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

Meanwhile…

At least there’s some good news today.

Paging Dr. Richter

Everybody’s talking about the unilateral illegal-alien amnesty President Obama plans to announce tonight. (One thing you may not have heard, buy the way, is that it will add as many new foreign workers as there have been jobs created since 2009, at a time when, for example, unemployment among blacks, who will disproportionately be competing for low-income jobs with these illegal workers, is still above 10%.)

The proposed executive action is intensely divisive and provocative in three important ways.

First, it divides socialist, egalitarian open-borders sorts who see a moral imperative for the United States to provide charity and succor to all the world’s poor, even if it ruins the nation, from those who believe that our government, and our President, should put the interests of American citizens first.

Second, it divides multiculturist, anti-white activists from those who wish to defend our nation’s traditional cultural and demographic form.

Third, it divides those who think that the Constitution is a “living document”, and in many ways an outdated one, that confines a modern Executive far too much for these fast-moving times, from those who worry that this action stretches the Constitution beyond the breaking point, and is a direct assault on the separation of powers and a threat to the Republic itself.

The regions marked off by these divisions are not congruent, although there is a great deal of overlap. But the fault-lines that divide them are very deep, and have been locked in place for a long time now — half a century or more — while the tectonic forces dragging them in opposite directions have built up to dangerous levels. All seems quiet from the surface, save for the occasional tremor, but in fact there is, below the ground, enormous energy waiting to be released, with the potential for widespread devastation.

Mr. Obama’s brazen action tonight will sharply increase the strain on all of these fault-lines. It sets the interests of illegal aliens above those of American citizens; it accelerates at a stroke the displacement of the nation’s traditional ethnic and cultural majority (and minority), and it is an aggressive usurpation of the legislative power of Congress. It may or not be the jolt that sets these tectonic plates into sudden, violent motion. But even if not, it is bound to increase the destructive energy when the earthquake finally comes — and come it will.

Master Class

On my very short list of all-time favorite writers is the great John McPhee. (If you’ve never read him, stop wasting your life and correct this mistake at once.)

Here, in the Princeton Alumni Journal, is an appreciation of Mr. McPhee by one of his students, Joel Achenbach ’82. Enjoy.

Where’s My Pitchfork?

“First of all, temporary protective status historically has been used for special circumstances where you have immigrants to this country who are fleeing persecution in their countries. Or there’s some emergency situation in their native land that required them to come to the United States. So it would not be appropriate to use that just for a particular group that came here primarily, for example, because they were looking for economic opportunity.

With respect to the notion that I can just suspend deportations through executive order, that’s just not the case. Because there are laws on the books that Congress has passed. And I know that everybody here at Bell is studying hard so you know that we’ve got three branches of government.. The executive branch’s job is to enforce and implement those laws. And then the judiciary has to interpret the laws.

There are enough laws on the books by Congress that are very clear in terms of how we have to enforce our immigration system that for me to simply, through executive order, to ignore those congressional mandates would not conform with my appropriate role as president.”

Barack Obama, speech at Bell Multicultural High School, Washington, D.C., March 2011

No-Win Situation

Here’s a pungent analysis of the situation in Iraq from the ‘XX Committee’ blog. (Hat tip to the indefatigable JK.)

Key excerpt:

The U.S. military is quite capable of defeating almost any adversary on the battlefield, even Da’ish, though that is not the same thing as producing lasting political outcomes that Americans will like. This is particularly true in the Greater Middle East, where the politico-cultural barriers to Westernization delivered by the barrel of a gun are steep and strong. Over the last decade, multiple approaches have been tried: in Afghanistan and Iraq, a U.S. “heavy” footprint was applied while in Libya a “lead from behind” air coalition employing locals as the ground force (not unlike what we hope to do in Iraq now) sufficed to overthrow the Qaddafi regime. All these countries are violent basket-cases now.

