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  • Archive for the 'Civil Society' Category

    Summer Rerun: Jousting with a Phantom

    Posted by David Foster on 19th July 2017 (All posts by )

    (Victor Davis Hanson’s recent piece, The Fifth American War, reminded me of this post.  I think it is crucially important to understand that many of those calling for ‘equality’ do not themselves have any interest in being merely equal, any more than Napoleon the Pig did in Orwell’s novel ‘Animal Farm’)

    Those people who call themselves “progressives” are talking a lot about equality and inequality these days. And conservatives/libertarians, in response, attempt to explain why “equality of outcomes” is infeasible and unwise.

    To a substantial degree, though, they/we are jousting with a phantom. Because leading “progressives” don’t really believe in anything resembling equality—indeed, quite the contrary.

    Consider, for example: Many people in “progressive” leadership positions are graduates of the Harvard Law School. Do you think these people want to see a society in which the career, status, and income prospects for an HLS grad are no better than those for a graduate of a lesser-known, lower-status (but still very good) law school? C’mon.

    Quite a few “progressive” leaders are members of prominent families. Do you think Teddy Kennedy would have liked to see an environment in which he and certain other members of his family would have had to answer for their actions in the criminal courts in the same way that ordinary individuals would, without benefit from connections, media influence, and expensive lawyers?

    The prevalence of “progressivism” among tenured professors is quite high. How many of these professors would be eager to agree to employment conditions in which their job security and employee benefits were no better than those enjoyed by average Americans? How many of them would take a salary cut in order to provide higher incomes for the poorly-paid adjunct professors at their universities? How many would like to see PhD requirements eliminated so that a wider pool of talented and knowledgeable individuals can participate in university teaching?

    There are a lot of “progressives” among the graduates of Ivy League universities. How many of them would be in favor of legally eliminating alumni preferences and the influence of “contributions” and have their children considered for admission–or not–on the same basis as everyone else’s kids? Yet an alumni preference is an intergenerational asset in the same way that a small businessman’s store or factory is.

    The reality is that “progressivism” is not in any way about equality, it is rather about shifting the distribution of power and wealth in a way that benefits those with certain kinds of educational credentials and certain kinds of connections. And remember, power and connections are always transmutable into wealth. Sometimes that wealth is directly dollar-denominated, as in the millions of dollars that former president Bill Clinton has been paid in speaking fees, or the money made by a former government official who leverages his contacts into an executive job with a “green” energy company–even though he may have minimal knowledge of either energy or business. And sometimes the wealth takes the form of in-kind benefits, like a university president’s mansion. (Those who lived in the old Soviet Union and Eastern Europe can tell you all about in-kind benefits for nominally low-paid officials.) And, almost always, today’s “progressivism” is about the transfer of power from individuals to credentialed “experts” who will coerce or “nudge” people to do with those experts have decided would be best.

    To a very substantial extent, the talk about “equality” is a smokescreen, conscious or unconscious, behind which “progressives” pursue their own economic, status, and ego agendas.

    Writing in 1969, Peter Drucker–who was born in Austria and had lived in several European countries–wrote about what he saw as a key American economic advantage: the much less-dominant role played by “elite” educational institutions:

    One thing it (modern society) cannot afford in education is the “elite institution” which has a monopoly on social standing, on prestige, and on the command positions in society and economy. Oxford and Cambridge are important reasons for the English brain drain. A main reason for the technology gap is the Grande Ecole such as the Ecole Polytechnique or the Ecole Normale. These elite institutions may do a magnificent job of education, but only their graduates normally get into the command positions. Only their faculties “matter.” This restricts and impoverishes the whole society…The Harvard Law School might like to be a Grande Ecole and to claim for its graduates a preferential position. But American society has never been willing to accept this claim…
It is almost impossible to explain to a European that the strength of American higher education lies in this absence of schools for leaders and schools for followers.

    The “unwillingness of American society to accept this claim”…the claim of elite education as the primary gateway to power and wealth…has been greatly undercut since Drucker wrote. And “progressives” have been among the main under-cutters and the leading advocates for further movement in that direction.

    Related: Paying higher taxes can be very profitable.

    Posted in Academia, Civil Society, Education, Political Philosophy, USA | 19 Comments »

    Internal Secession ?

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 15th July 2017 (All posts by )

    The Trump Derangement Syndrome shows no sign of stopping. The alleged meeting between Russians and Donald Trump Jr is reaching a new level of fever.

    The anti-Trump mainstream media is buzzing with news that Rinat Akhmetshin, a Russian American lobbyist and veteran of the Soviet military, attended the June 2016 meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya.

    Rosalind Helderman and Tom Hamburger of the Washington Post insist that Akhmetshin’s presence “adds to the potential seriousness of the Trump Tower gathering that is emerging this week as the clearest evidence so far of interactions between Trump campaign officials and Russian interests.” I think they mean the only evidence.

    But now does the attendance of this lobbyist add to the “potential seriousness” of the “gathering”? If it was inappropriate for Trump Jr. to meet with one Russian lobbyist with probable Kremlin connections, the attendance of a second doesn’t make the meeting more inappropriate.

    The hysteria shows no sign of abating. What comes next ?

    “Resist” marches all over the country bring out thousands of leftists and feminists.

    Tens of thousands of LGBTQ folk and their allies marched through Hollywood and West Hollywood on Sunday for the Resist March, a protest which this year replaced the colorful and over-the-top celebratory atmosphere of a Pride parade.

    The event was billed as non-partisan, but unmistakeable was the heavy presence of marchers bearing anti-Trump signs, speakers decrying the administration’s immigration, healthcare and civil rights policies, and Democrats calling for a burst of activism to channel into the 2018 elections.

    Richard Fernandez has some thoughts on where this might go.

    Internal secession.

    Our trust hierarchies have collapsed. As with Soviet Russia, the “official” media sources are now distrusted as purveyors “fake news”. To fill the gap a peer-to-peer grapevine, similar to the “friends and family”, a samizdat is emerging to pick up the slack. Sonya Mann at Inc uses a startup to illustrate the growing division of society into trust groups. “Pax Dickinson wants to fund the revolution. Not a blood-in-the-streets revolution, but one where hardcore right-wingers can economically secede from the parts of society they vehemently dislike. “We need parallel everything. I do not want to ever have to spend a single dollar at a non-movement business.”

