URLs du Jour

2019-03-05

[Amazon Link]

  • Arthur C. Brooks takes to the New York Times to talk about Our Culture of Contempt. Let me skip down a bit to find his thesis:

    People often say that our problem in America today is incivility or intolerance. This is incorrect. Motive attribution asymmetry leads to something far worse: contempt, which is a noxious brew of anger and disgust. And not just contempt for other people’s ideas, but also for other people. In the words of the philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer, contempt is “the unsullied conviction of the worthlessness of another.”

    The sources of motive attribution asymmetry are easy to identify: divisive politicians, screaming heads on television, hateful columnists, angry campus activists and seemingly everything on the contempt machines of social media. This “outrage industrial complex” works by catering to just one ideological side, creating a species of addiction by feeding our desire to believe that we are completely right and that the other side is made up of knaves and fools. It strokes our own biases while affirming our worst assumptions about those who disagree with us.

    Arthur makes a pretty good argument. (I think he's constitutionally incapable of making a bad one.)

    But if I buy his argument totally, I'm gonna have to come up with a better word for my own attitude toward politicians who keep moving our country down the road to serfdom. Either quickly and directly (Democrats, mostly) or slowly and indirectly (Republicans, mostly).

    For the past few years, I've (at least internally) considered my attitude to be "contempt". Mainly to distinguish it from "outright hatred", which I think we can all agree is bad.

    But if Arthur takes "contempt" off the table, what's left?


  • At National Review, Kevin D. Williamson examines the recent history of "lockstep" voting: Democratic Party Demands Conformity. Cute anecdote:

    Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is embarrassed, to the extent that she is capable of being embarrassed, by the fact that Republicans pulled a humorous little switcheroo on her. House Democrats were on the verge of passing a bill that would require you to get clearance from the federal government before selling your old deer rifle to your brother-in-law for 50 bucks, and Republicans got a couple dozen Democrats to join them in support of a last-minute amendment that would have required alerting immigration authorities when those mandatory background checks turned up illegal immigrants, who are not permitted to buy firearms.

    Keep in mind that this was a symbolic flip of the bird to a piece of legislation that itself is a symbolic flip of the bird: Senator Mitch McConnell isn’t going to be letting any Democratic gun-grabbing legislation come to a vote in the Senate. So it’s symbolism about symbolism about symbolism, but Madame Speaker flipped her wig, anyway. She called those moderate Democrats, many of whom represent districts carried by Donald Trump, in to a meeting to berate them. Never mind the quality of the legislation, this is about party discipline: “Vote no, just vote no, because the fact is a vote yes is to give leverage to the other side.”

    OK, that's not unfunny. But KDW makes the point that The Other Side is busy turning the personal into the political, and (before you know it) a demand for "voting in lockstep" will become a demand for "living in lockstep".


  • At Reason, Robby Soave's blog post has a Babylon Bee-worthy headline: Former Clinton Campaign Staffer Accuses Bernie Sanders of Failing to Mention Race, Gender in Speech That Explicitly Mentioned Race, Gender.

    One of the more straightforwardly dishonest aspects of the 2016 Democratic presidential primaries were certain Hillary Clinton supporters' efforts to portray rival Bernie Sanders as out-of-touch with black and female voters, even though his record on race and gender issues was at least as progressive as Clinton's.

    Some Clinton partisans are still pushing this narrative. Enter Zerlina Maxwell, a former communications staffer for the 2016 Clinton campaign and current director of progressive programming at Sirius XM Radio. Maxwell, a black woman, appeared on MSNBC to react to Sanders' campaign kick-off speech at Brooklyn College on Saturday. She was not impressed.

    "To be very serious about it, I clocked it," said Maxwell. "He did not mention race or gender until 23 minutes into the speech. And just for point of comparison, I looked at Elizabeth Warren's opening speech for example, she mentioned race and discrimination in the first paragraph. So that's a big difference and as somebody who is a black woman, knowing that black women are going to be a core constituency for any Democrat who hopes to win the nomination, I was looking to hear messaging specifically for my community, and I did not, at least until 23 minutes into the speech." Maxwell went on to accuse Sanders of failing the test of intersectionality.

    As the headline says: that assertion was inaccurate. At worst a lie, at best a display of heavily-motivated confirmation bias. Almost makes me sorry for Bernie.


  • Hey kids, what time is it? Well, at City Journal, Guy Sorman passes along one possible answer: It’s time to be scientific about global warming, says climatologist Judith Curry. A nice profile of the woman who "gave up on the academy so that she could express herself independently." (That's a pretty remarkable notion right there.)

