Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Only in the Muslim world

"The family of a young Afghan boy, who gained worldwide fame after being photographed wearing a makeshift Lionel Messi soccer jersey fashioned from a plastic bag, has fled to Pakistan after receiving threats, the father of the boy told CNN. "I received 20-30 unknown threatening calls in Afghanistan asking why I'm teaching my kid about football and not teaching him about the Quran," the boy's father, Muhammad Arif Ahmadi, told CNN."
Only in that vast insane asylum known as the Muslim world can a young boy’s innocent interest in sports occasion death threats.

Backward barbarians.

No, Kasich is not going anywhere...

"Ted Cruz is out, but John Kasich isn't going anywhere, his camp said Tuesday night. 
 In an email to supporters, the Ohio governor's presidential campaign hopped on the news that Cruz was throwing in the towel, meaning Kasich is the sole remaining primary competitor to front-runner Donald Trump."

Note the double entendre...

The RNC chief has said that there will be no contested convention, and has resorted to subtweeting Kasich. 

Good, bad, or indifferent, Donald Trump is now the GOP nominee. Barring a major cataclysm or a personal tragedy, either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton will become POTUS in January.

Monday, May 2, 2016

'Luk Thep', an online novel, Chapter 7

Previous: Chapter 6


Having brought Lawan home, Jane discovered that she had no place for it/her. Or rather, there was no place in her condominium’s main living area where the doll could reside without being an eyesore.

Once again, Jane considered the path of least resistance: There was a common dumpster behind her condo unit. She could toss Lawan in there, and within a day she would be covered with trash. Another day, and the garbage service company would take her to the incinerator.

Which would probably be the best place for her…

Then she remembered what Martin had said—and what she had added to Martin’s observations: To simply pitch the doll in the trash would be wasteful, paranoid, and superstitious.

She thought again of Khajee’s purported reason for giving the doll away. Khajee hadn’t emailed her a photo of her dashing British businessman. Jane wondered how “Tom” might compare to her David. Not that she was interested in orchestrating a trade, mind you—just wondering, from a woman-to-woman perspective. Khajee had been so interested in hearing about David, so interested in seeing David’s photo, that Jane would have expected the Thai woman to email her a photo of Tom.

During her lunch hour she had looked for Khajee on Facebook. Khajee did have a profile that was updated only infrequently. Her last post was dated nearly six months prior. It showed Khajee and some other well dressed, obviously affluent young Thai women enjoying drinks at a resort, probably Pattaya or Ko Samui. Jane had been unable to glean any significant context from Khajee’s Facebook profile, as it was written in Thai.

But at any rate, she had yet to see any evidence that Tom actually existed. He had to exist, though, right? Why else would Khajee give away a spirit doll that she had paid all those baht for?

The main living area of Jane’s condo consisted of a connected foyer, living room, and kitchen. After tentatively placing Lawan in several places about this area, Jane ruled out the entire sector. She had a large curio cabinet in the living room. (This was where her oni kabuki mask and “Day of the Dead” statuette resided.) Lawan could have fit inside the curio cabinet, though it would have been a bit of a tight fit. But there were limits to what Jane was willing to do in order to allay her concerns that she was succumbing to paranoia. Keeping the doll was one thing, looking at it constantly was something else.

Why not just toss the thing in the closet, then? There was enough space on the floor of her hall closet. She could place Lawan behind her spare coats, and her spare set of luggage.

Then she was struck by a mental image of the doll rebelling against such an undignified placement. As Jane began to open the closet door, she imagined tiny hands pushing aside her empty suitcases and winter coats.

And that would be what she would imagine, each time the building settled during the long, cold Michigan nights.

That was crazy, to be sure; but this entire situation was crazy: Thailand’s luk thep doll craze represented an off-kilter custom, by any objective measure. The unsettling dream had been like no dream Jane had ever had before.

And as for Khajee sending the doll to her, well, that was crazy, too…

Jane finally decided on a compromise. She would stow the doll in a location that was neither too central to her life, nor too removed. A place where she would encounter the doll sporadically, but not during virtually every minute of her time at home.

Like most single adults who lived alone, even in a condominium or apartment, Jane's living space had a spare room.

The spare room was vacant, a room where she stored a mishmash of items: extra clothes, spare dishes, and personal papers. There was an old desk in one corner of the room that she never used.

