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Angelo Codevilla on our Ruling Class

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He was killed by a drunk driver a few days ago while walking along a footpath. He was 78 and had just recovered from Covid-19.

Life eh?

You’ve probably never heard of the man. I had not until 2010 when he wrote a seminal article, America’s Ruling Class. But he had quite a background, outlined here, as a keen critic of the Pentagon and a progenitor of the Strategic Defense Initiative that Reagan pushed.

Among his many fine books are a translation of Machiavelli’s Prince, and several books on war, strategy, and intelligence that hold up very well even at a remove of 30 years in some cases. Especially recommended is his book The Character of Nations, which holds up very well because it draws upon vast historical learning that never goes out of style. His co-authored book with Paul Seabury, War: Ends and Means, is also a fantastic primer on how to take warfare seriously. And his book on intelligence, Informing Statecraft, is also a classic that can be read to great use today, because it was less about transient facts such as the Soviet Union and more about the defective culture of our “intelligence” community.

A learned but practical man then, not ignorant of politics and bureaucracy.

But back to that 2010 article, which I strongly urge you to read in light of all that has happened since. For me these are the key excerpts:

As over-leveraged investment houses began to fail in September 2008, the leaders of the Republican and Democratic parties, of major corporations, and opinion leaders stretching from the National Review magazine (and the Wall Street Journal) on the right to the Nation magazine on the left, agreed that spending some $700 billion to buy the investors’ “toxic assets” was the only alternative to the U.S. economy’s “systemic collapse.” In this, President George W. Bush and his would-be Republican successor John McCain agreed with the Democratic candidate, Barack Obama. Many, if not most, people around them also agreed upon the eventual commitment of some 10 trillion nonexistent dollars in ways unprecedented in America. They explained neither the difference between the assets’ nominal and real values, nor precisely why letting the market find the latter would collapse America. 

Fear! The strange thing is that it was the MSM, with their usual addiction to fear pornography, plus many other political and “thought” leaders who seemed to be more frightened than the public. Moreover, when the time came to shove money at the banks, a number of the largest objected, for the simple and sound reason that they weren’t the ones who had indulged in the CDO insanity and were not in trouble. But the collective won out.

The public objected immediately, by margins of three or four to one. When this majority discovered that virtually no one in a position of power in either party or with a national voice would take their objections seriously, that decisions about their money were being made in bipartisan backroom deals with interested parties, and that the laws on these matters were being voted by people who had not read them, the term “political class” came into use. 

Then, after those in power changed their plans from buying toxic assets to buying up equity in banks and major industries but refused to explain why, when they reasserted their right to decide ad hoc on these and so many other matters, supposing them to be beyond the general public’s understanding, the American people started referring to those in and around government as the “ruling class.”

And in fact Republican and Democratic office holders and their retinues show a similar presumption to dominate and fewer differences in tastes, habits, opinions, and sources of income among one another than between both and the rest of the country. They think, look, and act as a class.

He makes it clear that the Republican’s “pivot” on some of these things was meaningless partisanship:

Although after the election of 2008 most Republican office holders argued against the Troubled Asset Relief Program, against the subsequent bailouts of the auto industry, against the several “stimulus” bills and further summary expansions of government power to benefit clients of government at the expense of ordinary citizens, the American people had every reason to believe that many Republican politicians were doing so simply by the logic of partisan opposition. After all, Republicans had been happy enough to approve of similar things under Republican administrations. Differences between Bushes, Clintons, and Obamas are of degree, not kind.

No prominent Republican challenged the ruling class’s continued claim of superior insight, nor its denigration of the American people as irritable children who must learn their place. The Republican Party did not disparage the ruling class, because most of its officials are or would like to be part of it.

But it is the following passages that are the key point about this new class, which increasingly apply across the Western democracies, and which lead to things like this, and this from our “leaders”. Codevilla contrasts the past American rulers with those of today:

Never has there been so little diversity within America’s upper crust. Always, in America as elsewhere, some people have been wealthier and more powerful than others. But until our own time America’s upper crust was a mixture of people who had gained prominence in a variety of ways, who drew their money and status from different sources and were not predictably of one mind on any given matter. The Boston Brahmins, the New York financiers, the land barons of California, Texas, and Florida, the industrialists of Pittsburgh, the Southern aristocracy, and the hardscrabble politicians who made it big in Chicago or Memphis had little contact with one another. Few had much contact with government, and “bureaucrat” was a dirty word for all. So was “social engineering.” Nor had the schools and universities that formed yesterday’s upper crust imposed a single orthodoxy about the origins of man, about American history, and about how America should be governed.

Actual diversity then, even within the ranks of the wealthy and powerful.

All that has changed. Today’s ruling class, from Boston to San Diego, was formed by an educational system that exposed them to the same ideas and gave them remarkably uniform guidance, as well as tastes and habits. These amount to a social canon of judgments about good and evil, complete with secular sacred history, sins (against minorities and the environment), and saints. Using the right words and avoiding the wrong ones when referring to such matters — speaking the “in” language — serves as a badge of identity. Regardless of what business or profession they are in, their road up included government channels and government money because, as government has grown, its boundary with the rest of American life has become indistinct. Many began their careers in government and leveraged their way into the private sector. Some, e.g., Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner, never held a non-government job. Hence whether formally in government, out of it, or halfway, America’s ruling class speaks the language and has the tastes, habits, and tools of bureaucrats. It rules uneasily over the majority of Americans not oriented to government.

