One of my astute sons has been trying to persuade me that the current idea of progress is actually regress; we seem to moving away from civilized behavior to get back to our roots or something, forgetting the long slog of mankind away from them to gain something better and cleaner for human beings. What some people say comes naturally leads to behaviors some of us others are likely to call unnatural.
Carl Scott notes “The Higher Education Scandal” by Harvey Mansfield and reading that essay I came upon “Political correctness, the study points out, brings necessary unity to the otherwise incoherent notion of diversity. For how else than by political fiat can one bring together, or be ‘inclusive’ of, subjects defined not by essences but only by their mutually exclusive ‘otherness’?” This brought to mind another essay I read this morning by Camille Paglia, in The Chronicle of Higher Education, “Scholars in Bondage: Dogma dominates studies of kink.”
Once confined to the murky shadows of the sexual underworld, sadomasochism and its recreational correlate, bondage and domination, have emerged into startling visibility and mainstream acceptance in books, movies, and merchandising. Two years ago, E.L. James’s Fifty Shades of Grey, a British trilogy that began as a reworking of the popular Twilight series of vampire novels and films, became a worldwide best seller that addicted its mostly women readers to graphic fantasies of erotic masochism. Last December, Harvard University granted official campus status to an undergraduate bondage and domination club. In January, Kink, a documentary produced by the actor James Franco about a successful San Francisco-based company specializing in online “fetish entertainment,” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.
Paglia looks at three university press publications on formerly taboo sexual subjects. Margot Weiss’s Techniques of Pleasure: BDSM and the Circuits of Sexuality, Staci Newmahr’s Playing on the Edge: Sadomasochism, Risk, and Intimacy and Danielle J. Lindemann’s Dominatrix: Gender, Eroticism, and Control in the Dungeon. Her review is not for the faint of heart. I am stunned imagining what the courses those women teach are like. A good part of Paglia’s criticism is that these women have no knowledge of the past. In their great effort at what passes for sophistication these days, the great hope not to seem to have been born yesterday, they really do seem to have been intellectually born just the other day.
These three authors have not been trained to be alert to historical content or implications. For example, they never notice the medieval connotations of the word “dungeon” or reflect on the Victorian associations of corsets and French maids (lauded even by Oscar Wilde’s Lady Bracknell). It never dawns on Weiss to ask why a San Francisco slave auction is called a “Byzantine Bazaar,” nor does Newmahr wonder why the lumber to which she is cuffed for flogging is called a “St. Andrew’s cross.”
Given that it is Paglia writing, this is what bothers her the most, that these women do not really know the history of what they are writing about. As if ’twere done well, all could be excused. Well, she is also upset that the salaciousness of the subject is connected somehow to capitalism — therefore we can presume that BDSM, which is short for bondage and discipline, domination and submission, and sadomasochism, is the fault of capitalism (and therefore conservatives?). Gee whiz. Paglia comes to this:
What is to be done about the low scholarly standards in the analysis of sex? A map of reform is desperately needed. Current discourse in gender theory is amateurishly shot through with the logical fallacy of the appeal to authority, as if we have been flung back to medieval theology. For all their putative leftism, gender theorists routinely mimic and flatter academic power with the unctuous obsequiousness of flunkies in the Vatican Curia.
First of all, every gender studies curriculum must build biology into its program; without knowledge of biology, gender studies slides into propaganda. Second, the study of ancient tribal and agrarian cultures is crucial to end the present narrow focus on modern capitalist society. Third, the cynical disdain for religion that permeates high-level academe must end. (I am speaking as an atheist.) It is precisely the blindness to spiritual quest patterns that has most disabled the three books under review.
When I was in college I had to take some elective not in my field and chose a course that remains titled in my mind as “The Roots of All Evil.” That might been a philosophy course. Much of the course was about much of the literature that Paglia refers to, though there was more; the Bible, for example, was also part of the course. Note that the subject matter was called, at a major university, probably in 1975, evil. Now, apparently, the only way to call BDSM evil is to connect it to the capitalist impulse. That’s the modern university for you.
But Paglia’s third point, about the disdain of academia for religion and the spiritual quest that can be life an essential part of life most fulfilling, that is the great pity. We are here now, in the midst of the sexual revolution that has gone beyond progress: a regression to the base, an embrace of diversity without discrimination, or rather with a discrimination against the discriminating.
If you haven’t been following the Stephen Hayes reporting at the Weekly Standard, then you might have missed something about the Benghazi story. I do not think he can have missed much. His coverage really really has been wonderful. Today you can access his “What About the Video? The Benghazi email dump leaves some big questions unanswered” that will be out in the next paper issue.
