raving cluelessly about eugenics…

…makes conservatives look backwards and unscientific, two brandings that conservatism should avoid because that turns off the youth, college-educated, and scientists and academe, all demographics the right is losing badly in.

strangelet @ One Cancer Under God: On Defending Woodrow Wilson.

Posted in Books, Politics

Here’s a quote from the German documentary The Architecture of Doom

“Defining Nazism in traditional political terms is difficult, mainly because its dynamic was fueled by something quite different from what we usually call politics. This driving force was, to a great degree, esthetic; its ambition was to beautify the world through violence.”

MovieMan0283 @ On re-reading Liberal Fascism: Defining Evil Down.

Posted in Books, Politics

the wolf isn’t just guarding the sheep

they gave him a pair of steak knives

narciso @ The Pot Calling the Kettle Mob.

Posted in Economics

…few are connecting the Dots with logic.

As far as [it being] a Marxist publication, I don’t care,does the article add to our understanding of the topic, yes it does, end of story.

Rex Caruthers @ The Pot Calling the Kettle Mob.

Posted in Economics

Conservatives and Woodrow Wilson

A full-fledged review of John Milton Cooper Jr.’s biography of Woodrow Wilson will have to be attempted somewhere else.  Anyone in conservative circles hoping to get a word in edgewise on the nation’s 28th President first has to contend with sentiments along the following lines:

Does anyone really think Wilson wouldn’t have been pretty sympathetic toward the Nazis? I think he would have considered Hitler’s dedication to eugenics an admirable goal.

[A]ny fair minded person of good moral standing would clearly see [Wilson] as an evil individual.

Woodrow Wilson was a slimy, racist, conspiratorial, arrogant rat bastard every day he drew breath….

I hate him. He was the biggest racist. He set this country back decades in race relations.

If you’re bound and determined to defend the most tyrannical fascistic president in history, go f**k yourself.

The above selection comes from threads at HotAir and Zombie Contentions, and also at a Baltimore Sun on-line column covering Glenn Beck at CPAC this year.  Beck has played a central role in popularizing such views, as his anti-progressive campaign frequently centers on Wilson, for whom Beck proudly declares his hatred – “with all [his] heart.”  In this cause Jonah Goldberg remains a stalwart ally, if a somewhat more restrained one – he merely calls Wilson a fascist.  Other well-known anti-Wilson conservatives include George Will and the American Conservative Union’s David Keene, the latter having revealed during his introduction of Beck’s CPAC speech that his own Wilson animus goes back decades – to a college essay describing Wilson as “one of the three most dangerous people of the 20th century,” the other two being Lenin and Hitler.

Main elements of this conservative attack on Wilson actually are familiar from the works of his leftwing critics, but that’s not the only reason I mistrust it.  Some of the anger, especially from the commenters, is probably by proxy: It’s more acceptable to declare one’s passionate hatred for long dead enemies than for living opponents (though the former often leads to the latter).  Yet even if I didn’t find the emotionalism of some of this stuff, 100 years after the facts, a little odd (though Will’s critique is odd in a different way), I would still find it difficult to reject Wilson or any other important American president so completely.  It’s the kind of stance that I would associate with revolutionaries and other pitiless radicals:  The full-throated rejection of a critical moment in American history as an excuse to reject America itself.

Not that the Wilson haters don’t have any point at all.  They simply lack any sense of balance or historical perspective. In contrast to the ideologues, Cooper can fault Wilson for his negligence on racial matters, for example, but is also able to conclude that “Wilson essentially resembled the great majority of white northerners of this time in ignoring racial problems and wishing they would go away.” Wilson didn’t impose uniquely noxious ideas on an American racial idyll.  He presided during the era of Plessy vs Ferguson (1896) – separate but equal.  As the historian Samuel P. Hays explains in his standard work on Wilson’s era, the times were typified by a “general notion that Americans, as part of the Anglo-Saxon peoples of northern Europe, were racially superior.”  Belief in the “Manifest Destiny of the White Race” informed attitudes across the cultural mainstream, and affected policy across a range of issues.

It should therefore be unsurprising to Wilson critics, on all sides, that the Wilson Administration’s widely condemned segregation of the federal workplace was initiated under prior presidents, and was expanded under Wilson’s successors.  Conservatives in particular should bear in mind that the search for a greatly different early 20th Century American racial sensibility won’t often lead them to Wilson’s right.

If some conservatives have adopted a familiarly leftwing attack on Wilson, many more seem to be depending on Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism, the 2008 conservative bestseller that I have written on previously, focusing on the author’s provocative claim that Wilson’s wartime government was the world’s “first fascist regime.”  As I stated in the linked piece, I find it rather obscene for Goldberg to associate Wilson, a deeply reluctant warrior who quite literally nearly killed himself campaigning for a peace organization, with modern history’s worst warmongers.

But Goldberg’s case for the historical prosecution focuses less on the war as fought than on the war at home – domestic security policies that, as Cooper acknowledges, entailed “egregious violations” of civil liberties.  Goldberg’s charge of fascism is much stronger than Cooper’s charge of mere “violations,” however, and demands stronger support.  To that end Goldberg produces an impressive, frequently quoted figure of 175,000 Americans arrested “for insufficient patriotism.”  Yet this vague definition appears to be Goldberg’s alone, and he doesn’t reveal where his number comes from.  Other sources tally around 2,000 arrested, 1,000 convicted under the federal Espionage and Sedition Acts, so Goldberg’s figure, assuming it has a firm basis, must include offenses prosecuted under other laws, perhaps at the local level or even overseas within the military.

In sorting this all out, it might be helpful to work from some numbers that unlike Goldberg’s are very hard and very precise:  48-26 and 293-1 – the votes by which the Senate and the House passed the Sedition Act in 1918.  Vote totals on the earlier Espionage Act are unavailable – because it passed by acclamation, reflecting overwhelming support two months after the Declaration of War with Germany, which had passed 82-6, and 373-50.  In other words, Wilson rode – and in some respects was overcome by – a wave of patriotism and war fever.  Cooper and other historians also note that Wilson supported the acts to compromise with those demanding more aggressive measures, and to prevent and pre-empt much harsher “extra-judicial” treatment of dissenters and German-Americans.