On the essential fraudulence of the “counterinsurgency” myth that was peddled to the American public during George W. Bush’s second term I don’t have much to add to what other scholars have already said. The “COIN” agenda proved effective at promoting the careers and fortunes of some U.S. Army officers and their think-tank hangers-on, yet quite ineffective at producing strategic victory. It is now time, indeed long overdue, to dispense with magical thinking about what the application of American military power might achieve in any lasting strategic or political sense in the Middle East.

To be blunt, we kill very effectively but we have precious little understanding of how to transform Muslim societies by force. Indeed, our efforts in that direction usually produce opposite outcomes, which should be easily predictable were we not besotted by lies about how others view us and what we seek to achieve. It is dangerously easy, when ensconced in the Pentagon or White House bubble of endless PowerPoints and meetings, to believe entirely untrue things. This is a strategic deception that is painful because it is entirely self-inflicted.

Simply put, we have no ability to change Muslim societies unless we are willing to stay the long haul and are eager to kill staggering numbers of people, many of them civilians, in horrible ways. And even then, lasting victory is far from certain. In the 1950′s, France crushed the Algerian insurgency tactically through methods that no Western state would approve today — massive internment of civilians, indiscriminate killings, and torture on an industrial scale — and still failed to strategically defeat the local resistance, thanks in no small part to global disgust at what France was doing in Algeria. And this was a country that France had occupied for well over a century and its military knew intimately. (One of the more ridiculous facets of the Petraeus-led COIN mafia was their citation of France’s 1954-62 war in Algeria as a model of any sort to emulate, but how they out-cherry-picked Cheney to make their ahistorical arguments is, alas, another story.)

Confronted with the fact that we simply will not defeat ISIS without actually going to war with them ourselves, we are now, it seems, about to escalate.

Suppose we ‘win’, and reconquer the territory that thousands of our military already bled and died for. Then what? We will face an endless insurgency, as we did before. If we leave, chaos will erupt again, just as it has this time. Do we then stay, forever, draining the blood of our best, and money we haven’t got, into the sands of Mesopotamia?

It would be refreshing if our leaders would at least make it clear to the American people that this is the choice we face: rule this snakepit forever, at measureless cost, or look after our own dying nation, and let the parties to these ancient and alien hatreds settle them amongst themselves.

Fanning The Fire

The nation waits with bated breath for the Ferguson grand jury to return its verdict. The expectation is that there will be no indictment, as it appears that Michael Brown had attacked Officer Darren Wilson, badly injuring him, and was trying to take the officer’s pistol when he was shot. The expectation is also that if a decision not to indict is indeed brought forward, there will be widespread rioting. The situation is very, very tense.

You would think that our high officials would be doing what they can to pour oil on these troubled waters. Not our Attorney General, though: he chose instead to pour gasoline on the fire, comparing the shooting of the thuggish Michael Brown for assaulting a police officer to the gruesome 1955 torture-murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till for flirting with a white woman.

Even for Eric Holder, this is a new low. It is nothing less than deliberate provocation. If hell breaks loose in the next few days over this verdict, and people are injured or killed, there will be fresh blood on this man’s hands.

Boil That Frog

Yawn… ISIS beheads another American.

You know, when I was younger, that would have been a pretty big deal.

Did This Happen?

Having unbosomed myself of that dyspeptic political rant yesterday, it’s time to change the subject.

Here is an unsettling story about an encounter that the USS Donald Cook (DDG-75), an Arleigh Burke-class missile destroyer, had with a Russian SU-24 in the Black Sea last April.

I have only just learned about this, and while it seems clear enough that the encounter happened, and provoked a minor squabble, I haven’t yet firmly corroborated the account linked above. (Admittedly, I’ve only been trying for about ten minutes.) I’d have thought InfoDiss might have had something to say about it, but apparently not.

If it did happen as described, this is a pretty big deal.

