The Dartmouth Observer
Thursday, July 31, 2003
In The D Joe Rago provides a merited editorial response to the proponents of Dartmouth "branding." My favorite: "Dartmouth already has a well-known image: the premier undergraduate teaching institution in the country, where the professors are professors and the students are drunk." The rant was enjoyable, Joe, but these kids still deserve the gauntlet. I would recommend a more sustained effort of castigation, but hesitate to attract more attention to their embarassing cause. Esse quam videri. To be rather than to seem. From Rome, here is to those of us for whom Dartmouth was our first choice. Cin cin.
Wednesday, July 30, 2003
Volokh discusses Sacerdote
Dartmouth economics professor Bruce Sacerdote '90 published a paper not too long ago about the transgenerational effects of slavery, whereupon one student got really, really mad and had to be told off. Tyler Cowen and Jacob Levy at Volokh are now attempting to relate Sacerdote's study to the issue of slavery reparations. Cowen thinks the study weakens the case for reparations, but Levy doesn't. For a less technical discussion of reparations, try this discussion between John McWhorter and Alfred Brophy on Uncommon Knowledge.
The Center Cannot Hold
There's an interesting piece (aren't they all?) in the summer New Criterion on how our definitions of "civilization" and "culture" have become so pluralistic as to have lost all meaning entirely. Back in the good old days, "the meaning of “culture” was very like 'civilization.' It denoted both a universal process of human improvement and the condition to which that process leads: an increase in amenity, an amelioration of the harsher aspects of life, a diminution of ignorance and fear, a flowering of the arts and sciences, and finally, crowning all, a “civility” which only peoples blessed with the mature religious, legal, political, and economic arrangements of “civil society” are fortunate enough to know. This evaluative meaning was entirely compatible with Matthew Arnold’s humanistic ideal—culture as acquaintance with the best that humanity had thought or said or done. It was not pluralistic. It did not involve “cultures” (plural) scattered all over the globe. It did not pretend that all cultures were broadly equal. Instead it visualized a single universal scale of achievement in which some things were decidedly better than others."
Ok, so that was the state of affairs back then. No longer. Today, "culture" is used to describe everything from Hollywood to primitive tribes, while even "civilization," which for some reason has retained some aspects of its old meaning, is being employed casually. A recent book by Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, aptly titled Civilizations, defined "civilization" in environmental terms in order to describe all manner of primitive societies and their struggles against hostile (indifferent?) nature. The environment is there; it isn't metaphysical.
Like Sandall, I have a problem with defining terms like "culture" and "civilization" in too many ways, such that "terminological confusion" results. A great number of discussions I have falter because no one can really agree on how the central terms of the debate should be defined (debaters encounter this all the time, particularly when the motions are poorly phrased). The result is not argument but a whole lot of people talking over each other. But how do you persuade others to adopt your definition of a particular term like "culture," so that the discussion can move ahead? Sandall doesn't say. He defers instead to tradition, which is fine for many people, including myself to an extent, but which won't cut it with most skeptical moderns, whom I'm fairly sympathetic with as well. The way out of this semantic mess is unclear to me. Possibly a utilitarian argument?
Thursday, July 24, 2003
Mr. Dingell's Neighborhood...
...Where Ward Connerly is apparently not welcome. Since I'm back in Michigan for the summer, I feel obliged to pass along this bit of lunacy. For those unfamiliar with Mr. Connerly, he is an activist who spearheaded legislation in California that banned the use of racial preferences in admissions at that state's public universities. Since my home state, Michigan, has become something of an affirmative action epicenter as of late, Mr. Connerly is coming to the Great Lakes State to support similar legislation here.
U.S. Representitive John Dingell is not pleased. He sent this remarkably arrogant and offensive letter to Mr. Connerly. Just to prove to the world what an asshole he is, Mr. Dingell even posted the letter on his official website, for all to see:
The people of Michigan have a simple message to you: go home and stay there. We do not need you stirring up trouble where none exists.
Michiganders do not take kindly to your ignorant meddling in our affairs. We have no need for itinerant publicity seekers, non-resident troublemakers or self-aggrandizing out-of-state agitators. You have created enough mischief in your own state to last a lifetime.
We reject your "black vs. white" politics that were long ago discarded to the ash heap of history. Your brand of divisive racial politics has no place in Michigan, or in our society. So Mr. Connerly, take your message of hate and fear, division and destruction and leave. Go home and stay there, you're not welcome here.
With every good wish,
John D. Dingell
Member of Congress
THIS MAILING WAS PREPARED, PUBLISHED, AND MAILED AT TAXPAYER EXPENSE
As one of the taxpayers who payed for Mr. Dingell's mailing, and one of the Michiganders he claims to speak for, I have to say that my jaw dropped when I saw this. Regardless of how Mr. Dingell feels about Mr. Connerly's position on affirmative action, it's shocking that a U.S. Congressman could write such a venomous - and legally specious, to boot - rant, and be so proud of it as to make it public. At least now Mr. Dingell has been exposed to all as the childish zealot that most of us in Michigan have known him to be for some time.
I wish that Connerly hadn't taken a few shots of his own in this public response (though I probably would have done the same, had the above letter showed up in my mailbox). I think Connerly still wins the judges' decision with ease, but you can make up your own mind:
Thank you for such a warm and hospitable welcome to Michigan.
Amendment I of the United States Constitution is, in part, as follows:
Congress shall make no law …abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peacefully to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Amendment XIV of the Constitution is, in part, as follows:
All persons born and naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside…
Over the years, the courts have consistently held that these Amendments, taken together, grant to all American citizens the right to travel freely, to express their views, and to participate in the affairs — short of exercising a vote — of any village and hamlet in the nation. For most, this is so well established as to be beyond question.
Perhaps, you are unaware that I am an American citizen — a distinction from which I derive the rights and privileges enumerated in the Constitutional Amendments noted above. It is quite clear from your reaction to the recent decisions handed down by the United States Supreme Court to sanction the use of racial preferences, notwithstanding Amendment XIV, that you have little regard for that Amendment; so I should not be surprised that you would also want to deny me the rights that I enjoy pursuant to the Constitution.
