A Very Psycho Dish Christmas

Psycho Dish went home for the holidays for the last time this Christmas. His dad passed away in early December, a few days after having a second heart attack. He was 86, and he’d had a good long run; he lived the late 20th century American Dream in its entirety. He grew up a smart kid from a lower-middle-class family who got a full ride scholarship to Berkeley and graduated with a degree in Electrical Engineering. It was the height of the Cold War, and he got recruited even before he’d graduated by a big defense contractor to work on radio and radar systems for the Navy. They relocated him to a lab near the Philadelphia Navy Yards, where he spent most of the 60s and 70s working on the AEGIS radar, one of the wonder weapons of the era. It was a respectable job with a Fortune 500 company: good pay, good benefits, good pension. He bought a nice house in a nice neighborhood, married a nice girl, and had four kids. He became a pillar of his community, a fixture at his local church, and a founding member of the volunteer fire department in his rapidly-growing suburban town. As the Cold War wound down and defense contracts became less lucrative, the company offered him a generous buyout, and he retired a few years early. He and his wife had a couple decades worth of good golden years – volunteer work, playing with their grandchildren, five-day cruises to the Bahamas in winter – before she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. He cared for her till the day she died, lingered on a couple more years, and then joined her in the next world. It was a fine, full life to have led.

And so, at Christmastime, all four children returned to the house they had grown up in for a final Christmas together before the funeral was held, the will was read, and the possessions accumulated over a lifetime were divided up between them as the house was emptied and then, finally, sold. The oldest sister, Janet, came down from Massachusetts. She had followed in her father’s footsteps, graduated with a math degree from MIT (back when very few women did that sort of thing), and ended up working for her alma mater, helping it transition into the computer age. With time on her hands after having recently retired herself, and having always had the responsible nature of firstborn older sisters, she commandeered the lead role in taking care of her father’s affairs. The second sister, Cindy, flew in from Michigan, where she had briefly been a teacher, and then a wife and mother. With the lion’s share of the work safely in Janet’s hands, she had a seat on a plane back home a couple of days after the holiday. Psycho Dish was the third child and the only boy in the litter. He was also, along with the youngest sister, one of the two black sheep of the family – though they held that distinction for very different reasons. Psycho Dish inherited his grandmother’s free spirit, stubbornness, and “Whadda ya got?” rebellious streak, though beneath it all he has always had good intentions and genuinely loved his family. But the youngest, Chrissy, has always been crazy (literally, not figuratively: she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder decades ago), an attention hound, and a born troublemaker. She had wanted to take control of things, but Janet had given her a “No thank you” in a manner that was polite, yet unmistakably signaled that debate on the matter was closed.

One by one they came home, and resumed residence in their bedrooms of long ago for one last time.

Another one of Psycho Dish’s inheritances from his grandmother is her repertoire of family recipes – never written down, but memorized from the years that he lived with her during his young adulthood. Most of these dated to her childhood during the Great Depression, when people found whatever means they could to make a little food go a long way. The one he makes the most is her chicken soup. It’s not a complicated recipe – cut a whole chicken into pieces, put the carcass into a big stock pot with some mirepoix and garlic, then simmer it all day. By the time it’s done, even the bones will be soft and ready to flake apart – and will have added all the flavor and nutrition in them to the mixture. Two days before Christmas, he went out to the local ShopRite and bought a chicken to simmer down into soup the next day, chill overnight, and serve with Christmas dinner. He put it in in the fridge, took out a couple of beers, passed a couple of hours watching Dancing With The Stars in the living room, went to bed, and slept in late the next morning.

By the time he got back into the kitchen, it was around 11 o’clock on the morning of Christmas Eve. Chrissy was there, busily unpacking some groceries she had just come home with. She seemed upset about something, but he decided not to ask… until he noticed a rotisserie chicken sitting on the counter among the things she was putting away.

“Y’know”, he began, “I don’t know if you looked in the fridge before you went out shopping, but there’s already a chicken in there. I’m not sure we needed two of them.”

She shot him a cold look. “Oh, I saw it.”

“Well, then, uhh…”

She didn’t let him finish the thought: “And I suppose that leaving it in the fridge was your way of telling me that you just expected me to cook it for you?”

“I actually was thinking that–”

“It’s because I’m a woman! You think it’s my job to do all the housework!”

“No, y’see, Grandma Catherine–”

“May have cooked and cleaned and picked up after you, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to! So guess what? To hell with your sexist chicken! I reject it, and bought my own! And you’re not getting any!”

At this point, Psycho Dish decided that he’d taken enough heat and he’d best get out of the kitchen for a while. He turned to leave, and noticed Janet, who had apparently heard the whole exchange, standing in the doorway. As she moved out of the way to let him pass, he found himself silently mouthing the words “…my sexist chicken…” to her. It would be a couple of hours before he dared venture back to the kitchen to see if Chrissy had vacated it. When he found that she had, he put the soup on, and it was nearly midnight by the time it was ready to put in the fridge.