He then contrasts this ruling class with the rest of America:

The two classes have less in common culturally, dislike each other more, and embody ways of life more different from one another than did the 19th century’s Northerners and Southerners — nearly all of whom, as Lincoln reminded them, “prayed to the same God.” By contrast, while most Americans pray to the God “who created and doth sustain us,” our ruling class prays to itself as “saviors of the planet” and improvers of humanity. Our classes’ clash is over “whose country” America is, over what way of life will prevail, over who is to defer to whom about what. The gravity of such divisions points us, as it did Lincoln, to Mark’s Gospel: “if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand.”

See also:

The Hunger Masks
Do as I say, not as I do
Generational Toxicity
A second American Civil War

Written by Tom Hunter

September 23, 2021 at 12:35 pm

Canada, Eh?

with 3 comments

I have about as much interest in Canadian politics and general events there as I do with Australia (or New Zealand).

But there are times when attention must be paid, if only because we can see the same themes playing out that are (or may) happen here.

First up, let’s compare Justin Tredeau’s recent comments about unvaccinated people while on his election campaign trail, with statements he made several years ago about the Boston Bombers.

Unvaccinated PeopleBoston Bombers

In Trudeau’s words, his opponents are not just wrong:

“they are putting at risk their own kids, and they are putting at risk our kids as well.”

It is small wonder that, according to the Angus Reid Institute, a near-majority of Canadians:

“don’t think unvaccinated individuals should have the same priority for medical treatment if they become sick with COVID-19.” 

After the Boston bombings in 2013, which killed 3 people, blew off the limbs of 17, and injured hundreds of others, said in an interview with CBC’s Peter Mansbridge that the two men who perpetrated the atrocity clearly felt “completely excluded” from their society.

The last thing Canada should do, he stressed, was make people like them feel even more excluded by pointing fingers at members of identifiable groups and cultivating a culture of fear and mistrust.

This article on Canada’s official, state-sponsored cultural scene is also very applicable to NZ:

CanCon is a heavy lift at the best of times, being close neighbors to that hulking great monster south of us which is the most creative culture on earth. That is why we spend billions every year to prop up our creators, our artists, who we love.
….
Film salaries are funded up to 50%, books, 30%, news media 60%..


CBC, our national behemoth, which eats up $1.5 billion annually, and which amounts to 50% of the media dollars spent… The state spends another $600 million supporting once-successful media because “internet”.

And yet almost nobody is reading, watching or listening to the people they supposedly “love”.

Last month I traced the sales of this year’s Canadian literary award winners and I suppose “best-sellers”.  Their sales on Amazon, hardcover, soft cover and digital ranged from 4 books to 33 books per month, incomes hovering in the three figures.

CBC television is watched by 3.9% of Canadians and only 0.8% watch CBC News.

CBC radio is considered reasonably good, and is listened to despite the almost vindictive calling out of anyone who disagrees with their hard socialist stance. Despite every conceivable advantage, advertising on the CBC dropped 20% during the pandemic. 

However, those listeners seem don’t seem to be fans, which is rather weird. CBC is so disliked that they have turned off commenting on their various programs, there is a brand of coffee called “Defund the CBC”, and they’ve had to hire “close protection security”.

Jeez, Radio NZ’s got it easy. It also sounds like the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. But why?

Because our media show us Canadians as racist, stupid, sexist, stupid, stupid and more stupid. And while they are at it, shallow and violent.

Sounds about right. It must be a class thing across the Western world. Get a government art or broadcasting grant and you get to look down on the idiots who provided you the free money. Maybe that’s only fair.

Written by Tom Hunter

September 17, 2021 at 7:00 am

7 reasons why ScoMo is likely to lose the next election

Not my title but one from Arthur Chrenkoff at his Australian blog, The Daily Chrenk, which I happened upon even though I don’t follow Aussie politics much.

“ScoMo” is the Social media nickname for Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who won an unexpected victory at their last general election.

Each of the reasons is lengthy and detailed but I’m going to extract the quotes that I feel apply to Centre-Right political parties around the world, but especially National and ACT here in NZ.

Reasons 1 and 7 are not applicable here. The first asserts that the State governments have reaped positive public support while the Federal government has not. The last deals with the government’s slim majority.

2. We’re all in this together, but some animals are more equal than others

If you are on public payroll, as more and more Australians increasingly are, or if a substantial part of your income derives from government payments and support of one kind or another, as again is the case for more and more Australians, COVID really doesn’t matter… Of course the public servants and the government support recipients are two demographics which already lean heavily towards Labor and the Greens.

“The laptop class” of professionals in the private sector who likewise a) still have jobs, and b) can perform them from anywhere with an internet connection is probably evenly split electorally.

By contrast, the hardest hit by lockdowns and border closures are those in the traditional Coalition base: business people, particularly small and micro business owners, a lot of whom have seen their dreams destroyed and livelihoods go to the wall or are at the very least are seriously struggling.

