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Posts Tagged ‘liberalism’

I recently read two completely separate articles that make an intriguing contrast.

On one hand, “‘Preferred’ pronouns gain traction at US colleges:”

On high school and college campuses and in certain political and social media circles, the growing visibility of a small, but semantically committed cadre of young people who, like Crownover, self-identify as “genderqueer” — neither male nor female but an androgynous hybrid or rejection of both — is challenging anew the limits of Western comprehension and the English language.

Though still in search of mainstream acceptance, students and staff members who describe themselves in terms such as agender, bigender, third gender or gender-fluid are requesting — and sometimes finding — linguistic recognition.

Inviting students to state their preferred gender pronouns, known as PGPs for short, and encouraging classmates to use unfamiliar ones such as “ze,”’sie,” ”e,” ”ou” and “ve” has become an accepted back-to-school practice for professors, dorm advisers, club sponsors, workshop leaders and health care providers at several schools.

Note the tell-tale theme words: “self-identify,” “describe themselves in terms,” “preferred gender pronouns.”  I wonder why, when there’s a conflict between biological reality and psycho-emotional consciousness, we actually privilege the latter and disdain the former as some sort of obsolete relic.

I asked this of someone last summer and was immediately called a “transophobe.”  Apparently that settled things.

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My kids discovered Tom and Jerry last year, so we go them a DVD.  This disclaimer runs at the beginning.  Our obsession with publicly “washing our hands” of every shred of anything in the past that might be interpreted as not in harmony with our current sensibilities is very sad.  It’s neither healthy nor productive.  It starts as a dog and pony show, and ends as a witch hunt.  I wish this society would grow up and be more innocent.

tom

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Reading a minor missive from Mark Steyn at National Review earlier today, I was struck for the umpteenth time by just how breezily loquacious he is.  It’s just a blog post, really; by no means a full-fledged article–and yet it carries the confident charm of the most polished master’s thesis.  I’m sure he merely dashed this off, yet is would stand as a major triumph for most authors.

The teacher in me suddenly wanted to footnote his work.  The world needs to see this as I do, I thought.  Those notes are below.  My humble apologies to National Review for reproducing the entire text here, but I think they’ll understand.  It’s necessary to make the point: Steyn’s writing is densely allusive and whimsically clever, and all in the succinct service of a solid point.

Looking at this after I’d marked it up, I found immense satisfaction in being a fan of Steyn’s.  He’s truly a treasure.  I’m a conservative because the ideas are solid and true, but it doesn’t hurt that men like Steyn can also make them so appealing.  One looks in vain for such a scribe on the left.

I mean, could you even imagine a similarly footnoted post called The Annotated Frank Rich?

**********

“The Last Phobia,” Mark Steyn, posted at NationalReview.com, 9/17/2013

I see David Brooks has attracted a bit of pushback for describing Ted Cruz as “the Senator from Canada,” perhaps snidely hinting at divided loyalties. The Times’s man has jumped the moose[1] with this one. As it turns out, Brooks, like yours truly, was born in Toronto. I think we can all agree that the only thing worse than a Canadian is a self-loathing Canadian[2]: It’s bad enough that the first Canadian president of America has to run around pretending he’ll be the first Hispanic president[3], but it’s outrageous that the New York Times’s only Canuck[4] columnist should be the Roy Cohn [5]of Canadians.

Anyway, as NR readers know, my position, as the presumptive senator from New Hampshire, is that, given the mess you Americans have made of the GOP, I’m in favor (actually, I’m in favour[6]) of an all-Canadian ticket next time round. But in the meantime I don’t see why we Canadians have to skulk around in a state of shame to the point where effete[7] maple-scented[8] Timesmen are forced to be more good-ol’-boy-than-thou[9] and jump the first Canuck in the Senate parking lot. Nuts to this. This is sick. What next? Elizabeth Warren forced to admit she’s one-thirty-second Manitoban?[10]

It doesn’t have to be this way. I have a dream that one day my children will live in an America where they’re judged not on the color of their skin but on whether they’ve got an aunt in Saskatoon.[11]


[1] A play on the idiom “jump the shark.” Moose are often associated with Canada

[2] A play on the phrase “self-loathing Jews,” meaning Jews who oppose things like pro-Israel policies

[3] Perhaps a cheeky reference to Toni Morrison’s label of Bill Clinton as “the first black president”

[4] A slang term for Canadians

[5] Attorney who prosecuted the Rosenbergs and worked with Senator Joeseph McCarthy; Steyn humorously implies that Brooks is persecuting his own people.

