CK MacLeod's

A sounding…

Even a perfectly just man who wants to give advice to a tyrant has to present himself to his pupil as an utterly unscrupulous man.

Leo Strauss, On Tyranny

Thus, the voice of the Machiavellian – and the Sully-ite, too.  I’m only 60 pages into the book, but I’m finding it wonderfully relevant to all of the discussions we’ve been having lately – on rights from materialist and idealist perspectives, the Ground Zero Mosque/Cordoba House… maybe even unstoppable flows of bad stuff. Read more ›

Posted in Books, Politics Tagged with: , , ,

In my own name only…

Why this building, there?

Leaving aside some melodrama – “insane,” “looming horror,” “surrender” – that question sums up the reaction to Cordoba House, a.k.a. “The Ground Zero Mosque,” a project of the the Cordoba Initiative (CI) that last week added the approval of Manhattan Community Board 1 to okays from New York City’s Mayor and Chief of Police. Left unstated is why it’s anybody else’s business, in the land of the free.  Why not put up an Islamic cultural center with worship area among the many buildings within a two-block radius of hallowed ground?  More important, what would denying permission for the project solely on emotional or ideological grounds say about us?

It would be a victory, in America, for the un-American doctrine of collective guilt.

Belief in collective guilt is not the same thing as bigotry, but they share assumptions and can lead to the same destination.  (Contrary to some reports, I did not call anyone a bigot in my post of last Wednesday.)  Consistently, and perhaps inescapably, calls to reject Cordoba House have rested on the assignment of responsibility to Muslims, in general, for the 9/11 attacks. You can call that Islamophobia, or you can call it a “natural” reaction – perhaps while also acknowledging that the naturalness of an emotional response may be an excuse for expressing it, but that it cannot be a justification for excluding anyone’s religion from the national community you believe yourself to be protecting.

The symbolic transference of responsibility, from those directly involved to a diverse world community, is often accomplished by sleight-of-hand, as facilitated by emotional distraction.

Read more ›

Posted in International Relations, Religion, War Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

Endless Unstoppable Flows of Bad Ugly Stuff That No One Seems To Be Able To Do Anything About

This post isn’t really about the BP oil disastrophe – not that anyone yet seems quite sure how much of a disastrophe it is, even politically.  This post is just here to ask whether the cloudy ominous unstoppable confusion of it all is becoming a metaphor for our times.

Consider economic matters:

As reported last week, something somewhere between amazing and irrelevant has been going on with M3 – the quantity of money, all the dollars in all bank accounts.  Quantity of money is an economic indicator once followed closely by mainstream economists, but nowadays hardly discussed except in the contrarian grottos and far by-ways.

The M3 money supply in the United States is contracting at an accelerating rate that now matches the average decline seen from 1929 to 1933, despite near zero interest rates and the biggest fiscal blitz in history.

Monetarists don’t believe that a “proper” recovery can occur in such circumstances, and don’t believe that stimulus programs of the type favored by Obama’s Keynesians can help.  What both camps agree on, apparently, is that the mid-term outlook is beginning to cloud over.  In the article linked above, UK Telegraph economics writer Ambrose Evans-Pritchard gives the following summary of confusion and self-contradiction and fear and loathing at the top:

Larry Summers, President Barack Obama’s top economic adviser, has asked Congress to “grit its teeth” and approve a fresh fiscal boost of $200bn to keep growth on track. “We are nearly 8m jobs short of normal employment. For millions of Americans the economic emergency grinds on,” he said.

David Rosenberg from Gluskin Sheff said the White House appears to have reversed course just weeks after Mr Obama vowed to rein in a budget deficit of $1.5 trillion (9.4pc of GDP) this year and set up a commission to target cuts. “You truly cannot make this stuff up. The US government is freaked out about the prospect of a double-dip,” he said.

The White House request is a tacit admission that the economy is already losing thrust and may stall later this year as stimulus from the original $800bn package starts to fade.

So, promises to deal with the deficit against calls for a new spending package… As mentioned in the linked article, the monetarists believe that repeated stimulus shots are what Japan tried – to no great effect.  The serious Keynesians believe that boosting aggregate demand – during a time of high unemployment and apparent danger of a deflationary spiral – is absolutely essential, but that Obama et al have been far too timid.  Since Obama can’t create political capital as easily as Bernanke can create money,  the tendency of the system to muddle down the middle takes over.

