Tag Archives: Alan Jacobs

There Are Cordoba Guitars And Cordoba Houses, Part II

John McCormack at The Weekly Standard:

The Anti-Defamation League, which describes itself as “the world’s leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry,” released a statment this morning opposing the building of the 13-story mosque near Ground Zero.

“In our judgment, building an Islamic Center in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain – unnecessarily – and that is not right,” says the ADL. Full statement here:

We regard freedom of religion as a cornerstone of the American democracy, and that freedom must include the right of all Americans – Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and other faiths – to build community centers and houses of worship.

We categorically reject appeals to bigotry on the basis of religion, and condemn those whose opposition to this proposed Islamic Center is a manifestation of such bigotry.

However, there are understandably strong passions and keen sensitivities surrounding the World Trade Center site.  We are ever mindful of the tragedy which befell our nation there, the pain we all still feel – and especially the anguish of the families and friends of those who were killed on September 11, 2001.

The controversy which has emerged regarding the building of an Islamic Center at this location is counterproductive to the healing process.  Therefore, under these unique circumstances, we believe the City of New York would be better served if an alternative location could be found.

Marc Tracy at Tablet:

The Anti-Defamation League has issued a statement opposing the construction of the Islamic community center a couple blocks from Ground Zero in lower Manhattan. (Earlier this week, a community board recommended that the Landmarks Preservation Commission allow the project to go through.) The release goes out of its way to grant Cordoba House’s organizers good intentions and to condemn the bigotry of some who oppose it. So what is the problem? “The controversy which has emerged regarding the building of an Islamic Center at this location,” the ADL argues, “is counterproductive to the healing process.”

It adds:

Proponents of the Islamic Center may have every right to build at this site, and may even have chosen the site to send a positive message about Islam. The bigotry some have expressed in attacking them is unfair, and wrong. But ultimately this is not a question of rights, but a question of what is right. In our judgment, building an Islamic Center in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain—unnecessarily—and that is not right.

Founded in 1913, the ADL, in its words, “fights anti-Semitism and all forms of bigotry, defends democratic ideals and protects civil rights for all.” Except when it does the precise opposite.

Jeffrey Goldberg:

I have explained my support for the Lower Manhattan mosque project before, but let me restate two points:

1) The organization behind the project, the Cordoba Initiative, is a moderate group interested in advancing cross-cultural understanding. It is very far from being a Wahhabist organization;

2) This is a strange war we’re fighting against Islamist terrorism. We must fight the terrorists with alacrity, but at the same time we must understand that what the terrorists seek is a clash of civilizations. We must do everything possible to avoid giving them propaganda victories in their attempt to create a cosmic war between Judeo-Christian civilization and Muslim civilization. The fight is not between the West and Islam; it is between modernists of all monotheist faiths, on the one hand, and the advocates of a specific strain of medievalist Islam, on the other. If we as a society punish Muslims of good faith, Muslims of good faith will join the other side. It’s not that hard to understand. I’m disappointed that the ADL doesn’t understand this.

Greg Sargent:

This is basically a concession that some of the opposition to the mosque is grounded in bigotry, and that those arguing that the mosque builders harbor ill intent are misguided. Yet ADL is opposing the construction of the mosque anyway, on the grounds that it will cause 9/11 victims unnecessary “pain.”

But look: The foes of this mosque whose opposition is rooted in bigotry are the ones who are trying to stoke victims’ pain here, for transparent political purposes. Their opposition to this mosque appears to be all about insidiously linking the mosque builders with the 9/11 attackers, and by extension, to revive passions surrounding 9/11. To oppose the mosque is to capitulate to — and validate — this program.

On this one, you’re either with the bigots or you’re against them. And ADL has in effect sided with them.

Paul Krugman:

So let’s try some comparable cases, OK? It causes some people pain to see Jews operating small businesses in non-Jewish neighborhoods; it causes some people pain to see Jews writing for national publications (as I learn from my mailbox most weeks); it causes some people pain to see Jews on the Supreme Court. So would ADL agree that we should ban Jews from these activities, so as to spare these people pain? No? What’s the difference?

One thing I thought Jews were supposed to understand is that they need to be advocates of universal rights, not just rights for their particular group — because it’s the right thing to do, but also because, ahem, there aren’t enough of us. We can’t afford to live in a tribal world.

But ADL has apparently forgotten all that. Shameful — and stupid.

Update: Times staff briefly removed the link to the ADL statement, because it seemed to be dead — but it was apparently just a case of an overloaded server, and I’ve put it back.

Charles Johnson at Little Green Footballs:

Humorist Will Rogers once said about the repeal of Prohibition, “Repeal is all right, but the wrong people are for it.” In this case, the wrong people are against Park51, and if Abe Foxman and the ADL can’t keep their personal feelings out of the issue, they should have just kept quiet instead of handing the Bigot Brigade a public relations gift. What a disgrace.

Adam Serwer at American Prospect:

Let’s be clear. This is not about the proposed Islamic Center. There is already a masjid in the neighborhood, and it’s been there for decades. This is about giving political cover to right-wing politicians using anti-Muslim bigotry as a political weapon and a fundraising tool. By doing this, the ADL is increasingly eroding its already weakened credibility as a nonpartisan organization.

I learned a very important lesson in Hebrew School that I have retained my entire life. If they can deny freedom to a single individual because of who they are, they can do it to anyone. Someone at the ADL needs to go back to Hebrew School.

J Street:

Today, J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami released the following statement:

The principle at stake in the Cordoba House controversy goes to the heart of American democracy and the value we place on freedom of religion. Should one religious group in this country be treated differently than another? We believe the answer is no.

As Mayor Bloomberg has said, proposing a church or a synagogue for that site would raise no questions. The Muslim community has an equal right to build a community center wherever it is legal to do so. We would hope the American Jewish community would be at the forefront of standing up for the freedom and equality of a religious minority looking to exercise its legal rights in the United States, rather than casting aspersions on its funders and giving in to the fear-mongerers and pandering politicians urging it to relocate.

What better ammunition to feed the Osama bin Ladens of the world and their claim of anti-Muslim bias in the United States as they seek to whip up global jihad than to hold this proposal for a Muslim religious center to a different and tougher standard than other religious institutions would be.

Joe Klein at Swampland at Time:

During the high-tide of anti-semitism, and then again during the civil-rights movement, and often since, the Anti-Defamation League transcended its Jewish origins to stand as a courageous American voice against prejudice. But now, it’s making a mockery of its original mission and, in the process, it has sullied American Judaism’s intense tradition of tolerance and inclusion.  I miss the old ADL and so does America. Foxman should be fired immediately. (Meanwhile, hooray yet again for Michael Bloomberg.)

