America

That Old-Timey Puritan Spirit And That Old-Timer’s WASP Establishment-I’m Not Sure America Has Changed That Much, Or Has It?

From this article in the Independent on American novelist Louis Auchincloss:

How did money actually work among those in America’s elite?:

But the old monopoly of power had gone, and the country was the poorer for it. “The tragedy of American civilization,” Auchincloss wrote in 1980, “is that it has swept away WASP morality and put nothing in its place.”

Here’s another Auchincloss quote from a reader (haven’t checked this one out…probably a quote site). The prose strikes me as kind of post-Wharton, mannered and dull:

“I used to go to church. I even went through a rather intense religious period when I was sixteen. But the idea of an everlasting life — a never-ending banquet, as a stupid visiting minister to our church once appallingly described it — filled me with a greater terror than the concept of extinction…”

If such things be true, then many of the best and the brightest seem busy contructing a meritocracy in the old WASP establishment’s place; an enterprise of many unresolved personal conflicts between political ideals of activist change, progress, and ever-expanding personal freedoms on one hand and deeply held religious beliefs, traditions and customs on the other.

There seems to be an ex post facto character to much of the ol’ meritocratic enterprise, in my humble opinion, where a healthy skepticism is warranted.

In fact, it’s probably made [more] room for the same old Socialism.

On that note, I have a healthy respect for contrarians, frankly, when merely speaking out in favor of…:

‘the importance of traditional marriage values in ensuring children’s future success…’

…involves controversy and professional censure.

It’s so bland!

In fact, what will you do with your own blandness, dear reader, entombing the flaming desire to be woke within; the little half-opened doors of ecstasy and ‘environmental justice’?:

Earth Quaker Action Team is ON IT.:

Two More Syria Links

Was there a chemical attack?  One respected journalist, anyways, having visited the site in Douma, says there’s very little evidence.

Addition: Maybe he’s a dupe at best?

And:

‘Meanwhile, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) team arrived in Damascus on Saturday, April 14th – after the US-led overnight strikes which primarily hit government buildings in the capital. ‘

Hmmm…maybe it’s just me, but I see a crisis of belief all throughout the West and relatively poor leadership (what to believe, and when to act?).  This can lead to greater instability.

Another argument against the American military strikes (we pulled our influence in the region, and all this is now too little, too late…come what may):

‘To reiterate my own longstanding view: Russia is a nasty place and Vladimir Putin is a nasty man, of the ilk that always has ruled Russia, a country where nobody talks about Ivan the Reasonable. On my Ogre-ometer, Putin barely registers a 1.9 against Stalin’s 9.8. Russia is NOT our friend and NOT a prospective ally. But we have two choices. One is to attempt to bring Putin down and bring in a government we like, and the other is to strike a deal with Putin that we can live with.’

How about we avoid gazing into Putin’s soul this time?  Is the French-American alliance durable?  Perhaps this is what to make of a dimished thing, which means more compromise, strategy, and vision with our military.

What’s the plan, here?

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As posted:

Michael McFaul at Foreign Policy: ‘How Trump Can Play Nice With Russia Without Selling-Out America:’

After some policy suggestions, there’s this:

‘I continue to believe that it is in the U.S. interest to promote the independence, territorial integrity, and security not only of Ukraine, but also Georgia, Moldova, and all countries threatened by Russian hegemony. And the United States and its allies must develop new strategies for engaging Russian society and other societies throughout the former Soviet Union, including even in the Donbass region of Ukraine now occupied by Kremlin-supported separatists. We need more student exchanges, more peer-to-peer dialogues, more business internships to increase connections between our societies. We cannot revert to a policy where we only speak to officials in Moscow and attempt to do right by the Kremlin.

A lot of those former Soviet satellites, especially the Baltics, needed courage, hard-work, and luck just to get far enough away from Moscow to recieve NATO protection….:

Not exactly a foregone conclusion…

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.

