Monday, January 31, 2005

Other Blogs to Read...

When one wearies of the usual Iraq-Social Security news ping-pong, check out Boxing Alcibiades. He's got the goods on taxes, Cuba, hitting people, and Rampant Cat Abuse!

And Another: Here's a man dedicated to the art of Snobbery. I used to feel as he does, and for the most part still act like it, but I don't know that I believe in snobbery, and the irony-heavy humor that proceeds therefrom, with as much strength. But I wish him well.

And now back to Social Security...

Here's a lefty chap with a series of arguments against Social Security Reform. I have engaged him in his comments, out of curiosity as much as anything else, to see if his arguments are as cogent as I hope.

Incidentally, I find it funny that he claims that the Right knows all about "framing the issue," when I read the Weekly Standard a few issues ago in the beginnings of panic mode over the Dems opening salvo on Social Security. It seems that the other guy always has the better talk -- waving his big shiny demagoguery coin in front of the voters' eyes, mesmerizing them away from Your Truth.

Remember when our political battle cries were on the order of "Tippecanoe, and Tyler Too?"

Yeah, I don't either.


Thanks to Adiemantus for the link. Huzzah, Lowly Insect!

Dropping In

I had Essayist #2 all nice and written up, looked at it, and decided it needed severe editing. My standards are either rising or becoming increasingly divorced from reality.

My worry is that it's getting built up too much, you know, for all eight or nine of you.

Speaking of anti-climatic events, does it not seem as though the Iraqi "insurgency" was about as effective yesterday as it is every other day? Which is to say, more of a bloodthirsty annoyance than a real threat to the state? I was expecting, you know, an orgy of attacks all across Iraq. Instead, there were some suicide bombings in the same places that there are always suicide bombings. About 44 dead, which is sad, but without sounding callous, not a sign of increasing power, which is what guerrillas ought to be aiming for.

When it becomes insurgency vs. the people, the insurgency is (politically) doomed.

UPDATE: I'm grading, So Essayist #2 is sitting there. I'm such a tease.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Ayn Rand, Hopeless Romantic

The woman who wrote Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead, and several other books and essays relating basically the same point would have been 100 years old yesterday, if people not belonging to the House of Winsdor actually lived that long. Andrew Stuttaford, who writes for National Review, has this assessment of her in yesterday's New York Sun (Hat tip: The Corner). It's full of the usual praises and criticisms well-known to Rand fans: she was the sterling defender of capitalism as a moral system, and socialism's most determined critic on both moral and practical grounds. She was also a bit of a screeching harpy, a semi-cult leader, and a rather sub-par fiction author. She's Annie-One-Note, whose stories have all the predictability of a medieval morality play. The good capitalists triumph without even lifting a finger, guarded by truth; the evil socialists devour each other and themselves like the legendary snake.

All of which has the virtue of being true, so far as anyone knows. But what many commentators ignore is that Rand was making an economic as well as a moral argument; that the people who clamor the loudest to soak the rich for the sake of the poor are untrained in managing the vast institutions that the rich do. Seen in that light, Atlas Shrugged becomes not just an ideological tract but a historical lesson in how socetal decline begins, one which is in line with Marx's writings on how it's always the middle class that unseats the upper.

Yet I come to bury Rand, not to praise her. She belongs to the 20th Century, and to the 20th Century, with its Verduns and its Buchenwalds, its Great Societies and its Gulag Archipilagoes, let us consign her. For she believed without question in one precept that the majority of the intelligensia of her age also believed: that sex was free, without cost, and without any purpose than physical satisfaction.

If any of Rand's fiction has a point other than "capitalism good, socialism bad," it's that sex ought to be liberated from the whiney demands of bourgeois morality. Dagny Taggart has an extended monologue about it in Atlas Shrugged, and The Fountainhead begins its main romantic attachment with what bears many of the earmarks of sadomasochism, if not rape. Sex as a procreative act appears almost nowhere in her fiction; despite all the sex and all the marriages, nobody ever gets pregnant. There is a mention at the end of Anthem of what the hero will teach his sons, but Anthem was Rand's first novel, and it is the man who speaks of his future generations, not the woman, and he speaks of them as the future Warriors of the Truth.

Of course, such was de rigeur for most female intellectuals of Rand's century, but it fascinates me that this glaring omission from her own ideas has not received more notice. For Rand, physical reality was the only reality, and man's conceptual faculties were the masters of reality. A can be transformed into B, but not until you accept that A is A. Naming A to be B will not work. Yet the universal physical fact of human existence, the fact that we are all born of woman, is not regarded as relevant to Rand's ideas about the one act which leads to every person born of woman. Sex, to Rand, is a physical act with spiritual flavor, an act of will done according to one's aesthetic. The body demands it, but it feeds the soul, and there is absolutely nothing else to be said about it.