The optimists remain optimistic that the Big Muddle will work well enough, always has before, eventually… but they mostly don’t live in and around the Gulf of Mexico or in Europe.

Posted in Economics, Politics Tagged with:

Look out below, the (other) sequel

The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Wednesday shows that 23% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as president. Forty-five percent (45%) Strongly Disapprove, giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -22. That’s the lowest Approval Index rating yet measured for this president.

Daily Presidential Tracking Poll – Rasmussen Reports™.

BP, immigration, Sestakgate, end of the O-care bounce, and the Dow.

Posted in Miscellany Tagged with: , ,

The Marriage of Heaven and Hell in Manhattan

I don’t see a good reason to be against the building of a mosque/cultural center two blocks from Ground Zero. In fact, the arguments in favor sound quite reasonable to me.  But, then again, I don’t hate and fear Islam.  I see the truths in Islam – what I know of it, and, yes, even all those bellicose, xenophobic passages, too – just as I do in many other religions and worldviews to which I’m not devoted.  “Every thing possible to be believ’d is an image of truth.

Moreover, it’s my impression that two blocks in downtown Manhattan is the equivalent of around ten miles culturally in a normal city, a whole continent for non-urban cultures.  And, anyway, what Manhattanites do with their neighborhoods I do not take as my business – kind of like the state of my next door neighbors’ marriage and home decor aren’t my business either, nor the very heady aroma that sometimes wafts from the open front door of the other neighbor’s home.

But two blocks from Zero is way too close for some people (commenters), many of whom clearly live thousands of miles away.  Quick summary:  “Fight and slay the Muslims wherever you may find them.

The building proposal is from one perspective taken as an act of cowardly surrender – the construction of a monument to honor an enemy turned ideological conqueror. This view is embodied in an item like this campaign video from Rick Barber for Congress in Alabama.  From the alternative perspective, the same one that I presume led to the Manhattan Community Board voting 29 to 1 in favor of the project, Barber represents the unwanted return to the national stage of the self-righteously enraged – bellicose and xenophobic – bigot.

I wouldn’t be surprised at all if they find an excuse to nix the project – there’s talk about an historic site that would have to be destroyed to make way for it – now that the intrinsically meaningless approval has been offered. In the meantime, we have the explosive, fiery collision of two self-contained and radically opposed worldviews, the acts of each seeming to the other to prove its own point.  It’s an ideological pantomime of the kind of war we have so far avoided.

Posted in Politics, War Tagged with: , , , ,

"Our rights come from God"

The Constitution, our dear Constitution, did not give us our rights. Our rights came from God and they are inalienable rights. The Constitution created the government to protect our God-given and unalienable rights.

Thus Sarah Palin in her speech earlier this month in Missouri, at the “Win America Back Conference.”

Though Palin’s words received the usual uncomprehending and comically overwrought response from at least one leftwing critic, the statement hardly represents a novel departure for a conservative politician.  Even that little inalienable vs. unalienable problem goes all the way back to the Founding.  More important, in recent years acceptance of the premise that “our rights come from God, not the government” has been become almost definitional for American conservatism.  Search for the phrase and close variations on the internet, and you’ll find pointed, high-profile utterances, virtually word for word, from Mitt Romney, Fred Thompson, Newt Gingrich, Jim DeMint, Paul Ryan, and George W. Bush.  For Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, Howard Dean, and Nancy Pelosi, the same searches will tend to turn up conservatives reacting to whatever latest leftwing heresy.  You may have to go all the way back to John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address to find a leading Democrat who could voice the idea clearly, and seem to mean it.

The concept is, of course, embodied in one of the most important single sentences in American history – arguably in all of human history:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

In the speech that first brought Barack Obama to national attention in 2004 (the “no red states and blue states” speech), he did at least recite the sentence:  It didn’t boil his mouth away, but that may be because he sought to interpret it as a mere generalized endorsement of egalitarianism – as though, in writing the lines, Thomas Jefferson had been dimly prophesying the arrival of someone like… Barack Obama in our political life.  Most conservatives, especially those of a libertarian inclination, along with most historians, understand the statement very differently – but that does not mean that contemporary conservative politicians are using it more wisely.

