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

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Nearly Half of Americans...

think that the US is in a recession, according to this CNN poll. Gee, I wonder why?

When I teach democratic theory, I'm often tempted to try and structure a class with the expressed goal of convincing my students that democracy is a bad form of government. Instead, I usually just have a class or two on some of the more profound critiques (Plato, mostly) and usually offer my "Britney Spears" critique as well. What's the "Britney Spears critique"? Well, it's pretty simple: lots of people thought that she was talented and interesting enough to make her fabulously wealthy, wealthier than I will ever be. But in fact she's a no-talent hack who made lots of money basically by playing up the naughty/innocent schoolgirl routine and conning millions of Americans (and folks worldwide, I'm sure) into forking over their money. Why in the world should we trust those same people to govern themselves if they can't even choose decent music or entertainment?

Friday, October 12, 2007

Crashing the Inquest

Have you been following the Paris inquest into the passing of the late Princess of Wales, Lady Diana? I find it to be the most fascinating exercise. As an opinion journalist I have nothing to add to the record itself; no bravura pronouncements, no penetrating insights, no whizbang deductions, no counterintuitive analysis. But as a person, as a student of life, I see here an earth-shattering event of Biblical proportions. I see the Tower of Babel, Jacob wrestling the angel and Moses demanding to know why he was sent.
This is mankind railing against Fate, rebelling against majesty, trying to put romanticism before Romance, literalism before literature. There is such rage against her death not because it was illogical and jarring, but because it was so sharply logical that it shouts out the dominance of a higher order.
Consider. Diana accepted the proposal of Charles, Prince of Wales, and was apotheosized in a grandiose processional marriage seen by most of humankind. She could do no wrong with the British populace ever after, her visage on that magic day holding them in thrall. She bore two princes, one of them a potential king. She made various formal appearances, generally true to her depiction of the aethereal fairy-tale princess.
Suddenly things went awfully awry. Word came that people were drinking and drugging and straying, that Diana was bucking Buckingham. Then the usual tawdry palace affairs, the princess with the equestrian and the prince with a married noblewoman. Butlers and valets and lady’s maids were talking to the tabloids, and relationships deteriorated all around. Charles’ brother Andrew married a similar woman, affectionately dubbed Fergie, and their marriage followed about the same pattern. Eventually everyone decided to give bills of divorce all around and the madness settled into a routine that came to simulate normalcy.
To make matters worse, or more sordid anyway, an audio tape surfaced with Charles and his paramour cooing at each other in the sort of amorous jargon for which privacy was invented. Once and for all it could be said that Charles had humiliated Diana, Diana had humiliated Charles, both of them had humiliated their parents and their children, and all this was true regardless of who could be faulted in the breakdown and the breakup.
Still, all the dirt was royal dirt. Pathetic, derivative, cliché, history-repeating-itself (to the point that Camilla introduced herself to Charles by reminding him her grandmother was his grandfather’s mistress), boring dirt, but within the traditional gamut of royal obliviousness and stupidity. Everyone could still walk around pretending no change of substance had occurred. There may have been a few extra princesses in the deck, but all that was still ace.
Then suddenly Diana is dating a pretender, a nobody, a nothing, a rich Arab living off his father’s dubious money, an international playboy, a man without purpose, without talent, without credentials, without substance, without depth, what the old Yiddish speakers used to call “a pusteh keli (empty vessel)”. His father had assumed ownership of Harrod’s with money whose provenance could not be traced, making numerous representations about himself and his family that all proved false when probed. So the gadabout son of a spurious financier wins the heart of the princess: whuh?
On the day she died, he died, they died, her beau slipped off into the jewelers to pick up the magnificent engagement ring he would present. Who knows what blood ran over that diamond, what sweat of the downtrodden, what tears of the oppressed, what heinous fraud, what vile treachery, what inequity and iniquity? That was Romance? Bull, Lady Love shunned Lady Diana that night, just as Cupid scorned the cupidity of her suitor.
It was not possible for this world, if it is indeed a created place, a place of purpose and dignity, a place where kingship confers a spiritual stature, where majesty is a reflection of godliness, to suffer such an affront. Fate cried out in anguish, Romance wilted in despair, Poetry waxed plaintive and Literature was florid in protest. This could not stand.
In his new book, biographer David Michaelis explains why Charles Schulz died on the day his farewell Peanuts strip was published. “To the very end his life had been inseparable from his art. In the moment of ceasing to be a cartoonist, he ceased to be.” How much more true is that of a princess! The day she ceased to be a princess is the day she ceased to be. And now, if you don’t mind, I will bang the gavel. Inquest concluded.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

