Axis and Allies – 2008 to 2014

This post is going to be relatively simple despite the significant research that went into creating it.  I am going to show you two images of the Eurasian/North African realms – one from 2008, as George W. Bush’s presidency was coming to an end and one from today as the 2014 midterm elections begin to loom on the horizon.

On each image, I have color coded each nation according to its diplomatic, political and social affiliation with the United States (and more broadly, with the concept of liberty).

Five classifications are present in each map, and they are:

  • Enemy – A state which is actively engaged in the mission of undermining the United States through diplomatic, financial or military channels or by forging alliances with other existing enemy combatants or by making war against its own people or against civil liberties on a scale large enough to be a global outrage and a particular affront to the goals of the United States.
  • Leans Enemy – A state which is indirectly engaged in efforts to undermine the United States as outlined above, but refrains from actively attacking American interests or maintains even the slightest (productive) diplomatic relationship with the United States.
  • Unaffiliated – A country with no ties to American interests or a muddled relationship with the U.S.
  • Leans Friendly – Maintains a positive working relationship with the U.S. economically, diplomatically or in joint military ventures through the international community, but is not widely considered a significant U.S. ally.
  • Ally – A nation which is unquestionably an ally of the United States through treaty, international military cooperation, deep economic partnerships and common civic goals.
I will admit, upfront, that there is an element of subjectivity in the placement of each nation at any given time and that in some cases, an argument could be made for a different placement.  I am stating this in advance because I expect viewers of this post to approach the analysis with the same realization (that how they’d characterize the situation is also subjective in some sense).
Now – the images.  First from the end of the Bush years:
Now from the sixth year of Obama’s term in office:
The differences here really aren’t all that subtle, but I’ll outline each change I made with a note on why I made the change and leave it up to the reader to decide if I have the analysis right on the whole.  From west to east, those changes are:
  • Morocco – Ally to Leans Friendly
    • Morocco remains one of the most westernized of nations in Africa and maintains strong diplomatic ties with the E.U. and the U.S. – however, during the Arab Spring and on several occasions since, this country has been rocked by bouts of protests, terror attacks and general unrest as the population becomes increasingly radical with time.
  • Algeria – Unaffiliated to Leans Enemy
    • Algeria was never a particularly stable regime, but now serves as a refuge for Islamic extremists who go border-hopping to evade capture and boasts and government interested in forging ties with Egypt (once a good sign…now, not so much)
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina – Leans Enemy to Unaffiliated
    • Scars from Clinton’s largest military engagement remain, but Bosnia is in the process of normalizing its diplomatic relations with the west.
  • Tunisia – Leans Enemy to Enemy
    • Tunisia was the second nation to experience a popular uprising during the Arab Spring.  A population that has always leaned toward radical or conservative Islam has become a place where violence and anti-American sentiments run rampant.  Just a few weeks back, a spree of Christian lynchings broke out in Tunisia, with apparent government support.
  • Libya – Unaffiliated to Enemy
    • The US.’s relationship with Gaddafi was never easy – the man was nutters after all.  But in exchange for his personal comfort and prestige within the international community, he was cooperative with U.S. and E.U. interests.  Hardly an ally, but certainly not an enemy, Gaddafi’s deposition in Libya and subsequent death turned the nation over to Al Qaeda affiliated groups, culminating in the incident in Benghazi along with bombings of several other western embassies.
  • Chad – Unaffiliated to Leans Enemy
    • You don’t hear too much about Chad in the news, but it has moved into the red due to a rise in terrorist attacks in recent years and a lack of any significant response from its governing authorities.
