"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Dean's Listless

As a resident of South Florida, I was thrilled to see the headline: Dean Downgraded.

Imagine my dismay when I read the article and found that Howard Dean is still Mr. Chairman. Poor Arafat, to have his title besmirched in this way.

Now Here's Some Religious Bigotry

I've been skeptical of the campaign Hugh Hewitt has been waging in his multi-media, multi-part defense of Mitt Romney, in particular of his efforts to tar anyone who says anything negative about Mormonism as a religious "bigot." (I don't think it's right to rule Romney out of bounds simply because he holds certain religious views I find wrongheaded, but I also don't think that a candidate's religious views are somehow sacrosanct when reflecting on who one wants to lead our country. His or her religious views tell us something about their moral and rational judgment, after all).

For a real example of what seems to me to be outright religious bigotry check out this post over at CQ regarding how the Louisiana Democratic Party is wheeling out that old anti-Catholic nastiness against the Republican candidate, Bobby Jindal. Jindal's a Catholic and has written a number of apologetic defenses of the faith, which the Louisiana Dems have decided makes him "anti-Protestant." It's a smear and utterly groundless (and I say that as one of those still "protest"-ing and who disagrees with some of Jindal's theological claims). Louisiana politics has always been a bit nasty, but this is despicable.

Monday, August 20, 2007

As Britain Steps Down, France Steps Up

Who'd a thunk it? I've always blamed France for the Iraq war, and of course that was right, as we shall see in a minute.

But first, as the new Gordon Brown regime evacuates the slim UK force from Basra, Nicolas Sarkozy's new foreign minister paid a surprise visit to Iraq on Sunday and offered to help. The world is stunned, but they shouldn't be. Bernard Kouchner, a founder of the Nobel Peace Prize-winning organization Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders), is a most amazing man:

Now we are turning the page. There is a new perspective. We want to talk about the future. Democracy, integrity, sovereignty, reconciliation, and stopping the killings. That's my deep aim.

Why, just recently, I meself resolved to turn the page when maneuvered into discussing Iraq with my friends from the left: Don't mention Bush. Already, things have gone unfathomably smoother that way. (And never underestimate a little success on the ground, no matter how tenuous.)

Now, way back when The New Republic was a credible magazine (two months ago), it ran a fascinating article by Paul Berman on Kouchner and the Iraq War that's a must-read except you can't because it's behind their subscription wall. (The enterprising must-reader can get behind it by removing "tnr.com" from his stored cookies.)

Only, by then, everything was already going to hell, from Kouchner's point of view. He was already furious--judging, at least, from what he went on to write during the next year. He was furious at his own government, in Paris. Bush and the United States had been putting ever more pressure on Saddam and had been making it ever more obvious that, unless Saddam caved, the invasion was guaranteed to go ahead. The French should have done everything possible to make these American threats look ever more fearsome.

Instead, Chirac's French foreign minister was running around the world actively campaigning against the American policy. Kouchner was convinced that, by agitating so energetically against the American invasion, French diplomacy was only sustaining Saddam in his fantasy that somebody, somewhere, was going to rescue his regime. This was a disaster. The no-war policy was the enemy of the less-than-war possibility. After the invasion, when the American investigators had finally managed to interview Saddam and some of his generals in their prison cells, we learned that, until the last moment, Saddam did imagine that, because of objections in the Security Council, the United States was not going to invade. This was Kouchner's fear entirely--what he had warned against in his manifesto in
Le Monde.

Indeed---had France gotten the US/UK's back, Saddam and his lovely sons Uday and Attila would have abdicated and be sunning themselves on the Riviera as you read this instead of joining their hundreds of thousands of victims six feet under. Instead, the corrupt Chirac regime set about building a critical mass of world opposition to toppling Saddam & Sons. The US and UK were on the clock, and so they made the precipitous decision to drop a few bombs and try to take him out. The die was cast, but the timing was dictated by France, not---according to popular belief---America and Britain.

The TNR article continues unsparingly with Kouchner's disagreement with casting the die and invading, his disdain for Bush's rhetorical clumsiness in playing the WMD card in the court of world opinion instead of what Kouchner saw as a slam-dunk humanitarian argument (although that could have been more Blair's idea, seeking UK legal cover), disagreement with disbanding the Ba'athist army (although it largely disbanded itself), and a revulsion with Paul Bremer's---and the Bush Administration's, it must be admitted---autocratic stewardship of the resulting mess (can't think of any objection there).

But his greatest revulsion was reserved for the Western left (and as an official of France's Socialist Party and with a plan for global health care, a member of the left himself), with its mindless anti-globalist knee-jerk anti-American opposition to even the clearest of moral imperatives, because Kouchner is one of those idealists who believes that if you hear a man killing his wife in the next apartment, you have a moral duty to break in and stop it.

