TV Off The Grid

When I had a TV subscription, my viewing habits were fairly simple. In the evening, I would put on the television and try to find a sporting event. If nothing of interest was on, then I would flip around the channels until I found something, but more often than not, I’d settle for a re-run of some show like Seinfeld. I never had the patience for channel surfing, so much of it went unnoticed and unwatched. Most of the time, the television was just background noise while I did something else like screw around on-line.

When you cut the cord, television watching becomes something different than the ever present background noise. If you want to watch something, you have to think about what you want to watch. Then you have to figure out the source. I’m an Amazon Prime customer so I have their library of movies and TV shows. I also have access to the dark underworld of pirate sources. The Kodi app for the Amazon Fire gives me access to television channels from all over the world. I’m spoiled for choice.

Anyway, since I have never been much of a TV watcher, I ask people for recommendations and then find a source for them. Someone I know has been binge watching a program called The Walking Dead. He told me it was OK. I had some vague recollections about it from a few years ago. A bunch of people started writing about the best tactics for dealing with a zombie attacks. There was probably a National Review article on the conservative case for surrendering to the rage zombies.

I downloaded the first season and I can see why people like it. You can’t think about the zombies as they make no sense. The claim is a virus turns the dead into walking attack corpses, but that’s silly. The human body starts to decay at death, so in a few weeks, the zombies would have fallen to pieces. A supernatural explanation, like the war skeletons from Jason and the Argonauts gets around that problem, but I’m not the target audience for this stuff. Maybe the writers don’t want to spend time on the science of zombies.

The funny thing about that though is the novel that kicked off the whole end times plague genre had a simple solution that would probably make the story better. I Am Legend used a disease that turned people into something like vampires. They were still alive, but they just liked killing people and eating them. The cause of the vampire-ness was a blood disease. There was also an evolutionary angle as not all of the infected became murderous ghouls. Some retained their humanity and their faculties.

Doing some research on-line, I learned that the show is very popular and has a devoted following, even after seven seasons. I’m only through one season, but I can see why people like it. Most of our video entertainments are just poorly disguised lectures about how white people suck and men are terrible. This show is just a good drama for adults to enjoy with their kids. The men are men and the women are women. More important, the writers seem to respect the male and female characters by writing them properly.

For some reason, the show reminded me of the series Justified that was popular half a dozen years ago. That was another show that  was just good old fashioned drama aimed at adults looking to be entertained. The fact that Hollywood is able to make these sorts of programs means they make the PC crap on purpose. It’s not that they are just a bunch of moonbats making what they like. It’s that they really want to make lectures so they do it as often as they can. These normal programs are happy accidents that pay the bills.

That last part is probably a huge driver for Hollywood. One of the things you learn when you go off the grid for your TV is that there is a lot of crap produced every year. I have an app that let’s me scan through all movies released by year. I bet most people have not heard of 90% of them. Anyone heard of Lazer Team, released last year? How about Doris, staring Sally Field, who I was sure was dead. How is that people allegedly good at making movies cannot see that these are terrible movie ideas? How do they get made?

The most likely answer is the business works on the theory that if they can get financing for a project, they make it, even if it is hilariously stupid. It’s like the venture capital business. The winners pay for the many losers. As a result, even dumb ideas like a King Arthur movie with black guys as the knights gets made. Of course, the fanatics who want to make lectures are driven to get the financing so they can deliver their lecture. That’s why so much of what is made looks like a deliberate insult to the intended audience.

That’s the other strange thing about all the terrible shows is that Hollywood has a massive amount of data on audiences. They use this to market test all sorts of things about movie and TV projects. Big budget movies are now written by committees, that include marketing people and data analysts. It seems like the obvious step is to use the data to determine what is worth financing. There can be no model that says a movie like Catfight has a chance to earn enough to pay for the camera rentals.

Maybe that’s what’s over the next hill as people cut the cord and the business model begins to unravel. The music business had to adapt when digital technology broke up their oligopoly. Maybe a similar thing will happen with video. We’ll get fewer shows, but they will be driven by market research, rather than the whims of studios. Or, maybe they just pay everyone less and keep pumping out crap movies like the Brothers Grimsby. As long as there are suckers with money, Hollywood will be happy to take their money.

One final thought on this topic. For those thinking of going off the grid for television, be prepared for your viewing habits to radically change. I found I watch less sportsball than when I had a sub. Even the limited effort to find a sports stream is enough to have me looking for other things to do in the evening. On the other hand, you will binge watch a series, which means spending a rainy weekend on the couch watching a full season of a TV show. You watch less, but more, if that makes sense.

American Alawites

I was googling around trying to remember the name of the funeral song for Pinochet and I found this video. The Chilean army uniforms got my attention. I could not recall anyone claiming that Pinochet was Hitler or even antisemitic. Out of curiosity I searched around for anything on his views regarding the Jews. I found this twenty year old article from the Jewish World Review. It turns out that the Jews thought The General was good for the Jews. This bit is what piqued my interest.

It is possible to say with a high degree of certainty that despite the prominent presence of Jews in Allende’s government, an important number of Jews welcomed Pinochet. Moreover, when Allende was elected president in 1970, 8,000 of Chilean’s 30,000 Jews fled the country, mostly to Israel, fearful of losing their property and assets to the socialist regime. Furthermore, when Pinochet took over three years later, many of those who had fled returned to Chile; however, other Jews fled the country.

The casual way in which a total lack of national loyalty is mentioned suggests it is just the way in which Jews view their relationship to the host country. Whether or not Allende was good or bad for Chile was inconsequential. What mattered was protecting their property and assets. There are other countries, after all. It is not the way most people would look at things. Your patriotic duty would require you to put nation ahead of personal gain, but more important, where would you go even if you threw in the towel on your country?

