Quotulatiousness

April 8, 2017

The “Three Stooges of the Apocalypse”

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

David Warren takes a well-deserved kick at Lloyd George, Clemenceau, and (especially) Woodrow Wilson:

A century has now passed since President Wilson disowned President Washington’s advice to his successors — to stay out of European conflicts — and war was declared by the United States on Germany. A moral preener, Wilson justified himself by declaring an even more extravagant mission to go with it:

“The world must be made safe for democracy.”

However large, a war is just a war. It should have a beginning and an end. As my old Indian girlfriend explained, “Too much war only leads to peace. Too much peace only leads to war.” As most people prefer peace, most of the time, it is well that war is not a permanent condition. But a war to some idealistic purpose can get very large, and go on for a long time, and morph into conditions which resemble peace, but are not peace. We’ve been making the world safe for democracy for at least a century. By now we have far too much.

[…]

In my view, that Great War, that Totaler Krieg, hasn’t ended yet. The old etiquette, that war was for soldiers — that non-combatants should be non-involved — became a thing of nostalgia. Vast conscript armies had been summoned, and would never be fully demobilized. The men I call the “Three Stooges of the Apocalypse” — Wilson, Lloyd George, Clemenceau — clinched at Versailles this new normal. It was not simply the punitive terms that were imposed on the war’s losers, but a more fundamental reorganization of all national and international affairs: “statecraft” became “policy.”

For Wilson was also the pioneer of progressive schemes to change the American way of life. He was, in some sense, a second Washington, consolidating a second American Revolution that had begun more modestly with Lincoln and the Union victory in the Civil War. America would be recreated, along bureaucratic lines, in a tireless campaign for full secularization, under centralized government control. The general mobilization of the First World War, now in America as well as Europe, created a new opportunity, by accustoming men to following orders; by the propaganda that made them identify with huge abstractions.

This is of course an inexhaustible topic, at which I pick away, in my attempts to explain if only to myself what makes our world so different from all preceding. It embraces more than any single force or event. We must also go back to the Prussian invention of the welfare state, and for that matter to the Gatling gun. Post-modernity is an invention of modernity, as modernity was an invention of the Middle Ages. The contemporary revolution has antecedents that may be found in the Enlightenment and in the Reformation. (What will post-modernity beget?)

QotD: “Fake perfection” in woodworking

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

After the 2016 election, I did what every sane American did: I eliminated the annoying people from my social media feeds on both the left and the right who had become singularly obsessed with politics. And then I took another healthy step: I eliminated feeds from the “fake perfectionists.”

Who are the “fake perfectionists?” You probably know them. They are the people who post beautiful photos of their work on social media and never seem to experience a single glitch. And, in the cases of schools with “fake perfectionist” feeds, they crow about the beauty, detail and perfection of the work being taught there.

To which I say: Hogwash.

Woodworking is about failure. In fact, I consider successful projects to be ones that simply endured less failure than usual. Stuff goes awry. Wood chips out. Table legs go into the burn pile. If you aren’t making errors – of the hand or of the mind – you are a robot and need to have your firmware downgraded.

Christopher Schwarz, “Failing Daily Since 1993”, The Christopher Schwarz Blog, 2017-03-16.

April 7, 2017

QotD: You may not have to be crazy to be President, but it helps

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

Does Mr. Trump really have serious psychiatric problems as increasing numbers of shrinks are suggesting?

Since in their DSM-5 [PDF] (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition), the Mental Health Guild has classified just about every possible combination of human emotion and behavior as a psychiatric disorder, they can certainly find Mr. Trump — along with the rest of us — has conditions they would gladly treat but not necessarily cure. For a nice fee, of course.

They suggest he’s grandiose, antisocial, narcissistic, and paranoid etc. And, since an Australian study found that 1 in 5 CEOs are psychopaths, we can probably add that and/or “sociopath” to the list.

And they say he’s deceitful and tells lies, so far, at least 129 of ’em. And counting. Well, DUH! That IS how politicians get elected after all. And most of the folks who manage to get a shot at the position are quite accomplished at it.

