OK, this is interesting:
Some details here.
OK, this is interesting:
Some details here.
Here’s a treat: Dick Cavett interviewing the great Oscar Peterson at the piano.
And when you’re done with that, check this out.
Here’s a good post by Lewis Amselem, a.k.a. ‘Diplomad’, on race relations in the West.
Let me be blunt: I find that discussions of race quickly get boring, idiotic, inconclusive, and, often, verbally and even physically violent. Race tells you very little if anything about a person and his or her attributes except, perhaps, for some inconsequential physical ones.
Correct. That there are differences in the statistical distribution of nearly every cognitive and behavioral attribute between long-isolated human groups, and that those differences in distribution can manifest themselves in important ways at the group, and therefore the cultural, level, nevertheless tells you nothing whatsoever about the balance of those traits in any individual. This simple fact should be at the forefront of all consideration of race, but it is stubbornly ignored in favor of false and binary simplifications that either deny any reality to race, or imagine it to be far more important at the individual level than it actually is.
Mr. Amselem continues:
To keep pushing the topic of race can and will force even the most tolerant and open of people (as discussed here, for example) eventually to reach their limit and fight back…
“Conversations” about race in Western countries become one-way progressive harangues deriding white people and their “privilege,” calls for more government action in the name of “social justice,” and, of course, more power for the progressive elites. In our befuddled times, such “conversations” get infused with yet another noxious theme, to wit, “white male patriarchy.” Racism and sexism become one huge pulsating Death Star that requires, you guessed it, more legislation, more government control, more censorship, more repression, and more of all the other hallmarks of progressivism to defeat it.
So, of course, having said that we should not talk about race and its associated sin sexism, I will discuss race and sex, well, mostly I will rant about White Dudes. The contributions of “Pale Dudismo” are considerable, worth recalling, and — dare I say? — defending without shame. That, I will do.
And so he does. Go and read the whole thing.
You may notice the following comment from your humble correspondent:
This is a terribly difficult topic to write about: the electrical potential regarding race is so super-charged that it is almost impossible to raise your hand without being struck by lightning. There are unspeakable truths that nearly everyone knows, nevertheless, to be true; the cognitive dissonance required for our culture to suppress them has reached a point of almost unbearable tension. It is only by speaking them as charitably, and as honestly, as we can, while being as clear as we can that our intention is not to provoke, that we can begin to discharge this dangerous potential without touching off an explosion — an explosion that surely will come if, in fear of the rewards of heresy, we say nothing.
Update: see also this Daily Beast article, by John McWhorter, on antiracism as religion. (Hat tip: JK.) As I’ve mentioned often, all of this — environmentalism, antiracism, radical egalitarianism, etc. — are just the latest forms of the same energetic Puritanism that grew up in New England four centuries ago. It has been stripped of its linkage to anything that transcends the mundane world (i.e God and the sacred), but not its zeal, or its sense of being a community on a mission from God. Here, for example, is a writer for The United States Democratic Review, commenting on New England’s abolitionist fervor in 1855:
“Neither the Puritan nor the Abolitionist is content with the enjoyment of his own freedom of opinion unless he can impose it on others. His only idea of toleration is dictation; and what he means by liberty of speech and thought is universal acquiescence in his own dogmas.”
I excerpt a couple of notable passages from Mr. McWhorter’s essay. First, this (my emphasis):
The Right quite readily questions Antiracism’s tenets. Key, however, is that among Antiracism adherents, those questions are tartly dismissed as inappropriate and often, predictably, as racist themselves. The questions are received with indignation that one would even ask them, with a running implication that their having been asked is a symptom of, yes, racism’s persistence.
Yes, that’s some catch. Also:
Finally, Antiracism is all about a Judgment Day, in a sense equally mesmerizing and mythical. Antiracist scripture includes a ritual reference to, as it were, the Great Day when America “owns up to” or “comes to terms with” structural racism—note that “acknowledge” is a term just as appropriate—and finally, well, fixes it somehow. But how would a country as massive, heterogenous, and politically fractured as this one ever arrive at so conclusive and overarching a policy as “fixing” racism, either psychologically or structurally?
This is a very important point, and one that the late Lawrence Auster used to bring up: What’s the exit strategy in this war on racism? When racism is finally eliminated, how will we know? At what point, and under what conditions, can the warriors fighting for social justice end, at long last, the slaughter of the enemy, because the battle has been won?
Update 2: From the comment-thread at Diplomad’s post, a link to this item by Fred Reed on “white supremacy”. Mr. Reed makes rather a strong case.
One of the characteristic mental disorders of our period is an easy contempt for the past. It’s not just that we are taught to hate the past, for one can respect and still detest an enemy. It’s that we despise it. We observe it with an easy, swaggering and thoroughly unquestioned contempt. We are presentists with all the arrogance of the cartoon plantation racist.
Which leads us into many faults of the intellect, some of them comic. But our worst fault is the belief that history, somehow, is easy. Of course it’s easy to know what happened in the Civil War! Every fifth-grader knows the story. Heck, my four-year-old daughter knows the story. She read about it in her Magic Treehouse books (which, by the way, are racist). “Oh, I know about the Civil War,” she said. Indeed she does – she knows about it the way everyone in 2013 does. If a little less.
Imagine the poor bastards who actually had to live in the past, being understood by a four-year-old. Of course, it is no more possible for Sibyl to understand the Civil War than to fly to the moon. She’s a bright girl, but still.
