Saturday, December 30, 2006
To me the most interesting questions are: Is it necessary and proper to have a courtroom trial of a dictator whose country we invade? Was the rule of law strengthened in Iraq by a Iraqi trial of their former dictator? Did America buy goodwill and respect from muslims by allowing Iraq to try Saddam or did we look weak and lose respect? Would America be better off establishing the principle that we will summarily execute any dictator who initiates force against us?
I don't know the answers to these questions. I would be interested in reading the opinions of experts in international law, war and foreign policy.
Josh Trevino rounds up the reaction on the left side of the blogosphere to Saddam’s execution. One might regret their moral equivalence, but I think their reactions are mostly colored by their hatred of Bush. Bush’s Middle East policy must lead to nothing good in their minds, not even the death of a sadistic monster like Saddam Hussein. If a Democrat were President, all but the most recalcitrant anti-American leftists would be cheering. America would be better off if Democrat and Republican partisans could think a little more deeply than my gang vs. your gang.
Friday, December 29, 2006
Tonight they lost a triple overtime game to a bad team, the Charlotte Bobcats, 133-124. Bad teams seem to get up for the Lakers. It was the Lakers' first triple overtime since 1980. There was too much Kobe like last year. The superstar tried to win it himself and scored 58 points. His energy sapped by the long road trip and the flu, Kobe's body was exhausted by the third overtime.
Will Chris Mihm come back from his injury this year? They could use him.
UPDATE: Mihm underwent ankle surgery on December 7 and will take 6-8 months to recover. He is out for the season.
Given Ford’s decisive reaction to the Mayaguez and Carter’s feckless response to the Iran hostage crisis, one has to wonder how history would have been different had Ford beat Carter in 1976. Might we have supported the Shah and stopped the Mullahs from taking power in Iran? Would the hostage crisis have happened? Would Ford have responded more forcefully than Carter to the hostage crisis? Would the Soviet Union have invaded Afghanistan? Would domestic policy have been as bad? Would Ford have created the Departments of Energy and Education? We’ll never know the answers to these questions, but it’s safe to say Ford would have been a better President than Carter. Chevy Chase would have been a better President than Carter.
Monday, December 25, 2006
Since 2001, like many Americans, I have learned more about the Middle East than I wanted to know. Before the first Gulf War I think I could have spotted Mesopotamia on the map faster than Iraq. I would have been happy to remain ignorant about a backward region that makes women cover their faces. I would have been happy to ignore a culture with music that sounds like a cross between a squeaky door hinge and a cat in heat. Let them exist in their oriental strangeness; I have more important things to think about. However, this culture has forced itself upon our attention.
As much as I have learned in the last five years, nothing I have read has been as instructive as The Rise of Totalitarian Islam. You hear a lot of confusing BS on TV about why terrorists are attacking us: they’re poor, they’re angry about colonialism, they’re angry because we supported dictators, they’re angry because we take their oil, they’re angry about "Baywatch" and Madonna. They’re always angry about something. Dr. Brook shows that the fundamental reason they are at war with the west is the spread since the 1920’s of an ideology. Everything they do – suicide bombing, attacking the west to establish a caliphate, killing Americans and even killing innocent Muslims if necessary – has been urged on them in books written in large part by the Muslim Brotherhood. Understand their ideas and you understand the enemy.
Dr. Brook actually apologizes at the end for being so depressing. The lecture series is not called The Rise and Fall of Totalitarian Islam. The movement is still on the rise and things will get worse before they get better. For all of that, his talks inspired me with more optimism than anything I have heard lately because they show how quickly ideas can move history. Some mystic in an Egyptian jail cell would write an idiotic book and within decades the Middle East would be changed as Muslims set about putting ideas into action. In this lecture course you see in concrete, trucklike fashion how ideas move history. It’s not just an abstraction that happens over centuries, but a process that can be seen in the course of a lifetime. I believe that a rational philosophy, even one at odds with 2,000 years of mysticism and altruism, can spread rapidly and transform (and save) Western Civilization.
