Patterico's Pontifications

11/30/2023

Weird Debate: Govs. DeSantis and Newsom Go At It Tonight

Filed under: General — Dana @ 4:46 pm



[guest post by Dana]

I don’t even know what is going on here. California’s Gov. Newsom is going to be debating Florida’s Gov. DeSantis (and Republican presidential candidate) tonight. Fox personality Sean Hannity will be moderating the event, and there will be no audience in attendance.

And why are they doing this? I don’t know. I’m sure their massive egos are the prime drivers here. But I also think there is political positioning taking place too. Gov. Newsom said he would not run against President Biden for the 2024 election, yet he is making his ‘national debut’ tonight in a debate with a noted Republican governor who hopes to become the next president. As Biden falters with his progressive flank (the latest issue being his support of Israel), and Senate and House Democrats continue to voice concerns about his age and the accompanying lapses that come with being an octogenarian, the pressure is mounting for him to step down. Gov. Newsom might be a considered viable replacement. After all, the California governor has the skill set that VP Kamala Harris doesn’t have: He can walk and talk and chew gum at the same time. And he knows politics, and he knows how to reach his base. He also has the charm and appearance that draws people to him. Additionally, he is the governor of the largest state in the country. While I have never voted for Newsom, I can see the draw. Newsom brings to the table what Harris doesn’t, and is unable to.

DeSantis must be panicking at this point. His poll numbers consistently lag behind Trump, who still leads by a wide margin. And just this week, billionaire Charles Koch announced that he would be backing Nikki Haley. So what has DeSantis got to lose? Not much. But I guess he could stand to gain some good publicity for himself and Republicans at large if he cleans Newsom’s clock. While DeSantis is also the popular governor of a large state, his appearances have been lackluster, and his tilt toward authoritarianism should not be ignored. Unfortunately for DeSantis and Haley, they are still playing for second place. Unbelievably.

You can watch the debate on Fox News at 6 pm tonight.

—Dana

11/29/2023

Family Squabbles in Palestine

Filed under: General — JVW @ 3:26 pm



[guest post by JVW]

I don’t mean to be so flippant in the post’s title, but it is an encouraging sign to see that not all of Hamas’s indoctrination has taken hold among the youth of Palestine:

The son of a Hamas co-founder recorded himself on video granting Israel “permission” to assassinate all of the terrorist organization’s leaders, including his own father, if all hostages are not released within a specific period of time.

Mosab Hassan Yousef, the 45-year-old son of Sheikh Hassan Yousef, recommended Israel give Hamas a set timeframe to release all the remaining hostages, after which Israel should assassinate the terror group’s leadership.

“Israel cannot continue like this,” he said in a ten-minute video posted to X on Tuesday. “Hamas must have a timeframe – a month or two or six months – to return the hostages and if they don’t return the hostages within the time frame, Israel must execute top Hamas leaders in prison, especially the mass murderers.”

“When I say execute top leaders, I mean no exceptions, that includes my own father,” the son added, wishing he didn’t save his father’s life numerous times ten to 15 years ago. “He was supposed to die for his actions. I saved his life. Things did not change, things got worse.”

What Mosab Yuosef is alluding to is his early radicalization which saw him arrested numerous times as a young boy for throwing rocks at Israeli soldiers. Aspiring to the life of a Jihadist, the younger Yousef was seen as a natural heir to his father, who was a co-founder of the Hamas terrorist organization. As a teenager, Mosab Yousef served a jail sentence in Israel’s Megiddo Prison, where he witnessed Hamas-affiliated inmates plot a brutal reprisal against fellow Palestinians whom they believed were secretly aiding Israel. According to Mr. Yousef, he witnessed Hamas operatives carry out brutal summary executions against alleged collaborators, even those who he believed had no connection at all to the enemy but were dispatched based upon family grievances and other flimsy pretexts. It was at this point, he relates, that the scales began to fall from his eyes and he started understanding the cruelty and barbarity of his allies.

In 1996, while in the custody of Shen Bet, Israel’s internal security agency, Mr. Yousef accepted overtures from agents and became an Israeli mole within Hamas. He claims that his cooperation hinged upon Israel refraining from killing members of Hamas, including his own father, and that his role was to merely prevent Hamas attacks, and if they took place to then help Israel identify the participants in order to arrest them. Mosab Youself became interested in Christianity in 1999, and in 2005 was secretly baptized in Tel Aviv.

Just two years later, Mr. Yousef left Hamas and Shen Bet to emigrate to America. After an immigration battle which landed in front of a California judge, he was granted residency in 2010, the same year in which he essentially outed himself by publishing his autobiography. Mosab Yousef’s younger brother Suheib Yousef has also subsequently renounced his father and Hamas, though unlike his older brother he denies ever having served as an informant for Israel.

