Sunday Sermonette

Just a couple of links to get the ball rolling on this busy Sunday: first, a pungent jeremaid by Lewis Amselem, a.k.a. Diplomad (nothing we haven’t all been saying, really, but a fine summary of where matters stand), and then John Schindler with a retrospective look at the F.B.I’s role in Mrs. Clinton’s email affair.

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Scalia On A “Runaway Convention”

The idea of an Article V convention — the remedy the Framers gave the States to rein in an out-of-control Federal government by amending the Constitution without the participation of Congress — is slowly gaining support, despite the fact that most people, were you to ask them about it, still don’t even know that such a mechanism even exists.

This Constitutional provision was intended to be a panic button, the last non-violent resort of the people and the States against an overbearing Leviathan. Near the end of his life, James Madison described it thus:

Should the provisions of the Constitution as here reviewed, be found not to secure the government and rights of the states, against usurpations and abuses on the part of the United States, the final resort within the purview of the Constitution, lies in an amendment of the Constitution, according to a process applicable by the states.

It has never been used. Many fear the idea because there is no way to know what it might produce. Here are the late Antonin Scalia’s comments on that concern, given in 1979, before he was appointed to the Court.

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Our True Present Danger

Adam Walinsky, a career Democrat, has written a lucid and persuasive essay to explain why he will be voting for Donald Trump.

It begins:

I was a Democrat all my life. I came to Washington to serve President John Kennedy and Attorney General Robert Kennedy. When the president was murdered and his brother struck off on his own, I joined his Senate campaign and staff as his legislative assistant and speechwriter, until his presidential campaign ended with his own assassination. I ran on a (losing) Democratic ticket in the New York state elections of 1970. When I was working to enact my own program of police reform in the 1980s and 1990s, then-Governor Bill Clinton was chairman of my National Committee for the Police Corps.

This year, I will vote to elect Donald Trump as president of the United States.

So profound a change, and a decent respect for old friendships, requires me to deliver a public accounting for this decision.

Here it is.

I won’t quote the rest. You should go and read it all yourself.

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That Time Of Year Again

Tomorrow will be the first day of autumn, my favorite season. Here’s a musing on the topic from ten years ago.

Tell Us How You Really Feel

I do enjoy a good polemic every now and then, and Kevin D. Williamson has “the knack”. Here he is today on IRS commisioner John Koskinen:

Every day this crime-enabling, justice-obstructing, lying, craven, tinpot totalitarian walks around in the sunshine is a day we should be ashamed to be Americans.

More here.

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Remains Of The Day

We’ve mentioned the mysterious “Antikythera Mechanism” before (see here and here). Now divers have found a human skeleton, probably containing intact DNA, at the shipwreck site.

Story here. (See also this story, suggesting that the device was already old when it was lost at sea.)

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Dancing With The Bear

Here’s NightWatch‘s John McCreary on the Syrian aid-convoy incident:

Syria-UN: The UN suspended aid convoys in Syria after the air attacks against the aid convoy on the 19th. “As an immediate security measure, other convoy movements in Syria have been suspended for the time being, pending further assessment of the security situation,” a UN spokesman said.

US-Russia: US officials blamed Russia for the attacks. Two US officials said that two Russian Su-24 fighter bombers were in the skies above the aid convoy at the exact time it was struck late on Monday.

Russian Defense Ministry’s official spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said the Russians studied video provided by Syrian opposition “activists.” They saw no evidence of craters or of damage patterns consistent with bombs delivered by or rockets fired from aircraft.

Konashenkov said the attack on the aid convoy occurred in the same area at the same time as an offensive by the al Nusra Front. The damage they observed was damage by ground ordnance that started fires. A later report said a rebel truck with a heavy weapon in its bed was responsible for the attack on the convoy.

Konashenkov said, “Neither Russian nor Syrian aviation has carried out any air strikes against a UN humanitarian convoy on the southwestern outskirts of Aleppo. Furthermore, since the convoy’s route lay through territories under militants’ control, the Russian center for reconciliation of opposing sides in Syria yesterday monitored it from drones.”

Konashenkov also said that at about 1340 Moscow time [1040 GMT] on Monday, 19 September, the whole of the humanitarian cargo had been safely delivered. After that the Russian center for reconciliation of opposing sides in Syria stopped monitoring the convoy.

“The Russian side did not monitor the convoy’s further movement. All information about the convoy’s whereabouts was known only to the militants controlling that area,” he said.

Comment: The exchange of accusations is a study in the uses of intelligence as evidence. The US accusations of Russian responsibility are based on circumstantial evidence: the proximity of the aircraft. Correlation of aircraft with the convoy location is not evidence the aircraft attacked, only that they were in the area.

The US case would have been helped by testing the evidence. Unasked questions include whether the Russian aircraft were positively identified; their altitude; whether they had ordnance loaded; whether they were heading towards the Russian air base at Hmeimim or heading away from the base; and at least a half dozen other evidentiary tests that could have strengthened or refuted the US accusation.

In presenting their case, the Russians said they studied ground video provided by activists, thereby inviting independent corroboration. They also described their analytical method — what they were looking for and what they saw — and their conclusions, which can be easily checked against the video.

They went beyond the attack to describe information available in their control center, which also can be checked independently. Statements that can be checked independently constitute admissions against Russia’s interest if it were culpable. Such open admissions establish a prima facie basis for probity and invite the accuser to do his homework and accept the invitation to check out the Russian evidence.

For us, the most interesting and important points of the denial defense are the way the Russians made a case for a totally different explanation for the damage. They not only denied the US accusations, they raised questions about the competence of US intelligence by implying that it missed the real cause of the damage – a ground action initiated by the al Nusra Front terrorists.

The US has not commented on the Russian evidence.

Following the killing of 62 Syrian soldiers by US air attacks on the 18th, the Russians are hammering the issue of incompetent US intelligence analysis. The Russians may be expected to attack every judgment based on inferences made by US intelligence to show the US cannot be trusted to distinguish battle damage by a ground attack from an air attack.

Concerning a resumption of the ceasefire
, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the truce could only resume if terrorists stopped attacking government forces. “The hope that the ceasefire in Syria will be reinstated is very little now.”

Comment: Peskov’s statement indicates that the Russians now back the position of the Syrian government that the ceasefire has ended.

See also Stephen Cohen’s latest commentary on our relations with Russia, here. Among other things, he asks:  “Why is the war party so adamantly opposed to any cooperation with Russia anywhere in the world when it is so manifestly in US interests, as in Syria?”

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How Do You Solve A Problem Like The Alt-Right?

Milo Yiannopoulos explains. (He’s happy to do so, because he knows the Left won’t take his advice.)

An excerpt:

As well as jokes, there’s something else that establishment elites need to stop demonizing as racism: national pride. During the 2015 election in England, a left-wing candidate for parliament called people who fly the English flag “simpletons and casual racists.” And this is nothing compared to some of the things said by university academics about displays of national pride.

The globalist elites, who assemble in places like Dubai, Davos, and whatever unfortunate country hosts the Bilderberg Conference, don’t have a nation.

Whether they’re from Istanbul, London, or Beijing, global elites tend to dress the same, act the same, talk the same, and think the same. They look at what’s different and unique about their home countries, and squirm in embarrassment.

We don’t.

If you want to draw people away from the alt-right, this has to stop. If you want to identify with the jet setting, cosmopolitan, nationless elite, that’s fine. I like being rich and powerful too.

But stop looking down on people who want to stay true to their roots, and remember the national values and traditions that made our progressive, globalized civilization possible. Because for every national flag you take down to replace it with the faceless and sinister logo of the European Union, the International Olympics Committee or the United Nations, ten more will fly upwards in protest.

This is what and who we are.

Leftists will insist that racism underpins national pride, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Most members of the alt-right, even the serious ones, will agree that they want everyone to have national pride, not just western countries.

And they’re right — the instinct for belonging, for a sense of common identity, is universal. The global elite’s foolish quest to suppress this instinct is one of the reasons why the alt right, as well as the populist nationalist right, have gained so much ground so quickly.

Like him or not, Mr. Yiannopoulos is an astute observer, and understands the Alt-Right better than anyone in the media punditocracy. (Better too, I’m afraid, than our friend Bill Vallicella, who in a highly uncharacteristic lapse of discernment, reduced the movement to Nazism.) Read Milo’s speech here.

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Truth To Power

With a hat-tip to our e-pal Bill Keezer, here’s an old piece by the late Christopher Hitchens, in which he recounts his filing of an affidavit swearing that the Clintons had sought to smear and discredit Monica Lewinski.