Jews have always been accused of having dual loyalties and the charge is not without some merit. It’s also not without good cause. After all, if you are a tiny minority living in lands where the host population is often less than welcoming, a high degree of clannishness is a necessary tool for survival. That loyalty to the group over all else naturally means a lack of loyalty to the host population. Both Jews and gypsies have managed to thrive as tiny minority groups, largely because of intense group loyalty.

Of course, clannishness is a bit easier when the host population is hostile. In America, the host population has always been indifferent to Jews. The first wave that came over in the 19th century largely blended in with the locals. In areas where they maintained a unique cultural identity, German Jews tended to conduct themselves like the WASP elite. Steve Sailer has done a bunch of stuff on Jewish golf club culture and the divide between the first wave German Jews and the second wave eastern Jews.

If hostility from the majority helps minorities maintain group loyalty, then the lack of hostility works against it. In modern America, there’s no such thing as Irish or Italian culture anymore. It has been commercialized and homogenized out of existence. It is why Jews work so hard to perpetuate the idea that they have faced terrible discrimination in America, despite all the evidence to the contrary. Maintaining the belief that the goyim are about to go full blown Nazi at any minute helps maintain group solidarity.

The thing is though, Jews are not a minority living on the fringes of American life. A scan of who controls the high ground in America shows that Jews are wildly over represented in the law, culture, media and finance. It really is quite incredible. Close to half of the owners of pro sports teams are Jewish. Roughly 85% of Jews attend college and 44% of Jewish households earn $100,000 or more. The statistics are rather incredible, when you consider that Jews are just 2% of the population.

American policy makers struggle to understand why Bashar al-Assad of Syria tenaciously hangs onto power. He has been offered a deal to leave Syria and live out his life in luxury somewhere in the West. Instead, he fights and his people fight, despite being outnumbered by the Sunnis. The Alawites are just 12% of the population, but they have been able to dominate Syria largely by remembering they used to be an oppressed minority. There was a time when Alawites had no legal rights. Righteous indignation is a powerful weapon.

This is relevant to Jews in America because they have manufactured a history of oppression in America as a way to maintain group loyalty and cohesion. This not only allows them to prosper, but it is a strong motivation to be wary of anything resembling group loyalty anywhere else. In a country that is becoming increasing fragmented, and headed for majority minority status, this will eventually be seen as hostility. Put another way, what has so far been good for the Jews could turn out to be really bad for the Jews.

Whether or not that’s how things unfold is hard to know. The appearance of “renegade Jews”, the term David Horowitz applied to Bill Kristol, could be a sign that Jewish identity and group loyalty is breaking apart. The whole neocon experiment looks increasing like a suicide cult. The folks at Commentary Magazine may be ready to close the books on mankind, but it is unlikely the rest of the Tribe is ready to join them. The paranoia over Chabad suggests group loyalty is not holding up.

The world is ruled by numbers. The Syrian Alawites have used cunning and ruthlessness to rule over the majority population. The American Alawites have used superior cognitive skills and the generosity of an open society to occupy the high ground in culture, politics, finance and the law. Maybe that’s enough and it is the natural order of things. The grinding war in Syria, however, suggests otherwise. But, Assad remains in power and the Sunni remain divided, so maybe numbers are not everything.

The Reconquest

Anthropology tells us that early modern humans slowly populated what is now sub-Saharan Africa and then began to migrate out into the rest of the world. Whether this was out of curiosity, the search for food or population pressure is unknown, but it was probably some combination of all three. The most likely route was along the western coast of the Red Sea and then into the Eastern Mediterranean. From there, humans slowly fanned out across the globe. It’s all speculation, but that’s the logical route out of Africa.

The point here is the first wave of human migration was south to north. Humans appear to have made it as far north as Siberia and Scandinavia before changes in climate forced people back south again. There are some who think that the populations to the north had acquired better cognitive and maybe even physical tools that allowed them to migrate south and displace the populations in the more temperate zones. The changes in climate had the effect of improving the human populations in Asia and Europe.

That may be debatable, but what is not debated is that large scale human migrations change both the invaded and the invader. The people being conquered are either massacred or bred out by the winning tribes. On the other hand, the invading people tend to borrow things from the conquered people, including genetics from the female line. The Irish say the Vikings took the best looking women with them to Iceland, which is why Icelandic women are some of the most beautiful in the world.

A good example of this may be Islam. Historians have assumed Islam grew out of the polytheistic religions of Arabia in the late 6th century. While the details of Mohamed’s life are not clear, it has generally been accepted that he was a real person, who lived around Mecca in the 6th century. It has been assumed that Islam was an Arab response to the growth of Judaism and various Christian sects. In time, Islam spread through the Middle East, as the Arabs conquered the region.

There’s some interesting revisionism of the origins of Islam and the accuracy of the alleged Arab conquests. This New English Review article from a few years back is a nice summary of it. The archaeological evidence suggests that Islam was a Persian implementation of a Jewish-Christian sect that disappeared after the Council of Nicea in 325. Persian coins from the period, for example, when Mohamed was allegedly leading the Islamification of Arabia, have Christian symbols on them, in addition to Persian symbols.

The revisionist think Eastern Christians migrated into Arabia and Persia. In time, their form of Christianity evolved into a monotheistic religion of the Persians. According to this line of thinking, the Persians actually conquered the region and spread this hybrid Christianity that would evolve into Islam. It was only later, when the Arabs took over for the fading Persians, that the tale of Mohamed was created, as well as the story of the Arab conquests. Islam as an off-shoot of a now extinct form of Christianity is not implausible.

