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May 10, 2014:

What's a "Conservative"?
(You might be one and not know it.)

Mallory Factor, Professor at The Citadel, and author of Big Tent: The Story of the Conservative Revolution, explains in the below video. There are several broad, sometimes politically conflictual branches of conservatism in the U.S. today -- the neocons (who originally were FDR supporters, but veered away out of concern about communism and continuing U.S. security), the social conservatives, and the libertarians.

Notwithstanding their differences, however, and whatever their primary focus or interest, all conservatives still share four basic convictions:

    (1) A respect for the wisdom of past generations. Human history repeats itself, and not all "progress" in the form of change for its own sake is necessarily beneficial in the long run. Opinions about what change is beneficial will differ, but everyone is a conservative in some ways.

    (2) Maintenance of the "rule of law". This is the founding precept of the United States, and the United States Constitution. Laws aren't always perfect, inasmuch as they have to be applied to all kinds of different individuals, but the arbitrary, capricious, and/or biased decision-making of dictators, monarchs, unchecked bureaucrats, and other officials is a danger that nearly everyone recognizes.

    (3) Protection of individual rights and freedoms. Sometimes this is a legal balancing act ("Your right to swing your arm ends at the tip of my nose".) Few people, however, would say that they aren't in accord with this. Some differ on just what those "rights and freedoms" are.

    (4) Belief in a law higher than man's law. Most social conservatives and evangelicals would say this is "God's" law, or the law of the "Creator". Others would simply refer to this as "natural law", e.g. the right of a person to his own bodily integrity, or the right of a mother to her baby. People may differ on just what these natural laws are, or how they are defined ("life, liberty, property"), but nevertheless these "higher-than-man's-laws" are what are recognized by the Bill of Rights. They are the "laws" that would exist in the absence of government. The Bill of Rights has been interpreted to constrain not just the federal government, but also the states' formerly plenary sovereign powers over their citizens' security, health, welfare, and morals.

So if you consider yourself to be a leftist, liberal or progressive "in general", do you know what you mean by that, and what or whose agendas, strategies, and steps on the road to "change" -- change of what? progress toward what? "new" ideas about what? -- and ultimate goals (and iatrogenic effects) you broadly and indiscriminately are endorsing?

May 08, 2014:

Sam Harris and Ayaan Hirsi Ali: Lifting the Veil of Islamophobia

Excellent "conversation" at Says it all. Lengthy, but worth the read. Snips:

HARRIS: [The reason] you are at the AEI is that no liberal institution would offer you shelter when you most needed it... And ever since, your affiliation with the one institution that did take you in has been used to defame you in liberal circles...

HIRSI ALI: Can anyone argue that women are treated well in traditional Muslim societies? These various oppressions are justified using the core texts of Islam: the Koran and the hadith...

HARRIS: Most liberals think that religion is never the true source of a person's bad behavior. Even when jihadists explicitly state their religious motivations...

HIRSI ALI: People in the West are highly sensitive to accusations of racism. In El Cajon, California, an Iraqi woman named Shaima Alawadi was beaten to death. Beside her body was a note that read, "You terrorists, go home." CAIR and other Muslim organizations pounced on it and started campaigning against Islamophobia, marketing it as a hate crime... the husband was convicted of murdering his wife. She had asked for a divorce... [R]easonable people need only look at the evidence. CAIR and these other organizations have mission statements...

HARRIS: The Ku Klux Klan and other white-power groups are a fringe phenomenon. But how many Muslims truly believe that apostates should be put to death? Is it 300 million? Or is it triple that number? It's just a false comparison... Remind our readers how you felt about Salman Rushdie when you were twenty.

HIRSI ALI: Everyone in my community believed that Rushdie had to die. After all, he had insulted the Prophet. I believed that if you insult the Prophet, well, then you have to face the consequences -- which means you have to be killed... I didn't make that up, of course, and I didn't just get the idea from my friends; it came from scripture and from my religious teachers. [What] so-called Muslim "extremists" [are] saying is fully consistent with the teachings of Muhammad...

HARRIS: But this is the core issue: The moderates can't reasonably claim to be representing Islam because the faith has no truly moderate wing. There's no branch of Islam that says, "Say whatever you want about our Prophet. He's a big boy. He can take it!" Unlike Christianity and Judaism, every branch of Islam insists that scripture is infallible and that apostasy is a serious crime...

