Archive for February, 2016
26 Feb 2016

Heidegger’s Ghosts

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Martin Heidegger at his house in Todtnauberg, January 1966

Alexander Duff, in the American Interest, notes that every contemporary form of irrational opposition to Western Liberalism, Capitalism, and Democracy draws upon the intellectual influence of the Swabian sexton’s son, educated by the charity of the Church of Rome, who in the 1930s betrayed his Church and presided happily over the National Socialist Gleichschaltung (“bringing into conformity”) of his university.

A specter haunts the post-Cold War liberal order—the specter of radical spiritual malaise. This discontent with or downright opposition to the Western-originated, universalist claims of the broadly liberal cultural, economic, and political order takes diverse forms. One can detect it among Iranian revolutionary theocrats, Russian imperialist ideologues, white supremacist “Identitarians,” European neo-fascists, identity-politics partisans, and anti-foundationalist intellectuals of many stripes. But standing behind some of the leading intellectual and political figures in this mélange of counter-liberalism is one animating mind, that of Martin Heidegger.

Since the end of the Cold War, it has been an open question whether any organizing political principle could successfully vie with the liberal consensus of a secular state, limited by democratic accountability and the rule of law. To date, neither the remnants of Soviet-style communism, authoritarian capitalism, reactionary fascism, nor Islamic theocracy have achieved a successful combination of military strength and political legitimacy even among their own citizens, let alone among sympathizers in the world at large. But the political legacy of Martin Heidegger—if the strange and conflicting paths of his influence can be so termed—points to a combination that is sufficiently threatening to liberal democracy to be taken seriously, precisely because of the breadth of its evident appeal abroad and at home.

This is because Heidegger’s thought, while not lending itself to any politically cohesive opposition to the liberal West in a manner that characterized Marxism, recommends itself to virtually every variety of particularist opponent of Western universalism. For those inspired by Heidegger, the universalist claims upon which the liberal order is based are too thin, too weak, and too ignoble to provide tangible and meaningful sources of human identity.

25 Feb 2016

What If?

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The American people tend to get tired of listening to most presidents after two terms, and by then they are usually itching to throw the incumbent party out of the White House and give the other team a chance. Barack Obama has not succeeded in pulling America out of the recession which began with the housing crash in 2008, and he has not endeared himself. He has really just polarized and embittered the country by his arrogant left-wing partisanship.

So it doesn’t take a crystal ball to know that in 2016 Fate favors the Republican presidential nominee. On top of all that, the democrat party bench is extraordinarily short of candidates. They have the dark horse (not even actually a democrat until very recently) Hippie socialist from Vermont, Bernie Sanders, every American’s crazy Jewish communist uncle. And they have Hillary.

Barack Obama was Fortune’s gift to the democrat party: attractive; well-spoken with a good vocabulary and a pleasing announcer’s voice; well-mannered and skilled at delivering the impression of calm, reasonability, and moderation; and, best of all, black and not merely black, but black laundered and pressed into the most excellent Ivy League form by Columbia and Harvard. All the king’s horses and all the king’s men couldn’t save the 2008 election for poor elderly John McCain. He found himself running with a stock market crash, hanging like an albatross around his own and his party’s neck, and against the Flavor-of-the-Month, a shiny new Pop Culture sensation roughly as popular in 2008 as the Beatles in 1964.

Hillary Clinton in 2016 is obviously completely different from Barack Obama in 2008. Obama entered the campaign surrounded by imaginary butterflies and unicorns. Hillary enters on her broom, accompanied by flying monkeys. Barack Obama was so lovable that every adolescent girl in America, male and female, young and old, had a crush on him. NBC’s Chris Matthews famously found his leg trembling with nearly homoerotic adoration of Obama. Nobody’s leg will be quivering for the old and wrinkly Hillary.

