By attacking Jonah Goldberg, a recent college grad reveals that the American mind is no longer closing, it’s closed

The-Closing-of-the-American-Mind-Bloom-Allan-9780671657154The etymology of the word “liberal” isn’t complicated. It’s from the Latin līberālis, meaning “of freedom,” which in turn derives from līber, meaning “free.” The problem with “liberalism” as a political doctrine comes about when people try to define the control from which they wish to be free.  As a recent attack on Jonah Goldberg reveals, America’s finest colleges are failing miserably when it comes to helping students examine what “liberty” really means, both in theory and in fact.

The definitional problem with the notion of “liberty” was already evident in the late 18th century, so it’s not as if American educational institutions haven’t had a while to wrestle with this intellectual problem. When Thomas Jefferson wrote about each individual’s right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” the liberty that he envisioned meant an individual’s right to construct his own life: his own career, his own faith, his own personal relations, and his own economic progress.

The Bill of Rights, a binding contract between government and governed, established that Jefferson and the other Founders knew that this liberty could be achieved only through less government, not more. At various times throughout history, the federal government has stepped in to lift a heavy yoke off of people, including slavery and Jim Crow (both of which were state government initiatives), but the understanding was that the federal government wasn’t then supposed to fill the power vacuum it had created.

At the same time that the Founders were reducing individual liberty to what they hoped would be an iron-clad constitutional contract (with the enforcement mechanism being each individual’s jealously protected right to bear arms), French revolutionaries were contemplating a very different type of “liberty.” When they spoke of “Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité,” they meant to substitute one heavy-handed government (the blood-thirsty commune) in place of another heavy-handed government (the ancien regime). The notion of individual liberty, a person’s right to be free from government encroachment, was not part of the French Revolution’s operating system.

In the 220 or so years that have passed since the Bill of Rights and the French Revolution, the diametrically-opposed meanings applied to the words “liberty,” have never changed. A steady strand of thinking in America has always held that liberty means a person’s right to determine his own destiny with minimal government intervention, control, taxation, and policing. Meanwhile, whether under the heading of socialism, fascism, communism, Naziism, or Progressivism, most Europeans and some Americans (including the modern Democrat party) have steadfastly insisted that liberty means a person’s right to be free from the burden of thinking about and caring for himself. (Islam makes that promise too.)

I was reminded of this definitional paradox when I read a 23-year-old’s throbbing denunciation of Jonah Goldberg’s challenge to the recycled communism found in a Jesse Myerson article published in Rolling Stone. The 23-year-old guilty of this purple passion in support of the Left’s liberty is Emmett Rensin, who describes himself for the L.A. Times as “a political activist and essayist living in Chicago.”  His website adds that he recently graduated from the University of Chicago, which is one of America’s premier institutions and was once Milton Friedman’s home base.

Rensin may be young, and he may consider himself Progressive, but his article is actually pretty funny because it’s so reactionary in tone. This is a guy who, after four years in a top American university, looks back in longing at communism’s glory days, and regrets that he was unable to live in those heady times himself. Even his insults have a dated quality, rolling of the tongue with all the clunky rhetorical elegance that used to character a good Stalin speech. Thus, Goldberg is a “professional colonialism apologist and perennial Democratic crypto-fascist hunter.” Wow! It’s 1948 all over again.

Obviously, Rensin’s writing is not the stuff of ages, although it’s probably the stuff of old, aged Leftists. Rensin is worth quoting, though, because he so perfectly embodies the long-standing Leftist notion, one that is now de rigueur in America’s colleges, that “liberty” means the freedom to have an all-powerful government take care of you:

Young leftists like Myerson and myself share a moral outlook that fundamentally differs from conservatives like Goldberg: Freedom, in the most prosperous nation on Earth, must entail the freedom to act without the constant specter of homelessness, hunger and preventable illness. But this is nothing new, and the very founders Goldberg implies would have defended the present status quo are cases in point. The revolutionary generation (many of whom, by the way, were theatrically radical young people) was made up of men of means. They were all comfortable; many were wealthy. They had time to recycle the old ideas of Locke and Montesquieu and to dream of a nation outside the shackles of English monarchy.

It’s hard to imagine squeezing in the Continental Congress in a world where Thomas Jefferson had to run across town to his minimum-wage night job.

If liberalism believes that freedom consists of freedom from want, then we want only to extend the means for such achievement beyond the wealthy, white and landed few. Not everyone needs their own Monticello, but an apartment and some groceries might suffice.

Rensin has the youthful college grad’s passion for supposedly erudite references and sweeping pronouncements, not to mention a good acquaintance with the Spark Notes version of Marx’s turgid, lugubrious, boring Communist Manifesto. What Rensin lacks, however, is actual knowledge. If he had knowledge, he would know that freedom from want (which is what he desires) happens best when a society lets individuals decide how to create and spend wealth, rather than in societies in which the state, promising freedom from want, makes decisions for individuals about how to create and spend wealth.

It’s absolutely true that every country predicated on individual liberty and economic freedom has failed to eradicate poverty and has made terrible moral mistakes. What’s also true, though, is that these same countries have raised the standard of living for every individual within the country, from the poorest on up; has contributed wealth around the world; and has repented and remedied its moral mistakes.  (A useful primer on this is Niall Ferguson’s Empire: How Britain Made the Modern World by Ferguson.)

The contrary is true for countries of the kind Rensin envisions, with a beneficent government caring for every individual. Without exception, the promises of a managed economy have failed.  Invariably, and quickly, many more, rather than fewer, people end up mired in abysmal poverty, grinding despair, not to mention existential fear of ones own all-powerful government.  The standard of living for everyone in these countries has gone down. There isn’t one communist country that doesn’t support Winston Churchill’s justly famous observation that “Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy.  Its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery” (emphasis mine).

Worse, in every one of these socialist countries, as the promises failed and the people took notice of those failures, the governments did something that no magnate or corporation could ever do and on a scale so vast even now it’s hard to comprehend: they silenced, tortured, imprisoned, and executed people who failed to be adequately grateful for the state’s vision of “liberty.”  This is true whether one speaks of Soviet Gulags, Nazi and North Korean concentration camps, Chinese reeducation camps, or Cuban prisons.  In each case, people were sent there, not for committing crimes against their fellow citizens (assault, murder, robbery), but for being offensive to the state, sometimes by what they said, sometimes by what they did, and sometimes just by existing.

