From Via Media: ‘As Assad Quakes On His Throne, Is Iran Ready To Deal?’

Full piece here.

Some good analysis on what Assad’s departure means for Iran, the balance of power in the Middle-East, and for the Shia and Sunni tensions:

‘Otherwise, America’s best policy option seems clear: more of the same. Push Assad downhill, press Iraq for a fairer internal policy and a more non-aligned external one, support a factional rebalancing in Lebanon that encourages Hezbollah to transition from a revolutionary arm of Iranian foreign policy into a Lebanese political movement with a strictly domestic agenda, tighten sanctions and hold the line on nukes.’

That is, if the Civil War ends with Assad’s death/and or departure, as most interested parties are still making bets, and trying to steer possible outcomes towards their own interests.

Al Jazeera live blog on Syria here.

Related On This Site:  Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest: ‘Is Manaf Tlass’s Defection a Sign That Assad’s Regime Is Cracking?” From Foreign Affairs-’Former Syrian General Akil Hashem on the Uprising in Syria’From Slate: ‘In Aleppo, Syria, Mohamed Atta Thought He Could Build The Ideal Islamic City’Michael Totten At World Affairs: ‘Syria’s Regime Not Worth Preserving’

Repost-Conrad Black At The National Review: ‘Decline, But Not Inevitable Decline?’

Full piece here.

Is that the Republican line these days?  Mr. Black has a lot of suggestions:

‘What is needed is a colossal reorientation of the country away from consumption and toward investment, the cleaning out of the morass of the plea-bargain justice system and attendant vacuum cleaners of the legal and prison industries (and the gigantic fraud of the War on Drugs), drastic education reform, genuine health-care reform, a redefinition of U.S. national interests in the world to what is essential and defensible, and then restructured alliances to reflect shared interests. Until those issues are addressed, all talk of the American superpower is rubbish. Obama’s is the fourth consecutive failed administration, and each succeeding one will make the festering problems more dangerous and difficult.’

That’s a lot to ask of politics, but points taken.  Is history to be used in order to craft statemanship, or should we aim higher than such a Zinn-like state?  As always, one concern is not necessarily moral, but practical:  What are the harms that idealism can do to the efficacy of public institutions?

Addition:  Yes, there’s a little facetiousness regarding Howard Zinn.

Also On This Site: Repost-Lawrence Lessig At Bloggingheads: ‘Fixing Our Broken System?’From A Brief Review At Newsweek: Andrew Bacevich’s ‘The Road To Ruin’Fareed Zakaria BBC Interview: America In DeclineRichard Lieber In The World Affairs Journal–Falling Upwards: Declinism, The Box Set

What happens once human rights councils get a foothold?: Update And Repost: ‘A Canadian Libertarian Making Noise: Ezra Levant’

NASA Via Youtube: December 21st, 2012 Mars Curiosity Rover Report

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Just some links:

From a December 18th, 2012 mission status report:

‘NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory Project is using Curiosity during a two-year prime mission to assess whether areas inside Gale Crater ever offered a habitable environment for microbes. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the project for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington.’

-Unlike Earth with its dynamic interior and tectonic plates, relatively strong magnetic field, thick and dynamic atmosphere etc., Mars is a bit like a time capsule.   With just over 50% the diameter of Earth, about 38% the gravity, and  less than 1% the atmosphere we’ll be able to get a much better picture of what happened during the formation of our solar system about 4 1/2 billion years ago as it’s much less disturbed.  The trip up the rock face in Gale Crater over the next few years is like a trip back through time.  What happened to Mars?  Did the Earth and Mars have common experiences?

Some more Mars facts.

A December 4th, 2012 livestream overview of the mission.  Ashwin Vasavada’s talk starts about min 15:25, and is pretty easy to follow for non-scientists and lay people like myself:

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Related On This Site:  Via The Mars Science Laboratory At NASA: ”Mount Sharp’ On Mars Links Geology’s Past And Future’Via Youtube: ‘The Challenges Of Getting To Mars: Selecting A Landing Site

NASA Via Youtube: ‘The Martians: Launching Curiosity To Mars’NASA Via Youtube: ‘Mars Science Laboratory (Curiosity Rover) Mission AnimationRepost: Richard Feynman at NASA

From Joel Kotkin: ‘Is America’s Future Progressive?’

Full piece here.

Kotkin offers an interesting demographic, cultural and political analysis, with some harsh words for Republicans.  The ideas have to be amongst the people, and the economy is changing.

‘Of course, the blues have one inestimable advantage: a perennially stupid Republican party and a largely clueless, ideologically hidebound conservative movement. Constant missteps on issues like immigration and gay rights could keep even disappointed minority or younger votes in the President’s pocket. You can’t win new adherents by being the party of no and know-nothing. You also have to acknowledge that inequality is real and develop a program to promote upward mobility.

