Service Notice

It’s August, and as I do every year I am going to disconnect from the Internet a bit. It’s necessary therapy — particularly so this year, I think, as I think the quality of recent posts has been noticeably off.

I also need to take some time to think about just what I want to say in these pages. In particular, I am increasingly struck by the extent to which we live in a hallucinatory society, in which up is down, realities are falsehoods, and wishes and mirages are imagined to be realities; in which we must all agree, on pain of commination and social exile, that the things that matter most are the things that matter least; in which the past and future have foreshortened into virtual insignificance — leaving us rootless and aimless, with neither heritage to cherish nor posterity to protect, adrift in a meaningless present. If our past is remembered only to be despised as a litany of sin and error and unwisdom, then we are stewards of nothing; if our existing reality is reduced to a mere, anodyne subjectivity, we have nothing to bequeath. Severed in this way from our root-stock, sliced away above and below until nothing remains but the deracinated individual in the present moment, we are atoms. We are dust.

A story: long ago my late friend Don Grolnick was playing a gig at one of the jazz clubs in Greenwich Village. It was one of those sweltering, steamy July nights in New York City, and Don and some of the others in the band were outside during a break. One of the city’s wandering lunatics, a large and wild-looking man, ran up out of the murk and confronted them.

“DO YOU KNOW I COULD KILL YOU ALL??” he demanded. It was an edgy moment.

Don shrugged, and with characteristic aplomb, replied:

“That may be true. But why bring it up?”

That’s the question I’ll be asking myself over the next few weeks. There may be posts, but probably not many. As always, please feel free to browse our ever-expanding archives, and to try the “Random Post” link at upper right.

Lucky Us

To a first approximation, every species that ever was is extinct. It is within a rounding error to say that every ancestral lineage that ever began eventually petered out.

Imagine Nature as a machine-gunner firing into a crowd. The fact that you and I exist means that for four billion years, our personal ancestors have managed to dodge the bullets. This is so exceedingly unlikely that there must be something about us, something in our nature, that made this possible.

You can despise this nature, and wish to alter it — but at the very least you must give it some respect. You certainly shouldn’t pretend it doesn’t exist. And you should pay some attention when it tries to tell you something.

Open Thread 9

It’s the least I can do.

Chuck Bucks

Well, this is interesting: Senator Charles Schumer has decided to oppose the Iran deal. From the New York Times:

Advocates on both sides have strong cases for their point of view that cannot simply be dismissed,” Mr. Schumer, Democrat of New York, said in a lengthy statement. “This has made evaluating the agreement a difficult and deliberate endeavor, and after deep study, careful thought and considerable soul-searching, I have decided I must oppose the agreement and will vote yes on a motion of disapproval.

Mr. Schumer is one of the leaders of the Democratic caucus. For such party loyalist to kick over the traces is no small thing. There are at least three possible reasons:

1) He thinks that the deal is a bad one in terms of U.S. interests.

2) He thinks the deal is a bad one in terms of Israeli interests.

3) He has been so relentlessly pressured by his New York constituency that he feels he must accommodate them.

Of course, it may well be a combination of all three. No doubt politically opinionated types will select among them according to their various viewing angles. For example, I imagine that Patrick Buchanan would share with the academic Left a preference for option 2.

It’s certainly rare that I find myself agreeing with Senator Schumer, but even a stopped clock is, as they say, right once a day. My own three points of objection are:

4) The deal immediately frees up vast sums of money that Iran will use, as even President Obama admits, to project its power in the region, in the usual unsavory ways.

5) Iran will surely cheat, especially given the three-week warning period for inspections. And when it does, the idea that sanctions will “snap back” is a pipe dream.

6) The treaty commits the United States to defend Iran’s nuclear program against sabotage and attack. (This is perhaps the most distasteful condition of all.)

See also some a conversation we had about this treaty earlier, here.

I will say also that President Obama’s remarks yesterday on this topic — in which he likened Iranians chanting “DEATH TO AMERICA” to the Republican caucus, were not helpful.

535 Days

I don’t often link to WSJ editorials, but their comment here on President Obama’s latest regulatory audacity is worth reading.

The gist: the States should simply refuse to be bullied in this way. The WSJ’s idea is that the Court will, rightly, strike this thing down as a usurpation of the law-making power of Congress — but that is hardly a given, and in Constitutional terms we have come to a mighty sorry pass when the making of law is a tug-of-war between the Executive and the Judiciary. Nevertheless, somebody needs to stand up to this aggression — and for now it is the States that will have to draw the line.

This foolish and hubristic war on carbon-based energy — a religious gesture that Mark Levin has likened, with stinging accuracy, to a “rain dance” — is not only a political and economic outrage, but an ethical one one as well. On that score I refer you to Alex Epstein’s book The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels. And to understand how this latest mission-from-God is simply the newest link in an unbroken, centuries-old chain of New England Protestant zealotry, now in a modern, ostensibly secular, form, you should read The Puritan Origins of American Patriotism, by George McKenna. (Or perhaps you should read this.)

Things Have Never Been So Awful

The inescapable Neil deGrasse Tyson informs us that scientific illiteracy is “a tragedy of our times”.

Not “the” tragedy of our times, mind you, just “a” tragedy of our times. There are, you see, just so many of them — so many, in fact, that it’s becoming hard to keep track of which ones to grieve for on any given day. And that, I think, is… well, tragic.

What we need, if we are going to get through our stages of grief with anything resembling modern-day efficiency, is some sort of ranking system. I think also that we should break the problem down into chunks of manageable size.

To that end, I think it would be helpful for “our time” to maintain a Tragic Top Ten list. We can then pull tragedies off the top of the stack, working our way through denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance as briskly as possible, with lower entries moving up as our hearts begin to heal.

