Thursday, December 7, 2023

Paths To War

 The navy cannot afford to fight.  There is a feeling that, if possible, the navy would want to avoid a Japanese-American war.  If we pass up this opportunity, war will be impossible to avoid."

- Rear Admiral Takamatsu Nobuhito to his brother, Emperor Hirohito; November 30, 1941, seven days before Pearl Harbor

On this 82nd anniversary of Pearl Harbor, I am relinking my post Japan Decides On War, along with Dereliction of Duty, on America's military escalation in Vietnam.  Both are examples of how bad decisions can be made, despite the misgivings of many of those involved.  Useful lessons to keep in mind, particularly with war, the weightiest of human endeavors.

The Hay Wain

 Constable's The Hay Wain could be based on wooden cart parked in north  London 'service station' | Daily Mail Online Painted by John Constable (1776-1837) in 1821.  The large canvas (4 x 6 feet) portrays a hay wagon crossing the River Stour on the border of Essex and Suffolk.  The building on the left is Willy Lott's Cottage, the subject of another Constable painting.  William Lott (1761-1849) was a tenant farmer who lived in the cottage his entire life, spending only four nights away.  The cottage still stands.

Constable's skill and the pastoral setting have consistently made it voted one of the most popular paintings displayed in England.  It's been in the National Gallery since 1886.  In July 2022, two barbarians from Just Stop Oil glued themselves to the painting causing minor damage to the surface varnish and frame.

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Our Best And Brightest

Some thoughts on yesterday's Congressional hearing appearance by the presidents of Harvard, UPenn, and MIT.

Today, President Gay of Harvard released a "clarifying" statement and President Magill of UPenn released a video also "clarifying" her remarks.  Magill looks like she is in a hostage video; visibly an unhappy camper.(1)  Clearly they, and more importantly, their Boards, know how disastrous the testimony was.  The truth is whatever "clarifying" remarks the presidents make, they are just trying to survive for the moment.  They'll give lip service to free speech and intellectual freedom when necessary but their entire academic careers demonstrate they do not believe in it.  You can't when what you really believe in is equity, intersectionality, the primacy of group identity, and the categories of Oppressed and Oppressor.

While Rep. Stefanik's question about Jews and genocide provided an illuminating insight into how the witnesses think, more illuminating would have been to ask followup questions, substituting "Palestinians", "Whites", and "Blacks" for Jews.(2)  It certainly would have flummoxed the witnesses.  Whatever they would have said in response, their actual beliefs are that for Palestinians and Blacks, calls for genocide would require their schools to take disciplinary action because those two groups are Oppressed, while they would search for context to avoid taking action regarding Jews or Whites.(3)

In her testimony President Gay's asserted that "antisemitism is a symptom of ignorance".  She's wrong.  The antisemitism we see on her campus is a deliberate product of our educational system, including that of Harvard.  It is a deliberate outgrowth of the race essentialism fervently embraced, practiced, and taught by Harvard and other elite institutions.  On the other hand, I can accept that today's Harvard education is geared towards creating and cultivating ignorance.  It is why our elite educational institutions have become so dangerous to the future of this country.

Or, as filmmaker Eli Steele wrote today about those pushing this ideology:

[They] have spent the last several decades gaslighting us that our nation is systemically racist. They created articles, books, TV shows and films to overwhelm us with poetic truths. When we objected, they denied us straight answers and instead subjected us to racial trainings of every kind. They lied to us that this was the difficult work, the difficult conversations that was needed to be done in the name of diversity, equity and inclusion. New allies that agreed to put race before humanity were rewarded with cheap lawn signs that virtue signaled their goodness to their neighbors. In the meanwhile, these Leftists leaders rode their grift along with the exploitation of white guilt to dizzying heights, including the presidencies of Harvard, MIT, and Penn. Why then would we expect them to react with integrity and morals when the true and undeniable evil of antisemitism emerged before their very eyes? After all, they long ago met the devil at the crossroads and sacrificed their humanity for racial essentialism and that is the moral rot that we saw on full display yesterday.

