Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Release of Flatus by the Cerebellum As Emitted By Megan McArdle

Shorter Megan McArdle: Workers are to blame for poor working conditions.

Money quote:
[As] employees, we want to have maximum freedom to take better jobs, to withhold our labor until we get a better deal, or to take time off for stuff we think is important, while enjoying maximum income stability. As customers, however, we want folks who will work cheaply with no commitments and yet show up reliably, which is why we hate the cable company so much. The institutions that intermediate these two desires are employers: governments and companies. 
Because we have these intermediaries standing between us and the other side, transforming the trades into something more suited to our tastes, it's easy to generate contradictory demands as voters, ones that ratchet up that risk because we ask officials to guard our interests as consumers as well as our interests as workers.
I think she's getting stupider. She quotes Arnold Kling and Tyler Cowen, blathers on at random for a while, and then it's cocktail hour. Bottoms up!

Friday, May 15, 2015

The Long Con Of Rod Dreher

The percentage of Christians in the US has dropped 7.8%, from 78.4% to 70.6% and Rod Dreher cries Apocalypse Now!

Look at those numbers. We are staring at the face of a European-style collapse within a couple of generations. If you think the children being born now to religiously observant Millennial parents are, on the whole, going to be more pious than their parents’ generation, you are whistling past the graveyard. Once this decline gets going, it’s very hard to stop. 
Again and again: these are not normal times. We can’t be about business as usual. The future of Christianity in America will be Benedictine — as in Benedict Option — or it won’t be at all.
Moore and Stetzer are mostly right. This is a winnowing-out of nominal Christians, and it could make the church stronger. The down side of this is that a post-Christian culture can and will slide into an anti-Christian culture, one that will not content itself to let us be weirdoes off by ourselves, but will actively attempt to suppress us. I am certain this will happen. It may be good for us, ultimately, but I cannot say that I’m looking forward to watching institutions be torn apart.
The number of people who were unaffiliated with religion rose 6.7%. Fascism is bound to follow.
Not long ago, a senior figure engaged in legal strategy on religious freedom issues told me that we cannot disengage from court fights and politics, because we have no choice but to keep fighting to protect ourselves. But we should not be under any illusions about the prospect of any kind of solid or lasting victory, nor should we deceive ourselves by thinking that winning lawsuits and elections is any kind of alternative to doing the hard, long, necessary work of building a strong, resilient Christian culture.
We must live a Christian life while persecuting gays. It's not all fun and games, you know.
I have called the showdown in Indiana over RFRA an “apocalypse,” not in the “end of the world” sense, but in the original Greek sense of an “unveiling.” The reason it was so shocking to many religious conservatives is because it showed us how things really are in this country — specifically, that religious liberty is far more imperiled than we previously believed. It’s not so much that people weighed religious liberty against gay rights claims and found them wanting; it’s that people didn’t seem to weigh them at all. It was naturally assumed, and assumed with great moral indignation, that of course religious people are entitled to no consideration in the face of anti-discrimination claims. Patrick Deneen can read the signs of the times, and sees that neither Republicans nor Democrats can be counted on to value the principle religious liberty when it opposes what the mob, including the mob in the boardroom, wants[.]
Christianity is going to cost us something in the near future, and for the foreseeable future. This can be the seed of a greater faith, and I hope it is. But I also hope that Christians don’t underestimate the difficulty of the road ahead. As I keep saying, these are not normal times, and things we have always been able to take for granted are going to erode badly, even disappear. Prepare.
How is Rod Dreher preparing for the coming annihilation of the Christians? He is retreating to his happy place, the Benedict Option. This Benedict Option is a little vague, it seems to entail a kind of retreat into a strong religious community. Surely that would make the pogroms easier to carry out but Rod was not clear.

Finally Dreher described what he meant by finding a more Godly way to wait out existence until he is carried off by the wings of an angel.
Our friends arrived tonight after eight hours on the road, and we served dinner, had beer and wine, then retired to the living room for coffee, tea, and long conversation about life, about church, about books, about God. This is part of the Benedict Option for us. Of course you don’t have to be any sort of lay Benedictine to be hospitable; all good people are hospitable. My point is simply that this kind of hospitality is not something we do in spite of our Christianity; it’s something we do because of the kind of Christians we are. I am basically a Byzantine hobbit who lives by a Christianity that both fasts and feasts, and that sings psalms, and says the knots on a prayer rope, and lights candles, and makes prostrations during Lent, and on and on.  
It’s a life that is vivid and joyful, with the sacramental worship of Jesus Christ at its center. Not as an add-on, but at its center. That’s what I mean too by the Benedict Option.

The Benedict Option has a predecessor, the Crunchy Con movement. You might notice a pattern in Dreher's description of the Crunchy lifestyle.

