Saturday, April 21, 2018

David Horowitz, The Black Book of the American Left — Volume 9

At Amazon, David Horowitz, The Black Book of the American Left — Volume 9: Ruling Ideas.

When I began the project of describing this movement in the 1980s, the emergence of the left as a mainstream force in Amer­ica’s political life was fairly recent and inadequately understood. Conservatives in particular often failed to appreciate the anti-American animus of the left and its apocalyptic goals. At the same time, conservatives imprudently accepted the left’s deceptive claims to be “liberal” and “progressive,” ascribing to it idealistic intentions that masked its malignant designs. The contents of these volumes were conceived as a corrective to these false and disarming impressions. This is the ninth and final volume of my writings about progressivism, a movement whose goals are the destruc­tion of America’s social contract at home and the defeat of American power abroad.

The primary source of this confusion is the fact that left-wing politics are based on expectations of an imaginary future rather than assessments of a usable past. The left’s primary focus is not on practical improvements based on an analysis of previous prac­tices, or a conception of the limits imposed by human nature, but on changes designed to satisfy the moral prejudices that make up the leftist faith.

Nowhere is this clearer than in the left’s quest for “equality,” which is the organizing principle of its “transformative” propos­als. Equality before the law is a foundational principle of American democracy and its pluralistic community. But this is not the equality proposed by the left, which demands instead an unrealiz­able and destructive equality of outcomes. In the real world human inequalities of talent, intelligence, physical attributes and application are immutable facts of life, which result in inequalities of wealth and power. The seeds of social inequality are planted in the human genome and are nourished by disparate cultures, which include circumstances of birth and upbringing that governments cannot control. Attempts to establish such control have invariably resulted in the most repressive regimes in human history, and in the end have failed to produce either equality or wealth.

The ideal of an egalitarian future is doomed to failure because it is unanchored in any human reality. It is sustained as an ideal because it allows advocates to regard themselves as revolutionary pioneers of a “better world.” It further prompts believers to devalue the present and dismiss the past, which allows them to distance themselves from the destructive results of their social experiments. Thus progressives habitually dismiss the disasters they have engineered, however epic in scope, by attributing the monstrous results to inadvertent “mistakes,” when they were in fact the logical consequences of their Utopian ideas.

When the Soviet socialist system collapsed, progressives cre­ated an artificial distinction between the ideal, which they called “real socialism,” and the disaster, which they called “actually existing socialism.” This allowed them to avoid any recognition of their role in the human catastrophe they had supported and served for generations. Consequently, the experience had no lessons for progressives because in their self-absolving view it wasn’t “real socialism.” This delusion has now been passed to the next genera­tions as a result of the left’s infiltration of America’s educational system and its transformation into a training and recruitment cen­ter for collectivist causes and ideas.

The current term leftists use to describe their Utopian vision of the future is “social justice” rather than communism or socialism.

The new name is part of a familiar process by which the left attempts to shed the disasters of its past. One would be hard-put to distinguish the goals encapsulated by “social justice” from the communist attitudes of previous generations. Like communism, “social justice” is a promise of harmony and redemption. Like communism it describes a future in which inequality, poverty, big­otry and the timeless corruptions of the human spirit are miracu­lously rectified by political parties and the state. Like communism, “social justice” requires for its realization a remake of humanity. Like communism, therefore, it can only be achieved through the destruction of individual freedom, and the thwarting of normal human desires and interests in order to achieve an allegedly greater social good.

The bloody history of progressive experiments during the 20th century should have buried the illusion that human beings can be transformed into creatures radically different from what they have been for the five thousand years in which their actions have been recorded. Human societies are reflections of the human beings who create them, not the other way around. Inequality, bigotry, hypocrisy and greed are elements of a genome that thousands of years of evolution have failed to alter or repair. As a result, progres­sive states dedicated to “social justice” have flooded the earth with the corpses of innocents who stood in their way, and created poverty and misery on an unprecedented scale. Yet the religious fantasy of a liberated future persists to this day among an alarming array of constituencies, and the left’s assault on individual free­dom proceeds as though these historical tragedies had never taken place.

