June 1, 2021

Posted by orrinj at 5:36 PM


Biden Administration to Suspend Oil Leases in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: Report  (BRITTANY BERNSTEIN, June 1, 2021, National Review))

The Interior Department is expected to cancel several oil and gas leases in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge on Tuesday, according to a new report.

The Biden administration aims to unwind nearly a dozen leases in Alaska that has been the subject of an intense battle between Republicans and Democrats for four decades, according to the Washington Post.

The move comes after the Trump administration auctioned off the right to drill in the refuge's coastal plain during the final weeks of President Trump's tenure.

Posted by orrinj at 9:07 AM


READING HEGEL RIGHT: a review of Leo Strauss on Hegel Edited by Paul Franco (Grant Havers, SPRING 2021, Modern Age).
Hegel writes in his 1795 essay "The Positivity of the Christian Religion" that "the supplanting of paganism by Christianity is one of those remarkable revolutions whose causes the thoughtful historian must labor to discover." The reasons Christianity triumphed over the paganism of Greco-Roman antiquity and the religions of the East preoccupied Hegel to the end of his life. In the Lectures on the Philosophy of History, delivered at the University of Berlin in the 1820s, Hegel outlined how Christianity actualized an idea of human freedom that was inconceivable to pagan civilizations: "Eastern nations knew only that one is free; the Greek and Roman world only that some are free; while we [Christians] know that all men absolutely . . . are free."

One implication of Hegel's theory of history is that no return to paganism is possible, however much we might admire aspects of the ancient world. Philosophers who seek a return to antiquity must address the challenge of Hegel.

Readers familiar with Leo Strauss may be surprised, therefore, by the seminar on Hegel's Lectures on the Philosophy of History that he gave at the University of Chicago in 1965. On the few occasions that Strauss mentions Hegel in works intended for publication, the reader gets the unmistakable impression that Hegel's philosophy initiated the doctrine of historicism. In Strauss's view, historicism undermined political philosophy by dismissing the idea of a transcendent truth that exists apart from history.

That truth existed long before we arrived at the democracy, capitalism, and protestantism that institutes it and obtains where those institutions are still pending.

Posted by orrinj at 9:00 AM


Is Belarus entitled to sovereignty? (James Snell, 1 June, 2021, The Critic)

Much has been huffed and puffed in Europe about this. European leaders have made use of their talent for condemnation. It's an outrage. It's an assault on the union. It's an act of war. 

There is a case to be made for all of these.

But what Europe, and NATO, appear not to have done -- at least yet -- is matched their actions to their verbose reactions.

The European Union has indicated that it will announce new sanctions on Belarus -- notably its primary industries. These sound impressive and may be trailed in such a way to make them look flashy.  However, any real punishment against the dictatorship would go far further than that. It would involve living up to all the rhetoric which declares a hijacking like this to be an unpardonable, unprecedented crime. 

I have heard, from more than one stolid Englishman, that either Belarus is entitled to do whatever it pleases within its airspace

If this is state-sanctioned terror, it justifies looking again at the claimed legitimacy of the Belarusian government. if this is an act of war, it justifies a war footing. Work must also be done to convince people of a couple of distinct inclinations that this is in fact an event of note. 

...so it has no legitimate sovereignty. 

Posted by orrinj at 7:36 AM


Aristotle's Timely Guide to Human Happiness (Auguste Meyrat, 5/09/21, University Bookman)

In the same way, few people, including modern intellectuals (with the wonderful exception of C. S. Lewis in The Four Loves), give much attention to friendship. To begin his treatment of the issue, Aristotle states matter-of-factly, "Nobody would choose to live without friends even if he had all the other good things." Friendship is both practical and good, and is essentially different from the other relationships that people have, which are primarily transactional. Rather than being based on usefulness or pleasure, friendship is based on equality and seeking the good.

