2017-01-09

Artists and Moral Authority

The basic conceit - and I mean that in every sense of the word - is that artists and creative people have a heightened sensitivity to the nuances of human nature, and are privy to truths not immediately apparent to the rest of us. In their own minds, this gives them a great moral stature, by virtue of which they can make their pronouncements with solemn authority, unencumbered by facts or reasoning.

2017-01-08

Dear Hollywood Celebrities

"You exist for my entertainment. Some of you are great eye candy. Some of you can deliver a line with such conviction that you bring tears to my eyes. Some of you can scare the crap out of me. Others make me laugh. But you all have one thing in common, you only have a place in my world to entertain me. That’s it. You make your living pretending to be someone else. Playing dress up like a 6 year old. You live in a make believe world in front of a camera. And often when you are away from one too. Your entire existence depends on my patronage. I don’t really care where you stand on issues. Honestly, your stance matters far less to me than that of my neighbor. You see, you aren’t real. I turn off my TV or shut down my computer and you cease to exist in my world. Once I am done with you, I can put you back in your little box until I want you to entertain me again. I don’t care that you don't like Mr.Trump. But I bet you looked cute saying it. Get back into your bubble. I’ll let you know when I’m in the mood for something blue and shiny. And I'm also supposed to care that you will leave this great country if Trump becomes president? Ha. Please don't forget to close the door behind you. We'd like to reserve your seat for someone who loves this country and really wants to be here. Make me laugh, or cry. Scare me. But realize that the only words of yours that matter are scripted. In my world, you exist solely for my entertainment."

- anonymous, via Facebook

Donald Trump mocks ...

... everybody.

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2016/09/14/did-trump-really-mock-reporters-disability-videos-could-back-him-up.html

http://www.newstandardpress.com/did-trump-mock-that-disability/

https://www.catholics4trump.com/the-true-story-donald-trump-did-not-mock-a-reporters-disability/

Same gestures, voice, and mannerisms. He's imitating the contortions of somebody trying to deny what they said in the past. Serge Kovaleski was one of numerous targets that Trump ridiculed in this manner, but the mainstream media would have you believe he was the only one. To this day, large numbers of Americans are convinced that Trump mocked a man's disability out of spite.

Religious / Secular Encounters in Israel

Rami Livni, Ha'Aretz:  Why Israelis abandoned secularism.
...  It’s secular Israelis who have changed.

What used to irritate, inflame and drive them to revolt two decades or even a decade ago, they now greet with a nonchalant shrug, forgivingly, all in the name of openness, tolerance and, of course, “Jewish identity.”

It is doubtful whether it is possible to fill a school with the number of secular parents who are disturbed by the fact that their children are delving deeply into topics like laying tefillin (phylacteries), kashrut laws and prayers in the context of “Jewish-Israeli culture.” Veteran religious functionaries at the Education Ministry must be rubbing their eyes in disbelief: How have we been able to achieve this blessed occasion when secular folk are retreating of their own free will – and even asking for more? ...

Peter Berkowitz, RealClear Politics:  Teaching Enlightenment liberalism to Israeli haredim.
... Having established that the responsible exercise of political judgment involves the blending of competing principles and that Israel is founded on the conviction that political freedom is an inseparable dimension of the Jewish state, we turned to our main topic. We explored the foundations of political freedom in John Locke’s “Second Treatise”; the constitutionalization of freedom in “The Federalist Papers”; the tensions that arise between democracy and freedom in Alexis de Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America”; and liberty of thought and discussion in Mill’s “On Liberty.”

The students were particularly intrigued by the limits on the exercise of individual rights that Locke grounded in God’s sovereignty, the priority that the U.S. Constitution gives to the protection of religious freedom, and Tocqueville’s insistence that religion makes a surpassing contribution to political stability in America by remaining separate from politics.

Passions flared when we turned to Mill. Students readily appreciated the importance of a public sphere—newspapers, broadcast media, and parliament—in which the condition of their freedom of speech was the freedom of speech of all others. After all, the ultra-Orthodox too have interests to advance through the political process. At the same time, they immediately grasped the danger to their way of life posed by the vigorous promotion within the private sphere, embracing their families and communities, of Mill’s core conviction—indeed the conviction at the core of all moral and political education worthy of the name—that “he who know only his own side of the case knows little of that.” Exposing their sons and daughters to Mill’s case for the sovereign individual, they justly feared, might weaken their children’s attachment to the stringent ultra-Orthodox interpretation of God’s commandments. ...

