Historians and political theorists have long puzzled over how to resolve the glaring contradiction of Progressive ideology — namely, that Progressive “reform” emphasizes greater “democracy,” and championed innovations like the direct election of Senators, the initiative and referendum, etc. Give the people what they want! Up with democracy! At the same time, Progressives also advanced the theory of government administration deliberately remote from politics and popular accountability — the Administrative State staffed by elite “experts.” We can’t have those grubby people telling the government what to do! Down with democracy!
Steven Hayward, “Resolving the Contradiction of ‘Progressivism'”, Power Line, 2016-04-18.
April 27, 2016
April 23, 2016
April 22, 2016
Americans have never really understood ideological warfare. Our gut-level assumption is that everybody in the world really wants the same comfortable material success we have. We use “extremist” as a negative epithet. Even the few fanatics and revolutionary idealists we have, whatever their political flavor, expect everybody else to behave like a bourgeois.
We don’t expect ideas to matter — or, when they do, we expect them to matter only because people have been flipped into a vulnerable mode by repression or poverty. Thus all our divagation about the “root causes” of Islamic terrorism, as if the terrorists’ very clear and very ideological account of their own theory and motivations is somehow not to be believed.
By contrast, ideological and memetic warfare has been a favored tactic for all of America’s three great adversaries of the last hundred years — Nazis, Communists, and Islamists. All three put substantial effort into cultivating American proxies to influence U.S. domestic policy and foreign policy in favorable directions. Yes, the Nazis did this, through organizations like the “German-American Bund” that was outlawed when World War II went hot. Today, the Islamists are having some success at manipulating our politics through fairly transparent front organizations like the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
But it was the Soviet Union, in its day, that was the master of this game. They made dezinformatsiya (disinformation) a central weapon of their war against “the main adversary”, the U.S. They conducted memetic subversion against the U.S. on many levels at a scale that is only now becoming clear as historians burrow through their archives and ex-KGB officers sell their memoirs.
The Soviets had an entire “active measures” department devoted to churning out anti-American dezinformatsiya. A classic example is the rumor that AIDS was the result of research aimed at building a ‘race bomb’ that would selectively kill black people.
On a different level, in the 1930s members of CPUSA (the Communist Party of the USA) got instructions from Moscow to promote non-representational art so that the US’s public spaces would become arid and ugly.
Americans hearing that last one tend to laugh. But the Soviets, following the lead of Marxist theoreticians like Antonio Gramsci, took very seriously the idea that by blighting the U.S.’s intellectual and esthetic life, they could sap Americans’ will to resist Communist ideology and an eventual Communist takeover. The explicit goal was to erode the confidence of America’s ruling class and create an ideological vacuum to be filled by Marxism-Leninism.
Accordingly, the Soviet espionage apparat actually ran two different kinds of network: one of spies, and one of agents of influence. The agents of influence had the minor function of recruiting spies (as, for example, when Kim Philby was brought in by one of his tutors at Cambridge), but their major function was to spread dezinformatsiya, to launch memetic weapons that would damage and weaken the West.
Eric S. Raymond, “Gramscian damage”, Armed and Dangerous, 2006-02-11.
April 20, 2016
At Sultan Knish, Daniel Greenfield calls for the establishment of a true Palestinian state:
A Palestinian state has never existed during any period in human history. Let’s change that.
The United States has spent billions of dollars trying to create a Palestinian state. It’s time that we finally got our money’s worth.
We’ve been putting money in the broken Palestinian slot machine in the metaphorical Palestinian casino (the real one was shot up when terrorists turned it into a base) for decades. It’s time to finally get our Palestinian jackpot.
But to make it happen, we need to be realistic.
Forget the peace process. Forget negotiations. They’ve never worked before. They’re not going to now. And there’s nothing to negotiate anyway.
There are almost a million Jews living on territory claimed by the PLO. Removing them would be the single greatest act of ethnic cleansing against an indigenous population today. It would also be impossible. But the same people who insist that the United States, a country of 318 million, can’t deport 11 million illegal aliens, think that Israel will somehow deport 1/8th of its own population if they just chant loudly enough about “occupation” outside Jewish businesses in London or San Francisco.
Ethnically cleansing 8,000 Jews from Gaza/Gush Katif led to nationwide civil disobedience, riots and, eventually, the fall of a political party and three straight terms for Prime Minister Netanyahu. Now imagine trying to deport 800,000 people from their homes simply because they’re Jewish.
And it wouldn’t just be the Jews alone being rounded up into trucks, buses and maybe boxcars.
52 percent of Arabs in East Jerusalem would rather be Israeli citizens than live under the PLO. Are we support to deport 100,000 Arabs from Jerusalem to make way for this imaginary “Palestinian” state?
