Culture War Dispatches

from a Progressive People's Republic

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Winter's Grip

Comments on today’s front page article in the Globe, “Winter easing its grip on northeast.”

The basic thesis, as confirmed by the observations of the Globe's climate expert Chuck Henderson, who sells outdoor apparel in North Conway, is basically correct. Winters are less harsh than they were in the mid-1960s. The questions remain: how much warmer is it now? Is this a bad thing? What caused this warming? Can we do anything to change it?

Regarding the first question: the UNH scientists claim to observe a 0.8 F rise per decade in the northeastern US. (This morning’s print edition reports the number as an insignificant .08 degrees F. Ooops! The web version has been corrected.) This would appear to be worrisome—if this trend continues across the globe, it would result in a 7.2 degree F rise by 2100—which is upper limit of some IPCC estimates. A few caveats are worth noting:

· the figures represent findings from a tiny part of the globe. Furthermore, the scientists note that northern New England is not experiencing a similar warming trend. They hypothesize it is due to snow cover reflecting the sun’s rays. We have no reason to expect that the globe will follow a similar trend.

· The figures are from the winter months only.

· The warming of the entire 20th century is around 1 degree F, so 0.8 degrees F per decade is abnormal. Climate alarmists believe this is because the slope of the temperature increase has been accelerating—leading to runaway warming, tipping points and all sorts of looming disasters. One could also argue that if we take a longer view, the warming in these 30 years will be averaged out by future cooling periods – like the one we seem to be in since 1998.

· the UNH scientists start their chart in 1965, near the end of a 30 year cooling trend from 1940 to 1970. If they had begun their chart in 1930 the rise per decade would be markedly lower.

· the chart ends in 2005, omitting data from the two abnormally cold winters of 2006 and 2007.

· There’s also a strange caption under the chart in small type: “This chart represents all the data used in the study, but the researchers actually analyzed twelve 30-year increments for their conclusions.” I have no idea what this means. Often the raw temperature data is "corrected" to account for local conditions, which brings in human error to what might seem like objective scientific data recording.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Coalition of victims

I've been trolling through the internet fever swamps and came across this intriguing statement:

"We reject the power inequalities and structural violence based on privileges of class, race, gender, sexuality, religion, nationality, ability, and age."

The usual round-up of victims, with a new one--"ability"? So having ability is a privilege that leads to "structural violence" (whatever that is)? Maybe this explains the Cambridge school system.

I can imagine that this group wanted to include people with disabilities in their coalition of victims. If disability is good, it stands to reason that ability is bad.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Repeat after me: the science is settled

Jim Gomes concludes his "Climate Plan in Peril" (11/10/08) with the mantra, "There is no longer any debate about the fundamental scientific question: The earth's climate is already changing, and human activities are the cause." Global warming alarmists seem to think that if they just repeat this often enough, they might convince the reluctant public to go along with their expensive schemes to fix the weather. Anyone with half a brain and an internet connection can find mountains of evidence that the debate is far from over.

Kicking the stone of global warming

Ian McEwan declares that “The [global warming] deniers are folding their tents,” despite the obvious contradiction of this statement by its inclusion in a debate with Bjorn Lomborg in the nation’s second largest newspaper, a paper whose editorial board frequently challenges the debate-squelching mantras of Big Climate.

McEwan’s snide rhetorical question, “and what was to deny?” diminishes the dialogue over this important issue. There is fervent debate over global warming science, as well as over the political solutions being proposed (e.g., the accompanying Lomborg essay). To take one example, the link between warming and hurricane strength, cited by McEwan as undeniable and inconvenient proof, is far from clear. A search for “hurricane + global warming” produces page after page of scientific literature on this debate. Recent literature trends toward denying the connection—but the more important point is that a debate among scientists exists and should not be shut down by a novelist who hasn’t bothered to spend 0.45 seconds on an internet search to verify his pronouncements.

McEwan attempts to contrast the “sturdy common sense” of global warming alarmism and the philosophical idealism of those who deny its reality. I would argue that the reverse it true. The global warming alarmism industry relies on computer models to project catastrophic fantasies centuries into the future. As Michael Crichton pointed out recently on your editorial page, “There can be no observational data about the year 2100.”

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

False Claim?

Media Matters Summary:

Numerous conservative radio hosts, including Chris Baker, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, Jim Quinn, Michael Savage and Brian Sussman, echoed the false claim, originating on the Drudge Report, that Sen. Barack Obama said in a 2001 interview that he regretted that the Supreme Court has not addressed the redistribution of wealth. In fact, the "traged[y]" Obama identified during the interview was that the civil rights movement "became so court-focused" in trying to bring about political and economic justice.

What Obama said:

One of the, I think, the tragedies of the civil-rights movement was because the civil-rights movement became so court-focused, uh, I think that there was a tendency to lose track of the political and community organizing and activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalitions of power through which you bring about redistributive change.


I’m not optimistic about bringing about major redistributive change through the courts.


The Supreme Court never entered into the issues of redistribution of wealth, and sort of more basic issues of political and economic justice in this society.

To simplify the first quote: it's a tragedy that because A happened, therefore B. The important part of the sentence is the therefore B, i.e., they didn't "bring about redistributive change." The first part demands a conclusion. It makes no sense without the second part of the sentence--there is nothing inherently tragic about becoming "court-focussed." It is tragic to Obama because they didn't achieve the aim of redistribution.

Media Matters simply ignores Obama's conclusion, misrepresenting his argument and slandering those who interpret it correctly.

Furthermore the phrase "economic justice," used by Media Matters (and Obama), is synonymous with redistribution. Their argument comes down to, Obama said nothing about redistribution. He was just talking about economic justice.

In the second and third quotes are slightly ambiguous. Out of context one might argue that, as MM claims, he never "regretted that the Supreme Court has not address the redistribution of wealth." But in conjunction with the first quote it's hard to argue that he sees "major redistributive change" as anything but positive. It's clear that Media Matters is the one making the false claim.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Colin Powell Endorses Obama

I take issue with three points Powell made (and of course his final choice of candidate)

1. The GOP has moved to the right

Colin Powell is very much in the moderate Republican camp, so there may be many Republicans to his right, but I know that the 20 million in Rush Limbaugh's audience would groan about the idea that the GOP has moved too far to the right. President Bush's approval ratings are so low because in addition to being hated by Democrats, he is seen by conservatives as failing to reign in government spending. As for the idea that John McCain is too far to the've got to be kidding. Basically there is no small government conservative in the race (apart from Sarah Palin, and I'm not sure about her). John McCain talks about buying people's mortgages and enforcing Kyoto--he may be to the right of the most liberal member of the Senate but he's not a Ronald Reagan conservative. I think rather that the GOP has moved to the left, and the left has moved from somewhere left of center to the far left. As Reagan said, "I didn't leave the Democrat party--it left me." I have no doubt that Harry Truman and JFK would be Republicans today. The hard left--the Daily Kos, Media Matters, Al Gore climate alarmists, Michael Moore, Bill Ayers, ACORN, Keith Olbermann left-- has a respectability in today's Democrat party that is astounding and revolting. In 1965 these people would be a kook fringe--today they are mainstream.

2. Bill Ayers

Powell and most mainstream media commentators miss the point of Ayers. Nobody seriously thinks that Barack Obama is an undercover domestic terrorist. But Obama's defense that he was 8 years old doesn't cut it for me. For one, Ayers was still bombing in 1981, when Barack was in his 20s. But the point is not the Weathermen but what Ayers has done since then. He took the Saul Alinsky Rules for Radicals to heart, got himself an education degree and started "the long march through the institutions." Revolution from within. Rather than march in the streets and throw bombs, you infiltrate the educational institutions, and indoctrinate American children so that they grow up believing your radical conceptions about social justice and how the US of Amerikkka is an evil place. From what I can gather Ayers subverted the Annenberg money and donated it to radical groups who did absolutely nothing to improve the students' education. And guess who was his right hand man during this time--Barack Obama. Bill Ayers wasn't some guy who lived in the neighborhood--they worked together on a radical education project. Obama has such a meager record and he refuses to release information about his past and I am afraid that many people who vote for him would not vote for him if he was forthright about his beliefs. The stealth candidate. His socialist leanings slip out on occasion, like when he tells Joe the Plumber that he wants to "spread the wealth." Stanley Kurtz at National Review has written extensively on this but nothing has appeared in the mainstream media.

I also take issue with Powell that the McCain campaign is wrong to bring up the subject of Bill Ayers. While the press has been camped out in Wasilla investigating rape kits, and going through Joe the Plumber's tax records, no one is looking at the unsavory cast of characters surrounding Obama. Ayers--a murderer who bombed the Pentagon, was involved in a bank robbery where a cop was killed, who says he didn't kill enough. Tony Rezko, a gangster who helped Obama buy his house. ACORN--involved in perhaps hundreds of thousands of fraudulent voter registrations in this election, and implicated in the subprime mortgage mess because of their racist blackmail of mortgage companies. Jeremiah Wright--a racist anti-semite preacher who despises America. If Obama was a Republican, ACORN and Jeremiah Wright would have been on the front page of the New York Times every day for the duration of the campaign. Obama should have been immediately disqualified as unsuitable for office. And instead, the press and people like Powell somehow find fault with McCain for occasionally mentioning these connections--although McCain for some unfathomable reason has put J. Wright out of bounds. Obama has a "fight the smears" website, but he's the one who smears constantly, who plays the race card and calls any critic a racist. He is not a transformational figure as Powell says. He is not "inclusive" as Powell says--he's a Chicago politician who plays hardball politics and tries to destroy anyone who gets in his way.

