Archives for category: Politics

It is possible that progressives are now beginning to understand themselves. At least, they are beginning to see how others see them.

Everybody has heard progressives’ opposition to “hate” — and increasingly know progressives mainly for their expressions of hatred.

Everybody’s listened to progressives’ theories of oppression — and increasingly recognize progressives as inveterate oppressors.

Everybody’s witnessed their incessant promotion of inclusion — yet the easiest way to identify progressivse is by their exclusions.

It now dawns on progressives that they are not the rebels they thought they were. They catch themselves repeatedly defending the major institutions of our society, and watch themselves astride Leviathan, holding the reins of cultural power. For decades, the general tenor of their favored mode of politics has been one of cultural domination, of conservation of power.

But that has not been their self-image, has it?

Well, if you are always screaming for the next sliver of advantage, you can pretend to be a screamer and not a silencer.

Really, hasn’t their habitual stance of opposition been merely a pose?

Sure, their oppositional stance made sense during the Vietnam War. They opposed the war. And to the extent they are against capitalism, well, we do live in a capitalist society. But as everybody knows, it’s awkward complaining about capitalism on an iPhone, and railing against big business while your favorite devices are made by the richest corporation in the country.

But mainly, progressives long ago obtained most of the institutions they have demanded. And it was shown during the Obama administration that the bulk of progressives do not give a rat’s whisker for peace, having enthusiastically protested war during the Bush years only to allow their anti-war protests to peter out upon the accession of Barack Hussein Obama, who then proceeded to do all of the killing Bush did, and more. They opposed not war but Republicans. This is so obvious and so tired an observation one almost hates to bring it up.

Less obvious, with their guy in power, progressives’ attitude of entitlement to power progressed rapidly. And thoroughly. Obama admitted to having a knack for killing people overseas; progressives demonstrated their knack for cherishing power and excusing power — when in their hands.

Then came the opposition to progressivism, which perhaps for the first time was directed against them in ways that they could understand: on the slogan, wit and mockery level, combined with unconcealed contempt. Jon Stewart had primed the pump of progressive hubris during the Bush years, with contempt always an undercurrent. Stewart converted nearly every last nice progressive into a snorting elitist without a lick of respect for those whom they disagreed with. Then, when the candidate selected for them by their own mavens and political vicars lost to the person they had mocked the most, they simply and thoroughly “lost their shit.” And when Obama constitutionally relinquished the reins of power to Trump, their immediate reaction was to revert to protest . . . and demand the suppression of speech they did not like.

On grounds of “hate,” of course, because those who opposed them were “oppressing” special victim classes. Oh, and because those baddies were into “exclusion,” and so therefore must be excluded from any institutional access to platforms that they themselves dominated — the universities, namely, and social media platforms.

There is a dialectic here: self-image as rebels on the outs; success in capturing the commanding heights of the culture; increasing domination of the Democratic Party; a series of massively successful revolutions in manners; partisan success at the federal level along with the promotion of one major reform; and then . . . reversion to rebellion and protest as soon as they lose the presidency, coupled with pressure both public and private to suppress freedom of speech.

Oh, but note that “public and private”: the use of public institutions to suppress dissent from their views was done behind close doors (select Democratic senators threatening social media platforms) while the use of mob action was out in the open. The public was private and the private was public.

The reason for the current hysteria and clumsy graspings at power? Panic is the result of a sudden loss of “privilege.” But what has really got to induce hysteria is the difficult thought that they themselves are not what they have pretended to be.

Now, in this progressives are not alone. My line for years, now, has been that progressives misunderstand conservatism and conservatives misunderstand themselves. But the reverse has also been true. Why? Not merely because political ideology requires a great deal of fiction to keep it going. Man cannot live by realism alone, so Realpolitik must always be leavened with myth. Sure. But what is bigger is that the traditional myths that keep the right and the left going have had so little to do with reality. Socialism is the left’s baseline paradise; strict constructionist constitutionalism (in America) and traditional forms of elitism (generally) the right’s. But neither appears to be workable on its own terms, so each side engages in a lot of pretense.

