Friday, November 15, 2013

Amphibian wisdom


Obama Blames U.S. Economic Trouble on Someone Else

The Reagan administration waged the War on Drugs; the second Bush administration waged the War on Terror. Barack Obama will go down as the president who waged the War on Success. A key weapon in this war has been diverting responsibility to others. It was no shock when during the 2008 campaign Obama blamed George W. Bush for the economic meltdown. It soon became apparent that affixing blame elsewhere would become a way of life for Obama.

He blames everyone, from the “the millionaires and billionaires” to Fox News. More recently, “bad apple” insurance companies are to blame for the nightmare that is ObamaCare. Basically, the Obama administration has been responsible for nothing – except, of course, the take-down of Osama bin Laden. The president most recently continued this pattern by blaming U.S. economic problems on … Germany. A semi-annual report by the Treasury Department report accused Germany of “cooking the books” in terms of its exports and thus hindering the global recovery. The Germans are already upset with the U.S. over the NSA spying; now Obama blames them for his economic mess.

Germany does make an excellent scapegoat for Obama with its enviable (by comparison) 6.9% unemployment rate and its increase in consumer spending. It's faring much better than other countries in the EU, something the German authorities were quick to point out in their reaction to the report. It seems Obama is not just against American exceptionalism but exceptionalism, period.

In the meantime, the U.S. economy expanded at a 2.8% annual rate from July to September, much better than anticipated by economic experts. So much for the Democrats' claims that the government shutdown would hurt the economy – in fact, maybe the government should shut down more often.



Bill Clinton May Have Just Penned ObamaCare's Epitaph

Who would think the president who proposed HillaryCare would help kill ObamaCare. Bill Clinton just gave congressional Democrats cover to oppose their party's president — and try salvaging their political skins.

When New Coke failed back in the 1980s, the Coca-Cola Co. didn't "fix" it; the company swiftly brought back the real Coke, calling it "Coca-Cola Classic."

In the end, New Coke was scrapped and the fiasco made consumers appreciate "The Real Thing" that they had taken for granted.

ObamaCare can't be "fixed" any more than New Coke could. But the pressure's on for Democrats to get rid of it, even if, like the Coke Co., they must pretend it's not really a failure, and they're not returning to the past.

Of all people, ex-President Bill Clinton has come to their rescue. Ozy Media's interview with Clinton sent tremors through Washington on Tuesday, as President Obama's official ObamaCare "explainer in chief" said: "Even if it takes a change to the law, the president should honor the commitment the federal government made" to younger, healthy health insurance beneficiaries "and let 'em keep what they got."

But this isn't just self-centered Bill being Bill, as when his convention speech outshone Obama's at last year's convention. Clinton may well be saving incumbent Democratic congressmen and senators from the voters' wrath next year, for which they'll be grateful — both to Bill and to certain 2016 presidential candidate Hillary.

What the Democratic Party's elder statesman just did is give congressional Democrats permission to oppose Obama on ObamaCare.

It doesn't mean they will explicitly call for repeal, but they now no longer have to be shy about insisting on big legislative changes that could unravel the whole law.

Writing in Forbes on the eve of Clinton's remarks, University of Colorado at Boulder presidential scholar Steven Hayward firmly predicted that "ObamaCare is going to be repealed well in advance of next year's election" — even if it's "repeal" by another name.

The question is what the political dynamic will be in Congress. With majority control of the House of Representatives, Republicans should wield huge leverage.

But Hayward warns that changing the ObamaCare law to drop the individual mandate "could leave us with an unfunded expansion of Medicaid and a badly disrupted private insurance market," something the GOP can avoid through proposing "a serious replacement policy, based on the premium support tax credit ideas that John McCain advocated (poorly) in 2008."

There is a much bigger issue, however: Will the Tea Party, and their sizable forces among House Republicans, accept anything less than pure repeal — even if it is a legislative reform that tears the heart out of ObamaCare and will be a big step toward its demise?

Will doing nothing — forcing Democrats to sleep in the bed they made for themselves — be an option?

Whatever happens, by backing changing the law to fulfill a promise Obama knew he couldn't keep, Bill Clinton may find himself having written ObamaCare's epitaph.



Trust Us: This Will Be Good for You

By Jonah Goldberg

The government thinks you're stupid, or at least ignorant.

This isn't just an indictment of the current government or an indictment of government itself. It's simply a statement of fact. At its core, the government exists to do certain things that people aren't equipped to do on their own. The list of those things has gotten longer and longer over the years. In 1776, the federal government's portfolio could have easily fit in a file folder: maintain an army and navy, a few federal courts, the post office, the patent office and maybe a dozen or two other pretty obvious things.

Now, the file folder of things the federal government does is much bigger. To paraphrase Dr. Egon Spengler from “Ghostbusters,” let's imagine that the federal government in 1776 was the size of this Twinkie (take my word for it, I'm holding a normal-sized Twinkie). Today that Twinkie would be 35 feet long, weighing approximately 600 pounds. Or, if that illustration doesn't work for you, consider this: The number of civilians (i.e., not counting the military) who work for the executive branch alone is today nearly equal to the entire population of the United States in 1776. The Federal Register, the federal government's fun-filled journal of new rules, regulations and the like, was about 2,600 pages in 1936 (a year after it was created). Today it's over 80,000 pages.

And that's just at the federal level. Each state government is a pretty giant-sized Twinkie, too. In Massachusetts, all kids in daycare are required by law to brush their teeth after lunch. In Texas – Texas! – if you don't have an interior design license, you can't call yourself an interior designer, lest some unsuspecting consumer trust your opinion on throw pillow placement without the backing of the state. Almost everywhere, Americans need a license to open a business – sometimes even a lemonade stand – but in Milwaukee, you even need a license to go out of business.

The justifications for all of these laws and all of these workers – the good, the bad and the ugly – have one thing in common: the assumption that the rest of us couldn't get by without them, whether we like it or not.

This week the feds took the first steps to ban trans fats. Why? Because trans fats are bad for you and you can't be trusted to avoid them on your own. I bring this up not because it is such an outrageous illustration of my point, but to demonstrate how typical it is. This is what the government does, day in, day out.

That's what makes the reaction to Obamacare so interesting. Several times now, the president has endeavored to explain that it's not that big a deal millions of Americans are losing their health insurance plans against their will. The people who had plans they liked didn't understand that the plans they liked were no good – they were the actuarial equivalent of trans fats, don't you know? The fact that the people who held them liked them, thought they were good and wanted to keep them doesn't count for much, because the government knows best.

The president can't say it as plainly as he would like, because to do so would be to admit not only that he lied to the American people, but that he thinks the complainers are ignorant about their own needs and interests.

The president's more intellectually honest defenders have said exactly that. “Vast swathes of policy are based on the correct presumption that people don't know what's best for them. Nothing new,” tweeted Josh Barro, politics editor for Business Insider.

Barro's fairly liberal, but I'd be dishonest if I said that he was wrong from a conservative perspective. The difference, however, is that conservatives tend to see government as a necessary evil, and therefore see policymaking with some humility. Liberals tend to see government as a necessary good, and see ordering people to do things “for their own good” as a source of pride, even hubris.

From a conservative perspective, telling people how to run their lives when not absolutely necessary is an abuse of power. For liberals, telling people how to run their lives is one of the really fun perks of working for the government.

You can see the frustration on the president's face. It's almost like the ingrates who refuse to understand that his were necessary lies for their own good are spoiling all his fun.



The Progressive Degradation of Freedom

By Daren Jonescu

I am convinced we are born with a "freedom sense," a mental faculty which perceives the degree to which our lives are grounded in our own will and judgment.  This is not the same as the desire to be free; rather, it is the capacity to perceive whether we are free.  It is therefore related to the desires as are all our perceptual faculties, namely as nature's means of revealing our proper goals.  Freedom would therefore stand in the same column of human goods as the beautiful and the euphonious, things which are desirable because they satisfy the natural purpose, or obey the innate "rules," of the faculties to which they correspond.    

What happens, however, when oppressive violations are systematized, and take on the aspect of insurmountable obstacles which leave us physically intact while flatly denying us the basic ownership of body and mind that is the minimum requirement of natural self-preservation?  What happens, in other words, when coercion and violation -- the normal methods of humans who choose to live as irrational animals -- evolve towards a totalitarian form?

