State of the Union

Rand Paul Taps a New Constituency

Philip Weiss discusses an interesting Hardball clip here, where bestselling mainstream political author Mark Halperin says that Rand Paul could never be elected because the pro-Israel wing of the GOP and the general electorate won’t stand for it. Guest host Joy Reid catalogs the establishment Republican attacks on Paul: she cites NR‘s Rich Lowry, the Wall Street Journal‘s Bret Stephens, and the ever-hawkish Congressman Peter King. Their strident, combined, and seemingly coordinated attacks reveal something of a looming panic about Paul’s early progress: there is no clear “establishment” choice (Chris Christie on the bridge; Jeb Bush has devoted the last decade to making money and his political skills may be rusty), and Paul is making progress among various groups (youth, African-Americans) which are appealing to Republicans who want to expand the GOP electorate.

Weiss finds the clip dispiriting because it displays how entrenched the Israel lobby is in the GOP: rabid hawks like Peter King are considered mainstream; it is considered normal behavior for GOP aspirants to kiss the ring of Sheldon Adelson, an advocate of nuking Iran. Rand Paul (who didn’t kowtow to Adelson) is presented as the loopy one. And it may be that Halperin is right—the Israel lobby is powerful enough to essentially dictate the nominating process, and will use that power against Rand Paul.

I had a different reaction: the mere fact that Paul now appears so threatening to the hawks in the party establishment is a sign of their weakness (a lack of grass roots support which they are more aware of than anyone else) and opens at least the possibility of a return to foreign policy realism in the GOP, whether under Paul’s leadership or someone else. Once people start voting, will they go for Sheldon Adelson, or someone who opposes him? I don’t think it’s foreordained that Adelson will prevail, and there are a lot of other people with money in this country.

My other reaction was pure pleasure at the candor of Joy Reid. At the end of the clip, after Halperin states that Paul will “never” satisfy the “pro-Israel” wing of the party, Reid goes right to her summation saying yes, Paul has problem with “the pro-Israel wing of the party, the pro-war (with strong emphasis) wing of the party, the neocons…”

For prime time television, this was a rare moment of blunt truth. Yes, the “pro-Israel wing” of the party takes their intellectual marching orders from neocons, who nearly always are advocating that America start a war somewhere. But one doesn’t normally say this on TV. I thought about this clip, from several years ago: Juan Williams confronted Bill Kristol on Fox News Sunday, exclaiming: Read More…

Posted in , . Tagged , , , , , . 6 comments

Boycotting the Arts and Academia

The Russians are withdrawing. Not from Crimea and Eastern Ukraine, but from Washington D.C. where the Woolly Mammoth Theatre has just canceled its festival of four plays from Moscow. As the political climate chilled, the Moscow Cultural Ministry decided to pull its funds from the festival, and Woolly Mammoth was unable to make up the difference.

This is the second controversial play cancellation this season in the nation’s capital. Theater J was forced to cancel performances of The Admission, an Israeli play modeled on Arthur Miller’s All My Sons. Like Miller’s play, The Admission focused on a family haunted by possible complicity in wartime wrongdoings.

After a sustained campaign by Citizens Opposed to Propaganda Masquerading as Art (COPMA) to shame Theater J’s donors into withdrawing their funds, The Admission had its run shortened, and the production was scaled back to a workshop, rather than a full staging. Ultimately, a local restaurant and another D.C. theater stepped in to keep the show going.

The partial victory won by COPMA is, presumably, the exact kind of tool the BDS movement (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) is hoping to bring to bear on Israel, although the two groups aim at completely different results. Like COPMA, BDS supporters aren’t confining their efforts to the business sphere but have moved on to the marketplace of ideas and culture.

In late 2013, the American Studies Association, an organization of American college and university professors, voted to boycott Israeli academic institutions. They became the second academic consortium to approve a boycott, following the Asian American Studies Association, which voted to intellectually divest in April 2013.

Conventionally, sanctions are a punitive tool of foreign policy that are intended to bring the offending country back to the bargaining table. Or, in extreme cases, to make life under the intransigent government so uncomfortable that the citizens push for regime change, whether democratically or otherwise.

