Monday, March 31, 2008


I'll be one of the contributors to the new group blog from The American Conservative, @TAC

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Ain't My America

It's not even out until next month but via Matthew Yglesias I found a review of Bill Kauffman's Ain't My America by Michael Tomasky in Democracy (annoying registration required). I haven't seen the book yet but the mostly positive review (it gigs Kauffman for being nice to America Firsters) makes the book sound familiar to Kauffman fans.

What would a better word be? Well, I don’t quite know, but Kauffman sure would. In fact, I imagine he’d produce a humdinger. Just a few pages into Ain’t My America, his biting history of conservative foreign policy, and all in the space of a little more than one printed page, he employs the words "coruscant," "nescience," temerarious," "adjuration," and, my personal favorite, "tribade." Goodness! As Casey Stengel said, you could look it up. I certainly had to.

Yep. That's our Bill. It's worth registering and reading.


Intrepid (Liberal!) media critic Matthew Balan catches the network news broadcasts . . . broadcasting the news:
The "Big Three" networks’ evening newscasts, marking the fifth anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq on Wednesday evening, all chose to air news briefs on the anti-war protests across the United States. The news briefs all aired within the first ten minutes of each program.

Will their treachery never cease?

Rules of Blogging

The first rule of linking to an article is, or should be, read the whole thing even when the part you like is in the first paragraph. That would save "Number 9," Chris Horner (at 'Planet Gore') and Glenn Reynolds from looking so silly when linking to this article from NPR.

They all seem to have read the opening paragraph and saw an opportunity to stick a finger in Al Gore's eye. "Some 3,000 scientific robots that are plying the ocean have sent home a puzzling message. These diving instruments suggest that the oceans have not warmed up at all over the past four or five years. That could mean global warming has taken a breather. Or it could mean scientists aren't quite understanding what their robots are telling them."

Gee, things are looking bad for Al and all those crackpot "scientists" until one reads a bit further in the article, like the beginning of the next paragraph which begins; "[t]his is puzzling in part because here on the surface of the Earth, the years since 2003 have been some of the hottest on record."

Even further down it says:
Sea level rises when the oceans get warm because warmer water expands. This accounts for about half of global sea level rise. So with the oceans not warming, you would expect to see less sea level rise. Instead, sea level has risen about half an inch in the past four years. That's a lot.

Willis says some of this water is apparently coming from a recent increase in the melting rate of glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica.

"But in fact there's a little bit of a mystery. We can't account for all of the sea level increase we've seen over the last three or four years," he says.

The article isn't about the existence of global warming, which is no longer an issue; but about the complexity of conducting research on such a large scale.

It's also possible that some of the heat has gone even deeper into the ocean, he says. Or it's possible that scientists need to correct for some other feature of the planet they don't know about. It's an exciting time, though, with all this new data about global sea temperature, sea level and other features of climate.

Read the whole thing, really.

Madman McCain

This (via Hewitt, who seems to agree) is a pretty good case for Obama or even Clinton over John McCain:

The success of Hamas and Hizbullah in the region is not only a danger for Israel, but also a threat to US national interests, US Republican presidential candidate John McCain said Tuesday in an exclusive interview with The Jerusalem Post.

"If Hamas/Hizbullah succeeds here, they are going to succeed everywhere, not only in the Middle East, but everywhere. Israel isn't the only enemy," Arizona Sen. McCain said, in the only interview he is giving to the Israeli media during his visit here.

"They are dedicated to the extinction of everything that the US, Israel and the West believe and stand for. So America does have an interest in what happens here, far above and beyond our alliance with the State of Israel."

He thinks that Hamas is on the brink of world domination if the U.S. isn't deeply involved in the region.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

McKibben Reader

I've been reading The Bill McKibben Reader: Pieces from an Active Life. McKibben has become one of my favorite writers in the last year or so, in part for the things that he doesn't write about--I've yet to see him address the Reverend Wright "issue" and don't expect to. Instead, he has a column in the most recent issue of Orion on the importance of neighborliness. I reviewed his previous book Deep Economy last year.

