Bury my heart at the Battle of Yarmouk by mattsteinglass
August 31, 2010, 2:14 pm
Filed under: Conservatism

It’s unbelievable, the stuff you can read in the National Review. Dennis Prager:

Even if we do compare the Crusades with contemporary Islamic jihadism, there is little moral equivalence. The Crusades were waged in order to recapture lands that had been Christian for centuries until Muslim armies attacked them. (Some Crusaders also massacred whole Jewish communities in Germany on the way to the Holy Land, and that was a grotesque evil — which Church officials condemned at the time.) As the dean of Western Islamic scholars, Princeton professor Bernard Lewis, has written, “The Crusades could more accurately be described as a limited, belated and, in the last analysis, ineffectual response to the jihad — a failed attempt to recover by a Christian holy war what had been lost to a Muslim holy war.”

The Byzantine provinces of Palaestina I and II fell to the armies of Islam in a series of battles and sieges between 636 and 642 C.E. The First Crusade was launched in 1095 C.E. It’s an interval of 453 years.

Some military campaigns Dennis Prager would apparently consider legitimate efforts to “recapture lands” that had been seized by the enemy:

1. All Native American military campaigns to retake territory from the United States government, anywhere in the United States.

2. A Mexican invasion of Texas, Arizona and New Mexico.

3. An Irish blitzkrieg to recapture Northern Ireland.

4. A Jordanian assault on Israel aimed at recapturing the West Bank and Jerusalem.

5. The Nazi invasion of Poland in 1939.

A case could be made for a joint Spanish-Belgian expedition against the Netherlands to retake Rotterdam for the Catholic Church. And we could go on, but really, what’s the point?

Glenn Beck, greatest scholar of progressive humanity by mattsteinglass
August 29, 2010, 12:13 pm
Filed under: Conservatism

Via Kevin Drum, we learn that Dick Armey praises Glenn Beck’s “serious, scholarly work“.

One of the things that we see as we look at Glenn Beck’s work that’s been fascinating to me, is we see a more true and accurate history of the United States, and we see it documented at levels of rigor that, in fact, one would expect out of Ph.D. dissertations — it is serious, scholarly work….[Liberal critics] don’t have to argue with Glenn Beck. They have to argue with his documentation and they can’t match that level of rigor.

I see what Armey is trying to say here, but I don’t think he’s really getting the tone right. I think he should take a look over here for some tips on how to do this properly; it ought to read more like this:

Long live Glenn Beck! The great coryphaeus of science, resolving more profoundly than anyone else the complicated problems of our time; the greatest humanist of our time, understanding better and more clearly than anyone else the interests of the millions of ordinary people of the world; the original giant of conservative thought and action; the ingenious thinker and scholar, forging all-powerful and unconquerable spiritual armor for the American people! Let us praise the irresistible strength of his logic, crushing or capturing the opponent; but most of all, his unshakeable faith in the masses and reliance on their experience.

I think that should do it. I think there are also huge volumes of testimony to Mao Tse-Tung’s genius as an economist; Kim Il-Sung, the world’s greatest nuclear scientist; and so forth, but I had a harder time looking those up, so the achievements attributed to Uncle Joe will have to serve as the model for now.

The struggle against epistemic closure by mattsteinglass
May 12, 2010, 9:06 am
Filed under: Conservatism, Politics, Uncategorized

The late great David Halberstam had a line in, I think, a commencement address a few years back about how journalists had to remember to be grateful at all times that people basically pay them to find stuff out. In general this is true. Anyway, it’s also part of our responsibility to fight against the natural personal tendency to restrict your sources of news to people with similar views to your own.To that end, I’ve put National Review Online in my RSS reader and am trying to keep up with their take on things. This evening, I was treated to this opening paragraph by Tony Blankley.

This country is divided into three parts concerning national politics. About a third think President Obama is moving in the right direction; many of them are impatient for the president to be bolder with his leftist agenda. Somewhere in the vicinity of 40 percent to 50 percent of Americans are shocked and appalled at the nation’s rush toward bankruptcy, socialism, fundamental transformation of our way of life, and the permanent weakening and impoverishing of America. And some 15 percent to 30 percent are quite concerned about the current state of the country but see no imminent crisis and think that with some substantial adjustments, President Obama’s efforts may end up being useful. (The foregoing numbers are merely my subjective judgment, not based on any particular poll.)

Oh for the love of Christ. Shut up! Wait, scratch that. I’m grateful to be a journalist and have the privilege of getting paid to find stuff out, even if what I’m finding out is that the function of the National Review Online is in large part to pay third-rate cranks to whinge, carp and make things up.

The high intellectual quality of the conservative opposition by mattsteinglass
April 19, 2010, 10:23 pm
Filed under: China, Conservatism, Obama, Uncategorized

A comment on a post at xpostfactoid:

You want placation? His “bowing” to saudi’s and chinese leaders is enough placation for me! This man HATEs America.

Chinese, Japanese, whatever.

