Happy Thanksgiving!

To all of you. Although dark clouds gather, we still have a great deal to be thankful for — and here’s a little historical reminder that much of what we have to be thankful for is still worth preserving and defending.

The Healing Touch

On Monday night, as the sack of Ferguson was just getting underway, President Obama appeared on television to make a lackluster appeal for decorum. (His remarks were broadcast in split-screen, with the gathering riot on one side and Mr. Obama on the other; the juxtaposition made for some memorable TV.)

Writing at City Journal, Heather Mac Donald comments on what the President said, and what he might he have said instead. You can read her column here.

Watching The World Burn

By now even the most rose-bespectacled Pollyannas among you (you know who you are) must be noticing that things are getting a little, um, frayed. As I write, civil order is fracturing, with impressive coordination, all over the country. Last night an American city was sacked by barbarians — looted, pillaged, and burned as the nation, and the world, watched on cable TV. (Gil Scott-Heron famously said the “the Revolution will not be televised”, but he couldn’t have been more mistaken: it is hard to imagine any event nowadays that could be so banal as not to be broadcast to the four corners of the globe, and the savaging of a city in the heartland of America certainly makes the cut.)

I haven’t said anything much, if anything at all, about the Ferguson affair. There’s very little I could add to what has already been said. I will say, though, that I was startled today to see that the New York Times had published Darren Wilson’s address. They did not have to do this; they can only have known that it would put him at greater risk. It was obviously a conscious editorial decision, and it is despicable.

It seems that things tumble over one another faster and faster. The entire Mideast is aflame; it seems that every single place we have laid a finger on over the past few years has sunk at once into barbarism and bloody war. Our relationship with a resurgent Russia is at its lowest ebb since the collapse of the Soviet Union, and in the Far East, China’s power is expanding into a deepening vacuum.

At home, political tensions are red-hot; our lame-duck President mounts serial assaults on the very fabric and framework of the Republic, while his erstwhile allies flee him in droves. His signature ‘accomplishment’ is exposed almost daily now as a premeditated swindle and a titanic blunder; why, just today we read that none other than Chuck Schumer himself has renounced its passage as a grievous mistake, and was joined in this opinion by ‘Fauxcahontas’ herself, Elizabeth Warren — who has her eye on a glittering prize, and who knows a liability when she sees one. (As Mencken reminded the savvy politician: when the water reaches the upper deck, follow the rats.)

Everywhere the national mood is souring, and social cohesion fracturing. Sales of guns and survival equipment are at all-time highs. Race relations (quite obviously) are getting worse, not better, and rapidly so. More than three-quarters of Americans think that their children will be worse off than they are. Labor-force participation is at its lowest point since the 1970s. The universal acid of radical skepticism having nearly completed its work, all transcendent values have now been dissolved — and if all that once was sacred is now remembered at all, is only to be mocked and scorned. It would be hard to imagine popular culture becoming any coarser, or academic culture more obsessed with sulking, navel-gazing, and barren resentment (though perhaps it is only that I am not sufficiently imaginative). “Civil society” — the layer of social institutions that lie between the individual and the State, and which Alexis de Tocqueville rightly saw as the the tent-pole of American life — has been aggressively leached away by the relentless seepage of the central government, in much the same way that ambient minerals replace the interior tissues of a fossilizing corpse. Government expenditures on dependency programs make up almost 70% of the national budget, while the number of citizens who pay in more than they take out will soon be less than half of the population. The national debt is over seventeen trillion dollars: an almost ungraspably large amount, and one that will never, ever, be repaid. Generations of our children’s children will curse and blaspheme us; we were the stewards of their birthright, of their heritage, and we have squandered it all because we were too spoiled and lazy to take responsibility for our own lives.

Adam Smith said that “there is a lot of ruin in a nation”, and it will surely take a little while yet for as tall a candle as the West once was to burn itself all the way to the ground. There may even be some pleasant times to be had in these crepuscular years. But every now and then it seems the end is suddenly quite a bit closer — and the autumn of 2014 has that feeling about it, I think. Don’t you?

Angels And Demons

When hopes and dreams are loose in the streets, it is well for the timid to lock doors, shutter windows and lie low until the wrath has passed. For there is often a monstrous incongruity between the hopes, however noble and tender, and the action which follows them. It is as if ivied maidens and garlanded youths were to herald the four horsemen of the apocalypse.

Eric Hoffer, The True Believer, 1951

Meanwhile…

At least there’s some good news today.

Paging Dr. Richter

Everybody’s talking about the unilateral illegal-alien amnesty President Obama plans to announce tonight. (One thing you may not have heard, buy the way, is that it will add as many new foreign workers as there have been jobs created since 2009, at a time when, for example, unemployment among blacks, who will disproportionately be competing for low-income jobs with these illegal workers, is still above 10%.)

The proposed executive action is intensely divisive and provocative in three important ways.

First, it divides socialist, egalitarian open-borders sorts who see a moral imperative for the United States to provide charity and succor to all the world’s poor, even if it ruins the nation, from those who believe that our government, and our President, should put the interests of American citizens first.

Second, it divides multiculturist, anti-white activists from those who wish to defend our nation’s traditional cultural and demographic form.

Third, it divides those who think that the Constitution is a “living document”, and in many ways an outdated one, that confines a modern Executive far too much for these fast-moving times, from those who worry that this action stretches the Constitution beyond the breaking point, and is a direct assault on the separation of powers and a threat to the Republic itself.

The regions marked off by these divisions are not congruent, although there is a great deal of overlap. But the fault-lines that divide them are very deep, and have been locked in place for a long time now — half a century or more — while the tectonic forces dragging them in opposite directions have built up to dangerous levels. All seems quiet from the surface, save for the occasional tremor, but in fact there is, below the ground, enormous energy waiting to be released, with the potential for widespread devastation.

Mr. Obama’s brazen action tonight will sharply increase the strain on all of these fault-lines. It sets the interests of illegal aliens above those of American citizens; it accelerates at a stroke the displacement of the nation’s traditional ethnic and cultural majority (and minority), and it is an aggressive usurpation of the legislative power of Congress. It may or not be the jolt that sets these tectonic plates into sudden, violent motion. But even if not, it is bound to increase the destructive energy when the earthquake finally comes — and come it will.

Master Class

On my very short list of all-time favorite writers is the great John McPhee. (If you’ve never read him, stop wasting your life and correct this mistake at once.)

Here, in the Princeton Alumni Journal, is an appreciation of Mr. McPhee by one of his students, Joel Achenbach ’82. Enjoy.

Where’s My Pitchfork?

“First of all, temporary protective status historically has been used for special circumstances where you have immigrants to this country who are fleeing persecution in their countries. Or there’s some emergency situation in their native land that required them to come to the United States. So it would not be appropriate to use that just for a particular group that came here primarily, for example, because they were looking for economic opportunity.