One of the things I admire about McKibben, speaking as a part-time freelance writer, is the broad array of publications that he writers for; a trait he shares with Wendell Berry. He has written for the top tier of intellectual publications: The New York Review of Books, New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly and Harper's. The book also features articles from Outside, Orion, Christian Century, Rolling Stone, Mother Jones and Yankee. His signiture issue has been global warming, and the book has several articles on the subject. One, a 1993 profile of James Hansen about the early days after he first testified about it before Congress, and other scientists weren't convinced yet is good. It contains the following quote from skeptic Richard Lindzen: "In ten years we'll know a lot more about it and it won't seem a big deal." Not exactly.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Who Cares?

How is it that media and political culture in this country manages to focus almost exclusively on trivial non-issues? The kerfuffle of the moment lay in the fact that the recently retired minister of Barack Obama's church appears to be a nut. This is about 1/50,000th as important as the devastating impact of corn subsidies on the U.S. economy, health and environment; a subject that never gets discussed.

When one considers the ongoing quagmire in Iraq and the looming depression, the quality of Obama's spiritual advisors seems even more trivial.


The good news is that Daniel McCarthy is back at The American Conservative after time at ISI and the Ron Paul campaign. He has also been blogging up a storm recently

The not-so-good news is that Volunteer Voters is no more--A.C. Kleinheider is a blogging civilian again.

Update: most of the reaction to the demise of VV has been negative, but I did notice the contribution this guy at Tennessee Free: "I wasn’t fond of Kleinheider. He had the nerve to run a blog, Hard Right, which wasn’t. Soft in the tail, it was. Progressive, Kleinheider seems. Probably from hanging out with Sean Braisted overmuch… Kleinheider bashed Bush as much as William . . ." Can't have a conservative "bashing Bush" now, can we?

Monday, March 10, 2008

Permanent Things

An interesting discussion has been going on at Taki's Magazine and elsewhere, over the least interesting of all possible topics--whom to support for president. Justin Raimondo falls into the (relatively) pro-Obama camp and Richard Spencer is more anti.

If I had to pick between the three remaining I guess I would choose Obama because, well, he isn't Clinton or McCain. Since no remaining candidate is addressing any important issues and my vote doesn't matter, I don't waste much time worrying about it. Whenever I do; I stop what I'm doing, relax with a cold compress on my forehead, pour myself a stiff drink and repeat to myself, "permanent things . . . permanent things . . . permanent things . . ."

Sunday, March 09, 2008

World Made By Hand

Two views of Kunstler's World Made by Hand by John Galvin in Orion and by Reihan Salam (via Rod Dreher) in the New York Sun. Dreher also links to book's website that features a trailer. An interesting promotional tool for a book that depicts the end of technological civilization.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Watching the Internets

I gave up watching Instapundit for several weeks, and for protection of my remaining sanity I think I'll reinstate that policy so as to avoid whines such as this: "REPORTS OF eco-terror in Washington. If somebody were burning down environmentalists' headquarters, this would get more attention."

How much more attenion does the story deserve? His link is to an ABC news story, and if memory serves, they had it on their program last night. And what do we have here but an article in the New York Times?

What would the Liberal Media have to do to satisfy Reynolds? Ignore the heated presidential primaries, the coming recession, and the seemingly endless chain of mass shootings; and give the E.L.F. fire wall-to-wall coverage? Angrily thrust a microphone in Barack Obama's face and demand he denounce environmental terrorism?

Monday, March 03, 2008

Good News

After an absence of about twenty years, Bill Kauffman has returned to the pages of Reason, interviewing Carl Oglesby.

Reality Based Rove

Daniel Larison discovers a statement so dishonest and delusional that it could only come from Fox News:

[Chris] WALLACE: If he's able to define Iraq in terms of where do you spend that $12 billion, on the battlefield over there or on infrastructure and social programs here, doesn't Obama win?

[Karl] ROVE: Well, Obama -- it's a good argument for Obama, but I'm wondering where it goes, because it really is a very neo-isolationist argument. It basically says, you know, "We should not be involved in the world because of the consequences to the budget here at home."

