Sunday, March 17, 2019

College Education: The road not chosen

Much is being said about the rich and famous buying their kids way into college. It is shocking. Sad. But what seems more shocking to me, is what these parents and students were clearly not seeking from the colleges they sought to buy their way into, and it is shocking how little that lack has figured into the discussions I've seen about the issue so far.
Lori Loughlin and Felicity Huffman college scam

Of course what all of these parents and students are seeking to gain from their entrance into these exclusive colleges - whether through honest or dishonest means - is, as Ben Shapiro describes, status, connections, and the favorable appearances that come from having attended such schools.
"...The question is why. Both these families are wealthy. The children of these families weren’t going to lack for opportunity in life. Furthermore, isn’t college designed to train people for the real world? Wouldn’t admission under false pretenses result in the kids flunking out? Wouldn’t their lack of merit be revealed by the simple pressure of the schooling?

The answer is obvious: no, it wouldn’t. Colleges aren’t about training kids for the real world, or teaching them significant modes of thinking, or examining timeless truths. Universities aren’t about skill sets, either – at least in the humanities. They’re about two things: credentialism and social connections...."
But I disagree, the question is not 'Why did they do this?', just as the question isn't what they were seeking to get from college, the real question is what these parents and students were not seeking from college, and what other's aren't seeking from our colleges, either. The less advantaged parents and students which so many people are concerned have been unfairly deprived of positions due to these scams, have the very same expectations - and lack of them - even as they complain bitterly about not being able to enjoy the same diploma/golden-ticket to 'success' which graduates of the exclusive colleges are most likely to enjoy.

What these parents, students, friends and faculty, were most definitely not seeking to gain from these exclusive colleges, can partly be seen in how they sought to gain admittance to them. For instance, by arranging for others to take their tests for them, or by posing for pictures that photo-shopping would make them appear to have mad sports skilz (which they would have to lie about for the rest of their college careers), they clearly were not seeking a deeper reverence for what is True; they obviously weren't interested in learning how to live their lives with character and integrity; they certainly weren't seeking after a clearer understanding of honesty and justice; and they most definitely were not seeking to shake the habit of judging a book by its cover.
The Picture of Dorian Grey

In fact, judging themselves and others on appearances alone is what they are most clearly all about, and any deeper regard these prospective students might somehow gain for integrity and morality, would in fact have been a serious threat to what they saw as being in their best interests - they could go to jail over taking such thoughts seriously. What they are most of all not seeking in their elite college 'education', is a deeper understanding of themselves; they do not seek to develop the habit of reflecting upon and questioning what they hold to be true (not doubting, mind you, but questioning, which is a very different thing), nor do they seek a vision of what sort of life is truly worth living, and the courage to attempt the living of it. One thing we can be pretty confident that these parents, students, friends and faculty do not seek from these exclusive colleges, is a Liberal education - they do not seek to be led out of the cave of shallow appearances, illusions and the pretenses of those in thrall to power - if anything they seek to move deeper into the comforting darkness of those caves. They think they already know what success is, and only seek more of the same.

And apparently there is nothing in the reputations of these oh so exclusive colleges, that in any way causes any of them to worry overly much about the possibility of their being exposed to any such dangerous ideas and beliefs as honesty, self awareness, or any of the other traditional crown jewels of Western Civilization.

Our most exclusive colleges have excelled for well over a century now, in teaching students either a complete lack of familiarity with the stories, history, thoughts and achievements of Western Civilization, or else they instill in them a carefully parsed narrative of trivialized factoids about them, carefully sterilized with doubt and cynicism, so as to ensure that the real value and meaning of their birthright will never make it past the false fronts of their formal education. They will receive lesson after lesson in an enduring lack of regard for honor and respect, instructional booby traps that will be continuously triggered throughout their lives, dislodging and shattering any virtues that experience might accidentally instill in them.

