America and the Russians

Some time ago, frequent visitor, Karl from Germany, asked why it is that Americans view the Russians as a permanent adversary. This is something many Europeans find puzzling, given that the Cold War has been over for a generation now. Russia is no more of a threat to America than Sweden, but our leaders still want to wrestle the bear. China on the other hand, is a threat, but America’s foreign policy elite loves China.

From the outside, it probably confirms what most of the world thinks about America, which is the country is run by provincial bumpkins not equipped to conduct proper diplomacy. That’s certainly part of, but not the main reason for these inconsistencies. There’s a cultural aspect to it that is a product of the fact America is a very young country. When Europe was playing chess with Napoleon, America was still working out the basics of government.

For most of American history, there was one foreign policy item and that was how best to avoid having a foreign policy. In 1821 John Quincy Adams famously said that America “goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own. She will recommend the general cause, by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example.”

This mild form of isolationism was the core of American political thought into the 20th century. Most Americans at the dawn of the 20th century wanted nothing to do with Europe and the scheming of the Continental powers. Teddy Roosevelt and the Progressives were the first to start talking about America having an active role in world affairs. The success of the Spanish-American War was too much for the Yankee missionaries to resist.

So, America’s first large scale foray into an activist foreign policy was the Great War. The fact that it was an unpopular war, largely confirmed that it was a mistake for American to let itself gett involved in European politics and chicanery. The result was a return of traditional American isolationism. By the 1930’s, the one thing the political class of America had in common was a deep desire to stay out of European affairs and thus world affairs.

Obviously, that all changed with the Second World War. Unlike the Great War, this one ended with a decisive result. Even better, from an American perspective, is that we won! Even better, we stood alone as the protector of the civilized world. For a country whose dominant region saw itself as a city upon a hill, the result of WW2 felt like confirmation, a fulfillment of the covenant, to the people running the country.

That last bit is the key to understanding Americans. We are, for the most part, a moralistic people. We believe in good guys and bad guys. Hitler and Tojo made great bad guys. The Soviets were near perfect bad guys. They were foreign enough to feel like the other and they were a bunch of God-hating commies. Every American over the age of 45 grew up thinking the Russians were evil.

The Cold War was the birth of the American foreign policy establishment. It was created in response to war and evolved afterward in the context of the competition with the Soviets. The period immediately after the war is what made American diplomacy. Our duty as the keeper of the flame was to stop the Bolsheviks from turning out the lights in Europe and by extension, civilization.

All of the old hands in the current American foreign policy establishment are former Cold Warriors. Similarly, their proteges grew up believing the Russians were the great adversary. There are other elements to this, but the main culture of the US foreign policy elite is an instinctive distrust of the Russians. Like a tribe bred for certain traits, it has been generations since anyone with warm feelings for the Russian has been in the club. Distrust of the Russians is baked into the DNA at this point.

This multi-generational competition with Russia is also the source of our blindness to China. In the Cold War, it became an article of faith that China could be brought over to our side. Nixon going to China was viewed at the time as a great triumph. A billion people were about to turn from godless communism and join us in opposition to the Soviets. The subsequent trade dealings with the Chinese feels like confirmation to our foreign policy elite.

What is happening in America today is sort of a delayed response to “winning” the Cold War. Close to three generations of Americans were trained to be Cold Warriors. Three generations of American voters were trained to be either “socialists” or “capitalists”, Blue Team or Red Team. Even though the rationale for this construct fell away a long time ago, there was too much invested to just toss it all away. But, it is now starting to crumble, like an abandon building.

Obama, for all his defects, started out trying to change the relationship with Russia. He failed, but that may have been timing, as much as his own incompetence. Trump is clearly ready to try a new approach to the Russians. The next generation of foreign policies thinkers are also rethinking American diplomacy, including the relationship with Russia. Even so, these things move slowly. Old men are never fond of seeing their life’s work abandoned by their proteges.

Bring Back Oddjob!

I ride with a guy who just got out of the Marine Corp and he and I will chit-chat on breaks. He’s twenty years my junior, but we hit it off for some reason. He was looking for a way to stay fit and started picking my brain on the topic. Anyway, one of the things that he said he does not miss about the service is dealing with 20-somethings. So many of them struggle with basic responsibility that it gets tiresome. They learn eventually, but he says he just got tired of dealing with it.

Hearing someone in their early 30’s complain about young people always makes me smile. I’ve never been the sort of complain about the young. I hated hearing it when I was young so I don’t do it now that I’m a geezer. Yet, hearing it from people, who could be my kids, makes me laugh for some reason. That said, I can see where he is coming from on the topic. It’s hard dealing with young people today, which is why I avoid it.

This came to mind reading this with my Metamucil.

North Korea has sentenced an American student to 15 years’ hard labour for crimes against the state after he tearfully admitted that he tried to steal a propaganda banner from a hotel.
Otto Warmbier was arrested as he attempted to leave the country in January and later made a televised “confession” saying that he had taken the sign to bring back a “trophy”.
North Korean state news agency KCNA said the 21-year-old’s offence was “pursuant to the US government’s hostile policy” and that he was convicted under an article of the criminal code dealing with subversion.
The University of Virginia student who had visited the isolated state as a tourist, had said during his confession that he had tried to steal the banner for an acquaintance who wanted to hang it in her church.