I’ve assembled, based on a random sampling of the media, what I think are a suitable starting collection. But how to rank them? I think we need some crowdsourcing for that. So I will just list them below, in no particular order, and then you can all get to work on the ordinals.

‣   The male gaze

‣   Inequality

‣   Whiteness

‣   Cisheteronormativity

‣   Racism

‣   Fat-shaming

‣   Confederates

‣   Cecil!

‣   Whiteness

‣   Coal, because “climate” or something

Note to Dr. Tyson: I’m sorry to say that “scientific illiteracy” didn’t make the first cut. I really did try to squeeze it in.

“I Did Everything Superhumanly Possible”

I’ve just read a book I must recommend to you all — Dear Reader: The Unauthorized Autobiography of Kim Jong Il, by Michael Malice.

The book is extraordinary in that it captures, with frightening accuracy, not only the near-solipsistic narcissism of the fully developed totalitarian dictator, but also the seductiveness of the expertly managed personality cult that surrounds such men. One finds oneself at times almost irresistibly drawn to the Kims, and to the Juche Idea. (Reading the Koran can have the same feeling.)

The author, Michael Malice, has spent some time in North Korea, and probably knows the DPRK as well as any Westerner. I met him recently at a small dinner-and -discussion gathering, where he gave a fascinating talk about the place. There really is no other country like it anywhere on Earth. (He is also the founder of the website Overheard in New York.)

Read this book. And when you are done, read the haunting short story It’s a Good Life, by Jerome Bixby. Then it will all make sense.

How Frogs Are Boiled

With a hat-tip to our reader and commenter Libertybelle, here’s a strong piece by Mark Steyn on the way things happen.

A Lot Of Us Are Asking The Same Question Right About Now

Here’s a good item, just posted to an aging comment-thread by the indefatigable JK:

Why Does the Republican Party Exist?

For some real political geekdom, read the last link in the article, on the highway-bill’s pension gimmick.

Also just in from JK: this explanation of Donald Trump’s surging popularity.

Order And Disorder

Here is an article from Vox about a trans-gendered high-school student, with a female body, who wants to use the boy’s bathroom. The title of the piece is:

A federal judge said being transgender is a mental disorder. Here’s why he’s wrong.

The piece relies for its argument on the recent (2013) reclassification, by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), of transgenderism from “gender identity disorder” to “gender dysphoria”:

When the DSM’s medical diagnosis of trans people changed from gender identity disorder to gender dysphoria in 2013, the American Psychiatric Association explained this in explicit terms: “Part of removing stigma is about choosing the right words. Replacing ‘disorder’ with ‘dysphoria’ in the diagnostic label is not only more appropriate and consistent with familiar clinical sexology terminology, it also removes the connotation that the patient is ‘disordered.'”

Under the manual, gender dysphoria is treated as a temporary, treatable condition, not a permanent disorder. If left untreated, it can lead to distress, depression, and suicidal ideation, among other problems.

Most medical experts today, including the American Psychiatric Association and American Medical Association, agree that letting someone transition without social stigma can help treat gender dysphoria. And not all trans people deal with severe dysphoria in the first place. Both of these facts show that psychological distress and disability aren’t inherent to being trans, so being trans doesn’t meet the definition of a mental disorder (a psychological state that causes significant distress and disability).

The idea seems to be that to be a “disorder”, a condition must cause “distress”. Therefore, if we can reorganize the entirety of the external and pre-existing world in such a way as not to impress upon the afflicted person that he or she is in any way out of normal working order, then the distress will vanish, and we can solve any remaining bureaucratic problems simply by redefining the former “disorder” as a mere “dysphoria” (which, despite the downgrade from “disorder”, apparently should not be “left untreated”).

But how is transgenderism not, in fact, a mental disorder? It certainly does cause a good deal of distress, after all; the suicide rate among transgendered persons is nine times the national average. You may argue that this just means we still have “work to do” in getting the whole rest of the world to adjust their attitudes about what is “normal”, but at some point one must face the fact that the existing realities of the world, and of human nature, are not things you can just wish away, no matter how earnestly and righteously you may wish. And it is disingenuous, to say the least, to insist that all of the distress felt by transgendered people is wholly exogenous, and not due, at least in part, to their intrinsic awareness of a grave inner disharmony.

It is conventional, now, to refer to being transgendered as being born in the “wrong body”. But the issue is really a matter of the relation between mind and body. The normal, correctly ordered, distress-free configuration is for gender identity, biological sex, and the polarity of sexual attraction all to line up congruently, as they do in all but a tiny percentage of the population. To be homosexual or transgendered means that there is disharmony in the relation between some or all of these nodes. The body itself is one corner of the triangle — and is, except in actual hermaphrodites, determinably and unambiguously male or female. Any disharmony, then, is a subjective, inner perception. Why is it wrong to classify this as a mental phenomenon? Why do we insist that in transgenderism, the body is what’s out of order, and the appropriate target of intervention?

You might respond that, because transgendered people are “born that way”, it is not a “mental” issue in the sense of being remediable by conventional psychotherapy. That certainly may be true in many, or even most, cases. But there are plenty of other congenital mental conditions that are classified as disorders — and indeed almost every “mental” trait, from intelligence to the whole spectrum of behavioral dispositions, are highly heritable, and therefore at least partially innate.

None of this is intended to stigmatize or blame those who are, in fact, “born that way”. But we seem to have a bizarre obsession, these days, with the idea that all sorts of handicaps, abnormalities, and disabilities are now to be “celebrated“. At the very least, can we not acknowledge that to have such dissonance in such a fundamental aspect of our inner organization is unfortunate? And that it is, in any important sense, a mental issue? Is it so unreasonable to respond to transgenderism not with celebration, but with sympathy?

