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Well, along those lines, check out Reactionary Radicals for the next phase of free-market bashing, wild-eyed populist anarchy. It’s like the NRO crunch blog on acid in a Ferrari going 125mph down the highway with no rails. These are vampire moonbats, my friend; next to these guys, Crunchy Conservatives resemble George Bush and John McCain. ~Pauli, The Contra-Crunchy Conservative
That’s an awfully mean thing to say about the crunchy cons (who wants to be compared to John McCain?), but the Radicals will be thrilled to hear it. I cannot imagine better praise and vindication for what the gentlemen at Reactionary Radicals are promoting than the horror it instills in the dedicated contra-crunchies.
Certainly, somewhere beneath her steady pose, Rice must know all this. After all, she has a doctorate in international relations, a field where such observations are carved into basic principles. And her essays, at least those written before she joined George W. Bush’s administration, reflect those principles. ~Fred Kaplan, Slate
Not necessarily to knock folks in IR or academics in general, but I promise you that people who spend as much time in school as it takes to get a doctorate in anything are far more out of touch with the real nature of conflict (except petty intra-departmental squabbling) than the average guy on the street. That said, Rice is hardly the poster lady for competent international relations scholars these days. But it does not take a doctorate in international relations to be aware that sometimes, as the man says, “these guys really don’t like each other.” Pondering on the distant seventh-century sources of the resentment does not necessarily make your awareness of this any more keen. What it does take is a less Pollyanna-ish view of human nature and a lot less of our own official nonsense that tells us that people of radically different backgrounds would all get along just fine if they got to know one another better and lived in “freedom and democracy.” If we want to stop the “jibber-jabber” on Iraq, we should surely start by stopping the “jibber-jabber” about democracy and the health of multiethnic societies.
As the late Sir Steven Runciman (who, I have on good authority, was received into the Orthodox Church before his death) observed about the Latins and the Byzantines, the Fourth Crusade was the climax of a period in which these two peoples got to know each other more and more and found out that they could not stand each other. To credit extensive background in IR with a serious grasp of reality is to take the first step down the primrose path to destruction.
Does McCain really think that the disputes between Iraq’s Shiites and Sunnis—a complex of historical, social, tribal, cultural, religious, and economic fissures—amount to nothing deeper than “bullshit” that can be swept away by a session of sit-down and straight-talking? ~Fred Kaplan, Slate
Well, yes, actually, I think that a good politico trained up in the school of Washington typically regards complexity of all kinds as a kind of smokescreen that he, the supposed rational lawmaker, is here to dispel. The atmosphere is not helped when Dobleve assures everyone that everyone in the world yearns for freedom and democracy makes everyone peaceful. Well, if it’s that simple, what else could be behind fractious in-fighting except a lot of ego and BS? (There is also the possibility too painful for the McCain-loving media to allow, which is that the man may not be so very terribly quick-witted and regards complex divisions in a society as “bullshit” becasuse he cannot be bothered to understand them.) But at bottom those who prattle on about the “Rights of Man” have no patience for sectarians squabbling over their share of the political pie. What is there to squabble about, after all? The universal principles of democratism are there for the taking and, as Prof. Ryn would say of the neo-Jacobins, “it’s all so clear.” Approaching complex cultural and historical divisions with the mind of a terrible simplifier, these divisions will appear to be the fruit of just so much arbitrariness and nonsense, because the simplifier has already deemed anything that does not square with his preconceived notion of what politics ought to be to be irrational and ridiculous. If people in the real world object to this overly simplistic view, that is their problem, not his.
That’s a quote from Glaivester in a post entitled, “Lesbianism Sure Is Complicated.” I am here to register a complaint with this use of the word Byzantine here, and not for the obvious reason. I know that people routinely use the word byzantine to mean excessively complex, labyrinthine or generally confusing, but besides being an annoying holdover of anti-Byzantine prejudice this impression of intricate complexity has far less to do with the Byzantines than many might suspect. The Byzantines did have a bureaucracy with a number of different officials, each with his own functions, and I assume that it is from the alleged complexity of the bureaucracy (which is, of course, a function of bureaucracy itself, and not of any particular people) that has lent the Byzantines this bad name. But there is simply nothing about being specifically Byzantine that is inherently more complicated, much less excessively so, to justify the meaning of this word. So, there’s that abuse of language taken care of. Now we just need to reacquaint everyone with the proper meaning of iconoclast, and we’ll be on our way.
Last week I watched the DVD of The White Countess, one of those classy Merchant Ivory productions that critics adore and virtually no one goes to see. This is not because these are usually bad movies, but because most people wouldn’t know compelling filmmaking if they ran over it with their car (they would likely keep driving and never look back). It is the product of bringing together screenwriter Kazuo Ishugiro with director James Ivory of Remains of the Day fame once again. Ismail Merchant, the producer side of the Merchant Ivory label, died in the same year the film was released.
Starring Ralph Fiennes as a blind American retired diplomat Todd Jackson, now lending his name to give credibility to a business venture in Shanghai (gotta love that Open Door!), and Natasha Richardson as the eponymous White countess Sofia Belinsky, who is living in exile with her family, the film can best be described as a sort of Casablanca in reverse or, better yet, Casablanca inverted. (I should give credit to Leon Hadar’s post on The Lost City, which reminded me of the Casablanca comparison I wanted to make with Countess.)
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Patristic scholars, rejoice again! Crisis of the Oikoumene, a multi-contributor volume on the mid-sixth century Three Chapters controversy fought initially over the doctrine of Theodore of Mopsuestia and the anti-Cyrilline writings of Theodoret of Cyr and Ibas of Edessa, is being released this month.
As the controversy expanded, and the churches of the Latin west responded negatively to Justinian’s anti-Nestorian program because of its attack on an exegete (Theodore) whom the Latin churches honoured and because its Christology that seemed to (but, in my estimation, did not in the least) undermine the claims of the Tome of Leo accepted at the Council of Chalcedon and so attack the authority of the Pope. The controversy was technically resolved in 553 at the Fifth Ecumenical Council, but this council did not win Roman acceptance until the late sixth century and continued to be a point of contention in the Aquileian church until the late seventh. The Three Chapters controversy is not only relatively little studied, but when it has been studied it has usually been misunderstood in important ways.
Mischa Meier, author of the relatively new Das andere Zeitalter Justinians, has made convincing claims that debunk the traditional view of the Three Chapters controversy as an elaborate ruse to lure dissident monophysites back into the Church. This is all the more compelling when one realises that the sources for this tradition are both hostile, North African Latin bishops who assumed the worst about Justinian’s motives and falsely imputed Origenism to the emperor’s advisor, Theodore Askidas, to explain why Askidas has pushed for the condemnation of the Three Chapters.
Patristics scholars, rejoice! I certainly did when I saw the translated works of Theodore Abu Qurrah available in a handsome new volume (BYU Press, 2005). As some may know, Theodore Abu Qurrah was the Orthodox (Chalcedonian) bishop of Harran in what is now Iraq in the early ninth century and is perhaps best known in the West as one of the theological defenders of icons and icon veneration. His treatise in defense of icons had already been translated, but now for the first time Theodore’s other Arabic theological works are available in English. An important theological witness to Orthodoxy and one of the first Christians to write in Arabic, Theodore is a worthy subject of study for all those interested in the history of Christianity and Orthodox theology. For our Catholic friends, there are also some intriguing passages referring to the authority of St. Peter that represent an unusual Eastern affirmation of the role of the bishop of Rome (bearing in mind that for most of the time Theodore lived there were no Orthodox patriarchates not under Islamic rule).
Understand, this book is not for everybody. Kauffman is no party man, God bless him. He is an ardent eclecticist with a soft spot for just about anybody with the moxie to buck the system. It takes a certain kind of conservative to appreciate Kauffman’s gonzo vision; I happen to be that kind of right-winger and found Look Homeward, America tonic for a soul weary of the philistine populism and straitjacketed know-nothingness that dominates mainstream conservatism today. If you are the kind of conservative who despairs over the chain-store, geography-of-nowhere, slob-in-the-grey-velour-sweatsuit consumerist crapulence that is devouring the American cultural landscape like kudzu—well, Bill Kauffman is your man. ~Rod Dreher, The American Conservative
Via Dan McCarthy at Reactionary Radicals
Rod gives a very positive review to Bill Kauffman’s new book (speaking of which, have you visited Reactionary Radicals lately?) and embraces the “hokum,” to use a word Mr. Kauffman seems to like very much, by recognising that the “hokum” is the stuff of everyday life and the normal, sane, humane and local worlds that are routinely sacrificed to the cause of Empire and its hangers-on. I have held back from offering my comments on the book as a whole until the Radicals had gotten going, and I think I should be able to put up something by way of my own review in a a week or two. As a preview of that, I should ask, in response to Rod’s remark about Carolyn Chute, what is there not to love about the “militia of love”?
In addition, Amy Welborn has a short story, Shooting, at The New Pantagruel.
Also now available at The New Pantagruel is Jess Castle’s review of Philip Rieff’s Sacred Order/Social Order, Vol. 1: My Life among the Deathworks: Illustrations of the Aesthetics of Authority. Here is an excerpt:
For Rieff, the unprecedented aspect of this third culture is that it makes no effort to translate sacred order into social order, which is for him the true task of culture. Rather, it is devoted to the destruction of previous cultures’ sense of sacred order, especially the sacred order of second culture, inseparable as it is from divine commandment. As he puts it, “I intend to describe that unprecedented condition of fighting against the cultural predicate that organized all human societies until almost our own time. That predicate I call sacred order.”
Sacred order, hierarchy, seems to be an inescapable structure of life, but it is one, like so many other permanent structures of our condition that we are intent on resisting in the present age. The political and social consequences of this anti-hierarchical fight are plain for all to see, and the struggle against the structures of politics, economics and religion detailed in Icarus Fallen finds its common ground in opposition to various kinds of hierarchy. Indeed, we have reached a point in our history where sacrality and rule–which were once assumed to be intimately related–are assumed to be opposed, and dissent against arche and rebellion against order are taken as new kinds of sanctity. But if done without any qualification as a general protest against the hierarchical order of things, dissent and rebellion do not undermine lawless men of power though they do negate the sacred boundaries that impose constraints even on lawless tyrants.
But the almost exclusive focus on what Ahmadinejad does has been misplaced, because all the evidence indicates that it is Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, not Ahmadinejad, who is directing Iranian foreign policy.
Despite Ahmadinejad’s clever exploitation of the nuclear issue to strengthen his domestic political position, he is a second-stringer on the issue. As David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington, the most experienced non-governmental expert on Iran’s nuclear program, told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty immediately after his election, Ahmadinejad “doesn’t have much to do with the nuclear issue.” Albright observed that the policy on Iran’s nuclear program is run by the Supreme National Security Council “directly under the supreme leader.” ~Gareth Porter, Antiwar.com
As with so many other things related to Iran, the hysteria over Ahmadinejad has been focusing on the sensational rhetoric of the elected front man while entirely ignoring the supreme authority in the country. There is a convenient assumption that “the mullahs” and “the ayatollahs” must share not only Ahmadinejad’s convictions but also his combative temperament. This is, I’m afraid, to conflate the the sensibilities and attitudes of a Richelieu and a Thomas Muentzer. Conservative clerical authorities and common demagogues might make tactical alliances when it suits them, and they might both be committed to some of the same general goals, but they are fundamentally different types of people with entirely different priorities.
What obtuse pundits typically miss is that Ahmadinejad was originally the anti-regime candidate, the representative of poor Iranians fed up with the mismanagement, corruption and anemic economy of the current authorities. Rafsanjani was the Ayatollah’s preferred candidate. Khamenei could very well see Ahmadinejad as a political threat to be handled and contained, and has allowed this bellicose rhetoric because it serves to deflect attention away from the economic “reformist” reasons why Ahmadinejad was elected in the first place. Ahmadinejad is useful for making all the right nationalist noises, but real policy will be decided by those with a much more long-term stake in the Iranian regime’s survival.
It’s been more than three weeks since a Darfur peace accord was signed, bringing hope for an end to the genocide in Sudan’s western territory. Since then the news has been terrible. The two rebel factions that refused to sign the peace deal have continued to snub it. Violence between rebel factions has generated blood-curdling attacks on civilians. Human Rights Watch has reported fresh evidence of atrocities committed by government-backed Janjaweed death squads across the border in Chad. The cash-strapped U.N. World Food Program has been forced to reduce the already meager rations it distributes to 6 million Sudanese, including 3 million in Darfur. And Sudan’s government has waffled on the crucial question of whether it will allow in an expanded peacekeeping force, without which violence, hunger and mass death are likely to continue. ~The Washington Post
One wonders whether the rebel groups committing atrocities against the other’s civilians are committing genocide. I don’t want to be flippant about something so grim and serious, but ultimately what distinguishes the massacres and brutality of the rebels from the massacres and brutality of the Janjaweed? These things are all atrocities and war crimes, but are they “acts of genocide”? Clearly they are not. If they were, and if every side is committing genocide under the exceedingly loose definition of the genocide convention, what can the term possibly mean anymore except to say that everyone is fighting and killing?
I don’t want to beat this into the ground, but it is a little perplexing to me what makes the conflict in Darfur a genocide when the seven-nation Congo War in central Africa from 1998-2003 (with some lingering conflicts still flaring up from time to time) that caused the deaths of somewhere between 3 and 4 million people from violence, disease and famine barely registered on anyone’s radar. If you didn’t read The Economist or newspapers from Africa itself, you would have almost never heard of it. That seems to tell us something else about what makes something a genocide in the Western mind: if we have seen it in the media, and it has been sensationalised, it may be a genocide. If it is not on TV, it probably isn’t.
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Last year, in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the United Nations reiterated its founding promise–Never Again. Unfortunately, it has been an empty promise. Countless genocides have occurred on the UN watch. After much hand-wringing over its failure to stop the Rwandan genocide in 1994, the UN repeated the promise. Yet twelve years later, the world finds itself in a now familiar situation–staring genocide in the face as the UN sits paralyzed by its less humanitarian members. ~Jason Barnes, Brainwash
The thrust of Mr. Barnes’ article is predictable enough: the liberals want to save Darfur, but are too inured to U.N. processes and must now recognise that they have to go outside the U.N. This is supposed to be a great conflict for good Bush-hating liberals, as it forces them to acknowledge their “slide” towards neoconservatism, but there is no slide going on. They’ve been living in the swamps of humanitarian interventionism for a long time already. This is nothing new for liberals–they had no worries about ignoring the U.N. process when their man was intent on bombing Yugoslavia (again to stop an even more fictitious “genocide” in Kosovo), and if they had one of their own in power they would be only too happy to cheer on bombs and mayhem for humanity.
For many years, American scholars believed the Orthodox were, like leprechauns, unicorns, and Eskimos, purely the product of the fanciful imaginations of medieval writers. Recent evidence leads us to tentatively conclude, however, that Eastern Orthodoxy may have somewhere in the neighborhood of 250 million adherents. Protestants tend to see the Orthodox as “Catholics with beards,” while Catholics confess to a haunting sense that they are simply “Orthodox without beards.” ~Holy Office
Also at this blog, whose style could best be described as theological comedy, is the Internet Theologian’s view of The Da Vinci Code.
Clark Stooksbury marks Chesterton’s birthday today and remembers Russell Kirk’s words of admiration for Eugene McCarthy. Bill Kauffman reflects on the perversion of meaningful holidays into Three Day Weekends and considers the problem of exporting regional cuisine. (On a related note, see Clark Stooksbury’s post at his own blog on Memorial Day here.) Dan McCarthy posts on Dorothy Day and links to Dwight Macdonald’s essay about her and the Catholic Workers.
I sat within a valley green
Sat there with my true love
And my fond heart strove to choose between
The old love and the new love
The old for her, the new that made
Me think on Ireland dearly
While soft the wind blew down the glade
And shook the golden barley
Twas hard the mournful words to frame
To break the ties that bound us
Ah, but harder still to bear the shame
Of foreign chains around us
And so I said, “The mountain glen
I’ll seek at morning early
And join the brave united men”
While soft wind shook the barley
Twas sad I kissed away her tears
Her arms around me clinging
When to my ears that fateful shot
Come out the wildwood ringing
The bullet pierced my true love’s breast
In life’s young spring so early
And there upon my breast she died
While soft wind shook the barley
I bore her to some mountain stream
And many’s the summer blossom
I placed with branches soft and green
About her gore-stained bosom
I wept and kissed her clay-cold corpse
Then rushed o’er vale and valley
My vengeance on the foe to wreak
While soft wind shook the barley
Twas blood for blood without remorse
I took at Oulart Hollow
I placed my true love’s clay-cold corpse
Where mine full soon may follow
Around her grave I wondered drear
Noon, night and morning early
With aching heart when e’er I hear
The wind that shakes the barley
This old Fenian song, which has one of the most moving melodies of any Irish song, came back to me (it is one of the songs I learned as a teenager) when I saw that a movie by the same name had won the Palme d’Or at Cannes.
Although sanctions would not be directed “at the country or people of Iran,” the measures “can be expected to bear second-order consequences for the people of Iran,” according to a footnote on a Treasury Department task force memo sent to Rice last month. ~The Washington Post
Iraq sanctions supposedly weren’t directed at the people of Iraq, either, but enough of them died thanks to “second-order consequences” of poverty, malnutrition and disease.
At the heart of the issue lies the Iranian regime’s aspiration to become a hegemonic Islamic and regional power and thereby position itself at eye level with the world’s most powerful nations. It is precisely this ambition that sets Iran apart from North Korea: Whereas North Korea seeks nuclear weapons capability to entrench its own isolation, Iran is aiming for regional dominance and more. ~Joschka Fischer, The Washington Post
Let’s assume for the moment that Mr. Fischer is right that Iran aims for regional dominance. Will acquiring nuclear weapons give it regional dominance? I suppose it depends on the region we are talking about. In what is properly called the Middle East, Iran faces Pakistan, which has a greater population, larger army and much more established and developed nuclear arsenal than Iran. Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons will not make it the dominant power to its east. Meanwhile, to its north Iran faces Russia and what are increasingly her satellites (try as Washington may to make them into our satellites), backed up by one of the two greatest nuclear arsenals on earth. Dominance to the north is not really a danger. The idea of a threat to Europe from Iran is the product of some European paranoia.
To the west and south, Iran might seem to have more options, except that the one country whose domination Western nations actively worry about, namely Israel, has more than enough in its own arsenal to match and deter any Iranian threat. The current Shi’ite-dominated Iraqi government, such as it is, has welcomed Iran’s development of its nuclear program–if Iran is set for regional domination, the Iraqis seem much more sanguine about it than we do, yet they ought to be the ones who are most concerned about being dominated. If the Turkish government has made a great deal of noise about Iran’s nuclear program, I must have missed it.
So what are Western governments really concerned about? There is the fear that Iranian nukes would allow it to dictate terms to Saudi Arabia and thus achieve some greater control over oil exports, which brings up two questions: is American hegemony in Arabia as important for U.S. security as current policy makes it out to be, and are “we” willing to see the Saudis develop their own bomb in response? But it is nonsense to speak of Iranian “hegemonic aspirations” in a vacuum, as if no other state has hegemonic aspirations of its own. The question is not, as Mr. Fischer put it, whether the U.S. or Iran will dominate the Middle East, but whether the U.S. will insist that Iran cannot be on par with several other Middle Eastern powers as part of the maintenance of its own domination. The real question Americans should be asking is whether maintaining our hegemony throughout the Near and Middle East is worth the wars we are being compelled to fight to enforce it. It seems clear to me that the answer is no.
