A senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Sowell has published more than a dozen books, the latest of which is Dismantling America.In introducing his new book, Sowell asserts that the Obama administration “is the embodiment, the personification, and the culmination of dangerous trends that began decades ago,” trends that are “dismantling America.” Sowell sees this in the dismantling of marriage, of culture, and of self-government.
In defense of what politics is and is not.
Michael Lind writes: What is politics? The answer is not obvious. Most Americans on the left and the right either do not know or have forgotten what politics is. Conventional American progressives have pretty much abandoned any distinction between the political realm and society and culture in general, while conventional American conservatives treat politics as an exercise in doctrinal purity. Both sides, in different ways, undermine the idea of a limited public square in which different groups in society can agree on a few big things while agreeing to disagree with others — progressives, by including too much of society in the public square, and conservatives, by blocking compromise with too many ideological tests.
“The secularization of the population was not necessary, but the secularization of the public sphere was. You could no longer win political debates by appealing to a particular interpretation of divine Scripture. Under the rules of Enlightenment liberalism, you had to make a case for the policy you preferred that was capable of persuading citizens who did not share your religious beliefs. A mere numerical majority was not enough. If the politicians express the will of a majority of voters, and the majority are told how to vote by clerics, then the democracy is really an indirect theocracy.”
Politics is only possible in a society in which much, if not most, of social life is not politicized. In premodern communities in which every aspect of life was regulated by custom or religious law, there was no politics, in the modern sense. There was no public sphere because there was no private sphere. Tribal custom or divine law, as interpreted by tribal elders or religious authorities, governed every action, leaving no room for individual choice. There were power struggles, to be sure. But there was no political realm separate from the tribe or the religious congregation. And disagreement was heresy.
The separation of church and state — strictly speaking, the privatization of religious belief, beginning in early modern Europe and America — was the precondition for modern politics. The secularization of the population was not necessary, but the secularization of the public sphere was. You could no longer win political debates by appealing to a particular interpretation of divine Scripture.
“Conventional American progressives have pretty much abandoned any distinction between the political realm and society and culture in general, while conventional American conservatives treat politics as an exercise in doctrinal purity. Both sides, in different ways, undermine the idea of a limited public square in which different groups in society can agree on a few big things while agreeing to disagree with others — progressives, by including too much of society in the public square, and conservatives, by blocking compromise with too many ideological tests.”
Under the rules of Enlightenment liberalism, you had to make a case for the policy you preferred that was capable of persuading citizens who did not share your religious beliefs. A mere numerical majority was not enough. If the politicians express the will of a majority of voters, and the majority are told how to vote by clerics, then the democracy is really an indirect theocracy.
“As the Marxist substitute for Abrahamic religion has faded away, its place on the political left is being taken by the new secular political religions of environmentalism and identity politics. Each of these is strongest in post-Protestant Northern Europe and North America, and weakest in historically Catholic and Orthodox Christian societies.”
Unfortunately, as Horace observed, “You can drive out Nature with a pitchfork, but she keeps on coming back.” The same might be said of religion. While some forms of religion have been expelled from politics, new forms keep trying to creep in, to recreate something like the pre-Enlightenment world in which a single moral code governs all of society and disagreement is intolerable heresy.
[Read the full text here, at The Smart Set]
Marxism can only be understood as a Christian, or Judeo-Christian, or Abrahamic spin-off — a faith militant, with its prophets, its holy scriptures, its providential theory of history, its evangelical universalism, its message of brotherhood and sisterhood transcending particular communities. Marxism was the fourth major Abrahamic religion. Nothing like Marxism could have evolved independently in traditional Confucian China or Hindu India, with their cyclical rather than progressive views of history.
“Other elements of religion, expelled from the public sphere, have crept back in via the left, thanks to environmentalism. As the great environmental scientist James Lovelock has pointed out, anthropogenic global warming is affected by the sources of energy for large-scale power generation and transportation. But refusing to fly on airplanes or reducing your personal “carbon footprint” is a meaningless exercise, explicable only in the context of religion, with its traditions of ritual fasts and sacrifices in the service of personal moral purity.”