This was also Dusty's room. The previous summer, during a particularly lonely spell, Jane had gone to a shelter and adopted a yearling cat, a black-brown striped neutered male whom she'd named Dusty. The decision hadn’t been completely whimsical. Jane was a lifelong cat-lover, and she'd owned several cats before. Nevertheless, she had been aware of the clichés: the spinster woman and her cats. That was before David. She now had a boyfriend and a cat. For the time being at least, her life was no longer in danger of becoming a cliché.

Dusty occupied the spare room, to the extent that a cat can be said to occupy a room. Jane kept the cat's bed there, a large wicker basket with a sewn-in, thick yellow cushion for bedding. Atop several sheets of newspapers spread on the floor she maintained Dusty's food and water bowls. The litter box was in there, too.

Dusty was blissfully sleeping on the living room sofa when Jane walked into the spare room with Lawan. As ever, Jane was repulsed by the doll; but she could will herself to handle it. She still did not like to look at Lawan's too-realistic face, nor to stare too long into her lifelike, synthetic eyes.
On the uppermost level of the bookcase at the back of the room, there was an empty space that seemed perfectly suited to Lawan. Here the doll would technically be on display. It would not be hidden in the back of a closet or inside a storage trunk, let alone thrown away. Jane would face Lawan's creepy smiling visage at least once a day, when she refilled Dusty's dishes and emptied the litter box. But the doll would not occupy a spot in the middle of her living area.

"Here," Jane said, carefully lifting Lawan to the top shelf and scooting her into position. "You can keep Dusty company."

Jane realized that she had just now spoken to the thing, as Khajee might have done. Speaking to the doll as if it were a real little girl was probably the first stage of the delusion. Jane vowed never to talk to the doll again.

For the remainder of the evening, Jane all but forgot about Lawan. In the electronic age of email and smartphones, a corporate employee of Jane's rank was never truly off the clock. Even though she was at home, she had TRX Automotive business to see to.

Also, there was David's return to anticipate. His emails had been increasing in frequency over the past week, she'd noticed. Perhaps he hadn't been seduced by a blonde fräulein after all.

All of these pleasanter, saner matters took her mind off Khajee's unwanted gift. After Jane had finished all her evening correspondence, her thoughts turned immediately to food—not Lawan, and certainly not the dream she had had in that Bangkok hotel room:

If this had been a horror movie, the doll would have surprised her in the kitchen while she was eating her dinner: cottage cheese and tomatoes with a side salad.

It was fairly easy, in fact, for Jane to picture little Lawan walking out of the spare room on her tiny, stiff little legs. Then, like a doll in a horror movie, Lawan would pause at the edge of the kitchen, and deliver a pronouncement of some sort in a preternatural voice.

Jane chided herself for freaking herself out, which was exactly what such flights of fancy amounted to.

It wouldn't hurt to check on Lawan, Jane thought. Just in case!

She stood up from the kitchen table and headed for the spare room. Dusty was still sleeping on the sofa, she noticed. A lazy, happily contented cat.

Jane paused at the threshold of the spare room. Lawan will be gone, she thought. She won’t be on the bookcase, where you left her, and you’ll go absolutely, stark raving mad!

Jane flipped the overhead light switch before she stepped fully into the room.

The doll was exactly where she had placed it roughly two hours ago. Lawan’s cherubic smile was unsettling, as always, but there was nothing about the scene that implied any movement.

About an hour later Jane was in her bedroom, preparing to turn in, when she heard Dusty mewling from the other side of the condo—from the direction of the spare room.

Once again, she pictured the worst, the most fantastic scenario: Lawan come to life, Lawan strangling her cat.

She found Dusty quite unhurt. She cat lingered outside the spare bedroom. Dusty looked up at Jane and mewled in that plaintive, complaining cat way, as if to convey the message that Jane had failed in some fundamental aspect of being a master.

“What’s wrong, Dusty, boy?” Jane walked into the spare bedroom. (But not before she’d first flipped the light switch.) Her gaze immediately fixed upon the doll. The doll had not moved, not even a smidgen.

She had expected the cat to follow her. Dusty, however, remained just outside the spare room.

“Come on, boy,” she said. She kneeled and gestured toward all the cat comforts on the floor near the doorway, only a few feet from the actual cat: food, water, bed, litter box.

