Friday, January 30, 2015

The End Of Poverty (and miscellany)

I am acquainted with a person who, based on his income, is solidly entrenched well below the "poverty line". Yet, he is well-fed, has access to "free" high quality health care, owns a large, flat screen color TV, owns a car of vastly better quality than top of the line models produced in the 70s and 80s, has ample heat in the winter and air conditioning in the summer, owns a smartphone with more computing power than a room sized corporate mainframe of a few decades ago and he lives in a private home that he leases - true, a mobile home - but a large and comfortable one, located in a relatively safe area. He dresses stylishly, (by his standards), and recently (and foolishly), he purchased $100 designer athletic shoes for his 4 year old daughter. Yet the government categorizes him as "poor". Class warriors would doubtless point to him as an oppressed and impoverished victim of the 1% rather than as a fortunate recipient of its prolific productivity and wealth creation.

In contrast, as I was growing up in New York City in the late 50s and early 60s, my family lived in an apartment, had one black and white TV, no car, no air conditioning, and as for a smartphone, Most of my father's income was spent on food, clothing, and rent. And it was spent. There was nothing left for saving or, ha, "investing". Yet, I always considered us to be middle class and by most metrics of the time we were.

One point that Kevin Williamson repeatedly makes is that there is no real poverty in America and the larger industrialized world today. Certainly not the type of poverty that has existed throughout most of human history and still persists in those societies that have rejected or haven't yet discovered free market capitalism. In the capitalist world there is no famine, no near-extinction-sized epidemics, no crushing poverty of the sort that consigned the world's population to live on $3 per person, per day for tens of thousands of years. (Global per capita income in 2013 was $13,000, an incredible sum. And that's following two centuries of explosive population growth).

Megan McCardle, in a column on the Bloomberg News website, celebrates the astonishing prosperity that we enjoy today.

Last week, in her State of The Union response, Joni Ernst mentioned going to school with bread bags on her feet to protect her shoes...the bread bags triggered a lot of hilarity on Twitter...


In 1901, the average "urban wage earner" spent about 46 percent of their household budget on food and another 15 percent on apparel -- that's 61 percent of their annual income just to feed and clothe the family. That does not include shelter, or fuel to heat your home and cook your food. By 1987, that same household spent less than 20 percent on food and a little over 5 percent of their budget on apparel. Since then, these numbers have fallen even further: Today, families with incomes of less than $5,000 a year still spend only 16 percent of the family budget on food and 3.5 percent on apparel. And that's not because we're eating less and wearing fewer clothes; in fact, it's the reverse. (My emphasis).

The average working-class family of 1901 had a few changes of clothes and a diet heavy on beans and grain, light on meat and fresh produce -- which simply wasn't available for much of the year, even if they'd had the money to afford it. Even growing up in the 1950s, in a comfortably middle-class home, my mother's wardrobe consisted of a week's worth of school clothes, a church dress and a couple of play outfits. Her counterparts today can barely fit all their clothes in their closets, even though today's houses are much bigger than they used to be; putting a family of five in a 900-square-foot house with a single bathroom was an aspirational goal for the generation that settled Levittown, but in an era when new homes average more than 2,500 square feet, it sounds like poverty.

At that, even the people living in the last decades of the 19th century were richer than those who had gone before them.


In every generation, we forget how much poorer we used to be, and then we forget that we have forgotten. We focus on the things that seem funny or monstrous or quaint and darling. Somehow the simplest and most important fact -- the immense differences between their living standards and ours -- slides right past our eye. And when Ernst tried to remind us, people didn't say "Wow, we've really come a long way"; they pointed and laughed.

Some other items of interest --

Expert observer of the urban scene, Heather MacDonald documents the disgraceful incitement of anti-police sentiment by government officials (notably Sandinista Bill Blasio).

James Lileks at his best, writing about "othering" white males. A funny and on target skewering of gender-based nonsense.

... Marx is in foul order in Berkeley not for his ideas, or the heaps of corpses accumulated in his name, but because he had a prostate.

Kevin Williamson on Progressive Pretentiousness --

For all of its scientific pretensions and empirical posturing, progressivism is not about evidence, and at its heart it is not even about public policy at all: It is about aesthetics.
The goal of progressivism is not to make the world rational; it’s to make the world Portland.

