Enlightened Statesmen Will Not Always Be At The Helm

Well, here’s a heartwarming item.

I may be wrong, but I am increasingly confident that Hillary Clinton will never be the President of these United States. She’s too old, too obviously incompetent, too ruthless, too unprincipled, too insincere, and she has too much baggage. Some combination of these things will bring her down, once the fur starts to fly. I hope.

But then again, there’s this.

Land Of The Free

President Obama has proposed that we make community college ‘free’. Leaving aside the obvious, inviolable, but apparently unmentionable truth that no public service is ‘free’ (and passing up as well the opportunity to razz the President for his cockamamie scheme, since ridiculed out of existence, to start taxing college-saving plans to help foot the bill), the question remains: is this something we even want?

Lots of people have been pointing out for a long time now a pernicious symptom of our social decline: the stigmatization of necessary, honest, trade-work and unskilled labor, and of those who do it. Instead we have promoted an absurd and destructive fantasy: that everyone is suited for, would benefit from, and is thus entitled to, higher education.

I call this ‘pernicious’ because it destroys the essential quality of an organic society: the fitting of all members of that society to roles that they may occupy naturally, productively, and in harmony with their individual aptitudes and affinities. The usurpation and disruption of this harmonious process flows from the chief feature of modern liberal pathology: the rejection of all innate human differences in service of a grotesquely artificial ideology of soulless (and insincere) egalitarianism and radical non-discrimination.

By falsely assuming that all people are interchangeable social particles, identical but for the effects of acculturation, the fact that a great many people — at least half — do poorly at academic work, and have no inclination for it, can only be understood as the result of “social injustice”. The remediation of this injustice thereby becomes a moral and political imperative, while public dedication to the Cause becomes a splendid mark of righteousness, both individual and collective.

This has at least two harmful effects. First, it diminishes respect for, and the dignity of, the necessary, non-academic work without which society would collapse in short order. Second, it forces people who might find real purpose and fulfillment in such work into situations where they are almost certain to fail. In this way it destroys both happiness and essential social infrastructure.

John Derbyshire and Megan McArdle have both written good articles about this recently (in fact it was Derb’s article that led me to Ms. McArdle’s).

From the McArdle essay:

If you graduated high school without mastering basic math and reading, and can’t complete the remedial courses offered by your community college, what are the odds that you are going to earn a valuable degree? Why are we so obsessed with pushing that group further into the higher education system, rather than asking if we aren’t putting too much emphasis on getting a degree?

Asking that question usually raises accusations of elitism, of dividing society into the worthy few and the many Morlocks who aren’t good enough for college. I would argue instead that what’s elitist is our current fixation on college. It starts from the supposition that being good at school is some sort of great personal virtue, so that any suggestion that many people aren’t good at school must mean that those people are not equal and valuable members of society. And that supposition is triple-distilled balderdash.

From Derb’s:

Great numbers of citizens, including many intelligent ones, have zero appetite for book-learning. The working-class kids I grew up among in England mostly could not wait to get out of school—to have a job, to earn money, to be independent. The raising of the school leaving age from 15 to 16 was greeted with groans of dismay by millions of youngsters. One lad who missed the bullet told sociologist Eva Bene, quoted in Kynaston’s Modernity Britain, that: “It is not fair; we left at 15, so the others should be able to.”

In today’s far more overeducated U.S.A. there are similar resentments. Three years ago I reviewed In the Basement of the Ivory Tower. The anonymous author had taught evening classes in creative writing at a community college. His students were working people who would much rather have spent their evenings some other way, but who needed a credential in creative writing to advance in their careers, or even to get a starter job.

They have no truck at all with books or any sort of intellectual commerce. They don’t go anywhere where there are books, not even the college library . . . They’re just trying to get to a place where they can make a buck. I find myself viewing the study of literature as one more indignity visited upon the proletariat, like too-frequent traffic stops and shoes with plastic uppers and payday loans.

For these citizens, college is book hell; and as I commented in my review:

The wretched souls being tormented in that hell belong to the most oppressed, persecuted, and disadvantaged segment of our population: the un-bookish. Somehow we have arrived in the 21st century with a ruling class so bereft of imagination they cannot conceive that anyone would wish to be less educated than themselves.

You can read Derb’s piece here, and McArdle’s here.

Adeste Fidelis

In a post written earlier this month, after a conversation about global warming with an intelligent and well-educated friend, I remarked on the similarity between secular environmentalism and religion:

I was struck once again by the clarity with which global-warmism reveals itself as a secular repurposing of the religious impulse — a deep and universal human yearning that, in the corroded cultural aftermath of the Enlightenment’s skeptical acid-bath, has lost a transcendent God as its referent, and now wants very badly something else to plug into.

The mythos, from Genesis to Redemption, has been transplanted almost entirely without alteration:

In the beginning, there was only God.

From God arose Man.

Before his Fall, Man lived simply, and in perfect harmony with God. It was a Paradise on Earth.

Then a disaster happened. Man acquired a new kind of Knowledge: knowledge that he did not need, but that conferred upon him enormous temptation. In his unwisdom, and against God’s wishes, Man succumbed. His new Knowledge gave him great power, but at a terrible cost: he had turned his back on God, and his Paradise was lost. In his exile, he would wield his ill-gained power in prideful suffering and woe.

But then came a Messenger, offering the possibility of Redemption: if Man were to renounce his awful Knowledge, and learn once again to surrender himself to the love of God, he would be forgiven, and could find his way back to Paradise. It would not be easy — it would require that he make terrible sacrifices, atone for his many sins, and give up his worldly comforts and much that he had come to love — but if his faith was strong, his Salvation could become a reality, and he could once again live in Paradise, in sweet communion with God.

In order to move from the old religion to the new one, we need only substitute “Nature” for “God” in the passages above. That the two conceptions are almost perfectly isomorphic, and that both are manifestations of the same underlying impulse, should be plainly evident. But perhaps one must be a heretic oneself to notice it.

Today we have a leaked memo from the EPA, written shortly after the change of administration in 2009. Here’s a revealing excerpt. [Note: The abbreviation ‘EJ’ means ‘environmental justice’. Apparently this tendentious expression, and the pious valor it surely inspires, are common enough within the EPA as to require no explanation.]

For many, environmental protection is about the caribou, polar bears, and sea otters. While our work certainly impacts all of these creatures, it obviously does not reflect our day-to-day work. It is important for us to change this perception, particularly among those who are critically impacted by EJ issues — but are otherwise ‘unchurched.’ (By unchurched, I mean they are not affiliated with a group or effort that would self-identify as EJ or environmentalist.)

‘Unchurched’. The thing speaks for itself.

Lies, Damned Lies, And Sound Effects

For some reason I find this story oddly dispiriting.

Plug

You may recall that my son Nick, a baseball analyst and former college pitcher, launched a wildly popular website last year called PitcherGIFs. In it he presented animated GIFs of every pitcher in the majors throwing every pitch they had, along with Nick’s insightful analysis. The site was taking off like wildfire, until a dispute with MLB shut him down.

Undaunted, Nick has come back with a brand-new site, specifically tailored to “fantasy-league” enthusiasts, in which he will once again be offering his expertise to baseball fans — including a new statistical tool he’s devised for ranking pitchers. He’s launched a Kickstarter for the new site, in order to raise the modest sum he needs to build out his infrastructure.

Have a look here — and if you can spare a small contribution, I’m sure Nick would be very grateful. If you have any friends who are baseball fans, please do let them know!

Rock And Roll, Houthi Coup

As you have no doubt heard, there has been a revolt in Yemen, where Shi’ite rebels known as the Houthis have seized control of the levers of power.

About Yemen, President Obama — who, when it comes to foreign policy and a whole lot more, has been described of late as “King Midas in reverse” — had this to say back in September:

This strategy of taking out terrorists who threaten us, while supporting partners on the front lines, is one that we have successfully pursued in Yemen and Somalia for years.

As always, up is down, black is white, etc. Meanwhile, this:

The collapse of the U.S.-backed government of Yemen on Thursday has left America’s counter-terrorism campaign “paralyzed”, two U.S. security officials said, dealing a major setback to Washington’s fight against al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), a potent wing of the militant network.

To be fair, Yemen is a hopeless basket case, and no imaginable foreign policy will produce anything resembling what we here in the West might think of as “success” (except in the sense, say, that one might “successfully” cauterize the stump of an amputated, gangrenous limb).

