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Thomas Fleming
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I should have answered the statement of what Muslims want. First off, in saying "what Muslims want..." one is stereotyping all Muslims as violent idiots. I have met enough intelligent Muslims to know they are not all stupid. Second, even people who go into a street mob might easily find out that under the US Constitution, it would be very difficult for the government to stop this video from being made or posted. Although I am far from being a passionate defender of the modern liberal tradition of free expression, it is one of the West's peculiarities that is embedded in the First Amendment to the Constitution. That Islamic regimes on principle deny all freedom of expression is one of the many things some of us in the West don't find attractive in Islam. De gustibus etc.
Thank you all for your comments. I believe I made it plain that I was not endorsing Islam as a religion or making the mistake of regarding it as peaceful. I have read enough of the Koran and about Islam and studied enough history of the period to form an adequate knowledge of how Muslims enslaved and terrorized the Christian populations of the Middle East and the Balkans, to say nothing of Spain and Sicily. From bases in Provence and Southern Italy they terrorized pilgrims, merchants, and the local populations until they were suppressed. What Muslims do in their own countries is none of their business, however, and I strongly object to the US policy of inflicting war on any country that dares to stand up to us. To anyone who seriously believes that the demonstrations around the world are about some stupid video, I have some Florida real estate and several bridges in New York I'd like to sell.
Thanks for the comments. I don't see why a Christian would wish to drag the Creator of all that is visible and invisible into political squabbles, much less why a Christian would think that He has something to do with the state of Israel founded, by and large, by secular Marxists. Try asking Christians, whether Russian or Arab, what it is like to live in Israel, and you may learn something you'd rather not know. The interweaving of religion and politics is a necessary component of a healthy society. The UK and the USA are not healthy societies, quite the opposite, and in the USA where I live, the political and media elite hate nothing as much as they hate Christianity. It is a fool's game for Christians to play the God game, whether in America or in Israel. I know that writers cannot expect much, these days, from their readers, but it would be nice to see some evidence that readers have actually read the article they are attacking. Once upon a time, one might have to do a little work to find out that a writer was a professing Christian. These days it requires about 15 seconds on Google.
VD Hanson knows a good deal about Athenian military history, more than many, perhaps most ancient historians in the US. He is also, alas, an ideologue with populist/nationalist obsessions. Whenever he is on an ideological tear, he is not to be trusted. Class distinctions are inevitable in the military Richer Athenians, at least at the time of Persian Wars, gravitated toward the cavalry, and it was a gallant gesture when Cimon led a procession of young aristocrats to dedicate their bridles to Athena and enter the ranks. Hanson is certainly right to emphasize--as Aristotle did--the Athenians' sense of unity, but the mere fact that people were paid to row in the fleet is an indication of a class distinction. By the end of the 5th century, they were hiring mercenaries to do the dirty work that poorer Athenians had been happy to do a generation earlier. It's a complicated subject, not one to be settled by glib generalities about dogface soldiers or Athenian unity. Put simply, both sides are off base.
First off, thanks to everyone for taking the time to make a comment. Prateek's plan might sound good at first, but it is the old fable of belling the cat: Who gets to do it, that is, who gets to decide who is or is not qualified for citizenship? I am not going into the question here, but it seems obvious to me that the Athenians were correct to emphasize birthright as the basis for citizenship (ius sanguinis) and not the accicdent of location (ius soli). In America we adopted the ius soli which is a byproduct of the Norman Conquest that only serves to undermine nationhood. I would advise Colin to look at things I have written in books, in Chronicles magazine, and in long discussions of Aristotle's Politics on The piece I wrote was already much too long for a newspaper website, and it would have doubled in length even to take up the question of citizenship. The argument I have made in the past is that only net-contributors should be considered for citizenship: This eliminates welfare dependents and government employees. I, too, know honorable and otherwise sensible people who are involved in politics, and for the purpose of full disclosure I made a few feeble efforts on behalf of my friend Pat Buchanan. There are also honorable and otherwise sensible people in prison, some of whom have not even committed a crime. One could hardly deduce from that this that most people on average who go to prison or attend a party's national convention are honorable and sensible. There are two signs that Dave is not at ease with his decision to participate in politics: first, he nowhere states a principle or a policy he is working for, and second, he falls back on the nasty personal attacks we expect from the unreflective classes. Dare I say the 99% Every four years conservatives get all het up about electing this or that miserable specimen of humanity, and I don't know which is worse, to fail or to succeed. I had very wealthy friends who backed Bush II from the beginning. I warned them that he was a spiteful small-minded fool who would be a disaster as president. I don't dare ask them what they think after he bankrupted his country fighting two pointless and immoral wars. Finally, to whomever it was who gave the knee-jerk progressive answer--they did not used to let women vote so hurrah for democracy--there is no answer that can be given to the Chatty Cathy dolls with a limited repertoire of programmed responses. It is possible to make a good argument that women's suffrage was and/or is a good thing, but it is not a self-evident truth. Nor is it self-evident that even if it were a good thing (note the contary-to-fact subjunctive), it would trump all other good things.
