November 27, 2009

Och Rocks On: Thanksgiving Debate

The Ochlophobist is a Memphis blogger. He has posted a screed on Thanksgiving that is well worth reading and pondering. The latter part of the post is a good story about bullying and other antics at a Mennonite school. Well worth reading but hardly food for debate.

The former part questions Thanksgiving, among other things because it is surrounded by patrioteering mythology. Our kindergarteners dress as Pilgrims and Indians, and are told about the harmonious beginnings of our country, but not about the massacres that followed not so long after, which were also the occasion of Thanksgiving by the Puritan community. A long history followed, in which our forbears were far from blameless.

Och sees Thanksgiving as an idolatrous feast, in which we gorge ourselves on packaged foods, and celebrate our nation as if it were a god, rather than a flawed set of human institutions. Och is not a zealot, and celebrates with his family, but uncomfortably.

Och, as usual, is onto something. In our sometimes frantic efforts to weld a bunch of immigrants and their descendants, from many different ethnies and religions, into a nation, we tend to become loud, assertive, and if challenged, defensive. Perhaps we have no need constantly to beat our breasts about the crimes of our predecessors, but neither should we be oblivious to them. The ideology of American exceptionalism is indeed idolatrous, and has provided some of the rationale for foreign misadventures from the Phillipines to Iraq. We can love our country without bowing down to it as a god or fashioning a mythology to deify it.

Thanksgiving is part of a festival cycle that has grown up. We can say that it is as follows:

New Year's

American readers will be familiar with the rituals and symbols involved, and because analysis could get tedious, let's leave it at that. This cycle is no longer recognizably Christian, as its personifications (Witches, ghosts, and goblins; turkeys, Pilgrims, and Indians; Santa, Rudolph, Jimmy Stewart and Bob Cratchit; the Old Man and the Baby New Year) show. For some Christians, the Holy Family and the crêche play a minor part, but if one listens to the music in public places, it's "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" and "Chestnuts Roasting Round An Open Fire," not "Come All Ye Faithful" or "Angels We Have Heard On High." The religious expressions are frequently treated as private and if expressed in the public square, offensive.

I am not raising the spectre of the "War Against Christmas," which by now is a straw man. If there was such a war, the Christians have long since surrendered.

Ho ho ho.

Follow the money.

The "Russian Whore Test"

Like a freeway gawker looking at a crash, or a spectator at a bum-fight, I am drawn to Commentary Magazine's contentions blog, to see how degenerate neoconservatism and hasbara can become. Max Boot, usually one of the site's less-deranged bloggers, posting about the importance of Dubai, despite its financial troubles, today blew my weak mind:
But still for all of Dubai’s excesses it is a wonder that it has gotten this far. It deserves not ill-disguised glee at its misfortunes but a degree of respect for its willingness to flout traditional Arab taboos. It is, for example, a place where Emiratis in white robes rub shoulders with Russian hookers in mini-skirts — a place where it’s perfectly possible to get a nice cocktail (and not a “mocktail,” as in Kuwait) in a public bar, and to do so in the middle of Ramadan if you’re feeling parched at that point.
If an Islamist needed an example of not merely the West, but Western Jews, promoting the destruction of traditional culture in the Middle East, Boot has provided it.

I do not romanticize Islamic culture. There is, no doubt, plenty of sexual hanky-panky in Islamic societies, as there is in almost all. If, however, the test of an enlightened society is the presence of Russian whores and the availability of martinis in public places, the game of spreading modernity by force of arms or by largesse financed through the sale of paper to the Chinese is not worth the candle. Let them import their own damned whores.

November 13, 2009

Things Are Changing

As Netanyahu knows, there is consensus support among Israelis for his plan to ensure that the country retains defensible borders in perpetuity. This involves establishing permanent Israeli control over the Jordan Valley and the large Jewish population blocs in Judea and Samaria. In light of the well-recognized failure of the two-state solution, Hamas's takeover of Gaza and the disintegration of Fatah accompanied by the shattering of the myth of Fatah moderation,Israel should strike out on a new course and work toward the integration of Judea and Samaria, including its Palestinian population, into Israeli society. In the first instance, this will require the implementation of Israeli law in the Jordan Valley and the large settlement blocs.
--Caroline Glick

Seems like the ogress has embraced the one-state solution, albeit without the right of return, and she'd like to finesse letting all the Palestinians on the West Bank vote right away. Would she also let them travel and work throughout the country, on the same roads, dismantle the roadblocks, etc.?

I still fear the real plan is to provoke a war and carry out "transfer" (expulsion) under cover of the crisis, but perhaps she's serious.

In any case, Oslo is just about over, and apartheid will not stand.

November 9, 2009

Hofstadter Again

Paul Krugman invokes the ghost of Richard Hofstadter. Hofstadter was a Columbia historian who wrote an essay on "The Paranoid Style in American Politics."

A reaction to the perceived abused of Sen. Joseph McCarthy, Hofstadter's essay was a middlebrow version of the Frankfurt School's "authoritarian personality" concept. In essence, the argument is that the people whose views one dislikes aren't mistaken or even corrupt, but crazy.

It seems that the voting cattle of the Republican Party, whom their pro-corporate leaders regularly betrayed or ignored, are taking over the ranch. Krugman, seeing rising unemployment and the retreat into the woodwork of the non-white and youthful voting cattle of the Democrats, fears the GOP will make gains in 2010, but becoming the party of no, as in California. Krugman of course ignores the fact that the Democrats in California bear a big share of the responsibility for the state's fiscal disaster.

There's not much to like about the current GOP, other than the fact that they vote "no," often a good idea. But they aren't crazy.

The accusation is vicious and unsupported, and the Dems aren't models of probity and wisdom. Krugman has a log in his eye.

November 2, 2009

We Are, Indeed, Doomed

I just finished John Derbyshire's We Are Doomed.

The style is sprightly and witticisms abound, concealing the fact that the arguments are deep and the conclusions founded in considerable erudition.

The conceit is the familiar one that conservatism is founded in a belief in the fallenness, or at least the imperfection of human nature, and the complexity and proneness to error inherent in social arrangements. Hence impulses to uplift frequently cause trouble, and social experiments regularly fail.

Running through diversity, foreign policy, immigration and economics, Derbyshire serves up a healthy dose of pessimism.

The one consolation, perhaps, is that when market observers are uniformly optimistic, the bubble is often about to burst, and when the bears rule, prosperity is just around the corner.

When it comes to public policy, however, fuggedabadit. The lampreys have battened on the entrails of the body politic, and will not be easily dislodged.

UPDATE: Edited to delete repetitions caused by careless copy-and-pasting.