Biography

RWP was born in Manchester, in the north of England, in the late 1950s, so he is very old. He really liked the north of England, which by 1965 was hip and had three TV channels, and where he went to a coed school. His parents, for reasons best known to themselves, then yanked him away, to Belfast and then Dublin, which had one TV channel that started up at 6 pm with the Angelus (Catholic call to prayer). He also had to go to an all boys school, where he realized he really missed girls. This probably let him focus on schoolwork, though, and at age 19, after he had finished college, he set off for America, where he still resides. He has a bachelors degree in biochemistry and a Ph.D. from Harvard in biophysics, and has lived also in Mainz, Germany, Setauket NY, and Richland WA. He currently divides his time between Nebraska, Rosslyn VA, and Florida.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Votes for depraved murderers!

The Lincoln Journal Star, shocking even me, today published a letter from a certain Shakur Abdullah, aka Rodney Stewart.

The delightful Mr. Abdullah was convicted of murder in 1977. He shot one man in the head after a drug deal, and blinded another. Since he brought gasoline with him to the scene to burn the victims' van, it was found to be premeditated. He was originally sentenced to death.

From the Kearney Hub:

On Jan. 25, 1975, Abdullah set up two teenagers who had served as his marijuana suppliers — Thomas Ehlers and Daniel Evans. Abdullah lured Ehlers and Evans to 16th and Boyd Streets, saying he had a buyer who wanted 2 pounds of marijuana. If Ehlers and Evans would supply the marijuana, they would get $600, Abdullah said. Instead of cash, Abdullah came with a handgun and a gas can. After telling them he had the gas can to help start a friend’s car, Abdullah shot Evans and Ehlers. Ehlers was killed. The bullet entered Evans’ skull and exited near his eye socket — leaving him blind in his right eye. Then Abdullah set the fire. Evans felt the heat, scrambled out of his van and rolled in the snow. Police officers and doctors didn’t believe he would make it.
He did 41 years in the slammer, and was released only because SCOTUS required resentencing of murderers who killed someone before they are 18. He was written up 4 times for bad behavior in prison, as well as embarking on a career as a jailhouse lawyer to try to get himself off with manslaughter (yeah, right).

I must say I'm not going to lose sleep if this fine gentleman can't vote. I'm just surprised the LJS couldn't find a letter from a more sympathetic figure, perhaps a mere rapist.

Friday, February 17, 2017

'Obvious dysfunctionality'

I haven't seen this covered by any of our supposedly anti-Trump mainstream media, but the Financial Times is reporting Hayward turned down the National Security Advisors job because of the Trump administration's 'obvious dysfunctionality'.

Sounds like a smart and highly-qualified candidate.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The power of mockery.

You can't change people's deeply held beliefs with facts. That's the finding of a decade of studies, amply documented in Jonathan Haidt's The Righteous Mind. Decades of experience arguing with creationists, climage change deniers, and antivaxxers have taught me the same thing.

And it's gotten worse, not better. I'm not the first person to notice that expression of stupidity you couldn't utter a mere couple of years ago is everywhere in newspaper comment sections, internet fora, even at a UNL frat house. The catalyst, of course, has been Donald Trump, who constantly spouts 'alternative facts', un-American ideas and just plain stupidity. Trump has liberated his fellow stupids.

This creates a problem for civil libertarians. Our doctrine over the last 100 years has been Oliver Wendell Holmes'

If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the processes of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence -- Holmes concurring in Whitney v. California, 274 U.S. 357 (1927).
Of course, if facts make no headway, you can't expose those falsehoods and fallacies -- people for whom they run coutner to their beliefs will simply filter them out, and go search for Alternative News. At the same time, a First Amendment near-absolutist like myself cannot countenance 'enforced silence'. Speech should be legal unless it's defamatory, criminal or creates a clear and present danger of imminent lawless action. So what's a (libertarian) boy to do?

My solution is still more speech; but not rational argument, which won't work. Rather, the remedy is to embarrass or shame those who espouse obnoxious ideas. And mockery can do this, because people hate to be laughed at. Self-righteous lecturing, on the other hand, just annoys them. It sure annoys me. And you can't persuade people with insults.

Trumpkins and creationists and the like need to be incessantly mocked, in public. You won't change their minds, but you will show them that ideas have consequences, and shame them into being a little more careful about what they say. Embrace the snark!

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Tusk says freedom is slavery.

Donald Tusk, EU Preident, went after Donald Trump yesterday, and good for him. But what was far more worrying were Tusk's professed beliefs about European integration.
The disintegration of the European Union will not lead to the restoration of some mythical, full sovereignty of its member states, but to their real and factual dependence on the great superpowers: the United States, Russia and China.
This, of course, is nonsense. The US is not going to levy multibillion dollar taxes on the EU, is not going to ban GMOs, or regulate the names and components of every food. The US doesn't isn't going to regulate the curvature of bananas. It won't limit immigration from other country to other country. We don't even care about most of those things -- they're just instances of Europe oppressing itself.

