Many Games Are Being Played In Which I Have A Stake-Some Links & Thoughts

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

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

My two cents:

As have done many universities, one by one, many mainstream American publications have taken the logic of social activism on board.   Whether as feature or undercard, a certain percentage of the institution’s resources become devoted to negotiations between activists (soft and hard radicals) and points centerward.

Shared claims to knowledge, along with shared political ideals, compel many moderate liberals to unify around blaming any political/social/moral oppostion, even while taking upon the challenge of internal dialog with radicals.

Anti-fascists, of course, derive primary meaning in life from joining an anonymous mob dedicated to driving evil fascists from the public sphere.  In my opinion, they deserve the violent embrace of the incredibly small number of actual neo-Nazis and fascists they publicly and continually invoke.

Meanwhile, the rest of us get dragged, to some extent, into framing civilizational norms, rules and expected behavior by semi-incoherent anarchic radicals willing to do violence.

This blog rejects the notion that the civilizational norms, rules and expected behavior should be driven by far-Left radicals and their doppelgangers.

Just as should have been done by many old-liberal guards in the 1960’s, or should be done now by many professionals, politicos, and mainstream publishers, the totalitarian radicals should be pushed from institutional influence and polite society.

I have my doubts about Donald Trump, and the fracturing of conservative coalitions into warring factions under his leadership, and the conditions which have made his election possible.

From where I stand, though, I have even more doubts about liberal and Left coalitions fracturing into an anarchic violent base, Democratic Socialism (one more perfectly equal majoritarian election/uprising should do it), and the neo-liberal and high-liberal secular humanist elite above them.

There’s a lot of failure to go around, and reasons for hope.

On this site, see:

Repost: Classical Liberalism Via Friesian.Com-‘Exchange with Tomaz Castello Branco on John Gray’

Correspondence here.

Link sent in by a reader.

Without a stronger moral core, will liberalism necessarily corrode into the soft tyranny of an ever-expanding State?

Since the 60’s, and with a lot of postmodern nihilism making advances in our society, is a liberal politics of consent possible given the dangers of cultivating a kind of majoritarian politics: Dirty, easily corrupt, with everyone fighting for a piece of the pie?

As an example, Civil Rights activists showed moral courage and high idealism, to be sure, but we’ve also seen a devolution of the Civil Rights crowd into squabbling factions, many of whom seem more interested in money, self-promotion, influence, and political power.

The 60’s protest model, too, washed over our universities, demanding freedom against injustice, but it has since devolved into a kind of politically correct farce, with comically illiberal and intolerant people claiming they seek liberty and tolerance for all in the name of similar ideals.

Who are they to decide what’s best for everyone?  How ‘liberal’ were they ever, really?

Kelley Ross responds to a correspondent on Isaiah Berlin’s value pluralism, while discussing John Gray as well:

‘Now, I do not regard Berlin’s value pluralism as objectionable or even as wrong, except to the extend that it is irrelevant to the MORAL issue and so proves nothing for or against liberalism. Liberalism will indeed recommend itself if one wishes to have a regime that will respect, within limits, a value pluralism. I have no doubt that respecting a considerable value pluralism in society is a good thing and that a nomocratic regime that, mostly, leaves people alone is morally superior to a teleocratic regime that specifies and engineers the kinds of values that people should have. However, the project of showing that such a regime IS a good thing and IS morally superior is precisely the kind of thing that Gray decided was a failure.

Thus, I believe Gray himself sees clearly enough that a thoroughgoing “value pluralism” would mean that the regime of the Ayatollah Khomeini is just as morally justified as the regime of Thomas Jefferson. Gray prefers liberalism (or its wreckage) for the very same reason that the deconstructionist philosopher Richard Rorty prefers his leftism: it is “ours” and “we” like it better. Why Gray, or Rorty, should think that they speak for the rest of “us” is a good question. ‘

and about providing a core to liberalism:

Why should the state need a “sufficient rational justificaton” to impose a certain set of values? The whole project of “rational justification” is what Gray, and earlier philosophers like Hume, gave up on as hopeless. All the state need do, which it has often done, is claim that its values are favored by the majority, by the General Will, by the Blood of the Volk, or by God, and it is in business.’

And that business can quickly lead to ever-greater intrusion into our lives:

‘J.S. Mill, etc., continue to be better philosophers than Berlin or Gray because they understand that there must be an absolute moral claim in the end to fundamental rights and negative liberty, however it is thought, or not thought, to be justified. Surrendering the rational case does not even mean accepting the overall “value pluralism” thesis, since Hume himself did not do so. ‘

Are libertarians the true classical liberals?  Much closer to our founding fathers?


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”

Race And Free Speech-From Volokh: ‘Philadelphia Mayor Suggests Magazine Article on Race Relations Isn’t Protected by the First Amendment’

Repost-Eugene Volokh At The National Review: ‘Multiculturalism: For or Against?’


