Independence Day!

The U.K. votes Leave. A great and ancient nation reclaims its sovereignty and its honor, with a great big middle finger to bureaucratic globalism (and some well-deserved mud in Barack Obama’s eye).

To be honest, I didn’t think they still had it in them.

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Banging Their Spoons

Time to stick a fork in, America. Today we have a sit-in in the House of Representatives. A sit-in. (Next they will hold their breaths until they die, and then we’ll be sorry!)

Maybe they should have been given a trigger warning.

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Not Bad!

Donald Trump just gave a corking good speech. Say what you will about the man — and I’d probably agree with much of it — this is invigorating stuff, and refreshing to hear. Perhaps most importantly, he has Hillary Clinton dead to rights.

Read it here.

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War-War

Pat Buchanan is a rare voice for restraint in military adventurism. In a strong essay, published yesterday, he pushes back against the idea of going to war against Syria.

A long excerpt (link added):

Some 50 State Department officials have signed a memo calling on President Obama to launch air and missile strikes on the Damascus regime of Bashar Assad.

A “judicious use of stand-off and air weapons,” they claim, “would undergird and drive a more focused and hard-nosed U.S.-led diplomatic process.”

In brief, to strengthen the hand of our diplomats and show we mean business, we should start bombing and killing Syrian soldiers.

Yet Syria has not attacked us. And Congress has not declared war on Syria, or authorized an attack. Where do these State hawks think President Obama gets the authority to launch a war on Syria?

Does State consider the Constitution to be purely advisory when it grants Congress the sole power to declare war? Was not waging aggressive war the principal charge against the Nazis at Nuremberg?

If U.S. bombs and missiles rain down on Damascus, to the cheers of the C-Street Pattons, what do we do if Bashar Assad’s allies Iran and Hezbollah retaliate with Benghazi-type attacks on U.S. diplomats across the Middle East? What do we do if Syrian missiles and Russian planes starting shooting down U.S. planes?

Go to war with Hezbollah, Iran and Russia?

Assume U.S. strikes break Syria’s regime and Assad falls and flees. Who fills the power vacuum in Damascus, if not the most ruthless of the terrorist forces in that country, al-Nusra and ISIS?

Should ISIS reach Damascus first, and a slaughter of Alawites and Christians ensue, would we send an American army to save them?

According to CIA Director John Brennan, ISIS is spreading and coming to Europe and America. Does it make sense then that we would launch air and missile strikes against a Syrian regime and army that is today the last line of defense between ISIS and Damascus?

Does anyone think these things through?

Wherever, across the Middle East, we have plunged in to wage war — Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Syria — people continue to suffer and die, and we are ensnared.

Have we not fought enough wars in this Godforsaken region?

Last week, Russian planes launched air strikes on the rebels in Syria whom we have been arming and training to overthrow Assad.

Said John Kerry, “Russia needs to understand that our patience is not infinite.” But why are we arming rebels to overthrow Assad?

Who rises if he falls? Moscow’s alliance with Damascus goes back decades. Syria provides Russia with a naval base in the Mediterranean. Vladimir Putin’s support for the embattled Syrian regime in the civil war being waged against it is legal under international law.

It is our policy that appears questionable.

Where did Obama get the right to arm and train rebels to dump over the Damascus regime? Did Congress authorize this insurrection? Or is this just another CIA-National Endowment for Democracy project?

Why are we trying to bring down Assad, anyhow?

U.S. foreign policy today seems unthinking, reactive, impulsive.

Sounds correct to me. (It might not have, 13 years ago — but history has since added some new pages to its lesson-book, and I am older, wiser, and better-educated now than I was then.)

Read the whole thing here.

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Vote Leave!

The Wall Street Journal has an editorial today calling (unsurprisingly, given that it is the globalist WSJ we are talking about here) for the United Kingdom to stay in the European Union.

The reasons they give are mostly to do with interests other than those of the U.K. itself:

While we hope Britain votes to remain in the European Union, the reasons have less to do with the sturdy British than with the damage an exit could do to a Europe that is failing to meet the challenges of the 21st century.

America’s interests lie in a free and prosperous Europe, and we’ve long thought this is best served with Britain as part of the European Union to balance France and Germany. The British look west across the Atlantic more than continentals, and the Brits have largely been a voice of reason in Europe’s councils.

Certainly true: by my lights, the Brits have been a voice of reason, for the most part, always and everywhere. But as the son of British expats, and as a former citizen of the Commonwealth, I want the British to do what’s best for themselves. And as an ardent supporter of every people’s wish to live in a homeland that expresses their own “extended phenotype“, and as someone with a visceral revulsion for universalist, power-centralizing, power-seeking busybodies, I welcome the prospect that Brexit would, in the WSJ’s words, “be a blow to the confidence and coherence of Europe”. “Europe”, to the WSJ, simply means the E.U., and such a “blow” to that malevolent organization would, rather, be a welcome indication of the growing confidence of the several European peoples that they have the right — nay, the duty), to their ancient heritage and folkways — to stand on their own, and to live under their own rules, rather than the suffocating authority of an unelected and unaccountable bureaucracy in Brussels. If Brexit were to begin a cascade of similar referenda throughout Europe, so much the better. Whether, as the WSJ points out, much of Britain’s problems have to do with local politics rather than with E.U. diktats, is immaterial; Brexit will at least open up the possibility for them to solve them, or not, as the British see fit.

(Unsurprisingly, the WSJ dismisses any concern about immigration.)

It is amusing that the WSJ begins its piece with this:

The British people go to the polls Thursday in their most important vote since they elected Margaret Thatcher in 1979.

Here, thanks to Frontpage, is Mrs. Thatcher on the topic.

Nations feel comfortable in their own nationhood. Pride enables you to do things you otherwise might not be able to do. Europe should be each group in its own national identity. Don’t try to extinguish that. If you try to push people into a mold, you’ll create resentment, and you’re creating it now.

That was in 1992. Were the great lady alive today, she’d be saying: “LEAVE!!”

The WSJ piece is behind a paywall. To read it, do this:

Open an “incognito” browser window, go to Google, and put some of the text in quotes, e.g. “the reasons have less to do with the sturdy British”. Open the WSJ link in the search results. (They’ll probably catch on to this backdoor eventually, but they haven’t yet.)

Finally, with a hat-tip to our friend David Duff, see also this piece from National Review.

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Delivering Us Bound To Our Foe

I do enjoy a good polemic, and Fred Reed’s rants are among the best. His response to the recent act of jihad in Orlando is a fine specimen.

Some excerpts:

Orlando? So what else is new? Why the excitement? I am puzzled that everyone is distraught over a perfectly ordinary act of terrorism by a perfectly ordinary Muslim terrorist. We have seen these attacks before and will see them again. They grow monotonous, like car crashes. They are as interesting as a commercial break.

Why the surprise? We know Muslims kill Christians. We know they stone adulteresses to death. We know they drive airplanes into buildings. We know they mutilate women. We know they bomb airliners. We know they destroy historic monuments. We know they kill their daughters for losing their virginity. We know they kill homosexuals. We know they make coordinated mass attacks on cities. We know they are incompatible with societies of the First World. We know they have no respect for our laws. We know they hate us.

Knowing all of this, what do we do? Why…of course! What else? We import more of them. Nothing could make more sense. Ten thousand Syrians, coming to your neighborhood. Thank you, Obama. Thank you in advance, Hillary.

More precisely, Hussein Obama imports them. A black President with Islamic roots, barely American, who dislikes white people and recruits immigrants of his two ethnicities as hard as he can. We get utterly unassimilable Somalis in Minnesota, and all the Muslims he can find. Fifty gay men have just paid the price.

… From the standpoint of a curmudgeon, to which ashen-souled tribe I belong, the events in Orlando provide the gray satisfaction of confirmation. We in our dismal trade derive no joy from unavoidable sufferings springing from the routine malice of existence—cancer, automobile wrecks, birth defects—but we thrive on the self-inflicted, on the finger-hammerings accompanied by cries of “Ouch!” We observe that Muslims are nothing but trouble anywhere, so we import Muslims. We observe that diversity is the chief source of bitter strife in the world, so we open the borders. When seeking employees, we deliberately hire people who can’t do the job. In our universities we purposely admit those who neither can nor want to learn. Then, when the obvious, the predictable, indeed the inevitable unexpectedly occurs, we insist that it really didn’t, or shouldn’t have, or wouldn’t have, or something, and do it again. In its way it is wonderfully funny.

