May 6, 2019

Posted by orrinj at 6:54 PM

A TAD TOO CURMUDGEONLY:

John Lukacs, iconoclastic historian and Holocaust survivor, dies at 95 (HILLEL ITALIE, 6 May 2019, Times of Israel)

A proud and old-fashioned man with a prominent forehead, cosmopolitan accent, and erudite but personal prose style, Lukacs was a maverick among historians. In a profession where liberals were a clear majority, he was sharply critical of the left and of the cultural revolution of the 1960s. But he was also unhappy with the modern conservative movement, opposing the Iraq war, mocking hydrogen bomb developer Edward Teller as the "Zsa Zsa Gabor of physics" and disliking the "puerile" tradition, apparently started by Ronald Reagan, of presidents returning military salutes from the armed forces.

"John Lukacs is well known not so much for speaking truth to power as speaking truth to audiences he senses have settled into safe and unexamined opinions," John Willson wrote in The American Conservative in 2013. "This has earned him, among friends and critics alike, a somewhat curmudgeonly reputation."

Lukacs completed more than 30 books, on everything from his native country to 20th century American history to the meaning of history itself. His books include "Five Days in London," the memoir "Confessions of an Original Sinner," and "Historical Consciousness," in which he contended that the best way to study any subject, whether science or politics, was through its history.

He considered himself a "reactionary," a mourner for the "civilization and culture of the past 500 years, European and Western." He saw decline in the worship of technological progress, the elevation of science to religion, and the rise of materialism. Drawing openly upon Alexis de Tocqueville's warnings about a "tyranny of the majority," Lukacs was especially wary of populism and was quoted by other historians as Donald Trump rose to the presidency. Lukacs feared that the public was too easily manipulated into committing terrible crimes.

"The kind of populist nationalism that Hitler incarnated has been and continues to be the most deadly of modern plagues," he once wrote.

His peculiar tragedy was that he hated his allies against the Left/Right, Conservatives.

Posted by orrinj at 2:52 PM

IF THE CONSTITUTION MEANS ANYTHING...:

Google's Attack on the Claremont Institute Must Not Stand (STANLEY KURTZ, May 6, 2019, National Review)

Claremont is rightly highlighting the contradiction between the constitutional principle of individual rights and the premises of identity politics. It is this contradiction, not gerrymandering or talking heads on cable television, that lies at the root of America's growing polarization.

Whether you agree or disagree with the thrust of Claremont's view, if Google can censor it, then conservatism itself is banned in this country. To prevent conservatives from defending constitutional principles as they understand them is to ban America itself.

...it's that government must intervene in matters of speech, the press, and assembly to force private companies to accept Nativism!

Posted by orrinj at 2:32 PM

THANKS, UR!:

Syrian militants rocket Russian airbase in Syria - Russian military (Reuters, 5/06/19) 

The Russian defense ministry said Syrian militants rocketed Russia's Hmeimim airbase near Syria's coastal city of Latakia twice on Monday.

Posted by orrinj at 2:02 PM

WELL, DONALD IS THEIR AVATAR:

No Joke: White Nationalists Are Now Using Clowns To Spread Hatred (Aiden Pink, 5/06/19, The Forward)

Prominent far-right online platforms, including the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer and the increasingly-popular white nationalist podcast "Goy Talk," have used these memes in their posts. And many anonymous troll accounts have changed their profile pictures to photos of clowns or their pseudonyms to things like "Honkler Honklersen."

For example, in response to an article about the Florida state legislature passing a law strengthening bans on anti-Semitism in public schools, a user with the avatar of an anime cartoon with a rainbow wig and red nose wrote, "Meanwhile they will let them [Jews] continue to lie to make slavery and the treatment of native americans seem worse to incite hatred against whites. honk honk."

While some users depict themselves as clowns who are "in" on the "joke" of the alleged downfall of white society in a multiracial country, others have targeted their supposed enemies by depicting them as clowns. Goy Talk tweeted an image last month of a stereotypical scheming Jew in clown garb; one of the current top posts on R/The_Donald, the popular pro-Trump Reddit page that is the frequent source of racist and anti-Semitic invective, features an image that appears to be the Prophet Muhammad in a clown wig.

While much of this behavior is confined to the internet, some has extended itself to the physical world as well. On April 22, two members of the American Identity Movement - the white nationalist group formerly known as Identity Evropa - dressed as clowns and entered a New Orleans public library to disrupt a children's story time program being led by local drag queens. "Welcome to clown world, honk honk," their sign said.

Posted by orrinj at 1:59 PM

WE ARE ALL DESIGNIST:

Universal Pattern Explains Why Materials Conduct (Kevin Hartnett, May 6, 2019, Quanta)

In a wire, electrons rebound off each other in such a complicated fashion that there's no way to follow exactly what's happening.

But over the last 50 years, mathematicians and physicists have begun to grasp that this blizzard of movement settles into elegant statistical patterns. Electron movement takes one statistical shape in a conductor and a different statistical shape in an insulator.

That, at least, has been the hunch. Over the last half-century mathematicians have been searching for mathematical models that bear it out. They've been trying to prove that this beautiful statistical picture really does hold absolutely.

And in a paper posted online last summer, a trio of mathematicians have come the closest yet to doing so. In that work, Paul Bourgade of New York University, Horng-Tzer Yau of Harvard University, and Jun Yin of the University of California, Los Angeles, prove the existence of a mathematical signature called "universality" that certifies that a material conducts electricity.

"What they show, which I think is a breakthrough mathematically ... is that first you have conduction, and second [you have] universality," said Tom Spencer, a mathematician at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey.