Cathedrals narrate the centuries that build them. Medieval structures reflect a unified and cohesive worldview marked by symmetry. God is One, a Unity discerned in the unifying, unchanging principles of mathematics. Seeing God manifest in the underlying coherence of sacred geometry, masons felt privy to the secret knowledge of the divine architect of the universe. ~John Desjarlais, “Deconstructing the Cathedral,” The New Pantagruel
A profounder liberal criticism is made by those who say that the health of the western empire is shown by the extent of dissent against [the Vietnam] war. They maintain that only the traditions of the West make such dissent possible and that the possibility shows us the essential goodness of liberal society. This argument turns on a judgement of fact–an extremely difficult one. Does this dissent in the West present a real alternative of action, or is it simply froth on the surface which is necessary to the system itself as a safety valve? I am not sure. I lean to the position that dissent on major questions of policy is impotent and that the western system has in truth achieved what Michels called “the bureaucratising of dissent.” ~George Grant, “Canadian Fate and Imperialism,” Technology and Empire
When I read this the other evening, blogging immediately came to mind. (Grant would likely have viewed the entire phenomenon of the mass Internet with some dread, seeing in it further encroachments of the “religion of progress” on normal, sane life. Blogging would be an ultimate expression of that encroachment in some sense.) But on the more specific point of dissent, Grant would likely see political blogging as precisely this sort of release of built-up pressure into harmless diversionary channels, irrelevant samizdat for the allegedly “open society” in which the range of debate extends between two (or possibly three in a really exciting society) alternative methods for achieving the same bland, inhuman goals of the managerial social democratic and state capitalist structures. Unlike printing samizdat, blogs do not operate as a genuinely alternative source of news and information in direct opposition to official news outlets, but rely heavily on “the MSM” that we bloggers all love to hate and end up generally replicating the patterns of that media and feeding off its information for our own. It is only to the extent that blogging provides a venue for genuinely alternative or opposition voices that it can be a forum for generating moderately effective resistance to any given policy.
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There’s no guarantee that a policy of engagement will work. The Iranian regime’s desire to acquire nuclear weapons may be so unyielding that Tehran and Washington will remain on a collision course. But America and its allies will be in a stronger position for responding to Iranian calls for dialogue. Openness isn’t a concession by America, it’s a strategic weapon. ~David Ignatius, The Washington Post
Mr. Ignatius happens to be right on the immediate question of whether to enter into direct talks with Iran. He offers much the same common sense observations that I was making in the last post: isolation and sanctions reinforce the power of the targeted government. After that, it gets rather dicey. There is something far more troubling about Mr. Ignatius’ assumptions about the limits of this proposed “connectivity.” Besides the usual Popperian nonsense about open vs. closed societies that is now even infecting our top military officers, the problem here is the assumption that negotiations are a means to the same end as sanctions or war, namely forcing Iran to abandon its nuclear program and any plans for nuclear weapons. Put this way, negotiations are bound to fail, as no Iranian government of any composition is going to yield on this point of sovereignty and prestige. Only if negotiations can be said to “work” as well as these other options in forcing Iranian concessions does Mr. Ignatius credit diplomacy with much importance. The same limited goal of forcing Iran to give up this program dominates Mr. Ignatius’ thinking as much as it dominates Mr. Krauthammer’s–the permissible range of policy options stretches from whether the carrot or the stick will best achieve hegemony. A viable solution–rapprochement and normalisation of relations–remains untouchable because it concedes to Iran that it is actually a sovereign state with certain rights that cannot be rightfully taken away or violated, and that this means something for how Washington can treat Iran.
The Iranian government remains “unyielding” on this point partly because they continue to operate under the mistaken hope that international law will protect it against arbitrary action by a superpower (the product of faith in the reasonableness of a mythical “international community”?) and partly because they are becoming increasingly aware that international law will not prevent an American attack if Washington is committed to doing it. There is the danger of an impasse and a conflict because Washington insists that Iran do something it cannot reasonably do. In this situation, negotiations will simply be a new Rambouillet, a new pretext for a war the administration was already resigned to having because of the maximalist demands of current Iran policy.
Which is why the mullahs launched this recent initiative. They know, and fear, that if the West persists on its present and agreed course, they face sanctions so serious that their rule, already unpopular, might be in jeopardy. The very fact that Iran is desperately trying to change the subject, change the venue and shift the burden onto the United States shows how close the mullahs believe we are to achieving major international pressure on them. ~Charles Krauthammer, The Washington Post
Now that there may be the slightest possibility of finding a way out of what was beginning to look like another inexorable countdown to conflict with still another country that does not threaten the United States, all the predictable warning bells are being sounded. When the substance of Mr. Krauthammer’s preferred policy of confrontation meets resistance, he complains about the procedural maneuvers of opponents, as if the administration’s drive to invade Iraq did not make cynical use of multilateral and unilateral strategies as and when it became useful for achieving the goal of war with Iraq and regime change. When it has come to North Korea, the administration and its supporters have preferred multilateralism to avoid singular responsibility for failing to prevent North Korean proliferation, recognising at once that it could not be stopped once direct negotiations had been ruled out entirely. Once again multilateralism vis-a-vis Iran provides the cloak of international credibility and diffused responsibility that they once doffed with such disgust where Iraq was concerned.
Now that direct negotiations might defuse the so-called crisis, the eager voice of interventionists cries, “No!” What does he propose instead? A push for sanctions that will supposedly put such pressure on the government in Tehran such that the regime will run the risk of falling to popular indignation. In theory, the danger of losing power would compel the regime to capitulate on the question of nuclear proliferation, whereupon the sanctions would presumably end (or not, if regime change remains the ultimate goal of this administration, which it is). Where, pray, has the sanctions strategy ever succeeded in destabilising a government’s rule?
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In other words, Americans are looking for the equivalent of Kadima. Isn’t McCain the obvious Sharon? ~Andrew Sullivan
Sen. McCain might kindly thank Mr. Sullivan to not compare him to Ariel Sharon, unless the senator wants to play up his own belligerent and wild-eyed interventionist streak. I know that the new conventional wisdom in some circles is that Ariel Sharon played the role of far-seeing statesman in his final years and his abandonment of Likud should win him some credit (I suppose it might win him a little), but the comparison is still very odd.
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Doctrinally speaking, Ramesh is not an orthodox Catholic. He says he doesn’t understand the proscription of homosexual conduct in Scripture, for instance, telling me that he needs to read more carefully on that subject. Homosexuality is not the only issue on which he parts ways with social conservatives. Ramesh endorses ending the federal war on drugs. He believes in the legalization of marijuana. He sees no vice in casinos. He does not support the Federal Marriage Amendment. ~Jason Mattera, Doublethink
Via Andrew Sullivan
Those with too much time on their hands will have seen, if only in passing, the long-running blog war between Andrew Sullivan and Ramesh Ponnuru. In itself, the fight isn’t very interesting, except for what it tells us about Sullivan and his wild-eyed hunt for so-called Christianism’s conspiracy against all right-thinking Christians (i.e., people like Andrew Sullivan). Because of Ponnuru’s new book, The Party of Death, Sullivan declared the man on several occasions in league with the hated Christianists and at least once referred to his “religious fundamentalism.” As Mr. Mattera’s article shows, religious fundamentalism generally would have to have become a lot more flexible on a number of things for Ponnuru to qualify. Suffice it to say that if Ponnuru is member of the legions of “Christianism” and “religious fundamentalism,” a whopping great majority of people would be with him. So much (yet again) for Sullivan’s ridiculous pose as the tribune of true American Christianity.
On the lower right hand side of the page, you will find a selection of twenty-five posts under the heading Solon’s Favourites, since Solon is an important authority on what eunomia is and I would like to think these posts represent the best of my conservative sensibility and politics. I have selected the posts from the 1,000+ that I have somehow managed to assemble in the last 18 months. Actually, nothing from May of this year was included, as I don’t want to assume that my latest posts are among the best until there has been some time to see how well they hold up. As you would expect at a reactionary blog, I think it is new things that must earn their places.
Some of the twenty-five are from the back-and-forth of blog polemics, some are reviews, and some are slightly more philosophical or historical pieces, but all of them represent some important part of what I believe and what I have tried to make Eunomia represent. I would also like to think that they represent the best 2% of everything I have produced here so far. The title of this post comes from the translation of Solon’s Eunomia poem, which was part of the first post on this blog, On Eunomia.
Rather, the Democrats’ discussion with evangelicals has to get beyond linguistic “reframing” to substantive areas where the Democrats and evangelicals can find common ground: poverty, the environment, Darfur. ~Ruth Marcus, The Washington Post
I can just see Democrats preaching the “prosperity gospel” along with Joel Osteen (”Discover the Champion in You” the Lakewood Church website proclaims in Gatorade ad-like fashion), can’t you? Really, a Pelosi-Osteen alliance would be genius. It’s a win-win situation for all involved: God wants you to be wealthy, so that you can pay more in taxes to help bomb Sudan! If Democrats felt left out by not having their own batch of pro-war evangelicals, they shouldn’t worry–Marcus advises the Democrats to get together with evangelicals on intervening in Sudan. Before everyone gets carried away with exciting new excuses to meddle in other people’s affairs, do the rest of us really want the alternative foreign policy driven by liberal humanitarianism mixed with a saccharine, Christian pornography of compassion?
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Over at RR, Mr. Kauffman takes up the laudable cause of bashing Dayling Savings Time and has this to say about Woodrow Wilson, the man who gave us the maddening changing of the clock:
God how I hate that bastard.
Amen to that. When I was in college, I would have to drive past the birthplace of Wilson every time I went to see my girlfriend at Mary Baldwin College. Staunton was hardly my favourite town to start with, but his birthplace made me regard it with a kind of contempt. Not really fair to Staunton, I suppose, since Wilson soon enough left the Old Dominion for points north, but it is because the man represented so much that was antithetical to the folk of the Valley that the commemoration of his birth there seems all the more awful, sacrilegous even.
When I was younger, I already took umbrage at the artificiality and, so it seemed to me, complete senselessness of DST. I did not as yet have more principled reasons to reject it, but reject it I did (sort of). Two years in a row, I refused to change my clocks and watch. Of course, the truly reactionary stand would have been to show up everywhere an hour early, and it was a fairly vain protest that I eventually abandoned, but following what one of our state legislators once called “God’s time” made a good deal of sense to me then. It still does, as I noted in this pro-crunchy post.
If following the new Reactionary Radicals blog wasn’t enough for you, be advised that Bill Kauffman has an excerpt from his new book up at The New Pantagruel, Return from Bohemia: Grant Wood and the Promise of American Regionalism.
Having conceded that, the fact remains that when it comes to exercising influence on the fundamental levers of American culture, conservatives remain in a pathetically weakened position. ~Stanley Kurtz, The Corner
I remarked on this at Rod Dreher’s blog in a response to an entry on a different topic that hit on the same theme of conservative political power and cultural weakness:
At The Corner, Stanley Kurtz was recently making a similar observation in the form of a lament that sounded increasingly like that of a Viennese liberal c. 1875. (Let’s hope that conservatives don’t become quite the strange, introverted types that 1890s liberals became!) The idea was that DVC was representative of the left’s cultural hegemony (which I suppose is a fair assessment) and that the only things conservatives had going for them was control of the government. Which is one way of saying that we don’t have much going for us at all. There is quite a lot to this, but I wonder if this doesn’t have its source in the generally overly optimistic appraisal of the state of the core of American culture that the conservatives of the ’50s and ’60s gave.
Derb - The ghost of Erik Von Kuehnelt-Leddihn moves me to find a different, more sad, meaning in the Montenegro vote. This signals the true and final demise of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. When my decks are cleared, one of these days, I’m going to take up the cause of marshalling a “two cheers for the Hapsburgs” argument for NR. Certainly one can make the case that the 20th century would have been lovelier with it than without it.
Update: A couple readers offer the narrowly factual objection that neither Serbia nor Montenegro were part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. To which I say: this is precisely the sort of nuanced point my future defense of the Austro-Hungarian Empire would take into account! I do know that the Hapsburgs wanted the S&Ms in their empire — and they would have been lucky to be in it! Anyway, I shall hit the books harder before venturing further down this path. ~Jonah “Lie For a Just Cause” Goldberg, The Corner
Taking the easy shot at Goldberg’s remarkable ignorance would be too simple. So instead I have two points. Assuming he was a ghost, Kuehnelt-Leddihn’s spirit would not be talking to Jonah Goldberg under any circumstances, unless it was to scare him out of the National Review offices. It is more likely he is residing in the reflected glory of the Beatific Vision, or so we can hope. Okay, here’s a third point: Kuehnelt-Leddihn would be horrified by the Montenegrin vote because of its democratic and nationalistic character. That is what a real K-L reader would take away from the story immediately. Identitarianism was bad enough for K-L, but identitarianism based on a fairly insubstantial national identity would have to be even worse! The fact that the independence movement is led by a crook and monumental swindler in Djukanovic doesn’t help at all. As a committed Kuehnelt-Leddihnist, I won’t stand for Jonah Goldberg lowering the name of the great man with such preposterous posts.
Update: I encourage all people of Serbia-Montenegro (it’s still one country at the moment), their kin in this country and everyone with any respect for this people to give Goldberg a lot of grief for dismissively referring to their folk as “S&Ms,” which can only have been intended as a tasteless joke. And there is nothing worse than facetious admiration of the Habsburgs. Why only two cheers?
Secondly, the last two decades have seen the unearthing of ancient evidence of real Christian debate and division in the early church. The discovery of the so-called Gnostic Gospels and the more recent discovery of the Gospel of Judas, has helped ordinary Christians see that the doctrinally correct history of the church as an unbroken arc of orthodoxy from St Peter to Benedict is historically false. ~Andrew Sullivan
Our familiarity with early disputes in the Church can be found in such strange and obscure sources as the Acts of the Apostles and the Epistles of St. Paul, in which there is a fair amount of recording disputation, confusion and disorder. These were not, however, Good Things, and the successful condemnation and refutation of the more ludicrous heterodoxies were vital to the defense and perpetuation of a secure and true account of the Gospel. This might throw a wrench in works of Andrew “But now we know the truth” Sullivan.
One of the useful things about deciding that your political opponents are all theocrats bent on tearing up the liberal order, root and branch, is that it frees you from the pesky business of actually rebutting any of their arguments. ~Ross Douthat
One question might be: why is this the case? Why does any of us assume that wanting to tear up “the liberal order, root and branch” should merit this sort of dismissal? Ponnuru’s book, to hear Mr. Douthat tell it, does not advocate any such thing. More’s the pity. It might actually be a really interesting if it did. I am not a root-and-branch man myself, since that approach is a peculiarity of the Whig and the modern gnostic, but it seems as if it would be a fitting reply to Cromwell.
What interests me is the picture of roiling dispute and dissent in the early church. Uniformity was not the norm. ~Andrew Sullivan
What puzzles me most about Mr. Sullivan’s neverending search to build the better Christianity are statements like this one, in which he seems to hint that we only recently became aware of the diverse interpretations of Christianity in the early Church. Then there is the sloppy language. Uniformity, or at least homonoia (oneness of mind), was the norm, which is to say it was one standard by which Christians of all kinds sought to organise themselves. Concord, unity and homonoia were always the sought-after goals in every church; every council record, every set of canons and every doctrinal formulation are proof that unity and good order were sometimes badly disrupted and in need of repair, but no Christians of any stripe regarded roiling dispute as a good sign or something that should be encouraged. Certainly they would not take past upheavals in the history of the Church as some kind of precedent for their own odd interpretations of the Faith.
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But mostly, we ought to reject this plodding, tedious bit of tepid religious conspiracy-mongering because, like the book is purported to be, it is heinously bad. Aside from Audrey Tautou and her cute accent, there is absolutely nothing to like about the movie. It plays like a theological CSI—complete with leaden, expository dialog, dumb puzzles, and even the same grainy flashbacks—except with none of that show’s glitzy, shallow thrills. The editing is clumsy, slowing both action and dialog down to a sleepy crawl. The acting is languid, lacking any urgency or passion. The cinematography is surprisingly poor; director Ron Howard clearly intended things to look moody, but many scenes appear merely dim. The story is convoluted and careless, never able to figure out whether it wants to be a history lesson, an action yarn, or a paranoid thriller. Far too much time is wasted on uninvolving puzzles that seem oddly disconnected from the main action.
Worst of all, it doesn’t know when to end. Akiva Goldsman’s script (it’s from the same megagenius who gave us Batman and Robin and Lost in Space—how’s that for a resume?) ties up the major threat and signals that all is resolved—and then continues to plod along for another tiring half an hour. Like Return of the King, it goes on to give us numerous false endings. Unlike Return of the King, it hasn’t earned any of them. At the theater I was in, more than a dozen people walked out early. ~Peter Suderman
“I’m definitely a Christian — I would label myself a Gnostic Christian,” said Cliff Jacobs, 52, deputy executive director at Queens Public Television, as he left a screening of “The Da Vinci Code” Thursday night. He was referring to early Christians known as Gnostics, many of whom rejected the divinity of Jesus, but who left behind gospels that resurfaced in the last 60 years.
“I don’t need someone to interpret God for me,” Mr. Jacobs said. “When I want to commune with others, I go to church.”
Maria Bolden, 42, a customer service representative for a cable company, said after seeing the movie, “If marriage is such a sacred sacrament, why is it such a problem for Jesus to have married?” ~Laurie Goodstein, The New York Times
I’m sure Ms. Bolden means well (most who entertain heresies mean well), but how poor must her understanding of Christianity be to ask this question? One point, and a rather crucial one at that, is that the Gospels tell us no such thing.
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Drake, who won with ease two years ago, is not alone. With approval ratings for Bush and congressional Republicans at a low ebb, GOP strategists see signs of weakness where they least expected it — including a conservative, military-dominated suburb such as Virginia Beach — and fear that their problems could grow worse unless the national mood brightens. ~The Washington Post
Virginia Beach and Norfolk are big Navy towns, so they would be among the least affected directly by casualties from Iraq and typically would have some of the strongest supporters for the President “in time of war” around. They would arguably be among the last to break with the President and his party at such a time. If the Republicans are beginning to sink in the Tidewater, where exactly are they holding their own?
Chris Wattie, the [National Post] reporter, sourced his story only to Jewish groups and “Iranian exiles”. He quoted Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles, saying the move was “reminiscent of the holocaust” and that Iran was “moving closer and closer to the ideology of the Nazis”.
The Post story was drawn from a column in the paper by Amir Taheri, editor of the state-owned Kayhan newspaper under the Shah of Iran before the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Mr Taheri claimed the law was “drafted two years ago” and had been revived “under pressure” from President Mahmoud Ahmadi-Nejad.
“The new codes would enable Muslims to easily recognise non-Muslims so that they can avoid shaking hands with them by mistake, and thus becoming najis (unclean),” Mr Taheri wrote. ~The Financial Times
Via Andrew Sullivan (who is shocked and stunned that an exile from a Middle Eastern country moving in neoconservative circles would ever make anything up about his home country in an effort to destabilise the regime)
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Take my love, take my land
Take me where I cannot stand
I don’t care, I’m still free
You can’t take the sky from me
Take me out to the black
Tell them I ain’t comin’ back
Burn the land and boil the sea
You can’t take the sky from me
There’s no place I can be
Since I found Serenity
But you can’t take the sky from me… ~Theme song for Firefly
Maybe some will say this is a stretch (after all, isn’t Firefly about a crew that is uprooted and quasi-nomadic?), and maybe it is, but it seemed likely to me that a show centered around a crew of “Independents” who fought against their own version of the forces of consolidation in their struggle against what is termed simply “Unification” should get honorary mention as sci-fi reactionary radicals. When Firefly came to the silver screen in Serenity, it had even more hostility to the bureaucratic, imperial state of “the Alliance,” which represents a nasty marriage between utopian ideology and brute force. I didn’t call it a show about neo-Confederates in space for nothing.
“I watched as America changed,” Franks said. “That’s not near done. We have to secure ourselves. We have to secure our Constitution.” ~AP
Via Antiwar Blog
Securing the Constitution would be a fine idea. Someone might suggest it to Mr. Bush as a wacky novel experiment (except, of course, that he is one of the people against whom we need to secure it). But it would sure beat securing the Green Zone.
We are in a moment when the conservative movement is humiliated by the achievements wrung from their electoral success. ~Michael Brendan Dougherty, Surfeited with Dainties
With this line, Michael sums up the situation as succinctly and memorably as anyone I have read on the subject of the state of conservatism today. Read the rest of the post, and go see Michael’s article on James Burnham at Brainwash.
Yesterday, in the midst of doing research on other things, I ran across the following sentence:
…in most constitutional states the citizens rule and are ruled by turns, for the idea of a constitutional state implies that the natures of the citizens are equal, and do not differ at all.
Now what modern, liberal, Jacobinical Jaffaite would say such a thing?
Oh—wait—Aristotle said that in Book One Chapter XII of the Politics.