  • Ukraine – Leans Friendly to Leans Enemy
    • Significantly, as Bush was on his way out, he promised fringe nations in Eastern Europe a missile defense system.  Obama promptly ended those plans.  In the years since, Russia has become increasingly aggressive here, ending in the attack on the Crimean Peninsula.  This, by itself, wouldn’t land The Ukraine in the enemy camp, but the nation is getting zero support from the U.S. or the E.U. (the U.S. because Obama doesn’t want to get bogged down in any new military conflicts, the E.U. because many of its member states depend on Russian oil exports), and is now forced to accept Russian intervention.  Their government may not WISH to be a Russian puppet state, but that is where they are.
  • Turkey – Leans Friendly to Leans Enemy
    • Much has been said in the press regarding Turkey’s alarming tilt toward Islamic extremism.  In fact, their legislature is now majority Sharia, if not in official affiliation, then in deed.  There remains hope of functional ties with Turkey, but they should be viewed with extreme skepticism.
  • Egypt – Leans Friendly to Leans Enemy
    • Egypt played a key role in joint military operations against Saddam Hussein and has long helped broker lasting treaties in the region, even with Israel.  But the Arab Spring turned the nation over the Muslim Brotherhood (who claimed to be a moderate Muslim organization but whose stated goals included the destruction of Israel and the institution of Sharia Law)…the people rose up against the Brotherhood (mostly because they proved to be completely ineffectual at governing and the Egyptian economy cratered), and the nation is now ruled by the military (at least for now).  Still, all signs point to a nation headed for either chaotic anarchy or Islamic rule.
  • Sudan – Leans Enemy to Enemy
    • The Sudanese have always had a penchant for acts of aggression against the west through embassy attacks, the harboring of terrorists, etc, but now their government has gone to all out war against Christianity.
  • South Sudan – Leans Enemy to Enemy
    • See above
  • Kenya – Leans Friendly to Unaffiliated
    • Here, too, the local population has turned more and more fervently toward radical Islam – though Kenya has yet to be directly involved in anything U.S. related.
  • Somalia – Leans Enemy to Enemy
    • Somali control of the Gulf of Aden has always been a bit dicey in recent years, but they’ve taken to attempts at halting western trade through the Red Sea and support inhumane attacks on trade in with the west.
  • Ethiopia – Leans Enemy to Enemy
    • Ethiopia has long been a country on the edge of self-destruction, with three tribal ethnic groups shoehorned into one border.  But, of late, this has become an even more brutal place to live, particularly for anyone not affiliated with their ruling class.
  • Eritrea – Leans Friendly to Leans Enemy
    • The U.S. has held significant military positions here for decades, but that will soon be at an end if the Eritrean people have anything to say about it.  Recent reports of significant anti-western anti-Christian, anti-military protests and terror attacks have turned this strip of Red Sea coastline into a minor war zone.
  • Yemen – Unaffiliated to Leans Enemy
  • Oman – Unaffiliated to Leans Enemy
    • Both Yemen and Oman leaned much more heavily on Saudi Arabia for economic relations and border security as the entire region has destabilized.  Neither nation is outwardly aggressive toward the U.S. or the West, but as Saudi Arabia has trended further and further toward an alliance with Iran, so too have its neighbor states.
  • United Arab Emirates – Leans Friendly to Unaffiliated
    • Here too, the U.S. used to routinely partner with the U.A.E. militarily (they allowed us to launch our attacks on Iraq from their soil, as did Qatar, for example), but lately, the U.A.E. has been naking noises about expelling our forces and stepping up diplomatic relations with the Saudis.
  • Qatar – Leans Friendly to Unaffiliated
    • In Qatar’s case, their still speak of productive relations with the U.S., but internally, they are becoming a refuge for international criminals and terrorists.  This one bears watching.
  • Saudi Arabia – Leans Enemy to Enemy