    That’s the right, the alt-right if you prefer.

    The left has already shown their willingness to boycott any business that does not follow their script.

    Ask Brenden Eich.

    Brendan Eich recently stepped down as CEO of Mozilla, developer of the Firefox Web browser. It may be more accurate to say he was forced out in the wake of a rising boycott against him. The backlash against Eich is related to his position on gay rights, but many feel that the campaign against him is its own form of discrimination and intolerance.

    His crime was to quietly donate $1000 to the Proposition Eight ballet initiative, which resulted in over 7 million yes votes and a 60% margin of approval. The proposition was ruled unconstitutional by a federal judge who promptly married his gay lover.

    California’s AG declined to appeal his ruling. That’s a pretty effective boycott.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Civil Society, Politics, Texas | 18 Comments »

    On and Off Balance

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 3rd July 2017 (All posts by )

    Here we are, a couple of days past the middle of the year, and almost eight months after the election of Donald Trump to the presidency … and I swear that the lunacy has not died down in the slightest, but is now ratcheted up to eleven, or even twelve. (Gratuitous Spinal Tap reference.) The classical five stages of grief are supposed to be denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, but it’s clear at this point that the Hillary and Bernie partisans are stuck fast at the ‘anger’ stage – and appear to be egging each other into higher, farther, deeper and more intense demonstrations of denial and anger. It’s almost … well, operatic. Like a spectacular ten-car pile-up on the interstate, one can’t even look away from the spectacle – especially the spectacle of establishment news media personalities and institutions losing their freaking minds over Donald Trump.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Society, Current Events, Elections, Internet, Leftism, Media, The Press, Trump, USA | 17 Comments »

    Lynchings and Witch-Trials, Technology-Enhanced

    Posted by David Foster on 27th June 2017 (All posts by )

    Jonathan Kay:  The tyranny of Twitter:  How mob censure is changing the intellectual landscape.  Excerpt:

    A few weeks ago, shortly after I left my magazine gig, I had breakfast with a well-known Toronto man of letters. He told me his week had been rough, in part because it had been discovered that he was still connected on social media with a colleague who’d fallen into disfavour with Stupid Twitter-Land. “You know that we all can see that you are still friends with him,” read one of the emails my friend had received. “So. What are you going to do about that?”

    “So I folded,” he told me with a sad, defeated air. “I know I’m supposed to stick to my principles. That’s what we tell ourselves. Free association and all that. It’s part of the romance of our profession. But I can’t afford to actually do that. These people control who gets jobs. I’m broke. So now I just go numb and say whatever they need me to say.”

    also

    The Writers Union of Canada and the University of British Columbia Fine Arts faculty do not operate gulags. Nevertheless, the idea that a whole career can fall victim to a single social-media message sent in a moment of anger or frustration — or even a bad joke — has produced an atmosphere of real terror that is compromising the art and intellect of Canada’s most creative minds.

    I don’t think it’s just Canada, although perhaps it’s worse there than in the US at the moment.

    Motivations of the trolls:

    A lot of these people are brilliant writers who have spent their lives toiling in obscurity. Whole years may pass during which they will write a book of poetry, or an academic thesis, that perhaps only a few hundred people will ever read. The privilege that I am putting on display here — the right to author a long essay in a national newspaper — isn’t available to most of them. But thanks to the three-way combination of social-media technology, the moral urgency of identity politics, and these intellectuals’ hallowed status as wordsmiths, they now have a chance to gain a wide audience — and even impose their moral judgments on others. It is not hard to see why they would jump at this chance.

    I am reminded of Peter Drucker’s report of a conversation he had with an acquaintance who was supporting the Nazi party.  This man had come from a working-class background and felt that his career prospects had been very limited, but “Now I have a party membership card with a very low number and I am going to be somebody.”

    Clarence Thomas referred to the media coverage surrounding his candidateship for the US Supreme Court as a “high-tech lynching”…the high-tech in this case evidently being television.  But the nature of the television medium meant that denunciations had to originate from or at least be directed by a fairly small group of media-company employees.  Now, with the rise of social media, we have crowdsourced denunciations and witch-trials, as described in the Jonathan Kay article.

    In my post Freedom, the Village, and the Internet, I drew on some passages in the novel Every Man Dies Alone, which is centered on a German couple who become anti-Nazi activists after their son Ottochen is killed in the war (it was inspired by, and is loosely based on, a real-life story.)

    Trudel, who was Ottochen’s fiancee, is a sweet and intelligent girl who is strongly anti-Nazi..and unlike Ottochen’s parents, she became an activist prior to being struck by personal tragedy: she is a member of a resistance cell at the factory where she works.  But she finds that she cannot stand the unending psychological strain of underground work–made even worse by the rigid and doctrinaire man (apparently a Communist) who is leader of the cell–and she drops out. Another member of the cell, who has long been in love with her, also finds that he is not built for such work, and drops out also.

    After they marry and Trudel becomes pregnant, they decide to leave the politically hysterical environment of Berlin for a small town where–they believe–life will be freer and calmer.

    Like many city dwellers, they’d had the mistaken belief that spying was only really bad in Berlin and that decency still prevailed in small towns. And like many city dwellers, they had made the painful discovery that recrimination, eavesdropping, and informing were ten times worse in small towns than in the big city. In a small town, everyone was fully exposed, you couldn’t ever disappear in the crowd. Personal circumstances were quickly ascertained, conversations with neighbors were practically unavoidable, and the way  such conversations could be twisted was something they had already experienced in their own lives, to their chagrin.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Leftism, Media, Tech | 60 Comments »

    Summer Rerun: Freedom and Fear

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 23rd June 2017 (All posts by )

    (Working on a fresh new history trivia post, delayed in completing by … whatever. Real life, completing the next book. This reprise post is from 2011.)