[6] A British spelling

[7] Effeminate; Steyn often derides liberals as insufficiently masculine.

[8] Maple syrup is often associated with Canada

[9] A play on the idiom “holier-than-thou.” Steyn is accusing Brooks of populist pandering.

[10] Warren, a Democrat Senator from Massachusetts, famously claimed Native American heritage as a part of her “family folklore,” despite the only known Native American in her family tree being her great, great, great grandmother.

[11] Obviously, a coy reference to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” Speech.

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Besides all the more intellectual reasons why I am a conservative, I prefer it to liberalism because I simply like its values more.

Conservatism is concerned with the primary needs of existence: physical safety, family, private property, freedom.

Liberalism is concerned with secondary wants: egalitarianism, self expression, fulfillment, comfort.

I like subscribing to a worldview that prizes the eternal over the ephemeral.

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I want to ask every progressive in America, especially those now in or seeking political office, to commit to the following ten-point statement:

I will not at any time endorse or participate in any social movement or advocate any legislative change that promotes:

• Legalizing incestuous relationships
• Legalizing polygamous relationships
• Legalizing sexual relationships with, or depictions of, minors under the current age of consent
• Granting animals any new legal rights currently reserved for humans
• Granting governments any new power, outside of taxation, to arbitrarily seize money held in accounts and investments of private citizens
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“I would never call a redneck a name.”  Love it.

http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/wed-september-5-2012/hope-and-change-2—the-party-of-inclusion

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Questions for those on the Left who want more gun control:

This seems to be basically a blue state vs. red state issue. Doesn’t it bother you that you are trying to impose your will on a culture that is different from your own–one you don’t completely understand–in an attempt to make their culture more like yours? If not, why not? Isn’t this the kind of cultural colonialism that you have so long decried?

Aren’t your efforts for gun control rooted in an implicit ethnocentrism–a declaration that a culture different from yours is bad and that their nature can be “fixed” by becoming more like you (in this case, averse to firearms)?

Doesn’t the philosophical similarity between your desire to impose your values on those who differ from you and those of the jingoistic imperialists of the past at least give you pause?

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Consider the chart below:

 

 City

Has had only Democratic mayors since

Last time a Republican was mayor

Detroit

1962

1962

Washington, D.C.

1961

1883

New Orleans

1936

1872

 

Of course these examples are cherry picked, but they certainly do demonstrate some dangerous myopia.  One could argue that there are plenty of cities historically run by Democrats that have always had stable success, and I would agree.  Colorado and New England, for example, are full of such places.

But that’s not my point.  It’s not enough to show that strong populations can be primarily liberal.  Since the Democratic platform–and definitely the popular appeal it tries to campaign on–is that their policies are good for the poor, the “disenfranchised,” the lower class, isn’t it fair to check that track record?  Shouldn’t places run exclusively by Democrats be able to maintain prior success, or turn around problems those cities have had?  If things have gotten bad–awful–after 50-100 years of solid rule, shouldn’t this say something critical of liberal ideas?