With respect to the notion that I can just suspend deportations through executive order, that’s just not the case. Because there are laws on the books that Congress has passed. And I know that everybody here at Bell is studying hard so you know that we’ve got three branches of government.. The executive branch’s job is to enforce and implement those laws. And then the judiciary has to interpret the laws.

There are enough laws on the books by Congress that are very clear in terms of how we have to enforce our immigration system that for me to simply, through executive order, to ignore those congressional mandates would not conform with my appropriate role as president.”

Barack Obama, speech at Bell Multicultural High School, Washington, D.C., March 2011

No-Win Situation

Here’s a pungent analysis of the situation in Iraq from the ‘XX Committee’ blog. (Hat tip to the indefatigable JK.)

Key excerpt:

The U.S. military is quite capable of defeating almost any adversary on the battlefield, even Da’ish, though that is not the same thing as producing lasting political outcomes that Americans will like. This is particularly true in the Greater Middle East, where the politico-cultural barriers to Westernization delivered by the barrel of a gun are steep and strong. Over the last decade, multiple approaches have been tried: in Afghanistan and Iraq, a U.S. “heavy” footprint was applied while in Libya a “lead from behind” air coalition employing locals as the ground force (not unlike what we hope to do in Iraq now) sufficed to overthrow the Qaddafi regime. All these countries are violent basket-cases now.

On the essential fraudulence of the “counterinsurgency” myth that was peddled to the American public during George W. Bush’s second term I don’t have much to add to what other scholars have already said. The “COIN” agenda proved effective at promoting the careers and fortunes of some U.S. Army officers and their think-tank hangers-on, yet quite ineffective at producing strategic victory. It is now time, indeed long overdue, to dispense with magical thinking about what the application of American military power might achieve in any lasting strategic or political sense in the Middle East.

To be blunt, we kill very effectively but we have precious little understanding of how to transform Muslim societies by force. Indeed, our efforts in that direction usually produce opposite outcomes, which should be easily predictable were we not besotted by lies about how others view us and what we seek to achieve. It is dangerously easy, when ensconced in the Pentagon or White House bubble of endless PowerPoints and meetings, to believe entirely untrue things. This is a strategic deception that is painful because it is entirely self-inflicted.

Simply put, we have no ability to change Muslim societies unless we are willing to stay the long haul and are eager to kill staggering numbers of people, many of them civilians, in horrible ways. And even then, lasting victory is far from certain. In the 1950′s, France crushed the Algerian insurgency tactically through methods that no Western state would approve today — massive internment of civilians, indiscriminate killings, and torture on an industrial scale — and still failed to strategically defeat the local resistance, thanks in no small part to global disgust at what France was doing in Algeria. And this was a country that France had occupied for well over a century and its military knew intimately. (One of the more ridiculous facets of the Petraeus-led COIN mafia was their citation of France’s 1954-62 war in Algeria as a model of any sort to emulate, but how they out-cherry-picked Cheney to make their ahistorical arguments is, alas, another story.)

Confronted with the fact that we simply will not defeat ISIS without actually going to war with them ourselves, we are now, it seems, about to escalate.

Suppose we ‘win’, and reconquer the territory that thousands of our military already bled and died for. Then what? We will face an endless insurgency, as we did before. If we leave, chaos will erupt again, just as it has this time. Do we then stay, forever, draining the blood of our best, and money we haven’t got, into the sands of Mesopotamia?

It would be refreshing if our leaders would at least make it clear to the American people that this is the choice we face: rule this snakepit forever, at measureless cost, or look after our own dying nation, and let the parties to these ancient and alien hatreds settle them amongst themselves.

Fanning The Fire

The nation waits with bated breath for the Ferguson grand jury to return its verdict. The expectation is that there will be no indictment, as it appears that Michael Brown had attacked Officer Darren Wilson, badly injuring him, and was trying to take the officer’s pistol when he was shot. The expectation is also that if a decision not to indict is indeed brought forward, there will be widespread rioting. The situation is very, very tense.

You would think that our high officials would be doing what they can to pour oil on these troubled waters. Not our Attorney General, though: he chose instead to pour gasoline on the fire, comparing the shooting of the thuggish Michael Brown for assaulting a police officer to the gruesome 1955 torture-murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till for flirting with a white woman.

Even for Eric Holder, this is a new low. It is nothing less than deliberate provocation. If hell breaks loose in the next few days over this verdict, and people are injured or killed, there will be fresh blood on this man’s hands.

Boil That Frog

Yawn… ISIS beheads another American.

You know, when I was younger, that would have been a pretty big deal.

Did This Happen?

Having unbosomed myself of that dyspeptic political rant yesterday, it’s time to change the subject.

Here is an unsettling story about an encounter that the USS Donald Cook (DDG-75), an Arleigh Burke-class missile destroyer, had with a Russian SU-24 in the Black Sea last April.

I have only just learned about this, and while it seems clear enough that the encounter happened, and provoked a minor squabble, I haven’t yet firmly corroborated the account linked above. (Admittedly, I’ve only been trying for about ten minutes.) I’d have thought InfoDiss might have had something to say about it, but apparently not.

If it did happen as described, this is a pretty big deal.

We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Mandate

The Democrats, and by proxy Barack Obama, got hammered last week. Lest you think this was just some low-turnout election that doesn’t really mean much, a Gallup poll taken afterwards indicated that by a sizable margin — 53% to 36% — Americans would rather have the GOP at the helm than Mr. Obama. (And that’s saying something, considering what the venal and unprincipled Republican Party has on offer these days.)

You might think that a President in such a position would be chastened, would reflect on how clearly his actions have been at odds with the spirit of the nation he was elected to lead, and might, with humble grace, defer to the wishes of the people by scaling back his “fundamentally transformative” agenda — but you would be mistaken. Imagine a reflective man of humble grace, dear Reader, and you have imagined everything Barack Obama is not. Instead, he’s doubling down.

Consider, for example, his latest trip to China, for which he arrived swaggering like a sports star and chewing gum. He was ‘all hat and no cattle’ though, as the Chicoms played him like a violin once he got there. During the visit, Mr. Obama agreed to asymmetrical climate-change regulations that ask the Chinese only to try to level off their emissions by ‘around’ 2030 (and to make to make vague and indeterminate efforts thereafter) while imposing far more specific, and economically burdensome, requirements on the U.S. This was hailed by the mainstream press, and the warmist lobby (but I repeat myself), as a major breakthrough — even though this is, of course the same China that routinely penetrates our computer systems, ignores our copyrights, and pilfers our technology, and which can hardly be expected to bind itself, decades hence, to anything that doesn’t suit its mood. (Regarding tech-pilfering, the Chicoms made sure to rub our delegation’s nose in it by trotting out, during our visit, their new J-35 fighter plane, which is chock-full of cyber-swiped U.S. technology.)

