The Bobarosa Saloon

So today I rode out to the Bobarosa Saloon.

In fact everyone was perfectly nice. Armed society, polite society.

The exterior of the main bar.

Tree of shame by the French Broad River. Every time somebody loses a part, they use it to decorate.

"The Deplorables" is a crew of Vietnam Veteran bikers who meet there on Wednesday and Sundays. There's an on-site Vietnam memorial, pictured. The bar is extremely friendly to vets. Two of the bartender's sons are vets, one Army and one Navy.

They are not as friendly to politicians.

Main bar, interior. They also have a kitchen with a psychotic cook -- at least, her husband says she's psychotic.

Vietnam memorial by the river.

This is a good ride out US 70, also accessible by the Tennessee Foothills Parkway via a short jump on I-40. It's a long way from everywhere, but draws hundreds to more than a thousand bikers on a warm summer weekend. There's a motel and campground on site, so you can ride out there, stay for live music, and sleep off the cheap and mostly-American beer. $2.50 a bottle or can. "Froofy drinks" and imports are $3. Cash only.

Highly recommended for those of you who are the right kind of people to like it. You know who you are.

"Jaffa" Part II: Aristotle

One of the regular features of the article we are discussing is that it imagines the American Founding in a kind of dialogue with Aristotle. That is obviously a facet of the article that interests me particularly; it may interest a few of you. (Others will find it much less engaging!) 

This will be quite long, so I will put it after a jump.

"Harry Jaffa vs. Willmoore Kendall Redivivus" Part I

This piece of D29's is too long to respond to in one sitting, so we'll break it up a bit for ease of discussion. 

The first things I want to go into, before we get into his discussion of the factions he opposes and what he thinks is the right way forward, is his argument about what his real opponents are doing. This whole article is essentially an unfriendly fight among friends, as it were; debates among members of the right wing about a problem and how to address it. It's being conducted aggressively, this debate, but it's a debate with a common set of goals assumed, including restoring the American republic and preserving its principles. 

His real enemies are the ones who are intending the opposite -- and they, he argues, are the people actually in power.
If America cannot recover the understanding of the founding in the way the founders understood the founding, then the crisis we face will forecast the destruction of the regime. But what right-thinking person can deny that America is truly the “last best hope” for the preservation of free government against the Biden Administration’s full-scale attempt to establish despotism in the name of preserving “democracy?” 

Every would-be despot knows that the quickest way to despotism is to promote anarchy: The reason is simple—anarchy is insupportable. Anarchy is the state of nature; civil society and the rule of law is designed to end the state of nature and the anarchy that makes human life “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” Almost any rule is preferable to the state of nature and anarchy. People will choose any rule—even despotism—to prevent anarchy. 

Yet, we see the Biden Administration deliberately promoting crime and race war. It undermines the nation’s sovereignty with its policy of open borders, which promotes illegal immigration—itself a crime leading to further crime. The Biden Administration is also clearly working to destroy the middle class, a long-standing goal of Democratic administrations. Its politicization of the Justice Department and the intelligence agencies is evident, as is its use of government agencies to interfere illegally in American elections. 

Skewing the economy by inflationary pressures to benefit ruling class elites and corporations at the expense of the lower and middle classes, and ensuring that the same ruling elites benefit from corrupt dealing with China are but a few of the myriad ways the administration actively promotes anarchy. 
The author (Edward J. Erler) is not very coherent in his remarks on the subject of anarchy, though I get where he's going with the idea. Anarchy is not 'the state of nature,' for example; it is still a form of human organization, just a voluntary one without coercive leadership. It may or may not be sufficient to hold back the dangers of the state of nature, and certainly faces challenges when it comes up against human forms of coercive organization. (Even on his own terms, the argument doesn't make sense; if the state of anarchy were the state of nature, it would not need to be supported in any case -- being natural, it would sustain itself.) We have to recognize that he's adopting a Hobbesian framework, and being imprecise in his discussion of alternatives.

In this framework, the aim of his enemies is to destroy the republic by destroying the order it establishes. This will cause ordinary people to fear the chaos around them, and therefore prime them to accept new despotic terms of rule instead of the constitutional republican order. 

There has already been a long discussion of whether this view is plausible. Throughout the Obama administration the watchword was, "Never attribute to malice that which can be attributed to incompetence." We were, of course, assured of the intelligence of the President and his chosen band of friends, but the media assuring us of that intelligence would not know intelligence nor competence if it were bitten by them. (And that was the administration's opinion too:  Obama's right hand man, Ben Rhodes, described journalists as '26 year olds who literally know nothing.')

Some reasons exist to think that the series of crises of the last few years were at least partly effected in order to create opportunity for political changes that would cement the power structure in ways that would insulate the elite. These changes did in fact rise nearly to the level of chaos, and they came from several directions at once. I can understand how some might even think that the COVID matter was a planned excursion, given that it most likely occurred from a lab leak (which could have been on purpose), followed years of war games on how to deal with pandemics (which should have been the mark of reasoned planning by officials, but which a paranoid sensibility could see as preparation), happened to coincide with riots actually abetted by the government at several levels in order to weaken the police response and which led to frightened citizens, and which pandemic was used to justify a number of changes to election systems that coincided with fortification efforts that resulted in Biden's election. 

Yes, it all does look very suspicious; that doesn't mean the suspicions are accurate. Watching this crew handle the Afghanistan withdrawal, I am convinced they couldn't plan their way out of a paper bag. Even their military leadership seems somehow to have failed to learn how to plan a military operation. As weird as it may seem, veniality and senility, panic and in-group-thinking may explain the chaos better than any planned conspiracy. I don't think they have it in them: they may have sufficient ill will and evil intent, but they haven't the competence or intelligence. 

