In Defense of a Police State (II)

He who obtains sovereignty by the assistance of the nobles maintains himself with more difficulty than he who comes to it by the aid of the people, because the former finds himself with many around him who consider themselves his equals, and because of this he can neither rule nor manage them to his liking….Besides this, one cannot by fair dealing, and without injury to others, satisfy the nobles, but you can satisfy the people, for their object is more righteous than that of the nobles, the latter wishing to oppress, while the former only desire not to be oppressed.

-Machiavelli

The Founding Fathers knew their Machiavelli.  By making the “nobles” nothing more than members of “the people” temporarily elevated to power, they hoped to prevent the kind of political instability that has always led to anarchy, then tyranny.

Here again, this works in a rough frontier society, with power jealously guarded at the lowest practical level by men who have skin in the game.  Once the government centralizes past a certain point, however, most of its functions aren’t handled by elected officials, but by career bureaucrats (as Machiavelli himself was).  You can stave off the inevitable consequences of this for a little while with good old fashioned machine politics, where most civil service jobs are handed out as rewards for party loyalty and thus turn over every election cycle, but the Pendleton Act squashed that.  The result is all around you: Rule by unelected, unaccountable career bureaucrats.

Which leads to a crisis of legitimacy.  As Hobbes said back in Part I, “the power of the mighty hath no other foundation, but in the opinion and belief of the people.”  Princes have the trappings of aristocracy to firm up the people’s belief; elected officials have the “dignity of office.”  Career bureaucrats have neither.  Neither ancient ritual nor political philosophy will ever convince the majority of people to obey them.  A GS rating is not a patent of nobility.

By what right, then, do they rule us?

We all know the answer:

the nature of the people is variable, and whilst it is easy to persuade them, it is difficult to fix them in that persuasion. And thus it is necessary to take such measures that, when they believe no longer, it may be possible to make them believe by force.

That’s Machiavelli again, but — eloquence aside — it could have been said by any Soviet apparatchik, Nazi gauleiter, or American government paper-pusher.  We put up with Patti and Selma at the DMV, or goofy professors of Grievance Studies in our classes (to take two of the less harmful examples) because they can bring more force to bear on any one individual than any one individual can on them.

Worst, our bureaucratic lords and masters are so divorced from The People that they don’t even realize they’re acting like The Nobles.  Surrounded as they are by likeminded folks who all studied the same subjects at the same schools and “work” at the same “jobs,” they’ve never encountered anyone who thinks differently.  What William F. Buckley once said of Washington liberals is now true of anyone who draws a government check: They “claim to want to give a hearing to other views, then are shocked and offended to find there are other views.”  They have the power to punish us for having other views, and since they see no downside to exercising it, they will exercise it.  They, at least, still have an unshakable “opinion and belief” in their invincibility, because they’ve never been on the receiving end of it.

We all know this, subconsciously at least.  A large — and rapidly growing — number of us know it consciously.  What happens when the majority of us do?  What happens if some of us start trying to rectify that power imbalance?  When Piero Soderini’s government lost power in Florence, his right hand man Machiavelli was thrown out of office, imprisoned, and tortured.  He died penniless.  A GS rating isn’t a patent of nobility; it’s also not a kevlar vest, a bulletproof car, and a platoon of bodyguards.

The unconscious is rapidly becoming conscious; the implicit, explicit.  Witness liberals’ reaction to last night’s State of the Union speech.  One Democratic “representative” actually walked out when the audience started chanting “USA! USA!”  Whatever this man “represents,” it sure as hell isn’t The People.  In 2016, they were marching lemming-like off the cliffs of a Constitutional crisis.  Now they’re sprinting.  What happens when the people “believe no longer?”

The entirety of Western History says “nothing good.”  We’re about to find out.

 

In Defense of a Police State (I)

The power of the mighty hath no foundation but in the opinion and belief of the people.

-Thomas Hobbes

There you have it.  The foundational assumption of the social contract theory of government is that all people are roughly equal.  N.b. not totally equal, not should be made equal, but are roughly, approximately, kinda-sorta equal — equal enough, in other words, that a fight between a large-but-dumb man and a small-but-clever one is a 50/50 bet.  This is Hobbes’s famous “state of nature,” in which human life is “nasty, poor, solitary, brutish, and short.”  To escape this horrid state of affairs, we roughly-kinda-sorta equal folks contract with each other, trading away some of our liberty for a guarantee of security.  This “social contract” is the basis of all modern political thought.

The problem, of course, is how any such government could propagate itself.  What happens when the state of nature is overcome, and the next generation is born into peace and prosperity?  Why is the king’s eldest son automatically the new king when the old one dies?