Michael Moynihan At Newsweek: ‘’

Full piece here.

A lighter piece, but interesting:

‘I decided to try an experiment: I would spend seven days creeping through the Internet using disposable IP addresses, inhabiting the milieu of radical sites and Facebook pages. In Manhattan coffee shops, on subway platforms, between tasks at work, I would take up residence in the darkest corners of the Web—and see what I could learn about the fetid swamps where self-made jihadists are allegedly born.’

Lots and lots of photos of violence from the ‘front lines.’ One of his conclusions:

‘After my week among the online jihadists, it seemed unlikely to me that their corner of the Internet could immediately capture an undamaged soul. There were no appeals to reason here, and the content seemed intended for the already converted.’

A bit more on Dzokhar Tsarnaev.

Related On This SiteRichard Fernandez At PJ Media: ‘The New Middle East’Niall Ferguson At The Daily Beast: ‘China Should Intervene in Syria, Not America’From Reason: Going Dutch?

Link sent in by a reader to Alexander Hitchens essay:  As American As Apple Pie: How Anwar al-Awlaki Became The Face Of Western Jihad

Paul Berman At The New Republic: ‘From September 11 to the Arab Spring: Do Ideas Matter?’From Foreign Affairs: ‘Al Qaeda After Attiyya’….From The AP: ‘Al-Awlaki: From Voice For Jihad To Al-Qaida Figure’

Repost-‘Fareed Zakaria At Time: ‘Are America’s Best Days Behind Us?’

Full piece here.

Zakaria, of course, notes the current high level of partisanship.  I’ll add that I think it will stay highly divided for at least the next presidential cycle if the past is any indication.  Some libertarians I know believe this current partisanship is due to a failure of liberalism to be classically liberal, and instead has slipped into a more Continental Leftist pattern of excess since the 60’s of protest and identity politics.  To them, the Right’s response (the rise of overtly partisan news agencies, demagoguery) and redefining the founders intent to combat such excess started out on a good foot, but has merely led to a populist resurgence and unthinking political loyalty which furthers the growth of the State.  Perhaps libertarianism rises in opposition to liberal administrations.

Zakaria doesn’t seem to think such a partisan fight is good in the long run.  As he’s noted elsewhere, perhaps America’s staying the same, a victim of our successes and stability of our political structures that now serve the past and keep us from the future, while other countries rise and move ahead:

‘It’s not that our democracy doesn’t work; it’s that it works only too well. American politics is now hyperresponsive to constituents’ interests.’

and, like the British after WWII:

“British society grew comfortable, complacent and rigid, and its economic and political arrangements became ever more elaborate and costly, focused on distribution rather than growth. Labor unions, the welfare state, protectionist policies and massive borrowing all shielded Britain from the new international competition.

In order to break from this potential sclerosis, we have to get away from a kind of insularity, Zakaria suggests, and perhaps looks to copy and innovate (anything, really) from other countries, economies and the strategic necessities (Europe, trade).  These tools that have led others to success can allow us to duck our heads for a while and make some changes..

This is not a question of too much or too little government, too much or too little spending. We need more government and more spending in some places and less in others.’

Point taken.  He finishes with:

“In the past, worrying about decline has helped us avert that very condition. Let’s hope it does so today.”

Addition:  As a reader points out, perhaps just splitting the difference is not enough in the face of the Affordable Care Act, the current administration’s green ambitions, and a fairly left of center immigration policy.  The non-partisan talk is wearing thin.

Also On This Site:  Richard Feynman also made a point about bureaucracies after investigating the Challenger disaster: Repost: Richard Feynman at NASA…Henry Kissinger has a few quotations about the necessity and dangers of bureaucracy:  .Monday Quotations-Henry Kissinger

How do you save egalitarianism from the egalitarians and their own intentions? (the touch math crowd, the-everyone-learns-in-their-own-way pedagogy) if you need a new round of educational excellence and investment in the future?  A Shortage Of Skilled American Workers At Microsoft?

America in Decline?: Fukuyama seems to think so, but maybe he’s still reeling from the Iraq war…From The New Perspectives Quarterly: Francis Fukuyama’s ‘Is America Ready for a Post-American World?Fareed Zakaria BBC Interview: America In Decline?…Richard Lieber’s not necessarily convinced:  Richard Lieber In The World Affairs Journal–Falling Upwards: Declinism, The Box Set..Add to Technorati Favorites

Niall Ferguson At The Daily Beast: ‘Israel and Iran on the Eve of Destruction in a New Six-Day War’

Full post here.

Ferguson runs through 5 arguments why Israel should not attack Iran, and why he thinks they’re wrong.

