More On That Oso Landslide

From The Landslide blog:

In reviewing seismic data with two distinct events, it’s not clear if a top portion slipped first, causing the bottom to give, or vice versa:

Our author:

‘To my untrained eye the initial seismic event shows a slow increase in energy release rather than an abrupt peak.  Note also that the second event appears to be much smaller than the first.  Thus, in this interpretation, the initial failure was, I think, a small, slow failure in the lower slope that destabilised the upper block of the Oso landslide, which slid onto the mass below.’

From King5 news, names, photos and a brief remembrance of those who lost their lives. R.I.P.

From The New Republic: ‘The U.S. Is Accidentally Pushing Kurdistan Toward Independence From Iraq’

Full piece here.

Things are getting interesting:

 The Kurdistan Regional Government’s efforts to export its own oil, against the wishes of the Iraqi and U.S. governments, saw a significant achievement last week: Reuters reported Thursday that a tanker carrying more that $100 million of crude oil was headed for Galveston, Texas.  But just days later, on Monday night, a U.S. judge sided with an Iraqi Oil Ministry complaint that the KRG had ‘misappropriated’ the one million barrels, and she ordered their seizure.’

If you’re Kurdish, I imagine after taking Erbil, you want to take further steps one at a time. America has a big stake in a stable enough Iraq to limit ISIS/ISIL, and coalitions that can keep the peace, as well as obligations to the Turkish government and others. Kurdish independence relies upon the continued disintegration of the nation-state of Iraq as we know it (it may be too late), and the disruption of Kurdish populations in highly militarized southeastern Turkey, chaotic Syria, and in Northwestern Iran.

Any reasonably interested observer wants to ensure that Kurdish fighting forces and Kurdish authorities are people we can do business with, not engaging in the kinds of sectarianism, tribalism and retribution so common in Iraq should they gain more autonomy, oil revenue and power.  As of now, the Kurdish portions of Iraq tend to be the most safe, taking in those fleeing the chaos unleashed.

See Also:  Dexter Filkins ‘From Kurdistan To New York’

During Christopher Hitchens’ 2009 appearance on Australia’s Q & A, he wore a Kurdish flag pin in solidarity and fielded a question from a Kurd (starts at minute 1:30…mentioned as the rest of the debate may be worth your time):

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Independent Kurdistan-A Good Outcome For American Interests?

In his book Where The West Ends, Totten describes visiting Northern Iraq briefly as a tourist with a friend, and the general feeling of pro-Americanism in Kurdish Northern Iraq that generally one can only feel in Poland, parts of the former Yugoslavia etc.

Related On This Site: Longer odds, lots of risk: Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest’s Via Media: “The Rise Of Independent Kurdistan?”From Reuters: ‘Analysis: Syrian Kurds Sense Freedom, Power Struggle Awaits’

Michael Dirda At The Washington Post-Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Son

Full post here.

Dirda reviews this biography of Julian Hawthorne.

Did you know Hawthorne had a son who wrote for Hearst and rubbed shoulders with Twain?:

‘Over the course of his long life, Julian Hawthorne seems to have met every major literary and public figure of his time. As a child, he sometimes listened in as his father conversed with Emerson, Thoreau and Melville. At birthday parties, he played games with little Louisa May Alcott.’

Also from Michael Dirda, check out his visit to ‘Mencken Day’ in Baltimore:

‘We stayed for the afternoon talk-in which Richard Schrader revealed how slanted and inaccurate Mencken’s account of the Scopes evolution trial had been…’

The business of monkeys…

I’m often returned to the simple pleasures of bookishness while reading Dirda.

From a previous piece at the Times Literary Supplement (subscription required):

“As a student of his native literature, Mencken favours writers with the authentic American yawp – Walt Whitman and Mark Twain, the humorists George Ade and Ring Lardner. Huckleberry Finn is the novel he loves most (followed, somewhat surprisingly, by Joseph Conrad’s Lord Jim). He judges Emerson to be overrated – “an importer of stale German elixirs, sometimes direct and sometimes through the Carlylean branch house”. He can’t bear the circumlocutions of Henry James and the gentility of William Dean Howells”

See Also: How To Study Literature: M.H. Abrams In The Chronicle Of Higher Ed

Elixirs and ideas Roger Scruton At The New Atlantis: ‘Scientism In The Arts & Humanities’ From Scientific Blogging: ‘The Humanities Are In Crisis-Science Is Not’ Repost-Adam Kirsch At The New Republic: ‘Art Over Biology’…Repost-Stanley Fish At The NY Times Blog: ‘The Last Professors: The Corporate Professors And The Fate Of The Humanities’

Menand wonders in his new book, why it often can take 9 years for a humanities PhD to get their doctorate.  He suggests part of the answer lies in the numbers:  fewer opportunities and fewer university programs since 1970.  Overtrained and underpaid.