An arts and academia boycott doesn’t quite fit the bill. The pain of restrictions on researchers or experimental theater companies is unlikely to trickle down to voters or up to politicians. But, even worse, when the time comes to broker some kind of détente, both sides will be worse off for losing the weak bonds of shared culture and learning. In the case of academic boycotts, the world as a whole will be worse off as researchers end up siloed and isolated from their peers, as mathematician Edward Frenkel was until he caught a lucky break.

Unfortunately, the United States has behaved just as shortsightedly as Russia during this crisis. While Moscow has held back artists, Washington has directed NASA to stop collaborating with their Russian counterparts. Extra-terrestrial blustering has been curbed a little by pragmatism; NASA is still allowed to coordinate plans for the International Space Station, and, of course, all launches of American astronauts, which will occur on Russian soil until 2017 at the earliest.

While boycotts and divestment can do good, both by putting pressure on foreign leaders and by singling out regimes on the world stage, bringing sanctions to the actual stage or to laboratories or lecture halls undermines both sides ability to understand one another and to be prepared to work together when negotiations resume.


Posted in , . Tagged , , , , . Post a comment

Antibiotic Knowledge Is More Important Than the Big Bang

Yesterday, the Atlantic‘s Alexis Madrigal wrote up a new AP poll confirming a long-standing truth: Americans don’t poll very well on science. The poll asked 1,012 Americans to rate their confidence in a series of statements about science and medicine, all but one of which were true statements uncontroversial in the scientific community (full results below). Over 90 percent of respondents were at least somewhat confident that smoking causes cancer, a mental illness is a medical condition affecting the brain, genes inside our cells help determine who we are, and overusing antibiotics causes the development of drug-resistant bacteria (well, the last one was 89 percent).

What prompted the scientific wailing and rending of garments, however, were questions of a more foundational nature. While 55 percent of respondents were at least somewhat confident that “Life on Earth, including human beings, evolved through a process of natural selection,” 42 percent were not too confident, or not at all confident. That matches Gallup’s polling of Americans’ attitudes towards evolution, where 46 percent of respondents were young earth creationists.

When asked about the Big Bang, the idea that “The universe began 13.8 billion years ago with a big bang,” 46 percent of Americans were at least somewhat confident, while 51 percent were not confident. 60 percent were at least somewhat confident in the earth being 4.5 billion years old, however, so some of the Big Bang variation may be attributable to uncertainty. The foundational question that received the strongest affirmative response was in fact “The universe is so complex, there must be a supreme being guiding its creation.” 72 percent of respondents were at least somewhat confident in that statement.

Such results were, as expected, bemoaned as the product of a society bewitched by ignorance and superstition when the clear light of scientific day stands obvious before it. The AP rang up a variety of scientists, and reported back that “Those results depress and upset some of America’s top scientists, including several Nobel Prize winners.” One climate scientist said that the poll highlights “the iron triangle of science, religion and politics”; the AP followed up to find that “To the public “most often values and beliefs trump science” when they conflict, said Alan Leshner, chief executive of the world’s largest scientific society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science.”

But as Madrigal notes, “very little has changed in the public awareness of scientific knowledge over the past 20 years.” Madrigal also documents that “On a general level, Americans’ understanding of science is comparable to people in other countries.” That does bear some close examination. After all, the past 20 years have seen some of the most incredible advances in physics and biology, in medicine and technology. The Higgs Boson has been discovered, and human cloning accomplished. Yet pluralities of Americans don’t even profess the most basic tenets of the scientific cosmology: a universe born out of the Big Bang, and life derived from natural selection. Read More…

Posted in . 13 comments

Nationalism, Not NATO, Is Our Great Ally

Utenriksdept /  cc

With Vladimir Putin having bloodlessly annexed Crimea and hinting that his army might cross the border to protect the Russians of East Ukraine, Washington is abuzz with talk of dispatching U.S. troops to Eastern Europe. But unless we have lost our minds, we are not going to fight Russia over territory no president ever regarded as vital to us. Indeed, should Putin annex Eastern and Southern Ukraine all the way to Odessa, he would simply be restoring to Russian rule what had belonged to her from Washington’s inaugural in 1789 to George H.W. Bush’s inaugural in 1989.

