Habitat For Humanity

With a hat-tip to Bryce Laliberte, here’s an excellent photographic essay on the appeal of “traditional cities”: cities that are built not for cars or transit systems, but for people.

Loaded For Bear

This bill just passed in Missouri:

SCS/SJR 36 – This proposed constitutional amendment, if approved by voters, modifies provisions regarding the right to keep and bear arms. This amendment provides that a citizen has the right to keep and bear arms, ammunition, and accessories typical to the normal function of such arms, in defense of their family, in addition to the current rights in defense of home, person and property. The amendment removes language stating that the right to keep and bear arms did not justify the wearing of concealed weapons.

The amendment provides that the rights guaranteed under this provision of the Constitution are unalienable. Any restriction on these rights shall be subject to strict scrutiny. The State of Missouri is obligated to uphold these rights and shall under no circumstances decline to protect against their infringement. Nothing in this amendment shall be construed to prevent the passage of laws by the General Assembly that limit such rights for convicted violent felons or persons adjudged to be a danger to self or others as the result of a mental disorder or mental infirmity.

“The amendment provides that the rights guaranteed under this provision of the Constitution are unalienable… The State of Missouri is obligated to uphold these rights and shall under no circumstances decline to protect against their infringement.”

It will be interesting to see what happens when this collides with further gun-rights restrictions imposed by Washington, should that come to pass.

Tweet Of The Day

 


 

Whoops!

This just in:

$619 billion missing from federal transparency site

That’s billion with a B.

Don’t forget, folks: tax day is April 15th. File early to make sure you avoid penalties and late fees.

Motte And Bailey

I’ve just run across (hat-tip to Nick Land) an excellent, and apparently oft-cited, essay by Scott Alexander on the unique terminological characteristics of the various “social-justice” movements.

The essay describes a splendid metaphor: the “motte-and-bailey” style of argument. Here’s Section II of Mr. Alexander’s post:

I started this post by saying I recently learned there is a term for the thing social justice does. A reader responding to my comment above pointed out that this tactic had been described before in a paper, under the name “motte-and-bailey doctrine”.

The paper was critiquing post-modernism, an area I don’t know enough about to determine whether or not their critique was fair. It complained that post-modernists sometimes say things like “reality is socially constructed”. There’s an uncontroversial meaning here – we don’t experience the world directly, but through the categories and prejudices implicit to our society. For example, I might view a certain shade of bluish-green as blue, and someone raised in a different culture might view it as green. Okay. Then post-modernists go on to say that if someone in a different culture thinks that the sun is light glinting off the horns of the Sky Ox, that’s just as real as our own culture’s theory that the sun is a mass of incandescent gas a great big nuclear furnace. If you challenge them, they’ll say that you’re denying reality is socially constructed, which means you’re clearly very naive and think you have perfect objectivity and the senses perceive reality directly.

The writers of the paper compare this to a form of medieval castle, where there would be a field of desirable and economically productive land called a bailey, and a big ugly tower in the middle called the motte. If you were a medieval lord, you would do most of your economic activity in the bailey and get rich. If an enemy approached, you would retreat to the motte and rain down arrows on the enemy until they gave up and went away. Then you would go back to the bailey, which is the place you wanted to be all along.

By this metaphor, statements like “God is an extremely powerful supernatural being who punishes my enemies” or “The Sky Ox theory and the nuclear furnace theory are equally legitimate” or “Men should not be allowed to participate in discussions about gender” are the bailey – not defensible at all, but if you can manage to hold them you’ve got it made.

Statements like “God is just the order and love in the universe” and “No one perceives reality perfectly directly” and “Men should not interject into safe spaces for women” are the motte – extremely defensible, but useless.

As long as nobody’s challenging you, you spend time in the bailey reaping the rewards of occupying such useful territory. As soon as someone challenges you, you retreat to the impregnable motte and glare at them until they get annoyed and go away. Then you go back to the bailey.

Then there’s this, from Section IV:

If racism school dot tumblr dot com and the rest of the social justice community are right, “racism” and “privilege” and all the others are innocent and totally non-insulting words that simply point out some things that many people are doing and should try to avoid.

If I am right, “racism” and “privilege” and all the others are exactly what everyone loudly insists they are not – weapons – and weapons all the more powerful for the fact that you are not allowed to describe them as such or try to defend against them. The social justice movement is the mad scientist sitting at the control panel ready to direct them at whomever she chooses. Get hit, and you are marked as a terrible person who has no right to have an opinion and who deserves the same utter ruin and universal scorn as Donald Sterling. Appease the mad scientist by doing everything she wants, and you will be passed over in favor of the poor shmuck to your right and live to see another day. Because the power of the social justice movement derives from their control over these weapons, their highest priority should be to protect them, refine them, and most of all prevent them from falling into enemy hands.

If racism school dot tumblr dot com is right, people’s response to words like “racism” and “privilege” should be accepting them as a useful part of communication that can if needed also be done with other words. No one need worry too much about their definitions except insofar as it is unclear what someone meant to say. No one need worry about whether the words are used to describe them personally, except insofar as their use reveals states of the world which are independent of the words used.

If I am right, then people’s response to these words should be a frantic game of hot potato where they attack like a cornered animal against anyone who tries to use the words on them, desperately try to throw them at somebody else instead, and dispute the definitions like their lives depend on it.

And I know that social justice people like to mock straight white men for behaving in exactly that way, but man, we’re just following your lead here.

Read the whole thing here.

We Find Your Lack Of Faith Disturbing

Following on our item the other day about cultlike birthday messages from the President, I should mention that just after publishing that post, I got this:

Malcolm —

I don’t want to make this awkward, but…

It looks like you haven’t signed OFA’s birthday card for President Obama yet.

Today’s the big day — I think the card would be so much better with your name on it, Malcolm.

Before we seal the giant envelope, sign your name to OFA’s birthday card for the President:

http://my.barackobama.com/Sign-OFAs-Birthday-Card-for-the-President

Thanks,

Grant

Grant Campbell
Chief of Staff
Organizing for Action

No, nothing creepy about any of this.

Further Reading

In response to our quoting Chang Ch’ao the other day, our reader Alex Leibowitz, a scholar of Chinese literature, has kindly provided further translation of the piece from which our excerpt was taken.