This definition of friendship has all but disappeared today. Most people do not really form friendships; they form partnerships and networks. Or, when even this proves too strenuous, many now resort to virtual facsimiles of partnerships and networks. Not only has this trend deterred many from self-improvement, but it has dehumanized many aspects of Western culture. Consequently, people have become insensitive, less self-aware, and less fulfilled.

Perhaps where Nicomachean Ethics resonates most for audiences today is in Aristotle's two ideals of happiness: the magnanimous man and the contemplative life. Although many different parallels can apply, the magnanimous man represents a person's public activities while the contemplative life represents his private activities.

True, with the first example, Aristotle imagines famous generals and politicians enjoying their superlative greatness with dignity and grace, and with the second example, he likely envisions himself, living a life of the mind and reworking and revising his own ideas. However, the modern man can imitate that great-souled man's example, pursuing virtue and status without needing regular validation and compensation. Moreover, he can live a life of the mind, both by reading and writing great books or speaking and listening to wise people. What once required a class of slaves and great wealth is now possible to most people who have the means and the will to be content.

Posted by orrinj at 6:26 AM


Jacques Barzun, Historian for All Time (M. D. AESCHLIMAN, May 30, 2021, National Review)

Barzun's case against both Darwin and Marx is that both are writers of evasive, convoluted, confused prose that obscures not only truth itself but their own scientistic, mechanistic premises about the meaninglessness of mind, free will, and purpose in human affairs. He himself had started out his own academic career by writing a strongly anti-racialist book in 1937, Race: A Study in Modern Superstition, at a time when Darwinian "racial science" was riding high not only in Germany but throughout the West, leading to eugenic laws in several American states even before the Nazi national policy of eliminating "lives unworthy of life." Four years later, in Darwin, Marx, Wagner, Barzun went on to write: "No doubt the 'favoured races' mentioned on the title page of Darwin's Origin of Species referred to pigeons, but the extension of the term to man was easy to make; indeed it seemed to receive Darwin's own approval on many a page of [his] Descent of Man, where the struggle of races was a part of evolutionary advance." In 1999, Terence Kealey, lecturer in clinical biochemistry at Cambridge University, noted that "the only professional group in Germany to register a greater than 50 percent membership of the Nazi Party before 1933, when the careerists joined, was that of academic biologists. Hitler believed in the state planning of society and in eugenics, and so did they." The English man of letters A. N. Wilson, author of a recent book on Darwin, wrote in 2006: "Darwin, the product of British imperialism, was surely the father, among other things, of European fascism." And the American historian Richard Weikart has made this argument clearly and in documented detail in From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and Racism in Germany (2004; see my review, "Murderous Science," in NR, March 28, 2005).

In the aftermath of Barzun's own groundbreaking 1941 critique of mechanistic Darwinism and its sociopolitical uses and effects, and clearly influenced by it, two other powerful books were published that lucidly covered the relevant and related issues -- Richard Hofstadter's Social Darwinism in American Thought (1944) and Gertrude Himmelfarb's exhaustive, detailed Darwin and the Darwinian Revolution (1959). Like Barzun himself, Hofstadter and Himmelfarb are among the great American historians of the last 75 years, both recipients of the highest honors and commendations; yet the books are oddly neglected in our time, when renewed conceptions of "sociobiology" and "evolutionary psychology" are again widely promoted and uncritically taught.

Following on the efforts of historians such as Hofstadter, Himmelfarb, and Weikart, philosophical and scientific accounts of the deficiencies of Darwinism have been made by philosophers such as Thomas Nagel (Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False, 2012; see my review, "Rationality vs. Darwinism," NR, November 12, 2012) and by scientists such as the award-winning English science writer and physician James LeFanu (Why Us?, 2009; see my review, "Science Illuminated," Modern Age, fall 2011) and the geophysicist and historian of science Stephen C. Meyer in three major books that have attracted great attention: Signature in the Cell (2009), Darwin's Doubt (2013), and, most recently, Return of the God Hypothesis (2021).

