Anti-Socialist Tendencies

Sunday, April 03, 2005

My re-entry into the blogosphere can be found here: Drive-Thru Musings.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

I still have no intentions of reviving this blog anytime soon, but I was cleaning up my hard drive and found this shaving on the digital shopfloor that I decided I wanted to preserve by posting. It is a list of books on socialism and fascism that I read (in the order presented) over the course of about six months and that proved extremely profitable intellectually. I had originally meant to have extended commentary on each entry, but that will have to wait for some other time.

For now, you will just have to take my word for it: Reading these books in this order will be immensely beneficial for you if you have any interest at all in these topics.

  • Thomas Sowell, A Conflict of Visions: Ideological Origins of Political Struggles -- Providing the general framework for all the reading that followed was this book.

  • Joshua Muravchik, Heaven on Earth: The Rise and Fall of Socialism

  • Richard Pipes, Communism: The Vanished Specter

  • Richard Pipes, Communism: A History

  • Nicholas Berdyaev, Dostoevsky -- This is a bit of a departure from the other books, and I did not originally envision it as part of my reading on socialism, but there is much in it that provides broader insight into the socialist worldview. Berdyaev examines the philosophy of Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky as revealed in his major works.

  • A. James Gregor, The Faces of Janus: Marxism and Fascism in the Twentieth Century -- The only drawback to the book is its repetitive tendency -- better editing was definitely needed.

  • Friedrich Hayek, The Road to Serfdom -- I had read this before, but decided it would be interesting to re-read it in light of everything gained from the preceding books on the list.

  • John Jewkes, Ordeal by Planning -- An excellent (though difficult to find) companion to Hayek's The Road to Serfdom. Mentioned by Hayek in a new introduction to a later edition of that book, Jewkes' work is an examination of the effects of planning on the British economy a few years after the Second World War. Jewkes finds that planning has had the very effects that Hayek warned about. Whereas Hayek tends to discuss things at a fairly abstract level, Jewkes deals with economic specifics, which makes the book very useful for seeing how exactly Hayek's principles play out in an actual economy.

  • George Watson, The Lost Literature of Socialism

  • Raymond Aron, The Opium of the Intellectuals

Sunday, November 07, 2004

This blog is now officially an ex-blog.

Life rose up and bit me hard in the ass this week, and things are looking rough for a good distance into the future. Now, it's nothing life-threatening, but let's just say that blogging seems a truly frivolous use of my time after the last few days. Given that I've been doing little with Anti-Socialist Tendencies recently anyway, it feels like the right time to close up shop.

Thank you, everyone, who read and enjoyed my offerings here.

I may return to blogging sometime in the future, but if so, it will be under a different venue. I will not be deleting this page, however, if for no other reason than for my own use of the links.

If you are the praying type, a prayer for me would be appreciated.

Now, please excuse me while I go off to contemplate the assorted messes I've gotten myself into. Happy blogging!

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

"How is the what doing? Excuse me, could you please repeat that? The what? The... b-blog? Blog?... ummm... Oh yeeeaah, THE BLOG!!! I dimly remember that thing now..."

Yes, whatever random visitor may still be showing up here, the sad truth is that real life has intruded yet again upon my blogging. I have no idea when I will be able to take it up seriously again. I do intend to keep it going, however, as a personal repository for interesting links if nothing else. And perhaps at some point I will try to provide original content again as well.

To be honest, for some time I've been a little burned out over the blogosphere. Part of the reason is that I've grown weary of this election -- everything that has to be said has been said by now, almost everyone has been long decided on the candidates, and I just wish we could vote now and move on with whatever the outcome ends up being. Not that this election isn't important -- hardly -- but I'm just tired of constantly thinking, reading, and talking about it.

Perhaps more importantly, though, is how the nature of the blogosphere has changed. When I started this blog over two years ago, the blogosphere was still small enough that it felt like a close-knit community, and a place where even mediocre writers like myself could still get a regular readership. Now that it has exploded into this sprawling leviathan, most of us are lost in the crowd. The very positive effect of this growth has been that more and more excellent writers are being brought into it -- which I've certainly been enriched by -- but this does work to lessen my personal interest in devoting significant amounts of my time to blogging.

Anyway, take this as a notice that I'm still kicking and should be posting items here every once in a while.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

At last, proof that divine favor rests on the Austrian School of economists:

(Via Engrish)

Monday, August 30, 2004

The Shape of Days takes on a truly stupid New York Times editorial calling for an end to the Electoral College. Unbelievable... almost.

UPDATE: Innocents Abroad has some comments as well.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

I was pleasantly surprised to find Wicca For the Rest of Us, an outstanding site created by Wiccans to sort out fact from fiction in their religion. Neo-paganism has attracted so much nonsense that it's hard for outsiders to take seriously, and these folks have set out to repair things before (as they see it) their movement collapses under the weight of its own increasing silliness. I do not agree with much of anything in Wicca, but I have to applaud anyone who thoughtfully strives to bring more intellectual integrity to her spiritual tradition.

(Via Relapsed Catholic)


Dear M. G.,

The choice is not between being an asshole or being a phony.

I understand your desire to avoid phony niceness. I too have known people who appeared nice and kind on the surface only to later reveal themselves as truly nasty pieces. But there is nothing inherently wrong with either niceness or kindness because of that. Abandoning them in favor of meanness or cruelty results in things far worse than simply being a fake.

We moderns have developed this ridiculous notion that a thing's genuineness makes it praiseworthy, regardless of what the thing actually is. But genuine meanness is not virtuous simply because it is genuine. The question to ask is whether the thing in and of itself is good or bad. Whether or not the sentiment behind it is genuine is secondary, and of a very different nature than the determination of the thing's value or morality.

Even if you don't care what your meanness or cruelty does to others (which I know is ultimately not true) you should care about what it does to yourself. Since you love playing with words, remember that one sense of "mean" is small and petty. That's what you are making yourself. You tarnish your soul every time you say a nasty word or commit some petty act that costs an innocent party.