Christmas morning didn’t see many presents exchanged. It’s different when you’re a grownup – if you don’t have kids of your own, it’s a more low-key holiday, and there’s not all that much pressure on to buy a bunch of presents for relatives who are adults themselves and can afford whatever toys they want on their own. The big event of the day is Christmas dinner, where, for better or worse, everyone gathers to catch each other up on what they’ve been doing and where they are in life. Psycho Dish felt a little uneasy about it; he was not only the sole male member of the family there, but also the sole member of the family whose political sympathies leaned rightward – his sisters ranged from NPR-listening Democrat to full-blown #RESIST in their views. As much of a joyful gadfly as he can sometimes be, made up his mind that under the circumstances, he’d consciously avoid the slightest hint of politics in his dinner conversation.

Janet said grace. She manages to balance respectable mainline Protestantism with the mainline liberalism that is the only respectable way to think on a university campus in Massachusetts. Food reached plates, first bites were taken, and compliments to the chef were exchanged between the siblings who were responsible for each piece of the meal. Janet made sure her compliments on the soup were extended last, waited a few seconds through a lull in the conversation, and then took some older-sisterly initiative:

“Chris, dear, I wonder if maybe you might have been a bit harsh with your brother yesterday. I know it’s a stressful time and everyone’s on edge, but do you think maybe a little apology might be in order?”

This caught Psycho Dish by surprise, and he shot a glance over to Chrissy to see how the comment landed. He expected her to look defensive. She didn’t. He recognized what he saw in her face that way that only a family member can. No, she didn’t seem like she felt cornered at all – rather, someone had just made the mistake of putting her center stage under the spotlight, and now she had the opening she needed to put on her most dramatic performance. Instantly, he realized that he was trapped in the front row, with no exit path in sight.

“Maybe I was, but all of you just don’t understand what I’ve been going through lately! It’s not just losing dad or dealing with the paperwork and legal stuff…”

Janet frowned slightly. Actually, she had been the one dealing with all the paperwork and legal stuff.

“…but there’s the trauma of being a rape survivor too!”

This was news to everyone at the table. Psycho Dish now directed his look to Janet, who was wearing an expression that somehow managed to combine concern and skepticism. It did not escape his notice that the revelation was followed by a long pause, into which a response was obviously intended to fall. He found himself very glad that his older sister was the one who had to deliver it.

“Oh, Chris, why didn’t you tell us anything about this before? We’re your family! We’ll always stand by you! Did you tell anyone else? What did the police say?”

Psycho Dish didn’t know what would come next; he knew only that he dreaded it.

“No. I was too embarrassed and afraid to tell anyone! And nobody would have done anything about it even if I did!”

“But that’s not true at all! The police would have…”

“The police wouldn’t have done anything! They couldn’t!”

“What makes you say that?”

“Because the man who raped me was…” here, Chrissy lowered her voice and seemed near tears. “…it was Donald Trump.”

Janet’s next words were calm and measured, but her tone made it obvious that the skepticism had started to overtake the concern.

“Donald… Trump? You mean, as in… the President?”

“Yes, him.”

Janet is a mathematician and a programmer. It’s in the blood. Psycho Dish’s family history is filled with respectable engineers who married crazy artists. Everyone in the family fits into one of those two types somehow. In his generation, the two older children grew up respectable and studious, the two younger ones unstable and artistic. The divide between them hung like thick smoke in the long pause that had followed. Chrissy had always been into New Age spirituality, crystals, and meditation in addition to having a troubled relationship with reality that had lasted her whole life. Janet had always thought in algorithms and equations, and outside of church took life about as literally as it could be taken. He saw her struggling to come up with some explanation for what she had just heard that her exceptionally rational mind could process. After a few seconds that seemed much longer, she came up with one.

“So you mean… twenty or thirty years ago?”

It seemed at least plausible; certainly to a group of women whose outraged reactions to Trump’s “Grab ’em by the pussy” comments of long ago had lit up Psycho Dish’s Facebook timeline for weeks on end.

“No, I mean now! Recently! Since he became President!”

Psycho Dish now turned toward Cindy and saw her staring off into the distance, as if she was looking at something far away that wasn’t really visible. And he knew exactly what it was – Michigan, where she was no doubt very much wishing she was at that moment. Psycho Dish wished he was in Michigan, too – or in Bora Bora, or in Swaziland, or in Purgatory, or literally anywhere other than that dinner table. She got very slightly up out of her chair, extended a boardinghouse reach across the table to a near-full bottle of wine, yanked it back to her seat, and filled a glass almost to the brim.

Janet continued in a polite tone of voice: “But Chris, I… I don’t like him any more than you do, but I don’t really see how that’s possible. I mean, he’s surrounded by the Secret Service 24/7, and I don’t think he’d really be able to slip away to… do something like that.”