As with racial matters, harshly judging Wilson and his contemporaries (i.e., our forefathers) for such actions requires us to impose present-day sensitivities on the past.  It’s also worth recalling that revolution really was in the air in those years.  One great nation had fully succumbed to revolution, and others were undergoing revolutionary turmoil.  In America, the assassination of President McKinley, by the anarchist Leon Czolgosz in 1901, was well within living memory.  In the period of 1917-1920, radical agitation led to wildcat and general strikes as well as acts of outright sabotage, especially in the western U.S.  Mail bombs were sent to various officials, including Wilson’s Attorney General, A. Mitchell Palmer, known for the subsequent Palmer Raids and Red Scare.  On the narrow question of personal culpability, it should be noted that Wilson was the bedridden victim of a debilitating stroke and other serious illness at the time:  Cooper concludes that Wilson “knew nothing about the central role [Palmer] was playing in those events.”

One quick word on Eugenics, another feature of the age that some wish to lay at Wilson’s door: Cooper never notes much interest in the subject on Wilson’s part.  The case for hatred seems to rest on guilt by sympathetic association with certain Progressives; de-contextualized statements on race (see above) ominously linked to Hitlerism; and a bill that Wilson signed into law as governor of New Jersey, with provisions on the sterilization of the profoundly mentally ill – similar to laws in 30 other states at the time.

Against such weakly founded or heavily mitigated indictments, Wilson’s accomplishments stand among the most consequential of any American figure:  His books and essays, especially Congressional Government, were important in their own right, and are still read with profit today.  His “New Freedom” legislation established the Federal Reserve System, the Clayton Anti-Trust Act, and the Federal Trade Commission.  He was central to the negotiations that ended World War I, and, though the nation rejected his League of Nations proposal, he led the United States onto the world stage as a major power, with a unique mission – not to construct an empire, but to foster trade, development, and popular freedom and self-determination among nations.

From income taxes to Mother’s Day, from child labor restrictions to saving football (Wilson was a lifelong fan, and a defender of the new sport against attempts to ban it), we could expand our view of Wilson’s influence virtually at will – especially if, as the Wilsonhitlerists seem to prefer, we credit him with or blame him for the entirety of what Hays calls the Populist-Progressive Era.  At some point in this process, modern America would begin to look like an inheritance directly from Woodrow Wilson, passed down to us by those who followed in his footsteps – with the men who founded the country looking like distant ancestors on the family tree, necessary to our existence, but not very relevant to it.

Regardless of where that argument might lead, I wouldn’t want to be the one to make it:  I don’t see how it can ever be a conservative project to tear the nation or its history – the two ought to be inseparable – to pieces.  Isn’t that what radical constitutionalists accuse Wilson of attempting?

How, when, and where to reverse or re-conceive  elements of Wilson’s legacy, what he got wrong or what the rest of us helped make wrong, would be something very different – as would any attempt simply to assess Wilson fairly.  Those are tasks for people willing to grasp the whole story, and to proceed with care.

cross-adapted from Zombie Contentions

Posted in Uncategorized

One Cancer Under God: On Defending Woodrow Wilson

A full-fledged review of John Milton Cooper Jr.’s biography of Woodrow Wilson will have to be attempted somewhere else.  Anyone in conservative circles hoping to get a word in edgewise on the nation’s 28th President first has to contend with sentiments along the following lines:

Does anyone really think Wilson wouldn’t have been pretty sympathetic toward the Nazis? I think he would have considered Hitler’s dedication to eugenics an admirable goal.

[A]ny fair minded person of good moral standing would clearly see [Wilson] as an evil individual.

Woodrow Wilson was a slimy, racist, conspiratorial, arrogant rat bastard every day he drew breath….

I hate him. He was the biggest racist. He set this country back decades in race relations.

If you’re bound and determined to defend the most tyrannical fascistic president in history, go f**k yourself.

The above is a sampling from threads at HotAir and Zombie Contentions, and also at a Baltimore Sun on-line column covering Glenn Beck at CPAC this year.  Beck has played a central role in popularizing such views, as his anti-progressive campaign frequently centers on Wilson, for whom Beck proudly and openly declares his hatred – “with all [his] heart.”  In this cause Jonah Goldberg remains a stalwart ally, if a somewhat more restrained one – he merely calls Wilson a fascist.  Other well-known anti-Wilson conservatives include George Will and the American Conservative Union’s David Keene, the latter having revealed during his introduction of Beck’s CPAC speech that his own Wilson animus goes back decades – to a college essay describing Wilson as “one of the three most dangerous people of the 20th century,” the other two being Lenin and Hitler.

Leading elements of this conservative attack on Wilson actually are familiar from the works of his leftwing critics, but that’s not the main reason I mistrust it.  In addition to finding the emotionalism and excess of some of this stuff, 100 years after the facts, a little odd (though Will’s critique is odd in a different way), I find it difficult to reject Wilson or any consequential American president so completely.  It’s the kind of stance that I would associate with revolutionaries and other pitiless radicals:  The full-throated rejection of a critical moment in American history as an excuse to reject America itself.

Not that the Wilson haters don’t have any point at all.  They simply lack any sense of balance or historical perspective. Read more ›

Posted in Books, Featured, US History Tagged with: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Light posting… some soundings…

…got some new material simmering… but I’ve been hiding in the library shelves the last week, otherwise trying to get some real world work done.  Here’s a useful fragment for later use the next time we feel like discussing constitutionalism, from the historian Forrest McDonald:

It should be obvious… that it is meaningless to say that the Framers intended this or that; …their positions were diverse and, in many particulars, incompatible.  Some had firm, well-rounded plans, some had strong convictions on only a few points; some had self-contradictory ideas; some were guided only by vague ideals.

