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I’m back from Washington, and I have an announcement for readers of the blog: Eunomia will be shifting over to The American Conservative’s site here. This will be the last post at this site (the redirect will be set up soon), and all future Eunomia blogging will be at TAC.
Perhaps, but having a trio of “philosopher-bloggers” talk about the fortunes and future of the conservative intellectual movement is not blogging. I will be at CPAC for an ISI-sponsored Friday panel from 1:00-3:00 in Congressional Room A.
P.S. It appears that the President will also be coming to CPAC on Friday. That should be an interesting sight.
My apologies for the last few days. As you would have seen had you checked in the last few days, the site used up its bandwidth allowance for the month and was just re-set a moment ago. Elsewhere, I have some new posts. Specifically, at Taki’s Top Drawer I have three new posts on McCain, Huckabee’s foreign policy, and some random thoughts on that apocryphal “better to be ruled by a wise Turk than a foolish Christian” quote we have seen so often in recent months.
Instead, lacking even the excuse of ignorance, he chose to sling the term “fascism” around as casually as the most vulgar leftist. It does not speak well of Goldberg that, by his own admission, he wrote his first book not to enlighten but to exact revenge.
You’ve waited for it, and now here it is: First Principles, ISI’s web journal, is online.
Considering how little of any real worth he contributes, I’ve never understood why Jamie Kirchick has been part of respectable conversation, but I haven’t made much of an issue out of it. If he would like to continue embarrassing himself with this pathetic obsession, that’s his business.
Since last May, Eunomia has added another 1,300 posts. Since the blog began over three years ago, I have been averaging about 1,600 per year. I hope you continue to find Eunomia worthwhile and interesting reading in the future, and I will strive to keep producing commentary worthy of your attention. Thanks to everyone who has helped make Eunomia a success, especially the regular readers and commenters.
Have I forgotten to mention that I have an article on the crazed primary schedule in this month’s Chronicles? If I have, I apologise. The current issue has some excellent contributions. I particularly recommend Dr. Fleming’s article on a politics driven by interests.
This may be my last post in 2007. As always with Eunomia, you can never be sure that a blogging hiatus will, in fact, be a hiatus, but I do intend to keep it to a minimum. Tomorrow I begin my trek home for Christmas, and I probably won’t be checking in while on break. This is what the blog-as-pastime has become: something from which sane people must take extended vacations. Ilyen az elet. Merry Christmas to you all, and Happy New Year! S Rozhdestvom i S Novim Godom!
Today has been a strange day. The day began with Mitt Romney, which was bad enough. (I am working on a column on the Romney/anti-Mormonism topic, so I am going to hold off on commenting on the subject for a while.) Driving to work, I was side-swiped by a van that was dodging out of the way of one of Chicago’s many horrible taxi drivers. Let’s just say that my car has looked better. As I walked in to lecture this morning, the seats of the lecture hall were festooned with Ron Paul brochures (and I had nothing to do with putting them there–the Revolution flourishes at UIC on its own). This afternoon I received an automated call from New York City telling me to apply for a Post Office job. Apparently, the Post Office is hiring in New York right now. I’ve heard of some pretty weird wrong numbers, but this is ridiculous.
I wish all of my readers and colleagues a very happy Thanksgiving. There will likely be no more blogging over the holiday weekend, and at least for the next few days all of us should be doing something more edifying or at least more sane than blogging and reading blogs.
Congratulations to my readers:
Not that I put much stock in these measurements of blogs, but of the blogs and sites I checked only The American Scene, What’s Wrong With the World, Dan McCarthy’s blog, the group blog Exit Strategies and The New Atlantis receive the same result. I hope this is at least partly a measure of the quality of Eunomia and not simply a function of my sometimes difficult and long-winded writing style.
November 5 wasn’t just an outstanding day for Ron Paul’s fundraising–it was also the issue date for the latest TAC. The new issue has Michael’s report on the New Atheists, James Bovard on Bush and torture, Dan McCarthy on Barry Goldwater, Jim Antle on Obama, my column on the genocide resolution and much more.
Incidentally, while I’m on a somewhat related subject I’d like to state once more that V for Vendetta was an absolutely terrible movie. The one downside for Ron Paul in having this fundraising effort on 5 November is that many news stories inevitably include references to Vendetta, which might give the impression that Ron Paul fans are also fans of really bad, dystopian pseudo-anarchist fantasies. We are not, or at least some of us are not.
Naturally, in keeping with Ron Paul’s excellent disinterest in mass media products, he hasn’t seen the movie.
But every time you are somewhere that means you are not somewhere else. ~Fred Thompson
Before it became a tourist trap for lunatics and sci-fi geeks, I used to live in Roswell when I was very young. Unfortunately, after the “incident” became fodder for crackpots Roswell eventually decided to capitalise on its odd reputation, and a “museum” was opened up (followed by a painfully non-New Mexican show on the WB that seemed intent on reminding us just how far removed from New Mexico the show actually was). Since taking the helm in Santa Fe, old Bill has made it something of a pet cause to “get to the bottom” of the “incident.” He has continued in this fine tradition:
If he wins his bid for the White House, Democratic presidential candidate Bill Richardson may be just the man to get to the bottom of the 60-year-old Roswell UFO mystery.
My hunch is that Richardson is just trying to be his usual, crowd-pleasing, avuncular self in this case. Even so, he does keep talking about it often enough that you begin to wonder whether he’s serious.
Sullivan points out that the Atheist Alliance International has chosen a symbol for atheists:
Atheists Who Are, Unfortunately, On Earth
Atheists In Space!
The November Chronicles looks excellent, as usual. There are several good articles on conservation by Dr. Landess, Tobias Lanz and Gregory McNamee. Mark Shea has a fine piece on the miraculous and the materialist dogmatism of Matthew Parris. There is much more besides that, and I do also happen to have a book review of Colin Well’s Sailing from Byzantium in the same issue.
After an awful lot of genocide and genocide resolution blogging, I will fortunately be away from Eunomia for a while. Tonight the CSO is putting on a performance of Mahler’s 6th Symphony. It’s not exactly a symphony that inspires light-heartedness, but it is a promising diversion all the same.
P.S. The Wiki entry’s reference to the “shatteringly pessimistic…outcome” cheers me up a bit.
Call me a cynic, but it seems to me that the significance of winning the Nobel Peace Prize in these latter days bestows as much credibility and glory on the recipient as “winning” the Darwin Awards. That is, not very much at all. It is therefore strange that anyone should care that Al Gore has won the prize. For people who already admire Al Gore, this is a nice trinket that confirms why they admire him; for everyone else on earth, it is pretty meaningless.
Even so, this is a rather strange post, since it links to a page that records massive melting of the northern polar ice cap while also recording massive ice expansion in Antarctica. I suppose the upshot is that the two phenomena might seem to balance out, but if the goal is to say, “Global warming isn’t happening, la la la la la,” linking to this information doesn’t really get the job done. What the information seems to show is that global warming isn’t having the same effects at both poles at the same time (and skeptics, including myself, will note that it was only a few years ago that everyone was freaking out over the disappearance of the Antarctic ice shelf). That doesn’t necessarily mitigate or deny effects of climate change on countries in the Northern Hemisphere. Of course, what remains to be demonstrated for skeptics is why such change is inherently bad or worrisome.
And of course most bloggers are, um, not sunny and upbeat people, so it’s no surprise that a far more common approach is to ignore the “good” and hound the “bad.” ~Reihan
If I might add a characteristically gloomy and disgruntled addendum, the reason why bloggers ignore the “good” and hound the “bad” is, broadly speaking, the same reason why journalists “fail” to report the “good news” and tend to report the “bad news.” It’s all very well to encourage people on the right path, but it helps more if you keep them out of the ditch in the first place, and one way of doing that is to warn them off of the advice and counsel of those who have had an impressive record of being (in the opinion of the critic) very wrong. When error and injustice, or simply stupidity and ignorance, abound, it makes less sense to pat one another on the back in a mutual appreciation society and congratulate each other on our cleverness. Emphasising the ”good” has not been helped by the tendency of people with absolutely awful policy ideas to engage constantly in accentuating the positive (a.k.a., propaganda).
The reason why someone like, say, Joe Klein earned contempt of the netroots in the beginning is that he consistently advocated and espoused ideas that they regarded as absolutely terrible. From the perspective of the critic, it is not incumbent on him to make nice to someone who has routinely demonstrated bad judgement, but rather it is the latter’s job to make up for his past errors. Maybe the person in question is not going to be budged from his views–all the more reason to not waste any time trying positive reinforcement with an implacable opponent.
Critics aren’t parole officers who are overseeing the target’s rehabilitation. Indeed, in some sense, most blogger critics are not even trying to win over the target of their scorn (obviously), but are trying to persuade everyone else to stop listening to the person they are ridiculing. It’s just like heresiology: the goal is not so much to persuade the heresiarch that he has gone astray, since he has already been condemned for his stubborn persistence in error, but to alert everyone else to the danger of the heresiarch’s false teachings. We don’t read out the Synodikon just to give Nestorios a few posthumous kicks, but to remind the people to steer clear of his mistakes. On a much more mundane, much less significant level, blogging critics aren’t really concerned with vilifying this or that pundit or journalist–they are trying to warn other readers away from someone whose track record on the issues these critics care about is dreadful.
P.S. Reihan says at the end of his post:
Because Matt has an ironic sensibility, he understands why this approach fails.
But does it really “fail”? It doesn’t persuade the target of the criticism, but that was never the purpose of the criticism. No one engages in polemics as a means of persuasion of the target of the invective. Polemic is a device for rallying the faithful and demoralising the opposition. It is a device used to win over the undecided and the uninformed to one’s own side. The last thing that the polemicist–which is what many bloggers are–wants is to bother with winning over his opponent. First of all, he doesn’t think it very likely that this will happen, and more to the point the polemicist isn’t even speaking to him (even when he seems to be addressing him directly). The polemicist speaks to the audience watching the dispute: persuading them is what matters. To the extent that a Joe Klein (or a Michael O’Hanlon or whoever else) is regarded as less authoritative or worthy of attention by a larger number of people, this method not only has succeeded, but it has achieved exactly what it set out to achieve.
My mother is not an illegal immigrant. ~Sam Brownback
Apparently the GOP is going to try to destroy 2008 before 2008 can destroy them. They’re taking Giuliani’s message to heart–stay on offense!
Is the message of this logo that the Republican Party is drunk (the stars)? Depressed (hence the blue)? Insane? Perhaps the message is that the party’s being chopped to pieces, or gradually erased from existence and disappearing into the background?
Past GOP convention logos have never been what anyone would confuse with aesthetically pleasing, but no recent one has been quite so ridiculous. Consider ‘04:
While it does appear as if the elephant is possibly threatening to step on the Statue of Liberty’s head, the elephant itself appears quite normal.
2000 was a year of a tame, sane blue elephant, which was nonetheless trampling on the flag:
While the year itself loomed overhead, the ‘96 convention had a much more subdued, reasonable-looking elephant.
I wasn’t able to find images for 1992 in Houston or for the 1988 New Orleans convention logo, but I did find this description for ‘88:
It consists of the stylized three-star elephant used by the Republican National Committee since 1968, with its back reshaped to represent the Superdome where the Republican delegates will gather next August.
It doesn’t sound that great, but almost anything would be better than the blue rampaging freak of nature on display this time.
Apparently, I’m Lucius Vorenus, which makes a lot of sense.
TAC’s 9/10 issue is available online, including my column on Obama and foreign policy. Also online are Jim Pinkerton’s cover essay on a revived Christendom, Michael’s article on Huckabee, and Fred Reed’s column. The print issue has some very good pieces as well, such as Clark Stooksbury’s review of Elites for Peace and Trita Parsi on the causes of U.S.-Iranian rivalry.
Below are belated links to many articles that will be of interest to regular Eunomia readers:
Now online from recent TAC issues:
From the current online issue: Prof. Kurth’s fine article on the effects of demographic change on foreign policy and international order, Nicholas von Hoffmann on Clinton, Michael on the Christian Zionists of CUFI, Paul Belien on the effects of past immigration amnesties in the Netherlands, Claude Salhani on Chinese electronic and satellite warfare and Pat Buchanan on the “ideological war.”
From the previous issue: John O’Sullivan on immigration politics, Caleb Stegall’s much-discussed review of Deep Economy, Paul Robinson on the “surge,” and James Bovard on legal challenges to administration detention and torture policies. I have previously mentioned Michael’s article on Rick Santorum and William Lind’s argument for rapprochement with Iran, but I’ll list them again anyway.
New in the last couple of weeks at the Chronicles’ site:
Dr. Trifkovic has a new article on the demographic impact of current immigration levels, another on Pakistan, another on Kosovo, and another on the current situation in Iraq. Mr. Buchanan writes on U.S. de-industrialisation, and writes here on the Newark killings and here on Karl Rove. Paul Craig Roberts writes on China and U.S. media hyping “the China threat.” From the August issue, Fr. Hugh Barbour has an article on Josef Pieper and liberality as the basis of culture. Here is Tom Piatak on Harvey Mansfield’s “Straussian piffle.”
Personally, my friends and I, we know exactly where the United States is on our map. We don’t know anyone else who doesn’t, and if the statistics are correct, I believe there should be more emphasis on geography and our education, so people will learn to read maps better.
ChroniclesMagazine.org is having their fundraising drive. Support the outstanding work they do there and help cover up Frum’s face.
Is it just me, or is this Yglesias post about his first ever visit to West Virginia this weekend really strange? I suppose it’s really not that important, but it strikes me as a little unusual that someone who has been living in D.C. for years would have never gone to, or at least through, West Virginia at some point at least once. This jumped out at me since I have driven through WV at least six times in the last ten years, and I was usually starting a bit farther away than Washington. A New Yorker-inspired joke might be appropriate at this time.
Intensive Arabic has been going pretty well, but as we are now on Day 18 of 45 I have started to feel a little run down. In fact, after reading a short article about a Dubai Islamic studies graduate student today, I just so happened to find a UAE dirham in my pocket that had been given to me in change for my tea earlier that day. The single dirham coin is the same shape and colour as a quarter, so it might easily pass for one if the cashier didn’t look closely enough. When I first saw it, I thought I had started hallucinating Arabic writing on money. That may give you a sense of my state of mind. The good news is that I can make out everything on the coin.
Tomorrow we finish the equivalent of one nine-week quarter of elementary Arabic. Subhan’allah. It has not been as overwhelming as I expected, but it will be getting more demanding as we go forward. My initial promises of no blogging were a bit premature, but they were not entirely false. There is a class I have to start preparing for the fall, dissertation chapters to write, plus the column. I will try to keep my different blog homes updated as and when I can, but I can make no guarantees about the regularity of posting.
Regardless, go take a look at my first column (not online) in the July 2 TAC.
I have some new Scene posts on: Alan Wolfe’s attack on Russell Kirk, the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia, Bill Bennett’s ideas about history teaching. In addition, there are my post on foreign policy traditions, my two most recent criticisms of the Fred Phenomenon, comments on consolidation, a post on the Pashtuns, a Fourth of July week reflection on the Loyalists, and my remarks on an article in Foreign Policy on the “ideology of development.”
As many of you may already know, this week Ross will be blogging from the “Ideas Festival” in Aspen whose content I hope is not nearly so odd as its name. He tells us that the main events begin tonight and continue thereafter. Many of the participants whose names are familiar don’t seem that interesting to me (I do so anxiously await hearing about the contributions from Rahm Emanuel and Jim Wallis), but perhaps the gap will be filled by the others. Queen Noor might give a stemwinder about Palestine, which would at least make for some fireworks.
The “blog rating” system, using the categories of the MPAA, provides some amusement, though its standards are so rigorous that all but the most fastidious would be likely to have some number of objectionable words in them. For instance, National Review’s The Corner received an NC-17 rating. Meanwhile, Eunomia and The American Scene both received G ratings.
The new American Scene is up and it is looking good (or tayyib, to use a word I have heard about 100 times in the last week). My first posts there should be up before too long.
Starting tomorrow, a massive group blog headed by the one and only Reihan will take over where the team of Douthat and Salam left off at The American Scene. The site will be redesigned, there will be a cast of thousands (okay, more like a dozen or so) and, most importantly, it will still retain Reihan’s idiosyncratic and fun style. Along with many far more worthy, entertaining and interesting colleagues, I will also be joining the Scene. Some of the faces, or rather names, will be familiar to you, and some will be relatively new or unknown, but I think it should be a very good mix. In his characteristically broad and eclectic way, Reihan has drawn in friends and associates from across the spectrum and from across different areas of interest. The new American Scene–it’s not just for policy geeks and indy rock fans anymore!
Well, don’t I feel stupid! The Rumi referred to in my Arabic workbook is Ibn al-Rumi, a fact which I completely ignored as I was writing my earlier post. That would explain why they refer to him as being of Byzantine background, because Ibn al-Rumi was of Greek descent and did live in the 9th century.
In fairness, this Ibn al-Rumi was, as I have discovered, a native of Baghdad and has a rather indirect connection to Rum in any case. This makes the claim about a “Byzantine background” for him a little odd. Next time, I’ll be a bit slower to jump to conclusions. Such are the perils of the blog.
Young Zeitlin continues to impress (even though I suspect Ms. Franke-Ruta will not be pleased with the comparison).
Am I only the only blogger/writer/person with a pulse in America who has never watched a single episode of The Sopranos? It seems to be the case. However, I have been unable to avoid the avalanche of post-series finale commentary, which seems to be literally everywhere. From all of this I have gleaned that David Chase is very clever, the show was apparently well done and I have absolutely zero interest in watching it in the future. Michael gives his impressions here.
Meghan O’Rourke didn’t have to do much to convince me that the diamond engagement ring tradition is a sham, since I have come to instinctively, viscerally loathe diamond sellers and their horrible, manipulative marketing. (Yes, all marketing is manipulative by design, but there has to be a limit somewhere.) Forget all of the elaborate talk of gender equity–it’s a scam, pure and simple, and the fewer people who are parties to it the better. It seems to me that buying a diamond ring signals to the woman not so much everlasting devotion as it announces to her and anyone else around, “I am easily conditioned and will do what the people on TV tell me to do.” Perhaps this is what prospective brides are looking for–how should I know?
WORK FOR THE HARDEST-HITTING MAGAZINE IN AMERICA!
Chronicles is seeking a full-time, on-site assistant editor/editorial assistant.
Successful candidates will
—possess superior grammatical skills
—have some experience with copyediting and/or proofreading
—be familiar with Chronicles
—not be offended by the rich smell of pipe and cigar smoke
Send résumé to:
Assistant Editor Position
Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture
928 North Main Street
Rockford, Illinois 61103
Applicants may also send letters off inquiry and résumés via e-mail to: email@example.com.
For The Low, Low Price Of $800,000, This Could Be Yours!
But, wait, there’s more…
Thanks to the invitation of Dr. Ralph Luker, in the near future I will also be starting blogging at History News Network’s Cliopatria. It is a group blog of historians and history students, who cover all manner of topics from the strictly academic to the contemporary political scene, offering an historical perspective on current events. I am looking forward to it.
Finally, after all these years of hard work and sacrifice…a break! ~The Writer/Comedian (Bill Murray), The Lost City*
Later this summer, I will have a review of Colin Wells’ Sailing from Byzantium in Chronicles. Here is the table of contents for the May issue, which has, in addition to many fine meditations on the importance of property rights and the dangers to them, a good Joe Sobran piece on George Will and the state of conservatism and Joseph Fallon’s article on the military buildup for a potential attack on Iran. The June issue considers the phenomenon of Americanism. In that issue, Dr. Fleming smashes a number of standard “conservative” idols in his “Establishing Christian America”:
If America were, in fact, a basically Christian or moral nation, Hollywood would be out of business, and so would most colleges and universities.
Among many other excellent contributions, the June issue also has an article by George Ajjan on the question of “foreign fighters” entering Iraq and Iraqi and American border security.
TAC has its new May 21 issue out, which is now online. The following issue will have a piece I have written on neoliberalism (as well as Michael’s profile of Ron Paul), and the issue after that one should see the beginning of my regular column there.
*Like The Writer/Comedian, I am kidding about the hard work and sacrifice.
As a young fogey who supports the aspirations of whippersnapper bloggers (isn’t that a redundant description?) to trouble the more esteemed and well-known pundits, I point you to the blog of Matt Zeitlin:
I’m a high school student in Oakland, California. I have zero qualifications to write about anything of importance besides the fact that I have a computer, internet access and spend too much time reading. I am Mickey Kaus’ Worst Nightmare.
In the way it is often used, whippersnapper carries the connotation of obstreperous youths showing no respect to their elders, and this is how Kaus has used it, but the word often actually refers to someone of no importance (at least in the eyes of the person labeling him a whippersnapper) presuming to have a certain importance. It is in one sense a perfect word to use for all bloggers, who are, in the grand scheme of things, pretty insignificant and who also presume to hold forth on matters great and small, but it might just as well be applied to all columnists and pundits. An important part of good blogging, it seems to me, involves reminding better-known pundits and columnists that they are not necessarily all that important and authoritative and that they have no monopoly on driving the debate.
Since August 2006, Eunomia has increased by over 1,900 posts. That’s an average of 250 posts per month since last August. Since Eunomia began in December ‘04, it has averaged 120 posts per month. Here’s to the next 3,500.
My colleagues continue to do fine work at What’s Wrong With The World, and I am pleased that my initial effort over there seems to have been generally well-received. Thanks to that post, Mark Shea and Ross have proposed a showdown between me and Christopher Hitchens. Actually, I think Douglas Wilson is doing just fine without any help from me, and makes the crucial point (the one that atheists will contend against until their last breath because they know a large part of argument hinges on it) that if the atheists are right about God then there is no transcendent moral order, no imperatives of justice or requirements of conscience that are any less subjective or arbitrary or more authoritative than the “man-made religions” Hitchens ridicules. Morality is then not only purely conventional and contractual, but inevitably exists only as a function of social control by the few over the many for the benefit of the former. Hitchens has in no way remedied the control of thought and act that he finds so obnoxious in religious societies, but has simply denied the religious legitimisation of this control.
Hitchens’ exquisite moralistic outrage at the crimes of the religious or at least the nominally religious is all very interesting, until you consider the problem that there is nothing authoritative or meaningful or ultimately important about the morality he claims to defend (not that this devotion to this morality stops him from backing wars of aggression and lionising communist murderers, but, hey, nobody’s perfect). Men who do not fear God, because they think He does not exist, will usually have no compunctions against committing the most horrific atrocities, along with a whole range of crimes, if they believe they have sufficient self-interest to do so. If atheists were right, and there is very often no justice here below, the morality that condemns the genocidaire and praises the almsgiver is as ephemeral and ultimately meaningless as the religious rites they regard as absurd. In such a world, one man’s genocidaire becomes another man’s national hero and, if the atheist is right, there is nothing to which men can appeal as an ultimate authority against such depredations (except to the entirely arbitrary conscience of other people, who would feel no sense of moral obligation to help anyway).
Human dignity quickly evaporates when man becomes concerned with survival and naked interest, as men usually will when they have no vision of the eternal before their eyes, whether it is a Dean Barnett talking about “getting our hands dirty” or a Stalin talking about making omelettes. Monistic materialism, which is the inevitable destination of an atheist, cannot invest man with any special dignity; theoretically, he would be no more morally significant than the bacteria we kill off with disinfectant. The paths to a thousand genocides are opened, because men are already prone to such deeds and without some confidence that these things are not only absolutely wrong but the cause of damnation the temptations of power will very often win out over what native goodwill may reside in fallen, unilluminated men. To this the atheist, if he is honest, will happily agree and say, “That’s just the way it is. Get used to it.” But not only does no sane person want to live in such a world, our very natural horror in the face of such things tells us that a world entirely without meaning cannot be the reality.
It is not precisely the purpose of revelation to bring ethics to the world (though the life of virtue is tied together with participation in divine Life), and it was certainly not the main feature of Christ’s life and work to be an ethics instructor, but to bring life to the world, yet without God ordering the cosmos and giving men the just fruits of their works in eternity there is no particular reason to regard one ethos as more desirable than another, except by some arbitrary and equally man-made standard that can be challenged, deconstructed and subverted by means of the reason that built it up. Paradox and mystery stand beyond the ken of reason, and so offer man the hope of meaning that cannot be emptied of content.
Take a look at the newly redesigned Chronicles website, including Dr. Trifkovic on the recent French presidential election, Dr. Wilson’s latest, Dr. Fleming on the war, and the table of contents for the May issue.
In America, even the Satanists embrace triangulation. ~Reihan
Viewed another way, though, this might be the ultimate confirmation that triangulation is just the sort of diabolical method that some of us have always considered it to be.
At first, I thought my improved rank in the TTLB ecosystem had something to do with the greater attention Eunomia had received lately (and, of course, all the fine content that you are being provided). It seems that I was kidding myself. The entire ranking system seems to have gone haywire. I was alerted to just how wrong things were when I noticed a few impossibilities: Don Surber was in the top ten, and Instapundit, Michelle Malkin and The Corner had all dramatically dropped into insignificance. Goodness knows we all hope for such a day, but I think we have to assume that there was a major glitch somewhere.
Many thanks to both Dr. Ralph Luker and Peter Klein for kindly tagging Eunomia with the Thinking Blogger Award. Each named Eunomia as one of the “five blogs that make me think” on the same day. It is gratifying to know that Eunomia has such respect as a worthy and interesting blog in the eyes of the readers. The award began here. It is now my turn to tag five other blogs. For those I tag, the rules are:
1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think,
2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme,
3. Optional: Proudly display the ‘Thinking Blogger Award’ with a link to the post that you wrote (here is an alternative silver version if gold doesn’t fit your blog).
Thinking Blogger: Not necessarily a contradiction in terms!
I am reminded of that memorable line from Cameron Crowe’s Singles when I look at the breakdown of my readership. According to Alexa, Jordan, Egypt and the UAE still provide approximately one-fifth of my readers, and Bulgaria provides another 6%. It was encouraging to find in a set of other statistics for the site that I had received visits from such diverse places as Ethiopia, Armenia, Singapore, Saudi Arabia, the Maldives and French Polynesia (and, yes, Belgium and Italy, too). You are all most welcome.
The ISI/Liberty Fund colloquium for graduate students on federalism and constitutionalism held at the Russell Kirk Center in Mecosta was a great time. We had two fine discussion leaders in Profs. Carey Roberts and Jim Bond and an interesting mix of law, history and political philosophy students to work through some choice readings from The Federalist, Anti-Federalist writings, the Hayne-Webster debate, Calhoun and more modern texts (sections of the European Constitution and several Court rulings of the past decade or so). I had the privilege and honour of meeting Mrs. Kirk at the Center, and she was good enough to have us into her home on a couple of occasions. She is a charming and engaging lady, and a great hostess. The Center certainly keeps her busy–she was in Indianapolis last week, where Rod Dreher, Max Goss and others spoke, and as I understood it she will be at another ISI event next week as well.
As a Byzantinist, I was something of the amateur among those who did their work on political theory and American history, but I enjoyed being part of the discussions both during and after the sessions. I also made a trip over to the used bookstore there in town, finding a few nice volumes, including the reminiscences of Anna Dostoevsky and a Defoe title I had never heard of before. The weekend was very pleasant, and I look forward to a chance to do something like that again, though I will be glad to be through with the conference season in a few weeks. All of the events I have gone to this year have been excellent, but I will be glad to be traveling a little less after next month.
I’ll be away from Eunomia for a bit. Between work that needs to get done and another few weeks of traveling hither and thither, there just isn’t time right now for any more posting. There should be some interesting things to report from an ISI/Liberty Fund conference up at Mecosta later this week. We will be talking about federalism and constitutionalism. Regular posting may resume sometime next month, or perhaps a little sooner, depending on how quickly I can get some things done. Right now I have to get ready for my Sayat Nova session.
Update: Ross and Reihan will have lots of interesting things to say while they and Megan McArdle substitute for Andrew Sullivan during his vacation, so go read them while I’m away.
My traffic rankings in the UAE and Egypt are excellent, and my readers from there evidently currently constitute almost one-fifth of my readership. Is it the result of all the Nawal al-Zoghbi links I have been putting up lately? I don’t know.
This was good to see.
Update: It is also worth noting that today Pope Benedict shares a birthday with my mother. Happy Birthday, Mom!
Today I retrieved my car from impound, which is so far to the south that it is actually beyond the Southside and in that empty gap past the point where the two highways that previously made up the Dan Ryan split off from each other. The actual retrieval process was fairly easy, as such things go, though the possibilities for Kafkaesque delay were everywhere. Strangely, the cop who had issued me the ticket had told me that I needed to present proof of ownership to access my car at the impound, which was rather difficult…since my registration was in the car that had just been towed away. Fortunately, this guy was either just having me on (thinking that I was some New Mexican tourist because of my license plate) or enjoys misleading people or was himself confused about the procedure, since I needed no such proof, as I learned from the people at the lot when I called. Anyway, that little episode is over.
There’s no telling what you will discover in the world of foreign blogs. For instance, here is a striking post from a Syrian blog (via a link at George Ajjan’s blog) that revealed to me the existence of the Arabian oryx, a creature that I normally associate only with Africa and one that I honestly didn’t know existed.
What else do you not know about Syria?
Just try listening to Newt Gingrich as he butchers the Spanish language with one of the worst Yanqui accents you have ever heard. If you can endure more than a minute, you are truly heroic. As someone who has an appreciation for foreign languages properly spoken, and who strives to avoid hideously bad accents like this, I think Hispanics should regard this little display as far more insulting than any loose talk about ghettoes that prompted this painful speech. This display of horribly pronounced Spanish might convince all Hispanics that they should accept English as the official language of the United States, if only to make sure that they do not have to suffer more Anglo politicians attempting (and failing) to speak their language properly.
On the bright side, at least he didn’t cite Castro and talk about how inspiring a commie slogan was!
So I will leave this post as the tombstone for this ugly little blog that brought out the vilest in me and has now left me in deep shame for the rest of my life. ~Ilkka Kokkarinen, c. September 2006
Apparently, he got over the vileness and the shame, since he has been regularly blogging for the last month here beginning with this random post. I don’t hold it against the guy that he came back to blogging–she is a powerful mistress, as I well know–and I don’t mind that one of the sharper bloggers has returned to regular posting, but I do find it a bit odd that he departed from the ’sphere with the huffy self-righteousness of a grand opera prima donna who has screamed at the conductor that she would no longer work with such mediocrities and yet he has re-entered this world without so much as a brief explanation of why he now thinks blogging is something other than the desecration of humanity that he seemed to regard it a mere six months ago. We don’t need much, but just maybe a word or two on “Why blogging is not nearly as vile and evil as I used to think.”
So there is now some argument over whether vlogging (i.e., video-blogging) is worthless or not. Is it as efficient as good, old-fashioned blogging? Everyone seems to be saying, “Not really.” Is it entertaining? Everyone who has bothered to weigh in on this vital matter seems to be saying, “Yes.” In the wake of the eruption of Ann Althouse, which Bob Wright explains in more detail here, could there have been any other answer?
It is probably not the best time to point out, then, this incredibly tedious conversation between Bob Wright and Michael Kinsley in which they bat back and forth the merit of the anti-Mormon arguments of Linker and Weisberg, despite the fact that neither of them had read the Linker piece and only one of them had read Weisberg. In twelve minutes, they managed to establish that 1) intolerance was bad; 2) more tolerance would be good; 3) neither of them had read the Linker piece; 4) neither of them knew very much in detail about Mormonism or any other religion (quoth Wright on Catholicism: “that second whatever thing, the pronouncement they had about thirty years ago or so”). If anyone wanted a chief exhibit for the anti-vlogging position, this section would have been it. Personally, I enjoy watching “diavlogs,” as they are rather absurdly called, but there are times when they try the patience of the most faithful viewer.
So I’m thinking of taking intensive Arabic this summer, since facility with that and related Semitic languages has obvious importance for Byzantine studies, and I have been dabbling a little with it so far. My early dabbling reminded me that the Arabic word for ‘right’ or ‘correct’, sahih, was taken into Hindi (presumably by way of borrowings from Persian and/or Islamic influence) along with its antonym, galat, which I happened to come across also in my Armenian reading earlier this week. The main reason I know that these words are in Hindi is that I have seen Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, everyone’s favourite Bollywood movie, so all those hours spent watching Indian flicks have not been entirely in vain.
On a lighter note, here is where Lebanese pop meets Bollywood: the pop star Nawal al-Zoghbi singing Gharib el-Ray. There are more random foreign locales than in a Yash Raj spectacular (I guess because she is wandering, gharib). Here is a video filled with apparently random scene changes–now she’s in Prague, now she’s surrounded by badly rendered computer-generated helicopters. Perhaps if I spoke Arabic, it would make more sense? At least the music’s enjoyable. Meaningful blogging will resume later.
