February 28, 2005

Visual Evidence

Originally uploaded by octopod.

This picture courtesy of Captain's Quarters illustrates the similarities between Georgia, the Ukraine, and the Lebanese (so far) peaceful uprising.

Those neocons must be plotting again!

Polynesian Showdown Delayed

The Polynesian Assembly was unable to make its 3/5 quorum today, reports Tahitipresse. As a result, the election of a president was postponed three days. At that time, 35 out of 57 members will not be needed for a quorum. With the defection of one deputy to the Temaru group, it has an absolute majority of 29. The two candidates are pro-independence leader Oscar Temaru, and Gaston Tong Sang, the Mayor of Mo'orea, who will stand for outgoing President Gaston Flosse's Tahooera Huitaraa party.

Correction: Gaston Tong Sang is the Mayor of Bora Bora, not Mo'orea.

Kiev Redux?

The pictures from Beirut are eerily reminiscent of the pictures of the Orange Revolution in the Ukraine just a few short months ago, except the colors are red, white and green instead of orange. Some Beirut photos here and more here.

The ever-interesting Chris Hitchens muses on the disappearing concept of the "Arab street" here.

We must be cautious. The Syrian régime wiped out the city of Hama when it rebelled against Hafez Assad, father of the present leader. There may be difficult days ahead.

But the parallel with the Ukraine is remarkable -- a country historically dominated by a powerful neighbor rises up peacefully but en masse for democracy and independence, with a crowd sitting in until it gets its way.

Syria doesn't have the tradition of democratic institutions that Lebanon has, but one must ask, if Lebanon succeeds in peacefully winning back its sovereignty, can Syria be far behind?

February 27, 2005

MoDo Raves

Trey Jackson offers up an astonishing excerpt from Meet the Press starring the New York Times's Maureen Dowd:
"Russert: ' Would you now accept the fact that because of the invasion of Iraq, there is a possibility of democracy in Iraq and that may spread in the Middle East?

Dowd: 'We are torturing people, we're outsourcing torture, the administration is trying to throw journalist in jail and basically trying to replace the whole press corps with ringers, including male escorts.'"

He's got the video, too.

Her derangement, sad and amazing though it is, speaks for itself.

More Good News

Jack Kelly thinks the war in Iraq is all but won. His analogy is to the battle of Iwo Jima, where it took 35 days for the Japanese to be cleared out, but the result was clear after five days, when Mt. Suribachi was taken.

He also comments on the increasing ineptitude of the terrorists:

Lt. Col. Jim Stockmoe, chief intelligence officer for the First Infantry Division, roared with laughter as he recalled the increasing missteps of the resistance in Iraq in an interview earlier this month with British journalist Toby Harnden, writing for The Spectator.

"There were three brothers down in Baghdad who had a mortar tube and were firing into the Green Zone," Stockmoe said. "They were storing the mortar rounds in the car engine compartment and the rounds got overheated. Two of these clowns dropped them in the tube and they exploded, blowing their legs off."

The surviving brother sought refuge in a nearby house, but the occupants "beat the crap out of him and turned him over to the Iraqi police," Stockmoe told Harnden, "It was like the movie 'Dumb and Dumber.' "

Again, inshallah.

Syrian Turnabout?

It appears that Syria had a hand in the capture of Saddam's half-brother. Captain's Quarters analyzes it this way:
"This constitutes a major part of that effort, and as long as the pressure remains on the Syrians, more cleanup will follow after this. It also confirms that Syria indeed had a hand in fomenting the terrorist attacks in Iraq; now, with this revelation and the apparent reversal of course by an extremely nervous Assad, we may see the entire Zarqawi/Ba'athist effort collapse in on itself within weeks."

CQ may be a little optimistic, but this is good and interesting news. Syria is surrounded by hostile powers, its régime is controlled by the Alewi, who represent only 15% of the population, and its Lebanese client state is getting uppity. To add to the problems, the US and even France are pressuring its Ba'athist régime.

So it wouldn't be surprising if Bashir Assad is making a few concessions to relieve the pressure. What's more interesting is the truism that it is when the ancien régime begins to moderate its policies and make concessions is when it is most likely to fall. Collapses of this type are often sudden, à la Ceaucescu.

Inshallah, even if Assad is the devil we know.

February 26, 2005

Feminism Unhinged

Heather MacDonald gives the lowdown on Estrich v. Kinsley and other feminist moonbattery here.

I thought Estrich, in spite of her grating voice, lived in the world of the rational.

Oh well, working for Dukakis would turn almost anyone into a nutjob.

Boredom and Terrorism

David Warren is a Canadian writer and blogger whom I discovered courtesy of Instapundit. He summarizes the reasons for his admiration for President Bush's foreign policy here: His most interesting insight is the impact of boredom among the young:
"The only truly exciting thing, through the entire Arab-Muslim world, was revolutionary Islamism. Of course this was illegal, and underground; though it occasionally surfaced in some localized mayhem. One of the greatest attractions of Osama bin Laden, et al., perverse as this will sound, was that he supplied the only available entertainment. To nothing else could the idealistic young be attracted. Anyone seeking an interesting life, emigrated to Europe or America.

"Boredom is seriously underestimated as a motive cause in history. And among the more intelligent young, it is always potentially lethal. The madrassas and 'universities' of the Islamic world -- places like the venerable Al Azhar in Cairo -- do in fact produce sharp minds. But educated in a strict monotheism that is, if anything, over-focused. The symbiotic relationship between the terrorist gangs, and the Muslim world's madrassas, is almost too easy to explain."

Fascinating. Read the whole thing.

An Unanswerable Question

The following are both true:

  1. The toast always lands buttered side down. This is the Breakfast Corollary to Murphy's Law.

  2. A cat always lands on its feet.

Let's suppose, then, we strap a piece of toast, buttered side up, on a cat's back, and drop it. On which side does it land?

Could It Be -- Working?

This CNN.com report and others throughout the media raise a question:

"Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak ordered the constitution changed to allow multi-candidate presidential elections in September, making a surprise reversal Saturday that could mean he will face a challenger for the first time since taking power in 1981.

"It was the first significant move toward political reform in decades in Egypt, a powerhouse in the Arab world that has had one-party rule for more than half a century.

"The announcement came amid increasing calls for political reform from the domestic opposition and from the United States and after historic Iraqi and Palestinian elections that brought a taste of democracy to the region."

Let's see:

  • The Afghan Presidential election.

  • The Iraqi election, with huge turnout followed by parliamentary bickering of a familiar, democratic sort.

  • The Palestinian balloting, with a real opposition, a consensus outcome, followed by parliamentary-style infighting about the cabinet, in which the reformers won a partial victory.

  • The Lebanese outpouring against Syrian occupation after Rafiq Hariri's murder, and Syrian indications it may relocate its troops or withdraw.

  • Elections of a sort in Saudi Arabia.

  • Now Mubarak announces a real presidential election rather than an up-down vote on a hand-picked candidate.

Not a Prague Spring, a Berlin wall, or 1848, perhaps, but interesting nevertheless. Of course, it has nothing to do with US policy. All the credit goes to Jacques Chirac and Kofi Annan.

Though Snarky As Ever, Mr. Insufferable Has a Point

Although at the end this week's piece by the insufferable Frank Rich careens into its usual ditch of paranoia about some slight or another to all things gay, the Tiffer has a point worth thinking about.

He notes that even as the Feds get ready to impose stiffer [you should pardon the expression] fines against the networks for offenses such as wardrobe malfunctions, it is audience demand that drives the descent of popular culture into all things prurient. Not only does Homer Simpson perform a gay marriage, and Chris Rock promote his Oscar-hosting debut with headline-grabbing musings about the Oscar show, but also porn-on-demand in hotel rooms and the internet commands a vast audience, sponsored by corporations who would have you believe in their staidness.

Frank's right, of course. The laws of the market apply as much to the heroin market or the sex trade as to cell phones and sow bellies. If there's a demand, someone will create a supply. And there's a huge demand for sex, drugs, and what passes for rock 'n' roll nowadays.

Although the resulting coarsening of the national character is troubling, few now have the heart or the philosophical inclination to advocate systematic state action to stem the tide. Aside from the inevitable dire consequences of government deciding what shall be disseminated, suppression of anything people desire creates a black market where prices rise as a function of the effectiveness of the suppression on the one hand and the inelasticity of the demand on the other. In other words, make something hard to get and the prices on the black market will go up as long as people want it badly enough to pay more.

So Frank is right both about the unlikelihood of the anti-indecency political theater having much effect, as long as pillars of the community in the anonymity of their hotel rooms will dial up porn, and about the hypocrisy of many in the anti-indecency industry.

