An Old-School Democrat Defending The Old-School American Ethos-What About California?

From a reader:

John O’Sullivan At The American Conservative revisited Samuel Huntington’s Who Are We’?:


‘The first effect of these attacks—and the controversy they generated—was to make people want to read the book. (At the National Airport bookshop where I bought it, I got their last copy a day after publication.) But the book they bought was very different from the article that had prompted them to buy it. It is about much more than immigration. It is a comprehensive analysis of the threats that are undermining America’s common culture and sense of itself. As such, it analyses virtually every major skirmish in the cultural wars of the last 40 years. And it analyzes them from a distinctly conservative standpoint.

Huntington is, of course, very far from being a “movement conservative,” or even a neoconservative, let alone a paleoconservative. He is a Democrat for starters, and he gave the New York Times interviewer a bad fit of cognitive dissonance by telling her that he opposed the war in Iraq and intended to vote for John Kerry. Yet almost 50 years ago, in an article in the American Political Science Review, he advanced what still remains the single best definition of conservatism: namely, that it is the set of ideas that men adopt in defense of their social and political institutions when they come under fundamental attack. Huntington believes that America’s national identity and the social and political institutions and traditions that sustain it are under fundamental attack. His book is a conservative defense of them.’

Marxists tend to see ‘ideologues’ everywhere…

O’Sullivan again (addition: bringing up Louis Menand…who’s pretty obviously not a Marxist):

‘Or here is Louis Menand in The New Yorker:

    ‘… it is absurd to say that [multiculturalism] is anti-Western. Its roots, as Charles Taylor and many other writers have shown, are in the classic texts of Western literature and philosophy.’

Has Menand never heard of Marx? The German social philosopher is undoubtedly a major figure in the Western tradition of literature and philosophy—few more so. Yet there is no doubt either that his major works are anti-Western. They seek to undermine Western society and to replace it with something fundamentally different—and from all the evidence of experiments in Marxism, something a great deal worse. If it finally succeeds in replacing America’s traditional national identity, multiculturalism seems likely to be a great deal worse too.’

Well, I suspect many on the Left prefer to draw their own lines between themselves and more center ward liberals (often loathing neo-liberalism but often resigning themselves to it nonetheless come election time).

Did Huntington use the data accurately and correctly reason his way to witness a diminishing national American character?

Goodbye, fiscally sound, Anglo-Protestant melting-pot?

Hello, more indebted, multicultural wonderland?

On that note, there’s been a lot of talk about the Golden State.

What those well-educated, intellectual types are thinking about can really matter…

As previously posted:

Louis Menand’s piece at the New Yorker: ‘Out Of Bethlehem:‘ (he’s still dealing with the idea of multiculturalism).

The radicalization of Joan Didion:

‘After the Old Sacramento moment, Didion came to see the whole pioneer mystique as bogus from the start. The cultivation of California was not the act of rugged pioneers, she decided. It was the act of the federal government, which built the dams and the weirs and the railroads that made the state economically exploitable, public money spent on behalf of private business. Didion called it “the subsidized monopolization” of the state.’

Perhaps too many people have been watching ‘Chinatown‘ and ‘There Will Be Blood,‘ but Menand’s piece highlights one potential writer’s turn from certain Western ideas to other Western ideas:  Multiculturalism, cultural relativism, a nod to ‘cultural hegemony,’ and the buy-in to European colonial oppression.

California, if you’ll pardon the crudeness, was always full of dreamers, nuts, fruits and more than a few flakes, but this has also allowed it to dream big.  Perhaps I’m wrong, but I’m reminded of a fundamental change I think happened during the Boomer generation, here represented by Tom Wolfe, referring to Californians in this piece by Michael Anton:

‘Noyce was like a great many bright young men and women from Dissenting Protestant families in the Middle West after the Second World War. They had been raised as Baptists, Methodists, Congregationalists, Presbyterians, United Brethren, whatever. They had been led through the Church door and prodded toward religion, but it had never come alive for them. Sundays made their skulls feel like dried-out husks. So they slowly walked away from the church and silently, without so much as a growl of rebellion, congratulated themselves on their independence of mind and headed into another way of life. Only decades later, in most cases, would they discover how, absentmindedly, inexplicably, they had brought the old ways along for the journey nonetheless. It was as if . . . through some extraordinary mistake . . . they had been sewn into the linings of their coats!