It’s a fine example of Hitchens’ style — how I miss him! — and is well worth your time. It also contains this marvelous summary of Clintonism, as apt today as it was in 1999:

I had become utterly convinced, as early as the 1992 campaign, that there was something in the Clinton makeup that was quite seriously nasty. The automatic lying, the glacial ruthlessness, the self-pity, the indifference to repeated exposure, the absence of any tincture of conscience or remorse, the awful piety—these were symptoms of a psychopath. And it kept on getting worse and worse—but not for Clinton himself, who could usually find a way of sacrificing a subordinate and then biting his lip in the only gesture of contrition he had learned to master. (After reading the testimony of Juanita Broaddrick, I’ll never be able to think of his lip biting in the same way again. But no doubt Arthur Schlesinger will be on hand to assure us that all men lie about rape.)

For more of Hitchens on the Clinton machine, read his book No One Left To Lie To. These people should never be allowed anywhere near the levers of power ever again.

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All Power Rests In Belief

The American author Lionel Shriver recently gave a keynote speech at a writers festival in Brisbane, Australia. Rather than give the talk she had advertised, she decided to say a few words about the victimological specialty known as “cultural appropriation”. She denounced and anathematized it root and branch, and said, very clearly and correctly, that it would be the death of literature. This provoked a storm of outrage and abuse.

Best of all, by the way, Ms. Shriver delivered her remarks wearing a sombrero. (I think I ‘m in love.)

You can read about the event here. (See also this related item.)

The transcript of Ms. Shriver’s talk is here. An excerpt:

The author of Who Owns Culture? Appropriation and Authenticity in American Law, Susan Scafidi, a law professor at Fordham University who for the record is white, defines cultural appropriation as “Taking intellectual property, traditional knowledge, cultural expressions, or artifacts from someone else’s culture without permission. This can include unauthorized use of another culture’s dance, dress, music, language, folklore, cuisine, traditional medicine, religious symbols, etc.”

What strikes me about that definition is that “without permission” bit.

However are we fiction writers to seek “permission” to use a character from another race or culture, or to employ the vernacular of a group to which we don’t belong? Do we set up a stand on the corner and approach passers-by with a clipboard, getting signatures that grant limited rights to employ an Indonesian character in Chapter Twelve, the way political volunteers get a candidate on the ballot?

How indeed? But even if it were possible, the very idea that culture is somehow property, and that anyone alive needs anyone else’s permission to write or eat or think or say or wear whatever the hell he likes, should be beneath the contempt of serious adults.

We must remember always that those who seek to silence and control us have only the power that we choose to give them. In this case, even to say “who the HELL do you think you are??” — a perfectly fair question, under the circumstances — is to pay too much attention; the very idea of “cultural appropriation” is one that should simply be ignored.

“The dog barks, the caravan passes.” The choice is entirely ours.

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Bête Noire

I’m a bit of a stickler for language. One common locution that’s been bothering me, ever since I started noticing it a few years ago, is the habit of news reporters to use the word “after” when they mean “when”. (Now that I’ve pointed it out, you’ll start noticing it too, and you’ll see how common it is.)

Here’s a randomly selected example. The news story begins:

The Hawaii official who verified and released President Barack Obama’s birth certificate has died in a plane crash, authorities said… Fuddy, 65, was the only one killed…

All well and good. But the caption accompanying a photo of the unfortunate Ms. Fuddy says :

Fuddy was killed after a small plane with nine people aboard crashed into the water off the Hawaiian island of Molokai Dec. 11, 2013.

Don’t know why, but this sort of thing really bothers me.

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Back To Business!

Well, I’m back from Star Island. The musical weekend was a blast, even though a few of us — for example, our keyboard whiz Ray — had last-minute conflicts that kept them from coming. We carried on undaunted, nevertheless, and had a splendid time.

I must say that after having had, what with our Vienna trip and all, an exceptionally long break from blogging this summer, getting back into form may take me a few days. Writing regularly is a discipline like any other, and I’ve rather let myself go these past few months. (It’s been awfully nice, though, to pay almost no attention to the news.)

Things are certainly getting lively on the campaign trail. It’s especially gratifying to see Mrs. Clinton failing to open a lead over her opponent: the abundant exposure of Clintonian venality by email leaks, together with various gaffes, disinformation about her obviously failing health, and some excellent speeches by Mr. Trump, have tightened things up considerably. The way things are going, we “deplorables” may even dare to believe that, despite the best efforts of her Praetorian guard in the media, she might actually lose.

It’s also amusing to see Mr. Obama (or “that man”, as the Clintons call him), stumping so earnestly for Mrs. Clinton. It’s no secret that they, to put it mildly, don’t like each other — and while he’s been out selling her like a used car, the Clintons have been talking about the “awful legacy of the past eight years”, and generally saying how bad things have been lately. Mainly, though, it warms my shriveled right-wing heart to see this awful woman desperately trying to “power through” to November 8th, and finding it heavier and heavier slogging week by week. May God, and an awakening traditional American polity, confound at last her vile ambitions.

So, I’ll do some catching up, and start flexing some atrophied muscles. Meanwhile, though, with the “Alt Right” securely in the spotlight thanks to Mrs. Clinton’s baleful speech of a few weeks ago, I’ll direct you to the transcript of the latest Radio Derb for one man’s take on what the term refers to. (You will also get a brilliant insight from “Theodore Dalrymple” on the role of obvious lies in totalitarian societies — and in this one.)

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Star Trek

Last year about this time I spent a delightful weekend on Star Island, a rocky speck off the cost of New Hampshire, and this weekend I’m doing it again.

Why leave the charming seaside village of Wellfleet, and all the comforts of home, for spartan accommodations on a remote, craggy islet? It’s because I have an old friend, a gifted musician (and very successful songwriter and record producer), who once or twice a year arranges a retreat for about two dozen of his closest musical pals. We leave the world behind, and spend a few days doing what we love the most in life: playing music together (and eating and drinking and generally making merry). We’ll work up arrangements of some of our favorite old tunes, and play them for the other people staying on the island, and jam into the wee hours.

I don’t think there’s any wi-fi out there, and anyway I’ll be pretty busy having fun, so I doubt I’ll be posting anything before Tuesday or so (maybe some pictures, if possible). Anyway, what is there to say? The world’s just going to hell as usual, and I’ve said it all already.

Feel free to chat amongst yourselves. The floor is yours.

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One Way — Or The Other

One thing that should be clear to all in this election cycle: either Hillary Clinton is going to win this election, or Donald Trump is. The chance of any other outcome is effectively zero.

If you are any sort of conservative — and if you believe, as I and millions of others do, that the traditional American nation and its constitutional order are already near death, and that a Hillary Clinton presidency would surely be a fatal catastrophe — then you must vote for Mr. Trump. The man has many flaws, and there is good reason to be unsure of just what he will do, but there is no uncertainty whatsoever that Mrs. Clinton stands poised, and eager, to administer the death-blow.

Many others have made this point, for example our friend Bill Vallicella (see, for example, here, here, and here).

Making the rounds yesterday and today is an essay by “Publius Decius”, formerly of the short-lived Journal of American Greatness, that takes soi-disant “conservatives” to task for ignoring this essential point. It begins:

2016 is the Flight 93 election: charge the cockpit or you die. You may die anyway. You—or the leader of your party—may make it into the cockpit and not know how to fly or land the plane. There are no guarantees.

Except one: if you don’t try, death is certain. To compound the metaphor: a Hillary Clinton presidency is Russian Roulette with a semi-auto. With Trump, at least you can spin the cylinder and take your chances.

Decius describes the cognitive dissonance so prevalent among professional “conservatives”:

Conservatives spend at least several hundred million dollars a year on think-tanks, magazines, conferences, fellowships, and such, complaining about this, that, the other, and everything. And yet these same conservatives are, at root, keepers of the status quo. Oh, sure, they want some things to change. They want their pet ideas adopted—tax deductions for having more babies and the like. Many of them are even good ideas. But are any of them truly fundamental? Do they get to the heart of our problems?

If conservatives are right about the importance of virtue, morality, religious faith, stability, character and so on in the individual; if they are right about sexual morality or what came to be termed “family values”; if they are right about the importance of education to inculcate good character and to teach the fundamentals that have defined knowledge in the West for millennia; if they are right about societal norms and public order; if they are right about the centrality of initiative, enterprise, industry, and thrift to a sound economy and a healthy society; if they are right about the soul-sapping effects of paternalistic Big Government and its cannibalization of civil society and religious institutions; if they are right about the necessity of a strong defense and prudent statesmanship in the international sphere—if they are right about the importance of all this to national health and even survival, then they must believe—mustn’t they?—that we are headed off a cliff…

What explains the Pollyanna-ish declinism of so many [conservatives]? That is, the stance that Things-Are-Really-Bad—But-Not-So-Bad-that-We-Have-to-Consider-Anything-Really-Different! The obvious answer is that they don’t really believe the first half of that formulation…

Whatever the reason for the contradiction, there can be no doubt that there is a contradiction. To simultaneously hold conservative cultural, economic, and political beliefs—to insist that our liberal-left present reality and future direction is incompatible with human nature and must undermine society—and yet also believe that things can go on more or less the way they are going, ideally but not necessarily with some conservative tinkering here and there, is logically impossible.

