Whittaker Chambers

 

Whittaker Chambers (1901-1961) was, from his mid twenties until his late thirties, a Communist and a spy for Soviet military intelligence (the GRU), who departed the Communist Party and his spying, and became a senior editor of Time magazine. He was a very gifted writer, and wrote a truly great book, Witness. His insights into what Communism was, why it nearly succeeded, and the enormous difficulty many Americans had in believing that there was anything the matter with the Soviet Union, are relevant to this day.

Books I read compete for my attention. I keep three or four on the go and more ready to to take up the slack at any time. At the moment, Witness has blown past the other respectable contestants by a furlong and is heading down the track to claim the prize.

People of a certain age will be forgiven for not understanding how much the 20th century was shaped by the Communist promise. It fell like Sauron’s Barad-Dür in 1989, contrary to every respectable opinion leader in western society, except the true hardened east European anti-Communists, to whom no one paid much attention.

Whittaker Chambers remarks that the driving force of Western intellectuals supporting the Party was not a belief in the economic doctrines of Marx, which hardly anyone read, but the promise of an egalitarian society and the end of material want. The age old and senseless suffering of man could at last come to an end, and if it took a few crimes to achieve it, then it was worth it. They had the Plan. No one else did.

It must be recalled that the Soviet Union, betrayed in its alliance with Hitler, took most of the casualties of World War 2. There was deep-rooted appreciation for the Soviet Union and its wartime sacrifices across most sectors of enlightened liberal opinion until at least 1948 and longer. The desirability of central planning of the economy was an assumed truth in almost every quarter of literate opinion. I recall George Orwell reviewing a book by Hayek, the Road to Serfdom. Orwell was aghast at Hayek’s bold denunciation of central planning of the economy. Says Orwell:

Professor Hayek denies that free capitalism necessarily leads to monopoly, but in practice that is where it has led, and since the vast majority of people would far rather have State regimentation than slumps and unemployment, the drift towards collectivism is bound to continue if popular opinion has any say in the matter.

But the vogue for central planning was underlain by a deep seated belief that Communism had the correct blueprint to understanding and acting in history.

Chambers’ view of Communism was that one could serve it for many years, and still not penetrate to its essence. Then, sooner or later, one would hear screams in the night.

Whittaker Chambers wrote:

What Communist has not heard those screams? Execution, says the Communist code, is the highest measure of social protection. What man can call himself a Communist who has not accepted the fact that Terror  is an instrument of policy, right if the vision is right, justified by history, enjoined by the balance of forces in the social wars of this century? Tose screams have reached every Communist’s mind. Usually they stop there. What judge willingly dwells upon the man the laws compel him to condemn to death – the laws of nations or the laws of history? (page xliv)

What provoked my interest was a passage much further along in the book concerning why the vast mass of American bien-pensants  revolted at the notion that Chambers was right in denouncing well-born native Americans who were part of his spy apparatus. Readers of this blog may be expected to have heard names like Alger Hiss or Harry Dexter White but may have forgotten the enormous brouhaha that erupted across the United states when in 1948 Chambers was summoned to publish his  accusations by a Congressional committee. Quite simply, he said these people were part of his spy ring. He knew so because he picked up documents from them weekly for years for the purpose of microfilming and passing on to Colonel Bykov, his GRU controller. Chambers was not believed by many liberals, and was sued by Alger Hiss for slander twice.  Hiss eventually went to prison for espionage. His guilt has been more than adequately proven by subsequent decrypts of Soviet signals traffic.

Chambers had to deal with the enmity of those who believed that Communism was basically a force for good in the world, and that he was wrong or mentally unbalanced for believing otherwise. Speaking of these “liberals”, Chambers wrote:

They were people who believed a number of things. Foremost among them was a belief that peace could be preserved, World War III could be averted only by conciliating the Soviet union. For this no p[rice was too high to pay, including the price of wilful historical self delusion. Yet they had just fiercely supported a war in which one of their ululant outcries had been against appeasement; and they were much too intelligent really to believe that Russia was a democracy or most of the other upside-down things they said in defense of it. Hence like most people who have substituted the habit of delusion for reality, they became hysterical whenever the root of their delusion was touched, and reacted with a violence that completely belied the openness of mind which they prescribed for others. Let me call their peculiar condition… the Popular Front mind.

