mid-15c., "plot where plants are raised from seeds," from Latin seminarium "plant nursery," figuratively, "breeding ground," from seminarius "of seed," from semen (genitive seminis) "seed" (see semen). Meaning "school for training priests" first recorded 1580s; commonly used for any school (especially academies for young ladies) from 1580s to 1930s. Seminarian "seminary student" is attested from 1580s.
The universities today are places where the seeds of leftism are planted in skulls full of mush.
I said a few entries back that liberals lack common sense. Here is further proof, as if further proof is needed:
This week, the Los Angeles Unified School District—the second-largest in the nation—decided to end the practice of suspending or expelling students for "willful defiance," starting this fall. District officials said the practice disproportionately affects minority students' education and leads to more disciplinary problems for students down the line.
Both the policy and the justification for it are insane. That the policy is crazy is self-evident to anyone of sound mind. The justification too is completely crack-brained. It assumes that the only reason minority students are disproportionately affected by the old expulsion rule is because they are unjustly discriminated against on the basis of their skin color. But that is obviously false: the minorities are disproportionately affected and 'overrepresented' among the ones expelled because they are disproportionately trouble-causing. It is not their skin color, but their bad behavior that explains why they get expelled and suspended more often.
Liberals cannot see this because they are blinded by their politically correct notion that all groups are equal in every respect and so differential outcomes have to be chalked up to racism. Too many liberals are willfully stupid people in willful defiance of common sense and we ought to expel them from the precincts of the reasonable before they do any more damage to educational institutions.
Contemporary liberals have something like the opposite of the Midas Touch. Everything King Midas touched turned to gold. Everything a liberal touches turns to dreck.
What is to be done about the threat of radical Islam? After explaining the problem, Pat Buchanan gives his answer:
How do we deal with this irreconcilable conflict between a secular West and a resurgent Islam?
First, as it is our presence in their world that enrages so many, we should end our interventions, shut down the empire and let Muslim rulers deal with Muslim radicals.
Second, we need a moratorium on immigration from the Islamic world. Inevitably, some of the young we bring in, like the Tsarnaevs, will yield to radicalization and seek to strike a blow for Islam against us.
What benefit do we derive as a people to justify the risks we take by opening up America to mass migration from a world aflame with hatred and hostility over race, ethnicity, culture, history and faith?
Why are we bringing all of the world's quarrelsome minorities, and all the world's quarrels with them, into our home?
What we saw in Boston was the dark side of diversity.
Buchanan is right. We will never be able to teach the backward denizens of these God-forsaken regions how to live. And certainly not by invasion and bombing. Besides, what moral authority do we have at this point? We are a country in dangerous fiscal, political, and moral decline. The owl of Minerva is about to spread her wings. We will have our hands full keeping ourselves afloat for a few more years. Until we wise up and shape up, a moratorium on immigration from Muslim lands is only common sense.
Common sense, however, is precisely what liberals lack. So I fear things will have to get much worse before they get better.
If blacks make up 12% of the student population, then blacks ought to make up 12% of school expulsions. Fair is fair. Discrimination on the basis of skin color is wrong. But in Clark County, Nevada, in 2009-2010 black student expulsions were at 43% of the student population. So Clark County is racist. Blacks are being targeted just because of their skin color.
How could anyone resist such cogent reasoning?
It is shocking but true: minority students are overrepresented in expulsions and suspensions.
Any morally decent person should be able to appreciate that justice demands that minority students be represented proportionately.
We were talking of Hawking. I said 'black hole.' You heard 'black ho' and took offense . . . . Is that my problem?
Do you really want to maintain that something is offensive just in virtue of someone's taking it to be offensive? Do you really think that there is no call for a distinction between the objectively offensive and the merely subjectively offensive?
If you are that preternaturally deficient in intellect, then I am offended, deeply and personally offended.
Critical thinking is not necessarily opposed to the status quo. To criticize is not to oppose, but to sift, to assess, to assay, to evaluate. The etymology of krinein suggests as much. A critical thinker may well end up supporting the existing state of things in this or that respect. It is a fallacy of the Left to think that any supporter of any aspect of the status quo is an 'apologist' for it in some pejorative sense of this term. After all, some aspects of the status quo may be very good indeed, and others may be unimprovable without making things worse in other respects.
The notion that critical thinking entails opposition to the status quo presumably has its roots in the nihilism of the Left. Leftists are often incapable of appreciating what actually exists because they measure it against a standard that does not exist, and that in many cases cannot exist. It is the leftist Nowhere Man who judges the topos quo from the vantage point of utopia. There is no place like utopia, of course, but only because utopia is no place at all.
Just as leftists do not own dissent, they are not the sole proprietors of a critical attitude. Kritische Theorie as used by members of the Frankfurt School is a tendentious and self-serving expression.
The paradoxes of liberal morality were on glaring display last week. The Obama administration OK’d the sale of “Plan B” post-coital emergency contraception over the counter without prescription (or parental consent) to girls as young as 15. At the same time, the City Council moved a step closer to banning anyone under the age of 21 from buying cigarettes (the legal age is now 18).
Holy smoke! (Or as my boyhood pal Joe Odegaard used to say, fumus sanctus!)
The church of liberalism must have its demon, and his name is 'tobacco.'
For more on the antics of the 'tobacco wackos,' see my Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms category. There is plenty there to get you libruls 'up in arms.'
I have found that it is dangerous to assume that others are essentially like oneself.
Psychologists speak of projection. As I understand it, it involves projecting into others one's own attitudes, beliefs, motivations, fears, emotions, desires, values, and the like. It is classified as a defense mechanism. To avoid confronting an unsavory attitude or trait in oneself, one projects it into another. Suppose one is stingy, considers stinginess an undesirable trait, but doesn't want to own up to one's stinginess. As a defense against the admission of one's own stinginess, one projects it into others. "I'm not stingy; you're stingy!"
I once had a superficial colleague who published a lot. He was motivated more by a neurotic need to advance himself socially and economically, a need based in low self-esteem, rather than by a drive to get at the truth or make a contribution to his subject. He was at some level aware that his motives were less than noble. Once, when he found out that I had published an article, he told me that my motive was to see my name in print. It was a classic case of projection: he could not understand me except as being driven by the same paltry motives that drove him. By projecting his motives into me, he warded off the awareness of their presence in him, or else excused their presence in him on the spurious ground that everyone has the same paltry motivations.
Most of the definitions of projection I have read imply that it is only undesirable attitudes, beliefs and the like that are the contents of acts of projection. But it seems to me that the notion of projection could and perhaps should be widened to include desirable ones as well.
The desire for peace and social harmony, for example, is obviously good. But it too can be the content of an act of psychological projection. A pacifist, for example, may assume that others deep down are really like he is: peace-loving to such an extent as to avoid war at all costs. A pacifist might reason as follows: since everyone deep down wants peace, and abhors war, if I throw down my weapon, my adversary will do likewise. By unilaterally disarming, I show my good will, and he will reciprocate. But if you throw down your weapon before Hitler, he will take that precisely as justification for killing you: since might makes right on his neo-Thrasymachian scheme, you have shown by your pacific deed that you are unfit for the struggle for existence and therefore deserve to die, and indeed must die to keep from polluting the gene pool.
Projection in cases like these can be dangerous. One oftens hears the sentiment expressed that we human beings are at bottom all the same and all want the same things. Not so! You and I may want
Harmony and understanding Sympathy and trust abounding No more falsehoods or derisions Golden living dreams of visions Mystic crystal revelation And the mind's true liberation
as expressed in that characteristic '60s song, Aquarius, but others have belligerence and bellicosity hard-wired into them. They like fighting and dominating and they only come alive when they are bashing your skull in either literally or figuratively. People are not the same and it is a big mistake to think otherwise and project your decency into them.
I'll say it again: people are not the same. We are not 'equal.' Or do you consider yourself the moral equal of Chechen Muslim ingrates who come to our shores, exploit our hospitality, go on welfare, rip us off, and then detonate explosives at the finish line of a great American event that celebrates life and self-reliance?
I said that the psychologists classify projection as a defense mechanism. But how could the projection of good traits count as a defense mechanism? Well, suppose that by engaging in such projections one defends oneself against the painful realization that the people in the world are much worse than one would have liked to believe. Many of us have a strong psychological need to see good in other people, and this can give rise to illusions. There is good and evil in each person, and one must train oneself to accurately discern how much of each is present in each person one encounters.
One mistake I have made, more than once, is to assume that since I value truth above many other things, others do as well. But there are plenty of people who do not value truth at all, or else assign it a rather low priority. There are many, for example, who value human feelings over truth. Truth is nothing to them; feelings everything. That makes no sense to me; to me it is self-evident that, although both are values (to be precise: things that ought to be valued), truth is a higher value, if not the highest value. But reality forces me to accept that others hold to the opposite value-prioritization. It is folly to project one's own values into others.
There are other people for whom truth counts for nothing, but power for everything. They interpret every type of interpersonal transaction as a power struggle. Thus if you calmly try to persuade such a person of the truth of some proposition by appealing to facts and reasoning correctly from them, he will interpret that as nothing but an attempt to dominate him psychologically. Such people are utterly blind to the value of truth and to the fact that truth can sometimes be attained by dialectical means. They project their own lust for power into everyone else interpreting everything that is manifestly not a power-move as latently a power-move.
There are plenty of leftists like this. Taking their cue from Nietzsche, they assume that everything is power at bottom. Die Welt ist der Wille zur Macht und nichts anders! "The world is the will to power and nothing besides!" Supported by this assumption, they set out to unmask (deconstruct) phenomena that manifestly are not power-driven, for example, attempts to state what is the case. Power-mad themselves, these leftists project lust for power into everyone and everything. It is a curious pars pro toto fallacy: one takes a phenomenon one finds in oneself, lust for power, and then interprets everything else in terms of it. The idea might be worth exploring that Nietzsche's doctrine of the Will to Power arose by projection. He saw the lust for power within himself and excused its presence there by projecting it outward thus transforming a psychological peculiarity into a fundamental trait of beings qua beings.
You say I'm psychologizing. True enough. But false views are legitimately psychologized. It would be the genetic fallacy to dismiss as false a proposition just because it arose from a need or serves a need or results from projection. But once a proposition has been shown to be false, it is legitimate to inquire into the genesis of the belief.
I was about to write an entry on Rushdie's recent NYT op-ed, but Radosh has done the job and has done it well. Excerpt:
A good example of the old moral equivalence was to equate the Gulag in the Soviet Union, in which hundreds of thousands were imprisoned, starved to death and executed in massive frame-ups, with McCarthyism in the United States. During the so-called McCarthy era, relatively few were imprisoned or lost their livelihoods, and many actually guilty of being actual Soviet agents portrayed themselves as innocents accused because of their political views. Yet the Left in America argued both were the same.