I suppose we’ll see.

(addition: another conservative Democrat)

Victor Davis Hanson 

‘Soon, even the Stanford professor and the La Jolla administrator may learn that illegal immigration, cumbersome regulations, and the terrible elementary schools affect them as well.

The four-part solution for California is clear:  don’t raise the state’s crushing taxes any higher; reform public-employee compensation:  make use of ample natural resources: and stop the flow of illegal aliens. Just focus on those four areas-as California did so well in the past-and in time, the state will return to its bounty of a few decades ago.  Many of us intend to stay and see that it does’

(another addition): Predictions are hard, especially about the future

Hearst Castle 4 by Bill Kuffrey

Hearst Castle 4 by Bill Kuffrey


-A link for Michael Lewis’ article about California politics, public pensions and Schwarzenegger’s time in office.

Related On This Site:  Victor Davis Hanson Via Youtube Via Uncommon Knowledge: ‘The New Old World Order’Victor Davis Hanson At The City Journal: ‘California, Here We Stay’

Dream big: Via Reason: ‘California’s Public Transportation Sinkhole’ A great city deserves great art extravaganzas…: L.A.’s New Public Art Piece ‘The Levitated Mass,’ Or As The American Interest Puts It: ‘A Moving Rock’

Richard Epstein At The Hoover Institution’s Defining Ideas: ‘California’s Kafkaesque Rent Control Laws’

California Dreamers From The Atlantic-A Brief Review Of Kevin Starr’s History Of California

The people who promise solutions to poverty and homelessness seem to be engaged in a utopian cost-shifting exercise which favors their interests and overlooks crime, violence and personal responsbility…hardly a way to balance the budget: Repost-Heather MacDonald At The City Journal: ‘The Sidewalks Of San Francisco’

Some concentrated wealth on top, a stalled legislature with members who know how to play the game…and a service sector beneath…that probably can’t go on forever: …From The WSJ: ‘Joel Kotkin: The Great California Exodus’

‘Don’t Fire Until You See The Whites Of Their Eyes’-Some Links

Apparently, there’s not enough room on the ‘arc of history:’

‘White House Does Admit It Did Return Churchill Bust To England.’

Niall Ferguson at The Boston Globe: ‘Alexander And Charles’

A short article about Britain, the EU,  Brexit, America, ‘Hamilton,’ etc.


‘So 2016 is not about to be Britain’s 1776, nor will anyone emerge as the Alexander Hamilton of Brexit. Pronounce that ugly little neologism however you like, but for heaven’s sake — in the immortal words of Astaire and Rogers — “let’s call the whole thing off.”

Victor Davis Hanson gets a little more sentimental- ‘Setting The Record Straight On Britain, America and WWII:’

‘Britain helped America in World War II as much America did Britain. We should keep that contribution in mind in speaking softly and preserving our long and mutually advantageous partnership.’

Let’s turn that sentiment up to 11!

Henry Fairlie At the New Republic-‘Why I Love America:’

‘In praise of gadgets, manners, women, and freedom

I had reported from some twenty-four countries before I set foot in America. I will never forget the first shock—even after having been in every country from the Sudan to South Africa—at realizing that I was in another place entirely, a New World. In the casbah of Algiers during the first referendum called by de Gaulle in 1959, when the women hurrying down the steep streets to vote for the first time pulled their yashmaks around their faces as they passed a man (which seemed to me only to make their dark eyes more fascinating), I was still in the Old World, however strange it was. But here in America it was all new.’

A quote by a very influential Englishman, continually worth putting up:

“First, if any opinion is compelled to silence, that opinion may, for aught we can certainly know, be true. To deny this is to assume our own infallibility.’

