I Guess Our Work Here is Done, Y’all

Here at Rotten Chestnuts, we try to examine some of the stuff “everybody knows” that just ain’t so.  But we can’t know everything.  We are, after all, just people.

Sexy, wonderful people, to be sure, but still just people.

But the eggheads at Vox, now… those guys know everything.  Really.  The Federalist breaks it all down.

We can’t possibly compete with that.  It’s time to pack it in, guys.

When Politics Gets in the Way of Truth

Yeah, it happens to the good guys, too.

Over at Ace’s Sunday book thread, they’re discussing a book called Wisconsin Death Trip, which is a collection of photographs of Victorian prairie life.  Based on the blurbs, the poster concludes — no doubt correctly — that the author, historian Michael Lesy, went with the grotesques:

So my question is, out of the 30,000 photos he had available, how did Lesy decide which ones were “most compelling”? Let me guess: he picked the absolute worst ones he could find, the ugliest, the most disturbing, the most shocking. And any that conveyed any hint at all of joy or beauty or happiness were not used. I don’t know this for a fact, but considering all I’ve been able to read about this book, I think it’s highly probable. Pre-progressive America, as settled by the descendants of Europeans, must always be presented in the worst possible light.

Again, this is no doubt true.  And yet, Victorian prairie life was awful.  It objectively sucked, on just about any metric you care to name.  Remember the five A’s — aspirin, antibiotics, antiperspirant, automobiles, and air conditioning — that make the eco-fascists such hypocrites?  They didn’t have those in 1877 Wisconsin, either.  Go put on an extra three layers of clothing on a summer’s day when the a/c breaks, then tell me about idyllic pre-Progressive America.

Or better yet, go down to your local city or county historical society.  Read a few diaries and letters.  Or hell, take a walk through your town’s oldest graveyard.  Count up the number of stones with dates like “May 17, 1889 – May 22, 1889.”  Look at all the women who died in childbirth, the tubercular teens, the patriarchs — themselves only 50 or so — buried next to four or five wives in succession.

Again, I don’t doubt that Lesy’s thesis is “pre-Progressive America really sucked.”  I’m sure he is (or was) a tedious human toothache in the Howard Zinn mold.  Just like Sinclair Lewis was a tiresome socialist gadfly whose novels are only considered “classics,” so far as I can tell, because they competently fictionalize the “pre-Progressive America really sucked” thesis.  But it doesn’t mean they’re wrong.

Let’s not fall into the same identity politics trap as Our Betters, the liberals.  By all means, resist with all your might the argument that “pre-Progressive America sucked; therefore we need socialism.”  But don’t do it by lying about the first part.

Conservatives vs. Libertarians

Matt K. Lewis at The Week breaks it down:

Conservatism and libertarianism are not the same. There are obvious differences on hot-button issues like military intervention (libertarians tend to oppose it while many conservatives tend to favor a robust U.S. military) and immigration reform (libertarians want borders that are a whole lot more open than what conservatives prefer). And there’s also the ever-present tension between freedom and virtue, between order and liberty.

So far, so good, but then we get to this:

Libertarians are full steam in favor of individual-liberty issues like gay marriage and marijuana decriminalization. And while not every conservative thinks these things will be the downfall of Western civilization, we do worry that emphasizing rights over responsibility and radical individualism over community might have unintended consequences.

And there you have it.  The emphasis is mine, because in my fairly extensive experience, those are really the only things “libertarians” are in favor of.

Look, I live in a college town.  “Doctrinaire left-liberal” and “poseur libertarian” are about the only two political identities on offer.  Goateed, fedora-wearing, Cheeto-stained dudes who are just too cool to be in your World of Warcraft guild always opt for the latter, and needless to say they’re not exactly nuanced political thinkers.

These guys would vote for fucking Stalin if he promised to loosen up the pot laws, is what I’m getting at.

Let’s look at that list again.  Libertarians favor:

  • non-intervention
  • open borders
  • gay marriage
  • pot legalization

You know who else thinks all those things are just super great?

indexOf course, he’ll go on about military non-intervention as he’s bombing the living shit out of just about everywhere — we’re up to seven different countries at last count — but you know that if he had his druthers, the (ick!) military would be a glorious coeducational gay-friendly knitting circle.

