What Laura Field does not know about Claremont, a response.

In her essay, What the hell happenned to Claremont Institute (https://thebulwark.com/what-the-hell-happened-to-the-claremont-institute/) Laura Field has done an excellent job analysing Kesler’s, Anton’s, and Ellmer’s writing. Her work though focuses on the symptoms and less on the causes because she did not talk to anyone inside Claremont or familar with any of the prinicpals. I will attempt to provide a tentative answer to her question based on having attended Claremont Graduate School between 1991 and 1996 where I took classes from Kesler and wehre I was a classmate with Michael Anton and Glenn Ellmers.

The following are an initial, therefore brief, response to her question. The answers are offered in no particular order or priority.

  1. Trump. Trump gave Claremont Institute members and affiliates a chance at power, to be in governmnet if not in the White House. Once you realize that Claremont has always been at the fringe of the GOP, not only intellectually but also politically, you understand the hunger, the yearning to be taken seriously, to be accepted into the centre of power, but most important of all the appearance of being able to exercise power not simply write or talk about it. Even now, though, when they would think they are mainstream of Trump’s cultic GOP, they remain on the fringe. On the fringe, they are forced to review books like the Bronze Age Mindset to show some “relevance” for the “youff” culture. The Claremont Review of Books gave serious attention to a crank book that reads like warmed over intellectual vomit. Harry Neumann is laughing! Strauss had Machiavelli. Jaffa had Lincoln. Anton has the Bronze Age Pervert. It about sums up what the Claremont Institute has become. Even as Trump gave them the chance to make their mark and be taken seriously, to live the dream of going to Syracuse, they sacrificed their intellectual honour, their self-respect, and worst of all Harry Jaffa’s legacy. (The Claremont Institute used to claim that it studied Statesmanship but Trump’s lack thereof means it becomes impossible to recover their reputation. How can they convince a student that they are serious about the study of statesmanship when they supported a man who could only demonstrate statesmanship by its absence. Not only that, when Donald Trump declared he was as great if not greater than Lincoln, none of Jaffa’s students spoke up to criticize Trump. (https://today.yougov.com/topics/politics/articles-reports/2019/12/02/greatest-republican-president) Anyone who knows anything about Harry Jaffa would know there is no way he would have let Trump, or any President, say something like that without subjecting them to a scorching attack. Jaffa used to write to Justice Clarence Thomas criticizing his use of Aquinas and Natural Law theory so I do not think he would have any qualms nor lack the courage to peel the bark off of Donald Trump for saying such nonsense about Lincoln. Instead of Jaffa’s courage, his students, and those who a scant few years ago praised his legacy, sat back timidly and said nothing.) In return for sacrificing their intellectual reputation, Claremont gained nothing significant.
  2. Harry Jaffa died. It is impossible to overstate how important this was for freeing the Claremont crowd to join Trump. Were Jaffa alive and in good health none of them would have done this and Kesler would never have thought of publishing something as poorly thought out and anti-American as the Flight 93 essay or associating himself with Trump even indirectly. Jaffa’s legacy is what sustains Claremont and his status and stature used to restrain these base urges especially towards white supremacy. What Field does not realize, since she appears to base her research on superficial analysis provided by a podcast (https://know-your-enemy-1682b684.simplecast.com/episodes/teaser-the-1776-project) is that Jaffa represented the belief in equality as a conservative principle. In this he was nearly alone within conservativism. Kesler edited with Buckley a booked called Keeping the Tablets and several of the selections praised inequality with the one by Richard Weaver going so far as to say that slavery was an ethically superior system! “It will seem to many anomalous that a slaveholding society like the South should be presented as ethically superior. Yet the endeavour to grade men by their moral and intellectual worthy maysuggest a more sensitive conscience than proscription of individual differences. I do not claim that the South did this successfully, but the great intellectual effort established some conclusions not yet entirely refuted.” (p. 65) Jaffa’s essay on equality was the only reference to it in the work and his essay was outnumbered by those of Kirk, Weaver, and Kendall who were given more space to promote and defend, the Southern ethos as if the Lost Cause was somehow an honourable experience becacuse it encouraged a false aristocracy that only existed because of White Supremacy. The space given to the arguments for white supremacy exceeds that given to equality by 3 to 1. With Jaffa gone, who will speak for equality? Kesler? Anton? Ellmers? No one is left who can speak of equality and that is what West Coast Straussianism, such as it is, meant and it is now dead.
  3. Harry Neumann died. If few people heard of Jaffa, than only people who attended Claremont know who Harry Neumman was or why he is important to understanding what has gone wronge at Claremont. As the last living nihilist, Neumann cut an important and underappreciated figure within Claremont. He was not so much a figure within the Claremont Institute, as he was too philosophical for it, as friendly towards it because his friend Harry Jaffa. What Neumann did, and this is very much inside baseball, was to keep the Claremont crowd on the straight and narrow by challenging them constantly to disavow nihilism (belief in something rather than the nothing that Neumann argued) and white supremacy (the implicit belief in supremacy and aristocracy in contradistinction to Lincoln’s (Jaffa’s) call to equality). Neumann never confronted those students or professors directly only indirectly since he would engage those students who would disavow Jaffa’s (Lincoln’s) path towards equality as either pursuing supremacy, or not believing in anything except the will to power. Yet, with Neumann gone, they have been freed of his criticism. There is no one to hold them to account as they embrace the Will to Power that Trump embodies. As someone once remarked Neumann bayonetted the nihilist deserters from Jaffa’s Natural Rights army. To put it directly, Harry Neumann would have ridiculed Anton and Ellmers for their loyalty to Trump despite his flaws. He would have pointed out they were no different from Rudolf Hess, except that Hess had the courage, the thymos to admit it, while Anton and Elmers do not have the courage or thymos to face up to their nihilism. Instead, they cling to the fig leaf that they follow the DOI and the USCON and work from a belief in natural right which crumble once their Hess defense is unmasked.
    “To those emphasizing Hitler’s faults and weaknesses, Hess answered, “I know! I know! Hitler too has faults and weaknesses. But if you had understood me correctly you would not have raised that objection. It depends upon us whether we show the world his merits or his faults.” Harry Neumann POLITICS OR NOTHING! NAZISM’S ORIGIN IN SCIENTIFIC CONTEMPT FOR POLITICS * The Journal of Value Inquiry 19:225 234 (1985). p228
    Anton and Ellmers, among many, will never speak of Trump’s flaws or his translegal desires so they instead focus on telling the world he must be embraced simply for what he represents or what must be avoided not whether he is instrincally worthy of such loyalty. Churchill for all his flaws is a great man, a magnanimous man, a great souled man was a man who deserved loyalty. Lincoln was such a statesman. Trump would never be confused with a great souled man, yet, Anton and Ellmers cannot, dare not, admit that because loyalty above all to Trump and his cause, is too important, it is more important than truth, intellectually probity, or decency. Neumann would remark laconically that Anton and Ellmers are too cowardly to even admit their nihilism or their cowardice in the face of Trump supporters. It is for this reason they both stayed far from him at Claremont.
  4. Claremont is dying (intellectually) if you look at the people who are on the masthead none of them present any serious scholarship. Who is coming to the institute with ideas or a vision for America? Are they coming for the white supremacy light? The natural rights masking nihilism? What we do have a focus on culture war topics with the fear Claremont is being surpassed by more extreme sites in much the same way Fox News has had to contend with OAN and NewsMax. Hey kids, read the Bronze Age Mindset and you are now in the intellectual vanguard of the conservativism as understood by Claremont Review of Books. Who is the next Jaffa? Elmers? Anton? One would have expected a better rhetorical defence of the founding from the Claremont Institute and a better rhetorical rebuttal to the 1619 project. In its defence, the CRB continues to publish good book reviews, but mainly by external reviewers, but beyond that it presents nothing meaningful for shaping the country’s intellectual life. Like Isocrates of old, it seems more intent on ideologues who are trained in political rhetoric without any depth or meaning since they lack an education for they have taken the shorter path, someone has given them talking points, instead of taking the long way, to obtain political knowledge. The Lincoln Fellows and the Publius Fellows now appear more of a conservative madrasah, that must make Steve Bannon jealous, than a place of serious scholarship. They can be glib and clever but they are superficial as they do not know anything of substance about politics. Their education, such as it is, is incomplete. How are they going to attract anyone to this bonfire of intellectual probity?

As I said at the start, these are tentative reasons for Claremont’s decline, so they should ly be seen as a starting point for further investigation. One thing I have left out is money. How the Claremont Institute is funded and what it has been forced to do to obtain and sustain that funding needs someone with a deeper knowledge of its finances. I do know that the Claremont Instiute, like any think tank, was always seeking funding and rarely had enough to sustain its then intellectual wealth. One could say it has sold its intellectual wealth for financial wealth. The deal has not served them well and it is not one they are likely to be able to reverse.

In the end, Jaffa is dead and the Claremont Institute is adrift in the fading light from his (and Strauss’s) legacy.

Posted in corruption, education, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on What Laura Field does not know about Claremont, a response.

Beirut was worse than Kabul, Why is this even a question?

The fall of Kabul in 2021 after 20 years of war, unleashed a torrent of commentary.  A significant amount of which was intellectually dishonest rhetoric about whether the airport evacuation was a failure and whether it would have an adverse effect on America’s standing in the world. We expect dishonest political rhetoric from commentators who want to score points against their opponents as well as from ignorant people who pontificate on social media. However, we do not expect it from those who profess to be educated about foreign policy, military history, or diplomatic history. They should know better. That they should know better makes their intellectual dishonesty unbecoming.  

What is the issue?

When America agreed in 2020 to withdraw from Afghanistan, no one expected the Afghan regime to collapse as the deadline for America’s withdrawal drew near. When Biden confirmed, in April 2021, that all US forces would be withdrawn by 11 September 2021, commentators were not demanding to see his evacuation plans if Kabul fell as no one expected the regime to collapse quickly.[i] Yet, this is what happened. Without American forces, the Afghani leaders and military lacked the will to fight effectively. They failed to defend Kabul or the other major cities from Taliban attacks which left America and its allies in a precarious security position. America and its allies had to manage a large-scale evacuation, which they had begun to prepare for back in April,[ii] but now had to include thousands of civilians beyond the expected Western personnel. With the Kabul airport as the last exit for Afghanis who wanted to leave Kabul before America left on 31 August 2021, the challenge was enormous. 

On 15 August, Taliban forces took control of Kabul. The American military and its allies had to improvise security around the airport. In many cases, they had to coordinate that security perimeter with the Taliban. Although the Taliban had agreed to honour the withdrawal agreement negotiated in Doha in 2020 and not attack American forces or its allies, they freed a large number of prisoners including, what were described as high value Taliban, Al Qaeda, and Islamic State fighters.[iii] These released fighters were not under the Taliban’s control. 

In this uncertain, chaotic, situation, a suicide bomber attacked at the airport gates on 26 August 2021 killing 170 people and 13 American service members. The suicide bomber was one of prisoners released by the Taliban forces.[iv]

In the months that have followed this terrible event, commentators have made increasingly vehement claims of the callous sacrifice of American soldiers. Some have gone so far as to say that Biden wasted their lives for nothing as the withdrawal and the evacuation were abject failures. 

