Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Learning to Lean In Together. By Paula Derrow.

Learning to Lean In Together. By Paula Derrow. New York Times, October 17, 2013.

Krauthammer On Things That Matter. By Peter Wehner.

Krauthammer On Things That Matter. By Peter Wehner. Commentary, October 22, 2013.


Things That Matter is a collection of Charles Krauthammer’s extraordinary writings over the last 30 years. For those of us who have admired Krauthammer from the moment we first read him–and for a younger generation, from the moment they first watched him on Fox News–this volume has obvious appeal. It’s a marvelous, and at times quite moving, collection.
But I want to draw attention to the book’s introduction, which is new and autobiographical. Krauthammer writes about his upbringing and journey from medicine to politics, including a fascinating account of his intellectual evolution. What people might also find interesting is that his book was originally going to be a collection of his writings about everything but politics–on things “beautiful, mysterious, profound or just odd.” I’ll let Dr. Krauthammer takes it from there:
But in the end I couldn’t. For a simple reason, the same reason I left psychiatry for journalism. While science, medicine, art, poetry, architecture, chess, space, sports, number theory and all things hard and beautiful promise purity, elegance and sometimes even transcendence, they are fundamentally subordinate. In the end, they must bow to the sovereignty of politics.
Politics, the crooked timber of our communal lives, dominates everything because, in the end, everything – high and low and, most especially, high – lives or dies by politics. You can have the most advanced and efflorescent of cultures. Get your politics wrong, however, and everything stands to be swept away. This is not ancient history. This is Germany 1933 . . . Politics is the moat, the walls, beyond which lie the barbarians. Fail to keep them at bay, and everything burns.
In reflecting on the place of politics in the hierarchy of human disciplines, and building on the observations of John Adams, Krauthammer writes, “the glories yielded by such a successful politics lie outside itself. Its deepest purpose is to create the conditions for the cultivation of the finer things, beginning with philosophy and science, and ascending to the ever more delicate and refined arts.” He adds this: “the lesson of our history is that the task of merely maintaining strong and sturdy the structures of a constitutional order is unending, the continuing and ceaseless work of every generation.”
If, as the saying goes, every anthropologist loves his tribe, then I suppose that everyone who has devoted his or her life to public affairs (as I have) loves politics. Now it would be silly to pretend that politics doesn’t include some darker sides; that it doesn’t draw to it people who are narcissistic, who thirst for power for its own sake, and who choose their self-interest over the general interest. And much of politics, depending on the level at which one is involved, can involve mundane and fairly prosaic matters. All true. (And all qualities attendant less to politics per se than to our fallen human nature.)
But there is also this. We should care about politics because political acts can have profound human consequences. It makes a very great difference whether people live in freedom or servitude; whether government promotes a culture of life or a culture of death; whether the state is a guardian or an enemy of human dignity. The end of government, James Madison wrote, is justice.
So yes, politics and governing is fraught with temptations and dangers. There are plenty of people who bring dishonor to the enterprise. But at the risk of sounding out of touch with our times, there is something ennobling about politics, at least when done properly. We cannot neglect the importance of our laws or the political philosophies in which we root our laws because we cannot neglect their influence on our lives. Such are the duties of citizenship in a free society.
That is, I think, what Charles Krauthammer is saying; and why what he is saying matters so very much.

The Coming Era of Tiny Wars and Micro-Conflicts. By Tom Engelhardt.

Why Washington Can’t Stop: The Coming Era of Tiny Wars and Micro-Conflicts. By Tom Engelhardt. TomDispatch, October 22, 2013. Also at The Nation, Real Clear World.

Terror: The Hidden Source. By Malise Ruthven. New York Review of Books, October 24, 2013. Review of The Thistle and the Drone: How America’s War on Terror Became a Global War on Tribal Islam. By Akbar Ahmed. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 2013.

The Idiocy of the Arab Cultural Boycott of Israel. By Ray Hanania.

The idiocy of the cultural boycott of Israel. By Ray Hanania. Saudi Gazette, October 20, 2013.