As the Marxist substitute for Abrahamic religion has faded away, its place on the political left is being taken by the new secular political religions of environmentalism and identity politics. Each of these is strongest in post-Protestant Northern Europe and North America, and weakest in historically Catholic and Orthodox Christian societies. A case can be made that militant environmentalism and militant identity politics are both by-products of the decomposition of Protestantism in the Anglophone nations and Germanic Europe. Read the rest of this entry »
If every high school principal said this, it would change students’ lives and would change America. So what exactly should every high school principal say? Dennis Prager explains.
Groups of youths among the more than 12,000 anti-reality protesters smashed storefronts and set at least one car on fire
(ATHENS, Greece) — Elena Becatoros and Derek Gatopoulos report: Rioters hurled petrol bombs at police who responded with tear gas as an anti-austerity demonstration outside parliament turned violent Wednesday, while Greek lawmakers began debating contentious measures needed to start negotiations on a new bailout and avoid financial collapse.
“I must tell you, that Monday morning at 9:30, it was the most difficult day of my life. It was a decision that will weigh on me for the rest of my life.”
Groups of youths among the more than 12,000 protesters smashed storefronts and set at least one vehicle alight. The clashes were the first significant protest violence since the left-wing Syriza government came to power in January promising to repeal bailout austerity. Police said at least 50 people were detained.
“I don’t know if we did the right thing. But I know we did something with the sense that we had no choice. Nothing was certain and nothing is.”
— Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos
The protest was timed to coincide with the start of debate on the bill, which includes consumer tax increases and pension reforms that will condemn Greeks to years of more economic hardship.
The bill has fueled anger among the governing left-wing Syriza party and led to a revolt by many party members against Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who has insisted the deal forged early Monday after a marathon weekend eurozone summit was the best he could do to prevent Greece from crashing out of Europe’s joint currency.
“I must tell you, that Monday morning at 9:30, it was the most difficult day of my life. It was a decision that will weigh on me for the rest of my life,” said Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos.
“I don’t know if we did the right thing. But I know we did something with the sense that we had no choice. Nothing was certain and nothing is,” he said as the debate kicked off.
Civil servants protested with a 24-hour strike that disrupted public transport and shut down state-run services across the country. Read the rest of this entry »
Ignoring the most basic rules of journalism
Jonah Goldberg writes: Rolling Stone screwed up.
In most media scandals, it’s unfair to paint with such a broad brush. When Stephen Glass concocted his fables at The New Republic, he went to antiheroic lengths to conceal his deceptions from his colleagues. Janet Cooke, who famously won a Pulitzer for her Washington Post series about an eight-year-old heroin addict, “Jimmy’s World,” lied to her editors.
“The field of journalistic ethics can get ridiculously Talmudic. But it’s all based on a very simple rule: Tell the truth.”
That’s not the case with Rolling Stone’s publication of “A Rape on Campus,” the story of the brutal gang rape of a student named “Jackie” at the University of Virginia that turned out to be false. Its failure was a group effort, from editor-in-chief Jann Wenner on down.
The best thing you can say about this fiasco is that there was little deliberate lying involved. According to an exhaustive report by the Columbia Journalism School, the article’s author, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, and her editors didn’t purposefully publish falsehoods.
Of course, this is faint praise. The field of journalistic ethics can get ridiculously Talmudic. But it’s all based on a very simple rule: Tell the truth. If the truth is unclear, tell what you know and give both sides (or as many credible sides to a story as might exist) an opportunity to make their case. (For opinion journalists, like yours truly, the rule is even easier: Don’t say anything you don’t believe.)
“At every stage, editors and reporters knew what they should do: Talk to the accused rapists, confirm the identities and testimony of alleged witnesses, give the University of Virginia and the leadership of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, where the rape allegedly occurred, a fair opportunity to rebut the charges, nail down corroborating details…”
Rolling Stone ignored this basic rule. At every stage, editors and reporters knew what they should do: Talk to the accused rapists, confirm the identities and testimony of alleged witnesses, give the University of Virginia and the leadership of the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, where the rape allegedly occurred, a fair opportunity to rebut the charges, nail down corroborating details, etc.
“And, at almost every turn, they collectively went another way, caving to Jackie’s refusal to help confirm her story.”