Let’s be very blunt here: if you genuinely think things can go on with no fundamental change needed, then you have implicitly admitted that conservatism is wrong. Wrong philosophically, wrong on human nature, wrong on the nature of politics, and wrong in its policy prescriptions. Because, first, few of those prescriptions are in force today. Second, of the ones that are, the left is busy undoing them, often with conservative assistance. And, third, the whole trend of the West is ever-leftward, ever further away from what we all understand as conservatism.

If your answer … is for conservatism to keep doing what it’s been doing—another policy journal, another article about welfare reform, another half-day seminar on limited government, another tax credit proposal—even though we’ve been losing ground for at least a century, then you’ve implicitly accepted that your supposed political philosophy doesn’t matter and that civilization will carry on just fine under leftist tenets.

A further point of confusion:

One of the Journal of American Greatness’s deeper arguments was that only in a corrupt republic, in corrupt times, could a Trump rise. It is therefore puzzling that those most horrified by Trump are the least willing to consider the possibility that the republic is dying. That possibility, apparently, seems to them so preposterous that no refutation is necessary.

On immigration (my emphasis):

The sacredness of mass immigration is the mystic chord that unites America’s ruling and intellectual classes. Their reasons vary somewhat. The Left and the Democrats seek ringers to form a permanent electoral majority. They, or many of them, also believe the academic-intellectual lie that America’s inherently racist and evil nature can be expiated only through ever greater “diversity.” The junta of course craves cheaper and more docile labor. It also seeks to legitimize, and deflect unwanted attention from, its wealth and power by pretending that its open borders stance is a form of noblesse oblige. The Republicans and the “conservatives”? Both of course desperately want absolution from the charge of “racism.” For the latter, this at least makes some sense. No Washington General can take the court—much less cash his check—with that epithet dancing over his head like some Satanic Spirit. But for the former, this priestly grace comes at the direct expense of their worldly interests. Do they honestly believe that the right enterprise zone or charter school policy will arouse 50.01% of our newer voters to finally reveal their “natural conservatism” at the ballot box? It hasn’t happened anywhere yet and shows no signs that it ever will. But that doesn’t stop the Republican refrain: more, more, more! No matter how many elections they lose, how many districts tip forever blue, how rarely (if ever) their immigrant vote cracks 40%, the answer is always the same. Just like Angela Merkel after yet another rape, shooting, bombing, or machete attack. More, more, more!

This is insane. This is the mark of a party, a society, a country, a people, a civilization that wants to die. Trump, alone among candidates for high office in this or in the last seven (at least) cycles, has stood up to say: I want to live. I want my party to live. I want my country to live. I want my people to live. I want to end the insanity.

Yes, Trump is worse than imperfect. So what? We can lament until we choke the lack of a great statesman to address the fundamental issues of our time—or, more importantly, to connect them. Since Pat Buchanan’s three failures, occasionally a candidate arose who saw one piece: Dick Gephardt on trade, Ron Paul on war, Tom Tancredo on immigration. Yet, among recent political figures—great statesmen, dangerous demagogues, and mewling gnats alike—only Trump-the-alleged-buffoon not merely saw all three and their essential connectivity, but was able to win on them. The alleged buffoon is thus more prudent—more practically wise—than all of our wise-and-good who so bitterly oppose him. This should embarrass them. That their failures instead embolden them is only further proof of their foolishness and hubris.

Decius insists that a choice must be made:

We’ve established that most “conservative” anti-Trumpites are in the Orwellian sense objectively pro-Hillary. What about the rest of you? If you recognize the threat she poses, but somehow can’t stomach him, have you thought about the longer term? The possibilities would seem to be: Caesarism, secession/crack-up, collapse, or managerial Davoisie liberalism as far as the eye can see … which, since nothing human lasts forever, at some point will give way to one of the other three.

Quite so. Remember Herbert Stein’s Law: “If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.”

Read the whole thing here. (It is also reprinted in its entirety here.)

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Rules Of Order

Here’s something interesting:

Hyperbaton is when you put words in an odd order, which is very, very difficult to do in English. Given that almost everything else in the English language is slapdash, happy-go-lucky, care-may-the-Devil, word order is surprisingly strict. John Ronald Reuel Tolkien wrote his first story aged seven. It was about a “green great dragon.” He showed it to his mother who told him that you absolutely couldn’t have a green great dragon, and that it had to be a great green one instead. Tolkien was so disheartened that he never wrote another story for years.

The reason for Tolkien’s mistake, since you ask, is that adjectives in English absolutely have to be in this order: opinion-size-age-shape-colour-origin-material-purpose Noun. So you can have a lovely little old rectangular green French silver whittling knife. But if you mess with that word order in the slightest you’ll sound like a maniac. It’s an odd thing that every English speaker uses that list, but almost none of us could write it out. And as size comes before colour, green great dragons can’t exist.

More here.

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Temporal Provincialism

Our reader Robert, a.k.a. Whitewall, posted in the comment-thread to our previous post a link to an editorial piece from The New Criterion (by way of Instapundit; the original is here). It deserves promotion from comment to post.

The piece, which is presumably by Roger Kimball, the editor of New Criterion, uses a beautiful phrase — “temporal provincialism” — to describe our culture’s vanishing sense of cultural stewardship.

Mr. Kimball, who is writing here on the occasion of the magazine’s thirty-fifth anniversary, quotes George Nash on the transmission of civilization from generation to generation:

For three generations now, American conservatives have committed themselves to defending the intellectual and spiritual foundations of Western civilization: the resources needed for a free and humane existence. Conservatives know that we all start out in life as “rough beasts” who need to be educated for liberty and virtue if we are to secure their blessings.

The essay continues:

That pedagogical task has traditionally been the province of many institutions, the family first of all, but also schools, churches, and those multifarious cultural enterprises to which we have entrusted the preservation and transmission of the civilizational values that have defined us. It is one of the oddities of our age that many of those institutions not only have reneged on that trust but also now operate more to challenge and undermine our cultural patrimony than to preserve it. The virus of political correctness, a protean and multifaceted pathogen, has provided the fuel for that subversion. So thoroughly has political correctness infested our cultural and educational institutions that simply telling the truth about many historical or cultural realities has become a perilous act of dissent. To document this phenomenon, you need only visit your local college or art museum.

… Santayana once famously remarked that those who are ignorant of the past are condemned to repeat it. Perhaps. But he could have added that those who are ignorant of the past condemn themselves to an impoverishing spiritual parochialism. This is a point made with crisp elegance by the British man of letters David Cecil. “There is a provinciality in time as well as in space,” he wrote in Library Looking-Glass.

To feel ill-at-ease and out of place except in one’s own period is to be a provincial in time. But he who has learned to look at life through the eyes of Chaucer, of Donne, of Pope, and of Thomas Hardy is freed from this limitation. He has become a cosmopolitan of the ages, and can regard his own period with the detachment which is a necessary foundation of wisdom.

It has become increasingly clear as the imperatives of political correctness make ever greater inroads against free speech and the perquisites of dispassionate inquiry that the battle against this provinciality of time is one of the central cultural tasks of our age. It is a battle from which the traditional trustees of civilization—schools and colleges, museums, many churches—have fled. Increasingly, it has seemed to us, the responsibility for defending those “intellectual and spiritual foundations of Western civilization” of which George Nash spoke has fallen to individuals and institutions that are largely distant from, when they are not indeed explicitly disenfranchised from, the dominant cultural establishment. Leading universities today command tax-exempt endowments in the tens of billions of dollars. But it is by no means clear, notwithstanding the prestige they confer upon their graduates, whether they do anything to challenge the temporal provinciality of their charges. No, let us emend that: it is blindingly clear that they do everything in their considerable power to reinforce that provinciality, not least by their slavish capitulation to the dictates of the enslaving presentism of political correctness.

There is more; please go and read it.

I had never heard the phrase “temporal provincialism”, but it is a first-rate coinage. The idea it expresses, though, is one that I have written about before. Because I see it as a pathological narrowing of the channels through which the life-blood of the past flows into the present and the future, I’ve called it “historical stenosis”. And in the sense that the present is always being born from the womb of history, it has also reminded me of the tying off of an umbilicus — though that is really far too optimistic a metaphor. A far better one is the cutting of a flower.

In Culture and Metaculture, back in 2013, I made this gloomy assessment:

Our new “culture” has lost its sense of extension in time. Under modernity’s ascendant doctrine, the long history of the West is only a litany of sins, deserving not propagation, but repudiation. We have no legacy, no heritage, to cherish for posterity; we have pulled up our own roots. If our new American “culture” has any history worth remembering at all, it is no more than a few decades old, and consists almost entirely of the destruction of the past.

