Category Archives: Books

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White House calls McClellan’s book sour grapes

In a shocking turnabout, the press secretary most known for defending President Bush on Iraq, Katrina and a host of other controversial issues produced a memoir damning of his old boss on nearly every level – from too much secrecy to a less-than-honest selling of the war to a lack of personal candor and an unwillingness to admit mistakes.

In the first major insider account of the Bush White House, one-time spokesman Scott McClellan calls the operation “insular, secretive and combative” and says it veered irretrievably off course as a result.

The White House responded angrily Wednesday to McClellan’s confessional memoir, calling it self-serving sour grapes.

“Scott, we now know, is disgruntled about his experience at the White House,” said current White House press secretary Dana Perino, a former deputy to McClellan. “We are puzzled. It is sad. This is not the Scott we knew.”
McClellan was the White House press secretary from May 2003 to April 2006, the second of four so far in Bush’s presidency.

He reveals that he was pushed to leave earlier than he had planned, and he displays some bitterness about that as well as about being sometimes kept out of the loop on key decision-making sessions.

He excludes himself from major involvement in some of what he calls the administration’s biggest blunders, for instance the decision to go to war and the initial campaign to sell that decision to the American people. But he doesn’t spare himself entirely, saying, “I fell far short of living up to the kind of public servant I wanted to be.

He includes criticism for the reporters whose questions he fielded. The news media, he says, were “complicit enablers” for focusing more on “covering the march to war instead of the necessity of war.”

And McClellan issues this disclaimer about Bush: “I do not believe he or his White House deliberately or consciously sought to deceive the American people.”

McClellan was the White House press secretary from May 2003 to April 2006, the second of four so far in Bush’s presidency.

He reveals that he was pushed to leave earlier than he had planned, and he displays some bitterness about that as well as about being sometimes kept out of the loop on key decision-making sessions.

He excludes himself from major involvement in some of what he calls the administration’s biggest blunders, for instance the decision to go to war and the initial campaign to sell that decision to the American people. But he doesn’t spare himself entirely, saying, “I fell far short of living up to the kind of public servant I wanted to be.

He includes criticism for the reporters whose questions he fielded. The news media, he says, were “complicit enablers” for focusing more on “covering the march to war instead of the necessity of war.”

And McClellan issues this disclaimer about Bush: “I do not believe he or his White House deliberately or consciously sought to deceive the American people.”

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Why the Democrats Are Blue: How Secular Liberals hijacked the People’s Party by Mark Stricherz

Why bother reviewing a book written by a liberal for liberals? There are two answers.

First, since 1968 the national Democratic Party has experienced a revolutionary change. Secular liberals hijacked the party. This book documents the what and how of these changes.

Second, secular liberal dominance continues. This means there are serious problems for the national Democrat Party; these problems influence the 2008 election.

WHAT HAPPENED

The easiest place to begin is to quote Ramesh Ponnuru:

“It would have required a lot of prescience to predict in 1965 that American politics, for so many decades based on economic divisions, would soon split over social issues and, especially, abortion. But not even a very prescient observer could have correctly predicted which party would take which side in the coming battles. On abortion, in particular, it looked obvious which way it would break: The Democrats were the party of Catholic Northerners and Southern whites, the party that believed in using the power of government to protect the weak; the Republicans were the party with historical ties to Planned Parenthood.” >p> “Somewhere along the line, the parties switched places, with consequences-including the Democrats’ loss of their durable majority-that are plain to see. But how it happened still seems a puzzle, and, in his new book, Why the Democrats are Blue: Secular Liberalism and the Decline of the People’s Party, Mark Stricherz has provided a crucial piece for solving that puzzle.”

The author of this book opines in respect to what happened:

“…The wrong position that national Democratic leaders have taken is that of secular liberalism. They oppose extending any legal protection to an unprotected class of human beings–unborn infants. And they favor granting public benefits to homosexual coupes. Considering the national party was know as “the-party-of-the-little-guy” and was led by Catholic big-city and state bosses, the post-1968 party’s support for secular liberalism qualifies as a revolution not an evolution.” (page 2)

“…The new deal, or Roosevelt coalition had included white Southerners, Catholics, union members, blacks and intellectuals. Under this coalition, the national party was a majority party, and its presidential candidates won seven of the ten elections from 1932 to 1968…”. (page 5)

“…The McGovern Commission destroyed this old electoral alliance and replaced it with a Social Change Coalition led by secular liberals. The commission pushed forward through a rules change that required informal delegate quotas for women and young people…this proposal had three major consequences. First, while the Democrat Coalition added feminists and secular professionals, it drove away blue-collar workers and Roman Catholics, many of whom became Reagan Democrats. Second, it broke the longstanding alliance with the Catholic Church. Third it reduced the number of Democrats…According to the party strategists William Galston and Elaine Kamarck, only 21 percent of the electorate consider themselves as liberal, while 34% consider themselves conservative…”

“…The fourth(more minor) consequence reduced the clout of traditional Democrats..”

“…The fifth (more minor) consequence of the McGovern Commission is that secular, college-educated professionals hijacked control of the party machinery and imposed their own secular educated agenda.

That this revolution in values and direction is real one need only look at Jesse Jackson and Senator Edward Kennedy. In 1976 Jesse Jackson delivered a passionate, faith based pro-life speech to the March for Life group. In the same year Edward Kennedy proposed a constitutional amendment to overturn Roe v. Wade and return the issue to the states. Also not to be forgotten, is Joe Biden, Al Gore, Dick Gephardt, Richard Durbin, and Dennis Kucinich began their political careers as pro-lifers. Finally, in 1986 while governor Bill Clinton wrote to the Arkansas Right to Life organization he was “opposed to abortion and government funding of abortions.”

So things really changed once the feminists gained political power.

HOW IT HAPPENED

Mark Stricherz carefully examines how these changes happened. His efforts are long in facts and short on general interest so I will just summarize them.

The change initially occurred when some old-time political bosses made an effort at having their party become more inclusive. David L. Lawrence, Governor of Pennsylvania, Mayor Daley, mayor of Chicago and John Bailey, boss of the Connecticut Democrat Party began this effort. They tried to compromise and include women and minorities, but their efforts were tepid at best. Other events were quickly overtaking the Democrat Party status quo.

The antiwar Democrats were marginalized in the 1968 nomination process; this resulted in Hubert Humphrey becoming the Democrat candidate. The antiwar Democrats under the guise of reforming the party’s electoral process actually overthrew the bosses and replaced them with activists. .

Turning the party over to party activists–blacks and feminists primarily–need not have happened. Hubert Humphrey in 1972 warned that, “a single narrow, ideological, social or political elite threatened to capture the Democrat Party…he said that since Franklin Roosevelt the Party has managed to put together coalitions which form majorities under the principle that the Democrat Party was the party of the average American working family.”

Humphrey failed in this effort.

In 1968 a young Eugene McCarthy aide, Eli Segal as well as Fred Dutton, Ken Bode and others decided hereafter to focus the majority of the Party’s efforts to opposing the Viet Nam War. This meant diminishing the importance of average, working class Democrats and replacing their influence with political activists.

What this small group did as members of the McGovern Commission was to institute informal (at first) quotas for women and minorities. The feminists were an upper-class and secular group; they soon had 50% of the delegates to the Democrat convention. The result was efforts to establish a pro abortion plank at the 1972 convention. (Remember, Roe v. Wade happened in 1973). Blacks and other minorities were also represented according to their prevalence in the population.

George McGovern succeeded in his effort.

The reason George McGovern succeeded was he knew the national (presidential) party was now controlled by antiwar, feminist and minority activists. He ran accordingly; consequently, from sparsely populated state of South Dakota he triumphed over the big city bosses and other national candidates.

Of course this victory was followed by a crushing defeat at the hands of Richard Nixon but the party changes remained. In 1972 Richard Nixon won 59% of the Roman Catholic vote; exactly the same percentage as did in 1968. President Carter did win 1976 after President Ford pardoned Nixon. President Carter was swamped by Ronald Reagan in 1980.

The party became hostage to political activists. Since that time (1972) the national (presidential) wing of the Democrat Party has lost seven out of 10 elections. Only one Democrat–Jimmy Carter–has won a majority in becoming President

Among the political baggage eventually sinking the Carter was welfare. As seen by the ordinary citizen, the Democrat Party went from taxing the few to benefit the many to taxing the many on behalf of the few. Previously, the Party had applauded and supported in every way possible a general policy best stated by Hubert Humphrey: the goal of the Democrat Party was: “to bring help to those in the dawn of life, those in the shadows of life, and those in the twilight of life” This had been an extraordinarily successful policy.

