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Weekly Opeds 2004

by Christopher Chantrill

The Amazon Public Wish List
On the day after Christmas, when Americans in their tens of thousands are happily returning unwanted Christmas presents, I am afraid that it is my duty to report that there is disquieting news from the on-line shopping front.  I learned purely by chance of this unhappy development, one that I had not

|  more  |  12/25/04

To Dare to Do It
The Duke of Wellington once defined the best test of a general.  It was, he wrote, “to know when to retreat, and to dare to do it.”  He should know, because he executed the most successful retreat in British history, from the battle of Talavera in

|  more  |  12/18/04

Why Americans Are Anti-Intellectual
“Why is the US so anti-intellectual?” asked a Kerry-voting friend a month after the recent presidential election.  “Don’t answer right now, but I’d like to hear your response.”

It’s right for Kerry supporters to be asking a question or two

|  more  |  12/11/04

I Double Dare You!
This Christmas, I am doubling my customary contributions to the Salvation Army and to the Boy Scouts of America.  And so should you.

I wish I could say my decision was prompted an exquisite reason, but it was not.  I have, as they

|  more  |  12/04/04

Losing Ohio
Last week readers of The New York Times Magazine were treated to part two of a feature on the presidential ground game in Ohio.  Writer Matt Bai reported on the achievements of the Democratic Party, er, make that Americans Coming Together (ACT) the independent 527 organization, in getting out

|  more  |  11/27/04

Religion, Taxes, and Programs
Many Democrats think they are losing because Karl Rove is a genius or because the American people are dumb.  But maybe they are losing because they are wrong on the issues.

The first thing that Democrats have got wrong is their war on religion.

|  more  |  11/20/04

Understanding Bush's Power
Khajuraho, India -- The villager leads me onto the concrete roof of his house in the village of Khajuraho, and points. Over there live the Brahmins, over there the warrior caste, and on the edge of town live the Untouchables. Unlike the metro Indians, he’s not ashamed of the caste system. It is just the way things are.

|  more  |  11/04/04

What's All the Fuss About?
David Brooks observed recently that the 2004 presidential election is similar to the 2000 election.  Once again a closely divided nation is fighting a bitter, closely divided presidential election.  Yet the issues are completely different.

|  more  |  10/23/04

On Derridology
The death of deconstructionist Jacques Derrida reminds us that philosophy is more than a series of footnotes to Plato.  In the modern era philosophy has become a series of footnotes to Kant.

Kant resolved the contradiction between Newton and Hume.

|  more  |  10/16/04

Education for What?
London’s Economist published a handy chart this week to help eager parents game the British education system.  The objective: to place your child in a “top university.”  To get there you’ll have to pony up lots of cash: to pay for

|  more  |  10/09/04

A "New Model School" Opens in London
Back in the nineteenth century, before the educated elite had taken an interest in education, ordinary people paid to send their children to school.  In England they paid 3d or 6d per week (i.e. about 25 cents in nineteenth century US dollars) at the most basic schools.

|  more  |  10/02/04

Government and Failure
Ever noticed the difference between a politician running for office and a politician in office?  When running for election, the politician will say anything to get elected.  In the last few months we’ve seen the Kerry campaign provide us with

|  more  |  09/25/04

Anyone for Tipping Points?

Is this it? Are we right now in the middle of the great realignment election, the generational political earthquake of which we’ve heard tell? It’s too soon to know, of course, but to put things in 1940 terms: if I were the French candidate I would be concerned about reports of suspiciously intense firefights at the Meuse river

|  more  |  09/18/04

Return to Self-Government
In their Emerging Democratic Majority, John Judis and Ruy Teixeira conjure up a future political coalition, an alliance between the progressive centrists and the traditionally marginalized that will take power from the present Republican majority.  They see the ranks of creative professionals

|  more  |  09/11/04

Anger and Politics
If politics is civil war by other means, then it must have a lot to do with anger.  Ares was the Greek god of war, and also courage, fear, civil defense, civil order, and anger.  It was anger that kept Achilles in his tent before the walls of Troy, and for

|  more  |  09/04/04

The Genius of Self-Government
Isn’t it convenient that Speaker Hastert’s book came out the week before the Republican Convention with a juicy quote about Senator Clinton? She thinks that the federal government spends money more wisely than people spending their own money.  Oh really. There are some of us, Senator, who

|  more  |  08/28/04

Don't Get Mad, Send Money
Remember back in 2000 when the liberals took out after the NRA?  It was spring and the media was swooning over the Million Mom March, a pseudo-grassroots event gussied up by liberal gun-control activists.  The Clinton administration was pushing gun-control

|  more  |  08/21/04

The New Challenge Movement: A Manifesto
OK, that’s it.  I’ve had it.  It’s time to declare that the decadence of liberal “challenge” art is terminal.  Somebody take it out and shoot it.

