All posts filed under: recent

Remembering Roger Scruton, Defender of Reason in a World of Postmodern Jackals

I received the news that Sir Roger Scruton had died with a pang in my heart. I did not know him personally, although our paths crossed once. And I am not the sort of fan who says things like “I felt like I knew him,” for I am not a sentimentalist. But he was a thinker and writer I admired extravagantly, and he was a beacon of reason in an age that is dominated by irrationality. It does seem to me that a bright star in my personal firmament has been extinguished. The path-crossing I mention took place in Ottawa in 2006. He was the keynote speaker at a symposium, sponsored by an outfit called the Centre for Cultural Renewal, which attracts an audience of citizens, many of them older, bewildered at the lightning social changes they are living through, and a little frightened, too, about where it is all going to end. The topic was “Public morality? Community Standards and the Limits of Harm.” Scruton told his listeners what they wanted to hear—namely that …

Gambling in a Time of Despair

Last year in June, the New York State Senate voted to legalize mobile sports betting. For a moment, it seemed like New York was poised to join its neighbor. New Jersey had sued and successfully convinced the Supreme Court to overturn a federal ban on sports gambling outside Nevada the previous year. The state legalized mobile betting apps shortly afterwards. Now, it was collecting the gambling fees of frustrated commuters from across the Hudson River while New York’s government lost millions of dollars in potential revenue. It was New York’s chance to catch up with the Joneses. “I got racinos who could use the help. I have racetracks who are suffering. This helps everyone and it stops people from going to Jersey,” Senator Joseph Addabbo Jr. asserted. As the author of the bill, he claimed that legalization also had “tremendous potential to create jobs and raise significant funding for education and other vital public programs.” Not everyone was so buoyant about the proposal. “I am not a fan, pardon the pun, of the new mobile …

Demoted and Placed on Probation

It all started in June 2018, when Quillette published my article, “Why Women Don’t Code,” and things picked up steam when Jordan Peterson shared a link to the article on his Twitter account. A burst of outrage and press coverage followed which I discussed in a follow-up piece. The original article was one of the ten most read pieces published by Quillette in 2018, and continues to generate interest. A recent YouTube video about it has been viewed over 120,000 times, as of this writing: In his tweet promoting my article, Peterson took issue with one of my claims. I had written that I thought I could survive at the Paul G. Allen School of Computer Science and Engineering where I work. Peterson disagreed: Make no mistake about it: the Damore incident has already established a precedent. Watch what you say. Or else. https://t.co/3Zzg1g2y9C — Dr Jordan B Peterson (@jordanbpeterson) June 19, 2018 As it turns out, Peterson was right. My position is not tenured and when my current three-year appointment came up for review …

It’s Time to Pay for Social Media

Information doesn’t want to be free. It’s valuable and wants to earn. And its existence doesn’t free anyone; possessing it, however, can do the opposite. ~Ken Liu, The Paper Menagerie A lot of people are angry about the current state of social media. While sites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube can help us stay connected, educated, and entertained, they’ve also fractured our attention spans, destabilized our mental health, and aided the spread of disinformation worldwide. As the harms of social media have come to light, a debate has emerged around how to remedy them. Some, such as Elizabeth Warren, want to use antitrust laws to break up the tech giants. Others think that we must update regulations to hold companies more accountable for content on their platforms. And still others think that we must abandon social media entirely. Google has too much power, and they're using that power to hurt small businesses, stifle innovation, and tilt the playing field against everyone else. It's time to fight back. That's why I have a plan to break …

My University’s Plan for a Brave New World

As the Chronicle of Higher Education recently reported, the University of Tulsa has been bitterly divided by True Commitment, an academic restructuring that guts the liberal arts and eliminates departments in favor of divisions. The blueprint for the restructuring was laid out in a strategic plan formulated by President Gerard Clancy after he took office in 2016. Trustees and administrators claim the plan’s narrow emphasis on technical and vocational training—a strategy other institutions are adopting as the higher education bubble deflates—will allow TU, until 2016 a top-100 national research university, to remain relevant in the 21st century. Faculty believe the plan’s impoverished view of the human person and historical and cultural obliviousness show that liberal education is indispensable if freedom and human dignity are to survive. The plan’s introduction, “Jobs as Central to Life,” starts by praising the liberal arts. But like Hamlet’s insincere Player Queen, it doth protest too much. A “point of pride,” the plan declares, is that TU professors teach students “how to solve complex problems,” and thus “move well past teaching …