And Mark Twain:
If the Eiffel tower were now representing the world’s age, the skin of paint on the pinnacle-knob at its summit would represent man’s share of that age; & anybody would perceive that that skin was what the tower was built for. I reckon they would. I dunno.
This is just the damnedest thing I’ve ever seen. I can hardly focus my eyes on it.
High political drama in the Senate today: a blistering speech by Ted Cruz. The blisteree: Mitch McConnell. You’ll be hearing more about this.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one:
A biology professor and two of his graduate students are doing field-work in the jungle. Suddenly they are surrounded by tribal warriors brandishing spears and clubs. They are quickly subdued and taken to a village a few miles away.
The Chief appears. He glowers at them and says:
“You have violated our sacred lands, and so you will be punished. You have two choices: death, or Bongo-Bongo.”
He glares at the first of the two younger men. “Well? Which will it be?”
The graduate student, a slightly built young man, is trembling with fear.
“I – I choose Bongo-Bongo, whatever that is.”
The warriors grab him and bend him double over an enormous fallen log. They take turns raping and sodomizing him until they have all had their way.
The chief looks at the next graduate student. “Your turn now. What is your choice?”
The young man is horrified, but even more afraid to die.
“Bongo-Bongo,” he says, shivering in terror.
The warriors remove the previous victim, now unconscious, from the log, and the second student takes his place. Soon his desperate cries echo through the village.
At last the Chief turns to the professor, a sturdy, middle-aged man who is also an old Army veteran. “What have you chosen?” he demands.
The professor spits at the Chief, and says “You can go to hell. I’d rather die than submit to such perversion. I choose death.”
“Very well!” says the Chief. “You have chosen death, and so death it shall be.”
“Death — by BONGO-BONGO!!“
In a related item from CNN, we learn that Hillary Clinton, at a recent campaign stop, said the following thing:
Hillary Clinton is touting her potential to make history as the nation’s first female president as “one of the merits” behind her campaign.
She played up her gender during a stop in West Columbia, South Carolina on Thursday. When a man told Clinton that his 10-year-old daughter told him, “You guys have had it long enough,” Clinton seized the moment.
“Clearly, I’m not asking people to vote for me simply because I’m a woman. I’m asking people to vote for me on the merits,” Clinton said.
Then she directly addressed gender, adding: “I think one of the merits is I am a woman. And I can bring those views and perspectives to the White House.
I’ve written often about the cognitive dissonance required to hold in one’s mind the ideology of the Left, and here we have another instructive example. As we know, it is today a matter of incontrovertible social dogma that all human groups, as categorized by race, ethnicity, or sex, are exactly alike in all cognitive and behavioral qualities, and that to discriminate, whether affirmatively or negatively, on the basis of such categorizations is the darkest imaginable sin. (If, for example, I were to campaign on the special qualities that I, as a white male of northern-European extraction, would bring to public office, I would be banished from polite society, and if possible reduced to beggary.) Yet here is Hillary Clinton doing exactly that — and what’s more, this reptilian woman is confident enough in the envenomation and paralysis of her audience’s faculty of reason that she can reject sexual bias, and then advocate it, in two consecutive sentences.
It appears that the intellectual and philosophical conclave known as ‘neo-reaction’, or the ‘Dark Enlightenment’, has just made its first memetic inroad into the broader political culture, with the derogatory neologism ‘cuckservative’.
The term refers to ‘conservatives’, generally white and male, who, cowed and ensorcelled by the hegemonic multiculturalism and relativism of what neo-reactionaries calls the ‘Cathedral’, actually seek to conserve very little — and are complicit in the sacking of the traditional American nation by mass Third-World immigration (legal or otherwise), totalitarian subjectivism, radical feminism, militant secularism, sexual anarchy, cultural Marxism, extremist egalitarianism, and so on.
It derives from the word ‘cuckold’, for obvious reasons. The coiner of the term is unknown. But suddenly it is all over social media, and popping up elsewhere as well. Clearly it resonates — a resonance that, properly understood, might go a long way toward explain the surging popularity of the current Republican front-runner.
Update: See also this.
For God’s sake, please, please, just leave us alone.
Also: Bob Corker, who led the Senate’s disgraceful abrogation of its Constitutional treaty power with regard to the Iran deal, is suddenly upset that the President rushed the deal to the U.N. before Congress could complete its 60-day ‘review’ of the treaty — a deal that by the Senate’s own actions had already been rendered completely meaningless.
What’s the mot juste here? It’s right on the tip of my tongue…
Ah yes: bathos.
This may ring a bell:
There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane, he had to fly them. If he flew them, he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t want to, he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.
“That’s some catch, that Catch-22,” he observed.
“It’s the best there is,” Doc Daneeka agreed.
Here is an item that’s been going around over the past couple of days: an essay by Paul Sperry describing the Obama administration’s latest race-leveling operation.
The idea is to fish for “disparate impact” violations, wherever they can be found — in housing, lending, school discipline, academic performance, enrollment in gifted-student programs, etc. — and to use the coercive power of the State to flatten outcomes.
The Left has a secret weapon here, and in the current cultural climate, it’s a beaut. Here’s how it works:
1) If you go looking for disparate outcomes by racial groups (or by sex), you’ll certainly find them. They are real, and persistent. (See, for example, just how persistent they can be, here.)
2) When such disparate outcomes occur, there are only two possible causes: either they are due to an external obstacle, or something intrinsic to the group itself.
3) If all racial groups are assumed, as by current social convention they must be, to have exactly identical distributions of every cognitive and behavioral trait, then any variation in outcome that disparately affects a particular racial group must be evidence of some external obstacle. This can only be due to racism and injustice, and therefore it is just and proper for the State to detect and remove it, by whatever means necessary.
