This word is Glenn Reynolds’ laugh at the absurdities of his political opponents. Here and here are a couple items connected with global warming. The first is about a supposed conspiracy in which three scientists investigating Arctic ice were murdered. One death was definitely a fall down some steep steps, and we may presume this happened because he was drunk (since it was New Year’s Eve). A second seems to have been struck by lightning, while the third, who was hit by a truck while riding a bike in London, is the only one that I would count as a possible murder, and one of three deaths being a murder is not enough to persuade me that there is a conspiracy against global warming scientists. While someone in the comments observes that the guy is a professor and is therefore smarter than all the commenters, in fact his being a professor is what has allowed us to hear about this nuttiness, since if he were a nobody, the media would have ignored him.
The second article reports that a scientific team hoping to investigate arctic ice this summer was derailed when their ship, an icebreaker, had to be returned to Hudson Bay to help commercial ships break through the heaviest ice in twenty years.
Why bother assassinating warmists investigating arctic ice when nature is doing a good job of thwarting them?
And here is another silly article. I imagine lots of young men would be happy to be assaulted in this way. Why complain about it?
This book has the capacity to radically change the national conversations we’ve been having in recent years, conversations that have been dominated by the topics of race and gender. Those two topics could be forced into the shadows by this book, which concentrates on class background, but only if people on the right actually say suitable things about it.
Before getting into that, however, let me say something about the book and its author. Lauren A. Rivera, a professor of management at Northwestern University, comes from the lower class with a father from Puerto Rico, who was absent in prison when Rivera was growing up, and a mother from Eastern Europe. She grew up in a mixed neighborhood with both rich and poor, and she happened to get into an excellent school at age eleven, an event that opened a lot of doors for her.
Since she had gone to elite schools, she had been “vetted,” and so was able to conduct studies of the various schools and firms that are part of the elite since the elite thought she was one of them. Here’s what she found. Elite firms in law, management consulting, and investment banking go to the elite schools for recruiting. The most desirable schools are core schools (like Harvard), with the some lesser elite schools (like Stanford) considered as target schools. Applicants who didn’t go to such schools, the author learns, generally have their resumes tossed without a glance. But for those at the core schools, the elite firms roll out the red carpet. They put on several lavish recruiting events throughout the school year, and they even train students at those schools in how to do an interview. The result is that many of the students entering those schools who had no thoughts of becoming an investment banker end up doing so because, first, it is easier to accept a job from people who are chasing you than it is to pound the pavement looking elsewhere, and second, these jobs pay two to four times what the applicants would get at other jobs they might get.
Who are the lucky people getting these jobs? They are primarily people from wealthy backgrounds. Incidentally, this is one of the themes of my latest book, except that I focused on academia, with a glance at the columnists at the NY Times. It is the wealthy who are getting these jobs, and as I also mentioned in my book, the interviewers tended to believe that those who didn’t get into the elite schools were intellectual failures.
It is true that not everyone from an elite school who came from wealth would get these jobs, and some people who had neither of these advantages did get them. But the latter group is the exception, and there were no guarantees. Poorer people might get through to the top if they had served in the armed forces, if they had connections, if they were good at interviewing, and so on.
One thing this book is good for is helping people from the lower ranks realize what interviewers at such places are looking for. This section was an eye-opener for me, and it seems that I had typical working-class beliefs on what was important. I would have thought that grades were all-important, but they were far down the list. (Likewise, cover letters and transcripts were not looked at.) Instead, the extracurricular activities that one engaged in were much more important, because the interviewers were very concerned with finding people who would fit in with the firm’s culture. And of these activities, they preferred sports over more intellectual activities, so the athletes were preferred over the nerds, and the sports they preferred were not basketball and football, but crew, squash, lacrosse, etc. (that is, sports for the rich).
Along these lines, what I found incredible was that they assumed that anyone who went to an elite school was capable of doing the quantitative problems that were likely to come up on the job, no matter what their major was, and based on my experiences this seems highly unlikely to be true.
