February 2008 Archives
February 2, 2008
Murder in the Air - again: the unhappy case of Lauren Richardson
She used to look like this:
Not so much anymore.
And again we have a split between the victim's loved ones, this time between divorced parents: a father who wants to care for her and a mother who swears Lauren told her she'd "never want to live like that." The Court of Chancery believes the latter, and has awarded guardianship to her, as the state of Delaware's legal system stirs itself into sluggish but relentless motion, and the machinery of death once again takes on a certain 'life' of its own.
You can begin reading the story here, at Terrisfight.
You can also see the father's interview on Hannity and Colmes.
A YouTube video of Lauren with family (including the dog).
And a website devoted to her cause.
February 3, 2008
Barack Obama Super Bowl Commercial
Perhaps during the Pope's U. S. visit in April Obama will buy airtime and announce that he plans to eradicate original sin.
Obama's message: I will end the politics of division by attractively stipulating the correctness of my views and thus implying that those who don't agree are ugly and want to perpetuate the politics of division. It's a version of what I labeled several years ago as the "passive aggressive tyranny trick."
February 4, 2008
Dumpster Diving During the Primaries
Intellectual and spiritual dumpster diving, that is: Rod Dreher links to Franky Schaeffer's maudlin hymn to Barack Obama, which, aside from inducing an almost-convulsive feeling of revulsion, confirmed me in my earlier judgment that the man has slipped the tether.
Those who earlier engaged in the ascetical act of reading Schaeffer's interview with John Whitehead concerning the former's misbegotten memoir will recognize in this latest missive the regurgitation of some rotten tropes. It's all there: his intellectual rejection of his past, his emotional reflexes towards that past, which he must check, and the sub-rationality of his present political leanings.
If I could proffer just a few words of counsel to Schaeffer, they would be the encouragement to Just. Go. Away. If you are bound and determined to make your peace with the liberal compact, the privatization of normative commitments which are properly public - and you know what these are - then do so quietly, and privately, causing no scandal by identifying my Church with the endorsement of Moloch-worship. Cease engaging in warfare with the past, as though you were still an adolescent rebelling against your father, and drop the pretense that your present views are so much more sophisticated and spiritual than those you held then - if there is any truth to the accounts of that past, the one constant is the need to stand on the corner shouting, "I thank Thee, O God, that I am not like those people", in this case the fundamentalists, God-botherers, and people who actually understand Christian ethics.
February 6, 2008
And they say WE are bitter.
According to Noemie Emery, in a brief but muddled piece over at The Weekly Standard, it seems that “the ideological right is filled with a vast, free-floating fury that can't find a target upon which to dump all this ire,” because . . . well, basically because some of us are still suspicious of McCain.
It is a bizarre polemic which, in order to appeal for unity behind a shaky candidate, calls upon hackneyed Leftist smears to disparage whole chunks of that candidate’s party. Thanks for that. Thanks, also, for the rehearsal of exactly the same tissue of mendacities and ill will that greeted Reagan and the 1994 Revolution from our beloved Liberals. Angry irrational bigots, those Reagan and Gingrich voters: cretins and fire-eaters and coddlers of fascists — how many times have we heard this innuendo from the Left?
Well it rings even more hollow and false from someone on the Right.
As my friend Leon Wolf noted, Ms. Emery once announced that she would sooner vote for Joe Lieberman than Sam Brownback; now she presumes to lecture Conservatives on what Republican unity should look like — and even hauls poor Sam Brownback into the train of her shoddy argument!
The answer to this is really quite simple: This is the primary season; McCain has a commanding lead, but he is not yet the assured nominee; there is no inherent dishonor or disloyalty in still opposing him, voting against him, even working for his defeat. I repeat: we are talking about the GOP primary race. This is precisely the time to hash this stuff out.
Most of this pack of bigots possessed by “vast, free-floating fury,” looking for a sensitive soul like Johnny Mac upon which to “dump all [its] ire” — a group which those of us less agitated and embittered call “Conservatives” — will certainly come around and support McCain in November. You know that. I know that. Even Ms. Emery probably knows that.
There is no question but that the air is filled with hyperbole. Tension, excitement and genuine uncertainty tend to invite that. But few things are more dispiriting, and more suggestive of a fundamental pettiness, than the spectacle of right-wingers opportunistically embracing some of the worst rhetorical conceits of the Left.
I want, at some level beneath that at which my conscious political reasoning occurs, to like John McCain - to like him in the sense that I could support his candidacy, or at least reconcile myself to it. His personal narrative is compelling, though I might admit to being tired of hearing about events which lost their salience before I entered primary school. His opposition to the attempts of the Bush administration to normalize torture as an element of American policy is heroic. Even the idea of the much-reviled campaign-finance-reform legislation holds its appeal for me. In execution, the legislation has been an abomination, so much so that one suspects that the stated intentions were merely a noble lie cloaking the actual intentions; but the idea of draining the DC swamps of the corrupting influence of various malefactors of wealth - well, that's a wonderful idea, if it entails shutting down K Street, and eliminating the corrupt and corrupting revolving door between business, lobbying, and government work. I'll give McCain begrudging credit for the idea, at least.