Nevertheless, Frank can't really be Frank unless he waves the bloody shirt of persecution, and he does not fail us. The real purpose of these anti-indecency gestures, says Frank, is to advance "the larger agenda of the decency crusaders, which is not to clean up show business, a doomed mission, but to realize the more attainable goal of enlisting the government to marginalize and punish those who don't adhere to their 'moral values.'"

Frank's two examples are the removal of the Gay etc. label from a talk at some Federal conference on suicide prevention, and a gratuitous mention of an unspecified potentially lethal denial of sex education to gays and teens. Frank's feared Inquisition turns out to be trivial on the one hand, and undocumented on the other. No punishment in sight, and hardly enough to marginalize anybody.

It goes without saying that when the President says something Frank finds unexceptionable, rather than giving him credit, Frank accuses him of persecution (without using the word) through "surrogates."

Frank points to real contradictions, such as that between the impulse of some conservatives to use government to resist the coarsening of the culture, and the fealty of others (or sometimes the same people) to the market, where demand for raunch burns on unabated.

Unless it is far more draconian and comprehensive than Americans today are likely to tolerate, effective government action to police the culture would be ineffective even if we could agree about what's unacceptable where (cartoon bunnies visiting lesbian mothers on public TV, closed circuit orgy flicks at the Marriott, foul-mouthed heroes on Saving Private Ryan on the networks?). The most government can do is encourage islands of decency or blandness for those who prefer it, and to keep certain matters somewhat private as opposed to public. If the proliferation of the indecent is to be combated, as with the drug trade, the arena of combat should be on the demand side. A difficult task, given the fallen nature of man, that we must leave to parents, pastors, and the Holy Ghost, but one that is not beyond the reputed powers of the latter.

February 25, 2005

Chuck Schumer's Shiloh -- or the Winter Palace?

Hugh's Vox Blogoli 2.2

Hugh Hewitt has set another challenge to the blogosphere:

Does the Senate GOP Go McClellan or Grant if Harry Reid "Goes Gingrich?"

I have argued before that Hugh's opposition to unseating Arlen Specter as the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee was inconsistent with his enthusiasm for invoking the "nuclear option" -- using a majority of less than 60 to uphold a ruling that a filibuster to prevent a vote on a Presidential nominee is unconstitutional.

I didn't oppose it outright, but urged caution and a strong effort to show how unfair the filibuster was, before resorting to the "nuclear option":

We should, therefore, think as long and hard about the "nuclear option" of eliminating the filibuster by a bare majority, as about dumping Arlen Specter for careless and purely theoretical remarks. Certainly, it seems to me, the "nuclear option" should be avoided until they pay the price of a real around-the-clock, make-them-talk-until-their-bladders-swell-to-bursting, Farmers'-Almanac-reading filibuster, as in olden times. The mere ritual of announcing a filibuster should not be allowed as a namby-pamby substitute for the sublime oratorical meanderings of a Wayne Morse, who strapped a bottle to his leg and spoke for, I think, 24 hours to stall a Tidelands Oil bill whose provisions are lost in the mists of time. Let us see if Harry Reid can find his equal, or a contemporary echo of the remarkable Huey P. Long, whose extended oratory echoes to this day.

Then, and only then, let us consider pushing the button.

(More on Morse, here, and Huey Long--was Hewitt named after him?--here.)

That post was a tactical disagreement with Hugh, and a recognition that the traditions of the Senate deserve some consideration -- not a "Never!" to the nuclear option.

I don't think Hugh would oppose putting the Dems to a true filibuster test, with all-night sessions and so on, before invoking the option.

The filibuster, historically, was not used seriously by large groups of Senators, as opposed to mavericks like Morse, and one-of-a-kind figures like Huey Long, except for issues of almost-constitutional import. Although segregation was doomed and fundamentally unjust (even if its demise has not led to the heave-on-earth its advocates hoped for), it was a long-term part of the social order in much of the country. The requirement of a supermajority for such an important issue may have been wrong, but it was not petty, and it was not repeated for individual appointees, even those noxious to the segregationists.

So, once the Democrats have been given a chance to back down, and their stubbornness dramatized, invoking the nuclear option, though not to be taken lightly, would be substantially justified, as we lawyers say.

The filibuster is not written into the Constitution; it's an accretion, albeit one of long standing. The GOP has not won just the Presidency, but a decisive margin in the Senate over a considerable period of time. They are the majority party and the governing party, and they have a right and duty to govern.

Now, if you shoot at a king, you must kill him. Once Lincoln decided to go to war to preserve the Union, he needed a Grant, not a McClellan to carry out his policy.

The party of Chuck Schumer and Barbara Boxer is beneath contempt, petty, arrogant, and vicious, typified, perhaps, by the argument that a Michael Luttig would be disqualified by bias because his father was murdered, or that a devout Catholic can't sit as an appellate judge because their religion influences their world view.

If the nuclear option is exercised, and the GOP prevails, the courts will in all probability defer to the Senate and not involve themselves in a political question within the competence of another branch of government.

How can the Democrats retaliate? For a time, they can paralyze the Senate. But not forever. They are the party of government, and unlike Gingrich, cannot be philosophically comfortable paralyzing the government's operations for long. Moreover, we are at war, like it or not, and to hold things up too long in such a time would arouse the wrath of many.

The other explosion would come from the usual suspects, the MSM, the professoriat, and the Ralph Neases of the world. Their deep hostility to Bush, however, has had the paradoxical effect of rendering them toothless. What more can they do than George Soros, Dan Rather, and Michael Moore have already tried. Let the heathen rage!

In the end, I am not so certain the appointment of these judges will be as momentous as some on the right hope and the left fears. Law changes slowly. Even Roe will not go quickly, and if it does, the abortion issue will be back in the states where it belonged in the first place.

The fight over the appointments, however, is sure to be an interesting spectacle of political athletics.

February 24, 2005

Political Vocabulary

The blogosphere has developed its own lingo, which has dialects, too.

This glossary is reasonably complete, and has stuff from both ends of the specttrum. I don't think the middle generates terms as colofrul as these. Some examples:

1. Verb: To flood a forum, electronic or real, with a large number of aggressive right wingers.
2. To tell right wingers to go to an online survey and push it in their favored direction (See DU). This is often generalized to include all poll-swamping, so that any group may "freep" a poll, regardless of their politics.
3. Noun: Collective noun for kool-aid drinking (see below) right wingers as a whole. Also Freeple. (Stirling Newberry)


A right winger who repeats or reprocesses with limited changes the current talking points or message, often making vociferous personal attacks on all lefties. The name comes from the self chosen nickname of the members of the right wing political site Free Republic (http://www.freerepublic.com) (sic). See Freep above.


Hackneyed suffix indicative of a political scandal. Stems from the Watergate scandal that led to the resignation of president Richard M. Nixon. Examples include Nannygate, Plamegate, Falafelgate, Cigargate.

Google Bomb
An exploitation of the algorithm which drives the Google search engine. Large numbers of people post links to a certain page with the same link text (such as "Bush's White House bio" and the phrase "Miserable Failure") which causes Google to artificially boost the site's rank in the results returned for searches on the Google-bombed phrase. (daria g) Examples:

* Miserable Failure (http://www.google.com/search?q=Miserable+Failure) - GWB's Bio + Jimmy Carter's bio in 2nd

* Weapons of Mass Destruction (http://www.google.com/search?q=Weapons+of+Mass+Destruction) - Weapons cannot be displayed joke page

* Waffles (http://www.google.com/search?q=Waffles) - John Kerry for President
Verb, media assault using unfiltered talking points, generally from the Republican National Committee, to destroy the credibility of an individual based on assorted distortions, lies and irrelevant details. From the process by which the Establishment Media turned Al Gore into a "Pathological Liar" during the 2000 election.

The George W. Bush (http://www.dkosopedia.com/index.php/George_W._Bush) Administration according to the George W. Bush Administration's cheerleaders. From the chest-thumping proclamation, "The grownups are back in charge" made by conservative columnist George F. Will after the 2000 election. A comment on the youthfulness and alleged callowness of the Clinton White House.

Hate America, Why Does X?
From the conservative mantra "Why do liberals hate America" which is used to question the patriotism of any liberal who dares to criticize the policies of the Gerge W. Bush (http://www.dkosopedia.com/index.php/George_W._Bush) administration. Now a liberal snark (see below) applied to any source of bad news for Bush. (For example, after the Bush bike spill, "Why do bicycles hate America?")

HT: Blogizdat.

February 23, 2005

Wingnuts v. Moonbats

These are two blog words. Apparently a wingnut is on the right, and a moonbat is on the left.

Doesn anyone know why and where these came from?

