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Saturday, December 23, 2006

Last Time I saw Paris, Her Heat was Warm and Gay ...

"... a sexy high-priestess of personality":


Who's your Gingerbread Man?

And I had but one penny in the world. Thou should’st have it to buy gingerbread.– William Shakespeare, Love’s Labours Lost

It's that time of year when our thoughts naturally shift to Nuremberg, the city became somehow synonymous with all things Gingerbread, by chaos or by design or by the design of chaos. Especially those wonderful gingerbread houses:

And let's not forget the Prune People!

(The neocon is the cute, shrivelly guy on the top right ...)

There are histories of Gingerbread (Lebkuchen) on the internet, here and here.
Regional variations sprouted with the influx of more and more immigrants. Pennsylvania particularly, was greatly influenced by German cooking and many traditional German gingerbreads reappeared in this area, especially at Christmas time. "Hard gingerbreads" were shaped into little pudgy men until the introduction of the cookie cutter. This occurred as a direct influence of Queen Victoria and her German husband, Albert, who began the tradition in England. Pennsylvania Dutch tinsmiths are famous to this day for their innovative and creative shapes.

The Christmas Market, Nuremberg:

(photos courtesy of The Nuremberg Christmas Market)

Friday, December 22, 2006

Antony, Octavius, and Lepidus

Fishing? Something tells me that Andrew has never baited a hook his entire life, but is, rather, off somewhere making a list of how to stir up trouble in 2007, the good kind, that is.

Meanwhile, he leaves Us with a triumvirate of pretenders, some tried and some reportedly true. I don't know what one calls a bunch of Brits - a hoard, a bevvy, a pride, an ostentation, a Nelson's pocketful (did Nelson have pockets?), or a grandstand of socially overdeveloped, keen observers and takers. Perhaps just AS's term, hijackers?

So, reader(s) here will want to ask the important question:

Blogospherical Inversion - 2006 Remix
Les Penseurs?Les Poseurs?
Clive, Alex, and Daniel - Which one is which?

Clive - good fellow got off to a bad start by apologizing. The books-on-wheels series is great. Good grief, though, he must conscientiously read everything around, leading to a bewildering array of links, from Deborah Lipstadt to Tim Worstall (it's good to know about him, if one didn't, but do I really care about his misdirected sense that he is somehow "free to choose" post-Friedman). Sometimes this leads him astray. Afterall, the 1918 epidemic was just on my mind, too. Anti-Americanism was a good theme to introduce. All told with this list of wonderful links, often carefully introduced, but sometimes dumped, so far, neither penseur ni poseur, but ... voyeur?

Daniel - a view of his Windows and a list of things I like about America, to start? Poseur alert. That awkward piece about trust the truth that seems to ignore why Mr. Irving started to lie in the first place. Jumping into the middle of the "debate" on veiling (almost as carelessly as Andrew did himself?), as if this fundamentalist assault hadn't existed for decades and whether it amounts to more for jihadis than "free choice". No go, so far.

Alex - ah, Alex! Started a post with "Clive raises some excellent and important questions." Is that really a lead? Makes a good argument about McCain, but not in AS's quite often elegant prose. Did he miss the part where McCain probably got offers of help from Bush, last time Bush & Cheney were up on the Hill? So far, no opinion on insufficient data.


Fun for the Holidays: Social Conscience Video Nominee, 2006

Nickelback - If everybody cared.

Stills only variation:

Superman variation:

Iraq version:

Anime version (Naruto):

Animation version (Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children):

The Original:

Seven pages of variations (aka "AMV"'s) on YouTube!


Thursday, December 21, 2006

Understanding Iranian Politics

Any questions?

(calligraphy painting by Mohammed Ehsaei)


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Ceding the Morman market ... and others


Fun for the Holidays: The Remarkable Year in Review


So many off to the warmer regions, here is a song for the sunshine, in which rugger Brodie Holland shows ... his scrum-my tummy?:

no-sullylink, he is sunny-side up somewhere, undoubtedly; but hat-tip to h-mojo.

Silly, Silly Gays

SNL funny man, Will Forte:


Saturday, December 16, 2006

The World in Safe Hands, a Leader and his Litter?

The Tower Comission Report

Bought the American Dream - on credit:

Empowered only ... "Beautiful People":

Dr. James Dobson was appointed by President Ronald Reagan to the National Advisory Commission to the office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 1982-84. From 1984-87 he was regularly invited to the White House to consult with President Reagan and his staff on family matters. He served as co-chairman of the Citizens Advisory Panel for Tax Reform, in consultation with President Reagan, and served as a member and later chairman of the United States Army's Family Initiative, 1986-88. Dobson served on Attorney General Edwin Meese's Commission on Pornography, 1985-86. - FRC

Most of his conservative biographers espouse a Manichaean worldview in which Reagan's constancy in the face of liberal evils is the key to his greatness. But to sustain such an argument requires more than simply touting (and often exaggerating) his achievements, considerable though some of them were. The effort to gild Reagan's legacy also seems to demand that any accomplishment that didn't explicitly advance conservative goals be ex-punged from his record. And so they have been. - Joshua Green

"My responsibility is to follow the Scriptures which call upon us to occupy the land until Jesus returns." -- James G. Watt, The Washington Post, May 24, 1981, Reagan appointed Secretary of the Interior, famous for other remarks, as well (see link for ""I never use the words Democrats and Republicans. It's liberals and Americans." -- James G. Watt, 1982")

Courtesy, wags from Spitting Image:


Friday, December 15, 2006

Oh no, you didn't ...

Putting "New Jersey" in a piece just called "The Christmas Tree" was naughty, not nice...


Thursday, December 14, 2006

All smoke, no firecracker

BecauseAS hands out Malkin awards and because "Malkin" is a person who's views I don't know (or care to know, most likely, based upon the awards - besides I found out her publisher is Regnery, which says it all in a word, yes?), I came across this headline in a December 11th piece on her blog:

"Please have your bosses read this Dean Barnett [gulp!?] Sunni-Shia Cheat Sheet over the holidays in order to avoid another Jeff Stein gotcha moment."

