Zombie on JournoList and “The week in racism”

Whew. This must be the mother of all Zombie posts. Get thee to the nunnery Zombie’s blog.

Obama’s “post-racial America” has not materialized. Instead, the nation has gone in the opposite direction and become race-obsessed America.

No, that’s not quite right either. We’re not obsessed with race — we’ve become obsessed with accusations of racism. Some of the accusations are true; some, not so much. But what used to be a last-ditch smear tactic used only by the most desperate political operatives, or something which as a society we’d try to ignore in the hopes that it would go away, has instead become a daily occurrence, a standard category in the 24-hour news cycle:
PoliticsSportsBusinessAccusations of RacismWeather

Just a few years ago, shortly before Obama appeared on the political landscape, I wrote this satirical dictionary definition of the word “racist”:

racist – A statement of surrender during an argument. When two people or disputants are engaged in an acrimonious debate, the side that first says “Racist!” has conceded defeat. Synonymous with saying “Resign” during a chess game, or “Uncle” during a schoolyard fight. Originally, the term was meant to indicate that one side was accusing the other of being racist, but once it was noticed that people only resorted to this tactic when all other arguments had been exhausted, it acquired its new meaning of “indicating one’s own concession of defeat.”

Oh, how times have changed, and how quickly. Not only do people now reach for the race card first in almost any political, social, or personal dispute, but sometimes the accusations are even true (or partly true), as public exhibition of racism has become more commonplace. No matter how you slice it — an increase of racism and of false accusations of racism — I see this as a huge step backward for our nation.

The Week in Racism

So many accusations of racism battle for space in your morning headlines, it’s easy to get them all confused. So I’ve created the following scorecard to help you sort it all out.

Here are the Top Ten Accusations of Racism for the last week, along with a handy “Level of Actual Racism” accuracy rating (on a 1-to-10 scale, with 10 being the most racist) to help determine to what extent each accusation is true, or if the accuser is just crying “Uncle” in a losing argument.

Hurry and read the rest. It’s chock-full of good stuff.

Today in History: Operation Valkyrie (July 20, 1944)

66 years ago to the day, a group of German military officers and civilians lead by Col. Klaus Schenk, Count Stauffenberg tried to put an end to the Hitler (y”sh) regime. In a unique example in modern history, the leader of the coup attempted the assassination with his own hand. Due to a quirk of fate, their target survived the bomb meant for him. Stauffenberg soldiered on regardless, to no avail: eventually, many conspirators paid the ultimate price, Stauffenberg among the first.

Here is the closing scene of the movie “Valkyrie”. Despite my apprehension about anything coming out of Hollywood, and about Tom Cruise (who does have a vague physical resemblance to the historic Stauffenberg), I can only say that the movie displays an almost astonishing level of historical accuracy (at least by Hollywood standards).

By a quirk of the calendar, July 20 this year falls on Tisha Be-Av, the day Jews commemorate a long litany of calamities that befell the Jewish people on or around that day. Had the assassination succeeded, it is quite likely that the “Final Solution” machinery would have ground to a halt and that a large part of the Jews of Hungary would have escaped its mauls.

Some historians have tried to make Stauffenberg into something he wasn’t. He was an unapologetic German imperialist and militarist, an elitist with little use for democracy as we understand it, and approved to some degree of Nazi racial doctrines even though he considered their implementation “exaggerated” and “excessive”.  In short, he was not a saint. But let us honor his memory for what he really was: somebody who, in a place where there were no men, strove to be one (במקום שאין בו אנשים השטדל להיות איש). And let us likewise honor those who stood and fell with him.

Pampered populists

Victor Davis Hanson (via Insty): “It’s surreal to see President Obama play the class-warfare card against the Republicans while on his way to vacation on the tony Maine coast, and even more interesting to note that now gone are the days when the media used to caricature Bush I (“Poppy”) for boating in the summer off the preppie-sounding Kennebunkport. The truth is that the real big money and the lifestyles that go with it are now firmly liberal Democratic. . . . The more the polo-shirted Obama seems obsessed with golf, and the more he seems to prefer the landscape of the elite (who navigate the Ivy League, Silicon Valley, Hollywood, Upper East Side, Cambridge, etc.), the more we wonder whom exactly he’s railing about.”

On a related note, also at Insty, a long list of reader responses to the dynamite  essay about “America’s Ruling Class” I summarized here.

America’s ruling class vs. its country class

This essay (via Insty) is a must-read indeed. The moneygrafs:

Never has there been so little diversity within America’s upper crust. Always, in America as elsewhere, some people have been wealthier and more powerful than others. But until our own time America’s upper crust was a mixture of people who had gained prominence in a variety of ways, who drew their money and status from different sources and were not predictably of one mind on any given matter. The Boston Brahmins, the New York financiers, the land barons of California, Texas, and Florida, the industrialists of Pittsburgh, the Southern aristocracy, and the hardscrabble politicians who made it big in Chicago or Memphis had little contact with one another. Few had much contact with government, and “bureaucrat” was a dirty word for all. So was “social engineering.” Nor had the schools and universities that formed yesterday’s upper crust imposed a single orthodoxy about the origins of man, about American history, and about how America should be governed. All that has changed.Today’s ruling class, from Boston to San Diego, was formed by an educational system that exposed them to the same ideas and gave them remarkably uniform guidance, as well as tastes and habits. . . . Today, few speak well of the ruling class. Not only has it burgeoned in size and pretense, but it also has undertaken wars it has not won, presided over a declining economy and mushrooming debt, made life more expensive, raised taxes, and talked down to the American people. Americans’ conviction that the ruling class is as hostile as it is incompetent has solidified. The polls tell us that only about a fifth of Americans trust the government to do the right thing. The rest expect that it will do more harm than good and are no longer afraid to say so. . . . Our ruling class’s agenda is power for itself. While it stakes its claim through intellectual-moral pretense, it holds power by one of the oldest and most prosaic of means: patronage and promises thereof. . . . In this clash, the ruling class holds most of the cards: because it has established itself as the fount of authority, its primacy is based on habits of deference. Breaking them, establishing other founts of authority, other ways of doing things, would involve far more than electoral politics.

