Category Archive 'Decline and Fall'
28 Sep 2016

Malfeasance of the Ruling Class Produced 2016 Election

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Thomas Cole, The Course of Empire: Destruction, 1833-1836, New York Historical Society.

In Claremont Review, Angelo M. Codevilla describes how “the malfeasance of our ruling class” has transformed America and brought us to the point of this year’s disgraceful presidential election.

in today’s America, those in power basically do what they please. Executive orders, phone calls, and the right judge mean a lot more than laws. They even trump state referenda. Over the past half-century, presidents have ruled not by enforcing laws but increasingly through agencies that write their own rules, interpret them, and punish unaccountably—the administrative state. As for the Supreme Court, the American people have seen it invent rights where there were none—e.g., abortion—while trammeling ones that had been the republic’s spine, such as the free exercise of religion and freedom of speech. The Court taught Americans that the word “public” can mean “private” (Kelo v. City of New London), that “penalty” can mean “tax” (King v. Burwell), and that holding an opinion contrary to its own can only be due to an “irrational animus” (Obergefell v. Hodges).

What goes by the name “constitutional law” has been eclipsing the U.S. Constitution for a long time. But when the 1964 Civil Rights Act substituted a wholly open-ended mandate to oppose “discrimination” for any and all fundamental rights, it became the little law that ate the Constitution. Now, because the Act pretended that the commerce clause trumps the freedom of persons to associate or not with whomever they wish, and is being taken to mean that it trumps the free exercise of religion as well, bakers and photographers are forced to take part in homosexual weddings. A commission in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts reported that even a church may be forced to operate its bathrooms according to gender self-identification because it “could be seen as a place of public accommodation if it holds a secular event, such as a spaghetti supper, that is open to the general public.” California came very close to mandating that Catholic schools admit homosexual and transgender students or close down. The Justice Department is studying how to prosecute on-line transactions such as vacation home rental site Airbnb, Inc., that fall afoul of its evolving anti-discrimination standards. …

No one running for the GOP nomination discussed the greatest violation of popular government’s norms—never mind the Constitution—to have occurred in two hundred years, namely, the practice, agreed upon by mainstream Republicans and Democrats, of rolling all of the government’s expenditures into a single bill. This eliminates elected officials’ responsibility for any of the government’s actions, and reduces them either to approving all that the government does without reservation, or the allegedly revolutionary, disloyal act of “shutting down the government.” …

The ruling class having chosen raw power over law and persuasion, the American people reasonably concluded that raw power is the only way to counter it, and looked for candidates who would do that. Hence, even constitutional scholar Ted Cruz stopped talking about the constitutional implications of President Obama’s actions after polls told him that the public was more interested in what he would do to reverse them, niceties notwithstanding. Had Cruz become the main alternative to the Democratic Party’s dominion, the American people might have been presented with the option of reverting to the rule of law. But that did not happen. Both of the choices before us presuppose force, not law. …

In today’s America, a network of executive, judicial, bureaucratic, and social kinship channels bypasses the sovereignty of citizens. Our imperial regime, already in force, works on a simple principle: the president and the cronies who populate these channels may do whatever they like so long as the bureaucracy obeys and one third plus one of the Senate protects him from impeachment. If you are on the right side of that network, you can make up the rules as you go along, ignore or violate any number of laws, obfuscate or commit perjury about what you are doing (in the unlikely case they put you under oath), and be certain of your peers’ support. These cronies’ shared social and intellectual identity stems from the uniform education they have received in the universities. Because disdain for ordinary Americans is this ruling class’s chief feature, its members can be equally certain that all will join in celebrating each, and in demonizing their respective opponents.

And, because the ruling class blurs the distinction between public and private business, connection to that class has become the principal way of getting rich in America. Not so long ago, the way to make it here was to start a business that satisfied customers’ needs better than before. Nowadays, more businesses die each year than are started. In this century, all net additions in employment have come from the country’s 1,500 largest corporations. Rent-seeking through influence on regulations is the path to wealth. In the professions, competitive exams were the key to entry and advancement not so long ago. Now, you have to make yourself acceptable to your superiors. More important, judicial decisions and administrative practice have divided Americans into “protected classes”—possessed of special privileges and immunities—and everybody else. Equality before the law and equality of opportunity are memories. Co-option is the path to power. Ever wonder why the quality of our leaders has been declining with each successive generation?