You sometimes justify what you do by stating that it's harmful to keep emotions pent up, that people would be better off if they immediately let out their feelings regardless of what those around them think. You are correct in that it is unhealthy to keep negative emotions eternally bottled up inside you. But I also must add that it is childish to refuse to hold back if you know it will hurt someone else. Your feelings and your need to express them are not so damned precious that they justify being an asshole. You say that one of your goals is to grow beyond the ego -- is that the way to do it?

Am I saying genuineness is worthless? No. We should indeed strive to have genuine feelings and motives behind what we do and say. But it is the order that you have wrong: The good act comes first, and genuineness follows. The first question to ask is not "Do I really want to do this good thing?" but rather "Should I do this good thing?" If there is not honest desire behind it, do it anyway, and through doing it and keeping focused on the ultimate good that gives it value you will transform yourself into someone who does have a genuine desire to do it.

Since I know your special fondness for children, I will leave you with this quote from Dostevsky's The Brothers Karamazov:
Every day and every hour, every minute, walk around yourself and watch yourself, and see that your image is a seemly one. If you pass by a little child, and pass by spitefully, with ugly words or wrathful heart, you may not notice the child, but he will see you, and your image, unseemly and ignoble, may remain in his defenseless heart. You may not know it, but you may have sown an evil seed in him, and it may grow, all because you were not careful before the child, because you did not foster in yourself an active, benevolent love.

Surely the Buddhas would say the same.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Porphyrogenitus has surfaced again and gives us his experiences with and thoughts about today's Army bootcamp, here and here.

In related news, Porphy's fellow active military blogger Pontifex is now back from Iraq. Welcome home!


Another review, this time of Barbara Feinberg's Welcome to Lizard Motel: Children, Stories, and the Mystery of Making Things Up. The book is Feinberg's exploration of young adult "problem novels," loved by teachers and critics, wearily put up with by most kids:
These books describe, with spare realism, child and teenage protagonists weathering abuse, addiction, parental abandonment or fecklessness, mental illness, pregnancy, suicide, violence, prostitution or self-mutilation -- and often a combination of the above. ''Teachers love them,'' the local librarian explains as Feinberg scans a shelf of such titles. ''They win all the awards.''

Most of the books chosen by the English committee at Alex's school are problem novels, and the curriculum proves inflexible. ''We can't ever say we don't like the books,'' Alex tells his mother, because, according to his teacher, ''if you're not liking the books, you're not reading them closely enough.'' The books are so depressing -- '' 'Everybody dies in them,' he told me wearily'' -- Alex insists on reading with his bedroom door open.

Feinberg fortunately goes beyond merely criticizing these works into a defense of imagination and a contemplation of what is perhaps part of the intentions behind these books:
She sees the memoirlike problem novels as symptoms of ''the drastic fall from grace that the imagination has suffered in popular understanding'' and her generation's insistence on ''making our children wake from the dream of their childhoods.'' Adults, she suspects, secretly resent the sheltered, enchanted world children inhabit and under the pretext of preparing them for life's inevitable difficulties, want to rub their noses in traumas they may never actually experience and often aren't yet able to comprehend. All the better to turn them into miniature grown-ups, little troupers girded to face a world where they have no one to count on but themselves.

This review brought back memories of reading what is probably one of the earliest of these "problem novels": Julie of the Wolves. My mother bought me a copy of it in fifth grade, knowing that I liked wolves and no doubt assuming it would be a nice kids' story about them. It wasn’t. I hated it. It was boring: Girl runs away from mean nasty family, sees some wolves, comes back, end of story. But a dull storyline was the least of it. Shot throughout the book was a persistent anti-male bias that was clear to me even at 10, with the only male figures being an absentee father who kills Julie's favorite wolf and Julie's abusive, mentally retarded teenage husband. The latter perpetuates the most disturbing act of the book: He attempts to rape the girl, in what for a supposed children's book is rather shocking detail. I was incredibly disturbed by this scene. I came away feeling polluted by it, and had a vague sense of violation, knowing at some level that I'd been exposed to something children should not be shown. If today's "problem novels" are anything like this -- as they surely must be -- I feel immensely sad for the kids forced to read them.

UPDATE: The New Criterion has a review of Feinberg's book too.


This review of Polish director Krzysztof Kieslowski's 10-hour film series Decalogue convinces me that I should make an effort to see the work. Each segment is inspired by one of the 10 Commandments, and the series was described by the director as "an attempt to return to elementary values destroyed by communism" by asking the basic questions "What is the true meaning of life? Why get up in the morning? Politics doesn't answer that." Here's a summary of some of what the series offers:
Choices are crucial, but they are not the sole determinants of the contours of the drama. The shape of things involves a mysterious confluence of what's within our control and what lies beyond it. The orchestration of events in a benevolent, if still obscure, direction suggests a providential structure to human life. At their best, these films are about the mediation of the divine in and through sensible realities, and about the sacramental bonds of human community, especially in marriage and the rearing of children.

All in all, it sounds like an unexpectedly serious and heartfelt contemplation -- certainly worlds away from that silly edition of Self magazine on the Commandments that J. A. Gray eviscerated in the New Oxford Review a few years back. (If any of you still have a copy of Gray's piece, please contact me.)


Lenin and Che are back from the dead and campaigning for Kerry!

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

An archive of images, films, and audio of the Apollo Moon Program. Well worth the visit.


Justin at Classical Values revisits Paul Erlich's apocalyptically gloomy and totally wrong vision of the future that poisoned the outlook of the 1970s.

Michael Moore vs. Sylvia Browne

Claim: American corporations genetically engineer new diseases and release them in Third World populations, hoping these will spread across the globe so they can make money selling the treatments.

Claim: We are not hearing anything about Fahrenheit 9/11 in the media any more because the government's psychic agents are working on us while we sleep to forget about its existence.