Because you are all dying to know what other words Armenian and Hindi share, I will tell you another one. Reading Namus (yes, I’m still reading Namus ever so slowly), I came across the colloquial expression ghalat chari, which is apparently still used in Armenia today and which is basically an imperative phrase that means, “Don’t do something wrong/bad.” The word sounded familiar to my Bollywood-trained ears, and sure enough my first intuition that ghalat was the same as galat in Hindi was confirmed when I checked my Hindi dictionary. To someone hearing it pronounced in Hindi for the first (or even the fifth or sixth) time, it sounds an awful lot like ghaland, but that is not actually what they’re saying, much as zarur (of course) comes out sounding to English-speakers (or at least to me) as zerul.
Language bleg: Does anyone happen to know which language galat originally comes from? Arabic, maybe?
Update: Yes, it does come originally from Arabic.
Before January 31, I hadn’t flown in over two years, and since then I have already been on five flights and will be on at least
six eight more before the end of spring quarter. Friday I fly to Charlottesville for ISI’s conference on liberty, community and place, where I will be meeting several of my blogging and TAC colleagues in person for the first time. This will be the fourth conference I have attended since October, and there are at least two more before the school year is over. Perhaps for true conference-going veterans, this is a light load, but for me this is an unusually busy schedule.
After some aggravation thanks to Friday’s snowstorm, I made it back last night only about five hours later than I should have been here. The delay from my cancelled flight wasn’t that terrible (especially compared to the epic incompetence of JetBlue a few weeks ago), so I suppose I shouldn’t complain, but let me just say that I’m not a big fan of La Guardia. The airport, that is. Judging from the absurd-looking statue of old Fiorello that they have put up in the Marine Air terminal, I would say that the people who run the airport don’t much like the former mayor. Neither am I pleased with the horrid Northeastern habit that people have of automatically putting milk in your coffee. I didn’t even ask for a ‘regular’ coffee, which I understand is Northeasternese for, “Please ruin this perfectly good coffee with some milk.” No, apparently it’s simply taken as a given that coffee should never be good and there is no need to consult the person ordering the coffee. Even leaving aside the question of Lent, such coffee will go from an unpleasant ordeal to being simply undrinkable in a matter of minutes. This is one of those amusing regional customs, rather like the default of putting sugar in tea in the South, that I find a little tiresome after a while. (Southerners, being generally more hospitable, do understand that they should ask whether you would also like to have your tea ruined.) I don’t begrudge people their regional customs, but I do reserve the right to point out that they are ruining their coffee and tea. I should say that Brookline was very nice, and I’d be glad to go back there anytime. Boston, however, left a different, sour taste in my mouth.
The conference itself was a great time. As I had briefly mentioned in one of the comments, it was on the campus of Hellenic College and Holy Cross Theological School. It is an unusual experience for me, as I imagine it is for most people, to be able to go to a campus chapel and find an Orthodox church. The daily Orthros (albeit in a very shortened form) and Vespers were very good ways to start and end a couple of the days. The weather was not entirely cooperative with us, leading to the later problems of traveling home, but the atmosphere of the conference, which was one made up entirely by graduate students, was very cordial and pleasant. There was one contentious session on Hesychasm, which didn’t surprisingly create an argument between Orthodox and non-Orthodox participants (since Palamite theology is usually seen in all Orthodox-Catholic exchanges as a fundamental disagreement). Ironically, it was a paper arguing that St. Gregory of Thessalonika had turned what could have been a “dialogue” into a “polemic,” which was unfortunately the effect of the paper on that topic. Instead of sparking confessional dispute, it set off a strong intra-Orthodox quarrel between one Orthodox speaker (who, curiously enough, had also gone to my alma mater) and the other Orthodox students. The poor Protestant seminarians and other non-Orthodox in the room seemed to be mostly at a loss as to why this paper had generated such intense feelings. Gatherings of Orthodox academics should come with a warning label: “Danger: Converts and Greeks may create a combustible and unstable situation.” However, this particular debate wasn’t one of converts vs. cradle Orthodox or Americans vs. Greeks, but really was a debate between the one speaker, who was taking a very hard line against Palamas over a single response that he had made to Barlaam the Calabrian, and everyone else fairly sputtering and gasping in disbelief. Several of the people in the audience did make what I considered quite solid replies to the paper’s argument, but the session had definitely gone from being a venue for exchange and inquiry and had become a more fundamental and visceral argument over the place of monks in the Church.
My own session generally went very well, and I think the session in which I was giving a response was fairly productive. All of the papers I heard were interesting, though the one mentioned above would undoubtedly have done better with some less provocative language about St. Gregory, and it made for a good opportunity to meet some of the rising early Christian studies, patristics and Byzantine scholars. What was remarkable was how many had either previously gone, were currently going or were considering going to Chicago. Officially, we had four speakers participating in the conference, which put us behind the folks at Notre Dame, but our “unofficial” representation including former students and other attendees put us closer to nine out of a group of roughly forty-five. Somehow or other Chicago attracts or produces quite a few people interested to one degree or another in church history. I have no idea whether this is actually above average or not, but it certainly seems unusual for a place normally associated with its economists, lawyers and businessmen.
The strangest thing I saw on the entire trip was on the Boston T on the Blue Line. As I was riding in from the airport, I looked across the way to see a big, prominently displayed advertisement for “Guaranteed Swahili.” Is there a great need for Swahili speakers in the greater Boston area? It wouldn’t exactly surprise me, given that there is plenty of immigration from Africa in several of the major Eastern cities (as I understand it, Washington is the largest concentration of Ethiopians outside of Ethiopia), but I am a bit more used to seeing ads for learning Spanish where I’m from. I suppose some gradual cultural takeovers seem a bit less bizarre than others.
An interesting discovery was a new academic press, Gorgias Press, that had put some of its books out at the conference. I was looking at their book collection last night after returning, and they have an impressive number of publications or reprints of many things related to Syrian and Persian Christianity and early Christianity generally. The reprints are often quite expensive, but in the case of the book I found at the conference, The Maronites in History, it would have been worth the full, non-conference price. The book on the Maronites is a recent reprint of a 1986 work that apparently went out of print (how could that have happened when the book talks extensively about monotheletism?). In it, the author, Matti Mousa, lays out quite clearly and, I think, mostly accurately the history of the Maronites as a distinct religious community. I assume that many Maronites do not like this book, because it is a pretty relentless debunking of the extremely shaky myths Maronite apologists have woven around their origins as a religious group. Mousa’s control of the Byzantine material is a little shaky, and therefore his dating sometimes just follows that of the Syriac sources, but it would appear that he knows the Arabic and Syriac sources very well. From all of this he reconstructs the duration of monotheletism in the Maronite church, which was actually much, much longer than I had ever thought. Most accounts seem to assume that monotheletism ended soon after the Maronites submitted to Rome in the 1180s, but Mousa claims, based on ongoing Italian missionary work to Lebanon, that Maronite service books and doctrines remained formally and materially monotheletic into the late sixteenth century, if not longer. This is an even longer duration than Fr. Louth allowed for in his fine book on the Damascene, but unfortunately the footnote for this particular point is actually missing from the bottom of the page (even OUP makes mistakes, I suppose). If that is accurate, it is even more important for the historian of monotheletism (who, at this point, seems to me, given that there are so very few competitors for the title) to get into the study of the Maronites, who represented the continuation of monotheletism for more than ten times as long a time as monotheletism existed in Byzantium. It is fascinating to think that monotheletism endured well into the early modern period in at least one small corner of the world. Perhaps if there were more attention paid to this continuation a greater interest in understanding monotheletism would develop.
Can it really be that the nauseating Marty Peretz has the gall to mock someone (in this case, his nemesis Matt Yglesias) for a typo? Yes, he does have the gall. This is the ignoramus who didn’t even know which party is in power in Australia when he writes a post about Australia. This is the sorry excuse for an observer of world affairs who didn’t know anything about the internal politics of Thailand in his post about Muslim violence in Thailand. This is the illiterate who doesn’t know the meaning of the words ultramontane and chiliastic and uses them to refer to Muslims! This is the remedial English speaker who does not know the proper time to use ‘fewer’ instead of ‘less’. The man has no shame. I suppose we knew that, but this is sad even for Marty. How pathetic do you have to be to snipe at your enemy for a typo?
Blogging isn’t a complete waste of time and energy–it improves your knowledge of made-up blogger vocabulary that no one else will understand. Take “Rethug,” for instance. As in: “Compared to most Rethugs, Huckabee’s a socialist.”
I don’t really know now what it means anymore than I did when I first saw it, but it seemed at first to be a reference to social conservatives or evangelicals or some combination thereof. Any explanations or speculations are welcome in the comments. Is it a play off of the word Republican, which I guess is the most obvious explanation, or is there some more arcane meaning that I’m missing?
Update: The author of the post cited above writes later on:
The kingmakers in the Republican Party are more like David Frum, who wants to economically stress the middle and working classes so that they will develop good moral character…
To be blunt, when did David Frum ever care about anyone developing good moral character?
I have seen some bad campaign swag in my time, but this has to take the cake:
I don’t like the implication that there is a flow of things and that it goes in the direction of increasing agglomeration. Why isn’t greater independence and individualism among bloggers a good thing? ~Ann Althouse
I wouldn’t dispute Prof. Althouse’s view that greater independence and individualism among bloggers are good things. As I have said before, there is something bizarre about the way blogging has tended to replicate the fairly predictable and partisan conformity of other kinds of media. Rather than serving as a healthy corrective to the other echo chambers, blogging tends to reinforce the ideological patterns that can prove so stifling to interesting discourse everywhere else. It is almost unavoidable that a blog becomes much less interesting as it becomes a vehicle for political activism, because at that point the blogger stops offering his take and begins repeating someone’s official line. This may be why campaign bloggers are such strange, delicate hybrids that cannot do very well in harsh climates: there is a certain contradiction in being an independent writer of potentially interesting, irreverent and (let’s hope) incisive commentary and being a campaign functionary, whose job it is to write uninteresting, fairly staid and predictable posts that boost the candidate’s tax plan. Whether or not bloggers are actually hired by campaigns, they usually become terribly dreary and sometimes even unreadable once they have started relentlessly pushing a cause. It is possible to advocate for a certain policy without ceasing to be witty, amusing and insightful (indeed, good political satire would not work without all of these qualities), and sometimes these things will help the cause in question. However, it is much harder to maintain the right balance between doing good blogging and staying on message. Happy is the blogger who does not even try to stay “on message.”
I also happen to agree that, as she comments on part of my post, ”general outrage about the state of the world is pretty uninteresting too.” The argument I was trying to advance in the post that Ross cited is not that this outrage is terribly attractive or interesting, but that it helps explain what makes blogs on the left relatively more successful as political activist operations–it also helps explain why some of these blogs, such as Daily Kos, came into existence in the first place. Perpetually outraged people who believe that politics can fix most anything will be more motivated to become activists and they will be more inclined to pursue political activism through any and all means available. In my view, this activist mentality is a kind of impairment or flaw and not something that conservatives should want to imitate. Unfortunately, if Hewitt’s Victory Caucus is any indication, there are many on the blog right who would very much like to try their hand at successfully imitating it.
Prof. Althouse prefers “what Larison seems to mean by “celebrity-blogging.” And I’m quite happy to see that bloggers have trouble succeeding in their collective activities.” As it happens, I don’t like collective blogs and would normally rather read the “celebrity blogs” than wade through reams of Kossack drivel. My point was that “celebrity bloggers” on the right should not be surprised when their attempts to translate their style of blogging to political activism (e.g., Hewitt’s Victory Caucus) fail miserably because they lack the qualities or motivations that make political activist blogs successful.
So a friend of mine here at Chicago recently recommended that I see Fanaa, the 2006 Kajol-Aamir Khan vehicle that saw the stunning Bengali actress return to the screen as if no time had passed since her last appearance in 2001. Two days ago I did happen to watch it, and I was impressed. Once you allow for the melodrama and improbable plot devices, which are inevitable, it is possible to appreciate it as a quite decent telling of a tragic love story. The story is one that our 24-obsessed nation could enjoy: will love win out over jihad? One of the songs has a line that is striking, and quite in keeping with what I understand to be part of a long tradition in Islamic and Indian religious and love poetry:
tere pyaar me.n ho jaa’uu.n fanaa
May your love annihilate me!
Apparently, as I discovered recently, the state of Gujarat banned the film in response to Aamir Khan’s comments on the state of some farmers displaced by a dam project. So, while I was up tonight at the local Dunkin’ Donuts, I got to talking to the man behind the counter there, and it turned out that he was from Gujarat. That reminded me of the story about Fanaa. From there we launched into a discussion of the movie and Kajol (the cousin of everyone’s favourite, Rani Mukherjee), pictured just below.
We then came around to the latest Bollywood news about the engagement of Abishek Bachchan and Aishwariya Rai, which everyone seems intent on bringing up each time I talk about Indian movies. If the Indian popular press is as unimaginative as ours, they will have already coined some hideous name like Abishwariya or Aishshek to describe their relationship.
It’s odd the sorts of conversations you will have in this neighbourhood, but then I suppose it is rather odd that I would have known enough about Fanaa to use it to start a conversation.
I was reminded of the line in the title (which is translated, “Strike and kill me, you have the right!”) from Sayat Nova’s Nazani, one of his finest love songs, while reading this First Things piece by the University of Chicago’s own Prof. and Mrs. Kass on Erasmus’ Colloquy on courtship. Sayat Nova is frequently urging his beloved to engage in some kind of violent disembowling or stabbing with a knife, and this is one of the better-known examples. The beloved is sometimes cast as a sultan or khan dealing out summary justice to the poor, suffering lover. This is very similar to themes of the Colloquy, as indeed it echoes most other love poetry; Sayat Nova took conventional and commonplace imagery and created amazing songs.
Another great, time-honoured ashugh pick-up line: Eshkemet hivandatsil im (”I have grown sick from your love”). (Note: These lines do not work! Do not try on your own!)
This is very plain in the creationism-evolution debates, whose anti-outgroup subtexts are, on the one side: You are inhuman brutes determined to rob us of our spiritual consolations and sweep away the moral foundations of our civilization, and on the other: You are obscurantist ignoramuses who’d like to shut down progress and drag us all back to the 16th century, with kings and priests telling us what to think. Neither subtext has much relation to reality, in my experience—I mean, I know a couple dozen people on each side of this, and none fits either description. The scientists are not looking to convert Notre Dame into a Temple of Reason; the creationists aren’t plotting to burn heretics at the stake. ~John Derbyshire
Quite right. I think you’ll find that it should be the 11th century (living pre-Investiture Contest is a must!), and you can’t convert heretics if you’ve already burned them. Now Manichees are a different story…
In fact, most creationists and even those odd ducks, such as myself, who somehow manage to think that evolution describes something about the created order that has no great bearing whatever on the existence of God are not concerned to drag anyone anywhere (and we don’t even have a time machine). We would all prefer, I think, to have certain outspoken scientists refrain from making bold metaphysical claims (e.g., God does not exist) as if they were obvious proven facts, when they are contestable philosophical claims like everybody else’s and we would just as soon be spared tiresome lectures about how the Church impeded and handicapped science for ages, when it was principally the Church that sponsored and encouraged all branches of learning for the better part of our civilisation’s history. That might improve relations between the groups a bit.
I don’t know how important it is, but thanks to a new feature on Alexa you can see the traffic ranking of websites in different countries if they are in the top million. (Eunomia has, alas, fallen on hard times and doesn’t currently qualify for this new feature.)
The Japanese, for instance, love Steve Sailer out of all proportion to the amount of time he spends on anything related specifically to Japan. Curiously, Chronicles‘ website is much more popular in Georgia than here, which is slightly odd, since I don’t know of much in the magazine that has pertained directly to Georgia. But I knew that ordinary Georgians had to be decent folks. Hurrah for Sakartvelos! In spite of your language’s baffling internal conjugation rules, I salute you! Perhaps a little less inexplicably, American Conservative’s website is relatively beloved in Bulgaria and Switzerland. I guess the Swiss-Taki connection makes sense, but Bulgaria? Regardless, they are all most welcome.
If I were as silly as Andrew Sullivan, I would do just what he does whenever the target of his criticisms “fails” to respond: I would take his “failure” to respond to my review of his book as definitive proof that I have completely overthrown his entire argument. It would be obvious to me that I have already anticipated his every reply and decisively routed him, so much so that he is embarrassed even to talk about it. I would say things like, “Why is there such a deafening silence from Andrew Sullivan? Clearly, he knows that I have his number! Ha ha!” But no one else could ever be as silly as Andrew Sullivan.
France is in trouble. It’s a choice between more taxes and less social benefits [bold mine-DL]. Simple. No, complicated. I don’t know enough about the specific circumstances of la belle France. ~Marty Peretz
Well, my view is predictable—romance is only a good thing if everyone in it is having a good time, which is not true for women who are in romantic relationships with men who beat or rape them. ~Amanda Marcotte
Of course, one might quibble with the designation “romantic relationship” in the case of rape.
Go take a look at my latest article on Putin, Russia and Western opposition to both here. Also in the magazine, Taki has some choice words for the Saudis, F.J. Sarto writes on Putin’s speech in Munich and John Zmirak also has an outstanding and very funny Screwtape Letters-style piece on immigration.
Not everyone is sold on using politics as a filter for love. Janis Spindel, the legendary matchmaker known for searching nationwide for bachelorettes on behalf of her upscale, all-male clientele, balked when told about political online dating.
“Oh my gawd! What next?” she exclaimed in her signature New York accent. Asked why she doesn’t approve, she responded with a question of her own: “Are people looking to fall in love or are they looking to find a political match?” ~Samantha Slater, The Politico
Wasn’t it the old rule that one of the things you don’t talk about on the first few dates was politics? Now it’s practically an entry requirement. Count me as a confirmed skeptic of this entire trend. As if our political associations haven’t become clannish and insular enough, we need to subject our social relationships to a political pre-screening! What a depressing thought. It may satisfy a very small niche market of political operatives, for whom this sort of match may really be a top priority, but for most people who use these services I suspect it will prove unsatisfying and unsuccessful.
There is a certain logic to the idea of matching people according to their descriptions of their personalities, preferences and even politics. For some very political people, there is some kind of logic for focusing especially on finding the right political match. It just happens to be astonishingly bad logic. First of all, and you don’t need me to tell you this, many people are unusually bad at characterising themselves. It is also the case that many of the things that people think they prefer or actually do prefer are not at all the things they actually need to be happy. Finally, people who place great value on the politics of their prospective dates ahead of other considerations are people who don’t even know what the question is.
Most people prioritise the wrong things all the time–such is the comedy and tragedy of man–and nothing could better demonstrate this habit than the rising popularity of services geared towards people convinced that they must find their political match in order to even contemplate the possibility of a committed relationship. I understand how bitterly unsatisfying this habit is because I used to be quite given over to it.
It is one of those hazardous side-effects of being a political junkie that some of us can fall into without thinking about it, and as political junkies we can cook up all sorts of plausible arguments why this preoccupation with finding reasonably similar politics is not the dreary, abstract dance of death that it is. “It’s important to find someone who shares your view of the world!” the political junkie will say to his bewildered friends, who place such a low, low priority on their mates’ politics that he, in turn, is baffled. “How can you love someone who supports NATO expansion?” he yells at no one in particular. (Of course, most sane people don’t spend their time worrying about NATO expansion one way or the other, so it isn’t one of those burning questions that fills the lovers with anxiety.) More likely it will be something like, “How can she like Hagel? Doesn’t she understand that he isn’t really antiwar?” And so on. For the record, this is often fairly stupid.
As an Orthodox reactionary who admires the cause of the Confederacy, lauds Bolingbroke and waits for the day when the Greeks reclaim Constantinople, I hold out little hope of finding such a match, so I may be either the worst person to comment on this trend or one of the best-prepared. The absurdity of these political match services becomes more obvious to people on what I suppose must be called the political “extremes,” especially when it is actually only too common to find many personal and political affinities between far-left greens and far-right traditionalists or even reactionary “blacks.” These are people who would, according to the rubrics of these services, supposedly be completely incompatible with one another–they are on “opposite ends” of the spectrum.
There are cases where you have two people with diametrically opposed and mutually exclusive worldviews that make any sort of sane and stable relationship impossible, but then you would think they would usually recognise this conflict fairly early on. The communist and the monarchist will run out of things to talk about pretty quickly. So I suppose the only virtue of these matching services would have to be in eliminating the possibility of accidentally getting set up with a Satanist. Otherwise they just endorse a rather weird and sad idea that enduring love can only exist between people who are in agreement about virtually everything.
As the wise Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn reminded us in Leftism Revisited, love is the embrace of the radically Other (most powerfully expressed in mystical love for God); as the Fathers might put it, true love is kenotic and desires the good of the beloved even to the complete sacrifice of the self. When people invoke the famous citation from Ephesians in which the Apostle commands women to be subject to their husbands, they often forget the other half of the citation, which is that the husbands should be willing to sacrifice themselves for their wives as Christ did for the Church. (This would be the passage that some radicals think prove that Christianity is hostile to women, when it seems clear that it is men who are called upon to live up to a perfect example in this particular way.) Inasmuch as this preoccupation with finding political mirror images of ourselves is simply self-obsession, it has nothing to do with love and so will not satisfy the natural yearning for love that the people subscribing to these services believe they will find.
Taki Theodoracopulos, co-founder of The American Conservative, has brought out a new webzine, a much-expanded Taki’s Top Drawer that will start shaking some of the rot out of contemporary conservatism and giving the usurpers who have run conservatism into the ground a good hiding on a regular basis. Taki already has had quite a few things to say this month. He is joined by Paul Gottfried, Justin Raimondo and F.J. Sarto, who is also the managing editor of the webzine. Before too long, you may see another familiar name showing up over there. More updates in the future.
I realise that I have been negligent in linking to Joseph Pearce’s blogging at Small Is Still Beautiful. See what he has to say about land, democracy, direct action, and bogus democracy and its relationship to centralism.
Update: F.J. Sarto says of Giuliani:
Nevertheless, we must give this much to Giuliani: He may have cheated on his wife flagrantly in the mayor’s house, appeared in drag with a disturbing frequency, gone to live with two male homosexuals for almost a year after divorcing his betrayed wife and adopted positions indisintinguishable from those of Hillary Clinton, but we cannot take this from him: On Sept. 11, 2001, he did not cry like a little girl. Nor was he reading “My Pet Goat” or hiding in an “undisclosed location.” So perhaps he will be something of an improvement.
Ross and Reihan have been selfishly guarding their well-kept secrets and hoarding their witty insights for a month now (on the lame pretexts of “having work to do” and “employment”), so it will soon be time for them to come back and share the wealth. Sen. Webb would approve.
This will be good news for many, but especially for my readers, since I will be going on a similar hiatus for the duration of February (it is the shortest month of the year, so I’m not depriving you all quite as much as the lads at the Scene have). Conference papers don’t write themselves, and conference attendance this weekend will be swallowing up four days that might have gone towards something more productive. (This is where I’m obliged to say that all academic conferences are terribly productive, appropriate uses of our time–chiefly because it gets us here in the Midwest out of seemingly near-Arctic temperatures and forces us to go to sunny California.) Actually, I will probably get more reading done on this trip than I have managed in several weeks, but none of that will bring my dissertation chapters to completion.
Eunomia has never been dormant for this long, so it will be interesting to see how many readers will still be here when I “get back.” Technically, the hiatus doesn’t begin until tomorrow, but there are preparations to be made for the L.A. jaunt and some things that need to get done before I leave. I may pop back in this evening for a final word. If not, then hajoghut’yun.
This is about as “inside baseball” as blogging can get, and will therefore probably be of interest to all of twelve people, but let me make a few remarks. As you will have noticed, Republicans nowadays like to refer to the Democratic Party as “the Democrat Party.” Mr. Bush did this the other day in the SOTU, and Republicans have been doing it for years before that. They do this, yes, to be insulting by refusing to call the party by the name its members use, but they also want to insult Democrats by effectively denying the Democratic Party’s claim to being a party of the people. That is, they want to deny its claim to being democratic (a dubious honour that they, the Republicans, have decided to start claiming for themselves), so they refuse to call it the Democratic Party.
This is bound up with the many contortions that the party of corporations and the moneyed interest has gone through to make itself into the vehicle of populist resentment (without, mind you, actually doing anything to address populist resentments or desires) against “elites.” That the Democratic Party of the last seventy-odd years has been increasingly a party run by a political and cultural elite for the interests of that elite to the detriment of many Americans hardly helps to rebut these charges of not being a party of “the people,” but leave that aside for now. If you were to press some Republicans on this usage, “Democrat Party,” they would probably assure you in great earnestness that this has either always been the name of the other party (which is wrong) or that it is now the appropriate name for the party of elitism. One basic problem with the new name for the opposing party favoured by Republicans is that it is simply illiterate: democrat is a substantive, democratic is an adjective, and they should be used in the proper way by those who would like to be considered functionally literate English-speakers. Since Mr. Bush is the foremost representative of the GOP these days, I suppose it is understandable that they would begin to imitate his special facility with the language and would start using the wrong words for the wrong things.
Since my cold keeps me from getting any sleep, while I wait for this dreadful TheraFlu to kick in (it tastes horrible, but does the trick) I will post here a few random items that may interest you all.
On a random music note, I am currently listening to Sting’s impressive album of songs, Songs from the Labyrinth, written by the late 16th/early 17th century English composer, John Dowland. Apparently, he even learned to play the lute to accompany the professional lutenist, Edin Karamazov, on one of the songs. Dowland’s late medieval sound and lyrics, by turns melancholy and irreverent, are always beautiful. Sting intersperses excerpts from a letter from Dowland to Robert Cecil, Lord Burleigh, in which Dowland, a confessing Catholic, was attempting to bring to the attention of the English court a plot against Elizabeth I while vowing his loyalty to England. This has the interesting effect of recounting Dowland’s life as his corpus of work unfolds (the songs seem not to be in strictly chronological order). By far, my favourite has to be Can she excuse my wrongs? (1597). Here is the first stanza:
Can she excuse my wrongs with Virtue’s cloak?
Shall I call her good when she proves unkind?
Are those clear fire which vanish into smoke?
Must I praise the leaves where no fruit I find?
Los Angelino Eunomia readers, be mildly intrigued: the “Dark Lord of Paleoconservatism” will be visiting your city next week to speak on a matter historical, ecclesiastical and Armenian. I am unsure whether I will have any time away from the scheduled events at the colloquium at UCLA, but if anyone is in the vicinity and would like to hear a talk on monotheletism (who wouldn’t want to hear a talk on monotheletism?) I imagine that you would be most welcome to attend. Come and confirm that I am not, in fact, a disembodied brain who blogs via ”sheer Mental Power.”
To answer Peter’s important question (sorry, I mean, truly important question), I would have to say that my bet’s on Romney. The old BSG-Mormon connection can’t have just been a fluke, can it?
Since no one has yet offered me a large pot full of treasures that would keep me otherwise occupied, I thought I would point readers to an interesting article (via Razib) about the Alevi sect in Turkey. This is one of the many sects that fill the fissiparous and wildly diverse universe of Shi’ism. Somewhat like the Druze, they have roots in Shi’ism, but have developed into an entirely different religious group.
Speaking of fairly obscure Near Eastern sects, I was introduced indirectly to the existence of a small religious minority in Armenia through reading the beginning of Namus, one of the works of Armenian author Alexander Shirvanzade. Namus, as I have discovered, is a Mediterranean and Near Eastern code of honour, and would seem to form part of the Pashtuns’ pushtunwali surveyed by The Economist late last year.
What was the obscure sect I discovered? The Malakans (as transliterated from Armenian) or Molokans (as transliterated from Russian). Not to be outdone by anyone else, the Molokans have their own webpage. From what I have been able to learn about them so far, you could not find people less likely to follow anything remotely resembling pushtunwali than the Malakans, who appear to be the very embodiment of meekness and longsuffering.
Relating this to some current events here in America, I would note that Molokans apparently also were supposed to have had a tradition of plural marriage at some point and were either pejoratively identified or otherwise associated with Mormons in the 19th century. According to a 1993 New York Times article, the Molokans “comprise a rather late Russian sect that emerged at the close of the 18th century.”
The article continues:
Like other anti-clerical movements in Russia and in Europe, Molokan preachers focused on immediate personal contacts with God, refuting ritual and reverence for saints and icons as idolatry. They recognize as the sole fountainhead of truth the Holy Scriptures, emphasizing that both Old and New Testaments are to be viewed metaphorically not dogmatically.
Basic is meeting for prayer which reduce to hymn singing and the joint reading and interpretation of Scriptural texts. There is no hierarchy, with the congregations chaired by an Elder, usually one of the older and better educated members of the community. They resemble more the western Quakers and Baptists.
Apparently, along with other dissident sects, the Molokans were resettled in the Caucasus under Nicholas I. This is presumably how they entered into the history of Armenia.
Update: Somehow I forgot to mention this earlier. There is also a movie called Namus, which is based on Shirvanzade’s story. There is now a restored version available. From what I have heard about the story’s melodrama, it sounds as if it will be Armenia’s answer to a Bollywood plot. Unfortunately, it is a silent film, so there won’t be any big song-and-dance numbers.
Is this man not an utter nutcase, a dangerous nutcase. After all, he is the leader of a quarter of a million Muslims in Australia.
How did the Labor prime minister, John Howard, react? “He played down the seriousness of recent statements made by the clergymen, describing it as a mere joke.” That’s perfectly clear although it comes from the garbled translation.
Will some of you out there concoct of a negotiating plan for dealing with this man? ~Marty Peretz
While The Plank offers some interesting commentary from time to time and occasionally even some real humour, The Spine, TNR editor Marty Peretz’s blog, seems to offer nothing but the blogging equivalent of nails across a chalkboard. I almost never look at it, but this evening I saw the title of the latest post, “Exposed Meat,” assumed (correctly) it referred to the Muslim cleric in Australia who referred in a rather unflattering way to unveiled Australian women and went on to read it. I thought to myself: “Let’s see what he has to say about this one.” I would have said that it was a surprise that the post was an error-ridden, poorly-written jumble, but then I remembered that this is Marty Peretz we’re talking about. Quick, Marty, use ultramontane in a sentence!
For the record, Mr. Peretz, Howard is the Liberal Prime Minister of Australia. The Liberal Party is Australia’s center-right governing party and their closest equivalent, to put it in American terms, to the GOP (no offense intended to any of our Liberal Party friends). The Australian Labor Party, led by Kevin Rudd, has a less-than-flattering picture of PM Howard on its main page that would have told Mr. Peretz after about ten seconds of research that John Howard was not a Laborite.
In response to this, I hereby announce Larison’s Second Law Of Foreign Policy Commentary (see the First Law): If you do not know the basic political landscape of another country (i.e., which party is which, whether it is a republic or a kingdom, etc.), you are unqualified to comment on anything related to that country’s politics.
Unknown to most of you and to the rest of the world, New Mexico is recovering from what may well be its worst snowstorm of the last 100 years. I was fortunate to be able to get out of the state on schedule, but not without some difficulty. The highway between Albuquerque and Clines Corners remained extremely icy and had created a massive traffic jam backing up across town almost to the Rio Grande by the time I left on Monday morning, which forced me to take the alternate route via I-25 and down a state highway to reconnect with I-40 east of the mess.
Northeasterners and Midwesterners will probably chuckle that a mere foot or two feet of snow can cripple most of an entire state for a full weekend, but for us this was the Great Blizzard of ‘06. In the high desert, much of it well over a mile above sea level in elevation, the snowfall made road travel extremely treacherous. Thus it was that both interstates were closed for at least two days, and I-40 east of Albuquerque was shut down from Friday until Monday with only a brief reopening Saturday. Not that you would have heard peep about it from NPR or The Weather Channel or any news network. The old “one of our fifty is missing” joke wears a little thin when mild rainstorms in Philadelphia merit more attention on national weather news than the paralysis of an entire state. Colorado was not ignored in this way, perhaps because it had already suffered such a powerful and overwhelming storm the week before. But the same problems that plague our neighbours in Colorado are also plaguing New Mexico: like their ranchers, ours are cut off and their herds are getting stuck in snowdrifts; as in Colorado, the National Guard has been mobilised to help bring supplies to those who are stranded; as it is in eastern Colorado, travel around much of northern and central New Mexico has been virtually impossible for days. With a few exceptions, the county governments back home did an effective job recovering from the storm, and the city government of Albuquerque should be commended on getting the city up and running almost immediately. The state did fairly well in responding to the storm. What will remain with me from the last few days is the complete and utter indifference of people outside the state about what happens in New Mexico. I realise there aren’t that many New Mexicans, but it might be worth mentioning when one of the major commercial corridors in America gets shut down by a freakishly large snowstorm in a desert state that typically sees less than 10″ of precipitation in an entire year.
A friendly critic, some years ago, told me that Chronicles could never succeed, because, although we are often right, we are right much too early. To have spoken about the Islamic problem a few days after September 11 made you look like a prophet. We had been warning about the danger for over 15 years. We were also right about the significance of the Balkan conflicts, immigration, and multiculturalism, but we were always so far ahead of the curve that, on every issue, we went through the same cycle: initial ridicule, a brief instant of respect, then a dismissive ”Oh, everybody knows that now!”