The interesting development is that after years of allegedly protecting his father and other Hamas radicals from assassination by Israel, Mosab Yousef now believes that Israel needs to get their hands dirty and eradicate Hamas from Palestine. In a ten-minute video posted on Twitter, he berates Hamas for demanding “the release of mass murders” in exchange for the release of hostages, and warns that to acquiesce to their demands would put lives in Israel and Palestine at danger. He now advises Israel to shift its focus from hostage rescue to hunting down and capturing or killing Hamas militants, for the greater good of both nations.

Hopefully there are thousands of young Palestinians who have also rejected the works and empty promises of Hamas and a life of terrorism, even if conditions are not favorable for them to take a public stand at this time. That two sons of a Hamas co-founder have rejected the ideology is encouraging, and hopefully in the coming year Hamas will go the way of al Qaeda, ISIL, and other repressively brutal paramilitary organizations who for ugly and tragic reasons are often mistaken for freedom fighters. And then you’re next in the crosshairs, Hezbollah.

– JVW

11/28/2023

Sports Illustrated Caught Using Artificial Intelligence Bots to Generate Content

Filed under: General — JVW @ 7:16 am



[guest post by JVW]

An amazing story published Monday morning on the website Futurism calls to account the historically-venerable but increasingly-tiresome magazine Sports Illustrated for deceiving the public:

There was nothing in Drew Ortiz’s author biography at Sports Illustrated to suggest that he was anything other than human.

“Drew has spent much of his life outdoors, and is excited to guide you through his never-ending list of the best products to keep you from falling to the perils of nature,” it read. “Nowadays, there is rarely a weekend that goes by where Drew isn’t out camping, hiking, or just back on his parents’ farm.”

The only problem? Outside of Sports Illustrated, Drew Ortiz doesn’t seem to exist. He has no social media presence and no publishing history. And even more strangely, his profile photo on Sports Illustrated is for sale on a website that sells AI-generated headshots, where he’s described as “neutral white young-adult male with short brown hair and blue eyes.”

“Drew Ortiz” is allegedly not the only fake author on the SI website, according to an unnamed source who helped the magazine in its deceptions:

“There’s a lot,” they told us of the fake authors. “I was like, what are they? This is ridiculous. This person does not exist.”

“At the bottom [of the page] there would be a photo of a person and some fake description of them like, ‘oh, John lives in Houston, Texas. He loves yard games and hanging out with his dog, Sam.’ Stuff like that,” they continued. “It’s just crazy.”

Why would SI go to such links to invent ersatz content providers? Apparently because some of the content itself is generated by artificial intelligence:

According to a second person involved in the creation of the Sports Illustrated content who also asked to be kept anonymous, that’s because it’s not just the authors’ headshots that are AI-generated. At least some of the articles themselves, they said, were churned out using AI as well.

“The content is absolutely AI-generated,” the second source said, “no matter how much they say that it’s not.”

After we reached out with questions to the magazine’s publisher, The Arena Group, all the AI-generated authors disappeared from Sports Illustrated’s site without explanation. Our questions received no response.

Sports Illustrated was once the gold standard not only of sports journalism, but of magazine journalism in general. Some of the most celebrated sports writers of the second-half of the Twentieth Century — Dan Jenkins, Jim Murray, Frank Deford, Rick Reilly, Franz Lidz, Gary Smith — were on the SI masthead, and notable literary figures such as William Faulkner, George Plimpton, John Updike, and Kurt Vonnegut, to name but a few, contributed guest pieces. These days, in a world full of sports blogs, 24-hour sports media on television and the Internet, sports podcasts, and numerous other outlets, SI finds itself with a declining circulation and has responded by branching out into new realms including even opening up sports-themed resort hotels in college towns and the Caribbean.

So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that while SI is looking to maintain their brand by diversifying their focus, traditional journalism is being neglected. Thus far, the magazine has not been accused of using AI bots to help create sports reportage or write long-form stories, but it would appear that it has been used to generate product guides and reviews on items for which the magazine receives financial compensation for clicks. And to keep it on the QT, it seems that old fake authors would disappear after a while and new fake authors would come along:

Sometime this summer, for example, Ortiz disappeared from Sports Illustrated’s site entirely, his profile page instead redirecting to that of a “Sora Tanaka.” Again, there’s no online record of a writer by that name — but Tanaka’s profile picture is for sale on the same AI headshot marketplace as Ortiz, where she’s listed as “joyful asian young-adult female with long brown hair and brown eyes.”

