Review of “Everyday Drinking” by Kingsley Amis

December 28, 2012

“Your writing,” she stated, “is getting more and more biased and entrenched in reactionary fuddy-duddyism.” An excellent summing-up, I thought, of my contribution to the eighties’ cultural scene.

This is a difficult book for me to review.

On one hand, the subject is very important and should be given its full due. On the other hand, Amis is a wonderful writer and it’s difficult not to set the substance aside and quote him a lot.

I’ll try to split the baby.

The book is a collection of thoughts on drinking, cocktail recipes and related topics. There’s very little in this book that I disagree with.

For Amis, as for all right-thinking people, the necessities are:

1) Scotch
2) Gin
3) Other brown liquors (bourbon, whiskey, rye)
4) Beer
5) Wine

The world of alcohol is full of many other delightful drinks, but these are more than drinks.

Scotch whisky is my desert-island drink. I mean not only that it’s my favourite, but that for me it comes nearer than anything else to being a drink for all occasions and all times of day, even with meals.

The ultimate cocktails (in order) are:

Dry Martini
– 12-15 parts gin
– 1 part dry vermouth
– Lemon rind or cocktail onions
– Ice

Old-Fashioned (“the only cocktail really to rival the martini”)
– 1 huge slug bourbon (say 4 fl. oz.)
– 1 teaspoon castor sugar
– hot water to dissolve the sugar completely
– 3 dashes Angostura bitters
– 1 hefty squeeze of fresh orange juice
– 1 teaspoon maraschino-cherry juice
– 1 slice orange
– 1 maraschino cherry
– 3 ice cubes

I don’t mind an olive in my dry martinis, nor do I mind some extra vermouth if the vermouth is good.

The Old Fashioned made this way is excellent, but it takes a long time. You can get 95% of the way there if you make some simple syrup. To do so, put 1 cup of sugar into 1 cup of water and boil until the sugar is dissolved. Store it in the fridge and it will last a long time. However, store it carefully since it’s a nasty substance. Once this is done, add a 1-2 teaspoons of simple syrup to a couple shots of bourbon, a few dashes of bitters, and a dash of orange juice (cherry juice if you really want).

Amis disdains gin and tonics, but I think there’s a place for a couple quick, easy and refreshing drinks. My favorite are the gin and tonic and the bourbon and ginger beer.

The book is filled with other drink recipes, for example:

Evelyn Waugh’s Noonday Reviver
– 1 hefty shot gin
– 1 (1/2 pint) bottle Guinness
– Ginger beer

Put the Guinness and gin in a glass and fill with ginger beer. Drink.

Of course, in this brief description, you don’t get the full effect because you miss the style. For example, here’s Amis on vodka:

These local [i.e. non-Russia/Ukrainian] vodkas have two basic jobs. One is to replace gin in established drinks for the benefit of those rather second-rate persons who don’t like the taste of gin, or indeed that of drink in general. Anybody who calls for a vodka and tonic in my hearing runs the risk of that imputation.

On Pina Coladas:

Just the thing for a little 95-IQ female, fresh from a spell on the back of the bike, to suck at while her escort plunges grunting at the fruit machine.

Amis has extensive discussions on beer and wine. His advice is excellent but impossible to summarize.

His notes on “boozemanship” are excellent, for example:

First, a simply ploy with gin . . . Asked what you’d like to drink, say simply, “Gin, please.” Wave away any tonic, lemon, even ice, and accept only a little water – bottled naturally. Someone’s sure to ask you if that’s all you really want, etc. Answer, “Yes, I must say I like to be able to taste the botanicals, which just means I like the taste of gin, I suppose. Of course, a lot of people only like the effect.” Any gin-and-tonic drinkers in earshot will long to hit you with a meat axe, which after all is the whole object.

Later, switch to Scotch, saying in tones of casual explanation, “I get sick of these fully rectified spirits after a bit, don’t you?” That should draw a fairly blank stare. Then, “I mean I like a bit of the old pot still. Well, I just enjoy the touch of malt.” If that doesn’t clear things up much, say, “I’m sorry, I didn’t realize,” making it clear that you’re adding under your breath, “that I was talking to a bunch of peasants.”