A must read.

05 Sep 2016

Factions and the Fate of Nations

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Thomas Cole, The Course of Empire — Destruction, 1836, New York Historical Society

Richard Fernandez pessimistically compares the current governing styles of Russia and the United States.

Russia is pretty representative of many states which are simply collections of informal power groups. Whether these groups are called cartels, clans, sects or Communist parties, they may essentially be described as what James Madison called factions. He regarded them as both a danger to democracy and the natural forge of leadership and so spent a lot of time figuring out how to control them.

    in the fall of 1787, when he was still in his mid-30s, [Madison] began collaborating with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay to write a series of 85 newspaper essays explaining the U.S. Constitution and urging the people of New York to adopt it. …

    Given the talismanic power the word “democracy” has to modern ears, it is worth reminding ourselves that the U.S. Constitution was largely an effort to curb or trammel democracy. Democracies, Madison wrote in Federalist 10, the most widely read and cited of the essays, “have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.” Why? A mot often attributed to Benjamin Franklin explains it in an image. “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch.” …

    The biggest threat to “popular” governments, he wrote in Federalist 10, are “factions,” interest groups whose operations are “adverse to the rights of other citizens” or the “permanent…interests of the community.” Factions are thus not accidental. They are—famous phrase—“sown in the nature of man.” Why? Because freedom and the unequal distribution of talent inevitably yield an unequal distribution of property, the “most common and durable source of faction.” …

    Madison’s solution was the creation of a large republic in which a scheme of representation and a large variety of interests “make it less probable” that they will be able to “invade the rights of other citizens” successfully. … Madison’s central insight was that power had to be dispersed and decentralized if it was to serve liberty and control faction.

The paradox that Putin exemplifies is that while factions breed formidable conspirators, they also create poisonous leaders. They succeed in themselves but cause the society around them to fail. That is because they dispense a favoritism which is ultimately ruinous for the nation. The result is a self-vetoing enterprise. Marian Tupy observed that Chile began to succeed at the moment when its junta began to allow economic freedom while Venezuela started to fail by going the other way. But few ruling elites have the sense to get themselves out of the way. Usually they have to be shoved aside.

The question is whether Madison’s defenses failed and the factions are inside the wire. America for a long time beat the odds but recently things have taken a turn for the worse. It is no accident that many of America’s troubles have coincided with the growth of identity politics, special interest groups, foreign lobbying and corruption. If so they have spread their poison and created an American version of the “informal networks” that proved so fatal in other countries, as Madison feared.

Moreover, the American factional system operates in the worst possible way. The Clinton Foundation and private email scandal is a portrait of venality without competence. The peculiar characteristics of American factionalism have bred something singular; a phenomenon at once cunning yet stupid, both corrupt and inept. America is no longer exceptional, just another bum in the ring. Yet while Putin can often outwit Obama (and Hillary when she was in State), the Russian cannot seem to turn anything to lasting advantage. The outcome is a kind of impotence afflicting both sides.

2016 should have been an election charged with passion, but it is atmospherically deadening, as if many voters wished the candidates would just go away. If the 20th century was one in which people believed government could solve all the world’s problems, the 21st century is fast developing into one where government has become like the weather: chaotic, capricious and ultimately arbitrary — something everyone talks about but no one can do anything about.

Read the whole thing.

09 Jun 2016

Reading Lists

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Theodore Roosevelt Reading

Intellectual Takeout tells us that the LA Times recently asked The Donald what he was currently reading. Trump identified a book about Hillary, whose title he could not remember, which he was obviously reading for purposes of opposition research, and another book, whose author and title he couldn’t name, that he’s reading presumably in search of a role model.

I’m reading the Ed Klein book on Hillary Clinton,” Trump answered, without specifying which one — Klein has written two, “The Truth About Hillary: What She Knew, When She Knew It, and How Far She’ll Go to Become President” and “Unlikeable: The Problem with Hillary.”

Trump then said that he’s reading a book about Richard Nixon, but was unable to recall the title or author, telling Wolff, ‘[W]ell, I’ll get you the exact information on it.’”

Politico asked Hillary the same question back in 2014, and Hillary had a perfectly-considered list all ready, one belle-lettres title establishing her intellectual cred, one PC title demonstrating her attention to diversity authors, and one best-seller thriller assuring the common people that she reads trash, too, just like them, as well:

‘The Goldfinch’ by Donna Tartt; ‘Mom & Me & Mom’ by Maya Angelou; and ‘Missing You’ by Harlan Coben.”