The funny thing about the standard pretenses? Progressives pretend they do not have most of what they really want, while conservatives pretend that they want what they do not have. We live in a society dominated by progressive institutions. Conservatives, by and large, do not want to get rid of Social Security and Medicare and handouts to the poor. Oh, sure, they tell themselves they want to change things, but once in power they move almost no tick down the road to republicanism. Meanwhile, Progressives do not have all that much more to achieve, which is why they bring in pathetic stories about “gender” and push preposterous notions like biological sex not mattering. Once you have achieved most of what you want, it becomes all-important to make the most of the last few crumbs. (This is Spencer’s Law.)

A whole lot of evasion has gone on. So it has been amusing to watch reality slip into the shouting matches and riots and Twitterstorms. The right is still a confused mess of anti-leftists, but the left? It is increasingly truer and truer to its own entelechy, its own cultic self.

And thus all the more amazing and impossible not to watch. In meltdown.

Ah, progress!

twv

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Replacing the Grand Canyon State’s senior member in the United States Senate — the late John McCain — is not going with the smoothness Arizonans might hope for. When Arizona Governor Doug Ducey announced former Senator Jon Kyl as his appointee, the other day, he added a hitch: the replacement would be temporary, for Kyl has agreed to serve only until January.mccain

Maybe Ducey should have consulted a temp agency.

Kyl may be like McCain in many ways — a Republican; a strong “defense” advocate; a “maverick” — but in one way he is obviously quite different: he does not demonstrate that deep hankering to serve forever in the upper house of our union’s dysfunctional Congress.

Kyl retired from the Senate in 2012, ostensibly to spend more time with his family.

How different he is from John McCain, who held his position in the Senate from the 1980s until his death on the 25th. I note that McCain did not resign in 2017, when diagnosed with an extremely serious form of brain cancer. Instead, he returned to the Senate to cast the deciding vote against the “skinny repeal” of Obamacare. McCain also did not resign later that year, despite his long subsequent absence from his beloved chamber — he did not vote in the Senate for any of 2018.

McCain held onto his title as United States Senator as if it were life itself.

I will let others praise this as courage. To me it seems more like a sense of entitlement. More accurately, an ambition borne of a misplaced sense of identity. At best, a personal mission quite separate from serving the citizens of his state.

Does Jon Kyle have a better perspective?

Well, he parlayed his senatorial career into a position with a major defense contractor. This could indicate a careerism of an even more alarming sort than McCain’s, however. It suggests the use of elected office as a mere stepping stone to where the real power is.

And where would that be?

The military-industrial complex.

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U.S. and NATO, before 1991: Communism must be fought!
U.S. and NATO, after 1991: Just kidding, it was always about Russia!

American leftists, before 1991: Hey, communism isn’t so bad . . .
American leftists, after 1991*: Yeah, it’s the Russians! That’s the ticket.

Rightwingers, before 1991: Those commies are so godless!
Rightwingers, after 1991: Muh military-industrial complex!

 

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* Especially after Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential loss.

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A timeline of me changing my attitude on iconoclasm:

  1. When Russians pulled down Lenin statues, at the end of the Soviet era, I cheered.
  2. When folks in Seattle’s Fremont District put up a Lenin statue, I snickered.
  3. When American forces, during the Conquest of Iraq, hit some major sites of ancient Mesopotamian civilization I was deeply irked.
  4. When ISIS began dismantling, destroying and selling off ancient statues from Assyria as “idols,” I was aghast that any modern would wish to treat as objects for either current reverence or irreverence millennia-old statuary.
  5. When SJWs turned against the statuary of the Civil War dead, I was somewhat disturbed that anyone would treat centuries-old and even decades-old memorials as objects for current reverence or irreverance — other than a reverance for history.

My attitude about recent iconoclasm is not unlike my attitude regarding speech: just as the proper response to speech one does not like is more speech, the proper response to statuary one doesn’t like is not iconoclasm but more statuary. It is easy to destroy, not so easy to put up new monuments — they cost money, at the very least. Destroying statuary amounts to destroying history. And destruction, even the destruction of ugly history, seems more like childishness than maturity. Adults should be able to look at a statue and not get sucked into its implied ideology.

