Grave Concerns

The audit in Arizona continues, although Democrats' legal efforts have forced them to stop checking signatures, and some of the external hard drives with data from the audit have disappeared. The "Justice" Department is threatening the audit, too. 

They've probably done enough damage that the audit could not now restore confidence among voters who believe that fraud was rampant; if the audit 'finds no fraud' after they were forced to stop checking ballot signatures and whole hard drives of data were stolen, the conclusion will justly be that the fraud was simply concealed. That's what you would ordinarily assume about similar facts, that the party interested in derailing the audit by any means necessary had something to hide.

Keep your eyes on it anyway. If they manage to find something interesting in spire of these efforts to derail them, we will want similar audits in Fulton County, Georgia, and elsewhere. 

UPDATE: The county is withholding some subpoenaed servers from the election, claiming that turning them over to be audited would somehow 'put law enforcement lives at risk.'  It is hard for me to see how that claim could possibly be plausible. 

Home Anew

It is a strange fact that leaving home for a while makes you see it anew when you return. Of course, in my case I went at the change of seasons, so the trees that were barely beginning to green when I left are suddenly nearly leafed out the next time I saw them. Still, what a pretty part of the world Western North Carolina is.

I should do more traveling, I suppose. Just at the moment, though, I don't really wish to be anywhere else.

What I do need to do is to pick the next work to read through. 

Is it still legal to call it Wuhan virus?

It's a pleasure to read a technical article trying to sort through the origin of the SARS virus that causes COVID without running into constant special pleading or politically driven "just so" stories. Nicholas Wade used to write for the New York Times, but evidently in an era when that was compatible with retaining rigor and honesty of thought and expression. He won't definitively conclude that the COVID virus emerged from a Wuhan lab, but he believes that conclusion is so far the best bet by a considerable margin. He also points out the trashiness of much of the public discourse on this controversy starting over a year ago. Mr. Wade's Wiki writeup sniffs that he believes genes have important effects on human characteristics. No wonder he quit writing for the NYT in 2012.

Models

PowerLine:
The point is so elementary that it should not be necessary to state: a model is not evidence. It is a theory expressed in arithmetic terms. A theory is either validated or disproved by observation. A model that is contradicted by experience is simply wrong, and is useless. History is littered with theories that sounded plausible at the time, but were invalidated by experience.
He's right, it shouldn't be necessary to state, but evidently it's necessary to go outside and shout it every day.

Non-Euclidean Dwarves

Thanks to a feud with a necromancer, a city of dwarves has a mapping challenge: a math exercise in prose. 

Music and Universal Beauty

An essay, with video of quite a performance, from Arts & Letters Daily.
DakhaBrakha is the perfect band to make the view ring true that people around the world speak the same musical language. It steeps its songs in traditional Ukrainian folk music but spices them with ingredients from around the world, such as raga drones from India, metrical drumming from Japan, and languid blues from America. DakhaBrakha call its music “ethno-chaos” but what makes it captivating is not the chaos but the way the global sounds amplify the Ukrainian ones. The quartet has released six albums and played concerts across the globe since 2007. Everywhere DakhaBrakha has played, fans have rhapsodized about the joy and pathos in their music. 
You may like the essay; you will probably like the music. The latter says something about the quality of the former. 

It reminds me of this, which is Mongolian but also heavily influenced by American biker culture.

Mobile

Pretty little town. 





I’m going to try a short 544 mile ride tomorrow to get ahead of some weather. Wish me luck. 

Sweet Alabama


I haven’t been to Alabama since I was a boy, but I’ll be there in another thirty miles. Riding down to Mobile for a strongman competition, and to see the ocean water and a good friend and fellow strongman. 

May post from the highway; plan to be back by Wednesday. 

UPDATE: The sign at the border actually says, “Welcome to SWEET HOME ALABAMA!” It does smell sweet to the motorcycle rider, and like the South, for the plate magnolias are in bloom.

Is Rioting a Valid Form of Protest?

Different perspectives. 

Weber IX: Last Remarks

Much of the second half of the document is of historical interest, especially for those wanting to see how the conditions in Weimar Germany might have been fertile for the rise of Hitler. I'll leave that as an exercise for those interested.

The end section has a view of how 'politics as vocation' must be managed if any good is to come out of it. Good can, Weber says, as long as we understand some basic metaphysical truths that are the foundation of politics:
The decisive means for politics is violence....  The ethic of ultimate ends apparently must go to pieces on the problem of the justification of means by ends. As a matter of fact, logically it has only the possibility of rejecting all action that employs morally dangerous means­­ - in theory! ...

My colleague, Mr. F. W. Forster, whom personally I highly esteem for his undoubted sincerity, but whom I reject unreservedly as a politician, believes it is possible to get around this difficulty by the simple thesis: 'from good comes only good; but from evil only evil follows.' In that case this whole complex of questions would not exist. But it is rather astonishing that such a thesis could come to light two thousand five hundred years after the Upanishads. Not only the whole course of world history, but every frank examination of everyday experience points to the very opposite. The development of religions all over the world is determined by the fact that the opposite is true....

This problem­ - ­the experience of the irrationality of the world­­ - has been the driving force of all religious evolution.  The Indian doctrine of karma, Persian dualism, the doctrine of original sin, predestination and the deus absconditus, all these have grown out of this experience. Also the early Christians knew full well the world is governed by demons and that he who lets himself in for politics, that is, for power and force as means, contracts with diabolical powers and for his action it is not true that good can follow only from good and evil only from evil,  but that often the opposite is true. Anyone who fails to see this is, indeed, a political infant.  
The last several pages include a review of various metaphysical and religious approaches to this problem, and very much worth your time to read. If you like, you might begin by finding your own and starting there, then contrasting if you like some of the other approaches.

Whichever approach you adopt or prefer, Weber says, if you want to engage in politics you need to be ready to wrestle with demons. 
Whoever wants to engage in politics at all, and especially in politics as a vocation, has to realize these ethical paradoxes. He must know that he is responsible for what may become of himself under the impact of these paradoxes. I repeat, he lets himself in for the diabolic forces lurking in all violence.... He who seeks the salvation of the soul, of his own and of others, should not seek it along the avenue of politics, for the quite different tasks of politics can only be solved by violence. The genius or demon of politics lives in an inner tension with the god of love, as well as with the Christian God as expressed by  the church.  This tension can at any time lead to an irreconcilable conflict.
Thus, Weber offers a warning to those who seek salvation in the political world via modes like socialism.
If one says 'the future of socialism' or 'international peace,' instead of native city or 'fatherland' (which at present may be a dubious value to some), then you face the problem as it stands now. Everything that is striven for through political action operating with violent means and following an ethic of responsibility endangers the 'salvation of the soul.' If, however, one chases after the ultimate good in a war of beliefs, following a pure ethic of absolute ends, then the goals may be damaged and discredited for generations, because responsibility for consequences is lacking,  and two diabolic forces which enter the play remain unknown to the actor. These are inexorable and produce consequences for his action and even for his inner self, to which he must helplessly submit, unless he perceives them.  The sentence: 'The devil is old; grow old to understand him!' does not refer to age in terms of chronological years.... Age is not decisive; what is decisive is the trained relentlessness in viewing the realities of life, and the ability to face such realities and to measure up to them inwardly. 
This is not, however, a call for abandoning politics in pursuit of religious life. Nor is it a call for anarchism: Weber believes (like the Declaration of Independence) that political states can secure rights, and that that where politics fails, 'not only the Kaiser but also the proletarian has lost his rights.' 

No, it is a call for politics in a heroic mode that is willing to wrestle with demons, and steadfast enough to do so. Weber closes:
Certainly all historical experience confirms the truth­­that man would not have attained the possible unless time and again he had reached out for the impossible. But to do that a man must be a leader, and not only a leader but a hero as well, in a very sober sense of the word. And even those who are neither leaders nor heroes must arm themselves with that steadfastness of heart which can brave even the crumbling of all hopes. This is necessary right now, or else men will not be able to attain even that which is possible today. Only he has the calling for politics who is sure that he shall not crumble when the world from his point of view is too stupid or too base for what he wants to offer. Only he who in the face of all this can say 'In spite of all!' has the calling for politics.

