Muffin consumption pivotal issue in 2012. Really?

A writer who teaches at Columbia managed to file another subjective, liberal polemic with the New York Times the other day.  In the piece, the author invokes the memory of her deceased, Korean immigrant father to denounce . . . you guessed it, Mitt Romney.

And the decisive issue for Asian immigrants in 2012?  How one eats a muffin.

This time, the opinion writer drags us along an arc strewn with references to airline peanut packets and Burberry scarves, whatever those are.  She arbitrarily parks the words “Anglo-Saxon” in the vicinity of Ann Romney’s name, in a bald attempt to evoke from her readers whatever animus may have been deposited by past ethnic studies professors.

As for breakfast habits, the writer would have us believe that, for miserly immigrants like her father, they’re a game changer:

I can only imagine what he would have had to say about a presidential candidate so heedless he eats only the top off a muffin. No matter how loyal a Republican, my father would likely have declared Mr. Romney a very silly, profligate man — not the kind of man to be trusted with his precious tax money. Perhaps his vote would have gone to a Democrat for the first time ever. Politico has declared the Asian-American vote “key for both parties.”  Will muffin-top-gate cause other immigrant parents to join their Democratic-leaning children?

This passage, besides being an unrealistic fantasy, betrays the totalizing tendency of liberals.  That is chiefly, the conflation of private behavior with public obligations.  If a police officer tucks in his daughter at night with a tender kiss, does he become too gentle to chase and pin down a violent suspect the next day?  In the same way, how a businessman spends his own earnings has no connection with his performance at his day job.

Indeed, it was President Clinton who called Romney’s business record “sterling.”  Car elevators and the alleged discarding of muffin bottoms don’t erase the over 100,000 jobs and healthy profit Romney generated at Bain; neither do they negate his tremendous service to the Salt Lake Olympics.

And since we’re counting, let’s not forget all the penny-pinching, middle class markers of Mr. Romney: his “cheap” kitchen light bulb fix, the family vacations in a wood-paneled station wagon, and his regular trips flying economy class, even at the risk of air rage fisticuffs.

The appropriate scrutiny for this election is not on what a businessman does with privately-purchased muffins, but what a public steward like President Barack Obama has done with the people’s money.  An added $6,000,000,000,000 to the debt, the failed $800 billion stimulus (check the graph here), support of green flops like high speed rail and Solyndra, and an otherwise total lack of leadership on the federal budget make a better case for profligacy than any half-eaten baked breakfast good ever could.

If we’re going to talk muffin waste, Barack Obama has wantonly discarded untold dumpster loads of them, in the belief that he could always tax the muffin-rich or inflate his way out of the muffin debt.

So there we have it.  A mainstream publication continues to avail itself as a platform for utterly unconvincing liberal carping.  It would have been genuinely interesting to have an honest exposition of what ideas animated the writer’s allegiance to the Democratic party.  For now, the consuming public must be content with a couched, self-referential diatribe of cross-generational rebellion.  That, and whatever else the enlightened editors toss our way.

Paul Ryan: naive, inexperienced?

Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered.

C.S. Lewis

As far as I know, neither I nor Virginia Heffernan is a philosopher in the professional sense, but I would submit that Lewis’s dictum is just as valid for bloggers.  And so it is that I must report on the Yahoo writer’s latest hit piece, because it is bad blogging.

Like her other columns, Heffernan’s latest meanders through obscure pop culture references, though fewer than usual.  This time, the most outlandish example is of some dusty blue book that every American must have owned circa 1970.

The author’s alternately snarky and earnest jaunt down memory lane serves an end of course.  In this case, it is to tie herself to her subject, the estimable Paul Ryan.  He is one year her junior, and as such is the first of Generation X to contend for the vice presidency.

The face of inexperience?

Heffernan proceeds to portray her college years as a perigee where she flirted with but ultimately moved away from a Jack Kempian conservatism.  Looking for bonus points with those harboring an unflattering memory of the Reagan years, she offers television character and teenage Republican Alex Keaton as a possible analog for Mr. Ryan.

By the end of the piece, it is clear than in so many words Heffernan has endeavored to say that compared to herself, Paul Ryan is naive and inexperienced in the ways of the world.  But for all of her musings on Generation X, she’s only managed to grasp the one elementary tool of commendation that the relativistic, existentially-driven Baby Boomers left behind: anecdotal evidence, the mere telling of personal experience.

Heffernan supposes that Mr. Ryan never faced a hard day in his life.  Meanwhile, she had some undescribed encounters that delivered her from a simplistic, uncaring worldview.  Maybe she saw a sad, hungry puppy shivering by the side of the road.  That is why, unlike the experientially impoverished Mr. Ryan,   she was able to grow out of an infatuation with that extreme ideology called fiscal restraint.

What a condescending take.  Did Heffernan fail to research that Paul Ryan discovered his father dead in bed when he was 16?  Or that his Alzheimer’s-stricken grandmother moved in for care shortly thereafter?  Indeed, the teenage Paul Ryan worked at McDonalds.  Those earnings, along with Social Security survivor’s benefits, allowed him to go to college.  And when he got there, he supported himself further with a side job selling hot dogs for Oscar Meyer.  Does this sound like some sort of silver spoon background, or the picture of naivete conjured by fictional teenage Republicans of TV yesteryear?  Contrary to her boast, it is Ryan, not she, who is the old soul.

