Friday, November 16, 2007

It's Too Late, Baby

Excerpt from the inimitable MARK STEYN

I was reading the New York Post the other day when my eye fell upon a story about Alexis Stewart, daughter of Martha. About twelve seconds later, my jaw fell upon it too. Miss Stewart is paying $27,000 a month in an effort to get pregnant.... She told People magazine that she's wanted a baby since she was 37, but that her ex-husband was "completely ambivalent about kids." So these days she injects herself once a month with a drug that causes her to ovulate in 36 hours. "I go to the doctor's office and they put me under anesthesia and use an 18-inch needle to remove about ten eggs," she explained. "Then, I go home to my apartment in TriBeCa, change, and get ready for my Sirius Radio show, Whatever." The doctor then fertilizes the eggs by a method known as intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection. "I'm using an anonymous donor," Alexis confided to People, "but not from a `genius' bank. Those are creepy." Unlike giving celebrity interviews about your 27-thousand-per-month intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection....

Martha's criminal prosecution was a disgrace, and her triumphant return a splendidly cocked snook - or even a cocked cockscomb topiary - to the SEC. Nevertheless, there is something almost too eerily symbolic about the fact that America's "domestic diva" is a divorcee with an only child unable to conceive. The happy homemaker has no one to make a home for. You look at Martha Stewart's Thanksgiving and think: Why bother just for her and Alexis? Why don't they just book a table at the Four Seasons?

Well, I would say that, wouldn't I? As National Review's in-house demography bore, you'd expect me to find in a successful single woman's $27,000 fertility treatments the flipside of the Afghan baby boom I mentioned last issue. Just as Europeans preserve old churches and farms as heritage sites, so Martha has amputated the family from family life, leaving its rituals and traditions as freestanding lifestyle accessories. So okay, let me nudge the argument on a bit. Today, many of the Western world's women have in effect doubled the generational span, opting not for three children in their twenties but one designer yuppie baby in their late thirties. Demographers talk about "late family formation" as if it had no real consequences for the child.

But I wonder. The abortion lobby talks about a world where every child is "wanted." If you get pregnant at 19 or 23, you most likely didn't really "want" a child: It just kinda happened, as it has throughout most of human history. By contrast, if you conceive at 42 after half a million bucks' worth of fertility treatment, you really want that kid. Is it possible to be over-wanted? I notice in my part of the world that there's a striking difference between those moms who have their first kids at traditional childbearing ages and those who leave it to Miss Stewart's. The latter are far more protective of their nippers, as well they might be: Even if you haven't paid the clinic a bundle for the stork's little bundle, you're aware of how precious and fragile the gift of life can be. When you contemplate society's changing attitudes to childhood - the "war against boys" that Christina Hoff Sommers has noted, and a more general tendency to keep children on an ever-tighter chain - you have to wonder how much of that derives from the fact that "young moms" are increasingly middle-aged. I wish Miss Stewart happiness and fulfillment, but she seems a sad emblem of a world that insists on time-honored traditions when decorating the house for Thanksgiving but thinks nothing of reordering the most basic building blocks of society.


Thanksgiving a time of mourning

Says a letter to Seattle Public Schools Staff:

We recognize the amount of work that educators and staff have to do in order to fulfill our mission to successfully educate all students. It's never as simple as preparing and delivering a lesson. Students bring with them a host of complexities including cultural, linguistic and social economic diversity. In addition they can also bring challenges related to their social, emotional and physical well being. One of our departments' goals is to support you by suggesting ways to assist you in removing barriers to learning by promoting respect and honoring the diversity of our students, staff and families.

With so many holidays approaching we want to again remind you that Thanksgiving can be a particularly difficult time for many of our Native students. This website offers suggestions on ways to be sensitive of diverse experiences and perspectives and still make the holiday meaningful for all students. Here you will discover ways to help you and your students think critically, and find resources where you can learn about Thanksgiving from a Native American perspective. Eleven myths are identified about Thanksgiving, take a look at #11 and begin your own deconstruction.

Myth #11: Thanksgiving is a happy time Fact: For many Indian people, "Thanksgiving" is a time of mourning, of remembering how a gift of generosity was rewarded by theft of land and seed corn, extermination of many from disease and gun, and near total destruction of many more from forced assimilation. As currently celebrated in this country, "Thanksgiving" is a bitter reminder of 500 years of betrayal returned for friendship.

