Lazy Sunday LXV: Techno-Weirdos II

The New Year is chugging along, with Democratic primaries and caucuses mere weeks away.  Early voting has already started, as I noted yesterday.  “Tom Steyer’s Belt” continues to drive surreal amounts of traffic, which I suppose is one metric for the ubiquity of his ads.

Perhaps the greatest ally the eventual Democratic nominee will have is Big Tech.  We’re already witnessing the preemptive deplatforming of various conservative and anti-Leftist figures.  Attempts to weed out “fake” news—which to the Left is any news not reflexively critical of Trump—and to “fact check” conservatives are going to pick up as the election approaches.

Tech censorship raises a number of thorny questions that our traditional understanding of rights and obligations struggles to answer.  The question of free speech is particularly tricky, as it does seem that the monopolistic power—and the active collusion between them!—of Big Tech companies effectively strangles dissent.

That might be constitutional in a strictly literal sense—at least it’s not the government infringing on our rights—but it certainly violates the spirit of freedom of speech.  And, seriously, who doesn’t think the apparatchiks in The Swamp aren’t eagerly working hand-in-iron-fist with Google to keep tabs on us?

Does anyone have a copy of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act sitting around?  Maybe we should dust that off.  Trump would make a good trust-buster, as would Attorney General Bill Barr.  I’d sure love to see a political cartoon of the ursiline Barr swinging a club at a computer screen.

With that, here are two recent pieces I’ve written on tech companies and censorship:

  • Free Speech in the Private Sector” – This post looked at a lengthy essay from science-fiction author Cory Doctorow, in which he argued that our traditional understanding of freedom of speech is insufficient in addressing tech censorship.  The old libertarian canard that “a private company can set whatever limits on speech it wants” is a worthy ideal, but when the “private company” dominates the public square and effectively makes some forms of expression or some ideas unspeakable, then do we really have free speech?
  • Mailchimp Monkeys with Molyneux” – As if on cue, Mailchimp obligingly proved Doctorow’s point when it deplatformed Stefan Molyneux in a Twitter-induced panic.  Mailchimp might not be monopolistic in the way, say, Google is, but it’s all part of that cabal of freedom-hating e-litists.  Molyneux is a bit grandiose, to be sure, but he’s been maligned as being all sorts of unacceptable -isms and -ists that he simply isn’t.

That’s it for this week, folks.  Here’s to another week of selling our data to faceless technocratic overlords.

Happy Sunday!

—TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

SubscribeStar Saturday: Primary Season Preview

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The presidential primaries are just a few weeks away, kicking off on February 3rd with the Iowa caucuses.  However, as Scott Rasmussen noted Thursday in his Number of the Day feature for Ballotpedia, early voting began yesterday in Minnesota, which doesn’t officially vote until Super Tuesday on March 3rd, one month into the process.  Voters in Vermont can begin voting (presumably for socialist Bernie Sanders) today.

Rasmussen poses the question:  what does all this early voting mean?  In a crowded Democratic field, where early wins in Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina can boost or destroy a candidate’s chances, early voting could throw an interesting wrinkle into the mix.  I suspect most voters will wait, but we could have Minnesotans voting for their raging hometown sweetheart, Amy Klobuchar, only to see her withdraw after the early primaries.

Regardless, the primaries are a-comin’, so I figured it was time for a little pre-primaries preview.

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Free Speech in the Private Sector

Assaults on free speech may be the most pressing issue of our time.  Anyone reading this blog has surely witnessed the deplatforming of conservative figures under nebulous “community guidelines,” as well as the personal and professional ruin that tend to follow.

Indeed, I occasionally fear that my dashed-off ramblings might, in some none-too-distant Orwellian America, be misinterpreted or misapplied as “hate speech”—all it takes is the wrong person complaining.  Of course, this blog’s obscurity is perhaps my best defense—I’m too small to matter.  That said, that fear is one reason I’m pumping up alternative income streams and attempting to boost my SubscribeStar subscriber base; the authoritarian maw of the SJWs grows ever wider.

