Tuesday, November 30, 2004
Chesterton on Morality in Art
"The truth is that [the inability to understand the complex view of morality presented in a book like Tom Jones] mark[s] a certain change in the general view of morals; not, I think, a change for the better. We have grown to associate morality in a book with a kind of optimism and prettiness; according to us, a moral book is a book about moral people. But the old idea was almost exactly the opposite; a moral book was a book about immoral people. A moral book was full of pictures like Hogarth's 'Gin Lane' or 'Stages of Cruelty,' or it recorded, like the popular broadsheet, 'God's dreadful judgment' against some blasphemer or murderer. There is a philosophical reason for this change. The homeless scepticism of our time has reached a sub-conscious feeling that morality is somehow merely a matter of human taste—an accident of psychology. And if goodness only exists in certain human minds, a man wishing to praise goodness will naturally exaggerate the amount of it that there is in human minds or the number of human minds in which it is supreme. Every confession that man is vicious is a confession that virtue is visionary. Every book which admits that evil is real is felt in some vague way to be admitting that good is unreal. The modern instinct is that if the heart of man is evil, there is nothing that remains good. But the older feeling was that if the heart of man was ever so evil, there was something that remained good—goodness remained good. An actual avenging virtue existed outside the human race; to that men rose, or from that men fell away. Therefore, of course, this law itself was as much demonstrated in the breach as in the observance. If Tom Jones violated morality, so much the worse for Tom Jones. Fielding did not feel, as a melancholy modern would have done, that every sin of Tom Jones was in some way breaking the spell, or we may even say destroying the fiction of morality. Men spoke of the sinner breaking the law; but it was rather the law that broke him. And what modern people call the foulness and freedom of Fielding is generally the severity and moral stringency of Fielding. He would not have thought that he was serving morality at all if he had written a book all about nice people. Fielding would have considered Mr. Ian Maclaren extremely immoral; and there is something to be said for that view. Telling the truth about the terrible struggle of the human soul is surely a very elementary part of the ethics of honesty. If the characters are not wicked, the book is. This older and firmer conception of right as existing outside human weakness and without reference to human error can be felt in the very lightest and loosest of the works of old English literature. It is commonly unmeaning enough to call Shakspere a great moralist; but in this particular way Shakspere is a very typical moralist. Whenever he alludes to right and wrong it is always with this old implication. Right is right, even if nobody does it. Wrong is wrong, even if everybody is wrong about it."
I strongly endorse Chesterton's analysis given here, and I believe that only when our critics are once again able to address the moral implications of literature in a sophisticated manner, and our authors openly analyze the moral choices of their characters with reference to some standard outside their own personal tastes, will our society, and indeed our civilization, have any hope of being thought fully healthy.
A Different Angle on Creation
David Brooks Straightens Things Out . . .
Learning from Lewis
Colson offers an unusual but quite correct and astute explanation of what made Lewis such a great thinker: Lewis was not an evangelical—
"Why was Lewis so uncannily prophetic? At first glance he seems an unlikely candidate. He was not a theologian; he was an English professor. What was it that made him such a keen observer of cultural and intellectual trends?
"The answer may be somewhat discomfiting to modern evangelicals: One reason is precisely that Lewis was not an evangelical. He was a professor in the academy, with a specialty in medieval literature, which gave him a mental framework shaped by the whole scope of intellectual history and Christian thought. As a result, he was liberated from the narrow confines of the religious views of the day—which meant he was able to analyze and critique them. . . .
"The problem is not that modern evangelicals are less intelligent than Lewis. As Mark Noll explains in his book The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, the problem is that our sharpest intellects have been channeled into biblical scholarship, exegesis, and hermeneutics. While that is a vital enterprise, we rarely give the same scholarly attention to history, literature, politics, philosophy, economics, or the arts. As a result, we are less aware of the culture than we should be, less equipped to defend a biblical worldview, and less capable of being a redemptive force in our postmodern society—less aware, as well, of the threats headed our way from cultural elites."
American Evangelical Christians have been unsurpassed in their enthusiasm for C. S. Lewis, and they are to be commended for that. However, as Colson points out, they still have a lot to learn from him. For starters, I should like to point the evangelicals to Martin Luther's Two Kingdoms theology for a very reliable way out of the labyrinth.
Unsophisticated, Left-Wing Whispering . . .
Monday, November 29, 2004
More Economic "Analysis" from the 1980s
It was obvious to all of us little people (OK, ignore my waistline) that Ronald Reagan---steadfast in the counterinflation fight and firmly in favor of reductions in marginal tax rates---had created economic conditions in which rising investment demand drove up real interest rates and created a current account deficit, both of which outcomes were highly salutary. That the Beltway geniuses and the conventional wisdom soothsayers were blind to such simple realities was amusing.
The Many Magnificent Wonders of the Current Account Deficit
"Mr. Greenspan's assumed two-way link between current account deficit and the dollar bothers me most (aside from the stubbornly silly 'twin deficit' and 'hard landing' fables).
"In this story, the trade deficit makes the dollar go down, and the falling dollar then cures the trade deficit which, presumably, must make the dollar go back up -- thus causing a trade deficit which makes the dollar go down again, and so on. I once described this as voodoo economics in the Wall Street Journal.
"In the early '80s, however, Alan Greenspan and Marty Feldstein accused President Reagan of causing the current account deficit because budget deficits made the dollar (and interest rates) go UP! Now the same devilish budget deficit is said to make the dollar go DOWN. Up, down, who cares? The main thing is to fret and gripe about something. The solution, of course, is always the same -- higher taxes. Only the problems change."
We look forward to Alan's full analysis of the varying accounts of the causes and effects of the current account deficit.
A Reason to be Thankful!
Trailing Edge Film Review: THE INCREDIBLES
The Incredibles is a compelling action-driven story with a better portrayal of super powers than I’ve ever seen. Mr. Incredible’s super strength, ElastiGirl’s super-flexibility, Dash’s super-speed, and Violet’s invisibility and force fields are all played to maximum effect. At the same time, the personalities, family roles, and ages of the different characters are also well-utilized to involve the viewer. This film has pace, depth, and delivers a satisfying conclusion. In short, it is a virtual can’t miss for the movie fan looking for a diverting way to spend a couple of hours.