The Popular Front mind dominated American life, at least from 1938 to 1948….Particularly, it dominated all avenues of communication between the intellectuals and the nation. It told the nation what it should believe; it made up the nation’s mind for it. The Popular Fronters had made themselves the “experts”. They controlled the narrows of news and opinion. And though, to a practised ear, they never ceased to speak as the scribes, the nation heard in their fatal errors the voice of those having authority.  For the nation too, wanted peace above all things, and it meant it could not grasp or believe that a conspiracy on the scale of Communism was possible or that it had already made so deep a penetration into their lives.”

Does that remind you of something?

97% of scientists believe that ….?

Anthropogenic global warming?

Climate change?

I am waiting for the Whittaker Chambers of the anthropogenic global warming movement to write his book on the scale of the deception, the skullduggery and the extent of the conspiracy. It will be resisted to the same extent that Whittaker Chamber’s testimony was, and by the same sorts of people. The AGW thing has not arisen to totalitarian power anywhere yet, but not for want of trying.

In any case, for any number of reasons,  Witness makes for compelling reading, not least because it is a great story well told about the struggles of the 20th century, and of a man and his God.

 

Jews, Hindus and Anglicans

Explanations are sought. They can be racial, cultural, or selective on any basis whatever, such as recent immigration policy in the US.

_________________________________________________________

I got an immediate response from Arran Gold, from his mountain fortress.

His explanation for the rankings are:

1. Subterfuge

2. Affirmative action

3. White privilege

Tobermory responded:

Hilarious, Arran! And yet, Episcopalians are privileged beyond whiteness (like most “old money” in the US, the Bushes attend that church). For those who have had the pleasure of a visit to Maui and taken the 10,000-ft drive up to the top of dormant volcano Haleakala, you may have noticed that at sea level are store-front evangelical churches attended by native Hawaiians, at 1000 ft are Baptist churches, at 1500 foot elevation are Presbyterian, and at a balmy, eternal-spring 2500 ft are Episcopalian churches, surrounded by large Tudor-style homes with rose gardens, i.e. exactly mirroring their ranking in the chart 🙂

 

It has come to this

 

“Stop Islam”. No equivocation, no pussy-footing, no mincing words. “Stop Islam”. This in the country which produced Baruch Spinoza, gave rise to Amsterdam, and welcomed religious refugees from all over Europe even at the height of 17th century religious warfare.

The Daily Mail reports that the Turkish foreign minister has said that “Dutch anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders’ views were shared by all rival parties and were pushing Europe towards ‘wars of religion’.”

In short, all you Dutch white people are the same, social democrats, liberals, greenies, nationalists.
The outrage of the Left at Wilders (rightwing! extremist!) is well captured by Steve Sailer’s commentary in TakiMag this week.

Congressman Steve King (R-IA) has noticed just how extremist today’s respectable conventional wisdom has become. So King has been exercising a Trump-like knack for trolling the Establishment with blunt truths that enrage goodthinkers into revealing just how much their worldview is founded upon hatred of average Americans.

Over the weekend, King tweeted:

[Geert] Wilders understands that culture and demographics are our destiny. We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies.

Every time I try to think of myself as a moderate, along comes the frantic, hysterical reaction to obvious truths such Steve King just issued. I find myself asking, as I have occasion to do nearly every day, why is there is such anti-white animus from white people? I understand it coming from professional race grievors, even if it is the product of excessive tolerance by whites for subsidized attacks on ‘white’ civilization. But why is our civilization- yours and mine – so bent on self destruction?