He thought about the European peace movement. The mass marches against the war, the placards, the slogans, the chanting crowds--every last aspect of this movement reminded him of the grossest errors of the left-wing past. "In our generation," he told [close friend Daniel] Cohn-Bendit, "antiwar marches used to offer protection to the worst Stalinist regimes, the most frightening massacres, and because of this, I wouldn't let myself take part anymore--nor would you, Danny. God knows how often we heard people shout, 'Down with Bush!' But I didn't hear even the tiniest cry, 'Down with Saddam!' And let's not even mention--or rather, we had better mention--the anti-Semitic incidents...

Kouchner's argument about Iraq mostly focused on a specific reality, and this was the scale of the disaster in Iraq under Saddam's rule. The grimness of the human landscape in Iraq, together with the plea for help that so many Iraqis had been making for so many years, sufficed to justify the invasion, even without reference to worldwide principles. Yet where were the champions of the humanitarian cause, the human-rights militants, who should have responded to these pleas? Kouchner wasn't concerned about the orthodox left--the traditional left that had always been wrong about totalitarian movements, the left that pictured America as the fountain of evil, the left that had never wanted to overthrow Milosevic, the left that, in February 2003, was perfectly content to march in the streets side by side with the supporters of Saddam and the wildest of Islamist totalitarians, as masses of people had done in the giant antiwar demonstrations in Paris and London...

The tenor of Kouchner's comments on the intellectuals and human-rights and humanitarian militants suggested pretty plainly that, in his judgment, a huge number of people had betrayed their own best principles--had done this out of anti-American spite, or out of loathing for Bush, or who knows why, but they had done it. A dismaying situation: America, in its maladroit fashion, had just succeeded in overthrowing the worst tyranny of modern times, and the world's intellectuals were virtually quivering in indignation that such a thing had taken place.

A leftist mugged by reality and repulsed at his own side's obtuseness---a neo-con, if you will, at least by European standards. (Although to be called one might destroy him in the eyes of his enlightened fellows. Shhhhhhhhh.)

Paul Berman's article has many other wonders, few of them complimentary to the Bush Administration, about the man Bernard Kouchner, but he's worth our time to learn of him. A most amazing man:

You'll see, history will say that the Americans liberated the Iraqis, whatever the future may be, even if they did it poorly...The Americans have led a legitimate war on the basis of bad and false reasons, and, unfortunately, without the international community. In the long run, they will win, even so--but badly.

At this moment in time and history, winning badly will have to do, and I believe Bernard Kouchner is just the guy to help us do it.


Friday, August 17, 2007

A Capitalist Creed?

I'm all for free markets, but this story looks really quite bothersome. Colorado Christian University didn't renew the contract of Andrew Paquin because he didn't seem supportive enough of the university's revised mission, one that included a commitment to free markets. Apparently, he had the temerity to assign in class works by Peter Singer and Jim Wallis. Both of those guys are deeply wrong in their policy prescriptions (and, at least with Singer, his fundamental moral claims) but a student who is taking a class on views of economic justice and the like ought to be acquainted with their views. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

But just to be fair, though, it might be worth noting that someone who was teaching in your typical liberal arts college and assigned works by, say, Milton Friedman and Thomas Sowell (and taught in a way that made it clear he agreed with them), he would certainly be in grave danger of not securing tenure. But inasmuch as we think that unfair (and we should) so too should we think this.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

2008: Too Much Too Soon

Glenn Reynolds links to some of the predictable concerns about 2008; at 20 months or so, it's perhaps the longest presidential campaign in history.

Barack Obama's current misspeakages notwithstanding, and who knows, he might be absolved of them by the time the first primary vote is cast---Americans have notoriously short memories---what I hope the process proves is that absolutely nobody these days is qualified to be President of the United States, so perhaps we'll get off the next president's back a little, whoever she may be.

The only presidents to get their grist through the mill in the 20th century were the Roosevelts (although Teddy was a bit crackers before and after, although not during), Ike, and Ronald Reagan. Harry Truman is bouncing back a little, mostly through Democrat-leaning historical revisionism, and Bush41 and Bill Clinton had rather tame times that were immune to any major screwups. Jack Kennedy's star sinks the more we learn about him, and praise for his presidency these days rests mostly on eyewitness testimonials on what he would have done had he lived, like pull us out of Vietnam or actually lift a finger about civil rights.

Our current president---at the mention of whose name many Americans descend into a certain derangement---could not be said to have been a stellar candidate in 2000. He was a six-year governor of a large state, but one whose top job was constitutionally weak. Neither could he be accused of a mastery of the rhetorical arts or a history of elegant self-authored position papers.