4) If however, you suggest that disparities under neutral policies may be due, even in part, to innate differences in the distribution of cognitive and behavioral characteristics in different racial groups, then you are a racist. (If you present actual evidence of such differences, you’re a “scientific” racist.) Moreover, the fact that you are even thinking such things is evidence of the persistence and prevalence of racism in general, which in turns confirms the assumption that disparate outcomes are the result of pervasive and intractable racism, and not innate differences. This is what justifies redoubled efforts on the part of the State to bring every aspect of our lives under racial scrutiny, and impose corrective measures wherever disparate outcomes are found.
So: notwithstanding that race, as we are told, is a “social construct” with no basis in reality, the government will spare no effort to group people by race, and to scour vast collections of intrusively gathered data to find inequalities in social and economic outcomes — not on any individual basis, but by race. But despite race being real enough, apparently, to justify making such racial categorizations, race can have no deeper reality as regards any shared characteristics that might contribute to such inequalities. Race is, in other words, real, but only real enough to serve, somehow, as a marker for defining groups, and thereby to serve as the basis of racism, without having any other actual properties. Moreover (and this is what makes the whole thing work so beautifully): if you disagree with any of this, you are yourself a racist — and you have thereby just demonstrated that persistent racism is indeed the problem.
Thanks to this secret weapon, we have moved beyond — far beyond — the idea that particular differences in outcomes may be due to specific and remediable instances of conscious and intentional racism. As we go Forward, we have a new paradigm: differences in outcomes simply ARE racism, now and forever.
That’s some catch!
Busy few days coming up. Back soon.
Here is an excellent piece on why putting women in combat is such a bad idea. I’d post an excerpt, but you really should read the whole thing.
See also this older item by Fred Reed.
Throughout history, wise societies have realized that women, as the source of, and natural limit to, future generations, are a people’s single most precious resource. They are what armies, traditionally, fight to protect.
We no longer live in a wise society.
Here’s a nice item: an undercover video showing Planned Parenthood’s Senior Director of Medical Services, Deborah Nucatola, discussing availability and prices of aborted body parts.
I expect you will be hearing more about this. In particular, it will be of interest to hear from Hillary Clinton, who in 2009 received Planned Parenthood’s Margaret Sanger Award. In her acceptance speech on that occasion, Ms. Clinton said “I admire Margaret Sanger enormously, her courage, her tenacity, her vision.”
Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, held some views that would, I think, be somewhat out of fashion today, but that doesn’t seem to have affected her popularity over on the Left. Some quotes from her:
“The third group [of society] are those irresponsible and reckless ones having little regard for the consequences of their acts, or whose religious scruples prevent their exercising control over their numbers. Many of this group are diseased, feeble-minded, and are of the pauper element dependent upon the normal and fit members of society for their support. There is no doubt in the minds of all thinking people that the procreation of this group should be stopped.”
“As an advocate of birth control I wish … to point out that the unbalance between the birth rate of the ‘unfit’ and the ‘fit,’ admittedly the greatest present menace to civilization, can never be rectified by the inauguration of a cradle competition between these two classes. In this matter, the example of the inferior classes, the fertility of the feeble-minded, the mentally defective, the poverty-stricken classes, should not be held up for emulation…. On the contrary, the most urgent problem today is how to limit and discourage the over-fertility of the mentally and physically defective.”
The main objects of the Population Congress would be […] to give certain dysgenic groups in our population their choice of segregation or sterilization.
In fairness, I’ll admit it’s hard to rebut Ms. Sanger on purely practical terms (and I don’t recall her ever expressing an opinion on trafficking in human corpses). After all, it’s not as if she were a Southerner or something.
May I also recommend to you an excellent book: The Neglected Sun, which makes a persuasive case that the effect on the Sun on Earth’s climate is significantly underestimated in mainstream climate models and the IPCC’s reports and predictions.
Recently a commenter scoffed at suggestions that, given the sudden anathematization of all things Confederate, statues honoring Confederate heroes might soon be removed. Fast forward a week, and we’re already moving past anything so tame as that — to the actual disinterment of the dead.
No announcement yet as to which lamp-post will display the remains.
Rage and frenzy will pull down more in half an hour than prudence, deliberation, and foresight can build up in a hundred years. The errors and defects of old establishments are visible and palpable. It calls for little ability to point them out; and where absolute power is given, it requires but a word wholly to abolish the vice and the establishment together. The same lazy, but restless disposition, which loves sloth and hates quiet, directs these politicians, when they come to work for supplying the place of what they have destroyed. To make everything the reverse of what they have seen is quite as easy as to destroy. No difficulties occur in what has never been tried. Criticism is almost baffled in discovering the defects of what has not existed; and eager enthusiasm and cheating hope have all the wide field of imagination, in which they may expatiate with little or no opposition.
It is impossible not to observe, that … these pretended citizens treat France exactly like a country of conquest. Acting as conquerors, they have imitated the policy of the harshest of that harsh race. The policy of such barbarous victors, who contemn a subdued people, and insult their feelings, has ever been, as much as in them lay, to destroy all vestiges of the ancient country, in religion, in polity, in laws, and in manners; to confound all territorial limits; to produce a general poverty; to put up their properties to auction; to crush their princes, nobles, and pontiffs; to lay low everything which had lifted its head above the level, or which could serve to combine or rally, in their distresses, the disbanded people, under the standard of old opinion.
