Prager University Via A Reader: ‘Why Do People Become Islamic Extremists?’

The video doesn’t end where it starts.  A complicated issue, Islamic extremism.

Haroon Ullah:


Our men and women in harm’s way deserve as much political honestly as possible at home, and clear objectives when it’s their asses on the line.

If we’re going to fight an amorphous enemy; ideological and pan-Arab, violent and ridiculously morally absolute, it doesn’t hurt to examine our reasons why, as well as why young Muslim men might be hearing the call.

One goal ought to be limiting the reasons for the conflict longer-term, as well as constantly re-assessing coalition strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

When we fight, we should aim to fight to win with as little damage as possible.

Michael Totten post here.


As previously posted:

What’s life like in a slum in Karachi?  Crime bosses provide basic social services and protection for residents and become populist figures, earning the love and fear of the people.  The bosses then buy off the police.  The corruption is deep,  the makers of the film courageous, and perhaps a little nuts.  The PPP doesn’t necessarily have control. Good film. Perhaps, what the Karachi government is to the Liyari slum, the Federal government is to the FATA region.


Isn’t basic corruption the rule rather than the exception?

Whatever your politics, I highly recommend Street Fight, by Marshall Curry. It takes a look at Cory Booker’s first 2002 failed mayoral run in Newark.

Daily life is pretty rough, and it highlights the kind of black leadership struggles going on within the Democratic party:


Another take: Walter Russell Mead discussed his then new book entitled God and Gold:  Britain, America and the Making of the Modern World.

Maybe there are other options besides Fukuyama’s Hegelian end point of history, and Huntington’s Clash Of Civilizations with regard to our current dealings with the Islamic resurgence and its anti-modern, anti-Western, theocratic impulses (liberal internationalism and Obama’s foreign policy have certainly created problems, but there are underlying issues the West will face):

Mead argues that religion, government, free-trade, capitalism, sport, and especially naval power have shaped our two cultures which have thus shaped the world (an [economic] model he suggests originally came from the Dutch).

Likely worth your time.

A tense relationship: Fareed Zakaria At Newsweek: ‘Terrorism’s Supermarket’Christopher Hitchens At Vanity Fair: ‘From Abbotabad To Worse’Repost-’Dexter Filkins In The NY Times: The Long Road To Chaos In Pakistan’

From Slate: ‘In Aleppo, Syria, Mohamed Atta Thought He Could Build The Ideal Islamic City’From The NY Times: Review Of Christopher Caldwell’s Book “Reflections on the Revolution in Europe: Immigration, Islam, and the West”

A Renewal?-From HyperAllergic: ‘Quiet And Haunting Photographs Of Our Modern Ruins’

Full post here.

Some cool photos at the link.

‘Each photograph, despite its location, is of some place only recently abandoned, and while the intended social relevance of Beyond Ruin Porn is subtle, each artist captured some ephemeral scene from our recent ruins. The moments in these photographs are likely now gone as the buildings continue their decline, or are destroyed, and like painters of the past considering Roman ruins, mark a fleeting moment in time.’

Beyond Ruin Porn Exhibit.

Meanwhile in Detroit, there’s a little bit of that ‘ruin porn’ aesthetic going on, but it’s also for sound:


As previously posted:

-Photographer Ben Marcin has a series called ‘Last House Standing.’ Solitary row-homes…the only ones left on the block.

-From Popular Mechanics, ‘Creepy Abandoned Military Sites From Around the World.

I love the delivery.  Here’s Robert Hughes on Modernism And Politics:


-Click here to experience ‘The Gobbler.

‘If you’re ever wondering what the War Room of “Dr. Strangelove” would look like if the movie had been directed by Prince, here you go.’


Full post here.

Click through for a Serra-released photo of four metal pillar-forms aligned in the deserts of Qatar, designed to inevitably rust.  The piece has a slight ‘2001: A Space Odyssey feel, but that could just be me.

‘The Qatar Museums Authority is estimated to spend about a billion dollars per year on art. At its head is the young Sheikha al-Mayassa Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, a sister of the Emir of Qatar and a Duke University graduate, who was recently named the most powerful person in the art world by ArtReview.’