What’s interesting about both approaches to the origins of Islam is the base assumption that it filled a void that existed within Arab populations. Christianity and Judaism were the dominant religions of the Near East, but those people were the hated rivals of the Arabs and Persians. A need for a unifying faith to compete with the monotheism of their rivals was probably understood by Persians and Arab rulers. Religion has always been the business of kings, so it is reasonable to think they encouraged this development.

It’s also interesting that Islam most likely evolved from a mix of Judaism, Christianity and other ancient religions. What may have started out as a Jewish heresy was transformed by the people into a religion that was useful to them. Put another way, Christianity made its way into a less than fertile land, but adapted and mutated until it was something that could thrive. The fact that Islam has not spread too far past the boundaries of the people who created it suggests something about religion in general and Islam in particular.

When you look at what is happening to Europe, there are some similarities to the Arabs and Persians in late antiquity. The attempts to replace Christianity with the sterile bureaucratic super state have largely failed. Falling birth rates and an unwillingness to resist invasion are signs of a people who have no purpose. The average European today lives for carnal pleasures and the acquisition of goods. There’s a void in the center of European life and perhaps Islam is what is going to fill it.

It could very well be that the Muslim invasion of Europe is the end of a cycle that was started by Emperor Constantine when he made Christianity the religion of his empire and bound the Church to Rome. The losers at Nicea wandered off into the desert, presumably to be forgotten, but instead, their decedents are back to reclaim Europe. Like the people who migrated north and then returned ahead of the ice sheets, the Muslims are coming into Europe armed with a purpose, against which the locals have no answer.

Alternatively, maybe the people in charge of Europe, away from the public and the press, know that their people need a religion. Maybe like the Persian king Chosroes II, who historians are sure practiced a form of Christianity, the leaders of Europe are inviting Islam into their lands, even if it means taking in Muslims. After all, the Archbishop of Canterbury seem pretty keen on Islam. It’s unlikely that there is a secret mosque in Brussels for the EU rulers, but maybe they think some form of Islam would not be such a bad thing.

Regardless, we may be seeing the start of a reconquest, of sorts. Instead of Christianity making a come back in the West, it is the forgotten version, the one many think was the first and therefore the correct version of Christianity. Islam as practiced today will never work in Europe, but it could certainly evolve into something that does work. Maybe what’s happening is that the old original form of Christianity is coming back, but first as its foreign incarnation. In time, it will evolve into something the West can use.

American Vendée

When we had schools, Americans learned about the French Revolution, mostly as a peasant uprising against the king. The storming of the Bastille is usually characterized as the riff-raff reaching their breaking point and taking control of a the dungeon the king used to imprison his political opponents.  While the fortress was a symbol of royal authority, it was hardly a tool of royal oppression. The Bastille, when it was stormed, had just seven prisoners. There were four forgers, two lunatics and one degenerate aristocrat inside.

The truth is, the French Revolution was a cosmopolitan affair, led by men who were educated and well off, relative to the peasantry. The Jacobin Club was not for hod carriers and sewer workers. It was lawyers and academics. These were the men who had internalized the ideas of the Enlightenment and began to think about the political framework that should spring from those ideas. Of course, it was centered in Paris, which was where the cognitive elites were centered. These were urban revolutionaries.

That does not mean the countryside had no role in things. It’s just that the waves of change radiated out from Paris.The key insight of the Jacobins was to send representatives out into the smaller towns and cities to organize radicals and incite rebellion. It was a stroke of genius that has been copied by radicals and revolutionaries ever since. Many rural peasants welcomed the revolution as it meant some degree of freedom and the redistribution of lands seized from the Church and aristocracy.

As is always the case with radicalism, they went too far and were soon alienating the people they claimed to champion. The Civil Constitution of the Clergy was passed on July 12, 1790, requiring all clerics to swear allegiance to the French government. The radicals could get away with seizing Church lands, but when they seized the priesthood, the people in the countryside began to resist. The Church was the center of rural life and the foundation of French rural traditional. The radicals were now making war on this.

Imagine you’re living in a farming community and government officials show up and haul away your parish priest because he refuses to swear an oath to the state. Further, those government agents closed the local churches. It would be a lot like the state coming in and telling the Christian baker that they had to celebrate gay marriage and pay for their employee’s abortions. Imagine the government one day saying that your mother and father’s life is no different than two men sharing rent and a bed. Crazy.

The revolt in the Vendée region, on the west coast of France, began with the March 1793 conscription requiring Vendeans to fill their quota of 300,000 men for the army. The enraged populace took up arms and quickly formed a Catholic Army. What started as a demand for reopening the churches and getting their priests back, turned into a Royalist counter rebellion against the Republic. Initially, the Republicans were caught off-guard and the rebels enjoyed some success, even though their army was ill-equipped.

The Republic got its bearings and sent a 45,000 man army to suppress the rebellion and by the fall of that year the rebel army was defeated. The Committee for Public Safety decided that beating the army was not enough and opted for pacification. Whether or not the word “genocide” is appropriate is debatable. Some estimates put the death toll at 400,000 for a population of 800,000. Then there was the “scorched earth” policy of razing the homes of anyone suspected of being a rebel, which was anyone who owned a home.

The War in the Vendée is interesting for a number of reasons, but one important lesson is the fervor of those protecting their way of life is no match for the zeal of the Utopian fanatic building his paradise. The romantic rustics of the countryside were beaten by the savvy fanatics of Paris. It was not just the numbers or the resources. The people of the Vendée were people defending the limits of human conduct, while the Committee For Public Safety was limited only by its imagination. They would do anything to reach the promised land.