For those who like to examine a film for message, there is also much to be explored here. The first main theme is the importance of accepting excellence and the benefits and drawbacks that arise from it. The superheroes have been put out of business through a combination of envy and lawsuit harassment that put me much in mind of the plight of physicians in America. The second theme is family. Director/writer Bird shows great concern for the enduring value of the intact family with married mother and father.
Given that I’m no great shakes as a film critic, here’s hoping our true expert, Mr. S.T. Karnick will step in with his analysis at some point.
Saturday, November 27, 2004
Welcome, David Gold Listeners
Why the Reform Club
America the Liberal
Liberals and War
We hope that you will enjoy your time here and return often to join in our ongoing discussion of where America is going, and why. Best w's, STK
Friday, November 26, 2004
An Unscientific Observation . . .
1. These guys are fundamentalists!
2. They're sneaking God inside a Trojan Horse!
3. We're right because we have to be right!
I'm just an observer in all of this. Would I be pleased to see a materialist shibboleth like hard-core evolutionary theory cut down a peg? Sure. Is it that big of a deal to me? No. What really interests me is the degree of repression and intimidation that is directed against anyone who disputes the party line. Like I say, I think there's blood in the water.
Wednesday, November 24, 2004
Roughness and Toughness
Roughness signifies the willingness to force others to submit to your will. A rough man, as signified by the term roughneck, won't take anything from anybody. He'll fight for what he thinks is his, and often for what is not his but which he merely wants. He is willing to do to others whatever harm is necessary to achieve his goals.
Toughness signifies the tendency to accept punishment from the world. A tough man is one who seeks to do what is right, and recognizing that not everybody else is into that same pursuit, knows that he will have to receive much trouble for his attempts to do good. A tough man will take a lot of abuse rather than do what he knows to be wrong. A tough man lives by the rules, and doesn't look to force other people to do his bidding, including those times when he knows others are doing wrong. He would rather accept unfair abuse himself than visit well-deserved pain on someone else.
(To me, Jesus Christ is the highest example of a tough man.)
Young men, you might well ask yourself which of these types of man you aspire to be. Young women, you might well inquire of yourself which of these types of man you would like to be with.
Until more of us aspire to the right ideals, our society will continue to deteriorate.
Moral Reasoning and Disrespect
"It is the moral reasoning -- the ability to factor in social grace, empathy, future ramifications, justice, and responsibility -- that eludes Artest. As it does so many other athletes. And fans.
"Indeed, what if Stern is trying to change what is seemingly the biggest cultural constraint of all: what it means to be a man? The new concept of 'disrespect'?
"You can push any rational man only so far, and then he must fight back or lose all self-esteem. But is that self-esteem called into play every time someone bumps into you, calls you a bad name, douses you with beer?
"'I think it starts at a very young age,' [sports agent Mark] Bartelstein said. 'I see things that I can't believe at AAU games and the like. Players are not competing, they're trying to embarrass the person they're playing against. No one's held accountable, because if you're a great player, someone will always find a rationale to have you on the team.
"'After a touchdown or a dunk, you're proving your manhood. It's a culture that is all about embarrassing someone or calling attention to yourself instead of just competing. It's incredible.' Changing that, commissioner Stern, will be a lot harder than making someone take a pill."
Welcome American Spectator Readers . . .
Hope you found the book review of Uncommon Dissent challenging and uplifting. The debate over the neo-Darwinian synthesis is heating up. The itinerant pastors who once debated scientists are being replaced by, well, scientists. If you're really interested in following current developments, I recommend you visit the Discovery Institute online.
Tuesday, November 23, 2004
The Denigration of Self-Control
The NBA has devolved over the years increasingly into a series of mano a mano combats, with the rules being continuously bent to allow the kind of presumably dramatic one-on-one confrontations between the man with the ball and a defender. Rough, physical play has been characterized as a test of every player's manhood. To back down from a confrontation is construed as a sign of weakness, not praised as a laudable instance of self-control. This sort of false toughness has been the sine qua non of the league in the past couple of decades, and team play on the offensive end has indeed thus been deemphasized. It is also why so few players can actually shoot a basketball with any accuracy: that's sissy stuff. Dunking the ball is what really shows them who's your daddy.
The league has actually done a good job of keeping the number of player fights to a minimum, but the atmosphere of the game has increasingly become one of barely controlled mayhem. When the audiences learn from such a culture and react as they have seen these wealthy celebrities do, it should hardly surprise anybody.
Terry Mattingly Gets Religion . . .
Nevertheless, it's time to face the facts, said Roy Peter Clark, senior scholar at the Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Fla.
"I am now taking seriously the theory that we mainstream journalists are different from mainstream America. 'Different' is too pale a word. We are alienated. We may live in the same country, but we treat each other like aliens," he said, in an essay called "Confessions of an Alienated Journalist."
"The churched people who embrace Bush, in spite of a bumbling war and a stumbling economy, are more than alien to me. They are invisible. ... My blind spots blot out half of America. And that makes me less of a citizen, and less of a journalist."
As a Catholic progressive, Clark said he finds it hard to hear "moral values" without thinking of "showy piety and patriotism, with more than a dash of racism and homophobia." He knows all about "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" and Bubba the Love Sponge. How come so many other Americans know what it means to be "evangelical," "charismatic" and "born again" and feel at home at church suppers?
Right now, there needs to be "more self-doubt in the journalistic system, as opposed to arrogance," said Clark, reached at his office. "We need to be able to say that we don't know it all and that we need to learn. We need to take a step back."
As one of my old co-laborers in the computer board manufacturing plant used to say, "Ain't dat da dayumn truth?"
The Terrible State of Bioethics
"The most radical experiment, still not conducted, would be to inject human stem cells into an animal embryo and then transfer that chimeric embryo into an animal's womb. Scientists suspect the proliferating human cells would spread throughout the animal embryo as it matured into a fetus and integrate themselves into every organ.
Such "humanized" animals could have countless uses. They would almost certainly provide better ways to test a new drug's efficacy and toxicity, for example, than the ordinary mice typically used today.
But few scientists are eager to do that experiment. The risk, they say, is that some human cells will find their way to the developing testes or ovaries, where they might grow into human sperm and eggs. If two such chimeras — say, mice — were to mate, a human embryo might form, trapped in a mouse.
Not everyone agrees that this would be a terrible result.
