Amazon and the Death of Bookstores

Interesting data, this:

In certain circles Amazon enjoys a reputation as a slayer of all that is right and good and true. It doesn’t matter whether the topic is publishing, bookstores, or literature, Amazon is responsible for its imminent death.

For example, there’s been a growing urban legend that Amazon is out to kill all bookstores (and doom themselves, LOL). It’s been reported on time aftertime after time over the past few years. It has been repeated so much that many are taking it as the truth.

Pity there’s no actual evidence to back it up. … Amazon is so effective at killing bookstores that there are actually more indies today than there were 3 years ago.

The Problem with Safe Sex

Marina Olson:

Sex is an action that is meant to manifest the most primordial basis for society. It can be abused, like any activity performed by fallen man. It can also be elevated, like any activity performed by man who is redeemed and united to Christ. But our sexuality, in all its fullness, is not the sort of thing that we should have to subjugate to an analysis of “safety.” The sexual act is one of those life moments in which we enter into reciprocal trust, appreciation, and love of another. In terms of choices, I much prefer the option where I can completely give myself to my best friend, the person I know will always have my back, than the option where I go in with a self-defensive mentality, particularly if I have to defend myself against my supposed best friend.

The Madness of an Italian Fascist Footballer

This piece from Brian Phillips is fantastic:

Paolo Di Canio is an insane fascist. I’m not trying to be inflammatory; these are simply words that describe Paolo Di Canio. He’s an insane fascist in the same way that he’s 45 and Italian and cadaverously thin. He’s an insane fascist in the same way that he’s lined and balding and the wearer of elongated sideburns that make him look like a Victorian railroad magnate. He’s an insane fascist in the same way that he’s an ex-soccer star and, as of this week, the recently fired ex-manager of the Premier League club Sunderland AFC.

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Alcoholism in Russia

Interesting read via The Atlantic:

In the year 988, Prince Vladimir decided to convert his nation to Orthodox Christianity, partly because it allowed the consumption of alcohol. According to legend, monks at the Chudov Monastery in the Kremlin were the first to lay their lips on vodka in the late 15th century, but as Russian writer, Victor Erofeyev notes, “Almost everything about this story seems overly symbolic: the involvement of men of God, the name of the monastery, which no longer exists (chudov means “miraculous”), and its setting in the Russian capital.” In 1223, when the Russian army suffered a devastating defeat against the invading Mongols and Tartars, it was partly because they had gone into battle drunk.

Ivan the Terrible established kabaks (where spirits were produced and sold) in the 1540s, and in the 1640s they gained monopoly status. In 1648, tavern revolts broke out across the country, by which time a third of the male population was in debt to the taverns. In the 1700s, to regain order, Peter the Great monopolized the vodka industry and used his subjects’ alcoholism for personal gain. As Heidi Brown, who spent 10 years covering Russia for Forbesmagazine, explained, “[Peter the Great] decreed that the wives of peasants should be whipped if they dared attempt to drag their imbibing husbands out of taverns before the men were ready to leave.”

Guardian Editor on the Scope of Surveillance

Via The Guardian:

The potential of the surveillance state goes way beyond anything inGeorge Orwell‘s 1984, Alan Rusbridgerthe Guardian‘s editor-in-chief, told an audience in New York on Monday.

Speaking in the wake of a series of revelations in the Guardian about the extent of the National Security Agency’s surveillance operations, Rusbridger said: “Orwell could never have imagined anything as complete as this, this concept of scooping up everything all the time.

“This is something potentially astonishing about how life could be lived and the limitations on human freedom,” he said.

Rusbridger said the NSA stories were “clearly” not a story about totalitarianism, but that an infrastructure had been created that could be dangerous if it fell into the wrong hands.

“Obama is a nice guy. David Cameron is a nice social Democrat. About three hours from London in Greece there are some very nasty political parties. What there is is the infrastructure for total surveillance. In history, all the precedents are unhappy,” said Rusbridger, speaking at the Advertising Week conference.

Scruton on the Anglican Church

Via Juicy Ecumenism:

Scruton defends not only a religion, and sometimes not even a religion, but a way of life. He speaks of “that peculiar Anglican dignity, which is the dignity of a people who can never witness a ceremony without thinking of the mess that will need clearing up afterwards.”

England, Scruton believes, “is a Christian country, regardless of whether it also a country of Christians.” The history, rites, institutions, and religious symbolism engraved in the very buildings all speak to this. It is quite literally written in stone. In one passage, Scruton humorously explains the necessity of accepting this fact because “Rites of passage are important… To think that politics can be conducted without reference to them, or that institutions that endorse them can be left to look after themselves, is to live in cloud-cuckoo land.”

The modern world has not been kind to the Church, and Scruton laments the harassment of Christians who wish to wear crucifixes to their place of work and the changes in worldviews that result in the reduction of marriage from sacrament to contract. The greatest problem with the modern world, he says, is “the loss of the habit of repentance.”

The Art of Exchange at the Acton Institute

Joseph Sunde looks at the popularity of Kickstarter and what it means for capitalism:

Capitalism is routinely castigated as an enemy of the arts, with much of the finger-pointing bent toward monsters of profit and efficiency — drooling only for money, caring nothing for beauty, and so on. Other critiques take aim at more systemic features, fearing that the type of industrialization that markets sometimes tend toward will inevitably detach artists from healthy social contexts, sucking dry any potential for flourishing as a result.

Yet while free economies certainly introduce a unique series of challenges for artists and consumers alike, and despite the wide array of bottom-dollar record-company execs and merchandising-obsessed Hollywood crackpots that demonstrate such obstacles, recent increases in economic empowerment have also led to plenty of artisticempowerment in turn.

