American Conservatism, 1945–2017

What it’s like to teach the intellectual history of the movement to students who aren’t old enough to remember Ronald Reagan’s time in the spotlight.

I’ve spent the last two weeks teaching a course on the history of the conservative intellectual movement for the Hertog political studies program. This is the second year Hertog has offered the course, and the first time under President Trump. I like to joke that I offered the students, all of whom were intelligent, well spoken, and impressive, a complete story. There was a beginning, middle, and end. If, as Alfred North Whitehead said, the history of philosophy is a series of footnotes to Plato, then the history of intellectual conservatism in America is a series of influences on the mind of William F. Buckley Jr. We spent the first week reading the thinkers behind National Review: classical liberals such as F.A. Hayek and Milton Friedman, traditionalists such as Richard Weaver and Russell Kirk, the majoritarian constitutionalist Willmoore Kendall, and anti-Communists Whittaker Chambers and, perhaps most important of all, James Burnham. All of these strains of thought are visible in Buckley’s statement of principles in the first National Review, published in the autumn of 1955.

The second week of the course surveyed the years since that debut. The conservatism of National Review found allies in Irving Kristol, Norman Podhoretz, and other neoconservative intellectuals who contributed to The Public Interest and Commentary. Conservatism unearthed a mass base of support among the middle-American radicals who opposed the Great Society and counterculture of the late 1960s and the social liberalism of the 1970s. Religious conservatism developed as liberal theologians Richard John Neuhaus and Michael Novak transitioned to the right. Conservative thought gave way to conservative politics beginning with Barry Goldwater’s nomination for president in 1964, continuing with Nixon’s Southern Strategy in 1968 and Ronald Reagan’s primary against Gerald Ford in 1976, and culminating in Reagan’s victory in 1980. We ended our time together by discussing current splits in the right. The differences between foreign-policy neoconservatives and paleoconservatives became acute after victory in the Cold War. In 2017 the spectrum of conservative thought in America runs from libertarians to neos to paleos to traditionalists to nation-state populists all the way to the alt-right fringe. You have Senator Jeff Flake and his Conscience of a Conservative on one hand, and Steve Bannon and on the other. The various claimants to the conservative throne each have problems.

Post-World War II American conservatism began as an elite intellectual movement with no mass presence. It ends in the post-post-Cold War era as a mass political movement with no elite support. A visitor to my class remarked that the fusion of intellectuals, activists, and elected officials during the Reagan presidency may have been something that occurs only once in a lifetime. It was hard to argue with him.

My students quickly grasped the importance of anti-Communism to the conservative intellectual movement. We read a passage from James Burnham’s Struggle for the World (1947) in which he said that there always is a “key to the situation” in political life. For Burnham, and for conservatives in general between the publication of Hayek’s Road to Serfdom in 1944 and Francis Fukuyama’s End of History and the Last Man in 1992, the key to the situation was the menace of the Soviet Union. All of the factions opposed Soviet tyranny and the forms of collectivism and statist economics associated with it. When the Soviet Union disappeared, so too did conservative unity.

Many conservatives, and I am one of them, see radical Islam as another militant ideology dangerous to American national security and to the principles of a free society. But it also seems to me that attempts to build a conservative coalition around opposition to radical Islam have failed. There are too many intellectual critics of this view. Nor does radical Islam enjoy the support of secular intellectuals as Communism did. The key to the situation today may be that there is no key. The United States faces multiple internal and external threats. The effort to formulate a theory that includes them all is bound to fail.

Another takeaway was just how badly damaged the conservative cause was by its opposition to the civil-rights movement and federal desegregation of schools. The defenses of the South that Buckley wrote throughout the late ’50s and early ’60s persuaded neither the public at large nor some of the editors of his own magazine. For students today, this history is a barrier to adopting or even wanting to understand the other arguments of conservative intellectuals. One day we watched a lecture Russell Kirk delivered at the University Club in 1980. The students were struck by how white and male the crowd was. For them, Kirk’s monochromatic audience obscured his message.

Still, they were enraptured when Ronald Reagan took the stage in his 1978 Firing Line debate with William F. Buckley Jr. over the Panama Canal Treaties. It was not only Reagan’s commanding presence and voice that got their attention, but also his mastery of detail, his simple language, and his wry jokes. I found it both heartening and depressing that Reagan was as alive to them as he was to that audience 40 years ago. Heartening, because there is still an audience for champions of freedom. Depressing, because Reagan left office more than half a decade before these students were born.

I was happy to dispel some myths about conservatives. During an afternoon session on theocons, we watched an interview with Robert George. A few of the students were surprised. When they heard the phrase “religious conservative,” they thought of Sarah Palin. But here they were watching a soft spoken, earnest, civil Princeton professor quoting moral philosophers and name-checking Cornel West while arguing forcefully against abortion and same-sex marriage. The other day I asked the class if they’d had any idea that so many disputatious conservative intellectual journals are published on a regular basis. The students said no.

