Blog Tools
Edit your Blog
Build a Blog
RSS Feed
View Profile
« December 2015 »
1 2 3 4 5
6 7 8 9 10 11 12
13 14 15 16 17 18 19
20 21 22 23 24 25 26
27 28 29 30 31
You are not logged in. Log in
Entries by Topic
All topics  «
Decline of the West
Freedom's Guardian
Liberal Fascism
Military History
Must Read
Politics & Elections
The Box Office
The Media
Virtual Reality
My Web Presence
War Flags (Website)
Culture & the Arts
The New Criterion
Twenty-Six Letters
Tuesday, 1 December 2015
Tough Luck for a Tough Guy
Topic: Decline of the West

I must say that my faith in cosmic justice has been reinforced by the travails of Rahm Emanuel, former White House Chief of Staff in the Obama Administration and current Mayor of Chicago. 

As a Democratic congressman and key player on Team Obama, Emanuel crafted a political reputation as a bare-knuckled, foul-mouthed brawler, mush addicted to such pungent words as fuck and shit. He it was who chortled over the 2008-09 economic meltdown, remarking that a good crisis should never be allowed to go to waste. Perhaps the failure of Obama to make effective use of that crisis soured Emanuel on our Community Organizer-in-Chief; anyhow, he left the White House to seek the mayoralty of the Windy City. He was elected as such in 2011 and survived a scare to be reelected earlier this year. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. 

Emanuel quickly discovered that his tough-guy persona did not impress the motley collection of political grandees and interest groups that steers Chicago’s erratic course. About the city’s disastrous finances he could do little; about the violent crime that plagues inner-city neighborhoods he could do even less. Drastic budget cuts, necessary to finance Chicago’s fantastically bloated pension obligations, roused the outrage of citizens. Meanwhile the Chicago Police Department, badly in need of reform and politically hobbled by the city’s race-based political culture, proved incapable of stemming the murder epidemic. That Chicago’s status as the murder capital of America rests largely on the city’s culture of gang violence, with a large majority of the victims being black or Hispanic, raises issues with which no Chicago politician, Emanuel included, is prepared to grapple. The Mayor found himself reduced to ineffective jawboning and such pitiable gestures as a gun buyback program. 

Now comes a considerable scandal: the apparent cover-up by Chicago officialdom of a police shooting. The victim was a young black man named Laquan McDonald; the shooter was a white CPD officer, Jason Van Dyke. McDonald, who admittedly was high on PCP and was armed with a small knife, was shot sixteen times. At least a dozen of those rounds went into his body after he was down on the ground. The incident was captured on video by a police dashcam. 

It may well be that Van Dyke was justified in taking his first couple of shots. When ordered to stop, McDonald turned and swung his arm—and the knife—at the officer, who was several feet away. But it’s hard to justify sixteen shots, most of which struck home after McDonald was down. Perhaps Van Dyke panicked in the heat of the moment. But watching the video leads one to the conclusion that Black Lives Matter—and all of us—have good reason to be outraged at this police shooting of a young black man. Laquan McDonald was seventeen years old. 

All that seems bad enough but get this: The dashcam video only came to light last week. For more than a year Chicago police and prosecutors sat on it until finally a judge ordered its release. When you remind yourself that Mayor Rahm Emanuel and a gaggle of Chicago pols were up for reelection in April of 2015, the mists begin to clear. Many in Chicago believe—and you can’t blame them—that the video was hidden for base political reasons. Emanuel in particular was facing a tough reelection fight. (He was ultimately forced into a runoff election.) The last thing he needed was a loud and rancorous protest over a highly questionable police shooting. Maybe this conspiracy theory is true and maybe it isn’t—but plenty of people in Chicago believe it. And given the Windy City’s long history of political corruption and chicanery, I’m not prepared to dismiss it. 

On the same day that the video was released Officer Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder—another eyebrow-raising move on the part of prosecutors. In the circumstances it’s going to be hard to establish premeditation and the thought occurs that the first-degree murder charge lodged against Van Dyke is also politically motivated: an attempt to tamp down the outrage. All in all it’s a sorry spectacle and I have to wonder if Rahm Emanuel, that famous tough guy, still that you should never waste a good crisis. Perhaps things look a bit different now that he's in the eye of the storm.

