Drinking Dark Whisky, Telling White Lies

The Fascism Hysteria among the Technocrats

Brendan O'Neill has a thoughtful piece up about the ubiquitous abuse and misuse of the words "fascism" and "fascist." I think he hits several nails on the head here:

The wise thing to do would be to accept that the term fascist is beyond repair. It’s a dead word. It now means bastard. It’s an emotional insult, expressing a sense of powerlessness on the part of the person making it, whose belief that he faces a fascist threat grows in direct proportion to his own inability to make sense of political developments. The insult of ‘fascist’ speaks far more to the insulter’s own sensation of impotence than it does to the insulted’s actual power, or ideology, or ambition. And yet, let’s have one more try. Let’s make a likely forlorn stab at saying what fascism is. Not to be pedantic, but to differentiate between historic periods; to clarify what happened back then as a way of illustrating that it simply isn’t happening today. For fascism does not exist now.

I admire his devotion to meaningful language, something sorely lacking in this age diseased with post-modernist sound and fury, and I am similarly fatalistic about the endeavor. Back to O'Neill:

... Orwell was worried that the word would lose its ‘last vestige of meaning’ if people insisted on applying it to everyone they disagreed with — and that has happened. The word is now used with an ahistoricism and thoughtlessness that are genuinely alarming. And among the upper echelons of society, not merely by scruffy protesters or online blowhards. The Archbishop of Canterbury says Trump is part of the ‘fascist tradition’. Prince Charles has warned darkly of a return of the atmosphere of the 1930s, and we all know what that means. ‘Yes, Donald Trump is a fascist’, says New Republic, a magazine that once considered itself a voice of reason among the paranoid style of American political life. But everyone’s paranoid now. Everyone now sees fascists.


It is no accident that the technocratic elites have reached for the fascism spectre to describe recent events, or at least to express their terror at these events. Because it was fundamentally the experience of fascism that convinced much of the political class in Europe that it should insulate the political process from the excesses of popular and public opinion. These elites drew precisely the wrong lesson from the experience of the 1930s and 40s: not that concentrating power and militarising the state and dismantling law and liberty were wicked and dangerous things to do, but rather that ordinary people’s passions, their apparently authoritarian impulses, were ill-suited to political life and would only nurture more Nazi-style horrors. 


And of course, what they describe as ‘fascism’ — Brexit, people worried about immigration, Trump — is nothing of the sort. These things don’t even come close to fascism. As Weismann argued, even ‘dictatorship, mass neurosis, anti-Semitism, the power of unscrupulous propaganda, the hypnotic effect of a mad-genius orator on the masses, and so on’ do not necessarily constitute fascism. Fascism, he said, was something different to all that, something more than all that. Fascism, in essence, is a mass, paramilitary movement that acts as a stand-in for normal politics and normal statehood when that politics and statehood cannot deal with a threat it faces ...
Something interesting here is that O'Neill uses Communist sources to define fascism, and I think in the end he misses the correct definition because of that. However, he seems to understand the historical realities better than most, and I think he is absolutely right about the elites learning the wrong lessons from history. Fascism to them is the people taking control of government. We the people call that something different.

Vision of the US Future?

Self-described anarchists have escalated to killing their political opponents in Greece. There, as here, they describe their opponents as "Nazis." I assume they also really conceive of their opponents in that way, and thus that there -- as here -- they think of themselves as not only justified but virtuous in their actions.

Dammit, We Might Win!

Andrew Exsum is warning his people that Donald Trump is going to defeat the Islamic State. Prepare your hearts.


Holdovers from the Obama administration in the Pentagon are hampering efforts to fix the military’s major readiness problem, leaving Secretary of Defense James Mattis alone in his efforts to properly equip U.S. forces, according to the chairman of the House Committee on Armed Services.
Sounds like Spring Cleaning will need to be especially intense this year.
Their reports revealed, among other substantial problems, only three of 58 Army brigade combat teams are ready for combat, while fewer than half of the Air Force’s aging aircraft fleet is ready to fight.
The Navy/USMC air fleet is similarly handicapped, drawing this bit of commentary from the DB.
Troubling reports just recently released by the Pentagon reveal that as of New Year’s Eve, only 41 percent of Marine Corps aviators were able to get their aircraft up.... Maintenance crews have been working around the clock, polishing the rod, adjusting the heat-seeking missile, cranking the shaft, conducting manual override, clearing the snorkel, debugging the hard drive, priming the pump and frankly just giving it a tug, but none of these techniques have enabled the aviators to achieve altitude.