Unless of course you are among the dead.

Not funny at all, really, to me, but perhaps I am not yet quite as ashen-souled as Mr. Reed. I will say, though, that I feel something of his “gray satisfaction” whenever the Gods Of The Copybook Headings limp up to explain it all once more — but that’s only because I can’t help hoping that finally, some day, we will learn our lesson. (I realize that may be unduly optimistic; it’s starting to look as if no amount of knuckle-rapping is going to get what’s left of this civilization to pay attention in class.)

See also this fine bit of obvious common sense from Thomas Sowell:

Is diversity our strength? Or anybody’s strength, anywhere in the world? Does Japan’s homogeneous population cause the Japanese to suffer? Have the Balkans been blessed by their heterogeneity — or does the very word “Balkanization” remind us of centuries of strife, bloodshed and unspeakable atrocities, extending into our own times? Has Europe become a safer place after importing vast numbers of people from the Middle East, with cultures hostile to the fundamental values of Western civilization?

The answers to Mr. Sowell’s questions, of course, are: no, no, no, no/yes, and no. Read the rest here.

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Returning Fire

With a hat-tip to Bill V, here’s an outstanding essay on “gun control”, written by firearms expert Larry Correia in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre a few years ago. Will it change anyone’s mind? If good sense like this doesn’t, then nothing will. Send it to your friends.

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The True Believer

I just ran across some remarks made a few years ago by globalist uplifter Ottmar Edenhofer, then co-chair of the U.N.’s IPCC Working Group III. This is hardly current, but it’s instructive enough that I thought I’d post it anyway:

So far economic growth has gone hand in hand with the growth of greenhouse gas emissions. One percent growth means one percent more emissions. The historic memory of mankind remembers: In order to get rich one has to burn coal, oil or gas. And therefore, the emerging economies fear CO2 emission limits.

Right. Access to cheap, reliable, abundant, portable energy is essential for everything we have come to think of as modern life: clean water, transportation, effective medical care, economic security, productive agriculture, heating and air-conditioning, mitigation of natural disasters, and much more. It is impossible for emerging nations to lift themselves out of poverty without it.

There is no historical precedent and no region in the world that has decoupled its economic growth from emissions.

In other words: Here is something that appears to have been true, without exception, always and everywhere. Any sane person would take that as a very big hint. Not these blokes, though.

…[O]ne must say clearly that we redistribute de facto the world’s wealth by climate policy… One has to free oneself from the illusion that international climate policy is environmental policy. This has almost nothing to do with environmental policy anymore…

Right, then. Thought so. Thank you.

.

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Feugh!

Here’s the latest from John Schindler on the Clinton email investigation. The skulduggery and conflicts of interest at the highest level of government is — well, I was about to say “astonishing”, but it really isn’t that at all. Dispiriting, at the very least.

That President Obama actually saw fit to endorse this woman, given the state of this investigation and the seriousness of the malfeasance being examined — that’s mighty dispiriting too. But this is what democracy becomes, as the culture decays.

A constitutional question: can a sitting President pardon herself? (It would obviously be an outrage, and violative of the most basic feature of the social contract, namely that a person may not be the judge in his own cause — but is it forbidden?) Imagine what will happen, both publicly and behind the scenes, if charges are brought after Mrs. Clinton is elected and inaugurated. (For that matter, imagine what’s happening behind the scenes right now.)

Monarchy’s looking better and better all the time.

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You Can’t Have Everything

Here’s the gay political gadfly Milo Yiannopolous on the Orlando atrocity (my emphasis):

“I’m not talking about Islamists. I’m not talking about terrorists. I’m not talking about radical Islam. I’m talking about mainstream Muslim culture. There are eleven Muslim countries in which I could be killed for being a homosexual. The state penalty is death. One hundred million people live in countries where the penalty for homosexuality is death. This is not radical Islam. This is mainstream Muslim society. Look what’s happening in Sweden. Look what’s happening anywhere in Germany, anywhere there are large influxes of a Muslim population. Things don’t end well for women and gays. The left has got to make a decision. Either they want female emancipation and it wants gay rights or it wants Islam. It’s got to pick.

This aired on a local CBS station. Good to see.

Also, the hornets are buzzing again for “gun control”. Here and here and here are some responses. (Just for the sake of balance, you understand.)

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The Generic Version

Here’s a video that will change the way you look at… videos that will change the way you look at things.

Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled, Neither Let It Be Afraid

I write a lot about the desperate fix we’re in, and how we got here. I know many of you who visit here are worried and upset about it all. I understand: once you see how broken our civilization is, you can’t unsee it. It becomes very easy just to dwell on it all, and to become very alienated, bitter, and angry.

Please remember this: there is a very great deal of beauty still alive in this world; there is love and friendship and art and music and everything else that makes life worth living. All I want is to know how we got to the predicament we are in, to understand what makes for happy, harmonious and flourishing societies, and to recognize what is worth cherishing and preserving as we move forward into uncertain times. But even in these discouraging days, it’s important to focus on what’s good and right and positive, and to include as much of that in our lives as we can.

We have a choice when we look at the world: we can focus only on what is wrong, and from there it is easy to descend into fury and darkness. But who wants a life like that? Not me, and not, I think, you. Yes, pursue understanding, but also: pursue virtue. Be of good cheer, and help the people around you however you can. Pursue happiness, and good company, and love.

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Worlds In Collision

By now you’ve heard about the massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando. The killer was a Muslim named Omar Mir Seddique Mateen, from a family of Afghan immigrants. As I write, 50 people have died (including the jihadi himself). The count will almost certainly rise, as many are gravely wounded.

Nobody should be surprised by this, and it’s hard for me to think of anything to say that shouldn’t already be obvious. The obvious is now taboo in the West, however, and so I will say a few obvious things:

Many are scurrying to make this a gun-control issue. It is not. Americans have owned guns — lots of guns — throughout the nation’s history, and gun laws were formerly far more lax than they are now. I grew up in rural western New Jersey. Everyone had guns, generally completely unsecured, yet somehow we didn’t slaughter each other. Even today, Vermont, which has almost no gun laws at all, has one of the lowest gun-homicide rates in the nation. Homicide rates have fallen for decades, even as millions and millions of guns have been added to the nation’s private collections. Subtract the gun-homicide rates among urban blacks and Hispanics, and the U.S. gun-homicide rate drops to European levels.

Moreover, the shooting in Orlando, like so many other spree killings, happened in a place where guns are already illegal. Would-be mass shooters know that when they target a “gun-free zone” they will be able to run up the body count before they are stopped. The Pulse nightclub — like Virginia Tech, or that Colorado theater — was one of these soft targets.

In a post about a year ago, I wrote this:

…as someone who has spent his adult life troubleshooting complex systems, I can say this with confidence: unless and until you understand what really causes a problem, you will never reliably fix it.

If you see a system beginning to fail, you must ask yourself: what has changed? If you are asking this about the state of Western society, and particularly American culture, one thing should be very clear: it is not access to guns.

When you alter a formerly organic and mostly homogeneous society by introducing large, and largely unassimilable, alien populations with wholly incompatible ideologies, folkways, biases, religions, axioms, customs, and tribal affinities, the effects will be disharmony, loss of social cohesion, erosion of public trust, faction, disintegration of civil society, and conflict. When one of those populations is Islamic, that conflict will almost certainly include violence and terrorism. Duh.

Am I wrong? Am I being mean to Islam? Thought experiment: Imagine what the world would be like if Islam simply did not exist. Imagine Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Afghanistan. Imagine Europe. Imagine Lower Manhattan. Imagine London, Brussels, Paris, Marseille. Imagine this page not existing. Imagine your airport. Imagine your daily paper. Imagine the Pulse nightclub.

Too unrealistic? OK, then: at the very least, imagine what the West might have been like without a half-century of mass Muslim immigration. Imagine Islam in Islamic countries, and Westerners in Western countries. We had that choice, and we blew it.

Taboo, taboo. I really shouldn’t be saying these things!

OK, I will say this, then: how many conflicting ideas can you hold in your head at once? Here is a tricky triad. See if you can make it all hang together:

1) Our society should celebrate, and encourage, sexual diversity in all its forms of expression.

2) Our society should celebrate, and encourage, multicultural diversity in all its forms of expression.

3) Our society should celebrate, and encourage, peace and harmony and happiness.

Like I said: tricky! This will be on the final. Don’t forget to show your work.