‘1. The Iranians would retaliate with great fury, closing the Strait of Hormuz and unleashing the dogs of terror in Gaza, Lebanon, and Iraq.

2. The entire region would be set ablaze by irate Muslims; the Arab Spring would turn into a frigid Islamist winter.

3. The world economy would be dealt a death blow in the form of higher oil prices.

4. The Iranian regime would be strengthened, having been attacked by the Zionists its propaganda so regularly vilifies.

5. A nuclear-armed Iran is nothing to worry about. States actually become more risk-averse once they acquire nuclear weapons.’

Click through for the responses. He finishes with:

‘War is an evil. But sometimes a preventive war can be a lesser evil than a policy of appeasement. The people who don’t yet know that are the ones still in denial about what a nuclear-armed Iran would end up costing us all.

It feels like the eve of some creative destruction.’

Related On This Site:  Sachs and Niall Ferguson duke it out: CNN-Fareed Zakaria Via Youtube: ‘Jeff Sachs and Niall Ferguson’

Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest: ‘Remember Libya?’

 From Reflections Of A Rational Republican: ‘Are Airstrikes Imminent In Iran?’From Reflections Of A Rational Republican: ‘Will Israel Attack Iran This Spring?’

Walter Russell Mead At The American Interest: ‘Iran: Keeping The World’s Oddest Couple Together’…Materialism and Leftism Paul Berman On Bloggingheads: The Left Can Criticize Iran

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Newsweek On Francis Fukuyama: ‘The Beginning Of History’

Full piece here.

He’s left the establishment (though he was involved in some important policy decisions) and moved to Palo Alto:

‘On present-day Republicans, in fact, he is downright caustic: “All of the Kissinger-era realists have gone away, like Robert Zoellick, James Baker, and Brent Scowcroft. Today, the party is just a wasteland. They are total amateurs on foreign policy.”’

and on why he may have been lamenting the lack of synthetic thinkers in the social sciences:

‘His new book, The Origins of Political Order, which hits bookstores this week, seeks to understand how human beings transcended tribal affiliations and organized themselves into political societies. “In the developed world, we take the existence of government so much for granted that we sometimes forget how difficult it was to create,” he writes.’

What can political philosophy do?

Related On This Site:  Francis Fukuyama At The American Interest Online: ‘Political Order in Egypt’

A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

From The Atlantic: Samuel Huntington’s Death And Life’s WorkFrom The American Interest Online: Francis Fukuyama On Samuel HuntingtonFrom Foreign Affairs Via The A & L Daily: ‘Conflict Or Cooperation: Three Visions Revisited’

Do we try and invest in global institutions as flawed as they are…upon a Kantian raft?:  Daniel Deudney On YouTube Responding to Robert Kagan: Liberal Democracy Vs. Autocracy

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Michelle Rhee At Newsweek: “What I’ve Learned”

Full piece here.

With the ousting of D.C. mayor Adrian Fenty, so went reform.  Rhee explains where thinks she failed (not necessarily in closing bad schools and not necessarily by failing to reach consensus):

“Still, I could have done a better job of communicating. I did a particularly bad job letting the many good teachers know that I considered them to be the most important part of the equation. I should have said to the effective teachers, “You don’t have anything to worry about. My job is to make your life better, offer you more support, and pay you more.”

and of all the people whose interest (who would have thought people are self-interested?) can get in the way:

“Policymakers, school-district administrators, and school boards who are beholden to special interests have created a bureaucracy that is focused on the adults instead of the students.”

Unions, adults, moneyed interests are getting in the way (no more politicization please).  Her suggested solution for the present:

“The common thread in all of these communications was that these courageous people felt alone in battling the bureaucracy. They want help and advocates. There are enough people out there who understand and believe that kids deserve better, but until now, there has been no organization for them. We’ll ask people across the country to join StudentsFirst.”

Let’s hope it can get off the ground, and ultimately stays true to its mission, and recognizes when it’s needed no more, or needs to change.

Also On This Site:  From Reason.Tv: ‘NBC’s Education Summit-Joe Trippi, Michelle Rhee & More’From The Washington Post: ‘D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee To Announce Resignation Wednesday’

Robert Samuelson Via Real Clear Politics: ‘Why School Reform Fails’From The Bellevue Reporter-Walter Backstrom’s: ‘Educational Progress And The Liberal Plantation’

and more broadly and philosophically:  Review-A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.’From The Access Resource Network: Phillip Johnson’s “Daniel Dennett’s Dangerous Idea’Repost-From Scientific Blogging: The Humanities Are In Crisis-Science Is Not

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From A Brief Review At Newsweek: Andrew Bacevich’s ‘The Road To Ruin’

Review here.

‘Bacevich is right to ask if our militaristic approach to the rest of the world is the best and only way. But he rehashes lessons learned from Bay of Pigs, Vietnam, Desert Storm, and George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq.’

