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Jay Currie

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11/22/2003

Sullivan a week late

While I read Andrew Sullivan's blog faithfully, I tend not to have the luxury of reading his articles. His article in the Sunday Times a week ago pretty much puts paid to the rather lame protests and the shrill speeches which greeted Bush in London this week.
So I hope the protestors enjoy their days of rage. Dictators have come and gone in London - from Assad to Mugabe in recent times - and the protests have been minor and sporadic. But a man who, for all his faults, has actually liberated more Muslims from terror and oppression than any human rights group on earth, will be pilloried, attacked, booed and maligned. He'll be fine. So will Blair.
andrew sullivan

Anti-Semitism in Europe? Mais Non

The European Union's racism watchdog has shelved a report on anti-semitism because the study concluded Muslims and pro-Palestinian groups were behind many of the incidents it examined.

The Vienna-based European Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC) decided in February not to publish the 112-page study, a copy of which was obtained by the Financial Times, after clashing with its authors over their conclusions.
financial times
The last thing Old Europe wants to know is that its new arrivals - 7 million of them in France alone - are viciously anti-semitic. It would make the EU's absurdly pro-Palestinian position, its unwillingness to address the violent incidents in its own cities and its dependence on Muslim immigration to fill the gaps in its own rapidly aging population too explicit. Having learned a trick or two from the Stalinist, the simple answer is to supress the report.

A decent man

Turkey's prime minister has spoken of his country's shame that the attackers in recent suicide bombings which killed more than 50 people were Turkish.

At a memorial service for two policemen killed in the Istanbul attacks, Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the bombers would be damned in this world and the next.
bbc
It would be encouraging if more leaders of Muslim nations had this reaction to Islamofascist outrages....Hello, calling the House of Saud...

11/20/2003

The Real War

Among the protest slogans yesterday were placards saying simply, and understandably: "No more war". If only this were possible. War came to us on 11 September, 2001, and, as shown yesterday, it is with us still. The only question is whether to fight it, or retreat.
the scotsman
And what the bombs in Istambul have demonstrated is there is really nowhere to retreat to. The only possible response to Al Qaeda, to the terrorists trying to destabilize Iraq and to the Arab Street, is to fight this strange war with a precision and a ferocity which will ensure it is won.

11/18/2003

Steyn on what's wrong with America

The fanatical Muslims despise America because it's all lapdancing and gay porn; the secular Europeans despise America because it's all born-again Christians hung up on abortion; the anti-Semites despise America because it's controlled by Jews. Too Jewish, too Christian, too Godless, America is also too isolationist, except when it's too imperialist. And even its imperialism is too vulgar and arriviste to appeal to real imperialists: let's face it, the ghastly Yanks never stick it to the fuzzy-wuzzy with the dash and élan of the Bengal Lancers, which appears to be the principal complaint of Sir Max Hastings and his ilk. To the mullahs, America is the Great Satan, a wily seducer; to the Gaullists, America is the Great Cretin, a culture so self-evidently moronic that only stump-toothed inbred Appalachian lardbutts could possibly fall for it. American popular culture is utterly worthless, except when one of its proponents - Michael Moore, Sean Penn, Susan Sarandon - attacks Bush, in which case he or she is showered with European awards and sees the foreign-language rights for his latest tract sell for six figures at Frankfurt. The fact that the best-selling anti-Americans are themselves American - Moore, Chomsky - is perhaps the cruellest manifestation of the suffocating grip of the hyperpower.
telegraph
Frankly, I think he has simply got better since he left the Post.

Cash Poor

Colby Cosh has a longish discussion of Lord Black's travils and concludes with this,
As I say, though, this is all familiar stuff, and doesn't excuse the corporate shenanigans. The amounts of money involved are, to Black, trivial; the potential end of a remarkable career clearly means more to him, or he'd have surrendered to the Hollinger minority investors months ago. It is hard to imagine him descending into mere desuetude. More likely he'll take a while to let the heat die and then buy himself another miserable little paper or magazine someplace. Above all he seems to have a great lust to be numbered amongst those who buy their ink by the barrel.
colby cosh


I would be surprised if the sums involved, call it 32 million all in, were trivial to Black. One of the ongoing problems Lord Black has had, since the earliest days, is a fondness for byzantine corporate structures designed to allow maximum leverage. Nothing wrong with that; but the debt load of the Black properties mean there was not a lot of free cash floating about for Lord Black to play out his Beaverbrook fantasies. One element of Black's genius was his ability to play the debt/asset game brilliantly. but that is not the same thing as actually making money.

It takes nothing away from Lord Black's astonishing talents as a proprietor, an author and a financier to mention that he has never had any real money. Compared to a Murdoch Black is very small potatoes indeed.

The trouble with that is Black lead the life of a major magnate on the personal income of a country squire. This was not sustainable. The doubtful non-compete payments - and I agree with Colby that they are, at worst, technical breachs of his fiduciary responsibilities - were likely the first time Black or Radner took significant cash out of the Empire which they had created. Too bad you can't do business like they did in Beaverbrook's day any more.