Another important lesson is the savagery of Louis Marie Turreau, the French officer sent by the Committee for Public Safety to pacify the region, was the result of righteous enthusiasm for his task. The radicals were murdering their enemies not as a means to end but as an end in itself. For the radical, murder becomes a sacrament. When Turreau inquired about the limits of what he could do to pacify the region, the answer from the committee was “eliminate the brigands to the last man, there is your duty.”

This is something to keep in mind when thinking about the present crisis. The revolt that put Trump in office is a revolt of the provincials. Plenty of Trump voters went to college or have office work. It’s not the old class divide. It is the new class divide. The revolution over the last 25 years has been led by a cosmopolitan elite, based in the coastal cities of America. These are the people dreaming up gay marriage and transgenders, not because they make any sense, but because they offend the sensible provincials out in the suburbs.

It’s comforting to think that the pendulum is swinging back toward normalcy, but it could simply be a rearguard action. The radicals running the American “republic” are no less bloodthirsty and malevolent than those who razed the Vendée. They may not unleash genocidal infernal columns on the suburbs, but they are plenty enthusiastic about importing hordes of foreign peasants to wreak havoc on the people. They are also smart and savvy, masters of the tools of power. But most of all, they have no sense of restraint.

Orks and Beakers

The Orkney Islands are an archipelago off the northeastern coast of Scotland. If you look at a map, they are pretty much due north of what most people think of as England, roughly on the same latitude as Oslo Norway. Archaeologists think the first people to find their way to the islands were Mesolithic nomads about 8000-9000 years ago. The first people to set up camp, most likely, were Neolithic people about 5,000 years ago. Archaeologist have found and dated stone structures from that period so that’s the prevailing theory.

During the Roman invasion of Britain the “King of Orkney” was one of 11 British leaders who is said to have submitted to the Emperor Claudius in AD 43 at Colchester. Whether or not that’s true is hard to say, but it is a cool story. Somewhere in the late Bronze Age or early Iron Age, the islands were either incorporated into the Pictish kingdom or overrun by the Picts. It could simply be that the people thought of themselves as Picts all along and no movement of peoples occurred.

As the Picts faded from the scene, the Norse began to arrive. First as traders and then as raiders, the Norse made the Orkneys a base for their pirate activity, as it was a perfect place from which to launch raids on English coastal towns. Eventually, the Norse began to settle in large numbers. In the 9th century, towns and villages began to change from Orcadian names to Norse names. The assumption has always been that the Norse, given their reputation, either killed off the locals or killed the men and took their women.

Recent genetic data tells a different story. The current population is still about 65% Orcadian, with the rest being Norse. This is not just on the female line. It is on the male line as well, suggesting that the Norse just blended into the local population. The thing is, even though a relatively small number of Norse settled into the Orkneys, they did not assimilate into the local culture. Instead, it was the Norse who dominated. Their language, their customs and even their religious practices displaced the native Orcadian culture.

It is one example of how a small population can conqueror a larger population by imposing their culture on the vanquished people.  By the times the Norse arrived, Pictish culture was dying out. Celtic missionaries had started to arrive, beginning the process of Christianization. On the other hand, the Norse were bursting at the seems with cultural confidence. They were sailing forth to raid coastal cities in England and Europe and they were taking lands from old Anglo-Saxon kingdoms. The Vikings were on the rise.

The reason this is of any importance is the combination of a fading culture and the arrival of an ascendant one can result in the former being replaced quickly by the latter. People go with a winner, especially the women. When the Nazis occupied the Low Countries, they found plenty of local women willing to take German lovers. The same was true in France, despite the centuries long hostility between the French and German people. Women naturally look for security and that means picking men from the winning team.

This may seem obvious, but the flat-earth types who rule over us have been insisting for decades that culture is transportable. People are the same everywhere and when one group comes up with some new idea, it can easily be transported to other societies. The big example was Beaker culture. The archaeological record has their unique form of pottery all over Europe, but the further east you go, the older the examples. Put another way, the oldest stuff is found in central Europe, suggesting it as the origin.

This would suggest these people migrated West, but that would bring up things about the human condition our betters would prefer were not true so the official theory was that they lent their cultural habits to people across Europe. It is known as the “pots, not people” theory. For some mysterious reason, their unique pot making became the rage of Europe, like a pop song, and spread West. It’s funny, but a big part of official knowledge depends upon mysterious, unexplained forces driving natural processes.

Anyway, the cultural diffusion theory took a big hit when a new genetic study was recently published showing that the people in the West were related to the steppe people associated with the Beaker culture. It means that humans migrated West from the steppe and either conquered the people already in Europe or dominated them in the same way the Norse came to dominate the Orcadians. They moved in and imposed their ways on the local people or they wiped out the local people, if that was required.

The history of humanity is that humans have migrated from place to place since the first humans left Africa. When a group of humans encountered another group, they would at first be on good terms with the people they encountered, maybe conduct trade and adapt to local customs. But, when the numbers of the new arrivals reached a certain level, they went from migrants to invaders and then to conquerors. The progression has always been traders, raiders and then conquerors.

That’s why when our ruling lunatics howl about being nations of immigrants, what they are really saying, even though they are too fevered to know it, is that we are nations of conquerors. The tribes in place today, at some point pushed out or wiped out the tribes that were there yesterday. It’s not always the case. Some times the natives muster the will to thwart the raiders and discourage further incursion. Sometimes, like the Late Bronze Age Egyptians, they just had the will to resist the conquerors and maintain their culture.

But first you have to want it.