With a hat tip to John Derbyshire, here’s policy analyst David Archibald, writing in American Thinker last fall:

What is happening in Yemen is symptomatic of the whole Middle East-North Africa (MENA) region. The population was semi-starved until oil production began in the 1980s, when oil production began and wheat imports rose to feed a population doubling every 25 years. The situation now is that oil exports will cease in the next couple of years, the capital is being besieged by rebel groups and Islamists of various types, and groundwater is close to complete depletion because of kat production.

Saudi Arabia has been ponying up to keep the Yemeni population fed. But a day will arrive when the Saudis will be sick of that, or there will simply be no administration on the Yemeni side to handle the aid. The Saudis are still building a 1,100-mile-long fence to keep the Yemenis out. Completion of the border fence will give the Saudis more options on when to stop feeding the Yemenis. The fate of Yemen is to break up into its constituent tribes and for perhaps 90% of the population to starve. That is more than 20 million people and it is likely to happen in the next few years.

The death of the Saudi King Abdullah last week will probably affect this situation as well, and likely not for the better.

If you’ve been following the Houthi coup, you may be puzzled as to the restraint the rebels have shown since taking over. It all clicks into place, however, once you understand them properly as Iranian proxies, and understand the tactical care that must be taken in service of the broader Shi’ite strategy in the region. Writing at NightWatch, the indispensable John McCreary explains:

The Houthis control the capital, but have been careful to state that they have not taken over the government and will not comment on the situation until after parliament makes a decision. The Houthis consider Hadi the president of the country still.

Few news outlets have reported that one of the major Houthi grievances against the Hadi government is that the draft constitution would establish a federal state in Yemen. The leader of the movement, Abdulmalik al Houthi, insists on a unitary state because federalism promotes the creation and legitimization of regional fiefdoms.

Hadi’s draft constitution would have legitimated regional powerbases, including one or more Sunni states in the south, pro-Saudi tribal states in the east and the Houthis in the north. The political arrangement was rigged to favor the Sunnis under former president Salleh and under Hadi.

The Houthi leaders do not want to be seen as seizing power because that would lead to a Sunni uprising; deny them a share in oil revenues – the oil fields are in Sunni territory– and increase the risk of fragmentation of the state. It also would have large international consequences, especially involving relations with the US, Iran and Saudi Arabia.

All the elements of a government takeover are present in the situation (Group, Gripe, Guns, Plans, Wheels and Opportunity), but the Houthis seem to have a plan that does not require them to govern and deflects Sunni outrage for a while.

The followers of al-Houthi are Zaidis, a branch of Shiism. A Houthi government in Sana’a would represent the third pro-Iranian government in Arab countries. Establishment of another Shiite, pro-Iranian government in the Middle East would be incendiary in Yemen and in most Sunni Arab states.

It would be no surprise to learn that the Iranians counseled the Houthis against a government takeover. Iran stands to become the big winner from developments in Yemen, provided the Houthis can avoid civil war.

Read the rest of Mr. McCreary’s post for further insights into the Saudi succession.

Meta-Meat

Saw this on the supermarket shelf the other day:
 

 
We are now twice removed from reality — not just ersatz pepperoni, but ersatz pepperoni made, in turn, of ersatz turkey. (And to add a frisson of horror: that awful, missing ‘e’.)

But wait: is there such a thing as mock tofu? Nay, the mind recoils from such infinities; this way madness lies.

Degeneracy Pressure

I hope you will forgive me for a series of nested self-quotes in this post.

Back in November, I posted a little item in which I quoted this, from an even earlier post:

The universal acid of radical skepticism having nearly completed its work, all transcendent values have now been dissolved — and if all that once was sacred is now remembered at all, it is only to be mocked and scorned.

I continued:

Nietzsche saw this coming: “the total eclipse of all values” would be inevitable, he knew, once there was no longer anyone to say “thou shalt not”. To borrow another astronomical metaphor: when the fires that sustain a great and luminous star have burned themselves out at last, it collapses under its own dead mass and says goodbye to the universe.

The final stages of this process can move along pretty briskly.

The link in the quoted passage just above will take you to an article, written for New York magazine by one Alexa Tsoulis-Reay, about a man who has a loving sexual relationship with a horse.

Now we have for you another item from the same author, called What It’s Like to Date Your Dad.

Returning to our metaphor above: what prevents a neutron star from collapsing further is something called the Pauli Exclusion Principle, which says that no two particles (in this case, neutrons) can occupy the same quantum state. This has limits, though: simply put, as the neutrons get squeezed harder and harder, the range of energies that they must possess to maintain distinct states increases. (This is referred to as “degeneracy pressure”.) When the mass of the star exceeds 3.2 or so solar masses, however, the energy required to prevent complete collapse reaches relativistic limits, and in an instant the whole thing gives way — because there is simply nothing left that can keep the star from being crushed right out of existence. It becomes a black hole — a gateway to oblivion that draws in anything that approaches it, and from which no light or information can escape.

To put it another way: when you have sufficient mass all seeking the lowest possible state at the same time, eventually there is nothing that can resist.

I do love an apt metaphor, I have to say.

Mind The Flying Pigs

My God, I actually agree with Piers Morgan — on a matter involving guns, no less. His thoughts on American Sniper, here.

I think this might be a good time to visit Hell. Don’t forget your skates.

Yemen On The Brink

Here.

May Cooler Heads Prevail

You’d have had to have been trapped in a snowdrift somewhere not to have heard by now that NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) has announced that 2014 was the warmest year in the history of Planet Earth (likely the whole solar system, if you’re an MSNBC viewer, though I’ll confess I haven’t tuned in since the announcement to make sure). You’d have had to do a little digging, though, to have learnt that if that’s so, it’s only by a statistically insignificant two hundredths of a degree, and not according to the satellite data, or that the director of GISS, Gavin Schmidt, has allowed as how the certainty of that “warmest year” claim is only 38%, or that there has been no statistically significant warming trend for many years, or that every year we remain on the effectively flat plane of the warmish plateau we’ve been on for a long time now means greater and greater divergence from the predictions of the climate models we were assured spelled certain and imminent doom if we didn’t take immediate and drastic action.

As always, my aim here is to make sure that our readers — who are as inquisitive and intelligent a group of independent thinkers as you’ll find anywhere online or off — hear both sides of the story: not just the muezzin‘s call to worship, but also the ghostly voices of the damned. With that in mind, here’s Actual Peer-Reviewed Climate Scientist Who Doesn’t Work For An Oil Company Judith Curry, offering her thoughts on the Warmest Year Ever.

Battered-West Syndrome

Sorry to bang on, post after post, on the same topic, but the Paris attacks continue to reverberate.

Our e-pal and occasional commenter David Duff, with whom we see eye to eye about most things, has posted at his excellent blog an essay by one Qanta Ahmed, a self-described “opinion-maker” who is what Western multiculturalists wish all Muslims could be: calm, intelligent, attractive, atriculate, moderate, politically secular, and given to the view that Muslims of the other kind — the ones, that is, who have in recent decades made most of the civilized world begin privately to reflect upon how very, very much pleasanter a place this world would be if Islam didn’t exist at all — are “no true Scotsmen“.

This sort of thing is absolute catnip to bien-pensant universalists who are starting to feel, as Mort Sahl once put it, “like a Christian Scientist with a toothache” (or, perhaps, like the zoologist who realizes the tranquilizing dart is beginning to wear off before he’s finished trussing the rhinoceros). No doubt Dr. Ahmed’s item will be making the rounds, to show those of us who see in the expansion of Islam into the West a dire existential threat just what the moral high ground looks like.

(I have a feeling we’ll be hearing more from the winsome Qanta Ahmed. She seems to be getting her brand off the ground quite nicely, and no doubt she will find an eager audience. Muslims who denounce any aspect of Islam always get our attention: in the words of Dr. Johnson, “you are surprised to find it done at all”.)

To be sure, it’s nice to see Muslims speaking out in this way, and Dr. Ahmed does make some very good points, mostly about Western spinelessness. More power to her! May her sect prevail. As I remarked over at David’s blog, though, one could hardly blame the West for preferring that they settle it amongst themselves, in their own homelands, and get back to us when it’s all sorted out.