Peter Beinart at Daily Beast:

Had the ADL genuinely tried to apply its universalistic mandate to the Jewish state, it would have become something like the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) or B’Tselem (full disclosure: I’m on B’Tselem’s American board): Israeli human rights organizations that struggle against all forms of bigotry, and thus end up spending a lot of time defending Muslims and Christian Palestinians against discrimination by Jews. But the ADL hasn’t done that. Instead it has become, in essence, two organizations. In the United States, it still links the struggle against anti-Semitism to the struggle against bigotry against non-Jews. In Israel, by contrast, it largely pretends that government-sponsored bigotry against non-Jews does not exist. When Arizona passes a law that encourages police to harass Latinos, the ADL expresses outrage. But when Israel builds 170 kilometers of roads in the West Bank for the convenience of Jewish settlers, from which Palestinians are wholly or partially banned, the ADL takes out advertisements declaring, “The Problem Isn’t Settlements.”

For a long time now, the ADL seems to have assumed that it could exempt Israel from the principles in its charter and yet remain just as faithful to that charter inside the United States. But now the chickens are coming back home to America to roost. The ADL’s rationale for opposing the Ground Zero mosque is that “building an Islamic Center in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain—unnecessarily—and that is not right.” Huh? What if white victims of African-American crime protested the building of a black church in their neighborhood? Or gentile victims of Bernie Madoff protested the building of a synagogue? Would the ADL for one second suggest that sensitivity toward people victimized by members of a certain religion or race justifies discriminating against other, completely innocent, members of that religion or race? Of course not. But when it comes to Muslims, the standards are different. They are different in Israel, and now, it is clear, they are different in the United States, too.

More Goldberg

Mark Thompson at The League:

I don’t have any real problem with those who take offense at the decision to build this project a few blocks from Ground Zero, and particularly those who take such offense having had deep ties to New York on 9/11/01.

What I do have a problem with is those who have determined that this is an appropriate issue for political activism, and particularly those supposed advocates of “small government” who view it as appropriate that government would step in here to restrict the property rights of a private organization.  What I do have a problem with is those who claim to advocate for “states rights” and federalism insisting that it is the job of the federal government to make sure that what is effectively a zoning decision of the New York City government is overruled.  What I do have a problem with is those who are using this proposed building to stir up anti-Muslim sentiment by branding it a “9/11 Victory Mosque,” and who presume to know more about Muslims than Muslims themselves and in the process create an “inescable trap” wherein all Muslims are either lying about not being jihadi terrorists or are just “bad Muslims.”

Jennifer Rubin at Commentary:

The left continues to feign confusion (it is hard to believe its pundits are really this muddled) as to the reasons why conservatives (and a majority of fellow citizens) oppose the Ground Zero mosque. No, it’s not about “religious freedom” — we’re talking about the location of the mosque on the ash-strewn site of 3,000 dead Americans. The J Street crowd and the liberal defenders of the mosque seem very bent out of shape when Americans want to defend the sensibilities of their fellow citizens and when they look askance at an imam whose funding appears to come from those whose goal is anything but religious reconciliation. Again, no one is telling Muslims not to build or pray in mosques; we on the right are simply asking them not to do it in the location where Islam was the inspiration for mass murder.

It is interesting that the word mosque is not employed by those excoriating the mosque opponents. As a smart reader highlights, why is it described as a “cultural center”? Pretty dicey to articulate exactly what position the left clings to — namely, that we must allow a mosque at Ground Zero. Well, when you are that precise, it does highlight the vast gulf between the left’s perspective and that of average Americans.  (And for the record, my objections to J Street obviously aren’t limited to the Ground Zero mosque. And I certainly do believe “you are either for us or you are for them” — when it comes to Israel and to America. That this notion disturbs the left tells you precisely why it is estranged from the vast majority of Israelis and Americans.)

Dan Senor is not confused in the least. He pens an open letter to the Ground Zero mosque imam, which gets to the heart of the matter. Recalling the 9/11 attack “committed in the name of Islam,” he explains:

We applaud and thank every Muslim throughout the world who has rejected and denounced this association. But the fact remains that in the minds of many who are swayed by the most radical interpretations of Islam, the Cordoba House will not be seen as a center for peace and reconciliation. It will rather be celebrated as a Muslim monument erected on the site of a great Muslim “military” victory—a milestone on the path to the further spread of Islam throughout the world. …

Rather than furthering cross-cultural and interfaith understanding, a Cordoba House located near Ground Zero would undermine them. Rather that serving as a bridge between Muslim and non-Muslim peoples, it would function as a divide. Your expressed hopes for the center not only would never be realized, they would be undermined from the start. Insisting on this particular site on Park Place can only reinforce this counterproductive dynamic.

This is not some right-wing, extremist view. It represents the views of a large majority of Americans and of mainstream Jewish leaders like Malcolm Hoenlein — as well as Juan Williams. But the left – which has become obsessed with universalism and finds particularism and nationalism noxious – thinks it unseemly for Americans to look after the interests of Americans, and Jews to look after Jews (as to the latter, we can only be grateful that so many pro-Zionist Christians do as well).

Peter Wehner at Commentary

Jonathan Chait at TNR:

Joe Lieberman comes out against building an Islamic Center in lower Manhattan:

“I’ve also read some things about some of the people involved that make me wonder about their motivations. So I don’t know enough to reach a conclusion, but I know enough to say that this thing is only going to create more division in our society, and somebody ought to put the brakes on it,” he said. “Give these people a chance to come out and explain who they are, where their money’s coming from.”

Sounds like he’s deeply troubled by the hilariously elongated chain of guilt-by-association constructed by critics.

Meanwhile, former Bushie Dan Senor writes:

9/11 remains a deep wound for Americans—especially those who experienced it directly in some way. They understandably see the area as sacred ground. Nearly all of them also reject the equation of Islam with terrorism and do not blame the attacks on Muslims generally or on the Muslim faith. But many believe that Ground Zero should be reserved for memorials to the event itself and to its victims. They do not understand why of all possible locations in the city, Cordoba House must be sited so near to there.

A couple things are striking about this argument. First, Senor claims that “Ground Zero should be reserved for memorials.” But the Muslim center is not being built on Ground Zero. It’s being built two blocks away, in a site that doesn’t feel especially connected to Ground Zero. Senor is suggesting that nothing but memorials should be built within (at least) a two block radius of Ground Zero. Forgive me for feeling skeptical that such a standard is being applied to any other proposed construction.

Second, there’s a very weaselly relativism at work here in his not-prejudiced plea to relocate the center. Senor is arguing, I support freedom of religion, and I believe that your group doesn’t support terrorism, but other Americans don’t feel this way. Of course this is an argument for caving in to any popular prejudice or social phobia whatsoever. Hey, I’m happy to let a black family move into the neighborhood, but other people here think you’re probably crackheads who spray random gunfire at night, so in order to prevent racial strife you should probably live somewhere else.

Justin Elliott at Salon:

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has emerged as the unlikely but passionate defender of the planned Muslim community center near ground zero, today traveled to Governors Island off the tip of Lower Manhattan to deliver a stirring plea for sanity in what he called “[as] important a test of the separation of church and state as we may see in our lifetimes.”

The Daily News’ Adam Lisberg reports that Bloomberg choked up at one point as he delivered the speech surrounded by religious leaders of different faiths, with the Statue of Liberty in the background.