When Matthew came along, we didn't often have the opportunity or the money to go to restaurants, so we spent many a weekend night cooking dinners for friends at home. Out of sheer curiosity and the pleasure of discovery, we learned about cheese and wine, and began spending some of the happiest evenings of our lives in the basement living room of our little apartment on the Brooklyn waterfront, laughing and talking politics, religion, books, movies, travel, and everything under the sun amid steaming platters of garlicky roasts, tureens of peppery remoulade, crisp-crusted frittatas, tangy giambottas, napoleons of beefsteak tomatoes and basil from our own patio garden, and bottle after bottle of robust Italian and Spanish wine. For us, family, friends, and feasting was pretty much what the good life was all about. The food we prepared with such enjoyment and care was, at bottom, an expression of love for our companions, and our long suppers an occasion for communion.
Rod, a true Louisiana son, loves his food and alcohol, don't you cher?

But let's go further back.

 By that time I was between my freshman and sophomore semesters at LSU in Baton Rouge, and was home working a summer gig at the nuclear plant. There was no place I wanted to be less than stuck in Starhill. So I checked out. I'd come home from my nine-to-five job, make myself a tall glass of Tanqueray gin, grapefruit juice, and soda, and retire to my room to drink, read Hemingway, listen to ska, and marinate in self-doubt. To the rest of my family I looked like a self-centered, uppity layabout. There was no doubt some truth to that, but it was also the case that I was confused and drifting. 

And further still.

Fishing was our family's thing, and Paw's pond was our family's place. Though I was no fan of the outdoors, I would be lying if I said I didn't enjoy it.

But I would also be lying if I said I wouldn't rather have been in city, at the movies, or better ye, at a bookstore. I loved science fiction, and novels, and books about space, and comics from Richie Rich to Archie to the Green Lantern. And best of all, there was Mad magazine, with its smarty-pants humor, and its snappy Yiddishisms. Nobody around here talked like that. I wanted to be where people talked like that.

In college, he finally was.
One evening [his sister Ruth] shared a table in the cafeteria with my best friend Paul and me. Paul, a political theory major, and I, minoring in philosophy and political science, loved to talk about big ideas. That evening we got off on something about Nietzsche and the death of God. Ruthie listened patiently, but finally lost her cool. She told us she thought that we the "stupidest bunch of you-know-what" that she had ever heard....  
She wouldn't listen to anything either of us had to say in defense of philosophy or philosophizing. At the time I thought Ruthie's prickly anti-intellectualism was funny.
Rod Dreher wants nothing more in this life than to be able to afford a comfortable upper middle class lifestyle doing what he does best: pseudo-intellectual moralizing and gay-bashing. It doesn't matter what he actually says; anything that will sell a book will do. He sold the Catholic Church and then he sold liberal conservatism and when that quickly exhausted he sold the Benedict Option. He'll keep on making up new philosophies and contemplating his navel at enormous length as long as there is a buck to be made or a gay to bash.

And if he has to whip up an Apocalypse to get his luxury and ease that's a small price for someone else to pay so he can live like a Southern Gentleman.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Allen West Wins The Emily Litella Prize!

Allen West went grocery shopping with his grown daughter and was horrified to be caught in a Sharia nightmare.
More Ominous Signs Of Christian Persecution  
So we were off to the local Walmart Superstore just up the road. We gathered up her desired foodstuffs and headed to the checkout — and then this happened. There was a young man doing the checkout and another Walmart employee came over and put up a sign, “No alcohol products in this lane.” So being the inquisitive fella I am, I used my additional set of eyes — glasses — to see the young checkout man’s name. Let me just say it was NOT “Steve.”  
I pointed the sign out to Aubrey and her response was a simple question, how is it that this Muslim employee could refuse service to customers based on his religious beliefs, but Christians are being forced to participate in specific events contrary to their religious beliefs?  
Boy howdy, that is one astute young lady.  
Imagine that, this employee at Walmart refused to just scan a bottle or container of an alcoholic beverage — and that is acceptable. A Christian business owner declines to participate or provide service to a specific event — a gay wedding — which contradicts their faith, and the State crushes them.
Another example of statist hatred of religion and its attempt to impose secularity on a god-fearing people! But fortunately we don't have to worry about Heartland dhimmitude after all.

EDITOR’S UPDATE: We spoke to the Walmart store, and apparently employees under 21 years old are prohibited from selling cigarettes and alcohol. However, that isn’t to say Walmart isn’t selectively caving to Muslim demands, such as this case regarding Halal meat in Ohio.

They are going to flog "Christian persecution" to death. Sweet, sweet victimization, balm to the soul. I suggest we call them whiners and laugh at them.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Too Long; Didn't Cook

Someone needs to tell Megan McArdle to step away from the food blogging. It is not going well. She is now telling us that:

1.) Cooking an ear of corn is too much work.