Funny, I thought it was because Moore's been exposed as a lying SOB... I guess those agents found me an easy target!

(Previous entry in this series)

Thursday, August 19, 2004

I've almost managed to work my way out from underneath my latest project, so I should be posting here again soon. I have in mind some pieces on consciousness and neuroscience, the intersection of libertarianism and conservatism, and the incoherent world of Richard Dawkins. Who knows, I may even manage to post that socialism reading list I've been promising for the last year and a half!

Monday, August 09, 2004

Here is an excellent, in-depth article on the Madrid bombings, along with an analysis of how Islamic terrorists are networking via the Internet. Definitely the best treatment of the subject I have seen yet.


Relive cutting-edge early 1980s adventure gaming with the latest offering from Homestar Runner: Peasant's Quest! (The URL is part of the too-true humor, for you young'uns out there.)

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead retold the way it was always meant to be: Starring the Skull Force as Howard Roark & friends!

Dominique Francon: Hello. To prove how far above the masses we are, would you like to break into my house tonight and rape me?

Obviously I'm not the only one who found that scene a little disturbing. Any whips and/or chains in your closet, Ms. Rand?

UPDATE: Hey Chris, why are you complaining? Check your premises: Selfishness is a virtue, baby!

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Pontifications offers an amazingly insightful passage by Fr. Aidan Kavanaugh on the nature of baptism and Christian sacramentality. A must for reflective reading.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Amazingly, Anti-Socialist Tendencies has now passed the two-year mark! It's hard to believe it's actually been that long. I have to confess that this year's blogging has been a bit of a disappointment for me. By this point I had hoped that the blog would be attaining the level of output and quality I'd originally envisioned for it, but alas, other commitments have been diverting the necessary time and energy. But regardless, I am still enjoying blogging and fully expect to be here for Blogiversary #3.

My favorites from this year:

Thanks to all my readers through the past year, regulars and occasional visitors alike!

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Now, ten days later, we have that dark sister of the Fourth of July: Bastille Day. Don't expect to find any romanticized views of the French Revolution around here; Edmund Burke has made sure you will not be getting that from me. The always insightful Paul Cella also invokes Burke today, reflecting on how the esteemed Irishman's interpretation of the French Revolution proved so much deeper and more prescient than those of not only his contemporaries, but later generations as well:

We might say that the French Revolution was the culmination of a brewing revolt: the final break-up of Christian Europe and the dawn of the Modern Age. I am well aware that I speak in strange and sweeping terms; but when we look backwards across history through the prism of the twentieth century -- in particular through the prism of Revolution, so central to the twentieth century -- I think we begin to see this previous revolution in France, to which the Communists and a hundred other mad malcontents harkened back, in a more sinister light....

So it is with the conventional wisdom on the French Revolution: The Reign of Terror cannot be so easily brushed off, what with its ferocious progeny in Russia, China, and a dozen other nations. Students of history do indeed question whether the French Revolution was a good thing. The whole idea of revolution stands darkened by blood and massacre. In short, Burke stands taller today than Payne, though a hundred years his senior.

Exactly how bloody it could be -- and how chillingly the French Revolution would foreshadow the hallmark of 20th-century revolutions -- is shown in this Godspy article on Remembering The Vendee. As the revolutionary leadership in Paris became more oppressive, those in the rural Vendee region rebelled, only to be put down with utmost brutality:

"Not one is to be left alive." "Women are reproductive furrows who must be ploughed under." "Only wolves must be left to roam that land." "Fire, blood, death are needed to preserve liberty." "Their instruments of fanaticism and superstition must be smashed." These were some of the words the Convention used in speaking of Vendee. Their tame scientists dreamed up all kinds of new ideas -- the poisoning of flour and alcohol and water supplies, the setting up of a tannery in Angers which would specialise in the treatment of human skins; the investigation of methods of burning large numbers of people in large ovens, so their fat could be rendered down efficiently. One of the Republican generals, Carrier, was scornful of such research: these 'modern' methods would take too long. Better to use more time-honoured methods of massacre...

The ci-devant aristocrat Turreau de la Linières took command of what are known in Vendée as the douze colonnes infernales (the twelve columns of hell), which had specific orders both from his superiors and from himself to kill everyone and everything they saw. "Even if there should be patriots [that is, Republicans] in Vendée," Turreau himself said, "they must not spared. We can make no distinction. The entire province must be a cemetery." And so it was. In the streets Cholet, emblematic Vendéen city, by the end of 1793, wolves were about the only living things left, roaming freely and feeding on the piles of decomposing corpses.

But to focus on endless retellings of horrible deeds like this is ultimately to risk losing sight of the lessons to be learned from the French Revolution. The American and French Revolutions show the two revolutionary paths that can be taken -- one leading to freedom and prosperity, the other to decades of despotism and chaos -- and we would do well to reflect on what made the difference, and why so many more revolutions have taken the French path rather than the American one.

Monday, July 12, 2004

These paired movie review quotes of Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 and Gibson's The Passion of the Christ by the same reviewers speak volumes about the prejudices of the chattering classes.

(Via Victor Lams)

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Something that's sure to enthrall fellow geographers and geography-philes: The Strangest Travel Book Ever Written.
The book is titled An African in Greenland. Written about twenty-five years ago, it is the first-person account of a journey undertaken by the author, Tété-Michel Kpomassie, from his home village in West Africa to Upernavik in northern Greenland....

Kpomassie was raised in one of the deeply conservative tribal societies bordering the Gulf of Guinea. (His tribe, he tells us, was the Watyi.) In the late 1950s, when the story begins, these people were well acquainted with the modern world, but had embraced only its utilitarian aspects. Kpomassie’s father, for example, worked as an electrician, but had five wives. The family scorned Christianity, preferring the ancient animism of their region. After Kpomassie had an unpleasant encounter with a snake, his family elders decided that he was destined to become a priest in a local snake cult. This involved living in the deep jungle among pythons. Kpomassie was not keen on the idea. At just this time, at a bookstore in the nearest city, he happened to see Dr. Robert Gessain’s book The Eskimos from Greenland to Alaska. Kpomassie was seized with the idea that he should go and live among these folk. By a sustained effort of will, and through many difficulties -- it took him six years just to work his way to Europe, two more to get to Greenland -- he eventually did so.

