Hard as it is to believe, it’s Memorial Day again, and that means summer has unofficially started. Not only that, but the holiday marks the beginning of what has become an annual tradition for me: the Summer Reading List challenge. For the 7th year in a row, I hope to complete it, and I’d love to see anyone else join in. (This year, I didn’t forget until halfway through, so it should be a little easier!)
The rules haven’t changed. Really, they aren’t rules, but more like guidelines. This isn’t a competition. It’s a challenge. What’s important is that you’re honest with yourself.
The goal is to read 3 new books between Memorial Day (May 30) and Labor Day (September 5) in the US, the traditional “unofficial” bounds of summer. (For those of you in the Southern Hemisphere reading this, it’s a winter reading list. If you’re in the tropics…I don’t know what to tell you.)
A book is anything non-periodical, so no comics, graphic novels, or manga. Anything else works. If you’re not sure, just use common sense. Audiobooks are acceptable, but only if they’re books, not something like a podcast.
One of the books should be of a genre you don’t normally read. For example, I’m big on fantasy and sci-fi, so I might read a romance, or a thriller, or something like that. Nonfiction, by the way, also works as a “new” genre, unless you do read it all the time.
You can’t count books you wrote, because they obviously wouldn’t be new to you. (Yes, this rule exists solely to keep me from just rereading my books.)
As always, I’ll search for something new (at least to me!) and share it with you when I’ve finished reading it. I’ll post it over on the fediverse (
@firstname.lastname@example.org is my main account there for the time being) and in more depth here at PPC, but feel free to discuss your own reading adventures wherever you like.
Have fun, and keep reading!
The war between Russia and the Ukraine has been raging for about three months now, and everything I’ve seen so far only proves that my initial suspicions were on target. While mainstream Western media is quick to cast this war as the heroic underdog fighting for its very survival against overwhelming odds, the truth is far different. If you look at unbiased (or at least not as overtly biased so far in favor of the Zelensky regime) sources, you can see that truth. Russia is winning, and that’s ultimately a good thing for all of us.
Okay, I know that sounds strange, but think about it for a minute. First of all, the Russian army is showing everyone how to wage a modern war without overwhelming firepower. They’re doing something completely different from the usual American plan of Shock and Awe, of leveling entire cities to rubble, then hoping the survivors would welcome them as liberators. Instead, Russia is playing the long game, adapting old-school siege tactics and encirclement strategies to the 21st century as they force their foe to expend valuable materiel and manpower.
Better yet, now that the Ukrainians are almost completely out of domestic equipment, they are increasingly reliant on NATO and the billions upon billions of dollars we Americans have been forced to pay to prop up this dying regime. This proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that “our side” had no intention of playing fair. It exposes the rot at the top of Western governments by showing that they care more about the haven for their money laundering and sex trafficking than they do for their own people. With trust in the media and so-called “experts” cratering all across the US (well, with the exception of socialist utopias like California and New York, where you’re expected to wear two masks while you’re paying $7 for a gallon of gas), Putin’s move comes at the perfect time. Every American who turns of the propaganda machines and algorithms is quickly seeing the truth of the matter. One would hope they’ll start to do that for everything else, too.
At every point in this war, Russia has had the high ground, both tactically and morally. They have limited civilian casualties wherever possible. Their stated goal, the liberation of Donetsk and Luhansk, has all but been achieved, and it was done in a way that made the “heroes” in Kiev look like the petty tyrants they are.
But the victories stretch far beyond the Donbass or the Dnieper. Russia has struck a major blow against globalism itself, that festering evil underlying so many of the ills of today’s world. The oligarchs said to control Putin’s country are finding themselves isolated by both their homeland and the West. US biolabs, possibly including the sources of the deadly mRNA shots forced upon us and the likely re-engineered monkeypox virus currently making headlines, are being exposed for what they are. The sanctions against Russia have failed utterly—indeed, they’ve had the opposite effect, if their intent was to turn the Russian people against Putin and the war—and their economy has come out even stronger than before.
