Googling Censorship

So, this story is out, and tell me why I’m not surprised. I noticed it from John Hinderaker at PowerLine, and he linked on to PJ Media, which has a long story by Paula Boyard up. I suspect it going to be a long series by many of us on this matter. It’s both frightening and interesting. Here’s some of it.

Google revealed in a blog post that it is now using machine learning to document “hate crimes and events” in America. They’ve partnered with liberal groups like ProPublica, BuzzFeed News, and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) to make information about “hate events” easily accessible to journalists. And now, there are troubling signs that this tool could be used to ferret out writers and websites that run afoul of the progressive orthodoxy.

In the announcement, Simon Rogers, data editor of Google News Labs, wrote:

Now, with ProPublica, we are launching a new machine learning tool to help journalists covering hate news leverage this data in their reporting.

The Documenting Hate News Index — built by the Google News Lab, data visualization studio Pitch Interactive and ProPublica — takes a raw feed of Google News articles from the past six months and uses the Google Cloud Natural Language API to create a visual tool to help reporters find news happening across the country. It’s a constantly-updating snapshot of data from this year, one which is valuable as a starting point to reporting on this area of news.

The Documenting Hate project launched in response to the lack of national data on hate crimes. While the FBI is required by law to collect data about hate crimes, the data is incomplete because local jurisdictions aren’t required to report incidents up to the federal government.

All of which underlines the value of the Documenting Hate Project, which is powered by a number of different news organisations and journalists who collect and verify reports of hate crimes and events. Documenting Hate is informed by both reports from members of the public and raw Google News data of stories from across the nation.

On the surface, this looks rather innocuous. It’s presented by Google as an attempt to create a database of hate crimes — information that should be available with a quick Google search, it should be noted. But a quick glance at the list of partners for this project should raise some red flags:

The  ProPublica-led coalition includes  The Google News Lab,  Univision News, the  New York Times,  WNYC,  BuzzFeed News,  First DraftMeedan,  New America Media,  The Root,  Latino USA,  The Advocate100 Days in Appalachia and  Ushahidi. The coalition is also working with civil-rights groups such as the  Southern Poverty Law Center, and schools such as the  University of Miami School of Communications.

ProPublica poses as a middle-of-the-road non-profit journalistic operation, but in reality, it’s funded by a stable of uber-liberal donors, including George Soros’s Open Society Foundations and Herb and Marion Sandler, billionaire former mortgage bankers whose Golden West Financial Corp. allegedly targeted subprime borrowers with “pick-a-pay” mortgages that led to toxic assets that were blamed for the collapse of Wachovia. The Southern Poverty Law Center, of course, is infamous for targeting legitimate conservatives groups, branding them as “hate groups” because they refuse to walk in lockstep with the progressive agenda. And it goes with out saying that The New York Times and BuzzFeed News lean left.

A perusal of the raw data that’s been compiled thus far on hate stories shows articles from a wide array of center-right sites, including The Daily Caller, Breitbart News, The Washington Times, National Review, and the Washington Examiner. It also includes many articles from liberal sites like BuzzFeed News and The New York TimesOne story from PJ Media’s Bridget Johnson is included in the list. It’s a report about a Sikh ad campaign aimed at reducing hate crimes against members of their faith community. Many of the articles are simply reports about alleged hate crimes from sources running the gamut of the political spectrum.

ProPublica vows to diligently track “hate incidents” in the coming months. “Everyday people — not just avowed ‘white nationalists’ — intimidate, harass, humiliate and even harm their fellow Americans because of the color of their skin, how they worship or who they love.” [Emphasis added] Note that they’re not just focusing on hate “crimes.”

It’s easy enough to figure out the direction of this project by taking it for a test drive. A search for “Scalise” returned four results, one of which didn’t even mention Steve Scalise, the congressman who was shot by a crazed leftist in June. A search for “Trump” during the same time period yielded more than 200 results. A search of the raw data resulted in 1178 hits for Trump and not a single mention of Scalise.

