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John Adams Blog

The blog of The Antient and Honourable John Adams Society, Minnesota's Conservative Debating Society www.johnadamssociety.org

Monday, August 29, 2005

American Faux Elitism

Chris makes some interesting points on coffee and cliches which are all undercut by his confession that he is an elitist. At some point, I look forward to him (not me) writing a book titled, "Confessions of an Elitist." I thought I should publish some thoughts since my earlier work has been temporarily suppressed for hopeful publication in the Star Tribune. . .

Quite frankly, I hate American elitism more than British elitism -- at least British elitism is rooted in its history and authentic. American elitism is ahistorical and delusional.

British society has been and is based (but to a lesser degree than in the past) on the landed gentry, including the Royal Family, and their rights and privileges. Centuries in the making, British elitism puts the nobles above the people. It is elitism. Elitism is vibrant in modern Britain.

American society is founded on a Creed -- the Declaration of Independence -- and related documents. Inherent in that Creed is an egalatarianism of sorts -- that is we are all equal before God. Just as we were rejecting King George III, we were also rejecting British elitism and the landed gentry system.

America has never had an elite -- only pretenders. Americans who claim to be elites have no claims similar to the British nobles. They are frauds. That is why America is a populist country.

Finally, many arrogant Americans use where they went to college as a proxy for elitism. The argument goes something like this, "If you graduated from Harvard or Yale, you are an elite." It's a stupid argument. Graduating from Harvard is nothing like being the Duke of York. Three points. First, Harvard charges for its education, so graduates have loans to pay back. The Duke of York gets all the land, income and privileges without loans. Second, there is more prestige in being a noble than being a graduate from anywhere. In fact, the royalty I met at Harvard knew that. Third, last I checked, graduates of Harvard and Yale can't even automatically get their children admitted there. "Elites" who do not have the power to deliver for their children are, well, not elites.

As to the American view on America's faux elites, I think it's generally one of tolerance and amusement. America's faux elites are great only in their own minds. Harmless really. After all, America is a populist nation -- a melting pot of different cultures, religions and ethnicities. How else could we get along so grandly?

Blogger Harsh Pencil said...

SSC writes

"Elites who do not have the power to deliver for their children are, well, not elites."

Well, they're not if you define "elite" to be the same thing as "hereditary elite." I don't, nor do I think that's that the common or correct use of the term in America. Anti-elitism in Europe may mean not granting special privileges to inbred simpletons who happen to have been to the manor born. In America, those claiming to be against elitism are usually just against making distinctions. It's considered elitist to think there's a difference between stupid and smart, knowledgeable and ignorant, or even ugly and beautiful. It's elitist to want to have special classes for the smart kids so they aren't held behind by the less gifted. It's elitist to think a high school student should know who Julius Caesar was. It's elitist to believe that rap is garbage and Mozart is inspired. It is that definition of elitism that makes me "confess" I'm an elitist.

I too have met my share of the American self-made elite and the European hereditary elite. But this is just one more thing we disagree on. The Europeans are insufferable.

11:34 PM, August 29, 2005  

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Saturday, August 27, 2005

Why I Know I'm an Elitist

In his deleted post (which I read before it was deleted and presumably will be in the StarTribune) SSC gets his panties all in a bunch because this was on his Venti(tm) Starbucks Dark Roast

Everywhere, unthinking mobs of “independent thinkers” wield tired cliches like cudgels, pummeling those who dare question “enlightened” dogma. If “violence never solved anything,” cops wouldn’t have guns and slaves may never have been freed. If it’s better that 10 guilty men go free to spare one innocent, why not free 100 or 1,000,000? Cliches begin arguments, they don’t settle them.
[Jonah Goldberg, Editor-at-large of National Review Online]
SSC claims to have slammed down his coffee and sworn to never drink Starbucks again because of Goldberg's "elitism." Them's fightin words. Not Goldbergs. SSC's. I don't care if they put Das Kapital or the Grateful Dead lyrics on the damn cup, I want my Starbucks.

But SSC claims that cliches may prevent arguments that never should happen. That is, they may encapsulated hard earned folk wisdom. He's right, of course, that some things simply shouldn't be argued about. For example, Goldberg himself has argued that a country which seriously debates the ethics of getting jiggy with Fido is in serious trouble.

Goldberg was simply making the point that cliches substitute for serious argument and this should be frowned upon once the argument has started. I know that if I'm having a discussion with someone and they say "well you know what they say. There are lies, damned lies, and statistics," I feel like replying "well you know what they say. You're an idiot." I don't see anything elitist about this. Lazy thinking is lazy thinking.