We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Mandate

The Democrats, and by proxy Barack Obama, got hammered last week. Lest you think this was just some low-turnout election that doesn’t really mean much, a Gallup poll taken afterwards indicated that by a sizable margin — 53% to 36% — Americans would rather have the GOP at the helm than Mr. Obama. (And that’s saying something, considering what the venal and unprincipled Republican Party has on offer these days.)

You might think that a President in such a position would be chastened, would reflect on how clearly his actions have been at odds with the spirit of the nation he was elected to lead, and might, with humble grace, defer to the wishes of the people by scaling back his “fundamentally transformative” agenda — but you would be mistaken. Imagine a reflective man of humble grace, dear Reader, and you have imagined everything Barack Obama is not. Instead, he’s doubling down.

Consider, for example, his latest trip to China, for which he arrived swaggering like a sports star and chewing gum. He was ‘all hat and no cattle’ though, as the Chicoms played him like a violin once he got there. During the visit, Mr. Obama agreed to asymmetrical climate-change regulations that ask the Chinese only to try to level off their emissions by ‘around’ 2030 (and to make to make vague and indeterminate efforts thereafter) while imposing far more specific, and economically burdensome, requirements on the U.S. This was hailed by the mainstream press, and the warmist lobby (but I repeat myself), as a major breakthrough — even though this is, of course the same China that routinely penetrates our computer systems, ignores our copyrights, and pilfers our technology, and which can hardly be expected to bind itself, decades hence, to anything that doesn’t suit its mood. (Regarding tech-pilfering, the Chicoms made sure to rub our delegation’s nose in it by trotting out, during our visit, their new J-35 fighter plane, which is chock-full of cyber-swiped U.S. technology.)

Mr. Obama agreed, also, to a reciprocal loosening of visa arrangements. Needless to say, the flow will be largely unidirectional, as a great many more Chinese are interested in coming here than vice-versa — so the colonization of the United States by the rest of the world, and displacement of its traditional majority demographic group, will continue at a briskly accelerated pace (not to mention the expanding opportunities this will create for corporate and other espionage, wage depression, and so on). But displacing ethnic groups in their own homelands is clearly not a problem for Mr. Obama, who not only made it clear that the aggressive replacement of indigenous Tibetans by Han Chinese is not something we’re inclined to be sticklers about, but who also seems poised to move ahead, perhaps as early as next week, with his long-threatened ‘executive’ amnesty for millions of illegal aliens.

Leaving the China visit aside, there’s also ‘net neutrality’, another Trojan horse for government intrusion and control, for which Mr. Obama has just announced he’ll be pushing hard in his lame-duck term. (This one probably deserves a post of its own.)

So: was last week’s electoral convulsion — clearly an attempt by the American people to expel the malignant, parasitic organism that has already sapped so much of their nation’s health and vigor — an occasion for Mr. Obama to think twice about his reckless, Utopian ambitions, his disdain for the traditional American society and people, and about the proper limits of his power?

Hell, no. Forward!

Links

I’ve been too busy, again, to discharge my duties around here for a few days — and I’m working late again tonight.

Here are a few links that have been piling up:

‣   Nine horror films under 9 minutes.

‣   The Life of R’lyeh.

‣   What to get me for Christmas.

‣   Eagle’s-eye view.

‣   A new way to waste your time.

‣   And another.

‣   If Galileo could only have seen this.

‣   An important public service.

‣   A curious cultural artifact.

‣   Flapper.

‣   Just-So story.

‣   Rat Park.

‣   Against the odds.

That’s all for now, I’m afraid. Back soon.

We’ll Leave The Light On For You

In case any of you blue-state types are losing some of your mojo in the wake of this week’s whuppin’, and might even be thinking about joining the forces of Good and Truth and Liberty and Tradition and Reason over here on the Right, here’s some gentle prodding from one Danusha V. Goshka: Ten Reasons Why I Am No Longer A Leftist.

The Tingle’s Gone

In the wake of today’s bizarre, solipsistic White House presser, it seems that even Chris Matthews is beginning to see through Barack Obama’s charismatic aura.

Better late than never, I guess. We all know people who are still under the man’s spell, even now.