These recipes are often also quite labor intensive. In spicy dishes, cooking time and lots of ingredients can substitute for prep work. When you're simplifying the flavors, that means more prep work, since you can't use processed stuff from the supermarket, and precision cooking. That corn dish above isn't terribly difficult, but you do need to shuck all those ears of corn, then slice the kernels off, then make brown butter while watching it intently to ensure it doesn't go from "brown" to "carbonized," then boil the kernels for exactly a minute in salted water, then fish them out with a strainer, and plop them into the pan with the brown butter ... and a lot of you thought "sheesh, never mind" sometime around Step 3. Moreover, unlike spicy ragouts or casseroles, all this prep has to be done shortly before you eat, meaning there's no lounging around with the guests in the living room during cocktail hour. Or arriving home from work half an hour before serving dinner.

We also learn here that:

2.) McArdle usually does not use fresh ingredients and therefore finds shucking corn to be onerous.

3.) McArdle doesn't understand the concept of simply preparing and eating a quality ingredient to enjoy its (nearly) pure flavor.

4.) McArdle find it much more convenient to buy prepared ingredients and do most of the cooking in advance or in a crock pot.

5.) McArdle wants precise instructions, she does not want to cook to taste.

6. McArdle still wants to coat everything will fat.

And let's not forget the funny: McArdle invariably ruins every recipes by blithely making everything up as she goes along. Perhaps she enjoys the result and that is why she cooks the way she does, as she should.

And our new household favorite: chicken roasted with Thomas Keller's recipe, above a pan filled with new potatoes, frozen artichoke hearts and pearl onions. Without all the spices, you get the simple, perfect flavors of the underlying ingredients. This is the sort of cooking that April Bloomfield's new cookbook aims at, and I heartily recommend that you try it.
 In the linked recipe, Keller specifically says he wants a dry heat; he even coats the poultry with salt to draw out moisture. McArdle adds water-heavy frozen ingredients directly under the chicken where it can steam the chicken while bathing the vegetables in chicken juice and fat. To retain one's elite status one must disseminate the latest elite wisdom but that doesn't mean one has to follow it.

Which leads us to our next lesson:

7. McArdle wants to convince everyone she is an elite foodie when she is really a 1950s housewife whose tastes do not match her culinary reach. Not that there's anything wrong with that. But it just doesn't project the image McArdle wants, so we are entertained by justifications for doing what she wants even when it isn't elite.

Position Is Power

Rod Dreher is a weak man and weak men crave strength. He is physically weak. He is emotionally weak; he makes no attempt to overcome his problems and takes out his pain on scapegoats while constantly stroking his own ego. And he is morally weak, for his first instinct is always to attack and harm others. Only a moral vacuum would consider Dreher a moral leader, which explains why David Brooks promoted him no doubt.

A weak, powerless man, whether he actually is or imagines he is, will often try to become more powerful. That is not easy and sometimes desperate times call for desperate measures. When the only advantage you have is your position in society-a (presumably) straight white male--you seek to use that advantage to leverage more power. You gravitate to positions that afford the straight white male an advantage, perhaps in the Church or Republican party. You find a patron who needs a straight white male to tell other straight white males what to do. You enter fields of study that traditionally exclude large segments of the population. But while kissing up is immensely satisfying and remunerative, it leave a great hole in ones' life. Serving others does not feed the fragile ego. One must have someone to kick down as well.

A weak, powerless man must tell himself that no matter how terrible he is, there is always someone worse. Less powerful, less admired, less moral, less civilized, less devout. Less anything. And by virtue of the power invested by God, men are better than women. Or designed better. Or designed to be superior. Smarter. A leader. The one on top.

There must always be someone on bottom so everyone knows who is on top. It just happens to be men, no offense, they didn't make it that way, it's just nature. Because we must have a hierarchy, men and women must be separated into inferior and superior. Because controlling half of the human population is not easy you must appeal to the very highest authority to maintain control. But because some of the official Authority laws are beneficial to men and some are not, men retain the right to enforce the laws they want and ignore the laws they do not.

Rod Dreher increases his personal power by attacking gays, the other not-men. He does it because he is insecure, because it sells books, and because he is mean. As time permits I will demonstrate numerous instances of Rod picking up stones, looking around, whistling, and putting them in his pockets in case he happens to find a sinner lingering around. I will also visit "The Little Way Of Ruthie Leming" for autobiographical background on Rod's weakness and insecurity, such as all the times Rod's little sister beat him up and mocked his elitist ways.

Rod tells his readers he's fighting for God. He is actually fighting to retain authoritarian control over sexuality because it personally benefits him.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Chomsky vs. Harris: The Limits Of Intelligence

Recently Sam Harris attempted to "engineer a public conversation with [Noam] Chomsky about the ethics of war" and the results were not pretty. Harris was unable to achieve his goal and as "a cautionary tale" decided to publish the results anyway. Why would Harris publish an exchange in which he was the loser? Why would he want the exchange in the first place?