3. "Obama is a not Muslim and even so, there's nothing wrong with being a Muslim"

I agree. The story about the Muslim soldier killed in Iraq was a touching plea for anti-discrimination but is not germane to why we should vote for Obama.
Barack is a Christian (if you can call J. Wright's church Christian)--and the fact that he has a Muslim connection in his childhood is not a reason to vote against him. It is true that Obama's father was Muslim and he was registered at a madrassa in Indonesia as a Muslim and he has called the muslim call to prayer the sweetest sound on earth. Nothing wrong with this, but it is not a paranoid fantasy to mention that Obama has affinity to muslims. It is also clear that every (?) muslim country is hoping Obama wins. This could be positive if you believe that Obama can resolve diplomatic problems by force of his personality, or negative if you worry that hostile countries like Iran think Obama will be a pushover and will side with them against Israel.

But I think Powell is using a straw man argument. He says "some Republicans'" -- but not McCain -- whisper that Obama is Muslim. "Some Republicans" are not running for President. Some Democrats are comparing John McCain to George Wallace--and Obama is still called "inclusive" -- no criticism by the press--even though his campaign has repeatedly played the race card.

Darker aspects of the Palin persona

George Bush is Hitler, John McCain is George Wallace and now, according to a blogger on today’s Globe’s VoxOp column, there is a “darker aspect of the Palin persona” that delivered a “Joe-McCarthy-like innuendo …trying to link Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama to ‘terrorists.’"

Isn’t it terrible how those nasty Republicans can only win by smearing their opponents?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

John McCain plays the Arab card

The Globe published two letters today full of outrage over an incident where John McCain called Obama "a decent guy." The writers were both offended because McCain's comment followed someone in the crowd accusing Obama of being an Arab (which he is), so therefore it's obvious that John McCain was going out of his way to insult Arabs. Oy!

Move along folks, nothing inappropriate here

Bob McCarthy may be proud of his association with Bill Ayers, but he misses the essential point when he claims, “Nothing has been found to suggest anything inappropriate in the volunteer projects in which [Ayers and Obama] were involved during the 1990s” (Globe letter 10/13/08). The Chicago Annenberg Project was not “inappropriate,” as in illegal or immoral, but, as Stanley Kurtz and others have argued, it failed abysmally in its mission to “improve educational opportunities for all of Chicago's children” because Obama and Ayers turned it into a radical project to use public education to promote a left-wing agenda. If this is the kind of person you want to lead our country, by all means, vote Obama. But don’t expect President Obama to be a post-racial non-partisan moderate.

Derrick Jackson Plays the Race Card

When I heard Congressman John Lewis's outrageous comparison of McCain and George Wallace, I assumed sane people everywhere would dismiss it as the ravings of a civil rights hero who has lost his mind. I forgot about Derrick Jackson, who today repeats this libel in "John McCain Plays the Race Card." Accusing Barack Obama's critics of being racists is the ultimate race card.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Stop Making Sense

James Carroll struggles to make sense of our $700 billion military budget by imagining stacks of hundred dollar bills. Here’s another way of looking at it: for each of 300 million Americans, it costs $2,333 a year, or $6.39 a day to keep us safe in a dangerous world. In addition, Mr. Carroll neglects to point out that many countries around the world have small defense budgets because they rely on the American military, funded by American taxpayers, for their defense.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Get in their faces

This weekend I was subjected to a fifteen-minute harangue by an Obama supporter, who apparently was following Obama’s advice to “get in my face.” Either that or he’s been watching too much Keith Olbermann. It seems probable that Obama was inspired by Alinsky’s tactical rule #4, to ridicule and “infuriate the opposition, who then react to your advantage.”

My reaction, however, was to excuse myself from the conversation and remind myself to avoid this “friend” in the future. His effort made me far less inclined to change my vote to Obama.

I’m having trouble imagining a situation where this tactic would work. Discussing politics with friends—or strangers--is certainly not a place where ridicule will successfully lead to a re-evaluation of one’s political opinions.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Huntin' and snowmobilin'

Tom Brokaw makes a valid point in the title of his op-ed piece: “Lots of People Could Use a Cash Infusion.” The examples of small business owners he chooses, however, are condescending and not especially funny. Barney "Big Un" Baumgartner of Windblown, Wyo, owner of the Big Un 24 Hour Tow Service and Trophy Taxidermy? Darlene Dalrymple, owner of the Shear Joy Hairstyling and Tattoo Salon in Rockhard, Vt? Rural rubes who dream of winning “a fleet of new snowmobiles and lifetime hunting rights on Brett Favre's farm”? (Remind you of any particular vice presidential candidate?)

It takes great courage to open a small business. In a campaign where Obama and the mainstream media have been accused of elitist snobbery, Brokaw shows himself to be tone-deaf to the lives of ordinary Americans.

Monday, September 08, 2008


The Wikipedia entry for "UN Special Investigator" offers examples of the type of scandal that the UN might investigate:

In other cases it is a specific, politically relevant fact, scandal or event, such as Israel's construction of a security wall in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, how the US Bush administration spent Iraqi oil-for-food program money after the invasion.

It's no surprise that the anti-Semites at the UN would investigate Israel, but the second example--the UN investigating the Bush administration for fiscal improprieties in the Oil For Food program? Did I wander into the Onion website by mistake?

Friday, September 05, 2008

Letter to WSJ

Rahm Emanuel’s “Wal-Mart Thrives When Democrats Are in Charge” makes an argument similar to that of Larry M. Bartels in his recent book, “Unequal Democracy,” that the performance of the American economic in arbitrary four-year periods has a single explanation: the political party of the President “in charge.”

To begin with, this argument assumes--in true liberal fashion--that an economy responds immediately and in orderly fashion to the economic policy of the country’s leader, ignoring the many factors that go into economic performance—9/11 perhaps? The business cycle? War? Natural disasters? The growth of the Chinese and Indian economies leading to higher commodities prices?

Secondly it assumes that economic policies take effect on the day a President takes office and end the day he leaves—assuming therefore that Carter’s policies had no effect on the early Reagan years and that Reagan’s policies had nothing to do with the boom of the 1990s that Clinton presided over.

Thirdly, the President does not have unlimited power over economic policy. He appoints an independent Fed Chairman (and Clinton was wise enough to keep Reagan’s appointee, Alan Greenspan.) Congress writes the budget and it is common for Congress to be controlled by a different party than the President.

Finally, it might be helpful to analyze actual economic policy rather than simply the party affiliation of the President. Mr Emanual cites Clinton’s budget surplus to explain the robust economy in the 1990s, and Bush’s big spending ways to explain the slower economy. In his own article he therefore argues that fiscal conservatism is better for the economy. Perhaps I missed Barack Obama’s call for fiscal conservatism. From what I have heard, Obama seems more concerned with raising taxes and expanding government to assist the reputed victims of the Bush economy.

To say that Bill Clinton and Barack Obama are both Democrats and therefore the economy will do better under Barack Obama is simplistic in extreme—with obvious political motivation.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Studies show conservatives are racists

A gem from the Wikipedia entry on "minority groups."

"Studies have consistently shown a correlation between negative attitudes or prejudice toward minorities and social conservatism (as well as the converse, positive attitutes and social progressivism).[2]"

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

The Obama Green Revolution

Earlier this month Obama revealed his energy program to Wesleyan graduates:
At a time when our ice caps are melting and our oceans are rising, we need you to help lead a green revolution. We still have time to avoid the catastrophic consequences of climate change if we get serious about investing in renewable sources of energy, and if we get a generation of volunteers to work on renewable energy projects, and teach folks about conservation, and help clean up polluted areas.

The four-point Obama green revolution:

1. “Getting serious about investing in renewable sources of energy”: renewable energy is a great thing, but Obama doesn’t specify where the money for all this investing will come from. My guess is that he means that government officials will take money from you and redistribute it to industries that they, with expertise gained from majoring in political science, deem worthy of support, with helpful advice from renewable energy experts, a.k.a., lobbyists for the renewable energy industry. These lobbyists are not to be confused with oil industry lobbyists, because they are only interested in serving the planet. Unlike the American Petroleum Institute, they have no interest in attracting government funding to their clients’ projects.

2. “A generation of volunteers [working] on renewable energy projects.’ Volunteers? Tom Friedman talks about a hundred thousand Manhattan Projects. Obama wants them staffed with volunteers? It must be part of the “path of service”he recommends to Wesleyan graduates. It’s what Michelle Obama calls “the helping industry,” as opposed to the “money-making industry.” So either get down to the local food pantry and stock some shelves, or drop by the community renewable energy pantry and pitch in on the nuclear fusion car project. Yes, we can!

3. “Teach folks about conservation” because “folks” are kind of dumb and they need some teaching. Once you 21-year-old Wesleyan kids explain to us folks how we are buying the wrong light bulbs and driving the wrong cars, viva la revolution!

4. “Help clean up polluted areas.” Everybody hates pollution, so this is a good closing point. Except for Republicans who like pollution because it means they make bigger profits by avoiding clean-up costs. But is Obama talking about getting a bunch of eighth graders to pick up trash in an abandoned lot in Southside Chicago? Shampooing seagulls after the Exxon Valdez oil spill? Okay, pollution cleanup ought to be part of any good green revolution, but how does this help us “avoid the catastrophic consequences of climate change”? Perhaps since carbon dioxide has been defined as pollution, Obama wants the Wesleyan green revolutionaries to stop driving, cooking, heating their houses and breathing?

By the way, a study released in January 2008 by NASA offers a glimpse at the “catastrophic consequences of climate change.” Under the headline, Antarctic Ice Loss Speeds Up”we learn that ice melt has increased by 75% in the last ten years! This “sharp jump” is "enough ice to raise global sea level by .01 inches a year in 1996, to .02 inches a year in 2006"! It may not sound like much, but in that means that in 2106, the sea will be TWO INCHES higher! Vote Obama before it’s too late!

