Quotulatiousness

April 3, 2016

Terry Teachout on the first two volumes of the authorized Thatcher biography

Filed under: Books, Britain, History, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

I read the first volume of Charles Moore’s authorized biography and I was impressed. I’m halfway through the second volume and I’m not enjoying it quite as much as the first. I think that’s a combination of the first volume covering the era I was most interested in (the 1960s and 70s, and the Falklands War) and the second volume covering a lot more of the domestic intricacies of British politics during the 1980s (an “inside baseball” view which I don’t find all that compelling). Terry Teachout didn’t bog down in the middle of volume two, and reports that he’s very impressed with Moore’s work:

Forgive the cliché, but I couldn’t put either book down. I stayed up far too late two nights in a row in order to finish them both — and I’m by no means addicted to political biographies, regardless of subject.

A quarter-century after she left office, Thatcher remains one of the most polarizing figures in postwar history. Because of this, I don’t doubt that many people will have no interest whatsoever in reading a multi-volume biography of her, least of all one whose tone is fundamentally sympathetic. That, however, would be a mistake. Not only does Moore go out of his way to portray Thatcher objectively, but Margaret Thatcher: The Authorized Biography is by any conceivable standard a major achievement, not least for the straightforward, beautifully self-effacing style in which it is written. It is, quite simply, a pleasure to read. Yes, it’s detailed, at times forbiddingly so, but it is, after all, an “official” life, and the level of detail means that you don’t have to know anything about the specific events discussed in the book to be able to understand at all times what Moore is talking about. I confess to having done some skipping, especially in the second volume, but that’s because I expect to return to Margaret Thatcher at least once more in years to come.

One way that Moore leavens the loaf is by being witty, though never obtrusively so. His “jokes” are all bone-dry, and not a few of them consist of merely telling the truth, the best possible way of being funny. […]

He also conveys Thatcher’s exceedingly strong, often headstrong personality with perfect clarity and perfect honesty (or so, at any rate, it seems from a distance). At the same time, he puts that personality in perspective. It is impossible to read far in Margaret Thatcher without realizing that no small part of what made more than a few of Thatcher’s Tory colleagues refer to her as “TBW,” a universally understood acronym for “That Bloody Woman,” was the mere fact that she was a woman — and a middle-class woman to boot. Sexual chauvinism and social snobbery worked against her from the start, not merely from the right but from the left as well (Moore provides ample corroborating evidence of the well-known fact that there is no snob like an intellectual snob). That she prevailed for so long is a tribute to the sheer force of her character. That she was finally booted from office by her fellow Tories says at least as much about them as it does about her.

April 2, 2016

Canada’s new frontier in patriotism: ketchup

Filed under: Business, Cancon, Economics, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Colby Cosh gently pokes fun at the latest outbreak of manufactured patriotic fervor:

An enterprising Toronto man wants to sell us all “Ketchup Patriot” T-shirts, so that the virtuous among us might assert the correct position on the hot issue of whether it is right to eat products made with dubious foreign tomatoes.

This presents me with a dilemma: I agree with the many words already written in this space, and in the Financial Post, about the preposterousness of tomato isolationism; on the other hand, I am pretty sure our future as a country has less to do with mid-grade agricultural products destined for pureeing than it does to do with insta-auto-robo-printing of faddish social-signalling paraphernalia. You have to admire the spirit of enterprise wherever it emerges. The best answer ever given to Che Guevara’s philosophy was the Che Guevara T-shirt.

The “Ketchup Patriot” view favours French’s brand ketchup, which is now made from tomatoes grown in the area around Leamington, Ont. Leamington is practically a creation of the H.J. Heinz Co., which was a major employer there for decades, but fled to the United States in 2014. Few Canadians are employed in the growing of tomatoes, mind you: migrant workers flown into local dormitories and paid around $10 an hour seem to do most of the hard work on Leamington-area farms and in greenhouses.