In our “brave new world”, then, we are cut off from both past and future, imprisoned in the present as no generation of people has ever been before. We have lost — jettisoned — both our rudder and our compass, and are unmoored and adrift.

Earlier this year, I added:

Until now, every generation of every civilization saw itself as a living bridge between past and future — as heirs and beneficiaries of the productive labor of their forebears, and stewards of that treasure for children yet unborn. But now, having pulled up our roots (and salted the earth from which they sprang), we have no inheritance to cherish and preserve; that which we have not simply squandered, we have taught ourselves to despise. We have, therefore, nothing to offer our posterity, and so if we think of it at all, it is only to turn away in guilt, and to focus on what we can take for ourselves right now.

… It’s often been said that civilization is, at bottom, the organization of “low time preference”: the deferral of present consumption to take advantage of the increase of the relative value of future goods. But in order for that strategy to work, one has to be confident in a stable future. When things change too rapidly, and we can no longer be sure that our efforts today stand a reasonable chance of bearing fruit in later years, it drives time preference toward the present. And that, in turn, undermines the very foundation upon which civilization is erected.

So when a civilization becomes unstable, or when the pace of change becomes too rapid, there is a cascading time-preference effect, a kind of negative-feedback loop that begins to take hold.

All of these things, then, work together: multiculturalism, through a process of historical “stenosis”, severs the past; this loss of heritage, in turn, diminishes a society’s sense of obligation to its ancestors, and stewardship for its descendants; rapid technological and social change diminishes the surety of the future. All of this drives time-preference toward the present — which manifests itself in hedonism, present consumption, loss of social cohesion (why pull together when there’s nothing to pull for?), and declining birth-rates. Finally, the foreshortening of time-preference attacks the bedrock of civilization itself, in an accelerating, destructive cycle.

Can we escape from this downward spiral? Perhaps — but as our commenter Robert said in the previous thread, a “forceful reaction has become necessary”. Time, and entropy, are not on our side.

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Paul Gottfried on the “Alt Right”

Here are some trenchant remarks on the Alternative Right from Paul Gottfried, the man who coined the name.

I have spent the evening with Professor Gottfried on a couple of occasions, and I can assure you that he is the farthest thing imaginable from the sort of neo-Nazi hothead that the mainstream media would have you believe the alt-right consists of. I’ve also recommended his books in these pages (see here and here). They are scholarly and rigorous, and very much worth your time.

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Defense Makes Sense

We’ve been hearing for while — including in these pages — that even as gun sales rise and rise and rise, there are actually fewer households in which someone owns a firearm.

Not so, according to Pew (via Breitbart):

A Pew Research Center poll released on August 26 shows that 44 percent of all households now own a gun.

This expansion of household gun ownership comes amid an ongoing streak of 15 months of consecutive gun sale background checks and various poll results showing Americans believe gun ownership makes them safer, rather than putting them at risk.

According to Pew, 44 percent of all households have a gun, versus 51 percent who said they did not. This same poll showed that 58 percent of respondents viewed gun ownership as something that brings safety, versus 37 percent who believe such ownership increases risk.

The Pew poll follows more than a year of mainstream media contention that the breadth of gun ownership was actually shrinking, even as gun sales were soaring. For example, a March 2015 CBS report used a General Social Survey to suggest gun ownership had fallen to a point where only 32 percent of Americans lived in a household with a gun. The CBS report was followed by an October 2015 Washington Post report that sought to explain the record number of background checks by suggesting the same gun owners were simply buying more guns.

At the same time, other polls focused on the attitudes of Americans–regarding more gun control versus less–substantiated the position that Americans’ appreciation of gun ownership was expanding, rather than declining. Moreover, high profile firearms-based attacks appeared to drive more Americans toward gun ownership, not gun control. For example, a CNN poll taken three weeks after the October 1 Umpqua Community College attack showed that three percent more Americans opposed gun control after the attack than had opposed gun control prior.

Given the accelerating fraying of social cohesion and public trust in recent years, as well as the redoubled efforts of anti-gun activists and “blue” states to restrict Second Amendment freedoms, this should surprise nobody, I think; walk into a gun-shop almost anywhere and you are likely to see a picture of Barack Obama on the wall, with the caption “Salesman of the Year”. The defense of one’s own life and property seems to more and more of us an increasingly foolish thing to out-source.

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Sword vs. Pen

The summer break is winding down, and soon it will be time to get back to whatever it is I ought to be doing here. Meanwhile, though, our friend Bill Vallicella is already back in harness, and has put up two brief items touching on the plight of the desaparecida Molly Norris, who was driven into hiding five years ago for sharia violations she committed right here in the U.S. of A. The unfortunate Ms. Norris is all but forgotten by now — mention her name to the person on your left and see if you get anything but a blank look — but she bloody well shouldn’t be.

Bill’s posts are here and here.

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Light the Blue Touch-Paper, and Stand Well Back

Well! It looks as if Hillary Clinton is, with a big speech tomorrow evening, about to put the “Alt-Right” front and center in national politics (and into the minds of millions of Americans who previously had no inkling of it). I wonder what she imagines is going to happen.

Pass the popcorn!

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Risky Business

From NightWatch:

Syria-Syria Kurds-US: On 19 August, the Syrian air force conducted the first air attacks and Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militiamen in Hasakah Governate. Ground fighting intensified late on the 19th when Kurdish YPG fighters battled Syrian forces.

“The clashes continue in areas inside the city today (20 August). There were military operations,” a Kurdish official said.

On the 19th, also for the first time, US combat aircraft flew what the Pentagon called protective patrols around Hasakah to prevent Syrian jets from attacking US special forces personnel, who are operating on the ground with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

Comment: The Syrian Kurdish militias are the major component of the SDF. The US protective patrols are the first sorties of their kind in the war.

This bears watching. Given that the Syrian Air Force are essentially Russian proxies at this point, there is the potential for some serious awkwardness here.

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Rashomon

Shot.

Chaser.

A Difference Without a Division

With the increasingly documented genetic reality of human biodiversity washing over the gunwales of Utopian universalism, there’s a word on the rise in liberal circles: essentialism. It’s used to make a retreat from discredited Lewontinian denial of genetic differences, without really ceding any ideological ground. In effect it says:

“OK, OK — we’ll admit that there actually are genetic differences between human groups. [Soon, as the evidence becomes completely overwhelming, we’ll be denying that we ever denied it!] But you’re still racist to think that genetic differences would have any sort of real-world consequences.”

The foundation is cracking a little here, because the Left is terribly fond of “born that way” arguments when they can get any traction from them. But if that’s the case — that some human characteristics are inborn, and therefore not the product of culture or “nurture” — then the only way to argue consistently against salient statistical variation of innate characteristics among distinct human groups is to deny that those groups are really genetically distinct at all. But it’s becoming more and more obvious that that’s no longer a defensible position — an obvious refutation of it is the fact that companies like 23 and Me can pin down your race and ancestry very well indeed from a DNA sample.

So: what’s a goodthinkful Progressive to do? Easy: concede genetic diversity, but call thinking-that-it-matters “essentialism”, and squint your eyes and Hope Real Hard.

Here’s a good example from The Forward:

…the evidence that HBD proponents adduce shows only that different genetic populations are just that: different. That’s certainly not news to geneticists, and it’s rather intuitive for the rest of us.

“Rather intuitive”, is it, now? Funny, I’ve been paying attention long enough to remember the idea being received rather differently, not so long ago. But as Schopenhauer explained, “All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”

A little further on:

The weight of scientific evidence supports the reality of relative genetic difference, but not the essentialist divisions that form the basis for race theory — and the racist agenda of the alt-right.

There it is, nature-lovers: the squid, retreating, emits a puff of ink. The differences, we must reluctantly admit, are real, but not the “essentialist divisions”.

“Essentialist”. Keep an ear out for it!

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Quid Quo, Bro

We’re still on summer break for a few more weeks, and I’ve been paying little attention to the news. One thing that did catch my eye, though, was the emerging story of the Obama administration’s $400-million ransom payment to Iran a while back — paid in a great pile of foreign currency, and brought in on an unmarked airplane. (Tehran waited for it to arrive before releasing the hostages.)

I figured that the legal scholar Andrew McCarthy would have something to say about this fishy-sounding payoff, and about Mr. Obama’s tortuous explanation of how there was of course nothing to see here, folks. And sure enough, he published an analysis back on August 6th. Read it here.

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Back To the Old Drawing Board

Over the transom today from our commenter Henry: an article about the failure of nature to deliver the heavy particles that physicists have been predicting for decades.

One possible explanation: perhaps the world is simply odder than we can imagine.

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Eeeewwww

Well, it’s nice to be back home, except for the fact that this grotesque presidential campaign is still going on. Donald Trump finds new ways every day to let the Democrats and the press distract the nation’s attention from the oozing, Lovecraftian horror that is Hillary Clinton; today, apparently, was no exception. How easily she would be beaten if Mr. Trump could just apply a little discipline to his pie-hole!

