China’s ‘Bad Debt’ Problem: Why Its Not Learning From Japan (Grant Newsham, 2/21/24, Japan Forward)

I had a front-row seat to the cleanup effort. There are lessons, but I doubt Xi Jinping is interested.

The first lesson the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) might learn from Japan is the need for an honest, impartial legal system that’s free of official influence.

Then there’s the simple ability to enforce a contract.

Next, you need guaranteed property rights.

And all of these flow from a system of consensual government.

Japan had all of these. The People’s Republic of China does not – and appears intent on keeping things that way. Otherwise, Party control is threatened.

There is only one hand guiding the Chinese economy and it is the hand of the CCP.

There is no viable alternative to the End of History.


The Mass Psychology of Trumpism (Dan P. McAdams, 2/20/24, New/Lines)

Trump’s enduring appeal stems from the perception — his own and others’ — that he is not a person. In the minds of millions, Trump is more than a person. And he is less than a person, too.

In 1962, a prominent Harvard psychologist published a scholarly paper titled “The Personality and Career of Satan.” Henry A. Murray examined how, for over 2,000 years, Western theologians and other writers have depicted the mythical figure of Satan, projecting onto him human traits perennially designated as evil.

It is worth noting that Murray’s characterization of Satan bears an uncanny resemblance to the psychological portrait of Trump painted by many psychologists today. A malignant narcissism rages at the core of Satan’s personality. Cast out of heaven for his overmastering pride, Satan wants to be God, resents the fact that he is not God and insists that his supreme worth entitles him to privileges that nobody else should enjoy while undergirding his reign as sovereign of the mortal world below. Wholly self-centered, cruel, vindictive and devoid of compassion and empathy, Satan nonetheless possesses substantial charisma and charm. Completely contractual in his approach to interpersonal relationships, he has perfected the art of the deal, as when, in the Gospel of Luke, Satan tempts Jesus with earthly powers and riches in return for his adulation: “If thou will therefore worship me, all shall be thine.”

Situated in a middle ground between God and human beings, Satan is a liminal figure. He is like a person but not quite a person. For one, he is gifted with superhuman powers of the sort, Murray writes, that children have always imagined they might possess in the furthest reaches of their wish-fulfilling fantasies. But he does not possess certain qualities that adults especially value and recognize as part of the human condition. He lacks wisdom, for example, and love. He is not troubled by a complex inner life, by the doubts, ambivalences and moral quandaries that routinely run through the consciousness of mature humans. He is instead like the modern conception of a superhero. Satan is one-dimensional and mythic, an idealized personification, rather than a fully articulated person.

Donald Trump sees himself in the same way. While Trump insists that he is a force for good rather than evil, he truly perceives himself to be qualitatively different from the rest of humankind. He has often compared himself to a superhero. He has famously described himself as a “stable genius” who has never made a mistake. He is not lying when he makes these outrageous claims, for Trump truly believes them to be true, just as he believes he won the 2020 election.

At the same time, Trump is incapable of describing an inner psychological life or of identifying traces of reflection, emotional nuance, doubt or fallibility. Even though he talks about himself all the time, Trump has never been able to explain his inner world or to narrate stories about how he has come to be the person he is, as frustrated interviewers and biographers have repeatedly noted.

In my book “The Strange Case of Donald J. Trump: A Psychological Reckoning” (2020), I argue that Trump lacks a narrative understanding of himself in time. A well-established line of psychological research shows that human personhood is tied up with narrative and storytelling. People understand their lives as narratives evolving over time. But Trump is the curious exception, in that there seems to be very little by way of a story in his head about who he is and how he came to be. He is instead what I call “the episodic man,” living outside of time in the eternal moment, fighting in the here and now to win the battle at hand, episode by episode, day by day. At the center of Trump’s personality lies a narrative vacuum, the space where the self-defining life story should be but never was. As such, Trump is rarely introspective, retrospective or prospective. There is no depth, no past and no future.

Currently reading Ian Kershaw’s Hitler bio and the parallels are truly striking, especially the core hollowness of both men, which they fill up with hate.


Man accused of lying to FBI about Hunter Biden claimed he got fake information from Russian intelligence (Robert Legare, February 20, 2024, CBS News)

The man accused last week of delivering false allegations to federal investigators about Hunter Biden and President Biden’s business dealings told officials after his arrest that individuals “associated with Russian intelligence” were tied to apparent efforts to peddle a story about the first son, federal prosecutors revealed in a court filing Tuesday.


