Friday, October 12, 2012

Odds and ends 10/12/2012

Diversity of skin color is preferred. Diversity of opinion is rejected. The new boss really is the same as the old boss!

Gallaudet chief diversity officer placed on leave after signing Md. anti-gay marriage petition

I signed that petition. The Washington Blade published my name, too. I thank God I escaped that gulag when I did.


Mark Steyn has experience running afoul of political correctness run amok. He was charged with hate speech in Canada for criticizing Islam. He writes:

I don’t want the state to have a “mandate” to “educate” the citizenry about their thought-crimes. Even if I did not object on principle, one thing I’ve learned during this five-year campaign is that the statist hacks Canada’s official opposition is so eager to empower are, almost to a man, woman and pre-op transsexual, either too stupid or bullying to be entrusted with the task.


Elizabeth Scalia over at Patheos sums up socialism:

With socialism, excellence is always set aside for shared mediocrity. The idea appears to be that since it’s hard to achieve excellence for everyone, it simply should not be attempted; everyone should be satisfied with something lesser.

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Embrace the sameness, even if it sucks, at least it’s “fair”, right? We all struggle together!

I’ll say it again: fairness is an illusion and it is only possible when its definition becomes perverted; socialism only works when it is voluntarily undertaken from below, not ordered from above.


Daniel Greenfield sums up the sexual revolution:

The latest achievements in sexual freedom all involve getting other people to pay for it, whether it’s birth control entitlements or gay marriage entitlements. The agenda isn’t the freedom to do what you please, but the power to make other people affirm your sexual decisions and then pay for them.


Marcia Pally writes a heady piece over at Religion and Ethics about, to put it bluntly, the separation of church and state. The following is one of several compelling excerpts:

Hobbes is a melder of separability and situatedness, not because he imposes the leviathan sovereign on his hermeneutically separate person, but because his ideal state depends on citizens possessing traditional western virtues—self-knowledge, justice, gratitude, modesty, equity, and mercy—so that they are able to control fear and appetite. These traditional values are to be fostered through education and what we might call socialization by civil society and governmental institutions—that is, these values rely on situatedness.

John Locke, in spite of his individualist contractarianism, holds that similar virtues are necessary to live under the conditions of liberty. His include religious toleration, liberality, justice, courage, civility, industry, truthfulness and the submission of passion to reason, which must be nurtured by societal institutions—first in the family, and should the father die, the state must step in.


Public Discourse published two dynamite articles this week on a similar vein, the tension between the government and the civil society. First, “The Conservative’s Right Mind: A Reply to David Brooks” by Nathan Schlueter:

[David] Brooks’s theory of an economic hyperindividualist coup of the GOP is based on a superficial view of conservatism, and does more to reinforce leftist stereotypes than to show the Republican Party a way forward.

In the first place, Brooks completely ignores the current context of Republican anti-government rhetoric. He denounces Republican “hyperindividualism,” but pays no attention to the Democratic alternative, “subsidized hyperindividualism.” It is not enough that the Sandra Flukes of America have access through the market to cheap contraception and abortion on-demand. Other Americans must be compelled against their consciences to pay for these services. It is not enough for one of the oldest religious charity organizations in the United States to provide adoption services for the neediest children; it must place children with same-sex couples or lose its license. It is not enough for a religious charity to assist almost 3,000 victims of sex-trafficking; it must also promote abortion, or lose its funding.

One would hardly call this a “harmonious nestling” of the associations of civil society beneath government. Not many conservatives deny that government should offer a “subtle hand,” as Brooks puts it, where needed. But most conservatives know the difference between a “subtle hand” and a sledgehammer. Commerce does not always have pretty results, but these pale in comparison to the Kulturkampf that the Democratic Party has been waging against religious institutions in America.

It is no accident that the Obama administration has also overseen the largest expansion of the administrative welfare state since the New Deal. The leadership of the Democratic Party is animated by a progressive ideology that pits centralized government power and radical individualism against the primary social institutions of civil society: families, churches, charitable organizations, and businesses.

Second, “Political Justice: Equality of Opportunity not Sameness of Opportunity” by David Azerrad:

we are dealing with two incompatible concepts that are nevertheless lumped together under one rubric. Simply put, while conservatives stand for the traditional understanding of equality of opportunity, liberals have subtly redefined the term to mean sameness of opportunity.