If you’ve read the book, please share your thoughts, as Bacevich makes some interesting arguments, as the one found here:

‘Today, an altogether different question deserves our attention: What’s the point of constantly using our superb military if doing so doesn’t actually work?’

C-Span interview with Bacevich here in October, 2008.  Recommended.

I would humbly point out that the ‘Road To Ruin’ is not license to trade the politicization of the war by the ‘military-industrial complex’ for the politicization of the war (and anti-war) by the Left to my mind (and Bacevich might agree).

And to further make the point; Newsweek, having become irrelevant due to the Web, also suffers from having painted itself into a parody of knee-jerk, moralizing, climate-change advocates, and as their editor Jon Meacham showed a few weeks ago, rather short-sighted apologists:

‘Leaders from different backgrounds and perspectives are likely to be just as flawed and as susceptible to error as any other human being (though it is hard to see how they could be worse than the white men who have reigned for so long)…’

Not exactly a forum for non-partisan discussion, but that’s another story.

Any thoughts and comments are welcome, as Bacevich points out the dangers of becoming imperial (and not by colonial definition) has to our liberties here at home.

Addition:  A reader comments that Bacevich does some very useful outside the box thinking, he just doesn’t have an entire box of his own to put it in.

Also On This Site:  From Commonweal: Andrew Bacevich “The War We Can’t Win: Afghanistan And The Limits Of American Power”…and you can be relatively apolitical and still make a difference in Afghanistan: Greg Mortenson On Charlie Rose: Afghanistan And Pakistan

Is America in Decline?  Fareed Zakaria BBC Interview: America In DeclineRichard Lieber In The World Affairs Journal–Falling Upwards: Declinism, The Box Set… If Fukuyama got a lot wrong, does Bacevich as well?: From The American Interest Online: Francis Fukuyama On Samuel Huntington

Are we headed toward 19th century geo-politics?:  Obama’s Decision On Missile Defense And A Quote From Robert Kagan’s: ‘The Return Of History And The End Of Dreams’

Do we try and invest in global institutions as flawed as they are?:  Daniel Deudney On YouTube Responding to Robert Kagan: Liberal Democracy Vs. Autocracy

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From Slate: “Newsweek Has Fallen And Can’t Get Up”

Full post here.

“If the infinitely patient and hideously rich Graham can’t see a profitable future for the money-losing magazine, that future doesn’t exist.”

Shafer suggests that the Web isn’t necessarily the culprit, but I’d say it is.  The online content creators, organizers and arrangers are often driving the news cycle now.  Of course, they will run into most of the old, and some new problems, but it still seems most important to try and maintain the freedom the web has allowed, even as some of the more naive and innocent drivers of change run into the world.

Also:  From The New Yorker: Malcolm Gladwell’s “Priced To Sell”…Bill Virgin says newspapers built up their value, and slowly let it die: From The Seattle Post-Intelligencer Via Sound Politics: Why Did The PI Die?.

What about pay sites?:  From Denis Pombriant: ‘Reinventing The Newspaper Business Model With Zuora

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From Newsweek: ‘Meeting Of The Diplomats’

Full conversation here.

Newweek talks to former and current Secretaries Of State Henry Kissinger and Hilary Clinton.

Quote by Kissinger:

“Nobody has more at stake than the administration in office. But if you look at the debates we had on Vietnam, Iraq, and so forth, ending the war became defined as the withdrawal of forces and as the primary if not the exclusive exit strategy. But in fact the best exit strategy is victory. Another is diplomacy. Another is the war just dying out. But if you identify exit with withdrawal of American forces, you neglect the political objective.”

Also On This Site:  From The Associated Press: The Text Of Obama’s Afghanistan Speech, December 1st, 2009

From Bloomberg: More Troops To Afghanistan? A Memo From Henry Kissinger To Gerald Ford?From The NY Times Video: ‘A Schoolgirl’s Odyssey’From The WSJ: Graham, Lieberman and McCain “Only Decisive Force Can Prevail In AfghanistanFrom Commonweal: Andrew Bacevich “The War We Can’t Win: Afghanistan And The Limits Of American Power”

See Also:  Philip Bobbitt Discusses His Book ‘Terror And Consent’ On Bloggingheads

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From Newsweek: ‘Singh’s War, No Mercy For The Maoists’

Full article here.

So, how do you prevent growing tribal grievances and anger by the people left out of India’s recent economic growth from becoming support for the violent and revolutionary hard left..?

“This time, India has to get the mix right. For the tribal people, there will soon be opportunities; for the Maoists, there will be no mercy.”

See Also On This Site:  Martha Nussbaum In Dissent–Violence On The Left: Nandigram And The Communists Of West Bengal

So, where did Marx get his ideas, anyways?  Peter Singer discusses Hegel and Marx

A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

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