Mr. Obama agreed, also, to a reciprocal loosening of visa arrangements. Needless to say, the flow will be largely unidirectional, as a great many more Chinese are interested in coming here than vice-versa — so the colonization of the United States by the rest of the world, and displacement of its traditional majority demographic group, will continue at a briskly accelerated pace (not to mention the expanding opportunities this will create for corporate and other espionage, wage depression, and so on). But displacing ethnic groups in their own homelands is clearly not a problem for Mr. Obama, who not only made it clear that the aggressive replacement of indigenous Tibetans by Han Chinese is not something we’re inclined to be sticklers about, but who also seems poised to move ahead, perhaps as early as next week, with his long-threatened ‘executive’ amnesty for millions of illegal aliens.

Leaving the China visit aside, there’s also ‘net neutrality’, another Trojan horse for government intrusion and control, for which Mr. Obama has just announced he’ll be pushing hard in his lame-duck term. (This one probably deserves a post of its own.)

So: was last week’s electoral convulsion — clearly an attempt by the American people to expel the malignant, parasitic organism that has already sapped so much of their nation’s health and vigor — an occasion for Mr. Obama to think twice about his reckless, Utopian ambitions, his disdain for the traditional American society and people, and about the proper limits of his power?

Hell, no. Forward!

Links

I’ve been too busy, again, to discharge my duties around here for a few days — and I’m working late again tonight.

Here are a few links that have been piling up:

‣   Nine horror films under 9 minutes.

‣   The Life of R’lyeh.

‣   What to get me for Christmas.

‣   Eagle’s-eye view.

‣   A new way to waste your time.

‣   And another.

‣   If Galileo could only have seen this.

‣   An important public service.

‣   A curious cultural artifact.

‣   Flapper.

‣   Just-So story.

‣   Rat Park.

‣   Against the odds.

That’s all for now, I’m afraid. Back soon.

We’ll Leave The Light On For You

In case any of you blue-state types are losing some of your mojo in the wake of this week’s whuppin’, and might even be thinking about joining the forces of Good and Truth and Liberty and Tradition and Reason over here on the Right, here’s some gentle prodding from one Danusha V. Goshka: Ten Reasons Why I Am No Longer A Leftist.

The Tingle’s Gone

In the wake of today’s bizarre, solipsistic White House presser, it seems that even Chris Matthews is beginning to see through Barack Obama’s charismatic aura.

Better late than never, I guess. We all know people who are still under the man’s spell, even now.

America Resists

Last night’s election results were a welcome sign of life, and a clear indication that the Left’s cultural and political blitzkrieg of the past few years has outstripped its supply lines, and conquered more territory than it can hold. Exactly what legislative ground can actually be retaken by the forces of order, liberty, sanity, and American tradition remains to be seen — a full repeal of the ACA still seems out of reach, for example, even with a unified Congress — but at the very least we have, for now, halted the enemy’s advance.

That’s about as far as I’ll go: from a reactionary standpoint, temporary decelerations of the dismantling of the American order might just prolong and extend a slow decline, whereas letting the destruction continue at its rapid pace might have hastened a collapse from the ashes of which something far more vital might have arisen. (To use an overworked metaphor, it might, in the long run, mean the difference between a successfully boiled frog and one that jumps out of the pot.)

Our lefty pal Peter commented in a recent post that “we are a center left country”, leaning on the familiar myth that House Republican majorities are due only to evil gerrymandering (reflecting the customary liberal assumption that anything they can’t have must have been taken from them unfairly) — but as CNN’s John King demonstrated last night, things have changed over the past few years. It’s hard not to see that conservative groundswell as a reaction to overreach by the Left, and to too-rapid change.

So: we’ll see where we go from here. It is one thing to campaign successfully; it is another to govern. But for today, a sigh of relief is in order at the very least, and perhaps even a cheer. At the very least, the vile and venal Harry Reid no longer controls the Senate. And that’s not nothing.

End Of The Road

More sad news today: Tom Magliozzi, who with his younger brother Ray hosted the weekly radio program Car Talk, has died of Alzheimers at age 77.

I’m really, really sad to hear this. I loved this show, and I loved these guys. (Yeesh — first Jack Bruce, and now Tom Magliozzi, in a just over a week…)

Anyway, if you ever listened to their show, you’ll understand what a blow this is. And if not, get yourself over to CarTalk.com at once and see what you’ve missed.

Res Ipsa Loquitur

I’m a registered Democrat.

Some of you may find this surprising. The reason is purely tactical: I am registered in New York City, where any conservative vote is just a drop in the left-wing ocean, so the best I can hope to do is to exert a microscopic influence, in the Democratic primaries, to support the candidates I consider the lesser evil.*

When we got back to Brooklyn last night after several weeks’ absence, we found a note in the mail from the New York State Democratic Committee. Here’s what it said:

 

My! I’m not at all sure I like their tone. That their “organizations” have been “monitoring” our voting, and are “disappointed” in our “inconsistent” performance would be creepy enough all by itself, but that closing remark is downright menacing. I thought the Democrats were supposed to be the party of moral uplift and selfless benefaction; this sounds more like the Yakuza.

Meanwhile, over at the Times, we find today an Op-Ed entitled Cancel the Midterms.

It seems that “things” are, to paraphrase a vulgar expression, “getting real”. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

* Note to NRx readers: Yeah, yeah, I know.

Fact And Faction

The other day a group calling itself ‘Hollaback’ posted a video on YouTube called 10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman. Its apparent purpose was to call attention to the oppressive conditions that women, even in these relatively enlightened times, must endure in a culture still in the grip of a malevolent and hegemonic cis-heteronormative patriarchy, and it accomplished this by showing that a comely lass walking the city’s streets will be commented upon, greeted with licentious approval, and propositioned by many of the young males she passes.

I think we can all agree that pestering and harassing women in this way is deplorable behavior. It is vulgar and ungentlemanly. It is certainly something I’d never do, and I don’t think I even know anybody who would. (I’m sure, gentle Readers, that you could say the same.) One might think, then, that this would be the sort of thing that the Left would rally round as one — but one would be mistaken, or at least way behind the times. The problem, you see, was that the young lady in the video was a “person of pallor”, and her randy tormentors almost exclusively black and Hispanic. This meant that once the thing was picked up by the grievance industry — which is so competitive these days as to make the meth business look like a kibbutz — it quickly became just another example of whiny, privileged whiteness.