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Fascinating article in The Chronicle of Higher Education about a renegade psychologist whose work illuminates the hidden mental, social, and moral motives behind our political values.  It’s all enlightening, but some of it goes against the grain.  He’s a self-described moderate, atheist, Obama supporter, but his findings suggest that it’s American liberals who have the most soul-searching…and brain-racking….to do.  Some quotes:

  • “Conservatives believe in equality before the law,” he tells the young activists, who are here in the “canyons of wealth” to talk people power over vegan stew. “They just don’t care about equality of outcome.”
  • A partisan liberal, the University of Virginia professor hoped a better grasp of moral psychology could help Democrats sharpen their knives. But a funny thing happened. Haidt, now a visiting professor at New York University, emerged as a centrist who believes that “conservatives have a more accurate understanding of human nature than do liberals.”
  • “Liberals need to be shaken,” Haidt tells me. They “simply misunderstand conservatives far more than the other way around.”
  • Researchers have found that conservatives tend to be more sensitive to threats and liberals more open to new experiences.
  • Another example Haidt uses to underscore the tribal psychology of political sacredness is the 1960s research of the liberal sociologist Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a Harvard professor and public-policy expert. In a famous report to President Johnson, Moynihan used the phrase “tangle of pathology” to describe the black family, arguing that some of its problems stemmed from high rates of out-of-wedlock birth, not just from racism. That made Moynihan a pariah; other Harvard professors wouldn’t let their kids play with his. As Haidt tells the story, Moynihan committed “the cardinal sin”: “blaming the victim, where the victim is one of your sacralized victim groups.” He points out that sociologists are now gingerly saying, “He was right.”

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A pair of recent New York Times features asked political thinkers on both sides of the aisle what the other side gets right.  The columns are each fascinating: I enjoyed the recognition of key conservative principles in “What the Right Gets Right,” and I can easily agree with most of “What the Left Gets Right.”  Highly recommended.

From “What the Right Gets Right:”

It recognizes “the importance of material incentives in shaping behavior, and the difficulty in keeping bureaucracies under control and responsive to citizens.”

It is skeptical of “the application of social science theories to real world problems” and cognizant of “human fallibility/corruptibility.”

It places a high value on “liberty/autonomy.”

It places a similarly high value on “good parenting.”

It acknowledges “the superiority of market systems for encouraging efficient use of resources.”

From “What the Left Gets Right:”

Liberals are sensitive to the unsettling potential of income disparities. They are attentive to the overreaching of the federal government through its national security apparatus. They are less likely to pretend that scientific questions – is the planet getting warmer, for example, and if so, why? – are really ideological questions. They understand that the legacies of two centuries of slavery and another of Jim Crow are still active and still debilitating. And they are more realistic about the limits of American military power than many conservatives.

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"The Epic Novel of Modern Hong Kong"

James Clavell’s Noble House is a novel about one week in the life of a Hong Kong business executive in 1963.  And it’s 1370 pages long.

No, wait, don’t stop reading!  That wouldn’t have enticed me, either, but it’s actually one of the most fascinating and exciting things I’ve ever read.  It’s full of espionage, drug gangs, political plots, natural disasters, kidnapping, hostile takeovers, seduction, ancient oaths being called into fulfillment…and, yes, quite a few business negotiations.

A story this large and detailed could be approached from many angles (I’d love to discuss its use of Chinese words and phrases–this book is packed with Chinese culture and treats it with unreserved reverence), but the biggest surprise for me was just how political Noble House is.

I guess I should have expected it.  The book is dedicated “as a tribute to Her Britannic Majesty, Elizabeth II, to the people of Her Crown Colony of Hong Kong—and perdition to their enemies.”  So the author’s perspective is pretty clear from the get go.

Noble House is a cold war novel—communist spies and leftist traitors abound.  (more…)

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There’s a dangerous floodgate opened when liberals say that throwing money at a problem will solve it.  If liberals say that spending more money on something–like health, education, or the economy–will improve it, then it follows that you should spend as much money on it as possible.

After all, if graduation rates or test scores would go up 10% if a state spends $50 million more on education, then why not spend $100 million and get even better results?  Why not spend a billion dollars—a trillion!—and get a whole nation of guaranteed geniuses? 

If a spending proponent would say that such an exaggeration is silly, I’d ask to see what evidence they have that their claims of money-based progress have noted any limits or diminishing returns.  In the absence of such, if they believe what they say they believe, it would only be reasonable to spend as much as absolutely possible on these priorities. 

