Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Burleigh on Hobsbawm


If you are wondering what he's about, see the post on Vidal, below.

Friday, September 28, 2012

No Doubt

I like this song:

That is all.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Conservatism and the Claremont Review of Books

Over at the Claremont Review of Books, Jonah Goldberg (who writes for and has been reviewed in the Claremont Review of Books) reviews a recent collection of articles from the...Claremont Review of Books

I know, that sounds just a teeny little bit like the makings of an echo chamber.  However, Goldberg really has risen to the occasion to put together an excellent overview of American conservative thought.  At least I think so, as someone who has written for and been reviewed in the Claremont Review of Books

(Sweet Jeebus, this is the most inbred link ever.  Good thing no one reads this blog anymore.)

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Yeah, True

Andrew Ferguson takes exception to the praise poured upon the late Gore Vidal.  The first paragraph:

The most puzzling thing about the career of Gore Vidal, who went toes-up last week at 86, was the reverence in which he was held by people who might have known better. He was famous for announcing the “death of the novel” as an art form, and as if to prove the point he kept writing them. No one who survived a reading of Kalki or Myron or Creation or Duluth will recall the experience with anything other than revulsion and self-loathing. It is true that, when sober, he could be good on television, and few talents now-adays are more highly prized. And it’s true that, as an essayist, he could sometimes impress the reader with a kind of goofball charm; I’ve just reread with pleasure half a dozen essays that I first enjoyed 30 years ago in the New York Review of Books. He single-handedly revived the reputation of the great novelist Dawn Powell, and he told funny stories in a winsome way about Hollywood old and new, and he was hell on the Kennedys. However you measure these achievements from a career spanning seven decades, they amount to no more than a handful, soon to turn to dust.
Read the whole thing and enjoy.

Saturday, July 21, 2012


I had a nice talk with Tom today about many things. We touched upon "things we don't have time for any more." Neither one of us has spent much time criticizing others or responding to critics over the past few years. But the conversation got my juices flowing a little bit. Then I read a sentence from this New Yorker article on the Aurora Movie Theatre Shootings that had been posted on a friend's facebook page. I was shocked to see such poor writing and bad logic. I was also reminded that it is so easy for a person to spin out many, many wrong things but it is wildly time consuming to use facts and logic to make an argument. But for the sake of nostalgia, here is the article with my comments and corrections. The author's original article is in quotation marks.

"The murders—it dignifies them to call them a “tragedy”—in Aurora, Colorado, have hit us all hard, though the grief of the friends and families of the victims is unimaginable."
Exibit A: Words Have No Meaning The events in Colorado were both "murders" and tragic. "Dignifies them?" How? To whom? What does that even mean?

"Still, it hits home, or someplace worse than home, for any parent who (as I did, as so many did) had a kid at one of the many midnight screenings of the new Batman movie last night, they having gone to see it the moment it opened. Once again, as so often before, the unthinkable news is disassembled, piece by piece, into its heartbreaking parts. After the Virginia Tech shooting, the horrifying detail, as I wrote at the time, was that the cell phones were still ringing in the pockets of the dead children as their parents tried to call them. In Colorado, you can’t expunge the knowledge of the sudden turn from pleasure to horror that those children experienced. As the smoke bomb went off, some of the kids inside apparently thought that it was a special effect, part of the fun, until they began to see “people holding themselves.” According to the Aurora police, the suspect, James Holmes, who is twenty-four, was carrying both a rifle and a handgun."

Here the author is on surer ground. He is writing about his own feelings as a parent--perfectly understandable. The name of the gunman, his age, and what he carried is factually correct.

"The bullets were fired so freely that they penetrated the wall separating one movie theatre in a multiplex to devastate people in the next one."

This may be true, but it is speculation. It is unclear how the author could know if the gunman was shooting through walls in an attempt to harm people in the next room.

"The truth is made worse by the reality that no one—really no one—anywhere on the political spectrum has the courage to speak out about the madness of unleashed guns and what they do to American life."

This was the sentence posted on Facebook, and it is absurd. Many people--really almost everyone--everywhere on the political spectrum talks about guns. Talking about guns requires no courage. Talking about guns or failing to talk about guns does not make the truth of what happened in Colorado worse. 

"That includes the President, whose consoling message managed to avoid the issue of why these killings take place."

While I am not generally a fan of President Obama, it seems unfair to criticize him for lacking the Godlike understanding necessary to instantly comprehend why those killings took place.

"Of course, we don’t know, and perhaps never will, what exactly “made him” do what he did;"

What? I thought we were supposed to be angry with the President for not knowing this.

"but we know how he did it. Those who fight for the right of every madman and every criminal to have as many people-killing weapons as they want share moral responsibility for what happened last night—as they will when it happens again. And it will happen again."

Ok, let us find the group of people who advocate that madmen and criminals should have as many people-killing weapons as they want. Where is that group? Does it exist? Is there a state, county, or city that allows the insane or felons to purchase (or simply issues them) firearms? Even if these fictional advocates of gun rights for criminals and madmen existed, would they really share the moral responsibility for the crime? How much? How would such a thing be measured?

