October 2007 Archives
October 1, 2007
The prison of utopian style.
James Bowman has an interesting essay in the current New Atlantis. Its general theme the replacement in our culture of heroism by utopianism, and it is well worth a read; but I want to focus on one point near the end of the essay.
It has long been a puzzle to me why the Liberals give President Bush no credit, none, for grounding his foreign policy on Liberal principles. Few public men have ever embraced democracy with a much enthusiasm as George W. Bush; few have spoken more highly of the spread of freedom by American might; few have appealed more frequently to the liberty-loving part of man, or depended more confidently on its power to overcome other aspects of his character. This is Liberalism through and through; indeed, I will say it is the best of Liberalism. And yet Liberals hate him. Why?
Larison vs Wilkinson
Will Wilkinson and Daniel Larison have been carrying on an interesting exchange concerning, ultimately, the moral legitimacy of national borders, with relevant crosstalk by Tim Lee and Jeff Martin (aka Maximos). (And yeah, I know I left out a bunch of stuff...but you'll find it all, if you're interested).
Rather than offer a blow-by-blow account, I'll try to reduce the argument to its fundamentals:
[UPDATE 10/2 - Will Wilkinson has posted an interesting response. Unfortunately, some very local obligations will keep me from giving it the attention it deserves until this evening. In the meantime, go check it out!]
October 2, 2007
Made by the Cross of Christ
In a discussion sparked by this fine essay by James Pinkerton, a correspondent asks me to expound upon my notion of “Christendom,” which concept he is deeply skeptical of. I explained myself this way:
In a forthcoming magazine I have a long essay that ends in an emphatic call for Christian unity against the Jihad. It says nothing about the activity of the American state; but it says that we who profess Christ should strain toward unity against this menace. I believe that Christ opposes wickedness; I believe that the Jihad is wicked. Therefore I feel that it should be opposed. In my essay I make this call specifically in the context of all the Christian brothers oppressed by the Jihad. We should unite against this oppression.
October 3, 2007
Repeal the Endangered Species Act
This story is pretty outrageous.
The government re-introduced wolves in the 90's, telling ranchers they could not hunt them, even when the wolves are killing their cattle. The more recent "liberalization" of the law is merely that now the wolves don't have to be actually biting the livestock for the ranchers to be allowed to shoot them. How nice. You don't have to wait for your livestock to be torn by wolf teeth before shooting the wolf. Now, you get to shoot the wolf if he's in the act of attacking your livestock, before he bites them! But you still can't hunt the wolves, even if the animals that are your livelihood are being killed by them regularly.
To me the saddest part of this story is the requirement the rancher obviously feels to engage in PC-speak, to say that he "supports the ESA" and that he thinks it's just hard to understand, easy to make mistakes, and what-not. He has to be penitent for having hunted and killed a couple of wolves. And he knows it.
Ranching is and ought to be an iconic form of that rugged American independence we're in favor of. But now you have to kow-tow to the government to be allowed to do it.
October 4, 2007
Speaking of keeping the wolves away from the cattle, The New Atlantis brings us this eye-opening book review by Cheryl Miller.
She asks too whether feminists’ commitment to equality and “social justice” is compatible with the eugenic possibilities of ART [assisted reproductive technologies - ed.], particularly the way clinics divide women into the different “categories” of donors and surrogates. “Most surrogates I come across are not typical donor caliber as far as looks, physical features, or education,” one doctor explains. “Most egg donors are smart young girls doing it for the money to pay for college. Most surrogates are—you know, they need the money; they’re at home with four kids—of a lower socioeconomic class.” Or as another physician more succinctly explains the value of this “breeder class” of women: “Moo.”Note to self: when someone says
“[I]t is insufficient to consider only the welfare of the child, which cannot, in any case, be isolated from that of the parent. Thus the primary concern should be for the welfare of the family as a whole.”
... what he means is ...
"The most important thing is fulfilling the narcissistic desires of adults. If we have to feed a few untermensch children-accessories, sperm donors, and breeder-women into a meat grinder in order to carry out the will of the free and equal superman, so be it."
A Note on Nature as an End
I should hope that the following won't have me designated a stalwart poseur, but I consider it necessary to make a sort of meta-point concerning our relationship to the natural realm, a subject on which - as I believe some of the subtexts of the infamous crunchy-con debates disclosed - some conservatives are woefully confused.
Nature, then, may be considered as an end in itself, an end prior to all human purposes, its value not contingent upon those purposes - this, by virtue of its Creator's original donation of being, and subsequent declaration that this natural reality, having been given being, is good. Good, that is, in itself, and independent of the existence, and therefore, purposes, of man. The natural environment is good because it participates in being, in the Great Chain of Being, if you will; that is, nature is good because it is.
A Rising Tide Drowns Short People
Gotta Love It
October 5, 2007
Reply to Wilkinson
Will Wilkinson observes that "the point of the difference principle in Rawls" is to ensure that "the system benefits everyone, and not only those with the most power to ensure that it benefits them," since "a system of institutions requires that everyone living within it have reason to support it, and to comply with the terms of association it lays down, if it is to be well-ordered and stable."