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Name That Blog

I’m thinking of changing the title of this blog. It seemed apt eleven years ago, when I had no idea what the focus would be, but now I’m getting tired of it.

That said, it’s just an itch at this point; maybe I will leave it alone. Comments? Suggestions?

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Trump and Curiel

I know I’m late to the game here, but I find this ginned-up outrage over Donald Trump’s comment about Judge Curiel tremendously irritating. I would chalk it all up to mere cognitive dissonance, of the sort that is essential to maintaining a modern Leftist worldview, but it is really nothing more than another salvo in a hot propaganda war. That many soi-disant conservatives have piled on makes it all the worse. I understand the natural conservative impulse for civility and decorum very well indeed — I feel it strongly myself, and Donald Trump’s habitual coarseness bothers me too — but the stakes are high here, and they are missing the real point in all of this, and choosing the wrong side.

It is a hobby-horse of the Left that race and heritage have a permanent and irresistible effect on one’s worldview. For example, the United Church of Christ — an influential mainline Protestant organization — recently published a list of “10 ways you can actively reject your white privilege.” Rule #10 says:

Recognize that you’re still racist. No matter what.

That’s because you’re white. Period.

Look at the aporetic collection of propositions the Left insists on:

1) Race is purely a social construct, with no underlying reality.

2) To assume, merely because of his race, that any individual instantiates any particular cognitive or behavioral properties is racism.

3) Racism is a very great evil, perhaps the greatest evil.

4) White people are all racist: not because of any remediable beliefs or behaviors, but intrinsically and forever, because of their race.

From which it follows, of course, that:

5) White people are irremediably evil.

Much has been made of Sonia Sotomayor’s comments on diversity in the courts. In 2001, the future Justice gave a speech at the annual Judge Mario G. Olmos Law and Cultural Diversity Lecture at the University of California, Berkeley. (Her remarks there were transcribed by the Berkeley La Raza Law Journal.) Among other things, Ms. Sotomayor said (my emphasis):

Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences, a possibility I abhor less or discount less than my colleague Judge Cedarbaum, our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging. Justice O’Connor has often been cited as saying that a wise old man and wise old woman will reach the same conclusion in deciding cases. I am not so sure Justice O’Connor is the author of that line since Professor Resnik attributes that line to Supreme Court Justice Coyle.

I am also not so sure that I agree with the statement. First, as Professor Martha Minnow has noted, there can never be a universal definition of wise. Second, I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experiences would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn’t lived that life.

Included therein are the following assertions:

1) Judging is not, contrary to what we would like to imagine, impartial. Our personal differences will affect our judgment.

2) Those personal differences are due not only to our cultural embedding and affiliation, but may also be innate (or, in Ms. Sotomayor’s word, “physiological”).

3) “Wisdom” — which is what we seek above all in judges — is not an objectively existing singularity upon which all lines converge, but varies according to the innate and cultural starting-points from which one begins the process of reason.

4) A Latina judge will, in some cases, therefore reach a different conclusion from a white male.

5) That conclusion will, according to the biases, preferences, axioms, and tribal affinities of Sonia Sotomayor, be better that whatever a white male would have done.

There is also a sixth assertion, over which the official organs and supplicants of our modern liberal secular religion swooned with approval:

6) To install a Latina judge on the basis of this argument is therefore a blow against white, male hegemony, and a great leap Forward in our society’s moral progress.

We could argue about Ms. Sotomayor’s assertions on their merits. (I certainly agree with some of them myself.) We like to imagine that the judiciary is impartial and wholly rational; that it is, as in John Roberts’ words, just an umpire calling balls and strikes strictly according to the law. But Ms. Sotomayor is right: there can never be a universal definition of “wise”. (I’ll note, in passing, that this piece of meta-wisdom probably comes as close to universality as it’s possible to get.) She is also right, I think, that “Whether born from experience or inherent physiological or cultural differences… our gender and national origins may and will make a difference in our judging.” Indeed, her stated opinions lead quite naturally — perhaps inexorably — to a conclusion that I’ve expressed before in these pages: the conclusion that, rather than race being a social construct, societies are racial constructs.

If Ms. Sotomayor is right, then the extent to which it is possible for judicial wisdom to harmonize with ambient cultural wisdom depends, quite obviously, on the unity of the culture itself. As the culture fragments and disintegrates, a necessary consequence is that the judiciary increasingly becomes a battleground-by-proxy for the factions, tensions, and incompatible worldviews that divide the nation as a whole. The West is very far along, now, in that mortiferous sequence.

All that Donald Trump has done here is to take up Ms. Sotomayor’s principles and to apply them consistently to Judge Curiel. Why, then, is Ms. Sotomayor celebrated, and Mr. Trump reviled? Given Mr. Curiel’s tribal and political sympathies — of which he has made no secret — it is entirely reasonable to think that he would have profound antipathy to a presidential candidate who has spoken so frankly against the very causes that Judge Curiel so actively supports.

Mr. Trump is a blunt man; it seems often that he has no unexpressed thoughts, which is hardly an asset in a statesman. But he is also, in his way, a man of sharp discernment (can one be both blunt and sharp at the same time?), and his disregard of bien-pensant fictions, and his willingness to express unsayable truths, are the basis of his broad appeal. Mr. Trump might easily have found less controversial ways to approach Judge Curiel’s almost certain bias in the case against him, and his remarks have alienated many Republicans who might otherwise have supported him. But his brazen disregard for taboo will almost certainly increase the passion of those who support him as a disruptor of the sclerotic political and cultural status quo.

I’m fond of quoting George Orwell. Here’s another:

In times of universal deceit, speaking the truth is a revolutionary act.

Sadly, we live in such times.

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After the Storm

A brisk cold front blew through the Outer Cape late this afternoon, with dark clouds and heavy rain. As the front went past, just before sunset, the sky opened up on the western horizon, out over Cape Cod Bay. I went out to have a look.

The first thing I saw was a magnificent double rainbow. The sun was low in the sky, and so the rainbow made a mighty arc that seemed to stretch most of the way to the zenith. (No comment from you science geeks; I already know that the primary arc of a rainbow is at 42° from the antisolar point.) It was so big, though, that I couldn’t get it all at once with the camera in my phone.

My first stop was Powers Landing, on Wellfleet Harbor. Here’s the center of that rainbow’s arc:

 

Read More »

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Goodbye, Columbus

Cambridge, Massachusetts, today joined the list of communities that have renamed Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

“Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past.”

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Pleasant Dreams

A shocking story from USA Today.

In Mala Fide

Here’s a good summary of the Clinton email skulduggery.

Can we have an indictment, please? That convention’s getting closer and closer, and I want my whisky.

Round Up The Usual Suspects

Yesterday a friend sent me a link to an item about race over at the Huffington Post. The post is an interview of David Livingstone Smith, a professor of philosophy from the University of New England. The title of the piece is Race Delusion: Lies That Divide Us, so you know where it’s going right up front.

Professor Smith’s argument consists of making a perfunctory nod to the reality of human diversity — then setting up an enormous straw-man, knocking it down, and using a continuum fallacy to deny the existence of race.

First the nod:

The idea that races are invented will probably sound crazy to a lot of people. They’ll think of it as a silly idea that only an academic who’s out of touch with the real world could come up with. Surely, there are visible features such as skin color, hair texture, facial morphology, and body build that set the races apart from one another!

It would be foolish to pretend that there aren’t obvious biological differences between human beings and that these differences are tied to certain geographical regions. If you’re a light-skinned person with blue eyes you very probably had lots of ancestors from northern Europe, and if you’re a dark-skinned person with tightly curled dark hair you very probably had lots of ancestors from sub-Saharan Africa. Nobody worth listening to denies these facts about human diversity…

Except some sweet-toothed Scotsmen, I suppose. But there you are, that’s out of the way: there are heritable human traits, and long-separated human populations differ in those traits.

Now for the straw-man:

Phenotypic diversity is a fact, but race is a theory. It’s what we call a folk-theory. It’s a way of trying to explain human diversity by positing that there are a small number of “pure” types (races) of human beings—black, white, etc. According to the folk-theory, everyone is either a member of one of these pure types or a mixture of them.

Got that? When anyone speaks of racial differences, what they mean is that there are a few (five or so, I guess) monolithic and sharply defined races, that we can think of as five genetic “knobs”. So black people have the “Negroid” knob set to 10, and the “Caucasian”, “Asian”, “Amerindian”, and “Australoid” knobs all set to zero. Barack Obama and Beyoncé have at least two knobs turned up, and maybe some people have all five.

