Thursday, July 29, 2004


I had some problems this morning, possibly as a result of experimentation with Blogger's Comments feature.  One of these days, I'll pony up the dough to get out of the "Bloggersphere" and into the Blogosphere.  One of these days...

Multilaterlist? The Bush Administration? Apparently so...

Bryon Preston over at TCS has an enlightening article on the efforts and successes of some non-traditional multi-lateral initiatives undertaken by the Bush Administration. They are called the Proliferation Security Initiative, concerned mainly with containing North Korea, WMD and Terrorism and an offshoot, called Caspian Guard, that seems to be an attempt to encircle Iran. The reason that not many know about this is two-fold. The first, and obvious, is the inability of the media to depart from their template. This is combined with the Administration's frustrating inability to publicize the evolution of their version of multilaterlism. The latter is important, but the former is essentially a systemic problem.

While only 1/3 to 1/2 of us are politically conservative, many more are conservative by nature. This is reflected in the media and a general unwillingness to accept "change." Witness what is sometimes called the the 9/10 vs. 9/12 split within this country. While some seem to have forgotten 9/11 occurred, I think most who can be classified as 9/10 people (Democrats?) feel that we have accomplished our goals and it is now appropriate to focus on those issues they held dear prior to the attacks as well as the world political environment before those same attacks. Domestic issues, such as health care, the environment, class warfare (heh) have been put forth, put also championed is a return to multilateralism. Of course, multilateralism defined as they chose, which is how it used to be, not how it is now.

Many believe that, if the UN or NATO aren't addressing or tackling a problem, it can't be multilateral? Especially if France isn't involved. Failure to recognize that this is a new day in international relations, their anachronistic belief in the viability of international institutions whose effectiveness has already been shown to be nonexistant, and a natural prejudice over anything "Bush", plus a bit of purposeful intransigence, has served to portray the Bush administration as unilateral. I think we can dispense with that now, don't you?

Gay Marriage vs. American Marriage

Kay Hymowitz's piece in the Summer City Journal discusses the Founders' conception of marriage and their recognition of its importance to the nation. According to Hymotwitz:
[M]arriage has always had a fundamental, universal core that makes gay marriage a non sequitur: it has always governed property and inheritance rights; it has always been the means of establishing paternity, legitimacy, and the rights and responsibilities of parenthood; and because these goals involve bearing and raising children, it has always involved (at least one) man and woman. What's more, among the "startling diversity" of variations that different cultures have elaborated on this fundamental core, our own culture has produced a specifically American ideal of marriage that is inseparable from our vision of free citizenship and is deeply embedded in our history, politics, economics, and culture. Advocates for gay marriage cite the historical evolution of that ideal which we might call republican marriage to bolster their case, arguing that gay unions are a natural extension of America's dedication to civil rights and to individual freedom. But a look at that history is enough to cast serious doubt on the advocates' case.
There are many places to go for a debate on gay marriage (I'd recommend Justin Katz and Andrew Sullivan , especially). Hymowitz's explanation of the Founders' conception of the essentialness of the tie between marriage and child-rearing, and how that standard has been set aside, is very good. The ideal she describes is still relevant to many people. The desire to not separate marriage and child-rearing is crucial to understanding why some of us, who fully recognize the right of homosexuals to have legal equality, believe the assignation of the term "marriage" to such formalization is simply a step too far.

ABCNEWS asks: Is Dems' Biggest Money Man Mob-Connected?

It seems Stephen Bing, a Hollywood exec who has donated around $16 million to the Democrat party, may have mob connections, to a fella named Donnie Shacks. Hm.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Cobain and GenX Ideology

Justin Katz has responded to my earlier post on Kurt Cobain with some very good points, many of which have forced me to reexamine my stance on Cobain, but mostly have caused me to delve deeper into the evolution of the ideology of my generation, GenX.

Justin does agree with me that Pearl Jam was simply a better band (though I imagine that we both realize this is a subjective assertion), but he did a good job of explaining what made Nirvana so attractive, something I didn't even attempt to do. According to Justin, while Nirvana were less "musicians" than others:
The added element, which Nirvana personified, might be as simply characterized as having to do with confusion. That's why it was such a big deal — a "cool" thing — that nobody could understand what Cobain was saying. "Smells Like Teen Spirit" centered around unintelligible vocals expressing indecipherable lyrics, over chords distorted beyond recognition. Even Cobain's hair, granting mere glimpses of his face, was part of the message.