Bill Clinton was notable, and his wife is no slouch. Obama was quite slick at it and Dubya & Company told 935 thoroughly documented whoppers to get “us” to attack, kill, maim, and displace hundreds-of-thousands of innocent Iraqi men, women and children. Etc.

So, since as POTUS (President Of The United States), Mr. Trump will almost certainly be responsible for killing, etc. large numbers of innocent folks, being a bit of a sociopath — maybe even a psychopath — will help. And to feel better about it — and possibly avoid PTSD — he can follow previous Presidents and call most of those innocent victims “collateral damage” instead of “murder victims.”

The bottom line is that to serve as president, sociopathy etc. has become helpful and lying is necessary. As Historian Zinn put it, “If governments told the truth, they wouldn’t last very long.”

L. Reichard White, “Is Trump Nuts? Does it Matter?”, Libertarian Enterprise, 2017-03-26.

April 5, 2017

“… if you’re on the side that says the other guy isn’t entitled to a side, you’re on the wrong side

Filed under: Australia, Liberty, Politics — Tags: — Nicholas @ 04:00

Mark Steyn on the amazing discovery that a “female, atheist, black, immigrant” is really a white supremacist!

Over the weekend, I swung by Judge Jeanine’s show to talk about one of the most malign trends of our time: the ever more open refusal by one side to permit those on the other side to speak. As I always say, I don’t care what side you pick on the great questions of the age – climate change, gay marriage, Islam, transgendered bathrooms, whatever – but, if you’re on the side that says the other guy isn’t entitled to a side, you’re on the wrong side. […]

They don’t want to participate in the debate, and win it. It’s easier to shut it down and save themselves the trouble. Case in point:

    Ayaan Hirsi Ali Tour Cancelled
    Citing security issues, the Somalian-born activist calls off her scheduled Australian tour…

Let’s just expand that “Somali-born activist” précis a little. She’s not a dead white male like me or Charles Murray. As someone once said, Ayaan Hirsi Ali is everything the identity-group fetishists profess to dig: female, atheist, black, immigrant. But, because she does not toe the party line on Islam, her blackness washes off her like a bad dye job on a telly anchorman – and so do her femaleness and godlessness and immigrant status. And in the end she is Charles Murray, or Geert Wilders – or even David Duke. A black Somali woman is, it turns out, a “white supremacist”.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is someone who fled genital mutilation and arranged marriage in a backward, barbarous society to come to the west and live in freedom. Her first stop was the Netherlands. But the director of the film she wrote, Theo van Gogh, was murdered in the street, and the man who shot him then drove two knives through what was left of his chest pinning to it a five-page death-threat promising to do the same to Ayaan. So she was forced to leave the Netherlands, and has lived with round-the-clock security ever since. Now she has to cross Australia off the list, too. Where’s next? Can she speak in Sweden? Or Canada? Ireland or Germany? She left Somalia to live as a western woman, only to watch the west turn itself into Somalia, incrementally but remorselessly, at least as far as free speech is concerned.

April 3, 2017

“Politics is like the weather; it doesn’t care what you think about it”

Filed under: Government, History, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Jonah Goldberg, from last week’s “G-File ‘News’letter”, on the notion that the old political rules no longer apply:

Here’s the important point. Politics is like the weather; it doesn’t care what you think about it. It simply is. And at least in this sense, I was right when I said that democracy gives the illusion of control.

In 2006, I wrote in the Corner about the Left’s belief, as expressed by Simon Rosenberg, that we were entering an era of “new politics.” Conservatism was over. A new era of modern, expert-driven political management was upon us. To his credit, Rosenberg didn’t say that politics was over, just that this was some new era where the old playbook didn’t apply. But it’s sort of the same thing. The idea that politics will go away if we elect the right person is a form of utopianism that plagues the Left — and, alas, the Right.

