Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The catastrophe of good-sounding ideas


Ideas are such intangible things that it is hard to believe that they have had a huge impact on the lives of people who are not intellectuals and who, in many cases, have paid little attention to those ideas. Yet both secular and religious ideas have moved the emotions of many – and have moved leaders who moved armies.

When we look back on the Spanish Inquisition, on the Crusades of the past and the Jihads of the past and present, we see chilling examples of the effects of ideas. But the secular ideologies of the 20th century killed millions more people in Germany, Russia and China – and similarly in pursuit of higher goals, even if those ideals were used cynically by those with power, as in the past.

If there is any lesson in the history of ideas, it is that good intentions tell you nothing about the actual consequences. But intellectuals who generate ideas do not have to pay the consequences.

Academic intellectuals are shielded by the principles of academic freedom and journalists in democratic societies are shielded by the principle of freedom of the press. Seldom do those who produce or peddle dangerous, or even fatal, ideas have to pay a price, even in a loss of credibility.

Who blames Rachel Carson, an environmentalist icon, because her crusading writings against DDT led to the ban of this insecticide in countries around the world – followed by a resurgence of malaria that killed, and continues to kill, millions of people in tropical Third World countries?

Even political leaders have been judged by how noble their ideas sounded, rather than by how disastrous their consequences were. Woodrow Wilson – our only president with a Ph.D. – was an academic intellectual for years before entering politics, and his ideas about a war to end wars, making the world safe for democracy, and the right of self-determination of peoples, have been revered in utter disregard of what happened when Wilson's notions were put into practice in the real world.

No one today takes seriously the idea that the First World War was a war to end wars, and many now see it as setting the stage for a Second World War. Indeed there were those who predicted this result at the time. But they were not listened to, much less lionized, like Woodrow Wilson.

Like many intellectuals, Woodrow Wilson assumed that if things were bad, 'change' would automatically make them better. But the autocratic governments in Russia and Germany that Wilson abhorred were followed by totalitarian regimes so oppressive and murderous that they made the past despots look almost like sweethearts.

As for the self-determination of peoples, that turned out in practice to mean having whole peoples' fates determined by foreigners, such as Woodrow Wilson, who joined in the dismemberment of empires, with dire consequences in the 1930s, as Hitler picked off the small and vulnerable newly created nations, one by one – an operation that would have been far more dangerous if he had had to face the larger empires of which they had been part before the First World War.

To this day, we are still living with the consequences of carving up the Ottoman Empire to create far more unstable and dangerous states in the Middle East. But Woodrow Wilson's words sounded great – and that is what he and other intellectuals are judged by.

It may seem strange that so many people of great intellect have said and done so many things whose consequences ranged from counterproductive to catastrophic. Yet it is not so surprising when we consider whether anybody has ever had the range of knowledge required to make the sweeping kinds of decisions that so many intellectuals are prone to make, especially when they pay no price for being wrong.

Intellectuals and their followers have often been overly impressed by the fact that intellectuals tend, on average, to have more knowledge than other individuals in their society. What they have overlooked is that intellectuals have far less knowledge than the total knowledge possessed by the millions of other people whom they disdain and whose decisions they seek to override.

We have had to learn the consequences of elite preemption the hard way – and many of us have yet to learn that lesson.



Democratic governors facing trouble

Like many Democratic governors today, Iowa's Chet Culver won in 2006 on the strength of ambitious and expensive promises such as universal preschool and a plan to bolster the state's alternative-energy industry.

But persistent budget woes have forced the 43-year-old Mr. Culver to trim virtually all aspects of government, including social programs he pledged to expand, and a stern re-election race is ahead this fall. "We're making tough cuts, which will result in pain," said Mr. Culver, whose poll numbers have tumbled as the economy has tanked. "We're not closing early-childhood centers, we're reducing some of the appropriations. We're not going back on our commitment to teachers, but there have been reductions in resources."

Mr. Culver is not alone: 37 governors are on the ballot, and fighting as much against a deep and lingering downturn as they are against political rivals. It's a challenge that almost defies partisanship, with Republicans such as California's Arnold Schwarzenegger confronting the worst budget crisis in a generation. The problems, however, may be most acute for Democrats. They are defending 19 seats while scaling back the kind of spending that strengthens their appeal to important groups such as minority voters, teachers and other unionized public employees.

