Sunday, April 29, 2007

Difficult Work

I see that the hack media criticism website, "Newsbusters" has put up a preemptive defense for the fourth anniversary of the President's notorious carrier landing stunt of May Day, 2003. For anyone whose feet are on Earth, instead of say, Neptune, or Rigel VII, Bush's landing was a blunder of epic proportions.

"Newsbusters" way of lamely defending the indefensible is to focus on the content of the President's speech. "Since the media don't reprint excerpts of the speech nor give readers the links to the original source material, here are some comments from May 1, 2003, that point to President Bush warning Americans of an ongoing struggle to establish Iraqi democracy and counter the threat of terrorism . . ." The theory, I guess, being that if one examines the president's words on that day, he would get the impression that the president was preparing the country for the difficult struggle that lay ahead. The notion is absurd--if the president had wanted Americans to focus on his words, he would have made an address from the Oval Office instead of on a carrier. The excerpts from the speech that Ken Sheperd chose can't carry the weight that he places upon them:
We have difficult work to do in Iraq. We're bringing order to parts of that country that remain dangerous. We're pursuing and finding leaders of the old regime, who will be held to account for their crimes. We've begun the search for hidden chemical and biological weapons and already know of hundreds of sites that will be investigated. We're helping to rebuild Iraq, where the dictator built palaces for himself, instead of hospitals and schools. And we will stand with the new leaders of Iraq as they establish a government of, by, and for the Iraqi people. (Applause.) . . .

Sure, he was saying that the war wasn't completely over, but the passage above speaks of a minor mopping-up operation. Elsewhere in the speech, the President spoke of the war in the past tense:
This nation thanks all of the members of our coalition who joined in a noble cause. We thank the Armed Forces of the United Kingdom, Australia, and Poland, who shared in the hardships of war. . . (emphasis added)

He obviously wasn't preparing for a long hard slog at this point, he was celebrating a victory-- a "Mission Accomplished." If Bush had wanted to prepare the country for what lay ahead, he might have said something along these lines:
My Fellow Americans,
We have toppled Saddam's regime but most of the hard work of occupation lay ahead. To quote one observer, ". . . then the tide recedes, for the one endeavor at which Islamic peoples excel is expelling imperial powers by terror and guerrilla war." In the coming months and years thousands more Americans will be killed and maimed by roadside bombs and anonymous snipers. It will be difficult to tell friend from foe. As tragic as the loss of life for Americans will be, the suffering of our friends, the newly liberated Iraqis will be unimaginably greater. I can't predict how many Iraqis will be butchered in the coming war, but it will be in the tens of thousands . . . Imagine that 9/11 style carnage occurred on a regular basis--that is what lay in store for Iraqis.
To our brave soldiers and marines, I say this: You will become strangers to your families because of repeated rotations back to the war zone . . . When wounded you will be cared for in substandard Army hospitals . . .

Thursday, April 26, 2007

More Malkin

Michelle Malkin and one of her deranged followers are advocating sending white feathers to antiwar members of congress as symbols of cowardice:

Reader and Vietnam Vet Jack Haley e-mails:

The White Feather has been a symbol for cowardice. I suggest that white feathers be sent to the leaders of the Senate and House for the cowardly vote that abandons our soldiers around the world. . .

Malkin and her reader are confused about the meaning of white feathers. During the Great War, the Order of the White Feather encouraged young women to give the feathers to young men who weren't serving in the British Army. It would be appropriate for Malkin to give the feathers out to young men who come to hear her speak at college speaking engagements and at rightwing gatherings. Others who might deserve one would include the president, his veep, and 99.9% of rightwing warmongers, who neglected to serve.

Now, I've got to stop checking Malkin's site. She has become little more than a Hannity in pigtails, and like most of the rightwing these days, an embarrassment.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007


Michelle Malkin is cute as a button, but why does anyone continue to take her even remotely seriously?