Posted by orrinj at 4:15 AM

THERE IS NO BAD REASON:

Trump's Other Impeachable Offense: As Nixon learned, Congress will not abide a president who defies its subpoenas. (James Reston Jr., May 5, 2019, NY Times)

On July 30, 1974, nine days before President Richard Nixon resigned, the House Judiciary Committee added a third article to its impeachment charges against the president. The first two had dealt with obstruction of justice and abuse of power; Article III charged that Nixon had failed to comply with eight congressional subpoenas related to the Watergate investigation.

Now, with President Trump and William Barr, his attorney general, refusing to cooperate with congressional investigations, the Democrats in the House should take yet another lesson from Watergate. They are reportedly already preparing impeachment articles on obstruction of justice; they should add failure to comply with Congress to the list.

Posted by orrinj at 4:02 AM

PITY THE POOR MALTHUSIANS:

How Anti-Humanism Conquered the Left (Chelsea Follett, 5/01/19, Quillette)

Just last year, Ehrlich compared human population growth to the spread of cancer, informing the Guardian, "It is a near certainty in the next few decades, and the risk is increasing continually as long as perpetual growth of the human enterprise remains the goal of economic and political systems ... As I've said many times, 'perpetual growth is the creed of the cancer cell.'"

Once anti-humanism had infected the environmental movement, it soon spread through the political Left. Robert Zubrin's book Merchants of Despair gives an overview of the Left's reversal of its traditional commitment to advancing the human condition, in favor of a project that viewed humanity as a plague upon the Earth:

Instead of The Grapes of Wrath, they carried copies of The Population Bomb ... Instead of "Stop the War," their buttons read "Stop at two" [children]; instead of "Power to the people," their slogan was "People pollute."

These environmentally-concerned anti-natalists believe that a world without humans, or with significantly fewer of them, would eventually revert to a pollution-free paradise with abundant natural resources. As one human extinction proponent put it just last month in a letter to his local paper, "In approximately 20,000 years after human extinction, this magnificent resistant biosphere will return to its perfection." If humanity fails to reduce its numbers, extinction proponents fear resource shortages and environmental catastrophe. "How could anybody," an official Vhemt member, Gwynn Mackellen, wondered aloud to the Guardian, "produce a new human when the effects of humans are very obvious, I feel, and the situation is getting worse."

These extinction advocates, however, have misunderstood the evidence about population growth's impact on the planet and its resources. The late University of Maryland economist Julian Simon rejected the idea of overpopulation as a problem. He believed that, on the contrary, more people in the world means more people to solve problems, and less resource scarcity. "There is no physical or economic reason," he wrote, "why human resourcefulness and enterprise cannot forever continue to respond to impending shortages and existing problems with new expedients that, after an adjustment period, leave us better off than before the problem arose."

In his 1981 book The Ultimate Resource, Simon argued that humans are intelligent beings, capable of innovating their way out of shortages through greater efficiency, increased supply, or development of substitutes. Humans, with their inventive potential, are themselves, in Simon's phrase, "The Ultimate Resource." A growing population produces more ideas. More ideas lead to more innovations and more innovations can improve productivity. That higher productivity then translates into more resources to go around and better standards of living.

In 1980, Simon made a bet with Ehrlich. Ehrlich would choose a "basket" of raw materials that he expected to become more scarce in the coming years. At the end of a specified time period, if the inflation-adjusted price of the basket was higher than at the beginning of the period, that would indicate the materials had indeed become scarcer and Ehrlich would win the wager; if the price was lower, that would mean the resources had instead become more abundant, and Simon would win. The stakes would be the ultimate price difference of the basket at the beginning and end of the time period. Simon ultimately won, and Ehrlich duly sent him a check for the price difference.

New research, inspired by the Ehrlich-Simon wager, has further confirmed that, contrary to the anti-humanists' claims, population growth goes hand-in-hand with more abundant resources. Consider the amount of time it takes an average worker to earn enough to buy a basket of common commodities--the "time-price" of those items. The Simon Abundance Index found that between 1980 and 2017, "the time-price of our basket of 50 basic commodities declined by 0.934 percent for every one percent increase in population. That means that every additional human being born on our planet seems to be making resources proportionately more plentiful for the rest of us."

It's the rare lunacy where simply to continue your own existence demonstrates hypocrisy.



Posted by orrinj at 4:00 AM

ALL COMEDY IS CONSERVATIVE:

Imperfect Comedy in an Age of Perfection (Tanael Joachim, 5/06/19, Quillette)

For as long as there has been comedy, there have been heated debates over what is and is not a legitimate topic for humor. It's a valid question over which reasonable people can disagree. The only problem is that those with the noisiest opinions are often those who know and understand nothing about comedy. And so they worry about jokes "normalizing" or "validating" various reprehensible behaviors and attitudes, and they ask nervous questions like "How far is too far?" What they don't seem to appreciate is that this kind of thing is generally self-regulating. Usually, if there's no laugh, it's too far. Every joke has a single goal: to elicit involuntary laughter. No comedian in his right mind would continue to perform a joke that never gets a laugh. Comedy is a dialogue, and when an audience disapproves, it stops participating.

My heckler need not have worried, for comedy cannot change human nature. Terrible things do not exist in the world because we joke about them; we joke about terrible things because they exist in the world. What you joke about or find funny does not say anything about who you are. (Bill Cosby, I would remind you, was not known for telling rape jokes.)

In an age of performative virtue, people are rewarded with applause and "likes" for telling us how forward thinking, how righteous, and how progressive they are. Comedy, on the other hand, reminds us that we all have a dark side and that we might want to reconsider before casting stones. Each of us is a complex creature capable of entertaining good and bad thoughts. And art has always been the place best suited to exploring the parts of ourselves we must live with, but seldom show.

One of the keys to comedy is that it rubs the human nature we seek to deny in our faces.