Quick Roundup 270

Monday, November 12, 2007

History Repeats Itself

Mona Charen's most recent column reminds me of journalism meant for children and young adults from my youth except for a few particulars:

The Oct. 1, 2007, issue featured a cover story titled "Iran: The Other Side of the World?" The piece begins by introducing Mohammad Reza Moqaddam, a 15-year-old resident of Qom, who "speaks quietly and respectfully" and prays five times a day. "A lot of young people these days have distanced themselves from religion," he relates. "I would like them to be much closer to it." Mohammad pays close attention to the news though, and offers the view that "Even if Iran wants nuclear weapons, it's none of the other countries' business. Some of them have nuclear weapons themselves."

Okay, so when do we get to the part where it is explained that even if young Mohammad wants a neutral take on the news, he cannot get it in Iran where the press is rigidly controlled by the regime? Nowhere. Where does it explain that Iran is the world's fourth-largest oil supplier and therefore scarcely in need of "peaceful nuclear power"? You won't find that either.

The article (written by Roxana Saberi, a reporter for National Public Radio) explains that Iran has been "at odds" with America since the revolution of 1979, which forced out the "U.S.-backed Shah" and brought to power a government "based on strict Islamic principles." But she doesn't mention that Ayatollah Khomeini and his mobs denounced the United States as the "great Satan" and chanted "Death to America." The hostage crisis, in which armed militants, possibly including the current president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, held 52 American diplomats for 444 days, goes unmentioned until a glancing reference at the end of the article under Iranian history.
All you'd need to do to complete my sense of deja vu would be to replace all references to Iran with references to Soviet Russia, and replace admiration of the religiosity Islam with praise for the collectivism of communism.

The altruist-collectivist press is once again attempting to exploit the innocent good will of children by ignoring the fact that there are fundamental differences between the West and its collectivist enemy of the moment.

The schtick is all too familiar: (1) Emphasize some banal and inconsequential similarities between ordinary people there and ordinary people here to create empathy. (2) Tout the moral "superiority" of the others, based on their more consistent adherence to the altruistic portion of the inconsistent mixture of egoism and altruism most Americans live by. (3) Ignore anything the enemy might have done (or be planning to do), while treating any American suspicions or plans for self-defense (such as they are) as evidence of the malevolent nature of America.

This is not to say that there aren't good people living in nations which threaten the United States. However, to fail to oppose tyranny is to endanger our own freedom and lives as well as to fail to protest the fact that people who really are "just like us" are living under tyranny. Such reporting is thus doubly obscene.

Oil Meets Socialism

In a comment, Dismuke pointed me to a long, but very interesting article from The International Herald Tribune about how Hugo Chavez is in the process of running his state's main industry into the ground. Among other things is the following tidbit:
Almost $14 billion is spent at the sole discretion of Chavez. Much of the money goes to the Fund for National Development, or Fonden, an offbudget fund controlled by Chavez, which also takes foreign reserves from the Central Bank. Fonden's Web site in July listed 130 projects - infrastructure, foreign aid, some social projects like health clinics - as well as the purchase of helicopters, submarine technology, assault rifles and plants to build other munitions. The list was taken off the Web site shortly after it drew notice in the press and was replaced by a list containing no arms purchases. What Fonden actually buys, for how much, from whom and through what process is a mystery. [bold added]
This revelation comes along with much more additional evidence that Chavez is not investing enough in the state petroleum company for it to continue growing, or perhaps even to maintain its operations at their current levels. Dismuke notes that the reporter is clearly sympathetic to socialism, and yet does deserve credit for reporting that this is a disaster in the making.

Bad Joke in the New York Times

If you want to save money at the barber, this bit of leftist hand-wringing over research into genetic differences between the races will help you along in your endeavor by making you want to pull your hair out!
No matter that the link between I.Q. and those particular bits of DNA was unconfirmed, or that other high I.Q. snippets are more common in Africans, or that hundreds or thousands of others may also affect intelligence, or that their combined influence might be dwarfed by environmental factors. Just the existence of such genetic differences between races, proclaimed the author of the Half Sigma blog, a 40-year-old software developer, means "the egalitarian theory," that all races are equal, "is proven false."
I haven't followed the link, but it is clear from the article that some racists will employ any genetic differences that come up as "evidence" to bolster their views if they haven't done so already. That's predictable and ultimately uninteresting.

What is interesting is how paranoid the left is about this, and ironically, the answer is right there at the end of the paragraph in the quote from the blog: The left is not fundamentally in favor of individual rights, but it is egalitarian, and dogmatically so, to boot.