Rather than attack the bigotry of the opponents of the so-called “ground zero mosque,” Bloomberg made several positive arguments for building the center. He traced the struggle for religious freedom in New York and affirmed the rights of citizens to do as they please with their private property:

The simple fact is, this building is private property, and the owners have a right to use the building as a house of worship, and the government has no right whatsoever to deny that right. And if it were tried, the courts would almost certainly strike it down as a violation of the U.S. Constitution.

Whatever you may think of the proposed mosque and community center, lost in the heat of the debate has been a basic question: Should government attempt to deny private citizens the right to build a house of worship on private property based on their particular religion? That may happen in other countries, but we should never allow it to happen here.

It’s worth noting that three Jewish leaders  — Rabbi Bob Kaplan from the Jewish Community Council, Rabbi Irwin Kula from the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, and Cara Berkowitz from the UJA Federation — were present with Bloomberg during the speech, despite the Anti-Defamation League’s opposition to the project

Chris Good at The Atlantic:

Few events in recent memory have called up the resonant ideological debates of 9/11 as forcefully as the mosque being planned near the former site of the World Trade Center in Manhattan. It appears these are debates we will keep having, as New York City’s Landmarks Preservation Commission has voted to let the Cordoba Initiative and the American Society for Muslim Advancement proceed with their plans. Along with those plans will come more discussion of religious freedom, taste, and the specter of a Western/Muslim cultural World War

Ann Althouse:

Writes the NYT, reporting the city’s 9-0 vote against designating the building on the site a landmark. Now, as a matter of freedom of religion, it really was crucial not to let religion (or political ideology) affect the question whether that building should be classified under the law as a landmark, thus limiting the property rights of the owner. The requirement of neutrality in decisionmaking like that is fundamental to the rule of law.

One by one, members of the commission debated the aesthetic significance of the building, designed in the Italian Renaissance Palazzo style by an unknown architect.

That is clearly the way it had to be done. But what should not be lost, in understanding that, is that the owner’s freedom means that the owner has a choice. The owner is certainly not required to build a Muslim center and mosque on that site. Because it is a choice, it’s not wrong for the community to ask: Why are you making this choice? Why are you doing something that feels so painful to us? The community isn’t wrong to plead with the owner to choose to do something else with that property. It’s not enough of an answer to say we are doing it because we have a right to do it.

UPDATE: Will Wilkinson

Allah Pundit

Greg Sargent

William Kristol at The Weekly Standard

UPDATE #2: Dorothy Rabinowitz at WSJ

Alan Jacobs at The American Scene

Conor Friedersdorf at The American Scene

Joshua Cohen and Jim Pinkerton at Bloggingheads

Mark Schmitt and Rich Lowry at Bloggingheads

David Weigel and Dan Foster at Bloggingheads

UPDATE #3: Alex Massie here and here

UPDATE #4: Fareed Zakaria in Newsweek, his letter to Foxman

Abe Foxman writes a letter to Zakaria

Steve Clemons

UPDATE #5: Christopher Hitchens at Slate

Eugene Volokh

UPDATE #6: Jillian Rayfield at Talking Points Memo

UPDATE #7: Charles Krauthammer at WaPo

Jonathan Chait at TNR

John McCormack at The Weekly Standard

UPDATE #8: Joe Klein on Krauthammer

Michael Kinsley at The Atlantic on Krauthammer

UPDATE #9: More Krauthammer

Kinsley responds

UPDATE #10: Adam Serwer at Greg Sargent’s place

Steve Benen


Filed under Religion

You Can’t Wrap A Fish In An E-Mail


To explain, well give you Jon Henke‘s entire post:

If you forward an inaccurate email or write an inaccurate blog post, the White House wants to see it.[:]

There is a lot of disinformation about health insurance reform out there, spanning from control of personal finances to end of life care. These rumors often travel just below the surface via chain emails or through casual conversation. Since we can’t keep track of all of them here at the White House, we’re asking for your help. If you get an email or see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to flag@whitehouse.gov.

What, exactly, does the White House plan to do with this information?

UPDATE: The White House responds

“There is a lot of misinformation about health insurance reform circulating on the Internet and elsewhere,” she explains. “Some of it is intentionally misleading.

“We want to be sure people have the facts about health insurance reform that will lower costs, protect consumers from insurance regulations that deny them coverage and assure quality and affordable health care for all Americans,” she adds. “We are not compiling lists or sources of information. We may post fact checks from time to time to be sure Americans know the truth about health insurance reform.’

I believe that is the case. This was simply an inartful way of asking people to help them figure out which new claims they need to be addressing. The White House should respond to inaccurate arguments. But I hope they will do so in a transparent way. Instead of responding to private emails, they should be linking and responding to claims made publicly online. Better yet, they should be participating in a dialogue – responding to the better criticisms made by important critics in the internet media and blogosphere. That would be transparent and valuable.

Michelle Malkin:

Lots of bloggers are taking part in Operation Go Flag Yourself — flooding the Internet Snitch Brigade with e-mails turning themselves in for health care hate crimes or turning Team Obama in for “fishy” misinformation. I did my part yesterday. How about you?

Erin O’Connor

Meanwhile, in other news, the Obama administration has put out a nationwide request: “If you get an email or see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to flag@whitehouse.gov.”

What government on earth–or at least, what government that purports to head a free country–could ever countenance such a call? Even if the good people in the White House are completely aboveboard–even if this is the best-intentioned initiative imaginable (I do admit I find that hard to imagine), how in the world is that sort of wording going to do anything other than inspire fear, suspicion, and the worst censorious impulses?

I am reminded of a line drawn from another classic dystopian tale: In The Matrix, Morpheus introduces Neo to the truth of his decidedly unfree world with a key line: “Welcome the the desert of the real.” That phrase, in turn, draws from an essay by French theorist Jean Baudrillard, whose thinking about the simulated, inauthentic character of contemporary life has long made him a favorite pet within academe.

Where are the academics now? Why aren’t they challenging this stuff–hooking it up to the long history and philosophy of freedom, dissenting as a means of showing patriotism, charting with scholarly dedication this administration’s frightening deviations from its own promises, not to mention the principles of liberty? I thought, when they turned that sort of intellectual critique on the Bush administration, that, as partisan as it was, it also bespoke a deeper commitment to intellectual and ethical integrity. I thought they saw themselves as guardians of some sort, as citizens with special obligations to parse Washington’s ideas and place them in context.

Guess I was wrong.

The Anchoress:

Anyone recall how, after 9/11 -after we’d been attacked in NYC and DC- the Bush Administration said: “If you see anything suspicious, you ought to report it,” causing conniptions on the left? How dare the Bushies ask people to snitch for security reasons! Now, for mere policy, that has become an acceptable, “if you see/hear anything disobedient, be the tattletale.”

Ed Morrissey:

Bear in mind that Operation TIPS intended to get data about potential crimes and acts of terrorism. It differed not at all from a myriad of local hotline tip programs used by police around the country to solve or stop crimes. Given the nature of the 9/11 attacks — conducted by infiltrators who lived in the US for months in preparation for their mass murders — the establishment of the same system for a counterterrorist effort seemed like a no-brainer.

