Chronicles, November 2008

Scott Richert expresses consternation that many who identify themselves as conservative Catholics support the vice presidential candidacy of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.  Aren’t Catholics supposed to embrace what Pope John Paul II called “the theology of the body,” and with it the idea that women should not be in public life?  “I will offer a prayer on Election Day that Mrs. Palin’s presence on the ticket does not signal the final triumph of feminism over the traditional Christian understanding of the proper relationship between the sexes.” 

Thomas Fleming reviews Peter Green’s The Hellenistic Age, endorsing it overall but showing a bit of irritation that Green uses the word “racism” to describe bigoted attitudes the ancients exhibited.  Fleming claims that “racism as an ideology is a 19th century development that can only be applied by analogy to the ancient world.  To describe [theancient Greeks’] natural prejudices as ‘racism’ would be like describing infant exposure as ‘pro-choice’ or homosexuality as an expression of ‘gay rights.'”  Fleming has a point here, but I think he overstates it.  Certainly a word like “racism” carries powerful associations, bringing in not only the theoretical structures to which Fleming refers but also centuries of history and whole worlds of trauma that are quite distant from anything the ancients would have known.  Nonetheless, their attitudes can hardly be dismissed as “natural prejudices.”  While the ancients may not been shaped by the ideas of Gobineau or Francis Galton, they were indeed swaddled in myths promoting the superiority of their own groups and were taught to see natural slaves when they looked at people who did not resemble themselves.  

Most of the poems Chronicles runs are pretty bad, and I can’t really make much of a literary-critical case for this one.  But I’m such a pushover for dogs I’ll include it anyway.

Four Firsts and a Last, by Timothy Murphy

Her first retrieve shell: a shotgun shell

Fired and ejected with no warning.

How she adored that smell,

Charcoal, sulfur, and niter in the morning.

Her first bird was a crippled morning dove.

She somersaulted down a ditch

Head over heels in love,

Buttoned her bird and bounded up to the pitch.

Her first drake dropped beyond a refuge sign.

Wriggling under the lowest wire,

She swam a perfect line

As though posting proof of her desire.

Her first loss was her superhuman ear.

Hand signalled on an unmarked run,

She could no longer hear

Whistling wingtips; even, at last, the gun.

At fourteen she was walking into walls,

Fouling the carpet, losing teeth.

Farewell to mallard calls

And decoy spreads, wild roosters on the heath.

To St Francis of Fargo fell the chore,

The barbital a gentle thrust

To launch her from our shore.

The last look in her fearless eye was trust.

More from the antiwar Right

The American Conservative, 8 September 2008

Two major articles deal with the fear that haunts many of the “Old Right” contributors to this publication, the fear that America is becoming dependent on foreign powers.  An obituary for Lieutenant General William Odom discusses the testimony the general gave to the US Senate in early April, in which he pointed out that US forces in Iraq depend “on a long and slender supply line from Kuwait, which runs through territory controlled by Shi’ite forces friendly to Iran” [a quote from the obituarist, not Odom’s own words.)  American service personnel in Iraq are therefore hostages at the disposal of Iran. 

Andrew Bacevich attacks American consumerism and its economic consequences.  Our insatiable appetite for luxuries, Bacevich argues, has saddled us with debts and a dependence on imported fuels that we can manage only by maintaining a constant war footing, while our wars serve only to increase our debts and deepen our dependence.   

The American Conservative, 25 August 2008

Remember George W Bush saying that the fall of Saddam Hussein meant that the “rape rooms” in his prisons would forever close?  Abu Ghraib made a sick joke out of that boast.  Well, the return of rape rooms wasn’t the end of it.  Since the current war began in March 2003, well over 2 million Iraqis have been forced from their homes.  Most of them left empty-handed.  How have they been surviving since?  Kelley Beaucar Vlahos shows how; tens of thousands of Iraqi women and girls have been forced into prostitution.  No one in authority is even collecting statistics about these victims of daily rape, much less trying to help them.   On the contrary, when it was revealed that a major US defense contractor was shuttling women and girls between Kuwait and Baghdad to be used as sex slaves, the story went nowhere.  The matter remained so obscure that even Vlahos misreports the name of the whistleblower who revealed it.  She calls him Bruce Halley.  His name is Barry Halley. 


Chronicles Magazine, September 2008

The theme of the issue is the importance of historianship; interesting pieces praise the historical works of David Hume, Edward Gibbon, and Ray Allen Billington. 

Elsewhere in the magazine, William Watkins reports a case in Stoke-on-Trent, England, in which non-Muslim boys attending a state school were punished for refusing a teacher’s instruction to pray to Allah as part of a diversity lesson.  Watkins is most disturbed that these boys must seek redress, not by appeal to the traditional rights of Englishmen, by under the European Convention on Human Rights.  Here is a news story about the case; here is a news story about a deadly encounter between a Muslim man and his anti-Muslim neighbor in Stoke-on-Trent, suggesting why the school there may have been nervous about diversity issues. 