Two Links From The American Interest & It’s Willer Time

Adam Garfinkle (as of July 11th) at the American Interest on ISIS/ISIL, the Kurds, the Iranian regime (the U.S. position can’t allow deliverable nukes for Iran, the Iranian regime is by hook or by crook aiming for deliverable nukes):

‘Do not go soft in the P5+1 negotiations, do not erode the sanctions regime further, and be prepared to build it back up if Iranian behavior warrants; keep repeating the determination that Iran will not have nuclear weapons and that all options remain on the table to prevent it; prepare multi-level economic warfare plans short of kinetic strikes, not to exclude naval blockades; intercept Iranian arms shipments to insurgents in the region and, perhaps, once unloaded, sink the ships; reveal Assad’s chemical weapons declaration to have been bogus; quickly and significantly aid the FSA to do real harm to Iran’s Alawi allies in Damascus; and, above all, use the current ISIS crisis to harm Iran for the longer term.’

This blog is generally sympathetic to Kurdish aims, but in the wake of Iraq we have other interests to balance: Independent Kurdistan-A Good Outcome For American Interests? Longer odds, lots of risk: Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest’s Via Media: “The Rise Of Independent Kurdistan?”From Reuters: ‘Analysis: Syrian Kurds Sense Freedom, Power Struggle Awaits’

Four More Months-The White House & The Iranian Regime

Walter Russell Mead is not happy with the media’s investment in a certain narrative: ‘As Libya Implodes, “Smart Diplomacy” Becoming A Punch Line:

‘But luckily for Team Obama, the mainstream press would rather die than subject liberal Democrats to the critiques it reserves for the GOP. So instead, as Libya writhes in agony, reputations and careers move on. The news is so bad, and the President’s foreign policy is collapsing on so many fronts, that it is impossible to keep the story off the front pages.’

And now for something to wash all that down.  Pretty much unrelated.

It’s Willer Time:

Repost-Roger Scruton In The American Spectator: The New Humanism

Full post here.

Perhaps Scruton is just being nostalgic for what he describes as the old humanism:

“There is no need for God, they thought, in order to live with a vision of the higher life. All the values that had been appropriated by the Christian churches are available to the humanist too.”

And he laments the new humanism, which lacks the noblility of purpose of the old, and offers nothing positive:

Instead of idealizing man, the new humanism denigrates God and attacks the belief in God as a human weakness”

Scruton suggests Richard Dawkins to be an example of the new humanists.  Also, an interesting quote:

“Having shaken off their shackles and discovered that they have not obtained contentment, human beings have a lamentable tendency to believe that they are victims of some alien force, be it aristocracy, the bourgeoisie, capitalism, the priesthood, or simply the belief in God. And the feeling arises that they need only destroy this alien force, and happiness will be served up on a plate, in a garden of pleasures. That, in my view, is why the Enlightenment, which promised the reign of freedom and justice, issued in an unending series of wars”

The Garden Of Eden? What about the unitarian universalists?

See also on this site:  Similar topics from Britain:    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’

Four More Months-The White House & The Iranian Regime

Secretary Of State John Kerry has announced a four month extension of the initial preliminary talks with Iran, stretching them until November 24th:

Claudia Rosett is unhappy with language coming from the White House, worried that we’ve already legitimized too much.

It’s tough to see what happens in the next four months that hasn’t happened already:

The phrase is absurd. Iran’s nuclear program is manifestly not about peace. If it were, there would have been no need for Iran’s collaboration with Pakistan’s A.Q. Khan nuclear network, no need for secretly built Iranian enrichment facilities, no need for Iran’s years of maneuvering under sanctions, no need for Iran’s work on long-range missiles to deliver nuclear weapons, no need for the whole vast elaborate web of deceits and dodges and ploys with which Iran has built its nuclear program. There would be no need now for months and months of multi-tiered haggling in Vienna with the U.S., Britain, France and Germany (and, nominally, with China and Russia — which have managed the trick of both supplying materiel to Iran’s nuclear program, and bargaining over the results). There would be no need for secrecy. There would be no need for any more Iranian nuclear program going forward. Iran’s regime could dismantle its entire nuclear kit, and amuse itself with developing the country’s vast wealth of oil and gas.’

