Spotlight

John Gray At The New Statesman: ‘The Ghost At The Atheist Feast-Was Nietzsche Right About Religion?’

Full piece here. Gray reviews two books, one by Marxist dissector of ...

Repost-Classical Liberalism Via Friesian.Com-’Exchange with Tomaz Castello Branco on John Gray’

Correspondence here. Link sent in by a reader. Without a stronger moral ...

Repost: From the Cambridge Companion To Plato-T.H. Irwin’s “Plato: The intellectual Background’

Found here——Kraut, Richard.  The Cambridge Companion to Plato. New York, NY:  Cambridge ...

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

What Have You Left In Search Of Equality? Two Thursday Links From The Federalist

David Harsanyi: ‘What Thomas Piketty’s Popularity Tells Us About The Liberal Press?’

‘But Piketty’s utopian notions and authoritarian inclinations — ones that I’m pretty sure most Americans (and probably most Democrats) would still find off-putting — do not seem to rattle the left-wing press one bit. While Piketty’s economic data might be worth studying and debating, his political ideas are unworthy of discussion’

Maybe it’s important to leave a respectable path out of the thick brush. Some folks probably haven’t realized just what they’re chattering about while some others have.

On that note, strange bedfellows?:  Social and religious conservatives (often Burkean) and more highly individualistic, free-market libertarian coalitions may have a tough time staying together without a common purpose (to say nothing of the gap between Tea-Party populism and establishment Republicans).

Peter Lawler: ‘The State Of Marxism (And Conservatism) Today

Lawler distances his position from Piketty and also from that of libertarian economist Tyler Cowen’s review of Piketty.

‘There does seem to an emerging consensus among sophisticates today that non-libertarian conservatism—and authoritative religion in general—are “reactionary.” They have been discredited by “capitalism”—or economic and technological progress—and so are destined to have no place in the emerging future. A reactionary is nostalgic for a world that’s been surpassed by history and so can’t and, in truth, shouldn’t be restored. Unlike crabs, we dialectically materialistic beings can’t crawl backwards.’

This raises a question posed to me often:

Our institutions have necessary hierarchies built-in, from bureaucracies to law to the military. This requires authority of some sort. You don’t have to deeply agree with your boss, your law professor, and/or your drill instructor (a more complicated example), but you do have to go along to get along most of the time.

Do you find church doctrine, Natural Law and/or Natural Rights to be a morally legitimate source of that authority in our institutions and in the public square?

If you’re like an increasing number Americans, probably not.

This may well correspond with a cultural drift towards liberalism, libertarianism, and a less religiously rooted form of conservatism, for what it’s worth, or also part of a much deeper process of indiviudation (I have no empirical evidence to back such a statement up).

Looking at the the authoritarian and big government consequences of modern mainstream liberalism as it’s currently practiced, and the darker totalitarian impulses of the harder Left, it seems an important question to ponder.

And now for something kind of related:

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Apparently, Dennis is suspicious of King Arthur’s claims to rule, and thinks himself part of an autonomous collective.

Related On This Site: Libertarian socialist and anarcho-syndicalist:  Via Youtube: (1 of 3) Kant, Chomsky and the Problem of Knowledge…Martha Nussbaum criticizing Chomsky’s hubris in Martha Nussbaum In Dissent–Violence On The Left: Nandigram And The Communists Of West Bengal

From Michael Totten At World Affairs: “Noam Chomsky: The Last Totalitarian”

The classical liberal tradition…looking for classical liberals in the postmodern wilderness: Isaiah Berlin’s negative liberty: A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”… From George Monbiot: ‘How Freedom Became Tyranny’…Looking to supplant religion as moral source for the laws: From The Reason Archives: ‘Discussing Disgust’ Julian Sanchez Interviews Martha Nussbaum.…  Repost: Another Take On J.S. Mill From “Liberal England”

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”

Megan McArdle At Bloomberg: ‘Piketty’s Tax Hikes Won’t Help The Middle-Class’

Full piece here.

McArdle:

‘If we look at the middle three quintiles, very few of their worst problems come from the gap between their income and the incomes of some random Facebook squillionaire. Here, in a nutshell, are their biggest problems:

-Finding a job that allows them to work at least 40 hours a week on a  relatively consistent  schedule and will not abruptly terminate them.