What’s the future of conservatism? I abjure speculation. But it is important to remember that American conservatism has gone through several cycles of diffusion and consolidation. In the beginning when Buckley founded National Review, the conservative world was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep. After the landslide defeat of Goldwater, and then Nixon’s resignation, conservatism and the Republican party were both thought to be finished. But then came 1980. Later, after Reagan, figures as different as R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. and John B. Judis heralded the arrival of the “conservative crackup.” A few years later, Newt Gingrich rallied the movement to win Congress. The obituaries of conservatism were written once more after Barack Obama’s victory in 2008. They were followed by the Tea Party.

Social conditions and individual personalities seem to matter just as much, if not more than, the ideas of intellectuals. Infighting, dogmatism, cliché, conspiracy theories, animosity, confusion, and the absence of authority may characterize the present moment, but one of the lessons of studying conservatism is that the present moment will change. This change will arrive suddenly. Rapidly. And from a direction no one expects.

From National Review: American Conservatism


50 Very Simple Ways to be Romantic

@kevonr_photography 88

Ok, so maybe Valentine’s Day isn’t for another month, but that doesn’t mean you can’t show your partner some special attention now. In fact, I invite you to join me in this experiment. The plan is to show your love for your partner in a small and different way each day for a whole month and see what magic happens.Here are a list of 50 things you can do to express your love. If things aren’t good between you and your partner right now, this might be just the thing to slowly melt the ice between you both. If things are already good, this will strengthen your relationship further. By the way, there is nothing expensive on this list so there is no excuse not to give this a shot.

  • Write “I love you” in the steam on the bathroom mirror after he takes a shower.
  • Offer a back massage with some good smelling lotion.
  • Write a poem. Then use Google Translator to translate a poem into either French or Italian. Then handwrite it out with the translation on the back side. Or better yet, greet your partner at night and read it to them with passion and then hand them the translation.
  • While in public, declare “I love you, Matilda!” (not Matilda, but your partner’s name.)
  • Make a CD with a few songs that are meaningful to your relationship.
  • Invite him to take a bath complete with bubbles, champagne, candles, and maybe a little Barry White. (the music, not actually Barry White in your tub.)
  • Surprise her at work and take her out to lunch, maybe take-out food in the park or maybe to a little diner, for a midday romantic interlude.
  • Put together a little gift on his pillow: chocolate and a note that says “Your love is like chocolate: sweet and delicious.”
  • If your partner has a work presentation at an off site location, have flowers and a note of support delivered there.
  • Dedicate a song to him on the radio and send him an email telling him when to listen.
  • Cook a special love meal of your partner’s favorite foods. Play his favorite music and turn the lights low for a romantic dinner.
  • Give your partner a pedicure and foot rub.
  • Send a text message or email that says “I love you!”
  • Mail a card and inside write down the top 10 things you love about your partner.
  • Give him a picture of you for his wallet that says “I love you.”
  • Leave a love note in her car telling her to have a great day.
  • Carve your initials in a tree.
  • When your partner least expects it, give him a great big kiss, even if it’s in public!
  • Go see a romantic movie, sit in the back row, hold hands, and cuddle.
  • King for a Day/ Queen for a Day. Declare that you will dedicate a particular day just to your partner to do whatever they want. Maybe start with breakfast in bed.
  • Buy a tree and invite your partner to plant it with you explaining that this tree represents the love between you both that will grow over the years.
  • In the midst of talking about how your days went, the chores that need to be done, etc. interrupt and say “I have something important to tell you. I love you and here’s why.” Then list 5 things (or more) that you really appreciate about your partner. Finish with a kiss and say, “Ok, so you were talking about the water heater.”
  • Write an old fashioned love letter and mail it. Be romantic and lavish. Have some fun with it.
  • Before going to a party together come up with some secret code words you can use during conversation. You can be telling each other “I can’t wait to get you alone tonight!” without anyone knowing!
  • Find a hotel that has a jacuzzi and book it for a one night getaway somewhere close but fun.

Don’t stop now because there are more tips for being romantic ahead.