It's not really important to KNOW anything about the Sunnia-Shia divide, etc., it's just important to avoid a "gotcha moment".

Is this an iceberg tip floating by on the Halperin-Harris identified "freak show"?

Anybody else notice that sensible folks, like AS even, end up spending 80% of the time having to deal with the freak show and have only 20% of the time left-over to debate other sensible folks? Those percentages have to be switched - the sensationalist 'culture warriors' are getting out of hand, no?


Christianists and Islamists - a pair made in Heaven?

Andrew writes:
I realize, after reading countless emails on the matter, that the real source of offense is my equating Islam and Christianity as interchangeable religious beliefs, for the purposes of politics. I see them as potentially equally threatening to freedom.
While that may be true, one has also to be aware that there are quite a few who would use the presence of Christianism - broadly put, i.e. as its adherents, its milieu, its legislative agenda, its influence on the polity - as a means to stall external pressure for various countries to work diligently to mitigate the Islamist advance, at least insofar as it relates to militant Islam, violent overthrow, etc.

Therefore, one has to cage one's critique, it seems to me, in terms that face both the enemy in front of us and the one behind us. This requires nuance, perhaps.

There is no freedom I would not grant a Christianist or Islamist in the exercize of his religious faith; but there are plenty of freedoms that he would seek to deny me in the simple living of my life.
I think we would part ways on that. I believe in time and place restrictions on religious exercise, but not "bans" or abject injunctions, precisely because the jihadis seek to discredit secularism by its handling of such nettlesome issues (i.e. the approach is generally to provoke a response that can be characterized as an "insult to Islam", "repression of faith", etc.). It is only in this way that the pluralistic, liberal state shows both consideration for the individual and also for the broader truths of how people come together in one polity, through civil society.

In other words, I think there is a strong case to be made that, on some things usually not of the State's choosing but of the radical choosing, a secular State winds up having to show a primacy of a kind (usually in a circumscribing of a religious expression), but it has to be handled in a way to re-enforce the importance of plural values without being abject effrontery or condescension.


Jesu...er.. the prospects of Presidency changed my heart.

Good grief. It's good that AS chronicals all this stuff.

It becomes clear that seeking to win the GOP nomination is like ... well, I don't know, but this list of recently purified political postures reads like the tale of the annunciation of Mitt Romney.


Drug Industry Redux

The drug companies are not perfect, but they have done more to advance the well-being of human beings than any other industry in the past decade or so. I am one of milions alive because of them;

More than anyone else? I'm not so sure about that. How much of the research did the drug industry actually do themselves for new drugs, and how much was done in academia?

As for being alive, I think a harsh critic might simply add that you are not alive because of the drug industry, but because (today) you can afford the drugs they sell - that might be a bit misdirected, but perhaps its at the core of the demonization.

One also has to give some credit to those who fought against the 'imperfections' in the drug industry, as well. It's not like the industry - any industry - has its own spurs (God knows, "the maketplace" is not always the positive force that it is made out to be...).


David Duke goes to Tehran for "Free Speech"

This is another in the series of examples of how people aren't aware of jihadi tactics.

Here, "free speech" is used to lampoon the West's belief in its own values.


How many political prisoners are held by Tehran, these days? I think Ahmedi-Nezhad just shuttered the last reform newspaper recently (and no, it wasn't Jewish "controlled"!). Isn't sitting on a Qu'ran a form of free speech, as well? Is flushing a Qu'ran a protected form of protest? How about cartoons of the prophet Mohamed?

I mean the absurd juxtaposition of a "free speech" meme coming from a Tehran conference is so stunningly large that David Duke appears to miss the forest for the trees!

Yet, Duke finds merit in this platform, despite his revival as a book writer, a PhD, which, given his newest affiliations, are just new clothing?


Dear Santa, $10 Million is NOT enough!

It's bonus time on Wall Street, when everyone finds out just how big their 'package' is ...


Saturday, December 9, 2006

Ah, Bonhoeffer

ah, coming round to some of the big medicine!

More later, time permitting.


Friday, December 8, 2006

Say Hello or Say Goodbye

Readers comments on leaving:

Not every Democracy has to go through a civil war to create a civil society. The current situation was forced upon the Iraqis by small groups of 'spoilers', tapping into old (ancient even) rivalries and more recent injustices done under Saddam. The majority of Iraqis do not want to fight a civil war, which was not the case in America before its civil war.

"More troops" is not the simplest options, it's the focal point or starting off point so that other options can get started or completed. There is always a catch-22 with that, but that's the reckoning. It's not a panacea, it's a greater dose of medicine in the hopes to clear the arteries, temporarily, while the Iraqi corpus comes to terms, nationally or municipally.

500,000 is not needed (in the near term, at least - it might be needed in a regional war, however, right?). This estimate included portions of the South and the North, which do not require troops. No one knows the right amount - it has to be a bottom up estimate, an aggregation. One cannot just make a W.A.G.

Dec. 7:

Elsewhere in Iraq yesterday, Iraqi police forces with coalition advisors conducted a raid in Abdan, near Tal Afar. They captured an insurgent associated with al Qaeda in Iraq and detained seven suspects during the operation. Military officials said they believe the captured insurgent has supplied weapons and money to al Qaeda in Iraq and provided enemy fighters a safe house for carrying out attacks against Iraqi security forces in the Tal Afar area.

In another raid yesterday in Bayji, Iraqi soldiers with coalition advisors captured an insurgent sniper believed to be responsible for direct and indirect attacks targeting coalition forces, including improvised-explosive-device and car-bomb attacks in the area, military officials said. The insurgent sniper is associated with other insurgent cells within Iraq. Iraqi forces also detained an additional suspect during the raid.