Exhibit A is

|  more  |  08/14/04

The Party of the Middle Class?
At the recent Democratic National Convention the nominee for President of the United States, John F. Kerry, told Americans of his devotion to the middle class.  “I’m John Kerry and I’m reporting for duty,” he said.  And then he pointed

|  more  |  08/07/04

It Ain't Gonna be Pretty
Now that the Democratic National Convention is over, we can begin to see just how badly Senator Kerry is positioned in his campaign for president of the United States.  Liberals are embarrassed by the corny patriotism of John Kerry reporting for duty, and conservatives are scornful of the

|  more  |  07/31/04

Turning On the Sixties
You’ve got to hand it to British Prime Minister Tony Blair.  He combines the Clintonian aptitude for triangulation with the political instincts of the wife of Manchurian Candidate Senator Iselin.  Don’t just get up and leave the room when

|  more  |  07/24/04

The Birth of "Folliage"
They told us it was coming.  No sooner will we get gay marriage than the polyamory advocates would be knocking on our doors.  And wouldn’t you know, the polyamory folks recently got a respectful hearing at—where would you think—the Unitarian

|  more  |  07/17/04

Breaking Liberal Taboos on Education
Is the wind changing on education?  Three straws seem to suggest so.  First there was the calculated outburst from Bill Cosby.

It’s comical to read solemn liberal commentators worrying about whether it was right for Bill Cosby

|  more  |  07/10/04

What the Bleep? It's a Movie!
Ever since relativity and quantum mechanics were invented in the early twentieth century, people have wondered: What on earth does it all mean? Wonder no more. Now there’s a movie to explain it all to you: What the

|  more  |  07/03/04

Taking the Cultural Temperature
After a weekend when the temperature of the culture war was reading Fahrenheit 9/11, it’s a good moment to recall what it’s all about.  Why can’t we all just get along?

Exactly.  The culture war is a

|  more  |  06/26/04

Why America is Different
One of the enduring genres of political writing is the conservative freak show, the book titled: “The Paranoid Style in American Politics” or “Thunder on the Right.”  It feeds a aching need among the world’s Pharisees to remind themselves that they are not as other men are:

|  more  |  06/19/04

On Reagan's Paradise Drive
Why would the New York Times Book Review put out a contract on David Brooks and his latest book of “comic sociology,” I wondered, after reading its scathing review of On Paradise Drive: How We Live How (And Always Have) in the Future Tense?  After all, isn’t Brooks

|  more  |  06/12/04

Ronald Reagan, RIP
I loved Ronald Reagan, eventually.  But in the winter of 1980 I went to my local precinct caucus as a Bush supporter.  Over in the corner were the Reagan supporters.  They were lower middle class types,

|  more  |  06/05/04

Are the Democrats Crazy?
Are the Democrats crazy?  Or crazy like a fox?

In the last week we’ve seen former Vice President Al Gore foam at the mouth for the benefit of the left-wing whackos at MoveOn.org.  We’ve seen former President Bill Clinton

|  more  |  05/29/04

Another Vote for Homeschooling
In Friday’s Wall Street Journal, Diana West announced that she had removed her twin daughters from school and was now educating them at home: home-schooling them, as we now like to say.  It seemed to her that there was no way

|  more  |  05/22/04

To Be or to Do
“I love this job!” crowed President Clinton as he performed across the country on his Presidential Farewell Tour in 2000.  No doubt he did, and now we know why.  After the mid-term elections of November 1994, he decided that his life’s goal

|  more  |  05/15/04

Power Still Matters
The defining event of our generation was 9/11.  It divided America into those who thought it was our fault, and those who thought it was their fault.  Lefties like Susan Sontag immediately wrote what millions of liberal hearts felt, that we brought it on

|  more  |  05/08/04

New Hope for Education Sufferers
Sixty-five million years ago, who knew that the magnificent dinosaurs would soon be extinct, and that the little furry things in the bushes would inherit the earth.  Today it is the education dinosaurs that plod majestically around on the fruited plain, scarfing up all the food in sight.

|  more  |  05/01/04

Climate Science Gets Serious
For years, I’ve scoffed at the Al Gores of the world and their bribed apologists in the science community.  Time after time, they have presented single point departures from an assumed eternal climate equilibrium and forecast imminent disaster unless we did something.

|  more  |  04/24/04

Conservative Passing Gear
For a hundred and fifty years at least, conservatives have been shouting: Stop! as assorted reformers and lefties have urged the world to advance boldly into the future, abandoning its shameful past.