Now just who are this “ruling class”? Basically, the same people Thomas Sowell refers to as “the Anointed” and various people (such as Insty and your obedient servant) refer to as “The New Class”. This portrait, however, cuts to the bone:

Who are these rulers, and by what right do they rule? How did America change from a place where people could expect to live without bowing to privileged classes to one in which, at best, they might have the chance to climb into them? What sets our ruling class apart from the rest of us?

The most widespread answers — by such as the Times‘s Thomas Friedman and David Brooks — are schlock sociology. Supposedly, modern society became so complex and productive, the technical skills to run it so rare, that it called forth a new class of highly educated officials and cooperators in an ever less private sector. [NCT notes: in this meaning, the term was originally coined by John Kenneth Galbraith; in the context of critiques of Marxism, it was coined by Milovan Djilas to refer to what in Soviet Russia was known as the “nomenklatura”, and in George Orwell’s “1984” as the Inner Party.] Similarly fanciful is Edward Goldberg’s notion that America is now ruled by a “newocracy”: a “new aristocracy who are the true beneficiaries of globalization — including the multinational manager, the technologist and the aspirational members of the meritocracy.” In fact, our ruling class grew and set itself apart from the rest of us by its connection with ever bigger government, and above all by a certain attitude.

Other explanations are counterintuitive. Wealth? The heads of the class do live in our big cities’ priciest enclaves and suburbs, from Montgomery County, Maryland, to Palo Alto, California, to Boston’s Beacon Hill as well as in opulent university towns from Princeton to Boulder. But they are no wealthier than many Texas oilmen or California farmers, or than neighbors with whom they do not associate — just as the social science and humanities class that rules universities seldom associates with physicians and physicists. Rather, regardless of where they live, their social-intellectual circle includes people in the lucrative “nonprofit” and “philanthropic” sectors and public policy. What really distinguishes these privileged people demographically is that, whether in government power directly or as officers in companies, their careers and fortunes depend on government. They vote Democrat more consistently than those who live on any of America’s Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Streets. These socioeconomic opposites draw their money and orientation from the same sources as the millions of teachers, consultants, and government employees in the middle ranks who aspire to be the former and identify morally with what they suppose to be the latter’s grievances.

Professional prominence or position will not secure a place in the class any more than mere money. In fact, it is possible to be an official of a major corporation or a member of the U.S. Supreme Court (just ask Justice Clarence Thomas), or even president (Ronald Reagan), and not be taken seriously by the ruling class. Like a fraternity, this class requires above all comity — being in with the right people, giving the required signs that one is on the right side, and joining in despising the Outs. Once an official or professional shows that he shares the manners, the tastes, the interests of the class, gives lip service to its ideals and shibboleths, and is willing to accommodate the interests of its senior members, he can move profitably among our establishment’s parts.

If, for example, you are Laurence Tribe in 1984, Harvard professor of law, leftist pillar of the establishment, you can “write” your magnum opus by using the products of your student assistant, Ron Klain. A decade later, after Klain admits to having written some parts of the book, and the other parts are found to be verbatim or paraphrases of a book published in 1974, you can claim (perhaps correctly) that your plagiarism was “inadvertent,” and you can count on the Law School’s dean, Elena Kagan, to appoint a committee including former and future Harvard president Derek Bok that issues a secret report that “closes” the incident. Incidentally, Kagan ends up a justice of the Supreme Court. Not one of these people did their jobs: the professor did not write the book himself, the assistant plagiarized instead of researching, the dean and the committee did not hold the professor accountable, and all ended up rewarded. By contrast, for example, learned papers and distinguished careers in climatology at MIT (Richard Lindzen) or UVA (S. Fred Singer) are not enough for their questions about “global warming” to be taken seriously. For our ruling class, identity always trumps.

Much less does membership in the ruling class depend on high academic achievement. To see something closer to an academic meritocracy consider France, where elected officials have little power, a vast bureaucracy explicitly controls details from how babies are raised to how to make cheese, and people get into and advance in that bureaucracy strictly by competitive exams. Hence for good or ill, France’s ruling class are bright people — certifiably. Not ours. But didn’t ours go to Harvard and Princeton and Stanford? Didn’t most of them get good grades? Yes. But while getting into the Ecole Nationale d’Administration or the Ecole Polytechnique or the dozens of other entry points to France’s ruling class requires outperforming others in blindly graded exams, and graduating from such places requires passing exams that many fail, getting into America’s “top schools” is less a matter of passing exams than of showing up with acceptable grades and an attractive social profile. American secondary schools are generous with their As. Since the 1970s, it has been virtually impossible to flunk out of American colleges. And it is an open secret that “the best” colleges require the least work and give out the highest grade point averages. No, our ruling class recruits and renews itself not through meritocracy but rather by taking into itself people whose most prominent feature is their commitment to fit in. The most successful neither write books and papers that stand up to criticism nor release their academic records. Thus does our ruling class stunt itself through negative selection. But the more it has dumbed itself down, the more it has defined itself by the presumption of intellectual superiority.

But why?

Our ruling class’s agenda is power for itself. While it stakes its claim through intellectual-moral pretense, it holds power by one of the oldest and most prosaic of means: patronage and promises thereof. Like left-wing parties always and everywhere, it is a “machine,” that is, based on providing tangible rewards to its members. Such parties often provide rank-and-file activists with modest livelihoods and enhance mightily the upper levels’ wealth. Because this is so, whatever else such parties might accomplish, they must feed the machine by transferring money or jobs or privileges — civic as well as economic — to the party’s clients, directly or indirectly. This, incidentally, is close to Aristotle’s view of democracy. Hence our ruling class’s standard approach to any and all matters, its solution to any and all problems, is to increase the power of the government — meaning of those who run it, meaning themselves, to profit those who pay with political support for privileged jobs, contracts, etc. Hence more power for the ruling class has been our ruling class’s solution not just for economic downturns and social ills but also for hurricanes and tornadoes, global cooling and global warming. A priori, one might wonder whether enriching and empowering individuals of a certain kind can make Americans kinder and gentler, much less control the weather. But there can be no doubt that such power and money makes Americans ever more dependent on those who wield it. Let us now look at what this means in our time.