Weber VIII: The Party Divide

Weber goes on to argue that party politics tends to order itself around one bourgeois party and a second party built around more novel ideas. His historical examples, mostly 19th century, also describe American politics reasonably well. 
First England: there until 1868 the party organization was almost purely an organization of notables. The Tories in the country found support, for instance, from the Anglican parson, and from the schoolmaster, and above all from the large landlords of the respective county. The Whigs found support mostly from such people as the nonconformist preacher (when there was one), the postmaster, the blacksmith, the tailor, the ropemaker­­that is, from such artisans who could disseminate political influence because they could chat with people most frequently. In the city the parties differed, partly according to economics, partly according to religion, and partly simply according to the party opinions handed down in the families. But always the notables were the pillars of the political organization. 
In America the Republicans were the party of the victors of the Civil War, and thus of Northern banks and big business -- recall that Wells Fargo sent Wyatt Earp as a secret agent to Tombstone, to ride herd on what the local Democratic elected officials were doing with the silver shipments in which WF was interested. Their opponents were deputized into the Sheriff's forces when the conflict became open. The Earps obtained Federal badges so easily because they were always aligned with the party of the President of the United States and his banker allies. Or, as Lonesome Dove put it:
Woodrow Call: [riding in San Antonio] Things sure have changed since the last time I was here. It's all growed up.

Gus McCrae: Of course it's growed up, Woodrow. We killed all the Indians and bandits so the bankers could move in.

Woodrow Call: Only a fool would want the Indians back.

Gus McCrae: Has it ever occurred to you, Woodrow, that all the work we done was for the bankers?
There is a way in which the parties in America switched sides on some issues, especially as regards civil rights for ethnic and sexual minorities. But there is also a way in which they remained constant, with the Republicans remaining in the role of defenders of what Weber like Marx calls the bourgeois. In such parties, Weber notes, the old rich predominate and the people striving to become rich join. The established families try to hold down the nouveau riche, the arriviste, the Donald Trump to put it in our own context. Weber says that the established pattern here is for the new man to have to prove himself, but once he does he has unwavering support from the voters attached to this party.
The ascent of leaders is far more difficult where the notables, along with the officials,  control the party, as is usually the case in the bourgeois parties. For ideally the notables make 'their way of life' out of the petty chairmanships or committee memberships they hold. Resentment against the demagogue as a homo novus, the conviction of the superiority of political party 'experience' (which, as a matter of fact, actually is of considerable importance), and the ideological concern for the crumbling of the old party traditions­ - ­these factors determine the conduct of the notables. They can count on all the traditionalist elements within the party. Above all, the rural but also the petty bourgeois voter looks for the name of the notable familiar to him. He distrusts the man who is unknown to him. However, once this man has become successful, he clings to him the more unwaveringly.  
That nicely mirrors the current situation of the Republicans, with Trump having no more hostile enemy than the Lynn Cheneys, Mitt Romneys, and Bill Kristols of the world. They regard him with utter disdain, and as Weber says, there's a point to be made there: political party experience is in fact of considerable importance, and also as traditionalists they worry about the loss of norms that have been of long service. The loss of norms is really dangerous -- witness the sudden enthusiasm on the other side for packing the Supreme Court, adding new states, 'reforming' election laws to eliminate protections against voter fraud, and the like. 

On the other hand, new ideas come forward in part because the old ideas stopped working. Decades of losing -- on economic issues, on culture, on immigration, on globalization -- brought the rural and bourgeois voters around to the idea that they needed someone to do something different. The norms cemented losing to China and to the global left, and the loss of their own increasingly perilous economic position as well. Likewise they were more likely to have multiple children, and the odds of passing on economic security to their families weighed heavily on their minds. 

Weber, himself a member of the bourgeois, is mostly interested in that side of the ledger. (If you're reading along, note that the "Social Democratic" party in Germany is also, surprisingly for an American given the name, a bourgeois party.) He was also speaking at a moment in which the hard left had only recently won its position in Russia, and was being disarmed internationally in part by having its ideas adopted by the bourgeois in more palatable forms. This was, in America, what is called the Progressive Era, characterized by income taxes (rather than wealth taxes or socialization of property), Prohibition (to undermine the desire of European immigrants from Germany and Italy and Ireland to come to America), Popular Election of Senators (which empowered the party machines at the cost of the states, disempowering the states being a Republican goal since the Civil War), and Votes for Women (as these legal immigrants were almost all male, this diluted their voting power substantially even after they attained citizenship). 

The populists were on the Democratic side then, Free Silver and all that; and they were on a losing streak, broken up only by Teddy Roosevelt's decision to run as an independent, and then the Great Depression. They were regionally powerful in the South, though, and controlled therefore significant power in the Senate. 

You can see the echoes of the Republican idea of conscripting lesser versions of Socialist ideas into their party platform in the rump Republicans currently trying to avoid being replaced. The Democrats are more obviously following that strategy now, though (e.g. Biden's "plan" to forgive $50,000 in student loans, maybe, rather than all student loans coupled with making college both free and a right as it is in Germany; Obamacare rather than socialized medicine; and constant demagoguery on race as a substitute for action). 

So there are substantial differences in our current situation compared to the one Weber was describing just after World War I. There remains much to learn from his discussion, I think. 

What I'd rather do than anything else

The pattern center in my brain is ascendant again, firing up like a fireworks display.  Since all I want to do is crochet lace, maybe I ought to have been some Queen's lady in waiting.  Give me a book on tape and a crochet project and life is good:  it can even turn the most endless awful meeting into a productive afternoon.




Unions Against Jobs

The current leadership of labor unions has strange ideas about their members’ interests. 

So now we have the Pipefitters Union against pipelines and the coal miners union against coal.

Did anyone bother to actually ask the rank-and-file members what they thought?

The uneconomical mind

A rash acquiescience in the request of a departing commissioner to take on his committee assignments left me on the governing board of the county's only public swimming pool. It seems a nice pool, run by nice people. It gets a bit of financial support from the county, a fixed amount, while the city traditionally has covered losses in an informally open-ended way.

The year of COVID was hard on public pools. The pool closed for a while, then creaked back into action last summer under a hideous set of regulations that required selling visitors 90-minute blocks of time, separated by 30-minute whirlwind cleaning regimens. (The idea that COVID primarily spreads via contaminated surfaces, even in an outdoor facility dominated by chlorinated water, dies hard.) This was the state of affairs at the last meeting I attended, in May 2020. I'd been wondering somewhat guiltily if I'd managed to miss notices of any meetings since then, in person or by ZOOM, when I received a notice of a meeting yesterday.

In the eleven intervening months, the pool had managed to stay open all winter, a feat that required expensive heating. I admire their grit and their commitment to a small but avid public, but their operating deficit was about 20% of budget. Now, my role on the board is to represent the county's interests, and the county has no intention of increasing its fixed subsidy--much to the apparent disappointment of the pool managers. So a pool deficit is not a personal problem for me. I did, however, ask what their plan was, only to receive somewhat blank stares. Plan? None of this was their fault. What did I mean, plan?

Well, I asked, just as a practical matter, have you got cash reserves that will allow you to keep paying the bills when you operate in the red? Oh, no, the city simply picks up the slack. OK, then, if the city is willing to subsidize you infinitely, then I guess it's a problem for the city, not the pool, certainly not me.