“Sora has always been a fitness guru, and loves to try different foods and drinks,” read Tanaka’s bio. “Ms. Tanaka is thrilled to bring her fitness and nutritional expertise to the Product Reviews Team, and promises to bring you nothing but the best of the best.”

[. . .]

It wasn’t just author profiles that the magazine repeatedly replaced. Each time an author was switched out, the posts they supposedly penned would be reattributed to the new persona, with no editor’s note explaining the change in byline.

In the least surprising development of all, when Futurism asked Sports Illustrated about this curious behavior, all of the fake authors and their past articles suddenly disappeared from the SI website, with no explanation as to why nor any reply by SI to Futurism. As the article pointed out, at no point did SI ever appear to append any kind of disclaimer that these product guides and reviews had been generated by third-party providers, let alone by a bot.

And, in the second least-surprising development of all, it turns out that SI is not the only Arena Group holding to use AI bot-generated content. Futurism reports that this phenomenon of never heard of before writers suddenly appearing, writing for a short period of time, then being scrubbed from the site is common at TheStreet, a financial publication founded by CNBC’s Jim Cramer which the Arena Group purchased four years ago. And the editorial directors there are even sloppier than those at Sports Illustrated:

Sometimes TheStreet’s efforts to remove the fake writers can be sloppy. On its review section’s title page, for instance, the site still proudly flaunts the expertise of AI-generated contributors who have since been deleted, linking to writer profiles it describes as ranging “from stay-at-home dads to computer and information analysts.” This team, the site continues, “is comprised of a well-rounded group of people who bring varying backgrounds and experiences to the table.”

People? We’re not so sure.

The “stay-at-home dad” linked in that sentence above, for instance, is a so-called Domino Abrams — “a pro at home cleaning and maintenance,” at least until he was expunged from the site — whose profile picture can again be found on that same site that sells AI-generated headshots.

Or look at “Denise McNamara,” the “information analyst” that TheStreet boasted about — “her extensive personal experience with electronics allows her to share her findings with others online” — whose profile picture is once again listed on the same AI headshot marketplace. Or “Nicole Merrifield,” an alleged “first grade teacher” who “loves helping people,” but whose profile is again from that AI headshot site. (At some point this year, Abrams, McNamara, and Merrifield were replaced by bylines whose profile pictures aren’t for sale on the AI headshot site.)

As with Sports Illustrated, it’s not only the fake biographies that are galling; it’s also the utterly insipid and haphazard bot prose:

This article about personal finance by the AI-generated Merrifield, for example, starts off with the sweeping libertarian claim that “your financial status translates to your value in society.”

After that bold premise, the article explains that “people with strong financial status are revered and given special advantages everywhere around the world,” and launches into a numbered list of how you can “improve your finance status” for yourself. Each number on what should be a five-point list, though, is just number one. Mistakes happen, but we can’t imagine that anyone who can’t count to five would give stellar financial advice.

In fairness, the Arena Group has in other circumstances been open about their use of artificial intelligence. Back in February, when the company first announced that they would be using AI as a way to pitch story ideas to journalists and to create a small amounts of content, CEO Ross Levinsohn insisted that there would be ethical limits on how the emerging technology would be used, which would fall well short of using AI bots to generate entire stories. Clearly the Arena Group has failed in that endeavor, as have other web-heavy outlets such as CNET and Bankrate, both owned by Red Ventures; Gizmodo and The A.V. Club both owned by G/O Media; and the infamously horrid BuzzFeed, all of whom have failed to keep their pompous promises to use AI to sharpen content, not to generate it. Even more traditional publishing outfits like Gannett Company, publishers of USA Today and hundreds of local newspapers have been caught publishing AI-written garbage content instead of giving the job to real reporters who are trained by our nation’s finest journalism schools to produce human-generated garbage content.

Futurism sums up the problem with news outlets trying to pass off this sort of nonsense without at least disclosing the source to the readers:

Needless to say, neither fake authors who are suddenly replaced with different names nor deplorable-quality AI-generated content with no disclosure amount to anything resembling good journalism, and to see it published by a once-iconic magazine like Sports Illustrated is disheartening. Bylines exist for a reason: they give credit where it’s due, and just as importantly, they let readers hold writers accountable.

The undisclosed AI content is a direct affront to the fabric of media ethics, in other words, not to mention a perfect recipe for eroding reader trust. And at the end of the day, it’s just remarkably irresponsible behavior that we shouldn’t see anywhere — let alone normalized by a high-visibility publisher.

This sort of mess is another thing to remember next time some blowhard journalist tries to lecture the public about how his industry is the gatekeeper of democracy or is run by the highest ethical standards imaginable. At least a whorehouse can usually be counted upon for quality piano playing.

