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Thursday, 21 September 2017
Universe to Bono: I Don't Care
Topic: Decline of the West

Did you know that there is such a thing as “the moral arc of the universe”? No? Well, according to U2 frontman Bono there is indeed such an arc. And what’s more, President Donald J. Trump is disrupting it. But not to worry! In U2’s new album, Bono and his crew are taking on Captain Bombastico.

As an example of the preening self-regard of the celebrity Left, this one is hard to beat.

Come to think of it, though, “the moral arc of the universe” is a concept dear to the hearts of non-celebrity liberals, progressives and leftists as well. Senator Kamala Harris tells us that she supports single-payer healthcare for America—not because it would provide the nation with better healthcare at al lower price but because “it’s the right thing to do.” When Russia’s neotsar, V. Putin, snatched the Crimea away from Ukraine, President Obama sniffed that such things simply aren’t done in today’s brave new world of international law and justice. (Last time I checked, though, the Crimea had not been restored to its rightful owner.) And of course there’s “climate change,” which according to the Left the United States is morally bound to combat at any cost because that too is “the right thing to do.”

Now of course the moral line of argument goes in one direction only: from the Left through the Center to the Right. Should you be so audacious as to champion traditional family values as a route out of poverty, you’re sure to be reviled and denounced for attempting to impose your code of morality upon minorities. And sometimes the Left’s moral line of argument stops short, as when it condemns the sexism and misogyny still to be found in this country while ignoring the sexism and misogyny that besmirch practically the entire Muslim world.

One gets the impression, indeed, that the Left does not really believe that the universe exhibits a moral arc. So as to combat a (largely mythical) epidemic of sexual assault on college campuses the Left begins with a lie, falsely claiming that one in five women who attend college fall victim to sexual assault. Then the Left jettisons a cardinal moral principle, justice, by demanding that universities set up kangaroo courts where male students accused of sexual assault can be convicted and punished without all the fuss and bother of due process. It’s difficult to discern in such goings-on an arc of justice of any kind, much less a universal one.

So when the Left employs a moral argument you can take it for granted that no actual code of morals is involved. Describing something—single-payer, “fighting climate change”—as a moral imperative is a tactic of the Left, designed to impress or shame people who actually do embrace a code of morals. This is not to say that progressives, as a group, are bad people. One striking feature of our progressive elites is that they mostly honor in their private lives the traditional moral precepts that come in for fierce denunciation in their political lives. (Celebrity progressives, who would have been quite at home in the Rome of Caligula, are the exception here.) It’s not hard to see why. For instance, to accept the moral validity of traditional family values would undermine some key dogmas of the Left, such as institutional racism and multiculturalism.

“The moral arc of the universe” is one of those expressions, so impressive on first acquaintance yet so hollow on examination, that deserves to be laughed out of existence. Not only is it intolerably pompous, it’s obviously untrue. As a matter of fact, the universe doesn’t care. If you don’t believe me, ask the dinosaurs. Oh, but you can’t, because the universe snuffed them out by means of a genocidal asteroid strike. Well, you could ask a survivor of the Stalinist purges or the Holocaust—some still survive—or of the Cambodian genocide, or of the Rwandan genocide. Or you could ask the people of Puerto Rico, who just received a slap upside the head from that universal bully, the universe. 

“Without God, everything is permitted,” wrote Dostoevsky, which is another way of saying that without belief in some transcendent power or purpose, morality has no footing. The “moral arc of the universe” or “the spirit of humanity” or “the Radiant Future” are poor substitutes indeed for the Ten Commandments. If the terrible twentieth century taught us nothing else, it ought to have taught us that.

Posted by tmg110 at 7:45 AM EDT
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Monday, 18 September 2017
Single-Payer: The Crystal Meth of American Politics
Topic: Politics & Elections

Napoleon advised that one should never interrupt the enemy while he’s making a mistake, so probably I and all conservatives should just keep quiet about the Democratic Party’s growing craze for single-payer healthcare: “Medicare for All,” as Senator Bernie Sanders (Bolshevik, Vermont) has dubbed it. But single-payer is such an extravagantly bad idea that I just can’t resist pointing out how dumb the Dems are for embracing it. So let’s review. 

The cost, of course, would be astronomical. Sanders & Co. speak vaguely of taxes on the rich and on such nebulous activities as “speculation” which would finance single-payer, but nothing they propose comes close to covering the bill. Indeed, no one’s really sure how much it would cost. Estimates range from $2.5 to $3 trillion per year. Accepting the lower number puts the price tag at $25 trillion over ten years. That’s serious money. Sanders’ plan is short on specifics but his tax proposals would raise only $14 trillion over ten years. 

The claims that single-payer would be cheaper than the current system also seem dubious. The administrative costs of a system covering all 320,000,000 Americans would be astronomical, particularly in view of the facts that the job would have to be farmed out to private companies. And guess what? Those companies would expect to be paid for their services. So though single-payer would abolish private health insurance companies, it would replace them with a vastly expanded medical services industry. As Jay Cost has pointed out, this kind of private-public partnership has been tried many times before and has a vexed history. Flush with cash, the huge new medical services industry would be in a prime position to lobby and influence the government. Sanders & Co. claim that a single-payer system would put the government in the driver’s seat, with power to negotiate better healthcare deals for Americans. More likely, though, the system would come to be administered in the interests of those who operate it. 