The tenacity of the progressive illusion and its imperviousness to experience are natural effects of its religious nature. The solace provided to believers through hope in a redeemed future is as existentially crucial as a belief in God or in life after death. It makes relinquishing the illusion as devastating as a loss of religious faith. How else explain the persistence of a fantasy that has proven so destructive?

Since the industrial revolution, the progressive illusion has been encouraged by advances in technology that might seem to augur human possibility without limit. Yet to date these advances, however impressive, have not led to dramatic improvements in human behavior — specifically its moral dimensions — let alone the degree of improvement that Utopian visions require. Meanwhile, the same advances have produced new technologies of totalitarian control along with vastly amplified means of destruction that serve to magnify human barbarism and put into question the very survival of civilization.

Half a century ago Friedrich Hayek described “social justice” as a mirage. Hayek observed that there is no entity called “society” to redistribute wealth, or to re-calibrate the social order. There are only individuals belonging to political factions that vie for power and then wield it through their power in the state. “Social jus­tice,” therefore, is necessarily the work of individuals driven by the same greed, prejudice, and habits of deceit that created the injustices progressives propose to repair. In its real-world practice “social justice” is, and can only be, the self-justifying rationale of a new despotism—worse than the old because its first agenda is a war against freedom, in particular the freedom of individuals to resist the social redeemers and their plans.

This was the conclusion I reached forty years ago under the influence of Hayek and the Polish philosopher Leszek Kolakowski, and why I resolved to devote the second half of my life—and eventually the nine volumes of this work—to analyzing and opposing this destructive cause.
I'm looking forward to reading this volume.

ICYMI: Roger Scruton, Fools, Frauds and Firebrands

At Amazon, Roger Scruton, Fools, Frauds and Firebrands: Thinkers of the New Left.

Roger Scruton photo fools-frauds-and-firebrands_zpsdqui8dq5.jpg

Literary Theory's Stifling Uniformity

From Neema Parvini, at Quillette, "The Stifling Uniformity of Literary Theory":
In 1976, the Nobel-prize winning economist, F.A. Hayek, published The Mirage of Social Justice, the second volume of his magnum opus Law, Legislation and Liberty.1 Despite being widely regarded as the definitive critique of social justice, today one would be lucky to find advocates of social justice in the academy who are familiar with the name ‘Hayek’, let alone those who have read him. Among classical liberals, libertarians, and conservatives alike, Hayek is one of the most important thinkers of the twentieth century whose The Road to Serfdom represents one of the most powerful arguments against socialism ever written.2 But those in the academy who have perpetuated socialist ideas since the 1980s have practically ignored it. In this article, I will argue that this unwillingness to engage with the ‘other side’ is not only endemic in the radical intellectual schools that have overtaken literary studies, but also that it is symptomatic of their entire way of thinking which, being hermetically sealed and basically circular in its argumentation, has no language to deal with critics beyond reactive moral condemnation.

Many universities and colleges currently advertise literary theory courses which purport to introduce students to a range of different approaches to literary texts. On paper, it looks like as many as ten or fifteen different approaches. The labels proliferate: new historicism, cultural materialism, materialist feminism, ecofeminism, postcolonialism, deconstruction, structuralism, poststructuralism, race theory, gender theory, queer theory, postmodernism … the list might go on. This extensive list of labels seems to signal genuine range and diversity; however, in terms of their ideas, these approaches are somewhat narrower in scope and focus than one might expect. Virtually every approach listed here lays claim to be ‘radical’, which is to say politically of the left or even hard left – with roots in Marxist theory – hostile to capitalism, the Enlightenment, classical liberalism, liberal humanism, and even to the West itself. Virtually all are also committed to ‘social justice’. It must be noted that, since about 1980, these labels accurately register the genesis of literary studies as a discipline, but what they do not register is that, as they were rising, dissenting voices were systemically hounded out of the academy.