Verb Of The Day

Here’s something I’ll bet you didn’t know about: “anting”.

From Gilbert Waldbauer’s What Good are Bugs?:

The amazing behaviors by which many birds, including some quail and a multitude of perching birds, use or solicit ants to free their bodies of lice and parasitic mites are known as anting, Birds ant in two quite different ways. Many use the active method of anting, picking up ants with their bills — usually crushing them — and wiping them against their plumage to anoint it with ant secretions that are toxic to mites and lice. But a few birds, mainly some crows, thrushes, and finches, use the passive method of anting. They squat or lie on an ant nest and allow the insects to board their bodies and roam, unharmed, through their plumage to search for and destroy external parasites.

In a brief 1947 note in the journal British Birds, W. Condry described passive anting by an inexperienced, hand-reared carrion crow. He placed it on the ground near a large slab of stone under which there was a horde of ants. After he turned over the stone, the crow immediately became obviously excited. It hesitated for a few seconds but then ‘stepped into the middle of the swarming ants … When some of the ants found their way via his legs to his feathers. the bird showed apparent pleasure and slowly settled down among the ants like a brooding hen, with wings outspread and tail fanned.’ Then, in Condry’s words, it acted as if ‘swooning,’ slumping down and lowering its head until it was flat against the ground. Condry concluded that his crow’s behavior was innate, programmed in the genes. After all, it had never before seen an ant or another bird anting.

Active anting coats the plumage with noxious secretions. In fact, birds use only ants that secrete formic acid or other toxic fluids. In an article in the Wilson Bulletin, Leon Kelso and Margaret Nice wrote that, in a little-known article in Russian. Vsevolod Dubinin reported that he found drops of liquid that smelled of formic acid on the feathers of steppe pipits that had been actively anting to rid themselves of mites. The pungency of all substitute substances that birds sometimes smear on their plumage when ants are unavailable leaves little doubt that their purpose is to deter parasites. Among those listed by Lovie Whitaker and other researchers are toxin-oozing millipedes; grasshoppers, which regurgitate a noxious brown liquid; wasps; raw onion; lime fruits; burning matches or tobacco; prepared mustard; vinegar; and mothballs.

A. H. Chisolm vividly described anting by a flock of starlings in Australia:

Each bird snatched up an ant from a gravel path and dabbed it quickly first under one wing and then under the other, after which the insect usually was dropped … All the actions of the Starlings were very rapid. Two birds in particular nearly fell over backward while rearing up smartly and applying ants beneath their tails. I saw no evidence of the insects being eaten. When the birds departed, the path was bespattered with dead and maimed ants, some 50 percent of which had their abdomens burst, while the others were more or less intact. The species was … a type that bites and sprays quickly, which possibly helps to explain the rapidity of the Starlings’ actions.

Some birds, according to K. E. L. Simmons, of the Department of Psychology of the University of Bristol in England, are more sophisticated and use ants with considerable finesse. The Pekin robin holds an ant by its thorax, leaving free the abdomen, which contains the formic acid glands and the mechanism that sprays the acid. Depending upon from which side of the bill the abdomen protrudes, the bird turns its head and applies the ant to the appropriate wing. At first it uses the ant as a ‘bug bomb,’ holding the struggling creature so that it sprays formic acid onto the undersurface of the flight feathers. But eventually the ant dies. Then the bird daubs the fluids that ooze from the ant’s crushed body onto its feathers.

The EM Drive

OK, this is interesting:

‘Impossible’ rocket drive works and could get to Moon in four hours

Some details here.

And Now For Something Completely Different

Here’s a treat: Dick Cavett interviewing the great Oscar Peterson at the piano.

And when you’re done with that, check this out.

The ‘National Conversation’ Continues

Here’s a good post by Lewis Amselem, a.k.a. ‘Diplomad’, on race relations in the West.

He begins:

Let me be blunt: I find that discussions of race quickly get boring, idiotic, inconclusive, and, often, verbally and even physically violent. Race tells you very little if anything about a person and his or her attributes except, perhaps, for some inconsequential physical ones.

Correct. That there are differences in the statistical distribution of nearly every cognitive and behavioral attribute between long-isolated human groups, and that those differences in distribution can manifest themselves in important ways at the group, and therefore the cultural, level, nevertheless tells you nothing whatsoever about the balance of those traits in any individual. This simple fact should be at the forefront of all consideration of race, but it is stubbornly ignored in favor of false and binary simplifications that either deny any reality to race, or imagine it to be far more important at the individual level than it actually is.

Mr. Amselem continues:

To keep pushing the topic of race can and will force even the most tolerant and open of people (as discussed here, for example) eventually to reach their limit and fight back…

“Conversations” about race in Western countries become one-way progressive harangues deriding white people and their “privilege,” calls for more government action in the name of “social justice,” and, of course, more power for the progressive elites. In our befuddled times, such “conversations” get infused with yet another noxious theme, to wit, “white male patriarchy.” Racism and sexism become one huge pulsating Death Star that requires, you guessed it, more legislation, more government control, more censorship, more repression, and more of all the other hallmarks of progressivism to defeat it.

So, of course, having said that we should not talk about race and its associated sin sexism, I will discuss race and sex, well, mostly I will rant about White Dudes. The contributions of “Pale Dudismo” are considerable, worth recalling, and — dare I say? — defending without shame. That, I will do.

And so he does. Go and read the whole thing.