I am obliged to tell you, Congressman, that I, on the other hand, do believe in and honor the Constitution of this nation. And, it confirms that my right to visit Michigan, as a full-fledged American citizen and not simply as a tourist, is not contingent on your invitation. As a taxpaying U.S. citizen, anywhere I set foot on American soil is my "home," just as much as it is yours.
If you would grant me a waiver so that my tax dollars would not be used to support racial discrimination in the State of Michigan, I would more respectfully entertain your impudent advice. Absent that, the term arrogance does not begin to capture the essence of a United States Congressman advising an American citizen to refrain from participating in the affairs of his government. Ironically, your advice is the echo of southern segregationists who sought the comfort of states' rights to practice their discrimination against black Americans. Have you learned nothing about "civil rights" from that horrible chapter in our nation's history?
There is such an eerie similarity between them and you that it bears comment.
-George Wallace, Lester Maddox, and others who shared their rabid and abhorrent views believed in treating people differently on the basis of skin color…and so do you.
-They wanted to practice their brand of racism free from the interference of "meddling, outside agitators"…and so do you.
-They called those who disagreed with them and merely wanted to exercise their right to assemble "carpetbaggers" and "non-resident troublemakers" who were "stirring up trouble where none exists"…and so do you.
-They were arrogant and intolerant bullies…and so are you.
Your letter is a prime example of why the texture of civil discourse in our nation is so coarse. It is an indication of why Members of Congress need the police to intervene to separate them from fighting. What a terrible example for our children and our grandchildren.
As a member of the Congress, I suppose you have the right to send narrow-minded and venomous letters, at taxpayers' expense, to anyone of your choosing. But, you ought to be ashamed of telling any American citizen to "go home and stay there." How dare you!
By promoting the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative, those of us who believe in this cause — I among them — are doing what the Constitution of Michigan allows; and you should not be seeking to abridge the right of American citizens to use processes allowed by law to implement their civic beliefs and values. Candidly, if you were true to the oath of office that you have sworn to defend and uphold, you would not be so content to look the other way while Jennifer Gratz, Barbara Grutter, and Pat Hamacher were being discriminated against. You would object to the Supreme Court's defiance of the simple command of the 1964 Civil Rights Act that all Americans be treated equally "without regard to race, color or national origin."
The thought does not escape me, congressman — and it should not you either — that some of my tax dollars contribute to your salary. That makes me an involuntary constituent of yours. Therefore, I must ask, do you treat all of your constituents with such contempt, arrogance and high-handedness, or do you reserve such treatment for the "uppity" ones who insist on using their civil rights to participate in public policymaking?
You say that I am not welcome in Michigan and that the "people of Michigan" don't want me there. I believe you represent the 15th Congressional District of Michigan and nothing else. Longevity has its way of creating delusions of grandeur, and I believe that has happened to you. In addition, I must ask whether you have run your "get out of town" sermon by the hundreds of other Michiganders who have called, written and emailed me to come to Michigan and assist in the restoration of the principle of "equal protection under the law?"
You have said I am "stirring up trouble where none exists." That certainly isn't what I hear from other prominent people in Michigan or what I have read in the dailies of your state. And, it is certainly inconsistent with my observations about Benton Harbor and other racial circumstances in Michigan? It defies credulity that you could be so out of touch with your state as to not recognize the racial tension that lies within, much of which has been engendered by racial preferences at the University of Michigan.
I note with great interest that Reverend Jesse Jackson has announced his intention to open an office of his Rainbow Coalition in Benton Harbor. Would you please be kind enough to send me a copy of your letter to him demanding that he "go home and stay there." I understand that he is also a non-resident of Michigan.
Since you so proudly posted your letter to me on your website, I trust that you will do the same with my response.
With equally good wishes.
Andrew Sullivan links to these comments on Democratic Underground regarding the deaths of Uday and Qusay:
I'll admit they're scum and rightfully so, but anything that lands as even more humiliation on W's grotesque shrivelled face is that much the better.
can be found in full here. (Thanks to Jonah Goldberg.)
Tuesday, July 22, 2003
Researchers help define what makes a political conservative
(Link courtesy of Instapundit, courtesy of The Angry Clam)
Following a series of "meta-analytic calculations" performed on source material from 12 countries, intrepid professors from the University of California, Berkeley (surprise surprise!) have come to the conclusion that political conservatives display in all likelihood the following psychological traits:
- Fear and aggression
- Dogmatism and intolerance of ambiguity
- Uncertainty avoidance [I love the syntax!]
- Need for cognitive closure [Can someone explain this?]
- Terror management [That's not terrorism they're talking about, but xenophobia.]
Although they are quick to point out that that their study "does not mean that conservatism is pathological or that conservative beliefs are necessarily false, irrational, or unprincipled." That's good to hear. Right-wingers will also be glad to know that though less "integratively complex" than others are, "it doesn't mean that they're simple-minded." In short, as one of the researchers so eloquently states, this document presents "an 'elegant and unifying explanation' for political conservatism under the rubric of motivated social cognition."
Notes on Idi Amin
- He's lying, as I type this, in a Saudi hospital. How well those Saudis treat people like him!
- His place of residence, for some time, has been the Red Sea port of Jeddah, where the Saudis have furnished him with all the luxuries exiled murderers could hope for: cars, drivers, cooks, maids, and a monthly allowance.
- The best man at his fifth wedding was...future Nobel Peace Prize winner Yasser Arafat.
- He reputedly fed the remains of his victims to the crocodiles in Lake Victoria. The heads of his decapitated political rivals were preserved in his fridges.
- Though uneducated (he was a champion boxer though), he loved awarding himself titles: doctorate of law, field marshall, president-for-life, and CBE. That's Conqueror of the British Empire.
- He once delivered a speech at the UN General Assembly in his local Lugandan tongue, claiming that English was the language of colonialism.
- Perhaps unsurprisingly, the West - Britain in particular - played an indirect role in his rise to power, preferring him to his pro-communist predecessor (whom he ousted in a bloody coup).
