Wednesday, June 28, 2017
Tuesday, June 27, 2017
By Christian Red
June 24, 2017
Rick Butler running a volleyball camp in Nebraska in 2014. (Stacie Scott/Lincoln Hournal Star)
The mental anxiety and dread she experienced from seeing her alleged abuser on the opposing sidelines this past week were no less severe than what Florida volleyball coach Sarah Powers-Barnhard endured a year ago at the same junior national championship tournament in Orlando.
She Says She's Haunted by Coach's Misconduct : Volleyball: Julie Bremner took six years to come forward with her story of sexual abuse. -
A Victim'e Courage: Former Volleyball Players Breaks Silence 3 Decades After Alleged Abuse -
USA Volleyball Admits Reinstating Rick Butler After Sex Abuse Allegations Was a Mistake -
Monday, June 26, 2017
June 26, 2017
Robert Mueller (Photograph: J. Scott Applewhite/AP)
Congress and special counsel Robert Mueller should immediately call off their investigations into the cooked-up Trump-Russian collusion theories.
As real information emerges, it looks more and more like a hit job on President Trump and his administration fabricated by a witches brew of anti-Trump forces including the Obama administration, partisan DOJ/FBI officials and Democrats salivating at the notion of impeaching Trump — to steal the election from Republicans — with an ethically challenged left-wing media pushing fake news regularly. Add establishment Republicans such as U.S. Sen. John McCain, who helped fuel the fake scandal by giving the now-discredited Russia dossier to the FBI to investigate.
Not only has there been zero credible evidence to warrant any of the costly investigations to date — despite a year of digging by anti-Trump forces — we now learn the widely debunked dossier published by BuzzFeed — with an assist by CNN — was commissioned by a pro-Hillary Clinton oppo research group to take down Trump.
The slanted dossier not only sparked the whole Russiagate investigation, it also provided a bogus excuse for the Obama administration, DOJ and intel agencies to engage in improper surveillance of Trump associates, unmasking of Trump officials as well as the illegal leaking of sensitive information gathered from the sketchy spying to complicit media in a deliberate attempt to smear Trump.
If this doesn’t scream corruption and collusion at the highest echelons of our government — what does?
Fusion GPS, which commissioned the crazy Russian Dossier, claim they’re former journalists, but they are better described as political activists hired by Democrats to damage Republicans. Fusion GPS was also hired to dig up dirt against Mitt Romney in 2012 and go after pro-lifers causing headaches for Planned Parenthood.
The New York Post reported, “In September 2016 while Fusion GPS was quietly shopping the dirty dossier on Trump around, its co-founder and partner Peter R. Fritsch contributed at least $1,000 to the Hillary Clinton campaign. His wife also donated money to Hillary’s campaign.”
Worse, the FBI reportedly paid the discredited British spy Christopher Steele — whose report full of false rumors about Trump were spread to the media — $50,000 and then may have relied on Steele’s fake dossier to advance its Russian/Trump investigation.
Forget the fake Russian collusion. Congress and the special counsel should turn their attention to what the Democrats — from the Obama administration to the Clinton campaign — have been doing to undermine democracy in America.
What we know so far stinks to High Heaven.
Adriana Cohen is host of “The Adriana Cohen Show,” heard Wednesdays at noon on Boston Herald Radio. Follow her on Twitter @AdrianaCohen16.
Sunday, June 25, 2017
May 17, 2017
On Earth Day, April 22, tens of thousands of activists held the first “March for Science” in cities around the world. “Science brings out the best in us,” Bill Nye, the star of two eponymous television programs about science, told the assembly in Washington. “Together we can – dare I say it – save the world!” he said, earning the enthusiastic approval of an estimated 40,000 people. Many of the participants – in London, Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, even in the Eternal City of Rome – carried signs saying, “In Science We Trust.”
The marchers’ slogan is misguided from a philosophical, not to mention a theological, standpoint. Science is mechanistic and analytic, not ethical and prescriptive. That makes it, at best, an incomplete guide and at worst, corrosive to human dignity. Yet increasingly, Western society turns to science as a panacea for statecraft and soulcraft. Secularists maintain that their idealized version of “science” offers irrefutable solutions to everything from contentious policy disagreements to longstanding moral and ethical quandaries. Some researchers, such as Harvard’s Marc Hauser and former National Institutes of Health scholar Dean Hamer, contend that evolution hardwired human neurological circuitry with the very notions of morality and religious belief in the first place.