John Lewis’s Defensor Patriae uses four famous wars, the Persian War, the Peloponnesian War, the Second Punic War and the American Civil War to support in an inductive fashion his thesis that war must be won by destroying the enemy society’s will to wage it. As he shows, defeating an enemy’s army is not the end, but a means to the end of defeating the enemy. He is not afraid to take the controversial stand that a civilian society that supports a war cannot complain if the war is brought to it. Indeed, he shows quite convincingly that the only way to win a war is take the war to the civilians so that they too know defeat. If a people is not defeated and demoralized, then like the Germans after WWI and the Carthaginians after the First Punic War and the Spartans until Epaminondas of Thebes brought war to their gates, a people will long for another war against an enemy that has been merciful or inept in a previous war.
Robert Garmong’s Postmodernism takes on a philosophical movement that is maddeningly difficult to analyze and understand. Unlike Marxism for instance, Postmodernism does not have a grand, unified vision. Instead it is disintegrated and ad hoc. Worse, it is illogical, incoherent and inconsistent, so if you try to pin them down or abstract their principles, Postmodernists can always obfuscate, talk nonsense or just plain lie. And they have no problem lying; when there is no objective truth, only “narratives,” a lie is equal to the truth and even better if it serves the end of establishing power over evil capitalists. All the ideologies of the New Left – feminism, environmentalism, multiculturalism, animal rights, whatever – are species of Postmodernism.
As I heard Dr. Garmong explain this philosophy, I was struck by two things. First, there is not much to Postmodernism. It is flimsy and slight, like a cream puff that you bite into to find it is mostly air. (Well, to complete the analogy, it is a cream puff that tastes bad and lacks nutritional content – which makes no sense, but neither does the philosophy.) Take the idea that there is no truth. You respond, “Is that true?” As Aristotle showed, skepticism is self-refuting. Second, the philosophy is dishonest. Such a ramshackle house of contradictions has to be dishonest, otherwise no one would bother with it.
Postmodernism is a philosophy built on obscure jargon and arguments from intimidation. It is a movement that depends on students whose minds have been crippled by progressive education so that they cannot think independently and will respond to vague nonsense because those in authority glow with a smug air of moral superiority when they mouth it. Such a philosophy is, as Gary Hull put it, a black hole of nihilism. I don’t see how it can last. It should collapse quickly once a rational alternative spreads.
Unfortunately, this black hole dominates the west today and it has done tremendous damage in the last half century. It is the reason we have not confronted the enemy in our war with totalitarian Islam. In WWII we fought the enemy, defeated it and imposed our way of life upon it. Such a war depends on the confidence that America is moral and that we have a selfish right to exist and that our values are better than the enemy’s. Multiculturalism, a product of Postmodernism, undermines all those premises. America cannot fight a war if its predominant intellectuals do not think it deserves to win. Without moral confidence, no nation can wage a war.
If you want to understand today’s world with a clarity provided by no other movement, listen to the lectures by these three Objectivists, Yaron Brook, John Lewis and Robert Garmong. Listen to the future.
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
All will converge on Washington in early January to take part in four days of events surrounding the swearing-in of Rep. Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco, who will be elected the new speaker of the House and the first woman and first Californian to occupy the post.
After running through a long list of planned events designed to highlight different phases of 66-year-old Pelosi’s life, her spokesman Brendan Daly said, “Overall this is who Nancy Pelosi is. And this is a chance for people to meet Nancy Pelosi and see who she is.'’
Events designed to highlight different phases of Nancy Pelosi’s life? I think I’d rather listen to a Yoko Ono CD during a root canal by a dentist who sticks four implements in my mouth then asks, "So, how's work going," while Oprah plays silently on a TV screen in the dentist’s office.
2. I’m a wiggly worm in that ecosystem of Truth Laid Bear. At the rate I’m going, I’ll be a microbe soon. Devolution in action! But fear not, this worm is no whiner. My readers are few, but they are of extraordinarily high quality. Yeah, that’s the ticket.
3. George Reisman has an interesting post on Pinochet. The dictator must be kept in context, which the MSM never do because Pinochet was anti-communist. Nice Mises quote at the end of the post.
4. Charlotte Capitalist observes what might be the start of a trend: a war by the left on cows?! But it makes sense that they would go after cows, since humans enjoy the products of cows so much. I might note that the best way to make bos taurus an endangered species is to render it useless to man, but... never mind. My irony would be lost on all but the choir.