The saddest issue on which we have been proved correct is the war in Iraq. We said, from the beginning, that the evidence did not justify an invasion, and, that even if it did, the result would be a quagmire of violence and chaos from which it would be difficult to extricate ourselves.
By now, even Bill Buckley knows we were right. What did we know that was not available to Don Rumsfeld and the neoconservative chickenhawks who egged him on? In one sense, nothing; in another, everything. It is often not technical information we need in order to make up our minds about a political issue, but historical and moral understanding. Our “reading” of Iraq was derived from the study of history going back to the postcolonial formation of the country, to the Ottoman and Byzantine empires, all the way back to the ancient Sumerians and Assyrians of Mesopotamia.
Today, virtually everybody knows. Even the Dallas Morning News has conceded the truth:
Prior to the commencement of hostilities in Iraq, a small but vociferous faction of paleoconservatives and foreign-policy realists argued that the United States was careening into catastrophe. Some argued from prudential grounds that attacking Iraq would cause more problems than it would solve. Others argued from traditionalist conservative convictions about the nature of men and societies that it was delusional to think that America could, by force of arms, impose liberal democracy on a nation that lacked the cultural and institutional capability for it. These thinkers were not only ignored, but some were anathematized from the right as unpatriotic.
As the writer who headed the list of David Frum’s “unpatriotic conservatives,” I am entitled to brag, on behalf of my colleagues. America needs Chronicles, if only to inject a little musty old-fashioned air into our national debates. If you have already made a gift this Christmas season, please accept my thanks. If you haven’t yet sent a contribution, please help us to keep the voice of conservative sanity on the web by clicking here. All donations to ChroniclesMagazine.org are tax deductible, so don’t delay. ~Thomas Fleming
I cannot urge everyone strongly enough to contribute to the support of Chronicles‘ website. It is one of the very few voices of sanity available online, and it is to my mind quite clearly the best and most insightful commentary written in this country.
It is something of a compliment for Eunomia that my unexplained cessation of blogging for four days has caused some of my faithful readers to question whether I am, in fact, still alive. (Then again, it may be a sad commentary on the regularity of my blogging that some assume that only the sweet release of death would keep me from giving my opinions on current events and other matters of interest.) Rest assured that I have not vanished from the face of the earth or crashed my car into a tree. I am back home in New Mexico for Christmas (on a slower Internet connection), and travel and family gatherings have drawn me away from regular blogging for the last few days. The coming of (New Calendar) Christmas and other work will probably take up most of my time this week, so blogging will be very light. I regret that some of the most active conversations in the comment threads have been happening during my trip, as they all seem to be very good and spirited, but it was unavoidable.
It is good to see that my absence from blogging has not dulled interest in Eunomia. I would also like to thank Ross Douthat for his kind mention of one of the points in my recent post on libertarians and the GOP on bloggingheads during his latest sparring session with Matt Yglesias. I will have a post here and there on news items and commentary that strike me, but I must first take care of some academic conference-related work and some things I am working on for ISI. Perhaps later this week, when most of this is out of the way, I will be able to post a little more often.
Greg Pollowitz, very definitely missing Sixers, informs me that Steve Young is the great-great-great grandson of Bringham [sic] Young.
But I bet everyone who watches Monday Night football knows that. ~Kathryn Jean Lopez
But it is true that Young’s first name is frequently pronounced as if it were spelled Bringham, which is what reminded me of the old and very anti-Mormon joke I heard when I was younger. It went something like this:
Q: What did Brigham Young say about women?
A: “I don’t care how you bring’em, just bring’em young.”
It’s a terrible joke, I know. (I have discovered that it was originally an old Rodney Dangerfield line–that helps explain why it was so bad.) But that is just the tip of the iceberg of the sort of grassroots anti-Mormonism you will encounter when Romney starts his campaign.
The Wire doesn’t just “evade” arguments over solutions, it posits that no solutions actually exist. ~Peter Suderman
I have never seen The Wire (I don’t own a TV, much less do I have a cable subscription), so this is one of those facets of popular culture that is completely unknown to me. (I was a great fan of Homicide when I was younger, particularly enjoying the references to Poe and the all-around cynicism of Richard Belzer’s Det. Munch, and I was actually very upset when it was cancelled.) But, if Peter and the other critics are right, it sounds like an unusually smart television show, which it would have to be to carry on in the tradition of Homicide. (Trivial aside: Homicide was among the first to consistently use the hand-held camera documentary conceit to lend the show a more ”realistic” flavour, and the use of a similar effect in the new Galactica is part of that show’s tremendous success as a more “realistic” approach to the obviously fantastical genre of sci-fi.)
From what I read, it seems that it does not try to do what every other television show does: bring things to tidy resolution. Whether it is in an arc-plotted series or a single episode, TV usually tries to provide us with more or less nicely wrapped story packages. Almost every kind of television does this: the sitcom, the miniseries, the sci-fi series, the Dallas-style one-hour primetime, non-crime-related drama (a lost art form known for the most part only to those of us watching in the ’80s), etc. Soap operas are probably the one form of television that never really try to provide resolution, but only the illusion of it, which allows the story to continue indefinitely and take endless twists and turns. This is one reason, in addition to the acting and writing, why they are generally considered bad television: it just never goes anywhere! This is also why soap operas can be addictive, because there is an implicit promise of some sort of conclusion without any payoff.
People like finality and resolution, which is why writers typically structure stories with some kind of resolution. Narratives without some obvious ending, a conclusion, seem incomplete–this much just seems like common sense. Finish the story, we say. That is why real life agitates us so much, because resolution often eludes us. Things happen, and they do not always make a great deal of sense nor do they seem to tend towards anything in particular. (This is why the pessimists seem so compelling to people who are paying attention, and why they would be entirely right but for the truth of revelation.)
But it is a terribly modern and optimistic way of looking at the world to see “problems” that have “solutions” rather than burdens to be born, and we know what I think of modernity and optimism. This does not mean that we ought not try to alleviate suffering or rectify certain injustices, but that we are fools if we think we can “solve” these things that arise from the structures of our existence. There are no solutions, only ways of making the best of what we have.
Television routinely tells us that we can solve the injustices or difficulties of life, which may be the main reason why television is the most pervasive source of confusion about reality that exists. If there were more shows that did not indulge this happy falsehood, we would probably all be better off for it.
Pithlord has announced that he will be suspending his blogging to make more time for his family, as the heir to the Pithlordship will soon be born. Congratulations to Pithlord and family. His wit, commentary and insight into matters Canadian and legal will be missed, but he sets aside the blog for the best of reasons. We here at Eunomia wish him and his family all the best. We look forward to his possible return at some point in the future.
As you will have noticed, Eunomia was out of commission yesterday, thanks to continued server problems. It seems to have been resolved now, and I hope there will be no more interruptions. I have some “posts” that I wrote up while the blog was down, but it will take a little while to add the appropriate links.
For those who attempted to visit here earlier on Sunday and found someone offering to hire out audio and video jukeboxes, here is an explanation: my hosting service was switching between servers in a big move today, so for a few rather nervous hours Eunomia seemed to have vanished. My apologies for the disruption. Posting will resume shortly.
For those who might be interested in some contemporary Armenian music, I heartily recommend the new album of Anush and Inga Arshakyan, Tamzara. It has some slightly modern-sounding songs, but all of the songs are adaptations of Armenian folk (or zhogovortakan) songs and the ballads of famous traditional goosans, or bard-poets. I had picked it up about a year ago, but had only listened to it once before coming back to it this week. For whatever reason, the music resonated with me much more this week than it had before. Ari, lsenk’!
As Eunomia’s success grows, the list of people to whom I owe this success necessarily grows ever longer. As always, I am particularly indebted and grateful to Jon Luker, who did me the service of providing the “space” for Eunomia gratis for well over a year and a half. He was responsible for transferring the site–and my old Polemics posts–to the new Wordpress format. Were it not for him, Eunomia as you know it would not exist.
Next I owe special thanks to Michael Brendan Dougherty, the new Assistant Editor at The American Conservative, the recent token conservative at Comedy Central who made a little news of his own when he broke the Rumsfeld firing story, and an all-around man-about-town who combines stern truth-telling and penetrating wit with uproariously entertaining tales of mild vagabondage and well-timed paeans to the virtues of his charming and beautiful ladyfriend.
The last three months have been, by my standards, a monumental success. September saw an improvement on August’s outstanding numbers with 7,550 unique visitors. October has been the best to date with just over 9,000. November has not continued the upwards trend, but it did see the second largest readership for Eunomia since I began here in December 2004 with only 37 readers short of 8,000. In the last three months, Eunomia has had over 94,000 visits and 637,000 hits, dwarfing everything that has come before. I would like to see the final month of ‘06 be the best month of the year and of Eunomia’s short run, but the requirements of other writing and my actual academic responsibilities may make that impossible.
My sincere thanks go out to Steve Sailer, Rod Dreher, Clark Stooksbury, Chris Roach, Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam, Mark Shea, and Right Reason for a steady dose of links that have brought many new readers to this site, all of whom, I am hopeful, will continue to return to read more. Andrew Cusack and ParaPundit’s readers have been coming to this site in great numbers, and I am grateful for the permanent links and the readers’ continued interest.
Caleb Stegall and Scott Richert, two very supportive editors who have brought my work to publication at The New Pantagruel and Chronicles respectively, have continued to be extremely helpful in their steady encouragement of my writing. Unfortunately, tNP has shut down, but Chronicles is an excellent publications, and if you are not subscribing to Chronicles you are missing out on some of the best writing on moral, cultural, religious and political topics in the country. I am also grateful to Dan McCarthy and Kara Hopkins for bringing my writing to The American Conservative, a great magazine I have also enjoyed and supported since its appearance in the fall of 2002. Thanks to Rod Dreher for bringing my writing to The Dallas Morning News. Thanks also to Josh Trevino for bringing me on board at Enchiridion Militis, and Paul Cella for his encouragement and past links to Eunomia.
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 Dan McCarthy, Jim Antle, A.C. Kleinheider, Andrew Cunningham, Joshua Snyder (The Western Confucian), Leon Hadar, James Poulos, Pithlord, Prof. Arben Fox, Kevin Michael Grace, Kevin Jones, Glaivester, John Theresa, Dennis Dale, Carey Cuprisin, Mild Colonial Boy, the Russian Dilettante, Jeremy Abel, M.Z. Forrest, Timothy Carney, Gene Healy, J.L. Barnard, Peter Klein, Michael Courtman, the League of the Scarlet Pimpernel, Ordo et Traditio, The Inn At The End of the World, Leading The Next Inquisition, and Will Hinton. Many thanks are due to Peter Suderman for the many links he has provided and for our many engaging disputations over matters of film and conservatism. I also owe Ramesh Ponnuru thanks for directing a large number of readers here in October.
Finally, thank you to all my many readers from around the globe who have made Eunomia something of a small success. I hope that I am able to continue to provide the kind of worthwhile and intelligent commentary that you expect.
Most traditional notions of honor, good manners, and the like seem to be aimed at addressing exactly these kinds of problems. For example, if everyone were like Mr. Pink, the entire profit model of waitressing would break down. ~Chris Roach
I’m so obviously American that I don’t think the question merits any navel-gazing or serious thought. But my parents come from a part of the world where there’s a powerful stigma associated with being a dark-skinned Muslim. This is part of what prompted partition, the sense that the Hindu clerisy in eastern Bengal was so economically and culturally dominant that it was retarding social progress among the Muslim majority, a plausible if obviously explosive claim. So why the heck would I stop identifying with other dark-skinned South Asian Muslims? ~Reihan Salam
So, as I read this, Reihan continues to identify himself as a Muslim out of a sense of loyalty to his parents and his ancestral people in Bangladesh. This is not “unadmirably tribal.” This is what I might call quite natural.
Andrew Sullivan, presumably without any sense of the delicious irony of it all, cites this quote from Thomas Merton:
He who attempts to act and do things for others or for the world without deepening his own self-understanding, freedom, integrity and capacity to love, will not have anything to give others. He will communicate to them nothing but the contagion of his own obsessions, his aggressiveness, his ego-centered ambitions, his delusions about ends and means, his doctrinaire prejudices and ideas.
Does the phrase “contagion of his own obsessions” ring any bells for Sullivan?
A homeowners’ association in southwestern Colorado has threatened to fine a resident $25 a day until she removes a Christmas wreath with a peace sign that some say is an anti-Iraq war protest or a symbol of Satan.
The association in this 200-home subdivision 270 miles southwest of Denver has sent a letter to her saying that residents were offended by the sign and the board “will not allow signs, flags etc. that can be considered divisive.”
The subdivision’s rules say no signs, billboards or advertising are permitted without the consent of the architectural control committee.
Kearns ordered the committee to require Jensen to remove the wreath, but members refused after concluding that it was merely a seasonal symbol that didn’t say anything.
Kearns fired all five committee members. ~CNN
Via Clark Stooksbury
You have to admire the pettiness of people in these little positions of power. It will accomplish nothing of value, but Kearns has made his point and established his authority over the subdivision!
A wreath in the shape of a peace sign is so innocuous and inoffensive that it probably ranks among the more neutral symbols one might put up to express the desire for “peace on earth, goodwill towards men.” Were this to happen on a university campus and a professor or student were prohibited from having some sort of explicitly Christian symbol or message on his office or dorm room door at Christmastime, you had better believe that we would be hearing about religious discrimination and the godless oppressors of academe (and these critics would have a good point). But it does not require much imagination to guess that the response from the professional War on Christmas watchers will be one of silence or only the mildest of rebukes. The assumption that a peace symbol during the Christmas season must have overtly political meaning is simply amazing. This makes roughly as much sense as those who think that creches on public property are the first step towards theocratic domination.
More depressing in a way than this pointless attack on a harmless wreath is the deadening uniformity that this association can impose on the subdivision’s homeowners. Leave it to naturally conformist Americans to create private bureaucracies and committees to ensure homogeneity and uniformity of appearances. This reminds me of nothing so much as Californians and other transplants who move into semi-rural or small-town locations in the Southwest and set about trying to regularise everything and bring it up to their own codes of zoning and restrictions. Rustic and charming have their limits, after all.
Update: Bob Kearns is really out on a limb–even Don Surber realises that Kearns is being a fool.
A leading Kazakh writer has nominated actor Sacha Baron Cohen for a national award for popularizing Kazakhstan.
Novelist Sapabek Asip-uly called on the Kazakh Club of Art Patrons to give Cohen its annual award, according to a letter published by the Vremya newspaper Thursday.
Cohen’s fictional Kazakh character Borat “has managed to spark an immense interest of the whole world in Kazakhstan — something our authorities could not do during the years of independence,” said Asip-uly, who chairs the writers’ guild “The Land and Destiny of Kazakhs.” ~CNN
Over the next three centuries, the Pilgrims’ ancestors and others fought and bled to improve the “civil” world they fled. The Revolutionary War took nearly 4,500 lives. The Civil War, a half-million lives. The combined dead in World War I was more than 116,000, and World War II’s U.S. battle deaths to defeat Germany and Japan were close to 300,000. After all that, the United States became the foremost part of “the civil part of the world.” ~Daniel Henninger
Now we all make mistakes in writing, myself included, and sometimes they can be quite egregious, so I will go fairly easy on Mr. Henninger on this one (his copy editor, however, deserves a good thrashing!). Where Mr. Henninger said “Pilgrims’ ancestors,” he obviously must have meant “Pilgrims’ descendants.” That is clear to all.
But let’s not be too quick to criticise. It can be so easy to mix the two up when you have such reverence for the national heritage as the leading voice of open borders and the free movement of people has. Ancestors and descendants flow together in one unbroken continuity in a nation that was obviously not dedicated to a proposition in such a way that one might accidentally confuse one for the other. I can understand how the folks at The Wall Street Journal, ever that bastion of atavism and ancestral attachments (dangerously subversive attachments at that!), would be so overwhelmed by their deep appreciation for the Burkean contract between the dead, living and unborn that they would get ancestors and descendants all mixed up.
But, Mr. Henninger’s defenders will protest, these criticisms are valid only according to our limited non-Aymara conceptions of past and future! Lousy linear-time, teleological Western cultural imperialist that I am, I have failed to appreciate Mr. Henninger’s deeper insight here. Perhaps I have misunderstood Mr. Henninger entirely. Perhaps, like the Aymara, Mr. Henninger also has some unusual way of understanding time, in which my Puritan ancestors (and “others”–a nice ecumenical gesture to the vast majority of colonial Americans who had nothing to do with the Pilgrims and Puritans) are actually in some sense living ahead of their descendants–because they have lived in what we call the past, which as everyone knows is known and therefore stands before us while the unknown future lurks behind us. Our ancestors really are ahead of us, because they are in the past. Henninger here must conceive of what we think of as the past as the future and think of time in exactly the reverse way we do, so it must make some kind of sense to say that someone’s ancestors come after them, or are ahead of them, in time.
It must be meaningful that Daniel Henninger and Choquehuanca can see the world the same way! There is hope of greater understanding and cooperation between the hub of neoliberalism and the Bolivian Foreign Secretary. Already I feel the season of goodwill toward men breaking in upon us, and we have Mr. Henninger, ambassador of cross-cultural understanding, to thank for this.
What’s that, you say? You say that this was an article dedicated to defending the Bush Doctrine? Nonsense. I think it was an article dedicated to defending the Bush Doctrine’s antecedents, which are yet to come!
Update [11/27]: The article has finally been corrected to read “Pilgrims’ descendants.” So much for the great meeting of minds between Henninger and Choquehuanca–I was really looking forward to it!
Generally, I do not indulge in the grosser Francophobic passions of the crowd, but as we are going to have a woman as Speaker of the House for the next two (?) years we might make an attempt to understand how we should properly address her. That is, of course, when we’re not calling her Nancy Nitwit or That Woman. Some people think that we live in France and in the future are supposed to address Pelosi as “Madame Speaker,” when in English-speaking countries the proper title has been and presumably long will be Madam. This is very straightforward and has to do with the most basic usage of our own language. Essayions souvenir cette idee tres simple!
A museum director in this military town removed an art exhibit that featured several deep-fried American flags.
Art student William Gentry said his piece, “The Fat Is in the Fire,” was a commentary on obesity in America. “I deep-fried the flag because I’m concerned about America and about America’s health,” Gentry said.
Customs House Museum executive director Ned Crouch took down the artwork Wednesday, less than 18 hours after it went up in this community next to Fort Campbell.
“It’s about what the community values,” Crouch said. “I’m representing 99 percent of our membership — educators, doctors, lawyers, military families.”
The exhibit featured three U.S. flags imprinted with phrases such as “Poor people are obese because they eat poorly” and more than 40 smaller flags fried in peanut oil, egg batter, flour and black pepper. ~CNN
You don’t see something like this every day. I suppose I can understand what the “artists” were trying to do, and their message seems to be worth hearing (and certainly more people have heard about it thanks to their choice to deep-fry Old Glory) but one does wonder sometimes about how people come up with ideas such as these. Are they sitting at home eating french fries and then bam! it hits them that they simply must put the American flag in the fryer to say in one simple symbol what it took Super Size Me well over an hour to say? Presumably their next trick will be to complain about government corruption by bathing the flag in the grease taken from the fryer where they fried the other flags.
There is something so profoundly misguided and simply weird in doing this that I fear I am at a loss for words.
Congratulations to Michael on landing the position of Assistant Editor at The American Conservative. Those of us in the Surfeited Inner Circle have known this was coming for a little while now, and it was made public knowledge during his stint as the token conservative at Comedy Central on Election Night (where he just happened to break the biggest news story of 2006), but one of the rules of the Inner Circle is…well, you’re not members of the Inner Circle, so I can’t tell you any of the rules. What it does mean is that the whippersnapper, age 24, will be saying, “Jump!” and his elders, including poor blogging graduate students, will say, “How high?” It should be fun.
Update: Necessarily, this means that Dan McCarthy will be leaving his editor position at TAC and moving on to other work, but he will still be contributing to the magazine.
Unfortunately, Milton Friedman passed away last night at the grand old age of 94. He was one of the great, venerable figures among the monetarists, a powerful proponent of sound monetary policy and an admirable defender of human liberty. His writings introduced me to the principles of libertarian economic thinking, and Capitalism and Freedom was the first work on any aspect of economic theory that I had read (as I am reminded reading over the remarks about him, the book had another edition, Free To Choose, which was followed by a PBS miniseries that disseminated the arguments of the book). His arguments were extremely important for providing a coherent opposition to the expansive state in an era when the ability of the market to provide goods and services was in some ways as derided and underestimated as it is now (excessively) celebrated. More recently, he opposed the invasion of Iraq, recognising aggression when he saw it and warning against the expansion of government power that always follows the outbreak of war. As he said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal in July:
As it happens, I was opposed to going into Iraq from the beginning. I think it was a mistake, for the simple reason that I do not believe the United States of America ought to be involved in aggression.
Reihan also has a post remembering the impressive man, a “genuine American hero.”
The Wall Street Journal interview from earlier this year with Milton and Rose Friedman is available here.
When Andrew Sullivan starts comparing something you wrote with his dreadful little book, it’s a good bet that something has gone terribly wrong somewhere. When others believe that there is a more than passing resemblance between what you wrote and Andrew Sullivan’s dreadful little book, you may have a bigger problem still.
I have returned from St. Louis. Blogging will be very light this week, but there are some things now available that should be of interest to regular and occasional Eunomia readers.
The American Conservative’s latest issue is now online, including Austin Bramwell’s already much-discussed article, Jeffrey Hart’s indictment of the movement’s ideological turn and my article, The Gospel According to Bush, among other things.
I just got in from a very interesting session of graduate students and faculty talking with filmmaker Atom Egoyan about his film Ararat, and this has brought a number of things to mind that I want to get into in more detail in the coming weeks. However, I am rather pressed for time this week, and will also be away from the blog starting tomorrow afternoon until Sunday. (And, no, for those who are worried, my cessation of blogging for more than a day is not a sign of the end times.) But, to whet your appetite, here are some ideas that I will try to get to by the end of the month:
* Discussion of the Ararat session, the Armenian genocide and the recent law passed recently in France outlawing denial of the genocide.
* Another response to Austin Bramwell’s provocative and interesting American Conservative article with more attention to the questions of ideology and programmatic politics (and why conservatism doesn’t have either).
* The political use of atrocities in the creation of hegemony and in the opposition to the same.
* Possibly some posts related to my experience at the Byzantine Studies Conference
* Reflections on the election, and the obligatory (attempt at an) answer to the question, “Now what, Larison?”
But Larison wants to do more to conservatism than restore its principled approach to government. He wants us to see it as a way of life. For that I give him credit; where most folks are content to take the bus into town alone, Larison wants to rocket to the moon and take the entire conservative movement with him. Presumably, once we’re there, we’ll set up a Catholic-run organic farm community and devote lots of time to slow-cooking moon-pies and rocking, zero-G style, on our lunar porches. And there will be government there; good, ordered government, no matter what that nutty Heinlein guy thought. ~Peter Suderman
Obviously, were I to launch such a rocket, it would have to be bound for Malacandra, which would be free of the destructive influence of the Bent One and populated by benevolent races, such as the happily un-fallen otter-like creatures (the hrossa). There we would dwell under the benevolent oversight of the Oyarsa of Malacandra, and the mission’s philologist would quickly be able to decipher the otters’ language and reach an understanding about the importance of sacramentality and asceticism, which they, not being fallen creatures as we are, would grasp intuitively. But then we would realise that John Elton was right all along when he said, “Mars ain’t the kind of place to raise your kids,” and we would pack up our expedition and return to the place where we came from, realising that we had been foolish to try to transplant our rooted way of life to the craggy recesses of the Valles Marinis.
Michael has also managed to work his way into the inner sanctum of Stewart and Colbert and be named the ComedyCentral.com InDecider Blog’s token conservative. Congratulations (yet again) to Michael on this one. He will be blogging on the election there tonight in his appropriately irreverent style.
If anyone can give tokenism a good name, we know that Michael will be able to do it.
Michael has also landed an article in the current Washington Monthly. Congratulations (again) to Michael on the article.
The overwhelming lesson of human history, and the second law of thermodynamics, is that Russians are right and Americans are wrong. ~Pithlord
I may not be a good American.
I have never watched a Super Bowl or an NBA championship, never been to Las Vegas, never willingly listened to rap, hip-hop, or heavy-metal music. San Francisco strikes me not as beautiful but as bleak, ugly, dirty, and alien. I feel more at home in many places in Europe than I do in New York City or Los Angeles. I like the French and find most Germans very uncongenial—too much like a certain type of American—intellectually and ethically challenged self-important bullies. (Think Earl Warren, Donald Rumsfeld, Bill Bennett.) ~Clyde Wilson
It gets even better in the rest of the article.
Michael Brendan Dougherty tells us about the current state of dandyism and how some dandies are trying to reclaim dandyism for real men.
The Economist is blogging the midterms on their politics blog Democracy in America, some of which just highlights the magazine’s own election coverage in the new issue, but they do also include some posts drawing on other sources, such as National Journal’s Jonathan Rauch on the virtues of divided government. (Via Kevin Drum) They also have an economics blogs called Free Exchange, which I’m sure all the paleos and traditional conservatives will just be rushing off to read.
Drum, for his part, fears a Sports Illustrated jinx-like effect in the magazine’s call for Republican defeat, since The Economist often endorses the candidate/party that ends up losing. They were tepidly for Kerry in ‘04. But in this case I am not sure that even bad Economist vibes can keep the Democrats down this time. Funniest thing I’ve read this week: according to Drum, The Economist has a “tiresome conservative tilt”! No more, I can’t take it!
Rachel Morris at Washington Monthly’s election blog, Showdown ‘06, notes that Rep. Doolittle in CA-04 is once again in hot water thanks to allegations of taking a junket from nonprofits that were actually fronts for corporate interests operated by the lobbying firm Alexander Strategy Group. (Morris’ commentary is interesting, but all her links seem to be broken.) Here’s the Post story (via MSNBC) on the Group and why Doolittle is in trouble:
Records show that the Korea-U.S. Exchange Council was funded by the Hanwha Group, a South Korean conglomerate. The stated goal was to enhance the influence of Hanwha’s chairman, Seung Youn Kim, a controversial figure once jailed for violating Korean financial law in his purchase of Sylvester Stallone’s Hollywood mansion. Lobbyists for the U.S.-Malaysia Exchange Association filed reports stating that their funds came from a Malaysian energy firm and that the work was “on behalf of the government of Malaysia.”
Federal law prohibits members of Congress from knowingly accepting overseas travel from foreign governments except as part of a cultural interchange program approved by the State Department. The travel in this case was not part of such a program, government officials said. House rules ban members from taking trips paid for by lobbyists or foreign agents. Nonprofits and their officers are prohibited under federal tax law from using a charitable organization for private commercial gain.
Once a major lobbying firm, Alexander Strategy Group closed down early this year. Its owner, Edwin A. Buckham, former chief of staff to now-departed House majority leader Tom DeLay, is under investigation in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, according to lawyers and witnesses with knowledge of the probe. Authorities are also reviewing Buckham’s use in the 1990s of another nonprofit, the U.S. Family Network, the sources said.
The fatal grip of Abramoff continues to pull Doolittle into an early political grave. Will this latest revelation be enough to sink the drowning Doolittle once and for all? We’ll see in four days.
The December Washington Monthly, perplexed as to how to handle post-election coverage when the issue is put together before the election, has articles on the consequences of both a Dem victory and GOP survival. Notable among the latter was Mark Schmitt’s view of what would follow continued GOP control, in which he imagines the McLieberman secession from both parties to form a third party and then moots it as a preposterous alternative:
One faction of a splintered party might even lead to the creation of a third party: One can imagine McCain, if rejected by social conservatives for the Republican presidential nomination, allying with Lieberman on an independent candidacy. With the Democratic Party in crisis, and a Republican nominee markedly too conservative for the country (Newt Gingrich, for example), such a third-party ticket—made up of people who can claim they were rejected by the ideologues in both their parties—would have a superficial appeal. The problem with it is simply that it would be a very, very conservative party, not a centrist alternative at all. McCain is no moderate, and never claimed to be one. And Lieberman’s strained relationship with the Democratic Party, it has become apparent, has nothing to do with the party and everything to do with his own journey toward deep neoconservatism.
I have said more or less the same thing about McCain-Lieberman fantasies for some time. That doesn’t stop some people from hoping, of course, but it is a bizarre thing to hope for in any case. Gingrich will never get the nomination (consider that my first reckless prediction of the next election cycle!), and there are probably all kinds of people whom folks at the Monthly think are too conservative for the country who are only too likely to get the nomination and win in a general against a Clinton or Biden. The only trouble is that none of them is running for President this time around.
Hanna Rosin at Slate describes the bizarre way in which “the Christian right” has been viewed up till now:
All the election tick-tock stories hint that the drama is yet to come. Any day now Karl Rove will unlock the cages and poke the beasts out of their slumber. Any moment the right court decision, or medical ethics case, or sex scandal will have them storming the polling booths and taking back the country. This is the zombie paradigm that has been applied to the Christian right ever since its forces entered politics in the late ’70s, and in fact for most of the century: One minute they’re dead asleep, and the next minute they’re biting your head off.
This is a funny view to hold, but it would make a lot more sense of the sheer dread some people seem to have of politically active conservative Christians. It does make a certain amount of sense that their political opponent would regard them as attack zombies since that is exactly how the horrendously bad ’70s remake of Night of the Living Dead depicted them. In any case, zombies or not, Ms. Rosin claims that “the Christian right” has “peaked” and has actually become largely establishmentarian and mainstream. Perhaps, but Ms. Rosin would do a lot better than invoking Rick Warren of Purpose-Driven Life fame and juxtaposing him with Pat Robertson, since both are as representative of “the Christian right” today as I am of New Mexican politics.
Ron Rosenbaum manages to overthink his review of Borat’s use of anti-Semitism way, way too much.
CQPolitics has shifted NH-02 to No Clear Favourite from from Leans Republican, and notes that even in NH-01 GOP strength is waning.
Pat Buchanan has a new article, Why the GOP Is Losing.
Fr. Neuhaus mocks Alan Wolfe’s review of David Kuo’s book and manages by the end of it to intimate not too subtly that the crowd at The New Republic is basically espousing an elaborate anti-Semitic conspiracy theory (with an anti-Catholic angle to boot). To wit:
On the surface of things, it might appear that the threat is the religious right, composed of the great unwashed of vulgar evangelicalism. But they are only the foot soldiers manipulated by clever Catholics. And at the very center of these developments are those Jewish neoconservatives. At stake in these sinister goings on is, according to TNR, nothing less than the identity of America. And it is true that there is a long and darkly shadowed history of people who view America in terms of naïve Protestants being manipulated by devious Catholics and even more devious Jews. In the past, however, those who propounded such views did not usually go by names such as Wieseltier, Wolfe, and Heilbrunn.
Last, but certainly not least, Hotline TV has their anticipated predictions episode. See what Todd and Mercurio have to say about the coming “wave” or whether there will, in fact, be a wave at all.
This morning I was in Armenian class, reading a part of Hrant Matevosyan’s Kanach Dashte (The Green Field), one of his shorter short stories about a mare and her foal in, well, a green field. As often happens in Armenian stories, bad things have started to happen and there will be an unhappy ending. My conversational Armenian is still rather weak after neglecting it all summer (which is true of too many of the languages I have studied and supposedly “know” how to speak), though my reading seems to have come back quite quickly.
We finished Raffi’s Anbakht Hripsime (Unfortunate Hripsime) last week, which had a very unhappy ending, as the title would suggest, and which reminds us to regard all melikner and malikah with suspicion and distrust (this is especially true when the name is Maliki!). Mi yusak ishkhannerin, mardi vortiin, vori mot prkut’yun ch’ka! (Ps. 146:3)
On the lighter side of blogging today after all of the terribly grim Kerry and Iraq news, I thought it was about time for another dose of Rani Mukherjee. Here she is in the number Kangna Re from the amusing Paheli. Grimly serious blogging will resume later on.
Yaar ki koi khabar lata nahi.
Daam labau par hai nikal jata nahi. ~Kiran Ahluwalia
(Before I breathe my last breath I wish someone would bring me news of my beloved.)
As I was listening to Ms. Ahluwalia’s premiere CD, it occurred to me that the word in Hindi for news, khabar, is the same word for news in the stories of Raffi, Hakob Hakobyan, that I was reading recently for my Armenian class. I had not made the connection before reading Raffi’s stories, but then suddenly I recognised that the same word was being used. This is just one of the many interesting borrowings and similarities between Hindi and Armenian, which both draw heavily on Persian vocabulary. I often find such fascinating connections between the two Indo-European languages and two cultures in which I have some considerable personal interest.
As I was passing the conference room this morning the President called me in.
“D____. C’mere. Check this out.” He said, sounding surprisingly upbeat. I allowed myself the hope that he was going to say we’d be leaving the bunker soon. “Have I shown you this?”
He had been leaning over a scale model of a city. He stepped back and smiled proudly, spreading his arms in presentation.