Barack Obama entered office thinking the exact same thing (So did LBJ. So did JFK. So did FDR. So did Woodrow Wilson). As I’ve written 8 trillion times, Obama really believed that he was a post-ideological president who only cared about “what works.” This progressive understanding of pragmatism is a kind of exquisite confirmation bias. We’re not ideological, we just want to do the smartest, best thing (which just happens to line up with our undisclosed and unacknowledged ideological biases).

The problem? Politics doesn’t vanish just because you want it to. Wilson was convinced that the wisdom of the Treaty of Versailles was akin to scientific fact. It wasn’t, but let’s say that it was. His view didn’t erase the political necessity of selling it to Congress.

During the election, lots of people told me that a businessman would cut through all the politics by running the government like a business. Jared Kushner is apparently heading up the latest version of this incredibly hackneyed and ancient idea. The simple problem is that government isn’t a business (never mind that Donald Trump is not a typical businessman). The incentive structure of politics is entirely different than the incentive structure for a businessman. A CEO can walk into a meeting and explain to his employees that if they don’t hit their widget sales quota, no one will get their bonus. Politics doesn’t work like that.

Moreover, people who say “Who cares about politics” or “Politics are irrelevant” are like people who go sailing in a hurricane on the assumption that weather shouldn’t matter.

Ici Londres: Karl Marx didn’t get a single thing right

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

Published on 22 Mar 2017

April 1, 2017

Hello Angry Losers

Filed under: Britain, Europe, Government, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Published on 31 Mar 2017

A Word To The Patronising Minority

March 31, 2017

QotD: Government as Superman … reality as Kryptonite

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

… politics is all details. And each of those tiny little details has to be endlessly negotiated, because the system is set up precisely to frustrate a powerful guy with a big idea. You may recall your middle school social studies teacher talking about “checks and balances.” This is what that looks like. Kryptonite, if you will.

So there is no shortcut around the long days spent debating whether the tax credit should be 3.45 percent or 3.65 percent, and drafting pages of legislation that amend some obscure subclause of the immigration code to read “that” rather than “which,” and ending up with a middling, pork-riddled program that costs too much and doesn’t do anything close to what its visionary proponents promised.

Governing is not like building a building; it’s not like running a business. It’s like, well, trying to herd three branches of government in roughly the same direction. These branches are composed of thousands of people, each of whom has their own agenda, and represents millions more, each of whom has their own agenda, and will hound out of office anyone who strays too far from it. This is a wildly ponderous and inefficient way to do anything, which is why I am a libertarian; almost anything can be done better when you’re not trying to build it by a committee.

But in a representative democracy, this is what we have. There is no superhero strong enough to overcome the villain. There is actually not even a villain to defeat, only the unslayable amoeboid agglomeration of 300 million citizens’ worth of unenlightened self-interest. In the immortal words of P.J. O’Rourke: “Every government is a parliament of whores. The trouble is, in a democracy the whores are us.”

Megan McArdle, “Voters Want Change. Candidates Disappoint. Repeat.”, Bloomberg View, 2015-08-21.

March 28, 2017

The next Scottish referendum

Filed under: Britain, Europe, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Brendan O’Neill says that despite the common assertion that those in favour of Brexit can’t object to Scottish independence, the people who supported Brexit have a strong case to argue against Scotland splitting away from the United Kingdom:

The argument is that if you backed Brexit, then you haven’t got a leg to stand on when it comes to opposing Nicola Sturgeon’s latest stab at Scottish independence. They’re the same thing, innit? ‘No one involved in Brexit, or who supported Brexit, can make any argument against Scottish independence except emotional ones’, says a writer for the Spectator.

Actually, the opposite is the case. Brexiteers are precisely the right people to put the case against Scottish independence. Because the argument against Scottish independence is the same as the argument for Brexit. Namely that people should not shy away from democracy, with all the debate and disagreement and difficulties it involves, but rather should embrace it. That instead of hiding from our responsibility to engage in national public life, or handing that responsibility over to ‘expert’ external bodies who will do decision-making on our behalf, we should accept this responsibility, and cherish it. Where Brexit represented a brave reclaiming of the institution of democracy, Scottish independence is driven by a sense of exhaustion with it, and by a rather elitist urge to opt out of it.

