Where Is Assange?

Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, has been effectively imprisoned in the Ecuadorean embassy in London for four years. He is accused of rape in Sweden, and the U.K. has spent millions surrounding the embassy in the hope of swooping him up and extraditing him. I won’t comment on the merits of the charges, other than to say that it all appears murky (as high-profile rape cases often do) — and to remark that for Sweden to make such a fuss about this case when that nation has voluntarily made itself, as a matter of idealistic public policy, the rape capital of the Western world, seems a bit much.

I in no way mean to downplay the seriousness of the crime of rape, but obviously there is much more to l’affaire Assange than a sex-offense. Mr. Assange would probably have faced the charges, of which he claims to be innocent, were he not worried that Sweden would in turn send him off to the United States to face a much more dangerous inquiry.

He had lived quietly in the embassy for years, until he began leaking documents that have embarrassed and incriminated the Clintons, Barack Obama, and the Democrat party machine. A few days ago, he had his Internet access cut off. Wikileaks was prepared for this, and had a “dead-man-switch” release schedule in place, so the document dumps have continued.

Now, however, Mr. Assange seems to have gone missing. Rumors abound, including that he has been removed from the embassy, taken to the U.S. in a small plane, and is now in CIA custody. Some have suggested that he is being used as a hostage to apply pressure to a Wikileaks organization that was well-prepared for his death, but which might be coerced into silence to save his life. Someone even suggested that Wikileaks had put a coded message in a series of tweets saying “HELP HIM”.

These are all just rumors, and I have no idea what the truth is. None of them seem too far-fetched to be beyond plausibility, however. Mr. Assange has some very powerful and utterly ruthless enemies.

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The Swamp

Hardly a day goes by now without new evidence of Clintonian corruption. The latest has to do with the FBI’s curiously handled investigation of the Clintons’ email server, and the FBI director’s audacious decision not to recommend charges in the case.

As the Wall Street Journal reports here, after the FBI began its investigation of Mrs. Clinton’s felonious mishandling of classified information the governor of Virginia, longtime Clinton bagman Terry McAuliffe, had his political committees make donations amounting to almost half a million dollars to the election campaign of an obscure state senator, Jill McCabe. That would be odd indeed — half a million is a lot of shekels to be throwing around in such a low-level race — except for the fact that Ms. McCabe is married to FBI director James Comey’s “right-hand man”, Andrew McCabe.

As bad as this is, it is, of course, just the latest drop in an ocean of malfeasance by the Clintons, this thoroughly rotten DOJ, this President, and both political parties. I suppose there have probably been other periods of American history, under other Presidents, where things have been this bad — but the difference, of course, is that thanks to a century of continuous expansion of the managerial Leviathan, and the consolidation of power over every aspect of American life under the power of the State, corruption has never mattered more. It is a given that there will be corruption in government — but the bigger and more powerful the government is, the more corruption it attracts, and the greater that corruption’s noxious effect becomes upon the lives of the people. As Dennis Prager once said: “The bigger the government, the smaller the citizen.”

Hence Trump. His candidacy is a gigantic middle finger to all of it, from an angry and frustrated people — of whom millions are only one last legal recourse, and one final insult, away from refreshing the tree of liberty in the way Jefferson prescribed.

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Birds Of A Feather

The choleric president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte (the one, in case you’ve forgotten, who called Barack Obama “a son of a whore”), recently announced his “separation” from the United States, and a pivot to China. Why? Well, it obviously makes sense, in an era of spastic and ineffective American foreign policy, for a small nation on China’s doorstep to seek good relations with its powerful neighbor. There is, however, more to the story — as Mark Yuray explains, here.

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The Soul Of A New Machine

You’ve probably heard of “quantum computing”, but you may not know what it is. Here is a piece by Peter Diamandis, of Singularity University, that gives a helpful introduction to the key idea: that the bizarre “superposition” of a particle’s unmeasured quantum states makes it possible for n quantum bits (or “qubits”) to do the processing work of 2n “classical” bits.

How to take advantage of this has been a challenging problem both technically and algorithmically, but it is yielding, and the technology should begin to become useful within the next few years. Once the power of the qubit is in harness, whole classes of problems that, in terms of processing time, “scale up” exponentially on classical machines will now scale linearly.

This is no small thing; in particular it will enable modeling of complex systems that are, in principle, beyond the reach not only of current supercomputers, but of any classical computer that could ever be constructed. Peter Diamandis is right to apply S.U.’s favorite adjective — “disruptive” — to the prospect of this technology’s arrival.

The tone of Mr. Diamandis’s piece, as with everything related to Singularity University, is one of breathless excitement; when I spent a fascinating week there a few years ago, I remember one of the speakers saying that “if you can see the road ahead, you aren’t going fast enough.” To say that an emerging technology is “disruptive” is, for the members of this community, the highest praise.

