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Reality Check: Boko Haram and the Sultan of Brunei Couldn’t Care Less About Western Twitter Outrage

Modern-Barbarians

For National Review Online, Victor Davis Hanson writes:

Nigeria’s homegrown, al-Qaeda linked militant group, Boko Haram, brags openly that it recently kidnapped about 300 young Nigerian girls. It boasts that it will sell them into sexual slavery.

What do we do in the face of 19th-century evil that is unapologetic, has lethal weapons at its disposal, and uses savage rhetoric to goad us? Tweet it to death?

Those terrorists have a long and unapologetic history of murdering kids who dare to enroll in school, and Christians in general. For years, Western aid groups have pleaded with the State Department to at least put Boko Haram on the official list of terrorist groups. But former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s team was reluctant to come down so harshly, in apparent worry that some might interpret such condemnation as potentially offensive to Islamic sensitivities.savior-generals

[Order Victor Davis Hanson’s book “The Savior Generals  from Amazon.com]

From Greece to Jerusalem to Rome to the Enlightenment to the Founding Fathers slowly grew a standard of human rights that could be applied to anyone, regardless of race, creed, or color. But that is still not how most of the non-Western world works today.

Instead, Western elites now flood Facebook and Twitter with angry postings about Boko Haram — either in vain hopes that public outrage might deter the terrorists, or simply to feel better by loudly condemning the perpetrators. Read the rest of this entry »

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Jonah Goldberg: Obama’s Stand-up Routine

Obama-joker-Ha

Too bad the joke is on his youthful audience. 

If you’ve seen some of Obama’s speeches in the last week, perhaps you’ve noticed how he’s becoming quite the jokester. Obama’s spiteful sarcasm—disguised as humor, of course—is becoming increasingly hollow, divisive, unseemly. Nobody likes a bully, or a sore winner. I’m surprised he’s not called out more for his overuse of the most un-presidential rhetorical habit: the straw man. It’s one thing for a contender on the campaign trail, trying to climb his way up to an elected job, another for a man already holding the highest office in the land. The way Obama creates an imaginary opponent, then defeats that fictional opponent with zingers, snark, and bluster, is a peculiar thing to watch.

I can imagine a group of actual conservatives watching one of these speeches, finding absolutely nothing they can identify with, then, even agreeing with him about this awful enemy the president is describing. “Wow, who is that guy? He sounds like a real bastard!” “Yeah, let’s go find him and beat the snot out of him!” It’s easy to win an argument when you’re playing both roles in the debate. I’ve been hoping someone smart and entertaining would notice and report on this. Fortunately, Jonah Goldberg is back from vacation, and on the job:

Jonah Goldberg writes:

President Obama was doing his favorite thing this week: talking to crowds of adoring young people who already agree with him while acting like he persuaded them about something.

“…the president is utterly incapable of arguing with anything other than a fictional opponent.”

They also seemed to give Obama the impression that he’s a really funny guy. On Wednesday, he told a crowd of 1,400 at the University of Michigan that he visited a local deli, Zingerman’s. He proceeded to tell a long story about ordering the small Reuben sandwich, which he said was “killer.” That description got a good laugh. Then he explained how he thought the sandwich was too big, so he shared it with his adviser, Valerie Jarrett.

[Jonah’s book, The Tyranny of Cliches, is available at Amazon]

“After I finished [my] half, I wanted [her] half back,” Obama said. “But it was too late, all she had was the pickle – so I took the pickle.”

“Took the pickle” was a huge laugh line.

Pickle is a funny word, but still; when an audience thinks this is a knee-slapper, you know it’s not a rough crowd.

But Obama had a serious point to make as well. Zingerman’s “is a business that treats its workers well and rewards honest work with honest wages. And that’s what I’m here to talk about today.” He then segued into a pitch for raising the minimum wage.

National Review’s Andrew Johnson noted that Zingerman’s is pretty expensive. That small Reuben cost $13.99 – pickle included! (Thank you! I’m here all week. Please tip your servers.) The large goes for nearly $17. The irony might have been lost on the president that Zingerman’s “honest wages” also lead to high prices.

Read the rest of this entry »


The Campus Utopians

campus-utopia

The Left seems to think you can change reality the way you change your major.

Jonah Goldberg writes:  A few years ago, I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die. But that’s not important right now. Around that time, I also wrote a piece for the magazine about the new utopianism of American liberalism. In short, I think you can judge every progressive “ism” by its Utopia. What’s vexing about contemporary liberalism is that it doesn’t admit its Utopia forthrightly. The Marxists were honest about the dream of the classless society blooming from the withered-away state.