From the beginning, there have been two big questions about the administration’s deceptive spin on Benghazi: How were the talking points whittled down to virtually nothing from the CIA’s original draft? And how did a previously obscure YouTube video gain such prominence in the administration’s explanation of what happened in Benghazi?…. The emails make clear that many of the deliberations about changing the talking points—phone calls, teleconferences, and discussions—were not recorded. But a picture nonetheless emerges of officials keenly interested to avoid blame, protect their bureaucracies, and settle on a message that all could live with….
The agency’s attempts at CYA had given Obama officials an opening, and they quickly took it. On these thin strands, the Obama administration built its explanation for Benghazi. There had been a demonstration in Cairo. The leaders of that protest used a YouTube video to incite a mob. A Benghazi attacker had seen the Cairo protest. He later participated in the attack in Benghazi….
Despite the centrality of the YouTube video to the administration’s public discussion of Benghazi, it goes virtually unmentioned in the nearly 100 pages of emails between the nation’s top intelligence and Obama administration officials as they reshaped the talking points provided by the CIA. The film trailer is included as part of a list on the first page of the documents and again at the very end, in the subject line about a meeting of high-ranking officials on Saturday morning: “SVTS [Secure Video Teleconferencing System] on Movie Protests/Violence.”
So, were Hillary Clinton, Susan Rice and President Obama confused? It is hard to see who confused them. The released emails show there was plenty of communication between the White House and the State Department. The problem for them all was how to play the story so everyone involved would be covered and all of the “deciders” obscured. That’s still happening.
I just have here what seemed like highlights to me. You should read the whole thing.
Here’s his piece from the CRB now available on Real Clear Politics.
Read the whole thing, especially for its Bloomian characterization of Bowdoin’s openness, and its wonderful paragraph on the banning of the alcohol-free dorm, but make sure you study the second sentence here. Maybe we should make it part of some genuine liberal arts catechism:
Bowdoin’s curriculum lacks the academic standards of excellence that conservatives mostly and mainly defend in academia with little or no help these days from liberals. It is conservatives who deplore and resist the brazen politicization of the classroom, the loss of the great books, indeed the disregard of greatness in general, the corruption of grade inflation, the cheap satisfactions of trendiness, the mess of sexual license, the distractions of ideology, the aggrandizement and servility of administrators, the pretense and dissembling of affirmative action, the unmanly advice of psychologists, the partisan nonsense of professional associations, and the unseemly subservience everywhere to student opinion.
But notice in particular the condemned item at the center of the series, which is the only one that seems innocuous at first: “the distractions of ideology.”
I share Carl’s frustration and outrage of course. It is at least as much the insult of the defenses offered by the IRS as the offenses themselves. So the new guidelines were needed to deal with a flood of applicants even though they were instituted before any spike in applications. So if they are psychic, why the need for all the intrusive questions? And if the IRS employees are so overworked and short of time that they need to single out groups that (coincidentally) oppose the incumbent president, why do they have time to ask bizarre questions about prayers by members of these groups and why do they feel the need to be assured that members of these groups will not protest Planned Parenthood? Probably just an incompetent but innocent case of under supervised employees trying to manage their workload. Yup, no partisan targeting there. The final insult was that weasel Steven Miller asking for a bigger budget in order to prevent future abuse. Presumably they will then be able to investigate liberals too. Or ask twice as many harassing questions of conservative groups. Whatever. What are you going to do about it?
But I don’t really share Carl’s hopes that this scandal this will do much to shift the opinions of the swing-voters (never mind weakly identifying liberals) in regards to Obama. So liberal-leaning government employees harassed groups opposed to Obama and officials at the Treasury Department hid the information until after the election. Unless it actually goes to Obama (and maybe even if it does), I’m not sure how many opinions it changes. I tend to think of scandals as an opportunistic disease in their effect on public opinion regarding the president. If the median voter is discontented with how things are going, a scandal might turn that discontent into hostility. If they are basically happy with how the president is doing their job, the median voter is willing to overlook a lot.
Obama’s job approval rating seems to be holding up okay so far. The median voter seems basically indifferent to him. The economy is growing slowly and unemployment is high, but recent experience has tempered expectations. Reagan won forty-nine states with an unemployment rate that would have been political death fifteen years earlier.