Now for Daddy
It looks as if Saddam's sons are dead, killed in a Mosul firefight. That's two major WMDs out of the way (read the Time article linked to above). Some intelligence experts might have wished them to be caught alive and interrogated, but I guess, as the Duchess of York tells her son Richard III, "Bloody thou art, bloody will be thy end."
(Not a good week for dictators: first Idi Amin, now Uday and Qusay.)
Saturday, July 19, 2003
Well, I finally created new blog named the Essential Stevenson. It's address is: http://justplainjohn.blogspot.com. I have linked from that site to here.
UPDATE: Just a note, due to my schedule, usually updated in the p.m. Unles of course I am at work, then I am paid to goof on the Internet.
On American Power
American imperialism, or the exercise of American power - whatever you call it - isn't of course in itself the miracle cure for all the "structural conditions of a cursed world" you describe. What it can do in places like Iraq and Liberia is clear away the obstacles that prevent these structural problems from being addressed, by deposing tyrants and eliminating despotic regimes. Only then can the reform of institutions, or in many cases the construction of institutions where none existed previously, begin. How involved the occupying powers are in this process depends on the country itself.
American power is both useful and necessary for removing stagnating and rotting elements within the international system. However, Cicero's dilemma still applies. He suggested, though it was Augustine's commentary on the text, that war should only occur in specific cases of restituion for self or for an ally in order for a war to be 'Just.' " A lawful war is one which is formally declared and which is waged either to secure restituion of property for which a claim has been made, or to repel an invader." Through another one of his interlocutors, Cicero offers the skeptics position: Was it by Justice (what Augustine-as-Cicero is arguing for) or by prudence (cold realism) that this nation (Rome) rose from the least to the greatest? In summary, under what conditions should imperial power be used?
The narrow justifications suggested by Cicero would not allow humanitiarian interventions, which ChienWen does believe should happen. And we know that displays of power have not been limited to the narrow-tailoring suggested by Cicero. So when American power is used, as we know it will be, why are we using it? CW argues because American power can be used to excise the undesirable elements that impede development. There are three positions one could hold.
There is the ChienWenian position of selective interventionism. I will allow him to defend his own thesis. I believe that any interventionist strategy rests on shaky foundations because often to organize such military excursion, one has to team up with those who intentions are not so benign.
The second position is the skeptics position outlined by Philus in Cicero's 'On the Commonwealth'. According to the skeptic, American power is good because it assure benefits to the American people. Sometimes the idea of justice and international law will be invoked, Operation Iraq I, as it suits are interests. If the law is cubersome, Operation Iraq II, it can be safely ignored.
The third position is Machaivelli's logic. His contention is that in a stable international order like the post-war world, there needs to be statesmen who are cut throat and shrewd. In every stable order, there are elements who would de-stabalize it. It is the duty of the statesmen who oversee the international order to ruthlessly destroy elements who act out of line. Law, morality, humanitarianism are all useful instituions of manipulation but behind the scences, there must be a singular force that will perform horrendous deeds to ensure the survival of an order in which those deeds are reprehensible. Kissinger's analysis of statesmen and thier behaviour maybe instructive here. At times, the most criminal acts are necessary to perserve political justice, an area of 'fairness' in which everyone agrees on the source of moral authority and the procedures by which this authority's will is manifest. Maintaing order will sometimes require a form of public virtue that is unjust.
It is easy to observe what American power "can do in places like Iraq and Liberia." The more difficult argument is whether there is an argument beyond necessity, one that makes normative claims, that could help America guide its foreign policy. The why's and should's of this equation need to considered equally, if not more imporant than, the can's and could's.
Silly, if not Amusing
Partisan Brawling on Capitol hill.
Re: That Dark Continent
American imperialism, or the exercise of American power - whatever you call it - isn't of course in itself the miracle cure for all the "structural conditions of a cursed world" you describe. What it can do in places like Iraq and Liberia is clear away the obstacles that prevent these structural problems from being addressed, by deposing tyrants and eliminating despotic regimes. Only then can the reform of institutions, or in many cases the construction of institutions where none existed previously, begin. How involved the occupying powers are in this process depends on the country itself.
(One advocate for Pax Americana is the British historian Niall Ferguson, who just published Empire: The Rise and Demise of the British World Order and the Lessons for Global Power. You can listen to him on Uncommon Knowledge here.)
Nehru's remarks may have made some sense when they were written in the mid-1940s, but at our late stage in history, they ring hollow. Western civilization not a conspicuous success? It certainly is right now. It may not have "solved the basic problem of life" (which is?), but it sure deals with the problems - I emphasize the plural - better than most cultures. Coming out of WWII, conflict may have seemed inherent to Western civ, but events since them seem to disprove this. If anything, conflict seems endemic in parts of the world where Western values and institutions haven't taken root: Africa, the Middle East, parts of Southeast Asia and Latin America; whereas democracies don't go to war with each other, as is often emphasized. Nehru's point about the West's lack of "basic principles to give meaning to life" is equally mystifying. What about representative government, human rights, individual freedom, et al.? Surely they can be construed as "basic principles."
I don't know enough about British colonialism in India to parse his later remarks, although from a comparative standpoint, it is pretty clear that India out of the welter of ex-European colonies has done relatively well for itself after independence; as have Hong Kong and Singapore. "Proper development," which Nehru seems to associate with the psychic condition of the nation, does indeed have to be pursued by countries free of colonial rule. But it's colonial rule in many instances that creates the conditions necessary for "proper development." That didn't happen in Africa.
Friday, July 18, 2003
Need to know what y'all think: What is the signifcance of the Roman empire to the West as we know it today? Greece has a place in our hearts but what about Rome?
That Dark Continent
Having finished my paper on Taoism, I had a little time to catch up on blogging. I finally read the New Republic piece on Africa. I have some thoughts.
Beinart writes, of the protesting Left, "The answer, I think, is that the left isn't galvanized by victims; it's galvanized by victimizers. The theme of answer's upcoming protest, after all, is "Occupation and Empire." In a recent essay, Roy explained that "the real and pressing danger, the greatest threat of all, is the locomotive force that drives the political and economic engine of the U.S. government." In other words, imperialism, what she elsewhere calls "a super-power's self-destructive impulse toward supremacy, stranglehold, global hegemony."