"I used to be able to fly all night and go deep into enemy territory over and over without a break, but money troubles have really got me down," said Capt. Richard "Snake Charmer" Smythe.
The hangover continues, but hopefully America will be able to purge the last toxins from its system and return to majestic virility -- I mean, "readiness."

UPDATE: It begins.

Turnabout and Foreign Elections

The NY Observer reminds us of this leaked audio of Hillary Clinton claiming that we should have rigged a foreign election. (H/t: Outlaw Morgan)

I take her comments to be proof that we didn't rig that election, though also proof that she thought rigging foreign elections was a fine thing to do. Clinton's friends described her efforts in Putin's last election as "calling out his rigged election," but Putin saw them as efforts to rig it. The Wikileaks demonstration of how the DNC was rigging the Democratic Primary was nothing except an inversion of Clinton's own tactics against Putin: set up an allegedly independent NGO, and have it convey true information about your party's attempts to corrupt and control the outcome of what was allegedly a democratic process.

Wikileaks reminds us, in the wake of information that Russian intelligence targeted the Trump campaign, that the CIA performed the same maneuver with the French presidential campaign. "... the current ruling party, is not assured of winning the presidential election and, as a result, analysts are interested in the electoral strategy of the non-ruling parties listed below. Additional information on these topics will help analysts assess, and prepare key US policymakers for, the post-election French political landscape and the potential impact on US-France relations."

That's a perfectly fair assessment and a completely reasonable thing for the CIA to do. You can imagine the FSB, though, writing exactly the same memo to justify a move to get more visibility on what the Trump campaign was thinking. "The current ruling party is not assured of winning the presidential election... additional information on these topics will help analysts assess, and prepare key Russian policymakers for, the post-election American landscape etc."

The CIA also has a history of rigging the occasional foreign election. "The Christian Democrats eventually won the 1948 election with 48% of the vote, and the FDP received 31%. The CIA's practice of influencing the political situation was repeated in every Italian election for at least the next 24 years.[13]"

There's a long article on the history of the practice here. It's in the Washington Post, one of the same papers that has been worrying out loud that all this Russian influence means we don't have a real democracy.

I'm sure we all stand resolutely against foreign meddling in our elections. Noticing that turnabout is fair play doesn't mean that we shouldn't want our elections to represent only the will of the American people.

It does suggest that a more thoughtful dialogue should be engaged by our press here. Is the clandestine activity conducted by the CIA to improve its analysis and predictive capacity reasonable (as I argue)? If so, why shouldn't the Russians do the same thing? Is tampering in elections wrong? If so, why shouldn't other countries resent that we have done it to them -- and respond in kind?

Let's Agree That You Just Surrender

E. J. Dionne has a nice proposal. First, agree that Trump is unfit to be President. Second, have his attorney general "immediately recuse himself from all decisions about all aspects of the Russia investigation by the FBI and the intelligence services."

I was way more interested in "Donald Trump is unfit for the office" arguments before the election. This isn't a proposal for an investigation, it's a proposal for Republicans to take the brakes off the deep state. But if Jeff Sessions is unfit to exercise his office, surely so is everyone else in the administration. What's left? Impeachment based on Trump's performance at press conferences or in writing executive orders that he's apparently fine with having courts review? For Trump and his team to resign and... what? Paul Ryan to be President? Or does he need to resign too? Or should we just dispense with having a President, and leave "the FBI and the intelligence services" to determine what is right, with of course the informative blessings of the 9th Circuit Court?

Does anyone else have a more serious proposal?

America's Third Century

Wretchard makes one of those historical analogies that Eric Blair hates, this time to the Third Century Crisis in Rome. Analogies always break, of course, as the only way an analogy would not break is if the two things being compared turn out to be the same thing and not different things. Otherwise, there are always differences that create a breaking point for the comparison.

Setting aside the usefulness of the comparison for discussion in the comments, Wretchard is not wrong that this is a moment in which Constitutional norms seem to have weakened. The "deep state" to which Bill Kristol pledges a kind of conditional loyalty has no Constitutional warrant for its existence.