George W. Bush’s job approval rating slid by about seven percent in the first five months of 2004. That coincides with the coverage of the Abu Ghraib scandal, but there was a lot going on at the time so I’m not sure how much value to assign to the scandal. That doesn’t mean that the combination of publicity, activism among a party’s base, and outrage among elected elites can’t result in legal change, but my sense is that if the persuadable public turns hostile toward Obama over the IRS issue, it will be because other events convince them not to like Obama in the first place.
It’s tough to comment on the various interconnected scandals. The main reason is it’s so tough to keep up.
The MSM media experts are having the same problem: Still, very few Democrats are in complete denial about how bad this might be. If I were to combine several little lectures I heard on the networks over the last half hour, it would be something like this: When Watergate first started, I couldn’t believe how stupid it was. When I first heard about auditing small-time TEA PARTIERS, I thought the same thing. The president better not fall further into Nixon’s hole but come clean and take full responsibility right now. Blaming and firing this or that small-timer isn’t fooling anyone. Obama had a skilled and savvy team that got him reelected, maybe he needs a new team to get him to man up or “get out of the passive voice” and do what’s required to really govern. That includes taking real responsibility for the politicized bullying by his bureaucrats and admitting that he himself had gone way beyond the bounds of our constitutional system by creating the perception that it was somehow being “on the dark side” or outside the law to be his political opponent.
That’s the voice, more or less, of the people who really hope he can save himself. Well, I hope he can too.
Several comedians have used this line. Two words on why the president won’t be impeached: President Biden. And nobody really thinks it would be good for our first African American president to end up having to resign.
Pete’s irony below really should hit home. The power of the government had been turned against small-time community organizers, such as TEA PARTIERS, pro-lifers, and so forth. Nobody was going after Rove and his CROSSROADS. And, as we read in THE NEW REPUBLIC, nobody was going after the probably illegal evildoing of the giants on WALL STREET.
A problem with the IRS and our complicated and confusing tax code is that it makes it easy for very rich guys to weasel out of paying much at all. The government accountants and lawyers aren’t anywhere near the cognitive pay grade of the guns they can hire to find and defend their loopholes. The theory behind the TEA PARTY preference for the “fair tax” (a mistake on their part) or the “flat tax” is that the really rich will finally pay their fair share, or something like the percentage of their real income that I pay of mine.
So it shouldn’t be so hard to explain why the condescending “social welfare corporatism” of Obama’s government is waging war on the middle class. It wouldn’t be hard it our Republicans listened to Pete.
Picking up from my nightmare post below, proceeding into the daylight of what’s come to light so far, I would say that…
…even a glance at the most reassuringly-framed wire-service newspaper stories about Friday’s hearing on the IRS scandal must leave one seriously appalled. And if one turns to conservative media, perhaps exploring the most telling moments of the hearing the way this clip by Jeff Davis does, via Powerline, I think it goes beyond being appalled into being a bit shaken.
Questions asked by tax agents about the contents of prayers? About the contents of books purchased? A screening applied to conservative groups exclusively? This happened in America? At the hands of scores upon scores of federal workers and at the direction of Obama appointees, and (to some extent) at the request of Democratic Senators?
I am not ready to join Mark Levin, the Tyranny v. Liberty guy, who is saying that this scandal shows that we have “entered an age of post-constitutional soft tyranny,” and that Obama’s is a “post-constitutional government.” That’s just obviously proven wrong every time Obama or his agencies abide by Supreme Court decisions contrary to their wishes, or every time Obama whines about not getting his agenda passed because Republicans control the House. I have said here that the present pattern of Democratic Party leadership, modeled by Obama especially, displays a scandalous unwillingness to forthrightly support the Constitution, but I do not regard their basic obedience of it nor even their “so-to-speak support” of it as counting for nothing. Levin unfortunately has a penchant for squandering his constitutional knowledge amid Chicken Little dramatics, which is bad, since we might need voices like his to convincingly cry “Wolf,” when and if the beast of open presidential Constitution-defiance really comes.
Similarly, I do not think it’s terribly useful to argue at this point about whether the IRS scandal is worse than Nixon’s Watergate, and thus the worst scandal in our entire history, as this Bookworm Room blog proposes. The argument there is even if Obama was not involved, this is a massive aggression of the government upon ordinary citizens, whereas other scandals usually victimized other politicians. I don’t buy it, but the guy has a point. I.e., in a somewhat different key, this is arguably as destructive of American citizens’ trust of their government as Watergate was.
Ken Masugi and our Kate (scroll below) do have it right that this is ultimately much more about the corruption of the IRS, a corruption arguably inherent to the “administrative state,” than it is about Obama. But that means that, even if clear evidence walling him off from the key decisions to screen conservative groups emerges, this scandal will continue to be HUGE.