How much ethnic cleansing do we have to do to make the Islamic colonial fantasy of Palestine real? It’s not going to happen.
Let’s create a real Palestinian state instead. And I don’t mean the PLO’s President for Life Mahmoud Abbas going down to the UN to give another speech. Abbas is on his 11th year of a 4-year term. The US spent $4.5 billion promoting “Palestinian democracy” and the last PLO election was ten years ago.
April 19, 2016
When the epitaph for America’s political class is written, it may read something like this:
“Real unemployment was above 10%, barbarians were reintroducing slavery and public beheadings in the Middle East, the national infrastructure was crumbling, the Presidential elections were convulsed by large-scale populist revolts in both parties, and what was the elite cause du jour? Unisex restrooms.”
Eric S. Raymond, posting to Google+, 2016-04-10.
April 16, 2016
I’m getting weary of the monarchical comparisons, which are a bit of an insult to real monarchs. The Obama model seems to owe more to Judge Dredd, the popular comic-book figure with the power to arrest, convict, sentence and execute as he does what’s necessary to bring hope and change to a dystopian megalopolis. Likewise, President Dredd: “He is the Law, and you’d better believe it!” A contempt for the people and for constitutional and legal restraints is what ties the President’s actions on Thursday night to Eric Holder’s corrupt justice department to Lois Lerner’s corrupt revenue agency to Jonathan Gruber’s corrupt health commissariat (merely to skim the surface of the most recent additions to the unending Obama-scandals document dump).
To express common-or-garden contempt for the will of the people, Obama could have simply repealed another handful of inconvenient paragraphs from Obamacare or made Lois Lerner Attorney-General, but the form of contempt he chose is especially exquisite: “legalizing” millions of foreign law-breakers and setting them on the path to US citizenship. The chief of state has heard the voice of the people and his message to them is: “Yeah, whatever, I can always get another people. Hey, here comes five million or so right now, plus another ten million in chain-migration relatives down the road…”
He is the Law, and you’d better believe it! And, even if you don’t, what are you gonna do about it? Obama has made a bet that in the end a Republican Congress will have no more get-up-and-go than a chronic invalid dependent on armies of undocumented bedpan-cleaners. It has been suggested that Boehner should tell America’s new ConLawProf-in-Chief to go give his State of the Union somewhere else. It would be a symbolic gesture, but symbols are important. In a contemporary North American context, it is not unknown for parliament to assert itself against the head of state: the chippy separatists of Quebec’s “National Assembly”, as part of their make-believe nation-building, have denied the Queen’s viceroy the customary right to give the Speech from the Throne (the Westminster equivalent to the State of the Union) for four decades now. Down the road in Ottawa, in a particularly petulant outburst, Jean Chrétien, the Canadian Prime Minister, denied the Queen herself the opportunity to give the 2002 Speech from the Throne in the federal parliament for no other reason than that he felt she hadn’t given him a good enough seat at her mother’s funeral earlier that year. In actual monarchies, the subjects flip the finger at the sovereign all the time. Yet in a supposed republic of citizen-legislators for the people’s house to assert its authority to the head of state by telling him to take a hike on the State of the Union would be an act of lèse-majesté too appalling even to consider. It would be entirely unreasonable to expect the legislature of the American republic to defend its lawful powers — and those of the people it represents — with the assertiveness of a provincial parliament in Canada.
Mark Steyn, “Elections Matter?”, SteynOnline.com, 2014-11-22.
April 15, 2016
Some people say the female version of the problem is men’s fault, and call the behavior involve slut-shaming. I take this very seriously and try not to slut-shame or tolerate those who do.
But the male version of the problem is nerd-shaming or creep-shaming or whatever, and I don’t feel like most women, especially most feminist women, take it nearly as seriously as I try to take their problems. If anything, many actively make it worse. This is exactly those cartoons above and the feminists spreading them. Nerds are told that if they want to date girls, that makes them disgusting toxic blubberous monsters who are a walking offense to womankind.
This is maybe not the most reasonable interpretation of modern sexual mores, but neither is “any women who has sex before marriage is a slut and no one will ever value her.” Feminists are eagle-eyed at spotting the way seemingly innocuous messages in culture can accidentally reinforce the latter, but continue to insist that there’s no possible way that shouting the former from the rooftops could possibly lead to anyone believing or internalizing it.
Talking about “entitled nerds” is the Hot New Internet Feminism thing these days. Here’s The Entitlement And Misogyny Of Nerd Culture. Here’s Sex, Nerds, Entitlement, and Rape. Here’s Is Nerd Culture Filled With Entitled Crybabies? There’s On Male Entitlement: Geeks, Creeps, and Sex.
And now, apparently, the New Statesman, realizing that it’s almost 2015 and it has yet to claim a share of the exciting nerd entitlement action, has On Nerd Entitlement by Laurie Penny.