To see how far the American leadership class declined in a just over a century, compare the reading list Teddy Roosevelt shared with Columbia President Nicholas Murray Butler in 1903:

The History of the Peloponnesian War Thucydides
The Histories Herodotus
The Histories Polybius
Plutarch’s Lives Plutarch
Oresteia Trilogy Aeschylus
Seven Against Thebes Aeschylus
Hippolytus Euripides
The Bacchae Euripides
Frogs Aristophones
Politics Aristotle
Early Age of Greece William Ridgeway
Alexander the Great Benjamin Ide Wheeler
History of Egypt, Chaldæa, Syria, Babylonia, and Assyria Gaston Maspero
Chronicles Froissart
The Memoirs of Baron de Marbot Baron de Marbot
Charles XII and the Collapse of the Swedish Empire Robert Nisbet Bain
Types of Naval Officers AT Mahan
Critical and Historical Essays Thomas Macaulay
The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire Edward Gibbon
The Life of Prince Eugene Prince Eugene of Savoy
Life of Lieut.-Admiral De Ruyter G Grinnell-Milne
Life of Sobieski John Sobieski
Frederick the Great Thomas Carlyle
Abraham Lincoln: A History Hay and Nicolay
Speeches and Writings Abraham Lincoln
The Essays Francis Bacon
Macbeth Shakespeare
Twelfth Night Shakespeare
Henry IV Shakespeare
Henry the Fifth Shakespeare
Richard II Shakespeare
Paradise Lost John Milton
Poems Michael Drayton
Nibelungenlied Anonymous
Inferno Dante (prose translastion by Carlyle)
Beowulf (Samuel H. Church translation)
Heimskringla: Lives of the Norse Kings Snorri Sturluson
The Story of Burnt Njal (George Dasent translation)
Gisli the Outlaw (George Dasent translation)
Cuchulain of Muirthemne (Lady Gregory translation)
The Affected Young Ladies Moliere
The Barber of Seville Gioachino Rossini
The Kingis Quair James I of Scotland
Over the Teacups Oliver Wendell Holmes
Shakespeare and Voltaire Thomas Lounsbury
Sevastopol Sketches Leo Tolstoy
The Cossacks Leo Tolstoy
With Fire and Sword Henryk Sienkiewicz
Guy Mannering Sir Walter Scott
The Antiquary Sir Walter Scott
Rob Roy Sir Walter Scott
Waverly Sir Walter Scott
Quentin Durward Sir Walter Scott
Marmion Sir Walter Scott
The Lay of the Last Minstrel Sir Walter Scott
The Pilot James Fenimore Cooper
Tom Sawyer Mark Twain
The Pickwick Papers Charles Dickens
Nicholas Nickleby Charles Dickens
Vanity Fair William Makepeace Thackeray
The History of Pendennis William Makepeace Thackeray
The Newcomes William Makepeace Thackeray
The Adventures of Philip William Makepeace Thackeray
The White Company Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Charles O’Malley Charles Lever
Poems John Keats
Poems Robert Browning
Poems Edgar Allan Poe
Poems Lord Alfred Tennyson
Poems Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Poems Rudyard Kipling
Poems Bliss Carman
Tales Edgard Allan Poe
Essays James Russell Lowell
Complete Stories Robert Louis Stevenson
British Ballads William Allingham
The Simple Life Charles Wagner
The Rose and the Ring William Makepeace Thackeray
Fairy Tales Hans Andersen
Grimm’s Fairy Tales Grimm Bros
The Story of King Arthur Howard Pyle
Complete Tales of Uncle Remus Joel Chandler Harris
The Woman Who Toils Bessie Van Vorst
The Golden Age Kenneth Grahame
All on the Irish Shore Somerville & Ross
Some Experiences of an Irish R.M. Somerville & Ross
Asia and Europe Meredith Townsend
Youth: A Narrative Joseph Conrad
Works Artemus Ward
Stories of a Western Town Octave Thanet
My Reminiscences of the Anglo-Boer War Ben Viljoen
Through the Subarctic Forest Warburton Pike
Cross Country with Horse and Hound Frank Sherman Peer
Ways of Nature John Burroughs
The Real Malay Frank Swettenham
Gallops David Gray
Napoleon Jackson Ruth Stuart
The Passing of Thomas Thomas Janvier
The Benefactress Elizabeth von Arnim
People of the Whirlpool Mabel Osgood Wright
Call of the Wild Jack London
The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come John Fox
The Captain of the Gray-Horse Troop Hamlin Garland
The Gentleman from Indiana Booth Tarkington
The Crisis Winston Churchill
John Ermine of the Yellowstone Frederic Remington
The Virginian Owen Wister
Red Men and White Owen Wister
Philosophy 4 Owen Wister
Lin McLean Owen Wister
The Blazed Trail Stewart Edward White
Conjuror’s House Stewart Edward White
The Claim Jumpers Stewart Edward White
American Revolution George Otto Trevelyan

