A dumbed-down Democratic party runs out of ideas.
The Stupid Party
Kevin D. Williamson‘s current NRO article is extra pithy this week (or “wonderfully bold’, as Jay Nordlinger says) it’s more like a long, funny, sarcastic email from a friend, or an energetic barstool rant — if the guy on the barstool is a National Review Online roving reporter — than a scholarly essay. It’s also the first I’ve seen to take on The Daily Show head-on, exposing it and mocking it without mercy. Because for many conservatives, the Daily Show is a guilty pleasure. Right? Conservatives watch The Daily Show, or watch clips that circulate…
[UPDATE: Don't miss Jay Nordlinger's response to Kevin D. Williamson's essay in the Corner. It begins: Kevin’s piece “The Stupid Party” — a typically and wonderfully bold piece — awakened many thoughts in me. I’m sure it has done that in others…]
…Just like liberals — though they pretend they don’t — watch Fox News shows like The Kelly File, The Factor, or Red Eye. The viewership for these shows is not as segregated as members of their loyal fan base would have us think. Video clips from The Daily Show are often linked (on those rare ‘friendly fire’ occasions when Stewart takes shots at Democrat targets) at right-wing watering holes like Hot Air, and hipster libertarians dig Stewart’s humor, think Jon Stewart is “one of us”. Make no mistake. He’s not.
“…for the Left the point of journalism is not to criticize politics or to analyze politics but to be a servant of politics, to “destroy” such political targets as may be found in one’s crosshairs.”
As Williamsons’ rant illustrates, The Daily Show‘s predictable, sanctimonious, echo-chamber humor is not brilliant satire. It doesn’t speak “truth to power”. For its low-information fan base, it’s what passes for “journalism” and “hard-hitting reporting”. And accurately represents the vacancy of the Left’s bankrupt world view.
Kevin D. Williamson writes:
Here is a selection of recent headlines: “Jon Stewart Destroys Megyn Kelly,” “Jon Stewart Destroys Fox News’ ‘Spite-Driven Anger Machine,’” “Jon Stewart Destroys What’s Left of Peggy Noonan’s Credibility,” “Jon Stewart Destroys Fox News Over Syria Coverage,” “Jon Stewart Destroys Glenn Beck’s Utopia,” “Jon Stewart Destroys Bill O’Reilly” — there are about 520,000 more — and, not to be missed, “Jon Stewart Destroys Chicago-Style Pizza.”
The sound of terrors is in his ears at 11 p.m. on Comedy Central, and in prosperity the destroyer cometh upon him.
Mr. Stewart is the host of a fake news show, the genesis of which probably was a conversation that went approximately like this: Brother-in-Law: “There’s nothing funny on Saturday Night Live except the ‘Weekend Update.’ They should really just do that for the whole show.” Jon Stewart: “Hey . . . !” Mr. Stewart is among the lowest forms of intellectual parasite in the political universe, with no particular insights or interesting ideas of his own, reliant upon the very broadest and least clever sort of humor, using ancient editing techniques to make clumsy or silly political statements sound worse than they are and then pantomiming outrage at the results, the lowbrow version of James Joyce giving the hero of Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man the unlikely name of Stephen Dedalus and then having other characters in the novel muse upon the unlikelihood of that name.
“I do not much blame the Left for hesitating to talk about Big Ideas. The Left has been losing the Big Idea debate for a generation or more, in no small part because its last Big Idea killed 100 million people.”
His shtick is a fundamentally cowardly one, playing the sanctimonious vox populi when it suits him, and then beating retreat into “Hey, I’m just a comedian!” when he faces a serious challenge. It is the sort of thing that you can see appealing to bright, politically engaged 17-year-olds… Read the rest of this entry »
For The Weekly Standard, Stephen F. Hayes writes: On February 23, five days before Russia invaded Ukraine, National Security Adviser Susan Rice appeared on Meet the Press and shrugged off suggestions that Russia was preparing any kind of military intervention: “It’s in nobody’s interest to see violence returned and the situation escalate.” A return to a “Cold War construct” isn’t necessary, Rice insisted, because such thinking “is long out of date” and “doesn’t reflect the realities of the 21st century.” Even if Vladimir Putin sees the world this way, Rice argued, it is “not in the United States’ interests” to do so.
On February 28, Russian troops poured into Ukraine. As they did, Secretary of State John Kerry spoke to Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, his Russian counterpart. Kerry briefed reporters after their talk, plainly unaware of the developments on the ground. Kerry said that Russia wants to help Ukraine with its economic problems. Lavrov had told him “that they are prepared to be engaged and be involved in helping to deal with the economic transition that needs to take place at this point.”It was a remarkably transparent case of pretending the world is what we wish it to be, rather than seeing it as it is.