This is not an argument for ignoring Russia’s conduct. But it is an argument for assessing what is vital and what is not, what threatens us and what does not, and what is the real deterrent to any re-establishment of the Soviet Empire. Before we start sending troops back to Europe, as we did 65 years ago under Harry Truman, let us ask ourselves: Was it really the U.S. Army, which never crossed the Elbe or engaged in battle with the Red Army, that brought down the Soviet Empire and dissolved the Soviet Union? No. What liberated the nations of Eastern Europe and the USSR was the determined will of these peoples to be free to decide their own destinies and create, or re-create, nations based on their own history, language, culture, and ethnic identity. Nationalism brought down the empire. And Mikhail Gorbachev let these nations go because Russia was weary of maintaining a coercive empire and because Russia, too, wanted to be part of the free world.

While Putin may want the Russians of Ukraine and Belarus back inside a Greater Russia, does anyone think he wants Romanians, Bulgarians, Poles, Hungarians, Czechs, or Slovaks back under Moscow’s rule? Putin knows that his own popularity, near 80 percent, is due directly to his being seen as a nationalist willing to stand up to the Americans and their claim to be sole architects of the New World Order. And it is nationalism, not a NATO full of freeloaders, that is America’s great ally in this post-Cold War world.

It was nationalism that liberated the captive nations, broke apart the Soviet Union, split Czechoslovakia in two and divided Yugoslavia into seven countries. Nationalism drove the Chechens to try to break from Moscow, the Abkhazians and South Ossetians to secede from Georgia, and the Crimeans to say good-bye to Kiev. And as nationalism tore apart the Soviet Empire and USSR, nationalism will prevent their recreation. Should Putin invade and annex all of Ukraine, not just Crimea and the East where Russians are in a majority, his country would face the same resistance from occupied Western Ukraine Russia faces today in Dagestan, Ingushetia, and Chechnya. Putin knows that.

But if Eastern Ukraine in the May election should indicate a will to secede and join Russia, or become a separate autonomous state, why would we automatically oppose that? Are we not ourselves the proud descendants of the secessionists of ’76? If we can view with diffidence the drive by Scotland to secede from England, Catalonia to secede from Spain, Venice to secede from Italy, and Flanders to secede from Belgium, why would the secession of the Donbass from Ukraine be a problem for us, if done democratically?

Nationalism is the natural enemy of empires, and it seems on the rise almost everywhere. An assertion of Chinese nationalism—Beijing’s claim to islands Japan has occupied for over a century—has caused a resurgence of a Japanese nationalism dormant since World War II. Japan’s nationalist resurgence has caused a rise in anti-Japanese nationalism in Korea. China’s great adversary today is Asian nationalism. India resents China’s hold on territories taken in a war half a century ago and China’s growing naval presence in the Indian Ocean. China’s claims in the South China Sea have revived anti-Chinese nationalism in Vietnam and the Philippines. In Western China, Uighurs have resorted to violence and even terror to break Xinjiang off from China, which they hope to convert into their own East Turkestan. Kurdish nationalism, an ally of America in Desert Storm, is today a threat to the unity of Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran.

Elections for the European Parliament in May are almost certain to see gains for the Ukip in England, Marine Le Pen’s National Front in France, Geert Wilders Party for Freedom in the Netherlands, and other nationalist parties that have lately arisen across Europe. These parties in a way echo Putin. Where he wants Ukraine to stay out of the EU, they want their countries to get out of the EU.

Secessionism and nationalism are growth stocks today. Centralization and globalization are yesterday. A new world is coming. And while perhaps unwelcome news for the transnational elites championing such causes as climate change and battling global economic inequality, it is hard to see any great threat in all this to the true interests of the American people.

Patrick J. Buchanan is the author of Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025? Copyright 2014 Creators.com.

Posted in . 10 comments

General Mills and Consumers’ Contracting Access to Courts

General Mills
General Mills

In films, signing a contract is a considered, deliberate affair. Pens are inked, notaries are summoned, and stamps thud down as witness. But, in the eyes of General Mills, rights could be signed away with the beep of a supermarket scanner or the click of a “Like” button.

