Tuesday, September 17, 2019

By Being Forced to Walk Back Her Comments, Doesn't Marianne Williamson Prove the Veracity of Those Very Comments?


"What does it say that Fox News is nicer to me than the lefties are?" Marianne Williamson said. "What does it say that the conservatives are nicer to me? It's such a bizarre world."
Has anybody given a thought to the following point — especially… (wait for it…) Marianne Williamson herself?!

By walking back her comments in her interview with Eric Bolling about "the left [being] as mean as the right" — if not (far) meaner — what does the presidential candidate do if nothing less than… prove her own (ex-)point about "the left [being] as mean as the right" (if not — far — meaner)?

To quote Jim Treacher (thanks to Ed Driscoll and to Sarah Hoyt):
Lefties are awful, especially to women. No insult is too cruel. No lie is too insane. Anything goes. Then lefties project their own behavior onto their political opponents, and congratulate themselves for condemning it. They're lunatics. Whereas conservatives, who don't agree with Williamson's policies at all, are decent to her because she seems like an okay person. They're able to separate the person from the politics.

 … Marianne Williamson [turns out to be] just like the rest of them. She accidentally told the truth, and now she's walking it back because it's politically inconvenient. She's terrified that her own tribe will cast her out for her heresy. … she's afraid of alienating people who hate her anyway.
What is about this "serious leftie" — a spiritual guru, at that (e.g., A Course in Miracles) — that she does not understand
A) that such negativity directed at her, or at anyone, is in fact par for the course for the left and
B) that people on the right in fact are not mean at all (or certainly not as mean as has been reported) and
C) that the very fact that conservatives are — endlessly — accused of being heartless monsters by the left (including by their vassals in the media) proves point A while proving that leftists are in fact drama queens always looking to present their (alleged) adversaries as despicable deplorables while presenting themselves as the knights on white stallions ready to fight those barbaric neanderthals?

Hasn't the spiritual guru ever heard of such concepts as… "projection"?!
(Update: thanks for the Instalanche…)

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

The America-Bashers' Use of Symbolism on September 11


As Le Monde commemorated 911 on the tenth anniversary of the attacks, Plantu was back in his usual style, with a full page inside Le Monde Magazine bringing back 10 years of cartoons that belittle the human toll; or that suggest that Uncle Sam deserved whatever it had coming; or that compare the 2011 attacks of September 11, 2001, to Pinochet's coup d'état in Chile on September 11, 1973.
(This causes him to make —intentionally? — a colossal whopper, saying that 3,000 people died on September 11, 2001, just as 3,000 people died on September 11, 1973; in reality, 3,000 lives were lost during Pinochet's 17 years in power (not one day but close to 6,000 days) — nothing to be proud of, for sure, but facts need to be gotten right and in addition, whatever the toll is, it needs to be compared to those of neighboring régimes, like the 20,000 dead in Fidel Castro's Cuba.)

So No Pasarán is looking back at 15 years' worth of posts (six or seven posts, really) as well and checking out what it has been saying on the subjects so dear to the hearts of leftists everywhere.

1) Let's first take a look at the "legend", according to which,
in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 the US enjoyed the heartfelt sympathy of the world, only to see this capital of goodwill frittered away by the successive faux pas of an inept and arrogant Bush administration and then definitively exhausted by the launching of an illegitimate war on Iraq in defiance of “world public opinion.”

The Legend of the Squandered Sympathy

(October 10, 2004)
John Rosenthal's Transatlantic Intelligencer article ought to be mandatory reading for anybody studying September 11 and anti-Americanism. In The Legend of the Squandered Sympathy, John Rosenthal notably mentions the cartoon that Plantu saw fit to reproduce on the weekend of the 10th anniversary.
Such was the tenor of Le Monde’s coverage, in effect, just one week after the attacks. The monotonous drone of denunciations continued as the prospect of a military strike against Afghanistan materialized in the weeks ahead, with distraught “New York Jews,” Pashtun warlords and the estranged son of the “O’Dea,” the archetypal all-American family, all chiming in to register their protest and all sounding surprisingly like “third-worldist” Parisian intellectuals – or even indeed like the publisher of Le Monde. (Among other things, the legend of the squandered sympathy occludes the fact that even while a substantial majority of Europeans polled, including in France and Germany, showed spontaneous understanding for American military actions in Afghanistan, large swaths of Europe’s socialist and social-democratic intelligentsia opposed any American military response to the 9/11 attacks whatsoever.) The “boomerang” image went on to become the favored heuristic device of Le Monde and its affiliated publications in their treatment of 9/11. Thus the first issue of the monthly Monde Diplomatique to appear following the events bore the thematic headline “Boomerang Effect” [it also has an article by Maureen Dowd]. In a pictorial variation on the same theme, a special insert in Le Monde itself featured a cartoon depicting a little wind-up Taliban doll, “Made in USA” emblazoned across its back, carrying red, white and blue explosives and circling back toward Uncle Sam.
2) Now let's take a look at the state of democracy and human rights in Chile in 1973 by looking at the (very real) similarities between the overthrow of Manuel Zelaya and that of Salvador Allende

Notice the Similarities with That Other "Coup", the One That Overthrew Leftist Saint© and Martyr™ Salvador Allende?

(July 07, 2009)

In Latin America, José Piñera, armed with evidence including "the momentous Agreement of 23 August 1973 … widely unknown outside Chile", opines that because
President Allende became a tyrant when he broke his solemn oath to respect the Constitution and the Chilean laws [and because] his government [had] fomented the creation of armed militias … the origin of the Pinochet government is that of any revolutionary one, in which only the use of force was left in order to remove a tyrant [and to] "put immediate end" to these constitutional violations . It must be agreed that this was, in fact, an unequivocal call to remove by force the President who had initiated the use of force with the purpose of imposing a communist dictatorship.
…the truth demands recognition that former President Pinochet led a legitimate rebellion against tyranny and that the origin of Chile's civil war --and its victims-- lies with former President Allende and his marxist Socialist party. … The Economist said it clearly at the time: "The temporary death of democracy in Chile will be regrettable, but the blame lies clearly with Dr. Allende and those of his followers who persistently overrode the Constitution" (September 15, 1973).
Resistance to tyrants is obedience to God

Read also about Allende's purported suicide

And check out Romanticists Overlook Allende's Many Faults: Senator Ricardo Núñez Muñoz added in a NYT interview (emphasis mine) that
It’s wrong to say that the CIA, the armed forces, and the bourgeoisie alone brought down the Allende government. It’s obvious we need to admit we made critical economical and political errors that were as decisive if not more decisive
No less a figure than the president of the Partido Socialista, Núñez went on to conclude that
we know another Allende-like experiment would only be a collossal failure.
(Then again, that NYT report was back in 2001…)

3) … isn't it true that one of the most pervasive superstitious beliefs of the ever-so-rational leftists concerns the attacks on September 11?

Isn't One of the Left's Fundamental "Rational" Beliefs About the Events of 9-11 Closely Related to Superstition? 

(Part 3 of Devotees of Science Versus Followers of Religion — Are Only the Latter to Be Taken to Task for Their Alleged Superstitions?, October 25, 2016)

How many times did we hear after 9-11 that this was America's comeuppance, its punishment, notably for what happened in Santiago on September 11, 1973? Ils l'ont bien mérité!

This is what is referred to as poetic justice. But isn't it true that you have to wonder what poetic justice means actually, and not bring it out whenever you feel that argument can serve your designs?