少年读书,如隙中窥月;中年读书,如庭中望月;老年读书,如台上玩月。皆以阅
之浅深,为所得之浅深耳。

Shao3 nian2 du2 shu1, ru2 xi4 zhong1 kui1 yue4; zhong1 nian2 du2 shu1, ru2 ting2 zhong1 wang4 yue4; lao3 nian2 du2 shu1, ru2 tai2 shang4 wan2 yue4. Jie1 yi3 yue4 li4 zhi1 qian3 shen1, wei2 suo3 de2 zhi1 qian3 shen1 er3.

Reading books in youth is like peeping at the moon through a crevice; reading books in middle age is like gazing at the moon from the courtyard; reading books in old age is like appreciating the moon from a platform. Altogether the depth of one’s experience determines the depth of one’s gains.

能识无字之书,方可出惊人妙句;能会难通之解,方可参最上禅机。

Neng2 shi2 wu2 zi4 zhi1 shu1, fang1 ke3 chu1 jing1 ren2 miao4 ju4; neng2 hui4 nan2 tong1 zhi1 jie3, fang1 ke3 can1 zui1 shang4 chan2 ji1.

If you can become acquainted with wordless books, then you will be able to utter sentences that amaze men; if you can understand difficult explanations, then you will be able to participate in the highest subtleties of Buddhism.

古今至文,皆血泪所成。

Gu4 jin1 zhi4 wen2, jie1 xue4 lei4 suo3 cheng2.

In ancient times and now, so far as literature goes, blood and tears have accomplished it.

《水浒传》是一部怒书,《西厢记》是一部悟书,《金瓶梅》是一部哀书。

“Shui3 Hu3 Zhuan4”shi4 yi1 bu4 nu4 shu1, “Xi1 Xiang1 Ji4” shi4 yi1 bu4 wu4 shu1, “Jin1 Ping2 Mei2”shi4 yi1 bu4 ai4 shu1.

“Chronicles of the Water Margin” is an angry book, “Western Chamber Notes” is an enlightened book, and “Golden Lotus”is a sad book.

文章是案头之山水,山水是地上之文章。

Wen2 zhang1 shi4 an4 tou2 zhi1 shan1 shui3, shan1 shui3 shi4 di4 shang4 zhi1 wen2 zhang1.

Literature is scenery on the desk, and scenery is literature on earth.

读书最乐,若读史书,则喜少怒多,究之,怒处亦乐处也。

Du2 shu1 zui4 le4, ruo4 du2 shi3 shu1, ze2 xi3 shao3 nu4 duo1, jiu1 zhi1, nu4 chu4 yi4 le4 chu4 ye3.

Reading is the most pleasant thing, though in the reading of history, there is little that is pleasant and much that is infuriating – but in the end, the infuriating parts are pleasant too.

读经宜冬,其神专也;读史宜夏,其时久也;读诸子宜秋,其致别也;读诸集宜春,其机畅也。

Du2 jing1 yi2 dong1, qi2 shen2 zhuan1 ye3; du2 shi3 yi2 xia4, qi2 shi2 jiu3 ye3; du2 zhu1 zi3 yi2 qiu1, qi2 zhi4 bie2 ye3; du2 zhu1 ji2 yi2 chun1, qi2 ji1 chang4 ye3.

It is suitable to read the classics in the winter when one’s spirit is concentrated; it is suitable to read history in the summer when one has much time; it is suitable to read the sages in the fall when it is particularly delicate (?); it is suitable to read anthologies in the spring, when one’s wits are quick (?).

文人读武事,大都纸上谈兵;武将论文章,半属道听途说。

Wen2 ren2 du2 wu3 shi4, da4 dou1 zhi3 shang4 tan2 bing1; wu3 jiang4 lun4 wen2 zhang1, ban4 shu3 dao4 ting1 tu2 shuo1.

For literary men to read military affairs is altogether like speaking of armies on paper [it works in theory but not in practice]; for generals to discuss of literature, is for the most part like idle gossip.

善读书者,无之而非书也;山水亦书也,棋酒亦书也,花月亦书也。善游山水者,无之而非山水;书史亦山水也,诗酒亦山水也,花月亦山水也。

Shan4 du2 shu1 zhe3, wu2 zhi1 er2 fei1 shu1 ye3; shan1 shui3 yi4 shu1 ye3, qi2 jiu3 yi4 shu1 ye3, hua1 yue4 yi4 shu1 ye3. Shan4 you2 shan1 shui3 zhe3, wu2 zhi1 er2 fei1 shan1 shui3; shu1 shi3 yi4 shan1 shui3 ye3, shi1 jiu3 yi4 shan1 shui3 ye3, hua1 yue4 yi4 shan1 shui3 ye3.

If one is good at reading books, nothing is not a book for him – scenery will be a book, chess and wine will be a book, the moon and flowers will also be a book. If one is good at exploring scenery, nothing is not scenery for him – histories will be scenery, poems and wine will be scenery, the moon and flowers will be scenery.

昔人欲以十年读书,十年游山,十年检藏。予谓检藏尽可不必十年,只二三载足矣。若读书与游山,虽或相倍蓰,恐亦不足以偿所愿也,必也如黄九烟前辈之所云:“人生必三百岁”而后可乎?

Xi1 ren2 yu4 yi3 shi2 nian2 du2 shu1, shi2 nian2 you2 shan1, shi2 nian2 jian3 zang4. Yu2 wei4 jian3 zang4 jin3 ke3 bu4 bi4 shi2 nian2, zhi3 er4 san1 zai3 zu2 yi3. Ruo4 du2 shu1 yu3 you2 shan1, sui1 huo4 xiang1 bei4 xi3, kong3 yi4 bu4 zu2 yi3 chang2 suo3 yuan4 ye3, bi4 ye3 ru2 huang2 jiu3 yan1 qian2 bei4 zhi1 suo3 yun2: “Ren2 sheng1 bi4 san1 bai3 sui4” – er2 hou4 ke3 hu1?

Men of old desired to use ten years reading books, ten years wandering mountains, and ten years inspecting [the doctrines of] Tibet [Buddhism]. I say that to inspect Tibet in full one does not perhaps need ten years but only two or three would suffice. As for reading books or wandering mountains, though someone might increase either of these three- or five-fold, I am afraid it would not be enough to sate one’s desire. It must be as our predecessor Huang Jiu Yan said: “One ought to live 300 years”– but after that?

