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  • Archive for October, 2006

    Rummel, Webb & John Smith

    Posted by Ginny on 31st October 2006 (All posts by )

    James Rummel discusses the way women choose men. Of course, women often find “bad boys” quite attractive; still James Webb may push this a bit far.

    Update: Over at Althouse (this is a week later or so), they are discussing Webb & David Brook’s column about him. It seems to me that many who write or comment on this blog have enough of the Jacksonian temperament to find Webb attractive. I confess, I do. He is smart & witty & active; he is also entertaining. But loose cannons may entertain – they don’t always provide good policy. And one way he is quite different is his isolationism – one that few of us share. (I still think “first candidte from the Buchanan wing of the Democratic party” is not a bad summary.)
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Politics | 4 Comments »

    The Devil has the best lines

    Posted by Helen on 30th October 2006 (All posts by )

    How Hollywood loves to show that it believes in true ideals and hates all superficiality and artifice. The industry that is devoted to superficiality and artifice turns its collective and, no doubt, carefully straightened nose up at such frippery as the fashion industry. Or so it would seem is the message of “The Devil Wears Prada”.

    The film tries very hard to be on the side of Andy Sachs, the idealistic young fledgling journalist, who comes to New York and applies for jobs in magazines and newspapers. Of course, she gets ignored until, unexpectedly, she is interviewed for the job of the second PA to Miranda Priestley (Meryl Streep), all-powerful editor of the biggest and glossiest fashion magazine, “Runway”. Andy and her friends are rather snooty about the fashion industry (well, all but one who appears to understand it) and she shows it by her lack of interest in the subject, dowdy clothes and complete inability to deal with the problem of being Miranda’s PA.

    Then she is taken in hand by Miranda’s second in command, played with kindly waspishness by Stanley Tucci, who does his best to explain what it is all about to Andy. Failing in that, he dresses her in wonderful clothes, which are a little hit and miss, as they would be on a young woman, however pretty, who has not really acquired a style of her own. Andy gradually becomes so efficient that even Miranda appreciates her and starts pushing her ahead of PA No 1, Emily. Andy plays along, gets to go to the Paris shows, without ever apparently really acquiring any real knowledge of the world she lives in and has a one-night stand with a well-known writer.

    Then, suddenly, through a series of machinations, she understands just how ruthless the fashion world is, chucks in her job together with her ever-demanding mobile phone, which she throws into one of the fountains in the Tuileries gardens (the Paris geography is a little sketchy), realizes that she has lost her ideals and goes back to them by becoming ….a journalist. And, of course, nobody ever gets shafted in “real” journalism.

    The problem with this reading, the intended one, as I suspect, is that it is absolutely impossible to take the silly, supercilious little chit seriously. Neither she, nor her hipster friends appear to have any interests beyond feeling superior to the fashion industry. Soooooooo superficial.

    As against that we have two superb characters who speak for the fashion industry. There is Meryl Streep’s Miranda Priestley, the workaholic slave-driver and bitch-queen, who, undoubtedly, has the best lines, the best make-up and the best wardrobe. And there is Stanley Tucci’s Nigel, her second in command, the man who eventually gets shafted as Miranda fights to preserve her own job.

    It is not just that they have the best lines, many of which are now being repeated by delighted viewers, they are also articulate in their understanding and defence of the fashion industry. When Andy chuckles over a couple of belts that look exactly alike to her and produces a spurious apology about not understanding “all this stuff”, she gets a withering lecture from Miranda who explains coldly and meticulously just how the creative minds of the fashion industry influence the lives even of people who are “too intellectual to care what they put on their backs”. When Andy weeps about Miranda not being nice to her, Nigel tells her in no uncertain terms how utterly useless her attitude makes her for her job and to her colleagues. Fashion journalism is highly professional and very hard work.

    There is, I suspect, a real problem here. Hollywood may talk idealism but it does not really know much about it. It may decry superficiality and artifice but those are what it understands best, can analyze and recreate best. There is not a single false note about the character of Miranda or Nigel or, even the PA number 1, Emily, played excellently by a young British actress, Emily Blunt. When it comes to the idealistic hipsters, they do not come to life except, occasionally, to irritate the viewer. There are several mis-steps with them. Would a young rather impoverished couple live in Lower East Side? How does Andy manage to remember the ambassador at the grand reception, whose face Emily has momentarily forgotten? Why exactly does a would-be journalist not know the identity of the editor of one of the biggest and glossiest monthlies in New York, which publishes feature articles all the time? The last of those questions is easily answered: because she thinks it is all beneath her. But what kind of a “real” journalist will she make as she apparently does not think research is of any importance?