Obama was the Magic Negro, the wise friend from another race whose acceptance of you proves that you are exceptionally worthy, and whose aid brings about your survival or your victory in your quest. Hillary is every man’s shrewish wife, the pot-throwing termagant who drives all of America out to the nearest saloon to drown our collective sorrows. Hillary is the mean old lady, heading up the Ladies’ League For Social Reform that is going to ban everything that’s fun. Obama was Chingachgook, Queequeg, and a younger version of every Morgan Freeman character. Hillary is Lady Macbeth.

It would take a miracle effectuated by a political genius of the first water to make Hillary electable, especially in this unfavorable year. The Republican presidential nominee in 2016 has the key to the Oval Office in his pocket as long as he is normally presentable and can walk and talk.

Maybe Hillary can win after all, though, because it just so happens that she is married to a political genius of the first water.

Read the rest of this entry »

24 Feb 2016

What Would Hamilton Do?

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Tom Nichols argues quite persuasively, and on the basis of good precedent, for the unthinkable in the event that the election comes down to Trump versus Hillary.

A few years ago, The Federalist’s publisher, Ben Domenech, suggested that conservatives consider dumping the “Buckley Rule,” the late William F. Buckley’s admonition always to choose the most conservative candidate who can win. As Ben pointed out, things have changed since Buckley first issued this advice, including that the elite determination of “who can win” is often flawed. The Buckley Rule, for example, might have led to supporting Charlie Crist—you may shudder at will—instead of Marco Rubio in the 2010 Florida Senate race.

In its place, Ben raised the possibility of a “Hamilton Rule,” named after Alexander Hamilton. Although both were Federalists, Hamilton despised John Adams and his coterie among his own party to the point where he was willing to lose the election of 1800. “If we must have an enemy at the head of government,” Hamilton said in exasperation, “let it be one whom we can oppose, and for whom we are not responsible.”

In other words: Better to lose to a true enemy whose policies you can fight and repudiate, rather than to a false friend whose schemes will drag you down with him. This is a painful choice, but it also embraces realism while protecting the possibility of recovery in the future. The need to live to fight another day is why conservatives should adopt a Hamilton Rule if, God forbid, the choice comes down to Hillary and Trump.

My hands almost could not type those words, because I think Hillary Clinton is one of the worst human beings in American politics. She has few principles that I can discern, other than her firm conviction that she deserves the Oval Office for enabling and then defending her sexually neurotic husband. She lies as easily as the rest of us breathe. She has compromised national security through sheer laziness at best, and corrupt intent at worst. If elected, she will enrich Wall Street and raid the public coffers while preaching hateful doctrines of identity politics to distract America’s poor and working classes.

But Trump will be worse. Morally unmoored, emotionally unstable, a crony capitalist of the worst kind, Trump will be every bit as liberal as Hillary—perhaps more so, given his statements over the years. He is by reflex and instinct a New York Democrat whose formal party affiliation is negotiable, as is everything about him. He has little commitment to anything but himself and his “deals,” none of which will work in favor of conservatives or their priorities.

His judicial appointments will likely be liberal friends from New York. His Great Wall of Mexico will never be built, and employers will go right on hiring cheap labor and outsourcing jobs, just as Trump does with his made-in-Mexico suits. His China Smoot-Hawley Tariff will never be implemented. His administration, led by a vulgar, aging man-child who is firmly pro-abortion, who jokes about having sex with his daughter, and brags about his wealth, will hurt the poorest and most vulnerable among us—including the unborn.

Trump, of course, will dissemble and whine about all these eventual failures. His fans will excuse him, as they do now, but they have short attention spans and will vanish in later midterm elections and future presidential contests. His white nationalist supporters, clinging to him like lice in the fur of an angry chimp, will shake their fists along with him for a time, until they too eventually slink away. By 2020, his core constituency will be a tiny sliver of what’s left of the white working class, pathetically standing at the gates of empty factories they thought Trump would re-open.

More to the point, after four years of thrashing around in the Oval Office like the ignorant boor he is, voters will no longer be able distinguish between the words “Trump,” “Republican,” “conservative,” and “buffoon.” He will obliterate Republicans further down the ticket in 2016 and 2020, smear conservatism as nothing more than his own brand of narcissism, and destroy decades of hard work, including Ronald Reagan’s legacy.

