West's Founding, II

West has a bedrock notion that he wants to convey. That notion is that equality and liberty, as the Founders understood them, were the same thing: specifically, both terms mean that no one is born a natural slave. We are all born free, and therefore we all are in that strict sense equals.

That puts him at odds with most of the scholarship, which have treated equality and liberty as being different notions -- even opposing or incoherent ideas. If we are really free, then inequality will surely result as natural talents, differential fortunes, and other things create unequal results. (As West points out, the scholars are led astray here by de Tocqueville, whose use of the term 'equality' is the French and not the American notion, and really is a commentary on 'equality of condition.') 

It also creates a conceptual problem because the Founders definitely do believe that some people are natural aristocrats. By this they meant roughly what Aristotle meant, i.e., that some men are more capable of excellence, i.e., "virtuous" than others. Jefferson says this explicitly in his letters, but he is not alone. James Wilson wrote, "When we say that all men are created equal, we mean not to apply this equality to their virtues," which may vary widely. (73; all page numbers in this series will be to West unless otherwise noted.) The Founders, like the Greeks, take it as a matter of first importance to identify those who are exceptionally virtuous for government service and refer to this mission over and over in their state constitutions and similar statements (ibid).

Nevertheless, this capacity for excellence does not create a natural class of masters: the idea is that free and equal men shall choose their leaders from among themselves. The power of legitimate governing arises from this election, without which no superiority in intelligence or virtue (which are not equivalent terms) justifies the exercise of power of one over another.

West's project ends up treating a number of terms as being actual equivalents: "In these documents," he writes, "'created,' 'born,' an 'by nature' are equivalent terms. 'By nature' means as they really are, independent of customs and traditions. What human beings really are -- with respect to freedom -- is individuals who are neither the masters nor the slaves of other people." (25) This gives rise to the concept that human beings have a natural right to be treated in accordance with that equality, which in nature (i.e. pre-politically) is absolute. Social compacts may create a class of governing men with legitimate power, but in nature there is not one.

Likewise, even social compacts end up being limited because there are some parts of this equality that cannot morally be given away. These are the 'inalienable' rights, which include "life, liberty, and property" or "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," but also several variants West finds regularly included in the many lists composed by the Founders in various documents. "Other rights sometimes mentioned include reputation, keeping and bearing arms, freedom of speech and press, and assembly." (27-8) All of those except 'reputation' have survived to us at least as ideals; that one, I notice, is a right to defend one's honor. Our society has tried to dispose of honor as a value, though it is in fact impossible to do that; instead we end up fighting over whether George Washington or George Floyd should be honored with statues and street names. The Founders' earlier model, which entailed a right to defend honor with violence, was defensive: it was not a right to initiate violence, but to demand that no one be allowed to sully your honor without being subject to answering to you for it.

The consequence of this idea of natural right is that everyone is "rightfully free of the violence of others," an idea we usually today hear mostly from libertarians. (28) This also imposes natural duties of others not to impose upon us their violence, within only the limits of ensuring the public peace (e.g., religious liberty is not coherent with endorsing the sacrifice of even one's own children). (33)

This collection of natural rights and corresponding natural duties is, together, what West believes the Founders meant by "natural law." This set of laws must be respected by any decent government, and a government that comes to violate these things is  -- as the Declaration will tell us -- rightfully set aside. It is out of order not only with human nature but nature in general, and thus the will of the author of Nature, however you conceive of that. Jefferson wrote that it applies to all societies and to foreign policy, i.e., the interaction of societies. "[T]he moral law to which man has been subjected by his creator... The moral duties which exist between individual and individual in a state of nature, accompany them into a state of society." (39)

West points out that this idea does not imply a lack of conflicts, even violent ones. "In the founders' theory, it is possible for one person to have a natural right to violate the natural rights of another," he says, pointing to an example from Jefferson about two ships that meet at sea, one starving and the other well-supplied. The right to life being the first natural right, Jefferson said, the starving ship would have the right to extract food by force should the other ship refuse to sell them food. The right to property, although also a natural right, is derivative of the right to life: you are entitled to collect and use property as a way of sustaining your own life. (40-1) It is surprising to find a right to piracy, you might think, but in fact pirates and the American colonies had an interesting historical relationship and a lot of American ideas were tried out by buccaneers first

Nevertheless West is clear that this "does not create a rightful claim against others to provide [those with unequal resources] with resources -- except in extreme circumstances[.]" (49) "Modern liberal rights are not natural because no one possesses food, transportation, respect, and access to medical care by nature." (ibid.) I note that he is using the term "respect" here as a non-natural right, whereas "reputation" was a natural right -- one rather difficult to disentangle from 'respect' in ordinary language. He has in mind Rawls' usage, which is that those who are not respected by society have a claim on having respect somehow 'transferred' to them, which is unworkable.

This argument exposes West to a large number of criticisms from scholars; he exposes himself to more, as I will explore in later sections. The most obvious current criticism is that the Founding was either hypocritical or racist, sexist, etc., in denying equality and liberty. He has quite a bit to say about that, so I will treat that next.

A Philosophy of Pornography

We were talking at some length here and at AVI's place about the way in which the virtual, and especially pornography, alters the sense of self in the young. Arts & Letters Daily linked to a philosopher who is working on this, and she says some of the nicest things about conservative thought I've ever heard from someone on the left. 
I put it to Srinivasan that her critique shares some of its spirit with conservative objections to porn: the worry that porn’s logic of commodification corrupts the value of sex, manifest perhaps in the creeping feeling—all too easily evoked whenever one finds oneself choosing from a menu with pictures—that one is engaged in something debasing. “I totally agree,” Srinivasan says—“the conservative way of putting it is that we have this kind of sacred thing that’s being degraded by being placed on this screen. I more specifically want to say the thing we’re losing is a certain kind of creative capacity which then gets dulled by its over-reliance on the screen.”

Such arguments, she adds, are another reason to read conservative philosophers—“to understand that part of us, which is very much drawn to and recognises the truth in conservatism, because it’s a very false radical politics that thinks that progress does not come with loss.”

That's a very keen insight as well as a kind word. You may or may not find that you agree with her thoughts on pornography, but that much we can surely appreciate.  

Socratic Humility

A fun exploration of Socrates and his method.
Socrates: What is courage?
You: Courage is being willing to take big risks without knowing how it’s going to work out. 
Socrates: Such as risking your life? 
You: Yes. 
Socrates: Is courage good? 
You: Yes. 
Socrates: Do you want it for yourself and your children? 
You: Yes.  
Socrates: Do you want your children to go around risking their lives? 
You: No. Maybe I should’ve said that courage is taking prudent risks, where you know what you are doing. 
Socrates: Like an expert investor who knows how to risk money to make lots more? 
You: No, that isn’t courageous. . . .

When I first encountered Socrates, it was through the Laches, and so the question of what courage was happened to be the first question I found him considering. I thought, as a teenager, that I would answer thus: "Courage is the quality of doing the right thing even though it is dangerous." 

On the reflection of many years, I still think that's not a terrible definition. It avoids the riposte sketched in the article: "Do you want your children to go around risking their lives?" Not for no good end, but you do want your children to do what is right. Sometimes this might entail risking life or limb, but you want them to have the quality they need to do what is right even if someone or something is threatening them. 