I'm reminded of this:

Twinkle, twinkle, little bat !
How I wonder what you're at !
Up above the world you fly,
Like a tea - tray in the sky.

Here are some wingnuts. If used correctly, they keep things safe, secure and in place.


Moonbats, presumably, carry rabies.


February 22, 2005

Rush for the Exits

Martin Kettle in the Guardian joins the retreat of many Iraq war critics from their line that it was a fiasco:

"Much of this is summed up in the current transitional fluidity over the politics of Iraq. The war was a reckless, provocative, dangerous, lawless piece of unilateral arrogance. But it has nevertheless brought forth a desirable outcome which would not have been achieved at all, or so quickly, by the means that the critics advocated, right though they were in most respects."

In other words, it worked, the opponents' strategy wouldn't have worked, but they, and not Bush, were still right. Setting aside the internal contradictions of the concession, the author is only the latest in a line of liberals and leftists who are beginning to see that there may be another side to the war. Maybe, just maybe, even though Bush is a stupid cowboy manipulated by sinister hooknosed neoconservatives, getting rid of Saddam was a good thing, the insurgency is failing, and the election was a harbinger of some kind of democracy.

Now, apparently, the bar is being raised. Here's Kettle's new question about Bush:

It is whether the real Bush now has the will to give the rebuilding process the attention it requires. Is he, as John Lewis Gaddis challenges him in the current issue of Foreign Affairs, prepared to shift from the shock and awe of his first term to "the reassurance - and the attention to detail - that is necessary to sustain any new [international] system". Is he able, as Gaddis puts it, to be a Bismarck?

In which case the really important question is not why Bush has come to Europe. It is when he will be coming again, and when he will go to the Middle East. A huge historical figure? That is what we are about to discover.

From dumb cowboy to potential Bismarck? Time alone will tell, but that's pretty far to come in the eyes of the world's Guardians, in just four years.

Gene Scott, RIP

Rev. Gene ScottThe papers are reporting that the Rev. Gene Scott, TV preacher and eccentric extraordinaire, died of a stroke at 75. Scott was an American original, a learned, headstrong, eccentric guy, who did not suffer fools gladly.

We shall not see his like again.

Note, for example, in the picture above, Scott (on TV) has eyes pasted over his sunglasses. From his hats, to his lectures filled with Greek Biblical terminology, to the horse-riding pictures he'd show if the contributions weren't coming in fast enough, there was never anything like him on TV.

I don't know enough about Pentecostal theological esoterica to comment on his antinomianism and so forth, but he was fascinating.


February 21, 2005

The NCAA Monopoly Strikes Again

Inside Higher Ed reports of the University of Minnesota:
"The university's athletics department announced Friday that it had suspended two men's tennis coaches with pay after concluding an investigation into possible wrongdoing in the tennis program. Minnesota said that it had turned over the results of its investigation to the NCAA, and that it expected the association to begin its own inquiry tomorrow.

University officials declined to elaborate on the internal investigation, except to say that the 'alleged violations do not involve academic issues.' (A report in the Star-Tribune said the wrongdoing revolves around money paid to two players for summer internships before the work had been completed.)"

The crime: compensating student athletes. Why, exactly, is this so awful? Answer: even in lucrative sports like football and basketball, the NCAA monopoly requires the universities to treat their (usually non-graduating) "student" athletes like slaves. The ultimate crime is to pay them. At least it's not officially forbidden to teach them to read.

Maybe they don't have to forbid this, because it happens so seldom. And the dirty little secret is that most of the non-graduating stars are black.

Time for the Department of Justice or some enterprising antitrust lawyer to get seriously involved!

February 20, 2005

American Liberalism--A Burnt-Out Case

Marty Peretz of the New Republic laments (free subscription) the programmatic and intellectual sterility of contemporary American liberalism. He has no solution. Particularly telling are his remarks on race:
One of the legacies of the '60s is liberal idealism about race. But that discussion has grown particularly outmoded in the Democratic Party. African Americans and Caribbean Americans (the differences between them another largely unspoken reality) have made tremendous strides in their education, in social mobility, in employment, in housing, and in politics as images and realities in the media. Even the gap in wealth accumulation between whites and blacks has begun to narrow, and, on this, even tremendous individual achievement over one generation cannot compensate for the accumulated advantages of inherited money over two or three generations. Still, the last 30 years separate two worlds. The statistics prove it. And this, too, we know in our bones.

But, in the Democratic Party, among liberals, the usual hustlers are still cheered. Jesse Jackson is still paid off, mostly not to make trouble. The biggest insult to our black fellow citizens was the deference paid to Al Sharpton during the campaign. Early in the race, it was clear that he--like Carol Moseley Braun and Dennis Kucinich--was not a serious candidate. Yet he was treated as if he just might take the oath of office at the Capitol on January 20. In the end, he won only a handful of delegates. But he was there, speaking in near-prime time to the Democratic convention. Sharpton is an inciter of racial conflict. To him can be debited the fraudulent and dehumanizing scandal around Tawana Brawley (conflating scatology and sex), the Crown Heights violence between Jews and blacks, a fire in Harlem, the protests around a Korean grocery store in Brooklyn, and on and on. Yet the liberal press treats Sharpton as a genuine leader, even a moral one, the trickster as party statesman.

This patronizing attitude is proof positive that, as deep as the social and economic gains have been among African Americans, many liberals prefer to maintain their own time-honored patronizing position vis-à-vis "the other," the needy. This is, frankly, in sharp contrast to President Bush, who seems not to be impeded by race difference (and gender difference) in his appointments and among his friends. Maybe it is just a generational thing, and, if it is that, it is also a good thing. But he may be the first president who apparently does not see individual people in racial categories or sex categories. White or black, woman or man, just as long as you're a conservative. That is also an expression of liberation from bias.

Peretz also notes the visceral anti-Americanism and support for totalitarian enemies of freedom, on the left, and not just the extreme left.

In all, pretty depressing stuff.

If he's right, the next political battles will be fought within the conservative side.

Polynesia: Winner and Loser

Oscar Temaru     Gaston Flosse

Oscar Temaru

Gaston Flosse

These are photos of Gaston Flosse, the long-time President of French Polynesia and crony of Jacques Chirac, who recently lost a vote of confidence in the wake of a special election in Tahiti and Mo'orea; and Oscar Temaru, leader of the opposition, who has a good chance of being elected in Flosse's place.

Hopeless and Hopelesser

I forced myself to read today's column by Mr. Insufferable himself, the New York Times's Frank Rich.

It's a meandering rehash of the Jeff Gannon story, out of which Rich would have us believe the White House is so busy creating fake news that it's become impenetrable to journalism.

Frank then ends with an aside about how heinous the Gannon affair is compared to the resignation (Rich: "banishment") of Eason Jordan, whom Rich doesn't even defend (Jordan was "behaving foolishly at a bloviation conference in Switzerland"). Gannon didn't accuse American soldiers of murder; he just threw George Bush some softballs. Big deal.

What's inconsistent for Frank is that he doesn't criticize the lefty blogosphere for the "Gannon was a gay whore" meme. If a Republican invoked the same meme against a reporter, real or fake, Rich would be all over him like a pit bull on a postman. There used to be a proverb, something about oxen being gored.

Trucking School Revisited

I've been catching a rash from family members about one of my most popular posts, Send Your Kids to Trucking School, which basically was a discussion of the opportunity cost of going to college instead of going to work.

My grown-up daughter writes:

This is a quality of life issue for me. The truckers I met in El Paso (at soccer games) were away from their families a week at a time. There are no good books for sale at truck stops, nor can one find a decent salad on the road. Keep your 50 grand and gas station showers, I'll treasure my MFA and continue to ask, "Would you like mustard on that Sir?"

Grumpy confuses me...

This is an odd position to take for one so learned. Are you going to suggest that your daughters go for the bucks instead of college education? Should they do without canonical works of art, literature, and philosophy? What about basic science? I suppose it is possible to learn this stuff on your own, but then you would miss the brown rice stir fry at the vegetarian dorm and the kickin' keggers, dude.

(Elder Daughter dropped out of high school at 16 after getting a G.E.D., and worked as a fry cook for awhile before going to community college and then Berkeley. She knew about something besides school, knew she could support herself, and thus was in a different placed than most college kids.)

She goes on:

In defense of art history majors...

Did you know that art history majors do very well on the LSAT? They know how to observe closely, write, research, and construct a convincing argument.

Part of my reply went this way:

[A younger daughter]has written that she wants to go to Yale, Harvard or Princeton. If she wants to learn what they have to teach, God bless her, but the economics don't necessarily work out. The university system is bloated and full of cant (as opposed of course, to our justice system, where everyone is pithy and efficient).