I must add: as laudable as Dr. Ahmed’s aims may be, there is no reason for any sensible person to suppose that her faction will prevail; it certainly isn’t a sure enough bet to gamble a civilization on. At this point such protestations begin to feel a bit like:

“Baby, baby, look at me: you know I love you, sugar, only you, and I just can’t live without you — I don’t know what gets into me sometimes — you just made me so doggone mad, that’s all — but I promise I’ll never, ever, ever hit you again. Now come over here and give me a kiss…”

Meanwhile, in an overwhelming projection of “soft power” guaranteed to strike fear into the hearts of our allies, Messrs. Obama and Kerry have responded to the latest outbreak of Islamist violence by sending wizened folksinger James Taylor to offer the battered French nation a little good-old-fashioned Sixties-style koombayah. Not exactly Operation Overlord, admittedly — but the old grey mare, she ain’t what she used to be. It’s going to have to do.

More On Our Top Story

Just a few links for tonight, from two thoughtful observers.

First, a couple of items from Bill Vallicella. The first is a meditation on the “No True Scotsman” fallacy; given how much rubbish we’ve been hearing about who is and isn’t a true Muslim lately, it is timely.

In the second item Bill, citing the philosopher of religion John Hick, examines the totalitarian nature of Islam, and its fusion of religious and political authority. He asks whether, in light of this, a case cannot be made that it is exempt from certain Constitutional protections.

Our other source tonight is John Derbyshire. Last week’s Radio Derb, which was devoted almost entirely to the Paris event and its reverberations, was especially good, and so I am going to send you off to read the transcript. (The first weekly Radio Derb podcast of every month is free, at Taki’s Magazine; the other recordings are available, for a very modest fee that is well worth the expense, here.)

Derb agrees, generally, with our commenter David Duff’s opinion that, however bad mass Muslim immigration has been for the West, it can’t be undone:

We’ve let this dreadful thing happen, and I can’t see the slightest possibility of it un-happening. The toothpaste is out of the tube. Or, as the Chinese say: The wood has been made into a boat. It can’t be unmade back into trees.

Having said so, though, he qualifies this gloomy opinion in various small ways. Go and read.

One thing I did notice: John D. and I enjoy serious metaphoric congruency on the question of what constitutes “hate speech”. Here’s me, the day before Derb’s podcast:

I find it wearying to see the world divided into a) those who welcome mass Muslim immigration to the West, and b) ‘Islamophobes’. Where once ‘tolerance’ meant acceptance without endorsement, it seems now that the range of possible orientations toward any group or cause whatsoever has been narrowed to only two: enthusiastic support, or ‘hate’. But one doesn’t have to ‘hate’ Muslims to prefer that they live in their own countries, under their rules and customs, while we live peacefully in our own. I don’t ‘hate’ antelopes, for example, but that doesn’t mean I want them in my house.

And here’s Mr. Derbyshire:

[I]t’s possible to believe that Islam is a fine, enriching, and noble religion in its homelands while not wanting it in my homelands. I don’t want koala bears in my living room, but I do not hate koala bears. I’m actually rather fond of them; but I like my living room the way it is.

Antelopes, koalas. I believe the acronym here is ‘GMTA’.

What Will We Do?

Much has been made, in recent days, of the fact that most Muslims are not terrorists. This is true: the percentage of the world’s Muslims who engage in the active slaughter of civilians is so small as to be a rounding error. But in an open and generally unarmed society, in which the default stance is trust in the ‘social contract’, they punch, as President Obama is fond of saying, above their weight.

Back in 2008 I wrote the following, about a creature that punches far above its weight:

About forty years ago I read a science-fiction book called Wasp. I remember it only dimly, but as I recall it was a corking good read, and the central metaphor of the book has stayed with me: that a small insect, buzzing around the inside of an automobile, can so distract the driver as to cause an accident. A tiny animal weighing less than a gram can cause the destruction of an enormously massive machine and the deaths of its vastly more powerful occupants.

The context was a link I had followed from our pal Mangan’s place, to a lecture about asymmetrical warfare. The speaker had this to say:

By the nature of its violence and drama, for terrorism is nothing more than an organized spectacle of violence, it is certain to stir emotions. Understanding the logic of terror, it is best to keep the attacks unpredictable, seemingly random. The first seed is sown by unbalancing the mind of the opposing commander. The terrorist act seems to warrant a strong response. In this case, strong replaces intelligent. To find this small group of radicals requires an oversized police force. The chain reaction effect is inevitably set in motion by the harsh reprisal. By entering their space with police or military presence, there are now more targets to hit, more waves of publicity to garner, making them seem larger, feeding their capacity to create the spectacle. Everything becomes imbalanced–society is polarized, disproportionate fear is stirred, more impatience and need for reprisals is manufactured. The desired avalanche is set off.

Returning to the present, it appears that the desired avalanche has indeed been set off once again. From today’s Times:

PARIS — Seeking to reassure a jittery and unsettled population after last week’s terrorist attacks, the French authorities said on Monday that thousands of police officers and soldiers would be deployed to protect Jewish schools and other “sensitive sites,” in one of the country’s biggest peacetime security operations.

The defense minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, said that 10,000 soldiers would be deployed by Tuesday evening, in what he called “the first mobilization on this scale on our territory.”

My friend Paul Sheehan, columnist for the Sydney Morning Herald, posted an excellent piece about this yesterday. We read:

Surveys have found that between 16 and 21 per cent of respondents in France hold positive views of Islamic State. Given that France has more than five million Muslims, the social catchment of sympathy for jihad is about one million people.

This explains why France has 751 special security zones, an endless sequence of violent incidents involving young Muslim men, anti-Semitic incidents have become routine and Muslims represent 60 per cent of the prison population. Two of the three jihad killers in Paris had served time in prison.

…Obviously, if 220 Australian Muslims are known to have engaged in jihad or supported jihad, it follows that 500,000 Muslims, or 99.95 per cent, have not.

Equally obvious, the diverse Muslim diaspora cannot be treated as a dangerous monolith, given that Muslims are the primary victims of oppression by Muslims and the overwhelming majority of Muslims either prefer the peaceful precepts of the Koran or are not highly religious.

But the calculus of terrorism relies on the leveraging of small numbers. It only took three jihadists to occupy 90,000 French police and military personnel, at enormous cost to the state, with enormous global publicity. That will have been duly noted by jihadists.

The late Lawrence Auster understood this very well indeed. (If you aren’t familiar with Mr. Auster’s work, he was best known in recent years for daily social and political commentary at his blog, View From The Right. Since his death in 2013, his website has been preserved and carefully archived; if you would like to read some of the sharpest traditional-conservative commentary and analysis of the first decade of the 21st century, you should spend some time over there. His magnum opus on the topic of immigration was the widely disseminated pamphlet The Path To National Suicide, which you can read here.)

I cited one of Larry’s posts in the comment thread of our own post on the Paris massacre, but it deserves to be quoted again here:

This is the unchangeable reality I pointed to in my 2004 article, “How to Defeat Jihad in America.” We will have terrorist attacks and threats of terrorists attacks and inconvenient and humiliating security measures and the disruption of ordinary activities FOREVER, as long as Muslims are in the West in any significant numbers. The Muslim terrorists are part and parcel of the Muslim community. According to a survey reported in the Scotsman, 24 percent of Muslims in Britain (I never describe them as “British Muslims”) believe the July 2005 London bombings were justified. Imagine that. Not only do these Muslims in Britain support terrorism against Britain, they’re not afraid to say so openly to a pollster! The unchangeable fact is that wherever there is a sizable Muslim community there will be a very large number of terror supporters and therefore—inevitably—actual terrorists as well.

This is our future, FOREVER, unless we stop Muslim immigration and initiate a steady out-migration of Muslims from the West until their remaining numbers are a small fraction of what they are now and there are no true believers among the ones that remain. Travelers from Muslim countries must be tightly restricted as well. Muslims must be essentially locked up inside the Muslim lands, with only carefully screened individuals allowed into the non-Muslim world.

The enemy are among us, in America, in Britain, in the West, and will remain so until we remove them from the West and indeed from the entire non-Muslim world. As extreme as this sounds, it is a no-brainer. There is no other solution. All other responses to this problem add up to meaningless hand-wringing. The hand-wringing will go on FOREVER, along with the terrorist attacks and the threat of terrorist attacks, until we take the ONLY STEPS that can actually and permanently end the threat.

How realistic is this? It depends on two things.

First, it depends on our ability to keep before us the fact that no matter how large the percentage of Muslims who are docile and well-assimilated members of Western society, there will always be a significant fraction who hew to Islam’s literalist, expansionist, and totalizing traditions, and who consider Mohammed himself the perfect example — the sacred holotype, as anointed by God Almighty — of not just a religious, but also a political leader. To paraphrase remarks I made in a comment thread back in 2010:

In the view of much of the Muslim world, and of a great many influential Muslim scholars, such “moderate”, “Westernized” Muslims are heretics and apostates.