What goes around, comes around-An oldie but a goodie-George Kennan: ‘The Sources Of Soviet Conduct

60 Minutes had an interview with ‘Jack Barsky,‘ an East-German Soviet spy who ended up living in America.  To hell with it!

From The National Interest: ‘Inside The Mind Of George F. Kennan’

Some Sunday Swedish Pop-Country-Folk Links

These are great vocals and harmonies and very good songwriting.  It’s country-folk with a bit of distance and strangeness; as though its been washed-through some pop and the indie L.A. scene, but also, apparently, through Sweden.

The Swedes seem to bring a forlorn, northern folk-depth to the table.

Hey, this reciprocity works for me:

A quintessential pop-song.  There’s actually a lot of depth and arrangment here:

Sunday Poem-W.H. Auden

On The Circuit

Among pelagian travelers,
Lost on their lewd conceited way
To Massachusetts, Michigan,
Miami or L.A.,

An airborne instrument I sit,
Predestined nightly to fulfill
Columbia-Giesen-Management’s
Unfathomable will,

By whose election justified,
I bring my gospel of the Muse
To fundamentalists, to nuns,
to Gentiles and to Jews,

And daily, seven days a week,
Before a local sense has jelled,
From talking-site to talking-site
Am jet-or-prop-propelled.

Though warm my welcome everywhere,
I shift so frequently, so fast,
I cannot now say where I was
The evening before last,

Unless some singular event
Should intervene to save the place,
A truly asinine remark,
A soul-bewitching face,

Or blessed encounter, full of joy,
Unscheduled on the Giesen Plan,
With, here, an addict of Tolkien,
There, a Charles Williams fan.

Since Merit but a dunghill is,
I mount the rostrum unafraid:
Indeed, ‘twere damnable to ask
If I am overpaid.

Spirit is willing to repeat
Without a qualm the same old talk,
But Flesh is homesick for our snug
Apartment in New York.

A sulky fifty-six, he finds
A change of mealtime utter hell,
Grown far too crotchety to like
A luxury hotel.

The Bible is a goodly book
I always can peruse with zest,
But really cannot say the same
For Hilton’s Be My Guest.

Nor bear with equanimity
The radio in students’ cars,
Muzak at breakfast, or–dear God!–
Girl-organists in bars.

Then, worst of all, the anxious thought,
Each time my plane begins to sink
And the No Smoking sign comes on:
What will there be to drink?

Is this a milieu where I must
How grahamgreeneish! How infra dig!
Snatch from the bottle in my bag
An analeptic swig?

Another morning comes: I see,
Dwindling below me on the plane,
The roofs of one more audience
I shall not see again.

God bless the lot of them, although
I don’t remember which was which:
God bless the U.S.A., so large,
So friendly, and so rich.

W.H. Auden

The Western Elite From A Chinese Perspective And A Talk On Minimalism Or Deflationism

Via Marginal Revolution via American Affairs: ‘The Western Elite From A Chinese Perspective:’

Well, one Chinese perspective:

‘I thought I was an amazing trader. But there was a slight problem: I wanted to do the trade because I thought the market was pricing UK interest rates to go up. And when interest rates go up, UK inflation would rise mechanically due to the way it is defined and calculated. But in that year, the Bank of England didn’t raise interest rates at all. Rather, the increase in inflation was due to things like tax increases, exchange rate fluctuations, oil price moves, etc.—things I didn’t anticipate at all. It was pure luck that I made money, and I made it for the wrong reason.’

Previous links on this site: ‘Surf China’s Censored Web At An Internet Café In New York:’ From a George F Kennan article written in 1948 on China.

Interesting piece here. Our author reviews Evan Osnos’ book about his 8 years spent living on the ground in China:

Check out journalist’s Eveline Chao’s site.

