URLs du Jour — 2014-04-16

futurama snap

  • Not that it matters much, but geez I miss Futurama. Today's post picture is a throwaway gag from the Season 7 episode "31st Century Fox". Click to embiggen; there's a smaller additional joke on the side of the bus.

    The gang has a guest appearance coming up on The Simpsons at some point, hopefully before the 31st Century.

  • At Cato, Trevor Burris points out another instance of the general rule: people who most strenuously seek to "control" guns seem to know the least about guns. Case in point: retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens, in a recent Washington Post-published excerpt from his upcoming book.

    Stevens' mistake: incorrectly referring to the guns wielded by recent mass-murderers as "automatic weapons". Which they were not. This blooper was silently corrected by the Post, but it is probably too late to fix the book.

    Stevens' proposal, by the way, is to edit the Second Amendment to read "the right of the people to keep and bear Arms when serving in the Militia shall not be infringed." Why not just advocate repealing the amendment outright? I dunno. Don't care either.

  • Answers to questions nobody is asking: "What Do White House Press Secretary Jay Carney and Soviet-Era Propaganda Have in Common?" (A: "They both live in the same house.")

    I agree with Frank J.'s one-liner: "Putting up Soviet propaganda posters in your home is a lot like putting up Nazi propaganda posters except it’s just as bad."

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God Trying To Get My Attention

Not that it matters, but:

I previously mentioned that I heard a whole bunch of political speeches last Saturday. One of them [complete video] was by Senator Rand Paul. Near the end of his speech [clip], he advocated a sunny approach to political messaging:

We've gotta do it with a smile. We gotta do it with optimism.

There was a painter by the name of Robert Henron [sic] and he wrote: "Paint like a man coming over the hill singing."

I love the image of that. We need to proclaim our message with the passion of Patrick Henry, like a man coming over the hill singing, with optimism. And make sure that it's a message for all. No matter what walk of life you are.

When I heard that "man coming over the hill singing" phrase, the image that leapt into my head—oh, you too?—was Julie Andrews' opening scene in The Sound of Music. OK, fine. Imagine you are Maria. Good advice! Perhaps. Where appropriate.

The very next day when I was reading one of the essays by William Zinsser in his recent book, The Writer Who Stayed. And right there on page 72, Mr. Zinsser reports on an address given by the historian David McCullough to a small graduating class of a Connecticut fine-arts college. And:

He had written a talk specifically for those newborn artists—a talk generously furnished with helpful admonitions by great artists of the past. The one that I wrote down was by the American painter Robert Henri: "You should paint like a man coming over the top of the hill singing."

And I thought: Um, hey.

What are the odds that I'd get exposed twice, within a span of 24 hours, via very different channels, to a quote I'd never before encountered from a painter I'd never heard of before?

(Yeah, sorry, I'm a Philistine.)

There's a semi-accepted term for this: the Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon. (When I say semi-accepted, I mean: its Wikipedia page has been deleted.)

But Keb' Mo' has an alternative explanation, which I think I prefer:

Last Modified 2014-04-16 4:51 AM EDT
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Open Season

[Amazon Link]

So after reading two standalone C. J. Box novels (the Edgar-winning Blue Heaven and the equally impressive Back of Beyond), I put all 16 of his other novels on my to-be-read list. This is his first book, written back in 2002, and it's another winner. I regret I didn't start sooner.

It is also Box's first novel with Joe Pickett, his series hero. Joe is a game warden, toiling in a remote county for Wyoming's Game and Fish Department. It's (literally) his childhood-dream job. Unfortunately, the pay is bad, his state-provided housing is small and shabby, and he's got two daughters with another kid on the way.

Also, Joe's trusting nature leads him to make a mistake. When confronting Ote Keely, a poacher caught (literally) red-handed, he allows his sidearm to be taken. This gets Joe (understandably) in some trouble.

But he keeps his job, and his life. Ote shows up again a few months later, murdered, in Joe's back yard. For some reason, he's travelled gut-shot for miles to Joe's back yard, only to expire by the woodpile. The only clue is an open cooler containing poop of unknown origin and significance.

