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.

Via Standpoint: ‘Political Correctness Is Devouring Itself’

Full piece here (sent to me by a reader).

Nice line:

‘Few contemporary theorists grasp that people oppose censorship not because they respect the words of the speaker but because they fear the power of the censor.’

Key quote from a different post:

“More recently Richard Rorty made an attractive attempt to reconcile the most avant-garde postmodern theory with a defence of the institutions of the Western liberal democracies, but the Mill of On Liberty still reigns supreme.”

Related On This Site: Isaiah Berlin’s negative liberty bears resemblance to Mill’s Harm Principle:  From virtual philosopher: ‘Free Speech: notes and links for course at Free Word Centre’

A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”From The Boston Review: ‘Libertarianism And Liberty: How Not To Argue For Limited Government And Lower Taxes’From Slate: ‘The Liberty Scam-Why Even Robert Nozick, The Philosophical Father Of Libertarianism, Gave Up On The Movement He Inspired.’

Jack Shakely At The Los Angeles Review Of Books Reviews Ken Stern’s ‘With Charity For All’How Many Techno- And Bureaucrats Are Enough?-David Greene At NPR: ‘Rochester Focuses On A New Piece Of American Manufacturing’A Few Thoughts On NPR And Current Liberal Establishment Thinking Under Obama

Some Humor Links-Mostly Recycled

Sent in by a reader, from the Darwin Awards.

Sometimes, a Deckpecker is just what you need:

Smitty and I explained to him that it was the work of the North Pacific Deckpecker. The Deckpecker is a very large, dark grey bird with nocturnal habits. It flies about the sea, searching for ships to land on at night. This particular bird feeds on the parasites which burrow into the ship’s paint; the parasites in turn live on the cordite residues which accumulate about the gun decks. The rings on a warships decks are caused by the birds pecking about their feet before moving to another position. Because of the bird’s unique habits and dark colour, it is very rarely seen.

As we described the Deckpecker, he became more fascinated at each revelation. Eventually, Smitty even demonstrated the bird’s call, a raucous sound which drew more crew members about to listen as we contributed further details and corrected each other over minor points.

When our impromptu lecture had come to a close, he looked about at our rapt audience and said, “You know, I read about that somewhere.”

=================================

Jack Handey’s homepage here.

And from this ‘Shout & Murmurs’ piece in the New Yorker:

‘Eventually, I believe, everything evens out. Long ago, an asteroid hit our planet and killed our dinosaurs. But, in the future, maybe we’ll go to another planet and kill their dinosaurs.’

—-Who reads the newspapers?

-If you have an hour or so, and you want to read one of the funnier short stories ever written, then read Uncle Fred Flits By, by P.G. Wodehouse.  I could not find it for free, but you can check out the first few pages at the above link.

—-Tom Wolfe wrote about the Black Panthers showing up at Leonard Bernstein’s place: Tom Wolfe’s Radical Chic: That Party At Lenny’s.  There’s humor in well-crafted prose.

—-Chinese characters are beautiful.  Full post here.

Organizing For Action-A Few Links On The Iran Talks

Understandably, Netanyahu’s government is telling anyone who will listen that it’s very skeptical of the p5 + 1 negotiations, and now they’re telling the the French government, which is taking a harder line with Iran than our government currently (yes, that’s Francois Hollande’s coalition).  Understandably, Israel’s security, and perhaps their very existence, is at stake, and they’re playing all the angles.

For my part, as I recall with Obamacare, the pattern here seems to be starting from a principle (there will be healthcare available for all through the government…there will be a deal with Iran), while keeping the base active, then making sure any stray Democrats fall-in-line.  Then, while making a lot of promises and playing it straight for the public, all who disagree on principle, Republicans, other interested parties, any reasonable dissenters etc. are kindly ignored or told what to go do with themselves.

