Monday, October 31, 2016

Why We Like Monsters: A Halloween Meditation

Get a link to my newest post on why our popular culture is so fascinated with the dark and the demonic here.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Scientific American takes some STEM advocates to task for hating on the Humanities

My most recent post at Intellectual Takeout:
There’s been a lot of rhetoric in recent years from conservative leaders about the importance of giving students a STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). 
That our students should have a better education in math and science is not controversial. What is controversial is when a math and science emphasis is pitted against the liberal arts and humanities.
Read the rest here.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

It Was a Bright Cold Day in April, and the Clocks Were Striking Patriarchy: A Parable on Political Correctness

If you have not read George Orwell's 1984, then go read it. If you have read it, then read this.

Let us go back to that time (or is it now?) in order to understand our time. Winston Smith has been having incorrect thoughts, and he has been found out by the Thought Police and taken to the Ministry of Love for correction and rehabilitation. His Interrogator (and torturer) is O'Brien:

“Humans are like cockroaches.  But if we get in their minds and make them believe us, then we have them. You can make them believe anything. You will learn by degrees, Winston. There is nothing that we could not make you believe. Invisibility, levitation—anything. That despite biological, obvious differences, and other differences in musculature, in brain formation, despite hormones and how they shape everything about a human before he’s even born, we can make humans believe there are no differences between the sexes.  And alternately we can make them believe all males are natural oppressors and must be punished simply for existing, and all women, no matter how powerful or rich are natural victims and must be appeased.  We can make them believe there are no differences, and at the same time that there are six genders, or ten, or twelve, or a hundred, all of them natural from birth.’ 
“But that’s mad,” Winston shouted.  “Utterly mad.  You can’t make anyone deny the truth of their own eyes, forever.” 
He knew the lever would be pulled. 
“How many genders does humanity have, Winston?” 
The lever was pulled. 
“How many?” 
The lever was pulled. 
“How many?” 
“A hundred” 
The lever was pulled. 
“How many?” 
“As many as the enlightened say.” 
“That is right, Winston, you are almost well.  And what is PIV.” 
“Violation.  Always violation.”
“Can’t a woman consent to sex with a man?” 
“There is no true consent, since even in Utopia cis het males are programmed to institute patriarchy.  You must always be vigilant against your own thoughts and your own unconscious privilege, even if you can’t be fully aware of it.  All penetration is violation.  A baby is an invader in a woman’s body.  Utopia is forever and only the enlightened can tell us when we’re wrong. Because the individual is not able to balance the forces of retribution and oppression and greed by himself, or not even within himself. Society is always imbalanced, and there will be oppression till all of humanity is gone, so the enlightened ones must teach us and correct us until that time. 
Winston gazed up at the enormous face. Forty years it had taken zeem to learn what kind of smile was hidden beneath the androgynous, unreadable face. O cruel, needless misunderstanding! O stubborn, self-willed exile from the loving breast! Two gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of zees nose. But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. Zee had won the victory over Zeeself. Zee loved Big Gender Indeterminate Sibling.
Read the entire article here.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

#Trump would have it so much easier if his lewd comments had been discovered by the Russians

Just sayin'.

When Conservatives Could Talk Intelligently: Where is William F. Buckley when you need him?

Compound Sentences. Subordinate clauses. Conclusions with supporting premises. Eloquence. They were all once a part of conservative rhetoric, a rhetoric now become imbecile and associated with the nominee of this nation's nominally conservative party, the extent of whose wit is embodied in insults and thoughts that (perhaps fortunately) do not extend beyond 140 characters.

Instead of advocacy and criticism informed by a knowledge and understanding of the long tradition of American and European political philosophy, we get lengthy disquisitions on the optimal tonnage of beauty contestants. Comments once strewn with quotations from Edmund Burke, Alexis de Toqueville, Lord Acton, and Russell Kirk are now more likely to make reference to the words and actions of people whose chief public exposure is in People magazine. 

There are a few relics left. Charles Krauthammer, Brett Stephens, and, to some extent, Jonah Goldberg and Russ Douthat at least speak grammatically and prosecute a good argument, but they have proven themselves (to use the British term) wets when the going gets tough on social issues like marriage.

Today's conservatives breath with only one lung. They are all economics and no culture. Yes, you can find frequent and justified ridicule of the latest PC outrage on Fox News, but once the liberal tide rises, they just position themselves higher on the beach. And as the waters rise, the retreats pile up and the conservative territory diminishes. And no one wants to do the hard work of dealing with the more enduring problem of the rising sea of ideology.

Where once we had spokesmen who were Burkeans because they had read and agreed with Burke, we now have Machiavellians who not only have not read Machiavelli, but don't even know who he was.