His thoughts on the general philosophy of drinking are hilarious as well, for example:

Alcohol science is full of crap. It will tell you, for instance, that drink does not warm you up, it only makes you feel warm – oh, I see; and it will go on about alcohol being not a stimulant but a depressant, which turns out to mean that it depresses qualities like shyness and slef-criticism, and so makes you behave as if you have been stimulated – thanks.

Or, in the beginning of the section on diet and alcohol:

The first, indeed the only, requirement of a diet is that it should lose you weight without reducing your alcoholic intake by the smallest degree.

Finally, I would be remiss in not quoting something from his discussion of hangovers. He splits the hangover into a metaphysical part and a physical part. Here’s a bit of his advice on dealing with the former:

1. Immediately on waking, start telling yourself how lucky you are to be feeling so bloody awful. This, known as George Gale’s Paradox, recognizes the truth that if you do not feel bloody awful after a hefty night then you are still drunk, and must sober up in a waking state before hangover dawns.

2. If your wife or partner is beside you, and (of course) is willing, perform the sexual act as vigorously as you can. The exercise will do you good, and – on the assumption that you enjoy sex – you will feel toned up emotionally, thus delivering a hit-and-run raid on your metaphysical hangover (M.H.) before you formally declare war on it.


(i) If you are in bed with somebody you should not be in bed with, and have in the least degree a bad conscience about this, abstain. Guilt and shame are prominent constituents of the M.H., and will certainly be sharpened by indulgence on such an occassion.

(ii) For the same generic reason, do not take the matter into your own hands if you awake by yourself.

. . .

When the ineffable compound of depression, sadness (these two are not the same), anxiety, self-hatred, sense of failure and fear for the future begins to steal over you, start telling yourself that what you have is a hangover. You are not sickening for anything, you have not suffered a minor brain lesion, you are not all that bad at your job, your family and friends are not leagued in a conspiracy of barely maintained silence about what a shit you are, you have not come at last to see life as it really is, and there is no use crying over spilt milk. If this works, if you can convince yourself, you need do no more, as provided in the markedly philosophical

General Principle 9: He who truly believes he has a hangover has no hangover.


Review of “Bitter Harvest” by Ian Smith

December 27, 2012

Ian Smith was right.

Regardless of everything else that’s been said about him, enough time has passed for us to know one thing about him without question . . . Ian Smith was right – in the end, his refusal to pretend he wasn’t is what did him in. Certain types of truth are incompatible with modern society. The result is that Smith is now studiously ignored, and when he is discussed, his views are wildly misrepresented (by his friends and enemies).

Why 20th Century Sub-Saharan Africa?

I know basically nothing about the history of colonialism in Sub-Saharan Africa (Rhodesia was gone by the time I was born). Good information is difficult to come by. Why not just do the polite thing, and ignore it like everybody else?

It’s an important topic because the mainstream narrative is so obviously false. As Moldbug put it:

Here, for example, is a Times story on the fight against malaria. Often, as with politicians, journalists speak the truth in a fit of absent-mindedness, when their real concern is something else.

If you read the story, you might notice the same astounding graf that I did:

And the world changed. Before the 1960s, colonial governments and companies fought malaria because their officials often lived in remote outposts like Nigeria’s hill stations and Vietnam’s Marble Mountains. Independence movements led to freedom, but also often to civil war, poverty, corrupt government and the collapse of medical care.

Let’s focus on that last sentence. Independence movements led to freedom, but also often to civil war, poverty, corrupt government and the collapse of medical care.

I often find it useful to imagine that I’m an alien from the planet Jupiter. If I read this sentence, I would ask: what is this word freedom? What, exactly, does this writer mean by freedom? Especially in the context of civil war, poverty, and corrupt government?

What we see here is that independence movements – which the writer clearly believes are a good thing – led to some very concrete and very, very awful results, in addition to this curious abstraction – freedom. Clearly, whatever freedom means in this particular context, it’s such a great positive that even when you add it to civil war, poverty, corrupt government and the collapse of medical care, the result still exceeds zero.

