Monday, January 10, 2011

Douthat's Counter-Point to Krugman

Because I want to be fair, and because Douthat makes some interesting points, I want to link to his article in counter-point to Krugman's. I still think that that deranged minds aren't so deranged that they act randomly. Irrationally? Yes, but not randomly. The Oswald and Bremer cases are thoughtful counter-points, but I still think that the political atmosphere affects such occurences, more than just a little. Thoughts?

Krugman on the Arizona Shootings

I wish that I didn't think Krugman right about this. I wish we could say that we're experienced an isolated, deranged soul committing a random act of violence. Yes, a deranged soul, but no, it was not a random act of violence. The shooting was aimed at a political figure. Although it came from a deranged individual, the targets were not entirely random--he choose a political target. Someone like this individual, and others before him, act out in a way that they think will resonate in the wider culture.

I also have to say that Krugman is correct when he eschews any pretense that both Left and Right stand equal in invective. The "left", which means, I think, those who adhere to the values of the Enlightenment (and which can certainly include Republicans and conservatives) value reason, democracy, and resist the use of violence. A few--but a very vocal few--on the Right promote fear and violence. Even during the Bush Administration, when from the point of view of many on the Left, our nation's institutions were deeply harmed and our values degraded, we saw no widespread turn to talk of violence and resistance. No, generally in America, violence and fear come from the Right. We see it again. Leaders in the Republican Party need to speak out loudly and clearly against it. Failing to do so may constitute good politics (I hope not), but it clearly constitutes a moral failure.

John LeCarre: Our Kind of Traitor

Yours truly has been a John LeCarre fan for a long time. I have encountered his work both in his novels and in film and television productions of them. He started writing about espionage (and more importantly, those involved in it) during the Cold War. Since the end of the Cold War, he's dealt into corruption of a more private nature for the most part, or one could say in the spirit of current parlence, within context of a public-private partnership. In some ways, his more recent work makes one almost pine for the good ol' Commies. Now, the nemesis is often found in the nefarious world of corporate crime or "the Americans" running rough-shod into some scheme justified by the "War on Terror" (a term that should be burned at the stake). LeCarre isn't the type of writer you want to read if you want to always look on the bright side of life (to borrow a turn of phrase from his fellow Brits @ Monty Python's Flying Circus).

As to this particular book, I found it one of the most engaging by LeCarre that I've read. I enjoyed its immediate predecessor--A Most Wanted Man--as well, but in this novel the array of characters really drew me in. The central characters are a young British couple who encounter a family led by a Russian mobster. However, the mobster quickly displays many endearing qualities, plus he has a desire to avenge a death by fellow mobsters. He goes looking for "fair play English". The story unfolds from this chance vacation encounter in Antiqua, to London, to Switzerland. During the novel we come to know a number of different characters, and LeCarre paints each one with details that give us a sense of the individuality of each of them. Indeed, as the novel progresses, I come to hope for a happy ending for all of them. But, of course, this is LeCarre, and one just doesn't think that things will work out that way. Of course, to learn how it turns out you'll to read the book.

P.S. I didn't link to Amazon's site for the book as I normally do. I listened to this book, I did not read it. The audio presentation was quite good, with the narrator providing excellent characterization to the dialogues. Highly recommended.