And further, what's wrong with elitism? The next time I have surgery, I sure as hell hope the medical school my doctor graduated from had an elitist admissions committee.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Why I Know I am a Populist.

Exclusivity requirements of the Star Tribune require that this blog entry be suppressed for the moment.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Casualties

John Hinderaker at Powerline has an important post on casualties.

He points at that in the 1990's, the U.S. military suffered about 1,000 deaths a year just from accidents. So a typical 2 1/2 year run in the 1990's had, on average, about 2,500 deaths - more than have been suffered in the 2 1/2 years we've been in Iraq.

The press's constant drumbeat on casualties is, in effect, their playing something like the Cindy Sheehan trump card. It somehow seems so cold and heartless to point out that casualties have been light that they know their ideological opponents won't do it.

But consider this. We've replaced the government of a country of some 25 million people in a 2 1/2 year war/counterinsurgency at the cost of 1800 combat deaths. In the battle of Normandy alone, we lost 54,000 soldiers, at a time when our country had less than half our current population. Now, of course, to the families of these 1800 soldiers and marines, each death is a life altering tragedy. But this is true for every training accident death in peacetime as well, and true every time a police officer or firefighter dies. (In the two years 1997-98, 315 police officers and 188 firefighters, were killed.) The constant focus on casualties at the expense of practically any other reporting has its effects. Writes Hinderaker

We are conducting an experiment never before seen, as far as I know, in the history of the human race. We are trying to fight a war under the auspices of an establishment that is determined--to put the most charitable face on it--to emphasize American casualties over all other information about the war.

Pat Robertson

How does this clown stay in the news? Does anyone really take him seriously?

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Minnesota Twins -- September Surprise?

The Minnesota Twins have provided Minnesotans with back-to-back-to-back Central Division titles. In July, the Twins suffered a slump that eliminated them from the Central Division race and seemed to create an insurmountable distance between them and the red-hot A's. But, the Twins have managed recently to win series against each of the AL Division leaders and appear to be ready to make a run at recently-slumping A's. The Twins' pitching is good enough. If the hitting picks up, they might just be able to do it.

PREDICTION: The Twins will win the wild card and make their fourth playoffs in a row.

Blogger Harsh Pencil said...

And it still won't ge them a stadium.

8:54 AM, August 19, 2005  
Blogger ssc said...

You've got a point. But, if the externalities of a stadium are objectively obvious, then there are only two possible reasons for no stadium. One, the people are stupid. Two, the people don't believe in externalities. I believe in the latter. I am afraid most economists believe in the former. Do you agree Chris?

8:44 AM, August 23, 2005  
Blogger Harsh Pencil said...

You, in a sense, contradict yourself. If people don't believe in externalities, but externalities are real, then people are being stupid.

Economists certainly don't agree that most people are stupid or believe things which aren't true. Our standard operating procedure is to try to find explanations for things where everyone is acting perfectly rationally based on a correct understanding of the world they live in.

And we have no shortage of explanations for why less than perfect outcomes can occur once government is involved. The main strand running through these explanations is that there is no constituency for government policies which promote the common good. People care about what helps them , not what helps us.

8:59 AM, August 23, 2005  

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Monday, August 15, 2005

Gaza

History will remember Ariel Sharon as a great man, in more than a few senses of the word. He is one of those rare larger than life statesmen who dominate the country and era they live in. Like all of this type, his faults are as big as his virtues. But through him, Israel is getting something right.

It is getting a divorce. (Or to my Catholic friends out there, a valid annulment).

Israel is the husband looking at the partner he has been fighting with for the last 50 years and saying "to hell with you. You can't be reasoned with. I'm leaving."

And he's not leaving her the house. He's leaving her the outhouse and changing the locks to what's worth living in and getting on with his life.

Good luck.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Ninth Circuit: “Social Constraint” = “Persecution”

On Friday, a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for Ninth Circuit issued a decision that was bewildering and breathtaking even for it -- the most-often reversed Circuit Court of Appeal in the nation.

A unanimous three-judge panel (deciding even that oral argument in the case was an unnecessary waste of time), ruled that Jose-Pratico Boer-Sedano, a gay Mexican national was eligible for asylum in the United States because he would “face significant social and cultural constraints as a gay man with AIDS in Mexico.” A link to the opinion is here.

Both legally and factually the case is astonishing.

