Quotulatiousness

January 10, 2017

New Hickory?

Filed under: History, Politics, USA — Tags: — Nicholas @ 03:00

Camille Sweeney and Josh Gosfield on the parallels between the rise of Donald Trump and the rise of Andrew Jackson:

A real-estate-rich, thin-skinned, temperamental, yet charismatic celebrity who runs a tell-it-like-it-is political campaign attacking corrupt elites and promising a better life for the common man is accused of being unfit to serve, but after slogging through a mud-slinging campaign, complicated by sex scandals and an electoral college kerfuffle, he shocks the establishment and thrills his supporters by thrashing his more-experienced opponent and winning the ultimate prize — the highest office in the land.

Introducing the President of the United States … Andrew Jackson?

A handful of historians (as well as our current President-elect’s alt-right confidant Steve Bannon) have pointed out the eerie parallels between Andrew Jackson and Donald J. Trump.

If we want to know how our 45th POTUS-to-be will govern, instead of analyzing every late-night tweet and Trump Tower visitation, we invite you to climb with us into a time machine and go back nearly 200 years to explore the tumultuous and disruptive Presidency of Trump’s 19th Century doppelgänger, Andrew Jackson.

Five of Donald Trump’s biggest campaign promises were also made by Andrew Jackson. So let’s keep score. Did Jackson actually keep his promises when he got into office? How did it all work out? And what can Jackson’s presidency teach us about what a Trump presidency might be like?

“The very concept of a moral absolute […] is alien to them”

Filed under: Cancon, Health, Law, Politics, Religion — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

David Warren calls for moral and ethical resistance against “assisted dying” being accepted in society:

Through the casual review of polls, over the years, I have become aware that the general public can itself be moved from approximately 80/20 to approximately 20/80 (four fingers and a thumb to four thumbs and a finger) by any specious argument, if it is repeated constantly, and the Left are able to impose a fait accompli through the courts. Among intellectuals, the swings may be wider and quicker. They are not pendular, however, for once various civilized taboo lines have been crossed, there is no inevitable return, and the only way back is through a field of carnage.

Today, unlike “yesterday” (i.e. a few short years ago) there is 80 percent support for what goes in Canada under the euphemism “assisted dying,” and everywhere under the older euphemism, “euthanasia.” As loyal Christians (or Jews, and many others) we must never surrender to public opinion of this kind. Yet we must recognize that it is pointless to argue with the great mass who, in Canada as in places like Nazi Germany, can so easily be persuaded that down is up, and that words now have new meanings. They simply haven’t the equipment to follow a thread longer than the short slogans in which progressives specialize. Not if their moral schooling was defective, leaving consciences deformed.

People can be “educated” or “catechized” or awakened only one by one, and with their own participation. There is always hope, for as Thomas Sowell says, though everyone is born ignorant, not everyone is born stupid. But in practice, they are retrieved from catastrophic error, only by catastrophe.

At this point in our societal degeneration, “the people” are obedient to what beloved Benedict XVI called the “dictatorship of relativism.” This is understandable because few were raised in anything else. The very concept of a moral absolute (e.g. “thou shalt do no murder”) is alien to them. At the gut level, they may still individually recoil against an evil, but only if they have watched, and found the spectacle “icky.”

QotD: Gender monomania

Filed under: History, Liberty, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

I am an equal opportunity feminist. I believe that all barriers to women’s advancement in the social and political realm must be removed. However, I don’t feel that gender is sufficient to explain all of human life. This gender myopia has become a disease, a substitute for a religion, this whole cosmic view. It’s impossible that the feminist agenda can ever be the total explanation for human life. Our problem now is that this monomania — the identity politics of the 1970s, so people see everything through the lens of race, gender, or class-this is an absolute madness, and in fact, it’s a distortion of the ’60s. I feel that the ’60s had a vision, a large cosmic perspective that was absolutely lost in this degeneration, in this splintering of the 1970s into these identity politics.

Camille Paglia, “Everything’s Awesome and Camille Paglia Is Unhappy!”, Reason, 2015-05-30.