I’ve not looked into the NZ data for these categories but I suspect that we have a higher proportion of the population dependent on the government, a laptop class trending more to Labour/Green, and a smaller proportion of small or micro business owners.

3. Do tread on me

Australia has never particularly been a libertarian polity, certainly nowhere near the United States in that respect.

[but] the pandemic has revealed just how passive, compliant, reliant and authoritarian the majority of the population is. It helps if you don’t have a skin in the game (see the point above), but this does not explain the whole phenomenon. On the other hand, those more mindful of liberty, a less intrusive and powerful government, fiscal responsibility, cost-benefit analysis, rational risk assessment etc. are clearly in the minority in Australia – but they are also traditionally part of the Coalition base.

Even more so in NZ, as the chart of a recent survey of nations on the topic of Covid responses demonstrates.

4. The policy non-manifesto

What does the Liberal Party stand for anymore? Arguably, Liberals are not a party of small government anymore. They’re not a party of fiscal responsibility and good economic management anymore either, having presided over the past 8 years over a monumental blowout in government debt (John Howard and Peter Costello must be crying themselves to sleep every night) and virtually unrestrained spending.

On cultural issues, there is but a feeble pushback, if any, against the triumphant march of identity politics and wokeness. The Liberal Party’s traditional advantages in national security and immigration don’t count anymore,

By contrast National set an excellent track record on debt in their last term, continuing on from the days of Bill Birch and Michael Cullen, and while spending growth was higher than I would have liked the government was at least on a path to being a smaller part of the economy. But there’s no evidence that will apply in future, thanks to Covid-19 lockdowns.

Also, as they repeatedly remind us, “National don’t do Culture Wars”, which was acceptable in the days of the abortion and gay marriage debates, but is not acceptable as wokeness gets pushed into our public schools, healthcare, other government functions and frankly right in our faces every day, unlike theories in academia (the ones that don’t escape into the wider culture that is).

5. Vote for us, we won’t be quite as bad as Labor

The apparent lack of core beliefs (political survival and managerialism don’t count) in turn translates into an inability to sell the voting public any particular vision for the government, and give them reasons to vote for the Coalition rather than the other mob. Having abandoned any tangible commitment to smaller government, less spending, less debt and so on, Liberals have trashed their historically main advantage over and point of differentiation with the left.

How can anyone in the Morrison government argue with a straight face that they are a party of good economic management while Labor will spend, spend, spend, and drive Australia into debt? Sure, as in we will spend only $200 billion while those economic vandals on the left will blow out the budget with their irresponsible $205 billion promises.

Sounds familiar. I’m rather reminded of the last NZ general election where National promised a debt level of $155 billion, as opposed to the outrageous and profligate $180 billion of Labour.

6. Vaxed, unvaxxed and dangerous

This is the real Achilles’ heel of the government; everything else could have been forgiven or overlooked if it the rollout worked. Vaccination was going to be the solution to all our COVID problems; instead, it turned out to be another COVID problem.

As with “Reason 1″, the question is why the Australian Liberal government deservedly gets brickbats for a slow vaccination rollout with planning and management mistakes, while the NZ Labour government has not? Behind those mistakes are reasons unique to each country, but those differences should not explain the different sense of accountability.

I’d guess that it’s down to two reasons.

First Adern probably being a better communicator than Morrison.

Second, the Australian MSM traditionally being more feral than here, with a better Left/Right balance to start with and a willingness of Right Wing media to go after the failures of a Right wing government in exactly the way the mainly Left MSM in NZ have not done so over Adern’s myriad failures.

All up though, those reasons suggest that National are in for a very hard road to regain government any time soon, short of exhaustion with Labour’s failures or simply making themselves look like Labour in all but cosmetic appearance.

Written by Tom Hunter

August 31, 2021 at 3:43 pm

“An idea is like a virus,

…resilient, highly contagious and the smallest seed of an idea can grow. It can grow to define or destroy you”.

Ideas like lockdowns of entire national populations for example, even – or should I say especially – in Western democracies, having spread from the dominant global superpower, China.

Most Western democracies in fact, since “democracy” is increasingly something to chuckle about, especially at election time, rather like the term “post-Covid-19 world”.

Widely vaccinated Britain recorded 26,852 new cases on Tuesday. For New Zealand to experience a similar infection rate, it would need to record around 1,900 cases per day.”

The NZ government, the local MSM, and probably much of the population, would have heart attacks if we had 1900 cases per day. Mind you, that would remove the source of the virus – the idea virus that is.

Future Communist leaders will surely see that claiming a Public Health Emergency is much the most effective way of screwing over every other law of the land, mainly because it’s far superior to trying to do so via cultivating envy of your neighbour’s property or demonising capitalist counter-revolutionaries. With Public Health Emergencies you can actually enlist much of the population to be help as your willing executioners.

The sense of power and control over others is overwhelming, especially when added to self-righteousness. In the case of the talking-to-your-neighbours-will-kill-granny idea, that spread faster than the Delta virus from Australia to New Zealand. It had barely emerged from the mouth of the NSW Chief health wallah than it dropped out of the mouth of the New Zealand Prime Minister.