First of all, as an aside, "Occupation and Empire" sounds like a good title for a history book (maybe by Paul Johnson) in the vein of one of those "history of the West" books. Secondly, I think that Roy's dilemma, the same one that Cicero struggled with, is a poignant one: what is the value of self-restraint to an entity with near limitless power? For Cicero, that was the Roman Empire; for many of today's left, that would be America. I think that much of the rhetoric of the left warning of imminent doom and destruction if America were to take any action in the world directly balances the triumphalist discourse of power often associated with the neocons. It's not so much that critics believe that American hegemony will collaspe; it's more that they hope the American hegemony will end. However, and this brings me to my thrid point, unlike Roy I believe that other factors are more important for the well-being of the world than how America exercises its power. I call these the structural conditions of a cursed world: death, disease, famine, poverty, and underdeveloped nations. And while there are things that we can do to mitigate the effects of these things, American might is epiphonomenal to causes of these problems.
I do remember, vaguely, that Henry Kissinger warned in his latest book that it was a mistake to assume that realism demands little American involvement in Africa. He offered advice on engaging sub-Saharan Africa in a meaningful way. The book is named: Does America Need a Foreign Policy: toward a diplomacy for the 21st Century.
D'Souza opines: "Sub-Saharan Africa, which is probably in the worst position, has been described by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan as "a cocktail of disasters." But this is not because colonialism in Africa lasted so long but because it lasted a mere half-century. It was too short to permit Western institutions to take firm root. Consequently after their independence most African nations have retreated into a kind of tribal barbarism that can only be remedied with more Western influence, not less."
The problem with this argument was address by Jawaharlal Nehru in The Discovery of India :
"The civlization of the modern West, with all its great and manifold achievements, does not appear to have been a conspicous sucess or to have thus far solved the basic problem of life. Confict is inherent in it, and periodically it indulges in self-destruction on a colossal scale. It seems to lack something to give it stability, some basic principles to give meaning to life, though what these are I cannot say. Yet because it is dynamic and full of life and curiosity, there is hope for it.... [W]hen the British came to India, though technologically somewhat backward she was still among the advanced commerical nations of the world...But her normal development was arrested by the British power. Industrial growth was checked, and as a consequence social growth was also arrested. The normal power relationships of society could not adjust themselves and find an equilibrium, as power was concentrated in the alien authority, which based itself of force and encouraged groups and classes which had ceased to have any real significance. Indian life thus became more artificial, for many of the individuals and groups who seemed to lay an important role in it had no vital functions left...[B]ut so long as foreign authoritarian rule contined, no such development could take place."
Proper development cannot truly occur under imperialism. There maybe some benefits to Western rule over your province but the complications of an alien potentate in a society is too much for any power, Occidental or Oriental, to bear.
As usual, the web has become an outlet for pet causes and devotions to ideals that may have very little positive practical effects. Watching Free Dartmouth go on about WMD for weeks ad infinitum, I was content to allow the blogosphere to creep by quietyly. However, I wanted to extend a heart welcome to the Dartmouth Civil Liberties Union's blog. Having welcomed them, let me quickly critique this post.
The article from Yale is making a normative claim: the motivations for single-sex rooms ignore the homosexual oreintation. "Yale regulates certain aspects of our daily life in loco parentis. Our parents, it is assumed, generally need to be convinced before permitting us to live with our significant others or potential sexual partners. Therefore, Yale, accommodating for what is thought to be our parents' wishes, denies its students the possibility of sharing a suite with members of the opposite sex. What's wrong here? The leap of logic, the sleight of hand, is the implicit assumption that any student's potential partners belong to the opposite gender."
The article then advocates that we abolish this archaic, and now discriminatory, practice. What will be the practical effects if we allow coed room habitation? There is very little that we can do for the small discomfort and sexual tensions raised between a homosexual person and his/her roommate. We couldn't make special provisions, like having a "Charles in Charge" housing option, without branding the gay population with social stigma. Moreover, there will always be tension present when two or more human beings cohabitate. I do not think it is reasonable to maintain that sexual tension is psychologically or functionally any different from the tensions caused between roommates with different schedules, friend preferences, or musical tastes. As with these other problems that arise, if the tension ever becomes too unbearable, the distressed person can petition the Housing Authority for a different rooming assignment.
While I am happy that this Yalie is sensitive to the particularized needs of the homosexual population, this ought not become a cause celebre. With things like marriage law needing to be fixed, the issue of college roommates pales in comparison.
Thursday, July 17, 2003
- Free Dartmouth is doing a good job talking about WMDs, so I won't intrude upon their turf. Although I would like Jared Alessandroni, who's back blogging, to respond at length to my remarks on his Free Press article on socially-constructed evil. He's said a few things, but I'd like to hear more.
- The Dartmouth Civil Liberties Union has a blog, and they're calling themselves the "first truly non-partisan organization at Dartmouth." Andrew Grossman is skeptical. I have to say the Aires, not to mention the DUJS and the Tolkien Society, have always struck me as another front for Republican interests in Hanover.
Funding Terror or Supporting Peace?
One often hears these days that the EU continued to fund Arafat's PA even after it has been demonstrated that it was involved in an unholy league with Hamas and Islamic Jihad, groups that would not except Israel's existence under any circumstances (speaking within the context of the Intifadah). Fierce condemnation defintely fell during the Karine-A scandal. Yet, the Financial Times (of London) offer a vastly different reading of the situation: not as Europeans whose first instinct is to appease the dictator, but as Europeans who kept alive the prospects of peace when so many were tying to bury it. My question: is their argument persuasive?
"The EU has worked throughout the bloodstained months of the intifada to keep a Palestinian administration alive and to drive a process of reform within it. Often in the face of sharp criticism at home and abroad, the EU supported the Palestinian Authority with direct budgetary assistance at a time when its revenues were withheld by the government of Israel. Between November 2000 and December 2002 the EU granted nearly €250m ($280m) to keep the administration alive and to sustain the most basic of public services. Without our assistance there would have been no Palestinian interlocutor for the negotiations now under way."
Today on Campus
The Dartmouth Independent Forum hosts an event.
