URLs du Jour

2021-02-26

Michael Ramirez comments on the "Equality Act":

[Equality Act]

  • … as do the National Review editors: Against the Equality Act.

    The Equality Act, which passed the House in 2019 then stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate, is set to pass in the House today. It is a misnomer and a travesty.

    The bill would add to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to prohibit discrimination on the basis of “sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity,” each of which is categorically distinct from one another and each of which is, more to the point, radically different in origin, nature, and prevalence to the historic problem of racism in the United States.

    The Equality Act would redefine sex to include “gender identity,” thus forcing every federally funded entity — most notably schools and colleges — to treat males who declare transgender status as if they were females. It would stamp out religious exemptions by regulating religious nonprofits and even goes so far as to block the Religious Freedom Restoration Act from applying to its provisions. And it would, as National Review’s John McCormack has explained, greatly expand “the number of businesses that count as ‘public accommodations’ under the Civil Rights Act.”

    The Equality Act did, as predicted, pass yesterday on a near-party-line vote. (Three Republicans voting in favor, perhaps due to inebriation.) Of course that means that both New Hampshire Congresscritters voted Aye.


  • John McWhorter ventures outside his Substack to argue that To Be Sensible About Race is Not "Blaming the Victim".

    For all of the attention that modern English speakers’ usage of the word like as a hedging term attracts, all languages have a way of hedging in that way. The only question is what word or expression they use. In Mandarin, one hedges by saying “that, that, that …” as if grasping for what the thing or concept is called. It happens that the words for that in Mandarin are pronounced “na-ge, na-ge,” or pronounced alternately and just as much, “nay-ge,” “nay-ge.”

    Here and there black Americans have purported a certain worry as to just what Chinese people are saying with “na-ge,” but this has always been a kind of joke. Yet one just knew that one of these days somebody was going to decide it wasn’t a joke anymore, and it is no accident that it finally happened in 2020.

    Professor Greg Patton was teaching a class on business communication to business students at the University of Southern California, and was discussing hedging terms in different languages. He in passing mentioned that in Mandarin people say “na-ge, na-ge, na-ge.” This offended a group of black students in the class, who reported Patton to the dean of the business school claiming that “We were made to feel less than.” The students claimed “We are burdened to fight with our existence in society, in the workplace, and in America. We should not be made to fight for our sense of peace and mental well-being at Marshall.”

    And you won't believe what happened next. Or you probably will.


  • As a Boomer in good standing, I am definitely gonna read Boomers.
    [Amazon Link]
    A review by Michael Morris at the Federalist: How Baby Boomers Ushered In Our Narcissistic Age.

    On Nov. 4, 2019, the radio host Bob Lonsberry of WHAM1180 took to Twitter to air his grievances. The host was fed up with the prevalence of “OK Boomer” memes on Twitter.

    Just short of the season of Festivus, he conflated the memes with hate speech: “Boomer’ is the n-word of ageism. Being hip and flip does not make bigotry ok, nor is a derisive epithet acceptable because it is new.” Lonsberry was done listening to the internet-fueled ageism on steroids. After years of cultivating “snowflake” and “Peter Pan” as practical analogs of the word “millennial,” the baby boomers were not about to lay down and take it in return.

    Then again, anyone who has survived the COVID-19 apocalypse thus far should only be surprised at the vainglory. Only a generation who has been dictating the past 50 years of cultural trends could happily raise children and grandchildren who demanded worldwide lockdowns and wave it off as the price of living in society. The Baby Boomers ushered in this narcissistic age, and the millennials will have to wrest it from their cold, dead hands.

    Well, good luck with that, Millennials.


  • And the least surprising op-ed headline of the day, probably the month, is from Betsy McCaughey of the NYPost: Biden's COVID relief bill is chock full of anti-white reverse racism.

    Polls show most Americans support the federal COVID-19 relief bill. But if they knew what’s in it, they might feel differently. The bill is an affront to the American ideal of equal treatment under law — and a slap in the face for people who want everyone helped fairly.   

    Section 1005 of the bill offers “socially disadvantaged” farm owners total debt forgiveness of up to hundreds of thousands of no-strings dollars per farmer. But white men needn’t apply. The bill’s definition of “socially disadvantaged,” drawn from elsewhere in federal law, limits aid to racial groups who faced historic discrimination.

    It's been over 13 years since SCOTUS Justice Roberts said "The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discrimination on the basis of race." We're still waiting for that to happen.

