Can We Talk?

During last night’s debate Carly Fiorina, whose chances are roughly equal for the Republican nomination and Prva HNL Player of the Year, suggested that we ought to make her President because she’s a woman.

Let’s leave aside the reaction were a male candidate to try such a thing, and try to get the gist of her message — which can only be that women, qua women, are generally different from men in ways that matter.

Brava! Braviss’!! What a thing to say, in these times! All of us here on the Dissident Right completely agree. So now, if we accept her premise, we can focus on the job she’s applying for, analyze its requirements, and decide whether it’s the sort of job we’d really want a woman for. That is to say, maybe we do! — and maybe we don’t, but at least now that Ms. Fiorina’s cleared the way, we can consider this question openly, and without fear of opprobrium.

And it isn’t just Ms. Fiorina: Hillary Clinton helped to blaze the trail too, just a few weeks ago at the Democratic debate. When asked how she’d be different from President Obama, she gave one of those “Duh” looks and said: “I’m a woman!!!”

So we have it on real authority here — actual Presidential timber even — that our own intuitions on this topic, not to mention the wisdom of the ages and the traditions of every society that has ever existed anywhere on Earth throughout all of human history, were right all along. (Sure, it’s surprising, because how often does that happen these days, but it’s really good to know.)

While we’re on the subject, attentive readers of the news will recall that just the other day the Department of Defense announced a major expansion of the role of women in combat operations. (Actually, you might not have noticed, because for some reason I can’t fathom, the White House chose the day after the San Bernardino jihad to drop this major story.)

We’ve commented on this sort of thing before, but in this giddy new climate of openness about the glorious differences between the sexes, I expect people will now feel freer than ever to point out the many reasons why this is such a stupendously awful idea. Like:

‣   Women can’t perform at anything like the physical level men can under battle conditions;

‣   Women are far more easily injured or disabled by physical attack, and by the hazards and stresses of combat duty;

‣   Given the points above, units will now worry about their new “weakest links” (experienced soldiers know, as one once told me, that women “cause drama”).

‣   Recruiting valiant young men will be far harder once the ground-combat unit is no longer a sacred warrior Mannerbund, but something more like the cast of Grey’s Anatomy, whose purpose seems more to be the self-actualization of women and sexual misfits than victory in battle;

‣   Male soldiers of the traditional type will be torn between protecting their female comrades and unleashing fury upon the enemy;

‣   There will be sexual affairs and rivalries within units, lowering cohesion;

‣   All the usual PC prissiness regarding crass humor, “offensive” remarks, and the myriad other ways males relieve stress amongst themselves will immediately go into effect, lowering morale;

‣   Intra-unit “beefs” will not be soluble by the most ancient and effective of means, namely duking it out;

‣   Promotions will inevitably arouse resentful suspicions of “affirmative action”, further lowering morale and unit cohesion;

‣   Pregnancies, already a big problem in the military, will interfere with unit deployments;

‣   The suspicion (and frequent reality) of sexual infidelities will corrode military marriages.

I could go on and on, of course, but you get the picture. (Or, to capture the tone of the current campaign: “Terrible, terrible idea. A complete mess! I mean just really a total disaster.”)

But how nice to be able to speak frankly about all of this, now that brave Carly and Hillary have paved the way!

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It Don’t Mean A Thing?

Here’s an interesting item: a novel gait identified in Russian officials. Learn more here.

Nose : Grindstone

Done with the weekend’s sessions, but still swamped with work.

All I’ve managed to post over the past few days has been a few comments over at Maverick Philosopher, where a discussion of “tribalism” continues, here.

Back soon.

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Service Notice

Recording sessions all weekend. Talk amongst yourselves.

The All-Union Academy Of Climate Sciences

Yesterday the United States Senate held a hearing on the magnitude of human impact on climate change. Giving testimony were some Actual Climate Scientists. I would like very much for you to read and carefully digest their testimony. I will excerpt some of it here, in what will be a longish post — but please, dear readers, take the time to follow the links and read it all.

One of those who testified was Dr. Judith Curry. She submitted a written paper, but she also spoke. I reproduce her remarks below in full:

I thank the Chairman and the Committee for the opportunity to offer testimony today.

Prior to 2009, I felt that supporting the IPCC consensus on climate change was the responsible thing to do. I bought into the argument: “Don’t trust what one scientist says, trust what an international team of a thousand scientists has said, after years of careful deliberation.” That all changed for me in November 2009, following the leaked Climategate emails, that illustrated the sausage making and even bullying that went into building the consensus.

I starting speaking out, saying that scientists needed to do better at making the data and supporting information publicly available, being more transparent about how they reached conclusions, doing a better job of assessing uncertainties, and actively engaging with scientists having minority perspectives. The response of my colleagues to this is summed up by the title of a 2010 article in the Scientific American: Climate Heretic Judith Curry Turns on Her Colleagues.

I came to the growing realization that I had fallen into the trap of groupthink. I had accepted the consensus based on 2nd order evidence: the assertion that a consensus existed. I began making an independent assessment of topics in climate science that had the most relevance to policy.

What have I concluded from this assessment?

Human caused climate change is a theory in which the basic mechanism is well understood, but whose magnitude is highly uncertain. No one questions that surface temperatures have increased overall since 1880, or that humans are adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, or that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases have a warming effect on the planet. However there is considerable uncertainty and disagreement about the most consequential issues: whether the warming has been dominated by human causes versus natural variability, how much the planet will warm in the 21st century, and whether warming is ‘dangerous’.

The central issue in the scientific debate on climate change is the extent to which the recent (and future) warming is caused by humans versus natural climate variability. Research effort and funding has focused on understanding human causes of climate change. However we have been misled in our quest to understand climate change, by not paying sufficient attention to natural causes of climate change, in particular from the sun and from the long-term oscillations in ocean circulations.

Why do scientists disagree about climate change? The historical data is sparse and inadequate. There is disagreement about the value of different classes of evidence, notably the value of global climate models. There is disagreement about the appropriate logical framework for linking and assessing the evidence. And scientists disagree over assessments of areas of ambiguity and ignorance.

How then, and why, have climate scientists come to a consensus about a very complex scientific problem that the scientists themselves acknowledge has substantial and fundamental uncertainties?

Climate scientists have become entangled in an acrimonious political debate that has polarized the scientific community. As a result of my analyses that challenge IPCC conclusions, I have been called a denier by other climate scientists, and most recently by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse. My motives have been questioned by Representative Grijalva, in a recent letter sent to the President of Georgia Tech.

There is enormous pressure for climate scientists to conform to the so-called consensus. This pressure comes not only from politicians, but from federal funding agencies, universities and professional societies, and scientists themselves who are green activists. Reinforcing this consensus are strong monetary, reputational, and authority interests.

In this politicized environment, advocating for CO2 emissions reductions is becoming the default, expected position for climate scientists. This advocacy extends to the professional societies that publish journals and organize conferences. Policy advocacy, combined with understating the uncertainties, risks destroying science’s reputation for honesty and objectivity – without which scientists become regarded as merely another lobbyist group.

I would like to thank the committee for raising the issue of data versus dogma in support of improving the integrity of climate science.

This concludes my testimony.

From Dr. Curry’s paper (which is here):

Regarding historical data:

Global surface temperature anomalies since 1850 are shown below:

 
If the warming since 1950 was caused by humans, what caused the warming during the period 1910–1945? The period 1910-1945 comprises over 40% of the warming since 1900, but is associated with only 10% of the carbon dioxide increase since 1900. Clearly, human emissions of greenhouse gases played little role in causing this early warming. The mid-century period of slight cooling from 1945 to 1975, referred to as the ‘grand hiatus’, also has not been satisfactorily explained.

Apart from these unexplained variations in 20th century temperatures, there is evidence that the global climate has been warming overall for the past 200 years, or even longer… Humans contributed little if anything to this early global warming.

Regarding the “pause” (my emphasis):

The warming hiatus, or ‘pause’, reflects a slowdown of the rate of warming in the early 21st century, relative to the rapid rate of warming in the last quarter of the 20th century. The 2013 IPCC AR5 Report12 made the following statement: “the rate of warming over the past 15 years . . . is smaller than the rate calculated since 1951”.

The significance of a reduced rate of warming since 1998 is that during this period, 25% of human emissions of carbon dioxide have occurred. Most significantly, the observed rate of warming in the early 21st century was slower than climate model predictions. The growing discrepancy between climate model predictions and the observations has raised serious questions about the climate models that are being used as the basis for national and international energy and climate policies.

Regarding sea ice:

The IPCC AR5 states that the increase in Antarctic sea ice is not understood and is not simulated correctly by climate models. Further, Arctic surface temperature anomalies in the 1930’s were nearly as large as the recent temperature anomalies, and hence the IPCC uses the weak phrase ‘contributed to’ in reference to anthropogenic influences on Arctic sea ice.

A recent paper by Swart et al.19 emphasized that internal climate variability can mask or enhance human induced sea-ice loss on timescales ranging from years to decades or even a century…

Clearly, there is a lot going on with respect to variability in Arctic and Antarctic sea ice that cannot be explained solely by warming from human-caused greenhouse gases. Climate models do not simulate correctly the ocean heat transport and its variations. Scientists do not agree on the explanation for the increasing Antarctic sea ice extent, and the key issue as to whether human-caused warming is the dominant cause of the recent Arctic sea ice loss remains unresolved.