I have considered this question before, so I won't belabor the point again, but what difference would it really make if, say, genetic evidence indicated that blacks, as a group, were less intelligent than whites? None. The concept of individual rights is based on the fact that individual human beings possess the faculty of reason (as distinct from a given IQ) and need to be free from the initiation of force by others to act on the conclusions of their minds and so to live. Differences in IQ within broad limits do not affect the question of whether someone is a rational being. Furthermore, justice demands that we evaluate individuals as individuals, not as members of groups.

But the left abandoned such principles long ago in favor of egalitarianism at the expense of justice (e.g., by condemning "racial" profiling, even of people with specific ideologies) and individual rights (e.g., by such discriminatory measures as race-based hiring quotas). Part of its justification for doing so has been that all races are equal (whatever that means) and that any difference in, say the percentage of races in a profession vs. that in the general population is due at least in part to racial discrimination. (This goes along with demanding that we ignore how one's character or cultural background might have affected one's occupational choices or educational attainment -- by asserting that all cultures are equal as well.)

Any evidence that might point to blacks being genetically predisposed to having lower IQs will thus shake to the foundations whatever semi-plausible rationale the left has for violating individual rights in the name of "equality". I suspect that rather than asking themselves whether egalitarianism and hiring quotas are really good ideas, most leftists would prefer to suppress such findings, or at least open discussion of such findings.

That would be a shame, for frank discussion would lend support to the concept of individual rights, in part by showing that it's not how big your brain is, but what you do with it that counts. The white kid in the punchline of this very bad joke inadvertently demonstrates this:
One white-skinned student, told she was 9 percent West African, went to a Kwanzaa celebration, for instance, but would not dream of going to an Asian cultural event because her DNA did not match, Dr. Richards said. Preconceived notions of race seemed all the more authentic when quantified by DNA.
IQ is not just not equivalent to reason. It is also not the same thing as culture.

Well. I guess multiculturalism is achieving equality in one respect: It's working to make differences in IQ irrelevant, after all!

To end on a more serious note, paranoia about research that might unearth genetic bases for intelligence that are not equally distributed among races betrays at best a failure to appreciate the foundations of the concept of individual rights. At worst, it is a symptom of a fundamental opposition to same.

-- CAV


: Added clarifications to first and last sections and fixed some typos.


Kyle Haight said...

Such paranoia also illustrates one other thing the left has abandoned -- the mantle of scientific inquiry. Science means you follow the facts wherever they lead. The left has now decisively rejected this. They like research that supports their political agenda (e.g. stem cell funding) while blocking and objecting to research that threatens to upset that agenda.

The obvious conclusion to draw is that the left only pretends to value science when it serves their politics. This point is worth emphasizing whenever the left tries to pose as the defender of science in the face of religious assault.

Gus Van Horn said...

That is an excellent point, and perhaps its best example is the common assertion in the past that communism was a "scientific" system.

Flibbert said...

Of course, I don't would prefer a world in which people don't suffer, but I have a particular hatred for that git Chavez and I am dancing a little gig over Venezuela's failing economy. We all knew it wouldn't last long and I am happy to see them getting what they deserve.

Now if only people in the US would wake up and realize that all that discount heating oil from Venezuela is discounted because it's stolen. Maybe they wouldn't think so highly of Chavez as a philanthropist.

Gus Van Horn said...

Well, they'd have to give up Robin Hood as a moral ideal to be fully able to do that, but Chavez's little disaster will destroy the pretense that he's stealing from "the rich" -- at least until some clever altruist cooks up a way to blame it on America anyway.

I have a visceral hatred for Chavez, but his inevitable collapse, however fun to watch, really just represents an *opportunity* to make the case against altruism-collectivism. So smile when he falls, but go on the offensive, too.

Anonymous said...

"I haven't followed the link, but it is clear from the article that some racists will employ any genetic differences that come up as "evidence" to bolster their views if they haven't done so already."

This is rampant in the ranks of the cultural conservatives. I keep up with a number of these writers and sites and they relentlessly trot out IQ scores that show blacks 15 or so points behind on average and then they draw the conclusion that blacks do not have the same "civilizational abilities" as whites. And of course they deify Richard Lynn** and use him to "prove" that blacks are inferior as a group.

They also combine this with statistics of black on white rape and black on white crime. These stats show black crime rates far, far greater than whites. But the conclusion they draw is not that it is the welfare state and multi-culturalist philosophy which is ultimately to blame. No, they take the welfare state as a given. They conclude that blacks and other non-whites are not capable of living in peaceful civilization. And the ultimate payoff for them is to then scream their heads off for immigration control which is their ultimate obsession. Some of these conservatives also want racial separation.