January 8, 2017

QotD: “Privilege” means “private law”

Filed under: Law, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Sigh. Hey, guys, privy-lege means “private law.” You know, private law which allows your not-very-competent asses to hold on to positions you’re not qualified for just because you make the right noises. Private law which means your politicians don’t get even rebuked for incompetence and malice that would crucify any one else. Private law means you can enrich yourself while playing at caring for the downtrodden. Private law means you can be an old woman with no accomplishments to your name except marrying the “right” man and then claim to speak for women and youth. Private law means you can play life on the easiest setting, while rebuking everyone with your melanin content (or more) for doing the same, whether you know what they’ve overcome or not.

Privilege means arrogating to yourself the right to judge others, not on behavior, not on their choices, not on their competence or their intelligence, but simply on whether they disagree with you. And to scream “off with their heads” if they don’t.

Privilege means the right to tell people what they should think or feel, and telling people whom they should blame for their plight, even if the people themselves disagree.

Privilege means voting yourself accolades, awards, encomiums, and then relying on your buddies in the press to make you smell like a rose, despite the garbage you roll around in.

Privilege means destroying people and gutting the culture for the privilege (ah!) of standing on top the smoking pyre, being king of the dunghill.

Privilege means being aristos unaware the masses are in pain and – like Antoinette never said – telling them to eat cake.

It’s short lived, though, this sort of privilege, because it destroys that which it feeds upon. And it’s even more short lived in a time when technological change undermines you. For instance, I don’t think the press can shield these aristos much longer. It might last the bastions of the left until the present generation (older than I) retires. Those younger than I, though, banking on it are playing a mug’s game. (Or are simply stupid and as we’ve said, lack both empathy and imagination.)

Long before they inherit, the inheritance will be ashes in the wind.

And the rest of us, the ones who understand the cold equations of economics and culture, of knowledge and power? We’ll be here.

Ça Ira.

Sarah Hoyt, “The Privilege Of Not Caring”, According to Hoyt, 2015-05-17.

January 7, 2017

Artist immediately sells out of her new “Privilege Cards”

Filed under: Politics, Randomness, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Has someone around you said something out loud that might possibly offend someone else? Feel too intimidated to just shout out “Racist!” or “Homophobe!” or “Check your privilege!”? Here’s a way to get your passive-aggressive game face on:

A Brooklyn artist quickly sold out of “privilege cards” last month, a conversation-halting tool used to “check everyone in your life” in a “direct yet non-aggressive” manner.

“Uh-oh! Your privilege is showing,” the front of the cards proclaim. On the back, it says, “You’ve received this card because your privilege just allowed you to make a comment that others cannot agree or relate to.”

The card then lists checkboxes for several types of privilege, including “white, socioeconomic, Christian, male, heterosexual, able-bodied, citizen” and a fill-in-the blank spot.

QotD: LSD and the Baby Boomers

Filed under: History, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

My classmates [destroyed themselves on drugs]. The authentic imaginations, the really innovative people of my generation, the most daring of my generation took the drug. Now I, for some reason, felt that the LSD was untested, and I did not want to experiment with it. But I was very interested in it. I was interested in all types of vision quests at the time. I went up with fellow students [from SUNY-Binghamton] to see Timothy Leary speak at Cornell. I saw him, and it made me uneasy that here was the guru with such a crowd around him, but his face was already twitching. I could see that this was not going to end well, and it did not.

So when I got to graduate school in 1968, I can attest to the fact that no authentically radical student of the 1960s ever went to graduate school. So all that were left were the time-servers, who parasitically [lived] on the achievements of the 1960s, for heaven’s sake. Any authentic leftist who had a job at a university in the 1970s or ’80s or ’90s should have been opposing the entire evolution of the university — that is, toward this administrative bureaucracy that has totally robbed power from the faculty. The total speciousness and fraud of academic leftism is proven by the passivity of these people in every department of the university to that power play that happened.

Camille Paglia, “Everything’s Awesome and Camille Paglia Is Unhappy!”, Reason, 2015-05-30.

January 6, 2017

The sustained denial of “gentry liberals”

Filed under: Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Glenn Reynolds on the many US liberals who refuse to come out of denial:

It’s been nearly two months since the election, and Democrats and leftists still haven’t settled down. The campus safe spaces and cry-ins immediately after the votes were counted were bad enough. But the craziness is still going on.

