Stalin’s Children

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When I was just starting out in the world, I worked for a company that had an active human resources department. This was when HR was being overhauled to accommodate middle-aged women without useful skills. Companies were trying to “diversify” their management so they hired a bunch of women for their personnel departments, re-branded them as “human resources” and set them loose to get involved in things well outside the normal scope of corporate personnel departments.

I was new in the world so I had no way to see what was happening. I just assumed it was the way things worked, even if it was obviously insane. There was one woman, who was always gossiping with the female staff, trying to find out who was dating whom, who was socializing with whom and generally playing the role of busybody. In a better age, she was the sort of woman who would end up fitted with a bridle. As far as I could tell, her only job was to gossip, as I never saw her doing anything else.

Inevitably, people would be called into HR for some crime. Once in a while, someone would disappear. It was always males getting the call and it was almost always over having said or done something that offended a female employee. The thing that puzzled me at first was that the males who survived the interrogation never spoke of it. Maybe it was shame or fear, maybe something else that was not obvious. They got called in, something happened and they came back chastened from the experience.

The way it worked is familiar to anyone who has read about Stalin’s show trials. The prosecutor, in this example it was the gossip, functioned as a spokesman for the accusers, as well as the witnesses, in addition to laying out the case against the accused. She would say something like, “Some people have said you said X and you know that you have a reputation for saying X so you can see how we would be concerned. In order to get to the bottom of this, we thought it was a good idea to call you in so we could talk about it and hear what you have to say.”

The accused was presented with an invisible accuser who could never be confronted so their testimony went unchallenged. Slipped into it was the assertion that the accused had a reputation for whatever it was he was accused of doing. Again, there’s no way to confront this as there is no accuser, just a whisper in the wind. The poor bastard in the hot seat was faced with the impossible task of not only defending himself, but doing so as a person assumed to be a habitual offender or at least known as one.

The use of invisible victims and imaginary crimes is the core tactic of the social justice warriors. You see that in this response from Apple to Gab about their application to the Apple app store.

Notice the language. They “find content that is defamatory and mean spirited” but they never mention who is being defamed. The only way words can be defamatory is if someone, a real living human, is being defamed. You see the same thing when they write “there is no tolerance for objectionable material.” Objectionable to whom? The only way something can be objectionable is if someone objects. The person defamed and objecting is an undefined entity that is just assumed to exist.

In Stalin’s show trials, the victims were accused of mysterious crimes like conspiracy and sabotage, even though it was never clear with whom the accused were conspiring or what it was they were sabotaging. Stalin’s henchmen would use pressure to get some of the victims to confess, which was then used as “proof” that the rest of the accused were not just guilty, but guilty of obstructing the revolution’s search for truth. An innocent man trying to defend himself was left to swing at ghosts and shadows.

The modern day Stalinists use the same tactic, in which they accuse enemies of fostering a hostile environment or promoting objectionable material. Apple is not saying they object to the material. They are claiming to speak for those unnamed people who do object, because Apple is just looking out for them, whoever they may be. Since these alleged victims are a mystery, there’s no way for Gab to confront them or argue that they are complying with Apple’s terms of service. It’s just modern show trial in which the verdict is known in advance. The only question is how long before the accused breaks.

Those who confessed quickly in Stalin’s trials did so hoping for leniency, but that never came. Just as the verdict was known in advance, so was the punishment. The same system applies today. Gab could ban all of its users and just have pics of Hillary and Obama and they would still not get on the Apple store. They have been found guilty of blasphemy and heresy. That will be the verdict of the trial and the punishment will be banishment. The only mystery is whether Apple can make them grovel.

The guy running Gab is not going to grovel. He knows the deal. In fact, more and more people are figuring out that there is no dealing with the Left. There’s no accommodation to be made, no compromise to be found. In fact, that was true thirty years ago when I was just getting started. The company gossip was not a person with whom you could strike a bargain. She was a Torquemada, who existed to find the guilty. The answer then as now was what Andrew Breitbart said years ago. The answer is “Fuck you! War!”

The New Barnum

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The Latin proverb audentes Fortuna iuvat is usually translated into English as “Fortune favors the bold.” It has been used by a variety a martial organizations in the West over the centuries. For example, it appears on the regimental insignia of the 3rd Marine Regiment. The British SAS uses “who dares wins” as their motto. The American idiom, “he who hesitates is lost”, is a mistranslation of Cato, but again, the appeal is obvious so it’s easy to see why it has become common.

The point being is that acting boldly has always been seen as a benefit. We associate it with the successful. It’s why mothers tell their sons to stand up straight. It’s why fathers teach their sons to have a firm handshake. The confident guy, who bounds into a room and takes charge will get little push back, because people naturally pick up on his confidence. Boldness is an essential element of leadership. Men will follow a leader who is confident, even if they have their private doubts about the plan.

Boldness is also a good way to rob people.

Victor Lustig was a confidence man living in Paris after the Great War. He read in the newspaper that the city was having trouble maintaining the Eiffel Tower. Lustig came up with an outlandish scheme where he would use that story to sell the Eiffel Tower for scrap iron. He forged some documents and cooked up an elaborate story about how he had been tasked to secretly find some buyers. He found some interested parties, had them picked up in limousines for a tour of the Tower and then convinced one of them, Andre Poisson, to make a bid.

