The Spectacle Blog

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.

K Street Meets Boston

By on 5.2.06 | 10:06AM

Shawn Macomber's review of Matthew Continetti's The K Street Gang is up at the Washington Times today.

Feeling Guilty?

By on 5.2.06 | 9:32AM

Campaign Cleanup

By on 5.2.06 | 9:20AM

Things are heating up for the fall. We've got a bog primary election in Ohio, where Secretary of State Ken Blackwell is attempting to win the Republican nominagtion for Governor.

But this morning the real news is going to be out of Nebraska, where we hear that Sen. John McCain this morning will endorse Rep. Tom Osborne in his primary challenge of sitting Republican Gov. Dave Heineman.

Osborne, better known in his previous career as head coach of the University of Nebraska football program, is putting up a fight for this one. Why is this interesting?

Well, first Chuck Hagel has already endorsed Heineman, throwing a bit of a twist into what was thought to be a close relationship between McCain and Hagel.

And second, we're seeing political decision being made here less to do with Osboune and Heineman and more to do with the ambitions and egos of McCain and Hagel. Both men want to run for President. And some of Nebraska's media markets are shared with Iowa, where the first caucuses will beheld. This gives both men some political coverage in both states.