What's interesting to me about Rami Livni's kaddish for Israeli secularism is that he sees secular culture, not merely in terms of freedom from religious compulsion, but as an explicitly anti-religious force.  Any gain by religion is a loss for secularism.  Livni's tug-of-war metaphor is telling:  for this writer, it is a zero-sum game.

Berkowitz, by contrast, believes that "both the ultra-Orthodox and broader Israeli society stand to profit from rapprochement."  While the motivations may be pragmatic (Israel's growing haredi, or ulta-orthodox, population will at some point need to come to terms with the rest of Israeli society), the philosophic premise of the Tikvah Fund lecture is that free inquiry can co-exist with religious faith.

Linkage

2017-01-01

Fantasy Battle

The younger generation of "feminists" and "liberals" feels cheated by history, deprived of their chance to fight the glorious civil rights battles they read about in books. So instead of seeking out the real battles of our age - which might involve some real danger - they fight yesterday's battles on a fantasy battlefield, like Civil War re-enactors.


Let's blogroll!


Richard Fernandez (Belmont Club) on technology and magic.

When the last cellphone in the Caliphate is destroyed or worn out no one will know how to make another. Their 8th century is capable of producing fanaticism but probably couldn't make a ball point pen. Objects in the ISIS universe are "magical" -- put there by Allah in the possession of the infidel for holy warriors to plunder and enjoy until the power which inheres in them gradually fades away.

Surprisingly much of the modern world is not very different. Many people treat technology like magic even in the West. How does a cell phone work? Dunno. Where does it come from? The store. Civilization depends on the knowledge of a small fraction of the world's 7.5 billion population. The know-how to make pharmaceuticals, complex devices, aircraft, computers, industrial chemicals from scratch is probably confined to a few million people concentrated in North America, Europe, Russia and North Asia. The rest of us are end users. ...

Neo on celebrating the New Year.


Back then each year had seemed almost endless, and the punctuation of that last day, with its celebrations and dramatic turning of the number of the year into one we’d never seen before (wow! 1959! next, 1960!) was exciting and fresh. It also meant I was growing up, gaining in privilege and stature.

In high school it was still sort of fun—we went out in big packs, once or twice to Times Square to watch the whole thing in person. In college it became more problematic because I went home for Christmas vacation and was away from the boy friend de jour.

Then later on I was married. What do married people do on New Years? Parties still happened, but they were starting to end earlier and earlier (New Englanders don’t tend to be nightowls or wild partygoers, I’m afraid). For me they functioned mostly as an excuse for getting dressed up. It doesn’t help that I don’t drink much. Watching others get drunk has been an interesting spectator sport over the years, but not really my favorite activity.

As for that “growing in privilege and stature” thing—well, I’m kind of on the other side of that particular slope. ...

Erin Palette at Lurking Rhythmically has a Firefly dream. Go to the post for details.

2016-12-07

Michael Totten on PRC and Taiwan

My friend Michael J. Totten has a new piece on Red China and the Republic of China:

'I’d love to see the United States recognize Taiwan as a sovereign nation as long as the Pacific Rim doesn’t blow up. For one thing, Taiwan is a sovereign nation whether or not Beijing and Washington say so. It has its own democratically elected government and its own institutions. It makes its own domestic, foreign and trade policies with zero input from the Chinese Communist Party. Its citizens have their own passports with "Republic of China" written across the top. Recognizing these facts is just an acknowledgement of reality. Ari Fleischer might not have been allowed to refer to the government of Taiwan, but those of us who don’t work for the government are free to recognize, talk about and write about reality. ...

... We all have to deal with the world as it is, but sacrificing Taiwan to the wolves is outrageous. Taiwan had a “permanent” seat on the United Nations Security Council until Richard Nixon, neverminding tens of millions of corpses, gave it to Mao Zedong. Nixon told Taiwan that the US was engaging instead with the mainland Chinese “not because we love them. But because they’re there.” Fine. It may have been necessary, but it was a nasty business. A bully got its way for four decades not because it is right but because it is bigger. Professional diplomats may have to bite their tongues but the rest of us don’t.'

Read the whole thing at the link.

