Saturday, May 26, 2018

And then, in a nearby (to NYC; see post below) Acela Corridor city, identity-politics jackbootery runs smack into itself

Can't have it both ways, jackboots:

The Washington Post reports on a suit in federal court alleging that policies instituted by the District of Columbia government to attract younger, more affluent professionals to poor, African-American neighborhoods discriminate against poor and working-class Blacks who have lived there for generations. The city stands accused of breaking up “close-knit” black communities. 
The policies challenged were undertaken pursuant to D.C.’s “New Communities” program, initiated to turn aging public housing complexes into mixed-income developments. The idea was to “economically integrate” neighborhoods. With encouragement from and incentives provided by the city, developers and business owners constructed apartment towers, renovated row houses and opened restaurants, coffee houses and bars that catered to a younger, more affluent breed of Washingtonian. 
The lawsuit alleges that these policies are “classist, racist, and ageist.” Although the result of the policies so far has been to integrate neighborhoods, the plaintiffs say that the intent was to “re-segregate black communities into white upper class and creative class communities.” 
The left, though, supports government action to create mixed-income communities. More than that, it claims that the failure to create them violates fair housing law because it discriminates against Blacks, who are said to need white neighbors and businesses to escape from poverty. That’s the thrust of the Obama administration’s “Affirmative Furthering Fair Housing” rule (AFFH).
Is it race discrimination to break up close-knit black neighborhoods by encouraging an economic and racial mixture? Or is it race discrimination not to promote/mandate the creation of such neighborhoods?
I don’t think both can be race discrimination. Indeed, I don’t think either is. Race discrimination in housing is when people aren’t allowed to buy properties they can afford because of their skin color. Nothing more.
Precisely so. Wasn't the vision, in times way prior to 2018, that people would live, work, and do any and all other things they wished to do, wherever they wished to do them, according to the parameters (affordability most pertinent here) common to all American citizens? Why the hell would there be any beef about that actually taking place in 2018?

The poisoning of post-American culture - today's edition

This, folks, is why we call them jackboots:

On Friday, New York Mayor Bill De Blasio – who suggested today that the presence of The New York Post was harmful to his horribly-governed city – announced a “cultural plan” for New York. According to The New York Times, De Blasio looks to “link future funding for museums and arts groups to diversity of their employees and board members.”
So, no longer will public dollars merely go to artists based on the alleged quality of their work. Now De Blasio will explicitly link those dollars to the skin color and sexual orientation of the artists. As the Times continues:
This unusual move by the city, which rarely dictates policy to its cultural leaders, puts pressure on the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Carnegie Hall, the American Museum of Natural History and other pre-eminent institutions that are led largely by white male executives and power brokers from Wall Street, real estate and other industries.
Because the most important thing about art is obviously whether its funders are white. White people’s art is simply too stultifying – let alone art by non-white people funded by white people. De Blasio said, “We do this because we believe in fairness.” Not fairness of opportunity, of course. Equality of outcome, no matter the quality of the work itself. And then De Blasio, who gives practically none of his money to charity, tore into those cultural institutions largely supported by charity: calling them “elitist,” he added, “There is still the assumption among many New Yorkers about where they belong and where they don’t belong.” So, in other words, if too many white people give money and sit on the board of the Met, De Blasio will look to cut funding to the Met, even if the Met is funding projects by people of color.
De Blasio explained, “We’ve got a long way to go. We’ve got more work to do,” citing the fact that 26 percent of senior staff members of cultural organizations are non-white. Which, of course, is not proof of discrimination of any sort, but is good enough for De Blasio to now promote government discrimination.
By the way, De Blasio told the Times that he’d never been to his local museum.
But at least the City Council can posture – Melissa Mark-Viverito braged, “There are people who will resist, who will resent, who will obstruct. Any moment for equality and inclusion doesn’t come easily.” Perhaps New York should begin by giving back any Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, Ford, and Carnegie cash used to establish major institutions in the city. After all, those are old dead white men. 
Does anyone need any further proof that the Left's war on freedom, dignity and common sense has reached a deadly serious phase? This nation cannot survive in any recognizable form as long as thugs like this are the arbiters of our "culture."

Hey, all you identity-politics jackboots, this is how it's done

The very clear-eyed, level-headed and principled conservative columnist and podcast host Guy Benson got "engaged" to his partner yesterday.

Someone on Twitter pose this question to him:

Are you gonna force Christian wedding vendors to serve your wedding?

To which Benson responded:

Nope. Live and let live. I support SSM *and* religious liberty & will put those values into practice.

Again, as it seems necessary to point out repeatedly in this day and age, it's quite possible to acknowledge two disparate facts at once. Guy Benson is in a homosexual relationship, and he's a conservative.

He's also a Christian, by the way. How does that fit?

We each work out our salvation in fear and trembling, standing alone before Almighty God on that day in which there is no sunset and no dawning. None of us can say how that goes for any other of us.

By the way, the 2015 book he wrote with Mary Katherine Ham, End of Discussion: How the Left's Outrage Machine Shuts Down Debate, Manipuates Voters, and Makes America Less Free (and Fun) is a great read.