This infatuation with “disruption” puzzles me. If the best societies are organic, living systems, as I believe them to be, then “disruption” is hardly a thing to be wished for. Would you like to have your family routine, or the regularities of your daily life, “disrupted”? Would an ecologist encourage the “disruption” of a healthy and balanced ecosystem? If I offered you a pill that would “disrupt” the workings of your own bodily organism, would you take it?

I’m no Luddite, and have, in my two careers as a recording engineer and software developer, always been an “early adopter” of new technologies. But I’m old enough now, have read enough history, and have seen enough radical change in my own sixty years, to understand that not all of the modern world’s “progress”, either technical or social, has in fact been a movement toward greater human flourishing and happiness.

I understand that technology will advance, willy-nilly, and that the pace is increasing. Nothing short of a major civilizational catastrophe could prevent it. I am sure as well that many of these advances will provide astonishing material benefits, and will confer upon us powers that would have seemed magical — even godlike — not so long ago.

What I have far less confidence in is our own wisdom and foresight. Our technology is advancing exponentially. I see no evidence that our judgment, our self-mastery, or our insight into the eternal conundrum of human nature and the human experience, are advancing at all.

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Service Notice

Our daughter’s visiting from Austria with our infant grandson, and we are all out of town for a wedding this weekend. Back soon. Chat amongst yourselves, if you like.

The Observer-Created World

We’ve just had another intractable disagreement in our most recent comment-thread (with, of course, our resident Clintonian gadfly). The dispute is, in microcosm, the same that is pulling America, and indeed all of the West, to pieces.

As I have said many times before, so much depends on axioms, and on what words mean.

We read a sentence like this:

And while there may be “millions of aroused American patriots” enraged at social change, there are millions more American patriots who believe in diversity, inclusiveness, Obamacare, a return to balance on the Supreme Court after thirty years of right wing control, and the other things which will drive Clinton voters to the polls.

Consider “diversity”. (“Inclusiveness” is just another word for the same thing, as is “multiculturalism”.) Here we see the axiom that more of it is always better, despite that assertion’s being completely at odds with our empirical experience (ever-increasing racial and ethnic tensions everywhere in the West, the need for increasingly totalitarian “hate-speech” laws, and the enormous cost of the burgeoning “diversity-management” industry being obvious examples), at odds with any careful examination of what makes cultures and societies happy and cohesive (see here and here), and sharply at odds with all the lessons of history — which teach us again and again that, sooner or later, Diversity + Proximity = War.

Where one person says “diversity” and “inclusivity”, then, another reads: “open borders, demographic displacement, Balkanization, cultural deliquescence, worsening social tension, more intervention to manage that tension, and of course the steady accumulation of new Democratic voters and clients of the ever-expanding managerial state.”

Where one person says:

Others are angry because ordering chicken at a Roy Rogers on the turnpike is frustrating when the counterman lacks English skills (although – who knows? – he could be the Syrian refugee whose son starts Apple Computer).

… another sees a nest of hidden axioms, namely that (a) all people from anywhere are exactly fungible, (b) that a randomly chosen illiterate immigrant from anywhere on earth stands a robustly non-zero chance of siring the next Steve Jobs, and that (c) this prospect is both so likely and so attractive that it justifies, in terms of the policy interests of American citizens, flinging open the borders to thousands, or perhaps millions, of profoundly alien and unvettable immigrants on the chance that the offspring of one of them may someday sell us a better phone. Moreover, so incommensurable are the axioms here that where one person will read what I’ve just written and see in it the traditional human virtues: love of home and country, love of peace and harmonious order, love of one’s culture and heritage, a grateful sense of obligation to those who built it all for us, and love of the generations yet unborn for whom all of these treasures are to be cherished, preserved and protected — another will read it and see only “hate”, and fear of change. (Implicit in that is yet another hidden axiom, namely that change — which is of course inevitable — is also innately and self-justifyingly good, and so should not be questioned or resisted.)

Where one person sees “thirty years of right-wing control” of the Supreme Court, another sees a wholesale abandonment of Constitutional rigor, the usurpation of the public will in order to advance the destruction of States’ rights and the traditional moral order, and the discovery of mysterious and ever-unfolding “emanations” from Constitutional clauses and amendments whose original purposes were clear, limited, and clearly limited.

And so on.