[UPDATE]
The Arena Group, via SI’s Twitter account, assures us that this is an issue with a third-party supplier who will no longer be retained. Again SI, as noted above, according to Futurism, never disclosed on their site that these product reviews and other licensed content came from a third party.

– JVW

Washington Post: Stenographer to Terrorists

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 6:54 am



Lotta stupidity out there, but this one still stands out. From the Washington Post two days ago, we get a story about the internal conflicts in the Biden administration over Gaza. Reading the article, I get the impression the conflict is between Biden, who is fairly staunchly pro-Israel, and a bunch of snot-nosed staffers. Anyway, in this ostensibly straight news article, one passage stands out:

The previously unreported meeting of officials underscores how Biden’s handling of what is arguably the biggest foreign policy crisis of his presidency is dividing a White House that has prided itself on running a disciplined and united operation. The Israel-Gaza war has roiled the administration more than any other issue in Biden’s first three years in office, according to numerous aides and allies inside and outside the White House, as staffers agonize over their positions on highly emotional issues.

Adding to the sensitivity, the unwavering embrace of Israel that many staffers find upsetting stems in large part from Biden’s personal lifelong attachment to the Jewish state, aides said. Biden often cites his 1973 meeting with Prime Minister Golda Meir as a seminal event that crystallized his view of Israel as critical for Jewish survival.

At the time, Israel was 25 years old, a left-leaning nation and a military underdog, struggling to find its way in the aftermath of the Holocaust. Now Israel is a military powerhouse led by a far-right coalition, and the Biden administration has become identified with a military campaign that has killed more than 13,000 Palestinians, displaced hundreds of thousands of others, created a humanitarian disaster and damaged America’s moral authority in much of the world.

First of all, the insistence on playing stenographer to a terror organization by uncritically reporting their undoubtedly inflated casualty figures is bad enough. After all, this is the same terror organization whose health ministry appendage told the world that nearly 500 people were killed by an Israeli air strike that turned out to be a misfired Palestinian rocket that caused a crater to a parking lot. Even Human Rights Watch, which initially uncritically joined every chump sucka media outlet on Earth in repeating the claims, now says in not-so-many words that it was BS:

At 6:59 p.m. that day, a type of munition that Human Rights Watch has not been able to conclusively identify hit a paved area inside the hospital compound, between a parking lot and a landscaped area where many civilians congregated to seek safety from Israeli strikes. The Ministry of Health in Gaza reported that 471 people were killed and 342 injured. Human Rights Watch was unable to corroborate the count, which is significantly higher than other estimates, displays an unusually high killed-to-injured ratio, and appears out of proportion with the damage visible on site.

But the problem here goes beyond merely repeating unverified and unverifiable casualty figures. The real problem here is that we are told, as a matter of straight news, that the Biden administration’s response “damaged America’s moral authority in much of the world.”

Apparently, Israel is just supposed to sit there and take it. And if they don’t, not only are they the Real Monsters, but anyone who helps them has lost their moral authority.

I mean it’s just a fact, right? As reported by an outlet that deals only in facts.

11/27/2023

Constitutional Vanguard: DARVO: The “Real Victims” and the Suckers Who Fall for Their Con

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:37 am



My latest Substack newsletter is out, and discusses the popularity and increasing effectiveness of DARVO: the technique of denying, attacking, and reversing the victim and offender. It’s a technique that seems to be working on extremists on both sides of the aisle. I explore some examples and discuss why it seems to be working so well. The piece is about 7,500 words: about 3,700 words for free, and 3,800 words for the paid subscribers. I’ll give you an excerpt from the free section in a moment–but first, some context. One of the examples of DARVO I cite in the piece is the example of people ripping down posters of Jewish hostages kidnapped by Hamas. Who are the victims? Under the principles of DARVO, the victims are not the innocent hostages, but rather the anti-Semitic cretins ripping down the posters. Starting to see how DARVO works?

The New York Times, of course, managed to find a couple of Jewish guys in New York who oppose Zionism and see ripping down the posters as some kind of noble act. One of them, one Miles Grant, complains that the posters don’t provide “context” in the form of a long history of the conflict. Given his point of view, I observe, he obviously wants this history to be quite one-sided:

Somehow, I don’t think this fellow would be satisfied with a history discussing Israel as the ancestral Jewish homeland, from which they were forcibly removed by the Romans. He doesn’t want a history that points out that after the Ottoman Empire lost control of the area after being on the losing side of a world war (pro tip: if you’re going to fight in a world war, try to be on the winning side), the victors in the war declared an intention to provide a homeland for Jews who had been oppressed and without a homeland for thousands of years. Then, after a second world war in which a European country tried to exterminate every last Jew on earth—and was surprisingly successful, killing six million of them—the victor in both world wars turned the matter over to the countries of the world at large, which offered a home to both the Jews who had just been the target of a genocide, and to the Arabs. The Jews accepted the deal. The Arabs rejected it, and have waged war on Israel ever since, starting from the day Israel declared independence.

