The Bookworm Beat 1-31-15 — the mammoth Saturday edition

Woman writingAfter a few days of what a doctor friend of mine calls the “crud” (it’s not the flu, thank goodness, but you still feel lousy), I’m finally starting to feel like myself again. More importantly, my energy is returning and with energy comes blogging. While I couldn’t rouse myself to write for the last few days, that didn’t stop me from collecting a few — well, not really a few, but a lot of — links to share with you.

If you’re enjoying a relaxing Saturday afternoon/evening . . . well, I was going to say that if you were relaxing, you could then enjoy reading this post. But honestly, so much of what’s in this post is depressing that it will just ruin your relaxation. Here’s the truth: If you’re miserable and want to stay that way, or are feeling relaxed to the point of inertia and want to get your stress going, then you should feel free to read this mammoth Saturday edition of the Bookworm Beat.

How to handle Marine haters

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about seeing an interesting by-play in Marin, when a Marine temporarily left his dress blue cover behind in a coffee shop. While the barristas didn’t know whether to fear or respect the cover, one guy knew what it was: a baby-killer’s headgear. He raved for a few seconds, and then fell silent. Rather typically for me, since I’m both cowardly and suffer terribly from l’esprit de l’escalier, I just sat there — and then I blogged about it.

America’s Sergeant Major read my post and he got to thinking about a Marine’s proper response when he’s in the presence of someone who is definitely a little bit off (although not raving mad), and who spouts ugly Leftist platitudes about the Corps. As I did, the Sgt. Major understands that, if the person is truly delusional, reasoning will not work. But if you’re a Marine, and the person isn’t manifestly mentally ill in a way that deserves sympathy (and the coffee shop guy was off, not ill), there’s still something you can say. Although I’d use a softer touch, I like the tactic.

It’s so simple, so very simple, that only a child can do it

If you’re paying attention, you’ve recognized the source for my squiblet caption, above. It’s from Tom Lehrer’s wonderful “New Math,” which describes an approach to mathematics that’s so simple that educated people are totally flummoxed and only a child can do it. What I’m about to describe isn’t quite on point, but it’s close enough that I couldn’t resist quoting the song lyric.

So why is the lyric almost on point? Because it turns out that all those incredibly complicated computer models proving global warming are way too complicated. And because they’re way too complicated, they’re consistently wrong. Instead, an extreme simple climate model, one that can be run on a pocket calculator, proves to be infinitely more accurate. Further, this type of accuracy reveals that — da-dum! — the complicated models vastly overstated the warming trend.

What’s that expression I’m thinking of? Oh, I know. Garbage in, garbage out.

Michael Medved on Obama’s entirely new tactic as a lame duck

Michael Medved (who I hope has a swift and total recovery from cancer) had something very important to say about Obama’s approach to being a lame duck. The media likes to say he’s doubling down, as if he’s doing more of the same things he did in the first six years of his presidency. That, however, is not the case:

It’s worth, however, considering the official definition of “doubling down” in the ever-popular game of Black Jack. When you double down, you hold the cards you have, double your bet, and limit yourself to just one new card. But in his utterly tone-deaf State of the Union, Obama dealt himself virtually all new cards, raising issues he and his party never even bothered to raise in the recent campaign. A mammoth tax hike of $320 billion? Which Democrat in 2014 campaigned on that sweetheart of an idea? A big new entitlement of free community college for those with C averages? An aggressive federal takeover of virtually all student loan programs, even beginning to assess yearly taxes on previously sheltered accounts parents set up for their own kids? How does that help the striving middle class?

Not only are the above ideas distinct from his previous practices, he never mentioned them in any election cycle, including the most recent one. This, says Medved, is a toxic form of undemocratic politics:

In other words, all of the president’s “bold” new initiatives – including a deeply ill-advised land grab of productive oil fields in Alaska, just announced – never received a healthy public debate in the rough-and-tumble of a fiercely fought political season. So President Obama in no way is “doubling down” – an attractive phrase that suggests precisely the sort of consistency and confidence, the sort of deep commitment to core principles that transcend shifting issues of the day, that the feckless Leader of the Free World so sorely lacks. Obama’s not raising his bet on just one more card- he’s asking for a whole new stacked deck with cards that he’s never even tried to deal before.

