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.)

Read It And Weep

The latest in Victor Davis Hanson’s chronicles of a moribund civilization. Here.

Determinism And Predictability

My friends Kevin Kim and Bill Keezer have been discussing a recent post of Bill’s, in which he argues that the Universe is “undetermined and constrained”. Bill’s post is here, and Kevin’s response, which raises some important objections but stops short, I think, of fully “grasping the nettle”, is here.

Bill’s essay begins:

For over two hundred years, the findings of science and their increasing accuracy in describing phenomena and predicting them appears to motivate the idea that ultimately one can have absolute predictability and that the laws of nature completely determine the functioning of reality.

This idea fails for several reasons. First, all the findings of science are based on measurements, and measurement inherently has error. This is why all valid scientific results are reported with a plus-or-minus value at the level of the least significant figure. Even accepted values such as atomic weights have an implied error value though it is not stated. Second, determinists think that determinism operates at the atomic level and then apply it at a cellular or higher level. Usually it is applied to nerve functions. They fail to recognize the difference in scale between atoms and molecules and the nerves they are discussing. This will be discussed in detail below. Finally, there is a failure to understand what Stephen Boltzman recognized over one hundred years ago, the statistical nature of atomic and molecular behavior.

After giving some examples of complex, unpredictable systems, and an overview of statistical mechanics, Bill concludes:

In this essay, I have attempted to show by example that both immaterial objects, e.g. a fountain, and the mind are undetermined and constrained. From this it is possible to generalize and state that physical reality is undetermined and constrained, simply because all collections of atoms and molecules follow Boltzman statistics.

I’m not going to jump in at great length, but I do have a few things to add.

First of all, I think it is extremely important to pry apart, and to keep well separated, the concepts of ‘determined’ and ‘predictable’. To do this, it is helpful to understand the idea of “algorithmic compressibility”.

The great early triumphs of modern science, particularly those of astronomy and physics, were won by finding algorithmic descriptions of the behavior of certain natural systems. A good example is the motion of the planets; whereas the Ptolemaic system layered epicycles upon epicycles, and even the great Kepler wasted much of his life attempting to fit the “spheres” of the planets into nestings of the Platonic solids, Newton, was able, at a stroke, to account for the movement of the planets by applying his newly discovered formula for the law of gravitational attraction. Suddenly the whole evolution of the system — a planet’s position at any time, past and future, as well as its path through space — could be predicted. This sort of thing became the very soul of science: the reduction of complex systems to simplifying, predictive formulas. Predictive accuracy became the measure of a scientific theory, and in many peoples’ minds, the measure of science itself.

But while some systems are amenable to this sort of ‘compression’, others are not; in order to make exhaustive model of these complex systems the necessary equations would have so many terms that they would be beyond, sometimes even in principle, any available, or even imaginable, computational engine. Such systems abound in nature: the weather, for example, or the diffusion, or turbulent flow, of gases and liquids. Anyone who is familiar with the programmed systems known as ‘cellular automata’ (CAs) — which, as Stephen Wolfram makes clear in his remarkable book A New Kind Of Science also seem to exist, perhaps with great abundance, in nature — will know that there is no simplifying algorithm for the future states of these systems, despite their being completely, uncontroversially deterministic. (You can play with them here.) Even if we know with complete certainty the rules of the system and the initial condition, there is no way to know the state of the system after a given number of steps without actually running the calculations for every intermediate step. In other words, only the system itself can give you certain information about its future state; if you want to find out what it’s going to do, you just have to let it run. But — this is so important that I’ll say it again — cellular automata are fully deterministic systems. (They’re just computer programs, after all!)

This, then, is algorithmic incompressibility. And the example of CAs suffices to show that unpredictability does not imply indeterminism. The simplifying methods devised by Boltzmann were a great insight, and of immense practical use, but what they did was not to demonstrate any indeterminism at the particle level, but simply to make possible statistical predictions of a deterministic, but algorithmically incompressible, system.

Bill’s article doesn’t say much about free will, but the question of free will is clearly the “elephant in the room”. This is the other point I think needs airing out: that even if, as Bill says, the action of the brain is not causally determined (although the argument, I have to say again, seems to me to rest heavily on a conflation of ‘determined’ and ‘predictable’), indeterminism does not buy us what we really want from an account of free will, which is originating agency. There are, in fact, ways in which quantum randomness might be amplified to the scale at which our neurons work, but so what? How is our decision-making any more our own if it arises from underlying randomness than underlying mechanicalness? How does indeterminacy in our skulls make us responsible for anything?

That’s enough out of me, I think. Go and read Bill and Kevin’s posts. And if you like, you can look at a linked series of some old posts of our own about free will, below.

K-L On Democracy

A lot of people are complaining about how poorly governed we are these days, but even the self-identifying “conservatives” I speak to are taken aback when I suggest that the problem might not be the administration currently in power (as destructive as it may be), but the natural evolution of democracy itself. We are so conditioned to think of Democracy as an end in itself that we lose sight of its many essential liabilities, foremost of which is the necessary fact that, because democracy is inherently a ‘leveling’ ideology that tends toward the lowest common denominator, the quality of democratic rule is determined by the lowest qualities of the governed, not the highest.

It is a reflex of the Western mind to associate democracy with liberty, but they are different things, and if you are more concerned with maximizing the quality, liberty, and happiness of social and individual life than with which particular system of political administration happens to provide you with your government, it is important to keep this in mind. To put it another way, how well you are governed should matter more than who is running the government, or how they are selected.

In response, most Westerners would probably — again, almost completely reflexively — insist that, even so, democracy is the best way to ensure that we are well-governed. But is this true? It’a an empirical question. It may be that democracy delivers good government, but only for a time, then succumbs to congenital pathologies. It may be that how long or how well it works depends very sensitively upon the character and culture of the people who try to implement it. And so on.

If we wish to diagnose the pathology of modern Western civilization, then whether we like it or not, we must critically examine our commitment to democracy itself. This realization is at the heart of the “neoreactionary” intellectual movement, and one of the most penetrating examinations of this question so far has been the book Liberty or Equality: The Challenge of Our Time, written in 1952 by the Austrian political theorist Erik von Kuhnelt-Leddihn.

In that book, K-L had this to say about the orthogonality of democracy and liberty:

Fifty-one per cent of a nation can establish a totalitarian régime, suppress minorities and still remain democratic; while an old-fashioned dictator might reserve to himself only a very few prerogatives, scrupulously refraining from interfering in the private sphere of the citizens. There is little doubt that the American Congress or the French Chambers have a power over their nations which would rouse the envy of a Louis XIV or a George III, were they alive today. Not only prohibition, but also the income tax declaration, selective service, obligatory schooling, the finger-printing of blameless citizens, premarital blood tests—none of these totalitarian measures would even the royal absolutism of the seventeenth century have dared to introduce.

Besides conflating democracy and liberty, the confusion in the modern liberal mind is compounded by an emphasis on equality as a social goal of paramount importance; indeed, many go so far as to identify equality with justice, when of course these are also completely different things, and are often mutually antagonistic, in that one must come at the expense of the other.

But it is impossible simultaneously to maximize liberty, equality, and justice under any political system. K-L writes:

“Nature” (i.e., the absence of human intervention) is anything but egalitarian; if we want to establish a complete plain we have to blast the mountains away and fill the valleys; equality thus presupposes the continuous intervention of force which, as a principle, is opposed to freedom. Liberty and equality are in essence contradictory.

Those who see liberty as a higher goal than equality (this view being the original referent of the word “liberal”) may, then, be inclined to shop around:

The fact remains that the true liberal is not pledged to any specific constitution, but would subordinate his choice to the desire to see himself and his fellow-citizens enjoying a maximum of liberty. If he thinks that a monarchy would grant greater liberty than a republic, he would choose the former; under certain circumstances he might even prefer the actual restrictions of a military dictatorship to the potential evolutions of a democracy.