It is our goal as a District to strive towards being inclusive and aware of the needs of all our students by respecting and honoring the many cultural experiences of our students, staff and families. This does not mean that schools and staff have to avoid recognizing Thanksgiving, but rather calls upon each of us to be sensitive and mindful of every child in our classroom.

We appreciate your willingness to struggle with these complex issues by considering the impact on many of our Native students when teaching about Thanksgiving in traditional ways. If you have any questions or need assistance planning or preparing for any holiday, please feel free to contact the Department of Equity, Race and Learning Support at 252-0138.


Some comments on the above here

Stereotypes can be accurate generalizations

In a racial profiling lawsuit against the Maryland State Police (MSP), a plaintiff's attorney named Eliza Leighton said that some training documents contain "startling examples of racial stereotypes about Hispanics." According to the Associated Press:
For example, one document cautions that Hispanics generally do not hold their alcohol well. They tend to drink too much and this leads to fights. And it notes, Hispanic males are raised to be MACHO and brave, while females are raised to be subservient. Other sterotypes [sic] include the assertion that the weapon of choice for Hispanics is a knife and that Hispanics are reluctant to learn English.
Regardless of the outcome of this lawsuit, we can now expect such information to be purged from the training documents. But, as I wrote about Dr. James Watson's comments regarding Africans, intelligence and genetics, this is part of a very distressing pattern. Everyone fixates on the fact that such comments constitute generalizations (about groups that are supposed to be immune from such things), as if this is an offense in and of itself. Yet, no one seems to ask the only relevant question. Are the generalizations true?

Before anyone waxes stupid, please don't tell me that all generalizations are invalid because not every member of the given group will conform to a generalization. Intelligent people understand that legitimate generalizations are statements about a group's general characteristics, not individuals' specific ones. For example, if I say that men are taller than women, I don't mean that every man towers over every woman; nevertheless, it is an accurate relation of a general difference between the groups.

This brings us to an important point: While we must judge everyone as an individual, there are differences within groups but also differences among them. Thus, it makes no more sense to paint every group with the same brush than it does to pain every individual with the same brush. My response to those who cannot or will not accept this is that if they can't understand commentary written for adults, they shouldn't read it. Besides, not all generalizations can be invalid simply because the statement that all generalizations are invalid is itself is a generalization.

Modern dogma holds that diversity is one of the greatest qualities a society can enjoy, that it bestows many advantages. But what does this imply? Well, by definition "diversity" refers to differences among groups. Now, not only is it illogical to assume that every one of these differences will be flattering, the supposition that diversity is beneficial implies otherwise. After all, if diversity is beneficial, it is only because certain groups bring qualities or strengths to the table that others do not. And, if a given group possesses a certain unique strength, then other groups are wanting in that area relative to it. Any which way you care to slice it, this is a corollary of diversity dogma.

So, ironically, despite the fact that the diversity dogmatists would eschew stereotyping, a version of it imbues their ideology. So it's not that they don't have biases relating to generalizations, only that their understanding of group differences is clumsy and primitive, sort of like Archie Bunker but with advanced degrees, the illusion of intellectualism and the inability to be honest with themselves and others. So let's be honest now.

Stereotypes often arise because they have a basis in reality. For example, often it has been remarked that Irishmen liked to drink. Once again, intelligent people know this doesn't mean that every Irishman is a drunkard, but informed people might know something else: Ireland ranks number two in the world in per capita alcohol consumption next to Luxemburg.

Another difference among groups is that some are more patriarchal than others. We know that Moslem societies are quite so, as women are usually afforded fewer legal rights. In fact, Westerners will often emphasize and lament this difference as a way to burnish their credentials as believers in women's liberation.

In light of this, let's now analyze the MSP's statement that "Hispanic males are raised to be MACHO and brave, while females are raised to be subservient." Since some groups are more patriarchal than others, this can be true; and I venture to say that anyone who has had great contact with Hispanic people and possesses eyes and common sense will know it's often enough true compared to, say, Swedes

As to these matters, Raul Caetano, Catherine L. Clark and Tammy Tam, three Ph.Ds who received a government grant to study common sense, implicitly vindicate two of the MSP's assertions. They write in their paper, Alcohol Consumption Among Racial/Ethnic Minorities:
"One traditional explanation for heavy drinking patterns among Hispanic men, particularly Mexican-Americans, is the concept of `exaggerated machismo.'"
While these researchers didn't accept or reject this explanation, they didn't question the suppositions that Hispanic men drink too much and are "macho." So then why are the Maryland State Police probably going to have to pay money for saying what these academics got paid money to say? Well, it neither serves the left's agenda to sue a few eggheads nor can cash be extracted from them.