French’s, best known for selling mustard, is owned by the Reckitt Benckiser Group PLC of Slough, Berkshire. This “Ketchup Patriotism,” the closer you look at it, becomes more and more a matter solely of dream terroir. Canadians don’t get the profits, don’t pick the tomatoes and don’t even can the ketchup — that happens in Ohio, although French’s, obviously aware that it has a whole country by the tail, has hinted at plans to open a new cannery somewhere in Ontario. All we do, for the moment, is own the land. This ketchup has a mystical Canadian essence, one I defy anyone to detect in a blind taste test.

One may not detect the “distinctive Canadian ‘terroir'”, but having actually tasted Heinz and French’s products, there’s a reason that Heinz is the default ketchup for most people.

April 1, 2016

How to defeat ISIS

Filed under: Military, Politics, Religion, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Daniel Greenfield rounds up the key issues with all of the traditional ways to “fight” ISIS:

If you’re keeping score, freeing Islamic terrorists from Gitmo does not play into the hands of ISIS. Neither does bringing Syrians, many of whom sympathize with Islamic terrorists, into our country. And aiding the Muslim Brotherhood parent organization of ISIS does not play into the Islamic group’s hands.

However if you use the words “Islamic terrorism” or even milder derivatives such as “radical Islamic terrorism”, you are playing into the hands of ISIS. If you call for closer law enforcement scrutiny of Muslim areas before they turn into Molenbeek style no-go zones or suggest ending the stream of new immigrant recruits to ISIS in San Bernardino, Paris or Brussels, you are also playing into the hands of ISIS.

And if you carpet bomb ISIS, destroy its headquarters and training camps, you’re just playing into its hands. According to Obama and his experts, who have wrecked the Middle East, what ISIS fears most is that we’ll ignore it and let it go about its business. And what it wants most is for us to utterly destroy it. Or as Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau said, “If you kill your enemies, they win.”

But maybe if you surrender to them, then you win.

Tens of thousands of Muslim refugees make us safer. But using the words “Muslim terrorism” endangers us. The more Muslims we bring to America, the faster we’ll beat ISIS. As long as we don’t call it the Islamic State or ISIS or ISIL, but follow Secretary of State John Kerry’s lead in calling it Daesh.

Because terrorism has no religion. Even when it’s shouting, “Allahu Akbar”.

March 30, 2016

Jeremy Clarkson and the “Bremain” cause

Filed under: Britain, Europe, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

It was apparently quite a surprise when Jeremy Clarkson, formerly of the BBC TV show Top Gear, came out in favour of Britain staying within the European Union. Patrick West explains why it shouldn’t surprise anyone at all:

While Top Gear was a vehicle in which to issue mischievous slights about Indians and Mexicans, not a series seemed to pass without a snide remark from Clarkson about people from Birmingham. Or Liverpool. Or Scotland. Or the north of England. Or the West Country. In fact, anywhere outside London. His Sunday Times column over the years has been the same.

As he once observed: ‘Provincial Britain is probably one of the most depressing places on earth… the towns, with their pedestrian precincts and the endless parade of charity shops and estate agents… There is nothing you want to see. Nothing you want to do. You wade knee-deep through a sea of discarded styrofoam trays smeared with bits of last night’s horseburger… for the most part urban Britain is utterly devoid of any redeeming feature whatsoever.’ Here, Clarkson displays all the prejudices of a sneering, metropolitan, right-on BBC comedian. As a paid-up member of the snide establishment, Clarkson is ideal pro-EU material.

Among those who urge us to remain in the EU, a certain type of patrician class has been emerging. Its members may hail from different political traditions, but among them we find rich, privately educated, well-mannered, conspicuously cosmopolitan, paternal and patronising types, people who work in entertainment or big business, and many of whom have a material interest for wanting to remain in the EU: dirt-cheap, servile foreign labour; pliant Czech nannies; and second homes in Tuscany and the south of France.