    Most of the reviewers, who, despite their supposed cynicism, tend to accept the point of view a film is promoting, were rather disappointed by Anne Hathaway who plays Andy but, naturally enough, fell in love with Meryl Streep’s Miranda. There is nothing wrong with Ms Hathaway or, one assumes, her acting. But to be cast as the idealistic young heroine only to find that the part is really one of a real fluff-head, could be quite galling. Especially, as the film has produced an unexpected heroine: Miranda Priestley, the ever-sharp, ever-stylish, every-despotic editor of the superficial fashion magazine.

    Posted in Media | 4 Comments »

    Misreading Dick Armey

    Posted by Jonathan on 30th October 2006 (All posts by )

    Dick Armey has an excellent critique of the Republicans in yesterday’s Washington Post. Armey’s argument is misinterpreted by this self-proclaimed moderate and this social conservative, both of whom think that Armey is blaming social and religious conservatives (or unfairly singling out some religious conservatives) for the Party’s current problems.

    The Republican Party is a broad coalition of libertarians, social and religious conservatives, fiscal conservatives and pro-defense liberals. A broad coalition needs unifying ideas that transcend the differences between the coalition’s subgroups. Armey is arguing for those unifying ideas. He is not saying that the issues that energize social conservatives do not matter. What he is saying is that by focusing too much on those particular issues, and by spending to the point of negating their historical focus on limited government, the Republicans abandoned the values which in the past unified them and allowed them to win elections.

    The groups comprising the Republican Party disagree about many things but share fundamental beliefs in limited government and strong national defense. The conventional wisdom since 2000 has been that the Republican coalition is weakening because it no longer has a Democratic administration to oppose. That seems right, and it appears increasingly obvious that the limits of Republican political effectiveness have been reached. Spending and social-issues triangulation no longer work, if they ever did, to keep the coalition together. A new approach is needed. Perhaps now, for want of better alternatives, the Republican Party will return to its small-government roots.

    (And perhaps one day the Democrats will provide effective competition in the form of alternative ideas to what the Republicans are offering. In the meantime the only choices we have are Republicans and anti-Republicans. The failure of the Republicans to dominate the political landscape in the face of such weak opposition shows how much they have drifted from their ideological roots.)

    (via Instapundit)

    Cross-posted at 26th Parallel.

    Posted in Politics | 6 Comments »

    A Halloween Tale

    Posted by Shannon Love on 30th October 2006 (All posts by )

    This is the story of my best Halloween ever.

    Back when I was in high school, the speech and drama departments put on an elaborate haunted house every Halloween. Since we studied set design and makeup, our haunted houses rocked. They were sight and sound extravaganzas. We even planned to use some decayed meat for that authentic zombie smell but our teacher shut us down.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Personal Narrative | 3 Comments »

    Posted by Jonathan on 30th October 2006 (All posts by )

    Posted in Photos | 2 Comments »

    Far From the Sunday Talk Shows

    Posted by Ginny on 29th October 2006 (All posts by )

    Iraq the Model:

    It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that Iraq might turn into a second Somalia within a year if the situation is allowed to keep descending the way it’s doing now. The Islamic Sharia courts are ruling now in Somalia while in Iraq they function undercover and it’s still in our hands to stop them from extending their influence and from becoming the rule instead of the exception they are today.

    This post has become a WSJ editorial.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Iraq | 2 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Lexington Green on 28th October 2006 (All posts by )

    If you want to understand the real enduring strength of America as a nation, look at the Dow Jones industrial average. Not the record 12,000 level reached this month � that may last no longer than a day or a week. Look instead at the 30 companies that make up the Dow index. Only two of the original 30 companies in the index in 1930 � General Electric and General Motors � are still there today. Most of today�s Dow components � the Microsofts and Intels � weren�t even around 50 years ago.

    If you look at the relevant stock market indices for Germany, France or even Britain, you will find them dominated by companies that have been around for generations. America by contrast, has mastered the art of creative destruction. This vast competitive openness, combined with entrepreneurial spirit, keeps the country constantly innovating and regenerating.

    Gerard Baker, Iraq is just a comma, not a death sentence

    Posted in Iraq, USA | 3 Comments »

    Note of a Review

    Posted by Ginny on 28th October 2006 (All posts by )

    These are moments when everything becomes clear, when every action constitutes a commitment, when every choice has its price, when nothing is neutral anymore. It is the time of morality, that is, a time when language becomes clear and it is possible to throw it back in the realists’ face.

