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Friday, 31 October 2014
Shoshana's Urban Odyssey
Topic: Decline of the West

Living in Indiana, you miss out on a lot. For example, until reading this article by Christine Sisto for National Review Online, I was unfamiliar with the urban phenomenon known as cat-calling: the verbal harassment of women on city streets. It can take various forms: wolf whistles, offensive remarks concerning legs, breasts, buttocks, hair etc., loudly intrusive calls along the lines of “Good morning, baby!” or outright obscenities. Sometimes a man will follow a woman for several minutes, trying to initiate a conversation that is obviously unwanted. To see how ugly this can be, watch the video embedded in Ms. Sisto’s article. It’s the highlight reel from a ten-hour walking tour of New York City streets by a young woman named Shoshana Roberts. (Her boyfriend, walking several yards in front of her, covertly shot the video.)

Ms. Roberts, whom I would judge to be moderately attractive, wore no makeup. She was dressed in a black crew-necked t-shirt and black jeans. She appeared neither excessively sexy nor unduly frumpy. Her odyssey can therefore be judged to have elicited from the men she encountered on the street a fairly typical range of behaviors. And let me tell you: it’s not a pretty picture. I commend Shoshana Roberts for the grit she displayed despite being very obviously frightened by some of the men who approached and harassed her.

Now I know what you’re thinking: boys will be boys. It’s only natural for men to notice and check out an attractive woman, after all. It's reflexive in us, as the military salute is reflexive in a soldier. True enough—but is the consciousness of a woman’s attractiveness a legitimate excuse to verbally harass her? I think not, gentlemen. I think not…

Ah, but that’s the problem, isn’t it? The men who harassed Ms. Roberts were clearly not gentlemen. As Christine Sisto notes in her article:

It’s impossible not to notice that most of the men who shouted at Roberts seem, generally, to be of relatively low socioeconomic status. That’s judging by their speech, choice of clothing, and the fact that they don’t seem to be rushing off to work and have nothing better to do than shout at random women on the street. Most men who have harassed me on the street have been similar in appearance to Roberts’s harassers. It is very rare, if ever, that a man in a suit on his way to work has shouted obscenities at me.

Of course for conservatives a great temptation is there: Blame it on feminism! For after all, is it not true that feminists mock and revile the concept of gentlemanly behavior, insisting that such behavior subtly degrades women? Sure. It’s fair to say, I think, that feminist orthodoxy and the hypocrisies attendant on it have contributed toward the coarsening of American society. But to view even a couple of minutes of Ms. Roberts’ ordeal is to doubt the validity of such comfortable judgments. You ask yourself: What the hell has happened? When did it become acceptable for men to openly harass women on the streets? And how is it that Ms. Roberts’ testimony produced so many online condemnations of her, even including rape threats?

Well, but what did we expect? Cat-calling is a pathology of the underclass and the growth of the American underclass is one of those problems that people exert themselves to overlook. Progressives suppose that with enough SNAP cards, the problem can be made to disappear. Too many conservatives, on the other hand, play the morality card, supposing that the members of the underclass are self-condemned to their shiftless, pointless existences. Meanwhile, the cardinal virtues of baby-boomer postmodernism— nonjudgmental tolerance and sensitivity—prevent us from calling out bad behavior.

As an Amerian who’s old enough to remember when things were different, I deplore this. As a father of two daughters, I deplore it all the more.


Posted by tmg110 at 9:38 AM EDT
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Wednesday, 29 October 2014
This Time the Laugh's on Bill
Topic: Liberal Fascism

While it’s true that Ben Affleck is a fool, even a fool can perform a public service. Affleck rendered such a service recently when as a guest on Bill Maher’s TV show he accused that atrocious vulgarian of Islamophobia. That is, Maher had had to audacity to utter some never-to-be-mentioned truths about Islam, e.g. “Islam is the only religion that acts like the mafia that will fucking kill you if you say the wrong thing.”

