Day: February 1, 2018

North Korea Goes to the Olympics


What is the real reason for the temporary reconciliation of the two Koreas?

The entire world was surprised to see North Korea’s policy reversal toward its southern neighbor. Kim Jong-un suddenly changed his traditionally hostile rhetoric to calls for peace and cooperation. North and South Korea have already agreed to participate together at the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang and form a joint women’s hockey team. While the office of South Korean president Moon Jae-in considers the agreements reached as a significant breakthrough in the process of normalization of relations with its northern neighbor, the South Korean people’s mood cannot be called enthusiastic.

“We understand that many citizens who were worried about the North Korean missile tests, feel bewildered because of a sudden change in mood,” the office of South Korean President Moon Jae-in stated.

However, such words cannot convince the majority of South Korean citizens. According to polls, 73% of South Koreans do not support the idea of a joint hockey team. The opponents of this decision indicate that the athletes most likely will not have time to properly prepare for the performance in the new team configuration and therefore will not be able to play well. This is unfair to the hockey players, who had been preparing for a long time, and they surely don’t want to lose in the name of bilateral relations.

Many opponents of reestablishment of relations decided to publicly express their displeasure. On January 22, a wave of protests against the overtures toward the North Korean dictatorial regime swept through the capital of South Korea. Members of the ultra-right Party of Korean Patriots went so far as to burn a portrait of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in the streets of Seoul. One of the protest organizers said that “the Pyeongchang Olympics turns into Pyongyang, bearing recognition to the North Korean regime and its nuclear program.” South Koreans believe that only Pyongyang will benefit from the upcoming games.

But at the moment, the world community warmly welcomes North Korea to the Olympic movement.

Today, everyone is happy due to the decrease of tensions on the Korean Peninsula, but sooner or later the U.S. and South Korea will understand that they were deceived. Pyongyang’s decision to jointly participate in the Olympic Games will give Kim Jong-un an opportunity to “take a breath” and prepare his country for a new round of tension that may begin right after the end of the Olympics. Kim Jong-un will never abandon his ambitions in the world political arena, but will try to mitigate possible negative responses from the West, while the policy of the North Korean regime in the nuclear and cyber spheres remains unchanged.

Pyongyang provokes Japan by imitating ballistic missile launches signals and teases South Korea by being unwilling to cancel the military parade scheduled for February 8, right before the opening of the Olympic Games in Pyeongchang.

In addition, IT security experts find traces of North Korean military hacker activity around the world. Their goals were the South Korean cyber exchange, the Canadian transport company Metrolinks, which operates public transport systems and airports, as well as a number of Israeli state companies.Kim Jong-un’s hackers are also among the suspects in phishing attacks on South Korean Olympic facilities in order to gain access to the Olympic computer network.

What is Kim Jong-un trying to achieve? He seems to be testing the threshold of the “world’s patience limit,” conducting, on one hand, a policy of de-escalation and continuing his deliberately anti-Western course on the other. The North Korean leader understands that reducing negative rhetoric towards his country is the only way to legitimize North Korea as a new nuclear power and to force acceptance by the international community. But while the whole world, on the eve of the Olympics, naively believes the suddenly “softened” North Korean leader, he consistently implements his “Napoleonic” ambitions.

What is the real reason for the temporary reconciliation of the two Koreas?

The entire world was surprised to see North Korea’s policy reversal toward its southern neighbor. Kim Jong-un suddenly changed his traditionally hostile rhetoric to calls for peace and cooperation. North and South Korea have already agreed to participate together at the opening ceremony of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang and form a joint women’s hockey team. While the office of South Korean president Moon Jae-in considers the agreements reached as a significant breakthrough in the process of normalization of relations with its northern neighbor, the South Korean people’s mood cannot be called enthusiastic.

“We understand that many citizens who were worried about the North Korean missile tests, feel bewildered because of a sudden change in mood,” the office of South Korean President Moon Jae-in stated.

However, such words cannot convince the majority of South Korean citizens. According to polls, 73% of South Koreans do not support the idea of a joint hockey team. The opponents of this decision indicate that the athletes most likely will not have time to properly prepare for the performance in the new team configuration and therefore will not be able to play well. This is unfair to the hockey players, who had been preparing for a long time, and they surely don’t want to lose in the name of bilateral relations.

Many opponents of reestablishment of relations decided to publicly express their displeasure. On January 22, a wave of protests against the overtures toward the North Korean dictatorial regime swept through the capital of South Korea. Members of the ultra-right Party of Korean Patriots went so far as to burn a portrait of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in the streets of Seoul. One of the protest organizers said that “the Pyeongchang Olympics turns into Pyongyang, bearing recognition to the North Korean regime and its nuclear program.” South Koreans believe that only Pyongyang will benefit from the upcoming games.

But at the moment, the world community warmly welcomes North Korea to the Olympic movement.