Toggle Commented Aug 30, 2012 on Down With Democracy! at Mail Online - Thomas Fleming
Far from intending any disrespect to Calhoun, I used him as an example of the sort of statesman that Van Buren wished to, first, instrumentalize and then to eliminate. I agree entirely with Prof. Wilson, who knows more of these matters than I ever shall. I'm afraid I don't get Ms Jacobs' point. Every few years the Thought Police try to eliminate perfectly good words from the language, and it is our duty to defy them. Retarded is itself a euphemism for feeble-minded. (Children a decade or so back used to refer to them as MR's.) It was replaced, in our official lexicon, by challenged, differently abled, and--best of all--special. Once upon a time, Bobby Helms sang to the girl of his dreams as "my special angel." Today, we should have to imagine her as a wingless angel of low intelligence. I was going to ask Ms Jacobs if she thought mentally retarded people were likely to read my column, but then, of course, she did.
Toggle Commented Aug 29, 2012 on Down With Democracy! at Mail Online - Thomas Fleming
The Republican convention has opened, more or less, in Tampa. In my house, this is one more reason to be happy we never switched over to digital television. We'll have to miss perky Ann Romney's unbiased tribute to her husband, feisty Nikki Haley's affirmation of her Tea Party principles, and... Continue reading
Posted Aug 28, 2012 at Mail Online - Thomas Fleming
Sometimes I don't know why I bother. What, after all, is the point to entering into any public discussion of controversial matters? Each side of the question has made up its mind before the facts are in, and the respective champions of the issue or debate are, depending on who... Continue reading
Posted Aug 20, 2012 at Mail Online - Thomas Fleming
Long before H.L. Mencken blew the whistle on American "individualism" (between the two World Wars), the hollowness of American claims to rugged individualism had been revealed. Mencken, observing the Americans of his day, regarded them as Rotarians and goose-steppers, prey to every Bible-thumping preacher or success guru who came to town. If this were not the case, one would have to wonder why so many Americans insist on dressing up in costumes or on adopting pre-packaged identities designed in Hollywood. I don't recall the last younger (under 50) American I met with something distinctive or original to say. They have all been programmed in public schools or private schools and in the youth indoctrination programs known as soccer leagues.
Toggle Commented Aug 20, 2012 on Paul Ryan, Randian? at Mail Online - Thomas Fleming
Thanks for all the comments. To Prateek, I should say your argument is with Northcote Parkinson, a better economist and wiser man than can be found in that profession today. What Parkinson understood and you do not appear to is that government bureaucracy is a self-replicating virus that is forever expanding at the expense of more complicated forms of life like the family and the town. Something like half of all Americans now receive more benefits from government than they pay in in the form of taxes. This is my money they are spending, my human authority over my family, my civil existence they are sucking away. I really should not reply to trolls, especially when they apparently cannot read a simple column. I did not say that Rand was a faithful disciple of Nietzsche, only that there is nothing distinctive in her thought. The overall perspective she ripped off the mad philologist--and, by the way, I do not think that Greekless Nietzscheans can even begin to understand their hero--and combined it with other ideas she stole. I specifically mentioned the far more interesting Isabel Patterson, but I might have mentioned Rose Lane. One of the "useful" things about Nietzsche is that he made so many contradictory statements, e.g. about Wagner, about Jews, etc, that he can always be quoted by both sides of any issue. He was brilliant and talented and had many insights into the near-future, but he never studied philosophy seriously--not even ancient philosophy--and he was so unsystematic and disorganized that even his writing on tragedy is almost entirely unhelpful. The good stuff can be found in more disciplined fashion in Rohde. As someone who has largely wasted whatever