October 6, 2007
World Without End, Amen
The list will continue for many years to come, and the victims’ blood is on the hands of the Western elite class, in Vienna, Denver, London, and any other place that is blessed and enriched with the presence of a Muslim “community.” The ongoing refusal of the elite class to protect the people they rule from Islamic terrorism is the biggest betrayal in history. It is rooted in the mindset that breeds the claim that “force is not an answer” to terrorism, that profiling is bad and open borders are good, that Islam is peaceful and the West is wicked. The upholders of such claims belong to the culture that has lost its bond with nature, history, and the supporting community. In the meantime, thanks to them, the quiet onslaught continues unabated, across the Mediterranean and through every major airport in Western Europe and North America.
This malevolent presence is only found among us for reason of our self-loathing, of a perverse and decadent psychology by which we direct ressentiment inwardly, upon ourselves, reproaching ourselves for our very historical achievements; for these achievements belied our 'faith' that a primal equality was the natural condition of mankind. In order, therefore, to atone for this transgression of the Prime Directive, we must become the Other, and the Other must become us. But just as God is not mocked, neither is Islam mocked by such craven obsequies - albeit for different reasons - and intends to laugh last, and laugh longest.
And so these lurid little dramas will be reenacted until we have become surfeited with them, inured to them, world without end - until our world splutters and whimpers to an ignoble end. Unless.
October 9, 2007
Time and the Neighbor.
We are pleased to present an excerpt from Professor Anthony Esolen’s recent book Ironies of Faith: the Laughter at the Heart of Christian Literature, © 2007 ISI Books.
In this fine volume, Prof. Esolen, a professor of English at Providence College, and editor and translator of the Modern Library edition of Dante's Divine Comedy, gives the reader a survey of Christian literature with an eye toward the marvelous myriad ironies, both gentle and shattering, depicted by literary men in the Christian tradition. Esolen’s scholarly range is enormous, his intellect sensitive and humane, his pen elegant: the book is a tour de force. We are honored to excerpt it.
We pick up the narrative near the end of Esolen's rich section on the ironies of time in Christian literature. The Incarnation of Christ, that God dwelt in the flesh here on earth, has forever transformed time itself. Time is for us a particular blessing, and one of its profound ironies is that mortal men are oriented toward the eternal by means of the often oppressive (from our view) rigidities of temporal time. Earlier chapters dealt at length with St. Augustine, Dante and Shakespeare's The Tempest. But Esolen intriguing concludes the section with a searching analysis of a lesser-known work: J. R. R. Tolkien’s story “Leaf, by Niggle.”
[Warning: this is one long blog post. It is, however, emphatically worth your time. So grab another cup of coffee, steady your eyes for some serious screen-reading, and settle in for the long haul.]
October 11, 2007
The upcoming BSC has turned my mind to matters Byzantine, and so it was a happy coincidence that I came across a new volume of Byzantine history before I left for Toronto. Princeton University Press describes Judith Herrin's new Byzantium: The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire in some fairly surprising terms:
She argues that Byzantium's crucial role as the eastern defender of Christendom against Muslim expansion during the early Middle Ages made Europe--and the modern Western world--possible.
This is all absolutely right, but still it is a little surprising (more on that in a moment). It's interesting that I came across this, by way of an Economist advance review of the book, because I had just been thinking earlier today of the far greater military and strategic significance of the Byzantine victories of 678 and 718 compared with the much better known Battle of Poitiers of 732. No offense to Charles Martel, who was a great defender of Christendom (and whose image adorns our "masthead"), but had Constantine IV and Leo III failed to hold Constantinople the ability of the Caliphate to project power across the Mediterranean and up through the Balkans would have been tremendous. Medieval Christendom as it came to exist would have never come into existence, and our civilisation as we know it would not have existed. Three cheers for Greek fire, obviously, and the Syrian Christian who invented it.
I say it is surprising that the book description frames the issue this way, because in certain Byzantinist circles it has come to be seen as old-fashioned and undesirable to emphasise Byzantium as the bulwark against Islam and protector of European civilisation. This interpretation of Byzantium-as-saviour is enshrined in the magisterial work of Ostrogorsky, and so is not going to disappear for a long time, but there has been a strange, if somewhat understandable, move in Byzantine studies to define Byzantium as its own separate civilisation--since medievalists initially were not concerned to include it as part of "the West"--and so to keep it apart from European history proper. The impulse to do this comes from two sources: the first are the Orthodox apologists who would like to keep Byzantium unsullied from both traces of heresy and later secularism of the West whose origins they locate in the medieval western world, and the other comes from the Byzantinists who are willing to admire Byzantium, but who want to admire it because it is unlike medieval Europe, or at least western Europe. Even Sir Steven Runciman, whose works were probably among the earliest and most eloquent arguments on behalf of the superior civilisation of the Byzantines, was effectively separating Byzantium from western Europe in his admiration for the former.
In my view, the drive to try to separate or distinguish sharply between Byzantium and the west is mistaken. Until at least 1204, the two undoubtedly formed two parts of the same civilisation, and just as in some important ways we today share Europe's fate as part of the same civilisation so, too, did western Europe share Byzantium's. When the Eastern Empire was gone, it was western Europe that had to bear the burden that Byzantium had carried for centuries before. Different cultures there were, as one would expect, but there was still a single Christian civilisation to which all their heirs still belong to one degree or another.
October 12, 2007
Blame Debbie Schlussel's cousin
For the green-lighting of the Empire State Building in honor of Eid, that is.
