All posts filed under: recent

The French Genocide That Has Been Air-Brushed From History

The Secret History On March 4 2011, the French historian Reynald Secher discovered documents in the National Archives in Paris confirming what he had known since the early 1980s: there had been a genocide during the French Revolution.1 Historians have always been aware of widespread resistance to the Revolution. But (with a few exceptions) they invariably characterize the rebellion in the Vendée (1793–95) as an abortive civil war rather than a genocide. In 1986, Secher published his initial findings in Le Génocide franco-français, a lightly revised version of his doctoral dissertation.2 This book sold well, but destroyed any chance he might have had for a university career. Secher was slandered by journalists and tenured academics for daring to question the official version of events that had taken place two centuries earlier.3 The Revolution has become a sacred creation myth for at least some of the French; they do not take kindly to blasphemers. Keepers of the Flame The first major Revolutionary mythographer was the journalist and politician Adolphe Thiers (1797-1877), who became the first President …

Moral Zealotry and the Seductive Nature of Evil

A tempting fallacy about morality is to think that wickedness must arise from transparently abhorrent motives, and goodness from nice ones. Few explicitly endorse this crude dualism, but many breezily equate hatred with evil, love with goodness, or both. This way of thinking makes it difficult for us to see the dangers of moral zealotry, one of the most insidious motives for wicked behavior. The notion of moral zealotry as a vice is somewhat puzzling. Shouldn’t we want people to be as moral as possible? Republican Presidential hopeful Barry Goldwater is often quoted as saying, “Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice; moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.” That’s true of idealized people who have perfect knowledge of justice and how best to pursue it, and whose commitment to goodness is untainted by less saintly motives. The rest of us are at risk of having our minds hijacked by intense, but not necessarily reflective, moral passions. People so hijacked are moral zealots. A paradigmatic example is early twentieth century anti-alcohol …

The Rise and (Possible) Fall of Justin Trudeau Show the Perils of Woke Governance

The scandal that has engulfed Justin Trudeau’s government in recent weeks is, in many ways, a very Canadian affair: It involves no sex, violence or even allegations of personal enrichment. Rather, it centers on the question of whether the Prime Minister and his representatives improperly pressured his ex-minister of justice—a former Indigenous chief named Jody Wilson-Raybould—to back off the criminal prosecution of a well-connected Quebec-based engineering firm that has been charged with fraud and corruption. To be clear, no one is alleging that Trudeau and his minions flat-out ordered Wilson-Raybould to reverse her decision in the case. In true Canadian style, the badgering of the former justice minister seems to have been a largely passive aggressive exercise, with a succession of public figures reminding her about all the many, many jobs that might be lost in (politically sensitive) Quebec if she didn’t reconsider her decision. And when she stuck to her principles and failed to relent, the PM removed her from her justice-ministry post, and pushed in a newcomer named David Lametti who—quelle surprise—seems quite …

Trump, Partisan Politics and Gay Rights

On February 19, the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump announced a new international gay-rights campaign, which will focus on fighting laws in 72 countries that still treat same-sex relationships as criminal acts. “Although the decriminalization strategy is still being hashed out, officials say it’s likely to include working with global organizations like the United Nations, the European Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, as well as other countries whose laws already allow for gay rights,” reported NBC News. Most of the targeted countries are in the Middle East and Africa. But it is widely suspected that the policy was formulated with one specific country in mind: Iran, a long-time U.S. adversary that ranks as one of the worst gay rights abusers in the world. Indeed, Iran is one of only four countries where the death penalty for homosexuality is codified under Sharia and implemented on a countrywide basis (the other three being Sudan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen). This is not simply a case of archaic old laws that the Iranian …

I Have Gender Dysphoria. But your Trans-Identified Child May Not

A recent response published in The BMJ, titled Safeguarding adolescents from premature, permanent medicalisation, argues that when treating cases of gender dysphoria, “it remains legitimate to listen, assess, explore, wait, watch development, offer skilled support, deal with co-morbidities and prior traumas, and consider use of a variety of models of care. While respecting individuals’ right to a different viewpoint, it is neither mandatory to affirm their beliefs nor automatic that transition is the goal, particularly when dealing with children, adolescents and young adults…With 85% desistance amongst referred transgender children and increasing awareness of detransitioning, unquestioning ‘affirmation’ as a pathway that leads gender dysphoric patients to irreversible interventions cannot be considered sole or best practice.” In regard to that 85% statistic, I am someone who is in the other 15%. I am an American born Canadian by choice female-to-male transsexual man. And like the authors of the above-referenced BMJ article, I would promote the use of caution in transitioning children. I started my transition in 1993 by changing my name and pronouns. I took a year …