Sunday, June 01, 2008


A liberal friend recently characterized a statement by Victor Davis Hanson as "anti-intellectual." Hanson was discussing "the dreams of intellectuals and elites who strive for economic efficiency or entertain dreams of a one-continent or one-world peaceful state." To me this speaks to Thomas Sowell's characterization of liberals as believing in the "vision of the anointed"--the idea that an educated elite understands how to govern and should thus be given power to decide the fates of the uneducated common man. This leads to a liberal fascism--the belief that government should decide for us how to run our lives. In one sense then, VDH is an anti-intellectual; against an intellectual elite who claim power because they think they are smarter than everyone else. But the common use of anti-intellectual is a pejorative, meaning scornful not of certain intellectuals but of intellectual matters in general. To describe Victor Davis Hanson--a brilliant and intellectually curious scholar--as anti-intellectual is laughable.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Aid Workers Kid Sex Shocker

An AP headline: "Report: Sex Abuse of Children by Aid Workers Widespread in War Zones."

If instead of aid workers it was the U.S. military, the New York Times would run this story on the front page through election day. Isn't molesting the children you're supposed to be helping worse than putting dog collars on the enemy combatants at Abu Ghraib? (Not that the latter is excusable.)

Monday, May 12, 2008

One of the founding giants of poststructuralist literary theory

Jonathan Gottschall recognizes that postmodern literary criticism is ailing, but I have doubts about his recommended course of treatment (Boston Globe, Ideas, 5/11/08). Making literary criticism “scientific” may yield some interesting studies. Mr. Gottschall however seems unaware of the most elemental wrong turn that critics took a few decades ago—that of “privileging” the critic over works of literature. The article’s subheading, for instance, claims that “Literary criticism could be one of our best tools for understanding the human condition.” No, I would argue, not literary criticism, but literature helps us understand the human condition.

Gottschall mentions Roland Barthes’s notion of “the death of the author,” which attributes creative power to the reader of the text over that of its author. (The word “reader,”is disingenuous since the best reader in the mind of the critic is the critic himself.) Gottschall uses scientific methods to disprove Barthes’s thesis, but the exercise is unsatisfying to the vast majority of readers to whom it never made sense in the first place. Resolving internecine postmodern squabbles will not bring back the interest of the reading public.

Although Gottschall finds fault with Barthes, he still refers to him as “one of the founding giants of poststructuralist literary theory.” Elsewhere he refers to the “charismatic leaders” and “the great minds of literary studies.” My undergraduate professors, like the wonderful Peter Bien at Dartmouth, never saw themselves as “giants” of theory; their job was to communicate a love of great literature to their students. As long as the cult of the critic continues, literary criticism will continue, in Gottschall’s words, to “wander in continuous circles.”

Monday, May 05, 2008

Loafers on the Ground

James Carroll’s “The New Immorality of Iraq War” [sic] exhibits an ugly disdain for the U.S. military that is common on the John Kerry Left. He cannot imagine our soldiers rebuilding schools and medical clinics; to his kind they can only be heartless robots whose sole approach to any problem is violence. Thus he sputters with disbelief that President Bush would leave our troops in Iraq after Saddam Hussein was overthrown: “bringing order to a post-Saddam Iraq…was not a project for which the US war machine was remotely suited…The initiative should have passed from the Pentagon to a State Department-led program of stabilization and reconstruction, but instead a crudely violent military occupation was begun.”

Mr. Carroll concedes that we need boots on the ground—or rather Italian loafers on the ground. He doesn’t specify however exactly which unarmed social workers the State Department should have sent into Fallujah in 2003 without military support. Given Mr. Carroll’s globalist leanings, I’m surprised he didn’t nominate the United Nations for the job. Oh, wait, I forgot, the UN abandoned its corrupt Oil for Food program after a single car bomb made things too dangerous for diplomacy.

Celebrate University?

published in the Cambridge Chronicle 5/8/08

Criticizing multiculturalism is tricky business, so I better make it clear from the outset that I celebrate diversity as much as the next guy—especially if the next guy is from my 02138 zip code. I love Cambridge for its diversity--in my community of friends, on the street and in classrooms; in the 63 languages spoken (by the parents, one hopes) at Rindge and Latin; in restaurants operated by immigrants from Afghanistan, Turkey, Tierra del Fuego and Wyoming. When you grow accustomed to cultural diversity, it seems normal; as our Office of Tourism advertises, “Multi-Culture is a way of life.” Amen to that.

Restaurant choices may be a superficial form of diversity, but I believe it is profoundly important to raise our children in a multicultural society, that this is the surest way to achieve Martin Luther King’s dream of a world where we judge not by skin color but by the content of character.

And yet at the same time the word “multiculturalism” elicits a knee-jerk negative response in me. I roll my eyes at the multiculturalist motto, “Celebrate Diversity.” I don’t think I am being inconsistent; rather it is multiculturalism that has many faces that hide behind the benign veil of respect and tolerance. I would like to comment on three versions of the multiculturalist credo.

Stage 1. “We should respect other cultures.”

Although I celebrate diversity, turning it into a bumper sticker transforms a celebration into an accusation. It assumes that people exist who don’t celebrate diversity—i.e., racists who need to be converted. The slogan announces its owner’s innocence by pointing to the guilt of America’s racist society. As Shelby Steele might say, it assuages white guilt.

Stage 2. “We should respect other cultures because all other cultures are equally valid.”

Here we enter the slippery slope of moral and cultural relativism. When faced with barbaric practices like honor killing, female genital mutilation and tossing widows on the funeral pyre, the multiculturalist can only respond, who are we to judge? My fourth-grader brought home a school hand-out on Cherokee creation myths, which explained helpfully: “Victims were beaten and burned, sometimes for several days, before they died… This practice seems horrifying today, but it made sense in terms of Cherokee beliefs.” Who are we to judge?

Stage 3.“We should respect other cultures because all other cultures are equally valid, except for the dominant white American culture, which is evil and empty.”

At its most malignant, multiculturalism becomes the opposite of tolerance and respect for all cultures; you end up with Jeremiah Wright. The inaptly named Tim Wise wrote about “the emptiness whites so often feel when confronted by multiculturalism and the connectedness of people of color to their various heritages.” (He is referring to that empty Dead White Male culture of Shakespeare, the U.S. Constitution, Bach, James Joyce, and Thomas Edison.) Multicultural education therefore is compelled to “privilege” the history of anything non-Western, while it reduces American history to a narrative of slavery, imperialism and ecological destruction.

In sum, multiculturalism is like a Diet Kool-Aid and Johnnie Walker cocktail. The scotch might be worth celebrating--in moderation--but the adulteration by toxic liquid has rendered the mixture unpalatable.

The more fundamental question is whether even the good parts of multiculturalism have become redundant. If diversity doctors continue to hand out multicultural antibiotics after the patient is healed, the effects become destructive. Rather than leading us toward a post-racial society, it places a spotlight on race, encouraging us to judge by skin color.
It seems that our children are already leading the way to a post-racial society. Many Cambridge schoolchildren listen to the earnest efforts of diversity day organizers with the bemusement of my generation watching Reefer Madness. These attempts to expiate our racial sins are primarily for the adults in the room, living with the memory—or their parents’ stories--of segregated water coolers.

Unfortunately multiculturalism has become an industry—with career opportunities. To my knowledge no bureaucracy has ever voluntarily put itself out of business. Sadly, I expect that multiculturalism will continue to be a growth industry even as its reason for existing continues to decline.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Hamburgers kill polar bears

Derrick Jackson thinks that eating meat is endangering our planet. ("One less burger, one safer planet" 4/15/08)

With fatal food riots in poor nations, and with China rapidly approaching Western levels of consumption, we in the obese United States must redefine what constitutes, to borrow from McDonald's, a "happy meal." Scientists are concluding that along with more fuel-efficient cars and curbing industrial pollution, the simple act of eating less meat could help slow global warming.

"For the world's higher-income populations, greenhouse-gas emissions from meat eating warrant the same scrutiny as do those from driving and flying," according to the authors of a study last fall in the Lancet.

So eating meat, driving and flying "warrant scrutiny"? Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Pope bashes Bush

The Globe “news” story on the front page found a way to turn the Pope’s visit into an anti-Bush global warming story; your headline claims, “Benedict may discuss warming…Stances have differed from those of Bush.” You quote an Archbishop: the Pope “will insist on the moral imperative that all, without exception, have a grave responsibility to protect the environment.”

This is a typical global warming alarmism tactic: accuse those who disagree with a political program to limit CO2 of not caring about the environment. No one has explained adequately how limiting a non-toxic gas essential for plant growth puts you on the side of helping the environment.

Furthermore, the Globe overlooks the many significant criticisms the Pope has expressed of global warming hysteria. His speech on December 12, 2007 “condemn[ed] climate change prophets of doom,” calling them “scaremongers.” The Daily Mail reported: “The 80-year-old Pope said the world needed to care for the environment but not to the point where the welfare of animals and plants was given a greater priority than that of mankind.”

Is the Pope’s stance on global warming really fundamentally at odds with that of President Bush?

Monday, April 14, 2008

Intolerance in Flyover Country

I was talking to friend who listens to NPR a lot and she said, it really bothers me how those people in the Midwest are so sure that they are right. There's an intolerance that I find troubling. I wasn't sure what she was talking about, so I asked where she meant. She answered, "Of course, it's strange, because when I go to Ohio to visit my relatives, the people there are so nice." I asked her if she really thought the liberal Democrats in New England were open to other (more conservative) points of view. She seemed relieved to think that the center of our country might not be inhabited by fanatics.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Vote with your wallet

A bumper sticker spotted in my neighborhood says, "I'm for Solar Power and I Vote."

It's a perfect summation of environmnentalism. Not: "I'm for solar power so I bought solar panels for my house." Rather: "I'm for solar power, so I'm going to use the government to force you to pay for it."

Friday, April 04, 2008

Gad Zooks!

Douglas Zook’s letter on Plum Island displays everything that is wrong with global warming alarmism, in sharp contrast to the letter on the same subject by John A. Bewick. Mr. Bewick makes the sensible conclusion that “Anyone who lives on [a barrier beach] should do so at his or her own risk, not that of the taxpayers.”