To be sure, it isn’t all cheerful news. The West’s isolation tactics have pushed Russia further into the arms of China, which is all the things our media claims Putin to be, and much more. A rising economic power allying with a human-rights disaster against us means that we need to be that much more watchful with our own government. And the sanctions have truly backfired, forcing the people of Western nations to go without.
At the end of the day, that’s the lesson we can learn from the Russia-Ukraine war. For over 300 million Americans watching from afar, it’s not about the subjugated peoples of Donetsk wanting independence, or the Azov Battalion taking prisoners into a factory, or anything like that. It doesn’t matter that Zelensky’s posturing is in front of a green screen, not the backdrop of the country he claims to represent. Nobody really cares that generals are using screenshots from the Arma games as propaganda pieces.
No, what we take away from this must be that the alleged elites in this country have openly crossed the line from incompetence to malice. Their every move since the first Russian crossed the border has been to hold us back, to make our lives harder. That they choose to defend the most corrupt nation in Europe over their own people shows that they no longer purport to represent us—they believe they rule us.
We’re fighting the same war here that Russia is fighting half a world away. And whether you like it or not, anyone who believes in the American Dream, in the ideals of liberty and justice for all, has the same enemies as Vladimir Putin. Because globalism doesn’t just want to destroy Russia. It seeks to destroy all nations, all freedom. And its media mouthpieces will gladly try to turn us against the one force opposing it.
The recent “leak” of a draft Supreme Court decision that would overturn Roe v. Wade has been making the rounds, in case you haven’t noticed. Well, I have a few things to say about that.
Let me first preface this with a simple statement: I’m a man, so I’ll never be pregnant. Yes, I know that chain of cause and effect is controversial these days, and some out there (including a certain cousin of mine) might argue otherwise, but facts are facts. It’s biologically impossible for me to ever bear children. So take my opinion with that particular grain of salt. Also bear in mind that I speak only for myself, not the people I hope to represent in District 27 this November.
By every other standard in our society, a human life begins at birth. We celebrate birthdays, not conception days. The age of consent and majority are based on time since birth—premature babies don’t have to wait to vote or drink. Every right and responsibility enshrined in our nation’s founding documents starts counting from the moment you’re born, and not one second before.
Biologically speaking, there’s a good reason for this. A fetus is not a human being. It’s not a baby. It is, at best, a proto-human. The whole point of pregnancy is to provide a chance for an embryo to develop into something that can survive on its own. That’s just how mammals work.
Does that mean I think women should get abortions? No. Becoming a mother means you are fulfilling your greatest and most fundamental purpose in life: creating another. You are throwing away something special, indeed magical, the same as if you willingly sterilized yourself. You’re not killing a baby, in my view, but you are killing a part of yourself.
Setting aside the moral quandary of abortion for a moment, we need to remember that there are serious legal matters surrounding this issue. These often get neglected in the emotional battle of choice, yet they are far more important from the perspective of a healthy, functioning society.
Most importantly, if Roe v. Wade is overturned, that doesn’t instantly mean abortion is banned everywhere. Instead, it returns to being a state issue, as it was fifty years ago. Each state can make its own decision, passing its own laws. Yes, red states will most likely enforce restrictive laws based on their misguided attempts at morality, but blue states like California will do the same thing from the other side. (In fact, that’s already happening. Some states are seriously considering legalizing “abortions” after birth, which really is infanticide.)
In a way, that’s a good thing. The Tenth Amendment is pretty clear on this matter: any power not explicitly granted to the federal government is within the states’ purview. As there is no freedom of abortion mentioned in the Constitution, nor an enumerated power to regulate it, the American thing to do is to let the states, and thus the people, decide for themselves. (Incidentally, the original Roe decision hinged on privacy, of all things. In my non-legal opinion, that should be its downfall, because the Supreme Court has made it clear in recent decades that it cares nothing for the idea of an inalienable right to privacy.)