Maher earned a bit of strange new respect from the Right for his candor, though some conservative commentators pointed out that his similarly offensive statements about other religions had never incited the ire of the Left. Personally I have no use for the guy, who once called Sarah Palin a “cunt” and her Down’s Syndrome child a “retard.” He is, if I may be forgiven a momentary descent into the vernacular, a leaping, screaming, flaming, gaping asshole. Thus it delights me to report that none other than Bill Maher is this month’s poster boy for Liberal Fascism in the category of Suppression of Free Speech.

Maher has been selected as the 2014 commencement speaker at the University of California, Berkley—a sad commentary on the state of American higher education, to be sure, but let us leave that aside. Here’s the thing, though. In the wake of his uncomplimentary remarks about Islam and Affleck’s on-air hissy fit, various student organizations on campus are demanding that Maher be dumped as commencement speaker. This is so wonderful, in so many ways!

First, it couldn’t have happened to a more deserving guy. Maher has always been the Left’s most beloved court jester on account of his foul-mouthed denunciations of all that the Left hates. It didn’t bother progressives at all when he reviled Sarah Palin, mocked Catholics etc. and I suppose he thought he was bulletproof. But Islam is different. For complicated ideological reasons the Left can permit nothing negative to be said about the religion of the Prophet. It’s considered bad form, if not thought crime, to take notice of such things as the operation of the blasphemy laws in Pakistan or the rampages of Islamofascists in Nigeria. Maher crossed that line—and now the anathema has been pronounced against him.

Second, this exposes the ugly totalitarian tendencies of the Left. Oh, sure, the agents of the campus thought police use words like tolerance and sensitivity as their justification for giving Maher the push. They sob that “marginalized student communities” would be offended and feel excluded if Maher were allowed to speak. Another way of putting this would be to say that college students should never, but never, be presented with ideas that might challenge their assumptions or make them uncomfortable.

Third, it’s a reminder that though all campus communities are equal, some are more equal to others. We may be sure that if Catholics or Mormons, two favorite Maher targets, had complained about his invitation they’d have been denounced as fascists, religious fanatics, enemies of the First Amendment, etc. and so forth. And of course, if you’re white or Christian or politically conservative, you can count on being made very uncomfortable—indeed, you can count on being belittled and stereotyped in the crudest imaginable manner. The fact that Maher was chosen as commencement speaker is proof enough of that.

So you see, we owe a lot to the oafish performance of Ben Affleck on Bill Maher’s show. That he actually managed to make Bill Maher look good for a moment was itself no mean feat. But by starting a process that generated these wonderfully teachable moments Affleck has, as I said, performed a genuine public service.


Posted by tmg110 at 11:29 AM EDT
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If Robin Hood Worked for the IRS...
Topic: Liberal Fascism

For liberals, progressives and lefties who believe in the virtue of government, this story in the New York Times ought to be an eye-opener. The Internal Revenue Service and other federal agencies have been seizing the bank accounts of American citizens, simply because they can:

Using a law designed to catch drug traffickers, racketeers and terrorists by tracking their cash, the government has gone after run-of-the-mill business owners and wage earners without so much as an allegation that they have committed serious crimes. The government can take the money without ever filing a criminal complaint, and the owners are left to prove they are innocent. Many give up.

>snip<

Their money was seized under an increasingly controversial area of law known as civil asset forfeiture, which allows law enforcement agents to take property they suspect of being tied to crime even if no criminal charges are filed. Law enforcement agencies get to keep a share of whatever is forfeited.

Ah. “Law enforcement agencies get to keep a share of whatever is forfeited.” That explains why a law that seems reasonable on its face, a law that’s supposed to be targeting criminal enterprises, has been systematically abused by our bureaucratic lords and masters.