Isn’t that strange? Might we not be tempted to revisit this particular piece of arithmetic? But we can’t – because if we postulate that colonial governments and companies (whatever these were), with their absence of freedom, were somehow preferable to independence movements, which created this same freedom (the words freedom and independence appear to be synonyms in this context), we are off the progressive reservation.

In fact, not only are we off the progressive reservation, we’re off the conservative reservation. No one believes this. You will not find anyone on Fox News or or any but the fringiest of fringe publications claiming that colonialism, with its intrinsic absence of freedom and its strangely effective malaria control (note how the writer implies, without actually saying, that this was only delivered for the selfish purposes of the evil colonial overlords), was in any way superior to postcolonialism, with its freedom, its malaria, its civil war, etc.

“Free” Rhodesia, is of course, Zimbabwe. At this point, even the most brazen defender of “independence movements” prefers to ignore Zimbabwe.

Strangely effective malaria control, etc.

It’s fashionable to claim that, “with the exception of Hong Kong, no massive economic modernization has ever happened in a colony.” Let’s take a moment to summarize the economic (and political) history of Rhodesia and see if a “massive economic modernization” happened, shall we?

Rhodesia was founded by contract to Cecil Rhodes. It was set up differently than other colonies in that empire was essentially subcontracted to a company (for some reason this approach brings to mind Botswana, but I digress). As such, the colony was never governed by the British government.

At the relevant point (before independence), blacks outnumbered whites 20 to 1. However it’s worth noting that the black population went from 300,000 to 4-5 million after the scourge of colonization. Before colonization, these blacks plowed their fields (to the extent they farmed) with wooden tools, were polygamous, had more children that died than survived, and constantly died in wars and famines.

Southern Rhodesia (Rhodesia/Zimbabwe) was part of a federation that included Northern Rhodesia (Zambia) and Nyasaland (Malawi). Southern Rhodesia had been repeatedly promised that it could have independence. It never took it, until it was too late. By the time it wanted it, it was no longer fit for independence in the eyes of the British, despite the fact that by any measure it was more stable and capable of functioning than any other African country that had been granted independence. Indeed, blacks in Souther Rhodesia had higher standards of living than those in the British governed colonies nearby. Rhodesia’s problem was that it was run nearly exclusively by whites. It didn’t matter that it was well run.

Ian Smith’s father moved to Rhodesia in early part of the 20th Century. His father’s brother moved to the US and eventually settled in San Diego. Before they left England, the brothers agreed that they would both moved to which ever place was better. After exchanging letters, they couldn’t agree which place was better. Living in southern California in the middle of the 20th Century was perhaps the best that the world has yet to offer. The fact that Rhodesia, in Smith’s father’s mind, could compete says something.

In Smith’s words:

It is difficult for people who have never lived in this part of the world to appreciate that sub-Saharan Africa is different. It was the last part of the world to come into contact with European civilization, and when the pioneers [i.e. colonizers] arrived in this country the local people had no written language, no form of currency, no schools or hospital, and lived in makeshift houses with grass roofs. The wheel had not even evolved, nor had the plough. The change which has taken place is absolutely phenomenal, and is a tribute to what the white inhabitants did over a period of ninety years.

During these ninety years, the population gained access to modern medical care, exported food and developed lots of industry. In addition, “pro rata [in 1965] Rhodesia had the lowest crime rate in the world.” It also had a small police force on a per capita basis in comparison with other countries. It had a sound currency, low unemployment and a non-corrupt civil service.

Combine all that with the huge explosion in the population (thanks to the medical care) and the starting point (no wheel 90 years before) and if that result isn’t a major economic modernization, I don’t know what is.

Alas, it took much less time to destroy everything in the name of freedom.

Yes, but they were racist

All polite-thinking readers who’ve revived from their fainting spells after reading the last few paragraphs will, of course, be complaining that Rhodesia was racist. The implication, apparently, being that economic modernization doesn’t matter if there’s racism.

What did the white Rhodesian (and many black Rhodesians) actually believe about race?

It’s interesting to contrast Rhodesia “racism” with South African racism. It’s perhaps an over-simplification to say that South African racism is the racism of segregation, Jim Crow laws, and white nationalism, while Rhodesian racism is the racism of disparate impact, race-based quotas, and a well-governed diverse society, but I think that’s the best way to summarize the difference in a sentence.

