Here We Go

“I find your lack of faith disturbing.”

Call It Caitlyn

Ladies and gentlemen, we present the most numerous vertebrate on Earth: the bristlemouth.

What Is It Like To Be A Bat?

From a corporate presentation I’m watching just now, in order to earn my daily crust:

“We need to create an ideation methodology across various stakeholder groups and provide full-circle communication.”

Killing Them Softly

The Supreme Court ruled today on a case about the constitutionality of lethal injection. From the Washington Post:

The Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 on Monday to uphold a procedure used by states to carry out executions by lethal injection.

The justices were considering a challenge brought by death-row inmates in Oklahoma, who allege that the use of a sedative called midazolam has resulted in troubling executions that violate the Constitution’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. Problematic executions in Oklahoma and elsewhere have captured national headlines since early last year.

As I argued last year, this is a problem of cowardice, not medical technology. What a prissy little nation we’ve become.

Two Down

There’s a pair of sad items in the news today: obituaries for Chris Squire and Walter Browne.

Chris Squire you probably knew. He was the bass player for the rock group Yes, and was the only person to have played on every one of its albums. I was, and am, a huge fan of the band’s “main sequence” period: the albums from The Yes Album (1971) through Relayer (1974). (The group’s 1972 record Close to the Edge is, I think, one of the greatest rock albums ever recorded.) Mr. Squire’s innovative style, and unmistakable sound, influenced generations of bassists. I’m very, very sorry to hear of his death from leukemia at 67.

The other obituary was for someone you’ve probably never heard of, but who was, in certain circles, something of a “rock star” in his own right: chess grandmaster Walter Browne. He was a brilliant player, and was a fixture at the chess tournaments I used to play in at the McAlpin Hotel back in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. There was always a crowd around his board, and when the weekend’s rounds were over, it was, more often than not, Mr. Browne who walked off with top honors. You can read about him here.

Off Topic

OK, for a change of pace, here’s a tribute to Ringo from Vinnie Zummo, a guitarist I used to work with. Very Beatle-y indeed.

Two Chief Justices In One!

Another day, another fundamental reordering of American society by the Supreme Court — this time, as expected, by just one man. The decision is just out, and I haven’t had time to read it yet. I did see this, though, from Chief Justice John Roberts:

Under the Constitution, judges have power to say what the law is, not what it should be.

What a difference a day makes.

More On King v. Burwell

Here’s a really excellent piece by Yuval Levin on today’s ruling, and its consequences for the rule of law.

In the majority ruling, Chief Justice Roberts justified his renunciation of textualism thus:

Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health-insurance markets, not to destroy them. If at all possible, we must interpret the Act in a way that is consistent with the former, and avoids the latter.

This is an enthymeme, however — a chain of reasoning with a hidden and implicit premise. In this case the missing premise is that to interpret the statute as Mr Roberts wishes it to be, in contrast to the clear text of the law as written, will in fact improve health-insurance markets. But opponents of the Affordable Care Act, on the other hand, disagree with this: they believe that the law, as modified by the Court (or, for that matter, unmodified), will harm, not improve, health-insurance markets.

Resolving such debates, and writing laws that embody their resolution, is the role of legislatures, as the elected (and thereby accountable, at least in principle) representatives of the people — not the Court. This decision, therefore, is an audacious usurpation, by the judiciary, of the Constitutional authority of Congress.

The Web Of Obligations

Beautiful piece here on the memory of the Civil War.

Shall we, like the Taliban, destroy our statues with dynamite because they offend a prevailing dogma? Shall we disinter the bones of our ancestors like the radical Jacobins of the French Revolution did, scattering their unearthed remains to the winds – first to be reviled, then ever to be forgotten?

Read the whole thing here.

SCOTUSCare

Well, the Supreme Court issued its ruling on King v. Burwell today. By now you know the result. What can I say that hasn’t already been said?

As usual, Antonin Scalia stood on the burning deck. Some excerpts from his dissent:

This case requires us to decide whether someone who buys insurance on an Exchange established by the Secretary gets tax credits. You would think the answer would be obvious—so obvious there would hardly be a need for the Supreme Court to hear a case about it. In order to receive any money under §36B, an individual must enroll in an insurance plan through an “Exchange established by the State.” The Secretary of Health and Human Services is not a State. So an Exchange established by the Secretary is not an Exchange established by the State—which means people who buy health insurance through such an Exchange get no money under §36B.