Is that the history you want included on the posters, Miles Grant? Didn’t think so.

Ultimately, this cretin Miles Grant wants to devalue any attention paid to innocent kidnapping victims, because it does not include his own idiosyncratic view of the behavior of other members of their group. It’s like ripping down a poster of a missing dog, because the poster does not also tell the world how other dogs generally suck, what with their ripping up flower beds and barking at all hours of the night. WHERE IS THE BALANCE?!?!11!!?!

And from the section for paid subscribers, I discuss DARVO from the right, as employed by Donald Trump (natch) and Russia. I also discuss why it seems to be so effective. Excerpt:

Reverse victim and offender: We have already discussed at length how Trump plays the victim when he is the actual wrongdoer. But how does he do this so effectively?

If you examine the examples in this piece of reversing victims and offenders, the common thread is an unreasoning fanaticism on the part of people who easily view an evildoer as the One Who Has Been Wronged. How do people reach that state of fanaticism? I have discussed the phenomenon before, in a Substack newsletter titled Audience Capture and Group Polarization: A Toxic Mix. Group polarization in particular explains how people of like minds, once they have connected with one another and begun to discuss politically charged topics, tend to gravitate towards a consensus view that is even more radical than the most extreme views previously held by any one individual in the group:

Read the piece here. Subscribe here.

11/26/2023

Closing Out Thanksgiving Weekend

Filed under: General — JVW @ 10:09 am



[guest post by JVW]

I trust that everyone had a peaceful and relaxing Thanksgiving Weekend, even if you chose to partake in crazy Black Friday sales or even if your football team let you down yet again. Because this is the Lord’s Day, the final Sunday in ordinary time (in the Roman rite) before we move into Advent, and because today marks the 234th anniversary of the first Thanksgiving declared for the new United States of America by President George Washington, I thought it would be fitting to recognize his Thanksgiving Proclamation for November 26, 1789.

As we’ve discussed before, our first President was a man of faith, but at the same time he was not particularly demonstrative in his piety. Yet throughout the Revolutionary War, General Washington and the Continental Congress understood the propriety — nay, necessity — of extending prayers of gratitude while continuing to ask the Almighty for the continued good fortune of the Glorious Cause. As such, several days of thanksgiving were declared during the war years, most notably the very first one in the new nation which was declared in the aftermath of the surprising Continental victory at the Battle(s) of Saratoga and then celebrated on December 18, 1777. Once the war was won and the new nation sought to form a more perfect Union, promote domestic Tranquility, and secure the Blessings of Liberty, our first President continued to popularize the idea of offering a day of thanks and supplication. And so, on the third day of October, barely five months into the first year of his Presidency, George Washington issued this proclamation:

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor– and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be– That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks– for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation– for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war– for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed– for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted– for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

and also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions– to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually– to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed– to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord– To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us– and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.

Go: Washington

Here’s wishing everyone a blessed and peaceful conclusion to a difficult year, and good tidings for 2024.

– JVW

11/24/2023

Weekend Open Thread

Filed under: General — Dana @ 12:04 pm



[guest post by Dana]

This is just a quick, fresh open thread. In light of two dozen Hamas-held hostages being released this morning, while many more are still being held, I’m just going to say that this Thanksgiving I have been specifically thankful for my peaceful little corner of the world where I don’t live in fear of terrorist organizations like Hamas, and terrorist states like Russia barbarically torturing and killing innocent citizens, kidnapping children, and taking hostages as they unleash brutal wars. And although I don’t know why it is, I am just so very grateful for that which I have been gifted.

Happy Thanksgiving.

–Dana

11/22/2023

Calvin Coolidge on Thanksgiving

Filed under: General — JVW @ 5:27 pm



[guest post by JVW]

Since my earlier post today was such a downer, I thought it advisable to transition into the holiday with a more upbeat message. In honor of the centenary of Calvin Coolidge becoming President, here is the Thanksgiving proclamation from his second Thanksgiving in office, some ninety-nine years ago:

We approach that season of the year when it has been the custom for the American people to give thanks for the good fortune which the bounty of Providence, through the generosity of nature, has visited upon them. It is altogether a good custom. It has the sanction of antiquity and the approbation of our religious convictions. In acknowledging the receipt of Divine favor, in contemplating the blessings which have been bestowed upon us, we shall reveal the spiritual strength of the nation.

