A short, sweet Easter afternoon round-up and Open Thread

Victorian posy of pansiesIt’s Easter Sunday, and that means all family all the time.  No complaints here, though.  It’s been a lovely day so far and I anticipate an equally pleasant afternoon and evening.  Full blogging will not happen today, but here are a few (a very few) links that intrigued me:

I’ve long known in a vague sort of way that Egypt is one grain of wheat away from a famine.  Having read David Archibald’s article, though, I now know in a very specific way precisely what kind of famine may be facing the world’s most populous Muslim nation.  While the Western world seems to have managed to stay one step ahead of Malthus, that’s not the case in Egypt, where bad things — overpopulation, underproduction, lack of diversification, political upheaval, and probable drought — are coming together to create a Perfect Storm of advanced hunger.

***

One of my favorite non-fiction books is Thomas Cahill’s The Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels. In authoring the book, Cahill has no ego. To the extent that he’s vastly well-informed, he wants to share his knowledge with people, not overwhelm them with his erudition. The result is a book that is simultaneously scholarly and accessible. I mentioned it here because Shmuley Boteach has written what could be the short version of that same book, describing how the Jews have contributed to the world’s well-being.

***

Two very specific things in the early 1980s taught me that socialism cannot work. The first was the fact that, when my father visited his sister in East Germany, shortly after she retired from her decade’s long career as a high level Communist Party functionary, he discovered that she had lived for nine years with a broken and unusable kitchen sink. Not to worry, this true believer told my father.  She was “on the list” and was confident that the glorious Communist Party would one day get around to fixing her sink.  I suspect that it was still broken when the wall came down.

The second thing that taught me that socialism cannot work was the story of two hip replacements. Back in 1974, my father got his hip replacement two months or so after he was told that it was the only way to keep him from spending the rest of his life in a wheelchair. He walked, albeit with pain for the next twenty years of his life, until his death.

Meanwhile, in 1981, while I was living in England, I met a woman who had been told back in 1979 that a hip replacement was the only thing that would keep her out of a wheelchair. When I met her, she’d been barely functioning for two years, although she’d avoided the wheelchair. After I left, she went into the wheelchair. I lost contact with her about two years after a left England (i.e., four years after the referral for hip surgery), at which time she was still in that wheelchair. I don’t know whether she ever got that hip.

Keep those realities in mind when you read about Sweden’s socialized medicine, which works wonderfully only if you live long enough to benefit from it.

***

The DiploMad may not be in the State Department any more, but he has friends who are. He’s learned from these friends that the State Department has a new initiative to ensure that something like Benghazi never happens again. Let me just say that I’m with the DiploMad in thinking that the movers and shakers in State are delusional — and to despair that they’re pursuing their delusions using our dollars and American lives.

***

A lawyer friend of mine is brilliant, informed, and an incredibly good writer.  I hope those are adequate reasons for you to check out his post about the Free Speech (and Association) implications of the attack on Brendan Eich.

Jonah Goldberg offers an interesting take on the Left’s escalating hunt for heretics

People_burned_as_hereticsPart of the Left’s ongoing hunt for heretics arises for a simple, pragmatic reason: it ensures that people with opposing views keep their mouths shut. That pragmatic fact, though, doesn’t mean that there isn’t an additional emotional layer giving real satisfaction to the troops who carry out the elite’s marching orders. Jonah Goldberg, who has spent a lot of time thinking about liberal pieties, offers this interesting take on the Left’s recent escalation of its witchhunts:

But while I was prepping for the speech, I read some reviews of Jody [Joseph] Bottum’s new book (which I’ve now ordered). In, An Anxious Age: The Post-Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of America, Bottum argues that today’s liberal elites are the same liberal elites that we’ve always had. They come from the ranks of mainline Protestants that have run this country for generations (with some fellow-travelling Jews and Catholics, to be sure). But there’s a hitch. They champion a

social gospel, without the gospel. For all of them, the sole proof of redemption is the holding of a proper sense of social ills. The only available confidence about their salvation, as something superadded to experience, is the self-esteem that comes with feeling they oppose the social evils of bigotry and power and the groupthink of the mob.

This strikes me as pretty close to exactly right. They’re still elitist moralizers but without the religious doctrine. In place of religious experience, they take their spiritual sustenance from self-satisfaction, often smug self-satisfaction.

One problem with most (but not all) political religions is that they tend to convince themselves that their one true faith is simply the Truth. Marxists believed in “scientific socialism” and all that jazz. Liberalism is still convinced that it is the sole legitimate worldview of the “reality-based community.”