    I started following what I called “The Affair of the Danish Mo-Toons” way back at the very beginning of that particular imbroglio, followed by the ruckus last year over “Everybody Draw Mohammad” and now we seem to have moved on to the Charlie Hebdo fiasco – a French satirical magazine dared to poke fun at the founder of Islam … by putting a cartoon version on the cover of their latest issue, with the result that their offices were firebombed. I think at this point it would have been fair to assume that representatives of the Religion of Peace would respond in a not-quite-so peaceful manner, so all props for the Charlie Hebdo management for even going ahead with it – for even thinking of standing up for freedom of thought, freedom of a press, even freedom to take the piss out of a target.  (The following is what I wrote last year – still relevant to this latest case) Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Blogging, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, France, Islam | 11 Comments »

    Suits and Bean Counters

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 14th June 2017 (All posts by )

    Along about the time that I started blogging … no, even well before that point, I was well-aware that there were personalities who could say and do flamingly stupid and insulting things on the public stage, and some would take no permanent career harm from having done so. Jane Fonda, for example, went on having a career for decades after getting the nick “Hanoi Jane” for her anti-war antics in the 1960s. Other personalities – equally prominent, having said and done things just as injudicious – appeared to walk away unscathed. It seemed to be a given that some public personalities were basically Teflon; as it would become even more obvious in the last decade, they had something that I call – for lack of a better term – douchebag privilege. Generally speaking, the lefty-intellectual-media lot – like the Kennedys, the Jesse Jackson/Al Sharpton brand of racial activists, and jerks like Michael Moore had douchebag privilege, whereas those of the other persuasion didn’t. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Society, Conservatism, Current Events, Diversions | 15 Comments »

    Another Long Hot Summer in the Making

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 31st May 2017 (All posts by )

    Just when I start to think that the fans of Hillary Clinton and her minions in the national establishment are calming the heck down, after the unexpected shellacking at the polls by Donald Trump of Her Inevitableness, the Dowager Empress of Chappaqua … nope, the insane is being cranked up to twelve – that is two more above ten. (Obligatory Spinal Tap reference there.) And the inmates of certain college campi are running the insanity all the way up to thirteen or fourteen, as witness the furious activists at Evergreen University, in Olympia, Washington State. They are bent out of shape over the usual crap that student activists are usually bent out of shape over – but in this case, the frosting on the cake is a video of a raucous demonstration by student activists making their demands, and generally acting like spoiled three-year-olds throwing a screaming tantrum. The video is linked here -And the students take? “We demand that the video created for Day of Absence and Day of Presence that was stolen by white supremacists and edited to expose and ridicule the students and staff be taken down by the administration by this Friday.” Sorry, kids – the internet is forever. Don’t want to be ridiculed by strangers who don’t give a damn for your sensitive little egos? Don’t do ridiculous things.

    Ridiculous things like … oh, I don’t know – pose for an elaborate video shoot with a blood-soaked fake head of Donald Trump, especially if you are a pathetically unfunny failed comedian like Kathy Griffin. In whom, like the Kardashians, I am fabulously disinterested but such is theirs and Kathy Griffin’s unseemly lust for public attention that I can’t help knowing about them anyway, much as I would wish otherwise. At this point, it looks like this tasteless stunt as cost Ms Griffin a gig with CNN on New Years Eve – story here. I imagine that the suits at CNN are counting up the numbers and calculating how many more viewers they can lose if they really put their backs into it.

    And speaking of media figures taking their lumps – last week we had the interesting spectacle of one Greg Gianforte, running for a congressional seat in Montana, charged with roughing up a reporter for England’s Guardian newspaper. Gianforte won the contest anyway, leading observers like myself to wonder if he did any damage to his campaign at all. After all – who hasn’t wanted to slap the cr*p out of a rude and obstreperous reporter now and again? This could get very popular, if incorporated onto White House press briefings. Sean Spicer could draw a name from a hat at the start of every briefing, and punch out the selected reporter. We could call it “Beat the Press.”

    And finally – the latest to surface in the cacophony of crazy is the demand by a group calling themselves “Texas Antifa” to remove a prominent statue of Sam Houston from Houston’s Herman Park, on the grounds that Houston was a slave owner. Doubtless, Texas Antifa is trying to hop aboard the movement to banish statues of Confederate leaders and soldiers from public spaces across the old South and garner some of that sweet, creamy media attention … either that, or someone – either on the right or left – is doing an epic troll. While Sam Houston did own slaves (about a dozen, some of whom were purchased so as to keep a family together, or so sayeth one of the biographies I have read) he was emphatically against the expansion of slavery to the Western territories, against secession from the United States and resigned his office as governor rather than take an oath of allegiance to the Confederacy. In any case, Texas Antifa has called for a rally on June 10th. At the very least, this event may draw more supporters of keeping the statue where it has been since 1925. I’m no particular judge of prog-speak: Texas Antifa’s Book of Face page is here. Read for yourself and decide – for realsies lefty, stark raving nuts, or clever parody?
    Discuss, if you can bear it.

    Posted in Civil Society, Current Events, Education, History, Leftism, North America, Politics | 34 Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: Responding to Rabbi Dr Jonathan Romain in The Guardian…

    Posted by Jonathan on 24th May 2017 (All posts by )

    (Read the entire exchange here.)

    Posted in Britain, Civil Society, Current Events, Deep Thoughts, Human Behavior, Leftism, Rhetoric, Terrorism | 21 Comments »

    WHAT HAPPENS AFTER YOU TURN IT UP TO “11”?

    Posted by Subotai Bahadur on 23rd May 2017 (All posts by )

    A conversation elsewhere brought up a topic that lets me get ahead of things and put down a marker for future reference. It was noted that the Democrats and their allies farther Left have had their outrage meters literally turned up to “11” [on a 1-10 scale] since the election. The first calls for Trump’s impeachment actually came from the Democrats as soon as he was nominated. And for that matter, during the General Election campaign, it was not restricted to Democrats. Republican Congress-critter Mike Coffman [CO-6] was running radio ads in English and Spanish promising to oppose Trump in everything he tried to do if Trump was elected.