Note that Google, which recently fired an employee for expressing his counter-progressive opinions, thinks this information could be used to “help journalists covering hate news leverage this data in their reporting.” What do they mean by “leverage this data”? They don’t say, but an email sent to several conservative writers by a ProPublica reporter may give us some indication. Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer along with some others received this from ProPublica “reporter” Lauren Kirchner:

I am a reporter at ProPublica, a nonprofit investigative newsroom in New York. I am contacting you to let you know that we are including your website in a list of sites that have been designated as hate or extremist by the American Defamation League or the Southern Poverty Law Center. We have identified all the tech platforms that are supporting websites on the ADL and SPLC lists.

We would like to ask you a few questions:

1) Do you disagree with the designation of your website as hate or extremist? Why?

2) We identified several tech companies on your website: PayPal, Amazon, Newsmax, and Revcontent. Can you confirm that you receive funds from your relationship with those tech companies? How would the loss of those funds affect your operations, and how would you be able to replace them?

3) Have you been shut down by other tech companies for being an alleged hate or extremist web site? Which companies?

4) Many people opposed to sites like yours are currently pressuring tech companies to cease their relationships with them – what is your view of this campaign? Why?

In other words, nice website you’ve got there. It would be a shame if anything happened to it.

There is an update to that story dated August 19th.

ProPublica came out today with the expected hit piece on Robert Spencer, Jihad Watch, and others they disagree with, repeating the Southern Poverty Law Center’s smears and legitimizing the dishonest group’s hate list. In the article titled “Despite Disavowals, Leading Tech Companies Help Extremist Sites Monetize Hate,” Lauren Kirchner along with two fellow journalistsactivists documented the recent blacklisting of “hate websites” by tech companies and, although they didn’t come right out and say it, strongly implied that this should be the norm. They accept without question the hate designations bestowed by the SPCL and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). The article leaves no doubt that ProPublica — which is working with Google, remember — wants to see more blacklisting. They will not rest until every one of the names on SPLC’s dubious 900-member hate list is purged from the Internet. Make no mistake. They are marshaling forces to pressure advertisers and tech providers to take conservative sites down. Just take a look at this list of Christian groups that made the listbecause they haven’t jumped on the LGBTQ bandwagon. […]

Do read it all at Is Google Working with Liberal Groups to Snuff Out Conservative Websites?

In a related matter, one of the reasons, beyond simple convenience, that I’ve stayed all these years with WordPress.com is their often pledged word, “WordPress and its parent company Automatic do not censor, period.” I’ve always found that to be true. But perhaps that just changed as well. From Fast Company.

“Fascist” is often an epithet used to demean an opponent, but for alt-right organization Vanguard America, it’s a badge of honor. As of last night, the group lacks a website where it can proclaim that message. Going to its URL bloodandsoil.org leads to a message from site host WordPress that reads, “This blog has been archived or suspended in accordance with our Terms of Service.”

That’s somewhat surprising. A few months ago, I asked WordPress about its hosting of Vanguard America, United Dixie White Knights of the KKK, and several other far-right organizations for a story about hate sites and their tech providers. The stock answer was that WordPress and its parent company Automatic do not censor, period.

Vanguard America’s website as of last night.

Now mind, I’ve never been to that website, for me they are beyond the pale. But freedom of speech means the freedom to offend. And they have just as much right to speak as I do, or for that matter as <insert violent left-wing organization here> does.Gives me a sort of chilly feeling and reminds me that it is about time to back up the website again, out of reach of all the hypocrites.

 

Eclipse Day

Yep, today is the big day. For me, it’s the second time in my life that I get to see (if it’s not cloudy) a total solar eclipse. I’m not overwhelmingly excited, but it is very interesting, and yes, I do have my glasses ready! 🙂

Here’s a bit about the legends surrounding the events from around the world, from National Geographic. Enjoy – And don’t forget your glasses, how will you read NEO if you’re blind, after all!

video.nationalgeographic.com/video/101-videos/solar-eclipse-101

Viking sky wolves, Korean fire dogs, and African versions of celestial reconciliation—these are only some of the many ways people around the world, and through the ages, have sought to explain solar eclipses.