An idea is like a virus…

So to Australia, where it seems the natives are getting a bit restless, being locked up in their homes and all.

At least they were using pepper spray against adults this time, rather than 12-year old kids.

Beria would certainly have appreciated the following, although he may have thought the uniforms a bit too clunky.

You’d think you were watching a scene from some Middle Eastern dictatorship, but no, that’s Australia.

“Beachgoers sneaking out during Sydney’s Covid lockdown to soak up some winter sun have been sensationally lambasted by a hovering police helicopter,” The Daily Mail wrote. “Footage uploaded to TikTok shows officers in a chopper demanding sunbathers pack up and leave Gordon’s Bay … or be hit with fines for breaking stay-at-home orders.”

Remember: grandma could die if you step outside your homes and talk to your neighbours.

How about Germany?

Apparently Germany is going to introduce vaccine passports. Mind you they’ve got form on this sort of thing. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chief of staff Helge Braun stated that unvaccinated people, even if they test negative for Covid, would not be allowed to go to venues like restaurants, cinemas, or stadiums, because “the risk to everyone else is too high.”

I’m sure there are other anti-vaccination arguments that could be put forward, but announcements like that are probably the most effective of all.

France:

Some 3,000 security forces have been deployed around Paris in anticipation of more protests against the “health pass”, which will be required soon to enter restaurants and other places. The system — likened to vaccine passports — goes into effect on Aug. 9.

A teacher protesting in Paris told The Guardian that the health pass policy is creating segregation in France: “We’re creating a segregated society, and I think it is unbelievable to be doing this in the country of human rights. So I took to the streets; I have never protested before in my life … I think our freedom is in danger.”

I think you’re a bit late sweetie.

Italy:

… thousands of anti-vaccine-pass demonstrators marched in cities, including Rome, Milan, and Naples. Milan demonstrators stopped outside of the city’s courthouse chanting “Truth!” “Shame!” and “Liberty!” In Rome, they marched behind a banner reading “Resistance.”

Italian authorities have also approved the implementation of a health pass to enter bars, restaurants, and other venues. Critics of the measure argue that it’s draconian and infringes on basic personal liberties.

What’s the point of civil liberties and “freedum” if you’re dead: that’s the argument right?

English writer Mervyn Peake said “To live at all is miracle enough.” It’s a good line and I’ve quoted it for years, but but now I see merely to live at all is not enough, not nearly.

A caged bird is alive but without the freedom to fly the Limitless sky, it is denied everything that makes a bird in the first place. To be alive is not enough. What matters is to live in freedom. A bird is such a fragile creature. It’s really all and only about movement. Take away a bird’s movement and it’s a handful of feathers and air.

ON AFGHANISTAN

Have just returned home from Christchurch on a packed aircraft which reminded me somewhat of the scenes at Kabul airport or even what we saw at Tan Son Nhut airbase at the fall of Saigon nearly half a century ago.

The West went into Afghanistan full of good intentions and have exited, defeated by the Taliban 2.0 (so called) aided and abetted by a corrupt regime and a military that couldn’t/wouldn’t fight fight its way out of a wet paper bag. All those lives lost and trillions of dollars spent for nought. From where I sit the BIG mistake was to think of Afghanistan as a country in the sense we know it. It’s not and never has been. At best it’s Kabul vs the rest ruled by tribal warlords prepared to shift alliances depending on time and tide and circumstance. The Kabul government was seen as corrupt and ineffective and as soon as the Allied (US) military support started to wind down the Taliban stepped into the vacuum created by the withdrawal.

Enough of that and all we are left with is Ardern engaging in another round of virtue signalling by dispatching a C130 to Kabul to help evacuate New Zealanders and Afghani support staff targeted for retribution by the Taliban. No matter that the Afghani support staff are isolated in Bamyan Province some 180 km from Kabul with no way to get there. No matter that Kabul airport is now surrounded by the Taliban blocking access to all but foreign nationals (perhaps). No matter that the NZ military have, since their withdrawal from Bamyam, been pressing the Ardern government to allow those Afghani support staff who wanted to resettle in NZL into the country. And now it’s too late … and all the virtue signalling by Ardern won’t hide the fact that we have effectively abandoned them to their fate. I guess many on the Left will comfort themselves by saying that they had it coming to them.

Don’t ever tell me that this government is a humanitarian one. Fluff over substance, virtue signalling and wokeism rules OK.

Written by The Veteran

August 19, 2021 at 2:12 pm

Got ya Reductio ad absurdum right here

In logic, reductio ad absurdum (Latin for “reduction to absurdity”), is the form of argument that attempts to establish a claim by showing that the opposite scenario would lead to absurdity or contradiction.

It can be used to disprove a statement by showing that it would inevitably lead to a ridiculous, absurd, or impractical conclusion, or to prove a statement by showing that if it were false, then the result would be absurd or impossible.

If the people in that video weren’t white and speaking in Aussie accents, you’d be mistaken for thinking this was coming out of some third-world dictatorship in the Middle East or South America. Afghanistan perhaps.