Of course, this leaves open many questions (Who is a citizen?; How, exactly, are their natures equal?; etc.) but the fact that Aristotle discusses such things is largely neglected by many conservatives, classicists, and traditionalists who like to dismiss any talk of equality among human beings as a despicable product of the “Enlightenment” and/or the French revolution. The conservative movement is unfortunately infected with many of the same cartoonish philosophical and historical-progressive notions as the modern academy. ~Matthew Peterson
Wow. Just when I thought my opinion of Mr. Peterson couldn’t get much worse, he comes up with this. Not that I would want to make snide remarks about anyone’s lack of education or the “cartoonish” notions they share with “the modern academy,” since these do not pertain to the subject at hand, but does Mr. Peterson really think he has made a telling point here? Which conservatives have been ignoring Aristotle’s Politics? Traditional conservative intellectuals have wrestled with classical and Christian accounts of equality for decades, all the while sharing a common conviction that the egalitarianism of 1789 was and remains both false and dangerous.
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Belgium and The Netherlands are extreme but not unique cases. The European Left, which, as in the United States, includes most of the so-called Right, has been pandering to “the other” since the days of Montaigne, the anti-Christian ironists who first taught the French to admire the Cannibals and despise themselves. In every generation it gets worse, from Voltaire to Rousseau to Robespierre to Anatole France and the Surrealists. At this point, the only thing Europeans are proud of is their tolerance, a word that in today’s languages means only self-hatred. Muslims are dangerous, not because they reject Christ and hate Christians and even the entire post-Christian West. No, it is only their resistance to feminism, homosexualism, and immorality. European liberals have been designing loyalty oaths, requiring Muslims to reject the oppression of women and to accept homosexuality as normal. No wonder so many pathetic would-be men are turning to Islam as a wholesome alternative.
I should not single out the Europeans, since we Americans are hardly any better. Yes, it is true that a certain redneck element is disgusted by both Islam and anti-Christianism, but the same class of normal people exists in France. It is just that it is a smaller class, corresponding roughly to people whose livelihoods do not depend directly on the government. As more and more Americans become government school teachers, social workers, software designers in the defense industry, and university economics professors who tout the free market but suck their salaries out of the tax payers, we can expect to reach the level of European self-hatred in less than a decade.
I hope Paul Belien is not cherishing any illusions about America as the land of the free. At least in Europe the liberals feel free to despise their government in public. In our country, loyal Republicans and their Democratic allies in the media wanted to convict Stephen Colbert of Lèse Majesté for speaking the truth on television. Isn’t that forbidden somewhere in the penumbra of the Constitution? ~Thomas Fleming
Which brings me to ‘Human Rights’. If there were any human rights, surely one of them would be that you would not have to be ruled by people who actively despised their own country and its people. No such luck. ‘Human Rights’ don’t actually exist. They are worthless paper money, invented by idealistic lawyers 56 years ago at a conference in Rome. The only ‘rights’ you have are the ones the liberal lawyers and judges are prepared to let you have.
This wasn’t what was meant to happen. The whole thing, like so much of the mess we live in today, is a result of the law of unintended consequences. The idealist optimists of 1950 tried to draw up a ‘Charter’ based more or less on what existed in Britain and the USA, and had recently been stamped out by National Socialists, Fascists and Communists from the Channel to the Urals and beyond.
But they missed the point. Britain and the USA were not freed because they had ‘rights’. They were free because they had limited government. Their peoples have - or in our case used to have - freedoms to live in peace, secure from having your door smashed down, free to say and think what you like, because of good, hard restrictions on state power. ~Peter Hitchens
Another month closer to November and the picture continues to look good for the Democrats and fuzzy for the Republicans. Remember, they’re ranked on likelihood they’ll switch and it’s a snapshot of how things stand now, not how we think they’ll look on Election Day.
There are three new additions to the top 50 and all are GOP-held seats: Pa.-10 (if President Bush has to do robo-calls in a primary, there’s trouble), N.Y.-19 (our bias toward Democrats’ chances in New York this cycle is well-known) and N.H.-01 (this is normally the easiest district in the state for Republicans to hold). ~Chuck Todd, National Journal
Roger Scruton takes aim at J.S. Mill, his utilitarianism and his advocacy for the “sovereignty of the individual,” as well he should. Predictably, Andrew Sullivan does his best George Will impression as Guardian of Conservatism and coins a new, ugly word (reactionaryism) to define what Scruton and most traditional conservatives have always thought about Mill, utilitarianism and individualism. Mr. Sullivan reminds us that liberal attitudes and assumptions have become customary and now form their own tradition, which every thinking conservative (particularly Mr. Scruton) already knew, without giving any consideration to the problem of whether those attitudes and assumptions are reasonable and consonant with the nature of man and society. The principles of 1789 may have their own tradition, but it does not follow that anyone should feel obliged to follow in that tradition.
When Mr. Scruton speaks of “the sacred and the prohibited,” he has clearly set up the counterpoint to the false conceit of permitting everything that does “no harm,” when we know perfectly well that individual willfulness, disregard for public morality in one’s “private life” and contempt for traditional authorities are not harmless or limited in consequences to the individual. If an individual embraces the profane in his own life and transgresses social and cultural norms that embody what a people holds as sacred, he is collaborating in the dissolution of those norms and the confusion of his society.
The movie Sony Pictures has been desperately trying to position as “the most controversial thriller of the year” turns out to be about as thrilling as watching your parents do a Sudoku puzzle. ~Ann Hornaday, The Washington Post
Ms. Hornaday wins my appreciation for her description of the DVC book’s “graceless prose and turgid expository digressions.” But, of course, it is graceless and turgid! How can something so full of deceit and falsehood really contain anything beautiful or worthwhile in it?
Journalists love him, of course. His frankness flatters us, and he flatters us more directly as well. Visiting a big convention of journalists last fall, McCain joined a group that was gambling at the hotel casino until the wee hours. In his speech the next morning, he cleverly nailed his audience and himself by declaring that he was happy to be among “my base.” ~Michael Kinsley, The Washington Post
If journalists are his base, he doesn’t represent many other people, does he?
Hardly. The critical element — border enforcement — is farcical. President Bush promises to increase the number of border agents. That was promised in the Simpson-Mazzoli amnesty legislation in 1986. The result was more than 11 million new illegal immigrants. ~Charles Krauthammer, The Washington Post
Human rights groups are raising alarms over a new law passed by the Iranian parliament that would require the country’s Jews and Christians to wear coloured badges to identify them and other religious minorities as non-Muslims.
“This is reminiscent of the Holocaust,” said Rabbi Marvin Hier, the dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles. “Iran is moving closer and closer to the ideology of the Nazis.” ~Canada.com
Via Andrew Sullivan (who wins another Don’t Know Much About History award)
I shouldn’t expect Mr. Sullivan, who scarcely knows Christian history, to be acquainted with the finer points of medieval Islamic government regulations, but I would like to think that a moderately educated person in this country would know that badges identifying Jews (and Christians) go back to the early Caliphate and yellow identifying marks or other distinctive mandated forms of dress have a long tradition in Islamic history. It was a mark of non-Muslims’ dhimmi status. Distinctive dress and later yellow bands for non-Christians were introduced into Christian Europe in the High Middle Ages, but their earliest and most frequent appearance for centuries was in the Islamic world. If this is a “fascist” practice (a use of a label that betrays that Mr. Sullivan hasn’t given much thought to what fascism is, either), Muslims have been “fascists” for a very, very long time–a lot longer than historic Fascists, that’s for sure. The Iranian government is many things, many of them rather awful, but fascist in any meaningful sense really isn’t one of them. Wouldn’t it be enough for Iranophobes that it is an Islamic theocratic despotism? Must we trot out the f-word each time we object to a different form of government? Are most people in this country that ignorant and limited in their references and understanding? Maybe I don’t want an answer to that last question.
Update: As it turns out, the initial story of the badges for non-Muslims may have no basis whatever and may well be the product of Iranian expats stirring up resentment against the home country (no doubt intended as prelude to their glorious return by way of American intervention). Here is a citation from a very different take:
The National Post is sending shockwaves across the country this morning with a report that Iran’s Parliament has passed a law requiring mandatory Holocaust style badges to identify Jews and Christians.
But independent reporter Meir Javedanfar, an Israeli Middle East expert who was born and raised in Tehran, says the report is false.
“It’s absolutely factually incorrect,” he told The New 940 Montreal.
“Nowhere in the law is there any talk of Jews and Christians having to wear different colours. I’ve checked it with sources both inside Iran and outside.”
“The Iranian people would never stand for it. The Iranian government wouldn’t be stupid enough to do it.”
Political commentator and 940 Montreal host Beryl Waysman says the report is true, that the law was passed two years ago.
“Jews should wear yellow strips, Christians red strips, because according to the Iranian mullahs, if a Mulsim shakes hands with a non-Muslim he becomes unclean.”
The National Post cites Iranian expatriots living in Canada as its primary source on the story. ~940 Montreal
Clark Stooksbury has a new post on Sen. Byrd’s recent constitutionalism and opposition to the war in Iraq, as well as making a very gracious earlier reference to Eunomia and William Plumer. (If there is an “expansion team,” can it be called the Jeffersonian Jacobites?) Caleb Stegall cites an excellent quote from Whittaker Chambers and nominates Hugh Latimer for his opposition to the concetration of landed wealth and drafts Herbert Agar for much the same reason. Jeremy Beer remembers the lifelong agrarianism of Andrew Lytle. Dan McCarthy has just written on Neil Young’s new album. There is even more, but I invite readers to go pore over the RR site themselves and soak up as much decentralist localism as they can.
Strong-government conservatism is, in my view, about strengthening citizens and communities. Unleashing the potential of the most hard-working among us is a good and worthwhile thing to do. The trouble is that the republic doesn’t rise and fall on the backs of Enterprisers alone. Tax-cutting is not enough, particularly for those who pay no taxes but live in broken communities filled with broken families, communities that can be found in the Great Plains, in the inner suburbs, and in the inner cities. ~Reihan Salam, Cato Unbound
Goodness knows no one would confuse me with a libertarian (though libertarians do not have the monopoly on hostility to “strong government”), but when I see something like this I am baffled. How, pray, does a “strong” government “strengthen” citizens, much less communities? By getting the citizens to eat their Wheaties? Perhaps it is a counterintuitive approach: the more invasive and intrusive the state becomes, the stronger the citizens have to become simply to keep their heads above water? I doubt this is the image Mr. Salam wants to conjure up. It reminds me of the Dutch film Character, where Katadreuffe’s nasty, brutish father justifies his oppression of the young man as an exercise in adversity that will toughen him up (briefly entertaining the option of squeezing the life out of him all together).
There is nothing that a government can actively do that will “strengthen” the citizenry. (Note that there seems to be no acknowledgement of where these “broken communities” across the country came from, as if they simply broke down of their own accord without any external pressure from one or the other federal policy.) I am with our libertarian friends in recognising the state for what it is: a crude, blunt instrument of force, and these days it is mostly a parasite draining the life from the body politic. This isn’t a new thing–read Bill Kauffman’s Look Homeward, America for some memorable examples of how the parasite has sapped our country’s vitality for a very long time. When the leech gets stronger, we citizens are diminished.
It was bad enough when the man from the government was here to “help” you. Now that he is also coming, in Mr. Salam’s vision, to “strengthen” you, you had best make sure your affairs are in order before you have to endure the process of “strengthening.”
One of my reasons for doing this is because of several posts last week in which the writers ridiculously stated that they think the Tories will win the next election. Now, I admit that this is possible, in the same way that it is possible that life will be discovered on Mars or we might have snow in Delhi in August, or the Berlin Wall will be rebuilt . Very strange things can happen which shove normal life off the tracks, and we cannot know the whole future. But what is not impossible is often so improbable that we would be foolish to expect it to happen.
And, given what we know about British politics and the electoral system, A Conservative victory at the next election is an event so unlikely as to be laughable. So laughable that I am astonished that anyone could believe it, especially as a result of local election polls in which the Tories could not win a single council seat in the whole of Manchester - or Oxford. The capture of Crawley or Hastings by the Tories is hardly a major achievement. In terms of the war they need to win, it is more like the American recapture of the Philippines from the Japanese in World War Two- getting back territory they should never have lost in the first place, and with great and perilous battles yet to fight to secure the final victory. The difference is that the Americans were gaining in strength as they fought, whereas the Tories are growing weaker year by year. ~Peter Hitchens
As you read Hitchens’ searing recounting of Tory failures and horrible policy decisions, it becomes more and more difficult to see why anyone would want the Tories to win in the first place.
Well, no one has asked me for my pick (why would they?), but since that seems to be one of the preferred topics at Reactionary Radicals these days I will offer my submission for anyone who might be interested. I am biased towards my pick, however, since he is a distant relation on my father’s side (he was born in Newburyport, Mass., the town our common ancestor founded in the 17th century).
After I finished Bill Kauffman’s book last night, the name came to mind: William Plumer of New Hampshire, Senator and then Governor of the same. Students of American history will probably recognise the name, though not usually for his most intriguing contribution to American political history. He is better known as the only one not to cast his state’s electoral vote for James Monroe’s re-election, preferring instead to cast his vote for John Quincy Adams. The legend grew up around this act that Plumer had wanted to prevent any other president after Washington from receiving a unanimous vote, but as I understand it he simply preferred Adams, in keeping with his long tradition of naysaying the Democratic-Republicans. Still, this last famous dissent was not the most interesting thing about Plumer’s career.
Lost in the haze of Jeffersonian myth-making and Lewis and Clark nostalgia was the absolutely correct and principled opposition of my cousin William to the Louisiana Purchase. The Purchase was only one of the many occasions when Jefferson would prove to be less of a Jeffersonian in interpreting the Constitution than his opponents were while he was in office.
Sen. Plumer considered the Purchase illegal, as the President had had no authority to make such a deal, and worse yet it had been done in secret. Monocracy was rearing its ugly head, all right, and William was having none of it. So in 1803-04 he duly set about organising the first New England secessionist movement. It was, of course, something of a monumental failure, and as I recall the Federalists actually lost seats in 1804. But it did provide the precedent for the later Hartford Convention (which, for whatever it’s worth, Plumer vehemently opposed during the war) and maintained the principle of the right to secession (which no one at the time denied in principle). He was America’s first real secessionist. He continued as Senator until 1807, and then returned home to New Hampshire where he served twice as Governor before retiring from politics. A true constitutionalist and something of a localist, he was also the founder of the New Hampshire Historical Society.
Grant praised Diefenbaker for rejecting America’s request to place nukes on Canadian soil. He predicted (in 1965!) that scientists’ growing “control of heredity” and that their “victories in biochemistry and psychology will give the politicians a prodigious power to universalize and homogenize.” He saw that “modern civilization makes all local cultures anachronistic,” and that America was the spearhead of modern progress. He chastised American “conservatives” for failing to realize this, noting that they were simply the mouthpieces for an alternative form of liberal progressivism. Not that he thought that the Marxists were any better; he knew that they were worse. But even so, “The United States is no longer a society of small property owners, but of massive private and public corporations. Such organizations work with scientists in their efforts to master nature and reshape humanity. Internationally, the power of these corporations has destroyed indigenous cultures in every corner of the globe. Communist imperialism is more brutally immediate, but American capitalism has shown itself more subtly able to dissolve indigenous societies.” ~Jeremy Beer, Reactionary Radicals
Reading the Red Tory philosopher in the last couple of years, I was reminded that conservatives did not have to be the intellectual lackeys of corporate interests and that, in fact, no one worthy of the name conservative was. Grant made paleo-style complaints against corporate consolidation and critiques of imperial hubris in terms much more stark than anything most conservatives here could manage, and I came away convinced that his basic critique of our conservatism as warmed-over liberalism was unfortunately only too correct.
In addition to Lament for a Nation, which is excellent, Grant’s English-Speaking Justice and Technology and Empire are worth a look. This window onto the Canadian conservative tradition also caused me to look again at the history of the Loyalists and the Fathers of the Confederation to appreciate the kind of traditional conservatism they expounded and to consider the expulsion of Loyalists to be one of the great, if perhaps understandable, mistakes of the early Republic.
During the closing credits [of The DaVinci Code], rather than applaud, Cannes’ traditionally tough audience fell into a sustained silence punctuated only by the occasionally disdainful catcall. ~E! Online
There is some small satisfaction that a notably good film director in Ron Howard managed to produce the DVC movie in such a way that it has been widely panned as dull, plodding and generally bad. Given the shlock he had to work with, it is not surprising that the movie is a critical failure. However, knowing the inverse Cannes-to-box office ratio that exists in this country, the more the critics there hated it the more moviegoers here will think it was profound and brilliant. But maybe not. Maybe the absurdity and dreariness of the story’s heresy and its apparently painful adaptation to the screen will bore even the most insipid DVC fan.
As I noted with some astonishment the other day, I saw one of these bumper stickers on a Lexus SUV in the western suburbs. The message is pretty clear: I am an egregious materialist, but somehow, abstractly, I am also storing up my treasure in heaven. Attachment to wealth and the gauche flaunting of that wealth go hand in hand with being Christian for the people with this bumper sticker. What, I wonder, would Savonarola have to say to these people?
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If enacted, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act (CIRA, S.2611) would be the most dramatic change in immigration law in 80 years, allowing an estimated 103 million persons to legally immigrate to the U.S. over the next 20 years—fully one-third of the current population of the United States.
Much attention has been given to the fact that the bill grants amnesty to some 10 million illegal immigrants. Little or no attention has been given to the fact that the bill would quintuple the rate of legal immigration into the United States, raising, over time, the inflow of legal immigrants from around one million per year to over five million per year. The impact of this increase in legal immigration dwarfs the magnitude of the amnesty provisions.
I would like to pause briefly to thank all my readers, supporters and fellow bloggers for the success that Eunomia has already had this year. Thanks to generous links from Steve Sailer, Rod Dreher, Clark Stooksbury and Right Reason, “business” has been booming (as of this evening, Eunomia had 2,000 unique visitors this month and a total of almost 14,000 this year, already surpassing the total for all of 2005).
Messrs. Sailer and Stooksbury linked to Eunomia early on and have drawn attention to my posts on numerous occasions, for which I am very grateful. Rod has brought a much bigger audience to Eunomia, both at the original Crunchy Cons and now at his current Beliefnet blog, and has been fighting continuously for principles of good order embodied in what he has called crunchy conservatism. I very much appreciate his strong support for the writing I have been doing here.
Also contributing in bringing a steady stream of readers have been the frequent links and citations by Chris Roach at his excellent blog at Brainwash and also a number of links by Daniel McCarthy at his great new blog, The Tory Anarchist. I would be remiss if I neglected to acknowledge the many links from Glaivester.
I am especially grateful for the help and encouragement with my writing, both online and in print, that I have received from a few people in particular. First, I must acknowledge my debt to Jon Luker, who took on this inveterately opinionated fellow to the unfortunately now-defunct Polemics in 2004 and who also has provided the “space” and maintenace for Eunomia gratis. Second, I am tremendously grateful to Michael Brendan Dougherty for his tireless encouragement, collaboration and promotion of my writing that have made Eunomia the modest success that it is today. His good humour and wit have been a healthy and necessary balance to my own fairly cutting and ruthless criticism, and I’m sure that his notes on fashion will one day stand me in good stead at some society party or other. If you haven’t visited recently, go see Michael’s new and suitably metrocon redesign at his blog, Surfeited with Dainities, and read his latest fine post taking apart Mr. Bush’s disingenuous non-amnesty amnesty.
Caleb Stegall and Scott Richert, two very supportive editors who have brought my work to publication at The New Pantagruel and Chronicles respectively, have been extremely helpful in their steady encouragement of my writing. Make sure to look at the new articles at tNP, check Reactionary Radicals for the latest from Caleb and the other defenders of the humane and the local, and, if you haven’t, subscribe to Chronicles! This is not to forget the support of Josh Trevino, who brought me on board at Enchiridion Militis, and my EM colleague, Paul Cella, who has gone out of his way to make helpful comments.
The list of others who have contributed to building up Eunomia in one way or another is fairly lengthy, so I will put down some of the names without any further comment. If I happen to leave someone out, it is an unintended omission and not a commentary on the value of your contribution or a measure of my appreciation. Thanks to Jeff Martin (a.k.a., Maximos), A.C. Kleinheider, Kevin Michael Grace, Andrew Cunningham, Prof. Arben Fox, Leon Hadar, Timothy Carney, Iosue Andreas, Kevin Jones, John Teresa, Josh the Reformed Catholic, Carey Cuprisin and the Russian Dilettante. Thanks are also in order for my small band of loyal readers. I hope to continue to be able to provide worthwhile commentary in a probably futile effort to make blogging into an intelligent means of communication and learning.