In such circumstances, the choices before us are more complex.  These "progressive," insinuating forms of oppression force us to accommodate ourselves to the situation -- to learn to live with it -- as the only means of maintaining any sense of normalcy in our lives.  Just as we have the capacity to adjust the receptiveness of our sight to filter out flaws and ugliness that disturb our view of things, or to acclimatize our hearing to ignore monotonous or ugly sounds that would otherwise distract us from our thoughts and pleasures, so we are able to train our minds to overlook encroachments upon our will in the name of maintaining a more palatable perception of our circumstances with regard to freedom.

To demonstrate what is thus lost, consider, on the one hand, the American founders, men whose freedom sense was developed to a level comparable to perfect pitch in hearing.  They were so acutely sensitive to encroachments upon the individual's natural need for self-determination, and so offended by these unnatural disturbances, that while differing on the precise means, they were united in literally seeking to banish the most serious and offensive of such violations -- those deriving from political authority -- from their midst entirely, at the risk of their reputations, wealth, and blood if necessary.  "Give me liberty or give me death" may be said by anyone; it may only be lived by someone with a heightened sensitivity to the loss of liberty, meaning someone whose nature has not yet been diluted by the gradual distortion of self-preservation into acquiescence, as described above.

And consider our Western progressive majority, their freedom sense well along the downward arc from the peak of the American founders to the bleak degradations of North Korea.  What has progressivism wrought?

Today, even the heirs to the American founders have seen themselves subjected to degradations and injustices more extreme than the affronts which compelled their forebears to stage a revolution.  And progressivism's grand prize, socialized medicine, has forced in the door at last.  Americans who fantasize that Obamacare's failure will be its undoing have missed the point.  What does "failure" have to do with anything?  All progressive programs fail.  If the successful provision of societal benefits were a necessary condition of its continuance, socialism would no longer exist.  The necessary condition for the continuance of progressive policies is a ruling elite motivated by power lust -- and time for men to denature themselves in the name of "learning to live with it."

Socialized medicine teaches that you must not value your life above that of other men.  Not only should no doctor care about your personal survival, but you yourself should stop thinking your survival is any kind of priority.  You should wait your turn in the only line in town, and be grateful if you do eventually get what you need from central command.  After all, what choice do you have?  Finally, this degradation -- this total denial in principle of the most basic instinct of all living things, the instinct to preserve oneself through one's own effort -- causes one to see "fairness" in this universal abject self-denial, to bow one's head before the objective hand of government.

This is what becomes of the desire for self-preservation under progressivism.  Indeed, this is the purpose of progressivism in all its forms -- from socialized education to the bureaucratically micromanaged economy, and from the moral relativism and collectivist sentimentalism of "mass entertainment" to the protection of a permanent ruling elite through cronyism and a state-manipulated press.  The aim is to produce the sort of citizen for whom "I am human" no longer essentially means "I am free."

The goal is to degrade your natural perception of freedom to the level of being content with your bowl of rice -- or, at the intermediate stage, with your smartphones, music videos, and entitlement programs -- purchased with your daughter's future, your reason, your self-ownership.  That this goal is as close to global achievement as it is today is astonishing -- though no more so than the fact that there are still men left who are able to perceive what has been lost, and to mount a resistance.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC,  AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

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Thursday, November 14, 2013

How liberalism corrodes a smart brain

In his critique of conservatism, David Simon commits one of the informal fallacies of logic -- something you learn even in High School logic classes:  The "ad hominem" fallacy  -- the fallacy that the truth of a proposition can be determined from the character of the person proposing it. How can a smart man be so infantile? -- JR


Let me first praise David Simon for his terrific book, Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets which spawned one of the greatest American TV series in history, Homicide: Life on the Street. I also hear The Wire is great.

Praise complete. Now I’ll bury this Hollywood liberal bully.

Simon presses the liberal agenda of White American Guilt in his oh-so-noble praise of the new film 12 Years a Slave, which also demonstrates how yet another Hollywood know-it-all has absolutely no understanding of our Constitution. This is particularly galling because Simon is an accomplished journalist, and his work on Homicide demonstrated equal compassion for all human beings.

Simon praises Slave's emotional honesty and narrative fairness, saying, “for once, the escapism, bluster and simple provocation that marks a good 95 percent of our film output has been somehow flanked, and subversively so.” This alone is enough to get me to consider seeing the film, though the words of a Jewish college pal regarding Holocaust films echoes in my mind: “I don’t need Hollywood to revivify the Holocaust for me.”

I feel the same way about slavery. I’ve written before that capturing evil on film is likely impossible in narrative form. That somehow a movie is going to elevate my understanding of slavery seems unlikely.

However, Simon goes off the rails when he presents the tired argument that because the Founding Fathers had slaves, the Constitution itself is fruit of the poisonous tree. Therefore, if you support “original intent” when interpreting the Constitution, you are a racist.

"If original intent included the sadism and degradation of human slavery, then original intent is a legal and moral standard that can be consigned to the ash heap of human history. Hardcore conservatives and libertarians who continue to parse the origins of the Constitutions under the guise of returning to a more perfect American union are on a fool’s journey to decay and dishonor."

Except Simon has constructed a straw man “if-then” proposition, because that’s not what “original intent” means. One such definition is, “…"original intent" can be ascertained by review of the historical context of the issue being addressed and goals that must have been in the minds of the framers of the Constitution as they wrote the words. Usually the authors and signers of a Constitution will have written privately and/or publicly about the document or the various issued addressed within.”

Originalism itself has many definitions and subsets, with many legal analyses littering the internet. Yet Simon claims that because the Founders were not perfect, and some (12 of the 55 at the Constitutional Convention) owned slaves, the goals in the minds of the framers are racist, invalidating the entire document or original intent reading thereof, making them morally abhorrent. It’s typical Alinsky, by the way--frame your opponent as a racist, call him a racist--now he’ll be seen as a racist.

However, if you ask most conservatives and libertarians what “original intent” means to them in just a few words, they repeat the words of Patrick Henry: "The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government." In other words, Mr. Simon, “original intent” means “limited government,” and not having liberal justices treat the Constitution as a “living, breathing document” whose interpretation changes with whomever is on the judicial bench at the time.

To be more specific, Simon and all his liberal pals would benefit by viewing Bill Whittle’s outstanding series “What We Believe” and maybe take a class in the Federalist papers, for no sane person equates slavery with a “perfect union” or “original intent.” The Founding Fathers were not perfect. America was not perfect. That’s exactly why the Constitution created a mechanism for amending the document. What’s troubling is that Simon--a smart and accomplished individual--is either ignorant regarding what Conservatism is really about, or (more likely) he’s being a typical liberal bully.

Here’s why I assert Simon is a bully. His own words reveal him to be a petty, nasty, mean-spirited guy.   “…anything I've ever accomplished as a writer, as somebody doing TV, anything I've ever done in life, down to, like, cleaning up my room, has been accomplished because I was going to show people that they were [bleeped] up, wrong, and that I was the [bleeping] center of the universe and the sooner they got hip to that, the happier they would all be."

This petulant, childish Leftist can’t even clean up his room without showing people he’s the [bleeping] center of the universe. Yet, we’re expected to take his word as to what “original intent” means? It certainly does not include “sadism and degradation of human slavery.” What it means to liberals like Simon is yet another excuse to tear up the Constitution, force big government onto the people, and have liberal ideology rule the day. In other words, make us all slaves to government.

How ironic.



The Unbearable Blindness of David Simon

by Andrew Klavan

I have been traveling and so this comes a little late, but it’s still worth saying. Lawrence Meyers at the wonderful Breitbart site Big Hollywood had an excellent takedown of David Simon last week. Simon, author of the brilliant book Homicide and creator of the excellent television show The Wire, is also, according to the book Difficult Men, a self-obsessed and bullying leftist. Recently, he attacked conservatives and, indeed, the U.S. Constitution they are trying to defend. Simon says:

"If original intent included the sadism and degradation of human slavery, then original intent is a legal and moral standard that can be consigned to the ash heap of human history. Hardcore conservatives and libertarians who continue to parse the origins of the Constitutions under the guise of returning to a more perfect American union are on a fool’s journey to decay and dishonor."