Why are they so upset? I think it’s because of status anxiety. Our privileged, college-educated left — what Joel Kotkin calls the gentry liberals — feels that its preeminent position in American society is under threat. And people care a lot about status.

What’s more, the people who seem to be lashing out the most are, in fact, just those gentry liberals: academics, entertainers, pundits, low-level tech types, and so on. As journalism professor Mark Grabowski reported, another academic texted him on election night: “Oh my God! We will be the ones ostracized if he wins.”

Maybe we shouldn’t “ostracize” people based on whether their candidate wins, but in a way this professor was right: A Trump victory is a blow to the status of the people who thought Hillary Clinton was their candidate — one that they feel even more deeply because gentry liberals, having been raised on the principle that the personal is political, seem to take politics pretty personally.

Another example that’s been circulating on the Internet comes from YouTube sex-talker Laci Green. When the election was still uncertain, she tweeted: “Regardless of the outcome, we are clearly a *deeply* divided and broken country. So much work ahead to mend, heal, and restore the U in USA.” Just a few hours later, when it became clear that Hillary had lost, she changed her tune: “We are now under total Republican rule. Textbook fascism. F____ you, white America. F___ you, you racist, misogynist pieces of s___. G’night.”

QotD: The “Seven Bad Ideas” of the left

Filed under: Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The cult of darkness variously known as Leftists, Liberals, Progressives, Brights, Socialists, Pinkos, Late Moderns, Collectivists, Traitors, is controlled by a Seven Bad Ideas around which their various emotions and interjections orbit.

The Seven Bad Ideas are:

  • Solipsism — the paradox that asserts that truth is personal, hence optional: “It is not true that truth is true.”
  • Relativism — the paradox that asserts that virtue is subjective, situational, relative: “It is wrong for you to judge right and wrong.”
  • Subjectivism — the paradox that asserts that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. As if putting a urinal in an Art Museum, and betraying the standard somehow proves the standard wrong, not the betrayal.
  • Irrationalism — the paradox that asserts reason is untrustworthy. Each man’s reason is too biased by upbringing, class self interest, sex, race, and background such that no one, aside from members of a given race and sex and victim group, can be expected to understand or advise other members of the victim group. Of course, reaching this conclusion from that premise is itself an act of reasoning, requiring the reasoner to trust his reason, despite the background and race and sex of the reasoner.
  • Pervertarianism — the paradox that asserts it to be licit to seek the gratifications of sexual union of the reproductive act without the union, without the reproduction, and, in the case of sodomites, without the act. The same insane paradox asserts that females should be feminists rather than feminine; and that sexual predation is more romantic than romance.
  • Totalitarianism — the paradox that asserts that freedom is slavery, war is peace, ignorance is strength. The Constitution is a living, breathing document, ergo it must be smothered and killed.
  • Nihilism — the paradox of that the meaning of life is that it has no innate meaning.

No claim is being made that all Leftists believe all these things. They have their heterodoxies, as any heresy does. The claim is that about these seven core ideas most or all leftist ideas inch near and orbit near. They may throw up trivial distinctions or exceptions, but the overwhelming majority of Leftwing commentary follows these main lines of thought.

A Leftist who says he does not believe one of these seven will nonetheless speak of it with respect. A man who denies all seven is not a Leftist. Most Leftists are remarkably stupid people, unwilling to examine their own axioms, unaware of their own premises, and illiterate of their own founding doctrines and patrons.

No proof is being offered here that Leftists believe these ideas or make these assertions. The reader can discover that for himself, merely by listening to them talk, reading their works, and reaching his own conclusion.

If you cannot see it by reading what they say, you will not see it by my repeating what they say. Look for yourself.

John C. Wright, “The Hatreds of the Left”, John C. Wright’s Journal, 2015-06-12.

January 4, 2017

Gingrich explains Trump

Filed under: Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 08:50

ESR linked to this article, saying “This was kind of eye-opening. I’m not sure I believe all the fact claims, but it’s good for understanding what Donald Trump thinks he’s doing and why his opponents have consistently misunderestimated him.”