I remember my Biology and American History classes from Andover (although the best thing about biology was the musty conservatory with the lizards and such). I remember the great books teacher (a professor of Russian lit) who was all gnarled and twisted and said that life was misery and pain. I learned French in college and can actually read it, and speak it (sort of). I remember my English teacher, Dudley Fitts, tell a story about Saul Bellow asking a Yale graduate seminar, filled with graduate students steeped in the New Criticism, about Odysseus, "Doesn't anybody feel sorry for the poor bastard?" I don't actually remember much else from course work.

College time is better spent in the stacks or the studio. As with middle school and television, don't believe most of what they tell you, don't do crystal meth, get some fresh air and exercise, and you'll be fine.

My sister weighed in:

Who cares about the economics (except the parents)? If you are inspired by professors, classmates, dormitory rap sessions (probably called something else these days since rap has a whole new meaning), a private college may be worth the expense even if the net present value calculations never work out.

I once estimated that my years in business school didn't pay off for about 12 years. But I never had to flip burgers either.

(We won't talk about her suicidal friends from college days.)

Some thoughts, off the cuff:

Admittedly, I am a child of my culture and my milieu, and the "Trucking School" piece was partly (but only partly) tongue-in-cheek.

It's clear that Elder Daughter and Sister have a more positive view of what goes on in colleges nowadays than I do, and what the payoff (pecuniary or intellectual) is. I think in many universities, there's an homogeneity in support of ideological balderdash, a kowtowing to ethnic politics; a decline of emphasis on the canon, a lack of moral standards and control for kids who are often too young to be left unparented in co-ed dorms, and most of all, a disconnect from the realities of the outside world. All of these can be problems. Some professors, maybe most, have been in school their whole lives.

That's not to say you shouldn't go there (especially if you've spent some time outside of school) if you want to learn something they alone teach, like Ethiopic, topology, or the Greek anthology. Or if you make a conscious decision to go to say, Yale, to make connections. Or if you must, because you aspire to a profession that requires a bachelor's degree.

It's still a mug's game in many ways, and the economic benefits are, to a degree, illusory. (As Sister's comment confirms, although the issues about professional schools are not the same, otherwise.)

From Eurocities to Flyoverland

Czeslaw Milosz, the late Polish poet, years ago wrote on the concept of "internal emigrants," who continued to live under communism, but inwardly rejected the official view of politics and life.

Steven Greenhut, a libertarian columnist in the Orange County Register, now suggests that many Americans are fleeing the "blue" cities for the "red" hinterland and far suburbs, because Flyover America is freer and has sounder values than Bicoastal America:

The epitome of the European-modeled sclerotic older cities is the philosophy of Smart Growth, which seeks to recreate urban, mass-transit-dependent living as the dominant lifestyle. This quasi-totalitarian worldview is conceived and promoted from places like Portland and San Francisco, where a trendy environmental cabal is running roughshod over private property by implementing no-growth zones and restrictions worthy of any police state.

Smart Growthers despise the sort of "sprawl" one finds in Phoenix, but I think their hatred is for the people themselves - those who leave the "we know best" world of university towns and coastal cities to build families, start businesses and create a life of their own making, despite the snarls of the urban sophisticates.

Kotkin points to a loathsome article from a Seattle weekly that lampooned the red-state world of George Bush voters, a place of "xenophobia, sexism, racism and homophobia," where "people are fatter and dumber and slower." After the election, I recall one Los Angeles- based reader seriously promoting secession, so that the smart, hip Euro-America could disassociate itself from the fools inland.

It would be OK by me, but only after I cross the state's eastern border before the wall goes up.

Fortunately, many Americans would still rather live relatively free on inhospitable turf than live pampered, tightly regulated existences in near-Paradise. This is a resounding sentiment within the human soul, and it in part explains the Mormon trail, the modern state of Israel, the early American settlers and modern immigration from Mexico.

I'll always side with those who put their comfort and even their lives on the line to achieve a better life for themselves and their kids than with those spoiled NIMBYs (Not In My Back Yarders) who already have theirs and spend their time stopping others from fulfilling their dreams through restrictive zoning, high taxes and crushing regulations.

There are some other, albeit related, reasons for the exodus, some speakable and others taboo: house prices, personal safety, and decent schooling, which in turn is rationally (if not publicly acknowledged to be) related to the class and ethnic composition of many inner cities -- a fact which is known to the many middle-class minority people who are also exiting the cities.

Notwithstanding these other factors, Greenhut is onto something. There are many people who don't want to live in a nanny state. There are many others who can't afford the high housing prices (especially for families) that go with restrictive zoning and high taxes, the latter partly a function of social programs dedicated to a captive and dependent underclass.

Another issue deserves mention. Many cities today do not encourage childbearing. From the clustering of gays, young singles and businesses that cater to them, to high housing prices, to violent, nonfunctional public schools, cities have become literally sterile. The failure of the West to reproduce its population is a critical issue that we are only beginning to understand. If flyoverland and the far suburbs are becoming the place where breeders migrate, they, and not the Eurified cities of the coasts, are the future of America. For this, perhaps, we can be grateful.

Trained Ignorance for Future Voting Cattle

Jill Stewart, a fine reporter on California politics, offers this piece (free subscription) on bilingual education.

The gist is that by now there is very clear evidence that English immersion is more effective in getting Spanish-speaking pupils up to snuff in English than bilingual education. Since California voters passed Ron Unz's Proposition 227, which mandated English immersion in most cases, English scores have gone up. They've gone up less in districts where doctrinaire pro-bilingual administrations have foot-dragged on the change.

These facts, however, have not impressed the Latino Democrats in the Legislature and certain doctrinaire educrats.

Stewart quotes this question by an educator:

Ronni Ephraim, the gifted chief instructional officer at L.A. Unified, says Latino parents "recognize that at school their child should acquire a strong base of English, and at home they can support them in maintaining their home language. Parents want their children to be competitive."

So why is the Legislature still pursuing a separate curriculum and lower standards for Latinos, and inviting in one of the worst Pied Pipers of the bilingual fiasco?

"I don't understand Sacramento," Ephraim told me. "Why would anyone want to hold a kid back?"

The answer, I think, is pretty clear, and it's shameful and problematic. The left don't want the masses of Mexican immigrants to be self-reliant, upwardly mobile, or Americanized. These folks get married, buy houses, have kids and move to the far suburbs, where they tend to vote Republican. The left and Latino Democrats want ethnically isolated, dependent voters, who will vote Democratic because they rely on government handouts and programs, can be conditioned to blame their plight on racism and oppression, and are more likely to vote for Latino Democrats.

The outlook of many African-American Democrats, I'm afraid, is not much different for their own constituents.

Unz was right. The professional Latinos were wrong. The Latino left doesn't care.

A disgrace, of course. In terms of the effects on kids, a crime.

February 19, 2005

Derb on the Diversity Industry

John Derbyshire, science writer and blogger extraordinaire, has this take on the Summers controversy:

I think it's worse that you say, and Larry Summers is in deep doo-doo. He pretty much laid out the entire case against the "diversity" racket. He even included the most telling argument of all, the one that says: "Look, if, as you claim, there is this pool of super-talented people who are being passed over because of 'discrimination,' then why doesn't some academic entrepreneur sweep them all up and create a super-department out of them?" These things must not be said. Once you open these doors, there is no telling where thought will lead you. The diversity business is huge -- just look at its glossy magazine, DIVERSITY INC. It will not be mocked. Summers is toast.

Cynical, but it's true there are material as well as ideological stakes here.


Belmont Club says:
"The Left will wake up one day, on the morning it is led down a dark corridor to a cell floored with rubber mats, sloping curiously down to a corner where a single drain waits to carry fluid away. The walls will be bare but for a banner with the words 'Allah is Great' opposite a video camera whose tripod legs are protected with a drop cloth. On a table will be a single knife. And then they will know. Then they will see."

And it will be too late.

Pinker on the Summers Flap

This piece by Steve Pinker contains interesting comments on the merits of Summers's now-famous talk, and closes with a comment on the fminist reaction:
"To believe something with a perfect faith, to be incapable of apostasy, is a sign of fidelity to the group and loyalty to the cause. Unfortunately, the psychology of taboo is incompatible with the ideal of scholarship, which is that any idea is worth thinking about, if only to determine whether it is wrong.

At some point in the history of the modern women's movement, the belief that men and women are psychologically indistinguishable became sacred. The reasons are understandable: Women really had been held back by bogus claims of essential differences. Now anyone who so much as raises the question of innate sex differences is seen as 'not getting it' when it comes to equality between the sexes. The tragedy is that this mentality of taboo needlessly puts a laudable cause on a collision course with the findings of science and the spirit of free inquiry."