    That outrage got a boost when Neil Gorsuch was confirmed to the Supreme Court. But the increase was slightly muted because it was a case of a conservative Justice replacing the late conservative Justice Antonin Scalia who died under questionable circumstances. It would not be a net change of the balance of the court.

    Starting a few weeks ago, rumors started that Leftist supporting Justice Anthony Kennedy might retire. And the scale went at least a couple of notches higher. Then a week or so later people were reminded that Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who dares not visit a medical school for fear that her resemblance to a cadaver might get her dissected by a doctor in training, has health problems. She has had colon cancer and recovered after surgery and radiation therapy. She has had pancreatic cancer; it is said that she recovered from that. And three years ago, she had to have a stent placed in her right coronary artery. That medical history in an 84-year-old woman is not encouraging. Leaving aside the jokes about doing a Supreme Court remake of the movie “Weekend at Bernies”, the odds of her reaching the end of Donald Trump’s term in office [and age 90] are not good.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Civil Society, Current Events, Predictions | 11 Comments »

    Intimidation, Conformity, and Cowardice in American Academia

    Posted by David Foster on 11th May 2017 (All posts by )

    I have previously mentioned an incident described in the memoirs of Tom Watson Jr, longtime CEO of IBM.

    There was a moment when I truly thought IBM was going to lose its shot at defense work because of the kind of window blinds I had in my office.

    These were vertical blinds, which were not common at the time. An engineer who was in Watson’s office for a meeting made a sketch of the blinds, and inadvertently left it in his shirt pocket when he took the shirt to the dry cleaner. The laundry man thought the paper looked suspicious, and sent it to Senator McCarthy. Pretty soon, a group of investigators came and said to the engineer, “We’ve identified this as a plan for a radar antenna, and want to hear about it. We want to be perfectly fair. But we know it is a radar antenna and the shirt it was found in belongs to you.”

    The engineer explained about the vertical blinds, and the investigation team then asked to see Watson. The chief executive officer of IBM showed them the blinds and demonstrated the way they worked.

    They looked them over very carefully and then left. I thought I had contained it, but I wasn’t sure, and I was scared. We were working on SAGE (the computerized air defense system–ed) and it would have been a hell of a way to lose our security clearance.

    Shortly after the incident with the vertical blinds, Watson was invited to a lunch at Lehman Brothers, along with about 20 other high-ranking businesspeople. During the lunch, he mentioned his concerns about McCarthyism:

    Of the twenty-odd people present, I was the only one who took that position. That didn’t bother me. What bothered me was that the following week I got letters from several people who had been there, and they all had a similar message: “I didn’t want to commit myself in public, but I certainly agreed with everything you said.”

    I was reminded of this story once again by the current academic ragestorm involving the work of Professor Rebecca Tuvel.  And, just as with Watson’s experience during the McCarthy era, what is particularly disturbing is that there are apparently a lot of people who don’t like what has been happening…but are afraid to say so.

    And who is Professor Tuvel and what is the ragestorm about, you may ask?  Tuvel is an assistant professor of philosophy at Memphis College; you can see her teaching and research interests at the link.  Recently she published an article entitled “In Defense of Transracialism” in Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy.  A writer at Inside Higher Ed summarizes:

    The article explores whether there might be parallels between being transgender and being transracial, focusing specifically on the well-known case of Rachel Dolezal, who is white but presented herself as black for many years.

    Tuvel’s argument is that the very same reasons that might justify an individual’s decision to change sexes could also be used to justify an individual’s decision to change races — so if one is committed to the acceptability of the former (as Tuvel herself is), then one would be committed to the acceptability of the latter.

    And then the ragestorm broke:

    Shortly after the paper was published in the spring 2017 edition of Hypatia, an open letter with signatures but no author appeared on the internet soliciting further signatures. The letter called for Tuvel’s paper to be retracted by the journal, stating that “its continued availability causes further harm.”

    This open letter is now closed to further signatures and has been sent to the editor of Hypatia. While the open letter was still circulating, a statement appeared on the Hypatia website repudiating the article and making multiple references to the harms caused by the article’s publication. The statement has no signatures but is credited to “A majority of the Hypatia board of associate editors.”

    “The harms caused by the article’s publication” sounds like an argument that would have been made by the Inquisition in support of burning someone at the stake for unauthorized theological writing, or the arguments that were frequently made by Nazi and Soviet courts when calling for the execution of those who had disseminated forbidden political and social views.

    A recent New York Magazine article, This is what a modern-day witch hunt looks like,  argues that many of the assertions by Tuvel’s ‘critics’ (way too mild a word in this context) are based on a mischaracterization of what she actually wrote.  And this piece asserts that the over-the-top reaction has caused serious damage to Tuvel’s career…”How can Prof. Tuvel, for example, now use this repudiated but allegedly peer-reviewed article as part of her tenure process?   Indeed, how can her department or college support her for tenure when she has been so vilified as a scholar and professional by people who work in her fields?”…and suggests that these attacks may rise to the level of defamation in the legal sense.

    My main concern here is not whether Tuvel’s work is good or bad (read it for yourself here, if you’re so inclined, not sure how much longer it will stay up before the bit-burners get it)…indeed, I question the value of the whole subdiscipline encompassing this work and that of many of its critics), but the vitriolic tone of the attacks which in my view clearly inhibit intellectual exploration and and the ability to freely and (individually or collectively) play with ideas…which things are supposed to be primary reasons for the existence of academia…in favor of the dead hand of conformity.  And what is particularly disturbing…and closely echoes Tom Watson’s experiences during the McCarthy era…is this:

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Arts & Letters, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Education, Leftism, Philosophy | 28 Comments »

    The Absolute Far-Frozen Limit

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 9th May 2017 (All posts by )

    Unaccustomed as I am now, or have any need to casually or professionally involved in the sewer that broadcast television has become in the last decade or two, I still manage to find out about some of the most egregious and offensive violations of good taste, good sense, and good manners, thanks to the internet – like Stephen Colbert’s tasteless and degrading monologue regarding President Trump more than a week ago. There are plenty of viewers and listeners who, like me, are of a conservative-slash-libertarian inclination, and unlike me – do still watch mainstream broadcast news and entertainment. They do take note of these offenses, and post, tweet and comment about them. Since the election of Donald Trump – against all expectations – to the high office of president, an astonishingly large number of public personalities have gone and continue to go stark raving nuts.