Obama, on the other hand, has set up a snitch line not for crimes or terrorism, but for simple political dissent. Where is Pat Leahy now? Shouldn’t he be demanding to know why Obama wants to put people under “undue scrutiny” merely for the horrible crime of disagreeing with the President? For that matter, where is the Village Voice and Nat Hentoff? So far, the Voice has shown little interest in this administration’s snooping by proxy.

Scott Johnson at Powerline:

As a student of history, I think I know how this works. I want to spare my family and friends the pressure they may feel they are under to turn me in. I confess. I harbor a number of thoughts the Obama White House and Ms. Douglass deem highly fishy. I’m turning myself in.

Whatever President Obama says to induce support of his desired health care — excuse me, I mean health insurance — reform, I believe exactly the opposite. I believe he says what he says because he knows his desired reform is unpopular. I believe what Obama says bears no relationship to what the legislation he supports would do.

Thus when President Obama says if you like your insurance plan, your doctor, or both, you will be able to keep them, I believe he is slinging it. I harbor the guilty thought that the legislation he supports would create incentives for employers to dump employees who like their health insurance into a government plan.

When President Obama says that health care — excuse me, health insurance — reform is necessary to get budget deficits under control, I believe he is slinging it. I harbor the guilty thought that the legislation he supports would create deficits so large it would turn the United States into a banana republic.

When President Obama denies that he supports a Canadian-style single payer health care system, I believe he is slinging it. I believe what he seems to have said frequently in the past to the effect that he supports a system of single payer universal insurance. I harbor the guilty thought that he supports legislation that will inevitably lead to this result incrementally.

When President Obama says what he says to promote health care — excuse me, health insurance — reform, I believe he is slinging it. I harbor the guilty thought that he wants a government takeover of the health care system to turn citizens into supplicants and wards of the state.

I confess. I am guilty of fishy thoughts.

Byron York at The Examiner:

Senate Judiciary Committee lawyers studying the proposal say that although there is no absolutely settled law on the matter, the White House plan is likely not covered by the Privacy Act, which prohibits government agencies from keeping any records “describing how any individual exercises rights guaranteed by the First Amendment unless expressly authorized by statute or by the individual about whom the record is maintained.” Therefore, it appears the White House can legally keep records of the emails and other communications it receives in response to Phillips’ request.

Those lawyers also point out that the White House is not covered by the Freedom of Information Act, which means it would not have to release any information on the plan to members of the public who make a request.

In addition, the lawyers say the collected emails likely will be covered by the Presidential Records Act, which requires the White House to preserve and maintain its records for permanent storage in a government database. Phillips’ request suggests that whatever information the White House receives on health-care reform “disinformation” will be used to further the goal of passing a national health-care makeover, which is, of course, one of the president’s main policy initiatives. Such material, and whatever the White House does with it, would qualify as presidential records. Only after more than a decade would such records be publicly available.

“So the White House, whether by design or accident, has requested information from the public that will become ‘records’ under the Presidential Records Act, yet would be impermissible for any government to otherwise collect under the Privacy Act,” writes one Judiciary Committee source. “Where were the lawyers in all of this? What is their legal basis for authorizing the collection of these records?”

Jake Tapper at ABC

Allah Pundit:

Eight minutes here from today’s presser, with things getting good a little past the halfway mark as Major Garrett tries and fails to grasp why a media operation as sophisticated as The One’s needs public input to address myths about ObamaCare. I can’t remember where but I saw some lefty blog today scoffing at the very idea that there might be something untoward about a government tip line for “fishy” information. Combine that with the fact that we now have liberals complaining about protesters comparing them to Nazis and we’ve arrived in Bizarro World circa 2003.

Alan Jacobs at The Scene, here and here. Second post:

My dear friends, the kind of response I was hoping for when I wrote that previous post was something like this:

Well, Alan, I hardly think we’re in for another Night of the Long Knives or a re-run of the McCarthy era — that’s not what you’re suggesting, is it? — but that really wasn’t the smartest thing for the White House staff to say. They should have known that a request to report to the White House anything “fishy” was bound to get spun as the first steps towards totalitarianism.

See, wouldn’t that have been reasonable and constructive? Instead I got a bunch of rotten eggs flung at my door.

People. Seriously. This isn’t the Daily Kos or No Left Turns. This is The American Scene — the Scene, man! — an oasis — yeah, I know I’m changing metaphors, just bear with me — an oasis of civilized discourse in the vast desert of the political blogosphere. Granted, it’s an oasis with a few putrid patches, but we know how to step over those, don’t we?

Really, I’m disappointed in you folks. Try to do better the next time, okay?

UPDATE: Keith Hennessey

UPDATE: #2: DiA at The Economist

UPDATE #3: The program is over?

Ed Morrissey


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Filed under Political Figures, Surveillance

You Just Aren’t That Good Of A Multitasker


Driving while texting or talking on your phone more dangerous than drunk-driving?

Richard Chang in NYT:

Car and Driver performed each test five times, dropping the slowest time. The magazine found that reaction time was much worse for both drivers when they were texting while driving than when they were under the influence of alcohol.

At 35 miles an hour, Mr. Alterman’s average reaction time was .57 seconds, but while texting it rose to 1.36 seconds, more than twice his average reaction time of .64 seconds while under the influence. Mr. Brown fared better, but his average reaction time of .45 seconds rose to .52 seconds while texting, worse than his average time of .46 seconds while driving drunk.

The results of the tests at 70 miles an hour were better in terms of reaction times. But at highway speeds, the extra distance traveled before coming to a complete stop was much greater. For example, Mr. Alterman traveled an average of four feet farther while driving drunk and an average of 70 feet farther while texting.

Matthew Yglesias:

Part of the problem here is that there simply aren’t enough laws prohibiting this behavior and they’re not enforced strictly enough. But as with drunk driving, there’s also a problem that widespread auto dependency makes it difficult to enforce rules in a properly stringent manner. If having your license taken away from you was more “pain in the ass” and less “crippling disability” then it would be more viable to do it when people exhibit clear patterns of reckless behavior. Meanwhile, literally thousands of lives are at stake.

Alan Jacobs at The American Scene:

Putting my question another way: is there an argument in favor of allowing phoning and texting while driving that wouldn’t also be an argument for repealing DUI laws — assuming that the research noted above is accurate? Obviously, if phoning and texting are in fact less dangerous than driving drunk, my question doesn’t apply. But if the research is right, then, to paraphrase Rep. Wimmer, why pick on drinking?


So I guess what they’re saying is that it’s better to get behind the wheel kind of drunk than be on your phone. Oh, and some places, it’s illegal.

Anyway, the only part of this Times article that’s revelatory in any regard (because the entire thing is basically “if you’re doing anything but driving you’re going to crash,” which I think they teach you in Drivers Ed but don’t remember because I was napping) is that the New York Times makes crafty videogames!

UPDATE: William Saletan in Slate

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Filed under Infrastructure, Public Health

Roll Over Faulkner, And Tell Charles Dickens The News


Oh, not that type of cannon?

