August 17th, 2017

Far left and far right

This makes sense:

The Nazis and White Supremacists as one faction and the Antifa and Black Lives Matter as the other faction are two sides of the same coin. Expressing this is what has gotten the president in trouble with the politically correct media and their dupes. His point is that too many are are purposefully ignoring the real meaning of the other equally dangerous set of thugs who have caused violence in Portland, Berkeley, Ferguson, Evergreen College and at least half of the problem in Charlottesville. If the Nazis are the spawn of Hitler, then Antifa and BLM are the spawn of Lenin and Stalin. The late twenties and early thirties in the Weimar Republic saw riots and pitched battles between those same factions in most German cities. For whatever reason the media will not talk about the similarity between Charlottesville and Altona (riots in Hamburg that left 19 dead). The only difference between these two sides is that one is national socialism (nazi) and the other is international socialism (communists). That, and the identity groups they are pandering to are the only difference and that’s why they vie for similar disaffected losers and why they hate each other so much.

Well, they hate each other so much for more reasons than that. But the basic points stand, I think.

Somewhat related is this discussion from just a little while ago.

August 16th, 2017

The “Trump defends white supremacists” meme is now set in stone

If you read the news at all, you noticed the explosion of the meme, but here’s are some examples.

If you want to know what Trump actually said, take a look [emphasis mine]:

OK. Good. Are we going to take down the statue? Because he was a major slave-owner. Now, are we going to take down his statue? So you know what? It’s fine. You’re changing history. You’re changing culture. And you had people, and I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists, because they should be condemned totally. But you had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists.

OK? And the press has treated them absolutely unfairly. Now, in the other group also, you had some fine people, but you also had troublemakers…

I think it’s crystal clear that he’s exempting the neo-Nazis from this praise as “fine people.” But that doesn’t matter, does it, to the narrative?

He also said there was violence on both sides. It’s true; there was. The violence between the protesters was very much on both sides. But the violence of one person, Fields, that resulted in the death of a young woman, was only on one side: the neo-Nazi side.

Trump is somewhat inarticulate and his statements are often unclear enough that they’re easy to twist. That’s one of many, many, many reasons I did not want him to be the Republican nominee. In addition, he has sometimes in the past winked at the so-called alt-right and its more extreme white supremacist wing (I wrote about this during the campaign but am in a hurry right now and don’t have time to search for the links). And his initial statement on Charlottesville was flat-footed and tone-deaf and left out way too much.

That said, I have never seen evidence of racism on his part. What’s more, there is literally nothing the man could say that would placate his enemies.

The MSM/liberal/left narrative was set long ago—Trump, as well as all Republicans, are racists. That latter part of the narrative long predated Trump. Unfortunately, however, certain aspects of Trump’s personality and definitely aspects of some of his supports feed into it, and the recent Charlottesville events are tailor-made for the MSM to run with the intensification of the previously-set narrative. You can feel their glee, which is almost palpable.

How effective is it in convincing people that Trump is a white supremacist and a dangerous dangerous man, and that Republicans are racists too? I still don’t know, but my answer is “somewhat effective.”

August 16th, 2017

Revising history?

Several people have mentioned in the Durham statue thread—the post entitled “Meanwhile, the revision of history…”—that pulling down a statue is not obliterating or even revising history, it’s merely getting rid of a tribute.

Yes, it’s a tribute, and of course a statue is just a statue and not history itself. But it is symbolic of history, and the mob’s tearing it down represents (at least in part) a wish to revise and obliterate the story of what happened and make it into propaganda. Of course, history turns into propaganda all the time to a certain extent. We can never know the full truth of history, and history is written by the winners yada yada yada. In this case it’s an interesting although perhaps parenthetical fact that these particular tributes to Confederate soldiers or people such as Robert E. Lee are not created by winners but by losers of the Civil War, although the losers are also survivors.

Such tributes are actually part of the history as well. The point is that soldiers fought and died in the South for many reasons, and there was a great deal of suffering which is being acknowledged by the statues. That said—and as I wrote yesterday—I have absolutely no problem with these statues being pulled down in an orderly and lawful manner, by public vote or whatever other mechanism is in place to do it legally. In fact, I couldn’t care less if they’re up or down, and I’m not the least bit fond of them. It’s the history I’m much more concerned with.

With Robert E. Lee, for example, the history becomes more and more reduced to a single thought: he fought for slavery. Who Lee actually was as a person and leader, and who he became postwar, and why many people revere him for those reasons, is being or has been obliterated and simplified into Emmanuel Goldstein and the Two Minutes Hate. The same with Thomas Jefferson and several other Founders.