This semi-facetious characterization comes from Schlussel herself, who explains: Ten years ago, her nine-year-old cousin Mallory (this is a female name) wrote a letter asking that the Empire State Building be lit up in honor of Hannukah. Her request was granted in a highly publicized fashion. But as Schlussel points out, this pushing of a relatively minor Jewish holiday which happens to fall at about the same time as Christmas, and doing so for purely egalitarian reasons, furthered the notion that everyone is "entitled" to public religious holiday recognition. And now, of course, we have what Schlussel aptly calls "the religion of hijackers" honored by the lighting up of New York City's tallest (surviving) building, in the same egalitarian vein.
This sort of problem was foreseen by Schlussel's own late father, at a time when everyone else in the family was thrilled by young Mallory's fame. Good for him. Sometimes father does know best.
Character Before Knowledge*
The free man practices and values the virtues of honesty, courage, reverence, justice, and self-restraint not so much because they are good in the abstract as because he shares a general taste for them. It is only within such an ethical and civic context that it makes any sense to speak of pursuing or loving truth. Philosophy, as Aristotle points out, is a dangerous pursuit for people have not been properly brought up by family and friends, because they will only learn how to justify their vices. Even the paltry bits of philosophy studied by Ayn Rand and her chief apostles hardened them in their selfishness, arrogance, and lewdness. Even if Rand or the Brandens had read a few good books, they would probably have turned them to evil purposes. We need only look at the example of Straussians who spend entire careers twisting and distorting every great political thinker from Plato to Jefferson. What is the result of all their lying? The kind of mad arrogance that overtook Bloom and Jaffa. (Thomas Fleming, from the September issue of Chronicles
It is, I think, obvious that virtue is not merely a precondition of the quest for wisdom, but integral to the process itself. One must possess an unimpeachable sense of honesty and integrity, to follow evidence, logic, and reason where they lead - and also courage, for it is seldom the case that falsehood and error are without their partisans. One must also possess humility, an ability to admit that one is not omniscient, a willingness to rely upon others, and to receive their criticism. And so forth. And, perhaps most critically for this age of ideological thought, a sense that no singular truth concerning man and the world is the entire truth. If man, for example, is naught but a utility maximizer, whole realms of human experience and personality are cordoned off behind impenetrable walls of cynicism and debunking: love is merely self-love given through the vector, the instrument, of another human being.
Which reminds me of one of my favourite minor texts of conservatism, Whittaker Chambers' magisterial review of Ayn Rand's turgid and indigestible tract for a dictatorship of the meritocratic, technocratic-capitalist superman, Atlas Shrugged.
I hate property taxes. In fact, I probably, upon reflection, detest them even more than mere income taxes, for there is something more perverse about them. The income tax, however intrusive, presupposes only that a certain percentage of one's income is owed to the government, for the maintenance of public goods. The property tax, however, presupposes something more, and in this lies its monumental perversity, from which many particular evils flow.
Property taxation, it seems to me, presupposes one of two things. Either, first, that the properties upon which tax is levied generate income, of themselves, such that a portion of this is owed to the government for public goods and so forth. Except that, for the overwhelming majority of us, our property is simply real estate, which does not of itself generate income. To be sure, there is an expectation, now fading, that real estate can only appreciate, yielding income at the time of sale; but there is another term for this: capital gains. All of this is to say, then, that the property tax seems to presuppose something like feudalism: one held a piece of land in fief, and owed a certain percentage of its produce to one's lord. The fief generated wealth, and some of that wealth was due for the provision of public goods and services.
We, obviously, do not live under a feudal regime, though property taxation seems to presuppose such a regime. A feudal regime would also be a more distributive state, but we obviously do not live in one of those, which renders this tax doubly absurd to my mind: the properties which are taxed are neither income-generating, as they would be under feudalism, nor distributed as they would be under feudalism. So, despite the rhetorical appeal some have occasionally found in likening this tax to feudalism, it seems a safe conjecture that it is not a relic of feudalism.
Or, second, the property tax could be a sign of something else altogether - not a vestige of a long-discarded social order, but a sort of implicit rent payment: we are all renting, in this sense, from our local governments, with the tax representing the fee paid for the privilege of having shelter. After all, contrary to the feudal system, in modern rental arrangements, the only presupposition is that of use, as opposed to income generation. And it strikes me as perverse in the extreme to proclaim, even tacitly, that governments are universal landlords.
In closing, I note only that I have pointedly ignored the pragmatic rationales for property taxation: the ease of financing local governments and schools, and so forth. These rationales elide the many inequities of such systems of finance, and in any event, the use of a thing does not exhaust its significance. And it is the significance of property taxation, its symbolism, apart from the numerous pragmatic purposes and injustices (elderly folks losing homes because, on fixed incomes, they cannot pay the tax and, well, eat as well), that renders it manifestly perverse.
October 13, 2007
You Can't Legislate Honor
The story in brief:
Four Navy SEALs on a covert mission come across some unarmed civilians in remote Afghanistan. They now face a moral dilemma: kill the civilians and thereby assure that they are not exposed to local Taliban, or let the civilians go and risk betrayal and exposure.
Their natural sense of honor supported by the legislated morality embodied in their formal rules of engagement, the SEALs let the civilians go. The civilians promptly betray them to the Taliban. Three of the SEALs and sixteen members of a reinforcement team give their lives as a result of the choice to release the civilians rather than summarily executing them.