Then there’s the claim that a single-payer system would be more cost-efficient than the current private-public system. But as the Washington Post notes, there’s much less to this assertion than meets the eye. On a per-capita basis US government healthcare systems like Medicare spend more than Canada, Australia and Britain each spend through their entire healthcare systems. In other words, the US spends more per head to cover a portion of the US population than those other countries spend per head to cover their whole populations. Expanding Medicare to cover everybody wouldn’t automatically change that. Something else would have to give. 

This brings us to the claim that a single-payer system would empower the government to control costs, e.g. by setting reimbursement rates and prices. Here again, though, the more closely one examines this claim, the more dubious it looks. Through programs like Medicare and Medicaid, the government already wields a big stick in the healthcare sector of the economy. But its influence is tempered by realities both economic and political. Obviously, there are limits on the power of price controls: set prices too low and the supply of goods and services that constitute the healthcare system would shrink. Only large medical conglomerates, able to achieve economies of scale, would tend to thrive in such a system. Small medical practices, clinics, laboratories and hospitals would be driven out of business. And this brings us to the real reason why the federal government’s leverage over healthcare costs is and would be less than total: the extreme political perils of taking a hard line on healthcare spending. As the WP puts it: 

Doctors and hospitals have effectively resisted efforts to scale back the reimbursements they get from federal health programs. Small-town America does not want to give up expensive medical facilities that serve relatively few people in rural areas. A tax on medical device makers has been under bipartisan attack ever since it passed, as has the “Cadillac tax” on expensive health-insurance plans. When experts find that a treatment is too costly relative to the health benefits it provides, patients accustomed to receiving that treatment and medical organizations with a stake in the status quo rise up to demand it continue to be paid for. 

In short, all the economic incentives would be for cost control while all the political incentives would be against cost control. That’s the political reality of a single-payer system and it’s a circle that can’t be squared. Once the government takes control of the entire healthcare system, it will be held entirely responsible for every physician forced into early retirement, every hospital closed, every treatment denied. So, politicians being what they are—beings desirous of being reelected—they would shrink from the rigors of cost control. 

But the single-payer mob believes that it has an ace up its sleeve: The American people support single-payer! Naturally, though, that support depends on how the question is put. Ask Mr. & Ms. Average American if they want free government-provided healthcare and they’ll probably answer yes. But ask them if they’d like having their taxes substantially raised to pay for it, or if they’re willing to accept some one-size-fits-all healthcare plan in place of their current coverage, and you’re likely to get a different answer. The truth is that most Americans are fairly well satisfied with the healthcare coverage they have now. Why, for instance, would a family of four with decent employer-provided coverage cheer at having to pay higher taxes for Medicare for All? The costs being revealed, the details being spelled out, the cries of outrage, woe and anguish would soon drown out the tinny bandwagon music of the single-payer circus. 

And there would be plenty of woe and anguish for sure. One thing that Sanders & Co. have so far failed to explain is this: How would the transition from the current system to single payer be managed? How long would it take? How much would it cost? How disruptive would it be? What about the economic fallout? The US healthcare system is one-sixth of the national economy. It is a mechanism of astonishing breadth and vast complexity. The idea that it can be neatly pivoted onto a new axis by some dim old codger and his congressional colleagues is beneath criticism. Remember Obamacare’s inaugural pratfall? Expand that by five or six orders of magnitude and you’ll get some idea of the chaos that would surely accompany any attempt to implement a single-payer healthcare system in the United States. 

So, as a conservative, looking at the thing from a purely partisan point of view, I fervently hope that the Democrats make single-payer the keystone of their political platform. Like gun control, single-payer is an idea both ideologically addictive and politically toxic. And the Left appears to be hooked.

Posted by tmg110 at 10:23 AM EDT
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Tuesday, 5 September 2017
Leave It to Cleaver
Topic: Decline of the West

I learned something new and interesting recently: One cannot argue in favor of traditional virtues like hard work, thrift, honesty, civility, patriotism, delayed gratification, sexual restraint, etc. And why not? Because: Ward Cleaver! 

Two law professors, one at the University of Pennsylvania, one at the University of San Diego, had written an op-ed piece for the Philadelphia Inquirer in which they decried the decline of such virtues, grouping them under the brand name, bourgeois culture. Not all cultures are equal, the professors noted, and they went on to argue that the culture best suited for a postindustrial, democratic country is the bourgeois culture that prevailed in Western countries up to the Sixties. But now that culture has fallen out of fashion, as witnessed by our society’s growing dysfunction. 

You can, I am sure, imagine the response to this from the academic Left. Racism! Sexism! Homophobia! Xenophobia! Etc. and so forth. What no doubt most enraged the snowflakes and grievance mongers was the fact that the professors’ point is really inarguable. Such virtues do forge the key to a happy, productive life. But since they’re associated in the collective consciousness of the Left with Mr. Cleaver, a middle-class white guy sitting there in his easy chair after work, still wearing a tie, reading the paper while June gets dinner ready, the professors have just got to be spreading racism and sexism and hate speech—blah, blah, blah. 

Never mind that nothing they wrote could be construed as an attack on minorities. They made a point, indeed, of noting that the underclass vices, arising from an “antiauthoritarian, adolescent, wish-fulfillment ideal” dating from the Sixties, affect whites as well as minorities. And, they go on to note, not only are the vices colorblind but so are the opposing virtues. That is to say, the benefits of bourgeois culture are available to all who choose to embrace them, regardless of race or ethnicity. 

