Category Archives: Western Civilization

America Doesn’t Need a New Revolution

I have not heard one single American politician enunciate the argument any clearer than this amazing woman. mrosso

By Ayaan Hirsi Ali

 

Outrage is the natural response to the brutal killing of George Floyd. Yet outrage and clear, critical thinking seldom go hand in hand. An act of police brutality became the catalyst for a revolutionary mood. Protests spilled over into violence and looting. Stores were destroyed; policemen and civilians injured and killed. The truism “black lives matter” was joined by a senseless slogan: “Defund the police.”

Democratic politicians—and some Republicans—hastened to appease the protesters. The mayors of Los Angeles and New York pledged to cut their cities’ police budgets. The Minneapolis City Council said it intended to disband the police department. The speaker of the House and other congressional Democrats donned scarves made of Ghanaian Kente cloth and kneeled in the Capitol. Sen. Mitt Romney joined a march.

ILLUSTRATION: DAVID KLEIN

Corporate executives scrambled to identify their brands with the protests. By the middle of June, according to polls, American public opinion had been transformed from skepticism about the Black Lives Matter movement to widespread support. Politicians, journalists and other public figures who had denounced protests against the pandemic lockdown suddenly lost their concern about infection. One Johns Hopkins epidemiologist tweeted on June 2: “In this moment the public health risks of not protesting to demand an end to systemic racism greatly exceed the harms of the virus.”

Although I am a black African—an immigrant who came to the U.S. freely—I am keenly aware of the hardships and miseries African-Americans have endured for centuries. Slavery, Reconstruction, segregation: I know the history. I know that there is still racial prejudice in America, and that it manifests itself in the aggressive way some police officers handle African-Americans. I know that by measures of wealth, health and education, African-Americans remain on average closer to the bottom of society than to the top. I know, too, that African-American communities have been disproportionately hurt by both Covid-19 and the economic disruption of lockdowns.

 

Yet when I hear it said that the U.S. is defined above all by racism, when I see books such as Robin DiAngelo’s “White Fragility” top the bestseller list, when I read of educators and journalists being fired for daring to question the orthodoxies of Black Lives Matter—then I feel obliged to speak up.

“What the media also do not tell you,” I tweeted on June 9, “is that America is the best place on the planet to be black, female, gay, trans or what have you. We have our problems and we need to address those. But our society and our systems are far from racist.”

America looks different if you grew up, as I did, in Africa and the Middle East. There I had firsthand experience of three things. First, bloody internecine wars between Africans—with all the combatants dark-skinned, and no white people present. Second, the anarchy that comes when there is no police, no law and order. Third, the severe racism (as well as sexism) of a society such as Saudi Arabia, where de facto slavery still exists.

I came to the U.S. in 2006, having lived in the Netherlands since 1992. Like most immigrants, I came with a confidence that in America I would be judged on my merits rather than on the basis of racial or sexual prejudice.

There’s a reason the U.S. remains, as it has long been, the destination of choice for would-be migrants. We know that there is almost no difference in the unemployment rate for foreign-born and native-born workers—unlike in the European Union.

We immigrants see the downsides of American society: the expensive yet inefficient health-care system, the shambolic public schools in poor communities, the poverty that no welfare program can alleviate. But we also see, as Charles Murray and J.D. Vance have shown, that these problems aren’t unique to black America. White America is also, in Mr. Murray’s phrase, “coming apart” socially. Broken marriages and alienated young men are problems in Appalachia as much as in the inner cities.

If America is a chronically racist society, then why are the “deaths of despair” studied by Anne Case and Angus Deaton so heavily concentrated among middle-aged white Americans? Did the Covid-19 pandemic make us forget the opioid epidemic, which has disproportionately afflicted the white population?

 

This country is only 244 years old, but it may be showing signs of age. Time was, Americans were renowned for their can-do, problem-solving attitude. Europeans, as Alexis de Tocqueville complained, were inclined to leave problems to central authorities in Paris or Berlin. Americans traditionally solved problems locally, sitting together in town halls and voluntary associations. Some of that spirit still exists, even if we now have to meet on Zoom. But the old question—“How can we figure this out?”—is threatened with replacement by “Why can’t the government figure this out for us?”