Fortunately Harris, like many people who deal in self-deceit, cannot help but reveal his reasons for his actions. The intellectualization of emotions doesn't eradicate or hide those emotions. Trick knots leave a string hanging and once you start to pull the whole thing starts to unravel. Look for the emotion and you'll find the rag and bone propaganda shop of the soul.
For decades, Noam Chomsky has been one of the most prominent critics of U.S. foreign policy, and the further left one travels along the political spectrum, the more one feels his influence. Although I agree with much of what Chomsky has said about the misuses of state power, I have long maintained that his political views, where the threat of global jihadism is concerned, produce dangerous delusions. In response, I have been much criticized by those who believe that I haven’t given the great man his due.
Chomsky disagrees with Harris. Chomsky is very influential; the left listens to him. He is called a great man. This has caused problems for Harris. He is being "much" criticized by the left, by the people who could be his supporters. This affects Harris' influence and marketability. Harris feels he must do something about this problem.

But Harris says that he thinks Chomsky is wrong about the war on terror. Chomsky's wrong political views are dangerously delusional. By inference, Harris is being unfairly criticized because he disagrees with a delusional Chomsky. So Harris decides to have a public discussion with Chomsky, a civil exchange of ideas between two great minds, in which Harris can show his followers that he is right and show Chomsky that the latter is wrong. What could possibly go wrong?
Last week, I did my best to engineer a public conversation with Chomsky about the ethics of war, terrorism, state surveillance, and related topics. As readers of the following email exchange will discover, I failed. I’ve decided to publish this private correspondence, with Chomsky’s permission, as a cautionary tale. Clearly, he and I have drawn different lessons from what was, unfortunately, an unpleasant and fruitless encounter. I will let readers draw lessons of their own.

Harris attempted to manipulate ("engineer") Chomsky into a successful public debate. He failed. Harris decided to publish the exchange anyway as a "cautionary tale" for anyone trying to debate that rude, delusional Noam Chomsky. His readers will have to decide for themselves that Harris is right and Chomsky is wrong, because Chomsky is too disobliging to do it for them.

April 26, 2015

From: Sam Harris
To: Noam Chomsky

Noam —

I reached out to you indirectly through Lawrence Krauss and Johann Hari and was planning to leave it at that, but a reader has now sent me a copy of an email exchange in which you were quite dismissive of the prospect of having a “debate” with me. So I just wanted to clarify that, although I think we might disagree substantially about a few things, I am far more interested in exploring these disagreements, and clarifying any misunderstandings, than in having a conventional debate. 

If you’d rather not have a public conversation with me, that’s fine. I can only say that we have many, many readers in common who would like to see us attempt to find some common ground. The fact that you have called me “a religious fanatic” who “worships the religion of the state” makes me think that there are a few misconceptions I could clear up. And many readers insist that I am similarly off-the-mark where your views are concerned.
In any case, my offer stands, if you change your mind.



Harris must overcome Chomsky's public dismissal of the idea of debating him so he says he wishes to explore and clarify through an exchange of ideas--but it's not a debate. It's a public conversation. Since Chomsky doesn't want to debate, Harris tries to use their status as an authority to push him into the direction he wants Chomsky to go. If that doesn't work he'll also throw in a passive-aggressive accusation of incivility by quoting Chomsky's harsh words about Harris. Surely this will force Chomsky to respond to defend his public image and ideas and maintain his position in his hierarchy.

Chomsky's response is priceless.

April 26, 2015

From: Noam Chomsky
To: Sam Harris
  Perhaps I have some misconceptions about you.  Most of what I’ve read of yours is material that has been sent to me about my alleged views, which is completely false.  I don’t see any point in a public debate about misreadings.  If there are things you’d like to explore privately, fine.  But with sources.

Chomsky is willing to discuss Harris' errors privately but sees no point in having a pubic debate with someone who does not accurately represent his views. To reinforce that point he tells Harris to use sources, a comment that must have hit Harris' intellectual vanity. Even worse, despite Harris' politeness Chomsky's response is abrupt.  Where is the academic congeniality? The salutation, best wishes, exchange of first names to establish one is on a first-name basis with the great man? It must have irritated Harris quite a bit because in his response he felt free to take out the shiv and start poking.

April 26, 2015

From: Sam Harris
To: Noam Chomsky

Noam —

Thanks for getting back.

Before engaging on this topic, I’d like to encourage you to approach this exchange as though we were planning to publish it. As edifying as it might be to have you correct my misreading of you in private—it would be far better if you did this publicly.
Poke! An insinuation that Chomsky wants to correct Harris to gratify his ego.  Harris doesn't seem to realize that Chomsky does not have that need. This is not surprising as Harris clearly does want to have his ego gratified by holding this conversation. There was no reason for Harris to poke the bear except to try to make himself look better (less Islamophobic) in public.
It’s not a matter of having a “debate about misreadings”; it’s a matter of allowing our readers to see that conversation on difficult and polarizing topics can occasionally fulfill its ostensible purpose. If I have misread you, and you can show me where I’ve gone wrong, I would want my readers to see my views change in real time. It would be far less desirable for me to simply report that you and I clarified a few things privately, and that I have now changed my mind about X, Y, and Z.
Flatter the old man. Let him think that Harris will inevitably be changed forever by Chomsky's brilliant argumentative skills. Everyone will see it happen in real time! Besides, it's for the good of the people. They need to know the process works. Most of all, "it would be far less desirable for me" to do otherwise.