These are not petty differences, and they are not, by their nature, amenable to compromise. (Existential questions are like that. If I see that you are about to drive us over a cliff, and you say there is no cliff, what is our compromise?) We are at a point of such outright and deepening hostility between two fundamentally incompatible visions of America, the American tradition, the role of government, the moral order, the right to association, the meaning of the Constitution — in the simplest terms, of what is good and right and sacred — that the best we can really hope for now is some kind of divorce. It is the great tragedy of our age that the geographical interpenetration of these hostile camps makes this almost impossible. We cannot live together — we cannot agree on the most basic principles of society and government, or of rights and truths and responsibilities — and we cannot get away from each other. How much suffering we might avoid in the months and years to come, if only we could.

Finally, to make matters worse, let’s go “meta”: while one person sees the moral and axiomatic fault-lines I’ve described above, and recognizes that the tectonic strain is reaching the point of catastrophic release — another thinks that his candidate will simply win the coming election, we’ll all have a good laugh at the fools who lost, and things will “get back to normal”.

Place your bets.

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I’m Shocked – Shocked!

It’s been a busy few days, with little time for writing. But I won’t run off without offering a morsel to sustain you (and to reassure you that things are, indeed, as they seem).

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Caste And Character

Tonight’s reading assignment is an outstanding essay, Weaving the Basket of Deplorables, recently posted at the site The Dissenting Sociologist. Its epopseudonymous author (sorry, but I felt the need for a name that’s both an eponym and a pseudonym), whom I shall call DS, has done a masterful job of distilling and clarifying some core neoreactionary ideas.

I am going to excerpt key sections, but please don’t let that stop you from reading the essay in its entirety. If you want to understand the new, deeply dissident Right, this is an important contribution, and is very well worth your time.

The point of entry is the increasing antipathy of our cultural and political aristocracy toward a certain segment of the American polity, as displayed most recently by Hillary Clinton’s remarks about them on the campaign trail (an antipathy that is also overwhelmingly evident in media and academia). These “deplorables” — to Barack Obama they are “bitter clingers” — were, however, once seen as the heartwood of the American nation. (In any purely practical sense, they still are.)

We read:

It is symptomatic that the leader of one of the two historic governing parties of that country, who as a Presidential candidate aspires to embody the unity of the body politic, should in the very course of attempting to convince others of her fitness for that role try to rhetorically DISMEMBER the corporate body of society, to proclaim that one of that body’s own organs- once by standard rhetorical convention exalted in political speech as the very “backbone of society”- is so much irredeemable social refuse deserving not only to be cast out of the social body, but regarded as as an anti-national element (“they are not America”).

This is worrisome:

Without wanting to lapse into alarmist dudgeon here, an appraisal of the nature and history of the modern State strongly suggests that, when a given social group is identified by elite political and ideological functionaries as an irredeemable anti-national element- viz. objectively dangerous to the State- a social process has already been set into motion that may not end well for that group, and that working-class Whites would do well to continue to cling to their guns, as the acting President of the USA has depicted them as doing.

Is this a question of class? If so, it’s not an ordinary one:

The upper classes … can be expected to sneer down their blue noses at the Great Unwashed at least a little bit. But it’s quite another thing for those classes — in any society tasked with the duty of care of the social whole — to propose that the plebs should collectively be regarded as altogether beyond the pale. In the West right now, elites are not only doing exactly that, but as though to add insult to injury seek in one and the same stroke to incorporate hordes of various migrants, who are often there illegally, and in any case exhaustively foreign (by birth, race, language, nationality, culture, and religion), as valued members of society while reducing the indigenous organic working class to the status of illegal aliens at best- and enemy nationals at worst- in their own country.

DS argues that this is better understood not as a matter of class, but of caste. This is a key insight (and one with which well-read NRx’ers will be familiar):

In order to grasp the meaning and significance of this class war from above, we need to go beyond the Marxian concept of class to the much deeper phenomenon of caste, as the bedrock social division of any Indo-European civilization past or present. [Mencius] Moldbug was on to something perhaps greater than he intended when he famously proposed that certain dynamics of contemporary American society could be profitably redescribed through ancient Hindu terminology. Caste not only provides a fresh perspective on current events, but in some cases, the only truly adequate one.

Analyzed in light of caste, the true bottom-line comes into view, as follows. It is well-known that, in modern society, politics takes over the place and function of religion as the privileged centre of social integration and thus as the dominant force that bears upon every aspect of life. Just as pre-Modern society found its all-encompassing unity in e.g. the “mystical body of Christ”, so Modern society finds its own unity in the “artificial person” of Hobbes’ political Leviathan, which aggregates a mass of isolate individual atoms into a single social organism. The State is co-extensive with society and defines its boundaries, just as religion once was.