The problem for the West, and for “moderate” Muslims living here, is that Islam has a perpetual, self-renewing wellspring of fundamentalism at its core. That there may always be some more liberal and secular Muslims at the fringes of the Ummah, and rifts within Islam itself over who is an apostate and who isn’t, is irrelevant.

What matters is that due to the unique nature and origins of Islam there has always been, and will always be, a powerful and persistent gravitational pull away from modernizing reforms, and toward fundamentalism — and this will always be a source of tension and conflict wherever there are large communities of Muslims living in the West.

We must not overlook the essential fact that to stress the importance of bringing the entire world under submission to Allah is not some sort of fringe viewpoint held only by “radical Islamists” but is in fact the overarching, central mission of Islam, explicitly stated again and again and again throughout the Koran. (Indeed, the majority of the Koran is dedicated not to the practice of the faith, but to how to deal with the kuffar.) An expansionist attitude regarding the Muslim faith isn’t “Islamism”: it’s just Islam.

As made clear above by both Auster and Sheehan, what matters are the absolute numbers, in any Western society, of Muslims who understand Islam in this way. If a mere 5% of Muslims are of this kind (and the number is almost certainly higher), a population of five million Muslims living in your country means that you have within your borders a quarter of a million potential recruits for jihad. We have just seen how disruptive the actions of one group of four or five can be; their actions threw all of France, and indeed much of the civilized world, into a paroxysm of horror. That large Muslim populations jeopardize the peace and security of any non-Muslim nation is, therefore, simply an inescapable arithmetic truth.

Second, it depends on an awakening of our crippled ability to discriminate: to understand that of all the world’s religions and political ideologies, Islam, for now at least, poses a unique threat (not least because it is both of those things at once). That it does present a unique threat, and therefore requires a unique response, should be, one would imagine, almost completely self-evident at this point in world history — but so deeply infected are the good people of the West with what I have called the “cultural immunodeficiency” mind-virus that nothing short of a terrible, existential shock will make this happen. As bad as recent events have been, we have not yet received such a shock, I think.

Coda

I realized today that I had been remiss in failing to note in these pages the death of the guitarist Jeff Golub, who succumbed on January 1st, at the age of 59, to a rare and incurable brain disease.

I worked with Jeff for many years. He was a charming and intelligent man, and an enormously talented and tasteful musician. I was always delighted to see him at the studio door; he played on no recording that he did not adorn. He will be greatly missed.

You Learn Something New Every Day

Well, some days, anyway. Today I heard for the first time about something called “Blaschko’s lines”. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about them:

Blaschko’s lines, also called the Lines of Blaschko, named after Alfred Blaschko, are lines of normal cell development in the skin. These lines are invisible under normal conditions. They become apparent when some diseases of the skin or mucosa manifest themselves according to these patterns. They follow a “V” shape over the back, “S” shaped whorls over the chest, and sides, and wavy shapes on the head.

The lines are believed to trace the migration of embryonic cells. The stripes are a type of genetic mosaicism. They do not correspond to nervous, muscular, or lymphatic systems. The lines can be observed in other animals such as cats and dogs.

German dermatologist Alfred Blaschko is credited for the first demonstration of these lines in 1901.

Here’s what they look like. (Warning: NSFW.)

QOTD

“There is a deep reassurance for the frustrated in witnessing the downfall of the fortunate and the disgrace of the righteous. They see in a general downfall an approach to the brotherhood of all. Chaos, like the grave, is a haven of equality. Their burning conviction that there must be a new life and a new order is fueled by the realization that the old will have to be razed to the ground before the new can be built. Their clamor for a millennium is shot through with a hatred for all that exists, and a craving for the end of the world.”

- Eric Hoffer, The True Believer, 1951

Charlie Hebdo

By now we have all heard the awful news from Paris. Time prevents me from commenting at length just now, but my feeling is that this will be as pivotal an event as 9/11 was, if not more so. This horrific attack is not only an assault on the prevailing social philosophy of the West, but it is also a consequence of it; and given that there has already been a great stirring among the native people of Europe in recent years, and particularly in recent months, it may be a historical watershed, and the beginning of the end of the political hegemony of radical universalism. Mass Islamic immigration into the nations of the West was the most destructive idea of the second half of the twentieth century, and this terrible shock may be what finally breaks the grip of the wasting memetic disease I have called ‘cultural immunodeficiency’.

There is a tremendous, and rising, sentiment among the common people of Europe against the plainly destructive effect of this disease, and resentment of the globalist ruling class who ensured its progress, and who have so effectively stifled dissent. Like a super-critical solution, such popular sentiment wants only a shock, a seed upon which to crystallize, to induce a ‘phase transition’ that can happen with tremendous rapidity. If history is any guide, I fear that this reversal, when it comes, may not be a gentle one.

I am tempted to say that “it didn’t have to be this way” — a little more common sense about human nature could have prevented it without much difficulty — but perhaps it is an unavoidable consequence of the moral and intellectual skepsis that began in Europe three hundred years ago, and of the great rhythms of history. It is also clear, I think, that a great deal of the blame for the radical universalism and cultural immunosuppression that has brought Europe to this point can be laid upon the moral effect, on all decent people, of the horrors of Nazism.

We will see what happens in the days and months ahead.

Ourobouros

Have you heard of Poe’s Law? Wikipedia defines it thus:

Poe’s law, named after its author Nathan Poe, is an Internet adage reflecting the idea that, without a clear indication of the author’s intent, it is difficult or impossible to tell the difference between an expression of sincere extremism and a parody of extremism.

Now go and read this astonishing essay, by one Tanya Cohen. Savor its colossal excesses, contradictions and ironies; bathe in its monumental arrogance and its childlike, utterly unreflective solipsism. Enjoy a frisson of horror at its genial embrace of totalitarianism.

So: extremism, or parody? The former, I fear, but it gives outstanding service either way.

But Let Us Persevere In What We Have Resolved, Before We Forget

As far as the RSS data are concerned, the Great Pause continues. More here.

The Road To Perdition

An old friend, who lives in California, writes:

I spent hours on New Year’s Day attending online traffic school, and only passed by the skin of my teeth, as there was a serious language/grammar/thinking gap between me and the authors of the course. Here are just a few examples. I would have spent hours more if I’d transcribed any significant fraction of what was on offer.

Here are the examples he sent, all transcribed exactly as written:

‣   Having water and food will also come in handy should your vehicle brake down and have to wait a considerable period for health.

‣   There is a chance you may encounter some form of sickness during your trip.

‣   Leaving the appropriate between you and other cars on the road while allow the room to move in and out as need be to avoid accidents.

‣   These conditions may occur if you drive in the sun for too long.
— headaches and affect your driving

‣   It is estimated that there are 211,000 drivers in the country. About 1/4th or nearly 50,000 (48,000) were killed in traffic accidents.

‣   Male drivers were involved in 80% of the traffic accidents in California
Nationwide, female drivers were involved in more accidents than men overall. In 2009, 23.5% of female drivers were involved in accidents.

‣   Usually people that make turns in wrong lanes or the wrong time are the ones causing a collision.

‣   Avoid making U-turns when you don’t have the right of way. Unlawful U-turns may have severe consequences, especially when you collide with vehicles larger than yours.

‣   All drivers will have the right-of-way on the road at some point or another.

‣   When you choose to ignore stop signs or red traffic lights, you are more likely to cause traffic accidents that can not only hurt you, but other drivers and pedestrians.

‣   You should not constantly honk your horn incessantly.

‣   Again do not use your horn as a tool to agitate others on the road. This can be very problematic and cause unnecessary problems for you on the road.

‣   It is very important that you have a spare time in your vehicle.

‣   As it is known as the emergency brake, it should be used in such situations where the computer system in the car brakes down totally.

‣   If you must use the parking brake in an emergency, never pull the lever too hard or you will lose.

‣   There have been many horror stories concerning people with broken down cars who have accepted the help of strangers with bad intentions.

‣   The horn is a very important component of your vehicle. You can use it:
—when your angry

‣   Another valuable skill for drivers is the ability to be able to turn a car in any specific direction.

‣   You cannot make a U-turn on a one-way road.

‣   You should perform three-point turns on busy streets.