And, at almost every turn, they collectively went another way, caving to Jackie’s refusal to help confirm her story.
The Columbia report, requested by Rolling Stone and written pro bono by the journalism school’s dean, Steve Coll, and colleagues, has a single major failing. It’s dispositive on the who, what, when, where, and how the system broke down, but it’s remarkably weak on the question of “why?” Read the rest of this entry »
Photo of Attorney General delivering apology to Darren Wilson
From The Washington Post:
Here is a key part of the conclusion of DOJ’s report:
As discussed above, Darren Wilson has stated his intent in shooting Michael Brown was in response to a perceived deadly threat. The only possible basis for prosecuting Wilson under section 242 would therefore be if the government could prove that his account is not true – i.e., that Brown never assaulted Wilson at the SUV, never attempted to gain control of Wilson’s gun, and thereafter clearly surrendered in a way that no reasonable officer could have failed to perceive. Given that Wilson’s account is corroborated by physical evidence and that his perception of a threat posed by Brown is corroborated by other eyewitnesses, to include aspects of the testimony of Witness 101, there is no credible evidence that Wilson willfully shot Brown as he was attempting to surrender or was otherwise not posing a threat. Even if Wilson was mistaken in his interpretation of Brown’s conduct, the fact that others interpreted that conduct the same way as Wilson precludes a determination that he acted with a bad purpose to disobey the law. (p. 86).
Audio Exclusive: Eric Holder’s Apology to Officer Wilson
Hopefully this report will put to rest some of the outlandish claims that have been made about Michael Brown’s death. For example, the report convincingly rebuts the “hands up, don’t shoot” account:
[T]here are no witnesses who could testify credibly that Wilson shot Brown while Brown was clearly attempting to surrender. The accounts of the witnesses who have claimed that Brown raised his hands above his head to surrender and said “I don’t have a gun,” or “okay, okay, okay” are inconsistent with the physical evidence or can be challenged in other material ways, and thus cannot be relied upon to form the foundation of a federal prosecution. Read the rest of this entry »
Modern liberalism depends on the language police, and Jonathan Chait himself is Exhibit A.
Sean Davis writes: In a widely praised piece for New York Magazine, liberal writer Jonathan Chait says the leftist language police are perverting liberalism. Chait is wrong. The politically correct language police don’t pervert modern liberalism; they embody it. And amateur leftist thought cop Jonathan Chait himself is proof.
“Speech codes are a widely used tool taken right out of the fascist toolbox. If they can’t control how you act, then they’ll control how you speak. If they can’t control how you speak, then they’ll control how you think.”
In his piece, Chait catalogued numerous discussions within a large Facebook group called “Binders Full of Women Writers” to show the toxic effect that language and thought crime policing can have on basic political discourse.
“Jonathan Chait’s recent critique of political correctness insists that the phenomenon has undergone a resurgence. It hasn’t; contrary to Chait’s characterization, it never went away. The difference is that it is now being used as a cudgel against white liberals such as Jonathan Chait, who had previously enjoyed a measure of immunity.”
“Chait is hardly in a position to complain about that, given his own heavy reliance on that mode of discourse. Chait isn’t arguing for taking an argument on its own merits; he’s arguing for a liberals’ exemption to the Left’s general hostility toward any unwelcome idea that comes from a speaker who checks any unapproved demographic boxes…”
— Kevin D. Williamson
At times, members of the overwhelmingly liberal group would demand that certain sentiments not be shared. Sometimes, members declared that certain people weren’t even allowed to have opinions on a subject on account of their color, gender, or sexual orientation. Here’s a small selection from Chait’s piece:
On July 10, for instance, one member in Los Angeles started a conversation urging all participants to practice higher levels of racial awareness. “Without calling anyone out specifically, I’m going to note that if you’re discussing a contentious thread, and shooting the breeze … take a look at the faces in the user icons in that discussion,” she wrote. “Binders is pretty diverse, but if you’re not seeing many WOC/non-binary POC in your discussion, it’s quite possible that there are problematic assumptions being stated without being challenged.” (“POC” stands for “people of color.” “WOC” means “women of color.” “Non-binary” describes people who are either transgender or identify as a gender other than traditionally male or female.)