The South Africans were essentially white nationalists in a mostly black country. Blacks were denied certain rights that were only granted to whites. The history of apartheid is well known.

The Rhodesian approach was different. Many rights, in Rhodesia, were based on objective factors, such as land ownership and incomes taxes paid. Blacks and whites were entitled to the same rights as long as they met the criteria. Different constitutions gave blacks a different amount of seats in the legislature, but all moved toward black majority rule. As blacks progressed in Rhodesia, white Rhodesians knew that eventually their country would be run by blacks. They believed that this process should be a gradual, not immediate one. This belief was their sin.

Smith notes that there were more black millionaires in Rhodesia than white millionaires. However, as a proportion of the population, there were fewer.

Outside of those who benefit from the who, whom aspects of the disparate impact view of racism, virtually no common sensical person views disparate impact as racism. Moreover, it’s certainly an entirely different animal than the South African/apartheid/white nationalist sort of racism. It’s interesting then that “freeing” Rhodesia became a priority for the international community over ending apartheid in South Africa. It’s almost as if a well-functioning African country was a threat to something. Anyway . . .

To put it bluntly, the white Rhodesian believed (according to Smith) that a black African who emerged from the jungle a couple decades ago without having invented the wheel, learned to read or write, or learned to govern anything beyond the immediate wants of his own (small) tribe was not quite ready to vote in elections choosing the leader of a large, artificial territory. Polite opinion disagreed. Results would seem to indicate that polite opinion was wrong.

In Rhodesia, blacks were eligible to vote and under the 1961 Constitution. There was no racial qualification for “A” voting roll and blacks could vote on the “B” roll. The objective qualifications for the A roll had a – shall we say – disparate impact.

Even Wikipedia grudgingly admits that, “The concept of eventual parity of parliamentary representation between the races was also adopted [in the UDI constitution of 1969].” Note that, under the revised constitution, income taxes paid became a driver of representation (did someone say disparate impact again?).

The white Rhodesians believed that whites could live in the same country with blacks, but that a certain amount of separation was inevitable and (in this case) necessary given cultural differences.

Smith believed firmly that most blacks in Rhodesia needed “time to adapt to the rapidly changing world that was surrounding them.” He also worried that if there was full democracy, bad things would happen to minority tribes. Polite opinion apparently saw all blacks as blacks, with disastrous results that Smith predicted.

It’s a bit difficult not to get mad. The white Rhodesian was accused of racism, cruelty to blacks, and inhumanity. In his place, his accusers selected Robert Mugabe. How broken must a worldview be to believe this change to be an upgrade? This criminal, this murderer, this third-rate asshole wouldn’t govern his own personal life is their patron saint of independence and freedom. The results . . .

A civilized, peaceful, happy first-world country turned into a modern hell. Inflation ran rampant in a country that was previously admirably fiscally responsible. Starvation was commonplace in a country that once exported tons of food. Violence was a perpetual fact of life in a country that previously was quite safe by non-African standards. (Black) People were fighting merely to survive where once they had been learning, receiving modern medical treatment, getting educations, and actually progressing. Tribal genocide broke out.

Look upon your progress and despair.

Smith’s story

We have no chance of winning, but
We’re not at least afraid to try.
Our saint is Julian the Apostate,
Our modal prince is Castlereagh,
Our favorite statesman died today.

Ian Smith’s story really begins in World War II. He fought for the British Empire, flying planes against the Germans. He was shot down, escaped and made it to London.

He returned to Rhodesia and eventually become Prime Minister at an interesting time in African history. Countries were becoming “independent.”

The post-independence period in all the sub-Saharan countries followed a strangely predictable pattern. Smith called it the “one man, one vote, one time” pattern. In addition to the rise of (generally Communist) dictators for life, the independence movements were also characterized by the rape and slaughter of any remaining white Africans (although it’s supposedly important to protect minorities, protecting whites in Africa is apparently affirmatively bad), massive reductions in economic output and the general decay or outright disappearance of any semblance of civilization. Nevertheless, the Americans and the British (and, of course, the Russians – purely coincidentally, I’m sure) continued to push for independence.