Nevertheless, the IPCC AR5 concluded:

“[I]t is very likely that the Arctic sea ice cover will continue to shrink and thin all year round during the 21st century. It is also likely that the Arctic Ocean will become nearly ice-free in September before the middle of the century (medium confidence).”

Regarding sea levels:

The IPCC AR5 … concludes:

“It is very likely that there is a substantial contribution from anthropogenic forcings to the global mean sea level rise since the 1970s.”

Global sea level has been rising for the past several thousand years. The key issue is whether the rate of sea level rise is accelerating owing to anthropogenic global warming. It is seen that the rate of rise during 1920-1950 was comparable to, if not larger than, the value in recent years (a period contributing less than 10% of the human caused CO2 emissions since 1900). Hence the data does not seem to support the IPCC’s conclusion of a substantial contribution from anthropogenic forcings to the global mean sea level rise since the 1970s.

There is much more; Dr. Curry’s paper is the longest and most technical of the three I have linked to here. She goes on to discuss CO2 sensitivity, and the inaccuracy, to date, of climate models. She concludes with a section entitled “The broken social contract between climate science and society”. Read it all.

Also testifying was Dr. John R. Christy. His presentation is here. In case you have any doubts about his Actual Climate Science credentials, here’s his summary thereof:

I am John R. Christy, Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science, Alabama’s State Climatologist and Director of the Earth System Science Center at The University of
Alabama in Huntsville. I have served as a Lead Author, Contributing Author and Reviewer of United Nations IPCC assessments, have been awarded NASA’s Medal for Exceptional Scientific Achievement, and in 2002 was elected a Fellow of the American Meteorological Society.

Regarding modeling:

A fundamental aspect of the scientific method is that if we say we understand a system (such as the climate system) then we should be able to predict its behavior. If we are unable to make accurate predictions, then at least some of the factors in the system are not well defined or perhaps even missing…

Do we understand how greenhouse gases affect the climate, i.e. the link between emissions and climate effects? A very basic metric for climate studies is the temperature of the bulk atmospheric layer known as the troposphere, roughly from the surface to 50,000 ft altitude. This is the layer that, according to models, should warm significantly as CO2 increases – even faster than the surface. Unlike the surface temperature, this bulk temperature informs us regarding the crux of the global warming question – how much heat is accumulating in the global atmosphere? And, this CO2 caused warming should be easily detectible by now, according to models. This provides a good test of how well we understand the climate system because since 1979 we have had two independent means of monitoring this layer – satellites from above and balloons with thermometers released from the surface…

 
The information in this figure provides clear evidence that the models have a strong tendency to over-warm the atmosphere relative to actual observations. On average the models warm the global atmosphere at a rate three times that of the real world. This is not a short-term, specially-selected episode, but represents the past 37 years, over a third of a century. This is also the period with the highest concentration of greenhouse gases and thus the period in which the response should be of largest magnitude.

Using the scientific method we would conclude that the models do not accurately represent at least some of the important processes that impact the climate because they were unable to “predict” what has already occurred. In other words, these models failed at the simple test of telling us “what” has already happened, and thus would not be in a position to give us a confident answer to “what” may happen in the future and “why.” As such, they would be of highly questionable value in determining policy that should depend on a very confident understanding of how the climate system works.

Regarding the effectiveness of proposed regulations (my emphasis):

The impact on global temperature for current and proposed reductions in greenhouse gases will be tiny. To demonstrate this, let us assume, for example, that the total
emissions from the United States were reduced to zero, as of last May 13th, 2015 (the date of the last congressional hearing on which I testified). In other words as of that day and going forward, there would be no industry, no cars, no utilities, no people – i.e. the United States would cease to exist as of that day.
Regulations, of course will only hope to reduce emissions a small amount, but to make the point of how minuscule the regulatory impact will be, we shall simply go way beyond reality and cause the United States to vanish. With this we shall attempt to answer the question of climate change impact due to emissions reductions.

Using the U.N. IPCC impact tool known as Model for the Assessment of Greenhouse-gas Induced Climate Change or MAGICC, graduate student Rob Junod and I reduced the projected growth in total global emissions by U.S. emission contribution starting on this date and continuing on. We also used the value of the equilibrium climate sensitivity as determined from empirical techniques of 1.8 °C. After 50 years, the impact as determined by these model calculations would be only 0.05 to 0.08 °C – an amount less than that which the global temperature fluctuates from month to month. [These calculations used emission scenarios A1B-AIM and AIF-MI with U.S. emissions comprising 14 percent to 17 percent of the 2015 global emissions. There is evidence that the climate sensitivity is less than 1.8 °C, which would further lower these projections.]

Because changes in the emissions of our entire country would have such a tiny calculated impact on global climate, it is obvious that fractional reductions in emissions through regulation would produce imperceptible results. In other words, there would be no evidence in the future to demonstrate that a particular climate impact was induced by the proposed and enacted regulations. Thus, the regulations will have no meaningful or useful consequence on the physical climate system – even if one believes climate models are useful tools for prediction.

Did you get that, readers?

Dr. Christy goes on to consider “extreme weather” events, floods and droughts, heat waves, wildfires, and grain production.

He concludes, as did Dr. Curry, with a discussion of the academic climate, where conditions have already become far more inclement than the weather, and the signs far more ominous. His paper is not long. It is well worth your time.

Finally, the Senate panel heard from Mark Steyn, who will be the first to admit that he is not an Actual Climate Scientist. Why was he there? Because he knows from bitter experience the power against which climate dissenters must contend. I won’t excerpt his testimony; it’s Mark Steyn, after all, so you know it will be a good read. His transcript is here.

I think you for taking the time to read all of this. Here’s the point: the Earth may or may not be warming now, and we may or may not be causing it to do so. If we are causing warming, we may be able to adjust our behavior in such a way as to have some effect on the rate of warming. These are all extremely complex empirical questions. We must also decide whether any remedies we might attempt would be worth the costs — which is also a complex question, but unlike the previous questions, is instead a normative one. To make the right decisions, we must do the very best we can to seek objective truth — unimpeded, to the best of our ability as fallible and finite and social beings, by political ends, vested interests, and the call of what substitutes for redemption and salvation in our new, secular religion.

I hope that this testimony will at least make it clear that what we have done so far falls very far short of that goal, and that the science is anything but “settled”.

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Heckuva Job

From the Long War Journal:

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) released a new video featuring a former Guantanamo detainee, Ibrahim Qosi, who is also known as Sheikh Khubayb al Sudani.

In July 2010, Qosi plead guilty to charges of conspiracy and material support for terrorism before a military commission. His plea was part of a deal in which he agreed to cooperate with prosecutors during his remaining time in US custody. Qosi was transferred to his home country of Sudan two years later, in July 2012.

Qosi joined AQAP in 2014 and became one of its leaders. Qosi and other AQAP commanders discussed their time waging jihad at length in the video, entitled “Guardians of Sharia.”

Read the rest here.

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Comic Relief

Darth Trump.

You Had One Job

With a hat tip to our reader Henry, here’s a good piece from Thomas Sowell on Barack Obama’s recent speech from the Oval Office.

Excerpt (my emphasis):

The first responsibility of any government is to protect the people already in the country. Even in this age of an entitlement mentality, no one in a foreign country is entitled to be in America if the American people don’t want them here.

Obama’s talk about how we should not make religious distinctions might make sense if we were talking about handing out entitlements. But we are talking about distinguishing between different populations posing different levels of danger to the American people.

When it comes to matters of life and death, that is no time for the kind of glib, politically correct rhetoric that Barack Obama specializes in.

Obama may think of himself as a citizen of the world, but he was elected President of the United States, not head of a world government, and that does not authorize him to gamble the lives of Americans for the benefit of people in other countries.

The illusion that you can take in large numbers of people from a fundamentally different culture, without jeopardizing your own culture — and everything that depends on it — should have been dispelled by many counterproductive social consequences in Europe, even aside from the fatal dangers of terrorists.

Such good, plain sense. Thomas Sowell is 85 years old. I wish he weren’t.

P.S. I’ll take this opportunity to recommend a book of Dr. Sowell’s that I’m reading at the moment. It’s called The Vision of the Anointed, and is a detailed examination of the Left’s casual relationship with facts. Highly recommended.

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Signs Of The Times

The New York Times today did something it had not done since the Harding administration: it published an editorial on the front page. It did so not because it had a rational argument to make, or a useful policy to advance — it had neither of those things. Why, then, would the Times make such an extraordinary gesture? It can best be understood as an act of purely religious defiance, no different from the jihadi’s cry Allahu Akbar! It is meant to rally the faithful, and to embolden the Gray Lady’s mujahedeen for the wet-work lying just ahead. And that’s what it will be, because in the editorial the Times makes an outright call for the confiscation of guns — something that simply will not happen in the United States without an application of state power that would almost surely lead to blood.

We read (my emphasis):

Certain kinds of weapons, like the slightly modified combat rifles used in California, and certain kinds of ammunition, must be outlawed for civilian ownership. It is possible to define those guns in a clear and effective way and, yes, it would require Americans who own those kinds of weapons to give them up for the good of their fellow citizens.

Why is this neither a rational argument nor a useful policy prescription? Writing at Reason, Brian Doherty explains. I thank him for saving me the trouble.

This is not the only leftist lunacy in the mainstream New York press today. At the Daily News, one Linda Stasi has written a despicable article in which she bitterly reviles one of the people murdered in San Bernardino for his conservative opinions. So dark is her hatred that she refuses to count him among the victims.