Today, everyone is happy due to the decrease of tensions on the Korean Peninsula, but sooner or later the U.S. and South Korea will understand that they were deceived. Pyongyang’s decision to jointly participate in the Olympic Games will give Kim Jong-un an opportunity to “take a breath” and prepare his country for a new round of tension that may begin right after the end of the Olympics. Kim Jong-un will never abandon his ambitions in the world political arena, but will try to mitigate possible negative responses from the West, while the policy of the North Korean regime in the nuclear and cyber spheres remains unchanged.

Pyongyang provokes Japan by imitating ballistic missile launches signals and teases South Korea by being unwilling to cancel the military parade scheduled for February 8, right before the opening of the Olympic Games in Pyeongchang.

In addition, IT security experts find traces of North Korean military hacker activity around the world. Their goals were the South Korean cyber exchange, the Canadian transport company Metrolinks, which operates public transport systems and airports, as well as a number of Israeli state companies.Kim Jong-un’s hackers are also among the suspects in phishing attacks on South Korean Olympic facilities in order to gain access to the Olympic computer network.

What is Kim Jong-un trying to achieve? He seems to be testing the threshold of the “world’s patience limit,” conducting, on one hand, a policy of de-escalation and continuing his deliberately anti-Western course on the other. The North Korean leader understands that reducing negative rhetoric towards his country is the only way to legitimize North Korea as a new nuclear power and to force acceptance by the international community. But while the whole world, on the eve of the Olympics, naively believes the suddenly “softened” North Korean leader, he consistently implements his “Napoleonic” ambitions.



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The Real Gender Gap: Family Breakdown and Black Males


Over 50 years have passed since then Secretary of Labor Daniel Moynihan was raked over the coals for raising awareness on the alarming rise of illegitimacy in black communities. Now that the percentage of single mothers has almost tripled, even leading members of the NAACP regard the breakdown of the family as the single largest barrier to black achievement. Nevertheless, how much of the general public knows the extent of the black gender gap?

According to the Moynihan Report, black females usually outperformed their male counterparts in school and almost always greatly outnumbered black men in white-collar jobs. Data from Maryland’s 2016 PARCC exam concurs with Moynihan’s observations (Fig. 1). Based on these scores the gender gap in blacks is 69%. This far exceeds the 47% difference between black girls and their white counterparts.

Moynihan characterized this as a “matriarchal society” where men were devalued for their inability to provide for the family. He speculated that since men are poorly suited to this “reversal of roles,” some black males react with “aggression… self-hatred, or crime.” Data from the state of Virginia shows a strong association between single parent households and violent crime (Fig. 2). Since the Appalachian cities of Galax and Bristol are 87-90% white, this correlation applies to both races.

Moynihan blamed the trend on past injustices that had “emasculated” black men and rendered them more vulnerable to downturns in the economy. Many conservatives dispute this, but in all fairness, the illegitimacy rate in blacks was already much higher than that of whites as early as the 1930s (about 15% versus 2%). Nevertheless, by exclusively focusing on past injustices, Moynihan overlooked the unintended consequences of governmental regulations that made it harder for black men to access the first rungs of the economic ladder. Ultimately, Moynihan was a liberal Democrat who did not see government as the problem. True to form, he reported that the federal minimum wage was “well below the poverty line” for people supporting families. There are two problems with this perspective: First, most minimum wage jobs are held by teens and young adults. Second, wage restrictions deprived poor blacks of the main leverage they had for competing against whites.

Ironically, the Moynihan Report started out as an internal memo written as an advisory to President Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society”; a social program that is now widely credited for hastening the breakdown of the family. According to the Heritage Foundation, black illegitimacy rose exponentially halfway through the 1960s. This is precisely when the perverse incentives of Johnson’s “War on Poverty” were being implemented.

The report still has many detractors: Ibram Kendi, the founding director of the “Antiracist” Research and Policy Center at American University resented Moynihan’s use of the term “tangle of pathology” and believes it contributed to the narrative of “black inferiority.” The activist-professor also condemns the Christian right for wanting to impose their “civilizing theology” to the “wayward behavior” of blacks.

Dr. Kendi asserts that “the heartbeat of racism is denial” and for Black History Month he will be shuttling across the nation to share his expertise with fawning members of the academic community who are eager to display their antiracist credentials. As for those who see through this charade, almost none of them deny that racism exists, but when young black men are murdering one another at almost 15 times the rate of their white counterparts, you need not be black to see why the problem of racial discrimination is not high on everyone’s agenda.

Moynihan offered no solutions, but predicted that unless this trend was reversed “all the effort to end discrimination and poverty and injustice will come to little.” This prophecy came true for large portions of the black community, but who could have predicted how this ongoing achievement gap would so greatly empower a grievance industry that would hijack America’s colleges and universities? With the rejection of patriarchy and biological gender now all the rage, do not look to higher education to find answers.