“Freedom” came to Ghana (1957), Nigeria (1960), Congo (1960), Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya, Zanzibar (later part of Tanzania), with largely predictable results.

The writing was on the wall for Rhodesia by the early ’60s. They met to draft a new Constitution in hopes the British would grant them independence. Obviously, given the success of other independence movements, the ruling elite (mostly white) were reluctant to follow the fully-democratic route. In drafting the constitution, the leaders met with and obtained approval from over 600 tribal chiefs.

The history of the various constitutions and negotiations is too long (and frankly too depressing) to repeat. Read it, if you can stomach it.

The British perpetually pushed for full elections. The Rhodesians would have elections and consultations with tribal leaders. Always, the elections were considered unrepresentative by the British. Mugabe would convince his supporters to boycott, for example, and the British would be up in arms. Always, the constitutions stated explicitly that the political system was dedicated to “unimpeded progress to majority rule.” It was never enough. Full elections were nearly impossible anyway, in a country that had never taken a census, in which most citizens had no birth certificates, and most citizens were illiterate.

The British essentially outsourced their foreign policy in Africa to the OAU. That organization became a collective of third-rate communist dictators. A fun group to bargain with.

The international community exerted increasing pressure on Rhodesia. The UN labelled Smith a threat to world peace – apparently not wishing to plunge his country into chaos and destruction is a threat to world peace. The UN blockaded the country, even though they simultaneously didn’t recognize its independence. The UN thereby (according to its own logic) blockaded part of the United Kingdom.

Early on, the blockade was largely ineffective. In fact, it gave a boost to agricultural production (at this point Rhodesia actually started exporting food) and industry. However, the blockade put Rhodesia at the mercy of South Africa and Portugal (via it’s colonies, particularly Mozambique).

In a few years, the Portuguese government was overthrown. Portugal soon abandoned its colonies and “free” Mozambique declared war on Rhodesia (ah, freedom).

At this point, Rhodesia was entirely reliant on South Africa for things like access to the sea and bullets. Smith viewed apartheid as “unprincipled and totally indefensible” and an entirely untenable long-term solution.

At this point, South Africa basically threw Rhodesia under the bus, in hopes that doing so would appease the international community. If white South Africans weren’t getting it so badly, you’d almost think they deserved what they were getting for their treatment of Rhodesia.

One can’t help but wonder if South Africa and the international community had their own reasons to focus first on Rhodesia. Was the acceptance of ultimate black rule and the fact that blacks and whites had many equal rights too threatening to South Africa? Was the fact that Rhodesia was so successful too threatening to the international community? For whatever reason, Rhodesia had to be dealt with.

(Smith blames the Communists. Indeed, de-colonization resulted in communist governments in most of Africa. If you read this blog regularly, you may not be surprised that US and British foreign policies were entirely dedicated to gaining additional African territory for communists. Smith, however, was unable to believe that the US and Britain were promoting communist interests. If communists were trying to take over all of Africa (and ultimately the resource rich South Africa), taking Rhodesia first would be a necessary step. This, like much of post-war US and British foreign policy is probably just a coincidence though. It’s worth noting that when Smith visited the US or Britain and spoke to politicians, the politicians were always shocked by Smith’s arguments. Apparently the State Department and Foreign Office were passing communist propaganda on Rhodesia through to politicians. Another coincidence, I’m sure.)

As the situation became more dire, whites started leaving Rhodesia in larger numbers (economic output began declining accordingly). Smith stayed.

A group of black leaders emerged. Generally the leaders were generally tribal leaders (full democracy in these countries at these times just meant putting the largest tribe in control of the country). Leaders at the time include Nkomo, Sithole, Mugabe, and Muzorewa. The latter was the first Prime Minister after Smith, but wasn’t ruthless enough (and hostile enough to whites, one suspects) to keep Mugabe out.

Fully free elections (to the surprise of the British apparently, but not anyone who was actually paying attention) turned out to be competitions to see who could terrorize the largest number of citizens. The prize, under this enlightened method for choosing a leader, would obviously eventually be Mugabe’s.