  1. Place an ad in the classifieds declaring your love. Then take the newspaper, wrap it in a bow, and put a little note on it saying what page to look on.
  2. Blindfold surprise. Blindfold your partner and drive them to the place where you had your first date, and have that date all over again!
  3. Write a love poem for her.
  4. Make an early valentine. Cut out some paper in the shape of a heart. Write something sweet on it in red and put it in her purse or his briefcase.
  5. If your partner is going on a business trip secretly hide a love note inside their luggage.
  6. Offer to help them with some dreaded chore they must complete and make it into a fun time maybe with some music. (cleaning out the basement, raking the leaves, shoveling after a big snow storm, giving the dog a bath, washing the car, etc.)
  7. Do something romantic and spontaneous, like picking a flower and giving it to her right on the spot.
  8. Invent a meal and name it after him or her.
  9. Buy some body paint and write your love message on your body.
  10. Record yourself reading a romantic love poem for your honey. Then give your partner a CD and tell them to play it in the car on their way to work.
  11. Make a small postcard sized love collage. Then cover it with clear packing tape. Write a love message on the other side and mail it!
  12. Keep a box with mementos of fun things you’ve done together. Later when the box is filled, arrange them on a board and have it framed.
  13. Buy some underwear with special messages on it. Or buy your own and paint a special picture or message with fabric paints.
  14. Make a donation to charity in the name of your love for your partner. Give your sweetheart a card that tells how grateful you are to share your life with her.
  15. Keep a box with special cards, letters, photographs, and other mementos. On your anniversary or on Valentine’s day take a little time to share fond memories together as you review the contents.
  16. Create a mindmap of all the things you love about your partner and make it into a card.
  17. Take a walk on the beach together. Run up ahead and write a message in the sand, and then call your partner to see what you “found.”
  18. Say “I love you” often, slowly, and with feeling.
  19. Play hooky together. You work hard. Now today take a day to work easy at just sharing some fun time together. Call it an “I love you day.”
  20. Send an e-card to your sweetie to brighten his day. Here are free e-card resources: BlueMountainHallmark.
  21. Make little “I love you” posters with either crayons, markers, collage, paint, whatever. Post them in surprising places: the bathroom, the closet, the car, under her pillow, on her pillow.
  22. Create a small website or blog dedicated to your partner. Write a short love message each day for a month…or forever.
  23. Complete that chore or favor that your partner has wanted you to do for a long time.
  24. Be super kind for a whole day. Act like you would with a new love, a child, or a frail person. Show lots of kindness, generosity, and love no matter what for a whole day.
  25. Take an interest in your partner’s interests. For a woman it might be watching a football game with your guy. And for men it might be going to see a chick-flick. Do it with a spirit of enthusiasm and love. Have fun.

Print this out and do one each day. Make up your own. You don’t have to tell your partner that this is something you are doing. Just do it. Who knows, maybe you’ll establish a positive habit of expressing your love on a daily basis.

Original article: 50 Romantic Ideas

Working with a Professional Photographer

You may be lucky enough to work with a professional photographer – if so, here are some hints and tips to make sure the shoot goes smoothly and you get what you want from it.

Always follow the rules below when working with photographers:

  • Be punctual. Being on time is very important.
  • Take a friend or parents along with you or at the very least inform someone of your whereabouts.
  • Make sure you tell the photographer that someone knows where you are.
  • Make sure that you know exactly what you’re supposed to do during the shoot. Never feel pressured to do anything that you do not feel comfortable doing.
  • Whether it’s a professional studio or on location, ensure that there is a separate changing area.
  • Reputable photographers will NOT touch you. Make sure you remind them of this if they get within your safety zone.
  • Make sure you get a modeling agreement “release” signed before the shoot. You must be informed where and how your images are going to be displayed, and give your consent.
  • Read all paperwork closely before signing a contract at a photoshoot. Never sign a contract unless we tell you it’s okay. Sometimes, crooked photographers will try to get you to sign a contract at a shoot and then sell the photographs without your knowing. In this case if you signed a contract so there’s nothing you can do about it!
  • Beware of contracts that prohibit you from working with other photographers. The amateur model should not accept this kind of contract. When you are starting out, you need to make as much money as you can working for as many different photographers as possible.

However, don’t be paranoid – most professional photographers are more concerned about film, make-up, and the position of the sun. To most of them, ‘time is money’.

Types of photography agreements

Before you work with a professional photographer, it’s worth clarifying the nature of the arrangement – who’s paying, who gets copyright in the shots and how they can be used in the future.

Trade for print (TFP)

Most professionals are looking to add variety to their portfolios without the cost. Some might be willing to do a trade for print (TFP): you pose for them and in exchange they will shoot what you want. But this usually means you will have to pay for your prints, and this may be very expensive.

Also watch out for the photographer who says it’s free but goes on to use your images for profit – in this case you should get paid!

Photographer pays

This is the staple of the modelling community. The model (or the model’s agent) and the photographer negotiate a mutually satisfactory rate, which the photographer pays the model in compensation for his/her time and a release to use the images collected from the shoot.

When being paid to pose, remember that the person who pays for the shoot is the one entitled to decide the format and details of the shoot, the time and place, how many rolls of film will be shot and the number of outfit changes that will occur. You also have to be prepared to follow the directions given by that person to get the type of shot that the photographer or client wants. This will often be the kind of print or shot that you already have plenty of as that’s probably why you got hired for the job in the first place.

Additionally, on most professional, paid shoots you are not entitled to any of the prints that result from the assignment; the only way you can get hold of them is by getting shots after they are published (your “tear sheets”).

You pay

The model pays the photographer for his/her time and the images he/she takes, as well as the copyright to those images. This is ideal if you need the photographer to shoot a particular image and you want to receive ownership of that image. The photographer and the model must negotiate a mutually satisfactory rate for the photographer’s time but the model has complete control of the images thus acquired. Because this is typically a ‘no hassles’ deal it’s a great way to start off, creating a strong base that you can build upon.

Original article: Working with Professional Photographers


One of my favorite local professional photographers is Bryan Chatlien: Bryan Chatlien Photography

Neil deGrasse Tyson and America’s Nerd Problem

“My great fear,” Neil deGrasse Tyson told MSNBC’s Chris Hayes in early June, “is that we’ve in fact been visited by intelligent aliens but they chose not to make contact, on the conclusion that there’s no sign of intelligent life on Earth.” In response to this rather standard little saw, Hayes laughed as if he had been trying marijuana for the first time.