I find, however, that my opposition to McCain's candidacy becomes more profound by the day. I can state, of a certainty, as I once stated of Guiliani, that I will not vote for McCain, even if a gun is placed to my temple - be it the metaphorical gun of "the terrorists are coming!" or a literal gun.
February 7, 2008
A Challenge for the propositionalists.
When Aleksandr Isaevich Solzhenitsyn delivered a brief address to a town hall meeting in Cavendish, Vermont, where he had lived for eighteen years with his family, in exile from Communist Russia, he paid poignant homage to “the sensible and sure process of grassroots democracy, in which the local population solves most of its problems on its own, not waiting for the decisions of higher authorities.” He declared also that, while “exile is always difficult,” he “could not imagine a better place to live, and wait, and wait for my return home,” than that little town. He expressed his gratitude for its respect for his privacy, and spoke warmly of its neighborliness. For his children, “Vermont is home,” for they have grown up “alongside your children.”
With a “God bless you all,” the great Russian finished — to a hearty ovation from those snowbound New Englanders.
The House Swept Clean
I've spent the better part of the afternoon hours, or at least the spare moments thereof, vainly endeavouring to come up with something semi-profound to say about the news that Rowan Williams has called for the implementation of sharia law in Britain.
Alas, all eloquence and percipience have departed me.
It is not that I am astonished. To the contrary, where the Archbishop of Canterbury is concerned, nothing really occasions surprise; the man is a living reproof to the facile belief that wisdom correlates with an individual's native intellectual endowment. In fact, a coworker printed out a copy of the article and presented it to me this morning, adding that it would cause my head to explode. This sort of thing occasionally astonishes him - in fact, he still finds unfathomable the fact that Sayyid Qtub was profoundly scandalized by - wait for it - square dancing. Likewise, an archbishop advocating the implementation of sharia law elicits expressions of stupefaction. Perhaps, then, it is a testament to my cynicism that I received the news with equanimity. "What took him so long?", I wondered silently.
Several things are noteworthy, though none of them is really new. First, those enamored of the liberal settlement, the notion that each is entitled to fashion for himself an identity from whatever fragments fall to hand, and that no inherited tradition should interpose itself between an individual and his self-posited ends, really do, in the final analysis, reject the inheritance of Western civilization. They may not do so explicitly; in fact, most do not - but all this means is that the liberal order is parasitic upon the carcass of Christendom, presupposing its benefits while devouring the substance that would enable its reproduction. In other words, liberal individualism and all of its derivatives, including the ethos of toleration and inclusiveness, presuppose the Christian conception of the person, yet isolate, abstract, and elevate it as a metaphysical absolute. Liberalism ideologizes a dissociated fragment of Christianity, and thus sweeps clean the house of Christian remnants, disdaining these as relics of intolerance and exclusion.
February 8, 2008
The Utopian Universalist Chronicles, Part MMMCXLVII
That oleaginous, unctious, self-serving discredit to evangelicals everywhere, Michael Gerson, has unburdened himself of a panegyric to John McCain, in the process hymning McCain's fidelity to the cause of mass immigration. It's compassionate; it's mean to oppose it, and so forth.
James Poulos takes umbrage at Gerson's rhetorical transgressions, and progresses to the heart of the problem with Gersonism:
The big problem with Gerson’s ‘moral internationalism’ is not that it has a big heart or a goofy smile. The big problem is that it’s inimical to citizenship. Gerson and his ilk long for the day that Americans don’t get a better shake in life just because they’re Americans. The moral outrage aimed at people against amnesty would, I guarantee you, magically rematerialize if amnesty were granted and the border sealed. All those excluded people! Moral internationalism, at Gersonian levels, is dedicated to the notion that politics is, at best, an imperfect means to a perfect end, and, at worst, an impediment. But, ironically, in believing that citizenship is only good insofar as it secures access to moral goods, moral internationalists fail to understand that exclusive citizenship is a moral good in and of itself. Because, among other reasons, when citizenship becomes meaningless, political rule still somehow thrives, and commodious living grows perilously contingent when political liberty dies.
Although Poulos is rather more sanguine about mass immigration than I could ever be, this is about right. Citizenship, common membership in a polity, just is about giving other members of that polity a better shake, a shake in preference to outsiders. Otherwise, community in all of its bewildering, proliferating variety becomes nothing more than an instrumental good, and moral ends become unthethered from the contexts that imbue them with significance, and from the constraints that prevent them from becoming utopian intoxicants.