That was indeed the position the Left took back in the days before the the USSR collapsed. It shows as clearly as anything the delusional, reality-denying, character of liberal-left 'thought.' The same delusional cast of mind is betrayed by those who will not recognize the unique threat to civilization posed by radical Islam.
What is at the root of moral equivalentism? Perhaps it is an upshot of the Left's radical utopianism. Utopia, etymologically, is nowhere. The leftist is a Nowhere Man who adopts the View from Nowhere. If you ascend high enough in the sky, earthly differences blur and vanish. When you attain unto Cloud Cuckoo Land (Wolkenskukuheim), all is the same: FDR's America and Hitler's Germany, the USA and the Evil Empire, Christian 'terrorism' and Muslim terrorism.
"He's a real nowhere man, living in his nowhere land, making all his nowhere plans, for nobody."
"He's as blind as he can be, just sees what he wants to see . . . ."
In the nine years I have been blogging I have been careful to distinguish between Islam and radical Islam (militant Islam, Islamism, Islamofascism, etc.) I can't say I have had any really good reason for this charitableness on my part. Perhaps it is that I just didn't want to believe that 'moderate Muslim' is as much an oxymoron as 'moderate Nazi.'
In "Calling Islam 'Islam'," Bosch Fawstin argues against distinguishing between Islam and radical Islam (militant Islam, fundamentalist Islam, etc.) But if one doesn't make this distinction, and radical Islam is the enemy, then Islam is the enemy. This seems to have the unpalatable consequence that 1.5 billion Muslims are the enemy. Surely that is false. As I understand Fawstin, he avoids this inference by distinguishing between Muslims who take Islam seriously and those who don't. Actually, he makes a tripartite distinction among Muslims who take Islam seriously, and are a grave existential threat to us; Muslims who do not take Islam seriously and are a threat to us only insofar as they refuse to condemn the radicals; and Muslims who, unlike the second group, practice Islam, but an 'enlightened' Islam. This third group, however, is empty. According to Fawstin, "There’s no separate ideology apart from Islam that’s being practiced by these Muslims in name only, there’s no such thing as 'Western Islam'."
If Fawstin is right, then to speak of Islam having being 'hijacked' by radicals makes as little sense as to speak of National Socialism as having been hijacked by radicals. Islam and Nazism are radical and militant and murderous by their very nature: there are no moderate forms. If you are Muslim or a Nazi then you are a radical since these ideologies admit of no moderate forms; if you are not a radical Muslim or Nazi, then you are not a Muslim or a Nazi at all.
Whether or not you agree with Fawstin's parsing of the terminology, the radicals do pose a real threat both 'explosive' (as in the Boston Marathon bombing) and 'subversive' (as in the building of the ground zero mosque). Curiously, in the case of GZM, the site of the subversion is the same as the site of one of the main 'explosions.'
In Terrorism and Other Religions, Cole argues that "Contrary to what is alleged by bigots like Bill Maher, Muslims are not more violent than people of other religions." Although we conservatives don't think all that highly of Bill Maher, we cheered when he pointed out the obvious, namely, that Islam, and Islam alone at the present time, is the faith whose doctrines drive most of the world's terrorism, and that the Left's moral equivalency 'argument' is "bullshit" to employ Maher's terminus technicus. Why should pointing out what is plainly true get Maher labeled a bigot by Cole?
So I thought I must be missing something and that I needed to be set straight by Professor Cole. So I read his piece carefully numerous times. Cole's main argument is that, while people of "European Christian heritage" killed over 100 million people in the 20th century, Muslims have killed only about two million during that same period. But what does this show? Does it show that Islamic doctrine does not drive most of the world's terrorism at the present time? Of course not.
That is precisely the issue given that Cole is contesting what "the bigot" Maher claimed. What Cole has given us is a text-book example of ignoratio elenchi. This is an informal fallacy of reasoning committed by a person who launches into the refutation of some thesis that is other than the one being forwarded by the dialectical opponent. If the thesis is that Muslims who take Islam seriously are the cause of most of the world's terrorism at the present time, this thesis cannot be refuted by pointing out that people of "European Christian heritage" have killed more people than Muslims. For this is simply irrelevant to the issue in dispute. (I note en passant that this is why ignoratio elenchi is classifed as a fallacy of relevance.)
Someone born and raised in a Christian land can be called a Christian. But it doesn't follow that such a person is a Christian in anything more than a sociological sense. In this loose and external sense the author of The Anti-Christ was a Christian. Nietzsche was raised in a Christian home in a Christian land by a father, Karl Ludwig Nietzsche, who was a Lutheran pastor. Similarly, Hitler was a Christian. And Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the Republic of Turkey, was a Muslim. But were Ataturk's actions guided and inspired by Islamic doctrine? As little as Hitler's actions were guided and inspired by the Sermon on the Mount. Here is a list of some of Ataturk's anti-Islamic actions.
Having exposed the fundamental fallacy in Cole's article, there is no need to go through the rest of his distortions such as the one about the Zionist terrorists during the time of the British Mandate.
Why do leftists deny reality? A good part of the answer is that they deny it because reality does not fit their scheme. Leftists confuse the world with their view of the world. In their view of the world, people are all equal and religions are all equal -- equally good or equally bad depending on the stripe of the leftist. They want it to be that way and so they fool themselves into thinking that it is that way. Moral equivalency reigns. If you point out that Muhammad Atta was an Islamic terrorist, they shoot back that Timothy McVeigh was a Christian terrorist -- willfully ignoring the crucial difference that the murderous actions of the former derive from Islamic/Islamist doctrine whereas the actions of the latter do not derive from Christian doctrine.
And then these leftists like Cole compound their willful ignorance of reality by denouncing those who speak the truth as 'Islamophobes.'
That would have been like hurling the epithet 'Nazi-phobe' at a person who, in 1938, warned of the National Socialist threat to civilized values.
What follows is the whole of Victor Davis Hanson's Promiscuous Prudes with a bit of commentary.
More than 500 people were murdered in Chicago last year. Yet Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel still found time to berate the fast food franchise Chick-fil-A for not sharing "Chicago values" -- apparently because its founder does not approve of gay marriage.
[A case of what I call misplaced moral enthusiasm. Emanuel's view is particularly offensive because conservative opposition to gay 'marriage' is principled and rationally argued. It does not derive from bigotry or 'homophobia.']
Two states have legalized marijuana, with more to come. Yet social taboos against tobacco smoking make it nearly impossible to light up a cigarette in public places. Marijuana, like alcohol, causes far greater short-term impairment than does nicotine. But legal cigarette smoking is now seen as a corporate-sponsored, uncool and dirty habit that leads to long-term health costs for society at large -- in a way homegrown, hip and mostly illegal pot smoking apparently does not.
[The church of liberalism must have its demon, and his name is tobacco. (See Cigarettes, Rationality, and Hitchens.) There is also the absurdity, not mentioned by Hanson, that tobacco use is demonized while drinking alcohol is widely accepted. Ask yourself: how many auto accidents have been caused by people under abnd because of the influence of nicotine? More or less than the number of such accidents caused by people under the influence of alcohol? The question answers itself. Now repeat the question substituting 'marijuana' for 'alcohol.' Marijuana use impairs driving skills. Nicotine use enhances concentration and alertness. Liberals have a knee-jerk hatred of corporations. When big corporations market dope will the lefties change their tune?]
Graphic language, nudity and sex are now commonplace in movies and on cable television. At the same time, there is now almost no tolerance for casual and slang banter in the media or the workplace. A boss who calls an employee "honey" might face accusations of fostering a hostile work environment, yet a television producer whose program shows an 18-year-old having sex does not. Many colleges offer courses on lurid themes from masturbation to prostitution, even as campus sexual-harassment suits over hurtful language are at an all-time high.
[There is also the double-standard: you can get away with calling a Jew a 'kike' but not a black 'nigger.' Why is 'nigger' more offensive than 'kike'? Why is 'So-and-so is nigger-rich' more offensive than 'I got a great deal; I jewed him down to $150'? You may recall Jesse Jackson's reference to New York as 'himey town.' But what if someone referred to Detroit as 'nigger town'?
In a blog post on the difference between 'asshole' and 'honkey,' a philosophy professor who wrote a book entitled Assholes starts off, "Here I mean not only 'honkey,' but any pejorative term directed toward a particular group of people ('honkey' and whites; 'wop' and Italians; 'kike' and Jews; 'chink' and Chinese people; 'limeys' and Irish people; 'n—-r' and Afro-Americans).
Notice how the PC prof refuses to write out 'nigger,' but has no qualms about 'wop,' 'kike,' and 'chink.'
As a philosophy teacher he ought to be aware of the distinction between use and mention. He is talking about those words, not applying them to people. Why then is he so squeamish about writing out the word 'nigger'?]
A federal judge in New York recently ruled that the so-called morning-after birth control pill must be made available to all "women" regardless of age or parental consent, and without a prescription. The judge determined that it was unfair for those under 16 to be denied access to such emergency contraceptives. But if vast numbers of girls younger than 16 need after-sex options to prevent unwanted pregnancies, will there be a flood of statutory rape charges lodged against older teenagers who had such consensual relations with younger girls?
Our schizophrenic morality also affects the military. When America was a far more traditional society, few seemed to care that Gen. Dwight Eisenhower carried on an unusual relationship at the front in Normandy with his young female chauffeur, Kay Summersby. As the Third Army chased the Germans across France, Gen. George S. Patton was not discreet about his female liaisons. Contrast that live-and-let-live attitude of a supposedly uptight society with our own hip culture's tabloid interest in Gen. David Petraeus' career-ending affair with Paula Broadwell, or in the private emails of Gen. John Allen.
What explains these contradictions in our wide-open but prudish society?
Decades after the rise of feminism, popular culture still seems confused by it. If women should be able to approach sexuality like men, does it follow that commentary about sex should follow the same gender-neutral rules? Yet wearing provocative or inappropriate clothing is often considered less offensive than remarking upon it. Calling a near-nude Madonna onstage a "hussy" or "tart" would be considered crudity in a way that her mock crucifixion and simulated sex acts are not.
Criminal sexual activity is sometimes not as professionally injurious as politically incorrect thoughts about sex and gender. Former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer -- found to have hired prostitutes on a number of occasions during his time in office -- was given a CNN news show despite the scandal. But when former Miss California Carrie Prejean was asked in the Miss USA Pageant whether she endorsed gay marriage, she said no -- and thereby earned nearly as much popular condemnation for her candid defense of traditional marriage as Spitzer had for his purchased affairs.
Critics were outraged that talk-show host Rush Limbaugh grossly insulted birth-control activist Sandra Fluke. Amid the attention, Fluke was canonized for her position that federal health-care plans should pay for the contraceptive costs of all women.
