» Robert Wargas

The PJ Tatler

Robert Wargas

Robert Wargas is a contributor to PJ Media. A native of Long Island, he was educated at the City University of New York and Yale University, and has also written for The Daily Telegraph of London and The Weekly Standard. Outside of opinion writing, he has worked as a professional historian for a major research laboratory and university, documenting the history of biotechnology since the 1970s. He has also reported for both weekly and daily newspapers, including Newsday. He maintains a personal blog/website at robertwargas.org. Follow him on Twitter @RobertWargas
Follow Robert:

The Status Society

Thursday, January 10th, 2013 - by Robert Wargas

VDH’s latest column, a profound indictment of the hypocrisy of much of our contemporary culture, has stirred a sense of anger inside me that I haven’t felt for a while. Maybe it’s VDH’s mastery of the art of juxtaposition, but I know of no starker picture of the difference between liberal theory and practice than his latest piece. It is a brief but devastating disrobing of our hollow culture. Are you angry after reading it? Good.

I mention it for two reasons:

(1) It is not mentioned enough.

(2) Lifestyle Liberalism (a.k.a. Limousine Liberalism, Bollinger Bolshevism, MasterCard Marxism)  is now the dominant strain of progressivism. It is, quite simply, the striving to make oneself appear hip in order to achieve social status. That’s it. It is, psychologically and sociologically, a very simple concept. Say what you will about the Old Left, at least they tried to practice what they preached. Many donned Mao tunics and eschewed “bourgeois” lifestyle. Many actually were poor. Now it’s the complete opposite: in order to be “downtrodden” you must try very, very hard to appear so. You must be fashionably unfashionable, richly impoverished, powerlessly empowered, rebelliously trendy. You must become an expert on racial statistics, but never wander into Detroit, Inglewood, or Newark. You must live in Brooklyn, but in Carroll Gardens, not Brownsville. You must hate Christianity but write your master’s thesis on the awesome tradition of the black church. You must wear a keffiyeh but have bought it from Urban Outfitters, not a shack in Marrakech. You must hate affluence more than poverty, all the while affecting to believe the opposite, while using the fruits of the former to create a commodified version of the latter.

But why?

Well, we humans are rather primitive. Nobody wants to feel ostracized, so you do what you must in order to remain part of an in-group. This includes mouthing all the right slogans. The average college student is deathly afraid of disagreeing with his radical classmates and professors. If he does, he might not get the girls, he might fail the course, etc. The impulses for going along with absurd claptrap are mostly sexual in nature. Don’t agree? You’re not hip. Not hip? No status. No status? No sex.

This started in the 1960s at the universities and has trickled down to pretty much every corner of contemporary Western society. Universities are hellholes. The atmosphere of most humanities classrooms is as close to the feeling of being in Pyongyang as you’re likely to get in the United States. Everyone is on edge, petrified of saying the wrong thing. Even mildly dissenting opinions must be cloaked in the language of radical chic. Free speech means freely agreeing with the professor. But it is no longer just in the universities. American culture is fast becoming a very large classroom.

Regardless of what people actually think of radical chic, they go along with it in varying degrees in order not to be consigned to the margins of society. Czeslaw Milosz called this socio-political phenomenon “ketman.” I call it tragedy.

Read bullet | Comments »

Elderly Germans Must Move Abroad to Avoid High Cost of Living

Friday, December 28th, 2012 - by Robert Wargas

A somewhat informative article in the Guardian tells of the trend of elderly Germans moving away from their homeland to avoid rising costs of living for pensioners. The phenomenon of “oma export” has resulted in many moving to places like Hungary to avoid going broke on room and board and medical care. This is perhaps marginally better than the situation in New York, my home state, where politicians are busy wrecking every one’s chances at affordable living. But that’s for another blog post.

I say the article is only somewhat informative because it’s not long before two things occur; these two things, it seems, must occur in every article about European social problems, especially German ones. The first is the ham-handed but nevertheless de rigueur reference to Nazism and/or the Second World War in general. Here it is:

Such stories have flooded the German media in recent months following the revelations that thousands of Germans are being sent to live in overseas nursing homes. News of the practice has stoked much anger to the extent that comparisons have been drawn with the often brutal expulsion of ethnic Germans from parts of what is now Poland and the Czech Republic after the second world war.

Surely this is among the more illiterate comparisons I’ve ever heard. (You can write the historian R.M. Douglas for a more authoritative opinion on whether it’s true.) Now that we’ve got that out of the way, we can get to the second necessity: the quote from the local prestige-press editorialist/labor-party representative peddling one of the West’s favorite cultural tropes: collective guilt. In this case, it comes from Heribert Prantl of the Süddeutsche Zeitung, who writes that “a country that is capable of building the best machines in the world has not yet been able to develop a proper and intelligent care concept when in a generation from now every 15th German will be in need of care.” This quasi-Malthusian horror will continue: “Will we also start exporting our children when the kindergartens become too expensive?”

Both of these necessary tropes, the hyperbole and the moralistic hand-wringing, make sound analysis of European welfare collapse almost impossible. (The same applies a fortiori to the United States, where the only acceptable responses to any political issue are outrage and character assassination.) No attempts are ever made to ask why such tendencies have come about. No solutions beyond the political leitmotif of “more money” are ever offered. No structural analyses of particular welfare programs are discussed. No relatively sane or non-partisan economist or policy expert is ever quoted. No ideas are ever within earshot of the discussion. This might be because politics is the art of preserving the status quo while maintaining the appearance of progress. In politics, therefore, real ideas are dangerous.

Read bullet | Comments »

‘Do Something!’

Sunday, December 16th, 2012 - by Robert Wargas

I am not about to go into wonk mode and start spouting off glib policy prescriptions about how to “solve” our nation’s obvious problems regarding mass violence. This does not mean that there is nothing that can be done; it does mean, however, that social problems are complex problems, with millions of different variables, tradeoffs, and problems of law and rights to consider. To even begin to be realistic or reasonable about such issues, one must be widely read in law, history, anthropology, psychology, philosophy, and dozens of other fields. And even then, you will have amassed perhaps .0001% of the knowledge required to “do something.”

So, what can be done in light of the latest massacre? Before we ask that question, these others (and more) must be asked:

1) What is the source of the problem? We’ve had guns in the United States since before the revolution; we’ve had anti-social mass shootings for much, much less time. Even if you advocate gun control, you’re still obliged to consider that fact. What are the conditions under which these anti-social tendencies have been fostered? The Left will say its the alienating effects of capitalism; the Right will say it’s lack of religion and good morality; the libertarians will say that too much government has turned people into zombies without personal responsibility.

The libertarians and conservatives speak a common language, which is why they seldom go to war with one another the way each camp goes to war with the Left, which speaks a vastly different language. The libertarians and conservatives see politics as a tragic game of trade-offs in which the raw material is Kant’s crooked timber of humanity. The Left sees politics as a way of straightening that crooked timber, an endeavor the other two camps see as inherently absurd. We must therefore create a kind of political Esperanto: which common language can make a conversation possible? Is there such a language? I am skeptical about this.

2) Assuming, arguendo, that we can identify the source of the problem, what practical (and practicable) measures are possible? The Left wants gun control. This latest shooter stole the guns he used. This means that the only gun control that *might* have prevented the massacre would have to target not only the mentally ill, but the parents of the mentally ill. What if the shooter had stolen the guns from his cousin? A friend? Gun control would then have to cover extended family and close friends of the mentally ill. Even the category “mentally ill” is nebulous and riddled with all sorts of potential rights violations. Only a small percentage of people with diagnosed mental disorders are violent. How do we preserve their rights, not just when it comes to guns but with other things? How do we prevent “mentally ill” from becoming the starting point from which all authoritarian measures become justified and initiated? How do we preserve medical privacy? How do we keep the United States from becoming a pure surveillance state in which all economic and social transactions are linked and monitored by bureaucrats?

3) What has led to the rise of anti-social attitudes in this country? This is related to question (1) above, but is different because it asks not only to identify the problem but to identify the variables. Is it violent movies and video games? Is it mass consumerism? Is it lack of religion? Is it bad parenting? Capitalism? Socialism? Overmedication? All or none or some of the above? This is an extraordinarily complex question. The United States is a nation of over 300 million people. Which leads me to…

4) In what ways is the United States different from other nations? This is the ultimate question, because many politicians would have you believe that what works in, say, Sweden would work in the U.S. Not true. The population of New York City, for instance, is almost bigger than the entire population of Austria. Austria! One American city almost has more people than an entire European state. What’s more, European countries tend to be more culturally and ethnically homogenous than the U.S. So, small nations with small, homogenous populations have a bigger chance of getting away with gun control and welfare statism than a nation of 300+ million people all with different ethnic and cultural backgrounds and different values. I once heard someone say, in jest, that a nation like Sweden could get away with all sorts of crazy regulations that a nation like the U.S. could never get away with–mandating, for instance, that only left-handed people could be teachers and only right-handed people could be cardiologists. And they would get away with it, this person said, because of certain tendencies in Swedish culture, demographics, and history.