...there is precisely as much evidence for the theoretical basis of yoga (the flow of mystical energy through the nāḍi, which, strictly speaking, do not exist) and chiropractic (the manipulation of vitalistic “innate intelligence,” which also, strictly speaking, does not exist) as there is for the young-Earth creationist notion that Adam rode out of Eden on the back of a prancing brontosaurus. But those ideas receive radically different receptions. Creationism, or even open discussions of criticism of conventional evolutionary models (generally daft but culturally significant) that might conceivably lead to discussion of creationism, is considered by progressives to be so dangerous that it is formally repressed in many circumstances. But fashionable pseudoscience ranging from homeopathy to aromatherapy is — at the insistence of those same progressives — subsidized by the federal government and the states under lunatic provisions of the Affordable Care Act, which should probably be renamed the Theoretically Affordable Craptastic Insurance Policy and Pseudoscientific Mystical Horsepucky Non-Care Because We Say So Act.

Similarly, there is no meaningful evidence that organic foods are more nutritious or safer, but the lifestyle progressives who run the Boulder schools insist on them, along with yoga. What’s banned? Chocolate milk.

... There are many conservatives who prefer organic food, who do yoga, who like trains, and who would prefer living in Brooklyn to living in Plano. De gustibus and all that. The difference is that progressives, blazing with self-righteousness, believe themselves entitled to make their preferences a matter of law.

And that’s the Left in short: A lifestyle so good, it’s mandatory.

And also by KW - Noting that apocalyptic climate change predictions have been pushed safely beyond the lifespans of its proponents.

...the real intellectual achievement of the climate-change alarmists has been to improve on the marketing model of the traditional fundamentalist-wacko/UFO-cult/Mayan-calendar-lunatic operation by eliminating its greatest weakness: the expiration date. When your UFO cult predicts that the world will unquestionably come to an end on December 21, 1954, then you start to look sort of silly by Christmas.

More on "global warming" from Robert Tracinski --

...all changes in temperature that we observe today are relatively small variations within a much larger trend on a geological time scale. We know that the earth is going through a series of freezing and warming cycles on a scale of tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of years. And it has mostly been freezing. We’re fortunate enough to live in a cozy, warm “interglacial” period between ice ages. So we’re all staring down the barrel of the next ice age, yet we’re spending our time worrying about global warming.

Richard Epstein --

...the President wholly fails to understand the importance of economic growth in his relentless attack on economic inequality. The difference between these two programs is striking. A growth-program seeks to expand the size of the overall pie, trusting that the able and hardworking people whom the President lauds will be able to garner their share of the pie. The key point here is that gains from growth are sustainable because no firm has any incentive to back away from employment contracts that work to its own advantage. The hands-off policy thus improves economic incentives and reduces administrative overhead at the same time.

None of this makes the slightest impression on the President, who has concluded that his own brand of “middle-class economics works.” At one level, he is surely correct to insist that everyone “gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.” But it hardly follows that the way to make “working class families feel more secure” is to ply them with a set of educational, housing, and health care subsidies, all of which have to be paid for by someone else, whose life is made less secure by the constant threat of ad hoc government intervention.

...He speaks about the 11 million jobs created since the depths of the last recession. But his claim is full of holes. Right now, the total number of employed individuals in the United States is about what it was six years ago, notwithstanding a population gain of over 15 million people. Worse still, virtually all the gain in employment has come from part-time employment, which is encouraged in part by the Obamacare mandate that stipulates that employers must provide health care insurance for those who work 30-hours a week or more—a topic on which the President was mysteriously silent in his State of the Union address.

... the increase in capital gains rates is likely to translate into a reduction of taxable income. Unlike income from earnings, the capital gains tax is only triggered by a sale or other disposition of property. The high tax results in a reduction of the number of sales. That in turn not only decreases tax revenues, but also the efficiency of the capital markets, because it is more costly for people to switch their investments from inefficient to efficient firms.

From Michael Walsh, a fair, measured, judicious assessment of the president. I personally prefer less subtlety. --

It’s easy to despise Barack Hussein Obama, perhaps the least qualified man ever to accede to the Oval Office. The empty resume, the imaginary biographies, the laziness, the arrogance, the profligacy with the public treasury, the weakness, the cowardice and the cringing servility when dealing with America’s enemies abroad: his six years as president of the United States — a presidency we will all look back upon someday with wonder, shame and national embarrassment — have been as disastrous and harmful as some of us predicted at the time. The man is a disgrace.

John Podhoretz --

(Obama) could have looked at some alarming data and noted how he is practically the only elected Democrat in the country who has benefited from his presidency. Since 2010, the Democratic Party has lost 69 seats in the House of Representatives and 14 Senate seats — and a staggering 913 seats in the state legislatures.

