Saturday, February 29, 2020

Links on Cuba (Plus a Book Rec)

No, Fidel Castro Didn't Improve Health Care or Education in Cuba

"According to UNESCO, Cuba had about the same literacy rate as Costa Rica and Chile in 1950 (close to 80 percent). And it has almost the same literacy rate as they do today (close to 100 percent)...

"Meanwhile, Latin American countries that were largely illiterate in 1950—such as Peru, Brazil, El Salvador, and the Dominican Republic—are largely literate today, closing much of the gap with Cuba...

"Cuba led virtually all countries in Latin America in life expectancy in 1959, before Castro’s communists seized power. But by 2012, right after Castro stepped down as Communist Party leader, Chileans and Costa Ricans lived slightly longer than Cubans. Back in 1960, Chileans had a life span seven years shorter than Cubans, and Costa Ricans lived more than two years less than Cubans on average."

The upshot of all of the data cited in the article above is that Castro's regime lived off earlier successes -- and eventually slowed established trends. Why? Because socialist systems are parasitic by nature. Such systems are neither innovative nor wealth generating; the only reason they survive at all is due to previously amassed resources (which socialists eventually squander) and/or the largess of the capitalist world.

Of course, even if it were true that Castro established a successful literacy program after rising to power, personal stories such as this one from the Miami Herald...

I went to school in Cuba under Castro. Here's what it's like, Bernie Sanders.

...reveal the emptiness of such an achievement in the face of Castro's sins. Honestly, I can't even wrap my head around how morally confused you have to be to apologize for a government that killed, imprisoned or otherwise oppressed thousands for not being sufficiently enthusiastic about The Revolution. That's like apologizing for Mussolini because he made the trains run on time (which actually turns out not to be true either).

Quite frankly, if Bernie Sanders is doubling down on his pro-Castro BS, he has neither the judgment nor the probity to be allowed within fifty miles of the Oval Office.

Trump is no genius, but at least he doesn't cheer for our enemies.

And just in case the lived experiences of Cuban Americans are insufficient to persuade you that socialism is not, in fact, a beautiful ideal, try this:

Pretending to Sleep, Monalisa Foster

This author escaped from Communist Romania when she was a child, and she wrote this short story to work through her experiences under Ceaucescu. It's not a happy read -- but these days, I think it might be a necessary one.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

No Post Tonight

I just got robbed at gunpoint, so I'm busy talking with the police.

Don't worry: I'm currently safe, and he didn't physically hurt me.

Wish I'd had my gun.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Future Plans and the True Meaning of Happiness

What does the near future hold for this blog?

Well, I will occasionally comment on breaking stories if they catch my fancy -- but most of the time, I'm going mimic Dennis Prager and stick to general philosophical issues. Why? Because it has become increasingly apparent to me that we as a society are deeply, deeply confused about the true meanings of love, happiness, justice -- just about every good you can name.

I stand by what I said two posts ago regarding the fat acceptance movement, for example -- even if, as one commenter here recently claimed, diets make people "unhappy." (We'll get to the error in thinking in that claim in just a moment.) No one knows better than I how difficult it is to maintain a svelte figure, but that doesn't completely invalidate the standard that "privileges" the thin. It indicates that we should be compassionate to all those who fail to hit the standard, sure; I think everyone agrees that straight-up shaming is profoundly unhelpful. But you will do an enormous amount of harm if you continue to tell young people in particular that being obese is a wholly unproblematic lifestyle choice worthy of being celebrated in your ad campaigns and cover shoots. Why? Because it's an outright falsehood. Obesity leads to many documented health and mobility problems that shouldn't be ignored for the sake of phony "self-esteem."

Regarding the comment mentioned above: Let's stipulate that diets make people "unhappy." I hate to say it, but that doesn't mean all dieting is bad and useless. Genuine happiness often involves being temporarily uncomfortable and "unhappy" in the service of accomplishing higher goals. It's no fun, for instance, to have to take your garbage to the curb once or twice a week (depending on your jurisdiction); indeed, doing all that heavy lifting probably makes you extremely "unhappy" in the moment. But if you don't do it - if you elect to prioritize your short-term pleasure over your long-term good - you will end up living in a shit pit. Similarly, as a teacher, I am intimately familiar with the "unhappiness" that accompanies one of my homework assignments. But if my students choose to avoid that "unhappiness" and play video games instead, the result is generally bad grades, angry parents, and disciplinary restrictions. Better to accept the bit of "unhappiness" early on than the more extensive grief later.

