Dumb and Dumber by David P. Goldman.
How neocons and Obama liberals have created catastrophe by consensus in the Middle East.
Read the rest.
Dumb and Dumber by David P. Goldman.
How neocons and Obama liberals have created catastrophe by consensus in the Middle East.
Read the rest.
Religion Flames the ‘Us Versus Them’ Mindset by Gad Saad.
In one of my earliest posts I argued that the only time that peace is likely to reign on earth is if we were to be attacked by Martians (or other aliens). In other words, once the dangerous and loathsome ‘other’ is defined outside the circle of mankind, this would allow us to temporarily forget our differences and band together against a common enemy. Until then and as long as some of today’s dominant religions continue to wield influence on human minds, expect endless future bloodshed.
Pascal Boyer, who teaches in both the anthropology and psychology departments at Washington University in St. Louis, has written extensively about the evolutionary roots of religion (cf. Boyer, 2001). He has convincingly argued that religion is an exaptation, namely a by-product of evolution. Specifically, he proposes that religion utilizes in its service cognitive mechanisms that evolved for other purposes. Coalitional thinking is one such example in that humans have evolved the cognitive and perceptual penchant to view the world via the ‘us versus them’ mindset, which religion is famously good at exploiting.
More at PT.
The latest issue of Case Western Reserve Law Review, a symposium entitled: The Law and Policy of Hydraulic Fracturing: Addressing the Issues of the Natural Gas Boom, is available online for free here. (pdf)
Here’s a review of The New New Deal: The Hidden Story of Change in the Obama Era by Michael Grunwald.
Richard Milhous Obama by Carl M. Cannon.
He’s compared himself to Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt, evoked nostalgia for John F. Kennedy, sought to emulate Ronald Reagan, (belatedly) praised George W. Bush, and enlisted the assistance of Bill Clinton in his 2012 re-election effort, but as his second term stumbles along, the president with whom Barack Obama finds himself being compared is Richard M. Nixon.
Here’s an excerpt from Light without Fire: The Making of America’s First Muslim College by Scott Korb.
Swearing In the Enemy by Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
One of the suspected Boston bombers was a naturalized citizen, and the other was on his way. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, herself a new citizen, asks how we might change the process of becoming an American to exclude those who hate America.
More at the WSJ.
Is Sex Still Sexy? by Emily Esfahani Smith.
If you want to get a sense of how college students approach sex, the play Speak About It is a pretty good place to start. It’s a series of skits written by students at Bowdoin, a small liberal arts college in Maine. The skits show students in a variety of sexual encounters, based on real experiences. Bowdoin students must watch the play during freshman orientation. It’s meant to foster “healthy relationships” on campus by addressing the issue of consent and sexual assault. Speak About It has also been staged at colleges and universities nationwide, including Harvard, Brown, Williams, and Bates.
More at Atlantic.
Laptop U by Nathan Heller.
Gregory Nagy, a professor of classical Greek literature at Harvard, is a gentle academic of the sort who, asked about the future, will begin speaking of Homer and the battles of the distant past. At seventy, he has owlish eyes, a flared Hungarian nose, and a tendency to gesture broadly with the flat palms of his hands. He wears the crisp white shirts and dark blazers that have replaced tweed as the raiment of the academic caste. His hair, also white, often looks manhandled by the Boston wind. Where some scholars are gnomic in style, Nagy piles his sentences high with thin-sliced exposition. (“There are about ten passages—and by passages I simply mean a selected text, and these passages are meant for close reading, and sometimes I’ll be referring to these passages as texts, or focus passages, but you’ll know I mean the same thing—and each one of these requires close reading!”) When he speaks outside the lecture hall, he smothers friends and students with a stew of blandishment and praise. “Thank you, Wonderful Kevin!” he might say. Or: “The Great Claudia put it so well.” Seen in the wild, he could be taken for an antique-shop proprietor: a man both brimming with solicitous enthusiasm and fretting that the customers are getting, maybe, just a bit too close to his prized Louis XVI chair.
