Independence Day post: An unintentional back-handed tribute to the USA

Via “masgramondou”, comes a mindblowing story. Sure, it’s VICE, so full of SJW virtue signaling and hand-wringing. But in a nutshell: there are lawyers for illegal immigrants who are actively trying to get their clients incarcerated at Riker’s Island in order to avoid deportation.

Let that sink in. They would rather sit in jail in the USA than be free outside the USA. Only in America, folks.

Happy Fourth of July! Don’t miss these tributes by Sarah Hoyt and Nicki Kenyon.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1OLxcpKQcw4

The three lefts

It is a tragicomic spectacle to watch the left descend ever deeper into a pit of insanity — and more recently to see them “eating their own”. Case in point: this blog post this blog post (via Nicki Kenyon) about how a left-lib professor at Evergreen State U. had to go into hiding after criticizing some of the latest hard-left lunacy. Or the HuffPaint blogger who cheered North Korean mistreatment of Otto Warmbier (RIP) because at least in one place his “white privilege” didn’t help him. (No, I will not link to this evil spew.)
But of course, “the left” is no more a monolith than “the right” is. Leaving aside nuances of social/economic/religious/… left (some of which are specific to local contexts), at a more abstract or “meta” level, we can see three large streams within the left, distinguished by their epistemology (approach to knowledge).
The first, and the oldest, is the rationalist/constructionist left, or what I might call “the gnostic left”. Here we find the orthodox Marxists and the like. Like some hardcore theoreticians in the physical sciences, they are so in love with theoretical purity and logical consistency that they cannot be bothered with inconvenient “experimental” observations (cf. the famous story of Engels offering to show Marx around a factory, and Marx declining). Indeed, they remind me of the Gnostics of old, who considered the physical world intrinsically corrupt and thought truth could only be found in proper doctrine. How ironical, for a movement that waves the flag of “dialectical materialism”.
There are few people who despise communism and its fellow travelers more than I do—yet at least in principle, the old-school hard left still subscribes to rational thought. Hence a hard leftie like physicist Alan Sokal (a onetime Sandinista) may find himself a strange bedfellow with conservative critics of postmodern flimflam after thoroughly punking a postmodern “scholarly” journal.
The second kind of left is what I would call the “empirical, pragmatic left”. Historically, this is where you found social-democratic parties in Europe, and to some degree the labor movement in the USA—these are the kind of people we might think of as “old-school liberals”. They had little patience for theoretical mumbo-jumbo or any messianic visions of class struggle followed by perfect society: they arose against specific perceived injustices and proposed concrete solutions. This is the kind of left the liberty-minded among us have a common language with. In many cases, we may actually agree about the disease if not about the cure–and many of the solutions proposed by that left seem oblivious to the Law of Unintended Consequences, or to Pournelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy. Still, this is the wing of the left with which a dialogue is possible. It is also the part of the left from which people most readily cross over to the populist right. Their natural home is the Democratic Party, but an increasing number of them have become ripe pickings for Trump-style populism—some of us may argue about whether this is a good or a bad thing, but again, we speak the same language to some extent. For example, I can read this essay by Camille Paglia and nod in agreement much of the time, with only the occasional eye roll at which candidate she supports.
Then finally there is what I call the “irrationalist left” or “postmodern left”. While even the most cynical members of the first two waves will pay at least lip service to the concept of objective truth, the postmodern left explicitly parts with the very concept, even as a platonic ideal — everything becomes a struggle of competing narratives, and of asserting the primacy of one narrative over the others. (Devout Christians might think of the Roman procurator Pontius Pilatus as the first postmodernist?) Logical consistency is wholly irrelevant to the irrationalist left, which leaves them free to seek alliances that even the most jaded old-school leftie gags on. “Feminists for Sharia” (seriously, an article in the PuffHo the other day sold that line #singularityOfStupid) , “Qu**rs for Palestine” (seriously, when actual homosexuals there seek refuge in Israel?), … you name it.
If a policy to “help” a marginalized group, in fact, ends up hurting said group, that might give an empirical leftist pause, while a gnostic leftist may try to gainsay your evidence, cherry-pick data, or twist himself into rhetorical knots to prove black is really white. The irrational left simply does not care. “Peacock issues” that are great for grandstanding while benefiting very few people (preferably checking as many “oppressed group” boxes as possible) also have great propagandistic value for them—the more disruptive on others, the better.
Peel away the postmodern verbiage, the Gramscian tactics, and the virtue signaling — and at the dark heart of the irrationalist left, you will find but one thing — a raw, mutant-Nietzschean “Will To Power”. With this wing of the left, dialogue resembles the proverbial chess game with a pigeon — except that pigeons are content with strutting on the chessboard and defecating on it, rather than engaging in vicious tactics (professional blackballing, character assassination, no-platforming speakers, outright violence) not just against adversaries, but even against people who see themselves as their allies.
Anyone who wants to successfully fights a war for any length of time cannot help adopting some of his enemy’s successful tactics. It was therefore inevitable, for good or bad, that some activists on the right would end up adopting mirror-image SJW/SJZ tactics, such as we have seen with the latest “D. Julius Trumpcaesar” kerfuffle. However, it behooves us to heed Nietzsche’s warning (in “Beyond good and evil”):
“He who fights monsters must watch out that he does become a monster himself. And when you stare into an abyss for [too] long, the abyss also stares back at you.”
(Wer mit Ungeheuern kämpft, mag zusehn, dass er nicht dabei zum Ungeheuer wird. Und wenn du lange in einen Abgrund blickst, blickt der Abgrund auch in dich hinein.)
As for the “will-to-power left”:
wages of overreach are Trump 2