With a new revision to its online terms of service, General Mills has informed its customers that redeeming a cereal coupon constitutes a binding agreement to give up their rights to sue the company. Instead, if they are unsatisfied with their Wheaties, they could only settle the complaint through private arbitration. In arbitration, the customer brings suit to a private court, chosen by the company, which is not bound by the ordinary legal system.

After a flurry of complaints, General Mills first clarified their policy, addressing concerns that their language was so broad, that it seemed like almost any interaction with the company, from a Facebook like to just purchasing their goods, might entail giving up rights to a day in court. In fact, according to the company, if you just plain like their products, and indicate as much on Facebook, you’re in the clear. But, if you receive a coupon in exchange for your “Like,” you’re out of luck in the case of a dispute.

When these statements failed to mollify consumers, General Mills dropped the new language completely. But although General Mills was forced to back down in less than a week, other companies have managed to make coercive contracts stick, even when the terms of the contract may be illegal.

In 2010, a British gaming company parodied the contractual creep of end user license agreements (EULAs) by adding a clause to theirs that stated that customers must sign over their souls in order to play; some companies have slipped in language almost equally absurd. Dentists using contracts from a company called “Medical Justice” inform their customers that, in order to have their teeth cleaned, they must surrender their ability to write bad reviews of the practitioner. As one Ars Technica reporter discovered when he went in for his checkup:

[I]t asked me to “exclusively assign all Intellectual Property rights, including copyrights” to “any written, pictorial, and/or electronic commentary” I might make about Dr. Cirka’s services, including on “web pages, blogs, and/or mass correspondence,” to Dr. Cirka. It also stipulated that if Dr. Cirka were to sue me due to a breach of the agreement, the loser in the litigation will pay the prevailing party’s legal fees.

Some banks have gone even farther than that dental contract, stipulating that the customer was responsible for all of the banks “losses, costs, and expenses” even if the customer wins the lawsuit. A 2012 report by the Pew Charitable Trusts (which I worked on while employed there) found that four of the 12 largest banks in the United States included these kind of “if you win, you lose” agreements.

Each of these provisions is about as unenforceable as the gaming company’s claim on your soul, but the legality of the language only matters if a customer actually plans to contest the contract in front of a judge. A suited representative from the company saying, “You did sign” can have a chilling effect on victims, who back away from a dispute and never learn that the provisions would have been voided. Read More…

Posted in . 18 comments

The Stillness of Saturday

It’s Saturday—the day of waiting, the day of quiet. The day when disciples quaked behind closed doors, and darkness covered the lands, and the Son of God lay in a tomb. The day of aching, grieving, seething pain.

That 24-hour cycle of numbness and fear throbbed through Jesus’ disciples, through the people who were “looking for the kingdom of God,” like Joseph of Arimathea. It was after Jesus was dead that Joseph and Nicodemus finally exposed their allegiances—they took Jesus’s body, wrapped it in a linen shroud, wrapped it in 75 pounds worth of spices. They wrapped his body in their own allegiance and love, telling the world who they followed.

And the women followed and saw—the women who had cared for Jesus, ministered to his traveling troupe—they followed him from road, to cross, to tomb. They didn’t fear the blood or turn away. They didn’t run and hide. They followed and watched, then went to prepare their spices and ointments for His body. But first, on the Sabbath, “they rested according to the commandment.”

How do you rest when your hopes and dreams are lying in a grave?

We live in a culture of pain. So often, our response to the world’s pain and death is either cynicism or despair. Author Leslie Jamison writes in her essay, “Grand Unified Theory of Female Pain,” that we live in a post-wounded culture (she limits this to women, but I think it could apply to much of our world):

The post-​wounded posture is claustrophobic: jadedness, aching gone implicit, sarcasm quick on the heels of anything that might look like self-​pity … Their hurt has a new native language spoken in several dialects: sarcastic, jaded, opaque; cool and clever.

This is a world that has screamed with the pain of genocide, holocaust, terror and war. It’s a world in which 55 million babies have been aborted since Roe v. Wade in 1973. It’s a world of shunning and racism, hate and abuse, violence and fear. We grow accustomed to the stories—we look back on anniversaries and shrug our shoulders: What could we have done differently? Perhaps nothing. We sit in the silence and nurse our aching wounds. We begin to believe the lie: we were made for this bleak, hostile, hurting world. We were made for death and destruction.