small gifts he received, I have great sympathy with this fellow-philologist, but, really, his books should not be read by the innocent. My friend Prof. Wilson is hopelessly romantic. I grant you freely that Ms Palin is an attractive woman, but her charms end with her face and form. She was a rotten mother--quite obviously--a politician accused by friends and foes alike of mingling private and public business, a pro-life conservative who said she would have backed her daughter's decision to have an abortion, an ignoramus about everything in the world who was so ignorant she could not even conceal it, a complete opportunist. That the media would go after her was a foregone conclusion. Her ineptitude and failure is her own responsibility. That Jack Kemp was just as dumb or even dumber, I cheerfully concede. OJ Simpson once observed that Kemp was the only quarterback in pro football who could not be trusted to call plays on the field. This was gleefully pointed out to me by Gene McCarthy, who was, indeed, despite some of his sillier political ideas, something like a real American. Palin is a typical product of her generation. The difference between leftwing atheists and Randians is the obvious fact that leftists make a lot of money and have successful careers that are based only in part on their being leftists. You see, Leftism is the religion of the ruling class, and since many more people want to get in on the action, the competition is much stiffer. In general, conservatives and libertarians tend to be much dumber than Lefties. There are exceptions, of course, but they are all people who believe in something, always a tiny minority in any group in public life.
Toggle Commented Aug 16, 2012 on Paul Ryan, Randian? at Mail Online - Thomas Fleming
It is not often that a political candidate's literary taste makes the news, but Paul Ryan's critics do not appear to have any better ammunition than some gushing statements the congressman has made about Ayn Rand. Of course, some of them think they can go after him as a Draconian... Continue reading
Posted Aug 15, 2012 at Mail Online - Thomas Fleming
A latterday Phileas Fogg (as well as a Latterday Saint), Mitt Romney has been sailing his breath-propelled hot air ballon around the world from one gaffe to another. That, at least, is the daily verdict of the Democratic Party's press corps at the New York and LA Times, The Washington... Continue reading
Posted Jul 31, 2012 at Mail Online - Thomas Fleming
I always enjoyed reading Alex Cockburn, especially when I disagreed with him, which was over the half the time. In "Beat the Devil," his column in the Nation, he unmasked the stupidity and hypocrisy of his colleagues. Whenever he fulminated against the editors, you could almost see Victor Navasky cowering... Continue reading
Posted Jul 24, 2012 at Mail Online - Thomas Fleming
I think it might be useful to learn to distinguish between the subject feeling of hating one's life and an objective judgment on the state of Colorado. In one's adolescence, it is common for Americans to hate their life. I know I hated mine when I was 15, but I did not blame it on South Carolina. Again, it is important to pay attention to facts. Holmes is from San Diego, not Aurora.
Toggle Commented Jul 23, 2012 on America the Sick at Mail Online - Thomas Fleming
I wish I could agree that there is something unusual about the Denver area, but having spent some time in Colorado, including a summer teaching Latin in Boulder at the university, I do not think so. The good aspects of Colorado are western, the bad are Californian, and it is not insignificant that the shooter was from San Diego. In describing comic book movies as dumbed down, I was referring to the aesthetic fact that the explicitness of film technology remove any need for the human imagination. It is one of the most debilitating qualities of movies, one that good directors have mitigated or evaded either by being artsy or concentrating on narrative or even going silent. Last night I watched for the second time Michel Gondry's Be Kind Rewind, and this time it struck me that in Swedeing movies, he was pointing to a common desire of ordinary people to take charge of their imaginative lives--something Michel de Certeau talked about, as when children make a textbook their own by scribbling in it.