Walter Russell Mead:

‘But more and more people in the center are beginning to see beyond the pretty packaging and to ask questions the White House doesn’t seem to be able to answer about its overall plan. Thomas Friedman looked askance at the President this week, asking “Why are we, for the third time since 9/11, fighting a war on behalf of Iran?” Henry Kissinger’s most recent book contains a long warning against the course we are on. Jeffrey Goldberg, anything but a knee-jerk opponent of the President, has been voicing his growing worries over the cost of the deal—most recently declaring that there’s “no solution” when it comes to Iran, very much including a nuclear deal. Former Administration officials are aghast; like Martin Indyk before him, David Petraeus is really saying that the President’s strategy doesn’t cohere.’

A while back, I was referred to Obama’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech to show the framework upon which he hangs his foreign policy. He’s been called a realist by some, or one who generally deals with the world as it is, not as he’d like it to be.  In the speech, Obama sets an expectation of using force against evil in the world if necessary. He’s willing to part company with Gandhi and MLK in the face of a genuine possible evil and the grim choices events may require.

According to this view, Obama has rejected the Hillary Clinton/Samantha Power wing of humanitarian interventionism as idealists to his realism. He split the difference in Libya to the operation they wanted (like Bosnia) because of his realism. He later thought Syria wasn’t worth the risk because of his realism (it has since devolved into a near worse-case scenario into which Putin had to step-in). He approved, then withdrew, the surge in Afghanistan after he didn’t see the gains he wanted because of his realism.

All of this difference-splitting, essentially, is evidence that Obama is the one taking the longer view and resisting the impulses of those who will act to make the world as they’d like it to be by using military force and sticking our noses into the affairs of others (Bush in Iraq, Bill Clinton in Bosnia, Hillary Clinton in Libya).

I don’t find this argument tenable, except in moments of realism (realpolitik?) [addition: In other words, many of the ideological presuppositions and commitments are challenged come election time or when the system in place requires it, otherwise history and the world are generally expected to fit within those ideological presuppostions and a policy of constant activism and change towards ‘peace’ or ‘progress’ gets pursued as the logic dictates…].

Addition: Michael Doran at The Brookings Institution a while back:

‘One’s evaluation of the nuclear deal depends on how one understands the broader context of US-Iranian relations. There are potential pathways ahead that might not be all that bad. But I am pessimistic. I see the deal as a deceptively pleasant way station on the long and bloody road that is the American retreat from the Middle East.’ 

And he finished with:

That, in sum, is the true price that we just paid for six months of seeming quiet on the nuclear front. It is price in prestige, which most Americans will not notice. It is also a price in blood. But it is not our blood, so Americans will also fail to make the connection between the violence and the nuclear deal. It is important to note, however, that this is just the initial price. Six months from now, when the interim agreement expires, another payment to Ayatollah Khamenei will come due. If Obama doesn’t pony up, he will have to admit then that he cut a bad deal now. So he we will indeed pay — through the nose.’

Addition:  Richard Epstein ‘Barack vs. Bibi:’

‘In the end, it is critical to understand that the current weaknesses in American foreign policy stem from the President’s adamant reluctance to commit to the use of American force in international relations, whether with Israel, Iran or with ISIS. Starting from that position, the President has to make huge unilateral concessions, and force his allies to do the same thing. Right now his only expertise is leading from behind.  The President has to learn to be tough in negotiations with his enemies. Right now, sadly, he has demonstrated that toughness only in his relationships with America’s friends and allies.’

Another Addition: A former CIA director calls it ‘the worst of all possible outcomes.‘  The Iranians have bought time, and maybe just a means to legitimize their nuclear ambitions even more.

From the Jerusalem Post, it’s looking like the right to enrich uranium in the first place is a sticking point.  The clock is ticking, and many costs have already built up. Some Saturday Links On Iran-Peace At What Price?

