Via Rod Dreher: ‘Rednecks And The Two Randys’-Selfhood Tribalism And The Same Old Human Nature?

Via Rod Dreher, ‘Rednecks And The Two Randys’

‘That’s how I felt listening to Terry Gross and the other NPR show after listening to Jackie talk briefly about the Squad. Our media elites will fall all over themselves to defend and celebrate people like Ilhan Omar and Randy Rainbow, but guys like the middle-aged man who came down from my attic today dripping sweat, and who can’t bear people like Ilhan Omar — in the eyes of our liberal elites, they’re what’s wrong with this country.’

I’d rather not have to choose between ‘Jackie’ and ‘Randy Rainbow, ‘ personally.

Unfortunately, however, choices can be very real when it comes to people, coalitions and politics.  Often these choices boil down to the lesser of evils, or certainly, compromises and more compromises.  When a lot of change overwhelms our instititutions, at a time when those institutions are arguably seriously over-built and over-leveraged, well, arguably, here we are.

Where did I put that hobby horse? Beneath the appeal to experts (some ‘studies’ professors, some social scientists, and some scientists) is a constant showcasing of activist concerns at NPR (the assumption of moral rightness and truthfulness of activist causes, mostly, the vague moral suspicion of religious belief, conservation of established traditions, corporations etc).

I find myself disagreeing often, despite the high production value.

As I choose to see the world, when it comes to politics, much activist logic is, well, radical and revolutionary, the truths activists have to tell coming with destabilizing dangers and deadly serious risks (they can be important truths).  Not only change but maybe even violent change.  Certainly liberatory.

If I go looking for ignorance, in-group/out-group dynamics, a desire to believe, I can look no further than myself, frankly.  Such urges never really go away, though they can be channeled better; mediated and expressed through love, family, friendships, work and some attention and care with one’s own mind through deeper reasoning and ‘big ideas.’

Looking for and working hard to get at the truth really matters.

What I’m pretty sure of:  Such impulses certainly can’t be directed towards what I see as modern Selfhood tribalism (from tattoos to Romantic Primitivism to political idealism and identity coalition-building) without consequences for everyone.

What is true of religious organizations, traditions and corporations, of course, is also true of political orgs and missionary secular humanists.

Also from the American Conservative, ‘Wendell Berry Goes To Indiana:’

Wendell Berry, on “tolerance and multiculturalism,” from his essay “The Joy of Sales Resistance”:

‘Quit talking bad about women, homosexuals, and preferred social minorities, and you can say anything you want about people who haven’t been to college, manual workers, country people, peasants, religious people, unmodern people, old people, and so on.’

Addition:  The search for religious purity through a relationship with God, purity of the spoken word, and purity of of the perfectibility of Man and the Human could have some serious overlap, here, folks.

Repost-Michael Moynihan At The Daily Beast: ‘The Death Of Stalin’s Songbird’

In honor of this recent NPR tweet:

I’d like to kindly point readers back to the following:

Michael Moynihan on Pete Seeger:

‘Seeger never really did abandon the dream of communism, despite the inconvenient fact that it had long since (starting around 1918) transformed into a pitiful nightmare. So it was unsurprising that in 1995 he would provide an effusive blurb for a book of poetry written by Tomas Borge, the brutal secret police chief and interior minister of Sandinista Nicaragua (“An extraordinary collection of poems and prose”).’

I was hoping for a piece that would note Pete Seeger’s songwriting talents and decency in dealing with people, but push back against the  hagiography and highlight, you know, the communism.

All together now, 1, 2, and a 1 2, 3, 4…

Wait a minute, wasn’t Bill de Blasio sympathetic to the Sandinistas?

You know, I remember reading a piece at the NY Times about Trotsky’s great-grandaughter, the neuroscientist Nora Volkow:

Free will is a tricky concept:

‘Dr. Volkow generally forswears any interest in politics per se, but midway through a long day of meetings last month she sighed and acknowledged, “science and politics are intertwined.” We think we have free will, she continued, but we are foiled at every turn. First our biology conspires against us with brains that are hard-wired to increase pleasure and decrease pain. Meanwhile, we are so gregarious that social systems — whether you call them peer pressure or politics — reliably dwarf us as individuals. “There is no way you can escape.”

This brought me back to Frenchman of The Left Bernhard Henri-Levy’s piece before the 2008 election:

“And one of the reasons I am so much in favor of [Senator Barack] Obama is that his election might be, will be—because I think he will be elected—a real end to this tide of competition of victimhood, and especially on the specific ground of the two communities, Jews and African Americans, who were so close in the 1960s”

…”The Obama election would reconstitute the grand alliance.”

Hail the grand alliance!

Samuel Bronkowitz may have gotten there first to celebrate the black-Jewish Leftist alliance in Hollywood.

It seems to me you’ve got a few options once you’ve become a member of a favored identity group, as like pretty much all of life, the clock is ticking.