Democracy, as time goes by, will always tend to favor equality over liberty and justice. Kuhnelt-Leddihn quotes William Lecky:

A tendency to democracy does not mean a tendency to parliamentary government, or even a tendency towards greater liberty. On the contrary, strong arguments may be adduced, both from history and from the nature of things, to show that democracy may often prove the direct opposite of liberty. In ancient Rome the old aristocratic republic was gradually transformed into a democracy, and it then passed speedily into an imperial despotism. In France a corresponding change has more than once taken place. A despotism resting on a plebiscite is quite as natural a form of democracy as a republic, and some of the strongest democratic tendencies are distinctly adverse to liberty. Equality is the idol of democracy, but, with the infinitely various capacities and energies of man, this can only be attained by a constant, systematic, stringent repression of their natural development…

- William E. H. Lecky, Democracy and Liberty, 1896

K-L continues:

Yet since democracy cannot relinquish its egalitarian heritage, the jealousy, envy and insecurity of the voting masses tend to give new impetus to the egalitarian mania as well as to ever increasing demands for “social security” and other forms of “economic democracy.” These cravings and desires result in specific measures, and thus we see finally a bureaucratic totalitarianism restricting personal liberties.

When K-L wrote this, “social security” was at the cutting edge of this process. Needless to say, things have moved along briskly in the ensuing sixty-two years.

Quoting Lecky again:

. . . in our own day, no fact is more incontestable and conspicuous than the love of democracy for authoritative regulation. . . . The expansion of the authority and the multiplication of the functions of the State in other fields, and especially in the field of social regulation, is an equally apparent accompaniment of modern democracy. This increase of state power means a multiplication of restrictions imposed upon the various forms of human action. It means an increase of bureaucracy, of the number and power of state officials.

K-L also quotes Jacob Burkhardt (bolding by me):

…we have besides as the common expression, in part of the ideas of the French Revolution and in part of the demands of modern reform movements, what is called democracy, that is, an ideology merged from a thousand different sources and highly differentiated according to the various layers of her supporters, yet in one respect invariable; that for it the power of the state over the individual can never be sufficient. As a result the boundary lines between state and society are obliterated, and the state is expected to carry out all tasks which society might possibly neglect. At the same time everything will be kept in a state of mobility and indecision.

Jacob Burkhardt, Weltgeschichtliche Bertachtungen, .n.d.

Another quote, this time from Burkhardt’s friend, the anthropologist J. J. Bachofen, who doesn’t mince words:

Since the victory of Lucerne the dogma of popular sovereignty and the omnipotence of democracy has become the practical basis of our public institutions. I don’t doubt that this ideology is going to proceed to all, even its most extreme conclusions, if the conditions of Europe permit it and if great catastrophes do not lead the people back to the true foundations of a sound political life. Yet complete democracy is the end of everything good. Republics have the most to fear from it. I tremble at the thought of its expansion, not on account of property, but because democracy throws us back into barbarism . . . for this is the curse of democracy, that it carries its devastations into all domains of life, affects church, home and family most severely, and distorts the true point of view on all questions, even the smallest ones. Because I love freedom, I hate democracy.

The modern “liberal” is deeply committed to the chimerical idea that a national ideology can emphasize both liberty and equality without inconsistency or inner conflict, and to the belief that democracy, somehow, is uniquely capable of squaring this circle. So deeply ingrained are these opinions that to question them, particularly the latter, is at the very least an “extreme” position, and borders on a kind of heresy. (If you don’t believe this, try airing these questions next time you’re at a dinner party.)

To make such a viewpoint possible requires that bien-pensant Americans, even many of the highly intelligent and educated ones I’ve tiptoed into these topics with, tend to have some profoundly mistaken notions about the American Founding. In general these errors tend to ascribe to the vision of the Founders an emphasis on equality, and an admiration for democracy, that simply weren’t there; indeed, as I wrote elsewhere not long ago, these things were the repository of the Founders’ darkest fears.

For example, in conversation with a well-educated friend the other day — a man of exceptional intelligence, with a doctorate from a leading Ivy League university — he insisted to me that the overarching principle of the American Founding was a rejection of aristocracy, and the placing, by the adoption of democracy, of the reins of power into the hands of the ordinary citizen.

Nothing, of course, could be farther from the truth. I reminded him first that the word “democracy” appears nowhere in either the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution, then reviewed for him how power is conferred to the three branches of the Federal government. The Executive is appointed not by direct election, but by the Electoral College. The Judiciary is appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. This leaves only Congress. The House was set aside by the Framers as the only seat of power directly exposed to the whim of the masses, and they set the term of office in the House to a brief two years to reflect the turbulence and caprice of popular passion; the Senate, however was designed to be a place for cooler and wiser heads, and the six-year term given to Senators was intended specifically to insulate them from the mercurial mood of the masses. To set the Senate even further apart from the demos, the Constitution stipulated that Senators would not be elected by popular vote, but appointed by the legislatures of the several States. (This was true until the ratification of the Seventeenth Amendment in 1913; my friend was astonished to learn that it had ever been the case, much less that such an arrangement could have lasted into the 20th century. This is how much an Ivy League Ph.D. knows about these things. Now sit down, pour yourself a stiff drink, and imagine the erudition of the average voter.)

So: of the three branches of government, only one-half of one of them was ever meant to be under the direct control of the people governed.

As for the Founders’ egalitarianism, Kuhnelt-Leddihn gives us Jefferson, who in 1814 wrote to John Adams:

The natural aristocracy I consider as the most precious gift of nature, for the instruction, the trusts and government of society. And indeed, it would have been inconsistent in creation to have formed men for the social state, and not to have provided virtue and wisdom enough to manage the concerns of society. May we not even say that that form of government is the best which provides most effectually for a pure selection of these natural aristoi  into the offices of government?

If the Founders rejected aristocracy in any important sense, it was the notion of hereditary aristocracy as a structural component of government. It was most certainly not a denial, or a rejection, of the natural range and variation of qualities and abilities that is so abundantly evident in our species; indeed they knew from the start that the only hope for the new Republic was for men of the highest qualities to put aside their personal interests (because that’s what they had to do, back then) to serve in public office — and for the the American culture as a whole, and the people themselves, to aspire always to the higher virtues.

Let’s face it: it was a long shot, and they knew it. We should be glad it worked out as well as it did, and for so long. The question is: what are we to do now?

Heretics Take Note

If you prefer reality to Cathedral orthodoxy, you’re evil, and will someday roast in Hell.

Meanwhile, you should be reading the Unz Review.

Let It Burn

From our reader Bill Keezer comes a link to a piquant item by Richard Fernandez on the crumbling Obama presidency. There’s so much blood in the water now that even some of Mr. Obama’s most stalwart allies are swimming away as fast as they can, lest they be devoured too.

It’s even getting to the point, says Mr. Fernandez, where impeachment may soon be a realistic possibility, despite the Democratic majority in the Senate. For many on the Right, of course, ’tis a consummation devoutly to be wished. (And well earned.) But should it be?

Mr. Fernandez imagines what he might say if he were a Republican Senator about to cast the fatal vote:

“Not so fast, ladies and gentlemen. Not so fast.

“You’re thinking that based on my past opposition to the president’s policies and my political affiliation that I am certain to cast the convicting vote. But as I look at him now, shrunken, bewildered in the seat, I have to ask myself: who is really guilty of this crime?

“Is it him, or is it you guys watching this on TV? Who gave this guy Michael Jordan’s jersey, plotted the trajectory of his rise through has-beens and never-been opponents? Who fixed it so he had a book he didn’t write, got advances he didn’t deserve and Nobels he didn’t earn?