Antonio Chaves teaches biology at a local community college. His interest in economic and social issues stems from his experience teaching environmental science.

Over 50 years have passed since then Secretary of Labor Daniel Moynihan was raked over the coals for raising awareness on the alarming rise of illegitimacy in black communities. Now that the percentage of single mothers has almost tripled, even leading members of the NAACP regard the breakdown of the family as the single largest barrier to black achievement. Nevertheless, how much of the general public knows the extent of the black gender gap?

According to the Moynihan Report, black females usually outperformed their male counterparts in school and almost always greatly outnumbered black men in white-collar jobs. Data from Maryland’s 2016 PARCC exam concurs with Moynihan’s observations (Fig. 1). Based on these scores the gender gap in blacks is 69%. This far exceeds the 47% difference between black girls and their white counterparts.

Moynihan characterized this as a “matriarchal society” where men were devalued for their inability to provide for the family. He speculated that since men are poorly suited to this “reversal of roles,” some black males react with “aggression… self-hatred, or crime.” Data from the state of Virginia shows a strong association between single parent households and violent crime (Fig. 2). Since the Appalachian cities of Galax and Bristol are 87-90% white, this correlation applies to both races.

Moynihan blamed the trend on past injustices that had “emasculated” black men and rendered them more vulnerable to downturns in the economy. Many conservatives dispute this, but in all fairness, the illegitimacy rate in blacks was already much higher than that of whites as early as the 1930s (about 15% versus 2%). Nevertheless, by exclusively focusing on past injustices, Moynihan overlooked the unintended consequences of governmental regulations that made it harder for black men to access the first rungs of the economic ladder. Ultimately, Moynihan was a liberal Democrat who did not see government as the problem. True to form, he reported that the federal minimum wage was “well below the poverty line” for people supporting families. There are two problems with this perspective: First, most minimum wage jobs are held by teens and young adults. Second, wage restrictions deprived poor blacks of the main leverage they had for competing against whites.

Ironically, the Moynihan Report started out as an internal memo written as an advisory to President Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society”; a social program that is now widely credited for hastening the breakdown of the family. According to the Heritage Foundation, black illegitimacy rose exponentially halfway through the 1960s. This is precisely when the perverse incentives of Johnson’s “War on Poverty” were being implemented.

The report still has many detractors: Ibram Kendi, the founding director of the “Antiracist” Research and Policy Center at American University resented Moynihan’s use of the term “tangle of pathology” and believes it contributed to the narrative of “black inferiority.” The activist-professor also condemns the Christian right for wanting to impose their “civilizing theology” to the “wayward behavior” of blacks.

Dr. Kendi asserts that “the heartbeat of racism is denial” and for Black History Month he will be shuttling across the nation to share his expertise with fawning members of the academic community who are eager to display their antiracist credentials. As for those who see through this charade, almost none of them deny that racism exists, but when young black men are murdering one another at almost 15 times the rate of their white counterparts, you need not be black to see why the problem of racial discrimination is not high on everyone’s agenda.

Moynihan offered no solutions, but predicted that unless this trend was reversed “all the effort to end discrimination and poverty and injustice will come to little.” This prophecy came true for large portions of the black community, but who could have predicted how this ongoing achievement gap would so greatly empower a grievance industry that would hijack America’s colleges and universities? With the rejection of patriarchy and biological gender now all the rage, do not look to higher education to find answers.

Antonio Chaves teaches biology at a local community college. His interest in economic and social issues stems from his experience teaching environmental science.



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The Real Issue in Government Shutdowns


Before “Cryin’ Chuck” Schumer caved, the most recent skirmish over the federal government shutting down was about an issue that is entirely unrelated to keeping it open. But that’s usually the case. In 2013, the shutdown was about ObamaCare funding, this year it was all about the so-called DACA “Dreamers” and their desire to obtain legal status, which is even more unrelated. One wonders how many Americans know what Congress has always done to avoid or to end a shutdown. What Congress has done each time to end these spats is: raise the “debt ceiling,” also called the “debt limit.”

In past shutdown debates, some have raised the possibility of “default” if Congress were to not raise the debt limit. The webpage for Debt Limit at Treasury is mainly a bunch of links to government documents going back seven years, but it does have three short paragraphs of text, including this one:

Failing to increase the debt limit would have catastrophic economic consequences. It would cause the government to default on its legal obligations — an unprecedented event in American history. That would precipitate another financial crisis and threaten the jobs and savings of everyday Americans — putting the United States right back in a deep economic hole, just as the country is recovering from the recent recession [italics added].  

That’s loose talk, don’t buy it, Congress has shut down the government several times and the republic still stands. On Dec. 20, Forbes ran “10 Things You Need To Know About The Debt Ceiling And Potential Government Shutdown” by Jeffrey Dorfman, and item #3 on his list is: “Not raising the debt ceiling does not mean a default or not paying our debts.”

