Gradually, Then Suddenly

In a response to our recent post on the entropic influence of the political Left, commenter ‘Epicaric’ wrote:

It is my impression … that these forces have accelerated of late, shedding its once linear progression for a pace far more geometric in nature.

This is entirely ‘lawful’, and is exactly what we should expect. All of the erosive forces at work here — demographic displacement by poorly assimilated immigrants, low birthrates among cognitive elites, multiculturalism, galloping secularism, centralization of Federal power at the expense of local government, anti-traditionalism, hedonistic apathy, instutionalized disparagement of America’s history, mission, cultural heritage, and mythos, and behind it all the universal acid of radical doubt that is the “poison pill” of the Enlightenment itself — all of these things attack and corrode the ‘horizontal’ ligatures of American civil society, leaving behind only an atomized population with no binding affinities save their dependence upon a Federal leviathan that is, increasingly, the source of all guidance and blessings.

What this means is that as these forces do their work, they weaken at every point our society’s structural integrity — even as the disintegrative influences, particularly the destructive action of demographic replacement, intensify. It follows naturally, then, that the pace of decay accelerates.

In passing, we should note also that this horizontal ‘unbinding’ is, of course, a natural precursor for Fascism. The ancient symbol of the Fasces, from which the movement took its name, is a bundle of wooden rods, individually weak, but lashed together with an external binding. It is the perfect symbol for a society that has lost its organic, endogenous coherence, and so must be united by an artificial and external power.

What is the Right?

In our last Open Thread, our resident liberal gadfly Peter, a.k.a. ‘The One Eyed Man’, left a comment citing the late Richard Hofstadter to the effect that the political Right (in particular, the “dissident” Right whose views are often summarized in these pages), exhibits a “paranoid style”.

Several of us responded in the ensuing discussion. But each time I read the original comment, and the Hofstadter passages it quotes, the more perfectly paradigmatic it all seems of the unreflective perceptual biases of the Left.

In particular, where the analysis goes off the rails is in the way that it mischaracterizes the traditionalist Right’s view of the Left in this conflict of ideologies:

“The enemy [i.e., as cited here, the influential man of the Left] is clearly delineated: he is a perfect model of malice, a kind of amoral superman — sinister, ubiquitous, powerful, cruel, sensual, luxury-loving. Unlike the rest of us, the enemy is not caught in the toils of the vast mechanism of history, himself a victim of his past, his desires, his limitations. He wills, indeed, he manufactures, the mechanism of history, or tries to deflect the normal course of history in an evil way.”

But this is not how those of us on the dissident Right see this at all. Correctly understood, the core features of modern Leftism are not an exogenous historical anomaly, brought about by the individual will of aberrant masterminds to “deflect the normal course of history”, but are instead an entirely predictable social and historical force, perfectly consistent with a coherent understanding of human nature and the pitfalls of democracy. A movement toward the Left, and ultimately toward despotism and collapse, is the “normal course” of history, in exactly the same way that the “normal course” of a river is to run downhill.

Indeed, the phenomenon is even more general than either history or human nature: in conformance with the Second Law of Thermodynamics, it is in fact a manifestation of entropy — of the wearing down of complex and specific structures, the destruction of the particular in favor of the general, and the relentless erosion of all of the gradients, distinctions, and disequilibria that are the only possible source of usable energy, and therefore useful work, in any system.

The ‘One Eyed Man’ quotes, as an example of right-wing “paranoia”, our commenter Whitewall’s likening of the Left to “termites, roaches, bed bugs, ticks, mold, radon”. But these comparisons are more than an expression of simple revulsion: all of these things are agents of decay, of disorder (in radon’s case, the actual decay of atoms themselves). In this way, Whitewall’s remark reveals an implicit understanding of the Left as, above all, an entropic historical force.

So: if the Right seems Manichaean, it is because the Right correctly perceives its role not as one side in a contest between two equally contingent, and arbitrarily chosen, approaches to government, but rather as a bulwark against entropy itself: against disorder, decay, and the “heat death” of the civilization it seeks to defend. Hofstadter’s emphasis (like Peter’s) is on political compromise, and to this he owes his reputation as a level-headed centrist. But the historically literate Right understands that any compromise with entropy is ultimately futile, because all such compromises are necessarily a unidirectional movement toward greater disorder. (We understand also, to our sorrow, that disorder always wins in the end — but to preserve what we can, for as long as we can, clearly requires nothing less than our best efforts.)

None of this is to say, of course, that there aren’t clever, charismatic, and extremely dangerous people on the Left, with resentful or self-serving motives and destructive intentions. But they are specific, particular, contingent phenomena — opportunistic infections. The focus of the reactionary Right, on the other hand, is on a universal, natural process, by which order yields to disorder; the political Left is merely its aspect in human societies.

That “Science” Guy

John Derbyshire give Bill Nye’s nose a tweak, here.

Open Thread 3

Have at it, folks.

When One With Honeyed Words But Evil Mind Persuades The Mob, Great Woes Befall The State

Yesterday President Obama gave a commencement address to the Coast Guard Academy. He devoted much of it to brazen propaganda about “climate change”, including even going so far as to make it a scapegoat for Islamic violence and political chaos in the Mideast and Africa. We’re all well-accustomed (perhaps “inured” would be a better word) to tendentious, defensive, and accusatory buncombe from this White House, but when it comes to industrial-strength agitprop bullshit, this is, perhaps, a new low.

I was all set to give it a thorough fisking, and had already begun to gather the facts and figures, but that tireless climate gadfly Monckton beat me to it, while doing a far more thorough job than I’d have managed. Read his response here.

Move Along, Please

I’m very busy with work today, so for the nonce I’m afraid I must redirect you elsewhere. You’re in luck, though: here’s a fascinating post on human nature by the always-interesting hbd*chick.

Also: don’t miss this tart post from Thomas Sowell. (Nothing we haven’t heard before, but very nicely said.)

While I’m On The Subject

Speaking of Hillary Clinton: something you hear often from her supporters (not to mention Mrs. Clinton herself) is that “we need a woman in the White House”. The assumption seems to be (indeed, can only be) that a woman would somehow do the job differently than a man, simply by virtue of being a woman.