There’s a second problem with political religions, though. When reality stops cooperating with the faith, someone must get the blame, and it can never be the faith itself. And this is where the hunt for heretics within and without begins.

Think about what connects so many of the controversies today: Mozilla’s defenestration of Brendan Eich, Brandeis’ disinviting of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the IRS scandal, Hobby Lobby, Sisters of Mercy, the notion climate skeptics should be put in cages, the obsession with the Koch brothers, not to mention the metronomic succession of assclownery on college campuses. They’re all about either the hunting of heretics and dissidents or the desire to force adherence to the One True Faith.

It’s worth noting that the increase in these sorts of incidents is not necessarily a sign of liberalism’s strength. They’re arguably the result of a crisis of confidence.

To use a household analogy, I point out to my children that those of their peers who are happy and self-confident never bully people. Instead, they bring people in. Indeed, oone of my daughter’s friends is the perfect example of this, a sunny soul whose very real popularity rests on the fact that it’s a pleasure to be in his company. It’s only unhappy, self-doubting people who take it upon themselves to make other people’s lives miserable.

In the world of school, I tell my children (a) these kids are more to be pity than censured; but (b) to stay away from them. In the real world, I hope I’m still big enough to pity the anger, fear, and self-loathing that drives the Left but, to the extent they make it impossible to stay away from their reach, they need to be confronted and their policies destroyed.

We don’t have a “gay mafia,” we have a “gay Soviet”

Gay StalinI’m not a Bill Maher fan, but he occasionally shows an intellectual honesty that makes it worthwhile to keep an eye on him.  Last week, he exposed Leftist hypocrisy about racism, when he got Leftist guests to denounce “racist” pronouncements from Paul Ryan, only to reveal that he was quoting Michelle Obama.

On Friday, in the wake of the Mozilla scandal (firing its brilliant and effective CEO for the fact that, in 2008, he supported the same view of marriage that Obama and the Clintons claimed to support), Maher once again went off the reservation.  In discussing the furor against Eich, he came out with what must be, to the Left, an unpleasant truth about the strain of thuggery that runs through the gay professional class:

During the online-only post-show segment, Maher, 58, asked his panel of contributors about their thoughts on the tech wizard’s decision to step down as Mozilla’s CEO after facing backlash for supporting a California same-sex marriage ban effort in 2008.

“I think there is a gay mafia,” Maher said. “I think if you cross them, you do get whacked. I really do.”

Let me add some specificity to Maher’s thought.  We already know that organized ideological thuggery took Eich down, but I’d like to focus on the mentality that drove the anti-heretic hunt.  CNET, which covers the tech world, has a post about the Eich resignation.  What struck me about the CNET article was a comment from the man who started it all — a man who said that, if only Eich had announced that the re-education had been successful and then kept his mouth shut, then everything would have been okay (emphasis mine):

The wildfire that brought Eich down was sparked in part by Rarebit developers Hampton Catlin and Michael Lintorn Catlin, who as married gay men took Eich’s politics very personally, removed their app from the Mozilla Marketplace, and called for Eich to apologize or resign.

Hampton Catlin on Thursday, though, called Eich’s resignation “the worst kind of victory.”

“We never expected this to get as big as it has, and we never expected that Brendan wouldn’t make a simple statement. I met with Brendan and asked him to just apologize for the discrimination under the law that we faced. He can still keep his personal beliefs, but I wanted him to recognize that we faced real issues with immigration [sic] and say that he never intended to cause people problems,” Catlin said in a blog post Thursday. “It’s heartbreaking to us that he was unwilling to say even that.”

Translated:  If only Eich had recanted, publicly apologized for all gay suffering throughout America (because up until a decade ago, no one had even thought of gay marriage), and then kept his mouth shut , our kapos would have released him from the gulag and given him tacit permission to hold his beliefs, as long as he never acts on them in any way in the future.

Keep Catlin in mind as I walk you back about 70 years in time, to the mid-20th century in the Soviet Union at the height of the Cold War.  Boris Pasternak, a truly courageous intellectual (unlike America’s modern “intellectuals” who march in lockstep with the powers that be), lived his life with incredible bravery under Soviet tyranny.  That bravery included writing Dr. Zhivagoan indictment of the Soviet system.  The Soviets, naturally, refused to publish the book, but it did get published in Italy and, from there, spread throughout the West.

The CIA, in one of its more intelligent moves, decided to smuggle the book right back into the Soviet Union believing, correctly, that it would enable Soviet citizens to see what their government withheld from them, both in terms of reading material and in terms of a free society centered on the individual, not the state.