So, in answer to Will Wilkinson in Poulos' comments, yes Americans ought to get a better shake in life from other Americans; the abstract form in which Wilkinson poses the question is literally meaningless, since it evacuates the context of subjects and agency. The logical implication of Gersonism and libertarianism (as Wilkinson understands it) is simply that nations ought not to exist, on moral grounds. And that returns us to Poulos' point about 'commodious living', a phrase which sounds a little Hobbesian to me, but, well, never mind: the likliest alternatives to citizenship arrangements in nation-states run the gamut from bureaucratic empires on the EU paradigm to a world in which many of the privileges and immunities once attached to citizenship are transferred to economic entities. The corporate expense account and employee's handbook as charter of liberties. Libertarianism and compassionate conservatism: recreating feudalism for the postmodern age.
Is the Academy Still a Bastion of White Gentile Male Supremacy?
Back in the early years of the last century, American Academia was dominated by white gentile males (hereafter, WGM's). Members of racial minorities were hardly to be found, either among the professors or among the students. Women were severely underrepresented, compared to their numbers in the population as a whole, and were excluded altogether from some of the most elite schools. Jews were subject to quotas that kept their numbers far below what they should have been, based on academic merit alone.
But by the 1970's, all that was just a memory. The anti-Jewish quotas fell in the 1960's. Standards for high school g.p.a.'s and test scores were relaxed for minority applicants, sometimes dramatically, in an attempt to achieve "parity" with their representation in the overall population. Though a few schools remained all-male, they hardly threatened women's academic opportunities: women were already well on the way to their present day relative over-representation in the undergraduate population.
Still, today, the perception remains that WGM's continue to enjoy an unfair advantage in the academic world and that affirmative action remains as necessary as ever to counterbalance that advantage.
But is it true?
February 12, 2008
"Universalism" vs. "Chauvinism" Part I
February 13, 2008
Roger Clemens Strikes Out
This is very sad.
Mere Ideas in the Saddle
One of the more pestilential elements of the atmosphere of modernity is a tendency to substitute for the actualities of things - for example, the concrete society into which one was born, say, the ancien regime - fantasies, phantasms, and illusions that faintly resemble those realities, but are, in reality, utopias - no-places. This aspect of modernity can manifest itself in virtually any corner of the human experience, though the specifically political seems to exert an especial attraction. Nevertheless, the tendency toward abstraction and fantasy can deform any discipline or practice, even those that are ostensibly tethered to quantifiable realities. And while the consequences may not be as sanguinary as those of the overtly political ideologies, they are no less real.
Imad Mughniyeh Takes the Dirt Nap
Imad Mughniyeh, a senior official within the Hizbollah organization implicated in the 1983 bombing of the Marine Barracks in Lebanon, the 1985 hijacking of a TWA airliner, the 1992 and 1994 bombings of the Israeli embassy and a Jewish community center in Argentina, respectively, along with scores of other terrorist incidents and kidnappings within Lebanon, is now taking the dirt nap, courtesy, despite the pro forma denials, of a sophisticated Mossad operation. According to Stratfor,
The killing required a high level of tactical intelligence regarding Mughniyah’s location and movements; it also called for an operational unit on the ground with “eyes on” to detonate the bomb remotely. The remote detonation also provided the operational team with distance to assist in their escape.
At the time of the strike, Mughniyah was returning to a vehicle after meeting with Hamas and Syrian intelligence operatives. The timing of the attack, including the placement of the explosive, required intelligence about the meeting time and location. While it is possible that the information was captured via signal intercepts, Hezbollah and Syrian intelligence employ signal security that should have been good enough to prevent such a leak. Further, Mughniyah himself was known for very tight operational security, and slipping up by allowing Israel or others to intercept radio or telephone chatter does not seem to fit his profile. He successfully evaded numerous other Israeli attempts to track him down.
Thus it is likely that there was information flowing from someone intimately aware of the details of the meeting — and that means Mossad has likely penetrated Hezbollah, Hamas or Syrian intelligence.
Furthermore, "the hit will spread distrust throughout the Syrian intelligence apparatus, and within and between Hezbollah and Hamas, adding a layer of confusion to that already created by the death of a key liaison between Iran and Hezbollah."
While I've already gone on record, both at the old EM and here, in opposition to some of the wilder ambitions of American and Israeli strategy in the Near East, particularly regime change in Syria and Iran, sowing discord between Islamist organizations is a marvelous outcome. This would seem a suitable occasion for a bit of araq, which I will now enjoy.
Funniest take on the Rowan Williams/Sharia Controversy
Via Rod Dreher, Iowahawk immortalizes the temporizing of the Archbishop of Canterbury in verse. Any of a sensitive disposition should be forewarned that there are occasional crudities, but otherwise, well, I split my sides laughing.
41 Sayth the libertine, "'tis well and goode
42 But sharia goes now where nae it should;
43 I liketh bigge buttes and I cannot lye,
44 You othere faelows can't denye,
45 But the council closed my wenching pub,
46 To please the Imams, aye thaere's the rub."
47 Sayeth the Bishop, strokynge his chin,
48 "To the Mosque-man, sexe is sinne
49 So as to staye in his goode-graces
50 Cover well thy wenches' faces
51 And abstain ye Chavs from ribaldry
52 Welcome him to our communitie."
February 14, 2008
"Universalism" vs. "Chauvinism" Part II
Continuing from where I left off (see below):
Unfortunately, I think that Will Wilkinson's account of his opponents' position is more caricature than characterization.