I will not link to it. That a major New York newspaper would be so reckless as to print such a thing — more importantly, that the editors of the Daily News feel that the political climate in New York is such that it could publish such filth to the general approval of its readers — shows how dangerously charged the atmosphere is getting.

Finally, as long as we are on the subject of guns: a little while ago a commenter here posted an oft-repeated claim about the frequency of mass shootings. There had, he said, been “337 mass shootings in America so far this year, with a combined death toll of 431”. I meant to debunk this at the time, but never got around to doing so — so it is with particular satisfaction, given today’s front-page eructation by America’s “newspaper of record”, that I am able to refer you all to none other than the New York Times for a rebuttal.

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This Ain’t No Disco

In a recent post I remarked that, with bitterly opposing forces tearing at our rotting social framework, every public shock — in this case, the San Bernardino jihad assault — is a hammer-blow that “strains the joints and widens the cracks”. “Each time,” I remarked in a subsequent comment, “we split apart a little more.”

Commenter “pangur” asked:

Why is this bad? Why is it that we should make common cause with our enemies? A longing for an America that no longer exists is at best sentimental, and at worst destructively futile. Time to move forward, and apart.

The point is a good one. If, as I believe, the rot is already too deep, the disease too advanced, the rifts too wide, the enmity too bitter for the nation to recover, then the only hope for the restoration of something built on the old foundations of Western greatness will require, first, that this tottering edifice — this walking corpse — collapse. Indeed I think this is already underway.

Where I think I part company with many on the dissident Right — in particular, those who call themselves “neoreactionaries”, most of whom are, I think, several decades younger than I — is that so many of them seem to have a kind of breathless excitement about all of this; it seems they just can’t wait for all the fun they are going to have watching the apocalypse, and then rolling up their sleeves to show everyone how it ought to have been done. This seems to me profoundly, childishly, foolishly, heart-breakingly naïve.

When this Fall happens — slowly at first, probably, and then quite suddenly — it will not be fun, and it will not be exciting. It will be awful. There will almost certainly be terrible suffering and dislocation; chaos, violence, plunder, terror, and despair. A great many irreplaceable treasures — our children’s ancient birthright and heritage, that we have so shamefully squandered in little more than a generation — will be forever lost.

Whether we will be able to build something worthwhile upon this rubble is doubtful at best, and even if we manage it, it may take a very long time. High civilizations, and in particular high-trust societies, do not grow upon trees, and they are by no means the default human condition. Whatever follows a general collapse, or a civil war, in the West will not be a swashbuckling plot from a Robert Heinlein novel; it is far more likely to be a time of brutality, poverty, suffering, uncertainty, and fear.

Others may snap their fingers at the noble experiment now coming apart in America, and may imagine, on no practical experience, that they will know how to do it better. Not I. I will mourn and grieve for the great Republic we have, in our great unwisdom, so recklessly destroyed. Perhaps, as is received doctrine amongst neoreactionary sorts, the American system was doomed ab ovo; it carried in its very democracy the disease that would kill it. I have often said the same myself. But the men who framed this system knew this all too well themselves, and they knew and named the essential qualities and principles that might have inoculated us: qualities that we not only have failed to cherish, but now actively despise.

What makes us think we will get it right next time?

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Not To Worry

Jim Geraghty continues to stay on top of the San Bernardino attack. In today’s newsletter he points out that the late Tashfeen Malik, the distaff member of the duo, had been passed a Homeland Security anti-terrorist screening during her application for a K-1 visa. (We haven’t heard any word yet on whether Ms. Malik was a widow or orphan.)

Nevertheless, we can rest easy about settling ever-increasing numbers of Mideastern Muslims here among us, because they will be “vetted”.

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Sturm Und Drang

Jim Geraghty of NRO (yes, you folks in the NRx mutaween, I’m linking to NRO again) posted a good newsletter this morning about the San Bernardino shootings. (In case you’ve just emerged from a coma, or a two-day shift in a zinc mine, there was a mass shooting by two or more Muslims in California yesterday.) It’s all good, but here’s a key excerpt:

Once again, short of nationwide mandatory confiscation of all firearms from civilians, no gun law would have prevented this. Not a seven-day waiting period. No “gun show loophole” applied. Limits on how much ammunition a gun can carry at one time might have had a marginal impact; there’s little sign the shooters encountered much resistance at the social services facility. Initial reports indicated they had as much time to reload as they needed and brought multiple weapons.

Read the rest here.

As long as I am posting links sure to annoy somebody either to my left or to my right, here’s a good item by Ann Coulter, in response to all the nonsense we’ve been hearing about white males being the most dangerous people in America. (Although, to be fair, if you keep pounding on them hard enough in a thousand different ways, one of these days they will be.)

With irreconcilably polarized factions pulling relentlessly in opposite directions, the social framework of America, and the of West in general, is coming apart very quickly now. Events like these are like hammer-blows. Every one strains the joints, and widens the cracks.

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Open Thread 11

I’m working late tonight, and haven’t time to write. So here’s yet another placeholder for free association, idle chat, bibulous logorrhea, and confessions of the heart. (Or, perhaps, for the introduction of serious topics or questions.) You have the floor.

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Heaven’s Gate

When I was a boy, there was a mawkish and immensely popular television program called “Queen For A Day“. Each episode featured a panel of miserable women, who vied for the prize by telling a plangent tale of woe. (The poor things wept, sobbed, and wailed as they pleaded for money, appliances, etc.; it’s easy to see why so many people enjoyed it so much.) At the end of every show the winner was determined by the relative loudness of the audience’s applause, with a VU meter indicating the degree of pity each of the contestants had evoked. (Perhaps, it occurs to me, this early introduction to audio gear was what awakened my interest in sound engineering.)

Being able to watch such a dismal spectacle every day was one of the many blessings of being born in the 1950s; it gave a lad perspective. Sadly for you youngsters, though, Queen For A Day ended its run in 1964, when I was eight. I’m glad to tell you that we now have something even better.

The nation of Kiribati is a collection of little islands strewn across millions of square miles of the central Pacific Ocean. They are made of coral, and they sit low in the water — as coral, being the discarded calcareous skeletons of small aquatic animals, tends to do. Kiribati also sits low on the GDP-per-capita list: the World Bank recently ranked it 162 out of 185, just above Zimbabwe.

Well, the president of lowly Kiribati, Anote Tong, now has the biggest stage of all with which to try, as profitably as possible, to break our big, soft hearts: the convocation of the world’s leaders, and their Praetorian media, at the climate talks in Paris. Little Kiribati is about to slip beneath the waves, you see — and it’s all our fault. (Mr. Tong was not alone, either: the parade of supplicants, and of witnesses to our sins, went on all day.)

What a gift! What more could the vile and pallid people of the First World, wretched in the depths of our collective guilt, have hoped for? What a perfect chance for penance, atonement, and salvation! How the world will love and forgive us, redeemed at last in our ostentatious virtue! I fear my poor heart must surely burst.

Wait — what’s that you say? That this is nothing more than opportunism and ressentiment, a chance for a gang of two-bit nations — working in happy cahoots with an Earth-girdling coalition of globalist busybodies, eco-profiteering oligarchs, international socialists, rent-seeking bureaucrats, pie-eyed Utopian lotus-eaters, environmental Jacobins, and pious, anti-capitalist uplifters — to get their hands on our collar, and their fingers in our wallet? That this agitation about sudden and life-threatening sea-level rise in Kiribati due to carbon dioxide emissions is, according to actual tide-gauge data, a lot of hooey?

Hush! You obviously know nothing about good TV.

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…And The Wisdom To Know The Difference

Here are two items from yesterday’s Washington Post email digest. They both mention, in passing, important things.

First is this:

Failure to stop Paris attacks reveals fatal flaws at heart of European security

We read:

Poor information-sharing among intelligence agencies, a threadbare system for tracking suspects across open borders and an unmanageably long list of homegrown extremists to monitor all gave the Paris plotters an opening to carry out the deadliest attack on French soil in more than half a century.

Note: “an unmanageably long list of homegrown extremists”. And how, pray, did that happen? Was there an “unmanageably long list of homegrown extremists” in the heart of Europe prior to mass Muslim immigration? Will that list now become longer, or shorter, with the admission of hundreds of thousands of Muslim migrants?

Second, this:

That’s heavy
Climate-change warnings include rising seas and wild weather shifts. But giant flying boulders?

This item is about boulders atop a Bahamian cliff. They appear to be “erratics”, i.e., they were created elsewhere, then brought to their resting place by some mechanical process.

We read:

The idea is that Earth’s climate went through a warming period just over 100,000 years ago that was similar in many ways to the warming now attributed to the actions of man. And the changes during that period were so catastrophic, they spawned massively powerful superstorms, causing violent ocean waves that simply lifted the boulders from below and deposited them atop this cliff.

Whether this is how those boulders actually got there is far from settled. Nevertheless, if the explanation is correct, as James Hansen thinks it is, the lesson we are meant to absorb is: this is what climate change can do!

Another lesson we might take, though, is this: if these boulders were in fact moved, 100 millennia ago, by storms caused by climate change, then here is further evidence that mighty natural processes, having nothing to do with human activity, have always shaped the Earth’s climate. Yet in our hubris we imagine that we are now in control; that if we can only muster the political will, we can actually pick an average global temperature and “lock it in”, Nature be damned.