“Who is guilty? Maybe it is the same guys who are counting on me to ditch this man into the briny deep.

“Perhaps he deserves it. But so do the masterminds, the guys who set him up to take the bullet for the team. Wasn’t the unspoken price for the adulation, the Air Force One rides, the State Dinners the unspoken understanding that if the time came it could all be put on him? The Black Guy. Look into your leftist heart. You know it’s true. Wasn’t that the concession for allowing the rest of you to print the money, make the deals? The fact that one day this moment might come and he’d agree to pay the price from gratitude?

“And after we get rid of him, after a decent interval, aren’t we’re going to do again? This time with an historic Woman president, Asian president, Gay president? You really need never run out of Jonahs.

“But you see, I’m not going to vote for conviction. [murmur in the crowd]

“I vote to let him remain president. I’m going to stick him to you. Vote to let him remain in office knowing full well what a screw up he is. Knowing he’ll screw up again; sink your portfolios, bankrupt your industries, make such a mess of defending this country there’ll be blood in the streets and crowds are going to be looking for the guys who endorsed this man into office. He’s going to bring the whole thing down, and you with it.

“Because you see he was what he always was. That at least is his excuse. But you knew better, all you people. All you exquisitely educated, creased-pants people. You knew better and put this poor fool in office.

“I say let it burn.

“Because that’s the only way this time to bring it home. So that even if this age is ruined, at least succeeding generations of Americans will never forget that ‘If we don’t hang together, by Heavens we shall hang separately’.

“Ladies and gentleman. You’re not getting rid of Barack Obama that easily. This time there are consequences, not from me, not from the Tea Party but from reality. God exists, ladies and gentleman. Or at least Murphy does. Consequences are a b**ch.”

Read the whole thing here.

Hillary Lays It On

Here’s a little clip from a public appearance by Hillary Clinton today. It’s only a couple of minutes long, but is, let’s just say, densely packed.

As the clip begins, Ms. Clinton is asked by an androgynous, hoplophobic sycophant whether she thinks that banning “assault weapons” and “high-capacity magazines” would exert a downward pressure on school shootings.

“Yes. I do.” [Whoops and applause.]

Ms. Clinton explains:

“We make hard choices…”

Note the finesse. “Hard Choices” is, of course, the title of her new “book”. (It’s also the title of an earlier memoir by another failed Secretary of State to another failed president, but I suppose there are only so many “hard choices” a person can get right in this world.)

“…and we balance competing values all the time.”

The “values” in question here, of course, being on the one hand defending essential liberties guaranteed by the Constitution, and on the other a pandering politician’s wish to make completely ineffective political gestures whose only utility is to disarm a free people.

“And I was disappointed that the Congress did not pass universal background checks…”

Which would have done nothing to prevent school shootings, while fostering a black market, expanding the Federal bureaucracy, and serving as a useful precursor to universal gun registration.

“…after the horrors of the shooting at Sandy Hook…”

Which was committed with a legally owned and registered weapon.

“…and now we’ve had more — ”

[androgynous hoplophobic sycophant:] “74!”

Utter rubbish. This has been debunked far and wide, but as Mark Twain said, “A lie can get halfway round the world while the truth is putting on its shoes.”

“… and I don’t think any parent — any person! — should have to fear about their child going to school or going to college because someone — for whatever reason, psychological, emotional, political, ideological — whatever it means — could possibly enter that school property with an automatic weapon…”

An “automatic weapon”? No school shooting, to my knowledge, has ever been committed with an automatic weapon. Private ownership of automatic weapons is already completely illegal for pretty much everybody, everywhere, period.

If you are going to ban things, you could at least take the trouble to understand what they are. One would think.

“… and murder innocent students, children, teachers.”

Murdering people is, of course, already illegal. When someone is deranged enough to ignore this fact, and to go on a murderous spree, what is the only thing that ever stops them? Somebody with a gun. So where do these sprees always take place? Why, in “gun-free zones”, of course. (Where would you pick?) We protect our banks, our government buildings, our celebrities, and yes, politicians like Hillary Clinton, with guns. We protect our children with… signs.

“I’m well aware that this is a hot political subject, and again: I will speak out no matter what role I find myself in…”

“Disgraced political hack, now utterly vanished from the public eye” sounds about right, but we’ll have to see.

“…but I believe we need a more thoughtful conversation.”

That is, a “conversation” in which the rest of us are “thoughtful” enough to pipe down and do as we’re told.

And now, the mask slips:

“We cannot let a minority of people … hold a viewpoint that terrorizes the majority of people.”

Got that? Just roll that around in your mind for a while. We aren’t going to solve this problem just by banning guns. It’s time to take a closer look at banning viewpoints.

Are you afraid of this woman yet?

In closing, Ms. Clinton doubles down:

“…we’re going to have to do a better job protecting the vast majority of our citizens — including our children! — from that very, very, very, small group that is, unfortunately, prone to violence, and now …”

Here we go:

“… with automatic weapons…”

Please shoot me now.

“… can wreak so much more violence than they ever could before.”

Absolutely, positively, blatantly, brazenly, demonstrably false. In terms of rate of fire, or magazine capacity, or ease of reloading, there has been no effective change in the functional capabilities of rifles and pistols in more than a century. This is just Grade A, industrial-strength, high-titer, scaremongering horseshit.

There you have it, folks. Like I said: densely packed.

Links

I’m a little woozy tonight after some periodontal surgery earlier today, so for now, just a few links that have been gathering dust in the bin:

– On topic: Comfortably Numb.

– On legacies and dynasties.

The wages of sin.

– The Walter Duranty prize: to David Kirkpatrick, for his Benghazi whitewash in the Times.

– A response to the Obama Adminstration’s National Climate Assessment.

Remington returns fire.

The Northern Lights.

Unexpected factors giving rise to more powerful monarchs.

Hey, this test can’t be working properly; we’d better change it.

– …Meanwhile…

Water, water, everywhere!

– He’s even lost Noam Chomsky.

Égalité!

The weather being clement here in Brooklyn today (it won’t be for long; see here and here and here and here) I went out for a constitutional in Prospect Park. I found myself walking behind a police officer. I was so struck by her appearance that I snapped a photo (forgive the poor quality; it was taken in haste). Here she is:

 

As you can see, this is a tiny woman. Her arms are like twigs. I had a good look at her as I walked by, and I’d estimate her height to be about 5’4″. I’d say she weighs no more than 105 pounds.

Now, I know a thing or two about human types, and about both the physical and psychological aspects of violent conflict. Can you imagine this sylph having to subdue a large and enraged man? Someone my size could dispatch her into the next world with a casual swipe of his paw. She would have a single option: her pistol, and the hope that she could draw and present it before being smashed to atoms. And — key point here — she’d be far more likely to have to fire it than someone who had any realistic chance of using non-lethal force.

There was a time when it was obvious common sense (how often I seem to say that these days, and about so many things!) to have our police officers be large, rough men who could intimidate violent troublemakers (who themselves tend, overwhelmingly, to be rough men as well) by their mere physical presence — and failing that, who could grapple and pound them into submission without having to shoot them. (Indeed, I should think that the humiliating prospect of being publicly subdued by this wisp of a girl would have, on the testosterone-addled, status-crazed, low-IQ, XYY types who so often need subduing in this world, an effect that would be precisely the opposite of intimidation.)

With this in mind, there used to be minimum standards for size and strength. Yes, it was a disappointment for some young men that they were too small to make the cut, but that’s the way of the world: the only reason we have a police force, after all, is to rein in chaos and enforce the law, with violence if necessary, not to provide jobs and psychological uplift to the puny. (It is, of course, possible that the young lady pictured above is a Hsing-i master able to bench-press three times her bodyweight, but I’d need some convincing.) If there are any remaining physical requirements for joining the police force these days, after seeing this specimen on patrol today it’s hard for me to imagine just who they could possibly filter out. Stephen Hawking, maybe.