Why is the statement, that “you cannot restore our civilization with someone else’s babies?” so electrifyingly horrid to the immense crowd of anti-white whites? I think these are the reasons.

First, because it is irrefutably true. Second, because it refers to the consequences of abortion, reduced fertility, and demographic collapse that feminism – for want of a better word – has engendered, but will not own up to. Third because it asserts that there might actually be such as thing as “our” civilization, which might have a racial or ethnic basis.

Touching three electrified rails at the same time!

I keep seeing this Thing, and I do not know what it is in essence, but in its effects, it is

  • anti-white
  • anti-male
  • anti-Christian

Yet I suspect that if this civilization had been founded by the female, the racially Mongol, and the Buddhist religion, then the Thing of which I speak would be equally anti-female, anti-racially Mongol, and anti-Buddhist. For myself it seems to be an inchoate rage of people who were never spanked, loved, restrained, and held to any standard of manners and comportment..

Japanese extremism

The Japanese, I have discovered, have only one standard, and that is – perfection. When, after WW2, they were told by American engineers that they could allow a 1% imperfection rate into the manufacture of screws, they looked at themselves and wondered how to engineer a 1% defect rate into what was already perfect.

The Tokyo String Quartet, Tokyo guitar quartet, Tokyo Bach choir: they all play their selected western classical music perfectly. Japanese cars – we all know how they set the standard for defect-free manufacturing.

And now comes news of the Japanese hoarder of pornography, who was buried under six tons of pornographic magazines. I understand. It was a particularly Japanese obsession, not in his taste, but in the devotion he showed to collecting everything.

I cite the infallible collector of the world’s oddities, the Daily Mail:

 

A lonely Japanese man who amassed more than six tons of porn died when a huge pile of magazines fell on top of him.

And even more tragically, the man’s body was only discovered six months later when the landlord entered the flat to find out why the rent had not been paid.

The man’s lowly death was revealed by a member of the cleaning team, who said his company had been hired to remove the magazines discreetly in a way that would not be noticed by neighbours and the man’s family to save them from the shame.

The kitchen of the Japanese man whose body was recovered from under a six-ton pile of porn
How Japanese can you get?
  • The landlord waited six months before acting (as to do otherwise might impugn the honour of the lessee)
  • The cleaning staff sought to spare the family and neighbours the shame of the discovery.

Japan is a pagan shame and honour society, in which Buddhism and Christianity are important but definitely not the mainstream. As I have remarked before, Shinto is a religion unbothered by any conception of the Deity. But shame and honour: these people understand those feelings to the core of their beings.

All this is carefully explained in Ruth Benedict’s Chrysanthemum and the Sword

As to the porn-stasher, consider him an example of the Japanese penchant for perfection, in this case, for collecting the complete works of Japanese pornographers.

My idea of hell

John Lennon’s Imagine is the most perfect description of hell that I can imagine: a bland, featureless, joyless, hateless, unprincipled, undifferentiated state of blobdom. In fact, it is a remarkably accurate picture of the direction of modern society, as hoped for by people of the Left, and as feared by conservatives.

Imagine there’s no Heaven
It’s easy if you try
No Hell below us
Above us only sky

Imagine all the people
Livin’ for today
Aaa haa

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too

Imagine all the people
Livin’ life in peace
Yoo hoo

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one

I hope someday you’ll join us

And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions

I wonder if you can

No need for greed or hunger

A brotherhood of man

Imagine all the people

Sharin’ all the world

Yoo hoo

You may say I’m a dreamer

But I’m not the only one

I hope someday you’ll join us

And the world will live as one

This world would be anti-evolutionary, unfree, poor, uninteresting, murderous (more than our own), rife with socially enforced envy, and beset with suicide. Why live? Why strive? Why not tear down the achievements of the strivers, who are anti-social anyway? Why have families, when we will live as undifferentiated masses in dormitories? Why support our children, when the state will do it for us, as the state will insist upon doing it for us?