"In a recession, there's a lot less money for governors to work with, and they get blamed for cutting social programs and not following through on campaign promises," University of Denver political scientist Seth Masket said. "It's a particularly tough environment for Democratic incumbents, because they are seen as the party in power."

Democratic prospects can be tied in part to President Obama, whose popularity has dropped because of the jobless situation and a populist backlash against federal spending and rising deficits. Last year, Republicans captured governors' seats in New Jersey and Virginia from Democrats.

The outcome of governors' races this year will have a significant impact on Mr. Obama's political fortunes. Governors oversee the redistricting of their states' legislative and congressional districts after the 2010 census.

Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter, once considered a rising Democratic star, just dropped his bid for re-election after one term. His poll numbers were weak, and he faced a strong challenge from former U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis, the likely Republican nominee. Colorado's budget shortfall has forced Mr. Ritter to make education cuts, and he's angered state employees by directing them to take furlough days.



The coverup and rapid forgiveness are the most interesting parts of Reid's racial comments about Obama

Reid said privately in 2008 that Obama could succeed as a black candidate partly because of his ‘light-skinned’ appearance and speaking patterns ‘with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.’”

Black conservatives with the Project 21 leadership network are speaking out about the recently-revealed racial comments about Barack Obama that were made by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) in 2008:

Mychal Massie (chairman of Project 21): "Harry Reid is a loathsome individual whose apology was based on exposure not repentance. Reid's comments are proof positive that the racial animus of the past is alive and prevalent among liberals today, notwithstanding the fact that their standard-bearer is a black man."

Robert A. George: "How nice to see that, when it comes to race in America, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has such, ahem, 'enlightenment' (pun intended). Thank goodness no jive-talkin' darky ever thought about running for president! No way Reid could have supported him!!" (This quote comes from Robert's "Ragged Thots" blog. The entire post can be seen here)

Bob Parks: "The hazard of being an apologist is having your own words thrown back in your face. Obama demanded the Republicans drum Senator Trent Lott out of their party in 2002 when Lott gave inappropriate praise to centenarian and reformed segregationist senator Strom Thurmond on his birthday. The underlying problem here is that boneheaded racist statements by politicians are all too common, and only conservatives seem to get called on them and punished. Republicans did strip Lott of his leadership post. Obama is absolving the Democrats of acting against Reid. This is a dangerous trend." (More can be found on Bob's "Black and Right" web site)

Lisa Fritsch: "Why would Harry Reid apologize now when it seems clear he felt it and meant it at the time? It was less likely 'a poor choice of words' than an honest reflection of Reid's character."

R. Dozier Gray: "Black people historically have a lot of forgiveness in their hearts for people who make statements like the one Reid made. I might have forgiven him long ago had he sought to be accountable when he realized that what he said was stupid instead of when he realized that a book featuring it was coming out. But the black 'leadership' will likely let this slide. Power is usually more important to them than this sort of soft racism from a political ally. Truth be told, some of the policies advocated by Reid and his allies are more damaging than a few of his random racial comments."

Darryn "Dutch" Martin: "In the grand scheme of things, what Reid said, his apology and Obama's acceptance of it is irrelevant. What is striking is that Reid said it in 2008, a Time magazine reporter knew it and didn't make it public until 2010! Why wasn't it reported as soon as it became known? Would the mainstream media exercise such restraint and bury a newsworthy quote if a conservative public figure made a similar linguistic faux pas? I think not."

Reid is no stranger to using the race card for political gain. In December 2009, for example, Reid compared those who opposed a government takeover of health care to lawmakers who opposed abolishing slavery and civil rights legislation.




Democrats close ranks around Reid: "Democrats on Sunday rallied to the defense of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid from a political firestorm caused by his newly reported remarks during the 2008 presidential campaign describing Barack Obama as "light-skinned" who chose to speak "with no Negro dialect." "I think if you look at the reports as I have, it was all in the context of saying positive things about Senator Obama," said Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine. "It definitely was in the context of recognizing in Senator Obama a great candidate and future president." Mr. Reid apologized to Mr. Obama on Saturday, and the president issued a statement accepting the apology and saying he considered the matter closed. The Nevada Democrat, a pivotal figure in Mr. Obama's hopes of passing a health care reform bill and other top agenda items, said later Sunday that he had no intention of resigning his leadership post or his Senate seat, as Republican lawmakers began demanding Sunday. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, California Democrat, said Mr. Reid should not resign and defended his remark as just a "mistake." While Democrats rallied to the Senate leader's side, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael S. Steele mocked Mr. Kaine's defense and he called on Mr. Reid to resign. "If [Senate Minority Leader] Mitch McConnell had said those very words, then this chairman and this president would be calling for his head, and they would be labeling every Republican in the country a racist for saying exactly what this chairman's just said," Mr. Steele said."