If you want to understand better the low estate into which the conservative mind has fallen, you need to see PBS' new documentary, "Best of Enemies." It is about the public confrontations between William F. Buckley, Jr. and Gore Vidal, the two intellectual leaders, respectively, of the conservatism and liberalism of the 60s and 70s. They spoke at a level which would be incomprehensible to today's generation of voters, educated as they were in public schools where the traditional content of history and literature have been set aside in order to make space for test preparation, fun projects, environmentalism, and political indoctrination.

But in their time, Buckley and Vidal were a huge television draw. They were rock stars before rock stars were, well, rock stars.

"Best of Enemies" focuses on the television debates on ABC during the Republican and Democratic national conventions of 1968. It was a time when CBS and NBC ruled the ratings, with ABC a distant third. While the two more popular networks focused exclusively on the 1968 convention, ABC decided to throw the dice, and put Buckley and Vidal on the same set to see what would happen.

It was a tremendous hit filled with tremendous hits.

Buckley, editor of National Review, the magazine that put conservatism on the American political map and the host of PBS' weekly "Firing Line," and Vidal, the brilliant writer of lurid but popular novels like Myra Breckenridge, squared off in a series of televised flame wars that put to shame the sallow political discourse of today. They didn't like each other, but, with the exception of one now famous incident (which the documentary spends most of its time building up to), Buckley and Vidal engaged in informed political argument only peppered with insults, not, as today, insults peppered with ill-informed political argument. 

This is public television, of course, and so they can't keep their ideological fingers off the facts. Between the mostly accurate historical narrative, we are treated to a litany of disinformation on Buckley's conservatism.

We have Andrew Sullivan, for example, remarking on how elitist and anti-democratic Buckley was. Mind you, this was the Buckley famous for saying that he would rather be ruled by the last three hundred names in the Boston phone book than the entire faculty of Harvard University, and Sullivan and his fellow liberals the ones who applaud every time unelected elite liberal judges take issues out of the democratic process and decide them for the rest of us. 

And then there is the customary civil rights rhetoric, where conservatives in general and Republicans in particular are cast as the ones in favor of discrimination and segregation despite the fact that it was the Democratic Party who supported segregation in the South, that housed Lester Maddox, George Wallace and (to this day) Lyndon LaRouche, and that offered the greatest opposition to the Civil Rights Acts of the 1960s, voting against them in much higher numbers--and percentages--than Republicans.

Then we have Sullivan speculating that Buckley's opposition to homosexuality was the results of Buckley's fear of his own homosexuality. Thoughts like this are, of course, a great comfort to gays like Sullivan, whose insecurity not only demands that everyone else agree with him (by force if necessary), but that everyone else must be like him deep down. And so we say unsubstantiated and--let's face it--stupid things like this.

And we are also given the impression that Buckley lived in the shadow of his emotional outburst when, after Vidal called Buckley a "crypto-Nazi," Buckley called him a "queer" and threatened to punch him in the face. In fact the whole program works up to this moment. And when it comes, it cuts to 5-second shots of the liberal commentators, silent, thinking apparently, how terribly, terribly sad it was.

Tsk, tsk. Such a shame.

That Buckley would regret losing his temper and calling Vidal a homosexual (he was, although he consistently refused the "gay" label) using a term that gays themselves use (check out the "Queer Studies" discipline at your local state university) was something Buckley regretted doing. Conservatives have, not only standards, but consciences. But Vidal's charge that Buckley was a "crypto-Nazi," a term no conservative uses of himself, goes unlamented on the show.

No five-second camera pauses focused on the pained faces of moralistic liberals pondering the tragedy of it all. No moralistic lectures from Andrew Sullivan. No grim voice narrating how Terribly. Unfortunate. It was (queue the footage of the face of the perpetrator, in slow motion).

Maybe that was because Vidal, apparently lacking an operative conscience, never regretted hurling his own epithets, and had no journalists to feel guilty for him.

But despite all of the obligatory liberal finger-wagging and head shaking, the glory that was Buckley comes through. In fact, maybe it was good that Buckley called Vidal what he in fact was on live national television and created such a legendary moment. If he hadn't, PBS might never have done such a show, and we couldn't have seen these great old clips of Buckley practicing the art of polemic, an art increasingly falling into disuse, and one which, if conservatives fail to revive it, will be their undoing.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Liberals Living in Glass Houses Shouldn't Throw Stones

The next time you hear the liberal media waxing high and mighty about Donald Trump's truly objectionable remarks on a recently released videotape, you need to remember a few important things.

First, you need to remember that you are hearing all this self-righteousness from a group of people, now fully a part of the entertainment industry, who consistently look the other way when their own industry make millions of dollars every year by selling rap and hip hop music the glorifies sexual violence, who defend the right of the porn industry to produce blatantly misogynist and objectifying pictures and films, and who, when it had the chance to condemn Bill Clinton's abusive behavior toward women instead gave him a pass.

