Spotlight

A Few Quotations From The Stanford Encyclopedia On Positive And Negative Freedom

Full entry here. Of course, there are other ways to think about ...

From George Monbiot: ‘How Freedom Became Tyranny’

Full piece here. The old liberal vs libertarian battle rehashed…link sent in ...

A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

Full text found here. (updated) I wanted to focus a little on ...

Offering links and thoughts on the Arts, Politics, Political Philosophy and Foreign Affairs.

The Last We Hear Of ‘Mattress Girl’?-A Link Or Two

Cathy Young at the Washington Post: ‘Feminists Want Us To Define These Ugly Sexual Encounters As Rape. Don’t Let Them

‘The quest for perfect consent is profoundly utopian. Like all such quests that ignore human realities, it points the way to dystopian nightmare.’

Many folks driving change are semi-radical, utopian and all about what they think ought to change through moral panic, crises, and shouting opponents down.  You don’t want such folks making rules for everyone.  Facts may not even enter into the picture.

Some details here (pretty graphic and pretty sad).

Cathy Young At The Daily Beast-‘Columbia Student: I Didn’t Rape Her’Cathy Young At Minding The Campus: ‘The Brown Case: Does It Still Look Like Rape?

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Tyler Cowen has a quick blurb on China:

‘How long will this excess capacity last?  How much time will the Chinese future need to “catch up” to this infrastructure?  Will that validation come too late?  We all may have opinions (or not), but the visuals themselves do not tell any specific tale.

China has excess infrastructure because of government planning.  The people running the government directed capital (the time and labor of individuals) into new buildings and communities that simply weren’t/aren’t currently needed.  Much of the talk over here about infrastructure is coming from people who possess knowledge that would allow them to engage in similar planning.  China’s government used to be Communist, and is now some strange authoritarian/Communist/freer market hybrid.

I’ll let readers draw their own conclusions.

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It’s years old now, but Stoll had a quote that has stuck with me.

‘Indeed, if there is a single fact that sums up the state of American political economy at the present moment, it is this: the Boston office building once home to Inc. Magazine and Fast Company, which chronicled and celebrated small and fast-growing businesses, is now the headquarters of a publication called “Compliance Week.”’

Thursday Quotation-Kenneth Minogue

‘Their [realists’] concern is that utopian aspirations towards a new peaceful world order will simply absolutize conflicts and make them more intractable. National interests are in some degree negotiable; rights, in principle, are not. International organizations such as the United Nations have not been conspicuously successful in bringing peace, and it is likely that the states of the world would become extremely nervous of any move to give the UN the overwhelming power needed to do this.

Ken Monogue, found here, passed along by a reader.

William F. Buckley And Kenneth Minogue Discuss IdeologyKenneth Minogue At The New Criterion: ‘The Self-Interested Society’

From Prospect: Eric Kaufmann On ‘The Meaning Of Huntington’

Full piece here.

A few central quotes:

Huntington was instinctively a conservative because he valued an ordered society, but he also championed conservatism as a necessary instrument to defend liberal institutions against communism. In many of his books he attacked idealistic liberals for holding such institutions to impossible, utopian standards that undermined their effectiveness in the world.”

and:

“An iconoclast to the core, Huntington never threw his lot in with left or right. He was too statist to be a libertarian, too realist to embrace neoconservatism, and too sympathetic to nationalism, religion and the military to identify with liberal Democrats. As a conservative Democrat, then, he is an intellectual rarity.”

An interesting thinker (wikipedia page here).  His Political Order In Changing Societies challenged modernization theory.

Related On This Site:  Stanley Kurtz sticks close to Huntington and points out Fukuyama’s Hegelian influence…From The Hoover Institution: Stanley Kurtz On Francis Fukuyama and Samuel Huntington…Francis Fukuyama after Huntington’s death explains some disagreement…From The American Interest Online: Francis Fukuyama On Samuel Huntington

Samuel P. Huntington - World Economic Forum Annual Meeting Davos 2004 by World Economic Forum

from The World Economic Forum’s photostream

A Few Obamacare Links

I still don’t understand how anyone expects those with insurance to subsidize those without insurance by not transferring wealth from one group to the other.  I also don’t understand how anyone thinks that a massive expansion of Medicaid, the IRS, and what will become an enormous political/bureaucratic/health-care sector is really an efficient means to deliver health-care, meeting the promise of helping all groups of interested parties as well as the greatest number of individuals.

Have you observed the design problems inherent in the VA?

Have you ever sat around with a broken foot, counting your blessings that so many politicians/lobbyists could be involved in making it better?

Neither the moral nor practical case has been made to me that this is the way to go, rather, from where I stand,  I see a huge, rather poorly-designed, rammed-through-politically bill that can’t possibly meet all those promises.