Other commentators claimed that America’s allies could no longer trust America or its promises. It is worth noting that commentators both in the United States and abroad say this *every single time* America leaves or reduces its presence in an area. George Will went so far as to say, with a straight face apparently, that America’s withdrawal from Lebanon, in 1984, indicated that America was reduced to being a regional power.[v]  

The critics accept the simple argument that dead soldiers and a hurried evacuation are an unmitigated failure and a terrible stain on America’s honour. They insist that the America soldiers died to defend a flawed strategy, a flawed evacuation, led by an incompetent President. The simple answer, though, is wrong. To understand why, we need to compare Kabul to a true foreign policy debacle, to a true waste of military life, to a true flawed strategy. Such an event is the 1983 Marine Barracks bombing in Beirut and the subsequent withdrawal from Lebanon. If we compare Afghanistan to Beirut on the number of casualties, the mission objective the soldiers were trying to accomplish, and the mission’s outcome, we see why the critics are wrong about the Kabul airport attack and evacuation.

Casualties: Beirut Barracks was worse and the Kabul Airport wasn’t even the largest casualty event in Afghanistan war. 

If we compare the number of casualties, we see the difference between the two events immediately. In Beirut, 241 America service personnel were killed.[vi] In the Kabul Airport bombing, 13 were killed. 

On 23 October 1983 a truck bomb detonated at the Marines’ Beirut barracks killing 241 US Marines. It was the largest number of Marines killed since the battle of Okinawa in 1945. 

By contrast, the Kabul attack was not the largest number of casualties in the Afghanistan War:[vii]

  • On June 28, 2005, 19 U.S. special operations troops were killed in Operation Red Wings.[viii]
    • On 6 August 2011, 31 US service personnel were killed when a Boeing CH-47 Chinook helicopter was shot down.[ix]

Neither of these incidents attracted the same amount of attention as the Kabul airport attack. Why? They were larger casualty events. When we recognize this point, we realize that it was not the number of causalities that is the basis for the criticism. Let us turn to the mission objective.

The Mission Objective: Rear-guard defence of innocent vs Targets in a “presence” mission.

In Afghanistan, the American soldiers died to defend people fleeing the Taliban. The specific mission, to withdraw American troops, embassy and specific individuals, was accomplished as America kept its word and withdrew before the deadline. 

The larger mission purpose was an improvised evacuation to help people evacuate to a better life away from the Taliban, which demonstrated the military and the country’s highest ideals. The evacuation was not ideal, very few are, as the regime collapsed quickly. Both the local population and the American political and military leadership had to manage a larger evacuation than anticipated as the situation changed rapidly. In response to the collapse of the Afghan regime, Biden on 18 August 2021 ordered the military to fill up as many planes as possible to evacuate as many people as possible. The training for this type of evacuation had begun in April of 2021 as mentioned earlier, but it was not prepared for an event of this scale and scope.

The difference with the situation in Beirut is clear. In Beirut, the mission was vaguely defined as “presence” with uncertainty about the mission and the extent of the role unclear throughout the chain of command. In other words, no one knew exactly what they were doing in Beirut. [x]

The Marines were initially deployed to Beirut as part of a Multinational Force (MNF) to ensure the safe evacuation of the PLO fighters. The same PLO that was (until 1993) trying to destroy Israel. After helping the PLO to leave, the MNF and the Marines withdrew but had to return as part of a new MNF when the president elect of Lebanon was assassinated followed by the Sabra and Shatila massacres. The second deployment of the MNF was problematic in large part because their mission was ambiguous and more political or diplomatic than military.[xi] The mission was described as peacekeeping but its orders described it as a “presence.” Caught into a sectarian landscape, the Marines soon became drawn into supporting the Lebanese government which meant that they had taken a side in the local conflict where the government lacked any legitimacy beyond the areas it controlled in Beirut. The military commanders on the scene were confused about their mission and saw it more as diplomatic than military, to provide a presence for sustaining stability that would support the Lebanese government.[xii]

Outcomes: Afghanistan an evacuation with purpose and success; Beirut: death and years of civil war

In Afghanistan, the specific mission was accomplished. The American forces withdrew on time, as agreed, and they also were able to ensure a secure departure of 125,000 people in a few weeks. The overall mission, the 20 years of war, was not successful beyond its initial aims since the Afghan regime collapsed before America withdrew. 

The October 1983 attack on the Marines showed the second deployment’s strategic problems. The force was too small to enforce or maintain a peace among the warring factions and it was not neutral within the conflicts between Lebanese factions as well as the wider strategic conflict between Syria and Israel. America was trying to do too much with too little with a poorly thought strategy on how to accomplish it. Even Reagan admitted in December 15th 1983 press conference that if the Lebanese government (already divided and unreconciled as the Syrians were undermining it) collapsed then America would leave. One could read into this that he gave the Syrians the reason to become intransigent while giving Reagan an excuse to leave as it would also allow America and the MNF to blame the Syrians. In effect this is what happened when the Muslim members of the Lebanese government resigned on 6 February 1984 following a call to resign encouraged by the Syrians. The next day America announced its withdrawal.

The Lebanese government was weak and ineffective as it was caught between Israel and Syria neither of which wanted it strong enough to resist them but not weak enough that it would allow the other to dominate it. On 16 August 1983 Graham E. Fuller, in a briefing to the CIA Director, explained this deteriorating situation and described it as the downward spiral.[xiii] On 2 September 1983 explained that America could withdraw having made “good faith efforts’ to support the unification process. 

“US withdrawal of MNF support could be predicated on the fact that the US had made an intensive good faith effort to unite the countries’ warring factions. Since the parties could not agree upon national reconciliation, the MNF is no longer appropriate and would be regretfully withdrawn.”[xiv]

His option became a reality on 7 February 1984. 

To make that happen, though, Ronald Reagan had to ensure the Syrians would get the message that if the Lebanese government collapsed the MNF would have to withdraw. He said that on 14 December 1983. 

The official said the President’s reference to withdrawing American troops in the event of a ”collapse of order” was intended to suggest to Mr. Gemayel that ”if reconciliation doesn’t work in Lebanon, there’s no way we can solve his problems for him.”

He went on to emphasis this point, even as he denied it, on 20 December 1983

He [President Reagan] referred to his comments at a short news conference last week, at which he said that a ”total collapse” of stability in Lebanon could lead to an American withdrawal, and said this remark was not intended as a signal that the United States was contemplating such a move.

”I wasn’t trying to send anyone a message or anything,” he said.

For any avoidance of doubt, that is a classic example of the rhetorical technique called an Apophasis where the speaker mentions a topic by denying it or saying it should not be brought up. Reagan was well versed in this rhetorical tool and used it playfully with Walter Mondale in 1984 when he said he would not use his opponent’s youth and inexperience against him. He used it viciously against Michael Dukakis in 1988 when he said, in reference to the false allegations planted by Lee Atwater that Dukakis had sought psychological treatment for a mental illness, “Look, I am not going to pick on an invalid.”[xv]

Thus, Reagan knew before the Lebanese government collapsed in early February that this would be the likely outcome and one that they had positioned Syria to appear as the intransigent cause of the collapse. With the collapse, America could leave under the appearance it had ‘been the good doctor” but the patient (Lebanon) was beyond saving. 

America was already aware in September 1983 that it was going to have to withdraw. What this means is that the Marines served no purpose since they could not achieve the stated outcome as they were not large enough to impose a peace nor to support the Lebanese government which lacked the legitimacy to sustain any peace the Marines might have kept. 

In terms of the mission, the Lebanese government continued to exist, unlike the Afghanistan government, after America left. America was not needed to sustain the Lebanese regime as it remained caught between Israel and Syria with Israel leaving in 2000 and Syrian finally leaving in 2005.

The Kabul evacuation was not a debacle and would not even rank in the top 50 worst military events for the United States. 

By contrast, the Beirut bombing and the subsequent withdrawal were an unmitigated disaster and debacle with purposeless deaths and a failed mission. Just over three months after that attack, America withdrew from Beirut. America cut and ran. Even though President Reagan had said three times that America would not withdraw, America left.[xvi] America achieved nothing with their deployment nor with their deaths. The Marines died in vain. They were not defending refugees fleeing a repressive regime. They were not assisting in an evacuation as a regime collapsed. They were not defending the perimeter to protect other American personnel or equipment. Instead, they were killed where they slept. In large part because the President had put them in an untenable position.


In less than 10 months after the Beirut Bombing, Reagan would be re-elected in a landslide. He suffered no political cost for sacrificing 241 Marines for no purpose and no gain. Yet, we are told that Biden should be castigated for the 13 soldiers who died defending Afghanis and the American evacuation agreed by someone else.[xvii]

So why should Biden suffer for ending a 20-year war, in which no one can explain why we should still be? Instead, critics can offer nothing more meaningful than we need to be there, to be there. The critics want to focus on 13 dead service personnel who at least died knowing their purpose and died to save others, while the veterans who were in Afghanistan are still waiting for someone to explain to them what their mission was after the Taliban were initially defeated and Osama Bin Laden chased from the country.[xviii] In this the Afghanistan War veterans at least know they were tied to a greater purpose, defeating the regime that had protected Bin Laden, and they were not pawns, without enough support and leaders uncertain of their mission, sacrificed cynically for an outcome that could not be achieved.

If you ask any Marine which was a greater humiliation, I do not think you would find one who would say Afghanistan was worse than Beirut. If you do, please have them explain their reasons to those at Arlington who would disagree.[xix]

[i] https://lordslibrary.parliament.uk/timeline-of-taliban-offensive-in-afghanistan/  It is important to note that the American troops were mostly withdrawn by this point since the Doha treaty stipulated that the majority of American (and NATO) troops would be withdrawn with 135 days of the treaty being signed with the remainder removed by May 2021 if the Taliban honoured its commitments.

[ii] For the evacuation plan see the U.S. Central Command Report on Fatal Afghanistan Airport Attack https://news.usni.org/2022/02/08/u-s-central-command-report-on-fatal-afghanistan-airport-attack  See also remarks by Air Force Maj. Gen. Corey J. Martin indicating that evacuation planning began in April 2021 after Biden announced the withdrawal. https://www.defense.gov/News/News-Stories/Article/Article/2807571/general-says-planning-connectivity-were-keys-to-afghanistan-evacuation/

[iii] https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/thousands-of-terrorism-suspects-freed-as-taliban-seize-bagram-prison-q98fbk7v0

[iv] https://edition.cnn.com/2021/10/06/politics/kabul-airport-attacker-prison/index.html

[v] …. [W]hile George Will saw the withdrawal as a U.S. expulsion from the Middle East. “The signal to the world is that the United States is- at most- regional power,” he wrote in a column entitled “A Military and Political Defeat Boston Globe , February 10, 1984. (see fn 31 p. 76 in Aruri, Naseer H., Arab Studies Quarterly , Fall 1985, Vol. 7, No. 4, The Realignment of Power in Lebanon: Internal and External Dimensions (Fall 1985), pp. 59-77) There is hyperbole and there is stupidity. The comment that that the United States was reduced to a regional power was a stupid statement with no foundation in reality.

