State of the Union

Books for Any Season

Over the past week TAC highlighted “persons of interest,” some of the most thought-provoking profiles and character sketches from our archives. The articles we featured in our slideshow on the main page came from “front of the book,” articles, but I’d like to draw attention here to terrific reviews that we included elsewhere in the package — such as Kevin Lynch’s review of The Solzhenitsyn Reader, Bill Kauffman on Gore Vidal’s memoir Point to Point Navigation, Wesley McDonald on Russell Kirk, and Tom Woods on Woodrow Wilson. These classic reviews have never before been available on-line, so don’t miss them. (Of course, the best way to make sure you never miss incisive material like this is to subscribe.)

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No Thanks

I have often wondered what Richard Spencer means by the term “alternative right.” His defense of Stacy McCain’s “puerile, splenic rantings” leads me to the conclusion that it has a lot to do with attitude and style. He likes “ballsy” and hates “wishy washy.” That leads him to endorse R.S. McCain; and even more dubiously, Mark Levin.

Spencer considers it “priggish”  for Conor Friersdorf to have noted, er, “got his panties in a bunch” over Levin’s loutish raving. I commented on the matter last week, but I wasn’t particuarly outraged—anyone with two seconds exposure to Levin knows what kind of person he is. I listened to an exchange Between Levin and David Frum which makes it clear that Levin is incapable of speaking substantively for two consecutive seconds. One couldn’t have a debate or discussion with Levin—one can  goose-step in unison with him or face his insults.

If that is what being an “alternative” is, I’ll pass.

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Obama’s Torture Coverup

Does President Obama have a vested interest in covering up the crimes of the Bush administration?

His decision to block the release of photos of U.S. troops abusing detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan is a reminder that the nation may still be running on “Cheney time.” As long as the photos are not released, former Bush administration officials can control the narrative – if not the entire debate.   They can continue denying that the US government engaged in torture – at the same time they make specious claims about the vast benefits from using ‘extreme interrogation.’

Obama will be damned by the torture masterminds regardless of what he does.   His suppression of evidence of their crimes merely aids their efforts to vilify him and makes other Americans – and much of the world – distrust him.

Unfortunately, as with the torture scandal itself, it may be years until we know why the Obama team is colluding with people almost certainly guilty of war crimes.

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Justice Denied?

Ben-Ami Kadish, the US Army engineer who spied for Israel in the same ring that included Jonathan Pollard, was finally sentenced today in New York City.  Kadish had pleaded guilty after his arrest in December but for reasons not entirely clear his sentencing was repeatedly postponed.  He received no prison sentence and only a $50,000 fine.  The only time he spent in jail was the day he was arrested.  The judge said that he had done a very bad thing but that the government had only sought to convict him on reduced charges instead of espionage, hence the slap on the wrist.  I would note in passing that Kadish probably has a substantial pension from the US Army – almost certainly more than the fine – which he appears to retain.  The ultimate insult on top of injury – getting a pension for working for the US government while spying for someone else.  American justice works in strange ways.

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Weapon of Mass Disruption

Obama has announced that he will create a new “cybersecurity czar” to protect us all from hackers, identity fraud and online terrorism — or, as he put it, “weapons of mass disruption.” Fair enough. Yet will the appointee be able to affect the fate of poor Gary McKinnon — aka “the biggest military hacker in history” — an eccentric (to say it mildly) Briton who hacked into the Pentagon’s computer systems to look for evidence of extra-terrestrial life.

The US Justice Department is persisting in its ridiculous bid to extradite 43-year-old, so that they can put him on trail on charges of cyber-terrorism and have him banged up in jail for up to 70 years. The complicated legal attempt to do so has cost the US taxpayer millions of dollars.

Now, McKinnon is a strange fish — and nobody wants a situation in which any nerd with enough cyber savoir faire can break into sensitive government files — but he is certainly not a grave threat to national security. The attempt to make an example of him is a cruel waste of time and money – a weapon of mass disruption.

PS The video interview of McKinnon on the above link is weirdly interesting and enjoyable, not least because it seems to be set in the garden of a country pub.

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Obama’s Justice

When you think about it, Sonia Sotomayor is the perfect pick for the Supreme Court — in Barack Obama’s America.

Like Obama, himself a beneficiary of affirmative action, she thinks “Latina women,” because of their life experience, make better judicial decisions than white men, that discrimination against white men to advance people of color is what America is all about, that appellate courts are “where policy is made” in the United States.

To those who believe the depiction of our first Hispanic justice as an anti-white liberal judicial activist, hearken to her own words.

Speaking at Berkeley in 2001, Sonia told her audience, “I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experience would more often than not reach a better conclusion (as a judge) than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.”

Imagine if Sam Alito had said at Bob Jones University, “I would hope that a wise white male with the richness of his life experience would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a Hispanic woman, who hasn’t lived that life.” Read More…

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Death & Stimuli

My favorite story of the week so far? The Australian government has been sending out stimulus checks — (US) $12.5 million’s worth — to dead citizens.

“Grateful dead get a raise from Kev,” said one headline, referring to Kevin Rudd, the prime minister, who signed off on the scheme.

There’s been much talk of how stimulus schemes will burden future generations with an intolerable debt or a grossly inflated currency. But who could have guessed that the beneficiaries would be those who lived in the past?