To begin with, I doubt whether even the most "chauvinist" of U.S. immigration restrictionists believes that any rule or policy - even a rule or policy of another group - is justified simply because it benefits the group of which he happens to be a member.
It takes, after all, a truly heroic sort of chauvinism to presume to judge the rules and policies of other groups by the standard of whether or not they happen to benefit one's own. Ironically enough, Wilkinson might actually have a case here if he were objecting to Mexican's attitudes towards U.S. immigration policies - for they do, precisely, insist that we adopt policies that benefit themselves at our expense. But all the immigration restrictionists that I know of here in the U.S. consider it perfectly right and proper for other groups to set up rules and policies that benefit themselves and not us, and merely suggest that we do likewise. That is why they like to point out the highly restrictive immigration policies of Mexico: not because they object to those policies, but rather because they think we should imitate them.
So let's give Wilkinson's account of his opponents' position a bit of a tweak: for the chauvinist, if a rule or policy of a particular group benefits the members of that group, then it is justified.
University of Notre Dame in 2008-09
I will be spending next school year on the faculty of the University of Notre Dame as the Mary Ann Remick Senior Visiting Fellow in the Notre Dame Center for Ethics & Culture. I was offered it two weeks ago, and formally accepted it on Monday of this week. I am deeply grateful to Baylor University, my department chair, my dean, and the university provost for allowing me to take this research respite in such an idyllic setting.
February 15, 2008
Update: Javona Peters not dehydrated to death
Wesley J. Smith reports that young Javona Peters, whom I wrote about before here, has passed away without having had her feeding and hydration stopped. He apparently does not have many details but received this information from a reliable private source. It's very good to know that her family apparently did the right thing and saw that she received this basic care to the end of her life. May she rest in peace, and may God comfort her parents.
February 16, 2008
I'm voting for Obama in Texas' March 4 open primary
Why? There are two reasons: (1) I want to cooperate in the defeat of Hillary Clinton; (2) I think Barack Obama will be a weaker general election candidate in a race against John McCain, who I am supporting. The second reason may appear at the present counterintuitive, for Obama's rock star status seems almost transcendent. But I don't believe it will last. Obama's weaknesses will be isolated and amplified in a general election campaign in which his opponent will not be restrained or intimidated by the identity-politics land mines that permeate the road to the Democratic nomination.
So, I encourage all Texas independents and Republicans to cross-over and vote for Senator Obama.
Illusive Valentine - a belated Valentine poem to my then-future wife
I wrote this in 1986, two months before I proposed to my wife, Frankie, and 13 months before we were married. I had planned to post this on Valentine's Day, February 14. But, being a preoccupied man, I forgot.
February 17, 2008
Charles Barkley: The Round Mound of Reasoning Unsound
In this amazing interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, the retired NBA all-star, Charles Barkley, opines on politics, calling conservatives "fake Christians." Once nicknamed the "round mound of rebound," Sir Charles says of these Christians that "they are not supposed to judge other people, but they are the most hypocritical judge of people we have in this country." After announcing that he is prochoice and pro-gay marriage, he promises to run for governor of Alabama in 2014. He would have a much better chance running for the Pope of Greenwich Village (see here).
Bill Clinton Lashes Out at Prolife Students
Update on February 26, 2008: For this blog entry, I relied on a press release by the group, "Students for Life," which referred to the hecklers as "prolife students." But I have since been told by several prolife students from the Franciscan University (Steubenville) who were present at the event that none of the hecklers was a student. So, students from the university were indeed protesting, but they were doing so in a respectful way. Although I did not mention Franciscan University by name, I can see why the protesting students from that fine institution would not like it implied that they had engaged in behavior in which they in fact did not engage.
In private email correspondence, Caroline Nye, a member of the Franciscan University College Republicans, has permitted me to publish on this blog her note of correction that I received on the evening of February 25:
I would first like to say that I applaud your support of the pro-life movement. However, as a member of College Republicans and as a Franciscan University student who personally attended the peaceful protest against Bill Clinton in Steubenville, Ohio, I would like to comment about the statement you made regarding students heckling the former president. You are quoted as saying, "what the 'students' did was disrespectful, and as a pro-lifer I condemn such conduct" (Weblog: "What's Wrong with the World" and EWTN news article). I would like to clarify that it was not in fact a "student" that yelled out during Clinton's speech. The man was not a student at Franciscan University and he had no connection with our organization. Furthermore, the entire goal of our protest was to be peaceful. While waiting outside, we prayed rosaries as a group. We recognize that violence and angry out bursts do not accomplish our peaceful objectives. I felt that it was necessary to bring the true facts to your attention and respectfully request that you retract your statement regarding "students" heckling the former president.__________________________ The original February 17 entry follows:
Bill Clinton said this today at a rally for his wife in Steubenville, Ohio:
I gave you the answer. We disagree with you,...You wanna criminalize women and their doctors and we disagree. I reduced abortion. Tell the truth, tell the truth, If you were really pro-life, if you were really pro-life, you would want to put every doctor and every mother as an accessory to murder in prison. And you won't say you wanna do that because you know, that you wouldn't have a lick of political support. Now, the issue is who, the issue is, you can't name me anybody presently in politics that did more to introduce policies that reduce the number of real abortions instead of the hot air putting out to tear people up and make votes by dividing America. This is not your rally. I heard you. That's another thing you need is a president, somebody who will stick up for individual rights and not be pushed around, and she won't.