Ah, well. We may yet drive “Mrs. Clinton” (as she calls her current humanoid form) back to her lair in the Stygian darkness whence she sprang; November is still some way off, and a lot can happen between now and then.

Meanwhile, my man Buchanan’s been on a roll. Here he is, talking about isolationism.

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Homeward Bound

We’re on our way back to the States — between flights at the moment, in Dusseldorf.

I’ve been almost completely out of touch, but even over here the coming U.S. election seems to be attracting a lot of attention.

With that in mind, then, here are a couple of interesting links that have come my way in the last week or so: first, a brief interview with a prominent Russia-watcher, and second, Ryan Landry’s thoughts on Trump as “Manchurian candidate”.

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Proof Of Concept

We’re still in Vienna; heading back to the States on Saturday.

What a calm and orderly place this is! It may be otherwise in corners of the city we haven’t visited, but so far as I can tell Vienna, and the other little Austrian towns we’ve been to, are everything you’d imagine: polite, law-abiding, efficient, and clean (not fussily so, but enough to make it clear to Entropy that he is not at all welcome here). The people are always friendly, without being intrusively familiar, and share a wry sense of humor that is in evidence all around.

Order matters here. Everyone understands intuitively that there are protocols in place that make things work smoothly and easily for everyone, and that such systems break down rapidly when sufficient numbers of defectors fail to honor them.

One example: I was driving on one of the highways the other day and noticed several times that when someone is driving too slowly in the left lane, other drivers will never pass him on the right, even if the right lane is wide open. Instead they will pull up uncomfortably close behind and flash their lights until the slow driver moves over. (If you relied on that in the U.S., you’d never get anywhere, and you might even get yourself a firsthand experience of “road rage”.)

Another example, and perhaps the most indicative of the difference between America and Austria, is the rail-system protocol. You buy a ticket for your train, or a weekly pass for the subways and trams, and then you just get on and go. I have never once seen anyone ask passengers to show their tickets; nor has my daughter, who lives here. This is a system ripe for abuse, and mass defection would doubtless be fatal to its economic survival — but it just hums along. Imagine trying such an arrangement in New York!

I think it’s safe to say that a major reason all of this is possible is that, despite the chaos afflicting other parts of the Continent, Vienna is still a very homogeneous, and very European, place: most of those living here who are not themselves Austrian are from other parts of eastern Europe (in particular, from other parts of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire, of which Vienna was the capital). They have a great deal of culture and history in common, and assimilate easily. The place has all the ingredients for a high-trust, low-time-preference, safe and productive community. I can easily see why it is so often ranked the best city in the world to live in.

With that in mind — of course, readers, I won’t miss an opportunity to slip you a red pill whenever possible — I have for you an excellent essay on why high diversity destroys social capital. It starts with a quote from Robert Putnam’s now-famous 2007 paper “E Pluribus Unum: Diversity and Community in the Twenty-first Century”:

…inhabitants of diverse communities tend to withdraw from collective life, to distrust their neighbors, regardless of the colour of their skin, to withdraw even from close friends, to expect the worst from their community and its leaders, to volunteer less, to give less to charity and work on community projects less often, to register to vote less, to agitate for social reform more, but have less faith that they can actually make a difference, and to huddle unhappily in front of the television…

The essay then builds an argument based on the philosopher Ruth Millikan’s work on the contextual and developmental foundations of meaning.

Read it in three parts, here, here, and here.

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Right, Then

Now that all the fuss is over, it’s time to relax a little. The lovely Nina and I will be here in the heart of Europe for another week or so, and may do a little touring around. After that is August, when this blog traditionally goes mostly silent for a summer break.

I’m sure the world will continue going to hell in all the usual ways, and the nation will continue to pull apart along its unbridgeable fault-lines. I will probably put up a post now and then, but a little unplugging and R&R is in order, I think.

Thank you all as always, and thank you especially for all your happy messages about the birth of little Liam! I feel richly blessed.

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Liam Brendan Wright

With his mother, our daughter Chloe, about an hour ago.

IMG-20160728-WA0003

A very happy day for us all.

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Notes From Abroad

We’re still in Austria (and will be until the 6th). It’s hot over here, but from what I gather it’s much worse back home.

It’s nice to be here — Vienna is, as everyone knows, a gracious and beautiful city. One of the first things you notice, though, is how unhurried it feels. In New York everyone seems to have twice as many things to do as they can fit into a single day, whereas in Vienna the ratio is apparently a perfect 1:1.

Vienna also seems, so far, almost completely untouched by the madness swirling around the world. That can’t last long, but with my daughter and her husband living here, I’m certainly grateful for as long as it does.

One feature of the city I hadn’t known about before is what’s called the Alte Donau — an oxbow lake created by the re-routing of the Danube in the 1870s. The water is clear and clean, and the lake is a delightful recreational oasis. We spent yesterday afternoon there boating and swimming.

I’ve been a little out of touch, but the political scene back home seems to have been particularly entertaining this past week. Thanks to Wikileaks having revealed the enormity of the DNC’s collusion with the media against the Sanders campaign, the Clinton coalition seems weaker than ever, and it appears that the Democrat convention has got off to a rocky start. Perhaps the best part of all was the public defenestration of the loathsome Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who is out at last as the DNC chairwoman. (For you aficionados of political sleaze, how’s this: DWS rigs the primaries for Hillary, gets thrown under the bus for it, then Hillary pays her off with a campaign-staff appointment. There is no longer even a pretense of honest politics on the American Left these days, nor the least effort by the mainstream media to conceal their allegiances.)

I’ve written often that democracy in America was a nice try that has pretty much run its course; it seems now that millions of Democrats are starting to realize what a sham the whole thing is. Does anyone really believe that the Clinton candidacy — in which she never had more than one serious opponent, against whom the system was rigged from the beginning — is somehow the organic expression of the will of “the People”? Can there be any doubt any longer, for any American citizen, that your infinitesimal slice of sovereignty is worth, in any rational accounting, exactly nothing?

Meanwhile, Germany has suffered several jihadi attacks just in the past week or so, several of which were perpetrated by “refugees” admitted to the country by the arch-ethnomasochist Angela Merkel. The people here are in greater and greater numbers coming to understand the magnitude of their folly, far too late.

That’s all for now, I think. We are still on grandson watch; our daughter’s due-date has already come and gone.

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Service Notice, and Open Thread 18

The lovely Nina and I are off to Vienna this evening, where our daughter is due to give birth to our first grandson. Things may be a little quiet around here until we get back, in early August — though I expect I’ll put up a post or two from over there.

If my tone seems a tad subdued regarding some of our more frequent topics, it’s probably because I don’t want to get arrested. (Last I heard, Austria had no First Amendment, and a lot of increasingly irritated voices that need tamping down.)

Feel free to chat amongst yourselves till I get back.

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Duh

Over the transom today from our reader Henry is this piece by Thomas Sowell. The points it makes are utterly simple and obvious — and utterly at odds not only with our prevailing social orthodoxy, but with the stated policies of the Obama administration, and even the recent jurisprudence of our Supreme Court.

How long can a society persist in denying the plainest and most self-evident realities? For far longer, it seems, than you would ever have thought possible, if you were an intelligent person raised at any time in history prior to the last half-century.

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The Siege of Istanbul

I’m off to Vienna later this week; it seems timely.

After the Turks were driven back from the heart of Europe, progressive modernism gradually expanded its range. The Sublime Porte’s senescence deepened — the shrinking Ottoman Empire began to be known as “the sick man of Europe” — and finally the unthinkable happened: the last of the Ottoman sultans, Mehmed VI, fled Turkey in 1922, bringing to an end an Islamic imperium that had lasted over six centuries, and that at its height stretched from Algiers to the Persian Gulf, from Budapest to the Horn of Africa, and that girdled most of the Mediterranean and all of the Black Sea. Once, Islam’s scimitars had cut a bloody path all the way to Vienna; now Europe, at least in the form of secular modernization, had taken Byzantium once again.

It was always a fragile conquest, though. Islam, even when it appears subdued, is a sullen and resentful subject that chafes and grumbles under secular rule. The ascendant empire of progressive Westernizing modernity seemed for some time, however, to be consolidating its hold on its newly conquered territory: if you look at pictures from Tehran or Kabul from the 1960’s — particularly photographs with young women in them — you might think you were looking at any European city.

But that veneer of modernity was only held in place by the pressure of power — in Iran, by the power of the U.S.-backed Shah, and in Turkey, by the power of the Kemalist military, who in the second half of the twentieth century staged repeated coups to preserve the artificial secular order against the relentless organic force of Islam.

Now it is universalist Western progressivism that is the “sick man”. It is dying of what I have called ACIDS — Acquired Cultural Immuno-Deficiency Syndrome. The disease has rendered it unable to make the necessary discriminations — between food and poison, friend and foe, and Self and Other — that any living system must make in order to survive.