A day earlier, special Iraqi army forces with coalition advisors captured six suspected insurgents during a raid in Yusufiyah, south of Baghdad.

Military officials believe the insurgents are responsible for kidnappings, murders and improvised-explosive-device attacks against Iraqi civilians and security forces, military officials said. Iraqi forces detained nine additional suspects during the raid.

In the three raids this week, no Iraqi or coalition forces or Iraqi civilians were killed and only minimal damage was done to the objectives, military officials said.


Sorry, AS, I think that Kagen is wrong

AS laments:

But do we have enough troops to do this [embed and train]? And why was this not done years ago? Oh, forget that last question, but rephrase it: given the level of talent in the White House, what are the chances of getting it right this time?<

First, here is what went wrong. Read testimony of the guy in charge of training the ISF.


Kagen is probably wrong on two counts. One, the military have already decided for on-the-job training to facilitate "acceleration", despite the MIT training courses they have set up.

The ISG or B-H Report mentions continuing on with embeds until 1Q2008 (see R42). So far as I can tell, this is what the military's pros have been suggesting for a while now and implementing.


The hard questions about how recruiting is going for ISF (Army and police), by province, aren't asked of the podium too often without a "classified" *cough*.

However, the tea leaves that I've read through suggest that the problem isn't with numbers, but with quality (although, again, that is an overall assessment - numbers do appear to be a problem in some places). That is a good thing - time improves quality, but time will not improve numbers ...


Apologies accepted

I set up a bunch of posts to self-publish while I went to the shrink and had lunch. Typepad malfunctioned, hence the gap and now the glut. No idea when future publishing will work again - so I'm glued to the laptop.

Oh, please, apologies accepted!

The World is in a mess and anyone tapped into it has got to take a break, if they can, to re-rejuvenate. On top of that, you've invited a lot of tension/conflict into your life with that Conservative Soul Train, so ... take some naps too!


Thursday, December 7, 2006

Denied a Father, but oh, what a Sugar Daddy

This kid has a grandfather whose net worth is probably in excess of $100 million.

Somehow, I think he or she will not be disadvantaged by mommy and mommy ...


Cunning Linguists

Part A:
1) There is no shortage of individuals who want to become linguists.

Part B:

Linguists are better paid (we got an extra $100+ a month per language for being linguists). We had far better living conditions, and were generally treated as mini-officers in many circles, as most of us were highly skilled, educated, and generally quite intelligent.

Humm... those seem in contradiction economically. If there were no shortage, then there would not be "better" anything, most likely. As I was pointing out, those with real Arabic skills are in hot demand, right now. What's more, home-grown is, for the reasons I cited, not nearly the same as those who are in country who have brought with them cultural understandings that go along with any language.

Besides, it's not clear that DIA training is going to help the FBI (let alone with the apparent Islam-deficit on display with don't-know answers to the question, "Do you know the difference between a Sunni and a Shi'a?")


First Impressions

I'm always surprised when some Conservatives are so down on diplomacy. Perhaps it is reflective of some people's personal ethics or something. Who knows.

In any case, it appears that, unless one has "leverage" or there is some way to force someone else to do something, that *all* diplomacy is either appeasement (failure to apply what "force" or threat one can) or an afterthought, a nice-to-have. It's astonishing, really, such views.

I'm not sure on what basis Andrew draws the conclusion that we are absolutely leaving soon. The report says (my summary here), (a) absolutely no open-ended commitments (b) quid pro quo for ongoing US "support". There are some other indications, like training objectives out to 1Q2008, which is what is reasonable - I don't believe the six month 'accelerated' timeframes much.


Wednesday, December 6, 2006

FBI: still smug, after all these years?

I suspect the overall situation is worse than Andrew lets on.

If you look though this bit on how terrorists use the internet, you gain an appreciation of how much "free" information isn't being aptly culled.

Other items of note (process/institutional-design related):

  • It's hard for Arabic (and other language) speakers to get clearances, even second generation - their 'backgrounds' cannot be verified.
  • People with knowledge of the regions can often easily tell from dialect and accent who is from where, something that no amount of book learning will create.
  • We have no idea how much information that is freely available we are missing (although there are statistical exercises that could estimate that)

Other, threat-related

  • The Internet provides for recruiting. Videos have gotten increasingly sophisticated.
  • The notion that al-qa'ida use of the internet is primitive is possibly to ignore a gathering threat
  • Virtual community provided, in some instance, directly to terrorists and sympathizers
  • A large number of voyeurs on various websites
  • Calls for logistical support provided by decentralized network of experts
  • The idea that to openly oppose jihad is to oppose Islam is possibly deeply rooted - it's not just intimidation, it's cultural milieu, it's acceptable mores.

An US Gov't interrogator once told the author that there are "32 ways to spell Qa'daffi". "Not in Arabic", she thought to herself ...


Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Maximum Security

This looks like a standard operating procedure for maximum security. You know, guards just don't open the door and say, "Come out, come out, wherever you are!".

All the same, I've never seen goggles and earmuffs before.

Of course, although the procedures might be more-or-less standard, that doesn't say anything about whether the circumstances of this detention are justified, which is the main point, perhaps.


Nothing to Achieve --> Zero Troops

How much higher would make a difference? At this point, close to 50,000 to 100,000 extra troops to halt the centrifugal force of societal disintegration in Iraq. Does the Weekly Standard seriously believe that is either politically or militarily possible with the urgency necessary?

I'm not sure that anyone knows what the right amount is. The theoretically correct amount probably varies from time-to-time, which only makes calibration that much more difficult.

Because they are not politically possible doesn't change the analysis of whether they are needed or might be beneficial.

Two other observations. Does draw down or "re-deploy" mean forever? That seems like an odd prescription, since any breakdown in the situation is going to come up at the U.N. subsequently, and the US will be under pressure to 'do something'. In other words, thinking about the troops' impact on Baghdad now may ignore long-term needs that may still arise for another division or two or three.