But no—“death is an abomination and an obscenity,” says blogger Tony Woodlief. We are right to lament, to protest, to reject the bleak blackness of death: Read More…

Posted in , , . Tagged , . One comment

How to Fix the Census’s Obamacare Errors

Can you cook the books by using more accurate statistics?

That’s the question hanging over the Obama administration, now that the Census bureau has decided to change the way it assesses the number of Americans without insurance in the middle of the Obamacare rollout.

The basic problem the Census has been struggling with is how, exactly, to define “Americans without insurance.” If you ask your survey respondents “Do you currently have health insurance?” the percentage answering “No” will be a lot lower than the number of people who would say “No” to “Have you been uninsured at any point in the last year?” If you change your question to “Were you uninsured for all of last year?” the “Nos” will plunge accordingly.

The Census’s Continuing Population Survey has struggled for years with the phrasing of this question, and, when compared to other surveys of insurance coverage, has persistently overestimated the number of Americans without insurance. However, its numbers have still been commonly used, since CPS is the only survey that produces state-by-state insurance numbers across the nation.

The Census bureau did the right thing and has been investigating how to improve the accuracy of their numbers. Yuval Levin describes one of the error checks the CPS ran, and the surprising results.

In 2000, for instance, the CPS supplement introduced a simple verification question: If people had answered “no” when presented with a list of possible options for different kinds of insurance coverage on the questionnaire, then the interviewer, rather than just note them as uninsured, would say “So does this mean I should record you as uninsured?” They found that an amazing 8 percent of respondents answered “no,” and only in the wake of this verification question (which, for those who answered in the negative, was followed again by a list of insurance options) reported that they were in fact insured.

The CPS has finally found a new question, that they trust to produce reliable data, but, since they’re switching over just as Obamacare goes into effect, the methodological change may obscure the effects of Obama’s signature legislation.  As reported in the New York Times:

In the test last year, the percentage of people without health insurance was 10.6 percent when interviewers used the new questionnaire, compared with 12.5 percent using the old version. Researchers said that they had found a similar pattern in the data for different age, race and ethnic groups.

But Ezra Klein of Vox isn’t worried that the changes in the survey will make it impossible to measure the impact of the Affordable Care Act. According to Klein, the CPS changed their methodology just in time.

Politics aside, there’s a technocratic logic to this timing. The Census Bureau’s change begins with data for 2013 — meaning it starts before Obamacare does. By making the switch in 2013, there’ll be a baseline to compare obamacare to, and that baseline won’t fall apart in year two or three or four.

Unfortunately, a baseline data point is a lot less valuable than a baseline trend. The test for Obamacare isn’t just if it brings the numbers of the uninsured down, but if the new policies cause more people to sign up faster than historical data would predict. The 2013 datapoint may be a baseline measurement of coverage, but it can’t serve as a baseline for the changing trend of coverage.

The ideal solution might have been to run both questions, the old and the new, in parallel on the CPS for a period of five to 10 years. Instead of posing the improved question to all respondents, the Census employees could randomize assignments, so that a third to a half of all those surveyed answered the old, biased question, while the rest answered the new, improved question. Read More…

Posted in , . Tagged , , , , , . 13 comments

Americans Don’t See Ukraine as Their Cause

Sasha Maksymenko /  cc

When Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Empire an “evil empire,” the phrase reflected his conviction that while the East-West struggle was indeed a global geostrategic conflict, it had a deep moral dimension. If Americans did not see the Cold War as he did, a battle between good and evil, Reagan knew that they would indefinitely sacrifice neither the wealth of the nation nor the blood of its sons to sustain it. That is in the character of Americans.

Jimmy Carter had sought to remove that moral dimension by declaring, “We have gotten over our inordinate fear of communism.” But with his “evil empire” speech, Reagan re-moralized the Cold War in what Natan Sharansky called “a moment of moral clarity.” Here we come to the heart of the matter as to why Americans want to stay out of any Ukrainian conflict. Americans not only see no vital U.S. interest, but also no moral dimension to this quarrel.