It really is time to get over all that.  It is time to jam the old jalopy

|  more  |  04/17/04

Letter to Howie
Great article in the April Atlantic, HowieBut, hey, couldn’t you have used an editor?   I’d say that 15,000 word magazine article is approaching New Yorker levels of self-indulgence.

|  more  |  04/10/04

Middle Class Self-Government
Among the startling claims made by Lee Harris in his Civilization and its Enemies is the idea that one day in 1500 the German bourgeoisie woke up and decided that they didn’t need any more priests or warrior princes ruling over them.  They had been “making almost all the decisions

|  more  |  04/03/04

What Liberals Know That Isn't So
When liberals put down The New York Times on Sunday afternoon or turn off Morning Edition as they arrive at work they sigh with satisfaction in the knowledge they are better educated and informed than other people.  And so they are.  But then

|  more  |  03/27/04

Middle Class Family Values
He’d grown up fatherless, the caller told radio host Dennis Prager.  Now he was a born-again Christian with a wife and kids, and liked to think of Dennis as the father he never had. 

Everyone agrees that the conservative

|  more  |  03/20/04

Us Against the Gangs
The great problem of the Anglosphere is that its ideas are three hundred years old.  This means that the culture of democratic capitalism that dominates the world like a colossus is founded on ideas that groan with the load imposed upon them. 

|  more  |  03/13/04

Lee Harris: We Want More
What are we to do with the brilliant ideas of TechCentralStation contributing editor Lee Harris?  For instance there is the penetrating insight that politics is reducible not to John Rawls’ Veil of Ignorance, or Locke’s right-thinking self-interest, or the Hobbesian war of all against all,

|  more  |  03/06/04

Changing the Minds of Judges
The day after the president’s endorsement of the Federal Marriage Amendment, Rush Limbaugh was livid.  It made him feel powerless, he said, to realize that an unelected court in Massachusetts could change the age-old definition of marriage and the president could do nothing about it.

|  more  |  02/28/04

Our Unserious Liberals
The hardest thing for indispensable people to learn is that they are expendable.

Imagine what our indispensable liberals are thinking.  In four years, the evil Republicans have cut taxes, got us into a war, and demanded accountability from our

|  more  |  02/21/04

Fighting Purity on Valentine's Day
Did you shield your kids from the teens wearing white T-shirts the day before Valentines Day?  The bigots celebrating the purity of teen abstinence?  Oh good.  That’s what the GLTB community wanted.

|  more  |  02/14/04

Winning the Culture War
“Do whatever you want,” advised the Edwardian actress Mrs. Patrick Campbell to the apprentice libertine, “But don’t frighten the horses in the street.”  Perhaps the gay marriage ukase of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and the “Super Reveal” will make

|  more  |  02/07/04

The First Lady Is Our Queen
All of a sudden, a couple of weeks ago as the Dean campaign lay on the table in ER gasping for life, they decided to reinvent the independent Dr. Steinberg of Burlington, Vermont as Judy Dean in primary colors and TV makeup.   But when the nation crowded around to take a look, it turned out that

|  more  |  01/31/04

A Liberal View of The SOTU
Liberals aren’t too happy about President Bush’s State of the Union speech last week, and you can’t blame them.  In his review of the war on terror, the president seemed to reprise the old battery commercials of TV tough guy Robert Conrad: “I dare you.”

|  more  |  01/24/04

The Left Returns to Sacrifice
Ever notice how lefties are big on sacrifice?  Most of the Democratic presidential contenders were planning to roll back the Bush tax cuts, at least up until the moment they started to appeal for the votes of real Americans instead of movement lefties.