The crime is immediately solved to the satisfaction of everyone except Joe. He makes a few inquiries, and the response is a multi-pronged attempt to get Joe to back off. Things escalate rather quickly, exposing the corruption of some of Joe's co-workers. And his family become the targets, which is harrowing reading.

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New Hampshire Freedom Summit

So I went to the "New Hampshire Freedom Summit" in Manchester on Saturday (April 12). I swiped borrowed their logo image for this post's illustration:

[NH Freedom Summit]

A good blogger would have at least a same-day report, possibly even live updates from the scene. Sorry, I'm not that guy. The following is just an unfocused list of stuff I noticed, with no overarching theme.

I had a surprisingly good time. It was one speech after another, mostly by slick politicians, on barely-comfortable 0.95-asswidth hotel mass seating. There were (it was claimed) in the neighborhood of 700 people in attendance, and the speakers (as near as I could tell) did not interact much with the masses. And (everyone kept pointing this out) it was a beautiful day outside. So I held open the possibility of cutting out early. But the speeches were pretty good. The event was put on for free, even the box lunch. So, although a normal person probably wouldn't have liked it, I did.

This free-to-me event was sponsored by Citizens United (you might recognize them as First Amendment heroes and left-wing bogeymen). and Americans for Prosperity (which, in the left-wing stylebook, must never allowed to be uttered without the phrase "Koch brothers" somewhere nearby).

So, yay: after years of being accused of being in the underhanded employ of the Koch brothers, I can report: they might have indirectly bought me lunch. About damn time.

The speakers included:

  • Four Senators (Lee, Cruz, Paul, Ayotte)
  • Three current Representatives, one ex-Representative (Steve King from Iowa, Louie Gohmert from Texas, Tennessee's Marsha Blackburn, and Newt Gingrich)
  • One Ex-Governor (Mike Huckabee)
  • One President (of the American Enterprise Institute), Arthur Brooks
  • One talk-show host (and new ABC News contributor), Laura Ingraham
  • In a category of his own: The Donald Trump

There were also a host of local pols and representatives from CU and AFP.

I had forgotten that politicians tend to be charismatic and polished (or, pejoratively, "slick") speakers. Most had laugh lines and jokes, delivered with practiced skill. The funniest story (to me) came from Senator Lee, who had a pretty good one about how his relative youth caused problems getting the Capitol security cops to recognize him as a Senator.

Probably the biggest surprise came from AEI President Arthur Brooks. You might have noticed that he's kind of the odd man out in the speaker list: never held, or attempted to hold, elective office. But, as it turned out, I thought Brooks gave the best speech of the day. (Here's the C-SPAN video, see what you think.) Brooks was funny, and had good, insightful, advice for conservative/libertarian candidates. Their problem is shown in the polls that ask "Does Candidate X care about the problems of people like me"? Our guys invariably come up on the short end of that stick.

I used to—up until Saturday, in fact—think that didn't matter. Brooks convinced me I was wrong. The argument needs to be made that conservative/libertarian policies actually help middle/lower classes. (That should be easier to do after the Obama/Pelosi/Reid years, fortunately.)

Some other, more random, observations:

  • The audience was surprisingly up on current events. You could tell, for example, that many in the crowd were aware of Rep. Gohmert's run-in with Atty. Gen. Eric Holder the previous Tuesday. ("You don’t want to go there buddy, all right? You don’t want to go there, OK?”) Rep. Gohmert also (amusingly) revealed the source of his "casting aspersions on my asparagus" comment to Holder last year.

    The audience also recognized references to Jeb Bush's recent "act of love" immigration remarks, and clearly, um, disagreed. Kathleen “Unfortunately, a page is missing" Sebelius's farewell remarks were also lampooned, to knowing laughs.

  • The phrase that caused the most consistent applause, uttered by several speakers: "Abolish the IRS". I'm all for that, of course, but I was surprised how popular the sentiment was amongst the crowd.

    Also a reliable applause-getter: being against Common Core. (I don't think Jeb Bush would have made a good showing if we'd had a straw poll.)

  • I had no idea how short Rand Paul is. Yes, that's superficial. (I'm far more worried by his foreign policy statements.) But I Googled it, and it's not that I'm the only one who's noticed.