Certainly, the prolife students, who you can hear in the audio portion of this video, should not have heckled President Clinton. What the students did was disrespectful, and as a prolifer I condemn such conduct. Nevertheless, there's a way to deal with such hecklers without engaging in an ad hominem attack against prolifers in general, which is precisely what President Clinton did in his remarks. In fact, it seemed to me (and this could just be my own bias at work) that the President's harsh response revealed a deep and unhealthy bitterness that he harbors against prolife citizens. Sadly, instead of taking the high road and defending the permissibility of abortion by explaining why he believes the view of the students is mistaken (or at least should be tabled for a more appropriate venue), the former occupant of the White House chose the low road and attacked the intellectual integrity of every American citizen who holds the prolife view.
In any event, I answer President Clinton's argument in chapter 5 of my book, Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice (Cambridge University Press, 2007), a portion of which I reproduce below (endnotes omitted):
February 18, 2008
Christianity Today Review of Defending Life
In the February 2008 issue of Christianity Today, Douglas LeBlanc reviews my book, Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice (Cambridge University Press, 2007). You can read the review online here.
How Dodgy Debt Becomes A High-Grade Leveraged Security
I can scarcely imagine such a short appearing on American television, and that for a variety of reasons, none of which reflect well on this side of the pond. Via John Medaille.
I'm Weary of That Annoying FISA Debate
So weary, in fact, that I'm not going to vex both myself and any readers by dredging up the countless essays Andrew McCarthy, Glenn Greenwald, and others have written on the subject. Those interested in familiarizing themselves with the contours of the debate will know where to find them.
I am surfeited with the cloying antics of the actors in this kabuki theater because, to a certain degree, the entire debate is an exercise in missing the point. The old FISA act has become cumbersome owing to advances in communications technology, resulting, among other things, in the transcendent absurdity that the law technically requires a warrant for surveillance of a call placed by jihadist A in Pakistan to jihadist B in Lebanon, if for some reason the call happens to be routed through the United States. This, however, is a comparatively minor issue, and everyone concurs on the necessity of a legal remedy. The real action is taking place in the debates over the surveillance powers the executive branch and its apologists assert are necessary to the safety and security of the American people, and the integrity of intelligence gathering itself. The surveillance, it is said, must be warrantless, at least until it is expedient to secure ex post facto legitimation, and companies complicit in the violation of the existing law must be immunized for those actions. Yawn.
If one were to distill this controversy down to its essentials, the respective positions would hold that, on the one hand, telecommunications technology is now wireless, mobile, and disposable, and that legions of jihadists are even now among us, conspiring to bring about our demise, and, on the other, that the threat has been exaggerated, and that the powers asserted by the executive threaten constitutional protections and immunities. It would seem that, in response to this issue of great import, the establishment is inclined to cede such powers to the executive, although the obstreperous remain opposed.
February 20, 2008
Two puzzles and a conjecture.
Puzzle 1: How do we overcome the fact that our military might, combined with our theoretical feebleness, has produced a strange condition of paralysis? The quintessential incongruity of Capitalism shackles us: material mastery alongside philosophic confusion.
Covenants With Death
Via Mark Shea, David Kopel writes that College of Physicians and Surgeons of Manitoba assert the power and duty of physicians to euthanize the untermenschen, irrespective of the wishes of patients and their family members.
The right to die becomes the preference for death becomes the expectation of the affirmative choice for death becomes the duty to choose death becomes the mandate to die - and this mandate will be enforced, inasmuch as, having lost the capacity for autonomy, you stand as an affront to the authoritative doctrines of the age, a weak and debilitated reminder of human frailty and dependency, an existential refutation of the self-positing, self-creating man-god, who knows neither reason nor the Good, but only will and power. And so it is willed that you not be.
February 21, 2008
Just An Hypothesis...
It may be surmised that this legitimate complaint about bloat in the Army's officer corps is not solely about a disproportionate ratio of officers to enlisted men -
In most armies, there are about seven officers to 100 enlisted men, or an officer-to-enlisted ratio of 7 percent (as low as 5 percent in the German army of World War II). In the U.S. Army today, that ratio stands at more than 15 percent (19 percent by some calculations).