Jorl Zinberg, MD (WSJ op-ed) --

A New York Times/CBS national poll indicates that the ACA has made care less affordable and less accessible. "Nearly half of respondents described the affordability of basic medical care as a hardship for them and their family, up 10 points from a year ago." More than half said out of pocket expenses had gone up and a third said expenses had "gone up a lot." A quarter reported care has become so expensive that they are less likely to see a doctor than in the past.

...By prescribing a generous "essential health benefits" package that many patients neither want nor need, the ACA has increased families' premiums and out of pocket costs and forced them into narrow provider networks. By expanding Medicaid enrollment without measures to increase willing providers, the ACA has only done half the work of improving access. Until ACA requirements are relaxed so that patients have a genuine choice of different benefit packages and affordable plans and the problem of inadequate Medicaid fees is addressed, decreasing the number of uninsured will be a hollow achievement.

Kevin Williamson (again) examines the left's Fox News obsession --

Democrats...are about twice as likely as Republicans to believe in astrology, and are significantly more likely than Republicans to believe in a great deal of other superstitious nonsense, such as ghosts and fortunetellers. It is no surprise that the signature piece of legislation produced by the united Democratic triumvirate of Obama-Pelosi-Reid produced a health-care program that will pour subsidies into such discredited claptrap as chiropractic, homeopathy, and acupuncture.

...The Left has learned over the years that winning debates is difficult but discrediting people and institutions is relatively easy. You point the finger and yell “racist!” or “stupid!” or “stupid racist!” long enough and loud enough and it will start to stick. And for a long time, the Left did not have to do very much debating, because there was no Fox News, no Rush Limbaugh et al., and no conservative alternatives online. Now there are, and so the Left’s most pressing order of business is the delegitimization of Fox News, Rush Limbaugh et al., and conservative alternatives online. And if that doesn’t work, Harry Reid is ready to repeal the First Amendment, and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is ready to see you locked up for your political views.

Egyptian cleric, Muhammad Hussein Yaqub --

If the Jews left Palestine to us, would we start loving them? Of course not. We will never love them…They are enemies not because they occupied Palestine. They would have been enemies even if they did not occupy a thing…You must believe that we will fight, defeat and annihilate them until not a single Jew remains on the face of the Earth…You will not survive as long as a single one of us remains.

Martin Luther King --

Peace for Israel means security, and we must stand with all of our might to protect its right to exist, its territorial integrity. I see Israel, and never mind saying it, as one of the great outposts of democracy in the world, and a marvelous example of what can be done, how desert land almost can be transformed into an oasis of brotherhood and democracy.

George Will --

The average attendance at MLB games last year was 30,437, compared with 13,466 in 1955, in baseball’s supposed golden age. Last year’s worst per-game attendance (the Tampa Bay Rays’ 17,857) was better than that of the 1955 World Series–winning Dodgers (13,423).

And yet Dodgers' fans in Brooklyn were incensed at owner Walter O'Malley for moving the team to Los Angeles two years later.

Finally, the vice president continues to be Jonah Goldberg's primary source of comic material --

Look, any week where Joe Biden tells the public he prefers “deflated balls” can’t be all bad. Before you go someplace filthy with that, the quote in context is that “as a receiver” Biden likes softer balls.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Wrong Again

Barack Obama, whose only role in the current private industry, fracking-led energy boom was to hinder its progress, nevertheless now takes credit for sub-$2 gas. Likewise, even as his regulatory, taxation and health deform policies impede economic growth and job creation, Obama brags that "the shadow of crisis is past.". Yet it is the government limiting policies such as the spending cap provisions of the sequester and Republican state level tax reform that have begun to spur the economy. (Remember how the onset of the sequester generated forecasts of gloom and doom?)

And now there's more bad news for Keynesians. An editorial in today's Wall Street Journal cites a study which credits the sudden surge in job growth to the expiration of extended unemployment benefits. Republicans in Congress were responsible for having the program lapse despite warnings from Democrats that doing so would have deleterious effects on the economy.