Yet in comparison to Fluke's well-publicized victimhood, there has been a veritable news blackout for the trial of the macabre Dr. Kermit Gosnell, charged with killing and mutilating in gruesome fashion seven babies during a long career of conducting sometimes illegal late-term abortions. Had Gosnell's aborted victims been canines instead of humans -- compare the minimal coverage of the Gosnell trial with the widespread media condemnation of dog-killing quarterback Michael Vick -- perhaps the doctor's mayhem likewise would have been front-page news outside of Philadelphia.
Modern society also resorts to empty, symbolic moral action when it cannot deal with real problems. So-called assault weapons account for less than 1 percent of gun deaths in America. But the country whips itself into a frenzy to ban them, apparently to prove that at least it can do something -- without wading into the polarized racial and class controversies of going after illegal urban handguns, the real source of the nation's high gun-related body count.
Not since the late-19th-century juxtaposition of the Wild West with the Victorian East has popular morality been so unbridled and yet so uptight.
In short, we have become a nation of promiscuous prudes.
Here is a particularly egregious example of a liberal straw man argument. In a New Yorker piece, Margaret Talbot writes:
As a nation, we’re a little vague on what the Second Amendment’s protections of a citizen militia mean for gun ownership today. The N.R.A. insists that they mean virtually unlimited access to firearms for every American. . . .
Note the weasel word 'virtually' that pseudo-qualifies Talbot's falsehood, and allows her to pass it off with a show of plausibility. Or is Talbot flat out lying? A lie is not the same as a falsehood, the difference being the intention to deceive which is necessary for an utterance to count as a lie. I am not in a position to peer into Talbot's soul, so I hesitate to impute a lie to her. But if she is not lying, then she is ignorant, indeed culpably ignorant since on a minimal understanding of journalistic ethics one ought to become informed of the positions of an outfit such as the N.R.A. before confidently reporting on them.
How does the Straw Man fallacy come into this? The fallacy is committed when one (mis)represents one's opponent as holding a position he does not in fact hold and then attacking the position he does not hold. So Talbot falsely represents the N. R. A. has advocating the nonexistent right of all Americans, including felons, the mentally unstable, and the underaged, to keep and bear all types of firearms. Having set up the strawman, Talbot then earnestly argues against it.
I exposed another example the other day when I refuted the Wolff-Obama "You didn't build that!" argument.
A third example is the liberal complaint that conservatives are anti-government, as if advocating limited government makes one anti-government. Such a willful misrepresentation speaks volumes about the moral character of the ones who make it.
Well, if you are 'Islamophobic,' then, given that a phobia is an irrational fear, you have an irrational fear of Islam or of certain Muslims. Is that really what you want to say? Do you really want to announce to the world that you are proud to have a phobia? I should think that fear of radical Islam and of those who promote radical Islam, whether Muslims or non-Muslim leftists, is entirely rational.
But I know what you mean. My suggestion is that you say what you mean.
'Islamophobic,' like 'homophobic,' is a coinage of liberals/leftists. It is their word. It is foolish for a conservative to use it. If you are a conservative, why are you talking like a liberal? Why are you allowing them to frame the debate in terms they have invented for their own advantage? Is that not foolish? You should insist on standard, ideologically-neutral language.
Compare 'social justice.' That is leftist code. Why then does Bill O'Reilly use it? Because, like too many conservatives, he is not good at properly articulating and properly defending conservative positions.
Liberals, whose love of political correctness gets the better of their intellects, typically object to the phrase 'illegal alien.' But why? Are these people not in our country illegally, as the result of breaking laws? And are they not aliens, people from another country?
"But you are labelling them!" Yes, of course. Label we must if we are not to lose our minds entirely. 'Feral cat' is a label. Do you propose that we not distinguish between feral and non-feral cats? Do you distinguish between the positive and the negative terminals on your car battery? You'd better! But 'positive terminal' and 'negative terminal' are labels.
Label we must. There is no getting around it if we are to think at all. There is a political outfit that calls itself 'No Labels.' But that too is a label. Those who eschew all labels label themselves 'idiots.'
Related to this is the injunction, 'Never generalize!' which is itself a generalization. Label we must and generalize we must. Making distinctions and labelling them, and constructing sound generalizations on their basis are activities essential to, thought not exhaustive of, the life of the intellect.
Liberals also object to 'illegal immigrant.' In fact, the AP has banned the phrase. But given that there are both legal and illegal immigrants, 'illegal immigrant' is a useful label. There is nothing derogatory about it. It is a descriptive term like 'hypertensive' or 'diabetic.'
One consideration adduced at the AP site is that actions are illegal, not persons. But suppose your doctor tells you that you are diabetic, and you protest, "Doc, not only are you labelling me, you are forgetting that diabetes is a medical condition and that no person is a medical condition." The good doctor would then have to explain that a diabetic is a person who has diabetes. Similarly, an illegal immigrant is one who is in the country illegally. There is the act of illegally crossing the border, but there is also the state of being here illegally.
Plain talk is an excellent antidote to liberal nonsense. When a liberal or a leftist misuses a word in an intellectually dishonest attempt at forwarding his agenda, a right-thinking person ought to protest. Whether you protest or not, you must not acquiesce in their pernicious misuse of language. Or, as I have said more than once in these pages,
If you are a conservative, don't talk like a liberal!
Bear in mind that many of the battles of the culture war are fought, won, and lost on linguistic ground. If we let our opponents destroy the common language in which alone reasonable debate can be conducted, then much more is lost than these particular debates. The liberal-left misuse of language is fueled by their determination to win politically at all costs and by any means, including linguistic hijacking.
There is charm to reading a philosopher who confesses to finding things bewildering. But I regret the appearance of this book. It will only bring comfort to creationists and fans of “intelligent design”, who will not be too bothered about the difference between their divine architect and Nagel’s natural providence. It will give ammunition to those triumphalist scientists who pronounce that philosophy is best pensioned off. If there were a philosophical Vatican, the book would be a good candidate for going on to the Index [of prohibited books].
The problem with the book, Blackburn states at the beginning of his piece, is that
. . . only a tiny proportion of its informed readers will find it anything other than profoundly wrong-headed. For, as the title suggests, Nagel’s central idea is that there are things that science, as it is presently conceived, cannot possibly explain.
Blackburn doesn't explicitly say that there ought to be a "philosophical Vatican," and an index of prohibited books but he seems to be open to the deeply unphilosophical idea of censoring views that are "profoundly wrong-headed." And why should such views be kept from impressionable minds? Because they might lead them astray into doctrinal error. For even though Nagel explicitly rejects God and divine providence, untutored intellects might confuse Nagel's teleological suggestion with divine providence.
Nagel's great sin, you see, is to point out the rather obvious problems with reductive materialism as he calls it. This is intolerable to the scientistic ideologues since any criticism of the reigning orthodoxy, no matter how well-founded, gives aid and comfort to the enemy, theism -- and this despite the fact that Nagel's approach is naturalistic and rejective of theism!
So what Nagel explicitly says doesn't matter. His failing to toe the party line makes him an enemy as bad as theists such as Alvin Plantinga. (If Nagel's book is to be kept under lock and key, one can only wonder at the prophylactic measures necessary to keep infection from leaking out of Plantinga's tomes.)
Blackburn betrays himself as nothing but an ideologue in the above article. For this is the way ideologues operate. Never criticize your own, your fellow naturalists in this case. Never concede anything to your opponents. Never hesitate, admit doubt or puzzlement. Keep your eyes on the prize. Winning alone is what counts. Never follow an argument where it leads if it leads away from the party line.
Treat the opponent's ideas with ridicule and contumely. For example, Blackburn refers to consciousness as a purple haze to be dispelled. ('Purple haze' a double allusion, to the Hendrix number and to a book by Joe Levine on the explanatory gap.)
More proof, as if we needed it, of the stupidity of liberals. Should we respond respectfully and rationally to fools? Mockery and ridicule are often more effective. Many of the members of Generation Screwed voted for Obama because they perceived him as 'cool.' Rational persuasion is not likely to work on such people. Their perceptions need to be changed from 'cool' to 'uncool' by the ridicule dished out by the likes of Dennis Miller and Adam Carolla.
If you want to win, make the fools look uncool to those who think coolness the criterion, but have solid arguments at the ready for those who can think.
Gail Collins' NYT op-ed gun outburst is another example of liberal stupidity. I won't sully these pages by quoting any of it. Here is an adequate response.
Here is an important interview with Lars Hedegaard, Denmark's Salman Rushdie, whose life is in danger because he speaks the truth as he sees it. Hedegaard is a man of the Left, but do they come to his defense? Excerpt:
DP: Where are the attacks on you being racist coming from? What part of the ideological spectrum?
LH: I would say almost exclusively from the left. (Of course, also from Muslims. Not all Muslims, but some.) I seem to be very unpopular with my old friends. I think the problem is that I know what it's all about to be left-wing; I used to be a leading Marxist in this country. But I've held to the opinion that we first of all have to fight for free speech and freedom and equality between the sexes and the rule of law; and also, that we should not bow before religious fanatics of any type, regardless of where they come from. This seems to me what was the essence of being left-wing back in the days. No longer.
The left now seems to have reverence for fanatics -- as long as they are Muslim. Of course, they can criticize Christianity all they want. But when somebody threatens with violence -- if you criticize me, I'll come and kill you -- then all of a sudden they become soft. They become understanding. They talk about tolerance; we have to show respect. I don't want to show respect for people who say that men are worth more than women, that women can be killed if they are adulterers; that apostates from Islam should be killed; that people should be stoned, etc. I mean, I don't like that. I want to fight that. I want to describe it. And I don't think the left does.
President Obama on Sunday said he would make gun control a priority in his new term, pledging to put his “full weight” behind passing new restrictions on firearms in 2013.
“I'm going to be putting forward a package and I'm going to be putting my full weight behind it,” Obama said in an interview aired on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “I'm going to be making an argument to the American people about why this is important and why we have to do everything we can to make sure that something like what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary does not happen again.”
Question: Does any clear-thinking person seriously believe that steps can be taken to prevent such events from ever happening again? Of course not. Then why the empty utopian rhetoric? The "everything we can" is equally silly. There is a way to severely reduce the likelihood of another Sandy Hook type shooting. And that is to to secure every school like a prison. That would be much more effective that any tightening of gun laws. So if we must do "everything we can," then we ought to secure every school, every church, every college campus, etc. like a prison or a military installation.
What comes out of Obama's mouth is just feel-good liberal-left blather, thoughtless verbiage, without contact with facts or evidence, and without consequence for the solution of any real problem. The only real consequence is a further erosion of liberty and an expansion of the state.
For too many Catholics and other Christians, their leftism is their real 'religion.' This from The Thinking Housewife:
ANNY YENNY reports at the website Politichicks that her eighth-grade son was given extra credit by his Catholic school religion teacher for fasting on the first day of Ramadan. When the mother complained, the teacher objected and “lectured [her] on the superiority of Muslims to Christians.”