Posted by tmg110 at 2:19 PM EST
Updated: Tuesday, 1 December 2015 2:21 PM EST
Post Comment | Permalink
Monday, 23 November 2015
HRC: Gender Trumps Justice
Topic: Politics & Elections

So according to Hillary R. Clinton, women to claim to have been the victims of sexual assault “deserve to be believed.”

Now this is a nervy position of HRC—married to you-know-who—to take. Leaving the amusing irony aside, however, it was an outrageous thing to say, though well in line with radical feminist ideology. Just this mind-set has fostered the growth of kangaroo courts on campus in which a male student can be labeled as a rapist and expelled on the mere word of his accuser. In most cases the accused has no right to be represented by legal counsel, no right to examine the evidence against him, no right to confront and cross-examine his accuser. Heaven knows that the US legal system is far from perfect but when cases of sexual assault are prosecuted in our courts the defendant is presumed innocent and the burden of proof rests with the state. But campus tribunals charged with the adjudication of sexual assault claims more than reverse the process: the accused is presumed guilty, with no opportunity to refute the charges against him.

And Hillary R. Clinton, she who would be president, is just fine with that. 

Her position on the issue matters because the United States Justice Department has played a major role in the creation of the Stalinist system described above. Under the egregious Eric Holder DOJ pressured universities to adjudicate sexual assault claims by affording maximum consideration to the accuser and minimum protection to the accused: in short, to adopt the attitude championed by HRC, that victims of sexual assault “deserve to be believed.” So we may presume that if she makes her way into the Oval Office, the Pants-Suited One will continue to support the Great Purge. 

Now you may say that I’m being insensitive if not sexist by disputing the proposition that women claiming to have been sexually assaulted deserve to be believed. So let’s think a bit about the implications of that position. Does it not imply that the most implausible and dubious claims must receive the same respect due to a clear case of rape? Does it not further imply that to examine cases of sexual assault in an attempt to determine the facts is impermissible? And finally does it not imply that allowing a young man’s life to be ruined by a false charge of sexual assault is acceptable collateral damage? If women claiming to have been sexually assaulted deserve to be believed, all this must be so. 

But we know that the data underpinning the claim of an epidemic of rape and sexual assault on campus—the notorious one-in-five meme—is utterly false. We know that the very definition of sexual assault has been absurdly extended to cover behavior that’s merely miscued or boorish. We know that the campus hook-up culture, fueled by alcohol and drug abuse, generates many charges of sexual assault that are dubious—the product of guilt, morning-after remorse or simple malice. Knowing all this, how can we tolerate the continuing stigmatization and persecution of male college students? That’s a question that presidential candidates—and one in particular—should be required to answer.

What Hillary R. Clinton said was funny in a way because of her husband’s long and shameful record of sexual misconduct. But it was outrageous because of the disregard it demonstrated for fundamental principles of justice. A person who believes that the innocent must suffer with the guilty in the name of radical feminist ideology has no business setting foot in the White House.


Posted by tmg110 at 10:27 AM EST
Post Comment | Permalink
Saturday, 21 November 2015
Stupid Meme Watch
Topic: Liberal Fascism

In its never-ending quest to alibi the aggressor while demonizing the victim, the Left has come up what it imagines to be a brilliant argument: Fighting ISIS is just what ISIS wants! Writing in the Los Angeles Times Bruce Ackerman, a professor of law and political science at Yale, makes this argument, decrying the “war talk” of the president of France. It’s an argument that would be all the more forceful if buttressed by evidence—of which Professor Ackerman supplies none, citing no statements to that effect by the leaders of the Islamic State. Indeed it’s evident that his baseless claim is merely a cover for the real point of his piece: Professor Bruce Ackerman himself is disturbed by President Hollande’s promise to wage war on ISIS, and is casting about for excuses to avoid waging such a war. 