America Resists

Last night’s election results were a welcome sign of life, and a clear indication that the Left’s cultural and political blitzkrieg of the past few years has outstripped its supply lines, and conquered more territory than it can hold. Exactly what legislative ground can actually be retaken by the forces of order, liberty, sanity, and American tradition remains to be seen — a full repeal of the ACA still seems out of reach, for example, even with a unified Congress — but at the very least we have, for now, halted the enemy’s advance.

That’s about as far as I’ll go: from a reactionary standpoint, temporary decelerations of the dismantling of the American order might just prolong and extend a slow decline, whereas letting the destruction continue at its rapid pace might have hastened a collapse from the ashes of which something far more vital might have arisen. (To use an overworked metaphor, it might, in the long run, mean the difference between a successfully boiled frog and one that jumps out of the pot.)

Our lefty pal Peter commented in a recent post that “we are a center left country”, leaning on the familiar myth that House Republican majorities are due only to evil gerrymandering (reflecting the customary liberal assumption that anything they can’t have must have been taken from them unfairly) — but as CNN’s John King demonstrated last night, things have changed over the past few years. It’s hard not to see that conservative groundswell as a reaction to overreach by the Left, and to too-rapid change.

So: we’ll see where we go from here. It is one thing to campaign successfully; it is another to govern. But for today, a sigh of relief is in order at the very least, and perhaps even a cheer. At the very least, the vile and venal Harry Reid no longer controls the Senate. And that’s not nothing.

End Of The Road

More sad news today: Tom Magliozzi, who with his younger brother Ray hosted the weekly radio program Car Talk, has died of Alzheimers at age 77.

I’m really, really sad to hear this. I loved this show, and I loved these guys. (Yeesh — first Jack Bruce, and now Tom Magliozzi, in a just over a week…)

Anyway, if you ever listened to their show, you’ll understand what a blow this is. And if not, get yourself over to CarTalk.com at once and see what you’ve missed.

Res Ipsa Loquitur

I’m a registered Democrat.

Some of you may find this surprising. The reason is purely tactical: I am registered in New York City, where any conservative vote is just a drop in the left-wing ocean, so the best I can hope to do is to exert a microscopic influence, in the Democratic primaries, to support the candidates I consider the lesser evil.*

When we got back to Brooklyn last night after several weeks’ absence, we found a note in the mail from the New York State Democratic Committee. Here’s what it said:

 

My! I’m not at all sure I like their tone. That their “organizations” have been “monitoring” our voting, and are “disappointed” in our “inconsistent” performance would be creepy enough all by itself, but that closing remark is downright menacing. I thought the Democrats were supposed to be the party of moral uplift and selfless benefaction; this sounds more like the Yakuza.

Meanwhile, over at the Times, we find today an Op-Ed entitled Cancel the Midterms.

It seems that “things” are, to paraphrase a vulgar expression, “getting real”. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

* Note to NRx readers: Yeah, yeah, I know.

Fact And Faction

The other day a group calling itself ‘Hollaback’ posted a video on YouTube called 10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman. Its apparent purpose was to call attention to the oppressive conditions that women, even in these relatively enlightened times, must endure in a culture still in the grip of a malevolent and hegemonic cis-heteronormative patriarchy, and it accomplished this by showing that a comely lass walking the city’s streets will be commented upon, greeted with licentious approval, and propositioned by many of the young males she passes.

I think we can all agree that pestering and harassing women in this way is deplorable behavior. It is vulgar and ungentlemanly. It is certainly something I’d never do, and I don’t think I even know anybody who would. (I’m sure, gentle Readers, that you could say the same.) One might think, then, that this would be the sort of thing that the Left would rally round as one — but one would be mistaken, or at least way behind the times. The problem, you see, was that the young lady in the video was a “person of pallor”, and her randy tormentors almost exclusively black and Hispanic. This meant that once the thing was picked up by the grievance industry — which is so competitive these days as to make the meth business look like a kibbutz — it quickly became just another example of whiny, privileged whiteness.