2016-11-12

World Today: 2016-11-12

The North American press struggles to understand nationalism; a five-way conflict among stateless entities rages within Syria's borders; and an ancient nation seeks to find its place in the Middle East.


Diane Weber Bederman on journalists and the Trump victory:
You misunderstood the desire for a safe country, and law and order, and secure borders for xenophobia; fear of the other, rather than fear of un-secure borders. All of you seem to need to read something negative into comments made by those on the right. In Canada, we now have journalists who read “racism” into the word “values.” You also assumed, in your black and white thinking, and I don’t mean Manichean, that only white people care about secure borders, that only white people fear illegal immigration and immigrants in general, when in fact that there are not against immigration per se, it’s the type of immigrant. They want immigrants whose values are our values and who come here for freedom, not to spread their culture-a culture that calls for “Death to America.”
And you had the unmitigated gall to call these people racist, xenophobic, fearmongering, Islamophobes. You, dear journalists, spread the hate. ...
 Jonathan Spyer on Syria's five-way conflict:


These are: Turkish-backed Sunni Arab rebel and Islamist organizations against the Assad dictatorship, western backed SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces, dominated by the Kurdish YPG) against IS, Kurdish YPG against the Assad regime, the aforementioned Sunni rebels against IS and, lastly, the Sunni rebels against the SDF.
The problem for those seeking to cobble together a force to take Raqqa city and by so doing destroy the Islamic State, is that the two eligible forces to carry out this action are the mainly Kurdish SDF and the Turkish-backed, mainly Islamist Sunni rebels – but these forces are at war with one another. ...
 Zalmay Khalilzad on Kurdish relations:
Khalilzad predicted Iraq might split into several regions and run independently but in coordination with the central government so Shia, Sunni, and Kurds can run their affairs.
“[Iraq] can stay together…if there is genuine power sharing, resource sharing among the big communities that make Iraq, essentially meaning the Kurds, Shia, and Sunnis,” he explained.
Additionally, he said the landlocked Kurdistan Region would need to be in “good relations” with its neighbors as well as regional powers to be able to grow and establish a relationship with the rest of the world.
“The better relations Kurdistan has with as many neighbors as possible, the better for its independence,” the former US Ambassador stated.
“Ideally, even if Kurdistan becomes independent it should have good relations with Turkey, it should have good relations with Iraq, [and] with other neighbors as well,” Khalilzad continued. ...
 Commentary.  The citizens and civil society of a region fortunate enough to take freedom and security for granted risk forfeiting that security, and that freedom, because they view outside threats as implausible and unreal.

2016-11-10

The Day After



The red bar was reaching ever closer to the middle point of 270, until it finally crossed it, leaving the blue bar behind.
The world ended. Nuclear missiles were launched simultaneously from Russia, China, Japan, North Korea, and Mauritius. Yes, even Mauritius. Simultaneously, a zombie virus outbreak happened in New Jersey, parts of California fell into the ocean due to a fault line collapse, and there were riots in Albuquerque. People who weren't straight, white, cisgendered, heteronormative, neurotypical, Christian men were rousted from their homes, beaten, and dragged across the Mexican border

The riots were unrelated. Albuquerque just likes to riot. We don't even send the news to report on them anymore.

Actually, none of that stuff happened....
 Read the rest at the link.

2016-11-04

Source Bias Checklist

  1. Internal consistency.
  2. External consistency.
  3. Dialog and dissent.
  4. Awareness of objections.
  5. Snarl words and purr words.
  6. Implicit bias.
  7. Narrative.
  8. Red herrings and straw men.
  9. Fallacies.
  10. Psychological factors.
  11. Source's experiences, perspective, perceptions.
  12. Debts and favors.
  13. Medium is the message.
  14. The human voice.
  15. Encourage anonymous sources to go on the record.
  16. Judge source's reliability and disclose potential biases.
  17. More specificity is better.
  18. Do not rely on anonymous sources for sensational reports.
  19. Source must have first-hand knowledge.
  20. Do not lie to protect a source.
  21. What is the source's ideological orientation?
  22. What are the source's financial interests?

On Trump

 I didn't vote for Trump in the primary - I was a Cruz guy and thought Trump was a buffoon. But the voters thought otherwise. At some point I realized I needed to get over myself. I stopped asking "What's wrong with all these other idiots?" and started asking "What are they seeing that I'm not?"