Europe's decadence is acutely manifest in Germany's attempt to keep doing business with Iran

Streiff at Red State says that try as they might to keep doing so, two factors will greatly inhibit their attempts. One is The great new US ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, and the other is Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Sultan:

First, we have Ambassador Richard Grennell. Grennell, you’ll recall, is the guy who gave the Washington Post a brief bout of fecal incontinence when he tweeted, shortly after confirmation:
As said, US sanctions will target critical sectors of Iran’s economy. German companies doing business in Iran should wind down operations immediately.
And this:

Also today, Saudi Arabia declared that German firms are ineligible for government contracts:
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has ordered that no more government contracts be awarded to German companies, in a sign of continued irritation over Berlin’s foreign policy in the Middle East, German magazine Der Spiegel reported on Friday.
Citing no sources, it said the move was likely to hit major companies such as Siemens (SIEGn.DE), Bayer (BAYGn.DE) and Boehringer Ingelheim as well as carmaker Daimler (DAIGn.DE).
Relations between Germany and Saudi Arabia have been strained, and Saudi Arabia last year summoned its ambassador in Germany home for consultations over comments by then-Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel about the political crisis in Lebanon.
Saudi Arabia is a significant trade partner for Germany, generating 2017 exports worth 6.6 billion euros ($7.7 billion), according to Germany’s statistics office.
Siemens last year won an order worth around $400 million to deliver five gas turbines for a combined heat and power plant being built in Saudi Arabia. Daimler soon after secured an order for 600 Mercedes‑Benz Citaro buses from Saudi bus operator SAPTCO.
A senior German businessman in Saudi Arabia, who asked to remain anonymous, told Reuters on Friday that especially the healthcare sector was currently feeling added scrutiny when applying for Saudi tenders.
“They have even been asking: Where are the products coming from? Are they made in Germany? Do you have other manufacturing sites? And as soon as this is made in Germany, they have been rejecting any German applications for tender,” the person said.
This is a tightening of screws on the EU. Not only will companies be cut off from US markets but the Saudi market will be off limits as well. Unless they are willing to accept Iran as their only trading partner, they have to fall in line.
Quit playing footsie with the bad guys. Get in line and act like a Western nation.


Friday, May 25, 2018

A cautionary note

My latest is up at The Resurgent. It cautions conservatives, in the wake of the VSG phenomenon and subsequent self-examination of our movement, not to focus on today's array of issues at the expense of our core principles.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

More than ever, victimhood-mongering is all the Left is offering America

Two opinion pieces are currently generating a lot of buzz.

One is Jessica Valenti's New York Times op-ed on how "real feminists" need to prevent conservatives from "appropriating" feminism.

Particularly rich is this assertion:

Now we have a different task: protecting the movement against conservative appropriation. We’ve come too far to allow the right to water down a well-defined movement for its own cynical gains. Because if feminism means applauding ‘anything a woman does’—even hurting other women—then it means nothing.

Would she care to attempt to justify the role hijab-wearing Muslim Linda Sarsour played in organizing and leading the pussy-hat march?

The message is pretty obvious: real feminism of necessity implies buying into the entire "progressive" worldview. It's also a tacit acknowledgement that real feminism is about raging with resentment that nature equipped the female gender to be the the half of the human species in which newly-conceived human beings gestate. That's what is meant by statements such as Valenti's characterization of conservatives having an "abysmal record on women's rights."

She cites the examples of Gina Haspel becoming CIA chief, trotting out the very tired and banal "torture" red herring, proving the above point that this is really about signing on to the entire leftist agenda, and Suzanne Scott's appointment as Fox News head.

Then there is Indy Star reporter Justin Mack's column  entitled "NFL New National Anthem Kneeling  Policy Enslaves Black Players, Fans."

Let's start with that. A person becomes an NFL player, an employee of a team which, by extension, adheres to certain league rules, of his own volition. In fact, a person has to want it pretty badly. The odds of making it are daunting, and the work of honing one's skills through high school and college is hard. So no one is forced at gunpoint to to become an NFL player. And it's a universal given that a person agreeing to be employed anywhere agrees to the conditions attendant to that employment.

Then there are two particularly offensive phrases in Mack's piece that require some examination: "The only thing missing from that directive is the word 'boy' at the end," and "You can have fame and riches too if you fall in line."

Look, pal, the directive applies to all NFL players. It's colorblind. The only way to racialize it is to say, as Mack pretty explicitly is, that it targets blacks because there is some set of special circumstances surrounding them.

And that's a lot of hooey.

Heather MacDonald has done the exhaustive research that rebuts the notion that there is some kind of systemic prejudice against blacks on the part of America's law-enforcement entities:

Who is killing these black victims? Not whites, and not the police, but other blacks. In 2016, the police fatally shot 233 blacks, the vast majority armed and dangerous, according to the Washington Post. The Post categorized only 16 black male victims of police shootings as “unarmed.” That classification masks assaults against officers and violent resistance to arrest. Contrary to the Black Lives Matter narrative, the police have much more to fear from black males than black males have to fear from the police. In 2015, a police officer was 18.5 times more likely to be killed by a black male than an unarmed black male was to be killed by a police officer. Black males have made up 42 percent of all cop-killers over the last decade, though they are only 6 percent of the population. That 18.5 ratio undoubtedly worsened in 2016, in light of the 53 percent increase in gun murders of officers—committed vastly and disproportionately by black males. Among all homicide suspects whose race was known, white killers of blacks numbered only 243. 
Violent crime has now risen by a significant amount for two consecutive years. The total number of violent crimes rose 4.1 percent in 2016, and estimated homicides rose 8.6 percent. In 2015, violent crime rose by nearly 4 percent and estimated homicides by nearly 11 percent. The last time violence rose two years in a row was 2005–06.  The reason for the current increase is what I have called the Ferguson Effect. Cops are backing off of proactive policing in high-crime minority neighborhoods, and criminals are becoming emboldened. Having been told incessantly by politicians, the media, and Black Lives Matter activists that they are bigoted for getting out of their cars and questioning someone loitering on a known drug corner at 2 AM, many officers are instead just driving by. Such stops are discretionary; cops don’t have to make them. And when political elites demonize the police for just such proactive policing, we shouldn’t be surprised when cops get the message and do less of it. Seventy-two percent of the nation’s officers say that they and their colleagues are now less willing to stop and question suspicious persons, according to a Pew Research poll released in January. The reason is the persistent anti-cop climate. 
Four studies came out in 2016 alone rebutting the charge that police shootings are racially biased. If there is a bias in police shootings, it works in favor of blacks and against whites. That truth has not stopped the ongoing demonization of the police—including, now, by many of the country’s ignorant professional athletes. The toll will be felt, as always, in the inner city, by the thousands of law-abiding people there who desperately want more police protection. 
The whole leftist enterprise is about stripping the individual of all agency.