We note that Edmund Burke, who died in 1797, asked that his own body be buried secretly, lest his corpse be desecrated should the Jacobins come to power in England.
Do you like your little town just the way it is? Does it seem appropriate to you that, as free Americans, our communities ought to enjoy local control of zoning, schools, and other civic concerns?
Well, enjoy it while it lasts, you racist, because the Transformer-In-Chief has other plans.
Things are moving awfully fast these days, no?
The other day, in the context of the gagging and grinding-into-the-dust of a dissenting Oregonian baker, I mentioned Tom Nichols’ observation about the difference between authoritarians and totalitarians: that the former only cares about what you do, while the latter must also control what you think. Totalitarians demand not only obedience, but conversion.
Mr. Nichols has since condensed his thoughts into a brief post, which is now making the rounds on the Right. An excerpt:
It is not enough for these Americans to say: “I have had my day in court and prevailed.” In effect, they now add: “You do not have the right to hold a different opinion, even if you lose in the public arena. You may not hold on to your belief as a minority view, or even as a private thought. And if you persist and still disagree, I will attack you without quarter and set others on you to deprive you of your status in your profession, of your standing in your community, and even of your livelihood.”
…This attitude promises social warfare without end, because there is no peace to be had until the opposing side offers a sincere and unconditional surrender… For the new totalitarians, prevailing in the courts or at the ballot boxes isn’t enough if there’s still a suspicion that anyone, anywhere, might still be committing thoughtcrime.
We see this attitude in the remark made by BuzzFeed’s editor, Ben Smith, on the Supreme Court’s homosexual-marriage ruling:
“We firmly believe that for a number of issues, including civil rights, women’s rights, anti-racism, and LGBT equality, there are not two sides.”
We see the same attitude toward climate-change dissidents, whose letters and comments are now blocked by various mainstream media outlets (even as yet another distinguished scientist joins their ranks), and in the opportunistic pogrom against all symbols of the Confederacy, and against those Southerners who honor their Civil War dead. We saw it in the ruination of Brendan Eich and Jason Richwine, and we see it today in the ongoing effort to destroy Donald Trump for his willingness to speak frankly about illegal immigration.
(To his credit, Mr. Trump has not backed down at all — and his obduracy has won him grudging admiration from many, including me, who have always seen him as nothing more than a braggart, fop, and buffoon. He remains, of course, all of those things and more, but here he is saying what many scores of millions of Americans are thinking. The traditional American nation is dying by mass Third World immigration — no, make that “being murdered”, because the effect is intentional — and everybody knows it. Now, in the wake of a spate of horrifying crimes by sheltered illegal aliens, Mr. Trump’s remarks — as well as Ann Coulter’s impressively well-researched book on the topic — seem suddenly to have tapped into a reservoir of resentment among ordinary Americans at having been ignored by their own government for decades on this issue.)
Among the Zinn-soaked vanguard of this campaign, the belief that the nation itself is irremediably tainted by its wicked racial and economic history seems increasingly prevalent. Here, for example, is Vox’s Dylan Matthews (who is not, as far as I know, a crypto-reactionary monarchist) arguing that it would have been better all round if the American Revolution hadn’t happened at all. Perhaps we will soon see calls to ban not only the Battle Flag of the South, but the Stars and Stripes as well.
As Richard Fernandez wrote last week:
“We are now living through a great period of extinction, through an epoch of idea-death. Christianity, the nuclear family, individual initiative, the notion of country, the very idea of gender, even the primacy of survival are in the process being declared surplus to requirements. A thousand ideas, the bloom of the forest, are being bulldozed into the soil by those all too certain of themselves.”
Making the rounds today is a neural-network project from Google called DeepDream. It’s an open-source effort to train neural networks to recognize images (for you programmers, the code is here). I haven’t had any time to give this a close look, but if I understand correctly, when the system is presented with an unfamiliar image it tries to make sense of it in terms of images it has already seen — breaking down the new image and mapping known image fragments onto it wherever it can.
What’s attracting attention is the psychedelic imagery this thing produces. Some of it is eerily beautiful, while other images and animations are, I think, profoundly disturbing. It resembles very closely the visual effects produced by hallucinogenic drugs — a constant “filling-in” of every part of the visual field with half-formed and tentative patterns in continuous motion.
At this webpage, for example, is what the DeepDream code did when applied to a scene from the movie Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. (This animated GIF shows you how unsettling the effect can be.) Here is a video clip that shows what the software can do with a man’s face. Here is a page with more images, and links to other sites that will run the DeepDream process on pictures you upload. There is also a Reddit page.
I’m going to download this thing and see if I can get it running.
Just a few topical ones:
‣ Patrick Buchanan (pre-Greek-referendum-result) on the E.U.’s worsening cohesion.
‣ Milton Friedman saw this coming.
‣ Dark Independence-Day ruminations by Dymphna.
‣ Your tax dollars at work (well, if you live in Oregon’s Gresham-Barlow school district).
A recent exchange on Twitter (another urgent call for gun bans, in reaction to the spree-killing in Charleston) reminded me once again the extent to which gun-control zealots are driven, not by reason and wisdom, but by missionary Utopianism, cultural resentment, naive and sheltered pacifism, and lust for social control. (As someone once said, gun control isn’t about guns, it’s about control.)
In the wake of this mass murder, here are some facts we should keep before us if we wish to examine the issue of gun violence rationally, in the way that a trained engineer would begin diagnosing and fixing a problem:
1) The only thing that stops a spree-killer is armed resistance.