I’ll start listening to “libertarians” when and only when I see one who doesn’t go full progtard the second he gets a whiff of doobage.

The Thiel Question

From RWCG:

“What important truth do very few people agree with you on?”

Sonic’s answer is well worth pondering.  Here’s mine:

People are always rational, but only intermittently reasonable. 

The individual’s basic rationality is the cornerstone of Western philosophy.  All Plato’s dialogues show Socrates leading an individual from ignorance to truth through their own unaided reason.  Hobbes based his whole theory of human nature on it.  Even the Calvinists, who preached the total depravity of mankind, believed it — next to the Bible itself, the most quoted works among the Puritans were the logical works of Petrus Ramus.

But people always seem to forget that second part, even though everyone knows it’s true.  People always pursue what they perceive to be the good.  Key word: Perceive.  Smashing that guy in the face, stealing that car, smoking that joint, screwing that girl… all of these seemed like the best idea at the time, under the circumstances.  What’s rational is not necessarily what’s reasonable.  This is how Hobbes arrived at an authoritarian political system from the basic rationality of mankind.

Indeed, many people would find my Thiel Answer self-contradictory.  The Stoics, for instance, seemed to believe that the universe was Reason; to act “in accordance with nature,” as their commandment put it, was to be simultaneously rational and reasonable at all times.  The French Revolutionaries believed that, too, as these grotesqueries attest.  And Our Betters, the liberals, certainly seem to believe it — if only we saw things from their Olympian perspective, we’re constantly told, we’d be socialists too.

But it’s not trueIt’s certainly not true on the level of individuals.  If it were, there’d be no obesity epidemic in America — all you’d have to do is show the fatties pictures of clogged aortas.  Satisfying an immediate, overpowering urge is always rational; it’s just not always reasonable.

It’s not true on the macro level, either, and even Our Betters know it.  They all pretend to understand chaos theory, for instance, and they’ll happily tell you that you can’t predict even something as simple as a billiard shot with perfect accuracy — there are just too many initial conditions to consider.  It is rational, in other words, to declare that we could make a 100% accurate prediction IFF we knew all the initial conditions.  It’s just not reasonable to attempt such predictions in real life, because we’ll never know them all.  You have to fudge and guess and assume and retcon and pull stuff out of your ass.  Ask Squirty how that’s working out.

Uncertainty makes Squirty cry

Uncertainty makes Squirty cry

What’s your answer to the Thiel Question?

The Rectification of Names [UPDATED]

UPDATE 9/20/2014: Moshe Ben-David at The ComPost Files has some further thoughts, and some name suggestions.


Confucius say that all political problems boil down to using words incorrectly.

No, really, he said that. And he’s right.  For instance, Morgan linked to a piece which linked to a study that said both liberals and conservatives are equally authoritarian, provided the authority who’s speaking is on the listener’s team.

That made internet liberals mad, since they’re all a bunch of freethinking iconoclastic rebels (whose deeply profound and individualistic mindthoughts just happen to line up word for word with every other freethinking iconoclastic rebel’s).

Then someone named News Junkie at Maggie’s Farm, riffing off this, summarized the political developments of the last century thusly:

Since the Progressive Era, what is termed “Liberal” has been increasingly illiberal.

Today, Conservatives are the Freedom people and Liberals are the statist-control people.

Which made internet liberals furious, because of course they’re the freedom people!  Liberals only want Good Things, and Freedom is by definition a Good Thing, so QED, h8rz.

Buckle your seatbelts, y’all — It’s about to get Confucian up in here.

untitledThe good news is, I came up with a simple, straight-line, two-category system that explains all modern political behavior.  The bad news is, it requires a tiny thought experiment, which means no “liberal” — or, you know, whatever — will ever understand it.  But for the rest of you:

I’d like you to ask yourself a question.  How did Goverment come to be?