At a Dec. 13 (2013) event, Mr. Obama invoked the needy and explained that this supposed abdication was “bad for our economy and that’s bad for our cities, because if they don’t have the money to pay the rent or be able to buy food for their families, that has an impact on demand and businesses and it can have a depressive effect generally. In fact, what we know is the economists have said failing to extend unemployment benefits is going to have a drag on economic growth for next year.”
The White House Council of Economic Advisers forecast direct job losses reaching 240,000 as aggregate demand fell. The Keynesians at the Congressional Budget Office warned of a recession.
As late as a June 2014 rally in Minneapolis, Mr. Obama added that the Republicans had harmed “more than three million Americans who are out there looking every single day for a new job, despite the fact that we know it would be good not just for those families who are working hard to try to get back on their feet, but for the economy as a whole.”
Instead, job growth in 2014 was roughly 25% higher than any post-2009 year. Joblessness plunged to 5.6% from 6.7%. Net job creation averaged 246,000 a month. What happened?

The report authored by three economists at the National Bureau of Economic Research found that "the cut in unemployment benefit duration led to a 2% increase in aggregate employment, accounting for nearly all of the remarkable employment growth in the U.S. in 2014."

The authors find that this abrupt policy shift created some 1.8 million jobs, or slightly more than three of five net positions filled in 2014. The cuts also pulled a million workers who dropped out of the labor force back into the workplace. This reality happens to be the opposite of what Mr. Obama and other liberal sachems predicted.

As a famous folk singer sadly asked, in a radically different context,

"When will they ever learn?"

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The True Face Of The Democratic Party

In an adjective heavy column, Matthew Continetti reveals his wish that Tom Steyer runs for the soon to be contested California Senate seat currently held by Barbara Boxer.

What better face for the Democratic party than a straight, white, gender-conforming male worth $1.6 billion who gave up finance capitalism for cronyism? This billionaire’s political career is a study in what money can buy: His support for Obama bought him a speaking gig at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, and the $74 million he spent in the 2014 election cycle got him White House access, Democratic votes against the Keystone Pipeline, and a presidential veto threat. I cannot be the sole political junkie who is curious as to how much an endorsement by Hillary Clinton actually costs: $10 million, $20 million? If Steyer were to run, we would find out.

How ironic would it be, how sweetly delicious, if the first billionaire senator of the twenty-first century was not a Republican but a Democrat who stood against consumers, unions, Canada, and impoverished Third World nations; whose hobbyhorse is at the bottom of public priorities; whose inspiration is the fringe author and cross-country skier Bill McKibben; who owns, among a gazillion other things, an 1,800-acre coastal property in California known as the “TomKat Ranch” that includes “a long waist-high granite pool filled with Koi, the remains of an unsuccessful attempt at sustainable fish farming that now doubles as a huge outdoor dining table”; whose decades in finance involved such questionable investments and dodgy moves as an attempt to manipulate the Russian economy, ties to a $67 million dollar Ponzi scheme, coal plants that the New York Times says “will generate tens of millions of tons of carbon pollution for years, if not decades, to come,” and a plot to steal water from Colorado ranchers worthy of Daniel Plainview; whose behavior was so rapacious and so ethically suspect that a divestment campaign was organized to combat it; who donated to politicians and think tanks that advocated for subsidies to green energy companies while he and his hedge fund profited from those very policies; who admits that environmental radicalism is an “opportunity to make a lot of money”; whose separation from his fund, announced in December 2012, was "ongoing" as of June, 2014; who so well represents the new liberalism, its hypocrisies and aristocratic bearing, its moral sanctimony and group-think and apocalyptic fever, its almost awe-inspiring capacity to delude the affluent, entitled, privileged, conformist, and banal into thinking that they are the confederates of the poor, the boosters of the downtrodden, intellectual rebels and oh so quirky and special.


Rare is the candidacy that would have something for everyone. I myself cannot wait for one moment in particular. If we are able to persuade Tom Steyer to change his mind, there will come a day when the lady from Goldman Sachs, Hillary “We were dead broke” Clinton, jets to the Golden State to rally behind him, to warn the nation of the climate-change peril and lend her support not only to Steyer’s candidacy but also to his agenda of taxes, subsidies, high density, and low growth. On the stage, surrounded by a worshipful crowd and armed guards, Clinton and Steyer will smile foolishly, will wave and laugh and beam. Then they will embrace.

And for that brief moment, no more than a few seconds, the world will see what liberalism looks like: a pair of insanely rich and connected white grandparents, a billionaire and a former first lady, two wooden geriatrics congratulating themselves for imposing costs on their social inferiors to address a questionable problem no one cares about. Aging, powerful, insular, bejeweled, removed, self-important, self-obsessed, daft, and lily-lily-white — ladies and gentlemen and two-spirits, I present to you the face of the Democratic party!