The principles of ecumenism put forth at Vatican II lead with irrevocable logic to teaching Catholics how to be good Muslims.
I agree with something in the vicinity of the point the Housewife makes here. But her last sentence illustrates the slippery slope fallacy. If the logic is "irrevocable," then it is deductively valid; but slippery slope argumentation, if intended to be deductive, is always invalid. What should she have said? Something like this: 'The ecumenism of Vatican II set the stage for, and made likely, the sort of absurdities that Anny Yenny complains of."
Surely there was no logical necessity that the principles of Vatican II eventuate in the absurdity in question.
Once you have removed every vestige of religion from the public square,what will you put in its place? The dogmas of the 'religion' of leftism? You want church-state separation, but you make an exception for the 'church' of leftism? Double standard!
If you need further proof that leftism is emotion-driven, consider the latest Obamination, the call for a ban on high capacity magazines, an abomination which the fascist-in-chief may try to ram though under Executive Order. I take it that these are magazines the capacity of which is in excess of seven rounds.
(By the way, you liberals, and especially you liberal journalists, need to learn the correct terminology: 'magazine' not 'clip.' 'Round' not 'bullet.' The bullet is the projectile. To confuse the bullet with the round is to commit a pars pro toto fallacy.)
When I ranted about this over lunch with Mike V. on Saturday, he made an interesting comparison. I had made the point that it is very easy to change out a depleted mag. A skilled shooter can do it in a second or two. Suppose I have a semi-auto pistol with a loaded seven-round mag. I have two more loaded mags of the same capacity in my right pocket and two more in my left. Within a minute or two I can get off 5 X 7 = 35 shots. (My firepower increases if I have a second or third semi-auto on my person.) Plenty of time to commit mayhem in what liberal boneheads have made a 'gun-free zone.' (The sign ought to read: Gun-Free Zone Except for Criminals.)
Mike brought up Gotham's benighted mayor, Mr Bloomberg, and his call for the banning of 32 oz sodas. Mike said, "You just order two 16 oz. drinks."
Exactly. Get the comparison? Banning high capacity magazines is as foolish a feel-good proposal as banning 'high capacity' soft drink containers.
Why is the high capacity mag ban foolish? Because it does nothing to solve the problem. But it is worse than foolish since it is one more violation of the liberties of law-abiding citizens, one more step on the road to full-tilt statism.
It is also foolish because it promotes a black market for the items banned and tends to undermine respect for law and for the rule of law.
Laws ought ought be (i) few in number, (ii) reasonable in content, (ii) intelligible to the average citizen, (iv) enforceable, and (v) enforced. When dumbass libruls pass stupid feel-good laws because they feel that they just have to do something, the result is an erosion of respect for law and an increase in readership of Thoreau's essay on civil disobedience.
And another thing. Passing laws is easy and beloved by the feel-gooders on both sides of the aisle. Enforcement is much more difficult and here liberals whether Dems or Repubs demonstrate that it is feeling alone that drives them. Enforce existing laws and attach severe penalties to their breaking. Why hasn't the Islamist murderer, Nidal Malik Hasan, the Fort Hood shooter, been executed?
Should one be bothered, morally speaking, that the mutual funds (shares of which) one owns invest in companies that produce alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, and firearms? I say no. 'Socially conscious' is an ideologically loaded phrase, like 'social justice,' and the loading is from the Left.
For some, alcohol is the devil in liquid form. They should avoid the stuff, and it is certainly within their power to do so. For most of us, however, alcohol is a delightful adjunct to a civilized life. What good is a hard run on a hot day that doesn’t eventuate in the downing of a couple of cold beers? To what end a plate of Mama Gucci’s rigatoni, if not accompanied by a glass of Dago Red? I am exaggerating of course, but to make a serious point: alcohol for most us is harmless. Indeed, it is positively good for healthy humans when taken in small doses (1-2 oz. per diem) as numerous studies have been showing for the last twenty years or so.
The fact that many abuse alcohol is quite irrelevant. That is their free choice. Is it Sam Adam’s fault that you tank up on too much of his brew? No, it is your fault. This is such a simple point that I am almost embarrassed to make it; but I have to make it because so many liberals fail to grasp it. So read your prospectuses and be not troubled when you come across names like Seagrams.
I would also point out to the ‘socially conscious’ that if they enjoy an occasional drink, then they cannot, consistently with this fact, be opposed to the production of alcoholic beverages. You cannot drink alcohol unless alcohol is there to be drunk. Consistency demands of them complete abstention.
As for tobacco, suppose we begin by reflecting on this truth: Cigarettes don’t kill people, people kill people by smoking cigarettes, or, to be precise, they increase the probability of their contracting nasty diseases (lung cancer, emphysema, heart disease), diseases which are often but not always terminal, by smoking sufficiently many cigarettes over a sufficiently long period of time. If X raises the probability of Y to a degree <1, I don’t call that causation; I call that probability-raising. It should also be obvious that correlation does not prove causation. So I don’t want to hear about causation in this context.
Nor do I want to hear about addiction. To confuse a psychological habituation with addiction is quite foolish. Addiction, if it means anything, has to involve (i) a physiological dependence (ii) on something harmful to the body (iii) removal of which would induce serious withdrawal symptoms. One cannot be addicted to nose-picking, to running, to breathing, or to caffeine. Furthermore, (iv) it is a misuse of language to call a substance addictive when only a relatively small number of its users develop -- over a sufficient period of time with sufficient frequency of use -- a physical craving for it that cannot be broken without severe withdrawal symptoms. Heroin is addictive; nicotine is not. To think otherwise is to use ‘addiction’ in an unconscionably loose way. That headache you have from abstaining from coffee is not a severe withdrawal symptom.
Man (or woman) up; don't make excuses.
Liberals and leftists engage in this loose talk for at least two reasons. First, it aids them in their denial of individual responsibility. They would divest individuals of responsibility for their actions, displacing it onto factors, such as ‘addictive’ substances, external to the agent. Their motive is to grab more power for themselves by increasing the size and scope of government: the less self-reliant and responsible individuals are, the more they need the nanny state and people like Hillary, who aspires to be Nanny-in-Chief. Second, loose talk of ‘addiction’ fits in nicely with what I call their misplaced moral enthusiasm. Incapable of appreciating a genuine issue such as partial-birth abortion or the fiscal crisis, they invest their moral energy in pseudo-issues.
The main point is that tobacco products can be enjoyed in relatively harmless ways, just as alcoholic beverages can be enjoyed in relatively harmless ways. I have never met a cigarette yet that killed anybody. One has to smoke them, one has to smoke a lot of them over many years, and each time you light up it is a free decision.
Some people feel that smokers are irrational. This too is nonsense. Someone who smokes a pack of cigarettes per day is assuming a serious health risk. But it may well be that the pleasure and alertness the person receives from smoking is worth the risk within the person’s value scheme. Different people evaluate the present in its relation to the future in different ways. I tend to sacrifice the present for the future, thereby deferring gratification. Hence my enjoyment of the noble weed is abstemious indeed, consisting of an occasional load of pipe tobacco, or an occasional fine cigar. (I recommend the Arturo Fuente ‘Curly Head’ Maduro: cheap, but good.) But I would not think to impose my abstemiousness, or time-preference, on anyone else.
As for firearms, one can with a clear conscience invest in the stock of companies that manufacture them. One thereby supports companies that make it possible for the police and military to be armed. Think about it: without gun manufacturers, there would be no guns, and hence no effective police and military forces. And without gun manufacturers, decent citizens would be unable to defend themselves, their families, and their communities against the criminal element, something they do all the time, though it is rarely publicized by the lamestream media because it comports ill with their leftist agenda. The ‘socially conscious’ or ‘socially responsible’ want the protection afforded by the armed, but without getting their hands dirty. To be wholly consistent, they should go live somewhere where there is no police or military protection.
If the price of 'social consciousness' is logical unconsciousness, then I prefer to be socially unconscious.
Without wanting to deny that there is a 'gun culture' in the USA, especially in the red states, I would insist that the real problem is our liberal culture. Here are four characteristics of liberal culture that contribute to violence of all kinds, including gun violence.
1. Liberals tend to have a casual attitude toward crime.
It is interesting to note that Connecticut, the state in which the Newtown massacre occurred, has recently repealed the death penalty, and this after the unspeakably brutal Hayes-Komisarjevsky home invasion in the same state.
One of the strongest voices against repealing the death penalty has been Dr. William Petit Jr., the lone survivor of a 2007 Cheshire home invasion that resulted in the murders of his wife and two daughters.
The wife was raped and strangled, one of the daughters was molested and both girls were left tied to their beds as the house was set on fire.
The two men convicted of the crime, Joshua Komisarjevsky and Steven Hayes, are currently on death row.
Anyone who cannot appreciate that a crime like this deserves the death penalty is morally obtuse. But not only are liberals morally obtuse, they are contemptibly stupid in failing to understand that one of the main reasons people buy guns is to protect themselves from the criminal element, the criminal element that liberals coddle. If liberals were serious about wanting to reduce the numbers of guns in civilian hands, they would insist on swift and sure punishment in accordance with the self-evident moral principle, "The punishment must fit the crime," which is of course not to be confused with lex talionis, "an eye for an eye." Many guns are purchased not for hunting or sport shooting but for protection against criminals. Keeping and bearing arms carries with it a grave responsibility and many if not most gun owners would rather not be so burdened. Gun ownership among women is on the upswing, and it is a safe bet that they don't want guns to shoot Bambi.
2. Liberals tend to undermine morality with their opposition to religion.
Many of us internalized the ethical norms that guide our lives via our childhood religious training. We were taught the Ten Commandments, for example. We were not just taught about them, we were taught them. We learned them by heart, and we took them to heart. This early training, far from being the child abuse that A. C. Grayling and other militant atheists think it is, had a very positive effect on us in forming our consciences and making us the basically decent human beings we are. I am not saying that moral formation is possible only within a religion; I am saying that some religions do an excellent job of transmitting and inculcating life-guiding and life-enhancing ethical standards, that moral formation outside of a religion is unlikely for the average person, and that it is nearly impossible if children are simply handed over to the pernicious influences of secular society as these influences are transmitted through television, Internet, video games, and other media. Anyone with moral sense can see that the mass media have become an open sewer in which every manner of cultural polluter is not only tolerated but promoted. Those of use who were properly educated way back when can dip into this cesspool without too much moral damage. But to deliver our children over to it is the real child abuse, pace the benighted Professor Grayling.
