Archive for April 2007

From Harper’s Index

April 17, 2007

A fast fact or two from the May Harper’s:

Percentage of Pakistanis and Indonesians who say that attacks on civilians are sometimes justified to defend Islam: 3

Percentage of Americans who say that attacks on civilians are sometimes justified: 24

No doubt a great deal depends on how the survey question is worded. Even so, the latter number seems about right — if not an undercount.

The May Harper’s isn’t all that interesting, at a quick glance, but there’s a new reason to become a subscriber: the magazine’s archives going all the way back to the 1850s are now available to subscribers for free.

Current Reading

April 13, 2007

George Kennan: A Study of Character, by John Lukacs.

The Color of Fascism: Lawrence Dennis, Racial Passing, and the Rise of Right-Wing Extremism in the United States, by Gerald Horne. (Read a review, or see here for Justin Raimondo’s account of Dennis.)

The Bourgeois Virtues: Ethics for an Age of Commerce, by Deirdre N. McCloskey.

I should have reviews of the first two in print in a month or two’s time. I’m sure I’ll write about the third sooner or later as well. Also, keep an eye out in Reason for my review of John Patrick Diggins’s Ronald Reagan: Fate, Freedom, and the Making of History. I think it’ll be in the next issue.

Kirk’s Forecasts

April 10, 2007

At long last, I’ve been able to get my hands on a copy of Russell Kirk’s Prospects for Conservatives (also known, in various editions, as A Program for Conservatives). The book is out of print and I never got around to ordering a used copy, but a colleague had one on hand — and now I do.

Several of the things Kirk says in the book apply very aptly to America’s world situation today:

In the present instance we contend, with an ingenuous provinciality, that all the world wants to be American. … Displaying an impatient perplexity which is wholly sincere, we decry as reactionary or conspiratorial or Russian-influence [today we might say Iran-influenced] anyone in foreign parts who dissents from The American Way. We manifest a yawning ignorance of the venerable principle that cultural form and substance cannot be transported intact from one people to another. We claim that everyone except feudal barons or Reds longs for tractors, Bob Hope, self-service laundries, direct primaries, clover-leaf intersections, high-school extracurricular activities, two evening newspapers, Coca-Cola, and a stylish burial at Memory Grove Cemetery.

Kirk was an early “unpatriotic conservative” — just look at what he says about the nuking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the concept of “preventive war”:

A handful of individuals, some of them quite unused to moral responsibilities on such a scale, made it their business to extirpate the populations of Nagasaki and Hiroshima; we must make it our business to curtail the possibility of such snap decisions, taken simply on the assumptions of wordly wisdom. And the conservative can urge upon his nation a policy of patience and prudence. A “preventive” war, whether or not it might be successful in teh field–and that is a question much in doubt–would be morally ruinous to us. There are circumstances under which it is not only more honorable to lose than to win, but quite truly less harmful, in the ultimate providence of God.

He’s talking about the Cold War and a preventive attack on the Soviet Union, of course. But I think the application of his line of thinking to latter-day issues is plain enough.

You Have a Right to an Abortion at the Taxpayer’s Expense

April 5, 2007

Rudy Giuliani sez:

“Ultimately, it’s a constitutional right, and therefore if it’s a constitutional right, ultimately, even if you do it on a state by state basis, you have to make sure people are protected.”

Of course, somehow I don’t think Giuliani believes that the constitutional right to keep and bear arms means that states or the feds should buy everybody handguns. The 2nd amendment really isn’t part of the Constitution, in Giuliani’s world, but the right to an abortion, at taxpayer expense, is. The conservative movement loves him, and rightly so: who better shows that its real concern is with power and authoritarian theatrics? Giuliani wants to jail more Americans and kill more foreigners than any other candidate, which makes him just about perfect.

p.s. If you can keep from being distracted by all the advertisements and inane graphics, you can register your support for Giuliani by voting in the Pajamas Media straw poll (top of the center column).  Or you could vote for a “liberal” like Ron Paul.

Worsthorne on Liberalism

April 4, 2007

From a year or so back, but I missed it the first time: the text, courtesy of the Guardian, of Peregrine Worsthorne’s talk on liberalism at the Athenaeum club. A snippet:

Today, however, liberalism is the only ism in a position not only to dream of world hegemony but to try to make that dream come true – a case of absolute power tending to corrupt absolutely, if ever there was one. Onward liberal soldiers marching as to war. Not so much Pax Americana as Bellum Americanum.

In other words, the Iraq war is only the first move in a liberal jihad aimed at spreading to all mankind a secular and materialist religion, the central tenet of which – free thought – can be relied upon to dissolve people’s faith in any transcendental religion far more certainly than could communist repression. So it is no wonder that Islamic fundamentalists are reacting so fiercely. They have seen what liberalism has done for Christianity in the western world and quite understandably don’t want the Muslim faith to suffer the same fate.

Nor is this new overweening form of liberalism to be found only in foreign affairs. It is also pretty rampant on the domestic front, at least in Britain, where the two restraining isms of socialism and high Toryism have been ground into the dust by the Thatcherite revolution. Politicians of all parties, including the Conservatives, are liberal now. But theirs is a novel and almost unbelievably power-dependent form of liberalism. It starts from the assumption that, with the old dragons of despotic kingship, religious intolerance, patrician insolence and, finally, totalitarianism successfully dispatched, another window of opportunity has opened for liberalism to declare war on human, and even eventually animal, pain and suffering – regardless of the fact that this limitlessly ambitious new war must assuredly involve a vast extension of governmental power to enforce political correctness.

Worsthorne is still writing a short column for The First Post, a UK webzine, where he continues to say things that aren’t often heard on this side of the Atlantic:

In an ideal world, all the young, poor as well as rich, should be equally free to sow their wild oats – to drug, drink and fornicate, break up the furniture, etc – to their hearts’ content.

The trouble, however, is that whereas rich parents can afford to save their children from the consequences of youthful irresponsibility – by repaying debts, taking care of illegitimate children, subsidising single mothers and rehabilitating addicts – the parents of the poor can’t.

Don’t Idealize Trotsky

April 4, 2007

Sound advice from Clive James, who reveals a new reason to like Pablo Neruda:

Pablo Neruda was instrumental in smoothing the assassin’s path [to planting an ice ax in Trotsky’s melon] but never wrote a poem on the subject: something to remember when reading the thousands of ecstatic love poems he did write. They are full of wine and roses, but no ice ax is ever mentioned. Admirers of Neruda don’t seem to mind. The same capacity for tacit endorsement is shown by Trotsky’s admirers, who even today persist in seeing him as some sort of liberal democrat; or, if not as that, then as a true champion of the working class; or anyway, and at the very worst, as one of those large-hearted Old Bolsheviks who might have made the Soviet Union some kind of successfully egalitarian society had they prevailed. But when it became clear that the vast crime called the collectivization of agriculture would involve a massacre of the peasantry, Trotsky’s only criticism was that Stalin’s campaign was not sufficiently “militarized.” He meant that the peasants weren’t being massacred fast enough.

Still doesn’t make me want to pick up the new Clive James book, Cultural Amnesia, though. (Say, looking at Wikipedia just now, I see that James used to feature on Tony Wilson’s “So It Goes.” I had no idea.)


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