Regarding Marx and Marxism, in 1980, before the fall of Western Communism, the émigré Hungarian-American physicist and historian and philosopher of science Stanley L. Jaki wrote that "the enthusiasm for Darwinism of the advocates of the dictatorship of the proletariat . . . is all too understandable. Marx was quick to notice the usefulness of Darwinist theory for promoting class struggle." The discrediting of Marxism has mainly been done by the course of large-scale human history since the fall of Western Communism in 1990, including firsthand, first-rate Russian documentary literature by Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Andrei Sinyavsky, and Nadezhda Mandelstam, and by exhaustive historical surveys such as the French Black Book on Communism (1997) by Stéphane Courtois and his associates. In the same vein, Jung Chang and Jon Halliday in their biography Mao (2005) have examined the crimes of Communism in China, and the theoretical pretensions of the political philosophy have been decisively analyzed and debunked by the great émigré Polish ex-Marxist philosopher Leszek Kolakowski in his three-volume Main Currents of Marxism (1976).

But Barzun's short anatomy of Marx and Marxism, quietly devastating, is permanently worth reading for its clear understanding and lucid explanation of the self-contradictory and damaging character of Marxism and all forms of reductionism. He insists on the perennial need for an at least minimally accurate description of human personality, the reality of the human mind, and the scope of human free will.

Posted by orrinj at 6:14 AM


Et in Orcadia Ego: a review of An Orkney Tapestry by George Mackay Brown (John Burnside, Literary Review))
Nowhere was that vision more inventively expressed than in An Orkney Tapestry, a book that, as its title suggests, weaves together a series of lyrical essays on the topology, wildlife and art of the islands, with meditations on the twin aspects of Orcadian folk beliefs (which Brown divides into 'Midsummer' and 'Midwinter' lore) and, perhaps most powerfully, a panoramic history of the Hoy settlement of Rackwick, from the arrival of the first longships to the present. Rather daringly, he adds to this mix a running stream of incidental poetry and even a self-contained play, entitled 'The Watcher', about a cobbler of Hamnavoe (the old name for Stromness), a pompous laird and a mystery at sea. What binds all this together is the author's poetic sense: even the stage directions of 'The Watcher' are slyly lyrical, with one character's smile described as 'a momentary brightness like buttercups over a grave'.

It could be argued that Brown took his regional sensibility one step further by creating a land-based metaphysic that seems even more urgent now than it did in 1969, when An Orkney Tapestry first appeared. Increasingly troubled by what he called the 'new religion' of progress - 'concerned only with material things ... a rootless utilitarian faith, without beauty or mystery' - he offered in An Orkney Tapestry (originally commissioned by Gollancz as a tourist guide) a lyrical investigation of all the ways that our connection with the land (or lack of it) determines our sense of belonging. In the chapter he dedicates to 'Lore', for example, he observes: 'The rhythms of art were closely related to the seasonal rhythms, to a dark potent chthonic energy that raised cornstalk and rose from their roots underground. Grave and womb deepened the mystery; in those darknesses, too, new life quickened and burgeoned. Ploughing and love have always been linked in the imagination of farmers' - and he adds:

Death was the third part of this trinity; and all three were gathered up into the crowning idea of resurrection. The crofter could not fail to be impressed by this. For him life and death were not stark opposites but woven the one into the other, a seamless garment ... These profound frightening mysterious energies lay deep in the earth the crofter tilled. The same energies were present to him in a delightful way in fiddle music and ballad. He was a part of the earth, he was a part of the dance.

Orkney is pretty incredible.

Britain's Ancient Capital Episode 1 from Justin Kelly on Vimeo.

Posted by orrinj at 6:04 AM


Neighbors Fear Bear-Themed Compound Will Be Next Ruby Ridge (Will Sommer, Jun. 01, 2021, The Daily Beast)

An alt-right comedian's plans for a remote patch of land in Idaho have terrified his neighbors, who fear it could become a hostile compound or mark the start of a new Ruby Ridge-style standoff.