The Democrats abandoned the downscale class (three fifths of the electorate); they also to championed homosexual marriage, hippies, rebellious youth, protesters, drug users, Hollyweird, and sexual immorality. This occurred primarily on the national level; many local Democrats tried to preserve allegiance to patriotism and family values.

In 2000 and 2004 President Bush won with weekly churchgoers, married couples and small town and rural voters. Al Gore and John Kerry won secular voters, singles and big city residents. While social conservativism has been pilloried in the press, it has proven to be a winner.

By ceding traditional values voters to the Republicans the national Democrat Party remains vulnerable. As some have pointed out “most voters are unyoung, unpoor and unblack.” Fred Harris, a former DNC chairman, once said this:

“Though some of the best progressive voices in America are among the affluent and the most educated, and their supporters and ideas, as well as their energy and idealism of young people, are irreplaceable components in the construction or reconstruction of a Democratic majority, there simply cannot be a mass movement without the masses. And for the Democrats those masses necessarily include both lower-and-middle-income whites, blacks and brown people and other minorities. Without them there is no way to come up with a majority of voters.

In adopting a new agenda the Democrat Party decided to no longer to make economic inequality the chief focus. American workers by virtue of unemployment insurance, Worker’s Compensation insurance, subsidized health care and so forth were now less approachable to egalitarian arguments. Instead in 1972 and thereafter the Democrats focused on antiwar, post-civil-rights agenda of blacks and support for feminism as well as the byproducts of the cultural revolution.

WHAT TO DO

Mark Stricherz sees the necessity of a drastic remedy if the national Democrat Party is to resume its dominant status. The author gives three major and two minor recommendations. These recommendations are designed to reduce the power of the activists and special interests and create a new people’s party. They are:

  1. All caucuses should be abolished. The main problem with caucuses is the activists have the time and motivation to dominate.

  2. Independents should be allowed to vote in state primaries. The idea, here, is to secure more of the independent vote.

  3. All quotas for delegates should be eliminated. Quotas are simply undemocratic and permit hidden agendas to predominate over general issues popular with the average voter.

  4. Super-Delegates should be eliminated. Again, they are selected by the political professionals and the manner of their selection is antidemocratic.

  5. The first primaries should be held in the swing states. The goal here is to pick the candidate most likely to win in November.

In the last chapter of the book, the author fleshes out these proposals. Note, the first four are more or less Republican policy. I do note, however, that when John McCain kept winning primaries, there were many who decried the moderates were taking over the party. What they were angry about is the very thing that might permit Senator McCain to prevail in spite of a long war and stuttering economy–appealing to the middle of the road moderates.

WHAT IS THE CURRENT STATUS OF THE NATIONAL DEMOCRATIC PARTY AND ITS CANDIDATES?

I am writing this review on 23 March 2008. At this time, Senators Obama and Clinton are in a desperate struggle where Senator Obama has garnered a sufficient lead thought to be unassailable. At the same time, the revelations of Pastor Wright and others on black liberation theology have upended the carefully crafted Obama campaign strategy of being the racial savior of our times.

Note the consequences of 1972. First, the two chief activist groups–blacks and feminists–are now locked in political combat. It has been suggested that the “dream candidate” would be both on the same ticket. Perhaps. But the real problem is the rift has been opened and closing it will not be easy.

Second, note by intent or luck Senator McCain has wide appeal to moderates and independents. Presidential elections are usually won with moderate votes.

Third, the Democrats have shown very little interest in securing Roman Catholics, Evangelicals and other members of the faithful. Indeed, supporting homosexual marriage and seeing those not leaping to the Obama bandwagon as “typical white persons” is apt to alienate many middle-of-the-road Democrats and independents.

Fourth, in spite of a long, unpopular war and a economy on the verge of a recession, polls suggest Senator McCain leads or ties both Senators Obama and Clinton.

Fifth, as in 1972 the underlying, hidden wish of the overclass Democrats is defeat in Iraq. To achieve this they have supported Senator Obama over Senator Clinton because she initially supported the Iraq war.

Conventional political wisdom is a Democrat will win in November. Even Rush Limbaugh opined Hillary has an 80% chance of winning. In spite of this doom and gloom, the polls suggest this is not 1976 (a close Carter win) but, rather, 1972. (a blow out Nixon victory)

ABOUT THE BOOK

The book was published by Encounter Books in 2007. There are 245 pages of text, 5 pages of Acknowledgements, 46 pages of bibliography and endnotes. The index is comprehensive and easily used. The book is written such that it can be appreciated by both a general and a professional audience.

The writing is clear and concise. I paid $15.50 for my copy. Anyone interested in the strategy and tactics of the National Democratic Party will find this book worthwhile and a good purchase.

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The Science of Female Supremacy: An Interview with Steve Moxon

I’ve been interviewing political authors and figures for five years. Never once have I posed more than 10 questions to a subject. In the case of Steve Moxon, who has just released The Woman Racket , I asked 14. My enthusiasm is quite appropriate, however. The Woman Racket is a tour de force and a classic which should be read again and again. Previously, Mr. Moxon authored The Great Immigration Scandal which was a result of his time spent as a Home Office immigration caseworker. He blew the whistle on widespread abuse and the nature of the government’s policy of “Managed Migration” and was then duly fired. Mr. Moxon also pens a blog which debates “political correctness fascism” and counters journalists’ misguided take on immigration and male-female issues.

BC: Mr. Moxon, allow me to congratulate you on your new book. I know it’s only March but there’s no question it’s the best book I’ve read this year. My first question concerns its title. Your work is a thorough review of the scientific basis for sex differences, but “The Woman Racket” is a most polemical sounding phrase. Do you think this may limit your audience?

Steve Moxon: Yes, but the bigger problem is to get attention in the first place. The title succeeds in achieving that! It contrasts with the sub-title — which tells you that the book is popular science. It’s somewhat cryptic. Actually it’s not mine, but a phrase from Norman Mailer; one that beautifully encapsulates the recent cultural turn of perennial prejudice against men into a virulent political entrenchment of it. And it conveys something of this prejudice in a meta sense: at first glance some might think it’s a book about “the white slave trade” or some other bogus supposed exploitation of the sex we spend too much time caring about.

BC: Are women privileged in America and the United Kingdom?

Steve Moxon: Women are privileged (compared to men) in every society and in every period of history. This will always be the case irrespective of whatever social systems emerge in the future. The females of all animal species constitute the “limiting factor” — the logjam — in reproduction, and given that reproduction is the fundamental biological imperative (maximizing reproduction over various timescales within the local reproducing group), then this inevitably translates in various ways to the female being prized, and correspondingly to males competing against each other to avoid reproductive oblivion.
BC: What is “the male filter?”

Steve Moxon: The “genetic filter” role of the male complements the role that the female has in taking care of most of the time-consuming business of reproduction (gestating; having, feeding and looking after the offspring). This is because there is another brake on the biological imperative of maximizing reproduction apart from all the business that females are saddled with: the build-up of transcription errors in the necessary gene replication in sex that attends reproduction. It makes sense that dealing with this is not also loaded on to females, otherwise females would become an even bigger logjam in reproduction.

The biological division of behavior that we then get is the basis of why we have males and females in the first place. Males act in effect as a “quarantine” station for deleterious genetic material, and also as laboratories for nurturing new, better gene combinations. There are various mechanisms for this, some where genetic material is actually placed exclusively in the male half of the lineage, but most where genetic material is more exposed in males than in females — so that natural selection acts much more on males than on females. Some of this differential exposure is through the mechanics of the sex chromosomes, but most is to do with males being driven to intra-sexual competition: either of their sperm or as adults.

Hence the fierce competition of males for a high place in the male dominance hierarchy. It is the rank achieved that determines female sexual interest, so that less fit males reproduce less, if at all; so that they take their relatively poor genes with them out of the gene pool. Conversely the minority of males with fewer “bad” genes do get to reproduce and the males who have no bad genes and maybe additionally some new “super” gene combinations, are reproductively successful possibly to a prodigious extent.

BC: In terms of feminism, do you think that the lesbian influence is more pronounced than we widely acknowledge? I ask you this because I have often thought that feminist attempts, at root, are an attempt to decrease the status of males while simultaneously increasing the status of women. This appears plausible in that it makes females more appealing sexually in lieu of the centrality of status in relation to their reproductive proclivities.

Steve Moxon: Feminism is just business-as-usual elitism. It is not about serving the interests of women as a whole: it is a disservice to most women. Feminism is an intensification of the natural prejudice we all share towards males — that is, towards the majority of necessarily lower status males. High status males and attractive women win out. Plus ca change.