The badly wounded sole survivor of the original four SEALs, Marcus Luttrell, is taken in by a group of friendly Afghans. As Luttrell puts it, "I probably killed one of their cousins. And now I'm shot up, and they're using all the village medical supplies to help me." These Afghans go for help from the US Marines, carrying a note from Luttrell, and Luttrell is eventually rescued.
In a world with less honor in it, nineteen American soldiers would still be alive. The commander of the four-man SEAL team, Lt. Michael P. Murphy, has been posthumously awarded the Navy Medal of Honor. It is hard to imagine anything more appropriate. These men valorously and quite directly gave their lives for no other objective purpose than to preserve the honor, the integrity, the basic goodness of America. What we do both reflects and makes us into what we are. Heaven help us if we alter our rules of engagement - Heaven help us that we have already altered our rules of interrogation - in such a way as to dishonor the sacrifice made by these men.
A Miscellany of Aggravation
While touring the blogosphere rather aimlessly this morning, it seemed as though everything I read was destined to occasion aggravation. The first three articles I happened upon left me 0-for-3 in the reader-satisfaction department. At a suitable level of abstraction, there may even exist a common thread, perhaps something like, 'obliviousness to the obvious.'
The second striking bit comes when Mauer compares U.S. sentences with those abroad. Burglars now serve an average of 16.2 months in prison in the United States, compared with 5.3 months in Canada and 6.8 months in England.
October 14, 2007
If I had the graphics ability, I'd make the header for this entry one of those circular signs with the word "pediatrician" and a slash across it. Read this story if you have minor children. Read it all the way through. And then if you'll take my advice, don't, repeat, don't, send your child to a pediatrician. (Technical note: There's something strange about the way the first page of this Boston Herald article comes up when you click on the link. The first time it comes up page 1 is very short, and you miss some of the information to which I refer in what follows. If you click the number 2 to go to page 2, then go back to page 1 by clicking on the number 1, you should get the complete page 1 with the story about the author's thirteen-year-old daughter and her recent pediatrician visit.)
Here's the deal: The American Academy of Pediatricians has become a wacko advocacy group and has issued "guidelines" to its doctors suggesting that they ask scary-crazy questions of children during routine checkups. And in the case of teenagers, these questions are to be asked if possible without parents present. The questions include how much the parents drink, whether they have a gun in the house, and (this is the worst of all) whether teenage girls' fathers "make them feel uncomfortable." Let me emphasize: These are not cases where there is probable cause of abuse. The doctor is supposed to ask these questions routinely of girls who come to him for, say, a sports checkup for school.
October 15, 2007
The Jihad and the Republican Party
A friend and colleague at Redstate, our Managing Editor Erick Erickson, has a rousing post calling for unity within the Republican Coalition. Well worth reading in full. He concludes by asking for ideas for how this unity — one thought to hold pretty well from the early days of National Review through Reagan and even up to George W. Bush — might be reconstructed. Below is an expanded version of my comment:
(1) Shift the focus of what is called the war on terror, beginning with public rhetoric, toward the domestic front; take heed of the subversives and saboteurs in our midst; strike at them. This combined with: (2) reconciling the Party to that deep skepticism verging on hostility, which comprises the majority opinion on Iraq in this country.
I really doubt that the Democrats (were they to gain Executive power) shall conduct foreign policy as the reflexive anti-patriots of their base would like. A gradual but steady reduction of American troops in Iraq seems far more likely than immediate withdrawal.
For the fiscal boys, it’s much cheaper. We don’t need huge new expenditures of money. We need to carefully craft some laws whereby we can expose the doctrines of the enemy to vigorous prosecution. Our work will largely be a matter of legal savvy and above all public and democratic will. We may need a new prosecutor, investigator, or orator now and then. We will not need to spend even a fraction of what we are spending in Iraq right now.
For social Conservatives, it's the whole enchilada: the maintenance of the character of the Republic. Who are we? Are we a people that is going to shelter and protect the Jihad like its principles are mere Free Exercise? or are we a people confident enough to say we will stand against this wicked thing?
What was the glue that held the old Coalition together, from the early glory days of NR to Reagan?
It was a clear single thing: the Communist Enterprise; and a unified antipathy for a wicked system. Well the Jihad is no less wicked, and it has already stuck us blows no Communist ever dared.
So let us unite against it. Let opposition to the Jihad be one of our principles.
Chesterton wrote a small book (pdf) on William Cobbett, a late-eighteenth century farmer, medievalist, and contrarian blessed with unparalleled a talent for the polemic. Cobbett grounded his fierce slashing rhetoric on a firm foundation of Christian realism. This is his greatness. He shares with Chesterton an opinion on Capitalism (not very high), and a grand reverence for private property; but he possessed none of Chesterton’s infectious generosity in his writing. He thought the Reformation in England was but an usurpation designed to beggar the rural civilization flourishing there and plunder its wealth. The book is worth reading, though I would not count it among Chesterton’s classics.
As with virtually anything Chesterton has written, there are in this book flashes of jocular genius, of that playful intuition of being which was the great man’s great gift, that almost make you laugh out loud. Here are two examples, one from early in the book, and one from near the end.
October 18, 2007
Hegemonism is Unpatriotic
Hegemonism, the attempt (it should be acknowledged at the outset that the ambitions of the hegemonist can never be fully achieved, save upon mountains of skulls) to provide for the security of one's own nation, not by defending her by means of a military deterrent, alliances, and geopolitical balancing, but by reducing, degrading, subverting, and subordinating other nations to one's own, reducing them to a state of vassalage, is not an expression of patriotism, but its negation. The contemporary conflation of hegemonist policies with a patriotic love of place and people is but one reflection of a profound moral disorder, an ideological deformation of loyalties and obligation that, by nature, are concrete and circumscribed, ethically and geographically.