Of course, this patchwork process will have knock-on effects. One, a black market will arise in red states, either to shuttle young women to the nearest pro-choice state, or to smuggle in drugs that induce abortion, such as misoprostol. Two, it may stop or slow the progressive infestation of those states, pushing the US back to a “Great Sorting” demography.
What the ruling and subsequent legal changes won’t do, however, is stop abortions altogether. They’ll still happen until we treat the root causes that lead to them. Unwanted pregnancies happen for many reasons, so we need to look at those as the ultimate problem.
No birth control or contraceptive is perfect; we’ve known that basically forever. Abstinence is neither enforceable or desirable. Sterilization is inhumane and anti-human. The best way to start cutting down on abortions, then, is to provide better sex education. Young men and women need to understand the risks involved, as well as the steps they can take to mitigate those risks.
Media also takes some blame. The over-sexualization of every part of entertainment obviously causes problems, but so to does the way in which women’s sexual liberation has been perverted. Having a hundred partners before you’re 30 doesn’t prove that you’re some sex goddess. No, it shows that you’re barely even a woman, because you have a childlike view of life as a game in which the most points wins. That’s not something to be rewarded on Instagram or on Netflix.
Worst of all, the erosion of the family unit takes away one of the major bulwarks against the perceived necessity of abortion. If a woman can’t depend on having parents, a husband, siblings, and in-laws who will help her raise a child, then it’s no wonder she chooses not to have that child in the first place. Our current spiraling inflation makes this even worse: too many people, especially in left-leaning urban centers, can’t raise a family on a single income, so they’ll think they have no choice but to abort.
When you look at it that way, you can see that the availability of abortion is not the true problem. It’s not the social disease conservatives would have you believe it to be. No, it’s a symptom of a more serious illness. We live in a country, a society, where the fashionable modes and choices all make abortion a more desirable option than reproduction. Change that first. Put the family at the center of your attention. Live your life in such a way that there is never an unwanted pregnancy, because the best chances of getting pregnant always come when you are prepared for the responsibilities that are to come. Then, it won’t matter what the Supreme Court says.
The news everyone has been talking about this past week was Elon Musk’s acquisition of Twitter. People on the left are apoplectic, people on the right overjoyed, and both of them are utterly wrong. No one, it seems, even remembers what free speech actually means, much less why it’s worth defending. So let’s back up just for a moment and set the record straight.
First, we have the First Amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
That’s pretty self-explanatory even if you aren’t steeped in the culture of 18th-century America. But a lot of commenters get hung up on those first five words. “Congress shall make no law.” Well, that just means that free speech is only a government thing, and that private companies can do whatever they want, right?
The First Amendment, like the rest of the Bill of Rights, was meant to limit the powers of the federal government. It did not grant us the right to free speech, because a granted right is no right at all. What was given may be taken away at any time, as we saw in Canada a few months ago.
The American Bill of Rights instead recognizes that these rights are inherent in being human. They’re inalienable. Only a tyrant can even try to take them from us.
Thus, we already have the right to free speech, government or no government. Since the First Amendment is part of a social contract between We The People and those we have chosen to represent us, it makes sense that its text would specify who shall make no law. That doesn’t make it the last word on the matter. On the contrary, it’s just the first and most important.
We are born with the absolute, natural right to speak our minds. That was one of the key ideas of the Enlightenment. Modern so-called liberalism, however, believes that rights are contingent upon others’ feelings. You can’t speak your mind, they argue, because it might upset someone you’ve never met. And that has led us down the rabbit hole of being forced to deny basic scientific facts (there are two biological sexes, natural immunity protects us from viruses, etc.) if we want to participate in public discussion.
But isn’t Twitter a private company that can moderate however they want? That’s the next argument from the thought police, and it is indeed correct from a legal standpoint. That doesn’t make it right from a moral one, however. And it is indeed morally wrong.
Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, and similar socially-oriented sites have, in effect, become public spaces. Their sheer size and their cartel-like hold over the internet cause them to attract meaningful discussion and debate, even as their business and engagement models try their best to prevent it. By advertising themselves as open to all, then gaining an audience comprised of the majority of American adults, these sites have lost any claim to being “private” in the social sense.
Somewhere like Twitter, in other words, is—rather, should be—the modern-day equivalent of the public square. Because we can’t very well gather a hundred million Americans into a national park, we need a place where all of us can use our inalienable rights, and social media sites should be honored to take on that role. Instead of crowding out rational or traditionalist voices, they should embrace them while providing a place for honest debate.
As for the “company” part of the Left’s objections, remember that every website is owned by someone. With few exceptions outside the .gov space, that someone is a private entity, whether a person, group, or corporation. On top of that, almost all American ISPs are private companies. The backbone routers are privately owned. The domain registrars are private. The root DNS servers are mostly private. How far down the stack do you allow censorship to go? (Interestingly, net neutrality was a liberal cause a few years ago, yet few of them ever made the leap from keeping ISPs content-neutral to doing the same for platforms.)
Finally, while Twitter and others are legally allowed to fight against free speech, the obligations to society they have gained by their position as market controllers have, in effect, made them governments of their own. They represent communities, after all. They have the power to imprison, banish, or execute. Should they not, then, have the same responsibilities as any other government, up to and including a respect for the natural rights of their citizens?
To end, I’d also like to remark on the limits of free speech, because those are much, much farther away than most on either side of the political spectrum care to admit.
The First Amendment is traditionally taken as having only a few limits. Notably, “true threats” are not protected; though the legal definition is, like all legal definitions, hopelessly opaque, the gist is that a true threat is one for which a reasonable person would assume that there is a definite risk. It’s understandable why that isn’t protected. The rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are just as inalienable, so direct threats to them can’t be allowed in a just society.
Likewise, direct calls to break a law or to defraud violate the principles of the social contract. The first is a little too strict, in my opinion, as it can also prevent the “petition for a redress of grievances” mentioned at the end of the First Amendment. But at least it makes logical sense.
Last of the major exceptions to free speech protection is the very nebulous category of obscenity. This, of course, should be done away with entirely. While there are some ideas so obscene they should not be spoken aloud, there are none which are so obscene that they should not be allowed to be spoken. The category is too broad, too ill-defined, to justify its continued inclusion.
Note, however, what isn’t on this short list, what does still have protection as free speech. “Hate speech” isn’t forbidden. Doxxing isn’t forbidden. Referring to a man as a man, rather than whatever he believes himself to be, does not meet the criteria to lose protection under the First Amendment. Neither does pointing out that a cold virus doesn’t justify a total lockdown, or that an election’s results were fraudulent, or any of the hundreds of other things for which Twitter’s thought police issued suspensions.
A social platform that, whether intentionally or not, has taken on the role of a public marketplace of ideas must allow those ideas to be traded. The First Amendment is a statement that government may not take away something we were born possessing, but we need the same protection for our speech when these pseudo-governmental corporations are the ones controlling every access point.
(To head off any potential objections, “just start your own Twitter” is not a valid argument. Gab and Parler tried that and found themselves barred from cloud providers, hosting providers, payment processors, and more. The fediverse operates mostly under the radar, but its larger instances still have to worry about being cut off economically.)
I don’t have a Twitter account. I don’t have a Facebook account. I’ve never uploaded a video to Youtube or even visited Snapchat. Why? Because I value my freedom more than the convenience these sites offer. If I can’t speak my mind, then I am not free. I’m a slave to those who control my words. If Elon Musk understands that, and he makes the appropriate changes so that his new acquisition respects the natural rights of its citizens above and beyond the extent required as a private company, then I’ll consider supporting him. But it’ll take more than words to get to that point.