Old Wine, New Bottle

The New Yorker‘s essayist Adam Gopnik — whom I have always considered to be quite lavishly talented, despite his dainty and epicene style — beclowned himself one minute into this New Year with a stupendously mawkish item on gun control. It is so bad, in fact — so completely barren of fact, rational argument, or indeed any serious intellectual effort whatsoever — that I was startled, and frankly saddened, to see it in print. It is the cognitive equivalent, if one can imagine such a thing hoisted into Mr. Gopnik’s rarefied belletrist milieu, of yelling “BOSTON SUCKS” at a Yankees-Red Sox game, at a time when Boston leads the division by eleven games.

I had begun to prepare a thorough dissection of the thing when I saw that both Charles C. W. Cooke and John Hinderaker had already done the job. You can read the Gopnik piece here, and the Cooke and Hinderaker responses here and here, respectively.

It was not the day’s only glimpse of the cultural Great Divide; the first of the year also found me embroiled in a conversational dust-up about global warming. The subject had come up at a friend’s house here in Wellfleet, where the lovely Nina and I had spent a thoroughly delightful New Year’s Eve. As my friend and I were clearing up after a sumptuous midnight feast, he asked if I had received, as he had, a phone call from a local “green-energy” outfit offering to mount a solar panel on his roof, the cost of which would largely be offset by government subsidies. I said that I had not, and went on to express some curiosity about whether this was really an appropriate use of public funds in the first place. My friend found my lack of faith disturbing: it seemed inconceivable to him that something as obviously well-intentioned as this could have any downside whatsoever. I, on the other hand, couldn’t really see why some working stiff in Worcester ought to have a chunk of his family’s rent money confiscated in order to plant a soon-to-be-obsolete solar panel on my friend’s second home.

At this point we were joined by another guest who immediately, and correctly, suspected that I was harboring dark and dangerous misgivings about The Global Warming Crisis itself. A lively conversation ensued, the general flow of which I am sure you can imagine. I generally give as good as I get on this topic, though, and I refused to be strapped to the ducking stool. In fact, my interlocutor being, despite his unreflective liberalism, a capital fellow of high intelligence and genuine open-mindedness, I think that by the end I had planted a little seed of doubt in his mind. (May the light of Truth and Reason nourish and water it in the months and years ahead.)

I was struck once again by the clarity with which global-warmism reveals itself as a secular repurposing of the religious impulse — a deep and universal human yearning that, in the corroded cultural aftermath of the Enlightenment’s skeptical acid-bath, has lost a transcendent God as its referent, and now wants very badly something else to plug into.

The mythos, from Genesis to Redemption, has been transplanted almost entirely without alteration:

In the beginning, there was only God.

From God arose Man.

Before his Fall, Man lived simply, and in perfect harmony with God. It was a Paradise on Earth.

Then a disaster happened. Man acquired a new kind of Knowledge: knowledge that he did not need, but that conferred upon him enormous temptation. In his unwisdom, and against God’s wishes, Man succumbed. His new Knowledge gave him great power, but at a terrible cost: he had turned his back on God, and his Paradise was lost. In his exile, he would wield his ill-gained power in prideful suffering and woe.

But then came a Messenger, offering the possibility of Redemption: if Man were to renounce his awful Knowledge, and learn once again to surrender himself to the love of God, he would be forgiven, and could find his way back to Paradise. It would not be easy — it would require that he make terrible sacrifices, atone for his many sins, and give up his worldly comforts and much that he had come to love — but if his faith was strong, his Salvation could become a reality, and he could once again live in Paradise, in sweet communion with God.

In order to move from the old religion to the new one, we need only substitute “Nature” for “God” in the passages above. That the two conceptions are almost perfectly isomorphic, and that both are manifestations of the same underlying impulse, should be plainly evident. But perhaps one must be a heretic oneself to notice it.

Happy New Year!

I’ll take a brief time-out from all the intercalary Saturnalia that’s been going on around here this week to wish all of you a merry turn of the dial — and a happy, healthy, and prosperous 2015.

The world may be going to hell, but there’s no reason we can’t enjoy the ride! My warmest regards to each and every one of you.

In The Carboniferous Epoch We Were Promised Abundance For All

Coming soon, to a formerly vigorous republic near you:

Hospitals cancel operations to cope with Government’s A&E crisis

Over 300 long-planned operations are cancelled each day as England’s NHS hospitals need more beds for A&E departments under record-breaking strain.

In the first two weeks of December, 3,113 elective operations were cancelled – many only hours before surgery or when the patient had already been admitted to the hospital. An increase of 16 per cent since the first fortnight of December last year and almost 50 per cent in two years.

Milton Friedman said that you can’t have open borders and a welfare state. This is why.

Merry Christmas!

To you all. Thank you, as always, for reading and commenting.

Up Where He Belongs

We must note with deep sadness the death of the great Joe Cocker, who succumbed to cancer yesterday. He was only 70.

I posthumously award Mr. Cocker a major distinction: his amazing version of the Beatles’ A Little Help From My Friends is, in my opinion, the only cover of a Beatles song that is as good as the original.

File Under ‘National Conversation’

Here’s Heather Mac Donald on our smoldering civil war.

Small World

A reader writes to make an interesting point: not long ago the Black Muslim leader Louis Farrakhan made an inflammatory speech in Baltimore (to see just how inflammatory — indeed, quite literally so — have a look here).

The NYPD shooter, Ismaaiyl Abdullah Brinsley, who was certainly black, and apparently a Muslim, was, perhaps, in Baltimore at the time. Our reader wonders if he was in attendance. (One also wonders if Mr. Brinsley hit the Derbyshire Daily Double for descriptions of newsworthy outlaws these days: “aspiring rap artist” and “recent convert to Islam”.)

More to come in days ahead, no doubt.

Is Digital Civilization Sustainable?

Here’s something else that the Sony hacking story has me thinking about: the ‘arms race’ between hackers and cybersecurity.

There have been a lot of high-profile cyberattacks lately, and if anything, they seem to be getting more frequent, and more damaging. What’s worse, more and more of every aspect of our lives, and of every commercial and political and military enterprise, is represented and acted upon in the form of electronic information.

Where I work, our electronic infrastructure is more and more ‘locked down’ every day. I’m one of the engineers who have to respond whenever there’s a problem with our software at any of our facilities around the world, but the security barriers have become so numerous and so stifling that I typically spend many, many hours just gaining temporary access to the part of the system I need to examine. Generally I spent vastly more time doing this than diagnosing and fixing the actual problem. The problem, moreover, is not limited to the details of our own security arrangements; we also must comply with a bewildering assortment of external regulations and certifications. Tasks that used to take me minutes or hours now take days.

Despite all of this, breaches of corporate and governmental systems are more and more common, even as the armor-plating grows ever more confining, cumbersome and costly. Given that we’ve put all of our eggs into this basket, there must be an underlying assumption that security can stay ahead of the threat.

But what if, in the long run, it can’t? What if the armamentarium of the hackers can become so formidable that it will always prevail? What if it simply turns out to be the case, in principle, that it is always going to be easier to break in than to keep intruders out? Considering the extent to which all of society now rests on digital technology and the Internet, this would be a titanic collapse; it would be on the order of the fall of Rome.

I have no doubt that this must be the subject of much academic and technical debate, but I’ll confess that I haven’t looked into it, and so I’m not aware of which way the wind is blowing. But just going by what I read in the news, and how things have changed over the past eight years at the medium-sized global corporation I work for, I think a collapse of this sort is hardly out of the question.

Any thoughts, readers?

Al Über Alles

The Sony affair has revealed, in many ways, just how appallingly far our culture’s wasting disease has progressed, but this is by far the direst symptom of all:

Sharpton to have say over how Sony makes movies

Excerpt:

Hollywood ​came to the Rev. Al Thursday as embattled Sony exec Amy Pascal ​met ​privately with the ​black leader for 90 minutes ​in a bid to fix the fallout from the ​cyberhacking ​leak of embarrassing, racially charged emails.

Pascal agreed to let Sharpton have a say in how Sony makes motion pictures…

Sharpton added:

“So the jury is still out on where we go with Amy.”

So in addition to pulling the wires at both Gracie Mansion and the White House, Al Sharpton — this huckster, this mountebank, this racist carnival barker, this moral and intellectual pygmy — now controls the film industry. (Along with Kim Jong Un, of course — which should make for an interesting showdown, somewhere down the road. Whatever else you might say about the DPRK’s porcine pasha, I rather doubt that he’s given to penitential race-groveling.)

I must ask: what the hell is wrong with us? In particular, how did white Americans become such sniveling invertebrates?