Arab extremists love to hate Israel. It doesn’t matter whether relations with Israel are good, bad or ugly. They hate Israel, no matter what. Their goal is to turn back the clock and travel back into time so they can do what their predecessors failed to do in 1947, prevent the division and destruction of Palestine by the United Nations mandate and block the creation of Israel. Their strategy to achieve this goal is as stupid as is their leadership, which is driven not by reasoned, commonsense strategies for success, but by formulas of failure based on unrestrained emotion and hatred.
This hatred of Israel and Jews is not embraced by all Arabs. In fact, most Arabs don’t hate Israel or Jews. They are just mad at Israel and Jews. They are mad because they recognize the righteousness of the Palestinian cause.
But the extremists, who are a minority faction in our Arab community, step in and bully the mainstream Arabs into silence. Arabs are afraid to stand up to the extremists who often direct their hate and anger against Arabs even more than they do against Israel. So the mainstream Arabs remain silent. It’s better to not say anything, the moderates mistakenly conclude, than to stand up to the fanatics.
That’s why the fanatics hate me so much. I reject their failed leadership and their absence of commonsense strategies to achieve a Palestinian state. And I reject their idiotic mob mentality that denounces anyone who does anything in Israel.
Oh the extremists love you when you don’t cross that line of “normalization,” which is to act in a moral and ethical manner in dealing with Israel. And for years they loved me when I criticized Israel, but kept my mouth shut about their extremist fanaticism that enabled violence and that is as much to blame for Palestine’s failure as is Israel’s own extremist movement which has blocked Palestine.
This week, a Palestinian-Jordanian band based in Amman, Jordan, Autostrad, applied and received a visa from Israel’s embassy in Amman, Jordan, to perform in Israel. Performances were booked in Nazareth and Haifa in Israel, and in Ramallah and the Golan Heights in the Occupied Israeli territories.
The extremists are now engaged in bullying the members of the band, calling them “traitors” and “mutaba” or, in English, “normalizers.” They are being denounced as “Palestinian Zionists,” a label some of the fanatics have thrown at me for committing the “ultimate haram” – I married a Jewish woman and have a Jewish son.
But I urge Autostrad to stick to their principles. If we believe Israel must be a democratic country where Jews and non-Jews should be treated equal, then we can fight to bring equality to the non-Jews of Israel, Arabs who are citizens who suffer discrimination for many reasons. One reason is that Israel discriminates against non-Jews, citizens or not citizens. And another reason is that the Arabs are failures at fighting for Palestinian rights in Israel and in the Middle East.
That’s right, let me repeat it. The Arabs are failures at fighting for Palestinian rights. Their emotion overcomes logic and reason so they are incapable of being effective. They can’t establish a Palestinian state because they are consumed with destroying Israel.
Well, Israel happens to have Palestinians living in it and they deserve to see and hear Autostrad and other performers who are bringing their message of peace to the world. In fact, Palestinians should go out of their way to bring their message and their culture not just to Arabs in Israel but to Israelis and to American Jews.
You can’t beat Israel with hate. But you can achieve freedom through principle and justice and fairness. We need to send our message and communicate our rights to the Israelis as much as we need to support those Palestinians who suffer under Israel’s racist societal policies. Instead of yelling and screaming hate against Israel at Arab conferences, we should be bringing our talents and culture and the power of our Palestinian heritage inside Israel to Israeli audiences.
Let them see who we really are, because we are not the fanatics and the extremist activists who use hatred to silence the Arab majority. We are a culturally rich people with a history and I will use every opportunity to take that culture and present it to Israelis and Jews whenever I can in columns and yes, even through standup comedy. Humor is the most powerful means of communication and comedy is a powerful means of confronting hatred and discrimination.
While the Palestinians wait another 65 years for an intelligent activist leadership to arrive, we should resist the idiot fanatics who try to silence us and bully us with names like “mutaba” and “normalization.” We should stand up for our rights and bring our message of peace directly into Israel.
In 2007, during three comedy tours of Israel that I performed, dozens of Israelis came up and said that it changed how they viewed us. It made them see us as human beings, rather than as terrorists who wanted to blow them up. It replaced the ugly stereotype that some activists reinforce with their stupidity and hatred with an image that the Palestinians are a just and fair people. We are a good people. Palestinians are a moral people and a principled people.
We, the Palestinians, are not the loudmouthed, but small collective of extremists who spew vicious hatred and promote confrontation and would rather have violence and conflict than peace. We Palestinians want our state. But we also want peace. We want an environment where we can be free to travel, live and respect each other.
If that is what normalization means, then the extremists can call me whatever they want. I just won’t be a loser like them who drags Palestine down to their failed insanity of hatred.