While this 'deep state' fights with the Constitutional state, at a moment of the Constitutional state's supreme weakness, there is a third power -- for Wretchard, an analog to the barbarians.
If Trump is overthrown by the Deep State in a year, he's unlikely to be the last. If neither faction will suffer itself to be governed by the other, whoever succeeds Trump can expect his term to be short. America could have its own period of the 26 presidents. That will be good news for the Barbarians, waiting at the edge of Baltics, in the South China Sea and on Europe's borders, ready to move in.

Rome's Third Century crisis did not end well. The new normal was not a return to the Golden Age, but the end of it. It resulted in a landscape with a broken internal trade network and a patchwork of locality.
I think I'm going to have to go against Kristol on this one, and try to reinforce the Constitutional state. That's not the same thing as declaring loyalty to the Trump administration, but rather, to the explicitly Constitutional forms. The American solution is not unelected bureaucrats with powers the Founders never imagined but Congress, the courts in their proper role, and the officials that We the People can actually choose either directly or indirectly. If those options are inadequate, then the right thing to do is to call that Article V convention, and start planning a new Constitutional state (or states).

Heading off a Revolt at State

Josh Rogin makes recommendations.

Headline vs. Article

NYT Headline: "Trump Campaign Had Repeated Contacts with Russian Intelligence"

The intelligence agencies... sought to learn whether the Trump campaign was colluding with the Russians on the hacking or other efforts to influence the election.

The officials interviewed in recent weeks said that, so far, they had seen no evidence of such cooperation.
Guardian Headline: "Deutsche Bank examined Donald Trump's account for Russia links"

The internal review found no evidence of any Russia link[.]
Seems like there's kind of a theme here.

The headline to the first piece might have been, "Trump campaign targeted by Russian intelligence." That would undermine the idea that only the Democrats were targeted by a Russian intelligence that was friendly to the Trump campaign, though. As Manafort, who lost his job over accusations of ties to Russia, is quoted as saying when told he'd talked to suspected spies: “It’s not like these people wear badges that say, ‘I’m a Russian intelligence officer.’”

The Matrix Starring Forrest Gump

From the funny folks at How It Should Have Ended.

Flynn in Clear with FBI

"More: FBI says Flynn was cooperative and provided truthful answers."

That's it, then. The only possible criminal charges, given that the Logan Act is a non-starter, were if he lied to the FBI. If the FBI says that didn't happen, there's nothing more to the Flynn part of the story.

The felonious leaks, on the other hand -- that I expect we'll hear a bit more about. My guess is that Attorney General Sessions will find reason to take an interest in that matter.

Helping A Brother Out

According to the Times of Israel, the CIA's just doing their best for President Trump.
... veteran diplomatic correspondent Oren Nahari cited an Israeli official, who said a senior member of the US intelligence community told him the agency suspects that Russia has information on Trump that can be used to pressure the US leader. As a countermeasure, US intelligence operatives are quickly leaking everything they learn about ties between Russia and the Trump administration so that the information can’t be used as leverage against the president.
That's not how the intelligence process works. "Everything we learn" is not intelligence, it's raw information. It becomes intelligence only through a process of analysis, as these Agency spooks know perfectly well.

Thus, this is not an acceptable excuse for these leaks, many of which are actual felonies. Even on the most generous possible interpretation of their motives, what they're putting in front of the public is nothing but a raw feed that the public doesn't know how to interpret. It would be reckless of any intelligence officer to transmit such things without clearly labeling them as such, even if the recipient was a professional who knew how to read and handle intelligence. Journalists typically do not, in my experience often including journalists who allegedly specialize in foreign affairs or national security, and the public certainly has no reason to be expected to know how.

No, that excuse won't wash.

National Security Professionals in at NSC?

If Admiral Harward comes in as the new NSA, we'll have General Mattis as SECDEF, his former CENTCOM #2 as NSA, and his former assistant division commander as Secretary of Homeland Security. This is a hardened team that knows how to work together from more than a decade's wartime experience.

There is a question about what will remain of the President's foreign policy agenda. Whatever else may be said about Trump, good and bad, he was not elected to continue inherited policies. On the other hand, it may be that the American people do not mostly care about foreign policy, and just want steady hands to keep that locked down so they can worry about the issues they do care about -- chiefly, among Trump supporters, immigration and domestic economic growth. (Immigration is often said to be a subset of 'domestic economic growth,' even, as one of the concerns about it is the degree to which it is suppressing domestic workers' wage growth. However, I suspect that the rapid and uncontrolled immigration of the last three decades has created immigration as a substantial issue in its own right -- relieving pressure and buying time for assimilation strike me as things people care about independently of economic consequences.)

