Monday, October 31, 2005


Sorry I had to erase that post. Not because of content, but the large size would push all of these posts down and you would not get the news and comment as quickly as before.

Which you like, right?


P.S. The Cubs still blow goats.

The News: Scary (Like Halloween)

Let's give this some quick coverage and comment so that I can get home and ignore the doorbell:
  1. New Supreme Court Nominee Samuel Alito, Jr. Where do these people come from? Well, you can't say that the president didn't have a couple of backups. At least this guy WAS a judge at some point. He may not be a Scalia clone. Sloppy seconds?
  2. Good to see that some things never change in Russia. Can you give us a definite no, there, Vlad? As a European historian, I never like to hear a Russian leader talk like this.
  3. This never really changes either. To quote Rowan Atkinson as Blackadder in Blackadder III, "We don't like the French. We hate them. We fight wars against them!"

So there.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

What's On Will's Mind?

Well, lots. Here, for your perusal, are some scattered items that have crossed my mental plain recently.

The Origins of World War I. Was it really the end for the ancien regime in Europe as Arno Meyer would have us believe? I would tend to agree, but would also say that different countries have different systems and different developments. Can it be that simple?

Praxeology. This man's ideas are fascinating.

Postmodernism, relativism and the study of history. I agree with the ideas of Professor Winschuttle in principle, but he comes off as somewhat of a polemicist. How can we engage these brutalizers of the discipline and beat them at their own game? Or have they structured it so that they always win? Or was Henry Ford right when he said history "is just one goddamned thing after another?"

Immanuel Wallerstein. Over-simplistic or brilliant argument of synthesis?

Just lettin' you know what has got a hold of my brain banana.

How about you?

Winston Churchill, A Sox Fan?

Not really just for the recent baseball victory, but a good sentiment for all life. If we work hard and pay attention, we will all win well-deserved victories.

For this situation specifically, I think there are no more deserving group of fans that need a big win than us intrepid, maligned South Siders.

Sir Winston Spencer Churchill called...will you accept the charges?

Monday, October 17, 2005

Now It's Our Turn


Take that Cubs fans. Feel kinda sad? Well, you should. Nothing beats a loveable loser like, um, a winner.

Congrats guys! You earned it and the South Side is 100% behind you.

"Chicago White Sox, 2005 American League Champions."

Has a nice ring to it, eh?

Friday, October 14, 2005

The Iron Lady On Iraq

(Read my previous post. It's ranting is the main thought for the week. This is simply another interesting distraction).

I have tried to keep my views on the Iraq situation to a minimum on this site, it being the single most overanalyized happening since 9/11. In short, I believe that it is good that Saddam is gone, the military victory was a given, and it seems now that we were not really sure what we were getting into. Positive steps are being made, but a better plan would have naturally given better results.

That said, I read something in The Independent today that really caught my attention.

Baroness Margaret Thatcher, former Prime Minister of Great Britain (1979-1990), has expressed her doubts over Britain's involvement in the Iraq war.

She agrees that Saddam had to go but that the strategy was convoluted and that involvement has become problematic.

People need to pay attention to these words coming from this person.

Why, you ask?

Three words. The Falklands War.

Yes, folks, this is the PM that led Great Britain into a war with Argentina over a few barren islands with scrubby coastline and a few inhabitants. Broadly, it was Thatcher's belligerence that led to the confrontation.

When a person who started a war over useless islands criticizes your war...

Fine, Go To Canada. More Freedom For Us.

In talking to many of my colleagues here at this educational institution somewhere in the American Midwest (I won't say exactly, but the keener among you I am sure can hazard a guess), it seems that there is a love fest between young, liberal intellectuals and Canada.

It seems that they want to move there, become Canadian citizens and live happily ever after in such riveting places as Toronto (which is like Pittsburgh without a decent football team). They even go as far as to claim they are Canadians when asked about their identities abroad. They are ashamed to be Americans and want to get out of here as soon as possible.