If, after all, it was a triumph of self-determination for Ukraine to secede from the Russian Federation, do not Russians in Crimea and Donetsk have the same right—to secede from Kiev and go home to Russia? If Georgians had a right to break free of the Russian Federation, do not Abkhazians and South Ossetians have a right to break free of Georgia? Turnabout is fair play is an old American saying. Op-ed writers bewail Vladimir Putin’s threat to the “rules-based” world we have created. But under what rule did we bomb Serbia for 78 days to tear away Kosovo, the cradle province of the Serb people? Perhaps some history is in order.

Compare how Putin brought about the secession and annexation of Crimea, without bloodshed but with popular approval, with how Sam Houston and friends brought about the secession of Texas from Mexico, and its annexation by the United States in 1845. When the Mexicans tried to retrieve a disputed piece of their lost Texas territory, James K. Polk accused them of shedding American blood on American soil, had Congress declare war, sent Gen. Winfield Scott and a U.S. army to Mexico City, and annexed the entire northern half of Mexico, which is now the American Southwest and California.
Compared to the Jacksonian, James Polk, Vladimir Putin is Pierre Trudeau.

Read More…

Posted in . Tagged . 18 comments

Peter King and the Hawks’ Hysterical Attacks on Rand Paul

New York Congressman and potential 2016 presidential candidate Peter King put points on the soundbite scoreboard yesterday with a fiery appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” Host Joe Scarborough was happy to escalate the intra-party war between the hawkish Republican establishment and Sen. Rand Paul.

“Let’s start with Rand Paul,” Scarborough said. “I take it that you would not be comfortable with Rand Paul being the commander-in-chief.”

“His views would be disastrous, Joe. I think he appeals to the lowest common denominator,” King said of the man who has assumed a contentious front-runner status for the Republican presidential nomination.

For advocates of a limitless global American military presence, Paul’s rising popularity is an existential threat to the GOP as we have known it for generations. The suddenness of Paul’s rise has unleashed a flood of conservative-on-conservative invective. Paul’s views have been described as “nakedly unacceptable … unhinged … lunacy” (Bret Stephens in the Wall Street Journal),  “fringe … extremism … hooey” (Jennifer Rubin at the Washington Post) and “dewy-eyed foolishness” that is “more appropriate to a dorm-room bull session than the Situation Room” (Rich Lowry at National Review).

And that was just last week.

Last month, former Bush press secretary Ari Fleischer told Time that Paul has “a naiveté that’s going to be a problem.” In the midst of Paul’s 13-hour filibuster protesting President Obama’s drone powers last spring, Sen. John McCain uttered what remains Paul’s most enduring label, when he called his younger senate colleague a “wacko bird.”

Paul’s policy deviations are significant, but the “wacko bird” wasn’t taken seriously until the polls showed that his message was catching on with voters. Now that he represents an unquestionable insurgency within the GOP rank and file, the establishment has finally roused itself into an organized counter-attack. Rubin is leading the media charge (she wrote four Paul hit pieces in the last four days), while anonymous donors huddled around a Time reporter to deliver a mafioso message in Las Vegas—they will bury Rand Paul’s candidacy in its infancy.

Paul is marching on, wrangling over the Reagan legacy even as his foes tar him as a strident leftist for remarks he made in a 2009 video where he seemed to implicate former Vice President Dick Cheney in wanton war profiteering. On ABC’s “This Week,” this week, Paul said that Cheney “loves his country.” And while he said that he does not question Cheney’s motives, he reiterated that the former veep’s role at Halliburton, a major defense contractor for Operation Iraqi Freedom, created “a chance for a conflict of interest.”

Paul is being careful with this messaging, but only to a point. He is not holding back his belief in what constitutes “realism” in foreign policy, a worldview that he maintains is the more authentic conservative and Reaganesque model. In the weekend interview, he pointed to what he sees as the hypocrisy and recklessness of diplomatic bellicosity. To hawks who claim that the United States will not accept a nuclear Iran under any circumstances, Paul offered a historical comparison.

“We woke up one day and Pakistan had nuclear weapons,” he said. “If that would have been our policy towards Pakistan, we would be at war with Pakistan.”

In an op-ed in Wednesday’s Washington Post, he distilled the point:

“If, after World War II, we had preemptively announced that containment of nuclear powers would never be considered, the United States would have trapped itself into nuclear confrontations with Russia, China, Pakistan, India and North Korea.”