Ever since 9/11 the Left has been retailing in some form the argument that measures of self-defense embolden the Islamofascists (though of course the Left would never describe the enemy with such an accurate word). As is the case with Professor Ackerman’s LA Times piece, solid supporting evidence for this proposition is generally lacking. Is it plausible, really, to imagine that if the West holds its hand the threat will whither away? Color me dubious. A straight look at this notion shows it for what it is: The rationalization of a wish, a rearrangement of reality to suit the ideological preferences of the Left itself. 

And it gets worse. Not only has this stupid idea has achieved meme status in the leftie fever swamp, it’s accompanied by the demand that effective defensive measures in the homeland itself be suppressed in the name of diversity, inclusion and privacy. So (a) the enemy is not to be attacked on his own home ground while (b) he is to be allowed to operate more or less freely in Europe and the United States. The Left professes to be horrified at the prospect of a rising tide of “Islamophobia” in the West. With typical obtuseness, leftists can’t see that a policy of passivity, allowing terrorism to swell and spread, is most likely to produce an anti-Muslim backlash. After 9/11 the US responded forcefully to the Islamofascist threat—and there was no outburst of “Islamophobia.” I have no doubt that the craven, cringing attitude of the Left, if embodied in post-9/11 policy, would have produced very different results. 

Professor Ackerman happens to teach at Yale, where the consequences of such a policy are being played out in the minor key of campus grievance politics. A long series of concessions and capitulations by the university power structure—administration and faculty—has failed to pacify student activists. On the contrary they’ve escalated their demands to the point of parody, reminding one of Stalin’s teaching that the class war intensifies as the class enemy grows weaker. There’s every reason to think that a policy of concessions and capitulations by the West to the Islamofascists would play out in the same manner, each kowtow being met with a redoubling of rage and violence. Recall Hitler’s comment to his generals on the eve of war in 1939: “Our enemies are little worms. I saw them at Munich.” 

The ‘fighting them boosts them” meme shines the unflattering spotlight of truth on a chief characteristic of the ideology of the postmodern Left: It requires intelligent people to behave as if they’re absolute fools. Nobody personifies this better than our current wisest fool in Christendom, President Barack H. Obama. But alas, he has plenty of company.

Posted by tmg110 at 10:22 AM EST
Post Comment | Permalink
Friday, 20 November 2015
The Prevention of Strategy
Topic: Decline of the West

President Obama claims that he has a strategy for dealing with ISIS, and he’s apt to pitch a hissy fit whenever someone raises a skeptical eyebrow in its direction. Well. If George Orwell were with us today, he’d surely nail this example of the corruption of language by politics. Our Community Organizer-in-Chief does this each time he utters the word strategy

Strategy is a popular word, much used in various contexts: business, political, diplomatic, military and even personal. It rolls so trippingly off the tongue that its full meaning, what it implies, can easily be lost. So let us begin by reminding ourselves that what the word strategy implies above all else is the existence of an objective. Strategy is not an end in itself but the means to an end. You know where you want to go; strategy maps out your route. In the case of Obama versus ISIS, the objective has been publicly defined by the President on more than one occasion: to defeat and destroy that unsavory Islamofascist group. This clearly stated objective lays the foundation for a critical analysis of Obama’s strategy, i.e. the means by which he proposes to defeat and destroy ISIS. 

Alas, the analysis is not very flattering to Barack Obama, it being immediately clear than nothing he proposes will facilitate the defeat and destruction of ISIS. In short, his strategy is a sham. Indeed, to call it a strategy at all is a crime against language. People far less intelligent than the President can easily see that nothing he proposes is going to facilitate the defeat and destruction of ISIS. Between ends and means there exists a complete disconnect. To put the matter plainly, there’s no strategy for the achievement of his stated objective. 