Think about this notion, that part of what Trumpism is about is applying Taleb’s model of, intellectual yet idiot. A good case study is Trump’s skepticism about consultants. Jeb Bush raised $110 million dollars, and had one delegate. Trump kept wondering why he was paying these, intellectual yet idiots, to run his campaign. It never occurred to Trump to hire people who were truly stupid to run a campaign, so Trump ran his own campaign. People said, well he doesn’t know anything. This is the guy who, The Apprentice was the number one TV show in the country, he’d been on the air 13 years, but they thought he didn’t know anything.

He had the most popular tie in the country. He ran a $10 billion dollar empire, but of course, he didn’t know anything. He made Miss Universe a success. They said, yeah, but what do you really know about the voters? Well, he knew that they were consumers. What does he know about consumers? Branding matters. What did he say from day one? Let’s Make America Great Again. If you’re on the left that’s a frightening concept, but if you are a normal, everyday, blue collar American, the kind of people who built Trump’s buildings, you thought, yeah, I like the idea of making America great again, so then they bought a hat. The hat didn’t say Trump. It said, Make America Great Again.

He went around the country, and he figured out, this is how you appeal to people. Start with the idea that using common sense, if I can get this through to the Pentagon, this will be one of the greatest revolutions in military affairs you’ve ever seen. […]

You have to get it in your head. The current system is broken. It is obsolete, so don’t try to fix it. Try to replace it. Trumpism also means they use modern technology. Trump has 25 million people on Twitter and Facebook. His great realization, which occurred around October of 2015, you can actually reach all these people for free. He decides on Tuesday, let’s do a rally in Tampa. They email, and Tweet, and Facebook, everybody in Florida that’s in their list, and says, hi, I’m going to be in Tampa on Friday at 5 o’clock, and 20,000 people show up.

The other candidates are all buying TV ads. He’s showing up at a mass rally, which is covered live on television. He then has 20,000 people with smartphones who take his picture. They all send it out on Facebook and Instagram. If you figure 40 people per person, a 20,000 person rally, is an 800,000 person system, about twice the size of MSNBC. For free. There’s no exchange rate you can create that makes sense. It’s like trying to compare Polish cavalry and the Wehrmacht in 1939. These are totally different exchange rates.

Trump also understands that you have to be on permanent offense. If you look at the Wehrmacht, the Army of Northern Virginia, and the Israeli Army, they all have the same doctrine. If you are surprised, one third of your forces go into defense, two thirds go on counterattack. You never give up the initiative. That’s Trump. Trump’s core model is, you hit me, I hit back, and I hit harder than you hit. He learned it in the New York media when he was a business man. He’s on permanent offense. He gets up in the morning figuring out, how am I going to stay on offense? He understands that the media has to chase rabbits, so he gives them rabbits to chase, because if he doesn’t give them rabbits to chase, they’ll invent a rabbit.

If you were to go back, for the last two weeks, and look at how many stories there were about Mitt Romney, and say to yourself, do you think Trump minded that the media was fascinated by whether or not Mitt Romney would be Secretary of State? He bought two weeks of non coverage because he gave them junk they could talk about, and the media has to talk about something. The simpler and more stupid it is, the easier it is for them to do it. He doesn’t try to give them lectures that are complicated, because they can’t cover it. He just releases a rabbit, often by tweet, and the media goes trotting after it happily.

January 3, 2017

Procedural hacks and US Supreme Court nominations

Filed under: Law, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Yes, I’m just getting caught up on articles that got published between Christmas and New Year’s, which is why I’m linking to another Megan McArdle article. This one is on the Democratic party’s “festival of wrongness” delusions about hacking the nomination to replace Antonin Scalia on the US Supreme Court:

You may be a bit confused. Republicans hold the majority in this Senate. They will also control the next Senate. How are Democrats supposed to bring the thing to the floor for a vote, much less get enough votes to actually confirm him?

That’s a very good question! The answer some progressives have come up with is that there will be a nanosecond gap between when the outgoing senators leave office, and the new ones are sworn in. During that gap, there will be more Democrats left than Republicans. So the idea is to call that smaller body into session, vote on the nomination, and voila! — a new Supreme Court justice. Alternatively, President Obama could use that gap to make a recess appointment.