It's probably as close as you can get to a real-life manifestation of that time-honored literary device, the "Man from Mars"!


A find that surprised me: Poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge was a conservative in the mold of Edmund Burke. From this it sounds as if Coleridge was actually slightly closer to my own views than Burke, since he responds to Burke's occasional shortcomings in ways similar to mine. Coleridge is definitely next on my political reading list.

Friday, June 25, 2004

Despite all the talk about the need for moderate Islamic ideas to become ascendant in the Muslim world, it seems that the urge to bash Islam is so strong that it can't even be restrained when faced with someone who promotes that very moderation. Case in point: Today's FrontPage symposium on The Koran and Anti-Semitism. On the Muslim side is Prof. Khaleel Mohammed, known for his controversial claim that anti-Semitism is unIslamic, backing it up with theological arguments based on the Qu'ran. Surely this is a stance that the other symposium participants, Robert Spencer and Bat Ye'or, are delighted with and are happy to support, you say. Nope. Both go after him and effectively argue past the case he makes, Spenser more so than Ye'or. Spenser especially comes across as one of those "western writers [who] take verses from the Qur'an, style themselves as experts, and then go about with wrong interpretations," as Prof. Mohammed so cogently puts it. Now, I don't expect them to be nothing but sweetness and light toward Mohammed (especially given the emotional nature of the topic) but at the very least I expect reasonable people to recognize who is on their own side for crying out loud! Choose thoughtfully what topics you decide to contest rather than lashing out on every point and undermining a potential ally's support in the process.

We need to stop this stupidly self-destructive behavior, folks. The Muslim world will not improve unless moderates like Mohammed get the support they need. Leave the theological debates to the Muslim theologians, since they actually know the material -- reading a few of the most scandalous suras and hadiths does not make you an expert on Islam. By all means point out the hateful and threatening statements of the radicals, but do not be so utterly idiotic as to effectively argue that their case is indeed the correct one!

Monday, June 21, 2004

In 1983, following seven years of pressure from Greenpeace, the new European Parliament outlawed baby seal pelts in Europe. This miserably affected the life of the 100,000 Inuit living in the Canadian Arctic... In the years following the seal pelt ban, an economic winter swept across the Canadian Arctic, and welfare figures soared. In Canada's tiny Clyde River, nearly half of the population was soon collecting unemployment checks. As their lives soured, their social problems escalated. Many Inuit turned to alcohol and drugs. Crime and family violence doubled. The despair led to an epidemic of suicides, mostly by young man. There were 47 suicides among Canadian Inuit in the 11 years before the ban, but 152 in the same period after it.

--- Liu Xiaogan, in Daoism and Ecology, p. 319

Friday, June 11, 2004

There's a new blog out dedicated to going after Noam Chomsky: diary of an anti-chomskyite. Unfortunately, those who most badly need to read it probably won't...


Orson Scott Card lets loose with a rant on liberal bias in the media. He does a good job emphasizing how statements that are superficially true are organized in such a way as to promote a biased final impression.

Thursday, June 10, 2004
God Save [Us From] the Queen

This morning's interesting proclamation:

Claim: The Queen of England is the real power behind the American government -- she controls our government's actions and has final word on everything. Our Revolution was just a superficial sham. [And as everyone knows, the Queen is a Reptilian, so our government is ultimately controlled by Extraterrestrials.] And by the way, did you know the Queen had Princess Diana murdered because she was about to expose the truth about the English Throne?

Response: Oh man, I really need to move out...

(Previous entry in this series)

Thursday, June 03, 2004

The firebombing of the once-beautiful German city of Dresden stands out in the popular imagination as the greatest indictment of the air war over Europe during World War II. Without fail, it is brought out in every condemnation of British Air Marshall Sir Arthur "Bomber" Harris, wartime head of Bomber Command. It also has special personal significance to me, as many of my mother's classmates died in the attack, having been sent to Dresden on the assumption that the city would be safe from air raids. Given the emotional weight of the subject, it is difficult to separate legend from fact, but a new, in-depth book attempts to do so. Although not the primary focus of the book, it puts forth a balanced justification of viewing Dresden as a legitimate military target:

As the seventh largest city in Germany, Dresden possessed a substantial industrial center with a number of precision engineering companies (the Zeiss-Ikon optical factory being perhaps the most well-known.) The city's reputation may have been built on its luxury industries, but Taylor reveals how the same factories that produced the typewriters, sewing machines, lingerie, cigarettes, and waffle irons easily made the wartime transition to produce searchlights, directional guidance equipment, aircraft and torpedo parts, machine guns, cartridge cases, and various other armaments. Cultural city or not, the Dresdeners' contribution to the German war effort was not insignificant. As Taylor notes, the 1942 Dresden Yearbook trumpeted the city's stature as "one of the foremost industrial locations of the Reich."

Equally important as the contribution of materiel was Dresden's strategic role as a major transportation hub, particularly toward the end of the war. With the situation growing increasingly dire on the Eastern Front, the city's railways were busy carrying reinforcements and supplies to the beleaguered German Army (in addition to evacuating the growing number of refugees fleeing the steady and brutal advance of the Soviets.) Add to this the fact that the Wehrmacht still enjoyed a well-functioning communications system in the city, and it's difficult to see how Dresden could have appeared to the war-weary leaders of Bomber Command as anything but a legitimate -- and increasingly desirable -- military target.

The book also revises downward the inflated death toll propagated by things such as Kurt Vonnegut's seriously overrated novel Slaughterhouse Five.

