URLs du Jour

2022-03-21

[Deep Thoughts]

  • Could be a long article. But Charles C. W. Cooke has a partial list of examples demonstrating The Extraordinary Vapidity of Kamala Harris.

    [NRPLUS] As if to put to rest forever all of those ticklish inquiries about Providence, the grave and trying moment in which we now find ourselves has brought with it a hero capable of rivaling any other. Her name is Vice President Kamala Harris, and she is to the nugatory platitude what Michelangelo was to the marble block: All challengers flee before her, all pretenders quit their thrones at the mere mention of her name. Listen carefully and one can hear the desperation as the most accomplished rattlebrains in America issue condign sighs of dismay. How talented is Harris? Talented enough to make the inanities uttered by her rival Pete Buttigieg sound substantive, concise, and apprehensible. Talented enough to make Dan Quayle seem like Pericles. Talented enough to make Marjorie Taylor Greene remind one of top-form Jane Austen. Never, in the field of human rhetoric, has an experiment in political growth been such a spectacular and unmitigated bust.

    To the uninitiated, Harris’s exquisite bromides may seem all to run together, like The Ring Cycle or Ulysses. And yet, as the Eskimo is able to distinguish between 400 types of snow, so the experienced Harris-watcher will learn to differentiate between the many innovative ways in which she is able to convey that she has no damned idea what she’s talking about. The key, counterintuitively, is to look not at what Harris says — that is fruitless — but at what her tone and vocabulary say about the vibe for which she’s aiming. When discussing energy, Harris has in mind a vague, albeit wholly unanchored, futurism. Thus we get sentences such as, “That’s why we’re here today — because we have the ability to see what can be, unburdened by what has been, and then to make the possible actually happen.” On foreign policy, Harris wishes to project a sobriety that is half-Churchill-in-the-House-of-Commons and half-Brutus-delivering-his-funeral-oration, but, because she has not done the reading and rarely knows where she is, she ends up sounding like a punch-drunk Napoleon at the opening of a suburban toy store. “I am here,” Harris said last week, an ersatz frown rippling awkwardly across her face, “standing here on the northern flank, on the eastern flank, talking about what we have in terms of the eastern flank and our NATO allies, and what is at stake at this very moment — what is at stake this very moment are some of the guiding principles . . .” On medicine, she, well, who knows, frankly? “This virus,” she has said. “It has no eyes.”

    Glad we cleared that up.

    [Our Eye Candy du Jour is from the Federalist's Kamala Harris Quotes as Motivational Posters shop. Apparently not at Amazon yet.]


  • Call yourself a libertarian? OK, but which kind? Stephanie Slade counts (at least) Two Libertarianisms.

    [That was the headline in Reason's April 2022 print edition. The online headline is "Must Libertarians Care About More Than the State?" and I'm not sure whether Betteridge's Law of Headlines applies to the latter.]

    Slade does a fine job of teasing out distinctions and tensions in libertarian philosophy. It's difficult to excerpt, so the opening paragraphs will have to do:

    It's rocky times for the conservative-libertarian partnership that characterized American right-of-center politics in the second half of the 20th century.

    Considerable attention has recently been paid to the rise of post-liberalism: the right-wing populists, nationalists, and Catholic integralists who fully embrace muscular government as a force for good as they define it. But there's little evidence as yet that most conservatives share such an affinity for big government. The simpler explanation is more banal: Often, when conservatives reject libertarianism, it's because of the cultural associations the word has for them.

    Conservatives, after all, are much more likely than other ideological demographics to believe in God and say faith is an important part of their lives; to feel unapologetically proud of American greatness; and generally to hold views regarding personal morality that might be described as socially conservative. Of course they would be reluctant to throw in with a group famed in large part for its licentiousness, hostility to religion, and paucity of patriotic zeal.

    But what if those associations are mistaken? If libertarianism properly understood has no cultural commitments, shouldn't that open up room to parley? Such a hope seems to have animated Murray Rothbard when he wrote in 1981 that "libertarianism is strictly a political philosophy, confined to what the use of violence should be in social life." As such, he added, it "is not equipped" to take one position or another on personal morality or virtue.

    As a longtime subscriber to both Reason and National Review, I manage to straddle philosophies pretty well. The overlap between them is huge. Even when I disagree with something I read in one or the other, it's seldom a "Geez, what an idiotic article" disagreement; it's a "I can see their point, but…" disagreement.