Default is when you can’t meet your “legal obligations,” such as paying the interest on U.S. debt, and paying government contractors and suppliers. What default would not be is an inability to pay for government programs that are not contractual. Yet, the Treasury’s webpage treats spending the same:

The debt limit is the total amount of money that the United States government is authorized to borrow to meet its existing legal obligations, including Social Security and Medicare benefits, military salaries, interest on the national debt, tax refunds, and other payments [italics added].

Treasury doesn’t seem to know what a “legal obligation” is. If Boeing delivers a fleet of fighter jets to the military, there’s a legal obligation to pay Boeing. Not paying Boeing would signal default. Paying interest on the debt is also a legal obligation. But paying Social Security benefits isn’t a legal obligation. In fact, Congress could end Social Security today and there’s nothing that SS recipients could do about it, because it’s not a contractual obligation. Yet the Treasury webpage lumps all expenditures together.

On Jan. 22, Bloomberg ran “Get Rid of U.S. Government Shutdowns Forever” by Ramesh Ponnuru. The short article outlines a 2013 bill introduced by Sen. Rob Portman which is designed to avert shutdowns. It involves 1 percent cuts in spending when appropriations haven’t been passed. Portman’s bill was appropriately titled the End Government Shutdowns Act.

Also on the 22nd, Mother Jones ran a response to Ponnuru: “Ban Government Shutdowns? Maybe We Actually Need More of Them” by Kevin Drum, who writes: “If the government were put on automatic autopilot in the absence of a budget agreement, the incentive to pass a budget would shrivel even further than it already has.” Mr. Drum compares Ponnuru’s idea with the changes made to the filibuster half a century ago. His counterproposal to Ponnuru’s is worth considering; you might read it (despite it being at Mother Jones.)

What’s fairly certain is that neither Ponnuru’s nor Drum’s solutions will be in place in time for the next shutdown showdown on Feb. 8, (which was scheduled by the continuing appropriation H.R.195 on Jan. 22). And, if there’s again wrangling about the Dreamers or any other issue unrelated to the debt limit, then you’ll be witnessing government at its most cynical. The minority will be holding America “hostage” unless the majority gives them their “ransom.”

Congress could agree to never again use the debt limit to “take hostages,” and agree to raise the debt limit every time they bump up against it. But if Congress keeps borrowing money, they’re liable to bump up against something almost as horrific as default, and that’s high interest rates.

With soaring interest rates comes soaring inflation, and with soaring inflation comes a debased currency. And when a currency has been debased, debauched, and degraded, who wants to buy sovereign debt denominated in that currency? (Are you in the market for some nice Venezuelan bonds?) Inasmuch as interest on the debt is an item in the federal budget, it would seem that it must be paid for with tax receipts, not money created by the Federal Reserve. If so, then high interest rates crowd out other spending.

In 2010, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen said: “The most significant threat to our national security is our debt.” It’s easy to think that all the brouhaha about government shutdowns is a ruse, a way to divert the public’s attention away from the real issue: the fact that every time they hit the debt ceiling, Congress invariably raises it, and gives itself permission to take America ever deeper into debt.

But there’d be no need to raise the debt limit if Congress were running a balanced budget. The Treasury webpage, however, seems to be assuming that Congress will never again balance the budget. Balancing the budget could perhaps be easier than we think; read on:

In 2016, total federal revenue was $3.267T, an all-time high (see Table 1.1). The latest year for which that revenue would have been enough to cover all federal spending was 2008, when total spending was $2.982T. And in 2009, the year with still the biggest deficit ever (-$1.412T), 2016’s revenue would have been just $250B short of covering all of 2009’s massive spending: $3.517T.

Despite that, Congress just can’t bring itself to make the spending cuts that would balance the budget and keep us Americans from going further into debt. Yet all the media can talk about is the Dreamers. But hey, we’re all “dreamers.” And some of us dream of a balanced budget and an end to debt. Dream on.

Jon N. Hall of Ultracon Opinion is a programmer/analyst from Kansas City. 

Before “Cryin’ Chuck” Schumer caved, the most recent skirmish over the federal government shutting down was about an issue that is entirely unrelated to keeping it open. But that’s usually the case. In 2013, the shutdown was about ObamaCare funding, this year it was all about the so-called DACA “Dreamers” and their desire to obtain legal status, which is even more unrelated. One wonders how many Americans know what Congress has always done to avoid or to end a shutdown. What Congress has done each time to end these spats is: raise the “debt ceiling,” also called the “debt limit.”

In past shutdown debates, some have raised the possibility of “default” if Congress were to not raise the debt limit. The webpage for Debt Limit at Treasury is mainly a bunch of links to government documents going back seven years, but it does have three short paragraphs of text, including this one:

Failing to increase the debt limit would have catastrophic economic consequences. It would cause the government to default on its legal obligations — an unprecedented event in American history. That would precipitate another financial crisis and threaten the jobs and savings of everyday Americans — putting the United States right back in a deep economic hole, just as the country is recovering from the recent recession [italics added].  