-Finding a partner who is also able to work at least 40 hours a week on a relatively consistent schedule and will not be abruptly terminated.

-Maintaining a satisfying relationship with that partner over a period of years.

-Having children who are able to enjoy more stuff and economic security than they have.

-Finding a community of friends, family and activities that will provide enjoyment and support over the decades.

This is where things are breaking down — where things have actually, and fairly indisputably, gotten worse since the 1970s. Crime is better, lifespans are longer, our material conditions have greatly improved — yes, even among the lower middle class. What hasn’t improved is the sense that you can plan for a decent life filled with love and joy and friendship, then send your children on to a life at least as secure and well-provisioned as your own.’

There are serious forces at work in our society right now, from high-rates of technological change and many areas of rapid scientific advancement, to many political, social, and cultural effects as a result. Global market forces continue to apply downward pressure across many industries and sectors of our economy, as they have for many years, altering the kinds of decisions people must make in their daily lives.

Is inequality so bad that we need a ‘global wealth tax’?

I’m someone fairly convinced that American progressive politics and Left-liberalism, in the long-run, generally leads to less opportunity for greater numbers of people, less overall wealth, and more social stratification. It’s a fast-track to many of the problems that many European societies and their governments face:  Sclerotic, slow-growth economies, deep structural debt and lower birth-rates.

In America, such an approach seems a sure way to grow a deeply wasteful, unresponsive, over-promising and under-delivering government which fails to protect and serve the kinds of everyday people that have made our country so remarkable. In practice, I imagine this looks more like De Blasio’s coalitions in New York City:  Labor activists are quite good at moving tax-revenue and labor activists around, while searching for the right cronies and monied interests to help fund their efforts and realize their aims. This can burden our institutions with impossible demands and a narrow coalition of interests working under what is presumed to be a universal idealism, making our politics deeply contentious and bitter as we fight over scarce resources (including political power).

As McArdle points out, challenging and/or rewarding work and career opportunities, more money and perhaps a little time to maintain the love and family lives that are often at the heart of so much of what we do…this is a good place to focus the debate. In my opinion, this requires broad economic growth and a private sector outgrowing the public sector, and many other things besides.

I’m hardly encouraged by our politics right now, either side really, but I think we can do so much better than this.

Any thoughts and comments are welcome.  Let me know what I’ve got wrong.

Modern Art For Sale In The Middle-East-From The New Yorker: ‘Richard Serra In the Qatari Desert’

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?:

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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.

Also, what’s with all that Gulf oil money buying-up modern art?:

As to politics, James Panero had a piece on Qatar:

‘On the one hand, Qatar’s art initiatives can be seen as a modernizing force, one that could liberalize the tribal attitudes of the country’s native population and pave the way for further political reform. On the other hand, contemporary art may merely serve as a cover for further repressive policies.’

On another note, that of land-art, Robert Hughes took a look at the work of Michael Heizer, who’s been working since 1972 on a sculpture in the Eastern Nevada desert, which was originally called ‘Complex One.’  It’s morphed into his life’s work, called City.  It’s very large. It can’t be moved.  You can’t reproduce it.  It represents a break from traditional sculpture. It can’t be put in a museum and it’s not clear that it has a function.  See more on Hughes take on it from his series, “Shock Of The New” which includes some aerial shots (from 00:45 to 5:30):

Is modernism now our culture?:

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Related On This SiteJames Panero At The New Criterion: ‘Time to Free NY’s Museums: The Met Responds’

MOMA is private, so perhaps it’s not as decadent if they display Tilda Swinton in a box:

Tilda Swinton At MOMA-From Arma Virumque: ‘Nightmare In A Box’

Denis Dutton suggested art could head towards Darwin (and may offer new direction from the troubles of the modern art aimlessness and shallow depth…the money and the fame) Review of Denis Dutton’s ‘The Art Instinct’

Roger Scruton says keep politics out of the arts, and political judgment apart from aesthetic judgment…this includes race studies/feminist departments/gay studies etc.:  Roger Scruton In The American Spectator Via A & L Daily: Farewell To Judgment

Goya’s Fight With Cudgels and Goya’s Colossus.  A very good Goya page here.