"What would be so dreadful?" asked Ann McLaren, a renowned developmental biologist at the University of Cambridge in England. After all, she said, no human embryo could develop successfully in a mouse womb. It would simply die, she told the academy. No harm done."
You can read the full story about animals infused with human cells at MSNBC.
Atkins and South Beach Are Krispy Kreeming Me!
It’s time for a budding Ralph Nader to come out with the definitive expose’ on Atkins and South Beach. I can see it now. This young crusader will report being followed by women munching on slices of sandwich meat and broccoli bits. Eventually, he’ll bring the whole sordid enterprise down around their ears and my poor Krispy Kreme shares will surge forward as waves of good feeling wash over the pasta and donut-starved masses.
Criminals on the Courts
George Neumayr notes, in today's American Spectator, that a surprisingly large percentage of NBA players have rap sheets; in a recent season, "40% of them had been arrested for crimes ranging from rape to armed robbery to domestic violence." Newmayr quotes an author who observed, "For many players, encounters with law-enforcement officials represent the rare instance of someone telling them no."
That is exactly the case, and it is the source of the rising thuggishness in that league. Moreover, it is true for countless other individuals who never make it to the pro leagues but are cosseted, indulged, babied, given every break, and almost never held accountable for their actions, simply because some school hopes to bask in the reflected glory of their athletic achievements. They are consequently thrust into the world with entirely unrealistic expectations of what consequences their actions should be expected to bring.
Athletic achievements are quite real and perfectly laudable, of course, but the idea that one's positive accomplishments should earn one a "get out of jail free" card is highly damaging both to the individuals thus indulged and to those with whom they come in contact. The same sort of immunity is routinely granted to entertainment figures and other celebrities. Celebrity is in some ways the very best form of currency: it brings money, social status, allure, a certain amount of immunity from the law, and other such magical powers.
On the social level, however, the admiration of celebrity for its own sake brings disaster. To create a class of people to whom the ordinary laws do not apply is to create an aristocracy, and to concoct one that is not taught a strong sense of responsibility toward those less fortunate than themselves—in fact, one that feels something indistinguishable from contempt for the rest of society—invariably breeds public resentment and, eventually, a thirst for revenge, a desire to take those people down a notch. That is certainly at least part of what was going on last Friday night in the aptly named Palace at Auburn Hills.
Monday, November 22, 2004
Stern Lives Up to His Namesake + Freedom and Virtue
The correction of players will not help with the fan problem, though. Might we see the day a barrier has to be put in place between fans and the action? Will spectators need to be informed that they will be photographed on the way in and held accountable for any untoward acts during the game? If anyone ever told you freedom and virtue walk hand in hand, this is what they meant. If we are not virtuous, we will not have freedom. Either our virtues or our enforcement abilities will become paramount. Here’s hoping moral reconstruction can prevail.
Saturday, November 20, 2004
Civilization and Savagery
We have become all too accustomed to the sight of people running rampant in our society, as in the massively destructive "celebrations" that commonly pop up in cities whose major team has just won a championship of some sort or other. But this was a regular-season game, and not a very close one, though hard-fought. People seem to find it all too easy to slip out of control today, and we are not going to be able to wish this problem away.
The only real solution is going to be to reconstitute a society that insists that people be at the very least civilized.
But that will not happen, of course, until we openly value civilization.
This is not mainly a law-enforcement problem, it is a philosophical problem.
These people are just acting on what they have been taught. For the past half-century, our schools, laws, and pop and elite culture have all, to an increasing degree, heaped scorn on the very notion of civilization, the belief that some ways of life are better than others—and then we are somehow alarmed when people act like savages.
Simple law-enforcement tactics will help somewhat, but they cannot do it all; they are in fact only a final line of defense. Events like last night's riot should remind us of what a thin line separates civilization from savagery, and that it is not all blue but in fact mostly black and white, and that the ideas we hold, and the ideas we teach, have enormous consequences.
Friday, November 19, 2004
Friday Afternoon DVD Recommendation
Getting the Christian Right, Right.
Thursday, November 18, 2004
TV Networks, Boohoo
The first thing I thought about this situation was that there would have been little or no trouble if the player involved had been caucasian and not a jackass. Having the odious self-promoter Terrell Owens and the formerly gorgeous but now ghastly Nicolette Sheridan in an embrace while the latter is presumably naked was definitely a damfool thing to do.
Several prominent African-Americans such as Tony Dungy, head coach of the Indianapolis Colts, have pointed out that the use of a black NFL player--rather than, say, a white owner or coach--plays into some decidedly revolting stereotypes about both athletes and black American males. And I could not agree more: immorality is not the exclusive province of any racial or professional group.
Moreover and more importantly, irresponsible behavior--such as a player skipping part of a game (in a sport where he is paid literally millions of dollars per year) so as to indulge in a momentary dalliance with a female fan, is not the slightest bit amusing, nor is it something most young males (a good part of the Monday Night Football audience) will understand as clever satire. Especially because it was neither clever nor satire.
Leftists in the press, for their part, have been boohooing over the fact that several TV stations refused to show Saving Private Ryan, Steven Spielberg's gory and boring WWII epic, supposedly in fear of having the FCC question their licenses. The specter of Censorship has thus descended on the nation.
Pardon me, however, if I do not panic. The TV networks, after all, do use the public airwaves to purvey their product. And if you use public land to graze your cattle, you have to abide by the rules for use of that land. Nobody objects to that. But put a little fake journalism on the airwaves--as the networks do for approximately a half-hour a day--and suddenly everything you do on the public airwaves is seen as sacred and beyond criticism, let alone censorship.
The very same people on the networks, and their phony civil-libertarian flacks (who have no such enthusiasm for, say, protecting the free expression of religion in the public square), who complain so vociferously about this immiment danger of censorship (which never seems to arrive, as it happens), are the same ones who are so intensely critical of what, say, oil companies, lumber firms, and airlines are allowed to do on public lands. Yet the latter at least produce something that is real and cannot be obtained in any other way. What the TV networks do is entirely redundant: other media deliver entertainment and information just as well.
But even that blatant expression of hypocrisy is not the full measure of the networks' chutzpah. No, remember that just a half-dozen years ago the Clinton administration gave the networks a huge amount of the electromagnetic spectrum--the very scarce "land" in which the entire U.S. public sends and receives electronic messages--for free.