John Derbyshire had a good item on Sharpton last month. I quote it in full:

Here’s a word for you: “kakistocracy.” That’s an actual word; you can find it at Dictionary.com, where the definition is, quote, “government by the worst persons.” From Greek kakistos, “worst,” superlative of kakos “bad”; and if you suspect it’s all somehow related to a common infantile expression for nasty dirty stuff, the lexicographers say you’re probably right.

Be that as it may, public figures don’t come much worse than the Reverend Al Sharpton. Having decided early on in life that while working for a living was all very well for the suckers in his congregation, it was not for him; and having further perceived that preaching the word of God wasn’t going to provide the kind of lifestyle he sought for himself; Sharpton inserted his young swelling bulk into the zone where Mob bosses and drug money met the rap music business and boxing promotion.

That didn’t end well. It ended so unwell, in fact, that Rev’m Al wound up wearing a wire for the FBI, after being caught in a drug sting. He thereupon changed careers to “community activist.”

In that new career he attached himself to two rape cases: the bogus one of black non-victim Tawana Brawley, in which Rev’m Al slandered a County Prosecutor so flagrantly the prosecutor won a judgment against him, which the holy man never paid, and then the genuine one of the Central Park rape victim, in which Sharpton organized a mob to disrupt the trial of the rapists by shouting insults at the victim.

There followed further incitements of mob action, leading to arson and murder. Sharpton worked here with a very skillful touch, whipping up the black mobs against whites and Jews, then deftly withdrawing himself into the shadows when things got ugly.

You know the rest of the charge sheet. Doesn’t pay his taxes, doesn’t pay his rent. Parlayed a handful of cheap rhetorical tricks into a TV show on one of the Cultural Marxist channels — the trick, for example, of repeating someone’s declarative statement in the form of a question.

All right, Rev’m Al isn’t the worst person in the world, nor even the worst person in the U.S.A. If you compute a ratio of prominence as a respected public figure divided by actual merit as a useful member of society, though, I’d restate my original claim that on that ratio, Sharpton is the worst person in our public life today.

And yet he wields great power, or certainly influence.

Example: New York City of course has a uniformed police force, and the police force has a Police Commissioner, name of Bill Bratton. Bratton has a second in command, official title “First Deputy Commissioner.” This guy — his name was Rafael Piñeiro — retired end of October, so Bratton picked a new man, a black named Philip Banks.

Banks at first accepted, but wanted more power than actually goes with the second-in-command slot. He thought he’d get it because he had the support of Al Sharpton and Mayor de Blasio’s wife, to whom the Mayor defers on anything to do with race — or according to some accounts, on anything at all.

Bratton denied him those powers, Banks retired from the force in a huff, and poor Mayor de Blasio faced the wrath of his wife. I tell you, New York City politics right now is more fun than reality TV.

Anyway, on Wednesday Bratton appointed a new guy to this second-in-command position — also black, of course. This is probably going to be an affirmative-action slot for all eternity now. Benjamin Tucker is the new guy’s name.

Here’s the thing to fix your attention on — the shameful, outrageous thing.

Mayor de Blasio signed off on the appointment, and called Al Sharpton to tell him about it. Quote from Sharpton:

Today I met for an hour with President Obama … about his plans for his fourth quarter. While entering the West Wing I talked by phone with Mayor Bill de Blasio about Commissioner Bratton appointing Benjamin Tucker.

End quote. Got that? Rev’m Al got a respectful call from the Mayor of New York while entering the White House to consult with the President. This ridiculous clown, who can’t even speak English properly, who knows nothing, pays for nothing, and has been elected by nobody, this shyster who plays white liberal guilt like Yehudi Menuhin played the violin, is deferred to by the highest in the land. The real power is his — kakistocracy.

Charles Dickens describes two of his characters as men who lived by their wits. Then Dickens adds in parentheses: “or not so much, perhaps, upon the presence of their own wits as upon the absence of wits in other people.”

That’s Rev’m Al: Not a smart man in any conventional way, but by comparison with the cringing, guilt-crazed liberals he preys upon, a towering political genius.

Up And At ‘Em

I’ve recovered considerably from Monday’s little indignity, and although I haven’t had time or energy to comment on the big stories of the week, I should be back in fighting form soon enough. Just a couple of little items for tonight:

At the conclusion of all the injecting and slicing and yanking and scraping and drilling and grafting and suturing on Monday, the good Dr Franzetti prescribed for me some strong (600 mg) ibuprofen, and also some Vicoprofen, which is the same thing with hydrocodone mixed in. The aftermath was indeed very painful, but not wanting to take the opiates if I didn’t need to, I started off on the plain stuff. It seemed to do the job adequately well, especially in combination with ample doses of Scotland’s amber restorative. In fact, I found myself feeling rather capital in all sorts of other little ways; in particular, my ruined knee (which is next in line for the surgeon’s blade) has bothered me less this week than it has in years, while the general achiness and creakiness that I’ve resigned myself to as simply the toll I must pay for the great store of wisdom I’ve accumulated has abated considerably as well. Why, I even noticed that one morning, despite having medicated myself rather liberally the night before with Caledonia’s aforementioned elixir, I awoke with none of the usual aftereffects. I began to suspect that this ibuprofen stuff was something of a modern miracle.

And then — lo and behold! — I ran across this just now, right out of the blue:

Ibuprofen adds 12 years to life! Cheap painkillers can slow ageing and fight disease

A CHEAP over-the-counter painkiller may have astonishing powers to extend life, say researchers.

That does it, I’m a believer. I wonder what our pal Mangan thinks of this; he’s always au courant with this sort of thing. I must ask him.

I have one more morsel for you tonight: an article by Steve Sailer on Ben Franklin’s views about immigration. In it he mentions a pamphlet on the topic by Dr Franklin called Observations Concerning the Increase of Mankind, which I’ve never read. I think I’ll go do so now.

Right after I have some more ibuprofen.

Service Notice

It might be a little quieter than usual here for the next couple of days. I’m recovering tonight from a fairly substantial round of reconstructive oral surgery, and the next few days will be as busy as my capacities, which are likely to be somewhat diminished by powerful medicaments, will allow.

My thanks as always to the healing hands and technical virtuosity of my friend Dr Louis Franzetti, who is a world-class master of his arcane craft, and also to the care and compassion of his expert assistants, Phyllis and Carmen.

Back soon.

This Ain’t The Movies

Perhaps the silliest response to the Ferguson incident is one I’ve heard at least a dozen times, both publicly and privately: “Why didn’t the officer just wound him?” The speaker is invariably an Eloi hoplophobe who wouldn’t know a Ruger from arugula. It’s fatiguing.

With a hat tip to the indefatigable JK, here’s Michael Yon answering the question at his online magazine.

The linked item is good, but what you really must read is the story Mr. Yon links to at the bottom of the page.

The Bonfire Of The Sanities

Following on last spring’s item on the NYPD, here’s a story from yesterday’s Post:

FDNY drops physical test requirement amid low female hiring rate

The Fire Department has stopped requiring probationary firefighters to pass a job-related physical-skills test before getting hired…

Fifty years ago, it would have been obvious to any rational person that this is completely insane.

We have slipped very, very far, friends, and the slope is getting steeper. Things are moving very quickly now.

There Are Too Damn Many Laws

Recently I wrote:

Have we reached the point where we want to forbid the police to use force, when necessary, to make arrests? Approach this idea with caution, for to grant a monopoly of physical force to the State, except in cases of immediate self-defense, is the very bedrock of the social contract that makes civilization possible. All of our laws, no matter how trivial, ultimately rest upon this foundation. Did you get a parking ticket? You will pay it, or be expected to appear in court to explain why. You don’t show up? A warrant will be issued for your arrest. Men with guns will come to your home to take you into custody. You won’t go? Then you will be physically compelled to go, with escalating force. At the end of that stepwise continuum of force is lethal force, and it will be used if necessary.

In response to this, one commenter asked if I was “for real”. Another, our (formerly) resident “progressive” gadfly, had this to say:

The notion that the police have the right to use lethal force every time a suspect resists arrest is preposterous. Your suggestion that summary capital punishment is the appropriate response for selling cigarettes, and then resisting arrest, is too bizarre to even consider.

All of this is mere sputtering, without any whiff of an actual argument. The underlying premise remains undisturbed: that, absent voluntary compliance (which will always be below 100%), the armed power of the police is all that supports the rule of law — and that, therefore, the more laws there are, the more arrests there will be, and the greater the likelihood of arrests going badly.