It's bad enough that the mass of students in our culture today have these absences fostered in them by what passes for education among us, but these students, our 'best and brightest' who succeed in getting their prized diplomas, risk having entire areas of their souls  barred from them by the cherubim of modernity, to their accidental entrance. When the purpose of Education ceases to be truth and wisdom, and becomes facts and power instead ("Knowledge is Power!" don't ya know), does the fact that the educated care more about increasing the power of those in power, than in educating their students, really surprise anyone? Think of the messages we repeat to ourselves today, which I summed up in an earlier post:
"Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely, knowledge is power, so get an education to get the knowledge needed get a job and make lots of money, and never forget that Having lots of money is bad, and pay attention in school so you can earn more of it."
Who here really expects things to turn out differently than they do? Successful graduates are not seeking to live lives worth living, and so they will be driven by little more than the utility of appearances, because that is what our entire culture, let alone the elite schools, teach them is important. And when the inevitable storms come and wreck whatever social and material gains they've amassed, they will be rocked by those losses, as a miser is by the loss of his coin. They will know of no depths to which they can repair to and ride the storms out from. They will have no inner sanctums that will remain untouched by the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Instead, these ideal graduates, as with the parents who've taught them, when deprived of the persistent distractions that wealth and privilege afford them, will find themselves faced with nothing more than what they no longer possess. And should they somehow manage to take an honest look at themselves in the mirror, it will be like unveiling their inner Picture of Dorian Grey.

What worthlessness we seek after. What wealth we shun. And what multitudes of company we have in the world today, in Modernity's graduating class.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

Conservatives Continue to Hammer Themselves in the Left's 'Long Game'

A friend of mine brought an article to my attention, with the catchy title of "Roberts And Kavanaugh’s Death Penalty Betrayal Again Shows Why Conservatives Never Win The Long Game On Judges". Attention getting, eh? With a title like that, of death, betrayal and long games, you might expect to learn something about the story behind the case, presumably starting with what it's all about. What we learn about it, is that the SCOTUS recently:
"...summarily reversed the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals' determination that Mr. Moore "did not have intellectual disability and consequently was eligible for the death penalty...."
, and that is all, repeat all, of the information mentioned about the actual case itself. Curious. If what's happening with a case in the Supreme Court is important enough to post on to the general public, shouldn't there at least be some mention of the nature of original case made, such as what crime was committed, which rights and laws were originally violated in it? Even just a quick aside, on the way to making another point, as the AP did here:
"...The justices ruled 5-3 on Wednesday in favor of inmate Vernon Madison, who killed a police officer in 1985. His lawyers say he has suffered strokes that have left him with severe dementia...."
I can't help but wonder what sort of view of The Law a person has, that when communicating the importance of a case to those who are unfamiliar with it, that they find the original crime and punishment of that case to be of little importance, even irrelevant to the story? The author of that post, Josh Hammer (the latest in a long line of 'Conservative!'s to sport the bow-tie look), surely knows far more about the particulars & processes of the law than I ever will, as  his blurb notes that he's clerked for a Judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit, and for the Senate Judiciary committee, and much more... including this:
"Josh graduated from Duke University, where he majored in Economics, and from the University of Chicago Law School"
Law School and Economics. Huh. That caught at my attention a bit... snagging on a fragment of a useless memory, where Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. once wrote in the Harvard Law Review, envisioning a future of lawyers as "...the man of the future is the man of statistics and master of economics..." - of course Holmes was not only not a conservative, he was one of the original Pro-Regressive anti-conservatives to sit on the Supreme Court. Huh. Well, be that as it may, you might still think that having graduated from two prestigious colleges would've helped Hammer to clarify the nature of the case he's posting about. Nope, that skill seems to have been left out of his education. From Josh, we learn nothing of what crimes were committed, nothing about who was wronged, what individual rights were violated, or what injustices were perpetrated, or otherwise claimed before the SCOTUS. What sort of 'intellectual disability' was it that Mr. Moore was claiming, and why? Nope. And nothing substantive about what the issues in question were and are, not even what the death penalty is for (murder? kidnapping?), or what the circumstances or extenuating circumstances, if any, were. That seems like a lot to find irrelevant.