I leave it to Meyers’s strong piece to take down this nonsense, as indeed he does.

But here’s what bugs me. The Wire (which is, to some extent, based on the year Simon spent with the Baltimore Homicide Squad while researching Homicide) takes place in a city without conservatives, even without Republicans. There has not been a Republican mayor of Baltimore since 1967. And much of the show’s genius lies in its depiction of the brutalized life of black people in the city’s ghetto.

So we have a writer who has seen for himself, and who has shown us, the effects of Democrat governance on a city, the dehumanization of the poor that is the direct result of leftism and the corruption that inevitably springs from it. And yet Simon blames conservatives!

I understand why too, as I’ll explain:

I was a liberal once. I knew that liberal policy was wrong — but I also knew that conservatives were evil. Racist, sexist, uncaring, one step from Nazis. This was a religious truth to me. Well, of course it was. All leftists are taught this. That’s how the left keeps you in the fold despite the evidence of your own eyes. Leftists do to their followers what the townspeople did to Jim Carrey’s character in that movie The Truman Show. They teach them to fear and hate the unknown so much that they won’t test alternative ideas no matter how bad things get. “Life in Liberal World may be a mess, Truman,” they tell you, “but oh the horrors that wait for you out there in Conservative Land!”

David Simon’s intelligence is being thwarted by this superstitious fear. Cowering inside the virtuous feeling of his leftism, he does not know what he does not know. If he wants to see up close the horrors that left-wing policies visit on the lives of the poor, he ought to try watching The Wire. It’s all in there.



College Students Assess the Terms “Conservative” and “Progressive”

MRCTV’s Dan Joseph recently walked around American University asking students how they defined the terms “conservative” and “progressive.” It didn’t go so well:

In fairness, I suspect the responses would have been very different if the interviews were conducted at an institution like, say, Hillsdale College -- and not American University. But generally speaking, these reactions -- remarkable for their uniformity of opinion -- are probably typical of how students think at institutions of higher learning in the United States today.

The general consensus? Conservatives want America to be a 1950s-esque patriarchal society where power is concentrated in the hands of the “one percent,” whereas progressives have “open views” and want to make things better for everyone. The implication, of course, as Joseph pointed out, is that conservatives are therefore actively not trying to make things better for everyone -- a complete distortion of American conservatism and what it stands for. Students repeatedly used the term “status quo,” avowing that conservatism, as an intellectual movement, is fundamentally "against moving the country forward." To back up their claims, students cited a number of hot-button issues -- gay marriage, abortion, and climate change, to name a few -- as evidence that conservatives really do subscribe to a “backwards” ideology. None of this is surprising, fair, or, for that matter, even true.

Students who attend decidedly liberal colleges are presumably going to view conservatives in a negative light. This caricature is reinforced by their professors and the content of their classes. In time, they will come to see conservatism as a powerful yet misguided movement that is inherently racist, bigoted, and “for the rich.” Not until conservatives seriously engage this audience of Americans -- by first and foremost visiting their colleges and universities -- will the status quo ever change.

Time to get to work.



EMP threat:  Ostrich response?

Few public policy issues are of greater import to the future security of the United States and its people than whether the nation’s electric grid is sufficiently resilient to withstand serious, and possibly enduring, disruption from man-caused or naturally occurring events.

Yesterday, however, a congressional warning was sounded that the needed, honest evaluation of that question may be hindered – not advanced – by a test slated for 13-14 November that is billed by its chief sponsor as a “biennial international grid security exercise” designed to evaluate “crisis response plans and identify actionable improvement recommendations for plans, security programs, and skills” in the face of cyber and physical attacks on the grid.

In the attached letter to the leaders of the electric industry’s trade association/regulator, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC), Representative Trent Franks (R-AZ) expressed concern about the public response of a Florida utility, the Kissimmee Utility Authority, to a National Geographic feature film entitled, “American Blackout” that aired on 27 October 2013.

“[The docudrama] showed what our countrymen and nation would experience in the event of a cyber attack on the U.S. bulk power distribution system that shut down the grid for ten days.  If anything, the serious hardships, dislocation, physical destruction, deaths and societal breakdown portrayed in this docudrama are likely understated.

“Yet…the Kissimmee Utility Authority saw fit to issue a press release after ‘American Blackout’ was broadcast that downplayed the dangers associated with the sort of disruption portrayed in the film.  It was headlined, ‘No Need for Panic.’”

Mr. Franks, the Co-Chairman of the House Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) Caucus, observed:  “We note that the industry has often issued such casual assurances when confronted with evidence – including that contained in no fewer than five different federal government studies in recent years – that a sustained blackout would be catastrophic.

Rather than address this conclusion forthrightly and ensure that corrective actions are taken to prevent such an event, or at least minimize its likelihood, NERC and many of the utilities it represents have historically tried to deflect attention and trivialize the threat.”

Rep. Franks, who introduced last week with Rep. Pete Sessions, the chairman of the powerful House Rules Committee, H.R. 3410, the Critical Infrastructure Protection Act, asked the electric industry leaders pointedly:  “In light of these dangers, we want to establish whether you and the North American Electric Reliability Corporation share the view of the utility in Kissimmee?  Or do you believe the public should be concerned that the grid may be offline for extended periods?”

In conclusion, Rep. Franks served notice on those responsible for GridEx II:  “If…NERC and others involved in planning and executing GridEx II are dismissive of those who believe such vulnerabilities exist – and if the planners are intent on using the exercise to hide, rather than expose, these shortcomings – GridEx may actually be a grave disservice to the consumer, to the public more generally and perhaps to America’s vital national security.”

A new video (“The Real American Blackout” at was unveiled last week by the EMP Coalition – an ad hoc group made up of many of the nation’s leading experts and organizations committed to protecting the bulk power distribution grid and the critical infrastructures that depends upon it from the terrible consequences of a long-duration loss of power, raises similar concerns.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC,  AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to  update.  Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Oh dear!  Who's the shrimp in this picture?

The tall man is a King, and a very popular one.  He is Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands.  The Dutch do tend to be tall.  Willem Alexander is 6'3"

And you know who the shrimp is.  Hint:  The pic was taken in Russia


More on WWI

On Nov. 7th., I put up a post which eneavoured to explain both why wars in general happen and why WWI in particular happened.  The sheer awfulness of WWI does however make my explanation in sociological and legal terms seem rather shallow so I would like to put forward deeper levels of explanation as well.  Before I do that, however, I reproduce below an essay that stresses how hard it is to understand the awful events of that war.
Why War?

By Richard Koenigsberg

In 1989, I was on the fourth floor of the Bobst library at NYU. Having read most of the books on Nazism, Hitler and the Holocaust, I drifted across the aisle and started browsing through the volumes on the First World War—and was astonished at what I discovered.

I was astonished—not only by the persistence and magnitude of the slaughter—but by the blasĂ© way historians described what had occurred. It seemed as if mass murder was taken for granted: nothing special. At least the Holocaust evoked shock and bewilderment. But the extermination of 9 million human beings (most of them young men) evoked little amazement.

I began studying the topic more deeply, assuming historians would reveal the causes. What was so significant that could generate such massive slaughter? Of course, historians were able to trace how one event led to another. But why did the slaughter take place? Why was it necessary? Gradually, I realized historians were unable to answer these questions.

Orion and I were reading back issues of the New York Review of Books earlier this week—as a model for Library of Social Science Book Reviews—and came across a terrific article by Jason Epstein. In his review essay, Epstein poses several questions I have been thinking about during the past 25 years.

Reviewing John Keegan’s The First World War, Epstein conveys this great historian’s conclusion: that the nations of Europe (and the world) “had no compelling reason to fight.” Keegan asked: “Why did the states of Europe proceed as if in a dead march and a dialogue of the deaf, to the destruction of their continent and its civilization?” It is this question—and others like it—that we pose in this Newsletter, and through our Websites.