Isaac Kramnick concurs.  Referring to the various “distinguishable idioms” in the discourse of 1787 – “republicanism,” “Lockean liberalism,” “work-ethic Protestantism,” and “state-centered theories of power and sovereignty” – he offers the following caution to those seeking some overarching version of “original intent” (emphasis in the original) :

None dominated the field, and the use of one [idiom] was compatible with the use of another by the very same writer or speaker.  There was a profusion and confusion of political tongues among the founders.  They lived easily with that clatter; it is we two hundred years later who chafe at their inconsistency.

[amazon-product]0700611088[/amazon-product]The above quotes come from the introduction to Jerome Huyler’s Locke in America (1995), which attempts to synthesize apparent contradictions through a proper understanding of Locke’s work and influence.  I’ll close for now with another historian’s promise to find order among these contradictions – from Gordon Wood, describing what the Framers of 1787 expected in exchange for their rejection of the ancient republican virtues embodied in the “Spirit of 1776”:

The illimitable progress of mankind promised by the Enlightenment could at last be made coincident with the history of a single nation.  For the Americans at least, and for others if they followed, the endless cycle of history could finally be broken.

Posted in Books, US History Tagged with: , , , ,

How Now Brown Dow?

Watching the roundtable on Fox… wishful thinking now about the close… or about the state of the economy… as though the recovery from the lows now to around 500 points down is any kind of ground to stand on… as though the vulnerability of the entire rally from the ’09 lows wasn’t exposed regardless of where this closes… then the wishful reminiscences of 1987, as though that story is the same is this story, and as though Greece or even the less widely remarked intimations of the Chinese bubble bursting are the whole story… anything could happen in the last half hour today (including nothing –  but that’s when the biggest bets are usually made, other than sometimes at the open) and turn their entire conversation into just the wasted space it is…

Not much better than this item linked at The Corner today:


In The Know: Situation In Nigeria Seems Pretty Complex

UPDATE: Now they’re trying to blame a “bad print” on P&G for the down-spike… the only thing that’s clear is that at least 50% of whatever anyone said anywhere may be nonsense, unless it’s this statement…

Posted in Economics Tagged with:

Soon to be lapping up on a shore near you…

Just as we were beginning to discuss the political impact of the oil platform disaster, what should show up in my inbox but an e-mail from Gavin Newsom – Mayor of San Francisco, running for lieutenant governor (after having dropped out of the race for the top job)?

Dear CK:

That would be me.

The environmental catastrophe devastating the Gulf of Mexico is a tragic reminder of why we must take a stand against the oil companies and oppose all offshore drilling off California’s precious coast. Together, we have to send a strong message to the interests who want to repeal AB 32, California’s landmark law that fights climate change — they just submitted over 800,000 signatures to qualify a measure for the November ballot. We must act quickly to ensure they don’t roll back this critical law.

Gavin’s gang doesn’t, apparently, have any difficulty tying Climate Change law and environmental protection together. Read more ›

Posted in Politics Tagged with: , , ,

Why is Sarah Palin treating Glenn Beck as though he's normal?

No one much will ever likely care that Sarah Palin endorsed Glenn Beck in a puffy little capsule bio for Time Magazine’s 2010 list of 100 influential people, but I think it was a bad move for her – in what it required of her and and what it seems to say about the direction she’s heading.

Supporters of Palin and fans of Beck – or would it be fans of Palin and supporters of Beck? – will be happy to see them “together,” and enemies of both will be happy, too, if for different reasons. Getting closer to Beck may help Palin and other politicians with a wing of the conservative movement (or Beck’s x-million viewers and listeners), but I don’t see it helping with anyone else – to put it charitably.

For those keeping score on what everyblogger thinks about anything, I won’t pretend neutrality on Beck. Though I felt he played a mostly positive role in 2009, I was dubious of him even then, and am less and less able to approve of his impact on national politics and the national political discussion. In my opinion he gets too much wrong, and gets it wrong in a divisive and offensive, not to mention paranoid and kitschy way. His Christian-themed Fairey-ized Founder posters, for example, are no credit to the subjects, and you would have to be a conservative who despises Barack Obama and all of the Obami already – or just insensitive – not to understand immediately what a cheap, bizarrely combative, and insular gesture it is to use the images as an everyday backdrop: The depictions aren’t innocent, positive celebrations of the Founders: They’re disses of Obama and all of those “cancerous” progressives who are progressing – everyone with me – progressing toward what? The gulags! Concentration camps! Che! VAN JONES IS A COMMUNIST!! Anita Dunn loves Mao! (Play tape excerpt thousandth time.)

Governor Palin describes Beck as “like the high school government teacher so many wish they’d had.” Well, maybe on the surface, on the level of style – you don’t make $30 million+/annum if a lot of people don’t find you congenial – but, if I had a kid at school, and his “government teacher” came on like Glenn Beck, rightwing or leftwing or just plain peculiar, I’d have a problem with that. I’d have a problem with a high school teacher who said, as I heard Beck saying the other day before I had a chance to switch him off after Cavuto, “don’t trust anyone, everything you hear is wrong,” with the inescapable subtext “except for and from me, Glenn Beck.” I think he might have been talking about the Puerto Rico statehood plebiscite bill, which he apparently has some number of his fan-supporters believing is part of the big cancerous progressive plot progressing toward what? The gulags! The concentration camps! Euthanasia! Woodrow Wilson was a RACIST! TIVO my next show!

America, Sarah Palin should not be pretending that Glenn Beck is normal. Maybe you’re a fan or supporter of Glenn Beck with a tolerance for criticism that has allowed you to read this long at least. Maybe, objective sort that you are, you can admit further that GB’s not precisely normal – middle of the road, mainstream – and that someone led to his show by Sarah Palin might begin to wonder about her, or, more likely, have whatever pre-existing doubts about her judgment and where she’s coming from confirmed.

