Category ►►► That Was Then, This Is Now
September 26, 2012
Between the economy and the changing technological landscape, the publishing biz has seen its share of contortions over the last few years. In my own personal experience, I've seen two of my editors sacked (one of them, bless his soul, right after I inked a deal to write a novella for him) -- but it looks like even the heavy-hitters are now starting to feel the pinch:
A New York publisher this week filed lawsuits against several prominent writers who failed to deliver books for which they received hefty contractual advances, records show.
The Penguin Group's New York State Supreme Court breach of contract/unjust enrichment complaints include copies of book contracts signed by the respective defendants.
Wow. I guess that means the days of the hefty advance are a thing of the past! Of course, it probably helps to actually deliver the book you've been contracted to write -- but that's another story.
May 18, 2010
Political Quote of the Day. Maybe the Year...
Quoth Sen. Arlen Specter (?-PA, unrated because nobody wants to claim him), after conceding the Democratic primary for his own reelection to his opponent, Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA, 95%):
in the Democratic Party hands."
(Well... as of April 2009. Before that date, it was equally vital to keep this seat in Republican Party hands. But, well, you know... shift happens.)
July 8, 2007
In a comment on a previous post, commenter Terrye said the following:
I know I am an Independent and I voted a straight Republican ticket in 06 while real true blue Republican conservatives like Noonan were telling people to stay home and let the Democrats win.
This started me thinking. This post began as a comment; but like Topsy, it "just grew," and I decided to promote it to the rank of blogpost. So here goes...
First, a whiff of heresy to start the day: Peggy Noonan is not a "true blue Republican conservative;" she is instead a "Reagan conservative," and thereby hangs a tale...
I cannot tell what her political position was BR (before Reagan), but I wouldn't be surprised if she grew up much more liberal than she became later. Regardless, she glommed onto Reagan during his 1980 campaign (or perhaps a little earlier) and hasn't let go since.
Now, many Republicans will argue that conservatism is entirely defined by WWRD ("what would Reagan do?") The problem is that Ronald Reagan -- who was himself eclectic -- chose to define his presidency on only two big (urgent) ideas:
- Economic policy reform: lower taxes and lower interest rates, though he never carried through to privatizing "entitlement" programs such as Social Security and MediCare, and he never quite understood the importance of small business -- especially independent (non government-subsidized) technological innovation;
- Confronting Communism around the globe.
Strangely, his eagerness to engage in "foreign adventures" to hit Communism never seemed to spill over into a general theory of active military and diplomatic engagement on behalf of other urgent foreign-policy goals. For example, after Libya committed the Berlin disco bombing, Reagan decided a response was necessary; but his response was limited to a single bombing raid. He made no attempt to get at the root cause -- in Libya, Arabic nationalism rather than extreme Islam -- and resolve it.
Qaddafi pulled in his horns, but not for long; and his subsequent attacks on America (such as the Lockerbie bombing) were more subtle than the Berlin attack had been. He also waited until Reagan was nearly out of office: Because Reagan had set in place no anti-pan-Arabist policy that would survive his own presidency -- he thought Libya a nuisance, not a new anti-American front -- Qaddafi simply outwaited him.
Reagan treated pan-Arabism, and the pan-Islamism of Iran, as annoying distractions to the "real" problem of stopping Communism, rather than as separate, distinct, and very serious threats to America in their own ways. Destroying the Soviet Union was vital, and Reagan was both prophet and general (like Mohammed!) on that front. But he was AWOL on the Arab/Moslem threat.
Today, there is a strong strain of conservatism that loyally plays follow the leader down that same blind trail; they typically oppose the Iraq war as the very sort of "foreign alliances, attachments, and intrigues" that George Washington warned against in his farewell address.
That was good policy... in the 18th century. But that was then, this is now: 2007 is not 1796, and the world is far too interconnected and integrated today to retreat behind the walls of "Fortress America" and let the rest of the world rot. (See the Pentagon's New Map, by Thomas P.M. Barnett, for further information.)
Such Reagan conservatives were willing to go along with the first stage of the Iraq war, invasion followed by the swift collapse of Hussein and the Baathists; but when the war evolved to the counterinsurgency, reconstruction, and diplomacy of today, they lost interest.
