Long, boring, senseless Marxist and/or Randian
screeds to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Those I actually bother to read may have the names and addresses of their
authors printed here; fair warning.
It should also be noted, of course, that requests in polite e-mails (even those that tell me
how hopelessly wrong I am) to conceal names and/or addresses will be honored. But "don't publish this!"
will not work with me as a threat.
In considering only the U.S. versus the Muslim world, I think that Pipes’ analysis is quite accurate. In the larger context, taking into account the rest of the world, however, I think that he leaves out the "nation of tribesmen".
Europe is the home of the tribe par excellence, although it’s possible to find examples of tribal states in Asia. The tribe is viewed, internally and to a considerable extent externally, as being united by mystic ties of blood, language, and culture. The Auslander, save in exceptional circumstances, can never be adopted or assimilated into the tribe. The ultimate – and ultimately vile – expression of this view was the Nazi regime in Germany; the superficially more benign phenomenon of Gastarbeiter in the 1970s, however, pointed the way to the unassimilated Muslim populations in the U.K., France, Germany, and other European nations today. Multiculturalism is merely the scholastic expression of this tribal attitude; the mystic ties prevent between a tribe and its culture prevents them from ever being assimilated.
At the other extreme are Pipes’ "nations of inhabitants", living in the territory that a particular tyrant has mastered. This is the case in Africa and much of Asia; in Latin America, we see the case of "nation of inhabitants" evolving into "nations of tribesmen" over the past two hundred years. In the past, both tribes and arbitrary dominions fought it out for dominance when they could; a tribal chieftain often converted his tribe into an aristocracy to achieve empire.
The third element today, of course, is the "nation of citizens" or "nation of ideas", a notion that prevails, to a greater or lesser extent throughout the Anglosphere, including the United States. It has been said that America is the only nation one can study to become a citizen of, although this is an exaggeration that might be overlooked for the sake of the aphorism. This is not to deny that America contains both tribal and arbitrary elements (in many cases, the "tribe" conjured up is merely the vision of would-be tyrants), but, despite the best efforts of the chatterati, they are not and have never been dominant.
Empire has traditionally been the unification of many tribes under a government that is little more than a self-perpetuating police measure (or so they have begun). If America must be the nucleus of Empire (and, as I have written before, I have little hope that it will not be, and less hope that there will not be an Empire of some sort in this century), let be the nucleus of an Empire of Ideas, and not of an Empire of Order, as has so many times been tried in the past.
Alleged journalist Brendan O'Neill again demonstrates his cluelessness by denouncing interblog linkage.
He thinks that N.Z. Bear's Blogosphere Ecosystem is intended to be a list of blogs whose worth is measured in terms of their interconnectivity, despite Bear's repeated insistence that it is meant to measure only the interlinkage between blogs, and not their quality. As a journalist, however, we may suppose that he is accustomed only scribbling words, not reading them.
He repeats, in fact, the accusation that the linkage is "incestuous" (haven't we heard this before from the loony left? As a professional journalist, ought he not to learn some new words, if not to avoid clichés altogether?) He is, apparently, comfortable only with the academic position of sitting on his prat and laying down the law to a humble and receptive audience. The notion of actual discussion of what he doubtless calls his ideas by the unfortunate lecturees is foreign to him.
To reduce the degree of incestuousness in the blogosphere, I shall not bother to link to him. After all, linkage ought to be a measure of the worthiness of a blog, and his is not worthy of it.
To the right, we’re on the verge on missing the boat. As Suman Palit notes, the State Department is acting in a particularly harmful and clueless way with respect to India. Granting that Musharaf’s cooperation may have been useful, if not needed, for the short-term goal of smashing the Taliban, it ought not to have been bought at any price that included long-term guarantees of dismissing India. The elder Daley famously declared the purpose of the policeman is not to create disorder, but to preserve disorder. The striped-pants set at State seems to feel that the U.S. is the policeman of the world, with the same goal.
As I’ve written before, promising Musharaf, and even some of his cronies, a bolthole where they can enjoy their ill-gotten wealth and women is one thing. It is not a particularly admirable thing to do, but we might consider it preferable to the nuclear war that would very likely break out if this rat found himself cornered. It is another thing to promise him endless support against New Delhi. That promise will almost certainly be broken; a genuine assault by India would likely result in the sort of horrified clucking expected of the EU. It will also be yet another broken promise by the U.S.
