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Practical politics

"Personally opposed" Rocco

Rocco Buttiglione acted in a more principled way than Larry Summers when he said the wrong thing, but was he principled enough? I don’t think Summers would have knuckled under to any pressure group whatever that threatened to make things difficult for him. At Stalin’s show trials the Old Bolsheviks didn’t confess simply because they were afraid of torture or wanted to protect their families but because they thought the Party really was necessarily right in the end, so there couldn’t possibly be good grounds for taking a stand against it. I think something of the same willingness to embrace fantasy in the interests of a higher good is at work in Summers’ case. It seems fundamental to his view of things that “discrimination” is a stupefying horror that has to be utterly rooted out no matter what the institutional or intellectual cost. So although he’s too confused to be principled, at least on these issues, I’m sure he’s not altogether lacking in the quality.


The rights of conscience in America today

Here’s the latest on mutual respect and public neutrality, as filtered through what now passes for American public thought: a U.S. appeals court says that law schools, which have never seen a federal antidiscrimination rule on faculty hiring they don’t like, can ignore a federal law that says they can’t discriminate against military recruiters and k


Here and there

A few odds and ends run into on the web:


The UN as a self-limiting problem

The feature of transnational institutions that will save us from the worst of their ambition to reconstruct us is their irredeemable inefficiency and corruption. It’s not something that will go away because of better management or appeals to abstract global ideals. Management is secondary, and generalized ideals are good fallbacks but can’t carry the weight of day-to-day life. At bottom, we act as we are.


Yet more on the position of social conservatism

An issue that isn’t raised because public figures don’t understand it won’t get far in a media-drenched age. So an obvious problem for social conservatives is that the articulate classes don’t understand—at all—the issues they raise. Some possible reasons that come to mind:

  • Modern intellectual life, education and methods of organization make the methods of the modern natural sciences the standard for rationality, and tend to treat social life as a matter of engineering outcomes in as direct and controllable a way as possible. Morality, to the extent it’s of public concern, becomes a matter of rights and obligations regarding formal organizations. “Personal” morality therefore becomes a strictly personal matter that no one else can comment on rather than a factor basic to our lives together.


From the publishing company that gives us the New York Times and the state that gave us “gay marriage” as a constitutional right, lessons from the murder of Theo van Gogh: Madness in Holland. The richness of the text makes comment all but impossible.


Public life continues to dissolve

It’s clear enough that when leftists attack the Right (“bigoted,” “narrow,” “self-righteous,” “irrational,” “divisive,” etc.), they’re talking about themselves. Here’s an example to add to the hatemongering and calls for secession we’ve seen, even from respected Democrats and writers, as a result of W’s election.


More on the values vote

Social conservatives complain that their issues—abortion, “gay marriage” and whatnot—aren’t taken nearly as seriously by politicians on their side as by those on the other side. For Republicans, it seems, those issues are mostly vote getters that can be compromised or negotiated away, while for Democrats they’re religious absolutes that take precedence over everything.


Blue constructions and red realities

An obvious lesson of post-election complaints by leftists is that highly-educated and well-connected Blues, including famous commentators on public affairs, simply don’t understand Reds. They haven’t a clue as to how most of their countrymen look at things or why they look at them that way. Hence the fear, loathing and fantasy.

Some explanation of the basic Red frame of mind may be in order. The most important difference relevant to American politics, I think, is that Blues assume the world is made of constructions, while Reds are more likely to think it’s made of realities. That difference means different positions on any number of issues:


Post-election spin

Leftist blogs say the election turned on “gay marriage,” the prominent rightist blogs say it didn’t (Kos and Little Green Footballs provide an example). The election was close, and turned on any number of things.


Election miscellany

Steve Sailer’s done the research, and it appears likely that Kerry’s IQ is actually lower than Bush’s. In itself the point isn’t particularly interesting, but as Sailer points out it gains some interest from the insistence of the Left that (1) “IQ” is an absurd concept that means nothing, and (2) lefties have higher IQs than righties, which means that righties are absurd and mean nothing.

On other fronts, W. F. Buckley notes that Catholic voters aren’t particularly Catholic, and the Newman society finds that Catholic universities aren’t particularly Catholic either (at least if “Kerry supporter” means “non-Catholic”).


Was Karl Rove behind this?