“See?! I knew you wouldn’t believe me! You’ve always been like that! You’re not able to see all the ways that someone like that bastard could do something like this!”

Janet seemed increasingly desperate: “Then please, Chris, help me to understand. Tell me what he did.”

Chrissy’s expression told Psycho Dish that she knew it was time for the killshot: “He used astral projection.”

Janet hadn’t changed her expression yet, but when she continued, her voice sounded like an old cassette tape that had been slowed down.

“Assss… trallll… pro…ject… ion…”

“Yes! Right into my bedroom! While I was sleeping!”

Janet suddenly looked relieved. Her rational mind had thought of another explanation for all of this.

“Well, dear, I think that may only have been a dream, don’t you?”

“NO! Not if it’s happening over and over again, every single night!”

A good sister will always come in for the save when things get bad. Cindy is a good sister, and took over momentarily from the flabbergasted Janet.

“So you’re saying that the President of the United States is astrally projecting himself into your bedroom every night to rape you?”

“That’s exactly what I’m saying!”

“And how long has this been going on?”

“Since the election!”

“That was two years ago. So Donald Trump has astrally raped you every night for two years?”

“Yes, he has.”

Psycho Dish noticed that the wine glass was now empty. It would not be long before it was refilled.

Janet had recovered enough to interject again, but only barely. “H… how?” was all she could manage.

“You all don’t understand how evil he is or the dark power he’s got! That’s how he won the election in the first place!”

Cindy tagged in again: “So he’s some kind of wizard or something?”

“That’s such a simplistic, storybook way to put it!”

Psycho Dish had grown up with these women. He knew them like only close family can ever really know someone. And that means that he knew precisely what to say – the only thing that it made any sense to say at this point:

“I’m gonna go into the kitchen and check on the soup.”

A few minutes later, I got a text message from Psycho Dish. It read: “My sister thinks that Donald Trump is an evil wizard who’s astrally projecting into her bedroom and raping her every night. Tell you more when I get home.”

Dear readers, if you have been following me here or on social media for any length of time, you must know by now that I am rarely at a loss for words. But it took nearly an hour of starting, deleting, and restarting replies before I texted back: “I think you’ve just found the bottom of the well of Trump Derangement Syndrome.”

A minute or two later, my phone vibrated again. Psycho Dish had answered: “Yeah, I think I just did.”

Whatever went on with the conversation at the table after that, Psycho Dish missed it. Instead, he turned to the dirty dish-filled sink, turned on the hot water, and attacked it with an intensity that demonstrated why the fellow dishwashers at the string of restaurants he’s worked at over the years gave him that name.

* * *

Normally I would not include a note like this in any of my pieces, but here I feel it necessary to assure my readers that, other than changing the names of Psycho Dish’s sisters and filling in some lines of dialog that he left incomplete when he told me everything a week later over beer and chicken at Buffalo Wild Wings, I have not changed anything about this story. Psycho Dish is a real person, as are his sisters, and all of this actually happened. This is really the point we’ve reached in our politics, in our culture, in relations between the sexes and the state of our women, and in not just one person’s relationship with reality, but our entire society’s as well. Grown adult women have been driven to such hysteria by the fact that someone they dislike won an election that they’ve lapsed into literal hallucinations because of it. As Janet discovered, there is no rational response to that. It can’t be argued with or have its mind changed by data or tables filled with statistics.

And yet it can vote, and set the policies under which you and I must live.

This is 21st century democracy.

Advertisements

Where We Are

At the time of this writing, Donald J. Trump has been President of the United States for half a year. Though I normally prefer to leave commenting on day to day political matters to others (of whom there are a great many, and who do what they do with great skill), it occurs to me that this is a worthwhile time to reflect on where we stand in the historical cycle, the role that Trump plays, and where we are likely going in the foreseeable future.

Much like the Joker in Christopher Nolan’s recent Batman films, I like to think of myself as being ahead of the curve. While I long ago gave up on representative democracy of any kind, I am left having to admit that most of the right has not yet gotten on my level. Most of them – even in that loose category of people who make up the “alt-right” – cling to what grownups told them when they were very small: a mythos about how only this one solitary form of government based on one solitary piece of paper could keep us out of literal chains and deliver us decent, sustainable laws. It’s no use saying that this is a fairy tale – of course it is, but fairy tales are designed to make people feel good by sweeping them out of reality and into a realm of fantasy where things are very much simpler and more to their liking than in the cruel, complex, boring real world.