What monumental fools we are. In response to a phantasmagorical peril we dream ourselves able to control the oceans, seas and skies, yet we blithely ignore the real and very human peril, now devouring our civilization alive, that was easily within our control all along.

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Period Piece 2

I’ve got nothing tonight — I’m weary of arguing, and the Muse is silent — so for now, an update to an old item from the early days of this blog.

The original post was about a Victorian-era bust of Washington Irving that stands in Prospect Park. Have a look.

Here’s another example of the same peculiarity of the period: a building on a corner of Seventh Avenue in Brooklyn.

 
 

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Happy Thanksgiving!

To all of you. Among the many blessings I have to be thankful for is to have you all as readers and commenters.

Say, Uncle

Wow, this is great: the Democratic National Committee has put out a list of officially approved talking points for denouncing thoughtcrime at Thanksgiving dinner. The site is called “Your Republican Uncle“.

Leaving aside what fun this will make Thanksgiving for everyone, and the DNC’s presumption that Democrats young enough to have living uncles can’t defend the party line with their own store of knowledge (in other words, they are expected to defend the party and its propaganda without knowing, in fact, why they ought to), it’s interesting to me that it isn’t parents this thing singles out, but uncles (and not aunts!). (Perhaps they’re counting on heritability of political dispositions, although one would think uncles would share a lot of the relevant sections of the parental genome…)

I notice also that they are counting on some awfully dumb uncles here. (Note to my nephews: try any of this on me and see how you do.) For example, the model Climate Change discussion goes like this:

Uncle Running-Dog Lickspittle Jackal: “Climate change is just a liberal scare tactic.”

Young Hero Comrade Making Glorious Struggle for Elimination of Injustice and Creation of Heavenly Kingdom on Earth: “Why are conservatives more likely to believe that climate change is a conspiracy than to acknowledge what 97% of climate scientists — and the majority of Americans — believe? Climate change is real, and it’s man made. The Republican presidential field is living in denial.”

That’s all for this topic, apparently; surely that’s enough to settle all debate. Oh, wait! Just below this devastating riposte is a link that says:

“See more (your Republican uncle is still talking)”.

The treasonous old bastard is even more of a sucker for punishment than we had imagined. So, we click the link, and the beating continues:

U.R-D.L.J: “The United States can’t stay economically competitive if we address climate change.”

Y.H.C.M.G.S.f.E.o.I.a.C.o.H.K.o.E: “Climate change itself is already taking a toll on our economy. In 2012 alone, climate and weather disasters cost the United States more than $100 billion, but despite that fact, not one GOP presidential candidate has a serious plan to stop it. Right now, other countries are making huge investments in research and development to confront this crisis with new technologies — which means new industries and new jobs. We can’t afford to fall behind them.”

And that’s that. Call the coroner, and pass the yams.

I should mention also that the passages I’ve bolded above were underlined in the original. I thought this meant they were links to informative sources, but no — they link directly to Twitter! Clicking them will send the Party message directly to your followers. (Your superiors are watching too, so get Tweeting, comrades.)

Go and have a look. In all seriousness, people: this is what we are up against. This is the modern American Left. Think for a minute about the kind of mind that would produce something like this. Think — and this should give you all a frisson of horror — about the kind of “mind” that would consume this without gagging, and deploy it as instructed.

Then go and buy emergency food supplies, bottled water, and ammo.

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Crickets

Quite the firestorm of liberal outrage over that mass shooting in New Orleans, eh? (At a playground, no less.) We’ve hardly heard about anything else since it happened.

We Grope Together And Avoid Speech

Making the rounds yesterday was a stern item from Patrick Buchanan on terrorism and the modern West. An excerpt:

What has happened to a West that once ruled the world?

By any measure — military, economic, scientific — the Islamic State, compared to the West, is a joke.

What the Islamists do have, however, is this: If they can reach the West and are willing to give up their lives, and can learn how to fire an AK-47 or construct a suicide vest, they can terrify the peoples of the West by slaughtering dozens or scores of them.

For 10 days, ISIS killers have dominated world news, television, print and social media. So doing, they have engendered a real fear in the heart of Western man.

The strength of ISIS, of the Islamist militants, of those willing to die driving the “Crusaders” out of their lands, beheading infidels, imposing sharia, attacking the West, lies in an emptiness in the soul of Western Man.

Many Europeans are the “hollow men” of T. S. Eliot’s depiction.

They have repudiated their cradle faith Christianity, apologized for the sins of their fathers and sought to make reparations, embraced La Dolce Vita, materialism and hedonism, freeloaded off U.S. defense for 70 years, ceased to have children, thrown open their borders to former colonial peoples to come and repopulate the continent, and turned their back on patriotism to celebrate diversity and globalism.

They invited the world in. And the world is coming to enjoy the lavish fruits of their welfare states and, one day, will be using the West’s concept of one-man, one-vote to rule the countries that ruled their ancestors.

The colonized are slowly becoming the conquerors.

The challenge of ISIS is not entirely unhealthy. It will tell us whether Europe has the will to survive.

What will it be, then? Bang or whimper?

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Islam Takes The Lead

I note that Brussels, Belgium, is “locked down” for the third consecutive day in response to a threat of assault by Muslim fighters. Think of that! This great and gracious Western city, the capital of united Europe, is closed for business. Shops are shuttered, cafes and restaurants closed, public transportation suspended, and the streets, until recently so alive with the purpose and bustle of a modern Occidental metropolis, are nearly deserted, but for armed men. The “free” people of Brussels shelter in their homes, waiting out the siege, hoping for the best.

I suppose it would be fair to say that this, among other things, is “what ISIS wants”.

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More On “Universal” Values

The Maverick Philosopher, William Vallicella, has responded to my own reply to his thoughts on the universality of Western values.

I’ve just posted a longish comment over at his place. Read Bill’s post here.

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What ISIS Wants

I’m beginning to find it a little tiresome being told what “ISIS wants”. My irritation is in large part because people keep telling me that “what ISIS wants” is for us to do those reasonable things that any sane polity would do to eliminate a problem that is at best a serious and continuous source of trouble and grief, and at worst an existential threat.

For example, I understand that if we were to take ISIS at their word, i.e. that they are an Islamic entity that seeks to do what Islam has always said it intends to do, and in fact has always done, we would be “doing what ISIS wants”.

Well, perhaps. (I mean, if I tell someone what I’m all about for 1,400 years, and back it up with action, too, I suppose I’d “want” them to believe me, yes. Otherwise, it does get annoying, I imagine, after a few centuries go by.)

On the other hand, I have it on good authority (OK, not good authority at all; I actually heard it from Barack Obama) that if we were actually to start looking askance at, for example, mass Muslim immigration, we’d be doing “what ISIS wants”. This I find unpersuasive. I would imagine that much of what they have in mind involves disrupting our home-life, inconveniencing us in a thousand ways , and killing us en masse where they can — and try as I might, I just can’t see how all of that wouldn’t be a lot more difficult if there weren’t any of them here.

If you will forgive me, readers, I’ve actually been studying Islam pretty carefully for ten or fifteen years now, and I’ve come to understand a thing or two about it. My own understanding also coincides rather satisfyingly with what ISIS (that first ‘I’, by the way, stands for ‘Islamic’, just in case nobody’s mentioned that to you), actually says about itself, so I’m feeling pretty confident when I offer my own brief list of what I think ISIS Actually Wants.

So, here it is:

1) ISIS wants us all to be Muslims.

2) Failing that, they want… ¿cómo se dice?… ah, yes: to “fight against us until we pay the Jizya, and feel ourselves subdued.”

3) Failing that, they want us all dead.

The rest is just commentary, I’m afraid.

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The “Refugee” Question: Further Thoughts

In the discussion thread under our previous post, a commenter directed our readers’ attention to an article by Megan McArdle on the question of settling “Syrian” “refugees” in the United States. Further discussion ensued.

Ms. McArdle’s essay is helpful in that it identifies six low tactics that proponents of Syrian refugee resettlement have been using: Bible-beating, mockery, falsehood, mawkish incomprehension, straw-manning, and Western self-flagellation.

She then presses her case for U.S. resettlement with familiar arguments: we’ve assimilated all sorts of others before now; previous waves of immigrants were also regarded with a wary eye, but look how well it all worked out; most Muslims aren’t terrorists; etc.

She then says this sensible thing:

As long as you believe that it’s a good thing to help strangers at some sufficiently small cost to yourself, then we can have a reasonable discussion about whether the costs outweigh potential benefits.

That’s fair enough, I think. I’ll be happy to reply on her terms.

Ms. McArdle’s argument overlooks many important points. Here are some of them.

1) Previous waves of immigration had several distinctive differences. In particular, these were:

•   The immigrants were, almost without exception, white Europeans — and with the exception of a relatively small number of European Jews, they were all white European Christians. While there was of course some cultural distance between many of these immigrants and the nation’s founding British and Dutch stock, it was nothing like the cultural, linguistic, religious, and yes, genetic distance between that founding stock and the immigrants now pouring across our borders from the Third World. As recently as my own boyhood, the population of the United States was, to within a rounding error, 90% white people of European Christian stock, and just under 10% black. We are now in hitherto uncharted waters, and citing the history of assimilation from that very different epoch of American immigration is not nearly as relevant as refugee-settlement enthusiasts would like to imagine it is.

•   These prior waves of American immigration happened at a time when America’s population was much smaller, and when there was much greater opportunity for low-skilled labor.