For a proud empiricist, this is little short of preposterous. Here Rand's rigid Apollonianism has made a hole for Romantic gooshiness to enter. Children, by nature, violate her dictum that no one must be made to live for anybody else. Therefore, the act that makes childrem must be re-imagined as something other than what it has been since eons before humanity ever engaged in it. The result of this re-imagining is every bit as esoteric, and has been every bit as harmful, as the faux-altruistic slush that Rand pilloried in every word she ever wrote.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Old Joke of the Day

"The Germans will never forgive the Jews for Auschwitz." (Hat tip: LGF)

Personally, I've always known that Holocaust talk was more ritual than resolve when I watched the world community go "My goodness, someone ought to DO something!" while Hutus slaughtered Tutsis in Rwanda. "Someone" always means the US, and "ought" always comes with the codicil: "when the country that's committing the acts has insufficient pull with the rest of the UN Bureaucracy."


Friday, January 21, 2005

Free-Form is dead! Long Live Free-Form!

Essayist #2 rescheduled for next week. It's gonna be a doozy.

The Washington Post posits several reasons for the abrupt format switch of popular DC-area station WHFS-FM from alternative rock to Spanish-language-pop (a wtf? moment that spun many heads) in its Tuesday article "Rock, Rolling Over". What it fails to point out is the concept that formatting itself is, or soon will be dead.

What person do you know that only listens to rock? Or Jazz? Or Hip-Hop? I personally have a wide selection of music that transcends genre. It's an open secret that the majority of hip-hop customers are white. It's an even bigger secret that yes, black people really do listen to rock (I have a neighbor as dark as Jesse Jackson who thinks that the White Stripes are the absolute bomb). We don't have 6 presets on our car radios just to avoid commercials: we-a like-a da variety.

So why does our radio keep segregating us, playing the same song twice every hour until we can't stand it any longer and treating the 10 or 12 artists they regularly play like they're The Only Music That Matters? Why can't we play Beck after Led Zeppelin, and follow it up with De La Soul and the Roots and then maybe Interpol or something? Are you telling me nobody would listen to that?

Cause that's what people do on their mix-tapes, CD-R's and iPods.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

More on Moore

News flash: Famous People's Bodyguards Carry Firearms!

I link this incident not to add to the bonfire of Moore hatred (Moore himself keeps that bad boy going all by himself), but to point out something of the insanity of gun control. Would anyone like to estimate how many hundreds of thousands of illegal firearms are found in the Five Boroughs? So who do the police actually arrest? Someone, whose job involves providing protection, who "declared he was carrying a firearm at a ticket counter." Apparently the only way the NYPD makes a gun bust is if the perp says "Hey, arrest me! Come on, G-Man, arrest me!"

Are we ready to give this up yet? Are we ready to stop pretending that law and coercion alone can make a society un-violent? The NYPD is the size of an Army Division, and they can't stop drugs, and they can't stop guns. They never will.

We need to do something else.

Well, Ain't That a Kick In the Pants?: Turns out the story's bogus. Burk was and is employed by a bodyguard firm and was once assigned to protect Lumpy, but not any longer, and not on the date in question. Boo on Fox News for screwing the story up. Although the question of why a Port Authority (not NYPD) cop felt the need to bring this guy in for questioning if it was all as routine as the firm says it was could prove interesting. Plus, it keeps MY point intact. Huzzah!

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

King Martin Luther

I considered penning something timely about Martin Luther King Day, until I decided that I couldn't come up with anything worth saying. MLK day is like Veterans' Day: just another Day Off with Special Commercials. The "What would he say today?" routine gets more tiresome every year. It's a question without an answer: we can't know what he would think, because the man he was in 1968 would probably not be the same man in 2004. Would he have agreed with Bill Cosby's remarks last year or attacked him? I don't know. Neither do you. He belongs to the past, let him stay there.

Personally, I look forward to the day when MLK day means CRAZY DAYS at the local Ford Dealership ("Interest-Free at last, Interest-Free at Last, Thank GOD ALMIGHTY, etc.). Because that will mean that we've finally let all this race-garbage, all that ignorance, all that leftover hate-whitey, hate-darkey, hate-yankee routine behind.

Friday, January 14, 2005

The Essayist #1: The Reality Principle

On a weekly basis, it is my goal to create one carefully written work, of substantive length, that will tackle an issue, look at its many facets with as little prejudice as I can, and try to sythesize it in such a way that ideology will not cloud.

This will not be easy, as I am not immune to ideology. One of the reasons that I stopped writing The Notion was that ideology was taking over the writing. I was reading the same sites, making essentially the same arguments, over and over again. Doubtless this was partly due to the monomania that afflicts anyone serious about politics during a campaign season. But it also had to do with a general feeling of redundancy. Every day, I was supposed to write: what? A defense of the war? A slash against Micheal Moore? An interpretation of a story gleaned from Instapundit that varied by nothing more than connotation from Glenn Reynold's take? Who wanted to read this, other than those that knew me, or agreed with me? I saw no need for it.