Read the whole thing.

I must admit that he has a point.

The normal operations of American two-party politics fail to protect the country from crooks, scoundrels, liars, and complete shits. In 2004, the democrats nominated a traitor for the presidency. In 2008, they elected a totally-unqualified community organizer, i.e. a professional agitator. We have had worthless playboys (JFK), vulgarian shit-kicker crooks (LBJ), a lachrymose neurotic (Nixon), a wholly incompetent prig (Carter), and an amusing scoundrel (Clinton) as presidents in my lifetime. We have elected plenty of egotists, but we have never elected to the chief magistracy any spoiled and unhinged egomaniacs not reliably connected to reality. The system at least saw to that.

In the case of Donald Trump, we are dealing with a completely unprecedented phenomenon. Every past president, however unethical, deluded, or malevolent, could be relied upon to operate within certain broad bounds of conventionality. None of them, for instance, was ever going to cancel the next election and remain in office.

Hillary is a crook and a liar, to be sure, but Hillary in the final analysis is just a corrupt, left-wing democrat. Donald Trump, on the other hand, is something out of the nation’s Hollywood nightmares. Donald Trump is Willie Stark from “All the King’s Men” (1949). Donald Trump is “Lonesome” Rhodes from “A Face in the Crowd” (1957). Donald Trump is the barbarian outsider swept into power by popular emotion, operating completely outside conventional norms, mores, and expectations. Donald Trump talks happily of forcibly deporting 12 million people. No normal American politician would try to do something like that. Trump might. And there isn’t really any telling what else someone like Donald Trump might do.

24 Feb 2016

Trump Can Be Stopped

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Roger Kimball argues that the spell can be broken, Trump can be stopped, if his Republican opponents fight back and start telling the truth about him.

Donald Trump was never impossible. Nor is he now inevitable. It would be useful to have some of Donald Trump’s golf partners step forward. On Monday, a well placed friend told me that over the years he had run into many of Trump’s partners on the links. “He doesn’t only cheat in every game,” my friend said, “He cheats on every hole. You can hear the splash of a ball going into the pond. But when his partners catch up to Trump, they find him standing over his ball on the fairway, claiming that that’s where the ball landed.” This is of a piece with Trump’s sullied reputation as a businessman. I have heard from several sources that his common procedure is to pay his creditors 75% or 80% of what he owes them and then, when they ask for the balance, tell them to sue. I suspect we will be hearing a lot about Donald Trump’s business practices in the coming weeks. By all accounts, it will tell the story of an unscrupulous bully and cheat. Much has been made of Trump’s populist appeal. That appeal will vanish, I predict, once Trump’s character is subject to the scrutiny it deserves.

Exactly a month ago, I wrote about Trump and “the madness of crowds.” The phrase was from Charles Mackay’s classic book, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. For the moment, I noted, Trump occupies that empyrean of seeming invulnerability that occasionally cloaks movements of ecstatic enthusiasm. Point out Trump’s past support for Hillary, for Obama, for Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi, mention his abuse of eminent domain to grab private property for his casinos, and his acolytes will respond, “He just did what he had to do to make his business succeed.” Couldn’t John Gotti have said the same thing?

Mackay was writing about such curiosities as Tulipomania in 17th-century Holland, when a single bulb could, briefly, be traded for the price of a mansion, or various money or stock schemes like the South Sea Bubble or the Mississippi Scheme or the (perhaps more pertinent in this case) “the popular admiration for great thieves.” A common thread of these admonitory tales, I noted, “is the giddy rapidity of ascent followed by sudden and cataclysmic collapse once the spell is broken, which it always is.” The $64,000 question, of course, is exactly when the rude awakening will come. I pray it will not be too late.

Read the whole thing.

24 Feb 2016

Democracy

Democracia

Bloody Shovel explains the biological case against democracy.