‘Secondly, though the silenced opinion be an error, it may, and very commonly does, contain a portion of truth; and since the general or prevailing opinion on any subject is rarely or never the whole truth, it is only by the collision of adverse opinions that the remainder of the truth has any chance of being supplied. ‘

‘Thirdly, even if the received opinion be not only true, but the whole truth; unless it is suffered to be, and actually is, vigorously and earnestly contested, it will, by most of those who receive it, be held in the manner of a prejudice, with little comprehension or feeling of its rational grounds. ‘

And not only this, but, fourthly, the meaning of the doctrine itself will be in danger of being lost, or enfeebled, and deprived of its vital effect on the character and conduct: the dogma becoming a mere formal profession, inefficacious for good, but cumbering the ground, and preventing the growth of any real and heartfelt conviction, from reason or personal experience.”

Thanks again…

-John Stuart Mill ‘On Liberty: Chapter II-Of The Liberty Of Thought And Discussion’

***From a reader: Now I know who Ronnie Pickering is.

A Quote By S. Korner On Kant

For a philosophical friend, with similar doubts:

“Space, it follows from the Kantian analysis is empirically real; that is to say, it is real ‘with respect to everything which can be given to us as an external object’.  It is also transcendentally ideal; which means, in Kantian nomenclature, that ‘ with respect to things…considered in themselves ‘ space is not real.  Time, too, in which all perceptions are situated, is empirically real, that is to say it is real ‘with respect to all objects which could ever be given to our senses; and it is transcendentally ideal.  ‘Once we abstract from the subjective conditions of perception it is noting at all and cannot be attributed to the things is themselves.”

S. Korner ‘Kant’ Pg 39 Pelican Books 1955.

So, why follow Kant out to such a limb…on his mission to put metaphysics on a more sure footing (when even greater minds can’t put the epistemology of mathematics on such a sure footing, though mathematics is an a priori and synthetic form of reasoning ((by Kant’s analysis)) and Kant’s metaphysics doesn’t even reach that standard)?

I am stuck with the contradiction of saying that objects are really there, and exist as I perceive them by my senses and by my reasoning…. but then also saying that I can not ever know them as they really are, and may never be able to know them.

Why should these be the limits by which I pursue knowledge?

Also On This Site:  A Few Responses To Kant’s Transcendental IdealismLink To An Ayn Rand Paper: The Objectivist Attack On KantA Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

The Taliban, Neo-Liberals, And Neo-Cons-A Few Links

James Bowman at The New Criterion: ‘Singing Those Ne0-Liberal Blues’

This time it’ll be different:

‘Presumably, New York Times readers are unaware that, in Paris, protest movements are always awakening, most of them, like the current one, composed of economically illiterate students reacting against left-wing governments which, having been mugged by reality, periodically make desperate but ultimately futile attempts to undo some of the economic damage caused by themselves or by previous left-wing governments.’

Let there be puppets!

So, on the other side, this time it’ll be different?:

Daniel Larison at The American Conservative on the speculation from some liberal centrists that some neo-cons have cause to join…liberal centrists: ‘Will The Neoconservatives Abandon The GOP?’:

‘Even if the party’s current policy elites stay right where they are, the GOP still isn’t going to be a “party of ideas” until it starts adapting its policy agenda to address contemporary problems.’

Reality is still there to do the mugging, I’m guessing:  IS, Hamas, Hizbollah, Al Qaeda, Wahhabis and Saudi money, Boko Haram, The Taliban, the Mullahs, Putin, Chinese authorities pursuing Chinese interests quite logically….will do enough mugging, perhaps.

Speaking of the Taliban:

Dexter Filkins at The New Yorker: ‘Not Even Kabul Is Safe From The Taliban:’

‘Now Kabul increasingly resembles the rest of Afghanistan. With the attack that unfolded on Tuesday, the Taliban demonstrated, among other things, how easy it has become for them to get inside the city. The building that was struck was run by the N.D.S., which oversees much of the security in the capital. As a result of the recent increase in violence, the mood in Kabul has changed dramatically. All those restaurants, as well as the Gandamack, are closed; the Taverna du Liban was destroyed in a suicide attack. In their place are checkpoints and blast walls.’