The shysters of the ACLU, to take one particularly egregious bunch of destructive leftists, seek to remove every vestige of our Judeo-Christian ethical traditiion from the public square. I can't begin to catalog all of their antics. But recently there was the Mojave cross incident. It is absurd that there has been any fight at all over it. The ACLU, whose radical lawyers brought the original law suit, deserve contempt and resolute opposition. Of course, I wholeheartedly endorse the initial clause of the First Amendment, to wit, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion . . . ." But it is hate-America leftist extremism on stilts to think that the presence of that very old memorial cross on a hill in the middle of nowhere does anything to establish Christianity as the state religion. I consider anyone who believes that to be intellectually obtuse and morally repellent. One has to be highly unbalanced in his thinking to torture such extremist nonsense out of the First Amendment, while missing the plain sense of the Second Amendment, one that even SCOTUS eventually got right, namely, the the right to keep and bear arms is an individual, not a collective, right.
And then there was the business of the tiny cross on the city seal of Los Angeles, a symbol that the ACLU agitated to have removed. Commentary here. I could continue with the examples, and you hope I won't.
3. Liberals tend to have low standards, glorify the worthless, and fail to present exemplary human types.
Our contemporary media dreckmeisters apparently think that the purpose of art is to degrade sensibility, impede critical thinking, glorify scumbags, and rub our noses ever deeper into sex and violence. It seems obvious that the liberal fetishization of freedom of expression without constraint or sense of responsibility is part of the problem. But I can't let a certain sort of libertarian or economic conservative off the hook. Their lust for profit is also involved.
What is is that characterizes contemporary media dreck? Among other things, the incessant presentation of defective human beings as if there are more of them than there are, and as if there is nothing at all wrong with their way of life. Deviant behavior is presented as if it is mainstream and acceptable, if not desirable. And then lame justifications are provided for the presentation: 'this is what life is like now; we are simply telling it like it is.' It doesn't occur to the dreckmeisters that art might have an ennobling function.
The tendency of liberals and leftists is to think that any presentation of choice-worthy goals or admirable styles of life could only be hypocritical preaching. And to libs and lefties, nothing is worse than hypocrisy. Indeed, a good indicator of whether someone belongs to this class of the terminally benighted is whether the person obsesses over hypocrisy and thinks it the very worst thing in the world. See my category Hypocrisy for elaboration of this theme.
4. Liberals tend to deny or downplay free will, individual responsibility, and the reality of evil.
This is connected with point 2 above, leftist hostility to religion. Key to our Judeo-Christian tradition is the belief that man is made in the image and likeness of God. This image is that mysterious power in us called free will. The secular extremist assault on religion is at the same time an assault on this mysterious power, through which evil comes into the world.
This is a large topic. Suffice it to say for now that one clear indication of this denial is the bizarre liberal displacement of responsibility for crime onto inaminate objects, guns, as if the weapon, not the wielder, is the source of the evil for which the weapon can be only the instrument.
A sweet old lady in the pool the other morning asked me this question. Actually, she asked a much stupider question,"Why would anyone need an assault weapon?' I smiled indulgently and refused to engage her. I knew she wasn't baiting me, and I like her, and 'tis the season to be jolly, and so in the interests of comity I let it slide, realizing that no good would come of giving her the dialectical thrashing she so richly deserved.
First a point of history and a bit of terminology.
Fully automatic rifles, ‘machine guns,’ are heavily regulated. The National Firearms Act of 1934 " requires that before a private citizen may take possession of a fully-automatic firearm he must pay a $200 tax to the Internal Revenue Service and be approved by the Treasury Department to own the firearm, which is registered to the owner with the federal government." (reference) A semi-automatic pistol, rifle, or shotgun fires exactly one round with each pull of the trigger until the magazine is exhausted, unlike a fully automatic which does not require a separate trigger pull for each round fired. The distinction is important and is blurred by use of the emotive phrase 'assault weapon.'
Why would anybody need a semi-automatic rifle such as an AR-15? Well, you might be a Korean shopkeeper who needs to defend his life and livelihood from rampaging ghetto blacks in South Central Los Angeles. (Remember the aftermath of the acquittal of the cops who took the 'motorist' Rodney King into custody using perfectly legal and reasonable methods?) Or perhaps you live along the southern border and need to defend yourself and your family against heavily armed drug cartel members from the corrupt narco-state to the South. Your snub-nosed .38 special is a nice walk-around piece, and better than nothing, but insufficient for the defensive task at hand.
(A gun enthusiast acquaintance of mine referred to my Colt .38 Detective Special as a nice 'heirloom,' recommending that I get a 1911 model semi-auto .45, which I did.)
Any conservative can continue with answers like the above ad libitum, but the best strategy for a conservative is to reject the question altogether.
The right question is not: Why does the citizen need to be armed? The right question is: By what right does the government violate the liberty of the law-abiding citizen? Gun-ownership is a liberty issue similarly as taxation is a liberty issue. With respect to taxation, the right question is not: Why should citizens be allowed to keep their wealth? The right question is: What justifies the government in taking their wealth? The onus justificandi is not on the citizen to defend his keeping of his money; the onus justificandi is on the government to justify its taking of his money. The same goes for guns. The burden is on the government to justify its curtailment of individual liberties, not on the citizen to justify his keeping of his liberties. This is because governments exist for the sake of their citizens, and not the other way around.
You might think that liberals would understand all of this. Although liberals are absurdly sensitive about First Amendment rights, nary a peep will you hear from them concerning Second Amendment rights. And yet it is the Second Amendment that backs up the First. Chairman Mao was right about one thing, namely, that power emanates from the barrel of a gun. Power to the people!
There is a curious inconsistency here, is there not? If liberals believe that our civil liberties are under serious assault from Ashcroft & Co., and continue to be as Obama continues Bush-era policies, then why are they so unwilling to ensure that real power remain in the hands of the people?
There is something schizophrenic about contemporary liberals. They have a libertarian streak: they want to be able to spout any kind of nonsense, no matter how offensive and irresponsible, and have it protected as ‘dissent.’ Fair enough. Though I find Michael Moore contemptible, I would defend his right to pollute the air waves with his ideological flatulence. But when it comes to gun rights, liberals become as collectivist as Hitler or Fidel Castro. It’s curious, and a worthy theme of further rumination.
Engaging in politics with liberals, it appears, closely resembles conducting arms control talks with the Soviet Union. In both cases one confronts adversaries who insist that what’s theirs is theirs and what’s yours is negotiable.
We are asked to believe that a multimillionaire African-American woman, who boasts that those who “mess” with her end up badly, is a victim of racism for not being welcomed as a nominee for secretary of state — a position that has not been held by a white male in 15 years — after she went on five television shows the Sunday after the Benghazi attack in an effort to convince Americans of the absurd myth that their ambassador had been killed in the course of a demonstration gone bad, rather than being murdered in a preplanned al-Qaedist hit.
Whittaker Chambers long ago warned that the source of the Left's strength was not the appeal of its theory, but the power of its faith. It is believing in something worth dying for that makes leftists a formidable foe. Reason and experience are neutralized by the Left's preening assurance of its own rectitude and of being on the side of the angels. It never has to explain how its efforts to create economic "justice" and plan social abundance have blighted the lives of hundreds of millions of human beings and caused mass murder on an epic scale. The radical faith has outlived "the end of history" and the fall of the Berlin Wall. The ideas that inspired its odious schemes continue to thrive because there is only one law that the Left obeys, a law on which its survival is based: don't look back. Reactionary in ideology, immune to evidence, impervious to logic, the Left still sees itself as forward-look-ing and humane and its opponents as regressive and "mean spirited."
David Horowitz, red-diaper baby, knows whereof he speaks when it comes to the Left. His books are essential reading for understanding the mentality of leftists. His latest, Radicals: Portraits of a Destructive Passion, is reviewed here.
I recommend all of Horowitz's books. Radical Son, though not quite at the level of Whittaker Chambers' Witness, comes close.
You haven't read Witness? Then get to it! It is a book of high literary merit that delivers crucial insights into the human predicament.
It's absurd and chauvinistic for Obama to talk about the woman he thinks should be Secretary of State of the United States as if she needs the big strong man to come to her defense because a couple of Senators are criticizing her.
Powers' article is good and I have no problem with its content. But her misuse of 'chauvinistic' is a good occasion for a language rant.
A chauvinist is someone who believes his country is the best in all or most respects. The word derives from 'Chauvin,' the name of an officer in Napoleon Bonaparte's army. This fellow was convinced that everything French was unsurpassingly excellent. To use 'chauvinist' for 'male chauvinist' is to destroy a perfectly useful word. If we acquiesce in this destruction, what then are we to call Chauvin? A 'country-chauvinist'?
Whether Obama is a male chauvinist, I don't know. But he surely isn't a chauvinist!
Note also that Chauvin was himself a male chauvinist in that he was both a male and a chauvinist. Thus 'male chauvinist' is ambiguous, having different meanings depending on whether we take 'male' as a specifying adjective or as a sense-shifting (alienans) adjective. Taken the first way, a male chauvinist is a chauvinist. Taken the second way, a male chauvinist is not a chauvinist any more than artificial leather is leather. Think about it.
This distinction between specifying and sense-shifting adjectives is an important one, and one ought to be aware of it. See my Adjectives category for more examples of alienans constructions. It's fun for the whole family.
While we are on this chauvinist business, there was a time when 'white chauvinist' was in use. Those were the days before leftists seized upon 'racism' as their bludgeon of choice. Vivian Gornick in The Romance of American Communism (Basic Books 1977, p. 170) tells the tale of a poor fellow who was drummed out of the American Communist Party in the 1950s on charges of 'white chauvinism.' His crime? Serving watermelon at a garden party! And you thought that Political Correctness was something new?
Robert Reich bemoans the New American Civil War as he calls it:
I know families in which close relatives are no longer speaking. A dating service says Democrats won’t even consider going out with Republicans, and vice-versa. My email and twitter feeds contain messages from strangers I wouldn’t share with my granddaughter.
What’s going on? Yes, we’re divided over issues like the size of government and whether women should have control over their bodies. But these aren’t exactly new debates. [. . .] And we’ve had bigger disagreements in the past – over the Vietnam War, civil rights, communist witch hunts – that didn’t rip us apart like this.
Part of the reason that there is a 'civil war' is because of people like Reich and their inability to fairly present the issues that divide us.
He mentions the abortion issue. It is not about whether women should have control over their bodies. Of course they should. It is about whether the fetus growing inside a woman is a part of her body in a sense of 'part' that would permit her to dispose of it the way she would dispose of unwanted fat through liposuction. Reich is not unintelligent: he is capable of understanding the issue. But he is intellectually dishonest: he does not present the issue objectively and fairly. He distorts it like the typical leftist ideologue he is. (See here for my refutation of the 'woman's body' argument.)
He does the very same thing with his talk of "communist witch hunts." That phrase implies that there was no communist infiltration of the U. S. government. But that was precisely the question. The phrase he employs is a question-begging epithet. Why? Well, there are no witches. So if you call something a witch hunt then you are implying that it is a hunt for something that doesn't exist. There is also the implication that the people conducting this search have some ulterior motive such as the desire to suppress all dissent.