5. Read on the internet: "u need to like me for my persanality and not for wut i look like."
Would it be shallow to judge you by your spelling? One sees a lot of writing like this, especially at the big brain drain, Myspace. Is it the internet or government schools or something else?
6. Here’s a parting thought. All the New Left’s arguments for environmental and health regulations are just rationalizations in their quest to destroy capitalism and reshape the west by the standards of altruism-collectivism-statism. And if they have to fudge a few facts or monger a little fear along the way, the end justifies the means. Their goal is too important and capitalists are too evil to play nice by the old rules. (Moreover, capitalism is a system of justice. In a free country, statist mediocrities have no one but themselves to blame for their inadequacies. So you see, their mission is of absolute importance to statists; without it, they would have to look in the mirror.)
UPDATE: As I work I'm writing a post on Liberaltarians that I hope to put up today. Stay tuned!
FURTHER UPDATE: No, that post won't happen today.
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
2. Hugh Laurie, the actor who plays House, also played Bertie Wooster on the BBC Jeeves and Wooster series. Talk about range! Can you think of two characters less similar than House and Bertie Wooster?
3. What's worse, Britney Spears not wearing underpants in a dress or a radio morning show that talks about it for half an hour?
4. "It would be a hard government that should tax its people one-tenth part of their income." -- Benjamin Franklin
"When the people find that they can vote themselves money, that will herald the end of the republic." -- Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin's America is long gone.
Monday, December 11, 2006
After reviewing the report of the Iraq Study Group, released Wednesday, New York Post editorial page editor John Podhoretz declared: "The nation's capital hasn't seen such concentrated wisdom in one place since Paris Hilton dined alone at the Hooters on Connecticut Avenue."
Stratfor, a private intelligence service, said the ISG report was "underwhelming." Retired Army intelligence officer Ralph Peters called it a "muddle of truisms and bad ideas." The conservative National Review called it "an analytic embarrassment." Fred Kaplan, military writer for the liberal Webzine Slate, said its recommendations were "a useless grab bag." T. F. Boggs, an Army sergeant recently returned from his second tour in Iraq, said the recommendations were a "joke" that "could only have come from a group of old people who have been stuck in Washington for too long."
The always entertaining Mark Steyn focuses on how the document screws Israel:
Oh, but lest you think there are no minimum admission criteria to James Baker's "Support Group," relax, it's a very restricted membership: Arabs, Persians, Chinese commies, French obstructionists, Russian assassination squads. But no Jews. Even though Israel is the only country to be required to make specific concessions -- return the Golan Heights, etc. Indeed, insofar as this document has any novelty value, it's in the Frankenstein-meets-the-Wolfman sense of a boffo convergence of hit franchises: a Vietnam bug-out, but with the Jews as the designated fall guys. Wow. That's what Hollywood would call "high concept."
Robert Tracinski says the recommendations are vague aspirations:
What the ISG offers us are mere aspirations, with no serious consideration of the concrete means required to fulfill those aspirations.
A real change in policy for Iraq wouldn't start and end with a collection of vague aspirations. It would start with a clear-eyed, realistic assessment of the facts that explain the chaos in Iraq--the facts that explain why all of the aspirations stated by the Iraq Study Group have not yet been met.
The basic fact is that the conflict in Iraq, from the very beginning, has been stoked by Syria and Iran. These dictatorial regimes are stoking the conflict because the success of the American mission in Iraq is an obvious threat to their very existence. They can't afford the example of a free nation in the region, nor can they afford the example of a successful exertion of American power on their doorsteps.
Elan Journo points out that the report misses the essential:
The Iraq Study Group has issued many specific recommendations, but the options boil down to a maddeningly limited range: pull out or send more troops to do democracy-building and, either way, "engage" the hostile regimes in Iran and Syria. Missing from the list is the one option our self-defense demands: a war to defeat the enemy. If you think we've already tried this option and failed, think again. Washington's campaign in Iraq looks nothing like the war necessary for our self-defense.
As Andy at Charlotte Capitalist notes, the purpose of the report is to nation-build a secure Iraq. Both Bush and the report focus on America sacrificing for a better Iraq. This is the wrong purpose, the wrong expenditure of taxpayers’ money and the wrong reason to send men and women in the military to die. Our purpose should be to destroy the enemy and make America safe. We are not doing this and the ISG Report will not advance the cause of American security.