Allow me to give you a personal example of poetic justice. In a plane waiting on the runway one day years ago, I witnessed a passenger who loudly demanded, in no uncertain terms, to be allowed to change seats immediately. The flight attendant was busy for preparing the plane for takeoff, and to wait until the plane was in the air, but the youngish man said he could not stand crying babies, there was one a few seats behind him, and he wanted a change of seats — now. Finally, she gave in and placed him in another seat. What she hadn't realized, as the plane was preparing for takeoff, was that another baby would start crying just then — far louder and far closer to the man than the other toddler had been. And as the flight attendant walked down the aisle, she couldn't help it, she was grinning from ear to ear. As were I and all the passengers who had witnessed the exchange.

This is poetic justice. Poetic justice is not the passenger's sister happening to sit next to a crying baby five months later. Or the passenger's son missing a flight five years later. Nor is it another, totally unrelated in any fashion, passenger from the same city as the arrogant young man, albeit neither family member nor friend or acquaintance, being forced to sit next to a vomiting fatso 20 years after the fact.

For the question needs to be asked, then, who, or what, is/was behind this revenge, this poetic justice?! This is the question you are not supposed to ask! Or even think about!

Was it Osama Ben Laden?  Is there any reason to think the leader of Al Qaeda thought any better of the Chilean unbelievers than of the American unbelievers (whether the Chileans were/are Allende followers or whether they were/are Pinochet supporters or whether they were/are apolotical) and didn't treat them all as the infidel dogs the whole bunch of 'em were/are?

Besides, September 11 holds no meaning for Muslims as not only do they not live under the West's calendar year, they don't even live according to the same type of calendar, the solar year.  They live according to the shorter lunar year — meaning (besides the fact that over the course of several years [both lunar and solar, take your pick], a given month will end up falling during a totally different season), the chances for the equivalent of September 11 for 2001 (1422 for the Muslims) falling on the same day for 1973 (1393 for the Muslims) are extremely low (not 1 in 365 but 1 in 354) and indeed turn out to be, as expected, unfounded. (9-11 in the "year of our Lord" 1973 turns out to be 8-13 in the year of the Prophet 1393 for the Muslims while 9-11 of 2001 turns out to be 6-22 of 1422.)

Who, then, or what, is this entity that wished to punish America for 9-11?

I ask this of people, remember, who scoff at the existence of (a) God and of the Devil.

Is it Mother Nature? Gaia?

Alright, if Gaia and/or Mother Nature is/are so wise: answer me this: Why use Muslims in the four planes?  Why Muslim fundamentalists? Why not Chileans? Or at least Hispanics?

Why wait 28 years?  Why not bring vengeance two years later?  Or 28 minutes later? Or 28 days later?  Or 28 weeks later?  Or 28 months later?  Or 280 years later?

Why punish people in the World Trade Center, the vast majority of who probably knew little to nothing about South American history (recent or old)? 

How about this, Gaia?  Why not punish… (wait for it) General Pinochet?! That same year?  Or, if you insist on punishing Americans, why not punish… Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger?  Or, if you insist on a plane crashing in the Pentagon, why wait for 2001 instead of… 1973 or 1974?

As you can see, to call the 911 attacks the revenge, or the poetic justice, of Gaia or of Mother Nature — or even to call them (why not?) the vengeance of God the Father as described in the Bible — doesn't make much sense when one spends some time thinking about it.

4) Finally, we have this similar post for Plantu:

The America-Bashers' Use of Symbolism on September 11

(September 12, 2005)
When confronted with the tragedy that occurred on September 11, 2001, it has become a tradition for some to recall another event that occurred on another September 11.

On that date, in 1973, General Pinochet overthrew Chile's President Allende.

This is supposed to make us think. Hard.

The problem with this, of course, is that there have occurred 500 September 11s in the past 500 years (to take the first round number that came to my mind), with varying occurrences on various continents, in various countries, in various regions, in various cities, in various neighborhoods, and in various personal homes around the world, and just about any one of those occurrences could have been picked to make a comparison with (and provide matter for reflection on, and some kind of metaphysical lesson for) September 11, 2001 (or September 11, 1973, for that matter).

As I have written elsewhere,
If looking down their noses, [America-bashers] ask "Do you know what other event occurred on September 11?", answer "Yes, a terrible tragedy." Pause while they nod approvingly, then add "George Washington lost the battle of Brandywine" (in 1777) or even "Brian De Palma was born on that date" (so was Ferdinand Marcos, by the way), although I'm not sure to what extent that counts as a tragedy. If they object that they are referring to something more recent and more tragic than that, agree and say "you must be talking of Hitler ordering reinforcements to Romania" (1940) or "FDR ordering any Axis ships in U.S. waters shot on sight" (1941) or even "wasn't it the first TV broadcast of a Miss America beauty contest?" (1954). How about, "that was the date (in 1962) that the Beatles recorded their first single at EMI Studios (you know, 'Love Love Me Do')".
This symbolism makes as much sense as noting with alarm that our 40th president sported three names with six letters each, supposedly marking the alleged number of the beast.

(If any association with September 11 should be made — with regards to the 2001 attacks, that is, not the 1973 coup — as several readers have pointed out to me, it would perhaps make more sense to call up the 1669 defeat of the Muslim armies besieging Vienna, bringing an end to the Ottoman advance into Europe.)

But what it all boils down to this: for symbolism to have any kind of meaning, it needs to stay close to its subject and, in my opinion, reflect on the better angels of our nature. What it should especially avoid is collective guilt, not least because that collective guilt is necessarily one-sided, i.e., used exclusively against Americans and their allies (or, historically, by any group against any group's alleged enemies).

For instance, it would probably not be too difficult to search through Chilean history and find some kind of tragedy (nation-wide or otherwise) on a September 11 that proved that the 1973 coup d'état was the Chileans' punishment for the earlier disaster (notwithstanding the fact that many believe that Pinochet's coup averted a far worse catastrophe for the country). In another example, which is actually far more coherent than simply noting a similarity of dates, many state that every setback by Bush or by a Bush ally amounts to (well-deserved) punishment for sending troops to Iraq, but because members of the Coalition of the Willing keep winning elections, this symbolism is discretely ignored. (I call this the wait, wait, wait syndrome.)

The use of symbolism says far more about those who wield it than about those the symbolism is meant to describe (and judge).

So, anyway: we know the date that Pinochet grabbed power in 1973.

Bien.

But what was the date that he relinquished power?

What was the date in 1990 that Pinochet handed power back to a civilian government?

The answer is: March 11.

Now, we all remember what happened in Madrid on March 11, 2004, don't we? Coordinated bombings in Spain's metro system killed 193 people while injuring some 2,000.

So what is that supposed to mean? What is that supposed to symbolize?

Somehow, we are led to believe, the wholescale murder of 3,000 people in New York and Washington would not, or might not, have occurred had a strongman with no link to (and probably wholly unknown to) the perpetrators not grabbed power on that same date 28 years earlier.

What is the wholescale murder of 193 people in Madrid supposed to mean? That it would not have occurred had that same strongman not handed power back and had he remained in power 14 years earlier?