The Coming of Neo-Feudalism

A Warning to the Global Middle Class

[Amazon Link]

Back when I was much younger, I was very impressed by works of American gloom and doom. One of my earliest memories of National Review was a late-1960s article drawing earnest attention to the similarities between America (of that time) and Weimar Germany. I still have Charlotte Twight's America's Emerging Fascist Economy (1975) on my bookshelf; also present is The Ominious Parallels by Leonard Peikoff (1982); Lost Rights by James Bovard (1995);… well, you get the idea. I also devoured a number of how-to-survive-economic-doomsday tomes, of which there were piles in the 70s.

You'll note that we're still here. Bad as things can get, and have been, it's far from Nazi/Commie totalitarianism presiding over an economic system in rubble.

So I've learned to be skeptical of that general genre. And I hadn't read any good catastrophe-around-the-corner books recently. Until now: this one, by Joel Kotkin is pretty good. Particularly impressive is the "Notes" section, 91 pages out of a 273-page book. For those keeping score: exactly a third of the book is footnotes.

Kotkin's neo-feudalism thesis is wide-ranging and alarming. Basically: things have been getting worse for ordinary working/middle-class schmoes. And they're probably going to continue to get worse. Not just in ordinary economic terms, but in cultural trends too. He notes that the well-off are pulling away from the rest of us in every sense, and they have the political and economic power to (excuse me while I go into Sanders/Warren mode) "rig the system" to ensure that those trends continue.

Also: not just America. It's a worldwide phenomenon.

In support of this thesis, Kotkin draws on (I swear) every last bit of recent gloomy news/analysis/data from anyone and everyone, left and right. Robert Reich and Charles Murray! Glenn Reynolds and Bernie Sanders!

A lot of stuff I agree with. A lot of stuff I don't. Good news first: Kotkin is appropriately brutal about Progressive schemes like the "Green New Deal", designed by (and for) the folks who wing off to Davos on their private jets to come up with schemes to raise the price of energy and products that depend on energy use (I.e., everything else). He notes the unaffordability of housing has all sorts of bad effects, most notably on class mobility and family stability. It's not crazy to worry about the issues Kotkin highlights. Charles Murray has pointed to many of the same issues in books like Coming Apart.

But on to the bad: Kotkin can come off as a neo-Luddite. He points with alarm to "our dependency on machine interfaces, as opposed to genuine human interactions." My eyes roll, and imagine an early-20th century version of Kotkin griping about our growing dependency on those new-fangled automobiles, as opposed to having a more natural organic relationship with horses.

There's a lot of loaded language. The bad guys in Kotkin's eyes: the "elites"; the "clerisy"; the "oligarchs". (No kulaks, though. That's good.)

I wish he'd provided a more balanced economic picture. Last year I read The American Dream Is Not Dead by Michael R. Strain. Which is a much more nuanced and quantitative look at the American situation, in contrast to Kotkin's doom-and-gloom approach. And ultimately more convincing.

I mentioned those voluminous notes. I chased down one, and the results were not encouraging. Page 122:

Some conservative intellectuals have even thought that hardworking [immigrant] newcomers should replace the "lazy" elements of the working class.

Whoa. Really?

The footnote goes to a 2017 Daily Caller article: Bill Kristol Says ‘Lazy’ White Working Class Should Be Replaced By ‘New Americans’.

So we note right away that what Kotkin calls "some conservative intellectuals" really means "Bill Kristol". The reference is to an AEI discussion between Kristol and (again) Charles Murray. (Video at the link, the relevant bits are about 50 minutes in.)

“You can make a case that America has been great because every — I think John Adams said this — basically if you are in free society, a capitalist society, after two or three generations of hard work everyone becomes kind of decadent, lazy, spoiled — whatever,” Kristol said.

“Then, luckily, you have these waves of people coming in from Italy, Ireland, Russia, and now Mexico, who really want to work hard and really want to succeed and really want their kids to live better lives than them and aren’t sort of clipping coupons or hoping that they can hang on and meanwhile grew up as spoiled kids and so forth. In that respect, I don’t know how this moment is that different from the early 20th century,” he added.

It should be noted that Kristol's comments were (1) kind of a pushback against Murray's mild desire to limit low-skilled immigration; and (2) an argument that third-generation native populations lack desire for low-skilled work. I don't know if that's true, but it's arguable. I see it mostly as an argument that their ancestors have handed them down enough capital so they don't have to dig ditches.

Overall, Kotkin is weak on answering Sowell's primary question: Compared to what? Yes, a dynamic, innovative society will have its problems. They will be made worse by trying to stifle that dynamism.

But who knows? After decades of books missing the mark on the coming dystopian nightmare, this one could be correct. Never hurts to be prepared.


Last Modified 2021-02-27 7:31 AM EDT