Well, said the city representative on the board thoughtfully, it's not quite true that the city is infinitely generous and patient. In fact, the city's financial situation is a bit on the desperate side, too. OK, then, I said, back to the question: what to do about your operating deficit? Again we had to wade through the issue that they didn't feel the extraordinary circumstances were their fault. For instance, the state health department dumped an entirely new set of quite expensive operating guidelines on them in January, after promising--promising--they'd never do that. Yes, that's very bad, so what to do now? I have an idea: can you raise the rates you charge your customers so that they're adequate to cover your costs?

This notion struck like a bolt out of the blue. After all, the circumstances aren't the public's fault, either. There followed a long discussion in which they argued that raising rates a modest amount would contribute only quite modestly to the bottom line. My point of view was that any black ink was a least a little better than merely breaking even and much better than red ink. They tried arguing that some customers made a convincing case that they deserved a discount, because they needed the pool for their health. No problem, except that if you want to operate as a charity, you'll need a donor, and it sounds like the city isn't feeling infinitely charitable. Also, your "Friends of the Pool" fundraising partner just announced they were disbanding.

The pool managers argued that losing a little money on party rentals might bring in more individual customers because of the exposure. That's known as a loss-leader, I said, and it's definitely a marketing strategy, but where's your evidence that the loss-leader leads to more paying traffic and, in the end, break-even status overall? If you can't show that, you in classic "lose money on every transaction but make it up in volume" territory.

What about the risk, they protested, if we raise rates and our traffic dries up? Shouldn't we wait months for someone to complete a survey of competitive market rates in the tri-county area? But that survey was begun months ago and is unlikely to include the results of the recent state regs driving up costs. The pool managers probably are going to have to bite the bullet, raise fees, and see how their customers react. Ultimately, if the market won't bear user fees sufficient to cover their costs, and they can't find a fairy godmother in the form of a philanthropist, grant administrator, or elected representative of taxpayers, they can't keep their doors open.  This suggestion elicited general stupefaction. (What do they teach them in these schools?)

As the chairman reached his informal one-hour limit for any meeting, the pool managers seemed almost willing to admit that they needed to revamp the fee structure for individual guests as well as party rentals. The problem was, fee-hike proposals weren't on yesterday's agenda and would need to be settled at the next meeting. When's the next meeting? September, after the summer season. I suggested that their by-laws probably allowed for a special meeting. How about a week from now? Can you come up with some numbers for what fees would put you back into the black? Anxiety, shuffling, confusion, grudging agreement.

I'll be curious to see whether the chairman calls a special meeting in a week or two to pass some increased user fees in time for the summer season.

Beef is Better than Veganism

I'm not going to jump into this latest cultural propaganda push to get you to abandon meat, as all of you are too sensible for such foolishness. I'd just like to point out that beef is actually better, 'for the planet' as they say, than veganism or even vegetarianism. (Not buying 'Climate Change Dispatch?' Try PBS!)

The first time I heard this laid out was by an environmental ethicist at a lecture to a philosophy department. It's not even controversial, not even among the climate-change-will-kill-us-all set, just counterintuitive. 

The real solution to whatever human-produced negative climate changes there are is to have fewer people -- a road we are definitely headed down already, with fertility rates having fallen below replacement almost worldwide. As the developing world catches up (down?) with that, you'll see pressure relieved fairly rapidly over even a few generations. 

J "F" Kerry

Flirting with treason, again, which I suppose is better than his history of wholly embracing it. Perhaps he's learned... nothing, obviously. 

Cell factories

I'm listening to an audio version of "The Gene" by Siddhartha Mukherjee, which turns out to be more of a history of science than a popularization of what we know about genetics, but a good one. This anecdote is worth sharing: in the early 1980's, biochemists were starting to harness the protein-synthesis machinery of bacteria, injected with factory-assembled genes, to grow valuable proteins for human medicine. Just as they succeeded in a proof-of-concept synthesis of insulin, the AIDS epidemic hit, highlighting a critical need for blood clotting factor that needn't be harvested from thousands of dicey donations to a clearly contaminated blood supply. Biochemists worked like demons to produce the first test dose of clotting factor within a couple of years of the bad news about AIDS, using hamster ovary cells as part of the production line. They administered the first dose to a human volunteer, a hemophiliac sufferer. The volunteer accepted the injection, then slowly seemed to fall asleep sitting up. Keyed up to point of near hysteria by hopes for the effectiveness of the product and anxiety for their volunteer, the biochemists asked more and more frantically, "Dave? Dave? Are you OK?" Dave slowly opened his eyes, made a chittering hamster noise, and burst into maniacal laughter.

Weber VII: Party History

The history of political parties in Early Modern Europe looks a lot like Bolshevism, Weber notes, in two different respects that might surprise contemporary readers:
If one considers various things about these medieval parties, one is reminded of Bolshevism and its Soviets. Consider the Statuta della perta Guelfa, the confiscations of the Nobili's estates - ­­which originally meant all those families who lived a chivalrous life and who thus qualified for fiefs - ­­consider the  exclusion from office­ holding and the denial of the right to vote, the inter­local party committees, the strictly military organizations and the premiums for informers. Then consider Bolshevism with its strictly sieved military and, in Russia especially, informer organizations, the disarmament and denial of the political rights of the 'bourgeois,' that is, of the entrepreneur, trader, rentier, clergyman, descendants of the dynasty, police agents, as well as the confiscation policy. 

This analogy is still more striking when one considers that, on the one hand, the military organization of the medieval party constituted a pure army of knights organized on the basis of the registered feudal estates and that nobles occupied almost all leading positions, and, on the other hand, that the Soviets have preserved, or rather reintroduced, the highly paid enterpriser, the group wage, the Taylor system, military and work­shop discipline, and a search for foreign capital. Hence, in a word, the Soviets have had to accept again absolutely all the things that Bolshevism had been fighting as bourgeois class institutions. They have had to do this in order to keep the state and the economy going at all. Moreover, the Soviets have reinstituted the agents of the former Ochrana [Tsarist Secret Police] as the main instrument of their state power.
Such revolutions can only depart so far from the means by which power has been successfully exercised in the past, at least at first. This is true even with the most aggressive means, common to those who wished to undo Feudalism in late Medieval Italy and those Communists who had the same aim in Russia. 

In a way this is a kind of confirmation of a point that Marx makes, which is that material conditions of economics heavily influence the power structure that is possible at a given time. It's not a complete confirmation: Marx would have said that the economics determine the power structure. Yet Marx also hopes for revolution, and thus for the possibility that change would be something one could at least begin even if one had to fall back on forms that fit the material mode of production. Great change did eventually follow from both the rise of political parties and from the rise of Soviet Communism. Neither could change everything at once, though, and had to circle back more than they wished to established forms.

Weber does not believe that party politics can change very much either, as long as they remain the mode of political power. Outside of rural areas, he says, we are basically doomed to machine politics. 
In all political associations which are somehow extensive, that is, associations going beyond the sphere and range of the tasks of small rural districts where power­holders are periodically elected, political organization is necessarily managed by men interested in the management of politics. This is to say that a relatively small number of men are primarily interested in political life and hence interested in sharing political power. They provide themselves with a following through free recruitment, present themselves or their proteges as candidates for election, collect the financial means, and go out for vote-­grabbing. It is unimaginable how in large associations elections could function at all without this managerial pattern.

Various schemes have been recommended for eliminating the scourge of political machines, but Weber thinks they are doomed to fail. 

In practice this means the division of the citizens with the right to vote into politically active and politically passive elements. This difference is based on voluntary attitudes, hence it cannot be abolished through measures like obligatory voting, or 'occupational-status group' representation, or similar measures that are expressly or actually directed against this state of affairs and the rule of professional politicians. The active leadership and their freely recruited following are the necessary elements in the life of any party. The following, and through it the passive electorate, are necessary for the election of the leader.

This, of course, means more corruption is a necessary feature of politics; and for broadly similar reasons, i.e., because it requires the constant attention of someone who must therefore find a way to make the politics pay. The success of the machine, which is separate from both the politicians it elects and the civil service that those politicians appoint, means that the machine itself ends up being more important than the elected leaders. Likewise, those elected officials -- who are supposed to represent their constituents -- end up being representatives of the machine. 