The real objective of Obama’s so-called ISIS strategy is one not very flattering to him: the provision of political cover for avoiding the hard choice, which in this case boils down to fight or flight. If the President believes that ISIS must be defeated and destroyed he should do what’s necessary finish the job. If on the other hand he believes that the United States has no vital interests at stake in this matter he should wash his hands of ISIS, Iraq and Syria. I suspect that Obama would prefer to do just that, but flinches from facing the criticism that would come his way if he acted on his convictions. What a weak leader fears above all is giving the appearance of weakness. Hence Obama’s dithering, his flight from reality, his petulance when questioned about his strategy. He’s angry because people aren’t accepting his narrative—ISIS is the JV team, ISIS has been contained, ISIS has peaked, etc. But that narrative has always been dubious and it was blown apart by the November 13 terrorist attacks in Paris. Yet Obama and his claque go right on repeating the same worn-out talking points. 

In his famous essay “Politics and the English Language” George Orwell noted that “In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defence of the indefensible… Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness.” This in 1946! Mr. Orwell’s tart observation is well worth recalling the next time President Obama speaks about ISIS, or the next time you happen to catch Josh Earnest at the podium in the White House press room, verbally massaging reporters’ awkward foreign policy questions out of existence.

Posted by tmg110 at 1:20 PM EST
Updated: Friday, 20 November 2015 1:27 PM EST
Post Comment | Permalink
Obamacare: From Bad to Worse
Topic: Liberal Fascism

If you’re attracted by the vision of Bernie Sanders—unicorns jumping over the rainbow, bearing free stuff for everybody except those wicked corporations and selfish, greedy one-percenters—you’d do well to reflect on the past promises of the Left. Such as those related to Obamacare. 

No doubt President Obama, with his invincible faith in the power of blather, imagined that if he called the Affordable Care Act a success loudly and often enough, why, it would be a success. But the real story of the ACA is that its conservative critics were correct all along. Yesterday brought the news that the nation’s largest health insurance provider, UnitedHealth Group, lost half a billion dollars last year on the policies it offers through the ACA’s state and federal exchanges. Describing such losses as “unsustainable,” the company said it was likely to withdraw from the exchange market altogether, a move that would leave some half a million policyholders in the lurch. 

The problem for UnitedHealth is one that that critics of Obamacare predicted from the start: No enough young, healthy people are signing up for health insurance via the exchanges while older people with costly preexisting conditions have been signing up in droves. Insurers thus find themselves paying out more—sometimes far more—in benefits than expected. In short, participation in the Obamacare exchanges means operating at a loss. 

This wasn’t supposed to happen, of course. Obamacare was designed to lure—and if necessary force—people into the exchange market. Its cheerleaders assured us that the marvels and glories of the ACA, reinforced by the individual mandate and its tax penalties, would induce healthy young people to sign up. Some went so far as to claim, condescendingly, that Obamacare would become a trendy accessory, as essential to the self-image of the young as their IPhones. 

It didn’t work out that way. Apparently young people see no reason to purchase a second-rate product that they don’t really need. And without them Obamacare simply does not add up. Despite all the happy chatter, despite all the promises, exchange participation is 50% below the Obama Administration’s rosy projections. The prospect of a dreaded “death spiral”—payouts far exceeding receipts—looms larger and larger over the exchange market. 

Meanwhile, Obamacare is causing Medicaid enrollment to skyrocket—which is to say that more and more people are being forced into America’s worst healthcare plan. It could be argued, of course, that cruddy health insurance is better than no health insurance but that’s hardly a compliment to Obamacare. Moreover the growth of Medicaid has broken another ACA promise: to reduce the poor’s reliance on hospital emergency rooms as their healthcare provider of first resort. Because its reimbursement rates are so low many doctors and clinics won’t accept Medicaid patients—so guess what? They’re clogging hospital emergency rooms in larger numbers than ever before. 

This does not exhaust the list of Obamacare’s problems—there is also the debacle of the health insurance co-ops set up under a provision of the ACA—but it’s enough, I think, to demonstrate that the promises retailed by Barack Obama and his minions were frivolous and false. Instead of reforming the US healthcare system Obamacare has made it worse. Heck of a job, Barry…

Posted by tmg110 at 9:02 AM EST
Updated: Friday, 20 November 2015 11:50 AM EST
Post Comment | Permalink
Wednesday, 18 November 2015
Shutting Up Whitey
Topic: Liberal Fascism

It’s truly amazing, the twaddle that can be passed off as serious commentary, for example: 

The Constitution has enshrined within American democracy the foundational principle that white freedom is always prior to black safety and white rights are always prior to black freedom. To defend freedom of expression without thinking through these histories, and to accuse Black students of attempting to take rights from white students as though they actually have the institutional power to do such a thing, is a gross distortion of the facts. 