Go forth and read the rest. Going from the national to the transnational plane — and tying in with the previous post — see also this related classic article by John Fonte, “The coming ideological war within the West“.

Must-read: Yoram Hazony, “Israel Through European Eyes”

Via Martin Kramer’s twitter feed, a link to an essay by Yoram Hazony that is an absolute must-read for anybody trying to understand the swing of Euro opinion against Israel and in favor of the “Palestinians”: Israel through European eyes.

Hazony references the classic of science philosophy, “The structure of scientific revolutions” by Thomas Kuhn, and specifically the concept of “paradigm shift”.

Kuhn argues that the traditional picture of science—in which scientists conduct universally replicable experiments to accumulate verified facts, which together make up the body of scientific truths—is without basis in the actual history of science. Instead, scientists are trained to see the world in terms of a certain framework of interrelated concepts, which Kuhn calls a paradigm. In the overwhelming majority of cases, the paradigm not only determines the interpretation that a scientist gives the facts, but even what facts there are to be interpreted: The “facts” that scientists consider admissible for discussion are those that easily conform to the dominant paradigm, or that can be made to conform to it by extending the paradigm or introducing minor repairs into it. Those facts that can’t be made to conform to the reigning paradigm are overlooked entirely or dismissed as unimportant.

Kuhn was famous, of course, for pointing out that things don’t go on like this forever. The history of science is punctuated by shifts in the dominant paradigm, as when Aristotelian physics gave way to Newtonian physics, or when Newton’s science was displaced by Einstein’s. Kuhn calls these shifts in paradigm scientific revolutions, and in the book he discusses tens of such shifts from the history of the physical sciences. Kuhn concludes that while most scientists are reasonable people, what we would usually consider reasonable discussion and argument only takes place among scientists who subscribe to the same paradigm. Nothing like a normal process of persuasion is involved in battles between competing paradigms. Indeed, when scientists representing competing paradigms argue, there is often no way at all that either one will be able to prove his case to the other[…]


As Kuhn points out, even a mountain of facts will not change the mind of a scientist who has been trained in a different paradigm, because the fundamental framework from which he views the world is different: The facts themselves mean something completely different to him. In fact, very few scientific paradigms, including the most famous and most successful, are able to provide the kind of decisive experimental evidence that can force scientists to give up the old paradigm.

How, then, do scientists come to change their minds? Kuhn says that in many cases, they never change their minds—and that an entire generation has to pass before the scientific community enters a new paradigm:

How, then, are scientists brought to make this transposition? Part of the answer is that they  are very often not. Copernicanism made very few converts for almost a century after Copernicus’ death. Newton’s work was not generally accepted, particularly on the Continent, for more than half a century after the Principia appeared. Priestley never accepted the oxygen theory, nor Lord Kelvin the electromagnetic theory, and so on…. And Max Planck, surveying his own career in his Scientific Autobiography, sadly remarked that “a new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.” [2]

He then identifies a similar “paradigm shift” in the field of international relations:

What’s the old paradigm? And what’s the new one to which the international arena is shifting?

Let’s begin with the old paradigm, which is the one that granted Israel its legitimacy in the first place. The modern state of Israel was founded, both constitutionally and in terms of the understanding of the international community, as a nation-state, the state of the Jewish people. This is to say that it is the offspring of an early modern movement that understood the freedom of peoples as depending on a right to self-protection against the predations of international empires speaking in the name of a presumed higher authority.[5] And while there have always been nation-states—the Jewish kingdom of the Bible was the most important classical example[6]—the modern history of the national state focuses on the rise of nation-states such as England and the Netherlands, and subsequently Richelieu’s France, whose self-understanding as sovereign nations was sharpened and consolidated during the long struggle to liberate their peoples from the pretensions to universal empire of the Austro-Spanish Habsburgs (that is, the “Holy Roman Empire”) beginning in the mid-1500s. […] The defeat of the universalist ideal in the Thirty Years’ War in 1648 led to the establishment of a new paradigm for European politics—one in which a revitalized concept of the national state held the key to the freedom of peoples throughout Europe. By the late-1800s, this idea of national liberty had been extended to the point that it was conceived not only as a governing principle for Europe, but for the entire world. Progressives such as John Stuart Mill and Woodrow Wilson championed the sovereign nation-state, which would have the right to defend its form of government, laws, religion and language against the tyranny of imperial actors, as the cornerstone of what was ultimately to be a new political order for humanity. Herzl’s Zionist Organization, which proposed a sovereign state for the Jewish people, fit right into this political understanding—and indeed, it was under British sponsorship that the idea of the Jewish state grew to fruition. In 1947, the United Nations voted by a 2/3 majority for the establishment of a “Jewish State” in Palestine. And the birth of Israel was followed by the establishment of dozens of additional independent states throughout the Third World.

But the idea of the nation-state has not flourished in the period since the establishment of Israel. On the contrary, it has pretty much collapsed. With the drive toward European Union, the nations of Europe have established a new paradigm in which the sovereign nation-state is no longer seen as holding the key to the well-being of humanity. On the contrary, the independent nation-state is now seen by many intellectuals and political figures in Europe as a source of incalculable evil, while the multinational empire—the form of government which John Stuart Mill had singled out as the very epitome of despotism—is now being mentioned time and again with fondness as a model for a post-national humanity.[7] Moreover, this new paradigm is aggressively advancing into mainstream political discourse in other nations as well—even in countries such as the United States and Israel.

Read the whole thing. For related reading, two essays (double h/t: Syrah @ C2) for related reading: Daniel Gordis’ “The Tower of Babel and the Birth of Nationhood.” and Lee Smith’s “Hollow Men”.

The strange case of UIUC adjunct Kenneth Howell

Fox News has an article on the controversy involved in the “not firing firing” of UIUC (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign) adjunct professor Kenneth Howell for private Emails expressing what some read as approval of Catholic doctrine on same-sex relationships. The case is less black and white than either side lets on, but disturbing nevertheless. A few impromptu remarks on this drama playing out at what is, interestingly, the birthplace of the first widely available web browser (Mosaic, which later became Netscape).