When the IRS targeting of conservative political groups blew up into a scandal, President Obama pronounced himself mad as hell about it. But he got over his anger, later assuring us that there wasn’t a “smidgen of corruption” to be found in the IRS. And I’m sure that he finds nothing corrupt about this robbery of American citizens by the IRS. After all, the proceeds are being used to “fundamentally transform” America…


Posted by tmg110 at 7:55 AM EDT
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Tuesday, 28 October 2014
Oh, Sure, Blame the Victim!
Topic: Politics & Elections

The Washington Post’s “Wonkbook” feature hasn’t changed much since Ezra Klein departed to pursue other interests: It remains a reliable source for progressive conventional wisdom. Today, for example, we learned that President Obama’s deep and growing unpopularity is really—the American people’s fault! See, the people are fickle and after a certain point they just get bored with the poor chump in the Oval Office: 

Frank Newport, editor-in-chief of Gallup, described this trend simply as "a regression to the mean," the gradual waning of the public's goodwill toward the president that he'd built up during his campaign for reelection and "the halo that comes with victory." This kind of decline is common for a president following a successful election campaign.

The effects of bad press, as measured by the polls, have always disappeared after a few days. For example, the presidents' ratings were already more or less stable by the time of the launch of healthcare.gov. Some good news about the health care law a few months later, when the administration announced that it had met its enrollment targets, inflated the president's poll numbers for a few weeks, before they declined again to their previous level.

If this seems implausible to you it evidently did for “Wonkbook” also, for later on there’s an admission that well, you know, perhaps the poor performance of the economy has had a little something to do with Obama’s slide. But all those lies, scandals, episodes of incompetence, etc.? Nothing to see there!

Here’s a thought: Perhaps the President’s poor performance over a long period of time has exerted slight, imperceptible but steady downward pressure on his popularity. Sure, the polls will fluctuate a little in reaction to the news of the day. But when a president screws up—for example, when he deliberately lies to the American people—the wound leaves a scar. Of course the slide has to stop at some point—every president can count on a base of loyal support. Obama’s approval ratings have probably declined to that level already and will go no lower. Anyhow, screw you, “Wonkbook”—it’s not our fault!


Posted by tmg110 at 10:26 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 28 October 2014 10:31 AM EDT
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No, You're Not Like Us
Topic: Decline of the West

That old reliable line of attack—the Republican war on women—doesn’t seem to be working too well for the Democrats this year.

In Colorado Senator Mark Udall, the Democratic incumbent seeking reelection, talks of nothing but abortion, birth control, etc. in an attempt to tar his GOP opponent as a female-bashing troglodyte. For this he’s been roundly criticized and widely mocked as “Senator Uterus.” The state’s leading newspaper, the liberal Denver Post, pronounced its disgust with Udall’s campaign and proved its sincerity by endorsing the Republican challenger, Cory Gardner, who’s now leading Udall by a narrow margin. Colorado is a purple state and Udall’s seat should be reasonably secure. But uh-uh. People see his ranting about abortion for what it is: a clumsy campaign tactic. You can bet that the war on women will be back in 2016, particularly if the Pants-Suited One, er, Hillary R. Clinton, bears the Democratic standard. This year, though? Forget about it.

Meanwhile there’s a real war on women being waged around the world that has nothing to do with US electoral politics. But you don’t hear much about it because Ben Affleck becomes upset if the subject is mentioned. But I must take the risk of enraging him by mentioning one front in that war.

Rotherham is a town in the South Yorkshire district of England, not far from Sheffield. Between 1997 and 2003 some 1,400 girls and young women, mostly white, mostly from the working class and underclass, suffered systematic sexual abuse at the hands of a gang of men, almost all of Pakistani origin. Moreover, during all that time the authorities turned a blind eye to what was going on—for fear of offending Britain’s Muslim community. In one case, a fourteen-year-old girl was consigned to state care after her parents tried and failed to end her relationship with a Pakistani man who’d twice gotten her pregnant. But social-services officers permitted the girl to have daily contact with her abuser, arguing that the relationship was consensual—never mind that that man was a convicted criminal with a history of violence! And that was only one of many such cases documented in a damning 2013 report commissioned by the Rotherham municipal authorities after years of protests and complaints from the anguished families of the victims. Worse still, what happened in Rotherham is apparently happening all over the UK in places where there exists a large Pakistani community. (Fuller accounts of the Rotherham scandal may be found here and here.)