    • Although the Saudis still maintain important business connections with the U.S., there can be no doubt that they have become much bolder in their opposition to Israel, to the U.S. and the west.  Not only have they been emboldened by our general withdrawal from the region – they have actively sought dialogue with Iran – a known combatant.
  • Jordan – Unaffiliated to Leans Enemy
    • Jordan has previously been somewhat helpful in defending Israel from the advancing cause of Palestinian militants.  However, the country has recently backed Palestinian independence without conditions (the Israelis wish to be granted the same recognition that they would give the Palestinians – a reasonable request that Jordan does not favor).  On top of this, they’ve become involved in dealings with overflowing Syrian rebels and have been less than helpful in international manhunts for terrorist criminals evading capture.
  • Lebanon – Leans Friendly to Leans Enemy
    • This is a very sad story…Lebanon is in an unfortunate position geographically, and cannot really defend its own borders – they are becoming a war-torn victim of geographic proximity.
  • Palestine – Nonexistent to Enemy
    • The U.N. voted to recognize Palestine as an independent state – a development that heavily complicates peace negotiations with Israel.  Notably, Obama spoke out in favor of this.
  • Iraq – Leans Enemy to Enemy
    • We’re all aware of the recent collapse of the Iraqi army, the intervention of the Iranian military in the conquest of ISIS, and the renewed military aggression from the U.S. in response.  Clearly, Iraq is behind enemy lines at this point.
  • Azerbaijan – Leans Friendly to Unaffiliated
  • Armenia – Leans Friendly to Unaffiliated
    • Both Azerbaijan and Armenia sit in a rather precarious, narrow strip of land between Turkey (and its increasingly radical population) and the Caspian Sean (and other potential U.S. foes to the east and south).  They have, understandably, gotten nervous about showing support for the west.
  • Afghanistan – Leans Enemy to Enemy (in progress)
    • I’m cheating a little bit on this one.  Obama is using the same exit strategy that he used in Iraq and a similar progression of ever-increasing violence has already begun in Afghanistan as the Taliban – once on the run – masses its forces from the western border with Iran and prepares to retake the country once we’re gone.  The government of Afghanistan is understandably annoyed with us over this pending disaster.
  • Pakistan – Unaffiliated to Leans Enemy
    • Meanwhile, Pakistan has drifted away from obligations with the U.S. on the economic and diplomatic fronts and stepped up development of its nuclear program (including a few unauthorized tests to intimidate its Indian neighbors).
  • Tajikistan – Unaffiliated to Leans Enemy
  • Kyrgyzstan – Unaffiliated to Leans Enemy
    • And in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, Islamic extremists are gaining a foothold in local governments and street-level violence is on the rise.
  • Burma – Leans Friendly to Unaffiliated
    • This is more of an economic ding – the Burmese have entered into a number of trade agreements with the Chinese to accept currency other than the USD – a development that threatens U.S. interests.
  • Taiwan – Leans Friendly to Leans Enemy
    • And, here’s an unfortunate bit of news – Taiwan has recently beenn usurped by a military coup supported by the people – likely as a result of increasing aggression by the Chinese in the South China Sea.
Honorable mention: Russia – I nearly moved them into the enemies camp, but held back for now, noting that we still have significant diplomatic contact with Putin…he is certainly a major threat, but I’ll wait a bit before declaring him an enemy combatant.
WOW!  These maps look like the expanding hot zone from “Outbreak” (remember that scene where they projected how the outbreak would spread?) – I don’t claim that Obama is the only person responsible for this.  In fact, a good argument can be made that some of this shifting was a long time coming and that the end of the overarching influence of WWII era land grants to various allied territories (and the subsequent power of the Arab Kings) was bound to yield a turn toward chaos, at least for a time as a power void opened up.  BUT…apologists for the Obama Administration cannot possibly look at the situation today and claim that they had a positive influence in any way.  And frankly, these maps tell a story for which Obama must bear some responsibility.
I’d love to do the same kind of analysis for the beginning and end of Reagan’s presidency. 🙂