The Blinkered Class

Since the 1960’s, maybe earlier, the American academy has said that America is an anti-intellectual country. I first heard this said when I was a freshman in college. A professor said that America does not have academics or experts in politics like Europeans. Instead, intellectuals are kept locked up in the academy. This opinion appears to have formed in the post war years and became an article of faith in the 60’s. This was all before my time, but it strikes me as something the Boomers would have cooked up.

I always associate this attitude with the false worldliness that is common on the Left, particularly among Progressive politicians.The Clintons were two hayseeds from the Ozarks, but they carried on as if they were citizens of the world. Obama has a habit of pronouncing foreign words with the foreign accent associated with the word. He was raised abroad and never picked up the basics of another language, just the funny accents, like a bad comic from the 70’s.

Americans are anti-intellectual, but very much pro-expert. Foreigners often remark on this weird quirk, which is an English habit we inherited from the mother country. The Brits are nuts about experts. Have a problem around the house? Go find a man in a shed, who is a specialist at that particular problem. We have a bias against generalist and we have bias in favor of the practical application of knowledge. Learning a bunch of esoteric stuff just for the sake of learning it strikes most Americans as a bit pointless and dishonest.

When it comes to the topic of anti-intellectualism, the focus should be on the chattering classes, which in America operates as the megaphone for public policy experts. The vast managerial class that controls all aspects of society listens to these people. Most Americans, for example, don’t bother watching the chat shows and cable news channels, other than when something big happens. On the other hand, the managerial class, particularly the vast army of government bureaucrats, pay close attention.

It’s why the chattering skulls appear to live in a bubble, divorced from what is happening in America. Their lives are devoted to those who pay attention to them. They write and talk about what they know to people who live and work in politics. It’s why Charles Murray is treated like Marco Polo by the managerial class. He is one of the few to wander off campus and visit the country. His observations about Americans are read like Jonathan Swift, by the intended audience. Most probably think he is a fiction writer.

This obtuseness is everywhere in the chattering classes. This post I saw on NR reads like a parody. The guy who wrote it gives off a Rip Van Winkle vibe, as if he has been asleep for the last few decades. The PC terror campaigns waged in corporations and on social media are well documented. The people in the chattering classes, on the other hand, are just noticing. The article that is the subject of the post is worse. It reads like an essay for the Efficiency Society. Someone should send him Vox Day’s book.

This post, by the retired Marxist Ron Radosh, is another example of the insularity of the chattering classes. He is long past his expiry date so maybe he can be forgiven for not noticing that those “conservatives” are not conservative. They are Trotskyites just like him. They wandered over to the GOP because they feared the return of the Tsar, but otherwise, they retained all of their Progressive inclinations. The only people unaware of this are those in the chattering classes.

It is not just the B and C level talking heads. This post by big shot libertarian economist Tyler Cowen is a master work of juvenile vacuity. His great insight is that people don’t like paying for their own health care. He thinks Democrats are refusing to acknowledge this. Everything about the Democrat Party over the last century has been based on the free lunch, yet Cowen suspects they are trying to hide this from us. Cowen is a sheep in sheep’s clothing, by posing as an intellectual pretending to be an anti-intellectual.

Wu Zetian is credited with expanding and developing the imperial exam system during the Zhou dynasty. Wu could also be considered the first power-skirt, or perhaps the first power-gown. The exam system was used to recruit and train the best and brightest to work in the imperial administration. During the Song dynasty, the system was formalized throughout China. It was highly competitive, as it was the only way for an ambitious person to gain status in Chinese society. China became a land of scholar-bureaucrats.

The system also became increasing narrow, rewarding the memorization of select philosophical texts, to the exclusion of more practical knowledge. The result was a boiling off of the curious and critical. The one sure way to lose your place was to ask questions or be too curious. The system was great at promoting and enforcing conformity, but it resulted in a ruling class lacking the necessary technical skills to constructively address the world. It resulted in a ruling class that prized not noticing above all else.

A good example of how this warped the Chinese intellectual class, is the story of the first telescope brought to China by Western missionaries. The Chinese were duly impressed, but instead of using to understand the heavens, they wanted to use it for better fortune telling. This story is often cited as an example of how centuries of mandatory conformity can cripple an otherwise smart people. It is also often cited by modern population geneticist as an example of what is happening today with genetics.

Pulling the threads together, what seems to be happening in our chattering classes, and our academic classes as well, is a narrowing of thought to the point where the most prized ability is never looking up from the approved text. You cannot comment about the fly on your friend’s face if you never look at his face. In order to achieve unity and collegiality, our managerial class is adopting a monocular political ideology that screens out applicants at the college level, and boils off non-conformists, who slip by the gate keepers.

Again, it is ironic that the person credited with the imperial exam system was a woman, given that the modern exam system is increasingly dominated by women. It used to be that college was for men to acquire skills. Now it is a place for women to learn the rules and how to enforce them. It’s not a surprise that our intellectuals, the chattering classes, are increasingly blinkered. Rare is the scholar who possess anything resembling useful skills. Instead, they memorize the rules and how to cleverly restate them.

The imperial exam system served China well, but only after she conquered all of her neighbors and unified the Han people. The system was about locking in the gains of the past. What that says about the modern managerial class is open to debate. Perhaps they are solidifying control as globalism supersedes the nation state. Perhaps, like we see in modern business, the arrival of the SJW signals collapse. Regardless, we seem to be heading for anti-intellectualism, driven by the product of the managerial exam system.

Sweet Home Venezuela

News brings word that things in Venezuela, over the last few weeks, have gotten as ugly as a West Virginia tailgate. Instead of people throwing bags of urine at one another, which is the custom in Morgantown, the locals are throwing “poop bombs” at the police. In the age of fake news, this could be a totally made up story, but it is not implausible. For some reason, flinging crap at people is something that comes naturally to people. I guess it is the ultimate sign of disrespect. Or, maybe some people just like throwing poop.