The most profound flaw in the thinking of historians and political scientists is their assumption of rationality. They proceed as if it is possible to identify “real reasons” for mass murder—and for the tendency of nation-states to proceed as if self-extermination was their objective.

Epstein cites a sermon presented by the Bishop of London in 1915, who urged Englishmen to kill Germans…to kill the good as well as the bad, to kill the young men as well the old,…to kill them lest the civilization of the world should itself be killed. As I have said a thousand times, I look upon it as a war for purity…for the principles of Christianity. I look upon everyone who dies in it as a martyr.

The words in this brief passage (that easily could have come out of Hitler’s mouth) reveal several themes that have emerged from my research on collective forms of violence.

Warfare revolves around the idea that it is necessary to kill or destroy the enemy. There is blind passion in the Bishop’s words—he insists it is necessary to “kill Germans,” the “good as well as the bad,” the “young men as well as the old”. Why this belief that it necessary to kill—or kill off—each and every member of another nation or societal group?

Nations and enemies go together. It seems that one requires the other, almost as if nations need enemies in order to energize themselves—to stay alive. The nation’s identity seems to be dependent on its capacity to identify an enemy to hate, revile—and possibly kill.

The Bishop asserts that it is necessary to kill Germans “lest the civilization of the world should itself be killed.” I have found that the idea of “rescuing civilization” is central in generating warfare. War is not about “primitive aggression.” Rather, nations initiate acts of war when they imagine that the future of civilization is at stake.

Somehow, the other civilization (or group) is imagined to threaten the existence of one’s own civilization. This principle applies to contemporary political struggles—as well as the First World War. Warfare arises as a form of morality, or moral righteousness. The enemy Other is imagined to be acting to destroy one’s own society. Violent acts are therefore necessary—required.

Hitler explained, “We may be inhumane, but if we rescue Germany, we have performed the greatest deed in the world.” If you think about any case of political violence that you have studied or are familiar with, you will probably conclude that Hitler’s statement is applicable. Collective forms of violence are undertaken in the name of a rescue fantasy. “Yes, we are performing acts of inhumane violence. However, if our nation or society is to survive, we have no other choice but to undertake them.”

The Bishop’s war cry, Epstein observes, could have “landed him in an asylum” had he delivered it a year earlier. Warfare, it would appear, renders normal what in other circumstances would be judged insane. Outside the context of war, asking men to get out of trenches and to run into machine gun fire and artillery shells for four years—would be considered a form of insanity.

I worked with a psychiatrist in 1998 developing an all-day seminar on warfare. She was not a historian and was unfamiliar with the First World War. We were sitting on a couch watching Stanley Kubrick’s Paths of Glory (1957). When we came to the scene in which soldiers were compelled to get out of their trench and move into no man’s land—in the face of massive shelling (click the link to view the video), she jumped up from the couch and screamed, “It’s crazy. It’s insane.”

This, perhaps, is the normal or natural reaction of a human being who has not been socialized into the historical discourse on the First World War. And yes, what occurred between 1914 and 1918 was insane. However, we don’t like to say this. We shy away from acknowledging that insane forms of behavior are contained within the fabric of civilization.

What’s more, human beings to not seem to be ashamed of their proclivity toward mass murder and self-destruction. Leaders who are responsible for the deaths of millions of human beings often live to a ripe old age. Perhaps we are even proud of our willingness to kill and die for abstract ideas—our sacred ideals. It’s what distinguishes us from other animals.

Can we begin to “bracket” the ideology of warfare—to conceive of this institution as something other than who we are? Post-modernists have deconstructed nearly everything. However, the idea of warfare (and of the nation-state, which generates war) reigns supreme.

It is easy to be “against” war. However, we have yet to pose and answer fundamental questions: Precisely what is warfare? Why do we need it? Why have human beings become so attached to the idea or ideology of warfare? These are questions we seek to answer through our Library of Social Science Newsletter, our Ideologies of War website, and through Library of Social Science Book Reviews.

We may not be ready to conceive of warfare as an institutionalized form of insanity. So let’s say that warfare is like a dream that many people are having at once: a collective fantasy that has been embraced and called “reality.”

At least in the essay above, Koenigsberg has no answer as to why those terrible events all happened   -- but I think a wider knowledge of history does give a lot of the answers.

The key, as I see it, is that there were many mutually reinforcing tendencies leading to that war.  I have dealt with the sociological and legal reasons on 7th., so now I want to mention the anthropological, psychological and strategic reasons.  With influences at all five levels pointing in the one direction, the actual events become more understandable.

For a start, let me reinforce something Koenigsberg says:  That Britons were told the were defending civilization against the barbaric Germans. Since Germany was at the time arguably the most civilized nation on earth, this is a truly epic example of lying propaganda.

And illogical, though it was, that propaganda message seems to have been widely accepted.  A generation later,  Hitler greatly admired that.  He thought it showed that the British were masters of propaganda, something I would not dispute.

To understand why that bizarre message was even initiated, however, anthropology needs to be called upon.  And it helps if you know Melanesians.  Melanesians are the black inhabitants of the large island of New Guinea (slightly larger than Texas) and neighboring islands.  I rather like Melanesians but they do not like one-another very much.  They mostly live in small villages as subsistence farmers.

Some Melanesians

There are about 400 languages in New Guinea and a similar number of tribes that speak them.  And social relationships are overwhelmingly governed by whether the other person is a "wantok" or not.  A "wantok" is someone who speaks your language.  Your relationship with a wantok is tightly rule-governed but anything goes with others.  A non-wantok is fair game.  And that is just one reflection of the attitudes that the different tribes have towards one another:  They hate one-another.  To us the diffences between the various tribes seem minute but not so to the people concerned.

So to generalize from that, tribalism is deeply human and deeply hostile.  A different tribe has to be only slightly different to be hated.  So the WWI British portrayal of Germans would be completely understood in New Guinea.  And the acceptance of that portrayal by the British public would also be seen as unremarkable.  We and Melanesians are more alike that we would like to think.  Both of us are quick to think ill of other language groups

It could in fact be argued that Melanesians are more civilized than we are.  Anything above a skirmish between wantoks is virtually unknown in New Guinea.  But as America's two wars for Yankee supremacy show, Americans have no such scruples.  Americans  even attack wantoks. And both the war of Independence and the North/South wars were brutal, with the death toll in the second war in the same ballpark as  WWI on a per head basis.  Such slaughter of wantoks would appall Melanesians.

So we can see that anthropology adds its bit to the motivation behind WWI.

And the psychology was powerful too.  Thanks principally to the rather bewildering statesmanship of Otto von Bismarck, Europe had a long and virtually unprecedented period of peace from 1871 on.

And all the nations of Western Europe used this time to catch up with the British industrial revolution.  So there was vast modernization and a great improvement in living standards generally.  And the people of Europe saw that and were much pleased.  And each nation saw its rapid progress over two generations as its own achievement.  As the anthropology would lead us to expect, they did NOT see the transformation as riding on the coattails of British innovation and entrepreneurship.

So with vast confidence in their brilliance, all the nations felt invincible in war.  They all thought that with their obvious civilizational superiority, any war that they undertook would be over in a matter of weeks.  They were spoiling for a fight, a fight which they thought would prove their superiority once and for all.  So they rose with alacrity to the challenge when at last it came.

And then there were the strategic considerations, particularly where Britain was concerned.  If Britain had stayed out of the war, the outcome would almost certainly have been little more that a re-run of the Franco-Prussian war of 1870.  The Germans would have won, carved off a few bits of French territory, and withdrawn to fight the Russians.

And the British were in fact not really obligated to fight.  Their treaty with France did not really envisage a war where France declared war without itself first being attacked.  So British propaganda could have easily coped with staying out of the war on legal grounds.

So why did Britain join in?  Partly as a matter of honour.  British waffling to escape a treaty obligation would have degraded Britain's value as an ally and British European policy had always been reliant on having allies.  And the "honor" aspect was of course a major focus in British propaganda.

But there was also a very practical strategic reason for Britain to join in.  They were worried sick by the German Hochseeflotte (navy) --  and this was a chance to sink it  -- which they eventually did.  Their worries were highly realistic.  At the battle of Jutland, the German High Seas Fleet ran rings around the Royal Navy.  Britain kept the field only by virtue of superior numbers.  And another ten years of competitive shipbuilding on both sides could well have eroded that numerical advantage.