The Debate is Over! – Part II – Scandals? What Scandals?

Here, in the shortest bulleted list possible, is the leftist formula for handling a scandal.  As one of our conservative blogger friends recently pointed out, this is hardly a new formula – it kept Nicholas II in power for far too long even though he had the intellectual maturity of a dog and the cunning of a mosquito, and it allowed Stalin to maintain a positive image well into the 50s…well beyond the beginning of the gulags and the mass graves and the reallocations.

  • STEP 1: Scandal?  What are you talking about?
  • STEP 2: Well this is appalling!  I just heard about it reading the paper and am as shocked and angry as you!
  • STEP 3: How dare my opponents get mad about this – they have never liked me and are eager to play politics with this admittedly unfortunate error (see…he went from outraged to oh it’s an unfortunate error)
  • STEP 4: The real scandal is the politics of the right! (try to deflect anger to a scapegoat your supporters already don’t like)
  • STEP 5: **stonewall investigations for a year at least…refuse to discuss with reporters, who quickly lose interest when nothing new happens**
  • STEP 6: What?  Why are we even still talking about this…it’s old news and it wasn’t a big deal anyway! (minimize and give your supporters license to ignore the “error”)
  • STEP 7: Look…the debate about this is OVER…we won that argument…now you’re just talking sour grapes, you ingrate! (dismiss even TALKING about the scandal as radical)
  • STEP 8: Fire non-significant employee or two, perhaps, or send people away on administrative leave and reassign them.  Claim this has nothing to do with the scandal itself, but let the press scapegoat this person.
  • STEP 9: Scandal?  What are you talking about?  Never happened.  All those things that happened had nothing to do with us. (deny and start again)
Obama, in his time in office has had ELEVEN major scandals break…scandals larger than the one that felled Warren G. Harding.  Some larger than the one that felled Richard Nixon and Spiro T. Agnew.
The teapot dome scandal was about land use rights and cronyism in an era when liberals despised crony capitalists and conservatives despised crony unionism.  So it was a minor issue really…but a well-timed minor issue.
Watergate undermined the American electorate’s confidence in the election process at a time when democracy seemed under attack by the forces of extremism (high profile assassinations abound).  But Nixon killed no one and there’s no evidence that the information he gathered illegally changed anything of substance to the 1972 election or the policy discussions of the day.  It was more about what it said about Nixon as a person, I suspect.
But here…let’s bullet point the scandals of the Obama years:
  • IRS, under direction from top-level DC lawyers supervising their conduct, targets enemies of the President for unfair scrutiny and attempts to alter electoral outcomes.
  • NSA, under direction from fellow Democrats in the Senate Security Committee (albeit with bipartisan support), spies on every phone e, email account, and media outlet without oversight.
  • VA literally murders dozens, perhaps hundreds of elderly veterans (!) by forcing them to wait years for medical care they were owed for their service and then lies about the wait times to gain career advancement perks.
  • National Parks authorities use a government shutdown to close open air public spaces never before closed and are heard saying they believe their job is to make the shutdown “hurt as much as possible.”
  • Affordable Care Act – passed in a back-channel Senate vote that broke Senate rules of procedure while House Majority Leader says we need to read it to know what’s in there – debuts with a catastrophic failure of management.
  • Fast and Furious gun running program, under the direction of top-level Justice Department officials, gets a US serviceman killed and results in the deaths of hundreds of innocent Mexicans.
  • Obama publicly threatens on multiple occasions to use the executive order to circumvent the legislative authority of congress (and does so ten times more often than any previous U.S. President ever has, issuing 62 executive orders in 6 years compared to 8 from Bush Jr. and no more than 4 by any other President)
  • Justice Department spies on media figures in an attempt to force them to reveal undisclosed sources without a warrant or probably cause.
  • GSA caught squandering billions of dollars on parties, “conferences” and other luxuries.
  • Obama trades five of the worst war criminals held in Guantanamo Bay for a deserter and Taliban sympathizer and publicly states that he did this in the hopes that it would engender confidence in future negotiations between the U.S. and the Taliban (NOT the people actually ruling Afghanistan…the guys we put into power in the first place because the Taliban was so dangerous and corrupt)…and does this without the approval of the UN, the Afghan government, his own Cabinet or the Senate Security Committee.
  • FCC threatens news networks that it will audit their content for “fairness” and attempts to regulate the speed and price of the internet.
  • And of course…Obama’s senior State Dept. officials claim an obvious terrorist attack 9/11/12 in Benghazi that resulted in the deaths of four US Citizens…was a spontaneous demonstration gone bad in response to some little-viewewd YouTube video…and then covered up evidence that they knew this “misstatement of facts” to be a lie when the story was first concocted.
WOW!!!
That this guy’s approval rating is 42% to 44% says more about his propaganda tactics and his handling of scandals (with media compliance, incredibly) than about any individual policy objective.
The danger of declaring that the debate is over…encapsulated by 6 years of constant scandal and lawbreaking by our most powerful official and his various appointed cronies.

No Gun Ever Killed Anyone

Read the article below. Read it now!