Your guess is as good as mine…
FURTHER READING:
Le Monde's 911 Commemorations

• Looking Over TV Shows Inspired by 9-11, Le Monde Discovers (Surprise!) "a Culture of Fear"

• Hubert Védrine: Castigating Bush and the Neo-Cons, Former French Foreign Minister Says that the War on Terror Should Have Been Carried Out "With Discretion"

• André Glucksmann: Bin Laden Is Gone, Not The Strategy of Radical Hatred Without Quarter

The French Will Never Forget

The Legend of the Squandered Sympathy

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

1619: Wondering Why Slavery Persisted for Almost 75 Years After the Founding of the USA? According to Lincoln, the Democrat Party's "Principled" Opposition to "Hate Speech"


As the left continues to embrace the valiant crusade against alleged hate speech, with leftist institutions such as Google, Twitter, and Facebook heroically (and conveniently) suppressing one supposed hater after another, the New York Times embarks on the 1619 Project — whose central (whose sole?) purpose is to show that the American people are wicked and that the United States is an awful country synonymous with slavery.

When on Earth will these clueless (and guilty) Americans finally understand that they are no better than anyone else, that they need to become like a European country where the populace knows thay need to be ruled by their betters?

(Welcome, Instapundit readers: this lengthy post is divided into 5 parts, so if you don't have time to read all of it, at least check out the five sub-heads (in larger font size);
FYI, an earlier version of this lengthy examination of the antebellum era — and the leftists' Fake History — appeared in May 2015. In the wake of the New York Times' latest attempt to prove to Americans how wicked they are, how wicked their ancestors were, and how wicked their country is — the 1619 Project — and engage in (yet) another anger and vengeance parade, it reappears today, slightly rewritten.)

As it happens, there were similar arguments during the antebellum era.

And that is slavery itself — at the time of the peculiar institution.

And believe me, leftists do not come out on the right side of history.

Far from it.

Leftists are constantly railing about "America's original sin" and about the founding fathers' alleged support for (if not introduction of) slavery in the nation.

What leftists don't know is that one of the reasons that slavery persisted in the (Southern) U.S. as long as it did is that to oppose the special institution was considered to be practicing hate speech.

Yes, to oppose slavery was considered unbecoming, uncouth, and hate speech.

No. No! Not by all Americans!

By members of the Democrat party.

When (conveniently) castigating our forefathers… (Let me add a couple of parentheses: I add "conveniently", because this allows the current generation of leftists to feel good about themselves while engaging in self-praise and bragging how wonderful they are; indeed, leftist "values" and "arguments" is little more than an incessant litany of self-praise, bragging that one is more compassionate than anyone else, bragging that one is more intelligent than anyone else, bragging that one is more understanding than anyone else, bragging that one is more tolerant than anyone else, bragging that one has more humanity than anyone else, etc, etc, etc…) When (conveniently) castigating our forefathers (therefore) for allowing slavery to have lasted so long, or for having slaves at all, or for "introducing" slavery to the American continent, I wonder if leftists realize that one of the reasons it persisted was the Democrat Party's opposition to… (wait for it)… to… hate speech.

And the practitioners of hate speech (the abolitionists) were considered unethical, unrealistic, delusional crazies, who deserve little else but the utmost disgust — you might even say that they were the equivalent of today's demonized Tea Partiers.

Don't believe me?

Think that sounds far-fetched? Or too far-fetched?

Ask Abraham Lincoln.

Of course, the 21st-century term "hate speech" was not used, as such.

But listen to the Sixth Debate between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas, at Knox College (full disclosure: I am working on a graphic novel biography with artist Dan Greenberg on The Life and Times of Abraham Lincoln), and ask yourself if "hate speech" to be avoided (and opposed) at all costs is not what Abe is referring to when he describes the travails of the Republican Party.

Before we do read the appropriate part in the Sixth Debate, however, let's quickly take a look at another part of that debate, something echoed in the Seventh Debate.

1) The Presence of Slavery at the Founding of the USA Is Always Taken by Democrats—Either Favorably or Unfavorably—as the Founding Fathers' Intended Support For, If Not Creation of, the Institution

Today's Democrats would have citizens believe that America is (or was) a horrid, wretched place because slavery was present at the founding of the American Republic.

Yesterday's (i.e., the nineteenth century's) Democrats would have citizens believe that critics of slavery were horrid, wretched people because slavery was present at the founding of the American Republic.

Are these opposite or mutually exclusive? No. Why? Because in all cases, what Democrats are doing is nothing more than engaging in their ritual litany of self-praise (19th-c leftists praising themselves for loyally following the traditions of the American Republic, 20th- and 21st-century leftists praising themselves for refusing to close their eyes on the true evil nature of the American Republic). In either case, Democrats seem to simply refuse to use their brains and see things in context, while — deliberately or otherwise — perpetuating what Lincoln called "historically a falsehood".

As Lincoln said in the Sixth Debate:
 … I insist that our fathers did not make this nation half slave and half free, or part slave and part free. I insist that they found the institution of slavery existing here. They did not make it so, but they left it so because they knew of no way to get rid of it at that time. When Judge Douglas undertakes to say that, as a matter of choice, the fathers of the Government made this nation part slave and part free, he assumes what is historically a falsehood. More than that: when the fathers of the Government cut off the source of slavery by the abolition of the slave-trade, and adopted a system of restricting it from the new Territories where it had not existed, I maintain that they placed it where they understood, and all sensible men understood, it was in the course of ultimate extinction; and when Judge Douglas asks me why it cannot continue as our fathers made it, I ask him why he and his friends could not let it remain as our fathers made it?
What Lincoln did in preparation for the debates was spend hours in the Illinois statehouse library and look up all the documents from the time of the writing of the Constitution, discovering in the process that not a single one of the founding fathers — Northern or Southern (!) — had ever meant for, or ever expected, or ever intended for, slavery to continue unabated.

(You understand why leftists cannot allow schoolchildren to learn (too much) about the Lincoln-Douglas debates these days, as it would be much harder to demonize the United States — along with Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, James Madison, etc etc etc — all the while engaging in unending self-laudatory remarks. No no—much better that our kids learn of much more important things, such as the the horrific—horrific, I tell you—situation of gays and lesbians throughout  American history, with its attendant weeping and gnashing of teeth.)

The Rail-Splitter repeats the above fact in the Seventh Debate:
 … the fathers of the Government expected and intended the institution of slavery to come to an end. They expected and intended that it should be in the course of ultimate extinction. … It is not true that our fathers, as Judge Douglas assumes, made this Government part slave and part free. Understand the sense in which he puts it. He assumes that slavery is a rightful thing within itself,—was introduced by the framers of the Constitution. The exact truth is, that they found the institution existing among us, and they left it as they found it. But in making the Government they left this institution with many clear marks of disapprobation upon it. They found slavery among them, and they left it among them because of the difficulty—the absolute impossibility—of its immediate removal. And when Judge Douglas asks me why we cannot let it remain part slave and part free, as the fathers of the Government made it, he asks a question based upon an assumption which is itself a falsehood …
2) Considered Uncouth and Extremist, Like "Hate Speech" Today, Criticism of Slavery Was to Be Avoided and the Boorish Critics Were to Be Gagged If and When Possible

And now, back to the Hate Speech part of the Sixth Debate; see if what Old Abe is discussing isn't the equivalent of shocking examples of speech that Democrats say need to be restricted.
I will say now that there is a sentiment in the country contrary to me—a sentiment which holds that slavery is not wrong, and therefore it goes for the policy that does not propose dealing with it as a wrong. That policy is the Democratic policy, and that sentiment is the Democratic sentiment. If there be a doubt in the mind of any one of this vast audience that this is really the central idea of the Democratic party, in relation to this subject, I ask him to bear with me while I state a few things tending, as I think, to prove that proposition.