These modern forms are the children of democracy, of mass franchise, of the necessity to woo and organize the masses, and develop the utmost unity of direction and the strictest discipline. The rule of notables and guidance by members of parliament ceases. 'Professional' politicians outside the parliaments take the organization in hand. They do so either as 'entrepreneurs'­­ - the American boss and the English election agent are, in fact, such entrepreneurs - ­­or as officials with a fixed salary. Formally, a far-going democratization takes place. The parliamentary party no longer creates the authoritative programs, and the local notables no longer decide the selection of candidates. Rather assemblies of the organized party members select the candidates and delegate members to the assemblies of a higher order. Possibly there are several such conventions leading up to the national convention of the party. Naturally power actually rests in the hands of those who, within the organization, handle the work continuously. Otherwise, power rests in the hands of those on whom the organization in its processes depends financially or personally­ - ­for instance, on the Maecenases - or the directors of powerful political clubs of interested persons (Tammany Hall). It is decisive that this whole apparatus of people­­ characteristically called a 'machine' in Anglo­-Saxon countries or rather those who direct the machine, keep the members of the parliament in check. They are in a position to impose their will to a rather far- ­reaching extent, and that is of special significance for the selection of the party leader. The man whom the machine follows now becomes the leader, even over the head of the parliamentary party

At the current moment, it seems as if we are at a moment in which the machines have broken down. The Democrats for several elections have been divided between the Clinton and Obama machines, with Obama's being really the long-established Chicago machine. A new, socialist machine has been trying to form and exert itself, but without success so far thanks to the coordination of the other Democratic machines. Joe Biden was not elected by popular vote in the Democratic primary; he was well behind until it became clear that Bernie Sanders was going to win, at which point the other machines aligned behind Biden, forced out the other candidates, and unified the primary votes and caucuses to ensure a machine victory. 

The price was a candidate unfit for the office by age and mental capacity, and a vice president who was entirely detested by their own voters -- she had been polling in the single digits even among an exclusively Democratic audience, being morally unfit for office in a clear enough light for anyone to see. That is who they are stuck with, however, because their machines failed them. 

Likewise, the Democratic machinery has failed in the same way that the ancient king Beowulf is said to have failed: it has done nothing to ensure a smooth generational succession. In addition to Biden, the party leadership is composed of very old people with very limited futures. It is unclear who might rise to replace them. VP Harris is unlikely to be more popular, or to survive a re-election attempt unless the general elections are successfully corrupted to the same degree as the Democratic primary process. AOC and her 'squad' are too young, and from the socialist wing that the machines wish to use but not empower.  

The Republican machinery is in a complete wreckage, having been built on a fraud that was exposed by the Trump era. Possibly Trump himself could establish a new machine with himself in the role of Boss Tweed; possibly, though, he will not even attempt to do this, seeing himself as the proper center of attention rather than being able to envision himself as a the behind-the-scenes power. Right now the Cheneys and Bushes and Romneys who were long-dominant figures, and the machines that back them, scramble helplessly to try to regain a grip on the electoral machinery of the right. 

What that means is that, just as the legitimacy of the government of the United States is weaker than it has been in a long time, and the Napoleonic military means of power are more doubtful now than in generations, the political machinery is also weaker than it has been in a very long time. They continue to perform the black magical rites by which they long maintained power, but it is suddenly doubtful as to whether the magic will continue to work. 

Weber VI: Lawyers and Journalists

Weber has an interesting reading of both. Lawyers, he says, are the only ones who can make a good argument for a good case. Anybody can make a good argument for a bad case:
The craft of the trained lawyer is to plead effectively the cause of interested clients. In this, the lawyer is superior to any 'official,' as the superiority of enemy propaganda [Allied propaganda 1914­-18] could teach us. Certainly he can advocate and win a cause supported by logically weak arguments and one which, in this sense, is a 'weak' cause.  Yet he wins it because technically he makes a 'strong case' for it. But only the lawyer successfully pleads a cause that can be supported by logically strong arguments, thus handling a 'good' cause 'well.' All too often the civil servant as a politician turns a cause that is good in every sense into a 'weak' cause, through technically 'weak' pleading. This is what we have had to experience. To an outstanding degree, politics today is in fact conducted in public by means of the spoken or written word. To weigh the effect of the word properly falls within the range of the lawyer's tasks; but not at all into that of the civil servant.
In this the criticism Socrates' contemporaries pointed at the Sophists is reversed. Sophistry was said to be able 'to make the weak argument seem the stronger,' or 'the worse argument seem the better.' The lawyer can make the best argument he (or she) can for the weak cause, and may do so reasonably well given legal training. But the politician will make sophistry his (or her) argument for any case; it is only when pled by a lawyer that we can tell that the strong argument really is stronger, because everything the politician says sounds equally like bull. (And as far as the politician bothers to understand the case, it may as well be.)

Journalists get a pretty generous treatment from Weber. He points out that only the far left treats them with much respect, enough that is to raise them out of journalism and into power. Everyone treats them with a pretense of respect that is really a sort of fear; but nobody else really respects them, though Weber thinks they often deserve it more than others. 
The journalist belongs to a sort of pariah caste, which is always estimated by 'society' in terms of its ethically lowest representative. Hence, the strangest notions about journalists and their work are abroad. Not everybody realizes that a really good journalistic accomplishment requires at least as much 'genius' as any scholarly accomplishment.... This is because, in the very nature of the case, irresponsible journalistic accomplishments and their often terrible effects are remembered.  Nobody believes that the discretion of any able journalist ranks above the average of other people... Thus far, the journalist has had favorable chances only in the Social Democratic party. Within the party, editorial positions have been predominantly in the nature of official positions, but editorial positions have not been the basis for positions of leadership.... In any case, for the time being, the journalist career is not among us, a normal avenue for the ascent of political leaders, whatever attraction journalism may otherwise have and whatever measure of influence, range of activity, and especially political responsibility it may yield.

There follows an interesting set of remarks about anonymity as a guarantor of good journalism. In the First Age of Blogs, to which this one belongs, anonymity or at least pseudonymity was normal, and the argument was that the protections it afforded would allow for people to speak more honestly about what they really believed. Later it was said to be the case that online anonymity enabled scoundrels to hide behind it, and thus to say terrible things without consequences. There was a consequent movement to make people abandon their pen names or anonymity, and instead to publish under real names to which consequences could be applied (by lawyers and cancel culture alike).

Weber thinks that the shift away from anonymity in journalism enabled the rise of known journalists who sought fortune through fame and fame through scandal, sort of Geraldos of their day.

Whether the renunciation of the principle of anonymity would mean a change in this is difficult to say. Some journalists - ­­not all­­ - believe in dropping principled anonymity. What we have experienced during the war in the German press, and in the 'management' of newspapers by especially hired personages and talented writers who always expressly figured under their names, has unfortunately shown, in some of the better known cases, that an increased awareness of responsibility is not so certain to be bred as might be believed. Some of the papers were, without regard to party, precisely the notoriously worst boulevard sheets; by dropping anonymity they strove for and attained greater sales. The publishers as well as the journalists of sensationalism have gained fortunes but certainly not honor. 

Overall, though, Weber is a friend of the free press, and views them with a sympathy that our own press -- no longer so obviously free, though bound to corporate wealth and ideology by its own preference -- has not always merited.