The collapse of empires is centripetal, and so the empire of modernity began to fail at its edges. There could never have been a secular Turkey without a strong secular West to act as the seat of empire, but now progressive Europe itself is dying of its inability to maintain its external membrane — which has led, quite naturally and predictably, to an opportunistic infection by alien pathogens.

As secular universalism dies in Europe and Turkey, it will be replaced — as we see already beginning to happen — by the older, organic order that it, for a time, so successfully overwhelmed. This weekend’s events in Turkey will mark, I think, the end of Europe’s century-long ideological occupation of what was once the heart of the Muslim world. That ideology will not even occupy Europe, I think, for much longer — though whether it will be succeeded there by a resurgent and virile identitarianism, or by exhaustion and dhimmitude, remains to be seen.

Expansion, contraction, rise and fall, back and forth — from Suleiman the Magnificent at the gates of Vienna, to miniskirts in Kabul; from Mehmet to Ataturk to Erdogan — where will the pendulum swing to now?

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When You Strike At The King…

The coup in Turkey has failed. Naturally, Mr. Erdogan is consolidating his power, and is rounding up his enemies. The fog is still thick, though.

Was it a false-flag job? Erdogan is blaming the exiled dawa jihadist Fethullah Gülen — who, from his compound in Pennsylvania, leads a large and subversive faction in Turkey. Some reports have suggested that the coup was attempted in haste because word had leaked out of an impending purge of Gülenists in the military.

Who knows? Not me. Both stories seem plausible. If I were Erdogan, and wanted to make a truly effective purge, I’d want to get public sympathy on my side, and what better way to do so than to fake a coup first, and blame it on Gülen? But the other account — that leaders of a Gülenist faction in the Turkish military got wind of a coming purge, and figured that a coup, however ill-prepared, was a better chance than waiting for the axe to fall — makes sense too.

Learn more about Mr. Gülen here.

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The Ankara Reichstag?

By now you have heard that there has been a coup attempt in Turkey. The situation is still chaotic, but it appears that in Istanbul at least, the coup is failing, with soldiers surrendering their weapons to police. President Erdogan was reported earlier to have left the country, but now we hear he is in Istanbul.

What to expect next, if the coup fails (which I think it will*): Erdogan will declare emergency powers. It would be almost without historical precedent for him not to do so. Moreover, he would be a fool not to do so, and he is not a fool. (“Never let a crisis go to waste.”)

I would not be surprised to learn that this was a false-flag operation, though of course that’s pure speculation. Erdogan, who is no secularist, once said that “democracy is like a train; you get off once you have reached your destination.” Perhaps he decided to take the express.

We live in interesting times.

*Note: why did I think, almost from the beginning, that the coup would fail? Because as far as I could tell, the rebels did not control the media quickly and completely. That suggested that they were not well-organized enough to succeed — or that the coup was never intended to succeed.

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Mr. Nice Guy

Yet another jihadi massacre in France last night. Eighty-four are dead as I write; the number will rise. What can I say that I haven’t said before?

Not to worry, though — the Huffington Post has the answer:

 
Yup, we’ve got ’em right where we want ’em. Some prayers, a hashtag or two, lots of flowers and candles, and maybe a visit by David Crosby or Judy Collins ought to finish this whole thing off.

What will actually happen: Fear will win, peace will lose.

I’ll say something I have said before: to allow mass immigration of Muslims is the stupidest and most irreversibly self-destructive thing that any Western nation can do.

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Science!

Some science items for today:

With race front and center in every news cycle, it’s good to be prepared for encounters with those who insist that race is “only a social construct” (many of whom also spend all their waking hours totting up accounts of how one race is doing compared to another). Readers of this blog will know that our editorial position is quite the opposite: that cultures are part of the “extended phenotype” of different human populations, and so it’s more accurate to say that societies are racial constructs, rather than the other way round. (This is because, as John Derbyshire has succinctly put it, different human groups “are bound to express different statistical patterns on any heritable traits, which would include traits of behavior, intelligence, and personality.”)

You may run into a particular, brainy subset of such people who will, in support of their belief in human universalism, produce Richard Lewontin’s famous observation that genetic markers vary more within populations than between them. This is true — but it misses the point so dramatically that the wishful generalization he erected upon it has now come to be known as Lewontin’s Fallacy. (You might also hear about Stephen Jay Gould’s antiracist tract The Mismeasure of Man, which has now been so thoroughly discredited that it is held up as a sterling example of exactly the sort of scientific bias that the book had purported to expose.)

The problem with Lewontin’s claim is that it examines only particular genetic markers, which indeed can vary broadly within groups. What it overlooks, though, is that what distinguishes populations are correlations between large numbers of markers — and when one surveys the genome more inclusively, populations are easily differentiated by these patterns of correlation. (Which is, of course, exactly what you’d expect: given the obvious differences in their phenotypes, it would be odd indeed if there weren’t a consistent way to distinguish, say, a Korean’s genome from a Dinka’s.)

Here, then, courtesy of the Unz Review, are two good items on Lewontin’s Fallacy, from Peter Frost and Razib Khan.

Perhaps the simplest argument against Lewontin’s Fallacy is to point out that if what he says is true, then it should be well-nigh impossible to determine population-group ancestry by DNA — but of course companies like 23 And Me do this very successfully, with ever-increasing precision.

Race is fluid, and like everything else in Nature it has fuzzy edges, but it is most certainly real. It is no more of a “social construct” than sex, or intelligence. But do keep in mind, as the tireless scholar hbd*chick reminds us:

there’s more to human biodiversity than just racial differences!

Next up, here’s a related item about genetics and parenting.

Moving on to other topics, here’s something I hadn’t heard about before: hyperuniformity. The messy boundary between order and chaos is an interesting place.

Here’s a puzzling item for you: a man with almost no brain at all. (He’s no genius, but to quote Dr. Johnson: “It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all.”)

Finally, with hat-tips to our commenter Henry, here are two items: Global E-mail Patterns Reveal “Clash of Civilizations”, and a new theory of life.

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The Problem

Scott Adams (a keen observer whom you may know as the creator of Dilbert) offers an interesting explanation as to why the Democrat-Republican dispute over gun control is so intractable:

On average, Democrats (that’s my team*) use guns for shooting the innocent. We call that crime.

On average, Republicans use guns for sporting purposes and self-defense.

If you don’t believe me, you can check the statistics on the Internet that don’t exist. At least I couldn’t find any that looked credible.

But we do know that race and poverty are correlated. And we know that poverty and crime are correlated. And we know that race and political affiliation are correlated. Therefore, my team (Clinton) is more likely to use guns to shoot innocent people, whereas the other team (Trump) is more likely to use guns for sporting and defense.

That’s a gross generalization. Obviously. Your town might be totally different.

So it seems to me that gun control can’t be solved because Democrats are using guns to kill each other – and want it to stop – whereas Republicans are using guns to defend against Democrats. Psychologically, those are different risk profiles. And you can’t reconcile those interests, except on the margins. For example, both sides might agree that rocket launchers are a step too far. But Democrats are unlikely to talk Republicans out of gun ownership because it comes off as “Put down your gun so I can shoot you.”

It’s a simplification, yes — but like all helpful simplifications, it picks out natural categories very effectively, and does a lot of heavy lifting. Read the rest here.

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Obama Consoles A Grieving Nation

Absolutely shameless race-baiting and anti-gun demagoguery by Barack Obama today as he spoke in Dallas, ostensibly to mourn the racially motivated murder of five white police officers by a black assassin.

What a crabbed and venomous man he is. What a pestilence he is on the nation he despises.

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For All You Logolepts

With a hat tip to our man Mangan, here’s a little vocabulary test.

Race, Violence, and the Police

Despite more than seven years of enlightened rule by a saintly mixed-race President, race relations in America seem worse than ever. Celebrities take to the national airwaves to blame “whiteness” for all the world’s ills, and in particular for all the frustrations, disappointments, and social afflictions of everyone who isn’t white. Moreover, if you were to gather your information only from mainstream media, movies and plays, academic curricula, best-selling books, and political speeches, you would have no doubt that violence and brutality are, in overwhelming proportions, committed by whites against blacks, and especially by white policemen. The reason for this is, in the words of Ta-Nehisi Coates, the greatest writer of the last several centuries, that the deepest yearning of whiteness — indeed, almost the only thing that gives white people’s lives any meaning or purpose at all — is to “shatter black bodies”. (If so, it’s hard to imagine how, for example, Sweden kept itself going all those years, but with the way things are going in Sweden now, I suppose that before long the question will be moot.)