The problem is that there are people among us who don’t want to figure it out and who have an interest in avoiding workable solutions. They have an obvious political incentive not to solve social problems, because social problems are the basis of their power. That is why, whenever a scholar like Roland Fryer brings new data to the table—showing it’s simply not true that the police disproportionately shoot black people dead—the response is not to read the paper but to try to discredit its author.

I have no objection to the statement “black lives matter.” But the movement that uses that name has a sinister hostility to serious, fact-driven discussion of the problem it purports to care about. Even more sinister is the haste with which academic, media and business leaders abase themselves before it. There will be no resolution of America’s many social problems if free thought and free speech are no longer upheld in our public sphere. Without them, honest deliberation, mutual learning and the American problem-solving ethic are dead.

America’s elites have blundered into this mess. There were eight years of hedonistic hubris under Bill Clinton. Then came 9/11 and for eight years the U.S. suffered nemesis in Afghanistan, Iraq and in the financial crash. After that we had eight years of a liberal president, and the hubris returned. Sanctimonious politics coincided with deeply unequal economics.

Through all this, many Americans felt completely left out—of the technology boom, of the enterprise of globalization. I never thought I would agree with Michael Moore. But at an October 2016 event, he predicted that Donald Trump would win: “Trump’s election is going to be the biggest [middle finger] ever recorded in human history.” I still think that analysis was right. Mr. Trump wasn’t elected because of his eloquence. He was elected to convey that middle finger to those who had been smugly in charge for decades.

But you can’t give the middle finger to a pandemic, and 2020 has exposed the limitations of Mr. Trump as a president. Yet when you look at the alternative, you have to wonder where it would lead us. Back to the elite hubris of the 1990s and 2010s? I can’t help thinking that another shattering defeat might force sane center-left liberals into saying: That wasn’t a one-off; we’ve got a real problem. They’ll be in the same position as the British Labour Party after four years of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership and two election defeats, when eventually the moderates had to throw the leftists out. One way or another, the Democratic Party has to find a way of throwing out the socialists who are destroying it.

 

The Republicans, too, have to change their ways. They have to reconnect with young people. They have to address the concerns of Hispanics. And they have to listen to African-Americans, who most certainly do not want to see the police in their neighborhoods replaced by woke community organizers.

We have barely four months to figure this out in the old American way. To figure out how to contain Covid-19, which we haven’t yet done, because—I dare to say it—old lives matter, too, and it is old people as well as minorities whom this disease disproportionately kills. To figure out how to reduce violence, because the police wouldn’t use guns so often if criminals didn’t carry them so often. Perhaps most pressing of all, to figure out how to hold an election in November that isn’t marred by procedural problems, allegations of abuse and postelection tumult.

Who knows? Maybe there’s even time for the candidates to debate the challenges we confront—not with outrage, but with the kind of critical thinking we Americans were once famous for, which takes self-criticism as the first step toward finding solutions.

Ms. Hirsi Ali is a research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/america-doesnt-need-a-new-revolution-11593201840

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America’s Jacobin Moment

This coercive cultural turn threatens to devour what remains of America’s civic comity and push durable social progress on race and politics out of reach.

***

We describe this as a Jacobin moment because it has the fervor and indiscriminate judgment of the revolutionary mind. The guillotine isn’t in use, but the impulse is the same to destroy careers, livelihoods and reputations. The wave of resignations, firings, disavowals and forced apologies at institutions large and small is moving so fast it is difficult to keep track.

This month editors at the New York Times and Philadelphia Inquirer lost their jobs after staff revolts over an op-ed and headline, respectively. Now the editor of Philadelphia Magazine, Tom McGrath, is resigning after the staff made racial demands. Critics pointed to stories they disliked from 2013 and 2015.

Economists have often been more resistant to ideological orthodoxy than other intellectuals. No longer. University of Chicago economist Harald Uhlig lost his contract with the Chicago Federal Reserve after tweets in which he argued that the Black Lives Matter movement “just torpedoed itself, with its full-fledged support of #defundthepolice.” Mr. Uhlig said he favored the Democratic Party’s more moderate reform proposals. Chicago Fed President Charles Evans, 13 years at the helm, rolled over without a peep.

Economists now want Mr. Uhlig stripped of his editorship of the Journal of Political Economy. New York Times political enforcer Paul Krugman tweeted that Mr. Uhlig is a “privileged white man” and he doubted his “objectivity” to edit the journal. Justin Wolfers of the University of Michigan combed through Mr. Uhlig’s old blog posts and claimed to be outraged that Mr. Uhlig in 2017 criticized left-wing violence.