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

What I Did Last Summer

I have been negligent in completing the homework assignment that Glen Dean gave me (and several others) a couple of weeks back -- "What I Did Last Summer," er, what is my definition of conservatism. Fortunately, the good people at ISI Books helped out by sending me The Essential Russell Kirk. That book begins with the Kirk's essay, "What Is Conservatism?"
. . . Strictly speaking, conservatism is not a political system, and certainly not an ideology . . . conservatism offers no universal pattern of politics for adoption everywhere. On the contrary, conservatives reason that social institutions always must differ considerably from nation to nation, since any land's politics must be the product of that country's dominant religion, ancient customs, and historic experience . . . conservatives generally believe that there exists a transcendent moral order, to which we ought to try to conform the ways of society. . . conservatives are guided by their principle of prudence. Burke agrees with Plato that in the statesman, prudence is chief among virtues . . . conservatives are chastened by their principle of imperfectibility . . . we are not made for perfect things . . . By proper attention to prudent reform, we may preserve and improve this tolerable order . . .

UPDATE: Here is Scott Richert's review of the Kirk book from the March issue of Chronicles.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Plant a Tree, Not a Hippie

Bill Kauffman wishes you a happy Earth Day: "In the three decades since, Earth Day has become a pagan holiday for pallid urbanites, the sort of technology-dependent yuppies whose rare encounters with the outdoors always end in paralyzing fears of Lyme disease. Earth Day is about as green as a $100 bill."

Space Men

Is America a "sick society?" I am inclined to answer yes, that Western Civilization as a whole is sick and has been for at least as long as I have been alive. But I'm willing to consider all points of view. Last week, just after the mass murder at Virginia Tech, William Bennett entertained the question and said:
We’re talking about yesterday in Blacksburg. Some people, it hasn't come up on this show, because this audience wouldn’t dare bring it up, but there'll be people saying, "Well, it’s a sick society. You know, it’s just a crazy, wigged out, sick society." I’ve got a book coming out today, not the best timing for a book, it's all right. It's a good book, America: The Last Best Hope, Vol. II. And at the very end of the book, I recall a speech that Ronald Reagan made in 1974 . . .

But here's what Ronald Reagan said at that time . . . "We are not a sick society. A sick society could not produce the men who set foot on the Moon, or who are now circling the Earth above us in the Skylab . . ."

It really makes one think, doesn't it? Of course, what Reagan via Bennett makes me think is that argument is the most ludicrous one for American societal health that I have ever heard.

The space program? Ignore for a moment that a couple of days after Bennett quoted this wisdom, a NASA employee took hostages and then committed murder because of a bad performance review: what other country in the fifties, sixties and seventies was shooting men, dogs and other of God's creatures into space? Why yes, it was the Soviet Union--the healthiest society ever! Reagan didn't know in 1974 about the coming ignominious end to Skylab. The infamous space station fell from space and crashed around Esperance in West Australia.

A couple of decades ago Walker Percy, apparently unmoved by the greatness of Skylab, gave a talk at Cornell; reprinted in Signposts in a Strange Land as "Diagnosing the Modern Malaise." In it, he said:
To state the matter as plainly as possible, I would echo a writer like Guardini who says simply that the modern world has ended, the world, the world, that is, of the past two or three hundred years, which we think of as having been informed by the optimism of the scientific revolution, rational humanism, and that Western cultural entity which until this century it has been more or less accurate to describe as Christendom. I am not telling you anything you don't already know when I say that the optimism of this age began to crumble with the onset of the catastrophes of the twentieth century. If one had to set a date of the beginning of the end of the modern world, 1914 would be as good as any. . .

Of course, Percy, if still alive, wouldn't dare utter such calumnies on Bill Bennett's Morning in America program.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Progressive Conservative

How Bizarre. It turns out that Alexander Konetzki, the very short-term assistant editor of The American Conservative, left the magazine because it published Steve Sailer's article on Barack Obama's Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance. According to Konetzki, who comes out as a "progressive," Sailer mischaracterized Obama's book. Konetzki opines, "as of mid-March 2007, no one had tried in earnest to subvert the idea that, as president, Obama could help ease America’s racial tensions because his mother was white and his father was black."