  • This was billed as the first New Hampshire "cattle call" for 2016 GOP presidential candidates. Based on the crowd reaction, Cruz and Paul were the clear favorites.

  • The Donald Trump gave a pretty good speech, given that he seemed to have no prepared remarks, just rambling off the top of his head for his allotted time, mostly about himself. (Not a surprise.) I think the only speaker to use the word "bullshit".

    While most speakers avoided issues that divide the GOP, Trump singled out Paul Ryan and his proposed budget for criticism. We should not touch the big-ticket entitlements, Trump argued, it's a recipe for getting large masses of people to hate you. He argued that, if we get "smarter" about international trade and internal economics, we can get wealthy enough to grow our way out of budgetary disaster.

    I doubt Trump's math works, for any reasonable assumptions about economic growth.

  • More on "divisive" issues: as this BuzzFeed guy notes, everyone steered pretty much clear of "social" issues. (But also read Ramesh Ponnuru on that.)

  • Senator Cruz deployed a decent Jay Leno impression.

Last Modified 2014-04-14 6:37 PM EDT
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Captain America: The Winter Soldier

[4.5 stars] [IMDb Link] [Amazon Link]

I went to see Captain America: The Winter Soldier on my Friday off, a late afternoon show, and there was only one other person in the theater. But I had a great time. Consumer note: I sprang for the 3-D experience, and my advice would be not to bother.

In this episode, Cap is trying to get integrated into the modern-day world (like our own, but with superheroes and cataclysmic battles in and around famous American cities.) But he does errands for Nick Fury and SHIELD, partnering with the fetching Black Widow and a menacing strike force. Cap is no fool, however, so it gradually dawns on him that Nick and the Widow aren't entirely sharing their agendas. Worse, Nick is getting the feeling he's being played for a fool by Robert Redford. (It must be the big illuminated "bad guy" sign Redford has hanging above his head. Or was that my imagination?)

Also in the mix is the "Winter Soldier", a super-assassin whose origins are a mystery to anyone who doesn't pay attention to the actor playing the role. Didn't we see him in something else a few years back? Oh yeah…

Fortunately, there's also a new good guy: the Falcon! played by Anthony Mackie. Aided by a Stark Industries flying rig, he's resourceful and fearless.

Overall: Lots of action, good acting, clever dialog. Minor spoiler in white ink: one of the minor characters (Jasper Sitwell) from my ancient comic book-reading days appears here, treated in a way that causes me to downgrade the movie by a half-star from my usual 5. Don't mess with my comic memories, Marvel!

Last Modified 2014-04-14 5:23 AM EDT
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URLs du Jour — 2014-04-10

For some reason, I'm Washington Post-centric today. I'll seek help.

  • I plan on attending the Citizens United/Americans for Prosperity "Freedom Summit" in Manchester on Saturday (April 12). I have no idea what the arrangements or schedule will be, but if you're there too, please look for a tall bald geek and say hello. Chances are it will be me.

    Jennifer Rubin, the WaPo's "conservative" blogger, has already worked up a preemptive condemnation of the event due to its inclusion of speakers she deems unacceptable (The Donald Trump, Rep. Steve King). Jennifer calls the future event a "pratfall" and a "circus".

    But I haven't been to the circus in a while. See you there.

  • Brandeis University declared itself an enthusiastic participant in what Jon Lovett called the "Culture of Shut Up". By first extending, and then rescinding an honorary degree and a commencement-speaker spot to Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Someone noticed she's not a punch-puller when discussing Islam.

    Ayaan Hirsi Ali's response to the disinvitation is here. The one small bit of amusement is Brandeis's weaselly-worded statement that begins "Following a discussion today between President Frederick Lawrence and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Ms. Hirsi Ali’s name has been withdrawn…". Ms Hirsi Ali notes:

    I wish to dissociate myself from the university’s statement, which implies that I was in any way consulted about this decision. On the contrary, I was completely shocked when President Frederick Lawrence called me — just a few hours before issuing a public statement — to say that such a decision had been made.

    It's hard to disagree with John Podhoretz, who happens to be the nephew of a previous Brandeis president: the current guy's engaging in "nothing less than the act of a gutless, spineless, simpering coward." But also dishonest.