He adopted the position of Senators Kennedy and McCain and other amnesty supporters, saying that illegal aliens who meet certain conditions should be able to apply for citizenship. He denied that this represented amnesty because “approval would not be automatic”—but when have immigrants ever received “automatic” citizenship? ~National Review
A nation’s businesses used to favor and protect the home market at the expense of “the colonials.” This book demonstrates that the Wal-Mart effect is the most powerful market force expelling jobs and technology from our own country. Not only does Wal-Mart create low-wage jobs that lure further illegal immigrants here to do jobs that Americans could not afford to do even if they wanted to, but it provides a place those illegals can afford to shop. At the same time, it forces American taxpayers to subsidize its low wages by transferring the cost of health insurance to government programs. ~Marian Kester Coombs, The American Conservative
Whenever I hear an immigration expansionist (the logical opposite of an immigration restrictionist) utter the words, “We need to have comprehensive reform” as an excuse to defer enforcement measures until later (as the Senate did again today), I can’t help but think of the insane photographer from the bike race in the movie version of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. The race is completely swamped in a dust storm, reducing visibility to nil, thus making the reporters’ task there absolutely hopeless. When Thompson tries to convince the photographer to give up, he screams, “We need TOTAL coverage!” I think it must be the shared disconnect from reality that links these two phrases in my mind.
They certainly aren’t going to be stopping illegal immigration. Most of the Guard will be unarmed. They will be barred from patrolling the border itself, as well as from confronting, apprehending or even guarding the undocumented. The troops will be given solely behind-the-scenes, low-profile, mostly invisible tasks of pushing paper, driving vans, and manning computers. Bush could have saved the taxpayers a load and sent a few battalions of Boy Scouts to do this job. ~Marc Cooper
Not terribly interested in restricting immigration, Mr. Cooper can also be credited with inventing the phrase “immigration baby.”
“No guard, no wall will keep us from crossing.” - Jorge Gutierrez, on the Mexican side of the border. ~CBS News
If the president thinks by taking one step forward with enforcement the House will follow with two steps backwards with amnesty, he’s confusing us with the Senate. ~Rep. Tom Tancredo
Yale professor Jaroslav Pelikan, one of the world’s foremost scholars of the history of Christianity, has died of lung cancer, his son said Monday. He was 82.
Pelikan wrote more than 30 books, using sources in nine languages and dealing with literary and musical as well as doctrinal aspects of religion. ~Seattle P-I
It was with sadness that I learned last night of the passing of Jaroslav Pelikan, a giant in modern theology and the history of doctrine and a fellow Orthodox Christian. His five-volume work, The Christian Tradition, on the development of Christian doctrine is a monument of sagacious, balanced and excellent scholarship, and from them I always received the impression that their author was an eminently fair, humane and thoughtful man. May God give him rest and grant him to dwell where the righteous repose. Vechnaya pomyat.
But he cannot do that if, at the same time, he defends a war fought for nonexistent reasons, preceded by fibs, lies and exaggerations, draining America of blood and treasure and leaving us worse off now than before those bombs were dropped where — as it symbolically turned out — Saddam Hussein was not. Times have changed. The Straight Talk Express is in a ditch. ~Richard Cohen, The Washington Post
An uninspired attempt to buy off immigration conservatives with a temporary National Guard deployment and talk of “technologically advanced” border security. If conservatives are impressed by this, they’re the cheapest dates around. This means you, Bill O’Reilly! ~Mickey Kaus, Slate
Via Steve Sailer
But the fact is that a more expansive view of immigration policy has long been part of the mainstream of the conservative movement — indeed, Ronald Reagan himself held such an opinion. We are moving into very dangerous territory here — territory in which it has been declared that there is to be no debate, no discussion, and no heterodoxy any longer. This is how political-intellectual movements become diseased and sclerotic. This is how they die. ~John Podhoretz, The Corner
Via Andrew Sullivan (who expresses his solidarity with Pod as one of the persecuted)
Consider first the gall that it takes for someone like Little Pod to complain about intolerance of dissent.
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Both the early Syriac poets and the field of cognitive science hold fast to a unity of body and mind, and both understand metaphor to be essential to our conceptual understanding. It may seem odd to bring together an ancient group of Christian writers and a contemporary naturalistic philosophy of language and meaning, but each has more in common with the other than scholars working in either field probably realize. The poetry of Ephrem the Syrian and other early Syriac poets reveal unusual views of the relationship between body and soul, and their unhellenized aversion to defining God led them to embrace a “theology of paradox” largely through metaphor. Similarly, in the field of cognitive science the mind is inherently embodied, and concepts are largely metaphorical. By studying the similarities in these disparate and often misunderstood fields, one may attain a better appreciation of the importance of metaphor, the usefulness of non-objectivist thought, and acquire some new perspectives on the relationship between the mind and the body. ~Micah Hayes, The New Pantagruel
Read the entire article, The Early Syriac Poets and Cognitive Science, the latest addition at tNP. Also new at tNP is Stephen Gardner’s Psychological Man: Eros and Ambition in Democratic Desire.
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In December, it emerged that the NSA was eavesdropping on the contents of phone calls and e-mail messages between Americans on U.S. soil and people abroad. That program was of doubtful legality, and so is this one. As a rule, federal law forbids phone companies from turning over calling records to anyone, and it forbids the government from getting call records without a court order or a national security letter.
So it’s cold comfort to hear Bush say that “the intelligence activities I authorized are lawful.” He said the same thing about the other NSA program. But when the Justice Department undertook an investigation, the White House refused to grant its attorneys the security clearances they needed to proceed. The Bush administration doesn’t trust even Bush administration lawyers to agree the program is kosher.
Even if you don’t care about the privacy of your phone records, you might care that we have a president who feels no obligation to obey the law. You might care that if the government was secretly doing this, it may be doing other things that are even more worrisome. And you might care that one day, we may find that the free society we claim to cherish has become a police state. ~Steve Chapman, Chicago Tribune
At Reactionary Radicals, Clark Stooksbury “drafts” Gen. Smedley Butler into the ever-growing list of wily dissidents and champions of the humane life who are adding to the serried ranks of the reactionaries and anarchists of Bill Kauffman’s Look Homeward, America.
On a somewhat related note, I must congratulate Mr. Stooksbury on a very well-done, fair and favourable review of Crunchy Cons in the newest edition of Chronicles. Get the new issue as soon as it is available (I especially recommend Claude Polin’s withering critique of French democracy), or, better yet, subscribe.
It is neither wise nor realistic to round up millions of people, many with deep roots in the United States, and send them across the border. ~George W. Bush
There are some things that Mr. Bush said in his speech today that were right, most of which touched on his concessions to restrictionists in the GOP who have pushed him to oppose further illegal immigration publicly in relatively strong terms (relative to his previous complete capitulation, that is).
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The only good thing about the farcical V for Vendetta was that it made American audiences slightly more familiar with Guy Fawkes and the little rhyme English schoolchildren later learned as a way to execrate Fawkes’ memory (from which the title of this post has been adapted). In much the same way that history about Fawkes has largely gone down the memory hole for most people in this country, and stemming from the same biases that prevent his name from being revered as a would-be tyrannicide, as I noted upon the release of the embarrassingly bad aforementioned Vendetta, people in the English-speaking world still remember another fifth of November (that of the landing of William III’s army of invasion) in glowing terms as “the Glorious Revolution.”
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Fr. Jape on Bill Kauffman’s Look Homeward, America:
some sources say [it] is Crunchy Cons on steroids, or something altogether different (though in a similar vein) and more than enough authentic conservatism to blow apart the National Review several hundred times.
Considering how much irritation Crunchy Cons caused the crowd at NRO and elsewhere, we can only imagine how much consternation and gnashing of teeth such open talk of anarchists and reactionaries will cause in all the usual circles.
After reading that, I knew I would never be fit for service in the conservative mainstream again. And thank God. ~Daniel McCarthy, Reactionary Radicals
My most startling realisation that I had no place in the conservative mainstream came fairly late in spring 2002. Before then, I continued to operate in a world of delusions where all “conservatives” of every stripe were on the same side and generally wanted the same things (frighteningly and embarrassingly, I recognised my attitude in the Rupert Murdoch-like character from House of Cards, who bloviated about how “we all used to be on the same side, expanding freedom’s frontiers”). From the mid-’90s on, I was probably politically slightly to the right of the Constitution Party, but still thought that “conservatism” had something going for it. I had already been disillusioned by the Gingrich majority, but was still influenced by a lot of “mainstream” conservative sources. At that point, I had not yet converted to Orthodoxy, though I was well on my way, and was still recovering from years of breathing in the neoconservative miasma of the WSJ op-ed pages. 2002 was a year of revelations, as I slowly and bitterly discovered just how deluded I had been.
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Republican-fatigue is in the air, and not only in Washington, New York City, and Hollywood. In locales where Republicans are accustomed to respectful receptions from voters, GOP activists and officeholders are meeting deep skepticism. On a recent trip home, Rep. Mike Pence, a conservative Indiana Republican, was surprised by the amount of criticism he heard directed at President Bush and the Republican Congress. “Frankly, if the numbers in my district are this tough …, ” he said, his voice trailing off. Although Pence didn’t finish the thought, he didn’t have to. Indiana’s 6th Congressional District, where “Hoosiers” was filmed, voted for Bush over John Kerry by a whopping 64 percent to 35 percent. That Republicans are even campaigning in such districts is instructive — and Democrats have noticed. ~National Journal
Rep. Pence, God bless him, had this unfortunate quote later in the article: “We may be the party of Big Government, but they are the party of Really Big Government.” Write that one down high on the list of Campaign Themes That Doomed Their Party. I can just picture the stump speech for such a theme: “Well, of course, we have betrayed every principle we ever stood for, but just look at the other guys! Our treachery is better than their conviction any day of the week!” And Mike Pence is one of the people whom you could reasonably still call a more or less serious conservative. If he is reduced to saying things like this, it’s going to get ugly.
Has the Bush administration gone too far in expanding the powers of the President to fight terrorism? Yes, say a majority of Americans, following this week’s revelation that the National Security Agency has been secretly collecting the phone records of U.S. citizens since the September 11 terrorist attacks. According to the latest NEWSWEEK poll, 53 percent of Americans think the NSA’s surveillance program “goes too far in invading people’s privacy,” while 41 percent see it as a necessary tool to combat terrorism. ~Newsweek
Even 26% of Republicans reportedly dissent from the official line on this one.
Immediately after the attack the Kurdish soldiers rushed their wounded to the local hospital, firing their weapons to clear the streets and killing one civilian. At this point, going by the police account, another unit of the Iraqi army, the 3rd battalion of the 1st Brigade, this time consisting of Shia troops, rushed to confront the Kurds. They appear to have thought that the Kurds were going to retaliate against the local Arab population. Shots were exchanged, and one Shia soldier was killed. ~The Independent
He admired Sherwood Anderson and Robinson Jeffers and after college dreamt of building an intellectuals’ commune on a farm in Ohio. He opposed almost every war of his lifetime (1906–1982). He execrated masscult and midcult alike — in particular updated translations of the Bible and the Mortimer Adler / Robert Hutchins “Great Books” library (“densely printed, poorly edited, over-priced and over-syntopiconized”). He belonged nowhere in the political spectrum, and he was one of the great American essayists of the 20th century — one of about three, total. Critic, journalist, pacifist (sort of), anarchist, Jeffersonian, reactionary, radical — that was Dwight Macdonald. ~Daniel McCarthy, Reactionary Radicals
I have to admit that I don’t know Dwight Macdonald’s writings at all, but his appreciation for Robinson Jeffers immediately recommends him as being capable of discerning judgement.
She concluded that evidence linking a Sudanese pharmaceutical plant with al-Qaeda was thin, and she lodged a dissent with the national security adviser before U.S. cruise missiles were fired at the facility in 1998. ~The Washington Post
A senior CIA official, meeting with Senate staff in a secure room of the Capitol last June, promised repeatedly that the agency did not violate or seek to violate an international treaty that bars cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment of detainees, during interrogations it conducted in the Middle East and elsewhere.
But another CIA officer — the agency’s deputy inspector general, who for the previous year had been probing allegations of criminal mistreatment by the CIA and its contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan — was startled to hear what she considered an outright falsehood, according to people familiar with her account. It came during the discussion of legislation that would constrain the CIA’s interrogations. ~The Washington Post
As I had noted once or twice before, I guessed that Mary McCarthy’s (alleged) leak of information about the CIA’s secret prisons had to have been motivated by concerns that these prisons were off-the-books torture chambers or at least dangerously prone to becoming such. As it turns out, that hunch may have been right on the money.
Assuming, of course, that she actually was the one who leaked, which she claims is false. But then I would claim it was false if I were in her shoes. Even if she was blowing the whistle on illegal activities, that fact would not save her from being prosecuted for leaking confidential information. If she is, in fact, not guilty, that means that she was probably targeted because she could be pigeonholed as a Kerry supporter who betrayed her oath to sabotage an administration she opposed, which would mean that her prosecution could very well be arbitrary and politically motivated itself.
The United States that Iraq veterans are returning to is relatively indifferent, many said. One that without fear of a draft seems more interested in the progression of “American Idol” than the bombings in Baghdad. Sure, there are the homecoming parades, the yellow-ribbon bumper stickers, the pats on the back — they continue as troops arrive back home.
But for many vets, those moments of gratitude were short-lived or limited to close friends and family. Soon they were joined by bitter impressions of a society that seems to forget that it is living through the country’s largest combat operation in more than 30 years.
When Army Reserve Warrant Officer Mark Rollings got home to Wylie, Tex., he didn’t expect anyone to treat him any differently because he was a vet. But he couldn’t help but notice that the only one to say anything about the newly installed Purple Heart license plate on his Chevy Blazer was the kid who changed his oil at the Wal-Mart.
“For having a global war on terrorism,” he said, “everything looks like business as usual to me.”
But perhaps the worst is when they don’t say anything at all and just go on living their lives, oblivious to the war.
Which is exactly what Army Capt. Tyler McIntyre was trying to explain to some family members while eating at an Italian restaurant when he was home on leave a couple of years ago.
He looked across the restaurant and saw everyone stuffing their faces with pasta and drinking wine. “And everyone’s kind of just sitting there doing it,” he said.
Which is really sort of extraordinary, he said. The country is at war. People are fighting at this very moment. Don’t these people know what’s going on? Don’t they care?
No, he decided. They have no appreciation for their easy, gluttonous lives and don’t deserve the freedom, prosperity and contentment he was fighting to protect.
He wanted to yell, “You don’t know what you have! You don’t appreciate it! You don’t care!” ~The Washington Post
It may be that a gluttonous people doesn’t deserve freedom, and in fact such people may no longer possess it, or they are willing to trade it away for the faux security offered to them when the government tells them to sacrifice another liberty (this is one possible answer to Gen. Batiste’s idea that the American people are not sacrificing anything in this war–they are only too happily sacrificing the last remnants of republican government to achieve a nonexistent state of security). That will be their contribution to “the war effort.”
Having gone to a fairly nice restaurant with some friends last night, I can say that we and everyone else there were more or less just as Capt. McIntyre described. We had a nice time, and Iraq never came up once, and there was not the slightest sense that there was something amiss with living our lives much as we would normally do because the government has committed to a mad and inexplicable war in Iraq. I can’t say that I blame him for resenting the soft, easy lives civilians have all had while he was fighting in Iraq. But what else would we be doing? Capt. McIntyre speaks of “the country” being at war, when it really isn’t. The government is prosecuting two different sorts of wars, one of which at least theoretically has something to do with national security and another which seems to have nothing to do with America itself at all, and the country is being billed exorbitantly for the latter war that the executive started on his own (nonexistent)authority. In a sense, “we” are already paying through the nose for this pointless war, so what else are “we” supposed to be doing?
But the indifference and “business as usual” were unavoidable in a war that has not seemed to be a vital struggle for most Americans for a couple of a years now. With respect to the GWOT or GSAVE or whatever it is we are calling it these days, it has taken on an unreal, imaginary character since early 2002. There continues to be a fight in Afghanistan, but it seems to be at a fairly low level, and so there seems to be very little that people here could do even if they are inclined or would be willing to lend support. There was a tremendous reservoir of willingness to support what might have been called “the war effort,” had any effort been made to articulate what the public’s role in “the war effort” ought to be. Besides “go shopping” and “support the troops” (and surely we are all somehow supporting the troops by going shopping, right?), there haven’t been many exhortations to national solidarity. Iraq has since made the idea of a “war effort” for a war most people believe now to have been a mistake increasingly fantastical.
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In the weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, Vice President Dick Cheney and his top legal adviser argued that the National Security Agency should intercept purely domestic telephone calls and e-mail messages without warrants in the hunt for terrorists, according to two senior intelligence officials.
But N.S.A. lawyers, trained in the agency’s strict rules against domestic spying and reluctant to approve any eavesdropping without warrants, insisted that it should be limited to communications into and out of the country, said the officials, who were granted anonymity to discuss the debate inside the Bush administration late in 2001.
The N.S.A.’s position ultimately prevailed. But just how Gen. Michael V. Hayden, the director of the agency at the time, designed the program, persuaded wary N.S.A. officers to accept it and sold the White House on its limits is not yet clear. ~The New York Times
Days before his April 4 [Rochester Rotary Club] talk, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice said the U.S. had made thousands of “tactical errors” in Iraq. The remark, which he interpreted as a criticism of the military, upset him immensely. He decided it was time to speak out. At the time, two generals had already called for Rumsfeld’s resignation.
In his Rotary Club speech, Gen. Batiste didn’t say Mr. Rumsfeld should quit. Instead, he called the defense secretary “arrogant,” and chided him for ignoring senior military advisers. The 100 or so Rotary Club members have him a standing ovation and the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle ran a brief article on the speech. On April 9, retired Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Gregory Newbold called for Mr. Rumsfeld to resign in a Time magazine opinion piece. He was the third general to demand Mr. Rumsfeld leave.
Two days later, a producer from CNN, who had seen the article on Gen. Batiste’s Rotary Club speech, asked him if he would appear on the network. On CNN, Gen. Batiste praised the U.S. military and bemoaned the American people’s lack of sacrifice and commitment to the war. Finally, he called for a “fresh start” in the Pentagon. ~The Wall Street Journal (no link)
And anyway, our side is Johnny Appleseed, H.L. Mencken, Dorothy Day, and Paul Goodman. Their side is LBJ, McGeorge Bundy, MacArchibald MacLapdog MacLeish, and Dick Cheney. Yeah, we’re losing 27-1 in the bottom of the eighth, but we have a hell of a lot more fun on our bench than they do on theirs. (The stakes, admittedly, are higher than I would like. If we win, everybody goes home. If they win, the world blows up—in fire and ice, paid for by the U.S. taxpayer.) ~Bill Kauffman
Via Clark Stooksbury
Mr. Kauffman begins on a suitably reactionary note by rejecting the term blog because of its cacophonous quality. As Daniel McCarthy notes, Mr. Kauffman doesn’t like the phrase “ordered liberty.” Normally I would object to this, but I’m looking forward to what the Radicals have to say, so I won’t quibble. For my part, I will say that I’ve never liked the libertarian phrase “spontaneous order,” which sounds like the kind of order that has suddenly burst into flames.
Is there any doubt anymore about the essence of conservatism? It is love of the state and its leader above all else, above family, above community, above country, above God, and certainly above liberty.
He perfectly represents the military state, the police state, and the corporate state. He perfectly embodies the conservative philosophy, as it has always existed, minus some mislabeled aberrations within tiny niches of the conservative movement during various short deviations in the 20th century.
Now, I know plenty of libertarian folks, and libertarian-leaning folks, who continue to call themselves conservatives and who don’t love the state, who do in fact love family, community, country, God and liberty more than the state. I don’t mean any offense to them, but I strongly and respectfully disagree with their self-applied label. Just because I love vegetables doesn’t mean I’m a vegetarian—except, perhaps, according to Brad Edmonds’s funny lexicon—and just because you have some values that conservatives claim to have doesn’t mean you’re a conservative. The bottom line, in my view, is whether or not you love the state. If you do, you’re a conservative. If you don’t, you’re a liberal or libertarian. Everyone in the middle, including the socialist left and the protectionist paleo right, is just confused. ~Anthony Gregory
What is Mr. Gregory’s proof that the “essence of conservatism” is love of the state? Michael Savage and other talk radio fools have been queueing up to support the latest NSA program. Well, these people would do that, and almost all of them have no idea what conservatism is or what it would mean. Michael Savage has of late eschewed the label conservative and taken up that of nationalist (which Savage certainly is). In Mr. Gregory’s unfortunate judgement, liberals are less enamoured of the state than conservatives. Perhaps Mr. Gregory means liberals from the 19th century. Most left-liberals today have a certain love for the state; they are more prone to be suspicious about the military, but not because they do not in some sense love and believe in the state. They were perfectly willing to make the same lame and incredible justifications when one of theirs was in power, as Mr. Gregory knows full well. Obviously, the frauds who masquerade as conservatives today are very much like these left-liberals in much of domestic policy and are as far removed from genuine conservatives in their enthusiasm for secret surveillance programs and the security state as can be.