The year has been marked by a continuation of peace whereby our country has entered into a relationship of better understanding with all the other nations of the earth. Ways have been revealed to us by which we could perform very great service through the giving of friendly counsel, through the extension of financial assistance, and through the exercise of a spirit of neighborly kindliness to less favored peoples. We should give thanks for the power which has been given into our keeping, with which we have been able to render these services to the rest of mankind.

At home we have continually had an improving state of the public health. The production of our industries has been large and our harvests have been bountiful. We have been remarkably free from disorder and remarkably successful in all those pursuits which flourish during a state of domestic peace. An abundant prosperity has overspread the land. We shall do well to accept all these favors and bounties with a becoming humility, and dedicate them to the service of the righteous cause of the Giver of all good and perfect gifts. As the nation has prospered let all the people show that they are worthy to prosper by rededicating America to the service of God and man.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Calvin Coolidge, President of the United States of America, hereby proclaim and fix Thursday, the twenty-seventh day of November, as a day for National Thanksgiving. I recommend that the people gather in their places of worship, and at the family altars, and offer up their thanks for the goodness which has been shown to them in such a multitude of ways. Especially I urge them to supplicate the Throne of Grace that they may gather strength from their tribulations, that they may gain humility from their victories, that they may bear without complaining the burdens that shall be placed upon them, and that they may be increasingly worthy in all ways of the blessings that shall come to them.

By the fall of 1924, the First World War was more than half a decade in the past. The Great Influenza pandemic, which worldwide had killed at least 20 million and as many perhaps as 100 million, had also been dormant for close to five years. Despite a mild recession, the U.S. economy was in the midst of the massive expansion as it climbed out of the post-War era and into the Roaring Twenties. President Coolidge’s proclamation had been issued on November 5, one day after he and Vice-President Charles Dawes had been reelected in a thirty-five state landslide over Democrat John Davis and Progressive Robert M. La Follette, and had received 54% of the popular vote. In the same election, the GOP picked up twenty-two House seats and two Senate seats, so President Coolidge likely felt that the public by and large approved of his performance.

Clearly those times were far more tranquil than our own, but I hope all Americans can put aside our differences for at least a day and take stock of how lucky we are to live in this big, bountiful, generous, but imperfect nation. Here’s wishing everyone a very happy Thanksgiving, and a joyful start to the holiday season.

– JVW

Will They Never Learn?

Filed under: General — JVW @ 10:21 am



[guest post by JVW]

This may not be too surprising, but it certainly is infuriating. From Dan McLaughlin at NRO:

[. . .] The RealClearPolitics poll average currently shows [President Biden’s] approval on the economy at 38.2 percent, with 59.2 percent disapproving. You don’t need an advanced degree in mathematics to grasp how bad that is. Biden’s short-lived effort to embrace “Bidenomics” as a label for this economy was such a disaster that even most Democrats have stopped trying to spin this.

The most glaring economic misstep of Biden’s presidency was pouring additional trillions of dollars into the economy — and planning even more than that — at a time when post-Covid supply shortages and pent-up demand were already generating inflationary pressures around the world. So, what are progressives urging Biden to do? More unsustainable government spending[.]

The link is to a Politico piece which explains that left-wing groups are urging the President to make an expansion of Social Security for the poor into a centerpiece of his 2024 reelection campaign. This is positioned by the author of the piece, one Adam Cancryn, as a natural follow-up to President Biden’s success in getting House Republicans to forswear any cuts in entitlement programs, even as our annual deficit has nearly doubled over the past year. Progressives promise the President that this plan will be massively popular among senior citizens, a key demographic that has trended Republican in past Presidential elections. The plan would be a rehashing of the Biden Campaign’s 2020 pledge to expand Social Security for the lowest-income recipients and (allegedly) pay for it by raising taxes on people making more than $400,000 per year, which was abandoned in the face of narrow Democrat majorities in Congress.

Left unsaid by the author, who clearly wants to focus on the political aspect of the program and how it will affect next year’s elections, is whether a nation that is on its way to accumulating $34 trillion in debt is wise to bump up spending on the second-largest item in the entire federal budget. Of course using a tax increase on the wealthiest Americans to (allegedly) pay for increases in spending elsewhere in the budget is nothing new; Democrats have already suggested this expected revenue windfall go towards student loan forgiveness, green initiatives, infrastructure plans, subsidizing health insurance, and a whole raft of social programs favored by the donkey party. As Dan McLaughlin points out, anybody with the least bit of common sense understands that none of these programs will be fully paid for by tax increases, and thus deficit spending is bound to climb. This underfunded program would also have the baleful effect of the government yet again printing money and releasing it into the economy, thereby exacerbating Bidenflation which puts us on the fast track to Bidensolvency.