Within the next 3-4 years, there will be a new political axis to look out for. I call it the I3 - axis of Israel-Iran-India. Together the I3 - axis has the potential to dramatically alter the balance of power in the region. Along with powerhouse Russia, they could open up the "southern silk route" and help integrate the growing free-market economies of Central and West Asia with those of South and South-Eastern Asia.
It would be to the discredit of the U.S., and harmful to it in every way imaginable, were we to try and insinuate ourselves into this alliance and be told, "Sorry, but you are not trustworthy enough for us to chance associating ourselves with you".
If we are to move on this, we must move now. We must formally bind ourselves, recognizing that, in consequence of our great military and economic strength, we may expect to have a dominant (but not dominating) role in any such agreement. Also, however, we must bind ourselves (and others) in such a way that recognizes that such dominance is not guaranteed to us by Heaven. As it is our role now to both be a leader and to make concessions because we can, we ought to request and require that such things are expected if another takes our place.
To the left, we have this article from Jim Henley. Adding Turkey to such an alliance would certainly mean our abandonment of the Kurds; the best that I can see happening in such circumstances is the creation of an autonomous but not fully independent Kurdistan coming about after a great deal of shifting of populations. Such a thing would be of questionable morality at best. If Turkey is not in the alliance, however, it means the abandonment of Turkey; we cannot and should not expect our allies to respond well to our saying, "Forget all your interests, and think only of relations between Washington and Ankara".
This balance of alliances and promises (which perhaps ought not to have been made; as they were made, however, they must be dealt with as a reality which can be changed but never forgotten) can be treated as Alexander is said to have treated the Gordian Knot in only one way. America must turn from the path of Empire (knowing that this rejection will not be emulated by every contender for the scepter). I fear that Americans do not have sufficient virtù now to have a republic; a hermit kingdom, à la Tokugawa Japan (but without the internal tyranny) is the best that we can do, whilst we wait for futur generations to re-learn virtùI.
Sannion is a "Hellenic Reconstructionist"; that is, a person who follows ancient Greek religion and philosophy (whch he has actually studied, not made up according to his prejudices). One interesting feature of his site is his "Convert Me" challenge, where he offers to listen to arguments in favor of other religions (he speaks almost entirely of Christianity, but that's fair enough, as it would be almost entirely Christians who take up this challenge).
OK, it's actually the bourbon's fault. He did send me an e-mail that made me think of it, though.
The Fine Art of Seppuku
Seppuku (only gaijin refer to it as "hari-kari") is a highly ritualized performance, as complicated as chado (tea ceremony). The principle difference is that at the end of chado, one is merely nauseated from too much green tea, whilst at the end of seppuku, one is dead.
The first thing to do is to recruit an assistant, a kaishkunin. Contrary to what is thought, almost all forms of seppuku do not technically involve suicide, but merely inflicting fatal injury upon oneself. The kaishakunin does the actual killing. If one is ordered to commit seppuku by the bafuku (shogunal government), it will generally appoint its own kaishakunin. Otherwise, one should ask a great iaijutsuka (practitioner of the technique of killing with a single sword stroke) or a close personal friend to be one’s kaishakunin. If asked out of friendship, one may refuse on the grounds that one’s waza (sword technique) is inadequate; if the request is repeated, however, one should consent gracefully, as flaws in technique will be forgiven (by the living).
Seppuku is ideally committed by in a garden or a Buddhist temple (Shinto temples should not be defiled by death). The participant dresses in white, to express purity of intention and sits in the seiza position (legs drawn up under the body so that one is actually sitting on one’s heels). A servant places the sanbo (an unlacquered wooden table) before one. It will contain a sake cup, a sheaf of washi (paper handmade from mulberry bark) and writing accoutrements, and the kozuka (disemboweling blade). This can be a tanto (dagger) blade without hilt, wrapped in several sheets of paper to provide a better grip. Real samurai, however, use their own wakizashi. If one is of tender years, or judged too dangerous to be trusted with steel, a fan may be substituted for an actual blade.
The sake cup is filled from the left, by an attendant using his left hand (this is indescribably rude under other circumstances). The person committing seppuku then empties it in two drinks of two sips each (one sip would show greed, whilst three or more would show hesitation). This makes a total of four sips; shi, "four", also means "death" (Nihonjin just love these kinds of puns, especially when they’re about to kill themselves).