Last, do they all have to be U.S. troops? I asked this a long time ago when Operation Lightning was launched ... how is it that so many can just stand aside so easily?

By the way, I'm not in any position to assess "denial", but Andrew should recognize that there will always be a faction that supports continuous military engagement. It's a strong element in Israeli politics, for instance, perhaps the most direct parallel. I can't see any reason it won't continue here too.


How many roads ...

Or maybe — gulp — he really does believe that Iraq is still fixable,

There is a lot that has been fixed, is getting fixed, and that could be fixed, still.

that Maliki will soon emerge as a unifying national leader,

When people tire of violence, they will want a national, unifying leader, if not before. When the government is able to defend itself on its own terms (i.e. have a more full command of Iraqi troops), that also may be a catalyst for change. One may not like that change or its modus, but ...

that American troops will manage to calm a civil war,

Sufficient American troops (and an empowered judiciary) certainly can forestall an escalating cycle of reprisal killings. Either those fighting will exhaust themselves in a struggle by eventually realizing that they cannot consolidate the small gains they make in 'reprisal', that they cannot gain anything long-term by excalting and getting their neighbors involved, or that they can reach some interim political compromise (and start to work together, despite rivalry and animosity).

that trained Iraqi troops will fight for a united democratic government rather than for sect or tribe or vengeance.

In some instances, they already are (the fifth division isn't the whole story). The question is whether so-much can be brought to scale and how quickly, given the other inter-dependent tasks to complete (and the failure to prioritize this task from the outset).


Monday, December 4, 2006

MarKos, Obama, Sully, and Libertarians

Who are we kidding ... this is the FUTURE OF THE LEFT :

edit: I have a new thought on this.
Perhaps it would be good for the New Left to engage the "Refreshed" Right, if only to drown out the 'debate' that is promulgated from both their flanks. I mean why do we have to submit the public discourse to the sensationalists, sometimes even self-admitted, and to the endless, cheap moralizers like O'Reilly?


Def Musical Soul

Def Leopard are like rock candy - cheap and loathsome in their own sweetness, but unable to be avoided.


Psssst... over here.

Just worth knowing the details of the vast chasm between the White House and reality. Now put yourself in the position of an American soldier ordered to do something he doesn't have the back-up for, in order to provide window-dressing for a re-election campaign. The troops are heroes not just for doing their work, but for doing it under one of the most clueless commanders-in-chief in recent history.

[Andrew, pssst, the military are complicit ...]


Saturday, December 2, 2006

The Minimum Wage

Honestly, if Conservatives had better ideas, they could have done something in the long time they have had both houses and the Executive.

In truth, Conservatives of late prefer earmarks to minimum wages ... (That's a bit of a cheap shot, given what has actually happened under "W", but I'll leave the wall for them to scale).

By the way, Andrew is silent on the actual alternatives proposed in passing in the Mankiw piece. Can we infer from that just how high a priority, a "consideration", the working poor deserve on the scale of Dish tax-priorities?


big-R not small-c tax policy

Some readers have asked if I favor [a mortgage decution] abolition. I sure do. That's probably why I'm a blogger and not a politician.

I would hazard that is why you are a big-R Republican and not a small-c conservative.

Conservatism cannot change its spots. Andrew's efforts to reign in Christianism are worthy, but the overall context of suggesting that small-c conservatism is "re-freshed" enough to be re-embraced is succotash:

People made jokes recently about whether Truman was a doll on the cake and so on, but, whether he was or not, his eyesight was clear:

Harry Truman said this over 50 years ago and it is as relevant today as it was when he first said it.

* “Republicans approve of the American farmer, but they are willing to help him go broke.

* They stand four-square for The American home but not for housing.

* They are strong for labor- but they are stronger for restricting labor’s rights.

* They favor minimum wage- the smaller the minimum wage the better.

* They endorse Educational opportunity for all but they won’t spend money for teachers or for schools.

* They think modern medical care and hospitals are fine- for people who can afford them.

* They consider electrical power a great blessing but only when the private power companies get their rake-off.

* They think American standard of living is a fine thing- so long as it doesn’t spread to all the people.

* And they admire the Government of the United States so much that they would like to buy it.”

--President Harry S. Truman


A Warrior, Fast?

Kuo has a hard time selling just a half-measure fast.

Matthew, the lost verses:

"Verily, I say unto you, the legislature is like unto the Kingdom. Go forth and dominate it with a permanent majority."

Kuo is going to need bigger medicine ...


The Cultureless Culture Warrior Rides Again

I'm not a longtime FOX watcher, but how much do you need to see before you realize what it amounts to?

If you missed it, here's yet another view on how FOX gets the "News" out to the faithful: FOX NEWS INTERNAL MEMO: "Be On The Lookout For Any Statements From The Iraqi Insurgents...Thrilled At The Prospect Of A Dem Controlled Congress"

Sully on Tax Policy

I'm not sure what Andrew intends to cover under 'flat tax' (or which shelter's he's after, precisely). Does that mean one tax rate for everything, all types of income, no sales taxes or excise taxes? He may want to do some other checking. Right now, the marginal Federal tax rates are all within +/- 7% for those earning $28K to $312K, which probably covers 90% or more of all those paying income taxes. In other words, we have close to a de-facto flat tax ... and, yet, still ... Barney's points about the apparent inequities in burden sharing are current, i.e. related to recent tax and income experience under that regime.

O'Reilly's premise, of course, is ridiculous (alongside most of his attack-style, 'Answer this, yes-or-no'). I don't know at any time in history of America in which someone said that the purpose of the tax code was to re-distribute income.

There was a time when it was mostly the wealthy who paid for everything, and they were naturally inclined to pay for their security (not for policing, in general, but for their security, arguably). They didn't want to pay for a Congressional Chaplain. It was a long time coming, until they decided to pay for a standing army, to protect their property. Naturally, they resented paying for any social welfare programs, etc., etc.