It would be clear to such a someone within a short while that Glenn Beck does not, again quoting Palin, “desire to teach Americans about the history of the progressive movement.” That’s ridiculously bland, a phony whitewash. Glenn Beck wants, as he has said, to destroy the progressive cancer to the last cell, and he insists that politicians (like Paul Ryan) adopt his language.  Beck is not “doing to ‘progressive’ what Ronald Reagan did to ‘liberal’ – explaining that it’s a damaged brand.” Toyota is a damaged brand. No one is running around saying that Toyota is driving us, where?, to the Gulag! Buy Gold! Catch me and Bill O’Reilly live in your town! (For $160/seat.)

Ronald Reagan did “damage” the liberal brand, but he didn’t do it by treating liberalism as sub-human, a lethal disease. He declared the Soviet Union the “evil empire,” not the Democratic Party. Liberals were “our liberal friends,” “our friends on the other side” – and sometimes “our” golfing and drinking buddies, too. Aside from reflecting the fact that Reagan had liberal friends and even a few liberal/progressive notions from time to time, Reagan’s cordiality and openness gave him the political advantage over all those on the left calling him an “extremist” and using other brain-switched-off terms for him.

And those people who don’t bother to ring up Glenn Beck’s red phone? They’re not, as Palin puts it, “self-proclaimed powers that be.” They’re supposed to be the duly elected President of the United States and his administration. I’ve never heard them “proclaim” themselves “powers that be.” If they happen in fact to be the powers that are, they were proclaimed as such by Congress, after the tabulated votes of well over 100 million citizens in 50 states reached Electors, empowered as per Article II, Section 1, Clause 2, and the 12th and 23rd Amendments of the Constitution.

If and when someone replaces our current “powers,” it will, one may hope and expect, be by the same process, and it will very likely require many millions of those same citizens changing their minds. If polls and anecdotes are to be trusted – poll after poll and anecdote after anecdote – a lot of those citizens seem to have doubts about Sarah Palin, in part because they, perhaps wrongly perhaps rightly, consider her a captive and symbol of what Glenn Beck also represents to them.

I’m not arguing that conservatives need to denounce Glenn Beck and all his works – though, given his ratings decline from the commanding heights and his dependence on escalating political melodrama, we might anticipate some truly excessive excess, the hammer of nonsense finally exploding the anvil of desperation for a story, someday requiring one or more rightwing Sister Souljah moments from ambitious politicians, if only to make up for past conspicuous acts of self-interested ring-kissing.  On that day, those who’ve established some healthy separation, in an abundance of good conservative caution, would be less likely to be hit by burning debris, trapped in the flaming pyre, or tumbled over and trod upon by those rushing panickedly for the exits.

In the meantime, America, politicians interested in distinguishing themselves for their clarity of mind, seriousness of purpose, and honesty should be willing to call out Beck, or anyone else, as they really see him.  If they prefer to pander to his crowd and kneel before his mediatized eminence, or if they simply remain non-cognizant of everything that makes Beck Beck, then we’ll be forced to draw a different set of conclusions about their character, their capacities, and their aims.

cross-posted at Zombie Contentions

Posted in Uncategorized Tagged with:

Sarah Palin shouldn’t be pretending Glenn Beck is normal

No one much will ever likely care that Sarah Palin endorsed Glenn Beck in a puffy little capsule bio for Time Magazine’s 2010 list of 100 influential people, but I think it was a bad move for her – in what it required of her and and what it seems to say about the direction she’s heading.

Supporters of Palin and fans of Beck – or would it be fans of Palin and supporters of Beck? – will be happy to see them “together,” and enemies of both will be happy, too, if for different reasons. Getting closer to Beck may help Palin and other politicians with a wing of the conservative movement (or Beck’s x-million viewers and listeners), but I don’t see it helping with anyone else – to put it charitably.

For those keeping score on what everyblogger thinks about anything, I won’t pretend neutrality on Beck. Though I felt he played a mostly positive role in 2009, I was dubious of him even then, and am less and less able to approve of his impact on national politics and the national political discussion. In my opinion he gets too much wrong, and gets it wrong in a divisive and offensive, not to mention paranoid and kitschy way. His Christian-themed Fairey-ized Founder posters, for example, are no credit to the subjects, and you would have to be a conservative who despises Barack Obama and all of the Obami already – or just insensitive – not to understand immediately what a cheap, bizarrely combative, and insular gesture it is to use the images as an everyday backdrop: The depictions aren’t innocent, positive celebrations of the Founders: They’re disses of Obama and all of those “cancerous” progressives who are progressing – everyone with me – progressing toward what? The gulags! Concentration camps! Che! VAN JONES IS A COMMUNIST!! Anita Dunn loves Mao! (Play tape excerpt thousandth time.)

Governor Palin describes Beck as “like the high school government teacher so many wish they’d had.” Read more ›

Posted in Miscellany Tagged with: , , , , , , , , ,

CHART OF THE DAY – Heavens to Murgatroyd…

…and Great Caesar’s Ghost!

Better hope we peaked too soon, O-crats!

(O-bot: Too bad you guys peaked too soon...)

Conservative Enthusiasm Surging Compared to Previous Midterms – Gallup.com

Posted in Politics Tagged with: , ,

ADVENTURES IN EPISTEMIC OPENING: Mark Levin vs Jim Manzi on Global Warming

The fancy phrase “epistemic closure” may be a bad one, and not just because it may be too fancy by half, but when Julian Sanchez applied it to the great body of American conservatism, he touched a nerve.  The claim that conservatives are caught in a kind of feedback loop of ideological closed-mindedness was discussed and debated in several high profile blogs – giving every blogger and many a commenter a chance to show off his or her own epistemological infirmities.

Karl at HotAir did a fine job establishing the lack of any empirical basis for judging conservatives unaware of alternative viewpoints and information, but there is and was something else going on here, something not directly susceptible to survey data and a mapping of linking habits and reading lists. It was the scientifically oriented Jim Manzi at NRO/The Corner who drove the discussion furthest, not by either attacking or supporting Sanchez, but by conducting a demonstration, almost in the manner of an experiment. After analyzing a chapter from Mark Levin’s Liberty & Tyranny on global warming, Manzi summed up his verdict with a word that’s easier to process than “epistemically closed,” but that one suspects he wishes he hadn’t used:  “wingnuttery.”