So, certainly, both those who "got it" and those who didn't are justified in suggesting that the generational experience to which grunge was the soundtrack was frustration at having nothing to be angry about — adolescent energy without anything on which to focus. That analysis is justified, yes, but I'm not so sure it's accurate. Marc, for example, in listing some issues from which Gen X was free, overlooks the entire range of society from whence derived the angst...
The issues to which Justin refers are incapsulated in this excerpt from my previous post:
I think Cobain's death was reminiscent of the "Lady Di phenomenom," whereby people wanted to be part of the story. This is especially because Cobain's fan base was mostly comprised of a generation that had nothing to REALLY get upset over (like in the past with "The Bomb" and "Vietnam" or now with "Terrorism") so they focused on those aspects of Pop culture that made them feel like part of a larger "movement." The cynicism and "reality" espoused by Cobain, et al spoke to a generation that really didn't have much to b-i-t-c-h about. The Berlin Wall had fallen down, Communism was kaput, Clinton was president and believed in a place called "Hope," etc. Self-righteous angst influenced by postmodern relativism became the new "it" thing.
In retrospect, Justin may be correct in his belief that I shortchanged the genuine feelings of loss felt by many of the GenXers when confronted with Cobain's suicide.  This is supported by Justin accurately pointing out the many social issues that faced GenX during our formative years.
My generation was the first to grow up in a culture in the process of dismantling itself. Divorce, abortion, an ever-increasing emphasis on sex coupled with an epidemic of a mysterious and deadly disease, relativism, ingrained opposition to organized religion and other sources of moral ballast, among many others across the spectrum of daily life. And yet, we were not offered the opportunity to be angry about the sources of our pain and confusion, because they continued to be promoted as good things. There was nowhere to turn for rebellion, because it was rebellion that ailed us, although we did not see it then, and many still do not see it now.
Justin has a very strong point here. I may have been looking at the issue from too much of a world event, big picture or political, and not enough of a social, angle. According to Justin, and I agree with him on this, GenX was confronted by a sort of cognative dissonance whereby much of what we intuitively felt to be wrong was being portrayed as being virtuous or "open-minded." We tried to look for a set of core principles and were, as Justin points out, confused.

Justin's theory as to why Nirvana's "Teen Spirit" was so attractive and, in a sense, groundbreaking, also seems solid. I, too, was bowled over by "Teen Spirit" and felt that something about it was special, or at the very least attractive. There was something more to it than just the memorable guitar riff and the driving beat behind the confused lyrics, not to mention the intriguing imagery of the video. I think that, above all, I delighted in the irony of it all. And that is what many in our generation came to embrace, irony. Pithy comments, wit and irony, not real discourse, were the central characteristics of our dialogue. (In this, GenX really shouldn't be set apart as being unique, there are plenty from other generations that seem to place wit over wisdom, despite their protestations to the contrary.)

Justin believes that Cobain's death pre-empted "the reclamation of those priorities that had been sold to his generation as inconsequential choices. He married young for a superstar. He had a daughter. Would the man who wrote 'I wanted a father, but all I got was a dad' have failed to live up to his responsibilities? His suicide — the ultimate parental failure — provided one answer, cutting through the jumble of drives and desires in a final rejection of them all." Here, I think Justin, despite his obvious recognition of the failures of Cobain, still gives Cobain too much credit. Perhaps through marriage and fatherhood Cobain was on his way to such a reclamation of priorities, and perhaps he failed because he was already in too deep, or, to quote Justin, "He was spent — too much the personification of the zeitgeist to redefine himself." Nonetheless, we cannot parse out his willingness to be a good father and husband and not recognize his ultimate failure to do so. I think Justin may be too willing to credit his attempt and not harsh enough in condemning him for his failure. 

Yet,  perhaps, it was his self-inflicted death, ocurring when it seemed he had much to live for in the person of his own child, that showed a generation that there were some things that one shouldn't be so confused about. Angst may be all right, even cool, but it shouldn't cloud ones judgement and take priority over responsibility, be it parental, matrimonial or social.  However, this message was lost, overwhelmed, by the loss of a "great talent." His death became an event that would become viewed as a tragedy that was seemingly inflicted by some unseen force, rather than the suicide of a confused and somewhat selfish and self-indulgent individual. In the end, the portrayal of the Cobain's death became that of the sacrifice of a troubled and poetic soul to his own confusion, and not the selfish act of a disturbed, sometimes talented, individual who committed the ultimate act of self-indulgence.