All told, one suspects that Tyson was not including either himself or a fellow traveler such as Hayes as inhabitants of Earth, but was instead referring to everybody who is not in their coterie. That, alas, is his way. An astrophysicist and evangelist for science, Tyson currently plays three roles in our society: He is the director of the Hayden Planetarium at the New York Science Museum; the presenter of the hip new show Cosmos; and, most important of all perhaps — albeit through no distinct fault of his own — he is the fetish and totem of the extraordinarily puffed-up “nerd” culture that has of late started to bloom across the United States.

One part insecure hipsterism, one part unwarranted condescension, the two defining characteristics of self-professed nerds are (a) the belief that one can discover all of the secrets of human experience through differential equations and (b) the unlovely tendency to presume themselves to be smarter than everybody else in the world. Prominent examples include MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry, Rachel Maddow, Steve Kornacki, and Chris Hayes; Vox’s Ezra Klein, Dylan Matthews, and Matt Yglesias; the sabermetrician Nate Silver; the economist Paul Krugman; the atheist Richard Dawkins; former vice president Al Gore; celebrity scientist Bill Nye; and, really, anybody who conforms to the Left’s social and moral precepts while wearing glasses and babbling about statistics.

The pose is, of course, little more than a ruse — our professional “nerds” being, like Mrs. Doubtfire, stereotypical facsimiles of the real thing. They have the patois but not the passion; the clothes but not the style; the posture but not the imprimatur. Theirs is the nerd-dom of Star Wars, not Star Trek; of Mario Kart and not World of Warcraft; of the latest X-Men movie rather than the comics themselves. A sketch from the TV show Portlandia, mocked up as a public-service announcement, makes this point brutally. After a gorgeous young woman explains at a bar that she doesn’t think her job as a model is “her thing” and instead identifies as “a nerd” who is “into video games and comic books and stuff,” a dorky-looking man gets up and confesses that he is, in fact, a “real” nerd — someone who wears glasses “to see,” who is “shy,” and who “isn’t wearing a nerd costume for Halloween” but is dressed how he lives. “I get sick with fear talking to people,” he says. “It sucks.”

A quick search of the Web reveals that Portlandia’s writers are not the only people to have noticed the trend. “Science and ‘geeky’ subjects,” the pop-culture writer Maddox observes, “are perceived as being hip, cool and intellectual.” And so people who are, or wish to be, hip, cool, and intellectual “glom onto these labels and call themselves ‘geeks’ or ‘nerds’ every chance they get.”

Which is to say that the nerds of MSNBC and beyond are not actually nerds — with scientific training and all that it entails — but the popular kids indulging in a fad. To a person, they are attractive, accomplished, well paid, and loved, listened to, and cited by a good portion of the general public. Most of them spend their time on television speaking fluently, debating with passion, and hanging out with celebrities. They attend dinner parties and glitzy social events, and are photographed and put into the glossy magazines. They are flown first class to university commencement speeches and late-night shows and book launches. There they pay lip service to the notion that they are not wildly privileged, and then go back to their hotels to drink $16 cocktails with Bill Maher.

In this manner has a word with a formerly useful meaning been turned into a transparent humblebrag: Look at me, I’m smart. Or, more important, perhaps, Look at me and let me tell you who I am not, which is southern, politically conservative, culturally traditional, religious in some sense, patriotic, driven by principle rather than the pivot tables of Microsoft Excel, and in any way attached to the past. “Nerd” has become a calling a card — a means of conveying membership of one group and denying affiliation with another. The movement’s king, Neil deGrasse Tyson, has formal scientific training, certainly, as do the handful of others who have become celebrated by the crowd. He is a smart man who has done some important work in popularizing science. But this is not why he is useful. Instead, he is useful because he can be deployed as a cudgel and an emblem in political argument — pointed to as the sort of person who wouldn’t vote for Ted Cruz.

“Ignorance,” a popular Tyson meme holds, “is a virus. Once it starts spreading, it can only be cured by reason. For the sake of humanity, we must be that cure.” This rather unspecific message is a call to arms, aimed at those who believe wholeheartedly they are included in the elect “we.” Thus do we see unexceptional liberal-arts students lecturing other people about things they don’t understand themselves and terming the dissenters “flat-earthers.” Thus do we see people who have never in their lives read a single academic paper clinging to the mantle of “science” as might Albert Einstein. Thus do we see residents of Brooklyn who are unable to tell you at what temperature water boils rolling their eyes at Bjørn Lomborg or Roger Pielke Jr. because he disagrees with Harry Reid on climate change. Really, the only thing in these people’s lives that is peer-reviewed are their opinions. Don’t have a Reddit account? Believe in God? Skeptical about the threat of overpopulation? Who are you, Sarah Palin?

First and foremost, then, “nerd” has become a political designation. It is no accident that the president has felt it necessary to inject himself into the game: That’s where the cool kids are. Answering a question about Obama’s cameo on Cosmos, Tyson was laconic. “That was their choice,” he told Grantland. “We didn’t ask them. We didn’t have anything to say about it. They asked us, ‘Do you mind if we intro your show?’ Can’t say no to the president. So he did.”