Patriotism is an almost tangible thing, a love of a man for the very soil (I dare say that he will not call it dirt.) of his homeland; it is an instinctual attachment to the very specificities of his place in the world: its rivers, hills, plains, towns, villages, and irreducibly, the customs, traditions, mores, legends, histories, memories, heroes, villains, and articulated order that make of those natural features a human environment, and not mere physical things. Patriotism, then, is above all a virtue, a mode of piety: a veneration for a certain community of memory and history, a community, moreover, which is not to be confused with those presently living, but receives its very substance from those who now rest from their labours, and hopes to transmit that substance to posterity. Patriotism is a love of neighbour expressed as a democracy of the dead and the as-yet unborn. It is thus particularistic; the nature of the thing excludes the possibility of a universalist patriotism. To combine such terms, and to attempt thereby to conjure a complex meaning from their conjunction, is a fully absurd as to posit square circles.
October 19, 2007
What follows is a discussion of an issue with many empirical aspects to it. Because pro-lifers have been urged to get on board with the proposal in question, I think it's important for us to have an informed opinion. The empirical statements in what follows all have evidence for them, but I am interested in and open to corrections of any of them, the more so as I am not an embryologist and have studied these matters only as an amateur.
The procedure in question is called ANT-OAR: Altered nuclear transfer oocyte assisted reproduction. My position is that ANT-OAR is wrong, not primarily because the entities it would produce would be human embryos (in one current versions of the proposal, I'm presently inclined to think that they would not be), but even if the entities it produces are not human embryos. My position against ANT-OAR is thus, as far as I know, original in the debate.
October 22, 2007
Unaccountably and inexcusably, I missed James Poulos' response to my August argument (to be found towards the conclusion of the piece) that a man of the character and connections of Alexander Litvinenko (the former Russian intel agent who fell in with Boris Berezovsky and the Chechens, made outlandish and unsubstantiated allegations of Russian complicity in terrorist actions on Russian soil, and got himself whacked by Polonium-210 poisoning, for those keeping score) could reasonably expect to be whacked.
My argument, as quoted by Poulos, was that...
Someone must speak the Derbyshirean hard truth here, which is that someone who makes a name for himself as a defector and associate of a man loathed and wanted on criminal charges in Russia, and as a tacit apologist for the Chechen cause, just is liable to get whacked on someone's orders - or even by freelancers or rogues. Contrary to the idea that the Russian policy, whoever applied it in this case, was unduly concerned with one man, that policy was very much concerned with an entire nation: the pet causes of the West have no purchase in any corridors of power, because they are bad for Russia.
To which Poulos responded:
In the end the question is whether the onus is on a country -- Britain, which had just unwillingly hosted a high-profile, exceedingly clumsy, and distressingly inventive assassination -- to figure out precisely how 'official' of a killing it was, or whether, in fact, the onus is on the country -- Russia, from which both perpetrators and victim had come -- to deal with the fallout when the host country rebukes them for an all too useful lack of oversight.
October 23, 2007
A mattress on a bottle of WHINE
Here’s the story, in brief:
Bob Dylan appears in an ad campaign for Cadillac. A “multiplatform” campaign, they call this — TV, print, Internet, etc. In the first series, he utters a couple of terse, jocular remarks. The ads end.
Naturally this appears as a topic for discussion on Dylan fansites and message boards. On one, The Never Ending Pool, not ten messages have been posted before two posters have declared their wish that Dylan’s house burn down, the second one even after being admonished that such talk is most unfortunate considering that in southern California many houses are, even as we type, burning down.
The reason for this perfectly unembarrassed malice*: apparently any association with Cadillac means that Dylan is indifferent to climate change. His “contribution” is to the side of gas-guzzlers; that is to say, to the side of the enemy. Treason! is the charge against Bob Dylan. May his house burn down!
To all this comical stupidity — its ugliness made amusing by absurdity, and by the fact that Dylan has done this to the Lefties many a time — one can only add:
Well, I see you got your brand new leopard-skin pill-box hat
Yes, I see you got your brand new leopard-skin pill-box hat
Well, you must tell me, baby
How your head feels under somethin’ like that
Under your brand new leopard-skin pill-box hat
Well, you look so pretty in it
Honey, can I jump on it sometime?
Yes, I just wanna see
If it’s really that expensive kind
You know it balances on your head
Just like a mattress balances
On a bottle of wine
Your brand new leopard-skin pill-box hat.
“Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat,” by Bob Dylan
(Copyright © 1966; renewed 1994 Dwarf Music.)
October 24, 2007
I don't lie awake at night wondering about the plans of the Iranian Mullarchy to become Death, the Destroyer of Worlds, plunging the world into a sea of nuclear flame. In fact, the thought seldom occurs to me at all, and when it does, I find it somewhat amusing, actually.
There. I've said it.
Now permit me to explain myself. I'd rather that a regime such as that of the Mullarchy not possess nuclear weapons, and on principle. Such regimes, combining several undesirable qualities - Islam, evil, general contumacy - are not the sort with which one would trust such weapons, were there an option. Nevertheless, the development is animated by a certain logic, which would obtain even in the absence of the Mullarchy, and which, moreover, militates against the use of such weapons by the Mullarchy.