    Reason editor Nick Gillespie speculates that a 2007 interview in the magazine might have contained the quotes that caused the Brandeis administration to decide to clap its hands over its fragile graduates' ears, lest they hear something ideologically discordant. Nick observes:

    There is something particularly appalling about an institution that is predicated upon the idea of free and open discourse throwing in the towel so quickly. Either the people running the school there are simply total ignoramuses or they are cowards who refuse to defend their choice. Of course, they could be both. In any case, the reputation of the school should suffer, both as a place where ideas can discussed and where smart people congregate. Who wants to be the first person to turn up far more dubious recipients of Brandeis honorary degrees?

    Let me repeat and concur: of course, they could be both.

  • My own CongressCritter/Toothache, Carol Shea-Porter, hasn't penned a "Carol's Column" since last October. Too bad, they were fun to make fun of. But she does issue the occasional press release, like this one on "Equal Pay Day". Containing the phrase:

    […] but women in America still make only 77 cents for every dollar a man earns.

    Even the liberal Washington Post Fact Checker can't abide this statistic, awarding it Two Pinocchios (out of a possible four). And it's not as if the claim hasn't been widely debunked elsewhere. The WaPo's Ruth Marcus deems it revolting demagoguery.

    Either Carol is

    1. utterly ignorant, or
    2. deliberately misleading. In which case, she's hoping/assuming that you are utterly ignorant.

    Of course, she could be both.

    [Don't, by the way, expect Politifact to be honest or self-consistent on evaluating the truthiness of this claim, but you might get a chuckle.]

  • This Washington Post story illustrates how quickly a baseless scurrilous accusation about a Republican can be picked up and echoed uncritically by "respectable" MSM outlets. Corrections come grudgingly, if at all.

Last Modified 2014-04-11 2:30 AM EDT
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URLs du Jour — 2014-04-08

  • Joel Kotkin writes in the Orange County Register about the strange new respect on the American Left for debate-stifling.

    But when it comes to authoritarian expression of “true” beliefs, it’s the progressive Left that increasingly seeks to impose orthodoxy. In this rising intellectual order, those who dissent on everything from climate change, the causes of poverty and the definition of marriage, to opposition to abortion are increasingly marginalized and, in some cases, as in the Steyn trial, legally attacked.

    The reference to Steyn, of course, concerns global warming huckster Michael Mann's effort to stifle criticism of his activist-posing-as-scientist activities.

  • But you know things are really bad when Jon Lovett, who is an ex-employee of both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, writes an article titled "The Culture of Shut Up", and it appears at the Atlantic website. And it's funny and perceptive.

    There once was a remote village deep in the rainforest that had no contact with the outside world. And in this small village there were only three village elders who had the ability to speak. So they were in charge. And they’d have arguments. One would say, “I support a woman’s right to choose.” Another would say, “I oppose a woman’s right to choose.” And then the third would say, “A real debate here on a woman’s right to choose. When we come back, Justin Bieber arrested!”

    Now if you were one of the many villagers who didn’t have a way to speak, you just hoped that one of the three elders who could speak would make the argument you wanted to make. Sometimes they did, sometimes they didn’t. And it was okay, but it bothered you that these three voices didn’t really speak for everybody. They were, after all, pretty rich and all one color. (Green. These were green people.) And they didn’t really understand what it was like to be aqua or purple or gay or poor like you were. You’re a gay poor purple person. They tried to cover the whole world, but generally they focused on what was on the minds of green people from the big cities who watched Mad Men and went to Middlebury.

    Check it out. People can go on to be funny and sensible even after working for Clinton and Obama. Who knew?

  • Don Boudreaux links to and quotes extensively to "The ’77 Cents on the Dollar Myth About Women’s Pay" in the WSJ. Both are well worth your reading, but Prof Boudreaux makes a more general point about the hubris involved:

    Far too many policy proposals are premised on the absurd notion that privately available profit opportunities exist but remain unnoticed by all but professors, politicians, pundits, and preachers – officious observers who never offer to stake their own funds and efforts on seizing these opportunities. Seizing with their own private initiative these opportunities (if these opportunities are real) would not only yield well-deserved profits to the these professors, politicians, pundits, and preachers, but it would also solve the very problems that they assert are so awful. But instead, these officious know-it-alls cower in their punditry and preaching; they restrict their own actions to instructing the government on how to force other people to spend money and to act.