Here we are…

As previously posted:

Here’s a documentary on the Green Berets passed along by a reader, which has good footage of what American special forces are being asked to do in Afghanistan: The fierce fighting. The tribal, poor and divided loyalties of what come to be Afghan forces. The thuggish tactics of the Taliban:


******From a previous post, if you’re interested:

3. Neoconservatives–Often coming from backgrounds of academic social science, chased away from the New Left and ‘mugged by reality’, Kesler’s neoconservatives would include Norman Podhoretz, Jeanne Kirkpatrick, and James Q. Wilson.  On Kesler’s view, they come to distrust ideology, rationalist political theory and have been persuaded by the fact/value distinction. Doubts are bred from within the social sciences and political sciences about how one can be sure of what one knows, especially when that knowledge becomes a source for public policy and a way for a few people to run the lives of many others.

From The American Interest Online: Francis Fukuyama On Samuel Huntington….is neoconservative foreign policy defunct…sleeping…how does a neoconservatism more comfortable with liberalism here at home translate into foreign policy?: Wilfred McClay At First Things: ‘The Enduring Irving Kristol’

Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’…Thursday Quotation: Jeane Kirkpatrick – J.S. Mill…

From March 27th, 2009 At WhiteHouse.Gov: Remarks By The President On A New Strategy For Afghanistan And PakistanStephen Biddle At Foreign Affairs: ‘Running Out Of Time For Afghan Governance Reform’

Repost-From Michael Yon: ‘The Battle For Kandahar’Dexter Filkins Book On Afghanistan And Iraq: “The Forever War”Monday Quotations-Henry KissingerTom Ricks Via Foreign Policy: ‘American General Dies In Afghanistan; An American Lt. Col. Goes Off The Reservation

Pauline Baker At The American Interest: ‘Unraveling Afghanistan’

A Few Serious, Assorted Links

All via David Thompson:  The Most Exclusive Website In The World

Tests for your musical ability at Tonometric, and your color vision here.

As previously posted-This blog stays on the cutting edge, the cusp of the culture, the hot molten core and the birth of the new.

Anything is possible.

Distance to Mars.  It’s pretty far.

The Afterlife keeps coming up as one of the worst interwebs designs ever.  A MIDI version of Bryan Adams “Heaven” will guide you towards salvation.

This is starting to remind me of Jeff Koons’ kitsch and marketing, high and low, fleshed out in pieces like Michael Jackson And BubblesWinter Bears and ‘St John The Baptist’.

Modern Art by gps1941.

Photo found here…gps1941 photostream here. More on the original St. John The Baptist here.

A Reaction To Jeff Koons-For Commerce Or Contemplation?

Ken Minogue At The New Criterion: ‘Christophobia’ and the West’

Full piece here.

There’s something almost religious about the way some people go about pursuing their non-religious ideas.

Minogue framed it thusly:

‘Olympianism is the characteristic belief system of today’s secularist, and it has itself many of the features of a religion. For one thing, the fusion of political conviction and moral superiority into a single package resembles the way in which religions (outside liberal states) constitute comprehensive ways of life supplying all that is necessary (in the eyes of believers) for salvation. Again, the religions with which we are familiar are monotheistic and refer everything to a single center. In traditional religions, this is usually God; with Olympianism, it is society, understood ultimately as including the whole of humanity. And Olympianism, like many religions, is keen to proselytize. Its characteristic mode of missionary activity is journalism and the media.’


‘Progress, Communism, and Olympianism: these are three versions of the grand Western project. The first rumbles along in the background of our thought, the second is obviously a complete failure, but Olympianism is not only alive but a positively vibrant force in the way we think now. Above all, it determines the Western moral posture towards the rest of the world. It affirms democracy as an ideal, but carefully manipulates attitudes in a nervous attempt to control opinions hostile to Olympianism, such as beliefs in capital or corporal punishment, racial, and other forms of prejudice, national self-assertion—and indeed, religion

As previously posted, Minogue discussed ideology (Marxist ideology in particular), and modern promises of radical and revolutionary freedom:  To go deeper and replace Science and Religion, Economics and Politics, on the way to some knowable end-point to human affairs.