I’ve seen more than a few jibes in recent days about the comparison between the Taliban and Right Wing conservatives: you know the diatribe; anti-abortion, anti-gay, etc.

But those are just the symptoms. The true hallmark of the Taliban is authoritarianism and totalitarianism, and on that front the State governments of New South Wales and Victoria, and their Police, are the ones looking more like the Taliban every day.

If you support lockdowns don’t make excuses for what you’ve just seen and don’t kid yourself that it can’t happen here in New Zealand. What you’re seeing is the entirely logical result (the post started with a quote about logic) of how governments have reacted to Covid-19, especially with lockdowns that are repeated.

I’ve added the “Post Covid-19” tag on this post as a bit of a joke. This is our post-Covid-19 world.

Written by Tom Hunter

August 19, 2021 at 11:55 am

Freedom, Consequences and Responsibility

Eighteen months ago one of the most powerful arguments in favour of lockdowns was that it would be utterly irresponsible for people to freely move around when they could catch Chinese Lung Rot and pass it on to vulnerable people – in this case the elderly – who could die from it.

The advent of vaccines in record time, thanks to President Trump’s Operation Warp Speed, mean that argument is no longer valid. While the vaccines will not prevent a person from catching the virus or spreading it, they do quash the chances that you’ll die from it even if you are one of the vulnerable.

So it’s all good. What happens now? Well it turns out that The Powers That Be (TPTB) just can’t let go of the giddy sense of power involved with controlling entire populations. Not everybody is getting vaccinated, new variants of the disease are appearing all the time and so the goalposts are changing, as Jim Treacher so aptly sums it up on Substack:

1. Absolutely do not wear a mask

2. You must, must, must wear a mask or you’re killing Grandma

3. Don’t leave the house or you’re killing Grandma

4. If you can’t avoid leaving the house, stay at least six feet away from any other human being you see or you’re killing Grandma

5. Wash your hands 20 times a day

6. Do not touch your face or anything else, ever

7. Get vaccinated so you don’t have to wear a mask

8. You have to wear a mask even if you’re vaccinated

9. When the above rules change, and then change back, and then change back again, shut up about it or you’re a stupid MAGA-head

10. Don’t forget to vote Democrat!

In that article Treacher writes that he’s vaccinated and thinks those who don’t want to be are idiots. He’s also always been anti-Trump, but not to the TDS-stage. It also turns out that it’s not the stupid MAGA-heads that are the problem…

There are other charts showing similar “not the narrative” results for young vs old, non-religious vs religious, White vs Black and Hispanic.

Combine that with the Delta variant (and others to follow), plus MSM hysteria and politicians who see long-term blood on their hands as preferable to short-term blood, and you get the inevitable:

Melbourne, a major Australian city, just entered its 6th lockdown. (Yes, you read that correctly). It joins many of the nation’s other major metropolises, such as Sydney and Brisbane, in once again restricting its economy and social life. According to the BBC, the lockdown will be in place until at least August 28 and “bars people from leaving their home except for essential exercise, shopping, caregiving and other reasons.”

It’s mind-boggling that the Australian government is practically placing its citizens under house arrest and outlawing their incomes over five deaths per day. It’s particularly bizarre given that countless studies have shown the ineffectiveness of stay-at-home orders and lockdown policies. (In fact, most COVID-19 spread happens at home.) 

In Sydney the army has been pulled in to force people to stay in their homes, even going with the cops on door-to-door compliance checks. Police helicopters are overhead, warning people in parks with police action and fines. It’s worked too; there is genuine fear over being caught outside without a permissible excuse. Nobody is allowed more than 5 kilometers from their home address, only one person per household may leave to purchase supplies once a day, and Sydney-siders are not permitted to speak to friends; they may only get what they need and return home. All this for about 250 cases from more than 100,000 tests, plus five deaths a day in a city of millions.

Then there’s Fortress NZ for ever?:

Fortress New Zealand can begin to open in early 2022 provided all New Zealanders have had the chance to be vaccinated, according to the Government’s hand-picked group of scientists advising on reopening New Zealand to the world.

But that travel should be at first restricted to vaccinated Kiwis going overseas from New Zealand for short trips, and should begin with shorter stays in managed isolation.

This is about more, much more, than the specific actions of any specific government on this specific disease.

This is about a new ruling class in the West, one that can do all these things to the people while still itself being able to have maskless fun in close proximity with friends and donors in one of the most expensive restaurants in the world (California Governor Newsom), send their family off to Florida while locking down Illinois (IL Governor Priztker), or allow their top aides escape to Florida while warning about the people of her state traveling (MI Governor Whitmer), or having a big bash 60th birthday party (former President Obama) because, as the NYT put it, he had invited “a sophisticated, vaccinated crowd” who were “following all the safety precautions.”

Back to Jim Treacher, Democrats Don’t Need Masks Because They’re Better Than You:

“The virus knows. It knows what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, and it only punishes people who don’t read The Atlantic or listen to NPR. If you can recite a MyPillow ad from memory, you need to wear a mask when you’re told to wear a mask. But if you can pick Lin-Manuel Miranda out of a lineup, you don’t have anything to worry about. That’s how COVID-19 works. That’s just the settled science.”