The same goes for the phrase 'Red Scare' beloved of the Left. The phrase implies that there was no threat to our gvernment posed by communists. But again that was the very question, a question that is begged by the use of the phrase 'Red Scare.' As a matter of fact, it was not a mere scare, but a real threat. So 'Red Threat' is the proper phrase. After all, we now know that the Rosenbergs were Soviet spies and that Alger Hiss was a communist.
My point is that Reich is not intellectually honest. He understands the issues but he refuses to present them objectively and fairly. He is nothing but a leftist ideologue. And notice the tone of his piece. It begins with a gratuitous smear against Sarah Palin.
The piece ends with Reich's playing of the race card. So typical.
So while bemoaning the 'new American civil war,' he fuels it by his own contemptible behavior.
You say you're Catholic and you are going to vote for Obama? Are you stupid? Apart from the fact that the Dems are the abortion party, the Obama administration's attack on civil society is at odds with Catholic social teaching which rests on the principle of subsidiarity. David A. Bosnich, The Principle of Subsidiarity:
One of the key principles of Catholic social thought is known as the principle of subsidiarity. This tenet holds that nothing should be done by a larger and more complex organization which can be done as well by a smaller and simpler organization. In other words, any activity which can be performed by a more decentralized entity should be. This principle is a bulwark of limited government and personal freedom. It conflicts with the passion for centralization and bureaucracy characteristic of the Welfare State.
The principle of subsidiarity strikes a reasonable balance between statism and collectivism as represented by the manifest drift of the Obama administration, on the one hand, and the libertarianism of those who would take privatization to an extreme, on the other. By the way, one of the many mistakes Rick Santorum made in his campaign was to attack all government-sponsored education. He was right to question whether the Federal government has any legitimate role to play in education, but to question the role of state and local government in education was a foolish extremism that befits a libertarian, not a conservative.
Subsidiarity also fits well with federalism, a return to which is a prime desideratum and one more reason not to vote for Obama. 'Federalism' is another one of those words that does not wear its meaning on its sleeve, and is likely to mislead. Federalism is not the view that all powers should be vested in the Federal or central government; it is the principle enshrined in the 10th Amendment to the U. S. Constitution: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."
Whether or not you are Catholic, if you accept the principle of subsidiarity, then you have yet another reason to oppose Obama and the Left. The argument is this:
1. The Left encroaches upon civil society, weakening it and limiting it, and correspondingly expanding the power and the reach of the state. (For example, the closure of Catholic Charities in Illinois because of an Obama administration adoption rule.)
2. Subsidiarity helps maintain civil society as a buffer zone and intermediate sector between the purely private (the individual and the familial) and the state.
3. If you value the autonomy and robustness of civil society, then you ought to oppose Obama and the Left.
Addendum: This just over the transom from an old sparring partner of mine from the early days of the blogosphere, Kevin Kim:
Thank you for your recent post on the Catholic principle of subsidiarity, which I had never heard of despite years of dealing with Catholics. I had a good chuckle when I read this:
"This tenet holds that nothing should be done by a larger and more complex organization which can be done as well by a smaller and simpler organization."
And this from a gigantic, thoroughly hierarchized organization!
But what really burbled to the surface of my mind was the thought that, for a supposedly Catholic principle, subsidiarity sounds remarkably Protestant. Heh.
But isn't it obvious what the Catholic response would be? The church is in the business of mediating salvation. What the church does cannot be done as well by a smaller and simpler organization. Nulla salus extra ecclesiam, where the church in question is the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church founded by Christ himself on St. Peter as upon a rock and presided over by the Holy Spirit. It might also be argued that the principle of subsidiarity is a secular or temporal political principle and not one that has any bearing on soteriology. For the same reason there is nothing Protestant about it.
Coincidentally, I'm currently a TA for a class in which significant portions of this book have been assigned (a philosophy of law class, focusing on legal punishment). Alexander's main focus in the book is not incarceration (and related phenomena) in general, but the War on Drugs in particular. An important part of her case for the racially discriminatory nature of "mass incarceration" (a phrase by which she means (a) the entire system of state-control over offenders, whether prison, parole, probation, etc., as well as (b) the post-punishment effects on offenders such as barriers to voting, employment, public housing) in the U.S. is the claim that black Americans are no more likely to use/deal illegal drugs than are white Americans, and yet law enforcement have disproportionally targeted black Americans. She thinks that this discrimination largely results from the great procedural discretion which law enforcement have in prosecuting this War (both at the level of police forces and individual officers in deciding where/whom to search, and at the level of prosecutors in deciding what kind of sentences to seek). This discretion, along with the need to be proactive in order to bust people for drug offenses, creates the opportunity for racial biases, whether conscious or unconscious, to shape how the War is prosecuted.
When I read the bit you did, my first thought was that it was ridiculous to compare Cotton's political "disenfranchisement" to his KKK-killed great-grandfather's political disenfranchisement. I still think that about this case (homicide/robbery...), but I did become more sympathetic to the idea that there were interesting connections between Jim Crow and "mass incarceration." The main difference is that the "New Jim Crow" is officially "colorblind," not a result of overt racism (at least by and large). The official aim is to maintain "law and order," not to sweep black Americans into the state's control. The alleged parallel is that you have a class of people largely characterized along racial lines who are shut out of mainstream society in various ways (voting, public housing,employment). The new reason, having a felony on your record, is very different - and, one might think, much more justified than the old reasons. But I was struck by (a) the claim that black Americans are not more likely to be guilty of drug crimes and yet are more likely to be targeted by law enforcement for them, and (b.) the severity of punitive measures attached to drug offences (including the felony label for many such offences, with all the ensuing ramifications).
Thank you for that, Dan. A few brief remarks:
1. Are black Americans no more likely to use/deal illegal drugs than are white Americans? I rather doubt that. We know that blacks commit proportionately more crimes than whites in general, so one would expect that to be true for drug dealing in particular. This is of course an empirical question, but it is exceedingly difficult to get to the truth of the matter because of the 'hot button' nature of the question and because fields such as sociology and criminology are heavily infected with ideology. For example, how many conservative sociologists are there in universities as compared to leftists? A very small number. What does that say about universities and about sociology? Given the leftist bias of most sociologists, it is reasonable to be skeptical about anything they claim is a result of 'research.'
2. Leftists conflate the world with the world as they wish it to be. And they wish to believe that we are all equal. And so they cannot accept the notion that blacks have a greater natural propensity to commit crimes than whites. This leads them to think that blacks are disproportionately 'targeted' and 'labeled' felons. The truth, I suspect, is that blacks commit more crimes proportionately, which is why their rates of incarceration are proportionately higher.
3. This is consistent with a frank admission that there is plenty of injustice in the criminal justice system. There are corrupt judges, vicious cops, and ambitious prosecutors willing to sacrifice human lives to their careers. Needless to say, I am against all that.
4. Why would anyone want to single out blacks for especially harsh treatment? This is a question that needs answering, and 'racism' is no answer to it. That word is well-nigh meaningless: it is is used by leftists as an all-purpose semantic bludgeon to beat down conservatives. It means anything leftists want it to mean. What is racism? If I argue against ObamaCare, leftists call me a racist. But ObamaCare is a policy, and policies, last time I checked, have no race. So for leftists 'racism' and cognates mean everything and nothing. Do people dislike blacks because of their skin color? Perhaps a few do. But dislike of blacks is not for most people based on skin color but on black behavior. This brings us back to the empirical question whether blacks as a group behave worse than whites as a group. If they do, then this would explain why they are incarcerated in greater numbers.
5. Should felons have the right to vote? First of all, how many criminals want to vote? The typical criminal is someone whose only concern is himself and the immediate gratification of his basest desires. Such people have contempt for civil society. They are not interested in participating in it. For them it's a joke. These are not people who think about the common good. If you mentioned civic duties to them they would laugh their heads off.
So we need to ask: who is it that wants felons to vote? Not felons for the most part. But leftists! Leftists want felons to vote to expand their base. Leftists have a an exceedingly casual attitude toward criminal behavior. They are by nature lenient and forgiving. So if criminals are allowed to vote, they will of course vote for leftists, in the USA, for the Democrats.
That is why leftists want to extend the franchise to felons.
Whether or not they want to vote, should criminals have the right to vote? Of course not. Criminals can't even order their own lives, why should have a say in how society is ordered? Furthermore, removal of the right to vote is part of the punishment that they deserve for raping and drunk driving and drug dealing and murdering and for being the generally worthless individuals that they are.
6. Finally, I am open to the idea that drug laws need to be carefully examined. I am opposed to draconian 'zero tolerance' laws that make a felon of some harmless hippy who grows marijuana for his own use. But if he drives while stoned, or sells the stuff to school kids, then I want the law to come down on his shggy head like a ton of bricks.
I have been a fan of your blog for a long time. In fact you helped to establish my first wary steps into the discipline of philosophy. I struggled through your entries, persistent and confused, ultimately rewarded for my efforts. Your scathing, surly, incisive political commentary is a great alternative to my usual news consumption habits. Now, I admit that I am left-leaning, and so your perspective is refreshing. I understand that you have a particular interest, but your motto, "Study everything, join nothing," as led me to believe that you might approach my book suggestion with an open mind: "The New Jim Crow: Mass incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness." Alas, the title is sensational but the information and research seems solid. I suggest the work in hopes that you might begin a running critique or dialogue upon the subject.
I thank the reader for his kind words and I find it gratifying that letters like his roll in at regular intervals, suggesting to me that my pro bono efforts are of some value.
If I were to find the book the reader suggests at the local library I would check it out and read at least portions of it. But I am not inclined to go out of my way to acquire it based on the following description from the Amazon page which I quote verbatim:
"Jarvious Cotton's great-great-grandfather could not vote as a slave. His great-grandfather was beaten to death by the Klu Klux Klan for attempting to vote. His grandfather was prevented from voting by Klan intimidation; his father was barred by poll taxes and literacy tests. Today, Cotton cannot vote because he, like many black men in the United States, has been labeled a felon and is currently on parole."
As the United States celebrates the nation's "triumph over race" with the election of Barack Obama, the majority of young black men in major American cities are locked behind bars or have been labeled felons for life. Although Jim Crow laws have been wiped off the books, an astounding percentage of the African American community remains trapped in a subordinate status--much like their grandparents before them.
In this incisive critique, former litigator-turned-legal-scholar Michelle Alexander provocatively argues that we have not ended racial caste in America: we have simply redesigned it. Alexander shows that, by targeting black men and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control, even as it formally adheres to the principle of color blindness. The New Jim Crow challenges the civil rights community--and all of us--to place mass incarceration at the forefront of a new movement for racial justice in America.