Words no longer have meaning if an Exchange that is not established by a State is “established by the State.” It is hard to come up with a clearer way to limit tax credits to state Exchanges than to use the words “established by the State.” And it is hard to come up with a reason to include the words “by the State” other than the purpose of limiting credits to state Exchanges. “[T]he plain, obvious,and rational meaning of a statute is always to be preferred to any curious, narrow, hidden sense that nothing but the exigency of a hard case and the ingenuity and study of an acute and powerful intellect would discover.” Lynch v. Alworth-Stephens Co., 267 U. S. 364, 370 (1925) (internal quotation marks omitted). Under all the usual rules of interpretation, in short, the Government should lose this case. But normal rules of interpretation seem always to yield to the overriding principle of the present Court: The Affordable Care Act must be saved. …

It is not our place to judge the quality of the care and deliberation that went into this or any other law. A law enacted by voice vote with no deliberation whatever is fully as binding upon us as one enacted after years of study, months of committee hearings, and weeks of debate. Much less is it our place to make everything come out right when Congress does not do its job properly. It is up to Congress to design its laws with care, and it is up to the people to hold them to account if they fail to carry out that responsibility.

Rather than rewriting the law under the pretense of interpreting it, the Court should have left it to Congress to decide what to do about the Act’s limitation of tax credits to state Exchanges. If Congress values above everything else the Act’s applicability across the country, it could make tax credits available in every Exchange. If it prizes state involvement in the Act’s implementation, it could continue to limit tax credits to state Exchanges while taking other steps to mitigate the economic consequences predicted by the Court. If Congress wants to accommodate both goals, it could make tax credits available everywhere while offering new incentives for States to set up their own Exchanges. And if Congress thinks that the present design of the Act works well enough, it could do nothing. Congress could also do something else altogether, entirely abandoning the structure of the Affordable Care Act. The Court’s insistence on making a choice that should be made by Congress both aggrandizes judicial power and encourages congressional lassitude.

A dark day, with more to come.

Around The Horn

Bill Vallicella has opened comments on that post I mentioned a few days ago, if you’d like to add any thoughts of your own. Meanwhile, Kevin Kim has put up his own response to William Cawthon’s essay about the South, here.

Carthago Delenda Est

In the wake of the Charleston shootings, there has been a new chorus of calls for the obliteration of symbols of the historic South.

For balance, here is an essay, by William Cawthon of the Abbeville Institute, about the crushing of Southern identity by the hegemonic ideology of the Protestant North over the past half-century.

If one were looking for a succinct theoretical model by which to interpret all of U.S. and Western history since the founding of the Puritan settlements of the seventeenth century, an excellent candidate would be “Massachusetts conquered the world”.

Is The Enlightenment To Blame?

Bill Vallicella, the Maverick Philosopher, replies to a question of mine, here. It’s a good and thoughtful response. When time permits (which it doesn’t at the moment), I’ll have some thoughts of my own to add. Bill has told me he will open the comment-box for that post (a rare move for him these days), so maybe I will do so over there.

The Peter Principle

A timely passage:

[P]olitics and the pulpit are terms that have little agreement. No sound ought to be heard in the church but the healing voice of Christian charity. The cause of civil liberty and civil government gains as little as that of religion by this confusion of duties. Those who quit their proper character to assume what does not belong to them are, for the greater part, ignorant both of the character they leave and of the character they assume. Wholly unacquainted with the world, in which they are so fond of meddling, and inexperienced in all its affairs, on which they pronounce with so much confidence, they have nothing of politics but the passions they excite. Surely the church is a place where one day’s truce ought to be allowed to the dissensions and animosities of mankind.

– Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution In France, 1790

This Is The Future You Chose

We’ve been hearing a lot, lately, about Rachel Dolezal, Bruce Jenner, and other stories of historic magnitude, but awfully little about China’s “hack” of the Office of Personnel Management’s records — which, in this Information Age, is roughly on a par with Pearl Harbor.