As previously posted:

Perhaps the flip-side to liberal secular humanist faith is a lack of faith.  Surely some deep, liberal thinker out there has become thoroughly convinced that people are no good, after all, and can’t be trusted with their freedoms apart from his/her thinking or ideological commitments. Perhaps there’s a secular humanist political leader somewhere thoroughly sick of humanity for the time being, simply accruing more political power and influence because they can.

As far as satire or mockery goes, they would be just as worthy, no?

Recently, British popular thinker Alain De Botton floated the idea of building an ‘atheist temple’ in the heart of London.  He recommends combing through religious practices for useful organizing principles in response to the New Atheists.  You can read more about it here, which includes a radio interview/podcast.

Did the Unitarian Universalists get there first, with a mishmash of faith and secular humanism?

Towards a theme: Perhaps you’ve also heard of the Rothko chapel, in Houston, Texas:

‘The Rothko Chapel, founded by Houston philanthropists John and Dominique de Menil, was dedicated in 1971 as an intimate sanctuary available to people of every belief. A tranquil meditative environment inspired by the mural canvases of Russian born American painter Mark Rothko (1903-1970), the Chapel welcomes over 60,000 visitors each year, people of every faith and from all parts of the world.’

There’s even a suite of music by Morton Feldman, entitled ‘Rothko Chapel’


RelatedA definition of humanism:

“‘…a morally concerned style of intellectual atheism openly avowed by only a small minority of individuals (for example, those who are members of the British Humanist Association) but tacitly accepted by a wide spectrum of educated people in all parts of the Western world.”

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

Related On This SiteFrom Darwinian Conservatism: ‘The Evolution of Mind and Mathematics: Dehaene Versus Plantinga and Nagel’

Sunday Quotation: Edmund Burke On The French Revolution

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

Roger Scruton In The American Spectator: The New Humanism…From Nigel Warburton’s Site: A Definition of Humanism?…From The City Journal Via Arts And Letters Daily: Andre Glucksman On “The Postmodern Financial Crisis”

One way out of multiculturalism and cultural relativism:

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

Repost-Some Thoughts On Noam Chomsky Via The American Conservative: ‘American Anarchist’

Full post here.

Well, that’s probably anarcho-syndicalist or libertarian socialist.

Chomsky gave a talk which our author attended:

‘He then connected the libertarian socialist tradition to currents in American thought, quoting the philosopher John Dewey as saying that “Power today resides in control of the means of production, exchange, communication and transportation … workers should be the masters of their individual fates.” To Chomsky, “Dewey was American as apple pie.”

He contrasted Dewey’s critique of power with the ideals of the liberal/progressive tradition in the United States, noting that many of its leading lights, including Walter Lippmann, Samuel Huntington, and Woodrow Wilson, held extremely dim views of the majority of people, considering them dangerous, ignorant, and in need of control. Despite the historical tendency of elite groups of “ecclesiastical guardians,” like liberal technocrats or the Iranian Guardian Council to which he compared them, to seek control over society, he saw continued resistance. He finished his remarks on an optimistic note by pointing out that the anarchist critics of power are always recurring—during the English Civil War a “rabble” appeared that didn’t want to be ruled by either the king or Parliament—and that anarchism is like Marx’s old mole: always near the surface.’

I suspect the anarchy is an improvement over more radical Leftism/Socialism.

Also On This Site: Trying to understand the deeper debate: Via Youtube: (1 of 3) Kant, Chomsky and the Problem of KnowledgeSome Sunday Quotations: (On) Kant, Locke, and Pierce

Albert Jay Nock, a strange animal:  Philosophical anarchist…but one whose anti-statism (the State maintains a monopoly on crime) is such that he ends up just stepping back and recognizing his own ignorance.

How many libertarians are fundamentally anti-theist…and would some go so far as to embrace utilitarianism, or Mill’s Harm Principle both of which are often used as life-preservers by those on the progressive Left once the authoritarianism becomes apparent.

