Category Archive 'Victor Davis Hanson'
09 Mar 2017

Hubris in High Places

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Victor Davis Hanson has a fine rant contending that, in today’s America, a hankering to order the stars in their courses and reform everything in the world from the bottom up tends to go hand in had with complete incompetence and a total inability to deal with basic responsibilities.

The recent Academy Awards ceremony turned into a monotony of hate. Many of the stars who mounted the stage ranted on cue about the evils of President Donald Trump.

Such cheap rhetoric is easy. But first, accusers should guarantee that their own ceremony is well run. Instead, utter bedlam ruined the event, as no one on the Oscar stage even knew who had won the Best Picture award.

Stars issued lots of rants about Trump, but were apparently unaware that one of the ceremony’s impromptu invited guests was a recent parolee and registered sex offender.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg used to offer all sorts of cosmic advice on the evils of smoking and the dangers of fatty foods and sugary soft drinks. Bloomberg also frequently pontificated on abortion and global warming, earning him a progressive audience that transcended the boroughs of New York.

But in the near-record December 2010 blizzard, Bloomberg proved utterly incompetent in the elemental tasks for which he was elected: ensuring that New Yorkers were not trapped in their homes by snowdrifts in their streets that went unplowed for days.

The Bloomberg syndrome is a characteristic of contemporary government officials. When they are unwilling or unable to address premodern problems in their jurisdictions — crime, crumbling infrastructure, inadequate transportation — they compensate by posing as philosopher kings who cheaply lecture on existential challenges over which they have no control.

In this regard, think of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s recent promises to nullify federal immigration law — even as he did little to mitigate the epidemic of murders in his own city.

Former President Barack Obama nearly doubled the national debt, never achieved 3 percent economic growth in any of his eight years in office, and left the health care system in crisis. But he did manage to lecture Americans about the evils of the Crusades, and promise to lower the seas and cool the planet.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, the former governor of California, likewise ran up record debt during his tenure, culminating in a $25 billion deficit his last year in office. Schwarzenegger liked to hector state residents on global warming and green energy, and brag about his commitment to wind and solar power.

Meanwhile, one of the state’s chief roadways, California State Route 99, earned the moniker “Highway of Death” for its potholes, bumper-to-bumper traffic, narrow lanes and archaic on- and off-ramps. During California’s early-February storms, the state’s decrepit road system all but collapsed. A main access to Yosemite National Park was shut down by mudslides. Big Sur was inaccessible. Highway 17, which connects Monterey Bay to Silicon Valley, was a daily disaster.

Schwarzenegger’s successor, Jerry Brown, warned of climate change and permanent drought and did not authorize the construction of a single reservoir. Now, California is experiencing near-record rain and snowfall. Had the state simply completed its half-century-old water master plan, dozens of new reservoirs would now be storing the runoff, ensuring that the state could be drought-proof for years.

Instead, more than 20 million acre-feet of precious water have already been released to the sea. There is nowhere to put it, given that California has not build a major reservoir in nearly 40 years.

The crumbling spillways of the landmark Oroville Dam, the tallest dam in the United States, threaten to erode it. Warnings of needed maintenance went unheeded for years, despite the fact that some 20 million more Californians live in the state (often in floodplains) than when the dam was built. Meanwhile, the state legislature has enacted new laws regarding plastic bags and transgender restrooms.

We have become an arrogant generation that virtue-signals that we can change the universe when in reality we cannot even run an awards ceremony, plow snow, fix potholes, build a road or dam, or stop inner-city youths from murdering each other.

Do our smug politicians promise utopia because they cannot cope with reality?

28 Feb 2017

VDH On the 2016 Populist Revolt

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Victor Davis Hanson explains the 2016 Populist Revolt to his professional associates in elite Coastal California.

What America watches on television and on the silver screen is created either in Los Angeles or New York. The nation’s world-ranked Ivy League and West Coast universities are almost all in blue America. Wall Street, Silicon Valley and the preeminent financial institutions are likewise centered in urban corridors. The federal government operates in the progressive culture of Washington, D.C. The reasons for this lopsided concentration are part historical and part geographical, but not necessarily a referendum on either contemporary competency or character.

The result nonetheless is an abyss, in which power brokers who shape the way America is entertained, educated, financed and governed are often unaware of how half the country lives — or the effects of their own tastes and policies upon them. Yet the hinterland is no cul-de-sac, but rather the proud generator of most of the nation’s fuel, food and manufactured goods — the traditional stuff of civilization.

The Trump revolt was also a push back against winner-take-all globalization that enriched the populated coasts far more than the open spaces in between — that made London spiritually closer to Manhattan than to upstate New York, and Tokyo or Bangalore more attuned to the Bay Area than to the Central Valley a hundred miles away.

People outside of New York and San Francisco seemed to have the strange idea that the wheat they grew or the oil they fracked were just as important to Facebook and Goldman Sachs employees as the latter’s social media pages and stock portfolios were to farmers and oil drillers.

In part, the rural backlash was fueled by a sense that half the country — the quieter and more hidden half — did not like the cultural and economic trajectories on which the cities were taking the country. It was not just that they saw a $20 trillion debt, the slowest economic growth since the Hoover administration, a federal takeover of the health care system, offshoring, outsourcing and open borders as part of their plight.

Rather, they cited these as symptoms of a blinkered elite that had lost its bearings and was insulated from the reality that governs life elsewhere: debt really does have to be paid back rather than doubled in eight years. Something like the Affordable Care Act that is sold as offering more and costing less simply cannot be true. The cyberworld still does not bring food to the table, put fuel in the gas tank or produce wood floors and stainless steel appliances.

Urban elites seldom experience the full and often negative consequences of their own ideologies. And identifying people first by race, tribe or gender — by their allegiance to their appearance rather than to the content of their characters — has rarely led anywhere but to tribalism and eventual sectarian violence.

The result was that when Trump, the outsider without political experience, appeared as a hammer, rural America apparently was more than happy to throw him into the glass of the bicoastal establishment, without worrying too much about the shards that scattered.

Read the whole thing.

13 Jan 2015

The Multicultural Neurosis

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Victor Davis Hanson explores the contradictions of the multiculturalist ideology.

For the useful idiot, multiculturalism is supposedly aimed at ecumenicalism and hopes to diminish difference by inclusiveness and non-judgmentalism. But mostly it is a narcissistic fit, in which the multiculturalist offers a cheap rationalization of non-Western pathologies, and thereby anoints himself both the moral superior to his own less critical Western peers and, in condescending fashion, the self-appointed advocate of the mostly incapable non-Westerner. …

[M]ulticulturalism is the twin of appeasement. Once Americans and Europeans declare all cultures as equal, those hostile to the West should logically desist from their aggression, in gratitude to the good will and introspection of liberal Westerners. Apologizing for the Bush war on terror, promising to close down Guantanamo, deriding the war in Iraq, reminding the world of the president’s Islamic family roots — all that is supposed to persuade the Hasans, Tsarnaevs, and Kouachis in the West that we see no differences between their cultural pedigrees and the Western paradigm they have chosen to emigrate to and at least superficially embrace. Thus the violence should cease.

At its worst, multiculturalism becomes a cheap tool in careerist fashion to both bash the West and simultaneously offer oneself as a necessary intermediary to rectify Western sins, whether as a -studies professor in the university, an activist journalist or politician, or some sort of community or social organizer.

It is always helpful to turn to Al Sharpton for an illustration of the bastardized form of almost any contemporary fad, and thus here is what he once formulated as the multicultural critique of the West: “White folks was in the caves while we [blacks] was building empires. … We built pyramids before Donald Trump ever knew what architecture was … we taught philosophy and astrology and mathematics before Socrates and them Greek homos ever got around to it.” Note that Sharpton was not calling for new mathematics academies in the inner city to reclaim lost African arts of superior computation. Note also that Sharpton himself did not dream up these supposed non-Western superior African achievements.

Read the whole thing.

02 Dec 2014

Global Warming as Metonymy

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Victor Davis Hanson describes Global Warming as one example of the intellectual bankruptcy of liberalism.

Take also global warming — for Secretary of State John Kerry, the world’s greatest challenge.Once the planet did not heat up in the last 18 years, and once the ice of the polar caps did not melt away, global warming begat climate change. The new nomenclature was a clever effort to link all occasional weather extremities to some underlying and fundamental climate disruption. Brilliant though the strategy was — the opposites of cold/hot, drought/deluges, and calm/storms could now all be used as proof of permanent climate change — global warming finally was hoist on its own petard: If it caused everything, then it caused nothing.

So, in the end, what was global warming? It seems to have grown up largely as a late-20th-century critique of global market capitalism by elites who had done so well by it that they had won the luxury of caricaturing the very source of their privilege. Global warming proved a near secular religion that filled a deep psychological longing for some sort of transcendent meaning among mostly secular Western grandees. In reality, the global-warming creed had scant effect on the lifestyles of the high priests who promulgated it. Al Gore did not cut back on his jet-fueled and lucrative proselytizing. Obama did not become the first president who, on principle, traveled with a reduced and green entourage. Solyndra did not run a model transparent company as proof of the nobility of the cause. As in the case of illegal immigration, the losers from the global-warming fad are the working and middle classes, who do not have the capital to be unharmed by the restrictions on cheap, carbon-based fuels.

Read the whole thing.

28 Aug 2014

Don’t Know Much About History

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Victor Davis Hanson is a real historian, so he is understandably indignant about the characteristic ways in which Barack Obama misstates and mangles history.

In Obama’s hazy sense of the end of history, things always must get better in the manner that updated models of iPhones and iPads are glitzier than the last. In fact, history is morally cyclical. Even technological progress is ethically neutral. It is a way either to bring more good things to more people or to facilitate evil all that much more quickly and effectively.

In the viciously modern 20th century — when more lives may have been lost to war than in all prior centuries combined — some 6 million Jews were put to death through high technology in a way well beyond the savagery of Attila the Hun or Tamerlane. Beheading in the Islamic world is as common in the 21st century as it was in the eighth century — and as it will probably be in the 22nd. The carnage of the Somme and Dresden trumped anything that the Greeks, Romans, Franks, Turks, or Venetians could have imagined.

What explains Obama’s confusion?

A lack of knowledge of basic history explains a lot. Obama or his speechwriters have often seemed confused about the liberation of Auschwitz, “Polish death camps,” the political history of Texas, or the linguistic relationship between Austria and Germany. Obama reassured us during the Bowe Bergdahl affair that George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin Roosevelt all similarly got American prisoners back when their wars ended — except that none of them were in office when the Revolutionary War, Civil War, or World War II officially ended.

Contrary to Obama’s assertion, President Rutherford B. Hayes never dismissed the potential of the telephone. Obama once praised the city of Cordoba as part of a proud Islamic tradition of tolerance during the brutal Spanish Inquisition — forgetting that by the beginning of the Inquisition an almost exclusively Christian Cordoba had few Muslims left.

A Pollyannaish belief in historical predetermination seems to substitute for action. If Obama believes that evil should be absent in the 21st century, or that the arc of the moral universe must always bend toward justice, or that being on the wrong side of history has consequences, then he may think inanimate forces can take care of things as we need merely watch.

In truth, history is messier. Unfortunately, only force will stop seventh-century monsters like the Islamic State from killing thousands more innocents. Obama may think that reminding Putin that he is now in the 21st century will so embarrass the dictator that he will back off from Ukraine. But the brutish Putin may think that not being labeled a 21st-century civilized sophisticate is a compliment.

In 1935, French foreign minister Pierre Laval warned Joseph Stalin that the Pope would admonish him to go easy on Catholics — as if such moral lectures worked in the supposedly civilized 20th century. Stalin quickly disabused Laval of that naiveté. “The Pope?” Stalin asked, “How many divisions has he got?”