I too believe that basketball fans can cover opera, but… by mattsteinglass
April 1, 2010, 9:58 am
Filed under: Conservatism, Liberalism, Media, race, Religion, Uncategorized

I think Conor Friedersdorf’s objections to “newsroom diversity as ideology” are, overall, wide of the mark. It would certainly be a pernicious mistake for communities to be covered only by people who came from those communities, or for journalists to be pigeonholed into reporting only on the communities they come from. But that’s not what the piece by Washington Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander to which Friedersdorf objects is talking about. Here’s the paragraph that Friedersdorf calls “nonsense”:

“You can’t cover your community unless you look like your community,” said Bobbi Bowman, a former Post reporter and editor who is a diversity consultant for ASNE. (Full disclosure: I [Andrew Alexander] sit on its board). “If you have a community of basketball players, it’s difficult for a newsroom of opera lovers to cover them.”

Friedersdorf writes:

Imagine diversity consultant Bobbi Bowman telling a black reporter, “I’m sorry, your work is good, and I’d like to grant your request to cover Georgetown for the Metro desk, but you can’t cover a community like Georgetown if you don’t look like the people there.”

But that’s not what Bowman said. She didn’t say you can’t cover basketball if you’re an opera lover. She said a newsroom full of opera lovers will find it difficult to cover a community of basketball players. Bowman is talking about the effect of diversity on communities, including the community of a newsroom. People in diverse communities soak up background knowledge from each other. They’re made aware of things they don’t know that they don’t know. They’ll walk in every morning and hear unfamiliar terms being bandied about, they’ll get an inkling of what’s going on out there and how much they have to learn.

In contrast, people in homogenous communities don’t know what they don’t know. They get trapped in echo chambers, and assume that the possibly ignorant opinions they and their demographically similar friends hold are accurate. The opera lovers at the Washington Post will likely do a solid job of covering a community of basketball players, but that’s in part because they’re surrounded by basketball fans. And the basketball players at the Washington Post will probably do a better job of covering opera if there are still a few opera fans left at the paper.

This is actually expressive of a pretty central tension in thinking about racial integration. Conservatism embraced the idea of an individualist anti-racism that permits no discrimination on any grounds by the late 1970s or so. But it did so in part by rejecting communitarian conservatism, which had been associated with support for segregation in the ’50s and ’60s. The orthodoxy on the conservative end of things became that expressed by John Roberts: “The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.” (Or, as Stephen Colbert would put it, “I don’t see black skin.”) Liberals, meanwhile, have not had an easy time of articulating the difference between barring consideration of gender, religion or ethnicity to exclude people from institutions, but allowing or encouraging consideration of gender, religion or ethnicity to include people in institutions and promote in-house diversity. And it’s a genuine problem: any time you consider one person’s under-represented identity to include them, you may be considering someone else’s over-represented identity to exclude them.

Still, what Bowman is saying here is like what universities say when they explain why they value diversity in admissions: diversity is mission-related. In sectors like education and media, diverse institutions perform better. The reporter you put on a beat doesn’t need to come from that beat. But the newsroom that’s covering all those beats will do a much better job if it contains a mix of people who come from all those beats, too.

There goes Sarkozy's post-retirement gig at AEI by mattsteinglass
March 30, 2010, 3:30 am
Filed under: Conservatism, Europe, Health care reform, Uncategorized

The President of France gave a speech yesterday at Columbia University. (Hat tip Kevin Drum.)

“Welcome to the club of states who don’t turn their back on the sick and the poor,” Sarkozy said, referring to the U.S. health care overhaul signed by President Barack Obama last week. From the European perspective, he said, “when we look at the American debate on reforming health care, it’s difficult to believe.”

“The very fact that there should have been such a violent debate simply on the fact that the poorest of Americans should not be left out in the streets without a cent to look after them … is something astonishing to us.”

Then to hearty applause, he added: “If you come to France and something happens to you, you won’t be asked for your credit card before you’re rushed to the hospital.”

But I bet he still loves hot dogs!

Howell Raines takes on Roger Ailes and Fox News by mattsteinglass
March 13, 2010, 9:00 am
Filed under: Conservatism, Media

I’m glad Howell Raines wrote a Washington Post op-ed excoriating his fellow establishment journalists for failing to “(blow) the whistle on Roger Ailes, chief of Fox News, for using the network to conduct a propaganda campaign against the Obama administration — a campaign without precedent in our modern political history.” But the op-ed itself is somewhat weak tea. When he decides to pick out a bit of egregious Fox up-is-downism, here’s how he does it:

This is not a liberal-versus-conservative issue. It is a matter of Fox turning reality on its head with, among other tactics, its endless repetition of its uber-lie: “The American people do not want health-care reform.” Fox repeats this as gospel. But as a matter of historical context, usually in short supply on Fox News, this assertion ranks somewhere between debatable and untrue.

He then goes on to note that, in fact, Americans have repeatedly shown broad demand for reform of the health-care system. This just isn’t a really great example of Fox outrageousness. I’d guess Glenn Beck says stuff that’s more disgusting and more clearly contradicts factual reality approximately every ten minutes.