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.

 

Foreboding

I have been filled with a sense of foreboding recently.

The lib-left Inner Party has been overreaching and playing with fire. Soon they may get a reward they never bargained for, and the rest of us may get a cure that is as bad as the disease.

When you have insanity like this going on (just the most recent of heaps of examples)

SIGNS OF CIVILIZATIONAL COLLAPSE: Danish teen fought off her attacker – now she’ll face fine… via

And anybody who speaks up is shouted down by tarring them with the “R”, “S”, or “H” scarlet letters, eventually people get so angry that they will glom onto the first demagogue who dares say out loud what they themselves are thinking, and who does not try to wish the elephant in the room away (or worse, play a shell game with it).

Furthermore, when you keep trying to muzzle people by speciously accusing them of being “racists”, “sexists”, “homophobes”,… eventually some will say “I may as well be hanged for a sheep as for a lamb” and join truly unsavory elements.

All of this is utterly predictable to anyone with an elemental feel for mass psychology. Hence the rise of a blowhard demagogue like Trump. Note that I am not accusing him of being the R, S, or H words – I think Trump’s entire ideology starts and ends with his own 0bama-sized ego. Nature abhors a vacuum, Trump saw it, filled the void, and is obtaining the narcissistic supply from it he seeks. Think of the “Mirror, Mirror” episode of Star Trek (TOS), and what 0bama would look like in the parallel universe where Spock had a beard.

Trump may not get the nomination. If he does, he stands a very serious chance of being elected. Contrary to the prejudices of some, this prospect is giving many constitutional conservatives sleepless nights. A number of years ago, a dystopian novel named “Caliphate” (Baen Free Library Link) was published which prefigured not only the rise of an ISIS-like movement but also the rise to power of a populist politician who promptly proceeds to use the legal and bureaucratic tools put in place by his lib-left predecessor against the ones who created them in the first place.

 

And that is just the US. In Europe, I see similar things happening. Sane liberals, moderates, and constitutional conservatives alike watch in horror as a three-cornered psychodrama unfolds: between an ever more delusional looney left out-virtue-signaling each other; an ever more psychotic Islamofascism; and a yearning for/resurgence of authoritarian populist-right strongmen.

Cinema buffs may know the following eerie Chopin Prelude (No. 2 in A minor) from the Ingmar Bergman movie “Autumn Sonata”. All the preludes were given nicknames in Hans von Bülow’s edition (e.g. the “Raindrop” for No. 15 in Db major). This one was given the heading “Todesahnung”, German for “foreboding of death”.

I’m a natural “dark optimist” — worried about things that can go wrong, wanting to stitch in time to save nine, but fundamentally with a deep sense thing will turn out alright in the end.

But like in the hoary Jewish joke, “you think it’s easy being an optimist?”

 

Haaretz: going into economic as well as journalistic abyss

“Nightmare on Schocken Street”? Via Israellycool’s survey of English-language Israeli news sites, a fascinating article (in Hebrew) about the ever-increasing financial woes of Haaretz (which sees itself as a Hebrew-language New York Times). A few highlights in translation:

  • Over just the last two years, the paper (which had about 70,000 subscribers in 2012) lost one-third of its readership, and dropped out of the top 3 newspapers. 
  • I once dismissed somebody as “exaggerating” when he claimed “only 2% of Israelis read Haaretz”: turns out it was only a mild exaggeration, as Haaretz readership did drop to 4.8% of the population (down from 7% in the first half of 2012)
  • Several rounds of layoffs took place, and staff were notified most recently that either a bigger wave of layoffs would take place or there would be salary cuts across the board
  • In the last month alone, the disgusting anti-IDF slanders of especially Gideon Levy have caused 2,000 of their remaining subscribers to cancel the newspaper. 
  • In order to attract more readers, the paper changed its editorial line (read: became more radical) in the last two years to reach new audiences. Not only was this strategy a complete failure, but it made things worse
  • The harshest blow came as the owners of Israel Hayom took over the printing press of the ailing Maariv, and promptly started printing Israel Hayom there rather than outsource the printing to Haaretz’s printing press