What Socrates would probably say to that is, I think, to press me on whether that means that the virtue is a form of knowledge, and therefore could be taught; and if so, why it was not always possible to teach it, why some men turned out to be cowards in spite of careful instruction.. That was one of his favorite lines of inquiry. As you know from reading much from me on the subject, I think Aristotle gets this one right: it's not so much a form of knowledge, as it is a state of character that is attained by practice and habituation. You can only change yourself so much, and some people thus turn out to have more potential for courage than others just as some have more potential for swimming than others. 

[For all of Socrates'] influence, many of our ways are becoming far from Socratic. More and more our politics are marked by unilateral persuasion instead of collaborative inquiry. If, like Socrates, you view knowledge as an essentially collaborative project, you don’t go into a conversation expecting to persuade any more than you expect to be persuaded. By contrast, if you do assume you know, you embrace the role of persuader in advance, and stand ready to argue people into agreement. If argument fails, you might tolerate a state of disagreement—but if the matter is serious enough, you’ll resort to enforcing your view through incentives or punishments. Socrates’s method eschewed the pressure to persuade. At the same time, he did not tolerate tolerance. His politics of humility involved genuinely opening up the question under dispute, in such a way that neither party would be permitted to close it, to settle on an answer, unless the other answered the same. By contrast, our politics—of persuasion, tolerance, incentives, and punishment—is deeply uninquisitive.

Sometimes it is necessary to be intolerant to preserve a spirit of honest debate and deeper inquiry. It is not ideal, it is not desirable, but it proves to be necessary at times. Yet more often we see people closing off debate not to preserve an honest and reasonable discussion on terms of mutual respect, but to enforce what is merely the preference of the rich and powerful. That seems to be the fate of the current moment, at least. Perhaps we can do better if we can find a way to throw it off.

On The Subject

The Olympics are considering dropping weightlifting

Olympic weightlifting has never been an interest of mine, and in fact it strikes me as extremely weird. None of the lifts that I think of as the core, major lifts are actually in the competition. For example, all three of the Powerlifting lifts from the previous article are omitted. The overhead press is simulated to some degree by the clean and press, and since the legs are stronger you can probably clean the weight if you can press it. Still, for a sport called "weightlifting" it seems to be more about explosive, dynamic movements than the simple ability to lift weight.

The reason they are thinking about cutting the sport is because of doping. Now there they might take a page from Strongman and Powerlifting, and simply stop worrying about it. You want to see how strong a human being can be? Well, let them do whatever they want to prepare for the competition. This has the nice side effect of eliminating any trans*-competition concerns because, if you're going to let them juice with whatever they want, there's no reason to worry about natural hormones. 

(I am myself a purely natural guy; no performance-enhancing drugs of any kind have I ever used. From my perspective, though, the reason to be strong isn't to win the Olympics -- it's to maintain robust good health and physical capacity for as long as I am able. Taking dangerous supplements would be counterproductive if that is the end.)

Rhetorical Techniques for the Modern Age

From the Bee

You Need To Work Harder

While I have doubts that this young man and I would agree on the definition of 'a Nazi,' in principle it's reasonable to want to be strong in order to defend yourself and others from aggression. This is not going to get it done, though:

"At his best, he could squat 335 pounds, bench 200 and deadlift 280."

I don't even warm up at those weights, and he is on the order of half my age. 

West's Founding, I

I have read at this point the introduction and the conclusion of West's Founding, as well as the first three chapters. Reading the introduction and the conclusion first, by the way, is the right way to read any historical monograph. It's not appropriate for most works, but with historical monographs like this one it will greatly ease the process. The introduction tells you what the author intends to say; the conclusion tells you what the author thinks he or she has said. That gives you a clean map of the argument, and so everything in the middle falls into focus quickly and easily.

West is taking up a position in a dispute between academics, one that is (as he says) in basic agreement with a number of other scholars: he names Thomas Pangle, Paul Rahe, William Galston, and Michael Zucker. He is opposed by the great figures of the Establishment, including Supreme Court justices like William Brennan, scholars like Ralph Lerner, and even great names like Gordon Wood and Dwight Eisenhower (who says, in one of his surviving documents, that he found it very difficult to defend the American philosophy against charges of selfishness and immorality brought by a Soviet general he met during the war).

That the weight of names is against him West attributes to a failure of American education. Much of this he locates from the 1960s onward, when he believes the meaning of words like "equality" and "rights" changed so substantially in the minds of scholars that they were no longer able to hear what the Founders were saying in their own writings. There was already a substantial loss of meaning by the mid-20th century, though, when the New Deal's approach to welfare had altered American ideas about justice to such a degree as to account for Eisenhower's inability to defend America against Communist attacks on its principles. (West gives an account of early American approaches to welfare in the conclusion, which he says were present from the beginning of the nation -- though at the state level rather than the Federal level, as the Founders thought appropriate for almost all powers.)

What he wants to argue is that the Founding principles were:

A) Coherent philosophically, deriving from their understanding of Natural Rights;

B) Moral and decent on their own terms, and definitely in contrast to the ones offered by communism and socialism;

C) At least possibly true, and certainly useful.

The third claim is metaphysical and substantial. First of all, it relies on a notion that a claim about something like natural rights could be true, as opposed to what our contemporaries like to call "a social construct." Something about reality must exist that can sustain truths across generations, regardless of what people think about those things. This is an idea that is as unpopular as it is easy to be in the current environment, although it was popular as recently as the gay marriage debate: people asserted that sexuality was true in this way, being in-born and not a matter of thought or choice, and thus that no government could transgress this truth. (That position has since been abandoned in favor of the idea that identification, which is a decision of the mind, is what really matters.)

That there is a human nature that sustains this truth West defends but ultimately decides not to rely upon. Whether or not the claim is true, he says, the claim is useful. Such a claim is perhaps the only thing that can tie down a government to some idea of justice that it itself does not have the power to edit. Thus it is useful because it restrains the powers of the world, and keeps at least some things out of their hands. 

He defends the utility of the claim against both the early Modern model -- that power structures are of divine warrant -- and the Marxist one that inexorable dialectics produce evolutions in power structures. People are free and equal, just as the Founders claim, and thus able to make choices about self-government. These choices, per West, are better than submission to the claims about what God or History would impose upon us, which claims end up being merely the will of the powerful. We are free only if we believe we are, and capable of self-government only when we reject the impositions of the powerful: those who "belong to a class anointed by God, by History, by moral credentials earned by serving the disadvantaged, or by Harvard and Yale."

That is the basic plan of the work. I shall get into the arguments in the next post. 

New Philosophy Reading: The Political Theory of the American Founding

For my next longer work, I'll be reading The Political Theory of the American Founding: Natural Rights, Public Policy, and the Moral Conditions of Freedom by Thomas G. West. It is available in several formats including Kindle from Amazon if you want to read along.

West takes an unusual view of the Founding among scholars, although I think it is ordinary among ordinary Americans. Specifically, he believes that the Founders had a pretty uniform view of what made their program right and just, as opposed to being driven by variant ideas of republicanism and liberalism that were in tension with each other. This coherent view is the view of natural rights, which is to say the rights all people have prior to the formation of a government or a social compact. 

These natural rights, he argues, also create moral duties: if you have a right to be free from being murdered, everyone else has a duty not to murder you. Many of these duties must be respected even after a social compact is formed, and cannot morally be surrendered as part of any such compact or formation of government. These rights are the ones the Declaration of Independence calls inalienable

West's view is thus that the American Founding has a lot more moral content than most scholars believe today; but he is also (he claims; I haven't gotten there) to argue that the Founders had a larger moral vision for the inculcation of virtue in the citizen. 