    A&L links to a review by Michael McDonald of the Jacqueline Lévi-Valensi edition of Camus at "Combat": Writing, 1944-1947. (Arthur Goldhammer, translator). McDonald notes another passage:

    Camus was against “political realism”, calling it “a degrading thing.” “Those whom we called leaders”, he wrote, “invented names for this abdication of responsibility. They called it ‘nonintervention’ one day and ‘political realism’ the next. Compared with such imperious language, what could a poor little word like honor count for.”

    The bracing vision of Camus often gives solace. McDonald explains why.

    Update: If you feel the need to read some Garry Wills to reinforce your feelings of superiority to Bush, then A&L has rounded that up, too. I assume, however, that this blog is not obliged to give equal time.

    Posted in Book Notes | 5 Comments »

    Symposium on the Pope’s Regensberg Speech at U of C on 11.01.06

    Posted by Lexington Green on 27th October 2006 (All posts by )

    I received the following today:

    The Lumen Christi Institute presents a symposium at the University of Chicago on Benedict XVI on “Faith, Reason and the University”: The Regensburg Address in Context, with remarks by Hans Joas, University of Chicago, Michael Kremer, University of Chicago, Souleymane Bachir Diagne, Northwestern University, Paul Griffiths, University of Illinois, Chicago. Wed., Nov. 1, 2006, 4:00-6:00 PM, Room 101, Hinds Lab. for Geophysical Sciences, 5734 South Ellis Avenue. For more information and the revised text of the Pope’s address (with footnotes), see the notice at www.lumenchristi.org.

    We have had some discussion of this speech and its meaning and impact on the blog. If you are able to get to Hyde Park for this symposium, I am sure that it will be good, as all Lumen Christi events always are.

    Incidentally, I think the best thing I have seen about the speech was this piece by Lee Harris.

    Posted in Christianity, Islam, Religion | 3 Comments »

    Lewis — The Power of Productivity

    Posted by James McCormick on 27th October 2006 (All posts by )

    Lewis, William, The Power of Productivity: Wealth, Poverty, and the Threat to Global Stability, U of Chicago Press, 2004. 339 pp.

    [cross-posted on Albion's Seedlings]

    Preliminary headlines on the upcoming riot season in Paris are starting to appear, recalling the difficulties that European countries face in boosting their economic performance: reducing unemployment and increasing economic growth. Fareed Zakaria’s article in the Washington Post earlier in 2006 entitled the Decline and Fall of Europe is a quick and readable summary.

    Zakaria quotes a particularly interesting OECD report called “Going for Growth” that shows Europe, rather than catching up to America in per capita GDP, has in fact been falling behind over the last 15 years. Efforts to catch up, while noteworthy and politically difficult, have essentially failed. When the GDP figures are adjusted by purchasing power parity (PPP), from country to country and around the world, we end up with shocking tables like the following:

    gdp_ppp_2005.png
    Source: CIA World Factbook

    and this:

    gdpbypop.png
    Source: Adapted from Lewis, The Power of Productivity, 2004.

    The United States doesn’t simply lead the world in GDP per capita (PPP adjusted). It is in a class (fully acknowledging its size) entirely by itself. Adding 1 million net citizens every nine months (one every 13 seconds), America is extending its lead in prosperity over not only poor and moderately wealthy nations, but over virtually all of its erstwhile companions on the “heights” of Mount Prosperity. Next-door neighbour Canada is the only eight digit population close to the US, coming in at 78% of US per capita GDP (PPP adjusted).

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Anglosphere, Book Notes | 20 Comments »

    Video: Claudio Véliz at the Anglosphere Institute

    Posted by Jonathan on 26th October 2006 (All posts by )

    Now you can watch Professor Claudio Véliz’s brilliant talk on “The Optional Descent of the English Speaking World,” which he gave at the inaugural event of Jim Bennett’s Anglosphere Institute. The lecture was hosted by the Hudson Institute in Washington, DC.

    Professor Véliz discusses the reasons for the global success of English culture and institutions, including meta-parallels between England and Ancient Athens.

    Click here to watch the video.The lecture runs about 49 minutes and is followed by another 35 minutes of Q&A that are also very much worth watching. (There is a gap of approximately ten seconds at around 38:25.)

    Unfortunately, the last few minutes of the lecture, in which Professor Véliz discusses the importance of cultural self-confidence to the survival of English civilization in its current struggle with radical Islam, were not recorded. However, a complete audio recording and written transcript of his talk may eventually be made available.

    You may need to raise the volume on your speakers to get best audio quality.