Get while the getting is good, so long as the Sheiks have the dough.

Serra is a quite accomplished modern artist and sculptor often working in the ‘land-art,’ category, or site-specific pieces interacting with the viewer and the natural surroundings. Check out Hyperallergic’s visit to ‘Shift,’ a series of concrete forms he left in an Ontario field.

Here’s Serra discussing a piece of his at 21 West Gagosian, or a densely-packed, carefully measured series of metal forms in a room.  What does the viewer experience in this space?:


Serra, I think, more than other land-artists, turns that discussion a little more inwards, towards the abstract, the body moving through a space of his design as he tries to bring something across to the viewer.

Or so says me.

Interview with Serra here.



When I was younger
it was plain to me
I must make something of myself.
Older now
I walk back streets
admiring the houses
of the very poor:
roof out of line with sides
the yards cluttered
with old chicken wire, ashes,
furniture gone wrong;
the fences and outhouses
built of barrel staves
and parts of boxes, all,
if I am fortunate,
smeared a bluish green
that properly weathered
pleases me best of all colors.

No one
will believe this
of vast import to the nation

William Carlos Williams

They designed a city in the heart of Brazil that really doesn’t work for people: Brasilia: A Planned City

No thanks to living in planned communities upon someone else’s overall vision.: Roger Scruton In The City Journal: Cities For Living–Is Modernism Dead?Repost-Via Reason: ‘Salvador Allende’s Cybersocialist Command Center’From Grist.Org Via The New Republic Via The A & L Daily: ‘Getting Past “Ruin Porn” In Detroit’

A structure in the desert…not even a city Update On LACMA, Michael Heizer And The ‘Levitated Mass’-Modern Art And The Public;..where is modernism headed? Via Youtube: Justin, The Horse That Could Paint

Two ways around postmodernism, nihilism?: One is Allan Bloom Update And Repost: ‘A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche / Strauss Connection’…  Here’s a suggestion to keep aesthetic and political judgements apart-Roger Scruton In The American Spectator Via A & L Daily: Farewell To Judgment

Repost-Via Reason: ‘Salvador Allende’s Cybersocialist Command Center’

Thursday Poem-Richard Wilbur

First Snow In Alsace

The snow came down last night like moths
Burned on the moon; it fell till dawn,
Covered the town with simple cloths.

Absolute snow lies rumpled on
What shellbursts scattered and deranged,
Entangled railings, crevassed lawn.

As if it did not know they’d changed,
Snow smoothly clasps the roofs of homes
Fear-gutted, trustless and estranged.

The ration stacks are milky domes;
Across the ammunition pile
The snow has climbed in sparkling combs.

You think: beyond the town a mile
Or two, this snowfall fills the eyes
Of soldiers dead a little while.

Persons and persons in disguise,
Walking the new air white and fine,
Trade glances quick with shared surprise.

At children’s windows, heaped, benign,
As always, winter shines the most,
And frost makes marvelous designs.

The night guard coming from his post,
Ten first-snows back in thought, walks slow
And warms him with a boyish boast:

He was the first to see the snow.

Richard Wilbur

Wendy Kaminer At Spiked: ‘Fear, Loathing & Victimhood’

Full piece here.

‘Only a paternalistic, authoritarian state will seek to avenge the wounded dignity and emotional distress of private actors in private disputes, like parents punishing their children for schoolyard bullying. Victimism is infantilising. A democracy rich in rights and liberty is the business of adults.’

See:  Martha Nussbaum On Judith Butler

On This Site: He may have been fired for many reasons, some of them not so good:  Repost-Revisting Larry Summers: What Did He Say Again?

Conservative Briton Roger Scruton suggests keeping political and aesthetic judgments apart in the humanities: Roger Scruton In The American Spectator Via A & L Daily: Farewell To JudgmentRepost-From Scientific Blogging: The Humanities Are In Crisis-Science Is Not

Martha Nussbaum saw this coming a while ago, but is her platform broad enough to define liberal education?: From The Harvard Educational Review-A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.’.