The overlords who derived their power from an all-pervasive state want to reduce people to the level of cattle, and they get a lot of help from the glib and rage-filled denizens of the self-appointed cultural arbiters of post-America.

They talk a good game about "empowerment," but they will brook no chiming in from those who point out that all this indignation is about keeping blacks, women and any other group that wears its demographic classification like a badge utterly dependent on them for some kind of collective "liberation" that is always just beyond reach.

Social Security: still a looming crash-and-burn, and still going unaddressed

Myra Adams at NRO takes a fresh look at the truly unsettling numbers. She begins by pointing out that official Social Security Statements include the warning that "by 2034, the payroll taxes collected will be enough only to pay about 77 percent of scheduled benefits."

It's a classic case of more going out than is coming in:

According to the Trustees of Social Security, the problem is fueled by two factors: First, from now until 2034, “the ratio of workers paying taxes to support each Social Security beneficiary will decline significantly from 3:1 to 2:1. In 1970, this ratio was nearly 4:1.” Second, by 2034 the total number of beneficiaries “is projected to reach 87 million — 41 percent more than the number in 2017.”
Of course, aging Baby Boomers born between 1946 and 1964 are central to the issue. Pew Researchreports that in 2019 there will be 72 million of us.
Unfortunately, time is running out for Social Security to be drastically reformed. Beginning in 2026 we’ll see what I call the Social Security “bulge years.” This is when all Boomers, including the youngest born in 1964, will have turned 62 and be eligible to collect retirement benefits.
Then, eight years later in 2034, when the 1964 crop celebrates their 70th birthdays and the oldest Boomers turn 88, the “bulge” is projected to burst, and only 77 percent of benefits can be paid. Sixteen years from now — if the problem is not properly addressed — such a drastic reduction has the potential to shake this nation to its very core.
Meanwhile, the cost of Social Security is staggering as displayed on the U.S. Debt Clock. (What I often refer to as the U.S. government’s “ticking time bomb.”)
Today, Social Security is the government’s second-largest annual budget expense at $967.5 billion. (It’s surpassed only by Medicare/Medicaid at $1.085 trillion.)

But in 2022, the Debt Clock’s furthest future year, the cost of Social Security is projected to be $1.166 trillion — the largest budget expense — surpassing Medicare/Medicaid at $1.138 trillion. Remember, 2022 is still four years from the beginning of the “bulge years” that start in 2026, when Social Security costs will significantly escalate.
Now get ready for some numbers that should spur Congress into action — but won’t.
Currently, per the Debt Clock, Social Security’s liability is $17 trillion, but that will grow to $24 trillion by 2022. Even worse by comparison is Medicare/Medicaid with its current liability at $27.8 trillion and slowly rising to $28.4 trillion by 2022. 
  • Moreover, both Social Security and Medicare/Medicaid, along with federal-employee and veterans benefits and debt held by the public, feed into the “mother of all numbers” —  the U.S. government’s total unfunded liabilities. The cost of benefits that the U.S. government is obligated to pay its citizens now stands at $113 trillion, but increases to $140 trillion by 2022.

Contrast those immense unfunded liabilities with the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and federal tax revenue: 

• GDP, now at $20 trillion, is projected to increase to only $22 trillion by 2022.
• Federal tax revenue, currently at $3.33 trillion, rises to $3.4 trillion by 2022.
It does not take a math genius to recognize that sitting in drab Washington, D.C., federal buildings are teams of budget analysts who know that Social Security retirement is not the only government benefit program that will be forced to cut smaller monthly checks in the ensuing decades. According to the Social Security Trustees, for example, “Without legislative action, approximately 11 million disabled people and their families could face across-the-board benefit cuts of 7 percent in 2028.” 
After all these years and all this indisputable data, "entitlements" remain a third rail.

Plus, compared to any other method of planning for one's sunset year's it has an abysmal rate of return.

North Korea: Ain't gonna be no unicorns and rainbows

It's official:

The White House officially ended the speculation of “will-they-or-won’t-they” Thursday morning with a letter to Kim Jong Un regretfully declining to take part in a nuclear and peace summit with North Korea due to the “tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in [Kim’s] most recent statement.”
This cancellation of the planned summit puts to rest — at least temporarily — the question of whether or the not the U.S. could bring the mercurial North Korea leader to the table to discuss his country’s nuclear ambitions and an appeasement agreement between North Korea and South Korea/U.S.

North Korea Foreign Ministry official Choe Son Hui was particularly irritated by US Vice President Mike Pence's comments to Martha McCallum on FNC's The Story, in which he said that Bolton's employing of the Libya model was indeed the US position.

 Choe called Pence a "political dummy" for comparing Libya to North Korea. She noted that Libya's nuclear program was in its early stages when it came to the negotiating table, while North Korea has spent years developing its nuclear weapons. 
"As a person involved in the US affairs, I cannot suppress my surprise at such ignorant and stupid remarks gushing out from the mouth of the US vice president," she said.
Well, yeah. The ostensible position of the US, even through all the years of patty-cake measures like the Agreed Framework and the Six-Way Talks, has been that North Korea will not have a nuclear weapons program or arsenal. Period. Pence was basically saying that the US position doesn't change just because that arsenal is now a done deal. We were going to go to that summit and say, "Get rid of 'em."

And well we should. There is no other sane policy to have.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Wednesday roundup

Michael Graham, writing at the CBS News website, says that the latest school shooting, the one in Texas, causes a fundamental question to loom large for gun-control zealots:

What "common-sense gun laws" would have stopped this?
He breaks this down into some specifics:

 . . . would expanded background checks, or closing the alleged "gun show loophole" have had any impact on the Santa Fe shooter? How about bringing back the "assault weapon ban," or restricting the size of magazines, or raising the minimum age for legal gun purchases?
Answer: No. 
Consider this conversation between the Most Equal Comrade and Mrs. Food Desert:

President Obama tells the story of traveling through rural Iowa during the 2008 campaign and his wife Michelle saying to him, "If I was living in a farmhouse, where the sheriff's department is pretty far away, and somebody could just turn off the highway and come up to the farm, I'd want to have a shotgun or a rifle to make sure I was protected."
President Obama's reply: "And she was right."
Dems are in a quandary here:

Democrats are caught on the horns of their own dilemma. They can either propose useless laws that would have virtually no impact on potential mass shooters; or gun confiscation which has very little support among the electorate and would be a massive turnout magnet for Republican voters.
Don't think the MSM are in the tank for Dems? How come we're not seeing reportage of this remarkable turn of events?