But wait: haven’t we been told by generations of angry feminists that there is no legitimate reason whatsoever to make any discrimination between men and women regarding the roles they assume in society and the workforce? That as far as such roles are concerned, we should assume males and females to be completely indistinguishable and interchangeable, and that anyone who imagines otherwise is a benighted and contemptible sexist?

Yes, of course we have. (Boy, have we ever.) So pick one, ladies. You don’t get to have it both ways.

NFI

Here’s a strange item that’s been making the rounds. (Charles Fort, call your office.)

Kudzu

This from Judicial Watch, yesterday:

Documents Reveal Obama Administration Knew that al Qaeda Terrorists Had Planned Benghazi Attack 10 Days in Advance

Yes, folks, that’s right: the story we were given, again and again, by this administration — that the attack in Benghazi was just an impromptu reaction to an inflammatory video — was, as has been obvious for some time, a pack of lies. (Today we learned also that the Ninth Circuit has ruled that the video should not have been pulled from YouTube.)

Meanwhile, the destructive effects of the collapse of Libya — perhaps this administration’s grossest, and most avoidable, foreign-policy blunder of all, and that’s saying something — continue to reverberate. Libya, before our witless betrayal of our vassal Qaddafi, was for long years a stable and prosperous nation. Now it is a chaotic failed state, and an incubator for jihad. It has also become a primary staging ground for hordes of Africans seeking illegal entry to Europe, creating a pressure on southern European nations that has lately become intolerable — so much so, in fact, that the E.U. is even considering military action against refugee-smuggling boats.

At the center of all of this, of course, is Hillary Clinton, the Democratic heir apparent about whom every news cycle seems to bring another damning revelation. In his Morning Jolt newsletter today, Jim Geraghty does a nice job of rounding up some of the latest, here.

Also, the Washington Post reported today on another Clinton-machine money-sluice, here.

(NB: Regarding these exorbitant speaking fees, it should be obvious that there is nothing Hillary Clinton could say in 20 minutes that would be worth paying $315,000 dollars to hear. These payments, then, are clearly just a way to funnel funds into the Clintons’ pockets so as to avoid campaign-contribution regulations. Moreover, nobody would spend this kind of money without some valuable consideration in return, and the only imaginable quid-pro-quo here is the prospect of future political favors.)

That this appalling woman is not only a disastrously incompetent practitioner of statecraft, but also an influence-peddler at the grandest imaginable scale and a scheming, habitual deceiver, becomes plainer every day. What is really remarkable, though, is how little any of this has yet to affect her support among her coastal liberal base. Everyone — including even the New York Times and the Washington Post — knows by now how vile she is, but legions of educated, middle-aged people (particularly women) still want to see her prevail. (I know more than a few of them myself.) And of course she still has the support of those corporations and individuals who have paid enormous sums to the Clinton money-laundering apparatus to buy access and influence — because if she doesn’t win, their money is wasted.

I continue to believe Mrs. Clinton will not win the Democratic nomination in 2016. But I do have to say that the durability of her support, despite this daily accumulation of withering revelations, is really something. These Clintons are turning out to be as hard to get rid of as an invasive species.

Sauce For The Gander

As I enter the autumn of my years, I’m trying to shed some lingering bad habits — both to be rid of the habits themselves, and as an exercise in self-mastery. One of these is talking back to the radio. I suffered a breakdown of discipline on that one today, though, I will confess.

I was driving around Wellfleet doing errands, and tuned in to a panel discussion (a local public-radio station, I think it was) about Dzokhar Tsarnaev’s death sentence. The panel was the usual gaggle of secularized Massachusetts Puritans — the same crowd that have, effectively, conquered most of Western civilization over the past 400 years — and they were lamenting the fact that a capital sentence had been pronounced in the case, despite the fact that Massachusetts is a state that does not allow the death penalty.

The problem was that Mr. Tsarnaev’s was a Federal prosecution, and so proceeded according to Federal rules. This bothered the panelists no end; although they grudgingly acknowledged that Federal law supersedes local custom in these circumstances, they seemed awfully put out about it — because, you see, it was at odds with their own sense of right and wrong, and with their wish to do things the way they like to on their own home turf. Because the action of the Federal juggernaut has, for all of our lifetimes, busied itself almost exclusively with imposing on recalcitrant States the very same liberal values they themselves espouse, I actually believe this was the first time in their lives it had ever occurred to these pious and self-righteous busybodies, these preening moral solipsists, that using the crushing power of the Federal leviathan to override local norms might have any down-side at all. That it was just a matter of the shoe, at long last, being on the other foot, and so might give them something to think about, seemed to occur to none of them, however; I heard nothing but grumbling.

Before I could catch myself, I had begun shouting at the radio. This being a family-friendly blog, however, I shall refrain from offering a transcript of my remarks.

Belated Birthday

It escaped my attention at the time, but April 22nd, 2015 marked the tenth anniversary of the present incarnation of this blog. (It actually had begun a few months earlier, in late 2004, but I had chosen a fly-by-night hosting service that soon went belly-up, taking all my content with it.) Since then we have published 3,809 posts, with discussion threads comprising 18,152 comments.

The tone of the blog has evolved significantly over the years. In the early days, before the urgency of our historical predicament became as clear to me as it is now, I wrote much more about other topics that interest me — in particular natural history and the philosophy of mind. These subjects interest me still, and I apologize to any readers who liked things better the old way. Perhaps, when I am “old and grey and full of sleep, and nodding by the fire” (in other words, sometime quite soon), I’ll correct the imbalance. Not just yet, though: in mulling over the historical antecedents of our civilization’s present condition for the past decade or so, I have come to understand many things that I think need writing down, and this is where I’m likely to do it. (If you are a regular reader, though, I do invite you to go back and look at some of our older entries from time to time, or give the “View a Random Post” link a try.)

I thank you all for reading this stuff all these years, and I hope you will continue to do so. In particular, I encourage you all to comment (civilly of course!), particularly when you disagree with something I’ve said; it keeps me honest.

Open Thread 3

Perhaps once a week is too often for this. We’ll see.

Cathar-sis

Having mentioned secular religion in our previous post, this seems an apt moment to catch up with the latest heresies on the global-warming front (environmentalism being the most transparently religious liberal piety of them all).

Here we have a wide-ranging roundup of “damned facts” from the Arch-Vile himself, Christopher Monckton.