Real happiness is not a transitory emotion. It's the fulfillment and well-being that comes from properly ordering your life according to the traditional virtues. Up until his sudden death almost two months ago, my father and my mom had a happy marriage -- but they didn't always feel content. As a matter of fact, they faced a great deal of adversity thanks to Dad's military deployments, both of their chronic illnesses, repeated hospitalizations, etc. If my parents had accepted the logic behind the fat acceptance movement - that discomfort is a thing to be avoided at all costs - they would not have stuck together for 41 years -- and ultimately, they would've been worse off.

So yeah: that up there is the sort of thing you can expect from me most of the time. I'll also be responding to books I read and posting enlightening YouTube content as I find it. Overall, I want to zoom out because, as the ascendancy of Bernie Sanders reveals, we are standing at a crossroads -- and I want to point my readers in the right direction.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

Choices MUST Have Consequences

Imagine two students:

One student puts in hours each day studying math, poring over textbooks and practicing his skills on math-related online games so he can get ahead.

The second student effs off after school. He's happy doing the bare minimum to pass.

Question: Who's more likely to get an 800 on the math section of the SAT? Who's more likely to take Calculus - or even Differential Equations - in high school?

Question: If the first student gets into MIT and the second student doesn't, is that just?

Currently, I tutor three students who attend our local magnet school. None of them are spectacular intellects. They're just extremely motivated and work very, very hard. Indeed, they all came to me for math enrichment years before their admission to said magnet; consequently, they are all years ahead of their local peers.

(And incidentally, all three are black and/or Muslim.)

Different behaviors lead to different levels of achievement. Up and down the evolutionary scale, there are some strategies that lead to reproductive success and some strategies that don't. A squirrel that doesn't busy itself gathering nuts in good weather is a dead squirrel. This isn't oppression. This is life.

The radical left, however, seems hell-bent on denying this reality. Indeed, a common theme that links many of the enthusiasms of the social justice warrior is a desire to protect people from the consequences of their own bad choices.

Consider, for example, the fat acceptance movement. Obviously, no one should be mocked or otherwise mistreated for being overweight. But to expect to be celebrated as if you are just as beautiful as someone who is fit and thin? This is a patently unreasonable demand -- and I say this as a chunky gal. While there are some medical reasons why people may have more trouble than usual controlling their weight, in most cases, a fat person is fat because of his lifestyle. And don't worry: I include myself in that category. I take meds that impact weight gain -- but I could still stand to exercise more and do a better job monitoring my diet. The fact that I'm not currently making millions as a bikini model is a natural result of my laziness, and I accept it. SJW's, however, think I'm being persecuted somehow -- because they want to protect me from the consequences of my own choices.

Consider too the left's extreme embrace of legal abortion on demand at any time for any reason. When challenged on this, of course, leftists always retreat to the motte of "rape/incest/medical necessity," but everyone knows that the vast majority of abortions are performed for the sake of convenience. Sorry, ladies, but if you're not ready to have a kid, there's something very simple you can do instead of murdering a human being who didn't ask to exist: shut your damn legs. It's called delaying gratification. People do it all the time without exploding -- and they end up happier in the long run. This is common sense -- except to radical leftists who, again, want to protect women from the consequences of their own choices.

I don't deny that certain observed disparities are partially the result of systemic issues. This is certainly true in education, one of my personal areas of interest. It's incontrovertible that, due to the incompetence of certain local school districts, some students aren't getting equal access to rigorous, knowledge-based instruction -- and yes, that injustice should be corrected. But leftist ideology overemphasizes the importance of the system at the expense of - well - true justice. It seems to argue that the imposition of any standards at all is tantamount to perpetuating "white supremacist, cisheteronormative patriarchy" -- as if the targets of its mothering instincts are somehow incapable of the self-discipline that has allowed others to excel. (Who, exactly, are the bigots here?)

No: In an ideal society, people of all backgrounds who practice the traditional cardinal virtues - people of all backgrounds who work hard and refrain from indulging their every passing whim - should enjoy the reward of living reasonably comfortably. And those who don't? Well, we shouldn't let them die in the streets -- but we also shouldn't coddle them or pretend their decisions have been equally adaptive. Why? Because ultimately, that's not fair. Outputs should be proportional to your effort; otherwise, why put in any effort at all?