In recent days we saw another example of this moral rot.  Ibram Kendi, speaking to an audience at an Netflix event celebrating the release of his special on that outlet, remarked that "Whiteness prevents white people from connecting to humanity(4), remarks received with great applause by his mostly white audience.  Think how demeaning, racist, and inhumane those remarks are.  What they really demonstrate is how Kendi's obsession with race prevents him from connecting with humanity by reducing everything to race.  He simply does not recognize people as people.  That a race obsessed intellectual mediocrity like Kendi has been showered with millions in funding and given a Netflix special allowing him wide visibility to spread his poison is an indictment of our elite institutions.  As an added insult to the Jewish community, Boston University granted him tenure as Andrew W. Mellon Professorship in the Humanities, with BU boasting "The position has been held only once before by the late Elie Wiesel from 1976 to his retirement in 2013".

And to show the interlocking nature of relationships among these elite institutions, Kendi's brother-in-law, who also runs Kendi's Foundation, plays a key role in censorship at YouTube, a subsidiary of Google.(5)

Questions requiring answers:

Why are the most prominent outbreaks of antisemitism taking place at our elite educational institutions  and in cities governed for decades by Progressives?

Why do those participating in the protests embrace the same constellation of equity and intersectionality causes?

Why, for that matter, did the worst of the George Floyd riots of 2020 take place in cities governed for decades by Progressives?

I'll close by linking to a recent article by David Polansky on "Antisemitism and the Discourse of Privilege", which starts with this observation:

Political and cultural realignments are funny things: they have enormously consequential effects, yet being largely immaterial themselves, they can go unnoticed for long periods of time until the right event reveals them quite suddenly. The Hamas attacks against Israel on October 7th were such an event.

And ends with this advice:

[It would] be vastly preferable to begin the process of recovering an appreciation for moderate if imperfect liberalism. In the meantime, I have a more modest suggestion aimed at fellow Jews but applicable to all: be cautious of seeking special protections that require you to demean yourself. As David Mamet would put it, in the end, you will get nothing, and people will begin to act cruelly toward you.


(1) In the case of Magill, Governor Shapiro (D) of Pennsylvania issued a statement slamming her:

Leaders have a responsibility to speak and act with moral clarity, and Liz Magill failed to meet that simple test. That was an unacceptable statement from the president of Penn. Frankly, I thought her comments were absolutely shameful. 

Shapiro called on UPenn's Board to meet soon to determine whether Magill's testimony, "represents the views and values of the University of Pennsylvania”.

(2)  While Stefanik's question and the responses got the most publicity, Rep Burgess Owens (R-Utah) statement and the response to his questions was even more revealing.

 (3) The craziness of the witness response to Stefanik's question is illustrated by the fact that Harvard instructs undergrads that they may be subject to disciplinary action for statements characterized as "sizeism", "fatphobia", "cisheterosexism" and "ableism" (are these really things??), and for failing to use preferred pronouns.

(4)  And Jews are a subset of Whites in this discourse. 

(5)  Macharia Edmonds is YouTube Global Content Policy Lead, a role where his duties include:

- Partner with Policy Enforcement Leads, Intelligence Analysts and Product Managers to develop scalable and inclusive policies

- Present policy proposals to Senior Leadership including Trust & Safety VP and YouTube CEO

Romeo And Juliet

One of my favorite pieces of music.  An exquisite and moving song about a love gone awry due to bad timing.  Beautiful melody, lyrics, and music capped by Mark Knopfler's mumbled croaking voice which suits the song.  Bracketed by a perfect piano intro and Knopfler's sparse but evocative endpiece, finger-picked on his steel guitar.

This 2006 live performance is far superior to the studio version recorded in 1981.  The video says it is Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris but that is incorrect.  It is from a tour the two of them did together, but only Knopfler appears on this.

You and me, babe, how about it?

