The memo, and what it implies

Not only has the damning memo been released (Francis Turner blogs here at length on what it implies), but now the “lost” text messages between FBI agent Peter Strzok and his lover have been recovered.

A journalist at Forbes published a timeline, which now seems to have been memory-holed by the paper [UPDATE: seems it is back]— but a cached copy is available here. Mollie Ziegler Hemingway weighs in here: NEW: Criminal Referral Confirms Nunes Memo’s Explosive Claims Of FISA Abuse.

What emerges is something that makes Nixon look like a naughty boy in comparison, and Watergate a schoolyard prank. (See also this, h/t masgramondou.)

In this context, the conspiratorial-sounding term “deep state” is often uttered, even by people as level-headed as Instapundit. Does this refer to some mysterious, nefarious, octopus-like conspiracy at the heart of the federal government? No, it is merely the current US term for a phenomenon with which Europeans (particularly the French) are intimately familiar: the “permanent bureaucracy” of career civil servants. Governments come and go, and the unelected permanent bureaucracy stays in place.

In an ideal world, the professionalism of longtime civil servants should act as a moderating factor and ‘sanity check’ on the less well-considered ideas of elected officials, as well as stop power-grabbing overreach on their part. In the real world, at least as far back as Plato, one faces the question most pithily asked by Juvenal: “who watches the watchmen themselves?”

My contempt for the loser in the 2016 electoral campaign is bottomless: she seems to have all the moral restraint of Lucretia Borgia combined with a peerless capacity for self-pity (read this serialized fisking of her book if you have a strong stomach). In contrast, I am at least willing to entertain the notion that the FBI agents desperate to exonerate her, and find fault with Trump, had sincerely convinced themselves that they were trying to save the Republic from a disaster. There is of course, paraphrasing C. S. Lewis, no worse tyrant than one who sincerely believes his actions are for your own good.

The career civil service bureaucracy in France is notoriously incestuous, with such a large percentage of senior civil servants being graduates of just one academy, the ENA (National Administration School) that some French quip about being ruled by “l’ENArquie”. The ENA is one of France’s élite “Great Schools” that inhabit the tier above mere ‘universités’ in that country’s peculiar system. Its students are a truly elite crowd selected by standardized exams graded anonymously (and hence free of favoritism and reverse discrimination). However, this quasi-Mandarin monoculture ensures a homogeneity in outlook, and only exacerbates the natural tendency of any governing elite to conflate its own collective self-interest with the interest of the nation.

Their American counterparts are a good deal less of an elite, and a good deal more of a ‘credentialed gentry’, to use Angelo Codevilla’s term. Yet they are at least as cocksure as their French counterpart, and at least as averse to an outsider ‘not one of us’ upsetting the applecart. It is, therefore, no surprise that Clinton, Inc. and the Chicago machine behind Obama would have found willing accomplices.

Nobody in their right mind would want to go back entirely to the ‘spoils system’. And there are still people working in the Federal apparatus that it is a privilege to know and who are both highly competent and dedicated to their country.  It is, however, well past time for a thorough housecleaning. It is even more past time for those politicians who suborned elements—all the way to the top—in the country’s highest law enforcement authority to be called out, disgraced, and ostracized from political life forever. I used to dismiss the characterization of the Democrat Party as “a legalized crime syndicate” as irresponsible hyperbole. Used to being the operative word. Now I wonder instead: if it really were one, what would they be doing differently?


UPDATE: Welcome, Instapundit readers!

UPDATE 2: More from Mollie Ziegler H.: How the media buried two FBI stories yesterday. “Where journalistic instincts go to die”, indeed.


“Deplorables” as a “geuzennaam” (linguistic reappropriation)

Today the 45th President of the United States will be inaugurated. I did not vote for him, and many of my friends voted not for him as much as against his opponent. I wish the new POTUS strength, guidance, and clarity of vision, as any POTUS has his work cut out for him right now.