    People in the entertainment business seem to be worse-affected, although a couple of Democratic Party politicians like Maxine Waters come close. While Maxine Waters’ unhinged blatherings should only be a matter of concern for those fools in her district who repeatedly return her to national office … the equally unhinged blatherings of figures who for some reason have a pulpit in the world of popular entertainment are somewhat more worrisome. Like the aforementioned Colbert, who is alleged to be a comedian. Honestly, I can’t judge whether he is or not a comedian, since I haven’t watched an episode of the Late Show in a dog’s age – but his unsavory blast of commentary which has ruffled feathers in my conservo-libertarian corner of the blogosphere has left the commetariant decidedly unamused.

    So – Steven Colbert’s monologue has drawn some comment here and there. No, I don’t think that he will be fired for it; a slap on the wrist from the FCC may be about the most penalty that he will suffer. He is, after all, one of those anointed and set into a place in the high firmament of big media entertainment, an establishment which will roll over and go hard-left, rather than admit that … oh, hey -they have insulted, alienated, and pissed off at least half of their audience, the consumers of their product. Obviously, it must be more important to entertainers like Colbert to go along with the popular crowd in demonstrations of contempt for Trump and those who voted for him. Which brings me to the aspect of this which I find to be the most depressing – the motivation for these displays of contempt … no, not only contempt, but outright hatred. The anger and frustration, boiling over. Those of us who voted Trump (often with reluctance and reservation) did not obey the instructions of the elite, and this willful disobedience on our part has maddened them beyond all normal conventions of civility and rational thought. They are choking on their rage and hatred. And so it spills out in a tidal wave like Colbert’s infamous monologue.

    Discuss

    Posted in Civil Society, Just Unbelievable, That's NOT Funny, Trump | 15 Comments »

    Worthwhile Reading

    Posted by David Foster on 4th May 2017 (All posts by )

    Roger Simon:  Will Fascism come to America through its colleges and universities?

    Case in point:  Brooklyn College

    Also from Roger Simon:  Roots of Liberal/Progressive Rage

    Joel Hirsch:  The Gulag and the Islamists

    In 1711, the Spectator had some positive things to say about merchants–not a common opinion among the smart set in that place and time.  (Original article here.)

    Thoughts about the archetype of the American farm boy and the present-day hostility of elitist ‘progressives’ toward people who fit this archetype:

    Then it hit me. The new American myth, carefully constructed by the SJWs and their ilk, is that farmers are stupid. Mechanics are dumb. Plumbers only ply their trade because they are too stupid to take gender studies courses. And since they are all idiots, of course their children must be idiots too. Indeed, they are all far too stupid to be permitted a say in how their own lives are run.

    Related to the above:  The roots of campus progressivism’s madness

    Posted in Academia, Business, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Islam, Leftism, USA | 20 Comments »

    FORT SUMTER,CALIFORNIA

    Posted by Subotai Bahadur on 23rd April 2017 (All posts by )

    Despite appearances, there is no natural law that says history repeats itself. As inventive as we are, there are only a limited number of ways that humans can screw things up. We keep trying to come up with new ways, but until we evolve a new brain with more folds on the surface we will keep repeating ourselves.

    No matter what our race, culture, or creed; whenever you get a lot of people together in a restricted space, some sort of political order and structure arises. Anarchy as a human ideal is about as fact based as the Land of Oz. And even Oz had a Wizard, sundry Witches, Munchkin Mayors, and probably Alpha and Beta Flying Monkeys.

    People have different temperaments; some are more active, some more passive, some are dominant, some less dominant. Then there is the matter of talents, and lacks thereof. People end up being sorted out in various power relationships inside and outside of their family groupings.

    It does not matter what the basis of the structure is, be it feudal, democratic, aristocratic, results oriented merit-based, or who has the biggest club and is more willing to use it on everybody else. They share two things. First, whatever the rules of the game, the social contract if you will, with the exception of a criminal fringe pretty much everybody in the society accepts and supports the rules actively or tacitly. Second, if a sufficient percentage refuses to accept those rules, the whole thing falls apart until a new order arises. The new order may or may not be better than the old, but it will be different than the old.

    Our country and fairly unique society came into existence through that process. This is in part because we diverged demographically from the parent society. Our population was made up of exiles [including self-exiles], ne’er do wells, criminals, religious fringe elements from the British point of view, and a sufficiency of foreign elements to render the population no longer homogeneous with the old country. Couple that with the detail that in Britain there was much higher percentage of the population that had a vested interest in the existing system, and that a relatively small percentage of the minor nobility and none of the higher nobility and royal family bothered to cross the pond.

    What we ended up with is a majority of the population who had no memory of serfdom, were not slaves [Leftist fantasies notwithstanding, slaves were always a minority of the population], and who were used to both being politically and economically free compared to the old country. And the aristocracy here really did not have the pull to make generations of sycophancy attractive and profitable as a lifestyle.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Crime and Punishment, Current Events, Human Behavior | 18 Comments »

    Freedom and the American Character

    Posted by David Foster on 3rd April 2017 (All posts by )

    I was thinking, for some reason, about the old Cole Porter song Don’t Fence Me In.  It’s not all that good of a song, IMO–but it does express a chafing at restriction that most people would once have agreed was a core aspect of the American character.

    Now, however, I’m not so sure.  Seems to me a lot of people–especially but not only on college campuses–are asking to be fenced in, and are looking at hobbles not negatively but with admiration.

    Questions for discussion:

    –Has individual freedom indeed become a less-important value to Americans (in general) over recent decades?

    –If so, what are the drivers of this change?…and what are the implications?

    –Was Dostoyevsky’s Grand Inquisitor right about human nature?