May 03, 2014:

The Middle East Problem, a primer:

Apr 30, 2014:

Best explanation I've seen for what's wrong with Common Core Math:

Ace of Spades nails it. Excerpts (emphasis added):

The method that they are offering to avoid rote memorization or the mechanical method of subtraction involving two digit numbers is actually more conceptually difficult than the memorization or mechanical... method.

It is true that there is a mathematical insight in [for example] realizing that 13 is just 10+3, ...[thus permitting] one to subtract 7 from 10 and then add 3.

But this is a higher-level, higher-conceptual-insight view of the problem.

Confronted with kids who aren't proficient with the low-level, low-conceptual-insight view of the problem, they decide... we'll teach them the high-conceptual-insight method of doing it...

The mistake here seems to be the exact same mistake that these Professional Education Theorists made with respect to reading. They realized that high reading ability kids weren't using Phonics to sound out words, but instead were reading new words via the "whole word" method -- they were just looking at the word and saying it.

So educators said, "Hey, let's stop teaching this stodgy Phonics stuff, and start teaching Whole Word reading, like the proficient readers employ!!!"

Well, one problem with that: The proficient readers had begun as Phonics readers, but then, having become adept at reading, then began Whole Word reading only when they were reading at a near-young-adult level.

By attempting to treat the lower-level readers like the more accomplished readers, the educators stopped teaching the lower-level readers the skill that the accomplished readers had used to become accomplished readers in the first place... Phonics.

Similarly, it seems these people have realized that kids who have internalized the times tables and arithmetic tables have, after a few years of fluency with them, noticed certain patterns and rules they could employ -- tricks, shortcuts...

And once again they are trying to teach lower-performing kids the tricks that higher-performing kids are using, but skipping over the basic stuff that higher-performing kids had to internalize themselves to become higher-performing kids...

Frankly, these tricks usually occur to someone when they understand the subject well enough that they no longer need tricks at all. At least not to get the answer; but understanding the math, they begin looking for faster (or at least different) methods of getting the answer.

I really do not get the idea being sold here that the way to make a kid who's struggling with math understand math better is to teach him the insights that come from a deeper understanding of the material.

Understanding cannot be taught by rote, let alone by elementary school teachers who mostly likely themselves are learning these "methods of perception" (not infrequently tantamount to fancy variations of finger-counting) by rote. The forced mental shenanigans that give rise to the "tricks" and "shortcuts" do not facilitate understanding themselves but are a manifestation of it: they arise naturally and comfortably -- and individually -- after mastery of the basics (once rote manipulations have become "second nature"), and then are applied variably by different individuals in different contexts, depending on what works for the individual. For example, one person habitually memorizes using rhyming mnemonics, while another visualizes a model (while yet another somehow just "remembers" because he has so much related material already mastered and structured that retention of the new information is effortless). For example, one person rapidly subtracts 19 from a larger number by subtracting 9 and then 10 (without consciously thinking about it), while another is mentally subtracting 20 and then adding 1 (and yet another just "remembers" or knows because, like the multiplication tables, the same or similar equation or numbers repeatedly have arisen and been used before). And so forth.

Apr 29, 2014:

Redux: Understanding Obama

Dinesh D'Souza talks about his documentary 2016: Obama's America and the anti-west perspective of anti-colonialism. Obama did not grow up in the United States, and does not identify with America.

Apr 22, 2014:

Cornell Law Professor Bill Jacobson on Mark Levin on the
antisemitic BDS (Boycott, Divest, Sanction) movement anti-Israel:

Apr 17, 2014:

Mark Steyn -- The Slow Death of Free Speech


In theory, Ayaan Hirsi Ali is everything the identity-group fetishists dig: female, atheist, black, immigrant. If conservative white males were to silence a secular women's rights campaigner from Somalia, it would be proof of the Republican party's 'war on women', or the encroaching Christian fundamentalist theocracy, or just plain old Andrew Boltian racism breaking free of its redoubt at the Herald Sun to rampage as far as the eye can see.

But when the snivelling white male who purports to be president of Brandeis (one Frederick Lawrence) does it out of deference to Islam, Miss Hirsi Ali's blackness washes off her like a bad dye job on a telly news anchor.

White feminist Germaine Greer can speak at Brandeis because, in one of the more whimsical ideological evolutions even by dear old Germaine's standards, Ms Greer feels that clitoridectomies add to the rich tapestry of 'cultural identity': 'One man's beautification is another man's mutilation,' as she puts it.

But black feminist Hirsi Ali, who was on the receiving end of 'one man's mutilation' and lives under death threats because she was boorish enough to complain about it, is too 'hateful' to be permitted to speak...

Read the entire article at The Spectator.


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