The Second Pass wants to kick some books out of the canon in a post entitled “Fired From The Canon.” (Get it? Get it?) Anyway:

That’s where we come in. Below is a list of ten books that will be pressed into your hands by ardent fans. Resist these people. Life may not be too short (I’m only in my mid-30s, and already pretty bored), but it’s not endless.

(When you’re done reading, please go here to second these feelings or call us crazy, and to share your own suggestions.)

Noah Millman has their list and more:

His ten to toss:

White Noise by Don DeLillo
Absalom, Absalom by William Faulkner
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
The Road by Cormac McCarthy
The Rainbow by D. H. Lawrence
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
The USA Trilogy by John Dos Passos
Jacob’s Room by Virginia Woolf
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

It’s an interesting list. My reactions:

If I were making a list, I’d avoid throwing out books that are generally not considered the best work of a great author. Come out swinging against To the Lighthouse or Between the Acts or Mrs. Dalloway, not against Jacob’s Room; attack The Sound and the Fury or As I Lay Dying, not Absalom, Absalom. A Tale of Two Cities is a bit different; though nobody thinks it’s one of Dickens’ best (and it would just be stupid to attack Bleak House or David Copperfield), it’s part of the high school English curriculum canon, so perhaps it’s worth attacking. Or is it? Are we going to bash Silas Marner as well? Lord of the Flies? The Pearl? The Good Earth?

[…] I would be inclined to vote off The Longest Journey by E.M. Forster, but nobody thinks it’s his best book, and I’m not sure anybody reads it. So, I could try to take a whack at A Passage to India – indeed, somebody should – but do I really think it’s a bad book? No – nor do I think people shouldn’t bother to read Forster anymore. I just think he’s due for a demotion.

Then there are the books where you just have to be the right age. Or the right sex. Take Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being – please! I loved this book when I was 19 – sex and deep thoughts! – but basically this is a book for intellectually-minded adolescents, not for grownups. So: should it be voted off the island? Not really; the book, and the author, are just a phase some boys go through, and going through it won’t do them any lasting harm, I don’t think.

Then there are the books that I still think are good, but not as good as people think they are. A Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin is an example; so is The Adventures of Cavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon. I enjoyed both of these ooks, but both are trying way too hard, and because of that are ultimately not convincing. I remember individual bits of writing I liked, individual moments that worked really well, but I didn’t ultimately believe in them as works of art. Which is a pretty fundamental fail.

Alex Massie:

It would be easy to nominate Finnegan’s Wake but that’s a book that truly no-one reads anyway and so that makes it tempting to choose Ulysses. But actually, even a sceptic such as myself can enjoy Ulysses if it’s broken up into sensibly-sized Bloom-nuggets. Read the first and last chapters, plus two others chosen more or less at random and you’re likely to have drawn enough water from that well. Then, in later years, pick it up and read a page or two at a time before putting it away again and you’ll be able to reflect that it’s become an acquaitance with whom you’re happy to share a drink once a year. So, Joyce stays. You might hate the book and often be bored by it, but I’m not sure one can quite get rid of it.

I’m not convinced that’s so obviously true of Salman Rushdie. Everyone says Midnight’s Children is his masterpiece and perhaps it is. Certainly, The Satanic Verses can’t be, though it too is often lavishly-praised. The fatwa was appalling (and its consequences terrible) but so is the novel. Rambling, sophomoric, self-indulgent and, consequently and unsurprisingly, crushingly boring. That’s my memory of it anyway and I don’t think I’ve read anything by Rushdie since. My loss perhaps, but overboard it goes. (And I suspect it’s only because I haven’t read it that Midnight’s Children is saved…)

Alan Jacobs has one response:

“Some books are undeservedly forgotten; none are undeservedly remembered.” — W. H. Auden

And, well, more in the comments, including:

I seem to have become a Twitter feed.

Dickensblog is not happy with one of the choices:

I’ll go out on a limb here and make a prediction: A Tale of Two Cities will still be inspiring people worldwide centuries after The Second Pass has been forgotten.


Carolyn Kellogg at Jacket Copy at LA Times on Kerouac:

I’m not sure when “On the Road” became “identity literature” — is it creating an identity? How can something that described a lifestyle that was alternative to mainstream culture in 1950 be an adoptable identity today? The author goes on to describe the cultural role that the book played, both personally and in a greater sense, which she (it is a she, I checked with the editor) found alienating.

But I would argue that whatever cultural hallmarks it might signal, the book is a work of literature, one with an intensity of vision and a language of impure steamroller incendiary jazz.

The Wooden Spoon on Jacket Copy:

I agreed with some deletions (Kerouac’s time might be up) and not with others (Marquez; enjoy their racist caricature), but with most I was confused by the book’s status as being canonized (Franzen is in the canon? that was clearly a filing mishap; Jacob’s Room is hardly Woolf’s must-read title; etc.). It seemed a bit unnecessary, considering the titles they chose, but whatever floats their boat.

I had not planned on mentioning it until I saw this rebuttal by Carolyn Kellogg at the LA Times book blog, Jacket Copy. She defends Kerouac’s On the Road in a wash of banal truisms, ‘the book is a work of literature, one with an intensity of vision and a language of impure steamroller incendiary jazz.’ I’d argue that the ‘vision’ or scope of the book is actually quite diffuse, and that last bit about the language means not a thing, although it sounds nice. Keep in mind that I really loved On the Road when I read it, and still think it is an important milestone in American writing — without his over-the-top American dialect and subversive posture one can hardly imagine later American authors such as Raymond Carver or Denis Johnson being possible.

The danger of the book, as the editors of Second Pass point our (and Kellogg unwittingly illustrates) is that the posture of the novel and its hip, quasi-transgressive content creates a cultish sense of worship. On the Road is a document very much of its time, important for its effect and influence (for better & worse), but perhaps not the great work of literature it is claimed to be.

The Olive Reader

UPDATE: Alan Jacobs

Rod Dreher

UPDATE #2: Peter Suderman


Filed under Books

Elites Can Talk About Class, Gender, Meritocracy and Elitism, But Can They Tap Dance?

Ross Douthat writes in NYT today about Sarah Palin.

Palin’s popularity has as much to do with class as it does with ideology. In this sense, she really is the perfect foil for Barack Obama. Our president represents the meritocratic ideal — that anyone, from any background, can grow up to attend Columbia and Harvard Law School and become a great American success story. But Sarah Palin represents the democratic ideal — that anyone can grow up to be a great success story without graduating from Columbia and Harvard.

[…] Here are lessons of the Sarah Palin experience, for any aspiring politician who shares her background and her sex. Your children will go through the tabloid wringer. Your religion will be mocked and misrepresented. Your political record will be distorted, to better parody your family and your faith. (And no, gentle reader, Palin did not insist on abstinence-only sex education, slash funds for special-needs children or inject creationism into public schools.)

Male commentators will attack you for parading your children. Female commentators will attack you for not staying home with them. You’ll be sneered at for how you talk and how many colleges you attended. You’ll endure gibes about your “slutty” looks and your “white trash concupiscence,” while a prominent female academic declares that your “greatest hypocrisy” is the “pretense” that you’re a woman. And eight months after the election, the professionals who pressed you into the service of a gimmicky, dreary, idea-free campaign will still be blaming you for their defeat.