Not this or that particular government, like America or Mexico or the Babylonian Empire.  I mean the whole shebang, capital-G Government.  Great thinkers and college freshmen alike have pondered this over bong hits since humanity first came down from the trees, and their answers have always fallen into one of two groups:

Group A argues that it’s basically a contract.  A group of individuals, each as sovereign as his physical power can make him, agree to cede some of their rights to a collective, in order to better secure their remaining rights.  The key player here is the individual.

Group B argues that government comes from somewhere Out There.  Maybe it’s God, maybe it’s Historical Necessity, maybe it’s the Flying Spaghetti Monster, but whatever it is, it imposed government on us.  The key player here is Something Out There, whatever it may turn out to be.

With me so far?  Now, apply them to basic history.

Here’s where it gets tricky.  Because our modern freethinking iconoclastic individualist rebel “liberals” want to put themselves in column A, and conservatives in column B.  And they’ll point to their favoritest historical event of all time, the French fucking Revolution, and they’ll say “yes!  That’s where the terms ‘left’ and ‘right’ came from!  The supporters of God-ordained absolute monarchy sat on the right of the king in the Estates General, and everyone who was against that sat on his left.”

Which is true enough.  Problem is, nobody, least of all our modern iconoclastic freethinking rebels, pays any attention to what the guys on the left believed.  After all, they were Against Monarchy, which made them the Good Guys, which made them the liberals.  Right?


The Jacobins’ ideal goverment came from Something Out There, too — just like King Louis’s.  In the Jacobins’ case, it was called the General Will, and it was just as arbitrary, capricious, and despotic as any individual’s will.  Specifically, it was as arbitrary, capricious, and despotic as Maximilien Robespierre’s will.  Robespierre thought Rousseau was really on to something with that whole “force men to be free” bit — especially the “force” part.  But he’s not just guillotining anybody who looks at him cross-eyed; since we’re all subject to the General Will, you’re actually guillotining yourself.

Don’t you feel better?

In other words: The Jacobins and the Royalists were both in column B.  Nobody was in column A.

At this point, any liberals with unexploded heads are probably yelling “but what about George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison?  They were in column A, and they called themselves liberals.  Suck on that, h8rz!”

And that’s why we need Columns A and B.  Washington, Hamilton, and the rest of the Founding Fathers most certainly were in column A.  And yes, they gloried in the name of “liberal.”  Problem is, those guys — you know, white male patriarchal slaveowning gun nuts — have nothing to do with modern “liberalism.”

Washington et al were very firm believers in the social contract theory.  You can tell from that whole “we, the people, in order to form a more perfect union” thing they all put their names to, and shed their blood creating.

Your modern “liberals,” by contrast, clearly are not.  Again, ask them the one simple question posed at the top of this piece:  Where does Government come from?  Or — since they won’t answer — ask it of yourself.  What would they say?

Indeed, where could it possibly come from, other than Somewhere Out There?  To modern “liberals,” the only true and immutable things — besides their own superior moral sentiments, of course — are Race, Class, and Gender.  It’s their holy trinity, and compared to modern liberals, Torquemada is merely lukewarm about Catholicism.  But here’s the catch:  Those three categories are incompatible.  For example: roughly every rapper ever has assured us, and Jesse Jackson agrees, that “it’s a black thing, you wouldn’t understand.”

How, then, is a social contract with them even possible?


Yeah.  Apply as often as needed, to any and all groups in the glorious Rainbow Coalition.

Modern “liberals” are Column B people to the core.  Their Something Out There used to be called “synthesis” back when Hegel was preaching it.  Karl Marx and his fluffers called it “dialectical materialism,” while run of the mill groupies called it “the Laws of History.”  No matter the name, the idea was the same: Something Out There was in charge.  Humans had no agency outside of their social class, because in a very real sense they were their social class.  “It is not consciousness of men that determines their being,” Marx declared, ”but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness.”

Chew on that for a sec.  You literally cannot think otherwise than what your “social being” tells you to.

At this point, all logical people are rolling on the floor laughing, because that means change is impossible, and all Marx’s vaunted “dialectic” is just polysyllabic horse hockey.  How can we possibly change — or even recognize — our ”social being,” if it’s thinking all our thoughts for us?  Marx didn’t actually have an answer (though you’re welcome to pore through the 50-odd volumes of his collected works looking for one), but it doesn’t matter, because Lenin did. It was: “Shut up, that’s why,” and when delivered at gunpoint while your entire family is being shipped off to Siberia, it’s remarkably persuasive.