None of this should minimize the horror of the incident, and the author does seem to keep this in his sight amid all the historical analysis. Dresden should stand, however, not as a unique evil but rather as a reminder of the end result of becoming locked into the bloody logic of total warfare, which may ultimately lead to you to acts that could never be countenanced in the beginning of hostilities. Every time one goes to war -- no matter how justified -- this risk must be faced, and everything possible done to ensure that the humanity of all involved is not utterly lost.


The mainstream media is paying attention to the phenomenon of punk conservatism again: For conservative punks, it’s about (equal) time. Aside from prompting some ideological musing, however, I wonder if this movement will have much significance considering the perennial apathy of most youth voters.

Monday, May 24, 2004

Classical Values has gathered together a nice collection of material debunking the growing September 11 conspiracy theories, in a post here and in a follow-up. It's the sort of stuff people like my weirdo roommate desperately need to read.

Some months back I had intended to do something like this myself for said roommate's more serious (?) claims, but frankly, I got so sick of his insane theories (after having to hear them nearly every single day) that I simply didn't have the stomach to research them as I would have needed. Thank you, Classical Values, for sparing me from that torture!!

Thursday, May 20, 2004

The research monkey is firmly on my back again, so blogging will continue to be sporadic for the near future. You can catch a glimpse of the hoops I'm jumping through here.

Monday, May 10, 2004

The medical pendulum again swings the other way on obesity: Being "overweight" in and of itself has minor implications for overall health. The bottom line is that it is a sedentary lifestyle that is harmful to health, not the excess weight that may or may not result from it. That holds true with my own experience, as I've known several people who were active and healthy and yet would generally be considered overweight.

This otherwise good article is marred, though, by a section near the end where the author veers into absurd anti-American amateur psychoanalysis in an attempt to explain the American preoccupation with weight. ("No, it can't possibly be just fashion and poor science! It's because Americans are racist, repressed Puritans!") But then it was printed in al-Gardhiyan, after all...

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Here's an interesting article regarding a new book on Russell Kirk and how his Burkean conservatism fits within today's conservative landscape.

Monday, May 03, 2004
FINALLY FOUND: MARXIST WHO UNDERSTANDS FASCISM! least compared to the typical specimen, that is. The Marxist under consideration is British literary theorist Terry Eagleton, and his noteworthiness is shown by his review of Robert Paxton's latest book, The Anatomy of Fascism. Now, Eagleton does have serious misconceptions about the nature of fascism, but to his credit (and my surprise) he is refreshingly open to a view that contests the widespread Marxist notion that fascism is simply capital's last, desperate attempt to hold off the imminent workers' revolution. He happily concedes such things as the fact that fascism is radical, is not interchangeable with conservativism, and is not merely military dictatorship. Though he sinks back into ignorance beyond that, the fact that even dyed-in-the-wool Marxists are breaking with the doctrinaire understandings suggests that a more accurate portrayal of fascism is finally coming close to winning the day.

As for Paxton's book itself, based on Eagleton's review and those on the Amazon Books page it seems nowhere even close to being the "groundbreaking" work that its cover summary claims it to be. It appears to suffer from the tired old overemphasis on nationalism and nativism and the assumption that fascists left free-market capitalism untouched. A. James Gregor still has the best analysis out there, hands down. Incidentally, NRO's Jonah Goldberg is working on his own book about fascism, which he informs me owes much to Gregor's research -- I'm eager to see the result.

UPDATE: John Ray weighs in on the review too.

Friday, April 30, 2004

Adding to the growing pile of political insta-memoirs, Former Ambassador Joseph Wilson of yellowcake infamy has just come out with his own tell-all book on the Bush Administration. The press was all abuzz in anticipation of revelations likely to make the White House uncomfortable. The revelation reported thus far, however, actually serves to weaken Wilson's claims: He states that it was Baghdad Bob who approached Niger in a possible attempt to obtain uranium. Hardly a complete rebuttal to the claim that the Administration exaggerated the significance of the issue, but certainly suggestive of there being more substance to it than Bush's critics like to portray.


The National Geographic Society's MapMachine is a great resource for creating online maps displaying a variety of themes.

Wednesday, April 28, 2004

Whacking Day considers an innocent, happy event that would horrify the world's McDonald's-haters.

Friday, April 16, 2004

The Claremont Review of Books has a must-read article on why the widespread idea that the Republicans took up racism in order to win over the South is a historical falsehood.


If any of you have had problems accessing Blog*Spot sites via bookmarks or links lately, here is the solution: Apparently Blog*Spot is no longer acknowledging blog URLs that have "www" inserted as the first address item, regardless of whether or not the page actually exists (e.g. "" rather than simply ""). Remove the "www" from the address and it will work once again.

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Via Whacking Day, I found this whiny rant about freedom in the "Quarterly Magazine of the Communist Youth of Australia" known as Bright Red [...Oceans of Blood, that is!]. Since I'm in a foul mood today thanks to my GERD acting up something awful, it's time to fisk this load of drivel...

Freedom (Under Capitalism)

freedom is a choice of 10 types of bottled water, yet having no clean rivers.

freedom is a brand new car with free cd player, free airbags and free air conditioning, yet choking on the air outside when you have to walk.

Ah yes, choking on the air outside... something the masses blessed to live under communism knew quite well, comrade. But then living with nightmarish levels of pollution beyond anything imaginable in the West is a small price to pay to escape the oppression of bottled water and nice cars, isn't it?

freedom is choosing who will make political decisions, yet not choosing what those decisions are.

Yes comrade, it's something called "representative government." It exists so that you and I don't have to spend every moment of our lives occupied with voting on governmental actions. The personal isn't political for everyone, my friend.

freedom is being allowed to protest, yet having the protest ignored.

Freedom is being allowed to ignore obnoxious, self-righteous twits who harass and obstruct people who can't sponge off Mommy and Daddy anymore and thus have to work rather than play heroic revolutionary all day.

freedom is a credit card because we can't really afford what we buy.