The cat would not enter the room.

Still kneeling, Jane turned back toward the doll. Although she had promised herself not to talk to Lawan anymore (because Lawan was nothing but a collection of inanimate parts, after all!) she couldn't resist leveling an accusation:

“Did you have anything to do with this, by chance?”

Lawan’s only response was that unchanging, lifelike smile.

Jane sighed. This was a real dilemma. If Dusty wouldn't enter the room, then he wouldn't eat or drink. And without access to his litter box, he might go elsewhere to answer his calls of nature.

“So you don’t like that creepy doll either, huh?” Jane said to her cat. Dusty did not answer, but he swished his tail in the air.

There was only one solution, short of removing the doll: Making several trips, Jane moved Dusty’s things to the condo’s tiny utility room, adjacent to her bedroom.

When she placed the cat’s food dish on the floor of the utility room, the cat plunged in and gobbled Meow Mix with abandon.

Dusty had clearly been hungry. But he had been unwilling to enter the spare room with Lawan atop the bookcase.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

'Luk Thep' an online novel, Chapter 6

Previous: Chapter 5


It was several weeks later, and Jane had all but forgotten about the doll, the dream, and even the friction with Ram. She had exchanged a few routine emails with Khajee, to confirm that all was going smoothly with the new supplier in Vietnam. There were no problems to speak of, and Jane turned her attention to other issues, of which there were plenty. She also readied herself for David Haley’s return. Less than a week now. Jane could hardly wait.

Jane returned from a hurried lunch one day to find a large cardboard box placed atop her desk. It was not wholly unusual for such containers to be delivered directly to her office. When there were quality problems with a component within Jane’s sphere of responsibility, a plant quality manager would sometimes box up a sample of the defective parts and ship them to Jane for her reference and personal inspection.

This was a practice that Jane encouraged, where appropriate. When she needed to describe a quality problem to a supplier representative located six or eight time zones away—a man or a woman who spoke English as a second language—the task was made much easier if Jane had a sample of the offending components in her hands. Sometimes she snapped photos of the components and emailed them to the supplier representative before calling.

As Jane approached the box she noticed right away that it bore the return address label of the TRX Automotive plant in Thailand. Khajee Wongsuwon’s information had been written with a black felt-tip pen.

As Jane began to tear open the box, her first assumption was that it would contain, as usual, defective mass production components. Her only hope was that these wouldn't be components from the new supplier in Vietnam. There would be no end to Ram’s gloating, and he would immediately lobby to get the old supplier reinstated.

The size and weight of the box suggested a collection of large, fragile parts—definitely portions of an ignition system’s electronic circuitry, rather than one of the heavier housings.

She lifted open the top flaps of the box, and then removed a covering of several Styrofoam sheets. Then she caught a glimpse of the object that had been shipped to her attention.

Her initial, immediate impression was that someone from Thailand had sent her a severed human head—for the first thing she saw of the main contents of the box was a length of braided black hair. But not even the wildest flight of fancy could permit this impression to persist for long. There were limits to what Jane could believe, even after that disturbing dream she had in Thailand, a dream that she now rarely thought about.

Jane almost screamed, though, when the overhead fluorescent lights of her office revealed exactly what Khajee had, in fact, sent her: Little Lawan, the luk thep, the angel/spirit doll, was seated in the box amid a pile of Styrofoam chips. Lawan was clad in the same red and white dress, her pigtails as neat and tightly braided as they had been when Jane had seen her a few weeks ago, in Khajee’s office in Thailand.

The doll looked exactly as she had in the dream, sitting in the corner of the hut while the adolescent girl murdered her latest sibling…

For a moment Jane believed that she was going to swoon. Suddenly, she had an image of the doll climbing into the box by its own power, then closing the flaps of the box above its head, so that it could make the journey to America.

That was ridiculous, needless to say. As ridiculous as Khajee shipping this, of all things, to her all the way from Thailand.

What the hell?

There was a note in Lawan’s lap. Now Jane was once again catching flashbacks from the dream, the murderous girl in her early teens, doing what she had done to her infant siblings. All three of them. Nevertheless, Jane was able to summon the objectivity needed to make a crucial discernment: the note was not from Lawan, either Lawan the doll—or Lawan, the girl in the dream. The note was from Khajee. The very human Khajee who had now sent her an inexplicable package. Perhaps the note would provide an explanation.