I can already hear Rensin saying that my statements only apply to the Soviet Union, Communist China, Cuba, Nazi Germany, East Germany, North Korea, and other “communist” countries, but are untrue when it comes to socialized Europe. Again, he would be wrong. Because Europe went for soft socialism, not hard, and because America supported it economically for decades during the Cold War, it’s decline has been the slow-mo version of hardcore socialist states.

When the Cold War collapsed, and America’s dollars dried up, Europe’s economy slowly disappeared. Living standards across Europe are falling, not rising. Moreover, the petty tyranny of the EU is ramping up. Free speech is increasingly verboten in England, the home of free speech; France is reliving the Dreyfus affair with virulent antisemitism rising to the fore; Greece is in social and economic free fall; Spain is broke; and on and on. Norway still does socialism successfully, but that’s primarily because it’s floating on a sea of the Beverly Hillbillies’ famous “black gold.” It’s easy to be socialist when you have an unending stream of one of the world’s most valuable commodities.  And of course, Norway is back away from socialism as fast as it can.

This post started with Jonah Goldberg, and it’s going to end with him too. His opinion piece today at the National Review notes that, while Allan Bloom once wrote about the “closing of the American mind,” that’s no longer true.  The American mind has stopped closing; instead, it’s closed, very tightly.  On college campuses throughout America — the ones that are training the Emmett Rensin’s who are let loose in newspapers and magazines — the door has shut firmly and definitively on wisdom, general knowledge, historical understanding, and analytical thinking.  We are in an intellectual dark age as stultifying and dangerous as the one that swept through Europe with Rome’s collapse and that only slowly lifted in the eight centuries thereafter.

Obamacare seen through the prism of Cold War jokes about life in the Soviet Union

Soviet-Bread-Line

During the Cold War, there were two types of jokes about the Soviet Union: those told within the Soviet Union about how bad life was there, and jokes told outside of the Soviet Union about how bad life was there. Americans told the jokes with gusto. Secure in their freedom from a totalitarian government’s constant surveillance, and rejoicing in the overflowing shelves of a free market economy, these jokes reminded Americans that their political and economic systems were indeed superior.

As we work our way through the second decade of the 21st Century, however, those old Soviet jokes are becoming eerily apposite – not to describe Putin’s Russia (although the surveillance state jokes still have their place), but to describe Obama’s America. Thanks to our newly acquired knowledge about the way the NSA and other government entities have turned America into a surveillance state (which implies a very short journey to a full police state) and thanks to the burgeoning economic disaster that is Obamacare, we’re now the Soviet joke.

To prove this point, I’ve copied below myriad Cold War-era jokes, some of which I remember from my childhood, some of which I culled from Cold War-era joke books, and most of which came from my readers (with special thanks to Zombie, who came through with a mother lode of jokes). When I say copied, I mean it: they’re there verbatim, with their original Soviet references. The only changes I’ve made have been to use strike-throughs on those Soviet references and replaced those words with more appropriate “Obama’s America” references.

It’s sad how well the jokes work as rewritten. People shouldn’t just be saddened, though. They should be outraged — and this outrage should lead to action. As Mary Theroux of the Independent Institute said at a luncheon I attended today, it was collective outrage that started in a Polish shipyard that finally brought down the Soviet Union.

And now, the jokes:

On a bitterly cold day in Moscow Washington, D.C., word has gone out that a store has received a shipment of food supplies an Obamacare Navigator has a functional computer. People start lining up early. Soon, the line doubles around the block. After a couple of hours, an official emerges from the store office.

“Owing to the Zionist-dominated American Tea Party interference with Soviet Obamacare concerns, supplies are slightly more limited than we had originally anticipated. All Jews Tea Partiers must therefore leave this line.”

Grumbling, but unsurprised, the Jews Tea Partiers head home empty-handed.

The sun rises in the sky, but gives no warmth. Another couple of hours go by, and the same official comes out.

“The Americans Tea Partiers were worse than we thought, and our supplies are more diminished than we realized. All of those who do not belong to the Communist Party Democrat Party must leave this line.”

Disgruntled non-Party members head home, leaving only the hard-core Soviets Progressives waiting for food.

The sun begins to set. The cold becomes worse. The Party members Progressives huddle together, trying to get warm. At long last, after they’ve spent eight or ten hours waiting, the official emerges from the store one last time.

“We regret to announce that American Tea Party depredations were so great that we have no food supplies Obamacare policies available today. You must all go home.”

As the Party members shuffle away into the cold night, one loudly says to the other, “Those damn Jews Tea Partiers! They get all the luck.”

***

First Communist Progressive: Come the revolution, we’ll all be driving Rolls Royces have “Cadillac” health insurance plans.

Second Communist Progressive: But I don’t want to drive a Rolls Royce a Cadillac health insurance plan.

First Communist Progressive: Come the revolution, you’ll have to want one.

***

A foreign Republican delegation showed up unexpectedly at a collective farm the office of Health and Human Services. There was no time to prepare. After they left, the Chairman of the collective farm called the District Party committee Kathleen Sebelius called the White House. “You didn’t warn me in advance, so they saw everything, the ruined cow sheds antiquated computers, and all the dirt brain-dead programmers, and all our misery and poverty.”

“Don’t worry,” the Party secretary White House said.

“But now they will tell about it all over the world.”

“Let them indulge in their usual slander,” the Party secretary White House said.

***

Stalin Obama summoned Orlov Jay Leno and said, “I have heard through informers that you are telling jokes about me. It’s treasonous!”

“What exactly do you mean?”

“I am the Great Leader, Teacher, and Friend of the people!”

Orlov Leno thought for a while. “No, I haven’t told anybody that joke yet.”

***

A Russian woman walks into a store an Obamacare Navigator’s office. “Do you have any meat health insurance policies?”

“No, we don’t.”

“What about bread a list of doctors who will treat me anyway?”

“We only deal with meat Obamacare policies. Across the street is the store with no bread doctors.”

***

In a gulag federal prison, two inmates share their experience.

“What did they arrest you for?” one of them asks. “Was it a political offense, or a common crime?”

“Political, of course. I’m a plumber computer programmer. They summoned me to the District Party Obamacare exchange headquarters to fix the sewage pipes computer program. I looked and said, ‘Hey, the entire system requires replacement.’ So, they gave me seven years.”