Reality never campaigns for Democrats.
However, judging from the total silence over Monday's Reuters/Ipsos generic ballot poll, the nation's media certainly does. How else could an objective observer explain an apparent decision by every single mainstream outlet to ignore such a clear opportunity for website traffic?
On Monday at 2:49 p.m., Thomson Reuters' Polling Editor Chris Kahn tweeted this shocker: the Democratic Party has completely lost the double-digit edge it held just weeks ago.
That all-but-certain #BlueWave the media has harped on for months is gone, along with the likelihood that the Democrats will retake the House of Representatives. Mainstream editors deemed the possible retaking of the House based on data gathered one year out from November to be worth scores of headlines. However, not one of those editors has yet reached the reasonable conclusion that the collapse of that narrative six months out from Election Day deserves any coverage whatsoever.
Michelle Malkin reports on how former Education Secretary Arne Duncan has suddenly discovered the charms of keeping kids out of government schools:

Educrat (ED-yoo-krat) noun, usually pejorative. A government school official or administrator whose primary function is to spend tax dollars telling other parents what to do with their children.

Beltway education bureaucrats abhor families who choose to keep their kids out of public schools -- unless it's to grandstand over gun control.
Behold Arne Duncan, longtime pal of Barack Obama and former U.S. Department of Education secretary, who called last weekend for parents nationwide to withdraw students from classes "until gun laws (are) changed to keep them safe."

Emotions are still raw after a teen shot 10 classmates and teachers to death in Texas last week. But Duncan has no excuse for his cynical, made-for-cable-TV exploitation of the Santa Fe High School massacre. Existing state laws banning minors under 18 from purchasing or possessing guns didn't stop the shooter. Neither did laws against possessing sawed-off shotguns or pipe bombs.

And contrary to hysterical early reports, the accused 17-year-old gunman did not use "assault rifles." So a "common sense" ban on "assault weapons" would not have saved lives, either.
But effective solutions to maximize students' safety and well-being seemingly aren't Duncan's goals. His mission is airtime. Publicity. Entertainment. Provocation for provocation's sake. Show time -- for the children, of course.
School boycotts are a "radical idea," he admitted to MSNBC. "It's controversial. It's intentionally provocative." Praising teacher walkouts and student protests, Duncan told The Atlantic he supported parent-initiated school shutdowns for gun control because "we are not protecting our kids... And the fact that we're not doing that -- we're not willing to think radically enough to do it -- I can't stomach that." 
Ah, the royal, unstomachable "we."
Here's another thing I find hard to swallow: Education overlord Arne Duncan now championing the radical idea of parents exercising their autonomy to do what's best for their children.
As Obama's meddling power-hungry education secretary, Duncan attacked "white suburban moms" and their children who turned to homeschooling in protest of the top-down Common Core "standards"/testing/data-mining program. Duncan sneered that he found it "fascinating" that the grass-roots anti-Common Core revolt came from "white suburban moms who -- all of a sudden -- their child isn't as brilliant as they thought they were, and their school isn't quite as good as they thought they were."
This elitist control freak revealed his fundamental disdain for rabble-rousing parents who've taken educational matters in to their own hands. By characterizing the movement against Common Core as "white" and "suburban," Duncan also exposed his bigotry against countless parents "of color," like myself, who've long opposed Fed Ed's sabotage of academic excellence, local control and student privacy in school districts across the country. 
Note that newly minted parents' rights advocate Arne Duncan never once advocated boycotting Chicago public schools, which he ran for eight years, for their abject failure to quell rampant school violence. 
Dan Blumenthal of the American Enterprise Institute has some of the most incisive analysis of the current juncture of the North Korea situation I've seen:

The only way to succeed in pressuring Kim to give up his nukes and Xi to abide by the sanctions he signed on to is to credibly threaten the use of force on the peninsula. But that is practically impossible during preparations for a summit.
So, in the last week, Kim began to show his cards through a predictable outburst in which he poured cold water over the idea of complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization (CVID) — the only outcome the United States should accept after so many years of accepting less.
Now we come to the crux of the problem. Getting Kim to accept CVID would necessitate a radical strategic change in the direction of his country. It would be akin to Anwar Sadat’s decision to align with the West or Deng Xiaoping’s decision to repudiate much of Mao’s legacy.
Kim would have to decide to throw out years of ideology and policy that forced his own people to suffer for the “great cause” of defeating the American imperialists and their lackeys in the South Korea.
He would also have to take the risk of engaging in “reform and opening.” He would have to trust that he could survive such a change, unlike, for example, Gorbachev. Xi himself has rolled back much of Deng’s reforms, fearing too much Western “spiritual pollution.”
While Kim has somewhat lessened the hostile rhetoric toward South Korea and the US, there is almost no indication that he has made any of these big decisions.