Traditional power arrangements can be stupid and ineffective. They are by definition nepotistic, and often nothing gets done. But they have the important function of impeding the access of evil sociopaths to the highest reaches of power. You really don’t want those people up there; all they do is suck the coffers dry, and hurt everyone they fancy in order to satisfy their greed. Democracy, by opening the levers of power to free competition, all but guarantees that evil sociopaths will end up ruling everything. People who have no issue with giving sick men access to girl’s toilets, or bringing hostile barbarians to rape the women of their country. Monarchies can have a bad king. But Democracies always have a bad king.

Hat tip to Vanderleun.

24 Feb 2016

Lieutenant Thomas J. Jackson During War With Mexico

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I’d never seen this photograph before. He was actually a good-looking young man.

23 Feb 2016

Somebody Crossed a Mauser C96 With a Thompson

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Mauser. Security service of the Kremlin Arsenal and the Moscow Underground, 1934

23 Feb 2016

Somebody Should Have Fixed That Roof

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23 Feb 2016

Scalia’s Death Leads to “Conservative Safe Space” Humor at Georgetown

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Georgetown Law School issued a press release in observation of the recent death of Associate Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, headlined “Georgetown Law Mourns the Loss of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.” The release quoted law school dean William M. Treanor, as saying, “Scalia was a giant in the history of the law, a brilliant jurist whose opinions and scholarship profoundly transformed the law.”

But not everyone at Georgetown Law subscribes to the old principle De Mortuis Nil Nisi Bonum, Professor Gary Peller dissented via a mass emailing, and an article attacking the legacy of Scalia in Tikkun. (His email was appended to the Tikkun article).

Peller said (in part):

I was put-off by the invocation of the “Georgetown Community” in the press release that Dean Treanor issued Saturday. I imagine many other faculty, students and staff, particularly people of color, women and sexual minorities, cringed at headline and at the unmitigated praise with which the press release described a jurist that many of us believe was a defender of privilege, oppression and bigotry, one whose intellectual positions were not brilliant but simplistic and formalistic.

I am not suggesting that J. Scalia should have been criticized on the day of his death, nor that the “community” should not be thankful for his willingness to meet with our students. But he was not a legal figure to be lionized or emulated by our students. He bullied lawyers, trafficked in personal humiliation of advocates, and openly sided with the party of intolerance in the “culture wars” he often invoked. In my mind, he was not a “giant” in any good sense.

Two more conservative law professors, Randy Barnett and Nick Rosenkranz, responded waggishly, employing the “trigger warning” and “safe space” rhetoric of the left to turn the tables on Professor Peller.

For one’s colleagues to write, within hours of the death of someone one knows, likes, and admires, that he was a “defender of privilege, oppression and bigotry, one whose intellectual positions were not brilliant but simplistic and formalistic,” is startlingly callous and insulting, not only to his memory but to those of us who admired him. To hear from one’s colleagues, within hours of the death of a hero, mentor, and friend, that they resent any implication that they might mourn his death — that, in effect, they are glad he is dead – is simply cruel beyond words. But, though the insult and cruelty of our colleagues was grievous, at least only two of us had to bear it.

Unfortunately, the next day, recognizing full well that he would “cause … hurt [to] those with affection for J. Scalia,” and in violation of Georgetown email policy, Prof. Peller forwarded his email and Prof. Seidman’s to the entire student body at Georgetown Law, some 2000 students. Of those, at least a few hundred are conservative or libertarian. These students received an email yesterday, from a Georgetown Law professor, just three days after the death of Justice Scalia, which said, in effect, your hero was a stupid bigot and we are not sad that he is dead.

Although this email was upsetting to us, we could only imagine what it was like for these students. Some of them are twenty-two year-old 1Ls, less than six months into their legal education. But we did not have to wait long to find out. Leaders of the Federalist Society chapter and of the student Republicans reached out to us to tell us how traumatized, hurt, shaken, and angry, were their fellow students. Of particular concern to them were the students who are in Professor Peller’s class who must now attend class knowing of his contempt for Justice Scalia and his admirers, including them. How are they now to participate freely in class? What reasoning would be deemed acceptable on their exams?