The note was written in blue ink, in Khajee’s hand. Despite Khajee’s otherwise fluent English, the hand-printed letters revealed Khajee’s lack of intimate familiarity with the shapes of the Latin alphabet. The letters curved and swirled like the Thai script. Khajee’s words were legible, however:

"Dear Jane:

I hope you’re well. As for me, I have great news! I met the most wonderful man. His name is Tom and he's British. Tom works for a multinational here in Thailand.

I think that Tom and I will end up getting married! This means that I’ll have children of my own, and I won’t need Lawan anymore.

I’ve therefore decided to give Lawan to you, Jane, in order that Lawan may bring you happiness. As she has brought me happiness!

Take care!

Yours truly,
Khajee Wongsuwon”

Just then, someone spoke behind her. A male voice.

“Jane! There you are. I was looking for you.”

Jane turned and saw that her boss, Martin Tully, had walked in. Martin was in his mid-forties. He had the bearing and gently declining physique of a former athlete who now spent most of his waking hours in a corporate setting. Martin had walked in while Jane was opening the box.

“I wanted to check the status of the status of the Santos Electronics issue,” Martin said. “I have to go into a board meeting this afternoon. The production VPs are going to want to know where we stand.”

Santos Electronics was a TRX Automotive supplier located in the Philippines, outside Manila. There had recently been quality problems with the components Santos manufactured.

“I think we’re okay now,” Jane said. “They’ve improved their work-in-process inspection procedures and the defect rate has gone way down, close to zero. I’ll forward you an email that has all of the relevant details.”

Martin nodded. “That’s good news. Thanks Jane.” Martin looked over her shoulder, at the open box. “Hey, I don’t mean to be nosy, but that looks like a—”

“It is,” Jane said. “It’s a doll.”

“Wow. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a doll quite like that.” Martin made as if to step closer to the box, to examine the doll; and then he paused. “May I?”

“Sure,” Jane said. Though I’m not sure why anyone would want to get close to that thing.

Martin peered down into the box where Lawan sat, smiling her eternal smile. Somewhat to Jane’s surprise, his reaction was not revulsion, but a mixture of admiration and awe.

“Very realistic,” he said. “What kind of a doll is that?”

“It’s called a luk thep.” Jane then gave Martin a brief explanation of the concept of the spirit doll, and how the dolls were popular among educated, affluent, childless women in Thailand. Jane summarized Khajee’s note, and the Thai woman’s purported reason for giving away the doll.

“That’s an interesting custom,” Martin said. “Where do you plan to put it? That’s the sort of thing that might look good in a display case in your home.”

The thought of Lawan in her condo filled Jane with a mixture of disgust and dread. There was no way she could fall asleep with Lawan under the same roof.

“I think I’m going to send it back to Khajee,” Jane said, more sharply than she had intended. “To tell you the truth, the doll gives me the creeps, and I certainly didn't ask for it.”

“Whoa, whoa.” Martin’s brows furrowed. “I understand that tastes vary, but I’m sure that Khajee was only trying to be kind. I remember meeting her when she visited headquarters last year. She’s a nice woman. Seems to be very considerate. A team player.”

“You’re right,” Jane said. “She is.” Jane recalled Khajee’s constant assistance with work matters: the change to the Vietnamese supplier, and everything since then. Jane was now able to focus on other suppliers in other countries, because Khajee was so capably handling the situation in Thailand.

“If you don’t want the doll,” Martin said, “then fine. Give it away. You can throw it away, even—though I think that would be a terrible waste. The doll looks expensive.”

“It is.” Jane recalled the amount that Khajee had paid for the doll, and its equivalent in dollars.

“But don’t send the doll back, Jane, please. That would be insulting. We’ve both spent a lot of time in Asian cultures, and we both are aware of the importance of gift-giving in that region of the world. Asians seem to particularly enjoy giving us cultural artifacts, which is nice for us—because they have some really beautiful handiwork over there. My house looks like an Asian culture museum. Beautiful stuff.”

Martin paused and nodded in appreciation, no doubt picturing the gifts from Japan, Korea and elsewhere that adorned his home.