Dr. Howell is an interesting character. An ordained Presbyterian minister by background, he converted to Catholicism and moved to UIUC to become involved with the Catholic student center, of which he eventually became the director. He simultaneous started teaching as  an adjunct associate professor on Catholic doctrine at UIUC, and by all accounts was popular with the students and well-liked by them. He was given an award for teaching excellence.

In an Email responding to a query about this, he expounded the reasoning behind Catholic doctrine on same-sex relationships, specifically the “Natural law” argument. He, however, did not state this in a manner disassociating himself personally from this doctrine (“Catholic moralists defending this doctrine put forward the following arrgument:”[…] or something of the sort). As he himself is by all accounts a devout Catholic, it was understood by some as personally agreeing with them, which led to complaints against him and his annual contract not being renewed. (Technically he was not fired, but I am familiar enough with academia to know how appearances are kept there.)

Leaving aside Jewish (or my own) views on homosexuality, I am personally of two minds about the affair. On the one hand, every college lecturer would do well to remember the admonishment of Avtalyon in Pirkei Avot 1:11: “Scholars, heed your words. For you may be exiled to a place of evil waters [i.e., malicious elements who will distort your words to suit their purposes]. The disciples who come after you will then drink of these evil waters and be destroyed, and the Name of Heaven will be desecrated.” On the other hand, for every Dr. Howell there are dozens of lecturers and professors who vigorously advocate Marxism (a doctrine in whose name even more people have been killed than in the name of National Socialism), spout antisemitic and/or anti-American drivel from their bully pulpits,… with impunity. (OK, most of these enjoy the protection of tenure, unlike Dr. Howell.)

Meanwhile, as the Fox article explains, students have rallied to his defense, including from some rather… unexpected groups.

Thousands of supporters are rallying behind Dr. Kenneth Howell, the University of Illinois professor fired for expressing his Catholic beliefs, via a \”Save Dr. Ken\” Facebook group.”
“It’s turning into a whole movement for freedom of speech in the classroom,” said senior Tim Fox, a member of the group and former resident at the university’s Catholic student Newman Center.The “Save Dr. Ken” Facebook group includes alumni, current students and outside supporters who are familiar with Howell through his books or his appearances on EWTN, a Catholic television network. Howell is actively involved in the group and has written personal responses to some of his Facebook supporters.

“Save Dr. Ken” is actively working to take its protest beyond Facebook. Its home page offers detailed instructions on how to protest Howell’s dismissal, separately tailored to students, alumni and outside supporters. […]

Students are also organizing a mass boycott of all university religion courses unless Howell is reinstated by the fall, Melissa Silverberg, editor-in-chief of the university’s student newspaper, the Daily Illini, confirmed.

Howell is a popular professor; his students voted for him to receive an “Excellence in Teaching” award last fall, and now they are rallying for him.

[…] Students at the center are not the only ones protesting. The campus secularist group, Atheists, Agnostics & Freethinkers, has taken up Howell’s cause. Howell had worked with the group in the past, helping organize a public debate between an atheist and a Catholic on “Does the Christian God Exist?” last February. Its president wrote a letter to the university chancellor, Robert Easter, saying, “[Howell] has shown a commitment to the questioning of all ideas. His loss is a profound blow to the University of Illinois and its purpose… Who will next be silenced?”“Even people who disagree with what [Howell] taught think that his firing was wrong,” said Silverberg.

But not everyone is in Howell’s corner. Some students say they are not so sure he should be coming back.

“I wouldn’t necessarily get behind this protest,” said David Bettinardi, a senior. “Teachers can abuse their authority, and if a teacher talks about his personal beliefs in class, it becomes less education and more indoctrination. That’s true for a professor with any set of beliefs – atheist, Catholic, whatever.”

Other students said Howell’s dismissal was not just an issue of freedom of speech, but revealed a double standard at the university.

“Professor Howell didn’t mean to insult homosexuals; he was just stating the Catholic position,” said Mike Hamoy, a senior chemistry major who took Howell’s class in fall 2009. “I’ve had multiple professors who have mocked how much Catholic families reproduce or who have implied to the class that God is a joke. Why aren’t these professors fired for their open insults?”

The logic behind the double standards is very simple, Mike. If you agree with the Anointed and thus are a loyal member of the New Class, you can get away with nearly anything. But woe unto those who dare stray off the reservation, or who simply are “not one of us”…

Walter Russell Mead: climate alarmism as the new Prohibitionism

Walter Russell Mead gives a smackdown to the CAGW (catastrophic anthropogenic global warming) crowd that deserves to be read in full.

Note that he is not an AGW “denier”  (in the Godwinesque loaded language of the CAGW crowd): he thinks we may well have a problem on our hands. Rather he draws an analogy with the Prohibitionists: they were drawing attention to a very real problem (alcoholism and its social ravages), but their policy prescription (Prohibition) turned out to be so disastrous that it led to the only example in US history where a constitutional amendment (the 18th, establishing Prohibition) had to be annulled by another (the 21st).

Another analogy he draws is with the interbellum anti-war movement, which likewise addressed a very real issue (the carnage of wars in general, and most recently WW I in particular) but whose policy prescriptions, implemented, set the stage for an even bloodier WW II.

This doesn’t mean that nothing can or should be done.  Nudging the US economy toward less energy intensive activity while cutting the costs of hiring people is a sensible way to promote the kind of high tech, complex service economy that will serve us best down the road with or without global warming[…]

I note that the Indian government, as allergic as ever to the Copenhagen approach, is attempting to end that country’s wasteful and destructive policy of subsidizing energy use by keeping fuel costs artificially low.  This is happening for economic, not environmental reasons: the Indian government simply cannot afford the cost of these subsidies, and it is prepared to face strikes and protests to see the reforms through.  This single reform if carried through and sustained, is likely to do more for the environment than the complex, expensive, time consuming and largely ineffectual Kyoto Protocol.  Ending fuel subsidies was not a green idea; it was a growth idea.  It was not a global policy; it was an Indian policy.  The ideas that get us out of this mess will be ideas that work for specific countries and that make the economy work better, produce more wealth and use energy and raw materials more efficiently.