Smith stayed in Rhodesia until he was stripped of his citizenship, at which point he left for South Africa. He died in 2007. The Zimbabwean “government” seized his land in 2012.

Good government in Africa

Common opinion on African government seems to be that wealthy nations should continually send support to African governments as they go through cyclical bouts of failure. You’re always supposed to express hope and send money, while knowing (and not saying) that Africa is hopeless.

However, much like good government in a diverse society is not hopeless, Rhodesia proves that a sub-Saharan can have a government that provides first world quality services, safety, stability, and fiscal independence and responsibility. The common lesson is that “pure democracy” doesn’t work in certain settings.


December 26, 2012

What price multiculturalism?

– Uh oh, apparently the blueprint for dealing with South Africa may be used for dealing with the gun industry. As long as you ignore the genocide and general slide into third-worldism, that whole South Africa thing was “pretty successful.”

Merry Christmas

Fatherhood and sperm donation.

– Nydwracu on Adam Lanza.

DC homicide stats for 2012 – some interesting tidbits in that list.

– Scientists are slowly catching up to the Ancient Greeks.

Democracies and autocracies.

– Steve Sailer is writing about the ’60s (latest here). I’ve written about this topic a bit before. I find it incredibly perplexing. All the explanations just seem to raise more questions. As always, I’m grateful for book recommendations from commenters.

It’s a mystery?!?!?

December 26, 2012

The things that surprise mainstream commentators never cease to surprise me.

Megan McArdle can’t figure out what’s going on with property prices in a particular DC neighborhood.

I don’t want to defend any particular price for this house, however some demographic information may shed some light on the paradox that Ms McArdle has unearthed.

Not that long ago, this neighborhood was ground zero of the crack epidemic in DC. Even The Atlantic noticed.

More recently, the neighborhood has gentrified a lot. The house McArdle’s links to is in zip code 20002. If you go here and put in that zip code, you might notice something.

This particular house is right on the gentrifying line. Blocks just west and south are largely white while blocks east and north are largely black.

Again, I don’t know what a four bedroom/four bathroom house a few blocks from the US Capitol should be worth. However, it should surprise nobody that it’s worth a lot more if the neighborhood is largely white (and on a new public transportation line) rather almost exclusively black. This transformation has been happening since the late ’90s or early ’00s. Prices have risen accordingly. Yawn.

Government pay

December 19, 2012

Arnold Kling and Megan McArdle on government pay.

These studies all miss the point badly.

There are two defining characteristics of federal government pay: 1) the pay structure is very flat compared to the private sector and 2) lots of the compensation is deferred or tied up in benefits.

Talking about the pay of the “average” government worker doesn’t mean anything. When Tim Geithner gets a new job after leaving Treasury, he’ll undoubtedly make a lot more money. On the other hand, the federal government is filled with secretaries that make 10 times more than they could make in the private sector.

(We got a new secretary a few months ago. She wasn’t new to the job, she was just new to our group. I asked her to schedule a meeting with three people. After failing miserably, she started crying. As far as I know, no one in the office has asked her to do anything since. She couldn’t even if they did. I’m pretty sure she makes infinitely more than she’d make in the private sector. Really, her job is best understood as welfare).

Federal agencies are also required to have tons of make-work jobs. For example, HR departments don’t really do traditional HR work – they mostly enforce hiring regulations. If I want to hire someone, I generally have to perform most of the traditional HR functions (write the job description, review resumes, interview candidates, etc.). The HR department just makes sure I give appropriate preferences to veterans and other groups, but mostly veterans these days.

There are entire departments devoted to diversity and inclusion. I have no idea what they do other than provide “jobs” to diverse people.

Because the pay structure is relatively flat, these people make good money. Secretaries with (at most) a high school education can make $60,000. The highest paid employees never make much more than $200,000, and everyone else fits in between. It therefore follows that lots of people can leave and make more money, while others are way overpaid.

It’s very difficult to compare government salaries to private sector ones. What’s it worth to have near total job security, for example? Government employees still get pensions, so what’s it worth to get so much back-end compensation? For some people that’s worth a lot, for others’ not so much. Most numbers I’ve seen put the value of government benefits at about 30% of the total compensation, but lots of people have no interest in deferring that much compensation.