Why put “hack” in scarequotes? Because — wait for it — we gave root access to programmers in China.

More here.

You’ve Got To Feel It In Your Bones

Here’s an interesting find: a correlative connection between arthritis and solar cycles.

I Can’t Do That, Dave

There’s an item in the Independent today announcing that “Self-driving cars may have to be programmed to kill you“.

As is so often the case, dear Readers, you heard it here first.

When The Student Is Ready, The Teacher Will Appear

Over at National Review, Kevin D. Williamson offers an astringent assessment of Donald Trump’s candidacy.

Read it here.

This Is Your Civilization On Acid

In a post from January called Degeneracy Pressure, I remarked on the similarities between a collapsing star and a collapsing civilization. In both cases the differentiated parts of the system that once created stabilizing and uplifting forces have been transformed, by an irresistible alchemy, into a homogeneous, inert mass that exerts a crushing gravitational pressure. One by one, as catastrophic thresholds are crossed, the structural members of the system fail and give way, until at last nothing remains to give it form — and the star, or the civilization, winks out of existence.

Of course the analogy is not perfect. A star is a simple thing, really, and the course of its collapse is, in general terms, entirely determined by its mass and a few physical laws. A civilization is not so simple, but its collapse does, nevertheless, proceed in what we might call a ‘lawful’ way, and we can identify some of the principles at work.

For example:

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

To connect this to our stellar-collapse analogy, we could say that the mass of accumulated culture becomes too great for a shrinking structure to bear. But unlike the physical structure of a star, the scaffolding of civilization can fail not only by quantitative, numerical attrition of its load-bearing members, as described in the quoted passage, but also by their qualitative degeneration and decay.

Given that what gives a culture its form is essentially ‘memetic’ — an aggregation of ideas, lore, mythos, history, music, religion, duties, obligations, affinities, and aversions shared by a common people — an advanced civilization is subject to corrosion and decomposition by ideas. And the most corrosive of all such reagents in the modern world is one that our own culture bequeathed to itself in the Enlightenment: the elevation of skepsis to our highest intellectual principle.

Radical doubt, as it turns out, is a “universal acid”; given enough time, there is no container that can hold it. Once doubt is in control, there is no premise, no tradition, nor even any God that it cannot dissolve. Once it has burned its way through theism, telos, and the intrinsic holiness of the sacred, leaving behind a only a dessicated naturalism, its action on the foundations of culture accelerates briskly, as there is little left to resist it.

Because it is in the nature of doubt to dissolve axioms, the consequence of the Enlightenment is that all of a civilization’s theorems ultimately become unprovable. This is happening before our eyes. The result is chaos, and collapse.

Our reader and commenter Dom, in our most recent Open Thread, has linked to an article that illustrates this process.

Open Thread 6

Questions, comments, or whatever you’d like. The floor is yours.

Through The Looking-Glass

Here’s a story that’s making a stir today: apparently one Rachel Dolezal, the leader of the Spokane, Washington chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, is a white woman who has been passing herself off as black.

It’s been said* that “to learn who rules over you, simply find out whom you are not allowed to criticize.” I now offer you Pollack’s Principle of Privilege:

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

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

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

As I wrote in a similar context last fall:

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

In the end, of course, real power wins. When the ‘external OS’ that supports this platform stops running, natural inequalities will assert themselves, as they always do. And I think it’s safe to say, if I may extend the technical metaphor, that the machine is already ‘running hot’.

* Update, June 16th: commenter ‘Gerry’ has informed us that the quote about learning who rules over you, which I had originally attributed to Voltaire in this post, was not written by Voltaire at all, but by a neo-Nazi named Kevin Alfred Strom. I stand corrected.

Two From Hoffer

I’ve often mentioned and quoted the longshoreman philosopher Eric Hoffer. Here are a couple of passages from his book Reflections on the Human Condition, which was published in 1973:

The untalented are more at ease in a society that gives them valid alibis for not achieving than in one where opportunities are abundant. In an affluent society, the alienated who clamor for power are largely untalented people who cannot make use of the unprecedented opportunities for self-realization, and cannot escape the confrontation with an ineffectual self.