Professor Zook, however, brings global warming into the argument, starting with the completely unfounded claim that global warming “will promote more damaging coastal storms.” He then incites class warfare, saying that the Plum Island’s “grotesque beachfront mansions” are bringing on their own destruction by being excessively luxurious. Finally he uses the moral authority of his totalitarian crusade to bring in the power of the state, demanding that “the land should be taken by eminent domain and made an extension of the Parker River Wildlife Sanctuary.” It’s frightening—he sees Al Gore’s movie and thinks he has the right to have someone's house demolished. It confirms Czech President Klaus’s fear that “the biggest threat to freedom, democracy, the market economy and prosperity now [is] ambitious environmentalism.”

The most frightening words in this letter are Professor Zook’s title, “Professor of science education and global ecology, Boston University.” Some education.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Thank goodness it's just a flap

The Globe finally started covering the Jeremiah Wright story after Obama’s speech gave them something they could equivocate about. Today’s front page headline is, “Voters' views diverge over Obama flap.”

Nice to dream about this catastrophe being a “flap,” but I don’t think it’s going to play out as a minor fracas. I think it’s the end for Obama.

A common theme expressed by people who still plan to vote for Obama is that “the black anger Wright has expressed is understandable.” To begin with, I don’t think there’s much justification for black anger in 2008. This fall I volunteered to drive a number of African-American kids to interviews at prep schools in the area—Phillips Andover, Governors, Holderness, etc. The admission directors were all so eager to increase their “diversity” percentages. To think of these kids as somehow discriminated against is ridiculous. It’s true these were a tiny percentage of kids from bad inner city (i.e., black) schools who managed to get out, so the counter-argument would be that institutional racism holds the rest back. I don’t buy it, but, as the Obama voter said, I haven’t walked a mile in their shoes so I don’t understand. It’s possible.

More importantly, even if some lingering justification for black anger remains in today’s America, Jeremiah Wright would not be at the center of this controversy is he was simply an angry crusader seeking to right the wrongs done against black people. This describes Martin Luther King, not Jeremiah Wright. His sermons are filled with hate, racism and twisted lies about his own country. He makes perpetual whiner and liar Al Sharpton look moderate and rational. Wright is in league with Louis Farrakhan, and they both are evil men.

The Globe quoted another Obama voter, who said, "I don't really care what someone's religious affiliation is," she said, asserting that younger generations are more tolerant of racial diversity.” I will forgive this member of the younger generation for being so clueless to think that hate speech against white America is “tolerant.” But we might consider changing the voting age to 30.

Monday, March 17, 2008

With alibis like these...

Obama claims he wasn't in church for Jeremiah Wright's "I hate whitey" speech because he was addressing La Raza in Miami. So his alibi for not being with one hate-monger is that he was with a different group of hate-mongers.

Sunday, March 09, 2008


Herbert C. Kelman published a long piece in the Globe today titled, “’A Declaration of Principles’ for the Mideast.” I suspected it would be heavily slanted toward the Palestinian side when I read the phrase, “Herbert C. Kelman is a professor…” And when it continued, “of the Middle East Seminar at Harvard,” I knew for certain.

The piece pretends to respect both sides, but it includes such demands as, “the borders between the two states will follow the 1967 armistice lines.” The following quotes about the 1967 border were on Wikipedia:
Prime Minister Golda Meir said the pre-1967 borders were so dangerous that it "would be treasonable" for an Israeli leader to accept them (New York Times, December 23, 1969).

The Foreign Minister Abba Eban said the pre-1967 borders have "a memory of Auschwitz" (Der Spiegel, November 5, 1969).

Prime Minister Menachem Begin described a proposal for a retreat to the pre-1967 borders as "national suicide for Israel."

Nevertheless, over the past 40 years, Israel has slowly been unilaterally retreating to the 1967 borders in Sinai, Gaza, Jordan, and Lebanon—with little to show for it in return from the Palestinian side.

Another of Mr Kelman’s principles is: “An end to the occupation and to the conflict.” The word “occupation” is what enemies of Israel use to describe the Israeli presence in lands taken when they defeated the aggressive Arab armies in the 1967 war. As for “conflict,” this is the sole reference to the decades of terrorist attacks on Israel. Cessation of suicide bombings and rocket attack was a prerequisite for discussion under the Bush Roadmap.

Kelman’s principles also include a divided Jerusalem and Israel’s recognizing the right of return for Palestinian “refugees”—both unacceptable to Israel. Kelman does concede that “Only a limited number, however, will return to Israel proper, in order to allow Israel to maintain its character as a Jewish-majority state.” Once an international agreement acknowledges that Palestinians in the countries surrounding Israel have the right to “return” to Israel, however, Israel will be in the position of turning away poor refugees—certainly cause for a new Intifada.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Vaclav Klaus

"Future dangers will not come from the same source. The ideology will be different. Its essence will, nevertheless, be identical. The attractive, pathetic, at first noble idea that transcends the individual in the name of the common good, and the enormous self-confidence on the side of its proponents about their right to sacrifice man and his freedom in order to make this idea a reality." What I had in mind was, of course, environmentalism and its current strongest version, climate alarmism."

Vaclav Klaus, president of the Czech Republic

Monday, March 03, 2008

Church of Global Warming (cont.)

“This year, Nina Scott is giving up carbon” for Lent, the Globe reports on today’s front page story, “Going Green for Lent.” A photo shows Ms. Scott hanging clothes on a line in her basement because she has given up using her clothes dryer for 40 days.

The fourth paragraph however has a telling admission:
These actions will do little to slow global warming - at most, Scott will probably reduce her "carbon footprint" by 1 or 2 percent during Lent - but she says it's important to do nonetheless.

A perfect summation of the church of global warming: we believe in making empty gestures that require a minimum of sacrifice but that make us look morally superior and will get us on the front page of the Boston Globe.

There is now an undeniable consensus that global warming alarmism is an environmental religion. The debate is over.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Toxic waste good for planet, study says

The Globe reports on two reports citing the danger of mercury contamination when compact fluorescent lightbulbs break.

“We found some very high levels (of mercury), even after we tried a number of clean-up techniques," said Mark Hyland, Maine director of the Bureau of Remediation and Waste Management. During several of the experiments, for example, he said mercury in the air was more than 100 times levels considered safe even after a floor was cleaned.

Clean-up instructions include: “consider discarding throw rugs or the area of carpet where the breakage occurred.”

Of course, the studies conclude that the “energy-saving benefits [of CFLs] far outweigh the risk posed by mercury release.”

The battle against global warming is just too important. Unless of course, we’re entering a period of global cooling, which many scientists are being to suggest.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Energy Hogs

My daughter came home from 5th grade today and showed me the internet site her teacher had the class work on. It was a series of computer games dedicated to finding “energy hogs” in each of five rooms in our houses: drafty windows, an uninsulated attic, conventional lightbulbs, old refrigerators and excessive showering.

The organization that produced the website, the Alliance to Save Energy, appears to offer sensible advice about energy conservation, without resorting to global warming alarmism, but the Energy Hog site aimed at children raises a number of questions.

Essential curriculum?
First, we can ask whether energy conservation should be part of the fifth grade science curriculum. As we know from curriculum battles, any lesson included excludes another. Public school teachers complain that their curriculum has been so weighed down by the requirement to teach to standardized tests that they have no room for creativity—to teach students how to think rather than memorize facts. Given the intense competition for inclusion on the schedule, should lessons about caulking leaky windows and insulating attics make the cut? Fifty years ago such topics would be part of the voc-tech curriculum. Children don’t own houses and if they’re planning on going into the house building trade, they have plenty of time after fifth grade to learn about building codes.

Obviously, the point of teaching children about energy conservation is to reach their unenlightened parents who aren’t such captive listeners. The website is filled with suggestions like, “Ask your parents about switching to newer compact fluorescent bulbs.” “Ask your parents how old your fridge is and if it's time to buy a new one.” “Remind your parents that one large fridge is better than two smaller old ones.” The site asks: “Do you have a second old refrigerator sitting in the garage or somewhere else at home? If so, urge your parents to get rid of it.” The language here is polite, inviting a respectful dialogue between parents and children. The energy hog game, however, revolves around finding ugly disgusting energy hogs. Thus if the parent responds to his fifth-grader’s question that no, he doesn’t want to replace the refrigerator just yet, is it surprising that the child will insist righteously that it is his duty to fight energy hogs? And is it surprising if the child sees not just the appliance as an energy hog but his parent as well? Excessive showering after all isn’t the shower’s fault, so the person malingering in the shower is the real energy hog; in fact, my daughter’s eighth grade friend complained that every time she took a shower her little brother stood outside the bathroom door with a watch, screaming that she was wasting energy when she went over the allotted time.

Targeting children is doubly effective; it reaches the parents with an emotional plea that they might ignore from another adult. And it indoctrinates the children so they become good environmentalists when they grow up. The 1960s leftists left the streets and moved onto the university campuses—what some called the Long March through the university, with an explicit aim of converting the next generation. One might argue that teaching children about energy conservation is not indoctrination, but simply a lesson in being good citizens. There’s a big difference between caulking windows and the Hitler Youth or Khmer Rouge child soldiers. Still, there is something unpleasant about the intolerant righteousness encouraged by energy-hog-think. Furthermore, it is ironic that teaching social morality in a civics class has long been derided by progressive educators.

Energy Hog Solutions

Secondly, one should ask about the solutions proposed in the energy hog game which are presented without the slightest bit of nuance (why is it that liberals always accuse conservatives of seeing the world in black and white when their worldview is inhabited by far more Manichean rights and wrongs?)

1. Caulking windows: this suggestion is sensible, although I question how many houses in Boston have leaky windows. It is also important to recognize the dangers of indoor air pollution, which causes far more deaths than outdoor air pollution. The most egregious indoor pollution comes from houses with unvented fires—an issue in Nepal but not in suburban Boston—but modern building materials also emit formaldehyde and other volatile organic compounds which are suspected of being carcinogenic. When a house is sealed tightly with caulking and insulation, it needs to have a fresh air ventilating system installed. In this case the demands of “green” building are in conflict with those of “healthy” building; running a fan to circulate fresh air uses energy.