Another surprising (to me, anyway) feature the interviewers looked for was having a good story about oneself. The story had to be about the decisions one made and the things one achieved rather than – leftists will cringe! – one’s victimhood. Stories about how helpless one was in confronting powerful social forces were not wanted.
Now at the beginning I pointed out that this book could change the political scene, but only if those on the right work at it and say the right things. For example, for years we have heard the same rhetoric from the right against any deals with the Iranians (about how untrustworthy the Iranians are and how horrible the consequences would be if Iran got the bomb), yet somehow no one until the very end confronted Obama and his progressive supporters wondering why getting jailed Americans back was not part of the deal. Think about how different things might have been had this point been brought up time and time again. With that in mind, the right needs to say certain things constantly.
For example, when leftists complain about how upward mobility in the U.S. has stalled, people on the right need to point to this book and say, “People get elite jobs via elite schools, and schools are under the control of progressives. It's not our fault.” It’s not as though they are recruiting at fundamentalist Christian churches. When affirmative action is mentioned, people on the right need to say, “Why not include class background along with race and gender?” When progressives complain about racists who think blacks aren’t as intelligent as whites, people on the right need to say, “Leftist elites think that anyone who didn’t get into an elite school is an intellectual failure.” They can then reference this book (p. 88) as partial proof of that. True, perhaps the people at these elite firms are not on the left, but academia is run the same way, and professors are almost uniformly on the left these days. The point is that people on the right need to say these things constantly or the opportunity for change will be lost.
Having said all that, let me suggest that it is very unlikely that affirmative action will ever include class background. The left is run by the rich, and rich leftists, no matter how progressive they are, will not want their child, in whom they have put so much time and effort getting them into the best pre-schools up through college and beyond, being disadvantaged by people who went to ordinary schools. They just won’t allow that to happen, and they will work hard to ensure that the topic is never raised. But that is why the right needs to mention it as often as possible. (Yes, I know that people on the right would prefer to get rid of affirmative action, but this is an important tactical move.) Make them squirm. Force them to say whether they want it or not, but either way, the right can make them look bad. If they don’t want affirmative action to include class background, then they are vulnerable to looking as though they don’t care about the poor, and if they do want it, they can be asked why they didn’t push for it decades ago. Like I said, either way they can be made to look bad.
Here. The author takes a middle position, that there is warming and that it is partly caused by humans, but that it is not a danger to us.
He is a science writer who is scathing about the way the whole business has been handled, with inaccurate statistics being used, scientists who refuse to turn over their data, the shaming of anyone who doesn’t go along, scandal after scandal, refusing to back down when predictions don’t turn out right, etc.
Best sentence in the article:
Papers that had passed formal peer review and been published in journals have nonetheless been torn apart in minutes on the blogs.
Yup, it’s all about peer review for the true believers, which supposedly guarantees that the articles cannot be overthrown, but it turns out (surprise!) that peer review is not all that great at picking out good, solid articles. This is something I’ve been saying forever, but they ignore people like me who come from the bottom. And as I have pointed out endlessly, the true believers also say they listen to people at the bottom, though obviously they don’t always do so.
But in the end, it comes down to trust, trust in those who insist that the science is settled. And this article shows perfectly well why it is reasonable not to trust those people.
Half of the men’s field hockey team of Cuba has defected at the Pan American Games. Here.
If Cuba is so wonderful, then why are people leaving, especially when things should be looking up? More broadly, why does the average Latino want to come to America, which is capitalist and which speaks a foreign language, when they could go to Cuba, where Spanish is spoken and which is not capitalist?
The Economist magazine has for quite a few years published an annual Big Mac Index, which is a somewhat tongue-in-cheek attempt to see how the world’s currencies compare with one another. The idea is that a Big Mac from McDonald’s is the same throughout the world, plus it uses a number of different ingredients – meat and cheese, etc. – and so represents what economists want when comparing currencies, namely a basket of goods. In the July 24th issue, they say that a Big Mac in America costs $4.79, based on the average in four cities. The cities aren’t named, but presumably they include New York and Los Angeles. Yet, here in central Ohio, it only costs $3.79.