[vi] I am leaving out, at the moment, the number of French soldiers (58) who were killed in a near simultaneous suicide bombing against their barracks. https://www.britannica.com/event/1983-Beirut-barracks-bombings

[vii] https://www.history.com/news/the-costliest-day-in-seal-team-six-history

See also https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2011_Afghanistan_Boeing_Chinook_shootdown or perhaps the tragically large number of military suicides since 2001 which exceeds the combat deaths. https://www.nbcnews.com/news/military/9-11-military-suicides-dwarf-number-soldiers-killed-combat-n1271346

[viii] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Red_Wings

[ix] https://nypost.com/2011/08/11/pentagon-releases-names-of-30-americans-killed-in-afghanistan-helicopter-crash/

[x] “The Commission concludes that the “presence” mission was not interpreted the same by all

levels of the chain of command and that perceptual differences regarding that mission, including the

responsibility of the USMNF for the security of Beirut International Airport, should have been recognized and

corrected by the chain of command.” Long Commission report p.12 https://irp.fas.org/threat/beirut-1983.pdf

[xi] The mission statement provided to SCINCEUR by the JCS Alert Order of 23 September 1982 read as follows: 

“To establish an environment which will permit the Lebanese Armed Forces to carry out their responsibilities in the Beirut area. When directed, USCINCEUR will introduce U.S. forces as part of a multinational force presence in the Beirut area to occupy and secure positions along a designated section of the line from south of the Beirut International Airport to a position in the vicinity of the Presidential Palace; be prepared to protect U.S. forces; and, on order, conduct retrograde operations as required.” P.35 REPORT OF THE DOD COMMISSION ON BEIRUT INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT TERRORIST ACT, OCTOBER 23, 1983 https://irp.fas.org/threat/beirut-1983.pdf

[xii] “Competing with the MAU commander’s reaction to the growing threat to his force was his dedication to the USMNF mission assigned to his command and his appreciation of the significance of peace-keeping and presence in achieving U.S. policy objectives in Lebanon. He perceived his mission to be more diplomatic than military, providing presence and visibility, along with the other MNF partners, to help the Government of Lebanon achieve stability.”  Long Commission p. 90

[xiii] https://www.cia.gov/readingroom/docs/CIA-RDP85M00364R001402440042-4.pdf

[xiv] https://www.cia.gov/readingroom/docs/CIA-RDP85M00363R000300630034-7.pdf

[xv] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apophasis  on the Reagan quotations see  M. J. Stephey. “Reagan’s Age-Old Wisdom”. Time. Retrieved 9 September 2017. and Lamar Jr., Jacob V. (15 August 1988). “Reagan: Part Fixer, Part Hatchet Man”. Time. Retrieved 16 August 2015.

[xvi] Three-and-a-half months after the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut that killed 241 U.S. military personnel — and after repeatedly pledging not to do so — Reagan ordered the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Lebanon. https://foreignpolicy.com/2014/02/07/when-reagan-cut-and-run/  

[xvii] Congresswomen Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Greene heckled President Biden over the Kabul deaths during his State of the Union address. https://eu.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2022/03/01/state-union-heckle-lauren-boebert-marjorie-taylor-greene/9337266002/   Boebert might be excused for her ignorance since she was born after the Beirut Bombing. 

[xviii] https://www.npr.org/2021/08/17/1028542770/veterans-who-supported-ending-the-war-in-afghanistan-describe-seeing-the-country?t=1644783237551 and https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2021/09/10/politico-mag-afghan-vets-roundtable-506989

[xix]See  https://www.arlingtoncemetery.mil/Explore/Monuments-and-Memorials/Beirut-Barracks and https://www.lejeune.marines.mil/Visitors/Beirut-Memorial/

Posted in Government, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off on Beirut was worse than Kabul, Why is this even a question?

Political ignorance or political prejudice, which is it Mr Reno?

“Whoever can be trusted with small things can also be trusted with big things. Whoever is dishonest in little things will be dishonest in big things too.”

~Luke 16:10-14

On his 2 June 2022 podcast, RR Reno spoke with Christopher Caldwell about Caldwell’s article from the June/July 2022 print edition of First Things, “Regime Change, American Style”, which was an extensive review of Garrett M. Graff’s recent book, Watergate: A New History. The review itself is worth a separate article since it provides a summary of Nixon’s life that seems to elide his criminality. In effect, Caldwell suggests that if Nixon had done anything criminal then it was no worse than what Lyndon Baines Johnson or John F Kennedy did before him and that the “Establishment” found a long-desired way to criminalize Nixon. It is as if one were to read a 5,000-word Vanity Fair review of Pol Pot’s life with two sentences at the end that mention the “killing fields” and ends by saying “At least he was not as bad as Stalin and Mao who really got away with it”.[i]However, Mr Caldwell’s review is less important than the problem of political ignorance that both men appear to display. 

The issue is not that either man is ignorant of the facts, context, or the source material. In this sense, they do not display political ignorance as described by Ilya Somin in his rather confused article and book on political ignorance which reduces political knowledge to a form of trivial pursuit. He appears to argue that you will be considered politically knowledgeable if you know the three branches of government, how the budget is made, and as a bonus whether you can name the Secretary of Agriculture.[ii] What is never considered is that a person does not really need to know that information to participate politically in the American system. Such knowledge or trivia is a bonus in regard to what political knowledge is and how voting works.  Somin appears to have a rather strange understanding of political knowledge in that it relates to facts about the political system instead of what is traditionally or commonly understood as political knowledge as good and bad decisions or activities about the best or preferred way for a community to live together.[iii]  In this sense, the framers of the constitution were wise in that they understood they could not expect their citizens to be as virtuous as the framers since their virtue was not political virtue understood as political trivia but rather political virtue understanding duty, responsibility, loyalty, and a shared commitment to the democratic experiment that is America. In other words, political virtue was shown by a willingness to volunteer to participate in the public domain when summoned.

In the context of the podcast, the problem of political ignorance is more a question of political prejudice as both men come to the discussion with preconceived notions about Nixon, Watergate, and whether Nixon did anything that would be considered a crime. What that means is that neither man wishes to explore the argument that Nixon was guilty since their goal is more to mitigate Nixon’s crimes or to put them in doubt so as to reduce, albeit indirectly, Donald Trump’s crimes in that Nixon was ousted by a witch hunt and the same can be said to explain why Trump was impeached twice. In this Reno and Caldwell choose to be politically ignorant regarding Nixon’s crimes. 

Around the three-minute and twenty-second mark, Mr Reno makes two claims to mitigate if not excuse President Nixon’s criminal behaviour in the Watergate scandal. The remarks are concerning because his claims are false and demonstrably false, especially if he had read the book he was supposed to be discussing. Moreover, Mr Caldwell, who is supposed to have read the book that he reviewed should have known these were false. If Mr Caldwell did not know them to be false, it raises questions about his understanding of American political culture as well as his qualification to review Mr Graff’s book. Above all it raises questions about whether Mr Reno and Mr Caldwell should be listened to or believed in such matters given their casual disregard for the truth. 

Mr Reno’s first claim is that JFK ordered the assassination of Ngô Đình Diem and his brother Ngô Đình Nhu.

The second is that the Gulf of Tonkin episode was worse than Watergate and that either event minimizes Nixon’s criminal acts in the Watergate affair. 

The first claim is demonstrably false. There is no evidence that JFK knew of the assassinations before they occurred nor is there any evidence that they were ordered by him. There is no evidence. None. Yet, Mr Reno makes this claim as if it is true. He could have checked for evidence. What he would find is that no serious scholar of the Vietnam War has found any evidence to sustain any claim that JFK ordered Diem’s assassination or encouraged it in any way. When this claim emerged again in 2003, three historians of the Vietnam War explained why it was without merit.[iv]

What is clear is that JFK encouraged the coup and the United States supported the coup against Diem as a way to remove him. However, that is very far from encouraging or expecting his assassination. Mr Reno does not attempt to make a nuanced argument that Kennedy should have expected Diem’s assassination or even that he encouraged the coup with the veiled hope that this would lead to Diem’s death. No, Mr Reno goes so far as to state that John F Kennedy ordered Diem’s assassination.

Mr Caldwell who claims to be a scholar of American political history would know this is false simply because if it were true then someone like President Johnson or President Nixon would have made much of it for their own political purposes. Yet, we find no evidence of this claim in any source. Indeed, Mr Graff’s book addresses this specific issue since Nixon was concerned to hide his own treason with the Chenault Affair as he searched for anything that he could use against Kennedy. Graff’s book on page 83 and 96 explains that E. Howard Hunt admitted that he fabricated cables, on orders from those working for Nixon in the White House, to plant the false story that Kennedy ordered Diem’s assassination. Nixon had wanted a way to discredit Kennedy among Catholic voters. Here is Hunt’s testimony under oath to his attempt to create false evidence of the Diem assassination.[v]

The second claim is that Johnson used the Gulf of Tonkin to escalate the Vietnam War. Again, this is simply not true. The United States was already deeply involved in Vietnam when the Gulf of Tonkin incident occurred. Johnson used the incident, which dd not happen, to convince Congress to pass the Gulf of Tonkin resolution which authorised him to use military force in Vietnam. Historians and former members of Johnson administration agree that if the Gulf of Tonkin incident had not occurred, then another event such as the attack on Pleiku would have come along to allow Johnson to press Congress for support.[vi]

In his definitive book on the Gulf of Tonkin episode, Professor Edwin Moises explains that Johnson did not need this event nor was this event the single or even most important episode to expand the war.[vii] More to the point, it remains unclear if anyone even knew what happened at the time. The uncertainty and the ambiguity of the situation was such that people insisted, at the time, and decades later even when evidence emerged to undermine their claims, that an attack occurred.[viii] In other words, people wanted it to be true so it became true in their mind.  However, it is not simply that the attack did not occur, but that the situation was so uncertain that Johnson could use it for its political purposes and he exploited it to the fullest.

Johnson certainly didn’t create the attack nor did he falsify the attack. There was military activity in the area. That Johnson exaggerated and exploited the event is not a crime. There’s no criminal statute against exploiting ambiguity and uncertainty for political purposes. If anything, it reveals that Congress was lax in asserting its prerogative to insist on more evidence or to challenge Johnson in his claims. Congress failed to challenge him because they broadly agreed with the direction Johnson was taking the country. 

To suggest that Johnson acted criminally in using a moment of foreign policy ambiguity to support his domestic legislative goals seems naïve at best and irresponsible at worst. What is the crime? What evidence does Mr Reno have to sustain his claims? He does not provide any nor does Mr Caldwell.  Yet both men are absolutely certain that Johnson committed a crime in the Gulf of Tonkin incident that is on par with or worse than anything that Nixon might have done or was credibly accused of in the impeachment investigation. Yet, if they cannot provide evidence for their claim is it anything other than a political prejudice that masks their ignorance?  More to the point, both men accept that whatever Lyndon Johnson did in foreign policy was worse than what Richard Nixon did in the domestic realm. Is this responsible thinking? Are they helping their readers to understand the world? Are they undermining the truth by failing to investigate the event and educate themselves, and their audience, as to what happened?

Mr. Reno continues by stating that what Nixon did in Watergate, a clear criminal act of obstructing justice, was small potatoes when compared to what Kennedy and Johnson were alleged to have done. What makes this strange is that Mr Reno attempts to equate, and therefore minimize, a domestic criminal act, obstructing justice, which clearly violates the Constitution with an act in the external domain, where the Constitution exerts less direct and unambiguous authority. The Constitution is written to provide the President with extraordinary powers and latitude in the external domain (a realm of necessity), which allows him to act in ways that he would be constrained from doing in the domestic realm (a realm of law not necessity). In many ways, this is the distinction between Foreign and Domestic policy even though the Constitution nominally applies to both.  The requirements of foreign policy, in an arena of necessity, are given greater latitude than the domestic realm, which is an arena of law. Yet, Mr Reno does not consider this and his analysis puts more emphasis on a foreign policy act, done in the national interest for national security reasons in the context of a global confrontation with the USSR, over one in the domestic realm done for Nixon’s personal and political interests. 