One wonders how easy it would have proved to say “No” to the president if he had been, say, Scott Walker. Either way, though, that Obama wished to associate himself with the project is instructive. He was launched into the limelight by precisely the sort of people who have DVR’d every episode of Cosmos and who, like the editors of Salon, see it primarily as a means by which they might tweak their ideological enemies; who, as apparently does Sean McElwee, see the world in terms of “Neil deGrasse Tyson vs. the Right (Cosmos, Christians, and the Battle for American Science)”; and who, like the folks at Vice, advise us all: “Don’t Get Neil deGrasse Tyson Started About the Un-Science-y Politicians Who Are Killing America’s Dreams.”

Obama knows this. Look back to his earlier backers and you will see a pattern. These are the people who insisted until they were blue in the face that George W. Bush was a “theocrat” eternally hostile toward “evidence,” and that, despite all information to the contrary, Attorney General Ashcroft had covered up the Spirit of Justice statue at the Department of Justice because he was a prude. These are the people who will explain to other human beings without any irony that they are part of the “reality-based community,” and who want you to know how aw-shucks excited they are to look through the new jobs numbers.

At no time is the juxtaposition between the claim and the reality more clear than during the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, which ritzy and opulent celebration of wealth, influence, and power the nation’s smarter progressive class has taken to labeling the “Nerd Prom.” It is clear why people who believe themselves to be providing a voice for the powerless and who routinely lecture the rest of us about the evils of income inequality would wish to reduce in stature a party that would have made Trimalchio blush: It is devastating to their image. Just as Hillary Clinton has noticed of late that her extraordinary wealth and ostentatious lifestyle conflict with her populist mien, the New Class recognizes the danger that its private behavior poses to its public credibility. There is, naturally, something a little off about selected members of the Fifth Estate yukking it up with those whom they have been charged with scrutinizing — all while rappers and movie stars enjoy castles of champagne and show off their million-dollar dresses. And so the optics must be addressed and the nomenclature of an uncelebrated group cynically appropriated. We’re not the ruling class, the message goes. We’re just geeks. We’re not the powerful; we’re the outcasts. This isn’t a big old shindig; it’s science. Look, Neil deGrasse Tyson is standing in the Roosevelt Room!

Ironically enough, what Tyson and his acolytes have ended up doing is blurring the lines between politics, scholarship, and culture — thereby damaging all three. Tyson himself has expressed bemusement that “entertainment reporters” have been so interested in him. “What does it mean,” he asked, “that Seth MacFarlane, who’s best known for his fart jokes — what does it mean that he’s executive producing” Cosmos? Well, what it means is that, professionally, Tyson has hit the jackpot. Actual science is slow, unsexy, and assiduously neutral — and it carries about it almost nothing that would interest either the hipsters of Ann Arbor or the Kardashian-soaked titillaters over at E!

Politics pretending to be science, on the other hand, is current, and it is chic.

It’s useful, too. For all of the hype, much of the fadlike fetishization of “Big Data” is merely the latest repackaging of old and tired progressive ideas about who in our society should enjoy the most political power. Outside of our laboratories, “it’s just science!” is typically a dodge — a bullying tactic designed to hide a crushingly boring orthodox progressivism behind the veil of dispassionate empiricism and to pretend that Hayek’s observation that even the smartest of central planners can never have the information they would need to centrally plan was obviated by the invention of the computer. If politics should be determined by pragmatism, and the pragmatists are all on the left . . . well, you do the math.

All over the Internet, Neil deGrasse Tyson’s face is presented next to words that he may or may not have spoken. “Other than being a scientist,” he says in one image, “I’m not any other kind of -ist. These -ists and -isms are philosophies; they’re philosophical portfolios that people attach themselves to and then the philosophy does the thinking for you instead of you doing the thinking yourself.” Translation: All of my political and moral judgments are original, unlike those of the rubes who subscribe to ideologies, philosophies, and religious frameworks. My worldview is driven only by the data.

This is nonsense. Progressives not only believe all sorts of unscientific things — that Medicaid, the VA, and Head Start work; that school choice does not; that abortion carries with it few important medical questions; that GM crops make the world worse; that one can attribute every hurricane, wildfire, and heat wave to “climate change”; that it’s feasible that renewable energy will take over from fossil fuels anytime soon — but also do their level best to block investigation into any area that they consider too delicate. You’ll note that the typical objections to the likes of Charles Murray and Paul McHugh aren’t scientific at all, but amount to asking lamely why anybody would say something so mean.

Still, even were they paragons of inquiry, the instinct would remain insidious. The scientific process is an incredible thing, but it provides us with information rather than with ready-made political or moral judgments. Anyone who privileges one value over another (liberty over security, property rights over redistribution) is by definition indulging an “-ism.” Anyone who believes that the Declaration of Independence contains “self-evident truths” is signing on to an “ideology.” Anyone who goes to bat for any form of legal or material equality is expressing the end results of a philosophy.