Searching the archive, I see I have never written a post about Venezuela and I have mentioned the place just eight times in three years. Given that I have cranked out 1.4 million words in three years, it is same to assume that Venezuela does not rank very high on my list of interests. The one interesting thing about the place, at least to me, is they have some of the most dangerous prisons on earth. Each prison is a self-regulating island, where the prisoners run everything inside, and the guards make sure they stay inside.

For a while, American libertarians tried hard to make Hugo Cavez a bogeyman worth our attention and Venezuela an example of what happens when you anger the god’s of Von Mises. Chavez tried hard to do his part, but the day of the macho socialist dictator has past, at least for American elites. The ideal leader for the managerial elite is the childless powerskirt or the sexually ambiguous fop. Chavez just reminded the swells of the guy that cuts their grass. It’s hard to make a bogeyman out of Pablo the lawn guy.

Chavez was a ridiculous gasbag, for sure, but Venezuela is not exactly Wellesley Massachusetts either. When Chavez came to power, the per capita GDP was roughly $5,000. The average IQ is 84, which is in the same band as most Arab countries. There’s not a lot of human capital, but they have oil that is easy to access. By the time Chavez shuffled off this mortal coil, per capita GDP was over $12,000. How much of that made it to the people is another story. In all probability, the oil profits were stolen.

This is a familiar pattern in low-IQ countries. The relatively small cohort of smart people have no illusions about their ability to elevate their people. In fact, they are usually taught this from birth. Instead of making their country better, they make their own lives better by exploiting the mass of stupid people around them. The per capita GDP of Equatorial Guinea is the same as Venezuela, but the people live like cavemen, while the Esanguii clan of my good friend Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo live like royalty.

The point is that the ceiling for places like Venezuela is not very high, relative to the West and their capacity for honest government is also limited. Strangely, countries like Venezuela are not made better by vast natural wealth. Instead they are made worse because they have something worth stealing and something worth stealing is worth killing for too. The result is the people running the place will kill as many people as possible to maintain control of the nation’s oil wealth.

It’s not the policies or institutions. It’s the people in charge of the place. It’s not that they are misguided or in error. They know exactly what they are doing. They are big fish and they are doing what big fish always do and that’s eat the small fish, which happen to be the population of low-IQ Mestizos. The fact that they are willing to starve their own people tells you they are not the sort of guys worried about the nuances of tax policy. They are hard men running a rough country the hard way.

The other thing worth mentioning is Venezuelans are not campus snowflakes. The murder rate is twice that of our worst cities. It’s hard to know the exact figures. The government is so corrupt, no one can trust their numbers. Even so, it is one of the most dangerous countries on earth. It is safe to assume that the people are willing to employ rough justice, but somehow they are unable to do anything about their government. There are protests and minor street rebellions, but not at a level high enough to destabilize the government.

Maybe things just need to get a bit worse before the people throw over their rulers or maybe the people in charge have such an edge that the people can never throw over their rulers. Perhaps we have reached a point where technology has allowed even a wildly corrupt ruling class to maintain power in the face of popular unrest. They can use spies, mass media propaganda and control of commerce to keep a lid on things. We may have reached a point where revolution is impossible, even in a craphole like Venezuela.

The news tells us that Venezuelans are eating zoo animals. Again, it could be made up, but there is no doubt there are serious food shortages. If a relatively violent people are eating their pets, yet unwilling to turn on the local officials, what are the odds that the pampered pussies of Western nations will push back against their rulers? Our superiors are smarter and better able to keep us fat, dumb and happy. The lesson of Venezuela is that our rulers can probably get away with a hell of a lot more, if they want.

Angels and Demons

The general consensus among physical anthropologists is that religion co-evolved with language. By religion, they mean belief, not the highly complex and abstract stuff we now think of as religion. Early humans probably started with supernatural ideas about the forces controlling the parts of the natural world they could see. Then maybe more abstract ideas about what happens to people when they die and the need to properly handle the dead. This is all speculation, but that’s where the evidence seems to point.

Whether or not belief is baked into our genes is debatable, mostly because we don’t know enough about the human genome. The news makes it sound like science has unraveled the mysteries of human DNA and we’re on the verge of creating super babies, but nothing could be further from the truth. There’s also the fact that people continue to insist that believing in Progressive mythology is rational while being a committed Christian is delusional. Once again, Progressive orthodoxy hinders science.

When religion is treated as a subset of mass movements, then the genetic argument for belief becomes more promising. The person who is always caught up in one cause or another is well known. It is not unusual for someone to start out in one thing and end up in its opposite. The Christian, who gets into radical politics and ends up as a spiritual gluten free vegan into hot yoga. Some people are highly prone to getting caught up into mass movements, while others are disinclined to join anything, even when they agree with it.

The true believer latches onto a cause, in part, because of a deep belief in magic or the super natural. The crazy cat lady into aroma therapy will have a long list of wacky reasons why certain smells have magical powers, but it’s still just magic. She does not know. She believes and she gets satisfaction, a psychic reward, by exercising that belief. Half of Iceland believes there are invisible elves on the island, even thought no one has seen an elf. They are invisible, after all. It just feels right to believe they exist.

The ruling class of America seems to be particularly prone to belief in the supernatural, despite their alleged love of science and reason. You see this in their obsession with racism. Our betters talk about racism as if it is a demon spirit. The anointed, invested with the spirit of good-think, are tasked with exhorting the rest of us to resist the Dark Lord of Racism. You see it in this post the other day by VD, regarding the hysteria at Duke Divinity School. Anathea Portier-Young sounds like she is organizing an exorcism.