You can see why Levin would feel sand-bagged.  But he might just as well have felt complimented that someone still takes his 2009 bestseller seriously enough to analyze and respond to it, while anyone who’s listened to more than a few minutes of his radio show would need a heart of stone not to laugh at anyone’s hurt feelings on his behalf.  Predictably, Levin’s response post is saturated with derision, just like his radio show, whose motto seems to be “That’s right!  I said it!” Rather than further escalate, Manzi wisely stepped back without giving in, inviting readers to compare the two posts  (Manzi’s, Levin’s) and reach their own conclusions.

Now, this all might seem like a pointless exercise – if fun in a kind of inside conservative baseball way – but such exchanges sometimes lead to unexpected places.  Eventually involving an expanded cast of regular Corner-ites, the proceedings finally inspired Manzi to lay out the basis for a truly conservative response to global warming – one that begins with the intellectual humility that those committed to denial or alarm conspicuously lack.  He eventually linked to an easy to miss post from earlier in the week that he self-deprecatingly referred to as “excruciating” in its detail.  Its conclusion happens to offer a succinct formulation of a potential “grand strategy” on ecological crisis:

We can be confident that humanity will face many difficulties in the upcoming century, as it has in every century. We just don’t know which ones they will be. This implies that the correct grand strategy for meeting them is to maximize total technical capabilities in the context of a market-oriented economy that can integrate highly unstructured information, and, most importantly, to maintain a democratic political culture that can face facts and respond to threats as they develop.

In addition to being constructive and refreshingly “open,” this “grand strategy” offers the key benefit of resilience in the face of tomorrow’s headlines, next year’s hurricane season, the scientific measurements and re-measurements of the next decade, and the considered opinions of eminent men and women who are relatively invulnerable to charges of self-dealing and self-interest.  It might even withstand the eventual resurgence of a global ecology movement that may appear today on the political defensive, but that still commands broad support, and may be revived much sooner and more powerfully than post-Climategate triumphalists on the far right want to believe.

A side-benefit of such a strategy might bear on some disturbing polling numbers that at least deserve a place in the great epistemological ruction of 2010.  For instance:

That’s from a Pew Poll of last July.  Or how about this less widely remarked synthesis of polling results, compiled by Charles Murray (a sometime contributor to the Corner), on ideological affinities among American population groups over time:

These numbers may also help explain the perceived vulnerability of the right to the charge of closed-mindedness.  The only positive thing about the situation for conservatives is that it suggests a growth opportunity: Corrective movement back to near equality would be a tremendous accomplishment, and a major blow to the liberal coalition. Otherwise, a choice before the public that comes down to “the highly intelligent, well-educated, and well-informed” vs. “conservatives” might at best work for an election or two, but you can’t like the looks of it over the longer term.

There may be explanations for such results that go beyond the obvious. Many scientists and intellectuals may be reacting self-interestedly to their own dependency on state support, for instance, and, especially in the wake of Climategate, they face an urgent need to to confront this issue squarely.  Yet it’s still sad to think that this sector of society, representing people whose commitments and ethos are in many ways at least as “conservative” as “liberal,” have been moving to the left for 40 years.  Is it too much to wonder whether continual and habitual assaults on the honesty, intentions, patriotism, and professionalism of scientists and intellectuals, a reflexive readiness to dispute the validity and usefulness of scientific and intellectual inquiry, in short the open adoption of anti-scientific and anti-intellectual attitudes and practices by some conservatives may also have played a role in such dramatic and long-standing trends?

Conservative efforts to alter this situation – American society with its head twisted ever further around at its neck – might begin with the understanding that belief or disbelief in the greenhouse effect, global warming, and other properly scientific matters cannot be a political issue in a free society:  Only how we go about addressing scientific questions can ever be.  There may also be times when no decision is more important to any society than one requiring scientific input.  At that point – at any moment, really – we may need skeptical but non-denialist scientists like Richard Lindzen, and people who can take them at their actual word like Jim Manzi, much more than many conservatives seem to believe – or, under conditions of ideological and emotional closed-mindedness, are capable of admitting or possibly even of conceiving.

And we’ll probably need excitable and entertaining, fiercely dedicated polemicists, too.  That’s right.  I said it.

cross-posted at Zombie Contentions

Posted in Uncategorized Tagged with:

Adventures in Epistemic Opening – Manzi vs Levin and the Fate of Everything

The fancy phrase “epistemic closure” may be a bad one, and not just because it may be too fancy by half, but when Julian Sanchez applied it to the great body of American conservatism, he touched a nerve. The claim that conservatives are caught in a kind of feedback loop of ideological closed-mindedness was discussed and debated in several high profile blogs – giving every blogger and many a commenter a chance to show off his or her own epistemological infirmities.

Karl at HotAir did a fine job establishing the lack of any empirical basis for judging conservatives unaware of alternative viewpoints and information, but there is and was something else going on here, something not directly susceptible to survey data and a mapping of linking habits and reading lists.  It was the scientifically oriented Jim Manzi at NRO/The Corner who drove the discussion furthest, not by either attacking or supporting Sanchez, but by conducting a demonstration, almost in the manner of an experiment. After analyzing a chapter from Mark Levin’s Liberty & Tyranny on global warming, Manzi summed up his verdict with a word that’s easier to process than “epistemically closed,” but that one suspects he wishes he hadn’t used: “wingnuttery.”

You can see why Levin would feel sand-bagged. But he might just as well have felt complimented that someone still takes his 2009 bestseller seriously enough to analyze and respond to it, while anyone who’s listened to more than a few minutes of his radio show would need a heart of stone not to laugh at anyone’s hurt feelings on his behalf. Predictably, Levin’s response post is saturated with derision, just like his radio show, whose motto seems to be “That’s right! I said it!” Rather than further escalate, Manzi wisely stepped back without giving in, inviting readers to compare the two posts (Manzi’s, Levin’s) and reach their own conclusions.