 … If there be a man in the Democratic party who thinks it is wrong, and yet clings to that party, I suggest to him in the first place that his leader don't talk as he does, for he never says that it is wrong. … I suggest to him that if he will examine the policy proposed to be carried forward, he will find that he carefully excludes the idea that there is any thing wrong in it. If you will examine the arguments that are made on it, you will find that every one carefully excludes the idea that there is any thing wrong in slavery. Perhaps that Democrat who says he is as much opposed to slavery as I am, will tell me that I am wrong about this. I wish him to examine his own course in regard to this matter a moment, and then see if his opinion will not be changed a little.

You say it is wrong; but don't you constantly object to any body else saying so? Do you not constantly argue that this is not the right place to oppose it? You say it must not be opposed in the free States, because slavery is not here; it must not be opposed in the slave States, because it is there; it must not be opposed in politics, because that will make a fuss; it must not be opposed in the pulpit, because it is not religion. 

Then where is the place to oppose it? There is no suitable place to oppose it. There is no plan in the country to oppose this evil overspreading the continent, which you say yourself is coming. …
 … turn it in any way you can, in all the arguments sustaining the Democratic policy, and in that policy itself, there is a careful, studied exclusion of the idea that there is any thing wrong in slavery.




















3) American Slavery and Abolitionism in the Context of World History

Of course, some might say that slavery existed for 5,000, for 10,000 years previously, so perhaps rooting it out in the space of some 73 years ain't in the final analysis all that bad.

To use Instapundit's regular quote of Robert Heinlein's,
Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. 
(The science-fiction author goes on to say that: "Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty. This is known as “bad luck.” ")

So, for centuries, for millenia, grinding poverty was the normal condition of mankind, with the vast majority of people throughout the world living a life of poverty and ennui, doing little more than working their farms to feed themselves, and rarely subsisting on more than the equivalent of $3 a day.

Next to that, how bad was slavery?

Compared to the bane of poverty that most people lived in, how terrible was it to be a slave, how immoral was it to own slaves?

Seriously.

Now, the spittle-flecked will scream that I am a racist with no empathy defending Southern plantation-owners. And a number of conservatives might join their chorus.

But it is time that we own up to one basic fact:

Slavery — like poverty — in the past was ubiquitous.

Both started coming to an end (some places faster than others, but certainly all over the West) after the American Revolution and the advent of capitalism (which some of us prefer to call, simply, the free market), along with the industrial revolution in the land of their English-speaking cousins.

I.e., slavery started coming to and end in, and thanks to, the English-speaking nations.

And yet, the only slavery the nitpickers (American or foreign) condemn, revile, and wail and gnash their teeth over is slavery in the US of A. South American slavery of Africans? No, not so much. White slavery of whites (from Rome to the 19th century)? No. Arab slavery of Christians? No. Arab slavery of (other) Arabs? No. Black slavery of blacks? No. Slavery today, from the Arab world to the African continent? No. The only slavery that is rendered in apocalyptic tones—the most apocalyptic tones possible ("America's original sin"!!)—is America's. (Is it any wonder that I conclude that we are living in the era of the drama queens?)

(When Amazon banned the sale of all items bearing the Confederate flag in the wake of the nine black churchgoers killed in Charleston by a white racist, Breitbart's Katie McHugh (képi tip to Sarah Hoyt) pointed out that the giant retailer had no compunction to continue selling all sorts of communist merchandise—with not a word concerning the millions of enslaved laborers on the gulag, not to mention the 94 million deaths world-wide—"featuring the hammer and sickle, Joseph Stalin’s mustache, all things Che Guevara, Vladimir Lenin and other colorful revolutionaries".)

And conservatives jump on this bandwagon. Even conservatives as diverse as Scott Rasmussen, Milton Friedman, David P Goldman (alias Spengler), and Onan Coca buy into this. Ben Stein refers to "the horrors of slavery" while the Washington Examiner speaks of the "long-festering wounds that were the terrible national legacy of slavery."

In the Prager University video Don't Judge Blacks Differently, Chloe Valdary refers to racism as "a stain so deeply ingrained in our culture" while bemoaning "the disparity between the races". Saying "America made grave and profound moral errors with regard to race", Jonah Goldberg calls slavery "an evil institution" that "will always remain a stain on America’s honor."

See, I am not defending slavery, but what the drama queens are doing, and getting conservatives to go along with, is perpetuating historical falsehoods, along with false comparisons, such as comparing the life of a slave (but only a black slave in the United States, you understand by now, not any others) to life in today's modern world (which truly would be nothing but atrocious) while ignoring the dreary poverty that life was for most people, black as well as white, in the West as throughout the rest of the world, up until the 18th and 19th centuries.
Related: The Confederate Flag: Another Brick in the Leftwing Activists' (Self-Serving) Demonization of America and Rewriting of History


4) The Arguments Southerners Used to Defend Slavery in the 19th Century Sound Strangely Similar to Those of Leftist Heroes the World Over in the 20th and 21st Centuries

Indeed, when Southerners defended slavery, they brought out what was hardly an unreasonable argument; they said that that "freedom" among the Yankees was a mirage—that the only freedom the workers had there was the freedom to croak—and that they (the Southerners), at least, were taking care of their blacks, taking care of them from the cradle to the grave no less. And ain't that generous of them?!

You think that sounds ridiculous? Alright; so do I. Am I defending slavery? Am I defending the Southerners who practiced it? Am I "ridiculously" enamored of the image of ante-bellum plantation life? Not at all. Au contraire: notice how the Southern defense of slavery (we are taking care of our blacks/of the people/of our citizens) is not a conservative position; in no way is it so.

This is the liberal, the progressive, the smiley face position of the left, with all their good intentions and all their central plans, from LBJ to Barack Obama, from Allende and Che Guevara to Vladimir Lenin and Mao Zedong, from Scandinavia's "we-enlightened-people-support-all-members-of-society" nations to Western Europe's incomparably glorious health care systems. Coupled with their outraged condemnation of the Yankees' evil capitalism (Yankees here meaning all American citizens and not just, as among 19th-century Southerners, American citizens from North of the Mason-Dixon line).

You may wonder (whether you lean left or right), really, is there no difference? There are a couple of differences, actually. First of all, the Southern plantation owners are private citizens, businessmen, while the others all embody the state and its armies of bureaucrats.

Right there, our leftist friends have an additional reason to attack slavery, with a fit of anger: wasn't slavery private business, after all, the affair of ruthless capitalists? (Actually, no it was not the free market, since the blacks had no freedom and no say in the matter.) In any case, compare this with the non-committal, neutral response to the far more cruel societies of Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot ("Sure, sure, of course we condemn the Soviet Union and China's millions of dead … but… at least… we have to admit… that… they had good intentions").

What 19th-century Democrats were telling their castigators, in effect—to return to the hate speech point—was "at least we have good intentions (and if you have the outrageous gall not to believe that, you must be a worthless, ridiculous, laughable excuse of a human being with no values of empathy who ought to be shut up)".

Second difference, the goal of the statists seems to be to create a playground, one in which they tell the citizenry: "Don't worry, we support you, society supports you, just use your earnings (what's left after taxes) to make your life pleasant and comfortable, and we'll take care of the rest—your protection, your safety, your health care, your lot in life, everything." What the Southern plantation owners demanded, of course, was that their slaves work, work hard, and indeed engage in back-breaking, exhausting work. Question: are today's leftists more concerned with the freedom of the citizen or with the fact that his overlords do not provide him with a playground but ask him to work (admittedly, back-breaking work)?

Ben Carson is attacked for saying Obamacare is akin to slavery.

During the Obama years, I kept getting emails from Barack Obama in which he tells me he wants to continue fighting for the American people.