It could be that the Presidential election of 2024 will ultimately be seen as a quest for the poisoned chalice, with the victor getting to be the poor fool who presides over the next economic collapse in this nation and thus will bear much of the blame (though we all know the media/academic/entertainment cerberus will spin it as primarily a failure of GOP leadership, with Democrats only being assigned a small portion of the fault). So in that case, the logic might go, why not let President Magoo and his Cabinet of Misfits be the ones to steer us into the ditch. I would rather we face — and, radical notion, solve — our problems, but that’s a bit much to ask of a society that has grown fat, pampered, and restless on massive debt.

– JVW

11/17/2023

Weekend Open Thread

Filed under: General — Dana @ 11:41 am



[guest post by Dana]

Let’s go!

First news item

An apt summation :

As I understand it, the pro-Palestinian crowd wants a cease-fire in Gaza, a cease-fire in Ukraine, and a cease-fire everywhere except in front of the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee, where they’ll punch and pepper-spray cops.

So, about last night:

Hundreds of pro-Palestinian protesters clashed with Capitol Police officers outside the Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington, D.C., Wednesday night.

As Democratic politicians and officials attended a campaign reception inside, the protesters began chanting and blocking the entrances and exits to the building, demanding a cease-fire.

Video of the demonstration shows Capitol Police officers struggling to drag protesters, many of whom are wearing “Ceasefire Now” shirts, away from the building. One protester was arrested for punching a cop and six officers were injured in the mayhem.

“Tonight 6 officers were treated for injuries – ranging from minor cuts to being pepper sprayed to being punched. One person has been arrested for assault on an officer. We appreciate our officers who kept these illegal & violent protesters back & protected everyone in the area,” Capitol Police said in a tweet.

Democratic Rep. Debbie Dingell, one of the congressmembers trapped inside the DNC headquarters, told the Detroit News after being unable to leave the building because the exits were blocked:

This rattled me more than January 6th (attack) did. I was scared. Someone is going to get hurt at one of these things. They can get out of control.

Also:

“They crossed the line where they were trapping ingress and egress … and trapping people,” Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) told Axios. “It was disturbing.”

Organizers of the protest blamed the police for reported injuries:

Injuries included being dragged down stairs, hit with police bicycles, pepper sprayed and one individual who is being treated for a concussion…

Law enforcement offered this:

U.S. Capitol Police said officers were keeping back approximately 200 people who were “illegally and violently” protesting outside the DNC building in the area of Canal and Ivy streets in southeast Washington.

“We have handled hundreds of peaceful protests, but last night’s group was not peaceful. The crowd failed to obey our lawful orders to move back from the DNC, where Members of Congress were in the building…When the group moved dumpsters in front of the exits, pepper sprayed our officers and attempted to pick up the bike rack, our teams quickly introduced consequences ― pulling people off the building, pushing them back, and clearing them from the area, so we could safely evacuate the Members and staff.”

Second news item

The White House responds to that Tik Tok video:

There is never a justification for spreading the repugnant, evil, and antisemitic lies that the leader of al Qaeda issued just after committing the worst terrorist attack in American history – highlighting them as his direct motivation for murdering 2,977 innocent Americans.

And no one should ever insult the 2,977 American families still mourning loved ones by associating themselves with the vile words of Osama bin Laden.

Particularly now, at a time of rising antisemitic violence in the world, and just after Hamas terrorists carried out the worst slaughter of the Jewish people since the Holocaust in the name of the same conspiracy theories.

Like President Biden said this year in remembrance of the Americans who lost their lives because of Osama bin Laden, “it’s more important now than ever that we come together” against a “rising tide of hatred and extremism.”

According to the report, Tik Tok is working to take the video down.

Third news item

Not all women and not all rapes are equal:

Prominent human rights campaigners in Israel say the most important women’s organizations within the United Nations have failed to give proper recognition to the massacre and mass rape carried out by Hamas on Oct. 7.

The UN Women statement from Oct. 13, failed to mention any of the atrocities and the U.N.’s Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) talked amorphically about “the gendered dimensions of conflict” without laying out the brutality inflicted on women during the horrific attack.

Yet again, the U.N. demonstrates that it is a moribund organization that plays favorites.