2) Spree-killers know this, and so they seek out “gun-free” zones in nearly every case.
3) Spree killings, however, for all their emotional effect, are only a tiny fraction of gun homicides.
4) If you subtract the gun-homicide rates of America’s violent inner cities, America’s rate falls to European levels. (In fact, taking out just four cities — Detroit, New Orleans, Washington, D.C., and Chicago — does the trick.)
5) America’s inner cities already have punishingly strict gun laws, yet have staggeringly high rates of gun violence.*
6) There are other places, like Vermont and Switzerland, that have very high rates of gun ownership, and very low rates of gun violence. (Vermont has, effectively, no gun laws at all.)
7) There are hundreds of millions of guns in private ownership in America, and the right to keep and bear them is guaranteed by the Constitution. There is no realistic possibility of making them go away.
(*If your response to #5 is to say that guns flow to these places from nearby areas with looser gun laws, then you must explain why homicide rates in those places are so much lower.)
In the comment thread to my January post Degeneracy Pressure, I examined the data on gun-homicide rates and gun ownership, to see if they were correlated. I am reposting some of that comment here.
First I looked at murder rates in the 50 states and Washington, D.C. I scatter-plotted that against the rate of gun ownership in each of these places. Here’s what the resulting graph looks like:
In statistics, correlation can range from -1 to 1; a value of 0 means that there is no correlation at all. The correlation I found for homicide rates vs. gun ownership was moderately negative, at -0.25. This means that states with higher rates of gun ownership are not more, but less likely to have a higher murder rate.
Then I did the same thing worldwide. I looked at homicide rates vs. per-capita gun ownership for 173 nations. Here’s the graph:
As you can see, the trend is still negative. The negative correlation is slightly less, at -0.16. (Getting closer to no correlation at all.)
If you have a problem and want to solve it, first you have to understand what its causes are. The lack of correlation between gun ownership and gun violence demonstrated above should make it clear that the mere presence of guns is not the root cause of the problem. (I grew up in rural New Jersey, where just about every household owned guns, and we kids all grew up shooting them. We did not, however, shoot one another.)
If the goal is low rates of gun violence, then rather than jumping to the conclusion that the only answer is enhancing government restrictions and prohibitions of gun ownership (when the rate of gun ownership, as demonstrated above, shows no correlation with the desired result), the thing to do is to look at instances in which a low rate of gun violence happens naturally (for example, Vermont and Switzerland). We should then compare these communities with those in which the problem persists despite all attempts to solve it, and persists despite implementing the very solutions that gun-control zealots wish to impose nationwide (e.g., inner-city Detroit and Chicago). We should ask: In what ways do these places differ? This, and only this, will give dependable indications as to the real cause of the problem. Salient factors will emerge, to be controlled for one by one in subsequent analysis.
It may be that what emerges from such analysis does not lend itself comfortably to social-engineering solutions (or may not even be considered acceptable for public discussion). We seem to forget these days that not all complex problems have acceptable or feasible solutions, and that any such solutions as may exist may not involve government action. But as someone who has spent his adult life troubleshooting complex systems, I can say this with confidence: unless and until you understand what really causes a problem, you will never reliably fix it.
Or, Woe to the Vanquished, Part II.
What’s the difference between authoritarians and totalitarians? As Tom Nichols observed recently: the former only cares about what you do, while the latter must also control what you think. They demand not only obedience, but conversion.
From the latest Radio Derb, here’s a corking rant by John Derbyshire on the latest national frenzy: the destruction and damnation of all symbols of the Confederacy. It’s so good that I reprint it here in full, with some emphasis added.
Back there in our April 11th podcast I noted the 150th anniversary of Robert E. Lee’s surrender to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse that ended the American Civil War. Quote from myself:
Both commanders behaved with grace and professionalism at the surrender. I find it very moving to read about.
End quote. I followed that with a brief reading from Shelby Foote’s narrative of the surrender.
A few weeks later — earlier this month, in fact — I stood in Wilmer McLean’s parlor, where the surrender ceremony actually took place, complete with replicas of the tables where Lee and Grant sat.
The day before that, travelling around Virginia, my wife and I had visited Monument Avenue in Richmond, a beautiful broad boulevard decorated at intervals with fine statues. The statues are, in order from south to north, Confederate General Robert E. Lee, Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart, Confederate President Jefferson Davis, Confederate Naval Commander Fontaine Maury, Confederate General Stonewall Jackson, and Richmond-born tennis champion Arthur Ashe.
Those magnificent statues impressed on me again, as the story of the surrender had, the terrible gravity of war, and the supreme importance of the lead participants in a war behaving towards one another with proper gentlemanly forbearance, as a counter to the horror and cruelty that are inseparable from the business of waging war.
A key factor here is how the victor deals with the vanquished. The barbarian standard is the one set by Brennus the Gaul: “Woe to the vanquished!” The barbarian victor grinds the beaten enemy beneath his heel, laughing as he does so. Civilized nations have not always been above this kind of behavior, either, as the victorious allies showed after World War One, with vengeful and vindictive policies that are generally, and in my opinion credibly, blamed for bringing on World War Two.
Civilized nations are mostly better than that, though. We don’t generally massacre, enslave, or reduce to beggary the nations we defeat. After the allies defeated Japan in WW2 we let them keep their Emperor even though Hirohito had been, at least theoretically, a key decision-maker in Japanese war policy. We let them keep their other national symbols, too: The national flag of Japan today is the same as the one flown a hundred years ago. Then we helped them rebuild their economy.