One thing we will be exploring as I post about this book is the debate Joel and I were having about whether the Declaration ought to inform the Constitution. Initially what I find him to be saying about that is that the constitutions and the Declaration inform each other: that is, the state constitutions that pre-date the Declaration often give fuller explanations of what terms like "equality" mean, and how they arise, than the Declaration itself bothers to do. However, later constitutions (like New York's of 1777) specifically refer back to the Declaration's language and project. Thus, the two kinds of documents end up being in dialogue with each other even though they serve different purposes. 

If any of you care to read along, I'll be doing a series of posts about it similar to what I did with Weber's lecture and the recent books of Plato that we've read through. 

A Question Arises

 Because sometimes I have more time than good sense.

There is growing chatter that President Joe Biden (D) will be out as President by November, whether by resignation or by 25th Amendment action. Say that occurs, at some time in the next year or two.

Who would a President Kamala Harris (D) get for her Vice President?

There would no longer be a way to break a tie in the vote to confirm, so at least one Republican would have to agree with the Progressive-Democrats on any nominee, or at least one Progressive-Democrat would have to agree with the Republicans.

Who could make it through that gauntlet that Harris would be likely to nominate?

Or would she finish out the term without a Vice President? In which case no other tie vote could be broken for the duration of that term.

That last would seem a fine motive for the Republicans en masse to Just Say No to any Harris nomination (running the political risks thereof), thereby blocking all further Progressive-Democrat moves until at least 2025 (for the potential political rewards).

Eric Hines

And Now Back to Our Regularly Scheduled Programming

Lord Dunsany

Not the deservedly famous one, but the current one. He is engaged in a “rewilding” project on the estate. It’s worth reading about. 

Blues Weekend: Some Greats

Blues Weekend: Younger Players & Older Instruments


RIP Jackie Mason

This skit seems relevant all over again:

Blues Weekend: Stevie Ray Vaughn

In his autobiography, BB King praised the musical talents of Eric Clapton and Bonnie Raitt, but he said the only white musician he knew who had the soul of the blues was Stevie Ray Vaughn.

I think Tex can sympathize with "Texas Flood" these days.

Blues Weekend

Let's do one, per Tom. Why not?

Here's Samuel L. Jackson tearing it up on a new blues track. Now, you know who this guy is, so there is a language warning. (For gun guys, there's another warning: he apparently thinks a .44 can carry an inexplicable number of rounds.)

Here's an older piece.

And another very excellent piece, by Johnny Lee Hooker.

And you know what, why not, here's the Blues Brothers -- who built out a first-class blues band -- doing their love song to Chicago.

I guess they'd be called out for cultural appropriation or whatever these days, but mostly it would be by people who didn't have legitimate chops like their band did. 

Music for Freyja's Day

(Or Frigg, who may or may not be the same goddess.)

Following up on Tom's concept, some music for the day.

Here's one for our adventurous truck driver from earlier this week.

This one is more for the video than the psychedelic soundtrack.

That last one came to my attention because of the band's participation in a psychedelic Western story album, which is musically a lot better but lacks the awesome motorcycles.

NSA Reviews Itself

NSA reviews itself and admits that, in fact, it has been collecting and unmasking Tucker Carlson's name... but it denies that it has been collecting his communications. 

Well, actually, they didn't deny it in any sort of official way. Sources familiar with their internal investigation denied it to the media for them. 

The NSA never promised transparency, of course. 

Resisting Jadris

Speaking of COVID tyranny, congratulations to Michigan whose citizens finally managed to strip the evil governor of her ability to arrogate herself tyrannical power.
The emergency powers act had been declared unconstitutional by the Michigan Supreme Court in October, but prior to the repeal the law remained on the books for potential future gubernatorial abuse.

A group called Unlock Michigan led the petition initiative, collecting more than half a million signatures, and the Senate voted 20-15 to approve the initiative last week. The state House then voted 60-48 in favor of the petition to repeal the emergency powers act. Whitmer had previously vetoed attempts by the legislature to abolish the law, but is powerless to veto it this time because the initiative is citizen-led.

Well done, Americans.  

'That's Cultural Appropriation, Karen'

Literally, her name is Karen.

I can see how this probably did irritate people whose grandmothers and great-grandmothers had been making the stuff. Karen's statements do sound like 'I've discovered and improved upon this trashy little dish, and now it's good food that you'll like.' 

The Asian-American experts don't agree on what she should have done instead. They do want to have their culture treated with more respect, which is universal among human beings. 

Learning from other cultures is intensely valuable, and we all benefit from it. 'Appropriation' is not a valid complaint in my view; but being treated with disrespect by those who are taking things up from you is.

Appetite for Tyranny

I read the NYT's morning briefing, in part because it helps me know what the ruling class is telling its aspirational members to think.

On Wednesday, they had a piece urging the FDA to just go ahead and approve the vaccines without completing its full process.
Think of it this way: In the highly unlikely event that the evidence were to change radically — if, say, the vaccines began causing serious side effects about 18 months after people had received a shot — Americans would not react by feeling confident in the F.D.A. and grateful for its caution. They would be outraged that Woodcock and other top officials had urged people to get vaccinated.

The combination means that the F.D.A.’s lack of formal approval has few benefits and large costs: The agency has neither protected its reputation for extreme caution nor maximized the number of Americans who have been protected from Covid. “In my mind, it’s the No. 1 issue in American public health,” Topol told me. “If we got F.D.A. approval, we could get another 20 million vaccinated,” he estimated.
Today there is a lengthy argument in favor of just instituting vaccine mandates.
[V]accine mandates cause intense disputes. But when supporters win the argument, public health has often benefited. Guy Nicolette, an administrator at the University of California, Berkeley, pointed out to The Washington Post that colleges have long required other vaccines, like the one for measles. “It’s staggering how well a mandate works on a college campus,” he said.

Dr. Aaron Carroll, Indiana University’s chief health officer, has noted that the country’s victories over many diseases — including smallpox, polio, mumps, rubella and diphtheria — have depended on vaccine mandates by states or local governments. “That’s how the country achieves real herd immunity,” Carroll wrote in The Times. (In the U.S., a national mandate may be unconstitutional.)
Nice to hear that last bit raised as a concern, at least for now. I remember President Obama pointing out that it would be unconstitutional for him to just use an executive order to create something like DACA, up until he did in fact do exactly that when it proved the only way to get his way. Perhaps they mean it this time, though. 

If you'd like to read an argument actually persuading you that vaccines are mostly safe and a good idea, however, here's Paul Goepfert, M.D., of the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He has what strike me as a very plausible account of why my major remaining concern -- long term side effects -- is probably not worth continuing to carry. I found his account very plausible; whereas I find the NYT's preferences provoke rebellion even as suggestions. 

Nailed it again.

CNN airs hour-long PSA on warning signs of dementia.

Walken Into Friday

Not our usual fair, but fun to watch ...

I had no idea Christopher Walken had a dance background.

Bit o' Music for Thor's Day

 A set best paired with Old Crow, neat or on the rocks.

Moon Over Caledon, Part II

The second part of the short story is now available on Amazon, for free, if any of you wish to read it. The third part will appear on the 30th.

The Cost of Red Tape for Small Businesses

I think if two government agencies have conflicting regulations, when an inspector from one of them shows up, the business owner should be able to point the conflict out to the inspector and the other agency should have to pay the fine.

Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition

"...and we'll all stay free." 

1942 sounds pretty good. 