George Orwell said:

People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.

Pleasant dreams, all.

Cloudy

Here’s a shot of the sky above Brooklyn a few minutes ago, from my stoop.

Not A Smidgen Of Corruption!

Well! It appears the IRS has “lost” two years’ worth of Lois Lerner’s emails.

Golly, what an unlucky coincidence. Especially considering that the NSA has copies of every email every American citizen has ever written, backed up redundantly in hardened underground bunkers scattered across all fifty states.

Allahpundit just remarked:

This is the Platonic Form of bullshit. All other bullshit is but shadows of this on the cave wall.

Good thing this is all coming out on Friday afternoon, or people might notice, and get upset.

Eek!

Here’s what Bryce LaLiberte just called “the lamest hit-piece on neoreaction yet (and that’s saying something)”.

It really is pretty bad. There isn’t even any discussion of what NRx is; just a lot of huffing and puffing about fascism by a frightened socialist. See for yourself.

My favorite parts: putting the word “culture” in scare-quotes, and this little gem:

Not exactly something we have complete control over, but it’s a useful medium-term goal of the left to prevent the total failure of the state.

Indeed. As I suggested to the author in an as-yet-unmoderated comment, they might consider hemlock.

A Columbine Survivor’s Open Letter On Gun Control

A young man named Evan Todd, who is a survivor and eyewitness of the Columbine massacre, has written an open letter to the President urging him to reconsider his support of Federal gun-rights infringements. You can read it here.

One quibble: arguing against universal background checks, Mr. Todd asks “is a universal background check system possible without universal gun registration? If so, please define it for us.”

Strictly speaking, I can’t see why this would be an impossibility; inquiring into a person’s background and registering a subsequent gun-sale are logically distinct. But his other arguments — that universal background checks both expand the Federal bureaucracy and create a swelling black market — are right. He might also have pointed out that controlling the criteria for rejecting applicants can easily become part of the apparatus of tyranny, resistance to which is precisely why the Second Amendment exists in the first place, and why its plain text insists that the right to keep and bear arms “shall not be infringed”.

Anyway, the letter is worth reading; it’s here. It won’t make a damn bit of difference, of course, to Mr. Obama’s outlook, but these things are always good for morale, and for stiffening our resolve.

Forward!

In case you haven’t noticed, everything’s going to hell.

I can’t say that I’m surprised: in a comment a while back, for example, I wrote that the administration of “this awful man — this grotesque incompetent, this subversive fraud, this preening and malevolent narcissist, this despiser of American tradition and implacable enemy of everything the U.S.A. was built upon and once stood for … will be looked back upon as the final turning point, as the time in history when the arc of American greatness turned at last from ascent to irrevocable decline, and ultimately to decay and disintegration. It will be seen as the moment when, under the leadership of a vainglorious man of low character, full of seething resentment and base ambition, the fatal and inevitable weaknesses of democracy finally overcame a once-great nation and people.” I do have to say, though, that the accelerating rate at which we are now tipping into the abyss is pretty impressive.

The latest unraveling (leaving aside, for now, the Bergdahl debacle and the government-assisted invasion of our southern border) is the conquest of much of Iraq by jihadist blitzkrieg (led, as it happens, by a chap we let go in 2009). Along the way, Allah’s advancing army have helped themselves to captured American weapons — including tanks, missile launchers and Blackhawk helicopters — and to almost half a billion dollars snatched from a bank in Mosul.

The Obama administration appears to have been caught utterly flat-footed by this, but as to whether that is simply due to astonishing incompetence, or to something darker, I frame no hypotheses. At any rate, when it comes to foreign affairs, every single place this administration has touched has ended up in flames. (And waiting in the wings is the insatiable succubus Hillary Clinton, whom I suspect couldn’t even run a quilting bee without ruining countless lives. We are well and truly doomed.)

Our reader Bill K. sent us a note earlier today, linking to a dark post about all of this by Richard Fernandez. It begins:

Ernest Hemingway observed that people went broke gradually at first then all of a sudden. Barack Obama’s career, for so long without visible means of support, has now moved onto the “all of sudden stage” of bankruptcy.

You can read the whole thing here. Do.

I will say this: having awakened some years ago from a brief ensorcellment by the universalist delusion known as ‘neoconservatism’, I understand that there are really only three useful options in a place like Iraq:

a) Rule it ourselves, as a sovereign colonial power;
b) Rule it by proxy, by buying ourselves a dictator and making sure that he stays bought; or
c) Complete encapsulation, combined with occasional pulverization when the inmates get too bumptious, and an end of all Muslim immigration to Western nations.

We’ll do none of these things, of course. We’ll launch a few airstrikes, maybe, just to bounce the rubble a bit (and of course we’ll mount a major Twitter offensive), but we haven’t the will for a), the cunning for b), or the wisdom (not to mention the balls) for c). So things will just get worse. As the fight moves toward Baghdad and the east — in other words, into the heart of Shi’ite Iraq — expect ISIL to face heavier slogging as the Sadrists push back, and Iran joins the fray. (I say ISIL, but you’ll also see them called ISIS. And just when we were finally done with all that Gaddafi/Qadafy, etc., business…)

One bright spot: the Kurds, whose pesh merga fighters are some of the toughest S.O.B.s on the face of the Earth, have taken advantage of the power vacuum to move on their ancient capital of Kirkuk. More power to ‘em; the world is a quieter place when populations disaggregate into their traditional homelands, though getting there is never pretty.

Awwww…

There aren’t many public figures on the Left who irritate me the way the writer Chris Hedges always has. (Tim Wise is another.) Pallid, sneering, humorless, self-righteous, and full of that grotesque collectivist piety that has done more damage in the modern world than any other force of man or nature, the very sight of him has always made my flesh crawl. I’ve only mentioned him once before in these pages — to direct our readers to a pert dressing-down by Sam Harris a couple of years ago — but I’ll draw your attention today, not without a little wintry satisfaction, to this little item.

Space Porn

I have to say, this is pretty titillating. It’s also the first I’m hearing about this sort of thing as a realistic possibility, and I wonder how seriously to take it. (The article says this rig can get to Alpha Centauri and back in a month. I assume that’s ship’s time, and so we’d still have to wait nine years or so to find out how it went.)

Awfully sexy mock-ups, though.

“On The Run”

Not content with Mosul, now it appears that ISIL has seized Tikrit, too. Iraq is disintegrating.

Update: Not sure what to make of this

Connection Restored

Things are finally getting back to normal around here, and I apologize to all for the long absence. (I realize that my not writing anything here for a week doesn’t exactly deprive anyone of oxygen, but I do know that many people stop by here regularly — my thanks to all of you as always! — and in the past I’ve always tried to put up something each day to make the trip worthwhile.

I’ve seldom been so completely offline, however, as I have been, due to pressing personal matters, this past week. I’ve been almost completely out of touch with current events, as well as all the other evanescent curiosities I customarily sift through to enliven these pages.