Still unfolding…

From The City Journal: ‘The ACA’s Unintended Consequences

Megan McArdle at Bloomberg: ‘Life Under Obamacare‘ (we’re not really there yet, speculation abounds)

Previously: Charlie Martin here.

‘Whatever solution we look for though, the really important point is this: the whole basis of Obamacare, the notion that we can have more people, getting more benefits, and pay less, is just impossible. The arithmetic doesn’t work. And if you think that’s “unfair,” I’m sorry.

Avik Roy addressed this before the 2012 Romney/Obama presidential election, before we really started taxiing Obamacare down the runway:

‘Obamacare’s approach to pre-existing conditions, in summary, may help a tiny minority with pre-existing conditions to gain coverage in the short term, but the law will drive up the cost of insurance for everyone else, leading to adverse selection and higher premiums for all. And the price of Obamacare is steep: the individual mandate; trillions in new spending and taxes; deep cuts to Medicare providers.’

Some Things Ought To Be Looked At As Clearly As Possible-Islamism

From The Atlantic:  ‘U.S. Forces Eliminate Key ISIS Official

‘In a statement released on Saturday, the Obama Administration described the mission as a success, and said no American forces or Syrian civilians were injured. But the raid also illustrates some of the larger strategic difficulties faced by the United States in its fight against ISIS. As Joshua Keating noted in Slate, the U.S. typically uses drone strikes rather than ground forces in targeted assassinations, an indication that the mission was to capture Sayyaf alive’

It’s important to remember the work many are doing on our behalf.

I’d say the current administration is having to use special forces and drone strikes as quietly as possible because, you know, there’s still a war going on with Islamic radicalism, which can become organized and focused enough to strike us here at home.  The logic behind this war hasn’t changed much, and for the record, I remain open to other options in analyzing the problem.

Simultaneously, the base for this President tends to the anti-war, activist, and at times quite radical when it comes to what it sees as legal and moral institutional authority.  Let’s just say the military establishment is to be looked at suspiciously, if at all, amongst many there.  Naturally, this base must be assured a peaceful, progressive future is in the cards, and its interests are at the table.

As a result, the dirty work is still being done by those on the front lines, while the continual goal of transforming the military according to many of the same ideals through policy are pursued a progressive President, while this President can barely acknowledge what the military often must do.

There’s plenty to criticize, of course, when it comes to bloated military spending and procurement (all across the government, and in police departments as well, honestly), as well as a lot of vigilance on the part of the citizenry and elected officials to send the right signals up the chain, by decent, everyday folks in and out of the government and in the armed forces to keep it lean and effective, incentivized properly.

Most importantly (stop me if you’ve heard this before): It’s important to keep in mind the flip side to much of this utopian, progressive idealism, anti-authoritarian, anti-establishmentarian radicalism etc. is not utopia, but usually a harsher realism when utopia fails to emerge, a potentially more repressive authority, and a more corruptible, poorly functioning establishment and set of institutions.

Many folks there have all the moral certainty needed to be in charge of you, rest assured.

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On that note, fortunately, the elder Tsarnaev, the failed professional boxer cum online jihadi searching for roots is already dead, and the younger has now received the death penalty.  I can’t say I find myself caring too much if he lives or dies, and if the people of Massachusetts so deem it.  So be it.

Here’s some video from the gym owner where Tamerlan trained.  Let’s not forget his criminal activity, nor the myopic denial of his parents that anything had gone wrong:

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Statistically speaking, very, very few Muslim immigrants in the U.S. will radicalize in such a fashion, but all it takes is one to deliver very serious consequences, not only to innocent lives, but to our institutions and what choices we face in handling our freedoms.  The general ‘loser’ qualities of the Tsarnaev family, its history and its choices, have a lot to do with the eventual bombing and the fact is that the religion of Islam was the springboard for the radicalism.  Mom had a lot to do with it.

The risks and rewards, costs and benefits, and how much we can actually control when it comes to individual immigrants wouldn’t be a bad starting point for discussion.

Though for a more muddled, ideological debate, in this blog’s opinion, with all the troubles of Britain and Australia’s radical Muslim communities, one key ingredient seems to be a more entrenched Left, promoting victimhood, solidarity and class warfare.  Multiculturally inspired laws and constant activism in the mainstream don’t necessarily lead to better outcomes.