Edward O. Wilson, the apostle of sociobiology, popularized this school of thought. “The brain is a product of evolution,” he wrote in his 1978 book, On Human Nature. All “higher ethical values” are merely “the circuitous technique by which human genetic material has been and will be kept intact. Morality has no other demonstrable ultimate function.”
Can all human nature be reduced to assuring reproduction? Are we no more than the curvature of our grey matter and the neurological links between synapses?
Almost 40 years after Wilson, Roger Scruton explores the interplay of science and self in the first chapter of his new book, also titled On Human Nature. For Scruton, humanity is not to be found apart from our physical reality but arises from its fulness and complexity. “The personal is not an addition to the biological: it emerges fromit, in something like the way the face emerges from the colored patches on a canvas.” (Emphases in original.)
Humanity expresses itself above all in self-awareness, the ability to treat others as subjects and not objects, and our sense of responsibility – the moral culpability which we accept and ascribe to our actions and those of others. Persons are “free, self-conscious, rational agents, obedient to reason and bound by the moral law,” he writes. The human formula may be expressed in its simplest form as “first-person perspective, and responsibility,” a notion he explored in his 1986 book Sexual Desire: A Philosophical Investigation(chapters 3 and 4).
The essence of our common human nature buds forth as a “social product,” lived out in a myriad of I-You relationships (a phrase he borrows from Martin Buber), including that of citizen of a nation. Many of these are unchosen and not necessarily preferred. Yet fidelity to these obligations, which he designates “piety,” determines our moral character. It is in these contexts that our ability to treat others as co-equal persons is exercised.
The nature of liberty
Those tempted to say the abstract definition of human nature is too esoteric to be of value would do well to ponder its practical consequences. Scruton writes that I-You relationships, exercised within these contexts, have created “all that is most important in the human condition … responsibility, morality, law, institutions, religion, love, and art.” Not least among these considerations is the kind of society that subsists, germ-like, within each worldview.
Biological determinism has produced Nazi Germany, the society and ideology of Senator Theodore Bilbo, and the miasma of theirmodern-day disciples. Significantly, Martin Luther King Jr. cited Buber in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” to say that segregation “substitutes an ‘I-it’ relationship for an ‘I-thou’ relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things. Hence segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, it is morally wrong and sinful.”
Scruton dedicates another lengthy discussion to consequentialism, the notion that the ends justify any means. Moral good reduces to an arithmetic formula: The correct decision brings the greatest good to the greatest number of people, irrespective of any properties inherent in the act itself. But its proponents, such as Peter Singer, overlook “the actual record of consequentialist reasoning. Modern history presents case after case of inspired people led by visions of ‘the best’ and argues that all would work for it, the bourgeoisie included, if only they understood the impeccable arguments for its implementation.” Since privilege cloaks their benighted eyes, “violent revolution is both necessary and inevitable.”
As a result, Scruton writes, Vladmir Lenin and Mao Tse-tung brought about “the total destruction of two great societies and irreversible damage to the rest of us. Why suppose that we, applying our minds to the question of what might be best in the long run, would make a better job of it?” Instead of learning this lesson, he notes, generations of consequentialists have “regretted the ‘mistakes’ of Lenin and Mao.”
Juxtaposed to these two systems is human nature rooted in the moral interaction of equal persons. An accusation of wrongdoing yields an investigation, not an annihilation. Mutually agreed rights and responsibilities carve out a zone of autonomy inaccessible to anyone, even the State, and expedite social harmony.
This conception of human nature facilitates a free and virtuous society. “Cooperation rather than command is the first principle of collective action,” Scruton writes. “Morality exists in part because it enables us to live on negotiated terms with others,” both accountable to the tenets of right reason. He regards the “principles that underlie common-law justice in the English-speaking tradition” as “a natural adjunct to the moral order” and latent within natural law. He explicitly names six principles:
- Considerations that justify or impugn one person will, in identical circumstances, justify or impugn another.
- Rights are to be respected.
- Obligations are to be fulfilled.
- Agreements are to be honored.
- Disputes are to be settled by negotiation, not by force.
- Those who do not respect the rights of others forfeit rights of their own.
Although he does not elaborate on the kind of economic life that flows from this, it is noteworthy that he cites Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments explicitly in this context.
The role of religion
While he holds these truths to be self-evident apart from any supernatural origin, he finds believers their natural repository. “Religious people … have no difficulty in understanding that human beings are distinguished from other animals by their freedom, self-consciousness, and responsibility,” he writes:
Take away religion, however, take away philosophy, take away the higher aims of art, and you deprive ordinary people of the ways in which they can represent their apartness. Human nature, once something to live up to, becomes something to live down to instead. Biological reductionism nurtures this ‘living down,’ which is why people so readily fall for it. It makes cynicism respectable and degeneracy chic. And abolishes our kind – and with it our kindness.