Boy, am I surprised

Santa Barbara Sheriff's county officers executed a search warrant at Michael Jackson's Neverland ranch Tuesday morning in connection with an abuse charge from a 12-year-old boy, Court TV's Diane Dimond is reporting.
court tv

11/17/2003

Stupid

I have been cruising around the blogs I like to visit and ran across an excellent thread over at Paul Jané's blog. Essentially it was a call for comments on his sense that stupidity is on the rise in society. I posted this comment which has some of the ideas I have been working on for a couple of pieces buried in it. Sorry that it's long.

Dumb warning labels are not the Cracks of Doom. Rather they are the silly end of product liability - an idea which, my legal friends will remember, started life when an alleged snail was found in a bottle of ginger beer and the plaintiff had the great good luck to have an appeal heard by Lord Denning.

The broader questions: a) lack of common sense, b) the rise of stupidity, are more interesting.

The straight genetic explanation is attractive in a neat, Social Darwinian kind of a way. But almost certainly scientifically wrong. The less bright have always outnumbered the intelligent in relative terms simply because that is how statistics work. If you have a normal distribution, by definition, most of the population will fall within one standard deviation of the mean.

But what about a decline in the mean? Across time the mean could, indeed, drop. Though probably not because the less intelligent are having more kids than the intelligent. That is always the case and, happily, those children will tend towards the mean.

A more nuanced explanation is that the West has cleverly engineered two and a half wars which selectively killed the very best and brightest males. WWI killed the English, Russian, German and French elites, (and more than a few members of the Canadian). WWII mowed down the cream of the next generation and a huge proportion of the world's Jews. The "half" would be the assorted near wars, civil disturbances and revolutions which swept away the losing sides in orgies of ideological cleansing. (Shooting the bulk of the Russian officer corps on the eve of WWII was not Stalin's most horrific act; it was, perhaps, his dumbest.)

The genetic pool can absorb any number of deaths within the 90% of the population within one standard deviation from the mean and is likely enhanced, in a nasty sort of way, by deaths in the bottom 5%; but the top 5% is irreplaceable.

However, not too much weight should be put on this sort of argument because the majority of those battlefield and ideological - though not genocidal - deaths were male. Blessed as my sex is, the genetic reality is the mean is far more effected by the deaths of intelligent women than of intelligent men. So while there may well have been a transitory decline of the mean - (giving a partial explanation for the politics of the 1930's and the 1960's) it would likely have rebounded as the children of the intelligent female survivors began to breed.

So how come we run into the absence of common sense and the abject stupidity we all encounter daily.

Three suggestions: television culture, the end of childhood, vanishing mothers.

Nora Ephron remarked that "our children are being raised by appliances." The Kaiser Foundation (and I quote from memory) found that more than half of America's two year olds watched 2-4 hours of television a day.

If you want to raise a remarkably dumb person start them in on a steady diet of passive, repetitive, dumbed down material when they are barely able to talk. You really don't need to look a whole lot further for an explanation for the appearance of societal stupidity than a nation of two year olds watching TV.

But if you want to look, the next thing is the disappearance of anything resembling childhood. Six month olds are parked at infant daycares, two year olds go from day-care to pre-school to "activities" to play dates. They are seamlessly organized to ensure that not a single minute away from the TV lacks adult supervision and adult goals. "Good sharing" I hear happy speak mums - or more likely nannies - say to their kids at the playground, just before the "we have to go now, it's time for...." Their child was not sharing, their child was trying to discern and fulfill the wishes of an adult.

Common sense is an internal compass which has nothing at all to do with pleasing your mum or nannie. It is about being able to look at a situation, assess it, and come up with the right behaviour for the circumstance. It is learned behaviour; but it is not taught adult to child. It is taught by one child getting a shove from another, not liking it and figuring out what to do next.

By imposing adult supervision at every step in a child's development, (along with lunacies such as "zero tolerance" for fighting, and endless whining about "appropriate" behaviour), we have eliminated the one place a child can begin to gain the experience needed to create common sense.

Which leads to the question of "why has this happened?" Not very PC of me to say this but mum being at work is a fair candidate.

Adult supervision has come to mean supervision which adheres to standards of conduct which embody the most obnoxious characteristics of that prissy girl we all knew in grade five. "No fighting", "I'm telling", "He called me a ....".

Now, back when I was in grade five, the kids and their mums all knew that prissy girl and discounted her reports and her motives by the standard 97.4%. But that meant two things had to be true - mum had to be at home and involved enough with her kids to know where to apply the discount. And, the prissy girl couldn't be the principal or the school board.

Neither of those things are true now.

While a lot of ink has been spilt over absent fathers, not nearly enough has washed over part time mums. It is simply too close to the bone. Women who believe they have to work also have to believe that their absence is not harming their children. That requires a great deal of faith and not a little self delusion.

