John Gray At The New Statesman: ‘The Ghost At The Atheist Feast-Was Nietzsche Right About Religion?’
Offering links and thoughts on the Arts, Politics, Political Philosophy and Foreign Affairs.
‘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:
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.
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.
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 Site: A Few More Thoughts On The Marathon Bombing: Free Speech Is Key…
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
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 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…
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.
“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.”
“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.”
Maybe wisdom can be spun out of quotation sites.
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.’
Ross Douthat at the NY Times: ‘Why Liberalism Needs Pluralism‘
Watch those radical roots:
‘…much of progressivism is straightforwardly organized around the idea of the state-as-liberator, and inclined to see “the private life of power” as a greater threat to true liberty than either the tyranny of the majority or the kindly despotism of the administrative state.’
One of this blog’s primary concerns is that modern liberalism, as practiced with its progressive, collectivist and activist roots, has not addressed vital concerns between the individual and the collective, which can soon lead to the ‘tyranny of the majority or the kindly despotism of the administrative state’ as Douthat points out.
It’s not always as grave as that, but current liberal politics, with pressure from below, has been busy dragging 60′s feminist, environmentalist, and Civil Rights activism back into political discourse (to say nothing of New Deal, Big Labor, and other, older entitlement programs).
Perhaps Douthat’s piece also highlights a gap between many libertarians and conservatives that will very tough to bridge: Some libertarian ideas lead to anarchic consequences, and a vigorous libertarian defense of the individual contradicts many social and religious conservative organizing principles as well.
On that note, if you want to see where labor activism in progressive politics can lead (unions and politicians generally fighting for the cause, their paychecks and their pensions first, the actual concerns of children later), look no further than California:
‘But after those basic protections were enshrined in law decades ago, labor leaders pushed legislators to expand rights and entitlements for public school teachers—at the expense of educating kids. In the last ten years, only 91 teachers out of about 300,000 (.003 percent) who have attained permanence lost their jobs in California. Of those, only 19 (.0007 percent) have been dismissed for poor performance
This is neither economically nor politically sustainable, and places impossible demands upon our institutions. As for the mayor of New York City:
‘The people are to show “the leaders the path.” But, it turns out, there is only one, progressive path, already marked out with thick hedges on each side. All we’ve really got to do is make sure everybody’s in the lane–get’em all signed up. The means has become the end–“universal” enrollment, not universal achievement–and the work of the good neighbor a matter of paperwork, not particular care or love’
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.New liberty away from Hobbes?: From Public Reason: A Discussion Of Gerald Gaus’s Book ‘The Order of Public Reason: A Theory of Freedom And Morality In A Diverse And Bounded World’…Richard Rorty tried to tie postmodernism and leftist solidarity to liberalism, but wasn’t exactly classically liberal: Repost: Another Take On J.S. Mill From “Liberal England”
Lilia Shevtskova At The American Interest-’The Putin Doctrine: Myth, Provocation, Blackmail Or The Real Deal?’
Shevtskova points out some flaws in the current approach:
‘Western tactics can’t compensate lack of the strategic vision and readiness to think about the new world order. Moreover, Walter Russell Mead was right to say, “We are unlikely…to have a sensible Ukraine policy unless we have a serious Russia policy.” The liberal democracies have to admit that their previous Russia policy, based on the three premises “engagement, accommodation, and imitation,” does not work any longer. Their desperate attempts to find a new version of containment that will not obstruct engagement and cooperation have become an object of mockery in the Kremlin and only strengthen the Kremlin’s feeling of both impunity and contempt.’
Time for a reset?
It’d be nice to have a foreign policy that allows us more leverage, can recognize and promote mutual interest, can foster strategic alliances, and can then respond nimbly to threats and problems. Yet, how much do we hitch our wagons to Europe and current international institutions as they stand?
Do we choose leaders in America guided by more Left-liberal, ‘purely’ democratic ideals of consensus which tend to lead toward the kinds of interational institutions we have now?
Europe seems united by a rather dysfunctional political union. NATO is showing its age. The U.N can be a useful tool but has deep structural flaws.
Putin’s calculated, ethno-nationalist thuggishness is likely just demonstrating the terrain isn’t lining-up with certain maps.
One escape hatch for libertarian and free-market minded Britons has been leaving the political union of the EU for a market-based economic union. A proposed Anglosphere, rather than the Eurocracy.
Which maps do we make anew here in America which will allow us to best secure our interests?
Addition: And it’s it’s not like America doesn’t have it’s own problems.
Another Addition: Interesting piece from Tom Nichols posted at the Federalist:
‘Those of us who think Putin is acting emotionally in an insulated, low-information environment (including Angela Merkel, whom Altman tut-tuts for not getting what Putin is about) are not just making it up as we go or randomly picking motives. We’re reaching that conclusion because we’ve been watching this situation for a long time, and in context, Putin’s actions seem reckless and violent’
It’s likely you won’t agree with all of Samuel Huntington’s thinking, but he maintained a deeply learned understanding of the animating ideas behind Western/American political organization with keen observation of what was happening on the ground in foreign countries. Here’s a brief summation from Robert Kaplan’s article:
“• The fact that the world is modernizing does not mean that it is Westernizing. The impact of urbanization and mass communications, coupled with poverty and ethnic divisions, will not lead to peoples’ everywhere thinking as we do.