And the navy has always been vital to Britain.  As Drake versus the Spanish Armada and and Nelson against the Franco/Spanish fleet at Trafalgar showed, the Royal Navy was instrumental in keeping Britain safe from invasion.  And as the British empire expanded the navy assumed the extra burden of keeping a worldwide empire safe.  So British naval supremacy was sacrosanct,  even if much of the British army had to be sacrificed to preserve that supremacy.  And that is exactly what happened.

So the fact that the war persisted for four grisly but largely static years was testimony to the great range of powerful influences that impelled it in the first place.

Koenigsberg would ask WHY we see ourselves as part of a nation or some other collectivity but I treat that as a given.  Something that virtually all men do can at least for my purposes be reasonably treated as axiomatic -- JR.


For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC,  AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to  update.  Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Commander oblivion


I Have Seen the Future, and it Is Idiocy

by Theodore Dalrymple

Yesterday morning, as I was sitting in the flat on Paris that I have rented for a time quietly finishing my latest book, Murderers I Have Known (and I have known quite a few), a furious row broke out in the street six floors below. I went out onto the terrace—the flat is on the building’s top floor—to see what was going on. There were several other equally curious people standing on their balconies on both sides of the street.

A little knot of young black men, with two or three girls among them, was having a furious row. It was obvious that they were in earnest, though goodness knows about what, as I could not make out any words. I was like a dog; I went by the tone of their voices.

One of the young men struck another and he fell, his face covered in blood. The man who had struck him kicked him with full force and got down on him to punch him as hard as he could. He got in several very hard blows before some others hauled him off. If he had not been hauled off, I think he would have beaten him to death. I was very glad that neither of the two, the beater and the beaten, had a gun, for I am sure that in their heightened state of emotion, whatever it was about, one of them would have used a gun to kill. Of course, there will be those who say that if each of them had thought the other had a gun, they would not have fought in the first place.

It was strange to see cars crawl by this scene, the drivers obviously seeing what was going on but doing nothing about it. Some passersby passed by and others tried to intervene. More than one called the police.

Oddly enough, once the man had been hauled off his prostrate associate (former friend? longtime enemy?), the group reformed and went up the street, still arguing furiously. A couple of shopkeepers came out to tell them to calm down, as the frightening fury was presumably bad for trade.

This all continued for several minutes. The police never came. They probably had other things to do.

As it happens, their slowness to react (infinite slowness, in fact, since they did not react at all), contrasted oddly with an experience I had the previous Sunday. A couple of American filmmakers came to Paris to interview me—it always surprises me that anybody would take so much trouble to interview anybody, let alone me—and decided that the little park opposite my flat, with a pretty little bandstand, would be a good place to do so. They set up the camera, but a few seconds later, before they could ask me a single question, a municipal policeman arrived. They were not allowed to film here without a permit from the mairie of the arrondissement, he said. I explained that these were Americans, come all the way from Texas expressly to interview me. He, a very pleasant and polite man of African origin, phoned his chief to see whether an exception could be made. As I suspected, it could not.

I told the film crew that we should make no fuss; the man was only doing his job, silly as that job might be. As it happens there were several drunks in another part of the park making aggressive-sounding noises and breaking bottles, but them he did not approach, perhaps wisely, as they were several and he was only one. He thought he would have more luck with someone wearing a tweed jacket and corduroy trousers as I was. We found a café willing to accommodate us.

The contrast between the authorities’ alacrity on one hand in preventing innocent filming for a matter of a few minutes (the policeman said authorization was necessary because it might cause a disturbance, and, being kind, I refrained from laughing), and on the other their slow response to a nasty incident that might have ended in murder, was emblematic of the modern state’s capacity to get everything exactly the wrong way around, to ascribe importance to trivia and to ignore the important. There are, of course, many more employment opportunities in trivia, since there is much more that is trivial in the world than is important.

France is not unique in this respect, or even the worst example I know. In London I once parked outside a hotel where I proposed to stay. Parking was forbidden outside, but I stopped only to take my baggage inside. I received a parking ticket within sixty seconds, a miracle of efficiency (I genuinely admired it in a way), though it was perfectly obvious from my car’s open doors that I did not propose to stay long and was only taking my luggage into the hotel. But on another occasion when my wife telephoned the police to inform them that youths were committing arson in our front garden before her very eyes, they had no time to attend to it. A more senior officer, however, did find the time a quarter of an hour later to complain to my wife that she had wasted police time by complaining in the first place.

It often seems, then, as if modern state authorities live in a looking-glass world: What normal people regard as important is for them of no importance, while what they regard as of supreme importance normal people regard as of no importance. For them the respectable are suspect and the suspect respectable. A tweed jacket is a sign of menace, while a broken bottle is a sign of harmless intent.

One must not exaggerate the degree to which official idiocy impinges on our lives. The exaggeration of misery is one of the royal roads to political disaster. Still, I have seen the future, and it is idiocy.



Early Skirmishes in a Race War

Officials and media aren’t being honest about the violence

By Thomas Sowell

One of the reasons for being glad to be as old as I am is that I may be spared living to see a race war in America. Race wars are often wars in which nobody wins and everybody ends up much worse off than they were before.

Initial skirmishes in that race war have already begun, and have in fact been going on for some years. But public officials pretend that it is not happening, and the mainstream media seldom publish it at all, except in ways that conceal what is really taking place.

For American society, a dangerous polarization has set in. Signs of this polarization over the years include opposite reactions between blacks and whites to the verdict in the O. J. Simpson murder case, the “rape” charges against Duke University students, and the trials resulting from the beating of Rodney King and the death of Trayvon Martin.

More dangerous than these highly publicized episodes over the years are innumerable organized and unprovoked physical attacks on whites by young black gangs in shopping malls, on beaches, and in other public places all across the country today.

While some of these attacks make it into the media as isolated incidents, the nationwide pattern of organized black-on-white attacks by thugs remains invisible in the mainstream media, with the notable exception of Bill O’Reilly on the Fox News Channel.

Even when these attacks are accompanied by shouts of anti-white rhetoric and exultant laughter at the carnage, the racial makeup of the attackers and their victims is usually ignored by the media, and public officials often deny that race has anything to do with what happened.

These attacks have sent many people to the hospital, and some victims have died, but the attacks are often carried out in a festive atmosphere. What are called “troubled youths,” in this and other contexts, are often in fact young people enjoying themselves greatly by creating big trouble for others.

Some of these many attacks are covered in detail in a book titled White Girl Bleed a Lot, by Colin Flaherty. It was a phrase that I recognized immediately from my own previous research.

That phrase was uttered by one of a group of black attackers who descended on a group of whites at a July 4th fireworks show in Milwaukee. But what happened there was not unique, either in itself or in the efforts of police and political authorities to downplay what happened — and to say that race had nothing to do with it.

When the Chicago Tribune was criticized for editing out the race of the attackers in a series of similar organized attacks in Chicago, it replied that race was irrelevant. Yet race is not considered irrelevant when indignantly editorializing on a disproportionate number of young black males arrested and imprisoned.

Sadly, what happened in Milwaukee and Chicago were not isolated incidents. They were part of a pattern repeated in dozens of cities, in every region of the country. Colin Flaherty’s book, which is subtitled “The Return of Racial Violence to America and How the Media Ignore It,” reveals this pattern in painful detail.

Other books are emerging that are more clearly a white backlash, in the sense that they attack behavior patterns among contemporary blacks in general.

Perhaps the most clearly “backlash” books are those written by Paul Kersey, whose central theme is that whites have created thriving cities, which blacks subsequently took over and ruined. Examples include his books about Birmingham (The Tragic City) and Detroit (Escape from Detroit).

Kersey even takes a swing at Rush Limbaugh (and at yours truly) for saying that liberal policies destroyed these cities. He says that San Francisco and other cities with liberal policies, but without black demographic and political takeovers, have not been ruined. His books are poorly written, but they raise tough questions.

It would be easy to simply dismiss Kersey as a racist. But denouncing him or ignoring him is not refuting him. Refuting requires thought, which has largely been replaced by fashionable buzzwords and catchphrases when it comes to discussions of race.