The reason that we all have a prejudice towards males generically is because of the biologically based importance of “policing” the male hierarchy. The function of the male as the “genetic filter,” and indirectly that the female is the “limiting factor” in reproduction, gives rise to the adaptation of male intra-sexual dominance-submission behavior and the epiphenomenon of male hierarchy. All males (even the lowest ranked) have a strategic interest in being members of this, but males have an interest in tactically getting round this to obtain sex, if they can. This has led to the evolution of our shared social psychological “cheater detection” mechanisms to very effectively “police” male behaviour. Consequently we tend to “do down” men, and conversely “big up” women.

BC: Is it a result of the feminist movement that the general public has been consistently misled concerning the differences between men and women in the workplace? I ask you this chiefly as a product of your contention that women have a predilection “for work that is in keeping with their natural tendency towards social networking, as opposed to the natural male inclination towards goal-directed competition.”

Steve Moxon: Yes, feminism is actively opposed to most women. The social milieu in which the various strands of feminism arose in recent decades is the relative collapse in natural female roles: home-making and motherhood. The striving for women to be given a role in the workplace is the reaction to this, and women clinging to the roles that have been relatively marginalized is seen as a great obstacle to this development, and so such women are regarded as having “false consciousness” so as to excuse the totalitarian refusal to accept that they have a valid opinion.

BC: In America the “pay gap” is thought to be even less statistically significant than it is in Britain. Could you clarify for readers the surprising argument that a low pay gap actually illustrates “sex discrimination against men?”

Steve Moxon: The “pay gap” between the sexes should be far bigger than it is. Only 10-15% of women have an attitude to work as that of men: to work full-time continuously. Of this already small proportion of women, only about a quarter are “careerists.” This is a very small pool from which work organizations can recruit to produce the sex-equal staffing ratio at higher job positions that social policies are designed to produce. These are the jobs that pay much more, and with women overwhelmingly naturally absent from them, then the “pay gap” overall inevitably must be substantial. It is artificially reduced by public sector initiatives to falsely flatten differentials, to over-promote women, and to falsely equate work sectors and niches.

So it is that we have pay legislation that forces local councils to pay part-time day-care staff the same rates as to full-time, outdoor shift-working refuse collectors. That these very different jobs are naturally paid according to substantial differentials is firmly tied up with their contrasting sex-typicality. No normal women take dirty, dangerous jobs, because pay premiums to compensate for the undesirability of the work are of no use to them. This is because only men see their “mate value” rise through gaining status (the proxy for which is money).

Women’s “mate value” is to do with their fertility, as signaled by indications of youth and beauty; which are “givens” that can’t be changed by any sort of competition or throwing money around (despite what cosmetics firms may claim). Women instead choose jobs that are really a benign social extension of their home-making role. So they are usually part-time, people-orientated jobs with excellent working conditions. Just the sort of jobs that are easy for employers to fill. There are a number of reasons that explain the “pay gap,” and all attract policies to ameliorate the impact on women’s pay. These necessarily directly or indirectly discriminate against men.

BC: You posit that women showcase same-sex favoritism at a rate four times that of men. Might the inevitable outcome of such a preference result in female bosses and managers attempting to purge men from the workplace? Or, at least, be far more likely to do so to the opposite sex than males would be?

Steve Moxon: Certainly. Experimental work shows that women have a fourfold same-sex preference for members of their “in-group,” and this exactly matches the preference for women over men by organizations involved even in male sex-typical work (IT and accountancy) when it comes to selecting applicants for job interviews from their applications (Riach & Rich, 2006). So there is clear evidence that work organizations as a whole are operating on female prejudicial principles. This will seriously backfire, however, because it’s highly deleterious for those work organizations, for several reasons. Unlike men, women tend not to be task- or work group-orientated (the female in-group being family and friends and tenuous extensions of these; not a symbolically identified all-inclusive social group such as those within the same workplace). In almost any performance you care to measure, men polarize and women remain in the middle, so meritocracy will be sacrificed.

BC: Does the predicament in which man finds himself in our new century largely a result of chivalry? In light of sex-based quotas and other modes of state oppression, is not chivalry an act of self-destruction?

Steve Moxon: Chivalry (or “gallantry,” as it used to be called), is natural male deference. This is, in biological terms, the non-engagement in dominance-submission interactions. We know from other primate species that the sexes never interact in dominance-submission terms. We also now know that there is a single gene controlling this. This ensures that default behavior between individuals of the same species is in some way sexual: it is only when a same-sex other is encountered that the gene works so that dominance-submission behavior kicks in.

BC: Are women more controlling in their interpersonal relationships than are men?

Steve Moxon: Yes. Very recent research has clearly established this in long-term sexual partnerships. This is because women have a greater need than men to “mate guard” — to keep their partner’s main reproductive effort for themselves. Men certainly don’t want their wives sleeping with other men, because that would risk them bringing up some other man’s child. This is why men have evolved to be so jealous of their partner simply having sex with anyone else. But once a wife is pregnant and then gestating and breast feeding (which went on for four or five years in the ancestral environment), then she was not sexually available and a man could relax.

For a woman, on the other hand, there is the ever present risk that she could be deserted. This is not just a problem regarding provisioning and less concrete aspects of fathering in raising any children she has, but it means she couldn’t have further children by her (first) husband. The problem is that a woman’s value as a mate declines precipitously with age (and the effects of having children), so if her husband deserts her, any subsequent husband she may find will be a substantially poorer “bag of genes,” as it were, than the first. For many men it works the other way: a man can often rise in status as he gets older, so far from “mate guarding” his first wife, he may well be glad to be rid of her to make way for a new and much younger and more attractive one.

It is for the reason of this sex difference re “control” that the actual social science research (as opposed to the mantra emanating from the advocacy movement) reveals that domestic violence is more prevalent female-to-male than it is male-to-female, and by wide margins at serious levels and in terms of unilateral aggression.

BC: Has the furor over domestic violence essentially been one big lie? I say this in relation to Chapter 10 “Home Lies,” and particularly the excellent analysis conducted by Professor Martin Fiebert in 2007 suggesting that not a single study (out of 200) revealed that significantly higher levels of aggression occurred in the male-to-female direction than vice-versa.

Steve Moxon: Most of these studies showed either rough equivalence, or significantly or considerably more DV female-to-male. So DV is predominantly female-on-male — especially at serious levels of violence, and where the violence is unilateral. To present DV as advocates do as essentially a male-perpetrated crime indeed is one very big lie. Not only is most DV by women, but overall most violence by women is towards men (twice as much as that towards other women), and this dramatically contrasts with male violence, which is very many times more frequently directed towards other men.

BC: You cite a Home Office rape study from 1999 indicating that the majority of rape complaints were classified by police as “no crime” or “no further action.” Why was no action taken against female false accusers? Is this an example of chivalry justice?

Steve Moxon: At root this is down to the standard “doing down” of men and “bigging up” women. Prejudice in favor of women — privileging them — means that they are given “the benefit of the doubt” regarding their motivation for fabricating a complaint; yet we know that the predominant form that female aggression takes is “relational” (indirect). Fabrication of complaints that have a devastating impact on those accused is exactly how we should expect women to behave. But apart from this — and this is the bigger picture — women make up allegations not through malice but to cover up their own misdemeanor — even when the embarrassment caused seems trivial. The underlying reason for this appears to be to do with evolved reasons why women might non-consciously try to cover up extra-pair sex. It seems that we intuit this, and somehow accept this sort of behavior by women.

BC: Is there any truth to the notion that males think more logically than do women? Conversely, are women more emotion-based in their reasoning?

Steve Moxon: There are now known to be massive sex differences in brain architecture, so that there are near order of magnitude differences between male and female brains in terms of IQ-related neural connectivity and processing tissue. Men’s brains are much more about processing, whereas women’s are much more about connectivity — it has long been known that the structure carrying the nerve fibers connecting the two cerebral hemispheres is far thicker in women. This structural difference shows up overall. So it is that Simon Baron-Cohen characterizes male brains as “systemizing” and female as “empathizing.” This difference has evolved because of the very different problems that the sexes have to deal with in their lives. Women have to be “people” people, and men have to compete and be good at something.

BC: Can we conclude that males paying for sex is non-pathological? Indeed, is it merely a reflection of supply and demand?

Steve Moxon: Not only is it non-pathological, but it makes sense morally. All normal men, quite apart from a long-term loving relationship, desire an endless stream of novel sexual partners. Most men are not attractive enough to women (because they don’t have high enough status) to achieve this, and even those men who are high status don’t want to risk their long-term relationships for a fling. Their one-night-stands may well be in courting mode, as it were, and actively seek to destroy the man’s marriage. Unlike men, women’s jealousy has evolved not to be provoked so much by a partner’s extra-pair sex as by emotional infidelity, so women usually are relatively unperturbed by a partner’s visits to prostitutes. A fully fledged long-term affair is an entirely different matter.