Our Founding Fathers, via Locke and Montesquieu, proposed that we all re-contract every few years.  That solves the primogeniture problem, but again, note the underlying assumption: every party to the contract is roughly equal.  It simply doesn’t make sense otherwise.

In a rough frontier society, as America was then, this can work.  This is why George Washington was so conscious of the dignity of the Presidency — Washington had feet of clay, as everyone who knew him knew very well, but he didn’t let those clay feet soil the carpets in the halls of government.  The office ennobles the man, not the other way around, and this was true all the way down the line — any town mayor who put on airs outside of business hours would be laughed out of the tavern.

Fast forward 200 years, and we find ourselves once again ruled by a hereditary aristocracy.  Take Barack Obama, President Sort-of-God himself.  He is not like other men, and not just in his murky, comic book-esque origin story.  The entire American “meritocracy” is designed to produce people like him: rootless cosmopolitans with letters after their names, who feel their prep school yearbook photos give them the right –but not the duty — to rule over the huddled masses.  Take the long view, and every non-Trump presidential candidate of the last three decades has been a slightly different version of this same base model.  They all know each other, marry each other, hang out together, and have arranged affairs such that they can replenish their ranks with guys like Obama, whose Harvard degrees mark him, Mafia-style, as a Friend of Ours.

And that’s the problem.  Hobbes wrote all that stuff about the state of nature in an attempt to explain the English Civil War, and to make sure something like that never happened again.  He knew that people — kings most definitely included — are fickle, shortsighted fools who value their (baseless, irrational) opinions of themselves far higher than they value their lives.  When it becomes too obvious that a king is just a man like any other — when, in other words, the “opinion and belief of the people” no longer holds blue blood in awe — horrific, violent chaos is the inevitable result.

We’re very near that point now.  As folks in Our Thing have been pointing out for a long time, the dignity of the office of the President is dead — Bill Clinton killed it back in 1998.  As we’ve further pointed out many times, the current scandals in our government — Uranium One, the Russia probe, the IRS, anything and everything to do with the FBI — are orders of magnitude worse than Watergate.  Our modern blue bloods still think they’re above it all; “the opinion and belief of the people” is something else entirely.  What happens when the people simply refuse to obey?

 

Channels

Back in the Jurassic, adolescence was all about rebellion.

I’m not talking sex drugs ‘n’ rock ‘n’ roll either.  I mean the kind of natural, healthy, normal rebellion every kid goes through as part of his natural, healthy, normal process of identity-formation.  Mom and Dad are, by definition, stodgy old folks who aren’t “with it,” or whatever the kids say now.  Parents just don’t understand, as one of the great philosophers of our time once said.

Back in the Jurassic, responsible adults understood that.  One of caregivers’ main jobs is giving kids a safe, stodgy, boring identity to bounce off of.  Good teachers, for example, treated a preppie like a preppie, a jock like a jock, a metalhead like a metalhead — not because she endorsed any of those subcultures, but because she knew that for that kid, at that particular time, actually being a jock, preppie, metalhead, whatever, was the most important thing in the world.  Kids aren’t versed in the arcana of heavy metal music because they like metal — metal is deeply unlikable music, made by savvy marketing geniuses who know exactly what they’re doing.

Being a metalhead (preppie, jock, cheerleader, whatever) is a port in the storm, a channel for adolescent angst.  Done right, and with proper guidance — the ancient Sumerian word for this, I’m told, is “fa-ther” — all this identity-hopping is a process of differential diagnosis: I am not this; therefore I must be that.  Getting over this process, dialing in a core identity, is what we used to call “growing up.”

The problem is, we don’t have adolescent subcultures anymore.  Oh, sure, there are still kids around who kinda look like metalheads, and some who ape some of the mannerisms of preppies, and so on, but I have met very few college kids — and I have met a LOT of college kids — who have any idea of who they actually are.

Today’s kids are raised self esteem uber alles, with two awful effects: First, they’re just plain boring.  If nobody’s different from anybody and everyone’s the best at everything, as Principal Skinner once said, then what’s the point of expressing a preference or indulging a quirk?  The dark side of this, of course, is that wrongthink is immediately, ruthlessly punished…. and wrongthink changes daily.  Chanting today’s catechism tomorrow might well get you burned for heresy.