So now I’m rummaging through the week’s detritus, and attending once again to the passing charivari. Right off the bat I do notice, for example, that that weasel Eric Cantor got his clock cleaned down in Virginia, largely due to his destructive position on immigration: that alone is enough to make my day. I see also that we have apparently achieved an anemic solar maximum; that Sunni jihadists have now seized control of one of the more important cities in the Middle East; that the loathsome Hillary Clinton, failed Secretary of State to a failed President, has a new “book” out that, quite astonishingly, bears the same title as the memoirs of another failed Secretary of State to a failed President; that the Bowe Bergdahl detested-collaborator-for-terrorist-kingpins swap was such a hamfisted blunder that even many of the President’s most worshipful supporters are starting to feel like, as some wag (Tom Lehrer? Mort Sahl?) once said, a Christian Scientist with a toothache; that the University College of London has banned the creation of a Nietzsche club; that the recent Supreme Court decision in Bond v. United States, in which the Court rightly slapped down an attempt by Eric Holder’s slavering Department of Justice to prosecute a minor assault under the terms of an international chemical weapons treaty, and in which Associate Justice Scalia took Chief Justice Roberts to the woodshed in a coruscatingly brilliant concurrence, was actually a very big deal indeed, the full import of which I intend to examine when time permits; that, as usual, there has been another gory shooting or two, which as usual has led to the usual hysteria from the Left about eviscerating the Second Amendment, which, as always, is still a bad idea; that the rampaging Federal leviathan is now coming after your cheese; that things are still bubbling along in the reactosphere; that compared to chimps, we’re chumps; and a whole lot more.

I’ll try to get the presses rolling again over the next few days.

The King In Yellow Replies

In this engaging post, science-fiction writer John C. Wright responds, with brio and in fine style, to accusations of political heterodoxy and tainted allegiances.

Service Notice

There are a great many things I’d like to be commenting on just now, but I’m working very long hours this week and have no time for anything else.

Thanks very much as always for checking in. Back soon I hope.

All In A Day’s Work

Say what you will about Barack Obama, the man is consistent: everything he does seems reliably to act against the interests of the United States, its people, and its economic and social well-being; against the intention of the Framers that we shall live under a government of limited, enumerated powers, in which the three branches of government acts as checks upon one another; and against his own sworn oath to defend the Constitution, and faithfully to execute the laws that Congress enacts.

Today we learn that, having failed a few years ago to persuade a Congressional Democratic supermajority to pass drastic limitations on carbon-dioxide emissions, he is simply going to do so on his own, through the Environmental Protection Agency. In other words, the EPA is now more powerful than Congress: what Congress lawfully denied, the EPA will now provide.

We should note also that what will be regulated, with profoundly harmful effect on energy costs, and by extension, entire industries and, as always, the lives and liberty of American citizens, is now being called carbon “pollution”, even though it is a harmless gas, a natural component of our atmosphere, and is utterly essential to human life.

Carbon dioxide constitutes only 0.04% of the Earth’s atmosphere. To give a commonly quoted analogy, if the atmosphere were a football stadium with 100,000 seats, only 40 of them would be taken up by carbon dioxide. Only a small percentage of that atmospheric concentration is put there by human activity — perhaps three or four percent of all atmospheric CO2 — so out of those 100,000 seats, we are down to one seat. And that is the total for all human output, worldwide.

Now keep in mind that these regulations will only affect the United States, while China, India, and other developing nations will continue to burn as much coal as they like. Keep in in mind also that squeezing coal out of U.S. energy generation will reduce demand significantly, depressing the price of coal. But coal is still an extremely useful, portable, and relatively energy-dense power source, so all that will happen is that it will be exported and burned elsewhere, at lower prices. American coal producers, and their employees, will earn less, and most of the coal will go into the air anyway. As far as the greenhouse effect is concerned, the atmosphere doesn’t care where it gets burned.

Keep in mind also that a far more significant greenhouse gas is water vapor. Are we going to regulate that next?

In short, then: a fool’s errand, another burden and handicap for the nation’s economy, another arbitrary assault on American liberties, and another rebalancing of power in favor of this capricious and overweening Executive (and the subordinate behemoth sometimes called the “fourth branch”: the limitless, and almost completely unaccountable, Federal bureaucracy). If the Framers were alive today they would hardly recognize this failing nation as the Republic they risked all to create.

In other news, Mr. Obama has exchanged five senior Taliban prisoners for a U.S. deserter. The president was required by law to notify Congress before doing anything like this, but he didn’t bother. In doing this he not only violated the law (and thereby his oath, again) but has also, no doubt, encouraged future hostage-takers. Mullah Omar hailed the swap as a “great victory”.

People complain about the lavish vacations Mr. Obama takes, but I have to say I wish he’d take more of them. Indeed, if the nation could find the will, I think we could arrange for him to have a lot more free time, well before 2017 rolls around.

Who Knew?

I haven’t written about martial arts in a while, but coming across a silly little article in Popular Mechanics prompts me to do so today.

The article begins with some fawning hyperbole:

Forget all those broken boards and crumbled concrete slabs. No feat of martial arts is more impressive than Bruce Lee’s famous strike, the one-inch punch.

I can’t say I agree — for me, the ability to react effectively and proactively under actual combat conditions is far more impressive than staged demonstrations of any kind — but tastes do vary. I will say this, though: the one-inch punch is hardly “Bruce Lee’s famous strike” (though he did it very well). It is a commonplace in southern Chinese kung-fu systems, and a natural application of their core principles. Any southern-style black belt deserving of his rank ought to be able to do this, and many other things very much like it. I’ve taught my Hung Gar students this stuff for decades.

The article gives a good description of how this “short power” is generated:

Although Lee’s fist travels a tiny distance in mere milliseconds, the punch is an intricate full-body movement. According to Jessica Rose, a Stanford University biomechanical researcher, Lee’s lightning-quick jab actually starts with his legs.

“When watching the one-inch punch, you can see that his leading and trailing legs straighten with a rapid, explosive knee extension,” Rose says. The sudden jerk of his legs increases the twisting speed of Lee’s hips—which, in turn, lurches the shoulder of his thrusting arm forward.

As Lee’s shoulder bolts ahead, his arm gets to work. The swift and simultaneous extension of his elbow drives his fist forward. For a final flourish, Rose says, “flicking his wrist just prior to impact may further increase the fist velocity.” Once the punch lands on target, Lee pulls back almost immediately. Rose explains that this shortens the impact time of his blow, which compresses the force and makes it all the more powerful.

By the time the one-inch punch has made contact with its target, Lee has combined the power of some of the biggest muscles in his body into a tiny area of force.

Yep, that’s the general idea (though there’s a little more to it, of course). If the author had stopped there, I’d have had nothing to say. But then there was this:

But while the one-inch punch is built upon the explosive power of multiple muscles, Rose insists that Bruce Lee’s muscles are actually not the most important engine behind the blow.

“Muscle fibers do not dictate coordination,” Rose says, “and coordination and timing are essential factors behind movements like this one-inch punch.”

Because the punch happens over such a short amount of time, Lee has to synchronize each segment of the jab—his twisting hip, extending knees, and thrusting shoulder, elbow, and wrist—with incredible accuracy. Furthermore, each joint in Lee’s body has a single moment of peak acceleration, and to get maximum juice out of the move, Lee must layer his movements so that each period of peak acceleration follows the last one instantly.

So coordination is key. And that’s where the neuroscience comes in.

In a 2012 study, Ed Roberts, a neuroscientist at Imperial College London, compared the punching strength (at a range of slightly less than 2 inches) between practitioners of karate and physically fit people with similar amounts of muscle who do not practice martial arts.

“The first thing we found was that karate experts can punch much harder than normal, untrained people. Which isn’t exactly what you’d call Nobel Prize–worthy work,” he says.

But Roberts also discovered that for the karate practitioners, muscle alone didn’t dictate strong punches. Rather, when he used motion-tracking cameras to track the puncher’s joints, he found that strikes that synchronize the many peak accelerations in one complex move—like Bruce Lee’s—were also the most powerful.

