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:



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Australia has repealed its carbon tax.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.


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.


Sorry, no post tonight. Too humid.


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.



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.


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.)


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.


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.




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.)

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.