Beyond correcting our misreadings, I think we could have a very interesting conversation about the ethical issues surrounding war, terrorism, the surveillance state, and so forth. I’d be happy to do this entirely by email, or we could speak on the phone and have the audio transcribed. In either case, you would be free to edit and refine your contributions prior to publication. My only request would be that you not go back and make such sweeping changes that I would have to totally revise my side of things.

But let the old man know that you are up to his tricks! Sure, he'll probably want to hide half of what he says. But Harris can take it, at long as Chomsky realizes that he won't be able to make Harris look bad or lose the "discussion" by erasing the past. Oh and by the way.... Harris goes on to reprint a series of horrific arguments based on American exceptionalism (we meant well and hey, death is inevitable).

While you’re thinking about that, I’d like to draw your attention to the only thing I have ever written about your work. The following passages appear in my first book, The End of Faith (2004), which was written in response to the events of 9/11. Needless to say, the whole discussion betrays the urgency of that period as well as many of the failings of a first book. I hesitate to put it forward here, if for no other reason than that the tone is not one that I would have ever adopted in a direct exchange with you. Nevertheless, if I’ve misrepresented your views in writing, this is the only place it could have happened. If we’re going to clarify misreadings, this would seem like a good place to start.


What follows is Harris' article "Leftist Unreason and the Strange Case of Noam Chomsky," a deeply embarrassing exercise in post 9/11 hysteria that attempts to justify all our actions by stating the US is uniquely good and Islam is uniquely bad.

And yet, thinkers far more sober than Baudrillard view the events of September 11 as a consequence of American foreign policy. Perhaps the foremost among them is Noam Chomsky. In addition to making foundational contributions to linguistics and the psychology of language, Chomsky has been a persistent critic of U.S. foreign policy for over three decades. He has also managed to demonstrate a principal failing of the liberal critique of power. He appears to be an exquisitely moral man whose political views prevent him from making the most basic moral distinctions—between types of violence, and the variety of human purposes that give rise to them.

Yes, it's the ever-popular glitter-shitting-purity-pony defense. Anyone who does not support our war of terror is indulging in lace-hanky-waving moral preening. They just want to feel good, they don't want to be serious people.  They don't understand that our violence means well while Muslim violence--does not!

Before pointing out just how wayward Chomsky’s thinking is on this subject, I would like to concede many of his points, since they have the virtue of being both generally important and irrelevant to the matter at hand. There is no doubt that the United States has much to atone for, both domestically and abroad. In this respect, we can more or less swallow Chomsky’s thesis whole. ... The result [of our actions] should smell of death, hypocrisy, and fresh brimstone.

We have surely done some terrible things in the past. Undoubtedly, we are poised to do terrible things in the future. Nothing I have written in this book should be construed as a denial of these facts, or as defense of state practices that are manifestly abhorrent. There may be much that Western powers, and the United States in particular, should pay reparations for. And our failure to acknowledge our misdeeds over the years has undermined our credibility in the international community. We can concede all of this, and even share Chomsky’s acute sense of outrage, while recognizing that his analysis of our current situation in the world is a masterpiece of moral blindness.
Sure, we killed and destroyed. Had a little genocide or two. Slavery, that was bad. And we'll probably do more bad--stuff--in the future. Hey, we might even have to take out the wallet afterwards and chip in some money for damages. But that doesn't mean that Chomsky is right and we have no special moral authority. Take Clinton's bombing of a vital Sudanese pharmaceutical plant on dubious evidence.

Did the Clinton administration intend to bring about the deaths of thousands of Sudanese children? No. Was our goal to kill as many Sudanese as we could? No. Were we trying to kill anyone at all? Not unless we thought members of Al Qaeda would be at the Al-Shifa facility in the middle of the night. Asking these questions about Osama bin Laden and the nineteen hijackers puts us in a different moral universe entirely.

They are the bad guys, not us. They wanted to rain down death and destruction. We don't. So when we do kill and destroy we should be given the benefit of the doubt. Do drones intend to kill innocent people? Of course not! Drones aren't evil. They only want to kill bad people. Therefore the people who give the orders to send drones and the people who actually fire on the targets are utterly blameless for any consequences.

But we are, in many respects, just such a “well-intentioned giant.” And it is rather astonishing that intelligent people, like Chomsky and [Arundhati] Roy, fail to see this. What we need to counter their arguments is a device that enables us to distinguish the morality of men like Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein from that of George Bush and Tony Blair. It is not hard to imagine the properties of such a tool. We can call it “the perfect weapon.”