Ever since Clarkson dropped his Yorkshire accent, he has sought to become part of that elite. And now that he is a member of an executive club, why else wouldn’t he want to remain part of another: the EU?

March 27, 2016

QotD: Down with Godwin

Filed under: Europe, History, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

If I could eliminate one thing about the Internet, it would be Godwin’s law. Why? It’s made it next to impossible to make actual comparisons about what is probably the best documented instance of the rise of a populist dictator. The instant the magic words come out, any semblance of rational discussion gets defenestrated and the next thing you know people are shouting past each other and the whole thing dies.

Consider: a nation whose people were known for hard work, for pride in their achievements, who — not without justification — saw themselves as having been betrayed by wealthy elites. Their savings were wiped out by what appeared to them to be a combination of malice on the part of the same wealthy elites who claimed they were shameful warmongers and financial mismanagement. Despite what they were being told, they could see themselves losing ground and becoming less well-off than their parents and grandparents had been.

Simply put, these people were immensely vulnerable to a charismatic populist willing to tell them that they had every right to feel betrayed; that they had been betrayed; and that he was going to change all this and make them a great people and a great nation again.

Sound familiar? It should: there are two populist demagogues spinning their separate flavors of this particular scenario through the USA right now. One of them has deployed rioters against the other, although it’s not impossible that the whole thing was staged the way the early NSDAP supporters would pretend to be opponents of the party to set off violence that made the NSDAP look like the victim. It made for good copy, and gave their leader some really good material for those crowd-pleasing speeches he became famous for… before he became a synonym for evil.

Kate Paulk, “Down with Godwin”, According to Hoyt, 2016-03-16.

March 25, 2016

QotD: The infrastructure problem in America

[David Cay] Johnston’s piece is titled America should be more like Disneyland but instead of thinking seriously about what this means he fumbles on the 20 yard line and concludes that what makes Disneyland different is… happy thoughts. If only we were more like W.D., he says, “we could make America into a happy place.”

No, what makes Disney invest in infrastructure is not happy thoughts. Johnston is in fact clear about this:

    The Walt Disney Co. invests in infrastructure because it makes the company money.

The problem with America is that our public infrastructure has been turned over to a fickle political process that is not governed by a rational calculation of cost and benefit, market test and experimentation but by a pursuit of power, glory and advantage that only rarely coincides with the public interest.

America should be more like Disneyland and to do that we need to develop institutions that allow more infrastructure to built by the private sector. Most ambitiously we need more cities as hotels, more proprietary cities. As Rajagopolan and I wrote in our study of India (in Cities and Private Planning):

    The lesson of Gurgaon, Walt Disney World, and Jamshedpur is that a system of proprietary, competitive cities can combine the initiative and drive of private development with the planning and foresight characteristic of the best urban planning. A proprietary city will build infrastructure to attract residents and revenues. A handful of proprietary cities built within a single region will create a competitive system of proprietary cities that build, compete, innovate, and experiment.

Alex Tabarrok “How to make America more like Disneyland”, Marginal Revolution, 2014-12-17.

March 23, 2016

QotD: Strategerizing

Filed under: Humour, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: — Nicholas @ 01:00

We need to get out ahead of the game here and start thinking about who’ll look good with one hand on a Bible and the other up in the air when President Trump gets dragged out of the Oval Office in a straitjacket after the coup, foaming at the mouth that the military wouldn’t follow his orders to attack some ridiculous target.

Tam Slick, “Strategerizing”, View From The Porch, 2016-03-16.

March 22, 2016

Il Donalduce and the empty Republican suits

Filed under: Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

L. Neil Smith on the Republican race:

Consider the Republicans whom we’ve watched and listened to over the past six months (it hasn’t seemed like a moment less than six years). They are, as demagogues of various stripes and flavors loudly declaim, almost uniformly White and male, reflecting nothing more than the politics associated with the demographics in America at the moment. (There aren’t very many black libertarians, either, nor black members of the John Birch Society or the Foundation for Economic Education.) That’s certainly not the fault of anyone at all except the missing candidates, with perhaps an assist from the public education system that teaches neither rational economics nor ideologically untainted history.