Bee Stings

Inspiring: US Women's Soccer Team To Boycott Scoring Goals Until Racism Is Defeated

I'd prefer that they boycott representing the US, given that they really shouldn't want to represent anything they believe is evil, but this works.

AOC Says How She Accidentally Glued Her Face To Her Coffee Table Is A Clear Failure Of Capitalism

Wisdom from our favorite economic genius.

Ben And Jerry's Introduces Fun New Flavor 'Push The Jews Into The Sea Salt And Caramel'

Scientists Warn That Within 6 Months Humanity Will Run Out Of Things To Call Racist

I'm not sure we have that long.

Adventures in Truck Driving

So tonight a semi-trailer driver decided to allow his GPS to direct him back to Asheville. He apparently didn't notice the sign that says "WARNING: TRUCKS NOT ADVISED TO TRAVEL THIS HIGHWAY." That's ok. Anyone can just ignore that. That's only advisory, after all. 

Then he allowed himself to be directed by GPS off of the highway onto a very narrow secondary road that runs across the top of Neddie Mountain, which is helpfully called "Neddie Mountain Road" so you'll know that it's not the right road for a semi. There he became stuck trying to manage a hairpin corner with crumbling shoulders and precipices on both sides.

Pity the poor driver. He's a young black man, he's in the middle of mountain country full of Confederate flags and hillbillies he's been taught to fear his whole life, he's stuck in a truck full of valuable cargo, and it's getting dark.

So he calls for a wrecker, which a tractor-trailer capable wrecker has to come from Asheville and takes hours to get there. He has to sit there alone for hours and hours until help finally comes. Now it's fully dark and they're trying to haul him out. They get him out, and realize that not only can he not get through that curve, they can't get their wrecker through it either.

So they call the Volunteer Fire Department. It's now fully dark, and we have guys out with flashlights helping them painstakingly back the whole way back to the highway that was never a good option for a truck like that to begin with. The wrecker can probably turn around maybe a half a mile back, but there's nowhere on that narrow road to turn around a semi. 

We'll get him out, but I imagine it will take all night. Then he's got to drive back to Asheville using the long way that he was trying to avoid in the first place.



The hell you say.
The government has documented at least 12 confidential informants who assisted the sprawling investigation. [Note: there are only six accused plotters.--Grim] The trove of evidence they helped gather provides an unprecedented view into American extremism, laying out in often stunning detail the ways that anti-government groups network with each other and, in some cases, discuss violent actions.

An examination of the case by BuzzFeed News also reveals that some of those informants, acting under the direction of the FBI, played a far larger role than has previously been reported. Working in secret, they did more than just passively observe and report on the actions of the suspects. Instead, they had a hand in nearly every aspect of the alleged plot, starting with its inception. The extent of their involvement raises questions as to whether there would have even been a conspiracy without them.
We've all seen the "alleged evil right-wing plot turns out to have been invention of FBI/ATF" movie before. If we're at the point that they've infiltrated these organizations thoroughly enough to have two informants on the payroll for every defendant, we can surely declare victory on Joe Biden's "Strategy to Counter Domestic Terrorism" and go home. We're in more need to counter the Federal police, who are apparently out there creating violent plots all the time. 

Arizona Poll

78% of Arizona Republicans doubt Biden won based on the initial results of the audit. That's interesting, but even more interesting to me were some of the statistics the article cited.
Despite Biden’s victory, Republicans carried every countywide office in Maricopa, save for the sheriff (which an incumbent Democrat held), including flipping the county recorder and winning the open treasurer seat.... 

Add to this fact that very vocal Trump-supporting members of Congress, like GOP Reps. Andy Biggs and Debbie Lesko, won their re-election contests in Maricopa County districts by massive margins, and now the red flag is starting to go up.

That does seem odd! Hm... 

Existential Troopers

I have felt like this for the past 8 or 18 months, I suppose.

Porn Stars and the Right

Apparently a female porn star -- "Brandi Love," which I assume is a pseudonym -- was turned away from the Turning Point USA conference. TPUSA is a youth-oriented conservative movement of some sort, one that I don't know well. Its leadership is smug about their decision. 

I wouldn't be inclined to turn anyone away at the current moment, least of all because they were a sinner. Donald Trump, for all his flaws (and sins) certainly did not look down on porn stars. Nor, per se, did another figure of some importance.

Of course, I am a sinner myself and not much inclined to throw stones from my glass house. Perhaps these are better people than me, more upright and moral, and thus more fit to condemn; but they still are going to need people to effect a democratic solution. 

The entry to heaven is said to be narrow, but roads made by men should be wide. If you make the road too narrow, no one can follow you; and perhaps you cannot keep to that road yourself.

What is a “Pudding”?

Americans have a very different answer than the British, who almost can’t answer at all. My favorite British puddings are savory: black pudding, for example, is made with blood and oatmeal. It is often served as a breakfast food. 

Meanwhile, an airborne virus with a 10% fatality rate

North Texas reports a rare case of monkeypox, imported via a commercial flight from Nigeria. Those of us who were vaccinated for smallpox before that routine practice was discontinued around 1980 are believed to be immune.

Don't worry, V.P. Harris is safe

This seems like a high positive COVID test rate for a bunch of vaccinated public serpents, even if they were crowded in a private jet without masks, while fleeing to the nation's capitol to break a Texas quorum and get photo ops with Kamala Harris. The Texas House Dems can't very well admit they weren't vaccinated, so I have to assume they took one of those tests with a zillion replications that is almost guaranteed to produce false positives. I'm not getting the point of the exercise, though. To cast doubt on the efficacy of vaccinations? On their own claim to have been vaccinated? To irritate the VP's staff by admitting that they put her at risk, or force her to argue that vaccinated people don't have to wear masks, or needn't quarantine? Why get tested in the first place? If there's no political capital to be made from the whole exercise, I suppose we have to chalk it up to idiocy, no great leap. I guess they could be hoping they'll all be quarantined in D.C. for a few weeks, but the special session in Austin will last until August 31.


Black Rifle, White Flag

It's understandable, given the pressure around 'domestic extremists' and a counter-terrorism strategy from the White House aimed at Americans on the wrong side politically, that some people would want to try to negotiate a separate peace. Black Rifle Coffee is led by such people.

It's ok. They love Big Brother now. 
Black Rifle professes to be eager to put some of its fiercest and trolliest culture-war fights behind it. “What I figured out the last couple of years is that being really political, in the sense of backing an individual politician or any individual party, is really [expletive] detrimental,” Hafer told me. “And it’s detrimental to the company. And it’s detrimental, ultimately, to my mission.”

Hafer and Best were talking in a glorified supply closet in the Salt Lake City offices, where potential designs for new coffee bags were hanging on the wall. One of them featured a Renaissance-style rendering of St. Michael the Archangel, a patron saint of military personnel, shooting a short-barreled rifle. In Afghanistan and Iraq, Hafer knew a number of squad mates who had a St. Michael tattoo; for a time, he wore into battle a St. Michael pendant that a Catholic friend gave him. But while the St. Michael design was being mocked up, Hafer said he learned from a friend at the Pentagon that an image of St. Michael trampling on Satan had been embraced by white supremacists because it was reminiscent of the murder of George Floyd. Now any plans for the coffee bag had been scrapped. “This won’t see the light of day,” Hafer said.

“You can’t let sections of your customers hijack your brand and say, ‘This is who you are,’” Best told me. “It’s like, no, no, we define that.” The Rittenhouse episode may have cost the company thousands of customers, but, Hafer believed, it also allowed Black Rifle to draw a line in the sand. “It’s such a repugnant group of people,” Hafer said. “It’s like the worst of American society, and I got to flush the toilet of some of those people that kind of hijacked portions of the brand.” 

