An Excerpt From Paul Bowles’ ‘Allal’ & A Strange, Schlocky Scene From ‘Conan The Barbarian’

From Paul Bowles Allal, found within this collection of short stories.

I recall musical and deeply rhythmic English (Bowles was a composer who lived in Morocco for most of his life), along with a recurrent theme of Western innocence, ignorance and arrogance meeting ancient North African realities and brutalities.

‘Moments passed with no movement but then the snake suddenly made a move towards Allal. It then began to slither across Allal’s body and then rested next to his head. He was very calm at this moment and looked right into the snake’s eyes and felt almost one with the snake. Soon his eyes closed and he fell asleep in this position.’

What have you done with your I/Eye, dear Reader?

Something tells me the kind of fantastical savagery and imaginative schlock of Conan the Barbarian doesn’t quite capture the deeply moral, frighteningly real and lushly imagined Bowlesian world…

But maybe it does highlight some themes Bowles’ drew into relief:

You know, maybe I’d just better put this up:

Two Friday Links On Ukraine

We don’t necessarily want a continuation of the Cold War, but understanding the strategic realities The Cold War created is as vital as ever. The younger generation in Ukraine, as well as a lot of people in the West, are getting a hard lesson in Putin’s power politics.

Young Ukranians have yet to taste the economic possibilities of getting a job in a growing economy without living amidst the corruption and cronyism of a rotten, post-Soviet oligarchical no-man’s land.  They have yet to learn how to build and defend institutions that can secure their liberties against Putin’s aggression, and also protect them from the ethnic, linguistic, and historical strife within.

And now the Russian bootheel is back.

I think we ought to be pretty clear about where we stand on Ukrainian aspirations for such an economy, such liberties and the possible development of such institutions.  We have many strategic interests at stake here, despite our clear limitations.

The drift of the current U.S. administration is sending many messages, and not just to Ukranians.

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The Cold War strategists are still around:

Henry Kissinger At The Washington Post: ‘How The Ukraine Crisis Ends:’

‘Putin should come to realize that, whatever his grievances, a policy of military impositions would produce another Cold War. For its part, the United States needs to avoid treating Russia as an aberrant to be patiently taught rules of conduct established by Washington. Putin is a serious strategist — on the premises of Russian history. Understanding U.S. values and psychology are not his strong suits. Nor has understanding Russian history and psychology been a strong point of U.S. policymakers’

Adam Garfinkle at The American Interest talks with Zbigniew Brzezinski: ‘Coping With Crimea: In Ukraine And Beyond

‘It’s hard to understand how Putin could calculate that doing what he did in Crimea would make the Ukrainians more supine toward him in Kiev. So unless it’s a sudden burst of poorly calculated activism, the Crimea operation could be the first stage of a series of steps he’s planning, perhaps to create exploitable unrest in eastern Ukraine. The aim would be to demonstrate that Ukraine is falling into anarchy, thereby making a case for a wider Russian intervention, and then we’re back to having to ask ourselves: “How do we react to make that not happen, and if it does happen, how do we make it ‘

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Vice link from a reader:

A Wolf In Wolf’s Clothing?-‘Rewilding’ And Ecological Balance

This video’s been making the rounds (copyright) on the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone. In it, the claim is made that Yellowstone wolves have started a trophic cascade. In hunting and clearing-out deer herds from valley floors, the wolves, as top predators, have indirectly caused more vegetation and higher trees to grow near streams and rivers. This has created more habitat in which more species flourish, allowing for greater biodiversity, straightening out Yellowstone’s rivers and even altering the very landscape.

What a noble creature, the wolf, goes the thinking, starting such an improbable causal chain. Nature has been made more whole and pure by the mere presence of such a creature, and perhaps your place in Nature, dear reader.  Man is nowhere to be found, really, except perhaps as humble observer of what he’s helped put into motion (focus on the good parts).

Of course, not discussed are the costs of wolf management placed by some conservationists and activists upon ranchers and property owners as the wolves spread out beyond Yellowstone:

‘In sum, the people who support wolves need to take economic responsibility for them. But this program is about a lot more than money. It’s about respecting what the ranchers do. Eventually, I want wolves to be just another animal, not up on a pedestal as they are now. ‘

Laws cost time and money, and so does conservation. Activism isn’t free, as it comes with increased taxes, increased regulation and people to oversee both. The meter’s running in a world of economic and natural scarcity, and right now private-property owners and taxpayers are disproportionately picking up the tab when it comes to wolf reintroduction, however meager the populations.

Green Means Go, Red Means Stop?