This troubles me. I prefer my history complex rather than simple, but perhaps that’s a lost cause.

August 16th, 2017

Iceland says down with Downs

With the advent of tests for Downs syndrome in utero and the availability of abortion, the future of Downs syndrome as a phenomenon has become a question mark. In the country of Iceland, for example, 100% of the women carrying babies revealed by amniocentesis to have Downs syndrome decide to abort. That means that Downs syndrome will become mostly a thing of the past in Iceland—although, since the test is not 100% accurate, a few Downs syndrome babies slip through the cracks every year.

Statistics in this country are different, with an estimated termination rate of 67%.

Downs syndrome is not one of those conditions that inevitably causes terrible suffering and death at a very young age. Mental capacity is diminished but Downs syndrome babies usually grow up to have meaningful and productive lives and are well-loved. They have some health problems but tend to live to be about 60 these days, with the right medical intervention.

This sort of intervention is also likely to be a slippery slope:

When Thordis Ingadottir was pregnant with her third child at the age of 40, she took the screening test. The results showed her chances of having a child with Down syndrome were very slim, odds of 1 in 1,600. However, the screening test is only 85 percent accurate. That year, 2009, three babies were born with Down syndrome in Iceland, including Ingadottir’s daughter Agusta, who is now 7…

As Agusta grows up, “I will hope that she will be fully integrated on her own terms in this society. That’s my dream,” Ingadottir said. “Isn’t that the basic needs of life? What kind of society do you want to live in?”

Geneticist Kari Stefansson is the founder of deCODE Genetics, a company that has studied nearly the entire Icelandic population’s genomes. He has a unique perspective on the advancement of medical technology. “My understanding is that we have basically eradicated, almost, Down syndrome from our society — that there is hardly ever a child with Down syndrome in Iceland anymore,” he said.

Quijano asked Stefansson, “What does the 100 percent termination rate, you think, reflect about Icelandic society?”

“It reflects a relatively heavy-handed genetic counseling,” he said. “And I don’t think that heavy-handed genetic counseling is desirable. … You’re having impact on decisions that are not medical, in a way.”

Stefansson noted, “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with aspiring to have healthy children, but how far we should go in seeking those goals is a fairly complicated decision.”

You said it.

[NOTE: I am extremely grateful that I never had to make this decision. When I was pregnant, amniocentesis was far from standard.]

August 16th, 2017

It just might be a good time to revisit this quote from Milan Kundera on circle dancing

I think you’ll see why.

It’s from the Czech author Milan Kundera’s The Book of Laughter and Forgetting, which he wrote in the late 1970s:

Circle dancing is magic. It speaks to us through the millennia from the depths of human memory. Madame Raphael had cut the picture out of the magazine and would stare at it and dream. She too longed to dance in a ring. All her life she had looked for a group of people she could hold hands with and dance with in a ring. First she looked for them in the Methodist Church (her father was a religious fanatic), then in the Communist Party, then among the Trotskyites, then in the anti-abortion movement (A child has a right to life!), then in the pro-abortion movement (A woman has a right to her body!); she looked for them among the Marxists, the psychoanalysts, and the structuralists; she looked for them in Lenin, Zen Buddhism, Mao Tse-tung, yogis, the nouveau roman, Brechtian theater, the theater of panic; and finally she hoped she could at least become one with her students, which meant she always forced them to think and say exactly what she thought and said, and together they formed a single body and a single soul, a single ring and a single dance.

I came across The Book of Laughter and Forgetting in an excerpt published in The New Yorker around the time of the book’s English publication, 1980. The first paragraph of the book in its New Yorker version hit me with great force as soon as I read it, which is unusual for me. I understood immediately that I was in the presence of brilliance of a particular and unusual sort, a writer who said things in a way that resonated deeply with me. The work managed to mix political and philosophical observations with a fanciful fictional narrative (not exactly a novel but rather a series of linked and unconventional stories) all told in the idiosyncratic and blunt voice of an exceedingly perceptive and reflective author.

I’ll leave it to another exceedingly perceptive and reflective author—John Updike, in his original review of the book—to describe it:

This book…is brilliant and original, written with a purity and wit that invite us directly in; it is also strange, with a strangeness that locks us out…

…[T]he mirror does not so readily give back validation with this playful book, more than a collection of seven stories yet certainly no novel, by an expatriate Czech resident in France, fascinated by sex, and prone to sudden, if graceful, skips into autobiography, abstract rumination, and recent Czech history. Milan Kundera, he tells us, was as a young man among that moiety of Czechs–“the more dynamic, the more intelligent, the better half”–who cheered the accession of the Communists to power in February 1948. He was then among the tens of thousands rapidly disillusioned by the harsh oppressions of the new regime: “And suddenly those young, intelligent radicals had the strange feeling of having sent something into the world, a deed of their own making, which had taken on a life of its own, lost all resemblance to the original idea, and totally ignored the originators of the idea. So those young, intelligent radicals started shouting to their deed, calling it back, scolding it, chasing it, hunting it down.”