The society in which religion is the dominant force always sets a certain bar of purity where its rites and rituals are concerned, and accordingly banishes from the ritual community individuals, and whole categories of individuals, deemed indelibly polluted, degraded, and corrupt, such that their very presence in the midst of public worship would be contaminating to the point of desecrating the proceedings. This vile condition typically accrues by, variously, work deemed unclean and debased, contracting certain types of disease, eating foods prohibited by dietary rules, miscegenation, infamous dereliction of morals or social duty, or ritual performance and utterance that is inexcusably incompetent or derelict.

The effort, in present American society, to banish an entire subset of the citizenry from the political community is clearly analogous to the older form of ritual exclusion. In this light, there can no longer be any doubt concerning the meaning of phrases like “basket of deplorables” in elite political discourse, with its image of a garbage bin filled with White people (cf. “White trash”) who fully deserve to have been discarded there: the elite is attempting to debase the White working class to the status of an untouchable caste, a new chandala for the secular 21st century milieu.

What is the cause of this “coming apart”? It is tempting to imagine that it is due to the widening gulf between the types of work the two castes do, but that explanation, while not wrong, still falls short:

Intuitively, it would appear that the cause lies in working-class involvement with industrial, construction, or agricultural labour increasingly further and further removed from the horizon of upper or even middle-class experience, and in the process come to be thought of by the latter classes as indelibly dirty and degrading. This is only partially true; the elite does not propose that other socially tenuous castes e.g. lower-class Blacks or Latinos deserve to be completely kicked out of society for doing those and other still more menial forms of work (the very opposite is true, to say the very least). Thus the Marxian hypothesis that predicts an exact correspondence between one’s place in the labour process and social status doesn’t exactly pan out here.

No, it is a question of a breach of ritual, an insufficient deference to what is sacred in our new secular ekklesia (I have bolded what I think are two especially important passages):

It is rather to ritual itself — more accurately, its secular and political functional equivalent — that we have to look. Mrs. Clinton made that absolutely clear; the White working-class deplorables, and their political speaker, Donald Trump, are deplorable because they either out of ignorance or willfully break with good ritual form and decorum as defined by the protocols of what is known in popular parlance, and with exact sociological precision, as political correctness…

In most societies, public ritual and its exactitudes do not concern the labouring castes, who on an a priori basis are deemed incompetent to perform it, and are quite content to leave this area to the priestly and other superior castes. In the West, this sociological default setting began to change, over the course of the past several centuries, with:

the rise of Protestantism, in which each worshiper takes an active part in the proceedings on a more or less equal footing as part of the universal priesthood, and is held to the same, exactingly high, standard of conduct

— the rise of mandatory universal and standardized education

— finally, the rise of democratic notions of citizenship, according to which each citizen has both the legal right and ethical obligation to stay abreast of public affairs, to vote according to his conscience and interest, and above all, to speak freely on all subjects (“civic participation”).

The “democratic” ideal of a mass of standardized citizens collectively making decisions on an individualistic and egalitarian basis is, of course, a Utopian fancy that has not been realized anywhere and will not be. Our societies continue to be vertically organized according to a caste hierarchy, and the governing castes continue to define the standards of public protocol, decorum, and good form. What democratic ideology does succeed at doing, though, is seriously undermining the social authority of the governing castes on the one hand, and on the other hand conscripting working-class participation in affairs in which their input may clash dramatically with the expected standards set by the higher castes.

How does this have a uniquely delaminating effect in a democratic, and ostensibly egalitarian society, as compared to more firmly stratified ones? Pay attention here, because this is another innate liability of doctrinal egalitarianism (and by extension, democracy itself):

The net result with respect to political correctness is as follows. Where the right to pronounce sacred words, and the corresponding obligation to hold one’s conduct to the highest standards of moral and ritual purity, would by civilizational default be jealously reserved to the highest castes, today each citizen is expected to do his part to Celebrate Diversity, Ban Bossy, be an LGBT Ally, and so on like that. This means mastering, and then publicly repeating, words like “systemic racism”, “misogyny”, “White privilege”, etc.

The working class, as a group, sometimes runs into problems with this sort of thing, which is foreign to the overall working-class horizon of lived experience and likely to be rejected by a greater or lesser number of its members accordingly.

In other words, the strain occurs when modes of speech and thought are imposed on people for whom they are simply not believable. And why aren’t they? Because they collide with reality in ways that the caste doing the imposing does not personally experience (I have bolded another key passage here):

The typical early-adulthood bourgeois experience starts with attending University. There the student learns the correct cant from the source, and is rewarded for repeating it. He then goes on to take a white-collar job, where the exact measurement of his productive output is difficult or altogether impossible, and where in any case proven mastery of this or that form of correct ritual jargon will be a criterion of his fitness for assuming a management role. Once again, he is rewarded for repeating, in the presence of superiors, cant he need not actually understand, and which likely has no precise denotation in any case.