What about the United States? What if we banned all guns tomorrow? Would we turn into Germany overnight? No, we would not, and the sooner we realize that the whole is sometimes greater than the sum of its parts, the quicker we might be able to deal with complex social problems.


5) Has the United States evolved into a society in which the above questions are not only unable to be answered but unable to be asked? Our political culture nowadays is one in which disagreement is not a sign of simply disagreement, but grievous moral idiocy. Merely saying you believe that taxes should be lower, for instance, brings with it labels as far-reaching as “racist,” “heartless,” and so on. Even within political camps, one step outside orthodoxy is enough to ignite an almost Jacobin response. In other words, we live in a (forgive this phrase) hair-trigger political culture. People are sent flying into rage by the slightest disagreement. This means that certain things are off limits to discussion; thus, a certain degree of stagnation will remain inherent in American politics until that political culture changes.

Therefore, I must draw the sad conclusion that all of the above questions are, at this point, incapable of being asked.

Read bullet | Comments »

Christopher Hitchens on Gun Control

Saturday, December 15th, 2012 - by Robert Wargas

Exactly one year ago today, the free world lost one of its most relentless defenders, and certainly its most eloquent. Christopher Hitchens may have succumbed to cancer and its related complications, but I find myself returning to his words time and again as though they have a kind of immortal verve to them. I remember Hitchens’s mentioning that he tried to write for posterity, and, looking back, one does sense timelessness running through many of his essays and columns.

Which brings me to this: Did you know that Hitchens despised gun control? It’s true, and it was not a position he adopted only after his “neocon” turn. Writing way back in his socialist days, in 1994, Hitchens derided gun control as “half-baked pacifism that…has as its corollary a duopoly of force in the hands of the state and the criminal.” He also reserved contempt for the suggestion that those who favored private gun ownership were all cowboy wannabes:

“A favorite liberal sneer at the opponents of gun control is the suggestion that those who favor self-defense are fixated on the Old West and the imagined tradition of the lone gunslinger.”

He didn’t simply hold this position when it was safe to do so. After the Virginia Tech massacre, Hitchens was interviewed by Slate editor Jacob Weisberg and, after the issue of gun control was raised, he said the present laws were adequate since shooting people is already illegal.

Another late leftist who opposed gun control was Alexander Cockburn. Writing after Virginia Tech, Cockburn derided the “anti-gun lobby” and advocated the arming of “appropriately screened teachers and maybe student monitors.” He also suggested that “what should be banned from campuses are not weapons but prescriptions for anti-depressants.”

Read bullet | Comments »

Wait for it…

Saturday, December 15th, 2012 - by Robert Wargas

I used to live in Connecticut, not more than perhaps 15 miles from Newtown. Like most states in our Republic, large swaths of Connecticut are rather sleepy, quiet, and quaint. People rise and sleep under a blanket of normalcy and routine. The injection of even the slightest bit of disruptive violence into these communities, to say nothing of the slaughter of children near Christmastime, is like nothing so much as the kind of nightmares you get when sick with a high fever. You may not believe in the Devil, but he believes in you.

Mass violence, especially in the form of mass shootings by young males, has reached a pathological level in the United States relative to other Western nations. Most of these incidents trigger debates about “gun control.” Fine. Seldom discussed in the mainstream media, however, is the correlation between such incidents and the mass drugging of our youth. Given the undeniably frequent coincidence of school shootings and antidepressant use in the United States, I am waiting to hear which psychiatric drugs the Connecticut shooter was using. I am not Thomas Szasz or R.D. Laing, nor do I belong to a movement that views Big Pharma as a kind of biomedical Trilateral Commission. I could be wrong. But if my gut feeling proves correct, and the acronym “SSRI” appears in any news reports over the next few days, we perhaps need to add psychiatry to our list of national discussions.

Read bullet | Comments »

As We Go Marching

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012 - by Robert Wargas

The long-dead libertarian writer John T. Flynn once wrote a regular column for The New Republic called “Other People’s Money,” a phrase borrowed from Louis Brandeis. The election results brought these three words to my lips last night, as I watched the re-election of a man who has presided over one of the most significant debasements of a national economy since the sclerotic years of Harold Wilson and James Callaghan in the U.K. The essential point to make is that a large chunk of the American public has been bought. I mean this in a non-conspiratorial sense, inasmuch as they have been quite openly and publicly bribed by one of our political parties. Politics has long been a protection racket, but after last night it remains so in an even more obvious way: the Democratic Party promises that in exchange for votes and money it will protect its subjects from the whims of everyday life via, well, other people’s money. “Live free or die” has become “live for free or die.”

Thus we are fast becoming a nation of juvenile beggars, of sated, jaded, cynical, greedy teet-suckers: tax-feeding, food-stamp-using, unemployment-check-cashing, free-abortion-demanding, snarky-Facebook-posting, race-card-playing, individual-responsibility-shirking panhandlers. The winner of this game is always the guy who offers the most “free” goods, even if–and here’s the real kicker–he doesn’t deliver them. It’s one thing to vote for the guy who robs Peter to pay Paul, provided you’re Paul; it’s quite another to re-elect someone who has robbed both Peter and Paul and has paid no one. The first choice is rational, if immoral; the second is both irrational and immoral, and a sign not of a slippery slope but a vertical drop.

This point was confirmed to me by another of last night’s developments: the legalization, for recreational use, of marijuana in Colorado and Washington. In and of itself, this doesn’t bother me. As a classical liberal, I have always supported the legalization of marijuana. An important part of the classical liberal ethos, however, has been the belief that individual freedom and individual responsibility are necessary complements. Reading the reactions to the cannabis development has reminded me that these two virtues remain sharply divorced. A typical response to the legalization, whether read on Facebook or in the comments of an online news story, ran something to the effect that the writer couldn’t wait to move to those states to get stoned. The priorities of millions of American citizens are, therefore, to remove themselves from reality in both the psychological and economic senses. It will only be a matter of time before THC-induced euphoria is declared a “right” in those states, with this moral injunction spreading to the rest of the nation under the guise of a “public health” issue. The voters approved high unemployment, and we scratch our heads. But has it ever occurred to you that unemployment, along with the illusion of state-provided comforts, is now the preferred lifestyle choice of the worst generation?

Read bullet | Comments »

Another liberal New York paper endorses Romney

Monday, November 5th, 2012 - by Robert Wargas

Bryan Preston reminded us yesterday that the New York Daily News, a left-of-center paper, has endorsed Mitt Romney for president. Another solidly liberal paper, Newsday, which is Long Island’s only daily paper, has also endorsed Romney.

According to the editors:

“On the campaign trail in 2008, Obama promised to halve the annual budget deficit of the United States. Instead, the shortfall has remained over $1 trillion per year, and the national debt has increased about 45 percent. . .”

Read bullet | Comments »

‘Civil Rights’ Leader: NBA Team ‘Too White’

Tuesday, October 30th, 2012 - by Robert Wargas

Since racism is essentially a conspiracy theory (i.e., an unfalsifiable grand narrative), the more illogical the evidence, the more solid that evidence is perceived by the conspiracist, since it only proves the extent of the enemy’s cleverness and evil. It was, therefore, only a matter of time before you read a story like this, entitled “Are Minnesota Timberwolves Too White?”:

Minnesota Timberwolves fans may notice something different about their team this year. In a league in which American-born black players made up 75 percent of roster spots in 2011, the Timberwolves will have an opening-day roster comprising just 33 percent black players (five out of 15).

According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, this year’s squad will be the league’s whitest since the 1980s Boston Celtics.

Is that a problem?

Some civil rights leaders in Minneapolis think so. Tyrone Terrell, chairman of St. Paul’s African American leadership council, told the Star-Tribune that he thinks the unbalanced roster could be seen as a ploy by the ownership to sell the team to a majority-white fan base.

‘How did we get a roster that resembles the 1955 Lakers?’ Terrell said to the Star-Tribune. ‘I think everything is a strategy. Nothing happens by happenstance.’

This may (read: may) constitute the first time someone has claimed that a basketball team is “too white.” Nevertheless, even if I am wrong about that, the phrase “too white” is becoming eerily commonplace these days. It seems this phrase has been mainstreamed over the past year or so. Racial demagoguery has been around for years, but I don’t ever recall reading “too white,” written with such blase, nothing-to-see-here glibness, until relatively recently.

Read bullet | Comments »

Obama Lost, Romney’s Boss

Thursday, October 4th, 2012 - by Robert Wargas

It’s already been said, but I may as well say it my own way: The debate was pure destruction. Obama looked as though he had been wheeled out to the podium straight from orthopaedic surgery with the general anaesthetic still about 10% effective. He seemed in pain at times, incapable of putting together anything other than neural flatulence and incoherent, staggering sentence fragments. His “explanation” of that Cleveland clinic was cringe-worthy, because, you know, doctors ordered tests and then people got tests, which is a good thing because, umm, tests should be done and, umm, uhhh, but the tests should be done efficiently because there are tests and we need tests to be efficient.