Here, too, is Steve Goddard, taking note of a little “pork pie” regarding sea-level rise.

Meanwhile, Fred Singer is thinking about the next Ice Age.

Just trying to keep it all “fair and balanced”, folks.

Liberal Theodicy

Today I read a good piece by one of my favorite political writers, Mollie Hemingway. In the wake of the Amtrak derailment, and the Left’s immediate rush to blame the disaster on inadequate government spending (which is to say, on fiscal conservatives), she raises the concept of ‘theodicy’ — that is, “attempts to defend God’s goodness and omnipotence in light of the existence of evil”. Theodicy, she argues, is just as necessary in the secular, liberal religion that runs the show these days as it ever was to Christian apologists.

An excerpt:

The theodicy of federal government requires an explanation that defends the goodness of government control or subsidies into the given sphere. So just as some religious groups might blame a weather event on insufficient fealty to the relevant god, some progressives blame — before the National Transportation Safety Board has even shown up on site to investigate the cause of a crash — insufficient fealty, sacrifice and offerings to the relevant god of federal government.

Yes, it’s annoying how some progressives politicize everything. But if it’s understood as a sort of primitive religious reaction to confusion about holy government’s many failures, it at least helps explain why they do it.

Read the rest here.

How High’s The Water, Mama?

With a hat tip to reader Bill K., here’s a dark post from Richard Fernandez on the modern world’s growing “compassion fatigue” in the face of spreading chaos. I’ll excerpt the post’s closing lines:

The first rule of civilization is to preserve it. Once enough of it is conceded to barbarism, when a sufficient quantity of it has been worn away then things tip over entirely into savagery. It goes right over the cliff. The lesson of the Second World War was that anyone, pushed hard enough, could be an animal. We’re not there yet. But we’re on the way.

As John Derbyshire reminds us, the truth — and a bleak truth it is — is in the numbers.

Glitch

Rather an odd coincidence today: an old friend called, with whom I hadn’t spoken in quite a while. He asked how I was; I said that while I was well, generally, I had had a bit of a rough time the past few weeks with my knee-replacement surgery, and now with the prospect that it might have to be re-done.

Wanting to lighten the mood after all that complaining, I cited the old quip:

“Yes, but other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?”

My friend paused, and then said that the reason that he had called was that his daughter had just been walking around in my Brooklyn neighborhood, and had texted her father a photo of a funny sign she had seen in an apartment window. My friend was calling to ask if I recognized the location. (I did not.)

Here’s the picture:

Read More »

On Baltimore

In the aftermath of the Baltimore riots, there was a great deal of partisan debate about the root causes of the many woes of the urban black underclass. Many on the Right went no further than to blame black “thugs” and “race-hustlers”, and to call for militaristic crowd-control, while the Left settled in comfortably to sing their familiar song: institutionalized racism and the inexpungible legacy of slavery.

One thing the Right was also quick to point out was that all of these cities have been under continuous Democratic control for decades. This is, to be sure, an important part of the problem. In particular, I’ll call your attention to something called the “Curley Effect”. Here is how it was explained in a recent Forbes article:

As defined by Harvard scholars Edward L. Glaeser and Andrei Shleifer in a famous 2002 article, the Curley effect (named after its prototype, James Michael Curley, a four-time mayor of Boston in the first half of the 20th century) is a political strategy of “increasing the relative size of one’s political base through distortionary, wealth-reducing policies.” Translation: A politician or a political party can achieve long-term dominance by tipping the balance of votes in their direction through the implementation of policies that strangle and stifle economic growth. Counterintuitively, making a city poorer leads to political success for the engineers of that impoverishment.

Let’s say a mayor advocates and adopts policies that redistribute wealth from the prosperous to the not-so-prosperous by bestowing generous tax-financed favors on unions, the public sector in general, and select corporations. These beneficiaries become economically dependent on their political patrons, so they give them their undivided electoral support—e.g., votes, campaign contributions, and get-out-the-vote drives.

Meanwhile, the anti-rich rhetoric of these clever demagogues, combined with higher taxes to fund the political favors, triggers a flight of tax refugees from the cities to the suburbs. This reduces the number of political opponents on the city’s voter registration rolls, thereby consolidating an electoral majority for the anti-wealth party. It also shrinks the tax base of the city, even as the city’s budget swells. The inevitable bankruptcy that results from expanding expenditures while diminishing revenues can be postponed for decades with the help of state and federal subsidies (“stimulus” in the Obama vernacular) and creative financing, but eventually you end up with cities like Detroit—called by Glaeser and Shleifer “the first major Third World city in the United States.”

Thomas Sowell joined in with an incisive column of his own, called The Inconvenient Truth about Ghetto Communities’ Social Breakdown. Here’s a longish excerpt:

The “legacy of slavery” argument is not just an excuse for inexcusable behavior in the ghettos. In a larger sense, it is an evasion of responsibility for the disastrous consequences of the prevailing social vision of our times, and the political policies based on that vision, over the past half century.

Anyone who is serious about evidence need only compare black communities as they evolved in the first 100 years after slavery with black communities as they evolved in the first 50 years after the explosive growth of the welfare state, beginning in the 1960s.

You would be hard-pressed to find as many ghetto riots prior to the 1960s as we have seen just in the past year, much less in the 50 years since a wave of such riots swept across the country in 1965.

We are told that such riots are a result of black poverty and white racism. But in fact — for those who still have some respect for facts — black poverty was far worse, and white racism was far worse, prior to 1960. But violent crime within black ghettos was far less.

Murder rates among black males were going down — repeat, down — during the much-lamented 1950s, while it went up after the much celebrated 1960s, reaching levels more than double what they had been before. Most black children were raised in two-parent families prior to the 1960s. But today the great majority of black children are raised in one-parent families.

Such trends are not unique to blacks, nor even to the United States. The welfare state has led to remarkably similar trends among the white underclass in England over the same period. Just read Life at the Bottom, by Theodore Dalrymple, a British physician who worked in a hospital in a white slum neighborhood.

You cannot take any people, of any color, and exempt them from the requirements of civilization — including work, behavioral standards, personal responsibility, and all the other basic things that the clever intelligentsia disdain — without ruinous consequences to them and to society at large.

