Friday, February 29, 2008

Michael Scott, Hero

Michael Scott, Steve Carrell's character from NBC's The Office, clearly suffers from an un-named mental disability. Almost without exception, he misreads every social interaction he has, with a staggering level of embarrassing consequences for himself. But that doesn't stop him! He keeps on fighting, every day, to lead his employees, notwithstanding his total lack of aptitude for the job. Jan, the love of his life, crushingly rejects him over and over and over. But he keeps on! And eventually, he wins her affection. (Or some reasonable facscimile thereof.)

I am not half the man that Michael Scott is. If I had to suffer one episode's worth of humiliation and social setback that he has to endure, I would never leave the house again. But Michael keeps on . . .keeping on!

The character I am actually the most like is Toby. Seriously, I can't even count the number of times I engaged in loserish behavior like this.

As an aside, has there ever been a more palpably immoral character than Jim Halpert? This is a guy who makes a play for another man's fiance', uses perfectly sweet girls like Katy and Karen as placeholders, then callously dumps them. What a bastard. Roy should have beat the crap out of him.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

"What this country needs . . ."

Tragic in its own right, this story (Hat tip: Modern Tribalist) left me trying to imagine the eager young bureaucrat, deep in the bowels of the INS (or wherever) who walked into his office one morning and announced to his staff: "Do you know what this country needs? More Somalis!"

My imagination failed. I don't believe for a moment that even one of the bureaucrats overseeing immigration perceives his job as having to do with what might be in the interest of the United States as a nation.

Further, they would react in horror to the idea that an immigrant's nation of origin might help them answer that question, even if they asked it. Because, you see, that would be racist.

Though the building [where the assault took place] resident manager wouldn't provide demographic breakdowns, the tenant list in the entryway is dominated by Somali surnames -- a segment of St. Paul's population that police say is often reluctant to report crimes.

That reluctance is of such concern to police officials that Chief John Harrington has been meeting monthly with Somali elders to encourage community cooperation in criminal matters, police spokesman Tom Walsh said Thursday.

Somali elders? In Saint-frickin'-Paul Minnesota!?!

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

"Reject" vs. "Denounce"

Virtually every commentator believes that Obama hit a home run last night by his handling of the Farrakhan endorsement. In the context of the Democratic primary, I agree. More on this in a moment.

But first, while I understand, better than Obama professes to, the difference between "denouncing" the positions taken by Farrakhan and "rejecting" his endorsement, I do not understand why Obama or any other candidate is expected to "reject" anyone's endorsement.

I'm reminded of how Ronald Reagan once declined to reject the endorsement of the Log Cabin Republicans, saying, reasonably enough, that as far as he was concerned, their endorsement implied their support of low taxes and a strong defense. It did not imply that he, Reagan, was pro-gay. Similarly, Obama is responsible for his own beliefs, not Farrakhan's. In light of the endorsement, it is entirely fair play to ask Obama, straight up, whether or not he shares Farrakhan's allegations about, say, the conspiracy of Jewish doctors to inject black children with AIDS (or something). Absent further evidence, I see no reason to take Obama's denial of such beliefs (if denial it be) at any other than face value. This should be the end of the issue.

Or perhaps not. Farrakhan presumably has other reasons for endorsing Obama. I don't know what those reasons are, and I'm too busy to go parsing Farrakhan's lengthy endorsement speech to tease them out. But I will speculate, plausibly I think, that Farrakhan believes Obama's election will advance the interests of blacks at the expense of whites. How so? And in what other ways does Obama merit Farrakhan's endorsement? If those reasons are obnoxious, then the follow-up questions should be directed at Obama: do you, senator, believe that your election would benefit blacks at the expense of whites? Etc.

This is not an attempt at guilt-by-association. Farrakhan's endorsement does not, ipso facto, make Obama a bad person. For that matter, a particular belief or policy does not become bad by virtue of being believed by Farrakhan. But to the extent that Farrakhan's beliefs are odious, and to the extent that Farrakhan expects Obama to advance odious beliefs, then journalists should start earning their pay and ask Obama these kind of questions.