古人云:“诗必穷而后工。”盖穷则语多感慨,易于见长耳。若富贵中人,既不可忧贫叹贱,所谈者不过风云月露而已,诗安得佳?苟思所变,计惟有出游一法。即以所见之山川风土,物产人情,或当疮痍兵燹之余,或值旱涝灾祸之后,无一不可寓之诗中,借他人之穷愁,以供我之咏叹,则诗亦不必待穷而后工也。

Gu3 ren2 yun2: “Shi1 bi4 qiong2 er2 hou4 gong1.” Gai4 qiong2 ze2 yu3 duo1 gan3 kai3, yi4 yu2 jian4 chang2 er3. Ruo4 fu4 gui4 zhong1 ren2, ji4 bu2 ke3 you1 pin2 tan4 jian4, suo3 tan2 zhe3 bu4 guo4 feng1 yun2 yue4 lue4 er2 yi3, shi1 an1 de2 jia1? Gou3 si1 suo3 bian4, ji4 wei2 you3 chu1 you2 yi1 fa3. Ji2 yi3 suo3 jian1 zhi shan1 chuan1 feng1 tu3, wu4 chan3 ren2 qing2, huo4 dang1 chuang1 yi2 bing1 xian3 zhi1 tu2, huo4 zhi2 han4 lao4 zai1 huo4 zhi1 hou4, wu2 yi1 bu4 ke3 yu4 zhi1 shi1 zhong1, jie4 ta1 ren2 zhi1 qiong2 chu2, yi3 gong1 wo3 zhi1 yong3 tan4, ze2 shi1 yi4 bu4 bi4 dai4 qiong2 er2 hou4 gong1 ye3.

The ancients say, “Poetry needs poverty before it can be accomplished.”In fact if one is poor then one has much to lament over, and it is easy for him to [show his skill]. But men who are rich cannot lament their poverty or sigh at their lowliness: they speak only of wind, clouds, the moon, and dew – so how can their poetry be prized? The only way to contradict this saying is to go traveling. For one can use the mountains, streams, and territories one has seen, as well as the products and passions of men, perhaps the remains of war’s ruin, perhaps the aftermath of droughts and floods, not one of these being unsuitable themes for poetry. Thus by borrowing the poverty and sorrows of other men to supply material for my own elegies, my poetry need not wait for poverty before it becomes accomplished.

Alex has a very interesting blog of his own; you can visit it here.

Simple Things

“All the great things are simple, and many can be expressed in a single word: freedom; justice; honour; duty; mercy; hope.”

– Churchill

Aflame

Saw this startling item this morning in last night’s NightWatch:

Iraq: Fighters from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) inflicted a significant defeat on Kurdish militia forces on Saturday. They killed 27 Kurds and routed them from three towns and claim to have taken control of the Mosul Dam, which supplies water and hydro-electric power to the north.

A Kurdish spokesman said the Kurds still control the dam, but not the towns. He said they withdrew their forces from the towns to limit casualties, but plan to mount an offensive to take them back.

Comment: The news media have described this as the first major defeat for the Kurdish militia. Perhaps more importantly, it is the first major test of strength. It also took place in an area northwest of Mosul that has long been considered Kurdish and should have been better defended.

The larger significance of the attacks is that they prove that ISIL intends to take all of Iraq, not just the Sunni and Shiite Arab regions. The Kurds need to improve their intelligence and their militia. They may expect no help from Baghdad. If the Kurdish militias cannot defend against ISIL, Kurdistan will be destroyed.

I’ll confess I read this with a jolt. I figured (still do, but less confidently now) that if anyone could take the measure of ISIS, it’s the pesh merga. I’ve always favored the idea of a Kurdish national homeland, and I hope they can get back on their feet. This is a serious blow. (Especially since we had it on expert authority, I thought, that al-Qaeda, of which ISIS is a descendant faction, has been “decimated”.)

In last night’s bulletin, John McCreary added this:

Special comment: NightWatch  commented previously on the proliferation of insurgencies around the world, many of them in Muslim countries. Only a very small number of analysts and commentators have written that the Islamic world is in civil war. Muslims are killing other Muslims at an astonishing rate. This overarching crisis is camouflaged by the daily news coverage of individual national crises.

Muslim leaders seem to have no solutions to stop this blood-letting and no arguments to counter the appeal of religiously-motivated violence among Muslim youths. The Islamic world is losing its best and brightest children to its own jihadists.

Exactly right: the Muslim world is in civil war. And when elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.

Last night’s missive also contained this:

Tunisia-Libya: Tunisia closed its border crossing point with Libya on Friday, after clashes broke out between Libyan border guards and Egyptians seeking refuge in Tunisia. Press reported 6,000 Egyptians were at the border on Saturday.

The Egyptian civil aviation ministry announced that it was arranging an airlift to Cairo of Egyptians who reached the airport at Jerba, Libya. The ministry planned to lift about 3,200 people

News reporters said the Tunisian border was operating normally on Sunday, 3 August, but still was only allowing entry by holders of valid visas or other travel documents.

Comment: The border crush is a ripple effect of the recent surge in fighting in Tripoli. Most countries are trying to evacuate their nationals, including the Chinese and the UK this weekend.

Media reports indicate Tunisia is accommodating 2 million refugees who have arrived from Libya since 2011. They are placing an extra burden on Tunisia’s subsidy system, causing increased demand for fuel and threatening a run on basic commodities.

Strange. I seem to recall someone telling me just the other day that Libya was a “bigger mess” under Qaddafi than it has become since we betrayed our alliance with him in order to side with the tribal and jihadist hoodlums who finally murdered him, and who have since reduced the nation to formless and bloody chaos. Must have dreamt it.

Reading

From the 2nd-3rd-century Chinese scholar Chang Ch’ao:

Reading books in one’s youth is like looking at the moon through a crevice; reading books in one’s middle age is like looking at the moon in one’s courtyard; and reading books in one’s old age is like looking at the moon on an open terrace. This is because the depth of benefits of reading varies in proportion to the depth of one’s own experience.

