Year of the Black Swan by Christopher M. Chupik

2016: year of the Black Swan indeed. More Black Swans to come in 2017.

J. S. Bach, Das Alte Jahr Vergangen Ist BWV 615 (“Gone is the Old Year”)

Here’s wishing you a fruitful and fulfilling 2017. And those of us facing dark hours, let us heed the words of Winston Churchill: “If you’re going through hell, keep going”

According To Hoyt

Year of the Black Swan by Christopher M. Chupik

How messed up was 2016? Let’s put it this way: Chuck Tingle getting a Hugo nomination
doesn’t even make the Top Ten of Crazy.

If 2016 were a TV show, you’d be thinking that the writers have lost their ever-loving minds in their determination to jump every shark in the ocean. Most years toddle into the world like the New Year’s Baby. 2016 exploded from the torso of its predecessor like a chestburster and soon grew into a full Xenomorph, bent on the destruction of all human life. Mostly, celebrities.

Not all deaths were tragic losses, though. Fidel Castro’s oft-delayed departure from this world finally happened, the dictator leaving behind a legacy of misery and economic ruin best exemplified when the vehicle transporting his earthly remains broke down during the funeral procession.

Along with the deaths, the progressive status quo has…

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Dystopic on: “Technocrats and the Worship of Intelligence”

Consider this post to be something of an expansion on the concept of the Brahmandarins. Technocracy is one of those things which sounds perfectly good on the surface, but can lead to absolute tyranny in short order. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, technocracy is, in essence, rule by technical elites. For instance, your media would be run by trained, credentialed journalism experts. Politicians would be groomed and educated to be leaders from an early age. You could not, for instance, be President if you did not attend the proper schools, earn the proper certifications, and demonstrate a certain set of requirements, like IQ, or perhaps an impressive set of grades in your debating classes. […]

Naturally, none of these technical elites would need to consult with you and I on these matters. If you are not one of the elite, you would need to be quiet and accept the rulings of your superiors.

The flaws in technocracy are very obvious, to any who care to see them. First and foremost is the matter of trust. Even if we were to concede that the trained, technically-minded elites were better than the hoi polloi, how could one be assured that they were not pulling the wool over the people and taking advantage of them? After all, just because you’re intelligent doesn’t mean you’re honest.

Similarly, being able to design and build rocket ships does not confer upon you the ability to manage and run organizations of rocket scientists. It’s a known problem among STEM folks, and a problem I suffer from personally, that technical ability and management ability are often mutually exclusive. I couldn’t manage brothel in Thailand with a US Navy aircraft carrier in port. But I can write and engineer software all day long. The intelligence and talent I possess is suited for certain things, and ill-suited for other tasks. Nobody would ask me to be a therapist, that’s for sure.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, technocracy denies a voice to the peasantry. We’ve tried that before. We call it feudalism and those feudal elites were called nobles. They knew themselves to be more intelligent and better-suited for leadership than those dirty plebs. Why, they could afford a costly scholarly education for their children, when desired, and the rag-wearing farmhands could not. And there was the Divine Right of Kings to consider, also.

What prompted this screed?

Go read the whole thing. Eric S. Raymond earlier explained how escalating complexity makes technocracy even less viable than before .

Of course, technocracy or, more generally, transnational oligarchic collectivism [*] are the wet dreams of all too many Brahmandarins who fancy themselves as the ‘anointed‘ oligarchs.


[*] a portmanteau of John Fonte’s “Transnational Progressivism” and George Orwell’s “Oligarchic Collectivism“.

Much Ado About Paper Books

Sarah Hoyt expands on the shape of things to come in the publishing world: when people give away bookcases for free on CraigsList, and voracious readers give books away by the thousands, you know paper books will eventually acquire curio status except in some niche markets.

According To Hoyt

*This post is in its entirety a copy of a post just published at Mad Genius Club (under another title.)  I don’t normally do this, but it’s such a long post, took me so much time (and I need to shower and write the paying stuff) and besides I think it will spark different discussion here, among mostly readers than there among mostly writers.  Feel free to comment on both blogs, if you wish, the discussion will take different paths.  I am shocked at how long this ran, but I think it needed to be said, and also available to refer to later, for good or ill.*

One of the puzzling things about the writing business, right now, is that “nobody knows anything” (or in proper vernacular “we don’t know nothing.”

So I am continuously puzzled watching indie authors who are doing better by an order of magnitude than any…

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Neologism of the day “peacock issues”

“Mr. Open Source Software”, Eric S. Raymond, penned this must-read open letter to the D party to please get its act together , lest they consign themselves to complete irrelevance.

I’m starting to be seriously concerned about the possibility that the U.S. might become a one-party democracy.

Therefore this is an open letter to Democrats; the country needs you to get your act together. Yes, ideally I personally would prefer your place in the two-party Duverger equilibrium to be taken by the Libertarian Party, but there are practical reasons this is extremely unlikely to happen. The other minor parties are even more doomed. If the Republicans are going to have a counterpoise, it has to be you Democrats.

Donald Trump’s victory reads to me like a realignment election, a historic break with the way interest and demographic groups have behaved in the U.S. in my lifetime. Yet, Democrats, you so far seem to have learned nothing and forgotten nothing.

The whole long essay is a must-read that I cannot do justice by selective quoting. Unfortunately it will fall on deaf ears among those who need it most.

In passing, ESR coins a new term:

Speaking of virtue signaling, another thing you need to give up is focusing on peacock issues […] while ignoring pocketbook problems like the hollowing out of middle-class employment.