The reason? As I’ve said before (see here and here), “injustice” is fractal. (Zoom out and you get slavery, the Holocaust, ISIS; zoom in and you get this.) The corollary of this is that when it comes to social-justice warriors, faction is fractal too. Interest groups will form ad-hoc alliances so as to unite against a common or external enemy, but once he has been driven off, the various factions no longer have enough in common to bind them one to another, and so they begin to squabble for dominance over the newly conquered territory. What’s more, when exposing social injustice is the defining purpose of your life, and the the measure of all that is holy, then you always need new injustices to put right, or you’re out of a job. So you zoom in. Rinse and repeat.

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

For those of us sitting in the bleachers, it’s certainly entertaining, for now at least. The talented young writer Charles Cooke has an excellent review of it all, over at NRO. Read it here.

PS: while you’re at it, be sure to read Kevin Williamson’s excellent article about the grotesque Lena Dunham, here.

Last Light

Here’s Wellfleet Harbor, just after sunset Sunday.

embiggen

 

Tweet Of The Day

Is this:

It was posted in response to this item, which explains that behind closed doors president Obama and his staff refer to Mr. Netanyahu as a “chickenshit”.

It’s easy, of course, to see what Mr. Obama and his cadre find so galling — and so threatening — about Mr. Netanyahu. He is a virile and confident man, a former commando and combat veteran, who has always been completely immune to the epicene Mr. Obama’s messianic spell. (He knows, also, what a fickle ally this administration can be.) But much more than that, he is fully identified with his own people, and will do, completely unapologetically, whatever it takes to defend their own interests and ensure their survival, globalism and multiculturalism be damned. That his people are prosperous and intelligent, and for the most part, white, makes it all a thousand times worse.

Into The Tumbrel

The comedian Bill Maher has, throughout his career, been a darling of the Left. His smug and odious schtick has for years consisted of taunting and ridiculing conservatives, Republicans, Christians, and pretty much anyone who represents American traditional values. (That he chooses to do so in the coarsest and most vulgar terms imaginable only serves to increase his appeal, it seems.)

Mr. Maher is not, however, a stupid man, and it seems that the contradictions, cognitive dissonances, and general denial of reality that modern liberalism imposes on its true believers are at last too much for him, and so he has begun to dissent. In particular, he has begun to assert that Western culture — the very culture that gave rise to the secular liberalism his fans so piously profess — is in fact not only different from, but better than, Islam.

This, however, is crimethink — and so, quite suddenly, he is swimming against the current that had for decades wafted him along to celebrity and success, and feels its frightening power. You’ve probably heard about the dust-up he and Sam Harris had with Ben Affleck and Nick Kristof on Maher’s show a few weeks ago; now a petition is being raised to keep him from speaking at Berkeley.

What should stand out here is that Mr. Maher was doing just fine until he picked the wrong target. Catholics, rednecks, gun owners, the Bushes, Dick Cheney, the Tea Party — he gleefully slandered them all, and his star ascended. Even when he called Sarah Palin a “cunt”, and her child a “retard”, the cultural Politburo — who would surely have seen to it that a conservative commentator making such remarks about a female Democrat was boycotted, disenfranchised, hounded into retirement, and shunned by all of the faithful — gave him a pass. No longer.

Voltaire once said: “To learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize.” Mr. Maher is now finding out.

There is no shame in changing our opinions as life’s lessons bring us, often against our wishes, to a deeper understanding of the truth of the world. Were Mr. Maher to undergo a reactionary transformation, and repent of his folly, I have no doubt he’d find a warm welcome over here on the Dark side.

Charles Cooke has a good piece about the Berkeley brouhaha here; his essay links to another good one, here.