That being the case, all the Republicans seem to have rented the same crappy blue suit and boring tie. They are a tone-deaf, faceless gaggle without a shred of personality among them. I probably couldn’t pick Mitt Romney or John Kasich out of a Vice-Squad lineup. The only recognizable quality Marco Rubio possesses is that he’s short. Ted Cruz looks like Dorothy’s Scarecrow pal, impaled above the cornfield on his stick. I’m a political junkie, but policywise, I can’t tell these stiffs apart. It’s difficult to express how disappointed I was with Rand Paul’s campaign. I kind of liked Ben Carson, but he turned out to be an idiot. I liked Carly Fiorina, and I’m sorry she dropped out.

All in all, Republicans are a posse of indistinguishable store dummies, soldier-clones shoulder to shoulder for the collectivist state.

[…]

Donald Trump stands as the exception to all of this. Neither a libertarian nor a conservative, I don’t think ideas mean very much to the Donald. He is, first-and-foremost, a salesman, a wheeler-dealer, a mercantilist who makes the vile Romneys and the evil Bushes (I wonder what ever happened to the Cabots and Lodges) look like amateurish pikers. There is nothing he wouldn’t build — a giant red brick Statue of Liberty with tassles on her golden pasties — if somebody gave him enough money. I do believe he’d dress up in a Bozo the Clown suit and walk a slack wire to get whatever he wants. Make of that whatever you will; it’s certainly no worse than those running against him for President.

Whatever happens next, America is in for another wild and woolly roller-coaster ride. It’s hardly for the first time. For those with long enough memories, it has survived vastly worse. Remember that the first President known to use the IRS as a political weapon wasn’t Barack Hussein Obama, but Lyndon Baines Johnson. In any given election year, none of us ever gets what we really want. That’s in the basic nature of democracy; we all get what the worst of those among us deserves.

March 21, 2016

QotD: The aftermath of the Great War and the rise of Hitler

Filed under: Europe, History, Politics, Quotations — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

During the war, the Allied nations had been told that it was being fought to make the world safe for democracy; but when it was won they found that the opposite was true. Instead of being safe, democracy was left so rickety that one dictator after the other emerged from out of the chaos, to establish autocracies of various kinds in Poland, Turkey, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Austria and Germany. These dictators held one thing in common — abhorrence of Bolshevism; therefore they stood in opposition, not only to the old democratic order, but also to the new Marxist order, which had taken root in Russia and which during the final lap of the war and throughout its aftermath threatened every non-Communist country.

Of the dictators, the one who attained the highest historical significance was Adolf Hitler (1889-1945): one of the most extraordinary men in history. He was born at Braunau-am-Inn on 20th April 1889. In the war he had risen to the rank of corporal, and after it he became the seventh member of an obscure political group in Munich, which called itself the “German Workers’ Party”. In 1923, when the French were in occupation of the Ruhr, and were fostering a Communist separatist movement in the Rhineland and a Catholic separatist movement in Bavaria, he sprang to fame. On 9th November, he and Ludendorff attempted a coup d’état in Munich, and although it failed, his trial was a political triumph, because it made him one of the most talked of men in Germany. During his imprisonment in the fortress of Landsberg am Lech, he wrote the first volume of his Mein Kampf.

Hitler was the living personification of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. As the one he raised Germany from out of the slough of degradation into which the Treaty of Versailles and the inflation which followed the French occupation of the Ruhr had engulfed her, and restored her national dignity and economy. As the other, he brutalized vast numbers of her people and made her name stink in the nostrils of the world.

