Friday Linkfest: This, That, and T’other

It’s not the post that Friday needs, but the post the Friday deserves:

Peace out, cub scouts. Have a great weekend.

The Secretary of State Ain’t What it Used to Be…

There was a time when being picked as Secretary of State was tantamount to being flagged as the frontrunner for the next Presidential election. Six Secretaries of State have gone on to become President. However, the last such was James Buchanan in 1856. Since then, we see far more failed Presidential Candidates (William Jennings Bryan, Charles Evan Hughes, Edmund Muskie, John Kerry) than Presidents in that slot.

I suspect that Hillary Clinton viewed the position as one of sufficient prestige to make her the Designated Successor after a successful eight-year Obama Presidency. If she can pull it off, being the first Secretary of State to be elected President since the collapse of the Whig Party will be almost as impressive as being our first female President.

However, that might not work out so well:

Only 43 percent of U.S. voters hold a favorable opinion of the former secretary of state, while 41 percent of voters have a negative view, according to a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll released Tuesday. That’s a significant shift from the same poll taken in Jan. 2013, just before she left her post with the Obama administration. Back then, 56 percent had favorable views compared with just 25 percent who had negative views. A Feb. 2009 poll showed Clinton’s approval rating topping out at 59 percent.

Maybe Buchanan just left a curse on the job, but I suspect that foreign affairs are a lot more fraught with controversy today than in our splendid isolation before the First World War. When American foreign policy could be summed up as Monroe Doctrine + Manifest Destiny, the job was easy. Today, it’s very much something you can screw up, and I feel as though Clinton’s numbers would be better if Obama’s foreign policy was less in tatters.

homer-doh

Did World War 1 Cause the Collapse of European Values? Or was it the Other Way Around?

A provacative reversal of conventional wisdom, discussed by John O’Sullivan in a long-but-worthwhile article at National Review.

Kimball raises the question of whether cultural, psychological, artistic, and social movements were, not the consequences of the Great War, but instead among its causes. Without going overboard on this — since the upsetting of Europe’s balance of power by Bismarck’s creation of the German Empire in 1871 and then by Kaiser Wilhelm’s bid for world power outside Europe were plainly important non-cultural causes of 1914 — Kimball makes a persuasive case that 1914 emerged in part from the explosion of radical cultural modernism that was symbolized especially by the riots of enthusiasm and rejection that greeted Diaghilev’s 1913 production of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring ballet.

The earliest signs of this cultural revolution appeared in the late 1880s, but they gathered force and speed in the decade leading to the Great War with the Futurist movement in Italy, vitalism in French philosophy, Vorticism in Britain, Freud and Freudianism in Vienna, the emergence of Picasso and James Joyce, the huge enthusiasm that greeted Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes throughout Western Europe, and much else. Though these are very different phenomena — some self-consciously primitivist, others self-consciously complex and obscure — they all share a common sensibility: a rejection of the traditions, restraints, values, and standards that characterized the Victorian age in favor of spontaneity, instinct, and the breaking of barriers. “We want no part of the past,” said Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, whose “Futurist Manifesto” was inspired in 1909 by a night of reckless driving that ended with the car in a ditch and the poet calling ecstatically for the triumph of speed and machinery and the closing of museums.

This rebelliousness did not long confine itself to aesthetics. It soon manifested itself in a more general rejection of restraints and standards in morality, law, politics, business, and other aspects of life that had previously been regarded as distinct from the cultural realm. And though this sensibility and its accompanying movement spread throughout Europe, it found its most receptive audience in the cultural, bureaucratic, and even military classes of the new German Empire, which, since its foundation in 1871, had shown extraordinary progress both in industrial power and in technical innovation.

I like this thesis because War is something that is willed by people. This is true even of World War I, which often gets treated as some kind of odd political weather event. The ecstatic joy that could be found among people when the war broke out speaks to a yearning to destroy and to seek dominion. Certainly the German military that eagerly destroyed Belgian cathedrals had very little conservatism in it. The trouble with treating nothing as sacred, is that nothing becomes sacred.

It also gibes with the thrust of a book I have long admired, The First Total War by David Bell, which argues that the spirit of the French Revolution brought a totalizing spirit to the Napoleonic Wars and subsequent global conflict. The pre-revolutionary abandonment of values led not to justice but tyranny, not brotherhood but blood.


To be fair, it’s entirely possible that the Kaiser simply wasn’t able to fight the war like he wanted…

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Man goes into Barren Desert, Declares Himself King

He’s not entirely wrong yet.

Although one of the main reasons Heaton claimed the area is that he hoped to fulfill his daughter’s wish to become a princess, his family also has wanted to transform the land into a needed agricultural resource.

Once he finalizes his vision for the desert, he intends to meet with Sudanese and Egyptian officials, thinking they will agree that his plans will benefit the region.

“There is no way they can’t see it in a positive light,” Heaton said.

Even so, Heaton recognized that it would be best to formalize his plans before approaching government officials.

We’re talking about an 800-square mile patch of desert disputed between Egypt and Sudan. He’s marched in and (literally) planted his flag. Then he left. Now he’s trying to bring the land to bloom, and then hoping the governments will rather have a small kingdom in that spot than their rival regional power.

I wish him well, but he needs to bring in people. Specifically, people who owe their loyalty to him directly, and will view him as a sovereign. Then he’d have a chance. But this seems like a sardonic exercise in do-goodery. Lame.

ironically

The Shaky Evidence of Gender Theory

Stacy McCain could be a accused of being a “feminism bore”, as often he seems to write about little else. But feminism, especially of the radical variety, merits the response. Today McCain takes a long look at Kate Millet, author of the 1970 radfem tome Sexual Politics. His main point, about Millet’s mental health and unhappiness, is of a piece with things he’s written before, but I’m more interested in the bad evidence for Gender Theory that Millet used.