Here, writing at Bloomberg, is Yale law professor Stephen L. Carter:

On the opening day of law school, I always counsel my first-year students never to support a law they are not willing to kill to enforce. Usually they greet this advice with something between skepticism and puzzlement, until I remind them that the police go armed to enforce the will of the state, and if you resist, they might kill you.

…It’s not just cigarette tax laws that can lead to the death of those the police seek to arrest. It’s every law. Libertarians argue that we have far too many laws, and the Garner case offers evidence that they’re right. I often tell my students that there will never be a perfect technology of law enforcement, and therefore it is unavoidable that there will be situations where police err on the side of too much violence rather than too little. Better training won’t lead to perfection. But fewer laws would mean fewer opportunities for official violence to get out of hand.

…The criticism is of a political system that takes such bizarre delight in creating new crimes for the cops to enforce. It’s unlikely that the New York legislature, in creating the crime of selling untaxed cigarettes, imagined that anyone would die for violating it. But a wise legislator would give the matter some thought before creating a crime. Officials who fail to take into account the obvious fact that the laws they’re so eager to pass will be enforced at the point of a gun cannot fairly be described as public servants.

George Will, in an item published yesterday on the “plague of overcriminalization”, referred to Professor Carter’s article. He also had this to say:

Garner lived in part by illegally selling single cigarettes untaxed by New York jurisdictions. He lived in a progressive state and city that, being ravenous for revenues and determined to save smokers from themselves, have raised to $5.85 the combined taxes on a pack of cigarettes. To the surprise of no sentient being, this has created a black market in cigarettes that are bought in states that tax them much less. Garner died in a state that has a Cigarette Strike Force.

One problem is that good, law-abiding people — like our commenters — simply have not considered the full implications of the rule of law. To the extent that they have thought about it at all, they suppose that small laws will be enforced in gentle ways. So docile are these good people, and so fully committed to the implicit “social contract”, that it is hard for them even to imagine what adversarial enforcement may actually entail. To them, the idea that some who break these small laws might suddenly, and occasionally suicidally, invoke the physical power of the police to enforce them — which is, I will say again, the only thing that gives the rule of law its power to prevail against chaos — is “unreal”, or “bizarre”.

In mute testimony to their naiveté, Eric Garner lies dead.

Winston Churchill once said: “If you have ten thousand regulations you destroy all respect for the law.” As of 2010 the Code of Federal Regulations listed over a million of them. New ones are added at a dismaying rate.

He’s In The Details

Some time ago I offered a peek at the way modern legislation ensures transparency and ease of understanding. Given that getting at the meaning of almost any Federal bill these days entails reading not only the bill itself, but also the plexus of other Acts that it refers to or modifies, thoroughly unraveling these monstrosities requires a peculiar, almost monastic disposition. (I note in passing that it would be surprising if most, or even many, of the bloviating extroverts we send to Washington to vote on these things are actually so constituted. If I were a cynical sort, I might almost form a dark suspicion as to whether these grandees actually understand a hundredth part of the laws they pass.)

It turns out that, like your humble correspondent, National Review‘s Yuval Levin also has the sitzfleisch for this dry and meticulous work. Here’s a glimpse of his latest gleanings.

Sound And Fury

Yesterday’s Senate report on the CIA has sparked a lot of talk, most of it on a very shallow and very binary level. (Post on that forthcoming, when time permits.)

As noted yesterday, the report is far from impartial. Several former directors and deputy directors of the CIA, who were active during the period covered by the report, were not even consulted, and have now created a website to present their own view of the matter.

A Slight Air Of Unreality

Today we will have the Senate’s report on the use of harsh interrogation methods by the CIA. There will be a great spasm of hand-wringing — indeed, there already has been — and no doubt the report will be further confirmation, for those who scarcely need it, of the fundamental vileness of the United States (at least, that is, when under Republican/white/male/cis-hetero-normative/etc. control).

Following on our previous post, which touched upon the “armchair-quarterbacking” of police methods by those soft and sheltered souls who, in Orwell’s words “sleep comfortably in their beds at night because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf”, here is a brief item, written by Andrew Roberts for The Daily Beast, that offers some historical perspective.

Addendum: Six former CIA directors, who were not consulted during the investigation that led to today’s report, respond to it here.

Second Addendum: Bob Kerrey’s not thrilled either.

Third Addendum: Here’s another firm response, from Charles Krauthammer.

On The Rule Of Law

From a column by Thomas Sowell, today at NRO:

Let the responsibility lie with whoever forces a resort to force.

Also:

For people who have never tried to take into custody someone resisting arrest, to sit back in the safety and comfort of their homes or offices and second-guess people who face the dangers inherent in that process — dangers for both the police and the person under arrest — is yet another example of the irresponsible self-indulgences of our time.

Exempli gratia:

How can six police officers subdue one troublesome suspect? I dunno, you tell me: two officers grab his left arm, two officers grab his right arm, one officer handcuffs him, and the other officer takes a selfie?

A Dextral Potpourri

Here’s something I’ve only just come across, though it was begun almost a year ago: a running list of victims of left-wing purges for thoughtcrime. And don’t miss John Derbyshire’s commentary on it, here.

Speaking of Derb, here’s a dour assessment of the State of the Union, recently published at Takimag.

And as long as we’re grazing the pastures of the Dissident Right, here’s a stimulating response to Alinsky from the dark side of the Enlightenment: Rules For Reactionaries.

Lord, Have Mercy

This exists.

And So It Goes

Well, Zemir Begic is already down the memory hole, it seems (who?), along with executive action on amnesty, etc. Now it’s Eric Garner, all the time, and race-hatred is ablaze in the streets again — the flames whipped up, as always, by those who delight and luxuriate in cultural arson.

Mr. Garner’s story is a sad one. It’s terrible that he died the way he did: crushed by a smothering State for violating a confiscatory cigarette-tax, while the regnant panjandrums of that same vast State openly flout the rule of law, and defiantly reward foreign invaders by the millions for doing the same.

The catalyst here is a grand-jury’s failure to indict the police officer who threw his arm around the mountainous Mr. Garner’s neck and wrestled him to the ground. The assumption appears to be that the constable should have been charged with something; after all, nobody can deny that the ‘efficient cause’ of Mr. Garner’s death was his manhandling by the cops.

A grand jury, however, is charged with determining if a crime has been committed.

Some have focused on the type of headlock used by the policeman in question, on whether it was a ‘chokehold’ of the sort that the police have officially declared impermissible. But this ban is only police policy; it is not a matter of law. If the officer did use such a chokehold, he may well deserve, and get, severe discipline at the hands of the department — but it is not by itself grounds for a criminal indictment. Moreover, I know a thing or two about chokeholds, and it is not likely that Mr. Garner would have been complaining vocally about his difficulty breathing if he was in the grip of any of the sort of chokeholds I’m familiar with.

Mr. Garner was grossly obese, and I understand that he suffered from a bouquet of morbid afflictions: cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and severe asthma, to name a few. I’ve heard he could walk no more than a block without resting. He was in no condition for a wrestling match with a half-dozen determined opponents.

As disgusting as it is that Mr. Garner had to be arrested at all — he certainly doesn’t seem to have been bothering anybody, as far as I can tell, other than the merchant outside of whose premises he was selling ‘loosies’ — he was going to be arrested. He refused, and he resisted.

At this point, what are the police to do? Tase him to the ground? If so, the outcome would likely have been the same. Use their batons instead? Ditto. Do you think it is easy to subdue an unwilling man who weighs, at a conservative estimate, over three hundred and fifty pounds? It is not.

Have we reached the point where we want to forbid the police to use force, when necessary, to make arrests? Approach this idea with caution, for to grant a monopoly of physical force to the State, except in cases of immediate self-defense, is the very bedrock of the social contract that makes civilization possible. All of our laws, no matter how trivial, ultimately rest upon this foundation. Did you get a parking ticket? You will pay it, or be expected to appear in court to explain why. You don’t show up? A warrant will be issued for your arrest. Men with guns will come to your home to take you into custody. You won’t go? Then you will be physically compelled to go, with escalating force. At the end of that stepwise continuum of force is lethal force, and it will be used if necessary.

Would you like to repeal this arrangement? To declare it null and void? Then you will have plucked out the keystone that holds up the enormous, loadbearing arch of civilization, and you have chosen chaos and revolution. Perhaps something better will come of it in time, if you can make it so; the historical odds are not strongly in your favor. But there will certainly be an interval of sanguinary barbarism, and much that you hold dear will be destroyed.