Neither Mr Reno nor Mr Caldwell discuss the difference between the domestic and external realm nor the president’s authority in the external realm. Their failure to discuss this difference raises a further question about how well they understand American political culture as well as their competence to comment on Mr Graff’s book. 

If Mr Reno had wanted to mention a crime, he might have focused on Ronald Reagan with Iran Contra or even George W. Bush authorising torture. He doesn’t mention that as a crime, instead he focuses on Johnson and Kennedy as the criminals who got away with it and left Nixon to face the consequences. To suggest that Nixon’s accusers were politically motivated whiners since his minor issue was overshadowed by their monstrous crimes, belies the reality which is that it is the opposite. Nixon acted criminally and knew he was acting criminally in his own interests. More to the point, Republicans also agreed that Nixon had acted criminally and they supported the Rodino Report that catalogued the evidence concerning Nixon’s criminal activity.[ix] Whatever Kennedy or Johnson did in foreign policy, they did based on their democratic mandate to pursue the national interest while Nixon had no democratic mandate to obstruct justice or abuse his power.

There was clear evidence that Nixon obstructed justice and that the Republicans on the committee that voted to move his articles of impeachment demonstrates that Nixon was not hounded out of office by a partisan witch-hunt. They weren’t coerced into this. It wasn’t a partisan approach. It was bipartisan. Both Democrats and Republicans voted for it. This is unambiguous. It’s in the voting record.[x]  And yet, neither Mr. Reno nor Mr Caldwell mention this evidence. Instead, they would mislead listeners and encourage them in the false belief that Nixon was almost innocent of anything, and if he was guilty of anything, it was simply politics and on par with what Johnson and Kennedy had done in foreign policy.

From this episode we have to conclude that neither Mr Reno nor Mr Caldwell have much concern with the truth or with historical accuracy. They have their political prejudices and even though Mr Graff’s book refutes those prejudices, neither man is willing to admit that. One is lead to ask the question of whether they even read the book they are discussing. I am not sure which is worse, that neither man read the book or that both chose to promote their political prejudices over the truth. Both men are considered public intellectuals with a deep knowledge of American political culture and experience as political commentators, so their political ignorance is concerning as one would expect them to pursue the truth and welcome the truth. Instead, neither man appears to have such a regard for the truth. In this, both men should know better and should apologise to their listeners for misleading them and leading them into error.

[i] Caldwell never mentions in his review that Nixon committed a criminal act nor that there were grounds, supported by Republicans and Democrats, to impeach him and convict him in the Senate. Instead, we are told it was his enemies and his friends that sold him out as if Nixon were blameless in that he was the one caught holding the bag that all previous Presidents had been carrying. 

Consider these sentences, which are indicative of Mr Caldwell’s approach. “Nixon was lured into trouble not by the FBI’s activity but by its passivity.”  (The FBI is at fault.) “These ­irregulars broke into the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.” (There is no mention that Nixon ordered this break in which is known as the Huston Plan.). “He did not destroy the tapes and he did not ­defy the Supreme Court.”  (Nixon obeyed the law which seems to be a surprise to Mr Caldwell who indicates that this was unwise and future Presidents have not cooperated which, one would infer, is a good thing according to Mr Caldwell.) “Democrats impeached Donald Trump twice, once for a sleazy phone call, and once for a demonstration by his supporters that turned into a riot.” (A demonstration that turned into a riot is a curious way to describe an attempted coup in which the President and his advisors coordinated with the attackers who sought to stop the electoral count, and according to John Eastman, have Vice President Pence unilaterally declare Trump President.) The last point is rather bizarre given that the Claremont Review of Books, where Mr Caldwell’s writings regularly appear, published a blistering critique of the Eastman Memos by Professor Joseph Bessette. https://claremontreviewofbooks.com/critique-eastman-memos/  

[ii] Democracy and Political Ignorance: Why Smaller Government Is Smarter, Second Edition, Stanford University Press, 2016

[iii] Political knowledge, or knowledge of good and evil, is something that requires us to climb what is sometimes called the ladder of knowledge which refers to the process or effort to discover whether opinions are a true justified belief about political things. We move from information about political things to opinions about these political things through political science, or more precisely, political philosophy. Our goal is to move from the raw political things, to false or incomplete opinions to true opinions about political things and from there to knowledge. The average person only needs opinion about the political things, they rarely need political knowledge because they live within the world of opinions. Political parties offer a ready-made source of political opinions that a voter needs to participate politically. Even lacking that, they can (and do) follow political experts or people they believe share their political opinions. Even lacking experts, they can act on their own understanding of what is good or bad for themselves or their communities *as they perceive it*. Thus, Somin’s claim that Americans are political ignorant asks the wrong question since it focuses on political trivia and not on political opinions or political knowledge. 

[iv] https://historynewsnetwork.org/articles/1717.html

[v] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q4BxueYtcG4

[vi] McGeorge Bundy is often quoted as saying these events come along like trolleys.

[vii] See Edwin E. Moise Tonkin Gulf and the Escalation of the Vietnam War, Revised Edition 2019 US Naval Institute Press https://www.usni.org/press/books/tonkin-gulf-and-escalation-vietnam-war-revised-edition

[viii] Moise Tonkin Gulf.

[ix] The Articles of Impeachment were in the Report submitted by the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee Peter Rodino https://watergate.info/impeachment/articles-of-impeachment

[x] The Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee supported the report and the articles of impeachment. The votes on the articles can be found here https://watergate.info/impeachment/analysis-judiciary-committee-impeachment-votes

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Comments Off on Political ignorance or political prejudice, which is it Mr Reno?

The American Catholic Church has made a political mistake.

The decision to publicly excommunicate Nany Pelosi ( https://sfarchdiocese.org/letter-to-the-faithful-on-the-notification-sent-to-speaker-nancy-pelosi/?__cf_chl_tk=1X..qcCLlD43rkUK2R6TsPZ510aTCF1gSkWFK6K0w_Y-1653078468-0-gaNycGzNCOU ) was a terrible decision for the following reasons.

First, it is a political decision made publicly for a political purpose.

Second, it singles out one politicia/person.

Third, it singles out one sin.

Fourth, it is disproportionate since it fails to indicate how anyone can elect a Catholic because they must subordinate themselves to the Church for their political decisions even though they are elected to represent the public not the Church.

From now on, every priest must deny communion to any parishioner who is do any of the following and refusing to stop.
Watching pornagraphy
(Note pornography and masturbation are mortal sins ie as bad as abortion.)
Any man who has supported or paid for or required an abortion.
Any actor who simulates sex scenes, drug taking, or any behaviour contrary to the Church’s teaching.
Any homosexual. (This must include any homosexual priest or nun.)
Any parent engaging in physical or sexual abuse of their partner or their children.

If the Church and Bishops fail to excommunicate these followers it fails to be consistent and it demonstrates its political goal is greater than its Christian goal.

Is this the Church we want? Would Christ, who famously chose not to cast the first stone, recognise this Church?

Remember that confession does not absolve you from your sins if you don’t stop your sins. Think on that. You sin and confess and do it again then you are no different from Pelosi theologically speaking. At that point, you should be excommunicated if the priest and Bishop should publicly state you have been excommunicated *and *why* just as they have done with Pelosi.

Embrace it because if you want it to apply to Pelosi in your righteous indignation then you must expect it to be applied to you.

Look, I don’t make the rules, I am telling you how they apply now.


Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on The American Catholic Church has made a political mistake.

What did they think was going to happen?

Our society is based on the idea that we do not use violence or force to settle disputes and that our response to a problem or a dispute should be proportionate. The idea of proportionality is linked to the idea that we believe that the response should match the problem. We would not expect someone to use a bucket to stop a flood nor would we expect someone to use sandbags to respond to a leaky faucet. In practical terms, disputes between people, especially in a school setting, are resolved by a reasoned discussion or debate with each side presenting evidence to support their claims. In other words, if we disagree about something we discuss it and if the issue is a potential crime, that is a breach of the law and not simply a disagreement about rules or conduct that is less than a breach of the law, then we turn to the police or the courts for redress. We do not take matters into our own hands, except in matters of self-defence which is one of the few cases in which force is justified under Arizona law.1 If we take matters into our own hands,2 we become the judge, jury, and execution at the same time. In effect, we do not provide due process, that is treat the other party fairly and equitably, and we assume that we are right without considering the claims and evidence of the other side, nor do we consider whether we are wrong or whether we can persuade the average person in the street of the righteousness of our position. In other words, before we act we need to consider would our claims hold up in front the public or more specifically before a jury or a judge. At a minimum, it should give us pause before we act especially when we are usurping the legal forms of law enforcement that exist within society.

According to the Daily Beast and other news reports, three men ( Rishi Rambaran, the father, Kelly Walker, and Frank Tainatongo) entered, and then refused to leave, an elementary school principal’s office with one man carrying plastic handcuffs. They went to the school to confront the principal because Mr Rambaran believed she had violated the law as his child and six other children were required to wear a mask and quarantine after close contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 which would mean that Mr Rambaran’s child would not be able to go on the school trip the next day.3 In social media postings before they arrived, one of the men Mr Walker, who does not have any children in the school as he home schools them, had indicated they were going to place her under citizen’s arrest. What is not clear, though, is what they expected would happen after they made the citizen’s arrest? From the reporting, it appears the men were intent on using the threat of the citizen’s arrest, or at least their physical presence as an implicit threat of violence, to get the principal to reinstate the child on the school trip. Walker went so far as to claim that the school administrators, by enforcing the rules, are engaging in “coercion and bullying…and breaking the law….” which would require a citizen’s arrest as the appropriate response.4 In effect, the men thought that if they confronted the principal, then she, the school, and the public health authority would change their rules. The men thought that might would make right and that force, not reason, was the correct response to what they perceived was at a minimum something they disagreed with or at a maximum illegal. One thing to note is that the father could not do this on his own. He had to enlist the help of his friends to talk to the principal. 

In this case, the three men convinced each other that their course of action was correct, that the principal was acting illegally, and best course of action was a citizen’s arrest because they had violated the parent’s rights.[“A local coffee shop owner posted a message on social media saying that the school was breaking the law and violating the parents’ rights by not letting their child attend the field trip.” ^https://www.kgun9.com/news/education/sahuarita-principal-calls-police-to-remove-unruly-group] One problem is that citizen’s arrest only applies to specific crimes and whatever the principal is alleged to have done is not one of those crimes. 5 Thus, the central claim that the citizen’s arrest was the appropriate response is clearly wrong. It was not the appropriate response. Instead, it appears the father and his friends were threatening a citizen’s arrest as a way to justify the threat of violence as well as to justify why they had confronted the principal. Despite their claim that father’s rights were being violated, they have yet to specify what rights were being violated when the school enforced the public health regulations to require the children to isolate. From the men’s confused claims it appears the alleged crime was either that the principal was acting arbitrarily or discriminating against the parent’s child (and by extension the other children) or that the mask and the requirement to isolate was illegal or that the parents had a right to insist they could force the school to reinstate the child. None of those acts or alleged crimes are crimes and certainly not crimes that could or would warrant a citizen’s arrest. Instead, they reveal that the father disagreed with what the school was doing and wanted it changed. When the school follows the law, it is not a crime. So far no other parents have said that they agreed with the men that their rights were violated.