“Racism is a fierce, ever-present, challenging force, one which has structured the thinking, behavior, and actions of individuals and institutions since the beginning of U.S. history. To understand racism and effectively begin dismantling it requires an equally fierce, consistent, and committed effort” (REI). Phase I provides foundational training in understanding historical and institutional racism. It helps individuals and organizations begin to “proactively understand and address racism, both in their organization and in the community where the organization is working.” It is the first step in a longer process.

Puritan ministers use to talk like that about Satan. Racism is no longer just normal clannishness based on race. Now it is a magical, almost indescribable, force that creeps up on little cat feet to possess the soul of those who are not vigilant. These seminars all have a revival quality to them. The participants are inducted into secret rights that allow them to resist the Dark Lord of Racism and all his works. The exhortation to go forth and preach against the temptations of racism is right out of 17th century Salem.

The late great Eric Hoffer observed that mass movements can get along without a god, but they must always have a devil. Modern Progressives have only a muddled sense of a deity, but they have a devil, as well as a list of lesser demons that do his bidding. Racism is the arch demon in the cosmology of the Left. It is why everything they don’t like is associated with racism. Trump, for example, is one of the least racist guys in public life, but they swear he is the soldier of the Dark Lord of Racism.

The ruins at Göbekli Tepe are interesting for a number of reasons, but one of them is what they suggest about the nature of man. It was assumed that human organization was either out of self-interest or out of a sense of cooperation. It was homo economicus or homo reciprocans. The fact that pre-settlement people came together to build what looks like a religious site, suggests that neither is true. A desire for purpose, beyond the material, may be the force that drives human cooperation beyond the bounds of kinship.

Our ruling class has the same desire for a purpose beyond their extravagant lifestyles as Cloud People. These are people who fully committed to the meritocratic, managerial system. They are true believers. Having abandoned Christianity long ago, the ruling class lurches from cause to cause, looking for a reason to cast themselves as on the side of angels, in the great moral struggle that is the human condition. Lacking a deity, a light to give them purpose, they settle for demons they can slay.

The Credit Monster

King Offa of Mercia is credited with being the first British king to use the mint as a political tool. He gained control of the mint and started striking his own coins under tight regulations. This meant that each coin had a fixed amount of metal and was clearly identified as having come from his mint. Forgers and coin clippers were killed and raw gold, silver and copper had to be sold to the mint in order to be used as a means of exchange. Offa profited from this through something called seigniorage.

It’s a good starting point when thinking about credit money. Imagine you were a shylock in this age and you lent 100 sceat to a local farmer. He agreed to pay you 110 sceat after the harvest. Now, let’s assume he had 100 sceat of his own, but needed your 100 to cover his costs until he could sell his crop. The harvest comes in and he sells his crop at a profit so he can pay you the original 100 plus the vig. Now, the two of you have 210 sceat. In effect, your lending just created 10 sceat out of thin air.

That’s always a hard thing for people to accept, as the number of sceat King Offa was minting did not change. The number of sceat in circulation therefore did not change. Where did the extra money come from? In a hard money world, the amount of currency is fixed or close to it. Credit activities therefore can only work if someone is now short ten sceat in order for you and your farmer client to have acquired the ten sceat in your transaction.The only other option is they magically appeared somewhere or were counterfeited.

This was and is the inherent problem of hard money. When the amount of currency is fixed, the economy can only grow at the expense of someone else. The boom town that is producing pottery is getting rich at the expense of some other town. The money in the latter is moving to the former. At some point, the flow of money into the boom town runs dry and that town goes bust, its money then flowing out to some other boom town, maybe even the bust towns that it had exploited in the boom times.

This may work fine if overall human productivity never changes. In the feudal age, human productivity did not change much and growth was glacial. When human ingenuity is high and we have a shift in technology, then hard money becomes unworkable. There has to be a way to increase the amount of money in circulation to reflect the increase in capital stocks as a result of increased productivity. The solution was fiat money backed by the full faith and credit of the issuing authority.

In theory, this solves a huge problem in human development. It removes the penalty for innovation, by allowing the money supply to grow as human ingenuity increases human productivity. It also discourages hoarding and encourages investing. Hiding gold under the barn does no one much good. Investing the gold in new ideas and projects increases the stock of capital. A cheap way to make bricks means more public works projects can be constructed, thus increasing overall wealth.

The problem, as the libertarians and gold bugs will tell you, is that government always resorts to debasing the currency, by printing up more of it when they over extend. The Romans debased their currency to the point of worthlessness. Medieval monarchs did the same thing during times of war. In the 30 Years War, Ferdinand II paid his armies with debased currency and when it came time for them to pay their taxes, they paid with the worthless currency, thus transferring the problem back to its source.

Fast forward to our time and we are in a age of credit money. Cars are bought on credit. Homes are bought on credit. Business relies on lines of credit. Of course, global finance is all about credit, especially complex credit like derivatives. It is so complex, in fact, that no one really know how much credit is out in the world. Put another way, the supply of money appears to grow itself as needed or at least as needed by the people with the right to grow it. How did Puerto Rico rack up $50 Billion in debt? It’s a mystery, but it happened.

It is too bad that all of the economic historians were killed, as it would be interesting to compare our current age with the Free Banking Era, which lasted from 1837 to 1864 in the US. It was a period of panics and short recessions. The Civil War brought with it the National Banking Act in ’63 and then the Long Depression, which lasted from 1873 to 1879. This was a period somewhat analogous to our own in that national banks functioned like the Federal Reserve, operating as the bank of last resort.