But he knew how to handle himself, which his opponents Al Gore and John Kerry did not. Gore lost an unloseable peace-and-prosperity election by mookiness alone, and George W. Bush (there, I said it), for all his verbal clumsiness, never said anything as foolish as "I voted for it before I voted against it," which alone lost Kerry his chance to become JFK44.

And speaking of losers, it's difficult to make the case that Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis or Bob Dole never becoming president was a great tragedy for the republic.

But they sure look good to me about right freaking now:

The most qualified for the job in 2008 could very well be Joe Biden and Newt Gingrich. Each has a creditable intelligence, insight and vision. Each has an alarming lack of self-control and statesmanship. Dang. It's a fact that if you can't be trusted to handle yourself, we cannot trust you to handle what is now an impossible job.

My quick takes on the rest---

His Rudiness: The ultimate metrosexual---agnostic on social issues, agnostic on them in his personal life, too. The most glib and able rhetorician since Clinton42, and Reagan and JFK before that. Seems to like tax cuts and is a bear (bull?) on national defense, and even his, um, nuanced position on it will wipe the floor with any Democrat hem-and-hawer on illegal immigration. Can win any given election on the quality of his BS alone, and if nobody else shows up at the post, conservatives will have to take 2/3 of a loaf, and mebbe get a skosh more around the seams.

Clinton44: Likewise for leftists, about 2/3 of a loaf. Not as dovish or as socially progressive as they'd like, and a bit of a free-trader to boot. Still, she hates tax cuts, which are a moral obscenity to the cosmic justice crowd, and that goes a long way. And although I've seen her turn in some lousy performances on the stump as only a six-year elected official, she's also put in a lot of excellent ones. She's still learning, and unlike Obama and the late great John Kerry, has never put her foot in it, and neither do I expect she will.

Mitt the Last---the odds being prohibitively against there ever ever ever being a second president named Mitt: Leave out the Mormon thing, which would hit the fan on both left and right bigtime. (Wait until you hear about the Mormon underwear: if the press is forced to use it to down the GOP candidate, they certainly will. They've been polite so far, but if Mitt gets anywhere near the danger zone, rest assured that the article is already written up, like Chuckles' obituary.)

No, the problem is not just being a mere former one-term governor (four years, Connecticut)---Mitt says weird things, like his sons are serving the nation by working on his campaign instead of volunteering for Iraq. And that thing about putting his dog carrier (with dog inside) on the roof of the family car on a vacation trip, and then saying he enjoyed it, the poopoo jetting down the car windows as proof to the contrary.

This is never going to wash in a presidential election. Even Al Gore was never that much of a mook.

Barack Obama: Man, I'd love to have a black president. It would be good for the country, it'd be good for the world. Just not this one. He's a follow-the-dots lefty, and on those rare occasions when he actually thinks for himself and departs from orthodoxy, trouble follows.

John Himself McCain: His departures from orthodoxy have become orthodox for him. If Reagan's model of leadership was finding a parade and standing in front of it, McCain's is building his own drum, pounding on it, and then marching to it. We all love and respect the guy, but he never perfected the technique of making new friends without losing the ones he's already made.

John Edwards: Parlaying the millions he scored as a trial lawyer into a Senate seat, all on the strength of his BS (and great looks) alone, he (and the lovely missus) somehow got the impression that works in the real world, too. Sorry, our standards are much lower for the legislature (see Kennedy, Ted) than the executive. Much, much lower.

By all outward metrics, he's the perfect candidate and will get the Martian and turnip truck vote, but that's about it.

Bill Richardson: Ace credentials, but punting his interview with the American people farther and farther as you read this, making us all wonder why anyone ever took him seriously in the first place. Mook.

Mike Huckabee: I like him. But although creationists don't have an official underwear, if 1960 was a referendum on JFK and Roman Catholicism (and there was a dry run with another loser, Al Smith, in 1928), Mormonism and creationism haven't even put on their uniforms yet, regardless of what might lie underneath. I mean, creationism can't even carry the Roman Catholic vote, which has trended toward the GOP since Reagan. It's weird, even by Roman Catholic standards.) Mook.

Did we forget anyone? Oh yeah, Fred Dalton Thompson. We'll soon see if he has the right stuff to justify putting him in the Big Chair, but he's the only one among them who's taken his own time about this president thing, and didn't let anxiety dictate when he should show up to lead the parade. First you've got to let it gather, and showing up too early to lead it is gauche, excuse my French.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Iraq, Iraq, Iraq

We're all sick of the talk of it. But that changes nothing.

I've been struggling with the current truism, that the only solution to Iraq is political, not military. Even St. David Petraeus has been known to mouth that one. No justice, no peace, it's been formulated in another context.

But by "military" we really mean "security." There is no security solution, then?

Those who would sacrifice freedom for security deserve neither, said Ben Franklin. But is that really true outside the United States? (Like in the UK, where what the ACLU considers egregious abrogations of civil rights are routine, and people love them.)