And when Roberts took brain scans of his study’s participants, he also found that the force and coordination of each participant’s two-inch punch was directly related to the microstructure of white matter—the substance that manages communication between brain cells—in a part of the brain called the supplementary motor cortex. This is important, because this brain region handles the coordination between the muscles of the limbs, which close-range punches rely on. The altered white matter allows for more abundant or complex cell connections in that brain region, Roberts says, which could increase the puncher’s ability to synchronize his or her movements.

So Bruce Lee owes his master feat in part to a beefed-up glob of white matter.

So we learn, to our amazement, that Bruce Lee had to use his brain to make all this happen! I don’t know about you, but I was was completely taken aback. After reading this, I began to suspect that there might be certain other physical skills in which the brain plays an important role. (So far, I’ve only been able to think of four: playing the cello, dancing gracefully en pointe, landing the triple Salchow, and painting the corners with the split-fingered fastball — but for all I know, there may even be others.)

I guess we’ll have to wait for the research.

Uh-oh

Google’s just revealed its workplace demographics. The breakdown for tech workers: 60% white, 34% Asian, 2% Hispanic, 1% black.

Pass the popcorn.

Addendum, 5/29:

I neglected to add above that the breakdown by sex is: women 17%, men 83%.

Nobody should be surprised by any of this. To get through the multilevel Google tech interview, you need to have:

1) Exceptional talent for the kind of abstract visualization that software engineering requires, and a love for doing that kind of work, often for long hours and under severe pressure;

2) Deep theoretical understanding, particularly as regards algorithms, design patterns, and data structures;

3) Unusually high IQ – probably at least in the 130-140 range.

I’m probably ruining any chances I may ever have had for high public office by saying this in public, but I think the most parsimonious explanation here is that the composition of the staff simply reflects the statistical distribution of these qualifications among the various groups. I’m know that Google would like nothing more than to have lots of women and NAMs on their technical staff — but what has made them so successful and consistently innovative is their insistence on the qualities listed above. You simply can’t fake engineering.

This collision of reality with ideology is going to put Google in a bit of a cleft stick, I think. Hence the popcorn.

Vox Clamantis

Our reader Henry has sent us a link to the latest crop of “Random Thoughts” from Thomas Sowell. Some excerpts:

Some people act as if the answer to every problem is to put more money and power in the hands of politicians.

*

Republicans in Congress seem to be drawn toward the immigration issue like a moth toward a flame. How turning illegal immigrants into Democratic voters, while demoralizing the Republican base, will help either the country or the Republicans is a mystery. If ever there was a high-risk, low-yield investment, this is it.

*

We cannot insure to the vicious the fruits of a virtuous life; we would not invade the home of the provident in order to supply the wants of the spendthrift; we do not propose to transfer the rewards of industry to the lap of indolence.” Democratic presidential nominee William Jennings Bryan said that in 1896. Today’s Democrats do all those things that Bryan rejected.

*

The old saying that taxes are the price we pay for civilization has long since become obsolete. The amount that the government spends to defend us from foreign attack, or to maintain law and order at home, has been overtaken by the money it spends just to transfer some people’s money to other people who are more likely to vote for the reelection of incumbents.

Read the rest here.

We Can Dream, Can’t We?

Here’s George Will outlining the sort of presidential candidate he’s hoping for next time round. I have to say, I think that if someone actually presented himself to the voters as Mr. Will proposes, he’d win by a landslide. At the very least, he’d certainly get my vote.

Newton’s Third Law

Well! Good news from across the Big Ditch, as the “bunch of fruitcakes, loonies and closet racists” known as UKIP did very well indeed in yesterday’s elections.

Here’s a happy reaction from UK blogger ‘Anna Racoon’, in which she writes:

So peace finally reigns in the old ‘Muppet show’ studio ‘D’ at Elstree, from where the BBC broadcast the local election results during the night.

They were short handed – one of their senior editors, Jasmine Lawrence, had been removed from the team after tweeting “#WhyImVotingUkip – to stand up for white, middle class, middle aged men w sexist/racist views, totally under represented in politics today.”

She was almost right – UKIPs support is predominantly white, middle class men, retired men too. The main political parties have presided over the creation of a melancholy minority; men who grew up in the shadow of their heroic fathers, with no other opportunity to display their macho wares than trudging to work every day, paying their bills, guarding their children. Mundane tasks compared to saving the world from Naziism. Yet work they cheerfully undertook whilst rebuilding both the shattered economy and the shattered buildings of post war Britain.

They have been derided for their dedication to that task; undermined by Feminism, cast adrift from employment by a political elite that thought globalism was the way to go, impoverished by pension ‘raids’, and currently attacked by a legal system that cheerfully leaves them at risk of incarceration at the hands of any two hopefuls prepared to back each other as they seek to convince a jury that 40 years ago he ‘assaulted’ them. Against all this they must watch as a next generation of ‘White Dees’ claim £20,000 a year in benefits to support a champagne swilling lifestyle in Magaluf, and the streets fill with swirling figures in shalwah kameez whose human rights extend to cheerfully shouting ‘death to the infidels’ to passers-by.

Patrick Buchanan, in his latest column, had this to say:

What is happening in Europe?

In his unpublished “Leviathan and Its Enemies,” my late friend Sam Francis wrote of the coming crisis of the “soft managerial state,” of which the European Union is a textbook example.

Oswald Spengler used the word “Civilization” to describe “the terminal phase of a cultural organism,” wrote Francis. In 1941, Pitirim Sorokin described the characteristics of a Spenglerian “Civilization”:

“[C]osmopolitanism and the megalopolis vs. ‘home,’ ‘race,’ ‘blood group’ and ‘fatherland’; scientific irreligion or abstract dead metaphysics instead of the religion of the heart; ‘cold matter-of-factness’ vs. reverence and tradition and respect for age; internationalist ‘society’ instead of ‘my country’ and state (nation); money and abstract values in lieu of earth and real (living) values; ‘mass’ instead of ‘folk’; sex in lieu of motherhood … and so on.”

Between the managerial state and the civilization and culture that preceded it, the polarities are stark.

Yet they mirror the clashes of today as the European Union of Jean Monnet and Robert Schuman’s vision exhibits unmistakable symptoms of disintegration and decay.

In a way, this is remarkable.

For undeniably the rise of the EU has coincided with an unprecedented rise in the standard of living for the hundreds of millions from the Atlantic to the Baltic and from the North Sea to the Mediterranean.

Still, though Alfred Lord Tennyson’s “Parliament of man” and “Federation of the world” captured the imagination of 19th-and 20th-century one-worlders, the dream has proven incapable of capturing the hearts of European peoples. Who would die for the Brussels bureaucracy?

What are the identifying marks of these populist parties that have sprouted up now in almost every European country?

There is first the rejection of universalism and transnationalism, and a reversion to patriotism and its songs, symbols, holidays, history, myths and legends.

To peoples such as these, the preservation of the separate and unique ethnic and cultural identity of the nation supersedes all claims of supranational organizations, be it the EU or U.N.

This sentiment is reflected not only in fierce resistance to further integration within the EU, but in visceral hostility to further immigration from the Third World, Islamic world or Eastern Europe.

These people want to remain who and what they are.

We’ll see where all this goes; it may already be too late. But it’s good to see that the ancient peoples of the West still may still have a little fight left in ‘em.

Pedal To The Metal. Headlamps Off.

Writing at The Intercept, Glenn Greenwald reports on an item from the collection of classified material leaked by Edward Snowden: a report on the ways that “Western intelligence agencies are attempting to manipulate and control online discourse with extreme tactics of deception and reputation-destruction”. I can’t say that any of it should come as a surprise, but it is hardly comforting.

What sort of a world do you imagine we will be living in, say, twenty years from now? As everything comes into increasing energetic collision with everything else, the solid world — from the books on your shelf, to the cash in your wallet, to everyday human contact — is vaporizing into a seething plasma of massless data, and there is no part of that world that is immune from scrutiny, manipulation, and continuous revision.