Friday, January 23, 2015

BFFs - Democrats And The One Percent

Jay Cost explores the cozy relationship between the left and Big Business.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

"Fantastic Foolishness"

Of the two Wall Street Journal editorial writing superstars, Dan Henninger and Bret Stephens, Henninger is the more laid back, and as such, he's less prone to expressing anger at outrages that one commonly encounters in the news these days. Alas, Barack Obama has the ability to infuriate even the most placid of observers and such was the case as Henninger watched Obama's State of the Union address Tuesday night.

Barack Obama was 15 minutes into his State of the Union speech when I arrived home to watch it, having just walked back from seeing “American Sniper.”
Watching a movie about a Navy SEAL who served four tours fighting in Iraq was not the best way to enhance the experience of a Barack Obama speech. As a matter of fact, it was pretty unbearable.


Announcing the decision at the White House on Oct. 21, Mr. Obama said, “After taking office, I announced a new strategy that would end our combat mission in Iraq and remove all of our troops by the end of 2011.” (Emphasis added.)
Military analysts at the time, in government and on the outside, warned Mr. Obama that a zero U.S. presence could put the war’s gains and achievements at risk. He did it anyway and ever since Mr. Obama has repeatedly bragged about this decision in public speeches, notably to the graduating cadets of West Point last May.
In January, months before that West Point speech, the terrorist army of Islamic State, or ISIS, seized back control of both Fallujah and Ramadi in Anbar province. The month after the West Point speech, the city of Mosul and its population of one million fell to Islamic State, and here we are with the barbarians on the loose there, in Yemen, in Nigeria and in France.
Watching “American Sniper,” it is impossible to separate these catastrophes from seeing what the Marines did and endured to secure northern Iraq. Again, anyone is entitled to hate the Iraq war. But no serious person would want a president to make a decision that would allow so much personal sacrifice to simply evaporate. Which, in his serene self-confidence, is what Barack Obama did. That absolute drawdown was a decision of fantastic foolishness.


In the one spontaneous moment of Tuesday evening’s speech, Mr. Obama cracked back at some chiding Republicans that he’d won two elections. And he’s right. The first election was a remarkable, historic event for the United States. His second election was a historic electoral mistake, leaving the country and the world to be led by a president who is living on his own fantasy island.
He said in the State of the Union that we are leading “a broad coalition” against ISIS. We are? What coalition? Mainly it’s the Iraqi army and Kurds battling for survival alongside U.S air support.
The president said we are “supporting a moderate opposition in Syria.” But twice in 2014 Mr. Obama derided the Syrian moderates as dentists, pharmacists and teachers. U.S. support for the moderates is de minimis.
On Ukraine, Mr. Obama said, “We’re upholding the principle that bigger nations can’t bully the small.” But bullying is exactly what Russia’s Vladimir Putin is doing to Ukraine because Mr. Obama refuses to give its army even basic defensive weapons.
Then there’s the grandest foreign-policy self-delusion of the Obama presidency—the never-ending nuclear arms deal with Iran. Mr. Obama said we’ve “halted the progress of its nuclear program.” Slowed perhaps but no one thinks we’ve “halted” Iran’s multifacility nuclear-weapon and ballistic-missile project. Only in the Obama fantasy is it halted.
Sen. Robert Menendez, the New Jersey foreign-policy Democrat, who sat bolted to his seat during the speech, said the next day that the administration’s talking points on Iran now sound “straight out of Tehran.”

A summary of Obama's brilliant foreign policy initiatives and their consequences is provided by Peter Wehner in Commentary magazine.

Trashing the domestic portion of Obama's SOTU was W. Bradford Wilcox, also in the WSJ.

Guess which kind of family was left out in the cold by President Obama as he unveiled his plan to help middle-class families in his State of the Union address? The traditional two-parent family with a single breadwinner.
The president pitched his plan as part of an agenda in which “everyone gets their fair shot, everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules” in part by “lowering the taxes of working families and putting thousands of dollars back into their pockets each year.” But by design or omission, his plan does virtually nothing for married families with a parent at home, usually the mother.
The president’s plan would triple the existing child-care tax credit to $3,000 for two-earner families with children under 5 and a combined income of less than $120,000, and it would establish a new $500 credit for families in which both spouses work. The plan would provide tax relief—which would no doubt help with the cost of child care, commuting, etc.—to middle-class families with both parents in the workforce. But families who choose to have a parent at home would see none of this tax relief.