The purge is being felt across academia. One lecturer was suspended by UCLA’s business school for a blunt email rejecting a student request to make different rules for final exams for black students. Another is facing investigation after reading in class Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail.” It contains the n-word, so professors may now deny students a classic American document on moral opposition to unjust state power.

At MIT, a chaplain was forced out over an email that condemned George Floyd’s death but also noted his criminal record and said, “Many people have claimed that racism is major problem in police forces. I don’t think we know that.”

The purges have reached into left-wing circles beyond the media. David Shor, an analyst at progressive consultancy Civis Analytics, was pushed out soon after tweeting research from Princeton calling into question the efficacy of riots. The leadership of the Poetry Foundation resigned this month after an open letter denounced the foundation’s statement denouncing systemic racism for being too vague.

In the world of sports, the NBA’s Sacramento Kings cut ties with announcer Grant Napear after he was asked on Twitter his views on Black Lives Matter and replied that “ALL LIVES MATTER…EVERY SINGLE ONE!!!” The coach of Oklahoma State University had to publicly apologize after he was photographed on a fishing trip wearing a shirt bearing the logo of “One America News,” a pro-Trump network.

Entertainment is also being subject to new forms of regulation on artistic expression. HBO announced this month that it is temporarily scrubbing “Gone With the Wind,” the classic Civil War novel-turned-movie, from its video library. Mobs are pulling down statues of Confederate generals, but in San Francisco they also pulled down Junipero Serra, an 18th-century missionary and Catholic saint, and U.S. Presidents are targets (see nearby).

The purges also reach into local schools and governments. A Vermont principal was removed after posting on Facebook “I firmly believe that Black Lives Matter,” but “Just because I don’t walk around with a BLM sign should not mean I am a racist.” The mayor of the northern California town of Healdsburg resigned after doubting police reform was necessary in that community. She was excoriated and told local press that “my intention was to follow through with my term, but basically at what personal price?”

***

Some of the targets of these campaigns may have spoken or acted clumsily, but apologists for cancel culture can find reasons to stigmatize or banish anyone. For some, the destruction of social goods like academic freedom and political pluralism is merely collateral damage if the goal is seen as just. We doubt most Americans agree with this unforgiving and punitive approach to cultural change, but the revolutionaries are now in charge with a vengeance.

They won’t stop by themselves because their campaign is essentially about power and control, and they need new villains. But as they march through liberal institutions, they are also laying waste to liberal values of free speech, democratic debate and cultural tolerance.

Someone has to stop this, and first and foremost that means the liberal establishment. The leaders of universities, foundations, museums, the media and corporations need to draw on their remaining moral authority to make the case for a liberal society. There is a risk that anyone who speaks up, however reasonably, will become a mob target. But if one or two lead, perhaps others will follow.

Social comity in a polarized society will not be achieved through coercion and struggle sessions. If liberals won’t stop the Jacobin left, expect a political backlash and social fracture that will make Donald Trump’s Presidency look like a tea party.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/americas-jacobin-moment-11592867349?mod=opinion_lead_pos1

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The Class Struggle

I think Ms. Noonan has been “off” on her thinking as of late, but here she is right on the money. None of the experts are paying anywhere close to the price or feeling close to the amount of pain being felt by the average person. mrossol

WSJ. 5/15/2020 by Peggy Noonan

I think there’s a growing sense that we have to find a way to live with this thing, manage it the best we can, and muddle through. Covid-19 is not going away anytime soon. Summer may give us a break, late fall probably not. Vaccines are likely far off, new therapies and treatments might help a lot, but keeping things closed up tight until there are enough tests isn’t a viable plan. There will never be enough tests, it was botched from the beginning, if we ever catch up it will probably be at the point tests are no longer urgently needed.

Meantime, we must ease up and manage. We should go forward with a new national commitment to masks, social distancing, hand washing. These simple things have proved the most valuable tools in the tool chest. We have to enter each day armored up. At the same time we can’t allow alertness to become exhaustion. We can’t let an appropriate sense of caution turn into an anxiety formation. We can’t become a nation of agoraphobics [inordinate fear of entering open or crowded spaces]. We’ll just have to live, carefully.