***

One day, far in the future, a boy in Moscow New York asks, “Grandpa, what is a ‘line’?”

“A line? I will explain. You see, many years ago, in the bad old days, there was not enough meat in the stores, so people stood in long rows at the stores’ entrances and waited, hoping some meat would appear on sale. That was called a ‘line.’ Do you understand?”

“Yes, Grandpa. But — what is ‘meat’?”

***

Okay, this one doesn’t relate directly to either Obamacare or surveillance, but it’s so apropos, I just had to include it. It is, after all, the perfect metaphor for the Obama media:

To alleviate the perennial shortages of butter, The Politburo of the Communist Party ordered the Soviet scientists to develop a technology for converting shit into butter, and to complete this project on or before the anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution. After six months of work, the Politburo demanded an interim progress report. The scientists reported that they had achieved a 50% success. The party requested elaboration. The reply from the Academy of Sciences explained, “One can already spread it, but not yet eat it.”

***

A Muscovite Manhattanite goes to the Obamacare Navigator’s office to fill out a form for fixing the decayed wiring in his apartment getting insurance through the Obamacare exchange.

The official navigator looks through his calendar and says, “Three years from today.”

The man asks, “What time?”

The official naviagor looks at him with a puzzled expression on his face. “What possible difference can the time make if it’s three years from today?”

“Because the plumber is coming I have my first doctor’s appointment in the afternoon.”

***

A Soviet labor official Democrat Senator up for reelection is sent by Moscow the DNC to British labor leaders in London his state Democrat party for a round of talks. As he delivers the party line on the issues at hand, one of the Laborites local Democrats interrupts and says to the man, “Look, you’re among friends here. Just say what you think.” The Soviet official Democrat Senator pretends not to hear and continues with his programmed remarks. “Enough,” says the trade union rep local Democrat. “We know what Moscow the White House, the DNC, and the media thinks. Don’t you have an opinion of your own?” “I do,” says the man, “but I don’t agree with it.”

***

At a Moscow May Day parade in the mid 1930s the mandatory celebration for Obama’s fourth inauguration, a very old Jew man carried a sign that said, “Thank you, comrade Stalin President Obama, for my happy childhood!”

A Party Progressive representative approached the old man. “What is the meaning of this sign? Everybody can see how old you are — when you were a child, comrade Stalin President Obama was not yet even born!”

“Precisely,” the Jew man said.

***

A Russian, A Frenchman and an American Progressive, a Republican, and a Libertarian are shipwrecked on a desert island. For weeks they barely survive, half-starved, eating only whatever washes up on the beach.

One day they find a magic lamp on the sand and when they rub it, a genie pops out and grants each one of them a wish.

The Frenchman Libertarian says, “I wish to return to France Idaho, where we have the best food and the most beautiful women in the world!” And Poof! he disappears and returns to France Idaho.

The American Republican says, “I wish to return to the good ol’ USA, where have more money and more time-saving gadgets than anywhere in the world!” And Poof! he disappears and returns to America.

The Progressive, a hardcore communist, says, “Those others were greedy and lazy. A hard life is good for a man’s soul! So I prefer to stay here, hungry and without possessions, on this desert island.”

“If that’s the case,” says the genie, “Then what is your wish?”

“Well, I’ll probably get a little lonely, so my wish is — that you bring those other guys back here for company.”

Poof Poof!

***

And a Soviet-style joke that came to me ready-made, without the need for strikethroughs and interlineations:

A loyal Party Citizen in Chicago spends two days nonstop on his computer trying to get Obamacare coverage for his family.

When he finally succeeds and discovers the price of his premiums and copays, he is shocked and angry. He rushes out of his Park Avenue apartment and begins screaming at the top of his voice, “Obama is an incompetent idiot fascist!”

Immediately, an NSA satellite homes in on his location and a Department of Homeland Security SWAT team swoops down on him, tasering him into submission between rifle butts to the stomach and kidneys.

When the disgruntled Party Citizen wakes up on a gurney in the Obamacare hospital corridor, he is informed by the Local Party Boss that the recently remade U.S. Court System will charge him with two crimes.

“What are those”, he asks? ”

“Insulting our Dear Leader and revealing state secrets”, came the reply.

***

And another Soviet-style joke that came to me ready-made:

A visiting tourist stopped at the corner Moscow newsstand to purchase a paper. He sees that there are three choices. ”I can’t read Russian,” he confesses to the vendor, “I just want one as a souvenir.” He points to the largest stack of papers, unsold. ”Which one is this?”

“Oh, that’s Pravda”, the vendor says. ”But you don’t want that one.”

“Why not” asks the tourist.

“Because it does nothing but parrot the party line, and is filled with lies, half-lies, and deceptions,” the vendor explains. ”We refer to it as the ‘Russian New York Times’.”

Socialism always values propagandists over providers

I have a couple of high school friends on Facebook who grew up to become teachers.  They are relentless about posting daily materials highlighting the American teacher’s martyrdom.  If you relied on these posters alone, you’d think that being a teacher is the hardest job, with the lowest salary, in the world.

I am not unsympathetic to teachers.  My father was a teacher and, back in the day, he really did earn a low salary.  In 1987, after teaching in his school district for 25 years, my dad’s top salary was $23,000.  (Add just another thousand, and you can get Dan Savage to come and speak for an hour at your university.) I graduated from law school the same year, and with absolutely nothing to contribute to a big law firm, walked into a $55,000 salary.

Daddy worked extremely long days — but those hours weren’t because of  his teaching job, but because of the low salary.  His teaching day was from 8-3.  Grading homework added another couple of hours, for a regular eight-hour day.  The real hours came with the four extra hours of private tutoring he did every day to augment his meager salary.  Also, since he worked only eight months a year, he spent every summer hunting desperately for a mixture of summer school and private tutoring jobs, so that he could pay the mortgage and buy food for us.  In those days, California teachers earned a living wage provided one had no aspirations to be middle class.

Nowadays, teachers earn living wages appropriate to the middle class, and work eight hours a day, five days a week, eight months out of the year.  I don’t begrudge them that.  Theirs is a necessary, important, and beneficial job and, depending on the school, not always an easy one.  Those tasked with spending the majority of their time with our children should get paid a living wage.  But the martyrdom shtick is unseemly.

