Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

Must-read: Obama and the Politics of Crowds

November 1, 2008

Great piece at the Wall Street Journal by Fouad Ajami, on the incoherence and self-delusion of Obama’s supporters. In the event of an Obama victory, watch for this honeymoon to end very quickly.

Must-read excerpts:

The coalition that has propelled his quest — African-Americans and affluent white liberals — has no economic coherence. But for the moment, there is the illusion of a common undertaking [. . .]. The day after, the crowd will of course discover its own fissures. The affluent will have to pay for the programs promised the poor. The redistribution agenda that runs through Mr. Obama’s vision is anathema to the Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and the hedge-fund managers now smitten with him. Their ethos is one of competition and the justice of the rewards that come with risk and effort. All this is shelved, as the devotees sustain the candidacy of a man whose public career has been a steady advocacy of reining in the market and organizing those who believe in entitlement and redistribution.
[. . .]
This election is the rematch that John Kerry had not delivered on. In the fashion of the crowd that seeks and sees the justice of retribution, Mr. Obama’s supporters have been willing to overlook his means. So a candidate pledged to good government and to ending the role of money in our political life opts out of public financing of presidential campaigns. What of it? The end justifies the means.
[. . .]
America is a different land, for me exceptional in all the ways that matter. In recent days, those vast Obama crowds, though, have recalled for me the politics of charisma that wrecked Arab and Muslim societies. A leader does not have to say much, or be much. The crowd is left to its most powerful possession — its imagination.

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Obama and “reviving historical stereotypes”

March 28, 2008

Read Richard John Neuhaus’s commentary on Obama’s Philadelphia “race speech.” A snippet:

Conceding to him the best of intentions, Senator Obama has inadvertently launched an exercise in the demeaning of black America that is, in consequence, very ugly. Whites are invited to make their peace with the fact that these are the children of Stepin Fetchit and Amos and Andy who have replaced humor with the shuffle of political extremism but are still entertaining the country by doing their black thing. Cut them some slack. Lighten up.
[. . .]
By reviving historic stereotypes, Senator Obama’s speech and the uses to which it is being put has dealt a severe blow to race relations in America. It is giving a big boost to what someone has rightly called the soft bigotry of low expectations.

I myself read the whole speech, and watched about 10 minutes of it. I was impressed. But I think Neuhaus has some good points. Still, it might be good to have Obama in the White House, if for no other reason than (as Neuhaus says), “a black president would put a stake through the heart of liberal guilt-mongering about our putatively racist society.” Amen to that.

Anti-3rd world politics of global warming

February 1, 2008

At Spiked.com, an article by Alexander Cockburn.

A must-read for anyone convinced that the crusade to end global warming is motivated by a politically disinterested care for Mother Earth, and that ever-greater regulations on normal people will enhance their quality of life.

This turn to climate catastrophism is tied into the decline of the left, and the decline of the left’s optimistic vision of altering the economic nature of things through a political programme. The left has bought into environmental catastrophism because it thinks that if it can persuade the world that there is indeed a catastrophe, then somehow the emergency response will lead to positive developments in terms of social and environmental justice.

This is a fantasy. In truth, environmental catastrophism will, in fact it already has, play into the hands of sinister-as-always corporate interests.

More generally, climate catastrophism is leading to a re-emphasis of the powers of the advanced industrial world, through its various trade mechanisms, to penalise Third World countries.

And other good stuff in the piece, so go check it out.

This isn’t the blog you’re looking for

January 9, 2008

. . . if you want to read about the 2008 presidential campaign. I am uninterested in following the race, and am going to be a bad citizen for the next several months while I try to be a better student, so I can finally stop being a student. See ya when I have time, which may be a while.

Contraception no longer a “non-negotiable” for Catholic bishops

October 31, 2007

This is what one Jerome Donnelly claims in a letter written to the NY Times. He is commenting on an article by Peter Steinfels that talks about the upcoming voter guide being prepared by the US Catholic Bishops.

Donnelly writes that contraception used to be denounced from pulpits as a non-negotiable, but now the bishops seem fixated on abortion:

Catholic practices have apparently led the bishops to become more reticent in denouncing artificial birth control; perhaps a comparable prudence should now be exercised in the case of abortion.

Two problems here: (more…)

Bobby Jindal: “born-again Roman Catholic”

October 21, 2007

Thus is he dubbed by Adam Nossiter of the NY Times.

I am wondering what exactly a “born-again Roman Catholic” is, since I’ve not heard that term applied to Catholics. In my experience, it’s most strongly associated with Baptists. Does he mean he’s a Baptist-like Catholic? And if so, what does that mean? That he disobeys his bishop, and calls his own shots? (A Baptist friend tells me that this is an accurate description of Baptist thinking: the individual is best suited to determine and work toward his/her own spiritual good, and is thus not likely to listen to the ecclesiastical hierarchy. Baptist readers can correct her if this is wrong.)