Here’s something we should stop. There’s a class element in the public debate. It’s been there the whole time but it’s getting worse, and few in public life are acting as if they’re sensitive to it. Our news professionals the past three months have made plenty of room for medical and professionals warning of the illness. Good, we needed it, it was news. They are not now paying an equal degree of sympathetic attention to those living the economic story, such as the Dallas woman who pushed back, opened her hair salon, and was thrown in jail by a preening judge. He wanted an apology. She said she couldn’t apologize for trying to feed her family.

There is a class divide between those who are hard-line on lockdowns and those who are pushing back. We see the professionals on one side—those James Burnham called the managerial elite, and Michael Lind, in “The New Class War,” calls “the overclass”—and regular people on the other. The overclass are highly educated and exert outsize influence as managers and leaders of important institutions—hospitals, companies, statehouses. The normal people aren’t connected through professional or social lines to power structures, and they have regular jobs—service worker, small-business owner.

Since the pandemic began, the overclass has been in charge—scientists, doctors, political figures, consultants—calling the shots for the average people. But personally they have less skin in the game. The National Institutes of Health scientist won’t lose his livelihood over what’s happened. Neither will the midday anchor.

I’ve called this divide the protected versus the unprotected. There is an aspect of it that is not much discussed but bears on current arguments. How you have experienced life has a lot to do with how you experience the pandemic and its strictures. I think it’s fair to say citizens of red states have been pushing back harder than those of blue states.

It’s not that those in red states don’t think there’s a pandemic. They’ve heard all about it! They realize it will continue, they know they may get sick themselves. But they also figure this way: Hundreds of thousands could die and the American economy taken down, which would mean millions of other casualties, economic ones. Or, hundreds of thousands could die and the American economy is damaged but still stands, in which case there will be fewer economic casualties—fewer bankruptcies and foreclosures, fewer unemployed and ruined.

They’ll take the latter. It’s a loss either way but one loss is worse than the other. They know the politicians and scientists can’t really weigh all this on a scale with any precision because life is a messy thing that doesn’t want to be quantified.

Here’s a generalization based on a lifetime of experience and observation. The working-class people who are pushing back have had harder lives than those now determining their fate. They haven’t had familial or economic ease. No one sent them to Yale. They often come from considerable family dysfunction. This has left them tougher or harder, you choose the word.

They’re more fatalistic about life because life has taught them to be fatalistic. And they look at these scientists and reporters making their warnings about how tough it’s going to be if we lift shutdowns and they don’t think, “Oh what informed, caring observers.” They think, “You have no idea what tough is. You don’t know what painful is.” And if you don’t know, why should you have so much say?

The overclass says, “Wait three months before we’re safe.” They reply, “There’s no such thing as safe.”

Something else is true about those pushing back. They live life closer to the ground and pick up other damage. Everyone knows the societal costs in the abstract—“domestic violence,” “child abuse.” Here’s something concrete. In Dallas this week police received a tip and found a 6-year-old boy tied up by his grandmother and living in a shed. The child told police he’d been sleeping there since school ended “for this corona thing.” According to the arrest affidavit, he was found “standing alone in a pitch-black shed in a blue storage bin with his hands tied behind his back.” The grandmother and her lover were arrested on felony child-endangerment charges. The Texas Department of Family Protective Service said calls to its abuse hotline have gone down since the lockdowns because teachers and other professionals aren’t regularly seeing children.

A lot of bad things happen behind America’s closed doors. The pandemic has made those doors thicker.

Meanwhile some governors are playing into every stereotype of “the overclass.” On Tuesday Pennsylvania’s Tom Wolf said in a press briefing that those pushing against the shutdown are cowards. Local officials who “cave in to this coronavirus” will pay a price in state funding. “These folks are choosing to desert in the face of the enemy. In the middle of a war.” He said he’ll pull state certificates such as liquor licenses for any businesses that open. He must have thought he sounded uncompromising, like Gen. George Patton. He seemed more like Patton slapping the soldier. No sympathy, no respect, only judgment.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called anti-lockdown demonstrations “racist and misogynistic.” She called the entire movement “political.” It was, in part—there have been plenty of Trump signs, and she’s a possible Democratic vice presidential nominee. But the clamor in her state is real, and serious. People are in economic distress and worry that the foundations of their lives are being swept away. How does name-calling help? She might as well have called them “deplorables.” She said the protests may only make the lockdowns last longer, which sounded less like irony than a threat.