Causes one to think

Still, it causes one to think, how would you respond to O'Reilly's attack question.

One short answer: I perfer not to tax jobs. I also prefer to tax dynasties.

A longer answer: We'd like to have a tax code that reflects a just and stable society, and not go back to the times when everything you can expect from life is driven by how much money your family may have collected ...

p.s. I'm glad to hear that the 'working poor' deserve some consideration ... The problem with small-c conservatives is that this too often comes up as an afterthought, not an aforethought.


Krauthammer's rant

I have to agree with Andrew on this one.

Krauthammer rants, "What in God’s name will a negotiation with Iran and Syria yield?" (It sounds like one of Lantos' floor speeches?).

This is why militarists in the guise of 'realists' should never be left in charge of policy, because they lack vision, tie themselves up in knots with "pure solutions".

If he seriously thinks that Iran and Syria yearn for a civil meltdown in Iraq, a potential near-by base for al-qa'ida and no way out of an engagement themselves, he's got some serious problems.

What if he's wrong and the Syrians or the Iranians make a "mistake", in his calculus, and co-operate on this or that security matter. Heck, we'd have never capitalized on their "errors", if we weren't talking to them, except at the end of a Woolsey gun.


Wednesday, November 29, 2006

"Red, the color of angry men"?


And what is Christianism if not a progressive [emphasis added], collectivist, statist movement?

is at odds with ...

Althouse and Reynolds and others over the question of whether "Christianist" is an appropriate term to use to describe the fusion of political ideology and religious faith. Greenwald shows that Reynolds and Althouse simply refuse to allow me to deploy a word in a manner that makes sense to me.

...That's why I call "ordinary religious people" Christians and call those who are "trying to bully their way around the political world" Christianists. Is that so hard for her to understand? I've stated it quite clearly from the beginning, but she refuses ...


I'm not going to step into the middle of Conservatives bickering, but there is no need for progressivism to be put up to cheap shots, from either side. As something that ought to be rejected, "Christianism" is a misdirected hope for religious actuation has both Conservative and Progressive aspects:
[from Clay's article] True, evangelicalism can also be a force of moral conservatism, in insisting upon the permanence of certain moral and ethical desiderata, particularly if those are clearly stated in the Bible. But it can also be a force of profound moral radicalism, calling into question the justice and equity of the most fundamental structures of social life, and doing so from a firm vantage point outside those structures.

Now, if the Conservatives want to excoriate certain aspects of what they perceive to be Bush's true conservative failings, that's their own affair, although I think it is going to be more difficult than face-value might suggest. McClay's article is a very interesting read and provides reasonably nuanced historical perspectives of the "red" tradition, from which to judge Bush's actions, although I find him too broad brush (The World AIDS initiative doesn't seem to me the same as the Shiavo wing-flapping or even the institutionalization of re-distributive, faith-based initiatives and certainly not 'Freedom' in the world, which is/was largely a political backfill by most reckonings or even Social Security Reform).


If it's not Bush in particular, but Conservatism in general, then perhaps they ought to start by discerning how it is that Christianists have found such a happy home for so long within the Conservative-alliance.

[AS] ... when a progressive, benign, big government evangelicalism emerges,

I don't know what the legislative references (or Executive actions) to that are. The truth is that Conservatism has distinct statist tendencies, too, including a belief in the primacy of the State in certain matters, the bully pulpit role of the Executive, and more besides.

The hard truth is that, while the Evangelical power-politics-cum-money is a problem for all, the "big government" in the recent past has come from the old-line Conservatives, notwithstanding Presidential veto.


The Oathiness of the Bible and the Laying on of Hands

More from the Heritage Foundation's spinning spinoff, Townhall.com. (I wonder how much Andrew knows about big-H Heritage.)

Anyway, all this bit about handing the Bible for oaths makes anyone who has actually read the thing belly laugh.

I won't say why ... I'll see if one of the readers picks up on it.


What we don't see: The Allegory of Underwear

It will be interesting to see how Andrew threads the needle in talking about something that isn't worth talking about.

Boxers vs. Briefs

We look at people's ties and at whether they are wearing skirts and blouses or pant suits. Barbara Walters interviews a grief stricken widow, for 15 minutes of .. what, exactly? Why shouldn't we know what the informational content of underwear is? People have been yearning to know what's under a kilt for years, if anything. Politics abhors a vacuum. Of course, maybe there is a line for privacy ... or journalism.

The bottom line is that some underwear just isn't sexy. In a popular culture obsessed with the nubile and the prurient, perhaps underwear does have informational content (and electoral value?).

Anyway, the point is that, unless he's commando (not likely), set in his ways (getting there?), or a j-s guy (money bet ;), Andrew should know that "boxers v. briefs" dichotomy went out a long while ago, with the introduction of the "boxer-brief" (well, they were "square-cuts", first):

The Living Daylights

Meanwhile, if anyone has forgotten just how exciting the world of underwear can be, check out C-IN2, who have a runway-worthy macroflash on their website. Ah, the world of fashion!


Monday, November 27, 2006

Beyond A Liberal or Conservative Doubt

I go to great pains to insist that skepticism is not the same as moral relativism. A relativist believes that there is no truth as such, no objective moral reality. A skeptic may affirm, as I do, the notion of an objective truth - but insist on the weakness of the human mind to know it fully. And so, in practical life, we eschew the moral certainties of fundamentalists.

Whether one agrees with this portrait of moral relativism, the problem, for me, with this is that an epistemological humility is NOT a Conservative value, per se.

I would suggest that so much belongs to a genre of what we might call right-thinking or a reasoning basis that goes beyond mere dogma or other untenored calculus, a calculus that may include great parts of the political machinations of getting and holding ruling authority as well as the social prefigurings of relations among small groups and individuals.