American Muslims Performing Hajj Attacked in Saudi Arabia. By Rahat Husain.

Americans performing Hajj attacked in Saudi Arabia. By Rahat Husain. Washington Times, October 18, 2013.

Chicago Stealing from Poor, Giving to Rich. By Walter Russell Mead.

Chicago Stealing from Poor, Giving to Rich. By Walter Russell Mead. Via Meadia, October 22, 2013.


Chicago, like New York City, is becoming a microcosm of California, a two-tiered society where public policy props up and privileges the tastes of the rich while ignoring the needs of the poor. A new piece in City Journal explains that Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s ostensibly painful and difficult cuts to services like public safety and schools are actually more like a diversion of funds from blighted residents to wealthy ones. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been used to fund a bike share program, a “riverwalk”, a hiking trail, and (what else?) a sports arena, even as Chicago public education and law enforcement sectors are facing deep crises.
City Journal explains that Mayor Emanuel is relying on something called Tax Increment Financing (TIF) subsidies to fund upper-class projects at the expense of basic social services, in the hopes of luring in new wealthy residents and keeping the ones who are thinking about moving:
Chicago’s TIF program has long been criticized as a mayoral slush fund. Ostensibly a tool for redeveloping blighted neighborhoods, TIF enables any new tax dollars generated in a district—the so-called “increment”—to be fed back into a special fund that can only be spent in that district. This projected revenue stream can be used to back bonds to finance infrastructure and jump-start development. At least, that’s the theory. Many of Chicago’s most prosperous neighborhoods are located in TIF districts and have generated huge incremental revenues. The Central Loop TIF district took in nearly $1 billion over its lifetime. When the district was slated to expire due to a statutory sunset, the city created the giant LaSalle Central TIF—covering a booming part of the West Loop—to replace it. None of the taxes from new developments in these districts flows automatically to police, libraries, parks, or schools. The funds go into the city’s TIF account, and the mayor has discretion on how they’re spent. Some TIF funds have been used for construction of new schools, but more than half have been handed out as subsidies to private businesses. The true purpose of Chicago’s TIF districts—which now take in about $500 million per year—appears to be tending to high-end residents, businesses, and tourists, while insulating them from the poorer segments of the city.
Chicago is clearly afraid of sharing Detroit’s fate: losing wealthy residents and their sizable tax dollars. Mayor Emanuel is banking on the hope that keeping the rich folk happy will provide enough revenue over the long run to fund the social services that the less fortunate depend on. This is a big gamble: if the $100 million waterfront boardwalk and $54 million biking trail turn out to be boondoggles that do nothing for the one percent, the closure of dozens of public schools and thinning out of a police force during an internationally famous murder epidemic will be difficult to defend. Our guess is that Chicago will continue to hemorrhage the residents it has faster than it can attract high-income new ones.
But if it pays off, Chicago will approach something like Mayor Bloomberg’s New York. Under Bloomberg, New York thrived as the “Luxury City,” home to a small contingent of super rich, accompanied by a large, struggling servant class. It’s possible, if not always easy, for these two groups to coexist, but the high taxes, regulations, and high cost of living have driven the middle class out in droves. The cutting edge of blue urban policy, then, is catering to the rich at the expense of the middle class.
Cutting funds from schools, police, libraries, and parks while funding chic promenades and trendy nature walks to mollify the rich is not what many blue city voters think they’re voting for.

New York’s Blue Suicide. By Walter Russell Mead. Via Meadia, October 15, 2012.

Well-Heeled in the Windy City. By Aaron M. Renn. City Journal, October 16, 2013.