The Theory, the Debate and the Implications
Benoit Roisin is Professor of Engineering Sciences at Dartmouth's Thayer School, where he teaches a series of courses in Environmental Engineering. His PhD in Geophysical Fluid Dynamics has also equipped him with a solid background in climatology.
Thursday, JULY 17th
Sponsored by the Dartmouth Independent Forum
You all should come if you are free.
Wednesday, July 16, 2003
I posted on Johnson in a reply to a comment on one of my previous posts. Brad explained the context of the quote from Boswell, which, Chien Wen, if you want to read the whole exchange, is found in the Life of Johnson under April 7, 1775.
I think that Brad had in mind, for the second work that he mentioned, "The Patriot: Addressed to the Electors of Great Britain," in "The Works of Samuel Johnson," published by Pafraets & Company, Troy, New York, 1913; volume 14, pages 81-93.
Those of you on the right will like this one from the latter work: "Some claim a place in the list of patriots, by an acrimonious and unremitting opposition to the court. This mark is by no means infallible. Patriotism is not necessarily included in rebellion. A man may hate his king, yet not love his country."
Those of you on the left will like this one: "It is the quality of patriotism to be jealous and watchful, to observe all secret machinations, and to see publick dangers at a distance. The true lover of his country is ready to communicate his fears, and to sound the alarm, whenever he perceives the approach of mischief."
Ultimately, however, despite my application of his quote to the Republican rally, Johnson from the right most consistently attacked professions of patriotism disguising, in his opinion, populist demogoguery or partisan alarmism a la Krugman or Kristof of the New York Times.
Tuesday, July 15, 2003
Charles Taylor's American buddy
And speaking of Liberia, guess who's been defending Charles Taylor? (Maybe PR's involvement will induce the "hard left" - Beinart's phrase, not mine - to sit up and take note of Liberia and Africa in general.)
Africa: what to do?
In a typically well-written piece in the latest New Republic, Peter Beinart wonders why so few people on the left - ANSWER, Arundhati Roy, etc. - seem concerned about the problems in Africa today. He suggests that the contemporary left (and this is a man of the left speaking) is "galvanized by victimizers," the chief culprit of course being America itself. Well, there's nothing new in this accusation (it's been made here before). Neither is his belief that Africa would be a better place today had imperialism there persisted longer than it did (Dinesh D'Souza makes the argument here - scroll down to the bottom of his article). I bring these two questions up again because, well, they seem perpetually interesting, particularly in the wake of Bush's recent African tour and Charles Taylor's deposition as Liberia's leader.
Beinart has some strong words for the right as well. He accuses them of discussing Iraq and Cuba in "high moral tones," while adopting a "cold and narrow realism" when it comes to Africa. How true is this? I'm not qualified to judge the state of conservative attitudes towards Africa, but as a recent debate on NRO suggested, some conservatives don't believe in intervention (although Carpenter to be fair is more of a libertarian, since he works at Cato), while others do. (Interesting: when I search for "Liberia" on NRO, I get plenty of entries on "liberal hysteria.")
He concludes his piece with praise for ABC (for showing a five-part series on Congo in 2001), Human Rights Watch (for being liberal without succumbing to politicization), and the Washington Post's editorial page (for being liberal-interventionist). I'm with him on this one: I supported the war against Saddam mainly - though not entirely - for humanitarian reasons, and continue to believe that a human rights-based foreign policy is viable (and even practical) in the post-Cold War world. Mind you, that doesn't necessarily involve military conflict (although I don't object to it if it's necessary). The Bush administration, at least on paper, appears to think the same way. I say "appears," because of course we have yet to see how effective its African policy will be. Something tells me that more punitive measures, and not just more AIDS vaccines, may be necessary...
North Korea: what to do?
Stanley Kurtz thinks that America "should at least consider a strike against North Korea, even if that puts Seoul at risk. A strike against North Korea may not be the right policy, but it has got to be openly debated." He goes on to suggest that Kim Jong Il has every incentive to supply Iran and al-Qaeda with nukes, and may "already have the capability to do so."
So then, fellow bloggers and visitors, is Mr. Kurtz right to feel worried? If so - and I think his fears are real - what is to be done? Some options: 1) invade, depose the Dear Leader, and run the risk of nuclear war; 2) continue diplomacy, which to date has achieved very little and done nothing to improve the situation of the North Korean people; 3) encourage dissident movements from within - like they'll ever succeed against the Stalinist regime; 4) do nothing at all, and let South Korea, China, and Japan handle affairs - or maybe the regime will die a natural death.
Any other suggestions?
The following letter to the editor was just published in my local newspaper. Read it and weep.
Govt should rethink hiring of gays
I AM a heterosexual man, married to a heterosexual woman and we have four heterosexual children. We believe that the right upbringing by parents will prevent improper and deviant future behaviours.
We also believe in a God who loves both the heterosexual and the gay, but He hates the sin of immorality.
So now you know where I would stand on the issue of the Government hiring gays for even sensitive jobs ('Govt more open to employing gays now'; ST, July 4). Or is there no more right or wrong regarding the hiring of gays to help govern the country?
The saying 'Love the sinner, hate the sin' is my guiding principle. I accept a criminal, a gay, a gangster or a hooligan, but I reject his behaviour. Why? Because as human beings we have a conscience to distinguish between what is good and what is bad.
There is no greyness between white and black. White is white, and black is black. There is no relativity in morality. Morality is absolute. Yet the guiding principle is love.
So is it morally right to hire gays for key government positions? It would take a perfect government not to hire them as pressure mounts over the years to accept gays in practically any job.
Our society, including religious groups, has been bending backwards towards tolerance of immoral behaviour. A government that does not appease the wishes of its people may not last long. On the other hand, many people still expect our Government to take sound and responsible action to protect young citizens from the corrupting influence of immoral behaviour.
I am concerned about the consequences of the Government's action. Firstly, the Government has shown quite clearly by its action that it has lost its moral authority.
Then there are other repercussions: gay leaders will one day advocate gay marriages and, as if to complete the cycle, they will promote the adoption of orphaned children by married gay couples.
I am concerned for our next generation of children. Will they be able to tell right from wrong? By accepting what the Government is doing now, we are not helping our children to see the corrupting and subtle influences of such a lifestyle.