In Defense of Andrew Yang’s Freedom Dividend

We should replace the ragbag of specific welfare programs with a single comprehensive program of income supplements in cash — a negative income tax. It would provide an assured minimum to all persons in need, regardless of the reasons for their need…A negative income tax provides comprehensive reform which would do more efficiently and humanely what our present welfare system does so inefficiently and inhumanely. ~Milton Friedman I get emotional about facts. ~Andrew Yang Although we are still a long way from the 2020 presidential campaigns, whispers of who the Democratic candidates will be and what policy platforms will be adopted is steadily droning into an orchestra. We can already predict some of the names that are likely to appear on the ballot sheet and the talking points that will be heard on the campaign trail, and it would not be imprudent to suspect the upcoming election will be even uglier and more contentious than the last. While the overwhelming majority of political pundits seem to be pouring their energies into slamming the current president—criticizing old models …

How Ed Schools Became a Menace to Higher Education

I. The Miseducation of College Administrators Years ago, at the college where I teach, some graffiti on a restroom wall caught my eye. Inked into the tile grout was a swastika the size of a baby aspirin, and just above it, in a different hand, someone had written in large letters: “This says a lot about our community.” An arrow pointed to the offending sign. I’d seen lots of responses to the odd swastika over the years—obscene remarks about the author’s anatomy, say, or humiliating additions to his family tree. But a claim that this itsy-bitsy spider of a swastika signaled a web of hatred permeating one of the most left-leaning colleges in the nation? That was a new one. More evidence for this web was adduced a few months later when some racially charged fliers were posted anonymously around campus. Because the fliers offended people who failed to notice that they were meant as anti-racist satire, administrators punished the undergraduate who had put them up, even after it was discovered that he was a minority …

Harvard’s Flawed Response to Ronald Sullivan Joining Weinstein’s Defense Team

The criticism of Harvard Law Professor Ronald Sullivan by some student activists for his decision to join the defense team of Harvey Weinstein, and the ongoing response of Harvard University to that criticism, raise important concerns about the ability of Harvard to maintain an intellectual environment of high integrity. This still evolving story weaves together four themes that are hardly unique to Harvard: the #MeToo movement and how universities should respond to it; the conflict between that movement and some fundamental principles of American jurisprudence; the approach of universities to the education and emotional comfort of their students; and how university leaders should respond when threats are made to their core institutional values. The concatenation of these issues in the Sullivan affair threatens to create a toxic brew. The story begins with Ronald S. Sullivan Jr., a man of remarkable accomplishment. He is a graduate of Harvard Law School (HLS) where he served as President of the Harvard Black Law Students Association. Following graduation, he directed the Public Defender Service of the District of Columbia, …

Thoreau and the Primitivist Temptation

When Edward Abbey died, his friends honored his wishes. They stopped at a liquor store for a few cases of beer and loaded his body into the back of a pickup truck to take him into the desert. He didn’t want a coffin, a funeral, any pontificating or gnashing of teeth. He just want to be buried at some unknown place in the sand, where, as he put it, “I want my body to help fertilize the growth of a cactus or cliff rose or sagebrush or tree.” It was a fitting send-off for a man whose very name became synonymous with the remote regions of the Southwest where he worked and which he chronicled in his books. He’d come to the desert after finally having had enough of it: the commutes, the congested roads, the small-talk. So he moved by himself to a remote part of Utah and worked as a park ranger in Arches National Park, just north of Moab. Along the way, he wrote in his journal, and the entries, when compiled, …

The Last Place Men Can Settle Things Like Men

In the middle of a dry, dusty desert in Nevada, I rode my bicycle down a street that wasn’t there a few weeks ago, and would be gone again in just a few days. C is a main street in Black Rock City, the Burning Man gathering that springs up in the alkali playa a few hours from Reno. At “Camp Settle This Like Men,” I parked my bike, donned a thick, stiff kimono and pants, and stepped onto the mats. I’d not brought my belt from home, so strapped on a loaner white belt, and invited a burly, bearded man with a huge smile and a brown belt to roll. A few minutes later, we stopped for breath. “You’re a black belt aren’t you?” he demanded. “Yeah,” I said, smiling. “What gave it away?” Mike and I became friends, in life and on Facebook. We know a lot of the same people, it turned out. The Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) community is large and growing, but at higher ranks, it is still a close-knit, …