Lefalcon’s idol Srdja Trifkovic takes the arrest of Radovan Karadzic as an opportunity to relate the recent history of the Balkans, demonstrating the plain falsity of much of the anti-Serb mythology Westerners have been fed since 1991.  Read a slightly different version of Trifkovic’s article here.

Chilton Williamson, whose contributions lately have tended to be barely readable stories about preposterously stereotypical characters in Mexico, writes an 11 paragraph column, the first 10 of which are surprisingly cogent.  He analyzes the notion of an “American Dream,” arguing that such a dream is “inherently inflationary, and therefore ultimately destructive.”   Destructive not only of prosperity, but of the bonds of family, faith, and tradition.  Just when it seems Williamson has abandoned his creepy racism and found a genuinely humanistic topic to explore, he concludes with a paragraph beginning “Barack Obama, the mulatto presidential nominee sprung from the loins of a white Kansas woman and a black man from Kenya, embodies the American Dream as it has been understood at least since James Truslow Adams’ day.”

Chronicles Magazine, June/ July/ August 2008

June- Paul Craig Roberts, of whom Lefalcon so memorably exclaimed “I savor his golden words!,” writes on “The Decline and Fall of the American Economy.”  Roberts writes: “John Williams, proprietor of Shadow Government Statistics (, has been following US economic indicators for decades.  He notes that each administration has tinkered with the official statistics in orderto make itself look a little better; the cumulative effect over the decades is that the statistics greatly understate the problems.  Williams finds that the real rates of inflation and unemployment are about twice the reported rates.”  Here is Roberts’ article; here is W. John Williams’ inflation calculator.

July- Lefalcon’s beau ideal, Srdja Trifkovic, looks at John McCain and George Soros and sees “The most dangerous man in America, bankrolled by the most evil man in the world.”  Kenneth Zaretzke presents the moral issues surrounding the question of abortion in as clear and dispassionate a way as anyone could; unfortunately, Zaretzke’s article is not online.  George McCartney reviews Iron Man, seeing in it a film that teaches the young an important lesson.  “This movie teaches youngsters that it’s righteously cool to kill Middle Easterners by the caravanload.”  After a progressivley more outraged exposition of the plot, McCartney writes:

I suppose I wouldn’t mind all this if it were happening in some comic book never-never land.  But this action takes place in present-day Afghanistan where, in pursuit of a just goal, our actual Armed Forces have inadvertently wrought incalculable havoc on innocent people.  This is not fantasy land; it is the sorry site of our failure to capture Osama bin Laden andhis Al Qaeda forces because of our current administration’s infamously wrongheaded decision to wage a larger war in Iraq.  To make this the background of a children’s fantasy is flatly obscene.

August- George McCartney joins the ranks of those film critics, like Stuart Klawans of The Nation, who have written love letters to the suit Cary Grant wore in North by Northwest.  Well, it is a great suit.

Chronicles, April 2008

One of the preoccupations of this ultra-ultra-right wing publication is the value of distinctions among people- class distinctions, ethnic distinctions, gender distinctions, etc.  Most of its contributors are firmly convinced that the great trouble with the current age is that such distinctions are being elided.  They say that what they dread is not equality- that what will come when all the old distinctions are destroyed or concealed is not an egalitarian society, but its opposite.  The new elite will rule brutally, while the ruled will be atomized, unable to form bonds of solidarity among themselves. 

Several pieces in the current issue explore this worry.  Editor Thomas Fleming writes the obituary of the bourgeoisie: “The old bourgeoisie is as dead as the old aristocracy.  The two classes, at least in America, have merged into a single type.”  With them has perished the citizen who feels himself to have a stake of ownership in the state, and so too have perished the republican virtues that made free government possible.  Historian John Lukacs laments “The End of the American Middle Class,” finding that only a tiny number of Americans truly own any property.  Most of those who claim to be owners really hold only an abstraction, and that on the sufferance of the bank.  As a result, “We now live in a largely classless society.  Not unforeseeable is the emergence of a new kind of ruling class- but who, and how, and when, no one can tell.”  James O. Tate’s “Nostalgia Ain’t What It Used to Be: Arriving at Indistinction” traces the idea that “the flattening out of all distinctions would put an end to war” through various twentieth century American novelists.  Scott Richert analyzes the consequences of current trade policy on our future class structure, concluding that “we can see the ranks of the underclass swelling, while the new-new rich drive the transformation.”    

