The Spectacle Blog

Re: Guilt, Culture, Death of the West &c.

By on 5.3.06 | 9:09AM

Want a brilliantly done capstone to yesterday's conversation on guilt and western culture -- and a cornucopia of sorrowful facts to boot? Commentary runs George Wiegel's piece on "Europe's Two Culture Wars." Wiegel takes the ball from my March scrum on the fathered civilization and runs for a TD.

Lone Coburn

By on 5.2.06 | 10:35PM

Speaking of senators good and bad, it's a shame that Tom Coburn is the lone crusader on earmarks in the Senate. (John McCain is his "Sancho Panza" -- sidekick suits him well.)

The Party of Specter

By on 5.2.06 | 5:48PM

It should come as no surprise that Sen. Arlen Specter is supporting the liberal Republican leadership in the Pennsylvania statehouse against their conservative primary opponents. Again, we ask, what hath the GOP wrought in supporting Snarlin' Arlen in 2004?

Those legislators are the ones who voted themselves and the Pennsylvania judiciary an unconstitutional pay raise last year, detailed here.

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.