The Iraq Study Group is not a group of wise men (and one woman); it is a group of politicians who cannot think in principle. People like James Baker and Lee Hamilton really know about one thing: how to succeed in Washington, D.C. They know the ins and outs of government, bureaucracy, media and so on. They know how to do the things necessary for a long career in government: getting past the daily crisis with minimum damage, shmoozing, brown nosing, getting good press and speaking in banalities that will anger as few people as possible. These are people who have spent decades watching the government grow and our freedoms erode; they didn't just watch, they caused it. Judged by the standard of liberty, their lives are miserable failures. Does anyone think they will suddenly become wise and noble?
I’d like to note just a few passages in the report. From p. 23:
There are proposals to redistribute a portion of oil revenues directly to the population on a per capita basis. These proposals have the potential to give all Iraqi citizens a stake in the nation’s chief natural resource, but it would take time to develop a fair distribution system. Oil revenues have been incorporated into state budget projections for the next several years. There is no institution in Iraq at present that could properly implement such a distribution system. It would take substantial time to establish, and would have to be based on a well-developed state census and income tax system, which Iraq currently lacks.
Did it not occur to anyone on the ISG that this is communism? It's not Stalinism, but redistribution of wealth is basically communism. Is this how to run an oil company? Did anyone think to consult a good economist on this scheme?
Are Americans dying to bring communism to Iraq? I guess it really is Vietnam -- 58,000 Americans died there and it ended up communist, too.
How about this from p. 58:
RECOMMENDATION 66: The United States should take the lead in funding assistance requests from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and other humanitarian agencies.
Take the lead? Who already has the lead? Let me rewrite this recommendation so that it makes sense.
RECOMMENDATION 66: The United States should continue its altruistic policy of the last 50 years of taking money from American taxpayers and throwing it down the sewer that is the United Nations. It won’t do a damned bit of good, but it might appease the hell-holes of the world until tomorrow afternoon.
I hope the ISG Report was printed on soft paper. They can ship it to the Middle East and the people there can use it as toilet paper.
UPDATE: Slight revision.
Sunday, December 10, 2006
Can we say with confidence they are among the elite in the NBA? Not quite. They still have to go through a long road trip, which they will do later this month. After that, we’ll know.
How about that Atlantic Division?
New Jersey 7-12 (.368)
New York 8-14 (.364)
Toronto 7-13 (.350)
Boston 6-13 (.312)
Philadelphia 5-14 (.263)
Philadelphia, at 5-14, is only 2 games out of first place.
Saturday, December 09, 2006
You scored 98%!
|You damn rock star. You know all the basics, and if you got any wrong, I bet it was that stupid Traveling Wilburys question. Your friends are probably intimidated by your knowledge of classic rock and envy your impressive collection. When a classic rock song comes on the radio, you can probably identify it before the vocals kick in most of the time. You probably get good scores on the "maiden name of Clapton's mom" tests, too.|
|My test tracked 1 variable How you compared to other people your age and gender:|
|Link: The BASIC classic rock Test written by allmydays on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test|
Thursday, December 07, 2006
2. I am 156 pages into R.R. Bolgar’s The Classical Heritage. It is great. I would call it a history of education from late Rome through the Renaissance. Even the chapter on Byzantium was fascinating. Now, history of education and Byzantium are not two topics that make my blood race. Put them together and you’ve got a soporific cocktail, right? No, Bolgar makes essential identifications; he pulls the empirical facts of history together to find the principles and trends.
This book is not for everyone. It is learned and advanced, written in a dense style with long paragraphs. 25 years ago it would have bored me to tears, but now I’ve read enough about the history of philosophy to get something out of Bolgar. It is thrilling to see a brilliant mind with a first-rate understanding of the material induce the essential and the important from the facts of history.
3. When I watch the Lakers I see a TV commercial for a WWE (professional wrestling) video game. This might be the only sports related video game that is actually more realistic than the sport. At least the outcome of the video game is in doubt.
4. If you want to hear a good pop song, check out this Christmas video by Heidi Klum on Trey Givens’s blog. The melody is catchy and Heidi Klum is easy on the eyes. She is married to someone called Seal. What does Seal have that I don’t have? I mean, other than talent, wealth, fame and sex appeal. Those things are so shallow.