When we consider what the men thought they were going to achieve, secondary issues emerge. First, how were they going to achieve it, and second, what they thought the consequences would be.
First, it is important to note that the father was able to convince his friends that this was a good idea or that they should help him. At no point do they appear to have tried to talk him out of his plan nor do any of them appear to have suggested that they call the police instead of attempting the citizen’s arrest. These are adult men and at least two of them are responsible for children, yet none of them stopped for a moment to think that what they were doing was disproportionate, unreasonable, or simply wrong. Instead, the friends appeared to reinforce what the father wanted to do and one of them filmed the event and posted the video online. (It has since been deleted.) That is, one of the men thought it was a good idea to vidow their illegal trespass. These are men who appear to have responsibilities and hold down jobs, own a business, and have employment where they are in charge of people or resources, yet do not appear to have any common sense nor do they appear to have considered the consequences. 6 In this moment, they appeared to have reasoned or agreed that this was a good plan. What is not clear, though, is what they expected to happen? From the statements, or what has been reported, it appears they thought that this would either force the principal to change her mind, or the policy to be changed, or the health regulations to change or all three. At a minimum it appears they thought the child would be able to attend the school trip. 

If parents could threaten a citizen’s arrest to get their way, then it would undermine how the principal works, the school works, and the health regulations work. The principal, the school, and the public health agency work to rules and follow the laws that govern what they do so that they are consistent and effective since that is what the public expects and has given them a democratic mandate to do. At a minimum having rules that are regularly enforced, means the public, as well as students and parents, know what to expect and what to do as well as to know if something is not being done correctly. If the rules are not followed or are applied arbitrarily, then further problems can emerge which need to be corrected. However, identifying arbitrary policies or acts as well as fixing them do not require physical confrontations nor do they require threats of violence or the threat of a citizen’s arrest since neither arbitrary policies nor poorly enforced school policies are criminal acts. Instead, our society is based on the principle or the idea that we can resolve our differences or disagreements peacefully with recourse to reasoned arguments where we present evidence to support our claims and counter the claims of others as well as rebut the evidence they have supplied. In this case, the father, and by extension his friends, disagreed with the principal, the school, and the local health authority but instead of presenting reasons or providing evidence that the decision was arbitrary or illegal, they thought that the physical threat or threat of violence through a citizen’s arrest, would be sufficient to overturn one or all the claims regarding masks and isolation. Let’s assume that was true. What would happen next?

If the father could do this to get his way, then what would that say for any other parent that disagreed with the principal, the school, or local or state government? Moreover, what would it say about disagreements with other public authorities or private individuals. Would similar disagreements require a citizen’s arrest. For example, would he arrest the bank manager if they refused to give him a loan or required him to wear a mask to make a loan application? If the local McDonald’s mixed up his order, or required him to wear a mask in the store, would that warrant an attempt at a citizen’s arrest of the manager or the worker? Although one of the men asserted that a citizen’s arrest was warranted because rights were being violated, he never explained which rights or why citizen’s arrest, which only applies for specific crimes, had to be invoked. If the father could do this does that mean other parents are similarly entitled to do it? The unasked question is what about the other side of the issue, that is what about the parents who want their children protected from Covid-19? “Would parents who wanted the rules to be applied so their children could be safe, be able to do the same? Would they be entitled to arrest the father and his friends?” Or could they threaten the principal to ensure the rules were upheld? Finally, if the citizen’s arrest is only a precursor to calling the police, that is all a citizen’s arrest achieves in that it keeps a person from fleeing a crime scene, why not skip the citizen’s arrest and just call the police? 

Let’s consider these in turn. 

  1. If this parent was able to succeed, then that would mean any time a parent thought they or their child’s rights were being violated, they could rely on confrontation and a citizen’s arrest or the threat of a citizen’s arrest. If we followed this logic, then we would soon have conflicting claims in that those who want a rule upheld would be in conflict with those who opposed it. Yet, our society and our political system is based on the idea that we have mechanisms for resolving these types of questions. We do not have to rely on force or the threat of force. Instead, we rely on reason and persuading others of our cause so that we can help change the minds of others or elect candidates or hire people who support our views. Even if we do not go to the extent of electing a different school board, schools and other institutions have dispute resolution or appeal mechanisms for situations where parents disagree with the school. None of the men used that appeal process.
  2. The father and his friends claimed the principal acted illegally, but that was his opinion. None of the men has yet to provide either evidence of illegal activity or the rights that were being violated. All they have provided is that they disagreed with the principal, the school, and the public health authority. If we take their claim seriously, that is the principal committed a crime, then the next step is to call the police. They are trained and legally responsible for dealing with breaches of the law. There was no urgency that required him to attempt to take the law into his own hands. At the same time, why did his friends not ask that question? Why did they not recommend calling the police? More to the point, if his opinion about the law is all that matters, does that mean that others can approach the school or the three men with their version of what is legal or illegal and apply to the men or the school? Clearly, the answer is no because we have a process and an institution for making laws as well as another one for enforcing it and a third for judging whether the law is sound.
  3. The next issue is whether the parent, and his friends, act this way with other public sector institutions, where there rights might be violated or they disagree with the decision by the public sector organisation, or if they act this way with private institutions or private individuals. Was the issue about a public sector institution or was it about an illegal act no matter where it occurs. We have to wonder if the parent, and his friends, threaten a citizen’s arrest if they disagree with the wastewater reclamation or parking? Would they approach a parking ticket dispute, that is they thought the parking enforcement officer was acting illegally, in the same way? Is it only the institution, the school, or is it the issue of what they perceive as criminal action? If their bank refused them a loan would they act in this way? If not, why not? One immediate answer might be that the father acted to protect his child or at least ensure he attended the school trip. On the surface, this might make sense if the child was in immediate harm or if the parent is concerned with his child's safety since he might be concerned his child was in danger. Yet, the only danger to the child was that the child had been potentially exposed to Covid-19 and would miss a field trip. Does a missed field trip warrant a response that includes the threat of a citizen's arrest as well as requiring two other adult males to support the father? No, it does not. Yet, if that claim is made, it raises the subsequent question, would the parent do this in other issues involving his child? For example, would he do this if his child was denied a place on a sports team because he had been in contact with someone with Covid-19? Would he threaten the coach with a citizen's arrest? If the child could not go to the public library, would that require the threat of a citizen's arrest against the librarian or the library administrator? This seems unlikely but it remains a possibility as the father has shown that he would act this way. However, it is clear that the threat of citizen's arrest is disproportionate to the issue and is not applicable to the situation.
  4. If the father and his friends are willing to act this way in public or with public institutions, would they act this way in their private lives? If they have a dispute with their neighbour or think their neighbour is acting illegally, such as burning rubbish, would they threaten them with citizen’s arrest? It remains unclear whether they would or not. We would need to find out if they have attempted a citizen’s arrest at any other time. However, given that they do not appear to understand that citizen’s arrest only applies to certain crimes, the alleged act by the principal is not one of them, it suggests that they have never applied it nor do they understand what it means. The men are ignorant and seem to think they know what they are doing which is a dangerous combination that seems quite common these days in America.
  5. A further concern is that no one thought to dissuade the father and his friends from what they were doing. They did not stop to think whether they should do this or whether this was a good idea. In other words, no one pointed out that if what they believed was true, then they should have called the police. The citizen’s arrest is only a prelude to the police making an official arrest if the law appeared to have been broken. It appears none of the men, nor any of their family or friends, pointed out that if they believed a crime was committed that they should call the police nor did they point out that the citizen’s arrest is only for holding someone until the police arrive. Even when asked to leave, none of the men thought they should wait until the police arrived. If the men had believed in the rightness of their cause they should have stayed until the police arrived so they could explain the situation and ask the police to arrest the principal. 

When we understand that our acts have consequences and what we do can be used by others, then the Golden Rule rule; “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” becomes a sensible approach to life and one that allows us to live civilized lives free from the threat of violence. In other words, it encourages us to understand reciprocity since how we treat others is how they will treat us, which leads us to an important counter argument against using force or the threat of a citizen’s arrest when we disagree with someone.

If the men thought they were empowered to act as they did, then the question becomes whether the principal, who was upholding the rules and enforcing the law, would have been reasonable in resisting their demands with force. If she had pulled a firearm in response to their refusal to leave her office, she reciprocates and escalates because she disagrees with them, would the men have agreed with her approach? Would they have agreed with her point of view because she had shown greater force and thus a greater threat? How the men behaved would seem to suggest that they would have to accept that response since they worked from the premise that force was acceptable to get their way in which case if the teacher used greater force, then she must be right. The question was not whether the principal, the school, and the public health authority were acting within reason and in accordance with agreed rules and procedures, but whether they had sufficient force to get their way.

What appears to have happened is that none of the men considered the consequences of their actions. They appear to have assumed or acted on the belief that they were right and there would be no consequences. In other words, they thought they could act with impunity. This belief that they would not face consequences appears to have been part of what had encouraged them to act. If they thought through the potential consequences of their actions or at least called the police, they might have made a different decision.

What appears to have happened, but is not clear from the reporting, is that the men encouraged each other to act. They convinced each other that the plan was a good idea and to act accordingly. How the men acted is not surprising within the social media cultural context which shows videos of people who act with apparent impunity when they shout at public school officials or at public meetings, or confront public officials. In these videos we rarely see anyone face a response to the claims they have raised nor do we see them experience consequences for what they have done. To some extent that is the benefit of free speech in that people can speak their mind even if they appear to have lost their mind. The danger, though, is that it gives the impression that such behaviour, when it moves beyond free speech to intimidation and threats, can be done without impunity and may even have broad support. After all, you do not have the audience jeering them or anyone approaching them after the meeting asking them to explain why they believe the School Board are lizard people. In other words, they rarely have to justify themselves. Even though the people might, and often do, face consequences after the event that was captured on video, most people never see or hear of those consequences. As a result, the audience can develop the mistaken belief or can be encouraged to believe that they can act similarly because there will be no consequences. Yet, our moral life is one in which our choices have consequences. In some cases, such as this, they are immediate and in others it can take longer for the consequences to arrive. However, one could suggest that the folks who disrupt public meetings, act inappropriately, and disgracefully are already living with the consequences of their behaviour. 

What we see is that the people who act inappropriately at public meetings have lives that appear chaotic as they cannot restrain themselves in public as would be expected of an adult. We do not expect adults to act as these men have. The father could not talk to the principal on his own but needed two other men to support him, with one of them brandishing zipties. In this case, the decisions will have legal consequences as the men have been charged with criminal trespass. The indirect consequences is that these men have shown their inability to think clearly or behave appropriately to an issue. In other words, they have shown an ability to control their emotions as we would expect from a functioning adult. They have shown their ignorance of a citizen’s arrest, which the court should consider as an aggravating factor since it brings the law into disrepute. The men behaved in a way that showed a clear disregard for the law by claiming the law had been broken. They also showed a disregard for law enforcement because they sought to take the law into their own hands. Vigilantism is a criminal behaviour. They have demonstrated they cannot act moderately or proportionately when faced with something they think is illegal as they did not call the police. In the end, the event shows the men as childish, ignorant, unreasonable, immature, and unable to manage their emotional response to events. They acted like unruly children when they needed to act like adults. Now they face adult consequences.