Yet past a certain point, even the pull of a fairy tale won’t be sufficient to keep anyone but the most delusional from noticing just how bad and how unsustainable things have become. Our collective ability to whistle past democracy’s graveyard began to get very strained indeed during the Obama years. The omens of this were not embodied in anything as overt as throngs of citizens crowding the streets holding up signs calling for a restoration of monarchy, but they were still there for those able to see them. Consider: In 1994, a ban on “assault weapons” passed with minimal opposition or outcry, because at that time ownership of such weapons was uncommon – few people had them, wanted them, or were all that motivated to fight to keep them. Today, enactment of a new ban of this sort on a federal level (the original law expired in 2004) would be impossible. The spike in ownership of such weapons over the past thirteen years has been dramatic (and part of a larger, unprecedented increase in gun sales), with AR-15 pattern rifles practically flying off the shelves of gun shops. And while I am as great a supporter of civilian firearm ownership as can be found anywhere, pardon me if I can’t quite see panicked hoarding of military-style weaponry as the sign of a healthy republic that has the faith and trust of the people solidly behind it.

It is an undefined feeling of dread about the future that led millions of average Americans to make room in their bedroom closets for an AR-15 and a few hundred rounds of 5.56 ammo, and that is that same feeling which sent millions of them to the voting booths last November with the usually-unspoken, but undeniable feeling in their hearts that Donald Trump was the last, best hope of the republic. And they were right – that’s precisely what he was.

So six months into his time in office, what do we have? We have a presidency under siege from the actual centers of power (Call them what you like: the Establishment, the Globalists, the Cathedral, the Deep State – either way, they comprise the entrenched bureaucracy, the courts, the media, and big money interests) who thought that they had adequately made the point about elected leaders defying them back when they hounded Richard Nixon out of office. Whether they can actually remove Trump from office, or even defeat him in re-election, is a secondary concern; if they can merely bog him down in having to defend himself against their endless attacks such that he has no time or energy left to accomplish much of anything productive, they will have achieved their objectives. In this, they have the collusion of the Congress – both parties, in both houses. The members of this august body are, as a rule, easily spooked and easily bought off (either by one of the many forms of bribery that Congress has left technically legal for its members to enjoy, or in the form of positive media coverage and other intangibles). That this is not true of all of them is beside the point. It doesn’t need to be all of them, it just needs to be enough of them, which it reliably is.

Ask yourself a question: If this system, while under the complete control of the putative “right”, is unable even to repeal Obamacare – a deeply unpopular and plainly dysfunctional program that is quickly collapsing under its own weight and which the now-ruling party promised to repeal within its first week in power – in half a year of trying, what could possibly make you think it will ever be able to deal with the larger issues, both social and economic, that plague our society? What makes you think it will ever ban abortion, or repeal gay “marriage”, or arrest the slow banishment of the Christian faith from the public square, or effectively stop the immivasion that promises to soon make the founding stock of this nation a minority in its own lands, or bring any restraint whatsoever to the out-of-control welfare state, or get our nation out of the empire business, or end the Fed, or wrangle our astronomical national debt under control? And yes, maybe Congress will eventually get around to some weak-tea repeal of Obamacare and its replacement with a slightly less obnoxious and ramshackle state program. After all the compromises and backroom dealing that will have to go into getting the true centers of power to allow it to pass, can anyone believe that it will really do what we want it to – deliver us good healthcare at affordable prices?

All of this makes plain that democracy, if it ever worked at all (a highly questionable proposition), is obsolete in the modern age. The government set up in 1776 was intended to be a small-time farmers’ republic designed to deal with the problems of a sparse rural population that was almost universally made up of northern European Christians who needed (and wanted) only minimal governance and were deeply uninterested in world-saving. As the nation became more populous, more urban, more industrialized, more globalized, more diverse, less cohesive, and less religious, the republic attempted to deal with the problems of a society that had gradually come to look nothing like the society it was designed to govern by becoming an ever-bigger government. This didn’t actually make it any better at its fundamental task of solving society’s problems; on the contrary, it simply made the government ever more bloated, expensive, and intrusive in the lives of its citizens. That this government is now utterly incapable of effectively dealing with the problems we face is not merely my opinion – it is the reality in front of us.

As someone who has “been around the block a few times” in terms of watching democratic politics, I knew from the start that the hopes pinned on Trump were overblown. Even in the best of circumstances, presidents normally accomplish maybe a third of what they start out promising to do. This springs from two causes: first that there are many things they promise to do that they have no real intention of ever doing in the first place, and second from systemic resistance to their agendas. In Trump’s case, I suspect there is remarkably little of the first at play, but this will be made up for by an extraordinary amount of the second. In the end, he will be quite lucky indeed to get anything like the customary one-third of his stated goals accomplished, and it will probably be much less. This will not be enough to save the republic. If anybody could have done it, it would have been Donald Trump, but the reality that is making itself obvious right before our eyes is that nobody can do it. The people already cry “Drain the swamp!” and demand that someone with the power do something to get the Deep State under control, which can’t practically be done by the means available to Trump, especially within a mere eight years. And it won’t be long before people start also to compare what Trump has been able to accomplish when he hasn’t had to rely on Congress (a lot) with what he’s been able to accomplish when he has had to rely on Congress (not a lot), and begin to wonder whether Congress is more trouble than it’s worth. This bodes well for those of us who favor non-democratic forms of government*.