It is not a road for everybody, least of all for weak characters, especially for people who can maintain their inner balance only with a secure status position. If the life of a young scholar is a gamble, still he is walled in by firm status conventions, which prevent him from slipping. But the journalist's life is an absolute gamble in every respect and under conditions that test one's inner security in a way that scarcely occurs in any other situation. The often bitter experiences in occupational life are perhaps not even the worst. The inner demands that are directed precisely at the successful journalist are especially difficult. It is, indeed, no small matter to frequent the salons of the powerful on this earth on a seemingly equal footing and often to be flattered by all because one is feared, yet knowing all the time that having hardly closed the door the host has perhaps to justify before his guests his association with the 'scavengers from the press.' Moreover, it is no small matter that one must express oneself promptly and convincingly about this and that, on all conceivable problems of life­­ - whatever the 'market' happens to demand­­ - and this without becoming absolutely shallow and above all without losing one's dignity by baring oneself, a thing which has merciless results. It is not astonishing that there are many journalists who have become human failures and worth less men. Rather, it is astonishing that, despite all this, this very stratum includes such a great number of valuable and quite genuine men, a fact that outsiders would not so easily guess. 
Indeed not! 

Weber V: History and Honor

The next several pages are a worthy history of the problem, which I will neither quote nor summarize. I do recommend reading it. The one part that I'd like to put before you is the exception Weber notes to the general manner in which the prince (or the Parliament, whichever became dominant after the Middle Ages) brought the expert class to power as a means of contesting the other side of the medieval power structure. This was in Britain. 
The fourth category was a specifically English institution. A patrician stratum developed there which was comprised of the petty nobility and the urban rentiers; technically they are called the 'gentry.' The English gentry represents a  stratum that the prince originally attracted in order to counter the barons. The prince placed the stratum in possession of the offices of 'self­-government,' and later he himself became increasingly dependent upon them. The gentry maintained the possession of all offices of local administration by taking them over without compensation in the interest of their own social power. The gentry has saved England from the bureaucratization which has been the fate of all continental states. 
Alas this did not last forever, but it was a manner in which a sort-of 'middle class' could assume small and local powers to avoid having the corrupt bureaucracy come into being. The officers were able to assume these small local offices because they could afford to do them for free, on a voluntary basis (rewarded, that is, by honor alone).

This method is one we should keep in mind with an eye towards future reform: keeping powers small and local, so that the office need not be a full-time pursuit but one that a person can afford to perform voluntarily and for honor alone. It need not require a 'gentry' in the British sense, though it will require citizens who care about honor as well as the community: but our volunteer firefighters perform such tasks successfully in much of the nation already. Perhaps many other sorts of governance can be shifted into such a mode.

Politics Against Education

It's common for states to have 'required classes' of politically-mandated nonsense that end up forcing high school students to study politically-approved subjects rather than things like mathematics. Virginia is going beyond that, however, and simply banning the study of advanced mathematics before the 11th grade.

Meanwhile, the Office of Personnel Management may soon be headed by someone who supports the view that standardized tests are racist. So, notes long-time milblogger Commander Salamander, does the Naval Chief of Operations. 

Weber IV: Politics as Vocation

The problem with having a state that requires constant administration in order to maintain its position of power is that you need people who are constantly involved in administrating it. The power of physical force doesn't get you there; people don't like being pushed around, and you can't push them into pushing for you or they'll just let things slide when you're not around. 

The answer, Weber says, is to create a position that it is an honor to hold -- an honor that comes with remuneration, as well.
[Security of administration requires two means], both of which appeal to personal interests: material reward and social honor. The fiefs of vassals, the prebends of patrimonial officials, the salaries of modern civil servants, the honor of knights, the privileges of estates, and the honor of the civil servant comprise their respective wages. The fear of losing them is the final and decisive basis for solidarity between the  executive staff and the power­holder.  There is honor and booty for the followers in war; for the  demagogue's following, there are 'spoils'­ - ­that is,  exploitation of the dominated through the monopolization of office - ­­and there are politically determined profits and premiums of vanity. 

As mentioned in the previous post, while this holds true for feudalism as well as the modern state, the feudal state is different in that the vassals own their own military power. In the modern state, as in the ancient empire, the central authority consolidates all power. The people who come to work as administrators do not pay themselves, then: they are paid by the central authority.

Taxes levied upon the citizenry thus become not an exercise in providing for the common good through an agreed-upon mutual expenditure, but a means of maintaining the capacity of physical force against the very people who pay for it. It is, Weber suggests, a form of booty distributed to mercenaries by the conqueror. Complaining that 'the government works for us' 'because we pay the taxes' is never persuasive to any member of the government, and Weber shows why: the fact that you pay rather than are paid shows that you are the conquered. Vae Victis

So far Weber is talking about the bureaucrats, policemen, and soldiers. But what about the elected politicians themselves? That is where our defense is supposed to reside, in having a representative who pursues our interest as part of the government.

The problem, Weber says, is that these too must either be paid to do politics or else be rich enough to not need to be paid. Thus, the class of politicians is either corrupt -- because they have turned politics into a racket that they can live off of -- or else a member of a class that does not share the interests of the common people. 

There are two ways of making politics one's vocation: Either one lives 'for' politics or one lives 'off' politics.... He who lives 'for' politics makes politics his life, in an internal sense. Either he enjoys the naked possession of the power he exerts, or he nourishes his inner balance and self­ - feeling by the consciousness that his life has meaning in the service of a 'cause.' In this internal-sense, every sincere man who lives for a cause also lives off this cause. The distinction hence refers to a much more substantial aspect of the matter, namely, to the economic. He who strives to make politics a permanent source of income lives 'off' politics as a vocation, whereas he who does not do this lives 'for' politics. Under the dominance of the private property order, some - ­­if you wish­­ very trivial preconditions must exist in order for a person to be able to live 'for' politics in this economic sense.  Under normal conditions, the politician must be economically independent of the income politics can bring him. This means, quite simply, that the politician must be wealthy or must have a personal position in life which yields a sufficient income.... 

The professional politician must also be economically 'dispensable,' that is, his income must not depend upon the fact that he constantly and personally places his ability and thinking entirely, or at least by far predominantly, in the service of economic acquisition. In the most unconditional way, the rentier is dispensable in this sense. Hence, he is a man who receives completely unearned income. He may be the territorial lord of the past or the large landowner and aristocrat of the present who receives ground rent. In Antiquity and the Middle Ages they who received slave or serf rents or in modern times rents from shares or bonds or similar sources - ­­these are rentiers.  

This is to say that the successful politician must either be an activist who makes politics pay them, or else someone as rich as a Trump who can leave their source of income entirely in other hands. This peril is not new to Weber. Aristotle notes the dangers of having either the rich or the poor in charge of politics (as is likely in an oligarchy or a democracy, respectively). The poor will be intensely interested in making politics pay them to do it, and thus are likely to destabilize the state with their demands to extract wealth from it; the rich will pursue their narrow class interests at the expense everyone else until the populace is ready to revolt. Only the middle class, Aristotle says, is reliably moderate enough to govern rationally: and they will only govern as much as they have to do, because unlike the rentier, they have to get back to managing their farm or their shop. 

Aristotle's solution won't work, Weber says, precisely because the middle class can't afford to go after politics full time. What Aristotle saw as a moderating factor turns out to be a limit that will prevent ordinary working class guys, or small business owners, or even large business owners, from succeeding in politics. 

Neither the worker nor­­ - and this has to be noted well­­ - the entrepreneur, especially the modern, large­-scale entrepreneur, is economically dispensable in this sense. For it is precisely the entrepreneur who is tied to his enterprise and is therefore not dispensable. This holds for the entrepreneur in industry far more than for the entrepreneur in agriculture, considering the seasonal character of agriculture. In the main, it is very difficult for the entrepreneur to be represented in his enterprise by someone else, even temporarily. He is as little dispensable as is the medical doctor, and the more eminent and busy he is the less dispensable he is. For purely organizational reasons, it is easier for the lawyer to be dispensable; and therefore the lawyer has played an incomparably greater,  and often even a dominant, role as a professional politician.

Trump could walk away from his business because he was always delegating the work of running it to an endless series of hotel managers, accountants, lawyers, and the like. Someone who really is the genius behind their successful business can't walk away from it: they are indispensable. 