In my youth, visiting East Germany was the thing to do for Americans looking for some adventure. You could also go to places like El Salvador or Nicaragua if you were truly brave. Brits, I’m told, would light out for China or the Balkans for some reason. I once knew a French guy who spent some years in North Africa bumming around and smoking hash. In all cases, you knew what you were getting into and you knew to avoid trouble.

North Korea is run by people that could very well be insane. It’s hard to know as it could be an act for the West, but sometimes things are as they appear. Going there at all is an unnecessary risk. There’s adventure and then there is wearing a meat suit into the lion’s den. The line between risk taking and idiocy is not that thin. It takes a mighty leap to go from one to the other and this young man managed it.

What makes it hard to have any sympathy for him is what got him pinched by the NORKs. He stole a poster so he could be a big shot back home. This is the kind of behavior people complain about when discussing young people of this generation. It’s this weird sense of entitlement. The kid wanted it to look cool to his coevals. That’s all that mattered. He could not imagine how this would be seen by the guys with guns.

It’s a shame the NORKs lack anything resembling self-awareness. What they should have done is offered the kid a deal. He could do 15 years in prison or take a beating. Have a guy like Oddjob standing there cracking his knuckles waiting for the go ahead. Put the thing on YouTube. If the kid took his beating like a man then he would be a hero back home. If not, then he goes home as a coward. But, the NORKs are not known for nuance.

Alternative für Deutschland

Americans always struggle understanding the politics of continental Europe. For starters, the European Right has usually sounded like the American Left, while the Euro Left has sounded like the faculty lounge at Oberlin College. For my European readers, Oberlin is an insane asylum in Ohio. Buckley Conservatives may not have been sincere in their goals, but they put a lot of effort into sounding like small government, Classical Liberals.

Of course, there’s also been this weird phrasing that Americans are just now adopting. That’s the phrase “extreme far right” that is always center stage, ironically, in European political discussions. The “far left” never gets mentioned. Stalin is never described as “far left” but Hitler is “far right” even though he was a socialist. This has always been confusing to Americans, but we are catching up. Donald Trump is now far-right.

Then there are the political figures. In America, we hold veterans in very high regard, maybe too high, so military service is a good thing for politicians. In Europe, military men command little respect compared to other vocations. In America, we like it when someone goes from rags to riches. Therefore, we like politicians with humble origins. Europeans prefer men and women from the aristocratic and academic backgrounds.

As a result, unsophisticated Americans, like myself, have found European politics a bit murky. Well, that used to true. Americans can now relate to what our brothers and sisters across the Atlantic are experiencing in their politics. The evil Donald Trump is smashing up the political class with his extreme right-wing populism. Across the pond, extreme right-wing parties across Europe are smashing up their respective political classes. It’s spring time for Hitlers and they are blossoming across the West.

The most stunning development, the one that has good thinkers on both sides of the Atlantic in a panic, is the sudden rise of Alternative für Deutschland, an extreme right-wing extremist party of the most extreme right-wing kind. Led by the elfin Frauke Petry, this new party rang up surprisingly large vote totals, exclusively on the issue of immigration, particularly opposition to the Merkel policy of Islamification of Germany.

In addition to the ruling class Hitler fantasies, Americans and Germans now appear to have two things in common. One is that the political classes in both countries have displayed a staggering disregard for public welfare in their pursuit of personal salvation. Merkel out posing for selfies with refugees is as tone deaf as Republicans demanding open borders and amnesty for tens of millions of illegals. Cui bono?

The responsibility of the people put in charge, their chief responsibility, is to maintain public order. You cannot have a civilized and prosperous society with civil unrest. Deliberately inviting in these problems, as we see with Merkel in German and the open borders lobbies in America, is a betrayal of the public trust. In another age, the elites would not have to fear these populist parties as the people would have hung the elites before it got to this point.

The other overlap and the most important to consider is the source of support for these extreme right-wing far right extremist movements. Alternative für Deutschland is decidedly middle-class. It has the nickname “the professors party” because its founders were mostly academics. It’s vote is coming from middle-class Germans who work in professions. It’s support is also overwhelmingly male at this time, with some estimates at 85% male. This is a point that will become central to our future political debates.

Smart people have figured out who is voting for Donald Trump and the thing that jumps out is that Trump has broad-based support across the American middle-class. In fact, he is the candidate of middle America right now. Despite all the hooting and hollering about his angry voters, his rallies look like the crowd at Little League baseball games in a typical American suburb. His issues are also directly aimed at the middle.

Like AfD, Trump is drawing in male voters who have dropped out of the process, but also males who have thrown in the towel on the main parties. Current estimates suggest a 2-to-1 ratio male-to-female for Trump. This is not an accident. German culture has seen the same war on men we have seen in America. German men were literally told they had to urinate sitting down. When you have to get permission from a judge to take a whiz, you’re going to begin to think the people in charge are against you.