Rahm Emanuel splurges on amenities for the elite, while poor and middle-class Chicagoans suffer.

The gentry liberals. By Joel Kotkin and Fred Siegel. Los Angeles Times, December 2, 2007.

They’re more concerned with global warming and gay rights than with lunch-pail joes.

Kotkin and Siegel:

After decades on the political sidelines, liberalism is making a comeback. Polls show plunging support for Republicans and their brand of conservatism among young, independent voters and Latinos. But what kind of liberalism is emerging as the dominant voice in the Democratic Party?
Well, it isn’t your father's liberalism, the ideology that defended the interests and values of the middle and working classes. The old liberalism had its flaws, but it also inspired increased social and economic mobility, strong protections for unions, the funding of a national highway system and a network of public parks, and the development of viable public schools. It also invented Social Security and favored a strong foreign policy.
Today’s ascendant liberalism has a much different agenda. Call it “gentry liberalism.” It’s not driven by the lunch-pail concerns of those workers struggling to make it in an increasingly high-tech, information-based, outsourcing U.S. economy – though it does pay lip service to them.
Rather, gentry liberalism reflects the interests and values of the affluent winners in the era of globalization and the beneficiaries of the “financialization” of the economy. Its strongholds are the tony neighborhoods and luxurious suburbs in and around New York, Washington, Boston, San Francisco and West Los Angeles.
Just as the number of industrial workers and traditional middle-class households has declined, the ranks of the affluent class have grown. From 2000 to 2005, the number of millionaires in the U.S. rose 26%. Meanwhile, households with incomes of more than $100,000 a year were the most rapidly growing income category, according to Ogilvy & Mather demographer Peter Francese. From 1994 to 2004, the number of six-figure-income households jumped 54%.
Although many of the newly affluent are – as is traditional – politically conservative, a rising number of them are turning left. Surveys done by the Pew Research Center indicate that an increasing number of households with annual incomes greater than $135,000 – the nation's top 10% – are moving toward the Democrats. In 1995, there were nearly twice as many Republicans (46%) as Democrats (25%) in this category. Today, there are as many Democrats (31%) as Republicans (32%).
The political upshot is that Democrats now control the majority of the nation’s wealthiest congressional districts, according to Michael Franc of the conservative Heritage Foundation.
In part, this is because the Democratic gains in the 2006 elections were in affluent districts once held by the Republicans. In Iowa, for instance, the three wealthiest districts now send Democrats to Washington, and the two poorest are safe Republican seats.
Perhaps the best indicator of the growing political power of gentry liberals, however, is their ability to generate campaign contributions. Chiefly drawing on Wall Street, Hollywood and the Silicon Valley, this year's Democratic presidential candidates have raised 70% more money than their GOP counterparts, according to the Wall Street Journal. The securities industry, which awarded Republicans 58% of their campaign dollars in 1956, gave the GOP only 45% in 2006. In the newest sectors of the securities industry, most notably hedge funds, Democrats are favored. This year, hedge fund managers have given 77% of their contributions to Democrats in congressional races, reported the Journal.
Gentry liberalism is not an entirely new phenomenon. Its intellectual roots can be traced to historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.’s 1948 book, The Vital Center. Schlesinger himself was the archetype of the gentry liberal. A product of Harvard University, he was as comfortable in the fashionable precincts of Manhattan’s Upper East Side as he was advising presidents in Washington. Schlesinger was suspicious of the traditional liberalism of President Truman, who baldy appealed to the basic interests of returning middle- and working-class veterans of World War II.
In The Vital Center, Schlesinger dismissed both the then-largely Republican business class, as well as mainstream Democratic politicians like Truman, because he thought they were too craven in their appeals to middle- and working-class interests. He believed that government should be in the hands of “an intelligent aristocracy” – essentially men like himself – whose governance would be guided by what it considered enlightened policy rather than class interests.
Since the 1960s, the intellectual class epitomized by Schlesinger has grown many times over. Academic liberals have become something of a political power in their own right. College campuses constituted the largest single base of contributors to the 2004 presidential campaign of Sen. John Kerry. Professors are among the highly compensated and pampered professional cadres of the knowledge economy – which also includes lawyers, engineers, doctors, wealth managers, investors and other educated professionals – that make up the ranks of gentry liberalism and flatter the politicians who advocate its positions.
Gentry liberalism has established a strong presence on the Internet, where such websites as MoveOn.org and the Huffington Post are lavishly funded by well-heeled liberals. These and other sites generally focus on foreign policy, gay rights, abortion and other social issues, as well as the environment. Traditional middle-class concerns such as the unavailability of affordable housing, escalating college tuitions and the shrinking number of manufacturing jobs usually don’t rank as top concerns.
But gentry liberalism’s increasingly “green tint” distances it the furthest from the values and interests of the middle and working classes. Leading gentry liberals, whether on Wall Street, in Hollywood or in Silicon Valley, are among the greatest scolds on global warming. They justifiably excoriate the Bush administration for its overall environmental record, but some of them – movie stars, investment bankers, dot-com billionaires – are quick to insulate themselves from charges that their private jets or 20,000-square-foot vacation homes in Nantucket spew prodigious amounts of carbon dioxide. Repentance typically includes the purchase of carbon “offsets,” parcels of rain forests, hybrid vehicles or solar panels.
The gentry liberal crusade to tighten U.S. environmental regulations to slow global warming could end up hurting middle- and working-class interests. U.S. industry needs time and incentives to develop new technologies to replace carbon-based energy. If it doesn’t get them, and an overly aggressive anti-carbon regime is instituted, the shift of manufacturing, energy and shipping jobs to developing countries with weak environmental laws and regulations could accelerate.
Ignoring these potential Third World environmental costs would result only in shifting the geography of greenhouse gas emissions without slowing global warming – and at a terrible cost to jobs in the U.S.
The ascent of gentry liberalism remains largely unchallenged, in part because of the abject failure of the Republicans to address middle-class aspirations in a serious way and in part because of the absence of a strong pro-middle-class voice among Democratic presidential contenders, with the exception of former Sen. John Edwards. As a result, Democrats are unlikely to stop, let alone reverse, the current economic trend that dispenses major benefits to gentry-favored sectors such as private equity firms, dot-com giants and entertainment media.
Over the last half a century, liberals have moved from strong support for basic middle-class concerns – epitomized by the New Deal and the G.I. Bill – to policies that reflect the concerns and prejudices of ever more elite interests. As a result, neither party speaks for broad middle class concerns.
The nation deserves better than that.