One then writes a death poem in the waka style (five lines of five, seven, seven, five, and seven syllables). The poem should be graceful, natural, and about transient emotions. Under no means should it mention that the fact you are about to die. Asano, whose seppuku precipitated the famous "Forty-seven ronin" incident, is said to have written a particularly poor death poem, showing the immaturity and lack of character that led to his being ordered to commit seppuku in the first place.
At this point, the person slips out of his outer garment (kamishimo) and tucks the sleeves under his knees to prevent him from doing something undignified like slumping to one side. He picks up the kozuka, and with his other hand picks up the sanbo and places it under his buttocks, to cause him to lean forward slightly in the proper attitude.
If the person committing is so young or so evil that a fan has been substituted for a blade, the kaishakunin executes a kirioroshi strike (a vertical cut) as soon as the person committing seppuku touches the fan to his stomach. Otherwise, he will typically wait until the person plunges the blade deep into the left side of his belly, and draws it across to the right, with a sharp upward cut at the end. A samurai who feels himself capable may then plunge the blade into his groin and cut upwards to the sternum, followed by a horizontal cut at the base of the rib cage. However, the kaishakunin is supposed to keep a sharp (heh, heh) eye out, and strike at the first sign of pain or hesitation in his principle.
The kirioroshi, incidentally, was not intended to actually sever the head, but to leave it attached by a strip of skin at the throat. It was considered infra dig for one’s principal’s head to go spinning across the room, spraying blood as it went; only low-class criminals were treated thus. Especially one should not whack one’s principal in the jaw with the katana, as Yukio Mishima’s kaishakunin did in 1970. As noted above, minor imperfections in one’s waza would be forgiven if one was acting as kaishakunin out of friendship, but acting in such a piss-poor manner gets one talked about, and not in a good way.
After the person committing seppuku is finally, the sanbo, the kozuka, and the katana are all discarded as being defiled by death.
Incidentally, real badasses did kill themselves, in the ritual known as jumonji giri. This is just like seppuku, except that there is no kaishakunin. After disemboweling yourself, you sat quietly and bled to death over the next half-hour or so. The last person to do this historically was General Nogi, who did it as junshi (following one’s lord in death) on the death of the Meiji emperor in 1912. He not only committed jumonji giri, he buttoned up his white naval blouse afterwards.
Reasons to commit seppuku were junshi (although was strictly discouraged by the bafuku and daimyo, as it used up too many perfectly good retainers), funshi (to express one’s indignation at a situation), kanshi (as an admonishment or rebuke to one’s lord for his behavior), to atone for dishonorable actions of one’s own, and to avoid capture and disgrace (and probable torture and execution) in battle. In such circumstances, of course, there usually wasn’t time for the whole ritual, so expedients as cutting one’s own throat, throwing oneself from a running horse with a sword in one’s mouth, or flinging oneself off high walls, towers, or cliffs were winked at. In 1516, Muira Yoshimoto committed suicide by cutting off his own head, something that got him a gazillion style points (he was still dead, however).
The local TV news makes much of the fact that the Down closed barely 8000 today.
The S&P 500 closed at 847.75 -- which, I believe, gives it a trailing P/E (price divided by earnings in the last 12 months) of 17.3, compared to a historical ratio of 14.7, and a PEG (price divided by earnings times expected growth) of 1.39 -- a clear "sell" sign.
Apparently, an awful lot of people -- not just sell-side analysts -- are still hoping that something can be salvaged out of the "New Economy" myth and the market bubble of the late '90s.
Why do Wiccans suck? The author is, I think, arguing that Wiccans do not suck, but that teenagers who think that pretending to be Wiccan is cool suck. As he says, "Wicca is a religion, and witchcraft is a science, and neither is a fashion statement" (although I think that witchcraft, which he seems to equate with ritual magic, ought to be reckoned more of a technology that a science).
I feel the same way about teenagers who think that a Goth is a vegetarian pretending to be a vampire, and not a fur-clad barbarian who trashed the Roman Empire.
(UPDATE: And I forgot to mention that the link comes through Andrew Ian Dodge. Shame on me.)
I think there is some confusion, although not a hopeless amount. We ought to distinguish between secularizing marriage (actually, I would object to calling it "marriage" thereafter, as "marriage" is a religious rite) and privatizing marriage. The two exist as points on a spectrum, and there is some ground between them where one or two bright lines should be drawn, probably arbitrarily.