Before commenting on the above description, let me say that, first of all, like many conservatives, I didn't start out as one. My background is working class, my parents were Democrats and so was I until the age of 41. I came of age in the '60s. One of my heroes was JFK, "the intrepid skipper of the PT 109" as I destribed him in a school essay. I was all for the Civil Rights movement. Musically my heroes were Bob Dylan and Joan Baez. I thrilled to "Blowin' in the Wind" and other Civil Rights anthems. As I see it, those civil rights battles were fought and they were won. But then the rot set in as the the party of JFK liberals became the extremists and the leftists that they are today. For example, Affirmative Action in its original sense gave way to reverse discrimination, race-norming, minority set-asides, identity politics and the betrayal of Martin Luther King's dream that people be judged "not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." As liberals have become extremists, people with moderate views such as myself have become conservatives. These days I am a registered Independent.
Now let's consider the first paragraph of the above description. Mention is made of one Jarvious Cotton. His mugshot is to the left. This dude was convicted of two offenses, homicide/murder and armed robbery. According to Michelle Alexander, author of the book in question, Cotton "has been labeled a felon."
So he was merely labeled a felon but is not a felon? Or was the label properly applied? Alexander is suggesting the former. The suggestion, from the context of the first paragraph, is that blacks get 'labeled' felons to prevent them from voting.
But that is absurd. Apart from the occasional wrongful conviction, blacks who are labeled felons are correctly so-labeled because they have committed felonies. Now should felons have the right to vote? Of course not. First of all, if you commit a felony, that shows you are pretty stupid: you don't know your own long-term best self-interest. It shows that you have terrible judgment. Murder and armed robbery are not elements in a life well-lived. A person like that should not be given a say on matters of public concern. That should be obvious. Second, part of the punishment for being a felon is removal of the right to vote.
No one is interested in disenfranchising blacks by 'labeling' them felons, but some blacks disenfranchise themselves by committing felonies.
There is also the misuse of language in the title of the book. The New Jim Crow? Nonsense. Jim Crow is a thing of the past.
Does the U. S. criminal justice system "target black men" and "decimate communities of color"? Is Atty Gen'l Eric Holder -- who is black -- in on this too? What motive could they have? The antecedent likelihood of this claim is so low that I cannot take it seriously. It is on a level with the wild claims of the 9/11 'truthers' and the allegation that the CIA in the '80s dumped cocaine into South Central Los Angeles.
A reader writes, " I enjoy your philosophical and theological views, but unfortunately disagree with your political and economic views. I recommend large doses of Paul Krugman, beginning with Nobody Understands Debt. "
I got a kick out of that because I should think that the febrile Krugman is absolutely the last person to convince me of anything. I tend to see him as living proof that the Nobel Prize, except perhaps in the hard sciences, is a meaningless accolade bestowed by the politically correct upon their own. I consider the man a fool on the level of Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and Joe Biden.
The column cited is one I read when it first appeared. Now, thanks to the reader, I have an opportunity to comment on it. But first we need to back up a step for a wide-angle view. Why is the national debt such a big deal to conservatives, but of relatively little concern to leftists? Dennis Prager provides a cogent answer in his new book, Still the Best Hope (Broadside 2012, p. 29, emphasis in original):
The Left's great fight is with material inequality, not with evil as normally understood. Thus, the Left has always been less interested in fighting tyranny than in fighting inequality. That is why Leftist dictators -- from Lenin to Mao to Pol Pot to Ho Chi Minh to Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez -- have had so much support from Leftists around the world . . . .
This explains the Left's relative disinterest in creating wealth. The enormous and unsustainable debts facing the individual American states and the United States as a country from 2009 on have disturbed the American Right far more than the American Left [. . .] The reason is that the Left is not nearly as interested in creating wealth as it is in erasing inequality.
Prager's explanation fits Krugman well. The latter thinks that the focus on deficit and debt reduction is "misplaced." I disagree vehemently. Not only is this a very serious matter if we want to survive as a nation, but also one on which we all ought to agree. Left and Right will never agree about abortion, capital punishment, gun control, and a host of other issues, but one would think that when "money talks, ideology walks." Unfortunately our leftist pals will hold to their ideology even unto fiscal doom.
Krugman's 'argument,' if you want to call it that, consists in an attack on an analogy between individual and government debt:
Deficit-worriers portray a future in which we’re impoverished by the need to pay back money we’ve been borrowing. They see America as being like a family that took out too large a mortgage, and will have a hard time making the monthly payments.
This is, however, a really bad analogy in at least two ways.
Krugman's first reason is that families have to pay off their mortgages, but governments don't have to pay back what they borrow. First of all, it is false that mortgage holders have to pay back their loans. One can easily structure a mortgage in such a way that it is held indefinitely and passed on to heirs. One pays interest month by month without reducing the principal. There are also negative amortization loans in which the borrower digs his hole deeper month by month.
Ready for Krugman's second reason? It's a real winner: "Second — and this is the point almost nobody seems to get — an over-borrowed family owes money to someone else; U.S. debt is, to a large extent, money we owe to ourselves."
That's bullshit, which is presumably why nobody gets it except him of the simian countenance. It makes no clear sense to say that the debt is money we owe ourselves. So each of us owes a portion of the debt to every other one of us?
Suppose I decide to invest in treasuries, T-bills, say. I buy 10 at $10,000 a pop. What I have done is loaned the government $100 K. In return I get two things; a safe haven for my money and a bit of interest. There is probably no safer place to park your cash since it is, as they say, "backed up by the full faith and credit of the U. S. government," a phrase that means rather less than it used to, but still means something.
It is the government that owes me the money I lent it. The government, which is not to be confused with the citizenry. Furthermore it owes these debts only to those who loaned the government money by buying T-bills and T-bonds and such. It is simply not the case that we owe that money to ourselves. The government owes it to some of us. Only some of us get a return on that investment, and only some of us help the government out by loaning it money.
Now the interest paid by the government to foreign and domestic bond holders is money that is pissed away and can't be used for constructive purposes. The analogy with the homeowner is apt: money one spends on mortgage interest can't be used for constructive purposes. The truly foolish home buyer overextends himself and ends up losing his house to foreclosure. The U. S. does not of course face foreclosure, but it faces something analogously dire: turning into Greece -- or California.
The homeowner analogy is pretty good.
No analogy is perfect, of course. A perfect analogy would be an identity, and you can't compare a thing to itself --except vacuously.
Krugman is a hate-America leftist whose fetishization of material equality blinds him to obvious realities.
Does Mathews really believe what he says here? If he does then he is mentally unhinged. I'll assume he's unhinged just to be charitable. If he doesn't believe what he says, then he is a scumbag. But he seems like a nice guy!
Note also the psychological projection. Unwilling or unable to face the hatred that animates him, he projects it into his opponents. It is also projection when he claims, absurdly, that conservatives are more political than liberals. That's delusional. For libs and lefties politics is their religion, which is certainly not the case for conservatives. Conservatives don't seek their meaning in the political sphere; they enter it mainly to counteract and undo the mischief of liberals.
In fact, we conservatives are at a considerable disadvantage because we are not 24/7 political activists. 'Conservative activist' borders on an oxymoron. There are a few, though, David Horowitz being one. But don't forget that he was a red diaper baby who imbibed activism with his mother's milk.
Unfortunately, the entire event was marred by the hard Left narrative particularly voiced in the most offensive manner by two artists, Tom Morello and Ry Cooder. At least Cooder is a real musician, but that does not excuse his behavior and his leftist rants delivered both in asides and in the rewriting of Guthrie’s lyrics. Cooder sang a little known Guthrie song written towards the end of WW II about how the fascists would all lose. Cooder commented, to great applause from the leftist audience, that we won that fight, but the fascists were still here, and he knew they would be defeated on election day. Singing Guthrie’s “Vigilante Man,” about hired thugs of the coal companies in the early 20th Century, Cooder changed a lyric to make it about the Trayvon Martin case. He could have grown up to be President, he said, “but he was killed by a vigilante man.” Then he sang a new verse about how those in the audience should not tell anyone that they attended the concert, or they too might be killed!
Does Ry Cooder really believe that paying an average of $100 for a Kennedy Center concert could lead anyone to be harmed, not to say murdered? Doesn’t he know that by now, Woody Guthrie is a celebrated national hero, honored and revered by many, and no kind of danger to anyone who sings his songs?
How Cooder could be such an idiot is beyond me, but then he is not atypical. Artists, actors, and musicians hang with their own left-leaning ilk and are never exposed to conservative or libertarian points of view. They reinforce each others' prejudices. Denouncing bigotry in others, they exemplify it in excelsis. Masters of psychological projection, they cannot face what they project into others. They can emote in all sorts of creative ways, but they cannot think.
The mystery Obama—the hollow receptacle of out-sized fantasies left and right—is not a creation of his own making, political chameleon though he may well be. It emanates instead from a journalistic community that no longer in any way fulfills its designated function, that no longer even attempts the fair presentation of facts and current events aimed at helping the American electorate make up its mind according to its own lights. Rather, left-wing outlets like the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, Time, Newsweek, NBC News, ABC News, CBS News, and the like have now devoted themselves to fashioning an image of the world they think their audiences ought to believe in—that they may guide us toward voting as they think we should. They have fallen prey to that ideological corruption that sees lies as a kind of virtue, as a noble deception in service to a greater good.
It is the nature of the Left to conflate the world with the world as leftists want it to be. Whereas the conservative stands on the terra firma of antecedent reality, the leftist trades in nebulous hopes and dreams, many of them impossible. (it comes as no surprise that the late Edward Kennedy's favorite song was "Impossible Dream.")
Theirs are largely passive lies and lies of omission. The active frauds—NBC’s dishonest editing of videos to reflect a leftist worldview, ABC’s allowing Democratic operative George Stephanopoulos to masquerade as a newsman, the Los Angeles Times’ suppressing even the transcript of the video in their possession that shows candidate Barack Obama at a meeting with a PLO-supporting sheik—these are only egregious salients of the more consistent, underlying dishonesty. The real steady-state corruption is revealed in the way Obama scandals like Fast and Furious, Benghazi-gate, and the repeated breaking of federal campaign laws have been wildly underplayed, while George W. Bush’s non-scandals, like the naming of Valerie Plame and the firings of several U.S. attorneys at the start of his second term, were blown out of all proportion.
And it is revealed in Obama’s blankness, his make-believe greatness, and the suppression, ridicule, and dismissal of any evidence that he is not the man this powerful media faction once wanted so badly for him to be. No other modern president could have associated so intimately with lowlifes like Wright and Ayers and the now-imprisoned Tony Rezko and not had those associations exposed in every detail. No other president could have made the radical remarks he’s made—about wealth redistribution, religion, and the federal government’s alleged ill-treatment of blacks—and not had them headlined all over for weeks. No other could have presided over such a crippled economy and such universal failures at war and in foreign policy and escaped almost without mainstream blame.
Here is a TNR piece that proves once again that lberals live on a different planet. I call it the planet Unsinn and I sometimes speak of the 'planetary' difference between left and right. The difference is between nonsense and sense. The author asks why principled conservatives won't denounce 'voter suppression.'