And, surely, the postmoderns are right: any given artifact possesses more than one meaning. We Hyperboreans are authorized to pick and choose the meanings we prefer, surely.

I prefer knowledge to ignorance, truth over myth, and seeing even the most vile of monuments as examples of history.

Yes, I am one of those people fascinated by ancient monuments. I have been since very young. You know: the Seven Wonders of the World, Machu Picchu, Göbekli Tepe, all that.  My interest has engendered quite a bit of reverence for these monuments’ historicity, not allegiance to their original functionality. I am quite certain I would not support the bulk of the policies of the ancient monument-builders were someone foolish enough to attempt to revive those policies.

I made peace with Lenin being in Seattle. Still . . . perhaps I should fear the statue’s influence on Seattle politics. Could it have given succor to socialism on the current Seattle City Council?

Which brings up an important point: republican governments should probably forgo the making of monuments. They are inherently propagandistic, and though celebrating the heroes of the republic seems a fine thing, it is worth doing this privately, with private funds on private land. If republics have any legitimacy, it is in defending individual rights. Adding propagandistic and eulogizing monuments to the mix of political duties is part of the ancien régime where much effort had to be made to pretend that leaders were gods, or,  at the very least, God’s servants upon the Midgard.

All this notwithstanding, were it up to me, a motto emblazoned upon every legislative house with the words Mundus vult decipi would be more apt than any other maxim, like E pluribus unum or Novus ordo seclorum.

But in politics, truth is not what you lead with.

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Sometimes we should take a step back and remember: we don’t know much, and much of what we “know” isn’t so.

IMG_2025This is especially the case in foreign affairs. Many important events and agendas are kept from the public. Whole organizations operate (and even exist) sub rosa. We are fed misinformation and lies on a regular basis. We are easily manipulated.

I have tried to hedge, or even seem Delphic, in the recent past, regarding Russia and North Korea, for instance. I know I know little, and more-than-merely-suspect that many who say they know important truths often only parrot half-truths, at best.

There has been way too much partisan nonsense about Russia in the past few years, and much of what is important about the “negotiations” between North Korea and the U.S., South Korea, et al., is kept far from public view.

IMG_2027We should try to keep in mind that manipulation of focus is the modus operandi of all major parties and organizations, and with it the clumsy and deceptive uses of statistics.

Arguably, one of the main jobs of the corporate media is to encourage people to think they are informed, while ensuring that they remain misinformed. News is not history or social science. It is entertainment. And the unfortunate unreliability and sheer perversity of the major media outlets does not need to be seen as a conspiracy (much of it being quite open). Ideological fantasy, partisan coup-stick conflict, and the profitability of hype and hysteria might explain most of it.

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Sanders and Trump

When Sarah Huckabee Sanders tweeted the news that she had been asked to leave a restaurant, I suspect she just thought she was defending herself and the administration for which she speaks from the restaurateur’s calumny. The insult!

Screenshot 2018-06-30 15.39.40

But the response from the left was all high moral dudgeon against her:

Screenshot 2018-06-30 15.47.06

I note that Paul Jacob reacts with the precisely right challenge: “Wait — I thought that is what all Press Secretaries do: present the official lie.” For yes, politicians are liars not merely by nature but also by necessity. So once again we find ourselves in another tedious partisan hypocrisy:

[O]bjecting to one Administration and not another implicitly endorses the policies and lies of the Administration not censured. And the grounds given in this Red Hen cluckery — that the Trump Administration is racist, etc. — might possess a tad more plausibility had the Obama Administration not engaged in policies startlingly similar to the ones Trump and Sanders are blamed for.

But partisans must do as partisans always do, part with sanity:

Screenshot 2018-06-30 15.47.29

A falsehood is a lie when you know it to be untrue and when you expect others to take it as truth. Trump and Sanders are often wrong not because they are lying but because they see the world differently and expect different things to be true. Which is the same as happens regularly on the left.

