American history and the only way they get to f*** it up is if we let them. The woke left is only too happy to cave to claims of racism no matter how tenuous the connection.

Let’s stipulate that some woke progressives find patriotism and flag waving in the Era of Trump to be problematic (and, honestly, did so even BT—Before Trump).  This year’s Trumpanista July 4 marks Peak Trump Obnoxiousness. Is anyone going to sit back and let him hijack the national holiday? No, because he doesn’t get to define it for the rest of us.

No matter who waves the American flag, or celebrates our nation’s founding—no matter how boorish, ignorant, or even bigoted they might be—they don’t get to take it away from us.

It’s not their goddamn country, it’s ours.

How the truth is no fun

Readers have probably heard the line that the difference between truth and fiction is that fiction has to make sense.

Well, not always, if the word “sense” involves in some sense truth. Author Ron Franscell claims that what crime fiction connoisseurs believe about crime may not be accurate:

Between your gullibility, urban legends and Hollywood, you’ve swallowed a lot of, um, bull about crime, cops, and courts. You’ve consumed so much crapola that I’m surprised you aren’t on Ducky’s slab. But here are some fabrications, fables, and fairy tales about forensics and felonious foolishness (not to mention wrongful alliteration) that you’ve accepted as gospel since the first season of “Starsky and Hutch.”

MYTH #10: Serial killers run rampant

FACT: Every year, between 15,000 and 20,000 people are murdered in the US. Of those, only about 1% are committed by serial killers, according to FBI statistics. By comparison, four times as many murders are committed by spouses. The lesson is clear: You’re screwed if you marry a serial killer.

Myth #9: You have a right to one phone call

FACT: Not necessarily. You have certain constitutional rights when you’re arrested, but not a phone call. At last count, only 11 states grant an arrested suspect either a right to one phone call or to communicate with a lawyer or loved one upon booking. In other states, it’s a decision left to a city or county to set its own policies. And that goes for texting, too. And definitely for sexting.

Myth #8: Cops are laid back and indifferent—even glib—at horrible crime scenes

FACT: It makes for interesting TV when a detective or medical examiner blithely sips his Starbucks and wisecracks with his partner while surrounded by dismembered corpses. But cops are people, too. No matter how many bloody crime scenes they’ve worked, the horror of slaughtered people—especially kids—always affects them. Crime scenes are grisly, murders are ugly. No matter how many crime shows you’ve watched, nothing on TV can compare to the real thing. Good cops learn to compartmentalize the revulsion, but that doesn’t mean it has no effect. Think you’re tougher than all that? Take a whiff of a decomposing body and keep your lunch down. I dare you.

Myth #7: You might wake up in a bloody tub missing your kidneys

FACT: You’ve heard the story at a cocktail party, right? A friend of somebody’s cousin’s hairdresser got drunk in a crowded bar and met a hottie. Things get randy and they get a room. Then the guy wakes up in the hotel bathtub, immersed in icy water, with a note on the toilet: “We’ve taken your kidneys. Call 9-1-1 or die.” It’s an urban legend. It has never happened to anybody. A hoax. And everybody knows your heart is worth more in the global organ black market.

Moreover, according to Hannibal Lecter, your liver is tastier, particularly served with fava beans and a nice Chianti.

Myth #6: Cops have fabulous computers, databases, and fancy war rooms

FACT: No, they don’t. Maybe their computers are better than yours, but they still freeze up. Nobody has the glitzy, big-screen murder boards and super-databases where, with a few clicks, they can learn what toppings you had on your pizza last Friday. It’s a TV fantasy. Sorta like the quirky TV forensic chicks who can zoom in on surveillance video to see the species of bugs on a passing car’s windshield. Almost no law enforcement agency has the cash or tech savvy to do what you see on a typical prime-time cop show. Just imagine how Barney Fife’s life would be different today if Mayberry had an Abby Sciutto.

Myth #5: Criminal profilers catch bad guys

FACT: TV has really messed up crime-fighting. It treats profilers as half clairvoyant and half SWAT team. Profiling ain’t anywhere as glamorous or involved in busting bad guys as “Criminal Minds” would make you believe. Profilers never finger actual bad guys; profiling merely helps investigators narrow the pool of suspects—a little. It’s more like this: Some former psych majors who know something about criminology drop in to the squad room, deliver a list of traits their “unknown subject” (UnSub) probably exhibits, then leave. The real work is done by real cops with real guns.

Is profiling magical? Nope. Some recent studies show that Joe Blow is almost as good at it. Hey, a wisecracking, beer-drinking TV profiler named Joe Blow…

Myth #4: Medical examiners can tell pretty precisely when you died

FACT: Nope. “Time of death” is a best guess. We often see TV coroners and medical examiners doing some quickie liver poking, which results in a fairly precise determination of when the death happened. TV has only 47 minutes or so (with those annoying commercials) to solve a case, so the writers can’t waste precious seconds with science-y stuff. There’s just no time for the real ways to determine a body’s expiration, such as body temperature, rigor mortis, lividity, decomposition, stomach contents, cloudiness of the corneas, potassium levels in eyeballs, insect activity, and crime-scene artifacts.

Myth #3: DNA is precise and infallible

FACT: It’s pretty cool but reports of DNA’s effectiveness are greatly exaggerated by … wait for it … TV. The illusion is so complete that there’s something called the “CSI effect,” which causes a lot of jurors and judges in criminal trials to believe DNA is incontrovertible evidence of guilt (or that its absence is a major forensic and prosecutorial failure). Fact is, fewer than 1% of all major crimes like murder, rape, and assault are solved with DNA. Old-fashioned fingerprints actually provide slightly better evidence.