Nagy has published no best-sellers. He is not a regular face on TV. Since 1978, though, he has taught a class called “Concepts of the Hero in Classical Greek Civilization,” and the course, a survey of poetry, tragedy, and Platonic dialogues, has made him a campus fixture. Because Nagy’s zest for Homeric texts is boundless, because his lectures reflect decades of refinement, and because the course is thought to offer a soft grading curve (its nickname on campus is Heroes for Zeroes), it has traditionally filled Room 105, in Emerson Hall, one of Harvard’s largest classroom spaces. Its enrollment has regularly climbed into the hundreds.
This spring, however, enrollment in Nagy’s course exceeds thirty-one thousand. “Concepts of the Hero,” redubbed “CB22x: The Ancient Greek Hero,” is one of Harvard’s first massive open online courses, or MOOCs—a new type of college class based on Internet lecture videos. A MOOC is “massive” because it’s designed to enroll tens of thousands of students. It’s “open” because, in theory, anybody with an Internet connection can sign up. “Online” refers not just to the delivery mode but to the style of communication: much, if not all, of it is on the Web. And “course,” of course, means that assessment is involved—assignments, tests, an ultimate credential. When you take MOOCs, you’re expected to keep pace. Your work gets regular evaluation. In the end, you’ll pass or fail or, like the vast majority of enrollees, just stop showing up.
More at The New Yorker.
Rand Paul Plays the Maverick at CPAC and the Evangelical in Cedar Rapids by Nick Gillespie.
Americans are primed for Paul’s embrace of economic and personal liberty, but his outreach to religious Republicans could repel them.
Could California Make a Comeback? by Michael M. Rosen.
It’s getting depressingly repetitive to keep writing about California’s problems, which are legion and seemingly intractable. But this time, I’m pleased to report on an unexpected glimmer of hope that might, just might, cast a new light on the Golden State.
First, a catalog of our recent woes, which, as ever, revolve around businesses and middle- and upper-income individuals decamping for other states that don’t suffer from California’s high-tax, high-regulation infection.
William Ruger and Jason Sorens of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University observe in their new rankings, “Freedom in the 50 States,” that about 1.5 million Californians departed for other states between 2000 and 2010, amounting to roughly 4 percent of the state’s population.
The Golden State’s not-so-golden regulatory and tax scheme, the authors contend, “costs Californians billions of dollars a year, makes their lives harder, and encourages more and more of them to move somewhere else.” They rank California 49th in terms of overall freedom.
Man the Political Animal: On the Intrinsic Goodness of Political Community by Michael W. Hannon.
Our arguments for limited government should recognize political community as an intrinsic good, not mistake it for a merely instrumental one.
More at PD.
Atheist vs. Atheist—What?! by Leon F. Seltzer.
Most people would probably assume that an atheist is an atheist, period. After all, individuals who don’t believe in God are, at least in their unbelief, essentially the same, right? But there’s a subtle—yet crucial—difference in degrees of incredulity that can meaningfully distinguish one’s person’s atheism from another’s. So if there’s an atheist in your life (or you’re one yourself), you might wish to consider just what sort of atheist they (or you) represent.
More at PT.
The WSJ reviews Act of Congress by Robert Kaiser.
Congress is dominated by intellectual lightweights who are chiefly consumed by electioneering and largely irrelevant in a body where a handful of members and many more staff do the actual work of legislating. And the business of the institution barely gets done because of a pernicious convergence of big money and consuming partisanship.
That is Robert Kaiser’s unsparing assessment in “Act of Congress,” the latest volume in a growing body of work lamenting our broken capital. The book is ostensibly about the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial-regulation bill. But, as Mr. Kaiser makes clear in his subtitle, Dodd-Frank is merely a vehicle for showing “how America’s essential institution works, and how it doesn’t.”
Pluralistic Judaism by Peter Berger.
In its May 2013 issue, First Things published an article by Edward Shapiro under the title “The Crisis of Conservative Judaism”. The last phrase does not refer to conservatism in general, but to the specific branch of Judaism that goes under that name. As is well known, American Judaism is divided into three denominations—Orthodox (which is most continuous in adherence to traditional Jewish law), Reform (which is most accommodating in modifying that law in line with the alleged requirements of modernity), and Conservative (which is more or less in the middle between the first two—if you will, modernizing but cautiously).