    Posted in Anglosphere, History, Video | 3 Comments »

    Violating the social compact

    Posted by Steven Den Beste on 25th October 2006 (All posts by )

    I support gay marriage. And I’m glad to see that a lot of states are
    considering, or have already passed, amendments to their state constitutions
    forbidding gay marriage. My position isn’t inconsistent, because there’s a
    deeper issue involved.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Political Philosophy | 29 Comments »

    Odds & Ends From the Week

    Posted by Ginny on 25th October 2006 (All posts by )

    I realize not everyone believes the wisdom of the world is captured in country western lyrics. Nonetheless, Instapundit links to DaveShearon who sees that current hit reinforcing Winston Churchill’s rugged & tenacious vision.

    If you’re going through hell

    Keep on going, Don’t slow down

    If you’re scared, don’t show it

    You might get out.

    Before the devil even knows you’re there.

    This may be optimism, but its steely optimism, arising from a relatively tragic but activist point of view. Of course, that’s the difference between optimism & sentimentality – toughness, energy & some irony.

    This was the tone of Bush’s press conference this week. Permeated with a sense of the grim times ahead, his position doesn’t seem that dramatically different from earlier remarks. Still, some see this as the beginning of the end of the denial they believe he has been laboring under. It certainly put front & center an acknowledgement of mistakes & problems. It seemed no less resolute, however.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Politics | Comments Off

    The NYT and Astronomy

    Posted by Jonathan on 25th October 2006 (All posts by )

    Often, and especially before elections, the act of interpreting MSM news articles takes on the feel of one of those scientific investigations where the investigator tries to gain information about an invisible celestial body by observing its effect on visible stars and planets.

    Posted in The Press | Comments Off

    It’s the End of the World as We Know It, and I Feel Fine

    Posted by James R. Rummel on 24th October 2006 (All posts by )

    Things were grim when I was growing up in the 1960′s. Natural resources were being depleted at an alarming rate, DDT was causing mass extinctions, pollution was destroying the ecosystem, and the time when the planet’s petroleum supply would run out was in sight. All the experts agreed that we were doomed in 50 years. I had maybe five decades in front of me to live a relatively normal life before things fell apart. After that, the natural resources that humanity depended on to survive would be completely gone.

    So how do we fare now that 40 years have passed?

    According to the WWF, things are grim. Our end times are in sight. We have maybe 45 years before the natural resources that humanity depends on for survival are completely gone.

    I find myself unable to work up any sense of urgency. I wonder why this is so?

    Posted in Environment | 17 Comments »

    Bomb Scare In Venezuala

    Posted by James R. Rummel on 24th October 2006 (All posts by )

    I have always supported securing our southern border, mainly due to concerns about law enforcement issues. This seems pretty cut-n’-dried to me.

    But, for some reason, people who are critical of plans to control access to our territory usually start talking about how Islamic terrorists don’t enjoy much support down in South America. It is very puzzling to me when they do this. What, we should ignore every other criminal activity or threat unless there is a Jihadi reason behind it? That doesn’t seem very reasonable.

    I also hold the opinion that any breach in your security will eventually be exploited by those who mean you harm if they possess the means. It is only a matter of time.

    I am not particularly concerned about an imminent attack from Islamic terrorists smuggling arms and suicide warriors across the Rio Grande, but they will get around to it eventually if we don’t plug that hole, and things might start to escalate sooner than we think.

    Allowing those who are critical of increased border security to define the debate is probably a bad idea. I have always looked to their assertions about the lack of Islamic terrorists in South America as an attempt to distract from the real issues. But, for some reason, I don’t mind pointing out that they are wrong once again.

    (HT to Ace.)

    Posted in Terrorism | 5 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Lexington Green on 23rd October 2006 (All posts by )

    …what has helped the less fortunate is economic growth. Today’s elderly are affluent not because of Social Security, but because of all of the wealth created by private sector innovation over their lifetimes. Government involvement in health care and education is an impediment to progress in those fields. Job training and welfare are demonstrable failures. I think that treating a national community like a family is a grave intellectual error. A national unit is an institution that creates a legal framework for a large group of strangers to interact. A family is a small group that interacts on the basis of personal bonds. Strengthening government serves to weaken families and other vital civic institutions.

    Arnold Kling

    (You absolutley must RTWT. Mr. Kling puts terribly important ideas across in clear, plain English.)