  1. Game the identity system by using it to full personal advantage to try and escape its orbit (understandable, but maybe not the most honorable because of the bad people and the bad in people which come to lead, even if you just want a leg-up because you actually are poor and oppressed).
  2. Play the identity game and pursue your ambition within its orbit.  After all, there’s meaning and purpose in treating enemies as evil in a War and the game of politics as rigged.  Retreat to the ideological purity of your group when attacked and advance upon the enemy positions whenever possible.  Until larger failures and/or the money runs out, rinse and repeat.
  3. Wait around long enough until the same underlying logic is used against you and/or your group, religion and/or ethnicity (Jewish folks seem to be on the outs lately, Muslims in—Asians being disfavored at elite schools). The identity politics game marches onwards towards utopia, against the oppressor.  Being forced to choose between model failures or seeing the world anew outside your model, generally choose to project your personal and group failure onto your enemies, because after all, you’re Human, all too Human.

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It’s not race, it’s class. It’s not ideology, it’s settled science. Look at all this equality!

What do you mean by equality, exactly?  How will you achieve that?

See Tom Wolfe’s Radical Chic: That Party At Lenny’s… for a rich account of the times

Related On This Site: What about black people held in bondage by the laws..the liberation theology of Rev Wright…the progressive vision and the folks over at the Nation gathered piously around John Brown’s body?: Milton Friedman Via Youtube: ‘Responsibility To The Poor’……Robert George And Cornel West At Bloggingheads: “The Scandal Of The Cross”

A Few Thoughts On NPR And Current Liberal Establishment Thinking Under Obama

From FIRE.org-’Federal Government Mandates Unconstitutional Speech Codes At Colleges And Universities Nationwide’

Greg Lukianoff At FIRE.Org: ‘Emily Bazelon And The Danger Of Bringing “Anti-Bullying” Laws To Campus’

If This Ain’t Classic NPR, I Don’t Know What Is-Good Stewardship Is Hard To Find

I’ve probably projected some of my own prejudices onto this simple story of a man returning to natural urban environments and natural ink-making technologies:

If urban people possess no ink, can they be said to live in an ‘Art Desert?’

On that note, I’d like to extend a naturally grown, non-GMO Olive Branch to anyone in the humanities seeking good stewardship of the books, poems and works of art that might mean something to you.  Maybe it’s just me, but I’m worried some of these ideological true-belivers (cultists, really) have taken over many university sinecures and popular liberal publications (The Atlantic, The New Yorker).

Like you, I just want to read a good poem now and again, and frankly, I know it’s not cheap (no, I’m not asking for money), but it shouldn’t be this costly.

Hippie idealism can be woven into a thread of philosophical idealism which can provide some direction as to that thorny old question of:  ‘Why should I read this stupid old poem, anyways?’

‘Just because, man’ is probably a better answer than: ‘For the coming revolution, comrade’ or to ‘to smash the Patriarchy, believe all women and destroy all men.’

Interesting paper presented by Erika Kiss, beginning about minute 32:00 (the whole conference is likely worth your time for more knowledge on Oakeshott).

According to Kiss, Oakeshott’s non-teleological, non-purposive view of education is potentially a response to Friedrich Hayek, Martha Nussbaum, and Allan Bloom, in the sense that all of these thinkers posit some useful purpose or outcome in getting a liberal education.

Hayek’s profound epistemological attack on rationalist thought is still a system itself, and attaches learning to market-based processes which eventually drive freedom and new thinking in universities. The two are mutually dependent to some extent.

Nussbaum attaches liberal learning to ends such as making us ‘Aristotelian citizens of the world’, or better citizens in a democracy, which has struck me as incomplete at best.

Allan Bloom is profoundly influenced by Straussian neo-classicism, and wants love, classical learning, honor and duty to perhaps be those reasons why a young man or woman should read the classics. This, instead of crass commercialism, the influences of popular music, deconstructionism and logical positivism.

On this site, see: Mark Pennington Via Vimeo: ‘Democracy And The Deliberative Conceit’

A taste of her Nussbaum here. Also, see: From The Harvard Educational Review-A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.’

Via C-SPAN-The Historical Context Of Allan Bloom

…Timothy Fuller At The New Criterion: ‘The Compensations Of Michael Oakeshott’John Gray At The Literary Review Takes A Look At A New Book On Michael Oakeshott: ‘Last Of The Idealists’

Is there anybody whom you trust to decide what you should and shouldn’t read?

Parents? Great authors? Public intellectuals? Professors? God? Laws and lawmakers? Religious leaders? A school-board? A democratic majority? People who think like you? A Council of Cultural Marxists?

The Department of Institutionalized Idiocy?

uploaded by mattbucher

Update & Repost-Jack Shakely At The Los Angeles Review Of Books Reviews Ken Stern’s ‘With Charity For All’

Full review here.

Shakely on Stern:

‘Ken Stern knows an awful lot about nonprofits, having spent the better part of a decade as chief operating officer, then president of NPR, one of the best-known, and controversial, nonprofits in America.’

Charity has limits.  Just as a wealthy, hard-working adult will certainly insulate his children from many of life’s difficulties, the lessons of hard-work that allowed for the creation of the charity can easily be lost from one generation to the next, as new-blood comes in.

One such limit, in my experience, is that most human beings are subtly and profoundly affected by the language we speak, the company we keep, and the institutions of which we are a part. As long as we’re alive, and open to new input and experiences, this is going on, often unbeknownst to our conscious minds.