Free inquiry. What a concept!

And if we're going to have an orthodoxy, can't we have a more interesting one than feminism?

Flosse KOed In Polynesia

Tahitipresse reports that the motion of censure of longtime head honcho Gaston Flosse has passed with 30 votes, there is dissension in Flosse's party, Tahoeraa huiraatira, and Oscar Temaru, independence leader, is to form the new government and is considering revising the Organic Law.

Asked why he shook Flosse's hand, Temaru said, "It like a sporting event. I knocked him out once. I knocked him out a second time. He's on the ground. I shook his hand."


The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.
Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.
What profit hath a man of all his labor which he taketh under the sun?
One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever.
The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose.
The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits.
All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full: unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again.
All things are full of labor; man cannot utter it: the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.
The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.
Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us.
There is no remembrance of former things; neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come with those that shall come after.

-- Ecclesiastes (Kohelet), Chapter 1


Think, in this batter'd Caravanserai
Whose Portals are alternate Night and Day,
How Sultan after Sultan with his Pomp
Abode his destined Hour, and went his way.

They say the Lion and the Lizard keep
The courts where Jamshyd gloried and drank deep:
And Bahram, that great Hunter—the Wild Ass
Stamps o'er his Head, but cannot break his Sleep.

From Fitzgerald's rendering of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (also a great mathematician).

Very Buddhist

This poem:

O Sensei (common term of address for Ueshiba among aikidoka) said:
Do not fail
To learn from
The pure voice of an
Ever-flowing mountain stream
Splashing over the rocks.

From Joe Katzman.

Harvard: Dumb, Dumber, and Chicken

The New York Times has done a story and linked to the transcript of Harvard President Lawrence Summers's now much-discussed remarks at a meeting on how to get more women into science.

These are the same remarks over which Summers has dressed himself in sackcloth and ashes, sitting in the dust on the ground outside the city gates, while the howling mob of Harvard faculty, bones through their Bolshevik noses, scream for his head. Forgive the hyperbole, but that's really how it is.

What did Summer say, exactly? Trying, as he said, to be informal and give something more than the institutional line, this university president asked some questions. Not took positions, but asked questions. He outlines his intentions:

The other prefatory comment that I would make is that I am going to, until most of the way through, attempt to adopt an entirely positive, rather than normative approach, and just try to think about and offer some hypotheses as to why we observe what we observe without seeing this through the kind of judgmental tendency that inevitably is connected with all our common goals of equality. It is after all not the case that the role of women in science is the only example of a group that is significantly underrepresented in an important activity and whose underrepresentation contributes to a shortage of role models for others who are considering being in that group. To take a set of diverse examples, the data will, I am confident, reveal that Catholics are substantially underrepresented in investment banking, which is an enormously high-paying profession in our society; that white men are very substantially underrepresented in the National Basketball Association; and that Jews are very substantially underrepresented in farming and in agriculture. These are all phenomena in which one observes underrepresentation, and I think it's important to try to think systematically and clinically about the reasons for underrepresentation.

I suppose this is subversive to the prevailing "diversity" ideology because it suggests that uneven distribution of social groups in particular occupations is normal, and might not even be a problem. Should New York City adopt a policy to reduce the number of Greeks in the florist business to their proportion in the population? The number of Koreans in the vegetable business? Or Gujaratis with newsstands?

That's an aside. Back to Summers. He outlines three hypotheses as to why women are underrepresented in tenure positions in the hard sciences:

There are three broad hypotheses about the sources of the very substantial disparities that this conference's papers document and have been documented before with respect to the presence of women in high-end scientific professions. One is what I would call the-I'll explain each of these in a few moments and comment on how important I think they are-the first is what I call the high-powered job hypothesis. The second is what I would call different availability of aptitude at the high end, and the third is what I would call different socialization and patterns of discrimination in a search. And in my own view, their importance probably ranks in exactly the order that I just described.

Note that word: "hypotheses." He's not even saying these are his conclusions. They're just ideas for discussion and testing.

The first idea is that fewer women than men want to work 80 hours a week on their careers, especially if they (gasp!) marry and have children. He offers some anecdotal evidence to support this speculation.

Then he goes on to what really set the hounds to baying. He suggests that the bell curve of abilities in science and math may be higher in the middle and lower at the extremes for women, compared to men. In short, he asks, are there more men truly gifted in these fields than women, and more men who are really dumb in these areas? Remember, he's trying to explain the paucity of women in the very upper reaches of the hard sciences, not high school grades or the gender distribution of lab technicians.

And he goes on to suggest that not every difference between males and females is necessarily the result of socialization. He talks both about various studies and about his own experiences as a father. The suggestion that there are more innate differences between male and female than feminists would like to think is probably what got Summers in deep skatá:

There are two other hypotheses that are all over. One is socialization. Somehow little girls are all socialized towards nursing and little boys are socialized towards building bridges. No doubt there is some truth in that. I would be hesitant about assigning too much weight to that hypothesis for two reasons. First, most of what we've learned from empirical psychology in the last fifteen years has been that people naturally attribute things to socialization that are in fact not attributable to socialization. We've been astounded by the results of separated twins studies. The confident assertions that autism was a reflection of parental characteristics that were absolutely supported and that people knew from years of observational evidence have now been proven to be wrong. And so, the human mind has a tendency to grab to the socialization hypothesis when you can see it, and it often turns out not to be true. The second empirical problem is that girls are persisting longer and longer. When there were no girls majoring in chemistry, when there were no girls majoring in biology, it was much easier to blame parental socialization. Then, as we are increasingly finding today, the problem is what's happening when people are twenty, or when people are twenty-five, in terms of their patterns, with which they drop out.

Maybe right, maybe wrong, but as a topic for discussion and investigation, in a university, aren't the baying hounds a bit hypersensitive?

Summers then goes on to wonder that if many institutions start engaging in deliberate efforts to hire more women in these fields, there is a question whether quality will suffer, giving ammunition to right-wing critics, and secondly, he questions whether women taking time off to raise children affects their ability to keep current with their fields.

Is short, he's talking as someone who would like to bring more women onto hard science faculties, and suggests what might be some obstacles to doing so. Am I missing something, or was this really not a bigoted and heretical speech?

There's a question-and-answer period, with some quite critical but polite questions, and Summers acknowledges that he might be wrong, and there are other factors he hadn't considered, and so on.

Summers said nothing that should have led Nancy Hopkins to walk out afraid she might be sick, as opposed to just saying, "Summers, you've got it wrong, and here's why"?

He had nothing to apologize for. Nothing at all.

Summers could have stood up and said, "This is a university. I put some ideas forward as possibilities, things to discuss and study. Criticize me all you want, mock me, even. But this is a university. Discuss and study issues is what we do. So no, I won't apologize. And you shouldn't ask me to." The apology was a betrayal of the idea of free inquiry in the face of a backlash by the doctrinaire diversity peddlers. Either cowardly or stupid, or both.

Of course, it gets much, much worse.

Two examples will have to suffice. First, the faculty as an organized group took umbrage, and organized a meeting to attack Summers that seems reminiscent of the Chinese cultural revolution:

We turn to Tuesday's Faculty meeting in its place. Slighting norms of civility, certain opportunistic members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences have decided to rile the mob and convene the kangaroo court to put Summers--already downtrodden from his unjust beating by the media over the past month--on the hot seat.

That's an article in the Harvard Crimson. These students go on, and I'm going to quote them at length, because there some inside baseball here that most media haven't covered:

If the Faculty wants to challenge Summers on his leadership style, they unquestionably have the right to do so. But to kick him while he's down and use the public vulnerability the incident created to help themselves out is, to be honest, deplorable.

The Faculty meeting was not an impromptu eruption of tensions, but a planned show trial. Rumors and anonymous comments about possible motions to dismiss Summers from the meeting do not spread on their own, and New York Times reporters do not show up at University Hall because they want to see John Harvard. The media should not be a tool to further an agenda on university governance.

Still more disturbing are the sensationalist calls for a vote of no confidence and resignation. Given Summers' apparent support from the Harvard Corporation, he clearly isn't going anywhere. Surely a collection of the most brilliant academics in the world should be able to avoid the temptation to flaunt their credentials in a petty power-trip. Surely they realize that the best course of action for the overall well-being of the University is measured cooperation.

But any loyalty to a higher cause seems to have been lost in a rumble of power dynamics and showmanship. We can't shake the depressing suspicion that the Faculty knows better, but seems keen on leveraging the threat of "no confidence" when they sit down at the bargaining table.