BC: I recognize that England and America have differing laws and regulations, but what universal policies could government enact — or perhaps more importantly, discontinue — to better the lot of men in our nations, and, thus, increase equality and justice for all?

Steve Moxon: The law should start with recognizing profound sex difference rather than pretending that treating the sexes exactly equally is fair. It isn’t. For example, policies that seek to equalize the sexes in jobs high up work organization hierarchies necessarily very heavily directly discriminate against men, because it is natural that men hugely outnumber women here. Men are far more intra-sexually competitive than are women. Without a good job a man has no life: he can’t attract or maintain a partner. This is not true for any woman. All women can have a life irrespective of the nature of their jobs, or whether they have any job at all.

BC: Thank you so much for your time and thank you for writing this book, Mr. Moxon.

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The Amateurs’ Hour: Is the Internet destroying our culture, or is it just annoying our snobs?

The Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet is Killing Our Culture, by Andrew Keen, New York: Currency, 228 pages, $22.95

Andrew Keen’s website claims, without a hint of humility, that he’s “the leading contemporary critic of the Internet.” No kidding? The entire Internet? A curious reader might wonder whether such an all-inclusive battle is similar to taking on, say, “music” or “radio waves.” It is.

More specifically, Keen’s depressing book, The Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet Is Killing Our Culture, laments techno-utopianism, free content, and the rise of citizen journalists, filmmakers, musicians, and critics as cultural arbiters. It is a book, in other words, of spectacular elitism.

Keen, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur turned full-time critic of user-generated Internet content, argues that our most “valued cultural institutions” are under attack from the hordes of lay hacks, undermining quality content with garbage. His central argument is–to pinch a word he loves to use–seductive. He’s right that the Internet is littered with inane, vulgar, dimwitted, unedited, and unreadable content, much of it fueling outrageous conspiracy theories, odious partisan debates, mindless celebrity worship, and worse. And then there’s the stuff that’s not even entertaining.
Keen refuses to confess that there’s even a smattering of intellectually and culturally worthy user-driven content online. If you do find something decent in the “digital forest of mediocrity,” he attributes it to the infinite monkey theorem: Even simians, if permitted to indiscriminately hit a keyboard for an infinite amount of time, will one day bang out Beowulf or Don Quixote. (Silly me, I was under the impression that monkeys had hatched the idea for VH1′s Scott Baio Is 45…and Single.) Apparently, these monkeys are discharging so much free content into the cyber-strata that they threaten to bury culturally significant work, dilute good craftsmanship, and cost me, a journalist and “cultural gatekeeper,” my job. So I guess I’d better take Keen’s thesis seriously.

Keen isn’t entirely wrong–of over the estimated 175,000 new blogs created each day, just a miniscule fraction are worthwhile–but in the midst of cobbling together statistics and disaster stories he ignores an otherwise promising tale of job creation, mass creativity, and the democratization of the media. He also fails to acknowledge that the rise of Web 2.0–Internet-based media, such as blogs, in which the content is largely generated by the users themselves–was prompted precisely by the lack of choices and quality programming from those gatekeepers he so adamantly defends.

Not long ago, I was presented a firsthand view of the gloomy fallout from Web 2.0. Another downsizing had fallen upon the newspaper industry, including my paper, The Denver Post. Colleagues and friends of mine were instructed to clear their desks and find a new line of work. Keen grieves over the fate of my well-trained coworkers. He pins the blame on a bunch of schmucks knocking out third-rate musings on politics and culture. How can The New York Times, with its multi-million-dollar operational budget, compete with a blogger, who typically operates for pennies in his or her spare time?

We can agree, to a point. There are plenty of schmucks out there. But the ability to receive only the content you want while ignoring the rest of the package, combined with the migration of ads to services like Craig’s List, has done far more damage to newspapers than any pajama-clad scribblers ever could. And since the citizen journalist relies heavily on more traditional journalistic sources, I doubt the industry is nearing its demise. (In fact, by acting as freelance fact-checkers, all those bloggers have arguably transformed the medium into a more reliable dispenser of the news.)

In the face of economic realities, newspapers have been co-opting the blogger model–transforming a once-rigid daily newsroom cycle into a constant, 24-hour process, constantly posting updates, using video and audio as well as text, and bringing on bloggers of their own. Meanwhile, many high-profile bloggers, looking for ways to make their sites financially viable, are moving toward an old-media model, emphasizing professionalism and co-opting some of the conventional elements of news services. From the megapopular left-leaning Huffington Post to the conservative-oriented Pajamas Media, bloggers have pooled their talents and transformed into news agencies.

Whatever Keen (or I) may believe the future holds, it’s not society’s job to ensure that journalism remains profitable. It’s journalism’s job to entice readers and viewers with a product that’s worth the price of admission. These struggles, as important as they may be to some of us, do not signal the cold-blooded murder of “our culture.”

That brings us to Keen’s most glaring weakness: his lack of faith in the culture he defends. Keen is concerned not just with journalism but with a wider range of creative expression, from film to music. Readers of The Cult of the Amateur may be surprised to learn that the barbarians capable of obliterating thousands of years of Western culture in their spare time are a horde of porn-addicted, gambling-happy, ungrateful, musically challenged yokels. What worthwhile culture could be so easily knocked off its perch?

Like most snobs, Keen doesn’t have much confidence in markets either. To accept his argument, we must believe that the common consumer, able to make thousands of informed decisions in everyday life, can’t differentiate between crap and Cristal when the choice is made on a computer screen.

In other contexts, Keen is a romantic. Consider his rhetoric regarding the supposedly bygone local bookstore. (A quick search of BookSense.com, a site sponsored by independently owned bookstores, shows five such stores within a 10-mile radius of my home.) “Instead of 2,500 independent bookstores with their knowledgeable, book loving staffers, specialty sections, and relationships with local writers,” Keen writes, “we now have an oligarchy of online megastores employing soulless algorithms that use our previous purchases and the purchases of others to tell us what to buy.”

Shopping at the convivial local bookstore might be a heartwarming experience, but the notion that such places offer us better choices is a fantasy. On Amazon, you can perform super-exact searches or browse endlessly (so at some point even the commoner may stumble across something worthwhile). You are guided not only by rough algorithms but by book lists and reviews written and compiled by other human beings who share your hyper-specific interests. And aren’t Amazon’s reviewers, list compilers, and bloggers a lot like helpful, educated bookstore staffers, leading us, by hyperlinking, to stories and ideas we otherwise might never have known about?

But Keen’s most persistent grievance is that free content undermines the accuracy of information. “Can a social worker in Des Moines really be considered credible in arguing with a trained physicist over string theory?” he asks, referring to Wikipedia, the online, user created encyclopedia. “Can a car mechanic have as knowledgeable a ‘POV’ as that of a trained geneticist on the nature of hereditary diseases? Can we trust a religious fundamentalist to know more about the origins of mankind than a PhD in evolutionary biology?”

Well, yes and no. I, of course, have the prerogative to trust whomever I want. In the same way I once gathered my news from The National Inquirer and listened to Art Bell’s late-night radio broadcasts for clues to my place in the universe, today I can ferret out similarly useless information webwide.

The more significant point, one that Keen ignores, is that the Web 2.0 explosion has provided me with something I’ve never had before: access to ongoing discussions between and among trained physicists, trained geneticists, and religious fundamentalists. Laymen as well as experts are now invited to sit in on these conversations. On occasion, the amateurs get it right, triggering dramatic results. Matt Drudge can announce the Monica Lewinsky scandal while Newsweek dithers about publishing it. Or a blog like Little Green Footballs can help catch Dan Rather peddling forged documents about the president’s service record. Rather than undermining information, this new access has expanded users’ understanding of the world.

Keen raises the stakes of his argument when he blames some of society’s serious ills on the Internet. He asserts, for instance, that the “tasteless nature” of social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook have “infested” Web 2.0 with “anonymous sexual predators and pedophiles.” No doubt a small fraction of those who participate in social networks are sexual predators and pedophiles–roughly the same as the percentage of people in local bookstores, playgrounds, and libraries who are sexual predators and pedophiles. Yet I don’t think I’ve ever heard an advocate for children’s rights blame libraries and playgrounds for sexual abuse.

Despite a heavy load of scaremongering, Keen claims he’s not a “techno-moralist” but a “techno-scold”–as if there’s much of a difference. The problem, he maintains, is that those involved in Web 2.0 live in an echo chamber. “There isn’t a debate, and there isn’t a conversation,” he says. “They’re just listening to themselves.” If only mainstream media outlets had debated their future as often and as intensely as bloggers debate theirs, we might not have needed Keen’s book.