The numbers, however, tell a different story. One researcher who has taken on the thankless task of digging into them is Heather Mac Donald. A recent item at The Daily Wire summarizes some of her findings: police killed nearly twice as many whites as blacks in 2015; the percentage of white and Hispanic deaths that are caused by police is three times higher than the rate for blacks; the fact that unarmed blacks are more likely to be killed by police is due to their penchant for assaulting officers, violently resisting arrest, and the unfortunate fact that in dense, crime-ridden neighborhoods, innocent bystanders are much more likely to be hit by stray police bullets; black and Hispanic officers are more likely to shoot at black people than white officers are, and are more than three times more likely to fire their guns at a crime scene; and a police officer is eighteen times more likely to be killed by a black person than an unarmed black person is to be killed by police.

You can read the whole thing here. Read also this speech, given by Ms. Mac Donald at Hillsdale college back in April, and her February Washington Post essay on unarmed police-shooting victims.

Meanwhile, eighty-two people were shot in Chicago over the Fourth of July weekend. Fourteen died.

Churchill said: “You must look at the facts, because they look at you.” As a nation, we have embarked on a disastrous departure from reason and wisdom — or even numerical truth — regarding race and violence. When truth becomes taboo — such as the unwelcome truths that underlie the persistent difficulties and disparities haunting race relations in America — then wisdom dies, and our stress and strife are sure to worsen.

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Comey Testifies

I watched with considerable interest James Comey’s appearance before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee today. The reason, of course was his recent recommendation not to prosecute Hillary Clinton for: knowingly and intentionally using a private and unsecure email server to conduct State Department business, putting classified information on it (some of which was classified at the highest level of secrecy), exposing this material to hostile actors, putting national security at risk, refusing to cooperate with the State Department’s Inspector General when his office tried to investigate, destroying thousands of emails after an inquiry was already underway (and deleting them so carefully that even the FBI’s forensic experts were unable to recover them), lying about having handed over all of her work emails, and lying about just about everything else having to do with the affair, including lying under oath. (He had some ‘splainin’ to do.)

Let me say first of all that this is an impressive man. He is obviously of high intelligence. He is poised, and he speaks very plainly. It is easy to understand why so many people hold him in such high esteem.

One of the things that he said today, many times, is that he was not interfered with in any way by anyone. If he is a liar, he is a very good one. My inclination at this point is to believe him.

Having already discussed the points Mr. Comey made in his original statement, I won’t rehash them here, except to focus on his reason for not recommending prosecution. The charge that seems most self-evidently applicable is that of gross negligence under the Espionage Act (specifically, 18 U.S. Code § 793 (f)). Director Comey made it very clear indeed that Mrs. Clinton was negligent in her handling of extremely sensitive material. There can also be no doubt that anyone in her position would know very well that there are strict protocols for handling such information — protocols that she clearly, and willfully, ignored.

So why not recommend filing criminal charges, given the facts and the law? Mr. Comey’s answer was that he could not find a clear precedent for such a prosecution.

In purely logical terms, this would make all prosecution impossible, as the first prosecution under any criminal statute is necessarily without precedent. Mr. Comey instead focused on the fact that he could not find “clear evidence” of criminal intent. This seems odd, as it is abundantly clear that Mrs. Clinton intended to create the conditions that put secure material at risk; she was offered a secure State Department email system to use for her business, and refused to do so, opting instead to use an unsecure server in her basement. Mr. Comey himself said that “any reasonable person in Secretary Clinton’s position” should have known this was wrong, and very badly so; this appears to leave us only the two conclusions that Mrs. Clinton is not a reasonable person, or that she knew it was wrong.

Which seems more likely to you, readers? That Hillary Clinton is not a reasonable person, or that she is a person who would knowingly do something wrong?

Mr. Comey also said that “no reasonable prosecutor” would bring this case, but since his remarks many have come forward to say they most certainly would. (See, for example, this sequence of posts by the noted Federal prosecutor Andrew McCarthy, here, here, http://www.nationalreview.com/corner/437566/director-comeys-concession-states-prosecute-negligent-homicide?target=author&tid=900151, and here.)

Why, then? If we assume (a) that Mr. Comey is a man of expert competence, (b) that he was not bribed or blackmailed by the Clintons or the Obama apparatus, and (c) that Mrs. Clinton was obviously negligent (at the very least) with her handling of sensitive material entrusted to her care, in violation of Federal law, why would he find such a tortured way to avoid dropping the hammer?

I’ve heard a lot of ideas about this, but I think the most plausible one — several people have expressed it — is that he simply did not want the FBI, and in particular James Comey, to be the one to bring about such an enormous political cataclysm, one that would deflect the course of history. Charles Krauthammer said it well, I think:

When Chief Justice John Roberts used a tortured, logic-defying argument to uphold Obamacare, he was subjected to similar accusations of bad faith. My view was that, as guardian of the Supreme Court’s public standing, he thought the issue too momentous — and the implications for the country too large — to hinge on a decision of the court. Especially after Bush v. Gore, Roberts wanted to keep the court from overturning the political branches on so monumental a piece of social legislation.

I would suggest that Comey’s thinking, whether conscious or not, was similar: He did not want the FBI director to end up as the arbiter of the 2016 presidential election. If Clinton were not a presumptive presidential nominee but simply a retired secretary of state, he might well have made a different recommendation.

Prosecuting under current circumstances would have upended and redirected an already year-long presidential-selection process. In my view, Comey didn’t want to be remembered as the man who irreversibly altered the course of American political history.

And with no guarantee that the prosecution would succeed, moreover. Imagine that scenario: You knock out of the race the most likely next president — and she ultimately gets acquitted! Imagine how Comey goes down in history under those circumstances.

I admit I’m giving Comey the benefit of the doubt. But the best way I can reconcile his reputation for integrity with the grating illogic of his Clinton decision is by presuming that he didn’t want to make history.

I don’t endorse his decision. (Nor did I Roberts’s.) But I think I understand it.

Of course, all of this depends on whether you believe Mr. Comey’s repeated assertion that he was not following orders. But if you do, the other options are few — because his recommendation is incomprehensible. (His one other comment about not recommending charges was that he bent over backward to avoid the appearance of “celebrity hunting” — but of course what he did was to give the even more toxic appearance of deference to power. What he is supposed to do, of course, is simply to enforce the law, without regard to any of that.)

One further note: it became clear in today’s testimony that Mrs. Clinton lied under oath to Congress back in October about what was on her server. Mr. Comey more or less agreed that this is so, but said he hadn’t investigated that, because Congress hadn’t asked him to. I imagine that now they will.

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You Owe Them Nothing

FBI director Comey has just given a statement on his agency’s investigation of Hillary Clinton’s handling of classified email.

We read (my emphasis):

Our investigation looked at whether there is evidence classified information was improperly stored or transmitted on that personal system, in violation of a federal statute making it a felony to mishandle classified information either intentionally or in a grossly negligent way, or a second statute making it a misdemeanor to knowingly remove classified information from appropriate systems or storage facilities.

Got that? Just to be clear, here’s what 18 U.S. Code § 793 says about negligence:

(f) Whoever, being entrusted with or having lawful possession or control of any document… relating to the national defense, (1) through gross negligence permits the same to be removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of his trust, or to be lost, stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, or (2) having knowledge that the same has been illegally removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of its trust, or lost, or stolen, abstracted, or destroyed, and fails to make prompt report of such loss, theft, abstraction, or destruction to his superior officer—
Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.

Note: “…through gross negligence permits the same to be removed from its proper place of custody…”; “…having knowledge that the same has been illegally removed from its proper place of custody or delivered to anyone in violation of its trust…”

On even the most charitable (and completely, utterly, laughably implausible) interpretation — that Mrs. Clinton simply had no idea she was doing anything wrong — has she not amply satisfied these criteria?

Although we did not find clear evidence that Secretary Clinton or her colleagues intended to violate laws governing the handling of classified information, there is evidence that they were extremely careless in their handling of very sensitive, highly classified information.

For example, seven e-mail chains concern matters that were classified at the Top Secret/Special Access Program level when they were sent and received. These chains involved Secretary Clinton both sending e-mails about those matters and receiving e-mails from others about the same matters. There is evidence to support a conclusion that any reasonable person in Secretary Clinton’s position, or in the position of those government employees with whom she was corresponding about these matters, should have known that an unclassified system was no place for that conversation. In addition to this highly sensitive information, we also found information that was properly classified as Secret by the U.S. Intelligence Community at the time it was discussed on e-mail (that is, excluding the later “up-classified” e-mails).

None of these e-mails should have been on any kind of unclassified system, but their presence is especially concerning because all of these e-mails were housed on unclassified personal servers not even supported by full-time security staff, like those found at Departments and Agencies of the U.S. Government—or even with a commercial service like Gmail.

Separately, it is important to say something about the marking of classified information. Only a very small number of the e-mails containing classified information bore markings indicating the presence of classified information. But even if information is not marked “classified” in an e-mail, participants who know or should know that the subject matter is classified are still obligated to protect it.

While not the focus of our investigation, we also developed evidence that the security culture of the State Department in general, and with respect to use of unclassified e-mail systems in particular, was generally lacking in the kind of care for classified information found elsewhere in the government.