Ugh

The world is aflame with war and pestilence. The nation’s borders are dissolving. Our ancient and implacable enemies are ascendant in every quarter.

Yesterday I received this email from OFA, Barack Obama’s Ministry of Propaganda:

Malcolm —

Here’s something you might not know about President Obama: The man really loves pie.

And for as long as I’ve been filming with him, he always asks about the pie selection wherever we are. (He seems to prefer sweet potato and pecan, for what it’s worth.)

So, if I were on cake duty for President Obama’s birthday, I would skip the cake altogether and get some pie.

This year, OFA is doing something different for the President’s birthday — pick out the card that calls out to you, then sign your name.

I’ve been shooting video for a long time, and I’ve been very lucky to spend a good amount of time with President Obama over the years. He’s funny, gracious, kind, and — maybe most of all — appreciative.

He takes time to thank every single person, from the head honcho to the intern who is running errands — he cares about people.

So, I think this is the perfect time to celebrate him, and thank him for everything he’s done — from inspiring a movement of millions, to taking time to shake a hand or give a hug.

Take a moment to send well wishes to President Obama — pick your favorite card, then add your name to wish him a happy birthday:

http://my.barackobama.com/Sign-OFAs-Birthday-Card-for-the-President

Thanks,

Stefanie

Stefanie Spiegel
Video Team Director

Let’s sing him a song, too.

The Womaniferous Aether

I’ve just read an outstanding essay on the paucity of women in high-tech jobs, and the stubbornly persistent (and demonstrably counterfactual) belief that it is caused, not by natural differences between the sexes, but by an invisible fog of sexism.

I’d sum up its arguments for you, but it’s so good you should go and read it yourself. You can do so here.

The article concerns itself entirely with sexism, and stops short of addressing either the statistical distribution of IQ, or the question of why blacks and Hispanics are likewise under-represented in these jobs — but as the Good Book says, “sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof”. The author is a young man, and would understandably like to have a chance at some sort of career.

Auto-Goal

Ripples continue in the wake of the Halbig decision, over which Obamacare enthusiasts have been getting their knickers in a knot since the ruling came down.

In today’s Washington Post, blogger Greg Sargent wrote a detailed item explaining, or so he thought, that the intent of the law was always to provide subsidies to people who bought policies on the Federal, not just the State, exchanges. (As noted here and elsewhere, this flies in the face of repeated contemporaneous assertions by Jonathan Gruber that the law explicitly disallowed Federal-exchange subsidies as a way of noodging the States to implement their own exchanges.)

It appears, however, that Mr. Sargent’s spadework has dug up precisely the missing link between the incentive-based refusal to grant Federal-exchange subsidies, which was originally proposed in a bill drafted by the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP), and the final version of the ACA.

Blogger ‘Patterico’ explains, here.

Going Viral

In case you haven’t heard, the Ebola virus — the same one that gave readers the willies in the 1994 book The Hot Zone — is now out of control, and spreading rapidly, in West Africa.

Ebola kills you in horrible ways, and there isn’t any cure. If you catch it, you will almost certainly die of it. It is also very, very contagious.

The CDC says not to worry, according to NBC:

But it’s unlikely to come as far as the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.

“Ebola poses little risk to the U.S. general population,” Stephan Monroe of CDC’s National Center for Emerging & Zoonotic Infectious Diseases told reporters in a conference call. It’s because you have to be in direct contact with someone who is ill to become infected.

“Transmission is through direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person,” Monroe said. That includes vomit, blood or diarrhea. “Individuals who are not symptomatic are not contagious,” he said.

The incubation period can last for as long as 21 days, meaning it can take 21 days for someone to develop symptoms after being in contact with an infected person. So in theory, someone could be infected and get on a plane to travel to the U.S. before he or she got sick. But the odds of this are low.

So: rest easy. After all, our borders are secure.

TERF War

As I wrote some time ago, to observe the culture wars is to realize that grievance is fractal:

There’s no limiting principle. And if you watch for a while, you begin to realize that “social injustice” is not only infinite, but fractal. It’s a Julia set of grievances. Zoom in all you like; new affronts will appear at every scale, world without end.

To generate fractal complexity, start with a basic figure, then use that figure as a template for transformation at smaller and smaller scales. For example, here’s a simple “box” fractal:

 
Grievance works the same way. You start with the most basic grievance of all: everybody else against white males. That works for a while, but soon the fractal process gets to work, and next thing you know it’s blacks and hispanics against homosexuals — and if you let the algorithm run for while, and crank up the magnification a bit, before you know it you’ve got black women vs. gay men.

Well, as I said, when it comes to fractals it’s “world without end”, and so you can zoom in all you like. Today’s example is a developing catfight between radical feminists and “transgendered” males. As usual, the issue is who’s more oppressed; you must keep in mind that we are peering into a looking-glass universe here, in which the competition for top status is decided by which identity group has the lowest status. (It’s still, mind you, just an old-fashioned contest for status; some things are simply universal.)

An article in the New Yorker sums things up. Here’s the radical-feminist argument for Top Victim status:

I will not call a male “she”; thirty-two years of suffering in this androcentric society, and of surviving, have earned me the title “woman”; one walk down the street by a male transvestite, five minutes of his being hassled (which he may enjoy), and then he dares, he dares to think he understands our pain? No, in our mothers’ names and in our own, we must not call him sister.

Also this:

Anyone born a man retains male privilege in society; even if he chooses to live as a woman—and accept a correspondingly subordinate social position—the fact that he has a choice means that he can never understand what being a woman is really like. By extension, when trans women demand to be accepted as women they are simply exercising another form of male entitlement.

There’s a word for proponents of this view: TERFs. It stands for “trans-exclusionary radical feminist”.

And in this corner:

All this enrages trans women and their allies, who point to the discrimination that trans people endure; although radical feminism is far from achieving all its goals, women have won far more formal equality than trans people have. In most states, it’s legal to fire someone for being transgender, and transgender people can’t serve in the military. A recent survey by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force found overwhelming levels of anti-trans violence and persecution. Forty-one per cent of respondents said that they had attempted suicide.