Kundera’s prose presents a surface like that of a shattered mirror, where brightly mirroring fragments lie mixed with pieces of lusterless silvering. The Communists idyll he youthfully believed in seems somehow to exist for him still, though mockingly and excludingly. He never asks himself—the most interesting political question of the century–why a plausible and necessarily redistribution of wealth should, in its Communist form, demand such an exorbitant sacrifice of individual freedom? Why must the idyll turn, not merely less than idyll, but nightmare?

The position of a writer from the Socialist world in the West cannot but be uncomfortable. He cannot but despise us for our cheap freedoms, our more subtle enslavements; and we it may be, cannot but condescend to his discovery, at such heavy cost to his life, of lessons that Messrs. Churchill and Truman so roundly read to us 35 years ago.

That probably tells you more about Updike’s politics and quality of mind (see much more here) than about Kundera. However, I actually think that, although Kundera doesn’t directly spell out the answer to that “most interesting political question of the century,” the answer is inherent in everything he writes. In fact, come think of it, the answer is even subtly implied in that paragraph I quoted at the outset of this post, and it resides in that single word “forced.” In the inevitably vain effort to realize a dream that goes against human nature and reality, one must force compliance or abandon the dream. That necessity for force appeals to the worst in human nature and ultimately attracts the worst human beings rather than the best.

August 15th, 2017

Meanwhile, the revision of history…

continues apace:

A crowd of protesters gathered outside the old Durham County courthouse on Main Street Monday evening in opposition to a Confederate monument in front of the government building.

Around 7:10 p.m. a woman using a ladder climbed the statue of a Confederate soldier and attached a rope around the statue.

Moments later, the crowd pulled on the rope and the statue fell. One man quickly ran up and spat on the statue and several others began kicking it.

Durham police later said they monitored the protests to make sure they were “safe,” but did not interfere with the statue toppling because it happened on county property.

“Because this incident occurred on county property, where county law enforcement officials were staffed, no arrests were made by DPD officers,” Durham Police spokesman Wil Glenn wrote in an email statement.

If a community wants to remove a statue, vote to remove it. I happen to think that statues are part of history, and that history is real. But statues are also tributes of sorts (or they can be, anyway), and if the city of Durham votes to stop paying tribute to the Confederate soldier and to take down the statue I’m perfectly okay with that, too. What I’m not okay with is mobs taking matters into their own hands, and police standing by while it happens.

By the way, I make an exception for the aftermath of an actual revolution, where this sort of thing often happens and is often appropriate.

August 15th, 2017

The Charlottesville aftermath

There was a demonstration, a counter-demonstration, and two kinds of violence. One was the clashes between the two sets of demonstrators, many of whom were ready and eager to fight. The second was a madman (albeit one with a neo-Nazi political agenda) who plowed into the crowd and killed a woman while injuring others.

When I write “madman,” I mean that he was clearly a mess and perhaps even schizophrenic:

Fields, 20, was raised by a single mom, after his dad was killed by a drunk driver shortly after he was born. His mother had called 911 twice in the past, telling officers that he had beaten her, AP reported. But when he was pulled over by police in May, he showed no signs of aggression. He was working as a security officer and was on vacation time while attending the rally. A high school teacher said that Fields had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and was on medication…

Fields does not appear to have a previous criminal history.

The guy is also described as having been into neo-Nazi beliefs since high school. The portrait that emerges is a familiar one of a “troubled” young man who is more trouble just waiting to happen (Jared Loughner, anyone?). Why on earth was Fields employed as a security guard? Well, he had no criminal history; 911 calls do not a criminal history make.

In the aftermath of these dreadful events, Fields has been arrested, Trump and all his supporters are blamed as though they are responsible, and the hard left has gotten what it wants, a martyr—Heather Heyer, a lovely 32-year old woman who worked as a paralegal and was a Sanders supporter.

It appears from the facts so far that her death was a heinous murder and perhaps even a premeditated one. Fields should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, although if he really is a schizophrenic that could affect the legal proceedings. When I write that the hard left has gotten what it wants, a martyr, am I being too harsh? I don’t think so—the hard left plays hardball and knows that such things are very very useful.