Click through for more.

It’s hard to see from here how the divide gets bridged:  An Iran which sees nuclear enrichment and weapons as a right, a big stick, and a matter of national destiny, and a U.S. that sees an Iran with nuclear weapons as fundamentally unacceptable.

In Iran, you’ve got a theocratic, repressive regime which sponsors terrorism far beyond its borders, props up Assad and runs guns to Hamas and various others. This is a deep State largely controlled by an Islamic revolutionary security apparatus which squelches domestic political opposition, spies on its citizens, and has been known to murder and jail dissenters and opponents. There are some democratic elements, journalists, and many business interests in Iranian society, of course, bumping up against the Baseej, the Supreme Leader and the theocracy, but they don’t have too much control over their country.

It was argued that with newly elected Hassan Rouhani as President, this was the best chance for something to happen.

By and large, we’re out on a limb with a crafty, authoritarian regime at the end of the day, generally not to be taken at its word most of the time but which probably acts in what can be recognized as rational ways (aiming for regional domination and nuclear weapons as a matter of national destiny, for starters).

I keep putting this quote up from this piece over at the Atlantic: From The Atlantic: Samuel Huntington’s Death And Life’s Work

“Although the professional soldier accepts the reality of never-ending and limited conflict, “the liberal tendency,” Huntington explained, is “to absolutize and dichotomize war and peace.” Liberals will most readily support a war if they can turn it into a crusade for advancing humanistic ideals. That is why, he wrote, liberals seek to reduce the defense budget even as they periodically demand an adventurous foreign policy.”

What about an unadventurous foreign policy, but still very risky nonetheless?

-Dexter Filkins on Iran here.

-Scowcroft and Brzezinski may be offering plans: ‘George Shultz & Henry Kissinger At The Hoover Institution: ‘What A Final Iran Deal Must Do’

Which Ideas Are Guiding Our Foreign Policy With Iran.’ Some Saturday Links On Iran-Peace At What Price?

Israel, Iran, & Peace: Andrew Sullivan Responds To Charges Of Potential Anti-Semitism

A Defense Of Capitalism, Moving Away From Deconstruction & Questioning The Idea Of All That Progress-Some Links

Via Bloggingheads-Will Wilkinson & Jason Brennan Of Georgetown University discuss Brennan’s new book: ‘Why Not Capitalism?’

A radio interview with Brennan here at Libertarianism.org.

Some arguments against idealized and practical socialism.  The kids probably need to hear this kind of thing nowadays.

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Via The American Mind Series at Claremont McKenna CollegeHeather McDonald, a fellow the Manhattan Institute, discusses her movement away from Deconstruction at Yale, Jacques Derrida, and her time as a clerk for a judge on the 9th Circuit:

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This Jack Balkin paper on Deconstruction is interesting.

See: Heather McDonald At The WSJ: ‘ The Humanities Have Forgotten Their Humanity’Monday Quotation From Charles Kesler And A Few Thoughts on Conservatism

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Via a reader: Edward Feser’s review of John Gray’s ‘The Silence Of Animals.’  It is rather unfavorable, and for my part, may highlight a divide between the act of writing and reading as a particular use of the creative imagination versus that of the more sustained reasoning required of philosophical debate.

Needless to say, Gray’s rather nihilistic approach casts doubt upon much of the modern project, religious claims to moral authority, the new humanism and many common assumptions of progress and the products of reason as well.