The reason? As I’ve said before (see here and here), “injustice” is fractal. (Zoom out and you get slavery, the Holocaust, ISIS; zoom in and you get this.) The corollary of this is that when it comes to social-justice warriors, faction is fractal too. Interest groups will form ad-hoc alliances so as to unite against a common or external enemy, but once he has been driven off, the various factions no longer have enough in common to bind them one to another, and so they begin to squabble for dominance over the newly conquered territory. What’s more, when exposing social injustice is the defining purpose of your life, and the the measure of all that is holy, then you always need new injustices to put right, or you’re out of a job. So you zoom in. Rinse and repeat.

To those with any sense of history, that this bickering is happening at all is actually a sign of tremendously luxurious social conditions: if we were grappling with the Black Death, or a sacking by the Mongols, we’d never get around to any of these things. Another sign of this is the curious inversion of status that characterizes the grievance culture: as is always the case in human affairs, it is a competition for status — but in this case the rules have been reversed so that the highest status within the grievance community is awarded to those who can demonstrate the lowest status in the broader culture. It is as if the grievance culture is a little ‘virtual machine’ running inside the Western cultural operating system; it is only the smooth functioning of the external OS — peace, prosperity, tolerance, etc. — that makes running the virtual grievance-culture ‘game platform’, with its amusingly inverted status polarities, possible at all.

For those of us sitting in the bleachers, it’s certainly entertaining, for now at least. The talented young writer Charles Cooke has an excellent review of it all, over at NRO. Read it here.

PS: while you’re at it, be sure to read Kevin Williamson’s excellent article about the grotesque Lena Dunham, here.

Last Light

Here’s Wellfleet Harbor, just after sunset Sunday.

embiggen

 

Tweet Of The Day

Is this:

It was posted in response to this item, which explains that behind closed doors president Obama and his staff refer to Mr. Netanyahu as a “chickenshit”.

It’s easy, of course, to see what Mr. Obama and his cadre find so galling — and so threatening — about Mr. Netanyahu. He is a virile and confident man, a former commando and combat veteran, who has always been completely immune to the epicene Mr. Obama’s messianic spell. (He knows, also, what a fickle ally this administration can be.) But much more than that, he is fully identified with his own people, and will do, completely unapologetically, whatever it takes to defend their own interests and ensure their survival, globalism and multiculturalism be damned. That his people are prosperous and intelligent, and for the most part, white, makes it all a thousand times worse.

Into The Tumbrel

The comedian Bill Maher has, throughout his career, been a darling of the Left. His smug and odious schtick has for years consisted of taunting and ridiculing conservatives, Republicans, Christians, and pretty much anyone who represents American traditional values. (That he chooses to do so in the coarsest and most vulgar terms imaginable only serves to increase his appeal, it seems.)

Mr. Maher is not, however, a stupid man, and it seems that the contradictions, cognitive dissonances, and general denial of reality that modern liberalism imposes on its true believers are at last too much for him, and so he has begun to dissent. In particular, he has begun to assert that Western culture — the very culture that gave rise to the secular liberalism his fans so piously profess — is in fact not only different from, but better than, Islam.

This, however, is crimethink — and so, quite suddenly, he is swimming against the current that had for decades wafted him along to celebrity and success, and feels its frightening power. You’ve probably heard about the dust-up he and Sam Harris had with Ben Affleck and Nick Kristof on Maher’s show a few weeks ago; now a petition is being raised to keep him from speaking at Berkeley.

What should stand out here is that Mr. Maher was doing just fine until he picked the wrong target. Catholics, rednecks, gun owners, the Bushes, Dick Cheney, the Tea Party — he gleefully slandered them all, and his star ascended. Even when he called Sarah Palin a “cunt”, and her child a “retard”, the cultural Politburo — who would surely have seen to it that a conservative commentator making such remarks about a female Democrat was boycotted, disenfranchised, hounded into retirement, and shunned by all of the faithful — gave him a pass. No longer.

Voltaire once said: “To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize.” Mr. Maher is now finding out.

There is no shame in changing our opinions as life’s lessons bring us, often against our wishes, to a deeper understanding of the truth of the world. Were Mr. Maher to undergo a reactionary transformation, and repent of his folly, I have no doubt he’d find a warm welcome over here on the Dark side.

Charles Cooke has a good piece about the Berkeley brouhaha here; his essay links to another good one, here.

On Introversion

Last week at Maverick Philosopher, Bill V. put up a post comparing the introvert with the extrovert:

The extrovert is like a mirror: being nothing in himself, he is only what he reflects. A caricature, no doubt, but useful in delineation of an ideal type. This is why the extrovert needs others. Without them, he lacks inner substance. This is also why he is not drained by others, but drains them — like a vampire. By contrast, the introvert, who has inner substance, loses it by social intercourse. He is drained not merely of physical energy, but of spiritual integrity, inner focus, his very self. The problem with socializing is not so much energy loss as self loss. But one cannot lose what one does not have.

The introvert cannot be himself in society but must sacrifice himself on the altar of Heidegger’s das Man, the ‘they self,’ or social self. The extrovert can only be himself and come to himself in society. Whereas the introvert loses himself in society, the extrovert finds himself there.

If you infer the superiority of the introvert, I won’t disagree with you.

The post linked to an earlier entry, Are You An Introvert?, which offers a twenty-question test. The more ‘yes’ answers, the more of an introvert you are. I answered ‘yes’ to every one.

What’s strange is that none of my friends think of me as an introvert. This, I suppose, is because when I socialize I engage cheerily and convivially, am good at joke-telling, and so on; I’m generally the ‘life of the party’. But the test is revealing: I do cherish solitude, and am always looking forward to my next quiet time alone; I prefer unstructured time to scheduled activities, I prefer to express myself in writing; I’m terrible at multitasking; and so on. As I get older I also find myself less and less at ease in the city, despite having lived (and thrived) in New York for 36 years; although I still love the place for its incomparable assets and opportunities, the constant impingement of its teeming crowds chafes and squeezes me almost unbearably these days, and every time I go back for more than a few days I find myself longing for the long horizons, fragrant woodlands, lambent beauty, starry nights, ancient watery rhythms, and profound stillness of the Outer Cape.

It is, perhaps, that stillness that is most important of all. For the introvert, the constant agitation of the outer world roils and muddies the waters within; it’s only when we can disconnect ourselves from that constant tossing and churning that the sediment can settle out, and give way to clarity. (It should be possible, as Gurdjieff insisted, to achieve this even within the hurly-burly of the madding crowd, but most of us are not saints, or even saints-in-the-making.)

Bill’s assessment of the extrovert is a bit harsh, perhaps, but I can’t comment authoritatively on what it’s like to be one. He may be right.