Childhood is an odd process. There is no right way to have a childhood. There are only better and worse conditions to be a child in.

If you take two children of roughly the same intelligence and one has had mum's full attention from birth and the other has been watching two to four hours of TV since he was six months old, which do you think will come out the less stupid?

Childhood is by its nature cumulative. In brute terms, if you take childhood to run from birth to twelve there are a little over 100,000 hours of it. Less 43,000 hours of sleep, leaves you with 57,000 waking hours. If you take 13,000 of those and spend them in front of the TV or playing really facile computer games, you are left with a mere 44,000 hours to form a character, teach the child to read, write and do simple sums, do sports, take music lessons, learn to swim, ride a bike, get dressed and, did I mention play? It seems like a lot of time; but it is only around 10 hours a day.

Simply turning the television off - and it can be done, I did it with my elder son when he was eleven - adds back three hours a day. In itself a huge improvement if those hours are filled with something even slightly worthwhile - thank you Harry Potter and Phillip Pullman. But imagine the gain if those hours are added with a caring, competent mother to guide, direct, teach, play, support and love the child.

One of the strongest indications of the overall idiocy of the West is we have systematically allowed conditions to arise which make it difficult, if not impossible, for women to give up paid work to care for their children. For all of the lip service paid to the brave ideals of feminism, we have fought to ensure equality in the workplace at the cost of gutting the home. Is it any wonder that stupidity, ignorance, cruelty and indifference seem to have rushed in to fill the void?

Mothers can be exasperating, difficult and downright impossible; but simply by being there for their kids they begin a virtuous spiral. When a child comes home from school with a problem, a mum uses whatever common sense she has to work it out. And a mum begins with the idea that she is on her kid's side. No matter what.

While I am pretty sure common sense is learned in the school yard and just mooching around a neighbourhood with a couple of friends, wisdom is apt to come with a couple of cookies, a glass of milk and the one person in the world a child should be able to count on.



11/16/2003

Libertarians v. Conservatives

Enter Stage Right's senior editor, W. James Antle III, writes an interesting piece in The American Conservative magazine.
Hence, many of today’s conservatives accept the present cost and scope of the federal government as a given and are reluctant to control even its rate of growth. The Right’s traditional pro-defense position is in the process of being transformed into neo-Wilsonian hubris and nation building. When combined with the fact that many topics that have long divided the Right along libertarian and traditionalist lines?homosexuality, pro-life issues, immigration?are becoming more salient, there is precious little to keep libertarians in the fold as a constituent group of an increasingly neoconservative American Right.
american conservative
It is a long piece with more than a little relatively obscure American Conservative movement history; but the essential issue it raises is critical.

For years libertarians, traditonalists, neocons and socons were able to live fairly peacefully together under the broad canvas of the Republican Party tent. However, there are rips in the tent and they are getting bigger. On the libertarian side the major rip is in post 9-11 foreign and defence policy. There are a lot, some would argue a majority, of libertarians whose call for radically limited government stops short of limiting america's capacity to respond to terror. While these libertarians are zealous in the defence of individual rights and the rule of law, they are more concerned with defeating terrorism than with the nicities of due process for the terrorists at Gitmo. Inconsisstent, you bet. But heartfelt.

For the socon/neocon/traditonalist end of the Right a different problem has arisen: Southpark Republicans. People who, while generally conservative on economic and foreign policy, are radically libertarian when it comes to questions of personal morality and what the government should or should not be doing.

I would argue that the essential cleavage point is the War on Drugs. Libertarians and Southpark Republicans hate this war on the youth of America. They are delighted when Virtuous William Bennett turns out to be a gambling addict and Rush confesses to having a little love affair with painkillers. Most of all they are appalled with the absurdly severe sanctions applied against drug users. They no longer are willing to support the War on Drugs and, in many cases, are prepared to vote against it.

Once these younger, more urban, conservatives leave the reservation on the Drug War, they are apt to question whether those homosexuals shouldn't be allowed to get married and whether or not filtering pornography in libraries should be a federal issue. Before you know it another traditionalist is lost to the libertarians.

Personally, I think the destruction of the social conservative/traditionalist/fundamentalist strain in American and Canadian politics is an unalloyed blessing. But it will make for a period of some political uncertainty. Libertarians represent, at most, a few percent of the American electorate. However, the Presidential popular vote is so close that a few percent in the right states could swing the Presidency away from the Republican Party. Yet that party is least able to deal with libertarian disaffection simply because it has pinned its electoral strategy on the tradionalist and religious right. A shift toward a more libertarian friendly position would likely lose as many votes as it gained.

The Democratic Party is in a rather better position to capitalize on a libertarian swing. The present administration is vunerable on its budget deficit and it can be made vunerable by selective attacks on drug policy, homosexual unions, censorship and a raft of other issues in which the traditionalist wing of the Republican Party has fallen out of step with a more relaxed, less moralistic and more urbane electorate.