The first idea started on Daily Kos, where I initially saw it. I didn’t pay it overmuch attention, as my second law of politics is that “At any given time, someone is suggesting something completely insane.” Usually these ideas go nowhere. This one, however, has gotten a bit of traction; the idea of a nanosecond nomination vote has shown up at the Princeton Election Consortium blog, and endorsements of a recess appointment have appeared in the New Republic and New York magazine.

It’s hard to know where to start with this festival of wrongness. The idea behind the nanosecond nomination seems to be that there are two discrete Senates, the old and the new, with a definite gap between them; yet that somehow, though neither the old nor the new Senate exists, there are senators, who can hold a vote on something — a sort of quantum Senate that pops into and out of existence depending on the needs of the Democratic Party.

The legal grounds for a recess appointment are even weaker, because in 2014 the Supreme Court ruled that recess appointments require at least a three-day gap — not three femtoseconds — between sessions to be valid. Even if that were not the case, Jonathan Adler argues that the new Republican Senate could adjourn sine die, ending the recess appointment a few weeks after it was made. Since Garland would have to vacate his appellate court seat, all Democrats would succeed in doing is opening up another judicial appointment for Trump.

But this is almost quibbling compared with the deeper problem: Even if these moves could work, they wouldn’t work. The people proposing these ideas seem to imagine that they are making a movie about politics, rather than actually doing politics. The hero’s quest is to get a liberal supreme court, but they are stymied until — third act miracle! A daring procedural caper! The gavel slams down on Merrick Garland’s “Aye” vote … cut to him taking his Supreme Court seat … fade to black as the audience cheers. In the real world, of course, there’s a sequel, called “Tomorrow.” And what do the Republicans do then? The answer, alas, is not “stand around shaking their fists at fate, while the moderates among them offer a handshake across the aisle and a rueful ‘You got us this time, guys.’”

Can this marriage be saved?

Filed under: Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Megan McArdle reflects on what makes a marriage successful … politically:

While traveling a few months back, I ended up chatting with a divorce attorney, who observed that what we’re seeing in America right now bears a startling resemblance to what he sees happen with many of his clients. They’ve lost sight of what they ever liked about each other; in fact, they’ve even lost sight of their own self-interest. All they can see is their grievances, from annoying habits to serious wrongs. The other party, of course, generally has their own set of grievances. There is a sort of geometric progression of outrage, where whatever you do to the other side is justified by whatever they did last. They, of course, offer similar justifications for their own behavior.

By the time the parties get to this state, the object is not even necessarily to come out of the divorce with the most money and stuff; it’s to ensure that your former spouse comes out with as little as possible. People will fight viciously to get a knickknack neither of them particularly likes, force asset sales at a bad loss, and otherwise behave as if the victor is not the person who goes on to live a productive and happy life, but the one who makes it impossible for the ex to do so.

However damaging these battles are, at least they eventually end. Unfortunately, there is no divorce court for nations, and our last trial separation ended in the deaths of about 2 percent of the population. However much you have come to despise the other party, they’re still going to be there: tracking dirt into the halls of Congress, demanding an equal say in the direction of the ship of state. It doesn’t matter if you hate their ideas, their habits, and everything else about them; they’re not going anywhere. So you two had better figure out how to live together.

And you can easily imagine partisans of both sides angrily decrying “But they started it!”

January 2, 2017

“Honest scientific discourse and debate is often rendered impossible in the face of the ‘new catastrophism'”

Filed under: Cancon, Environment, Media, Politics, Science — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

It’s not your imagination — we really do seem to be careening from one ecological disaster to another, all caused by thoughtless human action … well, that’s what the activists are constantly saying:

What is patently obvious from reviewing Canada’s ancient history is that scientists still do not have an adequate understanding of Earth’s complex systems on which to base sound economic and environmental policy. From the upper reaches of the atmosphere to the depths of the oceans onwards to the deep interior of the planet our knowledge of complex earth systems is still rather rudimentary. Huge areas of our planet are inaccessible and are little known scientifically. There is still also much to learn from reading the rock record of how our planet functioned in the past.