2. Insulation: again, a sensible suggestion. However, insulation poses many health issues. For instance, fiberglass, the most common insulation, contains formaldehyde and if not sealed behind a vapor barrier and left exposed to the living areas will emit particles of fiberglass that float in the air. These are breathed in and lodge in the lungs much like asbestos. Although studies indicate that they do not cause anything like asbestiosis, the full effects are unknown.

3. Installing compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs): on the whole, CFLs may be a good idea, but they are far from a panacea. The bulbs contain mercury, creating a new source of hazardous waste that must be disposed of, and health hazards if broken. Neither of these dangers is mentioned on the energy hog site. CFLs are larger and heavier, requiring more energy to ship, and use more resources to manufacture. The heat produced by conventional bulbs is less of a liability in winter. Conventional lightbulbs are manufactured in the United States under EPA guidelines, while all CFLs are made in China under much laxer environmental standards, with energy generated by unregulated coal plants. CFL makers claim they last for 7 years, but the long-life conventional bulbs I have bought never live up to their claims, so I am skeptical. Likewise the claim that a 13 watt CFL is equal to a 60 watt incandescent bulb seems suspicious. Rooms lit with CFLs always seem dreary. Leaving on lights in an empty house is wasting energy (apart from their value of deterring criminals from breaking in.). A single 13 watt compact fluorescent bulb might provide sufficient light to accomplish the tasks we need to do in a room, but well-designed multiple light sources adds pleasure to our lives. It is not wasting energy; it is using energy.

4. Replacing an old refrigerator: a new Energy Star refrigerator uses around $45 of electricity per year, compared to an energy hog which uses “up to” $125/year. Thus buying a new refrigerator can save up to $80/year; an $800 refrigerator will pay for itself in 10 years. Replacing your refrigerator however will add an old carcass to the landfill, and manufacturing a new refrigerator uses energy and resources. At some point it makes sense to replace an inefficient refrigerator, but the decision is more complex than indicated by the energy hog game and presented to 10-year olds without nuance. Efficient refrigerators have been around for a decade or so, so the current old refrigerator might already be fairly efficient. Is it really appropriate to have a 10-year old taking part in a family decision to buy a new appliance? What if the family budget does not have room for an $800 purchase? What if the parents decide to spend the $800 on a vacation on Cape Cod? Is it appropriate for our science curriculum to use shame about wasting energy to influence family spending decisions?

5. Excessive showers: parents yelling at teenagers for taking long showers is a staple of family life. The parents’ concern is most often based on the cost of the electric bill and a sense that excessive use of water is wasteful—especially if the house draws water from a well, or the area is experiencing drought. But to identify a hot shower as wasteful is troubling. I never take a hot shower for granted. Heating sanitary water, piping it to a shower stall and removing the wastewater through a drain is one of the accomplishments of civilization that makes our lives immeasurably better than that of our ancestors. The Romans enjoyed the similar luxury of baths, unknown to the Vandal hordes. If Osama bin Laden is alive, his cave lacks plumbing and he thinks the West is decadent for desiring such luxuries. The site says: “Energy Hogs love to eat up hot water. Most of the water wasted in a home is wasted in the bathroom.” Running a hot shower with no one in it is wasting water. Enjoying a hot shower in an area with plentiful water is not a waste of energy. It is using energy.

Global Warming

Finally, the Energy Hog game does not specifically mention global warming, but the specter of Al Gore’s 20-foot rise in sea levels lurks in the background. If urging your parents to insulate their attic will save the planet, what educational topic could possibly be more important? Isn’t it better to have the shower Nazi prevent his sister from enjoying a ten minute hot shower in order to prevent death and starvation of poor innocent Bangladeshis?

I am one of that reviled species of Global Warming Deniers, so I don’t believe that energy conservation will save the planet. As a frugal Yankee, I will probably yell at my teenagers if they stay too long in the shower, but I don’t think that by doing so I am saving the planet. The environmentalist hates SUV drivers or people who leave all their lights on because they are energy hogs who take more than their share of the planet’s resources. I however think Peter Huber had it right when he says that energy comes from a Bottomless Well. I don’t drive an SUV and I turn my lights off when I leave the room, but I think the market price of energy should determine how we use it. If you can afford to fill up an SUV, and you want to drive an SUV, then your 10-year son shouldn’t be instructed by his teachers to urge you to buy a hybrid. If you can afford to pay the electric bill for incandescent recessed lighting on your kitchen counters, you should enjoy what our technological society has created. Let Osama sit in his cold dark cave.


He's a Unifier, he's Obama--he's the Uni-Bama!

Penguin catastrophe!

A Globe story “Antarctic penguins face climate catastrophe” cites a “recent study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.” The study abstract “suggests a 9% decline in adult survival for a 0.26°C warming.” Given the IPCC prediction of a global temperature rise of 0.6 °C over the next 100 years, this means the penguin population of 2 million will decline to 1.82 million in the next 40 to 50 years (according to the Globe, after “rebounding from near extinction in the last century”—an extraordinary event that might have been examined by the reporter, given that the globe was also warming during this period). This prediction assumes that Antarctica will follow global temperature patterns—which in fact it has not in recent decades; apart from the warming in the Antarctic Peninsula—2% of the land mass of Antarctica—the continent has been cooling over the last 35 years. Does this warrant a projection of “catastrophe” and population “collapse”?

National Security Ghost Stories

Every week James Carroll climbs further out on the branch of lunacy. You expect he can’t go any further without complete collapse, but somehow he keeps pushing the moonbat envelope. This week’s essay, “The Ghost Story” argues that national security is a ghost story told by the military industrial complex; that maintaining an army “makes the planet more dangerous”; the idea that World War II was “good” and that the U.S. military build-up won the Cold War are fairy tales that “protect the militarized economy.” That planet he’s talking about is not the one I live on.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The Sunlight of Legal Justice

The Wall Street Journal called the assassination of Hezbollah killer Imad Mughniyeh an “unambiguous victory.” Alan Dershowitz said, “The case for targeting him is compelling - legally, morally, religiously, and militarily.” The Boston Globe however felt the need to inject some ambiguity into their editorial “Death of a terrorist” (2/14/08). It’s true they deserve praise for not having titled their piece, “Death of an Insurgent” or “Death of a “Freedom Fighter.” The Globe's parent New York Times couldn't quite go out on a limb, and settled for: "Bomb in Syria Kills Militant Sought as Terrorist." It is also appropriate that much of the editorial details what they call the “obscene career” of Mughniyeh. The editorial board however can’t help expressing regret about violations of due process in his assassination. It begins:
THE CAR-BOMB assassination in Damascus of terrorist mastermind Imad Mughniyeh will mean different things to different parties. But for anyone who cherishes the sunlight of legal justice, Mughniyeh's obscene career and violent end should be emblems of a lawless netherworld where terrorists kill civilians and security services hunt the killers.

The formulation is a bit obtuse, but it appears that by the “sunlight of legal justice” they mean that they wish Mughniyeh had been arrested and put on trial. The editorial concludes:
But in the shadow world [as opposed to the sunlit world] of terrorists and counterterrorists there are no rules of evidence, no presumption of innocence, and no legal justice. This is why the fight against terrorism must include a foreign policy that fosters the rule of law around the world.

Once again, the left insists on viewing Islamic terrorists as criminals who should be brought to justice and afforded the constitutional guarantees of American citizens who have violated jaywalking or embezzling laws. As Dershowitz points out, “By any reasonable definition of that term, [Mughniyeh] is a combatant who has declared war on the United States, Israel, France and other countries whose citizens he has killed.”

The Globe might have been more credible if they had argued that without due process, we might assassinate an innocent man, but there seemed to be no doubt that an obscene murderer’s life had been ended. The problem is that Mughniyeh was being given haven by a sovereign country (or somewhat sovereign if you discount Iran’s influence) that refused to extradite him. It’s not a simple matter of sending a police car over to bring him into the sunlight of legal justice. We would have to send a kidnapping team into Syria. It would have been a risky mission, which might have involved loss of life on our side, or theirs. Is this a morally superior course of action? And wouldn’t the verdict for mass murder be death anyway?

Finally, that final line: “This is why the fight against terrorism must include a foreign policy that fosters the rule of law around the world.” I’m all for the rule of law, and I thought that’s what the Bush Doctrine was trying to accomplish in Iraq and Afghanistan. Don’t we foster the rule of law by toppling Saddam Hussein and the Taliban and establishing democratic governments? But then the Globe is more concerned with rule of law being applied to terrorists than to the 58 million people in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Boston Globe: Conservative soapbox

I thought about writing a letter to the editor about a letter to the editor about two other letters to the editor, but it seemed the epistolary dialogue had gone on long enough.

A Globe reader in Dedham is concerned that the Globe published two letters from conservatives: “Right-wing media have done enough damage to discourse in this country; the Globe should not serve as an additional soapbox for disinformation” (2/14/08). This statement seems to be an example of psychological projection, defined as “a defense mechanism in which one attributes to others one’s own unacceptable thoughts.” The reality is that the media is dominated by liberals, so liberals accuse the media of right-wing bias. The reality is that the Globe is a liberal soapbox, so liberals accuse it of being a conservative soapbox.

The letter also reveals how liberals argue with conservatives. Rather than participating in a debate, liberals believe that the presence of a debating partner has “damaged” the discourse; rather than arguing their point of view they dismiss conservative opinions as “disinformation.”

What Middle Ground?