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TBT: Tom Steyer’s Belt

Like many bloggers, I wrote a “2019’s Top Five Posts” feature to acknowledge the most-trafficked posts of the year.  One of the surprise sleeper hits was this post, “Tom Steyer’s Belt.”

I wrote this piece on September 30, 2019, largely as a cheeky throwaway.  It didn’t seem to get much traffic initially, but that’s true of many of my posts.

Then, probably in late November, but certainly by December, I noticed something:  it was getting a handful of clicks everyday.  It was just a few at first—maybe four or five, sometimes less—but then the views grew.

Now I’m getting dozens of views everyday from this post alone—usually more than fifty!  As the Democratic primaries approach and challengers drop out, Tom Steyer and his stupid belt continue to hang in there, running ads all over the place.

Perhaps not surprisingly, other people want to know the meaning behind the belt.  According to my WordPress analytics—limited as they are—a few of the clicks to my piece come from the search terms “why does Tom Steyer wear that stupid belt” and “Tom Steyer’s stupid belt.”  Less judgmental permutations also bring up my site.

The belt has, apparently, captured the nation’s imagination (and, presumably, Steyer’s waist):  it has its own Facebook page, where “The Belt” posts hilarious comments.

Well, at least some good will come from Steyer’s campaign—a good laugh at a clueless Leftie’s expense.

Here’s 2019’s “Tom Steyer’s Belt“—now the most popular post on The Portly Politico:

When I was in college, I formed this ridiculous pseudo-band with a suitemate of mine (who has, apparently, now gone down some dark roads) called Blasphemy’s Belt, which my bio on another band’s website refers to as an “electro-pop humor duo.”  I can’t remember how we came up with the name—our music wasn’t particularly or purposefully blasphemous (or good), and while we wore belts, they weren’t outrageous (just to keep our pants up)—but it was apparently catchy enough that people picked up on it.

The Belt never performed live, other than for an annoyed roommate, and a highly grating pop-up concert (at least, that’s what hipsters would call it nowadays) on our floor’s study room, but we generated enough buzz to get people to vote for us in a “Best of Columbia” survey in The Free Times.  We didn’t win anything, but it was an object lesson in how enough hype can make people believe you have substance when you really don’t.

That’s my self-indulgent way to introduce some literal navel-gazing—at Democratic hopeful and wealthy scold Tom Steyer‘s virtue-signallingsanctimonious belt.

Tom Steyer is a former hedge fund manager and current environmentalist nutcase who, along with half of the population of the United States, is running for the Democratic presidential primary in 2020.  Unlike Blasphemy’s Belt, nobody knows who he is; I don’t even think he qualified for the debates. Unfortunately, he’s trying to rectify that by running incessant ads on Hulu.

I’ve seen enough attack ads from Democrats to tune them out—they’re just a more overt form of the dishonesty progressives usually engage in—but Steyer’s ad brings bile to my throat.  It’s not because of his ludicrous claims (that President Trump is a “fraud and a failure), idiotic as they are.

It’s because of his stupid belt.

Tom Steyer has no chance in the Democratic primary because a.) he’s unknown; b.) he’s an old white guy and c.) he’s not the old white guy who was President Obama’s VP.  As such, he no name recognition or intersectionality points.  He’s not even a pretend Indian like Elizabeth Warren.  He wears a blue button-up shirt with rolled-up sleeves and jeans in his commercials—the default uniform of politicians trying to appeal to the working man—and is utterly forgettable.

Except for that belt!

Here is the one picture I could find of it online, and it’s just a picture of someone’s television showing the ad (care of a Kenyan newspaper):

Steyer Belt.jpg

Here is an excerpt from the article (again, it’s from a Kenyan newspaper, so the written English is prone to syntactical errors):

The Presidential hopeful revealed while responding to a curious netizen who inquired the significance of the belt since he had worn it in one of his campaign videos.

Steyer noted that he bought the belt during his visit to Kenya.

“Thanks for noticing my favorite belt! I bought it on a trip to Kenya from female artisans,” he tweeted.