No Gun Ever Killed Anyone

Stop saying the warning signs were missed.  They were not missed.  The Rodger family was begging, pleading for help from therapists, the police; just as did my own family, my mother, my sister, Sally, my cousins, nephews and I intervened our guts out to absolutely no avail.  There is no system left in this country to deal with these traumas. This is a mental health issue and no more. We are surrounded by phony bleeding hearts who can coolly step over the sacred bodies of the wretchedly ill lying about our streets and sashay into a shop to eat a sandwich.  Shame on all of you and may an huge share of the blame fall upon the shoulders of the perpetrators of this mercilessness, my sister, Kate Millett, and her fawning, ghoulish band of “liberating” acolytes.  These people are the ones responsible for this chaos in our world. 

Looking for a social injustice to rage against? Try this on for size. It is tragic – and unconscionable – that so many of our mentally ill are left to languish on our streets. Only a small percentage of these will go on to commit violent crimes, true, but even the benign schizophrenic deserves more than to live life in a pee-soaked gutter.

Food For Thought

Kevin Durant and Inequality

Conservatives do care about poverty. We have a whole color-coded portfolio of good ideas for how to tackle it. But if the public is disinclined to believe this, that may sometimes be our own fault. 

Conservatives love freedom, personal responsibility and spirited individualism. Those are wonderful (and very American) values that we are right to cherish. But we could perhaps be more discerning at times about choosing our talking points.

Yes. The right’s economic arguments, even if they’re 100% correct, are overly-technical and distant from the lives of many ordinary Americans. If we want to bring people to our side, we need to meet them where they are and present solutions to their problems that will strike them as both viable and compassionate. What’s more, we need to be more aggressive in assigning blame where it’s actually due. Why are so many inner city neighborhoods dysfunctional? That’s not the fault of the right; the right hasn’t had political control in the inner cities for decades. And if there’s any truth to the perception that people of color are not equally respected in the academy, might the animating assumptions behind affirmative action be the key contributing factor?

I do think we could do better when it comes to things like race and gender relations — even if I don’t agree with the left’s proposed fascistic “solutions.” What if we took concepts like “privilege” and “social justice” — and then cleverly turned them on their heads? What if we acknowledged the problems highlighted by the left — but then vigorously challenged the left’s explanations for their existence? Would we be more successful? I welcome your thoughts below!

Five Alarm Fire

This would probably be best placed on our education blog, but I don’t have posting privileges over there (we know the score…my sister is an educator…I’m just a guy with an opinion…LOL)

DO NOT let your children use mobile devices.  At all.  Until they are at least 16.

FIVE ALARM FIRE

Of course, I didn’t actually need a study in England to tell me that what I’m seeing of young people today is a bad thing.  I have been watching the changes even in college kids today…their attention spans are disappearing (and I thought I was bad!).

But evidently…it’s more than just attention, focus, and ambition that are disappearing behind a firewall of Facebook addiction and time-wasting games.

There has been a misguided move, lately, to use these things as educational devices in schools and at home…to park kids in front of these tablets and “teach” through games.  Parents cheer as their child learns the skills that they believe will be necessary in the new world order…like how to do Apple’s range of finger manipulations to get a response from an iPad.

But…at the same time, their kids are losing the ability to do the simplest things with real world objects.

This…is not good.

Who’s Anti-Science Again?

This article is a tad old, but someone linked it on Sarah Hoyt’s blog, and I think it belongs here:

The Party of Science Has Absolutely No Clue What It’s Talking About

From spirituality to environmentalism to financial economics, we hear, conservatives’ insufficient educations leave them unable to see past shadow and superstition. The right buys blissful ignorance by disengaging from reality. 

But liberals’ intellects deprive them of this luxury. Cursed with vision keen enough to see in shades of grey, progressives cannot help but examine all the evidence and see what makes sense. Building a messy worldview out of complicated facts may be less viscerally satisfying than dictating from dogma, we’re informed, but it is infinitely more honest. So when you’re looking for leaders who will actually improve people’s lives, the talented technocrats beat the Manichean moralists eight days a week. 