So what’s wrong with promoting these bourgeois virtues? Why is it, precisely, that championing bourgeois culture is hurtful and harmful to minorities? Or is that argument really just a nice way of saying that blacks and other minorities cannot be expected to pattern their behavior along the lines of hard work, thrift, honesty, civility, etc.? Recall the stories that came out of New Orleans during the Katrina disaster: social breakdown, widespread looting and violence, snipers shooting at rescue helicopters—even rumors of cannibalism. Well, of course, the media seemed to intimate. New Orleans is a black majority city, after all, and the people feel marginalized and abandoned so…what did you expect? But it turned out that many of these terrible stories were either gross exaggerations or outright fiction. By and large, the people of New Orleans behaved no differently than people anywhere would behave in the face of such a catastrophe. But the media—and by extension the Left—rather casually assumed that they’d behave very badly indeed.

By a choice irony, the white progressive elites who decry Cleaverism mostly practice the bourgeois virtues, though they wouldn’t dream of describing them as such. But they’re not willing to preach what they practice—which, like the fables of Katrina, suggests something not particularly flattering about their actual attitude toward minority groups. 

Yes, yes, I know: The bourgeois virtues can’t be forced on people. But on the other hand, what’s the point of denigrating them by dragging in poor old Ward Cleaver? What’s the point of saying, in effect, that hard work, thrift, honesty, civility, patriotism, delayed gratification, sexual restraint, etc. are white people’s values? What’s the point of multiculturalism if it teaches in effect that sloth, ignorance, criminality, irresponsibility, selfishness and adolescent self-regard are beyond criticism? Again, the irony is choice: In its obsession with race and multiculturalism, the Left has arrived at some conclusions that can fairly be described as racist. 

As the professors noted in their op-ed piece, many contemporary social problems can be traced to the breakdown of what they call bourgeois culture. Yes, certainly, its precepts had often been violated in practice. But beginning in the Sixties its social value was first criticized and then denied in principle. Today we’re living with the result. And Mr. Cleaver, wherever he is, must be looking on with a rueful smile.

Posted by tmg110 at 9:38 AM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 5 September 2017 10:25 AM EDT
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Friday, 1 September 2017
Why We Won
Topic: Military History

With the help of Dr. Leo Niehorster’s outstanding website, World War II Armed Forces Orders of Battle and Organizations, I did some quick calculations and came up with an eye-opening factoid. Among the units assigned to US First Army for Operation Overlord, the 1944 Allied invasion of France, were 33 quartermaster truck companies. Each company had 48 2½-ton cargo trucks and 1-ton trailers. In total, these 33 companies had 1,584 trucks and trailers, exclusive of additional vehicles assigned to the company and platoon headquarters. First Army also had 10 fuel supply companies, each with 16 2½-ton trucks and trailers, an additional 160, for a grand total of 1,744. Not counted are the many additional trucks in other units. For example, a 105mm field artillery battalion had 27 2½-ton cargo trucks. 

Besides the hundreds of thousands of deuce-and-a-half trucks, as the GI called them, that were supplied to the US armed forces, more than 400,000 were supplied to the Soviet Union via the Lend-Lease program. By 1945 over 30% of all trucks in Red Army service were American. In all, American factories produced 2,382,311 military trucks between 1941 and 1945, mostly 2 ½- and ¾-tonners. The latter, going by the name of weapons carrier, was produced in many variants: light cargo trucks, command vehicles, ambulances, etc. 

No wonder we won the war.

Posted by tmg110 at 12:05 PM EDT
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Friday, 4 August 2017
Unacceptable Alternatives
Topic: The Box Office

HBO’s next big thing is a series titled Confederate, set in an alternate America where the South won the Civil War, becoming an independent nation and preserving the institution of slavery. Because contemporary progressivism had perfected the technique of virtue signaling via willful stupidity, the announcement of this new project has produced a backlash, as if HBO is planning to produce a pro-slavery polemic. Whether the nosebleeds protesting Confederate really believe what they’re saying is a good question; probably, in the spirit of doublethink, they do and don’t simultaneously. In contemporary America, the issue of race has become an ideological depth charge, guaranteed to roil the waters of the leftie fever swamp. 

Very likely Confederate will turn out to be a tiresome Cautionary Tale for Our Time along the lines of Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale. HBO knows full well that it must kowtow to every piety of the Left regarding race or risk being subjected to a public shaming in the style of Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. Thus the free exercise of the imagination, so necessary to make a project like Confederate succeed, is pretty much off the table. And that’s too bad, because with the possible exception of an Axis victory in World War Two, a Southern victory in the Civil War is the most written-about scenario in the genre of alternate history: a rich vein of the imagination from which to mine the raw materials for a riveting dramatic series. 

Ward Moore’s Bring the Jubilee (1953) is perhaps the best-known novel on the theme of an alternate Civil War and embodies several ideas that could be very useful to the producers of Confederate. Moore envisions a Union defeat at Gettysburg in July 1863, followed by the occupation of Washington and a march on Philadelphia by General Lee’s victorious Army of Northern Virginia. Union resistance collapses and the US government capitulates on July 4, 1864. The ensuing Peace of Richmond consigns Maryland, Delaware, Missouri, Kansas, the American Southwest and California to the Confederate States of America, and also requires the United States of America to pay large reparations in gold. Thus by 1940, when Moore’s narrative commences, the CSA is a global superpower. The truncated USA, its economy ruined by postwar inflation, its dwindling population beset by chronic poverty and hopelessness, is a powerless and despised backwater. 