• Asia, despite its ups and downs, is expanding militarily and economically. Islam is exploding demographically. The West may be declining in relative influence.
• Culture-consciousness is getting stronger, not weaker, and states or peoples may band together because of cultural similarities rather than because of ideological ones, as in the past.
• The Western belief that parliamentary democracy and free markets are suitable for everyone will bring the West into conflict with civilizations—notably, Islam and the Chinese—that think differently.
• In a multi-polar world based loosely on civilizations rather than on ideologies, Americans must reaffirm their Western identity.”
Google books has ‘Political Order In Changing Societies‘ and ‘Who Are We?: The Challenges To America’s National Identity‘ (previews)available.
Another thing to consider:
‘Right up to this day, Germans and Russians maintain a special relationship. There is no other country and no other people with which Germans’ relations are as emotional and as contradictory. The connection reaches deep into German family history, shaped by two world wars and the 40-year existence of East Germany. German families still share stories of cruel, but also kindhearted and soulful Russians. We disdain the Russians’ primitiveness, while treasuring their culture and the Russian soul.’
‘Still, a divide is growing between the political elite and those in Germany who are sympathetic towards Russia. A recent survey conducted by pollster Infratest dimap showed that almost half of all Germans want the country to adopt the middle ground between Russia and the West.’
I wonder if any American operatives went under deep cover to Dschingis Khan concerts to better understand the German soul:
Here’s Putin, back in the 80′s, meeting Reagan. Ho hum, just a tourist, snapping some photos and meeting, how do you say, your premier.
From The Atlantic Photo: Vladimir Putin-Action Man
‘Russia needs a strong state power and must have it. But I am not calling for totalitarianism.’
Walter Russell Mead points to some concierge innovation going on in Texas (doctors forgoing insurance for fee-based service) that Obamacare proponents will not like:
‘This bias against innovators is what happens when federal legislation cements a dysfunctional system in place. Doctors who want to experiment with new models of payment face social pressure to abandon these experiments because of policy choices made in Washington.’
It remains unclear how freezing an inefficient health-care delivery system by adding a complex bureaucracy atop filled with many new ideological and monied interests all overseen from one place is going to….
Megan McArdle notes that in Vermont:
‘…Act 48 required Vermont to create a single-payer system by 2017, the state hasn’t drafted a bill spelling out how to raise the additional $1.6 billion a year (based on the state’s estimate) the system needs. The state collected only $2.7 billion in tax revenue in fiscal year 2012, so that’s a vexingly large sum to scrape together.’
I recommend “Collectivist’s Deficit Crunch” and/or “Hippity-Dippity Top-Down Technocratic Caramel Groove” for new Ben & Jerry’s ice-cream flavors.
You don’t have to be libertarian to find some of Richard Epstein’s suggestions…reasonable:
‘As I have noted before, there is only one type of reform that can make progress in meeting the three goals of a sensible health care system: cost reduction, quality improvements, and public access. That reform requires massive deregulation of the many market impediments that are already in place. Lower the costs, drop the excessive mandates, and thin out administrative costs, and people will flock back to the system voluntarily.’
Who Wants To Help Build A Technocracy? Repost-Megan McArdle At The Daily Beast: ‘The Technocratic Dilemma’
Still relevant, it seems:
‘Washington is in the throes of a rekindled romance with technocracy: the idea that what is most needed to save the economy and the planet is a bunch of really smart people who have spent their lives studying complicated problems like health care finance or renewable energy. The last time we had this many fresh-faced wonks geting feted for their deep thoughts was the New Deal.’
Related On This Site: …Repost-From The Spiked Review Of Books Via The A & L Daily: ‘Rescuing The Enlightenment From Its Exploiters’… Behavioral economics and libertarian paternalism and below all that some liberal totalitarianism (the personal is political crowd)…Ross Douthat Responds To Paul Krugman At The NY Times: ‘Can We Be Sweden?’
Are these the enemies of the future?: Virginia Postrel At Bloomberg: ‘How The Elites Built America’s Economic Wall’…
Charles Fried and Randy Barnett among others, testify as to the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (Nearly 3 hrs, but likely worth your time. You can skip to the parts you’d like)
The Bean Eaters
They eat beans mostly, this old yellow pair.
Dinner is a casual affair.
Plain chipware on a plain and creaking wood,
Two who are Mostly Good.
Two who have lived their day,
But keep on putting on their clothes
And putting things away.
And remembering …
Remembering, with twinklings and twinges,
As they lean over the beans in their rented back room that is full of beads and receipts and dolls and cloths, tobacco crumbs, vases and fringes.
Presented without comment.