URLs du Jour


  • Feeling unfree? Well, there's probably a reason for that, if you're reading this in the US of A. The Heritage folks have come out with their latest Index of Economic Freedom, comparing nation by nation. And …

    The United States’ economic freedom score is 72.1, making its economy the 25th freest in the 2022 Index. The United States is ranked 3rd among 32 countries in the Americas region, and its overall score is above the regional and world averages.

    The U.S. economy, which was growing moderately well before the COVID-19 pandemic, contracted sharply in 2020. Growth recovered in 2021. A decade-long trend of flagging economic freedom, interrupted briefly in 2019, has continued. Driven lower by a sharp decrease in its fiscal health score, the U.S. has recorded a 3.0-point overall loss of economic freedom since 2017 and has fallen from the upper half to the lower half of the “Mostly Free” category. Business freedom and rule of law are strong, but the economy is being crushed by reckless government overspending.

    This should not have been unexpected. But it's extra depressing to read the list of countries we are behind. (Canada!?)

  • But maybe it doesn't matter. Because, as Stephen Green relates, according to Experts: Freedom Is Fascism.

    The Canadian-government-funded CBC published a “freedom is fascism” attack on liberty this weekend, quoting “experts” who claim that the word “freedom” has become “flexible” and “common among far-right groups.”

    Let’s see who’s really doing the flexing, shall we?

    The CBC quotes Barbara Perry, director of the Centre on Hate, Bias and Extremism at the Oshawa-based Ontario Tech University, who claims that the problem with “freedom” is that “You can define it and understand it and sort of manipulate it in a way that makes sense to you and is useful to you, depending on your perspective.”

    Because of that, the word “has thrived among far-right groups.”

    The left has already made "racism" a worthless word; as George Orwell tells us, that happened long ago with "fascism". It's about time for "freedom" to be defined away.

  • For more on that… David Harsanyi has also noticed that (especially in Canada) The Left Vilifies Freedom.

    The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation recently set out to explain why the word “freedom” has become a “useful rallying cry” for protesters in the trucking convoy. Freedom, it added, “has become common among far-right groups, experts say.”

    It’s worth noting here that the addendum “experts say” is perhaps the laziest scam run by contemporary political journalism. It is little more than columnizing by proxy, or what Kyle Smith calls, “opinion laundering.” Journalists scan the websites of think tanks, advocacy groups, and universities to find some credentialed ideologue who will repeat every tedious bit of liberal conventional wisdom the reporter already believes. While we may need experts to explain quantum computing or synthesize complex mathematical data for us, we hardly need them to smear political adversaries. Reporters are already aficionados in that field.

    David also notes the sneer quotes journalists routinely put around "religious liberty", while never affording the same treatment to even more debatable "social justice" or "women’s rights".

  • While the news side of the newspaper remains quiet… at least the editorial side of the WSJ has begun to notice: Trump Really Was Spied On.

    Special Counsel John Durham continues to unravel the Trump-Russia “collusion” story, and his latest court disclosure contains startling information. According to a Friday court filing, the 2016 Hillary Clinton campaign effort to compile dirt on Donald Trump reached into protected White House communications.

    The indictment revealed that Mr. Sussmann worked with “Tech Executive-1,” who has been identified as Rodney Joffe, formerly of Neustar Inc. The indictment says Mr. Joffe used his companies, as well as researchers at a U.S. university, to access internet data, which he used to gather information about Mr. Trump’s communications.

    That kind of seems like a huge deal to me. And folks of a conservative bent seem to agree; it's all over "our" side of the web.

    But it's leaking into the other side, slowly but surely. At the New York Times, the coverage seems to be in the "conservatives pounce, but move along there's nothing to see here" mold. Headline: Court Filing Started a Furor in Right-Wing Outlets, but Their Narrative Is Off Track.

    WASHINGTON — When John H. Durham, the Trump-era special counsel investigating the inquiry into Russia’s 2016 election interference, filed a pretrial motion on Friday night, he slipped in a few extra sentences that set off a furor among right-wing outlets about purported spying on former President Donald J. Trump.

    But the entire narrative appeared to be mostly wrong or old news — the latest example of the challenge created by a barrage of similar conspiracy theories from Mr. Trump and his allies.

    Upon close inspection, these narratives are often based on a misleading presentation of the facts or outright misinformation. They also tend to involve dense and obscure issues, so dissecting them requires asking readers to expend significant mental energy and time — raising the question of whether news outlets should even cover such claims. Yet Trump allies portray the news media as engaged in a cover-up if they don’t.

    Uh, maybe. We'll see, I guess.