In Moore’s CSA slavery has been formally abolished but blacks, though no longer property and humanely treated, have no political rights. In the USA, however, the situation is very different. Rage against defeat in war and the humiliations that followed finds its focus in virulent racism. Blacks—on whose behalf, it is said, the ill-advised President Lincoln precipitated the nation into civil war—share the blame with the despised Abolitionists for all the ills of the war and its aftermath. Mass lynchings are common, often perpetrated by members of a secret terrorist organization, the racist, nativist Grand Army of the Republic. 

A TV series based this background material could be as arresting and provocative as Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle. But for all its imaginative power, Moore’s alternate history offers no space for a politically correct narrative. By and large, the people of his imaginary America accept their world as it is. There is no heroic black resistance movement. There is no abolitionist movement. None of our contemporary assumptions about race and politics are operative. Moore shows, in short, that an America in whose history the South won the Civil War would be a different America. But I’m sure that HBO, anxious to placate its progressive critics, will depict the boringly familiar: all those pieties concerning race, politics and economics with which contemporary progressivism feels comfortable. No doubt modernized slavery will be organized on a corporate basis, with wicked plutocrats exploiting black labor for the benefit of the shareholders. And no doubt progressives themselves will be cast in the role of heroic, enlightened abolitionists—with blacks, just as they are in reality, condescendingly regarded as a mascot group. 

As I thought about all this, an idea occurred to me. What if slavery in the CSA had evolved in such a manner as to replicate apartheid-era South Africa, with most blacks concentrated in “homeland” areas? And what if, to control these homelands, the white government had created a class of blacks receiving special privileges in return for serving as administrators, police officers, etc.? And what if the nucleus of resistance to the CSA developed among those black men and women? The dramatic possibilities are obvious—and, alas, obviously unacceptable to the doubleplusgoodthinkers of contemporary progressivism.

Posted by tmg110 at 9:57 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, 4 August 2017 1:04 PM EDT
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Wednesday, 2 August 2017
Celebrity Populism and Its Discontents
Topic: Decline of the West

remarkable feature of Trumpian populism is its malignant influence over both the supporters and the opponents of President Donald J, Trump. Among the former we find celebrity pundits like Sean Hannity, retailed to their fans for years as conservative stalwarts, abruptly transformed into shameless apologists for every offense against truth and morality perpetrated by Trump and his cronies. Listening to Hannity’s denunciations of the “deep state” and his vilification of Trump’s critics, I have often felt like pitching my glass into the TV screen. So to avoid a sad waste of good liquor, I no longer inflict upon myself the raving and ranting of that sycophantic phony.

But let us give Donald Trump his due. He also brings out the very worst in those who loathe and despise him. Assassination porn, fantasies of impeachment and dystopian malarkey send thrill after thrill up the collective leg of the Left. Trump’s supporters are routinely denounced as crazed gun-toting, racists, homophobes, misogynists, etc., etc. The hate-Trump Left, no less than the Love-Trump Right, seems incapable of seeing the man for what he is.

And what is he? Well, he’s nothing particularly new in American history. Trump didn’t invent populism, that not-really-conservative, dumbed-down, lowest-common-denominator, know-nothing ideology of the ignorant aggrieved. The shade of Huey Long no doubt beams with admiration of Trumpism. Perhaps even William Jennings Bryan nods approval from time to time. What’s new about Trump is not his populist message but his mode of operation, an amalgam of the celebrity culture and contemporary social media. This magnified his presence on the political stage and opened channels of communication bypassing those self-nominated gatekeepers of American political culture, the traditional mainstream media. Trump refused to play by the rules so therefore he couldn’t possibly win: thus reasoned the journalistic and political establishments. (I include myself in this criticism.) Not until the game was almost up did anybody see it coming: the knockout punch that floored Hillary Clinton, clearing Trump’s path to the White House.

Yet the substance of Trump’s populism is actually rather traditional: suspicious of free trade, inclined to protectionism, nationalist, isolationist, anti-immigrant, celebratory of “average Americans,” deeply suspicious of the Establishment, not particularly conservative. When Trump does mention a conservative principle, it seems as deeply felt as “Have a nice day.” In some respects, indeed, his populism resembles that of Bernie Sanders, the equally dumbed-down champion of that ideological oxymoron, “democratic socialism.”

What makes Trump distinctive is his open contempt for both propriety and the truth. He seems literally not to care whether the things he says bear any relation to reality. Last week the Commander-in-Chief supposedly banned transgendered people from service in the armed forces. But he did so via a tweet that, so far as anyone knows, has not been followed up by the kind of presidential directive necessary to give effect to such a ban. Also via Twitter, Trump has carried out a campaign of public vilification directed against his own attorney general. Before that, he fired the Director of the FBI in the most brutal and humiliating manner possible. Recall the dust-up over the relative sizes of his and Barack Obama’s inaugural crowds. Directly against the evidence of everybody’s eyes, Trump and his cronies insisted—insist to this day for all I know—that The Donald’s crowd was bigger. This ludicrous episode proved to be an omen, for Trump’s conduct in office since then has been very effective in driving his enemies on the Left over the screaming edge of madness.