There are many who would fall prey to the temptation to look at a single dramatic event – say, Caesar’s crossing of the Rubicon or the Battle of Actium – as the moment when the Roman republic died, but in fact its death was a long process that took something like a century to fully unfold. First there were the Gracchus brothers, who tried to reform the system peacefully (and who were murdered by it for their trouble). Then there was Sulla, who came to Rome with an army and who tried to reform it and restore it to its former glory at swordpoint (the Roman version of the Deep State undid all his reforms as soon as he died). Then there was Julius Caesar, who came with another army, instituted reforms, and tried to avoid having them meet the fate of Sulla’s reforms by draining the swamp even deeper (the swamp drained his blood onto the Senate floor instead). Finally there was Augustus, who sealed the inevitability of Plato’s cycle by killing anyone who stood in his way. And yet, once he had power, he rebuilt the city (he was fond of bragging he had found Rome a city of brick and left it a city of marble), patronized a remarkable flowering of the arts, filled the public coffers with money, and expanded an empire that would last another four centuries (or another fifteen, if you count Byzantium).

On the grand Spenglerian curve of civilizations, Trump is not our analogue for Augustus (all of the interenet’s talk of “the God-Emperor” aside). He is not our Julius Caesar. He is unlikely to be our Sulla. But (whether or not he ends up being physically assassinated), he just might be our Gracchae – the first of a series of populist reformers who take on a powerful and entrenched system, with both sides using increasing levels of force, until finally that system topples, keeping Plato’s perfect record of being right on these matters intact. This toppling of the system may come in the form of a single authoritarian figure taking power in Washington, or in the breakup of the republic into smaller entities that will have mixed fates (some will find good authoritarian leaders and survive; others will collapse), but either way, inevitability is catching up to the current system.

It is worth here noting that the Spenglerian curve that the West is on has always run more quickly than that which the Greco-Roman civilization traveled, meaning that what took a hundred years to happen for them may take a considerably shorter time for us. So if you haven’t bought one of those AR-15s already, now might be a good time. I don’t know when you might need it, but I now believe that day will come a lot sooner than I believed it would back in 1994.

 

(*It is not entirely unexpected that Dunning-Kruger cases like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison would have completely misunderstood what Plato was trying to warn them about. They believed that Plato was warning them that democracies always give way to authoritarianism, and thus built strong defenses against authoritarianism into the design for their democracy. But what Plato was really trying to tell them was that democracy inevitably devolves into such horrendous moral, social, and economic chaos that decent, smart, educated people will, with full deliberate intent, beg an authoritarian leader to take power and restore order, even if it does impinge on their liberties to some degree. The fear that these pseudointellectuals really did design a system that will make it impossible for a Caesar to come and save us is what keeps me awake at night.)

Short Takes: April 2016

It’s been quite awhile since I posted an edition of Short Takes – my roundup of thoughts that are worth saying, but too limited to warrant a full blog post. But in this political season, there’s a lot that requires some attention to be paid. So let us pay it, without another moment’s delay:

*  *  *

• I’m getting pretty sick and tired of the countersignaling against pro-life that seems to be fashionable amongst certain segments of the alt-right these days, as if saying that murdering babies is wrong is just too pleb-tier for edgy intellectuals like us. I have no patience for this. Murdering babies is evil, and should be illegal, with extreme penalties for violating the law. Full stop. If we as the alt-right can’t say that, then we’re worse than useless. Yes, some moral questions require subtle and nuanced thinking. But some do not, and in those cases, moral relativism is evil’s foot in the door. Abortion is one of those cases. Either abortion is murder, or it isn’t. If it is, then nothing justifies it except a direct and certain threat to the life of the mother, in which case one life is balanced against another – one will live, one will die, and the only choice is who. But if it is not, then abort away – one million a year, ten million a year, a billion a year, it matters not, and no more thought should be given to it than would be given to trimming a fingernail. Any other position – any half-measure, any “legal but rare”, any “in this case but not in that case”, is dishonesty both on a moral and a rational level.

• Related: Something to be cautious of is the increasingly large number of what I would call “racialist liberals” who are claiming to be a part of the alt-right. These are people who, politically-speaking, want all or most of what liberals do, but who are either (understandably) fed up with the disproportionate criminality of certain ethnic groups or who (correctly) believe that a liberal social order is unworkable with too many underperforming minorities acting as a drag on the system. Such people are, of course, entitled to their opinions. But they are not entitled to appropriate the term “rightist” (alt- or otherwise) without being called on it.