“So I see this doll, Jane, as just another one of those items. It’s a little atypical, sure. But let’s keep this in perspective. That doll was made in a factory out of plastic and synthetic materials. What I’m saying is, it’s not like Khajee sent you a shrunken head from New Guinea.”

Jane had to agree that Martin had made a valid argument. Like Martin, Jane had received many gifts from overseas business contacts over the years, and a handful of them were mildly macabre. She owned a grimacing kabuki mask from Japan that—according to the explanation she had received—was supposed to depict a Japanese oni, or devil. She also had a small statuette of a skeleton dressed in traditional Mexican garb. The statuette had been made by hand, to celebrate Mexico’s “Day of the Dead” festival in early November.

These items did not bother her. So why should she become so overwrought by a doll? It was, as Martin had duly noted, nothing more than a mass-produced collection of synthetic parts. From an analytical perspective, Lawan should be no more repellent or threatening than an ignition system made in one of TRX Automotive’s factories.

The dream was her sticking point, of course. Had she allowed her subconscious to psyche her out? And if she yielded to that self-imposed intimidation now, how would it manifest itself in the future? Today she was afraid of a doll. Tomorrow her subconscious might make her afraid of mirrors or clowns. Fear could easily become a slippery slope.

Perhaps it would actually be a good idea for her to take the doll home, at least for a little while. That would force her to confront the spooky feelings that had been troubling her ever since she had first laid eyes on the doll in Khajee’s office. She didn't have to keep it forever. After a month or two with the doll in her condo, she could sell it on eBay if she didn't want it.

Such an outcome wouldn't be problematic, from a psychological perspective. That would be nothing more than the rational disposal of an item that didn't fit her taste and the décor of her home. But to throw away the doll now would be an act of instinctual, gut-level panic. It would represent a willing submission to fear, a cowering to superstition. 

“Perhaps you’re right, Martin,” she said. “Maybe I can find a place for this in my condo, after all.”

Next: Chapter 7

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Donald Trump and the new Republican Party?

This morning Trump’s supporters are planning for the new Golden Age. 

The Republican establishment is scrambling to see if Donald Trump can be disqualified for the nomination on some technicality. (“Wasn't Trump’s great grandfather born in a disputed township on the German-Austrian border? Ah, therefore, Donald Trump is a citizen of no country!”)

Nitwit celebrities are making threats to move to Canada, which they will never make good on. But we can hope.

Twentysomething Bernie Sanders fans, having seen that their cause is lost, are gradually turning their attention back to video games and the search for the perfect bong. But that’s another essay…

Yes, Donald Trump. As I've stated in this space before, I am neither an enthusiastically (and somewhat obtusely) giddy fan of Trump, nor a frothing (and melodramatic) Trump hater.

I am definitely a Trump skeptic, though. Skepticism comes with being a conservative. I reflexively distrust bandwagons and mass movements.

Love it or hate it, the Trump phenomenon is a product of our times.

Various iterations of the Republican Party (just like various iterations of the Democratic Party) have arisen as responses to outside factors. The original GOP was a response to slavery. The GOP of Ronald Reagan was a response to the apparent ascendancy of global communism.

The GOP of Donald Trump, if that is indeed what it has become, is a response to unfettered globalization and abject political correctness.

“Angry white men” did not create the Donald Trump phenomenon. There were plenty of angry white men when Jimmy Carter was elected in 1976, and when Barack Hussein Obama was elected for the first time in 2008 and (for the second, even more disastrous time) in 2012.

NAFTA created the Donald Trump phenomenon. The offshoring of millions of jobs created the Donald Trump phenomenon. So did illegal immigration, and our government's failure to stop it.

Oh, and while you’re at it, the Obama administration’s refusal to utter the phrase “Islamic terrorism” created the Donald Trump phenomenon.

Much of what Donald Trump says is vague and bombastic. But Donald Trump refuses to cower before the globalist elites and the finger-wagging commissars of political correctness.

That doesn't make him the best choice for president, necessarily, but that does make him unique and noteworthy.

Sanders-Warren ticket?

Ha-hah-hah! Ha-hah-ha-hah-hah-hah!

(Your humble correspondent pauses to recover from spasms of belly laughs.)