But here's the kicker: in every reference to Farrakhan, both Obama and Clinton very carefully limit their denunciations of Farrakhan to his anti-semitism. The only problem is, Farrakhan is comprehensively anti-white, in which category he includes Jews. This fact should be pointed out forcefully by the debate moderators, and they should require the candidates to address the full scope of Farrakhan's hatred, not just that portion directed at a favored class of liberal Democrats.

Which brings me back full circle. Among Democrat primary voters, standing up for white people earns no points; indeed, I expect that Democratic primary voters overwhelmingly believe that white people as a class are evil and deserve whatever minorities have in store for us. So Democrats aren't interested in hearing denunciations of Farrakhan in this regard.

I can only hope the general electorate has a stronger instinct for self-preservation.

UPDATE: As usual, Steve Sailer says it better.

UPDATE2: According to Rod Dreher, there are calls for McCain to "reject" the endorsement of John Hagee. But applying the test:

Hagee, standing beside the candidate, said he admired McCain's pro-Israel stance, commitment to nominate conservative judges and opposition to abortion.

Agree with them or not, these are all pretty mainstream Republican positions. In light of Hagee's specificity, and in consideration of McCain's past statements about the religious right, it will be very difficult for McCain's opponents to tar him with Hagee's supposedly harsh anti-Catholicism, etc.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Φ's Non-endorsement

After 8 years of Bill Clinton, I still had my guns and my Bible.

After 8 years of George Bush, the Democrats will still have sodomy and abortion.

Nothing. Ever. Changes.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Why We Blog, Part Two: Race

Yesterday, I began a two part series on why my postings are unexpectedly weighted toward the topics of race and sex. Thursday was sex. Today, race. Again, its easier to start with what doesn't motivate me.

1. You're a racist.

. . . and my mother dresses me funny, right? Seriously, what does this word even mean anymore?

2. You hate blacks (or Latin Americans, or whatever).

Nope, sorry. I get on well with the blacks I know professionally and socially. Of course, these have been pre-screened by cognitive ability and/or wealth and income. I don't really know any under-class blacks.

I lived in Latin America as a child, had a great time there, and have several Latin friends both in the U.S. and down there, plus a lot of secondary contacts. These, too, tend to come from Latin America's white elite rather than its Mestizo majority. My circle of acquaintances was more diverse when I lived there.

3. Some blacks or Mexicans robbed you / beat you up / stole your girl / took your slot via affirmative action / otherwise gave you a grievence.

Not that I know of. My elementary years featured lots of intimidation and some violence at the hands of my peers, virtually all of whom were white. My one semester at majority-black school was palpably scary, but I was mainly left alone. While I have principled objections to affirmative action, it was never an issue for me personally.

4. You hanker for Jim Crow.

Nope, sorry. I have expressed sympathy for poor whites who bore the costs, in terms of rising crime, declining schools, and neighborhoods turned into slums, of desegregation policies created by wealthy lawyers and judges with children in private schools . . . but I have no use for legally mandated segregation. In fact, I have no plan other than what we are already doing:

a. Stiff sentences, aggressive policing, a million plus blacks in prison. Throw in parole, suspended sentences, and people awaiting trial, and a fairly significant fraction of the black population are clients of the pointy-end of law enforcement.

b. De-facto re-segregation. Whites have long since abandoned black neighborhoods, and this process is largely complete. Under-class blacks have easy access to very few whites, and pretty much leave the rest of us alone.

5. You believe in the superiority of the white race.

So . . . somebody like Half Sigma, who wears his contempt for religion on his sleeve, can find a modest inverse correlation between professed religiosity and the results of a 10-question vocabulary test, fatuously declare that religion makes you stupid, and nobody says boo. But the moment someone acquaints himself with about a century's worth of data and peer-reviewed studies showing differences in cognitive ability between races, differences which predict all manner of economic an social outcomes both within and between countries, and that person is guilty until proven even guiltier of harboring invidious racialist motivations.


The question of the differences in mental and social facility between the races is an empirical one, and its answer can be obtained independent of the motivations of those who ask it. Until my accusers take the time to acquint themselves with this mountain of evidence, I see little reason to take their accusation in good faith.

So now the punchline. Why do I blog about race?