Policy should belong to pragmatists, the story concludes. And thus politics should belong to progressives. 

This narrative serves America well save for two minor flaws: It’s a lie and it hurts people. Confirmation bias and ex post rationalization are human universals, not the exclusive province of the political right. Every day, the best interests of vulnerable people are sacrificed on the altar of leftist faiths as ironclad any conservative presuppositions.

I still remember the time a left-wing college professor tried to convince me that “Right to Work” states were at the bottom of the rankings in educational attainment by comparing the SAT and ACT scores of several northern states with a strong union presence to the SAT and ACT scores of said “Right to Work” states. He conveniently forgot, of course, that his favored states are lilly white and pretty affluent, whereas Texas, Virginia, et. al., are poorer on average and more diverse. Gee — you think Virginia’s SAT scores might be lower because we have more English language learners than, say, Wisconsin? Sure enough, when I looked at recent NAEP scores and controlled for obvious confounding variables like race and income, Virginia did better, not worse, when it came to educating disadvantaged populations and shrinking achievement gaps (though, let’s be frank, Virginia’s NAEP scores were still horrid by any reasonable objective standard, so hobbling union power is certainly no more a panacea than school choice).

As the author of the article above notes, the left can be pretty damned illiterate scientifically (and innumerate too!) when it suits their interests. They also love to ignore the science that challenges their treasured “sexual revolution,” including the very strong case for traditional marriage as the best context for child-raising and the evidence that gender differences go beyond our naughty bits. And let’s not forget the “progressives” who overstate the dangers of fracking, nuclear power, and childhood vaccinations!

There’s nothing that annoys me more than a leftist who boasts that he is smarter and more educated than “those idiot conservatives.” That arrogance is completely unearned.

The Debate Is Over – PART I (Climate Science)

I was going to make a general commentary on the disturbing tendency for academics, far leftists, and the media/political alliance to declare subjects out of bounds and the deleterious impacts that such a tendency have on a free society…but I decided, instead to do this in a few parts…and let other speak for me, since I am not likely to be any more articulate than others more fully in the chattering class.

We’ll start…with a science hero of mine.  Dr. Judith Curry.  She has a personal journey that rivals few others in science…from idealistic young atmospheric scientist with a dream to help others and make the world better…to hard-line global warming agitator, to cautiously skeptical AGW supporter to full blown skeptic.

Now (and I didn’t plan this when I declared my political topic of the week) – she takes aim at the tendency of climate scientists to declare “facts” which are shaky theories and claim the debate is over.

Judith Curry – Role Model

Well worth a read, including the linked white paper she has recently published on her blog (found in the article I cross-linked).

The Swooning Victorian Maidens of Feminism & the Abuse of PTSD

Of all the books I was assigned to read for school growing up, perhaps my favorite was To Kill a Mockingbird. My ninth grade honors English class was scheduled to read and analyze this novel a few chapters at a time over the course of several weeks — but I plowed through it in a matter of days. At the time, I strongly identified with Scout; even now, I think she is one of American literature’s finest portrayals of an Odd making her way through childhood. I also appreciated – and continue to appreciate – the classically liberal, Christian values that animate the story. Most people remember Atticus’ honorable choice to defend a black man in a criminal case even though, in the 1930’s segregated South, he was sure to lose because that’s what the Hollywood adaptation focuses on — but beyond that, the novel is about the dignity of the individual and the importance of recognizing the intrinsic humanity of all of our neighbors even if they are different, behave in unpleasant ways or hold to false views. Tom Robinson’s plight is only one part of the story.