Can America Rediscover Its Jeffersonian Foreign Policy? By George Friedman.

Can America Rediscover Its Jeffersonian Foreign Policy? By George Friedman. Real Clear World, October 22, 2013.

Why Muslims Should Love Secularism. By Hussein Ibish.

Why Muslims should love secularism. By Hussein Ibish. NOW Lebanon, October 22, 2013.

Though secularism is widely misunderstood as anti-religious and iconoclastic, all it means is the neutrality of the state on religious affairs.

Assad’s Terror-Famine. By Michael Weiss.

Assad’s Terror-Famine. By Michael Weiss. Real Clear World, October 20, 2013. Also at NOW Lebanon.

No Ordinary Violence. By Sam Harris.

No Ordinary Violence. By Sam Harris. SamHarris.org, October 11, 2013.

Islam and the Misuses of Ecstasy. By Sam Harris. SamHarris.org, June 9, 2013.

Sam Harris slurs Malala: Famed atheist wrongly co-opts teenager’s views. By Murtaza Hussain. Salon, October 19, 2013.

Head-in-the-Sand Liberals. By Sam Harris. NJBR, February 1, 2013. Originally published September 18, 2006.

Coyne’s Twisted History of Science and Religion. By Alex B. Berezow and James Hannam.

Coyne’s Twisted History of Science and Religion. By Alex B. Berezow and James Hannam. Real Clear Science, October 21, 2013.

Did Christianity (and other religions) promote the rise of science? By Jerry A. Coyne. Why Evolution Is True, October 18, 2013.

Richard Carrier on Ancient Science. By James Hannam. Quodlibeta, September 16, 2010.