Rather than offer commentary of value, Heffernan merely pollutes the national conversation with solipsistic bubble gum blogging.  She permits her readers to dismiss the latest Republican candidate as heartless, aloof, and extreme.  And in the same moment, they are left with fond recollections of leg warmers and ’80s prom hair.  Given the state of the entertainment establishment, this is hardly a novel achievement.

As I’ve warned before, Yahoo! News is more an entertainment outpost than an outlet for truth.

Scientists campaign against Republican, conservative brains

Back in April, I was dismayed to learn that my alma mater was hosting a speaker promoting a new book titled The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science and Reality.  (Read Jonah Goldberg’s take on the book here)  It’s become a refrain of mine that no one should be shocked at liberal bias in media or academe. But that a campus would sanction an event branded with such a patent insult is a new low for discourse.  Doubtless, the glorified ad hominem that Republicans are wired to deny reality would go unnoticed by the campus’s “Civility Project,” which rather than treat civility seriously, reinforces notions of victimhood and grievance.

Andrew Ferguson at The Weekly Standard has managed to capture the zeitgeist of liberal academics who try to analyze conservatives. The New Phrenology, as he calls it, has roots as far back as the “F Scale” psychological test of the 1940s. It was meant to gauge one’s conservative tendencies. The “F” stands for Fascism.

Looking at more recent studies of the same vein, Ferguson finds some recurring faults. In a couple of cases the sample groups consisted entirely of college students. Hormonally-driven and still maturing, these folks are hardly suitable representatives for the population at large.  Furthermore, the subjects were also disproportionately Asian-American and female. One study assessed subjects’ conservatism by asking whether they felt “powerful” that day. The methodology leaves much to be desired.

Remember when Farleigh-Dickinson University’s Public Mind Institute reported that watching FOX News makes you dumber? They recently touted the study’s results were “confirmed” with a follow-up. But by asking the same questions as the first time, they repeated the same mistakes. A self-reporting NPR or evening news consumer is going to get a solid block of news, but a watcher of a 24-hour cable news network quite possibly could miss out on substantive programming. And the questionnaire’s focus on Syria favors a misguided, cosmopolitan set that believes the UN might actually be effective. It’s not FOX News but The Public Mind Institute that has made the world dumber with its junk studies.

Meanwhile, one Marcus Arvan has attempted to pin conservatives on the pages of a journal called Neuroethics. The determinism implied in the journal’s title is striking; as if morality were some lightning to be captured in a materialistic bottle. Arvan alleges conservatives share in a “Dark Triad” of personality traits, among them a Machiavellian bent. It’s nothing to worry about. That’s just what people label realists when they don’t like what they have to say.

But on the contrary, anthropologist T.M. Luhrmann finds evangelicals to inhabit a fantasy land.  She sees her native tribe of secular liberals as results-focused, but evangelicals as strangely obsessed with self-improvement and how people could be. Last time I checked, it was liberals who were pie-in-the-sky, swaying to John Lennon’s “Imagine.”  Serious Christians remain firmly rooted in reality, thanks to a cognizance of sin. Among other things, this is the idea that no one, not even ourselves, is perfect or perfectible on this Earth. The Incarnation excluded. Far from enabling delusion, real knowledge of sin and fallenness equips Christians with an ideal, double-edged skepticism. Like the kind that informed America’s great system of governance.

If anyone, it’s secular liberals who ought to be concerned for their own views of reality. Progressives can’t question the very thing they’re progressing toward. There’s no room for genuine critique if there’s a real war on with capitalism, patriarchy, scientific illiteracy, or some other ill of preference. And, as with war, secular liberals demand that problems be dealt with centrally and in totality. This embarrassing prescriptivism should have died with eugenics and all the other awkward progressive-era vestiges long ago.

Still, we are burdened with the unquestioned assumptions of the liberal-scientific consensus. We’re not allowed to question computer models of climate change. But the layman recognizes the hubris in forecasting a city’s weather one month in advance let alone global conditions one hundred years hence. On policy, the consensus demands economy-crushing carbon taxes, lest famines and war break out. But these conditions prevail already.

It’s maddening that the liberal-scientific consensus recuses itself from the possibility of error. Meanwhile, it treats people and the environment as fragile and unable to adapt–in fact, in need of a strong, capable hand–a scientific and liberal hand.  On this view, everything is material, knowable, and solvable. Their knowledge is so certain that even their critics’ reasons for criticism can be deconstructed with empirical precision.

No one likes to deal with this kind of impenetrable certitude. All the more that liberal scientists and academics should abandon their shameful quest to dismiss conservatives with the cudgel of science. Then we can get around to solving real problems.

The Economic Red Button

The economic red button

Today’s strip continues the cafe conversation.  Probably you’ve heard people try to judge presidents by the shape of their economies.  This kind of logic is mistaken, but it is the bread and butter of progressives and Democrats.  They survive pretty much on promises of government activism.  But because of the harm that most often comes from government meddlings in the market, the best kind of president would lead with a hands off style.  Better a good steward than an all-out commander.

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