Perhaps the greatest trick the Left ever managed to play was to successfully sell the ancient and ubiquitous ideas of collectivism, lightly checked political power, and a permanent technocratic class as being “new,” and the radical notions of individual liberty, limited government, and distributed power as being “reactionary.” A century ago, Woodrow Wilson complained that the checks and balances instituted by the Founders were outdated because they had been contrived before the telephone was invented. Now, we are to be liberated by the microchip and the Large Hadron Collider, and we are to have our progress assured by ostensibly disinterested analysts. I would recommend that we not fall for it. Our technology may be sparkling and our scientists may be the best in the world, but our politics are as they ever were. Marie Antoinette is no more welcome in America if she dresses up in a Battlestar Galactica uniform and self-deprecatingly joins Tumblr. Sorry, America. Science is important. But these are not the nerds you’re looking for.

From Nation Review: Neil deGrasse Tyson



So-called scientists who roundly misquote better scientists and pompously dismiss all the other science that contradicts them…

Aren’t scientists.

Naturalism is dead. Has been for over seventy years. Anyone still peddling it is a grave robber.


The Battle of Tours

Precisely 100 years after the death of the Prophet Mohammed in 632, his Arab followers, after having fought across thousands of miles and conquered lands from Arabia to Spain, found themselves in Gaul, the territory that would become modern-day France, facing a hitherto little-known people, the Christian Franks.

There, on October 10, in the year 732, one of history’s most decisive battles took place, demarcating the extent of Islam’s western conquests and ensuring the survival of the West.

Prior to this, the Islamic conquerors had for a full century been subjugating all the peoples and territories standing in their western march — including Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco. In 711, the Muslims made their fateful crossing of the Strait of Gibraltar, landing on European soil. Upon disembarking, the leader of the Muslims, Tariq bin Ziyad, ordered their fleet burned, explaining, “We have not come here to return. Either we conquer and establish ourselves here, or we perish.”

This famous Tariq anecdote — often recalled by modern jihadis — highlights the jihadi nature of the Umayyad caliphate (661–750), the superpower of its day. Indeed, as most historians have acknowledged, the Umayyad caliphate was the jihadi state par excellence. Its very existence was coterminous with its conquests. Its legitimacy as “viceroy” of Allah was based on subjugating lands in his name.

Once the Muslims were on European soil, the depredations continued unabated. Writes one Arab chronicler regarding the Muslims’ northern advance past the Pyrenees: “Full of wrath and pride,” the Muslims “went through all places like a desolating storm. Prosperity made those warriors insatiable. . . . Everything gave way to their scimitars, the robbers of lives.” Even in far-off England, a contemporary, the anchorite known as the Venerable Bede, wrote, “A plague of Saracens wrought wretched devastation and slaughter upon Gaul.”

Strange anecdotes found their way into the chroniclers’ accounts. Muslim historian Abd al-Hakem reports that, after landing on an island off Iberia, one of Tariq’s squadrons discovered that the only inhabitants were vinedressers. “They made them prisoners. After that, they took one of the vinedressers, slaughtered him, cut him into pieces, and boiled him, while the rest of the companions looked on.” This incident resulted in a rumor that Muslims feast on human flesh. (Nearly 1,300 years later, in the year 2013, a Muslim jihadi ate the organs of his slain enemy to surrounding cries of “Allahu Akbar!”)

At any rate, this must have been the picture the men of the north had of the invaders from the south: wild and insatiable madmen, possibly cannibals, mounted on swift steeds, not unlike, in this respect, the Huns of old, who, under the “Antichrist” figure of Attila, came ravaging through Europe, only to be defeated, in part by the Franks, in the year 451 at the Battle of Chalons, also in what is now France, 150 miles east of Tours.

“Alas,” exclaimed the Franks, “what a misfortune! What an indignity! We have long heard of the name and conquests of the Arabs; we were apprehensive of their attack from the East [the Siege of Byzantium, 717-718]: they have now conquered Spain, and invade our country on the side of the West.”

Conversely, the Muslims, flush with a century’s worth of victories, seem to have had an ambivalent view, at best, regarding Frankish mettle. When asked about the Franks some years before the Battle of Tours, the then-emir of Spain, Musa, replied: “They are a folk right numerous, and full of might: brave and impetuous in the attack, but cowardly and craven in the event of defeat. Never has a company from my army been beaten.”

If this view betrayed overconfidence, Musa’s successor, Abd al-Rahman (“Slave to the Merciful”), exhibited even greater haughtiness regarding those whom he was about to engage in battle. At the head of some 80,000 Muslims, primarily mounted Moors, Rahman was greatly motivated in his destructive northward march into the heart of France by rumors of more riches for the taking, particularly at the Basilica of St. Martin of Tours. Rahman initially separated his army into several divisions to better ensure the plunder of Gaul. Writes Isidore, author of the Chronicle of 754: “[Rahman] destroyed palaces, burned churches, and imagined he could pillage the basilica of St. Martin of Tours. It is then that he found himself face to face with the lord of Austrasia, Charles, a mighty warrior from his youth, and trained in all the occasions of arms.”