Again, this advice has nothing to do with the rights or wrongs of individual peacock issues and more with a general sense that the elites are fiddling while Rome burns. For the first time since records have been kept, U.S. life expectancy went down during the Obama years, led by a disturbing rise in suicides and opiate addiction among discouraged unemployed in flyover country. A Democratic Party that fails to address that while it screws around with bathroom-law boycotts is willfully consigning itself to irrelevance.

“Peacock issues” are related to Thomas Sowell’s use of the term “mascots” and to “virtue signaling“, as ell as to the psychological concept of a proxy. They are issues that affect only a very small number of people (and that could be addressed ad hoc with fairly little effort) but are priceless as feathers to preen, and flags to wave to ‘rally the troops’ and instead push a sweeping agenda. Any actual benefit to the people involved in the peacock issues is secondary, if not outright irrelevant.

The use of “peacock issues” is of course not limited to the Brahmandarin political left  — they have just become egregiously addicted to the tactic in recent years.


Trump and the rage of the Brahmandarins™

[These somewhat rambling observations were originally posted as a Facebook note.]
In recent weeks, we have witnessed ever-more cartoonish examples of Trump Derangement Syndrome. Even those of us who have been sharply critical of Trump (such as  are staring on with a kind of revulsed fascination as our chattering class descends ever deeper into the pits of insanity. So do those who merely voted against Hillary rather than for Trump, such as the razor-sharp “Dystopic” or the underrated historical novelist Roy M. Griffis.
I move professionally in circles where lib-left “virtue signaling” is taken for granted, especially inside the US. (Academia outside the US, while no less in the grip of a collective moral superiority complex, at least tolerates dissenters to some degree.)
As I was perusing Trump’s cabinet list in the Times of London the other day, I was struck not so much by the names — some ‘feck yeah!’, some ‘well, OK’, some ‘meh’ — as by what wasn’t there. The ‘Brahmandarins™’ had been left behind, as it were. Allow me to expand.
Traditional society in India has myriad little jatis (“births”, freely: castes), but they ultimately derive from four (plus one) major varnas (“colors”, freely: classes). While caste membership and profession are more fluid than generally assumed by Westerners, these five major groupings do exist to the present day, and are mostly endogamous. From top to bottom, the varnas are:
  1. Brahmins (scholars)
  2. Kshatryas (warriors, rulers, administrators)
  3. Vaishyas (merchants, artisans, and farmers)
  4. Shudras (laborers)
  5. Finally, the Dalit (downtrodden, outcasts — the term “pariah” is considered so offensive it has become “the p-word”) are traditionally considered beneath the varna system altogether, as are other “Scheduled Castes” (a legal term in present-day India, referring to eligibility for affirmative action).
The upper three varnas bear some resemblance to the three Estates of the French ancien régime: clergy, nobility, and the bourgeoisie (le tiers état, the Third Estate). American society used to be a byword for social mobility (“the American dream”) — but a stratification has set in, and it takes little imagination to identify strata of Dalit, Shudras, and Vaishyas in modern American society. The numerically small subculture of military families could be identified as America’s Kshatryas. So where are the Brahmins? (No, I’m not referring to the old money Boston elite.) And why am I using the portmanteau “Brahmandarins” for our New Class?
In India one was, of course, born into the Brahmin varna, and they actually delegated the messy business of governance to the varna below them. In China’s Middle Kingdom, on the other hand, not only was the scholarly Mandarin caste actually the backbone of governance, but in principle anyone who passed the civil service exams could become a Mandarin.
Originally, these exams were meant to foster a meritocracy. Predictably, over time, they evolved to select for conformity over ability, being more concerned with literary style and knowledge of the classics than with any relevant technical expertise.
Hmm, sounds familiar? Consider America’s “New Class”: academia, journalism, “helping” professions, nonprofits, community organizers, trustafarian artists,… Talent for something immediately verifiable (be it playing the piano, designing an airplane, or buying-and-selling,… ) or a track record of tangible achievements are much less important than credentials — degrees from the right places, praise from the right press organs,…
The New Class should be more like the Mandarins rather than the Brahmins, as in theory (and to some degree in practice) 1st-generation membership is open to people of all backgrounds. Heck, that includes even this electrician’s son here 😉
In practice, however, this class is highly endogamous, and its children have an inside track on similar career paths. (Charles Murray’s “Coming Apart” made this case to a fare-thee-well.) Thus one finds 2nd and 3rd generation New Class members, whose outlooks on life tend to be much more insular and collectively self-centered than that of their 1st-generation peers. (It is important not to over-generalize about one’s fellow human beings: some of the fiercest fellow ‘renegades’ I know were to the manor born.) In that respect then, the New Class does resemble the Brahmins. Hence my portmanteau “Brahmandarins”.
Engineers (whose academic training at even second-tier colleges is much more rigorous than that of the journalism major at a big-name school) are arguably closer to artisan Vaishya than to Brahmandarins. They need to build things that actually work, you know.
Now how does this tie in with Trump and his cabinet? In the last several Presidential elections, Brahmandarin D candidates (Obama, Hillary) were pitted against Kshatriyas (McCain) or Vaishyas (Romney, Trump). While the D party used to be one with which particularly Shudras (laborers) could identify, over time it has increasingly become a patron-client coalition of Brahmandarins and Dalits. Kshatriyas overwhelmingly lean R, while Shudras and Vaishyas (other than high finance) became increasingly disaffected from D and either moved to the R column or tuned out of politics.
Sometime in 2008, I had an eye-opening encounter at a fundraiser for a scientific cause. A lawyer for a major donor, after various patronizing remarks after our scholarly pursuits, told some of us in intimate conversation that of course we should support Obama. (Interestingly, the usual appeal to ethnicity was not made.) One of us asked the lawyer what would be his ‘performance benchmark’ for a successful presidency. Tellingly, the otherwise so voluble lawyer was left at a loss for words. Eventually, his argument boiled down to ‘Obama is one of us’. Which “us”? Not scientists, obviously. Nor Jews, obviously (the lawyer, my colleague, and myself are all Jewish). No — Brahmandarins, members of the New Class.
Peggy Noonan recently coined the phrase “patronized by our inferiors”. At the time I couldn’t come up with anything as concise and withering, but the whole framing of the argument struck me as a hybrid between the Cosa Nostra and “mean girls” cliques at the middle school my daughter was then attending. Around the same time, I discovered Thomas Sowell’s priceless “Vision of the Anointed” whose subtitle “Self-Congratulation as a Basis for Social Policy” could be emblematic of the entire phenomenon. A critique that had built itself up in my head, in inchoate fashion, was laid out here in concise, crystal-clear prose.
Fast-forward to the present. In the last several Presidential elections, Brahmandarin D candidates (Obama, Hillary) were pitted against Kshatriyas (McCain) or Vaishyas (Romney, Trump). Unsurprisingly, Brahmandarin presidents tend to appoint cabinet and senior aides from among the Brahmandarin caste, while Trump’s appointments came almost exclusively from the Vaishyas (Exxon CEO Tillerson for State, various other execs), and Kshatriyas (Mattis, Flynn, Kelly). It doesn’t matter that most of these people have real-world achievements to their names than a Robbie Mook type can only dream of: they are “ignorant” (read: insufficiently subservient to New Class shibboleths), “hate-filled”, etc. — All short-hand for “not one of us”.
For those same people who keep on prating about how open they are to foreign cultures (the more foreign, the better to “virtue-signal”) are completely unable to fathom the mindset of their compatriots of a different caste: they might as well come from a different planet as from a different country.
There’s only water/In a stranger’s tear
Looks are deceptive/But distinctions are clear
A foreign body/And a foreign mind
Never welcome/In the land of the blindYou may look like we do
Talk like we do
But you know how it isYou’re not one of us!