Folks are fully willing to sacrifice freedom for security all over the world, and that's the fact. It's why there are so many dictators still in power, and dictators are the rule not the exception throughout the fractious Arab world.

The prophet Sting advises us that there is no political solution to our troubled evolution. I'm not a disciple, but I think he was onto something there. What I can glean from the confusing reports from over there is that Iraqi society is moving ahead of its government, as successful societies always must. (The medieval Muslim philosopher al-Farabi notes that first there is a common ground, an ethos, that defines a nation or a people. Politics simply follows.)

The Iraqis have no choice, but I dunno if the American polity will give the situation until January '08 to leave more divinable tea leaves, although our generals are already making those noises. Is the surge "working"? Even some Democrat senators think so. But what is this "surge"? What does "working" mean? Language devolves into nonsense so quickly these days.

A>B has been the conventional wisdom, that political agreement will result in stability. Or maybe it's A>B>A+, that stability will result in political progress will result in greater stability. I'm not sure the Arab world (or human society at its most naked, as Iraq's is) works that way, as previously noted. Politics, as we in the West have grown to understand it, is not what politics is when practiced at the tribal/sectarian level.

Maybe A is simply A, and B is only a corollary. If people want peace, they tend to get peace, even if you tend to have to kill most of those who don't want peace first. Politics might simply be those who are left standing writing up the details.

I ran across a contemporary Muslim philosopher who said that the West are the children of Rousseau, but the Islamic world is Hobbesian. (Life is nasty, brutish and short, and one simply does what one must do to survive.) Jihadism certainly stands in opposition to that, and indeed supplies an acceptably Islamic answer to Hobbes' insufficiency for the human spirit.

But, if the Taliban hadn't been enough proof, the barbarity and outright obscenity of bin Ladenism as exhibited in Iraq has turned all but the most self-annihilating of Muslims against this latest centennial round of Islamic eschatology.

So, what remains is Hobbes, and as bin Laden himself noted, people go with the strongest-looking horse, the likely winner.

We are continually told that we must keep our eye on the real ball, the real villain, the real threat, Osama bin Laden. I submit that his real defeat has been not in forcing him physically into a cave somewhere over the Pakistan border (or killing him), but in Iraq, where his ideology has been shown for what it is, and appears to be finding increasing rejection.

Whether that's because it offends Rousseau in aesthetics, or whether the strong horse of our military is enforcing Hobbes, I don't care. Probably a lot of both.

9-11-01 was designed as a clarion call for global jihad, the re-establishment of the caliphate, blahblahblah. In 2007, I think Europe---from within---has more to worry about from jihadism than the Muslim world itself.

Oh yeah, there's still Iran. Dang.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Amateur Hour 2008

At yet another Democrat presidential debate the other day, Barack Obama referred to "the president of Canada."

Did you hear about it? Maybe if you're an internetable newshound, but most people didn't. They weren't watching the debate in record numbers, and the non-partisan American press so far hasn't found it very newsworthy. Although the Canadanadians seem to have noticed.

But it's OK. I'm sure this Harvard Law School grad knows how to spell potatoe, which we have a lot more of than Canadanadians. He'd make a perfect VP. Do you want fries with that?

Christian Socialist Authoritarianism

Via Jason Kuznicki at Positive Liberty, a very interesting website, "The Stiftung Leo Strauss." Something there to like and hate for everyone.

The Stiftung long argued that Bush-As-Spirit-Of-The-Age is perhaps
not entirely comically absurd. Christian Socialist Authoritarianism in
the U.S. came from somewhere. True, the Movement's various strands
took advantage of 9/11. And true, they together routed and used the
hapless Democrats as props and sock puppets until 2006. But the extent
of the regime's transformation of American social fabric, mores,
politics and destiny was not wholly imposed top down. The Joe Kleins
of the world didn't and still don't get it.

The Enlightenment was always a thin veneer in America before 2001. It
is thinner still in 2007.

Nice formulation, that: "Christian Socialist Authoritarianism" would be entirely defensible by someone like Leo Strauss, I think, as preferable to Jacksonian democracy, civil war, The Gilded Age, Progressivism, and Wilsonianism, as well as a thousand other bad ideas from the world at large.

It's been said that the American Jewish messiah looks a lot like FDR, and Strauss, a Platonist-Jew, dug him bigtime, or so I've heard.

Christian Socialist Authoritarianism certainly fits FDRism, I think, and "compassionate conservatism" seems pretty close, if only running on FDR's fumes.

Was the Founding Era America's Golden Age? Hard to tell, as things got unsettled before they got settled. Regardless, it didn't survive democracy and Andrew Jackson, so its tenability is in doubt, as Strauss and a number of others might observe [if they indulged in a bit of historicism]. Christian Socialist Authoritarianism seems to
round the bases of electorates throughout the West.