My guess is that about 2/3 of government employees would make much, much less in the private sector (frankly, even in government, their jobs could be eliminated without much – if any – loss), while the other 1/3 could more – in some cases a lot more.

In the last 18 months, I’ve turned down two jobs offers that would have significantly raised my salary, because the other benefits of government employment are too appealing (what’s it worth to sit down with your family at dinner every night, for example?).


December 17, 2012

More on porn

– Violent crime isn’t necessarily decreasing.

– I’ve read a lot of books from the pre-1900 era. If you’ve done the same, you undoubtedly noticed that they’re written for a much more intelligent audience than any (general audience) book written today. Apparently, virtually no one alive at the time could read them. That seems odd.

William F. Buckley was a leftist

– The best places to be born are the places where the fewest people are being born. Surely, mass immigration could fix that.

– Why is ESPN the most politically correct media organization?

– It might be time to sell your equities.

Review of “Masters of Deceit” by J. Edgar Hoover

December 17, 2012

Communism in the US has a long history. Let’s set aside the earliest bits and focus on the two most recent periods. These periods are the US-Russian Alliance period and the modern progressive period.

The US-Russian Alliance period was characterized by – unsurprisingly – an alliance between American Communists and Russian ones. This story is relatively well documented, if still not exactly well known.

It’s hard to avoid sounding like a nut job to mainstream ears when talking about this period, but it’s very difficult to overstate the ties between the Soviets and high-level officials in the US government. The Soviets, for example, didn’t counterfeit US dollars, they just printed them from original plates taken directly from the Treasury Department. At least, they didn’t control the US military . . . unless, of course, they did.

(Then, of course, there’s our allies . . .).

Hoover’s book is a decent place to start for analysis of this phase of Communism. However, this phase is ending as Hoover is writing the book. Focusing on it misses the bigger picture of the break between US and Russian Communists.

This break, brings us to the second (and most recent) phase of Communism, modern progressivism.

During the US-Russian Alliance, Communists took control of the governing institutions of the US. I use the term “Cathedral” (courtesy of Mencius Moldbug) to describe these institutions. Generally, the term refers to the institutions that run the country. Specifically it refers to the media, bureaucracy and elite universities.

A nice way to illustrate the fact that the Communists controlled these organizations is to look at the career of any known Communist agent. Let’s take one of the best known, Alger Hiss. Hiss’s career (including after he was accused of being a spy and after being in jail) included stints at: the State Department, the United Nations, clerking for Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr, the Justice Department, some Senate Committees, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and – naturally – Harvard Law.

If you don’t know what I mean by the term Cathedral, it’s basically that list. Really, the only way it could be better is if he’d worked at the New York Times.

Given the reaction of these groups to Hiss’s trial, there’s no doubt that if Hiss had managed to avoid jail, many of these places would have re-hired him.

I rest my case that Communists, at one point, took over the governing apparatus of the US.

If you’d like to argue that Communists no longer control the governing apparatus of the US, you have two choices. First, you could argue that some other group eventually threw out the Communists and took the governing apparatus over. I know of no such argument.

Second, you could argue that the ruling group converted away from Communism. I think this happened . . . sort of. This conversion marks the start of the modern progressive phase of Communism.

This conversion is hard to explain. If you want to understand it, the best way to begin to try is to read this book (my favorite from the period).

The book is the memoirs of Elizabeth Bentley, a Soviet spy who broke with the Soviets but never repudiated any of her original, fundamental political ideas. Essentially, she just realized that the Russians were working for the Russians and not for Communism as she had always understood it. It’s faster to quote my self than to type:

Note that [Bentley] doesn’t ever repudiate her original ideas (hence unlike Whitaker Chambers, she is not a conservative icon) – in fact, she breaks with the Soviets because she believes that they do not actually agree with Communist ideas. Bentley’s break (and the Cold War) are best understood as a war between rival branches of the same original ideology.

And so, with this break, we got a ruling party that didn’t change ideologies, but that did change allegiances. The result has been the slow creeping increase in progressive ideas and policies that we see all around us.