And the next time you hear the Democrats preening about their high ethical standards, you need to compare two things:

1. How the Democrats dealt with Bill Clinton when it came to light that he had engaging in sexually abusive behavior with, among others, people over whom he was in a position of authority, which consisted of dismissing it as unimportant and making excuses for him; and

2. How the Republicans are dealing with Donald Trump now.

The fact that Trump's words have been condemned and that many Republicans have disowned him because of it, and that the much worse behavior of Bill Clinton was excused and caused no serious defections of Democratic support at the time is about the best evidence you can have about that the relative standards of the two parties are.

And, of course, it's a measure of the kind of hypocrisy liberals--inside and outside the media--are willing to engage in to promote their cause.

My Five-Step Method for Determining Who Wins Presidential Debates and How to Apply It to Last Night's Debate

I have a five-step method for determining who wins presidential debates. Here it is:
1. I switch to Fox News to see how Sean Hannity is feeling;2. I then switch to CNN to see how Jake Tapper (or Anderson Cooper) is feeling;3. If Sean Hannity looks grim and Tapper (or Cooper) looks chipper, then Hillary won;4. If Sean Hannity is chipper and Tapper (or Cooper) grim, then Trump won.5. If they book look about the same, then it was a draw
Applying this method last night, I determine that Trump won.

Tapper looked like his dog had just died. He had circles under his eyes and looked like he badly needed a long vacation. Of course, he wouldn't admit that Trump won, and he had to settle for saying that the debate wouldn't help him to win, which, of course, has nothing to do with the question, and which, if Trump had engaged in any similar confusion would have prompted Anderson Cooper to interrupt him and pointed it out and if Hillary had done it would have prompted neither moderator to do anything, since she can do no wrong.

Hannity, on the other hand, was positively ecstatic. The Donald had perpetrated the most decisive victory in the history of debate, beating out Demosthenes, Pericles, Cicero, and every other -es and -o who ever rose to a podium. He made Clarence Darrow look like a Sunday School teacher. He had destroyed Hillary so utterly and decisively that it was a wonder she wasn't taken off the stage on a gurney.

The first debate was, of course exactly the opposite.

What always gets me is the utter bias with with both networks deal with issues, although I will have to say that in the days leading up to the debate at least Fox extensively covered Trump's video scandal in addition to its coverage of Hillary's emails, while CNN hardly mentioned the emails.

And this morning on NPR, Mara Liasson's report on the debate included a discussion of everything but the emails. This is just unethical journalism, and it is why public broadcasting has so little credibility any more. And it isn't even necessary: Trump tends to hang himself. He doesn't need liberal journalists grinding an ax and pretending to be objective to do it for him.

Saturday, October 08, 2016

Liberal standards that only non-liberals must follow

At the Atlantic magazine Jonathan Merritt condemns the recent statement from Intervarsity Christian Fellowship that its employees must adhere to traditional Christian teachings on marriage. He imagines all the bad things that could happen under such a policy, such as that people who work for them would have to, well, adhere to traditional teaching on marriage.

Imagine. An institution requiring people to adhere to its purpose.

Once again we have liberals who want to hold others to standards they themselves refuse to adhere to. Liberal institutions routinely reject people for employment who hold conservative views. Go try applying for a job at at your local college's "women and gender studies" department and tell them of your traditional views on sexuality and see how far you get. Go try applying at Planned Parenthood and divulging that you are pro-life and see what kind of reception you receive.

And, of course, the Atlantic itself is so tolerant and diverse. Surely they would not exclude writers who, say, take a traditional view of marriage. Why there's ..., er, well, the writer, uh... Hmmm. Come now that I think about it, they don't have any writers who take that position.

Physician, heal thyself.

Friday, October 07, 2016

The chickens come home to roost for Trump supporters

You know it's bad when Trump fanboy Hannity is reduced to the argument that his candidate is no worse than Bill Clinton.

On the one hand today's release of a videotape containing Trump's lurid remarks about a soap star right before meeting her is nothing new. Is anybody really surprised at this? The only thing new about these remarks is their explicitness. But they are no different in character than other things he has said.

Remember when Republicans said that character mattered? Those were the good old days. That was when the people with bad character were Democrats. Now that the people with bad character are Republicans, all of a sudden character doesn't seem to matter much anymore.

Funny how that works.

I have been telling my conservative friends who are so fearful of Hillary that they are supporting Trump that they'd better watch out. He is the political poster boy from Hell.

Well, welcome to my nightmare.

As much as I like many of the people who have supported Trump, I don't feel sorry for them. They should have known better. Will a Hillary Clinton presidency be bad? Yes it will. But if we're going to have a screwed up Presidency, which I don't see any way out of, I'd rather the party of which I am a member not be responsible for it. 