[In response to the FB note, “Dystopic” honored me with his own observations.]

UPDATE: “Tamara W.” comments on Facebook:

Charles Murray’s book “Coming Apart” talks about the combination of geographic isolation (segregation by income/politics), elite schools (public and private) where their children all socialize, ideological conforming by the “elite” institutions all creating an elite population that has prime access to top corporate jobs, NGOs, government positions under Democrats. They base morality as adherence to the ideology and thus see all who disagree as evil/stupid and look down on those beneath them as at best unenlightened/uneducated and at worst people the world is better off without.
Then they actively discriminate against conservatives and the middle and working class, seeing them as “not a culture fit” or actively deprecating them.
 UPDATE 2: I’d be remiss not linking Angelo Codevilla’s classic “The ruling class“. Yes, the Brahmandarins are a gentry, not an elite — and “credentialed” is not the same as “educated”.
UPDATE 3: welcome, Instapundit readers!
UPDATE 4: Two more good reads in response:
(a) Fran Porretto at  Bastion of Liberty weighs in and links his early 2014 blog post about Class And Caste In Twenty-First Century America. Read the whole thing.
(b) “Remodern” artist Richard Bledsoe looks at the Brahmandarins and their effect on the art scene
“not only the ideological, virtue signalling style of art, but also the self-absorbed, alienating products of the Ivory Tower approach, status symbol art made to cater to the expectations of elitist curators, trophy hunting collectors, and other art snobs.”
He then recounts how the neo-figurative “remodernism” and “Stuckism” movements arose as a grassroots reaction.

The CLFA December Booknado!

Last day of #CLFA #Booknado! #conservative #libertarian #fiction #NewBooks #bookworm #KindleDeals

Conservative-Libertarian Fiction Alliance


A furious blast of fiction freedom blows away the tired, the formulaic, the predictable, and the didactic! Click on any of the images below to learn more and buy the fresh fiction listings in the December 2016 installment of the CLFA Booknado!


Planet of the Magi: A Space Fantasy by Erin Lale
Expected to grow up to become a Magus, a wielder of dark magic, Dije rebels by seeking the forbidden white magic — and then faces an alien invasion.

Quest to the North: A Minivandians Tale by Tom Rogneby
After the battle that ended the first book in the Minivandian’s series, Ruarin and her companion search for their friend in the deadly lands to the North.

Scout’s Law by Henry Vogel
Terran Scout David Rice put the long-lost colony of the world of Aashla back in contact with the rest of the galaxy. Now he must fight to protect Aasha’s early-industrial…

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First ever CLFA-endorsed anthology goes on sale!

A steal at just $2.99 for the eBook version! Featuring my own “The Tenth Righteous Man” as the opener.

Amazon affiliate link.

Conservative-Libertarian Fiction Alliance

flNow available for pre-order!

From the members and associates of the Conservative-Libertarian Fiction Alliance (CLFA) comes Freedom’s Light, a collection of short fiction that celebrates the human yearning for liberty. These stories extol the value of human rights and the sacrifices of those who defend those rights. This collection features works from a wide variety of genres and a diverse set of authors, including Hugo Award nominee Brad R. Torgersen, 2016 Dragon Award winner Nick Cole, and many lesser-known but talented and entertaining liberty-loving authors. Freedom’s Light entertains while it elevates the humanity we all share.