I haven’t mentioned the police in this post because I still don’t have a clear picture of why they weren’t out in force and actively keeping the violence down. I don’t think their increased presence would have prevented Heyer’s death, however, although I’m not sure. But it certainly would have ramped down the more generalized violence and changed the atmosphere. Did they purposely stand down, were they just disorganized and ineffective, or what? It seems there’s one thing on which both sides can agree:

…both sides agree that one group didn’t do enough to prevent the violence as the crowds grew and tensions flared: the police…

Critics say both Charlottesville Police and Virginia State Police stood on the sidelines Saturday as skirmishes erupted between white nationalists and members of Antifa, a broad movement of left-leaning groups. The two groups confronted each other in Emancipation Park with shields and pepper spray.

It wasn’t until police declared the rally an “unlawful assembly” and Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency that police ordered the gathering to break up and scattered the crowds throughout the city…

Once the car plowed into the crowd, the police stepped in, Straughn said.

“I will give credit where credit is due, but I will say that was too little, too late,” he told CNN. “If the police had acted differently in the beginning of the day — before 1:42 p.m. — maybe we wouldn’t be talking about Heather Heyer right now. Maybe she would still be alive.”

According to a tweet from the ACLU of Virginia, police said they wouldn’t intervene “until given command to do so.”…

“The police actually allowed us to square off against each other,” Newsome said. “There were fights and the police were standing a block away the entire time. It’s almost as if they wanted us to fight each other.”

I think there’s enough evidence to say that the police were not doing their jobs, but the question that remains is “why not?” Conspiracy theories abound, but my personal opinion (at least so far) is incompetence and stupidity as well as wishful thinking.

A terrible situation and a terrible mess, and I believe this will not be the last time we see this sort of situation. The country is becoming a powder keg.

August 15th, 2017

This just may be the most important trait for political changers to have

Actually, if may be important in any kind of change, and that includes the ability to sincerely apologize (which is not all that common).

From commenter “J.J.”:

Then there is the matter of open/closed mindedness. Open/closed mindedness is one of the major traits of personality. Some researchers, such as Steven Pinker, believe it’s a genetic trait and doesn’t change that much over a person’s life. If that’s true, then the schooling of a person with a closed mind is likely to shape their beliefs for their whole life. Close minded people steeped in progressive politics as young people will not recognize new information as being something to take notice of. Only those with open mindedness as their inherent nature are likely to take note of new information and see differences between what they believed and what is actually happening. They are the only ones who are likely to be changers. That’s one reason why it seems so hard to “reason” with a progressive. They are not likely to change unless they are inherently open minded.

I believe Marx and the Communists have believed/sensed this and it is a major reason they have worked so hard to take over academia.

Prior to my political change, I would not have thought I had a particularly open mind. I always have been able to apologize, but not easily, and I’m stubborn and opinionated. It seemed that my political positions were well-formed, and I was no spring chicken in the early years of the 21st Century.

But it turns out the roots of my political beliefs were more shallow than I thought, although the principles on which they were based went much deeper. Confronted by a host of facts that could not be denied, I reluctantly realized that I had come to a very different place than before, politically. Why “reluctantly”? Well, I knew on a certain level that this change would distance me from many people I knew and loved, although I didn’t know the half of it. But there was no turning back by that time.

I’ve written at great length about the process of my political change, so I won’t say too much more here. But I do want to add that one trait I’ve always had—and I think it was vital to this process—was the habit, amounting to almost a compulsive need, to challenge what I think is true. If I have an opinion, I’m almost driven to read articles from people with a different and even opposite opinion, and to mull over what they say to see if it holds water. I’m not sure why I’ve always been that way, but the best explanation I can come to is that I wanted as firm a foundation for my beliefs as possible, and if the basis for my thinking was shaky I wanted to know it so I could revise my opinions and make them conform better to reality.

Long ago, I actually used to think that just about everyone was that way. I’ve since been disabused of that notion.

August 14th, 2017

The same rules for each side?

Alan Dershowitz believes that even partisans must apply the same rules to each side:

Now that it is President Trump who is being targeted, my partisan Democratic friends are vociferously rejecting these neutral civil liberties arguments, because they do not now serve their partisan political interests. Nor do they seem embarrassed by their apparent hypocrisy and double standards. Hypocrisy is a small price to pay for partisan political victories.

For me, the primary test for whether an argument is principled or partisan is “the shoe on the other foot” test…

The time has come for all Americans who believe in enduring principles of morality and justice to insist on consistency. Ralph Waldo Emerson was wrong when he demeaned “foolish consistency” as “the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.”