Whitlock’s grounds for objection appear to be confused. He argues that a privatization of marriage would discourage people, especially men, from entering in to it. This is, I think, an attitudinal problem (on the part of people getting married, not on Whitlock’s part). "No default" divorce has made the formal dissolution of a marriage an almost trivial thing (although as Robert Heinlein had one of his character say, even if divorce takes ten seconds, sorting out the consequences can take ten years). This fact, combined with a societal attitude that divorce carries no stigma, means that marriage is now viewed as a temporary affair suited to the emotional whims of the participants. It is not surprising that any proposal to make marriage more binding, whether through a revision of the current laws, secularization, or privatization, would make people more reluctant to undertake an obligation that they could not shirk at will.
I note again that there is a difference between the legal, religious, and social significance of marriage. Several Christian sects do not recognize divorce, or place considerable limitations on its perceived efficacy or on the actions of a person who is involved in it. Somewhat ironically, some (not Whitlock) who are opposed to the privatization of marriage decry this attitude. At the other extreme, I am told (I have not searched for evidence to confirm or to deny this) that some Muslim cultures, with or without the endorsement of the Koran, recognize a form of "marriage" so temporary as to be indistinguishable from prostitution. Whitlock objects that that in a wholly privatized religious regime, the officiating party might attempt, through a presumed legal enforcement of a marital contract, to restrict or even abolish the right to divorce. In a purely libertarian context, such a contract might indeed be deemed efficacious by the court. On the other hand, short of that context, the courts do not enforce such agreements, as being contrary to "public policy" (this has, in fact, been the primary reason that the courts are reluctant to enforce pre-nuptial agreement).
The legal entanglements of marriage in its current state is beneficial for keeping couples together. . It makes staying the path of least resistence during the tough times until they get better. I don't want the government viewing marriage sacramentally, as many social conservatives do, but I do want to, if not encourage, avoid discouraging the family unit. Study after study has shown that the state has a vested interest in keeping (most) families together when possible. Despite all its faults, the current system does that.
However, the current legal regime, reflecting (however imperfectly) the social attitude, does not do this.
(UPDATE: Aaron questioned me as to why I had removed this article. It was because the damned graphs weren't displaying; as I was going out in an (ultimately futile) attempt to remind certain people that I'm alive and in need of a contract, I just pulled it rather than play further with it. It appears that some bizarre interaction between CityDesk and other software was preventing the graphs from being imported properly. Go figure.)
I'll (hopefully) go to bed soon, since I want to get up tomorrow to get my hair trimmed.
I'm of two minds about that. To the right, it's just gotten long enough to swing my ponytail over one shoulder, and having it trimmed and shaped will probably cost about an inch of that length. To the left, I really want it to look less like the bundle of twigs that chick on the Thermasilk commercial has for hair.
The local news is reporting that up in South Windsor, CT, a pack of coyotes attacked and killed a family pet/service animal. They recommend that if you see a coyote, you should get the pets and kids inside, and make a loud noise to scare it off.
I agree with the latter; in fact, I think that the best noise for the purpose is the report of a heavy hunting rifle. Whilst this may not be practical politics in a suburban area like this one (or South Windsor, for that matter), it is likely to make a deep impression on the coyote -- hopefully, an impression that extends from one side to the other.
Coyotes are highly intelligent animals. They just need to be reminded occasionally that, as Terry Pratchett put it, human meat has sharp edges.
I note that both Rand Simberg and Bill Quick have articles about privatizing marriage; they may well be others out there that I haven't seen. To a very great extent, I don't see a problem with this.
Marriage has legal, religious, and social significance. In respect of its legal significance, I see no problem with replacing it with a purely legal and secular institution -- call it "domestic partnership". Naturally, such partnerships will be entered into by people who have no sexual or romantic relationship -- although the notion of "romantic love" has proven to be a particularly unsuitable one for basing a relationship on.
I don't see a problem with the state acting as the registrar of domestic partnerships, although it should be rebuttable that such a relationship does or does not exist because it has been registered or not registered by the state. Likewise, I don't see a problem with the state defining a default set of rights and responsibilities, to be modified ad libitum by the partners; people in the throes of infatuation are notoriously poor at thinking through the consequences of their actions, and it would be embarassing (at the very least) were they to try and terminate their partnership and find 99% of their relationship to be undefined.