At this point Harris is unable to overcome the weight of history and must escape from an unpleasant reality into an alternate reality, in which he is able to imagine circumstances in which he is not immoral. We see libertarians tie this trick knot often; they think that if they can get you to agree with them in their perfectly crafted alternate reality, that agreement must necessarily apply in real life as well.

What we euphemistically describe as “collateral damage” in times of war is the direct result of limitations in the power and precision of our technology. To see that this is so, we need only imagine how any of our recent conflicts would have looked if we had possessed perfect weapons—weapons that allowed us either to temporarily impair or to kill a particular person, or group, at any distance, without harming others or their property. What would we do with such technology? Pacifists would refuse to use it, despite the variety of monsters currently loose in the world: the killers and torturers of children, the genocidal sadists, the men who, for want of the right genes, the right upbringing, or the right ideas, cannot possibly be expected to live peacefully with the rest of us. I will say a few things about pacifism in a later chapter—for it seems to me to be a deeply immoral position that comes to us swaddled in the dogma of highest moralism—but most of us are not pacifists. Most of us would elect to use weapons of this sort. A moment’s thought reveals that a person’s use of such a weapon would offer a perfect window onto the soul of his ethics.  
Harris is positive that pacifists would never take out an enemy for any reason whatsoever, not even to protect their children from torture and murder. Harris must put forth this simple-minded belief because to admit that we choose to kill undercuts his entire argument.
Consider the all too facile comparisons that have recently been made between George Bush and Saddam Hussein (or Osama bin Laden, or Hitler, etc.)—in the pages of writers like Roy and Chomsky, in the Arab press, and in classrooms throughout the free world. How would George Bush have prosecuted the recent war in Iraq with perfect weapons? Would he have targeted the thousands of Iraqi civilians who were maimed or killed by our bombs? Would he have put out the eyes of little girls or torn the arms from their mothers? Whether or not you admire the man’s politics—or the man—there is no reason to think that he would have sanctioned the injury or death of even a single innocent person. What would Saddam Hussein or Osama bin Laden do with perfect weapons? What would Hitler have done? They would have used them rather differently.
Harris is so devoted to his idea of Western moral superiority that he does not even acknowledge that the Bush administrated chose to invade Iraq and had to lie to support their moral justifications. Harris goes on to explain that we simply must accept the fact that we have attained moral superiority for a number of reasons and that Muslims are still barbarians. "Chomsky seems to think that the disparity either does not exist or runs the other way," Harris said. Some people might not put others in harm's way by invading or bombing but life is risk, is it not?

Chomsky might object that to knowingly place the life of a child in jeopardy is unacceptable in any case, but clearly this is not a principle we can follow. The makers of roller coasters know, for instance, that despite rigorous safety precautions, sometime, somewhere, a child will be killed by one of their contraptions. Makers of automobiles know this as well. So do makers of hockey sticks, baseball bats, plastic bags, swimming pools, chain-link fences, or nearly anything else that could conceivably contribute to the death of a child. There is a reason we do not refer to the inevitable deaths of children on our ski slopes as “skiing atrocities.” But you would not know this from reading Chomsky. For him, intentions do not seem to matter. Body count is all.

See, on the one side here we have good intentions and on the other side we have a pile of torn-up bodies. Which side would you pick, huh? I thought so!

Chomsky's response points out that he already addressed the subject of intention, as opposed to Harris' claim that he did not. Chomsky also pointed out that Clinton was warned of the humanitarian crises that was sure to follow (and did) and didn't care, an even worse moral failure than caring but accidentally taking innocent lives. He added that the bombing was far from the first time Clinton acted with depraved indifference for human life. His scathing response made it perfectly clear that Chomsky was disgusted by Harris' immorality.

When it became obvious that Harris was not going to achieve his goal of burnishing his intellectual credentials in public at Chomsky's expense, he indulged in the true last refuge of the scoundrel--accusations of incivility. This post is too long already but this is my favorite part.

April 27, 2015
From: Sam Harris 

To: Noam Chomsky


Unfortunately, you are now misreading both my “silences” and my statements—and I cannot help but feel that the peremptory and censorious attitude you have brought to what could, in fact, be a perfectly collegial exchange, is partly to blame. You appear to have begun this dialogue at (or very near) the end of your patience. If we were to publish it, I would strongly urge you to edit what you have already written, removing unfriendly flourishes such as “as you know”, “the usual procedure in work intended to be serious,” “ludicrous and embarrassing,” “total refusal,” etc. I trust that certain of your acolytes would love to see the master in high dudgeon—believing, as you seem to, that you are in the process of mopping the floor with me—but the truth is that your emotions are getting the better of you. I’d rather you not look like the dog who caught the car.

Be a good chap and take out all the insulting and dismissive language, even though I accused you of editing to make yourself look better. And you are sounding positively emotional. No doubt your worshippers love that and it feeds your ego but it's just embarrassing.