Additionally, he affirmed that the belt is a reminder that the world benefits when women are educated, as the belt was made by female artisans.

“I wear it as a reminder not to be so formal, and also as a symbol that the world is a better place when we educate women and girls,” he mentioned.

This kind of pandering makes my skin crawl.  Look, I have nothing against unusual belts.  But you look at a guy like Tom Steyer wearing this ridiculous belt in a campaign ad for president, and you know he’s trying to virtue-signal.  He said as much in the excerpt above—“I like the belt, but I also want to show how progressive I am by buying colorful belts from African women.”

His very sartorial choice is a political statement.  If you’re a punk rocker, yeah, you’re showing your disdain for order with your outrageous duds.  But you’re not likely to run for President of the United States (that would be too normie and conformist—being a part of the system, rather than trying to tear it all down).

Also, how much education does it take for a Kenyan woman to make a weird belt?  She probably learned how to do it from her mother, not from a progressive public school (there, she’d just learn to resent her skillfulness making belts as a form of patriarchal, white oppression—then no belts would get made at all).

Mostly, though, Steyer’s belt highlights his own clueless elitism.  Nobody cares about your belt you picked up at some street bazaar on a luxury safari in Kenya.

Clothes say a great deal about a man (or woman).  I feel better about myself when I’m dressed well (and it’s not 8000 degrees and 400% humidity outside).  I, too, have an unusual little ornament that I sometimes wear, that often draws attention—but it’s way more endearing than some empty gesture of my multicultural bona fides.

Years ago, I had a student who was obsessed with South Korean culture and music.  She especially loved a K-pop group called Exo—basically a Korean boy band.  Before a big concert, she asked if I’d wear an Exo tie if she bought me one; naturally, I said yes.

A couple of weeks later she came to be with a little felt bag.  She explained that Exo did not have ties, but they did have tie clips.  I pulled from the bag a little piece of silver-colored metal, with a button-sized picture of Korean teen heartthrobs.

I wear it frequently, as it’s functional (it holds my ties in place) and a conversation starter.  It’s always fun to tell, as I lead with, “Oh, it’s a Korean boy band” so I get weird stares, then I tell the story above, which is an endearing example of a close and respectful student-teacher relationship.

I’m not saying I’m immune from self-righteous outbursts, but I don’t politicize a sweet, unique gift from a student (it also doesn’t look like I’m wearing the clothing of another culture in order to make myself appear more diverse and progressive).  If I wore that tie clip in a political ad (a distinct possibility), no one would be able to tell that there are ten Korean boys on it (at least, I hope not!).  Tom Steyer knows people will see his colorful, clearly-exotic belt, and he’s banking on progressive voters saying, “Wow, this old white Wall Street hedge fund manager is really down with the struggle.”

Perhaps, like the great David Carradine, Steyer’s ham-fisted belt will be his undoing.  Then again, he was never really done up in the first place.

Birth(day), Death, and Taxes

“Nothing in life is certain except death and taxes,” the old saying goes.  But we are also born, those of us fortunate enough not to fall prey to the abortion industry.  Today marks my thirty-fifth birthday.  I celebrated by paying $162.57 in vehicle property taxes to Darlington County, South Carolina.

Yesterday, I purchased a new vehicle, my first new car in thirteen-and-a-half years, and only the third I’ve ever owned.  It’s a 2017 Nissan Versa Note SV.  The other two were a 1988 Buick Park Avenue Electra, which I bought from my older brother for $800, after my grandparents gave it to him one year, and a 2006 Dodge Caravan, which those same grandparents gave to me as a college graduation gift (after the Buick was totaled when a lady ran a yield sign and smashed into me).

The Buick is long gone, but I kept the Dodge.  I figure it’s worth more to me as stuff-hauler than I would have gotten in trade-in value.  Of course, that means maintaining insurance on both vehicles, and paying taxes on each.

Well, I awoke today to the news that our military assassinated Iranian General Qassem Soleiman last night.  When I first read that Soleiman was “assassinated,” I was picturing a fate similar to the death of the “austere religious scholar,” the ISIS guy, al-Baghdadi: covert operatives swooping in under cover of darkness, swiftly and surely relieving the general of his life.