If conservatism in this country has anything to do with constitutionalism, and it does, conservatives will not be supporters of “the military state, the police state and the corporate state.” In the 19th century in Europe and America, it was liberals who took the apparatus of existing states and turned them into far more invasive mechanisms of regulation, centralisation and “rational” legislation. Conservatives typically opposed such uniformity and homogenisation and the forces of consolidation that are always embodied among the Freisinnigen, Red Republicans and their heirs. If Mr. Gregory finds today’s nationalists obnoxious and offensive, he is welcome to join the long tradition of conservatives from Burke to Metternich to Jefferson Davis who rejected various incarnations of nationalism and consolidation. But that would require him to recognise that there are legitimate as well as illegitimate governments, a move that libertarians at LRC are never going to make. So it is much easier to write off an entire political tradition that, unfortunately, he does not seem to understand very well.
So Mr. Gregory and, presumably, the others at LRC mean no offense to the good conservatives (who are really libertarians) when they equate conservative with “lover of the state,” because those good folks who think they are conservatives and don’t fit into this definition aren’t conservatives at all. How generous. In other words, embrace the most radical rejection of all public authority or you either love the state (i.e., you are a conservative) or you are confused.
Take, for example, the awful human catastrophe under way in the Darfur region of the Sudan. If the United States and the West can be criticized for our role in this catastrophe it is because we have waited too long to intervene to protect the multitudes who are suffering, dying because of it.
Twelve years ago, we turned a blind eye to another genocide, in Rwanda. And when that reign of terror finally, mercifully exhausted itself, with over 800,000 Rwandans slaughtered, Americans, our government, and decent people everywhere in the world were shocked and ashamed of our silence and inaction, for ignoring our values, and the demands of our conscience. In shame and renewed allegiance to our ideals, we swore, not for the first time, “never again.” But never lasted only until the tragedy of Darfur.
Now, belatedly, we have recovered our moral sense of duty, and are prepared, I hope, to put an end to this genocide. Osama bin Laden and his followers, ready, as always, to sacrifice anything and anyone to their hatred of the West and our ideals, have called on Muslims to rise up against any Westerner who dares intervene to stop the genocide, even though Muslims, hundreds of thousands of Muslims, are its victims. Now that, my friends, is a difference, a cause, worth taking up arms against.
It is not a clash of civilizations. I believe, as I hope all Americans would believe, that no matter where people live, no matter their history or religious beliefs or the size of their GDP, all people share the desire to be free; to make by their own choices and industry better lives for themselves and their children. Human rights exist above the state and beyond history – they are God-given. They cannot be rescinded by one government any more than they can be granted by another. They inhabit the human heart, and from there, though they may be abridged, they can never be wrenched. ~Sen. John McCain
Via Andrew Sullivan (who has a somewhat unnerving picture of McCain in his post)
The senator’s commencement address is very high-minded. Worryingly high-minded, if you ask me. Since Sen. McCain has affirmed that we ought to argue about questions of fundamental importance, let me be among the first to disagree with much of the senator’s speech. Whenever politicians these days speak glowingly about our commitment to the “rights of Man” (the capital M is in the original) and “human rights” that are “beyond history” (neo-Jacobins, anyone?), I begin wondering what country we will attack next. And Sen. McCain does not leave us wondering long. Sudan is his target of choice. His hectoring on Darfur seems to echo almost word for word New Republic editorials on the subject. He could very well be echoing neoconservative or evangelical hectoring on the same subject, as they are all reading from the same hymnal these days.
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So when Dr. Ryn, a so-called traditionalist teaching politics at the Catholic University of America, keeps asking us to accept the truth of his novel doctrines, especially as published in 2003, I feel somewhat justified in arguing from the authority of a fundamental part of western tradition that holds human beings can really and truly know stuff. ~Matthew Peterson
I don’t know what’s more frustrating: that Mr. Peterson believes he has successfully overturned something by calling it “novel” (or better yet, “radically modern”), or that he seems to think that unless we accept his genuinely bizarre rationalism that neither Aristotle nor Aquinas (to take the two authorities he is invoking at the moment) would have endorsed we have abandoned the possibility of knowing things. Or perhaps it is the frequent recourse to invoking self-evident truths, by which the people at Claremont seem to mean axioms (I would continue to insist that truth is never really self-evident in the way that Mr. Peterson means it), that experience routinely shows us to be false.
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George W. Bush assured Americans this week that his administration was doing nothing illegal by maintaining a record of telephone calls made by about 200m US subscribers. But the president has already made clear that his definition of what is legal applies to virtually anything he chooses to authorise in the name of national security. ~The Financial Times
The confidential sources who revealed the program to USA Today say it only collects telephone numbers, not names, addresses, Social Security numbers or other data. But it is easy to find a person’s identity from a phone number, and it would be amazing if that hadn’t been done.
There are several problems here. The first is that it is probably illegal for the National Security Agency, which was formed to monitor overseas communications, to collect this data in secret. In addition to the NSA charter, the Communications Act, first passed in 1934, has privacy provisions that seem fairly clear: Phone companies are not allowed to share data about customer calling habits unless presented with a warrant, and the fines can be stiff.
Second is that the program is probably useless when it comes to detecting terrorism. Jim Hall, director of information policy studies at the Cato Institute, who serves on a Department of Homeland Security data privacy committee and has discussed the issue with numerous experts, told us that data mining can be useful when looking for common patterns, like how a thief might use a stolen credit card. But terrorist acts are uncommon. One is more likely to get 99 percent false positives, which will lead to a waste of investigative resources, than to prevent a terrorist attack through this method. ~The Orange County Register
At first blush this program carries troubling echoes of Total Information Awareness, a proposed Defense Department “data-mining” expedition into a mass of personal information on individuals’ driver’s licenses, passports, credit card purchases, car rentals, medical prescriptions, banking transactions and more. That was curbed by Congress after a public outcry. It seems the people who wanted to bring you TIA didn’t get the message. ~The Chicago Tribune
Kate Martin, director of the Center for National Security Studies, said, “If they don’t get a court order, it’s a crime.” Ms. Martin said that while the F.B.I. might be able to get access to phone collection databases by using an administrative subpoena, her reading of federal law was that the N.S.A. would be banned from doing so without court approval.
But another expert on the law of electronic surveillance, Kenneth C. Bass III, said that if access to the call database was granted in response to a national security letter issued by the government, “it would probably not be illegal, but it would be very troubling.”
“The concept of the N.S.A. having near-real-time access to information about every call made in the country is chilling,” said Mr. Bass, former counsel for intelligence policy at the Justice Department. He said the phone records program resembled Total Information Awareness, a Pentagon data-mining program shut down by Congress in 2003 after a public outcry. ~The New York Times
The telecommunications company Qwest turned down requests by the National Security Agency for private telephone records because it concluded that doing so would violate federal privacy laws, a lawyer for the telephone company’s former chief executive said today. ~The New York Times
Just to add to the fun, in the legalese of one of Qwest’s lawyers there was a “disinclination on the part of the authorities to use any legal process.” I imagine there was. Eespecially if the project was illegal. But that line has a pretty good chance of equalling Al Gore’s “no controlling legal authority” line for conveying the arrogant illegal behaviour of this administration.
Still, mining domestic calls is a highly unusual, and probably unprecedented, activity for a spy agency set up to intercept and analyze foreign intelligence. And it is striking that the three telcos, AT&T, BellSouth and Verizon, handed the information over sheep-like to the spooks without pressing for warrants or court approval. Only Qwest Communications (nyse: Q - news - people ) balked, in spite of the NSA’s arm-twisting.
Many national security experts criticized the NSA for skirting the court set up under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to deal with such issues, as it did with its wiretapping program. “They didn’t do enough to make the law work,” said James Lewis, director of technology and public policy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Any congressional inquiry into the call database is unlikely to yield much. The NSA is likely to characterize its call database as part and parcel of its routine data-mining activities. When grilled about its failure to ask for court approval, “they’ll argue that they bought the data from the companies and used it for statistical analyses,” said Lewis.
It is also unlikely the Federal Communications Commission will investigate or fine the telcos for handing over the data. FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, a loyal Republican, will be hard-pressed to buck the Bush administration on the issue. In any event, polls have shown that the public overwhelming supports the administration’s wiretapping for counterterrorism purposes.
And this new revelation brings up fewer privacy concerns: There is a big distinction between eavesdropping on private conversations and analyzing call traffic for patterns. As one Washington telecom lawyer put it, “It’s a nonstarter.” ~Forbes
This comes back to basic principles. The question is not whether the NSA has been listening in on your phone conversations, as if out of a scence from the ridiculous V for Vendetta, but whether they have any rightful authority to access information like this, particularly without presenting warrants or some demonstration before a court that their request is legitimate. (We could get into the even more fruitless debate of whether the government can even have something like the NSA under a strict reading of the Constitution, but who would we be kidding?)
If they have the authority, they surely must need warrants for it to provide some meager oversight. They do not get to “request” what should presumably be confidential information and take it from the unthinking collaborators at corporate headquarters without demonstrating before a court why they need it. Not under a govermment of laws, they don’t. But we’re all becoming more and more aware that we don’t live under any such government and haven’t for a long time, and now we are beginning to count the costs.
The government has abruptly ended an inquiry into the warrantless eavesdropping program because the National Security Agency refused to grant Justice Department lawyers the necessary security clearance to probe the matter.
The Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility, or OPR, sent a fax to Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y., on Wednesday saying they were closing their inquiry because without clearance their lawyers cannot examine Justice lawyers’ role in the program.
“We have been unable to make any meaningful progress in our investigation because OPR has been denied security clearances for access to information about the NSA program,” OPR counsel H. Marshall Jarrett wrote to Hinchey. Hinchey’s office shared the letter with The Associated Press. ~USA Today
President Bush’s job-approval rating has fallen to its lowest mark of his presidency, according to a new Harris Interactive poll.
Of 1,003 U.S. adults surveyed in a telephone poll, 29% think Mr. Bush is doing an “excellent or pretty good” job as president, down from 35% in April and significantly lower than 43% in January. It compares with 71% of Americans who said Mr. Bush is doing an “only fair or poor” job, up from 63% in April. ~The Wall Street Journal
According to The Christian Science Monitor, the new Harris result of 29% approval would ties his father’s worst ratings from the summer of 1992 and is only one point above Carter’s worst rating in the summer of 1979. Anyone care to wager on where and when the slide will stop?
Senators will have a lot of questions for Gen. Michael Hayden before they decide how to vote on his nomination. But they should not confirm him or anyone else as CIA director unless, at minimum, he is willing to utter two simple words: No waterboarding.
Waterboarding is an interrogation method that involves immersing a prisoner’s head in water, or pouring water over his face, to create a terrifying sensation of drowning. It’s about as cruel a technique as you can devise without leaving scars. Experts say it can cause lasting mental trauma. It’s condemned by the U.S. State Department as a form of torture when it’s employed by foreign governments, such as Tunisia and Kenya.
It has also been used by the CIA on suspected Al Qaeda members in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Numerous present and former officers have admitted as much in confidential interviews with the news media. In 2004, a CIA inspector general concluded that waterboarding and other methods approved by the agency after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks probably violated the international Convention Against Torture. ~Steve Chapman
This is pretty basic. Torture is morally repugnant. It cannot be allowed. Methods such as these are torture. People who have doubts on this need to turn off the latest episode of 24 and start thinking seriously about whether they want to be the sort of people who shrug at the thought of “their” government embracing barbarous tactics.
Here’s the key quote from the torture convention signed by President Reagan:
No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.
But, as Chapman goes on to relate, there have been numerous abuses, and the unaccountable and secret nature of these activities preclude the possibility of upholding the very standards to which we are legally bound by this very convention (dare I be so quaint as to say we are morally bound as well?). It is because of practices like this, I suspect, that the existence of a string of secret prisons in Europe probably struck Mary McCarthy as morally questionable at best. Certainly given the administration’s penchant for illegality and secrecy, it would be wiser to assume that the government is either winking at abuses or seeking flimsy rationales for them when they occur. That is the sort of thing governments always try to do, which is why our government is supposed to be subordinate and accountable to the law. That more than a few Red Republicans do not seem to understand that any longer, invoking “the present danger” and other canards, is one more reason why their party should not be responsible for congressional oversight.
Last week the House passed Wilson’s bill (H.R. 5253) said “to prohibit price gouging in the sale of gasoline, diesel fuel, crude oil, and home heating oil, and for other purposes.” But ironically, Slaughter said neither Wilson, nor her co-sponsors, could define what price gouging actually was. Instead, lawmakers left it to the Federal Trade Commission to do that. ~Ivy Sellers, Human Events
As my father noted when he heard about this, price-gouging already was illegal. Besides, last year, Rep. Wilson wasn’t too concerned about the higher costs of energy, since she voted along with the majority for HR 6, which included calling for the increased use of ethanol and other additives that have contributed directly to the current price spike. She should be voted out simply on the basis of the crass opportunism this price-gouging bill represents, to say nothing of her many other bad decisions in office.
“It’s the largest database ever assembled in the world,” the paper quoted one source as saying. The agency’s goal is “to create a database of every call ever made” within U.S. borders, it said the source added.
The NSA has “access to records of billions of domestic calls,” USA Today said. Although customers’ names and addresses are not being handed over, “the phone numbers the NSA collects can easily be cross-checked with other databases to obtain that information,” it said. ~MSNBC
Remember the outrage among Republicans when Bubba’s administration first toyed with this kind of database at the White House? Remember the anxiety caused by NSA’s Echelon program? I wonder if conservatives will be able to recall the reasons why they found it slightly troublesome that the government was working on projects like these. They might start by taking note of this little item.
Here is an imagined conversation between a normal human being and one of those people who still thinks our troops should be in Iraq.
“Q: Why did we invade Iraq?
A:To stop Saddam Hussein developing and using ‘Weapons of mass Destruction’.
Q. But he didn’t have any, did he?
A: No, but he might have done, and why are you complaining, do you think brutal dictators are good, is that it? Are you some kind of Fascist?
Q: Hang on a minute, I only pointed out that the main reason for the war turned out to be fake. What do you say to that?
A: Well, I generally try to change the subject, and I will now do so again. The great achievement of the invasion was to establish a true democracy in Iraq.
Q: Ah, well in that case, why can’t we just leave this nice new democracy to get on with running the country?
A: Don’t be silly. Haven’t you noticed that there is virtually a civil war going on in Iraq?
Q: I’m asking the questions. But yes I have noticed. Why is there a civil war if it’s a democracy? Surely the whole idea of democracies is that the people’s will can be expressed without violence?
A. Er, yes. But we did not foresee the resentment of the Sunnis at being ruled by the Shia majority they used to control.
Q: Really? It sounds pretty predictable to me. But leave that for a bit. Can our troops, or the Americans, contain or control this civil war?
A: Actually, no. It’s far too widespread and in many places we’ve already handed over control of the streets to Iraqi militias.
Q: So if our troops cannot stop the civil war, what exactly can they do?
A: Well, what they are mostly doing now is defending their own bases against attack.
Q: So what difference would it make if they left, except that British families would not be suffering the loss of their sons, brothers, and fathers?
A: We can’t possibly leave. That would be completely irresponsible. What would the world think?” ~Peter Hitchens
Conservatives see this when it comes to things like school shootings and gun ownership. They reject the chimera of a risk-free society, and recognize that, while in a costless world, the optimal number of school shootings is zero, we don’t live in such a world. However, when it comes to the entirely speculative chance of a WMD attack by a Third-World thug who never dreamed of it, they become tightly wound bundles of fear and rage, and cheer a costly, destructive war. If the Iran debate is any indication, “bomb today for a brighter tomorrow” hasn’t lost much of its appeal for the Right.
Meanwhile, George Will–who has been excellent of late–falls off a bit this week. Will has gone to see Flight 93. And he says “The message of the movie is: We are all potential soldiers. And we all may be, at any moment, at the war’s front, because in this war the front can be anywhere.” You can almost picture George on the way to the elevator at ABC, eyes coolly scanning the lobby for anything amiss, one hand in pocket, clutching his hidden quill pen with steely purpose.
Yes, any of us could find ourselves in the middle of a terrorist attack. And we hope that if the call comes, we’ll be able to acquit ourselves half as well as the brave men on Flight 93. But we should also realize that the opportunities for such heroism are likely to be vanishingly rare. There’s more likely to be a truck or a bloodclot or a cluster of cancerous cells with your name on it. And one ought not to be hysterical about any of it. ~Gene Healy
Hysterical is the key word here, with all the emasculation and feminisation that word implies. That has to be just about the best description of the irrational fear of Iraq (or Iran) that seems to saturate more than a few conservatives. Usually the more “informed” a conservative is about the current state of Iran’s uranium enrichment program or the alleged progress towards a nuke, the more terrified he is. What is he afraid of? He is afraid of a “threat” that does not affect him in the slightest. The links between Pakistan’s ISI and al-Qaeda? That doesn’t worry him very much at all. But Iran is so very scary. I mean, they have a crazy president and everything! Of course, the last military coup they had in Iran was in the 1920s, while in Pakistan coups have been a sort of national pastime, as they were in Turkey some decades back. But the government regards (for some good and some inexplicable reasons) highly unstable, dangerous, historically aggressive Pakistan as one of our closest allies, while relatively stable and historically non-aggressive Iran is supposed to be the wild-eyed maniac of the region. So much for knowledge being the cure for irrational fears.
The sort of American who is this fearful of Iranian nukes is like someone in Iowa staying up nights worrying about the next tsunami. He’s like a man in Nebraska who lives in stark terror of the rising of the oceans. Or maybe a New Mexican who is deathly afraid of being hit by a hurricane. There is no reason for this sort of hysteria, but that hasn’t stopped it from spreading.
But history shows that Christianity, when pressed, will murder and burn and torture countless people to enforce orthodoxy. We live in kinder, gentler times, and Christianity experienced a Reformation, a Counter-Reformation and even the Second Vatican Council in ways that Islam sadly has not. And so regular Muslims are far closer to Islamists than many Christians are to Christianists. ~Andrew Sullivan
Has it come to this? Has basic historical knowledge fallen to such a pitiful state that these sorts of statements can be made in earnest by allegedly educated people? Someone who believes that any Christian authority killed “countless people” to enforce orthodoxy reveals himself as an ignoramus. That’s all there is to it. In the entire history of the Inquisition–the longest and bloodiest enforcement of any orthodoxy in Christian history–the number of those executed over six hundred years was on the order of 9,000 people. The American government has accidentally killed more Iraqis than that in the last three years for their own liberation (which Sullivan supported), so can we be spared the faux morality of whining about Christian fanatics killing the heterodox? I take St. Theodore Studites’ view that it is wrong to kill heretics for their heresy, as it deprives them of a chance to abandon heresy, but even so 9,000 is not “countless people.”
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The God of all people in Europe, Asia, Africa, America, the Pacific and the rest of the world is one. ~Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
A look inside the latest numbers suggests several reasons, but it appears the president’s stand on immigration is the biggest drag on his support among Republicans—even more damaging than the disapproval caused by rising gas prices.
Of several issues specifically covered by the Gallup poll—the economy, foreign affairs, the situation in Iraq, terrorism, immigration, and energy policy—immigration is the only area in which more Republicans disapprove of the president’s policy than approve. And they disapprove by a significant margin: 52 percent of Republicans in the survey disapprove of Bush’s immigration policy, versus 40 percent who approve. ~Byron York, National Review
Nearly two-thirds of respondents said the increase in gasoline prices was not beyond the control of a president, but 89 percent said this administration did not have a plan to deal with the problem. ~The New York Times
On a visceral level, it must be satisfying to blame Dobleve for high gas prices. Not a big fan of the man myself, I would be pleased to find something else to pin on him, but, alas, this time we cannot hold him responsible. Certainly, loose talk about “all options” being on the table vis-a-vis Iran in answer to questions about nuking that country does not help settle the oil market, and his comments on that topic alone account for some of the recent spikes in crude oil prices. However, that has relatively little to do with the price of gasoline right now. I suppose people are right to say Mr. Bush doesn’t have a plan. How can one have a plan to fix something that is completely beyond his reach? For his next trick, he will abolish tyranny. Oh, wait, he tried that one already, and the results were less than promising.