Here he is in his own words:

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Related On This Site:  From The NY Times Book Review-Thomas Nagel On John Gray’s New ‘Silence Of Animals’From Darwinian Conservatism: ‘The Evolution of Mind and Mathematics: Dehaene Versus Plantinga and Nagel’

From Edward Feser: ‘Nagel And His Critics Part IV’A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

John Gray Reviews Jonathan Haidt’s New Book At The New Republic: ‘The Knowns And The Unknowns’

Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

What about black people held in bondage by the laws..the liberation theology of Rev Wright…the progressive vision and the folks over at the Nation gathered piously around John Brown’s body?: Milton Friedman Via Youtube: ‘Responsibility To The Poor’……Robert George And Cornel West At Bloggingheads: “The Scandal Of The Cross”

See:Repost-Classical Liberalism Via Friesian.Com-’Exchange with Tomaz Castello Branco on John Gray’…John Gray At The Literary Review Takes A Look At A New Book On Michael Oakeshott: ‘Last Of The Idealists’

So, No Reset Then?-A Saturday Link

Putin announced the re-opening of an old base in Cuba, where the rotten Communist regime keeps chugging along, its people still immiserated.

Of course, Putin is an old KGB guy, who learned a lot of tricks on how to keep power in the waning days of the Soviet empire.  More recently, he’s been aggressively carving-up old satellites when it suits Moscow’s interests, as in Georgia and Ukraine, playing off of Russian ethno-nationalist sentiment and the fear and pride of lost empire as much as he can.

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.’

Vladimir Putin

No, there may not be a brilliant long-game at work, and yes, there’s always a ‘seed of aggression’ when you’re dealing with Moscow, especially Putin. I’d say many Americans (too many in the media) are choosing to see the world through current rose-colored glasses of vague, one-world liberalization and democracy for all (Guantanamo, for all its faults, is probably a more pressing issue for the current administration when it comes to Cuba, which says a lot).

A harsher, more realist turn could serve us well right now. We need strategy: to be fluid and clever, while building alliances and recognizing interests and promoting them to contain these kinds of shenanigans.

More here:

‘After Putin visited Cuba on Friday, the Kremlin press service said the president had forgiven 90% of Cuba’s unpaid Soviet-era debts, which totalled $32bn (£18.6bn) – a concession that now appears to be tied to the agreement to reopen the base’

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Maybe we could bring-in Rocky for some consultation, you know, just to have him around:

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Some related links on this site:

Michael Totten At World Affairs: ‘The Once Great Havana’

Michael Moynihan reviewed Michael Moore’s ‘Sicko’ which praised the Cuban Health Care System.

Vladimir just wants to be friends, America: Remember that appeal in NY Times?

***Bonus-Putin and Bush’s love affair in a GAZ M-21 Volga caught on tape.  Putin sends Medvedev out to keep the flame alive with Obama on missile defense.

Are we headed toward 19th century geo-politics? I get a sorely needed refresher on the Cold War:  Obama’s Decision On Missile Defense And A Quote From Robert Kagan’s: ‘The Return Of History And The End Of Dreams’

A Concrete Wonderland In D.C.

From Buzzfeed:  The 7 Ugliest Government Buildings In Washington D.C. (Via Althouse)

The author of that post fired for plagiarism.  Let’s hope those are real photos!

The modern art that’s often been left to roam the lobbies and courtyards of large bureaucracies is often curiously bad, and some is on display at the link.

A reader sends a link to a bad public art blog.

Perhaps you’ve caught a glimpse of the strangely familiar in a favorite work of art; being moved deeply, comforted, given some pleasure, frightened. Maybe for a moment some deeper truth seemed to reveal itself to you, and you were free to follow it for awhile, wherever it lead, along some thread of intuition.

Now, why would you want to do that in the lobby of the Department Of Housing & Urban Development?

We should be comforted when corporate/bureaucratic art is bland, bad, and uncommunicative.  After all, do you think you’d trust a bank more or less if it had a shocking modern/pop art sculpture in the lobby?

More broadly, sometimes I worry about the attempt to seek collective purpose and postmodern meaning in modern art, music and even cartoons etc. The flirtations with nihilism can encourage more desperate collectivist/ideological impulses to fill the void. The excesses are many.

As for a critique of Albany Plaza, another modernist/bureaucratic concrete wonderland, here’s Robert Hughes:

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Some snippets of previous posts:

James Lileks responds to an Atlantic piece which reflects upon the modernist influence.  From the Atlantic piece.

‘At their best, the Schiffs can be models for renewing the unquenched aspiration of a century ago, to place art and its imaginative demands at the center of an effort to build a more humane future’

Humane.  Human.  Human rights.  Make it new.  Break with the past.  Shape man’s destiny upon new foundations of knowledge, explore new possibilities, and perhaps shape men themselves.