Back in my day, wrongthink was the whole point of those adolescent subcultures.  Being an asshole to other groups, and having them be reciprocal assholes to your group, was literally — literally, Millennials, literally! — the only reason to be a metalhead, skater, jock, whatever.  You knew you were posing; outgropuing a different set of poseurs was how you validated your identity… until one day you realized that we all pose, and that’s ok, because “posing” as a software engineer, plumber, professor, customer service specialist, whatever is just a set of conventions with which to navigate social life.  It’s not YOU — you’re not a Customer Service Specialist, now, always, and only, any more than you were a metalhead back in sophomore year.

Take that away, and you get today’s campus Mao-lings, screaming personality-less nihilist fanatics who have no idea what they’re protesting or why.  Ironically, they’ve been trained by identity politics to see a stable identity as literally — literally, Millennials, literally!!! — the worst kind of thoughtcrime.

As the Z Man says, this won’t end well.

Brights, Clevers, and Intellectuals

Continuing with our “college is a huge scam and you’d be far better served going to barber school” series, this Stacy McCain piece is worth a ponder.

People, especially Europeans and their American SJW mini-mes, love to claim that Americans are “anti-intellectual.”  That’s wrong.  Most Americans don’t give a rat’s ass about intellectuals, it’s true, but that’s not because we hate intelligence.  We admire intelligence, probably more than any other country in the world (cf. the fact that we invented everything that makes the modern world worth living in, and paid the inventors handsomely for it).  What we hate are the kind of glib, superficially clever eggheads who proclaim themselves “intellectuals.”

These are the vast majority of people on campus today.

It’s easy to tell when a professor really loves his subject.  These are the folks who gush over Joyce’s use of adverbs or the finer points of medieval canon law.  They are, in other words, as nerdy and obsessed as any Star Trek fan, only about subjects far more recondite.  You can learn a lot from those types… unfortunately, almost all of them are white, male, and have “emeritus” after their names.  They’re also the happiest people on earth, because they spent their whole lives getting paid to do something they would’ve done for free, and sharing their joy of it with new generations.

Your modern prof, by contrast, generally hates the subject he supposedly teaches.  No, really — read such pronouncements of a Literature professor as you can decipher.  Just from the fact that you have to decipher it, it’s clear these people are opposed, in principle, to the idea of beautiful language.  Ditto Historians — the typical American History prof thinks Howard Zinn was ok, but didn’t go nearly far enough, and as for historians of Europe… well, you get the picture.  Philosophy profs will tell you that there’s nothing worth knowing, and you can’t really know anything anyway.  Religious Studies profs are all atheists.  Political “scientists” are still rhapsodizing over Eugene V. Debs while clutching their tear-stained copies of What Happened (faced with the stark choice between “our analysis was wrong” and “half the country is irredeemably deplorable,” they all unhesitatingly went for the latter).  And so on.

The root of all this is ego.  There’s a certain type of person I call, for lack of a better term, the Non-STEM Smart Guy.  He doesn’t have to be glib and pretentious; many of them are quite intelligent.  It’s just that their intelligence isn’t remunerative in our current social arrangement.  Worse, the kind of guy whose intelligence does pay in our world tends to be geeky or boorish or both.  Therefore, these snowflakes conclude, society must be overturned, so they can finally get their due.

Take Steve Sailer’s Law of Female Journalism

[The most heartfelt articles by female journalists tend to be demands that social values be overturned in order that, Come the Revolution, the journalist herself will be considered hotter-looking]

and apply it to the Liberal Arts — that’s the modern university.  They must be smarter than Donald Trump — and, of course, Smarter Than You — because that’s the only thing that holds their egos together.  So what if a plumber lives a far better and more satisfying life, on any metric that makes sense, than a professor does?  They’re intellectuals, damn it, and you will respect their authoritah…..

… at $45,000 a year ($60K with room and board).  Does this make any sense at all?  Send your kids to cosmetology school.

 

It’s OK to be (In)Different

Sometimes I think that what bugs me the most about our PC, feminized, pussified, Ritalin-addled schools is that they make indifference impossible.  Everything is either ZOMG the greatest thing in the universe or Worst. Episode. Ever.  It’s like we have a society-wide case of Borderline Personality Disorder.

That’s a logical consequence of the Left’s worldview: One must not have Unapproved Opinions, and the easiest way to prove one is free from the taint of heresy is to appear fanatically devoted to Approved Products, and utterly hateful to Unapproved ones.  Thus the frantic search for consensus on everything, even silly little pop-culture fluff.  The goal is to achieve a kind of mental North Korea, where everything not forbidden is compulsory (and the first person to stop clapping for Glorious Leader is taken out back and shot).