Hours later, television screens across the world displayed images of Russian soldiers infiltrating Crimea and Russian artillery rolling through Sevastopol. Obama administration officials told CNN’s Barbara Starr that the incursion was not “an invasion” but an “uncontested arrival” and that this distinction was “key” to understanding the new developments. Read the rest of this entry »
For the Times Literary Review, Robert Irwin writes: The title Reading Darwin in Arabic notwithstanding, most of the men discussed in this book did not read Charles Darwin in Arabic. Instead they read Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, Ernst Haeckel, Herbert Spencer, Thomas Huxley, Gustave Le Bon, Henri Bergson and George Bernard Shaw in European or Arabic versions. They also read popularizing accounts of various aspects of Darwinism in the scientific and literary journal al-Muqtataf (“The Digest”, 1876–1952). The notion of evolution that Arab readers took away from their reading was often heavily infected by Lamarckism and by the social Darwinism of Spencer. Darwin’s The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection was published in 1859, but Isma‘il Mazhar’s translation of the first five chapters of Darwin’s book into Arabic only appeared in 1918.
For a long time, the reception of Darwinism was bedevilled by the need to find either neologisms or new twists to old words. As Marwa Elshakry points out, there was at first no specific word in Arabic for “species”, distinct from “variety” or “kind”. “Natural selection” might appear in Arabic with the sense “nature’s elect”. When Hasan Husayn published a translation of Haeckel, he found no word for evolution and so he invented one. Tawra means to advance or develop further. Extrapolating from this verbal root, he created altatawwur, to mean “evolution”. Darwiniya entered the Arabic language. Even ‘ilm, the word for “knowledge” acquired the new meaning, “science”. With the rise of scientific materialism came agnosticism, al-la’adriya, a compound word, literally “the-not-knowing”.
[Robert Irwin is the author of "Visions of the Jinn: Illustrators of the Arabian Nights" (Studies in the Arcadian Library) and "Memoirs of a Dervish: Sufis, mystics and the sixties" both available at Amazon]
Theories about evolution had circulated widely in Britain and France from the late eighteenth century onwards. In the nineteenth century the work of Georges Cuvier on the reconstruction of creatures from fossil remains and of Charles Lyell on the geological evidence for the great age of the world and its slow transformation had prepared the ground for consideration of Darwinism.
Michael Patrick Leahy writes: Conservative author Dinesh D’Souza, the director and co-writer of the highly successful documentary 2016: Obama’s America, told the Conservative Political Action Conference on Friday that “after we did 2016, President Obama was very upset… If he was upset about that film, wait ’til he sees the new one.”
”I was seventeen years old when I first set eyes on America… Even then I knew I could be the architect of my own destiny.”
D’Souza’s new movie, America, produced by Oscar winner Gerald Molen and John Sullivan, will debut in July.
“We are living in the American era, an era that began at the end of World War II, but this moment is very fragile…”
D’Souza was indicted for violating federal election laws in January by the Department of Justice. Many saw the move as pure political payback against an outspoken critic of President Obama. On Tuesday, D’Souza appeared in court with his attorney in New York City, who signaled his client was prepared to go to trial.
Getting the Cold War wrong since 1983
For NRO, Jonah Goldberg writes: Things are moving far too fast in Kiev, Moscow, and Crimea to write about events there. But the past isn’t going anywhere. Though you wouldn’t know that from the way the Obama administration talks about it.
Throughout this crisis — indeed, throughout all of Barack Obama’s presidency — the White House has been eager to insist that our long, unpleasant history with the Russians is behind us.
“…the truth is Obama’s hostility to Romney’s policies had little to do with their being outdated. Obama didn’t like America’s Cold War policies during the Cold War.”
Obviously, every administration wants a fresh start with long-time rivals. That’s why there have been four “resets” with the Russians since 1991, including George W. Bush’s famous soul-searching gaze into Vladimir Putin’s eyes and Hillary Clinton’s comic effort to give the Russians a “reset” button (that actually said “overcharge” on it).
Fresh starts are fine. But when Obama came into office, his administration implicitly blamed our poor relationship with Russia on Bush, as if Russia’s misdeeds were provoked by America.