Or more generally:

Last year at Encounter Books, we published an admonitory book by Joel Kotkin called The Coming of Neo-Feudalism: A Warning To The Global Middle Class. Some people thought Kotkin was overstating things with his talk of an increasingly stratified society in which a tiny elite lorded it over an increasingly pauperized and disenfranchised mass. It turns out, though, that if anything Kotkin understated the trends. The weaponization of public health diktats, their enforcement by a vast and increasingly overbearing cadre of nanny-state bureaucrats, is simply the latest manifestation of the profoundly anti-democratic spirit that has taken hold in Western societies. 

In the USA I see that Senator Rand Paul, who has had Covid-19, has spoken out against what he sees coming with the Delta variant:

“I think the tide is turning as more and more people are willing to stand up. I see stories from across the country of parents standing up to the unions and school boards. I see brave moms standing up and saying, ‘My kids need to go back to school in-person.’ I see members of Congress refusing to comply with Petty Tyrant Pelosi. We are at a moment of truth and a crossroads. Will we allow these people to use fear and propaganda to do further harm to our society, economy, and children? Or will we stand together and say, absolutely not? Not this time. I choose freedom.”

For his troubles Paul got a massive kickback from the US Left on Twitter, with more than a few people praising his former neighbour who broke six of his ribs (causing a piece of his lung to be cut out). That’s where we are in the West and I can’t blame governments for this when we have so many people who think like this.

But for me it’s actually this guy, Scottish archeologist and historian Neil Oliver, who sums it up:

For me, it’s all and only about freedom. For me without freedom, there is no point in anything. So take away all the numbers, all the statistics, all the models and predictions, all the promises and threats; all the steel hand in velvet glove coercion. Take all of that away. To me it all boils down into something simple.

I declare that I am a free man.

I was born 54 years ago into part of the world, just a relatively small part of the world, but I was taught that my freedom had been won for me by men and women who had fought and died to make it so. I was born just 22 years after World War II into a world, still full of those men and women who had fought for my freedom and lived to tell the tale

English writer Mervyn Peake said “To live at all is miracle enough.” It’s a good line and I’ve quoted it for years, but but now I see merely to live at all is not enough, not nearly. A caged bird is alive but without the freedom to fly the Limitless sky, it is denied everything that makes a bird in the first place. To be alive is not enough. What matters is to live in freedom. A bird is such a fragile creature. It’s really all and only about movement. Take away a bird’s movement and it’s a handful of feathers and air.

Freedom is not negotiable. You’re either free or you’re not.  Freedom is not even safe. Those who’ve been imprisoned are often terrified of freedom. All those choices, for all of our personal responsibility. This is why ex-cons often reoffend, to go back behind bars where it feels safer, out of harm’s way.

I have three children. Teenagers all. Often I think I would like to keep them close by me forever, where I can stop them doing stupid things. Dangerous things. If I kept them in the house no stranger would hurt them, but that would be no life. Not for them and not even for me. I would be their jailer and they would be my caged birds. As it happens, this past year-and-a-half has let me see what happens to children kept safe in the house. It’s not good, not good at all. And so if I didn’t know it before, I know now that I have to let them go into a world that is full of all manner of things, danger included.

Here’s the thing is, if your freedom means that I might catch COVID from you, then so be it. If my freedom means you might catch COVID from me then so be it. That’s honestly how I see it. For the sake of freedom…I will cheerfully risk catching COVID. That is a chance. One among many that I am prepared to take and happily. Life is not safe, freedom is not safe. For the sake of freedom, yours and mine together, both freedoms being of equal value, I will cheerfully risk much else besides.

WHAT WOULD BE THE REACTION IF CHINA MOVED TO ‘LIBERATE’ TAIWAN?

Adolf’s post on MAD/Flexible response (call it what you will) referenced Taiwan. Got me thinking. What would be the reaction of the ‘West’ should China move to ‘liberate’ Taiwan by force … something China has never ruled out doing. One suspects the days when the US 7th fleet acted as a trip-wire and shield against possible Chinese aggression have long gone. The rapid expansion of the Chinese Navy has put paid to that and then you need to factor into the equation that, in the United States, both major parties have become more isolationist in thinking and less inclined to act as the ‘worlds policemen’ as was their wont up until not so long ago.

Just look what happened when China moved to stamp out democratic protest in Hongkong … lotsa disapproving noises but not much more and right now Taiwan is increasingly isolated. The ROC government is recognised by only fifteen countries … the majority of them enjoying ‘tin-pot’ status of the likes of Haiti, Eswatini (never heard of it), Tuvalu, Nauru, Saint Lucia; Marshall Islands and Palau and, while a number of countries (including New Zealand) have trade or cultural links with Taiwan, the vast majority of the world (119 countries) recognise Beijing and have no representation in Taiwan (including non-political, non-diplomatic and non-intergovernmental representation).

The reality is that for all the bluster and rhetoric the US/China relationship is important to both countries and one suspects there is a growing body of opinion that would have it that the China/Taiwan question is an internal problem for China to sort out and, while the use of force is to be abhorred, there would be no repeat of what occurred in Korea when the North Koreans invaded the south … couldn’t happen anyway … in the UN China exercises the veto as a permanent member of the Security Council. Certainly Taiwan does not appear now to enjoy ‘line in the sand’ status with the United States as say Israel does.