The linchpin of this logic? Iran is desirous of becoming the regional hegemon, the dominant power of the Near East, a long-term geostrategic ambition antedating the Mullarchy, which would outlast that regime. Iran could be liberated from the shackles of the Islamic Republic, and Persian nationalist sentiment would keep alive the both the ambition and the nuclear program itself, which would be both symbol and surety of that status, should it be achieved. This regional ambition has two main consequences, as far as the nuclear program and the West are concerned. First, a first-use of nuclear weapons on the part of Iran, whether directly, or by means of proxies - such as Hizbollah - is highly improbable, since the logical conclusion to be drawn in such a case will be precisely that Iran has used/supplied the weapons, and Iran will cease to exist as a functioning, post-medieval state. Israel and the United States will see to that, morally licit or not.
Second, and in consequence of the first consideration, any use of nuclear weapons merely suspected to originate in the Iranian program will entail the permanent demise of Persian ambitions for regional preeminence. And I would suggest that, the apocalyptic rhetoric of a former Tehran traffic engineer aside, the Iranian powers-behind-the-presidency are more than worldly enough to value that ambition over the annihilation of the Zionist Entity. Incidentally, this is the reason for the low probability of Hizbollah being provided the eventual products of a mature Iranian nuclear program. One does not hand the keys to the kingdom to third parties one cannot completely control.
Finally, as a concluding observation, a the development of a nuclear program in Iran is more or less inevitable for another reason: Iranian oil and natural gas production is declining, and I consider it highly doubtful that Iranians will be willing to contemplate a return to premodernity, merely because the only long-term means of avoiding that fate is one of which the West disapproves. This is not to argue that Iran needn't be countered in Syria or Lebanon, nor that such countering need never involve military action of some sort. It is only to argue that a nuclear Iran can be deterred. And, as regards regime change - well, have we learned nothing?
What is Hegemony Really Worth?
Would the American foreign policy establishment be willing to jettison its geopolitically counterproductive and morally illicit hegemonism with respect to Russia, a hegemonism that not only ties our hands with respect to legitimate threats from disparate Islamic sources, but devalues the legitimate and instinctive patriotic sentiments of other peoples, Russians particularly, but not exclusively, in order to mitigate the Iranian threat? Hear Stratfor:
Via the U.N. Security Council, Russian cooperation can ensure Iran's diplomatic isolation. Russia's past cooperation on Iran's Bushehr nuclear power facility holds the possibility of a Kremlin condemnation of Iran's nuclear ambitions. A denial of Russian weapons transfers to Iran would hugely empower ongoing U.S. efforts to militarily curtail Iranian ambitions. Put simply, Russia has the ability to throw Iran under the American bus -- but it will not do it for free. In exchange, it wants those treaties amended in its favor, and it wants American deference on security questions in the former Soviet Union.
Russia could be encouraged to throw Iran under the American bus. But there is a price, and that price would entail the abandonment of hegemonism.
October 25, 2007
On Certain People Who Steal Oxygen
I can only hope the boy's death was a painful one. If you think about it though, this story has a somewhat happy ending. A young boy dying; therefore he can not grow up, spawn some other mutant losers and teach them how to hunt. I wonder how satan is treating him???(Note: the ALF site requires registration, a procedure to which I will not submit; hence, my quotation of the fool Dreher cites, Dreher having his ways.)
My initial reaction is on the order of, "I wish Satan would come quickly to claim his sons and daughters of the ALF." My second thoughts are on the order of, "I hope that God will grant Satan the liberty to claim his children of the ALF."
I don't have any third thoughts, any reconsiderations, beyond the observation that, if this is the face of environmentalism and conservationism, it is no wonder that most Americans simply roll their eyes and continue to live as though the modern, suburban lifestyle could be perpetuated indefinitely, which it cannot. These things are all rolled together in the American consciousness. I'm much more sympathetic to conservation concerns that most conservatives, so far as I can determine, but given the choice between folks like the ALF on the one hand, and shooting bears and guzzling gas on the other, well, I'd like to drive my Yukon to every last state and national park and shoot a bear in each one.
A little fact-facing about labor pools
It isn't altruism or Christian charity or the desire to treat all men equally that fuels big business' backing of open immigration policies. Businessmen admit this in whispers among themselves all the time, and every now and then one of them lets it slip in public. Once in a great while one even has the -- I don't know if the word is 'audacity' or 'foolishness' - to propose a policy which makes this impossible to ignore.
I'll add that it isn't just the price-point of wages which incents business to support as much open immigration of unskilled labor as possible. It isn't as though there isn't enough unskilled labor right here, in the form of our own countrymen. It is just that in addition to being relatively more expensive than immigrant labor in terms of direct wages, these countrymen of ours are also - though one has to be delicate in how one says this, ironically in order to avoid a charge of racism for having the audacity to consider the possibility that our own countrymen are employable even though they are not white - objectively more difficult to employ, leading to greater expense and uncertainty, two things which American capitalism is designed to ruthlessly minimize.
Bob the Tomato Saves a Life
October 26, 2007
A Note on Persian Aspirations and Western Responses
In response to this, I should like to note three things.