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Jonah Goldberg on Hillary, Huckabee, and Liberal Fascism

It’s sure to make a splash, and it’s already got some left bloggers in a tizzy even though it doesn’t come out until next week. It’s Jonah Goldberg’s new book, Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning The title comes from H.G. Wells, and the history won’t be news to people who’ve paid attention — which means it will be news to a lot of people — but Goldberg has a lot to say about the “progressive” roots of both socialism and fascism and the way they’re reflected in contemporary politics. (He goes out of his way to make clear, though, that he’s not saying liberals are fascists.) Plus, thoughts on the Hillary and Huckabee candidacies.

You can listen to the show directly — no downloads needed — by going right here and clicking on the gray Flash player. You can download the whole file and listen at your leisure by clicking right here, and you can get a lo-fi version suitable for dialup by going here and selecting “lo fi.” And, of course, you can always get a free subscription from iTunes if you like — and why wouldn’t you? Show archives are at GlennandHelenShow.com.

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Reading Laura

Laura looked terrific. Sounded terrific.

And she reads well, too. Very well.

No, I’m not Chris Matthews, whose on-air propensity for commenting on the physical appearance of his female guests (as he has done with Ms. Ingraham and others) occasionally detracts from his zeal to bash the war in Iraq.

But there is, I think, a direct connection between the way radio talk show host and author Laura Ingraham has been looking and sounding lately and the contents of her new book, Power to the People.

The book is a rallying cry for Americans who have increasingly felt marginalized by what they see going on in their once familiar culture. The arguments are crisp, well reasoned, and filled with facts. The importance of family, immigration, terrorism and national security, federalism and more are discussed with imagination and a perceptive authority. In particular her expertise as a former law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas shines through, lasering in on exactly the extent to which un-elected judges have usurped the powers of elected officials. Her passionate insistence on the importance of citizen action is designed to encourage the reader to shake off the couch-potato mentality and do something.
But all of this said, there is something else going on with Laura Ingraham that is both noted in her book and which she freely acknowledges in her public appearances. Laura has had what I call an “Aeschylus Moment.”

FOR THE RECORD, ALTHOUGH we were colleagues in the Reagan administration and, apparently for a brief time in the White House, I simply don’t remember her. (I know, I know, how could I possibly not remember Laura Ingraham?? Sorry, but I don’t. Hey! I was there to work!) We have met twice since, once introduced briefly a few years ago at a rally for judges, the second time earlier this year when she came to give a speech for Pennsylvania conservatives. This time we chatted at cocktails before I settled in to the audience to hear her speech. I confess, knowing of her recent bout with cancer I did the inevitable human thing, that instinctive “is this person OK?” scan that we all do consciously or unconsciously in these circumstances. For Laura fans out there, I can tell you she looked and sounded, as mentioned, terrific. If you didn’t know, you wouldn’t know.

So, what of Aeschylus and Laura?

Aeschylus, for those of you not into ancient history, was a Greek playwright credited in history with being the father of tragedy. In our time he is perhaps most frequently quoted in connection with the late Robert F. Kennedy, who took to reading the classicist Edith Hamilton in the wake of his brother’s murder. On the night of Martin Luther King’s assassination in 1968, RFK stepped to a microphone in front of a mostly black audience in Indianapolis to give them the news of King’s death. In doing so, he quoted Aeschylus as quoted by Hamilton. As might be expected under this kind of impromptu circumstance, RFK misquoted Hamilton’s translation, thus sending into permanent circulation a mistranslation of minor proportions from Aeschylus. The RFK version, which came to mind as I listened to Laura speak that evening in Harrisburg, is this:

In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.

“Aeschylus moments,” as I eventually called difficult times, are my way of referring to those periods in a human life when something or some collection of things goes seriously off track — or at least radically departs from what most people consider to be the “normal” or “expected” course of their life. Aeschylus moments can include the death of a family member or close friend, a serious illness for yourself, the ending of a treasured relationship. It can, in short, be anything that qualifies as trauma, a turning of one’s world upside down — or, to use the term associated with Aeschylus, tragedy. And when the pain of that moment passes, after it has fallen “drop by drop upon the heart,” the person in question comes out the other side a different person than he was before he had his Aeschylus moment. If he’s lucky, he is wiser, more thoughtful, determined to use his hard earned wisdom for something greater than himself.

In Laura’s case, the early death of her mother was followed some time later by a much publicized engagement, the shocking discovery of breast cancer, followed by the breaking of her engagement and the punishing regimen of her cancer treatment, replete with the physical horrors of chemotherapy and radiation. A considerable Aeschylus moment by anyone’s standards, the period also includes her conversion to the Catholic Church.

So as I listened to her speak that evening I wondered if this would reveal itself in some fashion. It did. After the usual opening humor, filled with her trademark asides and pointed jokes, her demeanor visibly shifted. That very evening, she told her audience, marked exactly the second anniversary of the day she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Only recently, she said, in looking back at her “odyssey” in order to write about it, had she realized “that it really is true that in our darkest moments individually and I hope as a nation we really take that moment to think, for a moment, ‘what’s the point of all this?’ What are we here for? What is this thing called America and what are we going to do with it?”

The Virginia Tech shootings had only recently occurred, and they were still on everyone’s mind. Somberly, she retold the still very fresh and stunning story of Virginia Tech’s Professor Liviu Librescu, who had saved the lives of his students by physically blocking the doorway to his classroom so his students could escape by jumping from the windows. In doing so Librescu, a Romanian Jew and Holocaust survivor, deliberately gave up his own life, shot repeatedly by the crazed gunman. Musing on the sheer courage shown by Librescu, freely admitting she had no idea what she would have done in similar circumstances, she began to focus on the importance of each individual life and the best use we can all make of the limited time granted us with that life.

It was the kind of speech that could really only be delivered by someone who has been through the valley and come face-to-face with — herself. You could hear a pin drop in the carpeted ballroom.

ONE OF MY FAVORITE FILMS is the Robert Redford classic based on Bernard Malamud’s novel The Natural. It’s the story of Roy Hobbs, the gifted and golden young baseball player whose sole objective is to play baseball so well that people will say, “there goes Roy Hobbs, the best there ever was.” Redford/Hobbs sets off on his quite innocent journey, leaving behind girl friend Iris Gaines, only to be derailed almost immediately, shot and wounded by a mysterious Lady in Black, a beautiful psychopath who has a thing for killing young athletes. Instead of spending his prime playing major league baseball, Hobbs emerges in the film decidedly in middle age, trying one more time to actually make the big leagues and “be the best there ever was.” Making it, his past catches up with him and he is hospitalized before the Big Game, possibly unable to play in what would be the last and most important game of his amazingly successful one-year career. Visited in the hospital by the newly rediscovered Iris, Hobbs muses that his life didn’t turn out the way he expected. “How so?” asks Iris. “Just different,” he shrugs. Iris, who unknown to Hobbs is the mother of his young son, understands, offering this bit of wisdom:

Iris: You know, I believe we have two lives.

Hobbs: How…what do you mean?

Iris: The life we learn with, and the life we live with after that.

The other day I received a phone call from a woman I did not know whom I will refer to here, radio talk-show style, as Hattie from Ohio. Hattie, it seems, had come across my web site, and called to tell me she was getting involved in some new activities and wanted to know how she could inform people of this on the site. Hattie identified herself as an African-American woman, leaving me with the impression that she was just possibly over 80-something. She was quite funny about all this, her voice strong but unmistakably “older.” For most of the call I simply listened to her energetic plans to get word out about a group she was starting to educate people about economics. The thought that went through my mind, quite apart from admiring her energy, was “why?” Why, at her age, was she going to all this trouble?

As if reading my mind she quickly gave me an answer. Hattie from Ohio was going to all this trouble because, she said, “Laura Ingraham says we should be citizen reporters, and that’s what I’m going to do.”

I was, I have to say, speechless. And that certainly doesn’t happen often.

Laura Ingraham, at a relatively young age, has now lived the life she learned with. She’s had loving parents and siblings, a good education, turns in the White House and the Supreme Court, a law firm and the media. Not bad. Her Aeschylus moment — the death of a beloved parent, terrifying illness, a love lost — are behind her now. She is embarked on what Iris Gaines called the life we live with after that, asking exactly the right questions of both herself and others: What are we here for? What is this thing called America? What are we going to do with it?

Power to the People is one of the first steps on that next journey for Laura, the journey that involves answering those questions, and she clearly means to make it count. Like Roy Hobbs her life has not turned out the way she may have expected. It’s different. But as a direct result the people who will benefit from that fact, quite aside from Laura Ingraham herself, are all the rest of us.