From The Chronicle Of Higher Ed Via A & L Daily: Christina Hoff Sommers “Persistent Myths In Feminist Scholarship”

From Aeon: ‘The Secular Front In The U.S.’

Full piece here.

‘Evangelicals’ seems a rather loaded term.


As a rather agnostic sort, I have found questions of faith, belief and conformity to be highly dominant in some places, so dominant, in fact, that pretty much the whole town would seem against you if you had some deep commitment to other principles, or reasons to think and act differently.

There’s something a little scary about this (problems of authority and coercion, stability and freedom), which goes straight to the heart of our founding documents.

Here’s a quote by John Locke:

“7. What is meant by enthusiasm. This I take to be properly enthusiasm, which, though founded neither on reason nor divine revelation, but rising from the conceits of a warmed or overweening brain, works yet, where it once gets footing, more powerfully on the persuasions and actions of men than either of those two, or both together: men being most forwardly obedient to the impulses they receive from themselves; and the whole man is sure to act more vigorously where the whole man is carried by a natural motion. For strong conceit, like a new principle, carries all easily with it, when got above common sense, and freed from all restraint of reason and check of reflection, it is heightened into a divine authority, in concurrence with our own temper and inclination.”

Heretics, contrarians, and assorted dissenters interest me, even if J.S. Mill’s profound liberal political philosophy runs into problems.


The ways in which many secular progressives try and answer questions that religion attempts to answer (why are we here, why so much suffering, how do I live, what do I do?) can be downright scary, too: Political utopianism and ‘power’ theories, displaced Marxism and cultural Marxism, the simple resentiment of ‘they’ which builds like a reef in the minds of radicals and true-believers as they follow the logic of their ideas/ideologies.

As I see it, this can create ‘choke points’ where secular idealism (with the radical base beneath) is channeled through rather poorly designed institutions and more poorly incentivized programs; these becoming, in some cases,the only institutions capable of higher appeal and arbitration.

Globally, whatever your thoughts on climate change and global order, the IPCC, or U.N. dysfunctionality are fine examples of the above.

Lots of people can make ideology their guide and political change their purpose, or the State their religion and their own moral failings or moral programs everyone’s moral oughts through the law and politics.

Human nature hasn’t changed that much, after all, and many people will be quite happy to trod over you and your freedoms on the way to their cherished ideals.

Also On This Site: Repost: Larry Arnhart At Darwinian Conservatism Reviews E.O. Wilson’s ‘The Social Conquest Of Earth’

Repost-From The Access Resource Network: Phillip Johnson’s “Daniel Dennett’s Dangerous Idea’From Edge: ‘Dennett On Wieseltier V. Pinker In The New Republic’

Maybe if you’re defending religion, Nietzsche is a problematic reference: Dinesh D’Souza And Daniel Dennett at Tufts University: Nietzsche’s Prophesy…

A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”Repost-Classical Liberalism Via Friesian.Com-‘Exchange with Tomaz Castello Branco on John Gray’

Addition:  If the British left, and Eagleton as somewhat representative of it, can’t sanely recognize that part of the problem is the way that Muslims seek a religious kingdom here on earth, and that there can’t be reasonable discussion of this, then…see here, where Roger Scruton suggests a return to religious virtue: From The City Journal: Roger Scruton On “Forgiveness And Irony”

See Also:  Roger Scruton In The American Spectator: The New Humanism…From Nigel Warburton’s Site: A Definition of Humanism?…From The City Journal Via Arts And Letters Daily: Andre Glucksman On “The Postmodern Financial Crisis”


Repost-‘From 2 Blowhards-We Need The Arts: A Sob Story’

Worth revisiting.

‘Given my warped little philosophy, it shouldn’t surprise you to learn that my teeth grind themselves into dust when I encounter people making art out to be more important than it should be while whining that ever more resources must!! be devoted to propping up one favored enterprise or another.’

I think the popular idea in Seattle of providing art lofts and workspaces for some artists with taxpayer money, and/or the way that the Richard Hugo House also attracts many homeless and runaway kids are examples of how people can confuse art, ideology and the ‘public good.’