Now, this all might seem like a pointless exercise – if fun in a kind of inside conservative baseball way – but such exchanges sometimes lead to unexpected places. Read more ›

Posted in Politics, Science Tagged with: ,

CONTENTION OF THE DAY – National Poetry Month

Having been alerted by Barbara that April is National Poetry Month, I thank Joe NS  for his extensive offering from T.S. Eliot.  In an e-mail, I criticized him for subjecting us to so much gray space, or functional equivalent thereof, and I recommended that he pare down the selection to an appropriate passage, but I now see that he was merely being public-spirited.   I would therefore like to offer a poetical selection of my own, as a response both to Mr. Eliot and to Mr. NS:

The Latest Freed Man

Tired of the old descriptions of the world,
The latest freed man rose at six and sat
On the edge of his bed. He said,
“I suppose there is
A doctrine to this landscape. Yet, having just
Escaped from the truth, the morning is color and mist,
Which is enough: the moment’s rain and sea,
The moment’s sun (the strong man vaguely seen),
Overtaking the doctrine of this landscape. Of him
And of his works, I am sure. He bathes in the mist
Like a man without a doctrine. The light he gives–
It is how he gives his light. It is how he shines,
Rising upon the doctors in their beds
And on their beds. . . .”
And so the freed man said.
It was how the sun came shining into his room:
To be without a description of to be,
For a moment on rising, at the edge of the bed, to be,
To have the ant of the self changed to an ox
With its organic boomings, to be changed
From a doctor into an ox, before standing up,
To know that the change and that the ox-like struggle
Come from the strength that is the strength of the sun,
Whether it comes directly or from the sun.
It was how he was free. It was how his freedom came.
It was being without description, being an ox.
It was the importance of the trees outdoors,
The freshness of the oak-leaves, not so much
That they were oak-leaves, as the way they looked.
It was everything being more real, himself
At the centre of reality, seeing it.
It was everything bulging and blazing and big in itself,
The blue of the rug, the portrait of Vidal,
Qui fait fi des joliesses banales, the chairs.

Wallace Stevens (1879-1955)

Posted in Culture & Entertainment

Limbaugh over the line

In a Wall Street Journal Op-Ed – Rush Limbaugh: Liberals and the Violence Card – Rush Limbaugh was justifiably fierce in his response to the recent left-liberal anti-Tea Party offensive.  He was particularly scathing in regard to Bill Clinton, who in a recent speech and op-ed left the distinct impression, without ever quite saying so, that Tea Party sentiment equated with incitement to new Timothy McVeighs.  Limbaugh called Clinton’s past indictments of talk radio “slander,” and accused the left of advancing a transparent double standard – exhibiting no discomfort when leftists take to the streets in often violent protest against conservative governments and capitalism, but shrieking like frightened little children when someone from the right dares to speak up.

So far so good.

Yet here’s how Limbaugh closes his op-ed, when singing the praises of the “clear majority of the American people” who, according to him, oppose the “Obama way”:

They are motivated by love. Not hate, not sedition. They love their country and want to save it from those who do not.

How is Limbaugh doing anything categorically different from what he accuses Bill Clinton of doing?  It’s not as though this was an op-ed about foreign policy.  It was all about domestic politics.  So who is supposed to be endangering the country?  Who is it who doesn’t, according to Rush, love the country?

He is leaving the distinct impression, not just coming close to saying but pretty much saying, that the Obama Administration and its supporters do not love the United States of America, and are seeking to destroy it.  The clear implication is that the liberal left are engaging in treason.  They’re not fellow Americans any longer, but enemy invaders.

This isn’t some cherry-picked, decontextualized offhand remark from 15 hours/week of entertaining and engaging live radio.  It’s the conclusion of a written op-ed.  And in a few sentences it defeats Limbaugh’s entire purpose, of putting himself and people like him on a higher, more positive, more grown-up and also more truly American, dissent- and debate-friendly plane than those on the other side.

Posted in Politics Tagged with:

Is our politicians lurning?

The title was an old favorite of Dean Barnett’s (I think I’ve got it right).  The occasion is a post over at Non-Zombie Contentions in which Jonathan Tobin takes a gander at the British Conservatives’ slo-mo political trainwreck.  His summary:

Cameron, a telegenic upper-class swell, believed that Tories who were actually conservatives couldn’t possibly win. So he recast his party to be advocates of global warming alarmism, criticized the closeness of the Labor government to that of George W. Bush (Obama’s disdain for Brits of any political persuasion has taken the juice out of this issue), and proposed an approach to domestic issues based on a communitarian idea of a “Big Society,” which sounds suspiciously similar to Lyndon Johnson’s “Great Society” liberal boondoggles of the 1960s.

Yet far from greasing the skids to victory, trying to be liberal has actually derailed his campaign. A third party, the Liberal Democrats, are further to the Left than Labor on many issues and have in Nick Clegg, a far more focused leader than either Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Labor or the good looking but feckless Cameron. Cameron thought that fudging the differences with Labor would make it easier for him to win.

Tobin clearly hopes that American conservatives will draw the proper lessons, and adopt a bold colors, no pale pastels approach, and I do, too, but I hope that conservatives avoid overdoing it, both for the sake of winning, and eventually for the sake of governing.

Tobin pointedly quotes David Frum’s counsel of late 2008 to emulate Cameron: “The leader you want,” wrote Frum, “is someone who appeals to the voters you need to gain, not the voters you already have”; Frum also urged that Republicans follow “educated and professional voters” to the left.

Frum and Cameron may both have gone too far, but there’s some truth in those observations that we ignore at our peril.  Read more ›

Posted in Politics Tagged with: , , , , ,

The obligatory “problem with the problem with the Palin problem” post

Ian Lazaran at Conservatives for Palin, the go-to site for anyone interested in the Palin supporter’s side, raises some serious questions about Quin Hillyer’s “The Problem with Palin” – a piece whose title somewhat defeats the author’s numerous compliments to Sarah Palin.  Lazaran introduces reasonably well-evidenced arguments on Palin’s behalf – that she was a budget-cutter, that her rise to the governorship was an underdog triumph against corruption, and so on – that would serve Palin-supporters well in conventional politics, but no one much is engaging in conventional political warfare with Sarah Palin at the moment.