Even more timely, if that’s possible:

If a society is to preserve its stability and a degree of continuity, it must know how to keep its adolescents from imposing their tastes, attitudes, values, and fantasies on everyday life. At present, most nations are threatened more by their juveniles within than by enemies without.

Seldon Smiles

It appears that Curtis Yarvin, a.k.a. Mencius Moldbug, has been banned from speaking at a major tech conference because of his political opinions.

For those of you who don’t know the name: for several years beginning in 2007 ‘Mencius Moldbug’ wrote, at his blog Unqualified Reservations, a series of essays articulating a new, reactionary synthesis of traditional ideas as a way of understanding the problems of modernity. These essays have been enormously influential in the intellectual circles now known as ‘neoreaction’ or the ‘Dark Enlightenment’. (Perhaps the best introductions to the Moldbug oeuvre are the series of posts gathered here and here. Do have a look.)

I”m sure nobody was less surprised than Mr. Yarvin himself: his excommunication is, as blogger Dante D’Andrea argues here, exactly what neoreaction itself would predict.

Man Of The People

Here is the French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius:

M. Fabius seeks an international arrangement to impose strictures upon the sovereign nations of the world in an attempt to control the Earth’s climate. (That such an arrangement will also transfer aspects of that sovereignty to gentlemen such as himself and his professional colleagues is, I believe, what is called a “lagniappe”.)

Were we to ask him, I am sure that Monsieur Fabius would speak with approval about the spread of modern liberal democracy. I’m sure that he would agree, as would all educated and bien-pensant Westerners, that it has been a great blessing to the modern world, and that for any member of our enlightened community of nations to take up any other form of government would be a retreat into darkness.

I note with interest, however, this news item from a week or two ago:

FRENCH MINISTER: 2015 CLIMATE DEAL MUST AVOID US CONGRESS

I suspect that M. Fabius, along with the like-minded American President with whom he hopes to consummate his ambitions, attaches quite a different meaning to the word “democracy” than you or I might.

If, reader, you happen to be an American, by all means feel free to bristle a bit, if you like. Reflect also, perhaps, upon the stubbornness of hierarchy and inequality, and how they always find a way.

Flavor Implosion

I had no idea such a thing was even possible, but here it is:

Gird your cheeks. You’ve been warned.

Open Thread 5

Have at it.

Fourscore

My mother, who died in 2006, would have been 80 years old today. My remembrance of her is here.

Service Notice

Away for a couple of days. Will respond to comments as time permits.

There Lie They, And Here Lie We

Theodore Dalrymple:

Political correctness is communist propaganda writ small. In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, nor to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better. When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is to co-operate with evil, and in some small way to become evil oneself. One’s standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed. A society of emasculated liars is easy to control. I think if you examine political correctness, it has the same effect and is intended to.

h/t: @jokeocracy

Science Is Never Settled

From the indefatigable JK: a medical story that might be a pretty big deal.

Comic Relief

With a hat-tip to Bill V., here’s an amusing clip from Egypt.

I have no idea whether the subtitles are accurate, other than in the few spots I’m able to pick out a word or two. (Any Arabic speakers among you, readers?)

In The Gloaming

Sorry, readers, if the last two items seemed a bit glum, even for me. (I guess it’s kind of a Kübler-Ross thing.) I’ll try to cheer up a bit, and enjoy the decline. The autumn years are not without their comforts, for both a nation and a man.

No Exit

In our previous post we linked to Victor Davis Hanson’s gloomy column on the many symptoms of Western decline. Our e-pal David Duff also sent along a link to a similar essay entitled Like Cattle Before a Thunderstorm. Both of these pieces acknowledged a widespread sense of foreboding, but both also showed a curious paralysis, of the kind we experience in a nightmare:

Why is this? Why should a scholar and critic of Hanson’s erudition be unable to offer any prescription? Why is the American nation so inert in the face of onrushing calamity? The signs, after all, are there for all to see; in particular, what should attract everyone’s attention is the collapse of great urban centers such as Detroit and Baltimore. That major port cities in a nation of imperial power, in peacetime, should fail so utterly in a mere half-century is almost without historical precedent — while for such cities to collapse at all is, without any exception of which I am aware, a sign of impending general disintegration.

