Warfare is an area of human endeavour constantly subject to innovation: how to fuck over your enemy at low cost, low risk, and ideally, without him knowing you were responsible. Drones have shown their worth, and I am awaiting the next Pearl Harbour via a force of drones. Why would you ever hit an enemy with an air force when you could almost without cost wipe out the US Pacific Fleet with drones.
The drone attacks on Saudi oil facilities this weekend were a case in point. It leads me to think that a great deal of military equipment, doctrine, training and investment is wasted, not in the sense that all military spending is wasted – of course it is, to a pacifist – but is wasted from a purely military point of view. Much may be useless under modern conditions.
I am reminded, uncomfortably, of a recent article by the always entertaining Fred Reed, in Unz review. The Unz Review is a collection of the most outrageous opinionators on the planet, and I cannot vouch for the sanity of many of them. But Fred Reed is reliably sane.
” In extended periods of peace, which includes the bombing of peasants, a military tends to assume that no major war will come during the careers of those now in uniform. Commanders consequently do what makes their lives easy, what they must do to get through the day and have reasonable fitness reports. This does not include pointing out inadequacies of training or equipment. Nor does it include recommending large expenditures to remedy deficiencies. Nor does it include recommending very expensive mobilization exercises that would divert money from new weapons….”
” An aircraft carrier is a bladder of jet fuel wrapped around high explosives.The implications are considerable. A plunging hypersonic terminally-guided ballistic missile, piercing the flight deck and exploding in the hangar deck, would require a year in the repair yards. The Russians and Chinese are developing–have developed–missiles specifically to take out carriers. Note that the range of some of these missiles is much greater than the combat radius of the carrier’s aviation. Oops. “
” This happens partly because militaries are overconfident as a job requirement. You can’t tell the Marines that they are at best mediocre light infantry or the Navy that it is essentially a target setl. Instead the American armed forces are always said to be the best equipped, best trained, bravest, most formidable military that the world has ever seen. Except they aren’t. “
I do not think that all those American carrier battle fleets will survive a modern missile attack, and I hope that American admirals are conscious of the problem.
Don Hoffman says that consciousness is prior to matter, He undergoes a thorough and logical interrogation by someone who is not of his school of thought. The exchange is a model of how people should speak. Respectful, incisive, and utterly clear, these two go at it, shedding light not heat. What a treat to hear them! Hoffman never gets caught rejecting a proposition unnecessarily. He accepts that his thinking is compatible with several different outcomes, or schools of thought, but is frank about preferring one, and not others. Each person escapes arguing about stupid things and each rapidly exposes the nature and direction of his thought. They are a real pleasure to listen to.
The interlocutor suggests that, instead of there being two classes of being: matter and mind, which is the idea that constitutes dualism, consciousness might be more like a fundamental force of the universe, such as is each of gravity, electromagnetism, the strong force and the weak force. Consciousness might be, or not be, utterly fundamental. My inclination is to believe that consciousness is utterly fundamental. But my pleasure was in having to deal with someone who could make that sort of vital distinction, and force me to be more clever.
Arthur Koestler was a Hungarian of German-speaking culture who joined the German Communist Party and left it, for all the right reasons, in the late 1930s. His most famous writing is Darkness at Noon, which tells the story of Victor Rubashev, a Communist official arrested by the secret police, who finally consents to his death in the service of the Communist cause, even though he is innocent of any crime, deviation, or disloyalty to the Cause.
Darkness at Noon is one of the classics of the literature of disillusionment with Communism. I cannot recommend it enough.
Quite by accident I came across his autobiography “The Invisible Writing“. It recounts his years in the Communist Party in Germany in the years 1931 to 1938. The opening sentence reads:
“I went into Communism as one goes to a spring of fresh water, and I left Communism as one clambers out of a poisoned river strewn with the wreckage of flooded cities and the corpses of the drowned”.
In the second chapter he recounts the fatal weakness of the Communist Party of Germany in the face of the National-Socialist takeover. He likens the Party to a castrated animal, and describes how rapidly the whole structure was rounded up by the police after the Nazis took over in 1933.
“We had marvelled at the conspiratorial ingenuity of our leaders; and, though all of us had read works on the techniques of insurrection and civil warfare, our critical faculties had become so numbed that none of us realized the catastrophic implications of the scheme. The preparations for a long underground existence in decentralized groups meant that our leaders accepted the victory of the Nazis as inevitable”.