Simon Blackburn at the University of Toronto discussing the minimalist or deflationist view:

‘Along comes someone like Pilate, Pontius Pilate, and says something like: ‘What is truth?’ and everybody goes sort of dizzy, and you look to the philosopher to provide a suitably abstract and highfalutin answer.  The minimalist says you shouldn’t answer Pilate, or rather, if you answer Pilate, you answer should take the form of a question…which is “What are you interested in?’

So basically, you throw the question ‘What is truth?’ back until the person who’s interlocuting you… gives you an example and says ‘Well, I’m interested in whether penguins fly’ and you say ‘Okay well the truth there…the truth would consist in penguins flying…’

…that’s very disappointing:’

Alas, what were you expecting?

Blackburn on Richard Rorty here.

From Kelley Ross, who takes a step back from moral relativism and good ‘ol American Pragmatism:

‘It is characteristic of all forms of relativism that they wish to preserve for themselves the very principles that they seek to deny to others. Thus, relativism basically presents itself as a true doctrine, which means that it will logically exclude its opposites (absolutism or objectivism), but what it actually says is that no doctrines can logically exclude their opposites. It wants for itself the very thing (objectivity) that it denies exists. Logically this is called “self-referential inconsistency,” which means that you are inconsistent when it comes to considering what you are actually doing yourself. More familiarly, that is called wanting to “have your cake and eat it too.” Someone who advocates relativism, then, may just have a problem recognizing how their doctrine applies to themselves’

Also On This SiteA Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”Repost-Some Thoughts On Noam Chomsky Via The American Conservative: ‘American Anarchist’

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

Repost: Two Links-Robert Hughes’ Take On America Through Its Art & Michael Heizer’s ‘City’

Maybe it’s Pilgrim’s pride, or perhaps the Puritan pursuit of image-less purity, or the Colonialists ecumenical style, or maybe even some Shaker weirdness that finds itself up for analysis.

Perhaps somewhere there’s a spare, Yankee work ethic resting on a simple, wooden shelf in the ‘American mind.’

Could such a thing be discovered within mid 20th-century modernism?

Robert Hughes takes a look at Donald Judd’s ‘Temple Of Aesthetic Fanaticism,’ and Richard Serra’s nod to Jackson Pollack and abstract expressionism in the rawness of material sculpture. You know, making stuff (a potentially sensitive subject with so many technological changes going on right now).

(link may not last):

As for Land Art, Michael Heizer’s life’s-work land-art project is apparently complete, if such a thing can be complete:

There’s a good piece in the New Yorker here.

There is an air of secrecy about the whole thing.

You can’t even visit?


Apparently, Heizer’s been working since 1972 on this sculpture in the Eastern Nevada desert, which was originally called ‘Complex One.’ It’s morphed into his life’s work, called City. It’s very large. It can’t be moved. You can’t reproduce it. It represents a break from traditional sculpture. It can’t be put in a museum and it’s not clear that it has a function.

In Brasil, they just started from the top-down and built a city that doesn’t work that well for people: Brasilia: A Planned City

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I have to confess that seeing that structure upon the wide open emptiness of Eastern Nevada is comforting for the familiarity it brings. It’s a little bit of order upon the unknown, and the design, or lack thereof (about which a man may wonder), within Nature herself. I think this is why a military installation out in the desert can captivate the imagination as it’s been known to in Hollywood and in the public mind (dreaming of aliens and conspiracies).

To expand on that theme, Wallace Stevens might shed some light. He was an American poet on the hinge between romanticism and modernism:

Anecdote of the Jar

I placed a jar in Tennessee,
And round it was, upon a hill.
It made the slovenly wilderness
Surround that hill.

The wilderness rose up to it,
And sprawled around, no longer wild.
The jar was round upon the ground
And tall and of a port in air.

It took dominion every where.
The jar was gray and bare.
It did not give of bird or bush,
Like nothing else in Tennessee.

Wallace Stevens

You’ve changed all of nature with just one jar.