Of course, Trump and Sanders are often wrong for other reasons, too: because they are engaging in hyperbole, for instance, or are “bargaining,” as Trump defenders ably (if not completely convincingly) defend the weird linguistic strategizing of the current president. Sometimes, as Scott Adams relentlessly aims to persuade us, Trump and Sanders are often technically wrong but not even attempting to be technically right: they are trying to persuade us into a position that is halfway to the mis-statement. When you overstate for effect, what you say is untrue, but the half-truth within it is sometimes all you are aiming to get across.

Smart people should be able to understand this.

And then Trump and Sanders also often do lie. Just as previous presidents and their press secretaries lie.

That folks get so upset about this, enough to cry that the sky is falling — like poor Little Red Hen of ancient fable — is just part of the hysteria of our time. That other folks pretend that there is nothing much to see here — that no lying goes on, that the hyperbole might often be unwarranted and even unhinged, the values expressed in the constant flirting with falsity — is almost as annoying.

But it is not quite as annoying coming from the pro-Trumpers. Why? Because they realize that a “sky” could fall, and are over-reacting to prevent that. That they get most of the nature of our sky’s fragility wrong is what is really disheartening.

Then again, I never expect normal Americans to get much anything right.

Much of what people do in politics proceeds along the lines of hunch and bluster. The Age of Truthiness and Trump has brought this out in rather obvious ways.

Still, many people seem to be resisting this truth.

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The Democratic Party, in America, is in disarray. And is astoundingly weak.

But why?

Because Democrats lost their way, embracing oppositionalism, racism-baiting, and vulgar stupidity in place of the kind of power negotiations that made Tip O’Neill tops in the 1980s.IMG_1239

At the beginning of the Obama Administration, the Democrats had a chance at establishing a lock on the American polity. It is obvious that there are enough progressives to ride herd over the rest of America. But the progressives have one major problem: they are intellectually flaccid, morally depraved and clueless about how the world works.

The Democrats could have succeeded by doing one thing in 2009: embrace the Tea Party. But they couldn’t do that. Not because the Tea Party was saying anything inherently Democratic, but because Progressives need white, Flyover Country rubes to hate. And because they support ever-more government not because it is better for people, but because that trend-line conforms to their religious bigotries, their statism.

So the left waited a year or two and started their own, made-in-hell protest movement:  Occupy X. And that quickly became so repellent (messy, hysterical, raping mobs “protesting” what they were not quite sure) that they lost face with normal people.

Concurrently with this, the Democrats pushed through an unpopular Jerry-rigged health care reform package — which in turn made life really hard for working folks. (Though it was a boon to non-working folks, and, perhaps, the very sick. It basically ruined my finances for two or three years. So I was not a happy camper.) Indeed, Obama backed it all the way, thereby pissing away much of his political capital.

Add to that fiasco Obama’s racial stance, with the Trayvon Martin case and others, where Obama exacerbated tense racial relations. He basically doubled down on the left’s moral preening about racism. To say that middle-class white Americans were not impressed would be to understate it.

What’s worse, Obama’s foreign policy appeared incoherent: the Libya fiasco, the proposed Syria coup, the rise of ISIS, and a continuing Afghanistan war sat on top of Obama’s ramping up of the drone strike policy — all followed by the Russia uranium deal (which people did not understand) and the Iran deal (which people understood even less). There was nothing really good on the foreign policy front. Obama got his Nobel Peace Prize upon election, and apparently decided that this undeserved honor gave him the green light to mess up the rest of his term in office.

Finally, the Democrats offered up for American consideration a self-satirizing socialist and a corrupt insider harpy . . . to take Obama’s place. And insiders in the corrupt party used chicanery to squelch the socialist. They all rallied around A Woman, and the left’s besetting reverse discrimination play became obvious for all to see. Nothing was kept close to the chest. The cards were on the table. The Queen of Spades was up to ride into the presidency and rule America — a second dynasty in our time was set to change everything by changing nothing.

Obama may very well have been elected “because he was black,” but enough Americans got squeamish about voting in a woman for no better reason than her “gender.”

And that was the final straw. Republicans, adrift since the Tea Party fizzled, flitted from one candidate to another, finally selecting the Mule, the weirdest candidate in American history, Donald Trump.

Because Democrats had so disgraced themselves, and because they went hysterical at the very idea of Trump, enough Americans voted for the outsider to send him to Washington, D.C.