That sounds quite ballsy, but he went further. Poisson’s wife suspected that Lustig may not have been on the level. Lustig decided to use this to his advantage so he met with the couple and confessed that he was actually a government employee, not an agent hired by the city. He made it clear that he was not paid well and was hoping to improve on that by finding the right buyer. In other words, he wanted a bribe. This sealed the deal and Andre Poisson, not only bought the Eiffel Tower, he paid Lustig a bribe to do it.

Every time I see a story about Elon Musk, I think of Victor Lustig. The reason for that is Musk often turns up in the news attached to some bold new scheme to do something most people see as futuristic or massively complicated. He’s sort of a Phileas Fogg, that is always announcing some grand new adventure. The publicity stunts have no real bearing on his alleged project, but he puts a lot of effort into getting public notice for them. There is a P.T. Barnum quality to it that does not quite square with the official story.

The tunneling under Los Angeles story is a good example. There’s nothing new about this idea. The Crossrail is a giant rail tunnel under the city of London that was done using boring machines. It is a 26-mile tunnel that was threaded between the exiting tunnels under the city. There was a recent documentary on it, which is probably where Musk got the idea. The London tunnel is an amazing bit of engineering because there’s a ton of stuff under the city that the tunnelers had to dodge as they dug the thing.

That’s not to say doing such a thing under Los Angeles would be easy, but it is hardly a brilliant futuristic idea. In fact, people have suggested this in the past, but such a project would require tens of billions in tax money. More important, there’s no real reason to do it, other than the fact California is a failed state so building roads and bridges the old way is impossible. Musk is levering that reality to propose his futuristic “solution” for the transport problems of Los Angeles. What a guy!

That’s probably the point of the hype. Tesla, Musk’s one big “successful” scheme is entirely dependent on tax dollars. Take away the subsidies and it goes bust. The same is true of the battery schemes, the solar plant, the space program. According to the LA Times, Musk has netted close to $5 Billion in government money. Not all of it is tax money, of course. A lot of it comes in the form of grants for research and credits for doing government approved projects, like making solar panels. It’s not unreasonable to say the Musk is a tax sink.

There’s also a good chance that like Lustig, Musk works both sides of the street. He gets a bunch of attention for some new project, like digging a tunnel under Los Angeles. He then gets investors lined up, promising tax schemes that will multiply their investment, in addition to getting government support for the project. Since Musk appears to have skin in the game and is wildly confident his plan will work, investors line up. Once it all comes together, Musk is a minority share holder, but in full control of the project.

The formula is to use the media to promote the idea to the public. He then gets some other billionaires to back it on condition that Musk can get the government invested. That is used to pure the state into the scheme, which seals the deal with the private equity guys. From there it is just a churn as Musk and his buddies get their seed money out with interests as new investors demand to get in on the action. Since these projects take decades, the risk of it unraveling in the short term in minimal.

The best part of a scheme like this is he can get his seed money out early and still have equity in the new project. The investors and the government are on the hook and they will keep putting money into it no matter how many times a Space X rocket explodes or a Tesla bursts into flames. That’s not to say Musk is a con man like Lustig. The main difference is that Lustig was breaking the law, while Musk is well within the law. In fact, his innovation is to make the law his partner.

Musk is a modern incarnation of P.T. Barnum, pitching the attractions of the technocratic state via public-private partnerships. Barnum would find exotic acts to put inside his act, while Musk finds big technology projects. Instead of getting the public to buy a ticket to see the bearded lady or wolf boy, Musk gets the public to support the expenditure of public funds for his latest whiz bang idea. In the process, he and his associates get an exclusive investment opportunity and make millions from schemes that tend not to result in much of anything, other than hype.

Things Are Looking Up

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Like every other normal person in American, I watched the big game on Sunday. This year I was busy with some projects so I did not attend a party. Instead, I planned to get some work done and then settle in at game time. Some people boycott the Super Bowl, believing it makes them virtuous, but those people are idiots. The game is often fun and the ridiculous hype around it is a nice weird American tradition. Plus, having a pseudo holiday the next day means people can have a party on Sunday in the dead of winter.

The thing about the Super Bowl is it is the one event that everyone watches. Even if you don’t follow sports, you watch the game because it is what you do. There are similar events like the Daytona 500 or the Kentucky Derby, but most Americans don’t plan a weekend around those. You watch them if you are home or down at the pub, even though you don’t follow these things closely. The Super Bowl is the one event that everyone talks about the next day, because you know everyone watched it, except for the weirdos.

That’s what makes it a good bellwether for the state of pop culture. For the second year in a row, TV ratings were down for the game, not by a lot, but still down. Now, when an event tends to get close to 100% viewership each year, there is nowhere to go but down, but decline is still decline. When looked at in context of the general decline in TV sports, it suggests we are in the midst of a great change in how people consume their entertainments. That’s the general consensus among the people in charge of television.

Cord cutting and streaming services are finally starting to cut into the tradition television programming. It’s not just TV feeling the pinch. Live events are also seeing a drop in attendance. It’s a little hard to get good data as there is an incentive to lie about the ticket sales by the organizers. College football attendance has been in decline, which is a good benchmark, as these events are not driven by hype or the momentary success of the teams involved. Attending college football games in a generational tradition that serves as a reunion for old college buddies and extended families.

How much of this is the availability of on-demand gaming and video services is hard to know. There’s no way to measure it. Part of it may also be changes in youth culture. Despite all the blather about sharing from Millennials, they are a self-absorbed and selfish generation, preferring not to share anything with anyone. A generation of sociopaths, who see human relations as transactional are not going to be inclined to big public gatherings or public spirited activities. It’s why colleges are in a panic. Their young alumni do not donate back to the school at rates anywhere near previous generations.