He was a consummate psychologist and probably the world’s greatest demagogue, a man who could plumb to its deepest depths the irrational in human nature, and distil from the emotions of the masses potent political intoxicants. Above all, he had absolute faith in himself and a super-rational belief in his invincibility, which endowed him with an irresistible personal magnetism. As a statesman, his ability to sense and grasp the psychological moment for action was his outstanding gift. Once he said to Hermann Rauschning:

    “No matter what you attempt, if an idea is not yet mature, you will not be able to realise it. I know that as an artist, and I know it as a statesman. Then there is only one thing to do: have patience, wait, try again, wait again. In the subconscious, the work goes on. It matures, sometimes it dies. Unless I have the inner, incorruptible conviction: this is the solution, I do nothing. Not even if the whole party tries to drive me to action. I will not act; I will wait, no matter what happens. But if the voice speaks, then I know the time has come to act.”

When that moment arrives, “When a decision has to be taken”, Goering once said to Sir Nevile Henderson, “none of us count more than the stones on which we were standing. It is the Fuehrer alone who decides.”

Rauschning, no flatterer of Hitler, writes:

    “I have often had the opportunity of examining my own experience, and I must admit that in Hitler’s company I have again and again come under a spell which I was only later able to shake off, a sort of hypnosis. He is, indeed, a remarkable man. It leads nowhere to depreciate him and speak mockingly of him. He is simply a sort of great medicine-man. He is literally that, in the full sense of the term. We have gone back so far toward the savage state that the medicine-man has become king amongst us.

This rings true. Hitler was the product of the savagery of his age; he fitted it like a glove the hand. In this lay that inescapable power which made him the enchanter of the German people.

J.F.C. Fuller, The Conduct of War, 1789-1961, 1961.

March 20, 2016

QotD: The Antinomianism of the post-war world

Filed under: History, Media, Politics, Quotations — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

So what are they fighting for, this modern elite?

After the Great War, Europe went through their Crazy Years period, and during the Cold War, America followed, and the elite opinion makers, politicians, writers, thinkers, intellectuals and entertainers, all those who control the imagination and the deliberation of Western Civilization became enamored and fascinated by the series of ideas the previous two generations of philosophers and literati had conceived: the idea that God was Dead and that life meant nothing, and that life was unfair.

The great moral crusade of that generation, the so-called Sexual Revolution was the main rebellion against morality. In the name of freedom and progress, the progressive bent every effort to undoing the progress of all previous generations of saints and sages and moralists, and enslaving the world to addictions and sins: Sex and Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll, a heady mixture of self-indulgence and socialism. The great moral crusade was Antinomianism.

Antinomianism, the idea that moral rules have no meaning, is a logically incoherent idea, easily refuted by human experience. Progressivism, the idea that the rules of the science economics can be replaced by wishful thinking, is likewise incoherent, and likewise alien to human experience. Progressivism and Antinomianism are Siamese twins, since the promised revolution of the Progressivism involves an overthrow of basic principles of justice, such as the maxim that forbids stealing, forbids envy, forbids treason, forbids lying. The more violent and radical version of Progressivism, Socialism, also refutes the principle of justice that forbids murdering the innocent masses in their millions who all have to be trampled underfoot for the Marxist and Maoist revolutions to succeed. Socialism is the first code of conduct in history where to show disrespect to one’s elders and ancestors, and to hate and uproot one’s own history and institutions is regarded as a virtue rather than a vice.

Adherence to incoherence has several consequences for any mind willing and able to carry out the logical corollaries implied: civility, history, politics, and reason are all involved in the downfall of morality.

Simple civility is the first casualty of this world view, for it presupposes a degree of respect, if not for persons, then for rules of courtesy, but in either case for norms. One cannot consistently be an Antinomian and be in favor of norms.

(One also cannot respect the victims of one’s lies: contempt is the only logical way to regard those one lies about or lies to.)

History is simply ignored by the Progressives: they regard it as a principle of Hegelian or Marxist or Darwinian evolution that the past has no control over the future, no merit, and need not be consulted. The extraordinary and risible inability of the Progressives of any age to learn from their mistakes, their astonishing parochialism, and their revolting inability to honor even their own founding members are all explained by this philosophical amnesia.