The Growth Dilemma

More is more and more is also different ~Benjamin Friedman, The Moral Consequences of Economic Growth, 2005 For much of the last 70 years, economic growth has lifted the quality of life in Europe, North America, and East Asia, providing social stability after the violent disruptions of World War II. Today, however, many of the world’s most influential leaders, even in the United States, reject the very notion that societies should improve material wealth and boost incomes given what they believe are more important environmental or social equity concerns. This sharp break from the past is occurring as growth in Europe, Japan, and the United States has fallen to half or less of what it was just a generation ago, and while fertility rates are at levels not seen since the medieval era. This promises to create a tsunami of retired people whose retirements can only be addressed by economic growth. The combination of reduced real income, green-driven rises in energy and housing costs, and growing concern about pensions has sparked a new wave of …

‘The Report’ Review—A Careful Examination of the CIA’s Interrogation Methods

The Report, a new film from Vice Studios starring Adam Driver, feels somehow both timely and late. It tells the story of American Senate staffer Daniel Jones (Driver), who was tasked with investigating the U.S. government’s “enhanced interrogation” program in the late 2000s. The program, which many denounced as torture, was used to extract intelligence from suspected terrorist detainees at CIA black sites after Al Qaeda’s attack on September 11, 2001. It ended years ago and is no longer even legal—the McCain-Feinstein Amendment restricts prisoner interrogation techniques to those listed in the United States Army’s field manual, and it passed the Senate with a 78–21 vote in 2015, backed by majorities in both parties. Among the general public, however, the topic remains controversial, with almost half of Americans saying they think torture could be used to obtain “important military information” from “a captured enemy combatant” and only a little more than half saying they think torture is “wrong.” During and after his 2016 campaign, President Donald J. Trump, ever-sensitive to divergences between “elite” and “popular” …

Iran’s Fawning Western Apologists

The last Shah of Iran, ousted by revolution in 1979, often warned of “the accursed alliance of the red and the black” that threatened his country. By this he meant the union between the radical left and Islamist reactionaries, two ideological camps that, in theory, should have little common ground. My family, which had leftist leanings and opposed the monarchy, left Iran when I was young. I have never had a taste for monarchy, neither in my native Iran nor my adopted country of Canada, and am not usually fond of quoting the Shah, a monarch who ruled Iran as an imperial state. But in recent days, as I’ve observed reactions to the assassination of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) leader Qassem Soleimani, I must admit that, when it came to red and black, the Shah was quite astute. And it will be interesting to see which side Western leftists support now that there is a real threat of regional war. Soleimani was killed in Baghdad by a U.S. drone strike on January 3. Since …

Black or White, It’s the Same Old Anti-Semitic Pathology

Last year closed with a number of anti-Semitic attacks in the New York City area—including the killing of three people at a Jersey City kosher market by two shooters who had expressed interest in the fringe Black Hebrew Israelite movement, and a machete attack at a rabbi’s home in Monsey, NY by a suspect who appears to have referenced the same anti-Semitic hate group in his rambling manifesto. Unlike the 2018 Pittsburgh synagogue shooter or the 2019 Poway synagogue shooter, the suspects in these attacks weren’t white supremacists. Black Hebrew Israelite ideology is an exclusively black movement, whose various sects typically preach that black people are the true descendants of Biblical Israelites, and that today’s (actual) Jews are frauds. The Black Hebrew Israelites do not constitute a mainstream religious group, and certainly do not represent the views of ordinary American blacks. Nevertheless, the possibility that these crimes may be connected to Black Hebrew Israelite beliefs has elicited an uncertain reaction from public officials and commentators, who are more familiar (and comfortable) with discussions that center …

Ricky Gervais, Man of the People

In a room filled with self-absorbed narcissists, one brave, slightly less self-absorbed narcissist had the balls to speak truth to power—and his name is Ricky Gervais. If courage had a face, it would be a slightly overweight, pasty British multi-millionaire drinking a pint. Taking the stage to host his fifth and final (allegedly) Golden Globe Awards, Ricky spoke for us, the oppressed, six-figure earning, working middle-class, little guy. I may not have ever flown on a private jet to a private island with a temple, but I got an upgrade to first class once, and those warm nuts have a way of seducing you into believing anyone cares about your shitty takes. In fact it was on that flight I was inspired to become an opinion writer. I appreciate your hypocrisy, Hollywood, it makes me feel better about my own. So I get it, Hollywood. If this happened to me after a single first class flight, I can’t imagine what it must be like for you after a lifetime of warm nuts and constant flattery. …