First of all, let's be clear: this (ultimately meaningless) stunt was mostly a thinly veiled slap at Hillary Clinton. Elizabeth Warren was Hillary's only real rival for chief matriarch of the Democratic Party. Bernie is saying, screw you, Hillary Clinton. I may be losing, but I can still needle you by nominating Elizabeth the Fake Cherokee Warren as the running mate for my imaginary candidacy.

In an alternate universe in which Sanders had a fighting chance, a Sanders-Warren ticket wouldn't make much sense from a strategic perspective. Presidential candidates usually pick running mates that balance out their weaknesses. A Sanders-Warren ticket would be comprised of two incompetent representatives of the moonbat left. That’s doubling down, not balancing out.

In fact, Warren would make Sanders’ chances much, much worse. Bernie Sanders may be a deluded Marxist, but at least he’s sincere in his delusions. Elizabeth Warren, on the other hand, is the consummate opportunist, the textbook limousine liberal.

Elizabeth Warren as a running mate, in fact, would make Bernie Sanders completely unelectable…which of course he already is.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Apple and the Tim Cook effect

Call it the Tim Cook effect: Since the untimely death of Steve Jobs, Apple has not been the same company. 

Steve Jobs was, by all accounts, a demanding, self-centered, and often unpleasant individual. He was also a genius who was passionately devoted to making the best, most innovative products.

Tim Cook, on the other hand, is a typically unimaginative corporate bureaucrat. Granted, he had a tough act to follow, but he's done a poor job of trying to fill Steve Jobs' shoes. 

Since Cook has taken over the helm, Apple has mainly focused on squeezing more revenue from existing Apple customers, via unwanted services. (I'm an iPhone user; every month Apple wants to install a new version of iOS, which is invariably built around selling me new subscriptions to services I don't want.)

Cook has launched nothing that is truly groundbreaking. He is cannibalizing what Steve Jobs achieved.

Tim has, however, had plenty to say about the benefits of illegal immigration. (Illegal immigration lowers Apple's personnel costs, for one thing, and also provides Cook with cheap gardening and domestic help).

Tim Cook has also had a grand time presenting himself as the Great American Gay CEO. (Note: The problem is not that Tim Cook is gay; the problem is that Cook has put more creativity into pontificating about gay issues than he has invested in developing the next generation of Apple products.)

Tim Cook, you're no Steve Jobs. 

Target, and more bathroom brouhahas

“The petition started by the American Family Association on Wednesday raises concerns that Target's inclusive stance on transgender rights encourages sexual predators and puts women and young girls in danger, because "a man can simply say he 'feels like a woman today' and enter the women's restroom."
Have we talked enough about men in women's restrooms yet? I know I've had about enough of this issue. 

But what if a company (like Target, for example) really wants to show its support for transgenders?

The solution is simple: Make a third, private unisex facility available. Such a facility could be used by men, women, or any self-identifying member of any other stripe of the ever-expanding sexual rainbow.

This would accommodate transgenders who truly believe they were born with the wrong equipment, while protecting "cisgendered" (you know I hate that unnecessary neologism, but I'll use it in this case) women who don't want to share their facilities with men.

Target transgender restroom boycott

Reading in a foreign language

How do you learn to read in a foreign language? A little bit at a time. From my YouTube channel:

Learning to read in a foreign language

Lena Dunham for Trump?

"Television actress and producer Lena Dunham says she's planning to move to Canada if GOP front-runner Donald Trump becomes president.  
"I know a lovely place in Vancouver, and I can get my work done from there," Dunham said Monday at the Matrix Awards, which honors women in the communications industry, according to The Hollywood Reporter. "I know a lot of people have been threatening to do this, but I really will."

One question: Is this a false flag operation?

Like many Republicans, I view Donald Trump with a healthy dose of skepticism. But Lena Dunham’s announcement is the best pro-Trump argument I have heard since the billionaire’s campaign was first launched.

Stanford University vs. Western Civilization

Earlier this month, Stanford’s student body voted down a proposed required course in western civilization. The students’ reasons were predictable, and predictably foolish.

Stanford University has long excelled in the peculiar idiocies of political correctness. In 1988, when I was a college student myself, then Democratic (of course!) presidential candidate Jesse Jackson led Stanford University students in the chant, “Hey, hey, ho, ho, western civ has got to go.”

A generation has passed, your humble correspondent has grown gray and bald, and Stanford University is still a cesspool of PC stupidity.