There it is, then: the fight is on, and the fur is flying. And while it would be terribly sad, of course, to see angry feminists demoted to second-class victim status, I’d say the smart money’s on the transsexuals. They’ve got all the momentum right now (as Steve Sailer notes here and here, it’s even got to the point where pro-abortion groups are dropping the phrase “a woman’s right to choose”, because it excludes transgendered men) — and let’s face it, they’re just plain edgier. Oppression of women? It’s old hat, really. Humorless, angry feminists have been around so long now that they seem almost, well, traditional.

Forward!

Gracián

Every so often one is asked: If you could assemble a dinner party with anyone who ever lived, whom would you invite?

For me, the list would have to include Baltasar Gracián y Morales, a Jesuit writer, philosopher, and courtier who lived in seventeenth-century Spain. He’s hardly a household name, but he has always struck me as one of the wisest men who ever lived.

Above all, Gracián lives on as an aphorist. A sampling:

Some marry the first information they receive, and turn what comes later into their concubine. Since deceit is always first to arrive, there is no room left for truth.

The wise man would rather see men needing him than thanking him. To keep them on the threshold of hope is diplomatic, to trust to their gratitude boorish; hope has a good memory, gratitude a bad one.

Freedom is more precious than the gift that makes us lose it.

The one rule for pleasing: whet the appetite, keep people hungry.

A wise man gets more use from his enemies than a fool from his friends.

Let the first impulse pass, wait for the second.

A beautiful woman should break her mirror early.

Little and good is twice good.

Fortunate people often have very favorable beginnings and very tragic endings. What matters isn’t being applauded when you arrive – for that is common – but being missed when you leave.

Little said is soon amended. There is always time to add a word, never to withdraw one.

Don’t show off every day, or you’ll stop surprising people. There must always be some novelty left over. The person who displays a little more of it each day keeps up expectations, and no one ever discovers the limits of his talent.

Don’t take the wrong side of an argument just because your opponent has taken the right side.

It is better to sleep on things beforehand than lie awake about them afterwards.

Never participate in the secrets of those above you; you think you share the fruit, and you share the stones – the confidence of a prince is not a grant, but a tax.

The envious die not once, but as oft as the envied win applause.

A bad manner spoils everything, even reason and justice; a good one supplies everything, gilds a ‘No,’ sweetens truth, and adds a touch of beauty to old age itself.

Carry right too far and it becomes wrong. The orange squeezed completely dry gives only bitterness.

Perhaps my favorite:

Tepid incredulity acts as an emetic upon secrets.

The Neoliberal Capitalist Endgame

As Michael Anissimov explains in an excellent essay about class and the history of labor, that endgame culminates in: 70 hours of work a week, no children, no family.

We read:

The capitalist system pushes us to work as hard as possible to increase our wealth and therefore our social status. In a world with less emphasis on tribes, community, and extended family, wealth has become the primary indicator of social status. Communists/socialists and libertarians/capitalists are equally obsessed with wealth, money, and their distribution, speaking of them as if they were the beginning and end of all human value, providing us not with just essentials for living but also the substance of social status and the arbiter of self-worth.

The traditional view of life places higher value on family and independent pursuits over “work” for the sake of work itself. This is why Evola places action over work.

In a capitalist, industrial system, without the benefit of organic, local social order, there is a tendency for national corporations to grow in power until they exert decisive influence over all aspects of human society. A social system is created where income is the sole determinant of social status, so there is no reason not to work as long as possible. This process has reached its logical conclusion in places like Japan and South Korea, where fertility rates are at extreme lows and people with corporate careers regularly work or spend time with their co-workers all day every day. This has led to social devitalization whereby many young people have even lost interest in romantic relationships. This is the neoliberal capitalist endgame; 70 hours of work a week, no children, no family.

In a traditional, normal society, more emphasis is placed not only on leisure but also personal study, activity, hobbies, and exploration. That is why Keynes and many futurists of the 20th century believed that in the present time (post-2000), we would use our great wealth to facilitate more time away from work. Instead, we’re trapped on a status treadmill that asserts we must continue to work harder at any cost, to improve our social standing.

The trouble with social standing is that it is a zero sum game, and the harder everyone works, the harder everyone is in turn forced to work to advance themselves. This frantic ladder-climbing can be contrasted with the point of view of the peasant or farmer, who is happy with who he is, and works towards a secure life within the limits of his natural station. Instead of purely working towards maximizing income, he values the good things in life, the things that actually are known to bring happiness: family, an emphasis on producing work with an individual touch, directly benefiting from one’s own hard labor, leisure time, socializing, and so on.

Interestingly, these “good things in life” are also enjoyed by the ultra-rich. Primarily, they are enjoyed by the upper lower class and the ultra-rich. The middle class are stuck trying to move themselves in the direction of the ultra-rich, unaware that if they just sat still, they might be happier. The parallel between the upper lower class and the upper upper class was noticed by Paul Fussell in his book Class. Neither class has anything to prove, and is satisfied with who they are.

Readthe whole thing here.

Bullshit-O

The Obamacare Federal-exchange-subsidies plot just thickened a bit, with the discovery online of video of one of the Affordable Care Act’s architects, Jonathan Gruber, explaining in 2012, that the exclusion of Federal health-care exchanges from eligibility for IRS subsidies was no bug, but a feature. Its purpose, Gruber explained, was to pressure the states to set up their own exchanges.

This clearly contradicts — pulls the rug right out from under, you might say — the 4th Circuit’s reasoning in its decision allowing IRS subsidies to continue, and Gruber is now backpedaling hard. His explanation “was just a speak-o”, he said, “…you know, like a typo.”

Yeah, right. More here.

Cui Bono?

My late sifu, William Chung, used to quote an old Chinese saying: “Where there is confusion, there is profit.”

Here’s an example.

The Seven Gambit

With a hat tip to Bill Vallicella, here’s a dark and piercing essay by Richard Fernandez.

The gist: the Devil has the power to make you do evil yourself in order to defeat him — and so you cannot really defeat him at all.

Law And Disorder

Shortly after yesterday’s post, a different circuit court — a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit, based in Richmond — ruled on a similar case about the legality of IRS subsidies for health-care plans sold on Federal exchanges. (The language of the Affordable Care Act is absolutely unambiguous about this: only plans sold on state exchanges are eligible, and the DC court’s decision acknowledged this, albeit with some reluctance.) The 4th Circuit panel ruled the other way, however, in a tortuous decision based on the supposed “intent” of the law, and on what it considered to be the broad and unwelcome consequences of ruling for the plaintiff.