Commentary for Rural Route Today

I’ve been a friend of the editor of Rural Route Today for several decades, but we’ve never really discussed politics. When I mentioned that I had moved rightward, away from my liberal Democrat past, Robin was intrigued. She felt she was more in the center; she thought it was important to find some middle ground in this country or we’d be in big trouble. She was surprised that I could have anything in common with a bunch of right-wingers. I prefer “neo-conservative intellectuals” but never mind. (Although “neo-conservative” has become a vaguely anti-Semitic term of general opprobrium, I mean the word in its original Irving Kristol/Norman Podhoretz sense: a conservative who started life as a liberal.)

Robin’s concern with finding a middle ground has been reflected in the Presidential election; Obama, McCain and Huckabee have all campaigned to “reach across the aisle,” to unite the country with a new “bipartisan” leadership. In his rebuttal to the State of the Union address last month, Obama promised that—unlike Bush--when he was President the entire Congress would rise to applaud his speeches.

The call for consensus is an effective political tactic. How do you respond--I’m an extremist and I don’t believe in finding a consensus? But is it more than a tactic? Is there really a middle ground on the essential issues of the day? Is it meaningful to talk about “getting beyond partisan politics as usual” and “getting past all this blue state/red state” animosity?

Analysts describe three policy categories: social, economic and foreign. On social policy, opposing gun control, abortion and gay marriage would put you in the conservative camp; liberals support all three. On foreign policy, conservatives favor strong defense and a military response to terrorism; liberals call for defense cuts and dialogue with our friends and enemies. On economic policy, conservatives argue for lower taxes and small government; liberals believe that since government is the solution to problems, cutting taxes means cutting necessary government programs.

More specifically, Democrats believe that tax cuts favor the rich, that we need to raise taxes on the wealthy to give the less fortunate members of society a helping hand; Republicans believe that tax cuts stimulate the economy and benefit everyone.

One side believes that immigrants deserve a shot at a better life; the other side believes that people who enter the country illegally have broken the law and should not be provided taxpayer-funded services.

One side believes that global warming warrants the creation of a global legislative mechanism to control greenhouse gas emissions; the other believes that global warming is neither catastrophic nor man-made and that market forces should guide the creation of new energy sources. One side sees Armageddon and the other side sees a pretext to expand global governance.

One side believes that health care is a right that should be guaranteed by the government; the other fears the consequences of putting a multi-billion dollar industry under the control of the kind of bureaucrats who run the Department of Motor Vehicles.

One side believes that affirmative action is the only fair means to compensate the victims of our nation’s history of racism and slavery; the other believes that affirmative action itself prolongs racism by focusing on skin color.

One side believes that abortion is murder, the other believes a woman has the right to make choices about her own body.

One side thinks that if we promote energy conservation we need not defile our coastlines and the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge with drilling rigs; the other thinks that the risk of environmental damage is small compared with the benefits of developing domestic resources.

These examples present two clear and conflicting ideologies. I would not argue that there are only two possible choices on these issues, that compromise is always impossible. Our health care system is already a hybrid of government and private enterprise, and I certainly hope that we can find common ground to deal with immigration issues. My point is that there is nothing inherently superior about the middle ground between two strongly felt opinions—nor about a candidate who sides with liberals on some issues and conservatives on others. Getting a 100% conservative rating on economic issues and a 100% liberal rating on social policy doesn’t put you in the center of the political spectrum in any meaningful way.

The way I see it, in a democracy we argue our point of view and elect candidates who agree with us. The side that wins gets to implement its policies. Since no party ever gains complete control of government, it is necessary to compromise, but compromise is not necessarily a virtue; a secondary definition of the word is, “the acceptance of standards that are lower than is desirable.” Legislative compromise is not the same as “putting our ideological differences behind us.” What’s wrong with ideological differences? How can we put them aside without compromising firmly held beliefs?

Certainly we can agree to avoid rude political speech like’s ad calling General David Petreus a traitor (“David Betray-us”). And the corresponding rude behavior on the far right… well, nothing comes to mind at the moment, although I’m sure that VPR listeners who don’t know where to find Rush Limbaugh on the dial would be happy to point out how hate-filled talk radio is.

Conservatives talk about a stool that is unstable without three conservative policy legs—John McCain being the unstable stool that some like Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter have tried to kick over. When Mitt Romney was in the race they had a valid point: conservatives should vote for the most conservative candidate. Since McCain is more conservative than either Obama or Hillary, it seems obvious that it is time for conservatives to support McCain.

Interestingly, calls for moderation seems to come mostly from the liberal side of the aisle. This isn’t because Democrats are by nature more moderate than those hate-filled talk radio conservatives; it’s just that liberals have defined the language. When Republicans adopt liberal positions, Democrats praise them as “moderate”; when Democrats take conservative positions, they are called “conservative Democrats” (conservative being a pejorative)—or a “traitorous anti-Christ” in the case of Joe Lieberman (also meant as a pejorative).

Obama’s call for centrism before the State of the Union came at the end of a list of specific policy initiatives, of which I agree with precisely none. He called for an immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq, nationalized health care, and higher taxes on the rich. He called the Surge a failure. Not exactly centrist positions. I don’t fault Obama—he is after all running for political office, and the strategy of positioning your candidacy above the fray is time-honored. But the only way he could unite the American electorate would be if everyone who disagrees with his liberal ideas gives up the debate and goes along with him. This is not about finding middle ground; it’s about ending the debate.

Personally, I enjoy the debate. I have no intention of compromising my extremist positions, but I don’t want to shut liberals up. Monday morning without James Carroll’s moonbat columns in the Boston Globe just wouldn’t be as much fun.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Deadly SUVs (cont.)

The Globe reports "A sport utility vehicle driven by an 86-year-old man jumped the sidewalk and ran over an 8-year-old girl." Is the SUV relevant, or just an opportunity to inject some anti-SUV propaganda?

The Dick Durbin Pol Pot Connection, 2

Dick Durbin’s comparison of the U.S. at Guantanamo and Pol Pot has been out of the news for a while, so he’ll be gratified by today’s Globe editorial which mentions him and then goes on to make the colossally idiotic statement regarding our waterboarding three known terrorist leaders: “The Spanish Inquisition, Nazi Germany, militarist Japan, Pol Pot - this is the roster that Bush wants the United States to join.” See, they all condoned waterboarding, so do we, so that puts us on the same “roster.” There might be some pathetic logic if the Globe had made the case that these were the only four regimes in history to use waterboarding. This is doubtful, but even so, what about the many far more odious torture techniques used by any number of countries? The French in Algeria, perhaps? Why not write about the U.S. wanting to join the same roster as…France? And what about handcuffs? Pol Pot used handcuffs. American police use handcuffs. Is this Pol Pot handcuff roster really one our men in blue want to join? And wait, if I recall correctly, the Nazis used jail cells with locked doors. So does the Cambridge Police Department. Bunch of Nazis!

Monday, February 04, 2008

World's Best Dog Walks No More

Daisy Lapides-Wilson
Sept 29, 1994—February 1, 2008

We are sorry to have to report the death last Friday of our beloved dog Daisy (a.k.a., the Animule, the Mule, Thumper, Sweetie, Daze). As any of you who met her will testify, she was the world’s best dog. This is not her owners’ subjective bias but simply a fact.

Daisy’s mother was an English setter, her father unknown. We suspect that the rogue was part Great Dane and part Holstein. She had pointing instincts from her mother, and could stalk a squirrel as long as her owner was patient enough to watch.

Even the world’s best dog was not without her faults. The rumble of distant thunder would reduce her to a mass of jelly quivering in the nearest enclosed space. She was too big to fit under our bed, so she usually made do with the shower. It was quite a surprise to find her in the bathtub one dark and stormy night when I turned on the light at 2 AM.

This understandable fear of thunder progressed with age to a somewhat less rational fear of rain. After all, when it rained it might thunder. It finally moved into full blown paranoia, where a cloudy day might be suspected of bringing rain and then thunder. In her final weeks I had just crossed the highway near our house when a lightening struck close to us with a particularly loud crack of thunder. Although Daisy has walked off leash around the busiest streets, she decided at that point that she was going home and she headed off with the intention of crossing Fresh Pond Parkway without me. Death by traffic was insignificant next to terror from the skies.

Daisy had little use for most other dogs, and could nip puppies who didn’t listen to her warnings. Her entire focus was on humans. She made an exception for large handsome male dogs—mainly Dobermans and large German shepherds. Even at age 13 with a large tumor weighing her down, she would frolic unabashedly in the presence of dogs who turned her on—and the expression is an accurate description of the way her entire demeanor switched. When she was younger she would run in giddy circles, legs akimbo, squeaking, ramming her chest against the object of her infatuation, while her paramour looked patiently at this silly dame making a fool of herself.

Daisy was abused as a young dog and she had self-esteem issues, which left her psychologically needy. We hated to leave her alone for even an evening, and we no doubt surprised many people by asking if it was all right to bring our dog along to dinner. It’s not that she was a well-behaved dog; it’s that she was more like another human guest, better behaved than many people’s children. She enjoyed large crowds—especially elegant parties where a piece or two of brisket might be directed her way. She would always work the room like a politician, introducing herself politely with a wagging tail, her head bowed in submission.

Daisy could walk through an elaborate set-up of 300 Playmobil pieces, seemingly oblivious of the obstacles, not looking at her feet, without knocking over a single piece. It was always a feat of incredible dexterity, motivated by utmost considerate of others’ feelings.

Someone said that she has an old soul, and although I don’t believe in reincarnation, it seemed apt. A second person made the similar comment—suspecting that she had been a queen in a former life. I was thinking more along the lines of my grandmother Mabel Wilson. They shared a similar compassion, wisdom (in Daisy’s case, assuming the absence of male Dobermans) and a rebellious streak that appeared not in youth but at the end of a life threatened by cancer.

Daisy’s nickname Thumper came from the enthusiastic tail thumping that greeted us after any absence longer than 45 seconds. She was a born percussionist and often at dinner would thump her tail back and forth between two chairs. She enjoyed the fire extinguisher by the back door for its higher bell tones.

An elderly British woman once pronounced of Daisy, “She ought to be a breed.” Alas yes, she ought to have been. The science of cloning is still too new to have given us another Daisy. We mourn her loss like the third daughter that she was.