As I said in the previous post, I believe the answer is that it is increasingly clear, to more and more of us, that nothing can be done. It will be for future historians to say just when we crossed the “event horizon”: some may pick out the Wilson administration, while others may look at the Depression years, or the Sixties; others yet may move the Schwarzschild radius all the way out to 2012. (Some already look farther back, all the way to the beginning of the Enlightenment.) But it is plainer and plainer that it’s been crossed, and that all future timelines take us, at accelerating velocity, through the singularity. It may take years, or even a generation, to get there — but already the tidal forces have begun their irresistible work.

Don’t Worry. Despair.

Over at National Review, Victor Davis Hanson reads us a litany of national woes. He has chosen as a preface a too-familiar epigraph:

“Things fall apart; the center cannot hold; / Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.”
– W. B. Yeats, “The Second Coming”

The article begins:

Things are starting to collapse, abroad and at home. We all sense it, even as we bicker over who caused it and why.

Indeed they are, and indeed we do. (Why, you’d almost think Professor Hanson had been spending time in one of the Internet’s darker corners.)

Elsewhere, Heather Mac Donald comments on the sharp uptick in violent crimes in our nation’s urban centers, as a consequence of what has been called the “Ferguson Effect”:

Almost any police shooting of a black person, no matter how threatening the behavior that provoked the shooting, now provokes angry protests, like those that followed the death of Vonderrit Myers in St. Louis last October. The 18-year-old Myers, awaiting trial on gun and resisting-arrest charges, had fired three shots at an officer at close range. Arrests in black communities are even more fraught than usual, with hostile, jeering crowds pressing in on officers and spreading lies about the encounter.

Acquittals of police officers for the use of deadly force against black suspects are now automatically presented as a miscarriage of justice. Proposals aimed at producing more cop convictions abound, but New York state seems especially enthusiastic about the idea.

The state’s attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, wants to create a special state prosecutor dedicated solely to prosecuting cops who use lethal force. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo would appoint an independent monitor whenever a grand jury fails to indict an officer for homicide and there are “doubts” about the fairness of the proceeding (read: in every instance of a non-indictment); the governor could then turn over the case to a special prosecutor for a second grand jury proceeding.

This incessant drumbeat against the police has resulted in what St. Louis police chief Sam Dotson last November called the “Ferguson effect.” Cops are disengaging from discretionary enforcement activity and the “criminal element is feeling empowered,” Mr. Dotson reported. Arrests in St. Louis city and county by that point had dropped a third since the shooting of Michael Brown in August. Not surprisingly, homicides in the city surged 47% by early November and robberies in the county were up 82%.

(In my grimmer moments, which are not infrequent, I’d have to wonder whether the “Ferguson Effect” is in fact an unintended consequence. To chalk it up to mere stupidity and unwisdom on the part of our elected officials would be the more charitable assumption, but the case for doing so is not persuasive.)

Recently I was invited to join a monthly discussion-group for the “Dissident Right”; it’s a convivial dinner-and-drinks affair at an “undisclosed location” in New York. The guest lecturer last month was a prominent conservative intellectual, and the author of several books. He gave a very engaging talk, but with a dispiriting message: there is simply no effective right-wing political opposition in America anymore, and no “critical mass” from which one can be expected to arise. Even as the ostensibly “conservative” GOP holds the upper hand in both houses of Congress, the nation moves faster and faster to the Left. And as others have pointed out: even if they wanted to, the Congress and the Judiciary simply cannot respond rapidly enough to the actions of an aggressive Executive — Congress because of the democratic limitations of a large legislative body, and the difficulty of assembling filibuster- and veto-proof majorities, while the Judiciary can initiate nothing at all on its own. Moreover, we are in such a late stage of this “progressive” disease that we are long past the point where a presidential victory, even by an actual conservative, can make any long-term difference to the morbid prognosis.