Gee, allow me to subvert that. Even if Obama were to serve two successful terms in the White House, the United States would still have uneased racial tensions. Not having read, (and not planning to read) Obama's book; I don't have an opinion on who has a better interpretation of Dreams. I will say, that although critical in some respects, nothing in Sailer's profile would lead me to think he would be any worse as president than say, John McCain, Hillary Clinton or Rudy Giuliani. I would add that Obama's apparent difficulty in forging an identity seem perfectly natural for somebody who grew up under his circumstance: the frequently moving about with no geographic ties while being raised by grandparents of a different skin color.

Sailer makes the occasional peculiar claim, such as that "[i]n his head, Obama surely knows that his becoming the world’s biggest man would be bad for the work ethic of Kenyans, some of whom would assume America would support them. But in his heart, none of that matters." I say, good, since as an American he should put the needs of his own country over those of Kenya.

Konetzki glosses right over one of the more disturbing passages in Sailer's article:

There is an amazingly candid moment in Obama’s autobiography when he writes of his childhood discomfort at the way his mother would sexualize African-American men. 'More than once,' he recalls, 'my mother would point out: "Harry Belafonte is the best-looking man on the planet.'" What the focus groups his advisers conducted revealed was that Obama’s political career now depends, in some measure, upon a tamer version of this same feeling, on the complicated dynamics of how white women respond to a charismatic black man.

How dare Sailer suggest that Obama has some special appeal to white women similar to that of Harry Belafonte. But, oops, it turns out that is a quote from a Rolling Stone article written by Washington Monthly contributing editor, Benjamin Wallace-Wells.

Daniel Larison adds this:
In this article he then gave the ultimate offense: he suggested that the great multiculti political hope of the present moment tends to identify with one side of his background over the other. If this is true, this is not obviously disqualifying; it may not even be an unattractive trait. It is considered a negative only by those who think race and ethnicity are or ought to be entirely irrelevant to our entire political discourse. Identifying with one group over another and championing their particular interests are not bad traits to my mind, but if that’s true about Obama this would directly contradict his current public image that so many people find appealing.

Sunday, April 15, 2007


Via Kevin Drum, I saw this list of the top 100 books of the last 25 years (1982-2006), chosen by British bookstore employees and published in the Telegraph.

It's pointless to get too worked up about this kind of list, but give me a break: The Da Vinci Code and Harry Potter and The Five People You Meet in Heaven make it; but no Wartime, no Lost in the Cosmos, no Father and Son, no Lincoln?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Definitions . . .

Glen Dean posted his definition of conservatism and invited me and several others to produce ours --which I will try to do in the coming days. Glen writes:
I believe in a small, less intrusive government . . . The role of government, as I see it, is to protect it's citizenry. Taxes should be collected for that simple purpose, as well as the day to day costs of government. When governments spend tax receipts on wealth redistribution and the subsidizing of farming and industry, government increases it's power and the individual loses power. . . I believe in individual rights as opposed to collectivism. Equality at the starting gate is one thing, but when a society seeks to achieve equality at the finish line, individualism and the incentive to produce is undermined.

My belief in individualism and personal liberty influence my belief that capitalism is the true manifestation of liberty. I have been accused of being an advocate of business, but that is not true. I am an advocate of free market capitalism. To only be an advocate of business, I would have to support tariffs and corporate subsidies. I do not and I do not believe that subsidizing business is in any way conservative. I believe in free markets and free trade with our neighbors, while still supporting the sovereignty of the United States of America.

I would have--and I'm guessing that's why he asked me--a different definition of the term. In the mean time, I will link to Daniel Larison's excellent definitition of what distinguishes paleoconservatives from the other kind:
. . . we retain more strongly a recognition of the limits, needs and purpose of human nature, we seem to remember history more keenly, we instinctively refuse to trust governments regardless of which people run them, and we are less inclined to justify moral abominations when they are committed by our government or by people in our society (perhaps because we are not in positions of influence or power and do not feel compelled to justify the unjustifiable to retain those positions).(emphasis added)

Monday, April 09, 2007

Literary Feud!