Unless that is done, the new generation and new Americans likely will continue to bow to the blue idols, irrespective to the failures that gentry progressivism all but guarantees.’

Here’s Kotkin’s book, ‘The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050.‘  I suppose if you live in California, with a defeated Republican party playing small-ball, it’s easy to get upset.

Possibly useful links on this site: Are we going soft and “European”… do we need to protect our religious idealism enshrined in the Constitution….with the social sciences?…Charles Murray Lecture At AEI: The Happiness Of People.  Institutionalized religion in the public square on the wane: Charles Murray At The New Criterion: ‘Belmont & Fishtown’

Catholic libertarianism: Youtube Via Reason TV-Judge Napolitano ‘Why Taxation is Theft, Abortion is Murder, & Government is Dangerous’

Natural Law & Natural Right and the Constitution:  Harry Jaffa At The Claremont Institute: ‘Leo Strauss, the Bible, and Political Philosophy’Via An Emailer: Some Criticism Of Leo Strauss? From Wikipedia’s Page On Leo Strauss: A Few Quotes:

Does all that sociological analysis naturally lead towards a more liberal political philosophy?: Will Wilkinson At Forbes: ‘The Social Animal by David Brooks: A Scornful Review’

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 trendy leftist solidarity to liberalism, but wasn’t exactly classically liberal:  Repost: Another Take On J.S. Mill From “Liberal England”

A Few Thoughts On NPR And Current Liberal Establishment Thinking Under Obama

Progressive Convention, 1912. Moffett Studio & Kaufmann, Weimer & Fabry Co.  Prints & Photograph Division, Library Of Congress LC-USZ62-116075

Progressive Convention, 1912. Moffett Studio & Kaufmann, Weimer & Fabry Co. Prints & Photograph Division, Library Of Congress LC-USZ62-116075

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Current liberal establishment thinking under Obama is naturally reacting to Obama’s leadership.  I’d argue that it’s getting more difficult to appreciate self-reliance as a result, and to maintain a healthy respect for the limits of government.   A healthy respect for the limits of government reflects a healthy understanding of human nature, its limitations, and the fact that all politics is local.  Power ultimately rests with “We the People,” after all.

Obama’s activist brand of local politics benefits from a lack of self-reliance in people, otherwise the need for the activist is lessened.  Activists become adept at organizing and inspiring (if not inciting) people to collective action under collectivist principles.  Once organized, the people’s interests can be aimed toward broader goals, some quite productive, but many often extracting money from businesses as well as federal and local governments.  Activists can be rabble-rousers, or they can be high-minded, but the model they’re using relies on redistributive logic (getting other people’s money redistributed to themselves and their constituents).

Political power is too easily the currency and the reward.

In the long run, obviously, there’s only so much of other people’s money to go around.  In the long run, there’s always a nagging question of how much the activist is really doing for his constituents by gaining all that political power for himself.  In the long run, we’re all more likely to have a few ruling the many under such a model, through an erosion of self-reliance.  In the long run, we’re more likely to end up in “tyranny of the majority” scenarios.

The growth of federal programs under Obama has been dramatic.  We still have many unelected czars and it looks as though Obamacare may be here to stay. Here are some IRS forms you’ll be filling out shortly.  A maze of new laws regulating the financial industry under Dodd-Frank has been signed into law, some of which have already passed costs along to the consumer.  We’ve seen the growth of the EPA and heavy regulation of the energy sector.

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I’d like to try and work towards a theme:

While still being one of the best, and most thorough, news-gathering services, NPR generally cleaves to a Left-Of-Center political philosophy.  I suspect many folks at NPR aim to be like the BBC in Britain, or the CBC in Canada:  Not only the national standard in news but perhaps the nationalized cultural gatekeepers as well.  According to their lights, they see themselves as having a duty to promote and fund the arts, education, and knowledge.

That said, NPR is guilty of what many Americans have been guilty of, something which seems to transcend politics:  They’ve followed the national greatness model and assumed that American greatness, economic dominance and good times are a guarantee.

Here are two problems with NPR’s approach:

-NPR usually puts environmental interests above business interests.

The dangers of environmental policy can be seen in California, where environmental regulations can stagnate the economy.    These policies shift the cost of land management onto individuals and landowners, while creating laws whose oversight those citizens must finance, often inefficiently through a system of taxation and regulation.  Politicos have every incentive to keep taxpayer money flowing to themselves and a few companies, pressured by the green lobby and riding waves of green public sentiment, always with an eye on reelection.  This has actively driven many individuals and families out of the state.

Perhaps even some conservationists realize that activism generally leads to big money and big politics, and that  everyday people can suffer the most, especially those who aim to be self-reliant.

Californians can leave California, but on the national level, sadly, the rest of us have few options.

-NPR has promoted multiculturalism and diversity often as the highest ideas around.