In that sense, he truly succeeded in "fundamentally transforming the United States".

For wasn't the American Dream the dream to get money, and thereby to get riches, and thereby to get power, and thereby to get independence?

Wasn't the American Dream the freedom from having to look and to appeal (just like in Europe) to our betters, to our leaders, to our smiley-face bureaucrats, to our "I'm from the government and I'm here to help you" politicians, to intervene in our lives (with the bestest of intentions, natch)?


5) Republicans in the 19th Century Were As Castigated, As Ridiculed, and As Demonized As Today's GOP Members Are—If Not More

You can hardly find a description of the Garland's Jihad Watch Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest, pro or con, without the writer (again, pro or con) feeling the necessity to have no choice but vilify Pamela Geller in the harshest of terms, as a human being of the most horrid of sorts (from shrill and obnoxious to possibly outright racist).

Guess what, Democrats! That is exactly (as we have seen) how your party treated abolitionists in the 19th century. As the lowest, and as the vilest, of human beings.

It is often said that Abraham Lincoln was a racist (the—few—times he used the N word, he actually appears to have been quoting Stephen Douglas's words back to him) — or that he had no choice, willingly or otherwise, but to appeal to the common racism of the American people. (Thus the modern-day leftist has history conveniently written down, once again, in a way in which America's forefathers are all demonized, as bigots, while modern leftists like he or she appear wise and humanistic.)

As John Nolte writes,
When you are dealing with the mainstream media, it is always difficult to tell if you are dealing with willful ignorance or just plain old ignorance-ignorance. There are plenty of moronic savants in the national media who have cracked the “hot take” code to please their left-wing masters but have no fundamental grasp of history, or much of anything much of else.
Leftists have again twisted history, as Jonah Goldberg notes in Liberal Fascism, to condemn Americans en masse while leaving the Democratic party unscathed.
…In the liberal telling of America's story, there are only two perpetrators of official misdeeds: conservatives and "America" writ large. Progressives, or modern liberals, are never bigots or tyrants, but conservatives often are. For example, one will virtually never hear that the Palmer Raids, Prohibition, or American eugenics were thoroughly progressive phenomena. These are sins America itself must atone for. Meanwhile, real or alleged "conservative" misdeeds — say, McCarthyism — are always the exclusive fault of conservatives and a sign of the policies they would repeat if given power.
What Lincoln had to do, rather, was less "appeal to the common racism" per se of the average American per se than to distance himself from those demonized abolitionists.

In the very same manner that Republicans, today, are constantly being asked, requested, to differentiate themselves from "far-right" "extremists" of such groups as the Tea Party.

That's right: the abolitionists of the 19th century were as demonized and ridiculed (today's castigators of slavery will be happy to know) as the members of the Tea Party are today.

And how about members of the nascent Republican Party? How were they treated in the 1850s? Can you imagine?

Well, less than 10 years ago, James Carville referred to (modern-day) Republicans as "reptiles".

And 150 years ago, when an Illinois Republican felt the necessity to address himself to Southerners and Democrats (during his Cooper Union speech in 1860), guess which term Abe Lincoln reached for:
…when you speak of us Republicans, you do so only to denounce us as reptiles [!], or, at the best, as no better than outlaws. You will grant a hearing to pirates or murderers, but nothing like it to [Republicans]. In all your contentions with one another, each of you deems an unconditional condemnation of [Republicanism] as the first thing to be attended to. Indeed, such condemnation of us seems to be an indispensable prerequisite — license, so to speak — among you to be admitted or permitted to speak at all. Now, can you, or not, be prevailed upon to pause and to consider whether this is quite just to us, or even to yourselves? Bring forward your charges and specifications, and then be patient long enough to hear us deny or justify.
"Reptiles, outlaws, pirates, murderers"… How often have Republicans been called terrorists in the past decade?  (And in the years, in the decades, before that?)

So maybe we should take with a pinch of salt all the alleged decrees that the Democratic and Republican parties have switched positions between them and how, today, Lincoln would "obviously" be a Democrat.

You might be tempted to dismiss such (self-serving) musings — along with comparisons of the likes of Barack Obama to such illustrious predecessors as Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan — as not the fruit of intellectual investigation, analysis, and arguments but—again—as part of its incessant litany of self-congratulation.

(Is it any wonder that I assert that The Leftist Worldview in a Nutshell can be summarized as A World of Deserving Dreamers Vs. Despicable Deplorables ?)

Indeed, debate over the causes of the Civil War veer between the South's defense of slavery and the South's (alleged) fight for state rights.

How about a much simpler solution?

Isn't the truth looking at us from the center of the room?

Isn't the main reason that, then as now, Democrats (ever "fighting for the American people") did not want to be ruled by such low-life scum (reptiles, outlaws, pirates, murderers, terrorists, haters, etc) as Republicans, as abolitionists, as Tea Partiers?

Wasn't Abraham Lincoln as reviled as Donald Trump, George W Bush, and Ronald Reagan?

Saturday, August 17, 2019

Does Boris Johnson Belong with the Churchills and the Disraelis?

From London, R.L.F. Calder writes to The Economist in order to

Monday, August 12, 2019

In Germany, free education leads to irrelevant courses, hopelessly overcrowded public universities, and a drop-out rate of about 30%

From Wentorf, Roger Graves, a lecturer with 20 years of experience in Germany, testifies about an Economist article on Under-qualified Germans:
(Danke Schön fûr Instapundit)

Friday, August 02, 2019

Countering China (and Russia) in the North Atlantic: Trump to Visit Denmark to Prevent Beijing's Africa-Like Takeover of Greenland


Talk about perfect timing for the magazine Geo. Just as Donald Trump announces he will make a state visit to Copenhagen — mainly for an opportunity to discuss the future of Greenland's strategic location — the monthly travel magazine publishes a special issue on the island, a vast landmass in North America which belongs to Denmark.

Following a visit to Warsaw on September 1 to commemorate the German invasion of Poland from the West in 1939 that started World War II (followed two weeks later by an invasion from the East by the Nazis' Soviet allies), President Trump will head to Denmark for talks on September 2 and 3.

In the Danish capital, America's president is to meet with Queen Margrethe II as well as the leaders of Denmark, Greenland, and the Faroe islands. As Sandra Brovall and Perry MacLeod Jensen put it in Politiken, a Russian arms race and Chinese investments in Greenland are making Denmark interesting for the United States, while what Denmark seeks is to preserve the peace in the Arctic.
Russisk oprustning og kinesiske investeringer i Grønland gør Danmark interessant for USA. Danmark vil bevare arktisk fred.
In short,  Trump wants to counter a Chinese takeover of Greenland, or even an expansion of Beijing's influence there, as Beijing has been trying to do, with varying degrees of success, around the globe for the past decade or two, from Sri Lanka to the African continent.

Meanwhile, Greenland's politicians are telling Copenhagen that if Washington is to upgrade the island's Thule Air Base, they are hoping that Greenland proper (aka Kalaallit Nunaat), and not just the mother country, gets something out of the deal. Some Danes fear that the Greenlanders will use the money to fuel demands and momentum for independence.