If we say it costs $4.79, then the dollar is overvalued compared with the British pound (calculated at $4.51) and the Euro ($4.05). But if it costs $3.79, then it is undervalued compared with both. I am inclined to accept the latter view. In fact, during numerous trips to Britain, I have never experienced a time when I thought the dollar was overvalued compared with the pound. Everything is expensive in Britain compared with here, and in fact our rule of thumb is that things seem to cost in pounds there what they cost in dollars here, so that a stay in a hotel here that costs $150 per night will be £150 pounds per night there. Accordingly, the dollar and pound would have to trade one for one in order for the dollar to avoid being undervalued. The idea that it is overvalued against the pound is just ludicrous, and has never happened in all the trips we have taken over there beginning in 1992.
I wouldn’t know about the Euro since we don’t travel on the Continent as often, but I suspect that it too is overvalued with respect to the dollar (despite the dollar’s rise in recent months). Anyway, we will find out soon enough because on Tuesday we travel to France for a cruise up the Rhone river.
Edward Said back in 1978 wrote a book that has completely turned the left inside out. It has gotten leftists to support people who are about as anti-leftist as can be, yet leftists today cannot see this. Called Orientalism, this book has had as much effect on leftist attitudes toward Muslims as anything else has, and maybe even more than anything else has. In fact, if the left is destroyed as a result of its having supported reactionary Muslims, then Said bears most of the responsibility.
I claim that the followers of Edward Said, which includes practically every liberal and leftist in the West these days, are sadists.
Before getting into that, let me say that the basic thesis of Said is that the people who are called the Orientalists – that is, Westerners in earlier eras who as artists, authors, and scholars were interested in what we now call the Middle East (and also the Far East, although Said is focused on the Muslim world) – are guilty of having helped with Western imperialism. People who are Saidists believe that even we today can fall into Orientalist attitudes and that it is not just a relic of the past.
This is the basic thesis of Said, but this thesis also comes with post-modern intellectual tendencies that make him hard to pin down, but which I am going to ignore. (See here for a good wrap-up.)
Now every critic has pointed out that Said cherry-picked his evidence so that it looked as though the Orientalists began their project at the time when Western imperialism began. He ignored German and Russian (later Soviet) Orientalists, he ignored the fact that some Orientalists were in fact against imperialism, he ignored the fact that some were working in the Ottoman Empire, which was never colonized by the West, and so on. But when confronted with these inaccuracies, he and his followers have never been persuaded. The facts are irrelevant, apparently. As one critic, Robert Irwin, has pointed out, “One finds oneself having to discuss not what actually happened in the past, but what Said and his partisans think ought to have happened” [For Lust of Knowing, p. 4].
Let me also point out that the acceptance of this book by the left has much to do with what I have been calling Rich People’s Leftism. Given that the rich run the left and that they feel guilty about imperialism, they were bound to accept a book that fed into their guilt. After all, as rich people they are far more likely than those of us who come from the bottom half are to have had ancestors who actually took part in and directed imperialism. A point I made in my most recent book is that those of us who come from the bottom half needn’t partake of this guilt, that we can leave that to wealthy leftists.
Another thing to note is that the Orientalists were basically the first wave of multiculturalists, the ones who were the first in modern Western culture to become interested in non-Western cultures. So, why pick on them rather than their fellow citizens who were far more racist? Why pick on a group of people who were the progressives of their era? If they hadn’t done what they did, today’s multiculturalists would be starting where the Orientalists started in terms of knowledge of other cultures. But to criticize an earlier phase of multiculturalism and progressivism brings up a dilemma. Either that phase was necessary to get to today’s phase, in which case the Orientalists made honest mistakes and so it would be ridiculous to criticize them as harshly as the Saidists have, or that phase wasn't necessary and instead must be seen as a wrong turn made by leftists. It almost goes without saying that leftists don’t like admitting that they have made mistakes.
Anyway, here are the reasons why Saidists are sadists.
1. They harass people over something harmless or trivial. For example, this essay from the NY Times is about a sale of objects from the non-Western world, and the essayist is in a snit over it because some of the objects have been categorized incorrectly. He writes:
Political bias often leads to absurd categorization. Even so, few among the arbitrary constructs adopted by the West as a result of 19th-century colonial attitudes can beat the meaningless concept of “Islamic art.”