In the Analects of Confucius, we read the following:

“If the Prince of Wei were to ask you to take over the government, what would you put first on your agenda?”

“The one thing needed,” replied the Master, “is the definition of terms. If terms are ill-defined, statements disagree with facts; when statements disagree with facts, business is mismanaged; when business is mismanaged, order and harmony do not flourish; when order and harmony do not flourish, then justice becomes arbitrary; and when justice becomes arbitrary, the people do not know how to move hand or foot.”

Given that order and harmony have not flourished among the appeals courts, arbitrariness is therefore the order of the day — and so the government’s “rejection” of the DC court’s decision is legitimized for now. We can expect the Supreme Court to have the final say in the matter.

The Court? How Many Divisions Does It Have?

When the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was about to become law, Nancy Pelosi famously scoffed at its critics, many of whom had said the proposed legislation was an incomprehensible dog’s breakfast of a bill, far too complicated for anyone in Congress to understand. “[W]e have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it,” she said.

Hours ago, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit determined what isn’t in it: permission for the IRS to provide tax subsidies for insurance purchased on Federal healthcare exchanges.

The reasoning behind this decision was simple enough: the law explicitly enumerates the criteria under which such subsidies may be granted, and health plans purchased on Federal exchanges do not qualify. You can see this for yourself here.

With this ruling, the Court defended a quaint idea, a charming relic of a bygone era: that a law means what it says it means. The Obama administration, however, is having none of it: according to the New York Times, “the White House rejected the court’s ruling”. The administration has, apparently, no intention of complying until higher courts have had their say.

Well! I’d have thought that whether they must obey the ruling while on appeal was for the courts to decide, not the defendant, but I guess I’m just a charming relic of a bygone era myself. These guys just do whatever they want. After all, who’s going to stop them?

Service Notice

The lovely Nina and I are off to a wedding this weekend up in New Hampshire. There will be much feasting and merriment, but likely very little blogging. Back next week.

July 18, 1969

It was 45 years ago today that the philandering, corpulent drunkard Teddy Kennedy drove his car off a bridge in Chappaquiddick, got himself to safety, and abandoned the young Mary Jo Kopechne to drown in the wreckage.

The affair likely cost him the Presidency, but little else. If there is any justice in the hereafter, he’s paying the balance now.

Some of you will be old enough to remember a Volkswagen ad that ran in the National Lampoon some time later. For those of tender years, I reproduce it below:

 

Divertimento

The world is on fire today. At the moment I have nothing to add, other than to express my sorrow at the death of the great Johnny Winter.

I did, however, just have a splendid evening, and I’d rather talk briefly about that.

A couple of years ago my lovely wife Nina made the acquaintance, in her professional capacity, of a remarkable gentleman by the name of Hershey Felder. They soon became friends.

Mr. Felder, a man of extraordinary gifts and exquisite aesthetic sensibility, is, among many other things, a concert pianist and theatrical performer. Tonight, at Town Hall, we saw his one-man show Maestro, about the life of Leonard Bernstein. It was, quite literally, spellbinding.

The Chicago Sun-Times reviewed the show a few years ago, here. I believe it will soon be broadcast on national television. See it if you can.

Good On Ya

Australia has repealed its carbon tax. Good for them! Australia’s CO2 emissions are a mere 1% of what China alone produces; the idea that a punitive tax on Australian enterprise was going to rescue the Earth from annihilation was a morally narcissistic fantasy, and its implementation nothing more than an ostentatious act of faith. No doubt there will be howls of outrage, and for Tony Abbott the derision of the Brahmins — but I’m sure the good folks Down Under will be better off without this sanctimonious self-flagellation.

Lest We Forget

This from @FoolishReporter on Twitter:

 

Questions For Mr. Gore

From meteorologist Joe Bastardi. Here.

Facepalm

Here’s a handy guide from the firearms experts at Rolling Stone:

The 5 Most Dangerous Guns in America

We read:

Contrary to what those who defend the right to own high-powered assault rifles believe, not all guns are created equal. Due to a combination of availability, portability and criminal usage the following five types of guns are the country’s most dangerous.

Here’s the list:

— Pistols

— Revolvers

— Rifles

— Shotguns

— Derringers

Good work, Rolling Stone! Among other things I learned that pistols are “popular among handgun-owners”, and have a “built-in barrel”, that musket balls were often a “bad fit” due to “manufacturing complications”, and that “the explosive that creates the energy to fire the gun occurs in the fixed shell of a shotgun rather than the metallic cartridge of a rifle.” It was also helpful that the authors made clear that “the Glock” is a “short-recoil operated” pistol; I’m sure that Rolling Stone‘s core readership were wondering about this.

I found this piece so helpful, in fact, that I was inspired to provide, as a public service, some lists of other common hazards. After much research, here they are:

The 3 Most Intoxicating Alcoholic Beverages in America:

— Beer

— Wine

— Liquor

The 2 Most Dangerous Pathogens In America:

— Viruses

— Bacteria

The 7 Places Where you Are Most Likely To Drown In America:

— Oceans

— Rivers

— Lakes

— Ponds

— Swimming Pools

— Bathtubs

— Other bodies of water

The 6 Vehicles Most Often Involved In Transportation Mishaps In America:

— Cars

— Buses

— Motorcycles

— Bicycles

— Trains

— Airplanes

I hope this helps. If it saves just one life, it will have been worth it.

Comic Relief

The comics used to be escapist entertainment. If you’re trying to find a place to escape the mind-bludgeoning drumbeat of cultural Marxism, though, these days you’d better look somewhere else. Not only is Archie Andrews about to martyr himself in the name of homophilia and hoplophobia (a pacifist, anti-cis-heteropatriarchal twofer!), but now we learn that the Marvel superhero Thor — who is supposed to be an honest-to-god avatar of the thoroughgoingly masculine Norse deity of the same name — will henceforward be a woman.

This is on a par with casting Vin Diesel in the title role of an Audrey Hepburn biopic, but absurdity is no obstruction these days. I’m just surprised they didn’t cut right to the chase, and make the Thunder God an obese, transgendered Latina “immigrant” with chronic-fatigue syndrome and an EBT card.