For those who don’t click the link (i.e., everybody reading this), Jindal is the new governor of Louisiana. He’s a Republican and a Catholic convert, so hey, he’s okay in my book.

Commentary on Al Gore’s Nobel

October 12, 2007

“We face a true planetary emergency,” Mr. Gore said in his statement. “The climate crisis is not a political issue; it is a moral and spiritual challenge to all of humanity. It is also our greatest opportunity to lift global consciousness to a higher level.”

Gag . . .

What a string of debatable claims.

IMPEACE

September 19, 2007

Stupidest bumper sticker I’ve seen in a loooong time.

Diversity: “The conversions were forced conversions.”

August 18, 2007

Diversity is a full-fledged social dogma these days: we’re all better off individually and collectively by being around an ethnically diverse and values-diverse group than we are if we limit ourselves to hanging out with our own kind. One of the great ironies of higher education is that it is supposed to be a place of free inquiry, where ideas stand or fall on their own merits; yet diversity is set up as the source of this freedom of inquiry, as its guarantor; diversity is therefore sacrosanct, shielded from all criticism, indeed, in some cases a shibboleth to academic advancement, and those who question it find themselves under a very real but unscientifically-justifiable social stigma.

Instead of setting up diversity as the source of free inquiry, why not set up Truth instead? Oneness, unity . . . instead of plurality and fragmentation?

While I’m not an enemy of any particular ethnic group, I’m certainly against many values that are not my own. Any benefit I get from being around people holding those values amounts to the extent to which they can help me understand and strengthen my own viewpoint. Diversity says it’s better if others don’t think like I do. I don’t see how this principle of institutionalized fragmentation can bode well for societies.

Robert Putnam, a Harvard professor, has done a huge study of diversity and found it doesn’t deliver on the grandiose promises that “diversity officers” across the nation (and world) have been making for it. Read this WSJ editorial discussing it. Here are a couple of highlights.

“Diverse communites may be yeasty and even creative . . .” (YEASTY. Nice.)

A quotation from the original study:

Inhabitants of diverse communities tend to withdraw from collective life, to distrust their neighbors, regardless of the color of their skin, to withdraw even from close friends, to expect the worst from their community and its leaders, to volunteer less, give less to charity and work on community projects less often, to register to vote less, to agitate for social reform more, but have less faith that they can actually make a difference, and to huddle unhappily in front of the television.

The editorial concludes that immigration is “inexorable” but that assimilation into the middle class is the best hope for fighting against the detrimental effects of “diverse” communities. The study suggests a model for assimilation:

Here, too, Robert Putnam has a possible assimilation model. Hold onto your hat. It’s Christian evangelical megachurches. “In many large evangelical congregations,” he writes, “the participants constituted the largest thoroughly integrated gatherings we have ever witnessed.” This, too, is an inconvenient truth. They do it with low entry barriers to the church and by offering lots of little groups to join inside the larger “shared identity” of the church. A Harvard prof finds good in evangelical megachurches. Send this man a suit of body armor!

I would guess that the more doctrinally squishy of the megachurches would end up having less solid integration than the more doctrinally sound ones. But this sounds like a much-needed study to put this completely oversold and overblown concept of “diversity” into perspective. Now it’s time for universities to fire their Diversity VPs, dismantle their offices, and spend those millions of dollars on things that actually help students. Like hiring more real professors instead of armies of adjuncts.

Jogging is right-wing

July 5, 2007

I never stopped to think about it, since I have often gone jogging with some quite left-wing individuals. Neither of us felt like we were capitulating to the other’s ideology by running together . . .

But in the wake of Nicolas Sarkozy’s election to the French presidency have come criticisms of his morning jog. In addition to the obvious fact that it is “extremely undignified” and a “cultural humiliation” to have the President’s knees exposed to the world, running is right-wing:

It is all about the management of the body; it is about performance, and individualism, and the triumph of the will.

It is no wonder, they say, that physical jerks have generally been associated with fascist regimes; and above all they believe that by staggering around in his NYPD T-shirt, the French President is making a tragic act of obeisance to America.

But the British author retorts:

Of course it is Right-wing, in the sense that the facts of life are generally Right-wing. The very act of forcing yourself to go for a run, every morning, is a highly conservative business.

There is the mental effort needed to overcome your laziness. There is the pain in the calves and the ache in the lungs, and the keen sense that everyone is looking at you and sniggering.

And then slowly the endorphins start to flood into your brain, and the effort gives way to reward, and the deferred pleasure arrives, and you come back home feeling you could bite a tiger – and, above all, that nothing else you do that day can be quite as painful and exhausting.

And now, I am going out for a run . . . What will you do? Just sit there and keep reading? Or get out and face the facts of life?