Hammer does however have lots to say about the technical and political aspects of this case. Of the technicalities, he tells the reader of its movement through the courts: when it was originally tried, and retried; of fealty to stare decisis norms; that precedents were set, and precedents were ignored; a 'per curiam' opinion was given (not what that is, or what opinion was given in it, just that something was improperly handled); he tells us who dissented, concurred or reversed their opinions, or gave none at all; he notes that binding and non-binding stuff happened, and so on and so forth. On the political aspects of the case, he focuses upon viewing it through a particularly partisan lens to the point that he even expresses his disgust with Republicans failing to "...work to end sycophantic judge-worship...". Seriously? The Right is often accused of many things, but 'sycophantic judge-worship' isn't one I often hear - and what does it mean? He doesn't say. If you drill into and through a few layers of his links, you might begin to get some sense of what he means by that (using federal and state legislation to reduce the scope of judicial rulings, together with a POTUS taking an Andrew Jackson approach to the judiciaries rulings: "John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it"), but the casual reader of this post is given no clue about what he meant by any of that, other than, obviously, the 'badness' of Republican Nominated Judges failing us.

In short, he tells us loads and loads about the particulars and processes and operational technicalities of the law that were, or perhaps weren't, followed, but nothing at all about the original details of the case, the arguments for, or against it, or how those many technicalities led it to being raised at the Supreme Court, and serve the cause of Justice being done, and all of that lack of information is packaged here to hype an agenda which largely remains unclear. This post isn't a one-off for him; while there are exceptions, it's common for him to take this approach in his posts, and he is not the only conservative today to be taking it, and it's that wider norm, more than Hammer himself, that my comments are being directed towards here. Focusing on the technicalities of law might be appropriate for a journal for law nerds, but the fact that this was posted on the Daily Wire for the general public's consumption, means that those unexplained technicalities of law are going to be driven forward under the power of the post's partisan political sizzle alone, which I think tells us something about how a successful conservative lawyer views the law today, and how they think the public should view the law: keenly focused upon particulars, processes and points scored, rather than on the principles and purposes which those processes were (originally) supposed to serve.

That, IMHO, is a symptom of the very problem that Hammer is ranting about (and is exacerbating), and points towards just what sort of long game he's playing -  whether or not he's aware of whose game it is that he's playing in (I have my doubts), is another and deeper issue.

He hammers on through his lens:
"...what is not particularly enjoyable is to watch the legal conservative movement beclown itself time and time again by nominating — and placing institutional and political capital behind — judges who more often than not deeply disappoint conservatives."
How conservative of a legal perspective is it, to show little or no concern for communicating the substance of a case (again: Murder? Kidnapping? Causes? Pleas?) to an audience, or even what meaning the SCOTUS decision had for this and other similar cases, but instead concerns itself only with the technical processes and aspects of the SCOTUS decision that ran afoul of his partisan expectations of the judges involved? That approach seems far less concerned with making an argument from first principles, than with making a utilitarian case for a 'greater good' that tilts right. Is it now a conservative legal perspective to

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

This MLK Jr. Day: Does Toxic Sanctimony Signal that Virtue is beyond us?

This weekend leading up to Martin Luther King Jr. Day, was one where our societal norms skipped right by the old 'slippery slope', and made a dash for the downward escalator of moral decay, where the earlier shock value over 'punch a nazi!', was left behind by the new virtue signaling of 'punch a teen!', and much, much, worse. I wish I could say that this was 'Unbelievable!', but... I can't, because it's not. At all.

The media, perhaps still stinging over the failure of their Trumpophobic BuzzFeed article, and eager for a viral story to put that behind them, found what their next media frenzy in the spectacle of adults deliberately using schoolkids as pawns and fodder to drive a politically correct narrative - one which had no more veracity than their own desire for it to be true. One grievance after another was brought to bear upon a group of Catholic high school students who dared to be happy, Christian and (mostly, not all, but mostly apparently means all don't need to be considered) white, while taking in the sights of their nations capital, following their participation in the March for Life demonstration.

Apparently unable to accept the 'horror' of all of that imagery, a highly edited video (and the raw full length video is linked to below, which shows how contrived this was) twisted and misrepresented a narrative in pictures and video, with a garnish of outright lies, in order to present a NeverTrump'r fantasy of 'racist... dusty crackers' (aka: high school students), as if it was they who were abusing a lone idealistic American Indian & Vietnam veteran trying to get himself some peace and understanding. Sadly, the facts clearly show that it was the groups of despicable adult activists, who were taunting and intimidating school kids on the grounds of the Lincoln Memorial, deliberately provoking them in an effort to trigger an outburst from them, which thankfully never came, so they instead edited the video to push a lie they never expected to be caught in, so as to fuel a social media firestorm of political correctness, to attack the teenagers that they couldn't themselves push out of line - consumed as they were, by a fine example of what Michelle Malkin has so ably described elsewhere this week, as Toxic Sanctimony.