(I will put in a plug for Fred Thompson here, whose noises on federalism are the most Founder-like thing I've heard in my lifetime.)

(And I think the linked essay trickles into la-la-land a little [a lot], but I admire its boldness.)


Adventures in Parenting

We discovered a real treasure in CD of American folk songs. Our kids love them and they're pretty easy on parents' ears to boot. But they will sometimes get you an odd look in the grocery store, especially when your five and three-year old are skipping through the grocery store singing "Follow the Drinking Gourd." It's an old song supposedly sung about the Underground Railroad (though this site throws some doubt on the story). You can find the lyrics here and hear the song (after a bit of a lesson) here. The "drinking gourd" refers to the big dipper, by the way,...

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Glenn Reynolds and John Lott

I sent the following note today to Glenn Reynolds, the ineffable Instapundit and self-appointed referee of all things scholarly:

Dear Professor Reynolds,

I notice that your blog has shined virtually no light on Steve Levitt's utterly embarrassing letter to John McCall, a letter that most scholars with a shred of dignity would write only after having crawled into a deep hole. (As best as I can tell, all you have done is offer an "update" posting with a link.) In case you missed it: Levitt admits that even as he claimed that the special issue of the JLE that Lott put together was not refereed, Levitt himself was one of the referees. Second, Levitt's claim that Lott invited only authors whose views were consistent with his was undermined completely by his admission that he had been invited to submit a paper. (As, by the way, were others with views differing from Lott's.) And, third, the comedy highlight of Levitt's letter is his claim that "[Levitt] did not mean to suggest that Dr. Lott did anything unlawful or improper in arranging for the payment of the publication expenses for the Conference issue." Of course not; precisely what, then, did he mean to suggest?

Perhaps you could offer some of your usual musings on that. More generally, your rather loud silence on this latest development in the Levitt/Lott controversy is interesting, particularly given the massive amounts of attention, quotation, and credibility over these past few years that you have deemed appropriate for those attacking Lott's integrity. Now, why is that? Could it be that you simply are far less objective or "fair" than you like to pretend?

No obfuscations, please: A straight answer would be appreciated. Feel free to post this note if you wish.

Benjamin Zycher

I Want My Liberals Back!

Some of them were OK.

The New Republic was the reliable bastion of America's liberals---the center-left, if you will---since the 1950s. But over the past few years, its circulation has dipped, and it cut back from a weekly to a bi-weekly. It was also slipping onto the (ever-growing) "not-approved" list among the leftist netroots. Now, these folks can't get within five feet of a copy of National Review without breaking out in a cold sweat, but when their epistemological limits shrink past TNR, it's time for alarm.

So this Beauchamp business at its inception hit me as a shabby attempt to get relevant again. What concerned me was that it illustrates how much the intellectual center-left has collapsed, represented for 2008 only by Joe Biden and God help us, Hillary Rodham Clinton. The question isn't of the apparent fabrications in the "Scott Thomas" reports, but why TNR went with them in the first place. To help the war effort? Hell no, to undermine it and our troops themselves, and get back in the left's good graces, such as they are.

We see stories from all over the world about UN forces raping children and worse. But they're on page A94 of the papers. After all, we can surely conclude nothing bad about the UN's efforts as a result of these anomolies: they're not inherently meaningful. The front page is reserved for good news about the UN's deployments, and if TNR had been "reporting" rather than agitating, they'd be printing whatever good news is coming from Iraq as well as the even worse stuff the UN forces do.

No, we all know what's going on here. It's only a stroke of luck that Beauchamp couldn't resist embellishing. It could all have been true, let's face it.

With 35% of Democrats believing that Bush had some foreknowledge (or worse) of 9-11, the crank factor on the American left may be approaching an all-time high. Most are unreachable, but to focus on them is to abandon all hope of sanity for our nation. I'll continue to concentrate on engaging the remaining 65%, although it's tempting to drive the nuts even nutser. It doesn't take much, and it's a lot more fun, but duty calls.


Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Show Me The Monet

This is why you should never rely on first impressionists.

Five masked men took the "Cliffs Near Dieppe". Worse yet, they took the "Lane of Poplars Near Moret". My question is: if the cops know their route so exactly, why can't they follow them back to headquarters?

Which painter is stolen more than any other? You guessed it: Monet. Now the question is, what about country music shoplifters? Do they favor Cash?

Monday, August 06, 2007

For the record . . .

. . . I will not be joining the Blogger's Union.

Interesting Description

So the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), one of the big civil rights groups, plans on honoring Michael Vick (the Atlanta QB who has been indicted on dogfighting charges) during its upcoming conference. Well, that's just dandy, since he's clearly just the sort of role model we would all want our children to emulate: likely involved with a rather unsavory and cruel practice, caught flipping off Atlanta fans when he got a few boos, caught spreading around STDs.