[Jonah Goldberg’s latest book: “The Tyranny of Cliches” is available at Amazon.]

The Social Gospel progressives openly promised to create a “Kingdom of Heaven” on earth (Obama did once slip and say that we can create a “Kingdom here on earth,” but he’s usually let his followers fill-in-the-blank about why, exactly, we are the ones we’ve been waiting for). To their credit, the transhumanist types are honest about their utopianism; that glorious day when we can download our brains into X-boxes and Vulcan mind-meld with the toaster.

Read the rest of this entry »


So Much For The ‘Year of Action’

Obama is full of talk about cutting red tape on job- and energy-creating projects, but it’s just talk.

Obama is full of talk about cutting red tape on job- and energy-creating projects, but it’s just talk.

FREE THE PIPELINE

Jonah Goldberg writes:  Welcome to the “year of action.” In last week’s State of the Union address, the president vowed to do whatever he must to help the economy, even if that means working around Congress: “What I offer tonight is a set of concrete, practical proposals to speed up growth, strengthen the middle class, and build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class. Some require congressional action, and I’m eager to work with all of you. But America does not stand still, and neither will I. So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do.”

The White House has touted the fact the president has a “phone and a pen” and he’s not afraid to use them.

[The Tyranny of Clichés is now on sale in paperback.]

The president also vowed to cut red tape, and not for the first time. In 2013’s State of the Union, he insisted that “my administration will keep cutting red tape and speeding up new oil and gas permits.” And in 2012: “In the next few weeks, I will sign an executive order clearing away the red tape that slows down too many construction projects.”

All of this was in the wake of Obama’s 2011 executive order requiring the elimination of “redundant, inconsistent, or overlapping” regulations. The administration had hailed the order as an “unprecedented” move to boost growth. In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal touting the order, the president wrote: “We’re also getting rid of absurd and unnecessary paperwork requirements that waste time and money.”

Laymen might have the impression that the president wants to cut red tape and take action on job-creating infrastructure, particularly oil and gas projects.

The fools.

Read the rest of this entry »


Cuomo the Intolerant

New York is already losing money, tax revenue, and talent, as residents migrate to less economically punishing states. Cuomo wants to 'purify' New York even further. (AP Photo/ Louis Lanzano)

New York is already losing money, tax revenue, and talent, as residents migrate to less economically punishing states. Cuomo’s revealing comments suggests he wants to ‘purify’ New York even further. (AP Photo/ Louis Lanzano)

The New York governor’s recent remarks show just how close-minded liberals can be

Jonah Goldberg  writes:  On paper, “liberal intolerance” is something of an oxymoron, like “jumbo shrimp,” “loyal opposition,” or “conspicuous absence.” But what makes oxymorons funny is that they are real things. There are jumbo shrimp. Absences can be conspicuous, opponents can be loyal, and liberals can be staggeringly and myopically intolerant.

[Amazon has Jonah Goldberg‘s fine book: The Tyranny of Cliches: How Liberals Cheat in the War of Ideas]

Last Friday, in a public-radio interview, New York governor Andrew Cuomo offered the sort of potted analysis of the national Republican party one would expect from an MSNBC talk show. But he went a bit further. After nodding to the fact that, historically, the New York state Republican party has been the most ideologically gelded of the breed (it is the birthplace of Rockefeller Republicanism, after all), Cuomo proclaimed that “extreme conservatives” have “no place in the state of New York.”

Who are extreme conservatives? People who are “right-to-life, pro–assault weapon, anti-gay.”

Read the rest of this entry »


Making Government ‘Smarter’

Trying to do dumb things the smart way.

 

By  Jonah Goldberg

President Obama wants to make government “smarter.” Who could disagree with that? After all, it’s unlikely that even the biggest fans of big government believe the way government does what it does is the very best, very smartest way imaginable. Whether you’re an anarchist, a Leninist, or somewhere in between, everyone can agree that Uncle Sam could afford a few more IQ points.

Let’s put it another way. If government is going to do X, it should do X the smartest way possible. On that proposition both Occupy Wall Street and the Tea Party agree.

Alas, this momentary flash of consensus disappears before our eyes like a shooting star the moment we ask a related but very different question: Is it smart for the government to do X in the first place? For instance: I think it’s a dumb idea to tickle a grizzly-bear cub while it’s napping on its mother’s belly. But if I’m given no choice but to do it, I’ll eagerly inquire about what’s the smartest way to do a very dumb thing. And if I’m told there is no smart way to do such a dumb thing (which I assume is true), I’ll at least ask for tips on the least dumb way to do it.