Is incorrect or misleading categorization really a problem? Naturally, one can imagine some big problems, such as categorizing some people as sub-human, but that is not what is happening here. Some people at an auction house simply lumped together a bunch of items from the Muslim world and called them Islamic art. Why is this such a terrible thing? The author ends the essay by pointing out that Orientalism is still around. Really? This is the equivalent of imperialism? Yet, that is the typical stance of the Saidist.
Another example concerns a recent exhibition at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts (hat tip: Mark Spahn). According to this post, there was a traveling exhibit that began in Japan involving a work of art by Manet in which he depicted his wife wearing a kimono. Visitors can put on an actual kimono if they are interested. This was protested by the Saidists, who thought it was a terrible thing to do. As was noted at the link, one of the protesters was Asian, but not Japanese (and was in fact Chinese). Another said that if one put on the kimono, one could feel what it was like to be a racist imperialist. This is almost the height of absurdity. Why would wearing the clothing of another culture make one an imperialist? Because one is appropriating something from their culture? How about eating sushi, then? Does that count, too? If so, good luck in eradicating it, but if not, why not? Why would appropriating a type of clothing count as imperialistic, but not a type of food?
The worst example is the idea that it was wrong to have composed an Encyclopedia of Islam without having actual Muslims involved. As described by Robert Irwin:
[Muhsin] Mahdi notes the resentment widely felt by Muslims at the arrogance of the West in producing a vast reference work, the Encyclopedia of Islam, that was neither by nor for Muslims and the notion that it should be written by Westerners or those who conformed to Western standards of scholarship. [p. 329]
Why would Muslims feel that this is wrong? What moral principle is involved? No moral principle whatsoever. It is nothing but feelings. Any principle one can think of, such as never describe another culture without involving someone from that culture as a reviewer, has been regularly violated by Muslims throughout history, and by every culture in the world. A principle that says it is wrong to do this if Muslim culture is being described but is permissible for other cultures is racist against those other cultures. Saidists will argue that this Encyclopedia contains harmful stereotypes, but the harm comes not from the description itself, but from when those descriptions are acted upon. Anyway, even bigots can be right about things; why assume the encyclopedia is inaccurate? Denying us Westerners the right to construct encyclopedias about other cultures is unreasonable and sadistic.
2. Then there are the constant exhortations for us Westerners to be tolerant and to co-exist, exhortations that are never given to Muslims, even though they need it as much, if not more, than we need it. It is more harassment.
3. The Saidists also insist that the Orientalists misrepresented the “Other.” That is, they used stereotypes. Never mind that Said misrepresented the Orientalists. Moreover, the misrepresentations mentioned in the link above about the exhibition at the Museum of Fine Arts aren’t exactly terrible. We think of Asians as “quintessentially exotic,” but is that a real problem? Things could be a lot worse.
But more to the point is that this can be an everlasting complaint. No one ever represents another exactly as they should be represented, so you can always claim that someone is misrepresenting someone else. Since it is thus impossible to represent someone else completely accurately, to condemn them for “misrepresentation” is sadistic. Said never said what Orientalists ought to be doing, unless it was abasing oneself completely before the non-Westerner, which sadly our leftists seem intent upon doing.
4. This business about misrepresentation has so wholly taken over the minds of the Saidists that they ignore much greater sins. As Robert Irwin writes:
Since Orientalism is by its nature a Western sickness, the same must be true of imperialism. The Persians, who under Cyrus, Darius, and Xerxes built up a mighty empire and sought to add Greece to that empire, were not denounced by Said for imperialism. On the contrary, they were presented as the tragic and innocent victims of misrepresentation by Greek playwrights. [p. 286]
Why think of misrepresentation as worse than or equal to imperialism? The Saidists are being sadistic toward the West by judging in this way.
5. More broadly, they are against any criticisms of the non-Western world, especially the Muslim world, which means that any suffering that people experience at the hands of Muslims is totally ignored by the Saidists.