The working-class experience is different. The blue-collar youth is much more likely to enter the workforce immediately, or following completion of vocational training. In any case, whatever technical terminology he learns does have a precise technical denotation that must be understood in order to carry out practical operations whose success or failure will have productive consequences immediately and transparently known to everybody in the work process. (N.B. much the same set of considerations can also go for University-educated STEM personnel, especially engineers- who, to the extent that this is the case, really comprise part of the working-class, notwithstanding that both the salaries and social prestige attached to these positions are often very high).

The bourgeois youth acquires, both by training and experience, a “postmodern” worldview in which there is no objective reality worth worrying about, and pleasing superiors in positions of power- which means telling them the things they want to hear- is what really counts. Use of language, for him, is thus primarily a matter of social, i.e. ritual and magical, efficacy. His working-class counterpart, who bears the weight of objective reality on his shoulders the live-long day as though Atlas, primarily uses language that has a direct connection to material reality, exerts its effects by direct action on material reality as opposed to acting on social reality from a distance, and thus has mechanical as opposed to magical efficacy. This individual naturally regards the postmodern attitude with scorn, those who use magical language as untrustworthy charlatans, those who are socially but not mechanically efficacious as effeminate, and ritual cant with skepticism, if not open derision.

Those for whom words and ideas are generally much more than social utilities empty of substantive contents, but have serious practical implications, are also that much more likely to think the practical implications of politically-correct cant all the way through, and to ask certain critical questions: What would happen to society if polymorphous perversity became the rule? Why are all White people evil, or all straight men “misogynist”, because some of them are? Am I not in a certain existential danger for being a straight White male, now that all of us are collectively impugned? Meanwhile, none of this even occurs to the postmodern mindset- after all, the practical nuts-and-bolts of things are somebody else’s job to worry about.

Last but not least, the working-class guy is more likely, especially if from a geographical area in which industry/resource-extraction and/or agriculture is prevalent in the economy, and/or from a small community with relatively high social cohesion, to already have traditional values, regularly attend church, and so on, and so find the ultra-Leftist content of PC cant to be utterly odious and depraved from a moral point of view to begin with.

The potential for fairly serious social friction in all this is obvious.

That “potential for serious social friction” is an equally serious understatement; the potential is becoming actual all around us in these darkening times.

Go and read the whole thing, here. Then, if you like, we can discuss.

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Pussy, Ariot

This is where we’ve got to.

Rules For Radicals

Bil Vallicella comments here on the selectivity of Democrat outrage over Donald Trump’s hot-mike remarks. The gist:

The insight is that the Left uses our decency, which they don’t believe in, against us, mendaciously feigning moral outrage at what doesn’t outrage them at all. (Cf. Saul Alinsky’s RULE 4: “Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.”)

Be sure to read the other items linked to in the post — in particular this piece by Heather Mac Donald.

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Round Two

Tonight we have the second debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Before watching you might like to read Diplomad’s thoughts, which are generally the same as my own.

In response to anyone who is on the fainting couch over the latest peek into Donald Trump’s character, and can’t imagine how anyone could vote for such a man (and this includes some of my own friends and family), I will paraphrase my own comments, from an earlier thread:

There is not a single person (that I’m aware of, anyway) voting for Donald Trump who doesn’t already know that he is a deeply unattractive candidate. I’m not here to defend Donald Trump against the many valid criticisms that can be raised against him. He is in many ways a grotesque and unsophisticated man. He’s a vain and preening popinjay, an unlettered boor of low tastes, and far too prone to bullying and childish insults. We can now add juvenile sexual bluster to that list of shortcomings.

Sadly, however, either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton will be our next president. That’s it; it’s that simple. It’s a horrible choice to have to make, but to me, and to million of other Americans, the decision is painfully clear. No tasteless remarks the press may dig up between now and November will change it; the ickiness of Donald Trump is already fully “baked in”.

I, and millions of others, believe that for all of Donald Trump’s obvious faults, the focused and ruthless malevolence of the Clintons is by any measure worse — by orders of magnitude — and that a Hillary Clinton presidency would be a catastrophe from which the traditional American nation, already gravely wounded, would never recover. That woman must never be president. She and her husband must never again wield the levers of political power in this nation.

If you are like many people I know in my deep-blue circle of friends and neighbors, you don’t agree with any of this, and the chance of persuading you otherwise is nil. We have, then, an intractable difference of opinion, and any conversation we might have about it will be completely unproductive.

All I can say at this point is: these are parlous times. You vote as your conscience demands, and I will do the same.


Post-debate note: Trump was strong, and punched hard. It was what he needed to do. He owned his lewd remarks. He rightly pointed out that the Clintons have no claim whatsoever to the moral high ground when it comes to treatment of women. The hot-mike tape will now recede into the distance. He also put the income-tax issue behind him with brusque effectiveness, and was cheered by the audience for saying that Hillary Clinton belongs in jail. (Which she does.)