The truth.

Our bien pensants have sold us a lie. They have deployed the entire apparatus of memetic transmission to sell this lie for over two generations. They have harassed and intimidated anyone who questions the lie, costing them their livelihoods, driving them from polite society, and, in other countries, subjecting them to criminal prosecution.

The lie they sell is the lie of human equality.

This lie is behind any number of policy disasters, from No-Child-Left-Behind, to immigration, to the Iraq war. This lie requires us to undertake useless projects like affirmative action, disparate impact prosecutions, and racial quotas throughout a widening swath of economic activity. It is, even now, paralyzing the defense of our national borders before an unprecendented invasion of alien peoples.

And what do these liars have to say when confronted with their failures in the face of mounting social dysfunction? "Oh no," cry the liberals, "we explain it all by racism, discrimination, and bad schools." "Oh no," respond the conservatives, "it's all really about welfare, bastardy, and bad schools."

I'm tired of the lies.

I'm tired of the misbegotten policies.

I'm tired of the national suicide.

I could come up with more sweet-sounding reasons to justify better policies, and there is no shortage of such reasons to do this. But I have chosen to go right to the heart of the problem, and take on the lie head-first.

The Lives of Neighbors

We have a neighbor across the street. Supposedly, he's in his late 20s, which makes him a decade or so my junior. And not to put too fine a point on it, he's a deadbeat.

Deadbeat has no visible means of support. He lives in an apartment above his mother's house. By all accounts, he spends his days drinking beer, smoking cigarettes, and watching television. He's been doing this for the two years he's lived with his Mom, since his sister kicked him out. (Sister has since taken in their Dad. We're talking about multigenerational dysfunction.)

Obiter Dictum: if it matters, these are all white people. If it matters.

Normally, none of this would involve me. Deadbeat poses no threat to the community. But, Deadbeat has custody of a daughter the same age as mine. No Mom is in evidence.

My heart breaks over this. After Spungen's moving observation that a child's peer-group status is often driven by her parents' status, and that a missing Mom is particularly hard on children, I'm now seeing that dynamic playing out in real life.

Here's the way the system is supposed to work. Moms talk with other Moms and coordinate visits, enforce standards of behavior, kinda-sorta ensure some level of reciprocity. That kind of Mom stuff. Dad's role is . . . actually, I'm not sure what Dad's role is! The truth is, if it wasn't for my family, I wouldn't know if my neighbors disappeared from the face of the earth. At least until summer, when the lawns weren't cut.

So here's what happens: Deadbeat's daughter (DD) just shows up. No call-ahead, no escort across the street. Nothing. And she's usually hungry. And her presence is just marginally extra-maintenance intensive. The other children, they can play for hours with little supervision. But DD can only go for a half-hour without getting into some sort of spat, nothing major, but that requires adult invervention (which we hate). And it doesn't help that Mrs. Ф suspects her of stealing from us, only doll clothes, and unfortunately she didn't confront her at the time, but in any case now she doesn't fully trust her the way she trusts the other children.

Now my daughter has a big heart. She likes DD. Actually, she loves everybody she's ever met, including DD. And I don't mind feeding DD when she comes over, and I'm much more willing to let 'em fight stuff out on their own, unless physical injury or property damage is imminent. But then . . . I only have to deal with this on weekends, and only during Mrs. Ф's absence. So it's really easy for me to moralize about how we should show charity to a child with a crappy home life.

Mrs. Ф has to deal with it every day. And she's already tired of it. Tired of the extra maintenance. Tired of the suspicion. Tired of the lack of reciprocity.

What to do . . . .

I suppose I should man up, go talk to Deadbeat and try to create the kind of dad-to-dad relationship that performs the functions of the normal mom-to-mom ones. But frankly, this would broadcast a "we're having a problem with your child" vibe, and I can't think of a remotely plausible cover story that would soften the blow. Plus I would suck at it.

Please post suggestions in the comments.

Marion Ravenwood is BACK!

. . . in Indiana Jones IV: the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. And the best part: the bad guys are the Soviet Communists! Finally, 17 years after the end of the Cold War, Spielberg and Lukas are willing to portray the Soviets as the bad guys in the same un-ironic, campy way that they portrayed the Nazis.