The White House has trumpeted the plan’s “fairness.” But according to data from the Census Bureau, today about one-quarter of married families have a parent at home, more than one-third of married families with young children have a parent at home, and an even larger share of married families will have a parent step out of the workforce for several months to care for the children. It seems patently unfair to offer a plan targeting middle-class families that excludes such a large share of American families.

This approach is all the more mystifying because the White House had other, more-inclusive policy options to help families. For instance, in a bid to shore up the economic fortunes of all working families, Sens. Mike Lee (R., Utah) and Marco Rubio(R., Fla.) have proposed expanding the child tax credit to $3,500 from its current $1,000 and extending it to payroll taxes, i.e., Social Security and Medicare.
The Lee-Rubio plan would do a lot for millions of working- and middle-class families, whether or not they have two parents in the workforce. As Messrs. Lee and Rubio wrote in an op-ed for this newspaper in September, their proposal is rooted in a recognition that all families, not just two-earner families, “shoulder the financial burden of raising the next generation of taxpayers, who will grow up to fund the Social Security and Medicare benefits of all future seniors.”
If Mr. Obama were interested in helping all families and finding bipartisan ground in the new Congress, he could have adopted some version of the Lee-Rubio plan.

Wilcox doesn't say so but Obama's proposal - rewarding parents who transfer a significant portion of the care of their children to federally subsidized day care - is entirely consistent with the "progressive" strategy, (as depicted in the Life of Julia cartoons), of diminishing the role of the family while expanding the role of government. That strategy's ultimate goal is a citizenry universally dependent on the state, which is perilously close to realization as George Will explains.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

With Friends Like These...

Kevin Williamson doesn't think much of the strategy of sending James Taylor to console the French.

"We’re responding to barbarism from the 7th century with soft rock from the 1970s."


"We Americans sometimes laugh at the French — cheese-eating surrender monkeys and all that — but in World War I they lost nearly 1.8 million people, or nearly 5 percent of their population, losses that were proportionally more than 30 times those we suffered in that horrific conflict. (In World War II, the French death rate was only four times ours.) They may have lost some of their fighting spirit since then — or they may not have, if you ask your average trans-Saharan jihadist — but we did not elect Barack Obama president of these United States out of a surplus of courage, either. It’s not that we should send the 101st Airborne to les banlieues, rather that we should be the sort of country that makes it matter when we say “you’ve got a friend.” When it comes to jihad, there are no obvious solutions, but there are some obvious non-solutions, and an impromptu James Taylor concert surely is one of them."


Saturday, January 17, 2015

The Wrong Victims

In his weekly G-File column, Jonah Goldberg observes how quickly the focus of concern for the actual victims of the Paris terror attack has shifted toward the potential victims of a backlash. He lays the blame for this misdirection on the left's destructive obsession with victimology and its convenient rejection of collective responsibility only when it applies to Muslims.

"Simply put, victimology is the language and currency of our politics. Fighting for victims is a calling and minting new victims and grievances is a trillion-dollar industry. Heroism, fidelity, courage, duty, temperance: Their stock value may be volatile but the long-term trends have been bad for a while. But guilt and resentment are the gold and silver of our realm, a perfect hedge against the civilizational recession."


"By the way, how much have you heard about the anti-Muslim backlash over the last decade and a half? Well, here’s a fun fact. In every year since 9/11 the number of anti-Jewish hate crimes in the U.S. has dwarfed anti-Muslim hate crimes." (Me - Another fun fact - Jews constituting 1% of France's population are victims of 50% of its hate crimes).

(Goldberg continues) - "In 2001 — you know, the year when the World Trade Center was knocked down by Islamist terrorists — there were still twice as many anti-Jewish incidents as there were anti-Muslim ones reported to the FBI. By 2002, things got back to “normal” and anti-Jewish outstripped anti-Muslim hate crimes by roughly a factor of five – and it’s stayed that way ever since. In 2013, nearly 60 percent of anti-religious hate crimes were against Jews. Just over 14 percent were against Muslims. Now, I’m not saying America is anti-Semitic, far from it. It’s easily the most philo-Semitic country in the world, save for Israel (and if you spent time listening to Israelis criticize themselves, you’d consider that a debatable proposition). But when was the last time you heard a reporter from the New York Times fret over the need to be careful lest we encourage an anti-Semitic backlash?"