To Kill a Mockingbird is a seminal work that, I feel, all American students should read. But if certain radical feminists have their way, teachers who intend to discuss this novel in their classes will have to slap the following warning on their syllabi:
Trigger Warning: Racism, Rape, and Violence Against Children.
Further, said teachers may also be forced to permit students to skip the assignment and the accompanying class discussions if they claim emotional distress.
You may think I’m kidding, but this is already happening on certain college campuses. At the University of California, Santa Barbara, students recently passed a resolution urging campus officials to make trigger warnings mandatory for all classes. Supporters of policies like this claim that such alerts will protect students suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from content that might activate disabling symptoms. But as experts have noted, PTSD doesn’t always work so logically. Sufferers can be triggered by stimuli that have no intrinsic connection to their trauma whatsoever — like, for example, a certain song on the radio, the smell of a certain cologne, or the sound of the shower running. Even the word “rape” poses no predictable danger; one survivor of sexual assault may react very negatively to a particular discussion of rape while another may have no reaction at all. Because each individual reacts to trauma differently, therefore, there can be no rational basis for issuing warnings. So what is likely to happen? Certain works – and certain topics – will gradually become verboten as professors scramble to accommodate every complaint, no matter how trivial and dishonest said complaints might be. After all, there will be no way to prove that a warning is or is not needed. We will only have the word of the people making the demands.
And yes — many claims of trauma are invalid. I seriously doubt there were that many ladies at Wellesley College who suffered debilitating flashbacks upon viewing a certain controversial sculpture of a nearly naked man. I think what really happened is that a number of women at the college were offended by the sculpture and found it convenient to abuse the concept of PTSD to demand its removal. Likewise, I don’t believe there are many students at Oberlin College who are so mentally fragile that reading Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart will send them into a hyperventilating panic. I do think many students might be angered or upset – Achebe’s novel does deal with racism, colonialism, and other difficult subjects – but these are healthy emotions, not a cause for informal censorship.
And even if you do have a legitimate disorder, demanding that sweeping regulations be passed to accommodate you is an ultimately Sisyphean endeavor. Because I was evidently born with a bizarrely wired brain, I have trouble filtering out certain sensations — and in some cases, this inability to filter causes psychological symptoms that do interfere with my daily functioning. But how crazy would it be if I demanded that Congress pass laws outlawing clothing tags, gum or noisy keyboards? No — it is my responsibility to remove myself from stimuli that trigger me, whether than means ripping out offending tags, going to a different room, or using headphones and a white noise app to block things out. And trust me, I know first hand that this is a difficult principle to live up to in real life. It is, however, more practical to control your own behavior than to attempt to control everyone and everything else
Overall, I think this trigger warning fad is another attempt at a feminist power grab. As I suggested above, the mental illness ploy is a delightfully effective way to manipulate people into accepting politically correct standards they wouldn’t accept otherwise because no one wants to be responsible for another’s mental breakdown. But we should challenge the PTSD facade and call the whole trigger warning concept out for what it is: another illiberal way to police speech and artistic expression.         

New Blog!

To prevent this political blog from getting completely swallowed up by my Teacher Moments, I have created a new blog on which I will share such ruminations. Please see the sidebar!

Within the week, I will cross-post some of my recent reflections to the new site. As with this blog and the sci-fi blog, my posting frequency there should be once per week.

Leftist Intolerance, Part Eleventy-Billion

As of this week, I no longer use Mozilla Firefox as my default browser.

And just so we’re clear, this is not because I necessarily agree with Brandon Eich’s decision to support the Proposition 8 campaign. On the issue of gay marriage, I am a true moderate. On the one hand, as an observant Catholic, I do believe that marriage is an indissoluble, sacramental union between a man and a woman whose purposes – procreation and unity – are categorically inseparable. In the realm of politics, however, I lean towards the libertarian position. I question the wisdom of imposing by force of law the true definition of marriage without first doing the cultural groundwork. After all, let’s face it: Marriage – genuine marriage, that is – is something we no longer value as a society — and it was the heterosexual majority, by and large, who brought about this change. Well before gay marriage became a flashpoint for controversy, straight men and women were having children out of wedlock, getting divorced and remarried, having contracepted sex, and basically treating marriage not as the serious commitment outlined above but as a vehicle for adult self-expression — and until we address this severe erosion of the marriage ideal at the level of civil society, all arguments in favor of officially codifying a proper understanding of the institution will fail to be persuasive.