I disagree with the Government that people are born that way and hence helpless to change. Gays are never born that way. The law of nature has been that you are either born a male or a female, hence the proper behaviour follows.
However, because of negative influences in their lives, homosexualism and lesbianism set in and took control of the person's mind, soul and body.
Most gays are reported to have had a history of being sexually abused when they were children. Others mentioned that they had grown up in homes without a father or father figure and subsequently rejected their own sexual identities. Still others admitted that their attraction to the same sex started when they allowed themselves to be addicted to pornography.
Yet the person himself still has a choice as to whether to accept or reject this immoral behaviour. Some people may be comfortable with the change in views, but I am not and will continue to educate my children in the right way.
I am surprised that leaders of religions like Islam and Christianity have not voiced their disagreement openly. These two religions have very strong views about the right behaviours where human sexuality is concerned.
Religions play an important role in society and it is most ironical and sad that religious leaders are refraining from making their stand known publicly in matters of sexual morality.
I would like to appeal to the Government to reverse its decision to hire gays for key jobs. History has shown time and again that great empires fell because of failing human values and shaky moral principles. Does the phrase 'the chain is as strong as the weakest link' sound familiar?
We know that yeast causes dough to rise, so in the recent Sars outbreak its containment depended on not leaving even one virus at large to infect people.
Likewise, the majority of the public should make known its disapproval of hiring gays for key government jobs. This seemingly harmless action today will not bode well for our children tomorrow.
Monday, July 14, 2003
One Year Old
Alright, so this blog is one year old. How time flies. In another year, I'll have graduated from college.
Janos Marton in the headlines
Our Student Assembly President gets a mention in the NYT. Then NRO mentions him too...
Praise to The Dartmouth today, for making me laugh aloud as it has not for quite some time: "It has yet to be determined whether other campus political organizations share in the same spirit of the demonstrable patriotism. Not the Greens, the Young Democrats nor even the Campus Libertarians have lavished praise on America as the Republicans have, that is, by barbecuing. Which raises the question, several attendees asked: Do they really love America?" The writer is either a fool or a satirist, and I am not smart enough to tell.
Sunday, July 13, 2003
Summer reading: History
Opinions are divided on Braudel. On the one hand, he and his fellow Annales historians brought to their discipline plenty of innovation: social science rigor, environmental perspectives, etc. Thanks to them (and Jacques Barzun), political history is no longer the only type of history being written, and that's a good thing. On the other hand, their histories can be utterly boring to read, as they tend to be devoid of human interest. A History of Civilizations is thankfully not that bad, as it was written at an introductory level. (John, you should ask Matt K. for an opinion on Braudel's other, more substantial efforts.) McNeill's massive book is on my shelf, but I won't be getting to it just yet: I sampled it's first 30 pages and didn't find it terribly compelling. (Still, I'd rather read McNeill or Toynbee any day than slog through pedantic journal articles and specialized monographs. Which is what awaits me when I begin work on my thesis in Fall.) A more conventional world history would be J. M. Roberts's History of the World, published by Penguin. The latest edition comes with pictures, which are always a good thing in history books.
Everyone should read From Dawn to Decadence by Jacques Barzun. It is simply the best work of non-fiction that I've ever read, the product of a formidable intellect with a lifetime's experience of Western cultural history. (Anything by Barzun is worthwhile: his criticisms of art, science, and philanthropy in The House of Intellect remain relevant today, even though the book was written in 1959.) I can also recommend The Middle East: A Brief History of the Last 2,000 Years, by the inimitable Bernard Lewis, and Carnage and Culture: Landmark Battles in the Rise of Western Power, by Victor Davis Hanson. Lewis's condensation of 2,000 years of history into less than 400 pages is quite a feat, while his middle chapters on Middle Eastern politics, culture, economics, etc. offer a different sort of understanding to that supplied by narrative. Carnage and Culture, released a few weeks before 9/11, is a controversial book; if only because its author, already unpopular in academia because of his attacks on postmodernism (Bonfire of the Humanities), became a contributor to National Review Online (he writes a weekly column for them, and his only subject seems to be war). Hanson's thesis is that Western cultural values, derived from the Greeks, have played an important role in several Western military victories over the centuries. It would be even better if he could demonstrate just how these values were handed down and modified. What about Christianity? Or the barbarian ethos of the Germanic tribes? Still, he gives us much to ponder.
I can also recommend John Julius Norwich's Short History of Byzantium, which I'm reading right now. If ever you wondered why the term "Byzantine" has assumed such sinister, Machiavellian coloring, then this book is for you. Be forewarned: it's bloody - and confusing. One familiar example: Basil the Bulgar Slayer, after winning the Battle of Cimbalongus in 1014, blinds 99 out of every 100 prisoners of war, but leaves the 100th prisoner with one eye left so that he can lead his group back home. Greeted by the remains of his former army, the Bulgar king, Samuel, collapses in a fit of apoplexy and dies two days later. The excitement takes care of itself, as you can see. Still, Norwich is a masterful storyteller, and a very good historian considering the amount of source material he had to work with.
On that cheerful note, I'll end.
Thomas Sowell decided to offer two articles on a reading list for the summer. Some of the books he recommends follows:
1. "A landmark experience is reading Life at the Bottom by Theodore Dalrymple, about the effect of the welfare state on poor people and the social degeneracy to which it has led in Britain. A Brief History of Crime by Peter Hitchens tells the same story as regards crime in Britain, where leftish fads have gone even further than in the United States, with even more disastrous results."
2. "If you want to find out about the history of the United States, without getting politically correct rhetoric about "dead white males" and the like, then A History of the American People by British historian Paul Johnson is the book to read. His rounded treatment of American history is in sharp contrast with those historians who seem to think that the only thing interesting about American history are the things that went wrong and those who protested. A writer both popular and profound, Paul Johnson has also written a very readable and insightful book on world history in the 20th century called Modern Times. "
3. "There is probably no subject on which the facts are so twisted by the schools, the media and academia as racial issues. If you want to find something rational that you or your youngster can read on this subject, one of the best and most lively books is The Myths that Divide Us by John Perazzo."