Indeed, unbeknownst to the Muslims, the battle-hardened Frankish ruler, Charles, aware of their intentions, had begun rallying his liegemen to his standard. Having risen to power in France in 717 — the same year a mammoth Muslim army was laying siege to Byzantium — Charles appreciated the significance of the Islamic threat. Accordingly, he intercepted the invaders somewhere between Poitiers and Tours. The chroniclers give amazing numbers concerning the Muslims; some said as many as 300,000. Suffice it to say, the Franks were greatly outnumbered; most historians are content with the figures of 80,000 Muslims against 30,000 Franks.

The Muslim force consisted mainly of cavalry and was geared for offensive warfare. The vast majority being of Berber extraction, they wore little armor, though their elite Arab overlords were at least chain-mailed. For arms, they relied on the sword and the lance; arrows were little used.

Conversely, the Franks were primarily an infantry force (except for mounted nobles such as Charles). Relying on deep phalanx formations and heavy armor — reportedly 70 pounds for each man — the Franks were as immovable as the Muslims were mobile. They also appear to have had a greater variety of weaponry: The shield was ubiquitous, and arms included swords, daggers, javelins, and two kinds of axes, one for wielding and the other for throwing — the francisca. This notorious latter weapon was so symbolic of the Franks that it may have been named after them, or, quite possibly, they were named after it.

The chroniclers state that the two contending armies faced each other for six or seven days, neither wanting to make the first move. The Franks made good use of the familiar terrain: They appear to have held the high ground, and the dense European woods served not only to provide them shelter but to impede the anticipated Muslim cavalry charge.

The approach of winter, dwindling supplies and foraging areas, and an Islamic sense of superiority all impelled Rahman to commence battle, which “consisted entirely of wild headlong charges, wasteful of men.”

Writes an anonymous Arab chronicler: “Near the river Owar [Loire], the two great hosts of the two languages and the two creeds [Islam and Christianity] were set in array against each other. The hearts of Abd al-Rahman, his captains, and his men were filled with wrath and pride, and they were the first to begin to fight. The Muslim horsemen dashed fierce and frequent forward against the battalions of the Franks, who resisted manfully, and many fell dead on either side, until the going down of the sun.”

According to the Chronicle of 754, much of which was composed from eyewitness accounts, “The men of the north stood as motionless as a wall, they were like a belt of ice frozen together, and not to be dissolved, as they slew the Arab with the sword. The Austrasians [Franks], vast of limb, and iron of hand, hewed on bravely in the thick of the fight; it was they who found and cut down the Saracens’ king [Rahman].”

Military historian Victor Davis Hanson writes: “When the sources speak of ‘a wall,’ ‘a mass of ice,’ and ‘immovable lines’ of infantrymen, we should imagine a literal human rampart, nearly invulnerable, with locked shields in front of armored bodies, weapons extended to catch the underbellies of any Islamic horsemen foolish enough to hit the Franks at a gallop.”

As night fell, the Muslims and Christians disengaged and withdrew to their tents. With the coming of dawn, the Franks discovered that the Muslims, perhaps seized with panic because their emir was dead, had fled south during the night — still looting, burning, and plundering all and sundry as they went. Hanson offers a realistic picture of the aftermath: “Poitiers [or Tours] was, as all cavalry battles, a gory mess, strewn with thousands of wounded or dying horses, abandoned plunder, and dead and wounded Arabs. Few of the wounded were taken prisoner — given their previous record of murder and pillage at Poitiers.”

In the coming years, Charles — henceforth known as Martel, the “Hammer,” because of his decisive stroke — would continue waging war on the Muslim remnants north of the Pyrenees till they retreated south. Frankish sovereignty and consolidation were established in Gaul, leading to the creation of the Holy Roman Empire — beginning with Charles’s own grandson, Charlemagne, often described by historians as the “Father of Europe.” As historian Henri Pirenne put it: “Without Islam the Frankish Empire would probably never have existed and Charlemagne, without Mahomet, would be inconceivable.”

Aside from the fact that this battle put an end to the first massive wave of Islamic conquests, there are some indications that it also precipitated the fall of the Umayyad caliphate, which, as mentioned earlier, owed its very existence to jihad, victory, plunder, and slavery (ghanima). In 718, the Umayyads, after expending a considerable amount of manpower and resources trying to conquer Byzantium, the eastern doorway to Europe, lost horribly. It was less than 15 years later that their western attempt was rebuffed at Tours. It was a mere 18 years after the second of these two pivotal defeats that the Umayyad caliphate was overthrown by the Abbasids, and the age of Islam’s great conquests came to an end (until the rise of the Ottoman empire, which, like the Umayyad caliphate, was also a jihadi state built on territorial conquests, and which did finally conquer Byzantium, by then known as Constantinople).

Thus any number of historians, such as Godefroid Kurth, would go on to say that the Battle of Tours “must ever remain one of the great events in the history of the world, as upon its issue depended whether Christian Civilization should continue or Islam prevail throughout Europe.”