As such, it wouldn't really be correct (or fair?) to claim it for the Conservative tradition, really. Indeed, rather than this tempering of thought, it could be argued that Conservatism represents a distinct bias in thought, one that favors the "status quo ante", the content of which can be almost everything, including something as eponymously elevated as "Reagan Revolution" to outright injustice.


Thursday, November 23, 2006

On this day, we give Thanksgiving, even for those Conservatives among us.

Because the only this worse than Conservatives is no Conservatives. - Great Gob of Progress


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Often wrong, but never in doubt

It's worth taking a moment to distinguish Hamilton from Yglesias Nominee Cal Thomas (I confess I don't know what a Yglesias is).

The thrust of Cal Thomas's book is not to be a doubting Thomas on the same terms as Alexander Hamilton.

Hamilton's doubt is an epistemological thing, the Owl of Minerva and all that, or else, as is closer to Hamilton's character, a political calculation, i.e. one cannot 'survive' politics if you try to be right all the time, as extremists of that sort do not outlast the test of time.

Thomas' book has to do more with the impossibility of ruling as Soloman did (or Suleiman?), for a string of reasons. Put in other terms, one might say that there is no purity in politics, as the devil has his due in those affairs. To me, this suggests an ontology, not an epistemology.

The latter, it seems to me, is a more stalwart approach to addressing fundamentalist passion. There is more to the story about why, but I'll leave it there with just a proposed distinction.


AS Might be the Only Gay Man to Yearn for the Reagan Years

This is where AS becomes a hard case:

Reagan did indeed presage some of the worst aspects of today's degenerate Republicanism. His deficit spending, his subversion of constitutionalism in Iran-Contra, his coded appeal to Southern bigotry when beginning his campaign, and his dithering on the HIV epidemic are all fore-runners of later abuse. But they were mild in comparison to Bush.

Reagan would never have signed the biggest increase in entitlement spending since LBJ; Reagan's domestic spending record was far better than Bush's; Reagan raised taxes when he felt it necessary; he reformed the tax system in his second term; he vetoed pork; his Supreme Court nominees were diverse; he would never have gone to war in the reckless, unplanned way the Bush administration did in Iraq; and his foreign policy was a blend of deep conviction but also pragmatism, as he reached out to an imploding Soviet Union in his final years. Even on Iran-Contra, he eventually fessed up, and apologized. You can see the seeds of future conservative self-destruction and hubris, but Reagan's record, to my mind, is on balance, a conservative one in the best sense. His undoing of excessive government control of the economy and his defeat of the Soviet Union dwarf everything else.

They were mild compared to Bush? I'm not sure that is much of a compliment, to put things in such relative terms. Wouldn't Bush-41, whose 'kinder, gentler' phrase might suggest a more apt comparison, by someone fully in the Conservative tradition? (not that I would suggest picking Kirby Silver Surfer over Aqua Man, for someone else).

The rest shows how AS still has it bad for his boyhood hero. It was Reagan who brought us the Ed Meese spectacular and not even a peep of political or personal dismay over Bowers v. Hardwick (1986). It was Reagan who gave official jobs to the Hugh Hewitts of the world, who haunt us still with the 'Reagan Revolution'; and whose 'strategy for the judiciary' wound up in Borkfest, directly or indirectly.

Last he incorrectly identifies Reagan as a prime cause of the Soviet collapse, a hagiographic halo whose false glow will probably be with us for quite some time, it appears.


Will Wounded Hawks Do Dirty Deals Cheap?

Andrew is calling attention to Stanley Kurtz's bit and to angry lesbians in history (o.k., that's a cheap shot).

Anyway, Kurtz raises his debate on the wrong grounds. The issue isn't 'dovish democrats', wholly. The question is how are the wounded hawks going to respond.

This has been a concern since the outset of OIF, as I myself worried aloud during the 2004 election whether re-electing a President who had lost credibility on the facts so seriously could ever lead the Nation in an open conflict again. Since then, we can add getting bogged down as a millstone around the wounded hawks' neck.

As an aside, for those who do not remember, the correct way to read big-C Kissenger is to ignore virtually every prognostication (grave threats, catastrophe for U.S., etc) and just focus on the analysis.

Here is one piece of analysis to turn on its head:

So long as Iran views itself as a crusade rather than a nation, a common interest will not emerge from negotiations. ...Iran needs to be encouraged to act as a nation, not a cause.

The truth might be the reverse. When the U.S. starts to understand how to deal with Iran as a cause and to some extent a Nation, it will finally get its policy approach tuned to the right frequency. (This may be why old-world diplomats must be listened to, but not untemperedly).


The Last Socratic Art

Jennifer Holmans of the TNR attempts a difficult contextualization in trying to enunciate the role of tradition and the individual talent within the dance against the backdrop of holding onto a classical dance cannon.

Giselle is not an isolated case. Most ballets have similarly flexible structures and histories that are bound up with the personal biographies of the dancers who performed and staged them. In this regard, classical ballet is a very peculiar art: since it has no written texts, it is not upheld by its own past. Indeed, it has only the most limited access to ages gone by, and cannot claim a body of works that recall its traditions and situate it in the history of Western civilization. Moreover, if a ballet drops out of the repertory for too long, it will disappear: we cannot retrieve it later to reconsider its merits. Fastened to the present, ballet cannot evaluate its own past. A ballet, even a "classic" ballet, is now, or it is forgotten. For this reason, ballet cannot have a canon in the way that drama and music do.

This does not mean that ballet does not have its own tradition of sacred texts. Indeed, it might be said that as a tradition ballet exists somewhere between showbiz and the priesthood. Showbiz, because ballet is constantly subject to the exigencies of getting a show up on stage and pleasing an audience. As such, it is perennially in the grip of contemporary fashion and taste: sylphides and Wilis on wires were sensational effects in the early nineteenth century, but they would look hopelessly dated today.

Even if one is not an aficionado of the dance, it is not too hard to gain sufficient understanding of how the modern dance evolved as a need to break out of the bounds of the classical forms. (My own epiphany on the matter came during a production of Don Quixiote some years back).