It's too bad that Hollywood is so cowardly that it has to wait until our enemies are stinking up coffins before making movies where they're portrayed as, you know, evil, as opposed to misunderstood. Still, though, this counts as progress over fabricating enemies, or dragging out the Nazis for one last beating.

As a bonus, Karen Allen reprises her role as Marion Ravenwood, the spitfire love-interest from Raiders back in 1981. I always thought that their on-screen relationship was the most adult; those of the other Jones movies were ridiculous caricatures of romantic love. Reading that she's back, I teared up a little. It's like . . . Mom and Dad getting back together.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Why We Blog, Part One: Sex

Anyone reading the last dozen or so posts might conclude that Delenda is a blog obsessed with two topics:

1) Race

2) Sex

That was never the plan. Actually, the plan was never to blog at all, but only link to other stories and posts that I found compelling for one reason or another. Then I really only wanted to blog about the evolution / creation debate. Yet here I am, wrapped around these two topics.

I will address the issue of race another day. Today, I would like to try to explain what motivates the postings on sex. It's easier to start with what doesn't motivate it.

1. You're lonely and bitter.

Nope, sorry. I'm happily married with two children. I've had a reasonably successful career that's paying for a PhD. I have a church and friends and all that.

2. You're a misogynist.

As near as I can tell, for many of its users, "misogynist" = "non-feminist". And I am not a feminist. I do not resent women for their greater freedom, but I have little vested interest in it. I am opposed, in general, to the growth of the central state at the expense of individual and local liberty. I am concerned about the social costs to families and children that the legal and social changes on behalf of a certain kind of careerist woman have wrought. But I do not hate women as a class, nor do I seek to "put them in their place," whatever that means.

3. You're ungrateful.

Over on Bobvis, Kirk poignantly commented:

To me, most of your complaints sound almost like bragging. For example, from your posts about your husband's shoes, I'm made aware of the fact that not only do you have a husband (which many single women pine for), but that he can afford expensive things. Ditto your "I have too much booze," post. Ditto, your "Newsroom outsourcing forced me to become a successful lawyer" posts.

Here, you're obviously bragging about how much better things turned out for you than for Beemus. Although you seem to understand that much, you still manage to turn it into some bizarre complaint.

And maybe it's just because it's getting near Valentine's Day, but the one thing that really stuck with me about this particular post (and it stuck with me all day) is that you're compaining that someone (Beemus) found you desirable.

Me, I don't know what that feels like. I've never felt wanted, or desired, at any point of my life. And I'm 41.

I can't imagine ever complaining about it.

So, to reiterate. You were hot enough in college that you could take your pick of men. You picked one who makes a decent living. After a career in journalism, you're now a successful lawyer.

Maybe you're just unappreciative. Maybe we just come from different worlds. I don't know. But to me your complaints read like a veiled form of bragging.

Even though this comment wasn't directed at me, it made me think. Wow, sometimes I probably DO come across as exceedingly ungrateful for how my life turned out. Especially to someone like Kirk who hasn't had it so good. And especially for someone who, however imperfectly, strives to lead a Christian life, to which gratitude is fairly integral.

But the problem is, gratitude is tough to blog. Rehashing the pain of 13 years ago, that's easy to blog. And the fact is, there was a fair amount of pain along the way to married bliss. But the pain isn't really the point either.

Here is the point:

The truth.

The fact is, I was fed a lot of bull coming along. Much of it well meaning. Much of it by people who honestly didn't know how the world really worked. Stuff like:

Don't worry, God will put someone in your life.

. . . or not.

The right girl will come along.

. . . and in the meantime, nobody really wants you around.

Be nice to people, and people will be nice to you.

. . . and maybe pat you on the head on her way out to sleep with this guy.

Girls want commitment.

. . . but they don't choose commitment.

And so on.

So if you wonder why a blogger like me links to someone like this, the reason is that he manages to capture more truth of the way the world works than all the well meaning pablum listed above. Sure, the knowledge is deployed for dishonorable ends. And fossil fuels can pollute the atmosphere. But they get you out of the dark. And I'm tired of the dark.