On the whole, I find the Guardian a summation of the worst features of the intellectual Left gone mainstream and become dominant: smug, ignorant, narrow, self-centered, unimaginative, intolerant, and sometimes—whether it’s a cause or effect I don’t know—downright evil. In personal dealings with people who meet that description (mostly not leftists) I’ve noticed that the damage they do is limited because the rest of the world isn’t real to them.


The band plays on, and the song never ends

More items on AIDS, the all-purpose, all-political, all-symbolizing disease:

  • Michael Fumento points out how grossly overrated and overfunded AIDS is as an American health problem: When Is Enough Enough?
  • Meanwhile, Cardinal Trujillo makes another obvious point, that defending normal attitudes, standards and expectations is a much more effective way to fight AIDS than the doomed and inhuman attempt to technologize sex. The Cardinal mentions Uganda and the Philippines as examples of what can be done.

Chirac on the one and the many

Jacques Chirac took time off last week from promoting the EU and UN to worry about the threat posed by US cultural hegemony to the ecology of cultural particularism. A single world culture that chokes out the diversity of local cultures would be a “sub-culture,” he said, and would constitute a catastrophe for humanity.


Perfecting the machine

The deconstruction of race, gender and whatnot rolls on:

  • Not surprisingly, a conference on race agrees it’s a social construct, and also not surprisingly the conclusion is that everybody—especially Americans, who are apparently more racist than other people—has to be re-educated. The scholars are meeting to figure out how to spend $4 million from the National Science Foundation and the Ford Foundation to create a traveling museum exhibit presenting correct views on race.
  • Oprah Winfrey, sob sister supreme, gets in over her head with a show featuring children who say they were born with bodies of the wrong sex. The show featured an 11-year-old girl who wants to be a boy and whose parents let her live that way, and an expert who called such children “archetypal warriors on the cutting edge of that space between the two polarities that we hold onto so tightly” and suggested “[p]erhaps it would serve us all to go to that place … ”

More on the CBS forgeries

People who haven’t dealt much with difficult family members and co-workers are sometimes puzzled when someone takes an utterly indefensible position, insists it’s beyond question, and refuses to budge. The strategy’s rational in the right setting, though. If someone who can’t simply be gotten rid of (wife, brother, colleague, pastor, CBS news, whoever) insists that bicycles have wings, and treats a contrary assertion as a personal attack aimed at destroying the relationship, then everything stops dead until the point is dropped. The more absurd the point the better, because it makes it harder to discuss the matter without saying things that really do look as if you’re attacking the relationship. If someone is in a strong position in a continuing relationship, stonewalling works. You can always make others drop an issue by refusing to discuss it rationally.


What's the frequency, Kenneth? (Take Two)

I started reading the stuff about the CBS documents on W’s National Guard service, mostly because the situation seemed so odd. The best thing I found on the issue of authenticity is the Flash overlay between a CBS document and the same thing produced by MS Word using default settings. (I’m told versions by people other than Little Green Footballs are also available.) The next best thing is a screen grab of the CBS evidence for a key point in their defense, that at the time some military typewriters did produce raised superscripts.


How bad will things get?

Right-wingers are alarmed by totalitarian features of advanced liberalism: its insistent universalism, its theoretical coherence and simplicity, its resolute suppression of alternative principles of social order, its principled rejection of common sense, inherited ways, and the very concept of human nature.


What, generally speaking, is to be done?

A commenter asks those who post here “What does your ideal America look like?” The question’s worth discussing.

From the standpoint of specific practical political goals, I don’t really have an ideal America. No society is ideal, since every society depends on the cooperation of imperfect human beings. The specifics of what’s good politically depend on time, place, habit, history, what works out, and a lot of unpredictable contingencies. And in any event politics has to do with force, so it has a limited and not-very-ideal role.

Still, some things are better than others, and what I’d like to move toward is a society that allows more play to natural human ways of doing and understanding things, one driven less by attempts to force everything to conform to narrow and inhuman misunderstandings of knowledge, reality, and human life. I’d like to have less of a role for scientism and formal expertise and more of one for local and traditional institutions—e.g., family, neighborhood, religion, particular culture—that are capable of capturing the kinds of perceptions and experiences that value-neutral reasoning, social science, economics, therapeutics and so on can’t take notice of.


The politics of being

In America politics is more and more a matter of social metaphysics:



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