Warning: This video is pure, happy pop. It will nauseate hard rockers and send Metallica fans and Gwar fans into convulsions. Fans of Slayer risk an agonizing death, which come to think of it, might turn them on.
My only problems are with Holmes’s character. I have a hard time believing that someone who spends his off-time in a cocaine-induced daze could be so brilliant. The cocaine users I have known have not exactly been Sherlock Holmeses. This is, well, elementary.
Holmes’s epistemology is unrealistic. His remarkable power of observation provides the stories with much of their delight, but in reality observation must serve purpose. Holmes knows how many stairs lead to his apartment, but what purpose does this serve? Someone who went around noticing these things every day would have a strange mind cluttered with unimportant facts, like an autistic savant.
Another problem is his reason-emotion dichotomy. Watson the narrator says,
It was not that he felt any emotion akin to love for Irene Adler. All emotions, and that one particularly, were abhorrent to his cold, precise but admirably balanced mind. He was, I take it, the most perfect reasoning and observing machine that the world has seen, but as a lover he would have placed himself in a false position. He never spoke of the softer passions, save with a gibe and a sneer. They were admirable things for the observer – excellent for drawing the veil from men’s motives and actions. But for the trained reasoner to admit such intrusions into his own delicate and finely adjusted temperament was to introduce a distracting factor which might throw a doubt upon all his mental results. Grit in a sensitive instrument, or a crack in one of his own high-power lenses, would not be more disturbing than a strong emotion in a nature such as his.
In reality emotions can be tools to help one know what is important if one contemplates their meaning. Emotions are psychosomatic responses to values; a threat to values causes fear, injustice causes anger, etc. Emotions are essential to evaluating reality. Someone like Holmes would have a hard time functioning successfully because he would not have his own emotions to use as clues for understanding. He would be a detective cut off from some of the most important clues humans can use!
Setting aside psychological realism, or lack thereof, Holmes’s epistemology does provide tremendous drama for the stories. Falling in love would be the most disastrous thing that could happen to him; this sets up a value-conflict between love and crime-fighting, and value-conflict is the stuff of drama. (I would expect to see Miss Irene Adler return in other stories, but I don’t know.)
With the value-conflict and the plot, “A Scandal in Bohemia” is superb romantic fiction. We’ll see if the other stories are this good.
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
The most important question is: do we have the will to do what is necessary or has multiculturalism crippled the west? I asked myself this question in the days following September 11, 2001 and I concluded that we do not have what it takes to win. I still see no cause for hoping that we can impose our way of life on Islam, not with the New Left’s stranglehold on our culture. I see a long, drawn out war of half measures looming before us, punctuated by Islamic atrocities on American soil to which we respond with a burst of force then lapse back into our self-induced helplessness. Our half measures will only reinforce radical Islam’s conviction that morality is on their side.
The worst scenario: Islam provokes us so greatly and our outrage is so intense that... who knows what might happen. Multiculturalism fosters a "my gang vs. your gang" mentality because, although it pretends to be about tolerance, it encourages people to think of themselves as members of a collective, not as individuals. Multiculturalism can lead to rivers of blood, but not to liberty. Multiculturalism will stop us from imposing capitalism and individual rights on Islam, but our desire for justice will drive us to kill the enemy. Woe unto Islam if it comes to this.
Whatever happens, I believe things will get much worse before they get better.
UPDATE: Slight revision.
|You scored as Shotgun. Bang! You need shotgun, because it can transform enemy into bloody spaghetti in no time. Maybe you played DOOM too much...|
What Firearm Fits You Best?
created with QuizFarm.com
If it's good enough for the Vice-President...
(HT: Rule of Reason)
Anytime an American fires a weapon there has to be an investigation into why there was an escalation of force.
I wonder what General Sherman or General Patton would have thought of this policy? As Bill Quick writes:
This is not how to fight a war. This is not how a military fights a war. This is how a military fights a war under politically correct, politically generated rules that guarantee disaster and defeat.
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
Monday, December 04, 2006
2. I auditioned today for “Witness For the Prosecution.” There are two good roles I could play. I hope I get one. I’ll let you know.