In announcing his effort to make government smarter — an idea with a very old pedigree — Obama invoked two organizations he’d like government to emulate. The first was Google. We’ll return to that in a moment.

For years, many of the president’s critics, including yours truly, have complained that he’s always in campaign mode. Obama is more comfortable whipping up enthusiasm among his fans on college campuses than he is working with his own cabinet — never mind members of Congress — to actually get things done. So it was not without irony that the second exemplar Obama offered for the sorts of best practices the government should adopt was his own presidential campaign. It was “one of the most inclusive and most successful campaigns in American history,” he assured an audience largely composed of his own White House staff.

“We can’t take comfort in just being cynical,” the president admonished. “We all have a stake in government success — because the government is us.”

This is among the president’s favorite formulations, and it gets to the heart of the problem. The government is not “us.” The government is — or is supposed to be — a collection of agencies that do things taxpayers and voters want done. In short, it is a tool.

Read the rest of this entry »


Inhospitable Earth: Environmentalist killjoys pretend that this is the worst time in history to live on Earth

By  Jonah Goldberg

You just can’t out-gloom an environmentalist. 

The Atlantic invited some luminaries to answer the question “How and when will the world end?” Some contributions were funny. Others were simply plausible — a volcanic eruption from underneath Yellowstone National Park is frightfully overdue. But only an environmentalist like Bill McKibben could be a killjoy about the apocalypse itself.

The environmental activist and writer declares the question moot: “In a sense, the world as we knew it is already over. We have heated the Earth, melted the Arctic and turned seawater 30 percent more acidic. The only question left is how much more fossil fuel we’ll burn, and hence how unfamiliar and inhospitable we’ll make our home planet.”

It’s difficult to imagine a more absurd overstatement. I’m not referring to the exaggerated claim that the Arctic has “melted.” And the acidification of the oceans is a real concern (though there’s reason to believe it’s not as bad as some say). But even Chicken Little wouldn’t call it proof the world is already over.What’s truly ludicrous is McKibben’s use of the word “inhospitable.”

For something like 99 percent of human history, the world was really inhospitable. Strangers everywhere were greeted with bloodshed and attacked with cruelty. Dying from premature violence was more commonplace than dying from heart disease or cancer is today. In his classic War Before Civilization: The Myth of the Peaceful Savage, Lawrence Keeley provides mountains of data documenting that modern humans live on a mountain of murder. In prehistoric societies, up to half of the population died from homicide, though 10 percent to 20 percent was closer to the norm.

In The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, Steven Pinker shows that the world has become immeasurably more hospitable since the Industrial Revolution. Even World War II was an improvement. If the death toll had been equal to that of tribal societies, 2 billion lives would have been lost instead of a “mere” 60 million to 100 million. In the United States, violent crime is the lowest it’s been in nearly half a century.

Of course, McKibben is speaking of the physical environment. But by any conceivable measure — save, arguably, outdoor temperatures — the Earth is a vastly more hospitable place for humanity thanks to the hard work of humanity. When the pilgrims came to North America, it was often described as an inhospitable wilderness. Malaria, smallpox, and yellow fever decimated immigrants (not to mention untold millions of Native Americans). Backbreaking labor was the only means of subsistence for millions of Americans for generations. Drudgery and toil — have you ever tried to churn butter? — were necessary for even the simplest pleasures. And does anyone dispute the improved lot of blacks and women?

Ironically, as global-warming fears have risen, America and the Earth have gotten more, not less, hospitable. Since 1990, global poverty has been cut in half, and since 1970, extreme poverty has dropped 80 percent.

Rich and poor alike are eating better, despite global-population growth. According to UNICEF, more than 2 billion people gained access to improved water sources between 1990 and 2010. In the developing world, meat consumption has more than doubled since the 1990s (after having doubled already since the 1960s). That’s because new technologies allow us to grow more with less. From 1940 to 2010, U.S. corn production quintupled while the land used for the crop shrank.

“Globally,” writes Matt Ridley, “the production of a given crop requires 65 percent less land than it did in 1961.” And, he notes, the acreage required for all crops is falling 2 percent a year.

Okay, things have gotten a wee bit warmer outside. But economic growth and innovation have made the world vastly more hospitable. We live longer, eat better, have more leisure time, and have fewer deadly occupations. The environment in the developed world has gotten vastly cleaner, healthier, and more enjoyable since the 1970s because rich countries can afford to make things more hospitable. We can only hope poor countries get similarly wealthy as quickly as possible.

Well, most of us can hope for such things. Others seem to think such gains come at too high a price.