What do you do with an uncivilized, wild land? Import European learning and literature “atop” it? Christian tradition and the Natural Law? Import the triumph of the Western mathematical sciences and technology? Import its movements of the arts and the individual artist?

You can’t help but do this.

Related On This Site: L.A.’s New Public Art Piece ‘The Levitated Mass,’ Or As The American Interest Puts It: ‘A Moving Rock’

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’

Denver’s Devil Horse may be flirting with kitsch: From The Wall Street Journal: Denver’s Mustang Or ‘Devil Horse’…and I like his work:…Joan Miro: Woman

From Grist.Org Via The New Republic Via The A & L Daily: ‘Getting Past “Ruin Porn” In Detroit’…Marketplace aesthetics in service of “women”: Dove’s Campaign For Real Beauty: Pascal Dangin And AestheticsRoger Scruton In The City Journal: Cities For Living–Is Modernism Dead?Brasilia: A Planned City

Sent In By A Reader-‘Graham Greene’s Last Interview’

Full piece here.

Well, it can be easy to criticize American idealism and naivete:

I can’t think of a novelist who has skewered the American sense of manifest destiny more effectively than Greene. If you said he was automatically anti-American you’d be right, but I wish presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson and Dean Fusk and Robert Mcnamara had read The Quiet American instead of Walt Whitman Rostow before they launched their war in Southeast Asia.

But from which vantage point, exactly?:

“I went down to Bratislava to give a talk,” he said, “because I’d accidentally been in Prague in 1948 on the night the Communists took over. I talked about the French Revolution and quoted Wordsworth writing of its beginning, ‘blissful was it in that dawn to be alive, but to be young was very heaven!’ And I said. ‘I was there on the first day of your revolution, but one changes one’s mind. Wordsworth changed his mind.’

A writer’s writer?  A Catholic?  A fallen idealist?  A hard-bitten realist and world-traveler? Man-Of-The-Left?

Also On This Site:Michael Dirda At The Washington Post Reviews ‘Nabokov in America’…Interview With Vladimir Nabokov In The Paris Review

From HenryKissinger.Com, Published In The WaPo August 5th, 2012: ‘Idealism and Pragmatism in the Middle East’

Repost-John Gray At The Literary Review Takes A Look At A New Book On Michael Oakeshott: ‘Last Of The Idealists’

Via Youtube: (1 of 3) Kant, Chomsky and the Problem of Knowledge

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…: 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

Why Not Just Ban The Burqa?-Some Links

Full post here.

A while ago, Dalrymple wrote concernedly about massive immigration to London, and even more about the British response. He went so far as to compare Britain unfavorably with France.

Britain:

“…is not an ideological state; it has no foundation myths that are easy to identify with…”

According to Dalrymple, French ideological rigidity through the laws may be quite useful in handling the ideological rigidity of the terrorists, and perhaps other not fully assimilated Muslim immigrants. The French have their own brand of integration, after all (making new Frenchman), particularly since the revolution. Eventually too, the enforcement of laws and the ideals of liberte, egalite, fraternite, have the force of the State behind them.

Evidently, some Muslims in France are being raised to believe Islamic laws of blasphemy trump those of the French Republic. Add large ghettos and relatively less social mobility, economic opportunity, and integration, and you’ve got potentially serious problems. Among them, the anti-semitism that Muslims often treat as their birthright, compacted under such pressure, simmering in neighborhoods large enough where a lot of customs from the home countries linger, mutual suspicions and conspiracy theories abound, and where Islam itself can be at odds with post-Enlightenment, post-revolutionary France.

Dalrymple:

“Multiculturalism, that is, is not compatible with the founding Enlightenment mythology of France; assimilation, not integration, is the goal “

And hey, listen, I don’t want to get between the British and the French, but there’s this:

Why do Frenchman piss on the sides of highways?

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Through American eyes, the French revolutionary esprit seems to manifest itself in different ways, bubbling up into eddies of libertinism, the-intellectual-as-rock-star, that particular brand of French colonialism, deep mistrust of authority, the monarchy, the aristocracy, the Catholic church etc. which the Charlie Hebdo folks kept alive.