When I was at Singularity University a couple years ago, one of the lecturers said something to the effect of: “If you can see the road ahead of you, you aren’t going fast enough”. The audience — an impressive gathering of confident, high-IQ, risk-taking tech entrepreneurs from all over the world — loved it, and gave the remark some applause. I refrained.

Read the Greenwald article here.

Stalk Show

Here’s something really beautiful: photographs of subtropical fungi by Australian photographer Steve Axford.

What STEM Shortage?

We’ve been hearing for years that the only way America can stay ‘competitive’ is to admit hordes of foreign engineers to supplement our inadequate supply of homegrown STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) workers. The constant influx of these workers on H-1B visas has kept wages in these fields from rising for many years now.

But is there really such a shortage? We have an awful lot of people here already, after all, and until fairly recently America managed to dominate these fields for a very long time, and to lead the world in technical and scientific innovation, without having to flood the STEM labor pool with imported workers.

The whole thing may be a sham, or perhaps I should say a scam. Learn more here.

Spurious Correlations

Just discovered a terrific online resource. Have a look.

Wade In The Balance

Reviews and reactions to Nicholas Wade’s A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History have been many, and varied. The book is as polarizing as we all expected: for some it is racist ‘pseudoscience’, while for others it is a social and scientific watershed.

I linked last week to hbd*chick’s roundup of these reviews; Occam’s Razor has a good collection too, sorted on the spectrum of approval.

It took some time, but the New York Times, Mr. Wade’s longtime employer, has now published its own review, and as you’d expect, it is not a favorable one. Steve Sailer reviews the review, here; his final remark is particularly on target.

Steven Pinker commented on Twitter that, although in his opinion the book “gets some wrong” (much of the criticism of the book, from both sides, has been of its more speculative chapters), he thought that the book “explodes” the “race-is-only-a-social-construction myth”.

The prominent evolutionary biologist (and Richard Lewontin protégé) Jerry Coyne gave the book an unfavorable review at his blog; the neoreactionary blogger Scharlach replied with some pointed questions in a comment that Dr. Coyne refused to post.

There’s plenty more. Go and have a look.

We all expected the book to be controversial; some if us were worried, though, that it would simply be ignored. That, at least, hasn’t happened.

Too Pooped To Post

After working long hours the past three days (including an all-nighter on Tuesday), and teaching class tonight, I am utterly flogged. All I have to offer you is this.

Pardon The Stench

We haven’t been covering political events very closely of late, so here are two items of interest.

In the first, we learn that the Executive Branch has been short-circuiting deportation proceedings for thousands of criminal aliens, choosing instead just to let them go. Apparently this cohort, now at large within our borders again, have already distinguished themselves as follows:

The document reveals that the 36,007 convicted criminal aliens freed from ICE custody in many instances had multiple convictions. Among them, the 36,007 had nearly 88,000 convictions, including:

193 homicide convictions (including one willful killing of a public official with gun)

426 sexual assault convictions

303 kidnapping convictions

1,075 aggravated assault convictions

1,160 stolen vehicle convictions

9,187 dangerous drug convictions

16,070 drunk or drugged driving convictions

303 flight escape convictions

No doubt they’ll get right back to business. You can read the details here, although if you have high blood pressure, or anger-management issues, perhaps you’d better not.

In our second item, the Daily Caller reports that Senator Carl Levin (D, MI) has been up to his wattles all along in the IRS Tea-Party-persecution scandal. Story here. For a detailed timeline of this partisan abuse of government power, have a look here.

“Not a smidgen” of corruption, says Mr. Obama. Cue Joe Wilson, please.

Wabbling Back To The Fire

From Eric Hoffer’s Before the Sabbath, 1975:

It is disconcerting that present-day young who did not know Stalin and Hitler are displaying the old naiveté. After all that has happened they still do not know that you cannot build utopia without terror, and that before long terror is all that’s left.

Links

Sorry for the meager output over the past few days. The muse has been silent. Back soon.

Here are a few items that have piled up:

Goodnight Dune.

An outstanding reactionary essay by Richard Weaver. (Worth a post of its own, when time permits.)

Tornado passing through.

A handy chart.

Building the Pyramids.

Your tax dollars at work.

“Spengler” on Gödel and God.

Ten strange books.

– The estimable Deogolwulf on the atomization of the modern man.

– Courtesy of hbd_chick, a roundup of reactions to Nicholas Wade’s new book on genes and race.

Handy diagnostic method.

I hope this is ours.

Science predicts fashion. (Got the 80′s about right, anyway.)

Ranking the world’s nations by drunkenness.

The Incredible Shrinking Man

A few days ago we linked to a defiant essay by a young, Jewish college student in which, having been told once too often to ‘check his privilege’, he examined the ‘privileges’ his family had enjoyed in the Holocaust, and during the struggle of its surviving members to build a life in postwar America.

Here’s some of what the author, Tal Fortgang, had to say:

I have unearthed some examples of the privilege with which my family was blessed, and now I think I better understand those who assure me that skin color allowed my family and I to flourish today.

Perhaps it’s the privilege my grandfather and his brother had to flee their home as teenagers when the Nazis invaded Poland, leaving their mother and five younger siblings behind, running and running until they reached a Displaced Persons camp in Siberia, where they would do years of hard labor in the bitter cold until World War II ended. Maybe it was the privilege my grandfather had of taking on the local Rabbi’s work in that DP camp, telling him that the spiritual leader shouldn’t do hard work, but should save his energy to pass Jewish tradition along to those who might survive. Perhaps it was the privilege my great-grandmother and those five great-aunts and uncles I never knew had of being shot into an open grave outside their hometown. Maybe that’s my privilege.

Or maybe it’s the privilege my grandmother had of spending weeks upon weeks on a death march through Polish forests in subzero temperatures, one of just a handful to survive, only to be put in Bergen-Belsen concentration camp where she would have died but for the Allied forces who liberated her and helped her regain her health when her weight dwindled to barely 80 pounds.

Perhaps my privilege is that those two resilient individuals came to America with no money and no English, obtained citizenship, learned the language and met each other; that my grandfather started a humble wicker basket business with nothing but long hours, an idea, and an iron will—to paraphrase the man I never met: “I escaped Hitler. Some business troubles are going to ruin me?” Maybe my privilege is that they worked hard enough to raise four children, and to send them to Jewish day school and eventually City College.

Perhaps it was my privilege that my own father worked hard enough in City College to earn a spot at a top graduate school, got a good job, and for 25 years got up well before the crack of dawn, sacrificing precious time he wanted to spend with those he valued most—his wife and kids—to earn that living. I can say with certainty there was no legacy involved in any of his accomplishments. The wicker business just isn’t that influential. Now would you say that we’ve been really privileged? That our success has been gift-wrapped?

Our reader ‘Musey’ commented:

Check your privilege. That means you, not your parents or grandparents. It means now as you live with advantages that others don’t have and have no chance of enjoying. All it means is that we should give some thought to those whose lives are different to ours, and try to put ourselves in their shoes. If that had happened in the 1930′s maybe the holocaust would never have happened.

This gave me pause. Is that all that “check your privilege” is supposed to mean? A plea for empathy and thanksgiving, and perhaps a little kindness?

Well, maybe. Given the tone and context in which I seem to hear it most of the time, though, I don’t think it’s quite as benign as that, and I don’t think ‘privilege’ means what it used to.

Words are tools for dissecting the world, and for that they work best when they have precise, sharp edges. On the battlefield, though, they’re often more effective when blunted into clubs. (See also ‘fascist’ and ‘racist’.) This now seems to be happening to ‘privilege’; its new meaning seems only to be ‘whatever you have that I covet’.