In asylum cases the court is obliged to focus upon whether those requesting sanctuary in the United States face “persecution” in their home country -- not, “social and cultural constraints.” By blurring this distinction, the court’s ruling seems to really lower the bar on asylum petitions.

The facts of the Boer-Sedano case, and the conclusions the Ninth Circuit draws from the facts, are likewise stunning.

The Court ruled that because Mr. Boer-Sedano claimed that he was assaulted by a police officer in his rural hometown on the Eastern Coast of Mexico, that he was entitled to the presumption that the threat of persecution for his sexual orientation covered the entire country of Mexico. The Court was apparently unmoved by the fact that Mr. Boer-Sedano lived for a year without incident in the larger city of Monterrey -- some 300 miles away from the coastal town of his birth -- or that following his entry to the United States, Boer-Sedano returned from time to time to Mexico, also without incident.

Finally, in reaching the conclusion that “social and cultural constraints” equal “persecution” under the asylum laws, the panel relies upon a report of the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. While this organization has an awfully official sounding name, the Commission is, in fact, a New York-based advocacy group that urges “progressive changes in laws, policies and practices by states.”

Well, the Commission has got its wish.

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7:19 PM, August 13, 2005  

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Friday, August 12, 2005

Embarassed, NARAL Will Pull Anti-Roberts Ad -- But Will Air Another

See today's articles here and here.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Minnesota Supreme Court: "You bet! We're Results-Oriented!"

In an opinion released today as to when the City of Minneapolis is obliged to redistrict local election districts, Justice Paul Anderson provides a rare insight into how decisions are made at the State Supreme Court.

Ever wondered how the Justices decide what the words in the State Constitution mean? Well, apparently they will follow established precedent on the meaning of things "unless there is a principled basis" not to do so.

Well, that doesn't seem like much of a test....

Most of the liberals that I know are keenly principled individuals – but they are also wrong about most everything in the world. And, as anyone who has ever made an honest mistake knows, sincerity and accuracy are two very different things….

Likewise chilling, for Justice Paul Anderson, it appears that disagreeing with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions on federal law is pretext enough for him to put new words in the State Constitution. He writes: "[W]e will look to the Minnesota Constitution when we conclude that the United States Supreme Court has made a sharp or radical departure from its previous decisions or approach to the law and when we discern no persuasive reason to follow such a departure. We also will apply the state constitution if we determine that the Supreme Court has retrenched on Bill of Rights issues, or if we determine that federal precedent does not adequately protect our citizens’ basic rights and liberties."

All of which raises the prospect that if the U.S. Supreme Court might become more conservative with Bush nominees, judges here at home might begin new rounds of adding words to the Minnesota Constitution.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

NARAL Double-Speak

NARAL Pro-Choice America has sponsored a television advertisement that will begin airing in Maine and Rhode Island tomorrow which focuses on Associate Justice-nominee John Roberts’ role in Bray v. Alexandria Women's Health Clinic. The Bray case focused on whether the 19th-century anti-Ku Klux Klan statute could be used in modern times to prevent blockades of health clinics by abortion protesters.

Roberts, then-Deputy Solicitor General of the United States, filed a friend-of-the-court brief that sided with the clinic protesters' reading of the Klan Act. And the U.S. Supreme Court, by a vote of 6 to 3, agreed with Roberts.

The NARAL commercial, features Emily Lyons, a clinic director who was badly injured when a bomb exploded at her clinic in Birmingham in 1998. The ad concludes by saying, “America can't afford a justice whose ideology leads him to excuse violence against other Americans….”

When the proverbial fit hit the shan today, however, NARAL President Nancy Keenan defended the claims but said, “We're not suggesting that Mr. Roberts condones clinic violence.”

Let's try that again, but in slow motion: NARAL claims that Roberts' “ideology leads him to excuse violence against other Americans,” but they are “not suggesting that Mr. Roberts condones clinic violence.”

Apparently, this is another occasion in which it depends on what one's definition of “is,” is....

Monday, August 08, 2005

Wersal Wins Great Victory!

JAS member and friend Greg Wersal won a great victory in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit last week. After he already won in the U.S. Supreme Court on one claim in 2002, the U.S. Court of Appeals followed up by delivering on all four of Wersal's other claims relating to bans on judicial candidates identifying their political party, attending political party events, seeking political party endorsements and soliciting money.

Mr. Wersal has delivered a big blow to the judicial elites in Minnesota. Mr. Wersal is a populist hero. We are very lucky to have him.