As a political philosophy, Progressivism is not a political philosophy, and does not pretend to be: it is a psychological strategy to scapegoat others for failures and dissatisfaction. As the National Socialists were with the Jews, as Marxists are with the Capitalists, as Race-baiters are with Whites, and Feminists are with Males, as Jihadists are with the Great Satan, and as everyone is with the Roman Catholic Church, the Progressive scheme of things consists of finding someone to blame and expanding the power of the State in order allegedly to rectify these allegedly blameworthy evils.

Nothing is ever blamed on the nature of things, or natural limitations of reality, or on historical facts: these entities do not exist in the Progressive mind.

John C. Wright, “Supermanity and Dehumanity (Complete)”, John C. Wright’s Journal, 2014-12-13.

March 17, 2016

Trump’s possible tactics against Clinton

Filed under: Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

The November general election is looking more and more like it will be Mussotrumpi against Hitllary. Scott Adams thinks he has an idea how Il Donalduce will attack Adolfillary:

The last time Trump and Clinton mixed it up hard, Clinton called Trump sexist and Trump responded that she was an enabler for her husband’s womanizing. In summary:

  • Clinton accused Trump of being anti-woman
  • Trump accused Clinton of being anti-woman

I wonder if we have seen all of the permutations of gender politics. I doubt we will see Clinton accuse Trump of being anti-male. That wouldn’t stick.

But we haven’t seen Trump accuse Clinton of being anti-male. And that would stick like tar. He might be saving that one for later.

Remember that Linguistic Kill Shots such as low-energy, little Marco, and robotic generally have two characteristics that make them work:

1. The label must be a fresh one you have not seen in politics.

2. Voters must be reminded of the label every time they see or hear the subject.

I’ve never heard a politician call another one anti-male. So this approach qualifies on the freshness dimension. And any time you hear Clinton talk about making the world better for women – which is obviously a legitimate goal – it would remind you she cares less about men, even if that isn’t true. (We don’t know what is in her head.)

Trump could frame Clinton as anti-male without ever saying “anti-male.” The exact words matter less than the concept. But the words do need to be catchy in some way, so everyone wants to repeat them.

My gut feeling is that men will abandon Clinton every day from now until November unless Trump murders a baby on live television. Otherwise, I think Trump wins easily with men.

QotD: Trump’s populism

Filed under: Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

It is too late to challenge Trump when he talks about the wall. It does not matter how stupid the idea, taken literally, may be. American politicians spoke Parseltongue to the working class, the people who contend with and live beside immigrant labour, for too long. They are ready to vote for the only guy who will think about a wall.

Of course a bad collective conscience is the key to any populist movement like Trump’s. He really is like Hitler in this: he sells absolution to those too inarticulate to explain or defend their prejudices. It is universally acknowledged that less-skilled American workers are in a bad state. Millions are on federal or other disability schemes and food stamps, millions are at least half-zombified on prescription drugs and the overlap between these groups is obviously great. Mortality statistics among the middle-aged show the results. What they don’t show is the shame that dropouts from honest labour and bourgeois aspiration must suffer — how unlike their fathers and mothers they feel. If I were a worse writer I’d drop the word “alienation” here.

[…]

And so Trump materializes with a garbled, but not totally unfounded, account of what went wrong: globalization destroyed traditional jobs, illegal immigration took more, Mexican heroin salesmen swooped in. Idealistic America has been hornswoggled by tricky foreigners who know their own interests. Trump won’t stop saying how “smart” they are. This isn’t white supremacism: it’s American inferiorism.

If Trump is a charlatan who saw the conditions for populist agitation and crafted an opportunistic message, all I can say is: well played. What I ask of Americans who deplore him is, what did you do about these conditions when something might have been done? Did you not think your civilization was particularly vulnerable to hucksters and loudmouths?