Israel, Iran, & Peace: Andrew Sullivan Responds To Charges Of Potential Anti-SemitismSome Saturday Links On Iran-Skepticism, To Say The Least

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

Democracy as we envision it requires people to constrain themselves within laws and institutions that maintain democracy…through Mill’s utilitarianism?: Thursday Quotation: Jeane Kirkpatrick – J.S. Mill  Is Bernhard Henri-Levy actually influencing U.S. policy decisions..? From New York Magazine: ‘European Superhero Quashes Libyan Dictator’Bernhard Henri-Levy At The Daily Beast: ‘A Moral Tipping Point’
Do we try and invest in global institutions as flawed as they are…upon a Kantian raft of perpetual peace?:  Daniel Deudney On YouTube Responding to Robert Kagan: Liberal Democracy Vs. Autocracy

Tuesday Poem By John Crowe Ransom

Blue Girls

Twirling your blue skirts, travelling the sward 
Under the towers of your seminary, 
Go listen to your teachers old and contrary 
Without believing a word. 

Tie the white fillets then about your hair 
And think no more of what will come to pass 
Than bluebirds that go walking on the grass 
And chattering on the air. 

Practice your beauty, blue girls, before it fail; 
And I will cry with my loud lips and publish 
Beauty which all our power shall never establish, 
It is so frail. 

For I could tell you a story which is true; 
I know a woman with a terrible tongue, 
Blear eyes fallen from blue, 
All her perfections tarnished — yet it is not long 
Since she was lovelier than any of you.

-John Crowe Ransom

From HyperAllergic-‘Julian Kreimer: A Place To Call Home’

Review here. More works here.

‘No, I take that back. He’s a “photographer’s painter.” His painterly impulse registers in the relatively short history of photography — especially in the by-now ancient movement known as the New Topographics.’

A little more on the New Topographics here:

‘A turning point in the history of photography, the 1975 exhibition New Topographics signaled a radical shift away from traditional depictions of landscape. Pictures of transcendent natural vistas gave way to unromanticized views of stark industrial landscapes, suburban sprawl, and everyday scenes not usually given a second glance.’ =========================================

What’s it all for?  From the HyperAllergic review:

‘The New Topographics may have documented the upward mobility of the folks who put money down on the dream package, but to the cynical eye of the loner-photographer, hungry for the authenticity of the street and the volatility of the “instant,” these sterile neighborhoods represented a road to nowhere. This happens to be the nowhere where the Kreimer generation, of which I am a part, was conceived, born, and, in my case, plopped in front of the TV.’

Meh. Addition:  From the video:

For me, it’s really the antithesis of nature photography.  You’re finally allowing the place, of tranformation, of indecision, of bad planning to begin to come in as a subject. which isn’t only political, but radical in its relationship to ideas of landscape photography.’

Oh boy, I smell the ripe bloom of political ideology. Since we’re talking political ideology, couldn’t a libertarian just as easily say: ‘I love the deep metaphysics behind just letting the marketplace do what it does:  Creating supply-chains and driving down prices while unleashing the creative energies of consumers, private entities and public planners into a madcap mishmash of competing buildings, spaces and architectural styles.  It’s this simple release of demanding that everything must have meaning into which we often experience what is most deeply meaningful:  Family, freedom, opportunity, time, boredom. I find beauty all around me, and refuse to demand that it conform to some preconceived notion of political order. postmodern theory and/or radical change’

Addition: Or, you know, ANY political ideology.  If that’s what you’re bringing to your own works of art, you’re doing it wrong.  Join a school if you must, and be influenced and imitate and learn, but if that school has a political ideology, I trust all people with wits to drop the political ideology like a bad habit…

================================ From Kreimer’s profile page:

‘Landscapes and abstractions seamlessly relate as he explores the terrain between the two. Lush color combinations applied in quick, fluid strokes are built into dense layers to create windows into Kreimer’s environments, both recognizable and contemplative.’