Though going in I knew the election would be closer than Democrats were saying, I was nevertheless surprised that The Donald took the Electoral College.

I was pleased, of course, to see an obvious slimeball booted off stage. But I confess, Trump made me a bit nervous.

But there has been little time to worry, for the Democrats could not help themselves: they doubled down. The Resistance went into full protest mode. And the left disgraced Progressivism again. The left’s invective against the new president just wouldn’t let up. And seemed so unhinged.

And as if to prove every point I have ever made against partisanship, leftists accused the new president of nearly everything their side exhibited better:

  • Ignorance
  • Sexism
  • Racism
  • Vulgarity
  • Corruption and self-dealing

The list could go on and on. Only with the petty “orange hair” crap could I see something that might not apply better to the Democrats themselves — though pussy-hats mimicked Trump’s hairdo’s color and risible nature. (This must have something to do with one’s head and the collective unconscious.)

Democrats could have played nice with Trump and got him to do all sorts of things they wanted. After all, the man had been a self-described Democrat for much of his adult life, a hobnobber with the Clintons and (I am told, if not necessarily reliably) a guest on the Epstein Rape Plane. But instead of cultivating Trump, their anti-Trump hysteria turned off even many #NeverTrumpers. Huge mistake, that. In the game of coup-stick insult and grudge-holding, Trump is the master. He knows how to use others’ vices for his benefit.

Now Trump has made some sort of deal with North Korea. This is obviously good from a Democratic point of view — accept that it was not a Democrat who did it. So Trump is riding high and the Democrats look like losers.

Still, after all this, the Trump win remains a bit strange, no matter how bad a candidate Hillary Clinton was. Perhaps the election was fixed — not by Russians or Julian Assange, but by time travelers from the future. The devastation of a Hillary Clinton presidency was just so much that they broke protocols and “fixed” history.

Anything being better than Hillary. Even post-human Americans can understand that.

We live in interesting times.

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The day neoliberals embraced neoconservatism.

President of RedEye

I am very curious what “deal” the Trump team will offer to North Korea — or what the team will negotiate Kim’s emissaries into bringing back to the dictator.

Aren’t you?

I’m hoping that John Bolton was taken on not as a real plotter of foreign policy, but as a threat, to get better terms. Bolton’s idea to apply the “Libya plan” to North Korea seems sheer idiocy to me . . . on the face of it.

Why? Well, Dictator Kim wants to survive. If he gives up on all attempts to obtain (and threaten to deploy) nuclear weapons, he would eventually go the way of Muammar Mohammed Abu Minyar Gaddafi: killed by the United States military or by U.S.-backed forces.

Kim would be crazy to take the deal. Lunatic. MAD. If Bolton is pushing it earnestly, he’s an idiot. But if Trump is using him as “bad cop” in a good cop/bad cop routine, that might work.

Is there a badder cop in America than John Bolton?

I know what I would offer Kim: make him a king.

That is, make Kim king . . . or de facto king, but under a constitutional monarchy where his powers would be limited to two: ceremonial and Defender of the Realm — that is, head of the military. Give him a tax base and let North Korea be as free as such a thing could be.

There might have to be another word for “king,” I suppose. But the idea of a dual executive is very old. The Khazar empire was run by two figures, the Khagan and the Bek. The latter was in charge of the military. Normally one might offer Kim merely a figurehead role, but I don’t think he’d take that. He needs to be i n control of something.

Arguably, the United States should move to a dual executive, one selected by the people (or, better yet, the Electoral College as is) and the other selected by sortition from a limited pool of applicants pushed by the states (or some such).

In any case, Kim needs to be made an offer that would secure his life and some aspect of his prestige. Not because he deserves it, but because no real change can happen without doing so.

One does not need to be enthusiastic about such an offer, just reasonable.

Do you have a better idea? Am I crazy?

twv
Image credit: Bosch Fawstin’s great icon for Greg Gutfeld’s crowning John Bolton as “President” of his old Red Eye show. Note: Fawstin likes and admires Bolton, and will no doubt be really annoyed with what I have written above. Sorry, Mr. Fawstin — you are a great “illustwriter,” sure, but we disagree about a number of things. Reader — look over Fawstin’s work. He is very talented.