Besides, there is another factor: If a truth hurts, since you can't destroy the Truth, you destroy the truth-teller. And here is another truth. I have only one thing to say about the idea that Hispanics are reluctant to learn English: I've never been asked if I wanted to press two for German.

Stereotypes aren't just woven into flawed leftist ideology (please forgive the redundancy) and million-dollar research substitutes for common sense; they also appear in entertainment. Just think about all the times that whites are characterized as nerdy, lacking rhythm or liking mayonnaise (as to this, watch the movie Undercover Brother or Al Yankovic's music video "White & Nerdy"). Yet, golfer Fuzzy Zoeller was practically clubbed to death for quipping that Tiger Woods shouldn't request fried chicken or collard greens after the latter's record-setting performance at the 1997 Masters tournament. (I was "startled" myself; since Woods' mother hails from Thailand, I would have thrown in phat gapow). Seriously, though -- or almost seriously -- if whites can be smeared with mayonnaise, other groups can be coddled with their cuisines.

This isn't to say that every stereotype or generalization -- or what is known as a "profile" in the realm of law enforcement -- is completely accurate. But when one is found wanting, it simply warrants the alteration of its flawed elements, not the throwing out of the baby with the bath water. If a difference is frivolous and fun, it should be a source of mirth; if it indicates greater ability, it should be applauded; and if the difference is damning, remedy should be sought.

But this standard won't be embraced until we accept what is perhaps the most valid generalization of all: The leftist thought police are a menace to civilization and free speech. They are turning us into an ideological state, a place where ideology isn't rejected when it departs from truth but truth is rejected when it departs from ideology.

As for remedy, the best antidote to political correctness is its opposite. We don't have to speak and joke and talk and think in a way that pleases those who prove that infantilism doesn't always peak in infancy. Instead, we should stand up for truth - be it in the form of wit, policy or paradigm - and those who speak it. Do this en masse and "startle" those thought police enough, and we just might be rid of them after all. That is, if they actually do have hearts.


Academic research showing that stereotyes have considerable truth value is summarized here and here

The Insanity of Bush Hatred

Our politics suffer when passions overcome reason and vitriol becomes virtue

Hating the president is almost as old as the republic itself. The people, or various factions among them, have indulged in Clinton hatred, Reagan hatred, Nixon hatred, LBJ hatred, FDR hatred, Lincoln hatred, and John Adams hatred, to mention only the more extravagant hatreds that we Americans have conceived for our presidents.

But Bush hatred is different. It's not that this time members of the intellectual class have been swept away by passion and become votaries of anger and loathing. Alas, intellectuals have always been prone to employ their learning and fine words to whip up resentment and demonize the competition. Bush hatred, however, is distinguished by the pride intellectuals have taken in their hatred, openly endorsing it as a virtue and enthusiastically proclaiming that their hatred is not only a rational response to the president and his administration but a mark of good moral hygiene.

This distinguishing feature of Bush hatred was brought home to me on a recent visit to Princeton University. I had been invited to appear on a panel to debate the ideas in Princeton professor and American Prospect editor Paul Starr's excellent new book, "Freedom's Power: The True Force of Liberalism." To put in context Prof. Starr's grounding of contemporary progressivism in the larger liberal tradition, I recounted to the Princeton audience an exchange at a dinner I hosted in Washington in June 2004 for several distinguished progressive scholars, journalists, and policy analysts.

To get the conversation rolling at that D.C. dinner--and perhaps mischievously--I wondered aloud whether Bush hatred had not made rational discussion of politics in Washington all but impossible. One guest responded in a loud, seething, in-your-face voice, "What's irrational about hating George W. Bush?" His vehemence caused his fellow progressives to gather around and lean in, like kids on a playground who see a fight brewing.

Reluctant to see the dinner fall apart before drinks had been served, I sought to ease the tension. I said, gently, that I rarely found hatred a rational force in politics, but, who knows, perhaps this was a special case. And then I tried to change the subject.

But my dinner companion wouldn't allow it. "No," he said, angrily. "You started it. You make the case that it's not rational to hate Bush." I looked around the table for help. Instead, I found faces keen for my response. So, for several minutes, I held forth, suggesting that however wrongheaded or harmful to the national interest the president's policies may have seemed to my progressive colleagues, hatred tended to cloud judgment, and therefore was a passion that a citizen should not be proud of being in the grips of and should avoid bringing to public debate. Propositions, one might have thought, that would not be controversial among intellectuals devoted to thinking and writing about politics.