Two members responded lightly, one suggesting that such “call-outs” be addressed in private conversation and another joking that she was a “gluten free Jewish WWC” — or Woman Without Color. Read the rest of this entry »
D’Souza said this film is different than his previous works in that it emphasizes the pre-eminence of American history.
“This film is a film that will open your eyes. There is fear and alarm in the film, but it’s also inspiration, you can feel and experience the greatness of America. You’ll be motivated to love your country even more and do more for her. What better gift can we give America on the Fourth of July?”
He contests that leftists are attempting to rewrite history to change the perception of America. Read the rest of this entry »
Trust: Fox News even beats the broadcast networks
For Breitbart News, John Nolte reports: A new poll should have the minions at the left-wing, Soros-funded, tax-exempt, union-busting Media Matters scrambling for a rewrite at the drawing board for it shows that Fox News is the most trusted name in all of news and the left-wing MSNBC is the least trusted.
In a poll about a whole lot of things (religion, immigration, Obama) the Brookings Institution also surveyed 1538 adults about the news networks. When asked “which of the following news sources do you trust the most to provide accurate information about politics and current events?,” Fox News beat everyone with 25%. MSNBC landed dead last with a humiliating 5%. CNN came in well behind Fox with 17%. “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” came in second to last with 8%…(read more)
Former Obama-Zombie Kicks POTUS to the Curb like a Bad Boyfriend
Tom Tillison reports: Saying she was once among President Obama‘s “most hysterical supporters,” Carey Wedlerwants the world to know she has come to see the president in a different light these past five years.
Wedler, who now calls Obama “the criminal-in-chief,” posted a video Thursday on her Youtube channel titled, “Why I’m burning my last bridge with Obama.” In the video, she is seen burning an Obama t-shirt she wore on the night he was first elected in 2008. Read the rest of this entry »
The Q & A is almost as funny as the important warning: “WARNING: CHOKING HAZARD — Small parts. Not for children under 3 yrs.” (or non-liberal adults) Note: the action figure may or may not smoke cigarettes when you’re not looking. Also, what about that index finger? Hmmm…
Q: Does the box… Say Made In China?
A: Made in Kenya, just like the “soooperhero!!!!”
Q: If I like the action figures I already have, can I keep the action figures I already have?
A: It turns out that your old action figure was overpriced. Even though you have a pre-existing action figure, you can still buy this one, which is…
Q: Does it come with a teleprompter?
A: No, but if your purchase him, you will own him and can make him say whatever you want. Just think of yourself as Leftist Special Interest Group…
Goldberg writes: The Beltway consensus seems to be that 2013 was a bad year for the same reason nearly every other recent year was bad: polarization and partisanship. Personally, I can think of plenty of more important things to worry about than partisanship. Democracy is about disagreements, and partisanship is often a sign of healthy disagreement.
But polarization is a bit different. It speaks not just to a lack of basic agreement about what kind of society we should live in, but a breakdown in understanding and respect among Americans. There’s a lot of them-vs.-us talk these days on the left and the right. And while I’d never want to live in a country where we all join hands and sing “Kumbaya,” maybe a bit more understanding wouldn’t be all bad.
So I have small suggestions for New Year’s resolutions for both the Right and the Left in 2014. For liberals, maybe you should try to accept the fact that you’re not the non-conformists you think you are. And for conservatives, perhaps you should consider that you’re not necessarily the irrefutable voice of “normal” Americans.
David French writes: Last weekend AEI’s Arthur Brooks published an interesting piece on happiness in the New York Times’ Sunday Review. I’d encourage you to read the whole thing, but this observation (taken from the comprehensive work of the University of Chicago’s General Social Survey) was particularly interesting and runs counter to perceptions fostered by pop culture:
For many years, researchers found that women were happier than men, although recent studies contend that the gap has narrowed or may even have been reversed. Political junkies might be interested to learn that conservative women are particularly blissful: about 40 percent say they are very happy. That makes them slightly happier than conservative men and significantly happier than liberal women. The unhappiest of all are liberal men; only about a fifth consider themselves very happy.
Fascinating. While I’ll let others comment on the happiness of conservatives, let’s address liberal men. Why are they so much less happy?