“What is it sir?” I said, dutifully disguising my disappointment. The room was a shambles; it appeared as if everything had been hastily tossed to the walls to make room for the model, which occupied a place of well-lit preeminence in the center of the squalor.
“It’s Baghdad.” He said, delighted.
“Oh, of course.” I said, still feigning enthusiasm.
“See, here’s the airport; here’s the road to the airport; see the cars? Everything’s safe and secure. See the people? They’re voting.”
“What’s that sir?” I was sorry the moment I asked, but the futuristic structure on the outskirts of the city was clearly out of place, clumsily cobbled together with what appeared to be the modified parts of a child’s toy.
“That’s the Bush Freedom and Liberty Mosque.” He said, his enthusiasm quickening. “It’s going to be open to muslims and shi’ites alike. Let me show you—“ ~Dennis Dale
I received my absentee ballot today (the ballot requires that we use a No. 2 pencil) and I cannot find my pencil sharpener to save my life.
Update: No pencil sharpener yet, but I did find an already-sharpened pencil! Now it’s time to vote.
Second Update: The pencil I found just broke. I am now using just the piece of graphite that broke off. Voting is harder than I remember it being.
Hey, seven years of mandatory Spanish didn’t go completely to waste! (Note: I make no claim that the Spanish title above is anything like proper or accurate Spanish, but I gave it a shot.)
The November issue of Chronicles, The Disappearing Border, has many articles on the state of the border, immigration and its consequences on society, culture and the natural environment. In that issue Tom Piatak, fellow blogger who writes at Cultural Revolutions Online, has a review of Pat Buchanan’s State of Emergency. Clark Stooksbury, our man in Knoxville, reviews Beating the Powers That Be by Sean Scallon. Of interest to a great many, I think, will be Andrea Kirk Assaf’s Letter From Rome about “Lebanon, Israel and the Holy See.” Be on the lookout for the new Chronicles, or better yet you can subscribe.
Now comes the lame self-promotion. I have a short article in the new Chronicles for November on the possible political significance of the likely election of Keith Ellison in MN-05 as the first Muslim in Congress and as a politician with close personal ties to the leadership of CAIR. (Hint: it aint good.)
On the recommendation of ISI’s Mark Henrie, whose New Pantagruel essay can be found here, I picked up Andreas Kinneging’s Aristocracy, Antiquity and History: Classicism in Political Thought (Transaction, 1997). I will probably get to reading it fairly soon and may have some posts related to it in the next few weeks.
As I mentioned before, Jim Antle, Doug Bandow and Leon Hadar have pieces in the new American Conservative. Michael Brendan Dougherty also has a new article in the same issue, a fun review of Jeans: A Cultural History of an American Icon, but he got his last article online, so this one is not available electronically.
What in the name of blackest reaction has been happening to the Scene? Ross and Reihan’s blog disappeared for a couple days, then returned briefly, and then disappeared again, and just when the blog was getting attention in the respectable blogosphere of the Big-Named Magazines and Journals. Someone jealous over their prestigious Playboy ranking as one of the best political blogs must be having them on.
Update: Our great national nightmare is over. They have returned (again).
But he is clearly attracted by the US ideal of democracy. In one telling passage he compares French roads, with their unofficial fast lanes from which slower drivers move away when approached by those in a hurry, to the American ones, where no such informal rules exist. Drivers of fast cars are treated like everybody else, he notes admiringly, and in this respect America is more egalitarian than France. ~Allister Heath, The Spectator
Of all the characteristics to admire in America, BHL picks the most aggravating habit of American drivers? You would think the man could appreciate the principle that the left lane is for passing only, but apparently that doesn’t register with hordes of drivers in this country who believe they have a moral right, nay, an obligation to putter along in the left lane–at the speed limit, no less! Simply terrible. Naturally one of the worst features of American life would win BHL’s praise, and it would have to be because it is “egalitarian.” If it is, chalk that up as one more reason to be against egalitarianism.
If Muslims are apparently outraged by “Apple Mecca,” they must really be incensed at the portrayal of the Mahdi Paul Muad’Dib in Frank Herbert’s Dune series. I mean, obviously, Herbert has been distorting Muad’Dib’s teachings of peaceful inner struggle and has been giving people the idea that the Fremen are a bunch of fanatical warriors with glowing eyes. He has been getting away with misrepresenting Muad’Dib’s jihad for decades! Where will the madness end?
This just in from the Green Zone in Baghdad: The hot new polo shirt in the zone is white with a diplomatic security badge on it and stitching below that says “Resistance Is Futile.” ~The Washington Post
Via Kevin Drum
Now Drum assumes that this is an example of “triumphal jackassery” familiar to us from earlier stages in the war, but I think we may all be getting the wrong impression from this Borg slogan. Maybe it’s actually a message to other people in the Green Zone that their continued resistance to reality is futile and that eventually, one day, the catastrophe that is Iraq will penetrate their isolated little world. Anyone buying that one? No, and neither am I. Note to war supporters: it might help your cause of being outraged about alleged Cylon/American parallels in Battlestar Galactica if the government’s own guys in Iraq weren’t consciously imitating the rhetoric of the equally nasty cyborg enemies of humanity from another sci-fi show. I guess the Borg phrase was catchier than “by your command, Imperious Leader.”
The New Iraqica plotline may have started heavy-handed (no doubt in part to get a lot of press attention), and it certainly broke the wall between the audience and the BSGverse, but as the reader above notes, the show’s creative team would have to be complete idiots to sustain this strained and absurd moral equivalence throughout the season. And, they certainly demonstrated in the first two seasons that they aren’t complete idiots. ~Jonah Goldberg
As I read over Goldberg’s reaction to the third season premiere, I was surprised at how seriously he took the supposed parallelism with Iraq. (Then again, I suspect that I am not alone in being amazed that anyone associated Roslin’s attempt to steal the election with the 2000 recount–unless, of course, one thinks that Roslin is Bush, in which case it was a harrowing counterfactual storyline showing us the horror of a Gore presidency!) Now, as I said in my earlier response to Peter, I haven’t seen the premiere, so maybe I should hold off commenting any further until I have, but if Goldberg was giving us the damning evidence here he failed to convict. Isn’t it odd that war supporters should be so touchy at possible backhanded references to their war? War opponents, last I checked, were not beating their heads against the wall when BSG showed the Colonial peace movement as a front for Cylon infiltration and nuclear terrorism. Maybe it’s a space opera. Maybe it is just a story. Yes, it draws on parallels from our own experience, because, well, that’s what all interesting stories do. If you want otherworldly fluff and nonsense, Stargate is still available. If you want gritty, more realistic science fiction, quit your whining about BSG.
Update: A different NRO reader’s take on the show:
I think viewing the episodes as trying to mirror Iraq is at least a little bit of defensiveness from conservatives. I was real worried about the moral equivalence before seeing the episodes, but after viewing it I think it reflected the French resistance (no easy jokes) and Vichy French rather than Iraq. The last scene with the prisoners being allowed to stretch their legs and then being gunned down by surprise is almost a stereotype from WWII Nazi films.
Anyone trying to draw equivalence with Iraq will inevitably look like a fool trying to defend it for just a few of the reasons you have already listed.
I must say that I agree with the remark about defensiveness. Opponents of the Iraq war do not see this as an allegory about Iraq, because they do not assume that Americans are Cylons. Why is Iraq the first thing that leaps to mind? After all, isn’t it 1938? Aren’t the fascists everywhere? If you read NRO regularly, you would think so. So, come on, folks, stick to the script you have been given!
Second Update: As if the BSG-Iraq parallel needed demonstration of its silliness, here is a gem from Battlestar Galactica Blog:
They needed Baltar to be as much like Saddam Hussein as possible in order create an analagous situation. The United States took over Iraq in order to liberate the Iraqis from Saddam Hussein. The Cylons liberated the humans from Baltar. If the humans had a well functioning democratic government, then the similaritiy between the two situations would be a lot weaker.
Um…what? Gaius Baltar may be many things, but a stand-in for Saddam Hussein? Please. A lecherous egomaniac who has gone rather mad, yes, but hardly a brutal dictator. Note that this comes from someone who thought that Baltar was an all right sort of guy until the mean, old writers turned suddenly transformed him into a womanising creep, as opposed to the charming idealistic man of virtue we knew from before. Say what? Furthermore, there was no “liberation” from Baltar; as I understand it, Baltar is still around, working hand-in-glove with the Cylons. But this does raise the important question: if New Caprica is Iraq, who was supposed to be Hussein? The question points out the absurdity of the entire parallel.
In the October 23 TAC issue several of my paleo and traditional conservative blogging colleagues have articles that merit your attention: Jim Antle writes about how some conservatives believe they can win through GOP defeat this fall; Doug Bandow writes on the indifference of evangelicals towards Iraqi Christians in the evangelicals’ support for the war; Leon Hadar takes apart Bush-as-Churchill rhetoric and other poorly devised WWII comparisons. Last, but not least, Michael Brendan Dougherty reviews James Sullivan’s Jeans: A Cultural History of an American Icon. The new issue isn’t online yet, but this should give you an idea of what you’ll find in the issue.
Simple: He’s a glory hog who unfairly receives credit for the accomplishments of others and who skates through school by taking advantage of his inherited wealth and his establishment connections. Harry Potter is no braver than his best friend, Ron Weasley, just richer and better-connected. Harry’s other good friend, Hermione Granger, is smarter and a better student. The one thing Harry excels at is the sport of Quidditch, and his pampered-jock status allows him to slide in his studies, as long as he brings the school glory on the playing field. But as Charles Barkley long ago noted, being a good athlete doesn’t make you a role model.
Harry Potter is a fraud, and the cult that has risen around him is based on a lie. Potter’s claim to fame, his central accomplishment in life, is surviving a curse placed on him as an infant by the evil wizard Voldemort. As a result, the wizarding world celebrates the young Harry as “The Boy Who Lived.” It’s a curiously passive accomplishment, akin to “The Boy Who Showed Up,” or “The Boy Who Never Took a Sick Day.” And sure enough, just as none of us do anything special by slogging through yet another day, the infant Harry didn’t do anything special by living. It was his mother who saved him, sacrificing her life for his. ~Chris Suellentrop, Slate
However, as the man said, I’d rather be lucky than good. Everyone who enthuses about Harry Potter does so because they, too, would like to be the pampered Golden Boy. (The flood of hate mail can now begin.) Well, that, and because the stories actually are fairly entertaining. Read the rest of this entry »
A reader writes to Jonah Goldberg at The Corner on the new season of BSG:
Ever since the astounding conclusion of last season’s BSG, I was pumped for this year’s new episodes. However, I’m getting a very bad vibe about it being a multi-episode Iraq war bashfest. In particular, the webisodes - which, in all honesty, I’ve only seen the first five or six - draw complimentary parallels between the jihadi “insurgents” and the human resistance forces on New Caprica.
Plus, there’s a story on Zap2it.com where Mary McDonnell, in discussing this season’s plot arc, commends the BSG brain trust for their “brave and beautiful act” in putting together this year’s series.
A “brave & beautiful act,” I believe, is vapid actorspeak for “speaking truth to power.” To quote Krusty the Clown, “Oooooo, this is always death.”
Is there nothing Iraq war supporters won’t politicise? I have seen some odd things politicised in my time, but can we please leave the new Battlestar Galactica out of this debate? Incidentally, you have to have a very low opinion of the U.S. military to automatically assume that Ron Moore intends to criticise U.S. foreign policy by aligning America with the Cylons. It’s rather like the people who assume the depiction of Orcs and Uruk-hai in The Lord of the Rings was aimed at insulting minorities because the evil races had darker-hued skin than the Elves, Hobbits et al. Of course, it says quite a lot about what those people think of minorities that the first thing that came to mind when they saw an Orc was, “This is an insult to black people everywhere!” Similarly, if you think Colonials fighting the Cylons = jihadis fighting Americans, you have your wires crossed somewhere. The Cylons are the inhuman religious fanatics, remember? Or maybe, just maybe, it’s science-fiction and doesn’t have to have an immediate political application. Maybe BSG is a more fundamental story of human survival and, as many good sci-fi stories have been, a study of human nature in the extraordinary circumstances of a fantastic alien situation.
Update: A reader has helpfully pointed out this interview with BSG creator Ron Moore. Here is a relevant exchange from the interview, which acknowledges parallels with the Iraq war, but which does not propose to take sides in favour the tactics of the insurgents/Colonials (interviewer’s comments in bold):
In those opening episodes, there are so many parallels, not just to Iraq but to the occupation of France, to any occupation, to Vietnam. But the episodes are especially resonant with so many specific things that have happened in the last few years. Was that something you did consciously?
“It was definitely in my mind. There were a lot of situations and occupations that we talked about in the writers’ room, Vichy France and Vietnam. You know, Iraq is happening right now, so it’s hard not to have overtones of it. The trick for us was not to make it a polemic, to not say, ‘We know what’s wrong with the Iraq situation, here are the answers.’
“It was more about, why is it such a complicated mess? Certain things just have no easy answers, just have no good ways out for anybody involved. This is one of those situations.
“We were aware of the parallels and wanted to play it as truthfully as we could, given the situation. But the same time, we’re always a little more interested in watching how our characters respond to a situation, more than we are in delineating a certain political idea about this situation.”
In other words, Moore is more interested in the character-driven drama, as he always has been, and trying to understand how people would act in such a situation than he is interested in trying to push a political morality tale. He has been throwing these sorts of wrenches into the story since the beginning, starting with whether Cylons should be treated as humans (Roslin gives the pragmatic, basically smart answer of, ‘No’, but the show is always throwing up obstacles that try to keep you from accepting that simple conclusion). If you want lame political morality tales in your sci-fi, Episode III lies on the shelf gathering dust and awaits your viewing.
…that I was writing on Harriet Miers’ lack of qualifications to be nominated to the Supreme Court and the poor quality of Mr. Bush’s judgement:
He has wanted no contentious battles because, as he has shown with almost all of his nominees at least since the pitiful support shown Mr. Estrada, he will never rise to their defense or risk his own position on any domestic question of any size. He has shown that he will always keep his precious “political capital” tightly in his hands, like Smeagol grasping the Ring.
I must amend that last statement. Mr. Bush has expended political capital on one domestic initiative–amnesty for immigrants. Little wonder that I call his party the Party of Immigration, Imperialism and Insolvency.
For a month I’ve been dreaming of the following. Reyes and Wright versus Jeter and A-Rod. Delgado versus Abreu. Randy Johnson versus Tom Glavine. Mariano Rivera versus Billy Wagner. The world does not want a subway series. Met’s fans want vengeance for 2000. However, there is a problem. My grandfather loved the Giants. My grandmother, the Dodgers. I love the Mets. My ladyfriend’s house is Yankee territory. ~Michael Brendan Dougherty
If love can transcend the mutual hatreds of the teams of the Bronx and Queens and their respective loyalists, it can overcome anything. Except perhaps the divide between Cubs and Sox fans. Some divisions probably just run too deep. Here’s wishing Michael and his ladyfriend a happy reunion, complete with numerous Mets victories.
James Poulos celebrates his blog’s anniversary today at Postmodern Conservative. He offers an entertaining quiz to recap the last year.
Metal Storm was reaching the final prototype stage after successful testing by the US military, he said. “We expect production to start in 12 to 24 months.”
Hailed as a revolution in weaponry, Metal Storm’s firing mechanism is initiated electronically rather than by the traditional percussion method. It has almost no recoil and no moving parts, meaning that stoppages are less common than in normal firearms.
Bullets or grenades can be fired at a rate of one million per minute, either from a single weapon or multiple barrels grouped together in pods.
In comparison, an Uzi machinegun fires at a rate of 3,000 rounds a minute.
The company claims the technology can be applied to almost any calibre of weapon. Much of the project is secret, but it is believed that hand-held or remote-controlled weapons would be powered by long-lasting battery packs.
“You’d get multiple firings from one battery and they’d last a long time,” said Ian Bostock, an analyst with Jane’s Defence Weekly.
“Very few firearm revolutions have taken place in the last 60 or 70 years but this is one of them.”
A multi-barrelled Metal Storm gun would direct withering fire at an enemy infantry or tank advance, or enable a warship to fend off a missile attack. ~The Daily Telegraph
No wonder the Chinese want to get their hands on this technology. I’m hardly even an amateur when it comes to military matters, but it seems to me that possession of guns like this would significantly lessen the advantages of air power and significantly improve defensive positions. If one side possessed such weapons and the other did not, battles could become very lopsided. What came to mind when I read about this was the effective shield against missiles created by rapid gunfire that appears in the new Battlestar Galactica.
And it turns out Foley was no stranger in Clearwater.
In 1999, Foley joined three other Scientology-friendly politicians in condemning Germany for outlawing Scientology — German law is very strict about cults, because of previous problems.
The Clearwater Scientologists also held a fund-raiser for Foley’s aborted Senate run; he dropped out after the gay thing was mentioned.
Ahmadinejad’s Got Nothing On This Guy
Clearly Foley has some serious engram problems–get Tom Cruise on the case!
Conservatives, let’s pretend that the U.S. just outright stole Hawaii and Puerto Rico, the way Saddam Hussein stole Kuwait. ~John Zmirak, The American Conservative
John has many more fun and challenging experiments in his latest TAC article for progressive and conservative alike. Here’s another exercise all can try in the interests of amity and the general peace: conservatives, don’t call your political opponents appeasers for at least a week; progressives, lay off the fascist comparisons for an equal period of time. Just imagine how much better your arguments will be when you have to start actually making arguments!
A few readers have mentioned in the past few months that Eunomia was difficult to read because of the lightness of some of the text, and I now realise that the blockquotes would appear in extremely small font and be very difficult to read on certain monitors under the old version. So we’ll give the new look, which is actually a reversion to an older model (entirely appropriate to a reactionary blog), a chance and see how it goes. Unfortunately, one of the casualties of the change is the wonderful quote from Bolingbroke’s paper, The Craftsman, but I’ll see if I can’t restore that. Please let me know if you prefer this new appearance or the previous theme.
Blogging is a highly competitive, heavy attrition environment. Rival blogs that seek to do harm to Untethered are many. Therefore, I will not wait for other blogs to attack, but will concentrate on identifying threats not only before they reveal themselves, but before they develop; before they even exist. In today’s environment of heightened competitiveness, it is necessary to anticipate not only your competitor’s next move, but his next thought as well. I will destroy potentially hostile rogue blogs before even they know they are a threat. Indeed, many will not realize that they were destined to be threats. ~Dennis Dale
I gave a ten minute discourse to someone on the difference between liberal universalist ethics and Christian morality as they relate to our politics. The one person audience said, “I know you are drunk, but this is rather brilliant.” Later, this same person uttered the strange words. “When you were drunk, you promised to give me a ride home.” Of course by this point it was nearly five in the morning and I had been sipping on delicious tap water since the gin ran out some hours earlier.
On the way home I thought it was funny how the partisans of tradition party it up. Our bodies hot, and our insults cold. Not a thing about it was lukewarm. And nobody that I witnessed was vomiting. ~Michael Brendan Dougherty
At 4Pundits, Jim Antle rhetorically asks if Mark Foley was a defender of Internet decency and Doug Bandow gets in the reckless prediction game and supposes that the discussion in “Foleygate” will turn to whether Hastert will still be Speaker by mid-month; he goes on to discuss the significance of the scandal for the GOP majority. Mr. Bandow also has a post on an interesting excerpt from a biography of Colin Powell. Between the two of them they seem to be keeping 4Pundits afloat well enough, so that the perpetually missing pundit and the “half-missing pundit” are the ones missing out.
My Enchiridion Militis colleague Joshua Trevino now also blogs at The Claremont Institute’s The Remedy. In spite of my own disagreements with Claremont’s other bloggers, I congratulate Josh on the position and I can say with certainty that he will bring excellent insights and writing to Claremont’s site.
Tagged by James Poulos
1. One book that changed your life?
Dostoevsky, Crime & Punishment
2. One book that you have read more than once?
Dostoevsky, Crime & Punishment
3. One book you would want on a desert island?
4. One book that made you cry?
Lauro Martines, Fire in the City
5. One book that made you laugh?
Demetrios Bathrellos, The Byzantine Christ
6. One book you wish had been written?
How The Byzantines Created Western Civilisation by Sir Steven Runciman
7. One book you wish had never been written?
Karen Armstrong, A History of God
8. One book you are reading currently?
Isaac Kramnick, Bolingbroke & His Circle (obviously)
9. One book you have been meaning to read?
10. Pass it on
So I will leave this post as the tombstone for this ugly little blog that brought out the vilest in me and has now left me in deep shame for the rest of my life. Always remember this, kids: you may not really be as witty and edgy as you think you are; the Internet amplifies everything, especially your most ridiculous stupidity, so don’t go writing callous things even during those days that you happen to feel depressed and like shit and you need that feeling of not caring; limits usually exist for a good reason; your imaginary enemies are not the same as the real breathing people; groups are not monolithic so that all their members equal the one you hate the most and who may or may not return the favour; and finally, remember that regardless of their labels, all people are individuals with feelings, fears and hopes that you really, really should always respect. ~Ilkka Kokkarinen, Sixteen Volts
Deep shame for the rest of my life? Is the man serious? So maybe he crossed the line and said some rude things on a few occasions–for this he will feel “deep shame” for the rest of his life? That’s ridiculous. If he believes he has seriously done wrong, he can give up the blogging (as he has done) and change his ways–but why would he feel “deep shame” for the rest of his life? I can see it now: Kokkarinen in his dotage some decades hence is sitting out in his backyard staring off into the distance, his face drawn in a look of anguish, his eyes haunted by the thoughts of…his mean blog entries! Oh, the humanity! If there is one thing we can all agree on about blog entries, it is that they are fairly trivial. If he made a mistake with some of them and he feels bad about that, so be it, but it is just about as serious and shameful as shouting at someone in anger on the highway. You shouldn’t do those things, but if anyone feels “deep shame” for the rest of his days because he has done either of those things he has bigger problems than being mean to people on a blog. It sounds more like his woman has laid a heavy guilt trip on him for which he will be paying for the rest of his days–and that’s the real shame.
Also, why would you “always” show everyone respect? As a general rule, yes, you should show people respect until they give you a reason to do otherwise, but respect is not some automatic, permanent given thing that everyone can expect no matter what. There are people who have not earned respect or who have lost it, presumably by doing things a fair sight more shameful than writing a zinger on a blog about overweight lesbians. Good grief.
Update: Glaivester has a nice, succinct post called Stop Your Sniveling and Groveling, Ilkka. Amen to that.
Is it just me, or has the conclusion of the lonelygirl15 episode coincided with a surprising amount of discussion on blogs about the perils and pitfalls of modern relations between the sexes? It started with Steve Sailer’s first post on the social implications of the success of the lonelygirl15 charade:
I’m reminded once again of how little effort young men and young women in modern America put into connecting with each other mentally. There’s a gigantic number of high IQ lonely guys out there desperate to meet a girl who wants to talk about the things they like to talk about.
Now The Corner is abuzz with Ally McBeal references (see links above) with the Derb commenting:
The following (edited to protect the innocent) is typical of many.
“Derb—-I suspect that when the smart, attractive 34-year-old woman says ‘I can’t find a man’ she means she can’t find a man who is up to her standards. I also suspect those standards are pretty high. Just check out some of the profiles on yahoo.com to see what I’m talking about.
“I started looking through those a few years ago after my wife died and I couldn’t believe the exacting specifications most of these women had for a mate. I was excluded from at least 75 percent of them just by the height requirement. I’m [unimpressive height] and 5′9″ seemed to be the minimum. I soon figured out that finding a woman willing to marry a [fifty-plus]-year-old man with an adopted [preteen]-year-old granddaughter was going to be an exercise in futility if I went the domestic route.
“Which is why I’ve been married to a beautiful [East Asian female] for two years now. She’s also the best mother any daughter could ask for. She’s only [really unimpressive height].”
Reading emails like that—I’ve just read a bunch of them—it’s pretty plain that the unattached women of America are wilfully ignoring a huge stock of first-rate potential husbands. Their loss.
Which reminds me of Steve Sailer’s observation that Asian women have several advantages in the “marriage market.”
Presumably if you could get all the Ally McBeal impersonators and all the “high IQ lonely guys” together, and then convince them all to stop being so self-involved and ridiculous, the problem would virtually solve itself. The main problem seems to be getting past the second step in this process.
…Damon Linker now has a blog (hat tip: Rod Dreher). This should be fun to watch as he takes on the FT crew while also possibly making wild and unfounded statements about religious conservatives in America. Best of all, what does Linker call his new blog? What else? “The Apostate.” So, irony aside for a moment, the choice Linker poses seems to be between the supposed fanaticism of the Neuhaus crowd and apostasy. Not exactly a tough choice for most believers.
The name of Linker’s blog reminds me, on a completely different, personal note, of the name of a short story I wrote back in high school. It was not a good short story (it was a very abstract story that was supposed to be critiquing the conformity of individualists, or something like that–no, really, it was), but I thought the title was one of those clever, late modern conservative “I’m really more subversive than you subversives are” uses of language, which was The Apostate of the Heretics.
My creative writing teacher didn’t get the joke in the title, partly because she didn’t know what apostate meant, which I found a little hard to believe. I’m not sure if she got the joke when I explained what it meant. Then again, when I wrote another story based loosely on the 21st chapter of the Gospel of St. John and used St. Peter’s Aramaic name, Cephas, in the dialogue, she didn’t know who Cephas was, so I guess being an English teacher at a high-level private school requires you to know some things more than others.
One of the advantages and disadvantages of living in Hyde Park is the opportunity to browse amazing bookstores that serve the University community–between the Co-Op and Powell’s, you are likely to be able to find any new or used book you might want to find (barring highly obscure, long out-of-print or very specialised technical texts), which also means that you are likely to be tempted into getting quite a lot of books when you visit either store. Today brought such a fortunate and catastrophic visit to Powell’s, which has a modest Byzantine collection (but even a modest Byzantine collection is awesome compared to the piddling selection at most chain stores), a passable theology collection and an astonishingly broad history section all together. Looking for the complete works of Bolingbroke? You can find them there. Need a primer for Old English? There it is. I was less impressed with their theology section, which runs heavily to the modern, lacks any real representation of Orthodoxy and which, oddly enough, contains a copy of Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn’s Liberty or Equality?, which is hardly a theology book. But even given these limitations it still surpasses the religion sections at Borders, which run heavily to the DaVinci Code debunkers and the 987 books of Thomas Merton (it only seems as if there are that many, when there are, I believe, really only 852)–for a Trappist, the man is unusually verbose.
So the haul at Powell’s was quite interesting, and constitutes my leisure reading list for this year (whether or not I will get to most or all of these is another question). Since other bloggers sometimes regale their readers with their latest reading choices, I thought my selections might be of interest to readers of Eunomia, so here they are by category.
Theology & Church History
J.E. Merdinger, Rome and the African Church in the Time of Augustine
Ernst Renan, Averroes et l’averroisme
Nova & Vetera: Patristic Studies in Honor of Thomas Patrick Halton
Frederick J. McGinness, Right Thinking and Sacred Oratory in Counter-Reformation Rome
Hugh Douglas, Jacobite Spy Wars
Isaac Kramnick, Bolingbroke & His Circle: The Politics of Nostalgia in the Age of Walpole
Paul Alexander, The Patriarch Nicephorus of Constantinople: Ecclesiastical Policy and Image Worship in the Byzantine Empire
Georgina Buckler, Anna Comnena: A Study
Strangers to Themselves: The Byzantine Outsider
Near Eastern History
Meir Zamir, Lebanon’s Quest: The Road to Statehood, 1926-1939
And if I were trying to become rich and famous, I would not be in graduate school or working as a non-partisan critic of political spin, both of which pay virtually nothing and attract far less attention than partisan vitriol. ~Brendan Nyhan
It is certainly rich to see Kossacks accusing someone else of seeking glory and power, since Daily Kos and associated blogs exist for virtually no other purpose than to mobilise and organise (and whine) in the pursuit of Democratic power–power that the chief Kossacks undoubtedly expect will benefit them once they have driven the craven centrists out of their midst and cleansed the party in a purifying fire of maniacal raving. They like to make noise, and they like to get noticed–it is part of the blogger persona, though it seems to have developed a mutant strain with those folks. They have some real influence, but I bet they also expect that influence to profit them. I’m not holding that against them, but it is peculiar that they would set about making a reasonable, non-partisan critic into some kind of gold-digging shyster, as if there was big money to be made in hacking off two thirds of the population and alienating the most politically hyperactive people on the Web. What this entire episode, which began here, has shown is not so much that liberal magazines are easily intimidated by the blog left, but that the blog left chooses to crucify the oddest people for seemingly spurious, frivolous reasons and thus reveals their own shocking frivolity.
So Nyhan said that it was stupid to compare the administration to fascists–well, it is stupid, just as it is stupid to compare ever third-rate dictator on the planet with Hitler. He also said that calling a book about Ann Coulter Brainless was, well, rather brainless, since Coulter may be many things but a person lacking in intelligence isn’t one of them. What bothered the Kossacks in the first case and the TAP editors so much with the others was that Nyhan was perfectly right in both of these cases and all they could do was throw a hissy fit.
No, there is no reward for even-handed or judicious or intelligent criticism if it does not exempt your “side”–and you simply must have a side–and in pointing out precisely those flaws that plague all partisans you will mostly receive scorn from both sides in due course. Today the GOP bloggers are saying soothing, conciliatory things about Mr. Nyhan, but that is because he was “defenestrated” by liberals for saying things critical of liberals; were he to make the same sort of dismissive remarks about Islamofascism at NRO, they wouldn’t be able to get him out of the window fast enough.
It sure makes a noticeable difference to wake up in the morning when you know that from now on, you are going to be a good person, and all that cynicism and biting sarcasm and automatically fixating into finding weaknesses in things is gone. This feeling is probably the secular version of what the religious people feel like after their conversion. ~Ilkka Kokkarinen, Sixteen Volts
I had earlier noticed this part of Dr. Kokkarinen’s final post, but had wanted to say something about another aspect of his explanation for giving up blogging. On behalf of sarcastic cynics and critics everywhere, I have to say: give me a break! Sarcasm, especially bitter sarcasm, is sometimes just the needed antidote for the pretensions of public intellectuals–such people thrive on the air of seriousness and self-importance they bring to their work, and nothing punctures that overinflated balloon faster than a shot of sarcastic wit. Who are we bloggers to puncture that balloon? Well, if not us, who? Who will hold up the claims of these people to scrutiny? The regular media? That’s a good one. Their colleagues? Unlikely.
Critique serves a vital function in any discussion, and must perforce be rather negative, though that does not have to make it purely destructive. There is something rather tiresome in the assumption that by giving up writing blog entries in a sarcastic, cynical vein you have thereby become a better person. If you were a bad person for doing these things before, you have not significantly reformed–you have simply stopped broadcasting your views to the world–and if you were not a bad person for doing these things there is no sudden “conversion” from being a bad, cynical blogger to a good, positive non-blogger. Some people are more prone to see flaws than others; you cannot turn this off with a snap of the fingers. If you have a knack for withering criticism, it is part of who you are and not something that you can simply shut off; it will simply be expressed in a new form.
Dr. Kokkarinen is, of course, free to do as he pleases and doesn’t need to justify ending his blog with some appeal to moral reform–he could simply say that he wants to focus all his energies on teaching, which would be admirable enough and would have exposed him to less scorn from those sarcastic cynics who remain. But it doesn’t say much in his favour that he has chosen silence and the least path of resistance when he came in for some heavy criticism because of things he wrote; even if he was wrong in what he said or how he said it, there is a certain principle that ought to make him insist that his writing does not hinge on the approval of the people he criticises.
It says even less that he thinks that by shutting down his blog and silencing himself he has therefore become a better person. If an academic wants to be done with polemic, criticism and even sarcastic negativity, he may as well go into another line of work–these things are part and parcel of the competitive atmosphere of the academic world, as it should be in a world that ought to thrive on vigorous, serious and, yes, respectful debate. These aspects of academia can sometimes become excessive and degenerate into fruitless vendettas between scholars and researchers, but this kind of rivalry has existed for a very long time. Anyone engaged in inquiry and active in “the life of the mind,” whether in a professional capacity or in his free time, will sooner or later find himself confronted with critics and those who would just as soon see him silenced. The odds are that if they wrap themselves up in the mantle of the injured victim, the less merit their objections have. How mistaken it is, then, to yield to the complaints of such people, who, in all likelihood, have no good retorts to his criticisms and have had to resort to this kind of PC harrassment.
The flight of Kokkarinen has prompted many comments across a great many blogs, most of which touch on similar points: 1) freedom of speech in Canada seems rather weak when something like this happens; 2) PC-mania is out of control; 3) Kokkarinen was wrong to capitulate and scuttle his blog. But no post I have seen expresses all of this with the contempt that Mr. Ellila musters up here:
This “apology”, which is a thinly veiled parody, is a pathetic attempt by Ilkka to lick the jackboots of feminazi thugs in order to keep his job at the Soviet university by making the thoughpolice believe he genuinely repents his thoughtcrime.