You may notice the following comment from your humble correspondent:

This is a terribly difficult topic to write about: the electrical potential regarding race is so super-charged that it is almost impossible to raise your hand without being struck by lightning. There are unspeakable truths that nearly everyone knows, nevertheless, to be true; the cognitive dissonance required for our culture to suppress them has reached a point of almost unbearable tension. It is only by speaking them as charitably, and as honestly, as we can, while being as clear as we can that our intention is not to provoke, that we can begin to discharge this dangerous potential without touching off an explosion — an explosion that surely will come if, in fear of the rewards of heresy, we say nothing.

Update: see also this Daily Beast article, by John McWhorter, on antiracism as religion. (Hat tip: JK.) As I’ve mentioned often, all of this — environmentalism, antiracism, radical egalitarianism, etc. — are just the latest forms of the same energetic Puritanism that grew up in New England four centuries ago. It has been stripped of its linkage to anything that transcends the mundane world (i.e God and the sacred), but not its zeal, or its sense of being a community on a mission from God. Here, for example, is a writer for The United States Democratic Review, commenting on New England’s abolitionist fervor in 1855:

“Neither the Puritan nor the Abolitionist is content with the enjoyment of his own freedom of opinion unless he can impose it on others. His only idea of toleration is dictation; and what he means by liberty of speech and thought is universal acquiescence in his own dogmas.”

I excerpt a couple of notable passages from Mr. McWhorter’s essay. First, this (my emphasis):

The Right quite readily questions Antiracism’s tenets. Key, however, is that among Antiracism adherents, those questions are tartly dismissed as inappropriate and often, predictably, as racist themselves. The questions are received with indignation that one would even ask them, with a running implication that their having been asked is a symptom of, yes, racism’s persistence.

Yes, that’s some catch. Also:

Finally, Antiracism is all about a Judgment Day, in a sense equally mesmerizing and mythical. Antiracist scripture includes a ritual reference to, as it were, the Great Day when America “owns up to” or “comes to terms with” structural racism—note that “acknowledge” is a term just as appropriate—and finally, well, fixes it somehow. But how would a country as massive, heterogenous, and politically fractured as this one ever arrive at so conclusive and overarching a policy as “fixing” racism, either psychologically or structurally?

This is a very important point, and one that the late Lawrence Auster used to bring up: What’s the exit strategy in this war on racism? When racism is finally eliminated, how will we know? At what point, and under what conditions, can the warriors fighting for social justice end, at long last, the slaughter of the enemy, because the battle has been won?

Update 2: From the comment-thread at Diplomad’s post, a link to this item by Fred Reed on “white supremacy”. Mr. Reed makes rather a strong case.

Time Preference

On presentism:

One of the characteristic mental disorders of our period is an easy contempt for the past. It’s not just that we are taught to hate the past, for one can respect and still detest an enemy. It’s that we despise it. We observe it with an easy, swaggering and thoroughly unquestioned contempt. We are presentists with all the arrogance of the cartoon plantation racist.

Which leads us into many faults of the intellect, some of them comic. But our worst fault is the belief that history, somehow, is easy. Of course it’s easy to know what happened in the Civil War! Every fifth-grader knows the story. Heck, my four-year-old daughter knows the story. She read about it in her Magic Treehouse books (which, by the way, are racist). “Oh, I know about the Civil War,” she said. Indeed she does – she knows about it the way everyone in 2013 does. If a little less.

Imagine the poor bastards who actually had to live in the past, being understood by a four-year-old. Of course, it is no more possible for Sibyl to understand the Civil War than to fly to the moon. She’s a bright girl, but still.

Curtis Yarvin

And Mark Twain:

If the Eiffel tower were now representing the world’s age, the skin of paint on the pinnacle-knob at its summit would represent man’s share of that age; & anybody would perceive that that skin was what the tower was built for. I reckon they would. I dunno.

Four Concentric Circles

This is just the damnedest thing I’ve ever seen. I can hardly focus my eyes on it.
 

 

It’s On

High political drama in the Senate today: a blistering speech by Ted Cruz. The blisteree: Mitch McConnell. You’ll be hearing more about this.

Here.

Bongo-Bongo!

Stop me if you’ve heard this one:

A biology professor and two of his graduate students are doing field-work in the jungle. Suddenly they are surrounded by tribal warriors brandishing spears and clubs. They are quickly subdued and taken to a village a few miles away.

The Chief appears. He glowers at them and says:

“You have violated our sacred lands, and so you will be punished. You have two choices: death, or Bongo-Bongo.”

He glares at the first of the two younger men. “Well? Which will it be?”

The graduate student, a slightly built young man, is trembling with fear.

“I – I choose Bongo-Bongo, whatever that is.”

The warriors grab him and bend him double over an enormous fallen log. They take turns raping and sodomizing him until they have all had their way.

The chief looks at the next graduate student. “Your turn now. What is your choice?”

The young man is horrified, but even more afraid to die.

“Bongo-Bongo,” he says, shivering in terror.

The warriors remove the previous victim, now unconscious, from the log, and the second student takes his place. Soon his desperate cries echo through the village.

At last the Chief turns to the professor, a sturdy, middle-aged man who is also an old Army veteran. “What have you chosen?” he demands.

The professor spits at the Chief, and says “You can go to hell. I’d rather die than submit to such perversion. I choose death.”

“Very well!” says the Chief. “You have chosen death, and so death it shall be.”

He pauses.

Death — by BONGO-BONGO!!

In a related item from CNN, we learn that Hillary Clinton, at a recent campaign stop, said the following thing:

Hillary Clinton is touting her potential to make history as the nation’s first female president as “one of the merits” behind her campaign.

She played up her gender during a stop in West Columbia, South Carolina on Thursday. When a man told Clinton that his 10-year-old daughter told him, “You guys have had it long enough,” Clinton seized the moment.

“Clearly, I’m not asking people to vote for me simply because I’m a woman. I’m asking people to vote for me on the merits,” Clinton said.