Traditionally, equality of opportunity has meant the absence of legal impediments to getting ahead in life. Using Abraham Lincoln’s “race of life” analogy, it means that the same rules apply to all of the runners and that all lanes have the same man-made obstacles. It is about government getting out of the way and stepping in only if one of the other runners tries to overtake you by cheating.

Sameness of opportunity, by contrast, requires that all should have exactly the same opportunities in life. It demands that the disadvantaged be given more opportunities (usually through government programs) and that the privileged or naturally gifted be denied certain opportunities (though this is rarely emphasized in public). After all, opportunities are not bestowed equally upon all. Some are born to wealthy and well-connected parents. Others are born into working-class families of modest means. What was once thought to be a part of life is now seen as an injustice that ought to be remedied.

The same could be said of the extra opportunities afforded to the very good-looking, those with high IQs, the athletically gifted, or those who just happen to come of age during an economic boom. In fact, the more you think about all the ways in which we are different and how many opportunities grow out of the vagaries of life, the idea that all should have the same opportunities sounds ludicrous.

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Justice demands that we uphold the rule of law, secure the rights of all, and oppose any legal barriers to advancement. It does not demand that we ensure that everyone be given all they need to fulfill all their dreams. As a political community, we are obliged to tear down artificial barriers to opportunity and are morally bound to provide a minimum safety net, but we are under no categorical imperative to ensure that all reach their maximum potential.


As promised, two articles from First Things editor R.R. Reno. “Does the EU Have a Future?”

The Greeks are not laughing these days. On the contrary, they are rioting. The reason is simple: the social contract in Greece is being ripped up and a new one is about to be imposed by a consortium of international financial institutions coordinated by EU bureaucrats, the same ones who said, in effect, “Entrust your future to us, and you will be comfortable and secure.”

Policy experts and economic managers can avoid—or at least soften—economic difficulties. But to more reliably fulfill their promises they need more resources, greater authority, and wider reach. Thus the basic dynamic of the last twenty years in Europe: a transfer of sovereignty—especially economic sovereignty—to international experts.

In “The End of Social Democracy,” Reno gives credit for post-war social stability to social democracy, which subsidizes the middle class. The “economic reality” he cites in the first paragraph is that globalization has made economically irrelevant old Midwest cities that peaked in the middle of the 20th century. While adapting would have been difficult then, it will be even harder now.

The simple fact is that the goal of social democracy—stability in and through policies designed to create and protect middle class life—has for a long time insulated most citizens in Western nations from economic reality.

The most obvious example is globalization. New York is full of very wealthy men and women who work in finance, media, and other new economy jobs. They are exquisitely sensitive to the opportunities presented by globalization. Dearborn, Michigan? Youngstown, Ohio? Decades of policies that are too multifaceted and interlocking to admit of analysis much less summary have been deployed by well-meaning politicians and economic experts to protect them from exactly the market signals that make hedge fund managers rich.

I could give countless other examples, and they point to the same conclusion. The success of social democracy—it really has secured a high degree of social stability organized around middle class life—comes at a price that we are about to pay. After decades of protection the vital center of social democracy is now ill equipped to deal with economic pressures that we are faced with.


Victor Davis Hansen reviews the October 3rd debate and the post-debate:

While losing debaters often can postfacto snipe about the slickness of their successful opponent, I can’t remember a disappointed loser replaying and reconfiguring the debate over the next few days on the campaign trail, in the weird fashion Obama has been offering teleprompted counter-arguments that he could never muster on his own during the actual faceoff. The classic blowhard, after all, is the loud blusterer, who always retells his own arguments and run-ins from the perspective of his own genius, thereby offering the embarrassing proof that he regrets just how poorly he was outfoxed and outargued without a script.


Philip Jenkins writes on how political correctness in Great Britain has destroyed religious freedom:

Coptic believer Nadia Eweida was startled at the blatant discrimination she encountered in her job at the national airline. While Muslim women around her freely wore headscarves to fulfill their religious obligation, she was forbidden to wear a cross openly while working. Even Jews and Sikhs received more consideration: the policy was directed solely and explicitly towards Christians. When Nadia complained, political authorities and news media were grossly unsympathetic.

We might wonder why Nadia did not simply give up the unequal struggle, and move to a country like Great Britain, where Christianity is not just tolerated but which actually has an established national church. Why would she continue to tolerate the systematic injustice of an aggressive Islamist regime...