Pix

I love autumn in the Outer Cape. Here are a few photos I’ve snapped around Wellfleet lately:

Here’s the sky in tatters over Wellfleet Harbor after last week’s storm:
 

 
And some fall color along Commercial Street:
 

 
A leaden sky over Cape Cod Bay, looking southwest from Bound Brook Island:
 

 
Mushrooms on a woodland trail:
 

 
Sunset yesterday, from the bluff at Griffin’s Island:
 

 
And the azure sky just after sunset:
 

 

What A Bringdown

It is with deep sadness that I must report the death of the great Jack Bruce, who died today in England at age 71. He was a giant to me, and my heart is heavy tonight.

You can read about his life, and his long musical career, here.

Hillary On The Hustings

This from Hillary Clinton today:

“Don’t let anybody tell you that, you know, that it’s corporations and businesses that create jobs.”

I kid you not.

Filming A Hole

On my bookshelf at home is a massive tome called Gravitation, by the great astrophysicists Charles Misner, John Wheeler and Kip Thorne. I picked it up at a used-book sale about twenty years ago, at a time when I was reading everything I could get my hands on about cosmology and relativistic physics. It was obviously “above my pay grade” mathematically, but the authors were rock-stars to me, and I knew it was the Bible of this field — so when I had the chance to grab a copy for a paltry few bucks, I snatched it. (You can get a copy for yourself at Amazon, but it’ll cost you.)

Now, with thanks to our reader and commenter Henry (who is a physicist himself), I’ve learned that Kip Thorne is producing a movie about a visit to a black hole, and has spent a good deal of effort calculating, with mathematical rigor, just what a black hole would look like if we were able to photograph it at close range. Henry has posted a trailer at his blog; you can have a look here.

Just Random, Senseless Tragedies

This just in:

RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson says there’s no evidence of a link between Parliament Hill gunman Michael Zehaf-Bibeau and Martin Couture-Rouleau, who ran down two Canadian soldiers in Quebec on Monday.

No, nothing linking these two. Can’t seem to turn up anything they might have had in common.

Well, here’s one thing: they both provide opportunities for further confirmation of Auster’s First Law of Majority-Minority Relations in Liberal Society, which can be expressed as follows:

Once the equality of all human groups is accepted as a given, any facts that make a minority or foreign group seem worse than the majority native group must be either covered up or blamed on the majority.

The First Law has a corollary:

The more egregiously any non-Western or non-white group behaves, the more evil whites are made to appear for noticing and drawing rational conclusions about that group’s bad behavior.

These two terrorists are as “linked” as two fingers poking out of a glove.

The Main Drawback

More and more over the past decade or so I’ve become convinced that modern, secular, post-Enlightenment civilization — perhaps high civilization in any form, but especially the sort we live in today — operates in such a way as inexorably to extinguish itself. Writing in the early 20th century, the prominent Progressive intellectual and author Lothrop Stoddard published several books articulating this theme, in particular his 1922 book The Revolt Against Civilization (if Stoddard were alive today, he wouldn’t be able to publish so much as a car-wash flyer). Others have taken it up too in recent years, from David “Spengler” Goldman’s How Civilizations Die, to Mike Judge’s black comedy Idiocracy.

One of the central mechanisms by which high civilizations seem always to fail is by declining birthrates among their most successful and intelligent classes — the very segment of the population that is necessary for carrying forward the civilization’s ever-increasing heritage of knowledge and culture, and for providing sufficient numbers of offspring in the succeeding generation having the qualities, both innate and acculturated, that are necessary to receive it.

I’ve just come across what appears to be a very interesting paper addressing this very topic. I’ve been so busy this week that I haven’t had time yet to read the whole thing — but I thought I’d pass it along to you anyway, and comment on it later. Here’s the abstract:

European cultures have historically prevented people from restricting family size within marriage. The European marriage pattern allowed for the control of fertility only through delaying and restricting nuptiality. A new pattern, allowing for controlled fertility within marriage, simultaneously originated in New England and France in the late eighteenth century. The new pattern traveled with a new set of values, including suffrage, democracy, equality, women’s rights, and social mobility. Its main mechanism of spread was education, the availability of which also incentivized the new fertility pattern’s adoption by providing a clear way for parents to compete for the future status of their children by having fewer children. The new pattern spread across Europe, North America, and Australia during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, encountering temporary, partial resistance from some groups. Even Catholics and Mormons worldwide adopted controlled fertility by the early twentieth century or earlier. As the new pattern grew to dominate the western world in the twentieth century, Asia and Latin America transitioned to the new pattern. Sub-Saharan Africa entered a fertility transition beginning in the 1980s that is ongoing. In each of these transitions, when controlled fertility was adopted, the pre-transition positive (eugenic) relationship between fertility and wealth became a negative (dysgenic) relationship. Only tiny pockets of culture that maintain extreme separation from the new pattern – especially through refusing outside education and preventing women from contact with the outside world – have fertility patterns plausibly consistent with uncontrolled fertility. These may include the Amish and Hassidim in the United States. Once the fertility transition to controlled fertility occurs in a population, its fertility generally continues to decline until it is below replacement. The benefits of the new pattern are increased material wealth per person, a reduction in disease, starvation, and genocide, and upward social mobility. The main drawback is the onset of a dysgenic phase that may end civilization as we know it.

Read the rest here.

Potpourri

I’ve been neglectful of the blog this past week — it’s been five days since the last post. I’ve been busy, but that’s not all of it; there are times when the well just runs dry, and this has been one of them. It certainly isn’t as if there isn’t a lot going on that’s worth commenting on.

So while I’m waiting for the sap to rise, here’s a roundup of miscellaneous items.

‣   According to this item in the Wall Street Journal, the Earth has “lost half its wildlife in the past four decades”. This seems absurd, but I have done no digging into this whatsoever. You’re on your own.

‣   Here’s a clever little video: old footage of a long-ago war with Mars.

‣   Imagine this: the public schools fostering patriotism. Yes, that actually happened, and here’s how they did it.

‣   On the climate front, the sky still refuses to fall.

‣   It’s been twenty years since the publication of The Bell Curve. Charles Murray looks back, and sums up where thing have got to.

‣   In the wake of the witch-burning last spring of Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich, Molly Hemingway wrote an outstanding essay at The Federalist on same-sex marriage and the suppression of dissent. Read it here.

‣   You’ve probably heard about the giant butt-plug that an American “artist” erected in the Place Vendôme. It has now been destroyed by parties unknown. The whole affair is so distasteful in so many ways that I pass it along without comment.

‣   You’d better sit down for this one: an article at Slate explains that innate ability has a consequential effect on success. That the authors were dragged to this repugnant fact with all the moral revulsion appropriate to goodthinkful Progressives is evident throughout, particularly in their apotropaic paragraph regarding human groups, but to see the thing published at all is a welcome surprise. I should probably give it a post of its own, but for now, you can read it here.