On that note, here’s a drunk Serge Gainsbourg letting his intentions be known to Whitney Houston.

Smooth, Serge:

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Well, the French did simply ban the burqa by law, so maybe Dalrymple had a point.

And what about the Anglo-American view?:

Another take: Walter Russell Mead discussed his then new book entitled God and Gold:  Britain, America and the Making of the Modern World.

Maybe there are other options besides Fukuyama’s Hegelian end point of history, and Huntington’s Clash Of Civilizations with regard to our current dealings with the Islamic resurgence and its anti-modern, anti-Western, theocratic impulses (liberal internationalism and Obama’s foreign policy have certainly created problems, but there are underlying issues the West will face):

Mead argues that religion, government, free-trade, capitalism, sport, and especially naval power have shaped our two cultures which have thus shaped the world (an [economic] model he suggests originally came from the Dutch).

Likely worth your time.

Related On This Site: It seems like one point of discussion is what kind of Western ideas lead the debate:  Some Quotations From Leo Strauss On Edmund Burke In ‘Natural Right And History’Paul Berman At The New Republic: ‘From September 11 to the Arab Spring: Do Ideas Matter?’…french Liberte?: Charlie Rose Episode On Libya Featuring Bernhard Henri-Levy, Les Gelb And Others

Yes, Edmund Burke opposed the French Revolution: Sunday Quotation: Edmund Burke On The French Revolution..

Christopher Hitchens & William F Buckley On Anglo-American Relations

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Subject: ‘Is England Still Influencing America?’ on Hitchens’ book ‘Blood, Class, & Nostalgia: Anglo-American Ironies‘ when Hitchens’ was pushing the idea that ’empire’ was the primary transmission, apparently due to his ideological commitments at the time. America must have seemed a classless paradise with institutions well-functioning and ripe to achieve justice and equality for the whole world…for some folks in the Generation of ’68.

*Includes the Firing Line opening theme of Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 (those damned Germans influencing us) followed by a Michael Kinsley introduction (founding editor of Slate, which has since gone more progressive under recent management).

Two Tuesday Links-Roger Scruton & Thomas Sowell

Roger Scruton at Forbes: ‘Is Europe Still Defensible From Invasion?

Bankrolling European security with our military is probably not sustainable in its current form.  Many European interests naturally diverge from our own, and an intellectually lazy anti-Americanism can easily become political currency in the Eurozone.

***European interests naturally diverge wildly, and I have my doubts about the current Eurocratic political union being able to channel such political, ethnic, historical, cultural, and economic forces towards a common defense.  I suppose we’ll see.

Scruton:

‘The American people cannot go on defending a country like Germany – a country that enjoys a standard of living calculated to arouse envy in its impoverished Eastern neighbor, while self-righteously preaching ‘soft power’ and ‘non belligerence’ to its pampered people. At some point Americans are going to wake up to the fact that they are being unscrupulously exploited. Their armed forces are trained to fight and die in Europe, on behalf of people who would not dream of doing the same for America, and who are not prepared to die even for their homeland’

As always, at the end of the day, I think we’re on our own in this world, while alliances come and go.  In the wake of our withdrawal from the Middle-East and with Asia rising, as Americans, we’ve got our work cut-out for us.

Ukraine and Putin’s ethno-nationalist thuggery is just a reminder.

Did NATO go wrong as well?

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Thomas Sowell remembers Gary Becker.

‘Despite the contempt that some economists have expressed toward sociology, Gary Becker went from being a professor of economics at Columbia University to being a professor of economics and sociology at the University of Chicago. No doubt sociology was improved by Becker’s contributions.’

I can imagine Becker made waves in the social sciences. As I’ve experienced with Charles Murray, social scientists who go against the grain often face a tough slog, especially introducing a rational model of behavior into the mix: