Archive for July, 2013
27 Jul 2013

Best Line of the Week

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Jeffrey H. Anderson: Once again, Paul Krugman appears to have buried his head, ostrich-like, in a pile of New York Times.

26 Jul 2013

Social Conservatism Versus the Liberal Administrative State

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The mad scientist Rotwang works on his Maschinenmensch in Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis” (1927).

James Kalb contends that modern administrative liberalism successfully eliminates Religion, Nature, and Tradition from serious consideration in political questions of policy, but he remains optimistic for Conservatism’s ultimate victory.

[Today’s] situation is the result of the occupational outlook of those who run things in the West today. People who try to run a mass industrial society with a mixed and fluid population find it easiest to understand their task in accordance with a general scheme that emphasizes equality, technological rationality, and maximum preference satisfaction. Those committed to such a scheme have trouble making sense of traditional understandings based on a very different view of how the world works. Hence the difficulty social conservatives have making their case: their outlook is too much at odds with that of the influential public they hope to reach.

Still, political thought is more than an expression of institutional functioning and occupational perspective. Its highest use is to change and even transform how the social world works for the sake of a better way of life. With that in mind, it seems worthwhile to develop an account of public life and its relation to social conservatism that might aid those in responsible positions to understand the latter and how it functions.

For all the talk of diversity, today’s politics are extraordinarily uniform. The West lives under a single political regime, managerial liberalism, that combines an emphasis on individual choice and democratic values with domination of social life by experts, functionaries, and commercial interests. The liberal and managerial aspects of the system seem at odds with each other, but both are basic, and together they have led to the suppression of many things that have always been fundamental to human society—religion, cultural particularity, even the distinction between the sexes.

Unusual though the resulting form of society may be, people take it for granted, so much so that anything else seems impossible. No one can imagine a future, apart from chaos and tyranny, that is anything but more of the same; and those who want to roll back recent developments, to the ’50s, for example, are considered out of touch or psychologically disordered. If you are skeptical about democracy, diversity, and choice, or if you do not trust the experts, there is something wrong with you. And if you think there is an authority that could call the regime into question, and even at times override it, you are a fanatical extremist.

What is going on? Why the uniform insistence on such an odd political orthodoxy in an age that supposedly believes in freedom, diversity, and reason?

Part of the answer is that political choices have narrowed as one alternative after another has been discredited and an exclusively technological attitude toward social life has taken hold. The First World War meant an end to traditional and multinational monarchies; the Second, an end to any serious European Right or strong conception of national sovereignty. Those and other upheavals made the administrative machinery of the state more all-encompassing and destroyed local traditions and respect for goals other than effectiveness and uniformity.

The world wars were followed by prosperity, TV, cheap jet travel, globalized markets, electronic communications, the contemporary welfare state, and a continued tendency toward the industrial organization of life. People today eat at McDonalds, children grow up in day care, and local establishments have been replaced by chain stores and the Internet. The two wars were also followed by the Cold War. As a modern war, the Cold War further centralized social life and increased government power; as a struggle of ideas, it made thought more ideological. Western governments became accustomed to social management based on grand slogans such as human rights. With the collapse of Soviet communism, the last nonliberal form of modern political life, such tendencies could unfold without external check.

Our current public order claims to separate politics from religion, but that understates its ambition. It aspires to free public life—and eventually, since man is social, human life in general—not only from religion but also from nature and history. The intended result is an increase in freedom as man becomes his own creator. The effect, though, is that human life becomes what those in power say it is. Western political authorities now claim the right to remake the most basic arrangements. If you want to know the nature of man and the significance of life and death, you look to the political order and its authorized interpreters. That is the meaning of the redefinition of marriage to include same-sex unions and the transformation of abortion into a human right. Man has, in effect, become God, and politics is the authoritative expression of his mind, spirit, and will. …

What allows the managerial liberal regime to function are habits of loyalty and sacrifice, and understandings of natural goods and purposes, which it continually undermines and cannot justify or explain.

Hat tip to John Zmirak.

26 Jul 2013

Grim Thought

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La bala que nos va a matar ya ha sido disparada.

Via Ratak Monodosico.

26 Jul 2013

Great Comet of 1843

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Charles Piazzi Smyth, The Great Comet of 1843, 1843, National Maritime Museum, London

Hat tip to Madame Scherzo.

25 Jul 2013

Tweet of the Day

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25 Jul 2013

Photo of the Day

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(how progressives imagine themselves)

Hat tip to HappyAcres via Vanderleun.

25 Jul 2013

Baseless Certitude and Arrogance

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James Taranto tore Obama’s “swerving in the direction of the economy” speech to shreds, and in one short paragraph identified Obama’s most distinguishing personal feature and its historic role in his presidency.

On the other hand, Obama’s certitude about his own superiority, his utter contempt for his political adversaries, even for those whose priorities differ from his–now that’s genuine. It is the central feature of his political character, and the proximate cause of–pardon the cliché–Washington’s current “dysfunction.”

Read the whole thing.

25 Jul 2013

George Clooney/John Malkovich Coffee Machine Commercial

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1:56 video

25 Jul 2013

Seagull Invites Himself In For Dinner

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Hat tip to Siobhan English.

24 Jul 2013

Hometown Neighbor of Mine Makes the News

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I grew up in Shenandoah, which is only a couple of miles north of Gilberton.

I did not know that Gilberton (with its whopping population of 867, as of 2000) was actually a borough. I would have said that it was a patch settlement in Mahanoy Township, but what do I know?

I guess they must have incorporated it as a borough back in 1873 in order to gain some kind of political advantage pertaining to access to the Anthracite coal under the ground nearby.

Anyway, Gilberton is a borough and apparently even has its own police force (which I never knew). And the current police chief, Mark Kessler, has been posting some profanity-laced videos on YouTube, which have the kind of people he refers to as “libtards” at Raw Story decidedly upset.

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Example 1:

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Example 2, in response to libtard reaction to number 1:

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I’m willing to grant that Mr. Kessler’s political commentary seems to fall a little short of Edmund Burke’s, but I am naturally amused, and even a little proud, to find that the political views of a resident of today’s Schuylkill County, which I left over 40 years ago, still when you come right down to it so much resemble my own.

I do think that Police Chief Kessler is additionally a walking advertisement for Radley Balko’s new book on the Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces. That is some expensive ordinance that Police Chief Kessler is playing with in the second video. It was undoubtedly paid for by somebody’s tax dollars. And that kind of firepower, though obviously terrific fun to play with, is absolutely preposterous in relation to the character and levels of crime in as poor and little-populated a settlement as Gilberton.

24 Jul 2013

Progress Means You Mustn’t Stand Your Ground

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Today, in proper and enlightened jurisdictions, Tom Doniphon (John Wayne) could be prosecuted and convicted for failing to retreat from gunslinger Liberty Valence.

Stanley Fish, in the New York Times, tells us, once again, that the frontier has closed, and as Hollywood has testified, the old America of Gary Cooper and John Wayne, of rugged individualism and manly courage, is dead.

We are now a country more appropriately represented cinematically by Alan Alda, in which the feminine aversion to violence and dependence on the Leviathan State to handle our problems for us has triumphed. Personal honor, chivalry, and manhood are all obsolete concepts consigned without regret by our elite intelligentsia to the dust heap of History.

As civilization advances, and the law book replaces the gun… rationales for violence sound increasingly hollow, and more and more westerns are self-consciously elegiac — “High Noon,” “The Gunfighter,” “Ride the High Country,” “The Magnificent Seven,” “Lonely Are the Brave,” “The Wild Bunch,” “Monte Walsh,” “The Big Country,” “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” — caressing the lonely figures at their center even as they say farewell to the values they embody. Outright satirical comedies like “Cat Ballou” (1965) and “Blazing Saddles” (1974) announce loudly and without nuance what the genre as a whole had already implicitly proclaimed: the reign of what Bosley Crowther (in a review of “Shane”) called “legal killers under the frontier code” was over.

Stand Your Ground laws bring it all back. That is what President Obama meant when he said on Friday that such laws seem “designed in such a way that they encourage the kinds of altercations and confrontations … that we saw in the Florida case rather than defuse potential altercations.” Do Stand Your Ground laws, he asked, really contribute to “the kind of peace and security and order that we’d like to see?” The answer is that not everyone wants to see them. There are some who imagine themselves as the modern-day Wyatt Earp or Will Kane or Shane — bravely seeking out malefactors, confronting them in the main street, and shooting them down to the applause and gratitude of less heroic citizens. Stand Your Ground laws are for them.

Hat tip to classmate Richard Smith.


Alan Alda

24 Jul 2013

Times Square Grindhouse, 1955

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“Teenage Devil Dolls” aka “One Way Ticket to Hell” (1955).

From Ratak Monodosico.

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