That’s loose talk, don’t buy it, Congress has shut down the government several times and the republic still stands. On Dec. 20, Forbes ran “10 Things You Need To Know About The Debt Ceiling And Potential Government Shutdown” by Jeffrey Dorfman, and item #3 on his list is: “Not raising the debt ceiling does not mean a default or not paying our debts.”

Default is when you can’t meet your “legal obligations,” such as paying the interest on U.S. debt, and paying government contractors and suppliers. What default would not be is an inability to pay for government programs that are not contractual. Yet, the Treasury’s webpage treats spending the same:

The debt limit is the total amount of money that the United States government is authorized to borrow to meet its existing legal obligations, including Social Security and Medicare benefits, military salaries, interest on the national debt, tax refunds, and other payments [italics added].

Treasury doesn’t seem to know what a “legal obligation” is. If Boeing delivers a fleet of fighter jets to the military, there’s a legal obligation to pay Boeing. Not paying Boeing would signal default. Paying interest on the debt is also a legal obligation. But paying Social Security benefits isn’t a legal obligation. In fact, Congress could end Social Security today and there’s nothing that SS recipients could do about it, because it’s not a contractual obligation. Yet the Treasury webpage lumps all expenditures together.

On Jan. 22, Bloomberg ran “Get Rid of U.S. Government Shutdowns Forever” by Ramesh Ponnuru. The short article outlines a 2013 bill introduced by Sen. Rob Portman which is designed to avert shutdowns. It involves 1 percent cuts in spending when appropriations haven’t been passed. Portman’s bill was appropriately titled the End Government Shutdowns Act.

Also on the 22nd, Mother Jones ran a response to Ponnuru: “Ban Government Shutdowns? Maybe We Actually Need More of Them” by Kevin Drum, who writes: “If the government were put on automatic autopilot in the absence of a budget agreement, the incentive to pass a budget would shrivel even further than it already has.” Mr. Drum compares Ponnuru’s idea with the changes made to the filibuster half a century ago. His counterproposal to Ponnuru’s is worth considering; you might read it (despite it being at Mother Jones.)

What’s fairly certain is that neither Ponnuru’s nor Drum’s solutions will be in place in time for the next shutdown showdown on Feb. 8, (which was scheduled by the continuing appropriation H.R.195 on Jan. 22). And, if there’s again wrangling about the Dreamers or any other issue unrelated to the debt limit, then you’ll be witnessing government at its most cynical. The minority will be holding America “hostage” unless the majority gives them their “ransom.”

Congress could agree to never again use the debt limit to “take hostages,” and agree to raise the debt limit every time they bump up against it. But if Congress keeps borrowing money, they’re liable to bump up against something almost as horrific as default, and that’s high interest rates.

With soaring interest rates comes soaring inflation, and with soaring inflation comes a debased currency. And when a currency has been debased, debauched, and degraded, who wants to buy sovereign debt denominated in that currency? (Are you in the market for some nice Venezuelan bonds?) Inasmuch as interest on the debt is an item in the federal budget, it would seem that it must be paid for with tax receipts, not money created by the Federal Reserve. If so, then high interest rates crowd out other spending.

In 2010, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen said: “The most significant threat to our national security is our debt.” It’s easy to think that all the brouhaha about government shutdowns is a ruse, a way to divert the public’s attention away from the real issue: the fact that every time they hit the debt ceiling, Congress invariably raises it, and gives itself permission to take America ever deeper into debt.

But there’d be no need to raise the debt limit if Congress were running a balanced budget. The Treasury webpage, however, seems to be assuming that Congress will never again balance the budget. Balancing the budget could perhaps be easier than we think; read on:

In 2016, total federal revenue was $3.267T, an all-time high (see Table 1.1). The latest year for which that revenue would have been enough to cover all federal spending was 2008, when total spending was $2.982T. And in 2009, the year with still the biggest deficit ever (-$1.412T), 2016’s revenue would have been just $250B short of covering all of 2009’s massive spending: $3.517T.

Despite that, Congress just can’t bring itself to make the spending cuts that would balance the budget and keep us Americans from going further into debt. Yet all the media can talk about is the Dreamers. But hey, we’re all “dreamers.” And some of us dream of a balanced budget and an end to debt. Dream on.

Jon N. Hall of Ultracon Opinion is a programmer/analyst from Kansas City. 



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Identity Politics and the End of Meaning


It has been more than a year since Madonna proclaimed at the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. that: “Yes, I have thought an awful lot about blowing up the White House. But I know that won’t change anything.” Her rant that day may not have changed anything, but it certainly spread like wildfire on the national news networks as the opening shot of women’s all-out war on Trump.