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About 60 percent of respondents said they favored the plan proposed by some Republicans in the Senate that would permit illegal immigrants who had worked in the United States for at least two years to keep their jobs and apply for citizenship. Just 35 percent endorsed the view of some conservatives that illegal immigrants should be deported. ~The New York Times
That isn’t overwhelming support for deportation, but the support is surprisingly high considering how little it has been discussed publicly by anyone on any side of the debate. Restrictionists have avoided talking about it for fear of “scaring” away the support of centrist voters for more basic reforms (such as, say, securing the border), and this is probably tactically smart, while their opposite numbers (whom we would call, what, immigration expansionists?) regard deportation as an idea so implausible and alien that it might as well be from beyond the moon. But deportation is what a government does with illegal immigrants. I know of few other areas of policy where we throw up our hands and say, “We can’t possibly enforce this rule, because we would have to enforce it so many times!”
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Mr. Bush’s overall job approval rating hit another new low, 31 percent, tying the low point of his father in July 1992, four months before the elder Mr. Bush lost his bid for a second term to Bill Clinton. That is the third lowest approval rating of any president in 50 years; only Richard M. Nixon and Jimmy Carter were viewed less favorably. ~The New York Times
Via Dan Froomkin
Every American town that I know of now has numerous physicians and business owners from India. What kind of citizens desert their own poor country with desperately needed skills and capital? What kind of country casually robs poor countries of their most essential people? ~Clyde Wilson
Even Bollywood has taken up the problem of “brain drain” and its social consequences by presenting us a tale of the Indian emigrant who came back: Shah Rukh Khan plays an engineer who returns to his village to build an electric generator for the villagers out of his own pocket (and, yes, he also does some dancing). The movie is called Swades, and for the most part it’s really over the top and full of cloying sentimentality (more so than the usual Bollywood fare), but you could almost hear the pleas of the Indian establishment throughout the film: “Come back, NRIs, come back!” Ghar aaja pardesi, tera des bulaaye re, indeed.
Wow. If the people that are paying thousands of dollars to coyotes, risking their lives crossing the desert on foot or in trucks, working hard at our low-wage jobs, harvesting our Christmas trees, our tomatoes, our vineyards in back-breaking work, standing in our parking lots hoping for one more day of labor to support themselves and their families, starting their own businesses, etc., are Mexico’s REJECTS then the country should have a more kick-ass economy than we do. It’s an offensively outlandish notion. ~Joanna, Fey Accompli
It is a pity that my offhand conclusion of this post with Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn’s observation about immigrants became the focus of her response, since it would have been much more interesting to have her explain why someone would go from voting for Cuauhtemoc Cardenas in Mexico to voting for Bush once here. That was the core of my earlier post, and the part most relevant to her original statement, but I suppose we can go down this road if we must.
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This thing about our govt. colluding with Narcistan — sorry, I mean Mexico — to keep the flow of illegal immigrants coming, is the last straw. Either our govt. is criminally incompetent, or else it is maliciously hostile to ordinary American citizens. Or both.
I kept my mouth pretty well shut when the splendid whack-’em’upside-the-head assault on Iraq turned into a ludicrous and apologetic “nation-building” exercise. I bellyached in a restrained fashion at the Harriet Miers farce. I kept my grumbling over Medicaid, the budget bloat, and border security at a decently low volume. This one, though, I can’t take.
I can’t think of a single thing to say in favor of the national Republican party, its senators, representatives, governors, and administration. I can’t think of a single reason why, right now, I should vote for any of them.
I could never vote for the liberal mob; but if a conservative third party comes up between now and 2008, they’ll have my full attention — likely my money and my vote, too. We are on the last page of Animal Farm here; I can no longer tell the men from the pigs. ~John Derbyshire
I think this is a useful illustration of the problem with populism. Being on the wrong side of “the people” is automatically seen as betrayal, rather than mere disagreement. I’d been bee-bopping and scatting against liberal populism and no one cared; when I was skeptical about an issue conservative populists treasure, I was inundated with pronouncements about the glories of people power.
Second, I’m not trying to say that conservatives who resort to populist arguments are crypto-left-wingers or anything like that. But I do believe that the logic of populism can be corrosive if not held in check. One need only look at Pat Buchanan to see how completely it can eat away classically liberal views. ~Jonah “Lie For a Just Cause” Goldberg
Right away, I should say that few people have less regard for both democracy and populism than I do. One of the reasons I named my blog Eunomia was because I took it as a given that eunomia (good order) was the standard by which a regime should be judged, and by that standard democracy or ochlocracy (which is really what populism of the type we are discussing amounts to) will always be found gravely wanting. Both are deeply flawed and dangerous. Both have accounted for more political disasters in the last 200 years than had occurred in the previous 1000. No one who saw the poisoned atmosphere leading up to the invasion of Iraq, which was only a fairly mild form of populist agitation and demagoguery (to which NR contributed more than a little), can view populism as something tending towards a healthy polity.
But the only time you will hear a modern “movement” apparatchik speak seriously against “the people” and what the people want is when it comes to immigration. Why? This is not particularly because they have some deep abiding fear of mass hysteria or the nationalisation of industry, but because they basically like the idea of mass immigration in principle and want to keep it safe from the masses of Americans who, as citizens, find the current state of affairs profoundly offensive to their understanding of our political system. Even though mass immigration on this scale, particularly when uncontrolled in any real way, is deliterious to the actual well-being of the people–which ought to concern any patriot and conservative more than anyone–in Goldberg’s view the people ought not to have much of a say in decisions (whether on immigration or the ports deal) that affect or may affect the commonwealth in dramatic and irreversible ways.
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President Bush’s approval rating has slumped to 31% in a new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll, the lowest of his presidency and a warning sign for Republicans in the November elections. ~USA Today
This caused me to remember a comment by one of my readers. He wondered what it would look like when the “bottom fell out” of the Bush presidency. We are beginning to see what it looks like as Mr. Bush now peers into the coming abyss of approval ratings in the 20s. The reader made the remark that to sink any deeper Bush would start hitting granite. Well, he has hit the granite and has kept going down.
Residents of a Darfur refugee camp hacked an African Union translator to death Monday shortly after the U.N. humanitarian chief rushed out of the same camp when demonstrators attacked another translator who was part of his entourage, U.N. spokesmen said.
Both attacks were in Kalma camp near the city of Nyala in south Darfur, visited by Jan Egeland, the U.N. undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs.
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in New York said he was told there were two attacks.
The first attack was against a non-governmental organization staffer, which prompted the departure of Egeland and his staff, Dujarric said. The second occurred after Egeland left, when the African Union compound in the camp was destroyed by its residents, he added.
“It is our understanding that an African Union translator was hacked to death,” Dujarric said. ~The Washington Post
If you still think the GOP Congress isn’t in a lot of trouble, just get a load of Mr. Bush’s ratings (taken from the same Fund article):
“[What’s] happening is a breakdown of the coalition that elected and re-elected the president,” says pollster John Zogby. He told the Washington Times that in his surveys he found Mr. Bush pulling in less than 45% support among people invested in the stock market, Nascar fans and gun owners. His standing among born-again Christians was just over 50%.
Ken Mehlman is the unflappable efficiency expert who chairs the Republican National Committee. Because he’s not known for histrionics, his warning last week to GOP congressional staffers about this November’s elections caused many on Capitol Hill to bolt upright.
Mr. Mehlman traveled to Capitol Hill to warn the staffers that they risked a disaster at the polls if they didn’t pass meaningful legislation the conservative base cares about. Other GOP strategists go even further. “If the election were held today, I’d say the odds are 90% that we’d lose the House,” says GOP consultant Mike Murphy. ~John Fund, OpinionJournal.com
As has been mentioned before, the time for the Republicans to start panicking was ten or twelve months ago when they still had time to make the necessary changes. Then they might have been able to put together a legislative agenda that could have at least duped enough of their regular voters into turning out for them. Even eight months ago might have been soon enough to get the ball rolling on an immigration bill that will satisfy the disgruntled GOP voter. As it stands now, the GOP cannot push the kind of immigration bill they need to push to whip up the base in the time they have left, and they are left trumpeting such clever things as penalising energy companies for price-gouging. In addition to handling the regular budget legislation, the Congress will have at best three solid months between now and November when members are not on recess or on campaign. Any legislation rushed through in that period of time will probably be unusually poorly written and ill-considered. It is no longer a question of the GOP Congress “performing.” They had the last 15 months to perform, and they failed. Politically speaking, now is the time for them to begin preparing damage control.
Now that everyone has held forth on whether or not it is right for people to not vote for Romney because of his Mormonism, we might consider a policy issue that will guarantee his electoral doom in the GOP primaries. Here is an excerpt from Betsy McCaughey’s WSJ op-ed (via Say Anything):
Everyone should have access to health care. Massachusetts aims to achieve this goal with a double mandate: All residents must have health coverage (Section 12) and all employers with more than 10 workers must assume ultimate financial responsibility if employees or their immediate family members need expensive medical care and can’t pay for it (Sections 32, 44).
What is the impact on individuals? The state will offer subsidies to help low income residents pay for coverage (Section 19), but most of the uninsured earn too much to be eligible. An individual making $29,000 or more would probably have to pay the full cost or find a job that provides health insurance. Individual coverage costs about $3,600 in Massachusetts — a hefty bill. Moreover, under the new law, individuals purchasing their own insurance must buy HMO policies [emphasis added]. Preferred provider plans (PPOs) — which give you more ability to choose your own doctors and treatments — are not allowed (Section 65).
The impact of this law on employers is substantial. The original bill required employers with more than 10 full-time workers to provide all of them (and their families) with health insurance or to opt out of that requirement by paying a $295 annual tax per worker into a state fund. This modest penalty was highly publicized by the bill’s supporters as proof that the bill would not be a heavy burden on businesses. Nevertheless, Gov. Romney vetoed it, perhaps to display his Republican credentials as a tax-cutter.
The Massachusetts House of Representatives overrode the veto — but the reality is that the $295 penalty is small potatoes compared with the other obligations in the law. Say, for example, you open a restaurant and don’t provide health coverage. If the chef’s spouse or child is rushed to the hospital and can’t pay because they don’t have insurance, you — the employer — are responsible for up to 100% of the cost of that medical care. There is no cap on your obligation. Once the costs reach $50,000, the state will start billing you and fine you $5,000 a week for every week you are late in filling out the paperwork on your uncovered employees (Section 44). These provisions are onerous enough to motivate the owners of small businesses to limit their full-time workforce to 10 people, or even to lay employees off.
Having signed a bill this hideous, Romney ought to realise that reaction to his Mormonism will be the least of his problems out on the trail.
Yes, and if Republicans screw this up - which they may already have done - they’ll lost a huge electorate that should naturally be theirs. Hispanics are hardworking, religious, conservative, and way more family-oriented than white Protestants. But they’ll pick the blue pill if the GOP pushes hard to round ‘em up, send ‘em home, and criminalize their nephews, sisters, cousins, uncles, etc., and they’ll be entirely justified in doing so. ~Joanna, Fey Accompli
Whenever someone repeats the “religious, conservative, family-oriented” line about the primarily Mexican immigrants that we’re really talking about (we are not talking about long-assimilated, middle-class Hispanics like Albuquerque’s Democratic mayor, Marty Chavez, for example, or the old Hispanic communities of northern New Mexico), I usually let the assumption pass. There are larger things at stake than bizarre arguments about which party can benefit the most from betraying the country, but where is the evidence for these claims about the “religious, conservative, family-oriented” folks? (Another ever-so-minor point: why would religious, conservative, family-oriented voters necessarily even want to support the current GOP?)
It might be interesting, for historical purposes, to establish where the bulk of the primarily Mexican immigrants originally come from inside their own country, and what their religious habits and political preferences in Mexico are before they leave. Perhaps some work on this has already been done–but if it has, you won’t see any enthusiasts for mass immigration referring to any of it. They are simply recycling stereotypes of what they assume poor immigrant folk must be like, perhaps because some of our own ancestors were like that when they came here a century or more ago. If modern Mexican society has its fair share of religious, conservative and highly family-oriented people, which presumably it does, these folks tend to be PAN voters and I suspect they are fairly satisfied where they are; the people from the neighbourhoods of the giant sprawl of Mexico City, who routinely vote for the most left-wing alternative, the PRD, probably have different religious and political priorities that few American Hispanics or white Protestant Republicans would understand, much less share. They will not only already want to take the “blue pill,” so to speak, but they will not have even considered the possibility of voting for the American version of PAN.
It is my guess, though I might be mistaken, that we are invariably getting a lot more PRI and PRD voters through mass immigration than we are getting the “religious, conservative and family-oriented” ones. (To be fair, it may be that some PRI and PRD voters are also religious and family-oriented in some sense, but they are definitely not conservative and do not understand their religious and family commitments as a natural or obvious fit with conservative politics of the PAN or Republican variety.) Not that having masses of the conservative and religious folks illegally entering this country would be any better, but it would at least make this one largely irrelevant claim of the open borders crowd more credible.
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At any rate, let those itching to intervene go themselves and put their bodies on the line. They have no right whatsoever to deprive an American mother of her son just so they can feel good about themselves at their next cocktail party. ~Charley Reese
As I was driving to church this morning, I looked over and saw this behemoth of a gold Lexus SUV in the next lane over with the oh-so precious bumper sticker, “Don’t let the car fool you. My treasure is in heaven.” If there is a mass produced bumper sticker saying this, we can be fairly sure that our Lexus driver is not alone out there. Since I was in the western suburbs of Chicago near Glen Ellyn, I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that this person was probably your plain-vanilla Christian conservative.
Now goodness knows I wouldn’t want to be sanctimonious, but it seems to me that if you have to have a bumper sticker that explicitly acknowledges the wide divergence between the absolutely unnecessary indulgence of a Lexus SUV that also tries to make light of it (while affirming, perhaps even sanctimoniously, one’s own religious credentials) there is probably something amiss somewhere. What’s more, I suspect the owner of that Lexus SUV knew there was something amiss, but was not going to make the necessary changes that even he felt were probably needed. Why not make a change? Because he’s got a right. I can already hear the chorus: “Freedom! Markets! First they came for the SUVs…” As Peter Viereck said (I am paraphrasing), freedom can only endure so much of this sort of “freedom.” But, after all, a Lexus SUV is nothing to sneeze at. The refueling costs alone must stagger some small countries.
But maybe I’ve got it all wrong. Maybe owners of Lexus SUVs feel so deeply anxious about their material riches and are doing their very best to alleviate themselves of this burden by spending all their money on fuel for their ridiculous behemoth vehicles. After all, thanks to the redoubtable critics of crunchy conservatism, we now know that there are no professing Christians so caught up in the web of materialist consumption. What a relief.
Still, it’s a long way from the Lexus dealership to contemptus mundi.
He has an uncontrollable habit of bombthrowing and contrarianism, but he had me with the polka dot pink tie and matching pocket kerchief, so he can stay. ~Joanna, Fey Accompli
Unfortunately, I can only manage to have an uncontrollable habit of bombthrowing (only rhetorical, naturally) and contrarianism (I’m not entirely sure why these are objectionable habits, which is probably why I engage in them so often). The rest I leave to the master of style himself.
Each side seeks the imprimatur of the Founding Fathers and Meacham’s book renders judgment. The Founding Fathers occupied the “sensible center” of American life and promoted a non-sectarian public religiosity. There would be no coercion in American religious life but religion would influence public policy because it influences the men and women in this nation. From the Founding itself to Lincoln’s civil war to the Civil Rights movement, Meacham contends that the center holds. The thesis is as calm, moderate and ’sensible’ as Meacham himself. Too bad then that this book is so insipid, dishonest and ugly it could make the easygoing agnostic long for the clerical bloodshed of the guillotine and your local Unitarian nostalgic for the rack and thumbscrews. ~Michael Brendan Dougherty
Michael has another great bit where he digs into Meacham’s treatment of American history:
The American history that Meacham presents is almost comically like the caricature conservative critics make of American history classes in public high school. It goes like this: The Founding fell short of its ideals because of slavery. Then slavery, slavery slavery. Then Lincoln was our greatest President and then Wilson was a great idealist, then the evil isolationists were defeated by F.D.R - then Martin Luther King happened - and don’t say a bad thing about any of them. In Meacham’s story they are all perfect exemplars of the American Gospel.
Michael’s tone here is perfect and appropriately serious, but the picture he gives of Meacham’s understanding of history also calls to mind a similarly sophisticated account of world history in the movie Airplane 2:
McCroskey: Jacobs, I want to know absolutely everything that’s happened up till now.
Jacobs: Well, let’s see. First the earth cooled. And then the dinosaurs came, but they got too big and fat, so they all died and they turned into oil. And then the Arabs came and they bought Mercedes Benzes.
In the response to most foreign policy crises, the use of military force is properly viewed as a last resort. In the response to genocide, the use of military force is properly viewed as a first resort. ~The New Republic
It might be possible to take this view seriously if it were not uttered by people who mention Kosovo in the same breath with Rwanda as if they were conflicts even remotely similar in nature or scale. Let’s just keep in mind that this view, even if taken seriously, entails sending other Americans to risk their lives to assuage the feelings of moral obligation among some of the folks back home. No one seems to be as confident about intervening militarily overseas to do good as the man who stands no chance of ever having to be part of the military intervention. For my part, I find it offensive that there are Americans who think it acceptable to fabricate or exaggerate conflicts into “genocide,” as was done in the cases of Bosnia, Kosovo and now Darfur, and further find it acceptable to send Americans to halt the alleged “genocide.” The premise of TNR’s indignation is that there are plenty of Americans prattling on about Darfurian “genocide,” but too few willing to put Americans on the line for their convictions. TNR calls that hypocrisy. Maybe it is, but I’d rather have a lot of hysterical hypocrites complaining about something they have no intention of fixing than calm, dedicated partisans of interventionist action in Sudan.
Besides all the obvious practical and political reasons not to intervene in Darfur, there are two basic truths, one moral and one legal, that compel non-intervention: it is none of our business (as the internal affairs of all other nations are properly none of our business), and Sudan remains a sovereign country whose territorial integrity is guaranteed by international law (for whatever very little that’s worth). Frequently, the consequences of intervention are worse than if the conflict is allowed to conclude (Kosovo is a perfect example of the “cure” being far, far worse than the “disease”).
At the same time, non-intervention avoids entanglement in complex foreign conflicts most of which most Americans, no matter how educated and informed, understand only superficially and are in no position to resolve. That it is the common opinion of pundits and politicians in this country that there is a strictly racial war going on in the Sudan underscores how poorly they understand a situation they profess to be deeply concerned about–how much less will Americans and other Westerners less well informed of the conflict in Sudan fail to understand or support any expedition into the Sahara?
If a real case of a new Rwanda were to appear in the future (and I must insist that Darfur simply is not it), and it did demand some swift response, public fatigue with the various do-gooding interventions over conflicts falsely labeled as genocide would likely make it politically impossible. It does not help that most “humanitarian” appeals for intervention are thinly disguised pretexts for acting against a government Washington would actually be only too pleased to overthrow–as usual. (That it cannot succeed in overthrowing the Khartoum regime without significant negative fallout for actual American interests is the main, very rational idea that blunts hostility to Khartoum.)
Interventionists have exhausted the patience of reasonable people with their constant alarms, playing the part of the boy who cried, “Never again!” (In other alarmist news, Charles Krauthammer has been using the fear of a new Holocaust as the stick with which to beat people into taking action against Iran.) In the event that a real genocide were to be perpetrated by a state at some point in this century, the public’s willingness to trust advocates of intervention will have already vanished thanks to the incessant call to “do something” in countries where there is no genocide and where we have no proper role or responsibility.