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God Bless Us, Every One: The Gift of the Trump Economy

Christmas Week is always full of blessings.  Thanks to the good folks at pro-MAGA news aggregator Whatfinger News (and a helpful tip from photog of Orion’s Cold Fire on how to submit links to them), The Portly Politico has seen its best week in terms of traffic all year.  Two pieces, “Napoleonic Christmas” and “Christmas and its Symbols” made the main page, leading both to surpass my previous top post for the year, “Milo on Romantic Music.”  Apparently, people still get riled up about Napoleon.

It’s also been a wonderful opportunity to spend time with family and to overeat lots of delicious, rich foods.  If you’ve never heard of the Appalachian delicacy “chocolate butter,” do yourself a favor and look it up.  Yes, it’s even better than the name suggests.

Of course, all of that good cheer requires a solid financial foundation.  And in his three years in office, President Trump has shattered records for unemployment, wage increases, and economic growth.  Economics isn’t everything, but the Trump economy is something for which we should give thanks.

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Away in a Manger

The political scene still strikes me as incredibly boring—a sad testament to how jaded our politics have become, that we don’t get more riled up about impeachment proceedings.  It’s also a testament to the perfidy and disingenuous of congressional Democrats:  everyone knows the articles of impeachment are a politically-motivated farce and, to use GEOTUS’s preferred name, a “witch hunt.”

It’s sad that President Trump will be impeached, and I’m nervous that squishy neocons and RINOs in the Senate will betray him.  That would be the ultimate kick in the teeth—the elites backhanding their own citizens for daring to challenge their aloof rule.  I shudder to contemplate the fall out should conviction and removal in the Senate occur.

Until then, it’s all a distracting media circus, with the Democrats and press engaged in a frenzied dance around the cannibal’s pot.  Even then, it manages to be incredibly dull.  At least actual cannibals have some conviction.

All that said, let’s look at more Christmas carols!  Next up:  “Away in a Manger.”

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SubscribeStar Saturday: The Tedium of (Teaching) Slavery

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A major part of American history was, of course, slavery.  As I typed that sentence, I nearly wrote “the unfortunate legacy of slavery,” though we’re still living that, just not in the way the race-baiters and social justice warriors claim.

But phrases like “the unfortunate legacy of slavery” have become incredibly cliched.  It and similar phrases (“slavery is our great national sin”) act as magic talismans, incantations that, when invoked, protect the speaker (presumably) from the ultimate curse, the label of “racist.”

Of course, slavery was wrong, and slavery is immoral.  It was our great national sin (paid for, as Lincoln pointed out in his Second Inaugural Address, with the blood “drawn by the sword” in the American Civil War).  It continues to have an “unfortunate legacy,” in that race-baiting charlatans continue to blame it for virtually every pathology in black American culture.

Dang it… I screwed up the incantation with that last bit.  I’d better kiss my job goodbye right now.

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The Collapse of the Obama Coalition?

Yesterday, would-be authoritarian and multiracial presidential candidate Senator Kamala Harris dropped out of the Democratic primaries.  That’s shocking news, but good for the future of republic.

Early on, I (as well as Z Man) thought that Senator Harris posed a major threat.  With the Left’s supposed desire for a charismatic, exotic-but-not-too-different, intersectional candidate, Harris fit the bill.  She is basically a female Obama:  the unusual ethnic background (Jamaican and East Indian), the meteoric rise, the stentorian rhetoric, the Third World penchant for strong-man (or -woman) rule.  As a woman, she could pick up the angry professional woman vote, and as a nominal black she could pick up  black Americans.

Boy, was I wrong—thank goodness!  The black vote is hewing pretty closely to former Vice President Joe Biden, apparently because of his association with the Obama administration, which black Americans remember fondly.  The box wine auntie vote is going to Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts.  All of the suburban soccer moms, urban young professionals, and Episcopalians are going for Pete Buttigieg.

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