Why I am not a libertarian

There are so many things to like at It’s got sharp economic analyses, astute social observations, some good investigative reporting, a commitment to small government at home, and some funny stuff from Remy:

But then Reason has to go and ruin it all by exposing the ugly side of modern libertarianism, which is the fact that, when it comes to national defense and the military, it is indistinguishable from the far Left, and can, at times, run remarkably close to the Michael Moore mantra. Freedom at home is meaningless if we cannot defend ourselves from foreign attackers.

After Maetenloch caught sight of that icky Reason post about Chris Kyle, he had some things of his own to say about libertarians:

And reason #12 why I’m not a Libertarian.

I believe it was Mark Steyn who once described Libertarianism as 9 pounds of delicious ice cream and 1 pound of feces mixed in a 10 lb container. And unfortunately that one pound of caca has a quality (and quantity) all its own that swamps the other flavors. Because the great turd in the Libertarian punchbowl has always been their foreign policy views which are functionally the same as the far Left’s.

Now in theory there are all kinds of differences and distinctions between the two – but in practice most Libertarians have bought into the blame-America-first, war-never-solved-anything, the-world-will-leave-us-alone-if-we-leave-them-alone but-we-still-totally-support-the-troops views of the left. Which means that when you drill down to actual policies relating to actual foreign policy issues, the views of most Libertarians are simpatico with the views of ANSWER.

If you disagree, just go read this article (ignoring all the factual errors and omissions) and then ask yourself whether this article could have been comfortably published in say Mother Jones or the Guardian. That will tell where the real home of Libertarian foreign policy lies. (Thanks to BenK for the link)

Political correctness in the news

There’s been a great deal of talk, from both Progressives and conservatives, about Jonathan Chait’s sudden discovery that political correctness is, in fact, censorship. On the Left, they’re using PC-approved and tested ad hominem attacks to silence him. Conservatives are more nuanced. They’re pointing out that Chait is mostly correct, but the fact is that he’s got his knickers in a twist only because he’s suddenly become the target of those even more radically PC than he is. In fact, Chait has routinely used ad hominem attacks slandering conservative writers, speakers, and political figures in order to shut them down without having to engage with their ideas at a substantive level. It takes some chutzpah to loudly denounce a tactic in which you routinely engage.

Anyway, I wanted to take a few minutes to share here some of my favorite posts about the Chait article, the bulk of which, interestingly enough, originate with NRO writers:

Ed Driscoll examines the pure Leftism that lies behind political correctness. It’s not, as I naively thought in the 1980s, a substitute for manners after traditional Emily Post style manners died in the 1960s. It is, instead, a form of thought and speech control.

Kevin Williamson does as good a job as anyone pointing out Chait’s double standard.

Charles C. W. Cooke has fun watching with the whole PC concept and has some useful suggestions for responses when a PC-er tries to shut you down. So useful, in fact, that I’ll quote them here:

Indeed, one has to wonder how long it will be before a more substantial backlash begins. “I am out of ideas,” the socialist blogger Freddie DeBoer admitted yesterday afternoon, before inquiring rhetorically what he is supposed to conclude when he sees so “many good, impressionable young people run screaming from left-wing politics because they are excoriated the first second they step mildly out of line?” Among the things that DeBoer claims lately to “have seen, with my own two eyes,” are a white woman running from a classroom simply because she used the word “disabled”; a black man being ostracized for suggesting that there is “such a thing as innate gender differences”; and a Hispanic Iraq War veteran “being berated” for using the phrase “man up.” Worse for him and his interests, perhaps, DeBoer also claims to have under his belt “many more depressing stories of good people pushed out and marginalized in left-wing circles because they didn’t use the proper set of social and class signals to satisfy the world of intersectional politics.” What, he asks in exasperation, is he supposed to say to them?

I have a few suggestions here. How about, “Stop bullying my students with your nonsense, you insufferable prigs?” Or, “This is a place of learning, not a witch trial, and we do not treat people like that here. Capiche?” Or, “If you can’t tolerate people who don’t agree with you, why are you engaging in argument at all?”

I need to practice those suggested responses. As I pointed out at the top of this post, I always end stuck with terminal l’esprit de l’escalier.

Even as some Leftists figuring out that there’s a problem, our gelded military is still bowing down hard at the PC altar. The latest example is its decision to remove the phrase “a chink in ones armor” (or any variations) because the word “chink” has been used as a derogatory term for Asians.

Who cares that the phrase is an ancient one that has nothing to do with Asians and is peculiarly appropriate in the military context? Someone’s wittle feewings got huwted, so the Big Bad Army backed down. We’re raising a generation that not only will not be able to fight the ISIS terrorists of the world, but will retreat in tears if ISIS even looks at them funny.