It is very much a legitimate question to ask ourselves, if this is a signal that Virtue is beyond the grasp of our society today? Have we really fallen from the level of a people willing to bravely confront and overcome our failures and shortcomings, and to renew our effort to live up to the ideals of the Declaration of Independence, as Martin Luther King Jr. urged us to do from that same location a half century ago, to one that prefers the easy road of masking vice as Virtue? For a while that certainly seemed to be the case as the posturing 'adults', talking heads, and the famous for being famous of the left and right, who all eagerly shoved their way to the front of the too hurried to fact-check line, in order to denounce these kids with righteous sanctimony, without doing any due diligence of investigation or fact checking.

It's not a pleasant sight to see, but there are plenty of examples of it to see, such as this one from former CNN contributor:
"Reza Aslan @rezaaslan Honest question. Have you ever seen a more punchable face than this kid’s?"
, and a producer of family friendly flicks from Disney Studios, Jack Morrisey, who tweeted wistfully of MagaKids being tossed to their gory deaths in a wood chipper:

There's also the charming offer of a comedy writer for 'Saturday Night Live', offering a blowjob to whoever punched one of these teenagers in the face. There's much worse, but that sets the tone for the Left... but of course the eager condemnations weren't coming only from the Left, as many eager virtue signalers on the Right, stepped right up, such as the erstwhile Charlie Kirk and of course 'neo-con' neverTrump'rs joined in as well, such as Bill Kristol (who later deleted it):
"The contrast between the calm dignity and quiet strength of Mr. Phillips and the behavior of #MAGA brats who have absorbed the spirit of Trumpism–this spectacle is a lesson which all Americans can learn. https://t.co/EbXMa6Bbel — Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) January 19, 2019"
Unfortunately for Kristol, there was no 'calm dignity and quiet strength' being displayed for the frequent liar and activist Mr. Phillips to be proud of, only momentarily appealing lies to be peddled from a sympathetic face, dripping with toxic sanctimony, spreading a thick glaze of lies and spin, in order to be seen as being so seemly on social media. He and they seemed to be getting away with it, until... the facts began to trickle through, and soon after gushed out in unedited streaming videos, and the tide began to turn, led, fortunately, by a number of 'Oops' heads from the Right, and from the Left, who realized that they shoulda known better.

For those people who simply 'condemned' the students out of credulous ignorance, ok, maybe their apologies might be appropriate, but for those who doxed them (made the home, school and business addresses, etc public), and called for violence to be visited upon KIDS, for the horrendous crime of wearing a hat and making a face? These kids, their families, their lives, safety, employment, were and are still being subjected to serious threats of violence - their High School closed down, shut down their website until further notice - How is that in any way forgivable with only a 'Oh. Sorry.'? Hopefully that won't be the case for long.

Tragically, it turns out, the kids in this incident are among the few involved who behaved as adults and maintained their dignity, while the majority of the adults, both onsite and online, behaved little better than a pack of schoolyard bullies. This post in Reason has been updated at the end, to include the full statement of the teen who was confronted by the 'adult' Mr. Phillips, who for several minutes beat his drum with a mallet two inches from the face of a seventeen year old boy, and the boy, Eric Sandman's statement, is well worth reading, prompting the question that Dana Loesch asked in her Facebook post, that:
"...Lastly, why are kids being treated as responsible adults and the adults being excused as kids here? Ideology gives no adult an excuse to abandon their responsibility to lead by modeling good behavior for the next generation...."
Yet even as the facts emerged via unedited video, some dug in and amped up the spin to misrepresent the facts even further, and others sought to spread them as well, hoping perhaps for the cover of relativity to shield them with 'the truth can't be known, and must fall lost into a dark space in the middle of the Left and Right.'.