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

If You Disagree, Leftists Will Rejoice at Your Pain

This is not true of liberals. Left-leaning liberals like my sister-in-law (or the people I follow on YouTube) are well-meaning, even if they’re misguided on certain matters of policy. But leftists? More and more, I have seen leftists sanction displays of casual cruelty that are truly appalling.

The latest target: Jordan Peterson.

I’m what you might call a casual fan of Mr. Peterson. I don’t think he has all the answers. Who does? But he strikes me as genuine in his desire to help and in his seeking after truth -- and many of the things he’s said in his public appearances (and in his best-selling book) are, to me, simple common sense. Yes: univariate explanations for observed cross-group disparities do perpetuate bad social science. Yes: there are differences between men and women that can’t be explained by culture. Yes: it is best to think globally but act locally. Yes: an ethic of self-examination and self-improvement is absolutely essential for a good life and should precede attempts to “smash the system.” And yes: no one should be forced to utter something he or she does not personally believe because that way leads to tyranny.

Do Mr. Peterson’s ideas always cohere? No -- but see above regarding my estimate of his sincerity. He certainly doesn’t deserve the frankly pathological hatred that has been lobbed his way ever since he was thrust into the limelight in the run-up to Canada’s passage of Bill C-16. For Christ’s sake, this is a guy who cries whenever he thinks about people suffering. This is a guy who gets visibly overwhelmed every time someone thanks him for his folksy advice. This is a guy who fiercely denied it when Dennis Prager called him a good person in one 2019 interview -- because he's acutely aware of the potential depravity of all mankind.

Overall, whatever one might think about the particulars of his ideas, I think all rational people can agree that Mr. Peterson has generally been a positive force in the world -- especially (but not exclusively) for young men. Yet this gentle, emotional man has become a lightning rod for mockery and unreasoning bile on the left -- to the point that people on Twitter are now celebrating his recent medical crisis.

Honestly, I want to throw up a little just thinking about this. How the eff does anyone think this is okay? How twisted and diabolical do you have to be to allow your ideological commitments to overshadow the universal call to basic human decency?

What’s happening to Jordan Peterson only further solidifies my conviction that people on the radical left don’t just want to defeat me and mine in the political arena. They actually want us dead -- or at least so broken, starved, and bloody that we’re no longer a significant threat to their aims.

They’re monsters, these leftists. Every. Single. One of them.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

A Winning Week

If the late originator of this blog were still alive, this week's political happenings would've tickled him pink. And I have to say, as someone who admittedly wussed out and didn't vote for Trump in 2016, I'm still pretty delighted myself.

First, we had the disaster of the 2020 Iowa Caucus, which revealed either the incompetence or the corruption of the Democratic Party for all to see. These are the people who want carte blanche to govern our country? Since the 1970's, the Iowa Caucuses have been conducted in the traditional manner without incident -- but the Democrats, in their infinite lack of wisdom, decided to pursue change for the sake of change, and they hired some shady credentialed bourgie clowns to pull it off. Which, as Bill Whittle points out in a recent Right Angle, is basically the Democratic approach to anything: trust the S-M-R-T! (Nope. Not on your life.)

By the way, I reserve the right to continue attacking bourgie clowns. I know the type: I are one. After my 2016 mistake, I recognize that now. I let my fear of my high-end-grocery-shopping, college-degree-holding, pricey-car-driving Northern Virginia neighbors intimidate me into voting based on appearances. No more! I've seen the light. Trump might be a flawed avatar for my center-right beliefs (which I will always point out when he does something potentially unwise), but he is accomplishing things that matter and are good despite hurricane-force headwinds. So who cares about the guy's boorish cracks on Twitter? The fat, orange mother-effer has proven he deserves my 2020 vote.

Which brings me to the SOTU, a masterful piece of political theater. It's so entertaining to watch leftists twist themselves into the pretzels trying to counter it. "Lies! All lies!" screams Queen Salty Bitch Pelosi as she rationalizes her infamous little temper tantrum. Uh, okay. Care to show me the numbers, your highness? Care to explain to that black gentleman taking advantage of an opportunity zone that his windfall is fake? Care to explain the lies behind Tuskegee airmen, gold star families, or little black girls waiting for scholarships? I'll wait, popcorn in hand.