You can see why Ben Affleck would go into a three-foot hover. Well, sure, it’s a pity what happened to all those poor white girls—but it would be insensitive, not to say racist, to call out Britain’s Pakistani community. That would shatter the multicultural mosaic. It would condemn a whole group for the crimes of a few bad actors. It would call into question some very basic assumptions of the progressive project…

Yes, precisely. What happened in Rotherham does expose the hollow interior of contemporary progressivism: the phoniness of its “war on women” line, its selective tolerance, its elitism and disdain for ordinary citizens. One reason why the British authorities looked the other way for so long was because in their view the girls were sluts, skanks, white trash. It was either than or admit that a particular ethnic group was responsible and run the risk of a charge of racism. It’s the same attitude that led Barack Obama to dismiss certain Americans as bitter clingers: the casual elitism of the enlightened. Mostly this is just offensive. But in Rotherham its consequences were deadly. Faced with a real war on women, the UK elites cut and ran.

But it is true, is it not, that a whole community ought not to be condemned for the crimes of a few? My answer to that is a qualified yes—qualified because there’s good reason to believe that the Pakistani community in Rotherham knew exactly what was going on and did nothing about it. In fairness it should be added that once the scandal broke, some Muslim community leaders did speak out in condemnation of the crimes. But there was plenty of excuse-making as well.

The UK sex abuse scandal has been described, with justice, as a “national disgrace.” But more particularly it’s the shame and disgrace of the elites, of those people who parade their sensitivity and tolerance, but whose attitude toward ordinary people is like that of the Pharisee in the Temple: “Thank God I’m not like them.”


Posted by tmg110 at 9:06 AM EDT
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Sunday, 26 October 2014
Ho-Hum, Hillary...
Topic: Politics & Elections

(1) Hillary will run in 2016. (2) Hillary will win in 2016. When it comes to conventional wisdom, that’s the gold standard. Maybe it’s even true. But to watch Hillary Clinton on the stump this year is to experience a twinge of doubt.

Talk about lackluster! Maybe it was just the overflow from Martha Coakley’s bad karma. I have to say, though, that when Hillary was in Massachusetts the other day to support Coakely’s doomed run for governor of the Bay State, she was less than impressive: “Don’t let anybody tell you, you know, it’s corporations and businesses that create jobs,” the Pants-Suited One droned. She went on to make a not-very-coherent point about the evils of “trickle-down economics”—not the most melodious note to strike in this era of trickle-down big government. (Remember those “millions of green jobs”?) Perhaps it was the presence on the stage of Senator Elizabeth Warren that galvanized Hillary’s inner populist. If so the senatorial scold did the 2016 heir presumptive no favor. Because if CW (1) turns out to be correct, Hillary’s maladroit quip is going to be featured in many a GOP attack ad.

Maybe Hillary Clinton is Ms. Inevitable of 2016. If so, it might be fun to watch this cosseted elitist, who receives $200,000 per humdrum speech, masquerade as a populist. She’d look really funny in bib overalls and a straw hat.


Posted by tmg110 at 10:42 AM EDT
Updated: Sunday, 26 October 2014 10:48 AM EDT
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Saturday, 25 October 2014
Reexamining Freedom Of Speech
Topic: Liberal Fascism

Liberals like to pretend that they’re all in favor of free speech. Yeah, right! From the Washington Examiner:

In a surprise move late Friday, a key Democrat on the Federal Election Commission called for burdensome new rules on Internet-based campaigning, prompting the Republican chairman to warn that Democrats want to regulate online political sites and even news media like the Drudge Report.

