Lafayette, We Are Here!

The Google LFOD News Alert recently rang for this Concord Monitor LTE from Bill Wishart, notifying his readers that Lafayette would be in tears. Wishart's LTE in its entirety:

On the 20th of May, we will celebrate Lafayette, the French nobleman influential in tipping the balance of the Revolutionary War in favor of us. Our rebellion succeeded, in great part, due to his agreement with the self-evident truths of The Declaration of Independence, generating a passion in him so great that he was willing to sacrifice his name, fortune, and if need be his life in this noble experiment that is America. Today, I read that our legislature is poised to pass a bill forbidding transgender athletes from competing based on an arbitrary assignment of gender at birth. I say to you that you do not believe in the self evident truths.

You do not believe that all men are created equal! You do not believe that they are endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights! You do not believe that governments are instituted among men to ensure those rights! You do not believe that “Live Free or Die” applies to all in New Hampshire! You may, by accident of birth, be a citizen of the country called The United States of America. You are not, in your hearts and minds, an American! I dare say, that if Lafayette made his tour today, he would be in tears after witnessing your betrayal of the fundamental principles of this noble experiment.

Gee, Bill. "Arbitrary assignment of gender at birth"? Like coin-flip arbitrary? Really?

Well, let's do the background first. The May 20 thing (indeed) celebrates the bicentennial of Marquis de Lafayette's famous tour of the US in 1824-5. The event (which I believe is happening in Concord, NH) is described here.

This choice is odd, given that Lafayette didn't even arrive in the US for his tour until August, 1824. But never mind that. There will undoubtedly be shindigs scheduled on the actual bicentennial, like his arrival in Portsmouth NH on September 1. (I've always assumed Lafayette Road, the old path of US Highway 1 in Portsmouth, was named that for the route Lafayette took on his way here.)

But never mind that. Is there something about Lafayette that makes it seem he'd be a cheerleader for letting biological boys compete against biological girl athletes?

Okay, a little googling finds a good deal of wishful thinking by advocates trying to out him as gay (example). But that's it.

More likely: if Lafayette (somehow) shed himself of the sexist beliefs of the day (he penned the Declaration of the Rights of Man, sorry ladies) and was time-machined to our century, he'd be horrified at the sexual segregation implied by having separate and unequal teams for athletes, simply due to the biological accident of their conception. Isn't that equally unjust as racial segregation?

"It's time to sexually integrate sportsball teams at all levels, professional and amateur, mes amis! Vivre Libre ou Mourir!

"Do this, or I shall cry bitter tears!"

Also of note:

  • I miss the Tea Party. But, as Jonah Goldberg notes, it hadn't been healthy for a long time and… The Tea Party Movement Died With a Whimper.

    With the news that libertarian advocacy group FreedomWorks is going the way of Blockbuster, the Tea Party era is officially over. Of course, it’s been functionally dead—or mostly dead—for a while. It’s been a while since anyone in national Republican politics of any note talked like a Tea Partier, never mind associated themselves with the cause. I’m sure there are some who’ve gone to ground, like old-style Communists keeping their heads down in various backwaters, hoping no one recognizes them.

    For a sense of how the Tea Parties were like St. Elmo’s Fire—suddenly lighting up the firmament and burning out just as quickly—consider that in 2010 The New York Times Magazine introduced Marco Rubio to the country with a cover story titled, “The First Senator from the Tea Party?”

    The question mark referred to whether or not Rubio would successfully defeat Charlie Crist in the primary to become a senator—not whether he was a Tea Party guy. Funnily enough, that deserved a question mark, too. Or at least an expiration date. Today, Rubio is a devout industrial planner—but only when “done right.”

    Indeed, the Times profile, written by Mark Leibovich, is a fascinating historical snapshot. “If there is a face for the future of the Republican Party, it is Marco Rubio,” Mike Huckabee told Leibovich. “He is our Barack Obama but with substance.” Today Huckabee talks about anything that smacks of the Tea Party-style libertarian principles like they’re nothing a course of penicillin can’t clear-up. 

    Later in the article Jonah quotes Jim Geraghty quoting Eric Hoffer: “Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.” It happened really quickly for the Tea Party movement.

  • And speaking of degenerating into a racket… Also at the Dispatch, John McCormack wonders: Will the Trumpification of the Libertarian Party Actually Hurt Donald Trump? He's actually been paying attention to the tussles inside the clown car that is today's LP:

    Until the Trump invitation, the Libertarian Party had mostly been an afterthought for outside observers in the 2024 presidential campaign, but it shouldn’t have been. Whoever wins the party’s nomination for president later this month at the Libertarian National Convention will be on the ballot in at least 37 states, including the battlegrounds of Arizona, Georgia, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Nevada. The last two presidential election were decided by a few states where the victor prevailed by less than 1 percentage point, so it’s plausible the Libertarian candidate could sway the outcome—even if he falls short of winning the 3.3 percent of the national popular vote won by 2016 Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson or the 1.2 percent of the popular vote garnered by 2020 nominee Jo Jorgenson.

    So why, exactly, did a minor party whose raison d’être is to reject the two major parties invite the presumptive GOP nominee to potentially overshadow the convention where Libertarian Party delegates will pick their own presidential nominee? That is a hotly contested question within a Libertarian Party that is deeply divided between two factions—the Mises Caucus and the Classical Liberal Caucus.