Plus, your purchase helps an organization dedicated to re-opening the Western mind! Net proceeds from the sale of this anthology will be donated to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to defending liberty, freedom of speech, due process, academic freedom, legal equality, and freedom of conscience on America’s…

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“Freedom’s Light: Short Stories” available for pre-order

This anth0logy was originally meant to be released on Thanksgiving Day, but instead is now available for pre-order. Just $2.99 will get you fifteen freedom-themed short stories, including my own “The Tenth Righteous Man” (previously unpublished).


From the members and associates of the Conservative-Libertarian Fiction Alliance (CLFA) comes Freedom’s Light, a collection of short fiction that celebrates the human yearning for liberty. These stories will extol the value of human rights and the sacrifices of those who defend those rights. This collection features works from a wide variety of genres and a diverse set of authors, including Hugo Award nominee Brad R. Torgersen and 2016 Dragon Award winner Nick Cole. Freedom’s Light will entertain us and elevate the humanity we all share.

I am thrilled to be sharing billing with Brad R. TorgersenNick ColeMarina Fontaine Matthew SoudersLori JaneskiDaniella BovaBokerah BrumleyA.G. WallaceHenry VogelChris DonahueTom RognebyCarol KeanArlan Andrews, and W.J. Hayes. Editing duties were handled by Kia Heavey  and by Contagious Edits (heh). The book is also the debut of the Victory Fiction imprint, the publisher of which also handled layout and cover design.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Materialism vs Purposeful Life: Trump, Bannon, and Teilhard de Chardin

Lots of thoughtful stuff in this one (via Sarah Hoyt).

Jeb Kinnison

Lots of interesting reading today as Trump’s victory has focused attention on the assumptions that led to underestimating his chances.

The media spin is working toward delegitimizing him further by casting his advisor Steve Bannon as an alt-right, antisemitic, neo-Nazi éminence grise. This isn’t backed up by much evidence other than guilt-by-association, with Breitbart the junkyard dog of new media flouting the rules of political correctness. But having rabid commenters and hosting some incorrect writers like David Horowitz does not make a media conglomerate or its managers antisemitic, antigay, misogynist, or otherwise the spawn of the Devil, which is what is being implied.

Alan Dershowitz went on MSNBC to decry the antisemitism charge:

The reliably rational Scott Alexander marshals the evidence that Trump is racist-sexist-etc and finds it wanting in his post, “You Are Still Crying Wolf.”

Bannon spoke and answered questions in 2014 at a conference hosted by the…

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Michael Barone: “Double negative” voters decided election

The always incisive psephologist (electionologist, if you like) Michael Barone has lots to say about the US Presidential election. One point stands out, both in deciding the outcome and in why so many pollsters had it wrong.

Normally, “double-positive” voters — those who rate both candidates positively — break along party registration lines, and so do “double-negative” (or “they both s*ck”, if you like) voters.

But while the “double-positives” behaved largely as expected this year,

 According to the exit poll […] 18 percent of voters were “double negatives,” that is, had negative feelings toward both Clinton and Trump. Of these 18 percent, 49 percent voted for Trump and only 29 percent voted for Clinton, with 22 percent saying they picked another candidate or not answering.

[That] split as a percentage of the entire electorate was 9 to 5 percent, a 4 percent margin. Assume that was the split in each target state, rather than the 7 to 7 percent under my default assumption. If you subtract 2 percent from each close state from Trump’s percentage and add it to Clinton’s, you have Clinton carrying Arizona, Florida, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, which have 101 electoral votes. That would give Clinton a 329-209 majority in the Electoral College. As Nate Silver pointed out on, that’s a big difference.

In retrospect, observers (and the Clinton campaign!) might have had a better understanding of the election if we had all drilled won and looked more closely at the preferences of the “double negatives.” My hypothesis why they split for Trump: it was a change year, and most “double negatives” wanted change.

Barone also discusses the astonishing incompetence with which the Clinton campaign was led. For instance, Hillary did not make even one appearance in Wisconsin after the primaries, as the campaign assumed that state (which hadn’t gone GOP since Reagan) was in the bag anyway. Elsewhere, it was pointed out that rural voter outreach was delegated to a single staffer sitting in Brooklyn. Also:

The 70-year-old Bill Clinton apparently repeatedly advised Clinton campaign chairman Robby Mook and others to campaign in white working class areas. The 36-year-old Mook spurned — perhaps ridiculed — his advice. None of this going after men who wear trucker hats unironically; let’s show Brooklyn-type Millennials that supporting Hillary is really cool.

Also, how productive was the use of media celebrities?

My guess is that these days, when practically all entertainers are liberal Democrats or farther left, it doesn’t strike most voters as worthy of any attention when several of them appear for a Democratic candidate like Hillary Clinton. All the more so at a time when the entertainment aimed at universal audiences, like 1930s and 1940s movies and 1950s and 1960s TV, is extinct, and when entertainers appeal only to niche audiences.[…] How many undecided voters or low-propensity-voting Democrats in Pennsylvania even know who Lady Gaga is? How many are impressed that actors in “The West Wing”, whose last new episode aired in 2006, support Hillary Clinton? I get it that entertainers can draw large audiences, and I get it that Hillary Clinton (to judge from photos) loved these event. But how did they actually help her campaign?