Freedom is the ability to live within your means if you so desire, or not. The choice is yours.

freedom is being able to drink alcohol, wishing we had the bodies and the looks that we are told we are supposed to have.

Freedom is also the ability to ignore pop culture and be a true individual, if you so desire.

freedom is being able to take a panadol to ease the pain, because the world won't slow down for us.

What duty does the world have to slow down for you? Move to the Outback if city life is too much for you.

freedom is an instant meal done in two minutes, yet suffering the impact of artificial ingredients for a lifetime.

Freedom is the ability to choose between quick artificial meals and more involved nutritious ones. You are free to choose the trade-off that you wish.

freedom is dressing how you like, yet having to comply to a strict dress code if you want to keep your job or enter that club.

Freedom is being able to determine the requirements in place at the business or club that you own. Or do you mind if I burst into your living room at 2 AM, haul my motorcycle through the window, and start repairing it on your nice white carpet? You do? Bourgeois pig! How dare you exercise your property rights against me!

freedom is a home loan, while the banks profits are in the billions.

And a home loan is the freedom to buy housing that otherwise would be beyond your means. Would you prefer living in the street so that the bank will make nothing? Or paying rent forever with nothing permanent to show for it?

freedom is a throw-away cup, freedom is a throw-away eco-system, freedom is the ultimate convenience while the earth dies fast, freedom is not caring about the consequences of your actions.

Freedom is also the the ability to bring legal pressure against those who trash the environment. The freedom of classical liberalism is freedom under the Rule of Law, not that of the juvenile daydreams of your blak blok anarchist friends.

freedom is a value system of apathy and waste.

Like the apathy of the vodka-soaked Soviet shopfloor? Like the waste of making 10,000 left shoes and no right ones?

freedom is an illusion that we are made to believe.

Made by whom? The media that we are free to shut off?

freedom is a lie.

Well, you've certainly made a piss-poor case of proving that so far!

freedom will bring death to this planet, yet I don't want to die

I'm afraid the death part is ultimately beyond the jurisdiction of any of us, comrade. But at least we will die free from the bloody, oppressive dystopia your childish fantasies would impose on the planet instead.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

Philokalia Republic has been linking to old articles from The Intercollegiate Review, the main journal of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute. Lots of great articles to be found there.

One article which I found particularly interesting discusses Edmund Burke's view on what makes a revolution legitimate (PDF). Burke is often accused of being inconsistent in supporting the Glorious Revolution of 1688 and the American Revolution, yet rejecting the French Revolution. The article explains why these positions are in fact completely in keeping with Burke's political principles.

Saturday, March 27, 2004

As I mentioned previously, politically-minded punk rockers who hitch themselves to Leftism, such as those behind Punk Voter, are supporting a politics that is ultimately at odds with core punk values. It turns out that there are indeed punks who realize the very same thing! As this article I stumbled across shows, there is a small but significant subgroup of conservative punks (!) voicing their opposition to the Leftism espoused by the majority of the movement. Online, these include more formal groups such as Conservative Punk Magazine and GOPunk as well as the blogs Anti-Anti-Flag, Punkvoter Lies, Liberty Punk, and Dr. Balls Underground Music Review.

Todd Anderson, editor of Popshot, explains conservative punk's critique of liberal and Leftist punk, echoing the same thoughts I have:

...the evidence suggests that the rock 'n' roll youth culture recognizes the problem (the big bad government) yet refuses to do anything about it. Weirder still is that rock, with its inherent anti-authoritarianism, would inspire audience and bands alike to say "The government's screwing us!" and also, "Let's make it bigger!"....,, Rock the Vote... are eager to harness the unifying power of music for political action. Yet they direct that power right back into the authoritarian, nannyish hands of the status quo.

Rock's political lemmings continually ignore evidence that smaller government secures individual rights, allows greater artistic freedom, and generally stays out off of your cloud. Concerned with the spying and warring powers of the government, rock 'n' roll statists have never realized that a smaller government would be easier to keep an eye on.

Although Anderson appears to lean toward Libertarianism, most of the conservative punks seem to embrace mainstream conservatism. GOPunk gives an explanation why:

If you're so against government control, shouldn't you be Libertarians? Why stick with the GOP?

The Libertarian movement isn't a bad one. But, as with anarchy, it's poorly suited to the world in which we live. The Liberal Democrats are striking away our freedoms each chance they get, hiding beneath the sheep's clothing of "civil rights" and "compassion" as they wage war against the Constitution. It is a war, and the Libertarian Party is as effective at protecting us from Liberal Democrats as Switzerland was at ridding the world of Hitler. The GOP is our best hope of preserving, and in some cases reacquiring, the freedoms our founding fathers intended.

I tend to agree, but Libertarianism still provides more ideological consistency between punk and politics. I guess being a punk doesn't preclude being a pragmatist either!

Friday, March 26, 2004

Black Elk: Holy Man of the Oglala by Michael Steltenkamp

Among Ray Bradbury's famous Mars stories is the tale of a Martian, one of the few remaining after the human colonization of his world, who has the telepathic ability to become whatever person is the focus of a human colonist's heart and mind. All goes well as he uses this ability to survive with an isolated colonist, until a fateful trip to a teeming human town. The story ends with the Martian fatally collapsing, his true self overwhelmed by the barrage of conflicting images forced on him by the desires of the crowd.

This story often comes to my mind when considering the human tendency to create perceptions of others that deal more with our own wants and needs than who they truly are, be it in the formation of cultural or historical idols or merely our everyday relations with one another. The popular portrayal of the American Indian is undoubtedly one of the most prominent examples of this. While the image and the motives behind the perception have changed over time, the false and self-serving nature of it has not. In the past, the Indian as "worthless savage" justified the killing of him and the taking of his land by European settlers. Today's opposite view of the Indian as "noble savage" merely serves the role of fulfilling urban white fantasies about the "simple life" and communing with nature. This romanticized image is far safer and more beneficial for Indians, and while it's no surprise that they gladly embrace it, it still is an artifact of white desires rather than a true reflection of who they are and their own wishes for themselves.