  • Is the revolution over? If you were wondering about that, N.S. Lyons has your answer: No, the Revolution Isn’t Over

    At least in the Boswash (the corridor of East Coast establishment power running from Boston to Washington), using January to make public predictions about the year ahead is an ironclad tradition. Usually these predictions end up being completely wrong, because no one here has any idea what they’re talking about. I hope that holds true in my case, because I want to use my mandatory annual forecast to dump a few gallons of cold, contrarian water on what seems to have recently become a fashionable prediction: that the “woke” ideological revolution roiling the West has peaked and will soon be in full blown retreat.

    Lyons finds this optimism to be mistaken. He offers 20 (yes, 20, Two-zero) reasons why. Here's number one:

    1. One does not simply walk away from religious beliefs. What is called “Wokeness” – or the “Successor Ideology,” or the “New Faith,” or what have you (note the foe hasn’t even been successfully named yet, let alone routed) – rests on a series of what are ultimately metaphysical beliefs. The fact that their holders would laugh at the suggestion they have anything called metaphysical beliefs is irrelevant – they hold them nonetheless. Such as:

    The world is divided into a dualistic struggle between oppressed and oppressors (good and evil); language fundamentally defines reality; therefore language (and more broadly “the word” – thought, logic, logos) is raw power, and is used by oppressors to control the oppressed; this has created power hierarchies enforced by the creation of false boundaries and authorities; no oppression existed in the mythic past, the utopian pre-hierarchical State of Nature, in which all were free and equal; the stain of injustice only entered the world through the original sin of (Western) civilizational hierarchy; all disparities visible today are de facto proof of the influence of hierarchical oppression (discrimination); to redeem the world from sin, i.e. to end oppression and achieve Social Justice (to return to the kingdom of heaven on earth), all false authorities and boundaries must be torn down (deconstructed), and power redistributed from the oppressors to the oppressed; all injustice anywhere is interlinked (intersectional), so the battle against injustice is necessarily total; ultimate victory is cosmically ordained by history, though the arc of progress may be long; moral virtue and true right to rule is determined by collective status within the oppression-oppressed dialectic; morally neutral political liberalism is a lie constructed by the powerful to maintain status quo structures of oppression; the first step to liberation can be achieved through acquisition of the hidden knowledge of the truth of this dialectic; a select awoken vanguard must therefore guide a revolution in popular consciousness; all imposed limits on the individual can ultimately be transcended by virtue of a will to power…

    I could go on, but the real point is that these are faith-beliefs, and ones capable of wielding an iron grip on the individual and collective mind. And they have a strong civilizational resonance, because they are in fact not arbitrary but deeply rooted in a metaphysical struggle that effectively stretches to the very beginning of Western theological and philosophical thought. In other words, “Wokeness” is much more than just a political program. And that’s unlikely to change anytime soon, because…

    The other 19 are equally bleak. Sorry, but check 'em out.

One Hudred Years of Solitude

[Amazon Link, See Disclaimer]

Motivation: this book was on the New York Times shortlist of fiction from which they asked their readers to pick "the best book of the past 125 years". Since I hadn't read it, I put it on the TBR list. So: one more down, eleven to go!

And I actually owned a copy, a paperback edition I bought back in the 70s for $2.50. Although I had to retrieve it from my daughter. I remember bouncing off the book, not making it through the first chapter back then. My wife remembers that I read it due to a recommendation I received from "that girl". Um, could be. But that was in another country, and besides, the wench is dead.

Philistinism warning: the good folks at Goodreads encourage you to rate your reads subjectively, not on some cosmic scale of quality. On the cosmic scale of quality, this one would have to rank very highly. The author, Gabriel García Márquez, got the Nobel Prize for Literature back in 1982, and this is said to have been his magnum opus. And I can (sort of) see the appeal, because the prose is evocative, the timeline is epic, there's plenty of sex, violence, tragedy, comedy, absurdity,… well, you name it. It's got magic realism, and that's often fun.

But I have to be honest: I didn't care for it. Didn't find the characters sympathetic or even interesting, and I lost track of who was who pretty quickly. The similar names didn't help; makes Russian novels with their multiple patronymics look like child's play. Didn't like the mile-long sentences and the multi-page paragraphs. Disgusted by the newborn baby carried off by ants. (Yes, I read to the end.)

And García Márquez was a Castro sycophant. Didn't care for that, either, although I tried to ignore that while reading.

Plot summary: The book describes the rise and fall of the fictional Columbian town of Macondo, accompanied by generations of the Buendía family, Mostly bad things happen.

A magic town in Columbia, and a troubled founding family … hey, It's just like the Disney movie Encanto! Well, except for almost everything else.

Last Modified 2022-02-15 9:12 AM EDT