These cultural conservatives (mostly Christian) believe that Western Civilization is defined by whiteness and Christianity. Throw in a hatred of sexual expression, homosexuality, woman's liberation, an extreme hatred of classical liberalism and a *murderous* hatred of Darwin and that is the social/religious/cultural conservative movement. It is conservatism at its ugliest.

And to think Objectivists are lumped under the same "conservative big tent" as these people.

John Kim

** Its fascinating how these conservatives use a scientist like Lynn and scientific methodology to argue that science proves the inferiority of blacks but they will condemn Darwin and evolutionary science which shows the evolution of species over time (that would interfere with their creator). Of course they have a bunch of Sophistic "arguments" to defend this but it is pure hypocrisy nonetheless.

Kyle Haight said...

People are frustratingly resistant to drawing the right conclusions from these kinds of disasters. If Mugabe's disaster in Zimbabwe didn't convince them that forced economic collectivism leads to disaster (and it didn't), I'm not hopeful that Venezuela will do so.

Just as no amount of practical demonstration of the efficacy of freedom is sufficient without a defense of egoism, no amount of practical disaster from collectivism will be sufficient without a repudiation of altruism. So Gus is right -- this needs to be taken as an opportunity to illustrate the moral point. Stealing a phrase from the left, this is a "teachable moment" in business ethics.

Gus Van Horn said...


Very interesting observations. Thanks for posting them.

The hypocrisy WRT when to use science reminds me indirectly of how often white supremacists are basically trailer trash. The phenomenon of lower class whites being racist has long precedence in the South, but still. If you're going to be "supreme", shouldn't you act like it?

I suspect that some racists are oblivious to the hypocrisy of using genetics and to the irony of white supremacist trailer trash for the same reason that they are racist to begin with: They want a shortcut to knowledge.

After a lifetime of taking shortcuts, they just don't think too well....


Yes. A "teachable moment". That's a good way to think of it.


Jim May said...

While the left's paranoia does indeed expose the pretense to science as noted by Kyle, that itself is due to something deeper -- the rank-and-file left's fear of discovering just how very nearly identical to their professed worst enemy -- the racist -- they really are. Because of their false concept of human nature as infinitely malleable, they reject the "nature" version of determinism in favor of the "nurture" version -- substituting culture for race. (The ongoing repatriation of racism, particularly anti-Semitism, to the Left worldwide is proof of how insignificant that substitution is when the rubber meets the road.)

The Left is openly hostile to the notion of metaphysical givens about a person, because that threatens and refutes their false version of "tabula rasa". As I explain here, the Left's concept of "tabula rasa" is that the individual is infinitely malleable, a product of "social forces" beyond his control.

The conservatives, for their part, trumpet such differences because they reject tabula rasa entirely, as one of the Enlightenment's "errors". In their view, evil is innate in human nature (the "Original Sin" premise), and it must be suppressed by society and its traditions. When you hear people reacting to some particular instance of evil by saying that "people are just bastards" or by otherwise expressing pessimism about mankind, it's the conservative premise you are hearing.

Under Objectivism, "tabula rasa" means that while the slate is blank -- there is nothing written on it at birth -- the slate itself still has identity, and is not mutable! You cannot write past the edge, for example, nor can you write on it with air or dynamite. The slate must be take care of, kept away from fire etc. -- it has specific, objective requirements determined by its nature, in order to continue functioning as a slate.

The nature of the slate sets the boundaries *within which* we are free to write what we decide. Our identity *as individuals* is written by each of us individually, upon the slate of human nature which we are given.

That the slate varies from individual to individual -- some are bigger or smaller, some have different colors, and there are variances in how well they take the writing -- does not alter our moral responsibility for what we are nonetheless able to write on it.

The slate is not a malleable blob with no shape and no identity, as the Left sees it -- nor does it come pre-written with uneraseable thingsfor which you are still morally liable, as the conservatives believe.

Ayn Rand expressed this principle succinctly: "Man is a being of self-made soul". The Left and the conservatives are both deathly afraid of what that phrase identifies; they loathe what we Objectivists love the most about being human and being alive, this most awesome of adult responsibilities: self-authorship.

Gus Van Horn said...

"While the left's paranoia does indeed expose the pretense to science as noted by Kyle, that itself is due to something deeper -- the rank-and-file left's fear of discovering just how very nearly identical to their professed worst enemy -- the racist -- they really are."