There is little evidence that human nature has changed over the centuries, despite massive government efforts to make us think and act nicer. What drives Putin, Boko Haram, or ISIS are the same age-old passions, fears, and sense of honor that over the centuries also moved Genghis Khan, the Sudanese Mahdists, and the Barbary pirates.

28 Nov 2013

A Modest Proposal

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Victor Davis Hanson is tired of all our national policy decisions being made by a coastal elite resident in urban bubbles of like-mindedness, far removed from the lives of ordinary Americans.

The problem is not just that the coasts determine how everyone else is to lead their lives, but that those living in our elite corridors have no idea about how life is lived just a short distance away in the interior — much less about the sometimes tragic consequences of their own therapeutic ideology on the distant, less influential majority.

In a fantasy world, I would move Washington, D.C., to Kansas City, Missouri. That transfer would not only make the capital more accessible to the American people and equalize travel requirements for our legislators, but also expose an out-of-touch government to a reality outside its Beltway.

I would transfer the United Nations to Salt Lake City, where foreign diplomats would live in a different sort of cocoon.

I would ask billionaires like Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and the Koch Brothers to endow with their riches a few Midwestern or Southern universities. Perhaps we could create a new Ivy League in the nation’s center.

I would suggest to Facebook and Apple that they relocate operations to North Dakota to expose their geeky entrepreneurs to those who drive trucks and plow snow. Who knows — they might be able to afford a house, get married before 35, and have three rather than zero kids.

America is said to be divided by red and blue states, rich and poor, white and non-white, Christian and non-Christian, old and new.

I think the real divide is between those who make our decisions on the coasts and the anonymous others who live with the consequences somewhere else.

22 Oct 2013

Silicon Valley’s Illiberal Liberals

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Native Californian Victor Davis Hanson takes a look at the bizarre lifestyle (big money, crappy housing) and even stranger politics of his own state’s technological elite.

Strip away the veneer of Silicon Valley, and it is mostly a paradox. Almost nothing is what it is professed to be. Ostensibly, communities like Menlo Park and Palo Alto are elite enclaves, where power couples can easily make $300,000 to $700,000 a year as mid-level dot.com managers.

But often these 1 percenter communities are façades of sorts. Beneath veneers of high-end living, there are lives of quiet 1-percent desperation. With new federal and California tax hikes, aggregate income-tax rates on dot.commers can easily exceed 50 percent of their gross income. And hip California 1 percenters do not enjoy superb roads and schools or a low-crime state in exchange for forking over half their income.

Housing gobbles much of the rest of their pay. A 1,300-square-foot cottage in Mountain View or Atherton can easily sell for $1.5 million, leaving the owners paying $5,000 to $6,000 on their mortgage and another $1,500 to $2,000 in property taxes each month. Add in the de rigueur Mercedes, BMW, or Lexus and the private-school tuition, and the apparently affluent turn out to have not all that much disposable income. A visitor from Mars might look at their relatively tiny houses, frenzied go-getter lifestyle, and leased BMWs, and deem them no better off materially than middle-class state employees three hours away in supposedly dismal Merced, who earn 20 percent as much, but live in a home twice as large, with only 10 percent of the monthly mortgage and tax costs.

Given exorbitant taxes and housing prices, obviously it is not just the high salaries that draw so many to the San Francisco Bay Area. The “ambiance” of year-round temperate weather, the collective confidence rippling out from new technology, the spinoff from great universities like UC Berkeley and Stanford, and the hip culture of fine eating and entertainment all tend to convince Silicon Valley denizens that they are enviable even though they must work long hours to pay high taxes and to buy tiny and often old homes.

Silicon Valley liberal politics are equally paradoxical, reflect this quiet desperation, and mask hyper-self-interest, old-fashioned rat-race competition, and 21st-century suburban versions of keeping up with the Joneses. The latter may be green, support gay marriage, and oppose restrictions on abortion, but they still are the Joneses of old who define their success by showing off to neighbors what they have, whether high-performance cars or hyper-achieving kids.