Then she directly addressed gender, adding: “I think one of the merits is I am a woman. And I can bring those views and perspectives to the White House.

I’ve written often about the cognitive dissonance required to hold in one’s mind the ideology of the Left, and here we have another instructive example. As we know, it is today a matter of incontrovertible social dogma that all human groups, as categorized by race, ethnicity, or sex, are exactly alike in all cognitive and behavioral qualities, and that to discriminate, whether affirmatively or negatively, on the basis of such categorizations is the darkest imaginable sin. (If, for example, I were to campaign on the special qualities that I, as a white male of northern-European extraction, would bring to public office, I would be banished from polite society, and if possible reduced to beggary.) Yet here is Hillary Clinton doing exactly that — and what’s more, this reptilian woman is confident enough in the envenomation and paralysis of her audience’s faculty of reason that she can reject sexual bias, and then advocate it, in two consecutive sentences.

The New RINO

It appears that the intellectual and philosophical conclave known as ‘neo-reaction’, or the ‘Dark Enlightenment’, has just made its first memetic inroad into the broader political culture, with the derogatory neologism ‘cuckservative’.

The term refers to ‘conservatives’, generally white and male, who, cowed and ensorcelled by the hegemonic multiculturalism and relativism of what neo-reactionaries calls the ‘Cathedral’, actually seek to conserve very little — and are complicit in the sacking of the traditional American nation by mass Third-World immigration (legal or otherwise), totalitarian subjectivism, radical feminism, militant secularism, sexual anarchy, cultural Marxism, extremist egalitarianism, and so on.

It derives from the word ‘cuckold’, for obvious reasons. The coiner of the term is unknown. But suddenly it is all over social media, and popping up elsewhere as well. Clearly it resonates — a resonance that, properly understood, might go a long way toward explain the surging popularity of the current Republican front-runner.

Update: See also this.

Nothing Outside The State

For God’s sake, please, please, just leave us alone.

Ship Of Fools

Here.

Also: Bob Corker, who led the Senate’s disgraceful abrogation of its Constitutional treaty power with regard to the Iran deal, is suddenly upset that the President rushed the deal to the U.N. before Congress could complete its 60-day ‘review’ of the treaty — a deal that by the Senate’s own actions had already been rendered completely meaningless.

What’s the mot juste here? It’s right on the tip of my tongue…

Ah yes: bathos.

A Respectful Whistle

This may ring a bell:

There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane, he had to fly them. If he flew them, he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t want to, he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause of Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.

“That’s some catch, that Catch-22,” he observed.

“It’s the best there is,” Doc Daneeka agreed.

Here is an item that’s been going around over the past couple of days: an essay by Paul Sperry describing the Obama administration’s latest race-leveling operation.

The idea is to fish for “disparate impact” violations, wherever they can be found — in housing, lending, school discipline, academic performance, enrollment in gifted-student programs, etc. — and to use the coercive power of the State to flatten outcomes.

The Left has a secret weapon here, and in the current cultural climate, it’s a beaut. Here’s how it works:

1) If you go looking for disparate outcomes by racial groups (or by sex), you’ll certainly find them. They are real, and persistent. (See, for example, just how persistent they can be, here.)

2) When such disparate outcomes occur, there are only two possible causes: either they are due to an external obstacle, or something intrinsic to the group itself.

3) If all racial groups are assumed, as by current social convention they must be, to have exactly identical distributions of every cognitive and behavioral trait, then any variation in outcome that disparately affects a particular racial group must be evidence of some external obstacle. This can only be due to racism and injustice, and therefore it is just and proper for the State to detect and remove it, by whatever means necessary.

4) If however, you suggest that disparities under neutral policies may be due, even in part, to innate differences in the distribution of cognitive and behavioral characteristics in different racial groups, then you are a racist. (If you present actual evidence of such differences, you’re a “scientific” racist.) Moreover, the fact that you are even thinking such things is evidence of the persistence and prevalence of racism in general, which in turns confirms the assumption that disparate outcomes are the result of pervasive and intractable racism, and not innate differences. This is what justifies redoubled efforts on the part of the State to bring every aspect of our lives under racial scrutiny, and impose corrective measures wherever disparate outcomes are found.

So: notwithstanding that race, as we are told, is a “social construct” with no basis in reality, the government will spare no effort to group people by race, and to scour vast collections of intrusively gathered data to find inequalities in social and economic outcomes — not on any individual basis, but by race. But despite race being real enough, apparently, to justify making such racial categorizations, race can have no deeper reality as regards any shared characteristics that might contribute to such inequalities. Race is, in other words, real, but only real enough to serve, somehow, as a marker for defining groups, and thereby to serve as the basis of racism, without having any other actual properties. Moreover (and this is what makes the whole thing work so beautifully): if you disagree with any of this, you are yourself a racist — and you have thereby just demonstrated that persistent racism is indeed the problem.

Thanks to this secret weapon, we have moved beyond — far beyond — the idea that particular differences in outcomes may be due to specific and remediable instances of conscious and intentional racism. As we go Forward, we have a new paradigm: differences in outcomes simply ARE racism, now and forever.

That’s some catch!

Service Notice, and Open Thread 8

Busy few days coming up. Back soon.

Nothing Is Real

Here is an excellent piece on why putting women in combat is such a bad idea. I’d post an excerpt, but you really should read the whole thing.

See also this older item by Fred Reed.

Throughout history, wise societies have realized that women, as the source of, and natural limit to, future generations, are a people’s single most precious resource. They are what armies, traditionally, fight to protect.

We no longer live in a wise society.

Done Deal

Former Spook ‘Nate Hale’ comments, here.

Remains Of The Day

Here’s a nice item: an undercover video showing Planned Parenthood’s Senior Director of Medical Services, Deborah Nucatola, discussing availability and prices of aborted body parts.