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Deep Thoughts, Music, USA | 30 Comments »

    The Riot at Middlebury College and Academic Life.

    Posted by Michael Kennedy on 1st April 2017 (All posts by )

    Recently, Charles Murray, author of the book, “The Bell Curve,” a study of intelligence in the population, was invited to speak at Middlebury college, a liberal arts college in Vermont. His attempt to speak was interrupted by a riot which injured a professor at the college.

    Inside Higher Ed’s story on the event explains that college officials admonished the students prior to the talk that they could protest but not disrupt Murray’s talk, which was to be about the way white America is coming apart—the title of his latest book—along class lines. Unfortunately, that admonition did no good. “As soon as Murray took the stage,” we read, “students stood up, turned their backs to him and started various chants that were loud enough and in unison such that he could not talk over them.

    The confrontation continued after he had left the stage and attempted to move to another location.

    And then matters turned worse. Fearing that there might be a raucous, disruptive mob instead of an audience of students willing to listen and consider Murray’s arguments, school administrators had set up a contingency plan. Once it became clear that the mob had killed the lecture, they moved to another location where Murray would give his talk, which would be live-streamed to students.

    Sadly, that location was soon beset by the mob, with banging on windows and pulling of fire alarms. Murray and Professor Allison Stanger, who was the moderator for the talk, tried their best to continue a rational discussion.

    Finally, Murray, Professor Stanger, and a few others tried to leave campus.

    Mayhem resulted when Professor Stanger, who had been willing to state her agreement that Murray should not have been invited, was injured.

    Why did this happen ? Tribalism ?

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Academia, Civil Society, Education, Leftism, Politics, Trump | 12 Comments »

    Economic Growth and the Spirit of Debate

    Posted by David Foster on 22nd March 2017 (All posts by )

    Writing in the WSJ, Naftali Bennett takes on the question of what is the “secret educational ingredient” that accounts for Israel’s dramatic economic success.  While agreeing with others that good schools are a part of it, he also assigns credit to “a parallel education system that operates alongside the formal one.  This is where our children learn to become entrepreneurs.”

    And what are the components of this parallel education system?  He identifies three of them.  First, there is “our heritage of debate”…the study of the Talmud. “The meaning of complex texts is debated by students in hevruta–pairs–with a teacher offering occasional guidance..Since the Talmud is one of the most complex legal codes ever gathered, the idea of a verdict is almost irrelevant to those studying.  Students engage in debate for the sake of debate.  They analyze issues from all directions, finding different solutions.  Multiple answers to a single question are common.”

    Bennett identifies the second component of the parallel education system as the collection of youth organizations:  “Teenagers work closely with younger children; they lead groups on excursions  and hikes, develop informal curricula, and are responsible for those in their care.  As an 11th-grade student , I took fifth-graders on an overnight hike in the mountains.  Being given responsibilities at a young age helped shape me into who I am today.”

    The third component is the army:  “Consider a hypothetical 19-year-old soldier in the intelligence corps, analyzing aerial photographs or intercepted communications.  She must decide if the material in front of her indicates an impending attack or not.  This isn’t a rare occurrence. Thousands of Israeli soldiers experience it daily.”

    Just a couple of hours after reading the Bennett piece, I encountered this story about Wellesley College:

    In an email to fellow faculty yesterday afternoon, a committee of Wellesley College professors made several startling recommendations about how they think future campus speakers should be chosen. If implemented, the proposals by the faculty Commission for Ethnicity, Race, and Equity would have a profound impact on the quality and quantity of voices Wellesley students would be permitted to hear.

    FIRE has obtained the email, sent by one of the signatories to a faculty listserv, and republished it in full below.

    While paying lip service to free speech, the email is remarkable in its contempt for free and open dialogue on campus. Asserting that controversial speakers “impose on the liberty of students, staff, and faculty at Wellesley,” the committee members lament the fact that such speakers negatively impact students by forcing them to “invest time and energy in rebutting the speakers’ arguments.” 

    And here we thought learning to effectively challenge views with which one disagreed was an important part of the educational process!

    Meanwhile, at the University of Arizona, students who feel offended are being told to say “ouch”…and the student who made the supposedly-hurtful comment is supposed to respond with “oops.”  And these two universities are far from the only ones adopting such policies.

    So if a key part of Israel’s economic success is the training of kids in the skills and attitudes of debate…it would appear that many if not most American universities are doing the exact opposite.

    Posted in Academia, Civil Society, Education, Israel, USA | 14 Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: This Is What Is Wrong With The American Judiciary

    Posted by Jonathan on 16th March 2017 (All posts by )

    Excerpt:

    For example, judges, like anyone else in any other role, want a reasonable amount of time to meet their responsibilities. So a compressed briefing and argument schedule is onerous. But all temporary restraining orders are onerous in just this way. That being so, it is difficult to credit why this all too common fact of judicial life is among the “worst conditions imaginable.” Bybee’s overstatement here is palpable.
     
    Even more problematic, Judge Bybee states that “intense public scrutiny” is another of these “worst conditions imaginable.” That is a problem. Judges have extraordinary public power. They are supposed to be scrutinized, and that includes scrutiny by the wider public. The only legitimate question is whether the scrutiny is fair, not how “intense” it is. The First Amendment does not end at the courthouse door, nor do parties’ First Amendment rights end because they find themselves dragooned into litigation.
     
    Moreover, it is wholly “out of … bounds” for an American judge to instruct litigants that their out-of-court statements are inconsistent with “effective advocacy.” Even if not specifically intended, the natural, probable, and expected effect of the dissent’s language is to chill constitutionally protected speech.* It amounts to a directive, from the court** to the lawyers before it, to instruct their clients to shut up during ongoing litigation. Bybee’s extraordinary language here demands a response from the public, the wider legal community, and the elected arms of the government.

    Read the whole thing.

    UPDATE: I Was Wrong

    Posted in Anglosphere, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Law, Political Philosophy, Politics | 17 Comments »

    Worthwhile Reading

    Posted by David Foster on 4th March 2017 (All posts by )

    Simulating a microprocessor with techniques similar to those used in neuroscience raises some cautionary thoughts about conclusions being drawn in the later work.