3. McDonald’s coffee is better than Starbucks. I am confident that if Starbucks made hamburgers, they would be better than McDonald’s.
4. If you have ever read a play by August Strindberg, check out these cartoons. Okay, check them out even if you have not read Strindberg. They excerpt passages from the loony Swedish playwright at his most pessimistic, lines like, "We are already in hell." And then this balloon thing repeats various words and... trust me, it's hilarious.
As an actor I find Strindberg interesting because his characters are complex and challenging; at the same time, he makes me giggle because he is weird and has no self-awareness of his weirdness. He is sincerely weird, as no post-modern could be. Best taken in small doses.
My mother would say the moral of this story is if you can't say something nice about someone, don't say anything at all. Obviously, I didn't listen to my mother. The moral I draw is check twice before you click send, because once you do, you can't get it back.
Saturday, December 02, 2006
Any government that is as big as ours, as powerful as ours, that controls so much of our lives, will always be susceptible to corruption.
Because power does corrupt.
But we can reduce the temptation by taking power out of Washington and putting it back into the hands of the American people.
It has to be us.
It has to be our Party.
Because the Democrat Party sure won't do it.
They're the party of government.
They believe it has the answer to every question, the solution to every problem.
We Republicans don't believe that . . . but sometimes, over the last few years, we've behaved as if we do.
Sometimes over the last few years? As Neal Boortz writes:
In the 12 years since Republicans took over the House of Representatives, the size of the federal government has doubled. That's right...it's now twice the size of what it was in January of 1995. And it's not hard to see why. Look at all of the new agencies that have been created and/or expanded. The Department of Homeland Security? That was a Republican idea. No Child Left Behind? So much for getting rid of the Education Department...the Republicans expanded it.
Prescription drug coverage for Medicare...that's another one. The list goes on and on. Then there were the endless pork projects the GOP was pushing...the bridge to nowhere among them. There is no question that the Republican Party became the party of big government. The only difference between them and the Democrats is they like to borrow money instead of raise it through taxation.
You know what Alcoholics Anonymous teaches. You must admit you have a problem before you begin to treat it. Repeat after me, Ken, “I am a Republican. I am a big spender. Like the Democrat Party, my party is a party of big government.”
And what about this line from Chairman Mehlman's speech?
I'm talking about expanding the role of faith in the public square for people who need not just a hot meal, but sustenance for the soul.
What th…? Government should be providing people sustenance for the soul? Is that what the Republican Party stands for now?
Sustenance for the soul comes from ideas, values and art. I don’t want the government deciding what ideas, values and art my soul should be fed. That’s what totalitarian states do. That’s what the Inquisition did.
Smug fools like Ken Mehlman will march this country to hell, preening every step of the way about how they’re not as bad as the Democrats.
Friday, December 01, 2006
Separating anatomy from what it means to be a man or a woman, New York City is moving forward with a plan to let people alter the sex on their birth certificate even if they have not had sex-change surgery.
Under the rule being considered by the city’s Board of Health, which is likely to be adopted soon, people born in the city would be able to change the documented sex on their birth certificates by providing affidavits from a doctor and a mental health professional laying out why their patients should be considered members of the opposite sex, and asserting that their proposed change would be permanent.
Applicants would have to have changed their name and shown that they had lived in their adopted gender for at least two years, but there would be no explicit medical requirements.
Dr. Reisman goes beyond politics and ethics to examine the epistemological meaning of this law. Among the points he makes:
What is present in the rule being considered by New York City’s Board of Health is an attempt to forcibly impose the fantasy of some people on everyone else. It is an attempt to elevate fantasy to the level of actual reality and to compel everyone else to accept it as though it were reality.
In this rule New York City will force people to recognize A as non-A.
This is the logical end of the premise of egalitarianism. Fantasy is inherent in egalitarianism, which wipes out distinctions and treats all people as if they were metaphysically equal. If a man wants to call himself a woman, who are we to deny him that right? Who are we to say, “No, that is false”?
A generation ago this ruling would have been a reductio ad absurdum argument against egalitarianism and multiculturalism. People would have responded, “Oh, come on -- the New Left will never take it to that extreme.” Yesterday’s absurdities are becoming today’s laws in New York City.