For some reason I cannot ken, many "Reagan conservatives" are allergic to an activist foreign policy -- except insofar as it applies to Russia, Red China, North Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, and now Venezuela (anyone detect a pattern here?) In particular, they deride any response anywhere that goes beyond "killing people and breaking things," as if America were a blundering ogre whose only weapon is a massive tree trunk in one hand.
Thus, many -- most definitely including Noonan -- hated the post-war attrition strategy, and now they hate the counterinsurgency strategy... or even the fact that we have a post-war strategy at all. Their preferred plan would have been to smash Iraq flat, bounce the rubble, and then toddle off with a quiet glow of satisfaction at a job well done. Putting the rubble back together again makes the job seem overdone, in their minds, like trying to put the firecracker back together after exploding it.
They deride swamp-draining as "nation-building," which appears to be a term of opprobrium: Either they believe building something is inherently inferior to tearing it down, or they believe our enemies do not deserve (e.g.) the Marshall Plan or the rebuilding of Japan, or else they judge America to be utterly incompetent at doing so... which is a harsh and ahistorical judgment to make, considering our mixed but not at all catastrophic record of achievement at reconstructing the conquered in our own image.
Curiously, this reticence does not carry over to the remnants of the former Soviet Union; we are expected to make them capitalist democratic republics. I believe this to be an example of taking a prophet's action (or inaction), which may have been driven entirely by personal, secular, human considerations, and imbuing it with almost religious significance: We visit the house where George Washington once slept the night; we avoid broccoli because the prophet always hated it.
Reagan never took seriously any foreign policy threat beyond world Communism... so who are we mortals to run where the great man feared to tread? Remember, Khomeini took over Iraq the year before Reagan was elected; yet in Reagan's entire eight years in office, he never did a thing about the rise of the regional superpower and its terrorist arm Hezbollah -- not even when they attacked us and killed 241 Marines and 58 French paratroopers in Beirut in 1983.
For many Reagan conservatives, Reagan himself becomes not merely the greatest president of the twentieth century, which most of us would agree he was, but a Mohammed-like figure who both defines and limits modern American conservatism: Just as many extreme Moslems will not do anything unless the prophet did it first, it seems that a typical Reagan conservative like Peggy Noonan is suspicious of any action that goes beyond what Reagan did -- and what she imagines he would do today, were he only still alive.
Thus, at core, Peggy Noonan is angry at George W. Bush for not allowing the Salafist and Shiite fever swamp to fester, as "the prophet" did: To move beyond the divine master is to become apostate.
Because Bush has actively tried to dismantle the irhabi hirabah infrastructure by a combination of war, diplomacy, and reconstruction or "nation building," which the entire region desperately needs, Noonan feels he has abandoned Reaganism and become just like George H.W. Bush, the first man to jilt her at the ideological altar. (Unlike Jeanne Kirkpatrick -- whom Noonan wishes she were -- Noonan is more of a "feeler" than a "thinker.")
Bush-41 personally betrayed her: She wrote his "read my lips, no new taxes" speech. I think Noonan, like many Reagan conservatives, was always chary of Bush jr., breathlessly waiting for him to "betray the legacy," just as his father did. Thus, at the first sign of deviancy -- whether it's nation-building, immigration reform, or a more robust integration with the outside world, working with other countries rather than dictating to them (as Reagan conservatives falsely remember Reagan doing) -- Noonan, et al, instantly cried "havoc" and let slip the dogs of Reagan orthodoxy.
I have never had much respect for Noonan as a thinker; now I despise her as a spineless defeatist. I fully expect her eventually to find a home in Pat Buchanan/Bill O'Reilly socially conservative populism (as Buckley appears to be doing), thus completing the dawn-to-dusk cycle from naif to Reagan acolyte (Noonan's high) to aging Mother Superior of the First Church of Fundamentalist Reaganism.
She will end her days as an embittered Maureen Dowd of the Right, endlessly railing against the modern and clinging to her narrowing tunnel-vision of Reaganism as if it were poor King Charles' head.
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