    The big conflicts are (1) abortion; (2) immigration; (3) foreign policy. I lean conservative on (1), undecided/wishy-washy on (2) and (3). If that matters.


  • Mistake not made here. Jeff Jacoby urges us to Make no mistake: Anti-Zionism is antisemitism.

    If Jewsplaining were an Olympic event, Paul O'Brien would be a contender for the gold.

    O'Brien, the executive director of Amnesty International USA, was the guest speaker at a March 9 luncheon hosted by the Woman's National Democratic Club in Washington, D.C. His topic was Amnesty's recent report labeling — or rather, libeling — Israel as an "apartheid" state. In the course of defending the report, O'Brien told his audience that Israel "shouldn't exist as a Jewish state" and suggested that most American Jews share his view. When a questioner cited a recent poll showing that lopsided majorities of American Jews identify as pro-Israel and feel an emotional attachment to the Jewish state, O'Brien replied: "I actually don't believe that to be true." What his "gut" told him, he said, was that "Jewish people in this country" don't think Israel needs to be a Jewish state — that it's enough for it to be "a safe Jewish space" that Jews can "call home."

    It takes astonishing chutzpah — or remarkable tone-deafness — for a non-Jew born and raised in Ireland to declare that the Jews of America don't really want Israel to be what it has been for 74 years: the reborn nation-state of the Jewish people.

    Jacoby points out what should be obvious: only Israel is a target for the "apartheid state" slur, when plenty of countries are built around similar policies.

    In related news, NHJournal notes the recent goings-on in our state's legislature: NH Dems Return to 'Apartheid State' Attacks Against Israel on House Floor.

    A simple resolution expressing the New Hampshire House’s support for Israel unleashed complex emotions on the House floor last week, with supporters sharing tearful stories and opponents labeling the nation an “apartheid state.”

    For Democrats, who overwhelmingly voted against the pro-Israel resolution, the troubling issue of antisemitism within their ranks was raised yet again.

    Late Thursday night, the House took up a resolution statingour strong support for the Jewish people and our truest ally in the Middle East, the Nation of Israel; the recognition of the current and historical capitol [sic] of Israel being in Jerusalem; and the location of the embassy of the United States now finally in Jerusalem where it should have been and where it should remain.”

    Only 15 statehouse Democrats voted in favor.


  • Woodrow Wilson comes off poorly. But he's not the only one. Presidential historian Tevi Troy recounts A century of toying with Ukrainians. (I imagine this might get him on Jonah Goldberg's "Remnant" podcast again.)

    Another cynical Ukrainian-related ploy took place in the administration of Woodrow Wilson. Wilson spoke in high-minded idealistic terms about “self-determination” of the ethnic peoples of Europe, a policy popular with the millions of Eastern European immigrants who had migrated to America. Wilson’s self-determination policy did not, however, extend to Ukraine, because he agreed with the British and the French that maintaining Ukraine as part of a Russian empire would be a stumbling block for the Bolshevik revolution. Wilson’s ally in this misguided effort, British Prime Minister David Lloyd George, dismissed the idea of Ukrainian independence by saying that he had only once seen a Ukrainian, “and I am not sure that I want to see any more.” This was an early example of the selective acknowledgment of national minorities’ right to self-rule.

    Wilson helped squelch an early opportunity for Ukrainian independence, with significant and tragic costs for the Ukrainian people. Soviet leader Josef Stalin initiated the Ukrainian famine, which killed over 3 million Ukrainians in the early 1930s. The famine coincided with the period in which newly elected President Franklin Roosevelt was contemplating U.S. recognition of the Soviet Union. The death of millions of Ukrainians under Soviet oppression complicated Roosevelt’s decision. To solve his problem, Roosevelt accepted the false reporting of the New York Times’s Walter Duranty, whose dispatches Roosevelt read and with whom Roosevelt even met in 1932 before becoming president. Duranty whitewashed the Ukrainian slaughter, enabling Roosevelt to proceed with his desired recognition in November 1933, even as Duranty accepted emoluments from Stalin that let him live in Moscow much better than the average Soviet citizen, let alone the starving Ukrainians.

    Other toy-players: Teddy Roosevelt, Nixon, Carter, George H.W. Bush, Obama, and Trump.