Furthermore, we are in the late stages of a kind of decline that is inherent in democracy itself, in which a gradual expansion of the franchise, culminating in universal suffrage, leads inexorably to short-sighted governance, the consumption of future assets for present-day luxuries, and the general dissipation of a nation’s vigor. As Fitzjames Stephen wrote in 1874:

The substance of what I have to say to the disadvantage of the theory and practice of universal suffrage is that it tends to invert what I should have regarded as the true and natural relation between wisdom and folly. I think that wise and good men ought to rule those who are foolish and bad. To say that the sole function of the wise and good is to preach to their neighbors, and that everyone indiscriminately should be left to do what he likes, should be provided with a ratable share of the sovereign power in the shape of the vote, and that the result of this will be the direction of power by wisdom, seems to me the wildest romance that ever got posession of any considerable number of minds.

So, here we are, in a runaway train, with a foolish and angry mob at the controls. We have not the numbers to storm the engine. What to do? Neither Hanson nor Mac Donald offer any prescription.

The historically literate reactionary’s answer is: nothing. We can do nothing, other than to hope we survive the inevitable wreck, to learn from our mistakes, and perhaps to carry something forward.

Writing at Outside In, Nick Land explains (my emphasis):

Neoreaction, as it tends to extremity on its Dark Enlightenment vector, frustrates all familiar demands for activism. Even if explicit anti-politics remains a minority posture, the long-dominant demotic calculus of political possibility is consistently subverted — coring out the demographic constituencies from which ‘mobilization’ might be expected. There is no remotely coherent reactionary class, race, or creed … from which a tide-reversing mass politics could be constructed. In this respect, even the mildest versions of neoreactionary analysis are profoundly politically disillusioning.

Because of the reactionary’s emphasis on organic and traditional societies, the idea of any sort of reactionary activism based on revolutionary compulsion — an externally applied force that, history shows, generally assumes the form of terrorism — is a self-abnegating absurdity. Therefore, Mr. Land argues:

Demotist activism finds its rigorous neoreactionary ‘counterpart’ in fatalism … Rather than attempting to make something happen, fatality restores something that cannot be stopped.

There’s a word for what Mr. Land prescribes: horrorism.

It is thus that the approximate contours of the horrorist task emerge into focus. Rather than resisting the desperation of the progressive ideal by terrorizing its enemies, it directs itself to the culmination of progressive despair… It de-mobilizes, de-massifies, and de-democratizes, through subtle, singular, catalytic interventions, oriented to the realization of fate. The Cathedral has to be horrified into paralysis. The horrorist message (to its enemies): Nothing that you are doing can possibly work.

“What is to be done?” is not a neutral question. The agent it invokes already strains towards progress. This suffices to suggest a horrorist response: Nothing. Do nothing. Your progressive ‘praxis’ will come to nought in any case. Despair. Subside into horror. You can pretend to prevail in antagonism against ‘us’, but reality is your true — and fatal — enemy. We have no interest in shouting at you. We whisper, gently, in your ear: “despair”. (The horror.)

That’s enough for now, I think. Enjoy your weekend.

Open Thread 4

As always: a placeholder for for free association, idle chat, bibulous logorrhea, and confessions of the heart. (Or, perhaps, for the introduction of serious topics or questions.)

Hold Your Nose And Click

I think it’s safe to say that this The New Republic article — The White Protestant Roots of American Racism — is the worst piece of “journalism” you’re going to see all day. I was about to give it the severe beating it deserves — particularly with respect to Puritanism, Calvinist soteriology, and the central role of American Protestants in the abolitionist movement — but the comment-thread at the article itself has already done a pretty fair job, it seems.

TNR was once a respectable organ of the Left. No longer.

Charles Murray on the SAT

We hear a lot in the mainstream media about the correlation between family income and student achievement. The assumption is usually that it is the affluence itself that causes, by some unjust and remediable social mechanism, favorable outcomes for children of well-to-do families. But a more parsimonious explanation — one that will be obvious to denizens of this corner of the blogosphere — is that there is another factor that causes both the affluence and the achievement.

Charles Murray explains, here.

Gradually, Then Suddenly

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

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

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

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

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

What is the Right?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That “Science” Guy

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

Open Thread 3

Have at it, folks.

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

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

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

Move Along, Please

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

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

While I’m On The Subject

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

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

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

NFI

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

Kudzu

This from Judicial Watch, yesterday:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sauce For The Gander

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

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

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

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

Belated Birthday

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

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

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

Open Thread 3

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

Cathar-sis

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

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

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

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

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