Canceling St. Michael the Archangel because some bad people may 'embrace' him is going a long way to prove your loyalty. Hafer says they won't start a "Black Lives Matter" coffee line, though. I'm not sure why not. As the journalist who suggested it during the struggle session interview pointed out, it would help them get clear of many despised former customers.

Thought Experiments Down the Slippery Slope

My friend Jim Hanson (formerly Uncle Jimbo of BLACKFIVE) has a few narrative expressions of concern about the direction of America. His models -- which he gives up front -- are 1984 and Brave New World, and he intends these to be speculative warnings along the same lines. It's not that we'll necessarily get there... but we have gotten a lot closer to 1984 than we had hoped, even with Orwell's warning.

Demons and Monsters

Two from the Babylon Bee. "According to sources, the demon will be moving to somewhere he'll feel more welcome, like Washington D.C."

The Dignity of Pirates

An amusing description from the opening of a history of the Normans.
The gulf stream flows so near to the southern coast of Norway, and to the Orkneys and Western Islands, that their climate is much less severe than might be supposed. Yet no one can help wondering why they were formerly so much more populous than now, and why the people who came westward even so long ago as the great Aryan migration, did not persist in turning aside to the more fertile countries that lay farther southward. In spite of all their disadvantages, the Scandinavian peninsula, and the sterile islands of the northern seas, were inhabited by men and women whose enterprise and intelligence ranked them above their neighbors.

Now, with the modern ease of travel and transportation, these poorer countries can be supplied from other parts of the world. And though the summers of Norway are misty and dark and short, and it is difficult to raise even a little hay on the bits of meadow among the rocky mountain slopes, commerce can make up for all deficiencies. In early times there was no commerce except that carried on by the pirates—if we may dignify their undertakings by such a respectable name,—and it was hardly possible to make a living from the soil alone. The sand dunes of Denmark and the cliffs of Norway alike gave little encouragement to tillers of the ground, yet, in defiance of all our ideas of successful colonization, when the people of these countries left them, it was at first only to form new settlements in such places as Iceland, or the Faroë or Orkney islands and stormiest Hebrides.

Apparently in the high English society that considered itself descended chiefly from the Normans, in the year 1886, 'pirate' as a description was thought to be at least somewhat respectable. Maybe they were still thinking of Sir Francis Drake.

No Longer Worried

Charles Murray is a pre-Boomer, born in 1943, which makes him 78 years old. He published his most (in)famous work, The Bell Curve, in 1994, which is almost thirty years ago now. At that point he was already almost sixty, and you might have thought him ready to speak uncomfortable thoughts without too much fear of being (as we would say now) canceled. Yet for nearly thirty years I have heard his defenders pointing out that he was misunderstood, that he didn't really say the things that he is most hotly criticized for having said.

Instapundit just posted a link to his new book, Facing Reality: Two Truths About Race in America. Here is how it describes itself:
The charges of white privilege and systemic racism that are tearing the country apart fIoat free of reality. Two known facts, long since documented beyond reasonable doubt, need to be brought into the open and incorporated into the way we think about public policy: American whites, blacks, Hispanics, and Asians have different violent crime rates and different means and distributions of cognitive ability. The allegations of racism in policing, college admissions, segregation in housing, and hiring and promotions in the workplace ignore the ways in which the problems that prompt the allegations of systemic racism are driven by these two realities.
Emphasis added. That's exactly the claim his defenders have been trying to walk away from all this time: that the things we tend to describe as structural racism are in fact the fault of minority groups, because they are (a) less intelligent on average and (b) more violent (perhaps because they are less intelligent). He has apparently decided to embrace this idea and use his last years in defense of it. 

I don't know that I believe that (a) is true; I am persuaded that at least some of the counterarguments I've read over the year are plausible. Claim (b) is true as a matter of empirical fact, although just why it is true is the real issue. Are some groups more violent because their situation is less tolerable or just, or are they more violent in some inherent -- perhaps even essential -- way? 

I notice the top-rated review accuses Murray of "soft pedaling" and "sugarcoating," which is definitely not how I would have described this approach. 

Another reviewer has an insight that poses an immediate danger of confirmation bias to me: "An honest appraisal of the differences in criminality between groups by actual data. What I took away, however, is that in cities of 500,000 or less these group differences are much less evident and important. What this book seems to be is a reasoned argument for a post-urban society. Most, if not all of the pathologies of modern life are associated with large urban populations."

It's not quite all -- there are still plenty of drugs in rural America, for example. It may really be most.

Debate: "Should the Declaration inform the Constitution?"

My opinion is that the Declaration of Independence is far more important than the Constitution. The Declaration is permanent, indeed eternal. It speaks of the Creator who endowed human beings with inalienable rights, for one thing. For another, it describes the purpose not only of this or that government but of every possible future government: to secure those rights. 

The Constitution, by contrast, has a beginning and an end. It began as a replacement for an earlier attempt to build a government coherent with the aims of the Declaration, and it will end when the government it created finally fails the Declaration's test. 

That is not the only opinion, however. Barack Obama thinks the Declaration is irrelevant, and that eternal truths are undesirable. 
Barack Obama treats that claim with a certain condescending dismissiveness. “The great thing about America,” he said, “is that our institutions do not rest in any claim to an absolute truth.” With a wink, he says that we all know now that all men are created equal was not really a moral truth. And yet this was important for Obama to denounce the hypocrisy of the Founders, such as Jefferson, Washington, Madison, who owned slaves. But wait, if all men are created equal was not a fact, a moral truth, then there was no moral wrongness in making slaves of other men. Then what was the problem, that the Founders have been inconsistent?

That quote is from an edifying debate hosted by the Federalist Society between Hadley Arkes and Toledo Law School Professor Lee Strang. There's a lot going on in the discussion, but one of the points I think most worth raising is against the idea of positive law as a source of values. If a thing is right and good because the law says so, well, men make the laws and the laws could thus say anything. This is framed as a law school discussion in front of then-Professor Amy Coney Barrett, but it is in fact a debate at least as old as Socrates' feud with Protagoras, or his debate with Euthyphro. 

Censor Our People, "Please"

The White House admits that it is 'flagging' online posts for censorship by technology companies like Facebook. Lawyer Ron Coleman is currently conducting a legal action against such censorship, which he argues is unconstiutional. 
"As recently as 2019, the Supreme Court reasoned 'a private entity can qualify as a state actor,' subject to First Amendment protections, under three circumstances. See Manhattan Community Access Corp. v. Halleck (2019)....

* "'When the private entity performs a traditional, exclusive public function,' see Jackson v. Metropolitan Edison Co. (1974); 

*"'When the government compels the private entity to take a particular action,' see Blum v. Yaretsky, (1982); or

*"'When the government acts jointly with the private entity." See Lugar v. Edmondson Oil Co. (1982)."

This is what the wise guys commenting on this thread - unsurprisingly - seem to not know when they say, "Muh private company"

Ron Coleman was in Philadelphia on November 3rd when Republicans were forcibly kept from performing their legal (indeed mandated by law) poll watching duties. He and his fellows conducted a successful lawsuit that day, obtained a court order, and then had the city government simply ignore it

Moon Over Caledon

So I wrote a short story, which will be published in three parts over the next few weeks, for Kindle's new "Vella" serial fiction project. It's clearly inspired by REH's approach to fiction, which I think we could use more of at this time. It's called "Moon Over Caledon," and I think it'll even be free to read -- you only have to pony up 'tokens' on this model if it goes over three parts, which it won't. 

