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Society and culture

Why is the Nobel Prize so prestigious?

The repeated assertion by the current Nobel peace laureate that HIV was deliberately created in a Western biological warfare laboratory has deservedly attained notoriety. The brief wire service story reporting the comments is a reminder of the world of international dreams---or fantasies---from which such prizes and comments emerge:

  • A basic issue: why give a peace prize to someone who's apparently mostly known for planting lots of trees? Planting trees is a very good thing, but it's no more closely connected to peace than any number of other things, selling lots of hamburgers for example. Why not give the prize to Ronald McDonald, who's done so much to promote international commerce and unify world tastes? After all, the hamburger is a symbol of plenty and the emerging world society, while Hitler was a vegetarian and the Nazis were big into nature and running around in forests. The Norwegians should watch their step on this one, I think.

Where we are

Here are some of the fruits of the movement for full inclusiveness in religion, and more generally of the search for this-worldly transcendence: a mini-conference on homosexual sado-masochistic religion at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion, a leading scholarly organization (search for the word "gay" on the linked page), and a respectful review in the New York Times Book Review of a new book by former Balanchine ballerina Toni Bentley on transcendence through getting buggered. (The same issue of the Times Book Review, by the way, also features an immensely long front-page review of what appears to be a hate-filled fantasy in the form of a novel by Philip Roth about the apparently notorious tendency of his non-Jewish fellow-citizens toward Nazism.)

The band still plays on

I've commented that the AIDS industry promotes death through a sort of perverse moralism: sexual freedom and sex equality, which from the standpoint of advanced liberalism are absolute metaphysical necessities, trump medical and public health considerations, which the spoiled children of techocracy believe infinitely manipulable.

Hatred watch

If you want to keep up with the current demands of public morality, you should take a look at the page of commentaries on homosexuality put up by Stand to Reason, a Christian apologetics group. According to Google, it promotes hate, so they yanked an ad linking to it.

German discipline crumbles

The major German media have announced that they are abandoning a language-reform program that the government has been pushing the past 6 years. They're returning to the old way of writing (not to Fraktur, the old black-letter script they used before the war, but to immensely long words, lots of commas, and the double Ss that look like Bs).

From the newspaper that brought you Walter Duranty

A blurb from the "Inside" box on the front page of today's New York Times, the "newspaper of record" and the publication that defines reality for our ruling class:

"With a mixture of annoyance, fear and loathing for an aniticipted [sic] swarm of visitors, many New York residents are planning to steer clear when Republicans arrive at the end of the month."

Is America still America?

I reworded the poll so it no longer prejudges the extent to which the events have happened already. One could easily claim that Christianity was decisively driven from public life, and America stopped being America, with the universal adoption of PC and multiculturalist rhetoric during the Clinton administration. If Christianity can't be viewed as anything of general significance it's not part of public life, and if you can't talk about anything particular in connection with America it's not a country, it's an ideological concept.

A techie news item

After 3 years of operation, the English version of Wikipedia now has more than 300,000 articles. If you're not familiar with it, it's a web encyclopedia in the form of a "wiki," meaning an collection of pages that can be created, edited and interlinked by absolutely anyone, even a random surfer who wanders in from nowhere. What makes the project work is that if you do an edit that amounts to vandalism anyone at all can reverse it with a single mouse click, so it's easier to fix than engage in bad conduct and its consequences disappear very quickly.

Blame Canada, I suppose

What does it mean that over 40% of Canadian teens (64% in French Canada) think America is "evil"?

Lords disdain to spare the rod

The House of Lords has rejected a ban on spanking. Like other "social issues" the question of legitimate parental chastisement provides food for thought, and in fact leads very quickly to basic issues.

The arguments in favor of the ban are that "[s]macking can lead to battering which can lead to death," and "children must have the same legal protection from being hit as adults." The first is the line of thought that says that "right to carry" laws mean shootouts over fender benders. The basic point is that formal public order is the only legitimate and reliable kind of social order, and everything else is a mixture of prejudice and stereotyping that can't be counted on and on the whole makes things worse and should be rooted out. You just can't trust people to do anything sensible on their own without supervision, and the people can't supervise themselves. On that view, informal use of force is the same as uncontrolled private violence and should be strictly forbidden.

How much does virtual online reality change things?

A friend writes:

You have this vision of liberalism or modernity as the attempt to create a self-sufficient manmade system which becomes a substitute for the given world, I wonder if you have any thoughts about how computers fit into that scheme. For many people the computer becomes a substitute for the real world. It offers an alternative reality in which ordinary people can experience themselves as the creators and controllers of their own cosmos.