America is the land of, and I’ll put these in alphabetical order, Frank Abagnale, Jim Bakker, P.T. Barnum, Scott Boras, Dale Carnegie, Bill Clinton, Enron, Chris Kyle, Bernie Madoff, Charles Manson, Billy Mays, Dr. Phil McGraw, Joe McCarthy, Norman Vincent Peale, Charles Ponzi, Al Sharpton, Charlie Sheen and Orson Welles. It is the dynamo of cultivated marketing crazes: flagpole sitting, Cabbage Patch Kids, hula hoops, the Lambada. It is mother and nurse of kooky sci-fi religions: Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, chiropractic, Scientology, Erhard seminars. The glories and powers of America are inseparable from this trait, and it has never been a secret to outsiders, not since Tocqueville.

So how can any self-aware American look at Donald Trump — who, again, even before his candidacy, might have been the first person a Chinese peasant thought of when someone said “name an American” — and imagine him as novel and unfamiliar? You don’t think his architectural sensibility is characteristically American? You don’t think his habit of overstating his fortune is American? You don’t think his hair and his tan are American? Where on Earth, dear friends, do you think you live? Do you never look in the mirror?

Colby Cosh, “Dear America: We need to talk about Donald”, National Post, 2016-03-03.

March 13, 2016

QotD: The rise of American fascism

Filed under: History, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

I’m not Jewish. But I read The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich at an impressionable age. Years later, what I learned in that book made me into an anarchist. What it did much sooner than that was to instill in me the same sense of the Holocaust as the central moral disaster of the 20th century that the Jews feel. It left me with the same burning determination: Never again! Ever since, I have studied carefully the forms of political pathology behind that horror and attended even more carefully for any signs that they might be taking root in the West once again.

So, yes, I worried about Jörg Haider and Jean-Marie Le Pen; twitched a little at reports of a resurgence by the British National Front. But there was nothing in my country that whispered of resurgent fascism. Well, nothing outside hard-left-wing rhetoric, anyway.

(One of the minor things that cheeses me off about leftists is the loose way they throw around “fascist” as a term of abuse for anything they don’t like. This is at best naive and at worst dangerously stupid.)

Fascism has many structural characteristics that distinguish it from even the worst sorts of authoritarianism in the mainstream of U.S.’s political spectrum. One of these is the identification of a godlike Maximum Leader with the will of the people. A fascist society demands not just obedience but the surrender of the self to an ecstatic collective consciousness embodied in flesh by the Leader.

George Bush, whatever his faults — and I could list ’em from here to next Tuesday — is not a fascist, does not behave like a fascist, and (most importantly for my argument) does not elicit that kind of ecstatic identification from his supporters. Thus, calling Bush a fascist confuses run-of-the-mill authoritarian tendencies with a degree of power and evil of which he will never be capable.

Here’s where it gets more frightening. Fascisms happen because people begin by projecting their own fears, hope and desires on the Maximum Leader, and end by submerging themselves in the Leader’s will. Neither George Bush nor John McCain has ever inspired this kind of response. But Barack Obama…does. More effectively than any American politician in my lifetime. And that is a frightening thing to see.

Note: I am absolutely not accusing Barack Obama of being a fascist or of having the goals of a fascist demagogue. I am saying that the psychological dynamic between him and his fans resembles the way fascist leaders and their people relate. The famous tingle that ran up Chris Matthew’s leg. the swooning chanting crowds, the speeches full of grand we-can-do-it rhetoric, the vagueness about policy in favor of reinforcing that intoxicating sense of emotional identification…how can anyone fail to notice where this points?

Eric S. Raymond, “Why Barack Obama sets off my ‘Never Again!’ alarms”, Armed and Dangerous, 2008-06-30.

March 12, 2016

Would anything good come of a Trump presidency?

Filed under: Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Don Boudreaux thinks there might be a slight advantage to the republic if Trump beats Clinton in the election:

The November election will almost surely feature an unprecedentedly bad choice: Hillary Clinton vs. Donald Trump. A calculating, power-mad machine politician with a history of duplicity and rule-breaking versus an economically ignorant and boorish rabble-rousing American version of Mussolini and Peron. This “choice” is akin to one between being killed by garroting or by being burned at the stake.