After Denmark was occupied by the Germans in 1940, a number of diplomats abroad refused to obey the directives of the occupied government, on the basis that the decrees could only be made to be under duress. Not wanting the Nazis to establish a base on Greenland, the Danish ambassador in Washington, Henrik Kauffmann, offered the United States an invitation to occupy the island (just as the British occupied the Faroe Islands), where they would soon start building a base at Thule. As Uncle Sam's warships and troops sailed into the bay of Godthaab (Nuuk), they were welcomed by the governor of Greenland who came down to the pier, a fellow by the name of Aksel Svane — the cousin of my grandfather. (There is a full-page photo of Svane walking onto the pier in a National Geographic of 1941, if any reader happens to have that issue…)

While we are on the subject, incidentally, it seems that the story of Erik the Red (Erik the Green?!) and Leif Ericsson deliberately — and deceitfully — calling an ice-covered island "Greenland" in order to lure immigrants across the Atlantic is nothing but a myth, in that the temperatures there used to be much warmer 1000 years ago than they are today — which ought to be an inconvenient truth for today's climate fanatics.

Having said that, it is true that, in the 21st century, at least, truth would be better served if the names of the islands of Greenland and Iceland were inverted.

From Oslo, ODD GUNNAR SKAGESTAD writes in The Economist that
Your assertion that Greenland’s misleading name is the result of a marketing campaign by Erik the Red reflects a rather widespread myth (“Greenland is melting”, June 22nd). Erik’s success in attracting settlers was first and foremost due to the quality of his merchandise. Furthermore, when you claim that “Greenland may not be green yet, but it is far less icy than in Erik’s time”, you are simply wrong.

In fact, Greenland in the tenth century had a far warmer climate than today, which made it possible to sustain thriving and viable agrarian communities for centuries. That came to an end with the onset of the Little Ice Age between 1300 and 1870 which eventually led to the Norse communities in Greenland gradually becoming extinct.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Calling America's "Ungovernable" and "Terrifying" Car Culture a "Terrible Mistake" with "Disastrous Drivers" Leading to "Chaos", Liberal Writer Wants "Smart" Solutions to Bring It to an End


Not only do leftists feel "a tight spasm of panic in [their] chest" when handling guns, they (or some of them, at least) feel "a tight spasm of panic in [their] chest" on the subject of cars (!) as well. To such a degree, in fact, that some not only want to bring the automotive era to an end, they go as far as calling the past century of car-driving one massive, terrible mistake.
Cars had been my first passion
admits Nathan Heller in The New Yorker.
I no longer remember what, as a small child, I envisaged for my future, but I know that it involved moving at speed behind the wheel.
That is, until he turned 18 and had his very first — and his very last — driving lesson.
 … Until then, despite having been in cars all my life, I’d failed to recognize the ease with which an errant movement, the equivalent of knocking into someone on a crowded bus, could bring about an injury or a death. As I jolted around the lot, I imagined myself on the road, in traffic, and felt a tight spasm of panic in my chest. I was eighteen. It had been all I could manage to remain on top of my un-botchable after-school job watering the neighbors’ bonsai trees. By the end of day, the idea of not driving—of not entering a future in which, day to day, I’d risk becoming an accidental killer of children—seemed freeing and bright. I never had a second [driving] lesson.
In Was the Automative Era a Terrible Mistake?, get ready for melodramatics when describes the subject of his article nonchalantly as "our century-long adventure in owning and crashing gasoline cars", a "terrifying" adventure in which every day we "risk becoming … accidental killer[s] of children" (never mind the number of sick or wounded people, not excluding children, saved by ambulances or simply by the four-wheeled vehicle of your average neighbor).
Related: The Allyagottado Folks and the Sleep-Inducing Speed Limits
Also get ready for a crash course on how and why sexism, (systemic) racism, and lazy rurals from the American hinterlands have contributed to the nightmare country that Americans live in. (Welcome, Instapundit readers!)

The man who admits to "never spending time behind the wheel" (he never did try to get his license) goes on to press into service the drama queen's liberal use of apocalyptic jargon, complaining of "disastrous drivers" and "a terrifying free-for-all across the urban road" creating a "chaos" that has made America, or its road structure (wait for the word), "ungovernable". Ungovernable. One of the favorite expressions of the leftist élite.

Guess what? It's a crisis! To no one's surprise, the Slate and Vogue contributor, and at least one of the book authors he quotes liberally, come out against private ownership — "we must move away from the idea of owning cars and see them as a shared resource, like taxis."

Indeed, from the apocalyptic lingo, it was but a short distance to another liberal concept: the élites' "clever" solution(s) — inevitably involving some form of central planning. One of the concluding sentences is: "A smarter futurism would focus less on pushing through advances and more on being sure we will use them wisely when they come."

Excerpts from the article follow in the blockquotes below, although if you are pressed for time, you might want to skip them for I have provided, or tried to provide, a faithful summary here. (However, head to the final couple of paragraphs below to check out what words Nathan Heller uses to describe "that identification-card look" we see on most IDs — it's worth it.)

Most thought-provoking in the excerpts below is a rather in-depth (and not too left-leaning) view of the fourth amendment that you might want to check out (in the first half of the 20th century, a new style of policing was required — “How could the laws be fashioned to allow the investigation of potential criminal suspects without harassing law-abiding citizens when everybody drove?”).

In that perspective, another day and another post ought to be devoted to taking a closer look at the "remarkable new book" by a law professor at the University of Iowa. Amazon's description of Policing the Open Road (How Cars Transformed American Freedom): Sarah A. Seo "shows that the rise of the car, the symbol of American personal freedom, led to ever more intrusive policing, with devastating consequences for racial equality in our criminal justice system. Criminal procedures designed to safeguard us on the road undermined the nation’s commitment to equal protection before the law."

But for now, here are excerpts from Was the Automative Era a Terrible Mistake? (For a century, we’ve loved our cars. They haven’t loved us back.):
 … In America today, there are more cars than drivers. Yet our investment in these vehicles has yielded dubious returns. Since 1899, more than 3.6 million people have died in traffic accidents in the United States, and more than eighty million have been injured; pedestrian fatalities have risen in the past few years. The road has emerged as the setting for our most violent illustrations of systemic racism, combustion engines have helped create a climate crisis, and the quest for oil has led our soldiers into war.

Every technology has costs, but lately we’ve had reason to question even cars’ putative benefits. Free men and women on the open road have turned out to be such disastrous drivers that carmakers are developing computers to replace them. When the people of the future look back at our century of auto life, will they regard it as a useful stage of forward motion or as a wrong turn? Is it possible that, a hundred years from now, the age of gassing up and driving will be seen as just a cul-de-sac in transportation history, a trip we never should have taken?
Among the captivating books to land on my desk recently was Dan Albert’s “Are We There Yet?: The American Automobile Past, Present, and Driverless,” which notes that, in the late nineteenth century, electric cars and gasoline cars developed side by side. One assumes that electrics were only notionally in the running at this stage. Surprisingly, Albert reports, gas cars were the B-fleet for years.

Turn-of-the-century electric cars were more maneuverable than their gasoline-powered counterparts. They had faster acceleration, better braking, and powerful torque, which compensated for the heft of their batteries. They set land-speed records—in 1902, an electric car briefly attained an astonishing hundred and two miles per hour—and, unlike internal-combustion vehicles, didn’t sputter out in traffic and need to be cranked up in the middle of the road. True, they had to be recharged every forty miles or so, about the distance from Mount Vernon to Grand Central Terminal and back, but few early motorists were travelling much farther. Electrical power was the moon shot of its age, quiet, futuristic, and the vanguard of human accomplishment. When Albert A. Pope, the head of the Columbia bicycle company, entered the car business, in 1896, he invested in electrics. “You can’t get people to sit over an explosion,” he explained.