Donald Trump’s Cash Crunch Just Got Much, Much Worse (Roger Sollenberger, Feb. 20, 2024, Daily Beast)

On Tuesday, Trump’s “Save America” leadership political action committee reported raising just $8,508 from donors in the entire month of January, while spending about $3.9 million, according to a new filing with the Federal Election Commission.

Nearly $3 million of that overall spending total was used for one purpose: to pay lawyers.

At the same time, the Trump campaign itself reported a net loss of more than $2.6 million for the month of January. It raised about $8.8 million while spending around $11.5 million, according to a separate filing made public on Tuesday.

The filings reveal that Trump is continuing to burn through his donors’ funds as he struggles to feed two massive cash drains—astronomical legal bills stemming from numerous civil cases and four criminal indictments, plus the costs of a national presidential campaign.


The life and martyrdom of Malcolm X (Omar Ahmed, 2/21/24, ME Monitor)

Malcolm’s approach stood in stark contrast to the non-violent civil rights movement led by Dr Martin Luther King, who he once said was spearheading “the only revolution in which the goal is loving your enemy.” For Malcolm X, all revolutions — real revolutions — involved “bloodshed”. It goes without saying that, between the two civil rights leaders, the mainstream establishment favoured King over Malcolm. The former was perceived as more acceptable, whereas the latter was viewed as a formidable threat; someone to be feared. Nevertheless, irrespective of their methods, both were assassinated, with credible suspicions pointing towards state involvement.

In 1964, Malcolm announced his split from the NOI, after some internal disputes and scandals involving Elijah Muhammad, before undertaking a tour of the Middle East, Africa and Europe, visiting many Muslim countries in the process. He performed the Islamic pilgrimage, the Hajj, to the holy city of Makkah. Thereafter he was called El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz.

The unifying experience of the Hajj saw his beliefs change yet again upon joining the mainstream of the Islamic faith. He witnessed “pilgrims of all colours from all parts of this earth displaying a spirit of unity and brotherhood like I’ve never seen before.” His departure from the NOI also split the organisation, with many following El-Shabazz into mainstream Islam, including none other than Elijah Muhammad’s son, Warith Deen Mohammed. The most famous African-American Muslim, if not one of the most famous people of the modern age, legendary boxer Muhammad Ali, severed ties with El-Shabazz while still a member of the NOI, a decision Ali later came to regret when he too entered mainstream Islam, without the opportunity for reconciliation.

While on his travels it also became clear that Malcolm moderated some of his views and beliefs, including the segregation of blacks and whites in the US and Black Nationalism. Instead, he embraced internationalism.


His Best Friend Was a 250-Pound Warthog. One Day, It Decided to Kill Him. (Peter Holley, February 7, 2024, Texas Monthly)

By the age of thirty, a time when most people are just beginning to think about their mortality, Austin Riley had already conquered his fear of death. He’d come exceedingly close to dying on multiple occasions, including a few months before his first birthday, when doctors discovered a golf ball–sized tumor growing inside his infant skull. He would go on to spend much of his childhood in and out of hospitals, enduring high-risk brain surgeries and grueling recoveries. Then in his mid-twenties, he was nearly killed by a brain hemorrhage that arrived one night without warning, unleashing the worst pain he’d ever felt. He emerged from that experience reborn, feeling lucky to be alive and convinced that his life had been spared by God.

So as he sat in a pool of his own blood on a beautiful October evening in 2022, he couldn’t help but acknowledge the morbid absurdity of his current predicament. He’d spent decades conquering brain injuries only to be killed while doing mundane chores on his family’s 130-acre Hill Country ranch in Boerne. “After all I’d been through,” he said, “I just couldn’t believe that this was how it was going to end.”

As he slumped against a fence and his mangled body began to shut down, Austin’s mind went into overdrive. He thought about his girlfriend, Kennedy, whom he’d never get a chance to marry, and the children he’d never be able to raise. He thought about how much he loved his parents and how badly he wished he could thank them for the life they’d provided. He thought about the land before him, a valley accentuated by crimson and amber foliage that seemed to glitter in the evening light, and realized it had never seemed more beautiful than it did in that moment.

But mostly, he thought about the animal that had just used its razor-sharp, seven-inch tusks to stab him at least fifteen times. The attack had shredded his lower body and filled his boots with blood, and then left gaping holes in his torso and neck. Had any other animal been responsible, Austin would’ve considered it a random attack. But this was a pet he’d trusted more than any other: his lovable, five-year-old warthog, Waylon.