And yet these people invariably complain and shout censorship! when other citizens ask, not force, them to act like decent human beings every once in a while. Sorry, but I cannot call up much sympathy for them.
Wednesday, November 17, 2004
Easterbrook on the Politics of American Christians
J. Bottum wrote a similar piece on American Catholics before the election, "The Myth of the Catholic Voter," in the Weekly Standard, available here.
Easterbrook, however, is quite deceived when he writes the following: "Surely it has been bad for American political debate that, on September 11, the nation was attacked by an enemy issuing religious threats; this now seems to cause us to see the world in terms of religious threats. God-fearing conservative Christians are no threat, though some of them can, I'll admit, be pretty exasperating."
As I noted in yesterday's American Spectator, available here, the Left made its choice to jettison all but the most tame, Leftist Christians a long time ago, having in fact moved very far down that path by the early 1960s. To pretend that a confusion over the meaning of the September 11 attacks caused the Left to begin to view Christians with suspicion in recent years is just plain silly. As exemplified by the hysterical response to the brief rise of the Moral Majority, the terror instilled by Pat Robertson's presidential campaign, and the like, the American Left has viewed God-fearing conservative Christians as a threat for quite some time. This is not a momentary confusion, and it is a very big problem for the Democratic Party.
Easterbrook Helps Secular Lefties Take a Breath
“Many John Kerry supporters or George W. Bush opponents are angry about the results of the election and want to pin the blame on some sinister force. Politically conservative Christianity seems a good scapegoat because most of the media doesn't understand it. But politically conservative Christianity is not some unstoppable force--my guess would be that in today's United States, there are two politically moderate or liberal Christians for every one politically conservative Christian. Surely it has been bad for American political debate that, on September 11, the nation was attacked by an enemy issuing religious threats; this now seems to cause us to see the world in terms of religious threats. God-fearing conservative Christians are no threat, though some of them can, I'll admit, be pretty exasperating.”
People Learn What They're Taught
People learn what they're taught.
It explains rather a lot, actually.
A correspondent named Gus, on the spunky Chapin Nation site managed by our friend Bern Chapin, had the following thought which I think illustrates this maxim admirably:
"Thought For The Day
"I was having a conversation with a friend about breast cancer recently when I said that in the past year I had lost two women I had cared about very deeply, even loved, to that disease. Later it struck me that I haven't heard a woman talk about men they cared deeply about or, My God!, loved in a long, long, long time.
"Fire's post today explains part of the reason: the feminist delusion that the safe-guarding of women is the prime responsibility of society (and of course to make that really stick, you have to portray men as monsters) and that women have no responsibility when it comes to sexual harassment (walking around with your boobs hanging out, girls, is a form of sexual harassment) or domestic violence (verbally assaulting a man when you know he cannot hit you without incurring social punishment comes under domestic violence but of a more subtle kind. And there is that rapidly fading belief that all boys are bombarded with that boys should respect girls. I wonder if girls are taught the same thing about boys.)
"The legacy of the feminists like Betty Frieden and Gloria Steinem not to mention the real fruit-cakes like Germaine Greer and Mary Daly will be the same as Yassar Arafat's.
Hatred and the brutalization of people."
Teach one group of people to feel morally superior to and afraid of another group of people, and this is exactly what happens.
Tuesday, November 16, 2004
Wyatt Earp Was a Republican
Self-Congratulation in Political Defeat
Then again, maybe those "why I lost" speeches and columns aren't so bad. I'd certainly rather have Roy Barnes and Brad Carson justifying themselves in courageous defeat than standing in the well at the state or federal capitol justifying legislation.
Who Polarized Congress? Reagan the Liberal!
The article points out that this polarization is a result of the two parties having changed and solidified their fundamental ideas, which has worked greatly to the Republicans' advantage: "Reagan actually never shook off his core ideas of true (a.k.a. classical, Whig) liberalism. He never left the Democratic Party, Reagan always said, but instead the party left him; and just so, he never left liberalism, but instead modern liberalism left him. As a result, when Reagan ran for the presidency, he emphasized how much social disorder, economic stagnation, and social stratification harmed society's underdogs, taking up a traditionally Democratic theme and offering a highly plausible political alternative. As president, he acted on those premises, and was reelected overwhelmingly."
The Democrats reacted by digging in their heels, but they "would have been smarter to try to woo the evangelicals back into the fold by acknowledging them as underdogs, which would have been an easy, logical move to make. But this would have involved jettisoning the antireligious, ACLU wing of the party, along with the rest of the intellectual class, which they were by no means prepared to do.
"That decision, however, meant that the Democrats would openly become increasingly the party of the privileged classes, which would finally confirm the very role reversal the Republican had been trying to establish: the Republicans as the party of the search for ordered liberty, and the Democrats as the party of privilege, atheism, pacifism, and social and economic sclerosis."
That is where we are today, and it is largely a salutary change, as it brings a certain amount of clarity to the political situation. But there is a problem: the current divide "appears, however, to be an unmitigated disaster for the Democratic Party. The Republicans have their side staked out and seem fairly comfortable with it, despite some internal divisions—but the Democrats seem increasingly uncomfortable with theirs. African-Americans, suburban mothers, and union members, for example, do not share most of the values of the farther-Left side of their party. The three former groups adhere to the Democrat Party mainly for its traditional championing of the underdog, and they are by no means in it for a radical transformation of the American mind and society.
"That tension seems likely to remain until these persons either leave the party or take it over."
In addition, the Republican's current strength may tempt them toward policies that are politically unwise. Hence, "The presence of two strongly plausible political parties, each with a serious respect for the pursuit of both liberty and order both within the United States and in the international environment, would surely be much better than the current situation."
It will be up to the Democrats to change, however, given that the Republicans are benefitting greatly from the current situation.
You can read the full article at The American Spectator, here.
Continuing the Specter Meme
In the controversy over what to do about Arlen Specter, I have to side with Hugh Hewitt. Specter is not a conservative's conservative, but he has been willing to support conservative appointees to the court. Having him as the judiciary chairman will make it easier to avoid protracted battles over Supreme Court nominees. To some extent, Senators in the middle will feel that nominees okay with Specter are okay with them. Conversely, if Specter is removed, prepare to hear about how the process is now illegitimate. That's the last thing we want to hear, especially when shaping an institution like the court.