The story of Lakota holy man Black Elk (1863-1950) as told in popular culture is a prime example of the superficial and patronizing nature of today's "noble savage" portrayal. Black Elk became known through the publication in 1932 of Black Elk Speaks by white poet John Neihardt. The book covers Black Elk's early life, including his experiences in historically important events such as the Ghost-dance movement and the infamous Battle of Wounded Knee in 1890. A major focus is the Lakota religion and Black Elk's role as a holy man, with prominence given to his mysterious visions. The main story ends around 1900, with the book then skipping ahead 30 years to show Black Elk as a defeated old man, pining for the old times and miserably waiting for death to take him.

The book has continued to grow in popularity through the decades, being much loved by both enthusiasts of Indian culture and New Agers in awe of native spirituality. Surprisingly, it seems even American Indians themselves are looking to this book written by a white man for knowledge about their "traditional" ways! [1] But what of those missing 30 years? Have any of the countless readers wondered what went on during that part of Black Elk's life?

That they both should ask about that biographical gap and yet may not like the answer is shown by Michael Steltenkamp's Black Elk: Holy Man of the Oglala. His goal is to provide the untold two-thirds of Black Elk's life. Hardly a tale of listless despondency, the older Black Elk enjoyed a vigorous and challenging life -- as an inspired Catholic catechist tirelessly serving and evangelizing his people.

From Lakota shaman to Catholic evangelist. A shocking change, no doubt, for those for whom Black Elk is the epitome of native spirituality. But to the man himself, this was the most important event of his life, and far from being a rejection of his previous beliefs, was instead in his eyes a fulfillment of them. Although the exact reasons for his conversion (in 1904) are unclear, the fact that his Catholicism was his primary focus and spiritual sustenance for almost 50 years cannot be denied.

In his exploration of the missing decades of Black Elk's life, Steltenkamp draws upon interviews with Black Elk's last surviving child Lucy Looks Twice, other friends and relatives, and the writings of the Jesuit Fathers who were his spiritual guides. (This touches on the main stylistic weakness of the book: too much of it is verbatim passages from these interviews stitched together with brief comments by Steltenkamp.) All of these speak of Black Elk's genuine, enthusiastic, and unflagging embrace of the Christian religion throughout his later life. That this was neglected in the books written about him was an ongoing source of frustration for the man. Black Elk wrote various appeals for the full story to be told, such as the following one, which also serves as a strong affirmation of his devout Catholicism (pp 83-84):

A white man made a book and told what I had spoken of olden times, but the new times he left out. So I speak again, a last word....

In the last thirty years I am different from what the white man wrote about me. I am a Christian. I was baptized thirty years ago by the Black-gown priest called Little Father.... I am now converted to the true Faith in God the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. I say in my own Sioux Lakota language: Ateunyanpi--Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name--as Christ taught us to say. I say the Apostle's Creed and I believe every word of it....

I was for many years a regular companion of several missionaries going out campaigning for Christ among my people. I was nearly twenty years the helper of the priests and acted as Catechist in several camps. So I knew my Catholic Religion better than many white people....

Thirty years ago I was a real Indian and knew a little about the Great Spirit--the Wakantanka. I was a good dancer and I danced before Queen Victoria in England. I made medicine for sick people. I was proud, perhaps I was brave, perhaps I was a good Indian; but now I am better....

I now know that the prayer of the Catholic Church is better than the prayer of the Ghost-dance. Old Indians danced that kind for their own glory.... But Christ was nailed to the Cross for sin and he took away our sins. The old Indian prayers did not make people better.... Christ taught us to be humble and to stop sin. Indian medicine men did not stop sin. I want to be straight as the black-gown church teaches us to be straight to save my soul for heaven. This I want to do.

No hint of this deep Christian belief is to be found in Black Elk Speaks, or later and similarly popular works such as The Sacred Pipe. These authors are interested in Black Elk as Indian shaman, and nothing else. Steltenkamp is fair enough to not trumpet this misleading narrowness of vision as purposeful deception -- he feels this was not so much an intentional "coverup" as a total lack of interest in anything outside of Black Elk's youthful career as a medicine man. The authors wanted the native teachings of a "true" Indian holy man, and did not care whether that holy man still held to those teachings, or upon what new foundation he might now believe them to be grounded. Even Neihardt effectively admitted that, in the end, Black Elk Speaks is much more of an artistic imagining than a straightforward relating of the facts.

But even when his Catholicism is acknowledged, the portrayal of Black Elk continues to be distorted by others' agendas. Take for example this passage from the entry on Black Elk in the college-level Encyclopedia of North American Indians:

During Black Elk's young adulthood, missionaries attempted to convert the Oglala Lakotas to Christianity, and not many escaped the intense measures inflicted upon those who resisted. Black Elk was no exception. He attempted to understand Christianity after he was subjugated to it, and was baptized Nicholas Black Elk on December 6, 1904, at the Holy Rosary Mission near present-day Pine Ridge, South Dakota. Although the role of staunch Catholic was forced upon him, he played it well to appease his oppressors.

Now we have gone from a misleading but ultimately good-natured skirting of Black Elk's later years to an outrageous disrespecting of the man and what he valued. We have no evidence that Black Elk was a fake or a dupe, and the words of the man himself and the testimony of others are exactly to the contrary. We cannot know with absolute certainty what Black Elk believed in his heart of hearts, but at the very least we should have the decency to respect him enough to take him at his word. Further, many of the Sioux medicine men who likewise converted to Christianity later renounced it and returned to traditional ways without penalty, so there is no reason to think Black Elk would not have done the same if he did actually disbelieve. The author may think she is redeeming him or setting free his stifled true voice, but portraying anyone as a helpless victim lacking agency or will and whose inner thoughts we know better than he is profoundly patronizing. Truly honoring a figure does not entail belittling his character while trashing the very thing he valued most.