•   When the last wave of mass immigration ended in 1924, America was a very different place. There was as yet no welfare state; immigrants were expected to fend for themselves, and to join the American monoculture. Moreover, it was followed by a four-decade moratorium that made it possible for the nation to digest and and assimilate the great waves of migrants it had just admitted. Now we have had, without respite, a half-century of mass immigration that has caused the foreign-born population of the nation to increase more than fourfold, while the sources of this immigration have completely changed, with Britain and Europe now contributing a negligible share. At the same time, unsurprisingly, we have gone from cultivating pride in America’s traditional culture to denouncing and rejecting it in favor of chaotic multiculturalism. It has always been difficult to assimilate new arrivals, but now not only do immigrants tend to be from radically alien cultures, but we have almost completely dismantled the social structure that once encouraged them to assimilate. (Indeed, we have reached the point where expecting them to do so is tantamount to “xenophobia”.) By providing education and other public services in foreign languages, we reduce the incentive to learn English; by providing lavish social programs and public assistance we reduce the incentive to assimilate through the workplace; and by celebrating “diversity” while denigrating the traditional American nation we encourage separateness and even resentment.

2) Most of the migrants we are proposing to settle are Muslims, and Islam is unique. Unlike the Christian faith to which nearly all pre-1965 immigrants belonged, Islam is much more than just a religion; it is also a totalizing, all-encompassing and ruthlessly expansionist political and ideological system. Here are some of its special qualities:

•   Unlike Christianity, Islam is, in its very essence, a literalist religion. Its most basic tenet, its doxastic bedrock, is that its holy Scripture, the Koran, is the literal word of Allah, as dictated to Muhammad. Because the Koran is holy as an extension of God Himself into the mortal world, its literal text is therefore holy to Muslims in exactly the same way that Jesus is to Christians. To deny this is, simply put, to reject Islam.

•   Islam makes no distinction between the temporal and the sacred. The teachings of Islam are all-encompassing, and address every aspect of life. Muhammad not only brought God’s law to the world, but as God’s Messenger and the most perfect interpreter of God’s will, during the Prophet’s lifetime he was also the temporal, political, and military leader of the faithful — and so gave Muslims, for all time, an infallible example for all of public and private life. The Shari’a, being God’s law, is and must be supreme; to place the laws of Man above the laws of God is therefore a supreme heresy. The very idea of “separation of Church and State” — or, in Christ’s words, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” — is in Islam an arch-absurdity: everything is God’s.

•   Jihad and expansionism are central to Islam; to fight unbelievers “until there is no more Fitnah [unbelief] and worship is for Allah alone” is the highest calling. This is why the term for all those parts of the world that have not submitted to Allah is “Dar-al-Harb”, or “House of War”.

•   What all of this means is that Islam is fundamentally incompatible with Western norms, and that no pious Muslim can ever truly assimilate into Western secular societies. As I have written elsewhere:

The problem for the West, and for “moderate” Muslims living here, is that Islam has a perpetual, self-renewing wellspring of fundamentalism at its core. That there may always be some more liberal and secular Muslims at the fringes of the Ummah, and rifts within Islam itself over who is an apostate and who isn’t, is irrelevant.

What matters is that due to the unique nature and origins of Islam there has always been, and will always be, a powerful and persistent gravitational pull away from modernizing reforms, and toward fundamentalism — and this will always be a source of tension and conflict wherever there are large communities of Muslims living in the West.

We must keep in mind the certainty that whenever we settle any sizable number of Muslims in the West, we are also introducing a sympathetic “fifth column”, partial to the central Islamic mission of conversion, subjugation, or destruction, that will include a significant percentage of the numbers we admit. Think of the partisanship and fervor with which great numbers of Westerners now embrace the mission and the tenets of their secular religion: egalitarianism, universalism, wealth redistribution, global warming, non-discrimination, and so on — and remember that Muslims have a religion too.

3) We need not theorize about the effect of establishing large and expanding Muslim populations in Western societies; we have instructive and concrete examples before our eyes. In every European nation that has permitted substantial Islamic immigration, the results have been the same. Look at France, England, Sweden, Norway, Germany, Denmark, Greece, and Italy, to name a few, and ask yourself if they are better off now — happier, more cohesive, safer, better able to operate as well-functioning social-welfare states — than they were before this madness began, when they had their ancestral homelands to themselves.

4) Immigration is the most difficult of all social policies to undo. Laws can be repealed, and agencies defunded, but demographic changes — especially those that introduce new populations with much higher birthrates than the natives — are, barring mass deportation, or worse, wars of “ethnic cleansing”, irreversible, and it is often impossible for a nation to know that it has passed a critical demographic “tipping point” until it is already too late. This alone makes an extremely powerful argument for supreme caution regarding refugee and immigration policy, especially at a time of increasing racial, ethnic and political tension.

5) As Mark Krikorian points out, it is economically inefficient to succor Mideastern refugees by bringing them here. In a recent article on this subject, he wrote the following:

The Center for Immigration Studies, which I head, recently calculated that it costs twelve times as much to resettle a refugee in the United States as it does to care for the same refugee in a neighboring country in the Middle East. The five-year cost to American taxpayers of resettling a single Middle Eastern refugee in the United States is conservatively estimated to be more than $64,000, compared with U.N. figures that indicate it costs about $5,300 to provide for that same refugee for five years in his native region.

We can help more people for less money, and at the same time avoid all the serious problems noted above, by helping them “over there”.

6) We have no way of “vetting” these “refugees”, or even of knowing who or what they are or where they really come from. Syrian passports are easily available on the black market, and various Islamist groups have made no secret of their intention to move as many jihadis as possible into the West under cover of this mass migration. Unless we can positively identify applicants as already known to us, we have almost nothing to rely on when “certifying” them; they come from ungoverned places, and any documents they might carry can easily be fraudulent. (And as I asked in my previous post: how can you “vet” beliefs, allegiances, sympathies, hatreds, and intentions?)

7) The overwhelming majority of the “Syrian” “refugees” now inundating Europe are young, military-age males, which is a very unusual composition for refugee flows. Why, we might ask, have they abandoned their homelands, their women, and their children, to flee to safety and relative comfort in the West? If the United States were to face an internal enemy like ISIS, don’t you think young American males — at least those worthy of our respect and our assistance — would stay home and fight? Why don’t these young men?

8) Even the settlement in the West of Muslim women and children bears a hidden cost, in that it is often the children and grandchildren of Muslim immigrants — those who are poorly assimilated, yet have no memory of the hell their parents fled to come to the safety and prosperity of the West — who are most easily radicalized, and become the “home-grown” threat we now face all over Europe, and here at home.

Given all of this, then, I think that the balance of the arguments falls strongly against the resettlement of Muslim refugees in the United States, and that the governors and legislators who have opposed the idea, along with a large majority of Americans, are right to do so. To denounce and rebuke such prudence as mere bigotry or xeno-“phobia” is as foolish as it is morally obtuse.

Postscript, November 22nd: As I write, the ancient city of Brussels — the capital city of united Europe — has been under lockdown since yesterday in response to a threat of “imminent” terrorist assault, while New York City, though separated from the heart of Islam by thousands of miles and a vast ocean, is mounting major anti-terror exercises.

As the far-seeing Lawrence Auster wrote long ago:

This is our future, FOREVER, unless we stop Muslim immigration and initiate a steady out-migration of Muslims from the West until their remaining numbers are a small fraction of what they are now and there are no true believers among the ones that remain. Travelers from Muslim countries must be tightly restricted as well. Muslims must be essentially locked up inside the Muslim lands, with only carefully screened individuals allowed into the non-Muslim world.

The enemy are among us, in America, in Britain, in the West, and will remain so until we remove them from the West and indeed from the entire non-Muslim world. As extreme as this sounds, it is a no-brainer. There is no other solution. All other responses to this problem add up to meaningless hand-wringing. The hand-wringing will go on FOREVER, along with the terrorist attacks and the threat of terrorist attacks, until we take the ONLY STEPS that can actually and permanently end the threat.

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Katy, Bar The Door

The idea of settling myriads of Syrian “refugees” here in the U.S. is, I’m glad to see, meeting some heavy headwinds. Dozens of governors have refused to comply, and now the House has passed a bill that seeks to make the “vetting” process more rigorous. (That latter, though, is really just a gesture; “vetting” Muslim asylum-seekers based on Mideastern record-keeping and our own anti-terrorism databases is nothing more than a comforting illusion. How do you “vet” beliefs, allegiances, sympathies, hatreds, and intentions?)

One thing I’ve been hearing a lot is that to refuse mass admission of this wave of migrants is no different from our turning away of Jewish refugees in the 1930s. This is hogwash, as an excellent piece by Ian Tuttle, writing at NRO, explains:

This is prima facie nonsense, which should be obvious from the terms being compared: Jews, an ethnic group, with Syrians, a national one. An honest, apples-to-apples comparison would line up German Jews and Syrian Muslims — the relevant ethnic group within the relevant political entity. But do this, and the failure of the analogy becomes clear. The first, and most obvious, difference: There was no international conspiracy of German Jews in the 1930s attempting to carry out daily attacks on civilians on several continents. No self-identifying Jews in the early 20th century were randomly massacring European citizens in magazine offices and concert halls, and there was no “Jewish State” establishing sovereignty over tens of thousands of square miles of territory, and publicly slaughtering anyone who opposed its advance. Among Syrian Muslims, there is. The vast majority of Syrian Muslims are not party to these strains of radicalism and violence, but it would be dangerous to suggest that they do not exist, or that our refugee-resettlement program need not take account of them.