And maybe, just maybe . . . if we're honest about all of this, instead of dishonest, we might be able to find a way to bring meaningful ethical principles to bear on how we treat each other. We might be able to answer questions like, what kind of courtesy do we owe each other? How can we spread happiness instead of misery? Even to people that are single. And even if we don't want to date them.

Monday, February 11, 2008

On Settling

Lori Gottlieb writes "Marry Him!", about the declining marriage prospects of women as they approach and pass 40:

Now, though, I realize that if I don’t want to be alone for the rest of my life, I’m at the age where I’ll likely need to settle for someone who is settling for me. What I and many women who hold out for true love forget is that we won’t always have the same appeal that we may have had in our 20s and early 30s. Having turned 40, I now have wrinkles, bags under my eyes, and hair in places I didn’t know hair could grow on women. With my nonworking life consumed by thoughts of potty training and playdates, I’ve become a far less interesting person than the one who went on hiking adventures and performed at comedy clubs. But when I chose to have a baby on my own, the plan was that I would continue to search for true connection afterward; it certainly wasn’t that I would have a baby alone only to settle later. After all, wouldn’t it have been wiser to settle for a higher caliber of “not Mr. Right” while my marital value was at its peak?

Those of us who choose not to settle in hopes of finding a soul mate later are almost like teenagers who believe they’re invulnerable to dying in a drunk-driving accident. We lose sight of our mortality. We forget that we, too, will age and become less alluring. And even if some men do find us engaging, and they’re ready to have a family, they’ll likely decide to marry someone younger with whom they can have their own biological children. Which is all the more reason to settle before settling is no longer an option.

I was thinking about all this in the context of some of my own writing along these lines. A few posts ago, I suggested that someone's "sexual history" (for want of a better phrase) might have some bearing on their future fidelity. But this is not a message that gets communicated to young people today, even in Christian education. Why?

1. While there is much in the Bible about being chaste, there is very little about marrying chaste. The requirement seems to only have applied to Levitical priests.

2. Evangelical Christianity puts an emphasis on repentence and forgiveness, so it becomes difficult to simultaneously put out a message that someone's past sins should weigh against their present suitability.

3. Using chasity as a screening factor comes with not inconsiderable cost, especially for women. For one thing, it dramatically shrinks the pool; sadly, this will probably be true in Christian communities as well, though different in degree. For another, and let's be brutally honest here: all things being equal, those of us subject to greater temptation will fail more often than those who are subject to lesser temptation . . . or no temptation. This is not to give ammunition to the ignorant notion that the virtue of chasity was invented by people who weren't gettin' any no how. But it is to admit that being chaste came far easier for me than it must have come to many of my friends better endowed with those qualities attractive to the opposite sex. In the aggregate, this tendency is going to make a difference: the pool of virgin men will on average be less appealing than the pool of players when judged on the conventional qualities.

Given this dynamic, it is understandable that many, indeed most, women might accept the higher risk of infidelity in exchange for other qualities. But they should do it with their eyes open.

On Waterboarding

I know I'm late to the whole is-waterboarding-torture party, but I was struck by Senator Kennedy's (I think) questioning of attorney general Mukasey on the subject. Going from memory (I'm kind of dashing this post off), the senator from MA asked if Mukasey would think waterboarding torture while it was being done to him, personally.

Mukasey stammered out that he would. Here's the answer he should have given:

If I were to fall into the hands of our adversaries, senator, waterboarding would be the least of my worries.

Which goes to the heart of my own position on torture, to wit:

We don't like torture. We specifically do not want American POWs tortured. To that end, we would gladly sign a protocol with any competent authority representing our adversaries on the humane treatment of prisoners, and we would follow that agreement at least as well as they did.

However (you knew that word was coming), until such time as our adversaries either sign such an agreement or show some sign of exercising restraint in their treatment of the prisoners they take, then the treatment of the prisoners we take will be governed by one consideration.


Our enemies torture their prisoners for sport. We will not. Our enemies exploit their murders for propaganda purposes. We will not. But if a prisoner has information valuable to our operations, information that could save the lives of our own troops and civilians, then we have a duty to get that information. By all necessary means.