Sadly, it has deeply infected the Right, too.  Folks in Our Thing are shocked to learn that I’m bored silly by Tolkien, couldn’t care less about Star Trek, and don’t read comic books.  Yes, fine, I’ve seen your arguments — really, mere statements — about Tolkien’s excellence a thousand times, and guess what?  I agree with you.  Those are good things.  But he still spends one hundred and fifty fucking pages describing some dork’s birthday party. Guess further what?  It doesn’t bother me in the slightest that you do like Tolkien, that you apparently consider stuff like “elevensies” and “second breakfast” deep and meaningful literature (instead of diabetes-inducing saccharine cutesy crap).  De gustibus non disputandum — life’s too short.

The Left, at least, are like this because they have no stable identity.  How could they?  The canon of Approved Opinions can change 180 degrees in an instant, and one must change with them or be banished to outer darkness.  Call it the Molotov-Ribbentrop Effect, or, if you prefer, we have always been at war with Eastasia.  A stable identity requires at least some successful efforts to align oneself with Reality; the One Ring of Leftist belief is that Reality is always wrong.

We have no excuse.  The Reality is, there is no work of art so great that nobody is bored by it; none so terrible that nobody likes it.  Moreover, nobody who lives in Reality — which is all of us, even the Left — has the time to form full, informed opinions on every little thing.  Yes, I am certain that if I were locked in a room with nothing but stacks of comic books, I could find lots to appreciate about them, and, in time, might even come to say that I like comic books.  But until that happens, I will continue in my blissful indifference to the whole schmear.

Folks in Our Thing are even worse when it comes to people.  Again, the Reality is, nobody is 100% “based.”  We all have vast areas of our lives that aren’t consistent with other vast areas of our lives.  We power through with shit-eating grins, because, again, life’s too short.  I hate Lefties; millionaires preaching about Marxism is the height of hypocrisy; yet Rage Against the Machine makes some of the best weightlifting music ever recorded, so they’re still playing on my iPod (further hypocrisy at least 2x) when I hit the gym.

I like what I like about [pick your Alt-Righter].  I don’t like what I don’t like about him, and I’m blissfully indifferent to the rest.  And that’s ok.  I don’t even particularly care if ___ is basically just a grifter — at this point in the history of Our Thing, getting the ideas out there is far more important than any one person’s (fairly obviously shady) motives for putting them out.  Study your history, comrades — Gleichschaltung comes after Machtergriefung.

For the rest, indifference.  You like what you like; I like what I like; and that’s OK, because you’re you and I’m me.  Celebrate some real diversity, willya?  Or not.  I’m indifferent.

What’s College FOR, Anyway?

Following on yesterday’s post, we see that the Left has inadvertently gotten another one right (there is a small kernel of truth in all the bullshit they excrete): Capitalism turns everything into a commodity.

Sometime in the Sixties, we noticed that many successful people have college degrees.  Because “correlation isn’t causation” is a truth we seem hardwired to ignore, we went on to infer that because successful people tend to have college degrees, a college degree causes success.  And since college degrees can be bought, we decided to buy them for our kids.  After all, what parent doesn’t want his kids to succeed?

The consequences were predictable to anyone who has ever seen a consumer fad.  Furbies, Cabbage Patch Kids, Tamagotchis, pet rocks, mood rings, coonskin caps, whatever (I dare you not to spend the next two hours on that site).  First everyone wants one, then the prices jack into the stratosphere, then everyone has one, then nobody cares anymore, because when it comes right down to it you’re carrying a fucking rock around in a box.

That’s what college is these days.

Universities were never intended to be jobs training programs.  Nor were they intended to be research centers.  Both of those are parasitic on the bad “college causes success” inference from the Sixties.  With all those kids flooding onto campuses — and paying a pretty penny to do it! — military contractors like Dow Chemical realized they had a huge supply of trained labor sitting around, in the form of all those new-minted science PhDs churned out to meet the consequent demand for professors.  Why give some egghead a GS rating, a lifetime pension, and a security clearance, when Football U. will foot the bill for you?

Colleges are conduits for Elite values.  That’s it.  That’s all they’ve ever been.

As you probably know, the university system developed in the Middle Ages to train churchmen, the managerial class of their day.  Primitive as they were by our standards, medieval governments were too complex for the nobility to handle, especially because the nobility were a fighting class — generally speaking, the kind of guy who is great at besieging castles and looks to solve problems with a broadsword is notso hotso at the paper-pushing that even a backassward feudal monarchy requires.  The kind of guy who is good at paper-pushing tends to be scrawny and lacking in blue blood.  That kind of guy went into the Church, who sent him to college, and the result was a match made (forgive me) in heaven.  Sir Jousts-a-Lot got to keep doing what he was good at, churchmen did what they were good at, and — this is the important part — since the guys handling the paperwork all spoke the same language, had the exact same education, and probably all knew each other from their undergraduate days, such diplomacy as was required to keep a crazy quilt of fiefs together in some kind of order got handled no muss, no fuss.