This isn’t over yet.

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From this morning’s NightWatch:

Russia-US-Syria: Russian relations with the US over Syria continue to worsen.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said on 6 October, “Let me remind the so-called US strategists that the air cover for the Russian military bases in Hmeimim and Tartus is provided by S-400 and S-300 surface-to-air missile systems, whose range may come as a surprise to any unidentified flying objects.”

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova accused the West of protecting the al-Nusra Front. She said at a briefing, “So far we see in the actions of Western countries, first of all, not a concern about the humanitarian situation in Syria but a desire to protect Al-Nusra fighters and the forces and groups of fighters affiliated to them. To be even franker, not just to protect them but directly get them away from harm’s way.”

Comment: The statement by General Konashenkov apparently is a pre-emptive response to press reports that the US is considering approving air attacks against Syrian government forces. His response is a dare. The message is that the Russians will shoot first at long distance.

We are playing a very dangerous game here. There is no realistic path that ends in ousting Assad that does not pass through direct combat with Russia. Moreover, even the goal is a foolish one. What do we imagine would take his place?

I must also note the shameful hypocrisy of weeping for Syria’s people (and using it as a pretext for importing millions of them to the West) while having done everything possible to maintain a rough balance of power in this civil war, thereby prolonging it for years — during which time that miserable nation, and the innocent lives of millions of its people, have been blasted to rubble. Had we not stepped in to “help”, the thing would have been over in weeks or months, cities and antiquities now completely destroyed would still be standing, and the chaos of tribalism and jihad would not have had this vacuum to occupy. Whatever you may say about Bashar Assad, it should be obvious to even the most causal observer that life under his rule was better for most people — incomparably so — than life in Syria now. His regime may have been an affliction, but our efforts to cure it have killed the patient. Chaos is death.

A more enlightened worldview would see Russia — a great Christian nation, and one that has made priceless contributions to the treasure-store of Western civilization — as a natural ally in these perilous times. We have much in common, including ancient, existential enemies who gloat to see us fighting with with each other rather than uniting against them. Yet our stance toward Russia has been relentlessly bellicose, with our support of the Ukrainian revolution, and our actions in Syria, being only the most obvious examples.

One might imagine that, standing as we do upon the crumbling lip of a very dark abyss, and with such enlightened statesmen in charge, we would now move cautiously. One would be mistaken.

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Got Me!

Just now I put up a post linking to a Washington Post article about simulated violence in football.

“Not parody”, I said, and mocked its author.

I’ve changed my mind, and taken down the post. The article is parody — well done, and richly deserved.

A good example of Poe’s Law, either way.

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It’s Turtles All The Way Down

In yesterday’s post, I wrote:

It’s foolish to romanticize the past, to yearn for a Golden Age that in many ways was never so golden at all, and anyway can never return. But it is equally foolish — indeed, far more so — to revile and reject and discard it all, to imagine that in the world’s long history, the present, radically disruptive era is the first and only flowering of understanding and moral truth. This juvenile and hubristic presentism, this temporal solipsism, it seems to me, is obviously and utterly false, yet it is now hegemonic in our cultural institutions.

I posed this question as the most important of all for serious reactionaries:

How do we harmonize the wisdom of the past with the unprecedented human context of the present, and of the accelerating and onrushing future? What do we keep, what do we discard, and what must we create?

A day later, over the transom came a link to a new item from Thomas Barghest, over at Social Matter. In a long walk backward through time, he finds evidence of prior decay in every era of history (and I mean every era). It’s as if the history of life on Earth were a narrative version of the famous (and unspeakably gloomy) Shepard Tone.

Mr. Barghest’s conclusion:

The poor history above, far from being ‘more rigorously’ reactionary, is a parody of progressives’ frequent inability to recognize that reaction is not simply a belief in contemporary degeneration and a hatred of everything too new.

Reactionaries must be, rather, good judges of both past and present: we know that most mutations are deleterious and that innovation is not an unalloyed good, but also that mutation is the engine of evolution and that even our oldest, fondest traditions were once innovations far back in forgotten time.

As I’ve written before, reaction is also not a celebration of stasis; reactionary order is organic harmony, adaptation, and civilization. Stasis is in conflict with the God or Nature of the world and therefore disordered, just as surely as pessimism is. So we do not long for fixed, historical, perfect Golden Age societies, only aspirational, mythical ones or ones that we’re willing to acknowledge had foundations destined to crumble. If we model the myths after our ancestors—well, we remember how to love what is best in our fathers without denying their faults.