But what is this war really about? Is it mostly about a woman’s right to choose? Since the March planners refused to allow pro-life women to participate, one might think so. Yet, until very recently, neither President Trump nor the Republican Party has taken any official side on the abortion issue. More likely, this war is really about identity politics and what Columbia University Professor Mark Lilla has called “The Liberal Crackup.”

Lilla traces the origins of identity politics to a slogan of the feminist movement during the 1960s: the personal is the political. “Originally,” Lilla observes, “it was interpreted to mean that everything that seems strictly private — sexuality, the family, the workplace — is in fact political and that there are no spheres of life exempt from the struggle for power… But the phrase could also be taken in a more romantic sense: that what we think of as political action is in fact nothing but personal activity, an expression of me and how I define myself. As we would put it today, my political life is a reflection of my identity.”

Certainly, this “romantic” definition fits Madonna’s rant. She was not really planning to “blow up the White House;” she merely wanted to reaffirm her already well-established public identity as a femme fatale. Given the circumstances, it wouldn’t have surprised anyone if she had followed her threat at the Women’s March by breaking into a soaring rendition of “Don’t cry for me, Argentina.”

Such egocentrism, Lilla explains, “was an innovation on the left. Socialism had no time for individual recognition… Even the early movements of the 1950s and ‘60s to secure the rights of African-Americans, women and gays appealed to our shared humanity and citizenship, not our differences.” In the 1970s, Lilla notes. when “Blacks complained that white movement leaders were racist, feminists complained that they were sexist, and lesbians complained that straight feminists were homophobic… It was then that less radical liberal and progressive activists also began redirecting their energies away from party politics and toward a wide range of single-issue social movements.”

Focusing attention on the members of his own profession, Lilla argues that “The big story is not that leftist professors successfully turn millions of young people into dangerous political radicals every year. It is that they have gotten students so obsessed with their personal identities that, by the time they graduate, they have much less interest in, and even less engagement with, the wider political world outside their heads.”

This, then, is what Lilla apparently considers a primary cause of “The Liberal Crackup.” As he concludes in his final paragraph: “The politics of identity has done nothing but strengthen the grip of the American right on our institutions. It is the gift that keeps on taking. Now is the time for liberals to do an immediate about-face and return to articulating their core principles of solidarity and equal protection for all. Never has the country needed it more.”

Sadly, the time for such an about-face is way too late. Writing in the November 2017 issue of Imprimis, a publication of Hillsdale College, Matthew Continnetti has cited some of the most egregious liberal-left attacks on traditional American values:

  • At the Democratic National Convention in 2012, a majority of delegates opposed any reference to God in their party platform
  • In 2014, the Affordable Care Act forced the Little Sisters of the Poor to provide contraceptive coverage for their employees under a mandate that violated the free exercise of religion.
  • Also in 2014, Brendan Eich was forced to step down as the CEO of Mozilla because he opposed same-sex marriage.
  • In 2015, an Oregon judge fined a small Christian bakery $135,000 for refusing to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding.
  • By March of 2017, Democrat legislative majorities in19 states and the District of Columbia had passed anti-discrimination laws that let transgenders use public facilities corresponding to their gender “identity” instead of their gender at birth.

Perhaps even more significant have been the ubiquity of Facebook and the smartphone-induced epidemic of “selfies” — technological innovations that have launched our nation on what may be an irreversible path to “special interest” balkanization. No matter where you go in Blue State America, you will see people staring at, tapping and/or swiping their smartphone screens, often completely oblivious to what’s going on in the real world around them.

In her January 12, 2018 Wall Street Journal article on when parents should give children smartphones, Betsy Morris stresses that the goal of Facebook and Google “is to create or host captivating experiences that keep users glued to their screens, whether for Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat or Facebook. A child” she adds, “can understand the business model: The more screen time, the more revenue.”

Morris cites three recent studies that reveal “Nearly 75% of teenagers had access to smartphones… unlocking the devices about 95 times a day” and spending “close to nine hours a day tethered to screens large and small outside of school.”  As a result, Morris warns, “When to allow children a smartphone has become… as significant as when to hand over the car keys.”

Morris drills deeper into this parental “dilemma” by focusing on several specific case studies of individual parents in such major cities as Austin, Texas; Palo Alto and San Francisco, California; and Syracuse, New York. Most of these parents were prosperous professionals with jobs in the health care and high-tech industries.

Like any good investigative journalist, however, Morris avoids passing judgment on any of these parents and makes a point of listing several smartphone features parents find beneficial, such as the following:

  1. “Many parents are thrilled with the benefits technology delivers for their children. Programs and games teach arithmetic, foreign languages and logic. Online books are nearly limitless.
  2. “Smartphones offer children greater independence, with apps that allow parents to locate them instantly. They also make it easy to keep parents at bay.
  3. “Children set up Instagram accounts under pseudonyms that friends but not parents recognize. Some teens keep several of these so-called Finsta accounts without their parents knowing.”