If the solution to addressing grievances is waiting for a national media frenzy to break Summers down before the Faculty is willing to speak, productive discussions will be few and far between.

With job security rivaling that of Supreme Court Justices, tenured professors should have had ample opportunity for considerate criticism of University administration without turning the Faculty Room into Harvard Stadium.

If the goal is to debate increasing their involvement in the decision-making processes of this university in a reasonable manner, the Faculty shouldn't limit itself to the extremes--resignation or revolution--it can't reduce the esteemed University Hall attendees to an intellectual lynch mob, and it certainly shouldn't seek out spectacle by advertising its intentions well in advance. Tuesday was not an emotional reaction; it was well-executed plan, and as such it is inexcusable.

Nasty stuff. And if you go back to the Times piece, up pipes the martyred Cornel West, who left Harvard in a huff when Summers suggested he might do some scholarly work for a change, only to land at that proletarian campus, Princeton. Here's the West bit:

On Thursday, after the transcript was issued, Dr. West volunteered his reaction to the latest imbroglio.

"I've been praying for the brother, hoping he would change," Dr. West said in an interview. "It's clear he hasn't changed, I feel bad for Harvard as an institution and as a great tradition. It was good to see the faculty wake up. The chickens have come home to roost."

This remark, of course, was a deliberate evocation of Malcolm X's remark after the Kennedy assassination, that earned him much notoriety and many denunciations.

A Harvard faculty member, Howard Georgi, is quoted as saying basically that Summers was a heretic, that his suggestions that golly, there might just be some innate differences was not just mistaken, but pathological:

"What bothers me is the consistent assumption that innate differences rather than socialization is responsible for some of the issues he talks about," said Howard Georgi, a physics professor who has been part of a successful effort in Harvard's physics department to recruit more women for tenured positions.

"It's crazy to think that it's an innate difference," Professor Georgi added. "It's socialization. We've trained young women to be average. We've trained young men to be adventurous."

Maybe Georgi's right and Summers's mere hypothesis was wrong. But "crazy"? Crazy is a world supposedly dedicated to open discussion and thought that even the mention of a possibility or a suggestion for research is deemed heretical and triggers hysteria and a pile-on.

Why in the world would any parent--other than to have their child make connections and gain a credential for purely mercenary purposes--pay tens of thousands of dollars to send a son or a daughter to be indoctrinated by these bigots and fools, not to mention all the other things that make our colleges notorious?

We need to fisk these institutions relentlessly. The mighty have fallen, but neither they nor the public realize it yet.

February 17, 2005

Turnabout at WSJ

This piece by Peggy Noonan is an appreciative assessment of the blogs:
When you hear name-calling like what we've been hearing from the elite media this week, you know someone must be doing something right. The hysterical edge makes you wonder if writers for newspapers and magazines and professors in J-schools don't have a serious case of freedom envy.

The bloggers have that freedom. They have the still pent-up energy of a liberated citizenry, too. The MSM doesn't. It has lost its old monopoly on information. It is angry.

But MSM criticism of the blogosphere misses the point, or rather points.

Blogging changes how business is done in American journalism. The MSM isn't over. It just can no longer pose as if it is The Guardian of Established Truth. The MSM is just another player now. A big one, but a player.

Compare and contrast to Monday's lame editorial Monday's editorial, which uncharacteristically and unfairly trashed the blogs' rôle, in a strange and weak defense of Eason Jordan:

But it does not speak well of CNN that it apparently allowed itself to be stampeded by this Internet and talk-show crew. Of course the network must be responsive to its audience and ratings. But it has other obligations, too, chief among them to show the good judgment and sense of proportion that distinguishes professional journalism from the enthusiasms and vendettas of amateurs.

No doubt this point of view will get us described as part of the "mainstream media." But we'll take that as a compliment since we've long believed that these columns do in fact represent the American mainstream.

In that same editorial the WSJ claims credit for " the first account by any news organization of what has come to be known as Easongate," in an email, not in print. Others have sliced and diced the Monday editorial. Enough to say here that Peggy's appreciation is thoughtful and lucid, and does the WSJ credit.

Possible Breakthrough for Temaru in Polynesia

News reports suggest that Oscar Temaru, leader of the pro-independence (but not right away) coalition may cobble together enough votes to secure a majority sufficient to depose Chirac crony Gaston Flosse.

Flosse had deprived Temaru of a surprise electoral victory last year, by maneuvering a vote switch in the Assembly. The French bureaucracy ordered a revote in the central part of the archipelago.

Temaru's group won a plurality and a resultant bonus number of deputies. Now, deputy Patricia Jennings has offered her support to Temaru, and two other swing votes appear ready to support Flosse's removal.

We shall see. France and Flosse pull a lot of strings, and Flosse is wily and tenacious.

More discussion in this excellent blog.

February 15, 2005

Political Correctness Chases its Own Tail

Chris Rock's remarks about the Oscars, to the effect that only gays watch them, they're a fashion show, and so on, create a dilemma.

Will the obeisance to what this year are called "African-Americans" outweigh the obeisance to everything homosexual? Or vice-versa? Or will the obeisance to money win out?

Chris Rock is a potty mouth, and he's up front about stuff white comics can't be (remember the 15 minutes of Andrew Dice Clay?), but he's funny as hell.

Could be he's just hyping the show, the way Cardinal Spellman would hype a movie now and then by denouncing it as immoral. People will tune in just to hear what kind of trash Rock will talk. And he did preface the whole thing by saying he had nothing against gays -- it's just that they worry about fashion and award shows, and straight guys don't. It's not prejudice, just an observation.

Well, I'm straight and I like show tunes. I'm white and hip-hop and rap bore me. Just the facts, ma'am.

A Math Curriculum That Doesn't Add Up

Fox got hold of the story about the Newton, Mass. public schools making anti-racism the first priority in math teaching, and learning the subject second. Since it's a suburb where the SATs were pretty much the Holy Grail, the metastasizing political correctness is pretty astonishing:

The "anti-racist education" program in place at Newton Public Schools in Newton, Mass., a wealthy, liberal niche of the Bay State, has angered some parents who believe the school district is more concerned about political correctness than teaching math skills.

According to benchmarks for middle school education, the top objective for the district's math teachers is to teach "respect for human differences." The objective is for students to "live out the system-wide core value of 'respect for human differences' by demonstrating anti-racist/anti-bias behaviors."

Priority No. 2 is where the basics come in, which is "problem solving and representation" students will build new mathematical knowledge as they use a variety of techniques to investigate and represent solutions to problems."

The tendency of state legislatures and the educrats to put some political goal or other ahead of learning, whether it's a sterile nod to religion ("under God"), saying no to drugs, or anti-racism, is not new. What's new is putting the political agenda first, and adopting a political agenda that doesn't come from the voters, but from the netherworld of some third-rate campus.

Moreover this anti-racism isn't of the "created equal" or "color-blind government" variety, but a much more virulent strain that is hostile to the European, Christian tradition. Not merely realistic about its imperfections, but actively hostile to it and all its works.

Equally appalling is the assault on the English language that this curriculum blather represents. This is just fetid ooze, setting aside its content. To paraphrase the lyric, "They ought to be taken out and hung/For the cold-blooded murder of the English tongue."

Who will lead the swarm against the follies of the universities and educrats, on the model of the blogosphere's corrective to the follies of Old Media?

Send your kids to trucking school.

February 14, 2005

Great Minds

Others have partaken of the same wisdom as I, about the bugaboo of McCarthyism.

HT: Whatstherumpus.

Partial Revote Leads to Polynesian Impasse

Tahitipresse reports that the partial revote Sunday has not led to an obvious resolution of the political crisis that arose between the Ferdinand Marcos of Chiraqistani Polynesia, Gaston Flosse, and the coalition of Oscar Temaru, who favors eventual independence. It appears that the Temaru group doesn't have the votes to throw Flosse out, and Flosse doesn't have enough votes to pass anything.

There are apparently a few centrists whose positions are still up for grabs.

And all we need are a couple of gunboats to toss the weasels out.

February 13, 2005

A Revealing Juxtaposition

Hillary Clinton calls the UN "indispensable":

New York Democrat Senator Hillary Clinton told the conference that "the United Nations is an indispensable organisation to all of us, despite its flaws and inefficiencies."

Meanwhile, in Africa, the indispensable is doing the unconscionable, as LGF reports, quoting from the LA Times:

A scandal about the sexual abuse of Congolese women and children by U.N. officials and peacekeepers intensified Friday with the broadcast of explicit pictures of a French U.N. worker and Congolese girls and his claim that there was a network of pedophiles at the U.N. mission in Congo.