    Posted in Economics & Finance, Political Philosophy, Society, USA | Comments Off

    Books Read

    Posted by Lexington Green on 23rd October 2006 (All posts by )

    I have been enjoying James McCormick’s book reviews on the blog very much. The quality of these items is a blessing and a challenge. I have been intending for a long time to do some “book reports” for the blog on things I have been reading, but I have not gotten to it for many valid reasons. The way I read is not conducive to taking notes, reflection, etc. I read while walking to the train, cooking, evacuating, a minute here a minute there. I read fast and I retain pretty well what I read. I can read in almost any posture and in any setting with any volume of background distraction, something I have learned out of necessity. Still, while this is the only option available to me, it is far less than the ideal way to read a book. At this point in my life, it is that or nothing. I just ingest the books as best I can and try to retain something of value from them.

    So, instead of a book report, I just attach a list of books I have read in the last 16 months or so. It may be of interest to some of you. I hope to write about some of these at some point in the future.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Book Notes | 3 Comments »

    1965 & 2006

    Posted by Ginny on 23rd October 2006 (All posts by )

    Revolutions come & go. Our world changes but Willie plays on.

    Then &

    now.

    Posted in Music | 1 Comment »

    50 Years Ago Today

    Posted by Jonathan on 23rd October 2006 (All posts by )

    Our friend and contributor Helen has an excellent post about the Hungarian revolution (begun October 23, 1956) up at EU Referendum.

    Her colleague Richard has a good one about the 2nd battle of EL Alamein, begun on the same date fourteen years earlier.

    Both posts are well worth reading.

    Also this (via The Corner)

    Posted in History | Comments Off

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Lexington Green on 22nd October 2006 (All posts by )

    [The] determination to build Jerusalem, at once and on the spot, is the very force which is responsible for the intolerance and violence of the new political order � if we believe that the Kingdom of Heaven can be established by political or economic measures � that it can be an earthly state � then we can hardly object to the claims of such a State to embrace the whole of life and to demand the total submission of the individual � there is a fundamental error in all this. That error is the ignoring of Original Sin and its consequences or rather identification of the Fall with some defective political or economic arrangement. If we could destroy the Capitalist system or the power of bankers or that of the Jews, everything in the garden would be lovely.

    Christopher Dawson (and here), Religion and the Modern State (1935), quoted in Michael Burleigh, Earthly Powers: The Clash of Religion and Politics in Europe, from the French Revolution to the Great War. (As of p. 152, the Burleigh book is excellent.)

    Posted in Political Philosophy, Religion | 6 Comments »

    Partial to the The Partial Critics

    Posted by Ginny on 21st October 2006 (All posts by )

    Last week, to wean myself of my television habit, I sat down to read a Howells biography, but glanced at the books piled beside my chair, waiting to be reshelved. Some I’ve ignored for decades, packing them in box after box in move after move. The one on top, by one of my old teachers, was published in 1965.

    I’d never been much interested in theory; in those days, the study of literature was not yet dominated by meta-criticism. Then, I confess, literature seemed primarily a way to objectify and understand my own inner chaos. The level of abstraction required to think in terms of literary theories was just not the way I thought. But, that last spring at Nebraska, I enjoyed Lee Lemon’s critical theory seminar & the play of those conversations. Sometimes books wait for us; last week, I found myself lost in his. The Partial Critics beautifully embodies an attitude I remembered: respectful of literature & its bounty, of the critics he critiques with affection.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Book Notes, Education, Society | 2 Comments »

    No New News Here

    Posted by James R. Rummel on 20th October 2006 (All posts by )

    The teaser to the news article reads “NORTH KOREANS FACE WINTER WITHOUT ADEQUATE FOOD”.

    Can someone please tell me how this is different from the last 20 years?

    There are times when the only reasonable response to a tragic situation is by laughing. It is for that reason I would like to share with you the following news item.

    N. KOREA DETONATES 40 YEARS OF GDP

    Posted in International Affairs | 9 Comments »

    Posted by Jonathan on 19th October 2006 (All posts by )

    This blog has legs.

    Posted in Humor | 8 Comments »

    Metaphors & Meaning

    Posted by Ginny on 19th October 2006 (All posts by )

    Pinker reviews Lakoff & Lakoff responds. Lakoff tends to prove Pinker’s point, his defense demonstrating the tone with which some of us are quite familiar:

    These questions matter in progressive politics, because many progressives were brought up with the old seventeenth-century view of reason that implies that, if you just tell people the facts, they will reason to the right conclusion — since reason is universal. We know from recent elections that this is just false.

    Ah, another misunderstanding of how we reason – like grace, its presence should be demonstrated rather than asserted.

    Posted in Politics | 9 Comments »