And in his trademark deadpan fashion:

[Hillary] may have been the first nominee (I don’t know if anyone has done the numbers) to appear at more private fundraisers than in public campaign rallies. One reason for all those fundraisers was to get more money to pay for ads on television — even though technology gives viewers many ways to avoid them these days. Another reason may be that the candidate just loves to spend time with admiring rich people in rooms ready to be photographed for Architectural Digest than she does in often tacky public venues filled with a regrettably large proportion of ordinary people.

Ouch. There’s much more at the link, and Michael Barone announces future updates.

UPDATE: Implicit in Barone’s remarks is that Trump underperformed Romney in some red states, while he obviously outperformed him in battleground states. (Thus, his popular vote totals are close to Romney’s, see my previous post.) Trump’s overall campaign budget was something like a third of Clinton’s, but apparently very well targeted.

Related: Obama twists the knife in Hillary Clinton’s disastrous campaign. The moneygraf:

“You know, I won Iowa not because the demographics dictated that I would win Iowa,” Obama said Monday. “It was because I spent 87 days going to every small town and fair and fish fry and VFW hall, and there were some counties where I might have lost, but maybe I lost by 20 points instead of 50 points.”

CLFA November Booknado!

Check out this month’s new releases and special offers from fellow CLFA authors!

The Zwyckyverse

The Conservative Libertarian Fiction Alliance is running it’s Novermber Booknado, featuring two recent releases that I edited, plus another one by fellow Superversive Literary Movement founder L. Jagi Lamplighter. Check them out if you’re in the mood for a refreshing read:

The November CLFA Booknado churns across a darkened literary landscape, demolishing tired, old, ideologically Progressive pap and blasting fresh fiction choices all across the land! Pick up one of our featured titles today and join the movement.

Click on the book image to learn more and shop!

(Titles are considered new releases and/or sold at featured promotional price points as of November 14 and 15, 2016.)


Keeping the Faith (Book Two of the John Fisher Chronicles) by William Lehman
It was suposed to be an easy case, a good way to “get back on the horse” and because it looked like a ‘Thrope case, it was right up Detective Fisher’s alley. Of…

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US presidential vote numbers 2000-2016 in one chart

Sometimes a picture (or a data table) does say more than a thousand words. Regardless of how you feel at the outcome, have a dispassionate look at this graph:


Data for 2000-2012 are from the FEC, preliminary data from 2016 from Wikipedia — the latter are subject to some change but not enough to matter at the resolution of this graph. Now focus on the stretch 2008-2016 to identify some trends:

  • the GOP vote is remarkably constant over the last 3 elections
  • the D vote is trending downward from the historic 2008 mark, with a sharper drop this election.
  • the overall third-party vote is trending upward and increased notably this election
  • overall voter participation is dropping
  • From 2008 to 2016, the D party lost 8.6 million votes, while the GOP posted a small increase of 0.3 million (probably a bit more when we’ll have final numbers).
  • The Libertarians, on the other hand, are now big enough that in a “French” system with a runoff election, they’d have found themselves kingmaker. (I know, this is a hypothetical, as people’s “tactical voting” behavior would be quite different in such a system.) Regardless of how one feels about the party or its candidate, that is no mean achievement.

Some more commentary to follow later.


Some thoughts on electoral college vs. popular vote election

As it stands, while Trump has won a resounding victory in the Electoral College (on track for 306 electoral votes vs. 232), HRC is on track to win a slim plurality (about .5%) of the popular vote. This will be the 5th time in US history that this happened, and the 2nd in my lifetime.

Some now decry the very existence of the electoral college. The reasons for its creation by the Founding Fathers — in a federal republic wary of ‘dictatorship by the 51%’ — have been discussed at length by others. I will confine myself to some practical observations.

1. Any ‘first-past-the-post’ system (FPTP) system can produce outcomes like this: theoretically, it is possible for the Tories or Labour in the UK to win a plurality of the popular vote and a minority of House of Commons seats. [There is no direct election of the Prime Minister in the UK.] As a concrete example of what happens in another FPTP system, the following graph illustrates the actual difference between percentages of the popular vote and of the House of Commons in the 2015 UK Parliamentary Election: the inner piechart represents popular vote, the outer piechart elected MPs.

A few observations:

  1. the difference between Tories (blue) and Labour (red) is greatly amplified in the number of seated MPs;
  2. the Scottish National Party (yellow) has way more seats than its share of the popular vote
  3.  the UK Independence Party (purple) barely has any representation in the Commons despite pulling a much larger share of the popular vote than the SNP.  (The SNP enjoys regional dominance in Scotland, without significant presence anywhere else.)

According to Duverger’s Law in political science, FPTP systems tend to produce two-party regimes. (In turn, of course, both major parties tend to become coalitions of groups that in a proportional representation system would set up shop for themselves.)

Currently, the US Presidential Election is effectively a variation on the above piechart, with 538 electors getting appointed across fifty-something constituencies — 48 states, DC, and the peculiar arrangements for the two remaining states of ME and NE.

2. Of course, both parties adjusted their campaign strategies to the current system, focusing their efforts on battleground states and spending fairly little effort on states that are solidly in their or the opponent’s camp. In a competition for the popular vote, both sides would have run very different campaigns, with much more of a focus on CA, NY, and TX, and less on small-population battleground states like New Hampshire.

Conversely, many people would change their “tactical voting” habits in a popular-vote system. Many who live in “safe” blue or red states (we’re registered in TX) but are unhappy with both major candidates now will stay home or vote third party (in this cycle, most such votes went to the Libertarian ticket) or even for joke candidates like Vermin Supreme. On the other hand, if they are living in battleground states, they feel some pressure  to not “waste their vote” on a third-party contender, and thus hold their nose and vote for the lesser of two evils. In a single-district popular vote election, they would have no such incentive.