A Mean Old Man

Today the shop called to say that my Jeep was ready. I said I'd be by this afternoon and they said okay, but when I got there the place was closed and locked up. 

Well, hours went by and they didn't come back. Finally this old man came, long white beard, and he got out and was unlocking the door. I went up to the window after he'd gone inside and said that I inferred he must work there since he had keys.

"No, I don't work here," he said. "I own the m*****f*****." 

Well, I said, I'd like to pay to pick up my Jeep. 

"Have you been working out?" he said.

"Not today," I replied.

"How are you going to pick it up then?"

So after a while he agreed to let me come in and pay for the Jeep repairs, and then he showed me the old clutch they'd pulled out of it (which had shattered impressively). This entailed a lot of probing questions from him about whether or not I understood how a clutch works, which I do. I just don't have a lift at home that will reach the bottom of a raised Jeep, and didn't feel like trying to replace the clutch without one. 

I paid him, which required a lot more cussing from him as he tried to work the machinery for the credit card ("I used to could work these things, but they changed it all around"). He cussed his grandchildren who don't answer their phones when he needs them to remind him how to work the machinery. Finally he did figure it out. I got my keys back and was ready to go. 

I stuck out my hand. "What's your name?"

He reached for my hand, answering, "Carl," and I shook his hand firmly. 

He gasped and I let him go. "Sorry!" I said.

"No, that's good!" he replied, eyes wide. "You don't meet a lot of men anymore. I asked if you worked out, but clearly you do. What do you do, bench press?"

So I mentioned Strongman, and he knew all about it, Atlas stone loading and all that. He was very into it. He turned out to be a very cool guy for a mean old man.

Holes in the Dam

The Arizona Senate's audit of the November election in one suspicious county had a preliminary findings report today. There's a lot more to come, but this post summarizes the topline initial findings.

The big number there, 74,243, may be all or in part a clerical error as it comes from comparing a list of ballots sent out to a list of ballots received (as opposed to an actual count). At minimum, it shows incredible sloppiness about whether or not ballots were authentic; more likely, a complete lack of concern about whether the ballots were legitimate. Nobody even cared to check to see if the numbers lined up, or even if they were close.

The 11,326 is really interesting, as they were added to the voter rolls after the election but show as having voted in the election. That's more than enough to have swung the election right there. 

For those of you who watch Tucker, he had some news out of Georgia last night too. They haven't even begun a forensic audit yet, but it's clear that they need one. 
On Wednesday’s edition of Tucker Carlson Tonight, Carlson highlighted proven instances of voter fraud—such as duplicate ballots and falsified vote tally sheets—that granted thousands more votes to President Joe Biden as well as other suspicious and illegal activities.

Carlson also explored an unsolved May break-in at a Fulton County election warehouse, where both private security guards and local law enforcement had been stationed to protect.

“Depending on who you ask, the building contains evidence that either confirms or refutes the claim that voter fraud affected the outcome of the 2020 election in the state of Georgia,” he said.

The warehouse contained more than 140,000 absentee ballots, which have not been examined because “Fulton County officials have refused to let the public see any of these ballots.”

Biden supposedly won Georgia by about 13,000 votes, according to the official tally.

To enter the facility, a burglar would have to move past a “locked, 100lb steel door” and “a maze of motion detectors.”

Someone entered the building “twenty minutes after the deputies in charge of guarding the warehouse left their posts.”

The deputies returned to find an alarm sounding and the 100lb door opened.
Joe Biden himself flew to Pennsylvania this week to beg us, in the name of common decency, not to allow an audit in that state. It's easy to see why. Trump was leading in Pennsylvania on election night by over six hundred thousand votes. He was only ahead in Georgia and Arizona by a little over one hundred thousand. If these margins were overcome by cheating, they needed to cheat a lot harder in Pennsylvania. 

UPDATE:  I warned you that the Georgia Secretary of State was staging up for this play. "Fire those two guys and give us more resources, and everything will be fine." 

No. You, dude, need to be fired too. There needs to be a root and branch audit and a cleansing of the whole structure. You don't get away with claiming this was just a couple of bad apples. It wasn't a set of mistakes or bad decisions. It was intentional fraud, which it was your duty to prevent. You either failed or betrayed that duty. 

UPDATE: "What is this all about?" asks RedState.
There is no mechanism by which Donald Trump could be reinstated as POTUS in the event of proof of massive fraud. While there are many conservatives that hold on to this hope, it is little more than that…hope. Still, the audits are perfectly reasonable and even necessary if the American people are ever expected to move on from this and trust future election results. To avoid the chaos that is currently tearing our nation apart, it only makes sense to make every effort to bring transparency into the elections process.

In an Arizona Senate hearing on the audits, Senator Karen Fann gave an excellent and reasonable explanation as to why these audits matter, and in fact why they are absolutely imperative. Listening to her reasoning, it is hard to imagine anyone taking issue with a process that allows voters to peek at the integrity – or lack thereof – of their own election process.

Fann says these audits aren’t about Trump, they are about transparency and restoring faith in the election process for the American people. She reminded the detractors that “voters are constituents” and they have expressed fear and reservations about vote-counting in their state. As representatives of their constituents, it is literally the state senate’s job to respond to those questions and provide answers, if that is what the people desire. The Senate has the responsibility to ease those fears by proving them wrong or by proving them right and passing laws to prevent such a thing from ever happening again.

It’s hardly radical, but to hear the Democrats tell it, it’s equivalent to a Hitlerian coup.

But stealth was supposed to belong to our side!

Did you know conservative activists cleverly lure politically innocent readers with ordinary conservative tropes punctuated by the occasional outrageous lurch to the right? The dewey-eyed young author of this Guardian article reports the tactic breathlessly, then suggests that leftists might want to try it, too. Welcome to the party, pal!

Depends what your goal was

 From a Maggie's Farm commenter on an article about the "failure" of socialism in Cuba:

[A]ll these government programs that are called "failures" are actually quite successful. The only reason people think they're failures is because they judge the program by [its] stated purpose instead of [its] real purpose, which is to create good-paying jobs for bureaucrats. And, of course, the best way to increase your budget and your staff in a bureaucracy is to fail at your stated purpose.

Harley on Drums


93,000 Drug Overdoses

Excess deaths


Robert E. Howard was right again. 

Wokeness Broke the Navy

Jimbo’s summary of it is succinct, but the whole report is only 23 pages and worth your time. The culture of the Navy is broken, and so are the ships. 

If you want an authoritative opinion, long time Milblogger Commander Salamander has written about the report as well. 

White adjacency

Did you ever imagine, in your youth, that a term like "white adjacency" would be taken seriously and treated respectfully?  I still don't know what it means, other than some reasonable level of socioeconomic success, though I suspect at root it means high IQ.  That's a weird, weird idea to push:  "What's wrong with the world is that things work out better 'systemically' for people who tend to be able to make a good living by some means or another, including intelligence. We really need to find a way to penalize them."

Soccer, Irish American Rap, and Other Strange Things

I don't know why the philosophers are involved, but this is pretty much every soccer match I've ever watched:

Musical Interlude -- When I first heard parts of House of Pain's "Jump Around" in the 90s, I thought it was just another gangster rap song, didn't really care for it.