People in equatorial Africa will be treated to a rare view of a total solar eclipse this Sunday, November 3. Those living on the eastern North American coast, northern South America, southern Europe, or the Middle East, will get to see a partial solar eclipse.

“If you do a worldwide survey of eclipse lore, the theme that constantly appears, with few exceptions, is it’s always a disruption of the established order,” said E. C. Krupp, director of the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, California. That’s true of both solar and lunar eclipses.

Join Nat Geo and Airbnb #LiveFrom a geodesic dome on August 20 to talk to astrophysicist Jedidah Isler and photographer Babak Tafreshi about the science behind the upcoming total solar eclipse.

“People depend on the sun’s movement,” Krupp said. “[It’s] regular, dependable, you can’t tamper with it. And then, all of a sudden, Shakespearean tragedy arrives and time is out of joint. The sun and moon do something that they shouldn’t be doing.”

What that disruption means depends on the culture, and not everyone views an eclipse as a bad thing, said Jarita Holbrook, a cultural astronomer at the University of the Western Cape in Bellville, South Africa.

Some see it as a time of terror, while others look at a solar eclipse as part of the natural order that deserves respect, or as a time of reflection and reconciliation. (Related: “Pictures: Solar Eclipse Creates Ring of Fire.”)

SWALLOWING FIRE

Many cultures explain eclipses, both solar and lunar, as a time when demons or animals consume the sun or the moon, said Krupp.

“The Vikings saw a pair of sky wolves chasing the sun or the moon,” said the Griffith Observatory astronomer. When one of the wolves caught either of the shining orbs, an eclipse would result. (Read “Vikings and Native Americans” in National Geographic magazine.)

“In Vietnam, a frog or a toad [eats] the moon or the sun,” Krupp added, while people of the Kwakiutl tribe on the western coast of Canada believe that the mouth of heaven consumes the sun or the moon during an eclipse.

In fact, the earliest word for eclipse in Chinese, shih, means “to eat,” he said.

Keep reading at Solar Eclipse Myths From Around the World

Eudaimonia

While reading that nonsense from Lindy about being an astronaut the other day, something struck me. Maybe that’s the problem. Maybe the Millenials are simply spending far too much time in their parent’s basement. I mean, how long can you stay in your room before you go mad? Yes, electronics would make it better less horrible, but still.

I mean that’s what we call cabin fever, after a blizzard within a day or so, you’ll willingly shovel wet snowdrifts 10 feet high to get out of your house. Why? Usually, no reason except you’re down to you last gallon of milk for the two of you.

Look, I like my own company, and I spend a good deal of time interacting with others on line, and still if I don’t get out and around every day for a while, I get cranky. I like to think I’d be happy in a cabin in the mountains without all you idiots, and I would, for about five hours. 🙂 We all need people, preferably in person, but if they are good ones, on line can do, kind of, sort of. In fact, that’s why I have a lunatic respect for submariners (Hi Mac!). How anybody can volunteer to spend 60 days with only the 100 or so crazy guys on the crew, no matter how busy you are, I don’t understand. 😉

Quite a while back, Charlie Gilkey wrote an article on what Aristotle called  Eudaimonia, which he translated as ‘flourishing’. That translation works for our purposes, and I don’t do Greek, so we’ll agree. In it, he says…

  1. We are physical beings (because we are animals). As physical beings, we require nourishment, exercise, rest, and all the other things that it takes to keep our bodies functioning properly.
  2. We are emotional beings (because we are animals). What separates animals from plants, according to Aristotle, is that animals have wants, desires, urges, and reactions. We perceive something in the world that we want and we have the power of volition to get it; likewise, we have the power to avoid the things we don’t want. For humans, these wants can get pretty complex, but at rock bottom we all have (emotional) needs and wants that spring from rather basic sources.
  3. We are social beings (because humans live in groups). We must live and function in particular societies. “No man is an island,” and we are the type of being that does well only in social settings. Our social nature stacks on top of our emotional nature, such that we have wants and needs that we would not have were we not social creatures. For example, if we were the type of creature that flourished as hermits, the need for trust and friendly cooperation would not be nearly so pressing.
  4. We are rational beings. To the Greeks – and, let’s be honest, most cultures, including our own contemporary one – what made humans human was our rationality. We are creative, expressive, knowledge-seeking, and able to obey reason. We might not always obey reason and we may sometimes not want to exercise our minds, but a large part of our existence relates to our being rational animals.