Ilkka reminds me of the ghetto Jews who cooperated with the SS in the false hope that they would save their own asses.
In stark contrast, when Hans-Hermann Hoppe, professor of economics at the University of Nevada, was attacked by the thoughtpolice for saying homosexuals are less interested on the average in planning for the future as heterosexuals because the former generally don’t have children and the latter do, he refused to surrender, and successfully sued the university for breach of job contract, and managed to get a lot of positive public attention, thereby humiliating the Soviet-style inquisitors who wanted him to give up his Goldsteinism. ~Mikko Ellila
Over the top? In some ways, possibly, but Mr. Ellila hits on this as an aspect of what I have been calling the inquisitio nova–the dedicated persecution of the thought crimes of various kinds of prejudice in an attempt to maintain a sense of ideologically defined moral purity and control over the definitions of what is and is not acceptable thought.
If Dr. Kokkarinen really believes that his blog was nothing but an exercise in nattering negativism and cynical hostility, it is strange that he should have started commenting on matters of controversy at all. Any blog that touches on cultural and political topics, if it is not to become an echo chamber for the partisans of the state or the ruling party, has to be contrarian, oppositionist and frequently dissident. A certain degree of cynicism is unavoidable when confronted with the endless waves of half-truths and deceptions that flow from the official sources of information, the pretentious theories of academics and the governments of the world.
Frankly, I think cynicism, like pessimism, has received a bad name from people who benefit from ignoring its criticisms, mostly because these people frequently confuse it with nihilism–a belief in nothing–when it has been at its best a kind of humanist critique of the pretensions and idols of this world. A Cynic motto was: Deface the coin (which had clear associations with ruining counterfeit currency–”deface the coin” was a call to cut through the webs of fraud and deception). The Cynics themselves were often personally quite objectionable people, and their contempt for all convention was excessive and unbalanced, but in this they also possessed a keen eye for recognising cant and denouncing frauds when they were put in places of honour. It seems to me that this could contain perils for the person who assumes the Cynic pose, and certainly contemptus mundi without the love of God can become nothing but a purely vicious resentment, but in their detachment from the glories of this world the Cynics (exemplified by Diogenes meeting Alexander while seated in his bathtub) possess the first half of the wisdom of the later ascetics. The second half of wisdom was, of course, to leaven the bitter bread of criticism with the fullness of the Truth. The obvious corollary of defacing the (counterfeit) coin is to respect the legitimate coin. There is nothing wrong with naysaying as such; it is when there is never anything to which one would say yea that a habit of criticism can become soul-destroying. Yet, in my experience, those who object to paper schemes, ready-made answers and the armed doctrines of this world have strong commitments to an affirmative vision of order that they are trying to protect against the sophists and schemers. I would much rather be among those calling it as we see it, who pull at the loose threads of ideological tapestries, who mock those who have position but not authority, than to be one of the legion of excuse-makers and apologists for the powerful of this world, who, I’m sorry to say, make up a surprisingly large proportion of the allegedly independent media of blogs. In the end, it is far better to speak the truth mixed with some bitterness than to speak deceitful words smoother than oil and sweet to hear.
I’ve just become aware that some of the opinions and observations expressed in this blog may have offended various individuals or groups at one point or another. I apologize, and promise that it won’t happen again. I’ve been such a stupid jerk.
I came to this realization last night. As I struggled to explain the male-centered “principles” behind “logic” to my child I realized that it was I who needed to be taught. What I had been conditioned by a racist and sexist society to view as “learning” and “knowledge” was nothing more than a social construct designed to oppress and humiliate womyn and minorities. Feminine ways of knowing, magically connected to the Goddess by a great invisible web of compassion and empathy, veiled by my euro/phallo-centric mentality, will no longer be suppressed in our household.
Reflected in the eyes of my young daughter was the image of intolerance, bigotry, racism, ageism, ablism, regionalism, exploitation, homophobia, sexism, and speciesism that I have come to embody. How could I not see? It was a terrible epiphany. I’ve let this child down horribly by not confronting the appalling white male privelege that, through the violence of my inaction and unwillingness to confront and denounce others like me, has made me complicit in the oppression of others, excuse me, the Other. I have been made to see the horror of my white-hetero privelege, and I renounce it. ~Dennis Dale
Here Dennis Dale has an outstanding, hilarious piece of satire aimed squarely at Ilkka Kokkarinen’s final post.
After a three year run, The New Pantagruel is closing shop. Our incursion was never intended to be a long one. We are not careerists and had no intention or ambition to become part of the media establishment, Christian or otherwise. We did wish to demonstrate that such populist anti-liberal incursions were possible, and occasionally desirable. Against a chorus of establishment naysayers, The New Pantagruel succeeded on a shoestring budget and without any insider access in garnering national attention and influence, particularly within the elite Christian press and some political outlets. Our voice was primarily a voice of dissent, and it has been heartening to know that such voices can still capture the spirit of a large number of diffuse people and perspectives in today’s managed climate of “centrist” opinion.
Ours can largely be summed up as a localist, decentralist, anarcho-Christian and authentically conservative approach to politics and culture. As we have written previously, we believe that to suffer one’s place and one’s people in the particularity of its and their needs is the only true basis for finding love, friendship, and an authentic, meaningful life. This is nothing less than the key to the pursuit of Christian holiness, which is the whole of the Christian adventure: to live in love with the frailty and limits of one’s existence, suffering the places, customs, rites, joys, and sorrows of the people who are in close relation to you by family, friendship, and community–all in service of the truth, goodness, and beauty that is best experienced directly. The discipline of place teaches that it is more than enough to care skillfully and lovingly for one’s own little circle, and this is the model for the good life, not the limitless jurisdiction of the ego, granted by a doctrine of choice, that is ever seeking its own fulfillment, pleasure, and satiation.
Taking that charge seriously, The New Pantagruel has, essentially, argued itself out of existence. This is a good thing. In the end, we are pessimistic romantics. We believe life is eucatastrophic: a joyous catastrophe. Instead of spending endless hours before the faceless void of the “new media,” we will be engaging the tragedies and necessities of raising families, rebuilding neighborhoods and small towns, and fighting to preserve and save that which we love. As we dive back into the particularities of our places and people and their needs, we hope you will do the same. And remember, Fr. Jape is watching you. ~Caleb Stegall and Dan Knauss, The New Pantagruel
Caleb and Dan’s gain is our loss. The New Pantagruel contained some of the most interesting commentary online (and I don’t just say that because I once wrote an essay for it), and the world of webzines and blogs will be greatly impoverished as a result of tNP’s disappearance. No more will Jape’s carrier pigeons fly to bring us the latest in curmudgeonly wisdom, and no more will neo-Calvinists and Lutherans have to fear the biting wit of the old Jesuit. The enemies of the Permanent Things can rest a little easier now. The sophisters, economists and calculators can rejoice (if economists are capable of real joy). But one suspects, in good Pantagruelist fashion, that the last laugh will be on them.
This is not some underhanded attempt to grovel because I am afraid of losing my job or something. Because I’m not, as far as I know. And even if I were, that would be peanuts compared to the idea of the woman you love looking at you and you see how she is disappointed of you, asking you why you would want to write mean things. I would rather shovel shit for living every day than have to come up with an answer to that. Because there really is none. ~Ilkka Kokkarinen, Sixteen Volts
The end of Dr. Kokkarinen’s blog has become something of a hot topic these days. Not having been a regular reader of Sixteen Volts, I cannot be sure just what sort of “mean things” “offended” and “hurt” so many that would compel a blogger to throw in the towel as a matter of profound shame (his word). Steve Sailer notes that his university employer objected to his “skepticism about the intellectual consistency of lesbian-feminist theory,” which it deplores as “sexist” and “homophobic” (natch). But apparently what really did it for Dr. Kokkarinen was that his woman said he was being mean.
This is of interest to me because I have remarked in the past on the futility of blogging, and others have noted the harmful effects that blogging can have, but I have never before heard of a blogger giving up on this particular pastime because his girlfriend/wife wanted him to be a nicer person.
There are undoubtedly better ways to spend your time than by blogging. No one is more keenly aware of this than I am. You could read. You could listen to edifying, beautiful music. You could write the Great American Novel, or at least a cheap knock-off of the same. You could, as Michael does, go salsa dancing. You could, as I actually have done recently, help out at your local church. If you felt fairly unmotivated, you could watch a movie and probably still have found the time better spent.
But if you are going to blog, then surely the point would be to make some kind of substantive contribution to an ongoing debate. People who are afraid of being “negative” in blogging are the sorts of people who eventually don’t want to have vigorous debates of any kind for fear that someone, somewhere may be offended by a strong view. Personally, I have never been a big fan of people who say things like, “Accentuate the positive,” and I honestly don’t know what a “positive” political blog would look like. Would it simply be entry after entry where you quote someone and say, “I think this is just great. I agree wholeheartedly. Good job!”? There is a time and place for those sorts of posts, though usually statements of approval can be pretty redundant, but there has to be more meat to a blog if anyone is going to read it for substantive commentary.
Obviously if a blog became your entire life–which, happily, Eunomia has not, despite what my frequency of posting might suggest–there would be something seriously wrong. If you delighted in writing posts that denigrated people for who they were, rather than critiquing or even ridiculing their absurd, offensive or dangerous ideas, you probably do have a problem of some sort. In my case, I admit that my criticisms tend to be fairly dripping with contempt and sarcasm, but I make no apologies for being a relentless critic of people who routinely endorse the nuclear massacre of civilians, torture or aggressive war. I try my best to keep the criticism focused on the quality of the ideas in question and never let it stray too much to the people, even when these people endorse some of the most despicable things. If I have crossed that line, it was probably a mistake, but I would not expect my readers to take my arguments seriously if my posts were focused unduly on people rather than their arguments. To take that other path of ad hominem attack is to embrace fallacious arguments and embark on a journey bound for insanity and the derangement of the Kossacks. But I seriously doubt that Dr. Kokkarinen was making ad hominem attacks–usually when people claim to be “hurt” by someone else’s reasoned opinion, it is because they cannot take rational criticism of their own ideas and choices in life.
If people take my criticisms of, say, Islam as an example of being “mean” towards Muslims, when they are nothing of the sort, there is nothing I could do about that, since this sort of reaction is irrational and cannot be seriously debated. In just the same way the hysterical reaction to Pope Benedict’s comments about Islam in the context of his Regensburg address on faith and reason should not merit an end to criticism or a compromising of what one believes to be true. It would appear from Steve Sailer’s post that the reaction to Dr. Kokkarinen’s blog is of much the same kind–visceral, emotional, irrational and very PC–so it is a shame that he has chosen to accept other people’s characterisations of his writing as “mean” and hurtful, especially when it seems clear from the laments of his readers and other bloggers that his is a voice that had something worthwhile to contribute and a voice that will be missed when it is gone.
On a lighter note, Steve Sailer offers an intriguing way to evade the PC brigades that would have appealed to Tolkien:
Perhaps this suggests that the survival of freedom of speech in the West rests with the Finnish language. Maybe we should start studying Finnish to use as a secret language for the discussion of ideas forbidden to be mentioned in English?
This would be an interesting thing to try, but it would probably be difficult to do. Do you know how many cases there are in Finnish? Something like fifteen. Fifteen cases! The Hungarians, whose language is distantly related to Finnish, have much the same problem with a language loaded down with different case forms. When the Hungarian national anthem begins, Isten aldd meg a magyart (God bless the Hungarian), part of the reason for this prayer must be an appeal to God to have mercy on a nation that has such a complicated language. Oh well. Ilyen az elet, as my cousins say.
Update: Contrast this unwillingness to be “mean” with the simple, straightforward refusal to bow to conformity here.
But, if Lamont becomes the U.S. Senate’s newest rock star–and America’s most popular preppy–pardon me if I pour myself a gimlet and set sail for Wellfleet. ~Michael Crowley
As someone who grew up in what I suppose must be the sunbelt (it is very sunny in New Mexico, though you don’t run across many Goldwater fans) and who attended what I suppose one must call a prep school (to be appropriately pompous, we could call it a preparatory academy) for seven years, it might seem that I should be of two minds about the Preppy Revival (less dangerous than the Shia Revival, more comical than Evangelical Revivals, but undoubtedly with better drinks than both). Except that, my enjoyment of Prep-Unit notwithstanding, I personally could never stand the people at my school who embraced the preppy ethos or fit the profile. They were the people who lived in the Northeast Heights of Albuquerque and whose parents still voted for the Democrats; they were the ones who were by turns personally obnoxious and also preciously PC, in keeping with the school’s commitment to “diversity.”
My exposure to the Southern version of preppy at Hampden-Sydney did not improve my impression. They were the slackers from private schools in Richmond and Midlothian who came to H-SC for the networking angle, the guys who wore the classic combination of khakis and the buttoned shirt untucked in the back seemingly at all times, but especially on game days and at parties, who drove SUVs and referred to different people variously as “your boy” or “my boys.” These were people, like those at the Academy, who took skiing trips and some of whom actually went to Aspen for vacations. [Full disclosure: I was at Vail once–and not to ski–when I was about eight, didn’t like the place and have never been back.] These were people who listened to Phish and thought it was good music.
Maybe it’s because of who my ancestors were–small-town New Jersey businessmen and ministers, Midwestern farmers and my Scots-Irish railroad worker grandfather–but I cannot now separate the whole preppy lifestyle and mentality from the depradations of the Eastern Establishment and the various and sundry perfidies of Yankee misrule, both Republican and Democratic, that deformed the Republic into what it has become. These folks had their chance at running the country, and they didn’t do especially well as far as I’m concerned. Dobeleve is perhaps a mutant strain of the breed, combining the confidence of a Southerner with the shallowness of an Easterner, but he still belongs to that world and represents what it is capable of doing. Finally, the New England preppy is the one I have a particularly hard time understanding. I mean, I don’t even know what half of their lingo means (I suppose I could look it up, but what the hell is a topsider?). That’s okay. I’m not that interested in finding out.
Lamont is good on the war, but I wouldn’t want to go to his country club.
One of the big advantages that Asian women have in the American marriage market is they don’t seem to think like this. They see some guy at a party that none of the white girls will talk to because he seems like a nerd, so they start talking to him, and, sure enough, he wants to talk about physics. And they think roughly to themselves:
Physics is hard. Not many people have a logical enough brain to understand it. Logical talent is always in short supply, so it’s paid well. Men who are paid well make better boyfriends and husbands than men who aren’t paid well. Okay, maybe physics doesn’t pay well, but he looks like the kind of guy I could talk into going into a more practical career without him ever really noticing it wasn’t his idea. Sure, he’s shy and nerdy and my girlfriends won’t be impressed by how sexy he is, but that also means he won’t be out in bars picking up other girls all the time. Every Friday night he’ll come home to me (and, eventually, the kids), and with his paycheck.
So, I’ll pretend to be interested in physics. I always kind of wanted to be an actress, so it will be fun! It will be like playing the beautiful lady scientist in one of those science fiction movies he’s probably crazy about. He’ll be so astonished a pretty girl likes physics that he’ll be eating out of my hand. And, he is kind of cute. He has a very masculine mind, which makes him rather interesting.
Am I being manipulative? Of course, but it’s for his own good. If some smart woman doesn’t manipulate him, he’ll waste his life going to Firefly conventions by himself.
And, having a 49 point advantage (half a standard deviation) on the Math SAT over the average white girl gives the average Asian girl more ability to fake being excited about nerdy topics. And maybe this stronger logical ability helps her think more logically about her own self-interest?
Meanwhile, the lack of effort millions of males put in to finding females is similarly striking. Guys, have you ever gone to an art gallery opening? Tried reading a novel that girls like? (Okay, granted, The Da Vinci Code will rot your brain and make you want to become a monk on Mt. Athos to get away from the kind of thinking that appeals to the largely female audience for TDVC, but Pride and Prejudice is better than any sci-fi novel you ever read.) ~Steve Sailer
It shouldn’t be surprising that someone who believes that religion deserves no quarter in a decent world radiates condescension and hostility from time to time. “You believe that your religious concerns about sex, in all their tiresome immensity, have something to do with morality. And yet, your efforts to constrain the sexual behavior of consenting adults . . . are almost never geared toward the relief of human suffering. . . . This prudery of yours contributes daily to the surplus of human misery.” Does anyone else find it odd that someone thinks sexual morality should be “geared toward the relief of human suffering”? Not just me, then. Harris has opened himself up to counter-attack here. Obviously it is not people following Christian sexual morality that are spreading STDs, which cause so much suffering. In fact, it’s high time we start questioning the theological propositions held by cads and sluts. Where is their concern for human suffering? ~Michael Brendan Dougherty
Michael does a fine job reviewing–and poking holes in–Harris’ work, and does so in his admirably irreverent style. Speaking of irreverence, Michael’s blog, Surfeited with Dainties, will start becoming less and less surfeited with dainties or much else unless it receives the support of readers like you. At the very least, save the world from one more lawyer and lend your support.
Who else but Michael will be able to tell us how to be The Guy and not be the Guy? Who else effortlessly weaves together pop culture references, distributist thought, conservative social thought, Catholicism, immigration restrictionism, economic nationalism and advice on the suitable fashion, dance and drink of (slightly-roguish-but-undyingly-faithful-to-their-ladyfriends) gentlemen? Who else so stylishly mocks the inanities of neoconservative foreign policy? Lend your support and keep Surfeited with Dainties a source of refinement, solace and refreshment in the vulgar and crass desert that is the blogosphere.
My apologies for the recent disabling of Eunomia. There was some sever problem, which does not seem to have resulted in any loss of data. Posting will resume soon.
Men need food to survive. Men need myths for the same reason. Why then do we say that the myths are untrue?
* * *
Some people say that nations are defined by their shared ideals. Are you descended from ideals or people? Some people say that soil is unimportant to who we are. On what other ground do they live?
* * *
Almost everyone likes “religious moderates.” They are pleasant, reassuring, non-combative. Far fewer people like clumsy surgeons or inattentive parents.
* * *
If it is people who do not learn from history who are doomed to repeat it, is this why only people ignorant of history think that history repeats itself?
* * *
The 20th century was the great century of man’s emancipation. The 20th century was the century of more servility than at any other time in human history. The one is the reason for the other.
* * *
Even if History has a direction, what is to stop us from going in a different direction? History? But it has its own navigating to do and cannot be worried about us.
* * *
If every man wishes to be free, why have so few been free? If every man wishes to be happy, why this deep sorrow?
* * *
It has been said that no man is an island. But even the islands are connected to the mainland beneath the surface of the seas and are formed by the movements of the whole earth. So perhaps every man is an island.
* * *
Democracy, at least nominally, gives the people power, but each time this happens they give it away to someone else. Likewise, when the people are given freedom, they strive mightily to be rid of it. What have these ingrates ever given in exchange?
* * *
When men kill their king, whom they can see, will it be long before they start ignoring their God, Whom they cannot?
* * *
#2: The Good War
#3: Government accountability
#4: Crimes against humanity
#5: Compassionate conservatism
#6: Democratic freedoms
#7: Free government
#10: Moral clarity
#11: Moderate Islam
#12: Reformed communist
#13: Judeo-Christian values
#14: Equality of opportunity
#15: Revolutionary justice
#16: Humanitarian war
#17: Business community
#18: The right to choose
#19: The right to life
#20: The right to die
As Eunomia’s success grows, the list of people to whom I owe this success necessarily grows ever longer. As always, I am particularly indebted and grateful to Jon Luker, who continues to do me the service of providing the “space” for Eunomia gratis and was responsible for transferring the site–and my old Polemics posts–to the new Wordpress format. Were it not for him, Eunomia as you know it would not exist, and I would not be pestering the world with my every opinion–but don’t blame him for that last part.
Next I owe special thanks to Michael Brendan Dougherty, a blogger of style and rare charm, who has opened many doors for this surly reactionary and who has also spread the word about Eunomia to a great many people. Someone clever once said (I paraphrase) that a fanatic and a humourist are really two sides of one man, and that the fanatic and satirist are both necessary to rescue the world from its doldrums, and it is in precisely this sense that Michael provides the good humour, irreverence and joie de vivre that no doubt seems lacking here and provides the absolutely necessary complement to this blog. Man was not meant only for fasting, akribeia and rigour, but also for joy and feasting, as fast and feast are part of the same sacred order and belong together. In appreciation of Michael’s blog, let me say, as As Adam Wayne said to Auberon Quinn, “You have a halberd and I a sword, let us start our wanderings over the world.”
Michael is currently having a fundraising drive at his own blog, so go look at his attractively redesigned site, if you haven’t already, and perhaps you will see why it is the essential complement to Eunomia and thus why his work is worthy of your generous support.
August was, by my standards, a monumental success, both in terms of productivity and readership. With 406 posts last month, I dedicated my time to making this into what I believe has become a front-line blog for paleoconservative and traditional conservative ideas. With over 5000 unique visitors and a significant boost to Eunomia’s Alexa ranking, August was far and away my most successful month, but it would not have been possible without the generous links and praise from many others whose own efforts deserve no less admiration and appreciation. My sincere thanks go out to Steve Sailer, Rod Dreher, Clark Stooksbury, Chris Roach, Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam, Mark Shea and Right Reason for a steady dose of links that have brought many new readers to this site, all of whom, I am hopeful, will continue to return to read more.
I must also thank Steve Sailer for an embarrassingly generous post praising this site, which has already brought an amazing number of new readers here, and express my appreciation to the equally generous words of Jeff Martin, who is a regular contributor at the group blog Enchiridion Militis to which I sometimes also contribute. Thanks also to Josh Trevino for bringing me on board at EM, and Paul Cella for his encouragement and past links to Eunomia.
Caleb Stegall and Scott Richert, two very supportive editors who have brought my work to publication at The New Pantagruel and Chronicles respectively, have continued to be extremely helpful in their steady encouragement of my writing. Both magazines are excellent publications, and if you are not reading tNP or subscribing to Chronicles you are missing out on some of the best writing on moral, cultural, religious and political topics in the country.
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 Dan McCarthy, Jim Antle, A.C. Kleinheider, Andrew Cunningham, Joshua Snyder (The Western Confucian), Leon Hadar, James Poulos, Pithlord, Prof. Arben Fox, Kevin Michael Grace, Kevin Jones, Glaivester, John Theresa, Dennis Dale, Carey Cuprisin, Mild Colonial Boy, the Russian Dilettante, Jeremy Abel, Andrew Cusack, M.Z. Forrest, Timothy Carney, Gene Healy, J.L. Barnard, and Peter Klein.
Thanks are also due to Peter Suderman for the many links he has provided and for our many engaging and, I hope, generally friendly disputations.
Finally, thank you to all my many readers from around the globe who have made Eunomia something of a small success. I hope that I am able to continue to provide the kind of worthwhile and intelligent commentary that you expect.
That wasn’t likely to make short people feel good, but the latest explanation is worse. In a new study, Anne Case and Christina Paxson, both of Princeton University, find that tall people earn more, on average, because they’re smarter, on average. Yikes. ~Slate
On behalf of tall people everywhere (I’m 6′4″), I would like to say that this is only fair, since for as long as I can remember my height has often been met with the irritating comment, “You’re too tall.” There is no good way to respond to this, since no one considers it poor form to belittle tall people for their height, but people do consider it very poor form to return the criticism to short people. So it seems only fair that tall people should be compensated in some way for this never-ending hassle.
There are, of course, more serious things in the article that are worth reading, such as:
So, why did height at age 16 bear a stronger relationship than adult height to adult earnings in the earlier study by Persico, Postlewaite, and Silverman? Case and Paxson point out that kids who are tall at age 16 are those who have experienced their adolescent growth spurts at a relatively early age. And they point out that these kids turn out to be the well-fed and nurtured kids of parents who are on average smarter and richer than the rest, and who also pass on extra IQ points. The 16-year-old taller kids end up earning more for reasons apart from their height.
I will be putting together a complete post acknowledging and thanking everyone who has contributed to the success of Eunomia (the past month was a big step up for this meager blog), but I first wanted to put up a note of appreciation acknowledging Mark Shea and James G. Poulos for taking seriously and also generally agreeing with my objections to Islamofascism/”Islamic fascism” and my preferred alternative, jihadi. It is gratifying to see that my arguments have been persuasive to some people.
But here is where the issue of media bias comes in. Nearly all reporting of the issue is framed by a loaded term: the solar system. Notice that this phrase presupposes the Copernican theory, the idea that all the planets revolve around the Sun. This threatens to become the whole premise of the debate. Question this theory, and you’re effectively shut out of the controversy, disfranchised, “outside the mainstream.” So much for pluralism.
The Copernican theory is just that — a theory, not a fact. It has a strong appeal to those who are too lazy to do the complex calculations required by the older, commonsense Ptolemaic view. But for generations, the simplistic Copernican spin has been tirelessly inculcated in our public schools — to captive audiences of impressionable children — by secular humanists and other self-hating Earthlings. Parents have had little say in the matter. ~Joseph Sobran
Mr. Sobran speaks up for Ptolemy and the lord of the underworld better than anyone else could.
And I suspect that what you’ll see, Toby, is there will be a momentum, momentum will be gathered. Houses will begat jobs, jobs will begat houses. [sic] ~George W. Bush
And, lo, the jobs smote unemployment hip and thigh with a great slaughter! And Bernanke spoke unto the people: ”Thus saith the Fed, fear inflation and touch it not. You shall have no loose money supply among you, but a higher reserve rate ye shall keep all the days of your life.” And the people murmured against Bernanke and grew sullen against the king.
The experts cited in his story think that professional women are more likely to get divorced, to cheat and to be grumpy about either having kids or not having them. But rather than rush to blame the woman, let’s not overlook the other key variable: What is the guy doing? ~Elizabeth Corcoran, Forbes
What? Rush to blame the woman? Good grief. Why is it that no one can ever make observations about statistical trends without someone else feeling oppressed by these observations? Young men might resent having it pointed out to them that, on average, they engage in riskier and more reckless behaviour than almost every other demographic and consequently must often pay higher insurance premiums. Naturally, the young men who are not particularly reckless will find this annoying, but it is eminently logical that the rates should be what they are. You don’t hear a lot of complaints about how we shouldn’t rush to “blame the young men.” We’re talking about compilations of data. The statistical analysis is not making accusations or laying blame. They represent trends based in the study of the real world, where it is more likely that marriage to career women will be a less happy and less stable arrangement than others. We’re talking about probabilities, not iron laws that apply in every case. Who can say that in all or even most of these cases the career woman is the one to bear most of the blame? Indeed, where has this language of blame and guilt come from? It wasn’t in the original article. Its introduction in the rebuttal is a tactic to make the author of the original piece–and those who took his report seriously–feel like a heel for attacking the poor, defenseless career women. This is not a real argument.
The rest of the rebuttal is, near as I can tell, a dedicated effort to ignore most of the significant claims of the article and show all the ways that marrying career women can be “exciting”! Yes, well, divorce and unhappy marriages can be their own kind of excitement, I suppose. And it should be said that men who govern their choices in life by careful statistical risk assessment are usually considered rather odd (for a pop culture example, see Ben Stiller in Along Came Polly), but that is no reason to shoot the messenger when he brings you information about the potential risks of choice A rather than choice B.
Ross Douthat makes the best point on a movie topic I’ve seen all month: Starship Troopers is terrible and stupid. It is a simple point, but a powerful one that needs to be made every once in a while. When I was in college, a friend of mine dragooned me into driving him and our friends to Richmond to go see this catastrophically bad movie. Between making numerous laps around the city thanks to poor directions and the frustrations of being stuck in Friday night traffic, I was positively thrilled to reach the theater after an exceedingly long drive and I was actually initially glad to see this wretched waste of two hours of my life. Of course, by the end of those two hours, my enthusiasm had dissipated completely.
It isn’t just that Robert Heilein’s vision of the militaristic future of humanity is boring (of course, no one has ever before imagined a future where people would be trapped in an oppressive state that ruled by war propaganda and media control), or that, as Mr. Douthat notes, the movie’s attempt to be clever falls flat and bores you still more, but that it is impossible to enjoy any movie that thinks the ideal casting for the nefarious propaganda bureaucrat in the film is Neil Patrick Harris. Doogie Howser as Goebbels? Please. Denise Richards as a front line shock trooper also requires a little too much willing suspension of disbelief.
What is sad is that this is not a bad movie in the Sam Raimi bad-in-order-to-be-funny genre of the Evil Dead movies (now those are great silly movies, made greater by Bruce Campbell’s slapstick and comic timing), but that it fails on every level. ST is not funny in spite of itself, and it is not intended to be funny, so it generally manages to push you more and more towards sympathising with the bugs in the hopes that they will put the main characters out of their–and our–misery. Did I mention that I didn’t like it?
My copies of two fairly new ISI books arrived today. I will be getting around to reading them soon, and then I will probably have some remarks or perhaps even reviews (if time permits) about Philippe Beneton’s Equality by Default and Chantal Delsol’s The Unlearned Lessons of the Twentieth Century. Mr. Buchanan’s State of Emergency is on its way, and I am sure I will have some more to say in connection with that once I have finished it.
Today Doug Bandow discusses the depredations of SLORC, the meeting of cultures in northern Thailand and the delights of “highly seasoned dog.” Says our man in Thailand: “It tastes a bit like pork.”
Today the 1,600th post of Eunomia (including my 70 old Polemics posts) was put up in a little over two years since I first began blogging at Polemics and then moved over here in December ‘04. It is rather shocking to think that almost a quarter of that production has come in the last month, but that is the case. Here’s to the next 1,600!
As regular readers will have noticed, I have added a number of new permanent pages to the sidebar. These categorise and arrange the posts I consider the most worthwhile and (I hope) edifying in several broad groups. Solon’s Favourites, the oldest of the permanent pages, still includes the posts from the last two years that I consider to be among my best. However, I have taken many of the more philosophical posts and placed them in The Agoge page, referring to the rigorous educational regimen imposed by the ancient Spartans on their young men (on account of Sparta’s tendency to prefer eunomia as a principle of government). Posts related to the Lebanon war may be found in Burning Cedars (this has not been recently updated in the last week); posts related to my defense of The Passion of the Christ are available in Passio Christi; posts pertaining to the work of M.E. Bradford are in A Better Guide Than Reason; posts on my anti-Whig, “Jeffersonian Jacobite” views of Anglo-American constitutional history are in The Whig Party’s Treason. The continuing series of posts on The Rockford Institute’s summer school will be collected in The American Agrarian Tradition. There are also pages for essays and articles that have appeared elsewhere, and a page for a couple of poems that I have offered for your consideration.
Our enemies set out their goal with neon clarity. ~Michael Gerson
Neon clarity? What? This guy was a speechwriter?
Everyone is dead wrong. I have to get this out before the influence of the gin fades away. Guys DO NOT want the indie girl - the “manic depressive, without the depressive part.” They do want the girl who will save them from themselves but it boils down to this: Any man worth his salt wants a woman who will lift him up when he has cast himself too far down, and who will put him down when he is on cloud nine. Men do not want our women to be nerds. Men want women to redeem us from our nerd-dom. Instinctively we know that women are emotional on the outside; they want “connection”, and “to be on the same wavelength” - etc etc… But at their core - women are calculating. First and foremost, they have to protect themselves and their children from men who are stronger than they are. When all the lovely trappings of civility are stripped away: when the man has lost his job and seems unwilling to find work, when he can’t pay the bills, when he proves himself a third or fourth time to be irresponsible with the resources needed to maintain the lives of the woman and the children - she will make the cold rational decision to leave. Men, on the other hand can survive, as Dave Chapelle wisely noted, in a cardboard box. The only reason we get dressed, the only reason we shave, or buy furniture from Crate and Barrel; the only reason we love wine, or learn about sports, or politics and philosophy is to impress you. It may be indirectly. You may not care about philosophy. But you care that we took the trouble to learn about Descartes and Kant; that we can out duel each other in our ability to explain these things - and on and on. The only thing we do for ourselves and our own enjoyment is start and maintain blogs. ~Michael Brendan Dougherty
Well, folks, I’ve been blogging pretty furiously for the last two weeks, racking up an unconscionable 258 posts since the start of the month. That is more than most professional and paid bloggers do in six months, and I’d like to think that most of the posts have been of sufficiently high calibre that they were not entirely a waste of time. Before I go on a brief hiatus away from Eunomia to do some other writing (the dissertation isn’t going to write itself, after all), I will leave you with a selection of the best posts of the last week. Here, then, are what I consider the fifteen best examples of the last week’s work. Please also visit Brainwash and read my article on Lebanon.
I am a sick man. … I am a spiteful man. I am an unattractive man. I believe my liver is diseased. However, I know nothing at all about my disease, and do not know for certain what ails me. I don’t consult a doctor for it, and never have, though I have a respect for medicine and doctors. Besides, I am extremely superstitious, sufficiently so to respect medicine, anyway (I am well-educated enough not to be superstitious, but I am superstitious). No, I refuse to consult a doctor from spite. That you probably will not understand. Well, I understand it, though. Of course, I can’t explain who it is precisely that I am mortifying in this case by my spite: I am perfectly well aware that I cannot “pay out” the doctors by not consulting them; I know better than anyone that by all this I am only injuring myself and no one else. But still, if I don’t consult a doctor it is from spite. My liver is bad, well–let it get worse! ~Fyodor Dostoevsky, Notes From The Underground
If you haven’t had enough of my Lebanon commentary, I have distilled some of my thoughts into an article at AFF’s Brainwash.