Well, we were not involved in the world before 9/11, and look what happened. Look at the cost to the American economy after a terrorist attack on the homeland. We lost a million jobs in 90 days after 9/11.

If we were to give up Iraq with the third largest oil reserves in the world to the control of an Al Qaida regime or to the control of Iran, don't you think $200 a barrel oil would have a cost to the American economy? (emphasis added)

Amazing, isn't it? We, who had been bombing Iraq, stationing troops in Saudi Arabia, sending billions in foreign aid around the world, dropping bombs on Serbia on behalf of the Kosovo Liberation Army; weren't involved in the world prior to 9/11. What planet do these people live on?

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Baby, It's Cold Outside!

Glenn Reynolds should read the recent Doublethink article on Ronald Bailey's acceptance of reality on the issue of global warming. It might keep him from silliness such as when he writes ". . . the current cold spell is just weather, not climate. Sure, but will they remember that distinction in July? . . . ."

First, note that if you enlarge the screenshot below from the WBIR home page below, you will see that he wrote that on a warm 66 degree late Winter day in Knoxille. Note also that the forcasted high for Monday, March 3rd is a an even balmier 70 degrees.

Second, when you click the link on the word "July," you go to a post of his from April of last year with a link to Gateway Pundit sneering that it was cold for a global warming rallies in Albany, New York and other places. It makes sense that he didn't link to a post from July, since last Summer in Knoxville was misaberably hot and exceptionally dry from July until sometime in October. Reynolds also complained that he keeps having to deny that he is in fact a denier. But he gets that label because he almost exclusively mentions warming in the same context--his somewhat excessive concern that the media or whomever is unduly hyping global warming: "keep this in mind when they start claiming, as the press inevitably does, that unusually warm days are evidence for climate change."

It's astonishing that, while most people concerned about global warming care more about the potentially catastrophic effects on human civilization, for Reynolds the most import issue is the occasional overly alarmist news story, of which he gives no specific example.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

World Without Salad Shooters

I just finished World Made by Hand by James Howard Kunstler. World is a post-apocalyptic, post-peak oil vision of a future without salad shooters. It begins a few years after the power has gone off and the cars have stopped running. Suffice it to say that things get kind of rough as all central authority collapses and people often find themselves at the mercy of thugs and warlords. On the other hand, something resembling a genuine community emerges in the remains of the small Upstate New York town where the novel is set. It occurred to me as I was reading that World would make a great movie--and if it had the good fortune to appear shortly after President McCain were to bomb Iran, sending gas to six or seven dollars a gallon--it would be a big hit.

Kunstler is either the world's greatest crackpot on the subject of peak oil, or a prophet that we should all heed. Either way, he is one of the few people worth reading (he has a weekly column and sometimes contributes to The American Conservative and Orion) these days. The New York Times should have hired him instead of that neocon hack. He is also worth seeing in person:

George Schuyler

First Principles, ISI's new web journal, just published my review of George S. Schuyler: Portrait of a Black Conservative, by Oscar Williams. Schuyler is largely forgotten today but he lived a fascinating life as an adventurer/journalist. Perhaps like American life in general, he was far more interesting in the years before World War II than in the years after.

Friday, February 29, 2008

WFB 1925-2008

One might say that the death of William F. Buckley marks the end of an era, but I believe that his era ended some time ago. Like Justin Raimondo, Buckley and National Review had an important influence on my youthful thinking. The influence didn't last and I doubt if I even qualify as a conservative (whatever that means) anymore; but I was once so enamored of Buckley's brand of Cold War Conservatism that I joined the Marine Corps. The only book of his that I still have is his Unmaking of a Mayor, pictured below.

Buckley was a rakish figure at with a command of the (spoken, at least) English language. He was by all accounts (particularly Joseph Sobran's) a gentleman and a good friend; qualities more important than whom one voted for in the last election.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

That's Victory?