4. "If you want a general introduction to the history of the rise of various civilizations around the world, A History of Civilizations by Fernand Braudel is a very readable account. A more detailed account is William McNeill's The Rise of the West, which is about more than the West and in fact begins with the earliest known civilizations in the Middle East."
5. "For those interested in the economic problems of less developed countries, there is Equality, the Third World, and Economic Delusion by Professor Peter Bauer of the London School of Economics. He spent years living in poor countries and more years trying to talk sense to the foreign aid establishment in Western nations."
6. "The non-judgmental notion that "all cultures are equal" is unlikely to survive reading The Character of Nations by Professor Angelo Codevilla of Boston University. It is a grown-up's demolition of childish ideas that have become fashionable in our times. "
I haven't read many of these books so I was wondering: have any of you read these books, and if so, what did you think of them?
Some books that I would like to put on the list are: Just and Unjust Wars by Michael Walzer, Disputers of the Tao: Philosophical Argument in Ancient China, The Idea of Decline in Western History by Arthur Hermann, From Plato to Nato: The Idea of the West and Its Opponents by David Gress and Alan Bloom's translation of Plato's Republic. (I would second Sowell's votes on Paul Johnson's Modern Times)
NOTE: Marvin Olasky also offered a reading list along with Town Hall's compellation.
Thursday, July 10, 2003
Websites of note
Some of you probably already have these bookmarked, but in case you haven't, I highly recommend them:
1) Booknotes. Interviews with authors about themselves and their books. Non-fiction only, but all people of all ideological colorings represented. Listen to Harold Bloom declare his political sympathies (hint: he's not a Republican). Hear Bernard Lewis on Islam and Bernard Bailyn on the American Revolution. Transcripts, video clips, and an archive going all the way back to 1989. The interviewer asks very basic questions and can come across as a bit slow at times, but you'll be surprised just how much you learn nonetheless.
2) Uncommon Knowledge. Think-tank types (it's the Hoover Institution, after all) gather to debate the hottest issues of the day. Plenty of appearances by Milton Friedman and other Hoover fellows (Robert Conquest, Dinesh D'Souza, etc.), but also the likes of Christopher Hitchens, William F. Buckley, Hernando De Soto, Daniel Pipes, David Brooks, Timothy Garton Ash, and even the odd liberal-leftist (Gore Vidal) thrown in for good measure. Moderator Peter Robinson does a great job asking the right questions and keeping debate civil. Topics for discussion tend to be politically-oriented, but you can also find discussions of popular culture (Michael Medved and John Podhoretz, if I recall), the classics, and science versus religion.
Robinson, by the way, is a Dartmouth graduate: class of 1979 (which means that he might be up for my graduation next year), and an English major. (That makes it two Dartmouth English majors at the Hoover Institution right now: him and D'Souza.) He also wrote Reagan's speech telling Gorbachev to "tear down this wall."
Can you believe it?
There are 21 people, yes 21 people, writing History theses next year (myself included). That must be some sort of record, considering that this year the number was 6, and in 2002, 15.
Wednesday, July 09, 2003
Vive La Poste!
Today the United States Postal Service team won the team time trial section of the Tour De France. (For other stages of the race, riders essentially race individually, although they do coordinate with and help teammates. For the team time trial, though, the various teams race against each other, traveling together in packs; the team's time is the time it takes the fifth team member - of nine total - to cross the finish.) I'm 99.44% sure that this is the first time that a U.S.-sponsored team has won the time trial. Lance Armstrong & Co. beat the second place team by a full 30 seconds. Today's win will launch several USPS riders to the top of the overal Tour standings, with Armstrong in second place. With the mountain stages ahead - traditionally Armstrong's strongest section of the race - it looks fairly likely that Lance Armstrong will win his fifth straight Tour De France. This raises a few interesting questions:
1. Will France and the European community embrace Armstrong as a champion, or will he be a victim of anti-American sentiment? For all I know there have been no problems in the past, and I have no reason to suspect that any would pop us this year. But I could see a win by Armstrong either soothing or enflaming currently tense relations between the American and French publics. But, more importantly:
2. Is Lance Armstrong the greatest living athlete. I'm tempted to say yes. His amazing success, after recovering from what should have been a fatal cancer, is truly inspirational. It's not hokey or sappy - it's the real deal. Plus, the strength, consistency, and sheer endurance required to win five straight Tours doesn't really have a parallel in other sports. And with Armstrong at the top of his game, he just might win five more. As Sports Illustrated's Rick Reilly has noted, Armstrong once rode a stationary bike at 29 mph for one full hour in a university test - the next closest subject hit 29 mph and stayed there for only 45 seconds before vomiting and giving up. Also, Armstrong has been tested for drugs more than any other athlete in the world - up to 40 tests per year, including one that he had to take while his wife was on the way to hospital to give birth. Armstrong's achievements appear untainted by drugs, which sets him apart from so many other superstars. Regardless of his place in sports, he is also a good role model, and I think that counts for something.
Monday, July 07, 2003
Another right-wing nutcase bites the dust
This time it's Michael Savage, of The Savage Nation fame, for saying to one of his listeners, "You should only get AIDS and die, you pig."
MSNBC did the right thing, although Savage of course will still be around (unfortunately).
Possibly the most complicated medical operation in history, involving 25 specialists working non-stop over a period of 2 days, is currently underway at a hospital here in Singapore. The aim of the operation is to separate two Iranian women joined at the head - "craniopagus twins" is the official term for them. Unlike previous operations to separate cojoined twins, this one's especially difficult because it involves, well, the brain as opposed to the torso or other less important parts of the body. Although the twins both wanted the operation, there's no guarantee they'll survive, either before surgery or after it. Fingers crossed.
(I might add that the leader of the operation, Dr. Keith Goh, graduated from my high school as top student.)