Lastly, apropos the Army’s humiliating retreat in the face of scary words, Jonah Goldberg points out that, once you set up a relativistic standard focused on whose feelings are hurt worst, you’re always going to find yourself forced to back down. After describing the “con” behind political correctness (pretending to pragmatism when you’re really avoiding argument in favor of name-calling), he says this:

Among the problems with this con is the fact that it leaves liberalism almost completely defenseless against the exact same kind of argument when it sneaks up on it from the Left. That’s what’s so hilarious about the attack on Marx as just another marcher in the long parade of the pale-penis people. For generations, liberals saw things primarily through an economic lens. And from that perspective, Marx wasn’t part of the problem bequeathed to us by the DWEMs (Dead White European Males); he was part of the solution. But now that race and gender trump economics, he’s being reassigned to the same dustbin of history along with Plato and Shakespeare.

It’s amazing. We spent a century trying to explain to the Left why Marx was wrong. It just never occurred to us to try “He’s a white guy!” It should have been obvious. It’s like we spent hours trying to hack their computer and then suddenly someone suggests trying “password” as the password — and voila.

After that last “voila,” I would append “and voila! — you suddenly have the entire American Army in retreat.

The ne plus ultra in PC-ness

I am proud to say that my alma mater, UC Berkeley, may have one-upped Mt. Holyoke when it comes to PC madness. Mt. Holyoke, as you undoubtedly recall, canceled its annual Passion play (aka The Vagina Monologues) because it might prove offensive to women without vaginas. (You and I usually call these “women without vaginas” men.)

Two Berkeley students got together and wrote what may be the most stupid opinion piece ever, even for a Leftist publication such as UCB’s Daily California. These special snowflakes were shocked beyond bearing to discover that their seminar on classical social theory focused solely on — you better hold on to something right about now, lest you fall over with shock — dead white males. Never mind that these dead white males were, in fact, classical social theorists. This was racism, sexism, heteronormativism, and any other rank right-wing conservative conspiracy -ism you can think of.

No! Stop laughing.  Come on! Please! I am not making this up:

We are calling for an occupation of syllabi in the social sciences and humanities. This call to action was instigated by our experience last semester as students in an upper-division course on classical social theory. Grades were based primarily on multiple-choice quizzes on assigned readings. The course syllabus employed a standardized canon of theory that began with Plato and Aristotle, then jumped to modern philosophers: Hobbes, Locke, Hegel, Marx, Weber and Foucault, all of whom are white men. The syllabus did not include a single woman or person of color.

We have major concerns about social theory courses in which white men are the only authors assigned. These courses pretend that a minuscule fraction of humanity — economically privileged white males from five imperial countries (England, France, Germany, Italy and the United States) — are the only people to produce valid knowledge about the world. This is absurd. The white male syllabus excludes all knowledge produced outside this standardized canon, silencing the perspectives of the other 99 percent of humanity.

The white male canon is not sufficient for theorizing the lives of marginalized people. None of the thinkers we studied in this course had a robust analysis of gender or racial oppression. They did not even engage with the enduring legacies of European colonial expansion, the enslavement of black people and the genocide of indigenous people in the Americas. Mentions of race and gender in the white male canon are at best incomplete and at worst racist and sexist. We were required to read Hegel on the “Oriental realm” and Marx on the “Asiatic mode of production,” but not a single author from Asia. We were required to read Weber on the patriarchy, but not a single feminist author. The standardized canon is obsolete: Any introduction to social theory that aims to be relevant to today’s problems must, at the very least, address gender and racial oppression.

The last time I saw such lardy Marxist cant was when I re-read the delightful Don Camillo series. Giovannino Guareschi had a good ear for mocking meaningless socialist catch-phrases. Sadly, I think these students — who managed to be admitted to the nation’s top public university — were not mocking anything at all. This is the prism and the vocabulary through which they see the world.

Coulter and Walker take on American higher education

Romney is a decent man, and would have been a better president than Obama. He’s also a RINO, a statist, and a man desperate to be liked. He might not have dragged America down, but he would not have raised her up. I’m thankful that he decided not to run. His money could have done a lot of damage to the primary process.

With Romney out, I continue to like Scott Walker best from the field. He has executive experience, backbone, and no college education. Speaking of which….