In the South Bay counties, Democratic registration outnumbers Republican often 2 to 1. If liberals like Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, and Nancy Pelosi did not represent the Bay Area, others like them would have to be invented. Yet, most Northern California liberal politics are abstractions that apparently provide some sort of psychological compensation for otherwise living lives that are illiberal to the core.

Read the whole thing.

10 Jan 2013

The Uses of Being Hip

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Victor Davis Hanson takes on America’s most influential (and intellectually fraudulent) subculture, hinting (with some natural bitterness) that Mitt Romney could have carried America’s fashionable urban enclaves [if he had] “only reminded us of his family’s Mexican ancestry and ran as Zarpa Romneo, and against Barry Dunham.”

America has always been a country of self-invention. Yet there used to be some correlation between the life that one lived and the life that one professed. It was hard to be a phony in the grimy reality of the coal mine, the steel mill, the south 40 acres, or atop a girder over Manhattan.

No longer in our post-modern, post-industrial, metrosexual fantasyland. The nexus of big government, big money, and globalization has created a new creed of squaring the circle of being both liberal and yet elitist, egalitarian-talking but rich-acting, talking like a 99 percenter and living like a 1 percenter. And the rub is not that the two poles are contradictory, but that they are, in fact, necessary for each other: talking about the people means it is OK to live unlike the people.

In short, we can all be just what we profess to be. The key in our world of blue-jeaned billionaires is being hip — or rather at least professing to be hip.

Read the whole thing.

05 Nov 2012

Pseudolus, Not Oedipus

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Victor Davis Hanson
, in characteristic fashion, draws upon Classical metaphors to editorialize upon Barack Obama and Benghazi.

The Libyan plot is Sophoclean to the core: the heroism of outnumbered Americans who chose to confront a deadly enemy, and were killed and wounded in the defense of their endangered comrades — while the world’s greatest military hesitated to use its power against a ragtag militia to save them. Bureaucrats ignored not only pleas for beefed-up security before the attack, but also more requests that followed during the assault for reinforcement. A concocted story about a culpable obscure video gave opportunity for the administration to brag about their cosmopolitan multiculturalism as they damned the unhinged filmmaker and, in doing so, systemically lied about the real terrorist culprits of the killings.

The strange thing about Libya is not so much who lied, but rather the question of whether anyone has yet told the whole truth. When American diplomatic personnel are murdered abroad, an administration usually is vehement in blaming likely suspects; I cannot remember a single incident, however, when our government ignored those most likely responsible to focus on others least likely to be culpable. Once the election is over, and reporters no longer feel any remorse about hurting the reelection chances of Barack Obama, perhaps some of their usual incentives to crack open a cover-up will reassert themselves.

In Sophoclean terms, hubris (arrogance) — often due to a character flaw (amartia) — leads to atê (excess and self-destructive recklessness) that in turn earns nemesis (divine retribution). In that tragic sense, an overweening Obama must have known that — despite the Drone killings — al-Qaeda was far from impotent. And it was not wise, as Obama once himself warned, to high-five the bin Laden raid and leak to the world the details — knowing as he did that bin Laden’s death was not his trophy alone (or indeed a trophy at all) — but better left an unspoken collective effort of military bravery and the dividend of the often derided Bush-Cheney anti-terrorism protocols that Obama had both damned and then embraced. Ironically (another good Greek word), it was probably not so much an obscure video, but the constant chest-thumping about the grisly end of Osama that infuriated the al-Qaeda affiliates. Nothing, after all, is quite so dangerous as talking loudly while carrying a small stick.

Excuse me if I disagree with the learned Professor Hanson on this one.

The heroic death of former Navy SEALs, Glenn Doherty and Tyrone Woods, fighting to the last against overwhelming odds, possibly in defiance of instructions to the contrary by higher authorities, which then declined to come to their aid, did strike an echo from the classics, but it reminded us of Greek history, of Leonidas and the Spartans at Thermopylae, of Xenophon’s Greek soldiers who volunteered for “forlorn hope” assignments to make possible the march of the rest of the 10,000 up country and out of enemy territory to the sea, or (as in Macauley’s poem) Horatius Cocles:

Then out spoke brave Horatius, the Captain of the Gate:
“To every man upon this earth, death cometh soon or late;
And how can man die better than facing fearful odds,
For the ashes of his fathers, and the temples of his Gods?”