Kenneth Burke feels that such a policy might not adequately protect any children produced by such a union. To the extent that the children of a failed partnership are to be provided for by the state, I think the state is entitled to examine the provisions (or lack of them) in the partnership agreement, and even to veto such a partnership if those provisions are fiund to be unsuitable. Naturally, the state's default provisions are, ipso facto, to be considered suitable, and the less deviation from these, the greater the burden on the state to prove that they have been modified in an unsuitable way. Indeed, I would not give a ministerial official veto power at all, although I would accept her forwarding such to the court, with the court's not acting within a certain period of time to connote acceptance of the terms. To the left, I would suggest that the state has no obligation (other than whatever right of acting in loco parentis it may be conceded to have) if the partnership is not registered by it, as it cannot be bound by terms that it does not know about.
As for the religious and social significance...well, there's really nothing the state can do about this, nor, IMNSHO, should it. Although there are doubtless radicals of the left and right who fantasize about sending out minions with badges and guns to force priests, rabbis, bonzes, etc. to do or not do certain things, they are in a tiny minority compared with those would violently object to such presumption on the part of the state, a nomenklatura, or a politicized hierarchy. Those who do advocate it might wish to temporarily abandon their certainty that they can sway society to their views, and imagine such power granted to a state in the control of their enemies.
6 oz. mini rigatoni1 3 ¼ cups whole milk2 2 Tbsp. flour, generously packed 2 generous Tbsp. unsalted butter 7 oz. (or more) Danish Blue 4 oz. Cabot Hunters (Seriously Sharp Cheddar) 3 tomatoes (1 lb.) seeded and cut in ½ " dice 2 heaping Tbsp. grated parmesan ½ tsp. paprika ¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper Salt ¾ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
Coarsely grate the cheddar, cut about 3 oz. white part off the blue cheese (reserve the blue), grate finely, and refrigerate. Boil water for pasta according to package directions. Melt butter in heavy pan, add flour and stir over medium heat until foam subsides, about 1-2 minutes. Do not allow to brown! Add pepper and nutmeg, and whisk milk in gradually. Set heat at low to medium, stir sauce constantly until thickened. Add cheeses and stir until melted. Pour into blender and blend until smooth (addition of the blue cheese will usually curdle the sauce3). Cook pasta about 12-13 minutes. Drain the pasta, rinse it in cold water, allow it to cool, and drain again. Grease 9x9 baking dish, mix sauce and pasta, and place in dish (it may be refrigerated overnight at this point and a superior dish will result). Mix parmesan and paprika and set aside. Slice blue portion of cheese 1/8" thick, break them into half pieces and top the casserole with them. Cover all with diced tomato, salt, pepper, and parmesan/paprika mixture. Bake at 400°F for 30-45 minutes (longer if previously refrigerated).
1Barilla is the only manufacturer as of this writing 2Use 3 cups for a drier dish that is not going to be reheated 3Taste for salt at this point; add 1/2 tsp. if needed
Brendan O'Neill shows the education expected of a man of his age and station -- none whatsoever.
Aside from his confusion of Persians with Arabs, which will earn him but short shrift if he visits either Iran or Iraq, he condescendingly demonstrates his contempt of the plight of others (no doubt he adheres to the ancient and discredited English custom of believing that "the wogs start at Calais"):
-- That the people of Iran deserve to live under a government of their own choosing. As long as they don't choose a government that dislikes women, disrespects human rights, builds weapons, is too nationalistic, challenges America, and in any other way offends East and West Coast bloggers’ sensibilities.
-- That the current Iranian regime has failed to create a free and prosperous society. And they failed not because the Bush administration isolated Iran by rejecting moderate Iranians' attempts to become a Western ally and irrationally labelling them part of the axis of evil, but because Iranian leaders are backward and barbarous and uncivilised.
Of course, O'Neill is not a woman; indeed, if he weren't afraid of being mistaken for a Jew by Mona Baker, he would probably go around muttering, "Baruch ata adonay elohenu melech haolam shelo asani isha". Nor does he about human rights, evidently (no doubt he is a supporter of New Labor and the EU). He also fails to note that the regimes of the Ayatollahs in Iram is a wee bit older than the Bush administration.
But, as O'Neill reminds us at every opportunity, he is a journalist, a real journalist, and, as has been said, a journalist is a man who knows nothing about everything. A mere look at "real" British journalism shows that facts and truth are as nothing, propaganda and regurgitation of uneducated opinion everything.
I have had occasion to say that, if Europe represents civilization, I would prefer to live in barbarism. I will now add to that that, if O'Neill represents journalism, then I would prefer to live in ignorance.