Another salient feature of living as a Communist was the total subordination of personal emotions to Party discipline, which meant that close personal friendships were eviscerated.
“As in boarding schools and convents intense personal ties are suspected of having an erotic background, so friendships within the Party aroused political suspicion. This attitude was not unreasonable, for between people whose entire life was dedicated to and filled by the Party, non-political friendships were hardly possible. The slogans of the Party emphasized the diffuse and impersonal “solidarity of the working class” instead of individual friendship, and substituted ‘loyalty to the Party’ for loyalty to friends. Loyalty to the Party meant, of course, unconditional obedience, and meant furthermore, the friends who had deviated from the Party-line, or for some reason had fallen under suspicion. Almost unconsciously I learned to watch my steps, my words and my thoughts.”
The same lack of freedom is recounted by the former leftist David Horowitz, in his book Radical Son, written in the 1980s. That is to say, Horowitz maintains that only outside the Left, as he defines that term, does freedom of thought and discussion exist. (There might be equivalent constraints on thought inside a severe order of Catholic priests or intellectuals, or Muslim radicals). Thus when Horowitz broke with the Left, he found that there were liberals who favoured the Vietnam War and conservatives who were against it. I can still recall his shock at discovering that outside the iron grid of Leftism, people were actually free to disagree. Horowitz so defines the Left as to exclude from it most reasonable, non-totalitarian, left-wing politics, and I follow his example.
In the venomous atmosphere of the Party, every sort of personal betrayal was not merely possible, it was expected. Koestler again:
“Few among the intellectuals in the Party realized the time that their mentality was a caricature of the revolutionary spirit; that with in the short span of theree generations the Communist movement had travelled from the era of the Apostles to that of the Borgias. But the process of degeneration had been gradual and continuous, and the seeds of corruption had already been present in the work of Marx: in the vitriolic tone of his polemics, the abuse heaped upon his opponents, the denunciation of rivals and dissenters as traitors to the working class and agents of the bourgeoisie.”
“The Marxist doctrine is a drug, like arsenic or strychnine, which in small does have a stimulating, in larger doses paralyzing, effect on the creative system”.
I eagerly await the emergence of re-convertants from political correctness. I eagerly await the literature of disillusionment from the political doctrines of equality pushed to extremes. Unfortunately, I do not think there will be one. I propose two reasons. In the intervening years since the 1930s, the decline of educational standards has become so acute that I doubt they would have the discipline and writing capacity to express themselves on anything other than confessional television shows. More important, the political Left was always grounded in Marxism which, however demented, was actually a theory of history, and made some predictions about how the world was to turn out. That they were wrong only showed the extent to which Marxism at least pretended to be scientific.
Currently the political Left is driven by anti-whiteness, which is really the current manifestation of antinomianism. It does not even pretend to be scientific. By antinomianism I mean the hatred and rejection of all existing standards and structures in the liberal West because they represent the workings of bourgeois commercial “white” civilization. My essential point about contemporary Leftism is that, if you made all white people disappear in a puff of smoke and replaced them with Japanese, or any other technically and socially competent group, the Left’s hatred of reality would compel them to reject that outcome just as severely.
The Marxists at least had a clue that one structure would be replaced by another. I am not sure the current anti-whiteness brigade have even approached that degree of coherence.
“Today the political elites are in a crisis resulting from an expected future that didn’t happen. The End of History didn’t pan out; Russia and China failed to join the liberal democratic club; the EU fell apart. The global world failed to last. But Brexit and the defeat of Hillary did not spur them to listen; instead, it inspired frantic efforts to reimpose absolute control via Chinese 5G, facial recognition, Google surveillance, G7 pacts against hate speech, and the NYT witch hunt against white supremacy.”
It starts when you shut the windows. For most of the summer the windows have been open. They breathe in and out on behalf of the house. Sometimes you have to shut them for rain, but most of the time the house and the outside are in a daily equilibrium. Cool in the morning, heating up in day, and cooling again at night, in a pleasant exchange between inside and outside.
Then one fine day in late August, you shut the windows that have remained open all summer, and open only a few of them by special exception, during the day, by conscious action. Summer’s equilibrium between inside and outside has ended. We are no longer in the equivalent of winter in the Caribbean. A few traitorous maple branches turn flaming scarlet or orange, and the rest of the woods start to have a tinge of orange and the edges.