  1. Arizona law allows for the use of force in three cases, these include self-defense, defense of others, and defense of property. ↩︎
  2. According to the Daily Beast, Kelly Walker wrote on his Facebook account that, “When this kind of coercion and bullying is perpetrated by school administrators, breaking the law, a citizen’s arrest is an option worth looking into,” This suggests that he has determined the crime, determined the penalty, and will enforce the law as he understands it. He and his friends have become, judge, jury, and executioner in that moment. https://www.thedailybeast.com/arizona-dad-rishi-rambaran-arrested-after-angry-trio-threatens-to-zip-tie-principal-over-covid-rules ↩︎
  3. https://www.thedailybeast.com/arizona-dad-rishi-rambaran-arrested-after-angry-trio-threatens-to-zip-tie-principal-over-covid-rules ↩︎
  4. https://www.thedailybeast.com/men-charged-for-ambushing-mesquite-elementary-school-principal-with-zip-ties-over-covid-rules ↩︎
  5. https://www.thephoenixcriminalattorney.com/blog/2020/may/making-a-citizen-s-arrest-in-arizona-can-you-get/ As the article explains, if you make a citizen’s arrest, you have to prove to a jury it was reasonable or you will face potential criminal charges. “In order to properly and legally assert the defense that you were effectuating a citizen’s arrest, you will need to prove to a jury not only that you (yourself) violated the law to prevent one of these crimes, but that you were reasonable in doing so.” ↩︎
  6. “Walker, a local marketing strategist and copywriter, co-owns a coffee shop in Tucson” ↩︎
Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on What did they think was going to happen?

No, Afghanistan is NOT a humiliating defeat.

We have heard a lot of overheated rhetoric about America suffering a humiliating defeat in Afghanistan. Among the many commentators are those who should know better than to characterise the end of the conflict as a humiliating defeat. 

When compared to *any* previous humiliating defeat, America’s withdrawal from Afghtanistan after 20 years of war, at a time, place, and pace of its choosing, is anything *but* a humiliating defeat. To argue otherwise, is to be intellectually dishonest and to dishonour those who have suffered a humiliating defeat. 

  1. France 1940 is a humiliating defeat. France (and its allies) was defeated in six weeks. A well equipped, well trained, modern, experienced army was steamrolled in six weeks by the Nazis. https://www.bbc.co.uk/history/worldwars/wwtwo/fall_france_01.shtml  
  1. Dunkirk 1940 is a humiliating defeat.  Britain had to evacuate most of its troops but still left behind all their equipment and 40,000 men. They fled under an improvised evacuation under continuous fire as the remaining French and British troops fought a valiant, if ultimately futile, rearguard action. Nothing was negotiated and France and Britain surrendered on the Nazis terms. https://www.nam.ac.uk/explore/defeat-west
  1. Burma 1942 was a humiliating defeat. As General Joseph Stillwell put it bluntly, the Allies (British, Chinese, and American) were run out of Burma by the Japanese. He had to fight an exhausting regard action holding off the Japanese while he walked out of the Burmese jungle leading his men in one of history’s greatest retreats. https://www.historynet.com/joseph-stilwells-escape-from-burma-during-world-war-ii.htm  

“I claim we got a hell of a beating. We got run out of Burma and it is as humiliating as hell. I think we ought to find out what caused it, go back and retake it.”

  1. Singapore 1942 was a humiliating defeat as the Japanese overran the British and conquered what had been considered a defensive bulwark in seven days. The Japanese were outnumbered and bluffed the British into surrendering even though Churchill had told the local commander, Percival, to fight to the end. As a result, 80,000 British, Indian, and Australian troops were captured. It is the largest surrender in British history. Once they surrendered the local population was subjected to horrific treatment by the Japanese military.  https://www.historic-uk.com/HistoryofBritain/The-Fall-of-Singapore/
  1. The fall of the Philippines was a humiliating defeat for the United States as the Japanese who were outnumbered defeated the Americans and the Philippine armies. It is estimated that 23,000 Americans and 100,000 Filipino soldiers were killed or captured. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philippines_campaign_(1941–1942)  
  1. Berlin 1945 was a humiliating defeat.  Nazi Germany was crushed into dust by the Red Army. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Berlin (The Allies defeated Germany overall but the battle of Berlin was done by the Red Army.
  1. Tokyo 1945 was a humiliating defeat. The Japanese signed an unconditional surrender after being firebombed for months and having two atomic weapons used on them. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Surrender_of_Japan
  1. The Arab countries losing the 6 day war was a humiliating defeat. The Israelis using a decisive opining air attack to wipe out the Egyptian airforce on the ground in one strike and the next day took out the Syrian airforce. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Focus 

The United States had been in Afghanistan for 20 years and had done as it pleased throughout the country. At no point was it close to being militarily defeated nor was any area off limits to a determined effort to reach it or patrol it. 

When the United States agreed to leave, it negotiated its withdrawal because staying served no strategic purpose. In other words, it chose to leave. When you choose to leave, instead of being forced at gunpoint or pain of death, you are hardly humiliated. You retain your agency. A surrender means you have no say in the matter because you cannot resist. 

As for casualties, the figure is even more extreme and demonstrates the disparity of other defeats and battles. In 20 years of war, the United States lost 2,401 servicemen. By contrast, Britain on the first day of the Battle of the Somme in 1916 lost 19,240 killed in action and 38,230 wounded. https://www.iwm.org.uk/history/what-happened-on-the-first-day-of-the-battle-of-the-somme   In less than 12 hours, the British lost 8x as many men as the US lost in 20 years in Afghanistan.

To choose the time, place, and pace of your withdrawal is not a humiliating defeat unless you are arguing in bad faith about what constitutes a defeat.

It is time to stop arguing in bad faith and begin to be honest with the American public. If you believe America was humiliated in Afghanistan, you are lying to the American public. If you believe what is being said, the you are being taken for a fool and you owe it to yourself to get an education. 

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Bronze Age Mindset: for the credulous rubes, a waste of time and money 

The “book” is a waste of time and money. I have read it and now wish I had read something else in the time it took to read it and write about it. 

Why read it? 

I read it for two reasons first, people like Mike Anton had reviewed it positively as if it was worthy of serious thought for the insight it would provide to conservatives. If he had meant the MAGA faithful, then he would be right because this is their type of book and they are the author’s preferred audience, the credulous rubes desperate for someone to tell them how to live as well as to tell them that their lives have meaning and purpose. His review in the Claremont Review of Books was so mistaken https://claremontreviewofbooks.com/are-the-kids-altright/ , it makes me question his judgement, unless he was simply channelling Norm Macdonald’s deadpan delivery by taking something so unserious seriously.

The second reason was that someone suggested I read it so I could at least understand what was swirling around the edges of the rightwing septic system that passes for thinking these days. In that sense, I am glad I did read it as it confirms the thesis that the right wing grift machinery exists to exploit the sucker who is born every minute. 

On the surface, the book’s title appears to be either an homage, or a satire on, the book called The Gorilla Mindset. A book that I have neither read nor has anyone ever recommended it as worthy of interest for it lacks any insight or writing that is worthy of any time or money. In his review of the Bronze Age Mindset, https://www.cernovich.com/bronze-age-mindset-book-review/Mike Cernovich makes the weird point that he thought the Bronze Age Pervert was hitting on him (why do we need to know this or that Curtis Yarvin is better looking person than he is on his Wikipedia page?)

There is a story that claims the Bronze Age Mindset was found in a safe box in Kowloon, which clearly borrows from the nonsense of the Celestine Prophecy. In reading Bronze Age Mindset, I kept being reminded of the pseudo science presented in the Chariots of the Gods. Any self-respecting author would have kept this “book” locked up instead of inflicting it on readers given how poorly written it is and therefore how poorly thought through it is. 

The book is poorly written, some suggest this is intentional, which is demonstrated or confirmed by the author attempting to write coherently in the American Conservative in response to Mike Anton’s review in the Claremont Review of Books. https://americanmind.org/salvo/americas-delusional-elite-is-done/ In that response the Bronze Age Pervert, drops his pidgin English schtick as the tries to explain why he is a dissident and the American regime is doomed. 

The book’s sentences are meandering to the point I began to wonder what would happen if I had finished each sentence with “Yadda, Yadda, Yadda,” would it have improved he argument? At one point  I dropped my printed copy of the book mixing up several pages. I could not tell if that made any difference as it seemed to make more sense when several of the pages were read out of order. Perhaps that was what the author intended.

When we look at the book’s many claims, we find it shallow or simply wrong. We find claims or assertions like “Question everything” which sounds like the old 60s slogan “Question authority”. It sounds “deep” until you realise the young are stupid and don’t know anything which means they don’t know which questions to ask, how to ask a question, but most importantly they rarely know what to do with the answer they receive.  The book does not move beyond platitudes to make a coherent argument. When it does try to present something that appears light a right wing counter cultural argument, it is married by stupid claims as if the author is scared to make an argument for fear of confirming he has no argument to make or to have one beyond anything he could deny as a jest or joke. 

We have statements like “Suburbs are living arrangement for slaves and subjects.” which is nonsensical but again sounds deep to the credulous. If that statement were true, then what does it mean? Who are the masters? How does one ever escape servitude? Do we need to turn to the Pedagogy of the Oppressed for us to overcome our servitude? How did the Bronze Age Pervert escape to tell the tale of our servitude? 

Nearly every section of the book is littered with these clearly false statements, which raises the concern that Mike Anton took them as true because they sound plausible to him. 

His range of knowledge is vast—or at least appears so. I often found myself willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on scientific concepts I don’t understand because so often when he writes about something I do understand, he gets it right. And when he doesn’t, I can’t be sure he’s not just trolling. 


Anton’s seriousness in reading Bronze Age Pervert is undermined when the Bronze Age Pervert writes

If I would have emphasized anything else to people who had never heard of my book, it is that it deals with a large range of topics, from history to literature to my own personal experiences. It is a book written primarily for fun and entertainment: it’s not a philosophical treatise, and it’s not a political manifesto. I wrote it in a mood of revelry and laughter, these being the sentiments principally to be found also in the phenomenon of dissent that Anton seeks to understand.

By using this claim “I was just joking” or “it was just fun and games” the author wants to have it both ways. He was being serious, he is a dissident apparently, but if he is taken seriously and shown to be writing lazy bullshit as serious advice for profit, he can duck out to say “hey, it was just a joke, I was just trolling…”

The reality is that the book is replete with false claims that are easily disprovable, which make a mockery of Anton’s credibility or his willingness to interrogate the work seriously for his reader. It is as if the author is too lazy to do any work let alone any serious thinking beyond, the system is rigged against us and it sucks.  Even if the author is not trolling or simply lazy, we have one those “lifestyle “hacks”” books that, like the Gorilla Mindset, is designed to get the credulous to depart with their money by telling them how to live a better life, which is boiled down to some basic common sense about getting more sleep, avoiding drugs, alcohol, and junk food and exercising regularly. Instead, the reader has paid good money for someone to have a laugh at your expense. Take for example his claim in section 23 that Nietzsche avoided reading anything written by others. It is simply wrong. Nietzsche was a voracious reader, he was a trained philologist, and even a brief Internet search shows that Nietzsche had an extensive private library of books many of which were closely annotated. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Library_of_Friedrich_Nietzsche Yet for the average Bronze Age Pervert follower this sounds true. The book is replete with such nonsense.  Anton who fancies himself a “serious scholar” should know that his claim about Nietzsche is bullshit. Yet, Anton does not say anything which suggests he dd not know that it was wrong, was too lazy to check, or does not care. 

Another the stupid claim is in section 16 that chimps masturbate in captivity never in the wild (which seems to be borrowed from this 2015 blog http://www.mehergutta.com/masturbation/ , yet dozens of animals masturbate in the wild. https://www.earthtouchnews.com/natural-world/animal-behaviour/masturbating-macaques-give-scientists-a-hand-with-semen-collection/People do research on these topics and he thinks it is funny like some teenage boy laughing because someone said “masturbate”.