Romney, on the other hand, looked and sounded as though he had spent the past six months being held hostage in the Oxford Union watching videos of Margaret Thatcher, Christopher Hitchens, and William F. Buckley. What he lacks in their charm he made up for in precision and sheer numerical knowledge. I saw the word “crisp” in almost every conservative reaction to Romney. It’s the perfect adjective.

Boxing analogies were common after the debate: I saw some references to Joe Frazier and Primo Carnera over at NRO. My own analogy is Mike Tyson versus Buster Douglas. Tyson, who had been coddled and shilled for by the media for several years, thought he could slack off against the uncool Douglas, who pounded him with better skills and strategy for ten rounds. If you listen to the original fight commentary, you’ll hear the announcers reacting in total shock each time Douglas lands blows on Tyson, because in their narrative, that just wasn’t supposed to happen. Similarly, I turned on MSNBC after the debate to find six or seven adult-children in total meltdown, scrambling to grab any ad hoc justification for why their guy committed sepuku on stage with Romney’s help. The spin was transparent: Obama’s losing was actually the more “presidential” thing to do, Romney was nasty at times, Romney lied (said Al “Tawana Brawley” Sharpton), yada yada yada. There’s no denying it: If only until the next debate, Obama’s chances of getting re-elected just went down.

Read bullet | Comments »

Islamists Burn Buddhist Temples

Sunday, September 30th, 2012 - by Robert Wargas

A key element of the “Islamophobia” narrative is the idea that Muslims are, and have been, continually oppressed by white Western males. This is your standard academic Marxist, third-worldist party line. This narrative is enforced by the rigorous avoidance of discussing how frequently Islamists attack non-Western, non-white people, including Buddhists and other Muslims in the subcontinent, the Caucasus, the Palestinian territories, and elsewhere. To admit this would be to demonstrate that the standard justification for Islamist violence – reacting to the the imperial West – is absurdly false. Therefore, stories such as the following from Reuters will never enter into the mainstream discussion of why Islamist violence is not simply “blowback” from Western geopolitics:

Hundreds of Muslims in Bangladesh burned at least four Buddhist temples and 15 homes of Buddhists on Sunday after complaining that a Buddhist man had insulted Islam, police and residents said.

Members of the Buddhist minority in the Cox’s Bazar area in the southeast of the country said unidentified people were bent on upsetting peaceful relations between Muslims and Buddhists.

Muslims took to the streets in the area late on Saturday to protest against what they said was a photograph posted on Facebook that insulted Islam.

The protesters said the picture had been posted by a Buddhist and they marched to Buddhist villages and set fire to temples and houses.

Read bullet | Comments »

‘Study’ Points to ‘Onerous’ Voter ID Laws

Monday, September 24th, 2012 - by Robert Wargas

As if anyone needed more proof that our society is on a feeding tube, Reuters deadpans the following lead in a story entitled “Voting laws may disenfranchise 10 million Hispanic U.S. citizens: study”:

“New voting laws in 23 of the 50 states could keep more than 10 million Hispanic U.S. citizens from registering and voting, a new study said on Sunday, a number so large it could affect the outcome of the November 6 election.”

These Nuremberg-like laws include “proof of citizenship for voter registration. That imposes onerous and sometimes expensive documentation requirements on voters, especially targeting naturalized American citizens, many of whom are Latino, the liberal group said.”

And: “Nine states have passed restrictive photo identification laws that impose costs in time and money for millions of Latinos who are citizens but do not yet have the required identification, it said.”

Voter fraud is becoming normalized: You can tell because every story about voter-registration laws contains the word “onerous” vis-a-vis a specific demographic, usually blacks or Hispanics. “Disenfranchised” is another favorite, although not even a second’s worth of breath is wasted on those effectively disenfranchised by illegal and fraudulent voters.

You’ll notice, too, the disdain toward minority groups, couched in the technocratic language of “studies.” Minorities are all assumed to be too broke or too incompetent even to obtain a photo ID or provide citizenship documentation. These wretches, the technocrats would have us believe, have no driver’s licenses, birth certificates, passports–nothing. They all live in mud huts and caves in the Mojave, where there are no DMVs, no post offices, no county clerks from whom to obtain documentation. In this view, to ask them to prove they can vote legally before helping to decide how politicians should divvy up our salaries is a rather overt exercise in cultural imperialism. To which I say: get over yourselves. If you want to have a say in how much I and others should “donate” to the federal government for your benefit, you better get your ass some ID and get it quick.

Read bullet | Comments »

German Court Approves ‘Permanent Bailout’ Fund

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012 - by Robert Wargas

An important update to those who are following developments in the Eurozone financial crisis, otherwise known as the abolition of Germany: today, September 12, the German Constitutional Court shot down lawsuits seeking to prevent the country from participating in the so-called European Stability Mechanism (ESM), which Der Spiegel and others have aptly called “the permanent euro bailout fund.” This, contra the Maastricht Treaty, makes Eurozone nations officially liable for other member nations’ financial stupidity by permanently institutionalizing the idea of the bailout. By shooting down the injunction requests, the German court has essentially given the Bundestag the green light to ratify the ESM.

The case is the largest in the history of the court, as 37,000 German citizens have joined the complaint. It was never likely the court would rule in their favor, just as it’s not likely that we’ll ever again see a case that has brought together, in Germany at least, such a confluence of opinion in criticizing Eurozone finance from the left, right, and center. As Klaus Regling, head of the current but temporary European Financial Stability Facility, has said: “Without Germany, the ESM is pointless.” And with the ESM, Germany is pointless.

Read bullet | Comments »

The Teflon President

Sunday, September 9th, 2012 - by Robert Wargas

Reuters is reporting that President Obama is picking up a more significant lead against Mitt Romney in the polls, even after that horrendous jobs report, released after the Democratic National Convention, that showed unemployment fell only because more people have stopped looking for work.

I’m sure many of you have reached the point where you simply don’t know what to say anymore. The president could come out on stage riding a unicycle, juggling pink rubber balls, circus whistles piped in on the loudspeakers, and tell everyone that unemployment is actually zero and, by the way, he’s spending another trillion dollars on failed companies and non-existent infrastructure. The press wouldn’t bat an eye; instead, they’d fact-check a claim by Romney about how he ate a Big Mac in 1988, when he really ate a Quarter Pounder (they have the old wrappers in a New Jersey landfill to prove it)! Then they’d note that Paul Ryan once wore a tie that was the same color as one worn by George Wallace, so that must be coded racism!

Read bullet | Comments »

Peter Schiff Unmasks Those Who Want to Ban Profits

Thursday, September 6th, 2012 - by Robert Wargas

Peter Schiff–economics commentator, radio host, badass–recently went undercover at the Democratic National Convention to see just how much “progress” many on the Left would like to see.

Read bullet | Comments »

‘Pasty White’ Dunn Lives in ‘Frighteningly White’ Town

Saturday, September 1st, 2012 - by Robert Wargas

In my last post, I pointed out the hip, edgy bigotry of HuffPo status-seeker Geoffrey “Pasty White” Dunn, who described Carmel, California, as “frighteningly white” to prove how hip and edgy and intelligent he is to his cultured readers. In light of some spirited comments from fine readers, including Fail Burton, I feel it’s important to point out that Dunn lives in frighteningly white Santa Cruz, California, where the 2010 Census puts whites at 74.5% of the population. Blacks, the lack of whose presence in Carmel made Dunn pasty white with anger, make up a mere 1.8% of Dunn’s community. Since whites account for 57.6% of the California population at large, and blacks 6.2%, Santa Cruz is therefore “disproportionately” white, and blacks are underrepresented. How does Dunn explain this? Is he willing to move away anytime soon to a more egalitarian community?

He could, for instance, move to Chevy Chase, Maryland, the place Chris Matthews calls home. Feel that tingle up your leg? That’s you wetting yourself with laughter after you learn that Matthews recently tried to pass off his town as “majority black” to give himself street cred to his six viewers. Who is more qualified to hear those racist dog whistles than someone who lives in a “majority black” town? Turns out the blonde idiot lives in an upscale suburb that’s nearly 87% white. Oops. You know, for a second, I almost forgot Chris Matthews was white.

Meanwhile, thanks to Glenn Reynolds for the generous link.

Read bullet | Comments »

Behold the Self-Hating White Person

Friday, August 31st, 2012 - by Robert Wargas

Since progressivism is largely a status game, in which people compete for social prestige by repeating a set of approved phrases and opinions to other status-seeking mandarins, it’s not surprising that some will go to sado-masochistic lengths to remain part of the alpha group. By now, the increasingly creepy tendency of using the word “white” as a glib insult has become well established in left-wing commentary. Here’s Geoffrey Dunn, doubtless partly aggrieved by his Anglo-Saxon name, writing about the Republican National Convention for The Huffington Post:

Sources have confirmed that “Dirty Harry” himself, Clint Eastwood, is about to sweep into the Sunshine State to serve as the so-called “Mystery Speaker” tonight at the Republican Snooze Fest–better known as the Gathering of Pasty White People–in Tampa.