The problem with these tactics is that they only work on people like Sam Harris.

Despite your apparent powers of telepathy, I am not “evading” anything. The fact that I did not address every point raised in your last email is due to the fact that I remain confused about how you view the ethical significance of intentions—and I answered your central question in such a way as to clarify this point (I had hoped). I was not drawing an analogy between my contrived case of al-Qaeda being “great humanitarians” and the Clinton administration. The purpose of that example was to distinguish the ethical importance of intention (given the same body count) as clearly as possible. The case was not meant to realistic (how would an “as you know” read here?).

On the topic of there being a “moral equivalence” between al-Shifa and 9/11, I’m afraid that what you have written is hard to understand. Despite your insistence that you drew no moral equivalence whatsoever between the two cases, you call Clinton’s actions an “atrocity” the consequences of which were “vastly more severe” than if the same had been done to the U.S., and you say that any comparison with the consequences of 9/11 is, if anything, “an understatement.” You then appear to be upbraiding me for not immediately detecting an important difference between a “horrendous crime” and an “atrocity.” Is there one? You are, of course, the famous linguist, but I believe that the editors of the OED will be nonplussed by this discovery. Perhaps you can just state it plainly: What is the moral difference between al-Shifa and 9/11?

Please don’t interpret my silence on any other matter as a sign of my unwillingness to discuss it further or to have my views changed by a proper collision with evidence and argument. You have raised many interesting historical and ethical points which I would sincerely like to explore (Hitler, Japan, and so forth). But I am reluctant to move forward before I understand how you view the significance of intention in cases where the difference between altruism (however inept), negligence, and malevolence is absolutely clear.

Chomsky was perfectly clear. Harris' beliefs that the US' actions are inherently moral and that Islamic actions are inherently evil are morally corrupt. Nothing can get around that fact, no matter how many times Harris tries to get Chomsky to say anything different, or yank the discussion into the realm of theory instead of deadly reality.

There are several more exchanges, in which Chomsky attempts to make his position perfectly clear and Harris retreats into accusations of incivility and misunderstanding.  It's all very entertaining, and very familiar to anyone who's followed the scanty intellectual achievements of our elite followers.

Friday, May 1, 2015

The Voice Of Oppression

You will not be surprised to discover that Megan McArdle doesn't like to see Blacks riot. After all, she does live in Washington, DC, a city with a large Black population. Unlike the truly wealthy she cannot isolate herself from her surroundings. The wealthy paid her to fight against subsidizing health insurance, raising the minimum wage, bailing out homeowners, eliminating redlining, and cleaning up pollution, but when the riots begin they are nowhere to been seen. McArdle is not so fortunate. While it is extremely unlikely that anyone will recognize McArdle and point the finger of j'accusation at the 6'2" white woman with long curly brown hair and glasses who drives a Mini Cooper, it is much better to step in front of these situations and try to prevent them.

Riots Just Don't Work by Megan "Please Don't Hurt Me" McArdle.

McArdle begins by manipulating her story into one with a more favorable slant.

To understand what's happening in Baltimore, let's start from David Simon's interview with the Marshall Project. A former Baltimore reporter and the creator of "The Wire," he says that the police there long ago abdicated any claim to legitimate authority. Police powers are inherently prone to abuse, but we grant them anyway, because the power is necessary to protect the community from crime. Simon argues that the Baltimore police stopped really pursuing that goal, so all that was left was the abuses. In a majority-black city with a black mayor, these dynamics do not neatly match our national assumptions about white oppressors and black oppressed. But they do back up the perception that the government cares only about the privileged, and will abuse you to benefit them.
Ce ne sont pas les inégalités de revenus.

The racial false flag hides the real false flag. Income inequality has nothing to do with race, abuse of authority, or social progress. Taxes are theft. Redistribution is crippling our future.

Government is the problem. There is no solution.

Which is outrageous. You should be outraged. But you can be outraged, as I am, and still oppose the riots, as I do. The voices that try to rationalize the violence are presenting a dangerous false choice. They say that this was simply the inevitable result of monumental injustice, so let's stop talking about the riots and start talking about the injustice. We should always talk about injustice, and strive to end it. The mass incarceration state, the erosion of Fourth Amendment rights and the vast excesses of the drug war are perhaps the most important moral crisis facing our nation. But we have to talk about the riots too, because they represent another urgent moral crisis.

There is always an urgent moral crises because there is always an economic crises to cover up. The reason Blacks riot is racism and by implication the lucrative drug war and scapegoating judiciary and politicians are racially based as well. The only time economics is mentioned is search and seizure, thus trivializing the enormous economic disadvantage in this country inflicted on anyone born Black.