In the meantime, we have no illusions that history is either endless progress, endless decay, or an endless cycle. It is not just a long rise followed by a recent fall. And God forbid we satisfy ourselves, instead, with a sophomoric spiral! The histories of civilizations and institutions show progress, decay, stagnation, and cycles, but also branching, collision, annihilation, hybridization, and much more. There are more dimensions, edges, and twists to history than there are grains of sand on the beaches of Normandy, Hispaniola, and Lake Kinneret.

We study history, we learn from it, we judge the good and bad. And when there is degeneration, we condemn it, but when there is glory, we praise that also.

Amen. Read the whole thing here.

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Service Notice

Late this morning our previous post attracted a sudden flurry of distasteful comments. I don’t usually moderate comments — life is too short — so I’ve just removed all comments from that post and shut it down.

I’ve generally been very fortunate in this regard. I flirt with serious heresy here sometimes, and so far I haven’t attracted a plague of trolls. Unlike most people who blog about the things I do, I write under my own name, and although I’ve reached a point in my life where I am not as vulnerable to the most serious consequences of crimethink, I nevertheless have friends and acquaintances who read this blog from time to time, and I have a family (and yes, a personal reputation) to think of. It’s one thing to examine uncomfortable questions, or to push back against propaganda and falsehood; it is quite another to revel in viciousness and needless provocation. Given how electrified these topics are today, and how fraught with terrible history and the darkest of human emotions, it is no sign of timidity to handle them with care and clarity. It is also important to remember always that even when considering the grimmest and most unfortunate realities of human nature and human affairs, the subject, ultimately, concerns human beings — real people, who live and breathe and love and hope and suffer and bleed, just as you and I do. If we lose sight of that in all of this, then we become, in a vitally important moral sense, less human ourselves.

My aim in thinking and writing on these topics is focused only on a better understanding of a few critical questions:

What best fosters and encourages human flourishing?

Why have things seemed to have gone so astray in the modern world, despite obvious advances in material well-being?

What truths of our nature do we deny at our peril?

It’s foolish to romanticize the past, to yearn for a Golden Age that in many ways was never so golden at all, and anyway can never return. But it is equally foolish — indeed, far more so — to revile and reject and discard it all, to imagine that in the world’s long history, the present, radically disruptive era is the first and only flowering of understanding and moral truth. This juvenile and hubristic presentism, this temporal solipsism, it seems to me, is obviously and utterly false, yet it is now hegemonic in our cultural institutions. To me, then, the most clamant question of our time is:

How do we harmonize the wisdom of the past with the unprecedented human context of the present, and of the accelerating and onrushing future? What do we keep, what do we discard, and what must we create?

It’s very easy, especially as we watch our society coming apart both here and abroad, just to choose up sides and focus on the fray. Certainly that’s what we see all around us; it’s just human nature. As Mencken said: “Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.”

I feel that temptation very strongly, and yes, I yield to it sometimes. I’m a fighting man — and the stakes are high, and the crisis very nearly upon us. My own language here is often barely temperate. But it is also essential that some of us, while we still can, be not only warriors, but philosophers; that we seek not blood, but wisdom. When the tempest is upon us, it will be too late.

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P. P. P.

When the Rachel Dolezal story popped up in June of 2015 (if you’re fortunate enough to have forgotten this one, she was a “black” activist who turned out, embarrassingly, not to be black at all), I wrote a little post about real versus fictional privilege. An excerpt:

Once upon a time, people of mixed race did everything they could to “pass” as white. No longer. The mulatto Barack Obama ostentatiously identifies himself as black, while pallid Elizabeth Warren listed herself in the legal and academic community as a “Native American”.

Another sign of this inversion of privilege is that membership in groups considering themselves ‘oppressed’ is as tightly restricted as an exclusive country-club, and for the same reasons. No sooner had the news about Ms. Dolezal came out than she was denounced as a scurrilous pretender to victimhood. But people only defend what has value. In a right-side-up world, no sane person would ever bother fighting to keep others from seeking low status — but they will do whatever it takes to wall off their privileges against unqualified pretenders.

To sum all this up, I offered Pollack’s Principle of Privilege:

To learn where true privilege lies, simply see how people choose to identify themselves.

Now we learn that the Obama administration has proposed giving a newly favored (and rapidly increasing) demographic bloc with a handy way to avoid the increasingly repugnant stain of Whiteness: a new racial category — called MENA — just for people of Middle Eastern and North African extraction.

Steve Sailer comments here.

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Alt-Right, or Wrong?

There’s a lively discussion on the “alt-right” underway over at The Maverick Philosopher, if you’d like to have a look.