Over time, institutions with such broadly defined and idealized mission statements as charities and non-profits can founder upon their own designs.  They can tend less towards divergent viewpoints and real-world experiences, and more towards shared beliefs and ideological purity.  They can become soft, resistant to change, and poorly incentivized.  They can become reefs of bureaucratic group-think although not due to any particularly malevolent design.

Idealists, after all, often self-select into charity work.

Into this breach, unfortunately, can enter the loudest voices and most passionate and committed ideologues. If you’re letting bad actors in (closed and righteous minds, narrowly focused), the clock is likely ticking before those bad actors either must be rebuffed, challenged or simply kicked-out of your organization.

How people are acting now is often a good indicator of how they’ll act in the future.

This blog likes to keep an eye on NPR, as they’re a child of the 60’s, and but for the work of LBJ’s Great Society lobbying to include ‘radio’ in the Public Television Act of 1967, they might not be around.  Many NPR stories, in reaching out to the wider world, often return to the touchstones of feminism, environmentalism and some form of diversity/multiculturalism.

Amidst high standards for journalism and production values lies the tendency towards positive definitions of equality, justice (social) and peace.  They tend to assume their ideals are your ideals, and such political idealists don’t tend to like analyzing the results of their idealism in the real world, let alone their susceptibility to radicals and violent ideologues.

Everyone’s starting a non-profit these days:

‘The ability to survive, even thrive, with programs that have been proven not to work is just one of the many oddities ‘With Charity for All’ documents in the topsy-turvy, misunderstood, and mostly ignored world of nonprofits’

Non-profits have become big business, partially following the ‘greatness model’ that worked so well for the boomers, when the getting was good. Unfortunately, there are limits to any model, and we’ve got serious economic issues and a lot of political dysfunction.  The money has to come from somewhere.

Shakely again:

‘To clean up the messy nonprofit landscape, Stern offers some suggestions that are sure to cause concern in some nonprofit quarters, including increased government oversight, increasing the application fee to cover the cost of better IRS review and, most radical of all, putting a life span on the charitable status afforded nonprofits, then requiring a renewal after a certain period of time (maybe 10 years). It’s an admirable goal, but in a sector where the stated goal of private foundations is self-preservation and “once a charity; always a charity,” is the mantra, it ain’t gonna happen. Stern knows this, of course, but it doesn’t stop him from asking this and many other valid questions about a sector that is loath to engage in self-evaluation’

It may be as simple as following the money.

On Stern’s third point, putting a life span on the charitable status afforded nonprofits, Stern might agree with David Horowitz, of all people.  He’s a red-diaper baby, an ex-Marxist activist cum anti-Leftist, anti-communist crusader. Making foundations and constantly agitating is what he knows how to do.

He had a then a new book out entitled: ‘The New Leviathan, How The Left Wing Money-Machine Shapes American Politics And Threatens America’s Future

Horowitz argues that such foundations as Ford (which donates to NPR) have become vehicles for the interests of political activists, portraying the matter of as a fight between capitalism/anti-capitalism and/or socialism.  He mentions the Tides foundation here. They are big money, he points out, and Obama’s political career was largely made possible by activist political organization, and the money and manpower behind them:

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Stern and Horowitz potentially agreeing on some regulation of non-profits makes for strange bedfellows. Obama, true to form, was seeking a permanent form of activism.  Activists, and the political idealists with whom they often find common cause, often don’t produce anything of value independently, and must rely upon existing institutions for their support, even as they seek to undermine those institutions.

How far could we apply the same logic to other institutions?  How far might it travel?

It’s 1968 all over again, see Tom Wolfe’s Radical Chic: That Party At Lenny’s…

Related On This Site: A Few Thoughts On NPR And Current Liberal Establishment Thinking Under Obama

Race And Free Speech-From Volokh: ‘Philadelphia Mayor Suggests Magazine Article on Race Relations Isn’t Protected by the First Amendment’

Jack Shafer At Slate: ‘Nonprofit Journalism Comes At A Cost’From NPR: Grants To The NEA To Stimulate The Economy?…We’re already mixing art and politics, so…How Would Obama Respond To Milton Friedman’s Four Ways To Spend Money?

A Few Thoughts On Walter Russell Mead At The American Interest: “Why Blue Can’t Save The Inner Cities Part I”

The market will make people better off, but always leaves them wanting more and in a state of spiritual malaise, which invites constant meddling.  Can economic freedom and free markets reconcile the moral depth of progressive big-State human freedom:  Milton Friedman Via Youtube: ‘Responsibility To The Poor’A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