Come to think of it, they could give her a sickle, too to go with that hammer of hers.

Feh

Sorry, no post tonight. Too humid.

Nippy

From Watts Up With That:

Antarctica continues to defy the global warming script, with a report from Meteo France, that June this year was the coldest Antarctic June ever recorded, at the French Antarctic Dumont d’Urville Station.

According to the press release, during June this year, the average temperature was -22.4c (-8.3F), 6.6c (11.9F) lower than normal. This is the coldest June ever recorded at the station, and almost the coldest monthly average ever – only September 1953 was colder, with a recorded average temperature of -23.5c (-10.3F).

June this year also broke the June daily minimum temperature record, with a new record low of -34.9c (-30.8F).

Other unusual features of the June temperature record are an unusual excess of sunlight hours (11.8 hours rather than the normal 7.4 hours), and unusually light wind conditions.

Dumont d’Urville Station has experienced ongoing activity since 1956. According to the Meteo France record, there is no other weather station for 1000km in any direction.

Not Very Sporting, What?

DARPA apparently has a .50-caliber sniper round, called EXACTO, that can adjust its trajectory in-flight to stay on target.

I wonder how it works.

Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue

It’s hard to believe that all the Ramones are now dead, but there it is: Tommy Ramone, the last man standing, died yesterday of cancer.

A Dead Giveaway

Our old e-pal, the estimable Deogolwulf, appears to have caught the Marxist philosopher Slavoj Žižek in a spot of plagiarism. Žižek is something of a “rock star” in certain Continental circles, and so the affair has attracted some attention — so much so that Newsweek has now run an article about it all.

That the presence of a few paragraphs of comprehensible prose in Žižek’s writing was sufficient to blow the whistle on intellectual theft should tell you most of what you need to know about Continental philosophy.

Read Deogolwulf’s revelatory post here. See also his other posts on Slavoj Žižek, here, here, and here — and if you ‘ve never read Deogolwulf before, do yourself a big favor and browse his archives, on the sidebar here.

Casus Belli

This is vexing.

Karma

Here.

And They Tell Me You Are Brutal

Chicago has been a bloody place lately. Over the Fourth of July weekend, there were 82 shootings, 16 of which were lethal.

The reflex of the Left, as always, is to call for more (and in keeping with the relentless impulse of both the Left and of democracies generally, more centralized) government control. Here’s the Washington Post:

It is innocent people in these cities and countless other localities marked by gun violence who must bear the consequences of Congress’s abdication on gun control.

Chicago already has highly restrictive gun laws, including a complete ban on firearm sales within the city limits. This awkward fact leads gun restrictionists to put the blame on looser gun laws in neighboring communities. One must ask, however: if that’s the problem, then why don’t those communities have anything close to Chicago’s gun-crime rates?

In Chicago, a city of 2.7 million people, fewer than 8,000 people are licensed to own a gun – less than 0.3%. The city’s gun-homicide rate is about 18 per 100,000. In Vermont, by contrast, where 42% of the population are gun owners, the rate of gun murders in 2010 was 0.3 per 100,000. So Chicago has a gun-homicide rate about 60 times Vermont’s, despite Vermonters being 150 times as likely to own a gun. To put that another way, in Chicago the ratio of the gun-homicide rate to the percentage of citizens who legally own guns is nine thousand times higher than it is in Vermont.

That is not a small discrepancy. You can draw your own conclusions — demographics might be of interest, if one is looking for sturdier correlations — but it’s awfully hard to make the case that guns themselves are the root cause here, or that further restrictions of the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens elsewhere in the country are going to solve Chicago’s problem.

Policing — obviously! — matters, and there have been changes since Rahm Emanuel took office as Mayor. Read about them here.

In 1914, one century ago, Carl Sandburg wrote a poem about Chicago. In the present context, one line stands out:

And they tell me you are crooked and I answer: Yes, it is true I have seen the gunman kill and go free to kill again.

In that same year Chicago recorded 217 homicides overall, out of a population of roughly 2.4 million. That’s a rate of 9 per 100,000, and it includes all the ways a person can commit murder. This is half the current rate of gun homicide in Chicago. In 1914, there were no gun laws whatsoever.

Unsettled

With the mood among our rulers and their media apparatus becoming increasingly intolerant of what they call climate-change “deniers”, here’s a gratifyingly defiant post from the U.K. Spectator. (That such a viewpoint as reasonable as this should now seem “defiant” is a depressing sign of how far things have come.)

Links

It’s been jam-packed week or so: a family getaway with both our kids (a rarity these days, now that both are grown and our daughter lives in Guangzhou), and plenty to do today upon getting back to New York. (Apologies to those of you who’ve emailed me over the past few days…)

Solitude has been scant, but I’ve been spending what there’s been of it reading and brooding in preparation for what I hope will be an interesting post, when it’s done.

For tonight, though, just a few links: some weighty items, and some insubstantial froth.

Kim Jong Un, looking at things.

The logic of belief revision.

— 1969: George Harrison discovers the Laffer Curve.

Vox clamanti in deserto.

Devolution. (Courtesy of Konkvistador, whose post you should also read.)

Goldberg on Piketty, via Commentary.

Why we celebrate the Fourth of July. (And yet another reason why you should at least reflect briefly upon the idea of universal suffrage.)

All about fireworks.

Peel a bucket of potatoes, stat.

— You’ve been doing this wrong all your life.

— From Mangan: all U.S. employment growth since 2000 has gone to immigrants. (Deep link here.)

— Why Bill Vallicella is not a naturalist.

Addendum

Following on our previous post, here’s a link I ought to have included: Jeremy Bentham on the Declaration of Independence.

The Course Of Human Events

Happy July Fourth, everybody!

Although we generally celebrate Independence Day with carefree and bibulous abandon, it’s important to remember that this is a solemn occasion, and a day to honor America’s timeless founding principles. So it’s good to see that some Independence Day rituals still embody this ennobling tradition. Foremost among these, of course, is the annual hot-dog-eating contest at Coney Island.

This year’s match was won, again, by Joey “Jaws” Chestnut, a great American if ever there was one. I had the privilege, once, of seeing the man in action myself, some years ago. It was unforgettable. My impressions are recorded here.