Joan Miro: Woman… Goethe’s Color Theory: Artists And Thinkers

Also From A Reader-Tyler Cowen: ‘Why I Am Not Persuaded By Thomas Piketty’s Argument’

Full post here with a link to a review.

If you’re a non-economist like me, this can take more time to understand:

‘Overall, the main argument is based on two (false) claims. First, that capital returns will be high and non-diminishing, relative to other factors, and sufficiently certain to support the r > g story as a dominant account of economic history looking forward. Second, that this can happen without significant increases in real wages.’

Click through for more.

Monday Link From A Reader: ‘Conan The Destroyer’ Theme

As played by the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra and conducted by Nic Raine.  From Basil Poledouris‘ original composition:

3:40 of inspiration:

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Repost-From Vanity Fair: ‘Reverse-Engineering A Genius (Has A Vermeer Mystery Been Solved?)

Full piece here.

Just as optics revolutionized the sciences and the boundaries of human knowledge, from Galileo to Newton and onwards, Tim Jenison wonders if optics may have revolutionized the arts as well.

‘But still, exactly how did Vermeer do it? One day, in the bathtub, Jenison had a eureka moment: a mirror. If the lens focused its image onto a small, angled mirror, and the mirror was placed just between the painter’s eye and the canvas, by glancing back and forth he could copy that bit of image until the color and tone precisely matched the reflected bit of reality.’

Good Vermeer page here for a refresher on the Dutch master.

Penn & Teller helped make a documentary which has gotten good reviews, entitled ‘Tim’s Vermeer.

They discuss the project and Tim’s theory below (perhaps only the Girl With The Pearl Earring knows for sure if the painter used such a technique):

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Related On This Site: In The Mail: Vivian Maier

Goya, that modern, had to make a living from the royal family: Goya’s ColossusGoya’s Fight With CudgelsGoethe’s Color Theory: Artists And ThinkersNASA Composite Image Of The Earth At Night…Beauty?Garrett Mattingly On Machiavelli-The Prince: Political Science Or Political Satire?

Repost-From The NY Times: Schlieren Photograpy

Remembering The Marathon Bombing-Roger Scruton At Forbes: ‘A Triumph For The Boston Bombers’

Full piece here.

‘Nevertheless, we cannot simply disregard the evidence, that there are Muslims among us who interpret their religion in another way. The liberal mind-set, which blames their crimes on ‘Islamophobia’, as though we, who threatened no one, were to blame for the attacks on us, shows a wilful disregard of the truth, and a crazy inversion of cause and effect. No doubt we should be careful not to be provoked. And the peaceful ceremonies with which the people of Boston have marked the anniversary of the bombings show that they have not been provoked, and that they continue to live in the open and charitable way for which the bombers chose, for reasons of their own, to punish them. But let’s face it, planted in the heart of Islam is the worm of contempt for the infidel, and this worm can lodge in the brains of otherwise reasonable people and gnaw away at their conscience until no conscience remains.’

I’m not sure the elder Tsarnaev brother, Tamerlan, in the months and years leading up to the Marathon Bombing, was always what we’d call ‘reasonable,’ but point taken. A siren song reaches some Muslim men, often younger and trying to forge identities of their own as they drift between civilizations. Charismatic Islamist Imams, often through online channels, urge rediscovery of Islamic roots and joining of the ‘front lines’ of a holy struggle. A few go in for it, sadly, usually over many months time and after a meeting or two, ending-up on a dangerously radical path.

Whatever their thinking, they pretty clearly had a plan:

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Wherever the Tsarnaev clan started out back in Chechnya and Dagestan, and whatever experiences they had as immigrants to America, I think we can safely say they ended-up a disgrace. Through bad decisions, family failures, and what is likely religious ideology, the two sons chose to commit an act of murderous terrorism designed to take as many innocent lives as possible. They wanted to injure what matters most to Americans and then afterwards tried to make a cowardly, murderous escape.  To top that off, Ma Tsarnaev scurried home without so much as an apology, thank-you or goodbye, perhaps either unable or unwilling to process the event and after years of collecting benefits.

Such gratitude.

I don’t begrudge the city of Boston its plain sense and Puritan work ethic, its civilized, educated roots and liberal, crusading bent along with waves of hardscrabble immigrants and many rough edges. Frankly, I don’t necessarily begrudge the secular humanist ideals that likely guide many of the people running institutions in Boston which provided shelter and opportunity to the Tsarnaevs.