Anonymous said...

Jim May writes:

"The conservatives, for their part, trumpet such differences because they reject tabula rasa entirely, as one of the Enlightenment's "errors". In their view, evil is innate in human nature (the "Original Sin" premise), and it must be suppressed by society and its traditions."

This is 100% accurate right down to the very wording (Jim knows his stuff). I recently have been reading a number of cultural conservative sites and this argument is made over and over. I am posting a link to one such conservative commentator who sums up this "traditionalist" (his term) conservative view nicely. It reveals the corrupt essence of Conservatism right down to its core metaphysics.


A taste:

"It is also a conservative (and Jewish and Christian) truism that human beings, while capable of good, are inclined toward evil, which also leads to the conclusion that a moral society cannot be built on each man's unaided faculties. To live virtuous lives, men require sources of moral guidance that come from outside themselves. Rousseau believed that human beings are naturally good. Jefferson believed that if men were left in complete freedom, they would naturally live in harmony with their fellow citizens. These are liberal or libertarian ideas. They are not conservative ideas."

John Kim

Gus Van Horn said...

Oh, nice!

I like how in the preceding paragraph, the author equivocates between "unaided reason" and throwing out all tradition and accumulated knowledge -- so he can then sneak religion into the list of things that reason would supposedly do away with.

Anonymous said...

I hate to belabor the point about the racism which is entrenched on the far Right but here is another example of it coming from Europe. On LGF, Charles Johnson has been attacked for his decision to oppose European far right groups that have historic connections to the Nazis. The cultural conservatives are lambasting Johnson and calling him a sellout because these far right groups are also anti-Islam. But Johnson, rightly, knows enough not to fight one brand of fascism by aligning himself with another. Here is one of many LGF links dealing with this:


The reason I chose it is because Johnson has a quote from the European group in question and it illustrates perfectly the racism inherent in this "racialist" or so-called "scientific racism" conservative position:

"...[snip]the American blacks’ mean IQ of 85, and not racism, is the cause of their underepresentation in the upper echelons of government, business and the professions."

In Europe the true conservatives are white-power type nationalists. In America they are Christian, racialist, anti-immigrant nationalists. Not only do we have to worry about the growing neo-Stalinism of the Left but of a growing religious nationalism from the Right.

John Kim

Gus Van Horn said...

In addition to the taint of racism, the religious conservatives see the battle against Islam as a war between religions as opposed to a war to defend the secular West against religion.

Anonymous said...

All domestic dogs are CANIS FAMILIARIS. Dog breeds do not exist as all dogs have 99% of their DNA the same. All dogs are equally violent and equally trainable. The link between dog DNA and dog trainability/performace is unconfirmed. With sufficient training, poodles can consistently kill pit bulls. Your local police prefer poodles for K-9 dogs. Greyhounds train harder in order to outrun dachshunds; dachshunds that attempt to catch greyhounds are accused by their fellow dachshunds of "acting greyhound…". Chihuahuas make good hunting dogs; they are also good for herding sheep. Given a proper environment and nurturing, and given SUFFICIENT MONEY, the DOG ACHIEVEMENT GAP can be eliminated----------------All humans are HOMO SAPIENS: humans are EXEMPT from the fundamental rules of BIOLOGY.

Gus Van Horn said...

If you think that there is no fundamental difference between intelligent humans and dogs, all I have to say to you is this: Speak (or yelp) for yourself.

Jim May said...

Here's another slab(!) of irony for you. Consider this following statement:

"I know in my heart that man is good. That what is right will always eventually triumph. And there's purpose and worth to each and every life."

There is no mistaking that this statement is directly antithetical to the essence of the "amnation.com" post that John linked. It is clearly a statement that belongs not to conservatism in any manner whatsoever, but to the Enlightenment which conservatives loathe.

Whose statement is it?

It is Ronald Reagan's epitaph.

Gus Van Horn said...

Very interesting, and well-timed, too!

Jim May said...

Interesting, I checked one of the other hits to my search for Reagan's epitaph, and this one went to the Claremont Institute, a conservative think-tank of sorts.

They too noticed the liberal quality of Reagan's parting quote, and engage in some quiet damage control here, attempting first to paint it as "optimism", and then attempting to divorce it from its liberal source (but not from the American Revolution, whose origin in the Enlightenment the conservatives consistenly deny without grounds.)

IMO they do not succeed.

Gus Van Horn said...

Thanks for that one, Jim.

I must say that this post has drawn some of the most interesting comments....