Case-in-point: Stanford students were recently allowed to vote on a new requirement for a two-quarter course in the fundamentals of western civilization.

What would a course in western civilization entail? It would include a wide variety of topics: everything from the Greco-Roman roots of liberal democracy, to the evolution of Judeo-Christianity in Europe, to the ideas of the Enlightenment.

These are concepts that every college student should know. Heck, every citizen should have a grasp of these topics. Nevertheless, the initiative lost by a 6-to-1 margin.

Why, you may ask? It wasn't for administrative or course-load-related reasons. (Again, we’re talking about a two-quarter course.)

The reason, rather, was ideological in nature. A column in the Stanford student newspaper declared that a requirement in western civilization would serve only to, “uphold white supremacy, capitalism and colonialism, and all other oppressive systems that flow from Western civilizations.”

Give me a break. (Cue eye rolls.)

Let’s start with capitalism. How many Stanford students own iPhones and drink Starbucks lattes? A fair number, I’d wager. Has no one told these kids that capitalism produces iPhones and Starbucks?

I’m going to go out on a limb here, and suggest that relatively few iPhone-toting, Starbucks-guzzling Stanford students are eager to relocate to say…Saudi Arabia or Zimbabwe.

And the Stanford students aren’t alone. Non-western countries like India, China, Russia, Nigeria, Iran, and Egypt don’t have many problems with illegal immigration. Why? Because almost no one wants to move to these places. Everyone wants to move to Western Europe or North America.

And there is a reason for this, too: In the twenty-first century, it is western civilization that provides the greatest amount of prosperity and freedom to the greatest numbers of people. If it were otherwise, migration patterns would be otherwise. We’d all be boarding boats for Vietnam or Burundi.

But what about slavery? What about colonialism?

What about all those things? Notice that I didn't say that western civilization is perfect—or ever has been. I only said that western civilization has, comparatively speaking, done the best job of providing freedom and prosperity to the largest numbers of people. That fact alone makes it worth learning about—despite what the Stanford student body may think.

Yes, there are dark chapters in the history of the west, but that is true for every civilization: The Aztecs engaged in human sacrifice. The Iroquois delighted in torturing war captives for sheer fun. Many Native American tribes practiced slavery—long before Europeans ever landed on American shores to show them how slavery is done.

Speaking of slavery—it was practiced in one form or another, at one time or another, in every major civilization on earth. (Including in Africa, I should note.) The Muslim world practiced slavery well into the twentieth century.

But western civilization’s concepts of individual rights—which can be traced to the New Testament as well as to secular western philosophers like John Locke—proved to be the ultimate slavery killers. Slavers have come from all races and backgrounds. Almost all abolitionists have been western, or educated in the west.

Wars, exploitation, and injustices have existed everywhere. There was a major genocidal war in Africa in 1994.

But you will notice that almost all humanitarian aid flows from the west to the non-western parts of the world. Not the other way around. If the west is so exploitive, then why are most major world charities western institutions with predominantly western contributors?

The evils of colonialism. Indian Hindus still occasionally burn living widows with the corpses of their deceased husbands. This practice—known as suttee—is one that British imperialism partly, but not completely, eliminated from the Indian subcontinent. That’s why Hindu widows are now burned alive only on occasion.

And as for that flimflam about white supremacy: If the west is so white supremacist, then why are so many of the people trying to emigrate to the west so-called ‘people of color’? What’s up with that?

It would be easy to insult the students of Stanford for their gaps of knowledge, (and, oh, it is fun to poke fun at college kids who aren’t quite as smart as they think they are), but the real fault lies with the generations-long, leftward march of the educational system.

Remember my initial reference to 1988: The slogan that “western civilization is evil” was around long before the current crop of Stanford undergrads were soiling their environmentally friendly diapers or slurping organic baby food while seated in their designer high chairs.

Sadly, there are too many college students nowadays who have learned history only fragmentally, and only in the context of ideologically biased, one-sided grievance narratives.

This is a deficit that might have been partly offset at Stanford University, through a short course requirement in western civilization.

Sadly, the students of Stanford have chosen not to increase their knowledge, but to bask in their smug ignorance.

I have no doubt that Stanford was once a great university. Today, it seems to have become a training ground for leftwing lemmings.