"The entire edifice of supposedly sophisticated left-wing thinking is about collective responsibility. For instance, The Atlantic’s Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote an impassioned case for reparations last year. Whatever you think of his argument, two things are indisputably true: (1) The piece was universally praised on the left (and parts of the right) and (2) slavery reparations amount to collective punishment. You might say that slavery was collective punishment — and you’d be right! But there are no living former slaves in the U.S. (not counting refugees) and there are no living former slave owners of the Confederacy either. Moreover, there are quite literally hundreds of millions of people who have little to no tangible connection to slavery — even by lineage. There are over 40 million foreign-born Americans today. Why should a Vietnamese immigrant be asked to pay for 19th-century slavery? My mother is half of southern heritage and half of northern, but my dad’s side of the family were all refugees from the pogroms. Do I pay a quarter reparation?

Forget reparations. What about correcting “white privilege,” taxing the “1 percent,” and denouncing all cops for the actions of a few? These, along with critical legal studies, critical race studies, and vast swaths of feminism, Marxism, post-colonialism, and other bits of wreckage from the overturned manure truck of left-wing thinking all depend, in one way or another, on notions of collective responsibility. Moreover, they depend on them not just in a communal or political sense, but as a matter of metaphysics. White people owe. Men owe. The wealthy owe. The West owes. They owe because the goddess “social justice” demands it. And this particular goddess is Crom-like in the sense that she cares not whether you were born in poverty or what good works you have done in your life. You don’t matter. All that matters is the eternal them and they owe by virtue of their identity."


"We’re breeding generations of citizens who think attacking left-wing college administrators from the left is bold and courageous and denouncing Islamic extremism is racist. We apologize for the “root causes” that lead to actual violence, while we theorize endlessly about how ultimately we’re really to blame. Our military heroes are terroristic and the terrorists are misunderstood. That’s not merely dazzlingly idiotic; it is effulgently suicidal."

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Shut Up She Explained

A remarkably obtuse letter appearing in today's Wall Street Journal --

The terrorist attack on the French satirical magazine has horrified the world with its brutality. We in America treasure our freedom of expression, but we also believe that you don’t scream fire in a crowded theater. The deliberate provocation by Charlie Hebdo at this time of world-wide terrorism wasn’t the wisest move, as this tragedy shows. The magazine’s infantile humor in insulting everybody and everything may appeal to the French, but fortunately our press knows that inflaming Islamic murderers for fun can threaten the safety of the community.
Carla Wallach
Greenwich, Conn.

"Deliberate provocation"? Charlie Hebdo treats all religions with the same degree of disdain. Only Islamists were "provoked". By all means, let's reward violent retribution for mockery. Let's ridicule all peaceful religions and ideologies but not Islam. When Christians begin shooting up editorial offices we'll stop mocking them.
The writer laments the "infantile" nature of Charlie Hebdo's satire. As if it's the (perceived) lack of seriousness that stokes Islamists' murderous impulses. Ayaan Hirsi Ali's denunciations of Islam are not "infantile" but they still attract death threats. She believes it necessary to speak up against female genital mutilation (and other assorted horrific, uncivilized practices). Does the writer believe Hirsi Ali's "wisest move" should be to censor herself to protect the "safety of the community"? Even if she isn't doing it "for fun"? (Wallach assumes that Charlie Hebdo's motivation is "fun" rather than exposing what it considers an absurd and dangerous ideology).
The overused "scream fire in a crowded theater" analogy is particularly laughable. Absent an actual fire, it is dangerous to do this because the target audience may reasonably react to an imminent life-threatening situation by initiating a tragic stampede for the exits. Satire or other critical commentary threatens no physical harm to its intended audience whatsoever, imminent or otherwise. The offended party can choose to ignore the insult or respond in kind, with the use of language. Those that respond with violence deserve neither sympathy nor justification.
The problem is not us, it's them. 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Unfair To Animals

Kevin Williamson comments on the fallacious custom of calling those who commit barbaric acts animals.

Some forgotten early Homo sapiens, the first great moral philosopher of our species, forever lost in the shadows of prehistory, took note of the fact that while wolves kill because they are hungry and bears kill because they are threatened, the human animal kills toward unknowable ends, from motives far more complex than biological necessity. Eventually, that first moral philosopher or one of his intellectual descendants came up with a word for that, for this inexplicable inclination that is not known to any wild animals, no matter how ravenous — but which is present only in men.

If only we could remember that word, and remember what it means.