Are some people really supportive of the arts, or do they want a whole bundle of other ideas to be true about the world, which bind them together in common cause?

See Also On This Site: From NPR: Grants To The NEA To Stimulate The Economy?


In the video Burns discusses how he is primarily an artist, not an historian.  He does, believe, however, that his work has other goals besides art.  He sees himself as:

“…rooted in a humanist tradition of American History..that includes not just the old top down version, but the bottom up version that acknowledges women and labor and minorities….”  


Let’s not go there…

Check out Buzludzha, the abandoned communist monument in Bulgaria’s Balkan mountains, which still draws up to 50,000 Bulgarian Socialists for a yearly pilgrimage.  Human Planet’s Timothy Allen visited the structure in the snow and took some haunting photos.  You will think you’ve stepped into a Bond film and one of Blofeld’s modernist lairs, but with somewhat Eastern Orthodox tile frescos of Lenin and Marx gazing out at you, abandoned to time, the elements and to nature.


Philosopher Of Art Denis Dutton of the Arts & Letters Daily says the arts and Darwin can be sucessfully synthesized: Review of Denis Dutton’s ‘The Art Instinct’

How might Nietzsche figure in the discussion, at least with regard to Camille Paglia.  See the comments:  Repost-Camille Paglia At Arion: Why Break, Blow, Burn Was Successful…Here’s Nietzsche scholar J.P. Stern on Nietzsche’s anti-Christian, anti-secular morality (Kant, utilitarians), anti-democratic, and anti-Greek (except the “heroic” Greek) biases…

Repost-From NPR: Grants To The NEA To Stimulate The Economy?

Goya, that modern, had to make a living from the royal family: Goya’s ColossusGoya’s Fight With Cudgels

In The Mail-Marvin Minsky & Stanley Kubrick

From Edge’s remembrance of Marvin Minsky.

Quote found here:

‘So we have to conclude that it doesn’t make sense to ask about why this world exists. However, there still remain other good questions to ask, about how this particular Universe works. For example, we know a lot about ourselves – in particular, about how we evolved – and we can see that, for this to occur, the ‘program’ that produced us must have certain kinds of properties. For example, there cannot be structures that evolve (that is, in the Darwinian way) unless there can be some structures that can make mutated copies of themselves; this means that some things must be stable enough to have some persistent properties. Something like molecules that last long enough, etc.’

It’s useful to go meta from time to time, and observe where you’ve left some of the bigger questions in life.  After all, you so often become what you think, and AI, in trying to build machines and design programs which are useful to us, can shed light upon our own mental states and processes.  It’s careful, hard thought.

Questions of subject/object and the limits of our knowledge abound.


I studied the liberal arts in school, so here’s my obligatory poem:


I found a dimpled spider, fat and white,
On a white heal-all, holding up a moth
Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth–
Assorted characters of death and blight
Mixed ready to begin the morning right,
Like the ingredients of a witches’ broth–
A snow-drop spider, a flower like a froth,
And dead wings carried like a paper kite.

What had that flower to do with being white,
The wayside blue and innocent heal-all?
What brought the kindred spider to that height,
Then steered the white moth thither in the night?
What but design of darkness to appall?–
If design govern in a thing so small.

Robert Frost (Wikipedia)

During my studies, I often found myself yearning for more objective knowledge and structure.  Even in great works of literature and epic poetry, it often seemed I was left to wander within the creative imagination of another, even that of genius, trying to stretch across chasms of time, language and understanding (still worth it, I think, despite the numerous gaps in my knowledge).

Maybe that’s made me kind of a snob, really, so if I watch a movie on my own (not for others), I tell myself I want an artist who knows how to use his medium.

Keep my attention and engage my intelligence.  I’m a sucker for a clean, well-lighted place.

I like looking at Stanley Kubrick’s movies, even if I disagree with some of the ideas and even though I don’t always like those movies.  A lot of shots have a careful, studied symmetry and are quite well-arranged.  He was an experienced photographer and visual artist.

I can appreciate that.

The artist is so often found in his craft; the work he’s left behind.