At National Review, Jason Richwine points out that this martyrdom shtick benefits them in intangible ways, and is the flip side of the disdain with which doctors are increasingly treated in our society.  This got me thinking about the fact that, in every society that socialized its medicine, doctor’s status instantly degraded.  This is true whether you’re looking at the Soviet Union, Cuba, England, Canada, France, or anywhere else.  This is true even though doctors have the longest education and apprenticeship of any job in America and, once they’re working, they truly hold our lives in their hands.  Likewise, in every socialized society, teachers’ status improves.  This is true despite the fact that their training places a moderate demand on their time and they don’t hold our lives in their hands.

Thinking about it, of course, this socialist inversion makes perfect sense.  Teachers produce the next generation of socialists; doctors cost money by saving the lives of old socialists who no longer contribute to the commune.  The relative values assigned these jobs in a socialist society has nothing to do with their contributions to the individual and everything to do with their contributions to the state.

Problems with Obamacare exchanges are a feature, not a bug

Avik Roy advances a very interesting theory about the disastrous Obamacare exchange.

First of all, you need to think about  how it works compared to other online shopping sites.  At all other sites, you find your product, and then you submit your information.  At Obamacare, you must submit your information before you’re allowed to go shopping for your product.  It’s this information demand that has made a poorly constructed design collapse under the weight of even a relatively small number of visitors.  So why was it built bass ackwards?  Because it’s not really a free market exchange.

Here’s the deal:  prices across the board have increased for insurance as insurers struggle to deal with the fact that they cannot scale prices depending on risk (which is, after all, what real insurance does) and because they are now required to offer a ton of services, whether consumers want to pay for them or not.  Congress knew that this would happen, but it didn’t care.  The real purpose behind Obamacare was to get the haves to pay for the have nots.  The haves will take the high prices and like them . . . or else.  But the have nots cannot be allowed to see the high prices lest they run away screaming.  The reality for them is that, as have nots, their increased prices will be subsidized — and then some — by the haves.  Everyone has to be fed into the system for this wealth transfer to work:

So, by analyzing your income first, if you qualify for heavy subsidies, the website can advertise those subsidies to you instead of just hitting you with Obamacare’s steep premiums. For example, the site could advertise plans that “$0″ or “$30″ instead of explaining that the plan really costs $200, and you’re getting a subsidy of $200 or $170. But you’ll have to be at or near the poverty line to gain subsidies of that size; most people will either not qualify for a subsidy, or qualify for a small one that, net-net, doesn’t make up for the law’s cost hikes.

This political objective—masking the true underlying cost of Obamacare’s insurance plans—far outweighed the operational objective of making the federal website work properly. Think about it the other way around. If the “Affordable Care Act” truly did make health insurance more affordable, there would be no need to hide these prices from the public.

Read the rest here.  And then, if you haven’t already, read Zombie’s post catching the SF Chronicle offering a remarkable piece of job advice.

Three degrees of separation

I enjoy reading my Liberal-Lefty friends’ Facebook posts because they are so insightful into the mindsets of the Left.

One insight that I have gained over time is that the differences between us conservatives and the Progressive/Left are so profound that they are unlikely to ever be bridged, barring some cataclysmic, life-changing events. What I have tried to do is understand why this is so. I share this with you because I greatly appreciate the insights that Bookworm group has to offer on such issues – be it “yay” or “nay”.

Our disagreements appear to come down to three levels of separation.

1) First, there are objective facts (OK, I am being deliberately redundant here). These are easy enough to resolve. Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock world has arrived: everybody is so overwhelmed with information that we can’t absorb and process all there is to know and we therefore choose our facts selectively.

As Ronald Reagan said, ““It isn’t so much that liberals are ignorant. It’s just that they know so many things that aren’t so.”

In discussions, factual disputes are easy enough to resolve: my typical response to Liberal /Lefties is simply tell them to “Google it”. Amazingly, many apparently don’t know that you can Google entire texts or sentences. A good example was the recent George Zimmerman trial…many people with whom I disagreed told me outright they were too busy to bother looking up facts. The Left operates on so many facts that just aren’t so.

2) The second level of separation involves our assumptions or premises. These are tougher to resolve, because we assume and presume events based on our past experiences. I suspect that we humans are hard-wired to build assumptions (true or false) as a defense mechanism: for example, my cave ancestors probably assumed that to allow a saber-tooth tiger to stand in their path was not a good thing and that such assumption is one reason why I stand here today.

We go through life building mental templates on how the world works in order to short-circuit decision making and evaluation. Otherwise, we would soon be overwhelmed with indecision. As long as our world templates work for us, we continue to hold onto them. Many formerly Liberals (e.g., David Horowitz, Bookworm) only became conservative when one or more events (e.g., 9/11) rendered their previously comfortable world views untenable. For me it was Reagan’s second term, when his policies led to the collapse of the Soviet Union and an economic resurgence. I, young man at the time, knew then that my Democrat world template had been very, very wrong.

I use the word “comfortable” deliberately, because our templates represent our comfort zones. Losing that comfort zone is terrifying. Imagine if all of a sudden nothing in the world made any sense to you; you would feel totally deracinated and quite possibly insane. You would also feel a deep sense of personal failure, as in “how in the world could I have been so deluded?”

And, the older you get, the more frightening that sense of loss, confusion and failure would be. So, the older we get, the more desperately we defend our mental templates, selecting and force-fitting “facts” to fit our own perceptions of reality. I believe this is where modern Liberalism and Progressivism are today (Google “Paul Krugman”). As Thomas Sowell put it, people of the Left expect the world to conform to their misperceptions. Eventually, however, reality hits like a 2 x 4 between the brow…as in “Detroit”.

I believe that this dynamic also explains the sheer viciousness expressed by many on the Left when the presumptions of their world templates are threatened (as by Sarah Palin or by black conservatives, for example). This is also the reason why I believe that world Islam will fail, because it doesn’t work and eventually people in Muslim worlds, aided by the internet, will eventually realize this (some of my Middle Eastern friends assure me that many already do). Reality is a harsh mistress.

This level of separation helps to explain why Liberals and Conservatives usually talk past each other. We try to rationalize our positions to each other, but our rationalizations only make sense if the other party shares the same assumptions and understandings of how the world works. We operate from completely different templates.