It should be noted that the narrator of the original video is Briton George Monbiot, who seems awfully political for someone merely interested in Nature and Man’s place in it. Perhaps he’s nearing eco-socialist territory:

From his site:

‘Here are some of the things I try to fight: undemocratic power, corruption, deception of the public, environmental destruction, injustice, inequality and the misallocation of resources, waste, denial, the libertarianism which grants freedom to the powerful at the expense of the powerless, undisclosed interests, complacency.’

That sounds like an oddly specific and ideological mission-statement, going way beyond merely ordering nature and wolf-reintroduction. In fact, there’s a whole set of political assumptions and grievances under there.

On that note, some greens can become so humanist as to become anti-humanist, disgusted by man and his economic activity trampling through their visions and frustrated ideologies.

See Bob Zubrin discuss ‘Radical Environmentalists And Other Merchants Of Despair’:

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Since we’re importing all this Britishness, here’s Briton Roger Scruton discussing why he thinks his brand of conservatism is better able to tackle environmental issues than either liberalism or socialism.

As an American, I have to confess that seeing Scruton is his fox-hunting attire moves me to imagine how these guys might have looked marching down the street:

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From George Monbiot: ‘How Freedom Became Tyranny’

Is it actual Nature, or a deep debate about civilization and morality, man and nature that fuels this Western debate: ….Roger Sandall At The New Criterion Via The A & L Daily: ‘Aboriginal Sin’Roger Sandall At The American Interest: ‘Tribal Realism’

Instead of global green governance, what about a World Leviathan…food for thought, and a little frightening: At Bloggingheads Steven Pinker Discusses War And Thomas Hobbes

Ronald Bailey At Reason: ‘Delusional in Durban’A Few Links On Environmentalism And Liberty

From Via Media: ‘Kiev Is Burning’

Full piece here.

Check out these WaPo maps for some information on Ukraine.

At least 50 people dead in Kiev so far.  The U.S. has very little leverage here, but the matter is of vital interest to Putin, and potentially to the West:

‘Ukraine today suffers from most of the maladies of post-Soviet life. The old system broke down, and a stable and prosperous new system has been unable to emerge. Unprincipled oligarchs dominate political life and state institutions are weak. Divided between a Russian-speaking eastern half and a Ukrainian-speaking (and often westward looking) western half, Ukraine isn’t sure what it’s identity is going to be.

Meanwhile, most Russian nationalists consider Ukrainian independence an absurdity, and one of President Putin’s central goals is to reunite Ukraine with Russia. This is a battle he cannot afford to lose, and he is playing every card in his hand for all it is worth — at best to bring Ukraine back to the embrace of mother Russia or at least to prevent it from joining with the West.

The EU and the United States have failed to develop a coherent strategy for Ukraine. As the situation in Kiev escalates, the question now is how bad things would have to get to prompt a serious Ukrainian policy from the West, which thus far has been mostly content to utter beautiful phrases.’

It’s not hard to see why there’s been such a conflicted Western response, in looking at the conflicted aims of the EU member states, the Eurocracy, and a recalibrating America drifting further Leftward towards international institutions, redlines and missed deadlines under the current leadership.

So what can we actually do?

Some Wednesday Links-Health Care & Foreign Policy

Health Care- From the Federalist ‘How To Opt Out Of Obamacare,’ or things to think about involving your health and legal obligations to purchase health-insurance, despite the mess.  Avik Roy at Forbes discusses the political challenges for Republicans and the likelihood of Obamacare sticking around.  Wonkblog acts as though the Act is fine and gives you a nice online brochure.

Libertarian law/economics thinker Richard Epstein still makes sense to this blog, even if it’s wishful:

‘As I have noted before, there is only one type of reform that can make progress in meeting the three goals of a sensible health care system: cost reduction, quality improvements, and public access. That reform requires massive deregulation of the many market impediments that are already in place. Lower the costs, drop the excessive mandates, and thin out administrative costs, and people will flock back to the system voluntarily.

Are you just waiting to see what happens?

Addition: Who knows what’s happening exactly….anyone….anyone out there?  Ross Douthat:

‘Presumably we should continue to expect the unexpected, and be prepared for developments that don’t just fall somewhere in between “ringing success” and “death spiral,” but surprise us with where exactly they fall, and how their consequences play out.’