First, it is entirely possible that Persian nationalism, in the event of a collapse of the Mullarchy, will require constraints, both by the nature of the case, and in virtue of the fact that, well, we're talking about Central Asia, the womb of horrors. The probability of this would decline, I think, in large part because a large plurality of Iranians have little sympathy for the Islamic regime and its more sanguinary aspirations. In any event, I believe that a nuclear Persia can be deterred. I don't foresee a new era of national martyrdom.
Second, whether one deems it sympathy or 'seeing things from the other guy's perspective', this habit of thought is integral to effective foreign policy-making. Absent this capacity, one cannot effectively anticipate the reactions of the Other, and absent such anticipations, one cannot assess prudentially the probable consequences of various courses of action. We have already witnessed the consequences of this purblind willfulness in Iraq: we will be greeted as liberators, and Iraqis care nothing for tribe, religion and whatever by comparison to Democracy! Whiskey! Sexy! In Persia, were we to somehow engineer or encourage a relatively peaceful transition from the Islamic Republic to.. something else (the Shah? - I cannot predict), we would be swiftly disappointed if we expected the Persians to accept American overlordship, quite apart from the factor of Islam. Their own patriotic sentiments would never permit it.
And that leads to the third point, which is that, for Persians, accession to the nuclear club is perceived as a badge of national honour, as well as a sign of regional status. Beyond that, Peak Oil is real, and if Americans really believe that Persians are going to accept "lights out!" as a legitimate option, merely because America says that Persian ambitions are unacceptable, whether Islamic or not, well, then Americans are nuts. This would represent a massive failure to understand and predict the reactions of the Other, a massive failure of prudential reason. And, off at the margins, is it even licit to compel another society to revert to premodernity, with all of what that would entail? I'd not like to see, let alone make, that argument.
Attacking Iran Makes No Sense
Jeff has been taking some flack for his recent posts, so I think that I should to say a few things on the matter. The argument here is between those who think that the development of an Iranian bomb is absolutely and in all ways unacceptable and those who believe that, ideally undesirable as it is, it is a containable threat. Obviously, I don't accept the former view, and subscribe to the latter. Perhaps even to use the word "threat" concedes something that shouldn't be conceded, since it is actually quite implausible that Iran will be threatening the United States with any nuclear weapons that it might eventually acquire.
October 27, 2007
Power Corrupts, and Hegemonic Power Makes One Stupid
Francis Fukuyama, of End of History and the Last Man fame (or infamy, depending upon one's perspective), who has lately expressed second and third thoughts about neoconservatism, is making a great deal of sense where the global (im)balance of power and the temptations thereof are concerned:
But the fundamental problem remains the lopsided distribution of power in the international system. Any country in the same position as the US, even a democracy, would be tempted to exercise its hegemonic power with less and less restraint. America’s founding fathers were motivated by a similar belief that unchecked power, even when democratically legitimated, could be dangerous, which is why they created a constitutional system of internally separated powers to limit the executive.
Such a system does not exist on a global scale today, which may explain how America got into such trouble. A smoother international distribution of power, even in a global system that is less than fully democratic, would pose fewer temptations to abandon the prudent exercise of power.
A few points are in order. First, it is unclear whether Fukuyama, in those last two sentences, argues for a reinvigorated global balance of power, or, perhaps, strengthened international institutions that might themselves act as checks upon individual nations that have grown 'too powerful' for the good of global stability. The phraseology of a "smoother international distribution of power" leaves the matter mired in ambiguity, as far as I am concerned. Nevertheless, if read with the former assumption in mind, the point is valid.
Second, this is not - though doubtless some will desire to read it in such a manner - an indictment of the United States as uniquely or solely perfidious; it is merely an observation that the numerous fortuities and exceptions of American history do not extend to the realm of character and judgment, ethics and prudence, and that American statesmen (cough, cough) are subject to all of the frailties of human nature. No Constitutional system, exceptional historical pedigree, or ingenious political traditions can ever fully compensate for defects of character, judgment, and morals.
Third, note the reference to the American system of checks and balances.... And meditate upon the melancholy fact that that system has been debauched, ever further, for quite some time now in our history as a nation, such that the executive commands and receives deference never envisioned by the Framers, and exercises powers that those same Framers would have regarded as usurpative and deleterious to republicanism - and that these corruptions are often justified by appeal to the very exercises of hegemonic power that concern Fukuyama. A tight little circle has been established, wherein the exercise of hegemonic power is invoked to justify novel readings of the Constitutional tradition, and these latter deviations are justified by invocation of the "necessity" of hegemony. Heads, you get an empire, not a republic; and tails, you can't have a republic, but they'll give you an empire instead. Or, in other words, lousy foreign policy and Constitutional declension are integral to one another; they are two sides of one clipped coin.
Rick Warren Tells Lies?
Wow. This story is a year old, but I learned about it only last night. And I owe a "hat tip" for it right at the outset to someone who does not blog--my husband, Tim. In fact, one of the "smoking gun" links was something he found, though obviously someone else put it out there to be found. But it isn't mentioned, that I know of, on another blog. I'll note that one when I get to it.
Here's the story, as initially covered by Joseph Farah, of WND: Last year, Rick Warren, of Purpose Driven (TM) fame, went to Syria and fell all over himself talking about how wonderful and tolerant Syria is. He was so reported in the Syrian news (of course). He also made the stunningly ignorant statement that St. Paul was Syrian, but I suppose that's by the way.
So far, so unsurprising.