07 Jun 2016

Trump, the Second Emperor

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Nerō Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, 15 December 37 AD – 9 June 68 AD. Younger, but has a definite bit of resemblance to Trump in the shape of the head, doesn’t he?

Angelo Codevilla, Last February, analysed precisely the country’s situation and warned presciently about just where we are heading.

Obama has been our first emperor. A Donald Trump presidency, far from reversing the ruling class’s unaccountable hold over American life, would seal it. Because Trump would act as our second emperor, he would render well-nigh impossible our return to republicanism.

Today, nearly all the rules under which we live are made, executed, and adjudicated by agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and countless boards and commissions. Congress no longer passes real laws. Instead, it passes broad grants of authority, the substance of the president’s bureaucracy decides in cooperation with interest groups.
Trump’s career and fortune have been as beneficiary in the process by which government grants privileges to some and inflicts burdens on others.

Nancy Pelosi’s remark that we would know Obamacare’s contents only after it passed was true, and applicable to nearly all modern legislation. The courts allow this, pretending that bureaucrats sitting with their chosen friends merely fill in details. Some details! Americans have learned that, as they say in DC, if you are not sitting at one of these tables of power, “you’re on the menu.”

Trump’s claim to be an enemy of rule-by-inside-deal is counterintuitive. His career and fortune have been as participant and beneficiary in the process by which government grants privileges to some and inflicts burdens on others. Crony capitalism is the air he breathes, the only sea in which he swims, his second nature. His recipe for “fixing” America, he tells us, is to appoint “the best people”—he names some of his fellow crony capitalists—to exercise even more unaccountable power and to do so with “unbelievable speed.” He assures us that, this time, it will be to “make America great again.” Peanuts’ Lucy might reply: “This time, for sure!”
Deal-Making Expands Government

In recent years, Obama and the Democratic Party (with the Republican leadership’s constant collusion) have prevented Congress from voting to appropriate funds for individual programs and agencies. They have lumped all government functions into “continuing resolutions” or “omnibus bills.” This has moved the government’s decision-making into back rooms, shielding elected officials from popular scrutiny, relieving them of the responsibility for supporting or opposing what the government does. This has enabled Obama to make whatever deals have pleased him and his Republican cronies.

This has moved the government’s decision-making into back rooms, relieving elected officials of responsibility.

Trump touts his own capacity to make good deals. But good for whom? And who is to say what is good? Who or what causes would benefit from continuing government by secret deals? Who or what would lose? Trump’s stated objective is to wield whatever power might be necessary to accomplish whatever objectives upon which he—in consultation with whomever—might choose from time to time. But the difference between Trump and Obama amounts only to whatever difference may exist between each emperor’s set of cronies. …

Like Obama, Trump is not about persuading anybody. Both are about firing up their supporters to impose their will on their opponents while insulting them. Throughout history, this style of politics has been the indispensable ingredient for wrecking republics, the “final cause” that transforms free citizens into the subjects of emperors.
Both are about firing up their supporters to impose their will on their opponents while insulting them.

This style of politics has grown, along with a ruling class that rejects the notion that no person may rule another without that person’s consent. As I have shown at length elsewhere, America is now ruled by a uniformly educated class of persons that occupies the commanding heights of bureaucracy, of the judiciary, education, the media, and of large corporations, and that wields political power through the Democratic Party. Its control of access to prestige, power, privilege, and wealth exerts a gravitational pull that has made the Republican Party’s elites into its satellites.