And it’s not a pretty sight. Sean Hannity’s behavior may be unforgivable, but I can’t condemn the Rust Belt, Middle American voters who pulled the lever for Trump. They have a legitimate grievance against the political class—which seems, to put it no more pointedly, unconcerned about Middle America’s problems and priorities. Trump didn’t corrupt American politics but merely took advantage of a preexisting condition. Nor is the Left’s dislike of and contempt for his supporters anything new. The Left considered Middle America to be deplorable long before Hillary Clinton made the sentiment explicit. The unspoken assumption behind the theory of the ascendant Democratic majority was a belief that working-class white Americans would soon become extinct—and good riddance. The Trump Ascendancy has merely liberated the Left to say plainly what it really thinks about its fellow Americans: “You are stupid, ignorant, hateful and retarded.”

The resulting polarization of American politics, bred of mutual contempt and ill will, may well make this country ungovernable for years to come. For all the blather about bipartisanship nobody really believes in it any longer and it seems to me unlikely that either major party will be able to cobble together an effective governing majority. No matter who has control at the top there will be Resistance, gridlock, spreading lawlessness. But perhaps we need some such profound political crisis, whose climax would break the logjam and open a path forward. Because right now, America’s going nowhere fast.

Posted by tmg110 at 1:21 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 2 August 2017 1:24 PM EDT
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Friday, 23 June 2017
The Scourge of PDS
Topic: Politics & Elections

You needn’t look very far to find evidence of Political Derangement Syndrome or PDS. It boxes the political compass, from the fever swamps of the loony left to the dugouts and bunkers of the alt.right. Its signs and symptoms are visible everywhere. Few seem immune. 

A recent outbreak of PDS centered around the GA 06 special congressional election. For weeks we were told that a referendum on the deeply unpopular President Donald J. Trump was shaping up in that Georgia congressional district, which Trump had barely carried in November. Also, it would for the GOP be a harbinger of disaster in the 2018 midterm elections. The broad Left (Democrats, liberals, progressives, the antifa mob) convinced themselves that their candidate, a 30-year-old documentary filmmaker with no political experience named John Ossoff, could flip what had long been a safe Republican district. And indeed, in the first go-round, Ossoff raked in 48% of the vote against a field of some fifteen GOP candidates. In last week’s runoff against Republican Karen Handel he was widely expected to pick up the handful of extra votes needed to bring off an upset. 

But the election-eve polls showed a tight race with a statistically insignificant lead for Handel. Gritting their teeth, Dem-friendly pundits and journalists forecast a long night and a squeaker of a victory for Ossoff. Because how could he lose? Trump had only carried GA 06 by one percent! And nobody likes the guy! 

Then came Election Day. The race was called at 11 pm. Karen Handel beat John Ossoff by four points. 

Well, so what? Everybody makes mistakes! That’s true enough, though in retrospect there were many reasons to think that the election would turn out more or less as it did. But in their detestation of Trump, the Dems and the media blinded themselves to the probabilities. Their predictions of an Ossoff victory, buttressed by reams of learned analysis, turned out to be the rationalization of a wish with a price tag of $24 million. That in itself was a manifestation of PDS— but merely the preliminary sniffle. 

Even as the dust of crushed Democratic and media hopes was still settling, reality was being twisted into a new shape. It was rather like the scene in Nineteen Eighty-four when a Party orator, haranguing the crowd on the theme of Eurasian war crimes, suddenly and without breaking rhetorical stride shifts to a denunciation of Eastasian war crimes. Oceania, Mr. Orwell remarks mordantly, was at war with Eastasia. Oceania had always been at war with Eastasia. Eurasia was an ally. And in the case of Ossoff versus Handel it turned out that GA 06 was GOP turf. GA 06 had always been GOP turf. Ossoff never had a prayer. 

That the new reality pretty much reflected reality does the broad Left and the media no particular credit. They adopted it only when their preferred reality didn’t work out. And they adopted it with scarcely a blush of chagrin. Suddenly this was what they had been saying all along: that GA 06 was a safe GOP seat, that Ossoff was probably going to lose, that the outcome wasn’t predictive of what would happen in the 2018 midterms, and that the broad Left had known this all along. 

Observing in a Quora answer that Democratic hopes has come to naught in GA 06, I myself was treated to a smarmy little lecture from another Quora denizen. Stuff and nonsense, she said in effect. Are we downhearted? No! We expected Ossoff to come up short. And besides, these special elections tell you nothing about the shape of electoral things to come. And so on and so forth. I was tempted to ask why, if all this was known, the Dems had poured $24 million into Ossoff’s campaign. But to what purpose? With crystal clarity, this comment on my answer paraded all the destructive, self-deceiving folly that PDS implants in the human brain. Contradicting it with a fact would have been an exercise in futility.

You see much the same thing when some Trump fanboy or -girl, confronted with the latest example of their hero’s instability or dishonesty, tortures it into some wonderfully convoluted political masterstroke. PDS makes a person impervious to facts, contemptuous of evidence and blind to elementary reality. What Trump is, and is not, is pretty clear—obvious even. But a supposedly savvy journalist like Mika Brzezinski thinks—and what is more, says on the air—that she sees in the President an aspiring dictator along the lines of North Korea’s Kim Jon Um. This bespeaks a definite abnormality of mind, albeit one that is, no doubt, confined to the sphere of politics. Certainly it explains why so much of what you read or see concerning politics turns out to be dead wrong. All those credentialed pundits and savvy journalists suffer from PDS.