Toggle Commented Jul 21, 2012 on America the Sick at Mail Online - Thomas Fleming
In Aurora, Colorado 12 people were shot to death and 38 others wounded by an apparently unassisted gunman, wearing a gas mask and bulletproof vest, who first set off something like teargas and then proceeded to shoot into the audience of moviegoers who were attending the midnight showing of the... Continue reading
Posted Jul 20, 2012 at Mail Online - Thomas Fleming
Why has the Higgs boson particle been front page news every day this week? The reason for all the publicity cannot lie in the scientific significance, because science per se--like history, scholarship, or literature--is of no interest to the press lords who tell us what to think. Here in America... Continue reading
Posted Jul 6, 2012 at Mail Online - Thomas Fleming
The 4th of July is a day when sensible Americans impose a media blackout upon their households: no TV, no radio, no newspapers, no websites. It simply is not safe. If you decide to listen to some good music, you will find nothing but the same third-rate masterpieces by the... Continue reading
Posted Jul 4, 2012 at Mail Online - Thomas Fleming
Let me repeat and make clearer my objection to the Court's ruling on the Stolen Valor Act. I said I opposed the silly law--though in the light of the Court's rulings in recent decades it is hard to see how it can be regarded as unconstitutional. My objection was to the argument that political lying was protected by the First Amendment. Why not strike down all truth-in-labeling and libel statutes? The Justice's response was that the liar in question had not received any material benefit. Once again, the only thing that matters in American public life is money. That is why no one will defend the rights of the states, the plain meaning of the Constitution, or any principle that in the short run does not make money for some significant person or part of the population.
This has been a glorious week for the Supreme Court, as the majority brushes aside the rights of the states, the Constitution, and the rule of law. In the welter of revolutionary decisions, it is easy to overlook the six to three decision striking down the Stolen Valor Act. The... Continue reading
Posted Jun 29, 2012 at Mail Online - Thomas Fleming
I thank Rick Oliver for his very helpful precisions--a Frenchified word for the benefit of our friend NGPM to whom I recommend the Horatian tag, Nil admirari. If you are thinking of Nora Ephron, then you are right. By the way, if Mr. Oliver would like to comment on the AZ ruling on the Chronicles website, I'll see that his piece is posted immediately on the front page on the recently established Chronicles blog.
Of course Bush knew more or less what he was doing, at least as much as he ever did, in picking the glad-handing time-serving Roberts. I suppose I shall have to get a new dictionary. I had always thought that "awesome" meant awe-inspiring, or at least, was used among the uneducated as a synonym for all the other useless words (amazing, fantastic, great, swell). In fact her dissent in Kelo was unimpressive and hypocritical. Unimpressive, because she never dealt with the basic issues and displayed no legal scholarship. Hypocritical because no judge more assiduously promoted eminent domain than Sandy O'Connor. One should distinguish principled scholarship from rhetorical overkill. Failure to make such distinctions leads to--among so many other things--the current fuss over the death of a nasty essayist and poor scriptwriter.
Yesterday (25 June 2012) the Supreme Court ruled, in Arizona v. United States, that an American state does not have the constitutional authority to crack down on illegal immigrants. The Court did not, for the time being, strike down the part of Arizona's law directing policemen to examine the documents... Continue reading
Posted Jun 26, 2012 at Mail Online - Thomas Fleming
Mr. Thorsen is right. Only certain people have the legitimate right to take vengeance. I do not at all deny his contention that convicts have no legal or moral right to kill a child rapist. My point was that in doing so they were meting out the punishment deserved by nature. Much of what we call the Natural Law is a law of moral consequences. Do not steal because thieves are deprived of their property; do not kill because killers are put to death, etc. The intentions or rights of the agent of justice is something different. What I think is going on in the case of child-rapists who are killed in prison is that the human conscience is so deeply offended by the crime that even a hardened criminal feels justified in inflicting the punishment that is deserved.
The phrase "social sciences" is either superfluous or a contradiction in terms. It is superfluous if it is used to mean the philosophical study of society, because then Plato, Aristotle, and St. Thomas are social scientists, and a contradiction if science is used in its modern English sense of exact science or natural science. There are medical scientists who study neurophysiology but speculation about personality disorders is, well, speculation and should not be used in a court of law. When psychologists can agree with each other on a common terminology and methodology, we might be tempted to listen to what they say and when they no longer bow to every passing political whim--feminism, homosexualism, etc--we might even agree with them. That time has not come and probably will never come. Objection has been made to the notion that evil men might have sufficient understanding of morality to kill someone who rapes children. If one wishes to make this argument, one has to make it and not deliver it as an ex cathedra pronouncement. Rough justice refers, precisely, to acts of personal or social vengeance taken outside the legal system. The members of a lynch mob or vigilance committee may not all be of the highest moral character, but in hanging a crooked sheriff they may be delivering the only justice of which a frontier society is capable. Is every judge who sentences a felon a morally impeccable or even remotely decent human being?