Now, people don’t change that much from one generation to the next, so it is not a good idea to blame parenting or biology for the culture change. It could also just be the pendulum swinging back toward normal. Attending big public events is a late-20th century thing. Well into the 70’s, attendance for sporting events was well below capacity and the tickets were cheap. In the 1980’s I went to Red Sox games because it was cheap. I paid five dollars for a ticket and sat among empty seats in the bleachers.

The same is true for television. Well into the 80’s, families looked at TV time as an evening activity after dinner. The obsession with television, movie rentals and gaming is a new phenomenon. The steady decline in viewership may not be be driven by cord cutting. Instead, people may simply be losing interest in these services and that is what is driving cord cutting. Put another way, we hit peak TV sometime ago and now the pendulum is swinging back. People are reassessing their expenditures on these items.

There’s also the fact that micro-publishing, for lack of a better word, is now financially viable. Anthony Cumia got fired off the sat-radio platform. Instead of groveling to get back on, he started his own show from his basement. He has teamed up with Gavin McInness and they are building out a network of shows. Mark Levin is doing the same with on-demand political chat shows. There are thousands of niche podcasters making a living as content providers. We are spoiled for choice outside the traditional platforms.

It has always been assumed that the mass media culture was a permanent feature of the post-industrial technocracy. Not only would human labor be replaced by automation, but individual thinking would be replaced by the collective mind of the media orthodoxy. It could be that what makes a mass media culture possible is always what ensures its demise. Anything that shows the potential to control the culture gets corrupted by the preachy and proselytizing. That, in turn, drives away the public into alternatives.

Regardless, the ground is shifting under the feet of our cultural masters. Cable monopolies are being forced to unbundle. DirecTV is now offering a cheaper service over the internet, hoping to appeal to cord cutters. The great unraveling will bring with it an unraveling of the business model. CNN will actually have to attract an audience to stay in business. TV shows will have to sell ads based on real viewership. Live performers will have to follow the lead of Lady Gaga and not go out of their way to piss on their audience.

Things are looking up.

Progressives and Race

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I was googling around for something the other day and ran across this provocatively titled blog post from a dozen years ago. Being unfamiliar with the blogger, I was expecting it to be a white nationalist/supremacist thing. Reading it, I could see that it was entirely fictitious, so I then thought it was some sort of gag. I read the rest and there was no payoff. I went to the front of the blog and saw that it is still an active site run by a guy who believes he is famous. Maybe he is famous, but I’ve never heard of him.

Anyway, the blog post in question was complete nonsense. It’s the sort of thing that liberal nutters imagine happens all the time when they are not around to see it, but it never happens. No black person would tolerate such a thing as described. No black person would have tolerated it fifty years ago, much less in 2005 when the post was written. It sure as hell would never happen in New York City. But, the demand for racial injustice vastly outstrips supply so they invent these tales to make up the difference.

One reason for this is the Left has always defined itself as standing between an imaginary bogeyman and some imaginary victim group. It’s why calling them “socialists” is a category error. The American Left’s attraction to socialist economics was always in the context of the struggle mythology at the heart of their thing. When the most profitable victims to defend were working class ethnics with actual jobs making stuff, defending them from the privations of capitalism fit the psyche of the Progressive Borg.

Defending the working class lost its value a long time ago which is why you never hear the Left do it these days. They still use the phrase “working families” but everyone knows that means non-working families. It’s single women on welfare with children from an array of strange men. Otherwise, economics no longer plays a role in Progressive ideology, other than as a defense of the globalist billionaires who bankroll the American Left. The working man is now an enemy of the faith and treated as such.

Race, however, has always been a reliable avenue to create the preferred narratives because blacks are easy to paint as noble victims in the glorious battle against the forces of evil. The people opposed to identity politics are almost always white men, the bad whites. They are more often than not living out in the suburbs, which Progressives imagine as being hotbeds of Klu Klux Klan activity and the home of the Nazi Party. Of course, blacks have lagged behind everyone else in every measure so they are ready and willing to sign onto the role as victim.

The trouble is the calendar. That post was a dozen years ago. Up until a decade ago, the skins game worked flawlessly for the Left because no one bothered to challenge them. In fact, it had become custom to leave the issue of race to Progressives. They got to define the morality and the required public policies to fit the moral framework. But then Barak Obama got himself elected and then re-elected. He also accomplished very little in his time in office. It’s hard to argue that America is a racist country when a black guy gets to be in charge, despite not being very good at anything.

What everyone has noticed over the last decade is that it is no longer 1968 and black people are no longer the victims of white racism. In fact, if you are black and have anything on the ball, being black is an advantage. The demand for competent black people at colleges and corporations vastly outstrips supply so the competition is fierce and prices have soared. This has been true for a long time with Obama being an obvious example. If you examine Obama’s college career, it can only be explained this way.

Most Americans seem to have figured this out. The cries of racism over Trump and the alt-right are falling on deaf ears. That’s why the Left is screaming even louder, causing a fuss and demanding our attention as they throw public tantrums. It’s not really about race or the condition of black America. It’s about the Messiah Complex that has always been at the root of the American Left. They are here to save society from sin. If there is no one that needs saving then there is no need for the Left. The whole thing comes unraveled.

Then there is the problem of science. The mounting evidence from genetics, the cognitive sciences and population statistics undermines the central claim of the Left with regards to race. They argue that racism is immoral because race is a fiction. If race is a biological fact then racism could also be a biological fact. Birds fly, fish swim and humans self-segregate along racial, linguistic and ethnic lines. That’s what you see going on in this article about the biology of race. How can we maintain anti-racism when race is real?

This brings up a related dilemma for Progressives. The Europeans Left embraced “scientific socialism” as its source of legitimacy in order to avoid calling itself a civic religion, as well as to distinguish itself from Christianity. The American Left was slow to do this, but eventually embraced the idea in the last fifty years. Science has replaced God in their rhetoric as the authority from which they get their legitimacy. After all, only primitives with their boomsticks and sky gods reject science.

As science undermines the central claims of the Left and relegates blank slate ideology to the same dustbin as phrenology and astrology, something else will have to provide legitimacy for the Left. If being mean to homosexuals is wrong because gays are born that way, how can it be wrong for black guys not to want to live neat Koreans. After all, science says people naturally self-segregate along racial lines. Why is one form of nature wrong and the other cerebrated?

Perhaps the Left will once again turn to the heavens as their source of inspiration. The fact that the mainline Christian churches are siding with the open borders people opens the door for all of those secular Progressives to rediscover the social gospel. How they incorporate Jews and Muslims is a mystery, but to the believer, all things are possible. If saving the struggle narrative means rewriting the Bible, then they will rewrite the Bible, just as they have rewritten history. If Lady Liberty can wear a hijab to defend open borders, the Left can go to church in order to nail themselves to the cross.

The Grifter

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I stumbled upon this video of Nick Pell on an Irish chat show. I follow Pell on twitter and read his stuff when I am made aware of it. He is one of us so it feels like the right thing to do. I don’t know much about Irish television, other than it is every bit as silly as American television. The difference seems to be about awareness. American chat shows know they are just entertainment, while the Irish still take this nonsense seriously. But, Ireland is basically Puerto Rico with crappy weather, so who knows.

Anyway, what got my attention was the gasbag on the panel named Colm O’Gorman. It struck me that he was running a version of the Jesus con. Sometimes called the Good Samaritan con, it is a classic hustle. The very simple version is the con sets up a scenario where he can come to the aid of the mark. A fake robbery attempt, for example. The con-man thwarts the robbery and the grateful victim rewards the con-man for what appears to be a selfless act of kindness. Old ladies are the typical target of this one.

The main difference between the Jesus con and the Good Samaritan con is that the former is relational, while the latter is transactional. You can only save the old lady from muggers once. You can be sacrificing for the starving children of East Dongo forever or until people figure out there’s no such place as East Dongo. Most charities are this type of confidence game. They pitch themselves as selflessly working in favor of some group of victims, in order to guilt people into sending them cash.

What got me thinking about this while watching the video is the way Colm O’Gorman put all of his efforts into making the issue personal. On the one hand, he kept calling Pell and the red haired woman repulsive and repugnant, then “excusing” them as well-intentioned but stupid. You can see that he practiced his lines prior to coming on the show, as he was clearly not making any effort to engage Pell or the woman. The point of his efforts was to personalize and isolate the two of them with ridicule to make them into bogeymen.

Then he wheeled around and spent a few minutes selling himself as the great champion of the alleged victims of Pell and the red head. At about the eight minute mark he does a little speech about how much he worries for the alleged victims of these two monsters sitting across from him. The list of victims is a bit comical, but that’s inevitable when the victims are imaginary. The hard part about running the Jesus scam from the Left is that they have run out of people who can plausibly be presented as victims.

Anyway, having spotted the grift, I looked this guy up on the google machine. His claim to fame is as an alleged victim of a Catholic priest when he was a teenager. He turned that into a lucrative grift, selling books and , wait for it, starting a charity that claims to defend victims of sexual abuse. A teenage homosexual carrying on with an older homosexual is not exactly new, but the Church has deep pockets and Colm is not the sort to give a sucker an even break. Now that all the juice is out of that lemon, Colm is into politics.

That last bit is not intended to dismiss the Church scandals. It’s just that normal people move on with their lives after suffering from something like this. The fragile cannot and the dishonest refuse to move on until they are paid. Maybe grifters like Colm are the price that must be paid to remedy these things, but that does not make him less of a weasel. His bio says he netted €300,000 from his lawsuit, but my guess is he netter ten times that by leveraging his victim status into book and movie sales. The Jesus grift can be lucrative.

The reason this may matter is grifters are good at sniffing out opportunity. Guys like Colm O’Gorman are not wasting their time fighting against anarcho-syndicalists, because there’s no money in it. He can’t shake them down and he can’t scare people with their specter. The alt-right, on the other hand, must strike these Progressive carny acts as a potential goldmine. That probably means the so-called alt-right has the wind at its back, at least for now. It will not be long before O’Gorman is demanding to share a stage with Richard Spencer. The Jesus grift works better when the Devil is on stage with you.

 

Essential Knowledge: IV

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The traditional way in the West of teaching history is to start with the three phases of history. There is the beginning, the middle and the end. This is based on two assumptions that are unique to the West. One is that history is a process where the past casts a shadow over the present to shape the future. History is a long chain of causation. The other assumption is history works toward some end, as if it is by design. The idea of “progress” rests on this assumption. The world is progressing toward some end point.

For the student of history, the habit has been to start at the beginning and read forward, thinking about how each era led to and shaped the next. The tides of history have carried man to the place he is today, not by chance, but through the great chain of causality. Each new civilization was built on those that came before it. In this way, history is a stack of blocks and the story of man is a tower reaching to the heavens. To know what comes next means knowing every block in the stack and why it is there.

A better and more accurate way to read history is to think of each people as having their own beginning, middle and end. History is not one single ribbon in time, but thousands of bits and strands that often lead nowhere and have no influence on what comes next, other than to perhaps stand out as an example for modern people. The emphasis here as we get into the essential knowledge of human history is to stick with books and podcasts that avoid theories of history. Instead, the focus will be on the story of the people in question.

For Westerners, the story of history usually begins with the Greeks, but you cannot really understand the Greeks without knowing something about the Persians. Greek civilization and what we have come to know as the West was forged in the time between the Battle of Marathon and the heroic last stand by the Spartans at Thermopylae. That’s not true, but it is the way we like to imagine it. Still, to understand the Greeks, you need to know something of the Persians. While only lasting 200 years, the Persians are integral to the history of the Greeks and the Jews, which is why Cyrus gets mentioned in the Old Testament.

You could read Herodotus and it is a fun read, but you can also listen to the great Dan Carlin podcast on the Persians. Carlin is a great history podcaster and a great storyteller so it is a fun way to learn a bit about the Persians. An excellent book for the general reader is Persian Fire: The First World Empire and the Battle for the West. The Persians did not exist in a vacuum, so learning about the people they conquered is a good idea, especially for Bible studying Christians. Here’s a book worth reading and here is another one that covers the material.

For those who have come to prefer podcasts, there is this ongoing podcast about the Ancient world that covers just about everything. I’ve listened to some of it and it is pretty good. There’s also the Ancient Warfare Podcast. It a product from the Ancient Warfare Magazine and it is a fun way to get your feet wet with regards to the people and civilizations of the ancient world. Unless you intend to search for the Ark of the Covenant, these history podcasts are a good introduction to the essential knowledge of these people.

The big subject, when it comes to this part of the world, is ancient Egypt and we are spoiled for choice when it comes to books. Unless you have a desire to become an Egyptologist, a good survey book like The Oxford History of Ancient Egypt is a solid choice. A highly readable history is The Rise and Fall of Ancient Egypt, which is why it made it to the best seller list. Of course, there’s always the podcast route. This one is probably the most popular one at the moment. It’s well done and entertaining.

Finally, the Greeks. The main reason to know about the Persians, Egyptians, Babylonians and so forth is to have a better understanding of the Greeks. No people has cast a longer shadow and it is impossible to be an educated man without knowing about Greek history, culture and society. It is preferable to know Classical Greek. In a better age, Classical Greek was taught in high school, but that is no longer true. If you want to try and learn a bit, there are on-line course like this one and this one to get you started. You will not become fluent, but you can pick up enough to appreciate the grammar.

For the general reader or someone entirely new to the topic, Ancient Greece: From Prehistoric to Hellenistic Times is a great choice. It is one of those books you can read at the beach or at the airport. For something a bit more advanced, a textbook like this one or this one is a good choice. We tend not to think of textbooks as good reading, but modern history texts are aimed at a generation brought up on smartphones so they tend to be a bit more readable. The key is to start with a general, chronological history of the Greeks.

You cannot be an educated man without having read Homer. You can get the Iliad and the Odyssey for close to free as an eBook. The same is true of Aesop’s Fables. Most people remember it from childhood, but in the context of Greek history is recommended reading. Plato’s Republic is also a must read and it can be downloaded free from any number of sources. Of course, you can always find an on-line course on Greek literature if you are the sort who prefers structured learning.

The Greco-Persian wars and the Peloponnesian War are probably the two most important topics in Greek history. You can and should read Thucydides, but Donald Kagan’s treatment of the Peloponnesian War is fantastic and perfect for the general reader. As far as the Greco-Persian wars, reading Herodotus is a must, but you can also read The Landmark Herodotus: The Histories, by Robert Strassler. It is a big book, but it is a big topic and this treatment reads almost like a novel.

If you want to have a little fun while learning a little bit about Thermopylae, the Gates of Fire is a fun read. It’s not history, but it give you some sense of life in ancient Greece. A more serious telling is Thermopylae: The Battle For The West. If you prefer a podcast, then an excellent podcast on ancient Greece is this one that I have been listening to recently. The good thing about podcasts on ancient history is they tend to be done by people with the passion of a fan, rather than historians just making a buck.

Finally, a book that does not quite fit into the history category, but one I enjoyed reading is 1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed. It is not exactly a history book, more of an analysis of what happened at the end of the Bronze Age. Within a period of 40-50 years at the end of the Bronze Age almost every significant city in the eastern Mediterranean world was destroyed. The reason for this remains a bit of mystery, but it makes for a good transition to Joseph Tainter’s The Collapse of Complex Societies, a must read.

La Muerte Blanca

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The other day, I was told about a young girl who was found dead at her home by her mother. The girl had graduated high school and was attending junior college. She had been out with friends and, presumably, taking drugs. Somehow she arrived home and went to bed, never to wake up. The girl was otherwise a good kid from a lower class home, but she made a mistake that turned out to be fatal. The exact cause of her death is unknown to me, other than it was a drug overdose, but the story is a familiar one.

The cultural revolution of the 60’s is often celebrated by the Left and Baby Boomers, but it was a disaster for the lower classes in America. The most obvious example is recreational drugs. In the 60’s, smoking weed and experimenting with narcotics was for college kids living off their parents at a university. By the 70’s, the drug culture had settled into the lower classes, along with all the other excesses of the beautiful people. It’s not an accident that crime took off, violence rates increased and we got an underclass.

Ever since, the great fear facing every parent, but especially those in the lower classes, has been the call on a weekend night from the police, telling them their kid was dead or in the emergency room for a drug overdose. Being poor or working class has never been an easy life, but the corrosive effects of recreational drugs have put a trap door under these people. Most are lucky enough to avoid a horrible mistake, but for many, the drug culture proves too much. They make the fatal mistake or throw away their lives for a buzz.

According to Kaiser statistics, whites make up 82% of opioid overdoses. Most of the drug overdoses are among the young, but older whites are killing themselves at record numbers as well. That means the spike in drug deaths is not driven by youthful foolishness or ennui. Instead, it is being driven by more white people using more potent drugs. The consensus is that the over-prescribing of pain killers has driven a rise in heroin use. Once the Feds cracked down on prescription drugs, addicts turned to heroin.

The temptation is to blame the culture or blame the profligate degeneracy of the modern age, but that would not explain the spike in youth overdoses. A middle age man offing himself is understandable to anyone who has hit middle age. Young people, even in terrible situations, naturally have hope. The better answer is that this is a case where supply drives demand. There used to be high barriers to potent opioids. Today, they are cheap and you don’t have to jam a needle in your arm to use them.

All of that means little to that mother who went in to wake her daughter, only to find her dead from a drug overdose. People can come to terms with a kid going bad and throwing their life away on drugs and crime. When a normal kid who seems to be headed in the right direction drops over dead from something they got at a party, people wonder what’s going on in the world. They naturally look to their rulers for answers. If people were suddenly dying from a virus in these numbers, it would be a national emergency.

That’s not to say that the drug war is a good idea. After decades of squandering billions trying to stem the flow of drugs into the country, the result is the opposite of what was expected. Illicit drugs are cheaper, more diverse, more widely distributed and more normalized than when the drug war started. By any measure, the war on drugs was lost and drugs won. That’s why our rulers don’t talk about drugs or the drug war much anymore. It’s just one of those things that has been quietly forgotten.

There’s also the fact that drugs are mostly a downscale problem, something that does not touch the Cloud People so they don’t care about it. The mothers in Cloud Country are not fretting about junior riding the dragon. He’s parked in front of his XBox all day, playing the female character, because he is questioning. The drug issue is mostly a Dirt People problem now. It’s blacks slinging on street corners and crackers getting loaded in an apartment complex far away from the people who run things.

That said, it is important to note the direction of the drug flow. America has never had a problem with drugs pouring in from Canada or Iceland. The flood of cheap narcotics into America starts in Mexico. When heroin had to be imported from Asia, it was not easily attainable and the quality of the product available to the poor was quite low. Now that Mexico has take over the production and distribution, heroin is suddenly cheap, potent and plentiful. This is also true of meth, which is now made in volume in Mexico.

This sort of thing does not happen in Canada because Canada is a responsible country with mostly responsible leaders. They would use the tools of the state to cripple the large scale production of narcotics. That’s not the case in Mexico, where the political class provides cover to the drug cartels and helps them violate US laws with regards to banking and border access. Putting pressure on the Mexican political class, to crack down on their narcotics trafficking and their human smuggling over the border, would have an impact on the heroin problem in the US.

Up until now, our rulers have not seen fit to put any pressure on the Mexican rulers about the drugs and human smuggling. Real countries with patriotic leaders have no tolerance for other countries protecting pirates and drug cartels on their border. They hold the leaders of those border countries accountable. Globalists have no duty to their citizens as citizenship does not exist. America’s ruling class has nothing but empathy for the Mexican ruling class and nothing but contempt for the Americans people, especially the founding stock.

That may be changing as Trump is the first pro-American president we’ve had in close to three decades. Trump seems to get that the way to address the border problems, including the drugs, is to hold the Mexican elite responsible. They need America much more than America needs Mexico. If the cost of tolerating the drug cartels and human smuggling gets high enough, the Mexican government will do something about it. It can never be eradicated entirely, but it would not take much to sharply reduce the flow of drugs and people over the border.

Maybe then the White Death will begin to subside.

Dummkopfs

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Americans get their views of the world mostly from TV and movies. Being separated by two big oceans from the rest of the world means we don’t get to rub shoulders with strangers too much. The result is those caricatures of foreigners we see on TV get seared into the our mind, even though they are often wildly inaccurate. The most obvious example is the way in which Germans and Germany are viewed by Americans. Germans are either avuncular clock makers or cold blooded automatons that are ruthlessly efficient.

Of course, Germans are mostly OK with this characterization as it works to their favor, except for the constant Nazi references. Having a reputation for exacting standards and ruthless precision is a good thing if you are in the business of making things like cars or machine tools. It also works when it comes to government. Most people, not just Americans, just assume that the well known German efficiency translates into making the trains run on time and keeping the streets clean and orderly.

The phrase “German engineering” has come to mean high quality and high precision, as if the Germans never made anything stupid or poorly designed. The Beetle was a cheap piece of junk for the most part, but everyone believes the Germans make the best cars in the world. Yet, the Mercedes C-Class is an unreliable jalopy that costs too much to buy and way too much to own. If Germans were anything like we imagine, they would have had the engineers who made those cars sent to a work camp in Poland.

Volkswagen used to have the reputation as the builder of solid, inexpensive cars for working people. Then they came out with the new Beetle. Their marketing efforts made VW the car of choice for hairdressers and homosexuals. If that were not bad enough, they are now accused of committing massive fraud that could be lethal for its North American operations. Not only that, these dummkopfs may have managed to set back the cause of clean diesel technology to the point where it dies out entirely. Way to go Germany.

Even if you want to dismiss this sort of bungling as inevitable, even for people generally good at making things, you can’t ignore the mass insanity that is the current German policy on immigration. Angela Merkel’s decision to unilaterally flood Europe with low-IQ barbarians from the Middle East is going to go down as one of the dumbest decisions in the history of Europe. The fact that the response to the predictable unrest is to turn Germany into a police state suggests the Germans have gone mad.

Calling Merkel’s Million Muslim invasion the dumbest decision means overlooking pretty much everything German politicians have done since Wilhelm I walked into the Hall of Mirrors. There’s any number of reckless moves in the Great War, including the decision to back the Bolsheviks in Russia. Of course, the all time blunder was putting the meth munching morons called the Nazis in charge of the country. Is there another country on earth with a worse record of self-governance than the Germans?

The fact that the Germans and their record of ineptitude are now in charge of Europe does not bode well for the Continent. The Greeks should have been expelled a long time ago, but the Germans insisted they remain and now that dumpster fire is about to reignite. Then there is the fact that the Italians are headed to a crisis and the French may be about to elected a populist government, mostly due to mad Merkel and her efforts to flood the continent with Muslims. The French wanted to build and lead the EU to defend Europe, but now under German leadership, the EU has become a suicide pact.

Getting back to where we started, Americans and most of the world, judging from the international press, have this view of the Germans that is wildly out of phase with reality. The bill of indictment against Germany being anything but a fountain of mischief is rather long. In a little under 150 years, a unified Germany has managed to cause more damage to civilization than the rest of the western people combined. The temptation has been to assign this to a small portion of Germans who are evil. What if Germans are simply stupid? Perhaps to be German means carrying a gene for reckless stupidity.

Whether or not the Germans are the Minus Race is immaterial. The point is we need to seriously rethink our image of the Germans. Yes, they made some of the greatest art in Western history, but then they will tried to invade Russia in winter. They make some of the finest manufactured good in the world today, but they have also elected a collection of suicidal lunatics hellbent on blowing up Europe. Germany may be the land of engineers and chocolate makers, but it is also the home of the world most dangerous morons too.

The Cloud Party Declares War

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When the Muslim Brotherhood “won” the 2012 election in Egypt, most of the world just assumed Egypt was going to go down the road to Islamism. Either a slow trot like we have seen with Turkey or perhaps a faster pace into something closer to Iran. That did not happen. Instead, Egypt ground to a halt as the civil service and military, which are intertwined, refused to cooperate with the new government. The result was a sort of coordinated work slowdown and the Brotherhood got the blame for it.

That was not the only reason the Brotherhood failed. They had no idea how to run a country and they never had the depth of support they assumed. Still, the bureaucracy set itself to stymieing Morsi, so they simply stop functioning. People still showed up for work and manned their posts, but they got nothing done. It was a good lesson in how a modern country works, even one on the fringe of modernity. Real power is not in the office, but in control of the system. He who controls the bureaucracy controls the nation.

That comes to mind after Trump has been in office for little more than a week. His initial flurry of executive orders has dominated the news cycles, simply because of the infantile theatrics of the Left. Adult toddlers throwing tantrums at the local airport makes for good TV, especially when the people covering it are toddlers themselves. What has gone unnoticed is the fact that the Republicans appear to have settled on a  strategy similar to the Egyptian bureaucracy. They will slow walk everything Trump wants out of Congress.

So far, the Senate has approved the national security appointments because to do otherwise would make them look bad. The education secretary is still bottled up for some reason. Allegedly, everyone in the GOP would just as soon scrap DoE, but they are making a big issue of this nominee. The AG nomination has similarly been slow walked by the Senate. Of course, the traitor John McCain is stirring up trouble over the DHS appointments. The result is there will not be a full cabinet for months.

The bigger issue is the fact that the GOP Congress has no plan to repeal ObamaCare or pass tax reform. It’s pretty clear that the people we thought were secretly supporting Clinton, people like Paul Ryan, really thought she was going to win, so they never bothered to prepare for this. The result is all their big talk after he election about major reforms and repealing ObamaCare was just talk. They were planning for surrender and suddenly found themselves with a President ready to sign off on major reform.

That’s probably only part of it. The fact is, the leadership of the GOP has more in common with the Democrat Party than the emerging Trump Party. Despite the election results, they cannot let go of their belief that the winning hand is to turn the country into a flop house for the refuse of the rest of the world. Globalism is their creed and they will not let go of it just because the people hate it. They are sure Trump will fail so they are going to work hard to make it happen, After all, a prophesy that does not come true is not much use.

Then there is the bureaucracy, which appears to be organizing itself in opposition to Trump in the early going. Senior people in the State Department made a big show of quitting the other day. The acting Attorney General is instructing her department to sit on their hands over challenges to Trump’s immigration orders. It’s all small time and petty, but with the aid of the media it’s becoming cool for the governing class to throw sand in the gears of the Trump administration. At least that’s the hope in DC.

All of this points out the underlying reality in Washington. There is the Cloud People Party and an insurgent Dirt People Party. The Cloud Party and its donor class hate Trump and the people he represents. If you look at the funding sources from both parties, it comes from areas Hillary Clinton carried 2-to-1. According to this Brookings study, the 472 counties that Clinton won last year accounted for 64 percent of the nation’s wealth, while the 2584 counties that Trump won accounted for the remaining 36 percent.

There are plenty of Republicans who support Trump and a surprising number of people in the bureaucracy who know reform is long overdue. Some of the harshest critiques of the state you will hear come from people in the system. There’s also the fact that Trump is proving to be an exceptional political athlete. He has a knack for baiting the media in order to gain public support for his positions. No person has moved the Overton Window further to the right than Trump has done in my lifetime. It truly is amazing.

Even so, the next year will be about the Cloud Party conspiring to undermine the Trump administration, while Trump figures out how to work around the system to undermine the system. His immigration order is a foreshadow of what is to come. Instead of looking for compromise, Team Trump will go big in order to trigger the political class and their media to overreact. This tends to turn off the public and thus turn the Cloud Party assets into liabilities, as we are seeing with these ridiculous protests.

At some point, the Cloud People will shift gears, but for now, the game will be Trump picking fights and the establishment going bonkers.This gives Trump cover to do some important stuff, like we see with the H1B executive order. While the Cloud People are wailing about the so-called Muslim ban, they did not have time to notice the order to shake up the visa program Silicon Valley uses to screw its employees. This sort of cat and mouse game is how an insurgent party must use its speed and agility to overcome the establishment’s size.

The Great Disconfirmation

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In one of his recent communications with the resistance, John Derbyshire mentioned this Joel Pollak column about the demise of the Obama cult. Pollak does not come right out and say it, but Obama was essentially a totem for the Left. His election was not about him or his polices, but instead it was about returning the Ark to the Temple, so to speak. The long war with the bad whites over racial justice was finally won and the blessings of the void where God used to exist would now descend upon the righteous.

As Derbyshire points out, Pollak is not the first guy to notice this as readers of this site certainly know. The only way to properly understand the American Left is to look at it as a civic religion. Because the American Left adopted European anti-Christianity in the 20th century, it is easy to think they are anti-religious. That’s a mistake the Right has made for half a century. The New Religion, what Progressivism is today, evolved out of the Social Gospel Movement, so it carries with it many of the same habits.

The most obvious of those habits is the obsession with public morality. Public Protestantism starts from the assumption that society is judged as a whole. The righteous, like the virtuous in revolutionary France, have a moral duty to raise up the fallen into the righteous life. This is what gives them license to nose around in your business and order you around.  It’s not about fitting the economic pieces together as with European socialists. The American Left is consumed with building the City upon a hill.

Derbyshire makes the point that when a prophecy fails, it is does not mean the end of the religion.

In fact all the hysteria on the left this past few weeks yields to a religious, or pseudo-religious explanation. Clearly some of the same kinds of passions are involved that you find in committed religious believers.

Consider, however, the fact that religions very rarely fail. They just adapt.

Recall the Millerite sect that flourished in the 1840s. William Miller, who founded the sect, predicted the Second Coming of Christ at a certain date. Thousands of followers sold all their belongings and waited joyfully for the day. When nothing happened, Miller just reworked his calculations and set another day … then another.

You’d think a disappointment like that — it was actually called the Great Disappointment — you’d think it would kill a religion stone dead. Not at all. Here’s a historian writing about the Millerites, quote:

Following such a catastrophic failure, one might expect that the Millerite movement would fade away entirely. But that is not what happened. Although the fragmented Millerites languished for some time, and though many did abandon the movement, several of the competing splinter groups would ultimately gain new life. Hiram Edson’s [Millerite] sect … developed into a denomination that still exists — the Seventh-Day Adventists, who today number as many as 15 million members worldwide.

End quote. For truly committed believers, a religious or pseudo-religious passion like that can’t be put aside. It doesn’t fail, it only needs adjusting.

Again, readers of this site know where this is going. The thing that holds together these sorts of movements is an internal psychology that allows them to internalize disconfirmation. There is a famous study in psychology by three guys named Leon Festinger, Henry Riecken and Stanley Schachter. They studied a UFO cult based in Chicago that claimed space aliens were due to arrive on a certain date. When that failed to happen, the cult did not dissolve. It transformed into something else.

That’s an important lesson to keep in mind when watching the antics of the Left of late. Their lunacy is not directed at the rest of us. They don’t care what you or anyone else thinks about what’s happening. Their public acts are about signalling to the rest of the believers. By holding protests and making fools of themselves in a public way, they are providing support for one another as they work through the disconfirmation. Like herd animals, they are huddling together in the face if danger. It is pure instinct.

If they were left to sit alone at home, they would have no one around to help them through their doubts. These are people whose entire sense of self is dependent on the identity of the group, so getting out and “making their voices heard” lets them focus on something other than the disconfirmation. Trump as Hitler provides a short term bridge between the failed prophesy and whatever comes next for the New Religion. They can tell themselves that their faith was not wrong, it was just subverted by mysterious forces, or Hitler.

In the past, Progressive Awakenings were followed by period of hibernation as new missions and causes were conjured by the next generation of believers. The trouble for them this time is there is no obvious replacement for identity politics and social justice. When you’re reduced to championing the rights of mentally ill men in sundresses, you have run out of victims. The nation’s changing demographics also means that identity politics will play against this sort of utopianism.

In the mean time, the rage of the true believers will result in more public displays of incoherent misery. The reason they have no point is they cannot face the cause of their pain. It has nothing to with Trump or his policies. It is an unspeakable rage at having failed to reach the promised land. The rage is a distraction and a source of comfort to the believers as the Cult of Modern Liberalism comes to terms with the great disconfirmation of the last decade. Let’s hope they to make their way through it.