The corruption of our political culture—its triviality, crudity, dishonesty, sneering viciousness—is roundly decried. Much less remarked upon is the malady that underlies all these vices: the disconnect from reality that enables otherwise sane and decent people to behave like bullies and idiots, all the while remaining convinced that they’re enlightened, virtuous and heroic. Political Derangement Syndrome: It’s hazardous to America’s civic and spiritual health.

Posted by tmg110 at 12:39 PM EDT
Updated: Friday, 23 June 2017 9:28 PM EDT
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Friday, 16 June 2017
Assassination Porn
Topic: Decline of the West

Only one man bears the guilt for yesterday’s shooting in Virginia that targeted Republican members of Congress: the now-deceased shooter. He and he alone “has blood on his hands,” as the saying goes. I want to make that clear in the minds of readers because what follows will no doubt provoke the Left. 

In cases of political violence, the guilt of the shooter is separate from the responsibility of others and it’s legitimate to inquire whether society’s general political atmosphere, the general state of political discourse, played some role in setting yesterday’s events in motion. Regarding the current case, the Left summarily rejects any such suggestion, its escape hatch being the claim that the shooter was “mentally unstable”—a term, it must be noted, that’s somewhat lacking in precision. And Jay Cost, no leftie, has somewhat supported this defense, commenting yesterday that after all, America has a long tradition of overheated political rhetoric that usually does not spill over into actual violence. 

Cost’s point is fine as far as it goes but, after all, context matters. That political opponents said ugly things about one another fifty or a hundred years ago without sparking violence does not necessarily validate the point for present-day America. In Weimar Germany, for instance, extreme political rhetoric and actual political violence went hand in hand. The rhetoric of National Socialism—talk of the “Jew republic,” the “November criminals,” etc.—was meant to and did lead to violence, from street brawls to assassinations. In no way, shape or form was the violent political rhetoric of that time and place disconnected from political violence. 

So the current case must be judged, first, on the terms of contemporary American political culture and only second in the light of history. 

There can be no denial that in recent years violent rhetoric has proliferated, and that it has insinuated itself into the political mainstream, Right and Left. Militaristic and revolutionary themes abound. Those opposed to Trumpism style themselves as “the Resistance,” as if they were battling a dictatorial regime or a foreign invader. Meanwhile, on the Right, progressives are excoriated as globalists, un-American rats, even traitors. Both sides characterize themselves as “fighting to take the country back.” 

From the Left, much of the vitriol is flung directly at President Trump. He is routinely excoriated as a Russian stooge, guilty of actual treason, a fascist, an aspiring dictator seeking to shred the constitution, a sexist, a homophobe, a racist, etc., and so forth, on and on. And this hymn of hate is not restricted to the goons of the so-called antifa (anti-fascist) movement. Coming from extremists and head cases like Noam Chomsky or Naomi Wolf, such rhetoric could be disregarded. But nowadays, with increasing force and volume, it comes from respected academics, celebrities and, yes, supposedly mainstream progressive and Democratic politicians like Bernie Sanders and Nancy Pelosi. 

Naturally those who support Trump or even say anything positive about him come in for their own share of this hate speech—for that, literally, is what it is. Hillary Clinton’s dismissal of Trump voters as “a basket of deplorables” set the standard. In the eyes of the Left, there can have been no legitimate reason for people to vote for Trump, only racism, sexism, and hate. And this comforted the Left before Election Day, for surely such an ogre with such a following could never be elected president. 

So when Donald J. Trump was actually elected president, the broad Left went into a three-foot hover of utter rage. 

The assault on congressional Republicans cannot really be isolated from the escalating violence of the protests against President Trump. Groups like the antifa movement employ the tactics of intimidation and actual violence—and they do so, it must be said, with the tacit approval of establishment progressivism, the media and the Democratic Party. Which leading Democratic politicians have stood up to denounce antifa street violence or suppression of conservative speech and activity on college campuses? Which mainstream media outlets have decried the rising tide of leftist street violence? Few if any. And this is hardly surprising, for the hostility of, say, CNN to Trump is only somewhat less unhinged than that of, say, Mainstream progressivism, though perhaps made uncomfortable by the violent rhetoric and actual violence of the Resistance, doesn’t really disapprove of it. 

In New York City, the much-respected Public Theater is currently presenting Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. It has often been remarked that this play is a timeless commentary on politics and political ambition, capable of being staged against any backdrop. The Public Theater’s offering has its actors costumed in contemporary clothing—and Caesar himself is made up to look just like Donald J. Trump. Since Julius Caesar’s first climax is the title character’s bloody assassination, the Public Theater has come in for a great deal of criticism. The critics call it “assassination porn”; the Public Theater’s defenders appeal to the sanctity of art. How it actually differs from Kathy Griffin’s severed-head-of-Trump stunt is a good question. Both it seems to me are the product of the extremist rhetoric and occasional violence of the Resistance. 