The way to go is to leave Specter in and nominate conservative legal giants like Michael McConnell and Alex Kosinzki. They are too prominent to fail the process and have avoided any excessive rhetoric.
Monday, November 15, 2004
Great Line from Walker Percy
"There's Hawkeye and Trapper John back in Korea. I never did like those guys. They fancied themselves super-decent and super-tolerant, but actually had no use for anyone who was not exactly like them. What they were was super-pleased with themselves. In truth, they were the real bigots, and phony at that."
The Vacuity of the Fundamentalist Label
Speaking of film and religion . . .
Sunday, November 14, 2004
Religion in Films
Saturday, November 13, 2004
GOP Voter Fraud? Uh, No.
Friday, November 12, 2004
Cut Flower Civilization: An Explanation
Novak Gives More Perspective
"For instance, La Repubblica (Nov.7), which I read on the plane, carries a front-page jump column by Eugenio Scalfari, its founder and publisher, under the title "Why We Cannot Call Ourselves Laicists." After confessing his own secular creed — the creed of the Enlightenment and the great principles of liberty, fraternity, and equality — he writes that this does not end the matter. He notes how the Christian idea of a duty to the most needy and vulnerable has undeniably influenced his creed, and how the Christian idea of giving to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's, is a necessary barrier to totalitarianism both Left and Right. The history of the European secular mind cannot be described simply as laicist, he insists, for it also includes a crucial source of light absorbed from Christian faith."
If you need help decoding, "Laicist" means uber secular. There are a few who realize that Christianity is deep in the mix of Western civilization and that Elton Trueblood's Cut Flower Civilization thesis may well be in danger of fully manifesting itself.
How the Enlightenment Really Dies . . .
"In a last attempt to save his life, a desperate Van Gogh reportedly pleaded with his attacker: "We can," he said, "still talk about it." Talk. Dialog. Reason. In response, savagery. The murderer sawed through Van Gogh's neck and spinal column with a butcher knife, almost severing his head. And that, Mr. Wills, is how Enlightenment dies."
Hopefully, the Van Gogh incident will help overwrought liberals understand the differences between murderers and those who might wish to employ democratic processes to reduce the number of abortions in the United States or have some say in the way marriage is defined.
From Dreaming to Dreaming, by Farpoint
Similarly attractive organ work adorns "Here and Now," which also has a fine lead vocal melody line and passionate singing performances by Ms. Oxendine and Clark Boone. "Sojourn" has a very interesting acoustic-guitar introduction and accompaniment to Boone's lead vocal, and Oxendine's overdubbed choral background is quite effective, as is her gorgeous, ethereal lead vocal in the bridge. The song also has a very beautiful instrumental passage featuring flute, synthesizer, and electric guitar. It is really quite moving.
The melodic inventiveness begins to flag a bit from this high point, so that tracks 8 and 9 are not as strong as the rest, but the band rebounds with very good work on the last two songs to send things home nicely. Some very appealing organ work by Kevin Jarvis and another appealing acoustic guitar accompaniment enliven "Ashley's Song (Sail On)," for example.
Boone's husky baritone voice is used more effectively than on the band's first two albums and has become a positive musical asset for the group. Frank Tyson's growling, grumbling bass guitar is highly expressive indeed and a standout aspect of the production. The percussion of Rick Walker matches him step for step, and the lead guitar work by Mike Givins is quite good if not overly original (which is hardly a criticism—who can really find something truly new to do on lead guitar these days?). Kevin Jarvis's keyboard work provides a solid foundation of melody and chord accompaniment, and his solos are reminiscent of those achieved by the great 1970s progressive bands. The lyrics deal with important matters, largely spiritual ones, in a mature and intelligent way, although, like nearly all popular-music lyrics, they are by no means poetry. The CD artwork is quite attractive as well.
Welcome Tech Central Station Readers!
Secession city by city . . .
My favorite part is the conclusion:
"No, the interesting thing about all the current secession talk is its similarity to the pre-Civil War era. At that time, an area of the country felt itself threatened by the impending loss of a key portion of its agrarian livelihood. Kicking and yelling, it resisted being dragged into the new industrial age.
"So what are the blue confederates kicking and screaming about? What well-nigh irresistible movement toward modernity do they refuse to recognize? Oh, I could name a few things."
Thursday, November 11, 2004
The Righteousness of Action in Iraq
Liberals and War
I think this an excellent question, and will offer a couple of points in answer. My Daily Standard piece was actually meant as a critique of the New York Times's approach to news analysis, not as a defense of Ashcroft. Note that I wrote "however much one might disagree with Ashcroft's actions as attorney general"; I am in fact one of those "one"s. My own position--which I published on www.vdare.com just a week after the September 11 attacks--is that the essential element in any internal U.S. measures against terrorism must start by recognizing the difference between citizens and noncitizens: the former have civil rights, and the latter absolutely do not. That, in my view, would still be a very good guide in how to approach these matters, and would have the advantage of being constitutional.
As to my friend's possibly being on the far Right, consider that by my own calculus I am a liberal. I am a liberal of the Right, aka a classical liberal. Another person on the Right could be either a conservative of the Right or a radical of the Right. See my first post for this site, "Why the Reform Club...", in the October archive, for a more detailed explanation.
I recognize that most modern-day libertarians classify themselves as classical liberals, but I don't think that most of them are exactly that--they would part from Burke and Smith and the other original Whigs in several important ways. For example, Smith was perfectly happy with lots of government intervention in the economy for national-defense purposes (and might very well have approved of the War in Iraq), and Burke's Catholic activism would horrify the Reason crowd, the Randians, and many others on the more-radical Right.
Consider, if you would, the following handy reference point:
Conservatives are primarily concerned about preserving civilization.
Radicals are primarily concerned about transforming civilization.
Liberals are primarily concerned about extending civilization.
As to the War in Iraq, we Reform Club Whigs are catholic on the issue: Hunter and I supported it, and Alan opposed it (see Alan's recent posting, "One Antiwar Zealot for Bush," on this). But all three of us approached the issue from the same premises--U.S. national security as the first priority for our federal government, pursued under any rational and appropriate means the Constitution allows. My position is that the Constitution allows a War on Terror but does not require it; hence I have fundamental assumptions in common with those who oppoosed the War in Iraq for national security reasons. Those who opposed it for economic or ideological reasons (especially pacifism) or because of simple fear of casualties, however, cannot really be considered liberals in my view.
