Coming Apart: The French Version

 

The French situation is described here in terms that make America’s situation look mild and reconciled by comparison. I have seldom gained so much insight from an article, anytime.

The French: coming apart, by Christopher Caldwell

 

Guilluy {a French social scientist} has tried to clarify French politics with an original theory of political correctness. The dominance of metropolitan elites has made it hard even to describe the most important conflicts in France, except in terms that conform to their way of viewing the world. In the last decade of the twentieth century, Western statesmen sang the praises of the free market. In our own time, they defend the “open society”—a wider concept that embraces not just the free market but also the welcoming and promotion of people of different races, religions, and sexualities. The result, in terms of policy, is a number of what Guilluy calls “top-down social movements.”

In France, political correctness is more than a ridiculous set of opinions; it’s also—and primarily—a tool of government coercion. Not only does it tilt any political discussion in favor of one set of arguments; it also gives the ruling class a doubt-expelling myth that provides a constant boost to morale and esprit de corps, much as class systems did in the days before democracy. People tend to snicker when the question of political correctness is raised: its practitioners because no one wants to be thought politically correct; and its targets because no one wants to admit to being coerced. But it determines the current polarity in French politics. Where you stand depends largely on whether you believe that antiracism is a sincere response to a genuine upsurge of public hatred or an opportunistic posture for elites seeking to justify their rule.

 

In a French context, he would be seen as among those in left-wing circles on whom certain civilizational truths once considered “conservative” have dawned. These include the novelist Michel Houellebecq, the philosopher Michel Onfray, and the political philosopher Jean-Claude Michéa, who has been heavily influenced by American historian Christopher Lasch. Guilluy, too, acknowledges Lasch’s influence, and one hears it when he writes, in La France périphérique, of family and community as constituting “the capital of the poor.”

Since Tocqueville, we have understood that our democratic societies are emulative. Nobody wants to be thought a bigot if the membership board of the country club takes pride in its multiculturalism. But as the prospect of rising in the world is hampered or extinguished, the inducements to ideological conformism weaken. Dissent appears. Political correctness grows more draconian. Finally the ruling class reaches a dangerous stage, in which it begins to lose not only its legitimacy but also a sense of what its legitimacy rested on in the first place.

The inducements to ideological conformity are weakening, even in mellow comfortable Canada. Nowhere is rebellion more required than in respect of the supposed benefits of racial and cultural diversity.

Who says “multiculturalism” and “diversity” is the enemy of the nation-state. Those who oppose nationalism of any kind, even the mildest, hold the whip hand, and are not shy about flogging the natives to make them comply with our Brave New Order. The natives are beginning to rebel.

What they don’t tell you about capitalism

 

I have been dipping into Ha-Joon Chang’s “23 things they don’t tell you about capitalism“. I recommend it. Its author, Ha-Joon Chang, lectures at Cambridge. He provides a useful corrective to a lot of economic myth-making we have absorbed of late. He seems neither Friedmanite nor Marxist, so much as an acute observer of the gap between theory and reality and an exponent of the political element in economics.

I pulled him off the shelf this morning while trying to find a place for Fawcett’s book on Liberalism. (Bookshelf space provides the necessary Darwinian selective pressure in these parts).

I opened to chapter three, and read:

The wage gaps between the rich and poor countries exist not mainly because of differences in individual productivity, but mainly because of immigration control. If there were free migration, most workers in rich countries could be, and would be, replaced by workers from poor countries. In other words, wages are largely politically determined. (p.23)

[Westerners’] high productivities are possible only because of the historically inherited collective institutions on which they stand.

First, will someone tell me why Trump is not exactly right in enforcing US immigration law at US borders in order to protect the US working class?

Second, is not his observation perfectly consistent with what Vdare, American Rennaissance, Razib Khan, and jayman argue from their respective points of view about “inherited collective institutions”?

It is amazing what agreements are possible among thinking people when one escape’s the narrow strictures of political correctness.

 

Discrimination is the basis of life

 

The need to feel oneself morally superior is the basic flaw undermining life in the liberal democracies today. As Satan (dressed as Al Pacino) says: “Vanity: my favourite sin.”

Discrimination is carried on by every cell of your body  billions of  times a second, or trillions. That is what keeps you alive. This is what keeps societies alive. I favour the restoration of (appropriate sorts of) discrimination to its proper place: the basis of morality. No right judgment can take place without the capacity to discriminate.

Camille Paglia predicts trump re-election

 

Discussions of “bubbles” of opinion ensues. We must all fear our own confirmation biases.

Why is Camille Paglia so effective, even as she is scorned by the political left? Even as she supports Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein? Why does the outrageous dyke receive so many marriage proposals from elderly white Republicans?

Because she cuts through the bullshit. Because she possesses a power of analysis that consistently proves to be correct and insightful. An American original.

Camille Paglia’s obsessions, insights, and attacks are published in Free Women, Free Men. Anyone who can take Madonna as seriously as Paglia does amuses me. Anyone who can slaughter Lena Dunham as mercilessly as she does  deserves my support. “Oscar Wilde was my very first intellectual interest”.

Liberalism: a broad church

 

 

I have bad news for most readers of Barrelstrength. According to Edmund Fawcett’s comprehensive and insightful review of liberal thought, Liberalism, the Life of an Idea, we are all liberals.

Not Liberals, as in the Supreme Governing Party of Canada. And not ‘liberals’, that assemblage of social justice warriors, grievance identitarians, statists, and special interest groups that compose the left wing of the US Democratic party.

That’s okay with me. I am not a throne-and-altar reactionary, a racial supremacist, a Marxist, a Muslim supremacist or any species of totalitarian.  Any label that can encompass Friedrich Hayek, J.S. Mill, Karl Popper, J.M. Keynes, Isaiah Berlin, Milton Friedman, and a host of practicing politicians of the 19th and 20th centuries, encompasses me.

Fawcett in his introduction writes:

“…There is no uncontested and purely philosophical test I can think of for the descriptive adequacy of an account of liberalism, and looking for one strikes me as a level confusion. Rich as liberalism is in ideas, liberals in history were not pursuing a philosophical theory. They were not doing applied philosophy. The philosophy of liberalism is an exhilirating, fruitful endeavour, but is beyond the range of this book, which is to tell an undertold political story.

“Looked at from the point of view of citizens, liberalism is a practice of politics for people who will not be bossed about or pushed around by a superior power, whether the power of the state, the power of wealth or the power of society . Looked at from the point of view of government, liberalism is a practical response by state and law to the predicament of capitalist modernity. From either point of view , my story takes liberalism naturalistically as a norm generated adaptation to historical circumstances, not as speculative anthropology, politico-moral philosophy, or social biology.” (pp.24-25)

Fawcett says it is pointless to seek enemies within the liberal tent; they have enough without.

His views of what constitutes liberalism is more akin to a pack of dogs each pulling one sled in loose fan-shaped harnesses, than a team harnessed in one direction. Sometimes one dog prevails over the others, sometimes they run smoothly together. “I take liberalism for a practice governed by four loose ideas” (p.11).

  • Conflicts of interests or ideas are inescapable;
  • Human power cannot be counted on to behave well;
  • Human character and human society are not static but dynamic;
  • Power is obliged to respect moral limits on what it compel people to do

His views of conservatism are  less important and  significantly misguided, but his focus is not on that topic.

Conservatives, to schematize, believed in the unchallengeable authority of rulers and custom. They thought of human character as largely set and of society’s scope for wholesale improvement as small or non-existent. They took liberal respect for people’s chosen enterprises and opinions. especially of they took unfamiliar or disruptive form, as harmful to orthodoxy and social order. It shortchanged duty, deference and obedience. Conservatives took society for a harmonious, orderly whole  before critical modernity promoted self-seeking disaffection and liberal capitalism sowed discord between the classes.

By far the best analysis of the emotional bases of political differences is set out in Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind and we need not dilate upon Fawcett’s impoverished understanding  of what makes ‘conservatives’ feel and think differently than ‘liberals’. From the point of view of Fawcett, it is highly likely that everyone reading this article is a ‘liberal’, as he understands the term, including all the people who consider themselves ‘conservative’. Each book has a different subject matter, and Haidt’s examines the differences among the sled dogs, not their common harness.

Insofar as Fawcett situates liberalism as an ongoing political response to the technological, social, and economic revolutions we have been experiencing since 1800, I think he is broadly right in the catholicity of his understanding of the phenomenon.

In short, Edmund Fawcett has produced a richly informative, concise, and badly needed review of the main streams of western thought since 1800. I urge any self-identified conservative not to concern himself with Fawcett’s limitations, and to enjoy a well-written, stimulating expansion of one’s understanding of two centuries’ worth of history and progress.

 

The Guardian gives Trump the all-clear on Russia “scandal”

Guardian

GCHQ first became aware in late 2015 of suspicious “interactions” between figures connected to Trump and known or suspected Russian agents, a source close to UK intelligence said. This intelligence was passed to the US as part of a routine exchange of information, they added….

The European countries that passed on electronic intelligence – known as sigint – included Germany, Estonia and Poland. Australia, a member of the “Five Eyes” spying alliance that also includes the US, UK, Canada and New Zealand, also relayed material, one source said.

Another source suggested the Dutch and the French spy agency, the General Directorate for External Security or DGSE, were contributors.

Let us add up the countries that were contributing to the surveillance on Trump: US, UK, Germany, Estonia, Poland, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Netherlands and France. That is ten countries.

If the intelligence agencies of ten countries can’t find the smoking gun then folks, there isn’t one. It is simple as that. No wonder WaPo, BBC and NYT have been firing blanks on this for last several months.

BBC has been particularly insistent on making a fool of itself with headlines like this:

Russia: The scandal Trump can’t shake
Trump Russia dossier key claim ‘verified’
Russia ‘tried to hijack US election’, says US senator
Could FBI investigation into Russia links ensnare Trump?

This is the Democrat’s version of the Birther movement, with the difference being that established media like BBC and NYT are right there playing it up, along with all the elected Democrat politicians in Washington. This isn’t a fringe movement like the Birther movement. This isn’t limited to lunatic ravings of some idiot like Whoopi Goldberg, who said “Why isn’t Fox screaming about this? They screamed about Benghazi”.

If there really was something there, then by now we would have read something like this. From the liberal Politico.

Ukrainian government officials tried to help Hillary Clinton and undermine Trump by publicly questioning his fitness for office. They also disseminated documents implicating a top Trump aide in corruption and suggested they were investigating the matter, only to back away after the election. And they helped Clinton’s allies research damaging information on Trump and his advisers, a Politico investigation found.

A Ukrainian-American operative who was consulting for the Democratic National Committee met with top officials in the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington in an effort to expose ties between Trump, top campaign aide Paul Manafort and Russia, according to people with direct knowledge of the situation.

Or perhaps something like this. From the conservative Daily Caller.

John Podesta, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s 2016 national campaign chairman, may have violated federal law by failing to disclose the receipt of 75,000 shares of stock from a Kremlin-financed company when he joined the Obama White House in 2014, according to The Daily Caller News Foundation’s Investigative Group.

Joule Unlimited Technologies — financed in part by a Russian firm —  originally awarded Podesta 100,000 shares of stock options when in 2010 he joined that board along with its Dutch-based entities: Joule Global Holdings, BV and the Stichting Joule Global Foundation.

China slooowly turns the screws on Kim Jong-un

WaPo

For the first time, the Chinese government appears to have laid down a bottom-line with North Korea and is threatening Pyongyang with a response of “unprecedented ferocity” if the government of Kim Jong Un goes ahead with a test of either an intercontinental ballistic missile or a nuclear device. North Korea will celebrate the 105th anniversary of the birth of its founder, Kim Il Sung, on Saturday, and some type of military show of force is expected.

In an editorial in the semi-official Global Times on Wednesday, Pyongyang was put on notice that it must rein in its nuclear ambitions, or else China’s oil shipments to North Korea could be “severely limited.” It is extraordinary for China to make this kind of threat. For more than a decade, as part of its strategy to prop up one of its only allies, China refused to allow the U.N. Security Council to even consider cutting oil shipments to North Korea. Beijing’s calculus was that the maintenance of the North Korean regime took precedence over everything. Now Beijing seems to be reconsidering its position.

Reuters

A fleet of North Korean cargo ships is heading home to the port of Nampo, the majority of it fully laden, after China ordered its trading companies to return coal from the isolated country, shipping data shows.

Following repeated missile tests that drew international criticism, China banned all imports of North Korean coal on Feb. 26, cutting off the country’s most important export product.

What role did Trump play in this? From the WaPo article above.

Something interesting is happening in China and perhaps President Trump deserves some credit….

These events, culminating with Trump’s strike on Syria, appear to have concentrated Chinese minds. The strategy of backing North Korea no matter what is bumping up against the risk of an unpredictable man in the White House.

An article in The Atlantic, How the Syria Strike Flipped the U.S.-Russia Power Dynamic, also sheds light on this.

“We have to figure out what this country’s strategy is,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on a political talk show on TVRain, an independent Russian channel, just hours after Tillerson touched down in Moscow, and hours before meetings were set to begin. “No one understands it right now. If you do, share your appraisal with us,” she said, flustered, to us journalists interviewing her. “We don’t understand what they’re going to do in Syria, and not only there. No one understands what they’re going to do in the Middle East, which is a very complicated region. … No one understands what they’re going to do with Iran, no one understands what they’re going to do with Afghanistan. Excuse me, and I still haven’t said anything about Iraq.”

It seems nobody has any idea what Trump is going to do. That is better than Obama, who in 2012 told the outgoing Russian president Dmitry Medvedev, “This is my last election. After my election I have more flexibility.” Talk about showing your hand. Perhaps it is better than, “Let me be clear… I am not bluffing.”

Democratic party blues: people are taking the red pill

The distribution of electoral strength in the United States is such that urban areas vote strongly Democratic, and most rural and suburban areas vote Republican. The article hyperlinked here shows the extent to which the Democrats are in deep trouble, and getting more so. The fact that they led in popular vote this time around must be a consolation.

Credit: Ryne Rohla/Decision Desk HQ/Independent Journal Review

 

US Presidential Election by Precinct, 2016

 

 

 

 

US Presidential Election by Precinct, 2012

 

 

US Presidential Election by Precinct, 2008

 

 

 

 

 

From the same article:

 

Here is an amazing statistic. Of the 10 blue states that Hillary Clinton won by the largest percentage margins — California, Massachusetts, Vermont, Hawaii, Maryland, New York, Illinois, Rhode Island, New Jersey, and Connecticut — every single one of them lost domestic migration (excluding immigration) over the last 10 years (2004-14). Nearly 2.75 million more Americans left California and New York than entered these states.

Also, the Democratic Party has lost seats from coast to coast on every level. According to Fox News, the last eight years have proved disastrous for the Democratic Party, handing them over 1,000 losses nationally:

The Democratic Party suffered huge losses at every level during Obama’s West Wing tenure. The grand total: a net loss of 1,042 state and federal Democratic posts, including congressional and state legislative seats, governorships and the presidency.

I will leave it to others to explain why these figures mean very little, why the Democratic party’s strength is great, why these losses at the state level can be safely ignored. If I were they, I would be concerned with the long term trends.

Trump, Syria and Korea

  1. Bomb a Syrian airfield on principle to express displeasure at the use of nerve agents in warfare.
  2. Make sure you are seen eating dinner with the Chinese Premier at the time, and not breaking a sweat.
  3. Obtain approval of most people left, right and centre for doing so, across several continents.
  4. Impress your allies and enemies that you will take military action for moral causes.
  5. Explain to your Chinese guest, its head of state, that unless the Chinese solve the Korean problem of the Kim regime, you (Trump) will.
  6. Move naval assets to Korean waters.
  7. Watch with satisfaction as 150,000 Chinese troops move towards the North Korean border.
  8. Make Kim Jong Eun nervous for his regime and his life.

Is there something about this you do not understand?

Trump was not trying to depose Assad. He is enforcing a norm of warfare: blast and fire, okay; starvation of citizens maybe, nerve agents no.

But he also adds much-needed credibility to the use of force by the United States in other circumstances.

I am sure there is some expression in some language or other about being seen to eat a dog in front of the other dogs, just to remind them who is atop the food chain.

In the meantime, Bill Maher, the politico comedian, is worried by the positive press obtained by Trump.

“The number of members of the press who have lauded the actions last night as ‘presidential’ is concerning,” he wrote. “War must never be considered a public relations operation. It is not a way for an Administration to gain a narrative. It is a step into a dangerous unknown and its full impact is impossible to predict, especially in the immediate wake of the first strike.”

 I have bad news for you Bill. Public relations is the basis of popular support for wars. In a democracy, wars must be supported by large segments of the population. Support comes from people believing in the rightness of the cause.  Consider the fate of  Lyndon Johnson as support for the war in Vietnam declined.
More importantly, Trump’s action kills two birds with one stone. Review points 1 through 8 above.

 

 

Doomsday and archiving human knowledge

Doomsday vault:

In the side of a mountain atop the frigid wastelands of the Norway’s Svalbard archipelago sits the Arctic ‘doomsday vault’ – an ominous facility that’s locked away close to a million seed samples from almost every country on Earth.

Designed to keep the seeds safe from nuclear war or some other global catastrophe, the Svalbard Global Seed Bank just got a new neighbour, with a second doomsday vault opening up nearby. But instead of storing seeds, this vast library has been built to ensure the survival of the world’s most important books, documents, and data….

Oddly enough, instead of taking advantage of the most advanced data security systems available, researchers at Piql have opted for a more analogue approach – they store everything on photosensitive film, which they say is a far safer option than anything digitised.

“It’s digital data preserved, written onto photosensitive film,” Piql founder Rune Bjerkestrand told Live Science. 

“So we write data as basically big QR codes on films.”

The idea is that while digital data is stored on our computers as codes of 1s and 0s, analogue data is physically etched into reels of film, and can be ‘read’ like the bumps on a vinyl record.

As Bjerkestrand observes, it’s like having your data “carved in stone.”

Hopefully this technology will keep the material more accessible than the multimedia version of the English Domesday Book which had its problems with technology, even though the original from 11th century is still readable. The BBC Domesday Project was the multimedia edition of Domesday which was compiled between 1984 and 1986 and published in 1986 but within 15-years it was showing its age.

In 2002, there were great fears that the discs would become unreadable as computers capable of reading the format had become rare and drives capable of accessing the discs even rarer. Aside from the difficulty of emulating the original code, a major issue was that the still images had been stored on the laserdisc as single-frame analogue video, which were overlaid by the computer system’s graphical interface. The project had begun years before JPEG image compression and before truecolour computer video cards had become widely available….

The deputy editor of the Domesday Project, Mike Tibbets, has criticized the UK’s National Data Archive to which the archive material was originally entrusted, arguing that the creators knew that the technology would be short-lived but that the archivists had failed to preserve the material effectively.