    Curry is a scholar, not a pundit. Unlike many political and journalistic oracles, she never opines without proof. And she has data at her command. She tells me, for example, that between 1910 and 1940, the planet warmed during a climatic episode that resembles our own, down to the degree. The warming can’t be blamed on industry, she argues, because back then, most of the carbon-dioxide emissions from burning fossil fuels were small. In fact, Curry says, “almost half of the warming observed in the twentieth century came about in the first half of the century, before carbon-dioxide emissions became large.” Natural factors thus had to be the cause. None of the climate models used by scientists now working for the United Nations can explain this older trend. Nor can these models explain why the climate suddenly cooled between 1950 and 1970, giving rise to widespread warnings about the onset of a new ice age. I recall magazine covers of the late 1960s or early 1970s depicting the planet in the grip of an annihilating deep freeze. According to a group of scientists, we faced an apocalyptic environmental scenario—but the opposite of the current one.

    But aren’t oceans rising today, I counter, eroding shorelines and threatening to flood lower-lying population centers and entire inhabited islands? “Yes,” Curry replies. “Sea level is rising, but this has been gradually happening since the 1860s; we don’t yet observe any significant acceleration of this process in our time.” Here again, one must consider the possibility that the causes for rising sea levels are partly or mostly natural, which isn’t surprising, says Curry, for “climate change is a complex and poorly understood phenomenon, with so many processes involved.” To blame human-emitted carbon dioxide entirely may not be scientific, she continues, but “some find it reassuring to believe that we have mastered the subject.” She says that “nothing upsets many scientists like uncertainty.”

    As I'm sure I've said before, it's very tempting to view climate alarmists as socialist hucksters who want to panic us into their totalitarian schemes.


  • And the Google LFOD News Alert rang this morning for an article in the self-described "Hard Center" journal Merion West from Emre Kazim and Matt McManus: The Splits in Anglo-Saxon Conservatism. Their goal:

    In this article, we wanted to look more closely at some of the deeper ideological tensions and dynamics which might have produced these developments. In particular, we want to examine why American conservatism was conducive to the exceptionally virulent emergence of Trumpist nationalism, while the United Kingdom, despite making a strong nationalist statement through Brexit, has nevertheless avoided a slide into full blown right-wing populist government. Our argument is that British conservatism is characterized by a greater degree of moderation than its American counterpart—and that this has a basis in the ideological foundations of the two respective branches [of] Anglo-Saxon conservatism.

    "Virulent", hm? Well, that's not overstated or anything. But check it out, you might find something useful in there. LFOD appears here:

    As observed by Patrick Deneen in his provocative recent book Why Liberalism Failed, the United States is very much a Lockean nation. The initial revolution was deeply inspired by the argument put forward in the Second Treatise on Government: that appropriation of private property was only permissible where one was given a chance to influence policy through democratic representation. This was well summarized in the revolutionary slogan “no taxation without representation.” But at a deeper level, American Lockeanism was fundamentally about the liberty to engage in self-creation. No state or moral majority should be permitted to interfere with an individual’s choices in life, particularly their religious choices, except in very extraordinary circumstances. To “live free or die” was the mantra of any self-respecting individual. This is an exceptionally permissive and modern moral position to take, one which leaves the state little room to either redistribute the fruits of “free” economic exchanges or to enforce traditional mores and expectations.

    I'm very much in the LFOD camp, but the authors discuss its possible conflict with the other "branch" of American conservatism which is… well, you can check it out.


  • At the Boston Herald, Howie Carr has an amusing article. Or outrageous article, depending on how seriously you take the MSM these days: Smirking media bias against GOP couldn’t be clearer.

    Have you ever noticed how differently Republicans are treated in the media than Democrats?

    Every newsroom in the country used to have what was called the “AP Stylebook” to use in writing news stories.

    Now you need two AP stylebooks, one for Democrats, about whom seldom is heard a discouraging word, and a second for the GOP, with a hundred different pejoratives.

    Fact check: true. Last month I noticed an AP news article on the front page of my local paper, Foster's Daily Democrat. Headline: End of the era of rants in Maine? New governor looks ahead. And the first couple of paragraphs:

    For eight years, a Republican governor viewed by critics as a blabbermouth and bully systematically shifted the course of state government to the right with a take-no-prisoner style.

    Maine’s new governor is wasting no time in trying to undo the most visible signs of his legacy.

    You need not guess: the incoming governor is a Democrat. Saving us from the "blabbermouth and bully".

    Can you imagine an equivalent "news story" treatment of an outgoing Democrat? No, you can not.