Sunday, May 04, 2003 :::
A FANTASY WORLD. That is the shared home of the intellectual Left, most of the Arab world, and Islamic fundamentalists. The Arab world can sustain their fantasy in the face of reality's continuous onslaught because of the presence of oil in their region. For them, money grows not exactly on trees, but almost. Money without work makes their Fantasy world go round. For Islamic fundamentalists, it is religious zealotry that does it. For the intellectual left, it are the tools of philosophy -or, rather, 'philosophy'- that allow them to deny reality with a smile, even when it hits them on the head with a sledge hammer. For them, truth does not exist, only 'truth' does, and reality is just a social construction. Forget about such niceties as the performative contradiction (i.e. if truth does not exist, what is the status of the statement that truth does not exist?).The distinction between poetry and philosophy is false, I was cheerfully told even yesterday, with a reference to Heidegger. However, the currently most influential provider of hot air to puff up the intellectual left's fantasy world -at least in Anglo-America- is Richard Rorty.
DO CHECK OUT the latest issue of the New Criterion. Amongst other things, you will find this: "For more than twenty years now, The New Criterion has been dilating on the nullity of literary so-called theory and the destructive commitment to adolescent leftism that it involves. Naturally, we have been routinely abominated for our pains. It is pleasant, therefore, to find, if not a concession, then at least a tacit acknowledgment that the humanities have taken a wrong turn." Intrigued? Go on, take a look...
JOHN MALKOVICH IS A CONSERVATIVE. First, he feels he is forced to move from France back to his home-state of Illinois because of France's punitive taxes. Second, he despised France's policies during the crisis with Iraq, describing Chirac's stance as "highly cynical and arrogant". Indeed, during 'a debate at the Cambridge Union last year, he named the MP George Galloway and the journalist Robert Fisk as the two men he would most like to beat to death. Later the outspoken actor, who objects to their anti-Israel views, amended his suggestion, saying: "I'd rather just shoot them."' Third, he has 'attacked American liberals' approach to crime, saying he would happily execute criminals personally. "The Left-wing want criminals coddled and no one wants anyone punished. I would have no problem pushing the switch while having dinner."' No misunderstandings there! Who said all hollywood actors are liberals? Still, moving from the lovely Provence to the cold Illinois is perhaps a bit, well... drastic?
MORE EVIDENCE of Tony Blair's deep religiosity and of its influence on his political decisions. I do not wish to say anything negative about it. Indeed, on balance I believe that in practice the Prime Minister's religiosity makes for better policy. Nevertheless, although Americans are used to religious politicians -whether their religion is real or feigned- Britons are not. Unlike America, Britain is a profoundly secular country. Blair's religiosity is even more remarkable given the fact that the Labour Party used to be the proud home of what was considered an enlightened atheism. Apparently adding the 'New' to Labour did not just mean goodbye to Marxism; it also meant a renewed appreciation for traditional religion.
A SERIOUS DEMOCRAT. Don't miss this long profile of Bob Graham, the Sen. from Flordia, who is running for the Democratic presidential nomination. I think that Graham is the most serious Democrat running. A Bush-Graham race would be very good for the Republic: I would love to hear Bush explain exactly why hitting Iraq is a more pressing issue than hitting Hezbollah.
Friday, May 02, 2003 :::
THERE IS NO NEED to be overly cynical, but I have two words explaining President's Bush actions: John Kerry. Kerry's campaign is based on his military service in Vietnam. It's a good idea to remind the American people that Bush was a fighter pilot.
GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States, showed himself to be incredibly cool today by making his carrier landing (do check out the pictures and the online video!). The Instapundit disagrees, but he has some good comments up from people who have sentiments similar to your man in Chicago. Dubya demonstrated himself capable of having fun, of displaying solidarity with the forces, and of being a man. Yes, you read that correctly: of being a man. Every boy and every man on the planet wants to do want Dubya did today, no matter how pathetically some may deny it - and we love Dubya because he actually does it (indeed, that's perhaps a reason why some hate him, but I'll leave the pop psychology to you). The professional cynics, carpers, and chatterers who need to waste their ink on something somewhere all the time can analyze this event all they want, but Bush showed again why he understands more about life and politics than most of those scribblers ever will. UPDATE: Tony Blur... erm, Blair -he of the Third Way (remember the Third Way?), formerly the scribblers' patron saint- says that Dubya's lightweight image is not only "complete bull" but "total nonsense." Just roll that sentence over your tongue: not only complete bull, but total nonsense... Blair is clearly serious. Says Tony: "He [President Bush] is highly intelligent, and it's not clotted by so many nuances that the meaning is obscured." Hmm. I wonder who he has in mind with that turn of phrase. "The good thing about (Bush) is that once he does really think that an issue has to be tackled he has big reserves of courage for doing it, and he won't really be diverted." Unlike that other friend of Tony's who used to live in the White House, right?
Monday, April 28, 2003 :::
NIALL FERGUSON unintentionally explains why 19th-century Britain is superior to 21st-century America. He hopes that America will take up its imperial calling. I, for one, do not believe that America will do so, or that it can be said to have such a calling. If I may venture a short suggestion as to the reason for this: 19th-century Britain had an aristocratic spirit; 20th and 21st-century America have a very democratic spirit. Britain dissolved its empire when it lost the will to continue it - this happened at the very moment that the country became truly democratic for the first time, namely after world war two. The people chose refrigerators at home rather than regiments abroad. The idea of refrigerators rather than regiments -a worshipping of consumer goods above almost all else- is a characteristic of democratic regimes and has long been central to the notion of America. UPDATE: The British Empire -and perhaps also the American Frontier- offered opportunities for the 'problem children' described by John Derbyshire. Unlike Derbyshire, I do not think that these children are necessarily problematic. They simply do not do well in the "suburban, conformist, lawn-tending, church-going lifestyle" that he calls "one of the best lifestyles — the most satisfying to the largest number of people — that the human race has yet come up with." We may agree that the benefits of the democratic and bourgeois world vastly outweigh its disadvantages. Yet the truth of that statement should not lead us to forget its opportunity costs - costs for noble endeavors such as Ferguson's, and costs to kids (and later adults) such as discussed by Derbyshire.
Thursday, April 17, 2003 :::
IF THIS IS TRUE, it shows once again that American foreign policy does not understand much about Europe, particularly about European integration. Alternatively, it shows that American foreign policy does not understand what is in America's interest. And this was supposed to be a unilateralist, America First administration...
Tuesday, April 15, 2003 :::
FUKUYAMA OPPOSED TO NEOCONS. During a lecture by Francis Fukuyama at the Oxford Union tonight, Mr. Fukuyama distanced himself from his fellow Straussians in Washington DC. Although the talk was about bio-tech, in an answer to a question on foreign policy, Fukuyama said that he does not believe in imposing liberal democracy through war. In reference to a Policy Review article by Ken Jowitt, Fukuyama accepted Jowitt's characterization of himself as Marx and the neocons as the Leninists, with the added caveat that the Prophet rejects the interpretation of the enthusiastic followers. Fukuyama believes the neocon position is "probably a mistake" and that Iraq is going to be very difficult to manage. Fukuyama is of the opinion that the cultural constraints in place in a country like Iraq will prevent it from developing into a viable liberal democracy any time soon, although (I add) according to his own theory "the end of History" will eventually manifest itself even in the Islamic world. To be clear: since the talk wasn't on the war per se, Fukuyama didn't clearly spell out whether he was opposed to war on prudential grounds as well, his comments were confined to a fundamental disagreement with the grander neocon strategy.