Democratic FEC Vice Chair Ann M. Ravel announced plans to begin the process to win regulations on Internet-based campaigns and videos, currently free from most of the FEC’s rules. “A reexamination of the commission’s approach to the internet and other emerging technologies is long over due,” she said.

Sure it’s overdue. Those burdensome new regulations ought to have been put in place before this election cycle. Right, Ann? Because we can’t let a million online political flowers bloom outside the control of our bureaucratic lords and masters, now, can we?

No doubt Ms. Ravel and her statist cronies have become disturbed by the vibrant conservative presence on the Web. It must be suppressed—and the First Amendment be damned!


Posted by tmg110 at 8:10 AM EDT
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Friday, 24 October 2014
The Rest of the Story
Topic: The Media

It was all over the news the other day: Fox News Hosts Tell Young Women Not To Vote, Go Back To Tinder And Match.com. There was only one small problem with this story, which originated with Media Matters, the leftie “media watchdog” group whose attention is almost totally focused on FNC: It’s isn’t true. Here’s what actually happened

During a discussion of the midterm elections on The Five, it was asked why younger women tend to vote Democratic. Greg Gutfeld opined that people tend to become more conservative with age. Kimberly Guilfoyle, a former prosecutor and Court TV anchor, responded with the observation that some lawyers don’t like young women on juries: “The same reason why young women on juries is not a good idea. They don’t get it. They’re not in that same life experience of paying the bills, doing the mortgage, kids, community, crime, education, healthcare…” To this Bob Beckel responded that young women have every right to be on juries. Guilfoyle agreed and closed with a quip about going back onto Tinder or Match.com. 

In short, neither Guilfoyle nor anyone else suggested that young women should not vote in the upcoming elections. Not to put too fine a point on it, Media Matters broadcast a blatant lie that was picked up and spread all over the place by leftie media outlets such as the Huffington Post, who were too lazy and credulous to look into the matter themselves. Bob Beckel, who occupies the left-liberal chair on The Five, excoriated Media Matters and its claque on last night’s show.

The Left’s obsession with FNC is becoming truly creepy, if not positively Orwellian. It’s a good thing we still have freedom of speech in this country…despite the Democratic-controlled Senate’s efforts to shred the First Amendment…


Posted by tmg110 at 11:34 AM EDT
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Thursday, 23 October 2014
Aren't They Smart?
Topic: Liberal Fascism

There are studies purporting to show that liberals, as a group, are more intelligent than conservatives. Leaving aside the general dubiety of the social sciences, from whence such studies emanate, one wonders why anybody bothered to conduct them at all. There is, after all, a much simpler way of settling the question: just take a look around.

Down in Washington DC a man by the name of Barack Obama is sitting in the Oval Office. He’s been president for almost six years now and the best that one can say of him is that he’s been a pretty mediocre chief executive. So why is he there? Because in 2007-08 our liberal elites swooned over the guy. Remember what they said about him? Here’s a sample: “Obama’s finest speeches do not excite. They do not inform. They don't even really inspire. They elevate. He is not the Word made flesh, but the triumph of word over flesh. Obama is, at his best, able to call us back to our highest selves.” That was Wonkmeister Ezra Klein, late of the Washington Post, emoting over candidate Obama. Saccharine as it is, I could have quoted far worse. Supposedly intelligent people, graduates of prestige universities trailing strings of post-nominal initials after their names, academics, journalists, pundits and politicians canonized Barack Obama as a kind of secular saint (an judgment with which The One himself did not disagree). No one was cooler, smarter—no one had a better grasp of the issues—no one had evertouched the soul of America in a finer way!

Then it turned out that Barack Obama was a narcissistic, rather lazy half-stepper who, when he found that oracular pronouncements could not halt the oceans’ rise or cut $2,500 annually from the average American family’s healthcare bill, lost interest in the nuts and bolts of governing. So how did all those highly intelligent liberal elites get it so wrong? How was it that they saw in the sharpness of Obama’s trouser creases the signs and portents of greatness?