I expect you will be hearing more about this. In particular, it will be of interest to hear from Hillary Clinton, who in 2009 received Planned Parenthood’s Margaret Sanger Award. In her acceptance speech on that occasion, Ms. Clinton said “I admire Margaret Sanger enormously, her courage, her tenacity, her vision.”

Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, held some views that would, I think, be somewhat out of fashion today, but that doesn’t seem to have affected her popularity over on the Left. Some quotes from her:

“The third group [of society] are those irresponsible and reckless ones having little regard for the consequences of their acts, or whose religious scruples prevent their exercising control over their numbers. Many of this group are diseased, feeble-minded, and are of the pauper element dependent upon the normal and fit members of society for their support. There is no doubt in the minds of all thinking people that the procreation of this group should be stopped.”

“As an advocate of birth control I wish … to point out that the unbalance between the birth rate of the ‘unfit’ and the ‘fit,’ admittedly the greatest present menace to civilization, can never be rectified by the inauguration of a cradle competition between these two classes. In this matter, the example of the inferior classes, the fertility of the feeble-minded, the mentally defective, the poverty-stricken classes, should not be held up for emulation…. On the contrary, the most urgent problem today is how to limit and discourage the over-fertility of the mentally and physically defective.”

The main objects of the Population Congress would be […] to give certain dysgenic groups in our population their choice of segregation or sterilization.

In fairness, I’ll admit it’s hard to rebut Ms. Sanger on purely practical terms (and I don’t recall her ever expressing an opinion on trafficking in human corpses). After all, it’s not as if she were a Southerner or something.

Science, Unsettled

Here.

May I also recommend to you an excellent book: The Neglected Sun, which makes a persuasive case that the effect on the Sun on Earth’s climate is significantly underestimated in mainstream climate models and the IPCC’s reports and predictions.

America’s Jacobins: Feeling Their Avoine

Recently a commenter scoffed at suggestions that, given the sudden anathematization of all things Confederate, statues honoring Confederate heroes might soon be removed. Fast forward a week, and we’re already moving past anything so tame as that — to the actual disinterment of the dead.

No announcement yet as to which lamp-post will display the remains.

Burke:

Rage and frenzy will pull down more in half an hour than prudence, deliberation, and foresight can build up in a hundred years. The errors and defects of old establishments are visible and palpable. It calls for little ability to point them out; and where absolute power is given, it requires but a word wholly to abolish the vice and the establishment together. The same lazy, but restless disposition, which loves sloth and hates quiet, directs these politicians, when they come to work for supplying the place of what they have destroyed. To make everything the reverse of what they have seen is quite as easy as to destroy. No difficulties occur in what has never been tried. Criticism is almost baffled in discovering the defects of what has not existed; and eager enthusiasm and cheating hope have all the wide field of imagination, in which they may expatiate with little or no opposition.

Also:

It is impossible not to observe, that … these pretended citizens treat France exactly like a country of conquest. Acting as conquerors, they have imitated the policy of the harshest of that harsh race. The policy of such barbarous victors, who contemn a subdued people, and insult their feelings, has ever been, as much as in them lay, to destroy all vestiges of the ancient country, in religion, in polity, in laws, and in manners; to confound all territorial limits; to produce a general poverty; to put up their properties to auction; to crush their princes, nobles, and pontiffs; to lay low everything which had lifted its head above the level, or which could serve to combine or rally, in their distresses, the disbanded people, under the standard of old opinion.

Reflections on the Revolution In France, 1790

We note that Edmund Burke, who died in 1797, asked that his own body be buried secretly, lest his corpse be desecrated should the Jacobins come to power in England.

Open Thread 7

All yours, folks.

Oh, And By The Way

Do you like your little town just the way it is? Does it seem appropriate to you that, as free Americans, our communities ought to enjoy local control of zoning, schools, and other civic concerns?

Well, enjoy it while it lasts, you racist, because the Transformer-In-Chief has other plans.

Things are moving awfully fast these days, no?

The Culture War: Dispatch From The Front

The other day, in the context of the gagging and grinding-into-the-dust of a dissenting Oregonian baker, I mentioned Tom Nichols’ observation about the difference between authoritarians and totalitarians: that the former only cares about what you do, while the latter must also control what you think. Totalitarians demand not only obedience, but conversion.

Mr. Nichols has since condensed his thoughts into a brief post, which is now making the rounds on the Right. An excerpt:

It is not enough for these Americans to say: “I have had my day in court and prevailed.” In effect, they now add: “You do not have the right to hold a different opinion, even if you lose in the public arena. You may not hold on to your belief as a minority view, or even as a private thought. And if you persist and still disagree, I will attack you without quarter and set others on you to deprive you of your status in your profession, of your standing in your community, and even of your livelihood.”

…This attitude promises social warfare without end, because there is no peace to be had until the opposing side offers a sincere and unconditional surrender… For the new totalitarians, prevailing in the courts or at the ballot boxes isn’t enough if there’s still a suspicion that anyone, anywhere, might still be committing thoughtcrime.

We see this attitude in the remark made by BuzzFeed’s editor, Ben Smith, on the Supreme Court’s homosexual-marriage ruling:

“We firmly believe that for a number of issues, including civil rights, women’s rights, anti-racism, and LGBT equality, there are not two sides.”

We see the same attitude toward climate-change dissidents, whose letters and comments are now blocked by various mainstream media outlets (even as yet another distinguished scientist joins their ranks), and in the opportunistic pogrom against all symbols of the Confederacy, and against those Southerners who honor their Civil War dead. We saw it in the ruination of Brendan Eich and Jason Richwine, and we see it today in the ongoing effort to destroy Donald Trump for his willingness to speak frankly about illegal immigration.