What about value pluralism…positive and negative liberty?: 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”

A reader points out that I’ve put forth no real arguments…but I at least get some schooling in the comments: The Politics Of Noam Chomsky-The Dangers Of Kantian Transcendental Idealism?

Martha Nussbaum criticizing Chomsky’s hubris in Martha Nussbaum In Dissent–Violence On The Left: Nandigram And The Communists Of West Bengal

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

Repost-Wednesday Poem By Seamus Heaney-R.I.P: ‘The Grauballe Man’

The Grauballe Man

As if he had been poured
in tar, he lies
on a pillow of turf
and seems to weep

the black river of himself.
The grain of his wrists
is like bog oak,
the ball of his heel

like a basalt egg.
His instep has shrunk
cold as a swan’s foot
or a wet swamp root.

His hips are the ridge
and purse of a mussel,
his spine an eel arrested
under a glisten of mud.

The head lifts,
the chin is a visor
raised above the vent
of his slashed throat

that has tanned and toughened.
The cured wound
opens inwards to a dark
elderberry place.

Who will say ‘corpse’
to his vivid cast?
Who will say ‘body’
to his opaque repose?

And his rusted hair,
a mat unlikely
as a foetus’s.
I first saw his twisted face

in a photograph,
a head and shoulder
out of the peat,
bruised like a forceps baby,

but now he lies
perfected in my memory,
down to the red horn
of his nails,

hung in the scales
with beauty and atrocity:
with the Dying Gaul
too strictly compassed

on his shield,
with the actual weight
of each hooded victim,
slashed and dumped.

Seamus Heaney

Digging through the past and digging at the thing, a body almost lovingly rendered, made alive on the tongue, looking inward and trying to look forward.

Wikipedia’s Grauballe Man page.

Negotiations With Iran-Are They Binding? What Next?

Michael Totten: ‘The Iranian Nuclear Deal Keeps Getting Worse:’

‘Deputy national security advisor Ben Rhodes acknowledges that Iran’s ballistic missile tests violate Security Council Resolution 2231, but not the JCPOA struck between the United States and Iran. “Iran has complied with the JCPOA,” he said at the Nuclear Security Summit when a reporter asked him if the ballistic missile tests violate the agreement.

So the United Nations now takes a harder line on Iran than the United States does.’

Comments are a little personal, but worth a read.

From the AP:

‘While the administration says it remains vehemently opposed to Iran’s missile tests and destabilizing activities throughout the Middle East, it insists the nuclear deal has made Iran less of a threat. The cost of walking away from the deal, U.S. officials maintain, will be even more destabilization and a graver threat.’

Well, administration officials would say that.  Full text of the negotiations here.

Dan Drezner back on January 5th:

It is still likely that the Iran deal will continue to be implemented. But it also seems increasingly likely that the negative externalities of negotiating the deal are rendering it far less significant in advancing the oxymoron that is “Middle East stability.”

Walter Russell Mead here:

‘…It was a mistake to separate the nuclear negotiations from Iran’s regional policy.  In some ways the chief destabilizing element in the Middle East is the rise of Iran and the fear this is causing among the Sunni Arab powers…especially now in alliance with Russia…’

…there needs to be a clear barrier to Russian and Iranian expansion in the Middle-East.’

As previously posted:

Aquarius Theory

The stakes are high, and the video below low, but I’ve been constantly criticized for suspecting there’s a lot less strategic realism and a lot more Western peace-idealism going on here than acknowledged.

The moon is in the 7th house…:

Previously on this site:

Henry Kissinger and Brent Scowcroft here, long before any dealing:

A good background and synopsis of American/Iranian diplomacy, and of the Iranian regime’s likely aims to become a Shia-led, anti-American/Western Islamist Republic dominating the Middle-East with deliverable nukes:

‘Some adjustments are inherent in the inevitable process of historic evolution. But we must avoid an outcome in which Iran, freed from an onerous sanctions regime, emerges as a de facto nuclear power leading an Islamist camp, while traditional allies lose confidence in the credibility of American commitments and follow the Iranian model toward a nuclear-weapons capability, if only to balance it.

Future generations’ prospects and American blood is still on the line.