Nor does turning to the super-rich solve the corruption problem. The rich also like to use government to make themselves even richer.

The leadership of a state or of a party by men who (in the economic sense of the word) live exclusively for politics and not off politics means necessarily a 'plutocratic' recruitment of the leading political strata. To be sure, this does not mean that such plutocratic leadership signifies at the same time that the politically dominant strata will not also seek to live 'off' politics, and hence that the dominant stratum will not usually exploit their political domination in their own economic interest. All that is unquestionable, of course. There has never been such a stratum that has not somehow lived 'off' politics.

Weber was himself a member of the class of citizens that tends to produce small businesses and middle-class lives. What he is lamenting here, in his way, is that his class is not able to effectively wield political power. 

Yet this may be an understandable complaint to many of you, too. You would like to enjoy your lives, and politics is maddening. (Perhaps literally so.) The good life of family, productive work, membership in a religious community, pleasant hobbies, arts and crafts, none of these things are very compatible with a life lived in the political sphere. If you are like me, the last thing you want is political power over other people; you just want those other people to please go away and leave you be to live according to your own lights. 

Because you don't care to make politics into your vocation, however, if Weber is right you will be dominated and forced by those who do. These are none other than corrupt professional activists, and corrupt rentiers. They're all getting rich, and they're getting rich by stealing from you.

Either politics can be conducted 'honorifically' and then, as one usually says, by 'independent,' that is, by wealthy,  men, and especially by rentiers. Or, political leadership is made accessible to propertyless men who must then be rewarded.... For loyal services today, party leaders give offices of all sorts - ­­in parties, newspapers, co­operative societies, health insurance, municipalities, as well as in the state. All party struggles are struggles for the patronage of office, as well as struggles for objective goal.

The next parts are a rehearsal of how this corruption was playing out in Weber's own time. This speech was published in 1919, and a better example can be found from our position of perspective in how it played out in the years after Weber spoke. 

Arizona Audit

A full audit of the votes in Maricopa County, the most populous county in Arizona, has been ordered by the state senate. The Democratic Party has filed a lawsuit to try to get a court to forbid the audit.

UPDATE: Judge orders a halt to the audit until Monday. 

UPDATE: AZ Democratic Party fails to post required million dollar bond. Audit back on. 

Weber III: The Real Locus of Power

Legitimacy may be grounded in several ways, but power is grounded only in one.
How do the politically dominant powers manage to maintain their domination? The question pertains to any kind of domination, hence also to political domination in all its forms, traditional as well as legal and charismatic.  

Organized domination, which calls for continuous administration, requires that human conduct be conditioned to obedience towards those masters who claim to be the bearers of legitimate power. On the other hand, by virtue of this obedience, organized domination requires the control of those material goods which in a given case are necessary for the use of physical violence. 
Weber goes on to note that there are two basic forms of this, one of which is better than the other from the perspective of limiting domination -- and, thus, never practiced by the modern state. 
To maintain a dominion by force, certain material goods are required, just as with an economic organization. All states may be classified according to whether they rest on the principle that the staff of men themselves own the administrative means, or whether the staff is 'separated' from these means of administration. This distinction holds in the same sense in which today we say that the salaried employee and the proletarian in the capitalistic enterprise are 'separated' from the material means of production.... 

These political associations in which the material means of administration are autonomously controlled, wholly or partly, by the dependent administrative staff may be called associations organized in 'estates.' The vassal in the feudal association, for instance, paid out of his own pocket for the administration and judicature of the district  enfeoffed to him. He supplied his own equipment and provisions for war, and his sub­-vassals did likewise. Of course, this had consequences for the lord's position of power, which only rested upon a relation of personal faith and upon the fact that the legitimacy of his possession of the fief and the social honor of the vassal were derived from the overlord.  

However, everywhere, reaching back to the earliest political formations, we also find the lord himself directing the administration. He seeks to take the administration into his own hands by having men personally dependent upon him: slaves, household officials, attendants, personal 'favorites,'... [H]e seeks to create an army which is dependent upon him personally because it is equipped and provisioned out of his granaries, magazines, and armories. In the association of 'estates,' the lord rules with the aid of an autonomous 'aristocracy' and hence shares his domination with it; the lord who personally administers is supported either by members of his household or by plebeians. These are property-less strata having no social honor of their own; materially, they are completely chained to him and are not backed up by any competing power of their own. All forms of patriarchal and patrimonial domination, Sultanist despotism, and bureaucratic states belong to this latter type. The bureaucratic state order is  especially important; in its most rational development, it is precisely characteristic of the modern state. 
The professional army that we employ today dates in an important sense to the Napoleonic wars, in which it proved to be the case that organized national armies with combined-arms capabilities were impossible to resist except through a similar means. For two hundred years we have lived in that world, with the consequence that it enables a modern state that exercises this more direct and aggressive mode of control over the means of physical force.

Yet the failure of this mode has been brewing for a while. The Vietnam War was a prototype, although it was not won (as in the popular imagination) by the Viet Cong's 'man in the black pajamas.' It was won by the professional armies of the People's Army of Vietnam (usually given in the US as the 'NVA'), backed by the arms factories of the People's Republic of China and the Soviet Union. Guerrillas allowed a non-state actor to fight an asymmetric war that was generally lost, but expensively so by the winning great power; and thus, competing great powers tended to fund and support such efforts. Terrorism provided an even more extreme version of the same practice of perfidy, in which the guerrilla now took on the guise of an ordinary person in a peacetime environment and used it to wage war not on the state armies but on the citizenry. 

The prototype has given way to the proper type, however, in the conflict in Afghanistan. Both the USSR and now we have lost long-fought wars in Afghanistan that were conducted without major support from an opposing great power. Charlie Wilson's War wasn't why the Mujahedeen won against the Soviets, and no great power has been supplying the Taliban against the United States. Their arms are leftovers from the Soviet arsenal they won the hard way, or they are home-made in Darra Adam Khel and similar villages. Firearms are a mature technology; the knowledge of how to make a rifle or a pistol is widespread and the tools easily available.  

The regular army that Napoleon's era spawned still wins every conflict at the squad level or higher; somehow it cannot win its wars. In Iraq, we won not by winning the gunfights so much as by persuading the enemy; and not persuading him to turn in his guns, but to use them on our side against an enemy had reason to hate even more. 

If the winning mode is shifting from Weber's more concentrated mode to a less-concentrated mode, then nature of the state is primed to shift as well. A new kind of state becomes possible, one in which voluntary associations of ordinary people can hold the land in defiance of concentrated powers and regular armies; and, having exhausted them at last, live as they please. 

Another Sidebar Update

I added James' blog, which I don't think I realized existed until this week. If any other regulars have blogs that aren't listed and you would like them to be, let me know.

Weber II: Justifications of Legitimacy

Weber states that there are three justifications that states use to show that they are the legitimate locus of the sole right to use violence to dominate others.

Like the political institutions historically preceding it, the state is a relation of men dominating men, a relation supported by means of legitimate (i.e. considered to be legitimate) violence. If the state is to exist, the dominated must obey the authority claimed by the powers that be. When and why do men obey? Upon what inner justifications and upon what external means does this domination rest?

To begin with, in principle, there are three inner justifications, hence basic legitimations of domination. 

First, the authority of the 'eternal yesterday,' i.e. of the mores sanctified through the unimaginably ancient recognition and habitual orientation to conform. This is 'traditional' domination exercised by the patriarch and the patrimonial prince of yore. 

There is the authority of the extraordinary and personal gift of grace (charisma), the absolutely personal devotion and personal confidence in revelation, heroism, or other qualities of individual leadership. This is 'charismatic' domination, as exercised by the prophet or­­in the field of politics­­by the elected war lord, the plebiscitarian ruler, the great demagogue, or the political party leader. 

Finally, there is domination by virtue of 'legality,' by virtue of the belief in the validity of legal statute and functional 'competence' based on rationally created rules. In this case, obedience is expected in discharging statutory obligations. This is domination as exercised by the modern 'servant of the state' and by all those bearers of power who in this respect resemble him.