I like artists capable of playing with the ‘forms:’ mathematical precision and abstraction while indulging the eye and calling attention the way the eye and mind might be making sense of the world.  Unsurprisingly, I also just like landscapes that remind of the things I’ve known and places I’ve seen.  The initial pleasure of recognizing the known and familiar (even if less than ‘pretty’ to look at) and the reassurance of memory keeps me engaged before I’m possibly taken elsewhere. Let’s go elsewhere…look again.  Now, look again. Any thoughts and comments are welcome. ***As an aside: Having photographers and artists in my family, I’ve noticed they can bristle against the assumptions viewers sometimes bring to their photos, usually proportional to the effort and time spent in making a good photograph.  Composition, color, light, presentation and line can make or break a photo, and just maybe the artist’s desire for the ineffable within that moment in time when it all ‘clicked’ so to speak, cries out for some recognition. I usually forgive such trespass, because I’ve known these impulses myself, and no one I’ve known seemed in danger of becoming an insufferable ‘artiste’ full-time, criticizing the unsophisticated eye of the audience while perhaps simultaneously craving its gaze. Perhaps there’s a whiff of the ‘Is this all there is?’ lament millions of Americans (especially adolescents) understandably come to.  They’re hungry for tradition, experience, meaning, broader purpose etc. Related On This Site: 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 ThinkersSome Quotes From Kant And A Visual Exercise A Reaction To Jeff Koons ‘St John The Baptist’ Denis Dutton suggests art could head towards Darwin (and may offer new direction from the troubles of the modern art aimlessness and shallow depth) Review of Denis Dutton’s ‘The Art Instinct’

Satire For All?-A Few Assorted Links

From Discover via the A & L Daily: ‘The Mystery Of Extraordinarily Accurate Medieval Maps

A few beautiful maps at the link.

‘To track how portolan charts’ accuracy changed over time, Hessler drew again on the methods he used to quantify butterflies’ evolutionary relationships. As with the butterflies’ wings, he imagined each chart drawn on a metal plate and simulated bending it to move the landmarks on the medieval chart to meet their locations on a modern map. The less energy required to distort the metal into the new shape, the more accurate the chart.’

==================================================

Via Marginal Revolution, Joseph Bottum at The Weekly Standard: ‘The Spiritual Shape Of Political Ideas

‘Plenty of the spiritualizing of American social politics occurs on the political right. In the libertarian elevation of the idea of individual freedom above all or in the tendency of Tea Party members “to be excessively confident in their righteousness” (according to conservative academic Jon A. Shields), one can sometimes discern dissociated Christian ideas. It’s in the air, and no one in public life entirely escapes breathing it.

But most of the recent cases of banned speakers and censored heresies seem to come from the radical side of things—unsurprisingly, perhaps, given the left’s dominant position in academia and the media, and its claim to possess now the moral authority once held by the mainline liberal consensus. Think of it in terms of the old Christian idea of shunning. Or, rather, think of it in terms of the shape and tone of the idea of shunning, set free from its constrained place in a general theological scheme. Think of shunning as it lives now, in the Church of Christ Without Christ that produces so much of our current social discourse.’

This reminded me of the Jonathan Haidt piece at Edge ‘What Makes People Vote Republican‘ (which is a pretty good questioning of one’s own beliefs and one’s own ‘tribe’). The official responses from some other Edgers reminds me of why many in academia, especially in the social sciences, tend to be so predominantly politically liberal.  The epistemology of these fields is born of much post-Enlightenment, rationalist thinking and I’m guessing many are likely attracted to these fields because of already existing assumptions, worldviews, and beliefs, framed, no doubt, by early experiences, family lives, political loyalties etc. (perhaps true of all of us, and in retrospect, could be applied to explain why I supported the Iraq War).

I do think it’s reasonable to hope for academic integrity and intellectual honesty over time.

Personally, I love to rib NPR on twitter, highlighting the absurdity when older, square liberal boomer and Dewey-esque folks (sometimes with a whiff of temperance and prohibition about them) feel the urge to find out what’s crackalackin‘ on the streets, or feel pressure to support the furious fist of social justice.  Few things are funnier to me than the fact that there’s a Unitarian Universalist College Of Social Justice.