Wednesday, November 10, 2004
The article goes to great lengths to persuade us that Ashcroft held bizarre, "extremist" beliefs that made him naturally controversial, in the paper's rather sad attempt to distract readers from the fact that the controversies to which the New York Times alludes were largely a creation of that newspaper and its political allies, who disagreed strongly with the entire thrust of his policies. In fact, the present NYT "analysis" inadvertently proves the point, as I demonstrate in today's issue of The Daily Standard (the online edition of The Weekly Standard), here.
To the extent that Ashcroft had a "tumultuous tenure," as the caption of the photo accompanying the article puts it, the tumult was very much a creation of the New York Times itself and the rest of the radical Left (aided by a good many on the radical Right). The fact is, the New York Times and the rest of the far Left despised Ashcroft for his openly religious views on politics. It is a pity that these partisans seem unable to admit or even recognize that little bit of extremism on their own part.
A little honesty in this regard and similar situations would go a long way toward restoring the credibility of the New York Times. That, however, seems far too much to hope for.
Ted Rall and the Disease of Dumb
"Maps showing Kerry's blue states appended to the "United States of Canada" separated from Bush's red "Jesusland" are circulating by email. Though there is a religious component to the election results, the biggest red-blue divide is intellectual. "How can 59,054,087 people be so DUMB?" asked the headline of the Daily Mirror in Great Britain, and the underlying assumption is undeniable. By any objective standard, you had to be spectacularly stupid to support Bush."
Rall continues the bloviating for several hundred words. What I've always wondered is how the left can maintain their intellectual superiority when they don't even understand economics and basic human incentives. Their public policy program has always struck me as a big bouquet of "wishing makes it so" and "it is because I say it is" proposals. By their standard, Fidel Castro is terribly, terribly bright. Ditto Mao. I'll take mine mediocre, thanks.
Get Smart. Watch TV.
Idiotic Ideas About Theocracy
Theocracy is when the church and the government are one. We don't have that in America. The countries that did have it, like Sweden for example, now have enormous states with eunuch churches. What we have is separation of church and state where the church is vigorous and critical. When it was mostly left-wing churches doing it, they were celebrated as they "spoke truth to power" and provided a "prophetic voice." When the conservative churches do it, we get theocracy. Go figure.
Tuesday, November 09, 2004
Blue States Talking Secession!
Jonah Goldberg Nails It!
"But what offends them so much about religion is that it is a source of authority outside — and prior to — politics. What has offended the Left since Marx, and American liberalism since Dewey, is the notion that moral authority should be derived from anyplace other than the state or "the people" (conveniently defined as citizens who vote liberal). Voting on values not sanctified by secular priests is how they define "ignorance." This was the real goal of Hillary Clinton's "politics of meaning" — to replace traditional religion with a secular one that derived its authority not from ancient texts and "superstitions" but from the good intentions of an activist state and its anointed priests. Shortly before the election, Howell Raines fretted that the worst outcome of a Bush victory would be the resurgence of "theologically based cultural norms" — without even acknowledging the fact that "theologically based cultural norms" gave us everything from the printing press and the newspaper to the First Amendment he claims to be such a defender of."
Priceless Karl Rove . . .
"Griswold v. Connecticut? The President and I have never discussed Griswold v. Connecticut."
Monday, November 08, 2004
Mike Kinsley: Arrogant Elitist
The arrogance of Kinsley’s sermon eludes him because he is so elitist. He presumes, against overwhelming evidence, that everyone who voted for Senator Kerry must be a Kinsley clone – that is, another “softheaded liberal” who shares Kinsley’s beliefs about abortion and gay marriage.
Kinsley asserts “that people on my side of the divide want to live in a society where women are free to choose abortion and where gay relationships have full civil equality with straight ones. And you [meaning those intolerant zealots who voted for Bush] want to live in a society where the opposite is true. . . . We don't want to force you to have an abortion or to marry someone of the same gender, whereas you do want to close out those possibilities for us. Which is more arrogant?”
Kinsley is far more arrogant than he realizes, because he claims to speak for “we” when he really means “me.” He assigns one prepackaged duet of opinions to Kerry supporters and another to Bush supporters. Yet many Kerry and Bush supporters don’t care a bit about these two issues (which have never been under the jurisdiction of federal law). Others hold Kinsley’s view on one of them, but not the other, and that includes Republicans as well as Democrats.
Kinsley is simply dreaming if he thinks most of his views are shared by 47 percent of the population. Exit polls show only 21 percent of voters – not 47 percent -- regard themselves as liberal. Only 25 percent – not 47 percent -- approve of same-sex marriage, and 22 percent of them voted for Bush. Bush also received 23 percent of the gay vote.
When it comes to abortion, however, only 16 percent of the voters think abortion should be illegal, and 22 percent of them voted for Kerry. Nearly half of U.S. Catholics voted for Kerry, and a larger fraction of Muslims and Jews, although many people of those faiths view abortion as equivalent to infanticide (which is also not subject to federal jurisdiction).
Kinsley’s “full civil equality” for gay couples dodges the more sensitive issue of reserving the term marriage for traditional couples. Among those favoring civil unions for gays, in fact, Bush beat Kerry 52 to 47 percent. What “civil equality”means is inherently unclear because it could involve many agencies of federal, state and local governments. The IRS would surely protest if two men or two women tried to file a joint tax return, but that would be a matter of money not morality.
Senators Kerry and Edwards advocated letting the states permit or ban same-sex marriage laws, which state elections just proved is the practical equivalent of favoring a ban. President Bush did not take a fundamentally different position, but worried (from experience) that local judges might contravene state legislatures.
Kinsley goes on to say, “We on my side of the great divide don’t, for the most part, believe that our values are direct orders from God. We don't claim that they are immutable and beyond argument. We are, if anything, crippled by reason and open-mindedness, by a desire to persuade rather than insist. Which philosophy is more elitist?”