Interagency gaps let bomb suspect retain visa: "U.S. visa-revocation procedures broke down in a welter of interagency uncertainty in the case of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a failure that current and former officials say allowed the Nigerian Islamist known to U.S. intelligence to board an airliner with a homemade bomb on Christmas Day. However, the visa shortcomings were not the main focus of President Obama's recent comments on the security and intelligence failures related to the attempted bombing of Northwest Airlines Flight 253 from Amsterdam to Detroit. "The system isn't broken, but what failed fundamentally in this case was the lack of focus on the potential threat threads tied to attack-planning directed at the United States," said Juan Zarate, who was a counterterrorism adviser to President George W. Bush. He is now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "That's not a technological problem — this was a failure of forcing the existing system to concentrate on the potential reality of that threat," he said."

CA: Queer marriage appeal begins today: "A historic trial over California’s Proposition 8 starts today in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, promising to feature clashing witness testimony over equal rights, the meaning of bigotry and the purpose of marriage. The outcome could affect not only California but also the broader national question of equal rights for gays and whether their federal constitutional rights supersede a state’s right to ban same-sex marriage.”

2009: China surpasses Germany as world’s largest exporter: "China overtook Germany as the world’s top exporter last year, data compiled by Global Trade Information Services Inc. show. China shipped products worth $958 billion in the first 10 months of 2009, while Germany sold goods worth $918 billion to customers abroad, according to an Internet database operated by Columbia, S.C.-based GTI. Exports from China exceeded German shipments every month since April last year, data show. China has already slipped past Germany to become the world’s third-largest economy and is forecast to overtake Japan this year, assuming the No. 2 spot behind the United States.”

Media Inflated Civilian Deaths at Gaza School, Ignored Israeli Account "On January 6, 2009, there was an infamous explosion near the U.N.-run Fakhura school at the Jabaliya refugee camp in Gaza, as the Israeli military did battle with Hamas fighters. The Israeli military’s official account of the incident, released in February 2009, contended that 12 people died outside the school, nine of whom were identified as Hamas members. But, as ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, FNC, and PBS reported the incident, all cited a substantially higher account of the death toll which was claimed by Palestinian officials and the U.N. as being "more than forty" or "dozens,"claiming that many civilians – who were sheltering inside the school to escape the danger of Israeli airstrikes – were among the dead. While most news shows did relay the Israeli account that the explosion occurred because their troops were battling Hamas members, these news shows never reported to viewers the official Israeli account that nearly all who died were Hamas members. In fact, some earlier reports had cited the number of Hamas members in the group as being as low as two. Many news shows on ABC, CBS, and NBC also referred to the incident – which caused damage to the school wall but no deaths within the school building – as an Israeli "attack on the school".

Big win for the big top over animal rights frauds: "An animal rights group that prosecuted one of the US’s most famous circuses for elephant abuse has had its claims rejected by a federal judge. District judge Emmet Sullivan ruled in favour of Feld Entertainment, the owner of Ringling Bros and Barnum and Bailey circus, after a nine-year case initiated by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). The animal rights organisation had accused the circus of ill-treating its Asian elepants, which are one of its biggest attractions. The case was supported by the Animal Welfare Institute, the Fund for Animals, the Animal Protection Institute and a former Ringling Bros employee, Tom Rider, who worked at the circus as a “barn man” or elephant handler between 1997 and 1999. It was dismissed in 2001, but was reinstated two years later after an appeal court ruled that if Tom Rider could prove he was “aesthetically injured” by the circus’s treatment of its elephants, the case could continue... Judge Sullivan, however, dismissed the plaintiffs’ case after it emerged that Rider had been paid tens of thousands of dollars by the animal rights groups involved."

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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)


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