But shouldn’t we be establishing and looking at facts in a cold, hard light?

The victims and families deserve that much.

Below, Scruton discusses Islam and the West and his views in general.  He’s a conservative Briton.

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Some of his essays here.

Interesting quote at min 6:35 of video 4/4:

‘Universal values only make sense in a very specific context…the attempt to universalize them, or project and impose them…just leads to their appropriation by sinister forces.”

Related On This SiteA Few More Thoughts On The Marathon Bombing: Free Speech Is Key

Michael Moynihan At Newsweek: ‘http://www.jihad.com’

Link sent in by a reader to Alexander Hitchens essay:  As American As Apple Pie: How Anwar al-Awlaki Became The Face Of Western Jihad

Christopher Hitchens At Slate: ‘Lord Haw Haw And Anwar Al-Awlaki’From CSIS: ‘Rick “Ozzie” Nelson and Tom Sanderson on the Future of Al Qaeda’,Lawrence Wright At The New Yorker: ‘The Man Behind Bin Laden’From Slate: ‘In Aleppo, Syria, Mohamed Atta Thought He Could Build The Ideal Islamic City’Repost-Philip Bobbitt Discusses His Book ‘Terror And Consent’ On Bloggingheads

From Foreign Affairs: ‘Al Qaeda After Attiyya’

The Hitchens factor, and a vigorous defense of free speech: From Beautiful Horizons: ‘Christopher Hitchens and Tariq Ramadan at the 92nd Street Y’Via YouTube: ‘Christopher Hitchens Vs. Ahmed Younis On CNN (2005)’From Michael Totten: ‘An Interview With Christopher Hitchens’Islamism, Immigration & Multiculturalism-Melanie Phillips Via Youtube

From YouTube: Roger Scruton On Religious Freedom, Islam & Atheism…From The Middle East Quarterly Via A & L Daily: Europe’s Shifting Immigration Dynamic

Kenan Malik In The Spiked Review Of Books: ‘Twenty Years On: Internalizing The Fatwa’-Salman Rushdie

And:  Philip Bobbitt Discusses His Book ‘Terror And Consent’ On Bloggingheads

From Nigel Warburton’s Site: A Definition of Humanism?…A Debate: Would We Better Off Without Religion?…Roger Scruton In The City Journal: Cities For Living–Is Modernism Dead?From YouTube: Roger Scruton On Religious Freedom, Islam & Atheism

Roger Scruton At The WSJ: ‘Memo To Hawking: There’s Still Room For God’

In The Mail-More On The Boston Marathon Bombers: ‘The Fall Of The House Of Tsarnaev’

Friday Poem-Robert Frost

Acquainted with the Night

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain—and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
One luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.

-Robert Frost

Repost-Two Quotations: Emerson and Lincoln

“Public opinion, I am sorry to say, will bear a great deal of nonsense. There is scarcely any absurdity so gross, whether in religion, politics, science or manners, which it will not bear.”

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment nothing can fail; without it nothing can succeed. He who molds public sentiment goes deeper than he who enacts statutes or decisions possible or impossible to execute.”

-Abraham Lincoln

Maybe wisdom can be spun out of quotation sites.

From The Future Of Capitalism: ‘Jamie Dimon’s Annual Letter’

Post here.

Click through for more.

‘JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon is out with his annual shareholder letter, and, as usual, it is an interesting read. The section focused on broad public policy issues, while broadly optimistic, raised these concerns:

Something is holding back the strong recovery of the great American economic engine. It is not lack of access to capital or loans, but it might be a combination of some of the following factors:

• Concerns around excessive regulation and red tape – I travel around the U.S. all the time, and this is a loud and growing complaint that I hear from businesses, small to large, across virtually all industries.

• Whether you were for or against “Obamacare,” when massive changes to such an important part of the American economy are made, it does create uncertainty for many businesses.

• The inability to face our fiscal reality is a concern. I believe that if we had adopted some form of the Simpson-Bowles plan to fix the debt, it would have been extremely beneficial to the economy.

• Entitlement spending – which now is 60% of federal spending and is growing – is crowding out infrastructure spending and spending on initiatives like research and development and training.’

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