When the war is a civil war, a civilized tolerance towards the defeated enemy, his sensibilities, his symbols, his grief for his dead, and his wish to honor their sacrifice, is doubly necessary. Victor and vanquished have to live together as fellow citizens — tolerant of social differences, but firm in the belief that they must function together as citizens of a single nation.
Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant understood that. The architects of the post-WW2 global peace understood it — men like George C. Marshall, George Kennan, and Douglas MacArthur.
The Trotskyite fanatics who control today’s public discourse do not understand it. Or rather: They understand the principle, but despise it. They represent, essentially, a regression to barbarism, to the ethics of Brennus the Gaul. For them, it is not sufficient that the defeated enemy has been defeated. He must also be humiliated, his symbols defaced and burned, his face pushed down into the mud. Woe to the vanquished!
These fanatics will not rest until all those fine statues on Richmond’s Monument Avenue have been defaced and destroyed; until every street or square named for a Southern hero has been renamed for some black communist, philanderer, or crook; until every trace of what our ancestors believed, felt, and fought for has been discredited and mocked.
Just today I read in the New York Post some yammering fool telling me that Gone With the Wind, one of the best American movies ever made, from a very fine novel, should be hidden away in museums for fear it might offend someone.
Well, here’s what I say to that. The hell with these vandals and their barbarian values! The Civil War was fought by Americans of courage and honor on both sides. Inevitably one side won and the other lost, so that instead of two separate nations we ended up with two distinct sections within one nation. Each can honor the valor and sacrifice of the other, without loss of face or honor.
That’s how mature people behave. That’s how mature nations behave. That’s how Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant behaved. That’s how George Marshall and Douglas MacArthur behaved. That’s how Americans at large behaved until recently; until Cultural Marxism fixed its clammy grip on the national soul, insisting that all right is here, all evil is there, and all dissent from official dogma is sick and cruel.
We are relapsing into barbarism, ladies and gentlemen. The current campaign against the South and its symbols — what I call the Cold Civil War — is the manifestation of that relapse. The South accepted its fate, as defeated peoples must. Out of that acceptance came a great modern nation, the U.S.A. of the 20th century. That nation is now being destroyed by people who hate it. American patriots, and everyone who believes in civilized values, should resist that.
Ladies and gentlemen, we present the most numerous vertebrate on Earth: the bristlemouth.
From a corporate presentation I’m watching just now, in order to earn my daily crust:
“We need to create an ideation methodology across various stakeholder groups and provide full-circle communication.”
The Supreme Court ruled today on a case about the constitutionality of lethal injection. From the Washington Post:
The Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 on Monday to uphold a procedure used by states to carry out executions by lethal injection.
The justices were considering a challenge brought by death-row inmates in Oklahoma, who allege that the use of a sedative called midazolam has resulted in troubling executions that violate the Constitution’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. Problematic executions in Oklahoma and elsewhere have captured national headlines since early last year.
As I argued last year, this is a problem of cowardice, not medical technology. What a prissy little nation we’ve become.
There’s a pair of sad items in the news today: obituaries for Chris Squire and Walter Browne.
Chris Squire you probably knew. He was the bass player for the rock group Yes, and was the only person to have played on every one of its albums. I was, and am, a huge fan of the band’s “main sequence” period: the albums from The Yes Album (1971) through Relayer (1974). (The group’s 1972 record Close to the Edge is, I think, one of the greatest rock albums ever recorded.) Mr. Squire’s innovative style, and unmistakable sound, influenced generations of bassists. I’m very, very sorry to hear of his death from leukemia at 67.
The other obituary was for someone you’ve probably never heard of, but who was, in certain circles, something of a “rock star” in his own right: chess grandmaster Walter Browne. He was a brilliant player, and was a fixture at the chess tournaments I used to play in at the McAlpin Hotel back in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. There was always a crowd around his board, and when the weekend’s rounds were over, it was, more often than not, Mr. Browne who walked off with top honors. You can read about him here.
OK, for a change of pace, here’s a tribute to Ringo from Vinnie Zummo, a guitarist I used to work with. Very Beatle-y indeed.
Another day, another fundamental reordering of American society by the Supreme Court — this time, as expected, by just one man. The decision is just out, and I haven’t had time to read it yet. I did see this, though, from Chief Justice John Roberts:
Under the Constitution, judges have power to say what the law is, not what it should be.
What a difference a day makes.
Here’s a really excellent piece by Yuval Levin on today’s ruling, and its consequences for the rule of law.
In the majority ruling, Chief Justice Roberts justified his renunciation of textualism thus:
Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health-insurance markets, not to destroy them. If at all possible, we must interpret the Act in a way that is consistent with the former, and avoids the latter.
This is an enthymeme, however — a chain of reasoning with a hidden and implicit premise. In this case the missing premise is that to interpret the statute as Mr Roberts wishes it to be, in contrast to the clear text of the law as written, will in fact improve health-insurance markets. But opponents of the Affordable Care Act, on the other hand, disagree with this: they believe that the law, as modified by the Court (or, for that matter, unmodified), will harm, not improve, health-insurance markets.
Resolving such debates, and writing laws that embody their resolution, is the role of legislatures, as the elected (and thereby accountable, at least in principle) representatives of the people — not the Court. This decision, therefore, is an audacious usurpation, by the judiciary, of the Constitutional authority of Congress.
Beautiful piece here on the memory of the Civil War.
Shall we, like the Taliban, destroy our statues with dynamite because they offend a prevailing dogma? Shall we disinter the bones of our ancestors like the radical Jacobins of the French Revolution did, scattering their unearthed remains to the winds – first to be reviled, then ever to be forgotten?