This class’s fatal feature is its belief that ordinary Americans are a lesser intellectual and social breed. Its increasing self-absorption, its growing contempt for whoever won’t bow to it, its dependence for votes on sectors of society whose grievances it stokes, have led it to break the most basic rule of republican life: deeming its opposition illegitimate. The ruling class insists on driving down the throats of its opponents the agendas of each its constituencies and on injuring persons who stand in the way. This has spawned a Newtonian reaction, a hunger, among what may be called the “country class” for returning the favor with interest.

Ordinary Americans have endured being insulted by the ruling class’s favorite epitaphs—racist, sexist, etc., and, above all, stupid; they have had careers and reputations compromised by speaking the wrong word in front of the wrong person; endured dictates from the highest courts in the land that no means yes (King), that public means private (Kelo), that everyone is entitled to make up one’s meaning of life (Casey), but that whoever thinks marriage is exclusively between men and women is a bigot (Obergefell).

Trying to stop the cycle of political payback with another round of it, while not utterly impossible, is well-nigh beyond human capacity.

No wonder, then, that millions of Americans lose respect for a ruling class that disrespects them, that they identify with whomever promises some kind of turnabout against that class, and that they care less and less for the integrity of institutions that fail to protect them.

Trump’s voters expect precisely such turnabout. Within good measure, not only would this right any number of wrongs and restore some balance in our public life, it is also indispensable for impressing upon the ruling class and its constituents that they too have a stake in observing the limits and niceties that are explicit and implicit in our Constitution.

But not only do opposing sets of wrongs not make anything right. As I have argued (Sophocles did it a lot better), trying to stop the cycle of political payback with another round of it, while not utterly impossible, is well-nigh beyond human capacity.

Neither Obama nor Trump seem to know or care that cycles of reciprocal resentment, of insults and injuries paid back with ever more interest and ever less concern for consequences, are the natural fuel of revolutions—easy to start and soon impossible to stop.

Read the whole thing.

06 Jun 2016

Entirely Understandable

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20 May 2016

The Losing Fight With Entropy

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At Ricochet, the King Prawn is simultaneously pessimistic and consolatory.

Even by the time of the formal creation of the governmental structure employed in this nation we had already started on a long downward slope, pulled inevitably through decline and toward destruction by the great weight of human nature. This trend should come as no surprise to conservatives because we have studied history. We know that from the pinnacle of our founding everything else would be downhill. At the close of the Constitutional Convention Benjamin Franklin said:

    In these Sentiments, Sir, I agree to this Constitution, with all its Faults, if they are such; because I think a General Government necessary for us, and there is no Form of Government but what may be a Blessing to the People if well administered; and I believe farther that this is likely to be well administered for a Course of Years, and can only end in Despotism as other Forms have done before it, when the People shall become so corrupted as to need Despotic Government, being incapable of any other.

The cry for socialism and despotism has been long coming, but not unforeseen. The problem for Franklin wasn’t that we had created an inadequate government but rather we would become an inadequate people. He was right. He looked to the past and saw what had gone before, then looking to the future he foretold what would be the fate of this nation.

While arguing in favor of our new form of government even its most ardent supporters feared the havoc which would be wreaked by those entrusted with power. As James Madison stated it in Federalist 51:

    But the great security against a gradual concentration of the several powers in the same department, consists in giving to those who administer each department the necessary constitutional means and personal motives to resist encroachments of the others. The provision for defense must in this, as in all other cases, be made commensurate to the danger of attack. Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place. It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. [emphasis mine]

We could imagine the founders would be shocked if they saw the state of our nation and our people today, but I doubt they would find it so surprising that we proved them wholly correct. Government is a reflection of human nature, and the government we have (and are about to get) reflects perfectly the character of those who inhabit this nation and make up a majority of the votes cast. We elected a despot with his pen and his phone because we’ve become incapable of electing any other kind of leader. In a few short months we’ll elect another, only this time our choices are limited to an even more corrupt and criminal politician or a conman who promises to be an even more effective despot than the last. Neither candidate sees as the problem the concentration of power in one branch or one person. They believe the only flaw is the concentration of power in the wrong person.

I said in the beginning that conservatism acts as merely an anchor. Some may see the nation foundering on the rocks of human nature and believe that conservatism has failed. It has not. In any other time or place the crash would have come sooner, the destruction more violently, the catastrophe more severe. We’ve done the job well, and we will continue to do what we can until the whole thing comes apart, or until the chain breaks and we lie useless on the bottom as the nation sails unhindered across the seas of time to its inevitable end.