In my previous post, I explained my belief that the sense of shared, generational tragedy over the death of Cobain was the result of "a generation desperate to find something with which to identify themselves. Cobain was the man of the moment, and his tragic death was a perverse ending, and ironic justification, of the postmodern, media imposed "Gen X" ideology." When I say postmodern, I refer primarily to moral relativism, the philosophy that ascribes no objective quality to morality and yet another primary contributor to the confusion of GenX.

Why did we, GenX, embrace this confusion? Was it simply because we were young, hadn't found our voice and the confused lyrics and attitude proferred by Cobain spoke to our own? I would have to say this is probably true. His gravelly voice was that of GenX because he was a reflection of our confusion over what it was we were supposed to really care about. His songs and attitude justified and legitimized our confusion and provided the seeds for an initial GenX ideology. In this fog of confusion, many in GenX looked around and concluded that, with nothing morally concrete to stand on, what we were best able to care about was, simply, nothing. Tragically, this became the GenX ideology, undefinable angst drove us to ironic indifference.

As we grew older, though, we moved on, at least some of us, and wrote off our earlier angst to typical youthful rebellion, much like our parents had experienced in the 60's or 70's.  But our confusion over what was important was helped by world events that had "conspired" to remove any BIG problem that needed to be confronted, fretted over or solved.  Lacking a BIG problem, we focused on those that were less large, though were also important. Most of these were in the social realm to which Justin has alluded. 

There were plenty of social problems to worry over, and we tackled them individually, in different ways. There was no overriding generational cause. Some turned to the culture wars, others to such "causes" as environmentalism or the anti-smoking crusade.  We all recognized the problems, and, luckily, it seems many of us had lost some of our confusion.  We may not have had any BIG problems, but through maturity, we found there were things that were important enough to care about.  Most importantly, we started to reject the moral relativism that had been foisted upon us and caused us so much confusion.  Why?  We started working for ourselves, getting married, and having kids.  It's OK to be indifferent about your own life, but things change when others depend upon you.  This is something that we came to realize: something that Kurt Cobain apparently never did.

This process was hastened by the events of September 11, 2001.  Justin was correct in inferring that I believe that 9/11 was a generational turning point for us GenXers. He is also correct in that I believe, generally speaking, that now our ideology is less defined by our taste in music and pop culture than by our reaction and analysis of current events. We have grown up, and this does not make us particularly noteworthy or different from the Boomers or the Greatest Generation.

Every generation, when they're young, is defined by their culture, and by extension, their music. When they mature, they become defined by the times in which they live. Kurt Cobain's music reflected our generational confusion. In retrospect, his music was an accurate depiction of the problems experienced by our Generation. My conclusion, however, is that this is no longer the case. We are no longer a confused, undefinabely angst-ridden, indifferent generation. We are now a generation immersed in historical events, whether we recognize this or not. We would do well to remember that while he may have spoken for us in the past, Kurt Cobain is no longer the voice of Generation X.  We now have our own voices, and we know how to use them.  We have finally grown up.  Kurt Cobain never did.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Why does Europe Hate American Redux

Bruce Bawer has perhaps the best, most comprehensive take on the Western European "hatred" of America that I have read in a long time. It is actually a review article for the Hudson Review and is quite long. Too long to quote, but I highly recommend it. The best part is his summary of the thesis of Robert Kagan's Of Paradise and Power:
that the "paradise" of peace and prosperity Europe now enjoys is made possible, quite simply, by American power. Provided with "security from outside," Europe requires no power of its own; yet protected "under the umbrella of American power," it’s able to delude itself that power is "no longer important" and "that American military power, and the ‘strategic culture’ that has created and sustained it, is outmoded and dangerous." European leaders, says Kagan, see themselves as inhabiting a post-historical world in which war has been rendered obsolete by the triumph of international "moral consciousness"; yet most of them:
do not see or do not wish to see the great paradox: that their passage into post-history has depended on the United States not making the same passage. Because Europe has neither the will nor the ability to guard its own paradise and keep it from being overrun, spiritually and well as physically, by a world that has yet to accept the rule of “moral consciousness,” it has become dependent on America’s willingness to use its military might to deter or defeat those around the world who still believe in power politics.

In short, though the U.S. makes Europe’s "paradise" possible, "it cannot enter the paradise itself. It mans the walls but cannot walk through the gate . . . stuck in history, [it is] left to deal with the Saddams and the ayatollahs, the Kim Jong Ils and the Jiang Zemins, leaving most of the benefits to others." And when it does address those threats, furthermore, it feels Europe’s wrath, for "America’s power and its willingness to exercise that power—unilaterally if necessary—constitute a threat to Europe’s new sense of mission." If Europe’s intellectual and political elite was briefly pro-America after 9/11, it was because America was suddenly a victim, and European intellectuals are accustomed to sympathizing reflexively with victims (or, more specifically, with perceived or self-proclaimed victims, such as Arafat). That support began to wane the moment it became clear that Americans had no intention of being victims.