ABC News’ “20/20” program showed pictures taken from the computer of a French U.N. transport worker. The hard drive reportedly contained thousands of photos of him with hundreds of girls. In one frame, a tear can be seen rolling down the cheek of a victim.

And further:

Bourguet’s case is the only one that has been prosecuted among 150 allegations against about 50 soldiers and U.N. civilian officials who have served in the Congo peacekeeping mission.

Should they have made Jeffrey Dahmer head of the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization? Or am I being just too snarky?

I Love Saying "I Told You So"

My recent post on the "witch hunt" and "McCarthyism" canards, and the real history behind these clichés, has been vindicated all too soon, and linked with the big kahuna of this month's blogosphere activity, the Eason Jordan foofaraw.

One Bertrand Pecquerie (yes, that's the name) waxes indignant over the hue and cry after Jordan:

Nevertheless, there is one advantage in this story: masks are fallen! Within the honest community of bloggers, some of them claimed to be the "sons of the First Amendment", they just were the sons of Senator McCarthy. And this is very worrying to see this new wedding between self-proclaimed citizen's media and maintstream [sic]journalists scalps' hunters. Fifty years ago, it was enough to be communist to be fired, today, it is enough to raise questions about the Bush administration policy in Iraq to be denounced as "anti-American". Maybe the only difference is that you are not fired, but that you must dismiss! What's my conclusion? Real promoters of citizen media would have to take some distance with those who have fueled and organised the Eason Jordan hatred. If not, the "new era of journalism" opened by the blogosphere will appear as the old clothes of American populism.

What balderdash! All kinds of people criticize Bush's policy in Iraq, and evoke no more than sneers and disagreement. What Jordan did, if the accounts are correct, is not criticize Bush, but accuse our forces of war crimes without evidence, only to back off (a bit) when challenged. Worse are the identity of the accuser and the setting: Eason Jordan was a top journalist with a major network, hobnobbing with a gaqgle of international big shots.

Pressing the McCarthy button here was gratuitous and a false analogy.

Pecquerie also ignores the fact that much of the blogging was about typical reporter's questions: what did he really say, who heard him say it, and where's the videotape. Just the facts, ma'am. Not a witch hunt, a fact hunt.

HT: Powerline, as usual.

Compare and Contrast

The Seattle Times has this version of Howard Kurtz's account another possible factor in the Eason Jordan resignation:

Several CNN staffers say Jordan, who was distraught about the controversy, saw the handwriting on the wall in tendering his resignation. But top executives are also said to have lost patience with the continuing gossip about Jordan, including his affair with Marianne Pearl, widow of the murdered reporter Daniel Pearl, and subsequent marital breakup.

The version of the same paragraph put up by the WaPo goes like this:

Several CNN staffers say Jordan was eased out by top executives who had lost patience with both the controversy and the continuing published gossip about Jordan's personal life after a marital breakup. Jordan's authority already had been greatly reduced after a management shakeup.

Did the libel lawyers get involved? Some friend of Ms. Pearl, sympathetic because of the murder of her late husband? Or is the whole rumor a bit of a red herring, and some editor decided to soft-pedal the story? Whatever happened, it happened after the story first came out. After A rang up B? So many questions, so little time.

HT: Mickey Kaus.

Captain's Quarters rips Jordan because his charges seem to trivialize Daniel Pearl's murder.

This story is becoming a caricature of itself.

Too Soon To Gloat About Howard Dean

Here's Howard Dean's acceptance speech as chair of the Democratic National Committee.

The Dems have enormous problems, but righties who gloat, thinking the Dems have chosen an extremist maniac, are gloating too soon. The guy's bright, articulate, and although combative and occasionally careless with his words, the other side of that is he's interesting.

Dean's not going to solve the ultimate conundrums facing the Dems, but I'll bet he's not the disaster some think and hope he will be.

Stay tuned.

HT: Armed Liberal at Winds of Change.

University Presidents and Verboten Research

Three university presidents have issued a statement about the Larry Summers foofaraw:

Speculation that “innate differences” may be a significant cause of under-representation by women in science and engineering may rejuvenate old myths and reinforce negative stereotypes and biases.

The rest of the piece is about how we need women in science, Marie Curie proved women can do science, yadda yadda. Significantly, the piece contradicts itself on the "innateness" issue with the following:

For example, recent research shows that different teaching methods can lead to comparable performance for males and females in high school mathematics.

Now I suppose nimble casuistry could lead to the argument that they're not talking about any innate differences here, but purely environmental reasons why different teaching methods are effective, so they're not indulging in the verboten speculation about innate differences. But that's a strained interpretation.

Suppose one is a stone feminist and wants to educate more woman mathematicians and physicists. Wouldn't it help to know if there are innate differences -- even just statistical differences -- between women and men's cognitive styles?

Sorry, this research is forbidden because it might reinforce stereotypes.

Our whole university system is smelling more and more like the Augean stables.

HT: Bitch, Ph.D.

Guess Whose Birthday It Is

Pharyngula reports that Feb. 12 is Charles Darwin's birthday.

Talk among yourselves

February 12, 2005

On The Death of Arthur Miller: Against Anti-Anti-Communism

Arthur Miller, American playwright, died last night at 89. Having seen a magnificent production of his play The Crucible at Laguna Beach High School a few years back, and read Death of a Salesman years ago, I can attest to his skills as a playwright.

Miller was famous, of course, not only for his plays but for his marriage to movie star Marilyn Monroe.

NPR, in covering Miller's death, voiced the familiar theme that The Crucible was an attack by indirection on "McCarthyism," and simply assumed that McCarthyism was a dark stain upon American history, and those who resisted the investigations of American Communism in the later '40s and '50s were heroes, while the investigators were bumpkin Inquisitors. The era gave rise to such titles as Anti-Intellectualism in American Life, by Richard Hofstadter, and periodically public TV, Sundance, and the like treat us to sympathetic evocations of the likes of Paul Robeson, the Hollywood Ten, and Owen Lattimore.

(For the younger set, Robeson was a black actor and singer who was also a devoted adherent of the Communist Party ("CP"). The Hollywood Ten were movie folk, mostly writers, who refused to name their communist and pro-communist associates, and suffered for it, among other things, found themselves unable to find work under their own names. Lattimore was a scholar of Central Asia who was accused of Communist sympathies.)

What Was the American Communist Party?

The unspoken assumption of the center-left Conventional Wisdom is that while communism today is discredited and quaintly obsolete, folks who joined or collaborated with the American Communist Party were just socially conscious people, only more so. The party itself, although seen as a bit boring, was a league of good-hearted people who were looking for a way out of the depression, opposed racial discrimination, and wanted to to fight fascism before it was fashionable (so-called "premature anti-fascists").

A look at the history of the CP itself shows this to be a false picture. The party was a centrally-controlled, partly Soviet-financed organization that rigidly followed the dictates of Stalin's Russia, supported Stalin's every move, and recruited members to act as Soviet agents in the United States.

Moreover, by 1948, when the Soviet takeover of Central Europe was largely complete, and the Cold War (which was sometimes hot) began in earnest, affiliation, past or present, of an individual with the CP gave reason for concern about that individual's loyalty to this country. It was in this period that one wing of liberalism undertook to purge its unions and organizations of communists, because they recognized who and what Stalin was.

Membership in the CP, moreover, raised moral questions. The CP uncritically supported Stalin. Stalin, mouthing revolutionary rhetoric, from the '20s on, murdered millions, deliberately starving the peasants of the Ukraine, for example, and deporting millions to the Gulags or forced-labor camps, most of whom never returned. Stalin staged show-trials of his former associates, most of whom were subsequently executed. Although such mouthpieces as Walter Duranty of the New York Times tried to disguise the carnage, it was not unknown.

Nor was there any secret about the shift of the CP from a strong anti-fascist line to a pro-peace line when the Soviet Union signed a pact with Germany to invade Poland, back to a pro-war line when Hitler attacked Russia.

Support of the CP, then, was an example of either terminal and possibly deliberate ignorance, or colossal moral blindness.

Why Aren't Communists Pariahs Like Nazis?

One of the mysteries of our time is why, when any hint of sympathy with Hitler or Mussolini generates cries of outrage, and when it involves intellectuals such as Paul de Man, long articles in the New York Review of Books, an affiliation with communism is treated by intellectual and liberal circles as, at worst, an eccentricity.

It is clear from what we know now that the anticommunists of the '40s and '50s were right on the essential points:

  • The CP was entirely under the control of the Soviet Union.

  • The Soviet régime was a danger to its neighbors and the world, including the United States.

  • Soviet agents, some affiliated with the communist party, were present throughout the Roosevelt administration, carrying over into Truman's, as well is in many corners of American life, especially the intellectual world, leftist movements of various kinds, and the labor unions in particular.