Hugh Hewitt gets the true horror of these hearings just right in a couple of posts:
Some employees within the IRS –and it sounds like a lot of employees– have simply been out of control, and in ways that will chill and disgust most Americans. It is as though the IRS hired exclusively from MoveOn, Kos, the ACLU and Planned Parenthood.
…Care must be taken not to damage the reputation and careers of the fair and the honest within the agency, but the “tip of the iceberg” analogy is completely accurate.
And who was it who appointed these many bad apples? By and large, we know will find, by Democratic leaders, or administrators appointed by them. In terms of poor hiring and oversight decisions, it will all trace up to Obama. And yes, moderates so-called, and decency-respecting liberals so-claimed, it traces even more clearly back down to YOU. Have you not noticed something not quite right with the Democratic leadership of late? Which increasingly sets the tone for our federal government in general? Hugh has:
I have spent 23 years representing clients before various federal agencies, and the vast majority of federal officials I have dealt with have been just like those I worked with during my time as a general counsel in two federal agencies, and as a staff lawyer the White House Counsel’s office and DOJ –superb public servants of the highest ethics and significant competence.
I continue that law practice before an alphabet soup of agencies, as do my partners, but things have changed, and they have changed at every level of the federal government. Indifference combined with arrogance and sometimes pure spite used to be very, very rare, but increasingly it seeps out of almost every agency, and the very good employees struggle to undo the work of the worst.
I’m pleading with you to face it, Democratic voter: this is your doing. It’s different this time. You bungled things, albeit in an understandable way, in 2008, but alas, last November you willfully abdicated your responsibility to discipline your party(and your media) when it had clearly gone off the rails. Clearly evinced tendencies toward corruption. You voted for people that you knew bended the truth too much and who demonized conservatives too much. So these IRS petty tyrants are your babies. The leaders you chose chose them, and the leadership patterns you tolerated, in the name of progressivism I guess, gave them the green light. Every time you laughed at a “T-bagger joke,” you were preparing the way.
What is more, this is one more sign that you are backing your fellow Americans into a corner. Your media outlets slander the tea-partiers with unfounded racism accusations, and you say nothing in protest? The IRS persecutes them with audits? The IRS higher-ups, doubtless with Obama’s and the some media-higher-ups knowledge, deliberately delay admission (and cessation!) of this until after the election, which means that there is a fairly plausible argument that they stole it? I don’t know what your fellow citizens will do. I feel in my own heart a desire for something dramatic, but I fear how this desire will play out in others.
One thing, to whatever extent the implementation of Obamacare depends upon an IRS role, you can now predict that this will be resisted by almost all Republicans to the hilt.
Another thing, to whatever extent Republicans were too reflexively anti-government before this, we can predict they will only become more so, and we cannot reliably predict they will lose elections for doing so anytime soon. Because this scandal is far from over–rather, it looks as if we are going to hear about one horror story after another.
And God only knows what calls we are going to hear for a tax strike next year.
So, the Republic quakes a bit today.
What say you? Am I too alarmist? Or, not enough?
A tremor was felt rumbling through the land…
…fitful dreams interrupted, of mobs and protests, shrill cries, a yellow flag is waved in great swoops, festooned with the sign of the black pistol, there are other flags, secret meetings, solemn pledges, stockpiled cans and legal briefs, debates about deadbolt technology, “this is a fragment of the true gavel,” the police shouting at those other police, clutched documents, shoves, he is pushed back and forth trampling upon the pages, the fine glassware is smeared, icily quiet signing ceremonies with awkward protocol confusions, resignations, silences, “it’s like she’s cut us off,” rumors, threats, “the semester is cancelled,” “the payments are suspended,” strikes, evictions, shaking of heads, “but they won’t speak to him anymore,” crosses, ugly crosses, and crosses crossed out, sweet nostalgic reminiscence about the days of facebook, radio, and singing together…
We awake, the shaking stops, and yet, as in that scene with Jack Lemmon and the coffee cup from The China Syndrome, somewhere there is a man who feels the very slightest and yet oh-so-telling after-tremor. Something is not right.
Yes, “A spectre haunts America.” At least it does this American. Not, I think, the spectre of tyranny… …no, that’s the one for Europe… …for us, the nightmare’s name is: civil dissolution.
But no, c’mon, it’s 99% forgotten in 9 seconds, it’s all normal, normal, and always must will be, coffee-schedule-and-career, my everyday fellow Americans, good-morning my dear, they can only take it so far, don’t you know, so pass the baseball page please, and then a glance at that IRS scandal story…