A core component of modern leftism is its comprehensive attack (and accompanying redefinition) of masculinity. This attack poisons how men experience their own nature, relationships, and purpose.
Lefties Contemplate the Pain of “Cyberlibertarianism,” Wonder Where They’ll Ever Find a Centralized World to Manage Choice and BehaviorPosted: December 8, 2013
He starts off going wrong with a rather gross misunderstanding of what being “of the left” in American terms means these days:
The digital revolution, we are told everywhere today, produces democracy. It gives “power to the people” and dethrones authoritarians; it levels the playing field for distribution of information critical to political engagement; it destabilizes hierarchies, decentralizes what had been centralized, democratizes what was the domain of elites.
Most on the Left would endorse these ends. The widespread availability of tools whose uses are harmonious with leftist goals would, one might think, accompany broad advancement of those goals in some form. Yet the Left today is scattered, nearly toothless in most advanced democracies. If digital communication technology promotes leftist values, why has its spread coincided with such a stark decline in the Left’s political fortunes?
What the left really wants is a centralized elite authority that pursues particular ends it claims to desire, often allegedly on behalf of “the people”; people who really want dethroned authority, free flow of information, and decentralization are libertarians.
Why would a left that wants to see a world shaped to its own particular desires–about income distribution, market and personal choice and behavior, and forced change in people’s transportation, energy, and consumption choices, embrace a world of greater decentralization and choice?
Thomas Sowell writes: A friend recently sent me a link to an inspiring video about an upbeat young black man who was born without arms. It showed him going to work — unlike the record number of people living on government payments for “disabilities” that are far less serious, if not fictitious.
How is this young man getting to work? He gets into his car and drives there — using controls set up so that he can operate the car with his feet.
What kind of work does he do, and how does he do it? He is involved in the design of racing cars. He sits at his computer, looking at the screen, with the keyboard on the floor, where he uses his toes as others use their fingers.
His story recalls the story of Helen Keller, who went to an elite college and on to a career, despite being both deaf and blind. Her story was celebrated in books, in television documentaries and in an inspiring movie, “The Miracle Worker.”
But our culture has changed so much over the years that the young man with no arms is unlikely to get comparable publicity. Helen Keller’s achievement was seen as an inspiration for others, but this young man’s achievement is more like a threat to the prevailing ideology of our times.
Funny How Everything’s Gone Left
Says the Seattle Times’ Danny Westneat, who — captivated by some pretty gosh-darn amazing insights in Peter Beinart‘s Daily Beast essay, “The Rise of the New, New, Super-New-and-Much-Better-This-Time-We-Promise-Left“— suggests that while the Reagan-Clinton generation might look favorably on the pro-business centrism and robust entrepreneurialism of that era, the younger millennials are rejecting it.
Having been burned by financial collapse of the Bush era, and weak economic malaise of the Obama era, millennials distrust business, profits, and corporations.
Millennials, the former New Republic editor says, are increasingly comfortable supporting candidates who proudly campaign under the banner of socialism.
By “Everything’s Gone Left“, what Westneat means, is that already pretty far-Left-wing political micro-cultures in two places, New York, and Seattle, have Gone.. Left. Well, gone further left. (Sorry to have to translate, but it’s necessary to explain to outsiders: inside the media bubble, these two geographic locations are synonymous with “Everything”)
A fair question might be: are we so sure pro-socialist millennials in New York, and Seattle, are really leading… anyone…anywhere?
The generation right behind the millennials are already questioning the millennials’ suspicious embrace of the welfare state, the youth-punishing costs of Obamacare, and the lurid spectacle of pro-government excess. As a casual dip into Twitter or Tumblr, or Facebook‘s college-campus-generation’s anti-Left pushback will reveal, they’re not cool with it, and they’re outspoken about it.
As I wrote in in my introduction to Michelle Goldberg‘s essay, “2008 Crash Prompts Young Intellectuals to Revisit Marxism”:
“The same financial crash prompted young intellectuals to revisit Ayn Rand, too, judging from the surge in sales of Atlas Shrugged…is but one example of the resurgence in philosophical questioning and renewed examination of historic texts that inevitably follows economic disasters. I think this is natural…”
Westneat tells readers that Seattle, like New York, is right there on the leading edge of this Rise of New Leftism. The more activist, wage-control-advocating, socialism-embracing new-Left phenomenon is flourishing. Like a pretty flower.