Orders from God? Kinsley defines his “great divide” as only a habitual elitist possibly could. He imagines a division between religious Republicans and liberal Democrats. A liberal rabbi or Ayn Randian atheist has no place in “The World According to Mike.” Yet only 8 percent of the voters thought the candidate’s religious faith was a top issue. And 31 percent of those with no religion voted for Bush. Senator Kerry, on the other hand, received 47 percent of the Catholic vote, 74 percent of the Jewish vote and a sizable majority of the Muslim vote.
As for the left’s alleged open-mindedness and mild-mannered “desire to persuade,” that is just an arrogant and elitist description of what arrogant and elitist liars and panderers like Michael Moore and George Soros have been doing to try to trick and buy their way to power.
The Enemy in Fallujah
"'This is as pure a fight of good against evil as we're likely to see in our lifetime,' Marine Col. Craig Tucker told troops. 'This enemy is a terrorist. He is a hardened criminal. This is not an insurgency -- there is no alternative better future for Iraq that is represented by these bastards.'"
Exactly. The enemy in this case is not a band of idealists who are basically hopeful and well-meaning even if possibly mistaken in their desired policies. On the contrary, the enemy that remains in Iraq is a relentlessly vicious bunch of thugs very like the Communists, Nazis, African dictators, and other assorted gigantic criminal conspiracies that have looted and destroyed a multitude of previously livable places in the past century and a half. It is an outpouring of a common, primitive will to group power that is aided by modern technology. And like all its predecessors, it responds only to force.
Garrison Keillor and I Finally Divorce
"We're over it. We've moved on. We're just fine. The election was days ago. Days ago. Much has happened since then. We've practically forgotten about it here [laughter] in our rush to enter into new activities, new frontiers, new projects. I am now the chairman of a national campaign to pass a constitutional amendment to take the right to vote away from born-again Christians. [enthusiastic audience applause] Just a little project of mine. My feeling is that born-again people are citizens of heaven, that is where there citizenship is, [laughter] is in heaven, it's not here among us in America. If you feel that war in the Middle East is simply prophecy fulfilled, if you believe that tribulation and suffering are just the natural conditions of life, if you believe that higher education is vanity, unnecessary, there is only one book that one need to read, if you feel that unemployment is -[glitch]- dependent on him and drawn you closer to him. [laughter] If you feel -[glitch]- lousy healthcare is a portal to paradise, [applause] then you don't really share our same interests, do you? No, you do not."
Count on Andy Rooney to Tell It Straight
"Television did a good job Tuesday night, I thought. I know a lot of you believe that most people in the news business are liberal. Let me tell you I know a lot of them, and they were almost evenly divided this time. Half of them liked Sen. Kerry; the other half hated President Bush."
Sunday, November 07, 2004
Just so you know how Michael Moore feels about it . . .
After a brief scan, I can tell you I was quite relieved to find I live in Jesusland. Neither Nietszcheland, Marxland, Stalinland, or Castroland have ever held much appeal.
Friday, November 05, 2004
Which seat is being filled is also something that should be considered. Bush should be given deference in appointing a serious conservative to Rehnquist's chair because that won't change the balance of the court at all. On the other hand, when he replaces Stevens, there will more scrutiny because that will be a major change in the court's ideology and Bush will have to be careful to select someone basically undeniable.
Welcome back, DLC
"Democrats have a collection of policy positions that are sensible and right. John Kerry made this very clear. What we don't have, and what we sorely need, is what President George H. W. Bush so famously derided as "the vision thing" - a worldview that makes a thematic argument about where America is headed and where we want to take it.
"For most of the 20th century, Democrats had a bold vision: we would use government programs to make Americans' lives more stable and secure. In 1996, President Clinton told us this age had passed, that "the era of big government is over." He was right - the world had changed. But the party has not answered the basic question: What comes next?"
Cherny is right about the question of vision and thematic argument. The Democratic party has been in need of a good soul search ever since McGovern won the nomination in 1972. The social issues cost them a large part of their natural constituency. If they turn right, even halfway, on abortion, gay marriage, religion in the public square, and national defense, they'll prove extraordinarily difficult to defeat.
Americans Not So Crazy After All
Gerard Jones’s excellent analysis of the meaning of the recent
Jones notes, “There is a broad consensus against gay marriage that goes well beyond the religious Right just as there is a broad agreement in favour of making abortions scarcer (for a country run by religious nuts, America has surprisingly liberal laws on abortion), or for lifting some of the world’s tightest restrictions on the role of religion in public life (the British particularly should remember that, especially, as they drop their children off at state-funded church schools.) Mr Bush’s re-election was no narrow victory for religious zealots. It confirms that
“And its implications for the rest of the world are not baleful. All the world has to fear now is four more years of an
What Jones is describing, of course, is true liberalism. The
Thursday, November 04, 2004
Team America Are Thunderbirds a Go-Go
However, I think an underappreciated aspect of the film is the 1960s side of it. The main concept, after all, is based on those cheesy mid-1960s TV marionette shows such as Supercar and especially Thunderbirds. Several of the Team America members look suspiciously like various Thunderbirds characters, as is evident in these pictures at the Thunderbirds site.
There are many other 1960s motifs in the film, such as the use of Kim Jong-Il—one of the few remaining Communist leaders in the world—as villain.
Why is this interesting? Because the viewer will take away from the film a very serious view of the War on Terror, a realization that the current war is as important, difficult, and serious as was the Cold War. Yes, Team America knocks down a few tourist attractions and some innocent bystanders in the zealous pursuit of their duty, but the enemy they are fighting really does want to harm all of us, and not by accident but by intention.
The film makes this very clear, through both action and dialogue, and the 1960s aspects of it keep bringing the Cold War back to mind, continually reminding us of the vastness of the forces now arrayed against America and the rest of the developed world, and expressing—in a very comical context, of course—exactly what is at stake. Team America are definitely on the side of good. There can be no question that although the filmmakers recognize all of America's many faults, they know that what we have is far better than what the other side has in mind for its own people, let alone what it would have in store for us.
More Trailing Edge Political Film Review . . .
On the other hand, the creative team has an amazing gift for physical comedy. If you've never seen a puppet throw up, this is the way it should be done. No question about it.
Another success for TEAM AMERICA comes in the final monologue, when the newest member of the team delivers his political philosophy to a once gullible international audience. It's crude. Actually, it's extremely crude, but it makes its point very effectively. I think Dick Nixon might have put things the same way himself behind closed doors.