When you are reasonable with people and show them respect, they will want to respond in kind. But when they feel those calling the shots are being disrespectful, they will push back hard and rebel even in ways that hurt them.

This is no time to make our divisions worse. The pandemic is a story not only about our health but our humanity.

Source: Scenes From the Class Struggle in Lockdown – WSJ

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How America Won WW II Without Invading Japan.

Interesting, to say the least. mrossol
= === = =
By Warren Kozak – WSJ. 3/8/2020.

The U.S. entered World War II in 1941. Yet American planes couldn’t dent a roof in Japan until 1945. The 1942 Doolittle raid, with its 16 bombers that took off from carriers, showed great ingenuity and bravery. But it had zero impact on Japan’s ability to make war.

The raid was designed to boost morale after Pearl Harbor. When the U.S. didn’t follow up with more attacks, the Japanese believed their homeland was invulnerable to enemy bombs because of the emperor’s divine presence. That hubris ended 75 years ago Monday with an event that set in motion the eventual U.S. victory.

First, a little more history: The U.S. could reach Japan only after the Marines took the Mariana Islands at great cost in 1944. The largest airports in the world were built within months and filled with new, modern B-29 bombers. The B-29 was a marvel and the greatest expense of the war at $3 billion, compared with $2.4 billion for the Manhattan Project. Each plane was three times the size of the next-largest bomber, the B-17. The B-29 could fly 3,700 miles and cruise at an altitude high enough to elude antiaircraft fire.

But the B-29 ran into a problem during its first mission over Japan—huge winds up to 200 miles an hour. The jet stream rendered it impossible for bombs to hit targets.

Hap Arnold, head of the Army Air Force, turned to his youngest general, 38-year-old Curtis LeMay, who didn’t fit the profile of the glamorous flyboy. LeMay was slightly overweight, surly and taciturn. Most people found him frightening. He was a lieutenant in 1940 but rose out of obscurity to become the most innovative problem solver in bomber command. LeMay also insisted on flying the lead bomber on every dangerous mission. He was also the only U.S. general in the war who fought in front of his troops—a case study in military leadership.

LeMay approached the jet-stream dilemma like the engineer he was. On the night of March 9, 1945, he sent 346 B-29s to Tokyo. In a radical departure from normal operations, he ordered the planes to fly low—5,000 feet—and not in formation, but in a single-file line. The planes would drop incendiaries instead of impact bombs. The crews protested, assuming they would be destroyed by the flak. But LeMay believed the crews could survive because the Japanese wouldn’t see this coming.

He was right. With minimum loss to the U.S., the incendiaries started a firestorm that burned down more than 16 square miles of Tokyo. The firestorm left more than a million homeless and killed an estimated 100,000 men, women and children. The Japanese were as surprised as they were devastated. More people died during that 24-hour period than perished five months later in either Hiroshima or Nagasaki.

If this sounds shocking to contemporary ears, consider the context. An estimated 15 million to 17 million Asian civilians were killed—Chinese, Koreans, Filipinos and those from every other country Japan conquered. Like their German allies, the Japanese adopted a sense of triumphal racial superiority. Many of their victims were killed in the most brutal, medieval ways. An average of 250,000 people were dying throughout Asia every month in the first half of 1945.

As Americans approached the mainland, the Japanese fought even more ferociously on Iwo Jima and later Okinawa. The war in the Pacific was turning into an out-of-control bloodbath. The only way to stop this mass death—and prevent a prolonged guerrilla war following the largest invasion in history—was to force the empire to surrender by destruction from the air.

The U.S. would have to firebomb 64 Japanese cities, capped off by the two atomic bombs in August 1945, to end World War II. In the tragic calculus of war, it took the deaths of untold numbers of human beings to save the lives of even more. These are brutal realities few people today can imagine, let alone confront.

Sept. 2 will mark the 75th anniversary of the Japanese surrender on the USS Missouri. That happened without an invasion of the Japanese mainland. Imagine Iwo Jima times 100 or even 1,000. At least a million American servicemen and many more millions of Japanese lived full lives thanks to the terrible and tragic—but necessary—events that began on March 9, 1945.

Mr. Kozak is author of “LeMay: The Life and Wars of General Curtis LeMay.”

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