It wasn’t just an attack, as far as Austin was concerned, but a murderous act of betrayal, one that shattered everything he thought he knew about the deep bond between man and pig. “For years, that animal trusted me everyday and I trusted him,” Austin said. “I put blood, sweat, and tears into his life and he decided to kill me.”


Ursula Le Guin and the Persistence of Tragedy: We ought to read The Dispossessed to appreciate complexity—and the imperfection of our theories in the face of life’s messy reality. (brian a. smith, 3/13/20, Law & Liberty)

The Dispossessed provides us no resolutions. For most of the story, Shevek is a man trying to find his way home, uncertain of what tomorrow will bring. That along with the way Le Guin refuses to let the reader see either of her settings with rose-colored glasses suggests one of the novel’s great values today. Reading the book can help readers clarify what their deepest aspirations and longings will really cost.

Those on the Left should ask how much they’re willing to give up in pursuit of equality. Modern socialists often try to harmonize their opposing desires: they think we can have the tremendous wealth of a modern economy alongside deep equality; they want radical, autonomous choice and also the opportunity to enjoy familial and communal solidarity; they want political and religious conformity without a diminution of cultural and artistic ingenuity; and they desire ongoing technological innovation without the dramatic inequality that entrepreneurs and inventors so naturally generate.

Far from being a platform for family to succeed, socialist intervention may well require the ongoing shredding of those bonds for the simple reason that families undermine the broader solidarity real socialism requires.

Socialists—especially Christian ones—now praise immigration as a great moral imperative. What does it suggest that all of the world’s most successful solidarity-driven socialist experiments are small-scale monocultures? Isn’t it telling that Le Guin’s relatively successful socialist scheme on Anarres is a hermetically-sealed unit speaking a common language and sharing a single, tightly-unified culture?

Traditionally-minded conservatives naturally look to old modes and orders for inspiration. This certainly doesn’t mean that they’re averse to creating new ones, but taking Le Guin seriously might force them to ponder some little-considered questions. What does reestablishing moral order really mean, particularly in the context of a national economy? There’s the obvious (banning porn) but what about the not-so-obvious elements of this, like the moral status of the goods and services we buy and sell?

If the new conservative goal is limited to a worker-friendly industrial policy, that’s one thing, but conservatives ought to keep an eye on where the aspiration to live with the right sort of virtuous economy can lead. The barely-concealed aristocratic longings enjoyed among some traditionalists risk making them into the caricatures of conservatism that Corey Robin imagines who simply long to “keep the lower orders down.” It is good to be clear about what we really mean when we ask for a new economy. Just as a growth oriented economy leads us down disruptive paths, we shouldn’t forget that a stable, virtuous pattern for economic activity might necessitate a return to older patters of life.

Insulating us from Utopian thought is one of Western Messianism’s greatest gifts.


Mr. Boswell Goes to Corsica: The surprising origins of modern democratic charisma (David A. Bell, May 11, 2016, Princeton Alumni Weekly)

On Oct. 13, 1765, a Scotsman landed on the northern tip of Corsica. He was just 25 years old, with a wide face; thick, well-groomed hair; and a ruddy drinker’s complexion. He was well dressed, and would have struck casual observers as just another well-off, dissipated young Briton guzzling his way through a Grand Tour of Europe. His name was James Boswell. Today, he is remembered as a great literary figure. His Life of Johnson virtually invented the modern art of biography. His vivid, intimately personal, sexually explicit London Journal, published for the first time only in 1950, provides an unforgettable portrait of a young man on the make and of his 18th-century milieu. But in 1765 he was still wholly unknown.

He was already, however, an extraordinary character. Although prone to spells of dark melancholy, he otherwise had an effervescent temperament that made him highly entertaining company. As he confided to his journal: “I am one of the most engaging men that ever lived.” He also was a man of enormous appetites. He ate well, drank to excess, and had already endured several bouts with the lifetime sparring partner he privately nicknamed “Signor Gonorrhea.” But he was hungry for knowledge and experience as well. During two years on the continent, he had visited the usual destinations of the British Grand Tourist — art collections, palaces, and picturesque ruins — but he also had spent considerable time in libraries and classrooms. And he had sought out another, unusual sort of tourist attraction: great men. He had set himself the goal of meeting Frederick the Great, Voltaire, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and while the Prussian monarch snubbed him, the two writers did not. At the end of 1764, Boswell had made his way to the remote Swiss village of Môtiers, and there practically besieged the reclusive Rousseau’s modest cottage until he won admittance. He later would repay Rousseau very badly for the favor by seducing his mistress, Thérèse Levasseur, but at the time he impressed the great writer with his wit and enthusiasm.