Notice, though, how Sports Illustrated describes the SCLC: as a "Christian Group" that's going to honor Vick. Now, in some ways, that's true. The SCLC has long ties to black churches. But when was the last time you saw it described as a "Christian" organization, as opposed to a "civil rights" one? Interesting choice, wouldn't you say?

Thursday, August 02, 2007

You Say Eugenics, I say Convenient Death

In one of those blogo-dust-ups (is that a good phrase? How about "blogcontroversy"? Or maybe blogscuffle? We need a word!) Ross Douthat over at the Atlantic has been taking some heat for suggesting that calling yourself a progressive implicates you in their past support of the eugenics programs of the early 20th century. Go here and wander around for a good example of how arguments just sail past one another.

For the record, I don't think that Hillary!'s self-labeling as a "progressive" of late means much of anything with respect to support for eugenics. And I do think there is a distinction to be made with the "new eugenics" in that its supporters don't want (yet) the state to enforce the improvement of human beings. And it seems right to say that if we could use some sort of gene therapy to prevent folks from developing, say, cystic fibrosis, that would be a very good thing. And most liberals/progressives really aren't tied to the sort of strong notion of progress that their forbears bought into.

Still, the liberal bleating that they're really *not* eugenicists and that it's all going to be merely individual choice and so everything will be just hunky-dory is just a bit disingenuous. These are folks, after all, who in every area of life other than those things that might ever so tangentially touch on the freedom to procreate as one will (or will not, in far too many cases) insist that free choice really isn't free choice. Hey, some folks decide to take out 35% interest pay-day loans - they made their own choice, right? The truth of the matter (it seems to me) is that in a society where certain sorts of perfection start being the product of choice, especially among the wealthy, well-born, etc., it will necessarily create an obverse pressure on everyone to *choose* in certain ways. One of the ways that Tocqueville gets democratic culture exactly right is his analysis of how public opinion works to ensure a uniformity of views that is much more powerful and much more thoroughgoing than anything government itself could do. So when the successful and wealthy people in a society suddenly start having children that all have TVD's beatific good looks and winsome personality and everyone has a "choice" about what "sort" of children they produce, they will "choose" to all have little TVD's. God help us.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Bye-Bye Obama Nation, Hello Evan Bayh

It sez here that Barack Obama just killed his chance for the presidency with this---

Let me make this clear. There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again. It was a terrible mistake to fail to act when we had a chance to take out an al-Qaida leadership meeting in 2005. If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf won't act, we will.

This fits the lefty mantra that we had bin Laden surrounded and only peeling off troops for Iraq thwarted his capture and everything would be ducky if we had. (Afghanistan is the "good" war.)

The man on the street forgets that when an American public figure speaks, the world listens. Obama has no such excuse:

Pakistan, by virtue of its nukes and population of 170 million, is the most powerful Muslim nation in the world. For Obama to even hint at invading it or even violating its territorial sovereignty is, oh, how did she put it, ah yes, irresponsible and frankly naive.

I trust the American people will not put our lives in the hands of this amateur. And this might be the coffin-nail for even the VP slot. Hillary doesn't need him---contrary to the prevailing wisdom that the black vote will stay home if he's passed over, Hillary polls very well among blacks and is married to the even more popular First Black President. After this latest bit of nonsense, Obama could easily cost more votes than he would gain for the ticket.

No, Hillary's VP choice will be Evan Bayh, a senator and former governor of the great red state of Indiana, and he'll single-handedly plunk it down in the blue column. Mebbe Obama figured that out, and that's why he's been going for broke lately. Bayh is a helluva statesman, a solid centrist, and was my secret hope to become the Democrat nominee in 2008. But he sized up the field, saw Hillary astride it, and decided not to run. He's kept a very low profile since, avoiding the Reid/Shumer partisan wars and the line of fire on Iraq, in order to arrive at the Democrat convention next year as the squeaky-clean VP nominee.

With his thoroughly impressive record and resume, many Democrats will wonder if the ticket isn't upside-down. This Republican will have no doubt.


Tuesday, July 31, 2007

How the News Works

So there I was, 4:30 am, sitting on the sofa with a 2-month old in my arms. She had woken up coughing because of a cold my other daughter had given her. (We try very hard to teach our children not to be selfish - woo-hoo! Parenting success!!). Around 5 am all the local stations switched over to their Traffic! News! Weather! early morning stations. (I'm a morning person, but how do you look so cheerful at frickin' 5 am?)