The only “benefit” of a Clinton victory is that it means a Trump defeat. Ditto for a Trump victory.

At this moment — my assessment might change tomorrow — I have a slight preference for a Trump victory. The reason is that the same mainstream media that would fawn idiotically over a Clinton administration would be appropriately merciless on a Trump administration. President Trump would not receive, because he does not deserve, any benefit of the doubt. President Clinton would receive, even though she does not deserve, every benefit of the doubt. This almost-certain difference in press treatment would tightly check the policies of President Trump while they would fuel those of President Clinton.

Also, President Trump might inadvertently scrub off of the presidency the aura of faux majesty that now encrusts it. The president is a human being — a naked and imperfect ape, like the rest of us. Yet he’s treated, because of his high office, as if he is uniquely wonderful and valuable to Americans. He’s not. Finally, unlike Trump, Clinton has a political track record. It’s ugly. Of course, like the typical politician, Clinton changes her stated opinions to win votes, so we know that she’s unprincipled. But to the extent that we can infer from her record any of her “beliefs,” it’s clear that she has no understanding of economics. And her instincts are those of a central planner — a harsh nanny, a pitiless schoolmarm, an officious elite with no trust in ordinary people to live their lives as they choose rather than as she and her fellow intellectual elites suppose ordinary people should live their lives.

March 11, 2016

Trump and the stand-up comedians

Filed under: Humour, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:24

Gavin McInness on the seemingly universal view of Donald Trump among stand-up comics:

… They don’t have any arguments because this isn’t about facts. It’s about feelings and they feel Trump is a serious threat to their very existence. That’s really what’s going on here: Trump represents the traditional family, and modern comics—especially the alternative ones—have built their careers mocking exactly that.

Sure, he’s had a bunch of divorces and yes, there are plenty of comedians who are happily married with kids, but we’re talking about the culture here and in America’s eyes, Trump represents a good dad with great kids who wants to get back to when America was great, and comedians represent a reboot of everything traditional and that’s the nuclear family. Comedians are deeply scarred human beings who shudder at the very idea of a family. They’re not pro–gay marriage because they give a shit about two random homos who want to fuck everything that moves while pretending they live for matrimony. They’re pro–gay marriage because they’re anti-marriage because they’re anti-family because their childhood sucked.

I enjoy watching stand-up, but sometimes I look at these poor bastards standing on a stage for $20 and I just think, “You poor bastard.” If they came from big, happy families, they’d be the funny guy at the dinner table making their cousin Donny laugh until milk came out his nose. They’d be content amusing their inner circle and not have to stand on a stage and plead for a roomful of strangers to clap for them.

It’s not remotely controversial to say comedians are insecure and almost unanimously depressed. I believe this comes from having parents who didn’t love them. Not only are they drawn to stand-up because it mimics validation, they are drawn to the career because it’s the perfect career for the unloved. A family man can’t disappear for months and months at a time touring the country in his Honda Civic and getting paid in beer to make 35 people giggle at Chuckles. The more we respect the family and the idea of procreation, the less we respect their profession. Louis C.K. divorced his wife not long after they made two kids. Trump’s Great Again America sees that as a failure. The totally hip alternative America sees it as awesome.

Donald Trump is a constant reminder that plenty of us had parents who loved us and made us feel good about ourselves. We have mimicked this success story and created families of our own. We’re happy and what’s worse, we’re content. For the most part, comics are miserable people who developed the ability to make light of a bad situation. We get laughs from them because we’re not in a bad situation so it’s like doing a shot after you won the lottery. To us, seeing a comedy show is like taking Prozac when you’re not depressed. It’s a bonus. To the comedians, it’s what they need to stave off suicide. The more America becomes great again, the less resonance the kvetchers have. And when your entire ethos is based on complaining, you don’t want prosperity. It bums you out.

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