And this is more than a little weird, because the actual nerds I know in real life tend to be more like Scott Aaronson, who is spending less time feeling entitled to sex, and more time asking his doctor if there’s any way to get him castrated because his sexual desire might possibly offend a woman. Or more like me, who got asked out by a very pretty girl in middle school and ran away terrified because he knew nobody could actually like him and it was obviously some kind of nasty trick.
So given that real-life nerds are like this, and given that they’re sitting around being terrified that they’re disgusting toxic monsters whose wish to have sex is an offense against womenkind, what do you think happens when they hear from every news source in the world that they are entitled?
What happens is they think “Oh God! There was that one time when I looked at a woman and almost thought about asking her out! That means I must be feeling entitled to sex! I had temporarily forgotten that as a toxic monster I must never show any sexuality to anybody! Oh God oh God I’m even worse than I thought!”
Again, this is not the most rational thing in the world. But I maintain it’s no less rational than, say, women who won’t leave their abusive husband because he’s convinced them they don’t deserve anything better than what they get. Gender is weird. Self-loathing is easy to inculcate and encourage, even unintentionally. Heck, we’ve already identified this market failure of people preferring to castrate themselves rather than ask ten people on a date, something weird has got to explain it.
When feminists say that the market failure for young women is caused by slut-shaming, I stop slut-shaming, and so do most other decent people.
When men say that the market failure for young men is caused by nerd-shaming, feminists write dozens of very popular articles called things like “On Nerd Entitlement”.
The reason that my better nature thinks that it’s irrelevant whether or not Penny’s experience growing up was better or worse than Aaronson’s: when someone tells you that something you are doing is making their life miserable, you don’t lecture them about how your life is worse, even if it’s true. You STOP DOING IT.
Scott Alexander, “Untitled”, Star Slate Codex, 2015-01-01.
April 14, 2016
ESR explains why the Trans-Pacific Partnership is such a huge monstrosity of regulations, crony capitalist favours to big business, anti-consumer intellectual property rules, and other mercantilist interventions in trade:
Today there’s a great deal of angst going on in the tech community about the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Its detractors charge that a “free-trade” agreement has been hijacked by big-business interests that are using it to impose draconian intellectual-property rules on the entire world, criminalize fair use, obstruct open-source software, and rent-seek at the expense of developing countries.
These charges are, of course, entirely correct. So here’s my question: What the hell else did you expect to happen? Where were you idiots when the environmentalists and the unions were corrupting the process and the entire concept of “free trade”?
The TPP is a horrible agreement. It’s toxic. It’s a dog’s breakfast. But if you stood meekly by while the precedents were being set, or – worse – actually approved of imposing rich-world regulation on poor countries, you are partly to blame.
The thing about creating political machinery to fuck with free markets is this: you never get to be the last person to control it. No matter how worthy you think your cause is, part of the cost of your behavior is what will be done with it by the next pressure group. And the one after that. And after that.
The equilibrium is that political regulatory capability is hijacked by for the use of the pressure group with the strongest incentives to exploit it. Which generally means, in Theodore Roosevelt’s timeless phrase, “malefactors of great wealth”. The abuses in the TPP were on rails, completely foreseeable, from the first time “environmental standards” got written into a trade agreement.
That’s why it will get you nowhere to object to the specifics of the TPP unless you recognize that the entire context in which it evolved is corrupt. If you want trade agreements to stop being about regulatory carve-outs, you have to stop tolerating that corruption and get back to genuinely free trade. No exemptions, no exceptions, no sweeteners for favored constituencies, no sops to putatively noble causes.
April 7, 2016
If they were interested in preserving nature rather than interested in watching brown skinned people die of malaria, they would legalize rather than forbid the use of DDT. Population Explosion alarmist Paul Erlich would have publicly repudiated his exploded theory once he lost his famous bet to Julian Simon, had he been interested in reality, or vulnerable to shamefacedness; and committed seppuku in the proper Japanese ritual fashion once the demographic data made it clear that the Industrialized world is suffering from underpopulation, not overpopulation.
The Greens are not interested in any of these things because their hearts are not true.
We are not dealing with honest people or even with hypocrites who pretend to value honesty. We are dealing with a philosophy of life and a world view that values untruth, and reacts with umbrage, not shame, when they are caught faking data or believing faked data.
Umbrage: because their code regards it as meritorious to lie for the sake of the cause, the party, and political correctness. To cheat is merely to lie with actions rather than words, and to steal is merely to cheat another of money or goods due him: but the root of all evil, despite what the Good Book says, is love of dishonesty.
But we have wandered far afield: let us return to the main current of the conversation. These examples (and they could be multiplied endlessly, I am sure, from your own life and experience, dear reader) suggest that good taste, faith, and trueheartedness are interrelated in some way.
