Friday, June 29, 2007
An Amusing Book Review
Maybe I'm in a strange mood, but this made me smile....
John McWhorter rips Dave Zirin to shreds for a book-length rant, Welcome to the Terrordome: The Pain, Politics, and Promise of Sports, which seems intended as an indictment against racism in professional sports, but appears to be only tangentially related to either.
In addition, I found the following passage thought-provoking:
Not an easy man, this Zirin. Yet if all this invective were in the service of a coherent point, we could say he's full of the dickens but on to something, a la Christopher Hitchens. Instead, he is the man with a hammer to whom everything is a nail, sacrificing logic and consistency for recreational indignation.McWhorter actually lets off Zirin (and the left generally) too easy here. Yes. The left appears to be juvenile and given to "recreational indignation", but that's because full intellectual maturity requires a commitment at least on some level to rationality.
Take his animus against major league baseball for bringing Dominicans to training camps with no concern for teaching them how to make a living if they do not end up having careers in the big leagues. Okay -- but then we get a whole chapter excoriating NBA commissioner David Stern's proposal that basketball players not enter the league until age 20, requiring that they spend their years after high school getting an education to fall back on if their careers don't pan out. While Stern is proposing exactly the kind of stewardship Zirin sees lacking for Dominican baseball players, somehow it isn’t good enough. Zirin fumes that no one has told Dakota Fanning not to act until she was 20. Faced with a choice between calling people racists and making sense, Zirin prefers the former. [bold added]
The essential problem with the left, though, is that it rejects reason in favor of emotions and social "consensus" on principle. Zirin's rage is not merely recreational, nor does the fact that he doesn't make (logical) sense really concern him. He feels that capitalism is an evil, racist system, and no matter what a capitalist does, there is something venal about it. He reached his conclusion prejudiciously, and like an old-fashioned Southern bigot, will point to any evidence that comes his way, drop any inconvenient context, and say, "See! I told you so!"
Not to pick on John McWhorter here, but this smiling dismissal of a leftist typifies a major problem with conservatives generally. They do not take philosophical ideas seriously -- as I recently noted when blogging Thomas Sowell on "adolescent intellectuals". They are right that leftist intellectuals tend to express adolescent sentiments and show an adolescent emotional makeup, but wrong to fail to consider why that is the case more deeply than they do.
As a result, they do not grasp the importance of fighting the anti-reason ideas floating about in our culture that make the left possible, and that therefore make it necessary to fight off its worst political ideas over and over again.
Yes. Zirin is, basically, an adolescent. This is funny in a way, and pathetic in another. But the underlying cause -- our culture's widespread lack of respect for reason and its importance to our lives -- is no laughing matter. And it won't go away if we refuse to acknowledge it.
"Fairness" Doctrine Dead ...
... for now.
I appreciate Charles Johnson for delivering what passes for good news in these unprincipled times ("The House votes 309-115 for a Mike Pence amendment barring the FCC from imposing it." A little bit more detail can be had here.), but .... When a measure as manifestly dangerous to our continued freedom as the "Fairness" Doctrine has determined supporters (URL unavailable as of this writing) on its side and evokes, not principled opposition, but taunts of "hypocrisy", you can bet your bottom dollar that the war is not over.
The "Fairness" Doctrine is about as "dead" as socialized medicine was in 1994. This is not the time for anybody who values freedom of speech to rest on his laurels -- or, far worse, to complain that the biggest problem with the "Fairness" Doctrine was that it wouldn't have been applied consistently, everywhere.
A "Fairness" Doctrine applied consistently through all news media is the last thing we need. More importantly, it is morally wrong, because it violates our inalienable rights to freedom of speech and to property.
It will kill innovation in drugs, too.
I have recently noted how John Edwards's recent drug patent "reform" proposal would kill off innovation by American pharmaceutical firms, and have pointed to recent catalogues of the failures of socialized medicine here and here.
Now, via Instapundpit comes a post mortem on how drug innovation has fared in Europe under socialism. Andrew Sullivan quotes the web site of the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations on that score:
"Europe as a whole is lagging behind in its ability to generate, organise, and sustain innovation processes that are increasingly expensive and organisationally complex". The report underlines that the pharmaceutical market in Europe has been negatively affected by significant, excessive and uncoordinated government intervention that stifles competition and discourages innovation. This also creates significant inequity among European patients' rights to access of medicines.For those of us who favor the life-saving capabilities of freedom, it is important to have facts like this at our disposal. But note how the word "uncoordinated" in the above excerpt sneaks in the idea that government interference can work, and how just looking at "facts" misses the whole question of whether the government should be intervening in any industry in the first place.
Such errors make it very easy for people like Edwards to say, "We'll get it right this time," as they prepare to lead our nation off the same cliff. In addition, the result of looking just at facts and whether something "works" misses the golden opportunity of attacking statism on moral grounds, which is what is needed to carry the day, anyway.
Fact checking is important, but without what Ayn Rand called "premise checking", it is not enough. I have always regarded inattention to the philosophical premises held by politicians and the public at large (which Ayn Rand argued drive history) as the biggest blind spot in the non-leftist blogosphere generally, and Instapundit in particular. Philosophical premises are very powerful and they are a class of facts. And yet he basically ignores them, when he isn't expressing disdain for them altogether.
CAIR Lawyer Demands "Privacy" for Agents Provacateur
At Power Line is a timely update on the legal proceedings stemming from the deliberate provocation of airline passengers on a United Airlines Flight:
[CAIR] prefers to prevent citizens from obtaining information on the basis of which they might say nasty things or think nasty thoughts about its actions, its objectives, and its clients. Next thing you know folks might not take seriously CAIR's holding itself out as a civil rights organization, or think it's some kind of a fraud.Fortunately, Minnesota Federal District Court Judge Ann Montgomery introduced the goons to the concept of "freedom of speech" as she denied their request to hold the hearings in a closed session.
Comings and Goings
Marin Lindeskog and Andy Clarkson are blogging again.
Tom Rowland is on hiatus -- but doesn't leave without introducing a new blog, Creative Life, by a friend of his, who has posted a beautiful, but mysterious picture without telling us what it is!
And if you were wondering who would be teaching at Founder's College, stop by Rule of Reason.
PS: See this post over at The Dougout for a new low in American politics. As I said to Grant in the comments:
So did your "best" congressman not vote for the "Fairness" Doctrine because he couldn't, or did he just not care enough to have a strong position on it one way or the other?This amendment was so important that for someone not to have a well-known position on it one way or the other demands a near-legendary degree of indifference towards his constituents -- or stupidity.
Neither answer would speak well of him, so I guess it is "not a huge deal" that you didn't get an answer. Nor does his hiding behind what his legislative assistant recommended, now that I think of it.
Today: (1) Corrected URL for Creative Life. (HT: Software Nerd) (2) Added PS.