The United States of America rejects the first mode entirely. Itself a state borne of revolution, the 'eternal yesterday' is unavailable to it as a form of legitimation. Article I, Section IX, Clause 8 of its constitution forbids titles of nobility. The First Amendment forbids a state religion, which in other states serves the function of tying the temporal leadership to the eternal. At this point the Constitution itself is old enough to almost serve as a kind of 'eternal yesterday' legitimation, but only in an illusory way: all politicians refer to it, profess loyalty to it, but none obey it. 

There are no charismatic individuals in American leadership. Some argue that Donald Trump was one during his tenure, but that is over. No one currently in any position of leadership in the United States government has any sort of charisma or charm. Perhaps this is just as well; in fact, the Founders were quite worried about demagogues of the sort mentioned.

That leaves only the third justification, and it is the one that the United States has traditionally relied upon. The rule of law! Laws and, since FDR, rules created by executive 'experts' are supposed to be obeyed because they were crafted in a process itself supposedly legitimate and enforced evenhandedly upon all. 

Crises of legitimacy have occurred before now. FDR himself experienced one because his rules and rule-making bodies kept being rejected by the Supreme Court. This continued until his court-packing scheme, which although it failed had the practical effect of convincing the court to stop bucking his actions. The current Supreme Court, facing a similar court-packing scheme, seems to be avoiding conflict with the President and Congress pre-emptively. However, FDR paid a big price in terms of legitimacy in the eyes of the American people for this and other acts; had it not been for the Second World War uniting Americans behind his administration, that history might read differently. 

In the previous post I mentioned that we have entered a revolutionary moment on two fronts: 

Nevertheless it should be clear just from what has been said that we are in a revolutionary moment. The government is trapped between a segment that is openly contesting its claim to a monopoly on legitimate force -- or to having the legitimacy to police at all -- and a segment that questions whether the government continues to enjoy a more basic and fundamental legitimacy. The government's response to one side is cowering submission; to the other, an attempt to suppress their concerns rather than to address them. 

The BLM/Antifa faction, allied with the left broadly, has won some early rounds. Policing has become much more limited over the last year as the police withdraw into themselves and their precincts. The consequence is a murder rate that has risen to a degree with no modern precedent, in some cities up half again what it was only a year prior. Revolutions have their cost, though, and this one is not borne by the revolutionaries but by ordinary poor people in bad neighborhoods. As such, the revolutionaries can afford to pay such a cost forever; it does not even come onto their books.

On the right, the movement is outraged precisely by the failure of the law. The IRS in the Obama administration targeted right-wing TEA Party groups to prevent them from being effective politically. (If you Google this, you will learn that the media is telling you now that this was all 'fake news,' except that the government had to pay settlements for their wrongdoing.) The IRS coverup of this, which involved the 'accidental' destruction of many hard drives containing copies of emails, was never punished. The FBI built its whole investigation around the Clintons around clearing Hillary in time for her to become the Democratic Candidate for President; it then turned on the Republican candidate in a stunning fashion, creating an appearance of hostile foreign intelligence activity that enabled them to spy on his campaign, destroy his first National Security Advisor even though the FBI had cleared him during its investigation, and mire his administration in an illusion of scandal for the first two years. The 'interagency' community then arranged for his impeachment, precisely on the grounds of defying the unelected bureaucracy he had been elected to command. 

In the next election, the FBI bent over backwards to hide Hunter Biden's laptop (hey, another 'accidental' destruction!); the Secret Service seems to have worked to cover up his gun crimes. The powers that be turned a blind eye as a self-confessed conspiracy funded by major corporations in alignment with the Democratic party -- the conspiracy that gave an interview to Time magazine after the fact -- unconstitutionally and illegally changed election laws with an eye towards determining the outcome of the election. State and Federal police agencies refused to treat this as the serious crime of election fraud, and our court system refused to hear these cases: Dr. David Clements, a former District Attorney and a law professor in New Mexico, shows that not one single court had an evidentiary hearing at which evidence could be presented. In the news media, composed of more corporate participants, the 'rejection' by the courts was said to have shown that there was no evidence of fraud; in fact, none was allowed to be offered in any court venue.

At this point the United States' "rule of law" is so corrupted by the attempt to consolidate power that even the United States Postal Service is running a clandestine program to spy on Americans' social media activity. If the reports are accurate, they are engaged in domestic spying precisely targeting constitutionally-protected protest activity. This is the sort of thing that would have been rightly mocked as the fever-dreams of the paranoid drug-addled a few years ago.


Meanwhile the National Guard has been tasked to protect the politicians from the ordinary people (yes, the poor Joes are still there), though the violence targeting the Guard seems to be coming from people on the left affiliated with the anti-police movement.

So there is a general collapse of the rule of law associated with the success of the anti-policing movement; and an abandonment of the principle that the law should rule evenhandedly by those seeking to consolidate power. For these twin reasons, the United States government is on very thin ice on Weber's terms.

There remains a secondary source of submission to authority, however, even where legitimacy fails. That will be the subject of the next entry in this series. 

Weber I: Monopoly on Violence

I think this time I'll break it out by topic, starting with the one I mentioned in the introduction below. 

Weber begins by asking what "politics" is, and -- therefore -- what a "state" is, the state being the field of political activity.

But what is a 'political' association from the sociological point of view? What is a 'state'? Sociologically, the state cannot be defined in terms of its ends. There is scarcely any task that some political association has not taken in hand, and there is no task that one could say has always been exclusive and peculiar to those associations which are designated as political ones: today the state, or historically, those associations which have been the predecessors of the modern state.

Aristotle would object to this philosophical claim. For Aristotle, politics is the science of the highest human good: how we should order ourselves and our activities in order to maximize human flourishing. He says this right at the beginning of the Politics:

Every state is a community of some kind, and every community is established with a view to some good; for mankind always act in order to obtain that which they think good. But, if all communities aim at some good, the state or political community, which is the highest of all, and which embraces all the rest, aims at good in a greater degree than any other, and at the highest good.

Note that this embraces Weber's claim that lots of different "tasks" have been undertaken by various states; it disputes Weber's claim that these represent different "ends." Even the Communists, who brought about more human misery than all the others, claimed that they were acting for the good of humanity and indeed for its highest good as they understood it. 

One could also dispute Weber on a point where Aristotle agrees with him, to whit, that the state is the 'highest' level of such organizing activity. The European Union and the United Nations both imagine a supra-national level of organization. It may or may not be attainable or sustainable, given human nature; or it may not be capable of attaining the 'highest' human flourishing, if such things can only come in more intimate relationships. Nevertheless it is conceivable, at least.

In any event, Weber does not think we should define the state in terms of its end, but rather by its choice of means:  "[O]ne can define the modern state sociologically only in terms of the specific means peculiar to it, as to every political association, namely, the use of physical force." [Emphasis added.]

Now again, this would not be obvious to the ancients nor to the medievals. Aristotle and Plato worry continuously about the problem of family and clan producing factions within the political sphere that will turn to violence. The medievals tried to use political friendship between families as a way of organizing states, but it was in fact the families that often proved the most powerful -- as reflected in their literature, for example when the blood feud between Gawain's family and Lancelot's lays the groundwork for the destruction of Arthur's kingdom. If you read through the full version of Le Morte Darthur, or the long French cycles like the Prose Lancelot, these blood feuds are constantly pulling apart the feudal relationships on which the state of the day is based. 

Weber will talk at some length about the medievals and feudalism, but he is especially interested in "the modern state." Now by "modern" philosophers generally mean "the 18th Century," and to some degree the things that followed from that: thus, the American and French Revolutions, Kant and Hegel, and the consequences of Marx and Marxism, Nietzsche and Romanticism, and the fascists and Nazis as well. We are living at or just past the end of the modern period, and most of the states extant today remain modern states -- perhaps, it must be said, states that are also at or just past the end of their time. 