To many observers, Brexit and Sturgeon’s campaign for Scottish independence are the same thing: attempts to rupture longstanding unions. (Very longstanding in the case of the UK: 310 years. Not so much in the case of the EU: 24 years.) But the bigger, more important question is surely why these unions are being called into question.

[…]

For leftists in particular, many of whom threw their lot in with the idea of Scots independence during the Indy Ref of 2014, Scottish independence is attractive precisely to the extent that it allows them to circumvent what they see as the backward, Tory-esque thinking of a majority of Brits, especially English people. They, and also many in the SNP, fantasise that Scotland is a progressive, socialist-at-heart nation, and these fine instincts are being stymied by the votes and attitudes of dumb English people. Solution? Cut yourself off. Avoid even having to have the argument with the ignorant masses, never mind having to win it, by creating your own siphoned-off pseudo-independent nation in which you’ll always get your own way.

As one left commentator said during Indy Ref, the left’s flirtation with Scottish nationalism is driven in part by its irritation at ‘the sheer scale of the defeats suffered by the left’. One radical writer described Scottish nationalism as a ‘potential escape mechanism’ for leftists north of the border tired of living under governments in Westminster elected by the low-information right-wing hordes south of Hadrian’s Wall. And that’s what ‘independence’ is for Sturgeon and Co, too: an ‘escape mechanism’, a means of fleeing from the consequences of democracy into your own aloof, agreeable statelet.

This is why this independence movement seems to have so little to do with actual independence, as confirmed by the SNP’s desire to break from Westminster only to wrap itself in the interfering arms of the oligarchy in Brussels: because modern Scottish nationalism isn’t about independence at all. Except, perhaps, independence from the masses. From the British throng. From democracy. From a demos that has proven so disappointing to always-angry Scottish nationalists and to British leftists who see an independent Scotland, shorn of the millions who currently make up British democracy, as an opportunity to create the state-socialist utopia that they know a majority of Brits would find unappetising.

Champion for Democracy? – Woodrow Wilson I WHO DID WHAT IN WW1?

Filed under: History, Military, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 27 Mar 2017

Woodrow Wilson, 28th President of the United States, is one of the most controversial characters of his era. His racial views, his view on peace and the post-war world, his decision to go to war with Germany in 1917 are still being debated to this day. We take a look at the life of Wilson to better understand his motivation.

March 27, 2017

2017 – the year of the Great Dissatisfaction

Filed under: Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Kevin Williamson says that “our world is full of wonders, but not everyone finds a place in it”:

Once, the question the ambitious and dissatisfied asked themselves was: “How do I climb that ladder?” Current tastes run more toward smashing the ladder and the hierarchies for which it stands in the name of … whatever: feminism or anti-feminism, black liberation or white nationalism, global justice or national sovereignty.

We spend our days surrounded by great miracles and minor irritations. My friend Jay Nordlinger recently recounted how Joseph Stalin allowed the film The Grapes of Wrath to be shown in the Soviet Union, believing that to see an indictment of capitalism from within the beast itself would be salutary for the proletariat. The proletariat took another lesson from the film: The Joads, apparently the poorest people in America, had a Ford, a luxury no working man in the workers’ paradise could dream of. A similar story is told about the television series Dallas: The Soviets thought their subjects would recoil from the mischief of J. R. Ewing and his Texas oil cronies, but all the poor Russians could see was that American servants lived better than Soviet doctors and professors. If we could share our daily tales of woe with our great-grandparents — e.g., my complaints about the Wi-Fi on airplanes — they would not take from that the conclusion we intended.