Remember those Sydney protests?:

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Saturday Poem-William Carlos Williams

Nantucket

Flowers through the window
lavender and yellow

changed by white curtains—
Smell of cleanliness—

Sunshine of late afternoon—
On the glass tray

a glass pitcher, the tumbler
turned down, by which

a key is lying— And the
immaculate white bed

William Carlos Williams 

Two Friday Links-The Saudis & Energy

Walter Russell Mead At The American Interest notes the noise the Saudis are making in response to the current Iran dealing:

‘President Obama’s push for the nuclear deal with Iran was supposed to prevent just this kind of situation. Many suspect Saudi Arabia’s financing of Pakistan’s nuclear program gives it a turnkey solution to catching up to Iran should it choose to do so. Turkey and Egypt would be likely to follow suit, leading to an unstable multipolar nuclear standoff between relatively weak and poorly institutionalized states—a nightmare scenario’

So, we’ve removed ourselves as the guarantor of much security in the region, given Syria redlines and deadlines, allowing Putin leverage, and standing back as that country has since devolved into a protracted civil war while Assad still clings to power (and chemical weapons).  Syria and the President’s decision to pull troops out of Iraq has direct causal links to the rise of ISIS (so too, did the choice to oust Saddam).  Libya has become a failed state with a huge terrorist and migrant problem.

We’re trying to do business with a thuggish Iranian regime, empowering the folks in charge for questionable gain in a high-risk nuke deal still in process, and which many in our government, the Israelis, the Saudis and other Sunni coalitions are not particularly happy to support under current conditions without seeing their interests represented.

If there’s any place in the world where most people in the world don’t want a nuclear arms race….this is it.

Henry Kissinger & George Schulz Via The WSJ: ‘The Iran Deal And Its Consequences’

George Shultz & Henry Kissinger At The Hoover Institution: ‘What A Final Iran Deal Must Do’ So what are our interests and how do we secure them as the fires in the Middle-East rage? Michael Totten makes a case here in Why We Can’t Leave The Middle-East.’  He gets push-back in the comments

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Richard Epstein at The Hoover Institution examines what the EPA’s been up to lately with regard to the coal industry.

How law, authority and process are used really matters, and because activist-driven environmental policy is generally pushed by people who desire rapid, if not radical, change, on the way to what are usually impossible, utopian ideals, they’re more likely to be poorly used:

At this point, the legal survival of the EPA’s CPP is anyone’s guess. Much will depend on the EPA’s own guidance documents about FIPs, which should come down this summer. But it is dangerous business to let the EPA take the coal industry hostage by this set of aggressive maneuvers. The Supreme Court’s initial wrong was Massachusetts v. EPA, which wrongly held that carbon dioxide counted as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act.

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

Full piece here.

Click through for the photo.

‘The system, designed by British cybernetician Stafford Beer, was supposed to allow powerful men to make decisions about production, labor, and transport in real time using up-to-the-minute economic information provided directly by workers on the factory floors of dozens of newly nationalized companies’

A shag carpet probably would have been out of place, but I like the white pod chairs (Captain Kirk to the bridge for fuel price re-allocations).

‘In fact, the network that fed the system was little more than a series of jury-rigged Telex machines with human operators, transmitting only the simplest data, which were slapped onto old-style Kodak slides—again, by humans. The controls on the chairs merely allowed the operator to advance to the next slide’

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In working towards a theme, 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.

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Continuing towards that theme, here are two quotes from a recent Harvey Mansfield review of Steven Bilakovics new book, which could possibly help explain how, say, the Chrysler building and St. Patrick’s Cathedral have become two of New York’s most iconic buildings (hint: we’re not a socialist society):

Tocqueville almost uses the above phrase in a chapter on “why American writers and orators are often bombastic.” He says that there is “nothing in-between,” or more literally, “the intermediate space is empty,” implying that there might have been something there. In democratic societies, each citizen is habitually occupied in the contemplation of a very small object: himself. If he raises his eyes, he sees only the “immense object of society” or even the whole human race. If he leaves his normal concerns, he expects it to be for something indefinitely vast instead of something definite and greater than himself.”

Artists have a particularly tough time in America, because they’re often particularly alone in America.  Ezra Pound and T.S Eliot abandoned the place completely, and many aspiring artists get their training in Europe. This blog believes Wallace Stevens to especially be representative of this dilemma (he never left).  He was an insurance executive by day and perhaps one of America’s best poets;  a romantic, a modernist, as well as a man who possibly had a deathbed conversion to Christianity:  From The NY Times Via A & L Daily: Helen Vendler On Wallace Stevens ‘The Plain Sense Of Things’

On this view, being the good democratic citizens that we are, we reject the aristocratic elements from gaining too much traction, and thus do not create the vine-ripened literary, artistic, and cultural traditions that can make good artists into what they become, and what makes European cities, novels, poets, museums, and Europeans themselves something of what they are (a broad brush, I know).