But good government, and good order, aren’t created by canon or constitution; good order creates both canon and constitution. Custom, culture and individual character (the three C’s) are responsible for good government, and without much of any of those, the rule of law is just one more way to tyranny. Regardless of what kind of system individuals create, it’s only as good as the people in it. ~Charles Featherstone
I would like to think that Mr. Featherstone’s comments about good order have something to do with the name of this blog, but regardless I’m simply pleased to see another libertarian talking sense about the importance of culture.
America’s allies in Europe have rejected an Administration proposal to deploy NATO forces to Darfur. The U.N.’s humanitarian agencies have done yeoman work to feed and shelter refugees. But the Security Council has been unable to impose broad and effective sanctions on Khartoum thanks to Chinese and Russian opposition.
This leaves the United States, the only country in the world with the capability and, potentially, the will to aid Darfuris and every other group threatened with genocide or brutal oppression. President Bush has certainly been engaged with the crisis in Darfur, more so than any of his alleged moral betters in places such as France and Sweden. Yet having endured so much opprobrium and resistance to his last two acts of international hygiene–the liberation of Afghanistan and Iraq–it’s no wonder he’s reluctant to carry another burden, particularly when American interests are not directly at stake.
There’s a lesson here for all of those liberal internationalists who now demand the Administration “do something” in Darfur: If you want to stop genocide, don’t shackle the world’s only policeman. ~The Wall Street Journal
The peace agreed to by the Sudanese government and the rebels of the Sudanese Liberation Army is good news, and to the considerable extent that Washington was responsible for making it possible the administration should receive due credit for this reasonable exercise of American influence to bring the conflict to a halt. Few will find reason to complain very much when America uses her good offices to achieve such results, though one has to wonder whether the hysteria about Darfurian “genocide” over the past three years has been at all necessary to reach this point.
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This collection of several Peter Viereck articles (originally published in 1950 and reissued by Transaction last year) seemed worth a look, and I just picked up my copy today. It has an excellent introduction to Peter Viereck and his relationship to American conservatism by Claes Ryn, which provides some good quotes relating to some of the recent online tussles that have involved Eunomia:
Seeing in the preference for laissez-faire economics a prejudice unduly favoring commercial and utilitarian values, Viereck thought of his own position as representing a “new” American conservatism, one closer to the great Western cultural traditions and supporting ethical and other restraints on the forces of the market. He was to find little or no concern about such restraints in William F. Buckley, Jr.’s National Review, which was started in 1955. (p.5)
The introduction (which is all I’ve had a chance to read so far) is generally favourable to Viereck, but Prof. Ryn also makes a number of criticisms and offers some correctives to Viereck’s formulations.
Prof. Ryn makes more apt remarks along the same lines a little earlier in the introduction:
“Conservatism” meant primarily minimal government, free market economics, and a bias favoring business. Viereck’s advocacy of ethical, aesthetical, and political principles drawn from the classical and Judaeo-Christian traditions was decidedly inopportune. He sharply criticized the secular religions of progress that offer salvation through politics and inveighed against “a morally illiterate culture of unhappy, and untragic pleasure-seekers” that “has failed to root its masses in the universals of civilization.” (p.5)
As an admirer of Metternich, I was also positively thrilled to find that Peter Viereck had already taken account of the man’s sane, cosmopolitan (in the best sense) and civilised conduct of diplomacy in one of the articles in the volume. There will be more comment on the book as time permits.
Update: Here is an item referring to an October 2005 New Yorker profile of Viereck. John Miller dutifully responded with the official party line, criticising Viereck for such diverse political sins as being insufficiently hostile to the New Deal and supportive of Adlai Stevenson. Strange judgements as these might have been in the 1950s for a conservative, as removed as they were from the views of many of his contemporary conservatives, and as much as I have a hard time understanding them, these are political choices that seem strikingly more conservative compared to the policy preferences of the “movement” today.
Yet we are supposed to look down on Peter Viereck because he was not sufficiently on board with the “movement” in the early days; as someone who puts little store with being on board with the “movement,” I can’t say that it matters much whether the official organs of the “movement” approve of someone or not. It is probably a badge of honour these days to be written off by National Review. Besides, I find the objections by dedicated Bush supporters to the quality of anyone’s conservatism a bit much to take. Intelligent readers should dig a bit deeper and consider the substance of Prof. Ryn’s comments and critiques.
Objectivism should be discarded and never taken up as a world view by an intelligent moral being. ~A.C. Kleinheider, Volunteer Voters
But on fourth down, the penalty for failure is severe — you turn the ball over to the other team. So, you’ll probably run a conservative play to grind out the needed yardage and not much more. Knowing that, on lower downs, the defense tends to play back to prevent giving up a touchdown or long gain. ~Steve Sailer
Mr. Sailer is here tearing apart the silly musings of an economist about the desirability of running a play on fourth down in the context of “maximising” a team’s potential offense (football coaches, you see, do not take enough risks), also discussed here. His observations are right, but I would just add that significant variables of the circumstances in the game determine whether or not it is more or less desirable to make an attempt on fourth down. Unless you are trailing badly, exceedingly close to the end zone or are behind and running out of time, it is almost never the advisable thing to do. Like many an ill-advised two-point conversion, going on fourth down has as much to do with psychological gamesmanship, ego and contempt for the defense as it has to do with the probability of actually getting a first down. Just as often, it winds up losing you the game.
This does not require degrees in economics, proficency with statistics or a tremendous amount of time spent playing football; any moderately intelligent spectator can pick up on this without any difficulty after acquainting himself with the game over the course of a season. It takes an economist and his raft of graphs and projections to treat as nonsense what common sense would tell 9 out of 10 football fans.
Here is the graph projecting Bush’s midterm approval rating that is making the rounds:
And here is the commentary by Charles Franklin of Political Arithmetik who worked up the statistics for the graph:
President Bush’s approval rating is on course to set a record low for mid-term elections. The magnitude of the problem is greater than commonly perceived. The previous record low approval in the last Gallup poll of October was 41% for President Truman in 1950. Based on approval trends in 2005-06, the President and Congressional Republicans are facing an election day 2006 approval of between 20.4% and 40.8%. (The range is highlighted in the graph for 2006. The “dot” is the estimate based on the trend in most of 2005, which is less than half the current rate of decline.)
Via Andrew Sullivan
As in the 1960s, so also now, it is raging against liberalism. To put it somewhat differently, the neoconservatism of today is the liberalism of 1960. ~Richard John Neuhaus
The Roll Call story talks about Madrid’s ties with state Insurance Commissioner Serna, who currently is on paid leave while being investigated for his dealings with Century Bank, which received a state contract after contributions to Con Alma — a health-care nonprofit that Serna and Madrid co-founded . Serna stepped down as president of Con Alma after the story about Century Bank broke.
The story quotes “one plugged-in Democratic lobbyist in Santa Fe” saying that Serna and Madrid are “two peas in a pod … They created Con Alma together.”
It’s clear, Kurtz writes, “that the political implications for Madrid’s high-stakes battle with Wilson — a perennial target in an Albuquerque-based district that leans modestly Democratic — are staggering.” ~The New Mexican
The Serna and Vigil trials were our big political scandal news from last year, and I had originally thought that Madrid would not be affected by either case. Obviously, that was premature. Any whiff of corruption on Madrid’s part in the current climate will go a long way toward shoring up Wilson’s flank come November. Wilson will need every break she can get, as her advantage in money is disappearing fast.
Faced with the prospect of losing their majority in the fall midterm election, House Republican leaders are accommodating vulnerable Republicans by force — and pressed two unlikely allies to cooperate on legislation addressing the jump in gasoline prices.
GOP leaders suggested that House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Joe Barton (R-Texas) to work with Rep. Heather Wilson (R-N.M.), who is facing a tough reelection race, on a bill to impose heavier fines on any energy company caught price gouging, said top GOP sources.
The bill passed yesterday by a 309 to 34 vote.
The alliance between Barton and Wilson is unusual because the two lawmakers have a strained relationship. In 2004, Barton tried to oust Wilson from his prestigious committee because she voted with Democrats on a motion that would have forced the Bush administration to release internal cost estimates of the Medicare prescription-drug law. ~The Hill
The leadership must really fear for Wilson’s seat if they are going to such lengths to encourage the passage of this hysterical legislation about price gouging. It is just revealing Wilson and the GOP to be as bereft of ideas as I have assumed them to be for many years.
Indeed, this bears out quite well in state polls. One finds that the Southwest and Texas are quite favorably disposed toward immigrants, while the better part of the South is bursting with hostility.
Back in December of 2005, Survey USA tracked views on immigration in all 50 states. In West Virginia, 60 percent of respondents agreed that “immigrants take jobs away from Americans.” The picture was the same throughout most of the South: In Alabama, 56 percent agreed, Arkansas 53 percent, Mississippi 53 percent, South Carolina 53 percent.
Meanwhile, only 33 percent in New Mexico agreed that immigrants take away American jobs. In Arizona it was 42 percent, Colorado 44 percent, Nevada 44 percent and California 30 percent. ~Ryan Sager, RealClearPolitics
Two problems with Sager’s analysis: first, apparently like the poll he is citing, he makes no distinction between the responses from members of different parties, nor is there any distinction between responses from different ethnic groups. Including these details would show that the border states, with their large and growing Hispanic populations, are more sharply divided because of the social and political consequences mass immigration has already been having in these states (New Mexico is a strange outlier for all kinds of reasons, not least of which that it is, on local and state level, a one-party state under the Democrats and has been since the 1920s, but even here local conditions explain these results in terms that have little directly to do with feelings of accommodation with mass immigration).
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Even 31 percent of conservatives want Republicans out of power. ~AP (Yahoo News)
For that reason, I say, be kind to the illegals as we do our best to ship them back, and save your anger for Walmart and the other massive corporations who lure them here to do their dirty work. Perhaps the worst enemies of the American people are the apologists for free trade and open borders who call themselves conservatives and libertarians. ~Thomas Fleming
Labour appeared to have avoided a meltdown, but lost overall control of seven councils, including Stoke-on-Trent, Bury, Redditch, Derby and Camden.
The Conservatives won Bassetlaw, Shrewsbury, Atcham, Crawley, Winchester, Harrow and Coventry.
Labour said the results showed a “North-South divide”, with Conservatives making progress in the capital but making little impact in the north of England. A senior party aide pointed to the Tories’ failure to win a single seat in cities such as Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle. ~The Daily Telegraph
According to a later Telegraph report, total Labour losses exceeded 250 council seats and they lost control of 16 councils around the country. The failure of the Tories to make any dent in northern urban areas shows the enduring disconnect between the modern party and the people in the north. The Tories have managed to win close to 40% of the vote nationwide, but their power remains (as it has been for decades) narrowly based in the south with London as a very unreliable base of support. To read this correctly, it is important to understand this was the explosion of all the pent-up resentments against Blair that have been building with increasing intensity for over five years. People finally had their protest vote when there was no danger of changing who would sit in national Government. When it comes time for the next general election, the alternative will still be between the toffy Cameron and the jocund Gordon Brown, and on policy the electorate has so far shown no sign in any general election of repudiating the current Government’s positions. Conservatives here and in Britain should not get too excited about Cameron’s “successful” leadership just yet.
The problem with American conservatism is that it hates the left more than the state, loves the past more than liberty, feels a greater attachment to nationalism than to the idea of self-determination, believes brute force is the answer to all social problems, and thinks it is better to impose truth rather than risk losing one soul to heresy. It has never understood the idea of freedom as a self-ordering principle of society. It has never seen the state as the enemy of what conservatives purport to favor. It has always looked to presidential power as the saving grace of what is right and true about America.
I’m speaking now of the variety of conservatism created by William Buckley, not the Old Right of Albert Jay Nock, John T. Flynn, Garett Garrett, H.L. Mencken, and company, though these people would have all rejected the name conservative as ridiculous. After Lincoln, Wilson, and FDR, what’s to conserve of the government? The revolutionaries who tossed off a milder British rule would never have put up with it. ~Lew Rockwell
Via Daniel McCarthy
In responding to this, I don’t mean to poach on Michael Dougherty’s future critiques of libertarianism. Incidentally, have you all seen Michael’s redesigned Surfeited with Dainities and his latest posts? Okay, promotion over. Now back to libertarians.
I wonder what Mr. Rockwell would make of all those conservatives who find what Buckley, his successors and their fellow travellers have done to conservatism appalling and perverse. What of those conservatives who agree with Prof. Lukacs that the next great divide will probably be between the sort of nationalists both he and Rockwell oppose and patriots who, like Rockwell, reject the nationalists, their worship of executive power and their acquiescence in every war? He cannot be unaware of these people, whose intellectual predecessors do not primarily include Nock, Garrett and the rest, though we generally admire and respect those men of the pre-war Old Right for their good work, yet he would leave his readers with the impression that the choice is between a basically libertarian Old Right tradition and the perversion of conservatism that prevails in the high places of the “movement” today.
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We thought he was an amiable dunce, sort of like a guy out of a Budweiser ad. Actually, turns out he’s a preppy Redneck-wanna-be, a type I’ve encountered once or twice in my life and is probably one of the creepiest personality types there is. To be a racist because you were raised in a racist family in the Deep South is one thing, racist by choice is a bit worse. ~Mark Schmitt
Via Ross Douthat
Note that this comes from someone who finds Sam Brownback “frightening” because he is a “theocrat.” This is not a very good source of analysis. Still, I don’t think I’ve ever met a preppy Redneck wanna-be. That would be quite an experience. I have met some preppy Rednecks (and, to be clear, I don’t mean either term pejoratively). In fact, I went to college with a whole slew of them, and talking about racism in relation to these sorts of people is simply stupid. Why is George Allen a racist? Why, he had a Confederate flag back when, of course! Horrors. He’s from northern Virginia–shouldn’t he know better? People from NOVA aren’t supposed to like the Confederacy! If George Allen weren’t a raving war supporter, I might even give him a serious look as a presidential candidate. It is his support for Wilsonian crusades, not his sympathy for his state’s heritage, that will drive this voter away come ‘08. But most GOP primary voters don’t have my view of the war, so it is hard to see how Romney, McCain and the rest beat him.
All Bush had to do in South Carolina in 2000 to convince people he was a conservative was say that the battle flag was a state issue and let McCain run to his left; Allen has gone Bush one better by actually having owned a battle flag for many years and apparently has defended it in one way or another. If the press wants to come after him for that, they will unwittingly make him into a hero of white Republican voters, especially Southern ones, sick of being told that they cannot admire, or at least respect, their ancestors and heroes and the causes for which they fought.
Update: Liberal bloggers have remembered that George Allen also appeared in the excellent adaptation of the Jeff Shaara novel, Gods and Generals. That he co-starred with Robert Byrd and Rep. Ed Markey (D-MA) does not seem to get mentioned. Also, The New Republic is hot on the trail of the flag non-story! Here is part of its report:
According to his colleagues, classmates, and published reports, Allen has either displayed the flag–on himself, his car, inside his home–or expressed his enthusiastic approval of the emblem from approximately 1967 to 2000.
In the pavement cafes, people moan that the structure is bigger than anything Saddam Hussein built. They are not impressed by the architects’ claims that it will be visible from space and cover an area larger than Vatican City. They are more interested in knowing whether the US State Department paid for the prime real estate or simply took it.
While families suffer electricity cuts, queue all day to fuel their cars and wait for water pipes to be connected, the US mission, due to open in June next year, will have its own power and water plants to cater for a population the size of a small town.
The design of the compound is supposed to be a secret, but you cannot hide the concrete contours of the 21 buildings that are taking shape.
Looming over the skyline, the embassy has the distinction of being the only big US building project in Iraq that is on time and within budget. In a week when Washington revealed a startling list of missed deadlines and overspending on building projects, Congress was told the bill for the embassy was $US592million ($772million). ~The Australian
Repeat after me: Iraq is not a colony, Iraq is a free and independent nation. Maybe if we say it often enough, it will become true.
May Day was a strike against America. It was a show of force, a demonstration of raw street power to force the government of the United States into granting to 12 million illegal aliens, who have broken our laws and broken into our country, not only the full benefits of U.S. citizenship, but full citizenship.
It was brazen act of extortion to coerce Congress to grant amnesty now, and not to enforce our immigration laws or secure the Mexican border – or to be ready for big trouble in the streets. ~Pat Buchanan
Notice a pattern? The bottom line is that Senate races are very susceptible to national breezes. A wind was blowing in one party’s direction in all four of the previous election cycles, and it made a big difference in determining which party won the lion’s share of the competitive Senate seats. ~Chuck Todd, National Journal
Some of the possible victims of the anti-GOP mood? According to the Journal’s race rankings, Santorum continues to trail Casey in PA 38-46%, DeWine is competitive but probably in trouble in Ohio, and Jim Talent is lagging slightly in Missouri.
Some argue that people might hate Congress — approval ratings are in the low 20s for the institution — but love their own representative. But is that really true? This poll shows only 25 percent of registered voters saying they would definitely vote to re-elect their member of Congress, 36 percent said that they would consider voting for someone else and 21 percent said that they would definitely vote for someone else. ~Charlie Cook, National Journal
The rest of the article describes depressed Republican interest this election cycle and a likely weaker turnout this year than in previous elections, both of which point to the GOP’s hold on Congress weakening this fall. With the lack of security for incumbents suggested by these other numbers, the echoes of ‘94 are getting louder.
Today words like “power” and “victory” are so stigmatized with Western sin that, in many quarters, it is politically incorrect even to utter them. For the West, “might” can never be right. And victory, when won by the West against a Third World enemy, is always oppression. But, in reality, military victory is also the victory of one idea and the defeat of another. Only American victory in Iraq defeats the idea of Islamic extremism. But in today’s atmosphere of Western contrition, it is impolitic to say so. ~Shelby Steele, OpinionJournal.com
One quick point before beginning on my main comments: you cannot militarily defeat an idea. The coalition victory of 1815 did not defeat the ideas of 1789 (more’s the pity!), nor could it have so long as people were willing to accept those ideas. Either the idea is discredited by its adherents’ actions, it is definitivly shown to be false and thereby loses its credibility or for some other reason it ceases to be compelling and disappears from circulation, but if “Islamic extremism” seems appealing to a mass of Iraqis or other Muslims there is next to nothing our armed forces will be able to stop that. If there is not a more compelling kind of political Islam to make the better argument for why Muslims should embrace it and not the political Islam of Salafists and Wahhabis, the latter will win the contest of “ideas,” as I very much doubt that a lot of Muslims will be opting for the secular liberal democracy over and above any of the other alternatives.
When Mr. Steele’s article came out yesterday, there was something of a buzz in the world of blogs about it, but at first the topic held surprisingly little interest for me. When I heard more about it in a phone conversation, I was no more interested. Was Mr. Steele making the argument that unlimited warfare is some expression of a high sense of morality, indeed a demonstration of our moral authority? Is he saying that only those who really believe that they represent a superior civilisation and people are willing to lay waste to entire nations? Yet clearly Mr. Steele seems to find this lost sense of white supremacy and more general Western superiority to be debilitating, as it strips us of our “ferocity” in war, and so has become a practical handicap of sorts. He wants some sort of renewed sense of moral authority, though obviously he is not calling for a return to white supremacy or colonialism.
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Over the past four years, politicians have tried to fold every issue imaginable into the “war on terror.” The temptation is understandable. It would be wonderfully convenient if America’s disparate problems all had the same solution — if the government could ease Americans’ economic and cultural anxieties about illegal immigration at the same time it safeguarded them against the jihadist threat. Unfortunately, it can’t. And when politicians conflate immigration and terrorism, they not only subtly tar illegal Mexican immigrants as violently anti-American, which they are not, but they also give Americans a false sense of security. Sinking billions into enforcement along the southern border may or may not safeguard American culture and American jobs, but it will do precious little to protect American lives. ~Peter Beinart, The Washington Post
Mr. Beinart does have a point that the tendency to roll everything into the “war on terror” rubric is ludicrous in the lengths to which politicians will take it. No one has gone as far as to say, “We must reform Social Security to win the hearts and minds of potential recruits for al-Qaeda…,” but it is only a matter of time at this rate. That being said, nothing in his piece convinces me that the southern border is the “wrong” place to stop terrorists, only that the northern border is equally important.
The solutions to jihadi threats and illegal immigration are not the same, but it is the sorry state of our national debate on immigration that the only way most politicians feel confident about supporting border security against illegal immigrants is by covering it up in a national security coating. One might get the impression that Mr. Beinart is markedly less troubled by the intense diversion of resources from our primary antiterrorist efforts that the Iraq war itself represents than he is by $2 billion dedicated to reinforcing a porous southern border. Besides, what does he have to complain about? In today’s Congress, $2 billion is chump change compared to the umpteen hundreds of billions poured into our misbegotten colony, er, free and sovereign ally.