(To his credit, Mr. Trump has not backed down at all — and his obduracy has won him grudging admiration from many, including me, who have always seen him as nothing more than a braggart, fop, and buffoon. He remains, of course, all of those things and more, but here he is saying what many scores of millions of Americans are thinking. The traditional American nation is dying by mass Third World immigration — no, make that “being murdered”, because the effect is intentional — and everybody knows it. Now, in the wake of a spate of horrifying crimes by sheltered illegal aliens, Mr. Trump’s remarks — as well as Ann Coulter’s impressively well-researched book on the topic — seem suddenly to have tapped into a reservoir of resentment among ordinary Americans at having been ignored by their own government for decades on this issue.)

Among the Zinn-soaked vanguard of this campaign, the belief that the nation itself is irremediably tainted by its wicked racial and economic history seems increasingly prevalent. Here, for example, is Vox’s Dylan Matthews (who is not, as far as I know, a crypto-reactionary monarchist) arguing that it would have been better all round if the American Revolution hadn’t happened at all. Perhaps we will soon see calls to ban not only the Battle Flag of the South, but the Stars and Stripes as well.

As Richard Fernandez wrote last week:

“We are now living through a great period of extinction, through an epoch of idea-death. Christianity, the nuclear family, individual initiative, the notion of country, the very idea of gender, even the primacy of survival are in the process being declared surplus to requirements. A thousand ideas, the bloom of the forest, are being bulldozed into the soil by those all too certain of themselves.”

May Cause Flashbacks

Making the rounds today is a neural-network project from Google called DeepDream. It’s an open-source effort to train neural networks to recognize images (for you programmers, the code is here). I haven’t had any time to give this a close look, but if I understand correctly, when the system is presented with an unfamiliar image it tries to make sense of it in terms of images it has already seen — breaking down the new image and mapping known image fragments onto it wherever it can.

What’s attracting attention is the psychedelic imagery this thing produces. Some of it is eerily beautiful, while other images and animations are, I think, profoundly disturbing. It resembles very closely the visual effects produced by hallucinogenic drugs — a constant “filling-in” of every part of the visual field with half-formed and tentative patterns in continuous motion.

At this webpage, for example, is what the DeepDream code did when applied to a scene from the movie Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. (This animated GIF shows you how unsettling the effect can be.) Here is a video clip that shows what the software can do with a man’s face. Here is a page with more images, and links to other sites that will run the DeepDream process on pictures you upload. There is also a Reddit page.

I’m going to download this thing and see if I can get it running.

Links

Just a few topical ones:

‣   Patrick Buchanan (pre-Greek-referendum-result) on the E.U.’s worsening cohesion.

‣   Milton Friedman saw this coming.

‣   Dark Independence-Day ruminations by Dymphna.

‣   On spree killings.

‣   Your tax dollars at work (well, if you live in Oregon’s Gresham-Barlow school district).

Troubleshooting Gun Violence

A recent exchange on Twitter (another urgent call for gun bans, in reaction to the spree-killing in Charleston) reminded me once again the extent to which gun-control zealots are driven, not by reason and wisdom, but by missionary Utopianism, cultural resentment, naive and sheltered pacifism, and lust for social control. (As someone once said, gun control isn’t about guns, it’s about control.)

In the wake of this mass murder, here are some facts we should keep before us if we wish to examine the issue of gun violence rationally, in the way that a trained engineer would begin diagnosing and fixing a problem:

1) The only thing that stops a spree-killer is armed resistance.
2) Spree-killers know this, and so they seek out “gun-free” zones in nearly every case.
3) Spree killings, however, for all their emotional effect, are only a tiny fraction of gun homicides.
4) If you subtract the gun-homicide rates of America’s violent inner cities, America’s rate falls to European levels. (In fact, taking out just four cities — Detroit, New Orleans, Washington, D.C., and Chicago — does the trick.)
5) America’s inner cities already have punishingly strict gun laws, yet have staggeringly high rates of gun violence.*
6) There are other places, like Vermont and Switzerland, that have very high rates of gun ownership, and very low rates of gun violence. (Vermont has, effectively, no gun laws at all.)
7) There are hundreds of millions of guns in private ownership in America, and the right to keep and bear them is guaranteed by the Constitution. There is no realistic possibility of making them go away.

(*If your response to #5 is to say that guns flow to these places from nearby areas with looser gun laws, then you must explain why homicide rates in those places are so much lower.)

In the comment thread to my January post Degeneracy Pressure, I examined the data on gun-homicide rates and gun ownership, to see if they were correlated. I am reposting some of that comment here.

First I looked at murder rates in the 50 states and Washington, D.C. I scatter-plotted that against the rate of gun ownership in each of these places. Here’s what the resulting graph looks like:

 
In statistics, correlation can range from -1 to 1; a value of 0 means that there is no correlation at all. The correlation I found for homicide rates vs. gun ownership was moderately negative, at -0.25. This means that states with higher rates of gun ownership are not more, but less likely to have a higher murder rate.

Then I did the same thing worldwide. I looked at homicide rates vs. per-capita gun ownership for 173 nations. Here’s the graph:

 
As you can see, the trend is still negative. The negative correlation is slightly less, at -0.16. (Getting closer to no correlation at all.)

If you have a problem and want to solve it, first you have to understand what its causes are. The lack of correlation between gun ownership and gun violence demonstrated above should make it clear that the mere presence of guns is not the root cause of the problem. (I grew up in rural New Jersey, where just about every household owned guns, and we kids all grew up shooting them. We did not, however, shoot one another.)