Glen Dean has a post at Tennessee Free stating that conservatism isn't dying but reigns triumphant:
It has been 27 years since Ronald Reagan was sworn in, and not only did Reagan transform fiscal policy, and foreign policy, but he transformed modern liberalism. We had eight years of a Democratic President after Reagan, but at no time did that President seek to raise taxes to pre-Reagan levels. Speaking of that President, he was the one that declared “the end of welfare as we know it”. At no time did President Clinton propose price controls or regulation to the extent of the Carter administration. Clinton was also a major advocate of free trade, as evidenced by his signing of NAFTA.

First, I should point out how unfair he is being to President Carter. It was the man from Plains, not Saint Reagan, who was responsible for most of the deregulation of a quarter century ago.

His point is that conservatism has actually "won" because of Democrats aren't planning to restore pre-Reagan levels of taxation, or something. If they have acheived victory, then why have rightwingers been so whiny for the last couple of years? Conservatism is in roughly the same position as liberalism was in forty years ago--it has some acheivements but has bumped up against reality. They are hampered by their feeble response to the failings of their foreign policy and the fact that much of their "free market" ideology has little public support and tax cuts don't even have much resonance anymore.

Dean's declaration of victory shows how much conservatives have scaled back their expectations in recent years. In 2002, the Republicans won a rare midterm victory for the party in power and regained the U.S. Senate. Their big domestic accomplishments were to create the Orwellian sounding Department of Homeland Security and pass an expansion of Medicare. I remember my younger days--when I was a standard issue rightwinger-- salivating at the roll back we could have accomplished with a Republican president and congress. It turns out that when it happens, government expands.

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Influence of Dreher . . .

A sign seen on tonight's NBC News broadcast: "Crunchy Cons for Huck." I couldn't see if the sign holder was wearing birkenstocks, but I'm guessing the he was.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Sixty-Four Dollar Question

Steve Sailer has an article in the February, 11 issue of The American Conservative explaining the correlation between affordable housing and child rearing and support for the Republicans.

Now if he can only explain what it is about the 2.3 kids and the house in the 'burbs that makes seemingly rational people support aggressive war, environmental degredation, exempting the wealthy from taxation--financed with massive debt passed on to the aforementioned 2.3 offspring and leavened with occasional empty prattle about "family values" and "free markets."

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Watch This Space

A new web publication from ISI, First Principles, is now online. Let me be among the first to offer my congratulations. It will be among my daily reading.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Book Notes

The March issue of Chronicles will have my review of Cheney: The Untold Story of America's Most Powerful and Controversial Vice President by Stephen Hayes. That issue will be on newsstands and in mailboxes in about three weeks. I'll give you the first sentence and let you wait for the rest. "By now it should be clear to all but the most loyal Republicans that the government of the United States is controlled by madmen."

Next up is Print Is Dead: Books in our Digital Age by digital/new media fanatic Jeff Gomez. His argument can be boiled down to, "IPOD! IPOD! IPOD!" If Gomez represents the best that digital world has to offer, Gutenberg's invention should hang around for another 500 years or so.

Back to the Drawing Board . . .

Glen Dean is concerned about what might happen to the Republican party in the coming months. "A nomination of John McCain will destroy the Republican Party. The same can be said of a Huckabee nomination."

I think it's overly dramatic to talk about "destroy[ing]" the GOP, but they are trouble this year no matter who they nominate. Their problem is that the program of the party, known as "conservatism" has been put in to practice to the extent it can, and been found wanting. If they don't go back to the drawing board and find something different, they had better be prepared to for some time in the political wilderness.

Monday, January 14, 2008

New From ISI

I received a spring/summer catalog from ISI Books today. As always, they have plenty of interesting titles but the two that stood out to me are God, Man, & Hollywood: Politically Incorrect Cinema from the Birth of a Nation to the Passion of the Christ by Mark Royden Winchell and a reprint of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, by Justin Raimondo.