    The Mises Caucus is the Libertarian Party’s largest faction whose members swept to power at the party’s 2022 convention in a backlash against what they saw as an increasingly politically correct party that didn’t do enough to stand up to COVID lockdowns and was happy to run Republican Party retreads for president. The Classical Liberal Caucus is filled with, well, self-styled classical liberals who see Mises Caucus types as Trump-adjacent bigots and kooks—or at least way too tolerant of bigots and kooks.

    Well, I'm surprised the "Classical Liberal Caucus" exists. Good for them. If they prevail against the (misnamed, I think) Mises folk, I'll probably be able to vote for their nominee. Irrelevant, but gratifying.

  • Not as well illustrated as Birds of America, but still valuable. Robert Graboyes performs a public service in bringing out A Field Guide to Guaranteed, Certified, Definitely-Not-Antisemitic, We-Are-Hamas Global-Intifada Free-Range Encampments. His summary is up top:

    As American campuses boil over with hatred for Israel and for Jews in general, it’s helpful to know what we’re dealing with. Below are five brief lessons:

    1. Michael Moore channels 19th century German racists to prove that protestors calling for the mass murder of Jews are not antisemitic.

    2. Professor David Bernstein notes that, like today’s campus protestors, most antisemites of the past were quite fond of Jews—as long as said Jews were sufficiently contemptuous of other Jews.

    3. Israeli grad student Iddo Gefen discovers disturbing antisemitism at Columbia and then veers toward futile left-of-center virtue-signaling.

    4. Karol Markowicz argues that threats to American Jews reside primarily in blue states and leftward political groupings.

    5. I reiterate my recent argument that my alma mater, Columbia University, should be eviscerated—both for its own misdeeds and as a warning to like-minded institutions.

    Each lesson is detailed and devastating.

  • What's really important is… In the "watch what they do, not what they say" department, brought to you by Tyler Cowen:

    EVs versus unionized auto workers… it was probably not a close call.

Recently on the book blog:

Last Modified 2024-05-13 6:50 PM EDT

Secrets Typed in Blood

(paid link)

This is the third entry in Stephen Spotswood's "Pentecost and Parker" series. It's set in 1947 New York City, "Pentecost" being Lillian Pentecost, famous private detective, and "Parker", being Willowjean Parker, her intrepid assistant, handy with guns, knives, and wisecracks. Willowjean narrates, alternating between jaded cynicism and … um, less jaded cynicism.

If that reminds you of Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe/Archie Goodwin books, I think it's supposed to. Out of the four blurbs on the back cover, two mention this similarity. (Another similarity: Archie liked the ladies, and … so does Willowjean.)

The primary plot concerns Holly, who, under a pseudonym, writes of pulp detective stories published in Strange Crime magazine. She notices that three actual recent murders have been staged to follow the garish scenes in three of her fictional stories. What's going on with that? Holly has an addiction to Chesterfields, and is attempting to keep a deep secret of her own under wraps.

There's also a continuing plot from the first book: the Professor Moriarty of the series, criminal mastermind Olivia Waterhouse, is discovered to have been employed as a secretary in a law office. Willowjean is tasked with posing as a secretary herself, wangling a temp job at the same office. Her goal is to find out why Waterhouse was working there, what she did, and (hopefully) that will assist in bringing her to justice.

It's all good, murderous, fun.

Material World

The Six Raw Materials That Shape Modern Civilization

(paid link)

Spoiler: Author Ed Conway's "six raw materials that shape modern civilization" are: sand, salt, iron, copper, oil, and lithium. (Well, not much of a spoiler: they are named and pictured right on the front cover.)

I was somewhat surprised by how much I liked this book. Conway's enthusiasm for his topic is infectious, his research diligent, his prose punchy and accessible. His eyes are wide open for interesting details and good yarns, and he passes them along. His travels take him to all sorts of interesting sites, which are colorfully described. It's a crash course in history, politics, geography, chemistry, economics, you name it.

Material World reminded me of a multipart PBS documentary—one of the good ones! Narrated by Richard Attenborough as he waves his arms and walks through refineries, mines, factories, … Conway is a Brit, and there are a number of British spellings and terms throughout, so Attenborough is a good fit.

A couple of items on Conway's list might seem a little mundane at first glance. Sand? Ah, but without sand, there's no glass. No fiber optics. No cement. No sand means no silicon, so no computer chips, …

Things I noted with post-its:

Why did Britain and Germany make a deal to supply the other with vital war material during WWI? (Page 49)

What happens to chip supply if China invades Taiwan? (Page 120)

What's the earliest likely evidence of manufacture and trade? (Page 129)

How did the Haber-Bosch process for fixing nitrates lengthen WWI? (Page 174)

What site inspired Aldous Huxley's dystopic view in Brave New World? (Page 188)

Why is there demand for steel pirated from sunken warships in the Scapa Flow? (Page 231)

Why does Conway claim that the tasty tomato you're enjoying is "made of fossil fuels"? (Page 349)

Why was that guy in The Graduate movie totally correct to encourage Benjamin to go into plastics? (Page 351)

Is Andean garlic, grown with mineral-laden water, therapeutic or a form of torture? (Page 388)

If there's a flaw in the book, it's that Conway seems to buy into climate alarmism, and kind of handwaves his way through remediation scenarios that smell of central government planning. This, after approvingly quoting Leonard Reed's famous essay, "I, Pencil".

But: As a mostly-libertarian guy who generally despises "industrial policy" as corporate welfare, I was perturbed by Conway's description of the worldwide supply chains involved in moving selected materials out of the ground and putting them into miraculous products you can buy amazingly cheaply. Disruption of any of those myriad long supply chains can bring chaos, shortages, and privation. Might I have to walk back my religious principles against government interference if it turns out that we can't get computers?