No, all that would occur would be a certain ritual gnashing of teeth by the West. China will do what it has always said it was going to do at a time of its own choosing and that time may be closer than we think.

Pity the Taiwanese.

Written by The Veteran

July 18, 2021 at 1:50 pm

Posted in China, General Politics, USA

Tagged with

Well, this is depressing

No need for this level of complexity

Specifically the news that the race is on to build killer robot armies.

They won’t look anything like James Cameron’s famous images from his dystopian hell of The Terminator movies.

(By the way, watch only the first two of the series. After the 1991 sequel they’re totally derivative crap designed only to pull money from your wallet, a warning from friends that I had already guessed at as I avoided them.)

Blonde and here to kill you.

Still less is it going to look like the Cylons in Battlestar Gallactica (BSG) such as “Six”, more’s the pity.

No, as is often the way of reality vs fantasy they’ll look a lot more mundane, probably not too different to the sort of drones you can buy off-the shelf nowadays.

And that’s what really frightening about them. Unlike nuclear weapons it doesn’t take a lot of infrastructure or resources to build large numbers of these things.

Also, don’t imagine that an “AI killer robot” is going to have some sort of human-level intelligence, or need to.

That’s not what Artificial Intelligence is really about, despite decades of SF stories like BSG.

The “AI” in this case will amount to little more than the ability to do the following:

  • Recognise a human target, which could be just any human or perhaps using facial or body recognition (or your cellphone)
  • Control flight and/or other movements towards the target.
  • Trigger a lethal munition to kill the target. Lethal meaning something as small as a single bullet.

It should be noted that all these capabilities are here now.

The temptation to open Pandora’s Box is irresistible. In early March, the U.S. National Security Commission (NSC) on Artificial Intelligence completed its two-year inquiry, publishing its findings in a dense 750-page report. Its members unanimously concluded that the United States has a “moral imperative” to pursue the use of lethal autonomous weapons, a.k.a. “killer robots.” Otherwise, we risk bringing a rusty knife to a superhuman gunfight.

Citing the threat of China or Russia leading the global artificial intelligence (AI) arms race, the commission’s chairman, former Google CEO Eric Schmidt, urged President Biden to reject a proposed international ban on AI-controlled weapons. Schmidt rightly suspects our major rivals won’t abide by such a treaty, warning U.S. leaders, “This is the tough reality we must face.”

If other superpowers are going to unleash demonic drone swarms on the world, the logic goes, the United States should be the first to open the gates of Hell.

Of course we already have things like the General Atomic Predator drones (“General Atomic”, how 1950’s is that?) and others which have been launching missiles at people for over a decade now. But they have humans in the decision loop and they’re still big and relatively expensive, although much cheaper than a human-piloted fighter bomber.

The attack drones currently on the market are plenty dangerous as is. A good example is the KARGU Loitering Munitions System, currently deployed by Turkish forces. This lightweight quadcopter “can be effectively used against static or moving targets through its … real-time image processing capabilities and machine learning algorithms.”

KARGU’s mode of attack is full-on kamikaze. It hovers high in the air as the operator searches for victims. When one is located, the drone dive-bombs its target and explodes. If the concussion doesn’t kill them, the shrapnel will. Just imagine what a thousand could do.

That last is the future. What we’re talking about here is a swarm of such machines and again – not like SF – these don’t need any centrally organised intelligence, human or AI, to operate. For twenty years now computer simulations have mimicked the swarming movements of schools of fish and flocks of birds with just three rules.

Once you get into such swarms we’re no longer talking about just picking off a few selected targets:


To raise awareness of this imminent threat, the Future of Life Institute produced the alarming, if poorly acted film Slaughterbots. The finale shows dissident college students having their brains blown out by bird-sized quadcopters.

In a 2018 study conducted for the US Air Force, drone specialist Zachary Kallenborn correctly argued that lethal drone swarms should be declared weapons of mass destruction.

Cheap weapons of mass destruction, too.

Even without that miserable conclusion from the USNSC I would have found it hard to believe that various nations could be held back from pursuing development of these things.

In the future how tempted would some future POTUS be by the idea that the entire North Korean nuclear team, military and scientists, could be taken out in one hit by such a swarm, leaving nobody to launch a nuclear counter-strike? Or imagine an Israeli leader looking at the Iranian nuclear group? And that’s in democratic nations. What brakes might there be on the likes of Xi Jinping, Putin and Erdogan?

Of course every weapon system has been countered sooner or later. In this case it may be that in future we’ll each be guarded by a small swarm of counter-drones, starting with the wealthy members of society like Eric Schmidt:

In 2019, PAX published a list of the global corporations most likely to develop lethal autonomous weapon systems. Among the U.S. companies ranked as “high risk” are Amazon, Microsoft, and Oracle, as well as Intel, Palantir, Neurala, Corenova, and Heron Systems. It’s worth noting that the top members of the National Security Commission on AI—all of whom support using these murder machines—include chiefs from Amazon, Microsoft, and Oracle.