Provocative piece by Daren Jonescu asking how we should regard Plato:

Apropos of a discussion of Plato’s intentions in his depiction of Socrates, and specifically the notable ways that Plato’s Socrates differs both from Xenophon’s contemporaneous depiction and from the historical figure later Socratic philosophers, such as the Stoics, had in mind, a friend who views Plato with some skepticism confronted me with this provocative question:
Is Plato a philosopher or an artist? Is Plato a man of philosophic temperament who presents philosophy in an artistic manner, or is Plato a man of artistic temperament who uses philosophy and philosophizing as the canvass for and means to expressing his art?
The question is serious, and cannot be dismissed on simplistic grounds such as, “How could twenty-four hundred years’ worth of subsequent philosophers be wrong in their judgment of him?” For we might ask how many of the philosophers of those intervening centuries were themselvestruly philosophers in the sense in which that word is normally associated with Plato, or with ancient philosophy in general. That is, from the Greeks we inherited the idea that philosophy is a way of life, not merely a doctrine or a set of answers to specific questions; and yet many of our most influential thinkers, certainly in the modern era, seem to embody a conception of philosophy more invested in claims to knowledge (i.e., doctrines) than in personal spiritual development per se. 
In addition, there have been significant members of history’s Great Thinkers Club who spoke so disdainfully of Plato, or even of ancient thought in general, that one could make the case that they would have disputed Plato’s status as a philosopher in their preferred sense of the term. I think of Locke’s or Hobbes’ loathing for Greek metaphysical language, which they mocked as in effect a rhetorical dance of the seven veils; or Kant’s dismissal of the science of being as a “dialectical illusion.”
Furthermore, some of the historically important thinkers most closely aligned with theoretical “Platonism” are of dubious philosophic stature themselves, whether by the ancient or modern standards of philosophy. St. Augustine, for example, who perhaps did as much as anyone else to keep Plato vital and relevant through the medieval and early modern eras, might reasonably be classified as, to paraphrase my friend’s question, “a theologian who uses philosophy and philosophizing as a canvass for and means to expressing his faith.”
Nor can we easily classify Plato as a philosopher on the grounds of his great and unquestionable civilizational influence, including on later philosophers. For Homer, the Bible, and Shakespeare may all, in varying ways, be said to have had seminal influence in the development of civilization and the history of ideas, and yet neither God nor the two poets could be categorized as philosophers in any literal sense.
Jonescu's own conclusion? Plato was a "philosopher of artistic means."

Marco Rubio rips the Very Stable Genius a new one over the latter's odd stance toward Chinese telecommunications giant ZTE. Well, maybe it's not so odd. The VSG is in a bit of a bind. He needs maximum Chinese goodwill when it comes to North Korea, and sanctions on ZTE would surely be unhelpful with that.

It's not helpful when the president of the country doesn't know basic economics

That's the problem beleaguering Turkey at present:

Turkey's embattled lira on Wednesday lost over 3.5 percent in value to hit new historic lows against the US dollar, as markets watched to see if the central bank will take emergency action to buttress the currency.
Following sharp losses on Tuesday, the lira continued to underperform all other emerging market currencies, after suffering a hammering in Asian trade overnight when Japanese investors sold Turkish assets.
It lost 3.6 percent against the dollar to trade at 4.84, only slightly paring losses after earlier for the first time ever testing the 5.0 ceiling by hitting 4.92 lira to the dollar.

Over the last month alone, the lira has lost over 18 percent in value against the dollar as fears grow over the health of the Turkish economy which is dogged by double-digit inflation despite high growth.

Its performance has been even worse than the Argentinian peso which has also suffered severe turbulence over the last month.
The sharp fall in the currency's value has come at a hugely sensitive time as Turkey heads to June 24 presidential and parliamentary elections where President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is seeking a new mandate and a thumping parliamentary majority. 
The next meeting of Turkey's central bank is not due until June 7 but economists believe an emergency -- and substantial -- rate hike by the central bank is not only on the cards, but essential.

"It seems highly likely that they'll take action," said William Jackson, emerging markets economist at Capital Economics in London, saying the bank needed to raise rates by 200-300 basis points to provide some support to the lira.

He told AFP the sell-off in the lira over the past few weeks has been even more severe than that which preceded the emergency hike by the bank in early 2014.

With the bank and its chairman Murat Cetinkaya silent for the past week, he said the central bank needs also to act to "shore up its own credibility" with markets questioning whether it will "be able to take action".

The situation has not been helped by Erdogan himself who has consistently pressured the central bank to keep rates down to boost growth.

He hurt the lira last week by saying he plans a greater say in monetary policy if he wins the elections, which markets saw as a slap in the face of the nominally independent central bank.

He has also made statements that fly in the face of economic orthodoxy, describing interest rates as the "mother and father of all evil" and saying low interest rates help keep down inflation.

"The currency is in complete freefall," said Jameel Ahmad, analyst at FXTM forex brokers, saying Erdogan's comments had been the "catalyst" for the lira's current woes.
Ahmad said in a note that the threat to the central bank's independence "is so high that it is preventing traders from wanting to even take a risk on buying the lira at its current depressed levels." 
Dude, your chops seem to be in the area of Islamist repression. Don't go all Maduro on your people as well. Let the folks at the big-people table handle this lira business.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Maybe, maybe not

Trump let loose with a number of noteworthy comments during the point in his meeting with South Korean president Moon when the press was permitted its barrage of questions, on subjects ranging from the Chinese telecommunications giant ZTE to whether the summit with Kim would take place as scheduled on June 12 to what might be possible in terms of bringing North Korea into the world economy.

The overall effect was yet another demonstration of how the Very Stable Genius views the world - that is, in terms of deals. He alternated between obsequiousness ("North Korea has the chance to be a great country") and a willingness to walk away without hesitation.

He spelled this out in no uncertain terms:

You never know about deals. You go into deals that are 100 percent certain, it doesn't happen. You go into deals that have no chance, and it happens, and sometimes happens easily. 

I made a lot of deals. I know deals, I think, better than anybody knows deals. You never really know. And that's why I say it to you. But I will tell you, this [South Korean president Moon] is a good man and he is a very capable man. And I think South Korea is very lucky to have him. 
Donald Trump conducts this presidency like he's conducted his business career: completely devoid of emotional investment, certainly devoid of a core set of principles. It's the game - the art of the deal, if you will - that gets him off. He'd like to accomplish some kind of meaningful shift in North Korea's relations with the world, not for the result of enormously reduced danger of apocalypse for its own sake, but because reducing that danger would mean that he won.