Items 2 and 3 are not really beneficial, though, for they limit parental monitoring and encourage childhood deception. This only further isolates children from their parents. In another Wall Street Journal report titled “Zuckerberg’s Dilemma: When Facebook’s Success Is Bad for Society,” Christopher Mims has taken a closer look at these features.

According to a survey conducted in early 2017 by the U.K.-based Royal Society for Public Health, Mims notes, “all but one [social media] service had a negative effect on mental health. Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and the Facebook-owned Instagram all pushed survey participants to contrast their lives with others, a phenomenon known as social comparison.”

Another negative side-effect of Snapchat and Instagram is “fear of missing out,” or FOMO. Researchers like Jacqueline Rifkin of Duke University say this occurs when someone sees photos of “a missed social event on social media, which leads to both diminished enjoyment of one’s current experience and greater expected enjoyment of the missed experience.” In other words, FOMO is another symptom of the self-inflicted isolation and loneliness associated with addiction to social media.

Since time immemorial, the family has been the most basic unit of human society. Open and trusting communications among family members is the seedbed of a thriving culture and the essential catalyst of every advanced civilization. But what happens when highly sophisticated artificial-intelligence systems and hidden algorithms are introduced into the seedbed by authoritarian corporate entities like Apple, Google, and Facebook. In this environment individual identity and freedom of expression — even independent thought — are obliterated.

In the meantime, the college professoriate continues to make students “obsessed with their personal identities” that civil discourse no long has meaning.  As Wall Street Journal columnist Steve Salerno observes, “Civility, you see, is a manifestation of the white patriarchy. Spearheading this campaign are a duo of University of Northern Iowa professors, who assert that “civility within higher education is a racialized, rather than universal, norm… their core contention is twofold: One, that civility, as currently practiced in America, is a white construct. Two, that in a campus setting, the ‘woke’ white student’s endeavor to avoid microaggressions against black peers is itself a microaggression — a form of noblesse oblige whereby white students are in fact patronizing students of color.”

Since Salerno’s article was first published on January 2, almost 2,000 comments have been posted to the online version. Perhaps the most succinct comment was the one posted by Sarah Clinton on January 8: “Damned if you do and damned if you don’t.”

It has been more than a year since Madonna proclaimed at the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. that: “Yes, I have thought an awful lot about blowing up the White House. But I know that won’t change anything.” Her rant that day may not have changed anything, but it certainly spread like wildfire on the national news networks as the opening shot of women’s all-out war on Trump.

But what is this war really about? Is it mostly about a woman’s right to choose? Since the March planners refused to allow pro-life women to participate, one might think so. Yet, until very recently, neither President Trump nor the Republican Party has taken any official side on the abortion issue. More likely, this war is really about identity politics and what Columbia University Professor Mark Lilla has called “The Liberal Crackup.”

Lilla traces the origins of identity politics to a slogan of the feminist movement during the 1960s: the personal is the political. “Originally,” Lilla observes, “it was interpreted to mean that everything that seems strictly private — sexuality, the family, the workplace — is in fact political and that there are no spheres of life exempt from the struggle for power… But the phrase could also be taken in a more romantic sense: that what we think of as political action is in fact nothing but personal activity, an expression of me and how I define myself. As we would put it today, my political life is a reflection of my identity.”

Certainly, this “romantic” definition fits Madonna’s rant. She was not really planning to “blow up the White House;” she merely wanted to reaffirm her already well-established public identity as a femme fatale. Given the circumstances, it wouldn’t have surprised anyone if she had followed her threat at the Women’s March by breaking into a soaring rendition of “Don’t cry for me, Argentina.”

Such egocentrism, Lilla explains, “was an innovation on the left. Socialism had no time for individual recognition… Even the early movements of the 1950s and ‘60s to secure the rights of African-Americans, women and gays appealed to our shared humanity and citizenship, not our differences.” In the 1970s, Lilla notes. when “Blacks complained that white movement leaders were racist, feminists complained that they were sexist, and lesbians complained that straight feminists were homophobic… It was then that less radical liberal and progressive activists also began redirecting their energies away from party politics and toward a wide range of single-issue social movements.”

Focusing attention on the members of his own profession, Lilla argues that “The big story is not that leftist professors successfully turn millions of young people into dangerous political radicals every year. It is that they have gotten students so obsessed with their personal identities that, by the time they graduate, they have much less interest in, and even less engagement with, the wider political world outside their heads.”

This, then, is what Lilla apparently considers a primary cause of “The Liberal Crackup.” As he concludes in his final paragraph: “The politics of identity has done nothing but strengthen the grip of the American right on our institutions. It is the gift that keeps on taking. Now is the time for liberals to do an immediate about-face and return to articulating their core principles of solidarity and equal protection for all. Never has the country needed it more.”