    A certain amount of arrogance is probably necessary for anyone who wants to get into the opinion-expressing biz, present company included. It should be tempered with humility, though. Is it my imagination that the arrogance/humility ratio is disproportionately high on one end of the political spectrum? By which I mean: that other one?

  • Jonah Goldberg would agree I think. He discusses Vox.com, a liberal site which prides itself on "explanatory journalism". But:

    The whole explanatory journalism project fits neatly into the core argument driving The Tyranny of Clichés: How Liberals Cheat in the War of Ideas. They cheat by denying their ideological motivations — even to themselves.  Indeed, it is a constant trope of liberalism to believe — dogmatically, ideologically — that they are just empiricists and fact-finders doing what is right and good in a battle against dogmatic ideologues on the right. The more honest approach would be to simply admit your biases upfront and defend the principles that inform your biases. Instead they prefer to make arguments grounded in the assumption that the liberal “frame” is really a perfect window onto reality.

    That makes me sad and tired.

Last Modified 2014-04-09 5:03 AM EDT
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Fantastic Voyage II: Destination Brain

[Amazon Link]

I think I've mentioned my placement of Isaac Asimov's SF novels on my to-be-(re)?read list a few years back. Here's the latest entry, one I actually hadn't read before. For good reasons, it turns out.

Semi-interesting background: Dr. Asimov wrote the novelization for the fondly-remembered movie Fantastic Voyage back in the sixties. It was based on a screenplay written by someone else, and it told the story of the miniaturized submarine Proteus as it carried a life-saving laser to destroy a life-threatening blood clot in the brain of a defecting Soviet scientist.

Asimov was apparently long-bugged about the movie's total disregard for even remote scientific plausibility. (His book cleaned up some issues, but far from all.) Hence this "reboot".

There are a lot of differences. There is a handwaving attempt to justify the miniaturization process as a localized field where Planck's Constant (h) is reduced. So everything that depends on h (mass, atomic size, quantum forces, etc.) gets "smaller" proportionately. Cool!

It's set at some point in the 21st century, far enough ahead so there are permanent moon bases. Amusingly, although Asimov wrote this in the mid-1980s, much of the plot revolves around the rivalry between the US and the still-nasty, still existing, Soviet Union. The protagonist is essentially shanghaied to participate in a Soviet mission to recover the thoughts of a comatose Russian scientist. (He's comatose because—gulp!—a previous minaturization experiment went awry.) The crew is plagued by inner dissension and the many obstacles inherent in trying to find a likely brain cell that might be used to extract the right combination of brain-wave patterns.

The miniaturized vessel does not even have a name. Sigh.

The talk/action ratio is high, maybe higher than usual for Asimov. While the underlying science might be better, they all spend an unusual amount of time yakking about it. The result is not too interesting, let alone thrilling.

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URLs du Jour — 2014-04-07

  • As a conservative/libertarian within an organization where the prevailing orthodoxy is anything but, I've been checking out the case of Brendan Eich, briefly CEO of Mozilla.

    James Taranto points out an obvious corollary to the dustup. Eich was "outed" as a dissident by laws demanding public disclosure of contributions to campaigns (in this case, a ballot initiative). Such disclosure laws are routinely demanded by liberals/progressives. They usually leave unsaid their actual motive: so that they can get even with you for opposing them afterwards.

    Taranto notes that this was foreseen in Justice Thomas's opinion in the Citizens United case. Thomas is quoted extensively, and you should read the whole thing, but here's his conclusion:

    I cannot endorse a view of the First Amendment that subjects citizens of this Nation to death threats, ruined careers, damaged or defaced property, or pre-emptive and threatening warning letters as the price for engaging in “core political speech, the ‘primary object of First Amendment protection.’ ”

    Unfortunately such perceptive pro-liberty arguments are rare these days.

  • Jonathan Last is also pretty perceptive on the issue. RTWT, but here's the executive summary: (1) To be really consistent, Mozilla should conduct a total purge of all pro-Proposition 8 employees, not just Eich; (2) Eich probably could have saved his job by doing the apologetic repentant-heretic act; that he didn't speaks well to his principles; (3) oh, yeah: stop using Firefox.