This is the same problem liberals run into with things like the minimum wage.  If it’s possible to artificially demand that everybody get paid at least a certain amount so their standard of living will be adequate, why stop at just $5 or $10 dollars an hour?  Isn’t that just arbitrarily putting a ceiling on the quality of life that the working class can enjoy?  Why not make it $100 an hour?  Wouldn’t that automatically make everyone rich? 

The next time someone says that we need to spend X millions of dollars to solve a problem, my reply will be, “Only X?  If X will make it better, then we need to spend at least ten times that much—more, if we can!  Anything less would rob our precious friends of their rights!  Why don’t you care about that?  What’s wrong with your cold, evil heart?”

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I was amused when I saw a letter in Thursday’s Las Vegas Review-Journal comparing the Republican victories in the election to the episode of The Simpsons where Homer becomes sanitation manager.  My response was printed in today’s paper, reproduced below.  As I put it on Facebook, you think you can use The Simpsons to back up your liberal agenda?  Not on my watch, bub.

Letter writer Randall Buie argued against his own opinion on Thursday. He referenced the episode of “The Simpsons” where Homer becomes sanitation engineer and ruins the city.

Mr. Buie failed to mention how Homer won, or how he ruined the city. He won by capitalizing on people’s laziness, promising to provide every creature comfort he could think of. His campaign slogan was, “Can’t someone else do it?”

After the election, he wasted his department’s annual budget in weeks.

So Homer pandered to demands for entitlements and then bankrupted his administration. Mr. Buie, exactly which party did you think Homer represented again?

D’oh, indeed.

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In Las Vegas Tuesday, stumping for Harry Reid, former President Bill Clinton said, “You and I know the only reason this is a tough race is because people are having a tough time. When people are mad, it’s time to think.”

Translation: “If you support Sharron Angle, it’s only because you’re a poor, confused, lost little lamb, dizzy in the head because you can’t handle what’s going on. There, there little lamb. It’s OK. Just let the elites keep taking care of you, and everything will be fine. That’s right, go back to sleep like a good little girl.”

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I just checked out Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism from the library again–every now and then I’ll pick it up and read whatever chapter or two grab my interest at the time. 

One theme in the introduction is that “fascism” is difficult to define, and a simple, universally recognized definition doesn’t exist.  He puts together a usable understanding, but I noticed something about each of the eras and events he discussed that might lead us to see a clear sign of fascism: it always implies force. 

Although this is not a complete picture of fascism, I think the presence of coercion is a major trait that must be recognized to spot and prevent it.  Fascism, then, is not necessarily a political ideology (although, as in the case of Italy’s Mussolini, especially, it can be) so much as it is a means of promoting an ideology. 

On the left, fascism, seen in this way, classically manifests itself in communist governments: the Soviet Union, Cuba, China, North Korea, etc.  The use of (indeed, reverence for) centralized, collectivized, government control is a key danger of a leftist government run amok. 

The biggest myth about fascism (and Goldberg spends a great deal of time analyzing this one) is that it’s also a feature of an extreme, hard right government.  Actually, the logical warping of conservatism wouldn’t be fascism, it would be anarchy; fascism of the right would be less common, particularly in the west, not because it is inherently more virtuous, but because an emphasis on limited government would naturally have the effect of decreasing the opportunities for and acceptance of fascist tactics.  However, that is not to say that it doesn’t exist.  The best examples of conservative fascism that I can think of are all theocracies: Iran, ancient Egypt, Puritan New England, etc.  The reverence for tradition and order can be so elevated that it becomes primary even over freedom itself. 

So what’s the warning here for America?  Are we in danger of socialist-dictator fascism or theocratic fascism?  I suppose the potential for both exists, though one silver lining of a country so polarized down the middle is that neither half would let the other get that out of control. 

One observation, though, about a hybrid danger we might term “liberal theocratic fascism:” (more…)

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