It’s not quite so effective without the guns and the labor camps, but damned if our modern Column B types aren’t giving it their very best shot anyway.  Ask Brendan Eich how that’s going.  And it logically follows, doesn’t it?  If government comes from Out There, then individuals by definition have no rights the government is bound to respect.  If it’s really just a matter of which race/class/gender pulls the levers of power, then by God make sure it’s your group doing the pulling.

So: Column A, Column B.  It’s that easy.  And if you think about it, this resolves a lot of apparent contradictions.  Your Jerry Falwell types, for instance, are routinely called “conservatives,” and since he’s very obviously not a Marx-n-Mao-n-Marcuse lefty, we’re tempted to assign them to Column A.  But:  Falwell is part of the “religious right.”  His ideal government comes from Out There, and guys like him have no problem squashing secular liberties to speed the Second Coming along.  He’s “conservative,” “red state,” blah blah blah, but he’s a Column B guy to the core.  Similarly, Ronald Reagan used to be a hardcore Democrat, a union organizer, etc.  When he said “I didn’t leave the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party left me,” he was expressing his true allegiance to Column A.

The names change, but the game’s the same.

Find a person who believes that govermnet is created by, and exists to serve, individuals, and you’re in Column A, regardless of what that person calls himself — or whatever label media butt boys and their internet troll ass lickers try to hang on him.  Find a person who thinks government just kinda happened, and can’t talk about anything but vague categories of people, and he’s in Column B, no matter what he calls hiimself.  Yes, even if he calls himself a “libertarian.”

Column A, Column B.  We need catchier names than that — I look forward to your suggestions — but it’s really that easy.

Leftists Accidentally Get One Right

Lefties are correct about one thing: Leftism is about giving power to the powerless.  Too bad it’s not the kind of power they think it is.  Behold the awesome power of the Fiction Police:

tumblr_nbz1knJbXK1rwmkdpo1_500Back in the days, dirty commies like Max Weber noticed something odd about the dour Calvinist fanatics that founded the modern world: They worked like Japanese beavers on Adderall, even though their deepest religious convictions held that all human effort is futile.

The dirty commies of the Frankfurt School picked up on this, leading to the theory that capitalism makes you crazy (funny how people who don’t see the world exactly as leftists do are always mentally ill).  And thence came acres and acres of freudianized marxoblather about how we’d all be wonderful people living in The Sane Society  if only we’d let enlightened individuals like Stalin herd us into work camps.  You know, for our own good.

Well, ok: Make that two things leftists accidentally got right.  (If you count flipping cause and effect as “getting one right”).  In the Calvinists’ case, their work ethic really was a neurosis.  See, when two deeply held beliefs conflict, frantic displacement activity is one way to vent some of the tension.

Displacement activities occur when an animal experiences high motivation for two or more conflicting behaviours: the resulting displacement activity is usually unrelated to the competing motivations. Birds, for example, may peck at grass when uncertain whether to attack or flee from an opponent; similarly, a human may scratch his or her head when they do not know which of two options to choose. Displacement activities may also occur when animals are prevented from performing a single behaviour for which they are highly motivated. Displacement activities often involve actions which bring comfort to the animal such as scratching, preening, drinking or feeding.

Your deepest religious conviction tells you all human effort is futile.  Yet, you must exist in the world while obeying all of God’s laws.  So you make a shitload of furniture in a desperate attempt to not think about it.

So, too, with our Social Justice Warriors.  In case you haven’t noticed, the world is going to hell in a handbasket these days.  And even the dimmest of lefty dimbulbs can’t help but see that a lot of it is liberalism’s fault.  They got their precious Mocha Messiah, and he did exactly what he said he would, and…well….