"The reality is simple: every country struggles with madmen and ideologues with guns, and every country—Canada, Norway, Britain—has had a gun massacre once, or twice. Then people act to stop them, and they do—as over the past few years has happened in Australia. Only in America are gun massacres of this kind routine, expectable, and certain to continue."

Every country is made up of human beings and some of them are evil or mentally ill.  Gun massacres are rare, unexpected, and don't just happen in America. Of the 20 countries with the lowest homicide rates, 13 allow citizens to own guns. Switzerland requires men to own guns as members of the militia and has one of the lowest murder rates in the world. Also, West Virginia (one of the poorest states) has one of the highest rates of gun ownership and one of the lowest rates of violent crime.  So it isn't poverty, America, or gun ownership rates that cause gun violence.

"Does anyone even remember any longer last July’s gun massacre, those birthday-party killings in Texas, when an estranged husband murdered his wife and most of her family, leaving six dead?"

Non sequitur. This sentence doesn't seem to follow logically from the one before it, or relate to the one after it.

"But nothing changes:"

What should change? The author hasn't actually advocated anything specific.

"the blood lobby still blares out its certainties, including the pretense that the Second Amendment—despite the clear grammar of its first sentence—is designed not to protect citizen militias but to make sure that no lunatic goes unarmed."

Who are the members of this "blood lobby?" What are their certainties? The 2nd Amendment is only one sentence long, so that would be the first sentence, right? Is it pretense to argue that the Second Amendment means what it says? Are the members of the Supreme Court being pretentious? Are they members of the "blood lobby?" Should we do away with the rights of free speech and assembly for people who disagree with us?

Here is the 2nd Amendment in its entirety: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

The first part of the sentence explains why people have the right to keep and bear arms, but that second bit is pretty clear. The right shall not be infringed. Of course, people have a right to not like the Second Amendment and advocate that it be repealed, but it seems a little intellectually dishonest to deny the constitutional rights of others simply because you don't like those rights or choose not to exercise them. And the Second Amendment does not actually require that lunatics must be armed.

"(Jill Lepore wrote about the history of the Second Amendment in The New Yorker recently.) Make sure that guns designed for no reason save to kill people are freely available to anyone who wants one—and that is, and remains, the essential American condition—and then be shocked when children are killed."

I have guns that are not specifically designed to kill people. They are not freely available to anyone who wants one. And I am shocked when children are killed.

"For all the good work the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence tries to do, nothing changes." 

What should change? No actual change has been suggested.  The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence did not actually prevent gun violence.

"On the last episode of Aaron Sorkin’s “The Newsroom,” Jeff Daniels’s character, in a scene set shortly before the Gabrielle Giffords gun massacre, was thought to display political courage by showing, accurately enough, that it’s a lie to say that Barack Obama is in any way in favor of gun control. This was said in Obama’s defense."

What does this prove exactly? Is this evidence in support of a point that has never actually been made by the author?

"Only in America. Every country has, along with its core civilities and traditions, some kind of inner madness, a belief so irrational that even death and destruction cannot alter it."

This is nonsense. What is the inner madness of Switzerland? Denmark? Sweden? What are these madnesses? Are they truly national? Products of the nation-state?

"In Europe not long ago it was the belief that “honor” of the nation was so important that any insult to it had to be avenged by millions of lives."

When did Europeans murder millions of one another over nothing more than an insult to their honor? No other reasons? Just insults to each others' honor?

"In America, it has been, for so long now, the belief that guns designed to kill people indifferently and in great numbers can be widely available and not have it end with people being killed, indifferently and in great numbers."

Since guns are inanimate objects, not sentient beings, they are not capable of indifference.

"The argument has gotten dully repetitive: How does one argue with someone convinced that the routine massacre of our children is the price we must pay for our freedom to have guns, or rather to have guns that make us feel free?"

You can start by making an actual argument. Begin with a specific statement of what you'd like to do; then address how you'd like to do it within our existing constitutional framework; then present evidence for why it should be done, then present relevant evidence.

"You can only shake your head and maybe cry a little. “Gun Crazy” is the title of one the best films about the American romance with violence. And gun-crazy we remain. The horror is touched, inflected, by the way that the killings now intertwine with the everyday details of our lives. The killings will go on; the cell phones in the pockets of dead children will continue to ring; and now parents can be a little frightened every time their kids go to a midnight screening of a movie designed to show them what stylized fun violence can be, in the hands of the right American moviemaker. Of course, there have been shootings at school, too. We’re a nation of special effects."

This is nonsensical gibberish. I can only assume that was written in code that can only be understood by people who, like the author, can't be bothered by facts, logic, or actual text of the constitution of the United States.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Fairy Tale History

All the President's Men is less than accurate.

Really, it's probably best to avoid the work of Woodward altogether.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Old West

I'm not exactly an Old West sort of guy (although that will be changing with the current project), but these pictures are remarkable.

No No Left Turns

No Left Turns has closed its doors. Thank you guys for all your fine work over the years.

Party of Civil Rights?

Kevin Williamson at National Review has made the case that the Republicans were historically the party of civil rights, and that the Democrats never were. Not surprisingly, there have been some strong responses, and here is Williamson's response. My take is that what he is really arguing is that the Republicans were the party of black civil rights, if there was one, and that since the 1960s both parties have focused on vote-counting, not civil rights issues.