3) Faith. This the most difficult and potentially dangerous degree of separation, because it addresses fundamental values that are non-negotiable. Our “faith” defines how we perceive ourselves and our place in the world, irrespective of facts, logic and reason. I cannot, for example, “prove” the veracity of my Christian faith. Environmental extremists and atheists cannot “prove” the righteousness of their positions. We just “know” that what we believe to be true is true. There is no logical argument that I know of that can challenge faith-based values. Our values define who we are and how we perceive the world to be. Utopian fascist ideals (Progressivism, Nazism, communism, Islamism, etc.), for example, are defined by a faith in a future to come – they require no proof. Abortion is a similar issue of faith and values – there is no middle-of-the-road compromise if you believe abortion to be murder and that murder is wrong (a value proposition). Psychologists have claimed that only very powerful shocks to the system can challenge faith.

I have no dealing with the first degree of separation. I admit, however, that I am totally stumped on how to address (2) and (3). Any ideas?

The wages of socialism — mass murder

Ukrainian peasants starve to death in the streets, 1933

Last year, my friend Bruce Kesler, who blogs at a wonderful conservative group blog called Maggie’s Farm, directed me to a book called Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin. What makes this book different from other books about that era is that it doesn’t just examine the murderous years of WWII.  Instead, it also examines the carnage Hitler and Stalin wrought during the 1930s, in the lead-up to WWII.  It is an absolutely devastating book, describing the unimaginable scale of death that two socialist leaders — Stalin and Hitler — visited on the region between their two countries.

Although Hitler industrialized the killing machine, it was Stalin who created the model when he decided to destroy the Ukrainian kulaks (independent small farmers) who were standing in the way of his vision of a collectivized agrarian nation.  To achieve his goal, he brutally starved these farmers to death — 20 to 30 million of them.  Reading author Timothy Snyder’s description of their suffering is horrible — but it’s something that we need to read in order that we never forget how fundamentally evil socialism is.  The ones who really should read this book, of course, are American socialists, but sadly, they’re unlikely to do so.

If you can get a socialist to read Bloodlands, but he has still failed to learn his lesson about what happens when government — which lacks a conscience — decides that its job isn’t to enable individual freedom but is, instead, to control all people without regard to individualism, have him read Yang Jisheng’s book, Tombstone: The Great Chinese Famine, 1958-1962. Hard as it is to believe, Stalin and Hitler were just the warm-ups for Mao, the Chinese leader who, inspired by Stalin, may well hold the record for being the biggest mass murderer in human history.

Arthur Waldron, writing at The New Criterion reviews Jisheng’s book and his review shows that this is a must-read book for anyone who wants to understand why Leftists are fools when they’re frightened of corporations and, instead, want desperately to place control over every aspect of their lives in government hands.  It is impossible for a corporation to wreak the kind of havoc that socialist governments have visited upon their people.  The estimates for Mao’s killing fields during his “man-created disaster” range from 36 to 70 million.  (The higher number includes the babies that never got born to a starving population.)  As happened with Stalin’s socialist-created famine, people in dire straits did unspeakable things to survive, including cannibalism.  As Snyder said in his book (and I paraphrase), “an orphan was a child whose parents died before they ate him.”

When word of the Chinese famine got out, Mao blamed unspecified natural causes, and a credulous, Left-leaning, Walter Duranty-esque media dutifully passed this on.  It was a lie, of course.  There was nothing unusual about Chinese weather patterns from 1958-1962.  Moreover, even as the people died in the millions, food filled warehouses and party officials dined in style.

Jisheng knows firsthand about the famine:  alerted that something was wrong in his native rural area, he left the city with a rice ration, but arrived too late to save his father who, though alive, had become too starved to do anything but die.  When this happened, Jisheng accepted the party line and didn’t question the thousands of deaths in his area of rural China.  It was only during the mid-1960s Cultural Revolution, which saw many millions more die, that Jisheng began to realize that the problem wasn’t nature or farmers or people who needed re-education — it was Mao’s socialist policies, all of which officials throughout China unquestioningly accepted, either because they were true believers, because they were mindless party drones, or because they were afraid.

Although Jisheng’s book isn’t the first to tell about the famine, Waldron thinks it’s the best:

Tombstone, however, is without a doubt the definitive account—for now and probably for a long time. The Chinese original is two volumes and banned in that country. In Hong Kong it has sold out eight printings. The English version has been most skillfully shortened, edited, and rearranged by a team of Western and Chinese scholars, with an eye to making what is very much a massive compilation of statistics and reportage into a volume more accessible to the English-speaking reader.

This is a book whose importance must be compared with Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s Gulag Archipelago (1973) in that it documents beyond the possibility of refutation ghastly horrors that were first rumored, then denied, then written about a bit, but only with Solzhenitsyn and Yang were so thoroughly documented and analyzed as to place them beyond question.

You should read Waldron’s review and then, if you have the heart and stomach for it, read Jisheng’s book.

When socialism fails, as it invariably does, the American Left equally invariably claims that the failure isn’t because the plan was fundamentally flawed.  To socialists, the problem is always implementation and the culprit is always the Republicans who made it impossible for the Democrats fully to implement their plans.  Books such as Bloodlands and Tombstone remind us precisely what happens when the Left has unfettered access to a helpless population.  Every person in America should be thanking God for Republican foot-dragging, and should hope that they drag their feet ever harder and faster.

The Left uses sex to break up American families

I had an interesting conversation with my mother, who may be 90, but is still sharper than most people you’ll meet.  We got to talking about the Gosnell abortion/murder trial, which came as something of a surprise to her.  Despite the fact that she watches the news and reads the newspaper, she hadn’t heard a thing about it.  That wasn’t a surprise to me.

From there, the conversation wandered to the moral merits of abortion.  My Mom came of age in a time and place when abortion was neither approved of nor frowned upon.  It just existed.  In the turmoil after the war, when people were starving in cities decimated by fighting, having a baby seemed like an impossibility — and it could be a death sentence for both mother and child.  Nobody approved of abortion in war-torn streets, but they didn’t stop it either.

For that reason, it’s always been hard for my mother to understand the fervor Americans feel about abortion.  To her, it just . . . is.  (That’s probably the case for a lot of people who aren’t committed to one side or another of the abortion debate, which is why the media couldn’t risk the Gosnell trial coming into the open, in case it swayed indecisive people into the pro-Life column.)