INJUSTICE IN THE NETHERLANDS. Volkert van der Graaf, the radical animal rights activist who assassinated Pim Fortuyn on May 6, 2002, has today been convicted to a paltry 18 years inprisonment. The DA had demanded life. Dutch friends assure me that everyone who is well-behaved in Dutch prison is automatically released after 2/3rds of the sentence. That means the murderer is due to be released in 2014. I should perhaps add that one of the three judges, the controversial Nol Vermolen, is a known member of the Labour Party, who has been accused of involvement with supplying illegal immigrants with falsefied papers when he worked for a refugee organization. Mr Van der Graaf said he was brought to his deed to protect the "weaker members of society", including the Muslims. UPDATE: Not sure if this is true, but someone just told me that prisoners can start going home for the weekends after nine years!
Sunday, April 13, 2003 :::
MARK STEYN, as usual, hits the nail on the head. Meanwhile, no apologies from the misguided apologists for Saddam. They are the same people who were wrong on Afghanistan, on socialism, and on the Soviet Union. One wonders whether they ever tire of being so awfully wrong. They certainly never apologize after they have been proven wrong. And, as Steyn points out, their mistakes never humiliate them in keeping mum afterwards.
Friday, April 11, 2003 :::
TARIQ AZIZ APPLYING FOR B-SCHOOL? The utter triumph of Western popular culture became apparent once again today when people looted the abandoned apartment of Tariq Aziz, Deputy Prime Minister of Saddam Hussein and former Foreign Minister. Apart from owning DVDs of the "Godfather" and "Sleepless in Seattle", Mr Aziz was fond of magazines such as Vogue and GQ, and someone in his household was studying for the GMAT....
Wednesday, April 09, 2003 :::
FUTURE OF OXFORD AND CAMBRIDGE IN DOUBT. As long as the Labour government is in power --and it is nigh possible for the Conservatives to win back sufficient seats in the next election, which in any case will not be fought any time soon-- the future of the great universities of Britain remains in serious doubt. Labour simply doesn't understand the competive pressures Oxbridge is under. It is obsessed with social engineering and meddling with detail. Today it was reported for instance that "Leading universities will be fined and forbidden to charge higher fees unless they recruit more working-class students."
TANNER LECTURES on-line. The Tanner Lectures on Human Values, a prestigious series given by some of the most prominent philosophers have been placed on-line. A great resource, bringing together lectures from thinkers from Francis Fukuyama and Edmund O. Wilson to Saul Bellow and Myles Burnyeat.
(link via the Volokh Conspiracy).
Sunday, April 06, 2003 :::
MARK STEYN expresses thoughts similar to my previous post. As ever, however, his tone is more certain than I dare to sound. That is to say, he is more certain than I am that the regime is leaderless. Now, whereas I think it almost undeniable that the regime has not shown any organized opposition, I am most curious as to why. Perhaps, indeed, Saddam was incapacitated or dead from the beginning of the war. Or perhaps -as I suspect- something weirder has been going on. Again, time will tell - and undoubtedly many fascinating books will be written about this.
Saturday, April 05, 2003 :::
WHAT DOES SADDAM'S REGIME think it is doing, if anything? And where are the Iraqi soldiers, dead or alive? In the fog of war it is deeply uncertain to anyone what is going on, but I'll venture to make a fool out of myself and give you one suggestion. Unless there is a giant October surprise awaiting Allied forces in Baghdad -and this should not be ruled out- my best guess is that Saddam has been wounded to such an extent that he is impotent or unwilling to organize resistance, yet still powerful enough to prevent others from removing him. A few days ago USA Today (no link) reported that an alleged former aid of Saddam's -who lives in Germany now and who allegedly keeps in contact with the regime- says that his sources indicate Saddam is actively preparing a luxurious exile. Time will tell...
OLD EUROPE is still going strong, despite the loss of face it has suffered in many circles during its cosying up to Saddam. This disturbing report on the consequences of the EU's proposed new Constitution should give pause to anyone who loves liberty. It should give pause, therefore, to anyone who hopes that in future America will be able to rely on Britain as opposed to on the axis of weasels. It should particularly give pause to those who would wish to deepen and strengthen the idea of the Anglosphere. Despite Mr Tony Blair's current popularity amongst North American conservatives, it is his attitude to Britain's future in Europe, and not the immediate issue of his attitude to the current Iraqi crisis, that should be the measure of his worth.