In section 49, he claims that the men of Athens were capable of feats fo strength and speed unimaginable today. He supports this claim with the Greek charge at the battle of Marathon as evidence of their physical superiority. He asserts the Greeks, in full armour, charged for a mile. Yet, this is not the case. As this article argues conclusively, the distance was likely less than 400 metres. http://www.electrummagazine.com/2020/06/the-greek-charge-at-marathon-ready-set-go/ The Bronze Age Pervert never investigates his claims in part because he expects them to be accepted uncritically.

What is strange or perhaps illuminating is that Bronze Age Pervert claims to be in good physical shape because he takes care of his body, exercises regularly and understands the demands of being strong and healthy. Yet, he says “I don ’t think any special military units would be able to equal this feat today, and these were average citizens of Athens.” Anyone familiar with the SEALS or the SPETNAZ or the SAS know that this is simply wrong. The soldiers who train in these units endure as harsh training. https://www.verywellfit.com/navy-seals-workout-routine-3119129  But then that is not the point, no one needs to charge in full armour because warfare has changed. It is as if he wants to have his cake and eat it too. The past was better except a unit of SEALS would probably have wiped out the Athenians with automatic weapons, sniper fire, and grenades before they even knew what hit them. 

Another claim illustrates this sloppy work, which we find in section 42 that the Puritans who introduced hops to beer to make it bitter. Yet, a cursory glance at the history of beer making would disprove his claim. https://www.britishhops.org.uk/hops/history/ Mike Anton treats this type of argument as a serious work full of serious scholarship that conservatives should take seriously. At some point, we have to realise this is sloppy work that panders to prejudices that flatters for a profit. 

For those who consume this “book” as intelligent it shows they are either credulous rubes or the type of person who thinks that “covefe” is some sort of secret Trump teaching. Anton writes about the Bronze Age Pervert telling his readers to join the Leviathan but retain the pirate’s ethos so that they can change the system from within and bring down the Leviathan. 

This rhetorical reversal reminds one of Machiavelli, who frequently tempers his most outrageous statements with sensible and moderate teachings; or to say better, who obscures his sensible and moderate teachings with outrageous statements that appeal to the impetuosity, zeal, and bravado of the young. Machiavelli intimates that the primary purpose of his Discourses on Livy is to prepare a certain subset of the youth to act, when the time is ripe, to overthrow a corrupt “sect” and restore ancient virtue. It is my impression that Bronze Age Mindset was written with the same intent. 


So, there we have it. Bronze Age Pervert is saying he wrote the book as a joke and Anton is saying he wrote it as a secret teaching in which his stupid claims hide his deeper serious statements. That Mike Anton says that the author might be writing esoterically (here Leo Strauss laughed) and for the audience that “reads” is perhaps as clear of illustration of confirmation bias similar to those essays that tried to explain “covfefe” as something serious instead of a typing error. It is perhaps this type of thinking by people who claim to be serious that explains why Americans are ingesting horse de-wormer paste instead of taking a vaccine. It is almost as if Americans now lack common sense in that they must follow the political cult over the clear instructions on the side of the packet that says “not for human consumption.”

If we can have adults with PhDs arguing seriously that Trump meant something profound when he tweeted the word “covfefe” by accident, we know that tribal loyalty is more important than critical thought. Socrates would never accept such nonsense and no self-respecting thinker would either, but when politics is more important than the truth, we have left philosophy for ideology.  Claremont has accepted irrationality as worthy of respect and followed politics over truth. 

No, the Bronze Age Pervert is not writing esoterically, he is writing bullshit and charging you good money for it. More to the point, his poor writing reflect his poor thinking. When he does attempt to write seriously, he comes across as talking points without insight or explanatory power. Here is his claim that he is a dissident because the oppression of his views and those of his followers is worse than the oppression experienced in the Soviet Union or the Easter Bloc countries of the 1970s and 1980s.

If you fail to see that you live in the Soviet Union of the 1970’s or 1980’s, or rather something slightly even more repressive than the Eastern Bloc of that time, it may be you don’t know about the threats, financial ruin, and mob violence that Trump supporters and anyone really who steps out of line has been subject to since at least 2016—but actually since some time before that.

Seriously, if you believe that the United States of 2021 is akin to the USSR of the 1970s or slightly *more* repressive than the Eastern Bloc of that era, then you are stupid. In neither of those places or times could you have had this argument or stood up and voted to change the system. Let alone run campaigns, donate money, and live your life. It is simply nonsense and an insult to anyone who had to live through that era or was a dissident in that era. For some reason, the Bronze Age Pervert and Curtis Yarvin become upset about the DMV as if spending time in line or dealing with a bureaucracy is on par with the torture and death that dissidents in the USSR risked. 

 https://americanmind.org/salvo/americas-delusional-elite-is-done/  His thinking sums up to being “We are fascists because the left were fascist before us and we need to catch up”.

The left completely abandoned Americanism in the 1960’s; at this point they’ve also abandoned biological reality. Vitalism is all that is left against their demented biological Leninism. Encouraging health, normality, and physical nobility against their celebration of deformity, obesity, and sexual catamitism must be one of the basic functions of conservatism in our time. It is one of the reasons my message is powerful among many who are fed up with the left’s gospel of wretchedness: what is your plan to take that on?

The Left abandoned Americanism so we need to abandon it to keep up with them because we are now the counter culture to their counter culture. Except that the Bronze Age Pervert only understands the 1960s counter culture as diluted and mediated by his preferred writers which means he understands it as he wants to understand it not as it is or was. 

If you want to understand the 1960s counter culture, the read some Joan Didion because at least you get someone who lived within it and understood it for what it was and understood what it would mean. 

Instead of insight, we get warmed over platitudes which is not much help. We want change because we do not like what we see but we do not understand what we see or experience beyond we do not like it. The DMV is our Lubyanka appears to be the Bronze Age Pervert’s claim. He and others think somewhere there is a better alternative without understanding either the status quo beyond a solipsistic view of the world or what an alternative means assuming that one has understood what is happening instead of buying into bad faith arguments that America today is more repressive and dangerous than USSR of the 1970s. 

If the goal is to raise the challenge of a right wing counter culture movement similar to the one that we saw in the late 1960s in the United States, then the author has done a poor job. We perhaps await a right wing Joan Didion to set out the crisis. If one does not exist, it certainly is not the Bronze Age Pervert, Mike Anton, or Curtis Yarvin, then we would be better served by revisiting what Joan Didion wrote in Slouching Towards Bethlehem since her words are directly applicable to what appears to be happening among the right wing culture at least suggested by Bronze Age Pervert and endorsed by Mike Anton.

“We were seeing the desperate attempt of a handful of pathetically unequipped children to create a community in a social vacuum. Once we had seen these children, we could no longer overlook the vacuum, no longer pretend the society’s atomisation could be reversed. … [W]e had somehow neglected to tell these children the rules of the game we happened to be playing. Maybe we had stopped believing in the rules ourselves, maybe we were having a failure of never about the game. Maybe there were just too few people around to do the telling. These were children who grew up cut loose from the web of cousins and great-aunts and family doctors and lifelong neighbours who had traditionally suggested and enforced the society’s values.  They are less in rebellion against the society than ignorant of it, able only to feed back certain of its publicised self-doubts, Vietnam, Saran-Wrap, diet pills, the Bomb.

They feed black exactly what is given them . Because they do not believe in words….their only proficient vocabulary is thin the society’s platitudes. As it happens I am still committed to the idea that the ability to think for one’s self depends upon one’s mastery of the language, and I am not optimistic about children who will settle for saying, to indicate that heir mother and father do not live together, that they come from “a broken home.” They are…. an army of children waiting to be given the words.  Slouching Towards Bethlehem pp122-123

It is here that Didion proves a better critic than the Bronze Age Pervert who seems to revel in his pidgin English as if by ageing the pidgin English of the internet he is somehow making a statement because she understands that freedom, if not being human, depends on the mastery of language. In effect Bronze Age Pervert and the other rightwing grifters do not want to pass on the mastery of language because they do not want the young, their followers, to think for themselves. Instead, they and others enforce the echo chamber because they will give their followers the words to follow. 

If instead of following their nonsense, you want to educate yourself and begin  the arduous but liberating process of learning to think for one’s self, I offer the following books as a possible starting point. All of these books are relatively short, on average less than 200 pages in length. 

One book that will actually teach you something about the world and how to live, then try something like A Guide for the Perplexed by E F Schumacher. He knows about the world, how it works, and best of all how to think about it. 

If you want to understand the counter culture, then pick up Joan Didion’s the White Album and read the essay The White Album. 

If you want to understand what it means to know a topic, and to educate yourself, then consider Umberto Eco’s How to Write a Thesis. If you want to begin to understand the problem of modernity then pick up Sigmun Freud’s Civilization and its Discontents or Nietzsche’s Anti-Educartion. If you want to begin to master language, so that you can think for yourself then get a copy of Joseph Pieper’s Abuse of Language, Abuse of Power. 

In the end, if you follow the Bronze Age Pervert and buy what he sells, then you have been taken for a fool.  The old adage that a fool and his money are soon parted is proven true by those who bought this book. For those of you who read it and think it is serious, then you appear to want to be in on the long con as you seem unable to admit it is bullshit because it would make you question the bullshit you have been presenting as a “teaching” or some “deep” insight into politics or culture. The Bronze Age Mindset is intellectual Ivermectin. 

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Bronze Age Mindset: for the credulous rubes, a waste of time and money 

No, the storm will not change politics in Texas

This is what Texas wants.

  1. Texas knew about this risk and did nothing to prevent it. A similar storm in 2011 should have changed the industry or the regulators or even the public’s mind, but nothing changed.
  2. The politicians who are responsible and the political parties they represent will shift any blame. This has already begun. They will blame the Green New Deal. They will blame socialism. They will say that government regulation caused the failure to modernize, insulate, or to prepare. We will hear stories that no one could have predicted this so why spend money on it? None of the politicians will take responsibility for the past decisions nor take responsibility to fix it for the future.
  3. Even if change is attempted, it will be diluted in details and bogged down in committees. Much will be said, but little will be done. This is intentional in a state where the weakest and most vulnerable live a precarious existence.[i] Increased taxes are needed but no one wants them.
  4. Once the immediate problems are fixed where water and power are restored people will be distracted and pre-occupied with more important issues. Soon the attention will focus on whatever it is that occupies the public instead of the public infrastructure. When the warm weather arrives, people will turn their attention to other things and the storm its effects will be forgotten. Hook ‘em Horns!
  5. This is Texas. We are not going to let anyone tell us how to live. We know best. As former governor Rick Perry said during the storm. “Texans would be without electricity for longer than three days to keep the federal government out of their business” [ii]
  6. Enough will be done to placate the public so that they can move on with their lives. People will be told they should not litigate the past. If they want a positive future, they need to stop pointing fingers and assigning blame. They need to support their government and stop complaining.
  7. There is no desire to change because those that benefit from the status quo see no need to change. They have survived the storm and they see no need for any change to a system that has worked and will continue to work once it is fixed.

The status quo to resist change is powerful in Texas. What you face is a situation where the powerful elite who are insulated from these events will only do enough to placate the public and ensure the problem is diluted, deferred, and diverted onto others to avoid the serious requirements for change. If Texas had wanted a different outcome, they could have voted for it or they could have argued for it in 2011 but they didn’t.

Perhaps 2021 will be a point where something changes. I doubt it. The storm will not be a factor in 2022 or in 2024 because the status quo is too powerful in Texas.