It was thanks to Rousseau that in 1765 Boswell set out for Corsica. For some four decades, the island had been fighting a slow-burning war of independence against its long-time overlord, the Italian Republic of Genoa (at the time, Italy was not yet a united country). The Corsicans had won Europe-wide attention for their supposed attachment to republican liberty, and Rousseau himself had praised them in his recently published Social Contract as the “one country in Europe which is fit to receive laws … .” Rousseau not only talked to Boswell about the island, but told him in glowing terms about its leader, a 45-year-old professional soldier named Pasquale Paoli. Since coming to power 10 years before, Paoli had brought peace to the perennially fractious Corsican clans, reorganized the island’s government and military, and even founded a press and a university, despite conditions of such poverty that he routinely scraped the ink off letters he received so as to reuse the paper. Here was another great man for Boswell to add to his collection, and the young Scot could not resist seeking out Paoli, despite the not-inconsiderable risk of falling prey to sea pirates or bandits, or being taken by the Corsicans for a spy.

No pirates materialized, and Boswell suffered nothing worse on the two-day journey than fleas, vermin, and the dark warnings of the crew to stay away from their women (they clearly knew their man). He landed safely at the northern tip of the island, and then undertook a grueling, 120-mile trek southward, arriving more than a week later in the town of Sollacaro, where Paoli was staying. The Corsican leader initially reacted with suspicion, thinking that Boswell — who kept scribbling down detailed notes of everything he saw — had indeed come to spy. But soon enough, the Boswellian charm — plus a letter of introduction from Rousseau — produced the desired effect. And Paoli for his part realized that Boswell might prove useful in mobilizing British support for the rebellion. So he treated his visitor royally, feasting him, introducing him to Corsican clan leaders, allowing him to ride his own finely outfitted horse, and spending long hours in conversation with him. When, after nearly two weeks, Boswell began the long trip back to the mainland, Paoli gave him a series of rich gifts, including an elegant suit of clothes, a brace of pistols, and a dog. Boswell asked Paoli to write him letters, and to do so as a philosopher and man of letters. “He took me by the hand,” Boswell later wrote, “and said, ‘as a friend.’” Boswell nearly collapsed with pleasure.

Almost from the moment he landed back in Italy, Boswell started writing about Corsica and Paoli for London newspapers, and told everyone that his experiences on the island had left him a changed man.


Frederick Douglass our “Glorious Liberty Document” (David Livingstone, 2/20/24, Voegelin View)

Also ignored is the assertion by Alexander Stephens in 1861 when he became the Vice President of the Confederate States that the consensus among the American founders was that slavery was a moral wrong. Indeed, the reason the Confederacy was formed, Stephens makes clear, was to get out from under what he regarded as the Declaration’s moral error and to assert what he believed to be the contrary truth: that all men are not created equal. “Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner-stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man;” This can mean only one thing. That the plain meaning of the Declaration of Independence’s equality clause is the opposite principle to the one upon which Stephens wishes to base the Confederate States upon—and so the Declaration positively affirms the equality of all men “yes white men as well as black men,” as Martin Luther King Jr. famously said in 1964. The pro-slavery position that Hannah-Jones attributes to the framers is what Stephens openly rejects. He opposes the framers’ sincere intentions as expressed in the Declaration:

The prevailing ideas entertained by him [Jefferson] and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with, but the general opinion of the men of that day was that, somehow or other in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away. (Stephens)

As far as Stephens was concerned—and he was willing to lay his life on the line to defend his view—the founders were sincere when they said all men were created equal. This was precisely the problem as far as he was concerned; had they been insincere there would have been little reason to separate from the Union and launch a civil war.


The Bible suggests even God gets lonely. Why don’t religious people talk more about it? (Dwight Lee Wolter, 1/18/24, RNS)

Yet rarely is loneliness mentioned explicitly in the Bible or in our churches. It is implied, but not declared. The often dire consequences of loneliness are seen, felt and heard but not acknowledged.

Did you ever wonder if Eve and Adam, after their banishment, were lonely for the Garden of Eden? I would have been. Were Eve and Adam lonely for their son, Abel, who was killed by his brother Cain? Was anyone on the ark, including Noah, lonely for home as they drifted on an endless sea of darkness and uncertainty? Was it out of loneliness that Jesus cried from the cross, “Why have you forsaken me?” I cannot imagine a lonelier place or a lonelier question on the lips of a lonelier person.