Consistency of principles is neither foolish nor small-minded. It is the essence of any moral system. Principled consistency may be difficult to achieve, especially in our current hyper-partisan atmosphere.

That last sentence is the understatement of the year, perhaps of the century. I agree with the point Dershowitz is making, and I try to live by it. But I’m not naive enough to think many people will follow his call.

August 14th, 2017

On Charlottesville

I’ve been mulling over what to write about the recent events in Charlottesville, and I think the best way to start (I’m a bit pressed for time today) is to link to this post by William Jacobson at Legal Insurrection. I’m in very substantial agreement with what he says there, so just read it and then come back here.

I’ll add that this past weekend while the events were unfolding I was at a big family celebration that took up most of my time, so I didn’t follow the news with my usual intensity. But I couldn’t avoid this news, in part because it was brought up several times in conversations with relatives. As is often the case for me, those relatives were pretty much of like mind with each other—the range was liberal to left, at least for the vocal ones (there may be one or two closet conservatives)—and so I can report that all of the talkers seemed to assume that the demonstrators were Nazis and Trump is a Nazi and that the only side that was violent in the Charlotteville confrontation was the Nazi side. My only contribution to the conversation (and I think this was only on the first day) was to mention that even Nazis have a right to demonstrate peacefully, a la Skokie and the ACLU.

Alas, when you’re talking to a group during a social engagement, you can’t provide a link like that, and if they don’t get the reference it goes unnoticed. I got a few blank looks, and that made me think that this particular crowd had no idea what I was talking about when I mentioned Skokie and the ACLU. If so (and I’m not 100% sure I was right about that), then the free speech foundation of at least the beginning of the entire episode—supported by the tradition of even a group as far left as the ACLU—would have been lost, and we therefore were starting out with a lack of common ground.

I hate Nazis, neo or paleo. I have no sympathy for either white supremacists or those who hate white people. And violence has no place in demonstrations, and the city of Charlottesville should have had enough police there to make sure to nip any violence in the bud.

As far as Trump goes, he should have issued this statement of his at the outset instead of after a delay. However, I do not think the delay means he has any sympathy with neo-Nazis or white supremacists, either. Excerpt:

Racism is evil — and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans,” Trump said in response to the attacks in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend.

“Those who spread violence in the name of bigotry strike at the very core of America,” Trump said.

Of course, it won’t satisfy his critics. Nothing would, including if he had said those words at the outset. He would have been accused of lying for political gain.

August 12th, 2017

Let’s talk about it-

A scene from Monty Python’s “Life of Brian (1979,” one of my favorite movies:

August 12th, 2017

Leaving the left: Keri Smith, changer

Several readers have suggested that I read this essay by a thoughtful former SJW who has just about had it with what she sees on the left:

I’ve been undergoing a pretty significant change in the way I interpret the world and how to ‘be’ in it…

I see increasing numbers of so-called liberals cheering censorship and defending violence as a response to speech. I see seemingly reasonable people wishing death on others and laughing at escalating suicide and addiction rates of the white working class. I see liberal think pieces written in opposition to expressing empathy or civility in interactions with those with whom we disagree. I see 63 million Trump voters written off as “nazis” who are okay to target with physical violence. I see concepts like equality and justice being used as a mask for resentful, murderous rage.

The most pernicious aspect of this evolution of the left, is how it seems to be changing people, and how rapidly since the election. I have been dwelling on this Nietzsche quote for almost six months now, “He who fights with monsters, should be careful lest he thereby become a monster. And if thou gaze long into an abyss, the abyss will also gaze into thee.” How easy is it for ordinary humans to commit atrocious acts? History teaches us it’s pretty damn easy when you are blinded to your own hypocrisy. When you believe you are morally superior, when you have dehumanized those you disagree with, you can justify almost anything. In a particularly vocal part of the left, justification for dehumanizing and committing violence against those on the right has already begun.

I’d like to (belatedly) welcome the author, Keri Smith, to the ranks of political changers. How far she ends up going in the political sense—all the way to the right, part of the way to the right, smack in the middle, or still slightly to the left—is up to her. But I salute her in her journey. I was never as far to the left as she seems to have been, but I recognize the process of suddenly noticing political things one never saw before. It’s a frightening and even shocking and yet exciting and stimulating journey, and I wish her well.

Smith is surprised at what she sees in people on the left, and considers it to be a change since the 2016 election. I would note, however, that it’s only more readily apparent since the election, because what she’s describing is not only something inherent on the left but something basic to humanity. Nietzsche’s words are cautionary for the right, too, in our efforts to fight the forces arrayed against us on the left.

About Me

Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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