Take a half-hour and read the whole thing.

Don't Believe the Hype

Though Andrew Sullivan may still be in shock over what he perceives to have been an extremely good first night for the Democrats at the Democratic National, I feel that a simple warning is in order. Sullivan and others, both on blogs, in the news, on all sides of the political spectrum, are covering the rhetoric. Not the facts, not the substance, but the style. I'd venture that 80% of those in the Fleet Center are to the left of what could be considered "mainstream," yet Sullivan and others are congratulating, and will continue to congratulate, the Democrats for portraying themselves as "centrists" or "moderates." To some degree, this is ALWAYS done at a convention. The Republicans will do the same thing, but the coverage of the Democrats will consist of wags talking about "effectiveness of message," and Kerry's ability to "define himself" or "show his true nature." The talking heads will almost assuredly laud Kerry and the Dems for a great, positive convention where they will have given the American people a feasible alternative to President Bush. They will cover the rhetoric and leave the reality in the background, ignored because of its unfortunate tendency to undermine the veracity of the week long moderation message the Democrats will have spun. In contrast, the Republican convention will see the same talking heads explaining to the poor, ignorant viewer that "moderate Republican speaker A" is "actually at odds with most in his party" over generic policy X, or that though the President says this now, where is the evidence that he has ever done such and such. In short, the rhetoric of the Dems will be accepted at face value and will be heralded as reality, whereas the rhetoric of the Republicans will be identified as such and will be constantly challenged. So, we may all like the words that come out of the Democrats convention, but remember to ask yourself if their rhetoric matches their past reality. The media won't do it for you. The motto of my alma mater was never more applicable. "Acta non Verba." Deeds, not words.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Michelle Malkin on "Security Moms"

According to Michelle Malkin in today's USA Today, "Candidates ignore 'security moms,' at their peril." I'd agree. I'm married to one of them and I'd say that the analogy of a momma bear and her cubs can be applied on a national scale. The candidate who can speak to, and ultimately act on, the desire of many mom's for a more secure America may very well win this election. Or they may both ignore this important voting bloc. Regardless of what happens, Malkin and other "security moms" have some very valid points. Remember the cliche "Father knows best?" Maybe, at least when it comes to safeguarding our children by tightening up the security of our country, it's really Mom who knows best.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Bush in a Double Bind

Rich Lowry has an indispensible piece today on the double bind the President finds himself in regarding those who truly, irrationally hate him. Some of my favorite examples from the piece:
If he stumbles over his words, he is an embarrassing idiot. If he manages to cut taxes or wage a war against Saddam Hussein with bipartisan support, he is a manipulative genius.

If he bombed Iraq, he should have bombed Saudi Arabia instead, and if he had bombed Saudi Arabia, he should have bombed Iran, and if he had bombed all three, he shouldn't have bombed anyone at all. If he imposes a U.S. occupation on Iraq, he is fomenting Iraqi resistance by making the United States seem an imperial power. If he ends the U.S. occupation, he is cutting and running.

If he warns of a terror attack, he is playing alarmist politics. If he doesn't warn of a terror attack, he is dangerously asleep at the switch. If he says we're safer, he's lying, and if he doesn't say we're safer, he's implicitly admitting that he has failed in his core duty as commander in chief.

If he adopts a doctrine of preemption, he is unacceptably remaking American national-security policy. If the United States suffers a terror attack on his watch, he should have preempted it. If he signs a far-reaching antiterror law, he is abridging civil liberties. If the United States suffers another terror attack on his watch, he should have had a more vigorous anti-terror law.

Bush's economy hasn't created new jobs. If it has created new jobs, they aren't well-paying jobs. If they are well-paying jobs, there is still income inequality in America.
There are more, but I think the point has been made. There is no logical consistency in the arguments. If one begins to believe in all of the conspiracies, this type of thinking becomes a fait accompli.

Monday, July 19, 2004

While I was away...

Sorry for the unexpected absence, but not all in life can be anticipated, nor welcomed, but we must deal with it the best we can. I'm back now, here's just a couple things I missed.

Victor Davis Hanson had a good piece on war, comparing post D-Day Europe with postwar Iraq. To quote: "War is a horrendous experience in which the side that wins commits the fewest mistakes, rather than no errors at all."