Being on the right means believing rightist things. If you don’t, then you aren’t on the right, and you shouldn’t claim that you are. So, if your claims that you are a rightist when you really aren’t are due to some sort of mistake or confusion, I’ll be happy to help correct any misconceptions you may have. If, however, they are intentional misrepresentation, then you are a left-entryist who must be revealed for what you are and ruthlessly denounced until you are hounded out of rightist circles. Again, you are entitled to your opinions. If you’re on the left, go be a leftist, and if the left is presently too racially egalitarian for you, then you’re welcome to agitate however you like to try to change that. But you aren’t entitled to acceptance under false pretenses, and I won’t extend you any.

• Also related: The Trump campaign is having all the effects on the alt-right that I predicted it would, for both better and worse. It must be conceded that Trump has had the effect of shifting the conscousness of the rank-and-file “normies” noticably rightward, or at least has made them far less afraid to speak out. In doing so, he has indeed moved the Overton Window. He has also caused the GOP establishment to be revealed for who and what it actually is, and few people (especially people under 60) will ever trust it again. These are all good things. Yet it must be said that the larger Trump phenomenon may all be based on illusion; it seems to me that Trump is something of a Rorschach test – the right (outside of the GOP establishment) sees him as the embodiment of all their hopes, while the left sees him as the embodiment of all their fears. In truth, he is almost certainly neither, and both those who need a hero to follow and those who need a dragon to slay are projecting those needs onto him.

On the other hand, the recent spate of anti-pro-life signaling has appeared largely because of Trump’s recent perceived “stumble” on an abortion-related question. Certain circles of the alt-right, having fallen into the trap of thinking that jettisoning principle to gain power is a sustainable strategy, have decided to throw pro-life under the bus as quickly as possible so as not to derail the Trump Train any further. These sorts never seem to stop and ask themselves what sacrificing principle for a chance at power has gotten mainstream conservatism. Thus, they inevitably turn into the very thing they’re rebelling against. In short, they’re every bit as much a bunch of cucks as Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio, just on a different set of issues.

In the end, it may be fair to say that the Trump phenomenon has made the populist normies better and the alt-right elite worse. These elites, however, (by virtue of being elites) ought to have known not to let this happen to them, and there’s a lesson for all of us to be had here: this is what comes of a philosophical movement allowing itself to get too attached to a single leader, a political party, or even to power itself. Whether Trump is or isn’t the best of the available presidential candidates is beside the point; the excessive attachment that some on the alt-right have developed to him, combined with their renewed faith that they will ever get anything but defeat and humiliation out of mass democracy, represents a serious failing, and there will be consequences to this whether Trump wins or loses the election.

As for me, to misquote Christopher Hitchens, I’m not running for any office, so I don’t have to pretend to respect ideas that are foolish, hypocritical, or evil when I don’t. In this sense, having no aspirations to political power is freeing. Fiat justitia ruat caelum – I will continue to do my part by telling the truth, no matter what the consequences.

• The philosophy of “passivism” has been making the rounds lately in certain alt-right (and especially neoreactionary) circles, and with all due respect to those advocating it – many of whom are thinkers I deeply respect – I must admit to not being particularly impressed by the idea. It makes a certain amount of sense on paper, but in the real world, it is just too easy for it to degrade into lazyism and do-nothingism.

Most especially, I am puzzled by this: If passivism’s plan is, 1) Become worthy, 2) Accept power, 3) Rule, then what exactly is the strategy for making 2) happen? It looks to me as if this stage is glossed over in the manner of the infamous “underpants gnomes” of South Park. But it is not an unimportant question, and it would seem that passivism is all about avoiding it on the assumption that if we just become worthy enough, power will eventually come knocking on our door, hat in hand, begging us to accept it. I find this to be rather unrealistic, to say the least.

I understand, absolutely, saying that hippie-style protests will never work for the right. I understand saying that we should focus on the philosophical and meta-political, and leave the machinations of day-to-day politics to others. But when that turns into the idea of retreating from the world to spend our time in navel gazing and self-improvement schemes rather than trying to accomplish something in the here and now, my response is that if I wanted to do that, I would have joined a monastery. Instead, I started writing and speaking out because I wanted to change things, and I’m not planning to become “passive” anytime soon.

• Taikung Jen, in a conversation with Confucius:

“I’ll teach you how to escape death…

…there is a raven in the eastern sea which is called Yitai (‘dull-head’). This dull-head cannot fly very high and seems very stupid. It hops only a short distance and nestles close with others of its kind. In going forward, it dare not lag behind. At the time of feeding, it takes what is left over by the other birds. Therefore, the ranks of this bird are never depleted and nobody can do them any harm. A tree with a straight trunk is the first to be chopped down. A well with sweet water is the first to be drawn dry.”