But he's perfectly willing to walk away at any time, much as a hard bargainer on a car lot makes it clear to a salesman that the deal is nowhere near certain until the paperwork is signed.

I guess the Trumpists have a point when they say that it's the end result that counts, but I'm not sure a guy with such an odd and rudderless worldview is going to bring to the table everything that he could bring to get the results we all want to see.

But I guess that's what the actually principled members of his foreign-policy team are for. It looks like he's relying on them to a great degree to craft the actual position the US is going to present to North Korea. He's been told it's a winning position, and that's all he feels he needs to know. 

It's a whole new way of approaching the nation's deadly serious world-stage issues: gamesmanship instead of immutable principles. As the VSG says, we'll see how it goes.

The darkness inherent in the notion that we can invent ourselves

I'v been thinking about an array of items currently on the sociocultural radar screen that, while seemingly disparate, form a sum total that beckons our examination.

Let's examine each one in a bit more depth and then explore how they tie together.

The school shooting: Yes, there are some good ideas being floated, ranging from ways to harden school campuses to common-sense measures Congress could take that wouldn't infringe on Second Amendment rights, but they don't address the basic question that looms over it all: Why are there so many more crazy people than there were fifty years ago?

The Nellie Bowles - Jordan Peterson dustup: In my post on serving communion from yesterday, I mentioned, as I often do in posts about my spiritual journey, my remaining sticking points before deciding to become a Christian. The whole matter of patriarchy was a biggie. The fact that the Ten Commandments are obviously addressed to men (commanding them not to covet the neighbor's wife), Paul's teaching about how a woman should remain silent in a church service and wait until she got home to ask her husband any questions about it, the traditional inclusion of the term "obey" in a bride's wedding vows - these things struck me as fundamentally unfair, and I'm no feminist. 

But I am a historian, and if you look at the broadest possible sweep of humanity, you see that patriarchy is baked in to the way societies have always organized themselves. It's just a plain fact that most of the great philosophers, scientists, artists, kings, presidents and generals have been men. For that matter, the founders of the world's great religions have been men: Buddha, Mohammed, Lao Tzu. I finally had to concede that Christian doctrine, as it does with anything, merely confirms what is apparent in human life generally.

The new royal couple's pre-wedding cohabitation: You know how nine out of ten people in Western civilization are reacting to this: "Oh, come on, we're not going to get outraged about something like that at this late date, are we?" Which indicates how differently we define marriage, and by inference family, than we did until recently.

Mainstream media bias: The linked Bernard Goldberg column includes his recollection of how that played itself out in the 1980s - when he was a CBS News correspondent:

. . . the homeless lobby had an agenda and they needed their liberal friends in the media to help them pursue it. They needed to drum up compassion for the homeless -- and one way to do it was to convince reporters that the homeless were just regular folks brought down by a bad break. And journalists, who pride themselves on their compassion, gladly went along. After all, if the homeless were mainly a bunch of winos and junkies the public might not want to fund government welfare programs to help them. But if they were "people you know" we'd all be more sympathetic. (Besides, putting homeless folks on TV who look just like the audience helps boost ratings.)

So liberal reporters became cheerleaders for a liberal cause they believed in.

And something similar happened with AIDS. In the 1980s, journalists were spreading an epidemic -- of fear. And that too was based on fake news.

A headline in U.S. News & World Report said, "The disease of them is suddenly the disease of us."

The Atlantic Monthly headlined a cover story with this:
"Heterosexuals and AIDS: The Second State of the Epidemic."

The Ladies Home Journal ran a story with this tease on the cover: "AIDS & Marriage: What Every Wife Must Know."

Life magazine ran a cover with this scary headline: "Now No One Is Safe from AIDS."
And then he reminds us of how it's playing out today:

 They're still putting out fake news -- about the supposed sexist wage gap between men and women doing the same job with the same experience, about the "epidemic" of rape on college campuses, about the 99 percent of scientists who supposedly believe Al Gore's version of global warming and think everyone else is an ignorant science "denier."
 Now, let's see about tying them together. It seems to me the common thread is this: We have utterly jettisoned the foundation that used to bind us together as a society. We have rejected the very notion of transcendence. We've assumed we have the power of self-invention, that it's us who can do the transcending and overcome the basic structure of the universe, a structure that precedes our very existence. And the "mainstream media," which is supposed to be in the business of informing us of factual occurrences, is actually in the business of perpetuating the notion that our self-invention has no negative consequences.

I probably should also have included this NRO piece by Clay Routlege on how Americans are increasingly attached to their pets:

Humans have a basic need to belong — to form and maintain close social bonds — as well as a need to feel like our lives are meaningful. These needs are typically intertwined: When asked to describe what makes life meaningful, most people zero in on close relationships, and studies show that the more people feel connected to and supported by others, the more they view their lives as full of meaning. Traditionally, family life has played a vital role in meeting these psychological needs. But young adults today are less likely to marry and have children than young adults of previous generations. They are also more likely to live alone and have fewer people in their lives whom they feel they can rely on for social support.
Are young adults who aren’t partnering up or starting families turning to their pets to feel loved and purposeful? Pet ownership is on the rise among single people. Single women are more likely to have pets than single men, but pet ownership among both groups is increasing. Compared to married people, single adults are more likely to view their pets as family members. And the lonelier people are, the more inclined they are to perceive pets as having human-like characteristics.

Young adults appear particularly likely to prioritize their pets as if they were human family members. While income is generally a good predictor of spending on pets, this isn’t the case among the younger generation. Unlike middle-aged and older adults, for Americans under the age of 30, limited financial resources do not reduce the likelihood of buying premium pet food. Corporate America is beginning to understand and capitalize on how young adults view their pets. Some employers looking to attract young talent offer pet insurance and pet-daycare services, or allow workers to bring their dogs to the office. Some companies even provide employees “pawternity” leave to allow them to spend time bonding and adjusting to life with a new pet.