In particular we seem to be effacing the distinction between ‘privileges’ and ‘rights’. In my own understanding, ‘rights’ are intrinsic and inherent, while ‘privileges’ are contingent and external. We are born with rights, but privileges, one way or another, must be earned; they must be paid for, and we acquire them in virtue of some quality that we bear or possess not merely as members of our species, but as individual persons. (I’ve written before about the importance of this distinction.)

Daniel Dennett once wrote, in a different context, that “if you make yourself small enough, you can externalize everything.” It applies here as well, and gives us the key to understanding the meaning of “check your privilege” — which is that we are to be reduced to atoms.

Just as atoms are identical, so are we to be: in the pursuit of absolute equality, each of us is to be made so small that every distinguishing characteristic, every sin and virtue, becomes external to us. Thus reduced, with every individual quality stripped away, there can no longer be any basis for discriminations of any kind at all, and certainly not for any sort of privilege.

It doesn’t stop there: in order to achieve full equality in the here and now, the atomization of the individual must also reduce and externalize our extension in time. Our personal histories, and the heritage of our parents and ancestors, must be scraped away as well. Have you toiled for years to educate yourself, or to create a successful business, and as a result, now enjoy a measure of wealth and comfort that others do not? No, this is unjust; “you didn’t build that”. Correctly understood, you are just a lucky atom, intrinsically no different from any other, wafted to your position of privilege by warm and entirely contingent updrafts.

The point of all this shrinkage is this: if we are all atoms, and atoms are all the same, then there is no just basis for the unequal distribution of blessings in the world. But blessings there are (for now, at least), and something must be done with them — so if there is no basis for distributing them according to privilege, then a mathematically equal distribution becomes, by default, our right.

This, then, is the real meaning of “check your privilege”: if there’s still anything left of you, you haven’t made yourself small enough.

The Leidenfrost Effect

Courtesy of the indefatigable JK. Here.

Triple-Decker

Our pal Mangan directed us yesterday to an interesting item, from Britain’s Institute of Economic Affairs, on the idea of ‘political correctness’ as an expression, not of one’s actual beliefs, but as a ‘signaling’ mechanism employed to enhance status. (This is not a new idea, but this is a good treatment of it.)

Inside the article is a link (linked text: ‘Easterlin paradox’) to a previous IEA article that you should make a point of reading. The sublinked item, from 2012, has the title Government shouldn’t worry about our happiness – new research shows.

That item, in turn, contains a link to a detailed IEA report on the subject, which you can download free of charge.

Key points:

– The government should not be trying to measure or maximise happiness as an explicit policy goal.

– There is no evidence that more equal societies lead to increases in happiness.

– Smaller government tends to make people happier.

– Contrary to widespread belief, the evidence suggests that happiness is in fact related to income and economic growth.

Sounds about right to me, of course, with one caveat: that last point could be taken in support of the idea that economic criteria trump all others, as the unholy alliance of open-borders advocates on both sides of the aisle keep telling us. There are, however, other factors that are also of critical importance for happiness, and community life and social cohesion are near the top of the list.

Conservation Of Asymmetry

A sharp excerpt from a post by Bryce Laliberte:

Equality is alien to nature… Democracy is opposed to order, for it is fundamentally a kind of disorder; order entails the accumulation of capital, material and social, which likewise entails a hierarchy and the attendant high asymmetries of power. Democracy precludes the accumulation of power by a self-interested estate, at least technically, and so the high degrees of power asymmetry necessary to stability cannot actualize.

Democracy is not “politically neutral,” as though it only functions as a market which distributes according to preferences and economic power. Democracy politically favors he who would upset hierarchies, for by necessity there are more at the bottom than at the top. All forms of subordination become equivalent to oppression, as those who are subordinate are led to believe that they can rise up and “take what is theirs” without this proving to destabilize and threaten the whole of society.

Hence you can have a Leftist singularity, for which the result is utter destruction. After all, there is nothing more equal than death.

Very good, but I must quibble: there will always be power asymmetries, even in the rubble of a Left singularity, for the very reason that Mr. Laliberte points out: equality is alien to nature. This means that it can only be maintained by external imposition. And as long as anyone is left alive, that requires power.

Bring It On Home

Kevin Spacey: new face of the Dark Enlightenment. Here. (h/t: Nick Land.)

Check Your Privilege

The best thing I’ve read all week. Here.

The Penny Drops

It appears as if reality may slowly be impinging upon the consciousness of David Brooks. In today’s column, he laments that the abstract world order he had hoped for seems to be slipping away, yielding to older and more organic forces.

We read:

“The ‘category error’ of our experts is to tell us that our system is doing just fine and proceeding on its eternal course toward ever-greater progress and global goodness. This is whistling past the graveyard.

“The lesson-category within grand strategic history is that when an established international system enters its phase of deterioration, many leaders nonetheless respond with insouciance, obliviousness, and self-congratulation.

…The weakness with any democratic foreign policy is the problem of motivation. How do you get the electorate to support the constant burden of defending the liberal system?

It was barely possible when we were facing an obviously menacing foe like the Soviet Union. But it’s harder when the system is being gouged by a hundred sub-threshold threats. The Republicans seem to have given up global agreements that form the fabric of that system, while Democrats are slashing the defense budget that undergirds it.

Moreover, people will die for Mother Russia or Allah. But it is harder to get people to die for a set of pluralistic procedures to protect faraway places. It’s been pulling teeth to get people to accept commercial pain and impose sanctions.

All true. (And the weakness of democracy that Mr. Brooks notes above applies equally to domestic policy as well.) But you knew that already, readers.

Most significant of all is this:

The liberal pluralistic system is not a spontaneous natural thing.

Exactly right. This is why it can only be imposed externally, by an increasingly malevolent concentration of power, rather than arising organically at all levels of a harmonious and self-organizing hierarchy. This is why it is the natural enemy of genuine and meaningful liberty. And this is why we must resist it.

Do The Right Thing

Just in case, loyal Readers, you happen to be looking for a fat tax write-off; and supposing also that you’ve been troubled lately by how hard it is for aging, pallid reactionary male bloggers just to get around without being interfered with by resentful Progressive mobs, here’s the perfect way to kill two birds with one stone: by getting me one of these.

Exhibit A

One more from the UK: the Daily Mail reports that modern humans are weaklings compared to our early ancestors.

They might be on to something.

Those Guys

NRO’s Jim Geraghty attended the National Rifle Association’s annual convention last week in Indianapolis, and today he summed up his impressions in an excellent post.

I had begun to cull some excerpts, but really you should go read the whole thing yourself. It’s here.

Best line:

“Hi, I’m here to change your culture!”

Holger Danske Stirs

After yesterday’s depressing post, here’s some good news from across the pond: the anti-EU party UKIP has surged to first place in the runup to to next month’s elections.

Suddenly, all over Europe, the spell is breaking.

And So It Goes

Once, Winston Churchill was the voice of England, the defender of “the island race“. My parents, who grew up in Britain, remembered hearing him on the radio during the Blitz. They told me that, more than anything else, it was his lion’s heart (and his lion’s roar) that gave the sturdy people of that battered and isolated kingdom the strength, in their darkest hour, to go on alone against overwhelming odds.

Churchill was also one of the greatest masters of the English language ever to lift a pen, and devoted his long literary life to the story of his ancient homeland and people. His crowning achievement, his incomparable six-volume history of the Second World War, rightly earned him the Nobel Prize.

When Churchill died in 1965 at the age of 91, the English-speaking world wept. At the time of his death he was considered by many, if not nearly all, of the British people to be the greatest Englishman who ever lived.

Quoting Winston Churchill in public can now get you arrested. Story here.