If x were to represent how reactionary you were, and you were to take the limit of x as it approaches an arbitrarily large number, you couldn’t be as reactionary as Larison. ~Pithlord, “You Can Learn Something From a Paleocon,” Pith and Substance
Many thanks to Pithlord for a very fine compliment–that’s probably the best thing someone’s said to me all summer. I’m also pleased to hear someone say that paleocon arguments and ideas, at least on Iraq (and I would hope a few other things as well), are making sense on their merits.
When you read and write as many words as someone with my acute case of logorrhea does, certain words begin to bother you because of the frequency with which people use them, often seemingly unaware of how bizarre or cacophonous they sound. Two of these are nowadays commonplace, the third is beginning to make the rounds (unfortunately) and the fourth is a technical scholarly term that is fairly obscure but deserving of scorn all the same. These are Islamofascist, Judeo-Christian, theoconservative and miaphysite. Read the rest of this entry »
…”the old-money way“, even though he is not from old money? He is from Greenwich, after all.
Michael Brendan Dougherty has two new posts that take us away from the dreary obsessiveness of this Larison fellow into the realm of literature and oinophilia, including a short post on Evelyn Waugh that includes Chilton Williamson’s assessment of the author. He also ponders quality wines and the problem of which sort he should be pouring on his ladyfriend’s neck at a picnic. So, as you can see, Michael has a lot more fun over there than we do here at Eunomia in our Spartan seriousness, so go and refresh yourself before returning to your next lesson in the agoge.
I haven’t even posted this yet and Larison has already typed 2,300 words in response. ~Peter Suderman
You’d better believe it.
Thanks to the wonders of YouTube, I can inflict my weakness for Bollywood music on those readers inclined to listen. On a lighter note, here is the beautiful Rani Mukherjee from Mangal Panday, an otherwise unremarkable Indian nationalist retelling of the outbreak of the 1857 Mutiny.
Overlooked amid Mel Gibson’s rebellion against law and custom is his affront against good taste. Sure, Mel Gibson drove drunk. Sure, he invoked a cop’s religion and declared that practitioners of that faith lurk behind all wars. Sure, he created his own unmentionable name for a female cop. But what about his choice of booze? The man had an unsealed bottle of tequila in his car. Tequila?
Tequila is gross. It’s not as gross as the tequila-flavored beer Tequiza, but as far as the big five go–gin, vodka, whiskey, rum, tequila–tequila is dead last. It is disgusting straight, leaving behind an unsavory flavor that tastes like Jose Cuervo and all of his cousins vomited in the back of your mouth. Gentlemen prefer rubbing alcohol. ~Dan Flynn
Via Jim Antle
Being somewhere just this side of William Jennings Bryan’s teetotalism myself (a fact that will no doubt shock and horrify friends and colleagues), I cannot say much on this with any confidence. But it does sound like an item that would be perfect for someone else’s comments.
If this alternate history teaches us anything about our own timeline, it is that the Union victory was a heaven-sent blessing. The timeline Turtledove constructed on the basis of a CSA victory is a much darker and nastier place, but it is a very plausible and convincing counterfactual. If the South was able to justify slavery and Jim Crow, it’s not hard to imagine a CSA that loses World War I churning up a Hitler-clone with plans for a black Holocaust. Lincoln was right: The CSA had to be beaten to preserve the last best hope. ~Prof. Bainbridge
I should go easy on Harry Turtledove. He is the only man I know of who got a degree in Byzantine studies and then went on to become very successful writing fiction novels, proving that there is life after a Ph.D. in Byzantine history and offering hope to all graduate students who have chosen to teach in a field that is only slightly more popular in the United States than French New Wave cinema.
As a Byzantinist, Turtledove did a competent job translating into English an important section of the Chronographia of Theophanes Confessor, but then went on to fame and relative fortune as the author of a series of counterfactual historical novels that played out the consequences of a Southern victory in the War of Secession. Whenever people ask what I plan to do professionally, I say, of course, that I intend become a history teacher. Shortly after that fails to interest them, I will add: “Of course, Harry Turtledove became a novelist, so you never know….” But, for all that, I have never been moved to read his counterfactual stories, because they seem to be irredeemably unimaginative in their overall structure. As Prof. Bainbridge summarises well enough, Turtledove takes what actually happened in Europe from the unification of Germany through WWII, changes the names, identifies the Confederates with the presumed Bad Guys of our history and basically retells the same story, but with the CSA, not Germany, as the locus of all evil. Read the rest of this entry »
This is a bit of a belated post on the wedding I attended on Sunday, but it wouldn’t hurt to break up the Lebanon/Passion/Lebanon/Passion theme that I have had going for the past few days. My two friends from St. Innocent’s parish, Tom and Julia, were married at the Holy Virgin Protection Cathedral in Des Plaines on Sunday, and everything was done beautifully. The cathedral’s priest and our parish priest served together, and our parish reader also took part in the ceremony, reading the traditional selection from the Apostle’s Epistle to the Ephesians. Most of the assembled people were friends or relatives of the bride and groom and most of them were not Orthodox, so they were probably somewhat disconcerted by the lack of chairs, but they all seemed to manage fine (there were a few chairs for the elderly and those overwhelmed by the heat, which came in handy for the maid of honour). None of us was able to see who stepped on the white cloth, which according to pious custom will determine who dominates the marriage, but I believe I heard that they stepped on it simultaneously. The church itself is a spacious domed cruciform church, though not so spacious as the name ‘cathedral’ might suggest to some of you. The entire interior is decorated with frescoes with cycles from Genesis, the Evangelists and massed arrays of saints. On the right side, where I was (though it is customary for men to stand on the right in Russian churches, at the service the crowd was entirely mixed), I looked over to see Sts. Constantine and Helen looking back at me amid a crowd of other saints and martyrs. St. Constantine stood out from the crowd with his crown and the True Cross he was holding, and I was briefly reminded of the strong Byzantine influence on Russian Christianity all these centuries later.
Once the ceremony concluded, we filed through the receiving line and congratulated the new couple. The ushers then had us go outside in the sweltering 90-odd-degree heat while we waited for the bridge and groom to exit the church. There I met two friends from church who live in Evanston.
As an aside, the only funny line in the otherwise unexceptional Proof, filmed on location at UofC, was the question of one of the characters: “Why would anyone want to live in Evanston?” This is a question that will probably only seem funny to UofC students, and actually makes no sense when you compare Hyde Park and Evanston as places to live, but there it is.
My friends had just returned from their trip back east, but it had not been, as they had planned, a pilgrimage trip all the way back East to the Holy Land. Though the pilgrimage group had gone ahead despite the war, they decided against going and went to Quebec instead. It had been in my mind as I was hearing about the war that they would have been going there right as it was starting, but I had had no way to contact them to see what was happening.
Once at the reception dinner, my friends at our table were particularly eager to start the custom of shouting “Gorka!” as often as possible, and I believe our table distinguished itself in being the one to shout the most. Gorka means bitter, so whenever someone shouts it the groom is obliged to kiss his bride to make it sweet, which is not such a painful custom to observe, but it can become troublesome if the two are very far apart from each other–the crowd can get quite unruly if they are not appeased quickly with the sight of a kiss.
Dougherty says he doesn’t want to start a blog war. Okay, neither do I. Larison, on the other hand, doesn’t want to start one—he wants to finish it. Holy bloody Caviezel, kids, that’s an avalanche of prose, and I’m having a hard time breathing under the sheer weight of it all. You dash out a blog post, catch a bit of shut-eye, then wake up to find out that a verbose doctoral candidate has done an Ender Wiggin on you, shock and awe style. Does Daniel Larison ever sleep? Has he done away with keyboards and mastered thought-blogging? It sure seems like it (though he’s probably one of those guys who’s troubled by cyborg technology). ~Peter Suderman
I have to thank Mr. Suderman for his post. I don’t remember the last time I have laughed this much (mostly at myself in this case). Unfortunately, I am still reliant on the old keyboard, and I am actually more disturbed by developments in nanotechnology (I had started writing a dystopian novel about a nightmarish AI/nanotech future, but then The Matrix came out and I realised that that particular ship had sailed), but I appreciate the compliment. As it happens, the last few days have brought together a change in my sleeping habits, which were thrown off by attending a wedding reception this past weekend, rather hot weather in Chicago that has made it difficult to sleep for long periods of time in my one-ceiling-fan apartment and the hook-up of my DSL service. The new connection has allowed me to unload blog posts with the speed of a Howitzer rather than my traditional preference for artillery barrages and, as Mr. Suderman has suggested, cluster bombs, while my odd schedule allows me to blog at night so as to take everyone else unawares. With any luck, my shock-and-awe attacks will have happier results.
Via Andrew Cusack
If the stakes in the Near East are the “hearts and minds” of the people there, which we are trying to win, what will they get if we lose the card game? Do they get our hearts and minds, or do we write them an IOU?
The same is true of “World Trade Center.” It is undeniably powerful, an immensely affecting and well-meaning real-life tale of two Port Authority policemen trapped in the rubble underneath the collapsed concourse between the North and South Towers.
Nonetheless, because “World Trade Center” tells a story of joyous survival rather than a story of death, it is a fundamental falsification of the meaning of 9/11 - even though the story it tells is true. ~John Podhoretz, New York Post
Via Michelle Malkin
So, in Little Pod’s estimation, even a film that is widely regarded on the conventional NR-bandwagon right as a good and uncharacteristically decent Oliver Stone film must hew to some political line of what 9/11 means or else it becomes false (even when it is true)? Leave it to some neocon to be a killjoy and impose the requirements of their stale ideology on something that, by all accounts, they ought to be able to appreciate. Podhoretz reveals what really bothers him about the movie at the end:
“United 93″ ends with a plane crash. “World Trade Center” ends with a smiling child. One wonders what Stanley Kubrick would have made of that.
Perhaps it is meant to say that life goes on, or perhaps it could mean that terrorists do not get to have the last word in dictating how we live. It could mean any number of things, but because WTC does not end on a note of grim horror it has somehow failed to convey the horror of the day. That, I would suggest, says more about the problems with Mr. Podhoretz and the warped world he inhabits than it does about any of the merits or flaws of this particular picture.
Hey everybody. Sorry for the hiatus. I’m currently in Oklahoma City — at the Biltmore Hotel no less. We’ll be on the road by early morning, heading off to New Mexico. ~Jonah Goldberg, The Corner
The summer school on American agrarianism at The Rockford Institute over the past week was a great time. We were regaled by wonderful tales of the Fugitives and Mel Bradford by Dr. Tom Landess, who also discussed I’ll Take My Stand at some length in other talks, and delved into the Christian roots of Chesterton’s Distributism and the importance of imagination in training men’s vision with the guidance of Fr. Ian Boyd, editor of The Chesterton Review. Dr. James Patrick, Chancellor of Thomas More College, spoke on the agrarian ”English resistance,” of which the painter Ruskin was an important member, on Allen Tate and the real mind of the South, and on the ideals of the South as expressed in Scott and rejected in Twain. Dr. Fleming led us through the history and thought of the Greek, Roman and early American agrarians, Scott Richert gave a sympathetic critique of Wendell Berry, Wes Jackson and Rod Dreher and Aaron Wolf told us of the life and career of agrarian populist, William Jennings Bryan, noting in his conclusion many of the same objections about Populist policies that Caleb Stegall made in his much-talked-about (but normally poorly understood) article on a new populism. The entire week was really quite incomparable, and the gentlemen and ladies at the Institute were excellent and amiable hosts. For those who are able to attend next year, I strongly recommend it. I fully intend to write more on all of the sessions at the summer school, but I did want to put up a new post alerting you all to what should be coming in the next few weeks.
Yesterday I arrived back in Chicago from Albuquerque. What a difference a few days make! I was pleased to see that Ross Douthat and Reihan Salam at The American Scene have both generously linked to Eunomia. On a less pleasant note, Richard Reeb at The Remedy has done me the honour of associating me with “fanatical obscurantism” for objecting to his apparent conviction that whole nations are deserving of extinction because of their form of government and his equally strange view that the signers of the Declaration of Independence intended that document as a declaration of independence from “all regimes, all institutions and all ideologies that stood in the way of human freedom.” In his remarkably long response, Mr. Reeb believes that I did not read his post (or the Declaration) closely enough. Unfortunately for Mr. Reeb, I read exactly what he wrote, compared it with what the Declaration actually says and identified his strange view of the signers’ intentions as the error that it was. How the colonists could declare independence from things on which they were not dependent and to which they were not subject is a puzzle that Mr. Reeb may be able to solve, but I suspect it will involve more of the same creative “reading” that led him to these original conclusions.
When I referred to Claremont wanting to “extinguish illegitimate nations,” I was, of course, drawing out the implications of the bizarre idea that nations are “deserving of extinction” because of their form of government and the Claremont bloggers’ near-mystical devotion to imitating what they believe “the Founding” represents. It is encouraging to know that Mr. Reeb does not actually want to go around extinguishing nations, illegitimate or not. The idea that nations should be extinguished because they possess the wrong type of regime is morally repugnant and odious, which should be obvious, and Mr. Reeb should be embarrassed by the formulation, assuming that he did not mean what he originally wrote. If Mr. Reeb holds that the signers believed that any nation ruled by “force or fraud” is deserving of extinction, and if he is holding up the signers’ intentions as an example of the true meaning of our independence, it is not very far from this view until you reach actually desiring the extinction of nations ruled by “force or fraud.” Perhaps prudence will dictate the circumstances of the extinction of illegitimate nations, and it is certainly not necessary that believing a nation worthy of extinction requires actually wiping out said nation. Presumably, Mr. Reeb does not actually advocate extinguishing entire nations, but used the commonplace sloppy language that identifies nations with their governments and carelessly wrote of extinguishing nations when he actually meant destroying regimes. Still, Mr. Reeb’s triumphalist roll call of the defeats of those Mr. Reeb characterises as the enemies of American self-government and independence (which includes a fairly creepy militarism that credits armies with securing freedom, rather than understanding them, as the Founders did, as one of the greatest threats to liberty) lends more than a little strength to my hostile interpretation of his other statement:
Why was independence necessary? The short answer is that the British government was a barrier to self government by three millions of Americans. That was the greatest reason for seeking independence. Succeeding generations have maintained it against European powers, seagoing pirates, Indian savages, Southern secessionists, German and Japanese warlords, Nazi mass murderers, Soviet totalitarians, and Islamic terrorists. That is why it is not entirely unfair to say that we owe our freedom to soldiers, not to civilians.
Whatever one may think of the Tripolitanian War, which is the conflict to which I assume Mr. Reeb is referring with talk of “seagoing pirates” (was there another kind of pirate in those days?), it was hardly a war to secure our independence. How Southern secessionists threatened American self-government and independence, when secession is an expression of both, is another mystery that Mr. Reeb can solve. But I should express my gratitude. Coming from a Claremont blogger, “fanatical obscurantism” is something of a compliment. I may have some time to make a more complete reply later in the week, but this week I will be rather busy at The Rockford Institute’s Summer School, hearing lectures on “The American Agrarian Tradition from Jefferson to Wendell Berry” with the other “certified paleocons.”
Michael Brendan Dougherty returned from his jaunt to Australia this week and writes about the experience of the visit and the endless return flight home. Surfeited with Dainties is back in the blogging business, so go take a look!
Thanks to Jon Luker, Eunomia will soon be moving over to a Wordpress format, as Enchiridion Militis and Politeuma have recently done. I am hopeful that this will, among other things, finally allow people to enter comments more readily than has been the case with the current set-up. As the site is changed over, there may be some difficulty in checking on Eunomia from time to time over the next few days, so please bear with us. Thanks.
I have so far refrained from commenting on the World Cup, pro or con, even though it seems to have become the thing bloggers want to discuss, either as a jumping-off point for some other political argument or as an exercise in Franklin Foer-like expertise on a sport about which most American bloggers, like their countrymen, do not really care very much. Franklin Foer “and friends” at TNR have cornered the blogging market, so to speak, on World Cup commentary, but this would not have required very much effort, as there is hardly any competition for this particular job. On the right, the competition has mostly been to come up with new and clever ways to see soccer as a threat to the American way of life (as usual).
In fact, outside of the blogosphere, the loyal sports junkies tuned to ESPN and actual American soccer fans who watch soccer matches in non-World Cup years (including the obnoxious ones, such as Foer, who feel the need to refer to “the pitch” rather than “the field”), I have to wonder how many Americans were aware that their national team was playing in Nuremberg today. Of those who knew, how many cared, much less took the time this morning to watch?
As with many other things in life, ignorance would have been bliss, as the U.S. team was outmatched and outplayed (again) in a 2-1 loss to Ghana. American fans will complain, rightly, about the bogus penalty kick given to the Ghanaians that gave them the go-ahead goal, but this would be to forget the painfully weak play against a competent but hardly dominating Ghana squad.
The game was full of the sort of melodramatic fake injuries that make soccer seem to any American who has played any other contact sport to be a pathetic shadow of a real athletic contest (that the referees encourage this drama queen routine, especially this year, by inventing fouls and throwing yellow cards around as if they were confetti only exacerbates a problem that has long plagued international soccer). This display came on the heels of the Italy match, which was so poorly officiated that it would cause any casual American observer to conclude that the game was entirely arbitrary and futile. (It should be noted that there is a growing consensus that this is one of the worst-officiated World Cups ever.) Add to that the rather pitiful American performance, following the excessive billing of the USA team as the greatest soccer force ever assembled by this country, and you have the recipe for complete disinterest and disenchantment.
Do You Know Where Ghana Is?
One of my working theories on why most Americans, myself excepted, find soccer boring is that they lack a sufficiently strong rooting interest in most soccer matches, in part because so few Americans know where most of the countries participating in the World Cup actually are on the planet. Take Ghana as an extreme example. If surprisingly few American youths can locate their own country on a map, imagine how much trouble they would have in finding the west African nation of Ghana! To be fair, I consider myself to be fairly well-informed on geography and I probably could not have told you two weeks ago very much about Ghana except for its capital (Accra) and its location (between Ivory Coast and Togo).
Imagine how uninteresting it would have to be for Americans, who might be only vaguely familiar with where countries such as Croatia and Switzerland are, to watch match after match of a game they may have never played (or only played in childhood) according to rules that seem shabbily and arbitrarily enforced in the only sport in the world where crying like a girl will concretely help your team. That is not necessarily how soccer has to be played, but it is how soccer under this year’s FIFA rules is being played in Germany.
In the matches between quality teams (the Germany-Ecuador match earlier this week, for example) or the close games with surprise underdog performances (the Mexico-Angola tie last week), soccer can be genuinely entertaining and exciting. It has its tremendous lulls, of course, and soccer between mediocre teams is mind-numbingly dull and sloppy (as is any mediocre performance in any sport–see the Dallas Mavericks in the Finals as Exhibit A), but it has started to strike me as odd that Americans can complain about the boring quality of soccer considering that two of our national sports (football, baseball) have more time where nothing is happening than any other sports in the world. There are moments when soccer can rise to its billing as “the beautiful game,” but between the horrible officiating, melodramatic players and lacklustre play of more than a few allegedly world-class teams those moments are becoming fewer and fewer.
Coulter’s prose style is reminiscent of exiled National Review editor Joe Sobran who is quoted in the book and thanked in the acknowledgements. Like Sobran, Coulter’s gift as a polemicist is the counterpunch. Responding to Howard Dean’s statement, “I don’t have any objection to someone who is pro-life, if they are really dedicated to the welfare of children,” Coulter responds, “Conversely, I suppose, if you are pro-abortion and you hate kids, Dr. Dean would be cool with that, too.” ~Michael Brendan Dougherty, Brainwash
Michael makes another important point in remembering that Enlightenment liberals and their fellows since the late 17th century have sought to replace traditional religion, which has invariably meant Christianity in their mind, with a vague theism, “rational religion” (which often amounts to rationalism combined with social do-gooding) or a loopy kind of humanistic ethics such as the substitute religion of Positivism or Tolstoy’s watered down gospel of labour and simplicity.
In that light, the persistent effort of our own Freisinnigen to make liberalism their working equivalent of religion is nothing new. Realising this should have consequences for how conservatives in this country understand their own relationship to the liberal tradition, and should drive home why the liberal and Christian heritages coexist so awkwardly in Western culture and within the conservative “movement” as well.
But we should also pause to consider whether the Intelligent Design movement itself is not another sort of this kind of vague theism that may discomfit the dedicated materialists among us but does nothing to affirm the living God Whom liberals have consistently sought to dethrone or displace. The safe, mechanistic God of Deism and ID does not command, does not act and does not love–this is the god of the philosophers, who may serve as a necessary cause, but who relates to his creatures as an engineer relates to a complex structure, and not as the Lord of glory. Aside from the problems of introducing ID into science classrooms, ID as it is conventionally argued concedes the sort of minimal deity that liberals have sought to fashion in the minds of men.
But far beyond the stinging zingers, this is a book of uncommon wisdom, delighting in what is best in the sometimes eccentric American tradition. I can honestly say that this book has inspired me more than any in recent memory, breathing new life and fire from these ashen Caelum et Terra-type coals, long dormant within me, grown still from disuse and distraction.
I don’t know what will come of Bill Kauffman’s book; probalby not much. If noticed by the bigshots it will be with a sneer. But for all us littleshots, the meandering creeks and dancing rivulets far from the Main Stream, all the hick philosophers, holy fools, hippie monks and American outsiders, this book is to be received with gratitude, a gift if not from On High, at least from Batavia, New York, which if I am not mistaken is not far from Bedford Falls. ~Daniel Nichols, Caelum et Terra
Mr. Nichols gives both books a fair shake and also acknowledges their many differences. He is clearly much more taken with Bill Kauffman’s writing and subject matter, and prefers the Sage of Batavia for his Bataviacentricity, but nonetheless appreciates both for their correctives to conservative drift or, to be more accurate, wild veering off course.
There’s no love for anarchists in some parts of the old ’sphere. Clark Stooksbury points to critics of our very own A.C. Kleinheider (we knew Kleinheider before he was a rich and famous blogger at Volunteer Voters), who criticise him for some of his links (including to Clark Stooksbury’s RR post on Wendell Berry and corporations) and seem to assume that Kleinheider must agree with whatever it is he links to. Apparently it wouldn’t be enough for them for Kleinheider to be a predictable yes-man (which they seem to be and he definitely is not), but he would also have to abjure ever linking to objectionable material unless a withering denunciation followed. What really seems to bother the first fellow is the possibility that Kleinheider might actually agree with Wendell Berry and take a dim view of corporations. Question: who doesn’t take a dim view of vast bureaucratic corporate structures and their built-in capacity to evade responsibility? Whoever those people are, they are the ones who need to do the explaining, not the “anarchists.”
I should explain the last few days of my relatively lackadaisical blogging. I have been preparing for my dissertation proposal hearing, which occurred this morning. It went very well, and I have now been admitted to candidacy. All you inquiring minds who desperately want to know more about monotheletism (because there are so very many out there) are in luck, as I will be working on the acts of the sixth ecumenical council (680-81) and related seventh-century sources.
A few weeks ago I had the good fortune to hear Isabel Bayrakdarian, a brilliant, young soprano from Canada, sing during a performance of Mahler’s 4th Symphony. I was enchanted by her voice, which, in my entirely amateur and untutored estimation, is one of the finest of our time. Then, by chance, my Armenian professor showed us the DVD of the CBC documentary about Ms. Bayrakdarian on the occasion of her first visit to Armenia, and soon I was caught up in Bayrakdarian fever. As I quickly discovered, she has a number of impressive and diverse albums to her credit, and all are worth a listen whether your interests are in opera, Armenian church music or traditional folk melodies.
In some minor notes related to her, she is the vocalist on the soundtracks of both Ararat and The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, so both Armenophiles and Tolkien fans can take an interest in her magnificent singing.
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).
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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
Now at The New Pantagruel, Patrick O’Hannigan writes on Theocracy as a Parlor Game and Gavin Miller writes an obituary for naturalist John Livingston, and there is also poetry from David Wright and Mike Hickerson.
Mr. O’Hannigan’s exercise in imagining the face of a very unlikely American theocracy is a valuable antidote to the hysteria now gripping Kevin Phillips’ and Damon Linker’s minds about theocrats and theocons on the march.
Mark Krikorian at The Corner says that today is Armenian Appreciation Day. Mit’e? Yes ayd chishtoren ch’gitem. Shnorhavorum em im hay enkernere irents’ orva vra.
Does The Da Vinci Code matter in the great scheme of things? So much so that we’re all atwitter waiting to see how the movie comes out?
Can a movie make Jesus other than as the creeds of the church say he was? That would seem the real question. Attempts to remold him after the mold maker’s fancy easily preceded Dan Brown and Sony. And will continue. But the Jesus of the creeds, “God of God, Light of Light”—it really should have struck us long ago that the likes of Dan Brown can’t lay a glove on this guy. ~William Murchison
I understand what Mr. Murchison is saying, and in one sense he has it entirely right. Christ God will not be affected by whatever lies and nonsense come out in The DaVinci Code or its movie version. But, if I may say so, that has never been the problem with the book or the movie. In the grand scheme of things, The DaVinci Code will matter no more than Gnostic gospels or the scribblings of heresiarchs. In an ultimate sense, Dan Brown’s fantasies and lies should be so far from being persuasive to a Christian audience that there should be no concerns.
But in another sense, these lies are destructive because they can scandalise and confuse Christians and sow false teachings in the minds of the faithful, or they will serve as a justification for unbelief. I know many people, unfortunately some even in my own extended family, who take Dan Brown’s account either as an historically accurate account (which is frightening on many, many levels) or as an “interesting” perspective that needs to be taken seriously. It is as if Nikos Kazantzakis’ inventions had become somehow more believable because their purveyor asserts that they are true. Almost 20 years ago, the film version of The Last Temptation of Christ caused a small furore for its blasphemy (which, gentle readers, is what we’re talking about here), and yet today we see some evangelical churches mobilising to “engage” the claims of a movie that is, if anything, every bit as blasphemous with some anticlerical vituperation thrown in at no etxra cost. There is nothing to “engage” here. And, no, a blasphemer does not have any effect on Christ God, but blasphemy is an insult to Him and a source of destruction for the blasphemer and others.
This is not, like some heresies, a difference in understanding the relationship of Christ’s two natures, a dispute over how to understand Christ’s full divinity and full humanity. It is an out-and-out denial of Christ’s divinity portrayed as reality. Dan Brown takes up the fallen standard of Arianism and advances the claim that everyone before Nicaea believed as Arius did, which is easily disproven by reading any Christian theologian before the fourth century.
If there are Christians daft enough to believe this farrago of lies, I am deeply sorry for them, but it is to guard against the possibility that this nonsense will cause our fellow men to stumble and fail to find Christ (or to lose Him once they had found Him) that we should denounce and undermine this film in every way fitting available to us. If we think of the book and film as neo-Arian propaganda and not simply the scribblings of a sad apostate (in the end, the two alternatives are fairly close), that ought to spur us to a little more disdain and opposition.
As some of you will already be aware, Michael Brendan Dougherty’s blog Surfeited with Dainties marked its first anniversary on Monday. I regret that it has taken me a few days to put up a proper post acknowledging and celebrating this occasion, especially when Michael offered such oustandingly generous words for me and my blog, but I would like to assure you all that my delay is by no means any measure of the genuine respect and admiration for the work Michael has been doing there and elsewhere. Michael has been an extremely strong supporter and promoter of this blog, and he has been an equally fast friend and well-wisher to me. He had the foresight to imagine a network of genuine conservative writers working in close cooperation with one another, and he has been instrumental in forging numerous connections among like-minded writers to create the beginnings of that network.
Surfeited with Dainties itself is a fairly remarkable and unique blog that stands out from the crowd of bloggers with their cookie-cutter formats and their one or two hobby-horses that they (myself included) ride relentlessly. It is a blog with broad and varied interests that nonetheless conveys a sort of coherence and unity of vision that most blogs cannot begin to match. Michael has taken up the role of cultural critic in the broadest sense of the term, examining everything from music to fashion to sports to religion to foreign policy to economics to immigration to the more conventional battlegrounds of the culture wars with a sense of discretion and taste and a refreshing mix of wit, irreverence and serious reflection. It has been a pleasure to lend him what little I have had to offer by way of support for his work, and I look forward to the day when the name Surfeited with Dainties confuses and befuddles millions upon millions of readers.
I am sorry to say that after its brief revival, my old blogging home of Polemics has closed up shop for good. My thanks once again to Jon Luker for his work on Polemics and for his tremendous support in making this blog possible.
Happy Shrovetide! Kelly Torrance has a fun post on IHOP’s National Pancake Day. It appealed to me because one of my professors just had an early Pancake Day party on Sunday to which I was invited. It was a fine time, though I do have to wonder what meaning the pancakes had for most of the people there, most of whom I can safely guess will probably not be swearing off all meat and dairy products until Easter. As an Orthodox Christian, I have the advantage of getting to have two pancake days this year (of course, the Russians call theirs blinnis, but no matter) before we move into the Lenten season, so I should be thoroughly pancaked out by next week.
Such is the response from the critics of the entire “crunchy con” phenomenon and the blog Crunchy Cons. “Don’t impose your crunchy values on me!” they cry. The blog has only been around for three days, and already there is such a strained and hysterical reaction–just imagine what a month of Crunchy Cons will provoke!
Are anarcho-syndicalist communes crunchy?
One more thought in response to those who would object to this discussion as certain people “imposing” their view of conservatism on the rest. First, regarding the word “conservative” itself and whether all this spilled ink can be justified by what is, after all, “just a word,” the answer is, yes, it is justified. The word conservative, like few others in the American lexicon, has an immensely powerful purchase on the American political/cultural/religious mind in a way that words like Tory, Whig, Mugwump, or Bull Moose just don’t. So long as that is true, debates like this will and should occur. Second, none should know this better than Buckley’s crew and their readers. As the premiere intellectual outlet of movement conservatism over the last fifty years, NR periodically engaged in these kinds of discussions exorcising first the John Birchers, then the Randians, and recently the Buchananites from the respectably conservative fold. That’s an observation, not necessarily a criticism. The point is just that the content of “conservatism” matters, and to suggest otherwise, or to pretend that no one can “impose” their version of what is conservative, is, shall we say, disingenuous.
To be honest, I’m a lot closer to Amy than to Rod on this. Perhaps it has something to do with growing up in rural/small-town America where there still existed a fading conservative sensibility that reflected, in an almost completely unarticulated and unselfconscious way, the Kirkean values Rod writes about. I have never experienced what Rod describes as taking up something “hippie-ish … not in spite of your conservatism, but because of it.”
I grew up despising hippie culture. I found, and still find, virtually all of the Boomer cultural affectations to be utterly false and preening; I find the nihilism of their intellectual and popular leaders to be entirely banal and unromantic; their radical egalitarianism was, I thought, an emasculation of all the good things in life. Rather than donning Birks and tie-dye t-shirts, I dreamed about sword-canes and black capes. My image of a conservative hero came from men like Theodore Roosevelt, Andre Malraux, T.E. Lawrence, and Antoine de Saint-Exupery. Men of action and adventure yet also of refined taste and intellect. Men who wore black, fought for the old world, were on intimate terms with both life and death, and who never went anywhere without their driver or their butler. The image is about as far as one can get from John Lennon. ~Caleb Stegall, Crunchy Cons
I don’t think I ever shared Mr. Stegall’s youthful enthusiasm for TR, but by the start of high school the image of the knight-errant, the Cavalier aristocrat, the Jacobite Highlander and the Confederate cavalry commander all captured my imagination as men who regarded those terribly quaint virtues of honour and loyalty as preeminent and all-important. Many of my best friends were and are of the “hippie-ish” kind, but I agree with Mr. Stegall that there has never been anything attractive about what I associate with being “hippie-ish.” Unless listening to reggae and Indian sittar music on occasion counts, you would hard pressed to find a lot of “hippie-ish” affinities in me.
Connected with the release of Rod Dreher’s book, Crunchy Cons, which comes out today, there is a new blog at NRO called Crunchy Cons. There Caleb Stegall, editor of The New Pantagruel, had this to say:
The result of this history has been the gradual eclipse of our religious/moral heritage in the beaker of liberalism’s universal solvent. Conservatives intent on defending the older moral orders of society have, to gain purchase on the essentially progressive American mind, been forced in the main into tracing their cultural or policy prescriptions to some basis in individual or natural rights. American conservatism has thus developed an instrumentalist and mechanical view of the “crunchy” virtues: they exist only as a means to preserve the maximum freedom and efficiency of individual action. Or perhaps, diluting the mix even more, they exist only as one valid expression of the individual will among many other equally valid expressions. So when the putatively conservative David Walsh argues against abortion, for example, he does so on rights-based grounds: abortion weakens the sanctity of all individuals; the sanctity of the individual is the foundation of personal autonomy and freedom; therefore, abortion must be opposed to preserve personal autonomy and freedom.