More and more, pets are at the center of the major life decisions that were once driven largely by marriage and family. A 2017 survey found that 33 percent of first-time home-buying Millennials say that finding a better space or yard for their dogs influenced their decision to buy a home, while only 25 percent cited marriage or plans for marriage and only 19 percent cited the birth or expected birth of child. The only two motives for home ownership that topped wanting better space for dogs were the desire for more living space and the opportunity to build equity. 42 percent of Millennials who have yet to buy a home reported that having or wanting a dog is a key factor in their future home-buying plans. 
Why is this happening? Routlege offers two possibilities:

First, if young adults feel more socially isolated or disconnected, they may view pets as a safer form of social connection. Research indicates that loneliness and ostracism trigger a defensive cognitive and emotional response in which people become motivated to avoid further social harm. This can reduce their inclination to take social risks, to put themselves out there in a way that makes them more socially vulnerable. Their social defensiveness may in turn make pets an especially attractive source of companionship. (Indeed, as previously noted, loneliness is associated with a tendency to view pets as having human-like characteristics and pets can help reduce feelings of loneliness.)
Second, in our individualistic society, pets may be appealing to some because they lack the agency of humans and thus require less compromise and sacrifice. Other people have their own goals, opinions, and interests. Human relationships thus require negotiation. With a quick Google search, you can find a number of “think pieces” arguing that dogs are better companions than humans. The unifying and ultimately self-centered theme of many of these pieces is that dogs will shower you with positive affirmation no matter what, while demanding little in return. They allow you to gain some of the benefits of companionship and caregiving, without most of the costs.
He then gives us the bracing splash of cold water:

We shouldn’t be surprised that Americans are increasingly interested in the types of social connections that allow them to feel both safe and special. In our individualistic culture, we often privilege self-esteem over characteristics such as responsibility, loyalty, duty, and sacrifice. We also coddle children and teens to protect them from the social risks and emotional pains of life. But doing so is not without its costs. By teaching our kids to focus primarily on their own happiness, we may be failing to convey that life’s most meaning-providing and socially-fulfilling goals are often stressful, can make us temporarily unhappy, and require concession.
People find the greatest personal meaning and are best able to cope with the life stresses that threaten meaning when they view the individual self as subordinate to a broader social self — a marriage, a family, a religious community. Pets are great additions to our social world, but they are poor substitutes for the messier human relationships that make life worth living. 
We are starved for that "broader social self," but are now so far along the path of insisting on our own autonomy that we don't know how to muster the self-inventory to begin a trek back.

Human beings can't be whatever they want to be. There is an architecture to this universe that precedes us, and we enter the realm of sheer insanity when we try to buck it.

We are so far gone that many if not most post-Americans have convinced themselves that everything is fine, that life is merely all about being able to keep a roof over one's head and pursue whatever it is that interests one.

That's why society is so atomized and why modern life is so ugly.

I'll go a step further: This is the work of the Devil.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Thoughts on the black-American-music aspect of last weekend's royal wedding

You have to do a bit of scrolling and putting in of keywords to get to the real story about "Stand By Me."

That is, of course, the 1960 Lieber-Stoller-Ben E. King composition that was a huge hit for the latter of these and which has, in the intervening years, shown up in a number of cultural contexts, including being the song that provides the title and the thematic hook for a 1980s coming-of-age movie.

Last weekend, it was part of the wedding ceremony when Prince Harry wed Meghan Markle. A south-London choir comprised of singers who are black performed and undeniably fine rendition of it prior to the vows.

It created quite a buzz, most of it having a strong identity-politics odor. (Markle is half-black, as well as a lifelong US citizen.)  BBC News tries to make it seem like it's directly derived from a 1905 by Charles Albert Tindley.   Huffington Post tries to make a big deal out of its role in civil-rights activity over the years. Popsugar mentions the fact that that Ben E. King did the original version and that people got all teary-eyed at the performance at the wedding.

Interestingly, you apparently have to, if you're going to use Yahoo to do your searching, go to a September 2013 article in the left-leaning UK Guardian to find even a mention of the fact that the main composers of that song were Jerry Leiber an Mike Stoller, much less an account of the process of creating it:

Of all the songs I wrote or co-wrote in my career, this is my favourite. It came at a strange time, though. I'd just left the Drifters and had to plead with Ahmet Erteg√ľn, the president of Atlantic Records, to find a place for me. He put me to work with legendary songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. It was like a schooling for me – a kid from Harlem who knew nothing about anything.
There's been some debate about how the song was conceived. But, as I recall, we'd some time left over at the end of a session, and I was asked if I had any songs in my head. I'd originally intended Stand By Me for the Drifters. The song we eventually recorded wasn't so different from what I'd come up with. Jerry may have changed the lyrics in places, but not by much.
It was 1960, but in my vocal I think you can hear something of my earlier times when I'd sing in subway halls for the echo, and perform doo-wop on street corners. But I had a lot of influences, too – singers like Sam Cooke, Brook Benton and Roy Hamilton. The song's success lay in the way Leiber and Stoller took chances, though, borrowing from symphonic scores, and we had a brilliant string arranger in Stan Applebaum.
But Jerry Wexler, a producer at Atlantic, was unimpressed. He hated it because we'd gone into overtime in the studio with an expensive orchestra. I wasn't trying to make a hit with Stand By Me, though. I was just thrilled one of my songs was being recorded at a time when there were so many great songwriters around, people like Leiber and Stoller, Goffin and King.
Wexler, obviously, came around.

The main point is that it was a corporate effort. It was an Atlantic Records creation. Ahmet Ertegun, the son of a career Turkish diplomat, Jerry Wexler, the son of a Polish Jewish immigrant window-washer, the legendary engineer Tom Dowd, string arranger Stan Applebaum - and, of course, the great songwriting team of Leiber and Stoller.

The whole Leiber-Stoller story is worthy of a deep dive. The shorthand version is that each came from Jewish families on the east coast that, coincidentally, moved to the west coast around 1950, where the respective boys finished high school at Fairfax, the main Jewish high school in Los Angeles. The two guys found each other, discovered their mutual love of black American music - jazz, blues, gospel - and started writing songs. Their first big success was "Hound Dog" by Big Mama Thornton, followed by "Smokey Joe's Cafe" by the Robins, which led to the string of stories-in-a-three-minute-format hits for The Coasters. Hits for others, including "Jailhouse Rock" for Elvis Presley, soon followed.