Methinks, a popular vote race would on balance produce a much larger vote for 3rd-party candidates (Libertarian, Green, hardcore Conservative,…) at the expense of the two major parties. Indeed, somebody who fails to obtain the D or R  nomination might be more inclined to run as an independent.

It is not at all clear that HRC supporters would get the outcome they desired in a declared popular-vote election (as distinct from retroactively processing a FPTP election outcome as PV). How would a PV election between HRC, Bernie Sanders running as a Socialist or Independent, Trump, and Gary Johnson (plus lesser candidates) turn out? It’s a hypothetical, but to say election of HRC would not have been assured would be an understatement.

NB: France, where the President holds power comparable to that of the POTUS, in fact instituted a runoff election between the two top vote getters, two weeks after the initial election. The contender who places third in the initial round often becomes something of a kingmaker by endorsing one or the other of the runoff candidates.

3. Moreover, if we’d start electing the POTUS by popular vote totals, why stop there? Why not go all the way to proportional representation at the federal level? Elect the House by popular vote tally? Or, failing that, at least by State rather than congressional district? This would put an end to gerrymandered districts, but also dilute the importance of the two major “uniparties” as smaller parties would suddenly find themselves holding the balance of power in the House. Some of us would even applaud this; on the other hand, parliamentarians in such a system are much less personally beholden to their constituents.

Summarizing: those HRC supporters, Trump haters, partisan Democrats, and (but I repeat myself) MSM journalists who suddenly have discovered the virtues of the popular vote might be singing a quite different tune if this were actually implemented systematically, rather than conveniently applied ex post facto to the present unpalatable outcome.

Les déplorables, or : the dogs refused the food

There is a hoary joke told in marketing classes about a pet food corporation hiring an ad agency to flood the zone with a marketing campaign for their new dog food.

Months later, millions of dollars have been spent on TV ads, full-page ads, promotion teams, etc. Yet sales are still in the toilet, stores are returning unsold merchandise.

CEO: “I don’t understand! We did the biggest marketing campaign ever! How come?”

VP for sales: “There was only one problem.”

CEO: “What?”

VP for sales: “The dogs won’t eat the food.”

This is exactly what happened. The DNC spent an astronomical amount on a campaign to sell dog food that the dogs wouldn’t eat anymore.

Many people may point to Wikileaks as what did HRC’s campaign in. Yet I personally think she signed her electoral death warrant when she wrote off nearly half the country as a “basket of deplorables”. This is the sort of unforced error made by people who live in a New Class bubble and have lost touch with the people on the ground. It is the same sort of reason why Shimon Peres z”l — undeniably an exceptional statesman, whose legacy was strong enough to survive even the Oslo disaster — was said to ‘be capable of losing an election against himself’.

Say what you want about Trump, but he undeniably has his finger on the pulse of a large section of the electorate that is feeling ignored at best by one side, and demonized at worst by the other. One that is, in addition, bearing the cost of policies beloved of New Class virtue signalers, of transnationalists, of crony-capitalist big business, and of client populations of the Anointed.

The people who saw Trump as a savior may be grasping at a straw. Many of the economic and social disruptions ongoing or coming are in my opinion beyond the power of any president to fix. (For instance, the manufacturing jobs that went to China will eventually be automated out of existence.) Yet at least, Trump is perceived as lending a sympathetic ear, even though he himself is a crony-capitalist big businessman. Politics is a game of perception, whether we like it or not.

Those of us who feared and loathed the tranzi-left agenda would not need to be mobilized anyway. What Trump pulled off is primarily to motivate people who’d given up on politics entirely to not only go the polls again, but to actually prod others into going. Bill Clinton — a genius at the perception game, whatever his numerous other faults — could have walked over Trump had he been eligible to run.

What happened here is part and parcel of a phenomenon seen across the West: a repudiation of the New Class elites (the “Inner Party”, if you like) by that part of the electorate that is neither a client nor an aspiring member (“Outer Party”). Rather than the usual facile explanations in terms of xenophobia etc., I believe something much more fundamental is at work. Paraphrasing an immigrant from the former USSR: “people grumbled at the Czar, but they put up with him as long as he kept hunger and foreign invaders away. Once he couldn’t deliver even that anymore, his days were numbered”. Likewise, Europeans may put up with the unelected postnational, postdemocratic Eurocrats, and with their national technocratic elites, as long as they are perceived to substantially ‘deliver the goods’. Right now they are being perceived as not only not delivering the goods, but of forcibly silencing any little boy who dares say that the emperor has no clothes on (cf. the recent ham-handed attempts at official censorship in Germany) and indeed of being in it only for themselves and their peers.

A number of others have pointed out that a major political realignment is taking place in Europe: the traditional left-right axis is being replaced by an elitist transnationalism — nationalist populism axis. A similar process appears to be playing out in the US: it struck me at times how Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump seemed to have more common ground than either had with Hillary Clinton (or, across the aisle from her, with WSJ editor Bret Stephens and his peers). You may applaud this, or it may fill you with anguish: one thing is clear, the elites are no longer able to make the dogs eat the food. A Bret Stephens (whose past work I have often expressed admiration for) not only has a tough time selling globalization and open border policies to somebody from Flyover Country who saw their job to outsourcing abroad and can no longer pay their bills — increasingly he either no longer has a common language with them, or writes them off entirely.