A lovestruck Romeo sang the streets a serenadeLaying everybody low with a love song that he madeFinds a streetlight, steps out of the shadeSays something like, "You and me, babe, how about it?"
Juliet says, "Hey, it's Romeo, you nearly gave me a heart attack"He's underneath the window, she's singing, "Hey, la, my boyfriend's backYou shouldn't come around here singing up at people like thatAnyway, what you gonna do about it?"
"Juliet, the dice was loaded from the startAnd I bet, and you exploded into my heartAnd I forget, I forget the movie songWhen you gonna realize it was just that the time was wrong, Juliet?"
Come up on different streets, they both were streets of shameBoth dirty, both mean, yes, and the dream was just the sameAnd I dreamed your dream for you and now your dream is realHow can you look at me as if I was just another one of your deals?
When you can fall for chains of silver you can fall for chains of goldYou can fall for pretty strangers and the promises they holdYou promised me everything, you promised me thick and thin, yeahNow you just say "Oh, Romeo, yeah, you know I used to have a scene with him"
"Juliet, when we made love, you used to cryYou said 'I love you like the stars above, I'll love you 'til I die'There's a place for us, you know the movie songWhen you gonna realize it was just that the time was wrong, Juliet?"
I can't do the talks like they talk on the TVAnd I can't do a love song like the way it's meant to beI can't do everything but I'll do anything for youI can't do anything except be in love with you
And all I do is miss you and the way we used to beAll I do is keep the beat, the bad companyAll I do is kiss you through the bars of a rhymeJulie, I'd do the stars with you any time
"Juliet, when we made love you used to cryYou said 'I love you like the stars above, I'll love you 'til I die'There's a place for us you know the movie songWhen you gonna realize it was just that the time was wrong, Juliet?"
And a lovestruck Romeo, he sang the streets a serenadeLaying everybody low with a love song that he madeFind a convenient streetlight, steps out of the shadeHe says something like, "You and me, babe, how about it?"
"You and me, babe, how about it?"

Tuesday, December 5, 2023


While we usually think of 1453 as the date of the final demise of Rome with the fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans, it was on this date in 1475 the last remnant of the Roman world was extinguished.  Strangely enough it was on the Crimean Peninsula on the north side of the Black Sea.

Starting in the Sixth Century BC, Greek settlements were established on the south side of the Crimea.  The Roman Republic came into contact with the Greek city-states in the First Century BC, and from that time until the mid-4th Century AD, Rome either occupied or treated the Crimean cities as allies.  After a two century interruption when nomadic warriors from the steppes overran the peninsula, the Byzantines reestablished Roman authority in the late Sixth Century AD.  Over the next six centuries the Eastern Roman Empire indirectly or directly, as a province, ruled the area. 

When the Fourth Crusade was diverted from the Holy Land and instead captured Constantinople in 1204, the Byzantine remnants splintered in three; the Empire of Nicea on the eastern shore of the Sea of Marmara, which recaptured Constantinople in 1261, the Despotate of Epirus in northern Greece, and the Empire of Trebizond, on the southeastern shore of the Black Sea.  Trebizond extended its rule to the Crimea.

(Empire of Trebizond at its maximum extent)

Map of the Empire of Trebizond shortly after the foundation of the Latin Empire in 1204, featuring the short-lived conquests in western Anatolia by David Komnenos (later reconquered by the Empire of Nicaea) and Sinope (later conquered by the Sultanate of Rum).

During the 14th and early 15th centuries the Eastern Roman Empire with its capital of Constantinople was steadily squeezed by the rising power of the Ottomans until finally, in 1453, Constantinople fell.  By 1461 the last surviving parts of the Empire, located in Greece, had also fallen.  That same year, Trebizond also surrendered to the Ottomans.  All that was left of the Roman world was the tiny principality of Theodoro on the Crimea, adjacent to the Crimean colonies of Genoa.


The principality was also known as Gothia, because of the presence of a large Hellenized Gothic population.  Wikipedia describes the principality as, "a mixture of Greeks, Crimean Goths, Alans, Circassians, Bulgars, Cumans, Kipchaks, and other ethnic groups, most of whom were adherents to Orthodox Christianity and Hellenized. The principality's official language was Greek."  It goes on to tell us:

Various cultural influences can be traced in Gothia: its architecture and Christian wall paintings were essentially Byzantine, although some of its fortresses also display a local as well as Genoese character. Inscribed marble slabs found in the region were decorated with a mixture of Byzantine, Italian, and Tatar decorative elements.

In 1475, the Ottomans decided it was time to put an end to the principality and reduced the territory, capturing its capitol, Theodoro (modern Mangup) on December 5.

1,145 years after the founding of Constantinople, Rome was no more.


Thursday, November 30, 2023

"We Are The Cavalry"

On November 10, Bari Weiss delivered the Barbara K Olson Memorial Lecture at the Federalist Society.  Weiss, founder and editor of The Free Press, formerly worked at the New York Times until being driven out for dissenting from some tenets of the Equity Faith.  Most of her views remain those of a traditional progressive and I can't imagine that at the start of 2020 she would ever have thought she'd be giving this lecture to this audience.