The point is that what we consider black American music involves contributions by a considerable number of white Americans, often of eastern European Jewish ethnicity. Consider the importance of Irving Mills to the career of Duke Ellington. Or the role of Lester Melrose in putting Chicago blues on the map in the 1930s. Or what Cincinnati's Syd Nathan, founder of the King label, did for the advancement of black music in the 1950s and 60s.

The point here is that this music is much richer than the identity-politics, feel-good goop-peddlers would have you believe. It may be easily-grabbed shorthand to call it "black American music," but a whole lot of people of various demographic classifications were involved in composing it and getting it recorded and distributed.

Let's be sure that is part of the record.

Thoughts on serving communion for the first time

I went for decades without taking communion. That's because I went for decades attending church extremely sporadically. And that, in turn, is because the trajectory of my outlook on spiritual matters was typical of an American of my generation during the last four decades of the twentieth century. I cut all ties to the mainline Protestant training I'd received in my youth and rushed headlong into every esoteric approach to spirituality I came across. I even, as a result of some relationships I entered into along the way, spent some time in the pop-mysticism "transformational' trenches.

At the end of that portion of my journey, I was basically a secular agnostic. I wasn't an atheist, but I felt as if the whole matter of a creative force and its relationship to the universe didn't warrant a high priority among my list of concerns.

Then I noticed something interesting: The people I admired most in my life, the ones who seemed to exude the most maturity, wisdom and humility, were Christians. That aroused my curiosity. I began attending church. My first foray was a nondenominational community church. I don't know if this speaks to the lack of depth I was bringing to the quest at the time or not, but I bailed basically over the music. (I still have a problem with the way music is approached in many, if not most, worship settings.) I'd be kind of caught up in the exuberance of the atmosphere and then I'd find myself thinking, oh, sheesh, here come the jangling guitars.

So I tried Catholic Mass for about a year. I liked the ritual of it - the robes and incense, the lectionary readings from the Old and New Testaments and something from one of the Gospels. I liked the hierarchy, the assurance of structure.

Still, my remaining sticking points (something I've written about her at LITD and may have occasion to again) weren't getting answered. I suppose if I'd attended any of the open-to-the-public Catholic informal-discussion groups around town (one met in a pub), it may have helped. But what I did was bail.

Then I became friends with a student in one of the classes I teach at our local community college, a recovering addict with similar music tastes to mine. We talked a lot, about a wide variety of things, during break. He had become a lay minister, and intended to attend divinity school upon graduation. After he graduated, I'd see him around town and give lip service to coming to hear him preach. He was ensconced in a small, rural Methodist church the congregation of which skews older.

In January 2015, I finally made good on it.

To cut to the chase, I found my home, and, more importantly, I found myself being drawn in by what I can now see was the Holy Spirit. I went all in - contributing dishes to pitch-ins, helping with vacation Bible school, occasionally performing during the special-music portion of the service.

I'm not a member of that church or even a Methodist, but I'd take communion, as one is welcome to do in that denomination, and with every passing first Sunday of the month, it came to mean more to me. I'd take my small glass and my bread cube and kneel at the rail and let myself be fully exposed, to the depths of my being, to my bone and marrow, to Him who knows the number of hairs on my head.

I still considered myself a fledgling Christian until earlier this year. Part of my sense that I'd grown past that designation was the realization that crud like sin and doubt wasn't something one put away after the initial stages of the journey. Mature Christians are as besotted with foibles as the babes.

Still, I wasn't ready for what was suddenly thrust upon me a couple of weeks ago. The gentleman who generally helps the pastor with communion was out of town, and as the service progressed to the point for communion, I wondered what the pastor was going to do. After reciting the recounting of what Jesus did at that Last Supper, he gestured to me and asked me to come up and help.

I collected as much composure as I could and came forward. I held the tray with the glasses and as each congregant came forward, I looked him or her in the eye and said, "This is the blood of Christ, shed for you."

Maybe there are people in this world who can carry out that task perfunctorily, but the sense of responsibility I felt must surely be akin to that assumed by most surgeons an airline pilots. There was also the matter of trying not to let them see that I was on the verge of blubbering like an emotional mess.

To pass on the substance of the Word made flesh to one's brothers and sisters is an honor and a solemn assignment. You are passing along the truly mystical intersection between Heaven and Earth.

I did do a bit of blubbering when I got to my car after the service. I felt as if I'd taken a step onto a new level of the ascent towards the throne.

This is serious stuff. I never could jive God, even when I thought I could. But now that I've asked Him to show himself at work in my life, I truly understand there is no hiding place. I asked for his guidance, and I got it. He'll know instantly if I turn back.

In a way, it's really simple, as Pastor Dereck said this past Sunday. You just say "yes" to him.

But once you do, you're going to start getting grownup assignments. You don't want to flub them. Although he'll still love you if you do. Ask Peter.

By the way, my pastor graduated from divinity school Saturday. I'm one proud former teacher.

Starbucks pukes all over itself to appease the SJWs, to the point of completely jettisoning basic business sense

Just wow.

Starbucks decided the get-your-minds-right sit-down to which it's subjecting staffs at all its stores is not enough self-flagellation. It's now going to institute a policy of permitting people to just come in and hang out indefinitely without buying anything.

Lefties don't like to hear about it, but there's this thing called human nature, and it's going to kick in big-time in this situation. Paying customers who want to have meetings or get some work done while they sip a latte and munch on a danish are going to find themselves crowded out by the swath of society without much on the ball - certainly nothing good - that will immediately sniff out a hangout.

And then when the chain has to rescind this policy to avoid going broke, it will look like the bad guy to the SJWs. "Just another corporation trampling the marginalized under foot" and all that crud.