In so many areas, we simply don’t know enough of how our planet functions.

And yet……

Scarcely a day goes past without some group declaring the next global environmental crisis; we seemingly stagger from one widely proclaimed crisis to another each one (so we are told) with the potential to severely curtail or extinguish civilization as we know it. It’s an all too familiar story often told by scientists who cross over into advocacy and often with the scarcely-hidden sub-text that they are the only ones with the messianic foresight to see the problem and create a solution. Much of our science is what we would call ‘crisis-driven’ where funding, politics and the media are all intertwined and inseparable generating a corrupting and highly corrosive influence on the scientific method and its students. If it doesn’t bleed it doesn’t lead is the new yardstick with which to measure the overall significance of research.

Charles Darwin ushered in a new era of thinking where change was expected and necessary. Our species as are all others, is the product of ongoing environmental change and adaption to varying conditions; the constancy of change. In the last 15 years or so however, we have seemingly reverted to a pre-Darwinian mode of a fixed ‘immutable Earth’ where any change beyond some sort of ‘norm’ is seen in some quarters as unnatural, threatening and due to our activities, usually with the proviso of needing ‘to act now to save the planet.’ Honest scientific discourse and debate is often rendered impossible in the face of the ‘new catastrophism.’

Trained as geologists in the knowledge of Earth’s immensely long and complex history we appreciate that environmental change is normal. For example, rivers and coastlines are not static. Those coasts, in particular, that consist of sandy strand-plains and barrier-lagoon systems are continually evolving as sand is moved by the waves and tides. Cyclonic storms (hurricanes), a normal component of the weather in many parts of the world, are particularly likely to cause severe erosion. When recent events such as Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy cause catastrophic damage, and spring storms cause massive flooding in Calgary or down the Mississippi valley, and droughts and wildfires affect large areas of the American SW these events are blamed on a supposed increase in the severity of extreme weather events brought about by climate change. In fact, they just reflect the working of statistical probability and long term climate cyclicity. Such events have happened in the past as part of ongoing changes in climate but affected fewer people. That the costs of weather and climate-related damage today are far greater is not because of an increased frequency of severe weather but the result of humans insisting on congregating and living in places that, while attractive, such as floodplains, mountain sides and beautiful coastlines, are especially vulnerable to natural disasters. Promises of a more ‘stable future’ if we can only prevent climate change are hopelessly misguided and raise unnatural expectations by being willfully ignorant of the natural workings of the planet. Climate change is the major issue for which more geological input dealing with the history of past climates would contribute to a deeper understanding of the nature of change and what we might expect in the future. The past climate record suggests in fact that for much of the Earth’s surface future cooling is the norm. Without natural climate change Canada would be buried under ice 3 km thick; that is it normal state for most of the last 2.5 million years with 100,000 years-long ice ages alternating with brief, short-lived interglacials such as the present which is close to its end.

H/T to Kate at SDA for the link.

January 1, 2017

QotD: Currency Manipulation

Filed under: China, Economics, Politics, Quotations — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

One of the critiques of any trade deal of late is that there should be penalties for countries guilty of “currency manipulation.” The concern is that countries will devalue their currency in an effort to make their own exports cheaper to other nations while making it harder for other countries to export back to them. As an example, if the Chinese were to do something that cuts the value of the Yuan in half vs. the dollar, their products look very cheap to American consumers while American-produced goods suddenly look a lot more expensive to Chinese consumers.

I have two brief responses to this:

  1. I find it hilarious that anyone in the United States government, which has a Federal Reserve that has added nearly $2 trillion to its balance sheet in the service of cramming down the value of the dollar, can with a straight face accuse other nations of currency manipulation. In practice in today’s QEconomy, currency manipulation means another country is doing exactly what we are doing, but just doing it faster.
  2. As an American consumer, to such currency manipulation by other countries I say, Bring it On! If China wants to hammer its own citizens with higher prices and lower purchasing power just to subsidize lower prices for me, I am happy to let them do it. Yes, a few specific politically-connected export businesses lose revenues, but trying to prop them up is pure cronyism. Which is one reason I think Elizabeth Warren is a total hypocrite. The constituency of the poor and lower middle class she presumes to speak for are the exact folks who shop at Walmart and need very price break on everyday goods they can get. Senator Warren’s preferences for protectionist trade policies and a weak dollar will hurt these folks the most.