Sadly, the time for such an about-face is way too late. Writing in the November 2017 issue of Imprimis, a publication of Hillsdale College, Matthew Continnetti has cited some of the most egregious liberal-left attacks on traditional American values:

  • At the Democratic National Convention in 2012, a majority of delegates opposed any reference to God in their party platform
  • In 2014, the Affordable Care Act forced the Little Sisters of the Poor to provide contraceptive coverage for their employees under a mandate that violated the free exercise of religion.
  • Also in 2014, Brendan Eich was forced to step down as the CEO of Mozilla because he opposed same-sex marriage.
  • In 2015, an Oregon judge fined a small Christian bakery $135,000 for refusing to bake a cake for a same-sex wedding.
  • By March of 2017, Democrat legislative majorities in19 states and the District of Columbia had passed anti-discrimination laws that let transgenders use public facilities corresponding to their gender “identity” instead of their gender at birth.

Perhaps even more significant have been the ubiquity of Facebook and the smartphone-induced epidemic of “selfies” — technological innovations that have launched our nation on what may be an irreversible path to “special interest” balkanization. No matter where you go in Blue State America, you will see people staring at, tapping and/or swiping their smartphone screens, often completely oblivious to what’s going on in the real world around them.

In her January 12, 2018 Wall Street Journal article on when parents should give children smartphones, Betsy Morris stresses that the goal of Facebook and Google “is to create or host captivating experiences that keep users glued to their screens, whether for Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat or Facebook. A child” she adds, “can understand the business model: The more screen time, the more revenue.”

Morris cites three recent studies that reveal “Nearly 75% of teenagers had access to smartphones… unlocking the devices about 95 times a day” and spending “close to nine hours a day tethered to screens large and small outside of school.”  As a result, Morris warns, “When to allow children a smartphone has become… as significant as when to hand over the car keys.”

Morris drills deeper into this parental “dilemma” by focusing on several specific case studies of individual parents in such major cities as Austin, Texas; Palo Alto and San Francisco, California; and Syracuse, New York. Most of these parents were prosperous professionals with jobs in the health care and high-tech industries.

Like any good investigative journalist, however, Morris avoids passing judgment on any of these parents and makes a point of listing several smartphone features parents find beneficial, such as the following:

  1. “Many parents are thrilled with the benefits technology delivers for their children. Programs and games teach arithmetic, foreign languages and logic. Online books are nearly limitless.
  2. “Smartphones offer children greater independence, with apps that allow parents to locate them instantly. They also make it easy to keep parents at bay.
  3. “Children set up Instagram accounts under pseudonyms that friends but not parents recognize. Some teens keep several of these so-called Finsta accounts without their parents knowing.”

Items 2 and 3 are not really beneficial, though, for they limit parental monitoring and encourage childhood deception. This only further isolates children from their parents. In another Wall Street Journal report titled “Zuckerberg’s Dilemma: When Facebook’s Success Is Bad for Society,” Christopher Mims has taken a closer look at these features.

According to a survey conducted in early 2017 by the U.K.-based Royal Society for Public Health, Mims notes, “all but one [social media] service had a negative effect on mental health. Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, and the Facebook-owned Instagram all pushed survey participants to contrast their lives with others, a phenomenon known as social comparison.”

Another negative side-effect of Snapchat and Instagram is “fear of missing out,” or FOMO. Researchers like Jacqueline Rifkin of Duke University say this occurs when someone sees photos of “a missed social event on social media, which leads to both diminished enjoyment of one’s current experience and greater expected enjoyment of the missed experience.” In other words, FOMO is another symptom of the self-inflicted isolation and loneliness associated with addiction to social media.

Since time immemorial, the family has been the most basic unit of human society. Open and trusting communications among family members is the seedbed of a thriving culture and the essential catalyst of every advanced civilization. But what happens when highly sophisticated artificial-intelligence systems and hidden algorithms are introduced into the seedbed by authoritarian corporate entities like Apple, Google, and Facebook. In this environment individual identity and freedom of expression — even independent thought — are obliterated.

In the meantime, the college professoriate continues to make students “obsessed with their personal identities” that civil discourse no long has meaning.  As Wall Street Journal columnist Steve Salerno observes, “Civility, you see, is a manifestation of the white patriarchy. Spearheading this campaign are a duo of University of Northern Iowa professors, who assert that “civility within higher education is a racialized, rather than universal, norm… their core contention is twofold: One, that civility, as currently practiced in America, is a white construct. Two, that in a campus setting, the ‘woke’ white student’s endeavor to avoid microaggressions against black peers is itself a microaggression — a form of noblesse oblige whereby white students are in fact patronizing students of color.”

Since Salerno’s article was first published on January 2, almost 2,000 comments have been posted to the online version. Perhaps the most succinct comment was the one posted by Sarah Clinton on January 8: “Damned if you do and damned if you don’t.”



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