    Don Sensing links his 2014 post:  America is adopting the Middle East model, and he’s not talking about Islam but rather about the   fact that “At an increasing pace, politics in the West, especially in America, is the surest way to wealth, a 180-out from the West’s history”…but consistent with the way things have worked for millennia in the Middle East.

    Anthony Esolen:  We are a people now illiterate in a way that is unprecedented for the human race. We can decipher linguistic signs on a page, but we have no songs and immemorial stories in our hearts.

    Wendy McElroy on “social justice warriors” and the persecution of heretics.

    Despite about all the automation innovations and the concerns about robots taking all the jobs, manufacturing productivity may really not be showing much in the way of an upward trend.

    Management and meaningful work, studied via Legos

    Posted in Civil Society, Deep Thoughts, Economics & Finance, Human Behavior, Leftism, Management, Medicine, Middle East, Science, Tech | 1 Comment »

    The Crazy Years 21st Century Style

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 27th February 2017 (All posts by )

    I honestly thought that once the election was done and Donald Trump duly sworn into the highest office in the land that those whose favored candidate lost would calm the heck down. You know, sort of the way that those of us whose chosen candidate lost in 2012… you know, disappointed but sporting about it. We went home, sniffled a little as we communed via the internet with equally disappointed friends, assumed the fetal position and turned the electric blanket onto “high” and got over it in a week or so. That’s the way the constitutionally-mandated cookie crumbles. The day after the election, I assumed that Hillary and Bernie voters would have had the maturity to do the same; morn a little, snivel a little, write editorials in the national media-of-record rationalizing their unfortunate reversals, perhaps throwing a little blame against whomever, and then pull themselves together and put as good a face on it as they could muster, promising to do better in 2020.

    Nope; the march of the disappointed pussy-hatters the very next day, riots and protests in deep blue cities, the absolute frothing at the mouth Trump-hate at the Oscars and on the national news broadcasts, the impassioned print editorials, the ranting, raving, stompy-footing, the mass-defriending and insanely hateful rants on Facebook: Trump is a Nazi-fascist-anti-Semitic-racist-who-pulls-tags-off-mattresses and trips old ladies hobbling along on canes, and so is everyone who voted for him. Yes, over the last few years, we have kind of gotten the idea that the Ruling Class; the bi-coastal comfortable and well-connected (including the intelligentsia, the national media and bureaucracy) were contemptuous of the ordinary working and middle class residents of Flyoverlandia. Now we know for a certainty that those who form the coalition of the Ruling Class and many who aspire to be a member of that Class in good standing despise us. They despise us with a passion and fury that renders them incoherent, and unashamed of displaying that hatred.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Americas, Civil Society, Conservatism, Deep Thoughts, Leftism, Politics, Trump | 18 Comments »

    Environment

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 10th February 2017 (All posts by )

    Amid some pretty stiff competition news-wise this week, these two linked stories were particularly infuriating – mostly because the matter received relatively little attention, in comparison to coverage of the protest itself. But such is the towering hypocrisy of these times. The establishment national news media continues to conduct itself in the manner that, sadly, we have come to expect of them. Mostly, they cover stories like this with a pillow, until they stop moving.

    But the sheer gall of a protest encampment called to protest potential-possible- maybe environmental damage caused by construction of a pipeline … which then actually does damage to the local environment by the sheer quantity of stuff abandoned over the past six months, and the possibility of seepage of human waste into the nearby river. Well, really – one might have very good reason for doubting the sincerity of those protesters with regard to protecting the environment in the first place. Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Society, Conservatism, Environment, Human Behavior, Media | 13 Comments »

    The Revolt Against the Experts

    Posted by Jonathan on 9th February 2017 (All posts by )

    ‘Trump makes sense to a grocery store owner’

    Economist-mathematician Nassim Nicholas Taleb contends that there is a global riot against pseudo-experts
     
    After predicting the 2008 economic crisis, the Brexit vote, the U.S. presidential election and other events correctly, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of the Incerto series on global uncertainties, which includes The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, is seen as something of a maverick and an oracle. Equally, the economist-mathematician has been criticised for advocating a “dumbing down” of the economic system, and his reasoning for U.S. President Donald Trump and global populist movements. In an interview in Jaipur, Taleb explains why he thinks the world is seeing a “global riot against pseudo-experts”.

    Taleb has a typically thoughtful and contrary take on Trump’s electoral victory. Worth reading in full.

    (Via Peter Saint-Andre.)

    Posted in Big Government, Book Notes, Civil Society, Politics, Trump, USA | 13 Comments »

    Freedom, the Village, and the Internet (rerun)

    Posted by David Foster on 7th February 2017 (All posts by )

    (Hearing in a town this size, by John Prine and Delores Keane, reminded me of this 2013 post–rerun here, with some edits and a special musical bonus added at the end.)

    I’ve reviewed two books by German writer Hans Fallada: Little Man, What Now?, and Wolf Among Wolves (the links go to the reviews), both of which were excellent. I’ve also read his novel Every Man Dies Alone, which is centered on a couple who become anti-Nazi activists after their son Ottochen is killed in the war…it was inspired by, and is loosely based on, the true story of  a real-life couple who distributed anti-Nazi postcards and were executed for it.

    I thought this book was also excellent…the present post, though, is not a book review, but rather a development of some thoughts inspired by a particular passage in the story.

    Trudel, who was Ottochen’s fiancee, is a sweet and intelligent girl who is strongly anti-Nazi..and unlike Ottochen’s parents, she became an activist prior to being struck by personal tragedy: she is a member of a resistance cell at the factory where she works.  But she finds that she cannot stand the unending psychological strain of underground work–made even worse by the rigid and doctrinaire man (apparently a Communist) who is leader of the cell–and she drops out. Another member of the cell, who has long been in love with her, also finds that he is not built for such work, and drops out also.

    After they marry and Trudel becomes pregnant, they decide to leave the politically hysterical environment of Berlin for a small town where–they believe–life will be freer and calmer.