Despite the obvious significance of Tours, cynical modern-day historians often claim that Edward Gibbon and others embellished and aggrandized this battle. In fact, from the very start, the earliest writers contemporaneous to the battle portrayed it as a war between Islam and Christendom. Gibbon further, and famously, argued that, had the Muslims won, “Perhaps the interpretation of the Koran would now be taught in the schools of Oxford, and her pulpits might demonstrate to a circumcised people the sanctity and truth of the revelation of Mohammed.” (Writing in the 18th century, Gibbon was unaware that his predictions would still come true, though by way not of active conquest but of passive resignation: The Koran is now taught at Oxford, accorded the same worth as the Bible — equal literature or equal revelation — and Sharia law is functioning in Britain.)

Still, some modern armchair historians insist that the Battle of Tours was naught but a “minor skirmish” dedicated to plunder, not conquest. As evidence, they point to the fact that, while early Christian chroniclers highlighted this battle, their Muslim counterparts (except for the very earliest writers, who did acknowledge it as a disastrous defeat) tended to overlook or minimize its significance — as if that were not to be expected from the defeated, and especially their posterity.

Other historians insist that plunder was the only objective of the Muslims — a wholly materialistic thesis to be expected from historians incapable of transcending their own 21st-century epistemology. Thus they anachronize, particularly since the texts make clear that conquest and consolidation were always on the mind of the invading Muslims. Rahman’s army was no exception: Reinaud tells us that in the emir’s head lurked the possibility of “uniting Italy, Germany, and the empire of the Greeks to the already vast domains of the champions of the Koran.”

In fact, when placed in context, the Muslims’ lust for booty only further validates the expansionist-jihad thesis (see Majid Khadurri’s War and Peace in the Law of Islam, which contains an entire chapter on spoils, ghanima, and their central role in jihad). From the start, the jihadi was guaranteed one of two rewards for his war efforts: martyrdom if he dies, plunder if he lives. The one an eternal, the other a temporal reward — a win-win situation that, at least according to early Christian and Muslim chroniclers, played a major role in the success of the Muslim conquests. In other words, that the sources indicate the Muslims were booty-hungry does not in the least negate the fact that — as with all of the initial Muslim conquests, starting with the Prophet Mohammed at the Battle of Badr — territorial conquests and the acquisition of booty went hand in hand and were the natural culmination of the jihad.

As for general destruction, Michael Bonner, the author of Jihad in Islamic History, writes, “The raids are a constant element [of the jihad], always considered praiseworthy and even necessary. This is a feature of pre-modern Islamic states that we cannot ignore. In addition to conquest, we have depredation; in addition to political projects and state-building, we have destruction and waste.”

At any rate, the facts speak for themselves: After the Battle of Tours, no other massive Muslim invasion would be attempted north of the Pyrenees — until very recently and through very different means.

But that is another story.

Original article: The Battle of Tours

Walmart Modernizes The Shopping Experience With Scan & Go

Scan and go

A new Walmart just opened up a couple miles from my home. I’m not a fan of Walmart. I fought against allowing this Walmart to be built at all. Now that it’s open, though, I did go in just so I could try out the new high-tech future of shopping:

Walmart Scan & Go.

The concept is pretty simple. Using the provided scanners or the Walmart Scan & Go app on your smartphone, just scan everything as you put it in the cart. The app maintains a running total of the items in your cart. You can simply click a button to pay for your goods right from the app, and you’re done. Well, almost. You do still have to have a Walmart employee verify the receipt on your smartphone and clear you before you can leave. I’m not sure how it works with the in-store hand scanners, but I assume you would just hand the scanner over to a cashier and then pay whatever the total is.

Using the smartphone camera as a scanner worked more or less flawlessly. It quickly detected and identified the bar code and added the item to my cart. If you buy more than one of the same thing you can choose to scan each one individually, or you can just adjust the quantity in the cart after you scan the first one.

I was curious how Walmart could be sure I had scanned everything. I mean, there is a bit of an honor system in place and there was more than one occasion I threw something into the cart out of habit and had to pull it back out to scan it. Nobody is actually sifting through your cart or going through the list of items you’ve paid for in the app. They just look to see that you’ve paid and send you on your way—sort of like the useless receipt verification you’re subjected to when you try to leave Costco.

A Walmart employee explained that they conduct random periodic checks of customers to keep people honest, and suggested that there may be some customer profiling going on as well. Basically, the implication was that if someone looks “shady” they’re more likely to be singled out for a more thorough inspection. Walmart will also perform a more thorough check if you try to purchase any alcohol or age-restricted items like spray paint using the Scan & Go process.

The new and improved Walmart Scan & Go experience is currently available at only three of the Walmart stores. One in Arkansas, one in Florida, and the one near my home here in the Houston area. Walmart says that it is working on expanding to other stores, so keep your eyes open and maybe it will be available soon at a Walmart near you.

I will still gladly drive farther and pay more just so I don’t have to step foot in a Walmart or give the company any of my money. I do have to admit, though, that Scan & Go is pretty cool. I look forward to other retail chains that aren’t awful (I’m looking at you Target) adopting similar technologies to modernize my shopping experience and welcome the high-tech future of retail. Either that, or I can just continue shopping on Amazon and having items magically show up on my porch two days later.

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From Forbes: Walmart Scan and Go


I recently got to use this great app in-store and it was wonderful.

No more checkout lines.

Great integration of tech into the shopping experience.