The crux of gender feminism  is that there are no men and women, only “men” and “women” – social constructs that can and should be done away with in the interests of true equality. But upon what evidence does that claim rest? According to McCain, precious little, at least insofar as Sexual Politics is concerned:

Scientific advances have been quite unfortunate for Millett’s claim that “there is no differentiation between the sexes at birth,” in part because her citation for that claim is dependent on one of the greatest frauds in scientific history. On pages 30-31, she excerpts a quotation from a 1965 article “Psychosexual Differentation,” from a book entitled Sex Research, New Developments; in her bibliography, Millett references a 1957 book, The Psychologic Study of Man. The author of both of these works? Johns Hopkins University psychologist Dr. John Money, whose botched attempt to turn a boy into a girl (the notorious “John/Joan” experiment) failed spectacularly, ultimately resulting in the suicide of Dr. Money’s pathetic human guinea pig, David Reimer.

Dr. Money’s unethical (and perhaps criminal) methods of attempting to psychologically “condition” Reimer to be a girl were never successful; “Brenda” Reimer aggressively rejected the female identity that Dr. Money tried to impose. Yet Dr. Money, having trumpeted the “John/Joan” case as proof of his theories in the 1970s, misrepresented the case in his academic publications and in popular media. It took many years before another scientist, curious to know how Dr. Money’s patient had adjusted to adult womanhood, discovered the shocking truth behind Dr. Money’s fraudulent “research.” As a teenager, “Brenda” Reimer had decisively rejected “her” female identity, and sought treatment to become the man “she” had been born to be. David Reimer married a woman and, despite the loss of functional genitalia — castrated in infancy as part of Dr. Money’s “treatment” — he was by the 1990s an otherwise normal (that is, masculine) young man, albeit suffering from depression that finally resulted in his 2004 suicide.

This is startling, and not just because you find yourself wondering “Who the hell authorized the castration of an infant boy?” But because you would like to assume that basic ethics would prevented someone from making use of such experiments. But apparently one would be wrong.

Concurrently, Millet dismisses contrary evidence without having done the reading:

Millett, whose claim to expertise was . . . well, what? She got her bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Minnesota and got a postgraduate degree in literature at Oxford University, then went to Japan where she taught English and married an avant-garde sculptor.
Here she was in 1970, however, presuming to accuse Dr. Lionel Tiger, a professor of anthropology, of misrepresenting the research of zoologist Konrad Lorenz, who won the Nobel Prize in 1973. If Tiger was guilty of misrepresenting Lorenz’s work, you might think that Lorenz himself would have made the accusation, which he never did. Anyone interested in the subject may consult Konrad Lorenz’s 1966 book On Aggression and Lionel Tiger’s 1968 book Men in Groups and decide for themselves whether the two authors were in accord.

Of course the answer to this is that science is a patriarchal construct. Which is a rhetorically effective device, as all the devices employed by conspiracy theorists and totalitarians tend to be.

Now, I’m betting that evidence for gender-theory – the nurture side of the equation, as it were – is more pronounced today than it was in 1970. But so is the counter-evidence. There’s more than enough scientific data on how boys and girls behave differently from birth to at least seriously question the notion that gender is a social construct. That there are divergences in gender behavior among men and women, no one denies. That there are social aspects to gender, no one denies. But the assumption that the cart is pushing the horse has never made sense to me.

I Just Figured Out How To Tumblr. Possibly How to Blog.

So I mentioned that I was re-vamping my Tumblr from having a no real purpose to having a purpose. In the past 2 days I’ve gained nearly 500 followers.

Granted, it’s Tumblr, so following is easy and doesn’t necessarily lead to connection or interaction with contact. It’s like Twitter that way. Of all those followers, there are only a handful of likes, and I think one reblog. But I only have 654 Twitter followers, and I’ve been tweeting for years.

To what do I owe this success, such as it is? I think the following:

  1. People get what my Tumblr’s about, and are interested. People like talking about music, and my posts are short and to the point.
  2. Bro, Do You Even Tag? In doing music reviews, it always helps to tag the band name, the song name, the album name. Then people who check the tags see the content, and decide to follow if they like what they see.
  3. YouTube is the New MTV. After (which is to say, above) every review, I do a separate video post which has either a favored deep track or a live version or something else that I think noteworthy. YouTube is great at giving you options, and people like to hear music when they’re done reading about music.

So, Focus, Reach Out, and Consistent Content. Hopefully this continues.

Check out the noise at Every. Damn. CD.

William Gibson’s Source Code: An Interesting Mini-Memoir

He covers all the basics in a short period of time.

This struck me:

Brian Aldiss believes that if you look at the life of any novelist, you’ll find an early traumatic break, and mine seems no exception.

Because I think everyone can examine their childhood and find moments of sublime clarity, when reality takes its mask off and murders the idyll in front of you. So I don’t know that such is restricted only to novelists. Perhaps novelists access it fastest.

This amused me:

Google me and you can learn that I do it all on a manual typewriter, something that hasn’t been true since 1985, but which makes such an easy hook for a lazy journalist that I expect to be reading it for the rest of my life.

Journalists are the laziest bastards on the planet. They find a hook, and then stuff everything else through that hook like it was a funnel. A plague on their houses.

Read the whole thing, if you’re a Gibson fan and you’ve never hit up his web site before. It has an archaic, Geocities-ish design that’s almost charming.