With respect to potential computer intrusion by hostile actors, we did not find direct evidence that Secretary Clinton’s personal e-mail domain, in its various configurations since 2009, was successfully hacked. But, given the nature of the system and of the actors potentially involved, we assess that we would be unlikely to see such direct evidence. We do assess that hostile actors gained access to the private commercial e-mail accounts of people with whom Secretary Clinton was in regular contact from her personal account. We also assess that Secretary Clinton’s use of a personal e-mail domain was both known by a large number of people and readily apparent. She also used her personal e-mail extensively while outside the United States, including sending and receiving work-related e-mails in the territory of sophisticated adversaries. Given that combination of factors, we assess it is possible that hostile actors gained access to Secretary Clinton’s personal e-mail account.

About what we had expected. But then:

Although there is evidence of potential violations of the statutes regarding the handling of classified information, our judgment is that no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case. Prosecutors necessarily weigh a number of factors before bringing charges. There are obvious considerations, like the strength of the evidence, especially regarding intent.

Recall that just above, Director Comey said that it was a felony to “mishandle classified information either intentionally or in a grossly negligent way“. So why does intent matter? And even if it does, can anyone doubt that Hillary Clinton intentionally, by approving, creating, and using her own private and unsecured server, removed classified documents from their “proper place of custody”?

How do you square this circle? How can Director Comey, after laying out the criteria for prosecution, then reading us a damning litany of gross malfeasance that would have any of the rest of us clapped in irons, say that “no reasonable prosecutor would bring such a case”? The FBI’s focus on intent is as we see above, irrelevant. The only possible explanation here is politics and power. (And as one online commenter said about Mrs. Clinton in the wake of the FBI’s account of her behavior, “only her withered husk of a soul is preventing her from bowing out of the race in shame.”)

The headlines from the usual Cathedral organs pass over the litany — in the hope that it will recede from memory — and focus on the FBI’s recommendation. Today, President Obama is out on the campaign trail with Mrs. Clinton; he left on this outing even before Mr. Comey delivered his remarks. Would he have done so if he hadn’t known what was coming?

The mask, and the gloves, are off. All pretense of rule of law, representative government, Constitutional order, and respect for the intelligence and opinions of the American people are now publicly shredded. Power is everything — and the Clintons, and the Obama DOJ, have it. They are mocking us, taunting us, jeering at us. We ask for justice and accountability — and they laugh, and snap their fingers in our faces. What are you going to do about it, American citizens?

Here’s one polemic response, posted yesterday by Kurt Schlichter. (It was also linked to by our commenter Whitewall in our previous thread.)

This is how public trust — and, as night follows day, public order — die.

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Happy Fourth!

Here we are again: Independence Day!

The future of the Republic is perhaps more uncertain than it has been at any time since the Civil War. To quote one insightful observer:

More than at any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly.

That doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy ourselves in the meanwhile, though. Our annual parade here in Wellfleet was, comfortingly, just the same as always: everything a small-town Independence Day celebration ought to be.

Raise a glass to the great American experiment; let us hope it can still be saved.

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Service Notice

Things might be quiet here for the next few days — the lovely Nina and I are entertaining guests over the Independence Day weekend, and “a decent respect for the opinions of mankind” will forbid my spending hours banging away at the computer.

Feel free to chat amongst yourselves, of course.

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The Stock In Each Man Is Small

“You see, Sir, that in this enlightened age I am bold enough to confess that we are generally men of untaught feelings: that, instead of casting away all our old prejudices, we cherish them to a very considerable degree; and, to take more shame to ourselves, we cherish them because they are prejudices; and the longer they have lasted, and the more generally they have prevailed, the more we cherish them. We are afraid to put men to live and trade each on his own private stock of reason; because we suspect that the stock in each man is small, and that the individuals would do better to avail themselves of the general bank and capital of nations and of ages.”

Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France, 1790

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More on Brexit

Our previous post on diversity and Britain’s E.U. referendum drew comments both pro- and anti-Brexit.

One charge was that the issue was “decided by the old but it will affect the young.” Yes, the old voted Leave. They did so as a matter of duty and honor, and out of reverence for the sovereignty and institutions of their great and ancient nation. (These being utterly unknown concepts to modern youth, who know their past only insofar as they have been taught to despise it, it isn’t surprising to hear them grumble; expressing grievance is more or less all they are trained to do anyway.)

Another was that the shakeup would have negative economic consequences. Indeed it will. It is understandable that for those who imagine all the world’s people to be perfectly alike and interchangeable, and to whom the very concept of a nation as anything more than a border with an economy is an embarrassing relic of benighted times, economics would be all that matters. But there are those who see nations as the sovereign homelands of particular peoples, and as sheltered havens for the expressions of their unique and precious cultures, traditions, and folkways — and for such people, the idea of selling their children’s right of self-determination to faraway busybodies for twenty pieces of silver was never worth the gain. They took this last chance to reclaim and secure their heritage.

One commenter said: “You can’t have a world-class economy based on tourism, Marmite, and Stilton cheese.” But if that is all England has to offer, then what, exactly, are they offering the E.U.? Is the point here that England is useless and spent, incapable of producing anything that anyone wants, and so its people should be glad to exchange their self-determination for alms in their dotage? What a miserable and insulting vision of a great nation and people. Any Englishman told that this is why he should prefer remaining in the E.U. should spit in his interlocutor’s eye.

In the same comment, we read that “[i]n a globalized world, you can either have prosperity or you can try to go it alone, outside of trade blocs and multilateral groups.”

I have two responses to that. First of all, there is no reason that an emancipated U.K. can’t make trading arrangements as its people see fit — as of course they will.

Second, this comment assumes that a “globalized world” is both desirable and inevitable. It is neither, and the U.K.’s departure from the suffocating regulatory apparatus of the E.U. is a sign that globalism is crumbling. Moreover, engineers who design and troubleshoot complex systems know all too well that to-tight “coupling” is at the root of most catastrophic failures; the tight coupling of globalization makes the world system far more brittle and subject to chain-reaction disasters of every kind, from disease to terrorism to economic collapse.

But it’s really pointless to bicker about this. Your view of Brexit, like so much else, will depend on your axioms, and neither side is likely to persuade the other. As seems true of every aspect of politics today, Brexit exposed the yawning fissure between two wholly incommensurable visions of Western civilization. It is a pity that we live in such fractured times, but here we are.

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Good Diversity, Bad Diversity

Much is being made of the Brexit vote as symptomatic of a rising tide of nationalism. So it is, and so much the better. Anyone who appreciates diversity — the glorious variety of human cultures, customs, and folkways — should applaud, not condemn, the natural human yearning of every people to have a homeland in which their culture can express itself freely and organically.

Where the things that make up a culture — language, moral intuitions, history, folklore, ritual, manners, customs, and all the other idioms that make the world a diverse and interesting place — are broadly shared by a nation’s citizens, then private life and the civil society naturally flow together, social harmony and public trust increase, political faction declines, and liberty — by which I mean the perception of liberty, which is its most meaningful measure — increases. If, by contrast, every nation on earth becomes a chaotic congeries of every culture, then none of those cultures can achieve its full expression, because it collides in the public square with every other culture. What remains of public life is a ‘metaculture‘ stripped to its lowest common denominator. As more — and more alien — cultures are added to the mix, that denominator is driven lower and lower, toward our most basic animal commonalities.

If, then, you really wish to see Diversity as it should be seen, in all its splendor, let every people have a homeland! As everyone everywhere used to understand, that’s what travel is for. And when you are weary of travel, the best part is: there’s no place like home.

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Another One Bites The Dust

I was very sorry yesterday to hear that yet another New York recording studio — Manhattan Sound Recording — will be closing its doors at the end of the month.

As some of you may know, before shifting my focus to software development a few years back, I made my living as a recording engineer (a partial list of my engineering credits is here). MSR — originally Right Track, then Legacy — was always one of my two favorite “big rooms” in the city, if not the world (the other being my alma mater Power Station, which still survives under the name Avatar). I made dozens of records there. The quality of the acoustic spaces, the equipment, the technical maintenance, and the staff were always absolutely top-notch. (You can see some photos of the place here.)

My friend Dave Amlen, whose first venture was another excellent Midtown facility called Sound on Sound, merged his business with Right Track about ten years ago — at which point it was renamed Legacy — then took complete control a few years later. But the studio’s location — on West 48th Street near Times Square — has proved to be a fatal liability: there has been large-scale construction all around for years now, and the noise has made recording impossible.

Thank you, Dave, for giving us, for so many years, such outstanding facilities in which to make music. Only a studio owner who truly loves and understands the arcane craft of record-making could have given us what you did. I’m glad to hear you are planning to open another space in the next year or so, and I look forward to settling in and pushing up the faders.

Read more about MSR and its owner here.

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