Oh wait, my mistake. Is my face red!

It turns out that although Nadia Eweida really is a Coptic Christian, she was living in England at the time, rather than Egypt, and that her job was with British Airways, at Heathrow. It was her British employers who concluded that public expressions of Christianity were unacceptable, in a land where the Queen is head of state, and the Supreme Governor of the Church by law established.

Jenkins wrote a book called Laying Down the Sword that, from reading this review, I can tell I wouldn’t enjoy.


Thomas Sowell reviews the October 3rd debate. I love this line:

Like so many people who have been beaten in a verbal encounter, and who can think of clever things to say the next day, after it is all over, President Obama, after his clear loss in his debate with Mitt Romney, called Governor Romney a “phony.”

“Jerk store,” anyone?

Then there’s this bit of exposition on Obama’s divisive rabble-rousing:

Departing from his prepared remarks, he mentioned the Stafford Act, which requires communities receiving federal disaster relief to contribute 10 percent as much as the federal government does.

Senator Obama, as he was then, pointed out that this requirement was waived in the case of New York and Florida because the people there were considered to be “part of the American family.” But the people in New Orleans – predominantly black – “they don’t care about as much,” according to Barack Obama.

If you want to know what community organizers do, this is it – rub people’s emotions raw to hype their resentments. And this was Barack Obama in his old community organizer role, a role that should have warned those who thought that he was someone who would bring us together, when he was all too well practiced in the arts of polarizing us apart.


John Bolton reviews Escape from North Korea, by Melanie Kirkpatrick. The gist of the review is to remind readers of the concentration camp conditions North Koreans live in, and the trials defecting to another country entails. But I found this tidbit the most compelling:

Because free states increasingly balked at facilitating this coercive system, the South successfully pushed through Congress “fugitive-slave laws,” our first national law-enforcement system. In a telling inversion of the conventional wisdom, the South sought increased federal power in Washington, while the North resisted. Congress enacted the first fugitive-slave law in 1793, and an even harsher one as part of the Compromise of 1850. Many historians believe that the South’s strident insistence on strictly enforcing the fugitive-slave laws, and the Underground Railroad’s resulting expansion and success, were critical factors in igniting abolitionist sentiment in free states, thereby ultimately triggering southern secession and the Civil War.


James D. Hornfischer reviews Into the Fire, a war memoir by Dakota Meyer:

Born in Columbia, Ky., in 1988, Mr. Meyer wasn’t bred for martial glory. An indifferent student, mostly interested in football, he enlisted in the Marines in 2006. A tour in Iraq ended when he nearly lost his right hand to a poisonous spider. Having qualified as a sniper, Mr. Meyer found the shortest path back to the fighting by volunteering to serve on an embedded training team in Afghanistan. He deployed to Kunar in 2009, operating amid the network of dirt roads and donkey trails leading into Pakistan. He was thrust into the brutal daily grind of counterinsurgency (COIN) and nation building. “The general idea was to make friends with the villagers, provide them security, give out project money, and build relationships with the local officials,” Mr. Meyer writes in “Into the Fire,” his terse and plain-spoken memoir. Looking to make soldiers out of Afghans who were as likely to be found smoking hashish and bootlegging stolen fuel as learning to clean their rifles, Mr. Meyer grew frustrated. As a shooter on a COIN team, one of just four infantrymen in the unit, he was never quite clear what he was there to do.


These excerpts from Fortress Israel by Patrick Tyler betray a lack of context:

By 1987, [Jacob] Peri quickly came to the conclusion that the intifada was not the work of the PLO; it was a spontaneous outburst, though words seemed insufficient in Peri’s view to describe the origins of the rebellion in Palestinian society.

“You have to understand that since 1967 a whole generation of Palestinians was raised, educated, suppressed, arrested-you name it-by Israel,” he told me. “There was a tone of despair, lack of hope, anger at having no way out, no direction-and it just burst out.”

Perhaps the rioters would be freer if they abandoned their ideology of death and hate. The Palestinians’ instinct for Jew-hatred and total war justifies generations of so-called “suppression” (i.e., self-defense).