Unfortunately, multiculturalism creates a system of incentives which rewards racial and identity politics, and at its worst, a kind of modern tribalism where group membership and loyalty come first.

Identity groups can remain Balkanized, and treat the public treasury like a piggy bank, politics like a system of patronage, and the laws like bludgeons in order to gain and maintain political power.  This is especially true of big-city machine politics, where the corruption is baked-in.  Government’s the only thing we all belong todoes, in fact, reflect a gaping hole at the center of modern liberal establishment thinking.  If such thinking continues to follow Obama’s brand of activism, that hole will continue to be there.

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Monticello.  Prints & Photograph Division, Library Of Congress LC-F8-1046

Monticello. Prints & Photograph Division, Library Of Congress LC-F8-1046

In response, it might not be a bad idea to promote a more agrarian Jeffersonian liberalism instead of the California or the current NPR liberal establishment models.   It’s a little worrying that California has traditionally been a cultural bellwether for the rest of the nation.  There’s a fiscal crisis in the Golden State, and enough multiculturalism and environmentalism that Californians may well keep voting for the model until it crashes, or they are forced to act otherwise.

I’d humbly ask that Northeastern and old school Democrats, the classical liberals, the Jeffersonians, the self-reliant, and the reasonably skeptical to reconsider where the current liberal establishment is headed under an Obama administration.

It’s affecting all of us.

Addition: NPR has roots in 60’s Civil Rights activism, and thus is often most sympathetic to 60’s type coalitions of protest models including feminists, environmentalists, race and identity politickers etc. They can get criticism from their Left for being too mainstream, and they can attach these 60’s coalitions to mainstream liberalism, politics and culture. I’m guessing you’re not going to find nakedly partisan or activists behind the scenes, really, but rather people so embedded in their own worldview (that of secular liberal humanism and progress) that they presuppose such a worldview when reporting on events.

Liberal, Left-liberal and Center-Left statists are words that seem to apply.

Another addition:  I should add that I don’t believe we either can, nor should want to return to an agrarian society, but rather, contra Hamilton, we should aim for institutions that promote the individual, his family, and the free associations he makes above political activism, lobbyists, big government and big corporations in bed together, which is where ideas like environmentalism and multiculturalism most often lead.  It’s the political philosophy that lies behind, and beneath what’s become of current establishment liberal thinking in that has not yet figured out how to protect the individual from the big money and big politics that are a result of such thinking in practice.

Related On This Site:  Jack Shafer At Slate: ‘Nonprofit Journalism Comes At A Cost’From NPR: Grants To The NEA To Stimulate The Economy?…We’re already mixing art and politics, so…How Would Obama Respond To Milton Friedman’s Four Ways To Spend Money?

A Few Thoughts On Walter Russell Mead At The American Interest: “Why Blue Can’t Save The Inner Cities Part I”

The market will make people better off, but always leaves them wanting more and in a state of spiritual malaise, which invites constant meddling.  Can economic freedom and free markets reconcile the moral depth of progressive big-State human freedom:  Milton Friedman Via Youtube: ‘Responsibility To The Poor’A Few Quotations From F.A. Hayek’s: ‘Why I Am Not A Conservative’A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

Review of Denis Dutton’s ‘The Art Instinct’

From Bloggingheads: Denis Dutton On His New Book: ‘The Art Instinct’A Few More Thoughts On Denis Dutton’s New Book: ‘The Art Instinct’

Ken Burns makes a good documentary, but he’s also arguing he absolutely needs your tax dollars in service of what he assumes to be a shared definition of the “common good” as he pursues that art.  The market just can’t support it otherwise. Repost-From ReasonTV Via Youtube: ‘Ken Burns on PBS Funding, Being a “Yellow-Dog Democrat,” & Missing Walter Cronkite’

From The New Criterion: ‘What’s So Public About Public Art?’

Full piece here.

A favorite theme on this blog:

‘But what’s so public about public art? Is it “public” simply because it’s stuck in public places? And who asks for it? In a recent interview with Manner of Man Magazine, Alexander Stoddart, Sculptor in Ordinary to Her Majesty the Queen in Scotland, hits the nail on the head.’

Click through for some good quotes. Why is public art often so bad?  What happens when art gets attached with money, and yes, also money through grants?

Is it better just to have a contest?

Are you truly moved by a public art piece?  If so, which one?

Related On This Site:  The arts, environmentalism, regulated markets.  NPR.  Should there be some funding of the arts?: 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?

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’

Merry Christmas-2012

Thanks for stopping by, and to everyone that has.

More on Assad From The Guardian: ‘Syria Conflict: Syria Fires More Scuds’

Full piece here.

“We’ve been clear that we have seen the regime in Syria use Scud missiles against its own people, and that continues,” a senior State Department official told the New York Times.’