Hat tip to Matt MacLean.

23 Feb 2016

This Presidential Campaign Has a Moral

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22 Feb 2016

Winter is Trumping

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22 Feb 2016

Washington’s Birthday

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The submersion of the national holiday honoring George Washington into a generic and meaningless “Presidents Day” is one of the nearly too-many-to-count bad things we owe to the administration of the late and unlamented Richard Nixon. A number of editorialists this year are arguing that America needs to do the right thing by going back to honoring our first, and possibly greatest, national hero.

John R. Miller:

In 1968, the public-employee unions, seeking a three-day weekend, convinced Congress to move the commemoration of Washington’s birthday to the third Monday in February. This eventually led to what we now call Presidents Day, which marks the birthday not only of Washington but of Lincoln and all other presidents. By celebrating every birthday, we effectively celebrate none.

Washington’s contemporaries hailed his Revolutionary War victories at Trenton and Yorktown, but they honored him more for risking his fame, fortune and life in taking on military responsibilities for which he wasn’t paid—and then giving up command to return to his farm and family. The young American citizenry esteemed him for bringing together and presiding over the Constitutional Convention, but they honored him more for his steadfastness in holding the colonies together and facing down potential insurrectionists who might have seized the government and made him a military dictator. And while they appreciated him returning to public service as president, they honored him more for leaving an office that many expected him to hold for life.

Americans in the 18th and 19th centuries were unaware of, but they would not have been surprised by, what King George III supposedly said upon hearing that Washington, after winning the Revolutionary War, had refused to be king: “If that is true, he must be the greatest man in the world.” …

Our ancestors expected that America would produce other great leaders. But they celebrated Washington’s birthday because, as the Connecticut Courant observed in 1791, “Many a private man might make a great president; but will there ever be a President who will make so great a man as WASHINGTON?”

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Basil explains that the federal holiday really is still officially designated as Washington’s Birthday.

I know. Some of you thought today was “Presidents’ Day.” Don’t let that bother you. Some of you believe in the Loch Ness Monster, UFOs, and that Elvis works at a Burger King in Michigan.

Where I come from, we usually look at such people and say “Bless their heart.” That’s Georgia-speak for “What a dumbass.”

I know, the calendar you got at the kiosk at the mall has “Presidents Day” written in the little block for today. Well, about those people that made that calendar? Bless their heart.

I know, all the TV and radio ads talk about “Presidents Day” sales going on today. Those people that wrote those commercials? Bless their heart.

Today’s a federal holiday. And, it’s “Washington’s Birthday.” Take a look at United States Code 5 U.S.C. 6103 and see what it says. Sure enough, it says “Washington’s Birthday.”

Now, the truth is that George Washington’s birthday isn’t until tomorrow. In fact, the official federal holiday for Washington’s Birthday never falls on his actual birthday. Who else but the government could screw up a birthday so bad? And some folks want them in charge of health care. Bless their heart.

Why do I make a big deal about what today is called? Because I think it’s bad idea to ignore history. George Washington was actually a pretty important guy in American history. Important enough to actually give a holiday for his birthday. …

In 1968, the movement to change many holidays to a nearby Monday began. In 1971, Richard Nixon issued Executive Order 11582, beginning that process. Still, the holiday is officially Washington’s Birthday, and has always been Washington’s Birthday. (Snopes has a write-up about this, too, by the way.)

Some states observed Abraham Lincoln’s birthday (February 12). Some still might. And some people got the idea that the new federal holiday in February was for Washington and Lincoln. Bless their heart.

Somewhere along the way, people began to call today’s holiday “Presidents’ Day.” Whether by design or not, it contributes to the ignorance of Americans. It ignores the importance of George Washington. And it causes many Americans to either forget or never understand the contributions of George Washington in the formation of this great country.

So, I wish you a very pleasant Washington’s Birthday today. Some of you are off work. Others, like me, have a regular work day. Whatever your plans are, take some time to remember George Washington.

And, if you’re celebrating Presidents Day today? Bless your heart.

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