 Ken Burns makes a good documentary, but he’s also arguing he absolutely needs your tax dollars in service of what he assumes to be a shared definition of the “common good” as he pursues that art.  The market just can’t support it otherwise. Repost-From ReasonTV Via Youtube: ‘Ken Burns on PBS Funding, Being a “Yellow-Dog Democrat,” & Missing Walter Cronkite’From NPR: Grants To The NEA To Stimulate The Economy?…We’re already mixing art and politics, so…
….here’s a suggestion to keep aesthetic and political judgements apart-Roger Scruton In The American Spectator Via A & L Daily: Farewell To Judgment
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The classical liberal tradition…looking for classical liberals in the postmodern wilderness: Isaiah Berlin’s negative liberty: A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”… From George Monbiot: ‘How Freedom Became Tyranny’…Looking to supplant religion as moral source for the laws: From The Reason Archives: ‘Discussing Disgust’ Julian Sanchez Interviews Martha Nussbaum.New liberty away from Hobbes?: From Public Reason: A Discussion Of Gerald Gaus’s Book ‘The Order of Public Reason: A Theory of Freedom And Morality In A Diverse And Bounded World’…Richard Rorty tried to tie postmodernism and trendy leftist solidarity to liberalism, but wasn’t exactly classically liberal:  Repost: Another Take On J.S. Mill From “Liberal England”

Repost-Via Reason: ‘Salvador Allende’s Cybersocialist Command Center’

Full piece here.

Click through for the photo.

‘The system, designed by British cybernetician Stafford Beer, was supposed to allow powerful men to make decisions about production, labor, and transport in real time using up-to-the-minute economic information provided directly by workers on the factory floors of dozens of newly nationalized companies’

A shag carpet probably would have been out of place, but I like the white pod chairs (Captain Kirk to the bridge for fuel price re-allocations).

‘In fact, the network that fed the system was little more than a series of jury-rigged Telex machines with human operators, transmitting only the simplest data, which were slapped onto old-style Kodak slides—again, by humans. The controls on the chairs merely allowed the operator to advance to the next slide’

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In working towards a theme, check out Buzludzha, the abandoned communist monument in Bulgaria’s Balkan mountains, which still draws up to 50,000 Bulgarian Socialists for a yearly pilgrimage.  Human Planet’s Timothy Allen visited the structure in the snow and took some haunting photos.  You will think you’ve stepped into a Bond film and one of Blofeld’s modernist lairs, but with somewhat Eastern Orthodox tile frescos of Lenin and Marx gazing out at you, abandoned to time, the elements and to nature.

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Continuing towards that theme, here are two quotes from a recent Harvey Mansfield review of Steven Bilakovics new book, which could possibly help explain how, say, the Chrysler building and St. Patrick’s Cathedral have become two of New York’s most iconic buildings (hint: we’re not a socialist society):

Tocqueville almost uses the above phrase in a chapter on “why American writers and orators are often bombastic.” He says that there is “nothing in-between,” or more literally, “the intermediate space is empty,” implying that there might have been something there. In democratic societies, each citizen is habitually occupied in the contemplation of a very small object: himself. If he raises his eyes, he sees only the “immense object of society” or even the whole human race. If he leaves his normal concerns, he expects it to be for something indefinitely vast instead of something definite and greater than himself.”

Artists have a particularly tough time in America, because they’re often particularly alone in America.  Ezra Pound and T.S Eliot abandoned the place completely, and many aspiring artists get their training in Europe. This blog believes Wallace Stevens to especially be representative of this dilemma (he never left).  He was an insurance executive by day and perhaps one of America’s best poets;  a romantic, a modernist, as well as a man who possibly had a deathbed conversion to Christianity:  From The NY Times Via A & L Daily: Helen Vendler On Wallace Stevens ‘The Plain Sense Of Things’

On this view, being the good democratic citizens that we are, we reject the aristocratic elements from gaining too much traction, and thus do not create the vine-ripened literary, artistic, and cultural traditions that can make good artists into what they become, and what makes European cities, novels, poets, museums, and Europeans themselves something of what they are (a broad brush, I know).

I think Mansfield’s point is that some folks in the U.S see this dilemma of the democratic man only in terms of a vulgar materialism that must be overcome with the Arts, or High Culture, or Poetry or with a ‘Let’s be like Europe’ approach, especially in many a Liberal Arts Department.  It’s a deep wish.  Democracy is a leveling force.   It’s worth pointing out that the Arts can also be united with a Left-of-Center political philosophy as they are at NPR for popular consumption.  On this site, see: From ReasonTV Via Youtube: ‘Ken Burns on PBS Funding, Being a “Yellow-Dog Democrat,” & Missing Walter Cronkite’Repost-From NPR: Grants To The NEA To Stimulate The Economy?

Some of these same folks see religion (the Puritan roots especially) as a restrictive, repressive force that needs to be overcome in order for freedom, free artistic expression and individual autonomy to flourish (I believe this is a driving tension in Hollywood).  There’s some truth to this, because I believe religion and politics, and even philosophy itself, have troubled relationships with art.

Mansfield goes on:

‘The theorists of materialism tell us that the long term will take care of itself so long as we do not obstruct materialism in the short run in our everyday lives. With a view to supporting political liberty, Tocqueville wants to limit everyday materialism and to concern us with a long-term goal, such as improving our immortal souls. This is why he fears for the state of democratic souls and speaks so strongly, if not fervently, in favor of religion. This is also why he showed such disgust for socialism.’

Perhaps we can keep it simpler, and not get taken with grand theories, or at least socialist ones anyways:

Too much politics into the arts?