In four brief chapters Scruton, with characteristically elegant prose and clarity of thought, furnishes theists with an introductory grammar to defend their deeply held beliefs without relying upon special revelation. Believers, and society, are the better for it.
Saturday, June 24, 2017
Using this book as a bludgeon against some of the more vivid Republican Party populist figures does not do the book, or such figures, justice. Felzenberg, especially in writing about Buckley’s 1965 mayoral race, makes it very clear that WFB appealed to many of the same kind of of blue collar voters who elected Trump. Felzenberg trenchantly quotes James Q. Wilson’s distinction between Democrats who championed the cause of workers, especially ethnic blue collars, and those who he called “amateurs,” the progressives who had, and have, hijacked my father’s (and, long ago, my very own) Democratic Party.
Buckley’s erudition, Ivy League pedigree, and personal wealth did not estrange working class voters. Workers sensed his respect for their values and dignity. They sensed the same in Trump, despite his foibles. This is no small thing.
There have long been tensions and rivalries, some more friendly than others, within the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy to which I belong. Damon Linker:
Well, no. We paleocons do expect to be caricatured as very deplorable indeed. The picture drawn of us represents a rather grotesque caricature, relying on the amplification of tiny, immaterial, factions of a school of thought that is firmly rooted in classical liberal republican thought. Mischievous, sometimes malicious, journalists can always find, and exaggerate, an outlier. Few, virtually none, of us “dabble in ethnic demonization.” Those are opportunistic hangers-on.
But yes, By George! Many of us outer borough bridge-and-tunnel Morlocks are vulgarians. Perhaps we, made irate that our jobs and economic security have been so eviscerated by the ruling elites, our values mocked, might at times justly be called “scowling primitives.” That said, the vast majority of us are not tools of plutocratic libertarians, nor conspiracy theorists, nor race-baiters, nor ethnic demonizers. Few of us are “extremists, bigots, kooks, anti-Semites and racists” and those few unwelcome in our midst.
It’s sad that the Pretty People do not like us. But in a way that works to our political advantage. As the New York Times’s own Frank Bruni -- an honest and rigorous liberal -- wrote recently in Can Democrats Save Themselves:
Somewhere in a dresser drawer I may still have my “Eat An Eloi” t-shirt. Time to take it out of mothballs.
Buckley considered Eisenhower a miserable president and had ticklish relations with nominally conservative Republican leaders throughout most of his career. The signal exception, of course, was the truly conservative Ronald Reagan, with whom Buckley was on close terms and served, somewhat, as a mentor. The Buckley political rule, as recorded by Barry Popik, was “I’d be for the most right, viable candidate who could win.”
It’s not quite Kristol Clear to this reader what William F. Buckley would have made of Donald J. Trump. He is not around to say. But in his day, Buckley served as a provocateur who aligned more with populists and with "radical conservatives" than with Establishment Republicans or "the well-fed Right, whose ignorance and amorality have never been exaggerated for the same reason that one cannot exaggerate infinity."
It is highly likely that Buckley, at very least, would have been in full sympathy with Kellyanne Conway's observation that “I thank God every day. I click my heels three times and say ‘[Hillary Clinton] is not the president, she is not the president, she is not the president.” Those who present WFB's life and work as an indictment of contemporary conservatism clearly have misread this book.
WFB, may he rest in peace, is no longer with us to tell us what he thinks in his invariably witty, erudite, way. That said, thanks be to Alvin Felzenberg for bringing to life the epic story -- the political odyssey -- of a radical conservative overflowing with wit and elan. Felzenberg distills the essence of Buckley's life and thought in ways thoroughly enjoyable and magnificently helpful for understanding the architecture of contemporary conservatism and national politics. It's an indispensable work.
Friday, June 23, 2017
By AYAAN HIRSI ALI and ASRA Q. NOMANI
June 22, 2017
Democratic California senator Kamala Harris. (Zach Gibson/Getty Images)
Last week, Senator Kamala Harris, a Democrat from California, made headlines when Republican senators interrupted her at a hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee while she interrogated Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The clip of the exchange went viral; journalists, politicians and everyday Americans debated what the shushing signified about our still sexist culture.
The very next day, Senator Harris took her seat in front of us as a member of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs. We were there to testify about the ideology of political Islam, or Islamism.