We need not pause to ponder in what why they are interrelated, or whether the chicken of reality-o-phobia comes before or after the rotten egg of aversion to morality and faith. Let us merely for now proceed on the assumption that the elite in the West today accept a moral code, or antimoral code, which in some way encourages and in some way is encouraged by their code of aesthetics.
They have bad taste because they have bad morals.
Instead of believing in God, or following the Way of Heaven called the Tao, or seeking Nirvana, or paying heed to any saints, philosophers, or sages of Occident or Orient, the Glittering Generation just believe in Themselves and seek to do it Their Way, and they seek Self-satisfaction. They heed only the inner voice of pop-psychiatry self esteem, which, by no coincidence, happens to coincide with the voice of fashion, of political correctness, of useful idiocy.
No matter in what other way the great ideals of faith, truth, and beauty are intermingled, we can at least establish the sole point we need for our present purposes: a man putting up a vast idol to himself erects a monument to his own execrable bad taste. (See the Confessions of Rousseau for details.)
John C. Wright, “Supermanity and Dehumanity (Complete)”, John C. Wright’s Journal, 2014-12-13.
April 5, 2016
Scott Adams has been pushing his “master persuader” theory of the rise of Donald Trump for quite some time now. In recent weeks, Trump has made a series of unforced errors that have clearly stalled his momentum toward the Republican nomination. Adams sums up the biggest ones here:
Donald Trump has made some big mistakes lately. On top of that, his opponents improved their game. As a result, he finds himself in an enormous hole of disapproval, especially with women. If you have been reading my Master Persuader series, you might be interested in why Trump’s persuasion suddenly stopped working.
It’s more interesting than you think.
I’ll ignore politics and policies as usual and focus on Trump’s persuasion game. I think we all agree that Trump says plenty of untrue things about reality. Even his supporters agree on that. (They just don’t care.)
So here are Trump’s big persuasion errors so far:
1. The Nazi salute.
2. The David Duke disavowal that wasn’t fast enough.
3. Saying women who break future abortion laws should be punished.
You might want me to include on his list of errors his unflattering tweet of Cruz’ wife compared to his wife. But that ploy was more of a mixed result than a complete fail. As obnoxious as it was, it was strong persuasion technique to showcase his mating prowess. You don’t want to believe that works, but it does.
Trump’s aggressive – and personal – attack also sent a signal to stay away from his family, which could pay dividends later. And more generally, he showed a willingness to strike back harder than he is struck, as has been his pattern. That gives pause to the enemy. And of course he sucked all the energy out of the room for another two weeks, consistent with his strategy. I bet most of his supporters found the tweet funny, which is a bonding emotion.
The downside to the wife tweet is that it was one more drip in what was starting to look like a rainstorm of sexist behavior. So on that level, it was a bad idea. Viewed in isolation, the wife tweet was more persuasion than mistake. But viewed in the context of Trump’s problem with women voters, it was a net mistake. But not a big one.
Let’s talk about the big ones.
April 4, 2016
… a survey by Nina Mazar and Chen-Bo Zhong, published in the latest edition of the Journal of Psychological Sciences, “Do Green Products Make Us Better People?” found that consumers of “Green” and “Planet Saving Products” are more inclined to cheat, lie and steal.
Risibly, perhaps because Mazar and Zhong are from the planet Mars, and not aware of the last fifty years of human history, the researchers speculate that people who wear what they call the “halo of green consumerism” are less likely to be kind to others, and more likely to cheat and steal. “Virtuous acts can license subsequent asocial and unethical behaviours.”
Pardon me, but I must pause to wipe the tears of laughter from my eyes.
Those of us from the planet Earth, who remember being lectured-at and talked down to for the last fifty years by these sneering self-anointed Green busy-bodies and Enviro-Marxists know very well why Greens tend to lie and cheat: it is because they are unbathed and draggle-haired hippies.
Anyone who did not note the moral degradation involved in the Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘n’ Roll Revolt overlooked the express and often repeated point and purpose of that revolt: it was to degrade moral standards, first in the sexual realm, then in common courtesy, chivalry, common decency, then in independence of character, then in toleration of dissent. Somewhere along the way personal hygiene fell by the wayside, along with respect for one’s elders and respect for one’s word.
The purpose of the Green Movement, which sprang from the unbathed Youth Movement, is not now and has never been to save the planet and preserve the beauty of nature. That is what Boy Scouts and Rod and Gun clubs and other arch-enemies of the Greens mean to do. The Greens want to trash industry and to feel good about themselves.
It is self esteem therapy, not anything related to reality.
John C. Wright, “Supermanity and Dehumanity (Complete)”, John C. Wright’s Journal, 2014-12-13.
April 3, 2016
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
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.