“The Gathering of Pasty White People”: this is how Dunn prostitutes himself to the sociopaths and racists in his movement. As in the Soviet Union, one must continually prove oneself to be part of the correct crowd. Purity, you see, comes from ritual self-abasement, from flogging oneself in columns and blog posts and from swearing through gritted teeth that you love every minute of it.

Dunn continues:

Eastwood, of course, has a political resumé of his own, having served a two-year term as mayor of the upscale and frighteningly white community of Carmel–with a population of 3,800, there were only eight African Americans recorded in the 2010 census–very close in size and demographics to Sarah Palin’s Wasilla, albeit without the meth labs and strip malls.

Among progressives, low-rent snark like “frighteningly white” is required to prove you are part of the in-crowd. Imagine being part of a movement that not only requires regular self-immolation, but demands that you enjoy it and hector those who bristle at such cheap and pathetic bullying. Be glad you’re not a part of it, and be glad that, until now, you never heard of Geoffrey Dunn.


Read bullet | Comments »

Hamas leader: Death to all Jews and Americans

Saturday, August 25th, 2012 - by Robert Wargas

“Sheik” Ahmad Bahr, a pretty important Hamas “official,” delivered a sermon earlier this month on Al-Aqsa TV, the terrorist group’s television agitprop network:

“Oh, Allah, destroy the Jews and their supporters,” said the oppressed Palestinian. The alleged entity known as “Allah” should also destroy “the Americans and their supporters,” he croaked.

“Oh, Allah, count them one by one, and kill them all, without leaving a single one.”

Somebody call Juan Cole for a linguistic analysis of how this isn’t really a call for the extermination of two entire peoples.

The robed terrorist also said the following:

“If the enemy sets foot on a single square inch of Islamic land, Jihad becomes an individual duty incumbent upon every Muslim, male or female,” Bahr also said. “A woman doesn’t need permission from her husband, nor a servant his master’s permission,” in order to engage in jihad. This, Bahr said, is “in order to annihilate those Jews.”

It seems that, for the Palestinians, gender equity has only been reached in the area of mass murder. This, the Middle Eastern studies academics might say, must surely be called “progress.”


Read bullet | Comments »

Why the Term ‘Far Right’ is Meaningless

Saturday, August 18th, 2012 - by Robert Wargas

What kind of political party rejects capitalism and globalization and despises Israel? A “far-right” party, according to the Associated Press.

AP has reported that Csanad Szegedi, a rather porcine fellow who is one of Hungary’s most vocal antisemitic politicians, has actually found out that his maternal grandparents were Jews. The report states that this makes him a Jew under Jewish law; insofar as I understand Jewish law, this is correct.

My enjoyment of this delicious irony was cut short, however, by the report’s persistent use of the terms “right wing” and “far right” to describe Szegedi and his radical nationalist party, Jobbik. This party, in true European radical fashion, subscribes to the conspiracist version of contemporary history, accusing Jews of eroding Hungarian greatness through globalized capitalism.

Consider the following group of people, all of whom have been labeled “right wing” or “far right” many times over: Adolf Hitler, William F. Buckley, Milton Friedman, Ayn Rand, Ronald Reagan, Slobodan Milosevic, Charles Coughlin, Chiang Kai-shek, Jean Marie Le Pen, David Duke and Tom Metzger. Forgive my including the obscure figure of Metzger, but he exemplifies just how ridiculous the term “far right” is: he was a neo-Nazi and Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard who nevertheless supported the Soviet Union for being a “white workers’ state.” On the above list are free-market libertarians, anti-capitalists, nationalists, anti-nationalists, Israel lovers, Israel haters, racists, anti-racists, fascists and anti-fascists. Where does this leave us in terms of a meaningful label?

Presumably, the AP believes the “right wing” moniker is correct because Szegedi and his party are rabid nationalists who reject Jews and minorities. Nationalism, however, began as a French leftist movement against the monarchy; moreover, at least before the 1960s, it was hard to find a socialist who wasn’t also racist and antisemitic. (Some might argue this is still true today, the only difference being the socialists are better at hiding it.) The European “right” has always been vastly different from the American “right.” These two “rights” are about as similar as root beer and Budweiser: hey, both are “beers,” aren’t they? They must be the same.

One of the hard Left’s most successful ploys over the past century has been convincing the world that their ideology is anti-racist. This has become such an acceptable definition of the Left that anything racist is considered to be a priori of “the Right.” This is actually a more subtle version of the No True Scotsman fallacy, in which any negative characteristics of the Left are said to be not “really” leftist. The Left thus can do no wrong, since the Left is Good by definition, so a leftist doing something Bad must be of the Right, which is Bad by definition. See how the word game works?

Read bullet | Comments »

The Return of Rand

Tuesday, August 14th, 2012 - by Robert Wargas

Who’d have thought that a frumpy Russian woman, dead some three-plus decades, would continue to be a significant and relevant force in political debate?

Predictably, the Left have seized on Paul Ryan’s affection for Ayn Rand to try to paint him as a fringe whacko unfit for office. Excellent. This is EXACTLY what we want them to do. We want the debate to turn ideological. Ryan’s a whacko for liking Rand? OK, remind me who your pastor was for twenty years. Forget talk of marginal tax rates at the debate podium. I want discussions of individualism versus altruism. The progs couldn’t handle a discussion like that. The progs have no underlying philosophy, no inspirational figures. What are they going to do? Quote Soviet-loving John Kenneth Galbraith? The plagiarist Fareed Zakaria?

A question remains for the pro-Ryan camp, however. Is Ryan a whacko for liking Rand?

My own views on Rand and Objectivism are the following: the essential spirit of her philosophy is correct, the particulars and style of execution often nutty and clumsy. The moral premises of her individualism, as laid out in Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal and other books, are valid and well stated. Some of the finer points of her philosophy–the ideas about romanticism in literature, for instance–are superfluous and ridiculous. An agnostic, I nevertheless found Rand’s atheism to be of the childish, grating college-boy variety. She, a philosopher, knew no philosophy other than basic Aristotle (her laughable mangling of Kant is something even Objectivists try to revise nowadays).

The interpersonal aspects of Objectivism are something to avoid even more: its slavish dogmatism and Randian personality cult are of no interest to me and shouldn’t be to anyone professing individualism. As a fiction writer she started out awful and became great. Her early novels–Anthem and We the Living–are dreadfully slow and boring. The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged are excellent, if overwritten.

So, what’s a conservative/libertarian/classical liberal to make of all this? Well, Rand loved America. She defended American traditions and American exceptionalism. She defended Israel. She despised identity politics. This is good enough for me. Rand’s ideas continue to be relevant because, well, she was right about a lot of things. I have many Rand books on my shelf. I’d say I take one down at least once a month and read back over pages I have marked. When someone badmouths Rand, I always feel compelled to defend her, even though I don’t identify as an Objectivist. This is the true test of whether you have an affinity for someone. It’s hard to be a classical liberal nowadays and not have at least some Objectivist in you.

Most progs have not actually read Rand. Like children playing a game of telephone, they rely on one another’s hearsay about what Rand wrote, instead of actually doing the hard work and hitting the books themselves. This means that there is a steady stream of garbage in the blogosphere (and on your friends’ Facebook pages) about Rand. Whenever Rand becomes a part of the larger political discussion, every prog blogger in the country runs to his little keyboard and taps out a 2,000-work screed about how evil Rand was, how she hated poor people, etc. The best way to tell if you’re in the company of a prog who has not read Rand (other than the fact that you’re talking to a prog) is that he or she will say that Rand was evil for rejecting “altruism.” What the prog doesn’t realize–because he never read the books–is that Rand was using her own idiosyncratic, somewhat tendentious definition of altruism. She did NOT mean helping other people; to Rand, altruism was the collectivist idea that you have no right to exist as an individual. Progs think they are scoring a point when they mention Rand’s hatred of “altruism,” not realizing the difference in definition–kind of like me criticizing Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn for not liking “workers’ democracy.”

In short, give me Ayn Rand over Bill Ayers or Jeremiah Wright any day of the week. An anti-tax Russian woman is always better than a domestic terrorist and a racist sicko.

Long live Rand.

Read bullet | Comments »

Elton John: George W. Bush and Conservatives ‘Amazingly Informed’

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012 - by Robert Wargas

Rock legend and AIDS activist Elton John has praised conservatives and former President George W. Bush for being “amazingly informed” on AIDS and for doing more than all others to fight the disease.

John met Bush in 2004 at the Kennedy Honors Center and credits him with doing more than any other president for the AIDS cause. From Yahoo:

“At the Kennedy Center concert we spent some time in the intermission with the President, George Bush, and he was an amazingly informed about AIDS,” John recounted. “He treated us with such kindness. I had so much respect for him, especially when the PEPFAR thing was announced when he gave 15 billion dollars to AIDS. He knew what he was talking about.”


“One of the old adages in life is never judge someone until you meet them,” John said. “I didn’t like his policies but I have to say when I met him, I found him charming, I found him well informed and I found him determined to do something about the AIDS situation so I changed my opinion of him. And his wife was astonishingly kind to us well. So it was — I learned a lesson.”