This is not the last time something like this will come out. In fact, it's a fair bet that there will be several more revelations like this before the election. And, if he becomes president, he's sure to add new outrages. He's the gift that will keep on giving.

No worse than Bill Clinton? There's got to be a campaign slogan better than that. 

Thursday, October 06, 2016

The Stepford Students

Britain, it turns out, has the same problem with the Tolerance Police running their schools as we do in America. Instead of giving students a real education, which would should involve something approximating wisdom and virtue, they engage in the academic equivalent of goose-stepping lessons—ideological boot camps teaching students all the things they must be outraged about and trying to convince them they have the right to force other people to agree with them and access to a "safe spaces" if they can't. 

Here's Brendan O'Neill at The Spectator:

Two years ago, in this magazine, I wrote about the rise of the Stepford Students. These are the student leaders who might look and sound rad — all dyed hair and blather about ‘intersectionality’ — but who are really just officious meddlers in the lives of others. Whether they’re banning sombreros because they’re offensive to Latinos or No Platforming right wingers and off message feminists, these student officials strangle debate, and have tried to turn campuses from hotbeds of social and intellectual interaction into starched ‘safe spaces’.

But something is happening in Britain, says O'Neill. There are a few Brit students fighting back:

Now, however, a counter Stepford rebellion is stirring. Students are sick of being patronised, so they are shooting down this PC creed. They aren’t hurling Molotov cocktails or staging sit ins, as students of old did — they’re setting up free speech societies, boycotting patronising lifestyle lectures and, most strikingly, voting to get the hell out of the suffocating grip of the National Union for Students. These Students for Sanity, as I call them, are reclaiming their rights.

Read more about it here.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Evan McMullin is NOT a Conservative

Evan McMullin
Caleb Howe at Redstate wanted us to watch Evan McMullin's event in Utah tonight. McMullin, the man the Republican establishment put up to compete with Trump (How's that going?), Howe calls "the only conservative running for President."


We now go to Maggie Gallagher, who, unlike Howe, still inhabits this dimension:

“As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I believe in traditional marriage between a man and a woman, but I respect the decision of the Court, and I think it’s time to move on,” McMullin said, according to Lifesite News.

When [Mark] Halperin asked if a President McMullin would at least appoint Supreme Court justices who would overturn the Obergefell decision, he replied, “I wouldn’t.”

In other words, he's a conservative, but he doesn't want to conserve things like the viability of the Constitution, the separation of powers, and the legitimacy of the judicial system, and the institution of marriage, the institution without which we are all hosed.

Good luck with that.

It Was Nice While It Lasted: There goes Hamilton's popularity

Everyone knows how popular Alexander Hamilton has become of late as a result of the Tony award winning Broadway play, "Hamilton."

Now comes the news of "Hamilton"'s ten criteria for a wife, among which are "beauty," a "good body," "good breeding," and being "reasonably religious." Some of those things won't please the pop culture mavens now lauding him too terribly much.

And wait until they find out what he was in the market specifically for a female. If that doesn't completely destroy his reputation the places that are celebrating the musical, nothing will.

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Since gender is just a choice on a spectrum, can a biological male apply for a female college scholarship?

Politically Correct pronoun declensions.
The absurd ramifications of Gender Denial are legion, and economist Mark Perry at the American Enterprise Institute points one of them out.

Since colleges and universities are becoming morally and mentally unhinged about gender and claiming that "being male and female is a choice on a spectrum, not a biological trait," what stops a male from claiming to be a female and then, in turn, claiming the advantage that being a female has always conferred when it comes to scholarships and other benefits?

In fact, we're going to see precisely how dedicated the Gender Deniers are and how willing they are to engage in multiple other denials in order to deal with the absurdities of their original denial.

It's only a matter of time before some male college student with a little gumption walks into a college office somewhere and claims some benefit designated only for females and demands that he (now a she, since that is his choice) be considered for such a scholarship.

What's a tolerant, progressive college official to do in the face the absurdities of his (or her or zes) position (and, we might add, the intransigence of reality)?

He (or she or ze) could point out that the biological male in front of him (or her or zer) was not dressed as a woman. At which point the biological male (if he has done his homework and is properly versed in the Politically Correct tongue) could start screaming and yelling about being victimized by gender stereotypes, in this case of the sartorial variety.

Or, more likely, a male with an ambiguous first name (say, Pat) applies for such a scholarship and gets it. And only then do the Orwellian college officials discover that the applicant was a biological male.

Can you just imagine the panic that would ensue? In fact, just imagine what this could do to Title IX programs across the country when people see the holes this blows in affirmative action programs based on gender, and setting the two main forces of Political Correctness--the LGBT people and the feminists--on opposite sides of these issues.

I personally am willing to donate to a grant fund that would go to any male college student willing to do this. And I have the advantage of knowing that my definition of gender won't cause me any problems in knowing who can and can't have that grant.