Anyway, one of the little news stories that caught my attention was the local tv station reporting on the NYT Op-Ed the other day by the Brookings Institution scholars O'Hanlon and Pollack arguing that the surge currently underway in Iraq could work and we ought not start hightailing it out of there. People will disagree, naturally, but tell me, when was the last time you heard on your local tv news a report on something written in an Op-Ed page? Pretty interesting, it seems to me.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

The Positive Side of Sports

While it has been a rather bleak summer for American sports fan, it is nice to see something positive happening on a soccer field that has good repercussions beyond the mere game. Iraq defeated Saudi Arabia in the Asian Cup leading to men running in the streets of Iraq.

The jubilation over the team known as the "Lions of the Two Rivers" gave Iraqis a rare respite from the daily violence. The victorious run sent men of all ages cheering and dancing in the streest in what politiicans said was a show of unity that proved Iraqi factions could come together.

Sure, it's a small victory, but small victories matter in sports and in culture. Sorry, Myra Fleener, it's not just a game . . .. Let's hope for more victories for the Iraqi national team.

Thursday, July 26, 2007


I noted where the producers of the upcoming tv show based on the Geico "cavemen" commercials were defending themselves against the suggestion that the characters in the series are sort of stand-ins for racial minorities.

I'm sort of surprised this hasn't shown up before. Commercials and now a tv series where the main characters are these rather swarthy, "less-evolved" guys who are the butts of jokes? Why hasn't Al Sharpton been out front and center? Doesn't Jesse know an opportunity when he sees it? I'm sure the tv studios would be happy to shovel some cash these guys' way to keep 'em quiet. It's very disappointing.

In any case, I'm sure it will be a big hit. Seinfeld. Friends. Cavemen. How could it possibly lose? Maybe next season they can make a tv show out of one of those crazy used-car salesmen I see on the tube. It'd be brilliant...

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Pleased as Punch & Tickled Pink

David Bloch joins thenewswalk.com front page today. David is a partner at one of America's most prestigious law firms, a rock'n'roller, and an all-around good guy. Plus he's a little weird (as his affection for H.P. Lovecraft attests), so he should fit right in around here.

The pleasure is ours, David, and welcome.

Postscript (in praise of S.T. Joshi)

I also should say, publicly and for the record, that S. T. Joshi, America's foremost Lovecraft scholar, deserves a medal or a MacArthur grant or an endowed chair at Harvard or something. I suspect his politics are at sharp variance with mine, and I know his reasonably militant atheism would rub many members of this group the wrong way . . . but he has brilliantly rehabilitated Lovecraft in the eyes of the scholarly community. And he has thought deeply and well about the philosophical implications of weird fiction generally, and of Lovecraft's "cosmic terror" more specifically.

The "cosmic" perspective--the idea of human insignificance--is a philosophically-legitimate grounding for the atheist's world-view. It is far more convincing, at least to me, than Selfish Gene-style evolutionary reductionism. Evolution doesn't necessarily exclude religion, though it tends strongly to favor Deism; but man's existential insignificance, as expressed powerfully by Lovecraft, generally does. It's hard to give much credence to the notion that a loving God has a plan for every field mouse and every cold virus. . . So I can see how Joshi's studies of Lovecraft might have led him toward atheism (or, conversely, why he might have been attracted to Lovecraft in the first place). I think this tends to sit uneasily with Joshi's Left-of-center political beliefs (at least, insofar as I can ascertain them), but--hey--no one ever said scholars need to be consistent.

(Joshi edited the Machen book I mentioned in my previous post; and I thought I'd publicly acknowledge my admiration for him here.)

A brief meditation on the press (or, Machen on the MSM)

Arthur Machen was a turn-of-the-century (by which I mean turn-of-the-Nineteenth-Century) writer of weird fiction. He never really made much of an impact in his own right, but was a significant influence on H.P. Lovecraft. Lovecraft, of course, is now recognized as being one of the greatest writers America has produced; he got his volume in the Library of America in 2005.

So it's in that spirit that I've been reading some of Machen's work. And in "The Terror," he writes:
Now a censorship that is sufficiently minute and utterly remorseless can do amazing things in the way of hiding . . . what it wants to hide. Before the war [WW I], one would have thought otherwise; one would have said that, censor or no censor, the fact of the murder at X or the fact of the bank robbery at Y would certainly become known; if not through the press, at all events through rumour and the passage of the news from mouth to mouth. And this would be true--of England three hundred years ago, and of savage tribelands of to-day. But we have grown of late to such a reverence for the printed word and such a reliance on it, that the old faculty of disseminating news by word of mouth has become atrophied. Forbid the press to mention the fact that Jones has been murdered, and of those who hear how few will credit the story that they have heard. You meet a man in the train who remarks that he has been told something about a murder in Southwark; there is all the difference in the world between the impression you receive from such a chance communication and that given by half a dozen lines in print with name, and street and date and all the facts of the case. People in trains repeat all sorts of tales, many of them false; newspapers do not print accounts of murders that have not been committed.