And all of the concomitant bureaucratization and inefficiency. Those are all legitimate concerns; however, this discussion is unfolding against the backdrop of a departure of many talented young officers, precipitated by the calamitous Iraq policy and the untenable strains it imposes upon the Army. In other words, the very real conflict between factions within the officer corps noted by Koehl -
In fact, it is not too much to say that there is a fight going on for the soul of the Army today, between the old guard of the Big Army, fighting budget battles to preserve expensive and only marginally useful programs such as the Future Combat System, who see the future of the Army revolving around major conventional wars; and the Small Army of bright young company, battalion, and even brigade commanders, who understand that most of our future wars will look a lot more like Iraq, and who are developing the skills, tactics and equipment to fight them.
Creates a 'strategic opportunity' to conduct a purge of the officer corps, sidelining, dead-ending, or forcing into early retirement not merely a bit of deadwood, but those among the officer corps who, like Tilghman and Nagl, have 'absorbed the lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan' but consider the animating strategy, along with the execution, to be irredeemably flawed. The goal is not merely a more efficient army directed by a more competent officer corps, but a more ideologically homogeneous and deferential - to the grand strategists of the foreign policy establishment and think tanks - officer corps. The army is to be the tool of the imperium, with dissent rigorously proscribed. The problematic nature of such a goal is obvious, though it is not without recent precedent.
Before You Wallow in the Schadenfreude....
You may split your sides, convulsing in derisive laughter at this example of unself-conscious feminist bathos.
Via Rod Dreher, one of whose commenters sums up quite nicely the atmosphere of the thing:
Tackiness aside, there is something sweet and sincere about it. It was probably put together by a nice middle-aged white lady after she finished putting up some felt banners at church.
Ah, yes, the unbearable tediousness of the obsessions of progressives of the Boomer generation....
My wife, Frankie's, stained glass work
You can find it here.
February 22, 2008
Reflections on Kosovo, in the Wake of Independence
The Albanian rump state in the Serbian secessionist province of Kosovo, in reality nothing more than a satrapy of the European Union, on Sunday declared unilateral independence via a declaration likely composed by apparatchiks at our own State Department. The news scarcely came as a surprise to me, inasmuch as Western policy has not only been fixed, but has tended to exhibit a peculiar inertia; even policies obviously deleterious to the medium and long-term interests of the West, policies worse even than crimes - mistakes, in the words of Srdja Trifkovic - will be persisted in, perhaps precisely because of their very perversity. Such is the cause of independence for the Albanians of Kosovo, a territory which is kept from the roster of failed states solely by the presence of NATO forces and American and EU diplomatic functionaries, who provide the modicum of stability that the Kosovo Liberation Army, a band of brigands and terrorists, could never provide. The sordid reality of Kosovo is that of a mafia state ridden through with jihadists, flesh merchants, gun smugglers, drug runners, and irredentists nostalgic for the halcyon days of the Ottoman Empire, when Albanian and Bosnian Muslims were the local jackboots trampling the necks of Balkan Christians - all right under the noses of NATO and the EU. In point of fact, given that the ostensible rationale for the illegal intervention in 1999 was the prevention of ethnic cleansing, and given that Western security forces simply looked the other way as their wards largely cleansed the province of its Serbian population, a longstanding ambition of the local Albanians, one might be forgiven for speculating that these seemingly negative aspects of the situation are features, and not bugs, for America and the EU.
However, let us take a few steps back from the exigencies of the situation, which, with the massive street demonstrations in Serbia against the declaration and the Western endorsement thereof, has now escalated to an attack on the American embassy in Belgrade.
February 24, 2008
Original Possession And Nationhood
If, in fact, cultural attachment serves as a justifiable defense of keeping Kosovo attached to Serbia, as Serbians attest, ought not we to contemplate that, prior to Serbian conquest of the land (which occurred rather later than the third century, as Uros asserts), present-day Kosovo, then Dardania, remained a stronghold of the Illryian peoples who, additional to provide some of the ancestry of our Southern Slavic friends, likely are the primary ancestors of the Albanians, including those of Kosovo, and, thus, that, particularly because the Albanian Kosovars make up a super-majority of the population of their new state, these modern-day Illyrians, Muslim or Catholic, deserve just as much as the Illyro-Slavic Serbs (who, of course, identify as Southern Slavs, rather than Illyro-Slavs as I have, perhaps unnecessarily, dubbed them) to control their ancient homeland?
February 25, 2008
John Zmirak on 'tenured fascists', a satire that works on multiple levels. Do yourself a favour, and go read it.
