Thursday, May 22, 2014

Williamson Watch

I think my IQ goes up two points every time I read something written by Kevin Williamson. Here's a sampling of just some of his efforts produced over the past week or so.

-- How the selfie culture confronts terrorism.

Imagine, if you can, the abjectly juvenile state of mind necessary to contemplate the hundreds of Nigerian girls taken into slavery by a fanatical Muslim anti-education militia — whose characteristic activity beyond slave-taking is setting fire to children — and, in the face of all that horror, concluding: “You know what this situation really calls for? A cutesy picture of . . . me!”

...If your reading on public affairs has not progressed much past Internet memes, you have a responsibility to your country: Don’t vote. In fact, you probably should not even speak about those things. There is no shame in that; all of us are mostly ignorant about most things, as my poor father is reminded every time he tries to talk to me about sports. But please, if you actually care about the world and the human beings who inhabit it, stop — just stop — subordinating girls taken into slavery in Nigeria to the satisfaction of your ego. Go read a book. This is not about you.

-- Dismembering (rhetorically) an ignorant critic of libertarianism (Michael Lind) and then offering philosophical musings on that ideology and its prospective role in creating humane, efficient government. 

-- An essay wherein Williamson analyzes the VA scandal by invoking, (among other concepts and people), Ludwig von Mises, orreries, sub-atomic physics, the Uncertainty Principle, Pierre-Simon Laplace and Laplace's Demon, Stephen Hawking, Hieronymus Bosch, and (excerpted below), the butterfly effect.

Another feature of complex systems is that some of them are very sensitive to initial conditions, as expressed by the butterfly effect. It may be the case that things have gone as well as they have for us in the United States not because of any current policy or because of the unique genius and saintliness of our national leadership as currently constituted, but simply because the right people with the right prejudices did the right things for a relatively short period of time in the 18th century, and what we have now is very little more than the compounded returns on that cultural windfall. That seems to me a more likely explanation for our relatively happy and secure place in the world than that we were led to this point by the kind of thinking, and the kind of men, who brought us the VA hospitals and those dead veterans.

Comment from an impressed reader --

Man, you must be some kind of crazy genius. The range of things you write about never ceases to amaze.

-- Some remarks by Williamson on President Obama's reaction to the VA scandal.

As many have remarked here, Barack Obama has a strange habit of acting like somebody else has been president these past years. It’s really odd.
In his speech on the VA, the president said that he would not stand for things that he clearly and undeniably has stood for some years now, and swore that he would not tolerate that which he has been tolerating since 2009.
He’s been described as acting like a bystander to his own presidency, but it’s more like he’s a victim of it, as though the presidency were this terrible thing that just happened to him one day that he’s now courageously dealing with.

...So Barack Obama has sworn that he will not tolerate the incompetence of the Obama administration. I’d like to think that that means he is going to resign, but I don’t think that’s what he meant.

-- A look at "the clown of the senate" (guess who), the June 2 National Review cover story.

There are 53 Democrats in the Senate, plus two nominal independents who associate with them, and this clown caucus has chosen, since 2007, to place itself under the malignant leadership of Harry Reid, Washington’s answer to Frankenstein’s monster — stitched together out of the worst bits of Roger Chillingworth, Joe McCarthy, and Droopy — a teacup tyrant who has filled his own pockets to the tune of $10 million while decrying the allegedly baleful influence of the wealthy on politics, a man who has done violence to ethical standards left and right, using campaign funds for personal expenditures and trying to hide payments channeled to his granddaughter, who takes to the Senate floor to make patently false, malicious, and increasingly loopy claims about his political rivals, and who is leading a partisan assault on the Bill of Rights. If America needs a(nother) good reason to hand Democrats their heads come November, then they would do well to study the career of Harry Reid (D., Ritz-Carlton), the Sheriff of Nottingham to Barack Obama’s Prince John.

-- (Added 5/25/2014) Williamson responds to writer Ta-Nehisi Coates' call for reparations for African-Americans.

Mr. Coates engages in what certainly feels like a little misdirection. Responding to the very fair criticism that public policy designed to help the disadvantaged should distinguish between, say, the Obama daughters and those without their advantages, Mr. Coates is having none of it: “In the contest of upward mobility, Barack and Michelle Obama have won. But they’ve won by being twice as good—and enduring twice as much.” The truth or untruth of that claim can only be ascertained by asking the question that Mr. Coates is committed to ignoring: “Compared with whom?” Did Barack or Michelle Obama inherit disadvantages that forced them to perform twice as well, and bear twice as much, as a white woman born into horrific poverty in Appalachia? A white orphan? A white immigrant escaping the Third Reich? A racial disadvantage is only one of many kinds of disadvantages that can be inherited — why should it be the one around which we organize ourselves? Mr. Coates himself comes from a fairly modest background, but he, a man without an undergraduate degree, is a visiting scholar at MIT, one of the most exclusive academic institutions in the world, a position he enjoys as part of a program that excludes whites. (“The Program is open to individuals of any minority group, with an emphasis on the appointment of African Americans.”) There are, of course, many programs of that sort, and it is possible that poor whites resent them more than they should — the view from Owsley County, Ky, or from Lubbock, Texas, might make it difficult to see the so-called white supremacy that is so unmistakably obvious to Mr. Coates. But dealing with that reality inescapably entails treating people as individuals, and treating people as individuals makes reparations morally and intellectually impossible — even if we accept in toto Mr. Coates’s argument that the brutal imposition of white-supremacist policies is the entire basis for the relative social positions of blacks and whites in the United States in 2014. Which is to say: Even if we accept the facts of aggregate advantage and disadvantage with their roots in historical injustice, the aggregate cannot be converted into the collective inasmuch as neither advantage nor disadvantage is universal on either side nor linked to a straightforward chain of causality. Some blacks are born into college-educated, well-off households, and some whites are born to heroin-addicted single mothers, and even the totality of racial crimes throughout American history does not mean that one of these things matters and one does not.

... Mr. Coates is largely correct about the past and is to a degree correct about the present. About the future, he is catastrophically wrong. The political interests of African Americans, like those of other Americans, are best served by equality under the law. The economic interests of African Americans, like those of other Americans, are best served by a dynamic and growing economy, preferably one in which the labor force is liberated from the dysfunctional, antique Prussian model of education that contributes so much to black poverty. The people to whom reparations were owed are long dead; our duty is to the living, and to generations yet to come, and their interests are best served by liberty and prosperity, not by moral theater.

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