The Renaissance university operated on the same principles — minus, in some cases, the holy orders — and that’s the system we have today.  Here again, the idea was to train a universal managerial class.  Whether it was the second sons of the nobility (who would’ve gone into the Church in the Middle Ages), the sons of the nouveaux riches, or ambitious commoners on “scholarship” (= patronage from a blue blood), a university graduate was a pen-pusher, a lawyer, a minor diplomat, an accountant, a scribe, an all-around gopher, factotum, Man Friday.  What he most definitely was NOT was a researcher, an entrepreneur, or a Customer Service Specialist.

The Renaissance had the equivalent of those things, of course, but they’d laugh you out of the room if you suggested one needs university training to do them.  You think you’ve got what it takes to be a professional historian?  Go hit the archives and tell me the first guy to achieve something in a research field — medicine, say — who did his major work while serving as a university professor.  I haven’t done this exercise myself, but I’ll bet you an Obamacare premium you’ll get well into the 18th century before you find one, and probably into the 19th.  Try the same thing with business leaders and inventors.  Generally, the more important the figure, the less formal schooling he had, until well into the 19th century — Carnegie had a 6th grade education; Edison was mostly self-taught; so was Michael Faraday who, along with Edison, basically invented the 20th century.  The guys who kept Edison’s books and vetted Carnegie’s contracts, though… those guys were college grads.

Which makes sense if you think about it.  A management class is, at bottom, a maintenance class.  Managers aren’t expected to innovate.  They’re expected to consolidate, to facilitate, to — at most — tinker around the edges of established structures, to make them maximally efficient.  Those are vital skills; the modern world couldn’t exist without them.  BUT…..

… to effectively maintain a system, one must know that system.  It’s not strictly necessary to like the system — I doubt even the most rah-rah middle manager has warm fuzzy feelings deep inside for GloboCorp — but it’s necessary not to hate it.  And that’s the problem with the modern university system.

Professors are convinced they’re not maintenance workers, because working with one’s hands — the image “maintenance worker” invariably conjures up in modern America — is très gauche.  They’re intellectuals, damn it!  And to prove they’re so much Smarter Than You, they must, necessarily, bite the hand that feeds them… and train their students to do the same.  This is like GloboCorp hiring a bunch of dreadlocked antifa noseringers straight into middle management but, thanks to the “degree = success” category error, we’re all perfectly ok with it.  So what if all they’ve got to show for their degree is a tattoo and some fugly polysyllabic ways to say “white people are evil”?  Studies have shown that people with college degrees make seventeen gazillion more dollars over their lifetime than those without.  Scoreboard, baby!

 

The Truth about College (as I See It)

Further to the Z Man’s post generally, and Sauron’s Lazy Eye’s comments starting here specifically, some thoughts about modern American “college” “””education.”””

First — sigh — some disclaimers (I hate this modern “as a ___” confessional style of writing, but it’s necessary here).  I don’t have tenure.  I’m not even on the tenure track.  In fact, academia isn’t my main gig — I have all the paper qualifications a “real” professor has, but I’m strictly a part-timer on my off hours from my real job.  So I’m hardly deep in the belly of the beast, unlike Sauron’s Lazy Eye, who is in the Majors for real (and who seems like a really nice guy, based on e-interactions).  But I’ve taught at, or been taught in, every level of the American university system, from the Ivy League to Football U. to Private Liberal Arts College ™ to Community College.  Anecdotes aren’t data, of course, but I’ve got lots of anecdotes.

It’s true, as Sauron says (though not quite as hyperbolically), that college has always been more “a holding tank for rich twits’ rambunctious kids” than “a place of serious study.”  By the 1600s, certainly, the old Scholastic curriculum was widely ridiculed as useless, angels-on-pinheads stuff (that’s where the phrase comes from, I believe) — read Hobbes if you want some really top-shelf invective against “Schoolmen” and their musty old pointless hidebound junk.

BUT — and this is the important part — colleges back then were intended to, and did, produce the next generation of the Elite.  Only three types of people went to college back when:

  • The sons of the aristocracy, who needed a literal “safe space” to sow their wild oats before becoming the actual aristocracy;
  • The sons of the nouveaux riches, who needed to hobnob with aristocrats’ kids to learn how to be just plain riche; and
  • Very intelligent, very ambitious commoners’ sons on the make.