His supporters, both the enthusiastic and the reluctant, are referring to themselves as “Deplorables”, or even, with a pun on a musical and classic novel, “Les Déplorables“. This is actually a classic example of “linguistic reappropriation” at work: Trump’s opponent, Hilary Clinton, had referred to Trump supporters — or indeed to the half of the country that doesn’t vote D — as “a basket of deplorables”. Trump supporters rallied around the insult and took it up as a “nom de guerre” (battle name). [I still believe that was the moment she lost the election.]

This phenomenon is actually quite old, and the Dutch language even has a word for such an insult reappropriated for self-identification: “geuzennaam“. The term goes back to the 16th Century, during the Spanish rule over the Lowlands.

In Brussels, on April 5, 1566, a group of several hundred minor nobles marched to the palace of the Spanish governor, at the time Margaretha Duchess of Parma (an illegitimate daughter of Charles V), in order to present a writ of grievances against the Spanish administration in general, and its brutal repression of Protestantism in particular. (Protestant public sermons, so-called “hagepreken” [hedge preachings], were a capital offense.)

When the Duchess was upset at this disturbance — the wedding feast for her son being in progress at the time — her counselor, Charles de Berlaymont, is supposed to have said, “fear not, Madam, they are nothing but beggars” (N’ayez pas peur Madame, ce ne sont que des gueux.). The petitioners got wind of the term, and promptly called themselves “les Gueux” in French, “de Geuzen” in Dutch. The term stuck and quickly carried over to all opponents of Spanish rule. The bloody repression of the Geuzen by the Duke of Alba would bring on the Eighty-Year War as well as the Dutch Revolt (in which the modern Kingdom of the Netherlands was born).

Some prominent historical examples of “Geuzennamen” in English are “Tories” and “Yankees”. In Middle Irish, Toraidhe meant “outlaw, robber”, and the term was applied as an insult to English loyalists and royalists of various stripes. Somehow the name stuck, and since the 19th Century “Tory” is used by friend and foe to refer to a member or supporter of the Conservative Party.

In the US colonial era, “Yankee” was originally a derisive term for Dutch Americans. Several etymologies are possible: “Jan Kees” (pronounced Yan Case, informal name for “Johannes Cornelis” [John Cornel], two very common Dutch first names), “Janneke” (little John), a corruption of “Jonkheer” (Dutch for “squire”, cf. the German cognate Junker and the origin of the town name Yonkers, NY). During the American Revolution, the British and loyalists made fun of the revolutionaries as “Yankee Doodles”: the song (based on a much older melody) predictably became a revolutionary anthem, and is now a staple of the US military marching band repertoire. Later the term was, of course, reappropriated again…

“Redneck” is another such term. Originally it referred to the sunburns people with light skin color acquire when working fields in the Southern US without adequately protecting themselves from the sun (cf. the cognate Afrikaans term “rooinek” used by the Boers for South Africans of Anglo origin). It then became an insult to Southern whites and their allegedly retrograde ways, then was reappropriated by them as a self-identification.

Languages changes constantly — even as human nature is remarkably unchangeable. And speaking of change: Today we celebrate the end of what has arguably been the most dysfunctional and divisive presidency in the history of the US. As I wish his successor well, I do remember Pete Townshend’s classic lyrics:

I tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We won’t get fooled again…

US-Israel spat: two opposing analyses

Concerning the recent US-Israel spat over recent Israeli building permits in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo (a.k.a. Shuafat Ridge) here are two opposing analyses.

Cal Thomas upbraids the 0bama administration for “having made America Israel’s new enemy”.

On the other hand, Daniel Pipes, no fan of 0bama himself, argues that it is a manufactured dispute over a trifle, calculated to divert attention from (behind-the-scenes-agreement on) more important matters.

We link, you decide. Obviously, I hope and pray that Pipes (generally a very astute analyst) is right, but I fear it might be Thomas.