And so we circle back to a disaffected leftist’s shoot-up of the GOP House baseball team. The broad Left, knowing that it had a problem on its hands, wasted no time trying to distance itself from the shooter. He was, we were told, mentally ill. It was, we were told, really the Republicans’ own fault because they oppose more gun control. And of course it was just disgraceful to claim, as some conservatives and Trump supporters immediately did, that the Left as a whole has blood on its hands. 

The last point is actually correct, though you’d think that Democrats & etc., who instantly blamed Sarah Palin for the shooting of former Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords despite a lack of evidence of a connection between Palin and the killer, would blush to make it. (That shooter, incidentally, turned out to be a genuine head case: a paranoid schizophrenic, long obsessed with Giffords, who believed among other things that the rules of English grammar had been cooked up by the deep state as a mind-control measure.) No, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer and the Pussy Hat Brigade et al., are not guilty of murder. But on the other hand, they do bear responsibility for the climate of fear and hate in which the attack on the GOP congressmen took place. 

By all accounts the shooter, though he could certainly be described as a social misfit, was not clinically insane. He wasn’t ordered to open fire by his dog or some invisible friend. He was, rather, a man of radical progressive views, a heavy consumer of anti-Trump agitprop, a volunteer for Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. His stated reasons for attempting to kill Republican members of Congress were political. To claim, as the Left is doing, that the atmosphere of seething hatred and imperfectly contained violence in its ranks played absolutely no role in motivating the shooter is simply not credible. In fact—there can be no disputing this—it was one factor among several that led this man to pick up the gun. 

And I suspect that his desire to kill is shared by many others. The fervor with which Trump assassination porn is embraced by people describing themselves as progressives, devoted to social justice and all good things, shines a not-very-flattering light on the Left. Like many of the Roman senators who stood by while the conspirators stabbed Caesar to death, the progressives would not raise a hand against Trump themselves—but many wouldn’t mind seeing someone else bump him off. And before my conservative and Trump-supporting readers start feeling smug, I advise them to sample some of the rhetoric of the Right that gets put out, for instance, on Twitter. The only difference is that on the Right, there are many people who not only deplore but decry such extremism. On the Left, supposedly responsible leaders overlook it or make excuses for it. 

Probably the political violence in this country is going to get worse before it gets better. I have no hope at all that my appeal or anyone else’s will persuade the anti-Trump Left to examine its collective conscience and moderate its venomous rhetoric. On the other side, the more attacks that are directed against President Trump, the more firmly his core supporters will close ranks around them. I mentioned Weimar Germany above, whose liberal political order proved powerless to stem the tide of rage and hate that brought Adolf Hitler to power. The political polarization of contemporary America is nowhere near that extreme. But it seems to me that our political culture is sick and getting sicker. Our constitutional order can’t be expected simply to maintain itself. And there seem to be fewer and fewer people willing to stand in its defense. So take a good look at James Hodgkinson who, in a sinister sense of the term, is the man of the hour.

Posted by tmg110 at 12:55 PM EDT
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Friday, 2 June 2017
Oh, How They Hate Him...Hate Him...Hate Him...
Topic: Liberal Fascism

Every time I get fed up with Donald Trump, along comes someone like Kathy Griffith to remind me just how dishonest and vile his progressive opponents truly are. 

Yesterday the President announced that the US is pulling out of the Paris climate accord—and the response from progressive quarters was predictably unhinged. Take California billionaire  Tom Steyer, a climate-change fundamentalist who donated more than $85 million to the Democrats last year. Just before Trump’s announcement he Twitter-shrieked that the President was “committing a traitorous act of war against the American people.” And that wasn’t all! Steyer went on to moan that Trump’s action was “assault and battery on the future of the American people.” 

Jeez. Take a chill pill, there, Tommy. 

Hyperbolic rejoinders in this vein were characteristic of the broad Left’s reaction to what was, after all, the fulfillment of a campaign pledge. Though Trump’s behavior in office has been erratic, it must be said that on some issues—border security, the Trans-Pacific Partnership and now the Paris accord—he has delivered as promised. In the run-up to yesterday’s announcement there was much breathless media speculation about the struggle to change the President’s mind, in which I placed little stock. Given the fact that (a) the Paris accord was tilted radically against American economic interests, (b) embodied no enforcement mechanisms ensuring that other nations would live up to their promises, (c) would do little or nothing to affect the planetary climate and (d) was a treaty with absolutely no chance of being ratified by the US Senate—what reason was there, really, for Trump to change his mind? 

That last point—(d)—has been somewhat overlooked, but it bears analysis. The Paris climate accord was negotiated by President Obama, as was his right under the United States Constitution. But the right of the Senate to “advise and consent” to a treaty so negotiated was disregarded by Obama, who seldom had time for such niceties as respect for constitutional norms. He was quite well aware that the Paris accord, if submitted to the Senate, would be rejected. So Obama simply ignored the Senate, pretending that he alone, as president, possessed the necessary authority to bind the nation to an unpopular and, in the view of many, economically harmful agreement. 

Don’t expect President Trump’s progressive critics to grapple with the realities of the situation, however. When it comes to The Donald, they’ve completely lost their minds. According to Amy Davidson, writing in the New Yorker, his decision was an “insult” to poor Angela Merkel—because, you know, “addressing climate change speaks to the most fundamental of values.” Progressives do have a habit of deciding what other people’s fundamental values should be, presumably including the values of American coal miners whose jobs, if climate-change fundamentalists got their way, would be destroyed. And this is one reason why they hate Trump so much: because he so often states the opposite of their most deeply cherished beliefs. When he said yesterday, “I was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris,” the denizens of the broad Left recognized this quip for it was: a smackdown directed at them. And their response was characteristically intemperate, not to say kooky.