The Perils of Unplugging

Did you catch this essay from Helen Rittelmeyer?

The answer, I have learned, is that unplugging from the zeitgeist makes it really hard to talk to people. (You’d think that six months of a completely overhauled reading life would have yielded a grander conclusion.) There are only so many times you can respond to someone’s well-intentioned conversation starter with “Sorry, I haven’t followed that story because it brought me no joy to do so,” or “I figured it wasn’t cosmically important for me to have an opinion on that, and since the topic didn’t interest me I didn’t bother to form one,” or “I have no idea what meme you’re talking about, because I used the time I was going to spend on Facebook to finish Boswell’s life of Johnson.”

You have no factoids to swap, because you no longer deal in factoids. No memes, no news bulletins, no hey-did-you-see’s. Topics not derived from the media should be safe ground, theoretically, but you’d be surprised how many of the reference points people use to understand their own stories come from stuff they’ve seen on Facebook or on TV. These days, socializing at a bar or browsing through Twitter, I feel like a time traveler from the 19th century. Or earlier. …

But after six months of sticking with only the most unimpeachable reason—I’m reading this because it makes me happy for reasons I wouldn’t be ashamed to admit—I have gained a new appreciation for some of the stupid reasons. Viral articles give you something to talk with strangers about. Blog posts give you an excuse to email your friends. The news cycle helps mark the passage of time, differentiating one week from the next and one’s own century from those gone by (not an unalloyed good by any means, but nevertheless indispensable to sanity).

These scraps of text may be, in themselves, entirely or nearly devoid of content, and if any Luddite wants to urge people to be more self-aware about that, I’m all for it. But positively luxuriating in content for six months has taught me that content isn’t everything.

The Future of Conservatism

The Intercollege Review recently featured a symposium on the topic “What Is Wrong with Conservatism and How Can We Make It Right?”

From the intro:

The American conservative movement is facing a crisis. While a strong plurality of voting Americans identify as conservative, it’s apparent to anyone who’s watching that college students are more liberal than ever, and even those who may have identified as conservatives ten years ago are now identifying as libertarians, “pro-liberty,” or, in many cases, not identifying at all.

At the same time, the content of conservatism has become more ambiguous, to the point where people with radically different philosophies can all identity as conservative. Some self-styled conservatives would like to grow the size of the federal government to promote American interests and ideals abroad, while others plant their roots in the soil of community, decentralization, anti-interventionism. Some conservatives oppose almost any restrictions on the free market, while others see meaningful regulations as part of a prudent, conservative economic order. The list of disputes goes on and on.

Mark Mitchell’s piece is well worth your time. I also particularly liked this essay from Amanda Achtman:

It is becoming increasingly popular to speak of a “conservative movement.” This is a questionable term because it denotes not some deep paradoxical truth but a shallow oxymoronic contradiction. Being conservative means having a disposition to conserve the familiar; movement means making a departure from it.

Some argue that “movement conservatism” is a necessary phrase to describe the non-partisan activities of conservatives. But in fact, adopting the language of change, innovation, movement, progress, and revolution contradicts the conservative disposition.

Principles are characterized by their rootedness. Movements are characterized by their rootlessness. Of revolutionary movements Eric Voegelin says, “A movement lives in that it moves. The radical revolutionary must make the revolution into a permanent condition; there can be no compromise or stabilization of the achievements at a definite point.” A movement thrives on unrest, which is directly opposite to the conservative disposition to appreciate familiar elements of the present.

The Four Schools of Thought on American Foreign Policy

Given President Obama’s speech at the UN this morning, today seems like a good day to pass this article around. WRM has a nice summary of the four schools of thought in American foreign policy over at Via Meadia (I’ve bolded his description of the four approaches) :

President Obama is not a stupid man. After more than four years in the White House, he cannot be called a naive man or an inexperienced leader. He is not, despite the suspicions of some of his angrier critics, actively seeking to undermine the prestige and the power of the United States. So why has the Syria war been such a “problem from Hell” for this president? More specifically, why did President Obama fail so abysmally to get public opinion and the Congress behind him, when at last and reluctantly he called for a limited American military response to the use of chemical weapons in Syria’s civil war?

Longtime readers will know that I divide American foreign policy into four schools of thought. Hamiltonians (well represented among the old Republican foreign policy establishment) want the United States to follow the trail blazed by Great Britain in its day: to build a global commercial and security system based on sea power and technological leadership, maintaining a balance of power in key geopolitical theaters and seeking to attract rivals or potential rivals like China into our system as, in Robert Zoellick’s phrase, “responsible stakeholders.” Wilsonians also want the United States to build a world order, but to anchor it in liberal human rights practices and international law rather than in the economic and security frameworks that Hamiltonians prefer. Those two globalist schools dominate the foreign policy establishment’s thought about the world we live in, and have done so since the 1940s.

There are two other schools that are home-focused rather than globalist. They are less interested in changing the world around the United States than in keeping the United States safe from the world. Jeffersonians have historically sought to avoid war and foreign entanglements at all costs; Jacksonians have been suspicious of foreign adventures, but strongly believe in national defense and support a strong military and want decisive action against any threat to the United States, its honor, or its treaty allies. Jeffersonians are generally opposed to almost any war other than a war of self defense following a direct enemy attack; Jacksonians aren’t interested in global transformation but will generally back robust American responses to anything they see as a security threat or a threat to America’s honor and reputation abroad.

Obviously these kind of classification systems are artificial and can be imprecise. But I find these kind of taxonomies to be a helpful first step for starting conversation.