All of this had something to do with ordinary partisan politics. But it had everything to do with Palin’s gender and her social class.

Sarah Palin is beloved by millions because her rise suggested, however temporarily, that the old American aphorism about how anyone can grow up to be president might actually be true.

But her unhappy sojourn on the national stage has had a different moral: Don’t even think about it.

Andrew Sullivan:

The column is yet another rehash of the Nixonian class resentments and Rovian cynicism that dominate what passes for the GOP’s thinking classes: if only she’d waited and “boned up” on the issues, she could have had a real future. Er: How about nominating someone who actually knew something about some issues before she was picked? Or someone who could at least give a passing imitation of even being interested in them? Did that ever occur to Ross?

He mentions not a single policy issue, nor a single actual accomplishment this hood ornament of a candidate can be credited with. He mentions not one of her increasingly fantastic delusions and lies. But somehow it’s her elitist enemies’ fault that she came acropper!

How about her elitist friends’ fault for believing that a few starbursts and a media strategy worthy of Vladimir Putin could keep the show on the road long enough for them to collect their checks? Really. When will Kristol and Barnes and Douthat apologize for their sponsorship and toleration of this reckless nonsense?

Freddie at The League:

Actually, Ross, a great many of the people love Sarah Palin because she hates the right people and the right things. That’s not reason enough to write her or her supporters off, but it takes a willed blindness to have seen the rallies last fall and not detected the visceral anger and violence that undergirded them. And it would take a particularly myopic viewer to believe that Sarah Palin, by any relative standard an immensely wealthy woman, proves that anyone can become president. Actually, I think the idea that Ross Douthat can run a column (in the country’s newspaper of record) calling a woman whose family makes better than five times the national average lower class just goes to demonstrate to us all a little better than whatever we can be, President isn’t one of them. If you’ve gotta make 250K just to be called lower class, what hope do you or I have?

John Schwenkler responds to Sullivan and Freddie:

Criticizing Palin’s startling lack of policy knowledge and almost total inability to communicate positions effectively is one thing, but calling her “slutty” and mocking her “white trash concupiscence” is quite another, and naturally opens the way for columns like this one: for no unbiased observer can seriously deny that Palin’s class and gender were consistently seized on in the attempts to discredit her, and no one who takes the democratic ideal seriously should look back at that saga without some real concern for the role that class plays in American politics.

Via Schwenkler, Radley Balko:

Here’s all I want to say: It is possible that Sarah Palin was both unfairly mistreated and personally attacked by the media and many on the left, and that her family was rather ruthlessly and mercilessly run through the ringer wringer . . . and that she’s a not particularly bright, not particularly curious, once libertarian-leaning governor who sadly devolved into a predictable, buzzword spouting culture warrior when she was prematurely picked for national office by John McCain.

These two scenarios can coexist.

Conor Friedersdorf in the Atlantic on the column:

In Ross’s telling, what separates the meritocratic ideal from the democratic ideal is whether you can be a success story without having attended Columbia or Harvard. Okay. Well Joe Biden was born into a middle class family to a father who had a long spell of unemployment, and later found work as a used car salesman. He made a success of himself having graduated from the University of Delaware in Newark and the Syracuse University College of Law. Why isn’t he the embodiment of the democratic ideal?

But I actually don’t want to concede Ross’s premise. Given the history of race in America, the election of a mixed race black man to the presidency — Columbia and Harvard or not — ought to have as much a claim to fulfilling the democratic ideal as the nomination of a woman who didn’t attend an Ivy League college. We’ve had our Andrew Jacksons and our Jimmy Carters. Despite the frequency of Ivy League presidents, no one doubts that a candidate from a less elite educational pedigree can be elected. Which candidate caused more Americans to reconsider the kind of person who might be elected to the presidency, Barack Obama or Sarah Palin?

More Conor:

One more quick note on the “Sarah Palin versus elites” narrative: although it captures the fact that she’s garnered considerable elite criticism — a lot of it unfair — it misses the fact that far from “pulling herself up by the bootstraps,” her rise to national prominence is largely the doing of another group of elites who’ve done their best to advance her career and laud her every action. Our political discourse often seems to presume that “elite” and “liberal” are concepts that are inextricably bound to one another, but the fact is that Bill Kristol is a political elite, Fox News is every bit as much a part of the elite mainstream media as any other cable news outlet, and Rush Limbaugh is as much a coastal elite commentator as Maurene Dowd. And I say that as someone who doesn’t think there’s anything inherently wrong with rising to elite status.

Jason Zengerle at TNR:

I just don’t think it’s possible, though, to neatly separate out Palin the person from Palin the symbol. Sure, there’s bound to be some snobbery among some elites toward someone like Palin. And I think in the very early days after her nomination–when all that was really known about her was her CV–you saw that. But the anti-Palin sentiment didn’t kick into high gear until a few weeks after her nomination–after she disappeared and refused to do interviews; after the interviews she did do (Gibson and especially Couric) revealed her to be completely out of her league; after her Agnew-like performances on the stump.

In other words, I don’t think hostility toward Palin represents hostility toward the democratic ideal. The real problem for people who believe in the democratic ideal (and I include myself in this category) is when they allow someone like Palin to become a symbol of that ideal. Just because she grew up to be a great success without graduating from Columbia and Harvard doesn’t mean she’s a democratic heroine. In fact, making her out to be one just cheapens the ideal.

Alan Jacobs on Zengerle:

According to Zengerle, “after briefly acknowledging that Palin made mistakes, Ross goes on to blame her plight on elites’ mistreatment of her.” Actually, Ross says that “last Friday’s bizarre, rambling resignation speech should take her off the political map for the duration of the Obama era.” And then he says that, while a resignation for personal reasons elicits sympathy, “A Sarah Palin who resigned in the delusional belief that it would give her a better shot at the presidency in 2012 warrants no such kindness.” And then he goes on to write, “With her missteps, scandals, dreadful interviews and self-pitying monologues, she’s botched an essential democratic role — the ordinary citizen who takes on the elites.” Maybe Zengerle didn’t read that far. He also thinks that Ross says that hostility to Palin is hostility to the “democratic ideal,” but Ross doesn’t say that.


Here are the lessons of every national politician ever. Your children will go through the tabloid wringer (see Chelsea Clinton). Your religion will be mocked and misrepresented (see Barack Obama is a Muslim). Your political record will be distorted, to better parody your family and your faith (see id).

None of which is to say that Sarah Palin didn’t endure her share of sexism — she sure did. She was ultimately brought down by her own idiocy — a fate that didn’t befall her idiot compatriot George W. Bush. She was attacked for her looks and for her family choices in a way that male politicians aren’t — she also played on her looks and her family choices in a way that male politician’s either can’t or don’t.

UPDATE: Noah Millman

UPDATE: #2: Via Sully, The Monkey Cage

And Sully

1 Comment

Filed under Feminism, Go Meta, Political Figures, Politics

PomoCon’s In The Basement, Mixing Up The Medicine, Front Porch’s On The Pavement, Thinking About The Government


A war’s a’brewing, the times are a’changing, Deenen v. Poulos a’fighting, and we are a’compiling.