For example, in 1985, Sir Roger Scruton – now famous as a philosopher and public intellectual – wrote a book called Thinkers of the New Left in which he was strongly critical of continental theorists such as Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, Louis Althusser, Jacques Lacan, and others.3 In stark contrast to the sometimes-wilful obscurantism of those he critiqued, Scruton wrote in plain prose and expressed ideas with clarity. Perhaps precisely because it laid the ideas bare, the book was greeted with howls of derision, and viciously attacked by scholars who had become disciples of Foucault et al. The publisher, Longman, was threatened with boycotts and risked being sent to the academic equivalent of the gulag if they did not stop selling the book, going as far as withdrawing copies from bookshops. As far as I can see, one thing that the episode did not produce is an intelligent response to any of the criticisms Scruton raised or, indeed, a single moment of critical self-reflection from any of those who had reacted so angrily. In effect, he was shut down and chased from academia.

In another infamous case, in 1988, Richard Levin, who was a Professor of English at the State University of New York, published an article in the PMLA – one of the premier journals in literary studies – outlining some of his problems with recent feminist studies of Shakespeare. The gist of Levin’s critique was that feminist readings of Shakespeare all seemed to reach similar conclusions. In his own words, ‘the themes employed in [feminist] interpretations are basically the same. Although the terminology may vary, these criticisms all find that [Shakespeare’s] plays are about the role of gender in the individual and society’.4 Now, one might expect a firm rebuttal to this charge from the scholars he was critiquing, and rightly so, but this is not what Levin received. Instead, the following year, a letter was published in the PMLA signed by twenty-four literary critics lambasting the journal for having the temerity to publish such an essay.5 It was not so much an academic response, but the public denunciation of a heretic – made more chilling because so many of the signatories worked on the Reformation, an era in which such burnings at the stake were de rigueur. Professor Levin, they argued, should not even be teaching literature. I remember when I first read of this episode while conducting research for my doctorate;6 I was not only appalled at Levin’s treatment, but also confounded by the utter refusal of these twenty-four scholars to engage in substantive argument. I remember it as a moment of profound disillusionment with the profession I was about to pursue, and it marked a turning point in how I would view the work of some of those who had signed it. Years later, during a podcast interview, I asked one prominent Shakespearean, who is strongly associated with the radical new approaches of the 1980s (but not a signatory of the letter), if he remembered Levin.7 The answer I got back was, ‘no one paid any attention to him; Levin was nowhere’. Again, I was struck by reasoning that seemed based entirely on what Aristotle would have called ‘ethos’, that is, the judgement of the person’s character as opposed to their arguments.8

If one understands the underlying theories, then it is not difficult to see why this happens. Despite significant differences, all the approaches I listed above assume that:
1. There is no universal human nature.
2. Human beings are primarily a product of their time and place.
3. Therefore, power, culture, ideologies, and the social institutions that promulgate them have an extraordinary capacity to shape and condition individuals.
4. In Western societies, since these institutions have been dominated by people who were predominantly rich, straight, white, and male it has tended towards pushing the particular interests of rich straight white men to the detriment of all other groups.
5. Furthermore, these rich straight white men have done this by acting as if their sectional interests were universal and natural – a flagrant lie.
6. Importantly, however, few if any of these rich white straight men were consciously aware of doing this, because they were themselves caught in the matrices of power, culture, ideologies and so on.
7. Where subordinated groups have gone along with these power structures, they have been exploited and the victims of ‘false consciousness’.
8 Now is the time to redress this balance by exposing the ways in which old texts have promoted the sectional interests of the rich straight white men and by promoting the voices of the historically marginalised groups.
Once this basic structure is understood, one can quickly see that the extensive list which seems like it represents a diverse range of approaches, in fact only promotes different flavours of a single approach. All that changes from one to the next are the specific groups of oppressors and oppressed as well as the structuring principle to which all individuals are invisibly in thrall. One might begin to represent it as follows...

Keep reading.


ICYMI: Edward E. Baptist, The Half Has Never Been Told

*BUMPED.*

At Amazon, Edward E. Baptist, The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism.



Satire from Alexandra Petri

Apparently she's good at this: Last year, one of her pieces of satire made the official press briefing list in the Trump White House.

