Ace in the Hole

Hank Thompson on the ways that the protest movement was funded circa 1968.


Continuing the theme ...

As a bonus video, Ryan Long explains the many differences between racists and wokists ... er, something.

The AJC on CRT

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has this to say about Critical Race Theory:
Critical race theory. Once an academic abstraction discussed in college classrooms, it’s now a flashpoint for conservatives who say it is influencing what is being taught in grade schools. 
The decades-old concept seeks to highlight how racism influences all aspects of society and how past systemic inequities continue to shape policies.

The concept has become politicized with critics saying it distorts history. They say it casts white people as exploiters who owe a debt to everyone else, especially Black people.

The 'concept' has not 'become politicized,' though. It was always an inherently political mode of analysis. 

The AJC tries to paint this as a conservatives vs. everyone issue, but in fact the hottest critics of CRT are on the left. Major historians who objected to the 1619 project were published by the World Socialist.  As for CRT broadly, here's a sample of their opinion:

Identity politics serves to divide workers into warring camps based on superficial aspects of their identity. There is no challenge to the existing structure of society, only a shuffling of the deck chairs.

The fact of the matter is that identity politics and reactionary ideologies such as intersectionality are not merely compatible with the needs of US imperialism and its institutions like the CIA; they are an essential tool utilized by the bourgeoisie to maintain its class domination over the working class by keeping workers divided along racial and gender lines.

The actual Marxists object stridently because they see CRT (and similar critical theories) as hijacking their 'true and correct' analysis that everything is explicable in terms of economics; instead they try to explain everything in terms of race or sex or sexuality or whatever. If you're a true believer in Marxism, that's always going to lead to bad outcomes because it draws people away from the real problem, and divides them into warring camps who are more easily controlled than a united front would be. 

They have a point. These theories divide us into warring camps according to criteria we can neither choose nor change. That does, in fact, make Americans as a whole easier to control. It makes it less likely that united fronts will emerge against government corruption, corporate/tech domination of society, or the influence of foreign powers over what is supposed to have been a self-governing nation. 

It's also bad history, as you can read explained by major historians who were interviewed by the World Socialist

Trying to Reason from Anecdotes

Point: in Kansas City, a police officer appears to have shot another officer during an arrest (presumably by accident), then killed the person being arrested; the police then reported that the arrested/dead person had been the one to shoot the cop, thus justifying the shooting. Only it was caught on video

Counterpoint: in Volusia County Florida, police had responded 300 times to a juvenile group home, only to be ambushed by three of the juveniles who had fled, broken into a nearby lake house, found guns, and taken up shooting at the police for fun. The three were 12-14 years old. The police did eventually shoot one of them, not fatally, but only after enduring an hour and a half of gunfire themselves. 

The police in the second case have a very clear idea of what went wrong there: they say the juvenile system in Florida is broken. The activists in the first case have a very clear idea of what went wrong there: they say the policing system is broken. 

Once we as a culture would have said that these were too specific for general lessons; rather than try to alter legislation or training, we'd have referred the matters to prosecutors for individual trials on the exact charges in play. That era has apparently passed, but the new era leaves us scrambling to try to reason from anecdotes. That a bad thing can possibly happen leads to laws and restrictions that may make it harder for good outcomes to happen in many other cases. The emotions attending the bad cases lead to irrational decisions applied to the whole model. This is no way to run a railroad.

A Major Victory for the Right to Bear Arms

California's 'assault weapons' ban has been overturned.
In his 94-page ruling, the judge spoke favorably of modern weapons, said they were overwhelmingly used for legal reasons.

“Like the Swiss Army knife, the popular AR-15 rifle is a perfect combination of home defense weapon and homeland defense equipment. Good for both home and battle,” the judge said in his ruling’s introduction.

A remarkably sensible ruling to have been written by a judge in California! Good to see some clear thought coming from that quarter. 

A Scottish Evening

Since Tex’s pipes were a big hit, here are some more for the weekend. 

PA Legislators Call for Election Audit

Earlier this week a delegation of Pennsylvania legislators visited the Arizona audit, which they observed and where they obtained briefings by the auditors and some of their peers among Arizona legislators. Today, those Pennsylvania legislators called for an audit of their own.

Tiananmen Anniversary

Thirty-two years ago, Chinese state security forces murdered thousands of innocent protesters in Tiananmen Square. They have been relentlessly tracking the survivors and suppressing the story. Protests commemorating the massacre are forbidden, under penalty of prison for anyone attending one. 