This from a Salon piece scribbled by one Brittney Cooper who, you will be unsurprised to learn, teaches Women's and Gender Studies and Africana Studies at Rutgers. Ms. Cooper has her knickers in a twist over the criticism that’s being  directed against the “safe spaces” movement, which purports to shield “students of color” from the vicious racism that runs rampant on America’s college campuses. And take my word for it, the whole thing is just as preposterous as the passage quoted above. 

I’ve read the Constitution a few times and nowhere in it is enshrined the principle Ms. Cooper claims to be there. The First Amendment merely admonishes Congress to “make no law” limiting freedom of expression. But Ms. Cooper demurs. She does want laws made that limit free expression: laws empowering Blacks to shut up whites. (Incidentally, Ms. Cooper, how come you capitalize Black but not white? That’s a microaggression and it offends me.) 

The traditional understanding of free speech is that it’s indivisible: a civil liberty that all enjoy, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, etc. And this understanding embodies a corollary: that people don’t have a right not to have their feelings hurt. If such a right existed, free speech would be fatally compromised. Feelings being self-defined and subjective, anything might hurt them—a facial expression, a gesture, certain words, a Halloween costume. The right not to have one’s feelings hurt is the power to shut up anybody, at any time, for any reason. And that’s exactly what Brittney Cooper wants. 

Now if it were really true that American college campuses are fever swamps of racism safe spaces for minority students might be required. But of course that isn’t true. The claim that “students of color” are not “safe” on campus is malarkey. Probably there’s no venue in American society where they’re more coddled and petted. Every racist incident calls forth a forceful if not hysterical response from administrators, faculty and student activists. Yet though the grievances are minor—and in some cases imagined or manufactured—the anger level is greater than ever. No surprise there: If you treat young adults like little children, they’ll behave accordingly. 

So there’s nothing to “think through,” Ms. Cooper. Your demand for limitations on freedom of expression in the name of racial justice are, in a word, fascistic. It’s just the kind of thing that Dr. Goebbels would have come up with: The Volk may revile the Jews, but the Jews are to be deprived of their voice. And for what? A figment of your race-obsessed imagination. Shame on you and on everybody who thinks like you.

Posted by tmg110 at 11:52 AM EST
Updated: Wednesday, 18 November 2015 11:54 AM EST
Post Comment | Permalink
Monday, 16 November 2015
Obama on ISIS: Solid for Fluidity
Topic: Decline of the West

With painful clarity, the November 13 terrorist attacks have exposed the moral and diplomatic bankruptcy of the Obama Administration. The President’s approach to foreign policy—almost Austro-Hungarian in its combination of hubris with incompetence—is not only embarrassing but dangerous. In today’s presidential press conference Obama again demonstrated his blindness to reality. He spent a lot of time describing what the US wouldn’t do, e.g. commit ground troops against ISIS, while repeatedly ducking the relevant question: What must be done to eliminate the threat posed by the Islamic state?

From the Administration and its supporters we hear the same old song: America can’t go it alone, other nations must step up to the plate, blah, blah, blah. Obama, with his touching faith in the power of chat, perhaps believes that other nations can be cajoled or shamed or scolded into action while the United States just kind of lays back and leads from behind. And, that, unfortunately, is another way of saying that he doesn’t understand what leadership is all about.

A resolute leader would tackle the problem of ISIS in precisely the opposite manner—first by making it clear that the US objective is the destruction of ISIS, second by committing the necessary resources to accomplish that objective and third by signaling that the US is prepared to act whether other nations join in or not. “Follow me,” in other words, instead of Obama’s “Can’t we all just get along?” Are you a real leader? Then you’ll set the example. Are you Obama? Then you’ll hide out in the seminar room.