It’s not just

|  more  |  01/17/04

The Big Picture on Immigration
If you stop your tour bus by a rice paddy in China, you will soon be surrounded by people.  But if you stop your rental car along a county road in Iowa, you will see no-one.  The countryside in the U.S. is deserted, for everyone has gone to live in the

|  more  |  01/10/04

Letter to a Liberal
Listen up, liberals. I am about to tell you how to defeat the evil Republicans and sweep back to power.  It’s a very small thing, hardly worth mentioning.  You could do it without breaking a sweat.

|  more  |  01/03/04



Responsible Self

[The Axial Age] highlights the conception of a responsible self... [that] promise[s] man for the first time that he can understand the fundamental structure of reality and through salvation participate actively in it.
Robert N Bellah, "Religious Evolution", American Sociological Review, Vol. 29, No. 3.

Taking Responsibility

[To make] of each individual member of the army a soldier who, in character, capability, and knowledge, is self-reliant, self-confident, dedicated, and joyful in taking responsibility [verantwortungsfreudig] as a man and a soldier. — Gen. Hans von Seeckt
MacGregor Knox, Williamson Murray, ed., The dynamics of military revolution, 1300-2050

Civil Society

“Civil Society”—a complex welter of intermediate institutions, including businesses, voluntary associations, educational institutions, clubs, unions, media, charities, and churches—builds, in turn, on the family, the primary instrument by which people are socialized into their culture and given the skills that allow them to live in broader society and through which the values and knowledge of that society are transmitted across the generations.
Francis Fukuyama, Trust

What Liberals Think About Conservatives

[W]hen I asked a liberal longtime editor I know with a mainstream [publishing] house for a candid, shorthand version of the assumptions she and her colleagues make about conservatives, she didn't hesitate. “Racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-choice fascists,” she offered, smiling but meaning it.
Harry Stein, I Can't Believe I'm Sitting Next to a Republican

Liberal Coercion

[T]he Liberal, and still more the subspecies Radical... more than any other in these latter days seems under the impression that so long as he has a good end in view he is warranted in exercising over men all the coercion he is able[.]
Herbert Spencer, The Man Versus the State

Moral Imperatives of Modern Culture

These emerge out of long-standing moral notions of freedom, benevolence, and the affirmation of ordinary life... I have been sketching a schematic map... [of] the moral sources [of these notions]... the original theistic grounding for these standards... a naturalism of disengaged reason, which in our day takes scientistic forms, and a third family of views which finds its sources in Romantic expressivism, or in one of the modernist successor visions.
Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self

US Life in 1842

Families helped each other putting up homes and barns. Together, they built churches, schools, and common civic buildings. They collaborated to build roads and bridges. They took pride in being free persons, independent, and self-reliant; but the texture of their lives was cooperative and fraternal.
Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism

Society and State

For [the left] there is only the state and the individual, nothing in between. No family to rely on, no friend to depend on, no community to call on. No neighbourhood to grow in, no faith to share in, no charities to work in. No-one but the Minister, nowhere but Whitehall, no such thing as society - just them, and their laws, and their rules, and their arrogance.
David Cameron, Conference Speech 2008

Faith and Politics

As far as the Catholic Church is concerned, the principal focus of her interventions in the public arena is the protection and promotion of the dignity of the person, and she is thereby consciously drawing particular attention to principles which are not negotiable... [1.] protection of life in all its stages, from the first moment of conception until natural death; [2.] recognition and promotion of the natural structure of the family... [3.] the protection of the right of parents to educate their children.
Pope Benedict XVI, Speech to European Peoples Party, 2006

Never Trust Experts

No lesson seems to be so deeply inculcated by the experience of life as that you should never trust experts. If you believe doctors, nothing is wholesome: if you believe the theologians, nothing is innocent: if you believe the soldiers, nothing is safe. They all require their strong wine diluted by a very large admixture of insipid common sense.
Lord Salisbury, “Letter to Lord Lytton”

Conservatism's Holy Grail

What distinguishes true Conservatism from the rest, and from the Blair project, is the belief in more personal freedom and more market freedom, along with less state intervention... The true Third Way is the Holy Grail of Tory politics today - compassion and community without compulsion.
Minette Marrin, The Daily Telegraph

Class War

In England there were always two sharply opposed middle classes, the academic middle class and the commercial middle class. In the nineteenth century, the academic middle class won the battle for power and status... Then came the triumph of Margaret Thatcher... The academics lost their power and prestige and... have been gloomy ever since.
Freeman Dyson, “The Scientist as Rebel”

presented by Christopher Chantrill

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