So here we have Black Elk, yet another Indian whose true face is ignored as outsiders try to force him to fit the image desired in their particular agenda. One faction insists he be spiritual and wise, but only as part of a romanticized nature-centered shamanism of noble savages. Another faction enlists him as beleaguered but wily resister of the white man, used as a testament to the brutality of whites as well as a mocking of their gullibility, but not allowed to freely take on the white man's religion. Even I feel the urge to join in, seeing him as an easy way of giving the finger to the anti-Western multi-culti crowd who idealize him. But for those humble enough to set aside their own desires, the true Black Elk can be sought, with books such as Black Elk: Holy Man of the Oglala pointing the way.

[1] Also noted by Steltenkamp.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Gospel Minefield serves up a witty and wise rant on The Da Vinci Code and the "sacred feminine". My favorite quotes:
"A new statue of Artemis's torso? Aw, Jeez. How much will I have to shell out this time? WHAT? Participation in the dedication vigil with 2 temple priestesses! HOT DAMN!--I mean, certainly, dear. Anything for you, honeybunch! "

And this one:
The "wise old crone" label is just a sop that is tossed to women. No matter what ceremonial verbal homage is given, nobody gives a rat's ass about a "wise old crone"...

Friday, March 19, 2004

The relentless Pejman has gone in for yet another round of flogging Eric Alterman and his claims of a conservative media bias as outlined in What Liberal Media?. The occasion this time is research by Michael Petrelis showing that recent political contributions of both the publishers and reporters of The New York Times have gone overwhelmingly to Democrats. I might as well kick Alterman while he's down and expand on Petrelis' line of argument a bit.

Alterman's thesis is essentially that, whatever the political orientation of journalists and other media workers, media outlets have a conservative bias on economic issues because their reporting is expected to protect and promote the financial interests of the huge media corporations for which they work. Thus, the supposed "liberal media" doesn't exist. The reasoning here is weak on several points. For example, it implies that economic issues exhaust the possibilities for bias, or at least present the only significant or essential ones. Even if we concede that there is an economic bias, there are many other facets to the political landscape beyond economics, and so to conclude that a conservative bias in this single area means no liberal bias exists anywhere else is, at a minimum, premature. More directly relevant for my purpose here, Alterman's argument takes the stereotypical assumption that if something is corporate, it must thereby necessarily be politically conservative. But do the facts actually bear this out?

Let's examine the political campaign contributions of some major media corporations. If such businesses do indeed have a conservative bias, it is reasonable to assume that the beneficiaries of their donations will be similarly conservative. I will focus in particular on the following companies listed in this 2002 Nation article as the primary media-related megacorporations: AOL Time Warner, Disney, General Electric, News Corporation, Viacom, Vivendi, Sony, Bertelsmann, AT&T and Liberty Media. (I have heard a slightly different list attributed to Alterman, but since I could not verify that, I'm going with this list instead.) Here are Open Secrets' data on the top 20 corporate donors in the category TV/Movies/Music (which nets most of these in question) for the last three election cycles:

2000 Election Cycle
RankOrganizationAmount To Dems
1 Time Warner$2,309,121 68%
3 Walt Disney Co $1,457,657 56%
5 Viacom Inc $1,079,925 68%
7 Vivendi Universal$1,004,887 86%
11News Corp $805,980 34%
12 AT & T $725,93936%

2002 Election Cycle
RankOrganizationAmountTo Dems
3 Viacom Inc$2,016,891 89%
4 AOL Time Warner $1,502,806 76%
5Walt Disney Co$1,212,36456%
6 Vivendi Universal $1,184,249 70%
14News Corp $629,353 29%

2004 Election Cycle
Rank Organization Amount To Dems
1 Time Warner $848,30666%
2 Viacom Inc$541,600 70%
5 Walt Disney Co $373,110 61%
8 Vivendi Universal $190,000 72%
10 News Corp $157,905 48%
11 Sony Corp (Amer.) $153,554 65%

As you can see, the vast majority of the funds here are going to Democrats, not Republicans. The only exceptions are with News Corporation and AT&T, and in those instances they are in the lower 10-11 of the ranking. So where's that conservative bias? That's certainly an odd way of supporting your supposed benefactors! It seems we are left with three possible explanations: 1) corporate officials are stupid and/or delusional, 2) Democrats are not the liberals they claim to be, or 3) media corporations are not the conservatives Alterman claims they are.

Of course, it's not quite that simple. For one thing, here is the approach Open Secrets uses for compiling these figures:

METHODOLOGY: The numbers on this page are based on contributions from PACs, soft money donors, and individuals giving $200 or more. (Only those groups giving $5,000 or more are listed here.) In many cases, the organizations themselves did not donate, rather the money came from the organization's PAC, its individual members or employees or owners, and those individuals' immediate families. Organization totals include subsidiaries and affiliates.

So it could be argued (albeit not very effectively) that these donations do not reflect the views of "the corporation" in a meaningful sense. More significantly, is also important to consider to which individual politicians these funds went and the specifics of the races they face(d). A corporation might fund the Democrat who is more likely to win in hopes of influencing him rather than the long-shot Republican who might be naturally inclined in the business's favor. Such things cannot be known through these very generalized figures.

In the end, the pragmatism touched on in the previous paragraph suggests what is really going on here. Good corporate management is relentlessly pragmatic, and thus corporations will most likely donate to whomever they feel will bring the most benefit to them, independent of ideology. Likewise, corporate management is very unlikely to care regarding whether or not the outlook of their corporation is being directly mirrored in their specific media outlets far down the organizational chain so long as they remain profitable. There is no particular reason why a manager would want to curtail the latitude given to media outlets so long as profit is sustained. (The entire purpose of a hierarchical structure is to avoid such wasteful micro-management, after all.) That is why, short of finding an exact, specific match between corporate desire and outlet reporting, the corporate nature of today's media in and of itself is not a relevant factor in determining its potential bias.