Read the whole thing.

14 Apr 2016

Diagnosing Decadence

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Eric Fischl, The Old Man’s Boat and the Old Man’s Dog, 1982. –Our time’s version of The Raft of the Medusa.

Dan Greenfield contrasts the barbarous, vigorous, and decadent stages of civilization in another of his superb must-read essays.

The decadent civilization has a million laws which it applies selectively. Its universal laws, inherited from a vigorous civilization, are buried between equivocation. Decadents don’t believe in objective truths and so they cannot have universal laws. Instead they mire them in so many legalisms as to be meaningless. The laws must be interpreted by a specialized caste. Everyone is always in violation of some obscure law. Life depends on a lawless dispensation from the law. Justice is impossible. Corruption is mandatory. The only way for the decadent civilization to function is to bypass its own safeguards through corruption, black markets and lobbying. This is true in all things.

The crucial task of the law is interpretation that keeps everyone from constantly being punished. This task is accomplished by lawyers, lobbyists and the politicians who are constantly adding more laws to fix the interpretations in the old laws creating a complex mass of contradictory information.

This holds true in every other area of decadent life.

Read the whole thing.

Right now, a lot of people are eager to embrace the barbarian (Donald Trump) precisely because at an instinctive level they perceive him, with all his faults, representing an alternative to the decadence of our current elite culture, and they are ready to jump over the cliff to escape the latter.

19 Mar 2016

2016 Election Not Important

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Gustave Doré, A Traveller from New Zealand Contemplating the Ruins of London.

“[W]hen some traveller from New Zealand shall, in the midst of a vast solitude, take his stand on a broken arch of London Bridge to sketch the ruins of St. Paul’s” — Thomas Babbington Macauley.

Selwyn Duke explains that the presumably-disastrous next presidential election doesn’t really matter all that much. America (and the rest of the West) is doomed anyway.

Many people lament that “Obama has destroyed America these last eight years” or, alluding to same, will say “I don’t recognize my country anymore.” This is much like viewing a woman who marries a greasy-haired, dope-smoking, heavily tattooed and pierced, unemployable reprobate and saying that her matrimonial decision destroyed her, when the real problem was that she was the kind of person who could make such a choice in the first place. Do you really think Obama isn’t a symptom at least as much as a cause? Do you think the 2008 A.D. America that elected him would have been recognizable to 1950 Americans?

And even if the next president is an anomalous good result, he won’t even be a pause that refreshes, but will at best slow down the runaway train racing toward the precipice. This is because our main problems aren’t illegal migration, trade deals or health care, as significant as those things are. Our problems are more fundamental.

Do you really want to save America? Okay, then completely transform the media, academia and entertainment so they’re not brainwashing citizens 24/7 with anti-American, anti-Christian, multiculturalist, socialist, feminist and a multitude of other lies. End legal immigration, which, via the importation of massive numbers of Third Worlders, is changing our country into a socialistic non-Western culture. Even more significantly, convince the 70-plus percent of Americans who are moral relativists to believe in Truth; these are people who, as the Barna Group research company put it, believe that what we call “truth is always relative to the person and their situation” and whose most common basis for moral decision-making is “doing whatever feels right….”

Read the whole thing.

02 Mar 2016

“Let It Burn!”

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Christopher Taylor has pessimistic things to say about America’s politics. He thinks a nation with a culture like ours can only have the kind of national leadership we have.

Who wins what office makes no difference. Until the nation undergoes a tremendous shift at the basic, cultural level, elections will only pour more of the same on this country and every new election makes matters worse. And that cultural shift takes time, not elections.

We’re at a point in this nation where the Supreme Court has been stuffed with a near-majority of members for whom the constitution is simply a set of words they can use to lever in anything the latest progressive positions hold. When a court has even a few judges who are utterly disinterested in constitution, wisdom, reason, justice, or sanity, that court ceases to have any validity whatseover. It has been corrupted to the point of being useless.
Arguments we have to get the right sort of politician in this position or that for The Judges ignores the utter destruction of the constitution and nation that has already been wrought by a supposed judicially sensible majority. After the utter abortion that was the Kelo vs New London decision, the court followed up with several horrendously decided trash cases which demonstrated that they cannot be trusted with power no matter who they are or what they claim about law.