Lazaran is much less successful defending against Hillyer’s “quitter” attack, I think because the charge and the bare facts of the matter encapsulate and reinforce all of the discomfort that the unpersuaded feel about Palin, in a way that may be effectively beyond argument.  We had a long and informative discussion at the HA headlines and elsewhere on Hillyer’s article and in particular on the resignation- what it meant, what it still means, and what it may end up meaning for Palin.  Rather than recapitulate the exchanges, I’ll just maintain for now, in as neutral terms as I can come up with, that the resignation was the moment that she fully detached from “conventional,” and people who are made uncomfortable by too much unconventionality in a political figure may never learn to like it – or look past it.

On the other hand, as was largely predictable last July, “Palin, Inc.” has been served famously well by Palin’s resignation, to the tune of 8-digits, but the end of the initial growth phase is over, and a familiar diminishing returns plateau appears to have been reached.  I’ll concede that Palin gone stale would still be a lot more interesting, and influential, than the vast majority of politicians on their best days, but for her star to start ascending again, rather than just settle in the firmament at approximately its current coordinates, or perhaps begin an accelerating decline, she would need to renew her message. I’m not sure she can or will, or even if she should.

Until then, I think the real Palin problem – the problem for Palin – may be that the chemical reaction that makes it happen, her particular format for the meeting of conventional and unconventional, is going flat:  It’s not a perpetual motion machine, but depends on a continual supply of popular interest, and… people get bored – gradually, unevenly, at first invisibly, but inexorably.

Posted in Miscellany Tagged with: ,

Faith-Based Politics In Place Of A Winning Program

Responding to a Salon article by Democratic Strategist Ed Kilgore on the Republicans’ “2012 problem,” RS McCain offers up a mixture of snark and political prognostication.  The snark is arguably well-deserved, and McCain delivers it with relish.  He doesn’t, however, seem to have taken as much interest in his own political speculation:

Is BHO not already the most protested POTUS ever? Should he not hold that dubious honor, he shall by 2012.

McCain’s heart may be in the right place, at least if you share his estimations of the Tea Party Movement and of Barack Hussein Obama, but “most protested POTUS ever” strikes me as a reality-free historical observation (Lyndon Baines Johnson and Richard Milhous Nixon, a.o., are rolling over in their graves).  It’s not really up to the standard set by Kilgore when, in downgrading Mike Pence’s presidential prospects, he reaches for his political almanac and points out that no sitting House member has won a presidential nomination since 1896.

You don’t have to be the sponsor of the Pence12 Facebook page to recognize how utterly irrelevant such factoids are to whatever is really going to answer run/not-run and win/not-win for a prospective candidate, but merely declaring that Kilgore is flacking for the Dems doesn’t make McCain’s own conclusions any less self-servingly wishful:

Counter-analysis: the 2010 election buys We The People a chance, but only a chance, to set the country on a course for recovery. The Tea Parties et al. continue their pressure and whoever wins in 2012 comes in with a mandate to begin the process of unwinding a century of debt, centralization, and diminished liberty. And the efforts of the Founding Fathers shall not have been in vain.

From McCain’s blog to God’s monitor, we might say, but this isn’t really an “analysis.” It’s a hopeful projection.  Compare it to Kilgore’s final paragraph, dubbed by McCain a “watered down Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf outing”:

So let Republicans enjoy their 2010 comeback. It was all but foreordained by the last two cycles, and by the very demographics that threaten the GOP in the long run. Allow them to celebrate their “fresh faces”; they’ll have a lot of fine options for the vice-presidential nomination in 2012. But their 2012 prospects will go straight downhill starting on Nov. 3, 2010. That’s when Republicans will have to start to deal with the consequences of their recent bout of self-indulgent destructiveness, when they’ll begin choosing someone to take on Barack Obama not in press conferences or talking points or Tea Party protests, but in a presidential election.

Kilgore is summarizing here:  “self-indulgent destructiveness” refers to his argument that Republicans have “brand[-ed] themselves as the party of angry old white people” in a way that may maximize advantages in 2010, but hurt them in 2012 and beyond, when the electorate will tilt more to the Democrats’ favor, whether under an incumbent Barack Obama or, going forward, as demographic factors shift.

It’s possible, perhaps likely, that both McCain and Kilgore are doing a little whistling past their own partisan graveyards here, but, even if you share McCain’s faith in continued “pressure” from the Tea Party and a quasi-apocalyptic awakening to the supreme self-evident truths of constitutional conservatism, Kilgore’s argument stands.  It goes without saying that a perceived abject failure of the Obama Administration, and the aftereffects of any of several potential game-changers between now and November 2012, might make a hash of all conventional political calculations.  Yet 2012 was always likely to be a more difficult climb than 2010, and we should also understand that what Republican conservatives promise or promote with effect this Fall may serve them a lot less well, or even weigh them down,  when Obama is on the ballot again against a real opponent with his or her own campaign to run. If we reach for our own political almanacs, we can determine from polling history that even Jimmy Carter looked pretty good until Ronald Reagan finally closed the deal against him during 1980 campaign’s final days.  We don’t know yet that BHO = JEC.  As for the Republicans, if you can confidently declare one of the known suspects for a 2012 run to be another RWR, you may be a candidate – for de-programming (assuming you’re not receiving a check).

This isn’t the place to attempt a full-fledged comparison of 1980 to some imaginary 2012, or even to dial back to 1978 for a mid-term comparison, or to 1994/96 for an alternative set of potential parallels.  It’s even less the place to wonder whether we don’t focus too much on the presidency, too little on how policy is really effectuated in the U.S.A.  And unless we’re pushing a partisan or factional agenda, we have to begin and end by admitting that we don’t know what the future holds, and which rough beasts slouching toward Bethlehem might draw the nation closer to the President and the stationary state he and his allies are preparing for us – an effort that Ross Douthat recently characterized as aiming “to get everybody inside the barrel before it goes over the falls.”

