URLs du Jour

2021-01-07

[Amazon Link]

  • I'm at a loss for words about yesterday's shitstorm. Fortunately, Matthew Continett isn't:

    January 6, 2021, is not over, but it already lives in infamy. A sitting president of the United States, having lost reelection, incited a mob to storm the Capitol as the Congress sat in joint session to certify the Electoral College vote. This act was without precedent. It was based on a lie, fed by myth, and culminated in violence, in vandalism, and in the desecration of the people’s house. The lawbreakers cannot go unpunished. Nor can the person ultimately responsible. His name is Donald Trump.

    The men and women who breached the House and Senate chambers were doing it for him. They carried just as many Trump flags as American (or Confederate) ones. They were not chanting “Make America Great Again” as he fueled their anger during his speech at the Ellipse this morning. They were crying, “Fight for Trump.” It wasn’t an idea or even a country they stood for as they knocked over barriers, climbed walls, bashed windows, forced open doors, and desecrated public property. It was one man. And this irrevocable loyalty to an individual, this devotion that places his interests above the plain text of the Constitution and the rule of law, is not characteristic of democracy. It is tyranny.

    And let's slide over to …


  • … Kevin D. Williamson, on the Trump Presidency’s Inevitable, Shameful End.

    The Trump presidency began in shame and dishonesty. It ends in shame, dishonesty, cowardice, and rebellion against the Constitution. For the past few weeks, the right-wing media, including the big talk-radio shows, has been coyly calling for a revolution. Of course they never thought they’d actually get one: That kind of talk is good for business — keep the rubes riled up and they won’t change the channel when the commercials come around on the half-hour. I never had much hope for the likes of Sean Hannity, tragically born too late to be a 1970s game-show host, but to watch Senator Ted Cruz descend into this kind of dangerous demagoguery as he jockeys to get out in front of the Trump parade as its new grand marshal has induced despair.

    On May 4, 2016, I posted a little note to the Corner, headlined: “Pre-Planning My ‘I Told You So.’” It reads, in part: “Republicans, remember: You asked for this.” The path that the Republican Party and the conservative movement have taken in the past four years is not one that was forced on them — it is the product of choices that were made and of compromises that were entered into too willingly by self-interested men and women seeking money, celebrity, and power.

    Of course it ends in violence — this is, after all, America.

    And then we have…


  • John Hinderaker at Power Line, noting A Sad Day.

    I woke up not expecting a good day, but it turned out to be much worse. First we lost both Georgia Senate races, putting us at the mercy of the Democrats (or, more specifically, Joe Manchin) for the next two years. For an interesting analysis of why those races went South–and specifically, why fraud wasn’t the main problem–see this piece by Liam Bissainthe at Liberty Unyielding.

    Then, of course, we had the Washington riot. My position has been consistent through the years: I oppose riots, and believe that rioters should be arrested and, when necessary to preserve order, shot. That is what I thought in January 2017 when Democrats rioted at President Trump’s inauguration, that is what I thought when Antifa and Black Lives Matter destroyed Portland, Seattle and Minneapolis, that is what I thought when Democrats tried to break into the Senate chamber during the Kavanaugh confirmation hearing, and that is what I think today.

    Noted: the media cover violence differently when the perpetrators are their soulmates. Granted.

    And they bear a certain responsibility for sending the implicit message that violence is OK when you really, truly feel bad.

    But that's a 10% effect at best. The other 90% of responsibility for the current mess (and the upcoming messes) lies with our disgusting President.


  • Jonah Goldberg nails it: The American Right Is Littered With Cautionary Tales.

    “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”—Lord Acton

    The remarkable thing about this last grotesque chapter of Donald Trump’s presidency is how much he has proved Acton both wrong and right.

    Few axioms are more popular among pompously earnest pundits and politicians than Lord Acton’s line about power. Acton surely believed that power corrupts. His real indictment, however, wasn’t of the wielders of power, but of those who enabled them. He decried those who exempted the powerful from the rules that bind the rest of us. “There is no worse heresy than that the office sanctifies the holder of it,” Acton wrote in the same letter.