It’s not a perfect analogy, but something worth considering when thinking about where we are now and where we may be heading. Wildcat lending and money creation eventually led to government intervention, which ultimately led to a collapse now known as The Great Depression. The outcome of the Great Depression was the national government once again taking control of the money supply and the velocity of money through bank and security regulations. Maybe that’s the end of this cycle too.

A half dozen years ago, James Rickards wrote a highly readable book on the history of money and currency wars. In it he offered up one possible outcome of the inevitable currency war that may have already started. He suggested that a global currency based on a basket of energy products could become the reserve currency of the world. That makes some sense as the world runs on oil, gas and coal, but that sounds a lot like hard money. Every country will be tempted to flood the markets with oil, gas and coal.

Another possibility is a global central bank that functions like the Fed, but with a mandate limited to maintaining a steady money supply and regulating global banking. This idea has been kicking around for a while and relies on the expanded use of special drawing rights. This fits in neatly with the overall push for global governance, independent of popularly elected governments. That’s a clever way of saying it will be the financial hub of the post-democratic world.

It’s hard to know. People in the 19th century knew the system was broken, but getting the political class to fix it was hopeless until the world collapsed. Even then it took the leveling of Europe and Asia by the US to get a new system in place. That suggests we are headed to some sort of cataclysmic denouement to the credit money system. A global collapse followed by a world war with nukes, drones and space weapons probably puts us back to using colored beads in a barter economy, but maybe it will be for the best.

To Learn Nothing

Being wrong is as natural as standing upright. All of us make mistakes, miss the obvious and make predictions that, in retrospect, were hilariously stupid. I predicted that the neocons, despite their rhetoric, were going to find a Pinochet to install in Baghdad after they ousted Saddam. After all, no one could be so dumb as to think that Western self-government would work in the Arab world. I think a lot of people on the Right look back at the Bush years and wonder how so many could be so wrong about the neocons.

Error is supposed to result in reflection and reconsideration. The only way to learn from a mistake is to actually learn something from it. The take away from the Bush years, for me at least, was that the Buckley Conservatives are yesterday men untethered from reality, so it’s time to go another way. Many reading this learned from the Obama years that democracy is a suicide pact with the dumbest people in your neighborhood. The solutions lie outside the political process. Who knows what we will learn in the Trump years.

One of the remarkable aspects of the managerial class is they don’t seem to learn much from their errors. The neocons are still claiming that elections will somehow turn the Arab world into a membership meeting of The Harmonie Club. After every Muslim atrocity committed in a Western city, the Progressives tell us the solution is more Muslims. Now we have Puerto Rico, which should be the example that puts some reality back into public policy debates, but that will never happen.

Puerto Rico has been a US territory since the Treaty of Paris ended the Spanish-American War. It probably would have been setup as an independent country, but the US Navy thought it was useful and the sugar growers liked being a US territory. Even though it no longer has any value to the Navy and they no longer grow much sugar, Puerto Rico remains a territory. It does have a strong manufacturing base, mostly due its status as a tax haven, but also as the result of US policy to encourage industry on the island.

It was not too long ago that the Official Right was championing Puerto Rico as an example of how fixing the institutions, reforming the economic polices, could fix even the most backward society. It was an obvious ploy to peddle open borders to their voters. After all, if Republicanism could work on the PR’s, it would work on those Mexicans imported into your town. Here’s an old Cal Thomas article talking about the wonderfulness of the Republican governor of the island at the time. I love this quote.

“I think the Republican Party has done an awful job handling this issue,” he says. “It makes no sense for us not to bring more Hispanics into the party because Hispanics are naturally conservative. The tenor of the public discourse surrounding this issue has sounded anti-Hispanic at times.”

What would he recommend to change the tone?

“First, show up; show respect. Most Republican candidates don’t do that. They talk about 15-foot fences and then try to address the issues of greatest concern in the Hispanic community. They are no different from other communities most of the time. On immigration, Republicans say, ‘we want legal immigration and we are the country, thanks to legal immigration,’ so we need to try to address this issue with a different tone than we’ve had so far.”

In case you’re wondering, Luis Fortuna, the subject of that column, now lives in DC at the insider law firm Steptoe & Johnson. The reason for that is those “naturally conservative” Hispanics voted him out of office. Despite all that, Puerto Rico is still Puerto Rico. It has a crime rate higher than every US state, something close to Baltimore. It also has a corruption rate triple the typical US state. In other words, despite the best efforts of the US, Puerto Rico is the product of the people who populate the island.

Now that the island is going bankrupt, it would make sense for the conservative cheerleaders to take stock and maybe reconsider those wonderful economic policies they were sure would fix anything. Similarly, libertarians, who are sure that tinkering with the tax code can fix everything, might want to take a look at Puerto Rico. Of course, that will never happen. Being a public intellectual in the modern era means never having to say you’re sorry for being wrong. Heck, you don’t even have to admit to being wrong.

Our rulers should also reconsider the wisdom of importing tens of millions of Hispanics into America. After all, California turned itself into Puerto Rico demographically and is now on its way to transforming itself into Puerto Rico financially. The underlying premise of open borders is that people are the same everywhere. It is the dirt that makes them into law-abiding, prudent Americans. We have spent a century pouring magic into our Caribbean colony and it is no better than the Dominican Republic.

The island has a per capita debt of $25,000 and per capita GDP of $28,000. Throw in the $16,000 in per capita pension liabilities and you have, well, California. The two biggest financial basket cases in America are also the two greatest examples of the prevailing ruling class orthodoxy. The fact that both are looking a lot like bust outs is probably not a coincidence. You would think some of the people in the political class would take note, but no one will learn anything from the Puerto Rican bankruptcy. They never learn.