So, speaking of the claim that the modern state makes, Weber gives it thus:

'Every state is founded on force,' said Trotsky at Brest­-Litovsk. That is indeed right. If no social institutions existed which knew the use of violence, then the concept of 'state' would be eliminated, and a condition would emerge that could be designated as 'anarchy,' in the specific sense of this word. Of course, force is certainly not the normal or the only means of the state­­ - nobody says that - ­­but force is a means specific to the state. Today the relation between the state and violence is an especially intimate one. In the past, the most varied institutions­­ - beginning with the sib­ - ­have known the use of physical force as quite normal. Today, however, we have to say that a state is a human community that (successfully) claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory. Note that 'territory' is one of the characteristics of the state. Specifically, at the present time, the right to use physical force is ascribed to other institutions or to individuals only to the extent to which the state permits it. 

The state is considered the sole source of the 'right' to use violence. Hence, 'politics' for us means striving to share power or striving to influence the distribution of power, either among states or among groups within a state.

Notice that the current protests against police are a kind of double attack on the state on these terms. Groups like Antifa and BLM violate the laws, storming businesses or public transit (just last week, the Metro in DC was invaded by hundreds of BLM-aligned protesters who jumped the turnstiles and took over a train), invading people's space, clash with the police, use physical force. They claim they are doing so legitimately, and the state because of its injustice is illegitimate in resisting them. Likewise, in claiming that the police must be defunded and abolished, they claim that the state has no right to use physical violence at all -- not only no legitimate monopoly, but no legitimacy to use force to police its laws whatsoever. 


As I said in the introduction, the claim the state (n.b., not Weber, but the modern state) is making is fundamentally incompatible with the principle of the Declaration of Independence that the people may abolish the state if it becomes destructive to the end of protecting their rights. Actually, the Declaration is also against Weber's own claim that the state has no proper end: it holds that all states do have a proper right, specifically, the protection of the natural rights that human beings are endowed with by their Creator. If any state becomes destructive of that end, then the people have the right (and eventually the duty, the Declaration goes on to say) to alter or abolish the state. 

Therefore, if that principle is true, the state cannot ever have a legitimate monopoly on the use of force. 

Well, unless...

I propose that the citizen is an officer of the state.  More, if the American Declaration of Independence is morally correct, citizenship is the office in which the sovereign power resides. The sovereign power is originally all the power, some of which is delegated to the formal government. Even after delegation, however, the sovereign retains the power to determine when the rest of the government may exercise the powers delegated to it by the sovereign....

The citizen is the officer the Declaration of Independence is thinking of when they speak of the “Right of the People to alter or to abolish” any government that becomes destructive to the defense of their rights. The citizens, and only the citizens, have the right to make that awesome decision. No foreign power may dissolve the United States Constitution, and no elected nor appointed executive officer, nor a Congressperson, nor a judge nor Justice of any kind. The citizens alone have that sovereign right. They may delegate it to a constitutional convention, called by their other delegates in the legislatures. They may instead take up arms and do it themselves, as Washington and his generation abolished British rule. But whether they do it the one way or the other, no one may do it against their will nor without their consent.

That mechanism of treating citizens as a part of -- as the sovereign officers of -- the state ends up harmonizing Weber's description of the modern state with Hobbes' prescriptive idea that human beings desperately need a state to hold back the dangers of the world. If that is right, the 2nd Amendment's reliance on the militia of citizens as the last and best defense of 'a free state' makes a lot of sense.

Nevertheless it should be clear just from what has been said that we are in a revolutionary moment. The government is trapped between a segment that is openly contesting its claim to a monopoly on legitimate force -- or to having the legitimacy to police at all -- and a segment that questions whether the government continues to enjoy a more basic and fundamental legitimacy. The government's response to one side is cowering submission; to the other, an attempt to suppress their concerns rather than to address them. 

In the next segment, we will look at Weber's ideas about how state legitimacy is grounded, and why the United States' legitimacy is therefore in grave peril. 

You'll Get Further with a Kind Word and a 2x4....

...than with a kind word alone.

Max Weber: "Politics as Vocation"

For our next philosophical piece, you will be happy to know that I have selected a much shorter work that is almost contemporary. Max Weber's "Politics as Vocation" won't take very long to get through, but it will underline some real problems in our current politics. 

Now, Weber wasn't a bad guy. Per the first link to the SEP:
Weber’s political project also discloses his entrenched preoccupation with the willful resuscitation of certain character traits in modern society. [He was concerned about] great transformations that were undermining the social conditions necessary to support classical liberal values and bourgeois institutions, thereby compelling liberalism to search for a fundamental reorientation.... Weber’s own way was to address the problem of classical liberal characterology that was, in his view, being progressively undermined by the indiscriminate bureaucratization of modern society.
Weber's opening in this work is to define politics in terms of the state, which he describes as a territory-linked institution that has successfully claimed a monopoly on the legitimate use of force. I emphasize describes because I almost always encounter this in contemporary philosophers as if it were a prescription. Weber was not arguing that a good state ought to claim such a monopoly, nor (like Hobbes) that it would be to the common good to have a state that did; he was merely discussing what the modern state does, states that included Soviet Russia, Communist China, and Nazi Germany. 

As we will see, Weber is actually quite concerned about the necessary relationships of domination that occur when the modern state succeeds at claiming to be the only legitimate user of force. Note that the whole idea is in direct contradiction to the principle of the Declaration of Independence that the People should be free to 'alter or abolish' a state that ceases to defend their core liberties: if the state is solely capable of using force legitimacy, no revolutionary politics can be legitimate. 

Weber is clear from the beginning that he's talking about 'successful claims,' rather than actual legitimacy; and also he is clear about how dubious these claims actually are. You'll find it worth your time, I think. The whole thing is only 30 pages, and though it was originally in German, the translation provided is smooth. 

UN: Lockdowns Killed 228,000 Children in S Asia

This is just in six nations: Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. 

BREXIT Recovery

Trade relations between the EU and UK did not suffer long. This is promising for any future decisions to depart from the EU, or similar super-national entity. 

A Free Life

Apparently a verdict has been reached in the trial of current moment, and will be announced shortly. I just want to take this quiet moment to reflect on how pleasant it is to live in a place where no mobs will riot regardless of the verdict, and any police strikes will go unnoticed because there are no police up here anyway. 

Conan was right about civilization. 

Corruption and Cars

A very slickly produced video, edited in a style to appeal to Millennial and younger viewers, nevertheless makes a fairly plausible case that a lot of corruption was involved in turning American cities into car-centric areas.


It may surprise you to learn that cars, in the four years immediately after World War I, killed more Americans than World War I. It's not going to surprise you at all to learn that the Feds stepped in to stop local governments from banning cars from cities, and instead imposed a new model Federal law designed by a 'safety commission' whose membership was almost entirely car manufacturing corporations. Nor will it surprise you that GM and others bought up all the streetcar firms serving American cities, so they could destroy them. You'll probably be surprised they were convicted for doing it, but not by the consequences they faced.

So give the kids your ear for a few minutes, 'cause they've got a point or two this time. 

Voter Integrity Project: Georgia Report

The public report redacts a lot of the actual data, because it contains specific details about voter registrations that could be used to harass people. They identified six illegal tranches of votes, of which their resources only permitted them to examine three. Even with those limitations, they identified more than enough illegal votes in just the three tranches in Georgia to overcome the margin of victory.

Note that this is different from the 'chain of custody' issue in Georgia, which 355,000 ballots appear to be lacking. These are specific ballots identified as illegal. 

Hiking

 

It’s getting pretty and warm. 

Paul Revere's Ride


Last night was the anniversary of Paul Revere's famous ride, which called the Minutemen to order to resist gun seizures by the British government. The above link provides both the famous poem, and some historical corrections to it.