I think Mansfield’s point is that some folks in the U.S see this dilemma of the democratic man only in terms of a vulgar materialism that must be overcome with the Arts, or High Culture, or Poetry or with a ‘Let’s be like Europe’ approach, especially in many a Liberal Arts Department.  It’s a deep wish.  Democracy is a leveling force.   It’s worth pointing out that the Arts can also be united with a Left-of-Center political philosophy as they are at NPR for popular consumption.  On this site, see: From ReasonTV Via Youtube: ‘Ken Burns on PBS Funding, Being a “Yellow-Dog Democrat,” & Missing Walter Cronkite’Repost-From NPR: Grants To The NEA To Stimulate The Economy?

Some of these same folks see religion (the Puritan roots especially) as a restrictive, repressive force that needs to be overcome in order for freedom, free artistic expression and individual autonomy to flourish (I believe this is a driving tension in Hollywood).  There’s some truth to this, because I believe religion and politics, and even philosophy itself, have troubled relationships with art.

Mansfield goes on:

‘The theorists of materialism tell us that the long term will take care of itself so long as we do not obstruct materialism in the short run in our everyday lives. With a view to supporting political liberty, Tocqueville wants to limit everyday materialism and to concern us with a long-term goal, such as improving our immortal souls. This is why he fears for the state of democratic souls and speaks so strongly, if not fervently, in favor of religion. This is also why he showed such disgust for socialism.’

Perhaps we can keep it simpler, and not get taken with grand theories, or at least socialist ones anyways:

Too much politics into the arts?


First National Bank of Houlton, Maine

Related On This Site:  From Grist.Org Via The New Republic Via The A & L Daily: ‘Getting Past “Ruin Porn” In Detroit’…Marketplace aesthetics in service of “women”: Dove’s Campaign For Real Beauty: Pascal Dangin And Aesthetics

Some of Le Corbusier’s work here, examples of Modern Architecture here.

See AlsoBrasilia: A Planned City and Review Of Britain’s “Lost Cities” In The Guardian

Cities should be magnets for creativity and culture? –From The Atlantic: Richard Florida On The Decline Of The Blue-Collar ManFrom Grist.Org Via The New Republic Via The A & L Daily: ‘Getting Past “Ruin Porn” In Detroit’… some people don’t want you to have the economic freedom to live in the suburbs: From Foreign Policy: ‘Urban Legends, Why Suburbs, Not Cities, Are The Answer’

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…

Nothing that Allan Bloom didn’t point out in the Closing Of The American Mind: Update And Repost: ‘A Few Thoughts On Allan Bloom–The Nietzsche / Strauss Connection’….From Darwinian Conservatism By Larry Arnhart: “Surfing Strauss’s Third Wave of Modernity”

‘The People’ Need Their…

Ira Stoll at Reason: ‘Barack Obama vs. Elizabeth Warren on Trade

‘As Obama himself observed, part of the reason this is so raw for the left and labor is that they still haven’t gotten over Bill Clinton and Al Gore’s support, more than 20 years ago, of the North America Free Trade Agreement. If Obama succeeds in getting fast-track authorization from Congress for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and then succeeds in getting a deal passed, it could be a similarly significant achievement.’

In seeking the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the President is getting out-activated and out-progressed by Warren as she stirs up the base in populist fashion.  Will Bernie Sanders and Bill De Blasio jump into the fray?  Surely we can find the nearest guy wearing a Che shirt and ask him?

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From Darwinian Conservatism: ‘Capitalism vs The Climate:

‘The key point for Ridley is that capitalism allows for the bottom-up spontaneous generation of innovation through the evolution of specialization and the division of labor.  In such an evolving spontaneous order, we cannot predict the future, because we cannot know what new ideas and new inventions might be discovered by the human mind.  So we cannot know how human beings will solve their problems in the future, including the problem of global warming.

This is what Klein calls “magical thinking”–the assumption that capitalist markets will always create unimaginable technological solutions to our problems.  Her alternative is to argue that the only solution to a problem like global warming is a top-down, centrally-planned policy for slowing down economic production and consumption and investing over 10 percent of the world’s yearly economic output to build renewable sources of energy to replace high-carbon sources.’

Do you recall that Naomi Klein book?:

‘“Democratic socialism, meaning not only socialist parties brought to power through elections but also democratically run workplaces and landholdings,” was “never defeated in a great battle of ideas, nor were [these ideas] voted down in elections. They were shocked out of the way at key political junctures,” she argues.’

Oh boy.

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Passed along by a reader, one of the best classical guitarists out there, David Russell, playing a Celtic piece ‘Spatter The Dew’

Such a ridiculously good guitarist:

Tuesday Poem: From the Oxford Book of 16th Century Verse

Western Wind, when wilt thou blow,
The small rain down can rain?
Christ, if my love were in my arms
And I in my bed again
!

Oxford Book Of 16th Century Verse

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