The Secretary of State is still on board with a new foreign policy, and officially he is the chief of the President's officers in this regard. Still, the military and security aspects of the state have long since outgrown its weak diplomatic arm. As professionals, all these career Marines and Sailors will have the utmost respect for civilian control of the process. Still, there is going to be a weight on their side of the scale that even mindful respect of State's role won't be able to eliminate.

Of course, if you think Donald Trump's foreign policy ideas are no good, the idea of having seasoned military members in charge instead of the President and his Secretary of State must be attractive. They represent an apolitical, non-ideological, professional American government.

Nevertheless, I notice: "an apolitical, non-ideological, professional" government is exactly the opposite of what voters in both primaries demanded in 2016.

VA Head Confirmed

I was under the impression that a unanimous confirmation was not permitted under current rules governing the Trump administration. Apparently, that's not correct.

They Killed John Wick's Dog's Human

If you've seen the movie John Wick, this should be funny.

Second Look at Moderate Islam?

In a sharp contradiction to what is common among Muslims, Khaled Al Gendy, a famous Islamic cleric and a member of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, stated that drinking liquor without getting drunk is not sinful.

“If the same alcoholic drink was consumed by one person without getting drunk, it is not haram, while being consumed by another person to drunkenness makes it haram [for this person],” the sheikh said, highlighting the difference between drinking liquor and getting drunk.

During a talk show on DMC TV channel, Al Gedy said that getting drunk is haram, sinful and forbidden in Islam, and all Islamic sharia laws related to the punishment apply to getting drunk as a consequence of drinking alcoholic beverages.

A drunken person is defined as one who cannot tell the bottom of a valley from its top, Al Gendy added.
That sounds like a wholly reasonable standard.

More brier-patch action

No, no, not the home-schooling!

Secretive Military Unit Offers Conditional Aid

In recent months, ill-informed Leftists who have spent the last 8 years repeatedly telling the public that they do not “need” guns and have no reason to fear the Federal Government (except of course for the police) have discovered that they are totally unprepared to carry out the violent overthrow of the Trump Administration and the revolution that they feel our country so desperately needs.

Those pleas for a military-led coup had gone unanswered (and largely laughed at) by members of the Armed Forces until yesterday, when a little known Army Special Mission Unit responded to left-wing demands for a military removal of the Commander-in-Chief.

This is either never-before-seen footage of the Spec-4 Mafia and their list of demands, or Adobe Stock Art. We’re not sure which.
Known only as the “E4 Mafia..."
The list of demands confirms that this offer is certainly legitimate.

Could Frisco ISD Soon Use Students as Janitors?

This is part of the headline on an article about suggestions for the school district to cut costs.

This is normal in Japanese schools. Students finish their morning classes, eat lunch, clean the whole school, and then go to recess. Each class is assigned a particular area of the school to clean on a rotating schedule and the areas are inspected by their teachers before they are released for recess.

I think it might be good to make it normal here, as well, not just to cut costs, but also because it develops a sense of responsibility, work ethic, etc.

Georgia Legislature Pondering Gun Rights

There are bills both expanding and contracting gun rights in Georgia before the Legislature right now.

NRA-ILA points to two bills that are restrictions. The more restrictive, HB 10, is an "assault weapons" ban that has very little chance of passage -- but if you're a citizen of Georgia, help kill it anyway.

HB 232 calls for concealed weapons permit holders to file some proof that they have received training in how to use a firearm. "House Bill 232 would require most gun license applicants to first complete a training course that would introduce the features of the handgun and a brief explanation of the loading, firing and unloading of a firearm. However, it would not require the applicant to actually fire a firearm. HB 232 does not provide specifically where the training would come from, nor does it provide a guide on potential costs associated with this training. All that HB 232 provides is that the instructor must be a law enforcement officer, nationally recognized organization that promotes gun safety or a licensed firearms dealer."

The NRA is opposed to this, on the grounds that it would add to the cost of exercising a Constitutional right. I'm not actually convinced it's a bad idea, though. The concept of the militia is that it should be a trained fighting force, and I think that in the ideal case we would provide for such training for all able-bodied citizens. In the less-ideal case, it's not outrageous to suggest that you should have had basic training in the operation of a firearm before you carry one around; furthermore, the NRA stands to profit off this deal as the similar law in Virginia accepts NRA-licensed trainers as one of the options.