Students of the Founding know that Jefferson was neither dreaming of politicians to come nor in any sense innovating.  The Sentence derives from earlier writings on natural rights philosophy, a comprehensive worldview whose precepts, as the intellectual historian Jerome Huyler has amply demonstrated, were widely shared at the time – not just by the writer and signatories of the Declaration of Independence, but by the revolutionary generation they represented, and to a great extent by Americans colonists even to the first settlements.  “Equal creation,” “unalienable Rights” as a gift of the “Creator,” and the specification of the most significant rights were familiar to educated Americans and especially to all “thinking revolutionaries” in Britain and the not-yet-united states long before July 4, 1776.

It is hardly surprising that the use and even the insistence on just this language remains common on the American right, where both the deity and the Founders are treated with reverence.  Nor is it surprising, or any less indicative, that the concept leaves many on the secular left dumbfounded.  When reacting to Fred Thompson’s invocation of divinely ordained natural rights in 2007, for instance, “university scholar” Jacques Berlinerblau, faith-blogging for the Washington Post, saw only a calculated pitch to social conservatives, with a gesture to libertarians “on the backstroke. ” Double doctorates notwithstanding, Berlinerblau, like the HuffPo’s Malia Litman reacting to Palin as linked above, betrayed no apparent awareness of just where the wacky righty got his quaint notion.

Yet the ill-founded condescension and kneejerk suspicion from the likes of Berlinerblau and Litman underline a deeper challenge to the conservative right, as brought home during Rand Paul’s recent travails as well as in the rather appalled reaction to Newt Gingrich’s comparisons, under the rubric of “secular socialism,” of Obamaist liberals to Nazis and Communists.  There may be an essential, not merely a contingent or politically useful, connection between libertarianism and Judeo-Christian moral philosophy, but in the America of 2010 the idea is far from consensual, or even widely held. It doesn’t even qualify as widely understood, and intimations of its rigorous implementation, theoretical or practical, are received as wholly unacceptable where not merely controversial.

Jefferson’s “we” ain’t us – not all of us anyway.  His truths, where taken to be true at all, will seem far from “self-evident.” Many Americans will hide, or not even bother to hide, a contemptuous snicker at the phrase “created equal,” unaware that it’s gone completely over their heads.  At best, since most like the idea of equality at least in the sense of fairness, they may decide to help the Dead White Male out, and, like senate-candidate Obama to fellow Democrats, adapt the phrase for present purposes (perhaps while reminding each other in superior tones that the DWM owned slaves).  And when the skeptics reach “endowed by their Creator,” the snickering may escalate to New Atheist-style catcalls, or possibly to more polite forms of stubborn dissent.  It’s only by the time that we get to “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit,” with its hedonistic resonances, that much of the audience will be back on board at all.

When conservatives invoke the Founders’ formulation, asserting and demanding consensus, it therefore has the opposite implication and effect.  It points to a lack of political-social consensus, and to a large extent seems meant to – typically dividing an audience of sympathizers from a vast societal other.  Indeed, if the consensus were general, it wouldn’t need to be proclaimed at all, the minions of King George having long since been vanquished.

The strongest advocates of faith-based libertarianism will remind us all the same that the lack of consensus would not be an excuse for resisting the truth of their position, which they believe offers the one political ideology whose commitment to freedom and equality is fundamental and absolute.  They remain convinced that the failure to acknowledge the transcendental origins of our rights renders those rights vulnerable – turns them into mere matters of opinion rather than the unshakable foundations of our freedom.  Yet their argument for the divinely ordained inviolability of rights turns immediately into its opposite for anyone on the outs:  If our rights depend on God and God alone, then non- and less-than-ardent believers, it would seem, are left to conclude that our rights must be fully negotiable, or at any rate that conservatives lack a good argument to the contrary.  Even believers may be left uncomfortable by the sense that conservatives are promoting an inherently exclusionary and prejudicial worldview.

The rationale that often follows – “just between us smart people” – that it’s better for society if people accept religious belief, whether or not it withstands inquiry, sooner or later tends to confirm the skeptic’s suspicion of an elite in waiting whose members are as or more interested in temporal power than transcendent verities.  However we were created, and by whatever, and to whatever supposed effect and purpose, a corrosive and inherently vulnerable inequality, between the as-good-as-atheist illuminati and the masses manipulated for their own good, is put forward as a bargain whose terms must never be spelled out, for the sake of order.  The purveyors of self-evident, transcendent truth seem to reveal themselves as willing dissemblers and ends-justify-the-means materialists after all.