Wednesday, November 03, 2004
Slow Learners . . .
The Hewitt Factor
There's Something About George W.
BUT, I think he has God's hand on his shoulder or some special favor that can't be articulated. How many promising liberal politicians' scalps lie at this man's feet? Ann Richards, Al Gore, Dick Gephardt, and Tom Daschle have all been finished by this President with a heart of steel and a tongue of cheap aluminum.
First Domestic Policy Agenda Item
Prediction for the next four years
Two Americas, All Right
"The crucial factor, it emerged, was the referendum on gay marriage which was going on at the same time as the Presidential election, the Senate race, and votes on numerous other issues," Bone writes here.
Mr. Bone states, "Christian conservatives turned out in their tens of thousands to back a ban on gay marriage in the state of Ohio, and it was this, coupled with Mr Bush's strong showing in rural areas, that gave him an apparently invincible lead in the crucial Midwestern state."
It is clear, in fact, that such referenda were an important factor in the Bush victory nationwide. Many polls (for whatever they may be worth) show that a plurality of voters yesterday stated that the most important issue for them was gay marriage, and President Bush won among these voters by about four to one. There were votes on the issue in several of the swing states, and turnout among evangelical Christians was much higher than in the past few elections.
That was the deciding factor in the presidential election, right there, and rather unexpectedly for most of the press, judging by the relative paucity of media attention to the gay-marriage issue in the days before the balloting, with Iraq and the economy of course as the main areas of discussion.
Look at the map of red and blue states indicating support for the Republican or Democrat candidate, respectively. There are indeed two Americas. One believes strongly in one set of values, the other just as firmly adheres to a quite contrary view of the world.
The Republicans have their side staked out and seem fairly comfortable with it, despite some internal divisions—but the Democrats seem increasingly uncomfortable with theirs. African-Americans, suburban mothers, and union members, for example, do not share most of the values of the farther-Left side of their party. The three former groups adhere to the Democrat Party mainly for its traditional championing of the underdog, and they are by no means in it for a radical transformation of the American mind and society.
That tension seems likely to remain until these persons either leave the party or take it over.
More Mainstream Media Bashing . . .
DIGRESSION: I may be a little too sensitive. After all, I
ANYWAY, Obama was everywhere highlighted as the great hope of the Democratic Party and received about as much press as our President! Anything wrong with this picture, or was it just that he was available as a big winner from about 7 p.m. on? For a little perspective, imagine if a conservative female had won a blowout in a non-swing state. Do you think the press would have been panting after her like a sheepdog about to score some Alpo?
Shooting You Straight
And no, I don't know how he does it.
I think that Alan, as a true English Whig, should indulge in an extra glass of first-rate claret.
As an English Whig and unrepentant anglophile, I shall have me a black and tan. Or two. And a double Glenfiddich.
I share Alan's bipartisan disdain for politicians of every stripe--excepting, of course, those who happen to be my personal friends. Those, I see as good lambs who have lost their way.
Finally, contra Alan's contention, I am not really embarrassed by the name Samantha. I'm just not cool with it yet.
S. T. K.
Unsurprised therefore Unexcited
"Bush gets 300 electoral votes and a comfy margin in the popular count too.
That's all the obvious red states (213) plus Ohio, Florida, Wisconsin, Iowa, Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico and Hawaii. I am not, however, dumb enough to either publish that or bet on it. On the other hand . . . if Kerry wins, the good news is that he won't be able to get anything past Congress. And Congress won't be able to get anything past the White House. There must be some bad news there, but I can't recall what it might be."
For a poll at the Cato Institute, I predicted 53 Republican Senators. I do this the way I used to kill a few minutes doing economic forecasting for the Journal and the Blue Chip bunch -- heroic assumptions plus informed guesswork.
Celebrating? At my age (fifty twelve) that means I might be allowed a third glass of wine. Under normal circumstances that might be a Souverain or Sebastiani chardonnay (cheap but good), but that sounds too girlie-manish for the moment. So does Pinot Noir. Maybe Kendall-Jackson Syrah? This is a much tougher decision than the vote.
I am bipartisan in the sense that I don't trust pols of any stripe. The Democrats simply failed to offer a serious presidential or vice presidential candidate this time, in my insufficiently humble view.
Hurrah! Hurrah! And Darn It!
DARN IT: Yesterday, I told my colleagues the vote would be 51% for Bush, 48% for Kerry, and 1% for Nader. Wish I’d preserved that here at the timestamped blog. My record isn’t that good, though. I said Bush would win the popular vote in 2000 and that Lazio would beat Hillary!
Tuesday, November 02, 2004
Early Exit Polling News and What Me, Worry?
Dutch Filmmaker Assassinated
America the Liberal
"Year by year," he writes, "the American electorate becomes (in the European meaning of the term) more 'liberal' — that is, more committed to liberty, less willing to heed elite opinion, and a little more religious and 'traditional' in their moral ideals. Put another way, they become less like France. Less social democratic, less bewitched by the Left."
Novak mentions the "the optimism and energy of the 'conservative' movement for change," a phrase which astutely points out the confused nature of the terms liberal and conservative in the United States at this time. He makes a point with which we strenuously agree: that many people now called by one or the other of these terms actually would be better described by the other.
That is, many if not most people whom today's conservatives condemn as liberal are in fact either radicals (strongly dismissive of present institutions and realities) or real conservatives (people who want to preserve and perhaps extend the current welfare state, sexual revolution, national secularization, and the like; are elitist in nature; and approve of heritable social status and advantages, usually taking the form of race or sexual categorization). These latter individuals are quite conservative by termperament. Likewise, many if not most self-described contemporary American conservatives are actually liberal by both temperament and politics, hungry for reform of the very things the Left wants to preserve. (The most notable exception are the Buchanan American Conservative group, many of whom I would suggest are in fact radicals of the Right.)
Novak's article strongly shows what we believe to be the real value of the term liberal, which we see as a label not to be shunned but one to be embraced. (See my initial post for this site, from October 18 of this year, "Why the Reform Club . . . ," available here.) In the United States today, Liberal most aptly describes a rather large group of people on the Right, and very few indeed on the Left.
Novak's article is a very thoughtful and comprehensive analysis in the brief span of a couple thousand words, well worth reading.