It came around in my life again a few years later in a completely different context, so different that I actually didn't recognize it. Then it dropped out of my life again for a couple of decades.

For some odd reason, it came up on YouTube for me recently and I decided to play it. Turns out there's an Irish American theme to it, which was completely new to me. If you don't like the music (which I can understand), turn it down and just watch the video. With a different sound, it could fit in here.

Other Irish-themed rap tunes on the same album include "Shamrocks and Shenanigans" and "Danny Boy, Danny Boy."

¡Buena suerte, Cubans!

These uprisings always seem to come at times when the United States is led by a Democrat who won't support them; Iran under Obama, and now Cuba under Biden. I hope they're able to make it work on their own. 

They'll have to do. Our ruling class is against the whole idea.

Glen Reynolds "Harsh But Fair" post


Don't Walk "Curbside"

Every few years we see another round of stories about how progressive women really wish there was more of that chivalry stuff, whatever it might be. This year's iteration is from the New York Post, which interviews people who are similarly confused.
In a liberal city like New York, swimming with single women wishing they weren’t, one could assume Mark wouldn’t have a problem finding a mate. And while he dates and recently had a couple of short-lived relationships, Mark remains single. He’s trying to understand why.

“I’m really open-minded and cool about gender stuff on dates, but I always feel like I’m walking on eggshells,” Mark told me. “If I pay for dinner, it signals I don’t value my date as my equal so I’m super casual about it all. If she wants to pay or split it or whatever, that’s fine with me.”

I told Mark that, despite his best intentions, his egalitarian dating style could be the problem that’s holding him back. While some women balk at any hint of traditional male gender behavior, more lament the loss of chivalry. I’m one of them. I find it attractive when a man plans our first few dates and knowingly walks curbside when we’re together. It signals he wants to protect me from passing traffic or errant puddle splashes.

“When I was a kid, my mom told me to always walk curbside, but I assumed my generation of women would think it’s too old-fashioned,” Mark told me. “Now, I’m really confused.”
The 'curbside' thing was a modification of an older walking custom that is more appropriate. During the early 20th century, men adopted this 'curbside' stance as a way of presenting themselves as shields from the inevitable puddle splashes when cars came along the muddy roads that the cities often still had. It was charming at the time, but no longer is appropriate. Modern American cities (at least) have reasonable drainage except in serious storms.

Rather, you should resume the ancient fashion of always walking on the right side, whichever way the curb is. This is to keep your swordarm free, in case you need to draw a weapon in defense of the lady. With spiking crime rates in cities across the country, this is of renewed importance. (Occasionally this might be reversed for the left-handed.)

Many now choose to arm themselves with handguns instead of blades, and these days quite a few women arm themselves too. Still, if you want to present yourself as the primary protector, prepare to protect her from the far more serious (and, these days, increasingly probable) threat of violence and crime. 

Get 'em while you can

It probably will put you on a terrorist watch list, but if you still want to own a Lego U.S. Capitol set, better hurry. Amazon claims the manufacturer has discontinued the item, and the price just hit the roof like it was a Dr. Seuss book.

The on/off switch

After the 2020 election, a tweet that caught my eye said something like, "I don't know for sure that the election was stolen, but I know they couldn't have made it look any dirtier if they'd tried."  This thread makes the same point at greater length, and closely approximates my own views.  We're in a new place.

This is profoundly disorienting. Many [election skeptics] don't know for certain whether ballots were faked in November 2020, but they know for absolute certain that the press, the FBI, etc would lie to them if there was. They have every reason to believe that, and it's probably true.
... They always claimed the media had liberal bias, fine, whatever. They still thought the press would admit truth if they were cornered. Now they don't. It's a different thing to watch them invent stories whole cloth in order to destroy regular lives and spark mass violence.
... The reaction of Trump ppl to all this was not, "no fair!" That's how they felt about Romney's "binders of women" in 2012. This is different. Now they see, correctly, that every institution is captured by ppl who will use any means to exclude them from the political process.

Open Range

I did eventually find the pieces I was looking for, which were from 2005 (in a general discussion of the Western movie tradition) and then 2008 (in a discussion of heroism in Hollywood movies).

More on the Imagination and Sexuality

AVI posted a piece yesterday that references a discussion we had here a couple of weeks ago. The issue, which we are discussing in terms of the new digital 'reality' that the young occupy, is that sex that is disembodied becomes alienating. 

Today, while trying to find an old discussion of Open Range that I wrote years ago, I came across a very similar problem in Hegel's work from the 19th century.
The claim begins in paragraph 448, on the mental faculty of attention. The issue of attention is that you are free to give it, or not; and therefore, if you are to have a passion, it is because you have chosen to give it your attention.

But what is the thing to which you are giving your attention? It is an idea: and, therefore, it is your idea. After all, it exists in your mind, and the thoughts you have are your own. He offers an example:
Thus we know, for example, that if anyone is able to form a clear picture to himself, say in a poem, of the feelings of joy or sorrow that are overwhelming him he rids himself of the thing that was oppressing his mind and thereby procures for himself relief or complete freedom. For although by contemplating the many aspects of his feelings he seems to increase their power over him, yet he does in fact dimnish this power by making his feelings into something confronting him, something that becomes external to him. Goethe, for instance, particularly in his Werther, brougth himself relief while subjecting the readers of this this romance to the power of feeling.
The book he mentions, The Sorrows of Young Werther, sparked a wave of suicides across Europe. The title character is a suicide, killing himself over losing his love.

Why was his love worth dying over, though? She was an idea -- that is to say, she was not just a girl, with all the problems any individual girl might have. She was an ideal girl: it was his mind which had made her an ideal that was worth dying over.

We remember here our discussion around Chaucer's A Knight's Tale, and the objection raised by female readers that the young knights didn't know -- and therefore could not love -- the lady at all. Hegel seems entirely subject to that line of attack.

Here we have exactly the problem that the digital youth are running into, yet in an embodied reality that ought to prevent it. The problem is that they leave the realm of the physical -- where sex is straightforward -- for the imaginary. Being free of the digital world, their imagination is at least tied to their idea of a being they first encountered as a physical being. In chasing after their own idea rather than the actual girl, though, they lose both the girl and their will to live. Apparently this was common enough to have sparked 'a wave of suicides across Europe' when the works of imagination were novels rather than digital pornography. 

At the time I wrote the discussion of Hegel I was still trying to decide if he was on to something, as the ideal gives us aspiration. I am now ready to pronounce upon that. The ideal can point the way to perfection only in the way that art can perfect nature (as Aristotle says). It must begin with what is given by nature, and only seek to perfect what nature has not made perfect. 

Hegel's concept is that the physical and the ideal only appear to be different, and in fact all physical things will turn out to be ideas in a higher mind to which we are striving to return -- God, in a word. Even if you are inclined to that model, the nature of the physical things should still be prioritized as already extant in the higher mind, whereas your own imaginations are still the work of your still-lower mind.

Yet even that kind of perfecting is highly problematic when the object of the imagination is someone else and not yourself. You might look at yourself and draft ideas for more perfectly achieving the highest expression of your nature; that is virtue. You might have similar ideas about how someone else could more perfectly achieve their nature: that may not be virtuous, but domineering. A parent might rightly try to help their child in places, but even there a child who does better by being pushed is not necessarily developing the internal drive to perfect themselves. A girl who does not quite live up to your ideal of love and beauty may not really be any of your business at all, and is certainly not obligated to try to attain your ideal for her (which she cannot even access, since it is only in your imagination and she has no access to that). 