To Peter King, these are the views of “an isolationist wing from the 1930s.” In his bulldog appearance Wednesday morning, King said that Paul’s views on foreign policy, drones, and domestic surveillance are at “a hysterical level” that is “feeding into paranoia.”

This is the same Congressman King who, in a 2004 radio interview with Sean Hannity, said that “80 to 85 percent of mosques in this country are controlled by Islamic fundamentalists.” American Muslims, King said at the time, are “an enemy living amongst us.”

It seems apparent that, of the two men, King has engaged in the greater fear-mongering. While Paul may have entertained some far-fetched hypotheticals about drones wiping out a Starbucks, the Pentagon would survive a Paul presidency. He is far more moderate on defense spending than his father ever was, and skepticism of government overreach is arguably a core American value. One of these men may be prone to paranoid hysteria, but it isn’t Rand Paul.

Michael Ames reports on politics, culture, and land issues. He lives in Brooklyn, New York. Follow him on Twitter @mirkel

Posted in , , . Tagged , , , , , , . 21 comments

Rousseau’s American Heirs Fight the Final Prejudice

Joseph Bottom’s An Anxious Age has stirred up quite a debate over his thesis that progressivism has recently switched from setting reason and science as first principles toward eradicating prejudicial beliefs as its prime ideological imperative. The left has always had an attraction to both, however. Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s romanticism has always challenged Rene Descartes’ rationalism, but after the bureaucratization and failures of the rationalized welfare state in recent times, the former’s aesthetic critique has become the more attractive argument for modern progressives.

What both strains of leftism had in common was repulsion against tradition. A typical dictionary defines prejudice as “a preconceived opinion that is not based upon reason or actual experience.” Descartes and the rationalists objected to tradition’s irrationality, and Rousseau and the romantics objected to tradition’s experience. It is curious that both rationalist and emotive progressivism first validated prejudice in the movement’s early eugenicist days. The progress in progressivism was from traditional prejudicial socialization to future reason, or social accord, or hopefully to both. So it is not surprising that prejudice became their common political target.

In the postwar United States, legal segregation in public schools and accommodations was outlawed, and the civil rights acts of 1957, 1960, and 1964 promoted equal treatment and voting. Antidiscrimination regulations were extended to sex and ethnicity. Feminism won the right to vote in 1920, an Equal Pay Act in 1963, no-fault divorce in the 1970s, sexual harassment protection in 1986, and guaranteed free contraception in 2010. With the 2013 Supreme Court decisions, same sex marriages were granted equal federal benefits with traditional marriages and it appeared that the same thinking would also void traditional state marriage laws. The Violent Crime Control Act of 1994 set criminal penalties for hate crimes committed on the basis of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, or gender of any person.

This year’s 50th anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act illuminates the value of shifting to a focus on the elimination of prejudice. Yes, the left itself questions these laws’ success, complaining that racism, sexism, and gender discrimination are still rampant—but that is efficacious for the cause. Certainly, access to voting is now universally available and overt discrimination has decreased, although formal discrimination complaints have actually increased. There is a large African-American middle class. Women lag male average income but, when wages are controlled for time and type of work, they have mostly achieved equality of income. Never-married women actually out-earn single men.

But there is another side to the story. The ratio of black to white income in 1947 before the civil rights laws was 52 percent; this increased to 60 percent in 1969 by the end of legal segregation—but before the mass government antipoverty and affirmative action programs had effect. By 2012 the ratio was only 57 percent, no improvement in 40 years. Worse, black unemployment has been twice as high as that of whites ever since data has been collected. Racial workforce participation rates are equally dramatic. Some of these disparities were offset by government welfare programs, though in absolute numbers whites received more funds.

As Robert Rector has noted the greatest differences are in education and marriage, both of which are important social supports for earned income and employment. Most black urban education is dysfunctional, but marriage makes the biggest difference in poverty levels: the poverty rate for married blacks is only 7 percent compared to 36 percent for unmarried blacks and 22 percent for unmarried whites. Yet, to the left traditional marriage seems part of the problem. Indeed, fighting prejudice against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered citizens by traditionalists is at the top of progressivism’s present agenda. Read More…

Posted in , , , . Tagged , , , . 8 comments
← Older posts