But Obama is not Sophoclean in the least, and the Obama Administration’s mishandling of the situation in Benghazi and their subsequent misstatements, evasions, and attempts at a cover-up, in my eyes at least, fail to rise to the moral level of the Greek tragedies.

Obama is not Oedipus, a mythic hero doomed to disaster from a point even before his birth by prophetic fate. Obama is no figure out of Sophoclean tragedy. What he really is is a stereotype figure familiar from Roman comedy: Obama is actually Plautus’s clever (and totally immoral) slave Pseudolus (familiar to most readers from Stephen Sondheim’s 1962 musical adaptation A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum).

Like Pseudolus, Obama is a trickster-hero who easily bamboozles the pompous and self-important with an innate cunning superior to their own and a glorious gift of gab, and who makes a success of posing in the role of a person of far superior station to his own.

In the Roman theater, or on the Broadway stage, the tricky slave getting above himself and (for a time, at least) pulling off the role makes for excellent humor and entertainment, but when serious decisions are required and lives are at stake, the unprincipled trickster-hero is not the ideal personality type to have in charge.

Barack Obama appears to have been principally concerned, during the seven hours of unequal combat in Benghazi, with avoiding an international incident featuring the US violation of Libyan sovereignty, possibly also provoking more Islamic wrath, and spoiling his own triumphant narrative of successfully leading a series of “Arab Spring” democratic revolutions from behind. Besides, he needed to run off to a campaign fund-raiser in Las Vegas.

When events concluded worse and in a far more dramatic fashion than he had hoped, President Pseudolus reverted to type, doing everything he could to talk his way out of the mess.

The tragic hero will be killed, or at least blinded and exiled in atonement. The comic rascal, on the other hand, will merely dazzle the audience with ever greater shifts, lies, and inventions.

Obama, of course, has one major advantage that the clever slave of Antique Comedy lacked, the chorus (in our case, the mainstream media) is thoroughly on his side, and will do everything possible to help him get away with everything.

14 Jan 2012

VDH: A Good Word For Obama

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Over lunch with Peter Robinson, Victor Davis Hanson remarked reflectively:

When you think about it, Obama has kept the detention camp at Guantanamo. He’s going ahead with military tribunals. And where Bush only waterboarded three terrorists, Obama has used drones to execute about 2,600.

Obama’s sort of growing on me.

04 Jan 2012

Hitchens… and Victor Davis Hanson!?

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Postmortem tributes to the late flamboyant journalist Christopher Hitchens became so prolific and fulsome that they actually provoked satirical parody from Neal Pollack in Salon.

Hitchens spoke out against war, and also for war. In a span of five years, he bore witness to the fall of the Berlin Wall, the explosion of the Eiffel Tower, and the construction of the new holographic Eiffel Tower. He had acid in his pocket, acid in his pen and acid in his veins. Then Darkness fell, on Sept. 11, 2001. We’d all moved to America and gotten totally rich.

Hitchens changed that day. For months, he’d wander the streets at night, looking to drunkenly berate someone who disagreed with him about the evils of Islamofascism. Occasionally he’d attempt to strangle young journalists, who admired him unquestioningly, with their own neckties. But he was right. He was always right. Even when he was wrong.

The night they killed Osama bin Laden, he showed up at my apartment, drunk but lucid, quoting T.S. Eliot, Longfellow and, of course, himself. We stayed up watching CNN, which was actually pretty boring. In the morning, over a breakfast of corn flakes and whiskey, I said, “Well, I guess that’s the end of Islamofascism. Good job!”

Hitchens went into my kitchen, took a cutting board off the counter, and threw it into my forehead, drawing blood.

