Friday, November 26, 2004

Thanksgiving Quiz

Since Thanksgiving ended 12 minutes ago, I though that I should enter into the spirit of the festival.

I've just finished the new book by Samuel Huntington "Who Are We? America's Great Debate", which has earned a lot of comment, mostly for the wrong reasons. Reading it reminded me of Richard Hofstatder, "America had been largely taken away from them and heir kind...The old American virtues have already been eaten away by cosmopolitans and

What Uncle Sam forgets, in all his huffing and puffing about a wave of Mexicans pouring over the border is the genius of the American political system, namely that Federalism means that you'll never get anywhere without building coalitions and bargaining with people. The two party system and seperation of powers geographically and across the branches has meant that in spite of over a hundred years of seperatist agitation Louis Farrakhan has never had and will never have any influence at all, in spite of the fact that HALF of African-American voters want to have a seperate political party of their own.

Here's a question for all you out there. Supposing there was a survey of most of the world's countries - which nation would proclaim itself the most patriotic? Post your answers here, and you'll get my fulsome praise if you get the right answer.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 21, 2004

French Philosophy: Who Needs It?

Although Abiola highlights that they're not the only people who hold a bitter grudge, the irony in French anti-Americanism is that the only political philosopher with any practical insight or understanding that France produced was the great scholar of American national destiny Alexis the Tocqueville.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Aururoa me arse!

Here was me thinking that London was experiencing a persistent Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights for the past week or so. I was puzzled as to why this phenomenon would appear so far south, only in plain white and seemingly wheel around the sky in what looks like a predictable circular pattern.

Actually, on walking down Oxford Street yesterday evening, I discovered the reason. In the spirit of Albert Speer, but with very little of the budget, and none of the creativity and organisation, the Oxford Street authorities have put on a Christmas light show, which allegedly has a Harry Potter theme.

Hardly the cathedral of light, more the garden shed of light, it has archways over the street at intervals of 100m or so, with two or three spotlights swiveling up and down. The only thing suggesting any connection to Harry Potter is a smallish placard of A3 size on each gantry depicting one of the characters for the movie. I'm unimpressed; Ken has been spending too much time waving his wand.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

This Honorable Court

While I haven't been posting anything here, I've been busy reading a great deal.

I've been going selectively through the Oxford Companion to the Supreme Court, which has piles of fascinating information. With Chief Justice Rehnquist ill and the leadership of the Senate Judiciary Committee in dispute, we're in interesting times for the SCOTUS.

I won't venture an opinion on what will happen immediately, but I'd very much doubt that there will any further moves to weaken the legality of abortion.

On the other hand, why not advance the FMA - a constitutional amendment against metrosexuality?

More Correct and Incorrect Opinions

Most of what little writing I've been doing has been in others' comments, as with my defence of defending Henry Kissinger against another new broadside from Christopher Hitchens,

My characterising some other blogs as offering "incorrect opinions" seems to have caused a bit of a stir. It seems I've invented a new catchphrase for myself, so I've rearranged my blogroll accordingly, finally making the long overdue additions of the essential blogs written by Abiola Lapite and Brian McDermott.

The War for Muslim Minds

Last Tuesday, I went to the London launch of French Arabist Giles Keppel's new book, The War for Muslim Minds. He gives the best analyses of al-Qaeda ideology I've seen so far, highlighting the blueprint for 9/11 laid out by OBL's number two, Egyptian jihadist Dr Ayman al Zawahir in his manifesto Knights under the Prophet's Banner. Kepel contends that bin Laden wanted to tap into the imagery and the approval given to Palestinian suicide bombers, but he seems to have largely failed. Although hostile to what he sees as the neo-conservative project (which, he analyses using exactly the same method of interviews and textual interpretation as he does for the Islamists) and the invasion of Iraq, he doesn't revise the thesis of his previous book Jihad that the jihadists have failed to craft a political strategy to gain any mass support to take power, leaving them with a nihilistic philosophy of "propaganda of the deed" similar to that of the far-left European terrorists of the seventies and eighties.

His diagnosis of Islamist philosophy seems to be original also. Rather than highlighting the Muslim Brothers or Wahhabism, he characterises the jihadist philosophy as being an original blend of the two whose followers are hostile to both.

In Real Life(TM)

I've not been posting much, mainly because I've been quite busy. What little leisure time I've had has been mainly devoted to reading and attending some conferences and lectures. Apart from going to the British Academy ciscussion on imperalism to hear Edward Luttwak and Sir Michael Howard, I've been pretty active.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Yasser Arafat:: An Appreciation

According to the BBC, burial arrangements are being negotiated for the chairman. My thoughts: Why bother waiting until he's dead?

Friday, November 05, 2004

Now there's a blogroll!

It looks like EVERYBODY reads Frank MacGahon!

Thursday, November 04, 2004

The Next Four Years

Meanwhile, the reaction among Bush's opponents has been dismayed to say the least, as reported in delicious detail in the Guardian and on lefty blogs everywhere.

For my part, I forecast that the Capitol building will shortly burn down in a mysterious fire...

John Kerry: An Appreciation

Now that he's graciously conceded defeat, it's only proper to look back on Senator John Kerry's career. As well as serving his country in Vietnam, protesting against the war at home and achieving things as a Senator that nobody has ever figured out how to summarise on a bumper sticker, Kerry performed a vital service for a grateful nation: He lost the election. Thanks John.