It’s a folk-theory! (For racist folks.) Professor Smith isn’t having any of it, though, and neither should you:

This theory of race is false, for all sorts of reasons.

And so it is. We agree. The problem, though, is that pretty much nobody — very certainly nobody in the HBD or “race-realism” community — ever said such a thing. It is an absurdly simplistic caricature of the variation of human groups.

Racial differences are not, of course, a matter of five or so knobs. What distinguishes different human groups is their average position in a vast polygenetic space, with thousands of individual variables. It is the large-scale clustering of particular combinations of these variables in this multidimensional gene-space that distinguishes what we conveniently call “races”, but we can identify, and parse, these differences at many levels of granularity. (Our ability to do so is accelerating rapidly.)

As bad as this is, it gets worse:

We seem to assume that every member of a race shares some deep characteristic or “essence” that is unique to that race—something “in the blood” or in the genes that’s innate, unchangeable, and inherited biologically from one’s parents.

Here Professor Smith says that the “folk-theory” he’s up against also includes a belief in complete uniformity within races: so that whatever trait you pick, “every member” of the given race will instantiate it identically. This is an even easier target, of course; all you’d need to refute it, even for “folk-theory” folks, is a single black who doesn’t have rhythm, or an Oriental who isn’t inscrutable. But again it’s just a silly straw-man; the reality is that what varies between groups is the statistical distribution of heritable traits. (Seven-foot-tall Dinkas are far commoner than seven-foot-tall Inuits, but that doesn’t mean that they tower over them.)

So, down goes the straw-man:

The notion that there are racial essences doesn’t have a shred of scientific support. In fact, it’s totally incompatible with what science tells us about human variability.

Moreover:

It’s pure fiction, but it’s a fiction that’s stubbornly rooted in our ordinary ways of thinking.

Well, not in Professor Smith’s way of thinking, of course, and not in mine, nor that of anyone else I know. Just “ours”.

I promised you a continuum fallacy. Here it is:

…the biological traits that are conventionally associated with race—like skin color—vary continuously across geographical regions. Imagine taking a slow train from equatorial Africa to Scandinavia. As you travel north, the skin color of the people that you see lightens gradually. So any line that you choose to draw between so-called white people and so-called black people is bound to be arbitrary.

As is any line we draw between children and grownups, hot and cold, good and bad, tall and short — or wisdom and rubbish. And of course, being all of one species, and with the distributions of alleles in a given population being determined by local selection pressure, we would expect that there would be gradual transitions between them. (See this post of my own from long ago.) But Professor Smith is saying that because there aren’t sharp boundaries, all differences between human groups are nugatory.

The very same consideration applies to all the other “racialized” traits as well.

And what might those be? Let’s review:

It would be foolish to pretend that there aren’t obvious biological differences between human beings and that these differences are tied to certain geographical regions. If you’re a light-skinned person with blue eyes you very probably had lots of ancestors from northern Europe, and if you’re a dark-skinned person with tightly curled dark hair you very probably had lots of ancestors from sub-Saharan Africa. Nobody worth listening to denies these facts about human diversity…

Why are the only traits Professor Smith mentions as heritable and diverse related to appearance? Nearly all human traits, including cognitive and behavioral ones, are highly heritable, which means that those supremely important qualities, too, will be differently distributed in different groups. Care must be taken, though, that this should never even cross the reader’s mind — and so, to illustrate human variability, all we may speak of are superficial variations in appearance: the color of our eyes and skin, and the curliness of our hair.

This, then, is the current condition of intellectual discourse on human biodiversity. It is a hugely important topic, with enormous ethical and social ramifications that, for everyone’s sake, we should all care about examining carefully and getting right. But to sweep reality under the rug like this is worse than unhelpful, and this article is little more than crimestop.

Read the whole thing here.

Related: the “motte-and-bailey” style of argument. Here.

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It Can Happen Here

In San Jose last night, supporters of Donald Trump were assaulted by an angry mob as they left a campaign rally.

Nobody should be surprised by this. It is all a perfectly conformant and predictable manifestation of the West’s rapidly advancing social and political disease. It will continue to get worse, probably much more quickly than all but the most pessimistic of us would expect.

As I wrote a year ago:

All of the erosive forces at work here — demographic displacement by poorly assimilated immigrants, low birthrates among cognitive elites, multiculturalism, galloping secularism, centralization of Federal power at the expense of local government, anti-traditionalism, hedonistic apathy, instutionalized disparagement of America’s history, mission, cultural heritage, and mythos, and behind it all the universal acid of radical doubt that is the “poison pill” of the Enlightenment itself — all of these things attack and corrode the horizontal ligatures of American civil society, leaving behind only an atomized population with no binding affinities save their vertical dependence upon a Federal leviathan that is, increasingly, the source of all guidance and blessings.

What this means is that as these forces do their work, they weaken at every point our society’s structural integrity — even as the disintegrative influences, particularly the destructive action of demographic replacement, intensify. It follows naturally, then, that the pace of decay accelerates.

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The Death of Culture

A German newspaper editor, Anna Sauerbrey, posted a chilling opinion piece in the New York Times the other day. It illustrates with depressing clarity a recurring theme of this blog: the necessarily destructive effect of multiculturalism upon human societies. Her piece begins:

In Germany, a big question is back on the table: What is German — and how German do you have to be to belong to Germany? With the arrival in 2015 of 1.1 million refugees and migrants, it’s an important issue. But rather than having a reasoned debate, the extremists have already taken control. For a disturbing number of Germans, the answer is culture, including religion.

That’s the message coming out of the Alternative for Germany, an upstart right-wing party that has drawn double-digit support in recent state-level elections.

There’s certainly no doubt about her stance: despite the government having managed to settle 1.1 million Muslim “refugees and migrants” in a single year (the equivalent of importing 4 million to the U.S.), the “extremists”, with their “upstart party”, have “already taken control”. Well, I say, if they’ve taken control, they’re doing a pretty lousy job of it.

Modern Western multiculturalism depends upon the elevation of two axioms to sacred principles. One is the belief in human universality, which entails a fortiori the belief that all culture is contingent and transferable. The other is that equality is the greatest social good. They go well together: a belief in universality implies that inequalities are necessarily a matter of historical happenstance or malevolent human agency, and therefore remediable.

Readers will know that our editorial position favors neither of these axioms, and views culture not as something that falls from the sky onto whatever human population happens to be passing underneath, but as the “extended phenotypes” of various human groups. As I wrote in an earlier post:

The idea is a simple one: a biological organism has both a genotype, which is the sum of its genetic information, and a phenotype, which is the physical result of the expression of the genotype — the term “phenotype” usually being understood to refer to the organism’s body. [Richard] Dawkins’s fertile insight was that the phenotype extends beyond the body, into the wider world.

For example: a beaver has a beaver genome. This expresses itself in the usual beavery way: big front teeth, webby feet, and a broad, flat tail. But the “extended” phenotype is much more than that: it consists of felled trees, a dam, a lodge, and a pond. In this view, that pond is as much a part of the beaver’s gene-expression as its teeth. Bird’s nests, spiderwebs, and honeycombs — things in the world that themselves contain no genetic information — are as much a manifestation of genomes as wings and stingers.

In H. sapiens, the social animal par excellence, the extended phenotype quite naturally includes culture. And just as we see variation among subspecies for, say, bowerbird nests, we should expect to see that long-isolated human populations, whose genomes have been subject to widely varying selection pressures throughout their history, will create different, often very different, cultures — cultures as distinct as their physical appearance. And so we do.

Ms. Sauerbrey explicitly rejects and denies this view:

Anti-Muslim sentiment is just one element in the party’s fairly coherent, nativist concept of national culture. The preamble to its program promises to preserve “our occidental and Christian culture, our nation’s historical and cultural identity, and an independent German nation of the German people.” The party refers to German culture as the “einheimische Kultur” — native culture — and describes the German nation as “a cultural unit” under threat from immigrant cultures. Its program for the state election in Baden-Württemberg in March stated: “Germany’s cultural foundation is being smashed by immigration.”

For many liberals and centrist conservatives, culture is defined as the ways a person or group does things. For the Alternative for Germany, it is much more — a natural fact, the core of a person or group’s essence, a thing, not a set of practices.

The lines are very clearly drawn here: for Ms. Sauerbrey, culture is not, and clearly must not be, a “natural fact” — an expression of any essential qualities shared by a people of common ancestry. If that were so, it would mean that the people themselves were not identical to all other people — and so would violate the axiom of universality. Because this axiom is, in the West’s secular religion, now a sacred principle, it means that anyone who denies it is promoting heresy, and is therefore an enemy and an existential threat.