The increasingly shrill and outré attacks in the leftist agitprop popular media on cultural values dear to  the soi-disant ‘deplorables’ certainly caused a backlash: I have a feeling, however, they were more the icing on the cake than the driving factor when it comes to the great mass of voters.

A large part of the political-media complex has been micturating into too many people’s shoes while telling them it was just raining. When those who protested were also accused of urophobia, then finally written off as irredeemable ‘deplorables’, that was the best recruitment for a Trump-style politician one could imagine. Had Trump lost, four years from now the political-media complex might be facing something that would make them nostalgic for the very man they now demonize.

May G-d bless the American People and the President-Elect, and imbue him with the wisdom and especially the intellectual humility that will be needed for what is shaping up like some very stormy years to come.


UPDATE: Welcome Instapundit readers!

And while I’m updating, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the IT debacle that plagued the Romney get-out-the-vote operation on Election Day 2012: ORCA, the killer whale app that beached itself. (First-person story at Business Insider, originally at Ace of Spades; CNET story; Ars Technica story and sequel )

Writing updates: two short stories

Two short stories will be published soon. “One second chance deserves another”, a tale of love and the golden rule, will shortly go live just went live on Liberty Island.

Another, a piece of historical fiction called “The tenth righteous man”, will be included in the upcoming CLFA anthology, “Freedom’s Light”, which will be published by Victory Books.

In the meantime, a first draft of an espionage thriller came back from alpha reading, and I have started work on a romance novel set in modern Israel, which explores a love story across the secular-religious divide.


It’s the October CLFA Booknado!

It’s time for another CLFA Booknado!

Conservative-Libertarian Fiction Alliance

Right about now, who couldn’t use the age-old reliable escapism that can only be found in a good book? Just in time to address Silly Season malaise, the CLFA is proud to present our October Booknado. Shop through the listings below to discover conservative, libertarian, and alt right-friendly New Releases and books priced at $1.99 or less (even some Freebies). Click on any book picture to read more details and shop. Enjoy!

New Releases

Rachel and the Many-Splendored Dreamland (The Books of Unexpected Enlightenment Book 3) by L. Jagi Lamplighter
Third Book of Unexpected Enlightenment: It’s Halloween at the Roanoke Academy for the Sorcerous Arts, and Rachel Griffin is stirring up the dead! (See “$1.99 or Less” category below to get Book 1 – currently FREE.)

Dragonblood: A Collection of Short Stories by Sarah A. Hoyt
From the trenches of WWI where the Red Baron just can’t help turning into a dragon, to the desert sands of…

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Our “Betters” Know Better Than The Rest Of US

Or: how the disconnect between the Capitol and the Districts, or between the New Class and the rest of us, is leading to “peasant revolts”. This is not just a US phenomenon: it is happening across Europe. A ruling class that is both ever more arrogant and ever less able to “deliver” *will* engender such a backlash. Of course, they may vote something in power that is just as bad as what they had, or even worse — but the current ruling class will have none to blame for that but themselves.
PS: the SCOTUS ruling he is referring to at the end concerns the “sick chicken case” (Schechter Poultry Corporation vs. United States).


The Arts Mechanical

Not really according to this from the NY Post.

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Romancing the Genre

A pretty good and concise “Young person’s guide to fiction genres” by Sarah A. Hoyt

Mad Genius Club

Hold on to your hats, ladies, gentlemen and cicadas.  Today we’re discussing genre.  Since I have this problem TYPING genre where my finders want to insert a d after the n and switch the e and r, we’re in for a wild and wooly ride.

I was going to start a series today on how to make a book “real”.  “Real” is a quality you can embue your fiction with, mostly by not relying on cliches for how a situation is described, but also by reaching deep in yourself to when you experienced a similar situation.

However I realized I had another post on my mental list, which I hadn’t ticked out yet, and which, judging by some of the newby discussions I eavesdrop in, on FB, is desperately needed.

If I had a dime for every time someone approaches me and says “My erotica/romance/science fiction/fantasy isn’t selling and I…

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End of an era: Shimon Peres (1923-2016)

The Times has a mostly fair-minded obituary. Peres may not technically have been one of Israel’s Founding Fathers (the way David Ben-Gurion and Menachem Begin were), but he was the last living representative of “the founder generation” of Israeli politics.

A protégé of David Ben-Gurion’s, he started his career in the final years of the Mandate as the person in charge of arms acquisition for the Haganah, and continued to act in that capacity after the founding of the state and the Haganah’s transformation from the pre-state militia  into the IDF.  In 1952 he was appointed deputy director general of the Ministry of Defense, becoming director-general (and de facto minister) in 1953 at the age of 30. He has been a mainstay of the Israeli political landscape for over six decades, ending with his term as  President (a mostly ceremonial position) from mid-2007 until mid-2014.

There is a Hebrew saying, acharei mot kedoshim (after their death, saints) — a pun on the titles of two consecutive Torah readings, acharei mot (Leviticus 16-18) and kedoshim. (Leviticus 19-20). “Do not speak ill of the dead,” if you like. I am however reminded of Oliver Cromwell, who told a painter to paint his portrait, “warts and all”. Paradoxically, because Peres was too great a man to need hagiography.

In his early career, Peres made tremendous contributions to the Israeli defense establishment and the security of the State. The Israel air force, Israel Aircraft Industries, RAFAE”L (Hebrew letter word for reshut le-pituach emtza’ei lechima, Weapon Systems Development Authority), Israel’s alleged nuclear deterrent… all came about on Peres’s watch. In 1959 he was first elected to the Knesset on the Mapai (mifleget poalei eretz Israel, Party of the Workers of the Land of Israel) ticket, and became Deputy Defense Minister (again, de facto minister, as Ben-Gurion officially held the portfolio himself).