Nevertheless, I wonder if Holman's thesis on the role of the cannon is not more backlash against the licentiousness that encompasses a lot of modern offerings rather than a wholesale re-affirmation of the classical cannon or even a purpose of pointing out the need to re-interpret the classics.

In any case, here is Sylvie Guillem and Manuel Legris : Grand pas classique, with choreography by Maruis Peptia's, who is mentioned in the article. It gives, I hope, both a sense of the triumph of the "classique" and its truncations.


Sunday, November 19, 2006

Towards a New Bloomsbury

Be it resolved: The Young Left needs a new Bloomsbury and Peter Beinhart should be nominated to get it off.

Maybe he is not fabulous enough, but I'm reading with worry the admissions of error that are coming from the young, muscular-thinking liberals (that's so much better than neo-neo-liberals, right?).

The political milieu has been so much infected with Conservative-speak, that one has to question if it isn't spilling over into defining the terms of the debate too much. I can't help but think that this is due to too much thinking in isolation, an imagination bias, if you will; and hence, the notion that a Bloombury-like enterprise is needed for the best of the progressive tradition to carry-on wisely against the deluge.

A mind's eye view from your window

Kolkata, "living" quartersSeabonic, 300th Nicholas Golf Course, $650K/yr

TNR turns wimpy

no reason to believe that we might achieve something that could be plausibly described as victory
The past three years have complicated our idealism and reminded us of the limits of American power and our own wisdom.

Oh, for pity's sake. Everyone wants to "win".

The great joy of being idealistic is that you cannot lose, because you tried.

What a bunch of feckless, premature wimps, to throw in the towel so soon.

I was just starting to really like that Beinhart guy. I mean, "Why liberals and only liberals can ..." has to be one of the greatest titles of conviction that I've seen outside the looney left. I hope he didn't have a hand in this hand-washing.

Ars Gratia Artis

The wonderful coreography of Maurice Bejart, done with a twist for Nureyev's requiem.

Baker on the road to Damascus

We did hear about it before the election.

He talked about it to Charlie Rose, while doing the tour for his own book, "Work hard, eat right, and stay out the Bushes", or whatever.

There have also been dialogues with Iran.

He can do this. He is non-governmental.

Besides, people talk even when they are not talking (and I don't mean in non-verbal ways).

Sometimes, even, people don't talk even when they are talking (I'm thinking of a story of one of Kissenger's "oral notes").


A Lincoln Portrait, Part II


For myself, I cannot completely reconcile hailing Reagan and Thatcher for their unswerving ... staunchness (?), while reserving a place of private conviction and public compromise that dots the lives of politicians.

There has to be more to that picture, somehow.

Mr. Lincoln was also part of the charge against, as I believe he himself called it, "the scourge of plural marriage." Relatively early during his Presidency, the Morill Act (1862) was passed by Congress and became law. I'm not sure if Lincoln saw the other side. What's more, some would say that many took a little too much glee in its enforcement, whether they agreed with it or not.


Krauthammer gets a visit from the Blixen b.s. o'meter

Regime change was always the policy. It would have been nice to have had some WMD.

It's hard to know for whom to have more (liberal) pity. Those who never doubted that Saddam had them or Saddam who bluffed himself to the gallows over them.

Whatever the case, Conservatives give a whole new meaning to 'strong on defense' in this era.

I understand that they are drawing up plans for Loch Ness ...


Market failure - health care checkup

I always thought that British attitudes toward universal health care were more deeply rooted than mere Soviet envy during the Attlee government.

Anyway, here is positive view of something being done to plug the gaps left by America's health care "system" (*cough*), free clinics:

Moreover, I do hope that the small-c conservatives steer the debate toward health-care. I think many of them are in denial (or, at least, have their eye off the ball) about what is going on.

Here's a tidbit: The USA spend nearly twice a percentage of its GDP on health care than do the U.K.


Thursday, November 16, 2006

Eating the Young

write-in: I have always considered myself a staunch liberal ... (I am25)

No wonder folks like Gary Hart have to write books with titles about the courage of convictions and the dear Harry Reid's rhetoric seems in need of a generational update.

If liberals feel like they have to head over to Conservatism, which will never change its stripes, to have a dialogue on what to do, then maybe Progressivism is lost in the wilderness, once again.


Did you notice that, when the GOPers lose, it is time for everyone to cooperate. Yet, when they win, it's time to push everyone out of the way?

Frankly, I don't remember Newt, after his 1994 'mandate', offering Clinton a hand of compromise on much at all.

So what does small-c conservatism (is that like compassionate conservatism, just without the evangelical attachment?) offer up:

  • gerrymandering: ... after a million, thousand years of this
  • pork: ... for conservatives to lecture about reining in pork now is just impossible. Why don't small-c conservatives come up with a way to replace the money in the treasury for the prior "pork" of the big-C conservatives, eh? Let's talk about how damaging to the Republic a blind adherence to "no new taxes" really is, for a change.
  • entitlement excess: ... LOL. ... I can hardly WAIT to see what has a manufactured importance in this category that gives it a top-five rating.
  • poor intelligence: ... given that some reader wants to chat with a Conservative about what a 'staunch liberal' should do, I'd have to agree.
  • Get Iraq right: ... I cannot imagine what this is going to entail, except that the big-"L" liberals are going to be asked to sacrifice themselves, too.

Great Minds do not a Great Man Make

The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy: that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness. -John Kenneth Galbraith


The Discourse with Modernity: Fabulosity

Strong contender, sweetie, darling:

A Lincoln Portrait

What are we to make of, "My kind of President", that Mr. Lincoln?

If ever there was a portrait of conviction in the face of doubt, it is Mr. Lincoln, but some of AS's view of Lincoln might need to be re-constructed. Perhaps he might pick up Gore Vidal on Lincoln.

