Links, 10/6/09

Still without a computer – yes, I’ve lost a lot of documents on which I was working or which I was reading, not to mention a lot of music that meant a lot to me. The dissertation though has been saved to several places online, but I’m working on that with pen and paper right now.

I was asked about parties and elections recently: if we consider a party that has controlled a country for a long time such that its vision is reflected in mores and institutions – well, if that party is defeated in an election is that partly because of fatigue with certain individuals? Or just a general feeling of needing “change” with no real desire for change? I’m sure there’s academic literature on the subject (“when are politicians/parties rejected just because”), but the quick and dirty answer is: consider where the alternative theory usually comes from. After every election, journalists who are not so secretly partisan are wondering what went wrong and weeping and gnashing teeth: an epoch must have ended, their vote didn’t count for as much as they thought it did, they can’t understand how the voters who won think. I’ll keep an eye out for the relevant empirical literature; I think in classical thought, Aristides – a rival of Themistocles in Athens, considered to be one of the most just men (as opposed to Themistocles) – was exiled precisely because people got bored with him. The account I’d look at is Plutarch’s: I haven’t looked at it in a long while.

Alright. Links, as promised:

  • Henry Kissinger, “More Troops for Afghanistan:” Even so-called realists—like me—would gag at a tacit U.S. cooperation with the Taliban in the governance of Afghanistan. [boldface mine]
  • Jay Cost, “The Olympics, Obama, and the Permanent Campaign:” This is the permanent campiagn. We have talked about its imminence for years. Well, now it’s here and this is what it looks like. This is what a President does in it. Previous Presidents would only put themselves out there in this kind of diplomatic situation if there was no more campaigning, lobbying, and cajoling to be done. But this President sees himself above all as the chief campaigner, lobbyist, and cajoler. That explains so many of the ways in which the Obama Presidency differs from previous administrations (Democratic and Republican alike), and it also explains why we should not be so shocked by this result. This particular campaign failed.
  • W.A. Pannapacker, “Confessions of a Middlebrow Professor:” What has been lost, according to Jacoby, is a culture of intellectual effort. We are increasingly ignorant, but we do not know enough to be properly ashamed. If we are determined to get on in life, we believe it will not have anything to do with our ability to reference Machiavelli or Adam Smith at the office Christmas party. The rejection of the Great Books signifies a declining belief in the value of anything without a direct practical application, combined with the triumph of a passive entertainment—as anyone who teaches college students can probably affirm.

There is one other link: I’m seething reading it – Jonah Goldberg, who has shown a sensitivity to people and issues few pundits demonstrate at times, has decided to defend Glenn Beck. I don’t know that reasonable people can disagree about this: Glenn Beck is very, very bad stuff, the incarnation of a paranoid style of politicking that is mob rule – it’s not even prelude to it, as anyone who sees his interactions with his studio audience will attest. I don’t know what the Right is going to look like once all the bigots, conspiracy theorists, people who get rich off of fear and suspicion, fanatics who use religion only to tell others they’re wrong, parents who believe the best way to raise a kid is to lock them in a closet until they’re 22, and really dumb pundits are gone, but I know I want them gone, and gone now. The quick response to Goldberg: there’s a difference between a populist Right that is a mob, and a populist Right that has morals and restraint. Take a guess which one Beck is promoting when he says that the government is going to take all your property away because of “cash for clunkers” (don’t ask, it makes no sense to me either), or when he says that eugenics is the inevitable result of health care reform. Mr. Goldberg: if you were a responsible citizen, you wouldn’t go on Glenn Beck’s show, and yes, I offer that challenge to anyone invited to Beck’s show. Responsible people should not appear on that show.

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