Pope declared bankruptcy in 1907. Why did finicky, explosive gas cars win the field? Albert is a car guy by passion and vocation, a former curator of vehicle collections at the Science Museum in London. … The adventure part, he thinks, explains why electrics ultimately fell away.
 … It helped that, by then, electric vehicles were struggling culturally, for reasons we would now call gendered. “The internal-combustion car that had to be coaxed and muscled to life, with its lubes and explosions and thrusting pistons, that would be the car for men,” Albert writes. Electrics—quiet, practical, and, in one engineer’s estimation, “tame”—took on female associations. Not for the last time, the makers of gas cars didn’t so much win the market as create a market they could win. The triumph of gas engines entailed a shift in the whole transportation model—from shared cars to privately owned cars, from an extension of the metropolitan network to a vehicle that required infrastructure of its own. “Had this period of random technological mutation selected for the electric, the social history of America would be unrecognizable,” Albert notes.
In 1909, there were two million horse-drawn carriages manufactured in the United States and eighty thousand automobiles. By 1923, there were ten thousand carriages manufactured and four million cars; by 1930, more than half the families in the United States were car owners, and the horses went to pasture. A key factor in the explosion of the market was the release of the Model T, created by Henry Ford, in 1908. Ford was an unmannered, intellectually narrow efficiency nut of the sort that we might now associate with Silicon Valley

 … The Model T, though, marked an alignment of Ford’s abstemious style with demand. The car, of which more than fifteen million were produced, was cheap, light, reliable enough, and so stripped-down that it sustained an industry of third-party add-ons. (Albert calls it “an open-source car”; the standard model lacked a speedometer, a mirror, or a gas gauge.) In those days, cars were seen as environmentally friendly: unlike horses, they didn’t befoul the streets, and they carried passengers closer to the remote natural world than any other transportation did. In Albert’s telling, the versatile Model T further de-urbanized the automobile, turning it private, populist, and rural. At a moment when cities were building out their transit systems, the places between places in America filled up with middle-class cars.

“The Model T’s spiritual descendants are the Ford F-Series pickups,” Albert writes. “These body-on-frame vehicles defy change and modernization. Let the Europhiles in Boston drive their Swedish Volvos and the Los Angeles elites have their holier-than-thou Teslas; let New Yorkers rely on ride hailing and Mobility-as-a-Service. We F150 drivers will stick to a rugged American vehicle at home in the heartland.” Appearing quickly, pervasively, and years ahead of exurban infrastructure, the Model T helped to define the differently navigable regions of identity now known as red and blue America.

A famous film reel, shot on Market Street, in San Francisco, in 1906, shows carriages, early cars, streetcars, cable cars, and pedestrians swerving around one another, in both directions, in a terrifying free-for-all across the urban road. By the interwar years, the turf of privately owned cars alone was so ungovernable that its chaos became a metaphor. “The Great Gatsby” reaches its climax in a car crash, and many real-world stories ended that way, too. (Fitzgerald died the same weekend that Nathanael West, his comrade in Southern California dissipation, plowed a Ford through a boulevard stop and into a two-door sedan, killing himself and his wife—a coincidence that is either rich in literary irony or just proof of how bad the odds on the roads were.) When Jordan Baker, in Fitzgerald’s novel, observed, “It takes two to make an accident,” she wasn’t talking only about men and women.

Sane, upstanding pedestrians didn’t murder one another as they ran errands around town. Sane, upstanding drivers did, or might at any moment, and thus required a new style of policing. “How could a democratic society founded on self-governance depend on police governance and still be free?” Sarah A. Seo , a law professor at the University of Iowa, writes in her remarkable new book, “Policing the Open Road: How Cars Transformed American Freedom.” “How could the laws be fashioned to allow the investigation of potential criminal suspects without harassing law-abiding citizens when everybody drove?”

Seo’s idea is that the problem of policing cars, far from being a remote corner of the law, is central to how the jurisprudence of the Fourth Amendment (searches and seizures) took shape during the past hundred years. Automobiles, after the Model T’s expansion of personal ownership, confounded the parameters of the amendment: a car would seem to be private property, but roads were public, and the conduct of cars—traffic, transport—was a matter of public concern. The issue became pressing, legally, during Prohibition, when smugglers began using privately owned cars to traffic hooch.

A turning point arrived in the bootlegging case Carroll v. United States, decided in 1925. The Supreme Court Chief Justice William Howard Taft wrote, “The seizing officer shall have reasonable or probable cause for believing that the automobile which he stops and seizes has contraband liquor therein.” In Seo’s view, Taft’s opinion “shifted Fourth Amendment jurisprudence from a categorical analysis—is the automobile, as a category, public or private?—to an individualized determination of reasonableness—was this particular search reasonable?—to determine the warrant question.” The person who did the determining, under this new standard, was an officer of the law.

This kernel of police empowerment grew to fit the contours and the concerns of each age that followed. “At midcentury, the problem was the potential for police action without basis in law,” Seo tells us. “At century’s end, the problem had become police action that did have a basis in law but that departed from normal practice”—specifically, the ways police approached drivers of color. A version of the matter came before the high court in 1996, in Whren v. United States, a case about a traffic stop—for turning too fast and without signalling—that ended in drug convictions. The petitioner’s claim was that the motorist was really stopped because of racial profiling, and that the traffic infraction was a pretext. Maybe so, the Court unanimously held, but such stops were fine so long as there was an objective basis for them, “whatever the subjective intent.” Decisions like these can inform the thinking about search-and-seizure norms far more broadly, potentially affecting everything from exploratory K-9 searches to the use of data gathered from smartphones.
There are two strong claims in favor of the idea that our century-long adventure in owning and crashing gasoline cars was, although not perfect, a step forward. The first is infrastructural: cars let Americans cross cities, states, woods, mountains, deserts, and, ultimately, the nation in reasonable time. Cities and towns thrived with the flow. The second is cultural: the idea that car travel conjugates American life in its healthiest and most distinctive forms. Both arguments took root in the two-decade period after the Second World War.

Albert holds that the war brought down the curtain on the sinister, crashy, Gatsbyesque idea of the road. American car travel almost halved between 1941 and 1943, largely owing to wartime rubber shortages and gas rations. Companies stopped making cars, and instead manufactured planes, guns, and battlefield transportation—work that, Albert suggests, gave these companies a patriotic glow when production resumed after the war. By then, the West was settling into conflict with the East, and a new project was under way. The world had to be persuaded of the freedoms of American life. Cars could be of help. In 1956, President Eisenhower signed the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act, inaugurating the federal highways as the largest public-works project in U.S. history. (Albert is at pains to claim the system for the F.D.R. Administration, which first sketched it out.) The interstates were strategically versatile: they could carry commuters and goods in peacetime and soldiers and evacuees in an emergency. They were also smoother, safer, and more capacious than previous highways, boosting the allure of the open road.

The largest highway budget went to California. … early TV ads for cars did favor images of Golden State life, and pop culture followed. In “This Is the Sound of Irony: Music, Politics and Popular Culture,” Katherine L. Turner notes that the Beach Boys buffed up songs with automotive techno-speak—much as, in another age, Tom Clancy embraced nuclear technobabble. (“She’s got a competition clutch with the four on the floor / And she purrs like a kitten till the lake pipes roar.”)

 … The so-called golden age of the road makes clear that cars didn’t construct American culture; American culture constructed cars. Auto manufacturers needed to re-stoke a market that had cooled during the Second World War.