While Mom couldn’t quite get the morality of abortion, I was able to get her to understand that the modern American state uses abortion to separate children from their families.  We’ve talked before here about the fact that, in California, youngsters under 16 or 18 can’t play paintball, get their ears pierced, or get a fake tan without a parents’ permission.  They can, however, get birth control, get abortions, and get treated for sexually transmitted diseases, all without a parents’ knowledge.  Putting aside the invitation to the worst kinds of child sex abuse, what’s happening here is that the state promises children the keys to the kingdom of pleasure.

Food and shelter are necessities.  Good food and good shelter are pleasures.  But sex . . . there’s the ultimate endorphin rush.  Mom and Dad, being mean, spiteful people, won’t let you have it, and they’ll give you Hell if there are consequences because you ignored their strictures.  The state, though, it puts no obstacles in your path.  Indeed, it helps you along with condoms, birth control pills, patches, and morning after pills.  If you get pregnant, you get the Morning After pill or an abortion, and if you get an STD, it gives you antibiotics — all without the knowledge or consent of the people who, in 90% of all cases care about you most in the world.

The Left claims that this legislated immorality is to protect young girls from abusive parents who will leave them homeless or beat them if they come home pregnant.  (Again, let’s ignore the fact that everything the Left does actually encourages the sexual abuse of children.)  Using an argument that focuses on an extreme minority, the Left has put us in a position that sees all girls and boys in America get to have free sex courtesy of the State.  The state has driven a wedge into the family unit, using the most potent endorphin driver available to motivate and reorient young people.

When I put it that way (as opposed to debating abortion’s morality), my mother suddenly sat up very straight, looked me straight in the eye, and said “But that’s socialism!”  I practically jumped up and down applauding that she had realized what was going on. It turned out there was a reason for her insight.

I’ve mentioned before that my Dad came from a Communist milieu and, while he eventually voted for Reagan, his sister remained a devoted Communist until the day she died.  Although she escaped Nazi Germany and eventually ended up in Palestine (and, after the War of Independence, in Israel), she decided that this young socialist state wasn’t properly committed to true Marxist socialism.  She therefore returned to East Germany, where she lived out the remainder of her life.

She was still living in Israel, though, when my Mom and Dad got married.  One day, when my Communist aunt was present, the subject of children came up.  Mom said that she wanted to wait until she had a nice home of her own and some security before she had children, so that she could have the joy and comfort of really raising her own family.  My aunt was shocked.  “No.  That’s wrong.  The children belong to the State.  You do not have the right to withhold them from the state, which should raise them.”

With this conversation living in her memory, my mother immediately understood the ramifications of a government severing the ties between parents and children.  In some places, such as Mao’s China, it uses coercion.  In America, it uses sex.  No matter the method, the goal is socialist.

Keeping in mind the above, it’s understandable why people who fear socialism (as I do) greeted with howls of outrage the MSNBC contributor who said quite clearly, “All your children are belong to us.”  Melissa Harris-Perry framed it cutely as it takes a village to raise a child, but that soft overlay covers pure, brute-force socialism.  Villages are voluntary communities that share values.  Homes are the ultimate refuge of the individual.  Socialism holds that individuals have no value, except to the extent that they provide bodies to power the socialist state:

Looking at classically liberal minds that can change, and “elite” minds that can’t

Karl Marx

Yesterday, Adam Carolla’s YouTube video about the human capacity to change inspired me to write a post about the metamorphosis I’ve seen in myself over the course of my lifetime.  What made the difference, of course, was living life, rather than just being (as all children are) a passive recipient of lessons from schools, family, and friends.

It turns out that Robert Avrech responded to Adam’s video in much the same way, writing a post about the changes he’s gone through, and how his life experiences made him question the knee-jerk Democrat leaning that was the mother’s milk of all American Jews.  (It wasn’t exactly the same way, of course, because Robert’s life has been different from mine and because Robert’s a much better writer than I am.  But still….  I flatter myself that great minds — or, in my case, pretty darn good minds — think alike.)

In his post, Robert includes a marvelous paragraph about those self-styled intellectual “elites” who don’t change, and who are locked forever in an immature ideological stasis (emphasis mine):

Yes, we eager students studied history, literature and art. But soon enough it became clear to me that a massive amount of time was spent on Marxist theory, a material view of the world. Still observant, still wearing a yarmulke, I would ask about religion, about the spirit. With deep condescension, my professors informed me that we live in a post-religious world. Religion, I was lectured, was the opiate of the people.

I wondered, but never had the courage to suggest, that perhaps Marxism was the opiate of the elites.

Hat tip:  Wolf Howling

It’s the culture

Nobody seems to want to admit it, but it’s our culture!

School shootings aren’t new. But, Americans have owned guns aplenty for more-than 200 years of nationhood and it seems that we’ve never had school shootings as we have experienced in the past few years. Neither has the rest of the modern world, but school, church and shopping mall attacks have been occurring even in countries with the strictest gun controls (e.g., Scotland, Germany, Norway, Japan). What has changed?

How about “that which must not be named”?

The old-guard leftists of the Frankfurter and Antonio Gramsci (you can “wiki” those names) school knew that to fundamentally remake society, you first had to destroy the church, society and the family. I would say Gramsci and Frankfurter school alumnae have had a pretty good success record.

Ever since LBJ’s 1960s “War on Poverty”, families have been disintegrating. It started with the most vulnerable (inner city blacks, where now 70% of children have no fathers) and has now spread to white, non-Hispanic families (close-to 30% of children born out of wedlock). Often, children in such families are left largely unsupervised, grow up without good male role models and enjoy ready access to the most depraved pornography, graphic violence, weapons, drugs and other vices through the internet and their peers, starting at a very young and formative age. One can try to prevent their kids’ access to this at home, but how does one prevent them from going down the street to a friends’ house?

I couldn’t help but notice that the first media reports of the shooter (whom I refuse to name and help make more famous) mentioned a mother but didn’t mention a father. Sure enough, the latest reports by a British news outlet, The Daily Mail, are of a boy traumatized by a three-year old divorce. Why did he single out his mother as the first victim? We may never know, but I suspect that the divorce may have had something to do with it. We are also learning that (surprise!) the shooter was a compulsive violent-video gamer.

Youth and adolescence are a time when kids should be learning communication skills and how to interact with adults and peers. Instead, too many kids appear to be devolving into lonely social outcasts and losers (a non-PC term I use for emphasis only). Throw in mental illness, they can become dangerous (the source of much of this mental illness is a worthy topic in and of itself…but think about what hours and hours of sitting in front of a screen does to the developing brain of a young child?). These are the years when their neuro linkages are being formed.

The mass media and punditry immediately started talking about this shooter’s “obvious” mental problems, thereby anointing him a member of “victim” class and providing absolution for his sins. I don’t buy any of it. I can understand someone crazed with rage shooting their mother in the heat of the moment, but the premeditation and time the shooter needed took to travel to a school after killing his own mother and destroying young kids’ lives in psychopathic cold blood point not mental illness but a willing pact made with evil. It is evil, pure and simple, nothing less. At one point, this shooter was confronted with a choice and he chose evil. Why did he make that choice? Here’s a thought:

What are the cultural messages that get hammered into young kids’ brains today? There is no reward in elevation, but there is reward in depravity. Our mass media hammers into their developing brains, over and over again, that to be depraved is to be “famous”, a powerful siren’s song for lonely outcast kids. These kids know that the quickest way to fame and even fortune is to act depraved and to be guaranteed that their depravity will be broadcast widely over the internet and throughout the global media. Some of them grow into mega stars (I’m thinking of Rapper culture, Madonna, Lady Gaga and Jerry Springers as just a few examples), further amplifying the siren’s song. The mass media, vigilantly on the lookout for breaking news 24/7, is complicit in this, for it is the internet and mass media that provide monsters their 15 minutes of fame. Remember that the next time you look at how our TV screens extol depravity. Btw, if you doubt me about just how depraved our culture has become, then Google [game kindergarten killer].

Sorry to have to use the word “depraved” of course. In our Gramsci-Frankfurter culture, such terms are soooooo judgmental and we don’t dare to be judgmental, do we? Why, other people might not like us, a sentence worse than death for too many adults that never outgrew their adolescence.

So what do we do about it? We can start by focusing on our own kids, knowing that our obligation as parents is not just to love them but to build them spiritually into good citizens and to armor them against the bad influences in our imperfect world. We can extend support to single parents, especially those trying to work jobs simply to survive, and we help provide guidance to their kids. These are the days when wolves stalk a land in which too many people have forgotten how to recognize wolves for what they are. And, if you decide to have children, get married and stay married, so that you can nurture, protect and educate your children into solid citizens together. My very brilliant spouse, a middle-school teacher, tells me that she can tell right away when her students’ families are trouble by the way that the kids lash-out in school. She has already lost too many of her former students to drugs and suicide.

Rely on our churches? Maybe, but so many have become such weak tea. My own Episcopal church…part of the Anglican Communion that produced such great theological thinkers and moral stalwarts as C.S. Lewis (our patron saint, in my view)…has been complicit in this. It is so terrified of being perceived as “uncool” that it doesn’t dare attack popular culture or elevate its members above the culture…unless, of course, it is a soft target, such as those really uncool, nagging, square conservatives (a minority group of which I count myself a proud member). The sad fact is that my church, sadly dominated at the top by Frankfurter-Gramsci disciples, spends far too much of its time and effort huffing and puffing to keep up with the latest social trends in its frantic effort to appear cool and contemporary while pushing its “social justice” agenda. I don’t recall my church’s leadership ever raising a peep of protest against the depravity of contemporary culture. Excuses, yes. Protests, no. Quite the opposite.

One of my FB friends just shared an electronic ad from our church’s head bishop that includes scatological epiphets to get the message across. Soooo, soooo cool! So with it! Some churches are great builders of spiritual armor. Not this one. It prefers to be complicit with a depraved culture. It follows, it does not have the courage to lead. You may ask, of course, why I don’t leave this church, so I will answer that: because it is precisely there that I am needed. There are many good people there. I and others do speak out and try to nurture and strengthen our children with spiritual armor.

Is the solution to force honest citizens to surrender their weapons? That is thinking with the heart rather than the head. I am so, so totally against this. The solution to an outbreak of wolves is not to defang the guard dogs. In this age of the wolf, we need more guard dogs, not less.

The Connecticut school shooting could have been stopped right away had there been one or more people on premise with guns, a circumstance that today would land any would-be guard dog in jail without passing “go”. Chances are that, had the shooter known that the school was protected, he would never have dared go there. The only real defense against a gun…is a gun. Mass murderers tend to be cowards that seek out soft, undefended targets like schools and churches. Guns, like drugs, will always be available to psychopaths, criminals and terrorists. If not guns, there are always knives, automobiles, poison gas, molotov cocktails or fertilizer bombs. Taking guns away from civilians only creates a larger pool of defenseless sheep available for slaughter. One of my FB friends also suggested that only government and police should have weapons. Scary thought. Look around the world today: now, that is one very scary thought. Government and law enforcement magnets for wolves. But, then, this is how people who have never had to confront wolves perceive the world. Like the Hobbits of the Shire, content to eat, drink and be merry, free of cares. But, reality eventually intrudes and we cannot magically “wish” wolves away into oblivion.

Finally, there is one particular aspect of this that really, really bothers me: young kids for decades have been getting gunned down, knifed, beaten to death, suffocated and raped in our inner cities. But, other than perfunctory hand-wringing, we never saw an outcry against this compared to what occurred after this most recent shooting in a well-to-do middle class community. Gee, what could the reason for this be? Yup, you’re right.

We won’t change what appears to be happening with increasing frequency to our society until we decide that we will stand up and dare to speak out against the increased depravity of our culture. Definitely “uncool”, but we must do it…for all families, for the kids and for our future. Otherwise, it can only continue to get much, much worse. It is the age of the wolf.

Is it the end of the world as we know it, or just a new phase in the battle for America’s soul?

I’ve had the same ten tabs open in Firefox this entire day.  I feel like a madman, trying to create order out of the chaos in my mind.  I’m convinced that there’s a thread tying together these articles, but I can’t figure out precisely what that thread is.  Maybe it’s just that each is another indicator that we’re starting to slide very quickly down some slippery slope, and I don’t think that we’re in for a soft landing.

Here are the articles, which I present in the order the presented themselves to me as I read through my normal websites and my email today.  If you can catch the elusive thread tying them together, please let me know.