'Voter suppression' is leftist code for 'photo ID.' Here's the short answer: we won't condemn it because common sense demands it. Longer answer and arguments here. It shows how far we've fallen that this needs to be argued at all.
I am of course against voter suppression while being all for 'voter suppression.'
I am also against voter fraud, unlike liberals. They welcome it knowing that it can only redound to their benefit. That is the plain motive behind their opposition to photo ID. If voter fraud worked to the benefit of conservatives and libertarians, leftists would be screaming in protest.
Barack Obama, knight of the peevish countenance, illustrated William F. Buckley’s axiom that liberals who celebrate tolerance of other views always seem amazed that there are other views. Obama, who is not known as a martyr to the work ethic and who might use a teleprompter when ordering lunch, seemed uncomfortable with a format that allowed fluidity of discourse.
Similarly with liberal inclusiveness: it does not include conservatives or anyone who questions the wisdom of total inclusiveness or the wisdom of unlimited toleration.
Ditto for liberal anti-bigotry: it does not prevent them from playing the bigot vis-à-vis conservatives.
For at least the last hundred years, the world’s most dynamic religion has been neither Christianity nor Islam.
It has been leftism.
Most people do not recognize what is probably the single most important fact of modern life. One reason is that leftism is overwhelmingly secular (more than merely secular: it is inherently opposed to all traditional religions), and therefore people do not regard it as a religion. Another is that leftism so convincingly portrays itself as solely the product of reason, intellect, and science that it has not been seen as the dogma-based ideology that it is. Therefore the vast majority of the people who affirm leftist beliefs think of their views as the only way to properly think about life.
While I agree with the rest of Prager's column, I have trouble with his characterization of leftism as a religion.
It is true that leftism is like a religion in certain key respects. But if one thing is like another it does not follow that the first is a species of the other. Whales are like fish in certain key respects, but a whale is not a fish but a mammal. Whales live in the ocean, can stay underwater for long periods of time and have strong tails to propel themselves. Just like fish. But whales are not fish.
I should think that correct taxonomies in the realm of ideas are just as important as correct taxonomies in the realm of flora and fauna.
Leftism is an anti-religious political ideology that functions in the lives of its adherents much like religions function in the lives of their adherents. This is the truth to which Prager alludes with his sloppy formulation, "leftism is a religion." Leftism in theory is opposed to every religion as to an opiate of the masses, to employ the figure of Karl Marx. In practice, however, today's leftists are rather strangely soft on the representatives of the 'religion of peace.'
Or you could say that leftism is an ersatz religion for leftists. 'Ersatz' here functions as an alienans adjective. It functions like 'decoy' in 'decoy duck.' A decoy duck is not a duck. A substitute for religion is not a religion.
An ideology is a system of action-guiding beliefs. That genus divides into the species religious ideologies and nonreligious ideologies. Leftism, being "overwhelmingly secular" just as Prager says, is a nonreligious ideology. It is not a religion, but it shares some characteristics with religions and functions for its adherents as a substitute for religion.
You might think to accuse me of pedantry. What does it matter that Prager sometimes employs sloppy formulations? Surely it is more important that leftism be defeated than that it be fitted into an optimal taxonomy!
Well yes, slaying the dragon is Job One. But we also need to persuade intelligent and discriminating people. Precision in thought and speech is conducive to that end. And that is why I say, once more: Language matters!
Many liberals in the West have become, and many more are becoming, radical leftists out to subvert the very principles that they as leftists supposedly support. Thus arises the phenomenon of the schizoid Left. For example, from the time of the French Revolution on, the Left has been anti-clerical and ever more anti-religious. But now we witness the bizarre spectacle of leftists aligning themselves with, or at least not opposing, the most extreme type of religious fundamentalism on the face of the earth.
They never miss an opportunity to bash Christians and Mormons, but are deeply offended by the amateurish Innocence of Muslims. Bret Stephens:
The film, the [Obama] administration says, is "hateful and offensive" (Susan Rice), reprehensible and disgusting" (Jay Carney) and, in a twist, "disgusting and reprehensible" (Hillary Clinton). Mr. Carney, the White House spokesman, also lays sole blame on the film for inciting the riots that have swept the Muslim world and claimed the lives of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three of his staff in Libya.
So let's get this straight: In the consensus view of modern American liberalism, it is hilarious to mock Mormons and Mormonism but outrageous to mock Muslims and Islam. Why? Maybe it's because nobody has ever been harmed, much less killed, making fun of Mormons.
For a second example of schizoid leftism, consider that lefties traditionally display a prominent libertine and bohemian wobble. Why then do they cozy up to, or at least not resolutely oppose, Islamic fanatics who murder homosexuals, stone adulterers, and circumcise females?
Third, the Left, as part of the Enlightenment project, supposedly champions science over superstition. Yet, in the last 400 years or so, scarcely anything of any scientific value has emanated from the Islamic world. (Bernard Lewis is the man to read on this. ) The same goes for philosophy. Tiny Israel in the mere 64 years of its existence has cranked out more genuine philosophy that the whole of the Islamic world has in 400 years. So what does the Left do? It waxes anti-Semitic and pro-Islamic.
The nihilism of the hard Left -- its denial of value and true being to anything that actually exists and provably works -- may be turning in upon itself. Unable to destroy Western civilization under its own steam, it aligns itself with Islamists, who, were they to attain power, would of course mercilessly exterminate all leftists. A curious sort of Selbstaufhebung.
For a leftist, the end justifies any and all means, including ignoring the very real threats of militant Islam while demonizing Christians who pose no threat to speak of. For full documentation, see David Horowitz, Unholy Alliance: Radical Islam and the American Left, Regnery 2004.
The truth is that the Left in the West, including our own Left, is largely anti-American, favorable to extremist radical social movements, and sees any one or group who is not on its side as not only incorrect, but morally evil. The answer to Michael Walzer’s own query is still the same: it would be nice if there was a decent Left, but its small and ineffectual numbers prove that its creation is something that will never take place.
"Following a complaint filed by the ACLU, school officials in Cranston, R.I. have ended gender specific activities like father-daughter dances and mother-son ballgames to comply with state gender discrimination laws." Story here.
I've often wondered about the etymology of 'shyster.' From German scheissen, to shit? That would fit well with the old joke, "What is the difference between a lawyer and a bucket of shit?' "The bucket." I am also put in mind of scheusslich: hideous, atrocious, abominable. Turning to the 'shyster' entry in my Webster's, I read, "prob. fr. Scheuster fl. 1840 Am. attorney frequently rebuked in a New York court for pettifoggery."
According to Robert Hendrickson, Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins, p. 659:
Shyster, an American slang term for a shady disreputable lawyer, is first recorded in 1846. Various authorities list a real New York advocate as a possible source, but this theory has been disproved by Professor Gerald L. Cohen of the University of Missouri-Rolla, whose long paper on the etymology I had the pleasure of reading. Shakespeare's moneylender Shylock has also been suggested, as has a racetrack form of the word shy, i.e., to be shy money when betting. Some authorities trace shyster to the German Scheisse, "excrement," possibly through the word shicir, "a worthless person," but there is no absolute proof for any theory.
A little further research reveals that Professor Cohen's "long paper" is in fact a short book of 124 pages published in 1982 by Verlag Peter Lang. See here for a review. Cohen argues that the eponymous derivation from 'Scheuster' that I just cited from Webster's is a pseudo-etymology. 'Shyster' no more derives from 'Scheuster' than 'condom' from the fictious Dr. Condom. Nor does it come from 'Shylock.' It turns out my hunch was right. 'Shyster' is from the German Scheisser, one who defecates.
Mike Liccione's name came up over dinner with John Farrell, who has met Mike. Small world. (It also turns out that John now lives on the same street only a few doors down from where I lived for part of my time in Boston. Small world again.) Mention of Mike put me in mind of an old post from 6 November 2009 in which I link to him, a post that is particularly relevant in the light of recent events. The post follows.
Something that has long puzzled me also puzzles Michael Liccione. Mike puts it like this:
Shouldn't liberals be the most concerned about Islamic fundamentalism, given that the things they profess to value are the first things they would lose under Islamist pressure? It's hard to avoid the conclusion that this sort of liberal hates political conservatives and orthodox Christians more than he loves his own liberty. And he wishes to cling desperately to his own self-image as a defender of the poor, oppressed minorities, even when some of those poor, oppressed minorities would just as soon see him and his kind swinging from the gallows.
Substantially correct. But if I may quibble, 'Islamic fundamentalism' may not be the right term. Better would be 'militant Islam' or 'radical Islam' or 'Islamism.' A fundamentalist, as I understand the word, is one who interprets the scriptures of his religion literally, as God's own inerrant word. Thus Islam, if I am not mistaken, holds that the Koran was literally dictated by God to Muhammad in Arabic. Whatever one thinks of fundamentalists in this sense, it seems obvious that they should not be confused with militants or terrorists. Although fundamentalists and terrorists are sets with a non-null intersection, there are fundamentalists who are not terrorists and terrorists who are not fundamentalists.
It is important to try to think as clearly and precisely as one can about these issues, distinguishing the different, and forging one's terminology in the the teeth of these differences. And the more 'hot-button' the issue, the more necessary is clear and precise thinking.
Addendum 19 September 2012: I have always been careful to speak of 'militant Islam' or 'radical Islam' or 'Islamism' as opposed to 'Islam.' But now I am wondering whether this distinction is not perhaps a snare and a delusion. The problem may well be with Islam itself and its basic values or lack of values. See Diana West's post to which I linked yesterday.
It is becoming painfully obvious that the values of Muslims qua Muslims are simply incompatible with our Western values, and that to allow them to immigrate is a recipe for suicide. Islamic culture is inferior to ours, the proof being the sad state of the countries Muslims come from -- which is of course why they don't stay in their own countries.
Liberals of course support wide-open immigration, legal and illegal, along the lines of 'The enemy of my enemy is my friend.' These liberal fools hate Christians and conservatives more than they hate the enemies of their own liberal values. I call that contemptible stupidity, stupidity that is morally censurable.
Bill K. comments:
I think it is far more pathological than simply the enemy of my enemy is my friend. I believe the kind of liberal that wants the government to control everything (as opposed to the fuzzy-headed do-gooders that simply want problems to go away and people to be happy) actually admires and approves of Islam, because of its program of total control. They also fail to understand that they will be the first to go when the Umma arrives. They are so used to talking their way into what they want, that they won’t understand the use of force even when they face the beheading sword. Look at our foreign policy. BO actually thought he could talk the Muslims into world peace.
I suspect that our delusional leftist pals think that they can use Islamism to beat back conservatism and Christianity and then dismiss the Islamists once the job is done. But they are pussies compared to the Islamists and they may be in for a big surprise.