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El Camarada Cameron

Inspired by R.J. Stove’s article on Evelyn Waugh, I have been looking through Robbery Under the Law  again, and have come across, in the introduction, a very comprehensive credo that defined his conservatism:

“I believe that man is by nature, an exile and will never be self-sufficient or complete on this earth; that his chances of happiness and virtue, here,remain more or less constant through the centuries and, generally speaking, are not much affected by the   political and economic conditions in which he lives; that the balance of good and ill tends to revert to a norm; that sudden changes of physical condition are usually ill and are advocated by the wrong people for the wrong reasons…”

And so it continues for a page. I found myself signing up to the majority of its pledges . I throw it into the pot for two reasons: firstly it seems to be a preoccupation of Amcon bloggers to define their conservatism, and it might be helpful; secondly because I do not recognise this type of conservatism in the leader of the current Conservative Party of Britain, David Cameron. His response to popular rage at the irresponsible spending spree of our policians has been  to offer radical change and power to the people. We will be consulted over the internet, a fatal idea; we will be able to deselect sitting mps if they behave badly, a good idea in theory;  the whipping system that is used in the U.K parliament to ensure that party members vote in a block with their party will be  dismantled so that genuine debates on laws can be held in parliament. In this way laws can be scrutinized and emended before being effected. This sounds  fine but it would soon be subverted in practice. His worst and most dangerous idea is that we should be able to run local government by local referendum via the internet. If 5% of any given local population wants a referendum on some issue such as policing they can call a referendum, and we are all going to have to start pressing the buttons on our computers.  As if it is not bad enough being tyrannised over by a priggish and hypocritical parliament, a second layer of bossiness is going to be added to the burden that we carry, that of the interfering  power crazed neighbour.  This  profusion of  ideas which , if implemented, would overturn our existing constitution, would throw us Brits into a state of terrible confusion. These ideas are a smokescreen thrown up in a panic to give the impression that el Camarada Cameron is the man who can create institutions that will force our politicians to be more honest. The real truth is that our whole society needs to become more honest.

David Marquand in an excellent article in the Guardian links the petty venality of the british politicians to the economic crisis  and blames the two things on a moral turpitude in western civilization shared by all of us, rich and poor alike. This has been engendered by  a neo-liberal vision that “the unhindered rationally calculated pursuit of individual self interest in free competitive markets (is) not just economically efficient but also morally right.” this he says “bathed the flagrant disparities of reward that marked the neo liberal era in the odour of sanctity” and led directly to the greed of the householders, borrowing more than they could repay, of the bankers and their bonuses, and the politicians and their seedy house deals.

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Ralph Peters Questions the Army’s Instincts for Blood

I missed this from Tuesday, but it’s worth noting. It seems that Ralph Peters is skeptical of the new Petraeus-franchised COIN doctrine — but not for the same reasons say Prof. Andrew Bacevich is.

Andrew Exum, the fresh face of COIN and moderator of a blog dedicated to its acolytes, took rigorous notes at an exclusive lunch with Army Chief of Staff, Gen. George Casey. Invite-only for “defense policy wonks and a few journalists,” Peters was regarded enough as either/or to be among the lucky few.

Opening the floor to questions, people smarter than me asked about the budget and the QDR. I was more interested in current operations, so my ears perked up when Ralph Peters asked whether or not counterinsurgency warfare is causing younger officers to “lose their killer instinct.” Gen. Casey responded by talking a little bit about how he has seen the pendulum swing from too kinetic to too non-kinetic and then back again but that he does not worry about the younger officers not knowing how to kill. He said he is “not worried about the long-term impact because it is a combat-seasoned force.”

Coming on the heels of Peters’ umpteenth bloodthirsty screed regarding the country’s gastrointestinal fortitude for war, this grandstanding (American counterinsurgency in turn of the century Philipines might be “killer” enough for Peters) isn’t surprising. That out of all the “defense policy wonks” and capable national security journalists roaming around the Washington, DC area, Peters is still considered part of the go-to club, kind of is. Just a testament to the institution’s blind and ill-fated dedication to message control, I guess. The Army must believe it needs every flyboy from the 101st Keyboard Brigade available in its war against public opinion. I’m sure Peters embraces his role — he thinks the “partisan media” should be censored and even targeted by the military if they get in the way on the battlefield. And a regular column for the NY Post doesn’t count as partisan media anyway, right?

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Reagan Revisionism – Do you like the New Deal or don’t you?

I first want to thank all those who linked to or posted on my TAC piece on Jimmy Carter’s infamous “malaise” speech. I appreciate your thoughts and comments.

It’s been said that my piece is part of the Reagan “revisionism” by some on the right and it’s something I wish to address. The dictionary defines revisionism as “one who proposes a course of action regarded as deviation from accepted ideas or established policy.” From that technical definition, my article is “revisionist” in looking upon Carter’s speech and Reagan’s electoral coalition from a different viewpoint than is generally held by conservatives and others on the right.

But revisionism has the connontation that one’s views or tries to re-state history or worse, distort it, in order to serve an ideological end.  That was certainly not my intention. The coalition that put Reagan into the White House included a lot of Democrats as I pointed out. But to do anything one has to be elected first and the Democratic Party at that time had over 50 percent party ID.  Reagan needed a lot of Democratic votes in order to win and that’s why he wasn’t about to trash Democratic heroes like FDR or Truman or JFK. In fact he quoted them quite often, especially FDR. Given the fact he voted for FDR four times, isn’t it interesting he never once repudiated all those votes and wished the he could have voted for Robert Taft? That’s why, unlike Goldwater, he became president. He was aiming for 51% percent of the vote not 39%.

Read More…

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