I believe in the virtues of minding one's own business, but somebody has to speak about this for those who can't. There are very decent people in China living under their murderous police state. We have lots of problems of our own, but at least let us remember that they exist and some of what they have suffered. 

UPDATE: Foreign Affairs publishes an article arguing that we should prepare ourselves for the likelihood that Beijing may soon invade Taiwan.

UPDATE: A good move from the Biden administration, which barred investments by US persons in 59 Chinese firms linked to their military and surveillance state. Unfortunately this comes alongside a very bad move, the adoption of some Chinese-made drones by the US military for use.

A Podcast on Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics

So, I promised to try these National Review book podcasts, starting with 182: The Nicomachean Ethics. It's an interview with another Thomas Jefferson professor, this one from the University of Texas, Lorraine Smith Pangle. 

There are a lot of books in this series I have never read, and others I have read only lightly; you have to go all the way back to 163: Return of the King to get to one I feel as comfortable with as I do with Aristotle's ethics. It looks like a great introductory series of bite-sized podcasts on worthy books numerous enough that even well-educated people will have missed many of them.

Because this particular book is one I feel qualified to address, I'm going to take the liberty of answering the interviewer's questions before I listen to Dr. Pangle's answers. You can then compare and contrast what she has to say with what I do. 

Q1: "Why is the Nicomachean Ethics a great book?"

It is great because it teaches you how to be happy as a human being. The answer provided has seemed plausible to ancients, to the Medievals, to the early and late Moderns, and still does to many of us today. Even as you may disagree with parts of it from your own perspective, it gives you an independent place to stand while you criticize your own generation's answers -- one that has withstood the test of time for thousands of years, and inspired many of the best men and women who ever lived.

Q2: "According to Aristotle, what is the good [at which all things aim]?"

The good at which all things aim is existence, but not mere existence: a kind of perfected existence, which we can call 'flourishing' and which is eudaimonia in the Greek. Eudaimonia is often translated as 'happiness,' but it's really not an emotional state per se but this perfection of our existence. This is literally all things, insofar as they have power to aim. Trees move to track the sunlight, which helps them to flourish. Squirrels wildly pursue both food to help them continue to exist in a healthy way, and sex to further their existence into the next generation. Aristotle is going to say that we have both of these sets of capacities, the vegetable (or nutrative) and the animal. But humans also have a rational capacity that he thinks is lacking in those, and so we can pursue the good of a flourishing existence in a much deeper and more complete way. The goal of the ethics is to shape our lives into the best possible ones, the most perfected existence available to us.

[She answers this one in a very different way, one that more closely follows the text's unraveling of the story rather than giving the top-down answer.]

Q3: "What does he say about the good of politics?"

Aristotle, like Plato, thinks that human goods are only achievable in their highest forms in the context of a community devoted to them. Insofar as philosophy is one of the highest expressions of human good, one of the ways we live our most excellent lives, you need a community to sustain it. Partly you need to eat, so some of the community will be devoted to providing for that good; partly you need education. Partly you need others with whom to talk philosophy, who have also been interested in the questions and educated about how to pursue them. This will be true for the other elements of flourishing, such as art or sport or any other. Politics thus has to create a society that produces enough wealth to support the best life, and enough stability to pursue it; and that can defend itself against the outside world well enough to make that life sustainable in a dangerous world. This is one reason courage is both the first virtue he discusses in detail, and one he returns to over and over as an exemplary virtue. The good of politics is, ultimately, creating the conditions for this human good of a flourishing life. 

[She follows the first book's discussion closely here, explaining the end of ethics instead of politics, which is correct scholarship but not really what the interviewer had asked.]

Q4: "No, really, politics?"

[I've already answered this, but she is right to focus on the importance of participation in political life in the best life. Because the business of politics is to create and sustain the conditions for the best life, active participation in this is supposed to be both a part of the good life and a kind of moral duty -- it wouldn't be virtuous to leave this to others and not carry your part of the load, and it is good for both yourself and everyone else that good and virtuous people devote themselves to it.]

Q5: "Explain 'Nicomachean'?"

[I'll leave this one to her able answer, as the follow-on question about organization, and the next question about how important it is to study this closely.]

Q8: "Is this book in dialogue with Socrates and Plato?"