Just ask Hattie from Ohio.

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Clarence Thomas: Progressives worse than Southern Racists…

Since Clarence Thomas joined the Supreme Court 16 years ago, he has largely remained silent, and his silence has become part of his mythology. He rarely speaks from the bench. He hasn’t responded to legions of critics. His judicial opinions reveal a powerful voice, but his story had been written by others.

Now Thomas has chosen to speak, forcefully and bluntly, in his new book, My Grandfather’s Son: A Memoir and in a series of interviews with ABC News over four days that can only be described as extraordinary for their scope and intensity. He talks with almost painful candor — all but unprecedented for a public official — about his life and personal struggles, his fears and failings, his anger and his regrets.

Thomas’s most deeply felt opinions are about race, and he pulls no punches. For Thomas, the menacing racists who donned white sheets in the segregated South of his childhood are as bad or worse as the northern liberal zealots in suits and ties.

“These people who claim to be progressive … have been far more vicious to me than any southerner,” Thomas says, “and it is purely ideological.”

Thomas talks about the virulent racism he encountered growing up in the segregated South, when blacks were considered second-class citizens and kept separate from whites by law, and he equates those attitudes with the stereotypes he believes people hold today.

“People get bent out of shape about the fact that when I was a kid, you could not drink out of certain water fountains. Well, the water was the same. My grandfather always said that, ‘The water’s exactly the same.’ But those same people are extremely comfortable saying I can’t drink from this fountain of knowledge,” Thomas says. “They certainly don’t see themselves as being like the bigots in the South. Well, I’ve lived both experiences. And I really don’t see that they’re any different from them.”
He says his critics — the people who question whether he is smart or qualified to be on the Court or who suggest he merely does what a white Supreme Court colleague dictates — are as also as bigoted as the whites of his childhood in the deep South.

“People feel free to say about me what they think about lots of blacks,” Thomas said in an interview in his chambers at the Supreme Court. “Because of the heterodox views I’ve taken, they have license to say it about me with impunity.”

Sixteen years after the bitter confirmation hearings that would forever put the name “Anita Hill” in any story written about him, Thomas remains one of the most compelling and divisive figures in public life. That is both ironic and inevitable for a man who, on the surface, appears to be a study in conflicts. He is black, but a conservative. He is contrarian and independent, but wants deeply to connect with people. He holds a job he never wanted, but has strong ideas about how to do it. He fiercely protects his privacy, but has written a book that is intensely personal and, at times, anguished.

Other justices and other public officials have written memoirs, but none revealed the kind of raw pain and emotion Thomas shares. Thomas says he wrote the book, for which he received a $1.5 million advance, for several reasons — he saw it as a tribute to the grandparents who raised him, but also to provide an accurate record for history because the media sloppily or “maliciously” got it wrong. He also says he wanted to inspire young people who grow up with in poverty and with hardships “just like me,” wondering if they will ever make it.

But it also seems an attempt to wrestle his story away from others who have told it — either negatively or glowingly — on both sides of the ideological aisle. He will not fit into a box, he says, or become an invisible man defined by stereotypes. He defends his views and explains them in response to liberal critics. But he reveals for the first time unflattering personal details at odds with the storyline his conservative supporters have created that he is, somehow, without flaws.

Thomas’s life and experiences — growing up in the Jim Crow South, integrating all-white public schools as the only black student, confronting more latent racism after he fled to what he hoped would be “utopia” in the North — clearly have influenced how he views the law and social policies like affirmative action. His brutal 1991 confirmation battle only reinforced those deeply held views. He says he believes every discussion of race in America is fundamentally dishonest.

“It’s even more dishonest than the ’60s,” he says.

He is adamantly opposed to affirmative action, but for entirely different reasons than white conservatives who drive the debate by arguing it’s unfair to white people. Thomas says affirmative action instead has hurt blacks. It not only sends them into environments in which they are doomed to struggle instead of soar, but it also perpetuates negative stereotypes that whites hold today that all blacks are inferior to them and don’t belong — just as whites in the South assumed 50 years ago.

“These ideologies that claim to be so warm toward minorities actually turn out to be quite pernicious,” Thomas says.

Under affirmative action, Thomas says, whites will forever believe blacks enroll in top schools or hold good jobs only because the institutions lowered their standards to accept them — regardless of whatever qualifications an individual may actually have. The assumption is that blacks, Thomas says, are not and cannot be as good as whites.

“Once you start making these decisions and judgments about people’s capabilities based on race, it is forever locked in,” Thomas says. “And you can see it play out throughout my confirmation and throughout the subsequent years that I’ve been on the Court.”

And he says he believes the Senate Judiciary Committee’s hearings into Anita Hill’s allegation of sexual harassment — when 14 white Senators asked excruciatingly private questions about pornography and penis sizes — would not have occurred had they both been white.

“I doubt it,” he says forcefully. “Can you think of any other examples?”

In discussing the hearings into Hill’s allegations, Thomas’s angriest words are for Democratic senators, the liberal interest groups and the media. He turns a blowtorch on each, blasting them in turn for their respective roles in what he calls “the most inhumane thing” that ever has ever happened to him.

At the time, he saw those hearings in a racial context. Time has only made him more assured.

“I’d grown up fearing the lynch mobs of the Ku Klux Klan; as an adult I was starting to wonder if I’d been afraid of the wrong white people all along — where I was being pursued not by bigots in white robes, but by left-wing zealots draped in flowing sanctimony,” he wrote in his book.

In the interview at his home, with his wife Virginia at his side during part of it, Thomas talks in detail about the hearings and how he believes they perpetuated the vilest stereotypes about black men — stereotypes about sexual aggression that had long condemned them to death in the South and had been recounted by African-American novelists in harrowing detail. It all, he says was an effort to destroy his nomination and keep him off the Court.

He says he had to be “dehumanized” and “destroyed,” because he held views considered heretical for a black man — because, as he puts it, he was in a different ideological neighborhood and refused to buy into the views that whites had “disseminated as the prevailing view for blacks.”

“I saw it for what it was, and I still see it for exactly what it was,” Thomas says. “I think it was an effort to keep me in my place.”

That’s not to say he has kind words for Hill, whom he describes as mediocre, unpleasant and a “combative … in your face person.” But Thomas suggests she was swept up in the agenda of his ideological opponents. He wrote that her charges were “ridiculous” and “preposterous,” and says they were “nothing more than an extravagant fiction concocted so as to have the maximum possible impact on the public.”

“My guess was that a combination of ego, ambition, and immaturity had caused her to let herself be drawn into the effort to destroy me,” he wrote in the book.

He doesn’t care to hear people tell him they believed him, as an overwhelming majority of Americans, black and white, did in immediate aftermath of the hearings. The point, he thinks, is they should not have been asked to believe at all.

“It was a weapon, and we understood that,” he says. “And I think less of people who actually do not see what was going on, that you’re such a dupe that you can’t see that.”

No justice in modern American history has been subjected to such vitriolic personal attacks as Clarence Thomas. Many liberal blacks view him with anger or disgust and consider him a traitor to his race, suggesting he is doing the bidding of white conservatives seeking to undo a generation of progress on civil rights. He been portrayed as a lawn jockey, a ‘house slave,” and repeatedly called an “Uncle Tom,” including by prominent black officials.

Many white liberals, on the other hand, view him with disdain, questioning his intellect and qualifications — questions, incidentally, that aren’t typically raised about Thomas by blacks. Even when presented with hard documentary evidence — memos and notes taken by Justice Harry Blackmun — that Thomas has been independent of Justice Antonin Scalia from the beginning and has influenced the Court in a number of areas, many white liberals refuse to acknowledge it.

Thomas views it all through a racial lens. He says he is not wounded by the criticisms of his fellow blacks that he is uncaring about other members of his race, which he dismisses as akin to a racial slur hurled from”from a bus driving by or a pickup truck on a rural road.” But at the same time he says he is hurt — saying he wishes someone would just hear him and what he is trying to say.

“Why else would you take on virtually everybody, and take on the prevailing notions about race? Why would you take the criticism if you didn’t care? I mean it’s easy to go along with the crowd and sort of play that game — that doesn’t require any courage or backbone,” Thomas says. “It took a lot more to say, ‘I think something is wrong.’”

Instead of being a hypocrite for opposing affirmative action after supposedly benefiting from it, a frequent charge, Thomas says affirmative action actually harmed him and that he believes he should be able to criticize it.

“Once we’re set on something that’s the accepted wisdom, other people like me, who have questions, suddenly become heretics — you can’t talk about it, you can’t say, ‘Look, I have good intentions, too. I just don’t agree with you,’” Thomas says. “Why wouldn’t it be just as easy to say, ‘Well, here’s somebody who went through it, and he has some problems with it based on his experience, and his intentions are as good as the people who are the authors of the initial policy?’ But that doesn’t happen.”