First National Bank of Houlton, Maine

Related On This Site:  From Grist.Org Via The New Republic Via The A & L Daily: ‘Getting Past “Ruin Porn” In Detroit’…Marketplace aesthetics in service of “women”: Dove’s Campaign For Real Beauty: Pascal Dangin And Aesthetics

Some of Le Corbusier’s work here, examples of Modern Architecture here.

See AlsoBrasilia: A Planned City and Review Of Britain’s “Lost Cities” In The Guardian

Cities should be magnets for creativity and culture? –From The Atlantic: Richard Florida On The Decline Of The Blue-Collar ManFrom Grist.Org Via The New Republic Via The A & L Daily: ‘Getting Past “Ruin Porn” In Detroit’… some people don’t want you to have the economic freedom to live in the suburbs: From Foreign Policy: ‘Urban Legends, Why Suburbs, Not Cities, Are The Answer’

Philosopher Of Art Denis Dutton of the Arts & Letters Daily says the arts and Darwin can be sucessfully synthesized: Review of Denis Dutton’s ‘The Art Instinct’

How might Nietzsche figure in the discussion, at least with regard to Camille Paglia.  See the comments:  Repost-Camille Paglia At Arion: Why Break, Blow, Burn Was Successful…Here’s Nietzsche scholar J.P. Stern on Nietzsche’s anti-Christian, anti-secular morality (Kant, utilitarians), anti-democratic, and anti-Greek (except the “heroic” Greek) biases…

Nothing that Allan Bloom didn’t point out in the Closing Of The American Mind: Update And Repost: ‘A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche / Strauss Connection’….From Darwinian Conservatism By Larry Arnhart: “Surfing Strauss’s Third Wave of Modernity”

Repost-Sarah Chayes At The L.A. Times: ‘Innocence Of Muslims’ Doesn’t Meet Free-Speech Test’

Full piece here. (Also published over two years ago, to recap the Islamist threat and gaps between the Western and Islamic worlds, and figure out how to analyze the problems involved, and the reactions to them).

How exactly did we get to the point where this kind of argument is prominently featured in a mainstream publication?:

‘The point here is not to excuse the terrible acts perpetrated by committed extremists and others around the world in reaction to the video, or to condone physical violence as a response to words — any kind of words. The point is to emphasize that U.S. law makes a distinction between speech that is simply offensive and speech that is deliberately tailored to put lives and property at immediate risk. Especially in the heightened volatility of today’s Middle East, such provocation is certainly irresponsible — and reveals an ironic alliance of convenience between Christian extremists and the Islamist extremists they claim to hate.’

While Chayes does not currently represent the Obama administration (that’s a little far even for them), I suspect if you look a couple of ticks center-ward, you might find some on the current foreign policy team, and some sentiment from the President toward the Muslim world.

I don’t think the administration’s response after Ambassador Stevens’ death (addition: In Benghazi) was just designed to protect an increasingly ineffective foreign policy platform given events, or worse, just a cynical political calculation for his foreign policy to be seen as effective.  He may actually see his job as some sort of bridge-builder between two cultures, and peace-maker between civilizations under ideas he presumes to be universal.  How such an approach working out in practice is another matter.

Here’s a quote from Anne-Marie Slaughter, on liberal internationalism (addition: which is probably a few ticks centerward of further Leftward progressive, semi-radical peace and democracy advocates)

‘The central liberal internationalist premise is the value of a rules-based international order that restrains powerful states and thereby reassures their enemies and allies alike and allows weaker states to have sufficient voice in the system that they will not choose to exit’

What if you can’t even appease extreme and radical groups of violent Muslims as they murder your diplomats and citizens under the pretext of the video…let alone get them on-board some sort of ‘rules-based international order’?

What if there is such a chasm between Western and Muslim civilizations that even less violent Muslims on the street have no clue as to the concepts we’re defending, and why?

What if you go so far down this path that you are, or least appear to be, willing to bend on a key issue and core freedom for our country (admittedly maybe not as far as Chayes is willing to bend it)?

Addition:  From Walter Russell Mead:

‘Hassan Nasrallah, the Hezbollah chief who usually stays hidden from public view because he fears being assassinated by Israel, made a rare appearance at a massive rally in Beirut yesterday, calling on hundreds of thousands of supporters to prolong protests against the U.S. because of the now notorious anti-Islam video.’

Another Addition:  Ronald Bailey has more here at Reason.  Don’t reward violence.  Don’t shovel off the responsibility of standing up for Americans’ right to express themselves to Google, or Americans themselves.  Obama is potentially on a fast track to the European solution, which is to say, a problematic cauldron.

Related On This Site:  Chayes is a former NPR reporter (Is NPR essentially the mainstreaming of the New Left of the 60’s into mass and popular culture?) that went off the map in Afghanistan and has started a cooperative there, also advising the military and the joint chiefs:  In understanding Afghanistan better, you could do worse, but I didn’t realize…..:  Sarah Chayes On Afghanistan In The Boston Review: Days Of Lies And Roses

Free speech (used both well and unwell) meets offended Muslims: Mohammad Cartoonist Lars Vilks HeadbuttedDuring Lecture’From The OC Jewish Experience: ‘UC Irvine Muslim Student Union Suspended’From Volokh: ‘”South Park” Creators Warned (Threatened) Over Mohammed’From Volokh: ‘”South Park” Creators Warned (Threatened) Over Mohammed’

Repost-From Beautiful Horizons: ‘Christopher Hitchens and Tariq Ramadan at the 92nd Street Y’

 Is Bernhard Henri-Levy actually influencing U.S. policy decisions..the old French liberte? From New York Magazine: ‘European Superhero Quashes

A Few Links On Iran & Afghanistan-Happy New Year!

Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest:

‘So then what’s wrong with this picture of presidential remarks on Libya, Syria, and Iraq? What’s wrong is that the President is apparently unable or unwilling to connect his own damned dots.’

and:

‘Far be it for me to advocate the use of U.S. force in any of these places. We cannot put these states back together at an acceptable cost in blood and treasure. As I have stressed in earlier posts (for example, here), what is happening, at base, is historio-structural in nature and no mere policy nipping and tucking can restore the status quo ante. I am no more in a mood to move chess pieces around on a table than the President is, especially if I have to do it with bombers, APCs, and Aegis cruisers loaded up with SLCMs. But to pontificate about the need for Arab self-help in these three cases, as though U.S. policy had nothing whatsoever to do with their present plights, very nearly surpasses credulity. It reminds me of a three-year old not yet well experienced at hide-and-go-seek who covers his face and thereby imagines that others cannot see him. Who in the region does the President think he’s fooling?’

I don’t think Obama’s speaking to the region per se, so much as a group of like-minded, internationalist semi-radical democratic peace protestors bending the arc of history towards justice.  I’ve heard the crew meets every third Tuesday at the Rose Main Reading Room at the New York Public library (kidding, kidding).

As for Iran, we’re still doing business with a bad, generally untrustworthy lot, though the options have never been good (there are many people we could potentially do business with in Iran, but as in Cuba, they’re indisposed at the moment).

At what cost?  Garfinkle:

‘It’s clear—actually a little too clear—that President Obama is trying to flatter the Supreme Leader and other assorted higher ups in Tehran. Someone no doubt explained to the President in another, earlier drive-by incident that these guys believe they deserve more respect for their sovereignty, history, and culture than they get. He wants to assure them, insofar as he can, that regime change is not high up on the U.S. want list with regard to Iran, though he cannot explicitly rule it out without cutting the knees out from future U.S. policy options. He wants to let them know he’s sensitive to how the world looks from their perspective.’

Transcript of Obama’s interview with NPR here.

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As for Afghanistan (and Pakistan, the FATA, and Waziristan, and our limited influence there, too), we’re scheduled for troop withdrawal, but not so fast:

From accounts I’ve heard, what doesn’t often reach the American public is how fierce the fighting in Afghanistan has been, how much we’ve asked of our troops in fulfilling such a broad mission, and how we still haven’t reached our objective, which is to prevent further attacks on our soil.

Corruption runs rampant, illiteracy remains high, and decades of war have ruined the infrastructure.  Under such conditions, and with so many different ethnic and linguistic groups, it’s tough to provide basic security and incentivize the good in people, allowing interested local village elders, farmers and decent folks have a shot at stability. Afghanistan was most recently headed by a thuggish gang of religious purists, warlords and opium-traffickers, and will probably soon be again.

Truly brutal people.

Many of these guys, whose ancestors likely fought against the British, and a few elders who fought against the Soviets, are now aiding or abetting the enemy, and/or are fighting our troops. It’s their backyard, after all, but it’d be much better not to have these local and tribal grievances become the fuel for an international fire, and the opening for the Taliban to fill back in. If so, this opens the door to the global ambitions of Islamist franchises.

Which means we could be right back where we started.

Interestingly, the concerns of Western secular humanists and global peace-workers actually line-up pretty well with traditional, conservative, pro-military supporters:  We’ve got to keep thinking about solutions and a larger strategy when it comes to this region.

It’s not really over, even though this is the longest war we’ve ever had:

Vice had some coverage:

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From Walter Russell Mead: ‘Hastily Leaving Afghanistan Won’t Encourage Taliban To Make Concessions:’

‘And there are still lots of countries in the region that don’t want Afghanistan to fall under Taliban rule again: Iran, Russia, China, and India all think this would be a terrible outcome. We shouldn’t assume that Mullah Omar is going to get everything he wants’

Sarah Chayes’ Essay From 03/01/2007:  ‘Days Of Lies & Roses

Canadian documentarian Louie Palu covered the Kandahar region of southwest Afghanistan, where much of the fiercest fighting has occurred, and where the British, Soviets and coalition forces have fought.

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Related On This SiteFrom March 27th, 2009 At WhiteHouse.Gov: Remarks By The President On A New Strategy For Afghanistan And PakistanStephen Biddle At Foreign Affairs: ‘Running Out Of Time For Afghan Governance Reform’

Repost-From Michael Yon: ‘The Battle For Kandahar’Dexter Filkins Book On Afghanistan And Iraq: “The Forever War”Monday Quotations-Henry KissingerTom Ricks Via Foreign Policy: ‘American General Dies In Afghanistan; An American Lt. Col. Goes Off The Reservation

Megan McArdle At Bloomberg: ‘Simple Policies Win Elections’

Ron Fournier at the National Journal: ‘Obamacare’s Foundation Of Lies

On the Gruber gaffes (forcing healthy people to work against their interests with knowing lies withheld by a chief Obamacare architect in order to get the thing passed):

‘A lie is apolitical, or at least it should be. If there is one thing that unites clear-headed Americans, it’s a belief that our leaders must be transparent and honest.