Despite all this, publisher Amos Schocken (3rd generation of the family after the founder, Zalman Schocken and his son, Gershon Schocken) continues to claim that subscriptions actually “are at an all-time high”. A page from the playbook of Baghdad Bob? Aviv Horowitz (in Hebrew) has another explanation: that Schocken counts the sum of print and online subscriptions. He also points out that the online subscriptions sell for about one-seventh of the price of a print subscription.

 

If you know how to “read between the lies” Haaretz can still offer some good journalism on occasion. And I would much rather have a Haaretz as a sane, critical left-wing voice (however much I disagree with them) than radicalize itself into irrelevance and bankruptcy. However, it seems that the Schocken family decided they:

“Don’t need reason, don’t need rhyme

Ain’t nothing I’d rather do

Going down, party time

My friends are gonna be there too…”

 

Political tactical idiot of the day: Obama on Netanyahu

… and the winner is “duh smartest prezident evah”, Barack Hussein 0bama.

In this interview with that other sophomore [lit.: “wise fool”], Thomas Friedman, 0bama wishes aloud Netanyahu would have much weaker poll numbers (like his, presumably?) so he would be more “accommodating” concerning a “peace deal” with the “Palestinians”.

Here the “deep” (in the hole) “thinker” (of himself) reveals that not only does he have a very shallow understanding of the region, but that he is a pathetically poor political tactician.

Let’s grant, for the sake of argument, 0bama’s premise that a territorial deal between Israel and the Abbas regime were desirable and feasible.

For better or worse, Ariel Sharon z”l could bulldozer through the 2005 “Disengagement” from Gaza not because he had weak poll number, but because they were rock-solid. The people to his Left backed him from opposition, the people to his Right had nowhere realistic to go, and the controversial and (in many ways) heart-rending move was accomplished without bloodshed only because of the respect and confidence the old warrior commanded.

After the old warrior was felled by first a CVA, then a massive brain hemorrhage that left him only technically alive, he was replaced by the hapless Ehud Olmert. We all know how that ended (the recent coda involved Olmert going to the hoosegow).

Also remember, the person who successfully “disengaged” France from Algeria — Charles de Gaulle — likewise did so from a position of tremendous political strength. Even so, it nearly got him assassinated several times (which inspired one of the greatest thriller novels ever written).

If 0bama seriously thinks that lower poll numbers will make Bibi more likely to make a territorial deal, then I have known vegetable sellers in the Carmel open-air market in Tel-Aviv with more practical intelligence than 0bama has. Then again, I was never convinced he was some sort of genius, or even particularly bright.

Forget “antisemitism”: call it what it is, “judeophobia”

Arab and Islamic apologists have in the past tried to claim that they cannot be anti-Semites, since they themselves are Semites. Of course, the word was originally coined by the German anti-Jewish agitator Wilheim Marr as a pseudoscientific-sounding alternative for “Judenhass” (Jew-hatred), when he founded his Antisemitenliga in 1879. Marr was only concerned with Jews and not at all with any other Semitic people, and in practice the word has never meant anything other than bigotry against Jews. 

I have always preferred the unambiguous alternative “judeophobia”. My daughter wondered if it was patterned on the word “homophobia”. In fact, the word “judeophobia” was first proposed in 1882 by the physician and proto-Zionist activist Leon Pinsker, in his pamphlet Selbstemanzipation (Auto-Emancipation):

A fear of the Jewish ghost has passed down the generations and the centuries. First a breeder of prejudice, later in conjunction with other forces we are about to discuss, it culminated in Judeophobia.[…]

Judeophobia is a psychic aberration. As a psychic aberration it is hereditary, and as a disease transmitted for two thousand years it is incurable.

He goes on to explain the irrational character of judeophobia (a phobia, medically speaking, being exactly that: an irrational fear), its foundation on superstition, and the futility of any attempt to “cure” people of it by rational argument. He then goes on to make the same case as Theodor Herzl would so famously do fifteen years later.

Pinsker has been nearly forgotten outside Israel and well-read Zionist circles (as he never commanded the readership and contacts of Theodor Herzl) but he is remembered by the many Pinsker Streets in Israeli towns.