Sunday, 18 February 2007


If I were a progressive, I wouldn’t be cocky. After all, progressives have won only five of the past 14 (and two of the past seven) presidential elections.

The Costs of Hegemony

One of my colleagues sent a link to this fascinating essay by Keith Windschuttle. The United States is hated because it is powerful, and it is envied because it is good. Americans should take no heed of either the hatred or the envy. We should continue the course that saved the world many times over during the 20th century. As for why some of those who hate the United States are Americans, that’s no puzzle. It’s self-hatred. Many progressives feel guilty for having so much when others have so little, even though they have done nothing to deprive others of the goods that we take for granted. Guilt transmutes into hatred. Have you ever known a psychologically healthy (or happy) progressive? Many of them, such as Brian Leiter, are roiling cauldrons of emotion: guilt, hatred, envy, resentment, anger, shame, and spite. The trick for conservatives is to keep progressives away from the levers of power. Putting them in the academy is one way to render them innocuous. It’s no accident that we have the expression, “It’s academic.”

Addendum: Those who can’t do, teach. Those who can’t teach, teach law. Those who can’t teach law, teach jurisprudence.

Twenty Years Ago

2-18-87 . . . There’s a television miniseries these days that’s causing a stir. Entitled Amerika, it portrays the United States some ten years after being overthrown and occupied by the Soviet Union. I watched parts of the first two episodes, beginning Sunday. The basic premise of the show, I must say, is absurd. No country, including the Soviet Union, could occupy the United States without devastating war, violence, and constant unrest. In the series, the American people go about their business, although they clearly resent the Soviet presence and take every opportunity to oppose it and speak out against it. From what I’ve read, conservatives oppose the series because it doesn’t portray life under a Soviet regime harshly enough, while liberals oppose it because it may inflame viewers against the Soviet Union, thus jeopardizing arms-control talks and other diplomatic relations. Ratings have not been good thus far, so perhaps it will not affect people one way or another. In my opinion, the series isn’t very interesting.

Lincoln Allison on Persuasive Definition

Many words have both dynamic and descriptive meanings. ‘Democracy’ refers to certain constitutional arrangements, but it also carries an expression of approval. ‘Fascism’ refers to a theory of man and a (supposedly connected) corporatist arrangement, but it also expresses disapproval and has been applied to communists and to liberal capitalists. Words are weapons of considerable rhetorical power. Precision and clarity are often superseded by political commitment and ambition as words are stretched well beyond their limits to show that this socialist regime is a democracy or that leader is a fascist. One of the principle [sic] moves in this game is what Stevenson called ‘persuasive definition’, the redefinition of terms to suit one’s own moral or political values. When persuasive definition takes places among people who share the same values, semantic absurdity often results: unemployment becomes an act of ‘violence’ or pornography a form of ‘pollution’ or an economic theory an ‘obscenity’.

(Lincoln Allison, Right Principles: A Conservative Philosophy of Politics [Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1984], 44)

Trying to Remember the Chords

Here is a New York Times story about The Police, which is reforming. I have all five Police albums on compact disc. My favorite—though not by much—is Zenyatta Mondatta (1980).

From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

You are seriously off the mark in your editorial about doctors’ ethics. Yes, doctors are sworn to “do no harm.” But whether something is legally permissible is not the sole criterion, because not everything that is immoral or harmful is illegal.

Doctors, like everyone else, have to exercise their judgment about the consequences of their actions and advice. Where there is a conflict between their patients’ interests and what is good or right, they can and should weigh one against the other. They are not robots.

Mark DeBellis
New York, Feb. 13, 2007

A Year Ago


Safire on Language