“Don’t be an imbecile,” he said. “The struggle never ends. Also, you must remember that there is no God.”

I needed four stitches that day. Hitch put them in himself, with his teeth. What a friend he was.

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I thought that the funereal commemorations, at that point, had gone about as far as they could go, but, no, life was still able to top art.

Along came an essay from (of all people) paleocon classicist Victor Davis Hanson (the California Cato) informing us that he, too, had been a friend of Hitch. Did anyone who writes in Britain or America not drink with Hitchens (–or worse)?

Provoking the question: which is the wilder and funnier story, the fictional parody above or the actual testimony of a live eyewitness?

Christopher once asked me whether the classics community, my readers, and my Democratic family had become disgusted with me in the same way that the far greater global literary and left-wing world had with him over Iraq. I could only answer, “Well, yes, of course, but it is a matter of degree, since I am not sure how much they knew or cared.” He smiled, “Well, if they did, at least, that’s good news, Victor. We are judged better by our enemies than our friends.” I disagreed about that.

Like many Englishmen, Christopher had a great reverence for classics; he made it a point once to have me over to dine with the great Sophoclean scholar Bernard Knox, and on another occasion a Latin-quoting Jerry Brown (who remembered that I had written him a note in classical Greek in 1976). Christopher’s daughter was a gifted Latin student, and he often peppered me with academic questions about Thucydides and Aristophanes. He oddly seemed interested in the scholarly minutiae that others considered the equivalent, to paraphrase Dr. Johnson, of a dog walking on two legs (impressive, but for what purpose?): Could the average Greek have followed Pericles’ Funeral Oration as it is “transcribed” by Thucydides? How did the parabases actually work on stage in Aristophanes’ plays? For a radical, Mr. Hitchens had great reverence for traditional education, especially its emphasis on rote, grammar, and syntax.

I was more surprised about Christopher’s interest in agriculture, but then, in my experience, the English — and Christopher seemed to me as English as anyone born in Britain — seem to treat farming with the same special reverence they extend to dogs and Greek. He once asked to visit me for a weekend on our farm, and was fascinated about raisin production, tree fruit, tractors, and the economy of rural central California. I kidded him that out here driving a Massey Ferguson with a tandem disk was seen as far more impressive than reciting a stanza of Kipling, and he flared up and answered, “But why, man, one at the expense of the other?” But often of course they are.

When he arrived in rural Selma, out of drink and angry that he had exhausted his usual favorites, I warned him there was no way I could buy all his accouterments out here, and I was not going to drive all the way up to Fresno to find them. He rattled off a number of carbonated-mineral-water brands that he apparently knew well from Mexico, and announced, “Victor, there is a global brotherhood of quality drinkers that reaches even here that you are apparently not aware of.” He then insisted that we drive into the local barrio and find a “good” liquor store. Finally at one of the most run-down places imaginable we found two dusty bottles of exactly what he was looking for. “Why the surprise?” he scoffed.

27 Jun 2011

Identifying The Greatest Beneficiaries of the Redistributive State

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Victor David Hanson explains that liberal social benevolence is a very old game which has led to ruin for many states before ours.

[S]tatism is not a desired outcome, but rather more a strategy for obtaining power or winning acclaim as one of the caring, by offering the narcotic of promising millions something free at the expense of others who must be seen as culpable and obligated to fund it — entitlements fueled by someone else’s money that enfeebled the state, but in the process extended power, influence, and money to a technocratic class of overseers who are exempt from the very system that they have advocated.

So what is socialism? It is a sort of modern version of Louis XV’s “Après moi, le déluge” – an unsustainable Ponzi scheme in which elite overseers, for the duration of their own lives, enjoy power, influence, and gratuities by implementing a system that destroys the sort of wealth for others that they depend upon for themselves. …

Who are socialists?