That’s not all inclusive, at least to me, but he’s on to something here, I think. We do have to keep the machine maintained, decent food, the joints working, some fresh air all that. When I was a kid, there was that fad for fallout shelters, even as a kid (and a pretty young one) I wasn’t sure it was worthwhile if I was going to have to live in essentially a semi trailer for 6 months to a year. That’s still my trouble with some of the preppers. That just isn’t reasonable for human beings, unless you know it’s for a limited time, and the world will be out there waiting for you.

Well, it seems lately that we don’t need much encouragement to be emotional, or even overemotional. It’s important to note, but it seems to me that balance is lacking lately.

We can live in isolation, but I question how well. Perhaps the ones who did it best were the early Christian ascetics, and before all that long that had grown into monasticism, because, I’d guess, the ascetics found that God, for all his virtues, wasn’t very good day-to-day company. And that’s why holing up in Mom’s basement rarely works out well.

This to me seems the yang to emotions ying. Without rationality, we are simply animals, reason is what sets us apart. It has to be in balance, or we end up depraved (and deprived).

I said above that he was not all inclusive, and it’s not. That’s not a major fault if one is talking about Aristotle, because the source is, what is missing is God. But it is interesting, as Christians, we often refer to God as the Logos, which is also Greek, which in many ways is the original language of Christianity. It translates correctly as two things. Love, our emotional commitment to others, and as Reason, our commitment to rationality. Frankly, that is where Atheism and Objectivism fail, human beings are innately emotional, all of us, and it must be taken into account Both are gifts of God to humanity.

Of course, it’s up to us to use those gifts for good, and we could do better.

C. S. Lewis on Democratic Education

A while back, Daniel Lattier published an article at Intellectual Takeout. In it, he calls to our mind a 1944 essay from C.S. Lewis called ‘Democratic Education’. It is very relevant to what we see these days in education.

“Democratic education, says Aristotle, ought to mean, not the education which democrats like, but the education which will preserve democracy. Until we have realized that the two things do not necessarily go together we cannot think clearly about education.

For example, an education which gave the able and diligent boys no advantage over the stupid and idle ones, would be in one sense democratic. It would be egalitarian and democrats like equality. The caucus race in Alice in Wonderland, where all the competitors won and all got prizes, was a ‘democratic’ race: like the Garter it tolerated no nonsense about merit. Such total egalitarianism in education has not yet been openly recommended, but a movement in that direction begins to appear. It can be seen in the growing demand that subjects which some boys do very much better than others should not be compulsory. Yesterday it was Latin — today, as I see from a letter in one of the papers, it is Mathematics. Both these subjects give an ‘unfair advantage’ to boys of a certain type. To abolish that advantage is therefore in one sense democratic.

But of course there is no reason for stopping with the abolition of these two compulsions. To be consistent we must go further. We must also abolish all compulsory subjects, and we must make the curriculum so wide that ‘every boy will get a chance at something’. Even the boy who can’t or won’t learn his alphabet can be praised and petted for something — handicrafts or gymnastics, moral leadership or deportment, citizenship or the care of guinea-pigs, ‘hobbies’ or musical appreciation — anything he likes. Then no boy, and no boy’s parents, need feel inferior.

An education on those lines will be pleasing to democratic feelings. It will have repaired the inequalities of nature. But it is quite another question whether it will breed a democratic nation which can survive, or even one whose survival is desirable.