Read the whole thing here.
Well, the Supreme Court issued its ruling on King v. Burwell today. By now you know the result. What can I say that hasn’t already been said?
As usual, Antonin Scalia stood on the burning deck. Some excerpts from his dissent:
This case requires us to decide whether someone who buys insurance on an Exchange established by the Secretary gets tax credits. You would think the answer would be obvious—so obvious there would hardly be a need for the Supreme Court to hear a case about it. In order to receive any money under §36B, an individual must enroll in an insurance plan through an “Exchange established by the State.” The Secretary of Health and Human Services is not a State. So an Exchange established by the Secretary is not an Exchange established by the State—which means people who buy health insurance through such an Exchange get no money under §36B.
Words no longer have meaning if an Exchange that is not established by a State is “established by the State.” It is hard to come up with a clearer way to limit tax credits to state Exchanges than to use the words “established by the State.” And it is hard to come up with a reason to include the words “by the State” other than the purpose of limiting credits to state Exchanges. “[T]he plain, obvious,and rational meaning of a statute is always to be preferred to any curious, narrow, hidden sense that nothing but the exigency of a hard case and the ingenuity and study of an acute and powerful intellect would discover.” Lynch v. Alworth-Stephens Co., 267 U. S. 364, 370 (1925) (internal quotation marks omitted). Under all the usual rules of interpretation, in short, the Government should lose this case. But normal rules of interpretation seem always to yield to the overriding principle of the present Court: The Affordable Care Act must be saved. …
It is not our place to judge the quality of the care and deliberation that went into this or any other law. A law enacted by voice vote with no deliberation whatever is fully as binding upon us as one enacted after years of study, months of committee hearings, and weeks of debate. Much less is it our place to make everything come out right when Congress does not do its job properly. It is up to Congress to design its laws with care, and it is up to the people to hold them to account if they fail to carry out that responsibility.
Rather than rewriting the law under the pretense of interpreting it, the Court should have left it to Congress to decide what to do about the Act’s limitation of tax credits to state Exchanges. If Congress values above everything else the Act’s applicability across the country, it could make tax credits available in every Exchange. If it prizes state involvement in the Act’s implementation, it could continue to limit tax credits to state Exchanges while taking other steps to mitigate the economic consequences predicted by the Court. If Congress wants to accommodate both goals, it could make tax credits available everywhere while offering new incentives for States to set up their own Exchanges. And if Congress thinks that the present design of the Act works well enough, it could do nothing. Congress could also do something else altogether, entirely abandoning the structure of the Affordable Care Act. The Court’s insistence on making a choice that should be made by Congress both aggrandizes judicial power and encourages congressional lassitude.
A dark day, with more to come.
Bill Vallicella has opened comments on that post I mentioned a few days ago, if you’d like to add any thoughts of your own. Meanwhile, Kevin Kim has put up his own response to William Cawthon’s essay about the South, here.
In the wake of the Charleston shootings, there has been a new chorus of calls for the obliteration of symbols of the historic South.
For balance, here is an essay, by William Cawthon of the Abbeville Institute, about the crushing of Southern identity by the hegemonic ideology of the Protestant North over the past half-century.
If one were looking for a succinct theoretical model by which to interpret all of U.S. and Western history since the founding of the Puritan settlements of the seventeenth century, an excellent candidate would be “Massachusetts conquered the world”.
Bill Vallicella, the Maverick Philosopher, replies to a question of mine, here. It’s a good and thoughtful response. When time permits (which it doesn’t at the moment), I’ll have some thoughts of my own to add. Bill has told me he will open the comment-box for that post (a rare move for him these days), so maybe I will do so over there.
A timely passage:
[P]olitics and the pulpit are terms that have little agreement. No sound ought to be heard in the church but the healing voice of Christian charity. The cause of civil liberty and civil government gains as little as that of religion by this confusion of duties. Those who quit their proper character to assume what does not belong to them are, for the greater part, ignorant both of the character they leave and of the character they assume. Wholly unacquainted with the world, in which they are so fond of meddling, and inexperienced in all its affairs, on which they pronounce with so much confidence, they have nothing of politics but the passions they excite. Surely the church is a place where one day’s truce ought to be allowed to the dissensions and animosities of mankind.
– Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution In France, 1790
We’ve been hearing a lot, lately, about Rachel Dolezal, Bruce Jenner, and other stories of historic magnitude, but awfully little about China’s “hack” of the Office of Personnel Management’s records — which, in this Information Age, is roughly on a par with Pearl Harbor.
Why put “hack” in scarequotes? Because — wait for it — we gave root access to programmers in China.
Here’s an interesting find: a correlative connection between arthritis and solar cycles.
There’s an item in the Independent today announcing that “Self-driving cars may have to be programmed to kill you“.
As is so often the case, dear Readers, you heard it here first.
Over at National Review, Kevin D. Williamson offers an astringent assessment of Donald Trump’s candidacy.
Read it here.
In a post from January called Degeneracy Pressure, I remarked on the similarities between a collapsing star and a collapsing civilization. In both cases the differentiated parts of the system that once created stabilizing and uplifting forces have been transformed, by an irresistible alchemy, into a homogeneous, inert mass that exerts a crushing gravitational pressure. One by one, as catastrophic thresholds are crossed, the structural members of the system fail and give way, until at last nothing remains to give it form — and the star, or the civilization, falls in upon itself and winks out of existence.
