Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Random Observations

1. I’m writing from DESTIN, FLORIDA at BAD ASS COFFEE. Destin is very, very overbuilt and might cause someone to become an environmentalist. But the beaches and the water remain pretty pristine, showing both the resilence of nature on the Redneck Riviera and reason for concern about offshore drilling in this beautiful part of the world.

2. Thanks for all the wonderful Solzhenitsyn posts. I got a couple of private emails asking: What are we to make of Solzhenitsyn’s support for Putin?

3. I liked Julie’s post below on postmodern Barack. But in my opinion his intense self-orientation is really hypermodern. Genuine postmodernism would be a return to realism, as I explain in POSTMODERNISM RIGHTLY UNDERSTOOD.

Discussions - 6 Comments

Any town that has a place called BAD ASS COFFEE is o.k. by me . . . But the real question, Peter, is "Is it better than McDonald's?"

There was a local stripper who came from Destin....

I spend my fair share of time each year in Fl and I do love the beaches-is the proposed drilling really going to have an impact that close to shore?
From what I gather AS' support for Putin was always restrained and pragmatic-he thought American style political and economic liberalization was inappropriate for Russia and would lead to craven opportunism and gangsterism,which indeed it did. However, he was also later very outspokenly critical of Putin for being excessively authoritarian.

Obama is clearly vain, but there is a part of his story that is probably undertold. Obama isn't just creating his own messinaic story, he is slotting himself into other people's established belief systems and exploiting them. Its something he has been working on for a long time.

when reading Dreams From My Father, people tend to focus on how Obama created his own identity. But what surprised me was how the fairly young Obama was able to examine the identities of those around him - their frustrations, their hopes, and their dreams - and manipulate them for his own purposes.

Whether Obama was running up against white liberals, black nationalists, Nation of Islam fanatics, or chicago party hacks, Obama was able to figure out what those people were hoping for and put himself in the position that would allow those people to see Obama as the guy they had been waiting for. That didn't mean Obama personally endorsed every belief of the people he was coopting (the book is pretty slyly sarcastic about the Nation of Islam) but Obama wasn't going to disagree with his allies to the degree that they ceased seeing him as their great young hope. But he left himself enough space to abandon his allies if they became too inconvenient.Obama went to the Million Man March but didn't endorse the Nation of Islam's bigotry. Obama used Rev. Wright to gain afoothold in Chicago but never endorsed Wright's crazy theories of racial differences in brain structure. Then again he didn't publicly condemn them until they became inconvenient. It required being able to walk a fine line.

We saw this ability in the primaries where he was able to be the candidate of the black community to the black community and the candidate of post racial reconcilliation to upper middle class liberal whites at the same time. If Obama sometimes seems to see the world in subjective terms, its also worth wondering whether he sometimes sees people more clearly than they see themselves, and that he is a master at manipulating their dreams.

I am surprised, but delighted, to read that there's *another* BAD ASS COFFEE COMPANY somewhere other than Bernalillo, NM (~10 miles north of me). With that kind of chutzpah, why wouldn't the owners rename their house brand: "Postmodernist Coffee, Rightly Brewed!" Peter: Do you need an agent to help you negotiate with Starbucks? We're all going to need a lot of joe when Dan Mahoney and friends see to the release of AS's complete works. O, felix cuppa. Mea maxima cuppa.

Gary, eat some red chile for me.

As for the Putin problem, I'll let Dan M or someone who knows better the particulars of AS's endorsement weigh in. But the following facts about life do need to be remembered in thinking about Putin.

1) I do not recommend regular use of the neo-con label, but here I will: a Dark Lord Putin fits the preferred scare-narrative of hard-core spread-democracy neo-cons. It is an unthoughtful view, even if it feeds off the legitimate outrage of down-and-out (and yes, oppressed)Russian liberals.

2) Part of the scare-narrative is to say, a la Robert Kagan, that Putin's Russia may come to be a threat to our security interests, and that along with China, its model of authoritarian govt. may begin to win away future converts to liberal democracy. On both counts, this is a problem with China. But good diplomacy should keep our dance with Russian interests and bluster peaceful. As Thatcher said of Gorbachev, Putin and those like him are persons we can deal with.

3) It is simply true that sometimes a country needs what Fareed Zakaria calls "liberalizing autocrats," as opposed to, among other regime possibilities, "illiberal democracy," the latter of which can be quite dsyfunctional and likely to empower fanatics or demagogues. Cc. Putin w/ Chavez, for example.

4) There is this guy Aristotle who once said that you only try to establish the government that a people's conditions and habits make them capable of. As democrats, we are right to be initially suspicious of anyone using that argument, but as members of the reality-based community, we will have to admit that in not a few cases this is simply TRUE.

5) Most of us have no clue how bad things got in the Russian 1990s, how close the nation was to outright distengration or to electing very nasty parties prior to the Putin years. Read Lynch, How Russia is Not Ruled for a short and shocking primer on this.

6) Now it may be that Putin does not fit the bill of a good "liberalizing autocrat," and most profoundly because since the uranium assisination it is not clear that this particular autoCRAT is in control of a key element of his CRACY, that is, the intelligence service. But AS perhaps was not wrong to initially pin his hopes that Putin would turn out to be a liberalizing and stabilizing force for Russia, given the other options at the time.

7) Do Russian polls mean nothing to us?

8) Most fundamentally, Putin and his protegees may still turn out to be the best option out of the possible ones for Russian development. And nothing is more in our security interests for good Russian development, so that their nukes do not get split up in a civil war, or in the hands of an extremist party or outright authoritarian.

9)This possibility must be kept separate from the annoying and irresponsible foreign-policy gambits undertaken by the Russians, who seem determined to use their bad-boy status in the security council, their resources, to their fullest national-interest advantage. BUT THIS WOULD BE HAPPENING EVEN WITH A MORE DEMOCRATIC GOVT. Indeed, it might even be happening in a worse way. Russians these days are a very paranoid lot when it comes to the West. That said, the US has an interest in staying to the sidelines, or even siding with the Russians, in certain of their disputes with the EU, transnationalist NGOS and international law. Read Robert Fonte's stuff on "transnational progressives" or the new Delsol book on "international justice" to see why.

In sum, these facts, unwelcome though not a few of them are, must be kept in mind before we think about AS and Putin.

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