The improbability that a nation thus educated could survive need not be labored. Obviously it can escape destruction only if its rivals and enemies are so obliging as to adopt the same system. A nation of dunces can be safe only in a world of dunces.

The demand for equality has two sources — one of them is among the noblest, the other is the basest of human emotions. The noble source is the desire for fair play. But the other source is the hatred of superiority. At the present moment it would be very unrealistic to overlook the importance of the latter. There is in all men a tendency (only corrigible by good training from without and persistent moral effort from within) to resent the existence of what is stronger, subtler or better than themselves. In uncorrected and brutal men this hardens into an implacable and disinterested hatred for every kind of excellence. The vocabulary of a period tells tales. There is reason to be alarmed at the immense vogue today of such words as ‘highbrow’, ‘upstage’, ‘old school tie’, ‘academic’, ‘smug’, and ‘complacent’. These words, as used today, are sores — one feels the poison throbbing in them.

The kind of ‘democratic’ education which is already looming ahead is bad because it endeavors to propitiate evil passions — to appease envy. There are two reasons for not attempting this. In the first place, you will not succeed. Envy is insatiable. The more you concede to it the more it will demand. No attitude of humility which you can possibly adopt will propitiate a man with an inferiority complex. In the second place, you are trying to introduce equality where equality is fatal.

Equality (outside mathematics) is a purely social conception. It applies to man as a political and economic animal. It has no place in the world of the mind. Beauty is not democratic — she reveals herself more to the few than to the many, more to the persistent and disciplined seekers than to the careless. Virtue is not democratic — she is achieved by those who pursue her more hotly than most men. Truth is not democratic — she demands special talents and special industry in those to whom she gives her favors. Political democracy is doomed if it tries to extend its demand for equality into these higher spheres. Ethical, intellectual, or aesthetic democracy is death.

A truly democratic education — one which will preserve democracy — must be, in its own field, ruthlessly aristocratic, shamelessly ‘highbrow’. In drawing up its curriculum it should always have chiefly in view the interests of the boy who wants to know and who can know (with very few exceptions they are the same boy). The stupid boy, nearly always, is the boy who does not want to know. It must, in a certain sense, subordinate the interests of the many to those of the few, and it must subordinate the school to the university. Only thus can it be a nursery of those first-class intellects without which neither a democracy nor any other State can thrive.”

Seems to me to be very, very apt to what we are seeing in education (and quite a few other areas) these days. I think we need to do some rethinking in this area.

The AG Testifies, Higher Education, and a Report Card

Welp, I was going to talk about the Attorney General’s testimony to the Senate intelligence committee, but I couldn’t manage to keep my mind on the nonsense being spewed about. Lucky for us that Toni Williams could.

Today, Trump Administration Attorney General Jeff Sessions appeared before the Senate Intelligence Committee to discuss colluding with Russians or Russian interference in the 2016 Election or whatever whale excrement the Democrats are trying to peddle this news cycle. The Senators, especially Ron Wyden (Moron-OR) and Kamala Harris (Fool-CA), showed themselves to be disrespectful, small and bitter. It was so sad.

Although the Senate sees itself as “The World’s Greatest Deliberative Body”, it has long been the home of gassy, windbags, pompous dolts, and unctuous twits. Daniel Webster, John C. Calhoun and Daniel Patrick Moynihan may have been great Senators, but you wouldn’t want to live with them. Joe Biden and, not to speak ill of the dead, but they know it’s true, Arlen Specter and Ted Kennedy, pompous dolts.

Today, we have John McCain, Dianne Feinstein, Kamala Harris and Ron Wyden as Senators on the Intelligence Committee. Dear God, I pray for our Republic. …

Yeah, me too. If you’d like a serious summary, not that Toni is wrong, mind, how about from John Hinderaker. Here is his final paragraph.

The Democrats are making fools of themselves. But that is what their base–black-masked “antifa” hoodlums, the New York Times, the Washington Post–wants, so no doubt it will continue for a while. Eventually, though, they will have to admit that their Russia investigation, an attempt to smear the Trump administration with whatever the Russian government may or may not have done, has come to nothing.