Anyway, I didn’t say much about Hoover’s book. It will help you understand how the US-Russian alliance worked. However, don’t let that blind you to the later, more interesting phases of the ideology under discussion.


December 11, 2012

– Mangan vs Paleo Retiree on porn. I certainly have no strong objection to porn, however I’ve taken Mangan’s point to be that we don’t have any idea what the long term effects of free and immediate access to hardcore porn will be on certain people in society. I can’t argue with that.

– I have a non-trivial amount of contact with the House Financial Services Committee. Needless to say, this blog strongly supports Maxine Waters as the head of the Committee. If she can’t convince you that the temporary government does nothing, no one can.

– We’re number 1! DC has the most hate crimes. I read a fair amount of local news, and my guess is that nearly all of it is black on gay.

Self control:

This is the “free man” which the libertarians promote: the man without self-control, not a master of his passions, but their thrall in “free expression” — and a thrall also to those who know how to manipulate and control the passions of others.

The proles get prolier.

– Imagine Tom Wolfe walking around this place.

– More on good government from Simon Grey.

– Anyone know what’s up with this?

Good government

December 7, 2012

One thing that’s sort of fun to do, is to apply basic economic concepts to states.

For whatever reason, economists will apply lots of concepts to individuals and companies but not to states.

For example, the invisible hand is the theory that: “individuals’ efforts to maximize their own gains in a free market benefits society.”

Applied to states instead of individuals, the invisible hand argues for citizenism.

Libertarians, instead, tend to be global utilitarians. Frustratingly, they refuse to explain why they believe it’s positively good for individuals and companies to pursue their own interests but bad for states to do so.

It’s likely the libertarians would reply with statements like “governments use force” and so they’re bad, or something like that. But let’s look at the actual consequences of global utilitarianism at state level.

The Soviets, for example, undoubtedly believed that all their actions benefitted the future of the world. In the process, they killed millions. On the other hand, Lee Kuan Yew was just trying to stabilize his own unstable country. To do so, he blatantly pursued the interests of his own people over those of other peoples nearby. The result was one of the best places to live in the world.

Examples abound. It really shouldn’t be surprising that pursuing your own, more narrow self interest is always better than trying to save the world. The latter claim justifies any heinous action. Further, the knowledge problem makes it impossible anyway.

In general, the good old lessons of economics seem to have a lot going for them when applied to governments. If only someone would tell economists . . .

The Asians and the Nordics

December 7, 2012

Even those who aren’t above noticing these sorts of things are still puzzled by some of the demographic trends from the election. Specifically, they’re troubled by the high percentage of Asians that voted for Obama and the high percentage of white people in upper Midwestern states that did the same.

Razib has some analysis of both cases.

First, on Asians, he thinks it’s all about religion.

I doubt this for lots of reasons. Even in western states (think Washington State) where there are lots of Asians and lots of non-religious (more libertarian) Republicans, I think Asians tend to vote Democratic at state and local levels.

If it’s really religion, wouldn’t Republicans do well with Koreans? When I first got to Seoul, I was struck by the number of crosses on display nearly everywhere. Yet, my informal and half-assed research would seem to indicate no difference between the Korean pattern of voting and the more general Asian pattern of voting.

It seems more likely to me that Asians vote democratic because Asians generally do what they’re supposed to do (and the Democrats are the ruling party) and because the Democrats are the party of minorities and Asians simply haven’t figured out that they’re not really minorities.

(I have Asian friends who constantly refer to large gatherings of Asians as diverse, when I object that such gatherings are worse than Klan rallies, they really don’t seem to be able to comprehend. Understanding complex political situations that defy rationality isn’t exactly something Asians are known for being good at, just saying.)

Second, on the upper Midwest, he highlights some of the relevant area. Note that he could also highlight large parts of Minnesota.

These are my people, so I feel as though I should defend them. I think they vote Democratic because Democratic ideas actually work in these parts of the country. I forget who it was that said all of Yglesias’ policy ideas start with the (unstated) assumption that everyone is Swedish (or Norwegian), but in this part of the country, that’s basically true.

Also, voting Democratic is the nice and polite thing to do, and everyone is nice and polite.