I am, naturally, not new to this position. It seems that whenever things get tough in the US of A, the cowards and fatalists throw up their hands, strap on their skates and head north. They see Canada as the USA without problems, issues or difficulties. They point to the kind, socialist policies of the Canadian government that care for you from cradle to frozen grave. Incidentally, have you ever noticed that real Canadians (not these wannabes) all have a standard, ten minute speech on the benefits of socialized medicine? I think it is like their Pledge of Allegiance.

Now, don't misunderstand me. I am no blind, jingoistic patriot of the "America: Right or Wrong" stripe. We have our problems, societal hangups, economic challenges and political calcification just like any modern bureaurcatic nanny state. It is the nature of the modern state to suffer from such byzantine entanglements because the state becomes an entity unto itself: hard to change and impossible to get rid of.

What I do take considerable umbrage with is the attitude of these people that the idea of America is flawed, that the nation is beyond repair and that the best thing to do is run for the border and I ain't talkin' Taco Bell here.

By all means, get mad, get angry, but then get busy making change happen. Raise peoples awareness of issues, go to meetings of governmental bodies and let 'em know what you think. Exercise those rights that make this nation the great place that it is and can be.

I think that, along with this hatred of America, comes a doubting that the ideas that formed our nation are good, useful and viable, or ever desirable. As almost any schoolkid (at least fifteen years ago they probably could) can tell you, the "idea of America" comes out of the ideas of Enlightenment. From the words of the likes of John Locke, Baron Charles le Secondat de Montesquieu, the Marquis de Condorcet and many more, the vision of a rational, just and fair society migrated from Europe to the newly minted USA. These ideas, in my opinion, form the core of ideas for the most just, fair, equitable and humane society that mankind could ever hope to create.

Is it flawed? Sure is and the authors were the first to admit it, especially the framers of the Constitution. They allowed the thing to be amended, allowed for regular elections and generally put their trust (hesitant in the case of Alexander Hamilton) in the people to forge their own destiny as individuals gathered in a nation.

Now who could possibly have a problem with this? The intellectual of the sort who views the reason of the Enlightenment as stifling and, even worse, the hoary father and mother of the horrors that were inherent in the "short" twentieth century (1914-1991). The likes of Adorno and Horkheimer, in Dialectics of Enlightenment, place the combine of reason, technology and the growth of the state in both at the center of the development of conditions that would lead to Hitler, the Holocaust, Stalin and the terrors that would supposedly bring on this "postmodern" world in the first place.

What must be remembered of Adorno and Horkheimer is the times that they made their ideas were the immediate aftermath (and I mean immediate) of the terror of WWII. No one knew what to make of it; they were just trying to get over the daily fear of death, invasion and incarceration. I suspect that in want of an explanation for the absurd horror of war, they sought the cause in the intellectual heritage of the past centuries.

What is endemic in these ideas is that the Enlightenment saw its end, and thankfully, in the terror of the Second World War and we are now in a period of reaction where the evil forces of reason are in retreat. The postmodern condition allows, in my estimation, for an even more crass brutalization of humankind by the mere fact that it removes it as a prime actor in history.

Apart from atmospheric happenings, most of what goes on here is the doing of people and the "games people play," such as economics, military conquest, social formation, culture and so on. To remove people from the center of this dynamic is to render the whole enterprise on planet Earth meaningless. In this state, take their conclusions to the radical end. Since we are so unimportant and that history will roll on without us, why not some Jonestown-like mass suicides. With the prime actor removed, it shouldn't make a difference.

This is somewhat of a simplification, but the point should be made. Postmodern thinking in opposition to the Enlightentment is the sophistry of the worst order. I prefer to agree with the likes of Jurgen Habermas, Peter Gay and Roger Chartier in thinking that the Enlightenment is not complete and that we are still living in a distinctly modern world. The postmodern idea is simply a radical offshoot of the modernist project of eternal reason and progress. The Enlightenment will never end, but it can change.