If the goal is low rates of gun violence, then rather than jumping to the conclusion that the only answer is enhancing government restrictions and prohibitions of gun ownership (when the rate of gun ownership, as demonstrated above, shows no correlation with the desired result), the thing to do is to look at instances in which a low rate of gun violence happens naturally (for example, Vermont and Switzerland). We should then compare these communities with those in which the problem persists despite all attempts to solve it, and persists despite implementing the very solutions that gun-control zealots wish to impose nationwide (e.g., inner-city Detroit and Chicago). We should ask: In what ways do these places differ? This, and only this, will give dependable indications as to the real cause of the problem. Salient factors will emerge, to be controlled for one by one in subsequent analysis.

It may be that what emerges from such analysis does not lend itself comfortably to social-engineering solutions (or may not even be considered acceptable for public discussion). We seem to forget these days that not all complex problems have acceptable or feasible solutions, and that any such solutions as may exist may not involve government action. But as someone who has spent his adult life troubleshooting complex systems, I can say this with confidence: unless and until you understand what really causes a problem, you will never reliably fix it.

Kneel

Or, Woe to the Vanquished, Part II.

What’s the difference between authoritarians and totalitarians? As Tom Nichols observed recently: the former only cares about what you do, while the latter must also control what you think. They demand not only obedience, but conversion.

Things are moving fast these days. This acceleration is exactly what we should expect as things fall apart, in a shrinking world. The temperature and pressure are rising.

Woe To The Vanquished

From the latest Radio Derb, here’s a corking rant by John Derbyshire on the latest national frenzy: the destruction and damnation of all symbols of the Confederacy. It’s so good that I reprint it here in full, with some emphasis added.

Back there in our April 11th podcast I noted the 150th anniversary of Robert E. Lee’s surrender to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse that ended the American Civil War. Quote from myself:

Both commanders behaved with grace and professionalism at the surrender. I find it very moving to read about.

End quote. I followed that with a brief reading from Shelby Foote’s narrative of the surrender.

A few weeks later — earlier this month, in fact — I stood in Wilmer McLean’s parlor, where the surrender ceremony actually took place, complete with replicas of the tables where Lee and Grant sat.

The day before that, travelling around Virginia, my wife and I had visited Monument Avenue in Richmond, a beautiful broad boulevard decorated at intervals with fine statues. The statues are, in order from south to north, Confederate General Robert E. Lee, Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart, Confederate President Jefferson Davis, Confederate Naval Commander Fontaine Maury, Confederate General Stonewall Jackson, and Richmond-born tennis champion Arthur Ashe.

Those magnificent statues impressed on me again, as the story of the surrender had, the terrible gravity of war, and the supreme importance of the lead participants in a war behaving towards one another with proper gentlemanly forbearance, as a counter to the horror and cruelty that are inseparable from the business of waging war.

A key factor here is how the victor deals with the vanquished. The barbarian standard is the one set by Brennus the Gaul: “Woe to the vanquished!” The barbarian victor grinds the beaten enemy beneath his heel, laughing as he does so. Civilized nations have not always been above this kind of behavior, either, as the victorious allies showed after World War One, with vengeful and vindictive policies that are generally, and in my opinion credibly, blamed for bringing on World War Two.

Civilized nations are mostly better than that, though. We don’t generally massacre, enslave, or reduce to beggary the nations we defeat. After the allies defeated Japan in WW2 we let them keep their Emperor even though Hirohito had been, at least theoretically, a key decision-maker in Japanese war policy. We let them keep their other national symbols, too: The national flag of Japan today is the same as the one flown a hundred years ago. Then we helped them rebuild their economy.

When the war is a civil war, a civilized tolerance towards the defeated enemy, his sensibilities, his symbols, his grief for his dead, and his wish to honor their sacrifice, is doubly necessary. Victor and vanquished have to live together as fellow citizens — tolerant of social differences, but firm in the belief that they must function together as citizens of a single nation.

Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant understood that. The architects of the post-WW2 global peace understood it — men like George C. Marshall, George Kennan, and Douglas MacArthur.

The Trotskyite fanatics who control today’s public discourse do not understand it. Or rather: They understand the principle, but despise it. They represent, essentially, a regression to barbarism, to the ethics of Brennus the Gaul. For them, it is not sufficient that the defeated enemy has been defeated. He must also be humiliated, his symbols defaced and burned, his face pushed down into the mud. Woe to the vanquished!

These fanatics will not rest until all those fine statues on Richmond’s Monument Avenue have been defaced and destroyed; until every street or square named for a Southern hero has been renamed for some black communist, philanderer, or crook; until every trace of what our ancestors believed, felt, and fought for has been discredited and mocked.

Just today I read in the New York Post some yammering fool telling me that Gone With the Wind, one of the best American movies ever made, from a very fine novel, should be hidden away in museums for fear it might offend someone.

Well, here’s what I say to that. The hell with these vandals and their barbarian values! The Civil War was fought by Americans of courage and honor on both sides. Inevitably one side won and the other lost, so that instead of two separate nations we ended up with two distinct sections within one nation. Each can honor the valor and sacrifice of the other, without loss of face or honor.

That’s how mature people behave. That’s how mature nations behave. That’s how Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant behaved. That’s how George Marshall and Douglas MacArthur behaved. That’s how Americans at large behaved until recently; until Cultural Marxism fixed its clammy grip on the national soul, insisting that all right is here, all evil is there, and all dissent from official dogma is sick and cruel.

We are relapsing into barbarism, ladies and gentlemen. The current campaign against the South and its symbols — what I call the Cold Civil War — is the manifestation of that relapse. The South accepted its fate, as defeated peoples must. Out of that acceptance came a great modern nation, the U.S.A. of the 20th century. That nation is now being destroyed by people who hate it. American patriots, and everyone who believes in civilized values, should resist that.

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