An excellent summary of how our tax money is being wasted on this nonsense. Best quote of the day, from AG Sessions.

This I’m afraid will result has already resulted in investigations and I fear that some people may find that they’ll wish they hadn’t leaked.

I certainly hope so.


A couple of things from the world of higher (?) education. From Chris Queen.

Oxford University – long held as one of the premier educational institutions in the world – is changing one of its core history exams in order to ensure that more women get the highest possible grade on the test.

One of Oxford’s five final-year history exams will be replaced by a paper that can be done at home to try to improve results for female students.

The move, which begins in the next academic year, comes as statistics showed 32% of women achieved a first in history at Oxford, compared with 37% of men.

Under the new exam structure, students most likely will be given similar questions to the existing exam, but rather than completing the test within a specifically designated time frame, students will have several days at home to finish.

University officials say that the “gender gap” was a major factor in considering the new exam, along with the fact that the new format would “reward research skills rather than memorisation, or performance under pressure.”

The decision isn’t without its controversy, however. Even the university admits that the risk of plagiarism grows with a take-home test. There’s no guarantee that students won’t collaborate, cheat, or seek outside help with the exam.

I’m very sure that my friends, including my co-blogger whose history degree is from Oxford, are thrilled with the University cheapening their accomplishment. But as all good leftists know, girls aren’t the equal of boys they need special help, only nasty conservatives think they can do the work without special consideration.

Then there is this, from Steven Hayward.

Colleges are all about teaching “critical thinking,” though in most places that is a mere euphemism for teaching “critical theory,” which is not the same thing. Quite the opposite: “critical theory” is the highly ideologized core of the academic left. And it shows.

News item:

Exclusive Test Data: Many Colleges Fail to Improve Critical-Thinking Skills

By Douglas Belkin

Freshmen and seniors at about 200 colleges across the U.S. take a little-known test every year to measure how much better they get at learning to think. The results are discouraging.

At more than half of schools, at least a third of seniors were unable to make a cohesive argument, assess the quality of evidence in a document or interpret data in a table, The Wall Street Journal found after reviewing the latest results from dozens of public colleges and universities that gave the exam between 2013 and 2016. (See full results.)

At some of the most prestigious flagship universities, test results indicate the average graduate shows little or no improvement in critical thinking over four years. . .

For prospective students and their parents looking to pick a college, it is almost impossible to figure out which schools help students learn critical thinking, because full results of the standardized test, called the College Learning Assessment Plus, or CLA+, are seldom disclosed to the public. This is true, too, of similar tests.

Wonder why I am not surprised.


Just to finish off, a little short one from Ace’s on how a town in Ohio thinks Trump is doing. Follow the link and read the comments,  they’re the best part of AoSHQ.

Interestingly, the conservatives I speak with do not really consider Trump one of them. Rank-and-file Republicans tend to view Trump more as an independent who ran under the Republican banner.

But for the most part, they’re still with him. They appreciate Trump’s “America first” agenda, not because they believe in isolationism, but because they believe the U.S. and its citizens should be the government’s top priority.

The president’s tweets can be as annoying to his supporters as to his opponents, and if there is a common criticism it is that he should tweet less. But his inability so far to overhaul health care, enact tax reform, destroy the Islamic State or “drain the swamp” is largely blamed on overreaching courts and the open “resistance” that appears dedicated to opposing anything Trump wants.

For the record, I agree with the townspeople, and I’m getting very tired of the nonstop nonsense, both from the Democrats and the never-Trumpers, both of whom are beneath contempt.

A Conversion Story

Sadly, not Bookworm, as far as I know.

Bookworm takes a look in the mirror:

Cultural appropriation be damned.  I am finally coming out of the closet as a trans-cultural Redneck and proud of it.  Allow me to explain.

I was raised in the belly of the beast, San Francisco, by European immigrant parents who fully embraced upper class, European culture in all of its arrogant glory.  We didn’t have the money, but I was taught to have all the right attitudes.  They were drilled into me from the cradle: imported cheese, classical music, foreign movies, and a sneering disdain for the ordinary Americans who liked working with their hands, watching fights and drinking beer.