So I have no doubt that in the months and years ahead there will be two, a dozen, many Kathy Griffins. We will be regaled with calls for the President’s impeachment or assassination, prayers that he’ll develop a brain tumor, crude sexist gibes directed against his wife and daughters, ever-more-zany conspiracy theories, etc. and so forth—all this in place of the well-reasoned and carefully considered criticism that he will undoubtedly deserve. I’m no fan of President Donald J. Trump. I thought—still think—that he’s unfit to be president. But there he is, sitting behind the big desk in the Oval Office and so when he does right in my view, as he did yesterday by withdrawing the US from a dumb and damaging climate agreement, I’ll say so. But when he does something ill-considered or stupid I’ll point that out as well. And I have to add that along the way I shall relish the spectacle of the broad Left’s accelerating descent into its chosen abyss of insanity and nihilism. 

Posted by tmg110 at 9:15 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, 2 June 2017 9:57 AM EDT
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Monday, 8 May 2017
Shocking But Specious
Topic: Liberal Fascism

The specious comparison is a staple of progressive rhetoric, especially popular on those frequent occasions when the Enlightened seek to bash the Land of E Pluribus Unum. For instance: “Among developed countries, the United States [insert unflattering factoid].” And yes, indeed, it seems shocking that the United States has a higher rate of this or a lower rate of that than other developed countries—until you stop to ponder just what is meant by the term “developed countries.” 

Here are five countries that are usually classed as “developed”: the United States, France, the Netherlands, Denmark, the Czech Republic. How much do these countries actually have in common? Or to put it another way, how probative are comparisons between and among them? It may be true, for example, that the murder rate in Denmark is much lower than it is in the United States—but is it really possible to put one’s finger on two or three specific factors that make the difference? Yes, say progressives who employ the “developed countries” comparison. But an argument is only as good as the assumptions on which it rests, which in this case is the “developed countries” model. 

According to Wikipedia, a developed country is defined as “a sovereign state that has a highly developed economy and advanced technological infrastructure relative to other less industrialized nations. Most commonly, the criteria for evaluating the degree of economic development are gross domestic product (GDP), gross national product (GNP), the per capita income, level of industrialization, amount of widespread infrastructure and general standard of living.” Which criteria should be used and how they should be applied is, according to Wikipedia, a subject for debate among experts, but this definition will do for present purposes. 

Now obviously the five nations listed above— the United States, France, the Netherlands, Denmark, the Czech Republic—each fit within this definition. That is, both the US and, say, the Czech Republic are “developed.” But there the similarities end, for the definition of “developed country” excludes a myriad of factors—historical, cultural, social, demographic, economic, political—that give the two countries their unique national characters. And when comparisons are made between and among “developed countries,” all these factors are, literally by definition, left out of consideration. 

In some sense of course all countries are “developed”; that is, their present condition is the outcome of all the factors that called them into being and shaped their character. “National character” is, indeed, a slippery concept that has often been put to intellectually dishonest uses. But a France without the French Revolution, an England without tea or suet pudding, would hardly be the France and England we know. Every country is unique, even those that grew from the same root. A Dane would hardly thank you for lumping his country together with Sweden, nor would a Canadian appreciate having her country caricatured as America Lite. Consider the so-called Anglosphere countries: Britain, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand. Certainly they have their similarities but a visitor from one to any of the others would be equally if not more greatly struck by the differences. 

For a comparison between the United States and some other developed country to be valid, all historical, cultural, social, demographic, economic, political factors ought to be taken into account. This being plainly impossible—no one person or group of persons is capable of weighing them all and a large number are unknown and perhaps even unknowable—any such comparison must surely be regarded with skepticism. This is not to say that such comparisons are without value. There’s nothing wrong in principle with looking at the Swiss healthcare system and asking one’s self if it could serve as a model for US healthcare reform. But that’s not where progressives are coming from with their specious comparisons between the US and other “developed countries.” For them it’s all about cosmic justice and virtue signaling. “Why can’t we be more like Canada, Denmark, France…?” progressives ask. The question is rhetorical in their minds but there’s an answer and it’s obvious: because we’re not Canadian, Danish or French. 

Conservative solutions to social problems are often dismissed by progressives as “simplistic,” for instance when the former opine that the most effective way to fight crime is to arrest, convict and imprison more criminals. But this, we are told, takes no account of the “root causes” of crime, nor does it address the challenges of rehabilitation, etc. and so forth. In short, the problem is defined as being too complex to be solved by straightforward law enforcement methods. That poverty programs and rehabilitation of criminals have had no discernable effects on the crime rate, while on the other hand locking up more criminals correlates strongly with a decades-long fall in the crime rate, are inconvenient facts that are waved aside with appeals to “complexity.” But virtually in the same breath we’re told that the United States lags behind other “developed nations” in this or that category, as if the French tax system of France or the welfare systems of Scandinavia would be workable in a country so unlike them. Few comparisons are as simplistic—and specious—as that.

Posted by tmg110 at 1:16 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 2 August 2017 2:48 PM EDT
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