Thought is long overdue. So is honesty.



Attempted Land Grab Ends With Voters Booting Entire City Council

Government officials like to use eminent domain for the convenience of their preferred policies and/or the enrichment of themselves and their buddies. Usually, they get away with it, because the folks on the receiving end are too few and powerless to hold their tormentors to account. In Hackensack, New Jersey, however, the officials who targeted Michael Monaghan's property for seizure as part of an "area in need of redevelopment,"  even while denying him the right to develop it himself, pushed too many people around, too often. Last month, voters booted out the entire city council.

From the Institute for Justice:

    "Michael Monaghan has wanted to develop his property on Main Street in Hackensack, New Jersey, just a few miles away from Manhattan.  Yet the city twice denied two applications for banks to build on his land.

    Instead, Hackensack’s Planning Board designated Michael’s and another owner’s land as an “area in need of redevelopment,” authorizing the use of eminent domain to condemn and seize the properties.  “I've stood up and tried to protect my property for the last eight years,” he said in an interview with a local paper.

    Adding insult to injury, this designation was completely unwarranted.  According to Michael’s attorney, Peter Dickson, the board “did not make the Constitutional finding of blighted, and did not have any evidence that would support such a finding.”

    Last month, the Appellate Division of the state Superior Court agreed, ruling the Planning Board didn’t properly prove that those properties were blighted and “in need of redevelopment.”   The city council intended to appeal the appellate court’s decision.

    But fortunately for property owners, Hackensack’s entire city council was booted out of office.  The grassroots group Citizens for Change won every single seat on the city council, despite being outraised 2:1.  Their slate of candidates successfully ran on a platform against costly litigation, nepotism, and corruption.  (For example, Hackensack’s police chief was recently convicted for official misconduct and insurance fraud.)  Citizens for Change also sharply criticized Hackensack’s redevelopment projects, calling them “sweetheart deals and special privileges for politically connected property owners and developers.”

A happy outcome like this is no surefire guarantee that eminent domain won't be abused in the future. But it is a sign that, even in New Jersey, government officials have to keep the bullying below the public's pain threshold.



Conservative white Republican  exploits black racism to win election

A WHITE candidate who tricked voters into believing he was black to win a local election is unapologetic about his deception.

"Every time a politician talks, he's out there deceiving voters," Dave Wilson, a conservative white Republican who ran for office in Houston, Texas, told the local K Houston TV station.

Wilson, whose tactics were labeled "disgusting" by opponents, sent out fliers to his overwhelmingly black Democrat constituency strongly implying he was black.

The fliers had on photos of smiling African-Americans and were captioned "Please vote for our friend and neighbour Dave Wilson."

One of the fliers referred to an endorsement from Ron Wilson, a name local voters were likely to associate with a former Houston state representative who is also black. In fact the endorsement came from Wilson’s cousin who lives in Iowa and shares the politician’s name.

The tactic worked and Wilson - an anti-gay activist who opponents call a "right-wing hate monger" – won election to the Houston Community College System.

Bruce Austin, the longtime Democrat incumbent pushed out by Wilson, said: "I don't think it's good for both democracy and the whole concept of fair play. But that was not his intent, apparently."


There is a  new  lot of postings by Chris Brand just up -- on his usual vastly "incorrect" themes of race, genes, IQ etc


For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC,  AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to  update.  Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


Monday, November 11, 2013

Laurent Fabius our hero?

He seems to have been the only barrier to giving Iran all they want.  Laurent Fabius is a French Socialist politician and the current Foreign Minister of France. He served as Prime Minister from  1984 to  1986.   He is Jewish by ancestry

Marathon talks on a deal to temporarily curb Iran's nuclear program have broken down after a negotiations between foreign ministers ran into trouble late last night.

France raised objections to a draft agreement, complaining it did not go far enough to contain Iran's nuclear ambitions.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and foreign ministers of six other delegations conferred with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in a late-night session which broke up after midnight.

The French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, told France Inter radio yesterday that Paris would not accept a 'sucker's deal'.

They complained the text which was drafted as part of the agreement had been presented a 'fait accompli' and did not want to be forced into a a deat.

EU foreign policy chief Barones Ashton said 'a lot of concrete progress has been made but differences remain' with Tehran.

Asked whether it was French objections which scuppered any deal, Baroness Ashton said Fabius 'came determined to try to help this process'.

Zarif said the three days of talks had been 'very productive', despite the failure to reach agreement.



Obama’s Democrat Party of Pitchmen and Liars

It’s getting both comical and frustrating to watch liberals rush a prevent-style defense in the wake of Obama’s most recently broken promise. The now laughable claim that “if you like your private insurance plan, you can keep your private insurance plan” is haunting Democrats across the nation. It’s hard not to call such a line – uttered well after the White House estimated millions would lose their insurance – anything other than an outright lie.

From the party that decided to parse the meaning of the word “is” in the 1990’s has come a full range of defenses. The most popular being that “for 95 percent of Americans” the President’s claim will prove to be accurate. . . Of course this is merely the most recent lie to escape the lips of the Left’s most desperate salesmen.

This figure is based off the roughly 5 percent of Americans who get their insurance from the individual market, as opposed to their employer provided coverage. And yet, according to the rarely mentioned memo that proves the President’s malicious intent to deceive, as many as 69 percent of certain employer based insurance plans could lose coverage. According to McClatchy news, as many as 52 million Americans might be losing their coverage because of the pages of regulation in the “Affordable” Care Act.

Which brings us to another point: Aren’t the Democrats supposed to be the party for the disenfranchised? Are those 52 million (or for that matter, the 11 million people to which Obama, Wasserman-Schultz, and Jay Carney keep referring) not real people? Are they not cancer survivors who are depending on their current insurance, and current doctors for care? Or are we not supposed to concern ourselves with anecdotal stories when the narratives run contrary to Democrat platforms?

So far, in Obamacare’s infancy, far more people have lost their insurance than have signed up for the exchanges. Yet, I don’t see Obama holding a press conference with people like Edie Sundby standing behind him as a human prop. Maybe he should. . . From a pure PR standpoint, there are far more horror stories to highlight than success stories in relation to the “Affordable” Care Act.

And let’s not gloss over the name of the President’s signature piece of legislation. . . Now, which is the bigger lie: The President’s claim that you can keep your insurance, or the actual name of his healthcare bill? The “Affordable” Care Act is projected to increase premiums an average of 41 percent. And for many of those who will soon be losing insurance coverage, the increase (as they’re forced into more comprehensive and wide ranging plans) could be substantially more. Some victims of the President’s socialization of Healthcare have reported premium hikes up to 1000 percent.

In fact, as we learn more about the law and its implementation, we are learning that many aspects of the law were sold with less-than-honest sales pitches. Remember how Obama, Pelosi and Reid insisted this Frankenstein of regulation was necessary to insure the uninsured? Well, after a decade of implementation the law will still fail to cover tens of millions of Americans. . . And that’s assuming that those individuals who find themselves unexpectedly without coverage this year don’t decide to remain in the category of “uninsured.”

What’s more stunning, is that the Media is just now beginning to catch on to this theme. It’s not as if this is the first time the White House has let slip a non-truth. Much of the President’s tenure has been a tour of dishonesty and deceit.

Remember Fast and Furious? First there was denial. Then we were told the operation was small and isolated. Then the Department of Justice issued a letter stating no knowledge of the operation; only to retract that letter and admit to “administrative” knowledge of the gun running operation that ultimately took the lives of two US border Patrol Agents. Then there was Benghazi: At first we were told that Ambassador Stevens was killed in a protest-gone-wrong. . . Of course we now know that was not only false, but unconditionally and irretrievably false. And what about the IRS scandal that started as “a couple of rogue” agents in Cincinnati; but quickly ballooned to involve the IRS Director herself?

Not all of Obama’s non-truths, half-truths and outright-lies are the products of uncovered scandals. Some are more benign than others. After the government shutdown and debt ceiling negotiations, it’s almost comical to recollect his 2008 speech to the Mile High City, in which he portrayed himself as the great “Uniter.” After a full five years of stubbornly high unemployment, we should be reminded about his promise to create “shovel ready” jobs.