Still, despite this pressure to be an American elite, I kept slipping up. While the family was cooing over a nice runny Brie, I was in my room, squirting quick hits of canned Velveeta in my mouth, hoping no one would catch the tell-tale orange stain around my lips. Instead of being grateful for my Mom’s carefully packed school lunches, complete with brown bread and vegetables, I was desperate to get my hands on my schoolmates’ Wonderbread™ sandwiches and Hostess Twinkie™ snack cakes.

Music was an issue too. I kept my face politely bright when I was dragged to the symphony or the opera, feigning interest in Mozart’s Requiem or Verdi’s Madama Butterfly, but my heart wasn’t in it. Even as the musicians played and the singers sang, I had a separate track in my head playing Slim Whitman, Hoyt Axton, Marty Robbins, and Johnny Cash. I wasn’t a purist, by any means, of course. There was plenty of room throughout my school years for Top 40s music, but opera made me wish I could break out in hives as an excuse to leave the room.

Things got worse when I hit my hard-Left, highly-ranked college. With every passing year, it became harder to feign respect for the professors who droned on at the front of the room, reading off of stale old notes. As they preached Marxism in the classroom, either directly or indirectly, I couldn’t get past the fact that they lived in expensive homes, complete with Hispanic maids and Japanese gardeners, dined out at fine restaurants (organic before it was in), and regularly traveled to (of course) Europe. My classmates revered them; I thought they were pompous, hypocritical windbags, and the fact that I got good grades from parroting their cant back to them only increased my disdain.

It was at college that, for the first time, I grappled with the fact that, despite my upbringing and credentials, I was living a lie. I hated to be something I wasn’t, but I didn’t yet know enough to express what I was. As far as I and everyone else knew, I was just your usual slightly weird Euro-immigrant, Jewish-Liberal Bay Area Democrat.

My years at law school in Texas were the first time in my life that I felt I fit in. Sure, I had still had whole grain brown bread cravings, but saying “y’all” just felt right. It rolled off my tongue, if you know what I mean. And being friendly to people — saying “howdy” to everyone — that felt right too. It was a world away from college’s snide cliques and studied rudeness. I loved hanging out in dives and dancing all night long to the live blues and country bands.

Still, the pull of my upbringing was strong. Instead of giving in to what felt was right for me, I forced myself to return to the rarefied world in which I grew up. It was still too painful to admit to what I really was and I knew that I wasn’t strong enough to face the backlash from family and old friends.

And so for the next two decades, I hid my true self. I listened to NPR, voted Democrat, called myself a feminist, ate at restaurants that served food with names I couldn’t pronounce, periodically went to the symphony, had my collection of gay friends (who always made nasty remarks about women), and pretended I had black friends (in fact, as a young professional in San Francisco, I only knew one black person and, while I liked her, she wasn’t really a friend….). At the same time, I became a cynical, embittered, contrarian person, always pushing back at chimeras. I knew my life was wrong, but I didn’t know what was right.

What changed all this was 9/11. In the subsequent years, I realized I wasn’t a Democrat at all. I was a conservative! Oh. My. God! That was incredibly liberating. Even more liberating was writing a blog that (a) allowed me to express my thoughts without being socially ostracized and (b) put me in contact with people who didn’t sneer at Velveeta in cans, disliked opera, wanted to shoot guns, listened to country and pop music, watched MMA fighting, and thought traveling within America on vacation was cool, not pathetic.

Keep reading, it’s good all the way through A fair amount of it parallels things in mine, although I was never politically liberal, even as a kid it didn’t make sense to me. Yep, one of the few thing dad and I argued about occasionally, he was conservative, but a New Dealer, well I understand why, but don’t condone such contradictions. Maybe that’s why I have a soft spot for Tories, and in fact, anyone who reads too much Burke, and not enough Locke.

I certainly do approve of Daisy Dukes, though! 🙂

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