Thursday 4/3/14

    1. News as Diversion
    2. Viva Firefox!
    3. Drunks and Reagan on Putin’s Russia
    4. Conservatives for Common Core?


Vladimir Putin has taken Crimea and many in the West are afraid that he has designs on the rest of Ukraine and perhaps beyond. A Malaysian 777 has disappeared without an apparent trace. Chris Christie, Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush and others are jockeying for the pole position for the 2016(!!!) Presidential campaign (I will leave aside for the moment the rather interesting question of why anyone would want the job in the first place). In short, the concerns with which we are constantly inundated by the media are, quite naturally, national and international. This can, pretty effectively, occupy our attention and concerns in a way that leaves local issues in the backseat.

One thing these on-going stories have in common: there’s not a lot any one of us can do about them. Sure, one could picket the Russian embassy or write a letter to a senator. One could start campaigning for Rand Paul. Or one could, like Courtney Love, pore over satellite images and find the remains of flight 370.

But let’s be real. These stories, for most of us, are diversions. They help to fill our time with a sense of importance while in actuality they merely serve to distract us from our work, our play, and from meaningful interactions in our own communities.

(Mark T. Mitchell, emphasis added)


I suppose this is one of those stories I can’t really do anything about, but warning people isn’t really nothing, is is? Back to the besieged CEO of Mozilla, Brendan Eich (see here and here), who may (or may not) wish he hadn’t given $1,000 in support of Proposition 8 six years ago, when even Barack Obama, for Pete’s sake, pretended he supported traditional marriage:

Whether or not Eich keeps his position, this episode is instructive for those who hold out hope for a détente in the culture wars. The flawed analogy between the movement to end discrimination against African-Americans and the movement to allow gays and lesbians to marry is sincerely believed by many. But it is not merely a convenient piece of rhetoric or a skillful legal strategy. The moral force of the civil rights movement did not permit any sort of accommodation or compromise with bigots, and contemporary social conservatives who believe that they can negotiate more favorable terms of surrender have fallen prey to wishful thinking.… [T]he same-sex marriage movement has inherited that same genuine moral outrage, that same crusading zeal. While supporters of traditional marriage would like to convince the world that they are correct, they may soon find it difficult enough just to establish that they are not monsters. What is certain is that this will not be the last time that a public example is made of a dissenter from the new moral order.

This, from an industry insider, is tellingly Anonymous, at least until the Jackboots kick down the doors at First Things, brandishing subpoenae, demanding that the monster be unmasked.

Doubt me? One of the saner winners of the culture wars, writing at the Atlantic, exults that with “the legalization and broad acceptance of gay marriage, the last great bastion of government-supported traditionalism in Western society has been swept away.” He thinks that’s a good thing, but warns:

Any time you win a great victory after years or decades of bitter struggle, there is the temptation to pillage the lands of the conquered enemy. This is always a mistake. The punitive Treaty of Versailles nearly guaranteed that World War I would have a sequel. Certainly, the temptation is there for American liberals to indulge in the same kind of score-settling. After all, conservatives are the ones who for decades struggled to keep women in the kitchen, gays in the closet, and marijuana users in prison. Conservative intellectuals writing in the National Review and elsewhere gleefully turned America’s ideological divide into a sort of video game, temporarily making word “liberal” into an epithet, ridiculing every aspect of liberals’ lifestyle, and portraying every facet of American society as a Manichean struggle to the death between two implacably opposed armies. Far more than liberals, conservatives are responsible for the polarization that has dangerously divided American society. Of course many of us liberals feel an urge for revenge, deep down in our reptilian brains.

(Noah Smith) Then he calls for a truce with conservatives wherein, contrary to progressive principle, we arbitrarily set the ideal number of parents in a family at two, of whatever genders:

But to make common cause with such conservatives, we will need to agree that stable, two-parent families (including cohabiting and gay couples, of course) are important and desirable.

To many liberals, that will feel like a concession on our part—after all, we spent a long time saying that people should be allowed to have any kind of family structure they want. And they should! But what is socially acceptable is not always what is optimal, and we can’t let society just abandon the working class to family structures that hurt them economically.

This won’t work. It won’t hold. It’s not even convincing under the “principle” of democratic compromise.

(I wrote this Wednesday morning. At 9 pm I discovered that Rod Dreher had noted the same two articles. So I have preserved my draft in amber lest I be influenced by what Dreher wrote independently. Honest Injun’.)


Confronted with Russia’s revisionism, the West resembles the proverbial drunkard searching for his lost keys under a streetlight, because that is where the light is. With their assumptions invalidated, Western leaders are struggling to craft an effective response.

(Ivan Krastev)

Meanwhile, Peggy Noonan surprised herself by actually answering a “what would Reagan make of all this?” question on Russia:

[T]his is how I think Reagan would view the moment we’re in:

The Soviet Union fell almost a quarter-century ago. It was great news, a victory for civilization. That fall was followed by something: a series of governments trying to maintain stability and pick up the pieces, turning toward democracy, toward modernity, really going for a non-state-dominated economy. Russian leaders were to some significant degree accommodating to the West, which had vanquished them. They engaged in reconstruction on many fronts, reinvention too. They moved in varying degrees toward Western values.

Again, it lasted almost a quarter century.

Now it is over.

That history has ended and something new has begun. Now we are in an era so new we don’t even have a name for it. Maybe we’ll call it “Putinism,” maybe “Cold War II,” who knows—but it’s brand new and it’s different from the past not only in tone but in nature, character and, presumably, intent.

Vladimir Putin is in control. The state is increasingly entwined with him. We don’t know how much autonomy he has, as Richard Haass of the Council on Foreign Relations noted the other day. But we have to assume it is significant. We know he is not only in charge but popular, and the tougher he is, the more popular he appears to be. (A real question: Will Russian democracy itself survive this new era? We will find out in the next few years.) A spirit of nationalism is rising, and that nationalism may contribute in time to a feeling of blood in the air. The Russian government is clamping down on the press, on free speech.

The Russian government isn’t trying to please us or work with us anymore. Mr Putin has formally set himself as our antagonist. Something big got broken here. It will have world-wide implications, and be a major foreign-policy challenge for the United States in the coming years

But we are in a new time and will have to plan anew and think anew.

That is how I think the artist formerly known as Reagan would judge what’s happening. He’d see it clear and figure it from there. He wouldn’t think it was about sanctions and tweeted insults.

Sanctions and tweeted insults are so “under the streetlight.”


I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that there aren’t many conservatives who know more than I do about education and public policy. The educational field is dominated by liberals. That’s why the conservative opposition to the Common Core standards is so incredibly disheartening. I taught math under the old standards and know how bad they are, and I am also a patriot who knows that fewer standards just give liberal teachers more control over education. Lots of conservatives pretend to care about the future of our nation, but they don’t care enough to encourage their children to become teachers, being content instead to let the educational field be dominated by anti-Christian liberals. “Get a good job and make lots of money,” they teach their kids.

(Ryan Booth via Rod Dreher, emphasis added) I take no position on the Common Core aspect of this man-bites-dog story, but enthusiastically support the “put your kids’ imaginative life script where your mouth is” aspect.

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“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.