‣   Oh, and of course there’s Ebola. Here are Six Reasons To Panic.

Back soon.

Why Is The Left So Willfully Blind To The Reality of Islam?

As is usually the case on Tuesdays, I’m working late, so “hie thee hence” to the Maverick Philosopher’s website, where our man Bill has put together an excellent post on this vexatious question.

Better yet, Bill has opened the post to comments — a rarity these days — so if any of our liberal readers would like to go over there and shed some light on the matter, I’m sure it would be appreciated. (You know who you are.)

“Greenhouse” Warming In Pacific Northwest? Just Hot Air

The Pacific Northwest has been getting a little warmer over the past century or so. As reported by the New York Times, however, a new (“and”, the Times hastens to add, “most likely controversial”) study shows that this appears not to have been due to rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide.

Story here.

You Don’t Know What You’ve Got Till It’s Gone

In middle age, after a youth of unreflective atheism, I began to have a serious interest in the role of religion in human affairs, and in the doctrine and philosophy of the great religions. I determined to educate myself, with a particular focus on the history and teachings of Christianity and Islam. I’m still an unbeliever, but my fascination with this topic continues to grow, and my view of the importance of religion is very different now.

In my early life I had two tremendous resources, right at home, that I would give almost anything to be able to draw upon now. Sadly, they are both gone.

When my parents moved to Princeton in 1956, two years after emigrating to Canada from the U.K., they became very close friends with two families, the Montgomerys and the Davies. Throughout my childhood, they were my extended family, particularly since we had no relatives living in America.

The partiarch of the Montgomery clan was Robert P. Montgomery, a tall and distinguished-looking man who was Princeton’s most prominent Presbyterian. He had done graduate studies at New York’s Union Theological Seminary, and received his doctorate from the seminary at Princeton; he went on to become the chaplain of Princeton University. He also joined the department of philosophy at John Jay College in New York, and was for many years the department chair. To me, however, he was just “Uncle Bob”. He died, too young — he was only 68 or so — in 1987.

I’ll confess that it was not until just recently that I realized the depth of the other great resource I managed so completely to ignore. This was “Uncle Horton” Davies, a soft-spoken, balding Englishman with a kind and serious face. I knew that he taught at Princeton, but what I didn’t know was that Uncle Horton was in fact one of the greatest living scholars of the history of Christianity. He died in 2005. You can read the obituary of this truly remarkable man here.

What I might have learned from these men!

One By One

I’m sorry to see this: Paul Revere, of the 60’s band Paul Revere and the Raiders, has died. Geoffrey Holder, too.

Man, I’m starting to feel old.

The Great Filter

Most of you have likely heard of the ‘Fermi Paradox': the puzzling fact that, despite the uncountable multitudes of stars in the sky, and the overwhelming likelihood that myriads of them have habitable planets, we have never seen any conclusive evidence of extraterrestrial life.

Why is this? Given the immense age of the Universe, and the rate at which life got moving here on Earth, it seems the Galaxy should be positively teeming with life. Yet as far as we know, we are alone.

What this means is that somewhere there is some obstacle, some existential blockade, that has kept extraterrestrial life from getting to the point where we’d notice it from here. This mysterious off-switch has come to be known as the ‘Great Filter’.

Why do we imagine that we’d know it if other races were out there? Because it’s reasonable to think that were they not obstructed in their technical development, they’d start doing things that we’d be able to see. In particular, as civilizations advance, they consume more energy, and so they will progress from consuming whatever’s available on their homeworld to consuming the energy of nearby stars. There’s a ranking system called the Kardashev scale that rates civilizations on just this criterion: a K1 civilization uses all the energy that comes to its planet; a K2 civilization gobbles up everything its star produces; and a K3 civilization consumes the output of its entire galaxy.

When you combine this idea with the obvious attractiveness of expansion through replication — whereby a civilization makes drones that colonize nearby solar systems, harvests those systems’ mass to make more drones, and so on — it becomes clear that given enough time, a sufficiently advanced race should be able to make its presence visible, and most likely palpable, from pretty much everywhere. And time is exactly what we have already had plenty of; thirteen billion years is a very long time indeed. Yet here we are, alone.

So what might the Great Filter be? Perhaps it is that life itself is not at all likely, or that intelligent life is a one-off, and has happened only here on Earth. This would mean that the Filter is behind us, that we are alone because we are the first, the Elder Race.

But maybe not. Maybe life, even intelligent life, is a commonplace. This is a horrifying thought, because it means that the Great Filter lies before us. It is horrifying because the Great Filter, as far as we can tell, is 100% effective. It does not hamper, or hinder; it exterminates. We know this because, having had so much time, it is reasonable to assume that any race that had slipped past it would be everywhere by now.

This has been a lively topic among the ‘transhumanist’ and futurist community that shares some intellectual real-estate with neoreaction, and now that I’ve raised the topic here (and hopefully, piqued your interest), I’m going to send you off to do some reading.

‣   Here is an excellent overview of the Fermi Paradox, the Great Filter, and some reasonable questions and objections.

‣   In this paper, Nick Bostrom explains that finding any sign of life elsewhere in the Solar System would be a very bad thing indeed.

‣   One person who’s thought a lot about this is neoreaction’s own Nick Land. You can read a few of his posts on the topic here and here, and here.

‣   One possibility (perhaps much more than just a possibility) that many have worried about as an existential threat is “unfriendly” artificial intelligence, know for short as UFAI. But as bad as that might be (which is very, very, bad), it’s no Great Filter. See here, for example, and here.

Finally, our man Mangan takes up the topic, and gives us this:

It’s leftism. All civilizations eventually become leftist, and after that they accomplish nothing, or even actively die off.

Merga

If the U.S. is going to be involved at all in the Mideast snake-pit — and it appears that it is — then there is one party that stands out as being worthy of our trust and support, namely the Kurds.

They are currently being exterminated, while we shift from foot to foot, inspect our fingernails, and check our watches. Richard Fernandez explains.

It’s Here Someplace

Given that global surface temperatures haven’t warmed for the past twenty years or so, our minders have been telling us for a while now that the reason is that all that excess heat’s been going into the deep oceans. (Nobody predicted that, but never mind.)

Whoops! Not so, according to NASA. More here.

The Organizing Principle Is Control

Here’s withering essay on homeschooling from NRO’s Kevin Williamson.

I have to say that Mr. Williamson is anomalously forthright and frank for an NRO staffer (see, for instance, this item from a week or two ago). Sooner or later (sooner, by the look of things), he’s going to earn himself a Derb-fenestration, methinks.

This And That

I’m working late tonight — so for now, here’s some Q&A about that “impossible” spaceship drive I mentioned a while back.

Also, here’s one person’s attempt to model the cultural manifold that will provide the context for the next civil war.

I’ll say also, just in passing, how surprised I am that the Supreme Court has, for now at least, decided to punt on reviewing the rash of Federal-court decisions annulling the attempts of various States to define marriage as their citizens see fit. (A nod to our friend Peter, who said this was what would happen.) Given that there is no consistent (or even, I should say, coherent) legal principle upon which these several decisions were based, and given also that there is already a Federal ruling that goes the other way, I think the Court is blatantly abrogating its responsibility here. What we are left with is a hodge-podge of opinions, with state-by-state outcomes now depending on the whim of local judges. More on this as time permits.

Update, 10/8: Today Justice Anthony Kennedy has issued an order blocking a ruling that overturned a gay-marriage ban in Idaho. What’s going on here?

Finally, Sam Harris reviews his encounter with a hostile panel on the Bill Maher show. (The topic was Islam — and to his credit, Maher has picked the right side on this one.)

Polyphonic Singing

Here.

The Wire-puller

From a book I’m reading:

Political liberty, said Hobbes, is political power. When a man burns to be free, he is not longing for the “desolate freedom of the wild ass”; what he wants is a share of political government. But, in wide democracies, political power is minced into morsels, and each man’s share of it is almost infinitesimally small. One of the first results of this political comminution is described by Mr. Justice [Sir James] Stephen … it is that two of the historical watchwords of Democracy exclude one another, and that, where there is political Liberty, there can be no Equality.

The man who can sweep the greatest number of fragments of political power into one heap will govern the rest. The strongest man in one form or another will always rule. If the government is a military one, the qualities which make a man a great soldier will make him a ruler. If the government is a monarchy, the qualities which kings value in counsellors, in administrators, in generals, will give power. In a pure democracy, the ruling men will be the Wire-pullers and their friends, but they will be no more on an equality with the people than soldiers or ministers of State are on an equality with the subjects of a Monarchy. … In some ages, a powerful character, in others cunning, in others a good hold upon commonplaces and a facility in applying them to practical purposes, will enable a man to climb on his neighbor’s shoulders and direct him this way or that; but under all circumstances the rank and file are directed by leaders of one kind or another who get the command of their collective force.

There is no doubt that, in popular governments resting on a wide suffrage, either without an army or having little reason to fear it, the leader, whether or not he be cunning, or eloquent, or well-provided with commonplaces, will be the Wire-puller. The process of cutting up political power into petty fragments has in him its most remarkable product. In England, they would be largely sold, if the law permitted it; and in the United States they are extensively sold in spite of the law; and in France, and to a less extent in England, the number of “abstentions” shows the small value attributed to votes. But the political chiffonier who collects and utilizes the fragments is the Wire-puller.

… The Wire-puller is not intelligible unless we take into account one of the strongest forces acting on human nature: Party feeling. Party feeling is probably far more a survival of the primitive combativeness of mankind than a consequence of conscious intellectual differences between man and man. It is essentially the same sentiment which in certain states of society leads to civil, tribal, or international war; and it is as universal as humanity…. Party differences, properly so called, are supposed to be intellectual, moral, or historical preferences, but these go a very little way down into the population, and by the bulk of partisans they are hardly understood and soon forgotten. “Guelf” and “Ghibelline” had once a meaning, but men were under perpetual banishment from their native land for belonging to one or another of these parties long after nobody knew in what the difference consisted. Some men are Tories or Whigs by conviction; but thousands upon thousands of electors vote simply for yellow, blue, or purple, caught at most by the appeals of some popular orator.

It is through this great natural tendency to take sides that the Wire-puller works. Without it he would be powerless. His business is to fan its flame;to keep it constantly acting upon the man who has once declared himself a partisan; to make escape from it difficult and distasteful. His art is that of the Nonconformist preacher, who gave importance to a body of commonplace religionists by persuading them to wear a uniform and take a military title;or of the man who made the success of a Temperance Society by prevailing on its members to wear always and openly a blue ribbon. In the long run, these contrivances, cannot be confined only to one party, and their effects on all parties and their leaders, and on the whole ruling democracy, must be in the highest degree serious and lasting.

The first of these effects will be, I think, to make all parties very like one another, and indeed in the end almost indistinguishable, however leaders may quarrell and partisan hate partisan.

In the next place, each party will probably become more and more homogeneous; and the opinion it professes, and the policy which is the outcome of those opinions, will less and less reflect the individual mind of any leader, but only the ideas which seem to that mind to be most likely to win favour with the greatest number of supporters.

Lastly, the wire-pulling system, when fully developed, will infallibly lead to the constant enlargement of the area of suffrage. What is called universal suffrage has greatly declined in the estimation, not only of philosophers who follow Bentham, but of the a priori theorists who assumed that it was the inseparable accompaniment of a Republic, but who found that in practice it was the natural basis of a tyranny. But extensions of the suffrage, though no longer believed to be good in themselves, have now a permanent place in the armoury of parties, and are sure to be a favorite weapon of the Wire-puller.

… It is perhaps hoped that this … may be neutralized by ascendancy of instructed leaders. Possibly the proposition would not be very unsafe, that he who calls himself a friend of democracy because he believes that it will always be under wise guidance is in reality, whether he knows it or not, an enemy of democracy. But at all events the signs of our times are not at all of favourable augury for the future direction of great multitudes by statesmen wiser than themselves. … The leaders may be as able and eloquent as ever, and some of them certainly seem to have an unprecedentedly “good hold upon commonplaces, and a facility in applying them”; but they are manifestly listening nervously at one end of a speaking-tube which receives at its other end the suggestions of a lower intelligence.

— From Popular Government, by by Sir Henry James Sumner Maine, 1885.

Welcome To Wal*Mart!

We heard some crowing today about the latest jobs report. What you didn’t hear is who got those jobs. It turns out that all of the gain went to people aged 55 and older, who picked up 230,000 jobs. (You can imagine what sort of jobs those are.) Meanwhile, those in the prime earning years 25-54 lost 10,000 jobs. (These are seasonally adjusted numbers; the raw numbers tell the same story.) You can see all the data at the BLS website.

Zero Hedge sums it all up here.

Scoop!

I see that the Times is laying off another hundred newsroom workers.

Take heart, though: good journalism will live on.

Bouncing The Rubble

The Overton Window never rests. (Or, as Mencius Moldbug put it, Cthulhu always swims left.)

The normalization of same-sex marriage is only a few years old — indeed, in some tenebrous corners of the West the process is still underway — but already it’s boringly mainstream. Once the ancient defining and limiting principle has been abandoned — and so it has, barring a significant reactionary response that shows, as yet, no sign of materializing — the way ‘forward’ is essentially frictionless. And as expected, we now approach the next stop along the buttered slide:

    Incest a ‘fundamental right’, German committee says

Mind you, there may yet come a point at which other natural forces may come into play.

No Resistance To Anything

Here’s a great post by our man Mangan (and, drilling down through links and quotes, by Bruce Charlton as well) on a deadly disease.

I’ve given this thing a name: C.I.V.

That’s No Way To Treat A Lady

We’ve been hearing more about Omar J. Gonzales’s romp through the White house the other day. Apparently he got around inside a good deal more than was initially reported; he made his way all the way into the East Room before he was brought down. In the process, as it turns out, he “overpowered” a female Secret Service agent. This got me thinking the same things that the sight of this police officer did a couple of months ago.

Here’s a thought: mightn’t it make sense to have the special agents guarding the Leader of the Free World be large, strong men, capable of physically impeding the progress of burly intruders?

Well, perhaps, I suppose. But only if one were willing to place the effectiveness of our public institutions at doing the things they were created to do — fighting wars, putting out fires, guarding the President — above the wish to make everybody feel good about themselves, by denying the transparently obvious realities of the actually existing world. And that, of course, would make one a very bad person indeed.

The awkwardness of this exposure of the conflict between these antagonistic aims has not escaped the editors of the Times. Their original story, as cached by Google, began:

An armed man who jumped the White House fence this month made it far deeper into the mansion than previously disclosed, overpowering a female Secret Service agent inside the North Portico entrance…

The word ‘female’ has now been removed. Draw your own conclusions.

Meanwhile, ladies, as for stopping fast-moving intruders, here’s how we guys do it.

Update, 10/2: see the Secret Service’s disparate physical standards here.

Depressive Realism

Sorry — not much to say here the past few days. I’ve been distracted, and the muse is silent. Even the biggish stories — the Holder resignation, for example — have left me flat. (I do hope, however, that somebody is backing up that man’s hard-drive.)

Also, there’s only so much of this vox clamanti in deserto stuff a person can do without a certain weariness setting in; hollering up a drainpipe is hoarsening. Even Cassandra had to give it a rest now and again. The red pill is bracing, and clears the vision as advertised, but it has some debilitating side effects.

Our man Derb expressed this very well indeed in an essay he published this summer. (The penultimate paragraph is an unbeliever’s cri de coeur.) He seemed almost ready to chuck it all, and go live in the Matrix. It was infectiously dispiriting. (Fortunately, he seems still to be under the influence of the carmine lozenge.)

I’m very aware also that the whole tone and content of this blog has changed during the span of my own course of treatment. To those readers who liked it better before, all I can say is that when one awakens from pleasant dreams to find oneself in a burning building, one is likely to focus on rousing the other inhabitants, perhaps even at the expense of pleasanter topics.

On the other hand, if anyone ever saw the Matrix for what it was, it was H.L. Mencken — yet he had this to say:

We live in a land of abounding quackeries, and if we do not learn to laugh we succumb to the melancholy disease which afflicts the race of viewers-with-alarm. I have had too good a time in this world to go down that chute. I have witnessed, in my day, the discovery, enthronement and subsequent collapse of a vast army of uplifters and world-savers, and am firmly convinced that all of them were mountebanks. We produce such mountebanks in greater numbers than any other country, and they climb to heights seldom equalled elsewhere. Nevertheless we survive, and not only survive but flourish. In no other country known to me is life as safe and agreeable, taking one day with another, as it is in These States. Even in a Great Depression few if any starve, and even in a great war the number who suffer by it is vastly surpassed by the number who fatten on it and enjoy it. Thus my view of my country is predominantly tolerable and amiable. I do not believe in democracy, but I am perfectly willing to admit that it provides the only really amusing form of government ever endured by mankind.

I dunno. That was a long time ago, and what was local then — a lumpy lymph-node here, a little spot on the X-ray there — is now metastatic, and the prognosis looks grim. But maybe he’s right: maybe that other disease he mentioned, the melancholy one, is what gets you.

Oh well. “Life’s persistent questions”, and all that. Back soon.

Actual Islam

With a hat-tip to Bill Vallicella, here’s a “must-read” on the real nature of the enemy we face.

In The End We Shall Make Thoughtcrime Literally Impossible

At NRO we have an excellent response, by Charles Cooke, to Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s egregious illiberality regarding climate heretics.

Longish excerpt:

Were he to have his way, Kennedy admitted, he would cheer the prosecution of a host of “treasonous” figures — among them a number of unspecified “politicians”; those bêtes noires of the global Left, Kansas’s own Koch Brothers; “the oil industry and the Republican echo chamber”; and, for good measure, anybody else whose estimation of the threat posed by fossil fuels has provoked them into “selling out the public trust.” Those who contend that global warming “does not exist,” Kennedy claimed, are guilty of “a criminal offense — and they ought to be serving time for it.”

…Kennedy’s insidious aspirations are the inevitable consequence of his conviction that he is in possession of the truth and that all who have the temerity to question him are, in consequence, wreckers. At the best of times, and on the least shaky of epistemological ground, this is a dangerous instinct. In this area in particular, it is downright frightening. Of late, it has become drearily standard to hear the Kennedys of the world pretend that if one acknowledges basic climate mechanics, one is forced to take notoriously unreliable computer models at face value and, further, to acquiesce in whatever political “solutions” are currently en vogue. Nothing could be further from the truth. Whatever “consensus” can be said to exist in the realm of climatology is largely limited to the presumption that industrial activity is bound by the same chemical, biological, and physical rules as is any other human pursuit, and to the acknowledgement that if one changes the makeup of the atmosphere, the atmosphere will change. Quite how it will change, to what extent, and to what degree any such transmutation represents a problem for life on earth, however, remain open questions. At present, there remain serious disagreements as to what has caused the current “pause” in global warming; as to what accounts for the embarrassing failure of so many of the forecasts on which we are expected to rely; as to how much of an effect modulations in the climate are having on extreme weather events; and as to how much we can possibly know about the future anyhow.

Wide open, too, are the political questions of what exactly can and should be done about any genuine changes in climate — and at what cost; of whether some climatological alterations are in fact a reasonable price to pay for the astonishing improvements in life expectancy and material wellbeing that the industrial revolution has yielded; of whether man is better off attempting to leverage his ingenuity and to outrun Gaia as he has outrun Malthus; and of at what cost to our liberty and our safety any amendments to our way of life might come. When the likes of Robert Kennedy reveal themselves to be the nasty little tyrants that we have always suspected them to be, this lattermost question comes screaming back into focus. If this affair has revealed any “treason” at all, the guilty party is not the skeptical population of the United States, but Robert Kennedy and his enablers. To fantasize about jailing one’s opponents is, I’m afraid, a sure sign of mental imbalance, and a gold-leafed invitation to be quietly excluded from polite society.

Read the rest here.