“Homophobia” persists despite Brendan Eich’s scalp hanging from a rainbow-colored belt.  We’ve had fifty years of feminism, and nothing has changed, according to feminists themselves.  Think about that for a sec — y’all have been screeching for 2/3 of a human lifespan, and you still can’t get a lousy 25 cent raise?  Bill Clinton was begging for a “national conversation on race” back in the 1990s, for pete’s sake, and the situation today make one long for the calm rationality of the Watts Riots.  Either we never had that very important conversation — despite Clinton and Obama, both universally regarded as the greatest orators since Demosthenes — or it didn’t take, despite ditto.  The globe is still warming, even when it’s cooling, or staying the same, or doing the macarena, even though poor Iron Eyes Cody started crying his eyes out in 1971.  Anyone seeing a trend yet?

Enter the Fiction Police.  Leftists get louder as their area of effect shrinks.  “Gamers” make up approximately 93% of the internet, but they’re irrelevant politically.  Anybody ever seen a politician awkwardly holding a joystick and eating Cheetos for a photo op?  And gamers will always be ahead of the Social Justice Warriors, since coding involves facts and logic and reason and math and seventeen other things that SJWs suck at, because getting an A in them in college isn’t just a matter of venting one’s pwecious widdle feewings to a like-minded TA.

So, yeah: the Diversity Crusaders have scored a few victories in the world of gaming, mostly by deploying the awesome power of their vaginas.  In this sense, they are truly empowered.

Too bad for them that nobody who matters gives a shit.

Party Like It’s 1899

Pictured: A hardcore "Progressive," circa 2014

Pictured: A hardcore “Progressive,” circa 2014

Steve Sailer notices something interesting about sportswriters.  First, the pledge from Grantland.com’s Bryan Curtis:

The baseball writer Roger Kahn and I talked recently about his days covering Jackie Robinson for the New York Herald Tribune. Kahn told me that the sports editor of a Cincinnati paper once came up to him, pointed a finger at Robinson in the batter’s box, and said, “The jig is up. Get it?” Nitwits like that used to preach to big chunks of America.

The prestige, from Sailer:

Uh, you know, uh … Jackie Robinson hasn’t been up to bat since he retired in 1956, which was 58 years ago. And Roger Kahn stopped working for the New York Herald Tribune in 1953. I’ve been remarking a lot on how the liberal conventional wisdom has zero sense that they’ve been in charge of racial attitudes for a long, long, long time now, but once you notice that, the evidence for this blindness to chronology is everywhere.

Yup.  Chronological blindness is liberalism’s flux capacitor; it’s what makes faith in socialism possible.  By my rough reckoning, the last really new idea the left ever had was Herbert Marcuse’s sex-crazed marxoblather Eros and Civilization.

That  was 1955.

Since then, they’ve been partying like it’s 1899.  You know, back when “science” actually meant science; people still thought “experts” had actual expertise, not just goodthink; and Lenin et al hadn’t proved the falsity of Marxism to the tune of 100 million corpses.  Find me an internet political “debate” where a liberal doesn’t bring up the fucking Civil Rights Act — passed by Republicans, let us note, in 1964–  within the first fifteen comments.  Hell, Morgan’s idiot troll infestation still routinely links to pictures of Al Jolson in blackface as if that’s some kind of argument here in this, anno domini 2014.

I forget who said that Republicans were “building a bridge to the 19th century,” but he or she was dead on…. if you remember that the true spelling of “liberal” is P-R-O-J-E-C-T-I-O-N.

My Take on the Ray Rice Thing

If anyone cares….

It’s just another Two Minutes’ Hate ginned up by the Social Justice Warriors.  Rice will be quietly reinstated in six months, and he’ll sign with the Raiders in the offseason, and nobody will make a peep.

Regular reader Gary (one of about three; thanks Gary!) asked the other day for some examples of what leftists would do if they believed their own bullshit.  I’d suggest that the same people who are now calling for Roger Goodell’s head, and Ray Rice’s ass, would — if they were consistent — have also demanded the following:

  • The head of Sony Music’s chairman when Britney Spears criminally endangered her kids, losing custody of them in 2007.
  • The everlasting embargo of Carmen Electra, after her arrest for domestic abuse against Dennis Rodman in 1999
  • The head of CBS Broadcasting when pick one of Charlie Sheen’s many, many drug-and-domestic-abuse scandals came to light.