In 1965, Peres, Ben-Gurion, and Moshe Dayan broke away from Mapai as  a new ticket Rafi (reshimat poalei Israel, Israel Workers List). After the Six-Day War, Mapai and Rafi merged into ha-Ma`arach (the [Labor] Alignment), and Peres joined the cabinet first as Immigrant Absorption Minister, then as Postmaster General and Information Minister. An intense rivalry with Yitzhak Rabin (Chief of Staff during the Six-Day War, later ambassador to the US) started with their competition for the Defense portfolio. After the Yom Kippur War and the resignation of Golda Meir, Rabin became Prime Minister and Peres Minister of Defense. Ironically, Peres was then the more hawkish of the two, fostering settlements in the disputed territories on the one hand and green-lighting the daring Entebbe Rescue on the other hand.

Peres never fared well at elections: an old Israeli joke was that “he could run against himself and still lose”. He always felt more in his element in the boardroom and carrying out diplomacy (sometimes incognito) with the high and mighty than on the campaign trail. He succeeded Rabin as party leader following the latter’s forced resignation over a (by today’s standards picayune) financial peccadillo: Rabin had maintained a US bank account from his days as ambassador, which had about $2,000 in it. (The law prohibiting Israelis from maintaining foreign bank accounts would later rightly be wiped off the books.) Peres’s triumph was brief: the general election put Menachem Begin’s Likud in power, and consigned the Labor Alignment to the opposition for the first time in history.

Peres had another shining moment after Begin’s “I cannot go on” (eineini yachol `od) resignation following the Lebanon War (and the demise of his wife Aliza Begin, to whom he was deeply attached). In the following National Unity Government, Peres and the Likud finance minister Yitzhak Moda’i put a stop to the hyperinflation that was ravaging the country. Under the coalition agreement, Peres started out as PM and Begin’s successor Yitzhak Shamir as Foreign Minister: after two years, the two men traded posts. Peres engaged in ample “behind the scenes” diplomacy in that era — something at which he excelled.

Following another narrow loss at the polls, the national unity coalition was continued, now with Shamir as PM all the way through. A failed scheme by Peres to topple the government in favor of a coalition of the left wing with fervently religious parties entered the Israeli political lexicon as ha-targil ha-masriach (“the stinky maneuver”, a term coined by Rabin).

After Rabin led Labor to victory in the 1992 elections, Peres became Foreign Minister in  his cabinet — the two erstwhile rivals established a surprisingly good working relationship until Rabin’s assassination. Here his main legacy became the Oslo Agreements — which must have “seemed a good idea at the time” but would become ashes in the mouths of so many of us.

Peres’s party was widely expected to win the election in the wave of sympathy and mourning following the Rabin assassination. True to form, he lost again, and Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu became PM for the first time.  Former Chief of Staff Ehud Barak replaced Peres at the helm of Labor and three years later led it to victory in the polls, but left Peres on the sideline as Minister of Economic Cooperation.

Following the collapse of the Camp David Talks and the outbreak of the Second Intifada, Barak lost a direct election for Prime Minister to Ariel Sharon. Peres brought Labor into Sharon’s coalition, thus forming another national unity government and holding the Foreign Ministry once again.

His record as foreign minister was mixed. While his personal diplomatic skills are undisputed, FM insiders have told me he devoted little attention to the ministry’s hasbara (“explanation”, PR) activities: he was quoted as saying that a good policy sells itself, while a bad policy cannot be sold. (It is fitting that my interlocutor, who generally is opposed to Netanyahu’s policies and favors those of Peres, acknowledged Netanyahu’s running of the ministry was much more effective.)

When Sharon founded a new centrist “Kadima” party and pursued a policy of unilateral disengagement, Peres followed him to Kadima and became his ally. After Sharon was rendered permanently unconscious by  a cerebral hemorrhage, Peres became deputy PM under Sharon’s successor Olmert.

Peres had earlier run for the post of President (the largely ceremonial head of state of Israel), but lost to Moshe Katzav in the Knesset vote. Katzav was ultimately forced to resign, and eventually imprisoned, in a sexual harassment scandal. Peres threw his hat in the ring again, successfully this time. His tenure as President restored dignity and prestige to the office, friend and foe agreeing he was perfect for the position.

Throughout it all, Peres remained a workaholic with an extraordinary drive, an insatiable intellectual curiosity, and an energy level that belied his age. It was widely assumed that Peres would either die with his boots on, or shortly after finally having to retire.

On a personal note: Across Peres’s triumphs and failures, and the many decades of his career, the one constant feature that stands out to me is his fascination with science and technology. Even just a couple of years ago, he could still be relied upon to hold forth to philanthropists, VC types, and foreign dignitaries on nanotech, renewable energy, virtual reality, you name it.

Some loved him, some hated him, many of us did both at one time or another. The prophet of the New Middle East, the ‘indefatigable schemer’ (chatran bilti nil’e, as Rabin called him in his memoirs), the arms master of early Israel, the father of our nuclear program,… he was all that and more. A man larger than life. Once there was a giant. May his memory be blessed.

PS: movie buffs might be interested to know that Peres (born Szymon Persky in Vishnyeva, present-day Belarus) was a second cousin of Lauren Bacall (born Betty Joan Perske).