The first two groups were already the elite; they just needed to learn to act like it, either by blowing off steam for a few years, or by making contacts and learning the social rules of the game (or both). The third group was being actively co-opted into the Elite.  That’s how Hobbes got his university education, for instance — if you’re the Elite, you want a guy like Hobbes on your side.  Imagine the damage he could’ve done, had he thrown in his lot with the Roundheads!

As recently as the 1950s, college worked like this in America, too.  Originally founded to train ministers back when ministers were the Elite, places like Harvard and Yale had rigorous enough academics, but their real function was the transmission of Elite standards of behavior and outlook.  That’s why they cooked up the SAT back in the days — a modern economy needs math to run*; guys like Slade Jackington van Pelt VI can’t count past ten without pulling off a sock; therefore the guys who can do math must be co-opted wholesale.  A Harvard diploma, then, meant less “this is a well-educated individual” (though it often also meant that), and more “this guy is a Friend of Ours,” Mafia-style.** He may not know just why it’s so important to be able to read Kant in the original Greek, but he knows Kant’s a part of Western Civilization, and he knows — and, crucially, likes — Western Civilization.

Modern college, needless to say, does NOT work like that.

john-belushi-animal-house-painted-coolers

I have yet to meet a professor, grad student, or administrator who could actually tell me what the point of a college education is.  Yeah yeah, we’re all required to memorize the canned answer (“it creates the informed citizenry that is vital to the maintenance of a democracy”), but the only information the citizenry get from their time on campus is that democracy is nothing but a system of oppression designed by the Pale Penis People.  Or the other canned answer (“to give students a broad overview of Western Civilization”), but ditto.  The Elite, in other words, spend all their time telling the Aspiring Elite that Elitism is the source of all the world’s ills.

This is, in real world terms, like ExxonMobil making Lenin their CEO.

The truth is, college today is a giant racket.  They’ll happily take your money, as it provides sinecures for the Diversity they love to interact with act cocktail parties (and absolutely nowhere else).  But as for actually teaching the Liberal Arts as they’re traditionally understood?  Fuhgettaboudit.  Short of wearing a MAGA hat in the faculty lounge, the fastest way to get fired from a modern university is suggesting that someone like Kant might be worth reading.

Can it be fixed?  I really truly madly deeply doubt it.  Even if you fired every egghead from Berkeley to Boston and replaced them with the Z Man’s readership, you’d still have to deal with a studentry educated in American grade schools, raised by American parents and/or (usually or) the American internet.  As I said over at Z Man’s, kooky California classes on pop culture fluff aren’t just political.  In my experience, vast swathes of college students — I’m increasingly coming to believe it’s the actual numerical majority of college students — can’t write a coherent sentence, can’t tell you the century in which the Civil War was fought, can’t find Great Britain on a map, can’t read a text more complex than a tweet.  Moreover, they don’t know that they don’t know this stuff, and not only don’t they care they don’t know it, they actually get offended at the notion that they should care.  If they don’t already know it, it is by definition not worth knowing….

And that’s why you get classes like “The Epistemology of Game of Thrones.”  At least they’ll do the fucking homework… maybe… if it’s not dollar beer night down at the student union and there’s nothing better on tv.  Dumb it down far enough, and you can in good conscience (in the loosest sense of that term) give them the As which are their birthright, that their parents have paid for, and that they — and their parents!! — will gripe all the way up to the Dean’s very doorstep if they don’t get.  The customer is always right, after all.

 

 

 

*N.b. Hobbes always considered himself first and foremost a mathematician.

**Which also explains why the Ivies were so wishy-washy about Jews.  Jews tend to ace the SAT, but can Abe Goldstein ever truly be a “Harvard man” the way Slade Jackington van Pelt VI is?

 

Guest Post: The Great Puppy Act of 2018

[guest post by Nate Winchester]

Was chatting with a friend over the weekend and he said something along the lines of, “Well I think people just need to come together because we agree on so much…”

And then I sighed because I realized how much older I am than some of the pals I hang out with.

Hey, if you’re reading this and you’re a teen-twentysomething – I get it, I really do.  ALL of the adults do.  Why?  Because it wasn’t that long ago we had the exact same idea. (yes, even me!)  It’s why we end up rolling our eyes because the older you get, that just means the more kids you’ve listened to repeat the idea all over again.