Two stories with happy endings
Via Wesley J. Smith (and our editor, Paul Cella, who sent me the link independently) here is a neat story from the UK about a woman brought back to independent breathing by her husband's telling-off. Dominic Sullivan yelled at his wife to "stop mucking about" and to "come back." Two hours later she was found to be breathing on her own, after two weeks apparently in a coma. Pro-life nurse Nancy Valko has pointed out what is discussed in this article--that the sense of hearing is the last to go and can be operative even in people who appear to be unconscious. Yvonne Sullivan says that even though she can't remember what her husband was saying as he bawled her out, she could indeed hear him and believes that this gave her the will to fight.
Something to remember if (God forbid) someone you love should ever be in the same situation.
February 26, 2008
Bill Clinton in Steubenville: A Correction
On February 17, 2008 I posted an entry titled, "Bill Clinton Lashes Out at Prolife Students." In addition to criticizing the former president, I chastised those who heckled the president, referring to them as "prolife students." I relied on a press release by the group, "Students for Life," which referred to the hecklers as "prolife students." But I have since been told by several prolife students from the Franciscan University (Steubenville) who were present at the event that none of the hecklers was a student. So, students from the university were indeed protesting, but they were doing so in a respectful way. Although I did not mention Franciscan University by name, I can see why the protesting students from that fine institution would not like it implied that they had engaged in behavior in which they in fact did not engage.
In private email correspondence, Caroline Nye, a member of the Franciscan University College Republicans, has permitted me to publish on this blog her note of correction that I received yesterday evening:
I would first like to say that I applaud your support of the pro-life movement. However, as a member of College Republicans and as a Franciscan University student who personally attended the peaceful protest against Bill Clinton in Steubenville, Ohio, I would like to comment about the statement you made regarding students heckling the former president. You are quoted as saying, "what the 'students' did was disrespectful, and as a pro-lifer I condemn such conduct" (Weblog: "What's Wrong with the World" and EWTN news article). I would like to clarify that it was not in fact a "student" that yelled out during Clinton's speech. The man was not a student at Franciscan University and he had no connection with our organization. Furthermore, the entire goal of our protest was to be peaceful. While waiting outside, we prayed rosaries as a group. We recognize that violence and angry out bursts do not accomplish our peaceful objectives. I felt that it was necessary to bring the true facts to your attention and respectfully request that you retract your statement regarding "students" heckling the former president.
Not ready for civilization--the next chapter
I've been meaning to put this up since the earlier version appeared on Dhimmi Watch: In England, female Muslim medical students are now objecting to the requirement that they scrub their arms up to the elbow. This would require them to "expose" their arms to the elbow in public. To get them clean.
The authorities have already provided them with special changing areas, but that isn't enough. They want a note saying they don't have to scrub. Some say they'd rather quit the medical course than give up on this matter of high principle--unscrubbed forearms for medical work. As one commentator on Dhimmi Watch said, it sounds like a plan. Letting them quit the course, that is. Better than returning to pre-Lister and Pasteur.
What's the betting the powers that be give in on this one and allow them just to cover up their unscrubbed forearms with long gloves instead, as was suggested here? By the Islamic Medical Association. Natch.
Now can we think again about Muslim immigration?
HT Dhimmi Watch
February 27, 2008
William F. Buckley, founder of National Review, man of letters, and an outsized influence upon Postwar conservatism in America, has died:
I’m devastated to report that our dear friend, mentor, leader, and founder William F. Buckley Jr., died this morning in his study in Stamford, Connecticut.
He died while at work; if he had been given a choice on how to depart this world, I suspect that would have been exactly it. At home, still devoted to the war of ideas.
As you might expect, we’ll have much more to say here and in NR in the coming days and weeks and months. For now: Thank you, Bill. God bless you, now with your dear Pat. Our deepest condolences to Christopher and the rest of the Buckley family. And our fervent prayer that we continue to do WFB’s life’s work justice.
Update: Ben Domenech notes WFB's passing, and appends a selection of choice Buckley bons mots. My favourite of the selections:
I propose, simply, to expose what I regard as an extraordinarily irresponsible educational attitude that, under the protective label 'academic freedom,' has produced one of the most extraordinary incongruities of our time: the institution that derives its moral and financial support from Christian individualists and then addresses itself to the task of persuading the sons of these supporters to be atheistic socialists.
That, because my first faculty adviser, though not an atheist, was a deconstructionist and socialist.
Buckley Vs. Gore Vidal
The famous exchange, in which Vidal clearly went trolling for what Buckley threatened, in my opinion. It is also worth noting that even the deterioration of the exchange exhibits a higher degree of cultivation than virtually anything one finds on our contemporary 'talking heads' programs, with the exception of the BBC's Hard Talk.
Remembering the Real Bill Buckley
I hope that I may be forgiven yet another post concerning William F. Buckley, but I cannot offer effective resistance to the temptation. Many eloquent and affecting remembrances have been published today, and as I have not had the experience of employment in the offices of some conservative publication or other, I am irresistibly drawn to the testimonials of those who have had that experience.