Might the grand jury have found reason to indict the officer involved? Perhaps. But they considered the evidence, and the law, and they did not. I can say with perfect certainty that they spent a great deal more time and effort considering the evidence in this case, and the relevant aspects of the law, than any of you reading this have, and more than any of that mob now clogging the streets did, either.

Now Mr. Al Sharpton denounces the grand-jury system itself — which has a certain depressing irony, because the grand-jury system exists precisely to give a bulwark to the people against the excesses and abuses of arbitrary and despotic prosecutors. Predictably, and with the undeviating centripetal obsession of the Left, he calls for ‘centralization': the subordination of all local justice to the Federal sovereign (in relation to which august presence Mr. Sharpton currently stands in the role of Grima Wormtongue).

It really is a shame about Mr. Garner. He shouldn’t have resisted arrest, though; it’s never a good idea, and you can’t win. If he hadn’t done so, he would still be alive today, for whatever fleeting season his moribund phsyiognomy would have granted.

It’s also a shame — a terrible, depressing shame — that we must send the police out to enforce, with the awesome power of the State, this malignant, suffocating neoplasm of stupid and unnecessary laws.

But none of what I’ve said here matters, really. Events will unfold as they will. And they will.

The Audacity Of Mendacity

Even the Washington Post now agrees that President Obama’s unilateral action on immigration is unprecedented, and that his claims to the contrary are audacious and palpable falsehoods.

It is now up to Congress to defend its Constitutional authority in the only way it can, short of impeachment: by using the power of the purse to deny funding for this destructive and usurpatious action, which is an assault not only only the welfare of American citizens, but on the rule of law itself. Already, though, it appears that Messrs. McConnell and Boehner are preparing, disgracefully, to go ahead with funding. You’ll find more backbone in one of our Wellfleet tide-pools than in the present-day GOP.

If They Had A Hammer…

Did you hear about the brutal murder of Zemir Begic in St. Louis a couple of days ago? He was beaten to death, with hammers, by ‘teens’.

If you haven’t heard about this it isn’t surprising; none of the major news outlets thought it fit for much attention. After all, there’s no reason to think that Mr. Begic was targeted for being Bosnian, so it surely wasn’t any sort of “hate crime”, just one of those — what’s the expression again? — oh yes: “random, senseless, tragedies”. A local crime story, nothing more. (And it isn’t as if the mainstream media have lots of reporters in the St. Louis area at the moment, anyway.)

Stever Sailer comments here, and Theden has an item here.

Memento Vivere

As bad as things are, all is not lost. Here are three clips of good live music.

First, a farewell performance, by Crowded House, of Neil Finn’s Don’t Dream It’s Over. I’ve always thought this is a beautiful, beautiful song, and by the time this version was recorded in 1996, Mr. Finn’s voice, which had such a youthful timbre on the 1986 studio recording, had matured very nicely. I like this version even better than the original.

Next, a 2011 performance, by a reunited 10cc, of their groundbreaking hit song I’m Not In Love. Often, when these old bands get back together for a reunion tour, it’s just to “phone it in” for a few weeks on the road in order to shear some balding Boomers of a lorry-load
of disposable cash. Not so here; this is a really outstanding performance of one of the best popular songs of its decade.

Once you’re done with those, it’s time to scale the summit: a magnificent 2012 performance of Beethoven’s Third Symphony, by Daniel Barenboim’s East-Western Divan. If, like me, you consider the music of Beethoven to be the apex of human achievement, you’ll enjoy this.

Next

In a post the other day I wrote:

The universal acid of radical skepticism having nearly completed its work, all transcendent values have now been dissolved — and if all that once was sacred is now remembered at all, is only to be mocked and scorned.

Nietzsche saw this coming: “the total eclipse of all values” would be inevitable, he knew, once there was no longer anyone to say “thou shalt not”. To borrow another astronomical metaphor: when the fires that sustain a great and luminous star have burned themselves out at last, it collapses under its own dead mass and says goodbye to the universe.

The final stages of this process can move along pretty briskly.

Happy Thanksgiving!

To all of you. Although dark clouds gather, we still have a great deal to be thankful for — and here’s a little historical reminder that much of what we have to be thankful for is still worth preserving and defending.

The Healing Touch

On Monday night, as the sack of Ferguson was just getting underway, President Obama appeared on television to make a lackluster appeal for decorum. (His remarks were broadcast in split-screen, with the gathering riot on one side and Mr. Obama on the other; the juxtaposition made for some memorable TV.)

Writing at City Journal, Heather Mac Donald comments on what the President said, and what he might he have said instead. You can read her column here.

Watching The World Burn

By now even the most rose-bespectacled Pollyannas among you (you know who you are) must be noticing that things are getting a little, um, frayed. As I write, civil order is fracturing, with impressive coordination, all over the country. Last night an American city was sacked by barbarians — looted, pillaged, and burned as the nation, and the world, watched on cable TV. (Gil Scott-Heron famously said the “the Revolution will not be televised”, but he couldn’t have been more mistaken: it is hard to imagine any event nowadays that could be so banal as not to be broadcast to the four corners of the globe, and the savaging of a city in the heartland of America certainly makes the cut.)

I haven’t said anything much, if anything at all, about the Ferguson affair. There’s very little I could add to what has already been said. I will say, though, that I was startled today to see that the New York Times had published Darren Wilson’s address. They did not have to do this; they can only have known that it would put him at greater risk. It was obviously a conscious editorial decision, and it is despicable.

It seems that things tumble over one another faster and faster. The entire Mideast is aflame; it seems that every single place we have laid a finger on over the past few years has sunk at once into barbarism and bloody war. Our relationship with a resurgent Russia is at its lowest ebb since the collapse of the Soviet Union, and in the Far East, China’s power is expanding into a deepening vacuum.

At home, political tensions are red-hot; our lame-duck President mounts serial assaults on the very fabric and framework of the Republic, while his erstwhile allies flee him in droves. His signature ‘accomplishment’ is exposed almost daily now as a premeditated swindle and a titanic blunder; why, just today we read that none other than Chuck Schumer himself has renounced its passage as a grievous mistake, and was joined in this opinion by ‘Fauxcahontas’ herself, Elizabeth Warren — who has her eye on a glittering prize, and who knows a liability when she sees one. (As Mencken reminded the savvy politician: when the water reaches the upper deck, follow the rats.)

Everywhere the national mood is souring, and social cohesion fracturing. Sales of guns and survival equipment are at all-time highs. Race relations (quite obviously) are getting worse, not better, and rapidly so. More than three-quarters of Americans think that their children will be worse off than they are. Labor-force participation is at its lowest point since the 1970s. The universal acid of radical skepticism having nearly completed its work, all transcendent values have now been dissolved — and if all that once was sacred is now remembered at all, it is only to be mocked and scorned. It would be hard to imagine popular culture becoming any coarser, or academic culture more obsessed with sulking, navel-gazing, and barren resentment (though perhaps it is only that I am not sufficiently imaginative). “Civil society” — the layer of social institutions that lie between the individual and the State, and which Alexis de Tocqueville rightly saw as the the tent-pole of American life — has been aggressively leached away by the relentless seepage of the central government, in much the same way that ambient minerals replace the interior tissues of a fossilizing corpse. Government expenditures on dependency programs make up almost 70% of the national budget, while the number of citizens who pay in more than they take out will soon be less than half of the population. The national debt, which has swollen by 70% under the current administration, is over eighteen trillion dollars: an almost ungraspably large amount, and one that will never, ever, be repaid. Generations of our children’s children will curse and blaspheme us; we were the stewards of their birthright, of their heritage, and we have squandered it all because we were too spoiled and lazy to take responsibility for our own lives.

Adam Smith said that “there is a lot of ruin in a nation”, and it will surely take a little while yet for as tall a candle as the West once was to burn itself all the way to the ground. There may even be some pleasant times to be had in these crepuscular years. But every now and then it seems the end is suddenly quite a bit closer — and the autumn of 2014 has that feeling about it, I think. Don’t you?

Angels And Demons

When hopes and dreams are loose in the streets, it is well for the timid to lock doors, shutter windows and lie low until the wrath has passed. For there is often a monstrous incongruity between the hopes, however noble and tender, and the action which follows them. It is as if ivied maidens and garlanded youths were to herald the four horsemen of the apocalypse.

Eric Hoffer, The True Believer, 1951