Robert E. Lee was the son of a general in the Revolution. Two of his uncles signed the Declaration of Independence, one of whom was also a member of the convention that drafted the Constitution. Lee was married to the granddaughter of George Washington’s adopted son. Lee was only one of many civil and military leaders of the Confederacy who were sons of soldiers in the Revolution. It is an astounding phenomenon of mass delusion (or mass ignorance) that most Americans believe that the corporate lawyer and ambitious politician Abraham Lincoln understood the true principles of the American Founding better than they did.
An even more preposterous, though not mass, delusion is that Straussian “philosophers,” a generation out of eastern Europe, have the true understanding of the American Founding. ~Dr. Clyde Wilson
The most polarizing issue for the country is the Iraq war. Here, as on other fronts, McCain tries to bridge the extremes. He has been one of the sharpest critics of the administration’s strategy in Iraq, arguing loudly since 2003 that there weren’t enough U.S. troops to stabilize the country. He voiced the generals’ anger at Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld long before they went public with their dissent. But at the same time, McCain has backed President Bush and the basic U.S. mission in Iraq. ~David Ignatius, The Washington Post
The column isn’t very interesting–more of the usual McCain-is-our-hero talk that was on everyone’s lips six years ago. It is a bit revealing in that McCain continues to claim that he is a conservative, which never ceases to strike me as strange, and also revealing in what it tells us about the thinking of McCain-adoring writers.
As an example of McCain’s political derring-do, Ignatius cites his position on Iraq that allegedly bridges “the extremes.” The extremes are represented by either committing more soldiers to Iraq or supporting the present policy. Somehow, even within the GOP, I find it hard to believe that these are “the extremes.” The “extremes” listed here are two fairly close alternatives about which adamant war supporters disagree. It is as if any position that moves away from both greater, bloodier entanglement and the futility of the status quo does not exist in Republican circles, but other, more critical and skeptical positions must exist.
Please note: Rod did not write a political tract. That is one reason why the political right does not know what to make of this book, which is about faith and culture over politics. ~Terry Mattingly, GetReligion
Here Mr. Mattingly is referring to a remark in the Post’s Style article on Rod Dreher and Crunchy Cons. The article was basically fair but, as Mr. Mattingly notes, it was preoccupied with a fairly limited appreciation of the reasons behind the food and housing aspects of crunchiness.
Mattingly’s correction of the Post artice is right, provided that we are thinking of politics in a narrow, conventional sense of policy issues and winning elections. What Rod has to say is not entirely disconnected from that sort of political questions, but it is in many respects broadening a criticism found in Bruce Bartlett’s recent column: “Both Hart and Carey are disappointed by the younger generation of conservatives who run National Review and other conservative journals for subordinating conservatism to transitory politics.” Rod might say, and I will say, that quite a lot of conservatives throughout the “movement” have been subordinating the Permanent Things to transitory politics and transitory pursuits in general. Which is nothing that John Lukacs, for example, didn’t already say over 20 years ago.
It is not possible to correct yourself rightly if you do not recognize the evil hidden in your heart and the calamities that proceed from it. An unrecognized disease remains untreated. The beginning of health is to know your disease, and the beginning of blessedness is to know your misfortune and wretchedness. For who having recognized his illness does not seek healing, and who knowing his misfortune does not seek deliverance from it? ~St. Tikhon of Zadonsk
True conservatism, after all, is not about temporary battles over Medicare - important as those battles may be - but about the “Permanent Things.” It’s as though Frum never read Russell Kirk’s The Conservative Mind. Conservatism was around long before the era of Goldwater and Reagan and it will be around long after they are memories. “What is conservatism? Is it not adherence to the old and tried, against the new and untried?” The battle against limited government was a means to and end - limiting government’s ability to pursue the new and untried - not an end in and of itself. Even if Frum is right that the battle for limited government is lost, the war to defend the Permanent Things against the designs of Burke’s “sophisters, economists; and calculators” will rage on forever. ~Prof. Bainbridge
It is all together only too likely that Frum has not read The Conservative Mind, or, having read it, dismissed it or forgot what it had to say. The man who wrote “Unpatriotic Conservatives” is very likely not a man who understands or sympathises with the mind described in that book; if he understands that mind at all, it seems to represent a conservatism he actively detests. But Prof. Bainbridge makes an excellent point in reminding us that conservatism is not principally a matter of policy positions, but a matter of commitment to eternal verities. That being said, the abandonment of small-government conservative principles is a serious problem, particularly to the extent that large government empowers the forces of consolidation and homogenisation and puts the “sophisters, economists and calculators” in charge.
Bolivian President Evo Morales seized control of the country’s natural gas industry Monday, sending soldiers to occupy fields that he contends private companies have plundered for years.
Morales said that unless foreign energy firms agreed to give Bolivia’s state oil company oversight of production and a majority of their revenue generated in Bolivia, the government would evict them from the fields.
“The time has come, the awaited day, a historic day in which Bolivia retakes absolute control of our natural resources,” Morales said during a televised speech from a gas field near the country’s southern border. “The looting by foreign companies has ended.” ~The Washington Post
In a landmark victory for Mr. Bush’s policy of bringing democracy to the entire world, Evo Morales has led the Bolivian people to reclaim their stolen property from the oppressor…oh, wait, what’s that? You mean to say that Mr. Bush doesn’t like Evo Morales’ populist nationalism and Bush supporters don’t welcome mass expropriation of industrialists at gunpoint? But surely, it’s all very democratic, so that means it must be peaceful and good, just as Mr. Bush has told us all democracies are. Why Bolivia must be a free country–they must yearn for freedom! How do we know? They just had an election, of course.
“Most people in South Carolina want a person of faith as their leader,” he replied. “But they don’t care what brand of faith that is … I believe Jesus Christ is my savior. I believe in God. I’m a person of faith and I believe that’s the type of person Americans want.” Romney’s contention that the “brand of faith” doesn’t matter is debatable—but if he keeps saying it, and enough people take up the mantra on his behalf, some skeptics might change their minds. ~Adam Reilly, Slate
This line about “brand of faith” reminds me of Barbara Bush’s 1992 “whatever family means to you…” line. What Romney means to say is that conservative South Carolinians don’t care what kind of Christian you are, as long you are at least a Christian. But that begs the question of whether you believe Mormons are Christians in the same way Pentecostals, Catholics and Methodists are Christians. I think it’s clear that they’re not. For many people, the answer doesn’t matter, because Mormons generally have a good reputation for being upstanding, decent folks. However, voters in South Carolina and elsewhere might be a bit more anxious the more exotic or unfamiliar the “brand of faith” of a candidate was.
But is it really only a question of differences over “theological minutiae” (a sort of phrase so dismissive of religious doctrine that it always irritates me)? Do evangelicals (or any other Christians) baptise their dead? Obviously, no other church (and no other religion) does this. I think many Christians would find the idea appalling and more than a little bizarre. Some might sympathise with the reasons for doing it, and I can appreciate the respect for ancestors it connotes, but theologically it makes no sense at all. For folks who take these things fairly seriously, how can it not matter that Romney believes in things like this? It isn’t simply a difference of “brand,” but a difference of the entire “product.”
If the Tory Party were a fridge, your food would all go rotten. If it were a car, it would break down. If it were your accountant, you’d be bankrupt. If it were your lawyer, you’d be in jail. In all cases, you’d have got rid of it long ago and found a replacement. But for some reason political parties are allowed to fail in a way nobody else is. Why? Because of tribal loyalty. People often say, “If an Alsatian stood round here with a blue rosette, or in the seat next door with a red rosette, it would get elected.” Quite true. But that’s because the sort of people who say this would vote for that Alsatian. ~Peter Hitchens
White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the president is not focused on polls but “on achieving results for the American people.” ~USA Today
If I had a 34% approval rating, I’d be focused on achieving some results, too. But given Mr. Bush’s track record of results, do we want him being highly motivated to achieve still more? Taken another way, why should we expect the President to “achieve results” for us? I didn’t ask him to achieve any results. I would rather that he restrain his enthusiasm in this area. I’d be fairly satisfied if he enforced the laws and didn’t violate his oath to uphold the Constitution–that is my definition of a successful President (according to which, Coolidge remains the most successful President of the last 100 years). Since Mr. Bush believes there is a whole raft of laws and regulations he does not need to abide by, and still others he is not very interested in enforcing (and let’s not even bring up the Constitution), he’s not doing very well by my measure.
A better approach would be to move toward a darker, character-based drama set within Roddenberry’s technology-driven socialist utopia, revealing its seedy criminal underbelly, its bureaucratic corruption, its backroom dealings with alien governments, its moral tradeoffs and human follies. ~Peter Suderman
Via Ross Douthat
I grew up as something of a Trekkie, or at least as a regular fan, and it wasn’t until some much better sci-fi shows started to be produced in the ’90s that I fully realised how boring and tiresome Star Trek could be.
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Meilaender relishes the moment of eating junk food while talking about sports on television. Bread and circuses! Babylon! Pfui pfui!
Shame on this Pharisee, this Philistine! The “I’m all right Jack” response to Dreher’s criticism of American culture bespeaks the sort of intellectual coma that one finds in comic characters out of Coen brothers film. I can hear Meilaender chortle, “You betcha!” His denomination is disappearing because (as Dave Shiflett wrote in his fine book Exodus) Americans are seeking stronger doses of spirituality.
I don’t agree with Dreher about any number of things, but he is right to ring the alarm bell and — as I said in my review of his book — stand athwart the Conservative movement shouting, “Get a life!” Dreher, as I mentioned in my review, is at the top of my lists of authors worth having dinner with (his taste in food being a factor). Never will I dine with the tastless Meilaender. ~Spengler
Via Rod Dreher
In case anyone needed confirmation that the average anti-crunchy critique is as shallow and vapid as, well, the “mainstream conservative” mind that creates it, read the citation from Meilaender’s First Things review of Crunchy Cons (sorry, not online) in Spengler’s post. The Meilaender citation might as well have been acclamations, “Hail, ESPN the community-maker! Hail, Burger King the Deliverer! Go, Indians!” Does anyone now doubt that “mainstream conservatives” of the type Rod described exist? Does anyone doubt that they (and, to the extent that we all participate in these bad habits, we) are very far removed from the conservative vision of order?
Just consider the language Meilaender used to describe his veritable pilgrimage to the shrine of the Burger King: he wanted something “quick, inexpensive and good.” In other words, everything Rod was saying about family meals, communion, sacramentality is completely lost on this man who thinks that eating is about getting things quickly and cheaply and who mistakes Burger King fare for something good. It may be necessary, and it may have its uses in a crunch (no pun intended, really) on the road, but it is not “good” in any meaningful sense. But there was more–he wants it “his way,” as noble a consumer sentiment as there is, and he glories in the fact Burger King caters to his yearning for “choice.” When it comes to self-indulgence, he is a “pro-choice” man. There is no sense of anything at all amiss, from a specifically conservative perspective, in this preoccupation with choice and self-satisfaction.
Evidently there is no anxiety that consumerism is perhaps not exactly what contributes to eudaimonia, nor is there an inkling that eating glop while being entertained by modern circus factions might be in the least politically and morally enervating or that, if it were, conservatives should take a dim view of it. I have been known to enjoy watching professional sports as much as the next guy, but I am also aware of the entirely passive, addictive quality of such spectator sports and the vain and trivial passions they arouse over basically meaningless contests. There is a real problem with it, and the fact that I may find it satisfying suggests that there is something wrong with me and with the entire arrangement. It does not mean that I have discovered a little bit of heaven at the roadside Burger King talking about a pro baseball game with complete strangers.
In fact, using the word community in connection with fellow supporters of a pro baseball team, with whose city you don’t even have a personal connection, suggests that you have no idea what “community” is. This is not Meilaender’s problem alone. Entire generations of “conservatives” have grown up in rootless America not knowing what community really is, or grew up believing that the common good had something to do with Hillary Clinton trying to socialise health care, which is why they both virulently reject any attempt to promote community even as they lamely grasp onto whatever shreds of it they can find, because I suspect they know the desperate truth that man is not meant to live as so many of us do, but they have no idea how to change.
Men like choice, but one of the fundamental things that conservatives need to relearn is that choice is unnatural. We were not created with choice, a choosing will. We were created with free will, and the difference between the two is all-important. Our choosing, deliberative will is not only a product of our fallen state, but the source of our continuing waywardness. Prizing choice is like prizing doubt and uncertainty. It is not something to be prized, but something to be restrained and mortified.
Having options is all very well and good, and all things being equal everyone usually likes to have some selection (whether we should pursue what we like seems to be a basic divide here), but Mr. Meilaender has all but proudly declared that choice, speed, efficiency and low cost are the priorities in how he makes decisions in life. This is how a lot of people live, including a lot of conservatives. That is part of our present reality, and there are some conservatives who think that being conservative is affirming whatever the present reality is, provided that taxes continue to go lower. How would they know any better, when their “intellectual” and political leadership have been telling them as much for a generation or more? These, of course, are real problems in a traditional conservative vision and they are some of the main points of the book.
When I was in Maryland last month, I happened to catch a few episodes of The Colbert Report (the t’s at the end of both are silent) with Stephen Colbert, an ironically self-described “Megamerican.” Used to Colbert playing the straight man who delivered biting sarcasm with absolute seriousness on The Daily Show, the new, slightly different Colbert act took some getting used to, but the word on the blogs has been that he stunk up the joint when he did his routine at the correspondents’ dinner. This sounded odd to me, since I couldn’t remember the last time Colbert had delivered an entire routine so badly.
Granted that few things could measure up, or should I saw down, to the First Lady’s tasteless and crass humour from last year, the transcript at least has some entertaining lines (even if Colbert did not hit the right notes in delivering it–not owning a TV, I have no idea how he delivered the lines). My impression is that the near-consensus on right-leaning blogs that Colbert “bombed” has an awful lot to do with all the uncomfortable truths he reminded them of (it’s hard to laugh at all the disasters that you and yours have created). On the other hand, most of the Kossacks and friends probably didn’t care how he said what he said so long as he said it (humour is not the Kossacks’ long suit anyway). Left-leaning blogs seem to be missing the point that it was a comedy routine and not an editorial. But no matter.
Here is a transcript of Colbert’s act, and here are a few choice quotes:
I’m a simple man with a simple mind. I hold a simple set of beliefs that I live by. Number one, I believe in America. I believe it exists. My gut tells me I live there. I feel that it extends from the Atlantic to the Pacific, and I strongly believe it has 50 states. And I cannot wait to see how the Washington Post spins that one tomorrow. I believe in democracy. I believe democracy is our greatest export. At least until China figures out a way to stamp it out of plastic for three cents a unit.
In fact, Ambassador Zhou Wenzhong, welcome. Your great country makes our Happy Meals possible. I said it’s a celebration. I believe the government that governs best is the government that governs least. And by these standards, we have set up a fabulous government in Iraq.
On the scale of cultural importance, there are few things that rank below the introduction of a new Coke product, such as Tom Cruise, almost all blogging, and Max Boot’s books. Still, one good irrelevancy deserves another, so why not blog about it? If past experience is any guide, this new Coke product, a mixture of Coke and coffee, will bomb just as most of the others have done. However, as a graduate student with a caffeine habit, I find the prospect of soda and coffee in one drink strangely appealing. Is it a betrayal of a great American tradition? Well, I don’t know–was it a betrayal of a great American tradition to remove the cocaine from the original Coca-Cola? This sounds like a mild attempt to return to the old ways, a kind of reactionary Coke.
Hat tip to Jon Luker
The United States deliberately passed up repeated opportunities to kill the head of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Jordanian-born terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, before the March 2003 US-led invasion of that country.
The claim, by former US spy Mike Scheuer, was made in an interview to be shown on ABC TV’s Four Corners tonight.
Zarqawi is often described as a lieutenant of Osama bin Laden, whose supporters masterminded the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington.
Mr Scheuer was a CIA agent for 22 years - six of them as head of the agency’s Osama bin Laden unit - until he resigned in 2004.
He told Four Corners that during 2002, the Bush Administration received detailed intelligence about Zarqawi’s training camp in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Mr Scheuer claims that a July 2002 plan to destroy the camp lapsed because “it was more important not to give the Europeans the impression we were gunslingers”. ~The Age
Via Andrew Sullivan
This was a story broken by Jim Miklaszewski over two years ago, citing “U.S. officials” and “U.S. government sources.” Those attributions suggested that they were not former intelligence officers like Scheuer, so Scheuer is reconfirming something that Milkaszewski’s sources already told us without going on record with their names. Scheuer, as most readers will recognise right away, is the author of Imperial Hubris, who originally went by Anonymous.
The “die-hard antiwar” point to be made, which Sullivan misses, is that the preoccupation with preparing the way for the invasion of Iraq outweighed actually striking at Zarqawi himself when he was there in northern Iraq. As a “die-hard antiwar” conservative, I know that one of the consistent critiques antiwar conservatives and libertarians have made was that, in addition to the Iraq-terrorism connection being spurious and not credible, attacking Iraq was taking us away from the proper fight against al-Qaeda and its affiliates. Here we have the obsession with Iraq dramatically and adversely affecting that fight. Letting Zarqawi get away is notable because it was allegedly Zarqawi who represented the link between al-Qaeda and Iraq, because he was loosely affiliated with bin Laden and was in northern Iraq (outside of Hussein’s effective control, of course, but why get hung up on detail?).
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Some local activists predicted that thousands of Washington area immigrants would participate in a national economic boycott today, but immigrant groups who have spoken out against the boycott said they fear that the immigration reform movement is being commandeered to promote political causes beyond immigration.
The public tug of war, which continued in the Washington area yesterday on Spanish-language radio, could result in more limited participation in the region than is expected in Dallas and Los Angeles, where the organizers of last month’s massive protests have been more unified in support of today’s boycott, which asks immigrants to refrain from buying goods and to stay home from work and school.
Police in Los Angeles said they expect a rally that could draw as many as a half-million people. Some major national firms that rely heavily on immigrant labor said they would close for the day. Perdue Farms said about half of its chicken processing plants would close, and Tyson Foods Inc. said nine of its 15 beef and pork plants will not operate. ~The Washington Post
What should be interesting to see with this boycott is how it dramatises the concentration of immigrants in certain major cities, with L.A. looking to be one of the most heavily affected, and how little value immigrants are adding to the bulk of the national economy. Boycotts are effective political weapons if they stand a good chance of inflicting economic pain on the people whom you are trying to cajole into submission, but a one-day symbolic boycott manages to inflame the question at the same time that it fails to demonstrate any economic power outside of a few choice areas. The boycott punishes the cities most heavily dependent on the immigrant labourers, cities whose native-born inhabitants are in all likelihood more sympathetic to the immigrants than much of the rest of the country, and so manages to do the most economic damage to the people who are probably among the friendliest to them while nonetheless agitating the rest of the country with what comes across as a crude power play that probably appears to the average American as excessive. Even favourable media coverage will not make up for the clumsy politics of this boycott. As a strategy to win sympathy or support for what the articles euphemistically refer to as “immigration reform” (i.e., amnesty or some other version of capitulation), it could not have been any worse planned. Also, concerning political rhetoric, why did anyone think the phrase “Day Without Immigrants” helped their cause? For more than a few immigration restrictionists, that might be just the kind of day they would like to see.
As the article goes on to explain, the ubiquitous political dead weight that is ANSWER has now latched itself on to this cause. That in itself is reason to view this effort in a dim light.
It’s time for the White House to go on offense and “get our mojo back.” Josh Bolten said Sunday in his first interview since taking over as the president’s chief of staff.
Bolten made no promises of pulling up President Bush’s all-time low approval ratings, but he said he and Bush have decided they want to be more open with the media and the public.
“We’ve taken advice from a lot of folks that we ought to put the president out more in ways that the American people can see what he’s really like,” Bolten said on “Fox News Sunday.” ~Seattle P-I
It would surely help his reputation if Mr. Bush’s personality were very different from his public persona, but that would mean that he has been choosing to act in the goofy, stilted and inflexible way that he has done for the last six years. But mojo? Has it come to the White House chief of staff referring to mojo in interviews now? I know there must be a great many worse signs of cultural decline than this, but it isn’t good. But perhaps Austin Powers and his time machine can help.