Activism as a virtue, feminism, environmentalism, race awareness, and the ideas of social justice and progress…are the water in which many folks at NPR already swim, so it’s rather amusing when the claim is made that they’re totally just a news organization serving all of the public. I hadn’t noticed the schisms between leftist factions, some of whom are totalitarian and radical. Perhaps progress is sometimes dependent on street theater, wealth-extraction, city machine-politics and back-room dealing?  Perhaps it’s not simply a matter of logic to support public policy/program/tax x after speaking with an activist, an expert, and throwing some stats around on air?

Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please.’

-Mark Twain

On that note, perhaps Mark Steyn’s prediction of Western demographic decline isn’t empirically valid (that would take work, time and thought I don’t have at the moment), but I do partake in some of his satire and truth…I do:

‘No Islam To See Here‘:

‘For the last decade, I’ve been lectured by the nuancey-boys on how one can’t generalize about Islam, and especially about Islam in the West: There are as many fascinating differences between Mirpuri Pakistanis in Yorkshire and Algerian Berbers in Clichy-sous-Bois as there are between Nogais and Lezgians in Dagestan. No doubt. But, whatever their particular inheritance, many young Muslims in the West come to embrace a pan-Islamic identity. The Tsarnaev boys, for example, fell under the influence of an “Australian sheikh.” That’s to say, a sheikh born in Sydney. While back in the Caucasus in 2012, Tamerlan is rumored to have met William Plotnikov, a Toronto jihadist whose Siberian parents are such assimilated Canadians they winter as Florida snowbirds. When they came back, they found a note from William saying he’d gone to France for Ramadan. And thence east, to his rendezvous with the virgins’

There is always a battle for space, ideas, and influence in the public square…such ideas have consequences for all citizens.

They’ll be plenty of time to criticize the cronyism, favoritism. cattle-swappin’ and back-room deals to come under a Republican administration should we be headed in that direction.  It’s the only way to keep them reasonably honest.

Repost Quotations: Twain, Mencken, And O’Rourke

“That’s the difference between governments and individuals. Governments don’t care, individuals do.”

-Mark Twain

“Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under.”

-H.L. Mencken

“The mystery of government is not how Washington works but how to make it stop.”

-P.J. O’Rourke

Someone’s got to do the horse-tradin.’    There’s a fine line between ego-gratification and public service.

We’ve got to send them the right incentives and feedback.

Thursday Poem-William Carlos Williams

Spring And All

By the road to the contagious hospital
under the surge of the blue
mottled clouds driven from the
northeast—a cold wind. Beyond, the
waste of broad, muddy fields
brown with dried weeds, standing and fallen

patches of standing water
the scattering of tall trees

All along the road the reddish
purplish, forked, upstanding, twiggy
stuff of bushes and small trees
with dead, brown leaves under them
leafless vines—

Lifeless in appearance, sluggish
dazed spring approaches—

They enter the new world naked,
cold, uncertain of all
save that they enter. All about them
the cold, familiar wind—

Now the grass, tomorrow
the stiff curl of wildcarrot leaf

One by one objects are defined—
It quickens: clarity, outline of leaf

But now the stark dignity of
entrance—Still, the profound change
has come upon them: rooted they
grip down and begin to awaken

-William Carlos Williams

The ‘Living Wages ‘Of Ideology And Protest

Richard Epstein on the DOJ report, Michael Brown, and Darren Wilson: ‘Race Baiting And Ferguson

‘The situation is made worse with the publication of the second DOJ report which offers a top-to-bottom condemnation of Ferguson’s criminal justice system. This report was clearly prompted by the belief that Wilson’s killing of Michael Brown was the result of structural problems in Ferguson. But why pick on Ferguson after Wilson was exonerated? It would be one thing to argue that the illegal killing of Michael Brown stemmed from a corrupt and racist culture inside that department. But once it is established that Wilson was fully justified in acting as he did, it is impossible to explain how the culture and norms of the police could have contributed to any illegal act. Indeed, the only plausible inference cuts the opposite way. The ability of Wilson to handle himself well under extreme pressure reflects approvingly on his conduct and on the ethos of the Ferguson Police Department.’