Now of course there are arguments—some plausible, some not—against taking such forceful action. But notice this: Obama isn’t making them. He’s not, for example, saying that ISIS isn’t really a serious threat to US national security. As usual the President is trying to have it both ways. He calls ISIS “the face of evil” while shrinking from effective action. This is a sure-fire recipe for prolonging the war in Syria and Iraq—a war that has already created a terrible refugee problem while spreading terrorism around the world. And the longer the war goes on, the more certain it is that the United States will suffer ISIS-inspired attacks. This is all the more likely to happen if Obama’s witless policy of accepting large numbers of refugees from Syria into this country goes forward. Who doubts that among them will be ISIS jihadists intent on killing Americans?

Effective action against ISIS wouldn’t require a major deployment of ground forces on the scale of Operation Desert Storm or even Operation Iraqi Freedom. But without a commitment of ground troops sufficiently large to demonstrate US resolve, there’s no hope of building a solid anti-ISIS coalition. Other countries won’t be prepared to assume the risks from which America shrinks. I don’t have much hope, though, that these realities will ever penetrate Barack Obama’s thick skull. As Winston Churchill remarked of the British government of the 1930s, the President will “go on in strange paradox, deciding only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, solid for fluidity, adamant for drift, all-powerful to be impotent.”


Posted by tmg110 at 1:33 PM EST
Updated: Monday, 16 November 2015 1:38 PM EST
Post Comment | Permalink
No Safe Space for Dissent
Topic: Liberal Fascism

Watching the recent antics at Yale and other bastions of US higher education I was reminded that university students were among Adolph Hitler’s most ardent disciples. Indeed, some of the first Nazi-era book burnings took place on Germany’s university campuses. And in the Sixties and Seventies campus idealism, so called, spawned such nihilistic terrorist groups as the Weather Underground and the Red Army Faction.

That young people are addicted to millennial ideologies should surprise no one. The promise of a new heaven on earth is beguiling, particularly to those who are told that they will be the ones to usher in the Radiant Future. Everybody likes flattery. But when the young are fawned upon in this manner the results aren’t pretty. It only reinforces their consciousness of being in the right, thus magnifying their preexisting tendency to blame, hate, bully and persecute.

We’ve developed a bad habit of praising the idealism and virtue of youth while ignoring an inconvenient truth: This virtuous idealism is wedded to dogmatism and intolerance. As a group young people have scant regard for views and opinions that contradict their own ideas. Like the Puritans of old they regard the dissenter not merely as wrong or deluded but evil and malicious. And they see no reason why the rights of such people should be respected. Hence the demand from college students for censorship, speech codes, “safe spaces,” etc. How dare anyone venture to suggest that the preferences of the young are not privileged?

So it’s dangerous when older generations praise the young, assuring them that they’re the best and the brightest, the most idealistic and intelligent, the most caring and compassionate, etc. and so forth. Nancy Pelosi sang the praises of the Occupy Wall Street protesters: young people who returned the compliment by thoroughly trashing the areas they occupied, leaving mounds of garbage behind when finally they decamped. Much the same thing is happening on campus now, where administrators and faculty are being subjected to vicious denunciations and screaming hissy fits as payment for coddling their students.

Another point worth pondering is the lack of proportionality between the grievances of the young (actually quite minor) and their expression of those grievances (wildly over the top). Of course the university campuses of America are not fever swamps of racism. The average university administrator bears no resemblance to Bull Connor, nor do lynchings or cross burnings occur on the quad. So slights real or assumed are absurdly magnified, racist outrages are imagined or manufactured, the better to justify the ridiculous histrionics of the young. And here again the older generations on campus are no help, preaching as they do that Amerikka is a racist house of horrors where minorities are trodden upon by the iron heel of fascism. Now some of those older lefties are beginning to whine about the intolerance and dogmatism of the young—which they themselves have done so much to nurture.