At WaPo, "It is too bad I have been silenced":

Every day I have to exist in this so-called free country of America, I fear that I may pay the ultimate price: not having column space in EVERY publication. Think carefully, America. Is it not a fearful thing to ask that people refrain from expressing every provocative thought that occurs to them? Is it not a hideous imposition that you are free to say anything you wish, but sometimes people will respond by saying they would not care to read what you have written, and do not think you ought to be given a large platform from which to express your haphazard thoughts, and they would rather not work with you if you have repeatedly suggested they are sub-human? We have been cast into the pit of Tartarus by many tiny hands! I cannot (metaphorically) breathe!

When I walk out each day onto the street (of ideas), I quake with fear that the (thought) police (who determine who gets to appear on panels with corporate sponsorships) may take me aside and silence me for good. Every morning, I wonder whether I will be able to go home to my family (as a columnist in a magazine or newspaper with a wide circulation). I live with this fear every day, and I can imagine nothing more chilling...

More.

Bullet Train Work Blows Past Cost Estimates

This is the biggest scam ever.

It's astounding that the Democrats can pull off these boondoggles, but the "sheeple" continue to vote them back in. Maybe a reckoning's coming? We're seeing some trouble brewing in cities around the state over the sanctuary law. Perhaps change will ripple into other policy areas as well.

At LAT, "High-speed rail project vastly underestimated cost of relocating utility lines beneath Fresno":

Buried beneath Fresno were some costly surprises for the California bullet train authority, which disclosed Tuesday that the price of utility relocations along a 29-mile section of railway has surged from a 2013 estimate of $69 million to $396 million.

Although it was known that moving gas lines, sewer pipes, water mains and communications wire to make way for the route would be more expensive than originally expected, the magnitude of the increase — nearly a six-fold jump — puts into better focus why the project's costs are rising so sharply.

The California High-Speed Rail Authority board on Friday took up the problem, hearing from its staff that the original estimate contained a number of miscalculations.

The number of linear feet of utilities that have to be moved was underestimated, as was the cost per foot for the job, according to a staff memo. Then, there were utilities that nobody even knew were in the ground. The authority changed its mind about some of the work, as well, the report said.

The original cost estimate was based on work performed by the rail authority's regional consultant, the staff memo said. It did not identify the company, but rail authority records indicate the regional consultant from before 2013 through at least 2015 was Los Angeles-based Aecom. By 2017, the company was no longer on the job. The company did not have an immediate response when contacted.

The history of the utility relocations suggests some turmoil in management decisions — which the rail authority staff said it would not repeat in the future.The original plan was to have AT&T and Pacific Gas and Electric Co. move their own equipment, rather than allow the main construction contractor, Tutor Perini, to do the work.

After getting started, however, the two utilities came back and told the rail authority that they were having trouble meeting the schedule. So, the rail authority handed the job to Tutor Perini in February 2017 and increased the budget to $159 million.

By September 2017, the rail authority arrived at a new cost estimate of $396 million, which was not made public until Tuesday. The price hike is part of the $2.8 billion in cost increases for the Central Valley work that were disclosed in January and were incorporated into the draft 2018 business plan released last month.

The higher costs would deplete the budget for the utility relocations by April, according to the staff memo. So the board approved moving $40 million from a future contract reserved for installing track in the Central Valley to cover the utility work in Fresno. That $40 million will fund the utility work until July, the memo said...
Total waste. This is actually sad. Just a minuscule fraction of that funding could finance 10s of thousands of underserved students at community college, and that'd be just a start.

Disgraceful is right. Sheesh.

Friday, April 20, 2018

ICYMI: Gabriel Tallent, My Absolute Darling

*BUMPED.*

At Amazon, Gabriel Tallent, My Absolute Darling: A Novel.




ICYMI: Vox Day, SJWs Always Lie

*BUMPED.*

You gotta read this book, dang!

At Amazon, Vox Day, SJWs Always Lie: Taking Down the Thought Police.



John Putnam Demos, Entertaining Satan

*BUMPED.*

At Amazon, John Putnam Demos, Entertaining Satan: Witchcraft and the Culture of Early New England.