Some excerpts, beginning with her recitation of academic reaction to the Hamas attacks in which she correctly identifies the underlying cause as more than just traditional antisemitism.  


What could possibly explain this?

The easy answer is that the human beings who were slaughtered on October 7 were Jews. And that antisemitism is the world’s oldest hatred. And that in every generation someone rises up to kill us. “They tried to wipe us out, they failed, let’s eat” as the old Jewish joke goes.

But that is not the whole answer. Because the proliferation of antisemitism, as always, is a symptom. 

When antisemitism moves from the shameful fringe into the public square, it is not about Jews. It is never about Jews. It is about everyone else. It is about the surrounding society or the culture or the country. It is an early warning system—a sign that the society itself is breaking down. That it is dying. 

It is a symptom of a much deeper crisis—one that explains how, in the span of a little over 20 years since Sept 11, educated people now respond to an act of savagery not with a defense of civilization, but with a defense of barbarism.

It was twenty years ago when I began to encounter the ideology that drives the people who tear down the posters. It was twenty years ago, when I was a college student, that I started writing about a nameless, then-niche worldview that seemed to contradict everything I had been taught since I was a child.

At first, things like postmodernism and postcolonialism and postnationalism seemed like wordplay and intellectual games—little puzzles to see how you could “deconstruct” just about anything. What I came to see over time was that it wasn’t going to remain an academic sideshow. And that it sought nothing less than the deconstruction of our civilization from within. 


Over the past two decades, I saw this inverted worldview swallow all of the crucial sense-making institutions of American life. It started with the universities. Then it moved beyond the quad to cultural institutions—including some I knew well, like The New York Times—as well as every major museum, philanthropy, and media company. It’s taken root at nearly every major corporation. It’s inside our high schools and our elementary schools. 

It seeks to upend the very ideas of right and wrong.

It replaces basic ideas of good and evil with a new rubric: the powerless (good) and the powerful (bad). It replaced lots of things. Color blindness with race obsession. Ideas with identity. Debate with denunciation. Persuasion with public shaming. The rule of law with the fury of the mob.

People were to be given authority in this new order not in recognition of their gifts, hard work, accomplishments, or contributions to society, but in inverse proportion to the disadvantages their group had suffered, as defined by radical ideologues. 

If you want to understand how it could be that the editor of the Harvard Law Review could physically intimidate a Jewish student or how a public defender in Manhattan recently spent her evening tearing down posters of kidnapped children, it is because they believe it is just. 

Their moral calculus is as crude as you can imagine: they see Israelis and Jews as powerful and successful and “colonizers,” so they are bad; Hamas is weak and coded as people of color, so they are good. No, it doesn’t matter that most Israelis are “people of color.”

That baby? He is a colonizer first and a baby second. That woman raped to death? Shame it had to come to that, but she is a white oppressor. 

In recognizing allies, I’ll be an example. I am a gay woman who is moderately pro-choice. I know there are some in this room who do not believe my marriage should have been legal.

I am here because I know that in the fight for the West, I know who my allies are. And my allies are not the people who, looking at facile, external markers of my identity, one might imagine them to be. My allies are people who believe that America is good. That the West is good. That human beings—not cultures—are created equal and that saying so is essential to knowing what we are fighting for. America and our values are worth fighting for—and that is the priority of the day. 


Time to defend our values—the values that have made this country the freest, most tolerant society in the history of the world—without hesitation or apology. 

The leftist intellectual Sidney Hook, who broke with the Communists, and called his memoir Out of Step, used to implore those around him to “always answer an accusation or a charge” to not let falsehood stand unchallenged. 

We have let far too much go unchallenged. Too many lies have spread in the face of inaction as a result of fear or politesse. 

No more.

Do not bite your tongue. Do not tremble. Do not go along with little lies. Speak up. Break the wall of lies. Let nothing go unchallenged. 

Our enemies’ failure is not assured and there is no cavalry coming. We are the cavalry. We are the last line of defense. Our civilization depends on us.


There is no place like this country. And there is no second America to run to if this one fails. 

So let’s get up. Get up and fight for our future. This is the fight of—and for—our lives.


You can read the entire speech here.

Or watch it. She begins about 11 minutes in to the video.