So, I start fresh. And I start with something the Notion never had: a set purpose, and a set method. This last is a rhetorical device I used in my very first online column, with a website that died before I could get my work off of it (ah, the fly-by-night start-ups of the Roaring 90's...). I call it The Reality Principle, and I define this principle as follows:

1. Everything which exists, has a reason to exist. It fills a need.
2. That reason exists independently of the thing it causes to exist.
3. A thing (phenomenon) may have many reasons to exist, and usually does.
4. To address a phenomenon without addressing the reason(s) that have caused it to exist is unproductive, if not counterproductive.
5. A reason is usually far deeper than one would like to admit. Assume no evil without exhausting other possibilities, and when assuming evil, avoid snideness.

There is nothing earth-shattering in any of this. Much of it is quite ordinary, even obvious. Yet consider how little of it makes it's way into our public discourse. Consider how rarely a liberal asks whether a conservative has any reasons but perversity for believing as he does, and vice versa. Consider how often we seek for the One Reason to Rule Them All, rather than the myriad of needs a phenomenon fills.

To use an extreme example, think about rape. Without doubt, rape is a crime of violence, rooted in the need to assert power. It is also a crime of sex, committed by those who, at the moment of truth, fail to or see no reason to restrain their sex drive. Neither of these reasons excludes the other. Why therefore, do people insist on seeing, and combatting, only one?

I could chalk this up to perversity, but that would run counter to my entire point. Why do feminists insist on defining rape as a crime of violence only? Because they wish to emphasize the violence that goes with the act, to de-privatize it, to utterly deny the notion that it "goes on between a man and a woman," that it bears any but a superficial resemblance to a natural act. While I believe they overstate their case, to the point of ignoring another equally valid truth, I cannot fault this goal, nor fail to acknowledge their point.

Acknowleging the points of those with whom I do not agree is part-and-parcel of the Reality Principle. This is no mere debating trick, but the acceptance of the fact that those who argue against me are by-and-large not fools or monsters, but motivated by good goals and honest appraisals. Where I find this not to be the case, of course, I shall say so. The Reality Principle does not require me never to denounce fools and monsters, only to place such denouncing in the rank of arguments where it belongs: dead last.

By definition, this will often avoid the kind of rhetorical romanticism, the "we want the world, and we want it now" attitude that fuels much of the ideological left. But it will also avoid the unthinking labelling that so many on the right use in place of argument (I am fully aware that there is much rosie-eyed dreaming on the right, and much vicious name-calling on the left. I suspect that these two phenomena dovetail). I seek not easy answers, but broad descriptions, not false freindliness, but honesty, not enemies, but truth. At its heart, the Reality Principle is the awareness that reality is not divisible into "my" and "your," but IS reality, larger than any of us, larger than any of our wits, our dreams, or our hatreds.

I'll also be doing the occasional daily snipe, but overall this will have less emphasis, and will be in any case brief. I don't have the time for more, quite frankly, and will leave it to those that do.

Thank you, drive through...

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Last Cosmetics

I've got SiteMeter running now and, having decided that I'm going to keep the green motif, that puts an end to the major construction tasks. I'll of course be adding links as I go, and I intend to throw in some blogads before too long, but by and large, this is the site.

Now, for content!

I wonder....

...if anyone else's eyes glaze over when they see headlines like this one?

International trade is a mystery I have not yet fully parsed. I sense far too much emotion and nationalism tied to the reporting thereof.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Only In America...

...would it be possible for the two most avidly disliked Presidents of the past quarter-century (Clinton and Bush) to:

a) be from opposing parties,

b) follow each other in succession,

c) both be re-elected,

and d) apparently like each other despite all that.

Suddenly Ralph Nader's depiction of the major parties is not so loony.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

The View's Fine Down Here

After geek-wrestling with Javascript, Blogger templates, and N.Z. Bear's Incredible Kaleidoscoping Kolumns, I finally have my TLLB Ecosystem button.

Wherein, I am running dead last. Hopefully, this won't last forever.

UPDATE: And it doesn't. Somebody linked me, though I'll be forsworn if I can determine who. My ecosystem page isn't loading correctly. Thanks, whoever it is!

DUH: It's my own link from the old web page. Oh, well. It's good enough for Crunchy Crustacean status!

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Bothersome Delay

As I try to dig myself out of the grading pit. I hope to at least decide on a design before the week is out, but work may proceed slowly. As always with website construction, it ends up taking longer than believed.

UPDATE: Started on the linksheet, anyway. It's not complete, but it will be categorized, and no, not everything from The Notion is making the cut. This blog is all about quality, not quantity, and the quantity is already sufficient.