 

Categories Diplomacy, Politics, tyranny

A Conjecture I Have Not Yet Tested in a Meaningful Way (but which nevertheless seems to explain a whole lot)

Sibelius MONUMENT

Early adopters of a meme — which could be a folkway, a technology, an idea or whole ideology — are different from late adopters; indeed, early adopters are psychologically distinct from late adopters across time, even regarding the same idea.

This means that the early adopters of “progressive” statism in the 19th century and early 20th centuries do not look like current proponents of the same ideology. That is, because today’s progressives are late adopters — indeed, holdouts . . . as their ideology, once dominant, begins to receive significant cultural challenge — they are essentially conservative or reactionary in temper.

This explains current ideological conflict, and the outrageous censoriousness of the left. The people who think they are radicals are conservative, and the people who think themselves conservatives may, in psychological fact if not on some historical ideological maps, be the radicals.


From Alex Ross’s The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century (2008):

In 1984, the great American avant-garde composer Morton Feldman gave a lecture at the relentlessly up-to-date Summer Courses for New Music, in Darmstadt, Germany. ‘The people who you think are radicals might really be conservatives,’ Feldman said on that occasion. ‘The people who you think are conservative might really be radical.’ And he began to hum the Sibelius Fifth.

Categories Ideological currents, memetics, Psychology

Those Whom We Need Not Consult

When politicians speak of the inconvenience of the Constitution, or insinuate that it is “outdated,” we should neither be shocked nor impressed.

Thieves don’t like security systems, murderers don’t like electric chairs. We don’t ask an aggressor’s opinion of the law. Likewise, professional politicians* are the very last folks to listen to for judgments about the troubles associated with systems of limited government power.

Constitutions — explicit frameworks for the rule of law — are not designed to make it easy for politicians to do what politicians do.

A constitution is designed to protect the citizens from political government’s historical and ongoing and seemingly inevitable excesses.

States rarely (if ever) arise “for the good of the people.” States arise by conquest and imposition, and are best at exploitation of some for the good of others. To curb the severity of the State’s innate “inconveniences,” law is marshaled against it, myths are erected to guide its behavior, ethical principles are held up to check its powers.

Which is why Jefferson wrote of the necessity of severe limits: “in questions of power then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the constitution.”

And the “man” most in need of such chains is not your everyday worker, or parent, or child, or loafer. It is the politician. Normal folks place so much confidence in politicians perhaps in impatience to go about their lives, or in desperation or hope. But it has been discovered, over the vast eons of history — the rise and fall of states and empires, kingdoms and republics, tyrannies and democracies and everything in between — that confidence in leadership is over-rated.

Hence the need for limits on government. Written constitutions have been tried. But because they are in the hands of politicians to interpret and rewrite and skirt, they have proved imperfect.

But that does not mean that they should be gotten rid of. Still, if we could find a better way to limit state power than parchment rule-of-law frameworks, it might be a good idea to look into it. For what all government limits point to is the limits that liberty itself requires. “Liberty is the only thing we cannot have unless we give it to others,” William Allen White said.

Another quotation suggests even better the limits at the heart of liberty: “The right to swing my fist ends where the other man’s nose begins.”

“Constitutionality” is the practical concern with such limits.

And we cannot trust politicians to provide it. Nor should we be surprised when we see politicians balk. We should even remain a bit suspicious when they play encomiast to the concept.

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* Throughout this piece, by “politician” I mean the professional pol. In other contexts, citizens are also politicians, as well, insofar as they attempt, through activism, argumentation, litigation, or voting, to influence the State. But come to think of it, this points to a problem inherent in the question of “whom to trust” regarding matters of constitutionality. For even citizens play politician . . . and can be as corrupt or evil as any pol.

N.B. The visual “meme” is from my second memegenerator.net account: Wirkman. (Not my first, Lucian.) The Jefferson quotation is from the draft of the Kentucky Resolutions. The famous “fist” quote turns out to have been written by one Zechariah Chafee.

Categories Basic Principles, Constitutional Concerns, tyranny