Peggy Noonan has clarified her earlier comment about too many Americans being tired of history, and that Kerry would offer a respite from such weighty times. As she quotes from Margaret Thatcher, "never underestimate people's fears."

It may sound like a joke, but the New York Times has a story on the new, post-Bill Buckley generation of conservatives. It seems that while there are the predictable internal differences in the "movement" over economics, Iraq, the role in government in general, the bigger split may be over conservatism versus libertarianism. In general, it appears as if the young folks are more conservative anyway, regardless of the stripe.

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Fending Off a Plagiarist

This precautionary tale of a professor who had to Fend Off a Plagiarist has me contemplating pulling the stuff from the "My Works" section of the OSB. Some of the stuff could form the basis of actual research, after all, and I don't want to one day be faced with accusations of plagiarism from someone who plagiarised me, simply because they published my work first. I have an innate desire to want to trust people, some think that is a weakness, but I can't help it. I'd usually rather think the best of people, than assume that they will do wrong. Yet, in this case, I think I will have to listen to the cynical side and pull my work. Instead, I'll place an abstract online for each item and tell people that if they want to look at the whole piece, they can email their request.

Constitutional, Shmonstitutional: Let the People Vote! (So Sayeth RI Dems)

"Harrah's casino plan is unconstitutional" is what the opinion/commentary piece in Monday's ProJo read. "This will come as a great surprise to many," wrote Joe Larisa Jr., former chief of staff and executive counsel to Gov. Lincoln Almond, "For a casino to be legal under the Rhode Island Constitution, it must be operated by the State of Rhode Island (through the Lottery Commission or other state entity) -- not by a private entity, such as Harrah's." Thus, the proposed Harrah's casino is unconstitutional.But do any of us think that makes a difference? I didn't think so. My cynical, but unfortunately realistic, feeling that the General Assembly et al, led by Senate President Joseph Montalbano would not be bothered by something simply being illegal was confirmed later in the day. Montalbano appeared on Dan Yorke's show on WPRO yesterday afternoon and said (and I'm paraphrasing) that something such as the constitutionality of the question offered in a referendum could be decided after the vote. Hmm. So, a legal body, comprised mostly of lawyers, sees nothing wrong with placing a question on the ballot asking for voter opinion on a patently unconstitutional issue? Is there any doubt that this Casino question is bringing out everything that is wrong with politics in this state?

Governor Carcieri reacted by asking that the State Supreme Court take up the question, and they agreed to a hearing on August 6. Now, the Gov. already vetoed the original bill, but everyone, including the Governor, know that his veto will be overridden by the Legislature. But it's not just the legislature that wants to "let the people vote" (sounds so egalitarian, doesn't it...). Democrat Attorney General Patrick Lynch has gone on record with his belief that the Governor shouldn't ask for the Court's intervention this late in the game. While Lynch also ultimately opposes having a casino in Rhode Island because "It's a question of crime," as he told the Providence Journal. He has heard from the AG's of other states that "In any jurisidiction that has it . . . there is a correlative increase in crimes and the number of cases that we would have to prosecute and the ills associated with gaming . . . whether it is white-collar crime, or obtaining money under false pretenses, embezzlement, bankruptcies, drugs." (again, from the ProJo story.)

So why does Lynch oppose the Governor's request?
Lynch labeled the timing of the governor's request premature because the legislature has not yet had its last say on the vetoed casino-referendum bill; the request puts the Supreme Court in a position of issuing an opinion on an issue it may be asked to review later "in a litigated case;" and because the wording of the governor's letter to the court makes it appear "the governor is using his executive authority to persuade the court to exert pressure on the legislature."

His first point is moot because the general assembly will overturn the veto before the Court hears the arguments, and the second point sounds like an excercise in legal semantics. I think what Lynch is really looking to do is oppose the Governor somehow on this issue because, frankly, I think our AG has visions of the Governor's office dancing in his head (his brother is the Chair of the RI Dem's, btw).

Meanwhile, it seems that Harrah's has an interesting employee qualification requirement.
What might be in store for people looking to work at the proposed Harrah's West Warwick casino? If the hiring is anything like what Harrah's has done at some of its facilities, cocktail waitresses would have to "audition" for their jobs in swimsuits. Once hired, they would be required to wear makeup, mascara, lipstick, heels, and have their hair styled a particular way.
That's from today's Journal. Sounds like something every liberated gal in liberal Rhody would love to endure for a "good-paying" job at a Casino, huh? Hey, I know it's a bit of a cheap shot, but if people really want one of these dens of debauchery in this state, they better be prepared.