Why, there’s a whole philosophy under there.  Not a religion necessarily, and not always moral claims to knowledge, but a whole framework nonetheless.

Well, some of it, anyways.

A previous head of the Social Security Administration was also a pretty good poet.

See Also On This Site:  Trying to stick something against his poems: Wednesday Poem: Wallace Stevens-Anecdote of The JarWednesday Poem: Wallace Stevens, The Snow ManFriday Poem: Wallace Stevens And A Quote By David Hume

They designed a city in the heart of Brazil that really doesn’t work for people: Brasilia: A Planned City

No thanks to living in planned communities upon someone else’s overall vision.: Roger Scruton In The City Journal: Cities For Living–Is Modernism Dead?Repost-Via Reason: ‘Salvador Allende’s Cybersocialist Command Center’From 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’

A structure in the desert…not even a city Update On LACMA, Michael Heizer And The ‘Levitated Mass’-Modern Art And The Public;..where is modernism headed? Via Youtube: Justin, The Horse That Could Paint

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 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”

Labor & Time-Kevin Williamson At The National Review: ‘Planes, Trains & The Internet’

Full piece here

Williamson suggests we should look to Helsinki, Finland, at least when it comes to technology and transportation:

‘Notably, the Helsinki model would end some transportation monopolies (the rail service would no longer have a monopoly on ticket sales, for instance) and would rely on competition among private providers to match resources with consumer demand.’

The larger principle he uses to get there:

‘American progressives love railroads and hate cars, and that is not without a political dimension: Railroads tell you where to go, which is very appealing if you see society as one big factory to be subjected to (your) expert management. And that’s really the basic question of liberalism in the better, classical sense of that word: Is the state here to tell you where to go, or is it here to help you get where you are going? And how to get there?

If you believe that you have a right to your own labor, and that your time is your labor, then why would you need a large, unresponsive, oft politicized monopoly deciding how much time you spend in transit now that technology is making other options available?

One appeal of the libertarian argument is simple: Don’t you want to pay less for a ride when you can?

Another appeal is also pretty simple if you believe in the above: Free citizens need to put the moral justification back onto the current laws, political players, and monopolies from time to time, forcing them to justify their involvement in our lives and in the markets. After all, beneath lofty ideals gather real interests seeking to bend the laws towards their own ends, and with a lot of self-interest besides.

Incentives matter, and while I’m guessing safety and public safety guide a lot of moral justification by local governments, and which a lot of citizens generally support, it’s necessary to do some house-cleaning now and again.

Airlines are partially de-regulated as Williamson points out (more responsive to consumer demand these days, so flying is much cheaper and more accessible and thus probably more like taking a Greyhound), but not all the way de-regulated.  Yet, where is the money going again exactly?  Who’s doing what and how much are they getting paid? Aren’t these regulations creating dead zones where technological innovation lags?

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On that note, one of the main arguments behind the push to pass Obamacare was the idea that you don’t own a right to your own labor nor time enough to prevent the socialization of that labor when it comes to health-care:  It’s no mere commodity nor economic exchange. You will have a tax/penalty levied and part of your tax dollars will now go to a centralized, redistributionist, oft politicized set of experts and enforcers promising to make sure everyone gets health-care on some level (ignoring many of the structural problems at the VA and various other incentives that prevent responsiveness at other bureaucracies).

Unsurprisingly, this hasn’t exactly worked as advertised so far, with a lot more bumpy road likely to come.

The Scandinavian welfare-state was held-up as a model by many progressives for Obamacare, so Williamson does try and justify his use of Helsinki as a model for deregulation here in the U.S.:

‘Imagine trying to implement such a thing in New York City or California — imagine the union friction alone — and you’ll have a pretty good indicator of why European-style policies are unlikely to produce European-style results in the United States. It is not as though Helsinki is a free-market, limited-government utopia — far from it. But on the liberty–statism spectrum, it matters not only where you are but in which direction you are moving — and why.’

Intentions matter as much as actions?

On the statism/liberty axis, I’m guessing many progressives believe that we need more Statism in order to secure more liberty, but from the libertarian perspective, such a definition of liberty is so utopian and idealistic/ideological that it can never be reached, only promised and over-promised. Many progressives also likely believe their intentions are pure enough for government work and during the last two Presidential elections, it seems a fair number of Americans agreed with them for a time.