Foreign Policy-Walter Russell Mead on Russia, China & Iran (whatever happened to Brazil? addition: that’s economic, along with India that make up the BRICs ).  The End Of History Ends:

‘If the Central Powers continue to work together and to make joint progress across Eurasia, however, either this administration or its successor is going to have to take another look at world politics. For the first time since the Cold War, the United States is going to have to adopt a coherent Eurasian strategy that integrates European, Middle Eastern, South Asian and East Asian policy into a comprehensive design. We shall have to think about “issues” like non-proliferation and democracy promotion in a geopolitical context and we shall have to prioritize the repair and defense of alliances in ways that no post Cold War presidents have done.’

I could be on-board with a more comprehensive Western strategy, perhaps even a return to realism at home with some compromise to be made with our European allies.  This focus on very narrow, possibly poorly-negotiated peace-deals with non-allies and foes is unnerving.  Telegraphing our ‘peaceful’ intentions, and working just towards human rights and Western liberal-Left democracy promotion through a liberal internationalist order can ignore just as many moving parts, if not more, than other schools of thought.

This is risky business.

See this blog’s post and comments on Fukuyama’s new ‘The Origins Of Political Order‘ for some of the Hegelian intellectual foundations on which Fukuyama built The End Of History, and how he defined human freedom and its manifestation in political order.  If you stop to think how influential Marxism has been in one form or another around the globe, and Fukuyama’s response to it, this makes some practical sense even if grand theory isn’t your thing.

Related On This SiteUpdate And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’From Darwinian Conservatism: ‘Nietzsche–Aristocratic Radical or Aristocratic Liberal?’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’

From Michael Totten: ‘From Tehran To Cairo’

Full interview here with Lee Smith.

Two Americans who’ve spent time on the ground in the Middle-East try and assess what’s going on:

Totten:

‘The Middle East is as trashed right now as I’ve ever seen it. The Syrian conflict has killed more people than the Bosnian war. Iran is moving ahead on its nuclear weapons program while convincing fools in the West that it’s playing nice and reforming. Egypt is in its worst shape since the Nasserist era, and the Saudis are pitching the biggest fit since the Arab oil embargo in the 70s.’

Smith:

‘Turkey can’t dictate terms. It isn’t a superpower. It’s a regional power. It’s not the United States. The bizarre thing, however, is that under this administration the United States seems to be shri[n]king. Indeed, Obama seems to be shrinking us out of the Middle East. Maybe that’s a good thing, but I’d like to hear the rationale for it.’

We’ve been creating a power vacuum in the region, but don’t seem to thinking about what we’d like to fill it.

Some of this correction may be necessary to align our budget with our capabilities, and perhaps address the failures of the last 20 years.  However, the strategic failures in Syria and Iran with this administration are serious.  We’re neither respected nor feared at the moment, and our policy is adrift.

There’s still a strong current of isolationism in the American public mind, and a deep partisan divide and lots of dysfunction to be taken into account.

Did we miss a chance to carve out a bold, new, Truman-esque path in the region last election?

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Related On This Site:  From The Wall Street Journal: ‘Charles Hill: The Empire Strikes Back’Fareed Zakaria BBC Interview: America In DeclineRichard Lieber In The World Affairs Journal–Falling Upwards: Declinism, The Box Set

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’Has Fukuyama turned away from Hegel and toward Darwin? Adam Kirsch Reviews Francis Fukuyama’s New Book At The City Journal: ‘The Dawn Of Politics’…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’

Michael Totten At World Affairs: ‘Syria’s Regime Not Worth Preserving’James Kirchik At The American Interest: 

Michael Totten’s piece that revisits a Robert Kaplan piece from 1993, which is prescient:  “A Writhing Ghost Of A Would-Be Nation”.  It was always a patchwork of minority tribes, remnants of the Ottoman Empire

I just received a copy of Totten’s book, Where The West Ends, and it’s good reading.

Adam Garfinkle At The American Interest: ‘What Did The Arab Spring Really Change?’

Liberal Internationalism is hobbling us, and the safety of even the liberal internationalist doctrine if America doesn’t lead…Via Youtube-Uncommon Knowledge With Fouad Ajami And Charles Hill

From NPR: ‘How California Is Turning The Rest Of The West Blue’

Full post here.

Thanks to a reader for the link.  Culture and ideas matter, as many Californians are fleeing California, looking for jobs and economic growth elsewhere.

As to these wanderers:

‘Nevertheless, they also tend to be fairly progressive on social issues such as gay marriage and abortion — and overall may be more liberal than their new neighbors in other states.

“You see that in other parts of the country, too,” says Ruy Teixeira, a Democratic demographer at the Center for American Progress. “You have the phenomenon of relatively conservative people leaving a liberal state and moving to a conservative state where they’re relatively liberal.”

Colorado has been a hotspot, as well as Nevada.