Monday, July 12, 2004

A Comment on Nirvana: Only a Band, Not a State of Mind

I was just informed that the tenth anniversary of the passing of "the voice of my generation" had passed. In fact, it was quite a while ago, and I missed it. Of course, I'm talking about former Nirvana frontman, Courtney Love lovin', Kurt Cobain. If your looking for a sorta-maudlin, genuflecting piece, go here. If not, read on.

I never got the Cobain thing, I was at the time, and still am, a much bigger fan of Pearl Jam than Nirvana. To my ear (which is definately not TIN), Pearl Jam had more talent, better lyrics and better musicianship. Given that, I always considered them as the 1A and 1B of the Seattle grunge sound. But you see, Cobain, despite being a legit bad boy, also new how to market himself, and wanted to. He kept the MTV ties going while Pearl Jam, for the sake of "authenticity," forsook MTV after their first multi-platinum album. Hence, Cobain had more widespread exposure and was more "popular", even though, in my opinion, his music wasn't as good nor as socially and culturally informed as Pearl Jam's. (I don't agree with most of the politics of Pearl Jam and Eddie Vedder, but they wrote some pretty good songs with their social gripes as main themes.)

I think Cobain's death was reminiscent of the "Lady Di phenomenom," whereby people wanted to be part of the story. This is especially because Cobain's fan base was mostly comprised of a generation that had nothing to REALLY get upset over (like in the past with "The Bomb" and "Vietnam" or now with "Terrorism") so they focused on those aspects of Pop culture that made them feel like part of a larger "movement." The cynicism and "reality" espoused by Cobain, et al spoke to a generation that really didn't have much to b-i-t-c-h about. The Berlin Wall had fallen down, Communism was kaput, Clinton was president and believed in a place called "Hope," etc. Self-righteous angst influenced by postmodern relativism became the new "it" thing. (And this was after The Cure was in their heydey!)

Anyway, I guess I chalk the Cobain thing up to a generation desperate to find something with which to identify themselves. Cobain was the man of the moment, and his tragic death was a perverse ending, and ironic justification, of the postmodern, media imposed "Gen X" ideology.

Now we have something real with which to concern ourselves, and I think we are stepping up to the plate. Perhaps this is reflected in the music on the airwaves. If the predominance of teen pop and rap are an indicator of what sells, could this mean people of my generation, the old looking-for-a-reason-to-be-angst-ridden Gen Xers are simply not paying attention? If not, what are we paying attention to? I would hazard that we may be, especially those of us on the web and within the blogosphere, the most information-centric generation ever. Music is fun, but if we want our politics, we'll take them in the paper, on TV or, increasingly, online. Not from some heroin addict who says he can offer us "three chords and the truth."

Friday, July 09, 2004

Goldberg talks of the harmonizing of Ideology

Jonah Goldberg's G-File, up today, illustrates the downside, but more prominently the upside, of ideological segregation. Taking a cue from a new book, On Paradise Drive by David Brook's, Jonah embarks on a journey down the ideological interstate.
Political-science majors are more likely to spew all that stuff about the enlightenment and independent thinking that comes with education. Anyway, whoever says that stuff is wrong, the fact is that the more educated you are, the more partisan and ideological you are likely to be. High-school graduates are more likely to vote across party lines than college grads. And education does not track only with becoming more liberal. If you're a conservative with a college education you become more conservative. If you're a liberal, ditto. Indeed, college-educated liberals tend to become 'professionals' while college-educated conservatives become 'managers.'
This last makes sense, no? There are probably more liberal lawyers, doctors, and professors than there are middle-managers, franchise owners and CEO's, at least that seems like it should be true, given my experience. Given this, since people of similar professions tend to circulate in the same social circles, one can see how a sort of ideological purity would occur. Hence, we are all, generally speaking, preaching to the choir and are dumbfounded when somethin outside of our ideological norm seems to be taking hold with "the masses." (Such as, say, Bill Clinton getting RE-elected, or the fascination with Fahrenheit 911).

Jonah also writes of the good things.
There's also a very good side to all of this polarization. Critics of identity politics — and I am most certainly one of them — tend to focus almost exclusively on the separations, divides, clashes and chasms such politics create between groups. Blacks vs. whites, rich vs. poor, South vs. North, Springfieldians vs. Shelbyvillians, and so on. What they rarely look at is the unity such "identitarian" movements create. This was, after all, one of the central dynamics of fascism — it was a cross-class movement of national unity. Rich and poor alike joined hands in their unity under the swastika. And Communism, no less a reactionary force than fascism (and often more of one), caused ethnic Ukrainians, Tartars, Uzbeks, Russians et al. to lay down their ethnic differences in their common struggle against the ruling classes.