But Thomas is much more critical of the white liberals who have dismissed him as an intellectual lightweight.

“It’s similar to what you had in the South, you know: ‘you’re stupid because you’re black,’ that ‘you smell bad because you’re black.’ I mean, it’s all the same thing,” Thomas says. “And I don’t understand why people … buy into it and don’t see the long-term damage.”

He believes whites again have created a system where blacks have to stay in a certain place — this time ideologically, not geographically. Slavery evolved into segregation; segregation evolved into an entrenched system of racial preferences, paternalism and condescension — a modern-day system, Thomas says, that also keeps blacks inferior and ideologically segregated.

“Whites can think anything they want, and we can have opinions about frivolous things, like I could be a (Washington) Nationals fan, as opposed to being an (Baltimore) Orioles fan, Oh, that’s ok. But if it’s important, if you’re black, you all have to think the same thing,” Thomas says. “Can you imagine someone saying that about whites, that, ‘well, you’re white, you’re all supposed to think the same thing.’ That would be considered ludicrous.”

And the discussion of affirmative action, he says, is particularly damaging. It’s become an issue that pits blacks against whites, liberals against conservatives — to the point that it’s almost impossible to honestly debate its impact, Thomas said.

Thomas spoke at length about how his own experiences as a black conservative and a black justice prove his point. Because he was admitted to Yale Law School under affiramative action after graduating in the top two percent of his class at Holy Cross. benefited from affirmative action at Yale Law School, he said people have questioned his qualifications and discounted his achievements, he says. Even as a Justice, he says, people continue to believe he merely has “followed” Justice Scalia because a black man couldn’t possibly hold those views or be smart enough to come up with them on his own.

“Give me a break. I mean this is part of the — you know, the black guy is supposed to follow somebody white. We know that,” Thomas says. “Come on, we know the story behind that. I mean there’s no need to sort of tip-toe around that … The story line was that, well I couldn’t be doing this myself, he must be doing it for me because I’m black. That’s obvious.

“Again, I go back to my point. Who were the real bigots? It’s obvious,” Thomas says.

Centering the debate on affirmative action also distracts attention from more pressing problems within the black community, where the vast majority of poor kids don’t get far enough to even consider college, much less ever see a “benefit” from affirmative action, he says.

“We’ll expend huge amounts of energy over affirmative action, but very little over what’s really happening in the classroom for the bulk of these (other) kids or what’s happening in the home or the lack of home environment,” Thomas says. “So yes, you care about them in theory, as long as it’s this racial theory (you) agree with, but do you really care about them as individuals? Do you care where they go at night, what they’re doing, how they’re learning, what’s in the school, etc.? And you don’t see any passion expended on the latter.”

Thomas’s dissents opposing affirmative action and minority contracting programs, as well as efforts to draw voting districts along racial lines, prompt harsh criticism from African American leaders that he doesn’t care about black people and just follows the white conservatives. But Thomas raises different concerns about those programs than whites do. And in other race cases, he often writes dissents focusing on exactly the groups he talks about — poor blacks who are trying and struggling against high odds.

When Thomas was nominated to replace liberal icon Justice Thurgood Marshall, civil rights leaders were outraged, saying the conservative Thomas wasn’t worthy to replace Marshall, who as an attorney with the NAACP, had argued Brown v. Board of Education and had done so much to advance the cause of blacks in society.

“I mean, who are they? Justice (Ruth Bader) Ginsburg replaced Justice (Byron) White. Did anybody say she was unworthy to replace Justice White?” Thomas asked, referring to the liberal Ginsburg taking the place of the more conservative White. “They were different. They’re quite different.

“So why do you ask that question about black people?” he says. “That’s absurd…and the amazing thing to me is people don’t see the absurdity of it, that a white can replace a white and there’s no question. They’re quite different. But you never say, ‘Are they worthy to replace this particular person?’”

To continue on to Part II: The Integrator, please click here.

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Ayn Rand’s Literature of Capitalism

One of the most influential business books ever written is a 1,200-page novel published 50 years ago, on Oct. 12, 1957. It is still drawing readers; it ranks 388th on Amazon.com’s best-seller list. (“Winning,” by John F. Welch Jr., at a breezy 384 pages, is No. 1,431.)

The book is “Atlas Shrugged,” Ayn Rand’s glorification of the right of individuals to live entirely for their own interest.

For years, Rand’s message was attacked by intellectuals whom her circle labeled “do-gooders,” who argued that individuals should also work in the service of others. Her book was dismissed as an homage to greed. Gore Vidal described its philosophy as “nearly perfect in its immorality.”

But the book attracted a coterie of fans, some of them top corporate executives, who dared not speak of its impact except in private. When they read the book, often as college students, they now say, it gave form and substance to their inchoate thoughts, showing there is no conflict between private ambition and public benefit.
“I know from talking to a lot of Fortune 500 C.E.O.’s that ‘Atlas Shrugged’ has had a significant effect on their business decisions, even if they don’t agree with all of Ayn Rand’s ideas,” said John A. Allison, the chief executive of BB&T, one of the largest banks in the United States.

“It offers something other books don’t: the principles that apply to business and to life in general. I would call it complete,” he said.

One of Rand’s most famous devotees is Alan Greenspan, the former chairman of the Federal Reserve, whose memoir, “The Age of Turbulence,” will be officially released Monday.

Mr. Greenspan met Rand when he was 25 and working as an economic forecaster. She was already renowned as the author of “The Fountainhead,” a novel about an architect true to his principles. Mr. Greenspan had married a member of Rand’s inner circle, known as the Collective, that met every Saturday night in her New York apartment. Rand did not pay much attention to Mr. Greenspan until he began praising drafts of “Atlas,” which she read aloud to her disciples, according to Jeff Britting, the archivist of Ayn Rand’s papers. He was attracted, Mr. Britting said, to “her moral defense of capitalism.”

Rand’s free-market philosophy was hard won. She was born in 1905 in Russia. Her life changed overnight when the Bolsheviks broke into her father’s pharmacy and declared his livelihood the property of the state. She fled the Soviet Union in 1926 and arrived later that year in Hollywood, where she peered through a gate at the set where the director Cecil B. DeMille was filming a silent movie, “King of Kings.”

He offered her a ride to the set, then a job as an extra on the film and later a position as a junior screenwriter. She sold several screenplays and intermittently wrote novels that were commercial failures, until 1943, when fans of “The Fountainhead” began a word-of-mouth campaign that helped sales immensely.

Shortly after “Atlas Shrugged” was published in 1957, Mr. Greenspan wrote a letter to The New York Times to counter a critic’s comment that “the book was written out of hate.” Mr. Greenspan wrote: ” ‘Atlas Shrugged’ is a celebration of life and happiness. Justice is unrelenting. Creative individuals and undeviating purpose and rationality achieve joy and fulfillment. Parasites who persistently avoid either purpose or reason perish as they should.”

Rand’s magazine, The Objectivist, later published several essays by Mr. Greenspan, including one on the gold standard in 1966.

Rand called “Atlas” a mystery, “not about the murder of man’s body, but about the murder — and rebirth — of man’s spirit.” It begins in a time of recession. To save the economy, the hero, John Galt, calls for a strike against government interference. Factories, farms and shops shut down. Riots break out as food becomes scarce.

Rand said she “set out to show how desperately the world needs prime movers and how viciously it treats them” and to portray “what happens to a world without them.”

The book was released to terrible reviews. Critics faulted its length, its philosophy and its literary ambitions. Both conservatives and liberals were unstinting in disparaging the book; the right saw promotion of godlessness, and the left saw a message of “greed is good.” Rand is said to have cried every day as the reviews came out.

Rand had a reputation for living for her own interest. She is said to have seduced her most serious reader, Nathaniel Branden, when he was 24 or 25 and she was at least 50. Each was married to someone else. In fact, Mr. Britting confirmed, they called their spouses to a meeting at which the pair announced their intention to make the mentor-prot

Lone Survivor

I just finished a fantastic book, Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10. It’s the eyewitness account of the worst day in Navy SEAL history.

I heard the “lone survivor” on Laura Ingraham’s show a few days ago and ordered the book before the interview had even ended.

Good links and lotsa comments at Blackfive.

On a clear night in late June 2005, four U.S. Navy SEALs left their base in northern Afghanistan for the mountainous Pakistani border. Their mission was to capture or kill a notorious al Qaeda leader known to be ensconced in a Taliban stronghold surrounded by a small but heavily armed force. Less then twenty-four hours later, only one of those Navy SEALs remained alive.