There’s much more. Read it here. (And read the other linked items once you get there, in particular this one.)

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Pardon-Begging

When I was a young man (and dinosaurs trod the earth), if a person found himself accidentally obstructing someone’s way, he said: “Excuse me.”

This is no longer so. Now, everyone says: “Sorry”.

Why is this? When I first noticed this change, a year or two a ago, I thought nothing much of it. Now I’m not so sure; I think it must be diagnostic, somehow.

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Capture-Bonding

From James Taranto’s Best of the Web, today:

“There’s something different about what happened from Charlie Hebdo, and I think everybody would feel that. There was a sort of particularized focus and perhaps even a legitimacy in terms of—not a legitimacy, but a rationale that you could attach yourself to somehow and say, OK, they’re really angry because of this and that. This Friday was absolutely indiscriminate. It wasn’t to aggrieve one particular sense of wrong. It was to terrorize people.”

Those words were spoken yesterday by Secretary of State John Kerry. The reference to “legitimacy” calls to mind the remark that ended the political career of Todd Akin. But although Kerry’s statement was every bit as stupid as Akin’s, it was far more evil. Not only does he rationalize the mass murder of journalists; that rationalization is a fallback from his initial, impulsive though impolitic position that those murders had “legitimacy.”

The most charitable way to sum up Kerry’s view is that he believes discrimination is a mitigating factor when it comes to terrorist attacks—that murder isn’t as bad when the victim is someone who has publicly espoused views the killer finds abhorrent. The word for a murder carried out with this sort of extreme prejudice is assassination, and it is ordinarily considered even worse than murdering at random.

The attack on Charlie Hebdo, no less than the attacks last week, were intended “to terrorize people.” But the Charlie Hebdo attacks were also intended to terrorize people into silence. It was an attack on free speech as well as on freedom and Western civilization more generally. Kerry’s rationalizing of it is arguably the most un-American thing he has ever said in public—and that’s saying a lot, given that he made a name for himself slandering American military servicemen.

Kerry’s insouciance about the Charlie Hebdo assassinations also runs counter to one of the administration’s central talking points. We are given to understand that the source of the terrorists’ grievance against Charlie Hebdo was its practice of caricaturing Muhammad, the prophet of Islam; such representations are contrary to Shariah, or Islamic law. But Kerry himself went on to say “it has nothing to do with Islam.” So why would terrorists murder people over Shariah violations? What are they, compassionate progressives trying to create safe spaces?

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Ursa Major

Today’s NightWatch newsletter consisted mostly of a detailed report on Russian actions in the Middle East. I don’t do this often, as I do not want to violate fair use of their content, but I will reproduce this section of the newsletter in its entirety below the fold. (If you have an interest in international security and strategy, NightWatch is an indispensable resource, and I urge you to subscribe.)

In brief, Russia has unleashed hell, as they are occasionally wont to do, and do well. They have also made it clear to all that they are now the “big dog” in the region.

Key excerpt (my emphasis):

General Comment: A Wall Street Journal expert commented that Russia has become the indispensable nation in the war against terrorism. Russia clearly has filled the leadership position. That will continue at least as long as it takes to find and kill the terrorists who destroyed the Russian airliner.

Militarily, Russian operations today are the third time that Russian forces have practiced weapons deliveries that demonstrate new or rebuilt capabilities. The first demonstration was the sustained air operations from Humaymim in Latakia. The second was the long range cruise missile strikes from the Caspian Sea.

The third demonstration has included the surge air attack capability using Long Range Aviation assets; the use of bombers for delivering air-launched cruise missiles in the highest number of air strikes to date in a single day; and the submarine-launched cruise missile strike.

The Russians are using the Syrian civil war for live fire training on systems, tactics and operations. This is reminiscent of German military practice in the Spanish Civil War. In the meantime, they also are defending the Ba’athist government in Damascus.

Read More »

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Are Values Universal?

Writing at his blog The Maverick Philosopher, our friend Bill Vallicella gave our “What Now?” post a commendatory link. I thank him for that. Bill is a serious thinker — a highly trained expert in thinking itself, with a professional philosopher’s expertise in detecting and clearing away rubbish — and I’m always glad to have him “sign off” on something I’ve written. (It doesn’t always happen; he and I have had sharp disagreements on other topics over the years, particularly regarding what’s called “philosophy of mind”. But when it comes to political matters, we almost always agree.)

In his prior post, Bill reviews, with approval, Mark Steyn’s published comments on the Paris attacks. Again, he and I (or all three of us, I should say) are in broad agreement, except for one thing: Bill takes exception to Mr. Steyn’s understanding of the phrase “universal values”.

Mr. Steyn had said:

Among his other coy evasions, President Obama described tonight’s events as “an attack not just on Paris, it’s an attack not just on the people of France, but this is an attack on all of humanity and the universal values we share”.

But that’s not true, is it? He’s right that it’s an attack not just on Paris or France. What it is is an attack on the west, on the civilization that built the modern world – an attack on one portion of “humanity” by those who claim to speak for another portion of “humanity”. And these are not “universal values” but values that spring from a relatively narrow segment of humanity. They were kinda sorta “universal” when the great powers were willing to enforce them around the world and the colonial subjects of ramshackle backwaters such as Aden, Sudan and the North-West Frontier Province were at least obliged to pay lip service to them. But the European empires retreated from the world, and those “universal values” are utterly alien to large parts of the map today.

In response, Bill said this:

This is very good and needs to be said and endlessly repeated for the sake of self-enstupidated liberals, but I think Mr Steyn stumbles on one important point, and in a way that may give aid and comfort to relativism. The values of the West are universal values. They are not Western values or Caucasian values except per accidens. They are universal, not in that they are recognized by all, but in that they are valid for all. If a proposition is true, it is true for all including those who are unwilling or unable to recognize its truth. If a value is valid or binding or normative it is these things for all including those who are unwilling or unable to recognize its validity.

This is very important. There is no such thing as Western physics; there is just physics. There is no such distinction as that between German physics and Jewish physics any more than there is a distinction between Protestant and Catholic mathematics. There are Muslim mathematicians, but no Islamic mathematics. There are Arabic numerals but no Arabic numbers. If a mathematically competent Arab and a mathematically competent Roman do a sum they will get the same result despite the difference in their notations. When a Palestinian terrorist makes a bomb he relies on the same underlying science as does the Israeli surgeon who re-attaches a severed limb. There is no such thing as Soviet philology or Soviet biology. If Judeo-Christian values are valid and life-enhancing then they are Judeo-Christian only per accidens.

There is no contradiction in saying that salvation came from the Jews and that this salvation is salvation for all. “How odd of God to choose the Jews.” Odd, but possible.

The fact that the science of nature and the discernment of universal values “sprang from a relatively narrow segment of humanity” does not make them any less universal.

(Bill then gives Mr. Steyn some wiggle room: “In fairness to Steyn, however, he may be using using ‘universal values’ to mean ‘universally recognized values.'”)

It seems to me that Bill here does not distinguish sufficiently between truths and values. Truths, if true, are indeed universal, just as they are objective. Even if a truth is only a fact about a particular person or object — even if it is, for example, a truth about a person’s subjective experience — its truth is not subjective. (I may see green where you see red, but “Malcolm sees green” is just as true for you as it is for me.)

Values are different. They are inseparably bound to the entity whose values they are. Values manifest themselves as preferences, dispositions, affinities, and aversions.

Where do values come from? In general values represent some interest of their owner, and such interests range from such hard-wired preferences as biological survival and the survival of our offspring, to whether one roots for the Yankees or the Red Sox. In particular, many of the most important valuations humans make have a social context; in addition to valuing such obvious things as food, pleasure, comfort, sex, and shelter, humans tend to value those things that elevate their status in their group, and that help their group compete with other groups. Indeed, for creatures like us, social values can often trump more personal interests — because if your group is wiped out, you are too. Humans will make tremendous personal sacrifices both for the well-being of the group, and to attain and signal high status in whatever way it is acquired and displayed.

What this means is that different populations, isolated from one another over long periods and subject to different environmental pressures, may develop different strategies for improving their overall fitness, and different forms of social order. This will in turn manifest itself as variation in the valuations different groups assign to different rules and behaviors. According to their different traits and qualities, for example, some human groups may find strength in individual freedom, others in disciplined conformity. Some may fare better under democracy, while others need “strong-man” leadership. Some may value doubt, others belief. And so on.

(What’s the higher value? Liberty, or equality? Each comes, after all, at the expense of the other. You probably have an opinion. Is it universal?)

Let me put this another way: for a fish, a pre-eminent “value” is to be, at all times, fully immersed in water. This is not the case for a cat. Human groups may not differ from each other as much as fishes and cats do — but they differ enough, I think, that one group’s cherished value can be another’s damnable sin.

It is possible, of course, that in some objective sense there is one “optimal” set of human valuations, and that this world is a battle-royal in which all value-systems are to be tested, with the outcome yet to be determined. But is survival our only criterion? The Shakers placed high value on celibacy, and so became extinct. Does that mean their values are less “true” than those of fecund Taliban fundamentalists?

Different values, then, are simply a manifestation of the spectrum of human differences, of their different styles and interests. I prefer traditional Western values, but I think it is an unwarranted generalization — and a dangerous conceit — to imagine that they are universal. (They aren’t even universal any more over here, it seems.) They are simply the way that my people, my civilization, expresses itself and pursues its interests.