— Jonah Goldberg is the author of The Tyranny of Clichés, now on sale in paperback. You can write to him by e-mail at goldbergcolumn@gmail.com, or via Twitter @JonahNRO. © 2013 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

via National Review Online


Freedom: The Unfolding Revolution

The libertarian idea is the only truly new political idea in the last couple thousand years.

By  Jonah Goldberg

‘Why are there no libertarian countries?”

In a much-discussed essay for Salon, Michael Lind asks: “If libertarians are correct in claiming that they understand how best to organize a modern society, how is it that not a single country in the world in the early twenty-first century is organized along libertarian lines?”

Such is the philosophical poverty of liberalism today that this stands as a profound question.

Definitions vary, but broadly speaking, libertarianism is the idea that people should be as free as possible from state coercion so long as they don’t harm anyone. The job of the state is limited to fighting crime, providing for the common defense, and protecting the rights and contracts of citizens. The individual is sovereign; he is the captain of himself.

It’s a little bizarre how the Left has always conflated statism with modernity and progress. The idea that rulers — be they chieftains, kings, priests, politburos, or wonkish bureaucrats — are enlightened or smart enough to tell others how to live is older than the written word. And the idea that someone stronger, with better weapons, has the right to take what is yours predates man’s discovery of fire by millennia. And yet, we’re always told that the latest rationalization for increased state power is the “wave of the future.”

It’s true, no ideal libertarian state has ever existed outside a table for one. And no such state will ever exist. But here’s an important caveat: No ideal state of any other kind will be created either. America’s great, but it ain’t perfect. Sweden’s social democracy is all right, but if it were perfect, I suspect fewer cars would be on fire over there.

Ideals are called ideals for a reason: They’re ideals. They’re goals, aspirations, abstract straight rules we use as measuring sticks against the crooked timber of humanity.In the old Soviet Union, Mao’s China, Pol Pot’s Cambodia, and today’s North Korea, they tried to move toward the ideal Communist system. Combined, they killed about 100 million of their own people. That’s a hefty moral distinction right there: When freedom-lovers move society toward their ideal, mistakes may be made, but people tend to flourish. When the hard Left is given free rein, millions are murdered and enslaved. Which ideal would you like to move toward?

Lind sees it differently. “If socialism is discredited by the failure of communist regimes in the real world, why isn’t libertarianism discredited by the absence of any libertarian regimes in the real world? Communism was tried and failed. Libertarianism has never even been tried.”

What an odd standard. You know what else is a complete failure? Time travel. After all, it’s never succeeded anywhere!

What’s so striking about the Lind standard is how thoroughly conservative it is.

Pick a date in the past, and you can imagine someone asking similar questions. “Why should women have equal rights?” some court intellectual surely asked. “Show me anywhere in the world where that has been tried.” Before that, “Give the peasants the right to vote? Unheard of!”

In other words, there’s a first time for everything.

It’s a little bizarre how the Left has always conflated statism with modernity and progress. The idea that rulers — be they chieftains, kings, priests, politburos, or wonkish bureaucrats — are enlightened or smart enough to tell others how to live is older than the written word. And the idea that someone stronger, with better weapons, has the right to take what is yours predates man’s discovery of fire by millennia. And yet, we’re always told that the latest rationalization for increased state power is the “wave of the future.”

That phrase, “the wave of the future,” became famous thanks to a 1940 essay by Anne Morrow Lindbergh. She argued that the time of liberal democratic capitalism was drawing to a close and the smart money was on statism of one flavor or another — fascism, Communism, socialism, etc. What was lost on her, and millions of others, was that this wasn’t progress toward the new, but regression to the past. These “waves of the future” were simply gussied-up tribalisms, anachronisms made gaudy with the trappings of modernity, like a gibbon in a spacesuit.

The only truly new political idea in the last couple thousand years is this libertarian idea, broadly understood. The revolution wrought by John Locke, Edmund Burke, Adam Smith, and the Founding Fathers is the only real revolution going. And it’s still unfolding.

Indeed, what’s remarkable about all of the states Lind identifies as proof that libertarianism doesn’t work is that they are in fact proof that it does. What made the American experiment new were its libertarian innovations, broadly speaking. Moreover, those innovations made us prosper. Even Sweden — the liberal Best in Show — owes its successes to its libertarian concessions.

I’m actually not a full-blown libertarian myself, but it’s an ideal I’d like America to move closer to, not further away from as we’ve been doing of late — bizarrely in the name of “progress,” of all things.

— Jonah Goldberg is the author of The Tyranny of Clichés, now on sale in paperback. You can write to him at goldbergcolumn@gmail.com, or via Twitter @JonahNRO. © 2013 Tribune Media Services, Inc.

via National Review Online