Alcohol abuse was a real problem in 1918, but the Prohibitionist belief that there was One Big Legislative Answer only made things worse.  Over the years, we’ve made progress on reducing the effect of alcohol abuse on our society in various ways.  Organizations like AA have helped millions stop drinking while leaving those who can drink responsibly to do so in peace.  Strict enforcement of drunk driving laws has dramatically reduced highway deaths due to drink.  Many of the most important advances had nothing to do with direct assaults on the alcohol problem.  Increased economic competition ended the days of the three martini lunch.  Attacks on discrimination against women have given women and children more economic choices when Daddy spends all his money at the corner saloon; enforcement of laws against domestic violence has helped curb the vicious spouse and child abuse that was once part of John Barleycorn’s toll on our society.  We are not all the way there yet, and as long as human nature is what it is we may never get there, but once we had the good sense to ignore Carry Nation and the crazy Prohibitionist cranks, we were able to make significant and sustained progress dealing with the problem.

Something like this is going to have to happen on the climate front.  Relatively small steps, or larger steps often undertaken for reasons that have little directly to do with climate, will have to see us through.  Until more greens understand that, and until the green movement as a whole disabuses itself of the dangerous fantasy that the way to solve our environmental problems is to embrace Malthusian fantasies, utopian treaties and grandiose laws, the green movement will continue to be a drag on human progress — even as the computer models get better and the temperature goes up.

At best, the green movement might be compared to an alarm clock: jangling shrilly to wake up the world.  That is fair enough; they have turned our attention to a problem that needs to be carefully examined and dealt with.  But the first thing you do when you wake up is to turn the alarm clock off; otherwise that shrill beeping noise will distract you from the problems of the day.

The alarm clock will never understand this; making shrill and irrational noise is what alarm clocks do and is all they understand.  But sensible and thoughtful people who want humanity to live fuller, richer lives in a cleaner and more sustainable world need to get past the naive and crude policy ideas that currently dominate green thinking and start giving these questions the serious attention and careful thought they deserve.


Robin of Berkeley: Will the real racist please stand up?

“Robin of Berkeley” reflects on the aftermath of the Oakland riots,. Read the whole thing, but this passage is particularly salient:

A colleague said this to me the other day. “That police officer should be found guilty. But if he’s not, they have every a right to riot.”

She was simply expressing the typical liberal view. But let’s pick this apart.

If thousands of Jews or Chinese or white males looted stores and burned cars, would the public be so tolerant? I don’t think so. Are we really talking tolerance here, or something else entirely — a colonialist, superior attitude?

Put bluntly, when liberals say that “they” have a right to riot, what’s the implication here? Is it that blacks are primitive, out-of-control Neanderthals? Those Jews, Chinese, and white males are expected to have self-control. No such expectations exist for designated victim groups like blacks and Latinos.
By treating blacks as a special class, liberals marginalize and infantilize. Liberals also set the bar insultingly low.

Obama and his handlers knew that white liberal guilt could be exploited to their advantage. They realized that Obama would be insulated from scrutiny.

But it’s not just guilt; it’s also a white feeling of superiority. Because you have to see yourself as on top to offer special treatment to those on bottom.

Obama has been the Teflon President because of the color of his skin. Liberals are giving him a free ride.

We see it every day when criticism of Obama evokes cries of racism. But who are the real racists here?
Are the racists those conservatives who hold everyone accountable to the same standards? Who believe that people should be judged by their character and their behavior, not their race, creed, or color?

Or are the racists those white liberals who treat Obama like some delicate flower? While liberals still eviscerate George W. Bush, any judgment of Obama is off limits.

It’s not just whites who are enabling Obama by acting like his protectors. Blacks voted en masse for Obama. Sadly, what has he offered them?

From the start, it was obvious that Obama, though half-black, had never done anything for the black community. In Chicago, his actions hurt blacks.

Obama was a huge supporter of Tony Rezko, a notorious slumlord, now a felon. When Obama served in the state senate, black residents picketed Rezko’s offices to protest their rat-infested, unheated apartments.

And what has Obama done to help blacks since he’s been president? One of Obama’s first actions as president was eliminating the DC school voucher program that offered poor black kids the chance for a better life.

Obama and the Democrats have created record debt and crushed the economy. A depressed economy hits minority groups especially hard.

And then there is Obama’s push for amnesty for illegals. How is giving jobs to millions of illegals going to help blacks, who have unconscionably high unemployment rates?

But there is one perk Obama has afforded the black underclass — the right to behave brutally. Obama’s Justice Department dropped charges for those New Black Panthers who allegedly threatened and harassed people at election sites.

This encouragement to act out is deeply cynical and manipulative. It’s designed to control racial minorities and promote social unrest.

Although Obama has only agitated, not uplifted, Americans, most liberals regard him as their icon. To them, Obama is the Great Black Hope.

Liberals handle Obama with kid gloves. In the meantime, they turn a blind eye to his dangerous policies, like flirting with radical Islam. Liberals make excuses for the plummeting economy, blaming their usual bogeyman: conservatives.

They refuse to see Obama without the rose-colored glasses. Why? Because when it comes to Obama, liberals see a black man deserving of special treatment.

Will the real racist please stand up?

One black intellectual, Thomas Sowell, saw through this liberal conceit decades ago. He refers to the minorities on which these extremely dubious (for ultimately toxic) blessings are bestowed as “mascots of the anointed”.

Did Yale prof imply lots of fakes could do degree coursework just fine?

I have some trouble wrapping my brain around this Insty item:

RUSSIAN SPY MAY LOSE HARVARD DEGREE, and James Joyner asks: “By all accounts, Bezrukov completed the program and earned the degree in the same way as any other student. A decade ago. So, what’s the problem? He lied about his name, of course, but so what? Presumably, he also used fake credentials to get into the program. Maybe he wouldn’t have been admitted based on his actual qualifications. But that seems trumped by the fact that he was obviously qualified to do the work since, um, he did the work.” I remember a professor telling me about a fake-student case at Yale; she’d done the work satisfactorily but was still booted. Explanation: “We turn down lots of people who could do the work satisfactorily if they got in. If we start letting them stay on that basis even if they’re frauds, we’ll have a lot more frauds show up.” But, you know, that’s Yale. The Harvard crowd seems to have more trouble figuring out how the incentives created by a policy will play out . . . .