While we seek an end to the torture of prisoners, we will not unilaterally abjure the use of torture; such only allows our enemies to torture and murder with impugnity.

On the narrower legal question of what constitutes torture under federal law: unless specifically forbidden by treaty with our enemies, we will not regard as torture under the law any interrogation method that is used on our own soldiers as part of interrogation resistance training. This most definitely includes waterboarding.

Let me say several things parenthetically, lest this post seem too harsh for some. I am not endorsing expediency as a general moral principle. And there are no doubt some interrogation methods, if they can be so called, that I would not countenance (rape being the obvious example). I don't know where, exactly, the line should be. But I am sure that the nature of our present discussion is one which a nation in any way serious about its own preservation ought not to be having. UPDATE: Engram provides some perspective.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

America's 21st Century Nightmare

Coming across the desk is a new "White Paper" from Air Force Chief of Staff, General T. Michael Mosely: "The Nation's Guardians: America's 21st Century Air Force". Amidst the usual bureaucratic boilerplate, this bit grabbed me:

The future strategic environment will be shaped by the interaction of globalization, economic disparities and competition for resources; diffusion of technology and information networks whose very nature allows unprecedented ability to harm and, potentially, paralyze advanced nations; and systemic upheavals impacting state and non-state actors and, thereby, international institutions and the world order. The following are salient features of this increasingly complex, dynamic, lethal, and uncertain environment:

Violent extremism and ethnic strife—a global, generational, ideological struggle

• Proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and empowering technologies

• Rising peer competitors with voracious appetites for resources and influence

• Predatory and unpredictable regional actors

Increasing lethality and risk of intrusion by terrorist and criminal organizations

• Systemic instability in key regions (political, economic, social, ideological)

• Unprecedented velocity of technological change and military adaptation

• Availability of advanced weapons in a burgeoning global marketplace

• Exponential growth in volume, exchange and access to information

Surging globalization, interconnectivity and competition for scare resources

• Dislocating climate, environmental and demographic trends

Having experienced—or vicariously learned—the cost of challenging the U.S. head-on, would-be adversaries are developing asymmetric approaches to attack vital levers of U.S. power. Their strategies seek to circumvent our core advantages, while undermining international support and domestic resolve.

Airpower’s unprecedented lethality and effectiveness deter opponents from massing on the battlefield, driving them to adopt distributed and dispersed operations. They find maneuver space and sanctuary in dense urban areas, ungoverned hinterlands and loosely regulated information and social networks.

I think Gen. Mosely exactly nails what the future holds for us. He's not quite courageous enough to actually name names (Islam, immigration), and his recommendations for the future are, in my humble opinion, not up to the challenge -- but then, most of the problems he names call for policy changes well beyond his reach.

Still, though, it's good to see a policy maker, especially from somewhere as pusillanimous as the military senior leadership, actually hinting that diversity, demographic change, and interconnectedness are VERY BAD for our national security.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Racial Integration in Chicago

Steve Sailer reviews There Goes the Neighborhood, and in the process tells the heartbreaking story of the effect that first desegregation and then immigration has had on Chicago's community life. He links to a Time article from 1983 about how Chicago's wealthy lakefront area has always been relatively liberal:

Holding the electoral balance [in the racially-charged election of Chicago's first black Mayor] were the city's six affluent "Lakefront Liberal" wards. Undecided until the very end, they finally gave Washington 40% of their vote, enough to assure his 51.8% majority.

Sailer explains:

Home prices are so high near Chicago’s main asset, Lake Michigan, that only upper-middle class people can afford to live there. Thus, race doesn’t much matter. In lower rent districts, however, race trumps class. As many Chicagoans testify in There Goes the Neighborhood, among working class people the traits that make a good neighbor—such as having children who don’t commit crimes and who aren’t disruptive in school—are most often found among whites, followed by Latinos, followed by African-Americans.

This reinforces the point I have made before about how facile it is for people (myself included) who, by virtue of wealth, education, and geography, have de-facto segregated themselves from underclass minorities to then preach the virtue of racial integration to poor whites who are required to actually live it in the real world.