It is vile to try to justify slavery by arguing freedom is slavery. And it has also been comical ever since 1984.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Who's losing their mind?

Several people recently have suggested my antipathy towards Donald Trump is some sort of mental problem. One particularly charming acquaintance of several years said I should be screened for a brain tumor. Of course, I was as consistently skeptical of Trump throughout the primaries, through the general election, and particularly since he took office. But they think I should get in line.

One thing that gave me solace in the fall was that most conservative and libertarian intellectuals vehemently opposed Trump. Unfortunately, that hasn't lasted, and with the exception of Bill Kristol and George Will, most of them have now jumped on the bandwagon and are manically defending Orange Julius Caesar, usually stretching the truth in the process. He're an example, from a self-described libertarian writer whom I used to admire.

Kim Davis was the clerk in some podunk county of Kentucky, who refused to issue judicially-ordered marriage licenses to gays, citing 'God's authority'. Comparing this to the firing of Sally Yates is just stupid; Yates refused to defend Trump's EO, saying that she wasn't convinced of its legality. In other word, she was doing her job as Attorney General, whose oath of office reads

I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter So help me God.

Note it says 'support and defend the Constitution', not support and defend Donald Trump. So she was fired for having a professional opinion that happened to differ with Trump's. Not quite the same thing at all.

(Edit); here's Harsanyi being schooled by a guy who's both a very good attorney and a real libertarian.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Past as prolog

The last time I had a foreign grad. student afraid of her government, and ours, was during the Tienanmen Sq. crisis. She had already told me the Chinese government used ringer students to track the others; I'm ashamed to say I discounted that as too far-fetched. She was afraid of the Chinese government (and also that the US government would hang her out to dry to curry favor with China. She's now a citizen, full professor in a good medical school, and has at least ten times the funding I have.

Now we're turning away at the border not only students, but foreign nationals who worked for us, at risk of their lives, in countries like Afghanistan.

It is a terrible thing to be America's enemy, but worse to be our friend.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Not if it has a face...

I try to avoid arguing issues I don't care about, with people who care a great deal. But I recently let myself get dragged into a Twitter flame-war with catholics/fundamentalists (one of them posted on my timeline that science shows human life begins at conception, which is a load of ballocks; when life begins is a philosopical question, not a scientific one.)

So here's my position. I'm pro-choice, but in a limited way. I think first trimester abortions should be entirely legal, but later should be restricted to cases of incest or rape or major fetal abnormality.

Why? That question was answered by my younger daughter. She's a vegetarian, but wasn't at one point a strict vegetarian. I asked he how she decided she can eat something. She said "if it doesn't have a face".

That may seem a very superficial criterion. But it's not. If you spend any time in the preemie ward, you see lots of kids born long before 9 months. A child born at 22 weeks is (barely) viable, but more importantly for my point, looks like a baby. Meanwhile, at the other end a cell or a fertilized zygote doesn't look in the least like a child. What leads on to protect one and not the other is that we innately recognize preemies as human; and humans are recognized by their faces. We're trying to avoid killing babies that we recognize as unambiguously human beings.

Of course, this position satisfies neither of the polarized extremes. That's probably in its favor.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Broken clock

Hate to say it, but Trump's weekend comments, which stunned Europe, were right on. Merkel, apparently out of bleeding-heart leftism most of us didn't suspect she had, has essentially ruined her legacy with her handling of the migrant crisis. And it is vital that continental European countries, especially Germany, spend more of their budget on NATO. You don't have to be a Trumpkin to be irritated by the attitude that if they're invaded by Russia, the US will step in to save their sorry asses. And as for the pathetic response that only European unity will allow them to resist Trump, please! Europe is united only as long as it doesn't cost France any money.

Who knew having an ignorant stupid lying braggart as president could have an up side?

From the Londox Times.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Quantum of solace

Someone quipped yesterday that it was worrying Trump's sanest-sounding nominee has the nickname 'Mad Dog'.

Some of the nominees are competent -- e.g. Mad Dog Mattis -- and some clearly not (Ben Carson for HUD seems like Trump finding a black guy to fill what has often in the past been a black position). About some of them it's too early to say. And Rex Tillerson is way too close with Russia to be trusted. But all of them are more competent than the Tweeter in Chief. It's possible, even likely, that Trump will delegate almost all executive responsibilities to his cabinet, which would be a good thing. Granted, it would be better to have an actual chief executive in charge, but the idea of Trump actually directing policy is frightening.

Trump may well stick to tweeting and corruptly using his office to enrich himself and his family. Which is probably the best possible outcome; furthermore, it's entirely plausible the corruption will stink too much even for the GOP, and he'll be impeached.

And there's also the possibility, given his lifestyle and fatness, of a major heart attack.