Finally, it brings the concealed weapons permit in line with Georgia's hunting licenses, which also require a hunter's safety course before issuance of the license. In Georgia, hunting is a right enshrined in the state constitution on the same terms as the right to keep and bear arms. "The right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed, but the General Assembly shall have power to prescribe the manner in which arms may be borne," says the state constitution. I don't know that it merits an infringement to state that you must have proper training, as such training would not infringe upon your right but rather enhance your capacity to exercise it effectively.

Thus, on the merits I would almost be inclined to support this law. The only concern is that the government can't be trusted to get its nose under the tent wall, so to speak. I will leave the matter to your consciences, those of you who are fellow citizens of the Great State of Georgia.

On the pro-gun side, Campus Carry is back again. You'll remember that it was passed and vetoed last year by our esteemed Governor, who did at least file a reasonably worthy and articulate explanation for his veto. This is HB 280. In my opinion it is sensible; in the opinions of the whole universe of college professor types that I know, it's a horrible invasion of barbarity on their sacred ground. So, again, follow your conscience.

While We're On The Subject of Standards


A Record?

Mike Flynn just resigned as National Security Adviser, in what may be a record for shortest term ever in an NSA.

Standards have to apply to the powerful at least as much as to the weak, if things are to be any good at all. Hopefully that lesson is being learned.

UPDATE: Judging from the letter of resignation, Mike Pence is the one who put him down. Don't lie to the Biker in Chief.

Meryl Streep on Honor

"Yes, I am the most overrated, over-decorated and currently, I am the most over-berated actress ... of my generation," she said to laughs.

She noted that she wished she could simply stay home "and load the dishwasher" rather than take a podium to speak out - but that "the weight of all these honors" she's received in her career compelled her to speak out.

"It's terrifying to put the target on your forehead," she said. "And it sets you up for all sorts of attacks and armies of brownshirts and bots and worse, and the only way you can do it is if you feel you have to. You have to! You don't have an option. You have to."
Leaving aside the particular political questions -- including whether or not her opponents are properly described as "brownshirts" -- her remarks about honor are themselves interesting. What compels her to speak is honors, she says: in other words, just because so many people have said nice things about her or presented her with awards admiring her work as an actress, her voice in politics is important and needed in the public debate.

At first it seems as if this might be a sensible thing to say. After all, one is honored for excellence; she has received many honors; therefore, she must in some sense be excellent. Politics should in theory benefit if it draws excellence. Certainly Aristotle and Plato both argue that political roles are best filled by those with excellence. Our English word "virtue" is from the Latin, but the Greek word is arete, which really does mean "excellence."

Thus, it seems as if a woman of proven excellence really ought to play an outsized role in politics -- just as she says, the honors she has received prove that she has a greater capacity than most, and that implies a duty to exercise that capacity for the common good. Politics needs people like her.

Well... maybe that's not quite right.

The problem is that there are two different things going on, and Streep is conflating them. As an actress, she is highly honored (and has therefore outsized duties, presumably). As a citizen, however, she is properly the equal of any other citizen. It is wrong to claim that she has an outsized role to play in a sphere in which she is properly only the equal of all other American citizens, not their superior.

Her celebrity gives her a louder voice, so to speak, but she is reading her warrant the wrong way. Rather than her honors as an actress making it imperative that she speak publicly, they ought to disincline her to do so -- and this is true for all such celebrities, regardless of their political views. Knowing that the attention they will receive will drown out others to whom they ought only to be equal, they should be circumspect about their political views.

Certainly that does not mean that celebrities should not participate in politics, which they have an equal entitlement to do. They should just take care not to use the honors they have received in the fields of arts, or sports, to 'talk over' their fellow citizens. That is what honor really requires here.

Jim Webb on NBC

American politics needed a jolt, Webb says. Was it this one? What about the Democrats in 2018?

The journalist pins him early on the fact that he refers to Democrats as "they," not "we." Webb thinks about that for a minute and says that, you know, he's not really part of the system at the moment -- he's thinking about this all from the outside, as the journalist is himself, and as are all of us here. It's still an interesting observation.

UPDATE: Another piece on Webb today wonders what might have been.