Let me get this straight. Does this imply that Ivy League colleges actual standards for coursework (at least in the luftgescheften) are a lot more lenient than their admission standards?

I remember a day when getting into an elite university (at least in the sciences) meant you actually got a superior training as well… Why am I getting uncomfortably reminded of a real estate bubble?

“Journalism” and Asimov’s Foundation trilogy

A commenter at Tom Maguire’s place has a priceless observation on a recent piece by Dana Milbank (sigh) in the Washington Post:


“The Arizona Guardian Web site [link] checked with medical examiners in Arizona’s border counties”

Now *that* is the kind of gung-ho investigative reporting that cost Nixon his Presidency! When facts need checking and someone has to do the digging … call someone else and hope like heck they have a clue.

Funny how news reporting now so closely resembles Empire Archeology in [Isaac] Asimov’s Foundation series.

Heh. The remark refers to a passage in the first Foundation novel where a decadent nobleman from the decaying galactic Empire, Lord Dorwin, brags about his research into the “Origin Question”, i.e., the birth planet of mankind. All of his “research” involves comparing books written hundreds of years ago, based themselves on secondary or tertiary sources.

Educational renaissance of New Orleans, post… Katrina?

Via Captain Ed at Hot Air, don’t miss this documentary about the renaissance of the school system in New Orleans after the rebuilding of Katrina.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P12pgeV8ZQM%5D

Granted, this school system basically had nowhere to go but up. “As one person relates in this Reason TV video, one school had a valedictorian who could not pass a graduation exam in six attempts despite getting straight As in high school.”

In the comments, this nugget from the pseudonymous “MayorDaley”:

Guess who was was instrumental in changing the schools of New Orleans? No other than Paul Vallas, Superintendent of the Recovery School District of Louisiana, and former CEO of Chicago Public Schools. In 2002, Vallas narrowly lost the Illinois democratic nomination to none other than Rod Blagojevich. Davild Wilhelm, Rahm Emanuel and Barack Obama were Blago’s top strategists and secured a victory for Blago. How odd.

Somewhat surprisingly to some (not so much to me), school choice is not a strictly liberal vs. conservative issue: as commenter Khorum points out, none other than the filmmaker who produced Al Gore crockumentary is putting out a film “Waiting for Superman” about America’s failing public schools and what to do about them. And unions are actually trying to strong-arm Paramount into suspending its theatrical release. Many of the parents interviewed in the movie are politically liberal.

On a related note, if you have 40 minutes to spare, watch John Stossel’s “Stupid in America“. Unbelievably, John Stossel (not known for Europhilia), points out that Belgian schools do much better at much lower cost per pupil. You see, Belgium has no such thing as school zone assignment to pupils: parents can send their children to any state school (or state-subsidized school) they want. Even within the state school system (or within the Catholic school system, for that matter) this creates internal competition on quality. The phenomenon, known to any American or Israeli parent, of buying or renting a house in function of the school districts tends to come as a big shock to any Belgian (or most Euro) parents who relocate to the USA.

Zombie on Oakland riots

My blog-ancestor is all over what is happening in Oakland (and forecasted this more than a week ago).

Oakland is boarded up.

Fearing the inevitable riots that will erupt if ex-transit cop Johannes Mehserle isn’t found guilty of murder in the Oscar Grant case [UPDATE at top of article: he was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter], business owners around Oakland’s downtown and other areas of the city have been busy nailing plywood boards over their shop windows to minimize damage and looting. This essay documents the pre-riot preparations, and also examines to what extent the expected riot is being fomented by left-wing radical groups.

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: coverage in the San Jose Mercury News

No room for graft, so cannot happen

Quote of the day (via Insty):

[Jerry Pournelle]

Anyway, toward the end of today’s article Laffer has a stunning proposal:

Any government program that would reduce unemployment has to make working more attractive for both employer and employee. Since late 2007 the federal government has spent somewhere around $3.6 trillion to stimulate the economy. That is a lot of money.

My suggestion would have been to take all $3.6 trillion and declare a federal tax holiday for 18 months. No income tax, no corporate profits tax, no capital gains tax, no estate tax, no payroll tax (FICA) either employee or employer, no Medicare or Medicaid taxes, no federal excise taxes, no tariffs, no federal taxes at all, which would have reduced federal revenues by $2.4 trillion annually. Can you imagine where employment would be today? How does a 2.5% unemployment rate sound?

It’s a valid point.

Yes, it is. In fact, it makes perfect sense. However, there’s no room for “income redistribution,” graft, rewarding political allies and punishing political enemies, or increasing the power and control of the federal government in it. Therefore there is no chance in hell of it ever happening[…]especially not under [this] administration[…].

Is 0bama losing the elites?

Via Insty, an article on the Aspen Ideas Festival where comments were anything but an 0bama-worshipfest:

“If you’re asking if the United States is about to become a socialist state, I’d say it’s actually about to become a European state, with the expansiveness of the welfare system and the progressive tax system like what we’ve already experienced in Western Europe,” Harvard business and history professor Niall Ferguson declared during Monday’s kickoff session, offering a withering critique of Obama’s economic policies, which he claimed were encouraging laziness.

“The curse of longterm unemployment is that if you pay people to do nothing, they’ll find themselves doing nothing for very long periods of time,” Ferguson said. “Long-term unemployment is at an all-time high in the United States, and it is a direct consequence of a misconceived public policy.”

Ferguson was joined in his harsh attack by billionaire real estate mogul and New York Daily News owner Mort Zuckerman. [NCT: note that Zuckerman endorsed 0bama in 2008.] Both lambasted Obama’s trillion-dollar deficit spending program—in the name of economic stimulus to cushion the impact of the 2008 financial meltdown—as fiscally ruinous, potentially turning America into a second-rate power.