Warren Meyer, “Currency Manipulation”, Coyote Blog, 2015-05-26.

December 30, 2016

University – now “a regular source for ‘What wacky stuff are they up to on campus?’ articles”

Filed under: Politics, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Will universities continue their decades-long flight from relevance to become the next decade’s equivalent of “Florida Man”?

My academic field, American Studies, is the interdisciplinary study of American cultures, past and present. Once it was a vibrant and useful discipline. Today, I’m sad to report, it is a regular source for “What wacky stuff are they up to on campus?” articles and blogs.

These days, when American Studies captures any attention, it’s usually for unfortunate reasons.

Sometimes, a jargon-y article wins an ironic bad writing award. Consider, for example this excerpt from a paper in the Australasian Journal of American Studies:

    Natural history museums, like the American Museum, constitute one decisive means for power to de-privatize and re-publicize, if only ever so slightly, the realms of death by putting dead remains into public service as social tokens of collective life, rereading dead fossils as chronicles of life’s everlasting quest for survival, and canonizing now dead individuals as nomological emblems of still living collectives in Nature and History. An anatomo-politics of human and non-human bodies is sustained by accumulating and classifying such necroliths in the museum’s observational/expositional performances.

Sometimes a pop culture class becomes an extramural joke, such as the “Zombie Studies” courses that were all the rage a few years ago. And sometimes an American Studies professor decides to use the classroom for “social activism” where the idea is to substitute studying with protesting.

I might chuckle if I weren’t employed and mentally invested in the field, and if I did not have residual respect for the open-minded, pragmatic approaches which marked American Studies for the first decades of its existence. But sadly, for the last generation, American Studies — beset by a nagging awareness that making interdisciplinarity the norm when studying culture became mission accomplished at least 20 years ago — has scooted pell-mell towards politicization in a misbegotten effort to remain relevant.

The result today is an academic sub-specialty wedded to a tightly-corseted belief that the United States represents the locus of sin (racism, sexism, colonialism, and the like) in the modern world, and that any study of America should restrict itself to call-outs and condemnations. American Studies now serves chiefly as validation system for academicians who know their findings in advance: racism, sexism, and imperialism.

Increasingly, the field is hostile to scholars who don’t want to use it just to berate American traditions and signal their imagined virtue.

December 26, 2016

QotD: The cultural (Jack-)bootprint of Ayn Rand

Filed under: Books, Media, Politics, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The Left tries to create a false dilemma that opposes progressivism to Rand-ism — or what they imagine to be Rand-ism, a blend of authentically Randian moralizing about moochers and takers with a kind of Rothbardian anarcho-capitalism, an atomistic society that denies community and despises the philanthropic impulse. Actual conservatives are more likely to be found in church, where, among other things, they exercise the philanthropic impulse in community.

[…]

People just don’t take books that seriously anymore. I think The Bell Curve might have been our last genuinely controversial book. If you were not around in the 1990s, it is hard to imagine how all-encompassing that controversy was: Everybody was reading The Bell Curve, or at least opening it up and turning immediately to the naughty bits. (Or at least pretending to have read it.) You could not not have an opinion on The Bell Curve if you were the sort of person who read books. My impression from the career of Michel Houellebecq is that the French-speaking world is still up for a literary controversy. I envy that a little. I’ve always liked the story about the riot following the first performance of Rite of Spring, not because I like riots but because I want to live in a world in which people take Igor Stravinsky seriously enough to fight over him. The idea of a novelist — a mediocre one at that — occupying as much cultural real estate as Ayn Rand seems like a relic from another time. Which I suppose it is.

I happen to be in New York City while writing this, surrounded by a who’s-who of the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy. I don’t expect to meet any Randians. But I’ll let you know if I do.

Kevin D. Williamson, “The Parochial Progressive Obsession with Ayn Rand”, National Review, 2016-12-14.

« Newer PostsOlder Posts »

Powered by WordPress

%d bloggers like this: