Estates of the Realm

For a long time now the pattern of American presidential elections has been that the primaries wrap up in late spring and early summer. The two candidates begin to take shots at one another leading up to their conventions in July. The Republican usually lacks the money to run an air war, so that leaves the Democrat free to pound away in key states with TV ads. The media, of course, swings in on behalf of the Democrat with a relentless drumbeat of attack ads telling us that the Republican is Hitler again.

Then we have the conventions and both parties begin running their ads and doing big campaign events. The media is still in the satchel for the Democrats, but the quantity of noise from both sides diminishes the impact of the media. They are left to cover speeches and interview people from both camps, usually swooning over the Democrat and playing gotcha with the Republican. Then we get the debates and the sprint to the finish as both sides focus on the toss-up states.

This time we are seeing something weird and different. The media is doing their part, but it is mostly the so-called conservative media leading the charge against the Republican. The Democrats have been running ads in the swing states, but they are mostly nonsense videos of Hillary from twenty years ago. They can’t show her today because she looks like death and sounds like she is about to turn someone into a toad. That and she appears to be struggling with serious health issues.

Trump is running his campaign away from the media and not running any ads. Instead he is doing these big events where thousands line up to hear him make his pitch. Trump is running the sort of campaign presidents ran in the 1940’s. The only thing missing is the train, but his private jet makes it a lot like the old whistle stop tour. He lands, does a speech and is off to the next town. On a weekly basis, Trump jousts with the media over their latest attack, but otherwise he has not done a lot of it.

We are seeing something strange this time. It is as if we have three elections going on at the same time. The Democrats are keeping Clinton hidden away for fear people will notice she is seriously unwell. Someone struggling with a cognitive disorder is better off in small rooms with a few people and that’s what we keep seeing. Her events are lightly attended, but there does seem to be an effort to keep her from standing in front of a large crowd. They probably worry that she could topple over like Bob Dole in ’96.

The other election campaign is the Trump barnstorming tour where he does these stadium shows for thousands. They are not running ads to promote these things. Instead, they are relying on word of mouth via social media. They also get local media coverage. Trump is deliberately banning the big foot media from his events and he is not paying for a plane to ferry around the press like we have seen in prior campaigns. Trump is running the first high-tech, grassroots presidential campaign in history.

Finally, we have the mass media election. This is where members of the media debate one another over the latest events. They used to count on the Democrats to supply the copy and some flaks to help sell this to the public, but this time is a bit different. Hillary’s poor health and long criminal history are preventing her campaign from putting her or her close allies in the media for fear someone may accidentally ask a question.

There is a medieval vibe to all of this as the estates of the realm are now fully insulated from one another. There’s also the obvious divisions within the estates, as there were in 18th century France. The media, serving as the First Estate, has a credentialed and high-born top with a rough and tumble, low-born bottom. The nasally twats writing at the NYTimes or appearing on the chat shows all popped out of elite colleges and come from upper class families. The bloggers and twitter monsters are uncredentialed rubes from the country.

You could argue that the forces behind Trump within the political class represent the noblesse de robe while the people backing Clinton are noblesse d’épée. The third estate, just as in 18th century France, is not entirely on the side of the former, but is not all that happy with the latter. The bourgeoisie, in our case, are academics, the vast array of business interests that feed from the public trough and those who profit from global capitalism. You are, in all probability, a free peasant.

It is not a perfect analogy and it is not intended to compare modern America to 18th century France. Sadly, we will not get to lop off the heads of the first estate when this is all over. It does help clarify the current crisis. The people chatting on TV don’t know you and they have no idea what you read or why you read it. The things discussed on blogs like this are as alien to them as proper dining etiquette is to you. Modern American society is now highly compartmentalized and fragmented and we see that in the campaigns.

Voluntary Obsolescence

Way back in the olden thymes, I was chatting with an acquaintance, who owned a number of small niche publications. Each had five to ten thousand subscribers, who paid $50 per year for the publication. These were monthly hobbyist type things. Printing, postage and content costs ate up most of his revenue, but he was still able to take an upper middle-class salary from the business. He was never going to get rich from it, but he liked the action and it let him turn hobbies into a nice career.

At the time, he was telling me about his plan to move all of his magazines to the web. This was in the 90’s so it was the new thing. Newspapers and magazines were putting up websites hoping to reach a broader audience. He was very excited about it because he saw the cost savings. Printing and postage were his big line items so going digital meant a potential windfall. I remember asking him how he expected to charge people when he was putting his content on-line free of charge. He responded, “Hits. We’ll get more hits and then we can sell advertising.”

At that point I knew he and many others were about to commit suicide. I’ve been inside many banks and none of them ever accepted hits or site traffic as payment. The people rushing to shovel their content on-line simply had no idea why they were rushing to give their product away, but they were sure it was going to be glorious. The result has been the death of newspapers and many magazines. The New York Times, for example, loses money every quarter and only survives because a Mexican billionaire wants access to the American ruling class.

I get that same feeling when people talk about Uber and self-driving cars. From the perspective of an outsider, I see no reason why cities would sanction Uber or any of the other off-the-book taxi services. There’s nothing in it for the municipality. Similarly, why would any of the car companies sign off on robot cars? There’s no advantage for them to do it. Of course, taxi fleets of self-driving cars is about the nuttiest thing imaginable as it just means the death of a number of industries, namely car makers and car insurance firms.

Think about it. Your car sits unused most of the time. You take it to work where it sits all day. Then you take it home where it sits all night. You have a car for convenience, mostly. Pubic transportation,where available, is not good for running errands, going shopping or other tasks. Cabs are fine for some of it, but hailing a cab in the rain sucks compared to walking into the parking garage to get into your car. There’s a reason why rich people have car services and limos. They get the flexibility of their own vehicle with the convenience of a taxi service.

Now imagine that anywhere you are you can order up a Johnny Cab, having it pick you up and take you where you wish, at a low fee. All you do is pull out the phone and order it up and it comes by to haul you to work or take you to the market. It sounds wonderful, especially for old people and alcoholics. The question is, why own a car when you can get the service of a car, without having to own it, store it and maintain it? Hobbyists would still want a sports car or off-road vehicle, but most people have cars for practical purposes only.

Do a little math and you see that you use maybe ten percent of your car’s useful capacity. The hour commute to work and the hour home means two hours out of a day. Throw in some driving on the weekend and 90% of the time your car is sitting idle. Even assuming inefficiency, one care could serve the needs of five people, which means a world of Johnny Cabs is a world with about 80% fewer cars. That means 80% fewer car sales for the car makers. It also means 80% fewer insurance polices, tax stickers and all the other things that are based on people owning cars.

If you are in the car business, the plan should be simple. Buy enough politicians to kill off Uber and the robot car people. For their part, the pols should require little bribing as it is in their interest to kill the robot cars too. Instead, all of the car makers are announcing plans to produce robot cars aimed at the for-hire business. Uber is doing a test run in Pittsburgh with a fleet of driverless cars. Like those newspaper and magazine guys of the 90’s, the transportation industry is fashioning a noose for themselves out the new technology, so they can destroy themselves. Karl Marx must be laughing in Hell right now.

The Next Frontier

Genetics, particularly gene therapy is the one area of science that could offer a species altering breakthrough. Flying electric cars would be a great, but they are a long way from reality. In fact, they may never be reality due to issues like battery technology. Most of what science is going to bring mankind over the next couple of generations is better, faster cheaper versions of the stuff we already have now. Think air travel over the last fifty years. The planes are better and faster, but otherwise the same as they were in the 50’s.

That’s not the case with genetic engineering. Here we could very well see some species altering technology. Imagine medicine being able to “fix” certain common genetic defects, thus eliminating the defect from future generations. Imagine the impact of gene therapy that causes the body’s immune system to destroy cancer cells. Cancer kills a lot of people long before old age so “curing” cancer would be an enormous change for humanity. There’s also the application in the area of mental health. Imagine curing forms of mental illness like schizophrenia.

Right now, medicine is the most likely to benefit from genetic technology, but that’s not the end of it. Isolating genes for certain traits like height and eye color is well within reach and well within the realm of things that could be altered in embryos. Designer babies sounds horrible, but imagine your doctor telling you that for a reasonable fee, he can make sure your kid is above average in height. It’s not hard to see how people would do it and science would offer it. No one wants their kid to be a stumpy troll, even if the parents are stumpy trolls.

Once you start tinkering or even think about tinkering, the idea of decanting super-human babies joins the conversation. If you can make sure your kid is six foot or taller, why not go for seven or eight feet? That way, junior can look forward to a career as a basketball player. While you’re at it, give him sprinter’s speed and the eyesight of an eagle. The leap from a small change that eradicates a known defect to changes that create super-babies is not a big one, at least from an ethical point of view.

The problem is we quickly run into another barrier and that’s the complexity. Humans are very complicated machines. In fact, we are so complicated that we really don’t know how much of the human body works. Just look at diet and exercise. We sort of think that diet and exercise habits have an impact on overall health and longevity, but we don’t know. That’s why there are a bazillion opinions on the subject. It’s why every study you can find on the topic of diet, for example, has a contradictory study.

This story the other day about the challenges of virtual reality is a great reminder that we know very little about how the human mind works in even the most basic sense. Humans have been screwing around with virtual reality gadgets for a long time, mostly for gaming and simulations. The theory sounds good. Replicate the inputs of reality and the brain gets tricked into thinking it is in the imaginary world. The trouble is, it really does not get tricked. In fact, the better the simulation the worse the results.

The reason is the brain is a wildly complex and supple bit of biology that processes massive amounts of information in more than three dimensions, faster than anything we can create in the lab. The human mind appears to develop or come equipped with a model of the world, right down to little things like how fast an odor should travel from the source to your nose. It’s how those clever optical illusions you see on-line work. They rely on the brain anticipating, based on known patterns. As inputs come in the brain is a click ahead, anticipating what should be coming next. We think.

Then there is the concept of consciousness, which remains a baffling thing for science. Watch a puppy bark at a mirror and you know that self-awareness is a real thing that not all creatures possess equally, but how that works is unknown. Throw in something like self-deception that theoretically should not exist, but clearly does exist, and we are far away from the shore and into uncharted ocean. Tweaking  a gene to make for a taller person could result in madness as the brain is still wired for a short person, thus busting up the person mental model of the world that includes them as a short person.

Even so, CRISPR technology could be the great breakthrough that alters the human species, but it will be a long slog between making better corn and making super babies. In fact, there’s a pretty good chance that the complexity barrier between the most rudimentary tinkering and engineered babies is so thick there’s no way for science to breech it. There’s also a cost-benefit component. Selecting for green eyes has a market, but selecting for super-intelligent giants that are prone to madness probably has no market.

All in all, if you are inclined to think about how humanity destroys itself, the place to start is genetics. If you are a wild-eyed futurist anxious to live forever or meld with robots, that’s never going to happen, but you can dream about it within the realm of genetics. More likely, the result is healthier, more robust people in the not so distant future. Imagine old age without debilitating disease and degenerating tissue.  You still age and die, but it is much more pleasant physiologically. That alone would alter how we think of ourselves as a species.

The Reformation

This post on Marginal Revolution titled “In which ways is today’s world like the Reformation?” caught my attention.

I can think of a few reasons:

1. Many of the structures in places are perceived as failing, even though in absolute terms they are not obviously doing worse than previous times.

2. There is a rise in nationalist sentiment and a semi-cosmopolitan ethic is starting to lose influence.

3. The chance of violent conflict is rising.

4. Dialogue is becoming more polarized and bigoted, and at some margins stupider.

5. Tales of gruesome torture are being spread by new publishing and communications media.

6. The world may nonetheless end up much better off, but the ride to get there will be rocky iindeed.

I have been reading Carlos M.N. Eire, Reformations: The Early Modern World, 1450-1650.  Yes I know it is 893 pp., but it is actually one of the most readable books I have had in my hands all year.

Somewhere in the comments, Steve Sailer brought up the comparison between the printing press and the interwebs, which is the obvious and logical one. The impact of the printing press on the Reformation is often dismissed, as its impact on Western culture is complicated and hard to understand so modern historians focus on the religious angle. That way they can say bad things about Christians, which is still a lot of fun for the people of the New Religion.

Still, the printing press is not the meteor that killed the dinosaurs. The Black Plague is the meteor, but the printing press is one of the first shock waves to emit from it. It’s hard for us, in our age, to imagine a world in which most everyone was illiterate. Even members of the ruling class could make it to adulthood without ever having learned to read. Many members of the clergy were functionally illiterate as they had no reason to read. There was nothing for them to read, even if they had the desire.

The printing press did a few things. The most obvious is it made literacy much more valuable to the commoner. Therefore, more commoners tried to master the basics of reading and writing. Cheap printed material suddenly made literacy a valuable, but attainable thing, so we got more literate people, which vastly expanded the number of people contributing to the wealth of human knowledge. In a short time Sven could learn about the innovations in French plow technology, because he got a scroll on it from the tinker.

That’s where the comparison to the internet falls apart. Getting a billion people on-line is not unlocking a great store of human potential. Mostly it allowed a billion dimwits to fill the available space with inane chatter. Spend five minutes watching cable news and you can’t help but long for the days when men got their news from newspapers and the town meeting. That’s not to dismiss the value of having the Library of Alexandria at our fingertips. It’s just that there was not a lot of untapped intellect sitting around in 1975.

The key comparison, maybe, is the speed that information moves. By the Middle Ages, the state and the Church had evolved systems to control the flow of information. If the lesser nobles were unhappy, they could only conspire with one another, which could only happen within the system. That’s easy to root out with spies and treachery. The printing press allowed one pissed off guy to spread his word quickly and do so well outside the official channels. Cheap printed pamphlets made it easy for a disgruntled minor figure to spill the beans on his superiors, to the wider masses.

The thing is, it’s not the information getting loose or the speed it travels. It is how the current structures can respond to it. The printing press exposed the great weakness of the Church and the state. They were sclerotic when it came to reading and reacting to new information. They evolved in an age of handwritten scrolls and private couriers. They lacked the tools and the awareness to operate in a world in which information moves quickly (relative to the age) and indiscriminately.

None of this was immediate. The printing press was 15th century and the 16th century was a pretty good age for the ruling elite of the West. By the 17th century, however, the wheels came off the cart. By the 18th century the English speaking world was adapted to an age in which information moves around quickly and indiscriminately. The Continent followed in the 18th century so by the 19th the West had a ruling system and a cognitive elite fully evolved to succeed in the age of the written word.

This is where one can find a point of comparison to our own age. The volume of information is obviously way higher today than a few decades ago, but much of it is bad information so we very well may be less informed. The real impact of the technological revolution is the ability of the ruling class to respond. The old ways of hiding things from the public and preventing trouble makers from spilling the beans to the public are not very useful in an age when someone can put the total output of an organization onto a thumb drive.

Defenders of the status quo inevitably have to rely upon size to carry the day. They have the the monopoly of force and the institutions to apply it. The challenger has to rely on speed, agility and cunning. If the big guy is just as fast as the small guy, the big guy always wins. What the technological revolution has done is give challengers to the status quo an edge in speed and agility. Hillary Clinton controls the mass media, yet she struggled to put away Sanders and is struggling to deal with Trump.

This is not a perfect comparison, but if you are looking for a way to link the current age to the Reformation, that’s the place to start.

Grinding To A Halt

Anyone, who has decided to paint a room of their house, understands the difference between show work and no-show work. Show work is the stuff that has an immediate reward, like rolling on the first coat of paint. A few hours labor and you have something to show for yourself. On the other hand, no-show work is the preparation. It’s moving of furniture, laying down drop clothes, cleaning up trim work and edging the room. You start at dawn and by dusk it looks like you have done nothing but make a mess.

I first experienced this as a teenager working construction. One summer, I was put on a job of renovating an old brick house. My job, along with some other teens, was to first gut the place. In a week we had the place stripped to the bare walls, with a massive pile of rubble inside and one outside. By the following week, the rubble was gone and we were left with a bare building. By the end of the summer, the building looked the same, except for some repointed brick work, and other structural touch-ups.

Spending the bulk of the summer on a million little tasks that never seemed to amount to much was nowhere near as fun as gutting the place, but it was a great lesson. Progress is the million little tasks that accumulate into something big. It is not the big finish where things seem to happen quickly. Put another way, progress is the millions of snowflakes that accumulate on the mountain, not the avalanche that is set off by your yodeling. The no-show part of human progress can take generations, maybe centuries, while the fruits can be consumed in a decade.

The last thirty or so years, from the perspective of most people, has been an age of rapid progress. It is tempting to think that progress will not only continue at this rapid pace, but accelerate. In fact, what defines futurism and always has, is the belief that technological progress is accelerating and will do so into the future. After all, that why we have personal jet packs and flying cars, while our parents were on foot. Since even this rate of change is not enough to have us traversing the stars in a this century, the rate of change must advance quickly.

That is the most basic form of magical thinking. We want our wishes to come true so we imagine how they must come true. One of things you’ll always see with professional futurists is they are wildly optimistic about the future. They don’t imagine a humanity enslaved by sadistic robot overlords. They imagine a world where humans live in forever youth, perhaps mind-melded with artificial intelligence in order to transcend the physical realm. The future, according to futurist, is going to great, which is why they can’t wait to see it.

Given the age in which we live, it is tempting to think these guys are right, but look back through history and you see a different picture. Progress is fits and starts, often with dead ends and rollbacks. It’s not that current humans are smarter than the humans in those eras of technological stagnation. In fact, one of the big questions in evolutionary biology is something called the Sapient Paradox. On the one hand, humans had all the stuff to be modern humans, yet they went a very long time living much like pre-modern humans. Then all of a sudden, they started living like modern humans.

Not only does history tell us that these periods of great technological progress are rare, but science is telling us we may be headed for a stagnation. The technological revolution was built on the revolution in theoretical science that started in the late Middle Ages. Human understanding of the natural world, like astronomy, chemistry, physics, math, is what allowed for the practical application of these fields to give us cell phones and the internet. There’s pretty good evidence that the progress on the theoretical side has come to a halt and may have reached some sort of dead end.

This post by physicist Sabine Hossenfelder makes a good case that we have, at the very minimum, stalled in our quest to understand the universe. There has been no great leap forward for over two generations and not much of any forward progress in a generation, other than confirming some things worked out fifty years ago. When the foundations of technological progress have stalled, it is fair to assume that the showy part is about to run out of steam soon too. Look around and it is clear there’s not a lot of big improvements on the horizon.

The counter here is that genetics is where the action is and that’s certainly true, but progress here is at a snail’s pace as well. DNA was first isolated by the Swiss physician Friedrich Miescher in 1869. Almost a century later Crick and Watson discovered the double helix and founded what we now call molecular biology. Half a century on what we have to show for it is better corn. To think that we’re on the cusp of genetically enhanced humans assumes a degree of progress never seen in science and in direct contradiction to the deceleration we see in theoretical science.

That’s just the science end of things. Science, particularly theoretical and experimental science, requires abundance. The West got rich and then it got science. The West is old and in the worst financial condition since the fall of Rome. There are a few billion barbarians trying to get into the West in order to go on welfare. Even if that is an unfairly bleak picture, there’s no denying that we lack the will and wherewithal to fund something like the Manhattan Project or the Apollo missions.

The truth is, the future is probably going to be more of the same, or worse.

Do They Know?

Watch the news, follow politics and pay some attention to the hate community, of which I am a part, and you have to deal with the disconnect. That is the weird feeling you get when watching a newscast, seeing confirmation of something you read on a hate-site and then the newsreader explains it all away with appeals to magic. The rioters hunting down whites are not the racists. No, the newsman tells you. the honkies are the racists, because they failed in some way to do right by the dusky fellows chasing them.

Watch the Olympics and you see the commentators in a life and death struggle with reality, forever fearful that the audience may notice what’s happening in the events. Because reality simply refuses to comport with the approved narrative, the broadcasters create short documentaries to be played during the coverage, explaining how the events you are seeing do not contradict the one true faith. In fact, they confirm it! The black people winning all the footraces really just train hard, despite racism and Hitler.

I’ve been reading Steve Sailer for decades and he loves commenting about the Olympics because it confirms much of what the biological realists have to say about the human animal. Boys are bigger, faster and stronger than girls. West Africans are faster on average than everyone else. He’s right, of course. When the finalists for the 100 meter sprint have all be of West African origin going back nine consecutive Olympics, nature is telling us something. Or at least trying to tell us something.

Sailer has often argued that many in the cognitive elite see the same things he and the other HBD’ers see, but they prudently refuse to mention it. Instead, they rely on esoteric language and alternative social constructs to arrive at the same point, but without openly challenging the prevailing orthodoxy. A guy like Ross Douthat, for example, is not going to throw his career away by pointing out the obvious, so he crafts social constructs that give his coevals a way to express reality within the confines of the faith.

I must admit that it feels like it is true in certain cases. I enjoy reading Mark Krikorian, who does the Lord’s work in the area of immigration studies. He often says things that suggest he accepts the basics of human biology, but he always stops short, way short, of running afoul of the morality police. I follow him on twitter and it often feels like he slams on the brakes as soon as he gets near that electrified fence that divides orthodoxy from heresy. I wonder. Is this conscious or subconscious? Does he know or is he simply trained?

This may not seem like an important question, but it is probably the most important question. The cognitive elite in Europe knew Galileo was right. It was not like he popped out of nowhere to announce his new model for the solar system. The image of the churchman as a narrow minded fanatic is pretty much of the opposite of reality in the Middle Ages, or any other age for that matter. For most of Western history, the church was the storehouse of human knowledge and the engine of intellectual progress.

Progressives have retconned Galileo to claim the Church was too enthralled with oogily-boogily to understand him, but that’s nonsense. They knew he was right, at least many in the Church knew, but they did not know how to proceed with the new knowledge coming from guys like Galileo. The Church, as well as the civil authorities, were primary concerned with civil order and making sure people had food to eat. The practical challenges came before the theoretical ones.

The emergence of genetics, as well as evolutionary biology, which is increasing reliant on genetics, certainly is comparable to the emergence of science in the late Middle Ages. The main point of comparison is that science discredited much of the prevailing orthodoxy about the natural world and genetics is discrediting the blank slate orthodoxy of today. Egalitarianism will only survive if the study of human biology, particularly genetics, is shut down and that’s not going to happen. The question is whether anyone in the cognitive elite knows or accept this.

Watching the Olympics the other might I was struck by the sense of desperation during one of the Girrrllll Power! segments. This is where the males are forced to tell the audience about how wonderful it is that so many women are competing in sports. I concluded that you have to be a true believer to participate in the making of such nonsense. Only a sociopath could fake that much enthusiasm for something they think is wrong. That or the presenters are so dumb they are incapable of self-awareness. Either way, the people in charge are in no way prepared to surrender to reality.

That does not really answer the question posed here. I think guys like Steve Sailer are, despite their chosen fields of study, optimistic about humanity. They hope there are some sensible people in the ruling elite who will, in the fullness of time, find a way to incorporate the reality of biology into their policy making. Any hints that suggests someone is in on the gag, so to speak, is held up as proof. Maybe he is right and maybe their use of esoteric signalling is so advanced that rubes like me can never see it. On the other hand, the shrillness of the screeching from the media suggest they really, really belief their nonsense.

On Being Revolting in the Modern Age

I was reading something about a battle in the American Revolution and it got me to thinking about what revolution would look like in the modern age. We tend to associate revolutions with mobs in the streets, disobeying lawful orders from whoever happens to be in charge. That’s part of it, for sure, but usually they have more formal elements as well as popular unrest. The American Revolution had a number well organized acts of rebellion like boycotts and peaceful resistance before we got armies in the field.

Revolutions have two forms, at least at the onset. There are the revolts within the ruling class and then there are popular rebellions. The former is more like a civil war played out on the small scale. For instance, a group of soldiers takes over the military and then sacks the civil leadership. The English Civil War is the best example. The latter is when the people get tired of their rulers and rally around a leader or cause (or both) and force out the old rulers. The Bolshevik Revolution is the most obvious example. The American Revolution is unique in that it has both elements.

In the modern west, a military coup is unlikely as the civilian authorities have done a good job over the last few generations of selecting against the sort of ambitious men who tend to lead military coups. In Europe, the military is simply too weak to pull it off. That and the rest of Europe would either send in troops to restore civilian rule or have the US do it. Then you have the fact that there’s not a lot of popular support for the military in much of Europe. A coup would result in massive protests.

The US is a different animal in that we have a big competent military, but it is mostly stationed overseas. That’s not an accident. If the invade the world types are purged from the ruling class, the next step is a great demobilization. There’s simply no way a civilian leadership is going to allow a massive high tech army to be garrisoned at home. Even so, the military culture in the US has long selected against the sort of men that lead military coups. It’s the one thing we have no screwed up yet.

I think if we are going to see a soft civil war or a revolution from within, it will look a lot like what we are seeing with nationalist parties across the Continent. The first wave will be less than professional politicians demonstrating the power of popular discontent, followed by a second wave of real professionals who take control of those new parties and lead a reform movement. This is not so much a revolution or revolt, as a process of internal reform tapping into popular will to overcome internal resistance. It’s not exactly how democracy is supposed to work, but it is not a terrible result if it leads to peaceful change.

There’s good reason to be pessimistic about this possibility. We saw how the Austrians rigged their election and a lot of people suspect this US election could be loaded with shenanigans. Even if Trump overcomes the Clinton crime machine, he will most likely face a ruling class unified against him. In America, we may have crossed the Rubicon in the 1990’s when it became clear that the ruling class could no longer police itself. Their inability to purge their ranks of the Clintons was a sign that the rot had reach a point where reform is no longer possible.

That leaves popular revolt. Certainly voting for Trump sends a message, but messages need a sender and a receiver. If the people on the other end refuse to acknowledge the message being sent, then it’s not really a message. The Olive Branch Petition was the last ditch effort by the Colonist to avoid a breach with the mother country, but the King’s refusal turned it from a message to him into a message from him. That message was clear to the colonials. They could either submit unconditionally or prepare for war. A Trump win followed by a unified refusal by the political class to cooperate would also be clear message.

A few bloggers on our side of the divide have noted that what comes after Trump is, if history is a guide, going to be much worse. Instead of an amateur politician, who still believes in the system, the next guy to rally the troops will be a professional who does not believe in the system. Instead he will be a guy that looks at the system in the same way Turkish strongman Erdoğan looks at democracy. That is, it is useful only as a vehicle for taking the leader to where he wants to go. “If you must break the law, do it to seize power: in all other cases observe it,” said Julius Caesar.

That may be true, but it will still require popular support. What we are seeing with nationalist insurgencies in the West is they are running into the massive power that comes from owning the mass media. A little girl skins her knee and there is a news team there to blame Trump in a four hour TV special. Hillary Clinton is caught running a pay-for-play scheme and no one can be bothered to ask her why she went to the trouble of installing an illegal e-mail system in her bathroom. Even the most cynical and savvy insurgent campaign cannot get past this problem.

It may be that the custodial state has reached a point where rebellion is no longer possible. Or, it may simply be that the method of revolt will have to adapt to the modern age. If the rulers no longer have the consent of the governed, then the governed will have no reason to voluntarily cooperate. Perhaps the cord-cutting movement is one of those acts of rebellion that makes sense only in a mass media age. Publishing the private correspondence of rulers, obtained by hackers, is certainly a very modern for of rebellion.

Whether any of it works is open to debate


The Tyranny of Race

There are a limited number of ways to govern a multi-ethnic or multi-racial society. As much as modern elites believe they are wrestling with new problems, the issues the West faces today are common throughout history. The very first settled human societies were multi-ethnic. The “cradle of civilization” was full of tribal people with identities different from one another, often with different languages. One tribe would come to dominate the others, but the subjugated people maintained their identities. They just paid tribute to the dominant tribe.

One way humans have met this challenge is through hard segregation. This is when areas are carved out for specific groups of people and only those people. The governing authority helps the groups defend their turf from any encroachment from the others. One group is dominant, but a big part of how they maintain their dominance is by keeping the peace between the rest of the groups. The Arab world still functions under this model for the most part. One tribe dominates, but the other tribes run their own turf for the most part.

The opposite of this is compulsory assimilation, where everyone is blended into one identity. The English banning Welsh and other local languages from government is an example of how the ruling group can force assimilation. The Romans would settle barbarians in the Empire with the goal of assimilation. This meant sprinkling them around in small groups so they would adopt the local language and customs and lose their native identity. Their inability to do this with the Goths is often held up as one of the causes of the collapse.

The third most common method for confronting the problems of diversity is soft segregation where you end up with a multi-tier social order. The dominant group gets all the privileges and benefits of society. The lower orders are barred from positions of authority and perhaps have fewer legal rights. Muslims prefer this model. Europeans used to treat the Jews as a guest race of people, with limited legal rights. In America, this was the mode employed after the Civil War to manage blacks. In the North it was implicit and in the South it was explicit.

None of these models are seen as legitimate or moral by modern Western leaders. America still maintains reservations for Indians, but that’s only because no one knows how to get rid of them. The Europeans still have a gypsy problem, but like the Indian problem, no one knows what to do about it so it is ignored. Otherwise, the West has no interest in segregation or compulsory assimilation when it comes to the challenges of diversity. In fact, diversity is viewed as an unalloyed good so any attempt to temper it is forbidden.

That has resulted in the current way of meeting the challenge of diversity in the West, which is Proportionalism. This is where the costs of violating liberal principles are weighed against the perceived benefits from violating the principles. For instance, legal discrimination is wrong as a principle, but quotas and set asides allegedly have benefits that are too valuable to pass up, so the state engages in active racism in hiring. Because the scales are entirely subjective based on one’s point of view and the moment in time, there can be no fixed rules, just a mindset.

A good recent example is the Freddy Gray case in Baltimore. The city charged every cop involved with the highest possible count, even though little evidence suggested they did anything wrong, much less deliberately criminal. The victim was black so the city violated the rights of the cops and ruined their lives because the city thought the benefits outweighed the rights of the cops. In other words, naked racism to counter the consequences of perceived racism was justified based on expected outcomes in this particular case.

The result of this mode of thought, this philosophical outlook, is a thicket of rules and precedents that are incoherent in isolation because they exist only in the moment. America is a land where you can be sued for discriminating against blacks in favor of whites, while simultaneously being sued for discriminating against whites in favor of blacks. Since there are no set rules that apply all the time, you could lose both cases in the same courthouse. It all depends upon the judge and the circumstances.

There’s a word for arbitrary application of the law. It’s called tyranny. That is the inevitable end of Proportionalism because benefits and costs are always subjective. The City of Baltimore looked at the lives of six police officers and said they were not worth another riot. The family of the police officers had a very different valuation of these things. The dozens of dead black guys would probably have a different calculation, but the police went on a silent strike so those black guys got killed and no longer have a say.

The reason tyranny eventually collapses is it devolves into a recursive use of resources in order to maintain itself. Once the law becomes arbitrary, the violations of the law, and the willingness to flaunt flout the law, increase exponentially. The only thing everyone knows is that voluntary compliance has no benefit. This requires an exponential growth of authority to maintain order. Eventually, the cost of order exceeds the resources available to the authority and collapse ensues. It’s why authoritarian regimes tend not to live long past their founder.

The New Cold War?

One of the more curious parts of the American presidential campaign is the furious side battle over how to deal with the Russians. Many Republicans have adopted the neo-conservative line that Putin is some combination of Stalin, Hitler and that third grade bully who put gum in their hair. They are incapable of seeing Putin as anything but an inhuman evil. This says more about the Republican-aligned publications and think tanks, which have come to be dominated by the neo-cons, than anything else.

Trump has taken a less provocative stance than most Republicans so that has all the professional loonies out howling in the streets. Part of this is simply due to the anti-Trump virus that has infected Official Conservatism™, but it also reveals something about the political class. While neo-cons have always had greater influence over the Republicans, they currently dominate the foreign policy establishment. It was under Obama, after all, that Victoria Nuland helped throw the Ukraine into turmoil.

The puzzle is why the neo-cons have an obsession with the Russians. The Cold War has been over for a long time and the Russians are not much of a threat to anyone. They have a lot of nukes, but what reason would they have to nuke anyone? The Russian ruling class is living like Saudi Royals, mostly from selling natural resources to the Europeans. They control roughly 40% of the natural gas supply to Europe and that accounts for 68% of Russian exports. That means the Russians are in no hurry to stop selling gas to the rest of Europe.

Part of it is good old fashioned professional inertia. People like Frederick Kagan, Donald Kagan and Robert Kagan (husband of Victoria Nuland) have organized their lives around opposition to the Russians. They’re not alone. The whole neo-conservative project, as a political movement, was mostly about opposition to the Soviets. Most of the men who lead the neo-conservative cause these days are old men who started out in life as Cold War hawks. When the Soviets collapsed, they did not find a new career. They simply found new reasons to demonize the Russians.

There’s also an undeniable tribal flavor to it. Almost all neocons are Jews and specifically Russian Jews. There has always been a strong anti-Russian strain within American Jewry that dates back to to when Russian Jews started migrating to America. It’s not entirely irrational, given the way Jews were treated by the Czars. But, there has always been a divide within American Jewry. One one side are German Jews who emigrated in the 19th century and largely blended into the ruling class. On the other side are the Russian Jews who were treated like poorer relations.

While all of this is interesting background, it is no reason to restart the Cold War and there are some dissenters who think the neo-cons are nuts. Some on the Right point to the fact the neo-cons were outlandishly wrong about the Muslims and should not be trusted with Russia policy. Then there are critics from the Left who also think the neo-cons are nuts, but they mostly think we’re better off doing business with the Russians. Stephen Cohen is the most prominent voice on the Left warning that a new Cold War with Russia is a terrible idea.

There’s another element that explains the neo-con obsession with Putin. Irving Kristol’s brand of conservatism was intended to be forward looking and anti-traditionalist. It’s not an accident that the neo-cons are forever chirping about happy warriors and optimistic conservatism. They see traditionalism as pessimistic and limiting. Whatever else you want to say about Putin, he is very much in the tradition of European conservatism, which is traditionalist and limiting. The state is to defend citizens from one another, not guide them to the glorious future where they can reach their full potential.

Then there’s globalism, which has become something of a religion for western ruling elites. Irving Kristol’s brand of politics has easily folded into the globalist fantasies of American policy makers, because it gives the naked money grab the veneer of humanitarianism. The trillion dollar boondoggle that was the Iraq War was tarted up as an effort to install democracy and liberalism in the Muslim world. It’s a lot easier to loot your country’s middle-class when you are convinced it is to make the world a better place.

Even if the neo-cons continue to dominate the debate, it takes two to tango and there’s plenty of reasons to think the Russians are not all that interested in a new Cold War. Russian per capita GDP is $13,000. The poorest state in America is at $35,000, while the poorest state in the EU is Bulgaria at $18,000. Russia is not Albania, but it is a very poor country relative to the West. It’s also a country with horrible demographics and wide spread drug and alcohol problems. They also have a Muslim problem that gets little attention. In other words, the Russians are in no condition for a Cold War.

Who Killed Seth Rich?

The internet is a breeding ground for conspiracy theories because it allows the like minded to confirm one another’s suspicions, even when those suspicions are nuts. That’s the way conspiracy theories work. That does mean all conspiracy theories are false. There are actual conspiracies and sometimes the explanation for some event involves shadowy elements working in secret. Marcus Junius Brutus the Younger is known to us because he was involved in a conspiracy that led to the assassination of Julius Caesar.

The murder of Seth Rich, a 27-year-old staffer at the Democratic National Committee at 4:30 AM in Washington DC is one of those events that is catnip for the conspiratorial. Throw in Assange claiming the guy was a source for WikiLeaks and it is not hard to start wondering if maybe there’s more here than just a horrible tragedy. As The Daily Mail reports, a lot of people associated with the Clintons have died under mysterious circumstances, often to the benefit of the Clintons.

What is known is whoever shot this guy did not rob him. They found the victims possessions, including his wallet, on him when they found the body. Maybe he had something else worth killing over that has gone unreported, but there’s no way to know it. The victim was shot in the back so he was either running away or had no idea the killer was behind him. The news reports say the victim had defensive wounds but that sounds like people watching too much television. Since DC does not release autopsy reports, there’s no way to verify it.

Talk to any cop who has worked the ghetto and they will tell you that the victims usually know their killer. Murder is almost always a crime of the moment. Person A gets into a beef with person B, who pulls a weapon and kills person A. Alternatively, there is a money or sex dispute that leads one person to kill their partner or associate. Even premeditated homicide almost always involves people that know one another. Even cold blooded killers need a reason and there’s rarely a reason to kill total strangers randomly selected off the street.

That’s why so many are tempted to jump to the conclusion that this was not a typical crime. This guy was not in the drug trade and he had nothing in his personal life that would indicate a crime of passion. He also lived in a sporty part of town where the cops do a good job keeping the streets safe. Calling it “recently gentrified”, as if it is still dodgy, is just what young urban hipsters like to say so it does not sound like they live in an urban daycare center, which is the case here. This guy was killed in one of the truly safe parts of Washington DC.

On the other hand, murder for hire is not a pointless act. If you just want someone dead, then you want it to look like an accident or a street crime. Otherwise, you are bringing unnecessary attention to something you want to keep quiet. In this case, shooting and robbing the guy would look like a robbery. You do it with a cheap handgun that you can toss in a nearby sewer, assuming the cops will find it. They always look at the local drains cause criminals tend to throw their weapons there, thinking no one will find them.

The thing that leads me to suspect something other than random street crime is the hour. Thug life is mostly nocturnal, but these people are not vampires who go to bed at dawn. They roll out of bed at noon and hang out into the small hours, but they are off the streets by two o’clock, even on weekends. They may still be up partying, but they are not out robbing people at 4:30 AM in a swanky part of town. It’s possible, but it strikes me as implausible. In the ghetto, just before sun up is the safest and most quiet part of the day.

The point here is that there is no obvious answer, based on the facts that are known. When a white bread honky turns up with holes in him just before dawn, it is natural to assume it is something other than street crime. The most probable answer is he was involved with something or someone that got him killed. Maybe it was a jealous boyfriend, a dispute at work or some sort of neighborhood beef that got out of hand, but it was most likely not two thugs trying rob him of his iPhone. It’s possible, but not very likely.

That does not mean Hillary Clinton did it, but that’s no more or less possible than the street thug theory. If you are going to murder people or have them murdered, political power is a pretty good reason, maybe the best reason. That said, people at that level can afford well trained and qualified hit-men. They don’t need to rely on amateurs who make it look like an assassination. Even crack hit-men have bad days so it is possible, but it just strikes me as slightly less plausible than the random street crime theory.