Very good points all round. (And you really should read Mr. Dalrymple’s book, by the way.)

There is, however, another causative process at work here, one that is quite convincingly self-evident once you see it, but which gets very little attention. In his description of the comparatively well-functioning black communities of pre-1960s America Mr. Sowell glimpses it, but stops short of calling it out.

During the crisis in Baltimore, many on the Left reminded us that violent disorder by whites against blacks was a commonplace a century or so ago. One example given was the Tulsa, Oklahoma, race riot of 1921. You can read about it on Wikipedia, here.

Wikipedia’s article describes the Greenwood neighborhood of Tulsa, which was destroyed by white mobs, as follows:

The traditionally black district of Greenwood in Tulsa had a commercial district so prosperous it was known as “the Negro Wall Street” (now commonly referred to as “the Black Wall Street”). Blacks had created their own businesses and services in their enclave, including several groceries, two independent newspapers, two movie theaters, nightclubs, and numerous churches. Black professionals—doctors, dentists, lawyers, and clergy—served the community. Because of residential segregation in the city, most classes of blacks lived together in Greenwood. They selected their own leaders, and there was capital formation within the community. In the surrounding areas of northeastern Oklahoma, blacks also enjoyed relative prosperity and participated in the oil boom.

Does this sound anything like today’s all-black communities? Of course not. Why is that? I will suggest a heterodox explanation: it was due in large part to white intolerance — the very same barriers to meritorious black advancement that we have rightly done so much to eradicate. The mechanism is simple.

As a preliminary heresy, I will ask you to accept that most human cognitive and behavioral traits are highly heritable. This premise, I believe, has been so amply confirmed as to be beyond all reasonable doubt — but if you cannot accept it, there is no reason for you to read any further. I bid you adieu.

Still here? Good. Then consider also that in any human population there will be a statistical distribution of these traits. There will be some intelligent, conscientious, cooperative and industrious people, with the low time-preference that makes successful long-term enterprises possible. There will also be people who are dim-witted, unscrupulous, combative, lazy, and impulsive. Generally those of the first sort will seek out others with these superior qualities to marry; their children will likely inherit them as well. (This is known, by people who pay attention to such things, as “assortative mating”, and it works at every level of society.)

Now consider the difference between America in 1921 and America today. In 1921, no matter how richly blessed with the aforementioned genetic assets a black man or woman might be, and no matter how successful as a result, there was nowhere to go. Because of the wall of racism that excluded blacks from the upper (or even the lower) strata of white society, talented and successful black people remained, willy-nilly, in their black communities. And so did their genomes.

America in 2015 is a very different place, and has been since the victories of the civil-rights movement of the 1960’s. Nowadays any black person who “makes it” is immediately up and out. For a few years my daughter taught high-school science in Brownsville, Brooklyn, which is one of the toughest inner-city neighborhoods in America. I visited her there, and met some of her brightest students — and they were very bright indeed. Their aim, first and foremost, was to do well enough to get away. Who could blame them? I know a lot of exceptionally talented and successful black men and women, most of them musicians. I cannot think of one who still lives in these blighted ghettos.

What this means, then, is that since the 1960s a mechanism has been at work that continuously “boils off” all of the best genes from black communities, leaving behind an increasingly concentrated and dysfunctional underclass. Of course this is not all of the story — as noted above, for half a century it has been the government’s policy to subsidize dysfunction, and when the government subsidizes anything, it always creates more of it — but this is an important part of it, and one that is almost completely unmentioned in public discourse. It is further evidence that no great social transformation — no matter how just and well-intended — is without unintended consequences.

What, then, is to be done? I really can’t say. But I do know this: there can be no hope of treating any of these ills without an accurate diagnosis.

Whence All But He Had Fled

For a man who campaigned on promises of unprecedented executive transparency, President Obama seems inordinately fond of making laws in secret. A couple of months ago he kept his Net Neutrality plan hidden from public view until after the FCC commissioners had enacted it (by a single vote), and now he’s doing the same thing with his proposed trans-Pacific trade agreement.

It is one thing to conceal troop movements in wartime behind a veil of secrecy, but quite another to conduct the normal, peacetime business of the Republic in this way, and I find the lack of popular indignation at this man’s insolent disregard for the consent of the governed deeply dispiriting. You’d think that things like this would remind us all of what the tree of liberty must from time to time be refreshed with, but I suppose if so you’d be remembering a more virile and vigorous America, and not the one that long ago settled into a paunchy and infantile senescence.

Well, at least we have Senator Jeff Sessions. Unlike the flaccid GOP leadership — especially Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is now Theoden to Obama’s Saruman — Senator Sessions has made an impressive flourish of intact vertebrae with a letter to the President demanding that any proposed trade agreement should, as God and The Framers surely intended, be put before the people and their representatives for free and open debate.

You can read the thing here. (I note with interest the word ‘enormity’.)

Defiance

In this outstanding post, Bill Vallicella brings his trademark clarity of thought and exposition to the question of free speech in the dar al-Harb. His brief essay is the best response I’ve seen to the shootings in Garland and the ructions that ensued in the media. Required reading.

Egalitarianism Ruins Everything

Some time ago I commented on a tiny, emaciated female police officer I had seen in Prospect Park. Now we learn that a 33-year-old woman, Rebecca Wax, is to be made a New York City firefighter despite having failed the physical exam.

Fighting fires is not a political or ideological abstraction. Actual fires take place in actual physical buildings, and threaten actual physical property and actual human bodies. Extinguishing them, therefore, and rescuing the lives of those human bodies, requires the movement and control of actual physical resources and equipment, in great haste, under demanding and extremely adverse physical conditions. Many, if not most, of these physical resources are necessarily bulky and heavy. Moreover, firefighters must work as a team, in which every member’s life may depend, at any moment, on the physical ability of any other member. Therefore, as we read in the article linked above:

In the FST exam, probies must breathe through a mask attached to an air tank while carrying up to 50 pounds of gear.

They must climb six flights of stairs, stretch hose lines, raise ladders, perform tasks that simulate breaking doors and pulling down ceilings, and drag dummies through tunnels with no visibility.

They must complete the course in 17 minutes, 50 seconds or less.

However:

Despite many attempts over the Fire Academy’s 18-week training course, Wax completed the test just once — but it took her more than 22 minutes, the source said.

In numerous tries, Wax struggled and was too slow. While fit probies finish with air left in their tanks, she had to stop when hers ran out, the source added.

“She’s in the best shape of her life, and it’s still not good enough,” he said.

But in she goes anyway. Forward!

This pattern of subordinating vitally important standards to the doctrinal absurdities of a secular religion that prohibits all discriminations — even those that are obviously necessary to our own survival — does not confine itself to the merely physical. Earlier this year our Sandinista mayor, Bill deBlasio, agreed to pay a settlement of $98,000,000 for having required aspiring firefighters to pass a test that proved too difficult for many black applicants. Nobody alleged that the test itself contained any race-specific content; it was simply that black applicants couldn’t pass it at the same rate that white applicants did. That this might represent an actually existing statistical disparity between blacks and whites in the cognitive abilities the test sought to measure is, of course, an unspeakable hypothesis, and so the “disparate impact” of the exam can only be proof of — you guessed it — racism. And so the standards will be lowered, and we New Yorkers will be $98m poorer, while our lives and property are put at greater risk.

Thank you, Mayor deBlasio. Thank you, idiotic secular Puritans.

Here is an article about all of this by Cornell statistician William Briggs. (As you read it, be sure to follow the link to this item by Fred Reed.)

Open Thread

Fire away.

La Pilule Rouge

Still too busy to post. So have some Moldbug.

Key passage:

Alexander sees that his government has made a bad, stupid, irrational and really downright evil decision. But he does not go out and try to convince his readers (all 10,000 of them, perhaps) to vote differently. In his actions, he reveals that he’s perfectly aware that this highly touted failsafe mechanism against bad government, always and everywhere, does not in fact exist.

If there is one thing above all that you need to understand if you are going to understand the modern world, it is that thing, right there. There are others, but this is the entry point.

A Pair Of Ace’s

Forgive the apostrophe-trolling in the title, but the blogger known as Ace of Spades has been in fine fettle lately. See here and here.

In the second linked piece, Ace mentions the “Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect” (named for physicist Murray Gell-Mann), which the late Michael Crichton described as follows:

Briefly stated, the Gell-Mann Amnesia effect is as follows. You open the newspaper to an article on some subject you know well. In Murray’s case, physics. In mine, show business. You read the article and see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues. Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward—reversing cause and effect. I call these the “wet streets cause rain” stories. Paper’s full of them.

In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs, and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate about Palestine than the baloney you just read. You turn the page, and forget what you know.

I’ve had ample opportunity to verify this phenomenon on my own.

Things To Read

I’m swamped with work tonight, so I’ll just pass along two interesting articles.

First, here’s a good piece by Frank Miniter: How To Win a Debate With an Anti-Gunner.

Gun owners and Second Amendment defenders living, as I do, in the belly of the liberal beast are all too familiar with the reflexive scorn that Mr. Miniter describes in his article; he offers some good advice on how to make a “disarming” response.

Second, here is an encouraging item from NRO. (Too little too late, most likely, but nice to see nevertheless.)

Sky Still Not Falling

Here’s a roundup of recent climate science from the Cato Institute.

(One quibble: although the article correctly notes that there has been no “major hurricane” strike on the U.S. mainland since 2005, I think it might at least have mentioned Hurricane Sandy. Although Sandy was not officially a hurricane when it made landfall in New Jersey, it was enormously destructive nevertheless.)

Mugged By Reality

We’ve all heard of the “law of unintended consequences”. It’s worth noting, though, that unintended consequences fall into two types: those that are unforeseen because the complexity of a large, dynamic, and possibly chaotic system obscures them even from the most searching analysis, and those that are patently obvious to some observers, but are unseen by others, due, singly or in combination, to intellectual laziness, shallow and unreflective ideological prejudices, or stupidity.

This article gives us a gratifying example of the latter category. (The accompanying photograph, I have to add, only sweetens the deal.)

SSM And SCOTUS: A Repost Re Tradition

In the same-sex marriage arguments at the Supreme Court the other day (see the Washington Post’s coverage, here), the discussion naturally touched upon the wisdom, or folly, of discarding by government fiat a sacred tradition that is at least as old as civilization itself, and universal to every society that has ever existed.

Left and Right, just as naturally, disagree about the importance of this question. An oft-cited metaphor for the conservative view is known as “Chesterton’s Fence”. It comes from G.K. Chesterton’s book The Thing:

In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.

I refer readers also to a post of our own from July of 2013, the subject of which was the diametrically different attitudes of conservatives and liberals toward tradition generally. An excerpt:

To the conservative, traditions arise naturally from the workings of human nature, as part of the ontogeny and organic development of societies. They are not the result of scientific planning or sociological theorizing — and like biological species themselves, they only come into view in retrospect. They are, in a sense, part of the “extended phenotype” of our species and its various subgroups, as languages are; and just as languages do, they naturally adapt to, and come to represent, those things that actually matter to the various human groups from which they arise. (Many have been, at least up till now, more or less universal.) In this way they contain a great deal of deeply-buried knowledge about the optimal functioning of the human social organism, often for reasons, and in ways, that themselves need not be explicitly represented in the organism’s consciousness. Because of this, disrupting them will always have unknowable consequences — and so, at least, tradition justifies respect for its embodied wisdom, and caution as regards casual tampering.

To those on the Left, traditions are artifacts. Rather than being organic outgrowths and aspects of human nature itself, they are human creations; they are social technology, whose only purpose is to control and manipulate human behavior. In this view, human “nature” hardly exists at all, and traditions are wholly external things; indeed almost everything about human behavior and human life is external to the individual. This means that to mold human beings, or human societies, into any desirable configuration is simply a matter of discarding traditions, and inventing new ones, until we obtain the correct result. Because of this, tradition justifies very little indeed.

As we see all around us, these views of the world are not particularly compatible, and cannot easily coexist, at least within any given society.

Open Thread

As our regular comment-threads seem to meander far off-topic from time to time (and because I am generally too warm-hearted and lazy to moderate comments), I am introducing this new feature, in the hope of keeping our other comment-threads pithy and focused: an occasional (perhaps weekly) placeholder for for free association, idle chat, bibulous logorrhea, and confessions of the heart. (Or, perhaps, for the introduction of serious topics or questions.)

SSM And ‘Sexual Discrimination': Begging The Question

In today’s Best of the Web, James Taranto focuses on a question asked by John Roberts:

“I’m not sure it’s necessary to get into sexual orientation to resolve the case. I mean, if Sue loves Joe and Tom loves Joe, Sue can marry him and Tom can’t. And the difference is based upon their different sex. Why isn’t that a straightforward question of sexual discrimination?”

This is a seductive argument, and Mr. Taranto seems persuaded:

The logic here seems inexorable: If the Constitution prohibits almost all sex discrimination, and if that prohibition applies to family law, then husbands and wives are, for legal purposes, already interchangeable.

But this seemingly compelling argument is mere question-begging. What’s being decided in this case isn’t whether homosexuals have the right to marry; of course they do. (It may seem facile to point this out, but any homosexual of either sex has the same right to marry as anyone else, as long as they marry someone of the opposite sex.) The correct response to Chief Justice Roberts’s question would be that what prevent’s Tom from ‘marrying’ Joe is the fact that such a union is, under all traditional law in every society that has ever existed throughout all of human history, not a marriage. It is not the right to marry that is being examined in this case, but the right to define what marriage is. And that is a very different thing.

Ice, Ice, Baby

Well, golly gee whillickers. Whoever could have imagined such a thing?

SSM At SCOTUS

The Supreme Court heard arguments today in Obergefell v. Hodges, which, as you may know, concerns itself with whether or not same-sex couples have a right to redefine what marriage is, and to compel every state to accept the new definition.

Good coverage of the arguments here. Haven’t even had time to go over it all myself yet.

Things Fall Apart

As I write, the civil society is breaking down again, this time in Baltimore. (I don’t have much to say about it, or perhaps I should say that I am not yet prepared to say, in this forum at least, some of the things I might say about it.) Nobody who has been paying attention to the arc of United States history, or to more general realities, should be the least bit surprised by any of this.

I will say this: much is being made of Baltimore mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s remarks after the first night of rioting. In explaining that she had wished to protect the right of protesters to march peacefully, she said the following:

“It’s a very delicate balancing act because while we try to make sure that they (protestors) were protected from the cars and the other things that were going on, we also gave those who wished to destroy space to do that as well.”

This has been greeted with more or less universal astonishment all over the Internet, talk radio, etc., on the assumption that she meant that she consciously decided to let rioters “blow off steam” by looting, destroying property, committing felonious assault, and so on. I think, however, that she must actually have meant, especially considering her reference to a “balancing act”, that in creating a “safe space” for protest, she unavoidably, and regrettably, also enabled such mayhem as described above.

That said, though, rioting continued for hours this afternoon without any apparent effort whatsoever on the part of the police to resist them, and for that the buck stops at the Mayor’s desk. Police cars, left abandoned in the streets, were burned. Stores were overrun and looted. The looting is bad enough, but what about the people working in those stores? Had they no right to expect that the city would intervene to protect them? Surely they were calling for help; none came. This is a direct abrogation of the foremost responsibility of any system of government: to maintain public order. If that bedrock obligation is shirked, then nothing else matters, and civilization is dead.

8 Stops

The lovely Nina and I went to the Cherry Lane Theatre this afternoon to see a one-woman performance by Deb Margolin called ‘8 Stops‘. Nina and I knew Deb many years ago — as it happens, she is a good friend of this website’s erstwhile comment-thread gadfly ‘The One Eyed Man’, and it was he who introduced us to her, so long ago — but we had not seen her for more than thirty years. Since then she has established a long career in the theater, won an Obie, and joined the faculty of Yale University.

Her show was a wise and moving meditation on sickness and health, youth and age, and joy and loss.

I found Deb’s show particularly moving because I have felt, increasingly, for many years now the presence of a great pool of pulverizing grief just below the surface of life (although by some unknowable grace, there is also a random admixture of incandescent joy there as well.) It seems to me sometimes like walking on old, deep snow: you move along briskly, just going about your business, but sometimes you put a little too much weight in one spot and you break through, and are in up to your thigh.

Deb understands this very, very well, and manages to expose and confront this appalling truth while being funny at the same time. That is no small thing.

Nyah-Nyah

Want to provoke a race war in America? This sneering video is probably as good a way as any.

Just keep pushing, Eloi. Keep pushing.

Kill The Headlights, Step On The Gas

Here is a thing Hillary Clinton said in 2004:

“I believe that marriage is not just a bond but a sacred bond between a man and a woman. I have had occasion in my life to defend marriage, to stand up for marriage, to believe in the hard work and challenge of marriage. So I take umbrage at anyone who might suggest that those of us who worry about amending the Constitution are less committed to the sanctity of marriage, or to the fundamental bedrock principle that exists between a man and a woman, going back into the mists of history as one of the founding, foundational institutions of history and humanity and civilization, and that its primary, principal role during those millennia has been the raising and socializing of children for the society into which they are to become adults.”

Well! A “fundamental bedrock principle that exists between a man and a woman, going back into the mists of history as one of the founding, foundational institutions of history and humanity and civilization, and that its primary, principal role during those millennia has been the raising and socializing of children for the society into which they are to become adults.” Quite so, and exactly right. There is nothing in any of this this that is a matter of opinion, or of political sympathies; it is nothing more than a statement of plainly evident fact about the history and purpose of a universal human institution that is, in all probability, the most universal, and probably the oldest, human institution of all.

And yet, with astonishing suddenness, this is not only a controversial thing to say, but a wicked thing to say — or even to think.

What extraordinary times we live in.

Loretta Lynch Confirmed

Great. Eric Holder in a dress. Way to go, GOP-controlled Senate.

Really, these guys should just go home.

Terrain! Terrain!

In the comment thread to a post published back in February, I made a little wager with our erstwhile liberal gadfly ‘The One Eyed Man’ that Hillary Clinton would not only not be the next President of the United States, but that she would not even end up being the Democratic nominee. The stakes: a good bottle of whisky.

At the time I offered a list of reasons Mrs. Clinton wouldn’t make the cut: too old, too sick, too unprincipled, too incompetent, too dishonest, too nasty, too much baggage. I thought that any one of these might be sufficient, and that the inevitable combination of them would present an insuperable obstacle to her imperious ambitions.

Events now appear to be bearing me out. In particular the focus, for now at least, is on “too unprincipled”, “too dishonest”, and “too much baggage”. That email-server business was bad enough, but now the muckraking author Peter Schweizer has published a book, called Clinton Cash, that details the web of intrigue and influence linking Bill Clinton, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Clinton Foundation, a large and tenebrous network of foreign and corporate interests, and great rivers of money that flowed toward the Clinton’s coffers the way the Mississippi seeks the sea.

To have Peter Schweizer making these charges would be worrisome enough for Mrs. Clinton’s prospects, but even the New York Times has now put its weight behind the story. Frankly, it’s looking pretty bad (and that’s because it is pretty bad). I have the feeling that the Clinton candidacy may already be tottering. The next few weeks should be interesting — and if I’m not mistaken, enormously enjoyable.

Peter, once the dust settles, I think a bottle of Highland Park 15 will do the job nicely. You have my address.

Just Say No!

Here’s an interesting idea from Charles Murray: a way for the beleaguered citizen to stand up to a bullying Leviathan.

Hot Air

It’s Earth Day, so President Obama took a Boeing 747*, helicopters, and an SUV to the Florida Everglades, there to scold us about global warming.

We learned that the Everglades are threatened — which indeed they are, by aquifer depletion, land subsidence, residential and agricultural overdevelopment, and invasive species. The President, however, restricted his focus to man-made global warming as the efficient cause of the area’s problems, despite the fact that there has been no statistically significant global warming for more than 18 years. The President also mentioned storms, without noting that no hurricane has made landfall on Florida’s shores for more than 9 years — a truly extraordinary hiatus — or that recent years have seen an almost unprecedented drop in U.S. tornado activity.

Land subsidence is indeed a serious problem in the southeastern U.S., with some areas, particularly the Gulf coast around New Orleans, sinking rapidly. This of course contributes, as it does in Florida, to worrisome relative sea-level rise. But land subsidence is not caused by global warming (a fact that is, of course, logically prior to the question of whether warming is caused by man-made carbon-dioxide emissions).

In case the little ones in the audience weren’t already cringing in terror behind their mothers’ skirts, the President also gave them this to haunt their dreams:

The world’s top climate scientists are warning that a changing climate already affects the air that our children are breathing. The Surgeon General and I recently met with doctors and nurses and parents who see patients and kids grappling with the health impacts.

Actually, the air is cleaner these days than ever (thanks in large part to the creative and widespread use of clean-burning fossil fuels and centralized energy production, which are replacing older, messier energy sources around the world) — and even those of a wholly unreflective nature must wonder, just a little, how a warming that hasn’t happened for nearly two decades, or average temperatures that top out over long-ago warm spells by a debatable few hundredths of a degree, have managed to cause an atmospheric crisis so dire that young lives are at existential risk. But that’s what the man said.

Having presented his case, Mr. Obama moved right along to the verdict:

So climate change can no longer be denied. It can’t be edited out. It can’t be omitted from the conversation.

Well, “denied” might be relatively uncontroversial — after all, the climate has been changing throughout Earth’s history. But what I think he really means by “climate change can no longer be denied”, if I may take the liberty of unpacking it a bit, is something more like this:

The propositions that:

a) the world is warming rapidly,
b) that this alleged warming is primarily the result of mankind’s use of fossil fuels,
c) that we can reliably predict future anthropogenic warming using current computer models,
d) that the bad effects of higher carbon-dioxide levels, and of warmer temperatures, greatly outweigh the benefits, and
e) that we can, if we want, meaningfully and reliably control the future of the Earth’s climate by government action,

… can no longer be denied.

That these propositions, in aggregate, “can no longer be denied” might be news, of course, to the more than 31,000 scientists who have signed this petition. But Mr. Obama was by now in a bit of a groove, and I understand that he didn’t want to break his flow.

After the verdict, of course, came the sentence:

And action can no longer be delayed.

No? I’d have thought it could, actually, especially given: the abject failure of the computer models upon which all of this is based to predict global temperature changes with any accuracy; the severity and expense of the measures usually proposed for addressing the “crisis”; the many opportunities for political cronyism and corruption such measures always entail; the further expansion and centralization of government power, and concomitant erosion of individual and free-market liberties, that would necessarily result from such a large-scale intervention; and the low priority that U.S. citizens, in poll after poll, give “climate change” in comparison to other pressing problems.

No, Mr. President, I’d say that “action” could be delayed as long as we bloody well like, and that circumspection would be the wiser course.

Ah well. Happy Earth Day, everybody. And rest in peace, Holly Maddux.

 
* Air Force 1’s fuel use, round trip: about 9,000 gallons.

This Is The Future You Have Chosen

Seventy years ago, our military forces stormed the beaches of Normandy, on their way to the liberation of Europe.

That was then. This is now.

Society And The Second Law

In preparing the previous post, I ran across a blog I’d never seen before — a neoreactionary organ called Let A Thousand Nations Bloom. (I had originally been about to use Mao’s line, “Let a thousand flowers bloom!”) I rather liked the look of the website, so I gave it a link at the bottom of the post.

Glancing around over there just now I came across something else I liked: a post called The Heat Death of Humanity: Progressivism as the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

This has been a theme of mine for some time now. (See, for example, my own post The Heat Death of the Universe, from March of last year. See also my look at the relation between social connectivity and the ideal-gas-laws, here.

In short, as my friend Bob Wyman has argued, a persuasive case can be made that maps good and evil onto the Second Law: all good consists of resisting or reversing entropy, while evil can be defined as that which encourages the entropic increase of decay, disorder, corruption, and decomposition. On this view, then, radical egalitarianism — which has been the animating force of the Left going back at least as far as the French Revolution, and which acts always to suppress and to level those gradients, differences, discriminations, inequalities, and local concentrations of order from which all of the world’s creative energy arises — is not only the natural enemy of liberty; it is objectively evil.

On Nationalism

Here is some splendid clarity from John Derbyshire on the oft-maligned idea of nationalism:

I’m a nationalist: which is to say, I believe in the idea of a nation as the political expression of a particular people, of mostly-common broad ancestry, speaking a common language and cleaving to a common culture within well-defended borders.

Here’s every nationalist’s favorite quote, and that includes those of us who aren’t religious. It’s from Alexander Solzhenitsyn, quote:

The disappearance of nations would impoverish us no less than if all people were made alike, with one character, one face. Nations are the wealth of mankind, they are its generalized personalities: the smallest of them has its own particular colors, and embodies a particular facet of God’s design.

End quote.

Nationalism is widely misunderstood. It is not, for example, opposed to diversity. To the contrary, it’s a friend of diversity. Nationalists want all the diverse peoples of the world to be secure in their own cultures and traditions, each in a sovereign nation of its own.

Personally I even favor a measured small quantity of diversity within nations, on the salt-in-the-stew pinciple: a smidgeon of foreign admixture adds spice, interest, and genetic variation. That’s how you salt your stew.

Nor is nationalism racist in the pejorative sense, as an expression of hostility or superiority by one race towards another. As my friend Jared Taylor says: I love my children much more than I love your children, just because they are mine. I don’t hate your children, though, or believe they’re inferior.

That clause about mostly-common broad ancestry does mean that nationalism is racist in a very general way; but it implies no hostility to anyone, nor any notions of superiority, just a fondness for one’s own way of life, and the belief — which seems common sense to me — that if one’s ancestors had been some different people, one’s way of life would be different.

That’s it exactly: “Nationalists want all the diverse peoples of the world to be secure in their own cultures and traditions, each in a sovereign nation of its own.” If you love diversity, friends, that is how you preserve it: not by mooshing everyone together so that their ancient folkways clash and grind against each other until either their distinctive, salient features are scraped away by constant friction, or until the the durable incompatibilities of their immiscible essences lead — as has so often been the case throughout mankind’s long and sorrowful history — to bitter and sanguinary disaggregation.

Let a thousand nations bloom!

Read the rest of that week’s Radio Derb transcript here.

Subtweet

John Stuart Mill:

“It is indisputable that the being whose capacities of enjoyment are low, has the greatest chance of having them fully satisfied; and a highly endowed being will always feel that any happiness which he can look for, as the world is constituted, is imperfect. But he can learn to bear its imperfections, if they are at all bearable; and they will not make him envy the being who is indeed unconscious of the imperfections, but only because he feels not at all the good which those imperfections qualify.

It is better to be a human being dissatisfied than a pig satisfied; better to be Socrates dissatisfied than a fool satisfied. And if the fool, or the pig, is of a different opinion, it is only because they only know their own side of the question.”

Everyday American

Here’s a behind-the-scenes look at Hillary’s spontaneous Chipotle stopover.

Chasing Rainbows, or The Conclusion That Must Not Be Reached

Charles Murray comments on a recent Washington Post article on IQ. Here.

Zap!

This should worry you:

The Shaming of Cheryl Rios

Because the world has got so small, everything collides with everything else. Attention from all parts of this flattened, shrunken system can swivel to focus on any node at any time — and attention can exalt or destroy. In this case, it is like stereotactic radiosurgery: the malignancy, once detected, must be annihilated.

This happens in a spontaneous, self-organizing way. It was always so, but the difference now is that in a heartbeat, any node of the social network can attract the attention of the entire civilized world. Also, because the connectedness that makes this “small world” possible exists only at the superficial level of electronic social networks, the connections lack the deeper, empathic linkage that characterize “real-world” relationships, and so there is nothing to mitigate the impersonal malevolence these ‘viral’ outbreaks bring to bear. Very few of us are so constituted, or situated, as to be able to withstand such a heat-ray, and so now we have a “new normal” in which human lives are casually, almost sportingly, vaporized.

On Punching

Recently the Doonesbury cartoonist Garry Trudeau criticized Charlie Hebdo’s anti-Islamic cartoons. He accused the magazine of using satire to “punch down” — that is, of abusing one’s own position of safety and privilege in order to harass the “disenfranchised”.

The blogger and columnist Daniel Greenfield has offered a tart response. Excerpt:

The left has adopted “Punching up” and “Punching down” as the legitimate metrics for comedy and satire, but real ‘Punching down’ comes from the establishment. When an establishment satirist like Trudeau attacks satirists who risked their lives challenging a real authority with the power to kill them, what he is really saying is that satire should only serve the ends and agendas of the establishment.

That is the very definition of “Punching down”. When the establishment tells you what satire is supposed to be, then anyone following those rules is punching down.

…There is in fact an easy way to tell whether your satire is really punching up or down. Try it and see what happens. If you run into a gigantic backlash that impacts your career and your safety, then you’re actually punching up. Just ask a rodeo clown out of Missouri who went out wearing an Obama mask and ended having to go into hiding while the Governor, a Senator and the Kansas City Star called for his head. Bans were issued, blacklists were assembled and Obama fans threatened to burn down his house.

That’s what real “Punching up” looks like.

Or, as Voltaire said:

“To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize.”

Read the whole thing here.

Use Your Loaf

Here’s a little logic puzzle that’s been making the rounds.

There’s a ‘spoiler’ video at the bottom of the page, if you’re stumped.

As Expected

Hillary Clinton announced her candidacy today. Everybody knew it was coming. The anticipatory mood was like waiting for a sagging roof to collapse.

I have to say that I think the Democrats ought to be just a little worried to have all their eggs in this basket. Mrs. Clinton has an awful lot of liabilities — I won’t enumerate them here, because I have other things to do this week — and any one of them, let alone their cumulative tonnage, might be enough to sink her between now and the convention. (I say “the convention”, and not “the election”, because I don’t think she will even end up being the Democratic nominee.) Hell, she might even ship too much liquor some quiet Westchester evening and fall down the stairs. (From basket to casket.)

So, if she’s not there come Election Day, what have the Democrats got? I’ll tell you: bupkis, that’s what. Doesn’t this fact trouble them, just a little?

Mind you, I might be coming round to Hillary’s camp myself. As I mentioned in a comment last month, “there are times — and they are more frequent now — when I think that the only way to move beyond this tottering wreck, and begin to build whatever we can upon its rubble, is to help it fall, as quickly as possible.” If that’s the goal, then Hillary’s the gal.

What Media Bias?

Charles Cooke of NRO catches the New York Times in a tendentious lie. Here.

P.S. The Times has since updated its post.