“We are, without question, in a period of decline, particularly in the business world,” Zuckerman said. “The real problem we have…are some of the worst economic policies in place today that, in my judgment, go directly against the long-term interests of this country.”

Zuckerman added that he detects in the Obama White House “hostility to the very kinds of [business] culture that have made this the great country that it is and was. I think we have to find some way of dealing with that or else we will do great damage to this country with a public policy that could ruin everything.”

Ferguson added: “The critical point is if your policy says you’re going run a trillion-dollar deficit for the rest of time, you’re riding for a fall…Then it really is goodbye.” A dashing Brit, Ferguson added: “Can I say that, having grown up in a declining empire, I do not recommend it. It’s just not a lot of fun actually—decline.”

Ferguson called for what he called “radical” measures. “I can’t emphasize strongly enough the need for radical fiscal reform to restore the incentives for work and remove the incentives for idleness.” He praised “really radical reform of the sort that, for example, Paul Ryan [the ranking Republican on the House Budget Committee] has outlined in his wonderful ‘Roadmap’ for radical, root-and-branch reform not only of the tax system but of the entitlement system” and “unleash entrepreneurial innovation.” Otherwise, Ferguson warned: “Do you want to be a kind of implicit part of the European Union? I’d advise you against it.”

[…] In a session Tuesday morning, Silicon Valley guru Michael Splinter piled on. “From an industry standpoint, it’s below what a lot of people in industry have viewed as the solution to the jobs problem,” Splinter, president of the Applied Materials solar energy company, complained about Obama’s economic performance. He was speaking to an agreeable audience in an interview with Atlantic Media owner David Bradley. “When I talk to venture capitalists, their companies are starting to move their manufacturing operations out of the United States…Our corporate tax rate, on a worldwide competitive basis, is just not competitive. Taiwan is lowering their rate to 20 to 15 percent in order to stay competitive with Singapore. These countries have made it their job to attract industry. You don’t get that sense here in the United States.”

Say no more…

CNN fires Octavia Nasr over “Hezbollah giant I respect a lot” tweet

CNN has finally fired their Senior Editor for MidEast Affairs, Octavia Nasr, over a statement on Twitter that said (direct quote): “Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah… One of Hezbollah’s giants I respect a lot.”

Many of us smelled a rat about this woman (and more generally about Contemptible News Network) as long as she’s been on CNN. I believe that, in CNN’s eyes, her firing offense was not her bias, but her being so stupid as to openly admit it.

The sooner hypocritical legacy media that hide their bias behind a veil of phony objectivity disappear into the dustbin of history, the better for all of us.

NAS compiles dossier on AGW “deniers”, including… NAS members

This is the sort of thing that, if this were even possible, would make me feel ashamed to call myself a scientist. Frank Tipler:

The National Academy of Sciences, in its official journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, has just published a list of scientists whom it claims should not be believed on the subject of global warming. I am number 38 on the list. The list of 496 is in descending order of scientific credentials.

Professor Freeman Dyson of the Institute for Advanced Study, a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the Royal Society, is number 3 on the list. Dyson is a friend of mine and is one of the creators of relativistic quantum field theory; most physicists think he should have shared the Nobel Prize in Physics with Richard Feynman. MIT professor Richard Lindzen, a meteorologist who is also a member of the National Academy, is number 4. Princeton physics professor William Happer, once again a member of the National Academy of Sciences, is number 6.

I’m in good company.

The list is actually available only online. The published article, which links to the list, argues that the skeptical scientists — the article calls us “climate deniers,” trying to equate us with Holocaust deniers — have published less in climate “science” than believers in anthropogenic global warming (AGW).


But if the entire field of climate “science” is suspect, if the leaders of the field of climate “science” are suspected of faking their results and are accused of arranging for their critics’ papers to be rejected by “peer-reviewed” journals, then lack of publication in climate “science” is an argument for taking us more seriously than the leaders of the climate “science.”

Freeman Dyson, for example, was not trained as a physicist but as a mathematician. His contribution to quantum field theory was applying his mathematical skills to showing that Feynman’s work was mathematically rigorous and mathematically equivalent to another formulation due to Julian Schwinger (who shared the Nobel with Feynman). Freeman has spent the fifty years after this work switching from field to field, always making important contributions to these fields, and making them precisely because he has looked at the evidence from a different point of view.

Dick Lindzen actually is an insider in real climate science, but he is an insider who can’t be bought, an insider who follows the evidence rather than the grant money.

Will Happer is mainly an experimental atomic physicist, but a physicist who has a decades-old reputation for investigating extraordinary claims in all areas of physics.  Will was one of the experimentalists who exposed the cold fusion scam a number of years ago.

As for myself, I’m a cosmologist, with a special interest in the anthropic principle, as my National Academy of Sciences security police dossier correctly notes. Twenty odd years ago, I co-authored a book, published by Oxford University Press, on the anthropic principle. As my co-author and I pointed out, the essence of the anthropic principle is eliminating human bias from the interpretation of observations, and we focused mainly on eliminating such bias from cosmology.

“Seek the truth wherever thou mayest find it” has, sadly, become “seek grant money wherever thou mayest find it” for all too many.

For rather more refreshing reading, have a look at the website of Israeli astrophysicist Nir Shaviv, http://www.sciencebits.com,  A couple of suggestions: “Cosmic rays and climate“, and “ClimateGate and the hockey stick: not news to me“.

Modern leftism as a secular/Pagan neo-Calvinism

Glenn Reynolds links his spouse and Ann Althouse in this hits it out of the park with this one:


Related: “Another manifestation of that trendy liberal theme: Choice won’t make you happy.” Unless it’s, you know, choice-choice, in which case it’s sacred.

UPDATE: Reader Donald Gately writes: “I’ve also noticed that AP has been running a series of ‘Americans are medically over-treated’ stories.” I question the timing.