Despite the telling silence by the U.N., international groups joined Israel to send a letter to the international group, which at one time, spoke out forcefully against female victims of Isis, Syria, Ukrainian victims, demanding that rape crimes against Israeli victims be recognized:

About 160 Israeli and international women’s organizations have so far signed another letter, addressed to UN Women: “The terrorists documented their atrocious actions with their phones, and these films show how the terrorists who attacked the music festival raped women whose bodies are covered in blood,” the letter says. “The films taken by the terrorists who attacked the villages near the border show terrorists ripping the clothes off the women hostages, spitting on them, and sexually abusing them. Some of the women who were physically and sexually abused were kidnapped and are now prisoners of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, with no medical treatment or hygiene. The full scope of the sexual abuse of the hostages is not yet fully known and should be fully investigated according to international law.”

For more on this subject, don’t miss Jake Tapper’s detailed, yet grim, report here.

And this says it all for me:

Let me be as clear as I can: If you deny the rape of Israeli women, if you don’t speak out against the sexual assault of Israeli women bc they are Israeli, you are morally bankrupt, you are no feminist, you are no humanitarian, you are no justice seeker. Youre a monster & a fraud.

Fourth news item

Awkward (VP Harris was in the room when the President swooned over Gov. Newsom):

President Biden fueled speculation Wednesday of California Governor Gavin Newsom’s presidential plans by telling a packed room at the Asian Pacific Economic Conference (APEC) summit that the governor could have any job he wants — even the presidency.

“I want to talk about Gov. Newsom. Want to thank him. He’s been one hell of a governor, man. Matter of fact, he could be anything he wants. He could have the job I’m looking for,” Biden said, getting laughter from the room in response.

Newsom and Harris have been described as “frenemies”. It should also be noted that the report states that “54% of Democrats polled say they want another Democrat to challenge Biden in the next election, and 28% of those surveyed said they don’t want a new candidate for their party’s 2024 nomination.”

Also, about that shameful welcome at APEC:

Fifth news item

But of course:

A New York appeals court judge Thursday paused gag orders on Donald Trump and his lawyers that had prevented them from commenting on court staff in the civil fraud trial of the former president…

About an hour after the New York gag orders were paused, Jason Miller, a senior adviser to Trump, posted on social media attacking Allison Greenfield, the clerk, calling her a “Democrat Operative.”

Later, shortly before 7 p.m., Trump himself seized on the pause by posting a message on his Truth Social platform in which he called Greenfield “politically biased” and “out of control.”

Sixth news item

Oh:

The House Select Committee on the People’s Republic of China (PRC) announced on Wednesday that the owner of an illegal California biolab allegedly has close ties to the Chinese government.

According to a report shared by the House Select Committee on the PRC, Jia Bei Zhu, 62, is a wanted fugitive from Canada and a PRC citizen.

Authorities said that Zhu had previously stolen millions of dollars of intellectual property from American companies and was part of an ongoing transnational criminal enterprise with ties to the PRC.

As a reminder:

Zhu’s Universal Meditech Inc. lab in Reedley, California first raised eyebrows in December 2022 when Code Enforcement Officer Jesalyn Harper noticed a green garden hose sticking out of a hole at the facility and notified Zhu of the code violation.

Further inspection found that the dingy warehouse contained expensive laboratory equipment, manufacturing devices, and what appeared to be medical-grade freezers…several workers in lab coats who told her that they were PRC nationals… some of the freezers and containment units had glass doors…Inside, she saw thousands of vials of biological substances. Many were unlabeled. Others were labeled in Mandarin or in code.

Read the whole thing.

Seventh news item

UCLA faculty members say enough is enough:

A group of over 300 faculty at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) signed a letter calling on the school to condemn protests “crossing the line from protected speech to unlawful incitement” amid the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.

“We were horrified to see Pro-Palestinian rallies on campus in which the massacres by Hamas were celebrated, including explicit calls for violence (including chanting ‘Intifada’ or event advertisements featuring images of weapons/violence),” the letter reads.

“Such celebrations create an atmosphere of fear; one cannot imagine that UCLA will allow for celebrations of the killing of George Floyd, or for celebrations of the Armenian genocide, or the celebrations of the 9/11 attacks,” the letter continues. “It is inconceivable why such celebrations are not denounced by the UCLA leadership, regardless of political views.”

Eighth news item

After announcing it would close its borders with Russia, hilarity ensued:

Kremlin Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov said on Friday that Finland had chosen a path of confrontation and that Russia saw this as a mistake, state media outlet TASS reported.

One can “only express deep regret that the Finnish authorities have taken the path of destroying bilateral relations,” Peskov told reporters…

“Russia has never in modern history threatened Finland, we had no reason for any confrontation. Now they have chosen this path,” he said, adding that this was a “big mistake” in the Kremlin’s view.

Have a good weekend.

–Dana

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