Some of the magazine’s other preoccupations crop up, too.  Its “neoconfederate” streak shows up in an extremely hostile item about Abraham Lincoln’s refusal to negotiate with secessionists in the period from November 1860- April 1861.  Christie Davies writes about the horrors that her native Britain is supposedly suffering as the result of allowing large-scale immigration from Muslim countries.  Lefalcon’s idol Srdja Trifkovic documents both the uses to which secessionist movements around the world have put the USA’s recognition of Kosovo’s declaration of “independence” and the distrust that recognition has inspired in American allies who face secessionist movements of their own.  In particular he calls attention to intense unease in India, where public opinion fears that the USA will try to win favor with Pakistan by recognizing a similar declaration in Kashmir.  A review of three movies dealing with abortion (including the Romanian film 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days, reviewed favorably in the Nation a few weeks back) is dominated by horror and indignation at the procedure.  The critic praises 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days, because the filmmaker’s prochoice views are overpowered by graphic scenes near the end.

Chronicles (four issues)

My subscription to this ultra-ultra conservative publication ran out a couple of years ago, but they keep sending it to me nonetheless.  I suppose they really mean it when they say they believe in tradition. 

November 2007: Gregory McNamee remembers his friend Edward Abbey, alternately acknowledging his faults (“Was he a racist?  Undoubtedly, at least after a fashion”), even praising him for what others might regard as faults (the fact that Abbey “never bothered himself with developing a coherent politics apart from that most old-school of tenets: The individual trumps the collectivity, the collectivity is always suspect, freedom is the sine qua non of existence, the world is a fine place and worth fighting for.”)  Lefalcon’s idol Srdja Trifkovic compares the current phase of the US occupation of Iraq to the USSR’s 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia.  Ted Galen Carpenter analyzes likely consequences of Kosovo’s “independence,” bringing up the six members of the Kosovo Liberation Army caught planning to attack Fort Dix. 

January 2008: Clyde Wilson looks at what it would mean if the USA were indeed a “Proposition Nation” as some like to say, finding that the consequences of such a belief are quite brutal; Kirkpatrick Sale argues that the time has come for the states to secede from the USA; Sale and Tobias Lanz sympathetically review books propounding a new agrarian vision; and Srdja Trifkovic finds the American Empire compromised, even paralyzed, on every front, and concludes that the best thing for the USA would be for this paralysis to continue indefinitely.

February 2008: Leon Hadar looks at calls for Washington to restart the Israeli-Palestinian peace process and finds “Another Middle East Fantasy.”  “America’s role as facilitator of a potential peace accord [can] only be achieved if and when the Israelis and Palestinians reach the conclusion that the costs of continuing to fight have become so high that they require agonizing compromises over Jerusalem, the Palestinian refugees, and the Israeli settlements.”  For all its influence, the American government is in no position to create a situation from which this cost-benefit anaysis would flow.  A recent case of “Honor Killing” in Canada, coupled with the Canadian establishment’s panicked attempts to prevent public discussion of the case, prompts a brief note calling for “more open debate in Canada” about immigration policy.  Chronicles editor (and classics PhD) Thomas Fleming discusses neoconservative ideas about domesticating Islam and taming Muslims, finding these ideas to be delusions that have issued in disaster, most recently in Kosovo’s “independence.”  Gregory McNamee provides a miniature biography of Billy the Kid, a surprisingly fresh and informative little sketch.  Roger D. McGrath writes about his favorite western movies, Clay Reynolds about his least-favorite specimens of the same genre.  Taki Theodoracopulos tells a story about an English judge who fined him the equivalent of $400,000 for the offense of explaining the origins of some words derived from Greek.  John Willson reviews a favoriable biography of Senator Joe McCarthy, adding hgis own fervent commendation.  Andrei Navrozov explains his multiple marriages by quoting an alleged Russian proverb to the effect that a man should marry three times- the first time for no reason, the second time for love, the third for love.  And Srdja Trifkovic finds in Kosovo’s “independence” a catastrophe of global dimensions.   

March 2008: Gregory McNamee discusses the immiseration of the average Mexican over the last few decades, connecting it to the mass migration of her citizens northward.  McNamee argues that this migration is not only a result of Mexico’s declining standard of living, but in several ways a cause of it.  William Lutz reports on educational controversies in Texas.  Taki provides his usual story of boozy life among the jet set, then tacks on some chilling facts about Kosovo.  A review of Chilton Williamson’s Immigration and the American Future focuses on ways in which mass migration of unskilled workers increases economic inequality.  A review of a biography of Dick Cheney appears under the headline “A Self-Made (Mad)Man.”  And Joseph E. Fallon points out the similarities between the ongoing massacres in the Sudanese region of Darfur and the Ethiopian region of Ogaden.  “Why the outrage over Darfur, but not over Ogaden?  There are three reasons: Islam, oil, and China.”