In the end, however, the underlying philosophical conception of man, society, and God will trump any specific policy goal or cultural norm. I would suggest that this is the reason conservative arguments against the expansion of the marriage license seem to have less and less purchase on the American mind as time wears on. If marriage is simply a contractual arrangement for the mutual fulfillment of two peoples’ desires in a social sanctioned way (which is the prevalent view of marriage in conservative, and even religious circles), then opposition to making this contract more widely available begins to chafe against our sense of fair play.
This is the situation Rod describes so well in the book. A conservatism which, based on the essentially liberal and progressive virtues, has become unrecognizable to an older understanding of reality embodied by such conservative luminaries as Russell Kirk. And as such, incapable of offering a coherent vision of our social order as an alternative to the dominate liberal-progressivism of modernity.
The latest issue of The New Pantagruel is now up, and I strongly recommend it to you all. In addition to my short essay on the incompatibility of the Christian and Enlightenment inheritances, Paul Seaton astutely discusses the judicial philosophy and consequences related to the landmark “privacy” case, Griswold v. Connecticut and Dan Knauss elaborates on the problems of modernism and post-modernism and the Christian humanist alternative to the modernist/post-modernist divide. There is also poetry by Elizabeth Bailie, Matthew Browning, Max Heine and Sam Kean.
We Shall Not See His Like Again
Learning and eloquence and wit are rare. But what I want to point to on this occasion is something much rarer, which Sam had in abundance—his courage. Courage is rare, and intellectual courage, such as Sam displayed all his life, is the rarest courage of all.
We all know of the emoluments and honours that could have been his—if he had been willing to sell off just a little of his integrity—in the normal and almost universal American manner. But that would have required him to compromise just a little bit of the truth. Sam was one of those rare souls willing to pay the price for truth-telling in a time that honours it not.
When I think of Sam I think of what was said about his fellow Tennessean, General Bedford Forrest. “He bought a one-way ticket to the war.” That means that Forrest, once committed to a good cause—the defense of his people—devoted his all to the cause and never looked back. Such a man was Sam Francis. ~Clyde Wilson
I don’t think Ted is a fascist of the marrying kind. ~Fred, Barcelona
Stillman: “Somewhat” Reactionary
I applaud Ross Douthat’s defense of Whit Stillman’s Metropolitan (now added to the pretentious and prestigious Criterion Collection), made slightly famous in conservative circles by the book of essays, Doomed Bourgeois In Love, edited by Mark C. Henrie, whose adventure in Pantagruelism I mildly critiqued way back in August ‘05 here. Austin Kelly at Slate makes some rather annoying comments about Metropolitan, which Mr. Douthat answered pretty well. I don’t have much to add, but I have been looking for an opportunity to write a Whit Stillman post, if only so I could use that line from Barcelona, the second of Stillman’s creations, quoted above. A line like that has to be quoted on a reactionary’s blog–the possibilities for what it could mean are virtually endless.
For those not familiar with Metropolitan, it is the story of the life of upper middle class New York debutantes. Put that way, it might not sound especially interesting, and as his first in the Doomed Bourgeois “trilogy” (they actually have no relation to each other, except for a few holdovers in casting selections) it is the shakiest and weakest in some ways. But for those of us who do not understand New Yorkers or their way of life, it is a sort of anthropological journey into a strange and new country–one feels a bit like Liudprand of Cremona coming to Constantinople for the first time. It is a smart and somewhat endearing film. If you watch enough Whit Stillman, you will also begin catching yourself inserting the word “somewhat” in many of your statements.
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My colleagues at Enchiridion Militis are writing some excellent posts on the challenge of Islam, particularly as illuminated by the Danish cartoon controversy, and the need for reform and restoration within our own civilisation. Just to get an idea of what is going on there, here are a few examples of the work the great writers at EM are doing.
Josh Trevino covers Islam and the cartoon controversy in a couple posts, Maximos (Jeff Martin) writes on the Western impulse to tolerance and submission as an inverted, mock kenosis, Michael Dougherty makes the calls for Western solidarity and Christian cultural regeneration and Paul Cella explains why we should stand with the Europeans while taking a few much deserved shots at Mark Steyn. I recommend them all to you.
Oh, look, another pretentious Bosnian War film has won a major award.
Dr. Baltar: Talk wireless is just an excuse for low-brow rabble-rousing.
You’ve grown accustomed to Ross flying solo, and there’s no denying that he has been soaring majestically overhead, like a pterodactyl with a mewling kitten in its beak, wearing a sweater vest and letterman jacket and a stocking cap, all monogrammed with the letters “R” and “D.” “Republican” and “Democrat”? No. “Ross” and “Douthat,” now and forever. ~Reihan, The American Scene
What in the name of blackest reaction is going on at the Scene? I haven’t seen something this odd on a blog since I read about “flame-orcs of vice.”
What might that be? Bollywood, of course. With apologies to Tertullian (to whom the original credo quia absurdum quote is often wrongfully attributed), whose preference for veiled women would not have endeared him to Bollywood, I think that statement just about sums up my attitude towards Bollywood. There are very few Bollywood movies that can be taken more or less seriously. Among these I would count Lagaan (which was nominated for Best Foreign Film), the original Pyaasa and the classic Mughal-e-Azam, which is as pretentious and over the top as the great Cecil B. DeMille films, albeit nowhere near as compelling.
Most of the so-called masala genre are perfectly predictable love stories with carbon-copy dialogue (oh, that’s right, I could be describing Hollywood movies just as easily). The difference between the schlock Hollywood churns out in the romantic comedy genre and the average Bollywood film is that the latter is a lot cheaper, the acting is about the same quality and there is song and dance enough to make you forget how bad the plot you’re watching really is. Some of the songs are quite good (provided you like either traditional folk rhythms, as I do, or Asian disco-pop).
Rani, Mera Dil Ki Rani
The artifice, arbitrariness, predictability and often complete irrelevance of the dance scenes allow for a movie experience that is as fun as it is ridiculous. The genius of Bollywood is that it rarely pretends that film is this terribly serious medium for delivering important social messages. The Bollywood movies that make the mistake of trying to be “about” something are either ludicrously chauvinistic nationalist agitprop pieces or ludicrously secularist (in the Indian sense) agitprop exhorting us all to get along and be friends.
The great, or at least memorable, films of recent years, such as the ever-popular Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, the more modern hit Dil Chahta Hai and the budget-busting period piece, Devdas (mostly memorable for Madhuri Dixit’s enchanting performance), are the ones to go for if you have three or four hours to kill and have no desire to watch anything that pretends to be serious social commentary. Paheli, starring the lovely Rani Mukherjee (above), is this sort of movie. Bollywood is extravagant, entertaining fluff that knows that it’s fluff, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
The New World is the best movie of the year. ~Ross Douthat
On the other hand, he might also regret saying something as genuinely silly as this:
Malick has made a movie about the past that both takes the actual events seriously and raises them to the level of myth, or parable, and a movie about a cultural encounter that dares to embrace both cultures, to mourn the doom of one while celebrating both.
Except that the “cultural encounter” itself is a myth in its completely fictional rendering of John Smith and his relationship with the teenaged Pocahontas, and most of the “actual events” evidently fell by the wayside, except perhaps for the arrival of the English.
Just when you thought you’d heard it all, along comes something like this:
i combat the flame-orcs of vice! i ambush the sulfur-dragons of despair! the shackles of pessimism are useless against me! the hydra of defeatism fail to paralyze me! glory will be mine, flow-gush will be supped and the sparklo-dolphins will be seen! ~Kyle Foley, Comet-Flash
Hat tip to Rachel McAdams (and Michael Brendan Dougherty).
The video makes a simple, powerful appeal for leaving Iraq and serving the interests of Americans.
Go see the video for Merle’s song here.
Looking over my posts this week, I see that I have fallen into a Danish cartoon rut after my belated entry into the fray. Therefore, I will offer up something entirely new and, I suspect, never before seen in an English language blog: a verse from Sayat Nova. For those who don’t know, Sayat Nova is the nom de plume of Harutiun Sayakian, the great eighteenth century Armenian poet and bard, whose poems I have been looking over in relation to my Armenian class. So here it is:
K’ani voor jan im, yar, k’i ghoorban im, apa inch anim.
Artasunk’ anim, shat hokuts’ hanim, yar, ghadet tanim.
Asir “jeyran im,” tugh k’i seyr anim, yar, mtik anim.
Moot bagchen nazov, k’iz govim sazov, yar, iltimazov.
As long as I live, love,
I will sacrifice myself for you
What else would I do?
I will weep, I will sigh heavily,
Love, I will take away your pain.
You say, “I am a gazelle,”
I will stare at you,
Love, I will gaze upon you.
Enter the garden gracefully, I will praise you with the saz,
Love, I will praise you with entreaty.
My Armenian teacher, Dr. Haroutunian, helped me complete the translation, but any errors in the English rendering are, of course, solely mine. If there are any Armenian poetry buffs out there who would like to offer corrections or suggestions, I’d be very glad to hear from you.
Just to show that I do agree with Mr. Suderman on something, I see that he wrote a review of the new Battlestar Galactica and had this positive assessment on NR:
All of this adds up to what can only be referred to as realism. Despite the geeky presence of ribbed leather jumpsuits and space fighters, the dimly lit, metallic corridors of the Galactica house a poignant, human reality that belies its fantastic setting. A shining, distant star in the outer reaches of niche cable, Battlestar Galactica burns with a combustive mixture of political turmoil and human drama that is as achingly real and relevant as anything on television.
For what it’s worth, I think his very complimentary review does underrate the show a little (I can’t be expected to agree with him 100%, now, can I?) and neglects what I think is its most intriguing element: the Cylon desire to become as human as possible with the ultimate goal of replacing humanity. There’s something insightful in this, as it suggests that all creatures instinctively or naturally desire to imitate their creators, but at the same time it does not take away from the horrible consequences of man’s Frankensteinian presumption to create artificially intelligent beings.
The numbers for Eunomia this month have been a marked improvement over previous months, reaching 2,000+ unique visitors for the first time since I started in late December 2004. I’d like to thank all my readers and fellow bloggers who have made the site as successful as it is, including all my readers from such varied places as Iceland, China, Japan, India, Brazil and Greece, among many others.
I’d especially like to thank Jon Luker for getting me started in blogging and keeping this place running, Michael Brendan Dougherty for spreading the word, Scott Richert for his support and encouragement, and Steve Sailer for the the permanent link and directing his readers to more than one of my posts over the past few months. I also owe A.C. Kleinheider, Clark Stooksbury, the mysterious Glaivester, Kevin Michael Grace and Andrew Cunningham my thanks for linking to the site, commenting on my posts and directing some traffic my way. If I have left anyone out, I do apologise and will make sure to acknowledge your support in the future.
Warning: law geeks and constitutionalists only need apply. Here were my quiz results:
You are the Plain Meaning Rule! You interpret statutes according to what an ordinary speaker of English would understand from the text. You’re upfront and direct. You claim that you’re just following the rules, but often find a clever technicality to interpret the rules however you want.
It’s pretty odd that a quiz on social behaviour can accurately rate how we would read laws, but it pretty well captured what my approach would be.
In my opinion, the Ashkenazi Jewish cultural tradition that I and most other North American Jews hail from is a great and noble one, one well-worth celebrating and identifying with, entirely apart from whether or not you want to buy some set of goofy myths about God and so forth. ~Matthew Yglesias
Yglesias makes an interesting statement to the effect that he doesn’t really identify with Israel and its increasingly “Middle Eastern” (I would say Near Eastern, but we get the idea) character and feels a little bit more “at home” in the old lands of the Ashkenazim in eastern Europe. This is like Zionism in reverse: now that the Jews have their own land and their own state, somehow the lands of ghettoes are more appealing as real ancestral lands to which modern Jewish people have a more immediate connection. Zionism as a utopian politics of escape ultimately does not command lasting allegiance for secular Jews from outside of Israel–as escape, it is also alienation, and it cannot be very satisfying over the long haul.
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There are, of course, good reasons for the ubiquity of political talk. In a time of war, terror and social upheaval, the stakes of these debates are very high. But if we can’t transcend our differences at the waters’ edge, can we at least have a truce where the beer flows? ~W. James Antle III
A deeper problem for Wheaton, though, the problem of which the rejection is ultimately a symbol, is that in rejecting a Catholic in accordance with Evangelical principles, it has passively endorsed the continued tenure and influence of its liberalizing Evangelicals whose anti-Christianity Litfin and Wheaton, along with almost every major Evangelical institution, have admitted as fully Evangelical. The path to secularism–of which egalitarianism is the principal gate and adornment in our time, and successful resistance to which is our own day’s peculiar test of fidelity to the Christian faith in this part of the world–is being kept wide open by the more respectable sections of the Evangelical academy. Wheaton may be devoted to the Bible, but its interpretation is, among Evangelicals, falling into much worse hands than those of the Catholics. In valiant, Protestant resistance to the authority of the pope, Wheaton, with high principle and courage, is solemnly submitting to that of the devil. ~S.M. Hutchens, Touchstone Magazine/Mere Comments
Since Wheaton College is literally just down the road from where I go to church, this was an interesting local story but not one that I thought was really worth following. An evangelical college fired a faculty member upon the latter’s conversion to Catholicism. As I understand it, in the judgement of the administration the professor, as a Catholic, could no longer fully subscribe without significant qualification to the statement of faith that the school requires its faculty to believe. It is a question of institutional character and the purpose of the college. Shockingly, I found myself in almost perfect agreement with none other than Joseph Bottum on this:
But the general response of serious religious believers, Protestant and Catholic alike, is likely to be: “Good for Wheaton.” Or, rather, “Good for Wheaton—given that the evil of Christian disunity exists.”
Duane Litfin, the president of the school, insists that a Catholic “cannot faithfully affirm” the twelve-point Wheaton faith statement required of faculty members, though Hochschild says he was willing to sign it, and, as the Wall Street Journal notes, the statement “doesn’t explicitly exclude Catholics.”
Maybe Hochschild would have to affirm the statement in a special sense as a Catholic. Indeed, he was doing that even while he was an Episcopalian: At his hiring interview, the Wall Street Journal reports, Hochschild told the school’s president that he agreed with the faith statement’s assertion that the Bible is “of supreme and final authority,” though, he added, that Bible should be read according to “authoritative traditions.”
On the Julian Calendar, tomorrow is December 31st, which makes it a sort of New Year’s Eve. Perhaps more importantly, it is the feast day of St. Melania the Younger, a remarkably charitable and pious aristocratic lady from early fifty century Italy who led the way in pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and St. Theophylact of Ochrid, who was responsible for the building up of the Church in Macedonia and Bulgaria in the late 11th century and the beginning of the Comnenian era. It will also incidentally be my 27th birthday.
George Will has made one accurate criticism of the idea he so dislikes: “The problem with intelligent design is not that it is false but that it is not falsifiable. Not being susceptible to contradicting evidence, it is not a testable hypothesis.” This is true; but he should have added that Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection is not falsifiable either. Darwin’s claim to fame was his discovery of a mechanism of evolution; he accepted “survival of the fittest” as a good summary of his natural-selection theory. But which ones are the fittest? The ones that survive. There is no criterion of fitness that is independent of survival. Whatever happens, it is the “fittest” that survive — by definition. This, just like intelligent design, is not a testable hypothesis. As the eminent philosopher of science Karl Popper said, after discussing this problem that natural selection cannot escape: “There is hardly any possibility of testing a theory as feeble as this.” Popper was the first to propose falsification as the line of demarcation between theories that are scientific and those that are not; both intelligent design and natural selection fall by this standard. ~Tom Bethell
So Popper’s standard of falsification rules out ID as science, as Mr. Bethell grants. So what is there really to argue about when it comes to intelligent design-as-science? That evolutionists are too often dogmatic and the theory of evolution is an ongoing, revisable explanation of natural phenomena that does not as of yet have all the answers? We already knew that. What else?
It is very important to note, as I have tried to do time and again, that some of the leading ID theorists, such as Michael Behe, do not reject man’s descent from a common ancestor shared with primates, nor do they disagree with much of the rest of evolutionary biology. Where they differ fundamentally from “evolutionists” is, of course, in the latter’s attribution of randomness and purposelessness to the process by which change takes place, but they do not (as far as I know) actually seek to deny or minimise that these changes do seem to have taken place. They should not even necessarily deny or question that life originated in some primordial soup of the Pre-Cambrian Period, but would only assert that the Designer prepared the soup because it is an irreducibly complicated soup.
The remake of Battlestar Galactica on the Sci-Fi Channel (soon to begin its third season) has prompted a few rather weak attempts to draw parallels between the show and current events or find a political or religious statement in the new version of the amazingly campy cult series of 1978 (which understandably became more popular only after it left the air), such as this brief plug in Time for BSG as the best show of 2005 (which is true–take that for whatever it’s worth).
When I first heard of the idea of the remake, I laughed. Why would anyone want to remake a show that was, in my estimation, as exciting as Star Wars: Episode I and even less imaginative? Then a funny thing happened the night before I was to leave with my parents for Texas: I caught the tail end of a BSG marathon and, once I found my bearings in the storyline, became captivated, much to my own surprise.
There are a number of significant changes to the story and many of the characters from the original version (which can only have been an improvement). Some of them (such as making the pilot Starbuck into a woman) are as silly as they were unwelcome to fans to the old show, while the injection of a sort of theological controversy and seriousness into what would normally be yet another guns-in-space production has made the story much more engaging. The two major differences are what make the new BSG an interesting sci-fi series and a far more compelling drama than any of the shlock on offer on the major networks. The major differences are these: the Cylons are artificially intelligent lifeforms created by man that have returned to wreak vengeance/judgement/havoc on humanity and have begun to imitate humans to the point of developing their own religion, believing that they have been elected to replace mankind in the created order; second, the human, modernised followers of old polytheistic cults find themselves confronted by these militant monotheists who believe that they are delivering God’s retribution upon sinful man.
What is remarkable about the series is that, intentionally or not, the writers have managed to make the Cylons’ excessively deterministic theology (”all of this has happened before, and all of this will happen again”–an idea they share with the humans) so much more credible and interesting, as well as a major factor in moving the plot forward, than much of the worn-down quasi-Olympian cult of the Colonists that it is hard not to have a sneaky sympathy with the Cylons. In the world Ron Moore has created, the Cylons appear to represent at once the most fundamental evil and the more enlightened civilisation, if you will, which may be the most intriguingly subversive idea in the entire story: if there is in this fictional universe a Cycle of Time in which things recur eternally without variation, moral culpability and freedom of the will are completely irrelevant and the genocidal horrors of the Cylons need no justification–they flow ineluctably from a mechanical God. The entire show, if it has a “message,” is a display of the moral horror of a universe in which Hegelian or gnostic fantasies about history, inevitability and progress are true. Theologically speaking, of course, the Cylons’ beliefs are so much of a gibberish of Vedanta, Christianity and Islam that it would be next to impossible to see in the Cylons a symbol for any particular religious group or religious groups in general.
For what it’s worth, the old BSG was blatantly, overtly political in a way that the new show cannot even pretend to be. The original pilot was a screaming indictment of 1970s detente and a forecast of disaster for fools who would make deals with totalitarians (in those days, the robotic Cylons were supposed to be a hostile alien race ruled by the redundantly named Imperious Leader). If the warning of the old show was an unabashed denunciation of “appeasement” and its consequences, the new one is not so clumsy or what I might call ’sci-fi preachy’.
But in the crush of the marketplace, where everyone is exploiting everyone else, authenticity gets drained, even just a little bit, out of the moment. The key in LWW, of course, is Aslan’s sacrifice. The way it all occurs in this film, less-than-deeply rooted in any sense of broader, deeper purpose, it comes across as clearly a Christ moment, but almost here as a trick, as a convenient, easy-to-grasp symbolic action that might certainly remind some, if not most, of the Passion, death and resurrection of Jesus, but doesn’t spark much of any sense of the role of this sacrifice - the scapelion’s resurrection ends up being more of a “Here he comes to save the day” moment than a moment of restoration. ~Amy Welborn
Very nicely put. From what I have read, that is exactly the impression I received.
If all goes as planned, tomorrow I’ll begin making my way home to Albuquerque for Christmas, so I’ll be away from posting and checking the site for at least a couple of days. There will be some posts from New Mexico, but Eunomia will be slowing down considerably after the anniversary of its first post (Dec. 23) passes. My dissertation proposal isn’t going to write itself, and as much as I enjoy this hobby it has eaten up far too much time over the past several months.
Director Andrew Adamson knows that you tamper at your peril with one of the past century’s most beloved fantasy adventures.
But there was one particular line in The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe that he just couldn’t stomach.
It comes in the sequence where the four Pevensie children have arrived in snow-bound Narnia and are soon to embark in their epic battle against the evil White Witch. Her potential downfall has been signalled by the arrival of Father Christmas on his sleigh — and it was in this scene that Adamson encountered what he considered to be “a sexist aspect” of C.S. Lewis’s novel.
“It’s when Father Christmas gives weapons to the kids and says to the girls: ‘I don’t intend to use them because weapons are ugly when women fight.’”
The 39-year-old New Zealander was determined to be faithful to the Lewis narrative and to the author’s Christian faith. But he was very conscious of the fact that he had just come off two movies — Shrek and Shrek 2 — which empowered girls, and he didn’t want to blot his copybook by giving Father Christmas such a chauvinistic line in the movie opening Dec. 9.
“I understand that C.S. Lewis might have had these dated ideals, but at the same time there’s no way I could put that in a film,” Adamson says now. So he turned to producer Douglas Gresham, who was also the late writer’s stepson, for advice.
“Doug really was the one who came to the sort of compromise that worked, which is just Father Christmas saying: ‘I hope you don’t have to use them because battles are ugly affairs’ — which could apply to both girls and boys.” ~The Vancouver Sun
The main change appears to be a minor, but important one: instead of Lewis’ affirmation that it is “ugly” when girls and women fight, we have a bow to the egalitarian Zeitgeist. It would undoubtedly escape a modern director (especially the director of Shrek) why it is indeed “ugly” when girls and women fight, or why someone trained up in the literature of courtly romance and chivalry as Lewis was would view women partaking in combat, Valkyrie-like, as something abhorrent and disordered. (Of course, it is not simply a holdover from medieval literature–there are obvious, good reasons why men find violent women transgressive and “ugly.”)
Tolkien’s stories could embrace the world of shieldmaidens and Valkyries because his epic was substantially inspired by Norse and Germanic sagas, and I can only guess that Lewis would have found the character of Eowyn as agitating as Tolkien found Lewis’ use of allegory. Call it his “reactionary” Christianity if you like, but a consistent theme of all Lewis’ allegories and stories is that the glory of women lies in purity and humility and not in hubris and action. Why this admirable idea has to be changed at all really does escape me.
This is a meaningful issue at the moment because of the Iraq war and our broader confrontation with the culture of the Islamic world. The view of the neoconservatives seems to be that “our” idea of liberty stands for a universal passion. The masses yearning to be free and all that. That’s why the Iraq war is said to be a good bet: if we create the conditions for freedom, the people will naturally take it. Unlike a lot of conservatives, I think that this is true in the case of Iraq, or that it is likely enough to be true to make it a hypothesis worth testing. But I wouldn’t necessarily extend it to every other place in the world or support military action of this sort indiscriminately. And many “liberals” are left in the odd position of arguing that Bush’s invasion was a bad idea because Iraqis just don’t want what Bush wants them to want–what the Enlightenment, in its quintessentially “liberal” form, thought every man wanted. This seems to mark a change from what was almost reflexively believed 20 years ago when “We are the World” was not merely mawkish sentimentality but a genuine credo concerning what we in the West saw as “our” “global village”. ~Andrew Cunningham, I, Ectomorph
I appreciate Andrew Cunninghmam’s post on the problem of universal values and what we might call a ‘crisis’ in confidence in universal values among contemporary liberals, as well as his recommendation of my remarks about Akbar, Islam and religious “tolerance.” In his discussion of this question and his remarks about my Akbar post, Mr. Cunningham wondered what view I might take of the prospects of particular cultural ideals, such as religious “tolerance,” emerging in other cultures to which they have not historically belonged. Thus he writes:
It is too easy, as he [Larison] points out, to forget that the whole world does not share our admiration of tolerance, and that in other places, and other ages, what we call “tolerance” is/was dismissed and reviled as heretical “syncretism”. Of course this was once true in the West as well, but the critical question is whether it disappeared as the result of some inevitable development of the human character that happened to occur here first, or as the result of a chance series of historical events that are unlikely to be repeated anywhere else ever again. My point of departure from what I suspect is Mr. Larison’s properly conservative answer is that even if the truth is closer to the latter than the former, there remains a strong possibility that the lessons can be indirectly learned, if we are aggressive enough in trying to teach them.
My answer on this is that it is entirely possible for new ideals or symbols to be appropriated or incorporated by a culture that did not create them. If a certain ideal appears good to an appropriating culture, and let’s take religious tolerance as an example, they could learn from the Western experience of the religious wars, the Enlightenment and the development of legal toleration in Protestant states and decide that legal toleration and a broader ideal of tolerance make for more successful societies and reduce the prospects of religious violence. (For the purposes of this discussion, I am fudging the rather important distinction between toleration and tolerance, as neither is necessarily considered exactly desirable in traditional, monotheistic societies).
But that assumes that religious tolerance is really desirable for any of the cultures that might adopt it. It is actually only truly appealing to extremely small religious minorities or extremely large religious majorities; all other exclusivist religious groups (which would be quite few) view it as something either to be endured or overthrown. That many Westerners find it to be self-evidently good is neither here nor there.
To value religious tolerance requires a belief that truth and power are basically unrelated, or even that they are opposed, and what is more that truth and social organisation are unrelated. In other words, it is irrelevant for political and social arrangements which, if any, of a host of religions is true. Even if absolutely true, it will receive no privileged status or authority. I submit that to the mind of a traditional society this is lunacy. How could it be irrelevant?
Moreover, even legal toleration is something that is only granted as a condescension by a majority group or sect when it either no longer feels threatened by dissent or no longer believes dissent to be destructive–certainly in the Islamic world these attitudes have not historically been the norm, and the brief secularist escape from sectarianism in the 20th century in some countries remains exceptional and exceedingly fragile. More ingenious efforts to justify such tolerance rely on arguments from within religious traditions to defend an abdication of conviction on expressly humanitarian grounds–truth is all very well and good, but it does not and should not really impose significant obligations on society. Religious tolerance privileges social harmony over religious commitments, which often sounds good to those in government and those not so keen on religious commitments, but for everyone else it sounds rather awful.
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There are many other attacks on ID in the media, and they are all useful in that they demonstrate the true intellectual force behind Darwinism: a commitment to materialism. The most common argument against ID, that it invokes God and so cannot be a part of science, is a crystal-clear expression of that commitment. Instead of asking, “What if there really were an intelligent designer active in the origin of life?” the Darwinists take it for granted that such a designer doesn’t exist and limit the definition of science according to that unproven premise. Similarly, the evidence for the existence of a pre-Sumerian civilization would not be “a part of history” if you define history as “the discipline that examines the past of human societies starting from the Sumerians and never, ever, accepting the possibility of something else before.” A saner approach would be to question the definition of the discipline that is challenged by evidence — not to ignore the evidence in order to save the definition of the discipline. The reason this saner approach is not the mainstream view in biology is the same old dogmatic belief: materialism.
Of course, Darwinians have the right to believe in whatever they wish, but it is crucial to unveil that theirs is a subjective faith, not an objective truth, as they have been claiming for more than a century. This unveiling would mark a turning point in the history of Western civilization, by reconciling science and religion and letting people become intellectually fulfilled theists. Moreover, it would mark a turning point in the history of the world, by changing the meaning of “the West” and “Westernization” in the eyes of Muslims. They have been resisting the influx of godlessness from the West for a long time; they would be much less alarmed in the face of a redeemed West.
Phillip E. Johnson once said that the ID debate is about the question whether the U.S. is a nation under God or a nation under Darwin. We Muslims see the latter as a plague; we have no problem with the former. We might have disagreements, but we agree on the most fundamental truth of all — that there really is a God out there, and He is the One to Whom we owe our very life and existence. ~Mustafa Akyol, National Review
Hat tip to View from the Right.
A couple points are in order. Unless Thomas Fleming and I have somehow been magically transformed into philosophical materialists, Mr. Akyol’s charge against critics of ID-as-science is misleading and certainly too simplistic. Any religious “common ground” between Christian and Muslim is a will o’ the wisp put forward by Muslims, Western renegades and soft-headed theologians–on this point I agree with Mr. Auster of VFR that Akyol’s article is an (implausible and silly) attempt to sucker the West into accommodation with the Islamic world. The Islamic world has been, generally speaking, persistently hostile and at odds with the West, long before our civilisation slid into its morass of secularism and modernity. Akyol’s article does make one thing clear about what ID theorists are really doing–they are making a religious argument in scientific guise to combat the genuine cultural damage philosophical materialism has done to Western societies. They are right to oppose that materialism and its consequences, but they are doing it in such a cackhanded way that I’ll wager they will do more damage to their cause than to anything else. As for those who are supporting ID because they think it is better science, I have nothing to say to them.
I didn’t notice John Derbyshire making any comments at The Corner about this particularly silly article, but it has something everyone can ridicule. Then again, maybe having a Muslim make a forthrightly foolish argument like this will so completely undermine ID in the eyes of NR readers that Derbyshire would welcome the easy target it provides.
Correction: Derbyshire did comment here on why he wasn’t commenting on this article and others like it. Here are a few good remarks from that post:
I will just offer this, though, as a parting shot. Malraux (I think it was) said that there are two reasons to be a socialist: You may love the poor, or you may hate the rich. There are similarly two reasons to get worked up about I.D.: You may love science, or you may hate religion.
My entire and sole motivation in writing against I.D. has been love of, and reverence for, science, and indignation that people should claim a place for their theory at science’s table when they have done no science whatsoever to back it up, and plainly have no intention of doing any, and when their fundamental premises are not merely unscientific, but willfully anti-scientific.
For what it’s worth, I find ID-as-science obnoxious both because it is a travesty of science and an insult to theology and philosophy. ID theorists could make their claims about a designed cosmos all they like if they were willing to advance them seriously as what they are, theological and philosophical claims. It is the conscious disparaging of theology and philosophy implicit in trying to make ID a scientific claim that truly agitates me. In a strange way, ID supporters are as trapped in a materialist worldview as the practitioners of the “scientistic” abuses they decry: they remain beholden to some extent to a view that only what is empirically proveable is true, and so they dutifully set about trying to prove revealed claims to be true by turning to empirical evidence for confirmation. But when they actually turn to this evidence, they do not handle it scientifically, as the evidence requires, but impose causal explanations pulled, as it were, from the sky.
Imagine someone attempting to do history in this way in the conviction that God rules over all of history in His Providence (as indeed He does): instead of doing the real work of source criticism, translation, verifying source claims (to the extent this is possible), testing one source against all other available evidence to determine how and why something happened and then making a plausible argument from all of this, the ID historian would simply say, “Deus vult!” That is, God willed it. In a very real sense, that is true (provided it comes with a number of qualifications), but it is not an historical argument and someone who makes that claim is not much of an historian. How much more the case when it comes to the physical sciences!
That’s what C.S. Lewis thought when he sat down over five decades ago to write a little story for his goddaughter. It became seven stories, including the second one called The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
And now the big-screen version comes out Friday amid discussions that it’s a thinly veiled story of religion disguised as a major epic film. The lion character has been described by some as a metaphor for Jesus.
“I never talked about these things with Disney,” says the director. “To me, religion was never an issue with this film. I think we’ve adapted the book for people of all belief systems.” ~The Chicago Sun-Times
That’s amusing–”described by some as a metaphor for Jesus.” Well, in case there was any doubt, there is this non-revelation about the meaning of Lewis’ stories. About a month ago I re-read most of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe after many, many years away from the Narnia stories (I think the last time I had picked them up there were no American armies anywhere in the Persian Gulf, so it was practically a lifetime ago). What struck me was how perfectly obvious the entire allegory was, and that any remotely educated person would be able to see it straightaway. It would take a Herculean effort of rewriting and cutting to eliminate the intensely Christological nature of this story. It cannot be “adapted” for people of “all belief systems” without depriving it of its entire content.
So the director’s ignorance may be a blessing in disguise–someone so daft as to not see the deeply structured Christian story in The Lion will be hard put to distort the message of the story even if he wanted to, since he clearly has no grasp of what the message is. If the narrative is kept basically intact, the myth and its deeper magic will prevail. On the other hand, a director with such a poor grasp of his material cannot make a very good adaptation of it. From the brief glimpses I have seen, it will be visually impressive (as we would expect in the CGI age), but the director’s remarks fill me with a feeling of dread. Of course, that’s what comes of putting the work of a Christian apologist in the hands of Disney.