Actually, the situation is more complicated than this trilateral division would suggest. Each of the three major denominations has internal variations. Thus Orthodoxy is a rather large tent, which includes the so-called Modern Orthodox who would be hard to distinguish from what Conservative Judaism was originally intended to be. There is the so-called Reconstructionist Judaism, presumably to be located theologically to the “left” of Reform. And the various ultra-Orthodox haredi and Hasidic groups could each one be described as a denomination of sorts—certainly the most dynamic of them all, the Lubavitcher movement. The “crisis” with which Shapiro’s article deals comes precisely from the problem of locating Conservative Judaism in this highly pluralistic spectrum.
Read more here.
Perhaps Niall Ferguson Had A Point About Keynes by Jerry Bowyer.
If you pay attention to economic debates you know by now that a celebrity historian named Niall Ferguson made some off-hand comments at a financial conference in which he linked John Maynard Keynes’ homosexuality to some flaws in his economics. The story was picked up by Financial Advisor Magazine in an article which took a strong stance against Ferguson’s remarks. The story was picked up by the mainstream press, ran like wildfire burning with angry denunciations, and Ferguson predictably confessed and recanted.
The signals have been sent: the Keynes/homosexuality/theoretical distortion theory is not only wrong, it is blasphemy, punishable by instant anathematization and career immolation, at least as far as academic and corporate life are concerned. Even some conservative commentators have denounced Ferguson and, to the degree that he has found ‘defenders’ on the right such as Mark Steyn, their contributions have been more along the lines of pointing out the thought-police-like response to Ferguson than actually defending the theory itself.
But fear not, Grand and not-so-grand Inquisitors, your wood pile will not go to waste. I intend to defend the notion that Keynes’ sexual outlook is likely to have distorted his views of economics. So light your matches, I’ll don my asbestos pajamas and we can get started.
More at Forbes.
Secularists With Bible Tinsel by Douglas Wilson.
Civilizations believe things. If they didn’t believe things, they couldn’t be civilizations.
Nothing ever gets built, whether pyramid or skyscraper, if everybody is just wandering around in aimless little circles muttering that whatever they think is simply their opinion, which of course could be wrong. That kind of behavior does go on, of course, but only when a civilization is down to its fin de siecling of the drain. That’s how they fall apart, not how they get built.
Now if these civilizations are very conceited, or if they don’t get out much, they frequently may not know that they believe certain fundamental truths — they just chalk all that stuff up to what “everybody knows.” When the occasional person shows up who doesn’t “know” that stuff, he is dismissed as a sociopath, mentally ill, a religious nut, or a terrorist. But such epistemological naïveté is really indefensible — and unfortunate in our case, because Western values currently are under attack, and whenever you are under attack, indefensible is not the adjective want to have riding your noun.
Now this explains a great deal about why Christians who are actively engaged with issues in the public square usually get the reaction they do. (I leave out of this analysis the reaction that some Christians get when they decorate leftist dogma with random Bible tinsel. They already have their reward, which appears to be some kind of empathy grok with the spirit of the age.) The secular elite wants to act as though biblical Christians are breaking the rules by intruding purely religious concerns into an arena that ought to be entirely a-religious. They want to believe the problem is that the Christians are appealing to a particular God, when the real problem is that they are appealing to a rival God. The issue is never “no God or God,” but rather “the establishment God or the rival.” When Christians start to act in a way that threatens to reveal that there actually is an established and embedded god of the system, the reactions can be spectacular — what Moliere, with his unerring instinct for the mot juste, might have called “freaking out.”
Another way of saying this is that religious systems are inescapable. I am not in the habit of quoting Tillich favorably, but I don’t do it much, and so I beg to be forgiven just this once. No individual, no group of individuals, and no culture can fail to have an ultimate concern. When you have found their ultimate concern, you have found the object of their faith — their foundational religious commitment. Every society has one, and after we have dealt with the reality and inescapability of that, we should endeavor to find the right one.