Written by Tom Hunter

July 15, 2021 at 8:13 am

In the future everybody will be cancelled for 15 minutes

Even scientists with a great pedigree of credentials and research papers.

Like Robert Malone.

But when he began to speak up about the potential downsides of the mRNA-“spike protein” approach to vaccines, that was not acceptable to TPTB, even though it’s his field of expertise.

First he found podcasts involving him getting pulled from YouTube, and then even the supposed business-connecting site LinkedIn took their shot:

Malone pays for the premium version of LinkedIn for the biotech and government consulting business he runs, Just the News reports. That page remains intact, but its last post is three weeks old. 

“He was given no notice, no warnings” before he was removed on Tuesday, his wife Jill said. “He has a 10-15 year old account – has never even had a warning. 6,000 followers.”

“The historic record of what I have done, stated, figured out (and when) etc. over time is a key part of establishing my credibility and track record as a professional,” Robert Malone tweeted Wednesday. “And that has been erased completely and arbitrarily without warning or explanation.” 

Well at least he can still Tweet!

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There was one piece of cancellation news that was funny. There’s an outfit called Right Wing Watch, which is dedicated to posting clips of conservatives saying things in an effort to get those conservatives de-platformed. Unfortunately they were a little too good at their job of pushing YouTube on those rules:

🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣

My, how schadenfreudialicious that is. Something, something reaping.… something something sowing

But now that they’ve been kicked off of YouTube, they can simply go start their own multi-billion dollar video platform, right? I mean, that’s what the Left has continually told conservatives who complain about censorship online.

I think they’ll be fine. Once YouTube realises the political and ideological mistake of taking out one of their own, RWW will be allowed back.

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The same might also be true for actor Tom Hanks. Early in June, Tom decided to sheer his experience and feelings about racism in American by publishing an op ed in the New York Times entitled “You Should Learn the Truth About the Tulsa Race Massacre,”, in which he confessed that he’d never heard of this during his 1950’s/60’s Whitebread schooling. Hanks has been activist (a quiet one) and a donor to many Democrat Party candidates and causes over the years.

But none of that was good enough for one Eric Deggans’, who used his platform on none other than NPR (National Public Radio, basically the equivalent of the NZR’s National Program) to unload in response, “Tom Hanks Is A Non-Racist. It’s Time For Him To Be Anti-Racist”. Because you can never be good enough, especially in the eyes of a 55 year old Black man who specialises in “issues of race and social justice”:

“The toughest thing for some white Americans … is to admit how they were personally and specifically connected to the elevation of white culture over other cultures,

His work, so often focused on the achievements of virtuous white, male Americans, may have made it tougher for tales about atrocities such as Tulsa to find space.”

The revolution, like Saturn, devours its children.

Perhaps the best response to Deggan’s bullshit is this article from Frontpage by Danusha Goska. It’s lengthy but you should read it. She makes several important points but it was this one that struck me, based on her experience teaching and living in Africa and the reality of limited good:

An insight into why villagers resisted change, including change that might save their own lives, was provided by the fate of one villager, a man I knew personally. When development workers advised the locals on how to improve their agricultural output, he carefully applied every suggestion. His farm prospered and he enjoyed a much higher yield than any of his neighbors.

His neighbors burned his farm down. That’s limited good. This man, by increasing his yield, had monopolized all the good to be had in that village, and his action would result, his neighbors believed, in their farms doing poorly.

It applied to other things in the village too, even beauty. That’s what Deggan is actually putting forward for the US and other Western societies:

Deggans is back to that limited good, zero-sum worldview that insists, falsely, that one man’s success equates to the next man’s failure. If Tom Hanks has two cows, Eric Deggans can’t have any cows. If Hanks’ farm is doing well, Deggans’ farm will wither. If Hanks’ baby is attractive, Deggans’ baby must be ugly.

The “solutions” offered also amount to the same thing; burning the farm to the ground:

For Hanks to atone, he must lower himself, and elevate black people in the place he previously occupied. That’s being an anti-racist. That’s Ibram X. Kendi. That’s the “8 White Identities” chart that says that the only good white is a white who participates in the abolishment of whiteness. And it is a Maoist struggle session. Deggans calls for “Hanks and other stars to talk specifically about how their work has contributed to these problems and how they will change.” This is the self-accusation that occurred during Maoist struggle sessions. The less successful, fueled by their envy, publicly humiliate the more successful.

Goska also makes the point that should be obvious:

Deggans can read white people’s minds. White people all think alike. And Deggans can speak for them. Any similar set of statements by a white man about black people would be taboo.

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Lastly, there are places where the reverse is happening, with opposition ideologues taking over their opponent’s world, as Daniel Greenfield points out:

When Sultan Doughan signed a hateful letter falsely claiming that Israel and Zionism were based on “Jewish Supremacy”, a term popularized by Neo-Nazi leader David Duke, that ugly rhetoric wouldn’t have attracted much attention in an antisemitic time… except for one thing.

Doughan is a Muslim postdoctoral associate at Boston University’s Elie Wiesel Center for Jewish Studies.

🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