Both of us were on edge. Earlier that day, across the Potomac River, a man had shot a Republican lawmaker and others on a baseball diamond in Alexandria, Va. And just moments before the hearing began, a man wearing a Muslim prayer cap had stood up and heckled us, putting Capitol police officers on high alert. We were girding ourselves for tough questions.
But they never came. The Democrats on the panel, including Senator Harris and three other Democratic female senators — North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp, New Hampshire’s Maggie Hassan and Missouri’s Claire McCaskill — did not ask either of us a single question.
This wasn’t a case of benign neglect. At one point, Senator McCaskill said that she took issue with the theme of the hearing itself. “Anyone who twists or distorts religion to a place of evil is an exception to the rule,” she said. “We should not focus on religion,” she said, adding that she was “worried” that the hearing, organized by Senator Ron Johnson, a Republican from Wisconsin, would “underline that.” In the end, the only questions asked of us about Islamist ideologies came from Senator Johnson and his Republican colleague, Senator Steve Daines from Montana.
Just as we are invisible to the mullahs at the mosque, we were invisible to the Democratic women in the Senate.
How to explain this experience? Perhaps Senators Heitkamp, Harris, Hassan and McCaskill are simply uninterested in sexism and misogyny. But obviously, given their outspoken support of critical women’s issues, such as the kidnapping of girls in Nigeria and campus sexual assault, that’s far from the case.
No, what happened that day was emblematic of a deeply troubling trend among progressives when it comes to confronting the brutal reality of Islamist extremism and what it means for women in many Muslim communities here at home and around the world. When it comes to the pay gap, abortion access and workplace discrimination, progressives have much to say. But we’re still waiting for a march against honor killings, child marriages, polygamy, sex slavery or female genital mutilation.
Sitting before the senators that day were two women of color: Ayaan is from Somalia; Asra is from India. Both of us were born into deeply conservative Muslim families. Ayaan is a survivor of female genital mutilation and forced marriage. Asra defied Shariah by having a baby while unmarried. And we have both been threatened with death by jihadists for things we have said and done. Ayaan cannot appear in public without armed guards.
In other words, when we speak about Islamist oppression, we bring personal experience to the table in addition to our scholarly expertise. Yet the feminist mantra so popular when it comes to victims of sexual assault — believe women first — isn’t extended to us. Neither is the notion that the personal is political. Our political conclusions are dismissed as personal; our personal experiences dismissed as political.
That’s because in the rubric of identity politics, our status as women of color is canceled out by our ideas, which are labeled “conservative” — as if opposition to violent jihad, sex slavery, genital mutilation or child marriage were a matter of left or right. This not only silences us, it also puts beyond the pale of liberalism a basic concern for human rights and the individual rights of women abused in the name of Islam.
There is a real discomfort among progressives on the left with calling out Islamic extremism. Partly they fear offending members of a “minority” religion and being labeled racist, bigoted or Islamophobic. There is also the idea, which has tremendous strength on the left, that non-Western women don’t need “saving” — and that the suggestion that they do is patronizing at best. After all, the thinking goes, if women in America still earn less than men for equivalent work, who are we to criticize other cultures?
This is extreme moral relativism disguised as cultural sensitivity. And it leads good people to make excuses for the inexcusable. The silence of the Democratic senators is a reflection of contemporary cultural pressures. Call it identity politics, moral relativism or political correctness — it is shortsighted, dangerous and, ultimately, a betrayal of liberal values.
The hard truth is that there are fundamental conflicts between universal human rights and the principle of Shariah, or Islamic law, which holds that a woman’s testimony is worth half that of a man’s; between freedom of religion and the Islamist idea that artists, writers, poets and bloggers should be subject to blasphemy laws; between secular governance and the Islamist goal of a caliphate; between United States law and Islamist promotion of polygamy, child marriage and marital rape; and between freedom of thought and the methods of indoctrination, or dawa, with which Islamists propagate their ideas.
Defending universal principles against Islamist ideology, not denying that these conflicts exist, is surely the first step in a fight whose natural leaders in Washington should be women like Kamala Harris and Claire McCaskill — both outspoken advocates for American women.
We believe feminism is for everyone. Our goals — not least the equality of the sexes — are deeply liberal. We know these are values that the Democratic senators at our hearing share. Will they find their voices and join us in opposing Islamist extremism and its war on women?
Ayaan Hirsi Ali (@ayaan) is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution and founder of the AHA Foundation. Asra Q. Nomani (@asranomani), an author and former Wall Street Journal reporter, is a co-founder of the Muslim Reform Movement.