One last thing, related to the middle-class nature of these movements, is how the elites are responding. Instead of co-opting the issues, they are trying to link these movements to bogeymen like Pegida and the KKK. That’s a telling response and suggests the ruling classes have become decidedly anti-middle class. It’s also legitimizing the taboos against xenophobia, racism and ethnocentrism. You can only call decent people Nazis so many times before it loses its power to shame.

What’s happening across the West is the people are awakening to the fact that their rulers have a very different vision for their societies than they disclose in public. In many cases, it feels like the rulers have plans for the future that don’t include their voters. Those plans may be great ideas, but in stable societies, they must be debated in public. Otherwise, society becomes unstable. That’s what’s happening in Germany and America. The system is becoming unstable.

Stupid CoNT’s

Most people think of cults as being a collection of suicidal weirdos led by a madman, who thinks he is Jesus. That’s understandable as they are the most colorful and therefore get the most attention. David Koresh and the Branch Davidians are the gold standard. Before him Charlie Manson was the guy Americans thought of whenever the subject of cults came up in conversation. The suicide cult is a regular feature of television police dramas for this reason.

The truth is, cults don’t usually end in mass suicide. In fact, it is rare. Usually they run their course, eventually running out of steam and the adherents wander off to other things. People are natural believers and the more intense the inclination to believe, the more likely they are to sign onto mass movements, even wackadoodle nonsense like UFO cults and recycling campaigns. They go from one to another, looking for salvation, sometimes even signing onto a movement built on the negation of their prior cult.

Think of the nutty aunt who is always into some new age nonsense. Maybe she was into crystals and then it was a fake shaman that helped her discover her aura. Then it was off to volunteer for one social cause after another. We all know these sorts of people, yet we seldom think of them as members of a cult, but that’s what’s going on with them. Cults are just small, temporary mass movements.

The assumption is that cults always have a charismatic leader, but that is not the case. Scientology is a cult and it lacks this feature. Modern American liberalism latches onto temporary leaders like Barak Obama and now Bernie Sanders. The Obamasoxers of ten years ago are BernieBros today. Buckley Conservatives have been calling every GOP nominee “Reagan” since ’92. It’s a type of cargo cult where they think if they pretend their man is the Gipper, they will be transported back to the 80’s.

This brings us to the Cult of Never Trump, known on-line as #nevertrump and billeted at on-line sites like the Federalist, National Review On-line and The Blaze. Like every cult, the adherents are convinced beyond all reason that their cause is based in indisputable mathematical truths. These truths are so obvious, they repeat them with a regularity that resembles a chant. Every CoNT I’ve encountered says the exact same things, like they rehearse them.

This was something visitors to Maoist China and Stalinist Russia noticed about the bureaucrats. They always said the same things in response to questions. In most cases, it was simply pragmatic. The party stalwarts, the spear catchers for the cause, they chanted the party line with the enthusiasm of the fanatic. They did not just believe the party line, they were defined by it and defined by their adherence to it. They would die for it.

As an aside, I knew an Iranian that served in the Iran – Iraq War. He told me a story about how his unit came up to a minefield. The Revolutionary Guards in their unit ran into the field, sacrificing themselves to clear a path through the mines. For these men, their life was only useful in service to the cause. They had given themselves over completely to the cause and the proof of it was their willingness to die for it. Before they stepped on the mine, they were already dead to themselves.

The other thing every mass movement requires, particularly cults, is the bogeyman. To quote the go-to source on these things, Eric Hoffer, “Mass movements can rise and spread without belief in a God, but never without belief in a devil.”  The Nazis had the Jews, the Stalinists had the Kulaks and now the CoNT has Donald Trump. The enemy is what comes to define the cult and gives it a reason to continue on, even when all the prophesies fail.

The interesting thing about the CoNT is that it started a lot like a UFO cult, rather than a mass political movement. Last summer, they dismissed Trump as a ridiculous showman and not a real candidate. Then he was a vanity candidate who would drop out by fall. Then he would be crushed in the debates. Then Iowa was going to be his demise. This has been a pattern right up to now. After each setback, the CoNT rejiggers the prophesy and comes up with a new date for when the Dirt Monster will be slain.

The gold standard on this type of cult is the study, When Prophecy Fails: A Social and Psychological Study of a Modern Group That Predicted the Destruction of the World. The group they studied was a UFO cult led by a woman named Dorothy Martin. It eventually disbanded, but she went on to start other fringe spiritual movements. I’ll just note that she was initially involved with Scientology. Again, true believers tend to move from one mass movement, one cult, to another.

Like a UFO cult, the CoNT becomes hyperactive as the next big date arrives. For the last week they have been waging a campaign to prove that the Dirt Monster is Hitler, hoping to bring about the great reckoning this Tuesday. This will surely go on until Trump clinches the nomination in a month or two. What happens at that point is tough to tell. I doubt we see a mass suicide, like the People’s Temple, but they will have to contend with what experts call “dis-conformation.”

This is when the true believer is presented with irrefutable evidence that contradicts their belief. In the famous Dorothy Martin case, the Seekers explained that the aliens did not come and destroy humanity because the faith of the Seekers convinced the aliens to relent. My guess is the CoNT will come up with something similar, maybe claiming Trump has changed and their efforts to stop have reformed him and made him acceptable.

Others will never go along with this. Neo-conservatives like Max Boot and Bill Kristol can never reconcile themselves to Trump. These are Trotskyites, who have a vision of the world wholly incompatible with anything one can call conservative.  The smart money says they head back over to the Left and find some way to reconcile themselves to their old friends on the

Either way, we are bedeviled with CoNT’s for a while longer, then it will be something else.

Silas Lapham

Seven or eight years ago I started noticing Kevin Williamson in the pages of National Review. He often wrote about the sort of things I find interesting and he has some decent reporting skills. Buckley’s paranoia in his old age drove off most of the quality writers from the magazine so Williamson stood out. His quill pen act was ridiculous, but I can forgive a little phoniness if the material is good.

Of course, Bill Buckley was a world class phony. His exaggerated Brahman routine was so ridiculous it could have passed for satire. Late in life this style became so absurd his columns were unreadable. But, it served the purpose of inoculating him and his movement from the charge of being middlebrow by the tribunes of the people on the Left. It’s hard to dismiss a rich guy as stupid or provincial when he sounds like a Victorian barrister.

The first time I saw Williamson, I had to laugh as the phony-baloney style immediately made sense. White trash guys with something more on the ball than the typical prol often go to the extreme in order to lose their white trash past. They are aware enough to see there is a better way than what they were born into, so they get as far away from home as possible. That usually means aping the habits they observe in their betters. The terminal insecurity makes them extremely prickly about issues of class.

The sad thing for these guys is they tend to get bitter as they are never welcomed into the club. They end up living the life of Silas Lapham, if they are lucky. Otherwise it is life of the servant, full of petty indignities. People born into the upper classes know how to spot these phonies and they enjoy reminding them that they are forever outside the club. Williamson can force himself to sound like Bill Buckley, but he will forever be white trash from West Texas. There’s no escaping biology.

All that I aside, I enjoyed reading his work at NR for a few years. The libertarian nitwittery was never my thing, but once a month or so he would land on an interesting topic and report some useful facts. The ragged condition of modern journalism means basic reporting can no longer be taken for granted. Anyone that does it well in medium and long form journalism these days is a rare bird, even if their writing style is unnecessarily ornate.

A couple of years ago I noticed that Williamson was doing some dangerous noticing. The managerial class hates noticing almost as much as they hate normal people. I was not the only one to pick up on it and his noticing abruptly ended. Williamson spent a long time polishing apples to get a perch at National Review. He was not about to foolishly let himself get purged so he went back to writing libertarian gibberish and conservative boilerplate. It’s safe material that flatters the people that write checks to National Review.

Last summer, Williamson went all in on the Trump bashing and my instinct was to assume it was more apple polishing. He just wanted to prove to his betters that he was not going to be a problem, now that one of the dirt people was getting uppity. It’s that old inferiority complex kicking in. Trump is making a lot of people in the servant class nervous because he exposes the reality of their situation. A guy like Williamson, I just assumed, was particularly freaked out by it.

Over the weekend, this piece by Williamson was rocketing around twitter. The source is locked away behind a firewall, but the gist of the piece is that Williamson hopes white working class people are exterminated. He considers it the moral thing to do. That’s not much of an exaggeration. When you argue that the traditional American communities organized around work and family need to be destroyed, you’re pretty much arguing for genocide.

It’s a funny thing that has happened in America over the last fifty years or so. It used to be that men who worked in the newspaper business accepted the fact they were working stiffs. They reported on the rich and powerful back to their friends and neighbors. They had no illusions about their place in the world. Watch an old black and white movie that has newspapermen in it and they are decidedly proletarian and proudly so.

Hatred of the working class is now the norm. On the one hand, welfare spongers are regularly called working class, along with drug addicts and criminals. Williamson enjoys this shtick, writing about hillbilly heroin, obliquely suggesting that this is typical white people, but mostly dumping on poor whites like his parents. Then there’s the bit where downscale whites are assumed to be Nazis and Klansmen, driven to racism by their inability to keep pace with the beautiful people, many of whom are of the dusky variety.

I think that’s why we have seen the Conservative Industrial Complex go berserk over Trump. It’s not just that he is a proletarian guy with billions to spend, and thus having no need for the approval of frivolous scriveners like Williamson. It’s that he has no interest in joining their club. If you have organized your life around aping the manners and opinions of your betters, it is your identity. Trump’s rejection of them is a negation of everything they are as people. They hate him for it.

iMagistrate

I recently had the unpleasant task of working with some young attorneys on a contract. Lawyers tend to carry on like they spend their days splitting atoms, but reality is much different. They spend most of their days cutting and pasting from one document to another. Contract law is simply not that difficult, but it has been made vastly complicated by a massive bird’s nest of verbiage. Too many lawyers with too much time and too much software.

Of course, contract law should not be difficult at all. In fact, it is something that could easily be automated. After all, a contract defines a relationship. Party X agrees to do something and Party Y agrees to do something. Then there are consequences for when either party fails to do what they promised. Life is simply not that variable where there needs to be new language for a each contract. There’s a reason we have the expression “boiler plate” to describe contract language.

A system where the two parties could answer a series of questions about their expectations of the other in the agreement would be easy to code. Writing some code that would force compromise over contradictions would be a bit more complicated, but no more complex than answering an on-line survey. Once the parties agree, the system would get a signature from both parties and register the contract.

My bet is most people would find this much better than dealing with human lawyers, who tend to get competitive over trivialities. The machine would present both parties with the most common agreement for their situation and that would satisfy the parties in most cases. This sort of normalization would also minimize disputes as people accepted the rules, rather than look for ways around them.

Disputes would go before the machine. Rather than two lawyers trying to trick a human judge into going for their version of events, the parties would answer questions on a touch screen. If you think lie detectors work, maybe add those into the mix. Either way, the robot judge would calculate the odds of each side being truthful and then render the verdict most likely to be in the interest of justice.

Having been in court too many times, human judges always try to force a deal. It’s part of their process. Imagine the parties answering the questions, given their odds of success and then offered a compromise. Since most contract cases are money cases, a haggling module would allow the parties to find a middle ground and that would be that. No deposition and interrogatories, just a couple hours in front of iMagistrate on-line.

The beauty of the robot judge is he does not need to be in a courtroom. He could be a kiosk at the mall or an internet presence. Since the judge is automated, there would be no need for lawyers. Contract law would, for most situations, become a self-service issue, like pumping gas or washing your car. It would probably save Americans billions just in contract stuff.

Of course, there’s no need to limit this approach to contracts. I’m just starting there because it is fresh in my mind and one of the minor nuisances of my life. If you think it sounds preposterous, consider that you sign a contract every time you rent a car. The law regarding car rentals has become so formalized and regulated, it’s just part of the background noise of vacation. Applying this to employment and services is no great leap.

Many criminal issues could also be automated as well. Drunk driving is just about to that point in America. The cop pulls you over and you are given a choice of taking a breath test or confessing. It’s not put that way, but that’s the reality in most states. If you refuse the breath test you lose your license until you see a judge, who always finds you guilty. Taking a breath test is just standing before the robot judge, when you think about it.

Imagine instead of arresting T’Quan and parking him in a booking cell, T’Quan is immediately brought before iMagistrate. The police enter their data and T’Quan answers a series of questions. Hard evidence like video and finger prints are uploaded and the verdict is rendered. Maybe iMagistrate can offer the accused a plea deal. Either way, the process could take hours rather than months.

That will never happen, of course, because it is too frightening to us. Maybe not never, but no one reading this will live to see RoboCop and RoboJudge, but the civil stuff is not unrealistic. There are on-line services for wills and setting up a business and even filing for divorce. Vast chunks of the law simply do not need a highly trained mouthpiece. They can be turned over to software. If software can write your will, it can sure as hell handle probate.

Got legal trouble? There’s an app for that!

Reality on the Rhine

There are two ways you can concede reality. One is to keep running headlong into it with a bucket over your head until you pass out and are dragged off the stage. The other way is to adapt, but pretend that reality has decided to accommodate you. This means an assault on the language or sending an inconvenient truth down the memory hole. This way everyone can pretend they were not the guy running headlong into reality with the bucket on their head.

Angela Merkel’s decision to turn Germany into a province of the Caliphate was based on fantasies popular with our ruling classes. Namely, that all people everywhere are the same and want the same things. All those messy differences we see are just social constructs or the legacy of white racism. Throw open the doors of civilization and we will have paradise!

Instead, Germany now has Muslim rape gangs, migrant ghettos and growing social unrest. Further, this has destabilized the very sensitive political balance in Europe. Britain could very well bolt the EU and it is entirely due to the migrant hoards trying to swim the Channel. Across Europe, xenophobic political parties are moving from the fringe to respectability, even in Germany where they are allergic to such things because of you know who.

While there are few signs that the good thinkers in Germany are ready to take the bucket off their head, the rest of Europe is trying to adjust to observable reality. The Balkan states have sealed their borders with Greece, turning the birth place of western democracy into the Camp of the Saints. Greece is quickly becoming a sort of ghetto for migrants denied access to Germany. If the average Greek did not hate Germans after the financial debacle, they do now.

That, of course, should have been the lesson everyone learned from the show down over Greek debt. The EU may have been a French initiative, but it is a German institution now. If you’re the French or Dutch, this is not a bad deal. Hungarians and Poles are probably fine with it for the most part. But, the Golden Rule always applies. The man with gold makes the rules and in Europe, that’s Germany.

This brings us back to reality. Germany, as the dominant nation in Europe, has to accept the responsibilities that come with the position. Europe is best served when led by a Frankish coalition, dominated by the heirs of Louis the German. And yes I’m being fast and loose with history here, but the point is Germany and France are the heart of Europe and must dominate the politics. There can be no other way.

Merkel’s trip to Turkey and the resulting “deal” to help address the migrant problem, suggests the German political elite is starting to figure out that reality is not going away. A united Europe means a federation of ethnic states led by Germany and France. It can never mean a monolithic super state that has no natural identity. Borders exist for a reason. They help maintain order, inside Europe and outside it.

There’s another bit to this and that is Germany will have to take the lead in defending Europe militarily. History has not ended and that means Europe will have to maintain a foreign policy and a military to back it. Russia will forever make mischief in Europe. That’s what Russians are put on earth to do so that has to be addressed. Then there’s the demographic issue to the south.

That brings me back to the beginning. Fair or foul, the idea of a re-militarized Germany is a tough sell, even if the reality of it is a necessity. The political class of Europe is going to have to find a way to accomplish the goal while pretending reality has given in on this point. The rather obvious lesson of the last 25 years is that the institutions designed for fighting the Cold War are falling away. NATO is operating on borrowed time. Something must replace it.

The bigger issue facing Europe, one no one dares mention, is that the Germans need to put their past behind them. You know who was an aberration and it is long past time for Germans to regain their national pride. They cannot be the leader of modern Europe if they are psychologically crippled by events no one alive remembers. Hitler has been dead for 70 years now. Time to close the books on him.

That also means closing the books on the neutered German too. The Cold War required West Germany to be a super-charged Switzerland full of gregarious beer drinking bureaucrats who meticulously adhered to the latest political fashions. The new Europe requires a confident Germany willing to take on the hard work of defending civilization from threats internal as well as external. That’s going to require retiring the old thinking as well as the old men and women currently in charge.

Call it whatever you like, but the reality of Europe is that it is defined in Germany.

Lawyers and Salesmen

One of the things I’ve learned in life is that the salesmen for a company will be the most honest with you about their company. That’s not to imply that salesmen are all honest in their sales pitch. That’s not what I mean. I’m talking about life inside the company. Ask a sales guy, who is not selling you something, about his boss and his co-workers and he’ll usually give you the unvarnished truth. Often, they are the guys who know the flaws best, because they have to work around them to make deals.

That’s the thing with sales people.  They work for themselves, even though they take a salary and are employees. Some portion of their pay, maybe the bulk of it, is derived from their performance as a salesman. All sales people have quotas and have to produce. Otherwise, they get fired. There’s no hiding in the bureaucracy for them. That means self-deception is not of any use to them. They have to know the defects of their firm and its products in order to mitigate them in front of clients.

The weird thing about salesmen is they never assume they are the cleverest guy in the room. Paranoia is a healthy trait in sales, as there are a million little things that can scuttle a deal. Working from the assumption that there could very well be someone in the room who knows something you don’t is a good way to avoid surprises. You ask more questions and you listen better. If you’re walking around thinking you are Wile E. Coyote, a safe could fall on your head.

I used to fish with a guy who made his living selling cars. He got into it as a way to pay for college. He would sell cars on the weekend and at night, while going to school during the day. When he finished college, he found that he could make a better living selling cars than anything else so he kept selling cars. Eventually he settled into selling BMW’s and Mercedes. He was able to make a nice, middle-class living at it, without too much stress.

Making small talk one day I mentioned something about lawyers and he laughed and told me that lawyers are his best clients, followed by stock brokers. I naturally assumed it was because they made a lot of money and had expensive tastes. That was not it at all. He told me that overselling a lawyer was one of the easiest things to do in car sales. They walk around thinking they know everything and so they fall for every car sales trick in the book.

I’ve been thinking about this watching the political ructions. Donald Trump is a salesman and a very good one so he is doing extremely well as a novice politician, because politics is about sales. His competitors are mostly lawyers, who never took him seriously, because they are lawyers and smart. Everyone knows this so surely the smart lawyers will have no problem with the sales guy and his cheap theatrics.

The commentariat is similarly full of lawyers and people who went to law school. The funny thing about media lawyers is they rarely ever did real legal work. Those that did work in the business got out quickly and signed on for TV work. The other chattering skulls popped out of prep school and then went onto a private college, majoring in a soft field like political science. Like the lawyers, they walk around thinking they are the smartest guy in the room and they have been wrong about Trump at every turn.

To some degree, this is due to the difference between fields that reward the right answer and fields that reward clever answers. There’s no right answer as to why the French decided to attack uphill in the rain against the forces of Henry V at Agincourt. On the other hand, there is only one answer to the question of how many one centimeter spheres can fit into a one meter cube. You either have the correct answer or you do not and you have to show your work.

Where I’m heading with this is that lawyers probably suffer from the Dunning–Kruger effect because they were always the cheekiest and cleverest person in the classroom. They have high verbal skills and pretty credentials so they naturally assume that means they are brilliant. Steve Sailer points out that Barak Obama went from wall flower to social butterfly once he got into Harvard Law. His acceptance letter bestowed on him the sense he was the smartest guy in the room.

Now, the guys in the sales department have a different experience. They also have high verbal skills, but they spend their days losing many more deals than they win. They face the reality of their limitations every day. They also know that if they don’t sell, they don’t eat. There’s no failing up in their business. It’s why the sales guys can feast on lawyers. They have no illusions about themselves.

It’s another reason to wonder if the recipe for the managerial state contains ingredients that poison the stew. Failing up is a feature of the managerial class. They go from one failure to the next, rarely ever answering for their blunders. The economic team that advised Obama on the stimulus, for example, landed cushy positions in the academy. Tim Geithner is making millions influence peddling for Wall Street. This despite being 100% wrong about in their predictions.

A system based on mediocrities walking around convinced they are the smartest people in the room will inevitably become unstable. The unforced errors we are seeing could simply be a feature of a system that lacks a way to police the ranks. Instead it rewards the most ruthless bureaucratic operators who are skilled at things useless to preserving the system. In many cases, like we saw with the housing bust-out, the most skillful members of the managerial class cause the greatest damage to it.

Throwing Sand in the Gears

One the features of the modern age, something most people think is a good thing, is that armed rebellion is no longer practical, even for the most disaffected. If you were a young man in Serbia just before the Great War, armed revolt was all that was on your mind. If you were a young man in Germany at that time, you may have grown up hearing stories about how your grandfather fought in the 1848 revolution.

Today, a young man would know organized violence only if he was in a street gang, the army or maybe the police. Terrorism is something we experience, but only through our televisions. If you live in the West, the odds that you will experience a terrorist attack are astoundingly low. If you look up some of the stats and do a bit of math, falling off a ladder or drowning in a bathtub are far more likely than being a victim or terrorism.

Part of this drop in political violence is prosperity. Mexico, a poor country by modern standards, leads the world in obesity. It’s hard to ¡Viva la revolución! when your hands are full of churros. I grew up in real poverty, but today’s poverty means basic cable and the low end iPhone, a condition the poor used to think was beyond their grasp. Prosperity, it turns out, is the best weapon against the revolutionary.

That does not mean people are happy with the current arrangements. The political ructions we see all over the West are not without cause. Lots of people are unhappy with their government so they are trying to elect people that promise to change things. UKIP in Britain, AfD in Germany, Trump in America, the Real Fins and so forth are essentially just protests. Supporters look past their eccentricities because they are trying to make a point to the legitimate parties.

There’s also the fact that armed revolts tend not to work. Americans, for example, are not looking to overthrow representative democracy or the Constitutional order. If anything, they want to restore those things. Therefore, burning down the capital and hanging the politicians are not on the menu. Middle-class people in middle-class countries prefer other ways to force change on their political classes.

Of course, there’s also the fact that the custodial state is pretty good at tamping down trouble now. If a pubic figure gets too aggressive in his vitriol, then he is accused of being Hitler or his private affairs are made public. Maybe some of his professional failures are brought to light. In a mass media culture, it’s pretty easy to find something to use against someone in order to diminish them in the eyes of the public.

Manufactured campaigns are regularly orchestrated against public figures in order to shame them into compliance. In authoritarian hellholes like Canada, they put comics on trial for telling the wrong jokes. That sends a powerful message to anyone who has thoughts about rocking the boat or organizing resistance to the ruling order. Long before a revolutionary leader could get going, he will be shamed off the public stage.

My bet is the assault on Trump, for example, is just getting started. If you look at National Review, it has given itself over completely to spreading every crackpot smear about Trump imaginable. By summer, the party media organs will be talking about Trump as if he was a current a slave holder and member of the Aryan Brotherhood. They are trying to ostracize the man, by ruining his name.

It strikes me that protest is going to have to change in order to be effective in the custodial state. The tools of the state are simply too effective at disrupting anything that resembles armed rebellion. Protest candidates and protest parties are increasingly walled off from having an impact on elections. Fear of being ostracized puts anyone with something to lose on the sidelines.

Revolt in the custodial state, I suspect, will be a loosely organized disruption. The Black Lives Matters is a good example of things to come. They show up and make a nuisance of themselves at some managerial class venue, then leave. They don’t do enough to get arrested and they do their act in such a way that the “name and shame” response is pointless.

Now, Black Lives Matter is stupid and pointless, but the tactic is useful. What’s to stop the Christian working at the courthouse from “accidentally” slowing down the process of issuing marriage licenses to gays? What about people systematically lying on government forms? In isolation, these things mean nothing, but cumulatively they can cause all sorts of headaches for the people in charge.

There’s also the fact that in a mass media culture, things like Black Lives Matter get massive coverage. This invites imitation. When idiotic things like “planking” can catch on in days due to the lubricant of mass media, imagine how cool forms of protest can sprout up and create mayhem. As Steve Sailer points out, the Million Muslim March into Europe is just a big flash mob.

My thinking here is that the custodial state is relying on tools that can just as easily be used against it. The massive bureaucracies needed to manage the inmates are vulnerable to some idiot throwing sand in the gears. The mass media tools used to nudge the population can just as easily be used to encourage ad hoc idiots throwing sand in the gears.

This is not a fully developed idea, but I’m wondering if the current ructions may be due to the inherit instability of the custodial state. Maybe the reason Europe, for example, is not shutting off the flow of migrants is they can’t shut it off. Maybe the reason the main parties are under assault is they can no longer respond to their voters. The feedback loop is broken so the public is migrating to outsiders.

To wrap this up, the custodial state may be good at walling off traditional forms of protest, but it is also good at fostering the sort of protests to which it is most vulnerable. These are the low-tech forms of hooliganism that bedeviled the Soviets, but updated to the mass media age. A million white guys ticking the box for “Afro-American Female” is both fun and subversive.

If a million Muslims with iPhones can bring down Europe, imagine what a million smart guys can do when they have time and a full spectrum understanding of how it all works.

 

The Fury of the Dirt People

Other than libertarians, people of every ideological strip start with the basics of modern civics. All of us have an obligation to our fellow citizens and our government has an obligation to all of us. Your duty as a citizen is not to the ruler, but to your fellow citizens. That means the men and women in government jobs have those same obligations. That’s the foundation stone of popular government. We create among ourselves the apparatus of the state so it can serve our collective interests.

Fundamental to making this work is the idea of fairness. No one gets everything they want and few are deprived of getting something they want. Similarly, no group is getting to game the laws to take advantage of others. The laws in a society under popular government are often aimed at addressing the issue of fairness. Rich guys pay more in taxes than poor guys because the bulk of the people think it is only fair. After all, the rich guy is getting more from the bargain.

That’s obviously a very simple way of putting it, but fairness is the canvas on which popular government is drawn. It is the sense of fairness that is at the heart of reform campaigns and the primary appeal of political parties. Democrats in America have been campaigning on fairness for as long as anyone reading this has been alive. Even Republicans tuck the fairness issue into their appeals for low taxes and open borders. In the West, at least, popular government is nothing but a debate over what is fair and equitable.

I suspect that part of what’s happening to the Republicans, and the Buckley Conservatives, is rooted in the fairness issue. The people fobbing themselves off as conservatives these days are mostly libertarians with some social conservative ideas bolted on as decoration. This is the result of Frank Meyer Fusionism, which was supposed to bring together the free market ideas of libertarians and the traditionalism of the old Right. Today it is just technocratic libertarianism with some hand waving about abortion and the gays.

As I’m fond of pointing out to libertarians, people are not moist robots. Their heads may say that the factory has to close because it is losing money, but they still feel terrible for the men getting pink slips. They may be swayed by free trade appeals, but they still feel wrong seeing jobs being shipped to China, while Americans end up on the welfare rolls. It’s the nagging sense of fairness that leads us to think that maybe we’re not living up to our obligations to our fellow citizens.

Consider this story from a couple of weeks ago.

Union leaders at an air conditioner factory in Indianapolis threatened with losing 1,400 jobs to Mexico said on Tuesday the plant’s owner expects to pay Mexican workers $3 an hour compared to an average of more than $20 an hour for the U.S. workers.

“We haven’t given up the fight yet,” said Chuck Jones, president of the United Steelworkers union local that represents workers at the Carrier Corp plant. “But Carrier has pretty well indicated that the wage differential is too great and there’s not much we can do.”

A spokeswoman for Carrier, a unit of United Technologies Corp (UTX.N), said the company pays a “competitive wage” based on local conditions and could not discuss pay levels.

Union and Carrier officials were locked in talks on Tuesday as a political storm raged around them.

The announcement last week from Carrier that it would shift 1,400 jobs from Indianapolis and 700 from another plant in Huntington, Indiana to Monterrey, Mexico starting in 2017 prompted Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump to say he would tax Carrier air conditioning units for moving to Mexico.

Normal Americans can wrap their heads around the fact that Carrier will save a lot of money by moving their plant to Mexico. They understand that this may be necessary to remain competitive. They also wonder why our government is doing all of these favors for Mexico, when the Mexicans do things like ship us narcotics, gangsters and illegal aliens. In other words, something feels wrong here. Whose interests are being served here? It is clearly not the Americans working at the Carrier plant.

Now, look at this story from Silicon Valley.

Human-resources software company Zenefits had to send an uncomfortable HR email to their own to staff recently following a few incidents within their San Francisco office.

The startup, which launched less than three years ago but was evaluated last May at $4.5 billion, was forced to ban staff from drinking in the office after some wild parties that involved employees having sex in the stairwell of the building, according to emails obtained by The Wall Street Journal.

The emails, sent around last summer by Zenefits Director of Real Estate and Workplace Services, Emily Agin, described the situation of employees having sex at work as ‘crude behavior’.

‘It has been brought to our attention by building management and Security that the stairwells are being used inappropriately….Cigarettes, plastic cups filled with beer, and several used condoms were found in the stairwell. Yes, you read that right,’ the email said.

‘Do not use the stairwells to smoke, drink, eat, or have sex.

‘Please respect building and company policy and use common sense…’

The alcohol ban was officially brought in last week by Zenefits’s new chief executive, David Sacks.

Sacks said it is important to cultivate a more mature work atmosphere in a staff memo that was sent around last Wednesday.

Zenefits is a company that exists because of the financialization of the US economy. Cheap credit means cash to create this firm and keep it afloat while it parties its way through a ton of cash. It’s also the sort of firm that helps business treat their employees like furniture. Americans see these stories and naturally wonder how these rich pricks are allowed to get away with this nonsense. No American can smoke and drink at work, much less get it on in the stairwell.

When the boys and girls of Conservative Inc, cloistered in their taxpayer financed monasteries around Washington, cry out “A furore Lutumnorum libera nos, Domine” they are not thinking about stories like these. They have been insulated from the consequences of the polices they are paid to promote. The Dirt People, however, look at the unfairness they see everyday on their televisions and on-line and wonder why their leaders have forsaken them.