I will admit that from my conservative perspective it’s been rather amusing to see those revolutionary veterans cringing and belly crawling at the feet of their ideological offspring. It’s not good for the country, though, that American higher education has been reduced to such a pitiable condition. But perhaps, just perhaps, a season of creative destruction is just what’s needed to help our colleges and universities to turn the corner and find the path back to sanity. Let’s hope so…


Posted by tmg110 at 11:06 AM EST
Updated: Monday, 16 November 2015 1:37 PM EST
Post Comment | Permalink
Tuesday, 10 November 2015
A Child of the Revolution
Topic: Liberal Fascism

It’s customary to refer to Yale as an “elite university”—meaning that both the faculty and the student body represent the cream of the cream. Conservatives might dispute this characterization given the leftie orientation of Yale’s faculty. But an even better reason to greet it with the raised eyebrow of skepticism is the adolescent, nay, infantile, behavior of Yale’s student body—by which I mean this.

Here we have a young lady, a Yale student, throwing a literal hissy fit over some imagined slight. It may be argued that her behavior is unrepresentative of Yale students in the large. Really? Then will this foul-mouthed junior harridan be denounced in the student newspaper? Disciplined by the administration for what was, presumably, a gross violation of Yale’s student code of conduct? Provided with the anger management counseling she so obviously needs?

As if.

No, her rant will be taken oh, so seriously—by fellow students, by faculty and by Yale’s administration. That her meltdown was triggered by an email about Halloween costumes, that it was wildly over the top, that it was both obscene and insulting—those facts will not be taken into account. In some way inscrutable to normal people, the issue of Halloween costumes at Yale became a proxy for the slow boil of over-the-top racial/ethnic/gender/Gods-knows-what resentments that seems to have become the main preoccupation of American higher education. And where such resentments are concerned, there’s no brake on bad behavior.

To review, the student’s screaming temper tantrum was caused by the following act of oppression. Shortly before Halloween, Yale’s administration sent an email to all students, cautioning them to be “sensitive” in their selection of Halloween costumes. In response one Erika Christakis, a lecturer at Yale, sent this email to students of Silliman College, one of the university’s so-called residential colleges. It read in part:

Even if we could agree on how to avoid offense—and I’ll note that no one around campus seems overly concerned about the offense taken by religiously conservative folks to skin-revealing costumes—I wonder, and I am not trying to be provocative: Is there no room anymore for a child or young person to be a little bit obnoxious… a little bit inappropriate or provocative or, yes, offensive? American universities were once a safe space not only for maturation but also for a certain regressive, or even transgressive, experience; increasingly, it seems, they have become places of censure and prohibition. And the censure and prohibition come from above, not from yourselves! Are we all okay with this transfer of power? Have we lost faith in young people’s capacity—in your capacity—to exercise self-censure, through social norming, and also in your capacity to ignore or reject things that trouble you? We tend to view this shift from individual to institutional agency as a tradeoff between libertarian vs. liberal values (“liberal” in the American, not European sense of the word.)

To you and I no doubt, this sounds like common sense. But in the hothouse atmosphere of campus race- and gender-baiting, it was a thought crime of the most henious character. Worse, it was insensitive and hurtful. How can one demand broad-minded toleration from pathetic and helpless student victims of an oppressive, racist, sexist patriarchy? Hence the nosebleed female student’s Two Minutes Hate performance—directed at Erika Christakis’s husband, Professor Nicholas Christakis, who is the residential master of Stillmore College. We can take it for granted, I think, that Professor Christakis is no troglodyte conservative, no white supremacist, no goose-stepping Nazi stormtrooper. But his offense in allowing his wife’s little lecture on tolerance to be broadcast to Stillmore’s unbearably sensitive students was, well, intolerable.

There is in this some small sip, perhaps, of schadenfreude to be savored by conservatives. One imagines the consternation of Professor Christakis, good progressive that he probably is, as that stupid little girl spewed her hateful spittle into his face. How could this be happening? Well, Professor, I’m sorry to say that you had it coming, if only as a representative of your class: the leftist intelligentsia. You’ve encouraged a generation of students to nurture their resentments and grievances, ascribing all slights and disappointments to the demons of racism, sexism, etc. and so forth. Now you’re the one wearing horns and toting a pitchfork. There’s a measure of justice there.

As for the insufferable twerp who so viciously reviled you, I’m only surprised that she hasn’t been invited to the White House yet.