Nancy Houston, Love and Sex

At Amazon, Nancy Houston, Love & Sex: A Christian Guide to Healthy Intimacy.



'They Were Never Going to Let Me Be President'

Heh, this is hilarious.

At the Daily Beast, "Hillary Clinton on Election Night: ‘They Were Never Going to Let Me Be President’":


“No one in modern politics, male or female, has had to withstand more indignities, setbacks and cynicism. She developed protective armor that made the real Hillary Clinton an enigma. But if she was guarded about her feelings and opinions, she believed it was in careful pursuit of a dream for generations of Americans: the election of the country’s first woman president.”

That would have been the nut graf of The New York Times story about Hillary Clinton’s historic victory that would have run under the headline “Madam President” spread across six front-page columns, according to reporter Amy Chozick’s new book, Chasing Hillary: Ten Years, Two Presidential Campaigns, and One Intact Glass Ceiling.

Chozick writes that the Clinton campaign, which she covered from the beginning, had reacted furiously to the prospect of a Joe Biden run, as floated first in an August 2015 Maureen Dowd Times column and then in a reported story by Chozick. In the book, she writes that “Biden had confided (off the record) to the White House press corps that he wanted to run, but he added something like ‘You guys don’t understand these people. The Clintons will try to destroy me.’”

Throughout the book, Chozick refers to her fellow journalists in the small pool that flew on the campaign plane as “Travelers,” while referring to many Clinton staffers collectively as “The Guys.”

Asked to comment on the book, a former campaign staffer who’s referred to in it as one of “The Guys” told The Daily Beast: “The challenge on the campaign was that you had a reporter holding the Clintons to a higher standard through a lower standard of reporting. Amy was not always an honest broker, and this book seems to be more of the same. It ridicules people with a smile, contributing little to the public discourse.”

From early on, the Clinton camp saw Trump as an enemy to encourage, Chozick writes. During the campaign, as had been previously reported, there was an effort to elevate Trump into a so-called Pied Piper in order to tie him to the mainstream of the Republican Party.

“An agenda for an upcoming campaign meeting sent by [Campaign Manager] Robby Mook’s office asked, ‘How do we maximize Trump?’” Chozick writes, describing a time when the GOP primary was still crowded...


Christopher Lasch, The Culture of Narcissism

At Amazon, Christopher Lasch, The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in an Age of Diminishing Expectations.



Sweden's Collapse (VIDEO)

I can't think of a more attractive person --- and I mean "attractive" as literally attracting people to her ideas with so much persuasive, logical, and common sense power --- than Katie Hopkins.

Here's she's interviewed by Mark Steyn at Fox News:



The Authoritarian Right

This is interesting.

From old Pat Buchanan, "Why the Authoritarian Right is Rising":

A fortnight ago, Viktor Orban and his Fidesz Party won enough seats in the Hungarian parliament to rewrite his country’s constitution.

To progressives across the West, this was disturbing news.

For the bete noire of Orban’s campaign was uber-globalist George Soros. And Orban’s commitments were to halt any further surrenders of Hungarian sovereignty and independence to the European Union, and to fight any immigrant invasion of Hungary from Africa or the Islamic world.

Why are autocrats like Orban rising and liberal democrats failing in Europe? The autocrats are addressing the primary and existential fear of peoples across the West — the death of the separate and unique tribes into which they were born and to which they belong.

Modern liberals and progressives see nations as transitory — here today, gone tomorrow. The autocrats, however, have plugged into the most powerful currents running in this new century: tribalism and nationalism.

The democracy worshippers of the West cannot compete with the authoritarians in meeting the crisis of our time because they do not see what is happening to the West as a crisis.

They see us as on a steady march into a brave new world, where democracy, diversity and equality will be everywhere celebrated.

To understand the rise of Orban, we need to start seeing Europe and ourselves as so many of these people see us...
More.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Russell Banks, Cloudsplitter

*BUMPED.*

At Amazon, Russell Banks, Cloudsplitter: A Novel.