Consider everything that Ms. Sauerbrey — a German! — must reject in order to hold this view. Look at the towering edifice of German culture, and the conspicuous particularities of the German people throughout history. Can she really believe that all of that might just as likely have sprung from Dinkas, or Eskimos? Such is the power of religion.

In our post Culture and Metaculture, we quoted Leszek Kolakowski on the impossibility of synergistic polycultural fusion. Kolakowski began by quoting this passage from Toynbee:

Our own descendants are not going to be just Western, like ourselves. They are going to be heirs of Confucius and Lao-Tze as well as Socrates, Plato, and Plotinus; heirs of Gautama Buddha as well as Deutreo-Isaiah and Jesus Christ; heirs of Zarathustra and Muhammed as well as Elijah and Elishah and Peter and Paul; heirs of Shankara and Ramanujah as well as Clement and Origines; heirs of the Cappadocian Fathers of the Orthodox Church as well as our African Augustine and our Umbrian Benedict; heirs of ibn Khaldun as well as Bossuet; and heirs, if still wallowing in the Sebonian bog of politics, of Lenin and Gandhi and Sun Yat-Sen as well as Cromwell and George Washington.

He replied:

In a trivial sense we are already the heirs of these men, in that we live in a world they all helped to shape; but Toynbee clearly has in mind a heritage in a stronger sense, a positive continuity of ideas. But in order that our descendants may be heirs in this sense, we must admit that everything that makes the values and ideals of these people incompatible today will lose its significance; and then, far from having them all as our spiritual ancestors, we will have no one at all.

The difference between Catholics and Protestants could conceivably vanish, but then Bossuet and Cromwell will not so much become synthesized by our descendants as vanish altogether, losing what was specific and essential to each, and heritage will have no discernable meaning. It is, similarly, difficult to imagine how someone who values spiritual liberty might one day consider himself the heir of Lenin or Mohammed. We can imagine the question of liberty losing all significance in some future society that is perfectly totalitarian and accepted as such by its members; but in that case our descendants will indeed be the heirs of Lenin, but not of George Washington. In short, to imagine our grandchildren combining all these conflicting traditions into one harmonious whole, being at once theists, pantheists, and atheists, advocates of liberalism and totalitarianism, enthusiasts of violence and enemies of violence, is to imagine them inhabiting a world lying not only far outside the scope of our imagination and prophetic gifts but also beyond the possibility of any tradition whatsoever; which means that they will be barbarians in the strictest sense.

To create the new metaculture, muticulturalism cannot not add cultures together, due to the points of contradiction and conflict that are, in turn, manifestations of the innate differences of the peoples whose cultures they are. Instead, it can only proceed subtractively, by stripping away particularities, until it finds commonality at some baser level — and as more peoples and cultures are added to the mix, more and more must be pared away. Among the first things to go are the natural cohesion and public trust that organic cultures enjoy; these natural assets must be replaced prosthetically, by an act of power imposed from above. That this artificial, top-down structure in turn creates new inequalities even as it scrapes away familiar liberties must simply be tolerated as the price we pay for our salvation. Ms. Sauerbrey acknowledges all of this:

Asked in 2000 what he thought went into German Leitkultur, [Christian Democratic Party member Friedrich] Merz pointed to the Constitution and to women’s rights. But it’s no use making refugees swear an oath on women’s rights. Germans won’t control what they think. But Germany can help them understand the laws protecting women’s rights — and reinforce them.

She might more plainly have said:

“These people will never fit in with us naturally, as we Germans organically and effortlessly fit in with each other. They don’t think like us! But we can force them to obey our law, rather than their own instincts, affinities, aversions, traditions, moral principles, ancient folkways, and religious doctrine. That should work just as well, right?”

In her last paragraph, the author says:

A modern nation state cannot be built on an ontological notion of who belongs and who does not, whether it’s outright ethnic or pseudo-cultural.

To which I reply: why not?

Note here that Ms. Sauerbrey cannot even manage to say “cultural”. We have got to the point now in the decomposition of the West where even the idea of an actually existing culture is offensive: because its particularity is an intolerable heresy, the whole of German culture — Beethoven, Bach, Schiller, Goethe, Luther, Heine, Kant, Gauss, Liebniz, Wagner, Kepler, Hegel, and all the rest of it — can no longer even be permitted to be real, and so it must be seen as a “pseudo-culture”. What an enormous, and catastrophic, delusion.

Read the whole thing here.

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Creative Destruction

Here’s a question for abortion absolutists:

A woman wishes to write a book about abortion. In order to give her work perspective and authenticity, she decides to become pregnant in order to experience an abortion herself. Being of independent means, she will pay all of the medical expenses.

Is there anything morally wrong with what she plans to do? If so, why?

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You Are a Slow Learner, Winston

From the mail, yesterday:

 

 

Not quite what the Framers had in mind, I think.

Service Notice, and Open Thread 15

We have house-guests this holiday weekend, and it would be unsociable of me to roost at the computer. Back next week. The floor is yours, if you like.

Everything’s Coming Up Roses

Ah, what a lovely morning.

Why? Well, it’s a balmy spring day here in the Outer Cape, where the air is fresh and fragrant, the little birds are singing, and the trees are stretching their new leaves in the golden May sunshine.

Even better, though, a new report from the State Department’s Office of the Inspector General makes it abundantly clear that Hillary Clinton violated the Federal Records Act in her handling of sensitive email. And it was just a couple of days ago that we learned that over just the last two years, Mrs. Clinton has soaked her corporate cronies for twenty-one million dollars in “speaking fees”, i.e. baksheesh paid up front for an interest in her Presidency.

Over at the Observer, Austin Bay comments on the OIG report, here.

Readers may recall that I made a wager last year with our erstwhile “progressive” gadfly The One-Eyed Man, in which I staked a good bottle of whisky on the proposition that Hillary Clinton would not only never be President, but wouldn’t even be the Democratic nominee. I’ll confess that I’ve been a little edgy about this lately; I hadn’t expected that the Dems would field such a thin field of candidates, and I’d thought that pretty much anyone with a pulse (or even just a soul) could knock this rasping succubus off the ticket. But now, with all of this, and with Mr. Trump running even (or better) with Mrs. Clinton in the polls, hope springs anew.

Meanwhile, over breakfast I spotted this fine post about “World War T” over at Social Matter. (The author is allegedly one “Hadley Bishop”, but as the mathematician John Bernoulli exclaimed upon seeing Newton’s anonymous solution to the “brachistochrone problem”, we “recognize the lion by his paw”.) More on that topic shortly, I think.

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Something is Happening Here, But You Don’t Know What It Is

Well, maybe some mainstream conservatives are actually beginning to. Here, for instance, is Rod Dreher, rising from the fainting couch (h/t to Porter):

The media have soft-pedaled this thing, but when it gets right down to it, all the diversity rhetoric in the world is not going to matter when a man recognizes that in voting Democratic for president, he is voting for a party that wants to send mentally disturbed males into his daughter’s locker room, and call it justice.

Eventually, the provocations of Social Justice Warriors, especially when they are race-based, is [sic] going to empower the militant whites, especially those drawn to pagan masculinity, and they are going to do what the rest of us would not do: Fight. This, because the best — that is, those who want peace, civility, and tolerance — lack all conviction to defend the conditions under which we can have those things against their enemies… White liberal middle-class society and many bourgeois conservatives have demonized within themselves, collectively and individually, the instinct that would have given them the strength to fight civilization’s enemies on the Left and on the Right.

Eventually? Welcome to the future, Rod. It’s just starting now.

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“Cucked by Zuck”

An entertaining item by Milo Yiannopoulis, here.

My own feeling about this: Facebook can do what it likes, and anyone on the Right who expects fair treatment from Mark Zuckerberg is a fool.

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Paul Gottfried’s Latest

Paul Gottfried has a new book out. I’ve mentioned Professor Gottfried here before (in particular, I strongly recommend his books Multiculturalism and the Politics of Guilt: Toward a Secular Theocracy and After Liberalism: Mass Democracy in the Managerial State); his latest is called Fascism: The Career of a Concept.

The word “fascism” has become little more that a polemic catchall used by liberals to refer to whatever ideas they detect to their right; Gottfried makes clear that in his opinion the term now has “no meaning at the political and journalistic level.”