On Joel Kotkin’s thinking:

‘As progressive policies drive out moderate and conservative members of the middle class, California’s politics become even more left-wing. It’s a classic case of natural selection, and increasingly the only ones fit to survive in California are the very rich and those who rely on government spending. In a nutshell, “the state is run for the very rich, the very poor, and the public employees.’

Well, California has Silicon Valley, a strong tech sector, tourism, immigration, the call of manifest destiny, great port cities, great weather, the entertainment industry, rich natural resources as well as many other things going for it.

It’s been the operating theory of this blog that NPR’s ideals, similar to ideas active in California culture and politics, are a natural consequence of liberalism and are part of the trade-offs that come with liberalism, harboring progressivism and 60’s idealist collectivism within itself.  Such ideologies can lead to the same problems driving many people away from California at the moment:  Strict environmental laws, strong public sector unions, a progressive culture of multiculturalism and abstract equality which rewards activism through the laws.

In California, these ideals have come to dominate education and health-care in particular, and large swathes of public sentiment more broadly. In practice, this has led to one-party control of the political process, economic stagnation, bloated bureaucracy, deficits, race and identity group politics and a shrinking pie.

So for all the free-thinking Jerry Brown displays in the video below, the practical politics that result from these ideas are another matter:

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Other parts of the country are NOT California of course, full of more rooted, generally more traditional people, but the whole country, regardless of political ideology, is facing global competition for jobs, rapid technological change and loss of manufacturing and other low-skilled jobs, municipal defaults in many areas, and have not figured out how to fulfill the promises they’ve made for their citizens.

Walter Russell Mead suggests this is emblematic of the failure of the ‘blue model’:

‘The frustration and bitterness that fills American politics these days reflects the failure of our current social, political and economic institutions and practices to deliver the results that Americans want and expect.’

Victor Davis Hanson’s advice for California may be true of what’s increasingly part of the furniture for our national politics and liberalism more generally:

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.’

I know where much of what’s become of mainstream liberalism will likely pull the culture: Towards this collectivism, solidarity, activism and Statism, and it’s arguable how liberal this really is.

***See Matt Welch’s piece here on how the New Republic has gone full progressive in many ways.  In this blog’s opinion, neo-liberalism is more like that of Will Wilkinson, or can be found at the Economist.

They’ve got to keep up with the times: A Few Thoughts On NPR And Current Liberal Establishment Thinking Under Obama

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

California’s anti-union and anti-immigration democrat-Full video and background on Mickey Kaus here.

A good post on Robinson Jeffers from Malcolm Greenhill, which highlights how the rugged and vast beauty of California makes it easier to imagine what culture is, and what it ought to be on this outpost of Western Civilization.

Conn Carroll At The Washington Examiner: ‘California In Crisis’

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

-A map from Immodest Proposals on how to divide California.  Topographic crime map of San Francisco. 

Walter Russell Mead takes a look at the blue model (the old progressive model) from the ground up in NYC to argue that it’s simply not working.  Check out his series at The American Interest

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 homlessness 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’

Onward we go.

Repost-From The Wall Street Journal: Denver’s Mustang Or ‘Devil Horse’

Full post here.  (Slideshow included).

I’ve had to think a fair amount about art lately (life could be worse), so I thought I’d post this despite the current national frenzy for the importance of (A)rt.

The sculptor, Luis Jimenez is:

“…a widely honored artist known for melding Chicano themes and Western history in exuberant sculpture.”

and on this sculpture:

“The eyes are light-emitting diodes, which burn red like taillights. They are an homage to Mr. Jimenez’s father, who ran a neon-sign studio in El Paso, Texas... “

That could work.  Are we getting close to kitsch art and possibly Chupacabra territory here?  Do the skill and artistry transcend that?

It seems powerful, serious and proud…a little scary even…a mythic figure.  Is it possible Jimenez was poking fun at the serious belief people have in such figures and myths?   Maybe not.

DSC_0093 by robvann_99.

by robvann_99

Sad fact:  “He was killed on June 13, 2006, in his studio when a large piece, a mustang intended for Denver International Airport, fell on him severing an artery in his leg.”

Also On This Site:  Joan Miro: WomanGoya’s ColossusGoya’s Fight With Cudgels… Goethe’s Color Theory: Artists And ThinkersSome Quotes From Kant And A Visual Exercise

A Reaction To Jeff Koons ‘St John The Baptist’

Denis Dutton suggests art could head towards Darwin (and may offer new direction from the troubles of the modern art aimlessness and shallow depth) Review of Denis Dutton’s ‘The Art Instinct’

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