***

I admire Jack Cashill greatly.  He’s a smart man and a superb investigator.  Nevertheless, I’ve long thought he had something of a bee in his bonnet with his insistence that TWA Flight 800 was anything more than a tragic disaster.  Now that I’ve had the dubious pleasure of watching the Obama administration work with the media to cover up events in Benghazi in order to salvage his reelection, however, I’m much more inclined to believe Cashill’s theory about the 1996 plane explosion — namely, that it was a terrorist attack, possibly of Iranian origination, and that Clinton and the media covered it up in order to secure his reelection.

***

I know this sounds callous, but I think that the only way to save America is to let Obama take it off the cliff.  Here’s my thinking regarding the “fiscal cliff” talks:  The Republicans have three choices:  (1) compromise; (2) stonewall; and (3) walk away.  If they compromise, they’ve lost, as a smugly victorious Obama clearly is not in a compromising mood.  He knows that, once the Republicans are a party to any economic plans, no matter how minimal or reluctant their participation, they will get the blame when things inevitably go wrong (or, in the unlikely event things go right, Obama will get all the credit). The Republicans will be irreparably smeared and become irrelevant.

If Republicans stonewall, the exact same thing will happen:  the media will blame them for anything that goes wrong, and give Obama credit for anything that might stay right.  And as this election showed, Americans listen to the media, despite knowing that it lies and conceals.

The only thing left for Republicans is to tell both Obama and the American voters, “The voters wanted Obama and his economic plans, so they shall get them.  We wash our hands of this.”  If things go well, then Republicans will have to accept that their policies are wrong.  If things go badly — and I suspect that they will, and quickly too — Republicans will finally have a convincing platform from which to sell true fiscal conservativism, rather than once again being enablers for Progressive profligacy. That platform, I believe, is the only thing that can return America to her status as a light of freedom and constitutional prosperity.

***

California health insurance rates are skyrocketing.  The usual suspects are blaming the insurance companies for having the temerity to want to earn enough money to pay their employees, pay-out to their insureds, and have money for stockholders (who are, after all, the ultimate owners of these companies).  You and I knew that this was inevitable under ObamaCare, since people no longer need to buy insurance when they’re healthy, but can wait until they’re sick.  And we knew that the media would blame the insurance companies — just as we know that, if there’s a single Republican fingerprint on any budget plan, the Republicans will get the entire blame for any failures.  Being a Progressive means never having to acknowledge that you’re culpable.

***

Speaking of the appalling, biased media, the IDF provides a detailed glimpse into the way the media and the Palestinians work hand-in-hand to destroy Israel, both in the battlefield and in the war for hearts and minds around the world.

***

It’s official:  Harvard will have a student society dedicated to S & M (that’s “sadism and masochism” for the innocents among you). Please remind me why Harvard is still considered a respectable educational institution, worth the millions of dollars taxpayers that send to it, both by funding direct federal grants and by picking up the costs of all the taxpayer-guaranteed loans its students conveniently forget to pay upon graduation.

***

Yes, Susan Rice is every bit as bad as you think she is — and it has nothing to do with her skin color and everything to do with her personality, political ideology, and ugly track record.

***

One of my high school friends calls himself a life-long conservative, something I did not know about him back in high school.  I think, though, that he could more accurately be summed up as a libertarian, since he is not at all a social conservative.  To that end, he’s expressed dismay with the increasingly high profile of fervently religious candidates in the Republican party.  He’s wondering if he can twist himself around to believe in the Democrat party, which he sees as non-religious.  I countered his concerns by sending him Dennis Prager’s article explaining that socialism is not just a religion, it’s currently the world’s most dynamic religion.  I recognize that the Republican party can be weak and pathetic, and that it is too often made up of RINOs or true ignoramuses who hide behind religion to excuse that ignorance.  Nevertheless, my friend needs to understand that the alternative is worse.

***

One of my long-time peeves (and one of the things that turned me to conservativism) is the way that Progressives mangled Title IX, which was, in relevant part, supposed to remove hurdles to women’s participation in college sports.  Equality of access?  It’s a good thing.  What Progressives have done, though, is to demand perfect equality of numbers.  Because college women have stubbornly refused to participate in college athletics at the same rate as college men, the only way to achieve this artificial parity is to slash men’s athletic programs.  James Taranto explains here, and makes us fully aware of yet another travesty inflicted on America thanks to Progressive politics.

***

And finally, it wasn’t your imagination that, for the first time in America, the 2012 election was openly predicated upon socialist class warfare. Just to make it official, a top Democrat political action group (conveniently working with George Soros funds) has started a website explicitly dedicated to class warfare.

***

So, was I right?  Is the common thread to these links the dissolution of America at every level?

I’m sorry if I sound bipolar.  Yesterday I was enthusing about the possibility of an American Margaret Thatcher and today I’m talking about imminent Armageddon.  The latter is how I feel; the former is how I want to feel.

In any event, I’m not sure one can ever fight a battle unless one simultaneously fears the opponent and feels optimistic about ones own abilities. In other words, success requires an honest assessment of the forces arrayed against you, as well as the belief that it is possible to prevail.  Without that belief, why bother to fight?

Found it on Facebook — Socialism versus Capitalism

In an earlier post, I ranted about the nasty vapidity that characterizes the “posters” my liberal friends put up on Facebook whenever an election draws near.  I also mentioned that my conservative friends consistently post more substantive articles and images.  This one, from my brother-in-law, manages to be both pithy and substantive.  It packs a world of ideas into a picture and two sentences:

I don’t know that I’ve ever seen anything before that so clearly distinguishes the fundamental differences in the premises from which socialists and capitalists operate when they make their political arguments.  This poster provides a perfect visual to Winston Churchill’s own epigrammatic statement that “The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.”

The most fervent believers in a free society are those who lived behind the Iron Curtain

Case in point:

Here’s the biographical information Peterffy included with the video, which he plans to spend several million dollars running in swing states:

Thomas Peterffy grew up in socialist Hungary. Despite the fact that he could not speak English when he immigrated to the United States in 1956, Thomas fulfilled the American dream. With hard work and dedication, he started a business that today employs thousands of people. In the 1970s, Thomas bought a seat on the American Stock Exchange. He played a key role in developing the electronic trading of securities and is the founder of Interactive Brokers, an online discount brokerage firm with offices all over the world.