What Depends Upon An Historical Adam? by Steven Wedgeworth.
Modern evangelicalism has always had something of an identity problem. Wanting to be neither Fundamentalism nor Liberalism, it has often found itself unable to sit comfortably in the middle. More often than not, and sometimes with a bit of pressure from either side, it ends up swinging back and forth between the poles, often unable to explain why it isn’t one or the other. Traditionally a commitment to Biblical inerrancy was the one sure thing that all evangelicals could agree upon, but even that, in light of contemporary challenges, is proving inadequate. The question of hermeneutics must (again) be dealt with, as more and more professing evangelicals are re-reading the opening chapters of Genesis as myth. While the particulars of the discussion are not fully uniform (whether one must or should be a “literal” six-day creationist or not), the question of the historical Adam is now quite definitely the new lynchpin. We would like to here lay out some of the consequences of denying the historical Adam in order to substantiate our claim that this is a boundary of orthodoxy, but first a bit of context.
The Myth of a Moderate Obama by Robert W. Merry.
The greatest myth in American politics today is the view, perpetrated by the Democratic Left and elements of the news media, that Barack Obama is a political moderate. In truth he represents an ideology that is barely within the American mainstream as understood over two and a quarter centuries of political experience. Indeed, the crisis of American politics in our time is a crisis of political deadlock, and it is a deadlock born largely of the president’s resolve to push an agenda for which he has no clear national consensus.
That agenda turns on a number of pivots related mostly to the size and role of government and its level of intrusiveness into the lives of Americans. If Obama has his way through the remainder of his presidency, and he thoroughly intends to, he will leave behind an American polity very different from the one he inherited. But, aided and abetted by news-media acolytes, he has managed to finesse his true domestic intentions. And his intentions, given the political strife they unleash and the threat to fiscal soundness they pose, could seriously undermine America’s standing in the world.
Throughout America’s political history a fundamental fault line has divided those who wish to enhance and aggrandize the power of government and those who fear the abuse of unchecked governmental prerogative. Every citizen with a political consciousness stands on one side or the other of that divide. Those who want more power invested in government are liberals; those who don’t are conservatives. Thus can one determine the fundamental political outlook of his fellow citizens though this one litmus test.
But within the contingent on the liberal side of the fault line can be seen wide variations in the extent to which particular politicians wish to expand and empower government. Some—Bill Clinton, for instance—have been content to operate largely within the power interrelationships they inherited. Others—including Obama—want to infuse government with powers and prerogatives far beyond their previous scope.
Read more here.
Bring Back the Generation Gap! by Peter Hyman.
The onset of middle age used to mean that one could ease into becoming a bland old fusspot, free from the burden of remaining attuned to the microscopic upticks of the cultural barometer. You’d have bought a reliable European sedan, started making bad jokes to waitresses and receiving all your news from Time. Blissful irrelevance was the calling card.
But thanks to a confluence of factors, the generation gap that once created a comfortable buffer between youthful folly and mundane adulthood has all but eroded. Instant Internet access to the entire history of popular culture has played a role. There’s also the trend toward flat, decentralized workplaces, where those of us who watched the Nixon impeachment sit in open offices next to co-workers who were still teens when the first African-American president was elected. And not least of all is the fact that so many 40-somethings—men and women of my generation—refuse to act their age.
We now exist in a timeless culture. As media theorist Douglas Rushkoff argues in his new book, Present Shock, there is no past or future—only right now. “The present isn’t so much a culture of its own as it is an amalgamation of all the periods we’ve been through,” said Mr. Rushkoff. “And this makes it difficult to belong to a particular generation.”
The old generational identities that once defined us have broken down, and the net result is a messy temporal mashup in which 40-somethings act like skateboarders, 20-somethings dress like the grandfather from My Three Sons, tweens attend rock concerts with their parents and toddlers are exposed to the ethos of hardcore punk.
It didn’t used to be like this.
Read more here.
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