Let’s start with Jason Joseph:

PoMo Con” appears to be an oxymoron at first. Postmoderns reject the intelligibility of the universe in favor of the social construction of reality, while conservatives believe it is the other way around. The paradoxical title is probably an attempt to startle readers and encourage them to take a second look at this group. Here is an excerpt from the introductory post of a blog being run by the group:

It is a phrase that is inspired by Peter Lawler’s efforts to recommend a
“postmodernism rightly understood” – a period that may or might arrive after the
passing of the modern order. Thus, it is not to be confused with the
trendy (or, really, tired) postmodernism of modern academia inspired by such
thinkers as Derrida, Foucault and Lyotard. It is instead a rejection of
modernity in the name of the insights of premodernity – Thomistic and
Aristotelian “realism” in particular. That said, it is a postmodernity
that also wishes to retain a good number of the boons of modernity – Starbucks,
McDonalds, suburbs and exurbs, the interstate highway system, orthodontic
dentistry, etc….) – while rejecting its excessive materialism, individualism,
liberalism, atheism, etc.

[…] I would call attention to another school of thought, also grounded in Tocqueville and connected to ISI, which has a blog titled Front-Porch Republic. The title is a reference to the absence of front porches in many neighborhoods today. Patrick Deneen, whose blog is posted on my daily news websites, is part of this group. They reject modernity outright and want a return to localism, agrarianism, and tradition. They would argue that Starbucks, McDonalds, and the interstate highway system is either bad or cannot be obtained without the corresponding modern values of materialism, individualism, and atheism.

Dr. Patrick Deneen at Front Porch:

“This debate pits the anti-consumerist, CSA-loving, small town-adoring, pro-hand working, suburb-loathing, bourbon-sipping denizens of the “Front Porch Republic” against the McDonald’s loving, Starbucks slurping, dentistry-adoring, Wal-Mart shopping adherents of Postmodern Conservatism.I think I’m going to have to invite one of our goons to take on one of theirs.  Let’s have a knock-down, drag-out, fight-to-the-finish, winner-take-all, one-man-standing, n0-holds-barred, take-no-prisoners debate.  You, know – Jets vs. Sharks, and all that.  As long as we can have drinks afterwards.  Let’s find out once and for all whether there’s a place on the porch for the PoMo Cons, or whether there’s a place for the Front Porchers in post-modernity.  What do you think…?  Any one out there want to foot the bill for a title match?  We’ll let you keep the door receipts…”

Peter Lawler at PomoCon:

“In terms of weapons, I told him we, being more modern and all, choose the automatic weapons available at any decent full-service, southern, suburban pawn shop (usually locally owned!). They might pick the whittlin’ knives that keep them amused like rural idiots for hours on end on their front porches while we’re relaxing inside in air-conditioned comfort watching TV, drinking cheap domestic beer made in some foreign state, and munching on big bags of processed foods we picked up at Wal-Mart and Big Lots.And in terms of place, I told them that you guys keep whining that you’re all afraid to leave your little place for fear of getting all confused and not knowing what to do. Our virtue is much more mobile, and so we’ll come to you (which probably means, ironically, that I’ll have to leave small-town Georgia to go to the fanciest part of Washington, DC).”

I also cautioned Pat–so he wouldn’t be disappointed at the turnout for this big event–that studies show that 97% of all self-proclaimed conservatives wouldn’t have anything to do with either team.”

Lawler again:

Postmodern conservatives aren’t first wave liberals and are anti-Cartesian in the spirit of Maritain/Percy/Deneen/MacIntyre, while thinking Maritain himself is too Kantian and Deneen/MacIntyre are too Marxist. So the latter think that the abstraction “capitalist” invented by Marx refers adequately to some real-world way of life and so are too hostile to the blessings of freedom, including even religious freedom. (M’s practical judgments are characteristically silly, while D is always too worked up about peak this or that.) PCs affirms the Declaration of Independence in the spirit of Chesterton in WHAT I SAW IN AMERICA (which I hear Pat likes) or the unjustly neglected Bruckberger, who saw that the legislative compromise between Calvinists and atheists produced a kind of Thomism that was better than intention than either of the factions. So we agree with Brownson (or my bizarre interpretation based on what he actually wrote) that our “providential constitution” shaped the statesmen who wrote our written Constitution–which is why what they accomplished practically was better than (and even qualitatively different from) their predominately Lockean theory. We also don’t use Voegelian words like “egophanic,” thinking them modern deformations characeristic of a highly abstract world divorced from the language of common sense. No Straussian thinks I’m a Straussian, although there’s A LOT to learn from him (as Pat can tell you) and it’s hardly a point of pride not to have read him. What’s wrong with most Straussians is that they think that the fundamenAdd New Post ‹ Around The Sphere — WordPresstally impersonal LOGOS of Aristotle is true, and the personal LOGOS of the early church fathers is false–a point made eloquently by our present philosopher-pope.

Deneen again:

Re:  his tweak at my “Marxism,” what I wrote (and maintain) was that Marx was a masterful diagnostician of the effects of capitalism (one need only read his opening paragraphs of The Communist Manifestofor confirmation of this fact), but that I think he was a loon when it came to offering a response.  Indeed, Marx believed that capitalism was a necessary and desirable step on the path to a proletariat utopia, particularly because it would decimate the particular loyalties that people hitherto had evinced, rather than a unity with the other workers of the world.   What FPR’ers lament as the destruction of capitalism, Marx rather celebrates (even as he aspires to foment the next stage in human development).  So, it’s really inaccurate to try to use the label “Marxist” to scare people off the Porch.

James Poulos:

So it’s to be expected that individuality comes in for great scorn among Front Porchers and sympathetic parties. But this is just the beginning of the story I want to tell. The individual is a thing incarnate — a noun, an irreducible being, a person; individuality is a disembodied superstition — an adjective, an abstraction, a fantasy with all the pelagian proteanism of the pantheistic All. To make a long story short, we can find evidence of two types of liberals — one thinking individuality to be descriptive shorthand for individuals, and one thinking ‘individual’ to be honorific shorthand for people fully experiencing individuality. Pomocons, I wager, tend to be staunch defenders of the first kind of liberals — and quite sharp critics of the second. I am, anyway! For pomocons, the last sentence of Natural Right and History is very telling — Strauss shows all this talk of modernity to mask or dramatize a wholly different ‘cosmic struggle’ or ‘eternal politics’: that between Virtue and the Individual. Strauss’ critique, importantly, is not of ‘individuality’; the individual himself, who set liberalism in motion, is bad enough as he is! It’s almost as if Strauss is hinting that the advent of the individual turns out to be to blame for, say, Machiavelli’s cruelly instrumental vision of man’s relationship with nature! That’s quite an inversion.