And yet, there seem to be two types of lies in our political discourse: Those that hurt “my party” and “my policies”; and those that don’t. We condemn the former and forgive the latter—cheapening the bond of trust that enables a society to progress.’

Megan McArdle has a piece here.

Aside from the Gruber gaffes:

‘So too, with Obamacare.  They wanted a massive overhaul of the whole system, but they couldn’t do that cleanly, so they jammed a bunch of complicated mechanisms into one sort-of-working bill.  You may like the goal of Obamacare, or you may not. Either way, you probably wouldn’t choose this particular method of implementation, which is simultaneously less comprehensive, more expensive and more annoying than many other methods they could have chosen.’

You don’t have to be libertarian to find some of Richard Epstein’s suggestions…reasonable:

As I have noted before, there is only one type of reform that can make progress in meeting the three goals of a sensible health care system: cost reduction, quality improvements, and public access. That reform requires massive deregulation of the many market impediments that are already in place. Lower the costs, drop the excessive mandates, and thin out administrative costs, and people will flock back to the system voluntarily.’

I still see a massive, top-down, poorly conceived law that freezes a lot of the problems in place, adds more layers of bureaucracy on top, and serves a narrower range of interests that claim universal, utopian ideals.

Follow the money.

In the meantime, the rising costs, bloated bureaucracy, misplaced incentives etc. of the current system continue.

First, do no harm.

Related On This SiteFrom The New England Journal Of Medicine Via CATO: ‘The Constitutionality of the Individual Mandate’From If-Then Knots: Health Care Is Not A Right…But Then Neither Is Property?… From The New Yorker: Atul Gawande On Health Care-”The Cost Conundrum”Sally Pipes At Forbes: ‘A Plan That Leads Health Care To Nowhere’From AEI: ‘Study: ‘Obama Healthcare Reform Raising Costs, Forcing Workers Out Of Existing Plans’

Every Time An Activist Gets His Wings…From Inside Philanthropy: ‘Did You Hear The Koch Brothers Just Gave A Million Bucks To NPR To Cover Healthcare?’

Full piece here. (No, it didn’t really happen, but this is one of my hobby horses, and I’m not afraid to whip it often).

NPR works alongside the Kaiser Family Foundation to deliver ACA coverage.

Money, money, money:

‘My point, of course, is that growing concern about the subversion of public media by private donors is quite selective. Progressives only fret when it’s conservative money coming in, but ignore cases in which funders they like are writing the checks. And while the right routinely hits NPR for being too liberal, it’s been strangely quiet on NPR’s sources of funding and the possible conflicts embedded in funding arrangements’

Let’s just say most people are attracted to large revenue streams, even lofty secular idealists.  The money has to come from somewhere.

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A brief rant:

Activists of all stripes seem to occupy a special place in the moral universe of NPR coverage. Perhaps a pure, uncut activist is a little much, but such folks can always be backed-up with the right studies and statistics.  In a four-minute piece, activists can be bolstered by a two-minute interview with a more knowledgeable bureaucrat and/or favorable university professor.

Activism is virtuous, after all.

From civil rights to feminism to environmentalism to gay rights…equality will eventually be reached, doled-out, quantified and planned.  But only if the general will is being served daily, while the ‘The People’ are rising-up demanding change, protesting and chanting, forming purely democratic coalitions and autonomous collectives that can only make our politics and the world a better place.

Each individual is gaining more freedom daily through collective action, dear reader.

***I’ve been assured that every time an activist gets his wings, the storehouse of moral good increases by a hectare, while the happiness index inches upwards.

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Of course, making such Left-liberal ideals the highest things around means always courting activists to some extent, for no other purpose than staying in business. It also means making choices in the real world.  Private donations by listeners to NPR are generally good, while private ownership in a company donating to political campaigns is generally bad.

The foundation money that funds Left-liberal think tanks and action committees is generally a force for good in politics, while the Koch brothers money is generally bad, and suspicious.

Even if the foundations were started by capitalists, innovators thriving under a relatively free flow of capital and labor like Henry Ford’s motor company did, dramatically driving down the price of cars for everyone, these cash-cows have finally been bent to the right ideals.

Equality is next, right after the next big private/public partnership.

(addition: yes, that last part is sarcasm, and no, I don’t think anyone is capable of being the moral judge nor final arbiter of the Civil Rights movement and its gains of freedom for many in the real world.

Rather, one can simply point out many of its costs and consequences; the logical flaws, including the lack of limiting principles to political power.

I think it’s more clear now how endlessly rewarding victimhood, capitalizing on grievance and injustice, and cultivating envy into a movement led by a charismatic figure has consequences.

It seems there’s some good when the folks at NPR are called-out on their activism as well as their moral and political commitments, to see how their business works while they are busily minding everyone else’s business).