6. This entails that the plight of their own ideological kin in the Muslim world will be ignored. In fact, the worst example of outrageous name-calling by a Saidist was reached when a Western woman called an Algerian feminist an Orientalist because she complained about the activities of Muslims in her country. This was recounted in Karima Bennoune’s book Your Fatwa Does Not Apply Here [p. 249; see here], and anyone who reads her book can see perfectly well that feminists are under siege in most of the Muslim world, but that doesn’t bother the Saidists.
7. Finally, the Saidists have ended up implicitly supporting Islamist groups like ISIS. They weaken the West with their criticisms, but cannot bring themselves to say that the West is morally superior to the Taliban and to ISIS. They do nothing to obstruct the most sadistic of Muslims. If the Orientalists supported Western imperialism, the anti-Orientalists, the Saidists, are supporting Islamic imperialism. Nor should anyone suppose a moral equivalence between these two groups. Western imperialism promoted the end of slavery, for example, while Islamic imperialism will do the exact opposite. There are still slaves today in the Muslim world, though the Saidists never want to talk about them, of course. The Saidists may think they are remedying past sins of the West, but by ignoring current sins committed by the rest of the world, they guarantee that they will be perpetuated and will even be extended to the West.
What is pathetic about this whole business is that the Saidists are not only sadistic, but also stupid because despite being dutiful followers of Edward Said’s views, it helps them not at all as far as the Islamists are concerned. See here for an account in the Chronicle of Higher Education by an Iranian progressive who was imprisoned in Iran and who learned to his dismay that the authorities were completely unimpressed by his being a fan of Said (and of Noam Chomsky). They regarded Said as in effect a Zionist. There is probably more to it than that; they probably didn’t like him because he was not a Muslim. But the point is that nothing other than converting to their brand of Islam will satisfy these people.
The Saidists cannot escape the charge that they are sadists. Their intentions may be honorable, or may have started out as honorable, but it has been pointed out to them again and again that they are overlooking important fact about the sufferings of people who are the victims of Muslims, and yet they do not change their views. They simply have no sympathy for anyone outside of their circle of victims, and that is enough to declare them sadists.
Feminist Jessica Valenti complains (here) that now that she is older, she isn’t getting any catcalls from men anymore as she walks down the street. She says that this bothers her a little. Why?
But when you’re brought up to feel that the most important thing you can be is attractive to men, the absence of their attention – even negative attention – can feel distressing.
Why should this feeling of distress be the result of being brought up in that way? Can’t there be another reason? We are social creatures, after all, and being invisible is generally not something we desire.
There, Jessica, I fixed it for you. You don’t have to worry about how your feelings conflict with feminism or that patriarchy’s reach is more powerful than you expected. And let me add that there are plenty of us who have felt invisible for most of our lives (so count yourself lucky that you had some good years). There is even a book about it by a black man, Ralph Ellison. Do you think his feelings were somehow caused by patriarchy?
See here for a report on General Wesley Clark’s insistence that we ought to imprison potential recruits for ISIS. I prefer exile, but while the comments at the site (of which I read only a few) are negative, no one else offers a solution. I suspect they will change their minds about the value of Clark's suggestion once some ISIS recruits start killing gays or feminists.
Recently, a scientist in Britain suggested that a decline in sunspots may lead us to a mini ice age in just a few years. Since we had to turn on our furnace the other day, despite this being the middle of July, I am inclined to believe it. But I am more interested in the reaction of our media, which seems to report on it mostly in order to denounce it. I am not going to pay any attention to their reasons for denouncing it, which I assume will be one-sided (since they would never denounce any study that was otherwise similar in terms of the strength of the support for its conclusions), but I will say this. What exactly would the true believers in global warming do if they were wrong? My guess is that they will never admit to being wrong. They will simply change the subject. Or they will come up with other reasons why their prescriptions must be followed.
As for me, if global warming were indeed happening, then I could plan for our retirement in my home state of Minnesota. This would be pleasant since I could then enjoy what I don’t now enjoy, the fun of being around family and old friends. Yes, I will be happy if there is actually global warming and the horrible Minnesota winter becomes much milder, but after many years of the so-called warming, I don’t think it’s going to happen.