My acquaintance with Buckley's writing, and National review, dates to the Autumn of 1991, a time when, perhaps, NR was no longer what it once was, though even then echoes of that storied past could still be heard. My father, an old-school conservative, noticing my developing interest in politics proper, and thinking it better that I read the political reporting in a conservative publication instead of Newsweek, took me to a newsstand and purchased me a copy of NR. My father had been a subscriber to NR through the Sixties, drifting away only when work and family responsibilities deprived him of the luxury of reading such things. Like Justin Raimondo, I often delved into an issue with a dictionary near to hand. National Review was still a philosophically diverse publication in those days, and this enabled me to discover the wealth of traditionalist, paleoconservative, and yes, even libertarian writings which held their positions in the conservative firmament.
Even though the relationship of my conservatism to Buckley's enterprise may therefore be tenuous, a matter of a father's small intellectual gift to a son, it nonetheless feels as though a chapter, perhaps a volume, of conservative history has ended. That Buckley passed at a time of general conservative disorientation seems symbolic.
I have another reason for adding to the burden of Buckley posts on this day, and that is something that relates to that deconstructionist, socialist faculty adviser mentioned earlier: at a time in my life when, finally liberated from my teenage cross of being bookish and intellectual at a time of life when this was a serious social liability, I was in peril of becoming a supercilious elitist, contemptuous of those uninterested in the life of the mind, my adviser set me straight. Details are inconsequential, of course, but the point is that my adviser, also a Christian, wished to inculcate the imperatives of charity, generosity, and humility. And, reading the recollections of Rod Dreher, John Miller, Dean Abbott, and Joe Sobran, I see, not, of course, that I should compare myself to Buckley (lest anyone think such a thing), but the exemplification of what my adviser wished to teach me. As Sobran wrote, upon learning of Buckley's emphysema, "I learned a lot of things from Bill Buckley, but the best thing he taught me was how to be a Christian."
I hope, that when accounts are published of Buckley's life and work, accounts which endeavour to situate him within both Postwar conservatism and the internecine struggles which have left conservatism debilitated, the role of simple friendship and charity in his decisions will be duly noted. Taki's remembrance is apposite in this regard; while Buckley's judgment, like that of every man, cannot be considered irreproachable, we should note that he was often loyal, sometimes to a fault (and his friendship with Taki does not count as a fault). This, I'd venture, is the real reason behind some of the judgments we might question. If one is going to err, doing so on the side of friendship is not a bad way to go about it. It is probably the best way, and one fundamentally conservative.
February 28, 2008
Barack Obama and the Culture of Death - Rick Santorum's Take
This appeared in this morning's Philadelphia Inquirer. Pennsylvania U. S. Senator Rick Santorum asks the question and then answers it: "Who would oppose a bill that said you couldn't kill a baby who was born? Not Kennedy, Boxer or Hillary Rodham Clinton. Not even the hard-core National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL). Obama, however, is another story. The year after the Born Alive Infants Protection Act became federal law in 2002, identical language was considered in a committee of the Illinois Senate. It was defeated with the committee's chairman, Obama, leading the opposition." Here former Senator Santorum's essay in its entirety:
February 29, 2008
The Onion--Waiting period for purchasing suicide vests?
For comic relief, I offer this video:
A Tribute to William F. Buckley
This picture was taken in April 1996 at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where I was a full-time faculty member from 1989 to 1996. The woman in the middle is my wife, Frankie. Right before the photo was taken, I was standing next to Bill Buckley and my wife was to his left. He then gently grasped her shoulders from behind, escorted her between us, turned to me and said, "A rose between two thorns."
Mr. Buckley was at UNLV for a debate with John Kenneth Galbraith, the economist with which he debated numerous times. Frankie and I snuck into the room where Mr. Buckley was convalescing before the debate. We were amazed to find him all by himself. We introduced ourselves to him. He immediately began asking me questions about my academic work. I told him that I had published a book (Politically Correct Death) that had been one of the two featured volumes by the Conservative Book Club during a month in 1994. I proudly told him that the other book was his, Happy Days Were Here Again: Reflections of a Libertarian Journalist. He then said, in his distinct style, "That's similar to when my son Chris and I both had books on the New York Times bestsellers list at the same time." I thought to myself, "No, it isn't." He, of course, was just trying to be kind. And I very much appreciated that. He then turned his attention to my wife and asked her a variety of questions about living in Las Vegas with a philosopher. He was so charming and gracious, and seemed sincerely interested in us and what our lives were like.
A university official arrived to take Mr. Buckley to the theatre at which the debate was to take place. So, I didn't get a chance to tell him that his work--especially the book Up From Liberalism--strongly influenced my developing political views while I was in college and graduate school. While reading the book as an undergraduate I found myself agreeing with its arguments before I knew that the author was a "conservative." In fact, when I told one of my professors that I was reading Up From Liberalism and thought it was a terrific read whose author presented compelling arguments for his political views, my professor said, "But Buckley is a conservative. You can't possible agree with him." I then said, "I guess I am a conservative."
Thank you, Bill Buckley. Well done, good and faithful servant.