Additionally, as a person of good will who has gay friends, I sympathize with the homosexual community’s yearning to be accepted and included — and, quite frankly, I feel that some people who oppose homosexual acts on moral and/or religious grounds have failed to acquit themselves well when it comes to treating their gay brothers and sisters with compassion and respect. I hear horror stories – and I have no reason to believe they’re not true – of gay young people being thrown out of their homes by parents who apparently have forgotten the principle of loving the sinner while hating the sin. I also had friends in high school who were relentlessly bullied because they were merely perceived as gay. And social conservative rhetoric? I may agree with the baseline principles, but — well, let’s just say I think some serious revision and re-framing is in order. Gays and lesbians are human beings with human longings, and while we should, for the sake of truth, continue to promote the proper definition of marriage, that does not mean we can’t – or that we shouldn’t – think of ways to answer those longings that hold fast to our convictions while simultaneously acknowledging the dignity of those who must bear the homosexual cross.

That being said, I can’t abide leftist bullies — or the quislings who cravenly yield to their demands. And make no mistake: What happened to Brandon Eich was bullying, and bullying of the most illiberal kind.

It would be one thing if leftist gays and their allies had simply decided not to use Firefox upon learning that its organization’s new CEO supported Proposition 8. Hell — if I were to learn that the CEO of a particular business were, say, an enthusiastic supporter of Planned Parenthood, I would seriously entertain the idea of going somewhere else. Boycotts are an adult, responsible way of showing your displeasure; no one should feel forced to support, monetarily or otherwise, a viewpoint one personally finds abhorrent. Driving a man out of his job for holding an “unpalatable” opinion without presenting any evidence that said opinion would lead to legitimate acts of discrimination against his employees or the customers his organization serves, however, crosses the line into blacklisting — and if it wasn’t okay to blacklist communists in Hollywood in the 1950’s, why is it suddenly okay to blacklist opponents of gay marriage now?

The left, it appears, has abandoned critical thought and civility in favor of pure, unadulterated revenge — which they then seek to justify by blurring the line between social disapproval and outright oppression. I have – no joke – seen leftists argue on Tumblr that if we “rightwing Teabaggers” approve of the Founding Fathers’ taking up arms to secure their liberty, we should also approve of gay radicals using aggressive means to achieve their goals. But, of course, the two situations aren’t even remotely comparable. There are elements of our legal code that probably should be altered to, as I counseled above, acknowledge the very real concerns of gay citizens, and homosexuals sometimes aren’t treated with the charity they deserve — but these are problems that, right now, can be solved through the democratic process, through conversation, and – for the worst cases – through existing criminal law. ‘Tis a situation very different from that which the Founding Fathers faced, in which their assertion of their rights brought an army of musket-armed Redcoats to their doors. ‘Tis also a situation very different from that which homosexuals currently face in countries governed by radical Sharia law, where the murder of gays for the sake of religious purity is officially sanctioned. And it’s a situation very different from that faced by civil rights activists after World War II, whose attempts to challenge a comprehensive, organized legal structure that imposed second-class status on blacks in every particular were met with government-perpetrated violence.

These leftists also refuse to distinguish between honest, well-meaning opposition and actual hate. If you express any doubts about the crusade to redefine marriage, you are, as far as the left is concerned, on par with the Westboro Baptist Church. But that is not how it works in reality. The Catholic Church is the largest and most prominent institution that opposes gay marriage — but the Church also offers relief to AIDS patients regardless of their sexual orientation. How does that square with the whole idea that people who promote traditional, biblical marriage can only have malign motives? Yes — some gays have been hurt by family members, neighbors, and schoolmates just because they’re gay. I definitely don’t want to minimize that — and as I suggested above, I think we as Christians have a special obligation to reach out to the walking wounded in the gay community and work to rebuild trust. But — projecting the image of the father who disowned you onto everyone who does not approve of your lifestyle is no more valid an approach to life than assuming all homosexual men are pederasts.

And by the way, gay activists: You haven’t actually helped your own cause. Once again, there is absolutely no evidence that Eich’s personal views on the subject of marriage would’ve impacted how he ran Mozilla in any way; in fact, Eich publicly indicated that the contrary was the case. Thus, in scalping the now-former CEO, you’ve essentially confirmed the Christian Right’s worst fears about your true motives: that you’re interested not in “equal rights” but in compelling societal approval by force. Continue on that path, and the tide may turn against you; such is the consequence of vengeance.