Nothing to kill or die for means nothing to live for. Hence suicide. Hence anomie. Hence random acts of violence, just to feel something.

And always, always, the unspoken truth behind all the rhetoric of peace and unity, is a Leviathan, a state so powerful it can reduce everyone to the same level because without that state, human differences would take effect. Though we may live in our equally-sized 90 square meter apartments there will be no equality of power. There is always a priesthood enforcing the equality of outcome that such a regime demands.

In this Godless universe, no crime would have meaning, in fact no act would have meaning, because meaning has been drained from it.

I am reminded of the movie Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), which depicts the world that “Imagine” invites us to dwell in. People without human emotion: no pride of place, of family, of accomplishment, no love, no hate, just watching the ticking clock until they head home after a day of meaningless office work to engage in meaningless interaction with their families. Of course they would soon refuse to breed, and die off from lack of self reproduction.

Kind of like what is happening right now, as birthrates tumble, religious attendance declines, and people get hysterical about any politician trying to defend their own societies from foreign invasions.

The movie ought to have been named “Invasion of the Soul Eaters”, and the title track ought to have been Lennon’s “Imagine”.

________________________________

Today’s instance of Lennonist blobism is found in the Guardian, an unfailing source of foolishness:

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/feb/06/utopian-thinking-build-truly-feminist-society

Michael Lewis: The Undoing Project

 

Michael Lewis is the author of books on Wall Street: Flash Boys, The Big Short,  and Moneyball. He recently published The Undoing Project: a friendship that changed our minds. The book recounts the extremely productive intellectual relationship between two Israeli psychologists, Amos Tverski, and Daniel Kanneman.

The essence of the Tverski/Kanneman approach was to look at the way the human mind has characteristic ways of miscalculating probabilities, such as risks, chances and expected outcomes.

When I first read Daniel Kanneman’s Thinking Fast, Thinking Slow, I confess that I was irked, and that in some sense I thought the author was just being a smart-ass. I gather from reading Micheal Lewis that my reaction is quite common,  because the results are so devastating to one’s belief that, more or less, we humans get it right. We do, and we do not. Kanneman and Tverski show how we do not correctly appreciate risks,  in quite exact and well described ways. By so doing they launched a direct attack, via statistical results from psychology, on the notion of the economically rational man. More than this, their thinking about our error-pronedness  has had an effect on how hospitals treat  patients, even so far as why cell phone use while driving has been banned, and why governments now enroll you automatically for benefits rather than expect you to tick a box to express your assent.

Oban once remarked that “economics was a peculiarly anorexic discipline”, because of the extreme narrowness of assumptions about human behaviour and the excessive mathematization of the issues with which it deals. The mathematization allows for precision, but the assumptions that allow the mathematical approach drastically limit the range of thequestions that may be asked. Nowadays the works of Tversky/Kanneman are among the most cited works in economics papers.

The Lewis book examines the remarkable collaboration between two utterly different psychological types as represented in Kanneman and Tversky. It also covers the effects of their thinking on other domains. I recommend it highly.

For a more complete discussion of the Tversky/Kanneman approach to thinking, you will well served by Kanneman’s Thinking Fast, Thinking Slow.

 

 

 

 

 

Charter mania

charter

 

I get creeped out by the relentless totalitarianism of Charterism; its tone-deafness, its self-referentiality, its inability to consider that there might be limits – not found in the Charter – to  the range and depth of its reach into private conscience and public behaviour.

Yesterday the Post printed an op-ed called “The Religious Hospital Problem”. It argued that the calculations of rights embodied in the Charter were such that the only correct conclusion was that a Catholic hospital had no right to refuse a patient an “assisted death”.
The hospital had a trust relationship with the patient, and that the trust relationship trumped the religious rights – if any – of a Catholic institution.
The authors, Richard C. Owens and Ellen Wiebe, concluded:

Should Shearer really have had to accommodate someone’s religious convictions to the extent of the awful pain and degradation he suffered? No. That is not to say a Catholic doctor must be required to assist someone’s death — except perhaps in unusual circumstances. But an institution, per se, has no religion. It just happens to be under the control of those who wish to use it as a platform for advancing their beliefs. As such, every Catholic hospital should have at least one non-Catholic doctor with unimpeded access to terminal patients who is free to assist patients with their deaths. These rights must apply to patients of all creeds — including Catholics themselves.

1. An institution has no religion,it is merely the platform for the advancement of beliefs.

2. Therefore, since it has no religion, every Catholic hospital should have at least one non-Catholic doctor able to provide assisted deaths to allow for the proper exercise of patients’ rights to be killed.

3. A Catholic doctor (meaning a professed Christian) may, in circumstances not described but certainly not determined by him, be required to assist someone’s death, that is, stick a needle in someone’s arm and kill them, thus violating the Hippocratic oath and his conscience as a Christian.

In short, your religious convictions are without any weight or relevance to your requirement to be the obedient servant of the will of the state, as determined by the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court has already determined that denying assisted death would violate a citizen’s rights under section 7 of the Charter.

 Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.

 Thus, a right not to be deprived of life, liberty and security of the person now includes the right to call in a doctor and have him give you a needle to kill you. Your right becomes his obligation.

And the doctor’s right to refuse you this unction is close to non-existent.

It is the same all over in any discussion of rights under the Charter. It is a totalitarian mental framework erected by lawyers, to place over their heads, and prevent them from thinking in any terms outside the framework erected by the Charter.

If a Canadian parliament passes a law, it may be declared to be outside its legislative competence, by reason of Charter violation or that it violates the division of powers between federal and provincial levels of government. But if the Supreme Court creates a law, there is no appeal. And these people are making bad law every month or so, as humans do, and only the very slow passage of time, and the appointments process, will reverse or hinder previous law-making. They are not evil, nor are they badly intended. The particular hell to which we are being sent is paved with the noblest of intentions, namely the Charter. My concern is that we have appointed a Supreme Court to do what no humans can do, which is to be infallible. And being human, they understand they have unchecked power and are using it to advance an agenda of their own devising.

William Buckley’s famous phrase was that he would rather the United States be governed by the first four hundred people out of the Boston telephone book than by the faculty of Harvard University. I feel the same way about Canada’s Supreme Court.

Bourgeois Dignity: Why economics can’t explain the modern world

McCloskeyT

Deirdre McCloskey is a phenomenal writer, economist, and thinker. Visit her website for an explosion of academic productivity and a highly intelligent viewpoint. We share one thing in common. Both of us have had the gravest doubts that economics as it is usually practiced is capable of explaining much. My friend Oban calls it the anorexic profession: not merely starved, but self starving. Its insights are few, but powerful, but it has become wedded to asking very narrow questions and getting very narrow, if important, insights.

McCloskey breaks the mould. Here is how she begins Bourgeois Dignity: Why Economics Can’t Explain the Modern World (2010) “Sixteen. The magic number is sixteen. The world is on average sixteen times wealthier than it was in 1800.” She finds that the economic discussion fails to comprehend or explain why ‘the largest revolution in human affairs since the invention of agriculture’, as she puts it, has occurred in the past two hundred years. She looks at all the explanations proferred by the economics profession , and finds them inadequate to explain the scale of the transformation from $3 a day world average in 1800 to $48 a day world average (or $147 a day in formerly impoverished Norway).

After demolishing the usual explanations (rule of law, expansion of trade, rise of the middle class – without reference to ideas, war, slavery, imperialism, or population growth) she settles on changed ideas and social attitudes towards innovation.

Changing social ideas, in short, explain the Industrial Revolution. Material and economic factors – such as trade or investment or exploitation or population growth or the inevitable rising of classes or the protections to private property – do not. They were unchanging backgrounds, or they had already happened long before, or they didn’t actually happen at the time they are supposed to have happened, or they were weak, or they were beside the point, or they were consequences of the rhetorical change, or they required the dignity and liberty of ordinary people to have the right effect. And it seems that such material events were not in turn the main causes of the ethical and rhetorical change itself.

Most of the book consists of a careful elimination of the causes usually offered for the Industrial Revolution, and involves naturally a series of disputes with the standard materialistic explanations offered by the economics profession. Many if not most of the economists with whom she disputes  have been at various times her teachers, mentors or students, and on the whole the arguments are kept at the friendly tone with which old friends argue.

I grant that I am inclined to non-materialist explanations. Materialism is the doctrine that there is only matter and its motions, and that mind is an epiphenomenon, as a shadow is to the body for example, and not a primary cause in its own right. Yet anything we know to be important in our own lives has occurred by decisions we have made, that led to actions on our part.

McCloskey argues in this book that the standard sets of explanations for the huge rise in human wealth since 1800 are insufficient, when they are not merely wrong. Bourgeois Dignity is the second of a series of six books she has planned. The next in the series, Bourgeois Equality (2015) is already out. I have already ordered it.

McCloskey is one of those writers who are so enlightening and well argued that you need not fully agree in order to profit from them greatly.

She may think it relevant, but I do not, that she underwent a sex change from man to woman in 1995. More pertinent, in my view, was that she was an atheist and is now an Episcopalian, and was an acolyte of Milton Friedman and now entertains a broader conception of her profession.

 

Abu Sayyaf and the “experts”: crime not jihad

Mark SInger

Mark Singer from his Linked In page

Mark Singer, director of business intelligence for the Manila office of Pacific Strategies and Assessments Inc., which closely tracks Abu Sayyaf, thinks that jihad has nothing to do with their kidnappings, extortions and beheadings. I wonder why.

This is the narrative we are all supposed to accept:

“It is a manifestation of their willingness to do this (kidnap, threaten and behead prisoners)  to leverage their criminal activities. They are first and foremost a kidnap group,” the security and risk analyst said

“The black flags and the rhetoric reinforce their claims, but they are not ideologically driven. They are driven totally by criminal intent and kidnap for ransom.”

Militant Video via The Associated Press

 

“Driven totally by criminal intent and kidnap for ransom”.  Rubbish. Bandits with religious or ideological justification are different from mere bandits. What makes Muslim terrorism different from mere banditry is that Islam authorizes by them religion to smite the infidel, to waylay them, to behead them. These are not bandits who rob banks “because that’s where the money is.”

Yes, they are criminals. But the particular form of criminality is a cultural expression of Islam. Where there are Muslims, so there will be jihad. This is a statistical correlation, not a one for one correspondence. I would go further and assert that it is an ineluctable consequence of being inspired by the prophet Mohammed to do as he commanded his disciples to do.

The contact webpage of Mark Singer’s employers is http://www.psagroup.com/contact/ You can use that contact point to communicate with Pacific Strategies and Assesments, who, judged by their backgrounds,look like serious and responsible people.

Mr. Singer is entitled to his opinions but you may wish to express your concerns, as politely as possible, that the quality of their advice is measured by the quality of their spokesmen.

Warren

David Warren is a pain in the ass. His Roman Catholicism is so extreme it might be wondered whether he is a Christian. He is also the only person I have ever met who may yet be made a saint. Go figure.

Do yourselves a favour one of these days soon. Read any number of essays by him on his blog, until you have had your fill.

He reminds me of the last view hobbits had of the elven queen Galadriel on the shores of the Anduin River, as the hobbits floated downstream from the enchanted forest of Lothlorien, heading to perilous adventures in Mordor. There is something lost-in-time about his world view that excites my admiration and annoyance simultaneously. I can only pray that my annoyance may yet bring forth some kind of sustained intellectual effort to find out why I disagree, and where.

But I am not going to be made a saint and Warren may yet be declared one in some reactionary Catholic future, as yet to be imagined, where Chesterton is thought to be the most important writer of the 20th century.