While spelunking around the web today, I came across a would-be literary feud from a year ago that never took off. Novelist and journalist, Kevin Baker erupted in spittle-flecked rage at the Powell's blog over a review of his novel, Strivers Row that appeared in the Wall Street Journal.

The reviewer, Baker declaimed, is a "literal neo-fascist" who "felt obliged to mention both his own ethnicity and my skin color" and who complained that Baker was "too nice to the black characters" in his novel.

The reviewer sounds like a monster, I wouldn't give a second thought to the matter except that the "literal neo-fascist" Baker denounced is none other than our own Bill Kauffman, who has done a bang-up job of covering up his facsist tendencies by being something of a decentralist/quasi-agrarian/distributist/borderline pacifist opponent of war and empire.

It gets better. Baker took umbrage at Kauffman for comparing Strivers Row unfavorably to the historical novels of Gore Vidal. The review wasn't available on the web, but I found the text via library database and Kauffman indeed mentioned Vidal:

Contrast Mr. Baker with Gore Vidal, one of our best historical novelists. Mr. Vidal the political essayist may harshly criticize Abraham Lincoln, but Mr. Vidal the novelist renders Lincoln with the most acute and understanding sympathy. He does not create fictive strawmen. Mr. Baker, for all his talent at establishing a milieu, not only builds strawmen but sets them ablaze. He kindles a light that does not illuminate.

This led Baker to do a little investigating. It turns out that Baker wrote a negative review a few years back of Vidal's novel, The Golden Age, and Baker discovered that Vidal wrote the foreword to Kauffman's America First!: Its History, Culture, and Politics, released in 1995. Conspiracy!
I can't pretend that I wasn't unruffled by all this. Goaded into a murderous rage would be more like it, particularly since Mr. Kauffman also grossly mischaracterized most of my work. But I just put it down to the fact that Mr. Kauffman must be a devoted Vidal fan. Maybe he had been upset by the nastiest review I have ever written myself, one ripping Vidal's novel The Golden Age in the pages of the Los Angeles Times a few years ago.

Of course, that explains it. Bill Kauffman's plan is to write hit reviews of books by Vidal's negative reviewers as payback for Vidal's foreword from a decade ago. Or perhaps its just that Kauffman actually believes what he wrote in the first paragraph of his review, that Baker's book is like "watching a Ken Burns adaptation of an Arthur Schlesinger history volume: The production is diligently researched and the era is captured through evocative and stylized touches, but it's hard to stifle a yawn over the conventionality of the whole project." Just not his idea of good historical fiction.

But this whole neo-facsist thing has got me worried. I gave Bill a ride to dinner one night at the ISI conference we both attended last month. We were seen in public drinking beer--perhaps even in a beer hall. Is that going to come back to haunt me at some future date, at a Baker-led Thoughtcrime tribunal perhaps?

The funny thing is that while Kauffman's review is mostly negative, being a generally nice guy, he found a couple of things to praise in the novel; and his tone is mild in the extreme when compared to Baker's bilious and hysterical frothing. And while it is true Kauffman notes his own ethnicity ("as a part-Paddy libertarian advocate of free and free-swinging speech") and Baker's skin color (". . . Mr. Baker, who is white . . ." Horrors!) in his review--Things Not Allowed--neither instance makes Kauffman out to be the obsessive racialist that Baker would have you believe.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Examples of Lameness in Conservapedia

Recently, I wrote about Conservapedia, the right wing alternative to the "liberal biased" Wikipedia. I decided to check back in to see what progress the site has made. using American Conservatism: An Encyclopedia as a guide--I figure it would be a good source of topics of interest to conservatives--I looked up some people of interest.

Starting with the low hanging fruit, I looked up William F. Buckley. Conservapedia currently has two sentences on this giant of the postwar American Right. "William F. Buckley, Jr is prominent conservative author and commentator, and the founder of . . . National Review. He was also host of the show Firing Line." American Conservatism, on the other hand has a lengthy article that mentions numerous books by Buckley from God and Man at Yale to Buckley's Blackford Oates novels. The only omissions I would like to see added are mentions of his youthful letter to King George V of England demanding payment of its Great War Debt and his infamous debate with Gore Vidal at the 1968 Democratic National Convention.