I've enjoyed Winchell's writing in Chronicles and other publications for years and look forward to his book. Raimondo's book has a new introduction by George W. Carey and critical essays by Scott Richert of Chronicles and David Gordon of the Ludwig von Mises Institute. It should make a good companion book to Bill Kauffman's Ain't My America: The Long, Noble History of Anti-War Conservatism and Middle-American Anti-Imperialism, which will be out this spring.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Crunchy Bombs

In the midst of a Washington Post article about the prospects for conservatives in 2008, Jonah Goldberg drops this little stink bomb:
Many of the younger conservative policy mavens and intellectuals have also become steadily less enamored of free markets and limited government. . . "Crunchy conservatism," the brainchild of Dallas Morning News columnist Rod Dreher, is also a cri de coeur against mainstream conservatism. And both of these derive from the kind of thinking that led George W. Bush to insist in 2000 that he was a "different kind of Republican" because he was a "compassionate conservative" -- a political program that apparently measures compassion by how much money the government spends on education, marriage counseling and the like.

I not only read, but reviewed Crunchy Cons for Chronicles. It's been a while, but I can't remember anything about it that "derive[s] from the kind of thinking that led George W. Bush to insist in 2000 that he was a 'different kind of Republican.'" Fortunately, Jeremy Beer has published a perceptive review of Dreher's book in the University Bookman. He neglected to note any similarity to compassionate conservatism and instead writes that, "Dreher . . . seems to have discovered the half-forgotten canon of traditionalist thought (especially the work of Russell Kirk) and its contemporary expositors (especially Lukacs, Wendell Berry, and Alasdair MacIntyre)."

Beer also wisely puts the much abused term "free markets" in quotes. If one grants that conservative intellectuals actually favor such a policy, conservative politicians and probably 99% of Ameicans don't. I'm not even sure what it means anymore.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

2007 in Review

Some of you may have noticed that I took a brief, two month, vaction from blogging. I just got bored and disgusted with saying the same things over and over again. I took the absence of cards, letters and emails to mean that my readers are too distraught to go on.

I mark my return to a (hopefully) more frequent schedule of blogging by recording my thoughts on the year past in several areas.

I became a member of the National Book Critics Circle in 2007, and a couple of weeks ago I submitted my first nominations for its annual awards. Here are the nominations I made in the general nonfiction category:
1 Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future, by Bill McKibben. I reviewed this for Metro Pulse a few months back.
2 Elites for Peace: The Senate and the Vietnam War, 1964-1968, by Gary Stone. I also reviewed this title in The American Conservative.
3 The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, by Mearsheimer and Walt. Move along, nothing to see here.
4Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations, by David R. Montgomery. Here's a brief review from Bookforum.

I haven't seen enough movies this year to make a top ten or even a top five list. My friend Jesse Walker annully makes several ten best lists from a decade ago and going back in time (eg. this year he is doing, 1997, 1987, etc.). Instead, I will list a few notable films from previous years that I saw for the first time in 2007.

1 The Jazz Singer(1927). This classic first "talking picture" is actually mostly still silent.

2 42nd Street, Footlight Parade , Gold Diggers of 1933. This trio of Warner Brothers backstage musicals, all from 1933, have similar plots and cast, but the real star in both cases is the outlandish choreography of Busby Berkeley.

3 One, Two, Three (1961). An outstanding Billy Wilder comedy starring the the great James Cagney, who moves at about a hundred miles an Hour in the second half of the film.

4 Ghost World (2001). "I can't relate to 99 per cent of humanity."

Person of the Year

Rightwingers whined when Time magazine chose Vladimir Putin instead of their favored candidate, David Petraeus. I would pick either of Time's runner ups -- Al Gore and J.K. Rowling -- over Petraeus. But consider the merits of Ron Paul, who has raised a boat load of money in his quixotic presidential campaign and threatens to upset the apple cart in the Republican party. I wouldn't be surprised if he wins a couple of primaries and caucuses this year.

UPDATE: I almost forgot to mention the entertainment phenomenon of the year in 2007 -- the return of several former writers and cast members of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Mike Nelson, Bill Corbett and Kevin Murphy form the Film Crew. Their premise is that an unseen Charlie's Angelsesque boss assigns bad movies for them to provide DVD commentaries. I've seen a couple that they have done and they are pretty good. Joel Hodgson and several others have started Cinematic Titanic. I have seen their product yet, but I have high hopes. I commented on the regional nature of MST3K here.