•The city government of San Jose – heart of the Silicon Valley – has announced a campaign to crack down on unlicensed “massage parlors”, which they (correctly) accuse of being fronts for prostitution. While I carry no brief for houses of ill repute, I nonetheless find this move deeply disturbing. For as long as anyone I know can remember (going back to my grandparents’ time, and further) there has been an unspoken truce that has existed in every American city in which East Asian ethnic neighborhoods have formed. The terms have always been approximately this: the neighborhood will remain largely self-policing – violent crime among residents will stay rare, and violent crimes against outsiders (especially tourists) will remain virtually unheard-of. In exchange, the police (who, being no fools, surely know where to find it) will turn a blind eye to discreetly-operated dens of the sort of vices that East Asians particularly enjoy (gambling, prostitution, and the occasional opium den prominent among these). The new anti-vice campaign on the part of San Jose’s municipal government represents a violation of this long-established, stable, mutually-beneficial truce.

The Puritan left, of course, knows no honor, so any truce it offers will last only until they feel they have amassed enough power to break it with impunity. San Jose’s campaign fits in neatly with the left’s recent transgressions of other lines that, not long ago, they swore they would never cross – including those involving freedom of religion and even freedom of speech. And they will stop at nothing, nor will they respect any borderlines, in enforcing their new dictates. As Fred Reed noted, in the New Order, no one will be left alone – not anyone, not anywhere, not ever. There is no corner of the internet hidden enough, no small-town bakery obscure enough, no private sanctum deep enough within your own walls, no low-down barroom dingy and smoky enough, and no alley in Chinatown dark and narrow enough that the Puritan left’s Inquisitors – whether they are officials of the state or private vigilantes – will not insert themselves there in their hunt for demons to exorcise and witches to burn.

First they came for the Chinatown whorehouses…

• Related: The newest addition to the left’s long, long inventory of things that are triggering and oppressive and must be purged for the good of the children: Animanics. No, really.

Attention leftists – when you’ve reached the point where your enemies list has grown so long that it now includes Yakko, Wakko, and Dot, you’ve objectively gone batshit insane.

• There may, however, be a ray of hope out there in the darkness. Over at amerika.org, Brett Stevens has come up with a novel proposal for getting the lefties to leave us alone. He advocates a strategy of passing laws distasteful to them, not only because such laws are sane and reasonable, but also with the intent of getting them to boycott us (and thus to go away). Relevant quote from his article (which is very much worth reading in full):

“The only place safe from the ever-greedy belly of socialist-style government and the neurotic fatwas of Coastal liberals is the place that no one wants. Become that place. Make the South look utterly terrible to these Coastal neurotics and schizoids, and let them pull back. If they want a wall, let’s build that wall. Let us seal ourselves off from the North forever because we are so disgusting to their eyes.

In the meantime, cut free of their neurosis and the easy-money jobs of the cities that make people into robot zombies, we can rebuild civilization and eventually have enough tactical nukes to vanish them if they charge over the wall. Let the Coastal liberals face the fate of their reality-denying, misery-spreading Leftist mental health issues. We must break free, and it begins by making them not hate us, but be grossed out by us.”

At the moment, this seems to be working brilliantly, not only at keeping degenerate pornographers at bay, but in preventing attention-seeking show biz has-beens from pestering decent folk, and even at driving off crooked, predatory globalist banksters. So far so good then – I’ll lend my personal endorsement to the Stevens Plan. If it keeps undesirables from darkening our doorsteps, then it’s a win-win all around.

By the way, would it be silly of me to ask why the left suddenly finds millionaires and huge multinational corporations interfering in politics to be totally acceptable when that interference furthers the left’s own political aims? Yes, I suppose it would.

(UPDATE I: Washed-up 80s relic Cyndi Lauper says she’ll donate all of the proceeds from her next concert to a gay rights organization trying to get the North Carolina law repealed. So, there’s another $4.25 or so in the kitty! You go, girl.

UPDATE II: And now insufferable prog lardsack Michael Moore has announced that in response to the new law, he won’t be releasing his latest dismal propaganda film to theaters in North Carolina. This law just keeps getting better and better!)

• Has anyone else noticed that among leftism’s innumerable internal contradictions is the fact that their dogmatic belief in blank-slate theory directly contradicts their opposition to hereditary monarchy? If blank-slate theory is true, then there is no reason to fear a “bad seed” on the throne – all that will be needed to produce the ideal philosopher-kings of which thinkers since Socrates have dreamed will be to give them the right upbringing and education. (This latter is especially important, for the left’s belief in education as alchemy – able to turn any human material into any other kind of human material that may be desired – is essentially absolute.) So why then do they not, instead of opposing monarchy, devote their energies to advocating for the right sort of education for young princes?

Perhaps in their mind lurks the knowledge that Nero’s teacher was Seneca, and Commodus’s was his father Marcus Aurelius. Then again, when did “progressives” ever stoop to learning from history?