Meanwhile, patriots, don’t miss the annual love-fest at Salon.

Finally, for the sake of balance, and of neoreactionary thoroughness, I’d be remiss not to offer you Strictures upon the Declaration of Independence, written by Thomas Hutchinson in 1776. (Hutchinson, a Tory, was a former governor of Massachusetts whose home was attacked, ransacked, vandalized and looted by a violent separatist mob. He and his family barely escaped with their skins.)

So, from all of us here at waka waka waka: happy birthday, America! And in the equalizing spirit of the age, I think it’s particularly apt to say: bottoms up!

Blows Against The Empire

There’s another important court ruling on the way, one that focuses on a serious weakness in the language of the Affordable Care Act. Learn more here.

.

Metalwork

Here.

Failed State

The UK is now importing sperm. I am not making this up.

(HT: Kevin Kim.)

With Friends Like This…

Here’s a tart essay on the Obama administration’s stance toward Israel, from Noah Pollak.

If All Do Their Duty

I haven’t said much lately about current political events — not because there isn’t plenty to comment on (the situation at our Mexican border being, perhaps, foremost at the moment), but because it’s all just so fatiguing. This in itself is worth commenting on, because I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling this way; it seems every day brings some brazen new affront, some new assault upon the traditional American nation, and after a time you begin to feel that you’ve said all you can say, and that for all the good it does you might as well be shouting up a drainpipe. It’s exhausting.

But fatigue can easily become resignation, and resignation is the worst of all possible responses to the crisis we face; I’d rather see the skies darken, and the streets run red, than to watch our people and culture decline, incrementally and unconsciously, into a broken, servile thralldom from which there will be no awakening.

In 1938, as the shadow of doom descended upon England, and he looked back on the “years the locusts ate”, Winston Churchill said this:

I have watched this famous island descending incontinently, fecklessly the stairway which leads to a dark gulf. It is a fine broad stairway at the beginning, but after a bit the carpet ends. A little further on there are only flagstones, and a little further on still these break beneath your feet.

No, I’m afraid that just won’t do. If you see it, you’ve got to say it. Back to the ramparts it is, then. Just having a little breather.

The Exogenous State

From Julius Evola, Men Among the Ruins, p 149-50:

The main thing that emerges in ancient forms is that unity in them did not possess a merely political character, but rather a spiritual and quite often religious one, the political domain apparently being shaped and upheld by an idea or a general view that was also articulated in thought, law, art, customs, cult, and the form of the economy. A unitary spirit was manifested in a choral variety of forms, corresponding to the various possibilities of human existence; in this context, organic and traditional are more or less synonymous terms. The spirituality of the whole was that which occasioned the integration of the particular, rather than its compression and coercion. A relative pluralism and decentralization are essential features in every organic system. The criterion for this decentralization is that it can be accentuated in proportion to the degree to which the center enjoys a spiritual and even transcendent character, a sovereign equilibrating power, and a natural prestige.

An objective observer cannot help but find it odd that all these things have been entirely forgotten, despite the fact that not long ago, before the advent in Europe of liberalism, individualism and revolutions, there were political systems that reflected in a sensible way some aspects of the organic idea, and these systems appeared entirely normal and legitimate in the eyes of most people…

However, totalitarianism merely represents the counterfeited image of the organic ideal. It is a system in which unity is imposed from the outside, not on the basis of the intrinsic force of a common idea and an authority that is naturally acknowledged, but rather through direct forms of intervention and control, exercised by a power that is exclusively and materially political, imposing itself as the ultimate reason for the system. Moreover, in totalitarianism we usually find a tendency toward uniformity and intolerance for any partial form of autonomy and any degree of freedom, for any intermediary body between the center and the periphery, between the peak and the bottom of a social pyramid. More specifically, totalitarianism engenders a kind of sclerosis, or a monstrous hypertrophy of the entire bureaucratic-administrative structure. These structures became all-pervasive, replacing and suppressing every particular activity, without any restraints, due to an insolent intrusion of the public sphere into the private domain, organizing everything into rigid schemes; these schemes eventually turn out to be meaningless because, starting from a formless center of power, what eventually arises is a sort of intrinsic and gloomy enjoyment of this relentless leveling process. Concerning the most materialistic aspect — namely, that of the economy (which has gained pre-eminence in this “era of economics”) — super organization, centralism and rationalization play an essential part in this rigid and mechanical type of unity.

Though this type of unity has become predominant in the contemporary era, it was foreshadowed in various places and other ages, although always in the terminal and twilight phases of a given cycle of civilization. Among the most notable examples we may recall the forms of bureaucratic governmental centralization that developed during the decline of the Roman, Byzantine, and Persian Empires; what ensued was eventually a definitive dissolution.

Phoning It In

I’m still working long hours, and haven’t been able to keep up with the growing backlog of interesting things to comment on. In particular, there have been a slew of Supreme Court decisions I’d like to dissect a bit (today’s unanimous ruling rejecting the President’s egregious “recess” appointments was particularly gratifying, but I still want to come back also to Bond v. United States, that chemical-weapons ruling from a week or two ago). But I can’t do it now; all I have tonight, I’m afraid, are a couple of polemics to link to.

Here’s the first, from Richard Fernandez (who’s really been, as they say, “on a roll” lately). It’s about our decaying national aristocracy.

And here’s the second, from Roger Simon, about the IRS scandal. Apparently even 63% of Democrats now think that the IRS intentionally destroyed those emails. I suppose that’s because it is glaringly obvious that they did, in fact, intentionally destroy those emails, in an act of such brazen, public, pugnacious defiance of the law that even I was bowled over by it. How dare they? (63% percent actually seems kind of low, given all the obviousness here, but I suppose that even if Barack Obama and Harry Reid went on national TV to roast gay babies on a spit on the White House lawn, you’d only move the needle to about 68% or so. Some folks just gotta believe.)

Anyway, back soon. Thanks to Bill and Henry for the links.

Geodesy And Skullduggery

I’m working late tonight, so here are two items to keep you from going away empty-handed: a little item about map projections (sent our way by the indefatigable JK), and, to keep you up wondering about things, some very interesting reading about Benghazi, Syria, and ISIL.

(As for the second item, caveat lector: I make no warrant for its veracity.)