I should emphasize in the strongest possible terms that this is no brief for relativism, or multiculturalism: if values are not universal, and there is no absolute criterion by which to rank them (as the choice of such a criterion is itself a matter of valuations that will vary from population to population), then there is no reason that I should not choose the survival and well-being of my own civilization, on its own terms, to be among my highest values — and no reason I shouldn’t keep its values as my own, to cherish, preserve, and defend.

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Eppur, Si Muove!

Commenting on a recent post, our reader “John” writes:

…the urge to speak truth to leftist insanity is immense.

But by doing so you expose yourself to tremendous risk…

Yes, I’ve thought about that a lot. Most bloggers who write from a contrarian position about these things seem to use noms de plume. In fact, I do have another blog I’ve set up for this purpose, but I almost never post anything to it. I prefer to speak under my own name — not because I’m trying to be “brave”, which this really isn’t at all, but just because it feels more honest, and because I have a right to, and because I’m ornery. (Running into that theater in Paris to try to save the people inside, knowing you are overwhelmingly likely to be killed: that’s brave. Writing grumpy blog-posts from the comfort and safety of my home is not.)

I’ll be 60 in the spring, and I am mostly retired now (I still work a couple of days a week writing code, and have the occasional recording project). I’m really not daunted, at this point, by the prospect of losing my job, which is what keeps a lot of younger reactionaries running for cover. I suppose that I might run into trouble while traveling, if things really go south, but I am hardly famous, and I doubt this blog even appears on any government’s radar. (Or, for that matter, any jihadi’s.) And so far, here in America we still have Constitutional protections for the free expression of heterodox opinions, even if you might lose a friend or two, or some customers, or your job. Any “risk”, then, is for me mostly social, and at this point I really don’t care. I know who my friends are.

So for now, I’ll just keep speaking my mind under my own name. I’m really only trying to do my civilization a favor, after all.

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Le Meta-Petard

In an essay about the Paris attacks, Richard Fernandez writes:

The dilemma the West now faces is that it cannot survive on the basis of the platform which its elites have carefully constructed since WW2. They are being beaten to death with their own lofty statements. They must either continue to uphold the vision of open borders, multiculturalism, declining birthrates, unilateral disarmament and a growing state sector at all costs — in other words continue on the road to suicide — or retreat. As recent events at American campuses have shown, when faced with the choice of saving the Left and saving the actual world, the odds are that “the world” goes over the side first.

In attempting to survive on its own terms, the Left will tear itself apart. In its agony it will destroy much else. It may be that Europe will rediscover its culture; it is possible it will develop the will to defend itself; it is conceivable it will hold off extreme fascist movements; it could even plausibly reconstruct its demography. But it cannot do this without an upheaval that will leave nothing unscathed.

Does this ring a bell? Here’s a quote:

“Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.”

That’s right! It’s item #4 from Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals.

I suppose there is some sweet irony to be savored here — indeed, a “meta-irony”, in that a rule about turning an enemy’s own rules against him has itself become the very rule that the enemy retaliates with — but the context is rather too depressing.

Paging Douglas Hosfstadter…

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What Now?

I have said this before, and I will say it again: allowing mass Muslim immigration is the stupidest and most irreversibly self-destructive thing that any Western nation can do. So in the wake of the Paris attacks, is it reasonable to imagine that Western nations, reeling from yet another inevitable and predictable act of jihad, will do, at last, what they obviously must do: namely, to declare an immediate moratorium on Muslim immigration?

There are already many in the West who understand this obvious necessity, and there are many who will now reluctantly awaken to it. But there are also many — and their numbers are legion — for whom it is a moral imperative to deny, despite the evidence of both the centuries and of recent hours, that Islam is what it is, what it always has been, and what it always will be. They must deny also the plainly evident truth that in any population of Muslims there will always be many who see things exactly as their Prophet, by holy word and holy deed, taught them to, and for whom the Ummah must never rest until all of humankind bends its knee to the will of Allah. These good and kindly people will continue to believe that, if we open our hearts and borders to them, Muslims who come to live in the bosom of the Dar al-Harb will somehow become completely indistinguishable from, and smoothly fungible with, the various Brits, Swedes, Germans, Austrians, Frenchmen, etc., among whom they have been allowed to settle in the millions, and whom they will swiftly outbreed and displace. And they will still believe — somehow they must believe this, although I cannot for the life of me understand how any sane person can continue to do so — that as a result, the aforementioned indigenes will be happier than they would have been had they kept their nations to themselves.

Millions of Europeans are now awakening, with horror, from this decades-long seizure of madness. They are rising, and they are arming themselves. (After mocking America’s gun culture for generations, suddenly Europeans are beginning to understand their peril, and long guns — particularly shotguns, which in some places are less severely restricted than handguns and rifles — are in great demand.)

What next? How will the struggle between these three forces — the awakening native peoples of Europe, their ruling classes still deep in the grip of universalist madness even as their nations groan in extremis, and the millions of Muslims already within their borders — proceed?

Last week John Derbyshire, in a thoughtful essay, listed five possibilities:

Scenario One: Absorption. All will be well. The migrants, in whatever numbers choose to come, will enrich and energize our tired, aging societies. They will take on our liberal values and become good Europeans, Americans, and Canadians.

Scenario Two: Restriction. Political pressure from their native populations will force receiving nations to stem the flow. Fences will go up, coastal patrols will commence; but those illegals who are in, will be allowed to stay in.

Scenario Three: Rejection. There will be a real uprising of native peoples. Illegals will be deported en masse to their countries of origin.

Scenario Four: Surrender. The native European and European-descended populations, enervated by soft living and psychologically disarmed by globalist propaganda, will yield up their societies to the invaders.

Scenario Five: Fragmentation. Some part or parts of the First World will opt for one of the foregoing scenarios, some other part or parts for a different one.

At the time, he assigned them the following zero-sum probabilities, respectively: 0%, 50-60%, 5%, 10%, and 25-35%. But this was before Paris. (That shouldn’t have mattered, in my opinion, because Paris or something like it was already inevitable, just as future such atrocities are. But I think Derb might assign different values today.)

Above all, I think fragmentation is almost certain. I simply do not think the EU will stand much longer. Already, nations are acting on their own, in ways that would have been very unlikely indeed just a year ago. This means that restriction, at least, will be widespread. But in addition to the fragmentation of the EU itself into its several nations, there is going to be, in many of those nations, severe internal fragmentation as well, as a surging tide of nationalist sentiment collides with the blithe and dreamy universalism that has so ensorcelled much of Europe over the past half-century of peace and comfort. This will accelerate sharply as further attacks and social decay occur — which they almost certainly will, especially given the sudden infiltration of great hordes of angry young Muslim men into the heart of the Continent. Europe is now, for the third time in a hundred years, a great, oil-soaked pyre, waiting to be lit.

As always, many of our news outlets are calling yesterday’s assault a “tragedy”. It was nothing of the sort. It was an act of Islamic jihad upon the House of War, the latest salvo in a great struggle that has lasted almost fourteen centuries. The real “tragedy” is that it did not have to be this way. The West, towering over the Ummah in both economic and military power for centuries now, could easily have avoided all of this had it not fallen prey to a lethal memetic infection I have named the “cultural immunodeficiency virus” (see here and here, and also here). It could have had its pacifism, and its socialism, and its peace, and its prosperity, for decades to come, had it spared only its pathological universalism. That we are still deeply in the grip of this mortiferous delusion was once again made frighteningly clear in Barack Obama’s remarks upon hearing of yesterday’s attacks:

“This is an attack not just on Paris, it’s an attack not just on the people of France, but this is an attack on all of humanity and the universal values that we share.”

Or, as another man said on a similar occasion:

“As horrific as this tragedy was, if our diversity becomes a casualty, I think that’s worse.”

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Cusp

In a comment to a recent post, I expressed a dark sentiment that is as close as any sympathetic and historically literate observer of this late stage of Western civilization can realistically come to “hope”: namely that when the pathogen now ravaging our culture has assaulted enough of its tissues and vital organs, it will at last provoke a powerful immune reaction.

Surveying the news tonight, I think that moment may now be approaching.

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The Fall

I’ve always loved this season. Here are a few of the snapshots that have piled up on my smart-phone this autumn.

Turkeys in my front yard the other day (they should be more careful this time of year, especially keeping in mind that we grow a lot of cranberries out here):

Cape Cod Bay from Bound Brook Island:

Clouds above Duck Harbor at sunset:

The crown of a maple tree in Prospect Park:

Sun through leaves in Prospect Park:

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Phase 2: ?

In what I think is called “must-see TV”, Neil Cavuto interviews one Keely Mullen, of the Million Student March, on the details of her plan. Here.

It Is Balloon

Here’s an excerpt from a post I wrote five years ago. It still seems current, so I thought I’d repost it here today.

The expanded modern liberal Western mind, stripped of reverence for its cultural heritage — and having shed, as a snake sheds an outgrown skin, the scaffolding and buttresses of traditional standards and valuations with whose support it was originally constructed — now floats, weightless, somewhere above the ground, inflated and unmoored, with no point of leverage from which to engage the massive objects moving all around it. It can only push against its internal parts, standing on one piece of itself to grapple with another; it has no longer any place to stand from which it can seize and take the measure of anything outside itself. It occupies a seductively agreeable vantage; from above the hills and valleys one can see a long way. But as it drifts away, it leaves behind on the ground below some very attractive real-estate — our ancient home and birthright — that will not lie vacant for long.