Update: On the other hand, this venomous, spite-filled garbage from The Guardian suggests that the director has done enough right in faithfully rendering the story to really agitate the Christ-haters out there.
Here we have a guy [Kristol] who plainly doesn’t believe in God, but who thinks that well-padded intellectual elitists like himself ought to evade the issue in public for fear of demoralizing the proles and perhaps jeopardizing some padding thereby. I can’t think of anything nice to say about that; and in fact, the only things I CAN think of to say would not be suitable for a family website.
I can’t see the parallel with your argument. Infinity is whatever it is, and whatever can truly be said about it, is true. I might indeed take different tacks in explaining it to different persons; but if I thought that P were a true proposition about infinity, I should not affirm P in the privacy of my chambers, while denying or evading it in the public square, which is the kind of thing Kristol & Himmelfarb are doing. A noble lie is still a lie.
These are the people who are pushing “intelligent design” in the conservative movement. Not only am I glad and proud to have spoken out against this preposterous hoax, I wish I had done so more forthrightly. These are people filled up to their meritocratic nose-holes with contempt for ordinary people. That’s conservatism? Ptui, I spit. ~John Derbyshire, The Corner
The origin of Mr. Derbyshire’s remarks is this Reason article about certain neocons, their “religious beliefs” such as they are, and their (public) claims about ID, evolution and social utility of religion. This ties into Mr. Derbyshire’s long-running opposition to “Intelligent Design” (ID), the reheated and watered-down theological view that its loyalists are trying to push into science classes as an alternative, or really just an augmentation, to evolution. Mr. Derbyshire’s own unfortunate indifference to the claims of theologians and philosophers is not the issue at the moment. Unfortunately, the Bailey article is not as compelling as I first imagined it would be when I read Mr. Derbyshire’s remarks.
I would add that the point of ID, as I have argued on several occasions, is not to “deny” Darwin as such, in the sense that ID theorists are denying the reality of evolution, but simply that they would prefer to be able to use metaphysical claims to explain scientific evidence. To the extent that they are “denying” Darwin, they wish to “deny” Darwin’s work its near-canonical status and question the philosophical claims made as a result of the theory of evolution.
In principle, at least as far as criticism of Darwin goes, this might be nothing different from what Stephen Jay Gould did in advancing criticisms of evolutionary theory. However, where Gould, as I understand, recognised and attempted to address flaws or holes in Darwin’s theory on the basis of interpreting the evidence, ID relies on poking holes in materialistic readings of evolutionary theory on logical and philosophical grounds.
Aside from the oddity in the Reason article of lumping in Robert Bork with neoconservatives, which seems to me to stretch the term well past the breaking point (unless I am very confused about where Mr. Bork stands on a few things), it shows very clearly that a number of prominent neocons have taken up for ID theory just as a number, such as Krauthammer, have denounced it with every secularist fiber of their being.
What is more interesting, aside from demonstrating (again) the likely intellectual laziness of many well-known neocon figures, may be the pure cynicism with which these people are operating. However, arguing for this rests on Ronald Bailey’s very easy assumption that Strauss and the “Noble Lie” have struck deep roots in neocon thinking, and as Dr. Paul Gottfried argued (I believe it was last year in an article for Chronicles?), Strauss is more complicated than many quick summaries have allowed and his influence of the neocons has been a bit exaggerated.
The Bailey article does include an important admission about one of the ID theorists that Kristol and Himmelfarb have encouraged:
Behe, in a letter to The Wall Street Journal, frankly acknowledges that his is “a distinctly minority view among scientists on the question of what caused evolution.” But Behe wants it clearly understood that he is no biblical literalist: “In the book I specifically say I am not a creationist, agree that the universe is billions of years old, [and] believe in descent of life from a common ancestor.”
This should underscore once and for all that whatever may be theologically or philosophically true in the arguments of ID theorists, ID theory does not purport to scrap the theory of evolution or seriously challenge it. In fact, it practically augments the theory of evolution so little that the entire enterprise, as a professed scientific endeavour, is an amazing waste of time.
On the lighter side, here is the abstract of a law review article by one Prof. Benjamin Barton detailing the profoundly negative portrayal of bureaucracy in the Harry Potter novels, showing how this portrayal supports public choice theory and advancing the thesis that there will be increasing “distrust of government and libertarianism” as the Harry Potter generation grows up.
I am proud to say that I have never cracked a Harry Potter book, but I have seen the four movies made to date and so have some idea what Prof. Barton is talking about in his review article. The claim that libertarianism will increase in the generation that has been growing up with these stories (section 5 is called “Harry Potter and the Future Libertarian Majority”!) is pretty implausible, as Prof. Volokh has more or less already said. What I find curious is how anyone could view the Harry Potter world as anything other than a dystopia populated with a few heroic figures–more in keeping with the spirit of a saga than with Atlas Shrugged.
Aside from the not infrequent approval of necessary rule-breaking, which serves to provide Rowling’s plot devices, it would be hard to find an affirmation of any political idea in these stories (except for the de rigueur affirmation of wizard-’muggle’ intermarriage that permeates, say, Chamber of Secrets). As I understand the story, the entire world of wizards is kept hushed up by an immensely intrusive and powerful state (taking the neocon claim that “the government knows things we don’t” to a new level), and the sole means of legitimate education comes by means of the Etonian state-run academy that is Hogwarts. Even for the wizards who do not openly despise the ‘muggles’, a very British condescending elitism is always in the air. The young heroes may occasionally flout the rules in moments of emergency, but seem to fundamentally accept the system, at least until it directly turns on them. Maybe Rowling’s books will encourage a new generation of Platonists.
But supposing these books do encourage a small boom in libertarianism, the libertarians are welcome to Rowling and her fans. Lewis and Tolkien, with whose works Rowling’s are sometimes rather preposterously compared, may not have directly influenced the politics of the English-speaking world in the ways that they might have liked, but their stories will have a far more enduring significance, as they are founded on structures of revelation and myth that will long outlast the amusing, but ephemeral tales of wizard children.
Modern isn’t anything. It isn’t American, it isn’t English, it isn’t Italian. It has no characteristics. It certainly isn’t civilization, and may not even be culture. But the old America is real, and that is the West. The old South used to be real, and that’s been modernized to the point where it isn’t a civilization anymore.
Modern is a state of mind more than it’s a state of development…. ~Chilton Williamson, Interview with The Washington Times
Colorization was condemned on moral grounds and driven out of practice, but, let’s face it: the upcoming generation won’t watch black-and-white films. Their eyes won’t focus on them. Kids these days will watch “Robin Hood” from 1938 because it’s in color, but they won’t black and white movies from the same year. All of those great old movies will be forgotten if they aren’t colorized.
The colorization technology has improved vastly over the last decade and a half, and it’s time to colorize films. Don’t mess with films like “Citizen Kane” where a strong effort was put into the b&w cinematography, but for the “Bringing Up Baby” movies, where the quality is in the script and acting, why not colorize them? ~Steve Sailer
Besides not seeing eye-to-eye with Mr. Sailer on a number of his film reviews (according to which The Last Samurai was PC and overwrought and Proof a success), I cannot agree with him that colourising old films is either desirable or necessary. In certain cases, where colour would enhance the richness of the visual experience, it might make sense. For instance, the sumptuous decoration of sets and costume in the Indian classic Mughal-e-Azam was completely lost in its original b-and-w version, and now that it has been restored and colourised it has become an even more attractive film. Do we really think that the colourised version of It’s a Wonderful Life has been an improvement, or simply a concession to the urge to update and change things that could be left well enough alone? There is nothing sacred about b-and-w films staying as they are, but I can’t see the advantage in changing them. Indeed, a colourised Casablanca would be an uglier, worse film, even if it were technically more vivid and realistic.
The argument that “the kids won’t watch” b-and-w films is not in the least compelling. The next generation may not watch classic films, but that is the result of their being raised on poor writing, idiotic plots, frequent explosions and other mindless sensory stimuli and the widespread use of CGI. Most (American) audiences cannot handle, or are not interested in, complex or even fairly witty dialogue, and the quality of film writing has slouched to meet the audience’s low expectations. The sad truth is that the next generation may not acquaint themselves with film classics because the classics are simply not fatuous and titillating enough.
One woman wrote that motherhood just doesn’t fit her self-image or her schedule. “I compete in triathlons; my husband practices martial arts; we both have fulfilling careers; we travel the world . . . we enjoy family and friends; we have a fun, intimate relationship.” Another woman asked: “What would the return be on the investment? Are there any laws that would require my children to pay for my nursing home when I am old? Are they going to be a sufficient hedge against poverty and loneliness?” ~R. Albert Mohler, Jr., Touchstone
The attitude of these women is very simply a form of spiritual and moral insanity. It is here, when all of the self-centered hobbies and “lifestyle choices” trump what God desires for men that they cease to be the harmless activities they might seem to be and become idolatrous and evil. The very language of cost-benefit analysis related to the rearing of children that the one woman uses, as if the children were commodities from which one extracted satisfaction or fixed deposits on which one draws in retirement, should shock many a complacent conservative into realising the social and moral degradation that follows upon thinking of man as homo oeconomicus.
That in turn might cause a reevaluation of the value of thinking about economics as if man were homo oeconomicus. If anyone wants an example of how a consumerist, state capitalist society twists and perverts human life, just consider that the rise of these childless married couples does not occur except in such a society. This is a social sickness, and this sickness is a major part of why our society is precipitously succumbing to the invasion of aliens, the abandonment of our traditions and the decadence of all forms of cultural expression. A people that worships the self, as these people do, has no sense of its own identity, as the cult of the self tells us that societies are simply made up of interchangeable units, ciphers whose ancestry and customs are irrelevant–what matters to the cult of the self is only what the individual wants, not what the person owes to his kin, his ancestors, his folk. A people that worships the self cannot create anything truly beautiful or meaningful, as beauty requires a measure of self-sacrifice and a yearning for the ultimate Other, and it cannot recognise anything beautiful enough in the creations of its forebearers that makes them worthy of emulation. As some natalists have pointed out before, the failure of a people to reproduce biologically is connected to a deeper failure or unwillingness of that people to reproduce their traditions.
It is not only that childless marriages are unnatural and contrary to the will of God in very obvious ways, which Dr. Mohler sets out very well elsewhere in his article, but that the very idea of marrying while not begetting children is a perverse, self-indulgent one that feeds all of the passions and thwarts the possibility of experiencing and expressing truly kenotic love. Marriage and parenthood are part of God’s design for very clear and definite reasons: they instruct us in how to give fully of oneself to other people in self-emptying love that follows the Word’s kenosis in becoming man for our salvation, they teach us that no person can be complete or perfected except in loving relationships with others, and thus they teach us in very simple ways the profound reality of communion.
Marriage is a mystery of the Church in part because it instructs us in the mystery of what the Church is and how She is bound to Christ in love. In this way, marriage leads us further on the path of salvation and teaches us how to be servants of Christ. The relationship of the Church and Christ is a type and example of perfect communion and unity, and it is that example we are meant to follow in our marriages. As proof of the love that makes such unity possible, children are the gifts given to the parents to seal their unity, and in this they are like the gifts Christ has bestowed upon His Church or they are like the faithful who are nurtured in the bosom of the Church. The birth of children in wedlock is a type of the fulfillment of the Lord’s prayer that we might be one even as He and His Father are One.
Besides the obvious psychological damage divorce inflicts on children, with all the social consequences attendant on that, in an existential way divorce is a repudiation of and spiritual assault on the children’s very existence. Voluntarily childless marriage is spiritually almost as good as divorce in some respects, as the couple’s conscious desire not to have children is a sort of repudiation of one another. It is a rejection at some level of the spiritual and moral unity to which they have been called in their marriage, an admission that their love is a sort of airy sentiment and not something that should be made concrete and enfleshed in another person, and it is an expression of a desire to use the other person simply as a means of satisfaction of the self. It is little wonder that the second woman quoted above would think of having children in terms of investment and return–this must be how she thinks of all relationships, as means of satisfying her desires. That is tragic, and it is also a mark of the demonic.
Multiculturalism is “an abandonment and denial of that which is one’s own,” and, for Americans of European descent, Christianity is at the center of what is being abandoned and disavowed. Despite President Bush’s profession of faith, his administration is, like the America it represents, at best post-Christian, and perhaps anti-Christian. With Christianity on the retreat in Europe and in America, it is no surprise that insurgent Islam is once again on the rise. If Americans truly believed in the Faith of their fathers, how likely is it that there would be an Islamic school in Rockford or an Islamic academy near Mount Vernon? The presence of these foreign elements is as much an indication of a failure of nerve on the part of Christians as is the mosque that has been erected in Rome. Until we abandon and deny the multiculturalism of our postmodern world, until we rise above our pathological self-hatred and return to the certainties of tradition and kinship and soil and memory, our faith will never match theirs in its intensity, and the Dar al Harb will, gradually but inexorably, be absorbed into the Dar al Islam. ~Scott P. Richert
Mr. Richert’s article is one of many fine pieces of commentary from the truly excellent October issue of Chronicles (and I don’t just say that because it happens to include my first published article). His specific and focused attack on multiculturalism and its practical consequences is far more telling and compelling than my rather general response to Patrick West’s little pamphlet on the same subject. Here he has described some of the consequences of the moral insanity and the cultural death-wish of Westerners who either actively turn upon their own traditions or permit renegades and newcomers to dethrone their traditional authorities.
I would observe that if Westerners have lost the Faith of their fathers it is no small part because they long since neglected the Fathers of the Church for their instruction in the Faith. Obviously, that is inevitably less true for Orthodox and Catholics, but especially for American Christians there is a dearth of knowledge of patristics. The abandonment of the study of Greek and Latin, which became effectively universal in all institutions of higher education (to say nothing of secondary schools) 40 years ago, is instrumental in the loss of our inheritance, both classical and patristic.
When I first took a serious interest in Byzantine history, I was soon embarrassed at my own lack of necessary language training, a good part of which has now been remedied. However, I am acutely aware that my knowledge even of Greek is spotty compared to someone in my position a generation ago–I am doubtful that I would have been accepted with my qualifications into a similar graduate program in my grandfather’s time. But it brought home to me just how incomplete my prior education was–and I cannot say that I went to anything but serious and fairly rigorous schools–and how cut off I was from most of my own history. What was worse was that none of my teachers ever gave me any reason to think that I was missing out on anything by neglecting the study of these languages. That this was possible in generally well regarded schools is a measure of how far we have all fallen.
If the dead, the living and the unborn are bound up together in profound obligations to one another, how can we fulfill those obligations if we cannot read or understand many of the things that were accessible and meaningful to our ancestors? How do we honour their ways unless we embrace the same true teachings that they embraced? The idea of Progress, as modern man understands it, is that of fleeing from the origin, from the home, from that which is one’s own towards something always “new,” but something which is always unsatisfying and which compels the progressive to go farther on down the road. Unlike the sweep of salvation history, which is the only true progressive narrative in existence, the lie of Progress does not offer an end, cannot offer perfection or fulfillment, because it premises our perfection on our own self-improvement (measured by increasing alienation from our own past and identity), which is doomed to fail. Our Whigs are little better than runaway teenagers on the road, going they know not where, but they have managed to drag many of us along in tow without our fully realising it. Rather than following the Heir to the Vineyard, we have walked in the paths of the Prodigal and called it wisdom.
Short of awaiting the translation of the full patristic corpus, which is still a long way off, there is nothing for it but for each of us to learn the classical languages of our civilisation if we are to have any hope of restoring the things that are lost. Perdita restaurans: this from an old Latin Nativity hymn from pre-Norman England, referring to the renewing effects of the Incarnation of the Logos. That phrase evokes the central inspiration of our Faith and the civilisation that it has inspired, which is God’s self-emptying redemption of man and the world, and it captures what should be our foremost goal in remedying the madness of this civilisation of ours bent on self-destruction.
Asked what he thought the odds were of a team that once was 15 games under .500 winding up in the World Series, Lance Berkman gave it some thought.
“Well, how many times has it happened — ever?” Berkman replied. “Once in history, right? (Right.) And that was in 1914, right? (Right — by the old ‘Miracle’ Braves.) So what does that tell you? That it’s virtually impossible. But somehow, we did it. It’s hard to believe, really.” ~ESPN
With all apologies to my White Sox fan neighbours exulting in their latest World Series trip, Houston’s 5-1 win last night, clinching the National League series 4-2, was by far the more impressive achievement and the far more meaningful event, if we can really ever attribute much meaning to sporting events. Not only do teams that started off as poorly as the Astros almost never reach the World Series, but Houston has had an unusual run of missed chances, two of which I remember painfully and distinctly (the fateful 1986 series against the hated Mets, and last year’s choke against the Cardinals). Normally, I don’t write about sports or the teams that I have followed for years, but, as an Astros fan since I first saw them in 1984 in the Astrodome, I am breaking with my usual silence to pay tribute to one of the few genuinely admirable baseball teams still around.
All the stories about this Astros team seem like a strange throwback to a bygone era where players stayed with their teams for their entire careers (see Biggio and Bagwell) and there was still some modicum of real hometown loyalty. Thus you have seen Roger Clemens, 43, returning for still another year to help his hometown club alongside his friend, Pettite. There is Craig Biggio, the seemingly tireless, gritty warhorse, who has finally reached the championship series in what may now well be his final year after a record 2,564 regular season games without going to the World Series (and whose all-time HBP record and trademark tar-stained, dust-covered helmet remind us of a time when professional baseball players were not the pathetic, posing prima donnas of the present). Then there is the entire team, in spite of one of the ugliest starts of a season I can remember in 21 years of following the team, managing to scrape and struggle back to the wild card and get to the championship. If Americans love those sorts of stories, they should love the Astros.
Even though I moved away from east Texas when I was six, I have never stopped supporting the Astros. That loyalty was not misplaced. Yes, it is only a game, and it has no great significance in the scheme of things, but I can’t help thinking that there is something basically good in this team’s success. Go Astros!
So much has already been said about the response to the Gulf Coast disaster that I doubt there is much important to be added. Even as I wanted instinctively to agree with those who attributed the extent of the disaster and the failed government response to Mr. Bush’s past decisions, I have found that many of these criticisms make little sense. Much of the failure to evacuate New Orleans plainly falls on the local and state governments, which is where the responsibility for such responses ought to belong in the first place. Many constitutionalists and libertarians whom I respect seem so keen on highlighting the admitted incompetence of the federal government apparently without considering the reality that, were our admonitions about government heeded, there would be no federal response, incompetent or otherwise. We might quibble about whether there might be some pragmatic reason to have a coordinated, federal relief agency, but we would all have to admit that we would normally just as soon see FEMA and all its associate agencies disappear from the face of the earth. We would live in a country that was much more free, but there would be attendant risks and dangers. There may well be some considerable commentary to this effect, but I regret to say that it is not very prominent.
Most of the complaining I have seen in the press and online is borne of a mentality that yearns for ever more vigorous and intrusive government, or it unwittingly vindicates that mentality by focusing on government incompetence rather than the fact that the federal government has no role here. We should therefore ridicule and belittle this mentality as the root of servile dependency that it is. Then there was the violence and looting in New Orleans–that is often enough what will happen in cities when authority breaks down. There were good reasons why Jefferson regarded cities as dens of iniquity and degeneracy, and it was not all because of Bolingbroke and agrarian idealism.
By and large we manage to mask or contain the corrosive effects that city life has on people, but urban deracinement, taken to an extreme in our contemporary megalopoleis, has stripped away most of the attachments to place and neighbour that might serve to fill some of the void of a breakdown of coercive external power. Of course, the rest must be made up for by self-restraint and the practice of virtue, two things no one would probably confuse with New Orleans, at least not by reputation. That violent disorder flourishes among servile and undisciplined people is no surprise to anyone familiar with classical political theory, as the tendency to disorder and servility are fundamentally linked.
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Ray Nagin, the mayor of devastated New Orleans, said Wednesday he fears thousands of residents may have been killed by Hurricane Katrina. ~USA Today
Kathleen Blanco, governor of Louisianna, called on the city of New Orleans to evacuate as waters continued to rise. “We absolutely must evacuate the people in the dome and other shelters in the city,'’ said on CNN. “It’s a logistical nightmare.”
The US military on Wednesday added Navy ships, including two helicopter assault vessels and the hospital ship Comfort, and search troops to a relief effort in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. ~MSN Money
What can one say when such natural devastation so utterly wrecks a region? James Kushner on the Touchstone Mere Comments site has a very thoughtful response to the disaster, recalling those most needful things for all of us: prayer and repentance. We may recall the words of St. Isaac: “This life is given to you for repentance; do not waste it in vain pursuits.” May the Lord deliver His servants from all wrath, tribulation, danger and necessity. May He grant rest to the souls of His servants who have fallen asleep.
Though I imagine this appeal will be redundant, I would strongly encourage everyone to lend support to the people of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama in whatever way possible. Beyond the appeal of basic charity, and even if it is not your region or locale, it is still our country and those are our people suffering from these floods and the hurricane damage. We cannot pretend to share in the suffering of people thousands of miles away, and we should not really try, but we can lend some practical and much-needed aid. For finanical donations, I can recommend Mercy Corps as a reputable and reputedly very efficient charitable organisation.
President Bush’s remark the other day that the theory of ‘intelligent design’ should be taught alongside the theory of evolution brought howls of derision from his detractors in Europe and the United States. It was, they said, one more piece of evidence that America is populated by fundamentalist zombies who are potentially as dangerous as bin Laden’s boys. Intelligent design, it goes without saying, is a boneheaded piece of pseudo-science, almost as simplistic as the naive materialism that Darwinists teach. But neither side of the argument cares about logic, much less truth. The important thing is to declare which side you are on: religious fanaticism or cosmopolitan anti-religious fanaticism. ~Thomas Fleming, The Spectator (registration required)
As near as I have been able to discern, the idea of intelligent design is a half-hearted attempt to oppose materialist evolutionists’ claim that life develops randomly. The notion, which I imagine is less scientific and more popular, that life evolves by a sort of ‘trial and error’ also offends ID folks, as this does not seem to account for the complexity of biological structures. The eye is a favourite example of a structure too complex to have developed by random mutation. It is this randomness, and the lack of purpose implied in that, that seems to motivate people to espouse ID and claim that it is science. I can understand the impatience biologists might be having with this claim, which does not purport to say anything new about evolution except that it is not random (ultimately as speculative as saying that it is random until demonstrated) and must be able to take account of the complex structures in nature. ID does not help the theory of evolution take account of this complexity–it just says that there is complexity and biologists ought to acknowledge that (incidentally, I think they already have). What ID will never be, in spite of what I imagine some religious people hope that it will be, is some way to discredit biological evolution as a concept, since ID is little else than the acceptance of the theory of evolution with some philosophical icing on top.
These debates are not fundamentally about biological or physical theories, which is what they would have to be for them to be scientific debates–they are about the philosophical significance materialists and anti-materialists attach to empirical observations. Many people are offended by evolutionists because they insist that the theory of evolution somehow demonstrates that man is simply material, mutable and therefore possesses both no inherent nature and no particular purpose; some other evolutionists would tell us that it shows we are not created beings. But the theory does not even purport to claim this, because these are claims that are no more scientifically verifiable than ID claims about the Designer; obviously, natural sciences cannot answer metaphysical questions. Theories of evolution need not trump any claims about human dignity or the createdness of man and the universe, because they can no more demonstrate for or against these things than ID supporters can actually ‘prove’ God’s existence (scientific proof of such a thing not necessarily being desirable in the first place), unless we make the mistake of allowing philosophical materialist claims about biological development to define our understanding of evolution. Were we all better educated, we would see the problem with calling this science immediately and ID would cease to exist as a “movement” and return to what it is: a commonplace in patristic thought that is fundamentally a philosophical claim that the universe is well-ordered (an idea reflected in our word cosmos).
The Fathers’ writings are littered with arguments about the order and unity of the natural world as a mark of its creation by the One God and, thus, a sort of ‘proof’ that God exists and is one (some later theologians attempted to likewise perceive Trinitarian ‘traces’ in the natural and human worlds, which was perhaps a bit too ingenious by half), and it is obvious that they believe that the world has been crafted by a Mind with a specific purpose (i.e., to bring all things into communion with God). But there is a difference between endorsing what the Fathers wrote when they were making observations about human physiology and relating them to the doctrine of the soul and saying that what the Fathers wrote is an example of hard science. We would not soon expect to see anyone insisting that biology classes teach St. Gregory of Nyssa’s ideas on the relationship between the body’s organs and the soul, because the appropriate place for that would be in a theology class (perhaps what ID activists might do is seek to have schools provide some proper education in theology and philosophy, which is what they are really arguing about, rather than insist on pushing this idea on science classes).
Another side of ID is its cosmological claim of the intelligent design of the universe. That is to say, they might be perfectly willing to accept the ‘Big Bang’, but simply posit that an Agent caused it, which is again a basic logical claim about causality (all effects must have some first Cause to avoid infinite regression) and not a scientific observation, and that the Agent also directed how the ‘Bang’ turned out because, if the Agent had not, things would be different than they are in a most unfortunate way for us (e.g., we would not be here, because the Earth might have ‘randomly’ formed too close to or too far from the Sun, making the planet uninhabitable). The anthropic principle has a certain ring to it, until one realises that it is simply a bit of a rhetorical game: Earth is habitable, if might not be if things were different, ergo because things are not different and we are able to live here, it must be because Someone wanted us to be here. That is again a theological conclusion, not a scientific hypothesis.
Perhaps if physicists engaged in less rhetoric about understanding life, the universe and everything fewer people would be confused into thinking that physics, or any other kind of science, can provide the answers to the serious things of life. Science measures, describes and records the workings of nature–it does not tell us anything about the meaning of those workings. ID is the misguided effort of trying to find meaning in natural processes, which makes it a sort of recycled Pythagorean sect.
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These things my spirit bids me
teach the men of Athens:
brings countless evils for the city,
but Eunomia brings order
and makes everything proper,
by enfolding the unjust in fetters,
smoothing those things that are rough,
sentencing hybris to obscurity
making the flowers of mischief to whither,
and straightening crooked judgments.
It calms the deeds of arrogance
and stops the bilious anger of harsh strife.
Under its control, all things are proper
and prudence reigns human affairs. ~Solon
The worthless voices of the people should not be listened to. Nor is it right to give credence to their voices when they demand that the guilty should be acquitted or that the innocent should be condemned. ~Diocletian
The discovery was announced by US scientists yesterday and the object has unofficially been named Xena, after the TV series starring Lucy Lawless. ‘We have always wanted to name something Xena,’ said Michael Brown, a member of the team that made the discovery using telescopes at the Palomar Observatory, outside San Diego, California. ~The Observer
This must be one of the more pathetic moments in the history of man. Leave it to the truly lame and geeky among scientists to name the tenth planet in the solar system after a fictional Amazon with a meaningless name. When I first read about the new planet, such as it is, I thought they might be at least as classy and basically educated in classical mythology as the astronomers who named Pluto’s “moon” Charon. Every other planet continues to bear the name of a member of the Roman pantheon, including the eighth and ninth planets that were not discovered until modern times. The moons of those planets bear the names of related mythological figures. There is a certain harmony, intelligence and minimal cultivation in the way the planets and satellites have been named, all of which has come crashing down thanks to a gang of American barbarians who probably think the Titans are an NFL franchise or who can only recall a floppy-eared cartoon dog when they hear the name Pluto.
In years to come, our children will be learning astronomy and their unfortunate teacher will have to explain that a badly-made syndicated spinoff with none-too-subtle lesbian overtones was the inspiration for naming an object of scientific inquiry. That truly awful show will live on in the annals of science to the embarrassment of many, and generations to come will point to it as one more example of the barbarians who dwelt at the dawn of the millennium. If there is a special level in Inferno for those who make a laughingstock of their own vocation, these astronomers will be there.
Correction: Thanks to an attentive reader’s comment, I see that my response was a bit rash. Xena is only the temporary name until the permanent name has been approved. That will teach me to be a bit more thorough. All the same, the ‘nickname’ may not end up being the planet’s name, but it is still every bit as stupid.
Since the Byzantines were often keen to point out that it was at Byzantium that the Ten Thousand first found real refuge from the pursuit of the Persians and the hostility of locals, it seems fitting that my first post after my return from my so-called anabasis touch on something related to Byzantium.
Thomas Madden, a fine historian who works in Crusades history as well as on Byzantine-Venetian relations, has an excellent, professional review of three new Crusades books in the latest issue of First Things. As my main period of interest is a bit earlier, I have not had the opportunity to read Madden’s works myself, but I am aware that he is very highly regarded and his recent work on Enrico Dandolo is, from all accounts, an accomplished piece of scholarship. I recommend the review to anyone interested in a learned opinion of the three books by Asbridge, Phillips and Tyerman, as well as a short but informative recapitulation of the Fourth Crusade.
It was unfortunate that Prof. Madden did not have the opportunity to include Prof. Angold’s recent work on the Fourth Crusade (Longman, 2004), called simply The Fourth Crusade, especially since the book touches very directly on Madden’s point about the historiographical pattern of depicting the Fourth Crusade in the most lurid colours. Since Prof. Angold takes a noticeably different view of the Fourth Crusade from essentially all previous scholars, who have tended in their pro-Byzantine or anti-Crusader sentiments to emphasise the violence of the sack of the City, this may explain Prof. Madden’s lack of attention to it. It should be noted that his book does not minimise the political consequences of the Crusade, which were horrendous for the empire and ultimately ruinous for the Balkans in the long run, nor does he minimise the looting and desecration of Constantinople. Where Prof. Angold does depart from the standard story is in his account of the slaughter attending the sack of the City, which I believe he regards as essentially a popular and propagandistic myth. Whether or not Prof. Angold’s arguments ultimately convince, his book probably deserved at least some attention in a review dedicated to the Crusades as a topic, even if the audience for the review is not one of professional medievalists and Byzantinists. In the coming months, if there is time in my reading schedule, I will look at the books under review here, as well as Angold’s, and put up my thoughts on them.
Actually, looking at the map of my upcoming summer sojourn, it will be more of a katabasis, as I will be heading down south to my home country, New Mexico, and my folks’ soon-to-be new place in central Texas, but then Xenophon’s journey was mostly a katabasis, too. Happily, my trek will not involve military defeat, treachery or perilous escapes from the depths of the Persian empire, but it will take me away from Eunomia for the better part of July, so I am bidding my friends and readers adieu for now.
Incidentally, this Anabasis comparison would, if I extended the analogy a bit further, make Chicago the equivalent of Mesopotamia, which might make Mayor Daley a new Artaxerxes II. That part of the analogy makes the most sense of all, except that it would probably be rather unfair to Artaxerxes. At the end of the month, I will be back east in New England for a few days, so perhaps I will have a chance to shout, “Thalassa, thalassa!” in echo of the intrepid Ten Thousand. More likely, I will be shouting at the New England traffic, but anything’s possible.
Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation’s service. There are many stories as to its actual beginnings, with over two dozen cities and towns laying claim to being the birthplace of Memorial Day. There is also evidence that organized women’s groups in the South were decorating graves before the end of the Civil War: a hymn published in 1867, “Kneel Where Our Loves are Sleeping” by Nella L. Sweet carried the dedication “To The Ladies of the South who are Decorating the Graves of the Confederate Dead” (Source: Duke University’s Historic American Sheet Music, 1850-1920). While Waterloo N.Y. was officially declared the birthplace of Memorial Day by President Lyndon Johnson in May 1966, it’s difficult to prove conclusively the origins of the day. It is more likely that it had many separate beginnings; each of those towns and every planned or spontaneous gathering of people to honor the war dead in the 1860’s tapped into the general human need to honor our dead, each contributed honorably to the growing movement that culminated in Gen Logan giving his official proclamation in 1868. It is not important who was the very first, what is important is that Memorial Day was established. Memorial Day is not about division. It is about reconciliation; it is about coming together to honor those who gave their all.
Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11, and was first observed on 30 May 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873. By 1890 it was recognized by all of the northern states. The South refused to acknowledge the day, honoring their dead on separate days until after World War I (when the holiday changed from honoring just those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war). It is now celebrated in almost every State on the last Monday in May (passed by Congress with the National Holiday Act of 1971 (P.L. 90 - 363) to ensure a three day weekend for Federal holidays), though several southern states have an additional separate day for honoring the Confederate war dead: January 19 in Texas, April 26 in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and Mississippi; May 10 in South Carolina; and June 3 (Jefferson Davis’ birthday) in Louisiana and Tennessee. ~U.S. Memorial Day.org
My great uncle, Luther B. Plumer III, known to his friends and family simply as Lou, fell at Iwo Jima sixty years ago. He had volunteered for the Marines immediately after Peal Harbor. My family and I honour his memory and sacrifice even today. May his memory be eternal.
We honour all those who have died in the wars of this country, including the over 1,600 Americans who have fallen in the present, unfortunate conflict, regardless of whether those wars were just. Soldiers are performing their duty honourably when they go to war. Let us hope and pray that no more such honourable men need perish in any other fruitless conflicts.