If that part is wrong, it doesn't make the rest of the analysis wrong: he might still be right about the argument he's having with his friends. It does lower the temperature of the overarching conflict, though. America is not being strangled by an evil elite intent on destroying it; America is dying of old age, as its once-vital institutions ossify, fail, and dissolve into incoherence and disorder. That is a natural process, one that states suffer even as men.

Tyranny Loves Emergency

Syria's "President," Bashar al-Assad, has waged war against his own people for quite some time. In addition to abusive secret police and the ordinary human rights abuses, he has destroyed neighborhoods and villages in order to create waves of refugees. That served the double purpose of reducing the population of elements he thought disloyal to himself within Syria, while also burdening Europe to such a degree that he was able to use the threat of further refugee waves in order to compel some concessions to himself. In that sense, he has used his internal war against his own people to create a weapon against neighboring states -- even powers such as Germany have bent before it. 

For a long time world leaders spoke in terms of him being a pariah who would, of course, eventually fall. However, since last month's devastating earthquake, there has been a move to deal with him because he's the only guy to deal with. If you want to help people in western Syria, you are going to have to talk with him.

Now in eastern Syria, where the Kurdish SDF exists and enjoys American support, it's possible to pass resources along lines that don't go through Assad's hands. Even there, though, Iranian-backed militia (including from Iraq) often control major river crossings. Since Iran supports Assad, it wouldn't hurt if you had his blessing to deliver aid even there. 

These sorts of emergencies (and this one is a legitimate emergency for many thousands of people) end up being used to paper over the sins and violations of tyrants. Not only do they force other people to 'forget' about past wrongs, the emergencies themselves are often invoked to expand government powers. It's a tragic cycle that empowers the worst sorts of humanity.

Background Bluegrass and Beautiful Photos

This isn't normal fare for the Hall, but I often listen to music like this in the background when I'm working, and this particular video has some stunning pics of the Appalachians, as well as black and white photos of people and life there maybe a generation or two ago, I guess. I thought some others here might enjoy it.

I've only been to the Appalachians once for a week, though I've driven through several times after that. It is an incredibly beautiful place.

The Centrality of the Declaration

D29 asked me to read and review this article on natural rights as crucial to the American project. It's a long piece that critiques a number of current positions on the American right. As a prerequisite, anyone interested in that should also read the author's earlier pieces in which he engaged in a debate over whether the Declaration of Independence is, or is not, central to understanding the Constitution.

There are established positions on both sides here. The division is close to exactly how he frames it. Positive law lawyers and jurists prefer that it not be, and that the Constitution stand on its own. Those who believe (as the author) that natural law is necessary as a founding stone to give left-and-right limits to what positive law can morally and acceptably do prefer to read the documents together.

Readers probably know that I am of the school that makes the Declaration, and not the Constitution, the central document. The Constitution is not the first incarnation of the American project; it replaced the earlier Articles of Confederation. Even they were not the first incarnation, but the revolutionary governments which rejected British royal authority under the terms of the Declaration. The positive law formulations of any particular government are temporary and may be set aside when they cease to work; the principles of the Declaration are eternal, and explain how and when positive law governments may be set aside.

This is the principle the founders mentioned in the Federalist, which our author duly quotes:
“The first question is answered at once by recurring to the absolute necessity of the case; to the great principle of self-preservation; to the transcendent law of nature and of nature’s God, which declares that the safety and happiness of society are the objects at which all political institutions aim and to which all such institutions must be sacrificed.”
As he goes on to point out, the Articles were 'the institutions [which] must be sacrificed' on that occasion, and the reason that they had to be sacrificed rather than amended was that they were inadequate to the only real purpose of government according to the Declaration:  defending the natural rights of the people. 

In any case, it's some good preliminary reading for the bigger discussion to come.

The NYT Loves to Lecture Georgia

Maureen Dowd wrote in a classic genre this week, the genre of New York Times pieces looking down on Georgia (which is itself a subset of the larger genre of New Yorkers looking down on the South). I'm not going to link to it, because who cares what New Yorkers think about how Georgians ought to live? If they don't like Georgia, they can stay right up there in the cold. As the late Lewis Grizzard said of similar complaints in a famous column thirty years ago, "I live in one of the most progressive cities in the world. We built a subway to make Yankees feel at home."

It really is a venerable genre of American letters, though. I once read a piece from its early decades, if I recall correctly, criticizing the South for holding a tournament in the style of Ivanhoe. Harpers in the era said Ivanhoe was responsible for the Civil War. Mark Twain himself partly agreed with the charge, naming Sir Walter Scott 'at least partly responsible.' 

There is some irony, though, in reading Dowd's lament for the Georgia that elected Jimmy Carter in favor of the one that exists today. The Georgia of those days was tightly divided between Democrats and other Democrats. The election of 1968 saw some Democrats (including Carter's successor as governor) voting for Republicans in order to vote against Democrat Lester Maddox, the noted segregationist who drove black men from the doors of his business with an axe handle. That Georgia had the Confederate battle flag on its state flag. The Georgia of today does not, and is apparently tightly divided between Democrats of Dowd's own sort and the Republicans she despises -- who, whatever else may be said of them, were never segregationists and never posed with the Confederate flag. 

Many good things were true of that Georgia too; it was the one into which I was born, and where I grew up and lived many years. There are lots of things about it I miss. Yet the last person who should complain about the changes is a writer from the New York Times.