Assad and the Alawite minority loyalists are still planning a retreat to the coast, but as the opposition gains enough strength this is likely to come to a bloody end for Assad, even after the retreat.  It’s the drawn-out, civil conflict spilling over Syrian borders that was feared, with possibly over 50,000 dead so far.  Regional instability is still the primary concern.

Al Jazeera live blog on Syria here.

Some in the current U.S. administration started out in human rights campaigns and then moved to security and diplomatic positions.  Many have adopted realpolitik, pursuing U.S. interests relentlessly and accepting limitations. The overall framework, however,  still seems to be liberal internationalist, which brings human rights to the fore, and seeks to defer U.S. interests to international laws, courts, and institutions.

The neoconservative model, which advocates the use of military force to advance our interests on our own, as well spreading our ideals of freedom and democracy through that force, ran into serious difficulties in Iraq, and is on the ropes.

The Libyan intervention was offered as a successful alternative:  Rid Libyans of the tyrant to advance freedom, but do so with a light footprint and as much international support as possible.  There has been some success, but it’s not clear at what current costs (ambassador Stevens, 3 Americans and a hit to freedom of speech as well as a projection of weakness) as well as future costs to American interests and security (though to be fair, this can be said about pretty much any operation).

Syria was argued as too complex, and too complicated a country for the same Libyan model to work.  There’s been a Western retreat into watching Syria devolve into civil conflict, offering mild and belated support to the opposition (still betting on horses, like we did with the insurgence against the Russians in Afghanistan back in 1979), and hoping the U.N. would be able to muster something (which it really hasn’t).  We’re offering some arms and other support inside Syria, and aid outside of it, but it continues to burn and molder.

The overall Obama doctrine remains unclear:  Do we continue to prosecute Bush’s War On Terror with drone strikes, special operations, Navy Seals, and intel operations, while simultaneously trying to appeal to non-terrorist and ‘moderate’ Muslims?

Can we reasonably expect Russia, and China, and other Muslim nations to align with our interests through international laws and courts?

Are we making our economy strong so that trade, business and educational interests can put our better foot forward?

Are we leading by example through our commitment to our freedoms, including the freedom of speech and the political and economic freedoms that allow the human rights folks and NGO’s to flourish?

Addition:  Egyptian voters adopt the Brotherhood’s constitution.

Related On This Site:Via Youtube-Uncommon Knowledge With Fouad Ajami And Charles Hill

A Few Thoughts On Foreign Policy-Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest: ‘Conservative Principles Of World Order’

Roger Sandall-R.I.P.

My belated condolences to the family, friends, and colleagues of Roger Sandall, who passed away on August 11th, 2012.  He was an Australian thinker and critic of cultural relativism, romantic-primitivism and the Noble Savage.  He was a keen observer of the ways in which certain strains of Western thought interact with the non-Western, and often, tribal worlds.

While not as strong as in Australia, we’ve seen the rise of multicultural apologetics in the U.S. regarding the native population: “Well, we robbed this land from the Indians, anyways.”  Sandall highlights the problems and hubris of such sentiment, and what can become the “Disneyfication” of the natives and the historical record.

His home page where his essays can be found.

Here’s “The Rise Of The Anthropologues

R.I.P

Related On This Site: Romantic primitivism: Roger Sandall: Marveling At The Aborigines, But Not Really Helping?Repost-Roger Sandall At The American Interest: ‘Tribal Realism ….Roger Sandall At The New Criterion Via The A & L Daily: ‘Aboriginal Sin’…Roger Sandall: ‘Plato Vs. Grand Theft Auto…

From VICE: ‘The Mexican Mormon War’

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VICE takes a hipster, counter-culture view on things, but this is an interesting and raw video piece on the Mormons who fled to Northern Mexico mostly in the 1880’s, the colonies they settled there mostly for reasons of polygamy, and are now defending against increasing drug violence and ruthless narco-traffickers.   It’s a glimpse of life inside Mexico, the Mexican Federal government’s role in patrolling a main drug highway into America, the poverty and danger, rational incentives and endemic police corruption over the border.  American laws, public policy and money have a lot to do with what goes on in Mexico.

The drug gangs are pretty much ruthless.  Gun prohibition in Mexico prevents the Mormons from protecting themselves (so the criminals have all the guns), but they have found ways around that.

Addition: What, if any, moral obligation does America have to Mexico to help it get its house, economy, police force and federal government out of the depths of corruption and weakness now that there’s new leadership?  Will a wall work?  Do we listen to the border state Republicanism guest program paths to citizenship?

What’s politically possible with the current administration in office, and the California style movement of the Democratic party towards another amnesty and the DREAM act?

Related On This Site:  Via Youtube Via Michael Totten At World Affairs: ‘VICE Guide To Karachi’Francis Fukuyama At The American Interest: ‘Mexico And The Drug Wars’