What Raines does do, and what I think is novel, is accuse establishment journalists of being cowed into meekness by Fox News’s money, and by its ability to destroy their careers in a collapsing news-media environment where revenue is gradually trending to zero. There’s a pretty radical analysis hiding in there somewhere. What Raines is essentially saying is that the mainstream for-profit media is dominated by the need to make money, and that what it feels able to say is determined by constraints set by corporate power. I wouldn’t have thought the Howell Raines who did so much to undermine mainstream liberalism in the ’90s would be taking up that line, but maybe he’ll end up on Bill Moyers’s side of things yet.

Even the Oakeshottian libertarian compassionate crunchy-con non-partisan Conor Friedersdorf by mattsteinglass
March 11, 2010, 1:55 am
Filed under: Conservatism, Media

Twitter is an incredibly terse medium. Politics are becoming increasingly partisan. People are trying to cut through the chatter of a crowded media environment. Sentences are getting shorter.

Conor Friedersdorf wishes Glenn Greenwald hadn’t called him “Conservative Conor Friedersdorf” in a tweet. (Via Andrew Sullivan.) I can see where he’s coming from. If I had to pigeonhole Friedersdorf, I’d put him in that interesting sub-section of the political blogosphere comprising mainly libertarian-leaning independents who’ve differentiated themselves from the dull spartan prose of middlebrow mainstream journalism not by going pithy, sharp and ironic (Duncan Black, Matthew Yglesias, John Cole, Andrew Sullivan’s median post, and a thousand conservatives I dislike too much to name) but by going long and reflective (Will Wilkinson, Daniel Larison, and, on the more progressivish side of the genre, Julian Sanchez).

But technology constrains prose implacably. The tweet is our master, not the other way around. “Liberal Matt Steinglass: Friedersdorf crying in wilderness.”

Ponnuru and Lowry try to defend American exceptionalism by mattsteinglass
March 9, 2010, 10:56 am
Filed under: Conservatism

Here’s how Ramesh Ponnuru and Rich Lowry respond to Damon Linker’s critique of their essay on American exceptionalism.

‘Conservatives like Lowry and Ponnuru’ supposedly uphold ‘the fiction that America has always been a land of equal opportunity for all. Liberals respond by crafting policies that they hope will bring the country into closer conformity to the ideal of equal opportunity for all. That’s one way to define the division of labor that separates our nation’s parties at this moment in our history.’ Yes, that is one way: a childish and smug way, as well as an inaccurate one. (It’s not liberalism’s deep concern for the opportunities of poor people that motivates its opposition to school choice.)

Ponnuru and Lowry offer no other examples of liberal policies that are not genuinely motivated by concern for the poor. It’s just school choice. But on what basis do Ponnuru and Lowry claim “liberalism” is opposed to school choice? Liberals are divided on school choice. There’s no good recent nationwide polling data on how many liberals support different versions of school choice, be it vouchers, charter schools, or choice between different public schools. But 75% of residents of the District of Columbia, the most Democratic district in the country, supported the federally funded school voucher program there. Robert Reich and Cory Booker have supported school voucher programs. Charter and magnet schools are strongly supported by liberal constituencies.

More important, to the extent that liberals oppose school choice, I guarantee you that “concern for the opportunities of poor people” is precisely what motivates them. Opponents of school choice argue that giving parents the opportunity to exit schools leads to higher-attention, wealthier parents with more social capital taking their kids out, while the poorest kids with the least social capital, precisely the kids who need the most help, are left behind in collapsing, defunded institutions. (There is ample evidence to support this claim from existing charter-school programs.) They also argue that voucher programs always end up underfunded, and effectively become a way for the middle and upper classes to wash their hands of educating lower-class kids. They argue that only a sense of social solidarity can produce schools that effectively serve both rich and poor kids, and that programs for poor people are poor programs.

These arguments may be wrong, they may be unrealistic, they may be naive, and they may derive much of their political strength from a coincidence with the interests of teachers’ unions. Or they may be right. But they are absolutely motivated by concern for the opportunities of poor people. It is as offensive for Ponnuru and Lowry to state otherwise as it would be for me to state that their support for school choice is not motivated by concern for the opportunities of poor people, and to imply that they are really just interested in getting taxpayer-funded private school tuition support for middle-class Republican voters.

Sad times for the Netherlands by mattsteinglass
March 6, 2010, 1:24 am
Filed under: Conservatism, Netherlands

Geert Wilders held a press conference in London yesterday. Among other things, he called the Prophet Mohammed “a barbarian, a mass-murderer and a pedophile.” As the Volkskrant describes the scene, the international press fell silent. Mr Wilders then referred to Turkish premier Erdogan as a “total freak”. On a perhaps slightly less objectionable note, he said his priority as prime minister, should he receive that post, would be to halt “mass immigration” from Muslim countries.

Ten years ago, when I was living in the Netherlands, the far-right party of Jorg Haidar joined the Austrian governing coalition, and all over Holland, mainstream Dutch called for the country to be boycotted. Times sure do change.


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