John wasn’t stingy with his appreciation:

“We’ve seen George W. Bush and conservative American politicians pledge tens of billions to save the lives of Africans with HIV. Think of all the love. Think of where we’d be without it, nowhere, that’s where. We’d be nowhere at all.”

By the way, this isn’t the first time John has shown fearlessness in the face of the entertainment Left. He played at Rush Limbaugh’s wedding and seems to have a good friendship with him. In 2010, John performed in Tel Aviv despite calls from pro-terrorist hucksters to boycott Israel over the Gaza flotilla debacle.

“Shalom, we are so happy to be back here! Ain’t nothing gonna stop us from coming, baby,” John said to his fans, obliquely sniping at those like the pro-terrorist Elvis Costello, who refused to perform in Israel as “a matter of instinct and conscience.”

“We don’t cherry pick our conscience,” John shot back.

This is a man who can think for himself.

Read bullet | Comments »

Fallacies Abound in Massacre Analysis

Saturday, July 21st, 2012 - by Robert Wargas

While surfing the comments on Rick Moran’s excellent reflection on the Colorado massacre, I came across this sagacious comment from “Bugs”:

Why do the media and the politicians ALWAYS follow the same script every single time something like this happens? Sometimes they start within minutes of the news breaking. Same questions, same opinions, same “solutions.” You’d think they’d have learned by now: We’re not in charge. Chaos is real. Shit happens. You can’t predict everything, you can’t prevent everything, you can’t control everything, especially things in which human beings are involved.

In a couple of weeks, after the cops have analyzed this guy, we’ll hear the talking heads reading their other script: “The man was obviously troubled, obviously a risk, why didn’t somebody catch the warning signs and DO SOMETHING?” We are not Skinnerian robots. We can and do make random decisions – or at least decisions based on factors so complex and so cryptic that we ourselves aren’t conscious of them. We wake up one morning and decide to go fishing. Or we wake up one morning and decide that today’s the day for that massacre we’ve been dreaming of for so long.

The trouble with people is, maybe they will and maybe they won’t. The guy’s mom supposedly recognized him as soon as she heard what happened. So why hadn’t she called the police before he acted? Because maybe he would and maybe he wouldn’t. In our society, people generally get the benefit of the doubt. I don’t think we should trade that principle for the illusion that we are safe from chaos. Unfortunately, that is exactly what some versions of the script say we should do.

This is eminently well stated. One of the problems with politics and ideology is the tendency to form narratives that are resistant to the random chaos inherent in everyday life. When something like this happens, people resort to their memorized scripts. The left thinks all we have to do is implement “gun control,” even though Norway, the social-democratic anti-gun utopia, experienced its own frightening massacre last year. Some, but not all, on the right bluster about how if only others in the theater had had their own weapons, this could have been stopped. This wannabe commando tough-talk ignores the fact that it was a dark, crowded theater filled with panicking men, women, children, tear gas and a body-armored psychopath. You think some average, terrified guy is gonna pull a Steve McQueen in conditions like that and take the guy out with a double-tap center-mass without also killing the kid clutching his popcorn? Everyone needs to stop lying to themselves and realize that there comes a point at which political theory ceases to give us answers and the chaos of the real world sets in.

Read bullet | Comments »

Should Romney Get Ideological?

Tuesday, July 10th, 2012 - by Robert Wargas

Last week, Charles Krauthammer said the following about Mitt McRomney:

“Romney’s problem is not just that he doesn’t know how to deliver a message or that he is not charismatic. I think the way to put it is he simply hasn’t been ideological enough.”

I would go further and say that McRomney is actually incapable of being ideological because he doesn’t know the ideology. What famous works of conservatism, libertarianism, or classical liberalism has McRomney read?

It’s obvious that McRomney’s camp are trying their best to make their man appear “presidential” by not straying into strident philosophical territory. This is exactly where he needs to go, however. He needs to start quoting Hayek and Friedman. He needs to get up there and drop a reference to some obscure work by Bastiat. Call the Cato Institute and get a list of economic fallacies to start mentioning. This will get people talking, even on the lib networks (“What does he mean by ‘broken window fallacy’?”) and the sheer novelty of it all will work in his favor. It doesn’t have to be all ideology all the time. Just some treats here and there. Make it interesting. For God sakes, Mitt, mention the tulip bubble!

As of now, McRomney is still a Lowell Weicker Republican, and this image of him will not change unless he changes pace. There are no two ways about it. The central fallacy to this whole debate is that “ideological” somehow means “radical.” This is not true. You can get philosophical and not be Ron Paul. You can have principles without being an extremist. You can quote Ayn Rand without believing in every tenet of Objectivism. Principles must be articulated. Have some fun with it.

To try to appear “presidential” by not discussing ideology is to play into the Obama trap. Doing so is based on the progressive premise that questioning Obama’s principles is somehow “racist.” The moment you give up discussing principles, there is nothing left but the postmodern wordplay that our policy debates have become. Stop trying to be the Republican that gets kind words on the Bill Maher show and start getting serious.

Read bullet | Comments »

Rights of Man?

Monday, July 9th, 2012 - by Robert Wargas

Every American male needs to read this article by economist Bill Anderson on the so-called Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), a piece of radical feminist-inspired legislation that has almost entirely abolished due process for those accused of “rape” in the United States.

The ease with which you could be accused and convicted of “rape” in this country approaches the standards of evidence for subversion in Maoist China. Here’s just a taste of the article, which, as a 27-year-old male, terrified me:

“For example, the so-called “rape shield” laws that exist under the VAWA umbrella prevent defendants from entering a lot of exculpatory evidence in the name of “protecting the victims’ privacy.” When combined with the “no drop” policy that the VAWA has encouraged, it becomes extremely difficult even for falsely-accused me to be able to avoid going to prison. (The assumption behind “no drop” is that a recantation of the charges by the original accuser always comes about because of “sexist” pressure placed by the male accusers. In reality, because prosecutors have so many legal weapons, “no drop” pretty much means that even innocent people are going to plead out to something even if there is no evidence except for the original accusation.)”

Anderson was one of the most perspicuous writers around to tackle the Duke Lacrosse non-rape case when that scandal was in full swing. He rehashes some of that dark history here:

“One has to understand how close the Duke students came to being convicted for something that never happened. Although much of the national media (except the NY Times) turned against Nifong after defense attorneys revealed in a December 15, 2006, hearing that Nifong had hidden DNA evidence from the lawyers and had lied to judges during earlier proceedings, Nifong still had the “law” on his side.

First, much of the DNA evidence (that Mangum had the recent DNA of a number of unidentified males in her underwear – none of it belonging to any lacrosse players, despite her description of the alleged attack) fell into the category that Nifong believed would be withheld due to “rape shield” laws. Thus, to him, it was irrelevant even if it did impeach the “victim’s” entire testimony.

Second, because the VAWA did away with the “corroborating evidence,” the fact that there was no DNA evidence to fit Mangum’s original claims was irrelevant; all that was needed for a conviction was tearful testimony from Mangum that Reade Seligmann, Collin Finnerty, and David Evans brutally assaulted and raped her, and had the trial been held in Durham, North Carolina, where there still exist a large number of “true believers” in Nifong’s non-evidence, most likely the jurors would have felt the community pressure for a conviction.”

This should scare every American man, but it should also enrage you. How many of you out there are teachers? Professors? Doctors? Coaches? Therapists? Think how easily a woman can say you raped her in those professions. You must understand: NO EVIDENCE is required. You will be cuffed and perp-walked immediately. Anderson demonstrates it; read every article he has ever written on the subject.

We must start pushing back. The bill is up for re-authorization in Congress, and totalitarian activists are already pushing for its passage, using phony feminist rape statistics to bolster their claims (“Even though nearly one in five U.S. women have been raped….” Prima facie nonsense.) Write every member of Congress you can. Get angry. Get angry now.


Read bullet | Comments »

Bring Back Internment Camps

Thursday, June 28th, 2012 - by Robert Wargas

As all the subjects of the United States now know, the Supreme Court has upheld the individual mandate component of Obamacare as “constitutional.” This means, in effect, that the Constitution, which was designed to limit the powers of the federal government, has now been interpreted to mean that the only thing to be limited are the limitations themselves. Roll that one over your tongue before swallowing.

Now consider that, in light of this postmodern/Foucauldian conception of “constitutionality,” there are a whole backlog of Supreme Court decisions that are currently not being enforced. Why not? This is positively un-American, I say. These decisions are, after all, constitutional. I hereby propose that we bring back internment camps for Japanese- Americans. Why are we not enforcing Korematsu v. United States (1944)? It has not been overturned by the Supreme Court and is therefore still enforceable. An executive order should be issued immediately to remove all persons of Japanese descent into designated camps as a penalty for not paying taxes to support the insurrection clause.