See, here’s what we always figure out and you probably will too.  Let’s take a simple mental example, even make it free of politics.  We’re going to institute a policy of puppies to every child in the nation.

tumblr_static_cnyut9iozzsw0k0go8k4sk0s4_640_v2

No big deal right?  Everybody loves puppies, everybody loves kids, left, right, gay, straight, atheist, religious, whoever, surely 90% of us all agree that kids and puppies belong together.

So imagine we’re all together in a room and we’re going to get this program started.

Which puppies?  I mean are we going to issue mutts or pure breeds?  Jack Russell Terriers or Border Collies?  Shitzus or Pit Bulls?  Notice that NO MATTER THE ANSWER, someone will have an opinion different from you AND there will be NO OBJECTIVE MEASURE to decide between your opinion and someone else’s.  You’ll have reasons for your answer and so will they.  X dog may be better at Y, but Z dog is better at A.  There is no way science or math or horoscopes can ever provide any kind of “proof” that some puppies should be provided over others.

Then you start to consider all the other questions:

  • What is a puppy?  A dog under a year?  2 years?
  • What’s a kid?  Are we going to issue puppies right up until someone’s 18th birthday or just until they’re twelve?
  • What do we do with kids allergic to dogs?  Arrest them for breaking the law or issue them cats?
  • If the kid loses the puppy, do we issue them a new one?  Or does a kid get only 1 free one in a lifetime?
  • Do we issue the puppies to newborns or have a minimum age for the child?
  • Can the puppies be revoked or returned?
  • Will we provide any basics like food, bed, etc or will the families do that?

See how one simple policy by which all can agree on the broad idea becomes complicated with dozens of considerations and possible points of honest disagreement.  That’s what your “elders” are trying to get across to you – there is a huge gap between the formation of an idea to the execution of it.  It’s a bridgeable gap, but doing so takes a lot of work and effort.

That work and effort, is where politics happens.  That frustration you feel that the goal is so close to completing if those guys over there would just see things your way is the exact same frustration those guys over there are feeling towards you.  Yeah, it may be annoying, but it’s life.

On the Nature of Evidence II

Glancing at some of the comments around the ‘net about this “sealed indictment” thing, it seems that yes — God help us all — I do have to explain something about the differences between “normal,” “annual,” “happened once,” and “happened in 2006.”  I know y’all get this, Eight Regular Readers, but for the peanut gallery:

As you’ve probably long suspected, most historians, like Liberal Arts professors generally, are all but innumerate — if your typical historian needs to count past ten, he needs to pull off a sock.  Still, one of the first things you learn in grad school is “never trust a number,” and, following hard on that, “never ever extrapolate a historical trend from a number.”  Numbers are, and always should be, only part of an argument.

Which is obvious when you think about it.  Here are two indisputably true facts about World War II:

  1. Germany fought a lot more battles in 1941 than in 1940; and
  2. In both years, Germany won way more battles than it lost.

From this, should we conclude that 1942 was a banner year for the Wehrmacht, and Germany won the war soon after?  No?  Then why on earth should we conclude that, because there were a lot more sealed indictments in 2017 than in 2006, Soros et al are about to be hung for treason?

Never extrapolate when facts are available.  Alas, sealed indictments are, in fact, sealed, so we can’t know for certain what’s in them (let’s assume “sealed” in this case means “sealed tight, like Obama’s college transcripts” and not “sealed like US covert personnel’s identities when it’s politically convenient for Democrats to unmask them”).  What is discoverable, however, is the number of sealed indictments each year.  The .pdf from whence the 2006 numbers came has a whole section on their research methodology — there’s a search tool called PACER where you can look this kind of thing up.  And hey, look at that, PACER stands for “Public Access to Electronic Court Records.”  You need an account to log in, but surely there’s some freedom-loving, pizza-hating barrister out there who’d be willing to do a half-hour’s pro bono research….?

But since 1,077 and 9,274 are the numbers we have, let’s roll with them.  9274 minus 1077 is 8197 and that sure looks like a lot, BUT: Numbers without context are meaningless.  I can think of a whole bunch of non-treasonously pizzariffic reasons the number of sealed indictments jumped by 8,200 in 11 years, starting with population size (298 million to 325 million) and working out from there.

So, too, with the seemingly dramatic jump from “4,188, sealed indictments as of 11/22” to “9,274, sealed indictments as of 12/22.”  I’m willing to bet there’s a thousandfold increase in most American households’ Christmas-related expenses between 11/22 and 12/22.  Do you think that maybe, just maybe, people are trying to cram work in at the end of the year to pump up their annual numbers?  Maybe for bonus purposes?  I dunno if lawyering works like that, especially lawyering for FedGov, but that’s the kind of thing our hypothetical freedom-loving, pizza-hating barrister could clue us in on in about five minutes.