America is hardly immune to these laws of social attraction and repulsion. Take McCarthyism. Liberals love to point out the Manichean worldview behind McCarthyism. How it created enemies within. How Tail-gunner Joe's followers went after anybody — Jews, blacks, whites, Catholics, Protestants, Republicans, Democrats — anybody who he believed to be a Commie or ComSymp. Without getting into that whole argument again, let's just say fair enough. But, one thing left out of this analysis is how the McCarthyites didn't go after Jews, blacks, whites, Catholics, etc., who agreed with McCarthy about the Red menace. This may be an obvious fact of logic but it's actually much more revealing than it seems.
And there are more examples.
Liberals still talk about the 1960s as if all real Americans were sitting around, holding hands, and singing "Kumbaya".... How many misty-eyed stories have we heard about how blacks and whites, Jews and Christians, all marched together for peace and love and whatnot? What they always leave out is that there were often whites, blacks, Christians, and Jews on the other side of the pickets who disagreed with them. In others words, ideological causes breed unity and disunity at the same time.
If not vocal protestors, I know many of this generation who were part of the "silent majority" who didn't approve of the Peace-Love-Happiness (Mooch off Mom-n-Dad-Sex without Repercussions-Drugs) crowd. Finally, I'll let Jonah conclude.
we have something new in American history: Ideological movements used to reinforce racial, ethnic, or class bigotries. For the last 50 years they've increasingly transcended them. This is an upside of living in an ideological age — or a downside, depending on how you see things. And those who bemoan the current polarization need to ask themselves whether polarization isn't the natural order of things. And, if it is — and I think it is — isn't this sort of polarization preferable to most of the other options?

Leisure leads to Triviality

George Will has a typically good piece today, called "The Left, At a Loss In Kansas" about a book called What's the Matter With Kansas? How Conservatives Won the Heart of America by Thomas Frank. I'd heard of the book, and Will summarizes Franks typically facetious thesis, but what struck me was this, near the end of the column:
When the Cold War ended, Pat Moynihan warned, with characteristic prescience, that it would be, like all blessings, a mixed one, because passions -- ethnic and religious -- that were long frozen would come to a boil. There has been an analogous development in America's domestic politics.

The economic problem, as understood during two centuries of industrialization, has been solved. We can reliably produce economic growth and have moderated business cycles. Hence many people, emancipated from material concerns, can pour political passions into other -- some would say higher -- concerns. These include the condition of the culture, as measured by such indexes as the content of popular culture, the agendas of public education and the prevalence of abortion.
It's something that I only half-grasped before, but it sure seems to be true. Yet, Moynihan's prescience is especially impressive and we have the current War on Terror as evidence. This also explains how many can't seem to get over their obsession with the trivial, and have even placed those matters over the "really big things" of our time. In our post-9/11 world, some have slipped back into the 1990's mindset and can't seem to recognized that "the times, they are a-changin'" for real. Victor Davis Hanson touches on this today when he explains that
At a time when tens of thousands are risking their lives to end the barbarism that has spawned a quarter century of worldwide terror, the New York Times wishes us to know that its columnists can properly pronounce Iraq and really do remember that freedom "rings" more often than "reigns."

Meanwhile, an even smugger Billy Crystal was introducing the billionaire John Kerry at a millionaires' banquet in L.A. with similar gravitas — comparing 9/11 to the president's SAT scores. Oh yes, 3,000 incinerated on September 11 add up to the president's combined SAT score. Analyze that: comparing charred corpses to multiple-choice tests taken by high-school seniors.

The message of this out-of-touch, spoiled idiotocracy seems to be something like, "How embarrassing for us to have an inarticulate president who has freed Iraq and inaugurated democracy in Saddam's place." Are all these people crazy and ignorant of history — or do they simply want a free civilized Iraq and the American soldiers who brought it about to fail?
These people have let their rhetoric fog their perception of reality. They are ideologues of the worst sort as they have let their ideology drift so far from the truth that most can't tell the truth from half-truth. They believe every conspiracy that justifies their wildest anti-Bush, anti-Republican, anti-Capitalist, anti-American dreams. But some may be waking up, at least a bit, according to Hanson.
So John Kerry is starting to get it that the conventional ignorance of Michael Moore, the New York Times, and George Soros is already anachronistic. You can see that well enough when a grandee like Tom Brokaw, Christiane Amanpour, or a Nightline flunky starts in with the usual cheap, cynical hits against Iraq reformers — only to be stunned mid-sentence, like deer in the headlights, with the sense that they are berating noble and sincere men and women — far better folk than themselves — who at risk to their lives are crafting something entirely new in the Middle East.
But there are still plenty who place the pithy comment and still cling to the cynical, materialistic philosophy of life that served them so well in the past.
For over a year now, we have witnessed a level of invective not seen since the summer of 1864 — much of it the result of a dying 60's generation's last gasps of lost self-importance. Instead of the "innocent" Rosenbergs and "framed" Alger Hiss we now get the whisk-the-bin-Laden-family-out-of-the-country conspiracy. Michael Moore is a poor substitute for the upfront buffoonery of Abbie Hoffman.
And what about those conspiracy theories...