How do I arrive at this conclusion? Simple. This measure is clearly not a violation of the 14th Amendment, since a part of the federal government’s taxing power is the creation of federal internment prisons, which are necessary and proper for the enforcement of the insurrection clause of Article I, Section 8. Since the tax money of Japanese-Americans has not gone toward the creation of such necessary and proper and constitutional internment prisons since the Second World War, they are clearly withholding their money from the federal government, thus weakening the government’s ability to enforce the insurrection clause. The general welfare of the people is imperiled by this unprecedented act of tax evasion. Therefore, the federal government must act immediately to penalize their refusal to pay such constitutional taxes by enacting a penalty (i.e., internment) for such dereliction.

Next week, I shall prove the following:

(1) That Congress can and should, in light of the Second Amendment, force every American to buy two firearms: one to be used for mandatory well-regulated militia duty, as defined in the Second Amendment, and the other to be used to enforce Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

(2) Suicide for all Americans is Constitutionally mandated by both the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision and the double-jeopardy clause.

Read bullet | Comments »

More ‘Anti-Imperialism’ in Iraq

Friday, June 22nd, 2012 - by Robert Wargas

Reuters reports that

“[a]t least 13 people were killed and more than 100 wounded on Friday when two roadside bombs exploded in quick succession in a crowded Baghdad market, Iraqi police and hospital sources said, in the latest attack targeting Shi’ite Muslims this month.

A wave of bombings in June against mainly Shi’ite pilgrims and shrines has killed more than 130 people and fuelled fears that Iraq could slip back into sectarian bloodletting of the kind that has receded since its peak in 2006-07.”

Through this carnage one hears the echoes of a familiar argument: that Iraqi “insurgents” set off bombs to repel an imperialist invader. It was the in thing to say when the Iraq War began. Those who had even the most basic knowledge of contemporary Middle East history knew that statement to be false the moment it left its peddlers’ reeking mouths. Since then, one hasn’t been able to open the New York Times without reading, albeit in the cozy corners of page 26 or so, about mosque bombings and such by other Muslims. One of the first things Abu Musab al-Zarqawi did when he arrived in Iraq was to declare war on Shia Muslims. As Christopher Hitchens once wrote, obliquely swiping at the multicultural ethos: “Don’t ask why the holy warriors blow up mosques by the way–it’s none of your goddam crusader-Jew business.”

I say let’s continue to ask that question, especially of those who have no answer.

Read bullet | Comments »

Note to Self: When Fighting An Empire, Make Sure You Kidnap and Kill Women and Children

Friday, June 22nd, 2012 - by Robert Wargas

According to ABC News:

“Heavily armed Taliban insurgents stormed a popular lakeside hotel just outside of Kabul, killing at least 18 people and wounding several more in a brazen overnight attack.

The assault, which lasted nearly 12 hours, began shortly before midnight on Thursday. As many as eight insurgents, some reportedly disguised in burqahs, killed the security guards at the hotel, stormed inside, and began firing at guests.

The dining hall was packed with civilians, including women and children. The victims included the hotel manager, several private security guards, and at least one police officer.”

Those who still equate radical Islam with a kind of Third World anti-imperialist liberation theology have had a lot of explaining to do for quite some time. It has yet to be explained how murdering one’s “own” people is any way a contribution to defeating the “imperial power.” When the British invaded Louisiana during the War of 1812, President James Madison didn’t dispatch stormtroopers to start killing civilians in Virginia. This kind of sophisticated “anti-imperialism” is reserved for the Greater Middle East.

It’s not just the far left that is responsible for that narrative. A diluted version of it lives on in the liberal bromide that pursuing terrorists “creates” more terrorists. The unstated inverse of that argument is that leaving terrorists alone destroys terrorists, or at the very least does not create more. Since the Taliban was murdering Afghans, Arabs, Persians, and many others long before the War on Terror began, we can safely conclude that at least one entire side of the political spectrum, from center to fringe, has no clue what it’s talking about.

Read bullet | Comments »

Trust Me, Reagan Would Win the Nomination

Saturday, June 16th, 2012 - by Robert Wargas

My colleague Rick Moran has agreed with Jeb Bush’s assessment that Ronald Reagan, whose name is something of a by-word for conservatism, would have trouble getting the GOP nomination in today’s political climate.

I must respectfully disagree. Over at The American Spectator, Jeffrey Lord has thoroughly disemboweled the essentials of Bush’s argument. For my modest part, I offer here a restatement of a comment I made under Rick’s article, in which I propose the following thought experiment:

Let’s say Ronald Reagan were somehow brought back to life, had his health restored to that which he had in the early 1980s (although our knowledge of his two terms as president would remain fully intact) and, in light of the abolition of term limits, decided to run for president again on the GOP ticket.

Who from the most radical leftist to the most mealy-mouthed centrist to the most dedicated Burkean conservative doubts for one fraction of a nanosecond that Reagan would be able to get the nomination to run against Obama?

For the philosophical purists out there, I realize that my thought experiment contains a built-in bias. This notional, resurrected Reagan benefits from our knowledge of what his presidency was actually like, but I believe that Lord has shown that even if our New Reagan were brought back to life in a pre-1980 version, he would still win the nomination, since the Gipper faced harsh criticism from the Rockefeller wing of the Republican Party even before he ran against Carter, and still went on to rip the peanut farmer and Mondale apart.

Read bullet | Comments »

‘Even Ronald Reagan…’

Tuesday, June 12th, 2012 - by Robert Wargas

Has anyone else noticed the irksome tendency among progressives to invoke the memory of Ronald Reagan as a last-ditch argument for their policy prescriptions? Usually this involves the pseudo-clever, contrarian Chomsky tactic of taking a piece of accepted knowledge and, as Marx did to Hegel, turning it on its head. (“You think water is made of hydrogen and oxygen? Ha ha, it’s actually made of sulfur!”)

This usually takes the form of the phrase “even Ronald Reagan” followed by a left-wing policy. For example: “Even Ronald Reagan raised the debt ceiling!” Do you remember hearing that one?

I’ve also heard: “We should leave Afghanistan! Even Ronald Reagan left Lebanon!”

Now we’re told that Reagan was a Keynesian. Paul Krugman, the dirigiste-in-residence at the New York Times, writes:

“Reagan, not Obama, was the big spender. While there was a brief burst of government spending early in the Obama administration — mainly for emergency aid programs like unemployment insurance and food stamps — that burst is long past. Indeed, at this point, government spending is falling fast, with real per capita spending falling over the past year at a rate not seen since the demobilization that followed the Korean War.

Why was government spending much stronger under Reagan than in the current slump? ‘Weaponized Keynesianism’ — Reagan’s big military buildup — played some role. But the big difference was real per capita spending at the state and local level, which continued to rise under Reagan but has fallen significantly this time around.”

I suppose Krugman will now have to go back and revise all of his old columns in which he derisively mentions “trickle down economics,” a synonym for the Reagan administration among the Left. Hasn’t he spent the last decade whining about how the Reagan years were a time of mass austerity and inequality?

Progressives invoke Reagan for several reasons:

(1) They have no intellectual or political legacy of their own to invoke. (Jimmy Carter? George McGovern? Walter Mondale?)

(2) Progressives know that a whole lot of Americans loved and still love Reagan; this is an implicit admission that their own ideology is not popular outside of editorial offices and Ivy League lecture halls. Thus they must cite a figure that people actually liked as opposed to failed social engineers.

(3) Progressivism is not based on an actual coherent philosophy. You might disagree with conservatives and libertarians, but they at least have an intellectual and philosophical lineage with which you can grapple and debate. Conservatives cite Burke, Hayek, and Milton Friedman. Whom do liberals cite? When was the last time you heard a John Dewey reference in a syndicated column? Absent this respectable pedigree, progressives must, like parasites, graft their ideas onto conservative figures in order to appear valid.

Read bullet | Comments »

The Narrative Continues…Or Does It?

Monday, June 11th, 2012 - by Robert Wargas

In its preparations to push The Narrative for the November elections, the New York Times has published a summary of a study by a Harvard doctoral student in economics that purports to have discovered a link between voting patterns and racially charged Google searches:

“…many Americans use Google to find racially charged material. I performed the somewhat unpleasant task of ranking states and media markets in the United States based on the proportion of their Google searches that included the word “nigger(s).” This word was included in roughly the same number of Google searches as terms like ‘Lakers,’ ‘Daily Show,’ ‘migraine’ and ‘economist.’”

But wait. There’s more:

“Once I figured out which parts of the country had the highest racially charged search rates, I could test whether Mr. Obama underperformed in these areas. I predicted how many votes Mr. Obama should have received based on how many votes John Kerry received in 2004 plus the average gain achieved by other 2008 Democratic Congressional candidates. The results were striking: The higher the racially charged search rate in an area, the worse Mr. Obama did.”

For instance:

“Consider two media markets, Denver and Wheeling (which is a market evenly split between Ohio and West Virginia). Mr. Kerry received roughly 50 percent of the votes in both markets. Based on the large gains for Democrats in 2008, Mr. Obama should have received about 57 percent of votes in both Denver and Wheeling. Denver and Wheeling, though, exhibit different racial attitudes. Denver had the fourth lowest racially charged search rate in the country. Mr. Obama won 57 percent of the vote there, just as predicted. Wheeling had the seventh highest racially charged search rate in the country. Mr. Obama won less than 48 percent of the Wheeling vote.