Sunday, July 06, 2003
Thursday, July 03, 2003
The Diversity Game
Usually I skip the essay at the back of Time, but this week's piece, "How Much Diversity Do You Want From Me?" by Perry Bacon Jr., is worth reading. A brief sample:
Maybe O'Connor really believes in this diversity notion. But here's what I suspect she and other affirmative-action proponents really think: nearly 27% of the population is black or Hispanic, but few of these minorities are in the upper ranks of most fields, in part because of past discrimination or current inequalities. And they think that the leadership class of our society should look like the rest of it. It's a laudable goal, and it's why I remain at least a tepid supporter of affirmative action. But let's stop using this notion of diversity to sidestep the real issue. Colleges don't want more minority students so we can all hold hands and sing It's a Small World. Why can't we just say what the real goal is: the creation of a multiethnic elite. I think young minorities can help form that elite. But I want to join that elite and be expected to deliver the "unique experience" of my whole life rather than an assumed experience based solely on the color of my skin.
Arrogance and Animus: Exit Stage Right
Spinsanity does a wonderful job debunking Ann Coulter's latest book, Treason. Spinsanity's section on her is also worth reading.
Also, on the subject of egregious right-wing pundits, check out this piece on Michael Savage (as a rule of thumb, any author who puts his mug on the cover of his book, and who prints his own name in a font size equal to or larger than his book's title, should be taken with a large dose of salt).
Wednesday, July 02, 2003
Arrogance and Animus: Exit Stage Left
While CW plays through the Warcraft III expansion, a computer game that I should probably buy at some point, I've been taking the classes and reading Supreme Court cases. I finally finished Thomas's dissent in the Law School case; it was wonderful. Though I expressed earlier that I disagreed with the way Thomas dissent in Lawrence, he should have dissented from the methodology and supported the outcome, his dissent in the case was brilliant. His basically argued the following points.
First, the Court affirmed strict scrutiny when analyzing the law school case. Upon reviewing strict scrutiny, he found only one reason for racial classifications to thrive under such scrutiny: national security. (539 US ____ (2003), pp. 3-5) Second he found that the manner in which the law school defined its interests was sloppy: a racially balanced student body leads to certain unspecifiable benefits. As a result, he concluded that this was mere racial aesthetics, colorful window dressing, that neither produced any real benefits nor efficaciously help "those who are truly underprivileged." (539 US ____ (2003), p. 6, footnote 3) He also observed that the Law school alternated between wanting to attain a diverse student body and wanting to attain the educational benefits of a diverse student body, distinctions in his mind that were purely sophistic. (Scalia describes how racial diversity would be reported on a transcript: "Works Well and Plays with Others: B+. In general with cases like these, it is usually better to read Scalia first. ) Third, he concludes from prior Supreme Court cases that Michigan does not have a compelling interest in maintaining a law school, especially not an elite one. Fourth, he posits "even if the Law School's racial tinkering produces tangible educational benefits, a marginal improvement in legal education cannot justify racial discrimination where the Law School has no compelling interest in either its existence or in its current educational and admissions policies. If the Law School wanted so desperately to increase the number of minorities in attendance, it could change the criterion by which it judges students worthy of admission; thus, it could have the racial balance it wanted without employing discrimination. Lastly, Thomas questions why some still hold "benighted notions that one can tell when racial discrimination benefits (rather than hurts) minority groups. (539 US ____ (2003), p. 24)
This brings us to the point where I can observe Thomas's logic at work via our favorite racist: Maureen Dowd. (Someone sent this to me via email; I wished I had observed by whom this article was written. It can be more painful than reading the Village Voice at times.) Thomas theorizes: "[The] problem of stigma does not depend on determinacy as to whether those stigmatized are actually "beneficiaries" of racial discrimination. When blacks take positions in the highest places of government, industry, or academia, it is an open question today whether their skin color played a part in their advancement. The question itself is the stigma-- because either racial discrimination did play a role, in which case the person may be deemed 'otherwise unqualified,' or it did not, in which case asking the question itself unfairly marks those blacks who would succeed without discrimination." Maureen, in a column disingenuously named "Could Thomas Be Right" in turn, asserts: "The dissent is a clinical study of a man who has been driven barking mad by the beneficial treatment he has received. It's poignant, really. It makes him crazy that people think he is where he is because of his race, but he is where he is because of his race. Other justices rely on clerks and legal footnotes to help with their opinions; Justice Thomas relies on his id, turning an opinion on race into a therapeutic outburst. It's impossible not to be disgusted at someone who could benefit so much from affirmative action and then pull up the ladder after himself."
I will quote at length from Sullivan, a more sane voice: "The good negroes, in Dowd's liberal-racist world, are those grateful to their massas in the liberal hierarchy: they are grateful to Howell and Gerald and Arthur; and they know their place. For them to express the psychological torment of being advanced for racist reasons, to explain in graphic, brave and bold terms the complexity of emotions many African-Americans feel as 'beneficiaries' of racial preferences, is unacceptable. To describe such a person who has been courageous enough to put these feelings into a powerful dissent as "barking mad" is nothing short of disgusting. If Dowd supports "diversity" as a good thing in elite institutions, why isn't it a good thing for one black Justice to contribute his own experience as part of a landmark judicial ruling? Of course I don't know whether Dowd supports diversity in this sense. That would require her to argue something - of which she is apparently incapable. And then Dowd, of all people, complains that Thomas is more interested in his own personal dramas than "bigger issues of morality and justice." When was the last time you read a Dowd column that grappled with "bigger issues of morality and justice"?"
In another episode of blinded from the left, blogger Brad Delong, opines "America is a country built on noble ideas, one of the chief of which is equality of opportunity. But the ancestors of today's African-Americans were, for centuries, Slaves in the Land of America. The ancestors of and many of today's African Americans were, for more than a century, then subjected to an only somewhat less vicious campaign of terror and discrimination in support of America's brutal racial caste system. And discrimination against African-Americans continues today in housing, in employment, in large durable purchases, and in other areas--albeit at a much, much less virulent level", effortlessly moving from slavery to housing discrimination as functional and moral equivalents.
It pains me to hear otherwise intelligent people so ignorantly raving about. And it furthers my case of Maury is just an idiot. I think we shall put her in the Bill O'Reily, Al Sharpton section.
Tuesday, July 01, 2003
The Marxist historian pens his thoughts on American "Empire" here.
More extensive blogging once I finish the Warcraft III Expansion.