But is fascism, rightly understood, a creature of the Left or the Right? Pace Jonah Goldberg, as well as everyone on the Left, the question is not a simple one, and one of Gottfried’s aims in this book is to make a close examination of the points of contact that the various forms of fascism have had with both Left and Right. He also seeks to explain why fascism is so broadly reviled in the modern West, while Communism, which killed more people in the last century than fascist movements (and vastly more than the holotypic Italian Fascists ever did) still enjoys such a warm reception.

I’ve just begun reading it. Gottfried’s books are, perhaps, a little demanding for the lay reader who isn’t accustomed to this sort of scholarly material, but they are always rich in insight and detail, and for those of you who are interested in understanding how the modern world came to be in such a pickle, they are very helpful indeed.

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TOTD

Retweeted today by Christina Hoff Sommers:

 

We’ll Tweet Again; Don’t Know Where, Don’t Know Venn

Bernie Sanders has suggested that Hillary Clinton is unqualified for the Presidency. As you might imagine, I didn’t need much persuading, but after seeing this tweet, I’d say the case is closed:
 

 

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This Sceptical Doubt…

While taking a three-mile constitutional this afternoon (we of the American Right never, of course, forget the importance of constitutionals), I had a listen to John Derbyshire’s latest Radio Derb podcast. It was a particularly good one, with fine segments on immigration, automation, and social engineering. You can listen to it here, or read it here.

One theme that Mr. Derbyshire touched on was what he calls “The Bathroom Wars” (and which others have called “World War T”). (I’ve hardly written about this one at all, although of course I have opinions about it that are consistent with this website’s overarching editorial themes. It’s all just so fatiguing sometimes.)

Derb had this to say:

I’m still having trouble taking this seriously. How on earth did we get to the point where restroom usage is a major national issue?

This looks to me like another case of Thinking Too Much. A lot of life, including social life, goes much better if you don’t think about it too much.

That used to be — until, I mean, the week before last — that used to be how we coped with public restrooms. If you were a guy, you went to the guys’ room; if a gal, to the gals’ room. If you were honestly confused about your sex, you went to whichever room your presence in would be less likely to cause comment and fuss. The amount of brainpower, of cognitive energy, you put into the matter of bathroom-going was very close to zero.

Obvious guys did not go into the girls’ room, or vice versa, because it would have been gross bad manners to do so. A person who insisted on doing so would cause pointless trouble and ill feeling. If he or she was doggedly persistent, or made a habit of barging into the other sex’s restroom, the authorities might intervene with a prosecution for some catchall misdemeanor like “disturbing the peace” or “causing a public nuisance.” This practically never happened though. Mostly people just minded their manners.

That was a rule-governed society, a society in which there were right and wrong ways to behave. Most people most of the time behaved the right way, out of consideration for others and the desire for a life not daily roiled by unnecessary commotion. The rules came first, and most of us followed them without thinking — from habit, and unspoken social understandings. Laws were just a backstop, for dealing with the occasional antisocial delinquent.

Now that’s all turning around. Rules count for less and less; everything has to be overseen by the federal Department of Justice.

This is the legalistic despotism foreseen by de Tocqueville two hundred years ago, in which federal power, quote, “covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate,” end quote.

Very well said, I think. And readers may recognize the Tocqueville quote, which I’ve cited here myself a few times. Here’s a larger excerpt of that passage, from Chapter VI of Democracy in America:

I think, then, that the species of oppression by which democratic nations are menaced is unlike anything that ever before existed in the world; our contemporaries will find no prototype of it in their memories. I seek in vain for an expression that will accurately convey the whole of the idea I have formed of it; the old words despotism and tyranny are inappropriate: the thing itself is new, and since I cannot name, I must attempt to define it.

I seek to trace the novel features under which despotism may appear in the world. The first thing that strikes the observation is an innumerable multitude of men, all equal and alike, incessantly endeavoring to procure the petty and paltry pleasures with which they glut their lives. Each of them, living apart, is as a stranger to the fate of all the rest; his children and his private friends constitute to him the whole of mankind. As for the rest of his fellow citizens, he is close to them, but he does not see them; he touches them, but he does not feel them; he exists only in himself and for himself alone; and if his kindred still remain to him, he may be said at any rate to have lost his country.

Above this race of men stands an immense and tutelary power, which takes upon itself alone to secure their gratifications and to watch over their fate. That power is absolute, minute, regular, provident, and mild. It would be like the authority of a parent if, like that authority, its object was to prepare men for manhood; but it seeks, on the contrary, to keep them in perpetual childhood: it is well content that the people should rejoice, provided they think of nothing but rejoicing. For their happiness such a government willingly labors, but it chooses to be the sole agent and the only arbiter of that happiness; it provides for their security, foresees and supplies their necessities, facilitates their pleasures, manages their principal concerns, directs their industry, regulates the descent of property, and subdivides their inheritances: what remains, but to spare them all the care of thinking and all the trouble of living?

Thus it every day renders the exercise of the free agency of man less useful and less frequent; it circumscribes the will within a narrower range and gradually robs a man of all the uses of himself. The principle of equality has prepared men for these things;it has predisposed men to endure them and often to look on them as benefits.

After having thus successively taken each member of the community in its powerful grasp and fashioned him at will, the supreme power then extends its arm over the whole community. It covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, and guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting. Such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, enervates, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.

I have always thought that servitude of the regular, quiet, and gentle kind which I have just described might be combined more easily than is commonly believed with some of the outward forms of freedom, and that it might even establish itself under the wing of the sovereignty of the people.

In Derb’s transcript is a link to an essay of his from 2003 called The Importance of Not Thinking Too Much, which touches upon another of this blog’s themes: that one of the bequests of the Enlightenment upon the people of the West was the “universal acid” of radical doubt. Derb quotes one of the Enlightenment’s heaviest hitters, David Hume:

This sceptical doubt … is a malady, which can never be radically cur’d, but must return upon us every moment, however we may chace it away … Carelessness and in-attention alone can afford us any remedy. For this reason I rely entirely upon them…

At the time Hume wrote this, his ideas were a drop of acid in an ocean of tradition and common sense. Things are very different now. I don’t think he and his colleagues could really have imagined what they were unleashing upon the world.

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A Mint, Mr. Creosote?

When you are spending other people’s money, there’s very little incentive to cut costs. With a hat-tip to Michelle Malkin, here’s a splendid example: a million-dollar coin-toss.

If ever there was a huge, complex, brittle, and unstable system in need of a reboot, well, folks, you’re living in it.

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Defending Self-Defense

Just a few months ago we mentioned Judge Richard Leon, of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. Back then we praised him for putting the kibosh on a sneaky little maneuver by the DOJ regarding voter ID.

Well, this patriotic magistrate deserves our kudos once again: he has just ruled against D.C.’s “shall issue” laws restricting concealed carry. Story here, ruling here.

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B.L.M. vs. Reality

A good piece by Heather Mac Donald, here.

Inequality is Forever

Inequality is intractable. I’ve written about this often. Innate inequalities — the unequal distribution of superior qualities — naturally create social and economic inequalities, and the only way to level these natural differences is by the creation and imposition of new inequalities of power. It follows, then, that a social movement (or, properly understood, a secular religion) that uses “inequality” (and its inevitable correlate, “discrimination”) as an alias for “evil”, that interprets all naturally occurring instances of inequality as the result of oppressive and voluntary agency, and that makes “victims” of such inequalities sacred objects and holy martyrs, is actually, and necessarily, engaging itself in the acquisition of power, and the creation of new inequalities. It simply cannot be otherwise, platitudes about the “right side of history” and arguments based on egalitarian moral axioms notwithstanding.

I was looking for something in Lawrence Auster’s archives the other day, and ran across this:

Since liberals are against unequal power relationships, they must deny that they exercise power themselves. They always present themselves as the “progressives” come to end inequality, rather than as the power wielders. The result is that liberal power is invisible and unaccountable, and is thus more unequal, undemocratic, and corrupting than the traditional power relations it is replacing, which, unlike liberalism, do not deny their own hierarchical component.

Exactly correct. How I do wish he were still with us.

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Tractatus Logico-Multiculturalus

(1) One of the most important ways that cultures differ is in their normative biases.

(2) When composing a multicultural Venn diagram, the intersection can only contain non-contradictory elements of the cultures being combined.

(3) Norms are often contradictory in a way that, say, food is not. (Food, and music, the most commonly cited blessings of multiculturalism, are non-normative. To the extent that music is considered normative, it becomes subject to cultural exclusion.)