    Note that Jonah wrote this well before yesterday's events. Prescient he was.


  • Sigh. Well on to cheerier topics… No, just kidding: just a different topic. Barry Brownstein writes The Monsters Are Due on Nantucket Island. The reference is to a classic old Twilight Zone episode, "The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street" where a neighborhood's paranoia turns into violence. It's not quite that bad on Nantucket yet, but:

    The monsters have escaped the Twilight Zone and have come to tony Nantucket Island. Early in this Covid-19 crisis, the wealthy fled to Nantucket to escape the virus. Now cases on Nantucket are rising, and as on Maple Street, “residents are pointing the fingers at each other over who is to blame.” Some cast aspersions on the outsiders who swelled Nantucket’s population; others point fingers at those they know.

    Nantucket neighbors are eager to rat out others for perceived transgressions: “For every individual charged with disregarding public-health guidelines, there seemed to be another calling their neighbors out for their reckless behavior either on social media or privately on calls with the board of health.”

    Funny, right? Those wacky progressive, rich, Nantucketers…

    But what really rings a bell for me:

    In their book The Price of Panic: How the Tyranny of Experts Turned a Pandemic into a Catastrophe, Jay Richards, William Briggs, and Douglas Axe correctly explain that during the peak of the lockdowns, the public supported criminalization of low-risk human activities such as walking in the park, family visits, shopping at an open-air fish market, and driving. They report:  

    “This was not a top-down dictatorship imposed on a resistant public. Polls showed that most Americans supported the lockdowns. If anything, we pushed for them. Neighbors snitched on small church groups with gusto. New Jersey posted a form on its website to make it easy to turn your neighbors in to the authorities. In late March, Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti said that ‘snitches’ in his city would ‘get rewards.'”

    Who are the Tommies stirring irrational fears throughout the pandemic? We are responsible for our decisions, but we can be primed for irrational behavior as in the Twilight Zone episode.

    No foolin'.


  • And while we've been having our problems here, the NYPost reports: The boot comes down in Hong Kong.

    Beijing just put the boot down hard in Hong Kong, ordering the arrest of 50-plus elected pro-democracy officials and activists Wednesday morning. The Chinese Communist Party will no longer brook any dissent in the once-free city.

    It’s the largest roundup of dissidents since Beijing imposed its new “national security” law in June. The charge was “subverting state power” by participating in an unofficial July primary vote to pick a unified dissident slate — a crime in the CCP’s eyes because it could lead to the unseating of lickspittle city Chief Executive Carrie Lam.

    Good luck, Hong Kong. Wish we could help.

The Siberian Dilemma

[Amazon Link]

Reader note: If you find yourself slightly confused by what happens at the end of chapter 41 (as I was), it means you should have been paying more attention to the book's title and the discussion near the end of chapter 28 (as I should have). But I eventually remembered.

It's been about six years since the previous Arkady Renko novel. The sorta-girlfriend he acquired in the previous book, Tatiana, is still in a dangerous profession: truth-telling journalist in Russia. Arkady is still an investigator with the (hopelessly corrupt) Moscow police. And his semi-feral ward, Zenhya, is making a living from hustling chess matches.

Arkady is troubled that Tatiana has failed to return as scheduled from Siberia, where she was investigating corrupt oligarchs. (But it's in Russia, so I'm repeating myself.) In a slight coincidence, his boss Zubrin tells him to bring the "suspect" Aba Makhmud back to Moscow after obtaining a confession. His crime: assaulting Zubrin. Hm.

In Siberia, Arkady acquires some new allies and some powerful enemies. Nature is also an adversary: Siberia is cold, and the bears are mean.

It's a relatively short book (274 pages, big type, wide margins, blank pages) but it's a page turner. I especially enjoy Arkady's outlook on life: Russian-fatalistic, viewed with very dark, very dry humor.