Add up the totals throughout the country, and racial animus cost Mr. Obama three to five percentage points of the popular vote. In other words, racial prejudice gave John McCain the equivalent of a home-state advantage nationally.

Yes, Mr. Obama also gained some votes because of his race. But in the general election this effect was comparatively minor. The vast majority of voters for whom Mr. Obama’s race was a positive were liberal, habitual voters who would have voted for any Democratic presidential candidate. Increased support and turnout from African-Americans added only about one percentage point to Mr. Obama’s totals.”

Unless I’m egregiously misinterpreting the data, this study seems to demonstrate that it is in fact Democrats who had the most racist impact on Obama’s 2008 election. Has the New York Times, in its haste to print anything with the words “race” or “racism” in it, unwittingly published something that actually goes against The Narrative?

More evidence of liberal racism from the article:

“I mentioned earlier that the rate of racially charged searches in West Virginia was No. 1 in the country and that the state showed a strong aversion to Mr. Obama in 2008. It recently held its Democratic presidential primary, in which Mr. Obama was challenged by a convicted felon. The felon, who is white, won 41 percent of the vote.”

Now, I realize that economics, at least as practiced by the saltwater schools like Harvard, is largely a pseudoscience. It takes quite a large leap of logic in an academic study to conclude that voting for a white candidate in a primary, even considering such rock-solid forensic evidence as Google searches, is evidence of racism. At the same time, however, it’s funny to see an article (perhaps unwittingly) printed in the race-whipped media that concludes that Democrats are the racist ones.

When I first started reading this story, I thought it was going to be just another Ivy League attempt at “proving” that white conservatives are racists. Oddly, the study does not conclude this. In fact, the article links to an actual copy of the study, which I’m assuming no Times reader looked at. If they did, they’d see this on the top of page 10:

“It is also worth noting that there is not a statistically significant correlation between a media market’s racially charged search and its support for John Kerry in 2004, a proxy for an area’s liberalism. This fact (along with the results in the rest of the paper) offer evidence against some popular wisdom that racial animus is now predominantly a factor among Republicans.”

After reading that, I took a look at the comments section of the article in the Times. This was the best part. All the lib commenters proceeded as though the study showed it was conservatives or Republicans who were proved to be racist. Not one person mentioned the obvious fact that the study was about Dems. Here’s one genius Times reader, ironically named “E. Burke”:

“The Republicans love to tell everyone they are the Christian Religious Right, when the Racism [sic] they cultivate, and benefit from is not from God but that other fellow. You Know who he is, Jesus Called him, ‘The Father of Lies’, and No Our Lord wasn’t thinking of Rupert Murdock [sic] owner of FOX News. It is a LIE that The President has not done well, especially when he has had no bipartisan help, and only obstructist [sic] behavior from republicans.”

This “reader” did not read the article or the study. But does anyone read the Times anymore?


Read bullet | Comments »

It’s Official: New Yorkers Are Slaves of the State

Thursday, May 31st, 2012 - by Robert Wargas

New York City monarch Michael Bloomberg will propose a ban on the sale, by certain vendors, of large sugary sodas. This, of course, is done in the name of “public health” and “fighting” the “epidemic of obesity.”

Following the nanny-state tradition of declaring war on inanimate or abstract things, Bloomberg has already launched blitzkriegs on cigarettes, salt, and trans fats, and even proposed to limit alcohol sales in the city—all in the name of protecting people from themselves.

I once interviewed Bloomberg at an equestrian show in the Hamptons. Under the VIP tent, he was surrounded by tables filled with drinks of all sorts—sodas and alcohol included—as well as mounds of every type of food imaginable. After I got past all his bodyguards—surely a big carbon footprint, no?—I spoke to him and found him amiable but wooden, the quintessential do-gooder technocrat who lives above and beyond the canaille he purports to help. His own moveable feasts, to be sure, don’t factor into his conception of “the public health,” but why should they? He has a Plan for us, and that Plan is based on the Truth.

When does it stop?

Read bullet | Comments »

Germany: The Israel of Europe

Monday, May 7th, 2012 - by Robert Wargas

The New York Times, reporting of the victory of Francois Hollande, France’s first socialist president since Francois Mitterrand, adds the appropriate dash of editorializing when they claim that

“Mr. Hollande’s campaign promised a kinder, gentler, more inclusive France, but his victory over President Nicolas Sarkozy will also be seen as a challenge to the German-dominated policy of economic austerity in the euro zone, which is suffering from recession and record unemployment.”

How nice of the Times to provide such a sympathetic nut graph, as it reminds us once again that the European consensus on financial economics, a position supported by most liberals in the United States, is one of lunacy. Oh sure, Monsieur Hollande has himself pledged to “balance” France’s “budget,” mostly in the form of levying a new 75% income tax on “the rich” (when this doesn’t yield the right amount of revenue, we’ll hear the old Comintern refrain about “hoarding wealth”). But this commitment to fiscal prudence is pure affectation. Most EU politicians, like the Democrats here, believe that “balancing” the “budget” means somehow maintaining present spending levels while destroying the only source of revenue for that spending. “Balance” to them is more of a metaphysical than a financial concept: “the rich” must pay their “fair shaire” to achieve cosmic equilibrium. Anything else is “austerity” and “inequality.”

Hollande’s election comes at a difficult time for Germany. Europe is turning against the German idea that recovery can only come from re-evaluating the ludicrous monetary and fiscal policies that broke the bank in the first place. This, in a continent of the godless, is the closest to heresy one can come. In fact, one can’t read a story about Germany these days without hearing the word “austerity”; this is the new slogan that will shift all talk of deficit-reduction to talk of “fairness.”

Germany will become (if it hasn’t already become) the scapegoat for all of Europe’s financial failures. It is the only country committed to some form of sanity, and yet it is the only country denounced for problems it did not create. Greece and Italy, whose leaders ran their economies like frat parties, receive no blame. The election of Hollande can only ensure that the EU will continue to relegate Germany to the position of the European Israel.

Read bullet | Comments »

What’s Missing from the Trayvon Martin Controversy

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012 - by Robert Wargas

In his most recent column, entitled “Stalked by Stupidity,” Roger Kimball has demonstrated two sad but undeniable truths about the New York Times. I suspect readers already know them, but they’re worth stating out loud since the Times’s editors reinforce them daily with new, ever more vulgar examples: (1) when it comes to race, the paper is willing to print anything so long as it bolsters The Narrative of the Evil White Society; and (2) the Times is far, far out of touch with how the average human being perceives reality.

Roger couldn’t have picked a piece that better proves the obsolescence of the phrase “newspaper of record.” Entitled “Young, Black, Male, and Stalked by Bias,” and written by someone with the aristocratic news-anchor name of Brent Staples, the op-ed begins with a thought experiment that is supposed to show us how inveterately racist we (he means whites) all are. Forgive me for making you read the following lines once again:

“The door to the subway train slides open, revealing three tall, young black men, crowding the entrance, with hooded sweatshirts pulled up over downward-turned faces; boxer shorts billowing out of over-large, low-slung jeans; and sneakers with the laces untied.

Your response to the look — and to this trio on the subway — depends in part on the context, like the time of day, but especially on how you feel about young, male blackness.

If it unsettles you — as it does many people — you never get beyond the first impression. But those of us who are not reflexively uncomfortable with blackness  . . .”

Since Roger has already shown, by way of common sense, why Staples’s piece fulfills proposition (1) mentioned above, allow me to elaborate on proposition (2).

It never fails: whenever our society begins cannibalizing itself in “discussions” of race and crime, the last thing to be talked about, if it’s mentioned at all, is basic human psychology. When the latest case, the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, seized the news cycle, we all were shackled to the persistent narrative that what happened to Martin was racial profiling and stereotyping. Forget for a moment that every piece of evidence available to the public tells a different story. Forget for a moment, too, that we know and can demonstrate that the media have tampered with that evidence in a desperate, flailing attempt to hold on to The Narrative.

Forget all that. Nobody is talking about that three-ton elephant with the top hat and cane, his rubbery rump parked on the living-room floor: I have seen not one column, not one discussion, not one moment’s worth of the media’s increasingly irrelevant time devoted to body language and fear perception in humans.

This may have something to do with how abstract the topic is. It is not always so easy to articulate what danger looks like, but it is pretty easy to describe what it feels like. Our bodies go through very specific biochemical and neurochemical responses when we feel endangered. In the combat system I study, we are taught a color-coded system of four “levels” of danger awareness, similar to the federal government’s terrorist warning system. To wit:

White – Safe. No threats or danger perceived.
Yellow – Aware. A threat or danger is possible but not present.
Orange – A threat or danger is likely. Butterflies in your stomach.
Red – Immediate danger. The fight is on.