Until we have translated Jefferson’s words honestly, accurately, and accessibly into a contemporary and inclusive idiom – inclusive enough to be spoken by Allahpundit and by James Dobson, by John Derbyshire and by Sarah Palin, too – the opponents of constitutional conservatism will find justifications for ridicule and general resistance, alongside potentially critical divisions in the conservative coalition.  To expect religious conservatives to perform this translation may be unrealistic, however, not because they would be incapable of it, but because for many the soundest basis of all for political activity is in having their beliefs, in just the way they believe them, disseminated in the public square.  Many very much like hearing about the deity – as much or more than the atheists and agnostics may be repelled by it.  Many would interpret less of their preferred speech as a political demotion.

If there’s something in the natural rights philosophy of the Founders for us all, it may be up to fellow conservatives to provide the “more speech” that comprehends both the traditional, culture-bound phraseology as well as its alternatives – words for those who, however constrained by faith or faithlessness, can have no use or affection for “our rights come from God,” and retain their own natural right to ask, “What do your words really mean for the rest of us?”

cross-adapted from Zombie Contentions

Posted in Political Philosophy

Try…

… “our rights come from our existence and our basic similarity.”
fuster @ Zombie Contentions – Does anyone really hold those truths to be self-evident?.

Posted in Politics

We hold these truths…

…to be consistent with a Civilized Society, that all men must be treated as if they were equal by our Government, and under our laws and jurisdiction, that Civilized People have determined that our citizens have inalienable rights, such as, but not limited to, life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness

Rex Caruthers @ Zombie Contentions – Does anyone really hold those truths to be self-evident?.

Posted in Politics

Does anyone really hold those truths to be self-evident?

The Constitution, our dear Constitution, did not give us our rights. Our rights came from God and they are inalienable rights. The Constitution created the government to protect our God-given and unalienable rights.

Thus Sarah Palin in her speech earlier this month in Missouri, at the “Win America Back Conference.”

Though Palin’s words received the usual uncomprehending and comically overwrought response from at least one leftwing critic, the statement hardly represents a novel departure for a conservative politician.  Even that little inalienable vs. unalienable problem goes all the way back to the Founding.  More important, in recent years acceptance of the premise that “our rights come from God, not the government” has been become almost definitional for American conservatism.  Search for the phrase and close variations on the internet, and you’ll find pointed, high-profile utterances, virtually word for word, from Mitt Romney, Fred Thompson, Newt Gingrich, Jim DeMint, Paul Ryan, and George W. Bush.  For Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, Howard Dean, and Nancy Pelosi, the same searches will tend to turn up conservatives reacting to whatever latest leftwing heresy.  You may have to go all the way back to John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address to find a leading Democrat who could voice the idea clearly, and seem to mean it.

The concept is, of course, embodied in one of the most important single sentences in American history – arguably in all of human history:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

In the speech that first brought Barack Obama to national attention in 2004 (the “no red states and blue states” speech), he did at least recite the sentence:  It didn’t boil his mouth away, but that may be because he sought to interpret it as a mere generalized endorsement of egalitarianism – as though, in writing the lines, Thomas Jefferson had been dimly prophesying the arrival of someone like… Barack Obama in our political life.  Most conservatives, especially those of a libertarian inclination, along with most historians, understand the statement very differently – but that does not mean that contemporary conservative politicians are using it more wisely. Read more ›

Posted in Books, Political Philosophy, Politics, US History Tagged with: , , , , , , , ,

NEW OLD IMAGES

Don’t usually say much about my movie poster biz, or about new images as I add them to the site gallery. Don’t plan on making a habit of the former, but think I probably should of the latter. So from time to time when I don’t have anything else to do, I’ll try to catch up on images that I’ve added – new ones, some old ones that deserve explanation.  You do know, by the way, that if you click on the images underneath the Wall comment box, you can see nice full-size versions, and, if you click on the arrows, you can go paging through?

So one that I just added is the detail from the SPIDER-MAN Teaser poster.  Here’s an image of the whole poster:

If you look closely (click on it for large-size view) you should immediately see one of the main reasons this poster is a highly prized collectible.

Read more ›

Posted in Art, Movies Tagged with: , , , ,

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