At the same time clothing is added as insulation. We no longer dress for decency but for insulation from the nippy air. It starts with summer shorts and a short-sleeved shirt, and a pair of sandals. Then in latter August an extra shirt has to be thrown on in the mornings. Then we progress through long trousers, and the sandals eventually come off and are replaced, for the first time in months, by shoes and socks, which no longer feel sweaty and uncomfortable.
A cold night in late August finds us dressed in long pants, and fleece, as Jupiter is seen in its magnificence in the southern sky, and the summer triangle of Deneb, Alta’ir and Vega is over the top of the house in the early evening, on its way to setting in the west by ten thirty, no longer the glory of a summer sky at 2am. The Milky Way appears more prominently in the dark skies, and one stays up less late to see it.
Eventually a fire is lit in the stove to keep the chill out of the house. The cat no longer can be let in and out by the screen door, and the sliding glass double-paned doors are used to keep out the cold.
Mornings find the house enshrouded with fog from the lake, as it gives off its heat. The fog burns off to reveal a world bedewed, the grass refreshed and green. But if humans cannot stay outside, why should leaves hang around? Soon they will fall after turning from green to yellow orange and flame red.
Summer people pack up and return to cities to get back to work and send their children to school. The village empties out.
It is a good thing we have a transition several months long between summer and winter. Otherwise we should die of shock from how cold this country is in January.
I hope your chair by the fire has a good reading lamp. You will be sitting in it for months to come, as snow swirls around the house. But that is a few months away yet.
“I admired the adroitness with which he quietly punctures the feminist illusion that the distinction between men and women is “socially constructed,” while at the same time suggesting that maybe men and women are in all relevant capacities the same. As we know, it is okay to admit that we are governed by biological laws but not okay to use that truth to distinguish one kind of human being from another—not, at least, without kowtowing to the thought police. It is testimony to Harari’s literary skill that he is able to combine his biological determinism with deferential nods toward the prevailing liberal orthodoxies. In fact, he defines himself as a liberal universalist, who sees nations, tribes, and exclusive communities as obstacles to the new world order. “….
“In his second volume, Homo Deus, Harari admits that democracy depends on restricted loyalties, since people feel bound by democratic elections only if they are also bound by mutual trust. Nevertheless, he peppers his argument with constant critical asides directed against Brexiteers, Trump supporters, Zionists, Roman Catholics, right-to-lifers, and the many others who reject the maxim that “Thou shalt not discriminate.”….
” Now, though, it is all out in the open. The myths have been debunked, and the truth that they concealed is exposed to our view. Meaning is a fiction; the reality is power. As Harari puts it, modernity offers us a deal: “Give up meaning in exchange for power.” There is no purpose in the world, only the unending chain of cause and effect. Hence human beings have no predetermined role, and we can use our knowledge as we please.”…
“In all this, Harari assumes that the biological science of human nature gives the true and full account of what we are. But I am something more, or something other, than the biological entity in which I am incarnate. I am also this “I,” this subjectivity that is both the owner of all the states of mind that matter to me and also the target of those attitudes in others (love, friendship, respect) that endow my life with a meaning. What do evolutionary theory and cognitive neuroscience tell me about this entity that I am? Is it even an entity? Can it be discovered by an MRI scan? Can it be mentioned in a scientific account, framed in terms of causal laws? Maybe it is not so much an item in the world as a point of view about it. Maybe it is, as Sartre argues, a Nothing, but a Nothing that is more important than all the somethings in its world.”
Mark Blyth makes more sense than anyone I have heard about what has happened to our economies, US, Canada, China, and the world. I suppose he is left wing. I could not care less. He makes sense to me. Try him and see. Brexit, inflation, low interest rates, income stagnation, and a great deal more is explained. He is also quite clear (in the Q&A) that Trump is going to win the next election, and he is no fan of the Donald. But he thinks he is some kind of genius at transforming the US and the global economy.
Martha’s Vineyard stands off the coast of southern Massachusetts. Together with Long Island and Nantucket, it was formed by rubble pushed ahead by mile high ice fronts of the latest glaciation, which ended a mere 9-11,000 years ago, depending what latitude you are on the planet. when the ice retreated, the gap between Martha’s Vineyard and the Massachusetts shore became Long Island Sound.
But I digress. I had heard the phrase which is the title of this piece and went to Google to find its source. Someone has said it before me and I thought it should be the title, but I like to attribute quotes to their sources.
No such luck. I invite the readership of Barrelstrength to try its hand at finding who spoke this phrase. All you will find is quotations from Greta Thunberg, the sixteen year old Swedish climate fanatic, and page after page of denunciations and supposed refutations of climate science, climate alarmism, and climate catastrophism. So as I began with the evident hypocrisy of the Obamas settling on the shores of Martha’s Vineyard, I end with the worse problem of Google’s failures as a search engine.
I don’t know. I do not have the wit to figure it out. But he has a clear sharp and deeply well informed mind. Treat this conversation as a part of your liberal education, in the proper sense of that word. His book Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions sticks a skewer or two into some targets, such as Richard Dawkins, who badly need a skewering. His other books are highly recommended too.
If you want a very short indication of why I think he is so smart, hear his exposition of innate capacities residing in human beings at 28:30. How is it that a child taken from an Amazonian tribe of head hunters could be sent to be educated in Boston and that, as a real possibility, it could eventually excel in mathematics at the MIT. We can can conceive of such a thing happening, however unlikely. What does it mean for the Darwinian theory of evolution that a whole set of capacities can lie dormant in a human being for 50 or 500 thousand years and suddenly be evoked by a change of circumstance? How come the kid from a tribe of head-hunters never exposed to civilization could, if taken out of that circumstance, excel in mathematics, or, for that matter, at diplomacy?
One has only to think about this possibility for a minute to realize that Darwin’s theory is radically incomplete. Gigantic features of human life cannot be explained by evolutionary theory.
“President Donald Trump is absurd. His presidency is absurd. His party is absurd. We have known this ever since that absurd journey down an escalator, and the surrealism has only intensified since. Perhaps it takes a sane foreigner, not subject to years of almost hourly Trump abuse, to point out the obvious. We have no Executive branch in any meaningful or serious sense. We have a joke that’s wearing thinner by the day. There is no institution or company in America, small or large, that would allow Donald Trump to run or represent it for more than a few days — because most sane institutions see immediately that a rape-y racist with no knowledge base or capacity to learn is an embarrassment, and a huge liability. If appointed the head of, say, a local library on January 20, 2017, Trump would have been fired by January 21.”
Sullivan continues in the same mode of frustration, shame and derision, about Trump’s economic policy, his appearance, and his narcissism.
“He is a tragic farce, driven by and captive to a form of narcissism that is, quite simply, incompatible with any form of responsibility. He is delusional. And the only persuasive thread of his reelection pitch — that the economy is booming — is beginning to fray. And that could make his absurdity even worse: “We know that a humiliated narcissist must release his narcissistic rage somehow.”
After last week’s ugly behaviour towards the Danish Prime Minister about the proposed purchase of Greenland, I could begin to see some of the justification for the outrage. If only a bit. So it was a pleasant refuge to be with two other Trumpophiles last night. One of them was a European immigrant of long ago to the United States, a successful boat builder and designer.
My friend’s point was that everything Trump is doing is necessary to get control of the vast increases of the US population that have occurred in the last sixty years. In 1960 US population stood at 180.7 million people. In 2017 it stood at 327.2 million: it less than doubled. In Canada, the population in 1960 was 17.9 million people, whereas it is 36.9 million, which is more than double the 1960 figure. There would be few in Canada who would object to the level of immigration to Canada. Why the difference in feeling about population growth through immigration?
The essential feature of Canadian (and Australian) immigration is the points system that assures us we are creaming off the best the world has to offer. The problems with US immigration policy are many, but most of it concerns the inability of the US authorities to be more discriminating. Most of their immigrant streams are qualified by family unification, rather than by their talents. And the quasi-open border on its southern frontier is allowing a huge influx of illegal migrants. A useful description of how US immigration works (or does not) is given in Peter Brimelow’s Alien Nation, still relevant after twenty four years, since the law has not changed.
Above all, Trump is enjoying his job and his own performance. I know it goes with being a narcissist, but his attitude is also compatible with being conscious of doing a good job.
I know, the idea is scary. For a good and rational description of what Trump and his regime are up to, try Peter Zeihan’s latest video presentation. The whole purpose is to overcome the effects of all the off-shoring of US jobs that has occurred in the last forty years. Whether he succeeds or not is unknown, but that he is trying is a certainty.