There are none. Only technocratic overseers who wish to give someone else’s money to others as a means of winning capitalist-style lifestyles and power for themselves — in a penultimate cycle of unsustainable spending. When this latest attempt at statism is over, Barack Obama will enjoy a sort of Clintonism, a globe-trotting post officium lifestyle of multimillion dollar honoraria to fund a lifestyle analogous to “two Americas” John Edwards, “earth in the balance” Al Gore, a tax-exempt yachting John Kerry, a revolving-door Citibank grandee like Peter Orszag, or a socialist Strauss-Kahn in $20,000 suits doling out billions to the “poor.”

That is just the way it has been and will always be.

Read the whole thing.

13 Jun 2011

Timely Advice from the Californian Cato

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Victor Davis Hanson is in exceptionally good form today.

We should not listen to journalists, politicians, or academics who lecture about overpopulation, looming environmental catastrophe, or general unsustainability — if they live in a house over 2,500 square feet and fly more than once a month. Unfortunately that covers most of our alarmists. Otherwise these megaphones simply are medieval grandees seeking indulgences and penances through loud lectures against what they enjoy in the flesh. …

It is wise to navigate through the news and elite wisdom through two landmarks: anything that Barack Obama says will be airbrushed, improved, or modified to fit facts post facto; anything Sarah Palin says or does will be contextualized in Neanderthal terms. Teams of Post and Times volunteers now sort through Sarah Palin’s email; not a reporter in the world is curious about what Barack Obama once said about Rashid Khalidi or the Columbia University GPA that won him entrance to Harvard Law School. Accept that asymmetry and almost everything not only makes sense about these two cultural guideposts, but can, by extension, explain the 1860-like division in American itself. …

Go to Europe and see the left-wing desired future for America: dense urban apartment living by design rather than by necessity; one smart car; no backyard or third bedroom; dependence on mass transit; political graffiti everywhere demanding more union benefits or social entitlements; entourages of horn-blaring, police-escorted technocrats racing through the streets on the hour; gated inherited homes of an aristocratic technocracy on the Mediterranean coast, Rhine, Danube, etc., exempt from much socialist and environmental law; $10 a gallon gas; sky-high power bills; racial segregation coupled with elite praise of illegal immigration and diversity; and unexamined groupthink on green issues, entitlements, and the culpability of the U.S. Drink it all in and you have the liberal agenda for an America to be.

Read the whole thing.

30 Mar 2010

The New Rules of Racial Tolerance

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Victor Davis Hanson notices with alarm all the changes a year under the current regime as produced in America. It’s like waking up in an Invasion of the Bodysnatchers movie for him. Part of the strangeness is a new bipolar concept of racial tolerance, entirely different for Republicans and democrats.

There is a new racial tension not present a year ago, one having nothing to do with the election of the nation’s first President of partial African ancestry. Instead, never in my experience have officials of the federal government, both in the campaign leading up to their governance and once in office, so deliberately chosen to polarize the country along racial lines.

In retrospect, it seems a sort of nightmare these now serial outbursts of our officials — “typical white person,” “clingers,” “cowards,” police who “stereotype” and act “stupidly,” “wise Latina,” “white polluters,” framed by the President’s pastor and once spiritual Audacity-of-Hope mentor screaming “God D— America,” bookended by hyper-racial comments of a Harry Reid or Joe Biden about Negro accents and cleanliness.

And, of course, soon followed the slurs and smears of those in the media accusing almost every opponent at sometime of being a “racist,” a word that now has as much currency as a German Mark around 1929.

Opposition to health care, cap and trade, illegal immigration, everything I think soon, is being reformulated as antipathy to some sort of Civil Rights issues akin to the legislation of the 1960s. Almost daily now a major media columnist writes an essay alleging someone is racist, or there are subtle racist thoughts behind a type of opposition or protest. “Racist” is a 1950s sort of allegation, an instantaneous judge/jury/executioner/no-appeal condemnation. How Orwellian that the most racist members of American society, who built entire careers of fabricating evidence and defaming opponents — an Al Sharpton, for example — have become go-to national referees of suspected bias. How weirder that one just pledges allegiance to the new agenda, and suddenly one is both more likely to say something racist in Reid- or Biden-fashion, and yet it is not racist at all.

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