I’m betting there’s pretty much no overlap in those Venn diagrams, because 3 of 4 circles are pretty much empty.

As further evidence, I offer the ongoing SJW rage against Nike, after they re-signed Michael Vick to endorsement deals.  What, you didn’t know they did that?  I rest my case.

If I were Ray Rice, by the way, I’d be playing the race card for all its worth.  You may not have noticed, for instance — because of the latest Ray Rice stuff — that Penn State is now mysteriously bowl-eligible this season.  Convenient, that, coming as it does right after the Big 10 — i.e. the conference with the whitest fan base in all of football — laid an egg its opening weekend.  Michigan sucks, Braxton Miller of Ohio State is out for the season, Wisconsin collapsed against LSU, Nebraska nearly lost to McNeese State, and whaddaya know?  The only Big 10 team with any signs of football life is back in bowl contention.

You know, Penn State — where they covered up literally decades of child rape.  No SJW outrage about that highly suspicious coincidence, eh?


There’s a good piece at Ace’s about this.

My quick two cents: The problem with Libertarianism is that it quickly devolves into a caricature.  This is quite often Libertarians’ fault.

Not always, of course, but the problem with the caricature is that it’s quickly picked up on by the left, and the dumbasses who are responsible for the devolution in the first place have no answer for it.

For instance:  How many times have you seen a leftist jump in with “hey, I thought you rightwingers were all about the right to free association?!?” when it comes to politically motivated witch hunts against people like Brandon Eich?  Or “you rightwingers love the army and police.  Well, guess what?  Those are paid for by taxes!” (alternate version: “Using military force / supporting the police is Big Government, which I thought you rightwingers were against!”)

Put simply, government is a necessary evil.

The key word there is necessary.

One could, I suppose, make a nice, theoretical, philosophically tight case for things like subcontracting all police and military functions to private corporations.  (Robert Nozick, I’m told, actually does make something like that case, if you want some heavy reading).  But that’s not how the real world works.  The real world is Hobbesian; the state of nature is so awful that anything, even the restrains of government, are preferable to it.  The point of politics then becomes:  To minimize the number of smaller, localized necessary evils that make up the big Necessary Evil of contractual government.

That’s the argument we should be having.  Not this ridiculous inside-baseball crap about who is, or isn’t, a real conservative.  Alas, it often comes down to that:

However, his [John Kasich, Republican Governor of Ohio] expansion of Medicaid did not sit well with many conservatives. And he has been rapped for proposing a “round of tax increases; including higher taxes on tobacco products, e-cigarette/vapor products, higher oil and gas severance tax, and a hike in the Commercial Activity Tax (CAT). ” (Anti-tax groups nevertheless praised him for income-tax cuts.) In short, he illustrates the difference between a fiscal conservative and a libertarian. In contrast to the sort of tea party candidates who wiped out in the Senate primaries, Kasich doesn’t see government as the enemy. As a governor he’s been expected to improve government, not dismantle it. At a time when reform conservatives are getting attention, he may be in keeping with the current Zeitgeist in the GOP.

There is nothing inherently anti-conservative about the statement “As a governor he’s been expected to improve government, not dismantle it.”  Again:  <i>necessary</i> evil.  I want my government to be maximally efficient at its very, very, very (very very very) minimal responsibilities.  But look at the proposed alternative:  either improved government, or NO government.

This is not tenable.  Nobody is proposing the outright dissolution of government.  But that’s the caricature — as Jen Rubin, the GOP uber-hack who wrote that, would surely know — and you’ve got supposedly transitioning-to-libertarianism Drew M. agreeing with her.

Yes yes, I know — John Kasich is, in fact, a Democrat for all intents and purposes.  So are most of the “establishment GOP.”  And you won’t have to look too long in the Rotten Chestnuts archives to know my opinion of those assholes.  But look:  The alternatives aren’t “big government” and “no government.”  That’s a cartoon position, which so many “libertarians” — cartoons themselves — are eager to perpetuate.  “Efficient government” is, in fact, a good way of describing a stripped-down, minimalist state.  It’s a good starting point for debate.

We’ve got to know what we’re talking about, in other words, before we can push for it.  And many “libertarians” aren’t helping.