The greatest thing about the SOTU was its underlying philosophy: we're looking out for forgotten Americans, but we're not coddling them. I'm sure fiscal conservatives in the audience were wincing a little at all the current and proposed government spending. But if we're going to avoid fighting that green eye-shade war for the time being - if we're going to be profligate - then yes, let us pour money into things that enhance equality of opportunity, not equality of results. I'm an enthusiastic supporter of educational scholarships in particular. (And, uh, rural internet -- since we're moving to the VA countryside soon. Yeah, I'm self-interested. Sue me.)

(Oh, and Mars shots. Yes, plant our flag on Mars. I wouldn't be a proper sci-fi fan if I weren't in favor of that.)

Yep: I'm glad that Trump is Still Our President despite the Democrats' failed attempt to remove him from office. The vote on Wednesday was a fait accompli, but hey: if the left wants to continue wasting time on this BS, maybe that will keep their grubby hands off anything truly important.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Boring Rhetorical Tics the Left Needs to Retire, Part 3

First, let me pull these over from my fan blog:

The Left Needs to Retire These Rhetorical Tics

This one covers "believe all women," "stay in your lane," "alt-right hate group," and "racist/sexist/homophobic."

More Boring Rhetorical Tics the Left Needs to Retire

This one covers "incel," "educate yourself," and "white privilege/systemic white supremacy."

And today, let us add two more:

8. Our opponents are dumb.

I talked about this on Tuesday in re: Don Lemon's amazing display of snobbish bigotry. No: there is no credible evidence whatsoever that people on the right are unusually imbecilic. Unfortunately, that doesn't stop leftists on either side of the Atlantic from arguing that Trump supporters, Leave voters, and other similarly populist political tribes have been uniquely misled by blatantly false propaganda and are, in general, stupid country bumpkins fit to be extras in the upcoming Hollywood reboot of Deliverance.

Of course, whenever they make this argument, leftists always conveniently ignore the loads of bullshit propaganda that people on their side have bought wholesale -- like, for example, that "true socialism has never been tried." Or that the current generation is going to die in a climate-change-fueled fireball if we don't scuttle our economies right this second. To be perfectly honest, I think this kind of idiocy is far more dangerous right now because it actually enjoys mainstream sanction. Last time I checked, it wasn't a young-Earth creationist who was selected as Time's "person of the year"; it was instead a teenaged climate alarmist who believes the aforementioned fireball hooey and yet still gets taken seriously by a bunch of adults who really should know better. (And I say this as someone who is generally supportive of rational environmentalism and prudent conservation efforts.)

Bottom line, no one group has a monopoly on stupidity.

9. [Insert thing here] needs to be more diverse.

Hmm. Well, that depends on what you mean by "diverse," doesn't it?

A government task force assembled to address the new coronavirus should probably have people from several different relevant fields, including infectious disease specialists, epidemiologists, emergency management professionals... wait, what?

Oh, I see. You mean that this task force can't be all white.

Dear God, skin color has fuck-all to do with whether this task force will be able to competently respond to a potential pandemic. You should be looking for people who are maximally qualified -- not checking demographic boxes.

I hate, hate, hate the left's sustained attack on the concept of merit. I hate it when it crops up in the geeky crap I enjoy, and I hate it even more when it crops up in fields that are actually vital to the continued health and safety of our society. If the latter continues, people might actually die.

If you want to see more diverse faces on science panels, there's a very simple thing you should do: You should go to elementary schools across the country and tell kids from all backgrounds that to be scientists, they must put in years of effort learning the prerequisite material. And then, when necessary, you should support them in that endeavor -- which might mean dipping into university endowments to set up prep academies in under-served areas so that every child has access to a rigorous, knowledge-based STEM curriculum. Indeed, as a high school math tutor, I'm firmly convinced that one of the best "educational equity" programs you could possibly devise is an after-school "math facts camp" for third graders (and a similar "fractions camp" for fifth graders). But the one thing you must never, ever do is drop the standards to prematurely force the end results to be more cosmetically appealing.

Sorry, CNN, but when it comes to genuine justice, there are no shortcuts.