The implementation of Obamacare has simply exposed a long standing truth about our 44th President: His teleprompter has no periods. . . Only Asterisks. And while Democrats try to blame the private insurance companies (that Obamacare is responsible for regulating), and the purchasers of “inadequate” insurance, they will quickly lead the American people to another truth:

President Obama is merely a representative sample of today’s Democrat Party. Because let’s face it. . . There’s only one Party in America that is currently defending the claim that 51 million Americans will be able to keep the insurance they are currently losing. If you or I made a similar claim to Congress, it might be considered a felony.



The Future of the Conservative Movement

At long last, the conservative movement is taking a long, hard look at itself. Meanwhile, Barack Obama and his fellow ideologues barrel full steam ahead in their quest to “fundamentally transform” the country.

The time is now to read to Ilana Mercer’s, Into the Cannibal’s Pot: Lessons for America from Post-Apartheid South Africa.

Mercer, the daughter of a rabbi and former anti-apartheid activist, was raised, first in Israel, and then South Africa. Though this classical liberal and self-professed “paleo-libertarian” has never been any sort of friend to either apartheid or any other racially-based institutional arrangement, Mercer is at great pains to note the ugly fact that, by any standard, life in “the New South Africa” is dramatically worse than was life in the old.

And this is why she fled her home to forge a new existence in America.

The first chapter of Cannibal is a gripping—and grisly—account of the scourge that crime has become in post-apartheid South Africa. Refusing to reduce the victims of barbarism to a bunch of bloodless statistics, Mercer introduces readers to people like twelve year-old Emily Williams, who was shot to death when she stumbled upon an armed robbery in progress at a friend’s house while walking to school. Her heart broken parents subsequently decided that their country had become an intolerable place to remain. They have since relocated to the United Kingdom.

The reader is also acquainted with the likes of Rene Burger, a young and promising medical student who was kidnapped and gang-raped at knife-point by three degenerates at a “well-patrolled” hospital where she was taking classes, and Sheldon Cohen, who died in front of his young son after being gunned down by three predators.

Mercer identifies others—including a not inconsiderable number of her own relatives—who have suffered unspeakable violence at the hands of South African thugs. She also definitively establishes that to no slight measure, this crime epidemic is motivated by an animus toward whites, a deep seated racial hatred that is both encouraged and, particularly in the case of the legions of white Afrikaner farmers who have been forced from their lands, sanctioned by the African National Congress.

But it would be a grave mistake to think that Cannibal is only about South Africa. It is not. As its author describes it, and as its subtitle makes clear, it is a “labor of love” to her homelands old and new. Mercer is determined to spare America the same fate that befell South Africa. Furthermore, it would be as equally egregious a mistake to think that Cannibal is only, or even primarily, about race. There are larger issues to which Mercer speaks, issues with which conservatives have grappled from at least the time that their “patron saint,” Edmund Burke, first articulated them.

Though Mercer insists that she is no conservative, there are similarities, striking similarities, between her and Burke. The latter made an impassioned defense of his 18th century England against the radicalism of the French Revolution that he feared would soon enough ravage his country. It was in response to these ideological excesses that conservatism first emerged as a distinctive tradition of thought. Mercer carries on this estimable tradition inasmuch as she seeks to defend her new country, America, against the ravenous radicalisms that threaten it.

The forces that imperiled France and England in Burke’s day are the same forces that consumed South Africa and that imperil America in our own. These forces boil down to a lust, an insatiable lust, for revolutionary change and the ideological abstractions that inspire it.

As the conservative theorist Michael Oakeshott memorably remarked, change is emblematic of death. Thus, conservatives have always preferred changes that are slight to those that are vast, changes that are necessary to those that are not, and changes that are gradual to those that are radical. Changes that are “fundamentally transformative” siphon the life out of a society by severing its present from its past.

Unlike most of us, Mercer knows all too well how an agenda to “fundamentally transform” a society, pursued with all of the recklessness with which such agendas are inevitably pursued, is guaranteed to destroy that society—however beautiful-sounding the abstract ideals in the names of which it is executed.

However, it isn’t just the usual suspects—leftists or Democrats—who have an ardent affection for radical change and abstract ideals. The GOP and “the conservative press” have had more than their share of true believers as well.

It was, after all, “conservatives”—or, more accurately, neoconservatives—that most rigorously supported George W. Bush’s campaign to “fundamentally transform” the Middle East into an oasis of “Democracy.” Noting that abstract ideals like Democracy are not timeless principles written in “human nature” but the hard-earned gains of a civilization that has been millennia in the making, Mercer was among those who argued mightily against this fool’s errand from the outset. Though she fell out of favor with some notable “conservative” media personalities for doing so, time has vindicated her while indicting her critics.



Words Matter

Here’s a letter to the Washington Post from economist Don Boudreaux:

Matt Miller includes himself among those “who think the health security the Affordable Care Act provides marks a fundamental advance in America’s social contract” (“Obamacare’s well-insured critics,” Nov. 6).

Mr. Miller needs a refresher on the definition of “contract.”

A contract binds only those parties who voluntarily agree to be bound by its provisions.  Central to this definition of “contract” is the presumption that all parties to the contract know the provisions to which they agree.  But because Obamacare passed without a single favorable vote of the opposition party, because it passed by a narrow margin in the House of Representatives, and because even some of Obamacare’s enthusiastic Congressional supporters admitted that they did not know all of the provisions of the bill, to call Obamacare part of a “social contract” is a dishonest attempt to clothe that legislation with a legitimacy that it does not possess.

Unchecked political majorities often run roughshod over minorities – forcing, in each case, the minority to obey the majority’s commands (rather than, as with true contracts, bargaining with parties who remain free to refuse any and all contractual offers).  No realistic person doubts this regrettable reality.  Please, though, let’s not perfume up and glorify such exercises of raw majoritarian power by calling their outcomes clauses of a “social contract.”




Every now and again I put up a small gallery of graphics that have appeared on this blog that I think are worth revisiting.  The latest can be accessed here or here


For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC,  AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to  update.  Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)


Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Flynn effect

The Flynn effect is the fact that average IQ scores throughout the world rose substantially throughout the 20th century.  The scores for both blacks and whites rose but the gap between the two remained essentially the same.

The effect has been something of a puzzle.  Why did it happen?  There are probably a number of processes causing it  -- processes which could be broadly grouped as "modernization".  An interesting part of the effect is that scores on subtests that load most highly on 'g' (the general factor) have changed least.  This suggests that scores on a perfect test would not have changed at all.

A new researcher has fastened on to that fact and looked at what characterizes high 'g' and low 'g' subtests.  He finds that the subtests which have shown the biggest change are tests where a small group of strategies allow you to answer most of the items successfully.

And that ties in with an explanation commonly given for the Flynn effect -- that ever rising number of years spent in the educational system give students more and more practice at using test-answering strategies.  And they can use some of those strategies in answering IQ tests too. So education increases scores on the least-central question-types.  On items that strategies cannot help you to answer (such as testing how many hard words you know) there has been virtually no change over the years.

So education has now been fairly conclusively identified as the main cause of the rising scores and at the same time the rising scores have been shown as not reflecting a real  rise in underlying abilities.

Steve Sailer has the details


Andrew Sullivan

Sullivan is something of a figure of fun to many of us.  He gets a lot of readers but his changes of direction make it possible to answer almost anything he says today by quoting what Sullivan himself said 5 to 10 years ago.  He has for instance gone from being a passionate Zionist to being a passionate Israel-hater.

And the passion would seem to be the key to his popularity.  I am  guessing that most of his many readers are Left-leaning, and Leftists mainline on emotion, regardless of the facts.

There is a big survey of Sullivan's "thinking" (if you can call it that) here that endevours to make some sense out of what drives him  -- without success.  I think he just likes hearing the sound of his own voice (or its written equivalent).  And he would appear to make significant money out of his writings.


Are Jews a “privileged” class?