Will a supreme court justice picked by a corrupt, horrible hag like Hillary Clinton be much worse than even a lying bozo like Donald Trump? Yes. But the bad is not a question of ruining the nation, its a question of how fast and in what direction. Its going that way anyway, its just a matter of how swiftly. …

There’s a phrase some use to describe this attitude: “let it burn.” Some misunderstand this as a call to destroy the nation. But its not. Its a call to step back and give up the fight because its going down either way. For years now I’ve been telling everyone to focus locally, on family, neighbors, local politics. Your home, your area, your town. Because the federal government is a write-off. There is no fixing it through any elections.
That’s what Let It Burn means; not “revolution!!!” but rather “its already burning and the firefighters know it won’t be saved.” Let it Burn recognizes that its already on fire. We’re past the point of preventing it. We cannot save this Republic, until we get past the hard times ahead and begin the slow, painful process of rebuilding.

I’m sorry. I don’t like it either. but that doesn’t make it any less true. And recognizing this doesn’t make me a crazy old man. Just a sad one.

    “Posterity–you will never know how much it has cost my generation to preserve your freedom. I hope you will make good use of it.”

    -John Quincy Adams

Sorry, John. We didn’t. We gave it a pretty good run for a while, but its over.

Hat tip to Bird Dog and Vanderleun.

01 Mar 2016

“The Age of Trump”

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Eliot A. Cohen, in the American Interest, points out that Donald Trump is not the solution to America’s problems, he is really the most alarming symptom of the disease.

Politicians have, since ancient Greece, lied, pandered, and whored. They have taken bribes, connived, and perjured themselves. But in recent times—in the United States, at any rate—there has never been any politician quite as openly debased and debauched as Donald Trump. Truman and Nixon could be vulgar, but they kept the cuss words for private use. Presidents have chewed out journalists, but which of them would have suggested that an elegant and intelligent woman asking a reasonable question was dripping menstrual blood? LBJ, Kennedy, and Clinton could all treat women as commodities to be used for their pleasure, but none went on the radio with the likes of Howard Stern to discuss the women they had bedded and the finer points of their anatomies. All politicians like the sound of their own names, but can anyone doubt what Trump would have christened the Hoover Dam—or the Washington Monument?

That otherwise sober people do not find Trump’s insults and insane demands outrageous (Mexico will have to pay for a wall! Japan will have to pay for protection!) says something about a larger moral and cultural collapse. His language is the language of the comments sections of once-great newspapers. …

The current problem goes beyond excruciatingly bad manners. What we increasingly lack, and have lacked for some time, is a sense of the moral underpinning of republican (small r) government. Manners and morals maintain a free state as much as laws do, as Tocqueville observed long ago, and when a certain culture of virtue dies, so too does something of what makes democracy work. Old-fashioned words like integrity, selflessness, frugality, gravitas, and modesty rarely rate a mention in modern descriptions of the good life—is it surprising that they don’t come up in politics, either? …

The rot is cultural. It is no coincidence that Trump was the star of a “reality” show. He is the beneficiary of an amoral celebrity culture devoid of all content save an omnipresent lubriciousness. He is a kind of male Kim Kardashian, and about as politically serious. In the context of culture, if not (yet) politics, he is unremarkable; the daily entertainments of today are both tawdry and self-consciously, corrosively ironic. Ours is an age when young people have become used to getting news, of a sort, from Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert, when an earlier generation watched Walter Cronkite and David Brinkley. It is the difference between giggling with young, sneering hipsters and listening to serious adults. Go to YouTube and look at old episodes of Profiles in Courage, if you can find them—a wildly successful television series based on the book nominally authored by John F. Kennedy, which celebrated an individual’s, often a politician’s, courage in standing alone against a crowd, even a crowd with whose politics the audience agreed. The show of comparable popularity today is House of Cards. Bill Clinton has said that he loves it.

American culture is, in short, nastier, more nihilistic, and far less inhibited than ever before. It breeds alternating bouts of cynicism and hysteria, and now it has given us Trump.

27 Feb 2016

Women Are Destroying Civilization

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Previously cited by Vanderleun and the News Junkie.

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Waylon Jennings made a similar point:

26 Jan 2016

“The Republic is Dead… Time For the Empire.”

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7DaysinMay

Glenn Reynolds examines the entrails of the sacrifices and finds the omens alarming and disturbing.