See what I mean?  I get it, y’all, I really do — Hillary in prison orange and Soros deported into the waiting arms of a Hungarian firing squad is one of my wet dreams, too.  But it ain’t gonna happen, and this kind of loony wishcasting is why Our Thing still turns off the normals.  Yes, we’re winning, and Lord willing we will keep winning, but let us not fall victim to the kind of power-worship Orwell warned us about 70 years ago:

Power worship blurs political judgement because it leads, almost unavoidably, to the belief that present trends will continue. Whoever is winning at the moment will always seem to be invincible. If the Japanese have conquered south Asia, then they will keep south Asia for ever, if the Germans have captured Tobruk, they will infallibly capture Cairo; if the Russians are in Berlin, it will not be long before they are in London: and so on. This habit of mind leads also to the belief that things will happen more quickly, completely, and catastrophically than they ever do in practice. The rise and fall of empires, the disappearance of cultures and religions, are expected to happen with earthquake suddenness, and processes which have barely started are talked about as though they were already at an end. [James] Burnham’s writings are full of apocalyptic visions. Nations, governments, classes and social systems are constantly described as expanding, contracting, decaying, dissolving, toppling, crashing, crumbling, crystallising, and, in general, behaving in an unstable and melodramatic way. The slowness of historical change, the fact that any epoch always contains a great deal of the last epoch, is never sufficiently allowed for. Such a manner of thinking is bound to lead to mistaken prophecies, because, even when it gauges the direction of events rightly, it will miscalculate their tempo. Within the space of five years Burnham foretold the domination of Russia by Germany and of Germany by Russia. In each case he was obeying the same instinct: the instinct to bow down before the conqueror of the moment, to accept the existing trend as irreversible.

 

On the Nature of Evidence

The same sources which claim an American Nuremberg is imminent now claim that, even though nothing is happening, something’s about to happen, because look at all those sealed indictments!

The claim, as it now stands (someone might want to take a screenshot of this), is:

  • 1,077, normal number of annual sealed indictments
  • 4,188, sealed indictments as of 11/22
  • 9,274, sealed indictments as of 12/22

Let’s go Wehrmacht-style and attack two fronts at the same time.

First: Where does this “normal number of annual sealed indictments” come from?  Checking the linked piece, we see the following fine print:

How many are normal? 1,077 in all of 2006 per 2009 report.

I trust that I don’t have to expound on the difference between “annual” and “happened in 2006” to this crowd.  Nor the difference between “normal” and “happened once.”  Somebody with better google-fu than I is welcome to look further, but my quick search for “number of sealed indictments in a typical year” turned up nothing but conspirazoid-looking sites linking back to this here .pdf, the source of the “1,077 in 2006” statistic.

So, for the second part of our investigation, let’s take a gander at said .pdf.  The “method” section is enlightening, as it tells you just how the authors decided what counts as “sealed,” their various adventures in soliciting (and sometimes having trouble getting) responses from district court clerks, etc.  It’s worth a skim.

And now the numbers. The “1,077” number refers to sealed criminal indictments, the breakdown of which appears on page 17, with analysis following.  You can browse that at your leisure, but even a glance at the breakdown shows you there are lots of reasons criminal cases get sealed, many of which would require a bit of stretching to cover treason, pizza, or treasonous pizza — the 180 juvenile prosecutions, for instance, or the 70 misdemeanor drug charges.  Or consider the warrant-type cases:

There were 226 warrant-type cases: search warrants (10) and applications for wiretaps (19), sur-veillance devices (12), pen registers and trap and traces (151), telecommunication records (9), tax records (23), and other sources of information (2).

One is free to conclude that these types of things are all treasonous pizza-related, of course, but before doing so I suggest watching a few episodes of The Wire, particularly season 1.

To conclude, we have:
  • no basis for saying that 1,077 is a normal number of annual indictments;
  • no basis for concluding that sealed indictments correlate to treasonous pizza, and;
  • really, no basis for concluding anything at all, except that there are a lot more sealed indictments this year than there were in 2006.
See what I mean about this stuff?
There may be a treasonous pizza-related Götterdämmerung coming down real soon… or it might be yet another big fat nothingburger served up by folks with overactive imaginations and too much free time.  Really, y’all — schizo conspiracy theories are the Left’s thing, and if you want some good ones, I suggest taking a Liberal Arts course at any college in America.  Otherwise, let’s leave it be.