Myth #2: Lie detectors detect all lies.

FACT: Nope. Too many factors prevent polygraph examinations from being infallible. The questions, the skill of the examiner, even the quality of the machine all play a role. In fact, even if you know nothing about beating a lie-detector test, you have better than a 1-in-10 chance of passing when you’re lying your ass off.

Myth #1: Typing your PIN backwards at the ATM will summon the cops

FACT: Nope. Another urban legend. Think about it: if somebody’s holding a gun to your head, how likely are you to even remember your PIN frontwards, much less backwards? Even if your ATM alerted cops, the bad guy would likely be long gone with your money and you’d be dead before they arrived. And wouldn’t robbers get wise about all that fumbling around? Here’s a test: Thumb-type on your iPhone the last four digits of your Social Security number backwards … then text it to me.

Now that you’ve had your gullibility, urban legends and Hollywood beliefs shattered, I’ll add one: Journalism is boring to watch take place.

 

Negative news of the day

Yascha Mounk:

Americans often lament the rise of “extreme partisanship,” but this is a poor description of political reality: Far from increasing, Americans’ attachment to their political parties has considerably weakened over the past years. Liberals no longer strongly identify with the Democratic Party and conservatives no longer strongly identify with the Republican Party.

What is corroding American politics is, specifically, negative partisanship: Although most liberals feel conflicted about the Democratic Party, they really hate the Republican Party. And even though most conservatives feel conflicted about the Republican Party, they really hate the Democratic Party.

America’s political divisions are driven by hatred of an out-group rather than love of the in-group. The question is: why?

A new study, called “The Perception Gap,” helps provide an answer. More In Common, an advocacy organization devoted to countering extremism that previously published a viral report on America’s Hidden Tribes, set out to understand how political partisans see each other. Researchers asked Democrats to guess how Republicans would answer a range of political questions—and vice versa. (The survey was conducted among a sample of 2,100 US adults the week immediately following the 2018 midterm elections.) What they found is fascinating:  Americans’ mental image of the “other side” is a caricature.

According to the Democratic caricature, most Republicans stridently oppose immigration, hold deeply prejudiced views about religious minorities, and are blind to the existence of racism or sexism. Asked to guess what share of Republicans believe that immigration can strengthen America so long as it is “properly controlled,” for example, Democrats estimated about half; actually, nearly nine in ten agreed with this sentiment.

Democrats also estimated that four in ten Republicans believe that “many Muslims are good Americans,” and that only half recognize that “racism still exists in America.” In reality, those figures were two-thirds and four in five.

Unsurprisingly, Republicans are also prone to caricature Democrats. For example, Republicans approximated that only about half of Democrats are “proud to be American” despite the country’s problems. Actually, over four in five Democrats said they are. Similarly, Republicans guessed that fewer than four in ten Democrats reject the idea of open borders. Actually, seven in ten said they do.

If the reasons for mutual hatred are rooted as much in mutual misunderstanding as in genuine differences of values, that suggests Americans’ divisions should in principle be easy to remedy. It’s all just a matter of education.

Unfortunately, the Perception Gap study suggests that neither the media nor the universities are likely to remedy Americans’ inability to hear each other: It found that the best educated and most politically interested Americans are more likely to vilify their political adversaries than their less educated, less tuned-in peers.

Americans who rarely or never follow the news are surprisingly good at estimating the views of people with whom they disagree. On average, they misjudge the preferences of political adversaries by less than ten percent. Those who follow the news most of the time, by contrast, are terrible at understanding their adversaries. On average, they believe that the share of their political adversaries who endorse extreme views is about 30 percent higher than it is in reality.

Perhaps because institutions of higher learning tend to be dominated by liberals, Republicans who have gone to college are not more likely to caricature their ideological adversaries than those who dropped out of high school. But among Democrats, education seems to make the problem much worse. Democrats who have a high school degree suffer from a greater perception gap than those who don’t. Democrats who went to college harbor greater misunderstandings than those who didn’t. And those with a postgrad degree have a way more skewed view of Republicans than anybody else.

It is deeply worrying that Americans now have so little understanding of their political adversaries. It is downright disturbing that the very institutions that ought to help us become better informed may actually be deepening our mutual incomprehension.

Another sign that “change” and “progress” are not synonyms

Readers know that my first accomplishment that got notice beyond my family was my ability to win spelling bees.

For those who care, I won five school spelling bees and two Madison city spelling bees, and therefore competed in two state spelling bees. The closest I got to winning the state bee was a 10th-place finish.

Therefore I pay some attention to spelling bees, including the national spelling bee, which, like so many things in our society, has gotten sucked up by pop culture to something unrecognizable. And so Sports Illustrated writes:

Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged isn’t a book so much as it is an institution. It is physically unwieldy, nearly unmanageable, with more than two thousand pages of densely packed fine print. It is culturally staggering, home to nearly half a million words—which is to say, nearly half a million fragments of collective human knowledge and imagination. It stretches from “a” to “zyzzogeton.” It is not just a catalogue of language, but an extensive manual and an exhaustive history. It is the product of more than a century of research and millions of dollars of investment. And it’s only the foundation for Merriam-Webster Unabridged, the dictionary’s official website, which has even more definitions and quotations and annotations than can be materially contained in the book.