According to a recent Associated Press poll, the public lacks confidence in government. And by “lacks confidence,” I mean “really lacks confidence.” Specifically, “More than 6 in 10 respondents expressed only slight confidence — or none at all — that the federal government can make progress on the problems facing the nation in 2016.” …

A much-hyped YouGov poll from last fall found that 29% of Americans could imagine supporting a military coup. That poll probably overstated popular support — it didn’t ask if people favored a coup right now, just whether they could imagine supporting one, including in the instance of the government violating the Constitution — but there was also this, as Newser reported: “Some 71% said military officers put the interests of the country ahead of their own interests, while just 12% thought the same about members of Congress. “

A democracy that gives rise to those sorts of sentiments is a democracy that’s in trouble. And America’s political class, which is used to operating in a world where there’s lots of room to get things wrong, needs to up its game before things get worse.

I must admit: I’m part of that 29%.

17 Aug 2015

“Mustn’t Call Him Master”

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StephenDavis
Stephen Davis, now co-“head-of-College” for Pierson College at Yale. Davis has chosen to share the title with his frau. After all, a husband being Master (or “head”) of a college and not including wifie would be unequal. (Thousands of Yale men are spinning in their graves.)

Anybody doubt that Eliot and Vargas LLosa are right? Just read this, a piece demonstrating what kind of blithering, wimpy creeps have replaced the men who used to teach at Yale and serve as college masters. John Hersey, Master of Pierson in my day, must be laughing in Hell. And just look at that miserable wretch in the above photo: No jacket, no appropriate shirt, no necktie. He’s married, of course, to a priestess, and she appears for her photograph as co-“Head of Pierson” in a t-shirt!

The Yale Alumni Mag offers a now-go-out-an-throw-up-in-the-street item to brighten alumni’s lives today.

The sign on the door says “Pierson College Master’s House,” but the person who currently holds that title would rather you call him something else. Religious studies professor Stephen Davis ’98PhD, who was named master of Pierson in 2013, recently wrote to members of the college to ask that they “refrain from calling [him] ‘Master’ Davis.” He explained that “I have found the title of the office I hold deeply problematic given the racial and gendered weight it carries. . . . I think there should be no context in our society or in our university in which an African-American student, professor, or staff member—or any person, for that matter—should be asked to call anyone ‘master.’” He suggested that students could call him “Dr. Davis” or “Professor D.” Davis’s biography on the Pierson College website now refers to him as the “head of college.

If the old Lithuanian greenhorn Pans I knew growing up in Shenandoah had heard this one, they would not have called this wanker “master” (“Pan” in Polish and Lithuanian). They’d have snorted and called him: “chłop” (“peasant”, “serf”, “slave”).

PiersonMastersDoorway
The doorway to the Master’s House in Pierson College.

17 Aug 2015

“Notes on the Death of Culture”

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Eric Fischl, The Old Man’s Boat and the Old Man’s Dog, 1982. –Our time’s version of The Raft of the Medusa.

John D. Davidson reviews Mario Vargas Llosa’s just-released
Notes on the Death of Culture, a must-read pessimistic essay discussing the West’s rate of decline since 1948 (the year of my birth) and our civilization’s gloomy prospects for the future.

In his 1948 essay, Notes Towards the Definition of Culture, T.S. Eliot argued that the highest levels of culture are only attainable by relatively small groups of people, and that in order for a civilization to sustain high culture a class system of some kind is necessary. Because culture is transmitted primarily through the family and religion—not schools—and because it relies to a large extent on these particular loyalties for its perpetuation, when these institutions fail, “we must expect our culture to deteriorate.”

At the risk of over-simplifying Eliot’s argument, one of his basic contentions sounds rather old-fashioned, perhaps even bigoted by today’s standards, that “we can distinguish between higher and lower cultures; we can distinguish between advance and retrogression.” This notion flies in the face of multiculturalism, not to say the notion of equality. Yet it’s a necessary premise for his assessment of the state of contemporary culture:

    “We can assert with some confidence that our own period is one of decline; that the standards of culture are lower than they were fifty years ago; and that the evidences of this decline are visible in every department of human activity. I see no reason why the decay of culture should not proceed much further, and why we may not even anticipate a period, of some duration, of which it is possible to say that it will have no culture.”

According to Peruvian writer and Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa, the culture-less period foreseen 67 years ago by Eliot is the one in which we are all now living.

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