(4) Thus multiculturalism preferentially strips away normativity from the public square, to be replaced only with such artificial norms as are necessary to suppress traditional normative expression.

(5) Every acculturated human is normatively inclined to do, and publicly to favor, the things that his culture prescribes — and to avoid, and publicly criticize, what his culture forbids. (Even though normative prescriptions and proscriptions must, in principle, subtract absolute liberties, in an organic culture they do not do so in a meaningful way, because we do not feel our liberty diminished by compulsions or prohibitions regarding things we would or would not do anyway.)

(6) All of this is suppressed by multiculturalism. Perceived liberty is diminished, because we must not publicly say or do things that we would otherwise do.

(7) This means that the public personae of citizens of a “multiculture” are reduced to only those norms and qualities that are in the intersection of the Venn diagram. The more cultures we mix, the smaller that intersection gets, until humans, in their public role as citizens, are reduced to the basest sorts of commonality.

(8) This causes an increasing tension between every citizen’s public and private persona, decreasing his natural connection to the community and ambient “culture”.

(9) Thus, by suppressing the public expression and accommodation of ambient and internalized norms, multiculturalism breaks down organic social order and cohesion; it can only be replaced by a top-down, external order that acts on citizens only as instances of the stripped-down humanity described in (7).

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Death Wish

Here’s another video clip: a hair-raising tornado chase.

Nothing Is Real

Great, simple video here from a young Swedish woman.

The Real Victimhood

Our recent post, Douthat and Reaction, featured a link to a video clip of a young woman disrupting a speaking event at the University of Massachusetts. She is seen flailing her arms and shouting obscenities — in short, having a child’s temper-tantrum.

The video clip has gone “viral”, and its star has been the object of widespread ridicule. It’s easy to understand why — and frankly, hard not to join in — but it’s important for those of us who are older and wiser to look at this a bit more thoughtfully. Despite her being of an age that would, in an earlier era, have made her a “young adult”, our prevailing culture of pathological infantilization has ensured that the person having the tantrum really is still just a child.

Not a day goes by that we don’t see a story about “microaggression”, “triggering”, and the need for “safe spaces”. (See here, for example.) But when we jeer and mock these “snowflakes”, we must be mindful of the context: we have ascribed to them agency as adults, usually without considering that their upbringing and indoctrination has done everything to prevent such agency from coming into existence. At every turn they have been swaddled and coddled, buffered and shielded from the consequential realities of the world.

What’s more, the universal acid of Leftist postmodernism has dissolved all of the natural and organic categories and structures that have traditionally been available for children and adolescents to adopt, and orient themselves to, as they seek to create their adult personalities. In all previous eras, these templates provided a necessary scaffolding for a person still under construction; now they are all broken down and discarded. The result is that these wretched children must now create themselves almost entirely ex nihilo, which must be a terribly — perhaps I should say inhumanly — difficult thing for a person to do. One of the greatest challenges of adolescence is learning self-confidence; it is hard enough when one has a reliable, time-tested model upon which to build oneself. How much harder it must be when you are expected to create it all from nothing! Is it any wonder, then, that they are inordinately vulnerable to challenges and criticism? What have they got to stand on, to fall back on? The answer is: nothing — because the Left has systematically destroyed it all, in its quest to create an artificial order consisting only of a cloud of dependent human atoms and the State.

In this sense, then, the puling students that shock us every day with their weakness really are victims: of a monstrous macro-aggression, lasting more than half a century now, against everything that might have made it possible for them to be fully realized adults.

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The Citadel Lives Up To Its Name

Here’s a gratifying item from today’s news:

The Citadel Denies Prospective Student’s Request to Wear Hijab

Whether this will stand — and whether it is actually an early indication of some kind of limit having been reached at last, or simply the corpse of the West giving a little twitch — remains to be seen.

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Bayesed and Confused?

You’ve probably heard of Bayes’s Theorem, but if you’ve yet to get your head around it, here’s a nice visual explanation, including a simple Bayesian explanation of the perplexing “Monty Hall problem” (which we last discussed in here way back in 2009).

(Also, from the same website, here’s another Bayes tutorial.)

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Douthat and Reaction

Ross Douthat of the New York Times has been nibbling, lately, at NRx’s red pill, and has recently written both a column and a blog-post on neoreaction that seem at least partly sympathetic. For a man in his position, that is, as Orwell reminded us, a “revolutionary act”: to the extent that the movement has been mentioned at all elsewhere in the mainstream press — and it has gained enough momentum recently that it has had to be mentioned — it has only been to “point and splutter”, and to anathemize it, dogmatically and falsely, as “white-supremacist” heresy. Mr. Douthat, on the other hand, seems at the very least to be able to handle this hazardous material without the usual risk of anaphylaxis, or even, perhaps, a perceptible histamine response. (One suspects that he is actually developing a taste for the stuff, and is saying less than he thinks. I can hardly blame him on either count: he’s a smart guy.)

Today we have a good response to Mr. Douthat’s overture, from Mark Christensen of Social Matter. It is more than just a specific reply, though, as it covers a lot of the fundamentals of neoreaction (and so I recommend it to curious readers).

Here are some excerpts.

On the rejection of human universalism:

Reaction proper has always taken human biodiversity as one of several factors which impact civilizational order and evolution. If Douthat is asking whether reaction can accept the “Liberal Creationist” belief that human evolution stopped 10,000 years ago (at least from the neck up), then the answer is obviously no. However, it is worth noting that reaction differs from some parts of the alt-right, in that it sees race as merely one of the elements which sovereign power must work with, rather than as a sufficient condition for a healthy society. The answer to global ethnocultural diversity is a global diversity of political regimes. The liberal idea that Sweden and Syria ought to have the same form of government is ideological derangement.

On the illusion of popular sovereignty in present-day America:

…Douthat’s pondering on whether reaction can abandon its illiberal view of political order requires a more in-depth response. Presumably, when Douthat means despotism, he is referring to rule by a non-democratic elite and the embodiment of sovereign power in a ruler or group of rulers unconstrained by constitutions, rule of law, or axiomatic moral principles. If they abide by certain norms or customs, this is voluntary. When pressed, their power is limited only by nature and by competing political powers, either within the state or outside it. The ruler or rulers are ultimately guided by personal judgement and how they choose to navigate the realities of rule and politics, rather than by legal systems of regulation.

The reactionary answer to outrage at this view of political order is simple: “please present an existing alternative.” Now, most Americans would state that the Republic–however corrupted by Big Money or Big Government or what have you–is ultimately based on the Constitution. No part of the Republic’s governing bodies have total sovereignty, and they are restrained by the limits of the constitutional framework. There even exists a body whose job it is to make sure that make sure that the Constitution is being followed: the Supreme Court. But this body is the subject of strange disputes.

Republicans and Democrats have bitter struggles over whether the presiding judges will be conservative or liberal. It seems that when conservatives read the Constitution it says conservative things, and when liberals do it says liberal things. But then the Constitution in and of itself is not the foundation of the Republic; rather, the judgement of the Supreme Court is! The nation of laws is ruled by those who interpret what the law is. This even applies to seemingly unequivocal parts of the document. The rights to life and due process, for instance, are interpreted in ways consistent with the USG’s security requirements.

Obviously, reactionary theory begins with a rejection of some aspect of modernity as, at best, a dead end, and more accurately a grievous error in need of correction. But in favor of what, exactly?

The reactionary tradition … sets forth a drive towards order, harmony, and the organic hierarchy which derives from seeking excellence through discipline. This conclusion is what divides the reactionary from the liberal, and what lies at the center of the reactionary aesthetic.

Were the reactionary position to gain substantial ground, institutions which have long based their legitimacy on serving the cause of democracy and revolution would immediately lose it, since these claims would be exposed as lies and manipulation. Men such as Nicolas Gomez Davila, the later Heidegger, and Julius Evola attempted to live according to a philosophy of life which embraced duty, inner discipline, and transcendence.

This code reflects the values which aristocratic classes formalize at the high points of civilizational achievement. Roman senators praised virtus and popularized Stoic philosophy, the knights of Christendom learned chivalry, the Japanese samurai classes developed Bushido. The common function of these elite codes was to inculcate in the elite classes an ethic which would lead them to rule responsibly and thus maintain their position in the social order. Of course, in all cases there existed those who deviated from these principles and instances where those principles failed or were ignored. But it should be noted that their goal was precisely the development of a personality which could understand the purposes of these codes and reliably judge when exceptions might be necessary to fulfill them.