It's an interesting point that deserves thought. Here are some suggestions (additions are welcome):

Good news for tolerance

Hate-filled bigots have been stopped dead in their tracks: an organization had been sending families of fallen soldiers and policemen medallions with a picture of the Liberty Bell and the quotations "Liberty Rings For All Nations" and "United We Stand, Divided We Fall." On the reverse they had been putting the man's name and the legend "A Fallen Friend." With that as an opening, the group had then been sneaking in, also on the reverse, a hate-filled bigoted exclusionary reference to John 15:13

Of dogs, mangers, martyrs and crypts

British law, like U.S. law. requires the physical reconstruction of the universe so handicaps are no longer handicaps. Failure to do the necessary reconstruction is strictly forbidden as a violation of fundamental human decency. That's what laws against "discrimination" on the basis of disability are all about.

Such laws are yet another glorious social advance that turns out to have stupid and vicious consequences. It becomes much more difficult and complicated to do anything for anyone. You can't just do something simple for those who benefit, you have to make sure that what you're doing will have equal benefits for every sentient being in the universe who might want to make use of it. Otherwise you're not allowed to do anything at all.

Flogging a dead multiculture

A review of Diane Ravitch's The Language Police in The New Pantagruel brings out the nature of "celebrating diversity" in school textbooks: since almost anything one might assert, suggest or mention would be more favorable to one group or culture than another, the only things that can be asserted, suggested or mentioned are things like elderly marathoners and the personal problems of immigrants. "Diversity" always turns out to mean "sameness and irrelevance." Since the same problems appear in college textbooks, choice of which normally lies with individual instructors, the issue isn't formal political pressure so much as the voluntary decision of our whole intellectual class to prefer multiculti to anything intellectual.

The soul of man under capitalism

This discussion by Ludwig von Mises of capitalism, happiness, and beauty has something of the "one simple principle correctly resolves everything" quality that tends to disfigures libertarian thought, so it's no credit to the Mises Institute that they've chosen to give it special prominence.

The issue is artistic life under "capitalism," by which I suppose Mises means a regime of private property, free markets and post-industrial revolution technology in which economic concerns are foremost. It seems that what's happened under that regime, which has been dominant in the West since the French Revolution, is that the arts at their highest levels detached somewhat from the social order, became eccentric, went to extremes, and eventually died.

More on the surrealist drama starring BB

A recent article at Front Page helps put Brigitte Bardot's crime in context by touching on some of the non-hate speech Arab networks are now broadcasting in France with the consent of the French government. Recent contributions to the richness of French multiculturalism include a dramatization of Jews using the blood of a ritually slaughtered Christian child for making matzos.

Of logos and logic

Speaking of cynical propaganda, has anyone noticed how bizarre and effective the BP logo is? When you go by one of their gas stations you really are convinced that what they do is Green, Solar, Euro, and in fact Beyond Petroleum---totally different from what those gross American gas companies do. What does it mean that something so blatantly absurd could be so persuasive?

The most powerful of critics

Here's a rather frightening article on Stalin at the movies. One interesting detail is that Soviet agents may well have been told to assassinate John Wayne. Another is that cynical propagandists end up believing what they see on the screen, just like other people. When Stalin saw a movie about an admiral of Catherine the Great, he decided on the spot to build a huge fleet.

It gives me a bit more sympathy with Eisenstein to know that the Great Critic was taking a personal interest in his projects, and if the Critic weren't pleased it could easily have meant a bullet in the head. A Confucian refusal to serve an unjust government would have been a better response than Ivan the Terrible, but can I know that I would have chosen death over wrongdoing? After all, a movie doesn't directly injure anyone, and a director might imagine he could carry out the project in a way that subverts any ostensible message.

Stem cells, Alzheimer's, and experts

The Washington Post deserves credit for publishing this article. The article reveals that researchers all say it's extremely unlikely that stem cells will ever do anything for Alzheimer's---they just don't say it very loudly. It's worth keeping stories like this in mind. People want to be able to trust experts.

The secretary, the general and the private

When assigning responsibility for the misconduct at Abu Ghraib prison it's odd to have to choose between Lynndie England and Donald Rumsfeld. I thought the normal thing when something goes very wrong in a military unit was to hold the officer in charge responsible. In this case that would be Janis Karpinski, who was in charge of Abu Ghraib and indeed all U.S. military prisons in Iraq.

Her responsibility is treated as aside the point. One commentator points out that she's a woman and so untouchable in the present-day military (and, some men have been tempted to say on occasion, never responsible for anything in any event).

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