This is the story of fire team leader Marcus Luttrell, the sole survivor of Operation Redwing, and the desperate battle in the mountains that led, ultimately, to the largest loss of life in Navy SEAL history. But it is also, more than anything, the story of his teammates, who fought ferociously beside him until he was the last one left-blasted unconscious by a rocket grenade, blown over a cliff, but still armed and still breathing. Over the next four days, badly injured and presumed dead, Luttrell fought off six al Qaeda assassins who were sent to finish him, then crawled for seven miles through the mountains before he was taken in by a Pashtun tribe, who risked everything to protect him from the encircling Taliban killers.

A six-foot-five-inch Texan, Leading Petty Officer Luttrell takes us, blow-by-blow, through the brutal training of America’s warrior elite and the relentless rites of passage required by the Navy SEALs. He transports us to a monstrous battle fought in the desolate peaks of Afghanistan, where the beleaguered American team plummeted headlong a thousand feet down a mountain as they fought back through flying shale and rocks. In this rich , moving chronicle of courage, honor, and patriotism, Marcus Luttrell delivers one of the most powerful narratives ever written about modern warfare-and a tribute to his teammates, who made the ultimate sacrifice for their country.

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In Praise of Skinned Knees and Grubby Faces

When I was 10, I founded an international organization known as the Black Cat Club. My friend Richard was the only other member. My younger brother, Hal, had “provisional status,” which meant that he had to try out for full membership every other week. We told him we would consider his application if he jumped off the garage roof — about eight feet from the ground. He had a moment of doubt as he looked over the edge, but we said it wouldn’t hurt if he shouted the words “Fly like an eagle!” When he jumped, his knees came up so fast that he knocked himself out. I think the lesson he learned that day was not to trust his brother, which is a pretty valuable one for a growing lad.

I wrote “The Dangerous Book for Boys” as a handbook for boys with scenes like that from my childhood in mind. I wasn’t trying to please anyone else. I was just trying to free boys to be themselves again, the way we were when my brother and I were growing up.
Back in the 1970s, our father was a schoolmaster and part of his job was caning boys. He was prepared to do this on the job, but the only time he ever brought his work home was when I stole money from him and somewhat naively put it in my moneybox. Perhaps because that punishment was a unique event, I’ve never stolen anything from anyone since that day.

Looking back, I realize now that my father was an incredibly patient man. He loved wood, and whenever a school threw out an oak table or mahogany benches, he would rescue them and bring them home. One day, my brother and I took all that wood and nailed it to the tree in the front garden. It was perhaps the ugliest treehouse ever built, and my father was not impressed. In fact, I think he was close to tears for a moment.

He was born in 1923. He has seen a different world — one before television, before mobile phones and before the Internet. He flew in Bomber Command during World War II, and when he tells stories, they’re always grim, but funny at the same time. He lost half a finger in one bad crash, and at various times in our childhood, he told us that he’d worked in a sausage factory and pushed the meat too far into the grinder, resulting in the best sales the factory had known; that a German sniper had recognized him flying overhead and thought, “That’s Mr. Iggulden, I’ll just fire a warning shot”; or that he was the new Bionic Man, but the British government could afford to replace him only a bit at a time.

His generation understood the cars they drove, could hang wallpaper and fix just about anything. In his 80s, he is still an immensely practical man, but at the same time, he still quotes poems he learned as a boy, demonstrating that a man can love a good line as much as a good dovetail joint.

Of course, my mother was important to our childhood. An Irish Catholic, she gave us a faith that endures today, as well as an appreciation for literature that made me want to be a writer from a young age. She kept chickens in a garden no more than 30 feet square in a suburb of London, and the neighbors complained about the cockerels waking them up.

When she gave birth to me, the nurse walked down a line of babies saying, “This one will be a policeman and this one will be a footballer.” When the nurse came to me, she said “Ah, but this one has the face of a poet.”

My father, though, made me the man I am. He was playing bridge on the night I was born. When he saw me the following morning, he said, “I hope he never has to kill anyone.”

We had books in the house with titles such as “The Wonder Book of Wonders” or “Chemical Amusements and Experiments,” showing their age with instructions directing you to buy “a shilling paper of Potassium Permanganate.” I read them all, and I’m lucky to have all my fingers. We made bows and arrows every summer, cutting them green and hunting in the local woods. We managed to trap a raven, though I think it must have been ill. I had an idea about training it to attack so that I would be the terror of the local park. Sadly, we found it cold and stiff one morning in the chicken run.

The Black Cat Club gathered in the garden to give it a warrior’s cremation. We used my father’s lighter fluid and poured it over the bird where it lay in a nest of bricks. We lit it and stood back with our hands clasped in prayer. The flames roared, and I think we wept until the flames died back down again and the bird was still there. We poured more lighter fluid, and eventually realized we’d cooked the bird instead of cremating it.

When I had a son of my own six years ago, I looked around for the sort of books that would inspire him. I was able to find some practical modern ones, but none with the spirit and verve of those old titles. I wanted a single compendium of everything I’d ever wanted to know or do as a boy, and I decided to write my own. My brother, now a theater director in Leicester, a city in the midlands of England, was the obvious choice as co-writer. I had dedicated my first book “To my brother Hal, the other member of the Black Cat Club.” It was official at last. I persuaded him to come and work with me 12 hours a day for six months in a shed.

We began with everything we had done as kids, then added things we didn’t want to see forgotten. History today is taught as a feeble thing, with all the adventure taken out of it. We wanted stories of courage because boys love those. We wanted stories about men like Royal Air Force fighter pilot Douglas Bader, Scott of the Antarctic, the Wright Brothers — boys like to read about daring men, always with the question: Would I be as brave or as resourceful? I sometimes wonder why people make fun of boys going to science fiction conventions without realizing that it shows a love of stories. Does every high school offer a class on adventure tales? No — and then we complain that boys don’t read anymore.

We added sections on grammar because my brother once said, “If anyone had told me there are only nine kinds of words, I’d have damn well learned them.” Boys like to see the nuts and bolts of language. Of course they can empathize and imagine, but they need the structure as well. Why should the satisfaction of getting something right be denied to those who have been educated since the ’70s?

We filled our book with facts and things to do — from hunting a rabbit to growing crystals. As adults, we know that doors have been closed to us. A boy, though, can be interested in anything.

Finally, we chose our title — “The Dangerous Book for Boys.” It’s about remembering a time when danger wasn’t a dirty word. It’s safer to put a boy in front of a PlayStation for a while, but not in the long run. The irony of making boys’ lives too safe is that later they take worse risks on their own. You only have to push a baby boy hard on a swing and see his face light up. It’s not learned behavior — he’s hardwired to enjoy a little risk. Ask any man for a good memory from childhood and he’ll tell you about testing his courage or getting injured. No one wants to see a child get hurt, but we really did think the bumps and scratches were badges of honor, once.

Since the book was published, I’ve discovered a vast group that cares about exactly the same things I do. I’ve heard from divorced fathers who use the book to make things with their sons instead of going out for fast food and a movie. I’ve received e-mails from 10-year-olds and a beautifully written letter from a man of 87.

I thought I was the only one sick of non-competitive sports days and playgrounds where it’s practically impossible to hurt yourself. It turned out that the pendulum is swinging back at last. Boys are different from girls. Teaching them as though they are girls who don’t wash as much leads to their failure in school, causing trouble all the way. Boys don’t like group work. They do better on exams than they do in coursework, and they don’t like class discussion. In history lessons, they prefer stories of Rome and of courage to projects on the suffragettes.

It’s all a matter of balance. When I was a teacher, I asked my head of department why every textbook seemed to have a girl achieving her dream of being a carpenter while the boys were morons. She replied that boys had had it their own way for too long, and now it was the girls’ turn. Ouch.

The problem with fighting adult gender battles in the classroom is that the children always lose.

I expected a backlash. If you put the word “boys” on something, someone will always complain. One blog even promoted the idea of removing the words “For Boys” from the cover with an Exacto knife so that people’s sons wouldn’t be introduced to any unpleasantly masculine notions such as duty, honor, courage and competence.

The dark side of masculinity may involve gangs and aggression, but there’s another side — self-discipline, wry humor and quiet determination. I really thought I was the only one who cared about it, but I’ve found many thousands who care just as much.

I know there are women who can lift heavier weights than I can, but on the whole, boys are more interested in the use of urine as secret ink than girls are. We wanted to write a book that celebrated boys — with all their differences and geeky love of knowledge, skills and stories. There just isn’t anything wrong with trying to do that.

We all care about our sons — scabby knees, competitive spirits and all. It’s about time we let our schools and governments know how much we care. Let the pendulum swing.