Happy squirrel hunting, you old mule.

Starting With Our Own

James Carroll invokes Obama and JFK’s American University speech to argue for nuclear disarmament: “The abolition of all nuclear weapons, starting with our own, must be at the top of the new president's agenda.”

I can’t speak for Obama, but those words, “starting with our own” are a distortion of Kennedy’s passionate yet pragmatic plea for peace: “Our primary long range interest in Geneva…is general and complete disarmament, designed to take place by stages, permitting parallel political developments to build the new institutions of peace which would take the place of arms.” Kennedy concludes: “We do not want a war. We shall be prepared if others wish it.”

This is a far cry from the reckless unilateral disarmament that Carroll advocates.

At American University, Kennedy did not shy from blunt criticism of the Soviet Union: “The Communist drive to impose their political and economic system on others is the primary cause of world tension today.” Fortunately, he says, both the Soviets and the Americans share a “mutual abhorrence of war.” As Sting phrased it, “The Russians love their children too.” Today however we are faced with an enemy that straps explosives to one-year old babies.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Vanity of the Selfless

"There is no doubt that in exchanging a self-centered for a selfless life we gain enormously in self-esteem. The vanity of the selfless, even those who practice utmost humility, is boundless."
Eric Hoffer, The True Believer, Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements (1951)

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Bush Squanders Nazi Good Will

H.D.S. Greenaway takes away the idiotic sentence crown from James Carroll this week, ending his column with a dramatic question:
A young German [at Davos] said his grandfather had been a prisoner of war of the Americans, but remained staunchly pro-American all through his life. The young man asked: Would that be true of an Iraqi prisoner of war today?

Apparently Greenaway feels he doesn't need to answer this question; after all, Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, Halliburton, Bush Lied, etc.

I had to stop to untangle the logic here. First of all, there are no “prisoners of war” in Iraq because we’re not fighting an army in uniform. But overlooking that detail: Greenaway makes a comparison between American prisoners in World War II and Iraq. The former were Nazis, the latter are terrorists. Some Nazis were pro-American after the war, but the terrorists we catch trying to blow up our soldiers with roadside bombs don’t renounce Osama and become “pro-American.” Isn’t it obvious that AQI terrorists already hate America and will continue to hate us in captivity? Maybe if gave them seminars on George Washington and the invisible hand of capitalism instead of providing them with Korans?

Is the fact that terrorists captured by our military don't like us really a reason to feel bad about our country?

Obama:Politics as Usual

A friend sent me a video link to Obama's prebuttal of the State of the Union speech. My friend thinks Obama is a new JFK--with some MLK Jr. mixed in.

It wasn't a bad speech, but contrary to the charge that Obama only talks in vague generalities, he presented specific idea after specific idea--all of which I disagree with.

--He wants to withdraw troops from Iraq immediately; I could not disagree more.

--He claims that "we know it's just not true" that the surge is working (i.e., Bush and Gen. Patreus are lying) because the Iraqi government has failed some arbitrary standard of compromise that he and the news media have invented; I could not disagree more--the surge has been wildly successful in reducing violence in Iraq and turning the population against al Qaeda and to dismiss this is insulting to Gen. Patreus and our troops.

--He says George Bush's Washington let the banks run amok--haven't democrats been whining for years about banks' discriminatory lending practices?

--He wants nationalized health care; I think it would be a dismal failure.

--He thinks lobbyists are part of the problem; I think they are a necessary part of our system of government.

--He claims that Republicans demonize their enemies; I think that intolerance is far more prevalent on the left than the right.

--He thinks the Bush tax cuts took money from the poor and gave it to the rich; I think the Bush tax cuts are responsible for the economic gains of the last 6 years and we need more tax cuts not some Robin Hood program to soak the rich and big business and add to middle class entitlements.

How then is Obama going to be a President who leads all the people, not just half of the Congress? The only way this will happen is if everyone who disagrees with his liberal ideas gives up the debate and goes along with him. He's not about compromise at all--and presenting himself as above partisan politics is just more politics as usual.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

What Liberal Bias?

The cover of Newsweek this week announces: "The Party's Over: A dispirited GOP struggles to find its post-Bush path."

Dispirited? The [Republican] Party's Over?

What are they talking about? It's a Presidential election, and a Republican candidate has not been anointed after a handful of primaries. This is proof of the end of the GOP?

Only self-deluded liars can continue to pretend that (in Rushspeak) the MSM (mainstream media) is unbiased and anything but DNC (Democratic National Committee) media. Bought, owned and fully in the pocket of the Democrat party.

James Hansen silenced on national TV

After one of the coldest games in NFL history, CBS broadcast "The Age of Warming"--a transparent effort to make a few bucks by repeating the usual litany of Al Gore alarmism. The best was James Hansen in what must be his four-thousandth interview being given twenty minutes to make his case--in prime time Sunday night national television--whining about how he has been "silenced." I admit he has talent to be able to make this claim over and over without cracking up into uncontrollable laughter.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Christian Zionism?

James Carroll writes about the U.S. government’s “Christian Zionist dream of a God-sponsored Jewish state from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean,” using the same language of the Hamas charter that denies Israel’s right to exist by claiming these same lands. In reality, the Bush administration’s roadmap has encouraged Israel to give up yet more land in a futile attempt to appease Hamas.

James Carroll writes about “the traditional American commitment...[to] the Christian Zionist vision of ultimate Jewish conversion to Jesus”; in reality, it is Islamofascists who are committed to conversion of infidels to their religion.

An American government full of Christian Zionists? It seems Mr Carroll is prey to psychological projection: “a defense mechanism in which one attributes to others one’s own unacceptable or unwanted thoughts.” (Wikipedia)

Friday, January 18, 2008

Global Warming Stimulus Package

Hillary recently proposed that the government should relieve the pain of high gas prices by handing out money. Don’t environmentalists praise high gas prices as a market-based constraint on gasoline consumption? If the government subsidizes gasoline, won’t consumption increase, thus increasing CO2 emissions and putting the top of the Empire State Building under water?

SUV kills 2-year old chld

From the Associated Press: "A Longmeadow woman backing out of her driveway in a sport utility vehicle ran over her 2-year-old daughter and killed her."

Tragic, but was the SUV somehow responsible?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Put a hurting on foriegn oil!

Someone named boatmoter [sic] at's blog site posted these visionary words:
we can send men to the moon,we can harness the atom,we invented the automobile,the computor, the laser,xray, telephone, we can even do heart transplants, we ought to be able to build a engine that does not require fuel,a perpetual motion engine should not be unreachable. then we would not be dependant on foriegn oil,or drilling and polluting,sure,it would put a hurting on the oil companies,boo hoo. it would cause a lot of jobs to no longer be needed,but it would creat a lot more jobs..

Why invent non-carbon based fuel when you can think really big and build an engine that does not require fuel at all? Of course it probably already exists but a hit man from Exxon killed the inventor and has locked the technical drawings in a top-secret Exxon cave in Nevada.

Someone named Revolution Tex has an even better plan:

My suggestion is / though extremely contoversial and un-american, would be to take the example of Venezuela, and let the U.S. Govt. finally seize and Govern the Oil Companies and set a national price of purchase/ so working families and the poor, elderly can afford to get the fuel they need to survive, work, and meet the responsibilities they have.

What's a little seizure of private property so long as it benefits working families?

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Hail Britannia

The Wall Street Journal published the index of economic freedom this morning. Andrew Roberts and Mark Steyn have made this point before: of the ten most free economies, 8 are former British colonies, plus the United Kingdom itself. Number 8 is Chile, which owes its economic program to Milton Friedman and the Chicago boys (Americans). That leaves only Switzerland without British roots.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Going global

Lately I’ve been hearing a buzzword from the education business—something about “education for a global economy,” creating “global citizens” and preparing students for the new globalized world. Education consultants are recommending “global learning” be “infused” into the K-12 curriculum. According to a Japanese university website, globalization “has challenged the long-standing scholarly assumption that takes the nation-state as the key framework of analysis.” And therefore, ”since the 1990s Global Studies schools and programs have been founded at universities around the world.”

As with any new product from the teaching profession, you have to wonder what the agenda is. After all, if the sole purpose of global studies were to impart a greater understanding of global issues, why would we need a new discipline? Couldn’t teachers simply stress the importance of the existing curriculum in world history, foreign languages, comparative literature, international relations, economics, art history and many others?

The role of the globalized economy is often mentioned, and it may be that many of the new programs with “global” in their name want to train Wal-Mart purchasers who understand international supply chains in Tom Friedman’s flat world. Other global studies programs however seem less concerned with having their students participate in the global economy in the role of, for example, capitalist businessmen. Rather they are concerned with controlling the global economy; in other words, they are madrassas for bureaucrats in a future world government.

The School of Global Studies at Arizona State University claims to be “Transdisciplinary in Strategy, Transnational in Scope, Transformational in Purpose.” The repetition of “trans-“ is cute, and perhaps meaningful. Why not interdisciplinary, international and informational? International—meaning between nations is no longer valid if one has dismissed the validity of the nation-state. Transdisciplinary might have been thrown in to match the rhyming scheme, but it indicates a desire for total understanding, rather than respect for discrete fields of study--sort of an academic power play. And as for transformational—is it really the job of a college to transform its students by forcing a political agenda about the need for world government upon them? Shouldn’t an education give students knowledge so they can reach their own political viewpoints?

The School of Global Studies vision statement is clear about where it sees a problem that needs remedy: “The lack of comparable authoritative global institutions means that reaching such agreement among the peoples of the world is infinitely more difficult.”

And again:
In the absence of government and its taxation power the provision of global goods is severely limited. It follows that there is no routine coercive or non-coercive mechanism for the resolution of conflict in shared global space.

“Resolution of conflict” sounds like a high-minded goal, but keep your eye on the “coercive” part.