This is a crucial point: the very essence of the tradition that reactionary thought seeks to articulate and to preserve is discipline. What is discipline? Its most essential quality is the subordination of the self to something higher. (It shares this meaning with the word “disciple”.) It is only through discpline — the discipline of the craftsman, the scholar, the scientist, the artist, the healer, the warrior, the monk — that we can defy gravity, that we can raise some part of ourselves above the basest aspects of our nature. This is at the heart of the reactionary’s emphasis on hierarchy: if there is nothing above us, why bother to ascend? In the thermodynamic terms I am fond of here, discipline is profoundly anti-entropic.

The modern Left’s antipathy to hierarchy, then, can also be understood as an antipathy to discipline, and therefore to order, and to excellence. Think of discipline, dear Reader, and you will have imagined everything that this is not.

Read Mr. Christensen’s article here.

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Keeping Me Honest

Our newest commenter, Jacques, is holding my feet to the fire once again in the comment-thread to our recent post on the “Black Pill”. (These things tend to scroll down and disappear, so I thought I’d mention it; J. is prying open some old (i.e., eternal) questions I haven’t written about in years.)

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A Potpourri From Dr. V

Bill Vallicella, the Maverick Philosopher, is in fine form this week. Yesterday he published an excellent meditation on free will, and today he’s breathing fire upon the political Left:

It is hopelessly naive to think that we can have comity without commonality… we have reached the point where we agree on almost nothing and that the way forward will be more like war than like civil debate on a common ground of shared principles.

Quite so. More and more people are starting to understand that the nation has become, to the point of irreconcilability, a “house divided against itself”. What we have seen so far this year is, I think, just the beginning.

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False Alarm

In case you missed it: Actual Climate Scientist Judith Curry posted an item a few weeks ago linking to a forceful essay by Mario Loyola on climate-change activism. The Loyola essay is behind a paywall at The American Interest, but that publication offers non-subscribing visitors one free article a month, so you ought to be able to read it (if you can’t, try using your browser’s “incognito” mode). Dr. Curry also offers substantial excerpts in her own post.

Go read it all; it’s well worth your time.

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On Genetics and Intelligence

From Stephen Hsu’s blog, here’s a video of an hour-long panel discussion with Dr. Hsu, Steven Pinker, and Dalton Conley on the subject of genetic engineering and the heritability of human traits, particularly intelligence.

This topic is a minefield in the West, and so great care is taken, and necessary pieties uttered — and some obvious, elephant-in-the-room topics are completely ignored. There is, however, a clear consensus that (a) almost every human trait is significantly heritable; (b) that intelligence is real, quantifiable, and predictive of life outcomes; (c) that intelligence, like every other human trait, has a significant genetic basis; and (d) that both our understanding of polygenic traits and our ability to edit the genome are advancing exponentially.

Dr. Pinker repeatedly expressed doubt about the likelihood of rapid adoption of eugenic applications, however. He points out that human cloning has been possible for a long time now, but is still illegal everywhere, and that while breeding for intelligence has also been possible forever, no society seems terribly interested in doing it. (One might object that Dr. Pinker himself could arguably be seen as the output of such a process.) He generally seems confident in the power of tradition and taboo to keep a lid on this sort of thing. I think he is very wrong about this.

Dr. Hsu, on the other hand — who is an adviser to the BGI Cognitive Genomics research center in Shenzen, China, that is working hammer and tongs to advance this technology — seems not to share Pinker’s opinion here, and I think that, given the venue (the 92nd Street Y, in New York City), he was holding his cards close to his chest. (I know people who know Dr. Hsu, and my understanding is that he thinks it very likely that we will be able to engineer human IQs hundreds of points higher in fairly short order.)

The social and moral implications of this technology are enormous, probably much more so than most people have really imagined, and progress in this area is accelerating. One deceptive feature about exponentially rising curves is that if you use the slope at any given point to extrapolate future values of Y, you are always vastly underestimating, so our sense of the rate of change here — and our sense of having time to deal with it — is quite certainly wrong. There are in fact three different curves here: there is the rate of technological change, which is soaring into the sky; there is the much slower rate at which we can comprehend and predict, in moral and intellectual terms, what the implications of the technology will be; and slowest of all there is the rate at which the society, and in particular the law, can accommodate those changes. These three curves are peeling apart very quickly now.

Of the three panelists, by far the least interesting, I thought, was the social scientist Dalton Conley, whose most notable contribution was to take a swipe at the work of Charles Murray and Richard Herrnstein. Indeed, he made claims about the trending effects of assortative mating that struck me as flat-out wrong, but I will do some homework before I comment further about that.

Anyway, have a look. Your comments are welcome as always.

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Service Notice

Yet another outage today with my hosting service. Apologies to all.

Right : Left :: Order : Chaos

I’ve written often about the many isomorphisms between society and thermodynamics (see, for example, here, here, and here). The subject came up again in the comment-thread to our previous post.

Our reader Robert, a.k.a. “Whitewall”, noted the ceaseless efforts of the political Left to “force change where no change is needed or even wanted.” He added that “a workable contentment among people is somehow intolerable to them.”

This is a belt-high meatball for the thermodynamic metaphor, if you will permit me a meta-metaphor (or, perhaps I should say, a meta-meataphor). In thermodynamic terms, the relentlessness of the Left’s assault on order and hierarchy is easily understood:

It’s a mechanical, entropic process, like water finding every crack and fissure as it seeks the lowest level.

It is entropic precisely in the sense that it levels and flattens everything, as order yields to disorder. In particular, it levels the gradients that are necessary, in any thermodynamic system, for the possibility of useful work. Ultimately, everything will be undifferentiated from everything else. (Is that not the obvious endpoint of our secular religion’s pathological mission?) It is this flattening, correctly understood as a thermodynamic exhaustion, that is why Leftism always reduces societies to economic and cultural rubble.

The action of the Left is always to reduce potential; it leaves everything it touches in a lower-energy state. It breaks mountains into scree; it dismantles cathedrals to build hovels.

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Blue, Red, Black

I’ve often mentioned a popular neoreactionary metaphor, the “red pill” (in fact I did so just two posts ago). Now, with a hat-tip to the latest edition of Nick Steves’ weekly roundup, we offer you an essay by Brett Stevens about another existential medicament: the black pill.

What is the black pill? In a word, it’s nihilism.

Nihilism is a topic I’ve also mentioned often in here. It lies in wait everywhere alongside the naturalistic path, and a panoramic view of its yawning abyss awaits every traveler who follows that path all the way to its end. I’ve stared into that chasm for a very long time now. I have formed some conclusions about it.

One of those conclusions is that the abyss is where the naturalistic path goes. There is no bridge at the end: the abyss is so deep that there is no place you could put the pilings, and anyway, there’s nothing on the other side. (Think of the “Troll’s Tongue”, below, but without the scenery.)

 
Nevertheless, I’ve always rejected nihilism in the form it’s usually presented — which is as an excuse, if not an outright mandate, for presentism, hedonism, relativism, anomie, and the other mortal afflictions of the modern secular West. It’s hard to stare at the Void for long without feeling the chill of meaninglessness, and despair, seeping up out of its bottomless darkness. You need warm socks.

I don’t like meaninglessness, and I see no upside in despair. But here I am, standing on the Troll’s Tongue, cantilevered way out over, well, nothing. I have a feeling many of you are too.

Well, buck up. The happy fact is that we have a world to live in, and a pretty nice one, too. We find ourselves in useful bodies, with clever brains. We are exquisitely adapted and configured to model the world around us in ways that enable us to flourish and prosper — and what’s more, we’re bright enough to understand, if we make the effort, just what makes us flourish, and why. There is beauty in the world, and wisdom, and good food and drink, and children and families and communities, and there are stories to tell and songs to sing. In times of doubt and confusion, we have the guidance of conscience and tradition to help us build organic societies that are harmonious with the varieties of our nature. Above all, there is Love, in all its forms.

If naturalism is right — if the abyss is real — then we get to choose what to do with that enormous fact. Yes, we can choose to despair, if we like — but we can just as well choose not to. Despair is crippling, it is painful, and above all, it is pointless.

For those with the capacity to understand it correctly, what seeps out of the abyss is not despair, but liberty. With liberty comes responsibility, because what we do is entirely up to us. And with responsibility come meaning, and purpose, and duty, and all the things we thought we had lost.

Read Mr. Stevens’ article here.

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