Bertie Welcomes Bush Victory

Bertie Ahern welcomes the defeat of John Kerry and John Edwards, who had been making ominous protectionist noises during the campaign. It's apparent that An Taoiseach isn't a member of Confused Jewish WASPS Who Think They're Irish for Kerry

If US multinationals setting up in Ireland were Benedict Arnolds, what does that make the Republic, Pirate's Cove?

Given that the ticket didn't win a single southern state, and that a Republican took the Senate seat previously held by John Edwards, we're unlikely to hear from the Boy Wonder again. His tales of the Carolinas textile mills never warmed my heart, especially as I've always suspected that this proletarian utopia didn't number any black Americans amongst its work force.

The Empty Plinth

Only in Canada, stereotyped as a country with a soggy sense of nationhood and a moral superiority towards its southern neighbour, would anybody dream up something like this - the world’s first monument to those rebels and cowards who fled there to evade the military draft or desert after joining up. (via Slate)

A memorial to the thousands of Vietnam-era draft dodgers who fled to Canada is planned for the small town of Nelson in British Columbia. Even by the indistinct standards of contemporary public art, the monument seems hard to interpret. Surely, the man helping the small figures can't be one of the draft-dodgers? Or is he, in the best Canadian tradition of tolerance and welcoming of refugees, supposed to be helping ashore some of the thousands of Vietnamese boat people who fled communism? Or perhaps there's an ironic message, in which the larger figure represents the Canadians greeting moral pygmies from the US.

Although I'm no authority on the visual arts, London seems to have stumbled on the same idea. A plinth at the northwest corner of Trafalgar Square has long lain vacant, while three others bear statues of a kings and generals. Instead of commissioning some ugly monstrosity, the plinth can be left as the monument to the unknown peace campaigner, whose contribution to ending oppression, terrorism and war is perfectly symbolised by emptiness.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

No Repeat of 2000

Frank takes the words right out of my mouth. Unlike the other JFK, there's no chance of his pulling off a ballot fraud to put him in the White House.

The Iowa markets were showing a very low probability, even last night of a Kerry victory. It looks like they've vindicated the Efficient Market Hypothesis yet again.

Given the margin of victory Bush enjoys in the ballots cast and the added legitimacy of a majority of the votes cast, I can't see that Kerry has any more hope of capturing Ohio than Saddam Hussein does.

Having been playing Eeyore for the last two weeks, I'm in a much better mood this morning, both because of the Bush victory and two other good pieces of news from last night, which will be revealed later.

Back by Popular Demand!

Well, it seems John Fay's chicken entrails left Zogby, Gallup and the rest of them with egg on their faces. In any case, I'm happy to see Dick Cheney re-elected; what a pity about the other guy though.

I really didn't expect Bush to come through, but for all his weaknesses and mistakes, I just couldn't believe Kerry's self-portrayal as an active, rousing and engaged President. This campaign seems to have been running ever since the last election four years ago.

Perhaps a few small credit card donations helped the campaign along the way, together with somes decades of the rosary and virgins sacrificed to Beelzebub.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Imperialism Ancient and Modern

Augustus, First Emperor of Rome

Friday lunchtime saw me at the British Academy to attend the conferenceImperialism Ancient and Modern.

Due to a time constraint, I only sat in for one session, a lecture given by Edward Luttwak, a well-known strategy expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. Along with his machiavellian book Coup d'Etat: A Practical Manual, he's probably best known for telling the US Senate that the effort to retake Kuwait from the Iraqis during Desert Storm was likely to cost the lives of thirty thousand American troops.

Luttwak drew the analogy between the current situation in Iraq an the original guerrilla or little war between the Spanish peasantry and their French would-be liberators under Napoleon. Although they were the worst-fed people in Europe, not excepting the Russian serfs, these illiterates obeyed the urgings of their priests, who told them that the constitution offered by the French was the work of the devil. "The priests always win in these situations", Luttwak said, saying that the efforts to modernise both Spain and Italy by idealistic armies paradoxically resulted in delaying reform in both countries for over a century. I was going to point out that Iraq has near perfect literacy, but I didn't get time to ask a question.

Admitting that there was an American empire, he argued that it's largely a peaceful process, with Vietnam not succumbing to Coke and American business until the last helicopter had lifted off.

He characterised the military response to the proposed invasion of Iraq as a signal of dissent, as in General Shinseki's estimate of 700,000 troops reflected the scepticism of men who spend their careers planning the conquest of large unstable third-world metropolises.

As Niall Ferguson and others point out, he characterised American expansionism as being subject to pendulum swings of opinion ever since the unresolved debate over the conquest of the Phillippines at the turn of the last century. Under Bush or Kerry, disengagement is certain, he predicted.

Luttwak gave no hostages to fortune in predicting whether America would remain as the sole superpower with abnormally weak rivals or just one great power among several. Regardless of the world situation, the future is most likely to be driven by the internal domestic political processes of the supposed imperial power.

The discussion afterwards was chaired by historian Sir Michael Howard, noted for his disagreement with the terminology of the "War on Terror". Luttwak said that 9/11 changed nothing and that there was, and could be, no war on terrorism. Rather, war remained a process between states and armies. I'm not convinced Luttwak has taken on board to the same extend as Sir Michael, the ramifications both for foreign policy and domestic arrangements of the risks posed by terrorists, even those armed only with conventional weapons.