Dennis Prager knows the word and what it means.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

"Clash Of Civilizations"

Recent events continue to confirm Bernard Lewis' prescient quarter-century old thesis that there is an ongoing existential struggle between Western Civilization and Islamism.

Fox News' Megyn Kelly interviews Mark Steyn about the terror attack in Paris.

Not all news media are as cowardly as those mentioned by Steyn. The Wall Street Journal today reproduced a non-pixelated cartoon from Charlie Hebdo mocking Islamism.

There are cowards, and there are morons... To get a taste of asinine moral equivalence currently infesting news commentary, watch this short MSNBC segment. Jonah Goldberg calls this the dumbest 57 seconds he's ever seen on TV.*

Mocking Christianity is not only not a capital offense, nor a subject to be avoided for fear of offending delicate sensibilities, it is a taxpayer supported enterprise deserving of accolades. From Wikipedia --

Piss Christ is a 1987 photograph by the American artist and photographer Andres Serrano. It depicts a small plastic crucifix submerged in a glass of the artist's urine. The piece was a winner of the Southeastern Center For Contemporary Art's "Awards in the Visual Arts" competition, which was sponsored in part by the National Endowment For The Arts, a United States Government agency that offers support and funding for artistic projects, without controlling content.

And then there's the Broadway musical, winner of numerous awards, "The Book Of Mormon", a derisive satire targeting the Church Of Latter Day Saints. The Church's response to the play?

The production may attempt to entertain audiences for an evening, but the Book of Mormon as a volume of scripture will change people's lives forever by bringing them closer to Christ.

...Of course, parody isn't reality, and it's the very distortion that makes it appealing and often funny. The danger is not when people laugh but when they take it seriously—if they leave a theater believing that Mormons really do live in some kind of a surreal world of self-deception and illusion.

The LDS actually bought space in the play's program to advise theatergoers, "You've seen the play, now read the book."

A more heated reaction would no doubt be elicited from Islamists by a musical parody of their religion. Not that any Broadway producer would ever touch the subject. As Steyn wrote back in September, 2012 --

Last year Hillary Clinton went to see the Broadway musical Book of Mormon. “We reject all efforts to denigrate the religious beliefs of others”? The Book of Mormon’s big showstopper is “Hasa Diga Eebowai” which apparently translates as “F*** you, God.” The U.S. secretary of state stood and cheered.
Why does Secretary Clinton regard “F*** you, God” as a fun toe-tapper for all the family but “F*** you, Allah” as “disgusting and reprehensible”? The obvious answer is that, if you sing the latter, you’ll find a far more motivated crowd waiting for you at the stage door.

Worse, far worse, than the Paris terror attack was the recent Taliban perpetrated massacre of 145 people including 132 children aged 8 to 18 in a school in Peshawar, Pakistan. Though that outrage occurred less than a month ago (December 16) it has already faded from the collective global memory. In his latest WSJ column, Dan Henninger addresses this transience of focus and the danger it poses to peace and security.
Henninger notes the hollow attempt of some Parisiens to claim solidarity with the victims of Wednesday's attack as they hold signs proclaiming, "Je Suis Charlie". That sentiment is incongruous with Europe's overall support for Edward Snowden's publication of NSA secrets - an invaluable gift to jihadists.
Henninger brings up other forgotten atrocities including the April kidnapping of 276 girls from a school in Nigeria by the Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram. Recall that incident and the social media memes it inspired. No less a personage than Michelle Obama got in on the feel-good exercise of posting inane and completely ineffectual hashtag slogans. And the FLOTUS is someone who, theoretically at least, should have a bit more influence on current affairs than your average tweeter.

The kidnapped girls are still missing nearly a year later, Boko Haram has expanded its reach and influence in the country and the mindless campaign has long been abandoned.

[Kevin Williamson has some harsh words for those he calls "hashtag activists" (as well as for other scorn-worthy types) in this column.]

* Added 1/10 - Goldberg expands on his criticism here, making some very good points about how the left repeatedly contorts arguments to blame America or conservatism for all the wrongs of the world. Highly recommended.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Still The Best

Browsing You Tube, I happened upon a talk given by Mark Steyn to a Canadian audience early (what is now) last year. Since he's been involved in ridiculous litigation with global warming hoaxster Michael Mann, Steyn's output has been crimped so it was good to be reminded of his genius.

Incidentally, the initial reason I was on You Tube was to look up a 1958 Grade D horror movie, She Demons, a scene from which scared the crap out of me on New Year's Eve, 1960 when I was seven. The scene in question shows up around the 27:30 mark.