Sometimes explicitly so, for example, Book VII raises Socrates' view of the problem of knowledge and incontinent moral behavior. Scholars debate how much Aristotle was a Platonist and how much he really had a radically different take on the questions Plato and Socrates had raised. In some of Aristotle's works, especially the scientific works, he's doing things that Plato and Socrates may not have even considered; but especially when he writes on moral philosophy, he is right at the core of what most interested both of them, at least as Plato presents Socrates. I would say that Aristotle proposes substantially different answers especially on the nature of virtue, not as a form of knowledge (as Socrates had proposed) but as an active and habitual pursuit of excellence that shapes one's character over time. 

Q9: "What does the word 'Aristotelian' mean?"

Aristotle's works were lost for centuries, during which time much of Plato remained available in the West, as did later Roman thinkers' works. One can use the word to refer to the elements of things like Stoic works that resemble and probably drew on Aristotle's works, but I would tend to employ it more properly to the works of philosophy that were developed in the Islamic, Jewish, and Christian world once Aristotle became available to these later thinkers. The philosophies of all of these civilizations reformed themselves along lines they drew out of Aristotle, and each other's readings of Aristotle, in a way that is like him but also like them. Thus, they are 'Aristotelian.' 

Q10: [This is a question about her particular interpretation and understanding of what Aristotle means; I certainly don't know better than she does what she meant or thinks, so I'll leave those questions to her.]

Q11: "Why is courage so important? Why is it the highest virtue?"

I said above why it was necessary, and exemplary, but courage is not the highest virtue. Rather, it is a particularly clear example. If you want to discuss justice, it can be hard to say what is just; it's not hard to say what the brave thing to do in battle is (i.e., one's duty rather than running away or hiding). So when Aristotle comes around to justice, which many (but not me) believe he thinks is the highest virtue, he returns to courage as an example. Justice, he says, is fairness plus lawfulness -- but 'lawfulness' means something specific, not just obedience to any laws at all. It means that the laws should require you to do what you would do if you were virtuous, i.e., the laws on military service should require you to do your duty and punish you if you run or hide. In this way, Aristotle says, justice is a kind of perfection of virtue.

However, I would argue that justice isn't Aristotle's highest virtue either, but magnanimity. The magnanimous man does what is most worthy of honor. What is most worthy of honor? The most excellent version of the most virtuous thing. The just man does what is virtuous, but perhaps only because he is compelled. The magnanimous man does it because it is excellent, and he strives to do it in the most honorable way that he possibly can. Aristotle describes this as a kind of crown or ornament to virtue, a higher virtue even than justice in my reading.

Q12: "What are the other virtues?"

[No reason to give the list twice, except to note that she gives magnanimity as 'greatness of soul,' which is a literal translation of magna and anima.]

Q13: "What is the role of a community in cultivating these virtues? Is that what politics are all about?"

Already answered, above. However, I want to note that she raises a point about the importance of a good upbringing in moral education that I didn't, but that was a focal point of one of my teachers' thinking on Aristotle. 

Q14: "You mentioned this version of politics is not liberal. What did you mean by that?"

[Again, it's only proper that she should speak for herself about her own thoughts! I do agree with her understanding of what Aristotle was about, though.]

Q15: "Is this a book that every public official should read or is it just too remote from their everyday concerns?"

I doubt most of them are capable of understanding it, nor even very interested in it -- mostly our public officials are thieves and liars, not the kind of virtuous men and women Aristotle was addressing. 

[I endorse her answer as to why ordinary citizens should definitely engage it, however, just because of the failure of our political order to produce a good politics.]

Q16: "Discuss Aristotle's influence on Christianity."

[Frequently discussed here, so I will pass.]

Q17: "What does the book say about natural right?"

[She gives an interesting answer here, which focuses on Churchill.]

Q18: "Favorite translation?"

This is a question about her own thoughts, so she should give them.

Q19: "Why did you devote your life to studying Aristotle?"

This is also a question for her, which she should be allowed to answer without interruption. 

The Green Hills of Tyrol

Althouse: I Didn't Buy A Gun Because of the Pandemic!

D29 recommends this piece by Althouse. I don't get by there often, but she is in good form here

News to Me, Bud

The President claims that the most lethal threat facing 'the homeland' is 'white supremacy' -- "Not al Qaeda. Not ISIS. White Supremacy.

The military has done a good job with al Qaeda and ISIS. They are definitely less of a threat than once. 

Still, "white supremacy"? The KKK couldn't fill a ballroom these days. That's a good, positive thing, a major advance and a big step forward from where we were a hundred years ago. It's insane that instead of celebrating the progress we've made, they're trying to turn this into a chance to go after people who would never describe themselves as white supremacists, people who would like to walk away from the whole history of racism and division.  