The assassination of Abu Jihad was the kind of martial display that created a sensation, especially in Israel, where amazing feats by special forces always energized public opinion as if they were the Olympics. The tabloids were full of details about how it happened: Abu Jihad appeared at the top of a staircase wielding a pistol but went down in a hail of bullets. His corpse showed sixty gunshot wounds. The assassination triggered intensified rioting in Gaza and the West Bank where the IDF moved in to quell the violence begotten by its own violence and killed dozens of young Palestinians.

I have no sympathy for people who riot violently to commemorate the assassination of a murderer. Likewise I have no problem satisfying a people’s death wish if they make it a choice between their lives and mine.


An interesting article on the evolutionary origins of monogamy over at Cosmos:

As [Sergey Gavrilets] shows in his model, the transition to a largely monogamous society can happen if females actively choose their mates and subordinate males offer food or paternal care to gain their affection.

“The general approach in game theory is to assume that individuals are equal” and everybody can become an alpha male. In reality, weaker males may need to employ alternative strategies to be able to reproduce.

Gavrilets’ model also explicitly considers the possibility that females become faithful to males.

“My logic was that once males start provisioning, they are motivated to find females who would be faithful to them. So males would impose selection for faithfulness on females. Simultaneously females are always interested to hook up with males who are better providers,” he said. “That creates a coevolutionary process where both provisioning and faithfulness increase in parallel.”

Gavrilets’ argument is compelling, although I am ambivalent about God’s absence in this evolutionary explanation. I suppose we could evolve again, or devolve, given enough time, abandoning what we now understand to be distinctly human. Extinction would be the ultimate testament to our collective sin.

Commenting on the paper, Jacobus Boomsma, director of the Centre for Social Evolution at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark stresses the importance of monogamy for human evolution. “Pair-bonding is crucial for making males invest in offspring and was a key mating system innovation after our early ancestors split off from a sister clade that was likely as promiscuous as chimpanzees are today.”


Investor’s Business Daily sticks a fork in the War on Poverty:

Consider that almost a half-century ago, President Johnson thought he could eradicate American poverty by declaring a war on it. Despite the effort, the poor stubbornly remain with us. The poverty rate is at 15.1% and climbing, says the Cato Institute’s Michael Tanner, while in 1964, when the war started, it was “around 19% and falling rapidly.”

Since Johnson’s initiative, Tanner says Washington has “spent roughly $12 trillion fighting poverty, and state and local governments added another $3 trillion,” a total that is close to the size of today’s domestic economy. “Yet the poverty rate never fell below 10.5%,” says Tanner, “and is now at the highest level in nearly a decade.”


Sue Shellenbarger at the Wall Street Journal calls attention to college debt and delayed adulthood. Jodi Romine—”I’m just looking for some way to manage my finances”—sounds like the dislocated single I talked about in “Economic Bomb Shelter.”

High school’s Class of 2012 is getting ready for college, with students in their late teens and early 20s facing one of the biggest financial decisions they will ever make.

Total U.S. student-loan debt outstanding topped $1 trillion last year, according to the federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and it continues to rise as current students borrow more and past students fall behind on payments. Moody’s Investors Service says borrowers with private student loans are defaulting or falling behind on payments at twice prerecession rates.

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The implications last a lifetime. A recent survey by the National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys says members are seeing a big increase in people whose student loans are forcing them to delay major purchases or starting families.


Walter Williams is more aggressive in his assessment of the college scam.

Richard Vedder – professor of economics at Ohio University, adjunct scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and director of The Center for College Affordability & Productivity, or CCAP – in his article “Ditch ... the College-for-All Crusade,” published on The Chronicle of Higher Education’s blog, “Innovations” (6/7/2012), points out that the “U.S. Labor Department says the majority of new American jobs over the next decade do not need a college degree. We have a six-digit number of college-educated janitors in the U.S.” Another CCAP essay by Vedder and his colleagues, titled “From Wall Street to Wal-Mart,” reports that there are “one-third of a million waiters and waitresses with college degrees.” More than one-third of currently working college graduates are in jobs that do not require a degree, such as flight attendants, taxi drivers and salesmen. Was college attendance a wise use of these students’ time and the resources of their parents and taxpayers?

No.

Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa, authors of “Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses” (2011), report on their analysis of more than 2,300 undergraduates at 24 institutions. Forty-five percent of these students demonstrated no significant improvement in a range of skills – including critical thinking, complex reasoning and writing – during their first two years of college.

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