It seems like this philosophical error has led to a lot of human misery over the centuries. The digital has made it worse by making the idealized/imaginary seem more real and more immediate, and by removing the helpful influence of natural things like pheromones and embodied reality. For Hegel, this should have been an improvement, another step towards the realization that the ideal is actually real. Waves of suicides -- then and now -- strongly suggest that it is not. You cannot think your way to God. You cannot even think your way to love

Dominique, notre père, combattit les albigeois

Were any of you Singing Nun fans?  That line in an otherwise cheerful ditty always made me think of Albigensians locked up in a church and burned.

À l'époque où Jean Sans Terre
D'angleterre était le roi
Dominique, notre père, combattit les albigeois

Trying again: Fuller Brush Man

Babylon Bee has good suggestions for how to get rid of the Vaccine Evangelist who comes to your door.

I found decades ago that a polite and painless way of getting rid of anyone at my front door was to smile pleasantly and explain that I don't discuss [whatever] with people I don't know well.  It goes along with Miss Manners's advice to answer impertinent questions with "How soon do you need to know?"

* I have no idea how Blogger could have let me sign in as Grim . . . ?

In Praise of James Jackson

Well known to long-time readers of the Hall is James Jackson, hero of the Revolution and even more heroic in the early American era. Sadly he is not well known outside of students of Georgia's history, but his example is one that we could very much use today as we try to contest corporate domination of what was meant to be a government of, by, and for the people

Human Events has just kindly published a few thousand words on the subject. Hopefully James Jackson's name and example may become better known to the people of our United States. 

"What Happened to You?"

Andrew Sullivan is often asked this question, he says, but would like to reverse the polarity.

The CRT debate is just the latest squall in a tempest brewing and building for five years or so. And, yes, some of the liberal critiques of a Fox News hyped campaign are well taken. Is this a wedge issue for the GOP? Of course it is. Are they using the term “critical race theory” as a cynical, marketing boogeyman? Of course they are. Are some dog whistles involved? A few. Are crude bans on public servants’ speech dangerous? Absolutely. Do many of the alarmists know who Derrick Bell was? Of course not. 

But does that mean there isn’t a real issue here? Of course it doesn’t.

Take a big step back. Observe what has happened in our discourse since around 2015. Forget CRT for a moment and ask yourself: is nothing going on here but Republican propaganda and guile? Can you not see that the Republicans may be acting, but they are also reacting — reacting against something that is right in front of our noses?

What is it? It is, I’d argue, the sudden, rapid, stunning shift in the belief system of the American elites. It has sent the whole society into a profound cultural dislocation. It is, in essence, an ongoing moral panic against the specter of “white supremacy,” which is now bizarrely regarded as an accurate description of the largest, freest, most successful multiracial democracy in human history.

[Aside: Derrick Bell was the guy who founded what is most properly called CRT (although the demands to know what 'is really CRT' are a motte-and-bailey tactic). His most famous work isn't merely theoretical, it's actually fantastic -- not in the sense of being excellent, but in the sense of being a made-up fantasy story.]

Sullivan goes on to diagnose the issue as the transformation of the elite ideas of 'social justice' into a rejection of liberalism -- not just 'whiteness' or America or the Founding, but a rejection of the whole 300-year liberal project as itself a form of racism and oppression. That, he says, has big consequences in a nation that was founded precisely to pursue those classical liberal principles.

He doesn't want to go so far as supporting Republicans, of course, who are obviously "a nihilist cult" (and who are ironically, for nihilists, devout believers in God and country). He'd like some fellow Democrats to maybe step back from the pit, is all. But at least he's seeing the pit, recognizing a descent into the abyss. 

Fake News Today

BB: "To Combat Transwoman Dominance Of Women's Sports, Olympics Adds Competitive Child Birthing."

That's a great idea, really.

Pattern Recognition

 The question doesn’t mince words. Straight out, people were asked: “Do you agree or disagree with this statement: The media ‘are truly the enemy of the people?'

Thirty-four percent strongly agreed, 24 percent somewhat agreed, 13 percent somewhat disagreed, and 23 percent strongly disagreed.

Allow me to reframe this for emphasis…

When voters were asked if the media are “truly the enemy of the people,” only 23 percent strongly disagreed.

The plurality strongly agrees; the majority of 58% agrees at least somewhat. 

I think of the way in which journalists were hotly opposed to Ronald Reagan, and compare and contrast that to how things have become since Obama's term. 

Obama's people didn't respect journalists at all -- recall his speech dude Ben Rhodes describing journalists as children who "literally know nothing" --  but they did enjoy almost complete submission from the press. In hindsight this was surely because of the proto-woke clarity that Barack Obama could not be criticized without one becoming subject to claims of racism that would be enforced by the whole social class of which journalists were a part.

It got much worse under Trump. As Angelo Codevilla points out -- in an excellent piece that questions Trump's worth as a future leader, and identifies his core failures -- Trump provoked a 'ruling class' consciousness to emerge. Journalists consider themselves to be a part of that class, though they are now even more obviously its abject servants than they were during the Obama administration. I note that the Codevilla essay is carried at no less than American Greatness, a journal whose very name was inspired by Trump's chief slogan. It is healthy to see criticism of the man there; indeed, it is exactly the kind of thing that a healthy journalism does (and ought to refute the pretense that Trump's popularity is the kind of cult of personality sometimes associated with fascism).

It is exactly that kind of criticism that is gone in the current period. The Biden administration finds that journalists are its allies, propping up his regime as hard as they can. They are doing so clearly out of service to this new class consciousness; they are of and for that class. 

What is that class of and for? To say whether they are truly the enemies of the people, you'd need to answer that question. The top of the class is composed of alumni of a particular consulting firm, The Intercept reports: WestExec Advisors, founded in 2017 by Obama alumni, has provided 15 top officials including the Secretary of State and the Director of National Intelligence. A look at the Secretary of State's work between the Obama and Trump administrations is even more telling about what they are of and for: he was paid as a consultant by "AT&T, defense contractor Boeing, shipping magnate FedEx, and the media company Discovery as a WestExec founding partner. He worked for Big Tech pillars Facebook, LinkedIn, Microsoft, and Uber. He helped niche companies like speakers bureau GLG, art seller Sotheby’s, and biopharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences. Blinken also lists clients that are global investment firms and asset managers, like Blackstone, Lazard, Royal Bank of Canada, and the multinational conglomerate SoftBank[,]" The new DNI had "clients like Facebook, JPMorgan Chase, Microsoft, and Open Philanthropy," the latter being an NGO with ties to Facebook, whose NGOs also paid for all that 'election fortification' in swing states and counties. The journalists come from a lower tier of the same institutions -- elite colleges, international corporations, and NGOs aimed at transforming America. 

The ideology they espouse is the now-fully-formed wokeness, which is deeply hostile to America and to all of its traditions. This is true not only of the journalist servant class, but of the class of public sector unions -- especially teachers, for whom wokeness in the form of CRT is the lens through which all subjects must be taught. The military leadership is committed to it; the intelligence agencies are also (as you should expect, say our Marxists, because the CIA has been dividing other nations along race and ethnic lines for decades). 

One might well say that they are, then, for something that is against America -- at least as America was understood even in Reagan's time, even in Clinton's. They are of a class rather than the people writ large. It is a class that intends to rule and dominate the rest of the people, and thinks of itself as separate from and better than the ordinary people of the country. 

So it appears the majority is right, more or less. One can quibble about tone, but not substance.