[i] https://www.governing.com/archive/gov-maternal-infant-mortality-pregnant-women-texas.html

see also those who need health care coverage https://stateofreform.com/news/texas/2019/08/new-report-finds-texas-ranks-in-the-bottom-percentage-for-health-care-coverage/

and the elderly https://familiesforbettercare.com/index.php/news/bottom-10-texas

[ii] Former Governor Rick Perry summed it up https://www.republicanleader.gov/whats-up-in-texas/

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Donate — Life After Hate


In this age of increased political polarisation, we can feel that we are powerless to change what is happening to society around us. When someone we know or love gets caught up in the polarisation, such as espousing racist beliefs or showing an interest in racist organisations, especially around White Supremacy it can be difficult to know what to do.

One thing you can do is donate to an organisation, like Life after Hate, to help rescue those who have been seduced by the anger and hatred.

If you have the resources, even a one time donation of $5 can help.

You may think you can’t do anything about what is happening and those who benefit from this hatred and chaos want you to continue to think that, but you can act by either promoting the work of groups like Life after Hate or making a donation.

As citizens, it is our duty to contribute to the common good of this great country. Let’s change America for the better by working to reduce the anger and disarm the hate.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Is Trump our first female president?

My essay is inspired by Toni Morrison’s claim that Bill Clinton was the first black President[i] and Adrienne Rich’s essay Women and Honor: Some Notes on Lying (1975).[ii] I came to her work to understand Donald’s Trump lying. We often believe that politicians lie, but the reality is that they don’t lie very often because they know they can get caught and punished by a loss of credibility, trust, and ultimately voter confidence. Trump is different, though, in that he lies and his lying is not simply political; it is apparently pathological for it infuses all aspects of his life.

To understand why he lies, I turned to Rich’s Notes as she provides an insight into lying and from there, I developed the question as to whether Trump is the first female President.

Rich begins with the observation that a man is known by his honour. If he gives his word that something is true, then it is true for it is guaranteed by his honour.

The old, male idea of honour. A man’s “word” sufficed – to other men – without guarantee

Trump’s word is rarely, if ever, good so he is a man without honour since he cannot be trusted without a guarantee. Trump rarely keeps his word except when it suits his interests or he forced to keep it. Yet, it is not simply his own behaviour that is problematic for what he does through his lies is that he ensures that the people who serve him are also without honour. They either enable his lies or they, in turn, are compromised by his lies. If you work for Trump, you never know if you are being lied to now or in the past. More to the point, you cannot be certain that once their lie is discovered, that they will tell you the truth. When you work for Trump, the problem is that any future statement you make is most likely followed up with the unspoken question “Are you lying now?”

In contrast to a man’s honour, Rich points out, that a woman’s honour has a different relationship with the truth and lying. Women, as she explains, are prized for their loyalty or fidelity not for their honesty.

Honesty in women has not been considered important. We have been depicted as generically whimsical, deceitful, subtle, vacillating. And we have been rewarded for lying.

In a similar way, Trump has been rewarded for his lying as they help him to succeed or at least sustain his appearance of success. His promises to pay suppliers. His promises to business associates. His promises to his wives. His promises to girlfriends. His promises to relatives. His promises to the court. None of these have been kept except under extreme duress such as the court enforcement. In all these matters, Trump does not consider honesty important but he does consider loyalty from others important. He believes that they should put that loyalty beyond obedience to truth or the law.

Trump’s demand for loyalty means that he must come before others so that his feelings are what is important. The same self-centredness emerges with his lies. As Rich points out the liar is only concerned with their feelings.

But the liar is concerned with her own feelings.

However, it is more than protecting his feelings for as Rich explains, the liar lies to retain control of the relationship. A liar cannot have a relationship without manipulation which explains Trump’s relationships since manipulates others to suit his purposes. What we find is that for Trump, there is no such thing as unconditional love. Instead, all his relationships are conditional or transactional so that he can retain control.

The liar lives in fear of losing control. She cannot even desire a relationship without manipulation, since to be vulnerable to another person means for her the loss of control.

To love someone unconditionally would be to accept a loss of control, to trust them, to put them before yourself. For Trump, he cannot love someone else as much as he loves himself and that creates a life of loneliness. Despite his claims of popularity or many friends, Trump, lacks the intimacy of friendship created in mutual vulnerability or shared trust. Instead, what he lives is a life of loneliness sustained by a transactional manipulation of other people.

The liar has many friends, and leads an existence of great loneliness.

What helps the liar function, though is that they never have to confront their lies or when they are confronted, they escape with a form of amnesia. Rich describes this amnesia in a way that could be a form of self “gas lighting” since it helps the liar control the other party but serves another function; it helps the liar avoid their own sub-conscious awareness of the lie. This type of amnesia emerges when Trump says he does not know someone or cannot remember who they are.

The liar often suffers from amnesia. Amnesia is the silence of the unconscious.

For Trump, though, lying is a way of life so his unconscious is dead to him. He has no self-reflection or inner life that allows him to consider his conscience since he does not want the truth that an inner spiritual life requires.

To lie habitually, as a way of life, is to lost contact with the unconscious. It is like taking sleeping pills, which confer sleep but blot out dreaming. The unconscious wants truth. It ceases to speak to those who want something else more than truth

Honesty, though, requires that the speaker express and accept complexity within reality. Instead, the liar avoids complexity so they lie to simplify the world to serve their purposes.

This is why the effort to speak honestly is so important. Lies are usually attempts to make everything simpler – for the liar – than it really is, or ought to be.

We can see this in the way that Trump will lie about complex events or issues since that allows him to simplify them so he can understand and manage them as a pretext to controlling them to his ends.

Rich is prescient in helping us to understand why Trump has never been in love.

An honourable human relationship – that is, one in which two people have the right to use the word “love” – is a process, delicate, violent, often terrifying to both persons involved, a process of refining the truths they can tell each other.

It is important to do this because it breaks down human self-delusion and isolation.

It is important to do this because in so doing we do justice to our own complexity.

It is important to do this because we can count on so few people to go that hard way with us

Trump lies to others because he is only faithful to himself. He has cheated on his wives and he has cheated on his mistresses when cheating on his wives. He does not have an honourable relationship with anyone since that would require him to tell the truth to someone else or even to himself. He might think he is telling the truth, as when he said he would probably date his daughter if she wasn’t his daughter, but even that truth is simply a lie about his responsibility as a father since he avoids having to consider what such a thought means for him as a man or a father.

More than anything, though, Trump is haunted by fear. To keep that fear at bay, he lies. His lies, mask his fear of inadequacy that he cannot live up to his father’s image or reputation as a “real man”. Even though he is President of the United States it is apparent he cannot shake that feeling of inadequacy, a void he is desperate to fill with lies and performative spectacles.

The liar is afraid.

What is this particular fear that possesses the liar?

She is afraid that her own truths are not good enough.

She is afraid, not so much of prison guards or bosses, but of something unnamed within her.

The liar fears the void.

The fear grows from an emptiness that can never be filled no matter his success, an emptiness that keeps him from being able to enjoy who he is, what he is, and why he is. Instead, he seeks to fill that physical emptiness with the junk food and the spiritual or emotional emptiness with lies that allow him to forget for a time. The cheering crowds, the positive press statements, the grand spectacles are never enough because they do not love him for who he is but for what he means for them. It is the cost of his transactional emotional life. His lies deny the fear so that he can remain in control or at least the appearance of control to himself.

Every time he is confronted in a lie, he lies again to escape. If his inaugural wasn’t the largest, then it was because

“Someone told me it was.”

“That is what they are saying.”

“People are saying it was the largest.”

Rich understands this void for a woman confronts it in her dishonesty as her lies become a way to retain some control over herself, her relationships, and her situation.

The liar in her terror wants to fill up the void, with anything. Her lies are a denial of her fear; a way of maintaining control.

What is as consistent as his lying is his fear of and avoidance of confrontation over his lies so that he must deny that he lied, or say he forgot, he cannot remember, or he is protecting someone else. He never admits to his lies or what he lies about because he must hide how he feels.

The liar may resist confrontation, denying that she lied. Or she may use other language: forgetfulness, privacy, the protection of someone else.

Trump’s lies make him less interesting, less surprising, and less full of possibilities. He is not an inventive man who creates a greater good beyond himself for others to enjoy. In this way, his political leadership becomes the antithesis of decent politics. What makes decent politics possible is honesty, truthfulness, and honour for they provide the foundation from which something larger can be created, the exciting possibility of people coming together in a complex relationship. However, these virtues do not occur spontaneously nor do they remain unaided for once created they need to be sustained, defended, and renewed. For politics relies on honour since a man must give his word and mean it just as a woman must be faithful that is be honourable and, in this relationship, both must be truthful with each other for from that relationship a larger community can be created.

Truthfulness, honour, is not something which springs ablaze of itself. It has to be created between people.

This is true in political situations. The quality and depth of the politics evolving from a group depends in very large part on their understanding of honour.

What Trump destroys with his lies are the decency and honour needed for decent politics since his lies undermine trust and honour. The possibilities for trust between people are what Trump removes as his lies make honesty meaningless. How can you be honest in a relationship based on a transactional emotional world sustained and driven by lies? In such an environment, complex relationships from which a group can develop become impossible. Aristotle famously argued for the importance of political friendship as the basis for political society. Within that friendship, we have the trust, honour, truthfulness, and a shared intimacy. Yet, that is what Trump lacks but also what Trump requires as a basis for loyalty. You cannot be friends with others and remain loyal to Trump; it is how he corrupts those around him and the Republican Party since political friendships are impossible. Those within his political orbit are compromised, morally deformed, by their attempts to justify his behaviour or avoid his displeasure.

Trump does everything he can short of physical violence to destroy the possibilities between people to develop those complex relationships based on trust, honour, and truthfulness. We see how he attacks those who speak up or those who might show allegiance to people who have resisted him. Instead of a life of surprising possibilities created by friendship, the liar’s life is dreary and repetitious which requires them to seek stimulus from novelties, audiences, and ceremonies to replace the friendships that contain the possibility of complex relationships of love. Without those external stimuli, the liar returns to the constant dramas of the next lie but the liar and their lies cease to be interesting to anyone except the liar since the behaviour is simply repeated. In such a cycle, human possibilities cannot flourish with the liar or those he manipulates or controls through his lies as neither he nor they can live beyond the lie in a realm of trust or truth.

Rich captures the difference between the drabness of the liar’s life and the exciting alchemy of a people living honestly.

The possibilities that exist between two people, or among a group of people, are a kind of alchemy. They are the most interesting thing in life. The liar is someone who keeps losing sight of these possibilities. When relationships are determined by manipulation, by the need for control, they may possess a dreary, bickering kind of drama, but they cease to be interesting. They are repetitious; the shock of human possibilities has ceased to reverberate through them.

What we find isn’t so much that Trump kills everything he touches[iii] so much as he drains it of meaning. Through his lies he drains people, events, and places of the possibility of being interesting or full of possibilities. Trump isn’t so much a female president for he lacks loyalty or even a male president[iv] since he lacks honour, but he must be considered our first eunuch president simply incapable of any lasting achievement beyond the performative spectacle of his lies.

[i] https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1998/10/05/comment-6543

[ii] http://www.oregoncampuscompact.org/uploads/1/3/0/4/13042698/women_and_honor_-_some_notes_on_lying__adrienne_rich_.pdf

[iii] https://www.npr.org/2018/08/07/635978021/in-everything-trump-touches-dies-few-are-spared?t=1593279963212

[iv] https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/05/donald-trump-the-most-unmanly-president/612031/

Posted in corruption, justice, privacy, statesmanship | Comments Off on Is Trump our first female president?