On Introversion

Last week at Maverick Philosopher, Bill V. put up a post comparing the introvert with the extrovert:

The extrovert is like a mirror: being nothing in himself, he is only what he reflects. A caricature, no doubt, but useful in delineation of an ideal type. This is why the extrovert needs others. Without them, he lacks inner substance. This is also why he is not drained by others, but drains them — like a vampire. By contrast, the introvert, who has inner substance, loses it by social intercourse. He is drained not merely of physical energy, but of spiritual integrity, inner focus, his very self. The problem with socializing is not so much energy loss as self loss. But one cannot lose what one does not have.

The introvert cannot be himself in society but must sacrifice himself on the altar of Heidegger’s das Man, the ‘they self,’ or social self. The extrovert can only be himself and come to himself in society. Whereas the introvert loses himself in society, the extrovert finds himself there.

If you infer the superiority of the introvert, I won’t disagree with you.

The post linked to an earlier entry, Are You An Introvert?, which offers a twenty-question test. The more ‘yes’ answers, the more of an introvert you are. I answered ‘yes’ to every one.

What’s strange is that none of my friends think of me as an introvert. This, I suppose, is because when I socialize I engage cheerily and convivially, am good at joke-telling, and so on; I’m generally the ‘life of the party’. But the test is revealing: I do cherish solitude, and am always looking forward to my next quiet time alone; I prefer unstructured time to scheduled activities, I prefer to express myself in writing; I’m terrible at multitasking; and so on. As I get older I also find myself less and less at ease in the city, despite having lived (and thrived) in New York for 36 years; although I still love the place for its incomparable assets and opportunities, the constant impingement of its teeming crowds chafes and squeezes me almost unbearably these days, and every time I go back for more than a few days I find myself longing for the long horizons, fragrant woodlands, lambent beauty, starry nights, ancient watery rhythms, and profound stillness of the Outer Cape.

It is, perhaps, that stillness that is most important of all. For the introvert, the constant agitation of the outer world roils and muddies the waters within; it’s only when we can disconnect ourselves from that constant tossing and churning that the sediment can settle out, and give way to clarity. (It should be possible, as Gurdjieff insisted, to achieve this even within the hurly-burly of the madding crowd, but most of us are not saints, or even saints-in-the-making.)

Bill’s assessment of the extrovert is a bit harsh, perhaps, but I can’t comment authoritatively on what it’s like to be one. He may be right.

Pix

I love autumn in the Outer Cape. Here are a few photos I’ve snapped around Wellfleet lately:

Here’s the sky in tatters over Wellfleet Harbor after last week’s storm:
 

 
And some fall color along Commercial Street:
 

 
A leaden sky over Cape Cod Bay, looking southwest from Bound Brook Island:
 

 
Mushrooms on a woodland trail:
 

 
Sunset yesterday, from the bluff at Griffin’s Island:
 

 
And the azure sky just after sunset:
 

 

What A Bringdown

It is with deep sadness that I must report the death of the great Jack Bruce, who died today in England at age 71. He was a giant to me, and my heart is heavy tonight.

You can read about his life, and his long musical career, here.

Hillary On The Hustings

This from Hillary Clinton today:

“Don’t let anybody tell you that, you know, that it’s corporations and businesses that create jobs.”

I kid you not.

Filming A Hole

On my bookshelf at home is a massive tome called Gravitation, by the great astrophysicists Charles Misner, John Wheeler and Kip Thorne. I picked it up at a used-book sale about twenty years ago, at a time when I was reading everything I could get my hands on about cosmology and relativistic physics. It was obviously “above my pay grade” mathematically, but the authors were rock-stars to me, and I knew it was the Bible of this field — so when I had the chance to grab a copy for a paltry few bucks, I snatched it. (You can get a copy for yourself at Amazon, but it’ll cost you.)

Now, with thanks to our reader and commenter Henry (who is a physicist himself), I’ve learned that Kip Thorne is producing a movie about a visit to a black hole, and has spent a good deal of effort calculating, with mathematical rigor, just what a black hole would look like if we were able to photograph it at close range. Henry has posted a trailer at his blog; you can have a look here.