    So, yes, I've started using Google Chrome exclusively. I doubt this will be anything other than symbolic.

  • I noticed a relatively recent update to the timezone database, only a couple weeks since the previous one. What could they have missed? So I went to the release announcement and…

    Crimea switches to Moscow time on 2014-03-30 at 02:00 local time. (Thanks to Alexander Krivenyshev.) Move its zone.tab entry from UA to RU.

    Oh. Ouch. Could have also added a thanks to Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama, I suppose. The Russkies don't miss anything when they take over.

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When Is Violence Not Violence?

UNH Anti-Violence Rally Announcement

When you're at an Institution of Higher Education, of course.

At the University Near Here, we're against violence! That goes without saying. Or so you might think, if you're unaware of today's campus atmosphere. This month, being "anti-violence" is April's excuse to demonstrate that we are "more enlightened, noble, tolerant, wise, sensitive, conscious, and smart than most other people." As if we needed an excuse.

And so we have the "'Stepping Out to Speak Out Against Violence at UNH' WALK&RALLY!" this coming Thursday, sponsored by the U's Sexual Harassment & Rape Prevention Program (SHARPP).

It is a triumph of sloppy feelings and attitudes over careful thought and measured expression. Example: when you're caught up in strident earnestness, you find yourself autotyping silly demands as in this blog post:

blog blooper

(I'm not a total cad, so I've written the poster to point out the blooper. It might be fixed by the time you click there.)

As another amusement, the event's announcement page proudly points out:

This event is sponsored by SHARPP with support from the following organizations and department [sic] at UNH and in the local community.

… and there are exactly zero organizations and department[s] listed following this sentence.

But more interesting (albeit unsurprising) is the infusion of tendentious ideology into what you might think would be a near-universal distaste for campus violence. Here's a remarkable paragraph from the announcement page, with my snarky comments interspersed:

This localized social movement aims at gathering students, faculty, staff and Durham community members together to take a collective and powerful stance against all forms of violence on our campus, […]

"Localized social movement" is apparently an up-and-coming term of art in the community organizer game. Do you think they hit that collective bell hard enough?

including violence against women.

In a more logical world, since you've already said the "movement" is against all forms of violence, it would be unnecessary to point out that that stance includes violence against women. The University is not part of that more logical world.

Violence against victims/survivors results from […]

Lord forbid that they simply say "Violence is…"

the use of force or threat to achieve and maintain control over others in relationships, […]

In relationships? You notice how quickly we're driving off into the weeds here?

What about your garden variety felony assault, like this one, in which a non-UNH dimwit attacked a UNH employee with a broken bottle? Were they in a "relationship"?

Is the word "relationship" really appropriate to how the sordid murder of UNH student Lizzi Marriott played out in October 2012?

Apparently UNH faculty member Eric Paul Engel did have a "former family friend" relationship with Aleksander “Lenny” Wysocki. That is, before Engel shot Wysocki dead last Valentine's Day in Cary, NC. Before turning the gun on himself in Florida the next day. But was Engel's violence an effort to "achieve and maintain control" over Wysocki? I can't imagine why it would matter if it was.

By the way, one of Engel's students was quick to point out that Engel "always talked about how he was very anti-violence and against wars". (UNH: the kind of place they say that sort of thing about you even after you've murdered someone.) Perhaps Engel attended a previous year's anti-violence rally.

But it gets worse:

and from societal abuse of power and domination in the forms of sexism, racism, heterosexism, classism, able-bodyism, ageism and other oppressions.

Yes, let's drag in all the current -isms, and add in "other oppressions" just to be safe. Despite the fact that their causal relationship to actual violence is close to nil. The message is clear: to be "against violence" at UNH, you need to buy into the entire current left-wing litany of victimology, privilege, and oppression. Otherwise, sorry, but you're pro-violent scum.

Fearless prediction: despite all the speechifying on Thursday, there will be little or nothing said that might prevent the next homicide, assault, or rape perpetrated by or against someone at UNH. All that is beside the point when your purpose is self-congratulation, moral preening, and indoctrination.

Last Modified 2014-04-08 5:10 AM EDT
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