This current Leftist variation of an old Marxist "ad hominem" argument rather amuses me.  If anybody told me to check my privilege I would reply: "Am I privileged to be born the son of a poorly educated lumberjack in a small town almost nobody has heard of?".  I think that would have some derailing power.  In fact I feel very privileged to be born in "The Lucky Country", Australia, and to be descended from those who made it what it is today by their hard work.  If all the "disadvantaged" people in the Western world worked as hard as my forebears did, not many would still be poor

A few months ago Louise Mensch was attacked at ‘Comment is Free’ for dismissing the idea of ”privilege checking”.  Mensch had argued the following:

“Check your privilege”, for example, is a profoundly stupid trope that states that only those with personal experience of something should comment, or that if a person is making an argument, they should immediately give way if their view is contradicted by somebody with a different life story.

Laurie Penny is an absolutely prime example; she does it all the time. The other day on Twitter she told people not to rise to what she felt was a race-baiting article by Rod Liddle in the Spectator. She was quite right. Everybody with a blog knows what “don’t feed the trolls” means. However, she was angrily contradicted by the black comedian @AvaVidal who told her that people of colour were striking back and they should rise to it. Instead of defending her position, Penny caved, recanted, and commented mournfully that “having your privilege checked” was painful.

Here are the relevant passages from an essay by Laurie Penny, contributing editor at The New Statesman.

Louise Mensch is confused. The erstwhile MP and professional gadfly has published a blogpost decrying “privilege checking”, and longing to return to a species of “reality-based” feminism where everyone would stop bothering her about class, race and money.

Actually, “privilege” isn’t at all hard to understand. It just means any structural social advantage that you have by virtue of birth, or position – such as being white, being wealthy, or being a man. “Check your privilege” means “consider how your privilege affects what you have just said or done.” That’s it.

Privilege is not the same as power. Nor is it a game whereby only the least privileged people will henceforth be allowed an opinion – the last time I checked, the political conversation was still dominated by rich white men and their wives. These are the people who go into spasms of outrage at the very notion that a black person, or a woman, or a working-class person might have as much right to an opinion as they do on matters that affect them.

Whilst the idea of ‘privilege’ is intellectually suspect for a host of reasons (many of which Mensch explored in her blog post), it’s quite interesting that Jews, of all people, are often considered among “the privileged” within this paradigm.  Not only has the post-Holocaust taboo against antisemitism been eroded, but Jews, who represent a fraction of 1% of the world’s population, are – in a manner evoking classic tropes about Jewish control - typically portrayed, by virtue of their relative success, as an elite, powerful, and privileged class.

Whilst reasonable people can agree or disagree with attempts to explain disparities in economic, educational and social outcomes in terms of one’s ‘privilege’, it seems difficult to avoid including Jews among those who are “historically disadvantaged” when honestly exploring its political implications.

So, for those who fancy the specious argument that you can quantify privilege in terms of one’s race, ethnicity, gender, etc., here’s some food for thought – a list of the advantages (privileges) of waking up in the morning as a non-Jew – the daily effects of non-Jewish privilege.

1. You likely don’t have your people’s right to national self-determination questioned or characterized as racist.

2.  You are not characterized as racist for the alleged sin of caring more about your own people’s safety and welfare than that of other groups.

3.  You are not accused as a group – by virtue of by your current alleged “immoral behavior” – of having betrayed the memory of coreligionists who were victims of genocide.

4.  You are not accused of being more loyal to a foreign state than to the interests of your own nation.

5.  You are likely not held personally responsible for the actions of others who share your religion or ethnicity.

6.  You are not likely to be targeted for terrorist attacks by extremists simply because you happen to share the same religion as the majority population in one foreign state.

7.  You likely don’t have to avoid expressing your religious identity when visiting Middle Eastern or even European countries for fear of violence.

8.  You are likely never accused of being part of an international conspiracy to control the world.

9.  You are not accused of exercising disproportionate control over the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.

10. Your success and personal achievements – and other fruits of your hard work – aren’t turned upside down and characterized as evidence of your ‘privilege‘.

To be clear, none of this is meant to suggest that we subscribe to the facile theory that groups should be divided between the ‘privileged’ and the non-privileged.  However, for those who do give this paradigm credence, it does seem to represent an egregious moral double standard to impute ‘privilege’ to such a historically persecuted, disenfranchised and marginalized minority as Jews.  



New Threat in California

Reliable investigative sources in California say that radical Muslims are planning to go on a rampage in the City of Los Angeles, killing anyone who is a U.S. citizen.

Police fear the death toll could be as high as 9


Obama says that people who have lost their insurance probably had sub-par insurance anyway

As a golfer, he should know that sub-par is better than average.

Even his spins are stupid!!!!


Netanyahu on proposed deal with Iran: 'This Is a Bad Deal--a Very, Very Bad Deal'

A very unusual statement from the Israel prime minister on the eve of a possible nuclear detail between the U.S. and Iran:

"I met Secretary Kerry right before he leaves to Geneva," said Netanyhau. "I reminded him that he said that no deal is better than a bad deal. That the deal that is being discussed in Geneva right now is a bad deal. It’s a very bad deal. Iran is not required to take apart even one centrifuge. But the international community is relieving sanctions on Iran for the first time after many years. Iran gets everything that it wanted at this stage and it pays nothing. And this is when Iran is under severe pressure.

I urge Secretary Kerry not to rush to sign, to wait, to reconsider, to get a good deal. But this is a bad deal--a very, very bad deal. It’s the deal of a century for Iran; it’s a very dangerous and bad deal for peace and the international community."

Robert Zarate of the Foreign Policy Initiative explains how the proposed deal is full of concessions toward Iran:

The potential package of Iranian concessions could reportedly include:

(1)  Partially Increased Nuclear Transparency:  somewhat increased inspection and monitoring of Iranian nuclear material, equipment, and facilities by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), but less than enhanced measures authorized by the so-called “Additional Protocol” agreement that Iran has refused so far to ratify.

(2)  Freeze on Medium Enriched Uranium: a freeze on Iran’s production of uranium enriched to 20-percent (sometimes called “medium enriched uranium” or MEU), and conversion of Iran’s stockpile of 20-percent MEU into harder-to-enrich reactor fuel plates.

(3)  Numerical Limits on Centrifuges to Enrich Uranium:  limits on the number of Iran’s actively-enriching first-generation centrifuges, and a delay on the use of Iran’s installed and more advanced second-generation centrifuges.

(4)  Delayed Start-Up of the Plutonium-Producing Heavy Water Reactor:  deferral on starting up and operating Arak, a heavy water reactor capable of producing spent nuclear fuel containing plutonium that is very well-suited for use in a nuclear weapon.



Former MSNBC host rants at Obama on Twitter after health insurance plan cancelled

Former MSNBC host Dylan Ratigan doesn’t like how President Barack Obama’s health care law is caring for him.

Ratigan, who hosted MSNBC’s “The Dylan Ratigan Show” before abruptly quitting in 2012 to become a farmer, took to Twitter Friday to blame Obamacare for his health-care plan being cancelled and his new monthly insurance rate tripling.

Fortunately for Ratigan, he gets a consolation prize for having to pay more than three times more per month for his health insurance:  a presidential apology. In an interview with NBC News’ Chuck Todd Thursday, Obama apologized to Ratigan and the millions of other Americans he lied to when he promised, while flacking for his health care law, “if you like your plan, you can keep it. Period.”

“I am sorry that they are finding themselves in this situation based on assurances they got from me,” Obama said Thursday. “We’ve got to work hard to make sure that they know we hear them and that we’re going to do everything we can to deal with folks who find themselves in a tough position as a consequence of this.”

Despite the apology, Obama continued to downplay how many people will be forced off the insurance they like as a result of Obamacare, saying it was a very small number. Other estimates suggest that more than 129 million Americans may not be able to keep their previous health care plan if Obamacare is fully implemented.



For more blog postings from me, see  TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, GREENIE WATCH,  POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC,  AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, and Paralipomena (Occasionally updated) and Coral reef compendium. (Updated as news items come in).  GUN WATCH is now mainly put together by Dean Weingarten.

List of backup or "mirror" sites here or  here -- for when blogspot is "down" or failing to  update.  Email me  here (Hotmail address). My Home Pages are here (Academic) or  here (Pictorial) or  here  (Personal)