Posted at 10:29 pm by Glenn Reynolds

Glenn’s inimitable snark aside, this post confirms something I have been suspected for a while: that the New Class’s doctrine of eco-friendly left-liberalism has a deeply rooted Calvinist streak. I am not thinking of John Calvin’s faith, but of a humanity irredeemably tainted with sin (against Gaia); of predestination rather than free will; of a humanity composed of elect (the New Class), lesser elect (those belonging to identity groups with grievances), and the damned; and of what the Dutch of an older generation would refer to as “that which is fun is sinful”. Except the sins now consist not of sex, booze, and rock ‘n roll but of having a large carbon footprint (except for the Elect, who are elect no matter what they do), of eating non-organic food, and of being insensitive towards the historically disadvantaged.

Others have already pointed out amusing parallels between the obsession with organic foods and Jewish dietary laws (which I myself observe in moderation, for reasons of faith). The new idea that “free will is overrated”, however, is not amusing at all to me but the harbinger of something quite sinister.

As for myself:

“You can choose from phantom fears and kindness that can kill/I will choose a path that’s clear: I will choose free will”

Declaration of Independence, Twitter style

Depressingly, a Marist Poll revealed that 40% Of 18-29 Year-Olds Don’t Know Why We Celebrate The 4th Of July. [http://shar.es/m96bA]

So perhaps, it has to be explained in a way that will “reach” the Twitter/SMS generation. In honor of Independence Day, Slate started a contest on Twitter to summarize the Declaration of Independence in 140 characters or less. (That length would also fit an SMS.)

You can see the results in real-time here: http://twitter.com/#search?q=%23TinyDeclaration

Some personal picks:

badanes Our Rights from Creator (h/t @JLocke). Life, Liberty, PoH FTW! Your transgressions = FAIL. GTFO, @GeorgeIII. -HANCOCK et al #TinyDeclaration

chrispreilly Dear king, you are fired. We will govern ourselves. God created us & gave us rights. We have our reasons. #TinyDeclaration

scotters Hate to do this publicly and to this extent King George, but we’ve had enough of your high taxes. We’re done. Bye. #TinyDeclaration

FreeRangeMom We are reluctant to take this step, but because the King is grievously unfair, we declare ourselves to be independent #TinyDeclaration

ericinva Dudes…@KingGeorge is totally killing our buzz. So, like, everyone unfollow him, ‘kay? #TinyDeclaration

mpsever England, bro, we’re breaking up the band. Gonna work on a solo project for a bit. May tour Europe in 1940s. You can open. #tinydeclaration

prmros RT @TheIncumbent: @TheRealKingGeorgeIII We’re closing our @13colonies acct. We’re now @USofA. PS ur off our #ff list. #TinyDeclaration

dr_bombay yes, we can haz Life, Liberty, Pursuit of Happiness etc. – Independence FTW! PS: bring it, @KingGeorge3 — it is ON, buddy. #TinyDeclaration

dmataconis Hey @KingGeorge, we got these rights that even a blind man can see. You violated them. So, f**k off. #TinyDeclaration

bdeak17 We both knew where this long distance relationship was going. Face it, we are different pple now, we want to try new things #TinyDeclaration

ericinva Hey, @KingGeorge, we’re done with you. #blocked #TinyDeclaration

danielstroud Dear G III R- We get MPs or you get the business end of our muskets. Now put that in your cup & drink it. (Not) Yours, TJ #tinydeclaration

CatRey We’re not gonna take it. No! We ain’t gonna take it! We’re not gonna take it- Anymore. #twistedsister #tinydeclaration

NEHgov Dear George, it’s not you. It’s U.S. #TinyDeclaration See T.J’s rough draft at NEH-funded PAPERS OF THOMAS JEFFERSON http://tiny.cc/crrb8

Happy Fourth of July Weekend!

Al Gore “massagegate/Poodlegate” and the Birkenstock Tribe

Elsewhere in the same article, an item on the sexual assault allegations against ManBearPig, er, Al Gore:

Presidents of Vice
Police in Portland, Ore., are reopening their investigation into allegations that Al Gore, the U.S. vice president turned Grammy-winning pseudoscience huckster, sexually assaulted a massage therapist in 2006 while visiting the City of Roses. Earlier this week, the Washington Examiner’s Byron York detailed the allegations made by the woman, who has not been named in the press:

Gore also requested work on his abdomen. When that began, “He became somewhat vocal with muffled moans, etc.,” the masseuse recounted. Gore then “demand[ed] that I go lower.” When she remained focused on a “safe, nonsexual” area, Gore grew “angry, becoming verbally sharp and loud.”

The masseuse asked Gore what he wanted. “He grabbed my right hand, shoved it down under the sheet to his pubic hair area, my fingers brushing against his penis,” she recalled, “and said to me, ‘There!’ in a very sharp, loud, angry-sounding tone.” When she pulled back, Gore “angrily raged” and “bellowed” at her.

Then, abruptly, the former vice president changed tone. It was “as though he had very suddenly switched personalities,” she recalled, “and began in a pleading tone, pleading for release of his second chakra there.”

The Associated Press reports that Gore “welcomes” the reopening of the investigation. A spokeswoman says “that Gore ‘unequivocally and emphatically’ denied making unwanted sexual advances. She added that ‘further investigation into this matter will only benefit Mr. Gore.’ ”

The AP adds:

After the alleged incident, the woman said she was dissuaded from contacting the police by liberal friends of hers, whom she refers to as “The Birkenstock Tribe,” and of which she counts herself a member.

“It’s like being the ultimate traitor,” the woman said.

The Birkenstock Tribe evidently has rather backward ideas about the sexes. If the circumstances alleged here were to arise in a more enlightened, Western culture, the man who abused the woman, not the victim, would be regarded as a traitor to the cause.

Full disclosure: I’ve always loathed Birkenstocks or similar footwear, but the woman’s interaction with her peer group looks extremely familiar, even though I encountered it in a radically different context. Welcome to the club, ma’am.

Elsewhere, the therapist described Al Gore in terms of, how shall I put this politely,a poodle rubbing against its owner’s leg. See also here on BigJournalism.com. WARNING: you may need some brain bleach after reading the details given there.

“All poodles are equal, but some are more equal than others.”

UPDATE: On a more serious note, Ed Driscoll: “Dr. Strangegore, or How the International MSM Learned to Stop Worrying and Abandon Objectivity