“Believe Women Except When…”

So whatever happened to the “Believe Women” mantra, brought to us care of #MeToo? Yesterday’s unqualified axiom seems to have been washed away by today’s intra-progressive controversy. The reasoning here seems to be: Elizabeth Warren accused Bernie Sanders of sexism. But Bernie is more progressive than Liz. So the accusation can’t possibly be true, because if it were true, its truth would ruin the most progressive mainstream candidate’s shot at the presidency. Hence the accusation must be false, and Elizabeth Warren is a bit of a bitch for making it. From which it follows that the “Believe Women” axiom must also be false, though we’re not to say so out loud.

Gee, that was easy. Who knew that moralized axioms could so lightly be adopted, and so lightly be cast aside?  Continue reading

Logistical Nightmare

It’s 4 am. I just woke up from the weirdest dream.

Dreamt that I’d wanted to go to Baghdad, so I’d booked a cheap flight via Dar-es-Salam, Tanzania, thinking to drive the rest of the way. But I’d somehow forgotten to book a rental, had underestimated the distance, and had forgotten about the problems posed by the existence of international borders and the Red Sea. As I belatedly made this realization, the cab showed up to take me to the airport–but I’d forgotten my flight information. So I went to my computer to refresh my memory, but inexplicably found myself in a public Internet cafe in Manhattan, able to remember but unable to type my password. When the guy next to me asked what was wrong, I explained the problem to him by bursting into tears, and then spelled my password out to everyone within hearing. Continue reading

War with Iran (12): Imminent Threats and Moral Blackmail

This abstract presents a slightly more formal, structured version of the argument I gave in the second installment in this series. Comments welcome.]

The Iran War of January 2020 (hereafter, “the War”) was widely justified by way of the following morally loaded question, addressed primarily to an American audience:

(Q1) If you had certain intelligence of an imminent threat to American lives, would you use military force to stop the person responsible for that threat?

Typically, an interlocutor hoping to defend the War would pose Q1, demand an unqualified “yes or no” answer to it, and take the “yes or no” to be an exclusive disjunction. Continue reading

War with Iran (11): Protest at Hinds Plaza, Princeton

A couple of shots from an anti-war protest I attended this past Saturday in Hinds Plaza, Princeton, New Jersey, sponsored by the Coalition for Peace Action and Bayard Rustin Center for Social Justice. An earnest, upbeat, sedately (almost stereotypically) suburban college-town crowd of about 300. Outstanding speeches by Zia Mian and Lukata Mjumbe. Irene Etkin Goldman read a poem of Yehuda Amichai’s, and Sadaf Jaffer (a distant acquaintance of mine) read one by Aga Shahid Ali. Both poems are now reproduced in the comments below.  (I missed two speakers’ names in the original post: Nassau County Democratic Vice Chairman Ali Mirza and Sadim Lone, a former UN official). Personally, I did nothing but attend, clap, and pretend to sing Pete Seeger’s “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?,” but I was proud to be there.

Continue reading

Roger Scruton (1944-2020), RIP

It’s considered disrespectful to speak ill of the just-deceased, so I hope this post will be read in a spirit of candor rather than ill-will. But the truth is, I’ve always had mixed feelings about Roger Scruton, who’s just passed away. On the one hand, it was impossible not to admire the sheer breadth of his interests and learning, and impossible not to be awed or intimidated by his sheer output. He seemed in so many ways to embody the ideal of The Public Philosopher: clear, erudite, iconoclastic, occasionally brilliant, capable of technical sophistication, but also capable of writing for a wide audience. That said, I hated his politics and a lot of his cultural grandstanding, and often found myself wondering how a man as intelligent as Scruton could come up with views as dumb as the ones he sometimes put into print. Continue reading

War with Iran (10): Militarism, Trust, and Character-Based Voting

Back in 1950, during the Korean War, General Douglas MacArthur was famously (“famously”) invited by the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) to give a speech at one of their annual conventions. Given the exigencies of war, MacArthur was unable to attend, but accepted the invitation and sent the VFW the text–we’d call it a “hard copy”–of his speech. The speech, an instance of saber-rattling of the kind for which MacArthur was famous (and is still admired today, at least by conservatives), flatly, obviously, and  deliberately contradicted the official policy of the U.S. government at the time on Formosa (Taiwan). MacArthur sent it to the VFW as a kind of provocation, and succeeded in his aim, putting Truman in a quandary about how to respond. Continue reading

War with Iran (9): Distracting Ourselves to Death

I just spent 30 excruciating minutes watching coverage of the “Iran crisis” on CNN, Fox, and MSNBC. Amazing to see a country mesmerized by irrelevant distractions:

  1. Did the Iranians shoot down the Ukrainian airliner? Did they? Did they? How else did it go down? What do they have to hide? Let’s ask a former FAA official. Then let’s ask some bereaved people with friends and relatives on the flight how it feels to be deprived so abruptly of their loved ones. With any luck, they’ll cry on screen.
  2. Is the War Powers Act really a law? Really? Let’s ask a general.
  3. Are Democrats mourning Suleimani’s death? Let’s ask a Democrat who clearly isn’t.

Without venturing an answer, let me just pose this question: what psychological mechanism explains why a country facing a single fundamental issue would work so hard to avoid it, but spend so much effort to address so many others? The fundamental issue is straightforward. The Iranian missile attack on American bases was a signal that Iran can hit us, that we have no effective defenses against even the most benign attack they can muster, and that they are about to begin a proxy war against us, via Hezbollah and its allies, to force us out of “the region.” Continue reading

War with Iran (8): Know the Enemy

And who is the enemy? The enemy is the self-appointed, unaccountable cultural commissar who enforces ersatz patriotism through arbitrary terminations of the easiest people to fire, as in this case at Babson College (ht: Robert Platt).

A Babson College adjunct professor was fired after making a joke on his Facebook account about Iran bombing American cultural sites.

“In retaliation, Ayatollah Khomeini should tweet a list of 52 sites of beloved American cultural heritage that he would bomb,” wrote Asheen Phansey, the Massachusetts college’s director of sustainability.

“Mall of America?… Kardashian residence?” he suggested. …

Babson released a statement announcing Phansey’s termination.

“Babson College conducted a prompt and thorough investigation related to a post shared on a staff member’s personal Facebook page that does not represent the values and culture of the college,” the school said, according to CBS Boston.

“Based on the results of the investigation, the staff member is no longer a Babson College employee,” it said. “As we have previously stated, Babson College condemns any type of threatening words and/or actions condoning violence and/or hate.”

“Babson College condemns any type of threatening words and/or actions condoning violence and/or hate.” Could we get any stupider? Phansey made a joke. A joke is not a threat, and doesn’t condone violence. There’s nothing hateful about this one, either. I actually find it kind of amusing. My first reaction to the story: too bad he didn’t include Babson’s administrative offices in the bargain. (For the humor-impaired: that, too, is a joke.) Continue reading