Monthly Archives: February 2009


If you’re in the market for entertainment this weekend, you could do a lot worse than renting Chungking Express. The soundtrack includes this lovely cover of “Dreams” by Faye Wong, who also stars in the film:


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Cause and Effect

Jeffrey Goldberg has been going after Chas Freeman, Obama’s pick to run the National Intelligence Council, for his alleged foreign policy biases. Although I enthusiastically endorse the idea of appointing more people named “Chas” to influential positions within the Administration, I don’t know much about Freeman’s politics. I did find this criticism peculiar, however (emphasis mine):

In this dialogue, Freeman also stated that “I accept that al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden almost certainly perpetrated the September 11 attacks,” but never mind this off-putting hesitancy; what’s particularly interesting is his desire to see an exploration of 9/11 cause and effect. Let’s posit as true that al Qaeda acted against America out of specific grievances (I think it’s also true that al Qaeda acted out of Muslim supremacist ideology, but let’s put that aside as well). What was the principal political grievance of al Qaeda before 9/11? The stationing of U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia at the request of the Saudi government, in order to  protect the kingdom from Saddam Hussein.

Now, is it really odd for a political analyst to examine the causal factors behind the 9/11 attacks? Goldberg is a smart guy and a good writer,  so I’m fairly confident he understands the distinction between justifying something and analytically exploring a specific chain of events. Arguing that the punitive nature of the Versailles Treaty helped bring Hitler to power, for example, wouldn’t be interpreted as an endorsement of Nazi foreign policy. Certain historians might question your methodology, but no one is going around academic conferences hurling epithets like “appeasement.” And yet when it comes to September 11, exploring “cause and effect” is still seen as akin to giving aid and comfort to Al Qaeda.

UPDATE: Scott McConnell has more on Freeman’s credentials.

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Filed under Foreign Policy, Terrorism

Beyond Parody

Daniel Larison’s take on Michael Steele’s ridiculous hip hop posturing is pretty hilarious. Now Michelle Bachmann – fresh from a crash course in Ebonics circa 1997 – is trying to get in on the action:

As Steele concluded his remarks, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann — the event’s moderator — told Steele he was “da man.”

“Michael Steele! You be da man! You be da man,” she said.

I look forward to Bachmann and Steel conversating on the future of the conservative movement.

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Filed under Conservatism, Humor

Liberaltarian Bait


Via Tyler Cowen, I see that Daniel Klein and Jason Briggeman, two George Mason economists, have published a paper (pdf) claiming that conservative magazines, including The American Spectator, are not pro-liberty.

They review the records of the Spectator, National Review, The American Enterprise, and the Weekly Standard on pro-liberty stances regarding sex, gambling and drugs. They find that National Review is generally the most pro-liberty on these issues, but that overall all the conservative magazines lean anti-liberty.

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Filed under Conservatism, Libertarianism, The Media

More on Cultural Dilettantism

Here’s a pretty sterling example of a tendency I criticized a few weeks ago:

After the remarkable efforts of Gulag Orkestar and The Flying Club Cup, Zach Condon’s offbeat hybridization of traditional Eastern European motifs and Western indie pop reached a glorious pinnacle. But where take things from there? Rather than resting on his laurels, the 23-year-old Santa Fe native packed his bags, hopped on a plane to the state of Oaxaca, Mexico, and began recording a selection of new material with local 19-piece collective the Jimenez Band. Aided by a translator to help communicate their compositional ideas, Condon and his cohorts worked tirelessly on March of the Zapotec, a slew of songs composed in the small weaver village of Teotitlan del Valle during the spring of 2008.

Now, I enjoy Beirut, having listened to and enjoyed both of their first two albums. I also think our own artistic traditions would be greatly impoverished absent some sort of cultural cross-pollination. But there’s something vaguely unsettling about a Western artist – however talented – air-dropping into some remote Mexican village, hiring a translator, and promptly appropriating the locals’ music for his own purposes. It’s not that collaboration is bad per se – I just feel that this sort of thing should take place on a more or less equal footing. Now that I’m done sounding like a dirty fair trader, here’s an excellent live version of “Scenic World” (via TAS):


Filed under Culture, Music

“I was chased all over the place and rather enjoyed it”

Inspired by this Andrew Sullivan post, the group blog Plumb Lines launched into an interesting discussion on gay culture and the fluidity of sexual identity:

While the idea of the homosexual dates at least to the 19th century, I suspect that the contemporary American understanding of “homosexual” as a kind of people rather than a kind of sex act is much newer. Same-sex attraction was first widely medicalized in the 1940s and 50s, and cataloging and extirpating deviancy by rational-technical means was an important element of American post-war culture. Part of this cataloging and extirpation process was the identification of homosexuals as a deviant element in society.

I was immediately reminded of this fascinating passage from Troublesome Young Men, a good but otherwise unremarkable history of interwar Britain’s anti-appeasement parliamentarians:

Boothby (a Scottish MP – my edit) loved Germany and had visited it many times. Fluent in German, he came to see friends, talk politics and economics, and listen to opera (he was a regular at the Wagner festival at Bayreuth). He also sampled the decadent night life of Berlin, where “along the Kurfurstendamm,” in the words of Stefan Zweig, “powdered and rouged young men sauntered and in the dimly lit bars on might see men of the world of finance courting drunken sailors.” Although Boothby’s sexual relationships were primarily with women, he was known to engage in homosexual escapades. In Germany in the 1920s and 1930s, he recalled in his memoris, “homosexuality was rampant; and, as I was very good looking [then], I was chased all over the place and rather enjoyed it.”


Filed under Culture, History

Decade at Bernie’s

Mark Cuban makes a pretty interesting Madoff-related point.

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Filed under Worthy Links