Scott Walker had a lovely proposal when it comes to tuition cuts, which are always met with horror on the Left. Perhaps, he said, professors should actually work harder to justify the salaries they earn (and those salaries are outrageous, especially when one considers the Marxism that permeates academia.):

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, defending proposed budget cuts for higher education, took a swipe at university professors who he said could be “teaching more classes and doing more work.”

“Maybe it’s time for faculty and staff to start thinking about teaching more classes and doing more work and this authority frees up the [University of Wisconsin] administration to make those sorts of requests,” Walker (R) said Wednesday on Milwaukee radio station WTMJ.

If you’re interested in the scam going on at America’s colleges and universities, you should check out Christopher Sykes’ PROF SCAM: PROFESSORS AND THE DEMISE OF HIGHER EDUCATION. It’s from the 1990s, but the principles are the same, even as the problems he described have gotten much, much worse.

And then there’s Ann Coulter…. The larcenous part of me simply wants to re-print her entire column here. I won’t, but I will offer you some enticements to click over and read the whole thing:

The GOP needs to hold tobacco company-style hearings, hauling in the presidents of various universities and asking them to justify their multimillion-dollar salaries.

We want professors explaining, under penalty of perjury, exactly how much they make per hour for their rigorous schedules of two classes a week, summers off, and full-year “sabbaticals” every few terms.

Also, we’d like to know how driving the getaway car for a cop-killer constitutes a qualification to teach college.


Other than engineers, economists and quarterbacks, no one acquires any marketable knowledge at college. The sole purpose of a degree is to function as a substitute IQ test. If employers were allowed to give applicants 15-minute intelligence tests, they’d have the exact same information as knowing what college a person attended.

But they can’t do that, so families have to spend a quarter of a million dollars to give their kids the parchment equivalent of an IQ score. High school kids who get into good schools should present employers with their college acceptance letters and skip the going-to-college part.

The first time I read that, I ended up standing on my office chair singing The Star-Spangled Banner. Hurrah! If Ann’s rules were put in play, professors such as this one would quickly find themselves in the unemployment line (or in an ISIS brigade).

Obama’s actions are antisemitic

We don’t have to say Obama’s antisemitic; we just have to ask whether an antisemitic president would have done anything different from what Obama is doing. Peter Wehner does an excellent job explaining:

No world leader has been treated by President Obama and his administration with the contempt they have shown Prime Minister Netanyahu–from this snub in 2010 to being called a “coward” and “chickens*** prime minister” by senior administration officials.

But the problem goes much deeper than a personality clash. President Obama is, quite simply, anti-Israel. In every conceivable situation and circumstance, the president and his aides give the benefit of the doubt not to Israel but to its enemies. This despite the fact that Israel is among America’s longest and best allies, democratic, lawful, takes exquisite steps to prevent civilian deaths in nations committed to destroying it, and has made extraordinary sacrifices for peace. No matter; the pressure that’s applied is always applied most against Israel–even when, as in last year’s conflict with Hamas, Israel was the victim of lethal attacks.

This is morally shameful. In a world filled with despotic leaders and sadistic and ruthless regimes–North Korea, Iran, Syria, Cuba, Eritrea, Sudan, Somalia, and on and on–which nation alone does Mr. Obama become “enraged” at? Which is the object of his disdain? Which provokes his white-hot anger?

Oh, and for those who say that there’s a difference between antisemitism and being anti-Israeli, there isn’t. Questioning Israel’s fiscal policy or agricultural subsidies is anti-Israeli. Trying to destroy Israel’s right to exist is antisemitic:

Dry Bones on new and old antisemitism

A new entrant in the list of dastardly things Obama has done to Netanyahu

Here’s another thing to add to the list of Obama’s dastardly attacks against Netanyahu. Obama had people, even Israel’s staunch friends, questioning whether it was a smart idea for Netanyahu and Boehner to bypass the White House with regard to the invitation for Netanyahu to speak to the House.  Once Netanyahu accepted, that gave Obama a cudgel with which to beat Israel.

Well, it turns out that this whole “they didn’t ask first” thing was yet another administration lie. My sharp-eyed friend Omri Ceren spotted a subtle New York Times correction to the effect that Boehner had, in fact, told the White House he planned to invite Netanyahu — and the White House did what it often did: it ignored the request which, according to existing pattern and practice, was then taken as a tacit agreement. Ed Lasky explains more.

I’ve got more, but I’m getting tired. I’ll add another round-up tonight or tomorrow.