The Spectacle Blog

Re: White guilt

By on 5.2.06 | 4:43PM

Shelby Steele left out something important -- the source of even worse white guilt in Europe. Imagine what it must have been like to see one of your fellow countries, a renowned source of sophistication and artistic achievement, the country of Goethe and Beethoven and Schiller, succumb to the tribal barbarities of Nazism -- and then do its best to conquer the world under that savage banner.

No surprise that Europe as a whole reacted against the Nazi plague by turning its back on nationalism, tradition, religion, and Western philosophy. Today, in Germany, some 35-40 percent of Germans believe George Bush plotted and executed the attacks of 9/11. Those who purport to believe in nothing will believe anything.

The End of McCain?

By on 5.2.06 | 3:35PM

Conservatives have had many reasons over the years to differ with Sen. John McCain: his opposition to tax cuts, campaign finance reform, and his tendency to act like a Democrat on anything not related to defense or earmarks. Bottom line: most conservatives with memories don't trust the man.

But now all voters have a chance to rally against the man. D.C. Examiner goes after the Senator today for his arrogance.

Apparently his intemperate side cropped up last week, and he had this to say about free speech versus "reform": "I would rather have a clean government than one where, quote, First Amendment rights are being respected, that has become corrupt. If I had my choice, I'd rather have the clean government."

That, my friends, is why John McCain shouldn't be president, in principle. And why he may not make it, practically. This quote will come back to haunt him.

Re Race Case AND White Guilt

By on 5.2.06 | 1:43PM

I think y'all's discussions on guilt, etc., actually fit right in with my post earlier today on Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. How else to explain its continued existence, and the vow from Bush and Specter and company to renew it, except with reference to misplaced guilt?

Re: White guilt and the rest

By on 5.2.06 | 1:31PM

Lawrence, Paul, I cheer to see this conversation joined. It's perhaps the most important of all. The boomers, like we subsequent generations, seem unfairly fated to die. But there's a solution for that, too.

Philip Rieff, whose tocsin I shall keep sounding, refers us to Donner Professor of Science at MIT, and founder of that school's Artificial Intelligence Laboratories, Marvin Minsky:

"Should we robotize ourselves and stop dying? I think the answer is clear for the long run because in a few billion years the sun will eventually burn out and everything we've done will go to waste. [...] Is it possible, with artificial intelligence, to conquer death? [...] Then eventually there'd be no room for more new people, and that would raise more problems."

Minsky gave us that little wonder of scientific fantasizing back in 1985, a year that science itself has since left deep in the dust. Fukuyama too predicted "our posthuman future," but science, like always, lends only a helping hand. Posthumanity is, in fact, just a culture away.

Re: White guilt and the rest

By on 5.2.06 | 12:12PM

James, Paul, I think about this subject a lot, and I keep coming back to the fact that, from about 1850 onwards, there have been titans in the world of ideas devoted to destroying at least some part of Western Civilization: Marx, Dewey, Freud, et al.

My take on one aspect of the question, "The Baby Boomers are Going to Die," from Enter State Right in 1999, here.

Hall of Shame for Appropriators

By on 5.2.06 | 11:30AM

Today's Washington Post has a big feature on how GOP Appropriations Committee folks in the House are fighting tooth and nail against saner voices in the party, against reforms of ethics and of earmarks. One would at least expect the appropriators to offer a principled, or at least principled-sounding, defense of their position. But no. Idaho's Mike Simpson makes up (partly) in candor what he and all his ilk so obviously lack in philosophical principle: Rep. Simpson told the Post that "we are getting more authoritative.... We are standing up for our turf."

Bingo! That's what this all is about, pure and simple: a nasty, petty turf war. Nothing noble, nothing public-service-oriented, nothing even remotely suggesting principle. Just turf. Power for power's sake.

I write this as somebody who for two years was on the payroll of the Appropriations Committee. But I never drank the kool-aid. The appropriators who are more interested in preserving their own turn than in serving the public interest aren't worth former VP John Nance Garner's proverbial bucket of warm, uh, spit. A pox on all their turf, and on their reputations.

Broke Entitlements

By on 5.2.06 | 11:17AM

So now comes the new report that Medicare will go broke in 2018, two years earlier than projected just last year and 12 years earlier than had been projected in 2001. Social Security's day of reckoning, meanwhile, has been moved up from 2041 to 2040. All of this was announced yesterday by the trustees of the entitlement systems, who are required to issue annual reports on the programs' fiscal health.

Well, as Gomer Pyle used to say, "Surprise, Surprise, SURPRISE!!!" -- except that this bad news should come as no surprise to anyone. This twin looming disaster has been in the workds for years, and Congress keeps punting on the issues. To President Bush' credit, he had the guts to try to address the Social Security problem, but a combination of sheer gutlessness by his Republican (supposed) allies in Congress and of his administration's own hamhanded legislative tactics, policy choices, and communications, all combined to destroy the initiative that the president so bravely proposed.

Race Case

By on 5.2.06 | 10:38AM

On NRO today, Edward Blum of AEI has an incredibly important column about the sheer perfidy of President Bush and top Repubs in both houses of Congress introducing legislation to renew Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. I've written on this many times. Whereas most of the Voting Rights Act is permanent, as it should be, Section 5 originally was only supposed to last for five years. That was about 40 years ago. What Section 5 does is require the time-consuming process of "preclearance" from the Justice Department for ANY change in election procedures in several suspect (read: Southern) states. Blum explains why this is, philosophically, a horrible provision. What he doesn't make clear is that, in practical terms, Section 5 is even worse than it looks on paper. DoJ has to weigh in on election changes as small as moving a polling place from, say, a school's gym to the same school's cafeteria. Examples are numerous of local election officials running into problems even holding elections on time while waiting for DoJ officials to get around to preclearing such changes. Thurbert E.

To the End of the Line

By on 5.2.06 | 10:23AM

Illegal immigrants shouldn't have a head start over those already in line for legal entry into the U.S., as Jay Homnick argues this morning.

NPR had an excellent commentary along those lines today, by an Indian doctor who has gone through the work visa, the green card, and has patiently waited for years for citizenship. What a shame that law abiding immigrants may wait longer because of those who have circumvented the existing, albeit poor, system.

Re: Feeling Guilty?

By on 5.2.06 | 10:20AM

Paul, you're dead right. One glaring index of how the West's loss of faith goes far deeper than race guilt is how far the West has gone to eliminate personal guilt as a peril of right feeling. In the absence of compelling spiritual doctrine, neurotics of identity turned to psychotherapy to destroy guilt. But guiltmaking acts continued to pile up, and psychoanalysis is an inefficient replacement for religion when neurotic feelings must be picked off one at a time.

Thus have we developed our cults of selfhood. The "Me" Generation is a passe prelude; one "me" is not enough, expecting too much and too little of us. Ours is now the "My" Generation, where all of our products are customized and we are customized right along with them. This unholy marriage of psychotherapy and capitalism has just been consummated with a feature in The New York Times.

I have a long meditation on this epochal and ugly phenom here.