Yeh, sorry, no, I call B.S. on that.Even with that, there are those, such as Phillips, doubling down on his claims of being harassed and insulted even though the video shows differently. There are also

Thursday, January 03, 2019

Mitt Romney blows a sour note on his Trumpet

Some people, especially NeverTrumpr’s, are wondering why people haven't been especially welcoming to Mitt Romney’s ‘op-ed’ attacking Trump’s character flaws.

Personally, I'm more surprised about how those NeverTrump'rs who identify as being 'conservatives', and especially those veterans of the Tea Party, who see themselves as being level headed, reasonable, people, somehow find credibility and justification for the actions of a self described 'progressive conservative' who never met a political principle he wouldn't bend or break, a political machinist who often belittled and undermined the Tea Party movement, a voter defined 3+ time loser of the POTUS races, who has now decided to make his entrance into the legislative body as a Junior Senator from Utah (again, conveniently), by penning an attack piece in the hostile pages of the Washington Post, upon the successfully elected President of the United States and leader of his political party.

This is really someone you want to hear from?

His op-ed purports to be making an important statement, yet states only banal baselines and personal beliefs (often at odds with his own history) that amounts to little more than a slew of three year old warmed over obviousness (at best), providing no new or courageous insights, nor anything else that is new to anyone in the English speaking world (and beyond). On top of that, he's doing this in the midst of negotiations over a 'govt shutdown' concerning border policies that have been central to his party's politics (and his own recent senatorial campaign), which can only serve to undercut both the POTUS and the political aims of his entire party.

Who's interests, besides his own, did this op-ed serve? What is there in this that is admirable? Anyone? Bueller?

For those NeverTrump'rs who do somehow wonder at the response to Romney's op-ed, I wonder if they've considered the possibility that people’s displeasure with the very moral Mitt's musings, might have something to do with their own very clear memories of how his idea of showing 'character' in politics, in practice, has repeatedly meant his demonstrating a spineless RINO'ism and affinity for appealing to media favor by making politically correct statements and gestures, often in support of policies that the 'conservative' wing of his party has traditionally been in deep opposition to, rather than by demonstrating the character and effectiveness required for taking actual principled stands? SoOo... maybe they simply have less than zero interest in hearing yet another ration of Mitt's self-serving 'Cap'n Obvious' preachings to them, about anything whatsoever at all?

One former Tea Party NeverTrumpr friend of mine, deploying all of his famously persuasive skills, actually expressed his surprise over the op-ed's reception, in this manner,
"... It’s fascinating to see the trump apologists and cultists not address a single point Romney made, but rather go 110% ad hominem on him. It’s almost like they can’t bear to admit he’s right about their infantile and malicious Idol....."
That particular rhetorical flair, which NeverTrump'rs in general take great delight in applying to those who either support Trump, or who don't knock him enough, demonstrates a skill which I personally blame as being at least partly responsible for Trump winning the GOP nomination to begin with. When I noted some of the above as possible reasons for their dislike of Romney's opinion, my friend replied that Romney’s
"... a stand up family man with good character."
And ...? And so? Just in case anyone takes that as a relevant point, I'll point out that the character which one displays towards family and friends is of course very important, and laudable, but a political candidate is not running to be your family or friend, and if the character in question fails to effectively extend his positive character traits into the field which he is busily preaching to everyone else about... he really shouldn't be preaching about others  not having the full package of admirable character traits, when he himself is lacking more than a few (much more relevant) character traits himself.

My position on Romney is not a new one. Although I’ve had a general dislike for Trump since the 1980’s, I’ve been much more pointedly opposed to Romney's lack of political principles and political character since I first caught wind of his 'Massachussettes Miracle' and of course RomneyCare. I opposed him in the 2008 election, and in the primaries of 2012, when there were rumors that Romney was again working the establishment machine to become the GOP's nominee, I said:
"...Pardon my shocked look of surprise, but seriously, during a time when Mitt Romney can be considered a conservative... do you really expect actual conservative candidates and issues to come to the fore?

Sorry, but I don't, and I'm not shocked by how this campaign is shaping up...."
, he famously slung underhanded and 'unmannerly' political shenanigans in that, and every one of his other failed efforts to become President of the United States - what character is he now demonstrating in trying to present himself as some sort of conservative conscience? Too bad we can't call John McCain for a comment.