• The left is an engine of sadism and destruction; included in this is sadism and destruction directed inward – i.e. masochism and self-destruction. This is not incidental to leftism nor a by-product of it; the sadomasochistic imperative is in fact central to leftism. Nothing that the left does can be understood unless seen through this lens; looked at any other way, its actions seem random and bizarre. It explains both the left’s pattern of rewarding those who engage in behaviors destructive to society at large and even to the left in particular, as well as its otherwise-inexplicable alliance with Islam. For example, Muslims knocked down the Twin Towers; and as a result, the number of Muslim immigrants in the United States has been doubled since that day. Or consider that the massive sexual irresponsibility of gays spread an epidemic that killed tens of millions; and as a result, they were rewarded with gay “marriage”. Or that violent criminal predators have turned the streets of our once-gleaming cities into dystopian war zones; and as a result, they are getting handsomely paid off in exchange for a pinky promise to not do it again (contrast this to the penalties in technically-communist but non-self-destructive China for “hooliganism”).

The left desperately wants death, but the sadomasochistic imperative at its core means that its suicide will not be in the form of an otherwise-harmless self-immolation in the style of Thich Quang Duc. Instead, the left will destroy itself in the manner of Andreas Lubitz – intentionally taking everyone who they have trapped within their power along with them in their death dive; the helpless victims, in a rather more urgent version of William F. Buckley’s response to leftism, pounding helplessly on the cockpit door as the mountains get ever-closer, telling: “No! No! For the love of God, stop!”

Either we destroy the left, or it destroys itself and takes us along with it. In the end, which is more humane? More reasonable?

• I was 15 years old when the film Rain Man was released to theaters. I remember Good Morning America running a segment just before it debuted in which they had to explain what autism was, (being especially careful to make the point that it was not the same thing as mental retardation) because at the time it was such an unknown condition that most people had never heard of it. Over the intervening years, it seems as though autism, like homosexuality, has gone all the way from existing in the shadows to being the new normal. Scientists and physicians, I’m sure, have well-reasoned explanations for the increase in rates of autism over the last thirty years or so, and I have no doubt of the correctness of their explanations. But I can’t help but notice that autism seems to be the signature disorder of our age – a medical condition that perfectly reflects where we are as a society. Of course, autism is the apotheosis of the Whig thinking that, over the course of centuries, has become the central current of thought in the West (and, via the transmission lines of globalism, the world). Ruthlessly logical, humorless, uncultured, literal – it is the thinking of a cog in a system, but essentially nothing else. What could be more reflective of the computerized, post-industrial age – an age in which our lives are defined by interaction with machines, and in which thinking like a machine is increasingly considered to be the height of intelligence?

Whoever you turn into heroes, that is who people will seek to emulate. Now, think of all the high-functioning autistics who we have held up as the great heroes of our age – Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and others who built huge fortunes quickly in the Great Silicon Valley Gold Rush of 1975-2010. When the heroes we were all taught to emulate were cowboys, soldiers, policemen – men who reflected masculine virtue – what sort of men did our society produce? And now that socially-maladjusted, overly-literal machine-men – they who know circuits and cost/benefit analyses, but who can discern no use for God or philosophy or morality – now that these are our heroes, what sort of men is our society producing?

Perhaps the scientists will say that’s all a coincidence. If it is, it’s a remarkable one.

• From New York comes word that the NYC subway’s implementation of NFC payments will take at least five more years (and likely much longer), and that only $10 million of the projected $450 million budget for the project has actually been allocated. Behold the entropy of a decadent, declining, systemically corrupt system in action! New York City – so great a showpiece of advancement in the 20th century that the young Ayn Rand, fresh off the boat from Russia, wept when she beheld its towering skyline – cannot, in this century, find a timely and cost-effective way to implement a technology that Tokyo, Seoul, Taipei, and even Bangkok have been using for years.

My prediction:The NYC subway system, which has for many years been desperately in need of a major modernization (not just in terms of new technology like NFC payments, but in basics like better ventilation and some escalators to replace endless flights of stairs in big stations), will not be getting significantly more modern anytime soon. The NFC project will crawl along for years, with nothing much coming of it. When it is finally finished, years late and tend of millions over budget, the final product will be barely-functional at best. Meanwhile, astronomical amounts of taxpayer money will disappear into politically-connected pockets (all in ways that are technically perfectly legal).

Bob Grant used to say that we are slipping and sliding into third worldism. This is a fine example of that trend. Do not expect it to be reversed anytime soon. An occasional rocket landing on a boat aside (every trend line has a few bumps in the opposite direction), we are not a society that can get things done anymore.

• Related: Will everybody please shut the hell up about Uber? Stop treating it like it’s the past decade’s most innovative development in tech. For heaven’s sake, it’s just a phone app that helps you to hail a gypsy cab; it’s not the freaking Apollo moon landing program.

• He’s back! After an absence of four years, the prognosticator of prognosticators, the badass of business – everyone’s favorite Texan investor, Johnnie Walker drinker, and secret brony – the man they call Ghost has returned with all-new episodes of True Capitalist Radio! I’m a big fan of the show, the host, and even (maybe especially) the trolls, so trust me here – if you listen to a few episodes, I’m confident that you’ll be hooked.