 Rioting is not simply a battle of opportunity between oppressor and oppressed. Saying that riots are the inevitable product of oppression turns out to be saying too much and too little: Oppression does not usually lead to rioting, and when rioting does happen, oppression is not always its target. Sports fans riot -- sometimes after a win, sometimes after a loss. Economically oppressed blacks have rioted against the white power structure; so have whites, against their city's black population. Some things, like ethnic diversity, seem to increase the chance of riots, but the link to inequality and poverty is much less clear than you'd think. Economically disadvantaged people and students seem much more prone to rioting, but that may be because those people have much less to lose from an arrest than middle-class people do.

Riots are simply one of those things. Sometimes White, sometimes Black. Sometimes for racism, sometimes for sports. Eh, whadda ya gonna do? Just as Blacks have rioted for economic justice, Whites have rioted to murder Blacks. It's practically the same thing.

We often say that McArdle can't think. This is why. She needs to come up with convincing reasons for saying riots don't work and should end immediately please thank you god. The best she can come up with is weak and random statements that do not address her argument. Oppression does not usually lead to rioting because rioting is the result of long-standing oppression and repression, triggered by an event when it reaches critical mass.  It is very interesting that nobody asks why White people riot after sports games; they are written off as hooliganism, when those riots are also set aflame by issues of repression, self-esteem and alienation.

McArdle's link proving that inequality doesn't create social unrest is a paper that does not conclude whether inequality creates social unrest.

While the idea of a relationship between inequality and conflict is appealing,empirical proof of its existence has been elusive. Indeed there is no clear relationship in the data between inequality and violent conflicts. Some have found positive relationships between income inequality and political violence (Muller and Seligson, 1987; Midlarsky, 1988; Brockett, 1992; Binswanger, Deininger and Feder, 1993 and Schock,1996). Others have found no such relationship (Weede, 1981; Collier, Hoeffler and Soderbom, 2004). This is partly because it is hard to clearly disentangle economic inequality as a reason for conflict from other factors such as cultural, ethnic or religious differences or political contexts. Moreover, efforts to test this assumption have frequently been made by “working backward”, starting with cases where civil violence occurred and investigating factors that seem to have contributed to the outcome. This neglects cases where similar factors were present but violence did not occur. These are, of course, hard to identify as they often just look like normality.

He said, but on the other hand she said, so it's unclear. Poor people are more likely to riot because they don't have as much to loose. It's not because they are poor and see no end to it ever.

 Of course, rioting can fall on the continuum from flat-out immoral to justified. I certainly sympathize with the grievances of the people who rioted following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. more than I do with soccer hooligans or Tulsa lynch mobs. But regardless of justification, rioting is incredibly destructive, mostly in the neighborhoods where the rioters live. In my own city, Washington, D.C., the major retail corridors that were destroyed in the 1968 riots have only really begun to recover in the last five years (and one of them still hasn't). Who suffered because of that? The store owners, obviously, and their insurers. But the people who suffered most grievously were the mostly black people who lived in those neighborhoods. The commercial craters left by the riots attracted crime, raised unemployment and left the residents of the neighborhood nowhere to buy the necessities of life. People who had just started to get a toehold in homeownership saw the value of their homes depressed for decades.

 Submit for your own good. Forget all the lives you are losing and think of all the money you are losing.

The public disorder of the 1960s also helped undermine exactly the sort of public policy programs -- a more rehabilitative criminal justice policy, greater social spending -- that the riots were supposed to prove the need for. As David Frum writes in "How We Got Here," the nation hardened its attitudes between 1965 and 1974; law-and-order conservatism became the norm for American men and women with all levels of education. What happened between 1965 and 1974 to explain that? Highly televised riots are part of the answer.

Odd that McArdle forgets to ask what happened in 1964, namely the passage of the Civil Rights Act. The second America learned that it would have to desegregate schools the anger was unleashed.

Therein lies a tragic truth about rioting: It doesn't work. The left can try to treat a crime wave as a call for social justice, but that voice will be drowned out. The disorder will only fuel calls for order. Many residents understand this: Civic leaders in Baltimore, and Freddie Gray's family, were out this week calling for calm, while people sitting at computers many comfortable miles away were declaring the riots legitimate.
And now the feeble attempt to show some empathy for minorities is abandoned as McArdle gets to her real point. Riots are a crime wave and we all know how libertarians react to crime: advocate for judicial reform while demanding the police hurry up and do their job of suppressing the poor.  If you rise up we will beat you down. The good minorities call for calm. The bad liberals want to get them hurt by the cops so they can fight their fake fight for economic justice, which is based on envy for the rich and shame at their own incompetence.

The problems in Baltimore's policing are clear, and the city needs to begin the hard work of fixing them. The problems of urban ghettos that send more kids to prison than to college are also clear, though unfortunately harder to solve. But solutions will not get easier if we embrace rioting as the voice of the oppressed.
Take away the only power the poor have. Wait for the city to fix itself. Tell the Black ghettos to fix themselves by working harder and smarter. But never,  ever let the oppressed have a voice.