But for those who do want to have a point-by-point response to Romney's op-ed, I’m more than happy to oblige, I picked these points out on my first skim of his op-ed:
"...and the president’s thoughtless claim that America has long been a “sucker” in world affairs all defined his presidency down..."
This, from a man who's often and nearly always enthused about international treaties that limit and prescribe restrictive 'trade' rules upon America, while giving advantages and benefits to its 'allies', under the name of promoting the 'free market', is one of the reasons why Trump won.
"...To a great degree, a presidency shapes the public character of the nation...."
That has the rancid odor of pro-regressive conceit & the 'nudge' of political correctness about it of the typical Pro-Regressive republican who believes that govt can 'help you' by making better decisions for you - which is also one of the reasons why Trump won. Preferably, of course, an American President should be of solid and admirable character, as well as experienced in demonstrating a solid understanding of, and willingness to defend, the concepts and principles that America was founded upon. Lacking that though (and pretending you don't lack that, because you don't want to admit it, is not an acceptable option), a candidate's unapologetic lack of that stature while demonstrating effectiveness in some relevant practical matters, is a far more preferable option, than a posturing and ineffective candidate who's prone to sucking up to the corrosive political correctness (Hello RomneyCare (which was not just a foolish ‘seems fair’ remedy option, ala Trump, but a vile legislative effort that reflected Romney's concerted thought and effort to devise – IOW there is no excuse for his assault upon basic American concepts and principles of govt), his nearly every public comment, etc) that a RINO fraud such as Romney exudes from his every inauthentic pore.
"...In a 2016 Pew Research Center poll, 84 percent of people in Germany, Britain, France, Canada and Sweden believed the American president would “do the right thing in world affairs.” One year later, that number had fallen to 16 percent...."
Those who after 8 years of the Obama administration, held an 84% confidence in the U.S.'s willingness and intention to 'do the right thing', are not the ones that I'm going to look to for an assessment of the U.S.'s intentions and ability to 'do the right thing'. Neither am I going to put much stock in those who do look to them for an opinion on the same.
"...we must repair failings in our politics at home. That project begins, of course, with the highest office ..."
I'm sorry, but anyone who thinks that our current problems and failings can begin to be repaired from the top-down by starting with the office of the POTUS, rather than by starting from the bottom-up with the American people, is, on that account, a fool.
"......America is strongest when our arms are linked with other nations. We want a unified and strong Europe, not a disintegrating union..."
As long as those nations we are to be linked with are aligned with supporting and enhancing America's best interests, rather than serving as a means of continuing their decades long demonstrated intention of pulling us down and climbing up onto our backs. That Romney, and other establishment types of the Left and Right, think that the E.U. is more aligned with American interests and values, than are those of those supporting Britain's Brexit, is yet another reason why Trump won.
"...I do not intend to comment on every tweet or fault...."
Except, no doubt, when it's useful to him, as he’s demonstrated again and again since his failed interview to be hired into Trump’s administration.
"...But I will speak out against significant statements or actions that are divisive, racist, sexist, anti-immigrant, dishonest or destructive to democratic institutions..."
Or otherwise at odds with the media loving Politically Correct vision of being a 'statesmen-like' 'maverick!' - another reason why Trump won.
"...More importantly, noble instincts live in the hearts of Americans. The people of this great land will..."
The American people demonstrated in the 2012 election, that they would rather rebel over the expectations of those (such as Romney) who posture as being Pro-American, while in practice prefer groveling and kissing up to those ideals that are perniciously anti-American at their heart and core (again, RomneyCare demonstrated not only unprincipled political expediences, but directly reflected his pointed assessments and intentions), than be lectured to by them. Another reason why Trump won.

If we want a president that is better than Trump – and I do - we'd do well to stop making such opportunistic shows of giving regard and political respect, to those who've embodied the very failings that are at the root of the reasons for why Trump won. Maybe we should put more effort into promoting an understanding of those ideals, than with pumping up those who’ve repeatedly shown a lack of regard for and understanding of those ideals, just so they can try to deliver a public slap to Trump.