To be fair, Westneat isn’t promoting the trend. He’s not without skepticism. He’s just reporting on it. And since he just donated a copy of Emily Gets Her Gun But Obama Wants to Take Yours, to the Seattle Public Library, in honor of the city’s recent policy change regarding the legal carry of firearms by law-abiding citizens in library facilities, I admire his civic priorities. I’ll give anything he writes a fair reading.
Also, I could be wrong, and Westneat is right, about this trend.
So, step aside New York. You’re not the only knuckle-dragging throwback to romanticism of Pol Pot, the radical hipness of the Sandinistas, and the historic grandeur of Marxist solutions. Seattle is now a “leading indicator”!
The election isn’t for 10 days, but we can already declare the big winner in Seattle.
It’s the socialist.
Out in left field? Seattle politics may seem that way, but it’s really the leading edge.
The battle between Obama and the Republicans is a sad and pitiful contest for the same reason that a baseball game in which one side plays by the rules and the other one races the bases in motorcycles and shoots the balls over the fence with an RPG.
Ted Cruz has come the closest to understanding that the other side just doesn’t play by any rules, but lacks the leverage to make much of that. Cruz is still a product of a system in which there are rules. And that system is as unfit for challenging the left-wing radicals running things as trying to play a game of chess against an opponent who feels like moving the pieces any which way he feels like and always claims to have won.
Law is a consensus. If you stop keeping the law, the police arrest you. If a gang of left-wing radicals in a basement somewhere stopped following the law, they might be locked up. It’s not a certain thing considering that mad bomber Bill Ayers is a university professor. But once those same left-wing radicals control much of the system and the media that reports on the system, they have no reason to follow the law. Read the rest of this entry »
Its devotion to central planning has endured from the French Revolution to Obamacare.
The fundamental problem of the political Left seems to be that the real world does not fit their preconceptions. Therefore they see the real world as what is wrong, and what needs to be changed, since apparently their preconceptions cannot be wrong.
A never-ending source of grievances for the Left is the fact that some groups are “over-represented” in desirable occupations, institutions, and income brackets, while other groups are “under-represented.”
Even as I chuckled at Ian’s post about Democratic hysterics over the farm bill, I realized that the leftist response is no laughing matter. I have three thoughts:
First, excepting an exceedingly cynical minority, leftists use this rhetoric because they really, truly believe it. They truly believe we don’t care about kids. They truly believe we conservatives want people — especially minorities — to live in poverty if it means preserving our perceived wealth and privilege. In part they believe this because they tend to live in more concentrated monocultures than conservatives, and are more used to talking about us than talking to us.
Second, as intensely as they believe we are evil, they believe in their own ideological virtue. Thus, they often take a critique of their ideas in the same way that others take personal insults — as direct frontal assaults on their character. This makes civil disagreement difficult and causes dialogue to degenerate quickly to an exercise in public shaming.
Third, conservatives are sick to death of this nonsense. It’s tearing our nation apart — one tweet and Facebook post at a time. At the dawn of the modern era of political correctness, my conservative friends (especially my conservative Christian friends) tended to respond with shock and consternation when facing accusations of racisim, sexism, homophobia, etc. “No, no, I’m really a nice guy!” Now, the response is either derisive or — more likely for the less political among us — sullen, seething silence. This is not how great constitutional democracies are nurtured and maintained.
I don’t mean to say that conservatives are immune from these failings — and I’ve certainly seen an unhealthy amount of the same tactics from some on the right — but there is simply no comparison between conservatives and liberals in the level of tolerance for dissent or in the assumption of the worst of motives for disagreements. Depending on the issue, from the Supreme Court to the academy to a disagreement between “friends” on social media, the unshakeable assumption is that a person who isn’t in favor of our bloated, poverty-perpetuating welfare state or isn’t an enthusiastic participatant in the sexual revolution is merely a cruel, vicious, greedy, self-seeking bigot.
And that brings to mind this golden oldie from Jon Stewart