Across media outlets, many have become invested in a similar ethos of activism; trumpeting a state of permanent ideological victim-hood and protest which often goes in search of facts and evidence after genuine outrage is stoked and unleashed.

Jonathan Capeheart at the Washington Post admits as much.

It’s always 1968 for some…understandably for many in the Civil Rights movement and those law-abiding citizens neither served nor protected well by the police where they live.

Yet, when the people who run the Department of Justice put their weight behind a case like this, where the facts and evidence don’t line up with the outrage, potentially serious damage has been done to our system of justice.  More injustice can be created (Darren Wilson, the injured officers), the public trust can be eroded, and fires burn with no place to go…but up.

Related On This Site-From The Liberal Bastions-James Baldwin, OftenFrom Fora Via YouTube: ‘Thomas Sowell and a Conflict of Visions’Two Sunday Quotations By Albert Jay Nock in ‘Anarchist’s Progress’

Repost-A Few Links On Environmentalism And Liberty

One debate exists between environmentalists, conservationists and ecologists who often push for economic regulation through activism and the laws; usually in order to protect a natural area, habitat or species (some harbor an “holistic” vision of nature, though it can be much more complex, including a simple love of nature and natural beauty) against the doctrines that do much to maintain individual, economic and political liberty.

William C Dennis of the Liberty Fundhad a 1990 review at Reason Magazine of Ecology in the 20th Century: A History, by Anna Bramwellwhich highlights the libertarian dispute with environmentalism. He quotes Bramwell thus:

“For today’s ecologists, their hope of regeneration presupposes a return to primitivism, and thus, whether they wish to enunciate it or not, concomitant anarchy, the burning before the replanting, the cutting down of the dead tree. The father of the movement is an utter rejection of all that is, and for at least three millennia all that was.”

Libertarians would generally see many environmentalists as a threat to their definition of liberty.

-Another environmentalist root comes by way of the’ Tragic Earth’ romantic lament, which may have as much to do with the rise and fall of post-modernism in American Universities as it does with Nature, and the restless attempt to fill the post-modern void in a post-Nietzschean world.  I think part of this is due to the collapse of the modern liberal arts curriculum to its current state, which has followed excessive relativism and multi-culturalism to some of its logical conclusions.  The “science is settled” may be appealing to many in filling that void.  Of course, good poems and poets transcend the often strange things good poets can believe, but I suspect this has something to do with it. Al Gore has probably been influenced by this school of thought, though he is a politician, carbon-credit-salesman, and a poet.

Whatever your view of the science, its transition and use for ideological, economic and political purposes should give intelligent people pause, not just those who see threats to liberty.

Self-reliance may still be a better intellectual American influence, even with some downside to pragmatism.

Related On This Site:  Denis Dutton saw this coming as founder of the Climate Debate Daily and had some ideas about modern art:  Review of Denis Dutton’s ‘The Art Instinct’

Is it all just a sublimated religious impulse bubbling to the surface in new form, part of a millenia-long tradition: Repost-From The Spiked Review Of Books Via The A & L Daily: ‘Rescuing The Enlightenment From Its Exploiters…Don’t immanentize the eschaton!: From The NY Times: ‘Atheists Sue to Block Display of Cross-Shaped Beam in 9/11 Museum’

Walter Russell Mead At The American Interest: ‘The Failure of Al Gore Part Three: Singing the Climate Blues’

How might Nietzsche figure in the discussion (was he most after freeing art from a few thousand years of Christianity, monarchy and aristocracy…something deeper?), at least with regard to Camille Paglia.  See the comments:  Repost-Camille Paglia At Arion: Why Break, Blow, Burn Was Successful

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