That’s a fascinating piece of Cold War history, isn’t it?  I know about it because the WaPo has written an article about the CIA’s Zhivago operation.  And in the WaPo article, I found this (emphasis mine):

In Washington, Soviet experts quickly saw why Moscow loathed “Doctor Zhivago.”

In a memo in July 1958, John Maury, the Soviet Russia Division chief, wrote that the book was a clear threat to the worldview the Kremlin was determined to present.

“Pasternak’s humanistic message — that every person is entitled to a private life and deserves respect as a human being, irrespective of the extent of his political loyalty or contribution to the state — poses a fundamental challenge to the Soviet ethic of sacrifice of the individual to the Communist system,” he wrote.

Once, we were a country that used its government to advance the notion that “that every person is entitled to a private life and deserves respect as a human being, irrespective of the extent of his political loyalty or contribution to the state.”  Now, we’re a Soviet nation, in which private citizens are told that they must publicly recant their heresies or be destroyed.

So, while Maher’s on the right track, he picked the wrong organization.  Yes, there’s thuggery involved, which is a mafia tactic.  But unlike the mafia, which was just in it for the money, the new Soviet is in it to subordinate the individual and his beliefs entirely to the will of the Leftist state.

Nor is this thuggery a fringe movement.  While I am very honored here at the Bookworm Room to have gay readers who understand that the safest place for all individuals (regardless of race, color, creed, gender indentification, sexual orientation, etc.) is in a nation that leaves the individual alone, I can tell you that every one of my Leftist friends on my “real me” Facebook, gay or straight, applauds the gay Soviet’s successful thuggery against Eich.  These Facebook friends are, without exception, affluent, educated, successful, and vocal, and they think it’s a great thing that a productive man who has never once been accused of fomenting any discrimination in the workplace was the target of an attack aimed at destroying his livelihood.

This time, it was the non-governmental Leftist collective that acted, but you know they were thinking how much better it would be if they could just outlaw opposing thought. Why convince someone that your position has merit when you can more easily destroy them, which has the useful feature of sending a strong message to any other heretics out there?

Let me end this post as I always do:  I think the state should get out of the marriage business, leaving it for religious and private organizations to determine what meshes with their doctrine and values.  The state should recognize civil unions in whatever way the state believes will best suit its ends.  And when I speak of the state, I don’t speak of a grand Soviet, centralized state, run by Barack Obama, Valerie Jarrett, and Eric Holder.  I mean the state speaking through the ballot box, both in direct citizen initiatives and through elected representatives.

Traditionally, the state’s ends included children and economic stability.  In a greenie run world, where humans are the devil, maybe the state would do best to encourage only those unions that are incapable of producing even more environmentally destructive children.  Then, it’ll be the heterosexuals struggling for legal recognition of their evil child-producing mating.

No more Firefox for me — I don’t do business with fascists

Firefox logoAs of today, I am no longer a Firefox user.  I think that, after you read about Brendan Eich’s travails, you’ll agree that you don’t want to be a Firefox user anymore either.

Back in 2008, when Prop. 8 was on the ballot asking California voters to legalize gay marriage, Mozilla co-founder and CEO Brendan Eich donated $1,000 to support traditional marriage.  Keep in  mind that, at the time Eich did this, President Barack Obama was on record supporting traditional marriage, a position he switched only after he’d secured his second term in the White House.

The same-sex marriage tyrants, having gotten hold of this information, didn’t waste their time doing something as enlightened as persuading Eich (as Obama was apparently persuaded) that his attitude was on the wrong side of history.  Instead, they did to him what they didn’t do to Obama:  they forced him to leave his company.  They destroyed his livelihood.  They abandoned reasoned debate in favor of thuggish tactics.

I’ve been unhappy with Firefox for awhile because it crashes constantly.  Inertia, however, kept me with it.  Today, hearing about the totalitarian attack on Eich for his temerity in supporting marriage as it has been understood since the dawn of human kind (man, equipped with tab A, ready to mate before God and civil society with woman, equipped with slot B), put an end to that inertia.  I’ve deleted Firefox from my hard drive.

I’m currently operating in Chrome.  I fully understand that the Google guys are also to the left of Left, but at least they haven’t (yet) destroyed someone’s life work for daring to support the same position that the whole world, through all of history, supported up until a few years ago, and that Obama either supported or lied about supporting up until only two years ago.

If you have suggestions for a good browser that doesn’t carry with it a totalitarian streak, please let me know.