Why not celebrate the fact that white mob actions like the one in 1921 Tulsa are unthinkable today? Oh, Antifa is almost-all-white and still forms mobs and burns city centers, that much is not only still possible but still actual. Yet the people they're trying to sell you on as threats don't even want to be white supremacists. The tiny handful of actual white supremacists left in this country are despised by everyone else, regardless of politics. 

A Telling Aside

In a book review of a history of early America written by the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Professor at the University of Virginia, which was founded by none other than Thomas Jefferson:
(It is startling to witness just how much the Thomas Jefferson Foundation Professor at Jefferson’s own university dislikes its patron, Thomas Jefferson.)

"A Politically Fraud Situation"

A Freudian typo in an article about the border and the VP.
Harris’ role is not to staunch the flow of illegal aliens crossing into the U.S. but rather find solutions to the “root causes” of the migration in the first place.... Calling it a “politically fraud situation” for the Biden administration and Harris personally, Bertrand went on to say that the current White House, like past administrations  — “Trump Administration excepted” — is attempting to find a “humanitarian” solution.

She went on to claim that her network has been informed that Harris was “extremely involved” in devising the White House’s regional approach to the issue of surging illegal immigration, including “climate change” and “tackling food insecurity.”

Great job on that food insecurity work, then. With the inflation hitting grocery prices, America will soon stop looking so good in comparison. 

UPDATE: Man, we're really working that food insecurity angle

Happy Pride Month from the US Embassy to the Holy See

This isn't nearly as bad as the stuff they used to do in the Baghdad embassy, all of which was a finger in the eye to our Iraqi hosts (some of whom might have actually tried to kill us over it). Likewise it is definitely true that the United States government is now devoted to gay rights, and gay pride, which is one of the differences it has to work around when working with the Holy See. 

Still, it's hardly diplomatic. The Swiss Guards won't drop mortars on the US Embassy like the Mahdi Army, but it's no way to get along with what I believe we used to regard as a valuable ally. 

A Parting Glass

I hope the rising tone is not out of place today. It is a day to remember those who have died, but as the BRCC video Grim posted Friday noted, those memories may be joyful as well.

Rolling to Remember Successful

The Rolling to Remember demonstration ride I mentioned a few days ago came off well in spite of official difficulties. Estimates are that around 50,000 bikes participated this year. 

Rolling Thunder local chapters also had good rides this year, all of them smaller than the old event but located across the country. In addition, I saw video from the Infidels MC ride in Fayetteville here in North Carolina that indicated strong turnout. ("Here in North Carolina" makes it sound close; NC is a very big state. It's 316 miles each way by the shortest route.)

Glad to see these traditions holding on in spite of the disapproval of the powers that be. It's too bad they can't see the value in it, but so be it. The America our fallen fought for was made up of her citizens and her liberties, not her politicians and her bureaucrats. 

Memorial Day Photos

A somber collection from the Associated Press.

Sgt. MacKenzie


I first heard this in the movie We Were Soldiers. Wikipedia says that it was written about Sgt. Charles MacKenzie, who served in the Seaforth Highlanders in WWI. He was killed in combat at the age of 33. It was written in Scots, and here is a standard English translation.

Studying the Classics

One of America's most famous colleges is drastically changing the concept of what it means to study the Classics.
Classics majors at Princeton University will no longer be required to learn Greek or Latin in a push to create a more inclusive and equitable program, an effort that was given “new urgency” by the “events around race that occurred last summer.”

Last month, faculty members approved changes to the Classics department, including eliminating the “classics” track, which required an intermediate proficiency in Greek or Latin to enter the concentration, according to Princeton Alumni Weekly. The requirement for students to take Greek or Latin was also removed.

On the one hand, I'm delighted to learn that there is pressure from a diverse group of people to be included in the study of Homer or Cicero. Also, reading these things in the original may be less important now that we have 2,000+ years of translations available. I myself have never studied Latin or Greek formally, but rather am self-taught in the limited amount of each language I have. I still have managed to learn a fair amount about ancient philosophy.

On the other hand, we are still going to require a certain number of experts to check our work on these matters of fundamental texts. English drifts too, so that an older translation of Aristotle may now read differently to an English-language scholar than it was intended to read by the translator. Someone who can read the original can pull us back when we drift away from what was really meant by the text.

In addition, it sounds from the article like the discipline of studying difficult ancient languages is being replaced by racial-theory claptrap. This will only damage the thinking of students, whatever their backgrounds. It is replacing ancient things of proven value with fashionable nonsense driven by political aims.