Of course the analogy is not perfect. A star is a simple thing, really, and the course of its collapse is, in general terms, entirely determined by its mass and a few physical laws. A civilization is not so simple, but its collapse does, nevertheless, proceed in what we might call a ‘lawful’ way, and we can identify some of the principles at work.
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.
To connect this to our stellar-collapse analogy, we could say that the mass of accumulated culture becomes too great for a shrinking structure to bear. But unlike the physical structure of a star, the scaffolding of civilization can fail not only by quantitative, numerical attrition of its load-bearing members, as described in the quoted passage, but also by their qualitative degeneration and decay.
Given that what gives a culture its form is essentially ‘memetic’ — an aggregation of ideas, lore, mythos, history, music, religion, duties, obligations, affinities, and aversions shared by a common people — an advanced civilization is subject to corrosion and decomposition by ideas. And the most corrosive of all such reagents in the modern world is one that our own culture bequeathed to itself in the Enlightenment: the elevation of skepsis to our highest intellectual principle.
Radical doubt, as it turns out, is a “universal acid”; given enough time, there is no container that can hold it. Once doubt is in control, there is no premise, no tradition, nor even any God that it cannot dissolve. Once it has burned its way through theism, telos, and the intrinsic holiness of the sacred, leaving behind a only a dessicated naturalism, its action on the foundations of culture accelerates briskly, as there is little left to resist it.
Because it is in the nature of doubt to dissolve axioms, the consequence of the Enlightenment is that all of a civilization’s theorems ultimately become unprovable. This is happening before our eyes. The result is chaos, and collapse.
Questions, comments, or whatever you’d like. The floor is yours.
Here’s a story that’s making a stir today: apparently one Rachel Dolezal, the leader of the Spokane, Washington chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, is a white woman who has been passing herself off as black.
It’s been said* that “to learn who rules over you, simply find out whom you are not allowed to criticize.” I now offer you Pollack’s Principle of Privilege:
To learn where privilege lies, simply see how people choose to identify themselves.
Once upon a time, people of mixed race did everything they could to “pass” as white. No longer. The mulatto Barack Obama ostentatiously identifies himself as black, while pallid Elizabeth Warren listed herself in the legal and academic community as a “Native American”.
Another sign of this inversion of privilege is that membership in groups considering themselves ‘oppressed’ is as tightly restricted as an exclusive country-club, and for the same reasons. No sooner had the news about Ms. Dolezal came out than she was denounced as a scurrilous pretender to victimhood. But people only defend what has value. In a right-side-up world, no sane person would ever bother fighting to keep others from seeking low status — but they will do whatever it takes to wall off their privileges against unqualified pretenders.
As I wrote in a similar context last fall:
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.
In the end, of course, real power wins. When the ‘external OS’ that supports this platform stops running, natural inequalities will assert themselves, as they always do. And I think it’s safe to say, if I may extend the technical metaphor, that the machine is already ‘running hot’.
* Update, June 16th: commenter ‘Gerry’ has informed us that the quote about learning who rules over you, which I had originally attributed to Voltaire in this post, was not written by Voltaire at all, but by a neo-Nazi named Kevin Alfred Strom. I stand corrected.
The untalented are more at ease in a society that gives them valid alibis for not achieving than in one where opportunities are abundant. In an affluent society, the alienated who clamor for power are largely untalented people who cannot make use of the unprecedented opportunities for self-realization, and cannot escape the confrontation with an ineffectual self.
Even more timely, if that’s possible:
If a society is to preserve its stability and a degree of continuity, it must know how to keep its adolescents from imposing their tastes, attitudes, values, and fantasies on everyday life. At present, most nations are threatened more by their juveniles within than by enemies without.
It appears that Curtis Yarvin, a.k.a. Mencius Moldbug, has been banned from speaking at a major tech conference because of his political opinions.
For those of you who don’t know the name: for several years beginning in 2007 ‘Mencius Moldbug’ wrote, at his blog Unqualified Reservations, a series of essays articulating a new, reactionary synthesis of traditional ideas as a way of understanding the problems of modernity. These essays have been enormously influential in the intellectual circles now known as ‘neoreaction’ or the ‘Dark Enlightenment’. (Perhaps the best introductions to the Moldbug oeuvre are the series of posts gathered here and here. Do have a look.)
I”m sure nobody was less surprised than Mr. Yarvin himself: his excommunication is, as blogger Dante D’Andrea argues here, exactly what neoreaction itself would predict.
Here is the French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius:
M. Fabius seeks an international arrangement to impose strictures upon the sovereign nations of the world in an attempt to control the Earth’s climate. (That such an arrangement will also transfer aspects of that sovereignty to gentlemen such as himself and his professional colleagues is, I believe, what is called a “lagniappe”.)
Were we to ask him, I am sure that Monsieur Fabius would speak with approval about the spread of modern liberal democracy. I’m sure that he would agree, as would all educated and bien-pensant Westerners, that it has been a great blessing to the modern world, and that for any member of our enlightened community of nations to take up any other form of government would be a retreat into darkness.
I note with interest, however, this news item from a week or two ago:
I suspect that M. Fabius, along with the like-minded American President with whom he hopes to consummate his ambitions, attaches quite a different meaning to the word “democracy” than you or I might.
If, reader, you happen to be an American, by all means feel free to bristle a bit, if you like. Reflect also, perhaps, upon the stubbornness of hierarchy and inequality, and how they always find a way.
I had no idea such a thing was even possible, but here it is:
Gird your cheeks. You’ve been warned.