We might just as well look back to that election of 1896 that I was just dismissing up above:  That “last sitting congressman” nominee was William Jennings Bryan, who lost in 1896 and again in 1900 and 1908, but went on to become one of the most important and influential figures of that age in whose shadow McCain sees us still to be standing.  A conservatism that aims to change the course of history, to “begin the process of unwinding a century of debt, centralization, and diminished liberty,” could do a lot worse than lose with a new Bryan, but it may not even achieve a fruitful defeat if it stands still, expecting the assumptions of a convinced minority to carry the day simply for having been asserted, and without regard for what and whom those assumptions seem to exclude.

cross-posted at Zombie Contentions

Posted in Uncategorized Tagged with:

Faith-Based Politics In Place Of A Winning Program

Responding to a Salon article by Democratic Strategist Ed Kilgore on the Republicans’ “2012 problem,” RS McCain offers up a mixture of snark and political prognostication. The snark is arguably well-deserved, and McCain delivers it with relish. He doesn’t, however, seem to have taken as much interest in his own political speculation:

Is BHO not already the most protested POTUS ever? Should he not hold that dubious honor, he shall by 2012.

McCain’s heart may be in the right place, at least if you share his estimations of the Tea Party Movement and of Barack Hussein Obama, but “most protested POTUS ever” strikes me as a reality-free historical observation (Lyndon Baines Johnson and Richard Milhous Nixon, a.o., are rolling over in their graves). It’s not really up to the relatively low standard set by Kilgore when, in downgrading Mike Pence’s presidential prospects, he reaches for his political almanac and points out that no sitting House member has won a presidential nomination since 1896.

You don’t have to be the sponsor of the Pence12 Facebook page to recognize how utterly irrelevant such factoids are to whatever is really going to answer run/not-run and win/not-win for a prospective candidate, but merely declaring that Kilgore is flacking for the Dems doesn’t make McCain’s own conclusions any less self-servingly wishful:

Counter-analysis: the 2010 election buys We The People a chance, but only a chance, to set the country on a course for recovery. The Tea Parties et al. continue their pressure and whoever wins in 2012 comes in with a mandate to begin the process of unwinding a century of debt, centralization, and diminished liberty. And the efforts of the Founding Fathers shall not have been in vain.

From McCain’s blog to God’s monitor, we might say, but this isn’t really an “analysis.” It’s a hopeful projection. Read more ›

Posted in US History Tagged with: , , , ,

Noted & Quoted

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President Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, secretly worked for a Russian billionaire to advance the interests of Russian President Vladimir Putin a decade ago and proposed an ambitious political strategy to undermine anti-Russian opposition across former Soviet republics.

The allegations, if true, would appear to contradict assertions by the Trump administration and Manafort himself that he never worked for Russian interests.

Manafort proposed in a confidential strategy plan as early as June 2005 that he would influence politics, business dealings and news coverage inside the United States, Europe and the former Soviet republics, even as US-Russia relations under Republican President George W. Bush grew worse.

Manafort pitched the plans to Russian aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska, a close Putin ally with whom Manafort eventually signed a $10 million (£8 million) annual contract beginning in 2006, according to interviews with several people familiar with payments to Manafort and business records obtained by the AP.

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The texts, posted on a darknet website run by a hacktivist collective, appear to show Manafort’s family fretting about the ethics, safety and consequences of his work for Yanukovych. And they reveal that Manafort’s two daughters regarded their father’s emergence as a key player on Trump’s presidential campaign with a mixture of pride and embarrassment.

In one exchange, daughter Jessica Manafort writes “Im not a trump supporter but i am still proud of dad tho. He is the best at what he does.” Her sister Andrea Manafort responded by referring to their father’s relationship with Trump as “The most dangerous friendship in America,” while in another exchange she called them “a perfect pair” of “power-hungry egomaniacs,” and asserted “the only reason my dad is doing this campaign is for sport. He likes the challenge. It's like an egomaniac's chess game. There's no money motivation.”

By contrast, the Manafort daughters and their mother seemed much more unsettled about Paul Manafort’s work as a political consultant for Yanukovych’s Russia-backed Party of Regions, which is a subject of renewed interest among investigators probing possible links between Trump’s campaign and Russia.

In one March 2015 exchange that appears to be between the two sisters, Andrea Manafort seems to suggest that their father bore some responsibility for the deaths of protesters at the hands of police loyal to Yanukovych during a monthslong uprising that started in late 2013.

“Don't fool yourself,” Andrea Manafort wrote. “That money we have is blood money.”

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If there's anything mitigating the bad news for the White House here, it is that Comey may have also sent subtle signals that the matters under investigation are not principally about the personal conduct of Trump himself. While this is speculation, I do not believe that if Comey had, say, validated large swaths of the Steele dossier or found significant Trump-Russia financial entanglements of a compromising variety, he would have said even as much as he said today. I also don't think he would have announced the scope of the investigation as about the relationship "between individuals associated with the Trump campaign and the Russian government" or "coordination between the campaign and Russia’s efforts"; these words suggest one step of removal from investigating the President himself. If the latter were the case, I suspect Comey wouldn't have used words suggestive of the Flynn-Manafort-Page cabal.

But that's reading a lot into a relatively small number of tea leaves. What is clear is that this was a very bad day for the President. In it, we learned that there is an open-ended Russia investigation with no timetable for completion, one that's going hang over Trump's head for a long time, and one to which the FBI director is entirely committed.

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@CK_MacLeod

State of the Discussion

bob
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Comments this threadCommenter Archive
+ Yeah, I read C's comments as trying to do a variety of things at the same time, having the effect of making interpretation more difficult. Any [. . .]
Benjamin Wittes: How to Read What Comey Said Today – Lawfare
bob
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+ Sure, so why do they have "work Phones" they take home? Even if they don't have fate of the world responsibilities, who they work [. . .]
Isenstadt and Vogel: Paranoia seizes Trump’s White House – POLITICO

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