We do not have a problem of privation in the United States. Not really. What we have is something related to what Arthur Brooks (“the most interesting man in Washington,” Tim Alberta calls him) describes as the need for earned success. We are not happy with mere material abundance. We — and not to go all Iron John on you, but I think “we” here applies especially to men — need to feel that we have earned our keep, that we have established a place for ourselves in the world by our labor or by other virtues, especially such masculine virtues as physical courage and endurance. I suspect that is a big part of the reason for the exaggeratedly reverential, practically sacramental attitude we current express toward soldiers, police officers, and firemen. Of course they are brave and deserve our gratitude, but if we had felt the need to ceremonially thank everyone for their service in 1948, we’d never have done anything else with our time. In 2017, there are many more jobs for courtiers than for soldiers, and the virtues earning the highest return are not bravery or toughness but conversational cleverness, skill in social navigation, excellence in bureaucracy, and keenness in finance.

[…]

And there is the paradox within our paradox: The world is wondrous and beautiful and exciting and rich, and many of us have trouble finding our place in it, in part, because it is wondrous and beautiful and exciting and rich, so much so that we have lost touch with certain older realities. One of those realities is that children need fathers. Another is that fathers need children.

But these are what my colleague David French calls the “wounds that public policy will not heal.” Our churches are full of people who would love to talk to you about healing, but many have lost interest in that sort of thing, too. And so they turn to Trump, to Le Pen, to Chavismo (which is what Bernie Sanders is peddling), and, perhaps, to opiate-induced oblivion. Where will they turn when they figure out — and they will figure it out — that there are no answers in these, either?

And what will we offer them?

Do you believe the experts?

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

In Reason, Noah Berlatsky reviews The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why It Matters, by Tom Nichols:

Believe the experts! Experts are not perfect, but they are more likely than non-experts to be right. Experts know what they do not know, and are therefore more cautious and better able to self-correct. Sometimes, in small ways, non-experts may outperform experts. But in general, America and the world need more respect for expertise.

That is the thesis of Tom Nichols’ The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why It Matters. It is also, as it turns out, a critique of the book itself. Nichols, a professor at the U.S. Naval War College, is an expert on Russia and national security; he is not, however, an expert on expertise.* His hand wringing about kids today is not grounded in a scholarly background in education policy or the history of student activism. He is a generalist dilettante writing a polemic against generalist dilettantes. As such, the best support for his argument is his own failure to prove it.

There are two central flaws in The Death of Expertise. The first is temporal. As the title implies, the book is written as though there were once a golden age when expertise was widely valued — and when the democratic polity was well-informed and took its duty to understand foreign and domestic affairs seriously. “The foundational knowledge of the average American is now so low that it has crashed through the floor of ‘uninformed,’ passed ‘misinformed’ on the way down, and finally is now plummeting to ‘aggressively wrong,'” Nichols declares. His proof for this statement is that “within my living memory I’ve never seen anything like it.”

As Nichols would ordinarily be the first to point out, the vague common-sense intuitions and memories of non-experts are not a good foundation for a sweeping theory of social change. Nichols admits that Americans are not actually any more ignorant than they were 50 years ago. But he quickly pivots to insist that “holding the line [of ignorance] isn’t good enough” and then spends the rest of the book writing as if he didn’t know that Americans are not getting more ignorant.

The myth of the informed democratic voter is itself an example of long-ingrained, stubborn anti-knowledge. In their brilliant new Democracy for Realists (Princeton University Press), the political scientists Christopher H. Achen and Larry M. Bartels explain that laypeople and experts alike have developed a “folk theory” holding that American democracy is built on an engaged electorate that casts its votes for rational policy reasons. Unfortunately, as Achen and Bartels demonstrate, decades of research have shredded this theory, stomped on it, and set the remains on fire.

QotD: The nursery school campus

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

I wanted to ask you about that. If Emma Sulkowicz were a student of yours, in an art class you were teaching, how would you grade her work?