    Like many city dwellers, they’d had the mistaken belief that spying was only really bad in Berlin and that decency still prevailed in small towns. And like many city dwellers, they had made the painful discovery that recrimination, eavesdropping, and informing were ten times worse in small towns than in the big city. In a small town, everyone was fully exposed, you couldn’t ever disappear in the crowd. Personal circumstances were quickly ascertained, conversations with neighbors were practically unavoidable, and the way  such conversations could be twisted was something they had already experienced in their own lives, to their chagrin.

    Reading the above passage, I was struck by the thought that if we are now living in an “electronic village”…even a “global village,” as Marshall McLuhan put it several decades ago…then perhaps that also means we are facing some of the unpleasant characteristics that–as Fallada notes–can be a part of village life. And these characteristics aren’t something that appears only in eras of insane totalitarianism such as existed in Germany during the Nazi era. Peter Drucker, in Managing in the Next Society, wrote about the tension between liberty and community:

    Rural society has been romanticized for millenia, especially in the West, where rural communities have usually been portrayed as idylic. However, the community in rural society is actually both compulsory and coercive…And that explains why, for millenia, the dream of rural people was to escape into the city. Stadluft macht frei (city air frees) says an old German proverb dating back to the eleventh or twelfth century.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Deep Thoughts, Media, Tech | 15 Comments »

    Scaring Ourselves to Death

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 3rd February 2017 (All posts by )

    We have a neighbor several doors down the street who has – over the years that we have known her – been somewhat of a trial. Not only is she is a gossip with an appallingly low degree of accuracy in the stories that she passes on, she is also a keen consumer of local news, and takes the most sensational crime stories to heart. She was in her element, the evening that we had a double murder in our neighborhood, having claimed to see the murderer running down the street past her house and begging one of the other neighbors for a ride. She provided a description of the murderer to one of the police patrols who went screaming through the neighborhood – a description which turned out to be inaccurate in every detail save that the escaping murderer was a male. As for the what she sees on the news; let someone across town be carjacked in their own driveway, she is totally convinced that everyone in the neighborhood is in dire peril of this happening to them. She lurks at the community mailbox of a morning, bearing dire warnings of all kinds of unlikely scenarios. She never goes much beyond the community mailbox, having successfully frightened herself out of going any farther on most occasions. In earlier times, I would try and talk her into taking a more realistic view of things. Eventually I realized that she purely enjoyed scaring herself into conniptions, and those irrational fears provided a handy all-purpose excuse for her not to go and do much of anything with herself when her only child went to college on the other side of the state and her husband moved out.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Current Events, History, Trump | 19 Comments »

    National Tantrum

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 19th January 2017 (All posts by )

    As the Deity be my witness, I have never – not even since 1968 (which I am sufficiently old enough to remember, being 14 years of age in that cursed year) – seen such a massive and public temper tantrum as that which we have been observing since November, 2015. Let it be said that I am observing all this with appalled and horrified fascination. It used to be that only certain very far-leftish intellectuals and college students were given to briefly melt down in such an over-the-top fashion – but over the last month and a bit this appears to have become the chosen reaction to their side losing an election on the part of most Hollywood A- B- and C-Listers, all the social justice warrior front, most of the establishment media, a good chunk of our public intellectuals, a good few businesses (looking at you, Kellogg) a generous selection of our Democrat Party establishment, and a representative sample of leftish freelance political freaks. (As an aside – good show; displaying your contempt toward at least half of your prospective audience/consumers/& etc is a sure winner, when it comes to the consumer market. This household will never purchase Kellogg brands again. Or go to a movie with Meryl Streep in it.)

    So – why the Cat-5 hurricane degree of hysteria, which shows not the slightest degree of diminishing? A number of reasons, I would venture; and for many of the most demonstrative “Never Our President” virtue signalers it may be a combination of several of these.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Big Government, Civil Society, Deep Thoughts, Politics, Tea Party, The Press, Trump | 21 Comments »

    How Long?

    Posted by Sgt. Mom on 27th December 2016 (All posts by )

    Hail, thou ever blessed morn,
    Hail redemption’s happy dawn,
    Sing through all Jerusalem,
    Christ is born in Bethlehem.
    Edward Caswall, 1858 – Hymn for Christmas Day (Also known as See Amid the Winter Snow)

    I have a deep and abiding fondness for certain choral music; Christmas carols or even sort-of-Christmas carols, especially the English ones which weren’t part of my growing-up-Lutheran tradition. That tradition tended more towards the Germanic side of the scale, save for hymns by the Wesleys and Isaac Watts. The English Victorians … sufficient to say that a lot of such hymns and carols were pretty ghastly as poetry, music and theology combined, but time has done some sifting out and the best of them usually turn up in seasonal presentations like the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols from Kings’ College, Cambridge. I make a point of listening to the BBC broadcast of it, every year on Christmas Eve morning. I’ve become so very fond of some carols I’ve heard through that broadcast that I’ve made a point of searching out YouTube recordings of them to post on my various websites. All In the Bleak Midwinter is one, Once in David’s Royal City is another – and See Amid the Winter Snow is another still. (Link here) I’ve replayed the video so often in the last few days, I have finally learned the melody by heart … and the chorus haunts me this particular Christmas. Sing through all Jerusalem, Christ is born in Bethlehem!

    It’s not just that the UN has resolved, in the face of an abstention by the US, to back a claim by the Palestinians to Jerusalem, or that a Jewish infant born in Bethlehem these days might be a hate crime in progress according to pro-Palestine activists. Once a town largely Christian, most local Christians have been chased out, just as Jews and Christians have been from practically everywhere else in the Islamic world. Well, that’s the Middle East for you, everywhere outside of Israel. The ethnic-cleansing of everyone but Muslims of whatever flavor goes on, unabated in the Middle East accompanied by a chorus of indifference sung by the Western ruling class, who seem intent on an Olympic-qualification level of virtue-signaling.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Christianity, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Current Events, Europe, France, Germany, Holidays, Immigration, Islam, Middle East, Religion, Terrorism | 50 Comments »