The oil pipeline in Afghanistan that we allegedly went to war over doesn't exist. Brave Americans died to rout al Qaeda, end the fascist Taliban, and free Afghanistan for a good and legitimate man like a Hamid Karzai to oversee elections. It was politically unwise and idealistic — not smart and cynical — for Mr. Bush to gamble his presidency on getting rid of fascists in Iraq. There really was a tie between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein — just as Mr. Gore and Mr. Clinton once believed and Mr. Putin and Mr. Allawi now remind us. The United States really did plan to put Iraqi oil under Iraqi democratic supervision for the first time in the country's history. And it did.
...well, they'll just make up new ones, you'll see.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Governor Vetoes Casino Vote Proposal

As expected, Governor Carcieri vetoed the proposed Casino legislation that would have allowed voters to decide the question this November. The governor claimed that it was a bad deal for the state and that the legislation was
Cooked up at the eleventh hour, this deal would simply hand an out-of-state gambling corporation a 10-year monopoly in exchange for peanuts...There was no competitive bidding process. There were no serious negotiations. . . . As a former businessman, I can tell you that's no way to sucessfully negotiate a business deal...A casino will undercut state revenues, will destroy nearby businesses, will increase the potential for public corruption and will impose serious and unavoidable societal costs on our state.
He pretty much hit all of the bases.

The rhetoric was fiery on the other side, too. According to the ProJo account
But he was also derided by Matthew Thomas, chief sachem of the Narragansett Indian tribe, for suggesting the proposed West Warwick casino would "suck the lifeblood" out of the state's economy.

"I don't want to hear that kind of stuff. It's insulting to the tribe. It's insulting to our people," said Thomas, whose tribe expects a cut of the casino revenue from Harrah's.

"The lifeblood has already been sucked out of Rhode Island when ships landed here," Thomas said of Carcieri's remarks.
Ah, yes, we can always count on Chief Thomas to bring up the persecution suffered by his people initiated some 350-400 years ago by a racist white European culture as being a legitimate reason for a casino. I'm not debating the poor lot suffered by the Native Americans in this country, but I do question their reliance on gambling to "even the score" and "right the wrongs." I'm always uncomfortable when vice is used in such a "noble cause." (Like cigarette taxes for education...doesn't that mean that we want more people to smoke, then?)

Perhaps the most ridiculous assertion was that of Guy Dufault, a casino lobbyist (and former Democratic Chairman) who likened the casino debate to class warfare.
I think at the end, people are going to see it's rich white guys versus working people, and the people of Rhode Island are going to win...Think of everyone up there, Chambers [of Commerce]. Restaurant owners. Elitist politicians. . . . Follow the money. . . . It is definitely a class war, there is no question in my mind, against the working people of Rhode Island who, by the way, go to these facilities all the time.
Has Dufault ever heard the argument that casinos are actually an excessive tax on the poor and working class that he himself says "go to these facilities all the time"? I don't think I need to point out the patent lack of logic of someone championing "the little guy" by asserting what the "little guy" really wants is to lose his money to a casino operation run by Harrah's, do I? Of course, I guess that the right to gamble is a civil right, at least broadly defined in today's world, anyway.

Not to be outdone, West Warwick Rep. Tim Williamson chimed in that
The cornerstone of democracy is the right to vote. And for him to stand up and say the people don't understand this and it's a bad deal, it's just not true.
Well, all rhetoric aside, I do believe that the voters should vote on a casino sometime soon so that the issue can be resolved. Williamson's simplistic populism aside (I wonder how he felt about the peoples right to vote on the Separation of Powers Issue?), a vote by the citizens of the state will, hopefully, put the issue to bed. And whether it sleeps the long, lonely and cold slumber of final death or in the fleetingly satisfying embrace of a high class Vegas whore is the only question left to answer.