Given the, shall we say, somewhat imperfect blessing that mass Muslim settlement in the West has turned out to be, there’s been some ruction in certain “deplorable” quarters over the President’s unilateral action to admit unvettable Middle Eastern individuals to the U.S. in large and increasing numbers. “On what authority?“, some folks wonder.

Well, with a hat-tip to the blogger known as “Porter“, I can answer the question for you: on the authority of Section 207(a)(2) of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952 [8 U.S.C. 1157], which says (my emphasis):

Except as provided in subsection (b), the number of refugees who may be admitted under this section in any fiscal year after fiscal year 1982 shall be such number as the President determines, before the beginning of the fiscal year and after appropriate consultation, is justified by humanitarian concerns or is otherwise in the national interest.

For broader context, see our previous post.

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After The Republic

It’s September, and the lovely fall weather is here. Feeling refreshed and optimistic? Well, snap out of it. Need some help with that? This jeremiad, by the distinguished scholar Angelo Codevilla, ought to do the trick.

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And The Ball Comes Loose!

If you are able to achieve the detachment necessary to view politics as a spectator sport (no easy trick, when the existential stakes are so high), then one of its most entertaining features, for those of us up here in the cheap seats, is what has come to be called “narrative collapse”. It affects the Left with gratifying regularity, and would be the political equivalent of a fumble or a pass-interception, save for the fact that it never seems to cost them any points. (This is largely due to who reports the sporting news.)

If you are a savvy fan, you can see it coming nearly every time. Take, for example, the recent shooting of a Mr. Scott, in Charlotte, North Carolina. Early reports were that he was unarmed — better yet, that he was holding a book. The assumption was that his shooting was yet another example of endemic racism, and on the strength of this “narrative”, the lovely city of Charlotte suffered days of rioting. White people (including news reporters) were beaten, stores were looted, property destroyed. There were injuries and at least one death. The usual people made, for the usual audience, the usual denouncements of white America.

It was all just too good to be true, of course. Mr. Scott, it turns out, had been shot by a black police officer, not a white one, and he had been carrying not a book, but a gun.

“Narrative collapse”. Expect to hear a lot less about the events in Charlotte going forward. (You’ll still hear plenty about evil racism, of course — so as usual, the turnover won’t affect the score.)

So here’s another one. Did you watch the Presidential debate the other day? If so, you may recall Mrs. Clinton castigating Donald Trump for remarking unkindly upon the character of one Alicia Machado, a Venezuelan muchacha who had won a beauty pageant he’d been in charge of. Mr. Trump, it seems, had complained that after her victory, la belleza had quickly become una balena, which was bad for business. Mrs. Clinton scored a point at the debate by announcing that not only had the injured and virtuous Ms. Machado decided to enrich all of our lives by becoming a citizen of the United States, but that she would also be voting for Mrs. Clinton. Zing!

Alas, the toothsome Ms. Machado has quickly become more of a liability than an asset for Mrs. Clinton, it seems, as there is more to her “narrative” than the former First Lady might have realized. The blogger “Libertybelle” has the skinny.

Maybe we’ll pick up some yardage on this one. Probably not. Now where’s that hot-dog guy?

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Rise And Fall

Here’s a fine animation showing the expansions and contractions of religions and empires over the past two thousand years.

Our Wonderful Future

I actually watched the debate tonight (my plans for a far more enjoyable evening, which included a body-cavity search by the TSA and stepping on a nail, having fallen through at the last moment).

I’d give it to the team of Lester Holt and Hillary Clinton. They worked well together, and Mr. Trump was on defense most of the evening. He was good on some topics, rambling and unfocused on many others, and woefully bad at pressing Mrs. Clinton when the opportunity arose. How, for example, could he listen to her lecture us about cybersecurity without hammering on her own willful and utterly unforgivable laxity? How could he let her take him to task as beholden to questionable influences without bringing up the Clintons’ obscene pay-for-play empire? How could he let her paint him as an abuser of women without mentioning her casual destruction of so many women in the defense of sexual predators, including the Rapist-In-Chief? These are not difficult targets, and would have inflicted richly deserved pain. What gives?

To the credit of her medical team, Mrs. Clinton remained upright and conscious throughout; her eyes generally pointed in the same direction, and she did not cough up an alveolus. (It’s a low bar, yes, but she sailed over it.)

Nobody should underestimate her. She is, after all, a Clinton: a tough, smart, experienced and utterly ruthless politician, deeply accustomed to power. Her eyes glitter at the nearness of the ultimate prize. Behind her are an enormous political, business, and media machine, an ocean of money, and the support, though often tepid, of many millions of Americans (including many of my friends and family). She will not go gently into that good night.

Anyway, what a pleasure to watch two such inspiring candidates cross hands in thoughtful debate! Can’t wait to see how the next few years are going to go.

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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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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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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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