Lawler again

Dr. Pat Deneen doesn’t think the revolution is coming (although he does sort of have catastrophic Marxian optimism about capitalism having within itself the seeds of its own destruction) and thinks communism (a world without eros or purpose or God or virtue or politics) would be hell. My Marxist tweak had to do with tying virtue or its absence too closely to the prevailing division of labor. So don’t run off the porch and through the fields–trampling on cucumbers–because Pat has a certainty affinity to Marx in a way or two. (My real view is that all the agrarians owe something to the selective nostalgia of Rousseauean romanticism, and Marx does too, despite his [half-true] comment about rural idiocy).

I myself think that Marx says a lot that is true and even brings to the surface a lot that’s latent in Locke (while exaggerating beyond belief the real Lockeanization or “capitalization” of the world). I once led a Liberty Fund on Marx and Mill, and Marx, under my leadership, came out better than (or at least smarter than) Mill. The libertarian guy from the home office paid me the high compliment of saying that he had never heard anyone before find anything true in Marx. But the libertarians and the Marxists really do agree about capitalism conquering scarcity, allowing for the withering away of religion, the state, (the family?), etc., and making possible a life characterized by an ever expanding “menu of choice.” Pat and I dissent from the idea that point of life is the pursuit of happiness through absolutely unregulated choice.

John Schwenkler:

Inspired by James’s coinage of “premod” to describe the Front Porch Republicans who are currently at war with his own merry troop of “pomo” cons, I hereby decree that “prefab”* will be the new term of choice for conservatism of the talk radio variety, as in:

I tried to listen to Mark Levin the other day, but this prefab GOP hackery has just gotten too predictable.”

Conservatives used to be able to think for themselves, but now they’ve decided that regurgitating prefab slogans from the mouths of designated ideologues is a much easier way to go.”

Limbaugh’s prefab musings on health policy are about as novel and exciting as that brick shithouse I saw being towed down the freeway the other day.”

And so on. Apologies for the lack of creativity; readers are encouraged to chime in with further suggestions in the comments, and of course to use the term in ordinary talk as often as is possible.

UPDATE: Lawler again

UPDATE #2: More from the PomoCons:

Ralph Hancock

Robert Cheeks

Lawler again

Ivan Kenneally

UPDATE #3: At the Front Porch (or is that “on” the Front Porch):

Caleb Stegall

Russell Arben Fox

And the Pomos:

Samuel Goldman

UPDATE: And some outsiders comment. Daniel McCarthy:

I’m closer to the Front Porchers, for their decentralism and because they make the more penetrating critique of state and society, though if I had to choose a neoteric faction to align with I’d go with the “left-conservatives,” since I would take Dwight Macdonald or Gore Vidal over Wendell Berry. The greatest doubt I harbor about the Front Porchers is whether local communities (as if they can all be described at once) are as really virtuous as the Front Porch Republicans wish them to be. Most of the evils of the world exist on the local level, too — they’re just proportionally smaller. That’s good, but it’s not a panacea.

Alan Jacobs at TAS:

To paraphrase Oscar Wilde’s line about the weather: Whenever people talk to me about modernity, I always feel quite certain that they mean something else. The problem is that what we call “modernity” is a collection of propositions and practices, of varying degrees of interconnectedness, and within various spheres of life. Modernity is a matter of political economy, but also of epistemology, and then again of technology, and so on and so on. No two people seem to conceive of the relations among these in the same ways, and people who are proponents or opponents of modernity — and I include people like the estimable Herr Professor Poulos who are willing employ the “post” language, as well as those who ally themselves with the “pre” — are never really reacting to modernity tout court, but always to some particular aspect of it, one (or at most a few) of the cogs in the great machine.

UPDATE: More posts! Huzzah!


Peter Lawler

Lawler on localism.(This will become important later, see below)

Will Wilson takes the local, too.

Robert Cheeks on localism

Ivan Kenneally brings out the Descartes

First Thingers, going local:

Jody Bottum

R.R. Reno

Jody Bottum on Reno’s localism

Reno responds to Bottum

Bottum responds to Reno

David P. Goldman jumps in.

Reno again. Bottum again. Bottum again

Joe Carter

Front Porchers, going local:

Caleb Stegall

Patrick Deneen

Stegall again

And, to cap it off, Daniel McCarthy has responses to Bottum and Reno, here and here.

UPDATE: John Schwenkler goes local.

UPDATE: Kenneally

UPDATE: Chris Dierkes at The League


Filed under Conservative Movement, Go Meta, New Media

A Supposedly Fun Thing A Bunch Of People Are Doing This Summer

The late David Foster Wallace’s opus is being read by a whole bunch of people this summer.

The Infinite Summer Twitter

Infinite Summer web page

Ron Nirwisah in the National Post:

Dubbing his campaign Infinite Summer, Baldwin established a website that casts Wallace’s dense tale of tennis prodigies, Quebec separatists and a mysterious video cartridge as breezy summer project. Baldwin’s pitch? A thousand pages divided by 92 days means just 75 pages a week. “No sweat,” the website reassures.

“That’s a little tongue in cheek,” admits Baldwin. “75 pages a week is no big deal if the novel is 150 pages long, sort of like running a six-minute mile is no big deal if you’re only running one mile. But I’m going to try and stick to that schedule.”

Part book club, part support group, Infinite Summer has already earned endorsements from Colin Meloy of the Decemberists and John Hodgman, the author and Daily Show contributor. (The former announced he will be reading along; the later will not, but described Baldwin’s idea as a “noble and crazy enterprise.”) More than 2,000 people joined companion groups on Twitter and Facebook prior to June 21, the first day of summer and the official reading start date.

Blographia Literaria is apparently taking the challange. First post up here on the content of the book.

So is Jeffery Battersby:

I suppose that I am now a day or so behind the rest of the gang. I blame this on the fact that I decided to continue reading A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again last night rather than dig into Infinite Jest. Problem is that I’m just enjoying ASFTINDA so much that I couldn’t bear to put it down.

Literary License

Chekhov’s Mistress


It’s a beast of a book. It’s opaque and daunting at first, but slowly pattern emerges and it becomes something simple and wonderful. Join in if you haven’t read it, if only so you’re well read enough to get the title of this blog. Or not.

Matt Y focuses on another topic in connection with Infinite Summer:

Last night I was reading various people’s tweets about Infinite Summer and found myself caught up in the enthusiasm and suddenly burning with a desire to read Infinite Jest. Since using the Kindle is really the only practical way to buy a book at 11 PM, that’s what I did. Then I read some before going to sleep. And in doing so, I think I stumbled upon an inadvertent flaw in the Kindle. Namely, what when you read really long books—particularly as part of a quasi-group enterprise—you want to either brag about how many pages you’ve read or else whine about how many pages you’ve fallen behind. But the Kindle doesn’t have pages! Just, um, locations.

So I read 1,100 locations worth of the book. But nobody knows what that means. Normal people won’t even know if that’s a lot or a little.

UPDATE: And there’s a group blog, A Supposedly Fun Thing, with Ezra Klein, Matt Y, Julian Sanchez and others.

UPDATE #2: Bloggingheads with Conor Clarke and Conor Friedersdorf

Freddie at The League

UPDATE #3: Alan Jacobs, a year later


Filed under Books, New Media