October 29, 2007
Not Ready for Civilization
This from the "not ready for civilization" file:
A Muslim husband in the Netherlands delayed an emergency Caesarian operation because the only anesthesiologist available was male. After two hours he was persuaded to allow it, but only if his wife's arm was covered up while the injection was administered. And after that, the anesthesiologist was forced to stand out in the hallway and shout instructions to a nurse in the operating room.
I have noted before that the supposedly "pro-life" Muslim values go to the wall when they come into conflict with the desire for hyper-control of their women and the related, perverted sense of sexual "honor." The wife's and child's lives and health were of less importance to this man than his horror at the thought that a male might see some part of his wife's body uncovered.
Nor is this the only incident of this type. Muslim husbands have physically assaulted male doctors who dared to attend their wives.
Such outrageous behavior puts the doctors into an intolerable position. What should be done about it on the spot might be open to argument. Myself, I'd consider calling the cops to restrain the crazy husband. But it is yet more evidence of the incompatibility of Muslim culture with Western culture.
October 30, 2007
The Other New Fusionism...
What Lindsay, who enthusiastically supported the Iraq war, doesn’t say—or isn’t quoted as saying—is that he hates Paul’s old right and quintessentially libertarian opposition to our foreign policy of global interventionism. Senor Lindsay and his fellow ”modern" libertarians have made their peace with the Empire. As long as they can take drugs, abort fetuses, and sodomize each other to their hearts’ content, he and his Beltway buddies have no problem with the US rampaging over half the earth, regime-changing and taking out “rogue” states at will. As long as it’s a “free market” empire, they’re all in favor of it. (Justin Raimondo, at Taki's Top Drawer.)
So, on the one hand, we have the New Fusionism, which combines an evangelical moralism and social ethic with interventionist foreign policy, including the principle of preemptive war - and let it not be forgotten that the cash value of this fusionism is evangelical flirtation with the Guiliani candidacy - while on the other, we have the Other New Fusionism of the Cato libertarians, which combines the nihilistic creative destruction of globalist capitalism with the social ethics of the New Left and the democratist delusions of neoconservatism (this, of course, because they are utile toward the worldwide extension of The Market). Curiously, the first constant in this devil's brew of nonsense is the interventionist foreign policy. The second constant - though it remains a somewhat silent partner in the New Fusionism - is that same global capitalism which is intertwined with the foreign policy, which is why social conservative heavies are loath to endorse Huckabee, though Huckabee does not so much reject this as pine for modernizations not approved by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (This would be the Club for Growth, I suppose.) The current (grotesquely expanded) electoral season is a trial, not only of the soul of the GOP (snicker), but of the conservative movement (or what remains thereof) as a whole.
Update: It is worth noting that the Other New Fusionism has the advantage of coherence, which the New Fusionism simply lacks, inasmuch as the former combines a utilitarian/hedonist social ethic with a foreign policy utterly utilitarian in essence, wanting as it is for a moral warrant, while the latter attempts, vainly, to combine a substantive social ethic with that same foreign policy. At the meta-level, this is one reason why the social conservatives are not only dupes and suckers, often enough, but almost destined to witness the defeat of their ostensibly highest aspirations: their functional non-negotiables accept all the premises of their substantive adversaries. They have conceded 90% of the debate already.
October 31, 2007
The Trouble With the WWIV Crowd...
...May be grasped in the following manner: They treat the question, "How could one be harmed by jihadists, if they and their sympathizers were not present in one's country?" as a sort of Zen koan. Instead of simply accepting the obvious point concerning immigration and subversion on the homefront, they assume that there must exist some hidden depths, and so they set out to derange their sense of reason - and to derange their hearers - by uncovering those hidden depths.
It could unfold, in Zen-fashion, like this.
The master learned in the way of Mahomet posed the question to his rebellious disciple, "How could a people be harmed by an adversary if their adversaries and sympathizers are absent from that people's land?"
The rebellious student returned to his quarters to meditate upon the question, using as aids the collected works of Harry Jaffa and Norman Podhoretz.
The following morning, he returned to the master and answered, "They could be harmed were their adversaries to suborn the treason of someone who would then allow a WMD to be smuggled through an American port."
And the master replied, "O stiff-necked and rebellious pseudo-disciple, were the adversaries to suborn treason, the traitors would be sympathizers. And how could the adversaries suborn treason if they were not even able to contact anyone from among the people? You are overthinking and deranging your reason. The depths lie in the surface. Meditate some more."
On and on this went, until finally, the miserable disciple said, "Master, I have solved the riddle, and the answer is this: the adversaries could harm the people by the fact of their absence, for in the case of such absence, the people would prove themselves as exclusionary and intolerant as their enemies. Discrimination is the greatest evil, the greatest harm, and the people would become like unto their adversaries. This would be their destruction."
Whereupon the master sent the disciple away, on the grounds that he was as yet too foolish to tread the path of wisdom, requiring the purgation of his rebellion before he could learn.
There are no obscure depths to the problem of the jihad and our response thereto; there are questions concerning certain details, but there are really no mysteries, because they do not have to be like us in order for us to be as safe as it is possible to be in this world from them. Moreover, they do not have to be among us, because nondiscrimination is merely the negation of the principle whereby any culture preserves itself as itself, and not a moral imperative in this regard. But instead of common sense, we get all sorts of folderol about "becoming like the terrorists", simply because we dislike the religious and cultural milieu from which they arise.
Neoconservatism: lowering our collective IQ.