Other systems may have more colors, or fewer, but the idea is always the same. To give concrete examples of each color-state: White would be lounging in your air-conditioned living room on a hot summer day, icy beer in hand. Unless you are paranoid, there is no reason to think you are in danger. Yellow is walking to your car in the mall parking garage. You are aware that something could happen, but not paranoid, and no threats seem present. Orange is walking in that same parking lot later at night and seeing, out of the corner of your eye, someone leering at you and following you. The mental alarm bells begin to ring; danger feels imminent. Red is when that someone pulls a knife on you.

As we progress from white to red, as it were, the biochemical response is always the same. Your heart rate goes up, you start to sweat, a wave of heat comes over you (I always feel it in my feet first), your vision gets more blurry, you lose fine motor skills. This last aspect of physiology is why it’s very unlikely you’ll be able to pull off fancy martial-arts moves in a real, chaotic self-defense situation: you are pretty much neurologically incapable of doing so. The blood rushes to your muscles, getting them ready for action and depriving other body systems (vision and hearing, for instance) of the energy and nutrients needed to function optimally. In what’s called an adrenaline dump, your adrenal medulla releases epinephrine directly into your bloodstream, dulling your pain sensitivity but also producing side effects like uncontrollable shaking, time distortion, tunnel vision, etc.

This basic biochemistry is why deadly police shootings always leave liberals scratching their heads and wondering how the cops fired 50 rounds instead of the more progressive 2 or 3. In the middle of an adrenaline dump, it’s difficult to control your trigger finger. Those same cops will probably swear they only fired one or two shots each, but an examination of their weapons afterwards always shows that they nearly emptied their magazines. Most people, myself included, have never had to point a 9mm at someone who’s charging at them with an icepick. Most people (yes, even experienced officers) will panic and start firing blindly.

You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned race yet. That’s because it’s irrelevant. For the average person, what produces these biochemical responses has nothing to do with a person’s skin color but everything to do with body language and other related variables.

What has been missing from all the “discussions” of race taking place over the past month or so is how body language, dress, and demeanor mix and create an image of someone that we either want to welcome or avoid. The term “racial profiling” is too often a thought-terminating cliche designed to halt any discussion of how all humans evaluate potentially dangerous situations. What most often happens is that, upon seeing someone, we react to their movement and demeanor much more than skin color. Body language and eye contact mean everything. This goes for blacks and whites and everyone else: if someone struts around (with that walk that is instantly identifiable) glaring at everyone they see, you should avoid them. They are looking for trouble. If you’re stupid enough to wander into their path because you’re afraid of being seen as “intolerant,” that’s your problem, jack.

Nobody, save for the most hardened racist, feels threatened by the black commuter on the train wearing the suit and sipping the coffee like everyone else. Everyone, however, feels threatened by the white guy with the anti-social thousand-yard stare and the Sig Rune tattoo–or the black guy with the “F*ck the Police” t-shirt and the obnoxious strut. They have chosen to craft particular images of themselves to create particular responses in others. We ought not to be surprised, therefore, when they get those particular responses. When we assess a situation for potential trouble, we are, without knowing it, calculating and considering dozens of variables–not only body language and eye contact, but location, distance, clothing style, etc.

Skin color, if it plays a part, is minor, except for those who choose to make it otherwise, such as the New York Times.

Read bullet | Comments »

Fool Britannia

Saturday, April 14th, 2012 - by Robert Wargas

England has already doused itself in gasoline; all that remains is to flick the Zippo. *Clink*:

“London Metropolitan University is considering banning the sale of alcohol from some parts of the campus because a ‘high percentage’ of students consider drinking ‘immoral,’ Prof Malcolm Gillies said.

One-fifth of the University’s students are Muslim, and of those the majority are women. It is an issue of ‘cultural sensitivity’ to provide drink-free areas, Prof Gillies told a conference, adding he was ‘not a great fan of alcohol on campus.’”

Maybe they can ban Jews and Christians next!

Read bullet | Comments »

Mao Comes to Sweden

Saturday, April 14th, 2012 - by Robert Wargas

Once again, we see that those who scream the loudest about “diversity” are those who take every measure to abolish it:

“In an effort to support gender neutrality, Sweden recently added a gender-neutral pronoun, ‘hen,’ to the country’s National Encyclopedia. Slate reports that several preschools in Sweden have stopped making references to the gender of their students. Instead of calling children ‘boys and girls,’ teachers are referring to students as ‘buddies.’ One school even stopped allowing free playtime during the day because stereotypical gender patterns are born and cemented. In free play there is hierarchy, exclusion, and the seed to bullying.’ And the country just published its first gender-neutral children’s book, ‘Kivi och Monsterhund.’

Pardon my bourgeois instincts, but wouldn’t true “gender neutrality” entail teaching respect for others’ differences and for encouraging individuality?

There’s nothing we can do about Sweden; it’s a utopian socialist enclave run by “Harrison Bergeron”-inspired technocrats. But we can do something about the United States, and that is to remain fiercely vigilant about these types of stories emanating from the fallen parts of the West. Stay mad and stay loud: it’s the only way.

Read bullet | Comments »

The Existential Crisis of the Left

Sunday, March 25th, 2012 - by Robert Wargas

Take a deep breath and contemplate the following short poem by Charles Simic:

Fear passes from man to man
As one leaf passes its shudder
To another.

All at once the whole tree is trembling
And there is no sign of the wind.

Take another deep breath. In the words of a Park Slope therapist, how does it make you feel? It should, if the poet has done his job, make you feel several emotions at once. Simic combines electricity with equanimity, creating a short but intense little packet of language. In six lines, he pulls off what I consider to be a perfect poem.

Now here’s Simic again, blogging recently on The New York Review of Books website:

“The ideal citizen of a politically corrupt state, such as the one we now have, is a gullible dolt unable to tell truth from bullsh*t.”

Whoa. Did someone just hear the needle violently scratch the phonograph? Whence comes this vitriol? Simic has exchanged the poetic for the gaseous. He is upset because:

Anyone who has taught college over the last forty years, as I have, can tell you how much less students coming out of high school know every year. At first it was shocking, but it no longer surprises any college instructor that the nice and eager young people enrolled in your classes have no ability to grasp most of the material being taught. Teaching American literature, as I have been doing, has become harder and harder in recent years, since the students read little literature before coming to college and often lack the most basic historical information about the period in which the novel or the poem was written, including what important ideas and issues occupied thinking people at the time.

Simic is on to something here. High school seniors are doubtless dumber today than were their counterparts of decades past. For instance, how many Class of 2012 seniors at your local high school can recite some Shakespeare or Robert Frost? How many know the difference between a comma and a semi-colon? What a non-defining clause is? What the Ninth Amendment says? How to conjugate an Italian verb without rolling their eyes and checking the foreign-language app on their phones? What “glasnost” and “perestroika” mean? Who George Kennan, Jeanne Kirkpatrick, and Lionel Trilling were? What the capitol of Morocco is? Where Belarus is? What Operation Cyclone was? Who discovered the structure of DNA?

Simic incorrectly identifies the locus of this stupidity. In his eyes, it’s not the decades of progressive-driven intellectual debasement and balkanization—ethnic studies, women’s studies, Marxist literary theory, racial preferences, political correctness, hatred of proper English grammar, hatred of Western civilization and history—that have done in our youth. (It doesn’t, for instance, dawn on him that the bulk of the educational establishment holds the same political views and values that he does.) Rather, Simic writes:

In the past, if someone knew nothing and talked nonsense, no one paid any attention to him. No more. Now such people are courted and flattered by conservative politicians and ideologues as “Real Americans” defending their country against big government and educated liberal elites. The press interviews them and reports their opinions seriously without pointing out the imbecility of what they believe. The hucksters, who manipulate them for the powerful financial interests, know that they can be made to believe anything, because, to the ignorant and the bigoted, lies always sound better than truth.

Unwittingly, Simic in his short screed reveals the central crisis of left-wing politics today, which is made up of several smaller crises, to wit:

(1) Left-wing education has produced an idiotic, unproductive youth that nevertheless is full of resentment and entitlement.
(2) The Left continues to be confused and rails against this uneducated class as if they had nothing to do with making it.
(3) The existence of this idiotic parasite class necessitates the continued existence of a huge, ever-expanding government.
(4) A very large chunk of Americans, having woken up to the fact that they’ve been swindled by the government, the education system, and the media, starts to push back against Leviathan and its cultural minions in the media and academia.
(5) The progressive Left wrongly equates this chunk of fed-up Americans, most of whom are older and gainfully employed, with the idiotic class they created, most of whom are young and unemployed.
In order to take care of the more left-leaning idiot class they’ve created, the establishment Left must somehow get more money from the more right-leaning, fed-up class.
(6) Since the progressive Left holds all these Americans in contempt, and yet needs those same Americans to pay for their utopian social democracy, they have taken the strange position—perhaps unbeknownst to them—of wanting their enemies to subsidize their own destruction.

I may have got some details wrong, but I think that’s the gist of it. In short: “You’re a racist! Now pay for my healthcare!” You don’t need to be a staunch conservative to be turned off by sentiments like that. Simic doesn’t get why his students are dumb, but, worse, he has confused his dumb students with another group of people who he thinks are dumb but who he really needs. And Mr. Simic, they don’t need you.

Read bullet | Comments »