Related On This SiteJack Shakely At The Los Angeles Review Of Books Reviews Ken Stern’s ‘With Charity For All’

How Many Techno- And Bureaucrats Are Enough?-David Greene At NPR: ‘Rochester Focuses On A New Piece Of American Manufacturing’

A Few Thoughts On NPR And Current Liberal Establishment Thinking Under Obama

Ken Burns makes a good documentary, but he’s also arguing he absolutely needs your tax dollars in service of what he assumes to be a shared definition of the “common good” as he pursues that art.  The market just can’t support it otherwise. Repost-From ReasonTV Via Youtube: ‘Ken Burns on PBS Funding, Being a “Yellow-Dog Democrat,” & Missing Walter Cronkite’From NPR: Grants To The NEA To Stimulate The Economy?…We’re already mixing art and politics, so…
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How Many Techno- And Bureaucrats Are Enough?-David Greene At NPR: ‘Rochester Focuses On A New Piece Of American Manufacturing’

Full piece here.

We’ve got holes where the jobs are and will be, holes where the people looking for jobs and passing through our education system can’t/aren’t able to fill some of the new jobs being created, and automation is going to make fewer manufacturing jobs in many fields, pound for pound.

Greene on the new business in an old manufacturing town:  Rochester, New York.

‘That said, this picture is far from perfect. You look at this factory: making incredible things with machines both old and new, but there’s almost no one here. The factory has more than 16,000 square feet, but only 80 people work here.’

Imagine some process with which you involve yourself daily:  Driving, for example.  Right now teams and teams of people are designing the hardware and software to automate that process, and some will make a healthy dollar doing so. Think about how important your mobile device has likely and/or could become in your life.

Now, imagine our founding fathers getting around:  Bumping over rough, dangerous roads over a period of many days, weeks and months, hearing of important news through the grapevine and horseback.

Activities in our lives which already consume much time, sweat and labor, or with which we often engage mindlessly/habitually etc. will continue to be made easier or simply done for us by new technology. That rate of change is pretty high at the moment.

New jobs are gong to come out of that process, but not always where and how many we think.

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As to NPR and keeping the activists from putting techno- and bureaucrats in charge: NPR has great production values, but their particular ideological preferences lead to less overall wealth and dynamism in the economy; an over-promising, under-delivering American government, or some Americanized version of European-style Statism sold as ‘private/public partnerships’ coming with lots of bloat, byzantine laws and bad incentives.

We can do better than that.

Warmed-over 60’s activism and Left-liberal populism often drives the car, and those along for the ride can be blind to how local politics actually functions, especially in our cities, and to many abuses of power and corruption that go hand-in-hand with politics across the political spectrum.

Often, I suspect that many NPR listeners are there for the culture, the quality of reporting, and the lack of advertisements.  Many listeners probably don’t pay particular attention to the deeper way in which events are being interpreted for them; the possible contradictions between their commitments and the activist, ideological base which often drives the next issue for debate.

Instead, there’s a lot of literature and poetry, an exposition of secular humanism and a rather modern liberal worldview, softly material, usually pushing environmentalist, feminist, and multicultural causes.

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Larry Summers via the Democracy Journal has an easily-accessible review of Piketty’s ‘Capital In The Twenty-First Century‘, called ‘The Inequality Puzzle.’

Among other interesting thoughts, there’s this.  Globalization is at play, as well:

‘…there is the basic truth that technology and globalization give greater scope to those with extraordinary entrepreneurial ability, luck, or managerial skill. Think about the contrast between George Eastman, who pioneered fundamental innovations in photography, and Steve Jobs. Jobs had an immediate global market, and the immediate capacity to implement his innovations at very low cost, so he was able to capture a far larger share of their value than Eastman. Correspondingly, while Eastman’s innovations and their dissemination through the Eastman Kodak Co. provided a foundation for a prosperous middle class in Rochester for generations, no comparable impact has been created by Jobs’s innovations’

Eastman Kodak is going through Chapter 11, as those Kodak innovations have been surpassed as well (I remember family gatherings around the slide projector, holding strays up to the light).

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The idea of Singapore is bandied about in the piece.

David Brooks-style NPR house conservative praise for authoritarian Singapore is at least a step in the right direction:  At least it isn’t Mao nostalgia but it’s still…pretty top-down and authoritarian.

You won’t buy or sell gum in Singapore, damn it.  And you’ll only chew it under doctor’s orders.

David Brooks got in on that action:

‘In places like Singapore and China, the best students are ruthlessly culled for government service. The technocratic elites play a bigger role in designing economic life. The safety net is smaller and less forgiving. In Singapore, 90 percent of what you get out of the key pension is what you put in. Work is rewarded. People are expected to look after their own’

Let’s be a little more autocratic, America, at least at the national level.  It’s just so we can compete and plan for the future.  Someone’s got to take hold of the meritocracy.

Get on board!:

‘The answer is to use Lee Kuan Yew means to achieve Jeffersonian ends — to become less democratic at the national level in order to become more democratic at the local level. At the national level, American politics has become neurotically democratic.’

That’s the father of modern Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew.

We need to restrict freedoms in order to get more freedoms, you see.

We are getting a good look at the kinds of people NPRites are putting in power, and it ain’t pretty.

We can do better than that.