  • Membership in the CP by anyone who was not brain-dead, for any length of time, was morally reprehensible,

The Roosevelt Administration recognized none of this. As the Cold War began and a section of American liberalism realized the dangers of communism, that movement split, and battles raged for control of groups such as the CIO, the grouping of industrial labor unions.

Various individuals and groups on the center-right also seized upon this issue, partly as a club to attack the Democrats, but also out of religious conviction (the CP was atheist in principle) and a genuine recognition that there was a serious unrecognized danger.

Investigating Communist Infiltration Was a Legitimate Enterprise

All of this is a preface to my conclusion that opposition to communism and concern about communist infiltration of American government and institutions were legitimate. The anti-communist position was right, and the anti-anti-communist position was wrong.

It doesn't follow that all the politicians who mounted the anti-communist bandwagon were paragons, or that abuses and unfairness did not occur. The purpose of this piece is not to dissect McCarthy's investigations, or the activities of his staffers, such as Roy Cohn and David Schine, but to argue that on the fundamental issue, the "McCarthyites" were right.

For example:

  • The Rosenbergs, who were executed for espionage, were in fact Communists and spies.

  • Alger Hiss, a high official who was active in the formation of the United Nations, was a communist spy.

  • Paul Robeson was a Stalinist, and deserves condemnation for it.

  • The Hollywood Ten were communists or ex-communists, whatever their cinematic talents, and as the much-greater domination of Hollywood today by leftist ideas shows, communist infiltration of Hollywood was a legitimate concern, and their conduct (refusing cooperation with investigations) was not heroic, but reprehensible.

So getting back to Arthur Miller and The Crucible, if he intended an analogy from the anti-communist investigations of the '40s and '50s to the 'witch hunts' of colonial Salem, Massachusetts, the analogy was false. It's still a good play, but if its lesson was intended to be specific to anti-communism in its time, the lesson was as false as the play was well-written. It was the Russian KGB and its Eastern European counterparts that were the true witch hunters.

February 11, 2005

A Mini-History of Easongate

Michelle Malkin, who got Sen. Dodd, David Gergen and Barney Frank (not a conservative wingnut among them) to report on what Eason Jordan said at Davos, well summarizes the history of Easongate coverage.

A couple of observations:
  • Jordan resigned even though the story was practically buried in the MSM. They neither stonewalled à la CBS nor pulled a Tylenol (tell the whole truth and if necessary, apologize). They just punted. Some MBA or mole could tell us what about the Kremlinology of CNN led to this.

  • The MSM monopoly is broken. If a significant portion of the blogosphere fixes on a story, and the story has merit, it will out, and the MSM can't control it. My impression is that the political spectrum of the blogosphere is quite wide, and its right is stronger than its left.

An interesting spectacle with a quick dénouement.

More kudos for Hugh Hewitt, who is now the Godfather of the conservative blogosphere. He can whack you.

Eason Jordan Quits

The Los Angeles Times reports that Eason Jordan has resigned from CNN.

One small step for CNN, a giant step for the blogosphere. Considering the virtual MSM blackout of the story, it's clear we do have an information reformation, as Hugh Hewitt has contended.

If he said what they say he said, added to his censorship to keep Saddam happy, he deserved to go. Presumably he said it, or they'd release the videotape.

February 8, 2005

Shanley Update

It's no surprise, but he was convicted.

He no doubt deserves what he gets, but I'm still a skeptic on recovered memory. Shanley's nefarious reputation no doubt will make what might otherwise be a good appeal issue not a likely winner. Massachusetts has a nasty history on child abuse convictions based on questionable evidence.

As they say, hard cases make bad law.

Duty -- to the Heart? Or What?

Kate Marie at What's the Rumpus? questions Disneyan orthodoxy in Mulan II. She questions whether one's duty is really to one's heart.

There are God, country, family, as well as one's own private heart, as she points out. My mother's ghost, sitting on my right shoulder, is nodding sagely, except for the God part.

HT: Instapundit


An Interesting Tory View

John Derbyshire wants to put the brakes on Wilsonian idealism in Iraq. Thinks it's time to get out.

I like Derb, and I share his skepticism about Wilsonianism. I think our withdrawal has to be slower, and give a reasonable chance of a decent outcome. But he's thoughtful and no ideologue. Worth a read, as always.

A Variant on Children's Allowances

David Brooks (free subscription) doesn't think private Social Security accounts will pass. (Dick Morris does.)

Brooks suggests that the government subsidize private accounts for the poor, on the analogy of the Homestead Act.

The French, long worried about their population decline, subsidize reproduction by providing small monthly payments to parents. Why not, instead, an annual payment, to be invested, for education or retirement? For a high-school graduate with poor parents, a few thousand dollars in an education account could make all the difference.

If you're going to redistribute wealth, do it. I'm not ready to sign on to this, but it's worth thinking about.

Of course, the more society invests, the greater the risk the rate of return will decline. And this won't sit well with small-government folks (like me, most of the time), or reactionary welfare-staters like Krugman, who says that the GOP wants to destroy Social Security by limiting it to the poor so it becomes politically possible to cut it -- and then (with no supporting evidence) says Medicare is next.

I'll leave Paul to the Krugman Truth Squad at National Review.

Jordan Story Hits MSM: Mickey Fisks Howie, But Good!

Power Line reports that Howie Kurtz of the WaPo has broken media silence on the Eason Jordan charges against U.S. forces. He did, here.

Can't go so far as to say "whitewash," but Howie does give Jordan the benefit of the doubt.

Even the weak version of Jordan's charges, though, are pretty serious, and he apparently can't, or won't, back them up.

If Jordan is serious and has evidence, let''s have an investigation. But if Jordan was lying or making unfounded charges, he should pay the price for his irresponsibility.

One lesson: media silence cannot be maintained in the face of determined pressure from the blogosphere. The monopoly really is broken to that extent. Good to know.

Update: But then Mickey Kaus, God bless him, brutally fisks Kurtz's piece.

Witness Protection: Kurtz has Barney Frank recalling Jordan--after he "modified" his shocking remarks--still saying shocking things at Davos about U.S. forces "maybe knowing they were killing journalists, out of anger." Kurtz then has Jordan denying this, admitting he "wasn't as clear as I should have been" but saying he "never once in my life thought anyone from the U.S. military tried to kill a journalist" and "[n]ever meant to suggest that." It's Frank vs. Jordan! Then Kurtz says portentously--opening a new paragraph-- "Two other panelists backed Jordan's account."

But one of those panelists, moderator David Gergen, doesn't agree with Jordan. Gergen says Jordan went "too far" and then "walked it back." (Jordan doesn't admit to backtracking, only lack of clarity.)

Kaus points out that there's a videotape of the whole thing, a big public meeting with many dignitaries (honchos) present, and the gnomes ain't sharing:

But forget the witnesses. There's a video of this event, initially promised to a blogger but now being kept under wraps by the Davos people. Downplayed eyewitness Abovitz says Jordan "is much better off if the tape (in classic "1984" style) just disappears." Kurtz merely notes in passing that "a videotape of the event has not been made public," but he doesn't put even routine journalistic pressure on the World Economic Forum to release it. If it were a tape of, say, Karl Rove making a remark about future Supreme Court justices, wouldn't a Woodsteinian WaPo reporter raise at least a cynical eyebrow or two about the need for secrecy--asking the Davos officials for an explanation of why they weren't releasing it, or asking Jordan if he'd give his permission to have the video made public? If you wanted to kill the controversy dead, though, you'd do what Kurtz did.

Kaus concludes that Kurtz's piece is a whitewash, and Kurtz has a conflict because CNN gave him a show. Kaus also allows there might be some truth buried in what Jordan said. If so, let it come out.

And release the videotape! With a tape, as Nixon learned, "plausible deniability" ain't an option.

February 7, 2005

Not a Cabal of Right-Wingers

Michelle Malkin has the story. She's been able to confirm that Sen. Chris Dodd, Rep. Barney Frank, and former Clinton aide David Gergen all heard Eason Jordan charge American troops with deliberately targeting journalists, in short, deliberately violating the laws of war.

By some accounts, Jordan backed off a smidgen, suggesting it was individual GIs, not the brass, who were responsible. It's still a stunning charge, and dynamite if plausible.

Given the lack of MSM coverage, the refusal to release the tape, and the deafening silence from CNN, we have to conclude the statement is scurrilous BS directed at our soldiers and marines.

Kudos to Dodd, Frank, and Gergen, none of them right-wing conspirators, but all apparently honest and honorable on what was said, and unwilling to join in military-bashing. And kudos to Michelle, who is following up on the facts.

Reporting. What a concept!