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Amoebic Dissent

Commenting on the chaos on college campuses in recent weeks, our reader ‘Whitewall’ asks:

“…may [there] be cracks forming in one of the supports of The Cathedral?”

I don’t see it that way. Keep in mind that what we call the “Cathedral” is a large complex of distinct components: thousands of academic, media and political institutions. Even though, as Moldbug puts it, “Cthulhu only swims left”, it is difficult to maintain perfect Gleischaltung between the myriad moving parts of this great organism, and some of them will occasionally get out in front of the others.

In fact, there is an even better analogy, I think, for the locomotion of the Left through our institutions than the swimming Cthulhu (in which metaphor the institutions themselves are mere remoras attached to a great and unseen Leviathan that swims relentlessly left). Think of the way an amoeba moves: it extends a part of itself as a bulging “bleb”, and then once this salient has established itself in the new position, the amoeba pours the rest of itself into it. Already we see this happening with regard to the Mizzou pseudopod.

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Beyond Time, Beyond Strife

From the ridiculous — see yesterday’s posts — to the sublime: The Lark Ascending, by Ralph Vaughan Williams.

On The Hustings

Just watched some of the GOP debate. Best moment of the evening: George Will quoted on Twitter as calling John Kasich “a Roman candle of undiagrammable sentences.”

Carly Fiorina did well tonight, except I think she wants to start World War III. (Rand Paul noticed that too.) Jeb Bush, who really should, at this point, be thinking about what else he might do with his autumn years, praised “moderate Islamists” and an “explosion of natural gas”. Marco Rubio sweats a lot, and seems to make nothing but prepared statements. (Is he really going to be 35 by November 2016?)

Donald Trump and Ben Carson are still whatever it is they are. (Donald Trump even more so, if that was possible.)

The moderators were pretty good, I thought.

Only a year of this to go!

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A Monumental Precedent

Heather Mac Donald — whom, I am happy to say, I had the pleasure of meeting last night — weighs in here on the Left’s newest weapon in its “long march” through the institutions of our civilization. It’s a doozie, too: college athletics.

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More Is Less

Here’s a headline from today’s Washington Post:

A decade into a project to digitize U.S. immigration forms, just 1 is online

The cost? So far, a billion dollars, of your money and mine. By the time the project is completed, in oh, three more years, we’re told, it should be over three billion. (Unless, of course, it ends up taking longer and costing more.)

One imagines that if this were being done by, say, Amazon, it might proceed more efficiently — and, more to the point, that if something like this had ended up being unfinished after a decade, that there would be unpleasant consequences (that word again!) for whoever had been responsible for getting the job done.

This is not Amazon, though; it is our vast and opaque, unelected and completely unaccountable fourth branch of government, the Federal bureaucracy. This is the swollen, necrotic organism that seeks to administer every aspect of our lives, and for which even the great rivers of our money that pour from our wallets into its bottomless coffers — here the ‘Amazon’ comparison is more apposite — are never enough.

Regarding that, here’s another item from the news: our national debt is not the paltry $18 trillion you’ve been hearing about, but is, rather, at least three-and-a-half times that amount.

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Scooped!

The other day I spotted a few headlines that I thought bore some connection to one another. They were:

Death Rates Rising for Middle-Aged White Americans, Study Finds

…and:

Small Towns Face Rising Suicide Rates.

…and:

Americans becoming less religious, especially young adults.

There was also this:

Illinois District Violated Transgender Student’s Rights, U.S. Says.

The theme that linked them was, to me, quite obvious; it is the same thing that makes caged lions waste away in zoos, or Indians on their reservations. I was reminded also of Brian W. Aldiss’s haunting short story The Failed Men (also titled Ahead), about time-travelers who go far into the human future, to find a race of men that have lost all purpose and are gradually, morosely, lying down to die. I had a fine, dismal post taking shape in my mind when I went out for an hour-long walk today, and had planned to write it up when I got back.

As I walked, however, I listened to John Derbyshire’s latest podcast, in which, after a fine first half devoted to Europe’s existential crisis, he picked up exactly the same stories, and commented on them exactly as I was about to. So I’ll save myself the trouble and send you off to have a listen. (That’s two links to Derb in almost as many days, but what can I say? The man’s on a roll.)

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Sheepdogs

In the comment-thread to a recent post on hoplophobes, our reader ‘libertybelle’ put up a link to an excellent essay defining three human types. It deserves promotion to the front page.

We read:

If you have no capacity for violence then you are a healthy productive citizen: a sheep. If you have a capacity for violence and no empathy for your fellow citizens, then you have defined an aggressive sociopath — a wolf. But what if you have a capacity for violence, and a deep love for your fellow citizens? Then you are a sheepdog…

Having been bullied by “wolves” as a soft and bookish schoolboy, I began to study southern-Chinese martial arts in my teens — in other words, to develop my “capacity for violence”. (For this I owe a debt of gratitude to my father, who was a judo master, and who started me on this path; and to grandmaster William Chung, my sifu for the first decade of my training, whose harsh discipline made a man of me.) I have practiced this difficult system of scientific violence ever since, and have been teaching it for the past thirty-five years.

This is the attitude that has been drilled into my head from the beginning: that violence is to be avoided whenever possible, but applied without hesitation or remorse when necessary. Those who can master this have a duty, to the people around them and the civilization they love, to be what the author of this article calls “sheepdogs”.

Read the whole thing here.

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Switch Off The Future

I don’t write about music much these days (though it’s starting to seem so pointless to write about the things I have been writing about that I should probably do so more often). But if any of you are fans of the musical genre known as “progressive rock”, I have something for you, something that I think you probably haven’t heard. It’s from the album Fear of a Blank Planet, by the musical polymath Steven Wilson’s band Porcupine Tree.

The album is a darkly themed vision of rootlessness and anomie; the atomized modern world seen through the eyes of a young and disaffected adolescent boy. It’s a strong record throughout — one of the best of the genre ever made, in my opinion — but what I want you to hear is the last song, Sleep Together. (Whether the title is about sex or something more final, I’ll leave up to you.)

Much of the strength of this track is due to the thunderous drumming of the Gavin Harrison, but the climactic ending of the song — featuring a hair-raising orchestral arrangement by the enormously gifted Dave Stewart — is something else altogether.

Make sure you won’t be interrupted. And play it loud.

Here.

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Odd Couple

I grew up in rural western New Jersey, where guns, and hunting, were ubiquitous. There was no mystique about them, and no agenda; they were just another thing. I learned to shoot as a little boy, and used to love plinking with a .22 at the farm down the road where my best friend lived. I am still a gun owner, and consider our Second Amendment rights to be fundamental, and a priori — an extension of a “natural” right to self-preservation and the defense of liberty that is not “granted” by the Constitution, but pre-exists it, and is only acknowledged and protected by it. (I realize that the idea of “natural rights” is philosophically controversial, but the right to survival, and therefore self-defense, is one that a rational actor will “naturally” claim whether it is acknowledged or not, and it is in that sense that I use the term.)

My lovely wife Nina, on the other hand, grew up in Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Her father (who was in many ways a very remarkable man indeed) was a committed pacifist (in fact, he won a landmark case in which he claimed conscientious-objector status on non-religious grounds during World War II). His aversion to firearms was so absolute that when Nina and her brother were little they were not even allowed to watch TV shows with guns in them. All of this rubbed off on my Nina, who finds guns horrifying, and has never touched one in her life.

While my wife’s upbringing was more hoplophobic than most, this sort of divergence is not uncommon in American marriages — and as you’d expect, far more often than not the differences fall out along predictable male-female lines. Here, then, is a thoughtful and understanding piece by a progressive woman, no lover of guns, who is married to a man who sees things otherwise. It’s a brief article, and well worth your time. (It also makes a nice companion piece to the item we linked to here.)

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Sol Invictus

NASA has just released a painstakingly crafted, half-hour high-resolution video of the Sun. It is fantastic. See it here, and make sure to watch it full-screen.

Sex As Quantum Observation

Conception collapses the biological Eigenfunktion: from an infinite probability-cloud of sperm and ova is instantiated a particular actuality.

Hold That Thought!

“Whenever the literary German dives into a sentence, that is the last you are going to see of him till he emerges on the other side of his Atlantic with his verb in his mouth.”

— Mark Twain, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court

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Living Doll

Where we’ve got to with humanoid robots, here.

Society As Viscoelastic Liquid

There was a lot of push-back in yesterday’s elections: a new, conservative governor in Kentucky, a “gun-control” defeat in Virginia, a restroom reaction in Houston, a “sanctuary sheriff” defeated in San Francisco, and a pot-legalization defeat in Ohio, to name a few.

Longtime readers will know that “I never metaphor I didn’t like”, so here’s today’s:

When I was a kid, we had a toy called Silly Putty (for all I know, it’s still out there). It was a blob of pink goo sold in a little plastic egg. It was funny stuff: if you rolled it up into a ball, it would bounce, but if you just let it dangle from your fingers, it would sloooowly drip, like a liquid. In other words, it had a curious property known as “deformation-rate-dependent viscosity”.

Well, that’s what we saw yesterday: it appears that even now, there’s a limit to how quickly you can deform the American culture. It remains to be seen, though, if there are any limits on how far you can go if you take your time.

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