But controversial they were. Finally, another guest, a man I had long admired, an incisive thinker and a political moderate, cleared his throat, and asked if he could interject. I welcomed his intervention, confident that he would ease the tension by lending his authority in support of the sole claim that I was defending, namely, that Bush hatred subverted sound thinking. He cleared his throat for a second time. Then, with all eyes on him, and measuring every word, he proclaimed, "I . . . hate . . . the . . . way . . . Bush . . . talks."

And so, I told my Princeton audience, in the context of a Bush hatred and a corollary contempt for conservatism so virulent that it had addled the minds of many of our leading progressive intellectuals, Prof. Starr deserved special recognition for keeping his head in his analysis of liberalism and progressivism. Then I got on with my prepared remarks.

But as at that D.C. dinner in late spring of 2004, so again in early autumn 2007 at dinner following the Princeton panel, several of my progressive colleagues seized upon my remarks against giving oneself over to hatred. And they vigorously rejected the notion. Both a professor of political theory and a nationally syndicated columnist insisted that I was wrong to condemn hatred as a passion that impaired political judgment. On the contrary, they argued, Bush hatred was fully warranted considering his theft of the 2000 election in Florida with the aid of the Supreme Court's decision in Bush v. Gore; his politicization of national security by making the invasion of Iraq an issue in the 2002 midterm elections; and his shredding of the Constitution to authorize the torture of enemy combatants.

Of course, these very examples illustrate nothing so much as the damage hatred inflicts on the intellect. Many of my colleagues at Princeton that evening seemed not to have considered that in 2000 it was Al Gore who shifted the election controversy to the courts by filing a lawsuit challenging decisions made by local Florida county election supervisors. Nor did many of my Princeton dinner companions take into account that between the Florida Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court, 10 of 16 higher court judges--five of whom were Democratic appointees--found equal protection flaws with the recount scheme ordered by the intermediate Florida court. And they did not appear to have pondered Judge Richard Posner's sensible observation, much less themselves sensibly observe, that while indeed it was strange to have the U.S. Supreme Court decide a presidential election, it would have been even stranger for the election to have been decided by the Florida Supreme Court

As for the 2002 midterm elections, it is true that Mr. Bush took the question of whether to use military force against Iraq to the voters, placing many Democratic candidates that fall in awkward positions. But in a liberal democracy, especially from a progressive point of view, aren't questions of war and peace proper ones to put to the people--as Democrats did successfully in 2006?

And lord knows the Bush administration has blundered in its handling of legal issues that have arisen in the war on terror. But from the common progressive denunciations you would never know that the Bush administration has rejected torture as illegal. And you could easily overlook that in our system of government the executive branch, which has principal responsibility for defending the nation, is in wartime bound to overreach--especially when it confronts on a daily basis intelligence reports that describe terrifying threats--but that when checked by the Supreme Court the Bush administration has, in accordance with the system, promptly complied with the law.

In short, Bush hatred is not a rational response to actual Bush perfidy. Rather, Bush hatred compels its progressive victims--who pride themselves on their sophistication and sensitivity to nuance--to reduce complicated events and multilayered issues to simple matters of good and evil. Like all hatred in politics, Bush hatred blinds to the other sides of the argument, and constrains the hater to see a monster instead of a political opponent.

Prof. Starr shows in "Freedom's Power" that tolerance, generosity, and reasoned skepticism are hallmarks of the truly liberal spirit. His analysis suggests that the problem with progressives who have succumbed to Bush hatred is not their liberalism; it's their betrayal of it. To be sure, Prof. Starr rejects Bush administration policies and thinks conservatives have the wrong remedies for what ails America today. Yet at the same time his analysis suggests, if not a cure for those who have already succumbed, at least a recipe for inoculating others against hating presidents to come.

The recipe consists above all in recognizing that constitutional liberalism in America "is the common heritage of both modern conservatives and modern liberals, as those terms are understood in the Anglo-American world," writes Prof. Starr. We are divided not by our commitment to the Constitution but by disagreements--often, to be sure, with a great deal of blood and treasure at stake--over how to defend that Constitution and secure its promise of liberty under law.

The conflict between more conservative and more liberal or progressive interpretations of the Constitution is as old as the document itself, and a venerable source of the nation's strength. It is wonderful for citizens to bring passion to it. Recognizing the common heritage that provides the ground for so many of the disagreements between right and left today will encourage both sides, if not to cherish their opponents, at least to discipline their passions and make them an ally of their reason.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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