It’s tempting to conclude that they’re all as dumb as a box of rocks and undoubtedly some are. But Ezra Klein (quoted above) is probably more typical of the breed: a smart guy who’s so impressed with his high IQ that it clouds his judgment. The besetting sin of such people is intellectual vanity: they’re all too easily convinced that their intelligence validates their preferences. In 2007-08, the liberal elite knew what it preferred: the first black president. And they were all too willing to reinforce Obama’s already formidable self-regard.

And of course, there’s the additional problem that the orthodoxies of liberalism often require intelligent people to behave like fools. To be liberal (or if you prefer, progressive) is to believe in things that simply aren’t so, e.g. that there’s no essential difference between men and women. So Barack Obama benefited from an already well-established mental habit. His vacuous rhetoric—“We are the ones we’ve been waiting for”—they received as if it was Part Two of the Sermon on the Mount. I think of this and smile every time I see a forlorn OBAMA 2008 bumper sticker.

Liberals say they’re smarter than conservatives and have the studies to prove it. What they don’t have is a real-world track record to back up that claim. Instead they have, among other unfortunate things, the failed presidency of Barack Obama.

 


Posted by tmg110 at 11:30 AM EDT
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Tuesday, 21 October 2014
Another Test of Leadership--Failed
Topic: Politics & Elections

There have been no new cases of Ebola diagnosed in the United States over the past few days, which is good news generally and good news for President Obama in particular. He has to be greatly relieved to see this little episode receding in the rear-view mirror. What a fiasco! To watch his fumbling response to the Ebola threat has been painful even for me—and I’m no fan of our community organizer-in-chief.

Obama doesn’t seem to understand the president’s role at the center of such a crisis. He acts as if playing it cool, attending a fundraiser or two, playing some golf, showing that he’s not worried, is what the rubes want. (Or maybe he just doesn’t care what the rubes want; that’s certainly a possibility.) And when public concern crystallizes into a specific demand—in this case that commercial air traffic from affected West African countries be suspended—he thinks it’s his job to argue the American public out of such a stupid idea.

Well, maybe suspending commercial air traffic is a bad idea, though it must be said that the arguments against it trotted out by Obama and his team were loess than compelling. Anyhow, it would have done little harm to impose such a ban—and to impose it would have demonstrated that the President was listening to the American people.

No doubt we can all agree that in a crisis situation one of a president’s most important tasks is to calm people’s fears. But to do that you have to take those fears seriously. Even if you know they’re overblown, based on media hysteria, etc., you can’t simply pooh-pooh them. No, you say something along the lines of: “I understand and share your concerns. This is a serious problem but let me assure you that we have the resources to contain Ebola and prevent it from spreading.” This is Leadership 101.

But what did we get instead? In the early going the President and his people did nothing to address people’s understandable fears. When there were mistakes and missteps, understandable in the circumstances, we got bureaucratic doubletalk from a parade of functionaries. Meanwhile, the media were fanning the flames of fear and uncertainty, with much hand-wringing and heavy breathing over the supposed incompetence of the CDC, etc. and so forth. What was needed was a presidential response. But we didn’t get one until the White House realized that Ebola was becoming a serious political problem. Hence the emergency cabinet meetings and the belated appointment of a (probably unnecessary) Ebola czar.

You may say that a public-health emergency goes beyond politics. However desirable such an attitude may be, it’s utopian. If the government is involved it’s political—and that’s particularly true when the person in the Oval Office is a proponent and champion of government. Barack Obama has told us more than once that government is the solution. But actions speak louder than words and in this case, they scream. The incompetence—administrative, political, personal—of the President and his administration have severely damaged the big-government brand.


Posted by tmg110 at 9:32 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 21 October 2014 10:20 AM EDT
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