I knew it…it was only a matter of time…only a few days…before the most senior figures from the Zombie Museum of Foreign Policy would pen Op-Eds, weighing in on the current developments in the Ukraine. A few days ago, Zbigniew Brzezinski was re-animated, today, we have none other than Henry Kissinger:
For the The Washington Post, Henry Kissinger writes: Public discussion on Ukraine is all about confrontation. But do we know where we are going? In my life, I have seen four wars begun with great enthusiasm and public support, all of which we did not know how to end and from three of which we withdrew unilaterally. The test of policy is how it ends, not how it begins.
“Foreign policy is the art of establishing priorities.”
Far too often the Ukrainian issue is posed as a showdown: whether Ukraine joins the East or the West. But if Ukraine is to survive and thrive, it must not be either side’s outpost against the other — it should function as a bridge between them.
Russia must accept that to try to force Ukraine into a satellite status, and thereby move Russia’s borders again, would doom Moscow to repeat its history of self-fulfilling cycles of reciprocal pressures with Europe and the United States.
David Francis writes: As the eyes of the world and the media turn to Ukraine, Syrian President Bashar al Assad has quietly been making momentous gains in his three-year civil war with rebels that all but assure he will leave office on his own terms.
“He is still in power, and with negotiations stalled, it’s unlikely he’ll be removed. In short, he’s won.”
Assad’s army has taken Yabroud, the last major town held by Sunni Muslim rebels, located near the Lebanese border. On Tuesday, with support from Hezbollah fighters and local paramilitary groups, Assad’s forces bombarded the town until the rebels retreated.
Taking Yabroud is an important victory for Assad, who has been fighting for months to control the surrounding region.. He has now effectively cut off rebel supply lines from Lebanon.
As the young and entrepreneurial flee, the country struggles to compete and pay for its massive welfare state.
For City Journal, Pascal Bruckner writes: Not long ago, I attended a colloquium of French scientists and philosophers in Corsica, France, called “How to Think About the Future.” With few exceptions, the astrophysicists, economists, physicians, and social theorists on hand offered dark visions of tomorrow. A new financial crisis, water and grain shortages, endless war, a general collapse of ecosystems—we were spared no catastrophic scenario.
A month earlier, as it happened, I had been invited by the environmentalist think tank Breakthrough to San Francisco, where I reflected with a group of thinkers on the Schumpeterian economic idea of “creative destruction” and its application to energy production.
“…dozens of books are published in France affecting the charm of despair. The French don’t like themselves any longer—they’re one of the world’s most depressed populations…”
My experience there was quite different. Three days of vigorous and sometimes tense debates followed among advocates favoring, respectively, nuclear power, shale gas,and renewable energy sources. Defenders of threatened species had their say, too, but no one doubted in the slightest that we had a future, even if its contours remained unclear.
“…Our beloved country, in other words, has been losing not only its dynamic and intelligent young people but also older people with some money. I’m not sure that this social model can work over the long term.”
I recall an observation that Michael Schellenberger, Breakthrough’s president, made in the proceedings: “The United States’ greatest hope at present lies in shale gas and in the 11 million illegal immigrants who will soon become legal, 11 million brains that will stimulate and renew our country.” Such a comment, whatever one’s views on the specific policies that it implied, exhibited a hopefulness completely missing in Corsica—and hard to find in
today’s France, which has outlawed not only the development but even the exploration of possible reserves of natural and shale gas, and which sees every stranger on its soil as a potential enemy. France has become a defeatist nation.
A striking indicator of this attitude is the massive emigration that the country has witnessed over the last decade, with nearly 2 million French citizens choosing to leave their country and take their chances in Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, the United States, and other locales. The last such collective exodus from France came during the French Revolution, when a large part of the aristocracy left to await (futilely) the king’s return. About a century earlier, almost 2 million Huguenots fled the country, frightened by the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, which had put Protestants on an equal legal footing with Catholics. Today’s migration isn’t politically or religiously motivated, however; it’s economic.
[Be a hero and check out Pascal Bruckner's book "The Tyranny of Guilt: An Essay on Western Masochism" at Amazon, and other books at Pascal Bruckner's Amazon Author page]
Zbigniew Brzezinski was national security adviser from 1977 to 1981. (Who next? Henry Kissinger? McGeorge Bundy?)
Mr Z writes: Regarding the Russian aggression against Ukraine, much depends on what Vladimir Putin does next. But what Putin does depends on not only his calculation of the likely NATO (and especially the U.S.) response but also his estimate of how fiercely the Ukrainian people would respond to any further escalation by Russia. And, to complete the circle, the Ukrainian response would be influenced by citizens’ reaction to any further repetition of Putin’s Crimean aggression and by whether the nation believes that the United States and NATO are truly supportive.