It is odd, then, that we still look to the mid-century for evidence that cars proved their necessity and worth. Tell someone that you cannot drive, and they respond as if you had confessed an intimate eccentricity, like needing to be walked on with high heels before bed. “Re-e-eally! ” the reply goes. “How do you . . . ?” The answer is planes, trains, buses, ferries, cabs, bikes, feet, and the occasional shared ride: almost anywhere in the world can be reached this way for less than the amortized cost of a car and its expenses.

 … During the late sixties and the seventies, loss had hit the road again, partly as a result of a collapsing industrial sphere; partly following countercultural distrust of corporate motives; partly owing to Ralph Nader’s book “Unsafe at Any Speed” (1965), which suggested that your beautiful American car was trying to kill you; and partly owing to an influx of smaller, cheaper vehicles from abroad, which grew popular as gas prices increased.

Albert’s narrative, like a lot of nostalgic car passion, loses traction on this downslope. His politics hew closely to a baby-boomer outline, which is to say that they are deeply felt, heraldically blue, and largely incoherent just beneath the surface. He thinks that Jimmy Carter had good vibes at first but turned into an uncool, “church pew” square when geopolitics compelled him to push for energy independence.

 … Albert’s determination to judge these turns with sensibility more than with sense can muddle his analysis. He cheers on the Aquarians for rising against the establishment. He is circumspect about the truckers who, in 1973, fought gas taxes and a lowered speed limit by, well, rising against the establishment. The crucial difference, in his mind, is that the Aquarians are blue, and the truckers are in large part red. Isn’t the more revealing point that, by the seventies, anti-establishment sentiment had become such a general reflex that everybody, from all parts of the ideological spectrum, was on the march?

Albert has decided that he dislikes autonomous cars for similarly red-coded reasons, never mind that the technology has steadier support from Team Blue. He dismisses self-driving vehicles as “Randian” (though nothing seems less Randian than giving agency to a vehicle that uses situational awareness to join a traffic flow). Later, he calls them “Benthamite Buicks” (for the utilitarian coding that tells an autonomous car how to swerve if physics make a crash inevitable). “Such serious-minded discussions support a self-aggrandizing vision of the totalizing power of the algorithm,” he writes. But are which-way-to-swerve issues better adjudicated by a surprised human sipping a Big Gulp? Albert seems to prefer his cars Kantian; he supports vehicle-to-vehicle anti-collision technology and a popular program, Vision Zero, that seeks to eliminate traffic deaths categorically by reëngineering streets and reducing speed limits—Albert suggests twelve miles an hour. How this careful proposal squares with the joys of freedom and speed that he cherishes elsewhere gets little ink.
A clearer way to think about the future can be found in Samuel I. Schwartz’s “No One at the Wheel: Driverless Cars and the Road of the Future,” written with Karen Kelly. Schwartz is known to New Yorkers of a certain age as Gridlock Sam, owing to his role, in the nineteen-eighties, as New York City’s traffic commissioner and, later, as the Department of Transportation’s chief engineer. It was he who took credit for turning the West Side Highway from a groaning overpass to a riverside boulevard. He also implemented early bike lanes and, in 1971, designed the failed “red zone,” which would have banned cars in midtown from late morning to midafternoon. Schwartz approaches the future much as he approaches traffic—as a complex, dynamic system—and his book emerges as a clearheaded bible for the twenty-first-century road. Historically, he argues, planning favored car interests over “actual traffic habits.” With driverless cars zooming into view, he sees a chance to do the planning properly for the first time.

Many drivers regard autonomous cars as a pervert technology, like sex robots or Nespresso machines, and plan to reject the things as soon as they show up. In reality, self-driving cars are likely to overtake the market through a gradual shift in norms and features, a process that, Albert and Schwartz agree, has already begun. Many drivers today cede way-finding to apps like Waze, which draws on the hive-mind intelligence of other vehicles to ease bottlenecks and dodge perils. Some cars now brake to avoid collision if the driver fails to, and many ping at you, like a better driver in the back seat, if you drift too close to danger.

This human-proofing, far from throwing off the rhythms of the road, has increased safety, by most evidence, which is no surprise. Commercial airplanes are what we’d call self-driving except at takeoff and landing, and the result is that it’s now nearly impossible for a cruising jet to fall out of the sky without malice or a series of compounding errors by the pilots … People get the willies at the idea of putting their lives in the hands of computers, but there’s every reason to think that, as far as transportation goes, we’re safer in their care.

A saner worry is about the environment, which new toys habitually defile. On paper, autonomous vehicles promise fuel efficiencies, and Schwartz notes that they also have the potential to prune back infrastructure excess. … Motorcycling is already on the wane. Trucking, notoriously a battle between schedule and sleep, is more safely and efficiently done by robot.

Schwartz is not sanguine about job loss in the age of autonomous cars—a topic so urgent that it cropped up in the first Democratic debates. But he suggests that the displacement won’t be absolute. The E-ZPass eliminated toll-collecting jobs, he points out, but the process was slow enough that people had the chance to clock out at retirement or find new work. A century ago, cars themselves smothered everything to do with stables and coach-making but created jobs for drivers and mechanics. Autonomous cars will not obliterate blue-collar jobs—the vehicles will still break down—but they may not offer so tidy a substitution. Historically, the big problem with the tech sector has been that it replaces jobs with fewer jobs, farther up the credential ladder: Silicon Valley always needs great software engineers, but it doesn’t know what to do with a talented manual worker. Powerful techie minds have also been stunningly dumb when it comes to thinking through the second- and third-order effects of their doings, so the idea of putting them in charge of policy is alarming.

Schwartz is emphatic that the industry not be allowed to “call the shots on regulation, the market, and community planning”; public matters should be kept public. We must “prioritize people over vehicles—not the very opposite, as we did last century with the advent of cars,” he writes. In this sense, his premise is aligned with Albert’s observation that the original sin of cars, the problem from which other problems emerged, was commercial pressure for private ownership—for the car to be a personal vehicle in your garage rather than a shared technology woven into the transportation network, as early electric cars would have been. The costs of this decision can be seen on every curb: the typical American vehicle spends ninety-five per cent of its life parked.

In theory, private driverless cars can reduce that waste. Instead of owning two cars, you can have a single car that drives Mom to work, drives itself back home, ferries Dad and the kids around, and zooms back to the office to pick up Mom. Yet the new gridlock-producing waste of this arrangement—“zombie car” trips, by empty vehicles—leads Schwartz to argue that we must move away from the idea of owning cars and see them as a shared resource, like taxis. He favors “a pricing strategy that discourages private ownership in urban areas, recognizing that, for people who live in rural areas and remote locations, personal vehicles are a necessity.”

Cities can help, he thinks, by making parking spaces scarce and expensive as the driverless age approaches. He’s a fan of autonomous buses, too. He advocates, as he has for decades, congestion pricing—if space on the road is valuable, let drivers pay for it—and his advocacy has received surprising support from Uber. (Ride-share cars earn relatively little in gridlock, so the move makes economic sense.)
… I walked back to the San Francisco D.M.V. not long ago to get an I.D.—the sort of thing one does as a non-driver. … my face had that identification-card look, the look that follows one’s stall door in a public rest room suddenly flying open.

 … It is natural to think of innovation as a march of technical advances, each one finally paying the balance on a dream sold long before: the wheel, the cart, the carriage, the car. But the truth is that our technical capacities arrive too soon; from the imperial galleon to the atom bomb, it is hard to argue that the tools have struggled to keep up with us. A smarter futurism would focus less on pushing through advances and more on being sure we will use them wisely when they come. The coming age of robot vehicles should find us dreaming not of their role in this world but of their risk and potential in a future not yet made. …