The case for one world government continues in the vision statement’s depiction of global problems. Number one on the list, naturally, is global warming:
Global climate change has the potential to radically transform the quality of life for everyone on the planet, but how can greenhouse gas emissions and pollution be regulated given current political realities in shared global space? Can a global agreement on reversing global warming be reached and enforced given the existing inequalities in contributions of emissions and the uneven consequences of inaction?

I suspect that the global part is of more interest to global studies than the warming part.

Second on the list is terrorism:
The growth of terrorism (be it secular or religious) creates a demand for heightened global security, but how can global security be attained in the absence of world government?

Perhaps we were too hasty in dismissing the John Birch Society as a bunch of kooks for alleging that the "Real nature of the UN is to build One World Government.” And I’m trying to decipher that parenthetical—secular or religious? What secular terrorism are they referring to? The Basques? Timothy McVeigh?

The description of terrorism concludes with a throwaway line to reassure future applicants of the program’s moral relativist bona fides:
Further, since one country’s terrorists are another’s freedom fighters, the very definition of terrorism is contested.
They wouldn’t want to give the impression that they disapprove of terrorism—they just want the world government to control it. Maybe a suicide bombing tax? IED offset credits?

Getting Beyond Politics

My friend (and editor-in-chief of the leading newspaper south of Shelburne and north of North Ferrisburg) commented that it was weird to think that I had left my liberal Democrat past to join what she called the “far right.” She was from the center, she said; she thought it was important to find some middle ground in this country or we’d be in big trouble. I prefer “neo-conservative intellectual” to “far right-wing nut job,” but never mind.

The call for a middle way has been made by several candidates for the Presidency, notably Barack Obama on the Democrat side and Mike Huckabee on the Republican. It is increasingly difficult to have a civil political discussion in this country. Mention at a dinner party in Cambridge, Massachusetts that you might vote for Rudy, or that you’re skeptical about Al Gore’s global warming alarmism and you might think you had been describing your interest in child pornography.

It is therefore appealing to imagine that compromise, bipartisanship and a centrist point of view will lead to more positive discussion and an end to “legislative logjams.” We need to “put ideological differences behind us” and “get beyond politics as usual.”

Certainly we can agree to avoid to rudeness of’s ad calling Four Star General David Petreus a traitor (“David Betray-us”). And the corresponding rude behavior on the far right… well, nothing comes to mind at the moment, but I’m sure letter-writers from the left side of the aisle can make suggestions. Respectfully disagreeing with our opponents is better than demonizing them, but is there really a substantive middle ground on the essential issues of the day?

For instance, if one side wants to pull American troops out of Iraq and the other side wants them to stay indefinitely, where is the middle ground? Taking a numerical average between zero and infinity is difficult.

One side believes that tax cuts favor the rich, that we need to raise taxes on the wealthy to give the less fortunate members of society a helping hand; the other believes that tax cuts stimulate the economy and benefit everyone. A compromise that rescinds part of the Bush tax cuts will satisfy neither side.

One side believes that immigrants deserve a shot at a better life; the other side believes that people who enter the country illegally have broken the law and should not be provided taxpayer funded services. Do we compromise by building only half of a border fence?

One side believes that global warming warrants the creation of a global legislative mechanism to control greenhouse gas emissions; the other believes that global warming is neither catastrophic nor man-made and that market forces should guide the creation of new energy sources. There’s no middle ground when a chasm separates the two sides.

One side believes that abortion is murder, the other believes it’s a woman’s right to choose. Any change in the current laws will be seen by abortion advocates as taking away their rights and the most implacable abortion opponents will argue that any abortion is murder.

It is possible of course to reach legislative compromise. The federal budget is always a compromise. Judicial appointments are often a compromise between what the executive will tolerate and the legislature will confirm. Immigration reform might punish illegal immigrants with criminal records but offer hard-working immigrants a “path to citizenship.”

But compromise involves ceding ground. A secondary definition of compromise is, “the acceptance of standards that are lower than is desirable.” It may be necessary to reach a solution, to break up that logjam, to “make things happen.” But compromise is not necessarily a positive thing. Passing a new law just to make things happen is good only if the law is sensible. It’s not like there’s any shortage of laws.

Jonah Goldberg’s new book describes “a “’Third Way’ between right and left where all good things go together and all hard choices are ‘false choices.’” This view itself, according to Goldberg, is an essentially liberal view; conservatives accept that there are hard choices to make and see the call for consensus as a call to shut down the debate. Too often when people advocate consensus, they expect that the other side will come over to their obviously superior side.

Personally, I enjoy the debate. Obviously I think my conservative positions are superior to the arguments of liberals, but I don’t want to shut liberals up. Monday morning without James Carroll’s moonbat columns in the Boston Globe just wouldn’t be as much fun.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

What would Chairman Mao think?

The following was an internet resource on the website of an education non-profit whose mission is to “introduce global content,” and “change the way students learn.” Their motto is "Educating for Global Understanding."

This form of painting, which in the West would be categorized as folk or naive painting, became popular during the Cultural Revolution in China (1966-1976). Images depicting peoples' every day lives in the fields, performing productive agricultural and labor routines became a natural focus under the regime of Chairman Mao. Artists in places like Hu County in Shaanxi Province (near Xi'an), where these painting were made, were discovered and became popular.

Hu County is rich with painters working in this style. Think about skills and practices being passed down through generations of families living in a fertile art community.

While this art form gained broad acceptance in the late 1960s and 1970s, these paintings were done in the late 1990's. Are there any aspects of these Peasant Paintings that could be read as images that promote or represent Cultural Revolution ideals? How do these paintings differ in style from "traditional" Chinese painting? How are they similar? Would Mao Zedong like them? If so, what would he like about them?

My problem with the material is not what is taught. It’s nice to have students think about folk paintings from modern China. It’s what is not taught. To begin with, introducing the Cultural Revolution while studying art is likely to give the impression that Chairman Mao was concerned about improving his country’s arts and culture. Sadly, the Cultural Revolution’s main contribution to Chinese art was the destruction of countless priceless works of art because they represented “old ways of thinking.” I have been in Buddhist caves where ancient frescoes with thousands of Buddha faces were methodically scratched out by Red Guard soldiers.

Secondly, the passage gives the impression of wealth during the Cultural Revolution; agriculture is described as “productive”; Hu County is “a fertile art community,” “rich with painters.” Unsaid is the unfortunate fact that the Cultural Revolution and its predecessor, the Great Leap Forward, were times of enormous famine. Tens of millions of farmers were moved arbitrarily to work on industrial projects to force China’s Great Leap Forward into the industrial age, which led to massive starvation and widespread cannibalism--in many cases, parents eating their own children. Statistics are hard to verify, but estimates range as high as 30 million dead.

Consider this sentence again: "Images depicting peoples' every day lives in the fields, performing productive agricultural and labor routines became a natural focus under the regime of Chairman Mao." A natural focus? The author seems oblivious about the purpose of state-sponsored art in a totalitarian country: that it paints a completely unrealistic vision to cover up the horrors of terror and famine. This would be an interesting start of a discussion, to ask students if they believe the happy scenes depicted reflect life in Communist China.

In addition to famine, the Cultural Revolution was a time of brutal repression, with an additional 2-7 million murdered by execution or overwork in labor camps.

The total murdered by Mao comes to somewhere between 44-72 million people, with 20 million in labor camps over his 26 year reign.

Given these ghoulish statistics, it is perverse in the extreme to ask third graders questions like, “Are there any aspects of these Peasant Paintings that could be read as images that promote or represent Cultural Revolution ideals? Would Mao Zedong like them?”

Which ideals would those be? Cannibalism, famine and mass internment?

Would Mao Zedong approve of the paintings? Should we defer to the aesthetic judgment of a man who murdered 50 million people?

Imagine asking if the paintings promoted Nazi ideals, and whether Adolf Hitler (himself a painter) would like them, without any accompanying criticism of the Nazi regime.

This is what is called “global understanding”?

Monday, January 07, 2008

Winner of the idiotic sentence of the week, pro division

It’s only Monday, but this one from professional idiot James Carroll will be hard to surpass:

The American belief in the righteousness of mass killing for the sake of abstract values like "freedom" springs not from the Revolution, where the killing was relatively slight and the freedom limited to a merchant class, but from the Civil War, where a spirit of total killing was justified by a professed commitment to racial equality that simply did not exist.

It has it all: racism, pacifism, class warfare, anti-Americanism. Plus bonus points for these idiotic points:
--War = mass killing. Take that, D-Day veterans. (At least he's not trying to claim that he supports the troops.)
--Freedom is an “abstract value.” Explain this to the inmates of Treblinka.
--The American Revolution only benefited the merchant class.
--Lincoln’s sham Emancipation Proclamation was a cover for his mass murdering blood lust.

The breadth of idiocy packed into one sentence could only come from a pro.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Angkor Wat proves that Al Gore is right

On my way back from a carbon burning orgy weekend--seven hours of driving to carbon powered ski lifts, wearing petroleum-based clothing and swimming in a heated outdoor pool--I tuned into a National Geographic radio program on Angkor Wat. After some praise of the brilliance of the temple engineers, the Australian archeologist turned the discussion to, naturally, global warming. It appears that the decline of the Khmer kingdom in the 13th century was likely tied to the clear-cutting of the forests around the temples to build rice paddies, which led to a climate change--which, as we know, destroys empires. The parallels with the today's climate change are disturbing: these Khmer temple builders had put all their faith in a technology that led to their downfall, much like the modern western world's dependence on carbon-based technologies.

So the SUV of the 12th century Cambodia was the rice paddy. It all makes sense.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Talking about the weather, 2

Mark Twain once said, "Everyone's talking about the weather but nobody's doing anything about it."

It's funny because the idea of doing something about the weather used to be absurd. But that was before Al Gore started saying things like, “climate crisis…demands immediate action to sharply reduce carbon dioxide emissions worldwide in order to turn down the world’s thermostat.”