Putin’s thuggish tactics in seizing Crimea offer some hints regarding his planning. He knew in advance that his thinly camouflaged invasion would meet with popular support from the Russian majority in Crimea. He was not sure how the thin and light Ukrainian military units stationed there would react, so he went in masked like a Mafia gangster. In the event of serious Ukrainian resistance, he could disown the initiative and pull back…Read the rest
Georgia’s former president, who has seen first-hand the sort of trouble the Kremlin is causing in Ukraine, on what to do about Moscow’s threat
For the Wall Street Journal, Matthew Kaminski writes: Between barricades of tires and impromptu memorials to the victims of Ukraine’s revolution, Mikheil Saakashvili stops to pose for pictures and shake hands. “You showed us how to fight Russia,” says a gray-haired man in a camouflage jacket, embracing him on Institutska Street, a front line in last week’s climactic clashes in the capital.
As the former president of the ex-Soviet nation of Georgia, Mr. Saakashvili certainly knows all about confronting Russia and Vladimir Putin. He also lost a chunk of his country in the process. Now he is here in Ukraine, a country he knows well from his youth, to advise its new leaders on how they can revive the economy as well as keep their nation intact from Russian’s potentially crippling intervention.
Mr. Saakashvili studied law and served in the Soviet military in Kiev, altogether for seven years. He has many friends and knows the major politicians, who seek out his advice.
Nina Shea, co-author of Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians, and director of Hudson Institute’s Center for Religious Freedom has an item in The Corner about religious persecution in Syria that caught my eye, go here for the full story. Here’s a preview:
The religious persecution in Syria deepened this week, as evidenced by a written ultimatum purportedly distributed by the rebel jihadist group ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) to Christians in the northern provincial capital of Raqqa. Rejecting conversion to Islam or death, some 20 Christian leaders of that city held firm in their faith and submitted to the Islamists’ demands to live by as dhimmis.
Under this arrangement, in exchange for their lives and the ability to worship as Christians, they must abide by purported seventh-century rules of the Caliph Umar. According to the Raqqa ultimatum, these include bans on renovating and rebuilding churches and monasteries, many of which need repair because they’ve been shelled and blown up over the past three years, and bans against the public display of crosses and Christian symbols and the ringing of bells. They are forbidden from reading scripture indoors loud enough for Muslims outside to hear, and the practice of their faith must be confined within the walls of their remaining churches, not exercised publicly (at, for example, funeral or wedding processions).
They are prohibited from saying anything offensive about Muslims or Islam. The women must be enshrouded, and alcohol is banned.
For The Federalist Ben Domenech writes: Government, properly understood, is an agent of force. It can cause people to not do things they would otherwise do, and can compel them to do things they otherwise would not do. It does this in small ways and big ways, in nudges and at the end of a gun. At its best, as limited government conservatives and libertarians alike understand, government causes and compels only in those arenas it must, invading the scope of human life as little as possible. At its worst, government becomes, in Saint Augustine’s phrase, a system of “great robberies” where plunder is divided by the law agreed on, and people are subdued by force in accordance to the whims of the powerful elite.
So what are we to make of the divisions that emerged in the course of Arizona’s consideration of its version of a Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and the responses it inspired? I think it comes down to a matter of priorities, and to the broad-based willingness to let personal inclinations about what society ought to look like overwhelm a reasonable understanding of the ramifications of giving government the power to shape that society.
More and more academic papers that are essentially gobbledegook are being written by computer programs – and accepted at conferences
Ian Sample writes: Like all the best hoaxes, there was a serious point to be made. Three MIT graduate students wanted to expose how dodgy scientific conferences pestered researchers for papers, and accepted any old rubbish sent in, knowing that academics would stump up the hefty, till-ringing registration fees.
It took only a handful of days. The students wrote a simple computer program that churned out gobbledegook and presented it as an academic paper. They put their names on one of the papers, sent it to a conference, and promptly had it accepted. The sting, in 2005, revealed a farce that lay at the heart of science.
But this is the hoax that keeps on giving. The creators of the automatic nonsense generator, Jeremy Stribling, Dan Aguayo and Maxwell Krohn, have made theSCIgen program free to download. And scientists have been using it in their droves. This week, Nature reported, French researcher Cyril Labbé revealed that 16 gobbledegook papers created by SCIgen had been used by German academic publisher Springer. More than 100 more fake SCIgen papers were published by the US Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE). Both organisations have now taken steps to remove the papers.