Next I looked up Russell Kirk, who is the subject of an article in American Conservatism about as lengthy and detailed as Buckley's, but doesn't even currently have his own entry at Conservapedia; although he is mentioned in its skimpy post on Paleoconservatism.

So what does Conservapedia have? Well it has an entry on Rush Limbaugh, who is also featured in American Conservatism entry noting his contributions as a controversialist and for his role in revitalizing am radio. Conservapedia also has an article on Sean Hannity, a shouting head radio/TV host whose claim to fame is his ability to outshine Alan Colmes.

Anyone looking to Conservapedia to learn about the people and institutions on the Right that came before Rush Limbaugh will come away empty-handed. American Conservatism (the strengths and weaknesses of which were examined by Daniel McCarthy in the American Conservative last year) is a much better source; as is Wikipedia.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Commission from God

The other day Glen Dean posed a reasonable question to some Iraq War opponents, particularly those who support military intervention in Darfur. "I can totally understand why you might think that it was a bad idea to go into Iraq in the first place, but I can not for the life of me, fathom how a civilized person can support the idea of us leaving that country at the present time, for what will most assuredly result in genocide."

That is a concern. A few years ago, I might have given some credence to such an argument, but now I can only ask, what does Dean, or any other supporter of continuing our occupation of Iraq, think will be different in six months or six years or six decades? Also, how can he tell that our leaving will "assuredly result in [a] genocide" worse than whatever is currently occurring there?

The Iraq War debacle contains an important lesson for anyone with eyes that can see. The United States is a hyperpower, by far the most powerful country that the world has ever seen, yet we lack the power to bend the world to our will. Once you get past aircraft carriers, B-52 bombers and Cruise Missiles, our power is rather ordinary and we have racked up numerous failures to prove it. The Bush administration and its media allies made failure more likely by building up expectations of a cheap and easy war -- cakewalk anybody? They tried to fight a war on the cheap and repeatedly declared premature victory -- mission accomplished, last throes anyone? If the Bush adminstration taken steps to prepare the country for a long and difficult occupation -- called for volunteers in the wake of 9/11 or urged ordinary Americans to make any kind of sacrifice, people might have become more willing to endure a longer occupation.

When Rudyard Kipling urged Americans to shoulder the "White Man's Burden" in the Philippines, he didn't feed us any such "cakewalk" happy talk about what such a burden would entail:
Take up the White Man's burden--
Send forth the best ye breed--
Go bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives' need;
To wait in heavy harness,
On fluttered folk and wild--
Your new-caught, sullen peoples,
Half-devil and half-child . . .

Take up the White Man's burden--
The savage wars of peace--
Fill full the mouth of Famine
And bid the sickness cease;
And when your goal is nearest
The end for others sought,
Watch sloth and heathen Folly
Bring all your hopes to nought . . .

Take up the White Man's burden--
And reap his old reward:
The blame of those ye better,
The hate of those ye guard--
The cry of hosts ye humour
(Ah, slowly!) toward the light:--
"Why brought he us from bondage,
Our loved Egyptian night?". . .
Benjamin Harrison, a wiser president than George W. Bush (admittedly a low hurdle) and a contemporary of Kipling, once remarked that Americans "have no commission from God to police the world." That sentiment should guide Americans as we forge a post-Bush foreign policy.

One other thing. Please drop the "Bush Derangement Syndrome" talk. It must be comforting to tell one's self that the President's enemies are a few nuts who range from Michael Moore to Rosie O'Donnell to John Kerry. In reality, the Iraq war is opposed by otherwise loyal Republicans like Jimmy Duncan and Walter B. Jones, as well as former Republicans like Jim Webb. It would appear that they are joined by a growing majority of ordinary Americans. Glen Dean should look around the bunker at the last remaining holdouts -- Hewitt, Limbaugh, Boortz, Hannity, etc.-- and ask who is deranged.