Comedian Owen Benjamin once had a moderately successful Hollywood career, landing roles in movies and TV shows and briefly becoming engaged to actress Christina Ricci. After moving to the right, he appeared on podcasts hosted by Joe Rogan, Steven Crowder, and Ben Shapiro's Daily Wire.

As his following among conservatives grew, however, Benjamin became increasingly racist and antisemitic. He repeatedly used the n-word at a February 2018 comedy show, and embraced conspiracy theories about the Holocaust, claiming that Adolf Hitler was only trying to "clean [Germany] of the parasites." Benjamin's broadcasts to his fans grew more erratic, seeing the one-time comedian embrace flat-Earth theory and recommend drinking turpentine as a medicinal cure.

But being on the internet's fringes can be lonely, so Benjamin decided to build a place where his remaining, bear-themed following--who call themselves "Unbearables"--could meet in person.

Posted by orrinj at 5:59 AM


Why electric cars will take over sooner than you think (Justin Rowlatt, 6/01/21, BBC)

[W]hat makes the end of the internal combustion engine inevitable is a technological revolution. And technological revolutions tend to happen very quickly.

Look at the internet.

By my reckoning, the EV market is about where the internet was around the late 1990s or early 2000s.

Back then, there was a big buzz about this new thing with computers talking to each other.

Jeff Bezos had set up Amazon, and Google was beginning to take over from the likes of Altavista, Ask Jeeves and Yahoo. Some of the companies involved had racked up eye-popping valuations.

For those who hadn't yet logged on it all seemed exciting and interesting but irrelevant - how useful could communicating by computer be? After all, we've got phones!

But the internet, like all successful new technologies, did not follow a linear path to world domination. It didn't gradually evolve, giving us all time to plan ahead.

Its growth was explosive and disruptive, crushing existing businesses and changing the way we do almost everything. And it followed a familiar pattern, known to technologists as an S-curve.

It's actually an elongated S.

The idea is that innovations start slowly, of interest only to the very nerdiest of nerds. EVs are on the shallow sloping bottom end of the S here.

For the internet, the graph begins at 22:30 on 29 October 1969. That's when a computer at the University of California in LA made contact with another in Stanford University a few hundred miles away.

Posted by orrinj at 5:55 AM


How Israel Lost the Culture War (Alia Brahimi, MAY 25, 2021, Foreign Policy)

Whatever the military outcome, it seems increasingly likely the final reckoning of this latest round of conflict will be decided far away from the battlefield. Netanyahu may have picked the wrong time to doggedly pursue airstrikes against one of the most densely populated areas on Earth, where 50 percent of the inhabitants are under the age of 15; more specifically, he may have chosen the wrong cultural moment.

Of course, there are grim continuities between the latest war and previous onslaughts on Gaza. For example, as with Operation Protective Edge in 2014, roughly 1 in 4 fatalities in Gaza was not only civilian but also a child (66 out of a total 248 deaths). Yet as of this month, the Israeli military did not change its tactics or recalibrate its use of force, continuing to deploy the aerial prowess of a military superpower against the tower blocks of an impoverished, captive population.

The difference this time was the racial expression of the violence which, intersecting as it did with a larger global conversation about systemic racism, promised a transformational shift in the conflict's framing.

A discussion about race in Israel-Palestine has the potential to gain traction among a younger generation that tirelessly challenges received wisdom on global issues from climate change to economic inequality. Young American Jews are a critical force in these shifting cultural sands as they struggle to reconcile their progressive views on politics and race with Israel's actions, asking: "Why does a safe homeland for us mean the subjugation of another?"

As global networks such as Black Lives Matter stand in solidarity with Palestinians, they draw attention to an underlying and universalizable struggle for racial liberation. This new license to interrogate official Israeli talking points has already reformed the vocabulary in the United States' conversation about the conflict in striking ways.

Israel's genuine allies summon it back to the point where Judaism is a religion, not a race. Otherwise, it will just be ever more estranged from the West.