(Arthur Machen, The Terror & Other Stories, pp. 3-4, Chaosium ed. 2005.)

Now, "The Terror" turns in part on the idea that information about strange murders is being suppressed by wartime censors, so I guess we should take Machen's comments with a grain of salt. And "The Terror" was originally published in serial form in the London Evening News, so there's something self-serving about the comment, too. Still, I think the comment is valid as a general statement about the state of information dispersal and retrieval throughout the 20th Century.

Clearly, we're seeing a shift away from that paradigm in the early years of the 21st Century. Is our reliance on multiple, dispersed, often low-trust sources of information (as Hugh Hewitt characterizes the blogosphere) sui generis, or instead a reversion to humankind's historic ways of gathering data and assessing facts? Machen's not definitive, by any means, but there's a sense in which his language suggests that it's the 20th Century's near-exclusive reliance on print (or, more broadly, "official") media that represents the true anomaly.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Calling King Solomons

Via the Associated Press, we have the latest in litigating the perversions of the natural law:

In what is being called a "wrongful birth" case, a jury awarded more than $21 million Monday to a couple who claimed a doctor misdiagnosed a severe birth defect in their son, leading them to have a second child with similar problems.

Daniel and Amara Estrada, whose two young sons aren't able to communicate and need constant care, sought at least enough money to care for the second child, 2-year-old Caleb.

The couple claimed that Dr. Boris Kousseff failed to diagnose their first son's genetic disorder, called Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome, which is the inability to correctly produce or synthesize cholesterol, after his 2002 birth.

Had the disorder been correctly diagnosed, a test would have indicated whether the couple's second child also was afflicted and they would have terminated the pregnancy, according to the lawsuit.

The nub is that the genetic mistake who is Caleb Estrada would simply have been erased in his mother's womb, if only they had known. I imagine the philosopher-king Solomon would've offered the plaintiffs the choice of killing the baby now or surrendering him to the protection of the state, and we all know how that one would come out.

Still, these are strange days and they'll continue to get stranger as science and modern philosophy stand astride nature yelling, "Go!" Moral judgments must keep up with the times:

The doctor clearly committed medical malpractice, which is bad, and in their defense, the Estradas putatively want to raise Caleb in their family environment---putatively with as much love and respect for his human dignity as they can shower on him---which is good.

As for the legal details, by Florida statute since a state institution was involved, Caleb's parents cannot collect $21+ million, only $200,000. Their lawyer hopes for a way around that---by custom and practice he gets one-third, but that's OK. Despite the perverted circumstances, I say justice is served, although $200K is too low but $21M could care for a number of Calebs, so you have to wonder what the jury was up to.

Ah, for the day when two mothers, one baby, and a philosopher-king with a sword made for a relatively easily-solvable equation. The challenge of this age is a lot tougher.


Monday, July 23, 2007

The Wicked Witch of the West

"These are public airwaves and the public should be entitled to a fair presentation," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who is considering whether the Fairness Doctrine should be restored.

Oh, please. She's not "considering" anything. The ineffable DiFi wants it back in full force precisely because she wants to shut Limbaugh and all the others up, particularly given that Air America and the other left-wing wannabees can't seem to compete.

Free speech? That's the last thing on DiFi's list of concerns. As is the rest of the Bill of Rights, which DiFi has made a career of shredding. The first amendment: She loves campaign finance "reform" (incumbent protection from criticism and competitors) and the Fairness Doctrine. The second amendment: She loves gun control. OK, as best as I can tell, she's never attempted to erode the third amendment on the quartering of soldiers in peacetime. The fourth amendment: DiFi loves the drug war, the no-knock searches and all the rest. The fifth amedment: She's a great believer in using federal prosecution in cases in which the state and local prosecutors don't get convictions; and forget about all that due process crap, as DiFi is a staunch supporter of the forfeiture laws and takings for her constituencies. The sixth amendment: Has DiFi ever tried to do something about the plea bargain racket, in which prosecutors threaten the innocent and the almost-innocent so as to coerce guilty pleas on lesser charges? Well, actually, no; how are we gonna do something about narcotics unless we break some eggs? The seventh amendment: She has done nothing about the litigation lottery and the habit of many, many judges to allow the manipulation of juries with fraudent testimony. The eight amendment: You can't fight a war on drugs without filling the prisons with nonviolent drug offenders. The ninth amendment: DiFi doesn't believe even in the right to keep and bear arms, let alone any unenumerated rights. The tenth amendment: DiFi is a staunch supporter of federalism. Yeah, right.

But, the press treats her like a statesman. Oh, by the way, DiFi also believes strongly in her right to use her committee assignments to enrich her husband. But of course. After all, there's nothing in the Bill of Rights about that.