Posted by tmg110 at 8:40 AM EST
Updated: Tuesday, 10 November 2015 8:44 AM EST
Post Comment | Permalink
Saturday, 7 November 2015
Another Page to Turn
Topic: Must Read

For someone with a house full of them there’s no more vexing question than “What’s your favorite book?” (“Who’s your favorite author?” is an easy one: I’m my favorite author.)

The truth is that a lifelong, habitual reader can’t have a single, favorite books. You admire different books for different reasons: the Sherlock Holmes canon for its imperishable charm, Last and First Men for its imaginative brilliance, The Haunting of Hill House for its dark, mysterious heart. I’ve often remarked that the single most influential book I’ve ever read is George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-four, which I encountered at the age of fifteen or sixteen. It was from Mr. Orwell that I received my first dim intimation that literature embodied a purpose higher than simply to entertain me.

Another book that looms large in my mind is Robert Conquest’s The Great Terror, his pioneering account of the Soviet peoples’ travails during the Stalin era. What Orwell imagined in his dystopian final novel Conquest traced out in reality. Ingsoc, Newspeak, doublethink, the mutability of the past, the sub-basement torture chambers of the Ministry of Love—in the pages of The Great Terror I discovered that these things were not merely the nightmares of a great writer dying of tuberculoses but part of the twentieth century’s grim historical record.

Then there are the books that have made me laugh out loud, among them Mister Roberts, Thomas Heggen’s marvelous comic novel of the US Navy in World War Two, Elevyn Waugh’s Scoop, anything at all by P.G. Wodehouse. Others amused me in rather a grim manner: High-Rise by J.G. Ballard, The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark.

Speaking of Ballard and Dick, both of whom had one foot in the genre, I must confess to a taste for science fiction, particularly the novels and stories of its Golden and Silver Ages. The Star Wars films showed me nothing that I hadn’t already imagined in the pages of classic old space-opera novels like Edmund Hamilton’s The Star Kings. From the estimable Isaac Asimov I learned the Three Laws of Robotics. Long before Margaret Atwood came along with her vision of an American theocracy (The Handmaid’s Tale), Robert A. Heinlein had covered that ground for me—and much more entertainingly—in his short novel, “If This Goes On—” More recent favorites include Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars Trilogy and Robert Charles Wilson’s Spin.

Odds, ends, bit and pieces come to mind as I muse over my life among books: John Cheever’s short story, “The Swimmer” (a neat little suburban daymare), George Orwell’s essay on Rudyard Kipling, the latter’s Barrack-Room Ballads, Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown,” Wallace Steven’s haunting poem, “The Emperor of Ice-Cream,” Alice Sheldon’s “The Screwfly Solution.” (Sheldon wrote under the names James Tiptree, Jr. and Racoona Sheldon, producing some of the most impressive SF of the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties.)

Nowadays of course I have a Kindle and many of the books I read are not bound but bytes. Still, I continue to buy and read real books. There across the room, for instance, is my copy of J.G. Ballard’s complete short fiction: a fine, fat volume bound in yellow and dark blue. Seeing it reminds me that Ballard produced one of the most unsettling horror stories I’ve ever read: “Billenium.” And no, it contains no ghosts, vampires, zombies, slashers or predatory aliens. Some wouldn’t call it a horror story at all. But it scared the hell out of me…slowly, the more I thought about it.

No doubt my books are the bane of my wife’s existence. Sometimes I catch her running her eye along the shelves, perhaps calculating how much money has been spent over the years to fill them. But she knows that I can no more live without my books than I can live without her and she’s admirably tolerant of my need to possess them. The Kindle is a great little item of technology but there are times when I want to sit with a glass of wine to the side and an old-fashioned book in my hand: the annotated Dracula, say, or the Library of America edition of Philip Roth’s novels. It’s a winter’s night and a blizzard is blowing. The hour grows late and I know I should go to bed but there’s one last glass of wine in the bottle and always another page to turn.

Posted by tmg110 at 10:24 AM EST
Updated: Saturday, 7 November 2015 10:29 AM EST
Post Comment | Permalink

Newer | Latest | Older