It is the legacy of those years that are left to us to ponder, use and define. It is our world, but in a certain way, we play by their rules. We have been bequeathed this great idea of a reasonable and just society that can foster progressive change through the actions of its concerned and thoughtful citizens. THIS is America and it is the America that we should all strive to build.

Or we can be cowards, move to Montreal and bemoan the stupid, philistine Americans with their complete lack of ideas about progress, reason, fairness and true freedom.

Give me a fucking break.

Friday, October 07, 2005

What Ever Would Derrida Say?

Being a historian in this day and age, one gets bombarded with the language of postmodernism, poststructuralism, cultural studies, linguistics and all other such ideas and modalities.

While they are important and can offer the historian a valuable tool for considering sources (although the good historian is always critical of his/her sources and their nature as biased items), the lingo and pretention of the postmodern zealots gets old quick. One also gets the idea that they themselves are not sure what they are on about.

This is why this site, the Postmodernism Generator, is simply brilliant.

Click on the link and PRESTO! Your own postmodern critical essay, complete with references. Don't like it? Click the link at the bottom of the page and get another.

These brilliant folks use a random generator with discursive language to generate these things.

Also, read the wonderful story of Professor Alan Sokal of NYU. A physics professor, he wrote a postmodern critique of science as a parody (it was utterly meaningless) and it was published by a cultural criticism journal. The link takes you to dr. Sokal's site.

Or, since it's Friday, get drunk and pass out again.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Blowback Is Hardly The Word

Well, folks, our fearless leader has done it once more, but it is slightly worse. With the nomination of Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court (you remember, the unelected branch of our government that serves lifetime terms and can change the way the nation works?), he seems to have done the opposite of what everyone thought he was going to do.

Remember that people, in general, thought that John Roberts was a nice, safe candidate with the complete lack of a past or any charisma? Well, this turned out to be true; what was certain, according to most, seemed to be that the next nomination would be a strong conservative with a record to match who would squeak by the Senate, but once there, would move the Court right for the forseeable future?

Not so much. What GWB actually did was reward an old crony with the most plum of sweet government jobs and managed to piss off exactly the people he was hoping to please. Maybe he figured that, what with the "person with no past" Roberts doing well, that a blank slate is the best move.

Not surprisingly, the Internet is simply awash with commentary, whining and general sturm und drang. Here is a fun sampling, but first, my take.

I think that Bush sprung a surprise on the GOP faithful with a crony patronage appointment. While this sort of thing CAN be overlooked at lower levels (hey, I am from Chicago), n0t really for the Supreme Court. She seems, and yes I knew who she was before today, to be somewhat unqualified for the job. She has never been a judge, for a start. Yes, she is a lawyer, but she is the president's personal attorney. Just cause your boss is famous dosen't make you a good lawyer. She may be yet another Trojan horse conservative who will sink the fangs in as soon as robe and gavel are proffered; on the other hand, she could turn into another David Souter.

All in all, I think that this was a smart play from the standpoint of the administration and its machinations. I am not sure if Karl Rove was involved in this, the boss might have just done this one by himself. How can you tell? Well, she has some problems and some strange inconsistencies in her past, but I don't think enough to scuttle her. Bush just has to keep those 55 guys in GOP lockstep and the miracle will happen again. Hell, maybe Scalia is sick...

Now that sampling:

Conservative Bitching and Moaning
Pat Buchanan
Rush Limbaugh
Bill Kristol
Shitload of Conservative Blogs
One conservative group that supports the decision

News, Rumors and Other Sniveling About The Whole Thing
Whoops! Looks like she supported banning abortion! Minus one for George!
She was the Lottery Commissioner of Texas. Jeez, not the first time GWB got her a job.
She gave money to Al 1988. Might not count, but BidenKennedyDurbin will make a mention.