Afterall, it was Lincoln who suspended habeus corpus the first time around and threatened the judiciary, as best I recall, among many other things that could look quite imperial.


Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Torturing Conservatism

"So where are your Pakistani humorists?", someone once quipped.

I wonder what role Oakeshott might have found for the ACLU in his pantheon of Conservative phantom weight lifters?

Is the "Conservative ACLU" bred into the individual responsibility of Conservative citizens? Is that why we have such an outcry of Conservative conscience on the issue of torture? Did the ACLU just get the jump on libertarian Cato-ists of the world, then, in this lawsuit? ::

The disclosures by the CIA general counsel's office came in a letter Friday to attorneys for the ACLU. The group had filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in New York two years ago under the Freedom of Information Act, seeking records related to U.S. interrogation and detention policies.

The lawsuit has resulted in the release of more than 100,000 pages of documents, including some that revealed internal debates over the policies governing prisoners held at the military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Many other records have not been released and, in some cases, their existence has been revealed only in media reports.


Fisting Jonah

Watching Conservatives go to fisticuffs is ... ex-haust-i-n-g.

Conservatism is essentially a husk of a political philosophy, and its offerings the succotash of treats.

Conservatism as a governing illusion got unmasked because it had nothing to offer and wound up, as it must do, in an incompetent (subservient) and do-nothing Congress with the smiling face of above-it-all corruption.

Of course the Christianists, who actually want to do something, should leave Conservatism! D'oh.

The neo-cons, who actually wanted to put forward a Governing Philosophy, of course, do not belong in "main-stream" Conservatism!

We look for the resurrection of the dead (see pic) ...

As much as they might be cherished, childhood certainties, it's time to put away childish things.

Thatcher and Reagan were products of their time, not expressions of a timeless ideology.

After all, "small government" - what the heck IS that, except some hopelessly derivative formulation?


Who's on second?

Trying to make a foil out of Pelosi for some reason?

The "money" is on Steny, and perhaps that why we ought not to be.


Fighting Gerry

It's 2006 and, so, just now we're discovering gerrymandering in America? C'mon.

Probably too cynical, but this looks like another Conservative hockey-puck. This is the part of the game wherein, having played dirty, they look around just as the other team gets the puck and say, "Oh, LQQK, that's dirty. What can "we" do about it?"

The easiest answer is for GOPers not to vote in the upcoming elections. There won't be any problems with gerrymandering, in that case.


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Nigger, Nigga, Nerd, Geek, Jock, Queer, Fag, Dyke, and Kike

As for the q-word, I can understand the idea behind coopting it. But it doesn't coopt me. I prefer to think of myself as a fag.

Whatever accepting "fag" means, exactly. Was that supposed to be a cute turn of a phrase?

"Fag" always seemed to me an abject hate-word, with no other way to interpret it. "Queer", on the other hand, seemed rooted in a different ethos, and could be taken as a power-word, an exclusion (although the force of it often tipped to the pejorative, but not necessarily).

Whatever the case, terms like "fag" and "dyke" are still used frequently, so if reclaiming has had real impact, it may have been on the receipients, not their abusers.

Hug Thy Enemy In Spite of Themselves

See, this is the kind of thing that is spectacular about the blogosphere. Insouciance, wit, and a nice moral to the story.

Now, all we need to do is to get Andrew a Muslim to hug and we'll have a the beginning of another trifecta.


Who Killed Conservatism?

Is the answer, who cares?

Unless you want to know in order to know how to keep it dead?

Afterall, what did it ever do for anyone, really, to be brutal about it?


Haggard's Science

I'm not sure what this one is about.

Why the question mark? Are we supposed to dismiss the science of psychology in favor of something else?


Monday, November 13, 2006

Rousting Rumsfeld

Suppose you are wrong about Rumsfeld. Suppose he is smart enough to know exactly what he did wrong.

Suppose further that his beliefs are (a) not to take on political water for those errors and (b) to work in earnest to correct them.

How does someone who isn't contributing to the solutions helpful? What is the benefit of publically discussing what is wrong, when you already know the challenge?

This suggests why, maybe, Aldeman had to be spoken over and why he needed to be removed.

No appeal to "absolute power" necessary.

I've personally known both Donald Rumsfeld and Ken Adelman for a long time. My brutal criticism of Rumsfeld ended, as I knew it had to, our acquaintanceship, although it did not end my personal fondness for him and his family.

Andrew must be getting almost as bad as I have become in my old age, dropping letters and worse.

Better rewrite:
I've personally known both Donald Rumsfeld and Ken Adelman for a long time. My brutal criticism of Rumsfeld ended our acquaintanceship, as I knew it had to, although it did not end my personal fondness for him and his family.


Wade in the Waters, Children

But the Democrats now have to buy in. They have to take real responsibility for the war on Islamist terror for the first time. It'll do them good too.

Oh, Andrew, let us not chide whatever it is to you, the "war" on "Islalmist terror".

What "good" for themselves are the Democrats to glean from dealing with the current mess? To unbake the cake, to unring the bell, to untie the quagmire knot?

Truly, perhaps you just want company in the river of blood.


"My Heart Belongs to Daddy"

"My name is Lolita, and I'm not supposed to play with boys."

All this poking fun about Bush-43 conferring with Bush-41. It's cheap.

You know, this is probably why he was not candid with Woodward and others about how much he talked with his dad or not.

People didn't understand why he didn't, but perhaps they'll understand now with the ridicule on display.


Beautiful form, Occidental trope

Flander's Fields is a perfect French Rondeau.

On the covenant with the dead:

Doctor says coming to America may be 12-year-old's best chance

Marine Cpl. Ian Kutner always will carry the shrapnel that hit him when his best friend, Lance Cpl. Aaron W. Simons of Modesto, was killed in a rocket attack in northern Iraq.

And every day he strives to carry out the pledge the Marines made the day before Simons died to save a dying Iraqi girl.