[laughs] I’d give her a D! I call it “mattress feminism.” Perpetually lugging around your bad memories – never evolving or moving on! It’s like a parody of the worst aspects of that kind of grievance-oriented feminism. I called my feminism “Amazon feminism” or “street-smart feminism,” where you remain vigilant, learn how to defend yourself, and take responsibility for the choices you make. If something bad happens, you learn from it. You become stronger and move on. But hauling a mattress around on campus? Columbia, one of the great Ivy League schools with a tremendous history of scholarship, utterly disgraced itself in how it handled that case. It enabled this protracted masochistic exercise where a young woman trapped herself in her own bad memories and publicly labeled herself as a victim, which will now be her identity forever. This isn’t feminism – which should empower women, not cripple them.

It’s yet more evidence of the current absence of psychology. To go around exhibiting and foregrounding your wounds is a classic neurotic symptom. But people are so lacking now in basic Freudian consciousness – because Freud got thrown out of mainstream feminism by Kate Millett and Gloria Steinem and company. So no one sees the pathology in all this. And for Columbia to permit this girl to carry her mattress onstage and disrupt the commencement ceremony was absolutely ludicrous. It demonstrates the total degradation of once eminent and admirable educational institutions to caretaking nursery schools. I prophesied this in a piece I wrote in 1992 for the Times Literary Supplement called “The Nursery-School Campus”. At the time, nobody understood what I was saying. But I was arguing that the obsessive focus by American academe with students’ emotional well-being was not what European universities have ever been concerned with. European universities don’t have this consumer-oriented view that they have to make their students enjoy themselves and feel good about themselves, with everything driven by self-esteem. Now we have people emerging with Ivy League degrees who have no idea how little they know about history or literature. Their minds are shockingly untrained. They’ve been treated as fragile emotional beings throughout their schooling. The situation is worsening year by year, as teachers have to watch what they say and give trigger warnings, because God forbid that American students should have to confront the brutal realities of human life.

Meanwhile, while all of this nursery-school enabling is going on, we have the entire world veering towards ISIS – with barbaric decapitations and gay guys being thrown off roofs and stoned to death. All the harsh realities of human history are erupting, and this young generation is going to be utterly unprepared to deal with it. The nation is eventually going to be endangered by the inability of several generations of young people to make political decisions about a real world that they do not understand. The primitive realities of human life are exploding out there!

Camille Paglia, interviewed by David Daley in “Camille Paglia: How Bill Clinton is like Bill Cosby”, Salon, 2015-07-28.

March 26, 2017

The Mark Steyn Show with Maxime Bernier

Filed under: Cancon, Liberty, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on Mar 23, 2017

In this brand new edition of The Mark Steyn Show, Mark talks to Canadian Conservative Party leadership candidate Maxime Bernier. M Bernier was the country’s Foreign Minister under Stephen Harper until his rising star somewhat spectacularly self-detonated. But, after biding his time, he returned as a hero of the libertarian right – “the Albertan from Quebec”, as he became known. Steyn and Bernier talk about what it means to be a conservative francophone in rural Quebec, the role of a medium-rank power in a turbulent world, and Canadian-US relations.

March 25, 2017

QotD: Why I hate Big Oil

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

For many years now, I – and many sceptics like me – have been accused by climate alarmists of being “in the pay of Big Oil”. But even though we deserve it for promoting fossil fuels so enthusiastically and fighting their critics so heroically, few of us have ever received even a penny for our troubles. That’s because Big Oil is far too busy trying to greenwash its image – as Shell itself did by sponsoring the Guardian’s environment pages for many years – to waste time on the plucky, outspoken heroes who do a better job for Big Oil’s PR than the Big Oil’s paid PR departments do.

Mainly, though it’s disgust. Big Oil has this public image of being an industry for fearless, no-nonsense manly men who aren’t afraid of getting their hands dirty or braving the environmentalists’ wrath in order to do their ugly but important work supplying the world with much-needed energy.

Yet it’s an image almost entirely undeserved.

Almost everyone at a senior level in Big Oil is a craven, simpering, politically correct, spineless, surrender-monkey corporate shill. They’re cowards who are scared of free markets, won’t speak up for capitalism, won’t even defend their core business.

James Delingpole, “Why I Totally Hate Big Oil – And Why You Should Too…”, Breitbart.com, 2017-03-14.

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