The Odd and Interesting World that is Academics

Academia is a strange place. There's really no other way to describe it. I was perusing the job announcements at the Chronicle of Higher Education and came across this announcement for a job at the University of Ottawa. (Not really interested in living in the northern reaches of the American Cultural Empire, but gotta look anyway...) Now, most job announcements have the typical boilerplate about especially wanting minorities and women to apply, but this one had a bit of a different wrinkle. It says: "The University of Ottawa is committed to diversity and encourages applications from women, aboriginal peoples, members of visible minorities and persons with disabilities." (emphasis added)

"Visible" minorities? Why add the "visible"? What sort of work is that doing?

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Is Fred Really This Good?

I recently here asked the question “Is Fred Thompson Really That Bad?” in response to a withering attack by Dick Morris. You would have thought that Thompson was the worst candidate in the history of the world. Thompson has his defenders, but it seems from the Beltway buzz that he’s toast. It’s nice to see a different perspective on Thompson that comes to different conclusions.

A piece in The American Thinker this weekend was just that, and more. J. Peter Mulhern believes that not only will Fred win the nomination, but that he’s a lock to win the presidency. I don’t think many people share his confidence, but his points are worth considering because we’ll have a choice in three or four months, and we want to make sure we put the best horse in the race to take on the Clinton machine.

Some of the criticism claims that Thompson is too laid back. The contrast with Guiliani couldn’t be more stark, but given the environment could laid back be more appealing to the general electorate? Mulhern tries to make that case. A liberal writer in the New York Magazine thinks that Giuliani is too much like the current administration in his bellicose pronouncements, so maybe a calmer appeal may be more attractive to most apolitical voters.

Seeing these two in debates as the voting nears will be very interesting (the first is next Tuesday in Michigan). There will be a lot to consider who will best represent the conservative cause before we cast our vote. I agree with Mulhern that McCain and Romney probably are not it, but of the other two I’m not sure.

Thursday, September 27, 2007


Are you Yankee or Dixie? Here's the quiz. I'm 81% Dixie...Mr. Watson?

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Jena Six: This Tangled Web We've Weaved

I'm not much for reblogging, but the mainstream media has done a crap job of putting forth the full facts about the current goings-on in Jena, Louisiana, and this gentlewoman of the left has done a conscientious job of trying to suss it all out for us.

Look, this is the sort of Jim Crow town where the white barbershop discourages black customers because the white regulars don't want their hair cut using the same tools. True story, according to Newsweek.

There are no good guys here: the Jena Six kicked the pus out of some white boy with their Adidas (not jackboots). But they were charged with attempted murder even though said Caucasian attended a school function that very night.

And I'm not an advocate of "hate crimes" legislation, but leading up to this, the new black kid in Jena sat himself one day under the tree where the white kids usually hung out. The next day, three nooses dangled from the tree.

Now, it's largely unknown by American Caucasoids, but as a result of the thousands of lynchings in the Bad Old Days, especially in the bad Old South, the symbolism of the noose drives black folk more nuts than even a burning cross. Let us not forget Clarence Thomas's dissent in the Virginia cross-burning case of Virginia v. Black, where the majority allowed it under "freedom of speech." Thomas saw it differently, that the symbol was “intended to cause fear and terrorize a population.”

The kids who hung the nooses received a slap on the wrist---high spirits, a prank---and it was this that led to the escalation of racial tensions in Jena, Louisiana.

Now maybe some stupid kids somewhere could spraypaint a swastika on a synagogue as a relatively brainless and harmless prank because they don't fully understand what that means, but it defies the imagination that kids in a town where they don't cut black people's hair in a white barbershop are equally ignorant of the meaning of the noose. It just doesn't figure.

Now, the GOP has been MIA on this one, and I think they (we) are missing our own Sister Souljah moment in this. The facts are complicated, but something surely stinks in Jena that cannot just be explained away. The GOP---the Party of Lincoln---is now popularly known, and not unfairly, as the party of racism, because it took the Dixiecrats in, the 1960s Democrats who fought tooth and nail against integration and civil rights.

Now mebbe if the GOP stood up against the stink in Jena, some of its noose-hanging voters might stay home in 2008. Perhaps it might cost the next election. But this is a Wilberforce moment, and a missed opportunity to stand up for the principle of human dignity, from which all the rest of our principles flow.


Editor's Note: TVD will be on leave for the next few weeks, recording the album he's been threatening to inflict on the world for quite some time now. In the meantime, his co-contributors will continue to pick up his considerable slack.